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After a heated argument between Johnson and Albus’s father about whether Elsie needed to go directly to the Ministry (Johnson thought she did, whereas Dad thought she needed the hospital wing), Albus found himself yet again in the hospital wing at the end of term. Dad won the argument and brought Elsie and Felix to Madam Pomfrey immediately, while Johnson and Dawlish took Paul Willinson to the Ministry for questioning.

Elsie cried the entire walk back to the castle, keeping a tight hold on Felix’s left arm as they walked. She continued sobbing uncontrollably until Madam Pomfrey settled her into bed and gave her a Calming Draught. Felix declined the nurse’s offer of his own Calming Draught and then took up post in a chair next to the sleeping Elsie. He looked mostly relieved than anything else, but then again he hadn’t been the one with the knife to his throat.

Albus had dozens of questions for his father, but sat silently on Matt’s usual bed while Madam Pomfrey ranted and raved about students getting in over their heads and then suffering emotional trauma because of it. In between her rants, Dad tried to fill her in on what actually happened, but she seemed to be having none of it.

“And what about you?” Madam Pomfrey said, turning to Albus after she checked on Elsie for the fifth time. “What did you do?”

“Nothing!” Albus said. “I swear!”

“He’s fine,” Dad added. “He brought the situation to my attention. Going to make a fine Auror.”

Albus smiled. With the exception of Elsie being held at knifepoint, the entire situation had gone relatively smoothly. Albus supposed that was because Paul Willinson hadn’t been armed with a wand.

“Let’s go back to my study, Al,” Dad said quietly. He turned back to Madam Pomfrey. “I’ll be back in about half an hour to speak with Elsie’s parents.”

Madam Pomfrey nodded. “They said they’d be about twenty minutes when I Flooed them.”

Dad didn’t speak as he and Albus walked back to his study. The exhaustion was back on his face and Albus suspected all he really wanted to do was sleep for a full 24 hours. Once they were back in the study and the door was shut, Dad collapsed into an armchair and rubbed his face with both hands.

“Sit down, Al,” he said, yawning.

Albus sat in the other armchair. “Do they have proof? Johnson and Dawlish?”

Dad nodded. “Let me explain. You know that we’ve been investigating the murder ourselves, right?”

“Yeah. Dawlish told me all that.”

“Right,” Dad said. “Well, we thought it was at a bit of a standstill until a few weeks ago. All we had to go on was what you told us, about the cave and Elsie’s eyewitness account from the Sheldon murder. None of that was enough to bring her in for questioning. Dawlish searched that cave every week since you first told him about it, but he found nothing, until a few weeks ago. Then he found a knife-”

“You don’t mean-“

“The murder weapon,” Dad said. “It was stuck in a crack in the cave wall, a crack that was most likely sealed with ice until shortly before Dawlish found it. Dawlish suspects, and I agree, that Paul Willinson stuck the knife in that crack after he murdered Sheldon. We both suspect he hid out in that cave for at least a day, then fled the country, most likely with the help of his family.

“Dawlish had the knife sent out for testing and the results showed two different people’s DNA. Sheldon’s and Willinson’s. Paul Willinson’s DNA was already in the system for a prior offense, which made it easy to match. That was enough for a warrant for his arrest and to bring Elsie Willinson in for questioning. Unfortunately she refused to speak, even with her attorney present.”

“But now that doesn’t matter, does it?” Albus asked.

“No, it doesn’t,” Dad said. “Even if Paul Willinson doesn’t confess, the knife says it all. But this is far from over.”

“What do you mean?”

Dad sighed. “Paul Willinson is a squib, which means he essentially lives in limbo between the Muggle and wizarding worlds. I assume that is where his problems stem from. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be growing up a squib in a pureblood household. Not that that in any way excuses what he did. But it means it will be very hard to try him. Is it fair to try a squib in a wizarding court for a crime that was committed without magic? Should he be turned over to the Muggle police? Even though he murdered a wizard?”

“Possibly two wizards,” Albus added. “And how did he even manage to do it? Sheldon could’ve easily taken him with his wand.”

“Possibly. But right now we only have evidence for Sheldon’s murder. Anyway, it’s an issue that his attorney will bring up and there is no clear answer. It will not surprise me if this goes straight to the minister herself. It’s possible it will even be brought to the attention of the Muggle Prime Minister.

