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Chapter 5: Scorpius - Chapter 5
Dear Mum and Dad,That would do the trick. He’d apologised enough. Feeling as content as the situation permitted, Scorpius folded up his parchment and shoved it in his pocket, with plans to visit the owlery after dinner.
Dinner proved to be an interesting event. Though she fiercely denied it, Valentina was clearly still put out about their row at lunch and particularly icy, only speaking when asking for the potatoes. Fortunately, Scorpius was able to relish both Julius’ absence and his new status among the other first year Slytherin boys. The three of them positioned themselves at the absolute furthest possible point from Scorpius along the table and shot wary looks in his direction throughout the meal.
Half an hour later, as he ambled back from the owlery to the dungeons, it occurred to Scorpius that there were more people in Slytherin house that wished him ill than he could count on one hand. In fact, he probably had good reason to fear for the presence of all manner of nasty surprises in his bed. He resolved to check between the sheets before hopping in.
Surprisingly, Scorpius was able to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep, with not a creepy crawly to be seen. It appeared that in so brazenly taking on Julius, Scorpius had secured himself a certain level of respect amongst the other boys and they had blissfully chosen to leave him be.
Saturday passed peacefully, with much time spent avoiding the dungeons and the ceaseless rain, and instead claiming a corner of the castle’s library, discussing Wizarding history with Rose, battling Albus in chess and trying to figure out if Bo was actually aware of how often she bat her eyelashes.
Scorpius was particularly interested in the witch-hunts of the middle ages, but talk eventually turned to later conflicts. Rose spoke glowingly of her parents’ involvement in the war; Albus, on the other hand, showed no interest in boasting about his father, as Scorpius expected he would.
“But what he did was amazing, he’s the most famous wizard in the world!” Scorpius pressed.
“Exactly.” Albus replied resolutely. “You don’t need me to tell you what he did or how great he is. You already know.”
“What about your parents?” Rose asked interestedly, her features shifting into the increasingly familiar pattern required for intensive Scorpius scrutinizing.
“I dunno.” Scorpius replied honestly. “My dad doesn’t talk about it. I know they were affected though, that was when my grandparents moved to St Petersburg, just after I think. My dad went with them too, but he came back and met my mum. Someone died, I think, my grandmother always gets upset at any mention of it.”
Rose continued to watch him from over the top of her book as he returned to his game of chess. It was becoming increasingly apparent that what Rose did best was study – and this went further than her schoolwork. It was with a little resentment that he discovered that Rose had taken to studying Bo as well, pensively regarding her, eyebrows furrowed, for a long moment as the strange girl spoke. Perhaps it was his ego coming into play, but Scorpius realised with immense pleasure that Rose tended to hold her gaze longer when she studied him. On several occasions, too, he could swear he caught her studying him even when he said nothing at all.
Even his detention passed uneventfully. Only a few days into the teaching year, Professor Llewellyn struggled to think of a suitable punishment for the boys and ultimately decided to make them alphabetize his vast, wall length bookcase. Scorpius and Julius worked at either end of the wall of books, only coming within a few feet of each other after an hour’s work. Julius scowled the whole time, grumbling incoherent insults under his breath. Scorpius wasn’t perturbed though, unfazed by such a mild sentence. Professor Llewellyn was kind enough to cut their detention short, letting them go after only an hour. Needless to say, Scorpius and Julius walked back to the dungeons keeping their distance a good yard apart.
When Monday morning arrived, the castle was showered with fresh sunlight after a very grey and miserable weekend. Scorpius was practically chipper, counting down the seconds until his first class with Gryffindor. Fortunately, Valentina had taken the weekend to find the strength to forgive him. They chatted contentedly as they took the stairs two at a time on their way to History of Magic. When they arrived on the fourth floor, however, Valentina made no effort to disguise her disgust on witnessing Scorpius speed up to reach his favourite Gryffindors.
“You’re like a silly little puppy, you know. Your eyes light up.” She teased. “Oh look, you’re drooling.”
