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Chapter 21: Missing!
Who misplaced Malfoy?
Bea smoothed her fingers down her skirt, fiddling with the pale lace at the hem, but the more she tried to calm herself, the more jitters shook her knees. Lucy had said it was like a polite request, no different than asking to pass the salt. Even Rose had asked someone out before, and if Rose could do it, so could she.
Having snuck into the Slytherin common room, the hardest part was already over. That poor boy at the entrance had suffered the most; she had caused quite the fright zooming past him after he answered the password, and he seemed rather jumpy already like he suspected someone was following him from the shadows—that someone being a small Chinese girl fixing the buttons on the most flattering blouse she owned, because she had missed the bottom button again.
She had gone through the arch to the girls' section first, stumbled into a loo, inched along the wall to the boy's side, stumbled into another loo, and emerged beet-red and too enlightened, wondering when she had traded luck with Albus.
But she did eventually find the door to the sixth year's boys dorm—the intimidatingly tall door she was currently standing in front of, made of solid oak. A single knock would be enough for anyone to hear. Probably.
She didn't know for sure. She hadn't knocked yet.
Raising her arm, her fingers closed into a fist and she took a deep breath. No fear! Beatrice Chang charged toward her goals! This was no exception!
Her fist came down and... stopped before it hit the door, but the rush of wind against the wood made a sound exactly like a knock anyway. A creaking wail left her throat as she scurried backwards. She wasn't ready. Why did she think she was ready and come here and knock, and now Scorpius was going to walk out and find her panicking over asking him out of all the stupid things —
A finger tapped her shoulder. "Excuse—"
"WillyougotoHogsmeade?!" she blurted, flapping her arms. "...with...me?" The last words fell out limply upon turning and meeting the twinkling, opal eyes of Xavier Nott.
"O-oh no, not you." Of all the blokes that turned out to be not-Scorpius, it had to be his best friend: the tall, dark, tousle-haired ladies' man with a permanent Jelly-Legs Jinx in his gaze. Made grass swoon. "I mean, not to say I wouldn't. I think you're gorgeous—nice. Nice." She backed up and it only took two steps before she was against the door, but Xavier leaned in closer. "Very nice, but it's just that I wasn't, uh." A lot closer. "...um."
She gulped and nodded, his cologne having stolen what was left of her breath. His nose was right there, close enough to poke with her own, and his mouth spread into a glittering grin.
"What are you doing in front of my room, Bea?"
There was the squeak of a door—it finally opened, with her leaning against it—and then her very own squeak as she fell, hands a-flailing, until someone caught her around the shoulders.
"Xavier, stop scaring her." The voice, which also did not belong to Scorpius, rumbled from the back of her head.
Bea had prepared for many scenarios in her quest for her first date, but none of those involved being sandwiched between Scorpius' roommates. Xavier pulled her to her feet, and she glanced over her shoulder to find that her cushion was Norman Jones, still in his pyjamas.
"I was just flirting," Xavier grinned, walking into the room.
Norman knuckled him in the head. "Stop that, too. You're gay."
"He's what?" She managed to turn even redder. But it was now or never, and Bea had no time to dwell on such thoughts. "Er, hey Norman, is Scorpius here?"
The sleepy boy's brow twitched, knitting together. "I... thought he was with you."
"No? Haven't seen him today, why?"
"I assumed when he was out that he was doing stuff for you." His frown deepened at a worrying pace. "He wasn't here last night and didn't show in the morning, so I thought—shit. Xavier!" Norman twisted around. "I told you. He's missing."
Xavier came back, his joviality dimmed considerably. "You haven't seen him?"
"Not since yesterday evening." Bea's heart beat a different kind of fast as Norman bolted to his wardrobe and pulled on a jumper. She had to be mistaken. He couldn't mean missing as in... vanished. Like those alerts on the Wizarding Wireless, but they were never about a place nearby, let alone about anyone she knew. How could Scorpius be missing? Where could he go? "Should I be worried?"
"I don't know, but I am. Bloody knew something was off when he didn't show for poker..." Norman grabbed his wand and robes, mumbling an additional explanation, "We were going to hustle the fifth years."
Even the perpetually cool Xavier, who would sip tea in the midst of a food fight, was getting antsy. "Left his blazer and pocket watch and everything, too."
