A/N: Enjoy this chapter and special shout out to E.P. Wat.s for the beta reading! And did anyone see the preview for the new Hetalia anime? The art and the music was gorgeous.
This chapter was written extra fast because of all your encouraging support and it's the holiday season so I'm in the mood for more writing. I hope you like it and leave a review, it's always nice to hear your opinions and thoughts on the story!
Chapter 12- Reunion
"Hi there!" said America bemusedly, a wide grin on his dirt-smudged face "I don't happen to be at Hogwarts, do I?"
Mouth agape, Harry attempted to gather his thoughts quickly as he tried to answer the strangely familiar young man's question but instead all his mouth managed to say was "How?"
"I'm not very sure myself." the young man answered him seriously. "Last thing I remember was standing in the middle of Scott's magical circle and next thing I knew, I was stuck in the middle of a chimney and when I tried to move, well, I kinda automatically found myself sliding all the way down... here." He looked around the room, his blue eyes widening with recognition. "Hey, I remember that book! And all those documents! And those are the letters I sent him! That jerk! So he did receive my letters after all!"
Hermione and Ron stood up slowly, their legs shaky. Hermione was staring at the young man like he was an unknown species, her eyes narrowed. "But how did you get inside Professor Kirkland's chimney?" she demanded loudly. "There are layers of defensive magic around the school, I don't think someone like you are capable of breaking them all and inside a chimney no less-"
The young man ignored Hermione as he sprang up, brushing his gloved hands on his trousers as he addressed Harry again. "Do you know whose room is this?" he asked.
"It's Professor Kirkland's room." answered Harry. The young man abruptly whooped with joy and hugged Harry tight. His glasses askew, Harry swore he heard several of his ribs creak ominously as the man hugged him.
"I got it right this time!" the oddly familiar young man babbled on as he continued hugging Harry. "Thank God for good old Scott and his totally mean brothers! Oh wait, I didn't introduce myself. I'm so sorry." He finally released Harry and held out a hand to him. "I'm Alfred. Alfred F. Jones."
The moment he said it, something clicked in Harry's mind. And from his friends' expressions, he wasn't the only one. Alfred, Alfred...Jones. And he had seen that name in the professor's contact book just a few minutes ago too! And there had been another name next to it... a Matthew Williams? Harry vaguely remembered the professor's writing next to the name Alfred F. Jones and it had read, in capital letters and red ink, "IGNORE AMERICA IF HE CALLS"
What Harry said next probably wasn't smart but he couldn't help himself. "Do you happen to know anyone called Matthew?"
Alfred stared. " How did you know about Matt?"
"That doesn't matter right now!" Ron whispered frantically as he peered out of the professor's room. "Malfoy and his gang are coming right up the corridor! What do we do...?"
Sure enough, Harry could hear Malfoy's obnoxious voice floating up into the room from the corridor outside. "Yeah, Father just arrived and they're trying to press for a stronger presence of the Ministry when it comes to appointing the staff and choosing the school syllabus and-"
Goyle answered Malfoy. "But I heard that your dad got stuck in a swamp on his way to the meeting room...?"
Malfoy's answer was a snarl. "It was those Weasleys again. The twins. Always pulling pranks and sticking their faces where they don't belong. Blood traitors are always the worst of the bunch..."
Hermione, forever reliable, was the fastest. In a blink, she'd dragged Harry, Ron and Alfred behind Professor Kirkland's desk, hiding them from view. With her wand pointed at the door, she muttered a complex spell and the wooden door silently closed itself. It wouldn't do if Malfoy peeked into the room and saw the mess. It would give him one more reason to kick out Professor Kirkland, and Hermione was taking none of his nonsense today.
Malfoy's footsteps echoed into the room, and stopped as he paused in front of Professor Kirkland's room, his two friends, Crabbe and Goyle, stopping along with him. Harry heard the doorknob rattle as Malfoy attempted to open the door and saw the shadows of their feet through the crack at the bottom of the door.
"No use, it's locked." said Malfoy, bored.