“As for how he did it, only Sheldon knows. But I suspect he caught Sheldon off guard and Sheldon didn’t have time to get his wand out. Not everyone carries their wand in their hand anymore. It was common back when I was in school, but people have let their guard down since the war ended.”

“You carry yours in your hand all the time,” Albus pointed out.

Dad sighed. “Most of the time, when I’m not at Hogwarts, that is. But I’m in the minority.”

Albus nodded. He knew that minority mostly consisted of those who were heavily involved with the war, such as his father and his uncles. Aunt Hermione didn’t, but she tended to be more rational.

“But this means Boone will be released, right? Even if Willinson can’t be tried right away?” Albus asked.

Dad nodded. “Yes, Boone will be released. He most likely won’t even have to fill out his sentence for identity theft, considering he was wrongly convicted of murder.”

“Good,” Albus said.

“Things are about to get very complicated in the Ministry,” Dad mused. “This now means that under Laurentis’s control, two people have been wrongly convicted of the same murder. Boone has grounds to sue the Ministry for discrimination and to be honest, I hope he does.”

Albus hoped so, too. His story was tragic and a huge settlement from the Ministry could supply him in Wolfsbane for the rest of his life. It wouldn’t bring back his hand function, but it would certainly be life changing nonetheless.

“And what about Elsie?” Albus asked.

Dad took a deep breath and let it out slowly before answering. “Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Only Elsie knows what she really saw and we have no way of knowing for sure if she was truthful. It’s possible she even constructed a false memory in response to such a traumatic event. We don’t know. She won’t get in trouble for that.”

“What about harboring a fugitive?”

Dad smirked. “You’re talking like an Auror already. Elsie is only thirteen and Paul Willinson is her cousin. She’s not going to be convicted of anything. She’ll be asked to give testimony at Willinson’s trial, if he ever has one, and that will be it. It’s more likely that her parents will be arrested for harboring a fugitive, assuming they helped him escape abroad like Felix implied. The Aurors will investigate that. But Felix and Elsie will not get in trouble.”

“I’m still surprised Felix came to me,” Albus said.

“I’m not,” Dad said. “His sister was in danger and he did what he had to to protect her. You would’ve done the same for Lily. Or for James. You’ve been doing it for James since his accident, just not on such a dramatic scale.”

Albus nodded. He hadn’t seen the two as similar, but he supposed they were. Albus would do anything to protect James and make his life easier, and that’s all Felix was doing when he came to Albus for help.

Dad stood up. “I need to get back to the hospital wing to speak with Elsie’s parents. And I imagine someone from the Auror Department will be coming to take them in for questioning soon. And Al, none of this can leave this room until it’s printed tomorrow morning in the Prophet.”

Albus shuddered. He did not want to be present for that conversation. “Good luck.”

***


It was extremely difficult for Albus to keep what his father told him to himself when he got back to Gryffindor, especially since Rose nearly hexed him when he arrived. She was livid with him for not returning to the library ten minutes after he left with Felix and Albus couldn’t tell her why he’d worried her so much. Rather than stay in the common room and endure Rose’s raving and his friends’ questioning, he went immediately to his dormitory and feigned sleep, hoping everything would be in the paper the next morning.

Much to his luck, there were numerous articles in the Prophet the next morning. When Albus arrived at breakfast the entire Great Hall was whispering and passing copies of the paper around. Quite a few people turned to watch Albus as he walked to the Gryffindor table, although he couldn’t imagine why. For once, he hadn’t been involved in a spring term altercation. All he’d done was been the bridge between his dad and Felix Willinson.

Albus sat next to Rose and pulled an abandoned copy of the Prophet onto his plate. There on the front page was a picture of Paul Willinson, looking sullen and gaunt.

“Goddammit, Albus!” Rose shouted, setting down her own copy of the paper. “Is this why you didn’t come back last night?”

“Er, yeah,” Albus said as he flipped the paper open in order to read the article. “Hang on, let me read this.”

“Hang on?! Hang on?!” Rose shouted. “After all you put me through last night, all you have to say is hang on?!

Albus ignored her and read the article.

SQUIB ARRESTED FOR SHELDON MURDER

An arrest was made late last night in relation to the presumed
solved Hogsmeade murder. According to Aurors assigned to
the case, a murder weapon was found in a cave just north of
Hogsmeade village three weeks ago. DNA testing revealed two
different samples: One belonging to Michael Sheldon and the other
belonging to a man by the name of Paul Willinson.

