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Chapter 10: Take a Chance on Me; Initial Here
10. TAKE A CHANCE ON ME; INITIAL HERE
Scorpius had a heart after all. He still didn't have any fashion sense.
Professor Ringleward took Scorpius and Bea by the scruff of their necks, pulling them down the corridor. Bea knew the path they were on too well. They were headed toward the Headmaster's Office.
"In all my years... stealing from the storage rooms!" he wheezed with a shuddering shake of his head.
"But we weren't!" Scorpius lied.
A tempestuous snort. "Then Mr. Malfoy, what were you two doing?"
Bea turned back after checking for Fred and Anjali; they were long out of sight. "...snogging?" she said.
"Mr. Weasley and now Mr. Malfoy, eh?" Ringleward clucked his tongue. "Kids these days with their 'getting freaky'. It's love that saved us all from Voldemort, not half-hour fun times on the hallway floor with a new boy every week!"
All suspicions seemed to disappear with the rant, which made Scorpius nearly choking on his own tongue worth it. He shot her a glare as if to say, Really? That's the best you could think of? She puckered her lips into a kissy-face. He swung a foot at her.
"Don't make me take off more points." Ringleward held them apart by the robes. "Today, it's footsie! Tomorrow, it's crumping!"
They arrived at the office and with a knock, they were inside. Professor Flitwick sat at the high desk atop a pile of books, reading a list of centaur grievances that stretched from one side of the room to the other.
Flitwick wasn't much of a disciplinarian. He was one of the jolliest headmasters in centuries and certainly the first to have a troupe of dancing charmed cupcakes living in his cabinet. Still, the idea of standing before the headmaster was nerve-wracking, even if he did look like a garden gnome.
The real worry was that Flitwick was rather fond of sending letters to parents. He thought they ought to stay informed, which invariably meant a letter in return. Bea could deal with detention, but Grandma's letters were plain embarrassing, especially those translated by her Chinese-to-English Quill. There were thirty-seven ways to say 'failure' in Chinese, two of which involved cow dung, and the quill always seemed to favor those.
Flitwick laid down the parchment and greeted with a warm smile, "Awake from your beauty sleep already, Jasper?"
"Cleansing the halls can't wait for the morning." Professor Ringleward shoved Bea and Scorpius to the front of Flitwick's desk. "The puffskeins woke me up to these two. Caught them snooping through the storage."
"We were nowhere near — " Scorpius licked his lips. And so began the fibbing game. "I mean, we don't even know where that is."
"Lying will be another 10 points off!" Ringleward snapped. "The door was wide open. Don't try to hide it."
Flitwick held up a hand. "Calm down. Getting riled up won't be good for your heart. Let's hear their side."
Bea felt a little more at ease under the headmaster's amicable smile. Where Professor Ringleward looked like a mop of saggy seaweed, Flitwick's wrinkles were rounded and cheerful. "We got a little lost. That's all," she explained.
"At this hour? I'm afraid I must ask: doing what?"
Bea glanced at Scorpius, who responded, "...snogging?"
Flitwick let out a throaty chuckle. "Ah, young love. Seems like only a hundred years ago when I myself... I was quite the charmer in school." He puffed out his chest slightly. Scorpius nearly gagged.
"I should have handled this myself," Ringleward grumbled. His leery gaze traveled from Bea to Scorpius. "This is your last chance to fess up! If I find that either of you took anything, I'll have you both expelled! Hogwarts has zero tolerance for sticky hands."
Bea swallowed, trying her best not to look down where her stolen treasure hid. The bottle of unicorn hair in her bag pressed against her thigh hotly. Her hand that rested on top fluttered nervously.
Ringleward's grin turned into a toothy ah-ha! as he reached for her. "If you're innocent, then I don't suppose you'd object to a search?"
She took a step back and swung her bag behind her on instinct. If she got expelled, she was as good as dead. Her life flashed before her eyes — her first steps, her first potions set, getting the letter to Hogwarts, Christmas with Dad...
At the sound of shuffling velvet, Bea went rigid. Scorpius went from standing by her side to right behind her. "I object!"
For a second, Bea thought she was thrust in a fairy tale scenario: Prince Smarmy swooping in to save her like he had tried to do in the hallway. But only silence followed and the professors' perplexed stares doubled the awkwardness.