"We could unlock it and take a look since da' filthy Muggle is at a staff meeting-"
"Do you take me for a fool?" Malfoy snapped as Harry held his breathe. Next to him, Alfred had gone still, his expression blank. "We don't know what we're dealing with here! Kirkland isn't exactly a Muggle and you know that! And I'm not going digging around in his room until I know there aren't vampires or dead bodies in there!" Was it Harry's imagination, or could he hear a slight quiver of fear in Malfoy's voice? Next to Harry, Ron snorted and whispered "Coward." under his breathe.
"Come on, let's go. Maybe I'll go dock some points off that idiot Longbottom. I heard he accidentally dropped all the ink bottles near the Astronomy tower just now." The laughter accompanying them slowly faded away as their footsteps grew softer before it faded away completely.
Harry released his breathe, something he hadn't realised he was even doing as he peeked out over the professor's desk to make sure the coast was clear. "It's okay, they're gone now." he called out softly. Next to him, Hermione got up from the floor, pulling Ron up together with her.
Alfred was already standing, shuffling his feet uncomfortably as he stared around the room, eyes taking in his surroundings. "Uh, so...do you happen to know where Arthur is?" he asked awkwardly in an attempt to break the tense environment. "Uhm, you know... I did come here specially to find him... and I do have a favour to ask of him...?"
"Technically, Professor Kirkland is in an important staff meeting right now," started Hermione but Harry interrupted her. "He's in the main staff room with the Minister of Magic, Umbridge and Malfoy. We can take you to him if you want to."
Hermione stared at Harry. "But-"
"Yeah., Hermione, Alfred did come all the way here to see his friend." interjected Ron. "Shouldn't keep him waiting, should we?"
Hermione threw up her hands in defeat. "Fine! Have it your way! But don't blame me if Umbridge gives us detention for the entire year when we interrupt her meeting!"
"Fair enough." Harry pointed at the locked door sheepishly. "Er, Hermione...?"
"Hm? Oh yes, sorry." Hermione whispered an incantation under her breathe as she flicked her wand, and just as silently as it'd locked itself, the door opened.
"Come on then," Harry gestured for Alfred to follow him. "Let's just hope we won't be held responsible for this mess."
England leaned back as he listened to Fudge talking. Strangely enough, he wasn't paying attention and that wasn't something he usually did when someone was talking. Except if France was disturbing him, that is.
A strange cawing sound reached his ears. With a frown, he straightened his back and stared around the room. Professor McGonagoll was glaring at Umbridge, her glasses slipping dangerously down the bridge of her nose. Umbridge, to her credit, wasn't looking back and was merely staring adoringly up at Fudge as if he was the light of the world. Malfoy was twirling his cane by the side, looking just as equally bored as England was. Dumbledore was also looking at Fudge severely as he continued blathering on about education reforms for the 'good of the students and society'.
None of them could have possibly cawed like a bird, could they?
The same impossibly familiar strange cawing sound reached his ears. He couldn't stand it any longer. He stood up from and pushed his chair back, prompting a "Professor Kirkland, what on earth...?" from Professor Sprout as he made his way to the window, pushing aside the curtains and looking out at the grounds intently.
Fudge was rightfully annoyed that his grand speech on education reforms were being ignored by the new professor, and a Muggle at that. "Professor Kirkland, I must insist that you-!"
"Hush!" England hissed, shutting Fudge up unintentionally. "I heard something. Did anyone hear it too?"
Silence fell in the room.
"I hear nothing at all, Professor!" Fudge spluttered, his face turning red partially due to embarrassment and fury. "Now if you'd please sit down and allow me to continue-"
Dumbledore had joined England at the window, his expression concerned. "What is it, Arthur?" he asked softly. Dumbledore knew better than to assume nothing had happen and England was merely hallucinating.
"I heard... it can't be..." England mumbled as he prayed hardly to God that the strange sounds weren't made by what he thought it was.
A flash of bronze at the edge of his eyes caught his attention. Ignoring more complaints from Umbridge and Fudge (thank goodness the other professors weren't complaining and were just sitting at their places, amused.), England threw open the window and his heart sank.