After receiving a tip from a Hogwarts student, Aurors converged
on the same cave late last night and found Paul Willinson. After a
brief altercation, Head Auror Robert Johnson arrested Willinson
on the spot and brought him to Auror Headquarters, where he was
questioned about the Sheldon murder.

‘Willinson has not confessed,’ Auror Johnson told reporters, ‘but
we are fairly confident the evidence speaks for itself.’ Former Head
Auror Harry Potter was also at the scene of the arrest, but declined
to comment.

Aurors suspect Willinson has been hiding abroad with the help of
family members. Willinson’s aunt and uncle, Isadora and Alexander
Willinson have been arrested for harboring a fugitive and obstruction
of justice.

Paul Willinson, a squib, is the elder brother of Quinton Willinson,
who is currently serving a term in Azkaban for kidnapping. Their
father, Jarrett Willinson, also resides in Azkaban on similar charges.

Willinson is due to be arraigned later today and is currently being
held in Azkaban without bail.


The article below it was much shorter and detailed Boone’s release from Azkaban in light of Willinson’s arrest.

“Felix and Elsie’s whole family are going to be in Azkaban,” Albus said as he set down the paper. “And Rose, I told you Elsie was involved with this.”

“And good riddance,” John muttered. “Bloody insane, the lot of them.”

“Shut up, Albus. I’m still pissed at you. Their parents won’t do much time,” Rose said. “They’ll pay a load of Galleons and maybe do a few months. Or they’ll be under house arrest. That’ll be it.”

“Who’s under house arrest?” James asked as he sat down across from Albus. He had the binder of incantations with him and set it in front of his plate.

Albus tossed the copy of the Prophet onto his plate, but James didn’t open it. He looked exhausted and anxious, similar to the way Matt did right before a full moon.

“Just do the best you can, James,” Rose said. “No one can fault you for having a brain injury.”

James nodded. “I just ran into Lisa Galivant in the Entrance Hall.”

Albus stomach knotted up. He had a feeling he knew what James was about to tell them.

“She got recruited. By Tutshill.” James sighed and closed his eyes.

“Did you sleep at all last night?” Rose asked.

“Not much,” James confessed. “It’s just…I knew Lisa would be recruited. Why wouldn’t she? She’s good. Really good. But-“

“Not as good as you,” Albus finished. “It should’ve been your spot.”

“Exactly,” James said. “But that’s really arrogant of me to say.”

“Yes,” Rose agreed. “But it’s true. You are better than her.”

“Used to be,” James muttered as he stared at his right hand. He curled his fingers into a partial fist and his arm twitched and knocked over a mostly empty glass of orange juice.

Rose vanished the juice with a flick of her wand and looked at James. “You can’t focus on that now. Read the article Albus just gave you. That’ll distract you.”

James read the article while eating half a slice of dry toast. When he finished, he set it down and stared at Albus. “Let me guess. You were involved somehow?”

Albus groaned. “All I did was go get Dad when Felix Willinson told me his cousin was in the cave.”

“Felix Willinson is the kid who gave the tip?” James asked.

Albus nodded. “Although I suppose it could be me.”

“They mean you,” James said. “Of course they mean you. I should get going. Exam starts in five minutes.”

“We all should go,” Rose said, glancing up at the head table. “Looks like they’re starting to clear people out for today’s O.W.L. Good luck, James.”

“Yeah, good luck,” Albus said.

James nodded. “Thanks.” He looked like he was about to be sick.

***


Elsie and Felix Willinson were still in the hospital wing when Albus went to visit Matt after classes let out for the day. Elsie was asleep and Felix was studying next to her. Presumably he left earlier in the day to sit his O.W.L.s and then came back.

“What’s going on, Al?” Matt asked as soon as Albus sat down on the foot of his bed. “There’ve been no less than ten people in and out of here today and they’re all whispering about…” He nodded toward Elsie and Felix, who were five beds down from Matt.

Albus pulled a copy of the Prophet out of his bag and handed it to Matt. He waited in silence as his friend read.

“Let me guess,” Matt said as he set down the paper. “You were the one who gave the tip?”

“How is it that the whole school seems to know that?” Albus asked. He’d been fielding questions in every single class about this, despite the fact that only his friends, Felix, and Elsie knew he was the one who alerted his dad.