Scorpius cleared his throat, shifting from one foot to the other. "I'll, uh, have my lawyers on you! You can't conduct random searches! It's... Educational Law number seven hundred..."
There was a soft click of a clasp, and Bea felt his hand reach into her bag. She didn't know what he was doing, but since he was practically grabbing her bum, it better have been useful. Ringleward hadn't seemed to notice; he was more preoccupied with trying to figure out whether Scorpius was bluffing or not.
"...thirty-two, subsection D," Scorpius continued, while he fished around — was that pinch necessary? — "which states that all students are allowed to refuse searches by staff and Prefects, unless mandated by the Headmaster." He finished by stepping back and nodding to Flitwick. "Sir."
All eyes turned from Scorpius to Flitwick.
"A search is reasonable," said the Headmaster, giving the go-ahead.
Bea clutched her bag as a last stand until Ringleward pried it from her fingers. He dumped the contents out onto the desk. Out slid two books, a Remembrall, her bag of biscuits, and one deck of playing cards. Bea nearly sank to the floor with relief.
Ringleward raised a brow at the cards. "All aces?"
It took a moment for her to realize the switch that had occurred. So Scorpius hadn't been joking about poker night. "Just, er, a specially made deck," she said, wiping the sweat rolling down her hairline.
The pockets were emptied one by one, until even the lint was scraped clean. Flitwick put a hand on Ringleward's shoulder. "Jasper, there's nothing there. You must have been mistaken."
Ringleward's gaze bore into Bea as he gave the bag a last good shake. "Perhaps," he said, seething with reluctance, "but they'll still have to serve detention for wandering in forbidden corridors."
That, Flitwick agreed with. "A few days helping Professor Lupin ought to be reasonable."
Ringleward grumbled at the lax sentence, but he had lost enough beauty sleep already. Bea retrieved her belongings, and she and Scorpius shuffled outside of the office as Flitwick sought Prefects to escort them back to their common room.
The hallway was dreadfully dark and soundless. Scorpius expected some sort of gratitude for his quick-thinking sleight of hand, but Bea was silent. Maybe she was perpetually angry. She always scrunched up some part of her face, whether at her brows or in a pout or a wrinkled nose.
Currently it was a combination of all three, but there was an out-of-place shyness when she turned toward him and bit her lip.
"Thank you." Bea stuck out her hand. "For saving me today... twice."
"Yeah, well, just remember that next time you see me." Scorpius rolled the bottle of unicorn hair out of his sleeve and gave it to her. She stared at it for a moment, perplexed, and he only then realized she had meant to shake his hand. Too late now — she hastily stuck the bottle in her pocket.
"I probably won't," she chirped. "Cerebral efficiency."
"Short attention span."
He snorted. Really, this girl and her nerve. "At least remember the nice things I do."
"I think you're confusing meddling for a nice thing." Though her voice was calm, it was not without accusation. "So why'd you really help me? All of tonight, I mean."
"Can't I just do a good deed for my fellow man? Woman?"
Her face started wrinkling into a raisin again. "I'll give you a hint: I don't like people who keep up a stupid act, expecting that I'd fall for it eventually. You're not doing this for me; you're doing this for yourself. So tell me the truth: why'd you help me?"
The retort Scorpius had ready died on his lips. No, Bea wouldn't take much more bull from him, but he almost wanted to laugh at how little she would understand the answer she sought — that he was helping her because of a stubborn argument with his father. Maybe that had been his plan all along. His father, admittedly, wasn't the best at fathering, and he raised a son as best as he could for someone who didn't know how. Eventually, Scorpius supposed his father just gave up, because he figured he didn't make a difference anyway. But oh, he could still make his son rebel, and here he was.
"I have to protect my investments, all right?" Scorpius finally said, and in the back of his mind was the faint echo, I rebuilt our family name from nothing but ashes. You want to taint that name with this — this joke of yours?
"You're still that confident that I'll sell my prototype to you?"
"What can I say? I've an ego that dragon tamers can't rein in."
Her features fell blank while she thought, adding suspense to her judgement until her pin-straight lips tilted the slightest bit up. "That's your best answer yet."