Scorpius simply grinned at her and doubled his pace.
Albus, Rose and Bo were waiting impatiently at the door. “Hurry up, then.” Albus grinned, waving them over. “Looks like we’re the last ones…”
All holding their breath, they filed gingerly into the classroom only to discover that the remaining vacant seats were positioned at the very front of the classroom. Grimacing, the five of them clambered down the aisle and took their places, garnering disapproving looks from Slytherins and Gryffindors alike.
And yet, Professor Binns did not once look up from behind his opaque spectacles. On and on he droned about some ancient conflict, indistinguishable from the next, until he was pulled from his rambling by an indignant voice.
“They’re late, sir. Aren’t you even going to tell them off?” scoffed Julius from the back row, fuming. Whether he had raised his hand to pre-empt his disdain remained to be seen, Professor Binns wouldn’t have noticed all the same.
Their teacher was puzzled as he returned from his educational reverie. “Er, um, I beg your pardon, boy?”
“Malfoy and those Gryffindors, they’re late, sir.” Julius sneered.
“What are you talking about, Zuchini? Everyone’s seated. Mind you quiet down, now.” Professor Binns instructed distractedly, harrumphing before returning to the blackboard. Scorpius and Albus shared a grin at Julius’ expense.
But unfortunately, as much as Scorpius appreciated Binn’s lax attitude when it came to his constant tardiness, History of Magic quickly became the bane of his school week. The lessons themselves were agonizing; there was something about Binn’s tone of voice that had Scorpius feeling torn between consciousness and the overwhelming desire to sleep. So dull where Binn’s lectures that Scorpius was required to reread most of the material covered in class; a chore he didn’t begrudge, History of Magic being a personal interest, but time consuming nonetheless. On top of that, the papers he slaved over were returned to him without one comment, marked only with Binn’s initials and an ‘E’ for Exceeds Expectations. A quick survey of classmates revealed that this was the standard marking procedure for every first year student, regardless of the work produced. It was downright infuriating, and Scorpius had vented his frustration in a number of letters to his parents.
Scorpius’ letters were only ever met with his mother’s usual non-committal optimism. Her letters were full of general reassurance and vague support, as she skirted around the issue of his discontent and focussed on Tulip the house elf’s latest mishap or the health of the peacocks that resided in their gardens. His father, on the other hand, had been much less communicative, much as Scorpius assumed he would. It was not in his father’s character to wile away his time writing soppy letters to his eleven-year-old son. Consequently, Scorpius was rather surprised to discover a crisp parchment letter with his name penned in his father’s pointed scrawl attached to the ankle of his owl, Zeus.
Scorpius,Before he knew it, Scorpius found himself a month into his first year. So much had happened in such a short time. Along with the eternally aloof Valentina, Scorpius could now count Rose, Albus and Bo as firm friends. On weekends, he was invited to eat with them on the Gryffindor table. They played exploding snap and wizard’s chess in the library and explored the grounds. Rose and Albus had promised to take him to tea with Hagrid, the half-giant Gamekeeper – a very exciting and slightly terrifying prospect.
Scorpius now had a good sense of his favourite subjects and teachers; he found Potions was hard and messy, Charms was manageable and Professor Llewellyn made Transfiguration worthwhile. Then there was Defence Against the Dark Arts and History of Magic – classes in which he had begun to discover his love of the word why. Why were banshees so unhappy? Why would witches allow themselves to be caught, if only to laugh at their feet being tickled by the flames at their feet? And for the first time in his life, he was reading for pleasure, hungry for answers to such questions.
October was swiftly upon them bringing with it the commencement of the Duelling Club’s weekly meetings.
The Great Hall buzzed with anticipation on the first Friday in October. As dinner came to an end, students began to clear and Scorpius bade goodbye to a disinterested Valentina and traipsed over to the Gryffindor table.