Norman hopped past Bea, jamming a shoe onto his right foot. "We're gonna notify Flitwick. Wanna come?"
Bea had been standing, paling, more confused than ever. "Yeah, 'course." The boys were already jogging up the stairs when the words peeled from her dry tongue.
By the time they reached the ground floor, her confusion had fully given way to fear. She had to be overreacting. It was absurd. Last she saw Scorpius, he had an armful of cupcakes and icing on his nose, and now he could be in danger, even dead? No, not dead, she told herself. Stop thinking the worst.
But every passing second was another drop of doubt, another wild thought, and another moment longer where she had no idea what the answer was.
They found Flitwick's door open, and upon entering, she caught sight of a flash of green smoke from his fireplace. Two robed figures had just left via floo, and Flitwick was adding more powder to the canister when he greeted them.
They took a moment to catch their breaths. Bea's eyes roved to the pedestal where her invention had been. "The Ministry came to pick it up already?"
"Hmm? Ah yes, yesterday."
"Yesterday?" The word hit her in the gut, and her voice turned quiet. "I thought—oh, must've been mistaken... the men in the floo looked like Ministry officials."
"The Ministry had a mix-up. Sent people twice." Flitwick smiled. "Is there something you need?"
While Norman and Xavier went to talk to him, Bea stood by the stone archway, staring at empty pedestal.
Yesterday. Flitwick had said her prototype had been taken yesterday, but it was scheduled to be taken today. Bea had asked and made sure; she had wanted to say good-bye. The Ministry had mix-ups more often than not, but how strange that this mix-up coincided with Scorpius' disappearance.
"Are you certain?" she heard Flitwick murmur.
"We didn't see him at all last night, and he left his things..."
She kept staring at the pedestal until the marble seemed to throb. She saw Scorpius last after he walked her back to her room, and he mentioned taking the extra cupcakes to Flitwick's office, where her prototype would have been...
Xavier's shadow snapped her out of her trance. "Flitwick's sweeping the school with a charm. Gonna see if he can find him," he said, walking out of the office. "He'll notify the Ministry if it need be. Scorp's still got the trace on him. Merlin, if he's only drunk on the roof..."
"I hope that's all," Norman muttered. "Let's find Westley. See if he's seen him."
Xavier patted Bea on the shoulder—something consoling, she supposed, in recognition of their mutual worry. Then the two boys left, leaving her alone beside the gargoyle statue.
Her legs refused to walk. She couldn't just stand around when Scorpius was missing, but where would she even start looking? She could only hope that within an hour's time, a professor would be dragging him out by the collar, unharmed except for the U-shaped mark on his cheek, and she would have laughed off how she overreacted—thinking he was dead, for Fawkes' sake—when he only fell asleep in a broom closet.
The gargoyle nudged Bea aside as Flitwick left his office in a rush, and something told her that his charm had failed, and she could feel nothing at all behind her ribs.
When the Headmaster's footsteps faded away, she forced herself to move, cranking one knee after the other like a rusted toy soldier until it became a determined stomp. She was going to find Scorpius. She was going to find him and make him beg forgiveness for jumbling up her insides this entire morning with fear and feelings, and then she was going to ask him out, because it couldn't be scarier than this very moment.
She stomped all the way down the hall and around the corner until her foot slid on a slippery section of the floor. Lifting her heel revealed a streak of pink-yellow icing, smeared from a lump of crumbs.
A smashed cupcake.
Fred was in the middle of capturing Edgar's pawn when Bea fell face-first into the common room.
She appeared to have been running very quickly, which would explain the thundering steps outside. When the door opened, he heard her shout of "Freddie!" and turned in time to see her foot trip over the threshold, propelling her headfirst into the room, skirt ballooned like a parachute.
He scrambled out of his seat. "Bea! Are you—"
She sprang up, nearly head-butting two students who had bent down to help her. "I'm fine. I'm—Freddie! I have been looking all over for you!"
"I just came downstairs—sorry, excuse me." Fred leaped over an Exploding Snap game set up on the floor. The common room was over capacity that weekend, and he couldn't walk without fear of crushing fingers. "What's going on?" He brushed a fluff of lint off Bea's shoulder.
"This is going to sound weird, but I am completely serious and it's a matter of life or death." Her jaw was staunchly set, determined expression frozen as she awaited his answer.