Echoing footsteps neared and Hufflepuff Prefect Benjy Whitwater beckoned from down the corridor. It was Bea's cue to leave. Pulling her bag strap snug against her shoulder, she turned away from Scorpius.
A few steps later, she glanced over her shoulder. "Really, though — thanks."
By his second year as the Transfiguration professor, Teddy Lupin was no stranger to the antics of Beatrice Chang.
During a lesson on conjuring plants last week, her flower pot, meant for a daisy or bluebell or two, sprouted an entire rose bush and a flock of butterflies to match. He had scolded her for conjuring living creatures for fun. As a sixth year, she should have known fully well that they would die in a matter of hours, just like the flowers.
He had to admit that they were beautiful while they lasted. It was a testament to her talent that she could go above and beyond with difficult spells. Of course, mishaps were similarly frequent and mostly likely accounted for the stories he heard in the staff room about mysteriously exploding classrooms.
Teddy reacted with a complete lack of surprise at Flitwick's notice that Bea was serving detention with him — she and Scorpius Malfoy. The pair slogged into his classroom midway through lunch, bickering about some prototype. It was getting quite heated and he thought it wise to interrupt as soon as possible.
"You two came in at just the right time," Teddy said, and both snapped their mouths shut. "I'm cleaning out the storeroom." He gestured at the boxes on the floor. "These are full of first and second year supplies. I need you to fix the ones that are broken or still partly transfigured."
Scorpius stood by the door, abiding by the rule of 'ladies first'. With a huff, Bea stomped ahead. She first stopped by the demonstration table where Teddy sat, resting her head on top of a stack of essays.
"How many days did Flitwick say we have to serve?"
She grimaced. "Four days? Just for being up after hours?"
"That's what you get for being a repeat offender." Teddy took an essay from underneath her chin and grinned. "What'll James think if he knew you were running around with Mr. Malfoy here all night, hmm?"
"It isn't like that!" Bea's eyes went directly toward the boy in question, who was well within earshot but doing a good job of acting blasé, crouching by the boxes. She puffed out her cheeks. "You can't go around saying things like that. It's not professional."
Teddy chuckled. What she lacked in tact, she made up in moxie. "Then maybe you need to start calling me Professor Lupin."
"Har har, Teddy." She relinquished her position as paperweight and joined Scorpius on the floor.
The girl attended one dinner at the Burrow, and then suddenly all formalities went out the window. Admittedly, seeing her professor belt out 'Here We Come A-Wassailing' while tipsily playing the piano was probably not the best way to establish authority.
The beginning of the hour was quiet, punctured only by the clink of sorting porcelain, an occasional spell to remove lizard tails, and the scratch of a quill. It was half past when the conversation began, prompted by a rather unremarkable statement from Scorpius.
"Toss me that cup."
Somehow, that single phrase led to a spat about chocolate biscuits versus vanilla biscuits and whether businessmen were immune to dementors because they didn't have a soul.
Teddy concluded that they simply could argue about anything, which, if nothing else, at least made for good eavesdropping on his lunch hour.
On her way out of the greenhouse, Bea called after Albus. "Oi, oi! I've been looking for you. Where've you been? I learned about your dad today. Mostly about how to keep your glasses on in battle."
Albus ducked under Bea's hand, the instigator of much hair-ruffling. "Sorry, practice's been rough. Made it in as reserve, but I really want to get off the bench."
"How's that going?" She swung into step with him and waved at Lucy, who passed by in the opposite direction.
Albus rubbed his shoulder. "I can safely say that Bludgers hurt as much as they did last year."
"Bruises build character." Bea gave him a hearty pat, nearly toppling him over. "Anyhow, I've been meaning to ask you what happened that night. I tried to ask Rose, but she was kind of... Rose-ish."
Which was to say Rose was hiding under her bed covers — her sanctum of moral recovery after a night of wickedness — like a mother beaver in a den. Anyone nearby was treated to a hiss and rabid foaming of the mouth.
"Er, what do you mean, what happened?" Albus had a twitch when he was hiding something, like he was stricken with an attack of static shock.
Bea frowned. "I mean, you sort of disappeared on us. You got away, didn't you?"