“Do you know if this club’s any good, then?” he asked his trio of Gryffindors by way of greeting, planting himself beside Albus on the long bench.
“I guess so,” shrugged Albus. “Plenty of our family are in it.”
“Dad says duelling’s the most important skill for a wizard to master,” piped Rose, brow furrowed – clearly this assertion worried her – but she quickly grinned, “After Quidditch of course, but I’ve given up on ever mastering that.”
“Yeah,” scoffed Albus. “That would involve you putting down your books for a minute.”
Rose shot him an offended glare.
The Hall was well and truly emptying now, and it was apparent that those remaining were Duelling Club members. Scorpius was glad to note Julius and his cronies hadn’t signed up. With a jolt, however, he realised not all of his enemies were absent – cruelly, James Potter was in attendance and had taken a place among some other second year students further down the table.
James had taken it upon himself to reinforce the more traditional segregation of the Hogwarts houses. In his mind, it was altogether unhealthy for his little brother and younger cousin to be associating with a Slytherin and James liked nothing – not a single thing – better than irritating Scorpius. This usually involved taunting in the corridor or at lunch - nothing too unbearable, but embarrassing all the same.
Fortunately, before James could notice Scorpius’ presence, the Great Hall’s broad oak doors swung open and with a small flourish, in came Professors Slinkhard and Llewellyn. Professor Llewellyn, most definitely one for showmanship, led the way, while the more reserved, mousey Professor Slinkhard followed close behind.
“Evening, ladies and gentlemen,” bellowed Professor Llewellyn contentedly. “Might we all shuffle to the sides of the hall, so the lovely Professor Slinkhard and myself can set up?” Professor Slinkhard shot her colleague a wary but amused look and proceeded to role up the sleeves of her navy robes. She may have been middle-aged and liberal with her allocation of homework, but the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher had a keen sense of humour. Together, they both began to rearrange the furniture to clear space for duelling.
“So this must be the mysterious Mr Malfoy I’ve heard so much about…”
Scorpius spun around in his seat. A beautiful girl, undoubtedly a seventh year, with shining long blonde hair was grinning down at him. Scorpius felt himself flush scarlet as he looked to Rose and Albus for an explanation. Amusingly, he discovered a familiar shade of red creeping onto Rose’s fair cheeks.
“Oh, hi Vic,” she muttered, uncomfortable. “Yes, this is our friend Scorpius. Scorp, this is our cousin Victoire.”
The older girl flashed him a brilliant smile. She had the whitest teeth he had ever seen. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Scorpius. I’ve heard so much about you.” Victoire shot a scandalised Rose the most teasing grin, before adding, “Well, good luck!” and waving goodbye to join her friends.
Rose immediately sought to cover her embarrassment by ducking into in the nearest book, disappearing behind its protective cover while Albus shrugged off his cousin’s teasing as best he could. “We don’t sit around talking about you, I promise.” He assured him, adding hastily, “That would be weird.”
“You do.” Bo interjected apologetically, seemingly out of nowhere, her eyelashes aflutter. “And it is. Just a bit weird.”
Fortunately a distraction came in the form of Professor Llewellyn, “Rightio, then!” he called. “Welcome to the Duelling Club! For those of you who’ve only just joined us, welcome! I promise we’ll take it easy on you – for now.” He added with a sly grin. “And for the rest of you lot, what d’you think you’re doing sitting around? We’ve got work to do! Up you get!”
There was a rumbling noise as the older students rose from their seats, their excited chatter accompanied by the loud sound of stools scraping across the stone floor.
“Disarming spells! The most important charm you can have up your sleeve in a duel. Your opponent can’t do you any harm if they’ve not got a wand!” Professor Lleweylln gestured emphatically with his own wand before turning to Professor Slinkhard. “Professor Slinkhard, if you’ll do me a favour, we’ll need some willing volunteers.”
Professor Slinkhard nodded calmly, shaking her grey bob, and turned to the audience at large. “Some of our more experience duellers should do the trick.” She said in her very businesslike manner. “Mr Cattermole?”