"The Hiporgriffs." he breathed out in disbelief, his eyes wide. Sure enough, his Hiporgriffs, which were supposed to have been locked into their pen, were cantering around the school grounds curiously, sunlight reflecting off their multicoloured feathers as they cawed at each other, delighting in their short-lived freedom.
"Right," England thought and breathed heavily as he tried to process the situation. "Right. I have two dozen Hiporgriffs running around the school unattended and they could possibly attack anyone if I'm not down there right now. Think, England, think! The safety of the students are at risk here, my job is also at stake..."
Out loud, he announced to the astonished room. "I have to make a move right now and if you'll excuse me...?" Dumbledore didn't even try to stop him as he dashed to the door and pulled it open, fully intent on getting downstairs and sorting out his Hiporgriffs.
"Professor, this is unacceptable behaviour-!" Umbridge and Fudge were yelling at him furiously at the same time whereas Malfoy just looked smug. The other professors had rushed to the window and could see, with wide mouths, the Hiporgriffs walking scot-free around the school grounds.
"Good grief...!" said Professor Sinatra faintly. "But how?"
As England flung the door open, at the same time, the door was opened on the other side by none other than Harry, who merely gaped as he stared up at a surprised Professor Kirkland whose mouth was opened wide like a goldfish.
England tried to recollect his dignity as he looked down at his student. "Potter, this isn't exactly a good time to be asking about the homework I gave you last week-"
Alfred then decided to poke his head around Harry at the same time. Both his and England's eyes widened consecutively as they stared at each other for a long second before they both spoke at the same moment.
"Sir, w-we've received word from Malfoy at Hogwarts..."
A malevolent hiss greeted that sentence. "What is it, Wormtail? I don't have time to deal with Lucius Malfoy and his own personal grudges at Hogwarts..."
"Sir, it's about t-them. The project you've been researching about... Malfoy thinks he might have something for you regarding that..."
An icy pause. "Really now?"
"He thinks o-o-one of them might've become a new p-professor at Hogwarts..."
Disbelief coloured the next sentence spoken. "Does he now? It is unusual for one of them to show themselves so openly... matters must be more dire than I thought on their end..."
"What should I tell Malfoy?"
A rustling sound as the speaker stood up to its full height. "Tell him to keep an eye out on the professor and report everything to me. The situation is accelerating even faster than I thought. The plan shall be brought forward to accommodate it." A high laugh followed soon after. "Let the show begin."
Harry shifted his leg nervously as he waited outside Professor Dumbledore's office. Next to him was Hermione, her eyes wild as she bit her lips. Ron was just as equally scared, occasionally mumbling "We're going to get expelled, we're going to get expelled," to himself as he looked left and right for no apparent reason.
The door to the office creaked open, and Professor Dumbledore looked out, his eyes twinkling kindly. "Please enter, the three of you." he said. "Professor Kirkland would like to hear your side of the story."
Hands trembling slightly, Harry stood up. With a deep sigh, he entered the office, Hermione and Ron following closely behind.
Professor Kirkland was striding up and down the length of the office, his waistcoat torn and bloody. There were also multiple bandages wrapped around his head and hands, blood staining the white cloth. His green eyes were blazing with emerald fire, an anger of sorts that Harry had never seen before in his life. Sitting bashfully in an armchair near the fireplace was Alfred, his legs crossed as his eyes followed Professor Kirkland's every movement. And standing rather stiffly near Professor Dumbledore's desk were Fudge, Umbridge and Malfoy, all three looking rather rattled at recent events.
Professor Dumbledore closed the door behind them softly and then walked ahead of them to his desk, planting both hands on the top as he looked at the crowd in his office. "Now please, Harry. Your story, from the top. And don't leave anything out."
Harry glanced briefly at Hermione, who nodded encouragingly at him. Mentally bracing himself, Harry proceeded to tell everyone the tale of how they'd been walking past Professor Kirkland's private quarters to get to Gryffindor tower when they'd heard noises from within, and managed to open the door with the help of the Weasley twins' handy 'tools'. At this, Professor Kirkland snorted, part amused, part disbelief at the fact that the Weasley twins had Muggle lock picking tools.