"Yes, I, uh, suppose you want to know how. It was — " His gaze scattered across the hallway, looking at faces and fliers tacked on the wall for inspiration. " — nothing. I-I can't say. It was nothing, just a... lucky hallway."
"Aw, Al, come on!"
"Lucky hallway, please Bea." Albus may not have been good at lying, but he could guilt like no one else. Puppy eyes should not have worked so well on someone nearly a head taller than her, but she bit her tongue on the subject.
"Fine, although it won't be the last you hear of it."
Albus wasn't one to keep secrets; the ones he had were bound to be worth discovering. But he also had a habit of making a big deal out of nothing, and she wouldn't be surprised if he was only embarrassed at ending up in the girls' loo — which had happened more than enough times already. The first time was in their second year, when James convinced him that the girls' sign was a Scotsman in a kilt. The second time, he just wasn't paying attention when he walked in. The third time... Albus never could explain the third time.
Regardless, there were more important matters on the agenda. "I was thinking we'd go back to the storage again once Fred figures out a surefire way to make it in and out," said Bea. "Still need some King's toadstool, rotberry... I made a list this time."
Albus perked up. "You really want me to tag along after what a mess it was? I slowed you guys down."
"It's a mess either way. The nature of these things, you know?" She gave him another pat on the shoulder as she stopped at Teddy's classroom. At the same time, Scorpius was walking by from the opposite end with some members of the Slytherin Quidditch team.
"You should've seen Potter pass the Quaffle," one snickered.
"'Puffs are desperate this year if they let him on the pitch."
The chatter subsided as they caught sight of Bea's glare and Albus' sheepish shuffling.
"Nice friends," Bea muttered, opening the door into Scorpius' quickly fading smile.
He sucked in a breath, understanding that his accumulated brownie points had spoiled. Glancing over his shoulder at his departing friends, he said, "Excuse them. The Quidditch lot is brutish, but they're very easy to persuade. You never know when you'll need to strong-arm someone."
"Whatever you say..."
Teddy was hidden behind that day's Daily Prophet. 'SWARM OF HINKYPUNKS CRASH WEDDING RECEPTION' the headline declared. A hand stuck out over the paper to greet them and then pointed to the floor where six boxes of peacock statues waited.
Bea sat down and went straight to work. Tapping her wand against a half-transfigured statue, the stray feathers promptly turned back into stone.
After ten minutes, she was already beginning to tire. She swore they were made of dark matter instead of lead and each seemed heavier than the last. Scorpius was worse off, sweating profusely from that silly velvet eyesore he was wearing.
Bea never understood how rich types could commit such fashion faux pas. Scorpius could buy any jacket in the world, but he chose an indigo blazer with embroidery that looked like it belonged in the fifteenth century and most of all, was fuzzy. It wasn't trendsetting; it was an affront to humanity and she just wanted to watch it burn, fiber by fiber.
"Do you always keep that blazer on?"
Scorpius tugged the end of his collar. "Not worth the sacrifice of style. Suit makes the man."
Bea reigned in her snort as best as she could; he was quite serious about this. "What man? Look at what Teddy's wearing. That's style." The aforementioned professor was wearing a brown double-breasted vest and puffing on a pipe.
Scorpius smirked. "You’re one of those girls who sit in the front row just to ogle him, right?"
"I don't ogle him!" Bea shot back, adding a very quiet, "Not when he's within earshot."
When he continued snickering, she sniffed, "At least he doesn't look like he belongs in Vegas like you do."
"With the showgirls?" He smoothed his suit down. "I'm fine with that."
"No, with the magicians. The crack-pot squibs who've got nowhere else to go."
"I am a hundred percent wizard — "
She flicked a gold button and giggled. "Have you looked in the mirror? You're fuzzy!"
Bea's imagination was never kind to Scorpius, and he popped up in her mind unexpectedly wearing a pink velvet apron. The giggled turned into a cackle.
His cheeks burned and he tugged at the label on the back of his collar. "I'll have you know that this is one of a kind. Hand-stitched by a tailor who lives on the slopes of the Himalayas — " Bea was practically doubled over now. "Oi, my clothes are more worldly than you'll ever be!"