By default, he assumed anything coming out of Bea's mouth was going to sound weird; that she had to prelude with a warning made him a tad suspicious. "O...kay."
"I need you to stalk Scorpius."
He blinked. "Come again?"
She blew a stray strand of hair out of her face, gesturing anew with her hands. "I need you to stalk—like, you know, what you do to Anjali—"
"Bit quieter would be nice, Bea."
"—'cause right now Scorpius is missing." Her voice trembled, and Fred noticed that the wild look in her eyes was not eagerness as much as desperation. "And I don't know who else to turn to. I need you to find him."
Fred sat her down and she explained the situation. He had never seen Bea so scared out of her wits, nor see her try to hide it so much. When she arrived at the events of this morning, the Head Boy came in, alerting everyone of Scorpius' disappearance, and the common room's tolerable din exploded into burbling speculation, heads turning to one another for answers.
"My god, he's really gone," Fred murmured as one of Lucy's friends accosted Bea, asking if she knew anything. If the Ministry couldn't track Scorpius, that meant he was utterly off-the-grid, not in Hogwarts or near any magic that would set off the underage Trace. The Malfoy heir, vanished—this would be national news.
When Bea finally shook off Lucy's friend, Bea tugged Fred's hand, her foot itching to move. "We haven't got time. Let's go outside."
Fred could feel every last bit of hope in her tight grip. Bea had been putting such faith in him lately, but it was one thing to scamper around the castle and another to find an untraceable boy. "Look, we all want to find him, but what makes you think that I'll be able to—"
"I found a trail."
He walked faster so she no longer needed to drag him. "What sort?"
She led him to the third floor, just around the corner of the Headmaster’s office, to the crime scene of crumbs. Fred crouched down to peer closer.
Bea had calmed to the point where she stopped talking at mach speeds, and instead, began apologizing profusely. "Sorry, this must be ridiculous. You probably can't do anything either. I was just—I didn't know what to do, and you always know what to do, so I got you out here to... look... at a cupcake." She dragged her hands down her cheeks.
"It's all right. More than happy to help." Fred actually wanted to thank her; his restless itch had been driving him bonkers and Scorpius' disappearance was exactly the mystery he needed. Not that he wanted Scorpius to disappear, but he was... grateful for its timing.
"Freddie, there's one other thing." She bit her lip. "My prototype... the Ministry took it yesterday. And Scorpius disappeared yesterday, too. But the Ministry were scheduled to come today. You don't suppose that maybe they were—maybe Scorpius had something to do with—"
"Ministry Officials have badges," Fred said, sensing her line of thought. "Flitwick would have checked if they're frauds."
There was a pause. "...right. Of course."
"And Scorpius..." It had been a rough few months, but he had seen the way Malfoy looked at her. "I don't think he would do that to you."
"No, I know, but—" The word hung in the air until she bowed her head with a sheepish cough. "You're right. Um, so... there's a bit more frosting here. Doesn't go very far though." She directed him in the office's direction.
He followed the trail, crouching with his hands on his knees. The thin, pink smudges formed the unmistakable outline of a shoe. "No, it does. You just have to look."
The prints had been trampled by other students, but with the help of a spell Fred had learned from Dad as a parlor trick, he enchanted the icing to glow and spots of pink could be seen the entire length down the hall.
They ended up in a square niche, where six suits of armor stood guard beside a gallery of dusty, unoccupied portraits. "It stops here. Why does it stop here?" Fred muttered.
He inspected the perpendicular hallway, while Bea tapped on portraits. "Hello, hello, anyone in? Anyone see a blonde git about this tall? Worst dresser in school, can't miss him."
Fred circled back to the end of the trail, brows knitted with sweat from thinking—an under-appreciated skill in his point man repertoire. Scorpius was standing here. What would make the trail end so suddenly? His eyes roved from left to right, and then slowly, they went up.
The fourth floor landing. "A staircase could've been here yesterday."
They ran to the next closest staircase, to a passing prefect's scolding. Fred switched on his mental soundtrack: the hunt was underway.
He cast the glow spell again when they reached the landing, and lo and behold, another smattering of pink spots led them up to the fifth floor. The trail was so faint, he couldn't see the gleam unless he was glued to the ground.
Bea ran up to a tapestry of Dumbledore. "Look." She pointed underneath. Another cupcake.