A smug looking boy with a slightly upturned nose sauntered out from the crowd, brandishing his wand expectantly.
“And perhaps… Miss Weasley?”
Around the room, at least three girls stepped forwards. The beautiful Victoire had emerged from the crowd, but so had another girl with strawberry blonde hair and a round face, as well as a serious looking girl with a brown bob and a Hufflepuff girl with long red hair. Beside him, Rose too had stepped forwards and her obvious shock and terror was palpable.
Professor Slinkhard corrected herself with a laugh, “A Miss Victoire Weasley, I should say.”
With a wry smile, Victoire continued into the centre of the room. Rose appeared to recall how to breathe beside him.
“Disarming spells, if you don’t mind.” Professor Llewellyn instructed enthusiastically. “Show ‘em how it’s done!”
Both professors cleared the space leaving Victoire and Cattermole in the cleared space. They bowed, before turning and marching ten paces in opposite directions. Both came to a swift halt before spinning around and exclaiming Expelliarmus!
Victoire was too quick. The smug boy’s wand went flying through the air and into a gaggle of Ravenclaw girls. The boy himself stumbled backwards slightly, while Victoire, this slender, willowy girl, still stood proudly on both feet, hands on hips, a triumphant smile playing on her beautiful lips.
Professors Llewellyn and Slinkhard went through basic duelling protocol, bowing procedures and rules before demonstrating the disarming spell itself. After five minutes practice, Professor Slinkhard announced it was time to pair up.
Scorpius instantly discovered Rose at his side. She was chewing her bottom lip fervently, a deep crease forming in between her eyebrows. Scorpius had to refrain from laughing at how seriously she was taking this. He’d seen his father and grandfather disarm each other loads of times. It was easy. Rose looked fit to faint.
Professor Llewellyn called from the centre of the room, “Bow!” The both did so, Rose almost losing her balance as she continued to gnaw at her bottom lip.
“Turn!” came the teacher’s voice and again they followed his instructions, marching for ten paces. Scorpius spun on the spot, whipping his wand around in a circular motion and shouting, “Expelliarmus!”
Rose didn’t stand a chance. In her panic, she had been slow with her wandwork. Scorpius’ spell had worked – perhaps better than he had hoped. Not only had Rose’ wand gone flying, but Rose herself had been sent flying backwards, travelling a good five feet in the process.
Wracked with guilt, Scorpius ran over to her, barely hearing a booming voice calling his name from behind him. “MALFOY!”
Ignoring this, Scorpius offered Rose his hand, apologies coming thick and fast. “Merlin, Rose, I’m so sorry. I really didn’t mean to- I mean, I didn’t realise it would – oh Rose, I’m sorry!”
Rose gave a shaky laugh as she allowed herself to be pulled onto her feet. She had opened her mouth to say something when, her eyes fell upon a figure behind Scorpius, her face contorting from giddy confusion to slight terror.
Scorpius turned to discover Professor Llewellyn looming over him. He was quite a tall man, and from this angle, he was downright intimidating. “Malfoy!” He bellowed, “What on earth was that?”
Scorpius gulped. He hadn’t meant it! It was a mistake! Surely the Professor could understand that. Scorpius opened his mouth to explain himself but was cut off.
“A first year! Disarming like that! I’d better keep an eye on you. Promising work! Very promising!” and with that, he clapped Scorpius on the shoulder, squinted down at Rose and added. “All right, Miss Weasley? Of course you are.”
Scorpius felt himself deflate as he watched Professor Llewellyn walk away. Bemused, he turned back to Rose and remembered his guilt.
“I really didn’t mean it, Rose. Are you sure you’re all right?”
Still wide-eyed from the shock, Rose nodded vaguely. “I- I don’t know what happened.” She murmured, “I’ve read all about disarming charms…”
Scorpius grinned. “You do realise that there are some things you can’t learn from a book?”