Tears streamed down her cheeks. In a fit, Scorpius threw off the blazer, which only prompted more laughter. She nearly knocked over her line of peacock statues as her feet kicked in the air. Even Teddy was chuckling behind his paper.
"All right, you two, settle down," Teddy said in his best stern voice.
Bea pressed a hand to her mouth, her grin wide, as Scorpius pushed up his sleeves and went back to work with a scowl. He was a lot more fun to be around after being cut down a few notches.
"Oh Smarmy, I don't know how I ever felt threatened by you."
"No blazer today?"
"You get touchy about the littlest things."
On their third day of detention, they were to polish salt shakers. Bea sat on a desk, swinging her legs, while Scorpius crouched on his usual spot on the floor.
Bea rather liked his lack of a blazer. He looked like any other student now: no-frills uniform, hair like he didn't bother to wake up properly, a touch woe-is-me all around. Without his posh bravado, he actually seemed somewhat approachable. She breezed into conversation. "Charms was exhausting. Two essays on levitation theory."
Scorpius nodded absently as he held a shaker up to the light. "You can say that again."
Bea discovered that he was quite terse when it came to conversation topics that did not involve him or something he could brag about. It was amusing, in a pathetic sort of way, and she made it a goal to pester him until he cracked again.
"Flitwick used to teach it, you know, and he never gave out as many as Professor Willoway," she continued, watching him shake salt on his hand. "I hate it when professors just give out grunt work."
He nodded again.
"Going to interrupt your poker night?"
"What?" Scorpius only just looked up, barely aware of her attempt to have a chat. He still looked a little irritated from the blazer kerfluffle.
"Poker night," Bea repeated. "You mentioned it before."
"Er, yeah, with the boys — and Anjali."
Bea imagined a smoky room filled with cigars and monocles and haughty chortling. Anjali would be the lady in red and the cards up her sleeve, even though her dress didn't have sleeves. Galleons would be small fry — 'I raise you two mansions and a yacht,' they would say.
She giggled out of nowhere, and Scorpius sent her an odd look before moving on to the next set of shakers.
Bea cleared her throat, settling herself down. "You and Anj are always together."
"We've known each other for a long time."
She glanced over at Teddy, who seemed to have fallen asleep. "Couldn't she have gotten you and I out of detention?"
He looked up a second time, gaze wary. "Anjali doesn't like to involve herself more than necessary."
"Reputation — what's with the questions?"
"Just getting to know you." Bea grinned. "I realized: you're harmless. I figure that I'm stuck with you for awhile, so I'm making the most of it."
A long silence followed. Scorpius lowered a brow. "You're not secretly trying to kill me, are you?"
"Of course not." She took two pieces of Gobble Gum from her pocket and unwrapped one, offering the other to Scorpius.
He stared at it and then eyed her own unwrapped piece. He took that one instead. Bea rolled her eyes, unwrapped the remaining one, and popped it into her mouth.
Scorpius worked the gum around with his jaw slowly. "Probably shouldn't start yapping about business, huh?" he asked.
"Nope. You're on my good side right now."
She shrugged. "Selective memory's remembering all the good bits, like you wanted. Saving me, apology cupcakes, you in an apron..."
"Me in a what?"
"Never mind," Bea amended quickly. She picked up a salt shaker and began fussing over it. An extra swish nearly transformed it into a small rabbit. After a moment's pause, she glanced back down at Scorpius.
"...you're very strange," he said after some consideration.
After a longer pause, she responded, "...yes."
Scorpius chuckled — he always chuckled in these awkward situations, and it always seemed like he was laughing at her. Bea couldn't help but look like a deer caught in a Petrificus Totalus; if she wasn't viciously standing her ground or lunging at a pastry, she bobbed around like a pigeon, gawky and not entirely mindful of her surroundings.
Thankfully, Scorpius was neither a deer nor a pigeon, and he knew how to move on. "Anyway." He shook his head, shoulders relaxing now that he was fairly certain he hadn't eaten poison. "Anjali and I have known each other since before Hogwarts. She's used to cleaning up my messes..."