"So when we got into the room, we found Alfred lying on the carpet and he, er, demanded to see Professor Kirkland so we brought him to you, sir." Harry said and looked straight at Professor Kirkland, expecting a scolding from the professor as he finished his tale. From his position, Harry could see the raised eyebrows on Alfred at the manner Harry had somehow tweaked his tale, but nevertheless the American remained silent. Silently, Harry thanked him and vowed to repay him later.
"And those Hiporgriffs, Professor Kirkland?" demanded Fudge loudly. " I presume they are properly locked away...?"
"Yes." answered the professor grimly. "And when I was locking them up, guess what I saw." He rummaged around in his pockets before pulling out a melted piece of steel. "This used to be my padlock. Somebody used magic on the padlock. Hiporgriffs may be smart, but they certainly cannot unlock themselves from their pen. This was sabotage, plain and simple. Somebody wanted a distraction, and they got it." Professor Kirkland sighed. "I don't know what's happening here, but I'm certainly not happy with the turn of events."
Malfoy eyed Alfred as he lounged on the armchair with distaste as he spoke. "And this Alfred. What do you plan to do with him?"
"I will deal with him privately together with Albus." The way Professor Kirkland's voice changed chilled Harry to the bone. "This is not the first time Alfred has done something as foolish as this. Rest assured that he will be properly dealt with."
"Alright then..." said Fudge distractedly as he twirled his bowler hat in his hands. "Potter, Granger, Weasley... off you three go now... I have some urgent matters to discuss with Albus here..."
Relief at the release, Harry quickly excused himself and made his way out of the office. Even as he exited, he could feel Professor Kirkland's gaze boring into him like lasers and Alfred's startling blue eyes following him as he closed the door.
It wasn't until they were about five corridors away that Ron finally broke the ice. "Well, that went better than expected. Kirkland didn't even ask us any questions"
"He didn't believe us." said Harry with certainty as he strode towards Gryffindor tower. "I could see it in his eyes. He just didn't want to say anything in front of Fudge and his gang."
"Well, do you think you still have detention with Umbridge tonight?" whispered Hermione. "I mean, after all that happened today..."
"I'm going." said Harry flatly. "I'm not taking any chances with her. She could easily give me another week worth of detention just because I didn't show up tonight."
Ron looked anguished. "But the Quidditch tryouts are tomorrow and you have detention!"
Harry laughed humourlessly. "Got no choice, have I? If she continues giving me detention, I'm never going to have any time for Quidditch practices."
With that gloomy afterthought, the trio made their way back to the Gryffindor common room, their minds weighed down with the thoughts of tomorrow.
"So will you be passing the decree soon?" pressed Fudge.
"The one that allows dear Dolores the power to inspect all the teachers and make sure that they are up to scratch?" answered Dumbledore tiredly. "Yes, my dear Cornelius. I will put it into effect as soon as possible."
Fudge made a satisfied sound at the back of his throat as he replaced the bowler hat on his head. "Then I will be seeing you soon, Albus. Lucius will be paying occasional visits to the school too to make sure everything is in place. Good day to you, Albus. And please, get rid of the American soon. We don't need more uninvited guests here in Hogwarts." With a flash of his cloak and a glare shot at America, Fudge walked out of Dumbledore's office, Umbridge and Malfoy following closely behind but not before eyeing Alfred with a disgusted look. It wasn't until the door had fully closed did America started talking. "Arthur, I'm so sorry I just didn't-"
"Who helped you get into the school?" said England, his voice dangerously soft.
"Your brothers." replied America, his eyes narrowed at his former mentor's tone. "They were pretty pissed about the gender switching spell you cast on them and they told me to get my ass here and ask you for the counter-curse..."
"Oh, but you had a different reason for coming here didn't you?" snarled England, his temper flaring. "Come to disturb me wherever I go, eh?"