“Because you’re you, Al,” Matt said, grinning. “You’ve been destined to be an Auror from first year on.”

“What’s been happening here?” Albus asked as he cast Muffliato around the bed.

“A lot of chaos,” Matt said. “It started as soon as Felix left for his O.W.L.s. Elsie’s been asleep and I’ve been pretending to sleep so that they’ll speak freely.”

Albus laughed. “If only you could be an Auror, too.”

Matt shook his head. “Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. Anyway, Professor Kendrick and your dad have been in and out a few times. Auror Johnson was here, as was Dawlish. And another Auror I didn’t recognize. They’ve all been discussing whether or not to take Elsie in for questioning. Madam Pomfrey has been very adamant about not taking her, or even talking to her here. Kendrick and your dad agree with her. Then there’s the issue of her parents being in custody, so neither of them can be present for the questioning. Since Elsie’s underage, they’re required to have a parent or guardian present.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” Albus said. “I wonder who their guardian is if their parents are in custody.”

“That’s what they’re trying to figure out,” Matt said. “Felix doesn’t know and the parents aren’t talking because they know once there’s a guardian, the Aurors will question Elsie.”

“Smart,” Albus said. “They probably suspect they’ll be released before term is over and then it won’t matter.”

“Johnson wants to appoint a temporary guardian from the Ministry,” Matt said. “Last time he was in here he said he was going to mention that to the parents. They might crack.”

Albus nodded. “They probably would. I doubt they’d want an Ministry guardian with Elsie-”

“Shh,” Matt interrupted. “I just heard the door open.”

Albus shifted positions on the bed, so his right ear was practically touching the curtains. He heard at least two sets of footsteps walk into the ward.

“Again?” Madam Pomfrey exclaimed. “I thought we agreed to wait a day.”

“We are,” Johnson muttered. He did not sound pleased. “Ms. Willinson won’t be questioned until tomorrow. I’ve just spoken with her parents and they named someone to be guardian of her and Felix until they are released from Ministry custody.”

Albus heard softer footsteps walk across the floor, toward the door. Felix. “Who is it?” Felix asked.

“Your aunt. Selena Willinson,” Johnson said. “Personally, I feel it’s a conflict of interest, but that’s who they named.”

“Paul Willinson’s mother,” Albus whispered to Matt.

“Yeah, I’d say that’s a conflict of interest,” Matt said.

“Paul Willinson is being arraigned as we speak,” a new voice said. Dawlish. “Selena Willinson wished to be present at her son’s arraignment and will be coming directly here afterward. She wishes to see her niece and nephew.”

“Good,” Johnson said. “Then we can at least question the boy.”

“You have to question me?” Felix asked.

“Yes,” Johnson said. “You were present at the incident. You had prior knowledge of your cousin’s movements.”

“Right,” Felix said quietly.

“Do you have to be questioned?” Matt asked Albus.

“No,” Albus said. “The Aurors don’t know I was there and Dad saw no reason to inform them of that fact.”

“We need to get back to the Ministry,” Johnson said. “We’ll be back in half an hour to question Mr. Willinson. Professor Kendrick secured an empty classroom.”

There was a shuffle of robes and the sound of footsteps, then the sound of the door opening and closing. Then it was quiet.

“Did you see they released Boone?” Albus asked, gesturing to the paper, now sitting abandoned on the bed between them.

Matt nodded. “I wonder what he’ll do. He’s got no family. Nowhere to live.”

“Your dad will help him,” Albus said. “My dad thinks he’s got grounds to sue the Ministry.”

“Good,” Matt said. “I hope he does. You know what the weird thing is, though?”

“What?”

“As bad as it was for him to be wrongfully imprisoned and as awful as Azkaban is, the Ministry legally had to provide him with Wolfsbane there. And now, he’ll be back to not having any.”

“That’s messed up,” Albus said. “But if he sues and wins, he’ll have enough Galleons for it for life.”

“That’ll take months, Al,” Matt said quietly. “He’ll have to find an attorney willing to take the case for free, then there will be months of preparing the case, getting it approved by a judge, then the possible offered settlements. Then a trial if he doesn’t accept one of the settlements.”

“But still,” Albus said. “He’s out of Azkaban. And they finally have the right bloke.”

Matt nodded. “Certainly took them long enough.”


A/N: Thanks for all the reviews! Just one chapter to go.

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