As he rambled, Bea learned a mess of empty details — anecdotes she had no context for and names and places she didn't care about. But it was remarkable enough considering the circumstances. He didn't stop rambling, and the rambles became a conversation, and she became dimly aware that this was the beginning of her most unlikely friendship yet, and then an even more surprising piece of speculation planted in her mind.
For someone who strut around like Hogwarts adored him and had Quidditch players, photographers, and Prefects at his disposal, Scorpius didn't seem to know many of them well. He talked about Anjali often, and sometimes fellow Slytherin Xavier Nott. The rest were nameless: the boys, the Quidditch lot, and so on. Come to think of it, he had been rather desperate to join their adventure that night, like he'd been lonely. Businessmen always seemed so lonely in Muggle movies. She supposed they had to be in a job where the goal was to make as much money as possible — half the work was removing competition.
How many people did Scorpius actually call friend?
Could he count them on one hand?
Bea hauled the last box into the storeroom and dusted off her hands.
"Good job," said Teddy, clapping her on the shoulder. "You two are free to go now."
She and Scorpius let out a collective heave of relief. After four days, their arms were fit to fall off. Bea trudged to the desk where she had left her bag.
Scorpius ambled beside her, flipping a sickle. "Hey, nutcase. Hear me out for a minute?"
He asked very nicely, not at all puffed-up. She had to give him credit for finally learning something. She put a hand on her hip. "All right."
He raised a finger. "One last attempt for your prototype. If you say no, I'll give up for good." He drew out a parchment tied with a gold ribbon and gave it to her. "This is an Unbreakable Contract. You know how these work, right?"
He frowned. "I thought you said you knew these things."
"Er..." Bea didn't like to admit she actually a lot less informed about business dealings than she spouted on about. She mostly just heard horror stories from the wireless or the Sunday Prophet.
Scorpius shook his head. "Anyway, it works like this. You write down the conditions and once both parties sign it, it can't be edited anymore. If you break it, you get bad luck for seven years, and it can only be voided if both parties agree. 99% loophole proof and Imperius-resistant."
All of a sudden, it felt a lot heavier. Bea loosened the silk knot and unrolled it, holding her breath at what might have been written inside.
"Write what you want, because obviously, I don't know what that is. I don't think you do, either." There he went again, smirking and laughing at her.
"I do know — !"
"Just name your price and conditions," he interrupted before she could go on. "All I need is the assurance that Malfoy & Co. is allowed to sell your invention when it's finished. If you want to write down that I can't run off with your prototype or any knock-off of it, you can."
Bea blinked. "Really?" With something solid in her hands, vellum she could touch, it felt more momentous than ever before. Swallowing, she remembered all the times she lashed out without hesitation — how she nearly lashed out now — and how childish it seemed. "What if... I ask for too much?"
"Then I just won't sign it. But I think you'd be surprised at what I'm willing to pay."
"Why? Why all this effort?"
"You might do this for fun or whatever, but this invention — people are going to want this. Lots of people." He stood straight and purposeful, not like a student but a real businessman, and for a moment, Bea supposed he could even pull off a velvet blazer. "Do you know that the highest case of depression occurs amongst Muggleborns because they get cut off from their old family? How floo-related burglaries have been on the rise? This can change everything. And if that's the case, I need to be a part of it."
The corners of her mouth twitched. "That's funny. You know, I used to say, 'It's going to be a revolution, Freddie... just you wait'."
"Then it's best you start treating it like one."
Throwing his jacket over his shoulder, Scorpius left her with the contract in her hands.
A/N I think I’m just going to hang my head and succumb to really long chapters. Also, I realized that their entire night’s adventure is probably best read all at once, and I apologize for readers who follow from chapter to chapter for my bad updating -hangs head again-
But eeee! Some of you nominated Capers for the Dobbys in Next Gen, OC, and Quote! Thank you so much, Snapdragons, TheGoldenKneazle, thegirllikeme, MagicPhoenix, JamesPotterLivesOn, Sarah, Hattie, Ash, and everyone else! :) It makes me flail so much, it should be illegal.
Also, loffs to Witnesstoitall for the Daily Prophet headline! Tis her cleverness that brought out the hinkypunks.
Please leave a review; any comments would be wonderful! :)
Coming up: Contract discussion, Bea's lofty dream, and the subsequent massacre of said dream.