Hurt filled America's eyes. "I didn't-"
"Oh no you didn't think of that because all you could think of was seeing me again just to make sure I wasn't hurt or dead!" England hurled the words furiously at America, not caring about their other audience in the room. "I've told you before, I'm fine! You didn't had to worry! But you never did listen, did you? I told everyone that at the world meeting, and none of you bloody jerks listened to a single word I was saying, per usual!"
America glared at England, his patience wearing thin. "Look here, Arthur-"
"I'm sending you back, you hear me?" shouted England, running his hands through his messy blonde hair. "I'm not having another one of you disturbing me when I have a job to run and children to teach-!"
"Then why didn't you answer your letters?" yelled back America. "I sent hundreds of them and I got nothing in return, you ass! I came all the way here from my own place just to see if you were doing okay on behalf of all the other guys and you just shout at me for nothing!" He took a deep breathe to calm himself down. "And I'm not going back. Not without you, you hear that?"
Silence as England processed America's last sentence. "No you're bloody well not staying here. There are no more places here for-!"
"Actually, if I may interrupt, Arthur," said Dumbledore as he came in between England and America, his hands held up in a peace gesture after all the bickering. "Madam Hooch has actually sent out an advertisement for an assistant on the Quidditch field, and I was thinking, if Mr. Jones here doesn't want to leave, maybe he could fill that post...?"
England gaped at Dumbledore. It wasn't until a minute had passed before he answered, sarcasm evident in his tone. "Albus, I doubt Alfred knows what Quidditch is, much less the knowledge on how to ride a broomstick..."
"Of course I know what it is, Arthur," shot back America, much to England's surprise. "I'm not as dumb as you make me out to be. Quidditch is a very popular wizarding game, played on broomsticks. There are seven players on each team. One Keeper, two Beaters, three Chasers and one Seeker. The game ends when the Seeker catches the Golden Snitch and-"
Dumbledore chuckled and clapped a stunned England on the back. "Well, it looks like Mr. Jones is perfectly suited to be a referee for our Quidditch matches, hm?"
"B-but how-?" mouthed England, still stunned.
America pointed at finger at himself, silently mouthing behind Dumbledore's back. "I'm the hero, duh."
England's voice shook as he spoke. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't just tie you up and hurl you back home this instance, Alfred."
"Why should I even give you a reason, Arthur?" countered America, folding his arms as he awaited the older nation's response.
"Because it's dangerous and I don't want you hurt." England's voice was flat as he spoke the blunt truth. "The wizarding world is on the verge of war, and if we're not careful, you'll get burned by it. This is not your war and you have no part in this, so I would suggest you get away as fast as you can before you get sucked into it." England softened his tone as he explained further. "Look, I just don't want you to get involved in this nonsense. It's not for young nations like you. This... it's magic, faeries, spells and curses. Never your area, eh?"
"Listen here, old man." replied America, his eyes shining strangely. "I don't care if it's not my area. I hate magic, I'm scared of it yeah, but that doesn't mean I won't get involved. And don't give me any of the dangerous bullshit. I got a whole lecture from your asshat brother about coming here, and you know what? I still came even though I knew how you were gonna react. And once I commit myself to something, I'm not turning back. So," he jabbed a finger into England's chest. "You're stuck with me for the entire school year now. I'm not letting you run around without someone to watch your back. Oh, don't complain, I know how you are when you're alone. You take reckless risks, and you don't even bother to consider about the effects it might have on yourself because you're so old, you just don't care anymore. So I'll be here now, and you better damn well bet that I'll be looking after your back, get it?"
England sighed as his head dropped slightly in defeat. "Alright." he finally said, his voice strangely high-pitched. "Whatever you want. But you better sort your priorities out, get it? I'm not going to save your sorry arse everytime you mess up."
A huge grin split America's face, and England managed a weak smile back before commenting dryly. "You know, you look awful with all that soot from the chimney."
America snorted. "Says the dude who got attacked by his own pet eagle hybrids."
"Oh, just shut up-" England's sentence was cut off as America pulled him into a bone-crushing hug, his breathe tickling his ears, the ashes from America's own clothes dirtying his waistcoat.
"Hey, I really missed you." America whispered.
Tears pooled in England's eyes as he hugged the American back furiously. "Yeah. Me too."