"What does he do," Fred joked, "keep cupcakes in his sleeve?"
He shook his head and then squatted beside the new clue. This cupcake was also stale, about a day old. It had rolled here—possibly kicked—while it was still fresh; had it been moved later, the icing would have already hardened on the cupcake and left mostly flakes. "Looks like from the trajectory of the smear, he went in this direction, up the stairs. Thought so. He's going to the top of the castle."
Bea stared with an awestruck blink. "Holy hippogriffs, you're like Trelawney. See something in everything."
"Sherlock. The preferred metaphor is Sherlock." Rubbing his chin, Fred squinted at the stairs. A thinking pipe would suit him well at the moment; he could probably even pull off a deerstalker. "Actually, I think the cupcake was flung." He crept closer. The banister had a scorch mark that he didn't recall seeing before. "There might have been a struggle and—"
He bit down on his tongue when he found the splotch of brown, not pink, on the third step.
His mental music fizzled off. When he turned around, the girl in front of him was not a girl but a ghost, mouth trembling to form the word. "B-blood?"
"Bea..." he began, but she held her hand up with surprising speed.
"No, keep looking. We have to find him."
Hesitantly, Fred resumed treading up the stairs. "There's still a trail..." he said, smoothing his tie and clutching the end so tightly he threatened to choke himself. He didn't know how to tell her that the blood wasn't the worst part. "These little specks right here. He kept walking. But it's as if..."
Earlier, he had noticed that the trail zigzagged. Scorpius had stopped behind corners, walking on the edges of halls instead of the middle, like he was hiding from someone. But all of a sudden, the trail turned straight. Too straight.
"As if what?"
"As if... he were being forced to walk. As if someone cast the Imperius curse on him."
A sharp breath sounded behind him, and he was definitely going to tell her to go back to her room this time. Find Lucy and Albus and tear through a stash of emergency biscuits. She didn't need to be here and suffer the search herself.
But she wouldn't stand for being anywhere else. "Go on," she said.
And so they followed the specks of icing and blood that grew fainter with every meter, until his eyes and neck hurt from staring at the floor so long, and he had begun seeing faces in the stone. Outside the arched windows, the noon sun was lost behind clouds.
When they reached the seventh floor, and he saw one final glowing fleck in that direction, Fred nodded. "I think I know where he went."
They strode down the left corridor, and he found the door opposite Barnabas the Barmy's tapestry. He had never needed the Room of Requirement enough that it would appear for him, but even before they arrived, he could see the dark outline in the wall, waiting.
"You do it," said Fred.
Bea squeezed her eyes shut and walked past the door three times. He pulled on the handle and it opened with a groaning creak.
He saw the blackened walls first, stretching higher than he could have ever believed. Pulling away more of the door revealed an almost empty room the size of the Great Hall, with floors that were scorched once upon a time. Its only inhabitant was an oaken cabinet at its center.
Their steps echoed as they approached. The cabinet was as tall as a half-giant, and could hold about half of a half-giant. An inscription was written along the crown, too faded to be legible.
Fred told Bea to stand back and tapped against the wood with his wand, and when he was certain it wasn't hexed, he opened it.
It was empty.
He groaned. Another dead end? He racked his brain. All right, what did this mean? How did this lead to Scorpius? Did Bea just need to refurnish her room?
"Freddie." Bea tugged on his sleeve, but her stare was fixed on the cabinet. "If Scorpius was Imperiused, that means whoever cast it... would be really dangerous."
He frowned. Her tone was too calm. "Yeah. That's the general line of thinking."
"They could—they could kill us if we found them."
She nodded, and took a deep breath. Then, she stepped inside the wood enclosure, and turned to face him, straight as a statue. "Have you ever heard of vanishing cabinets?"
Oh gods. "Bea... not the time to be a big, damn hero."
"Close it, Freddie."
"You're not going alone." He wedged himself into the space next to her. Bea shut her side of the door, while Fred still gripped his, wondering whether he should ask her if she was certain about this. He had numbed himself to the prospect of heading into certain danger—and indeed, even felt a certain thrill—but he swore he could hear her heart beat, feel it shake the wood. Yet he knew from the expression firm on her face that asking for confirmation would simply be wasting time.
Fred shut them in, and as soon as the latch clicked, there was a shift in the air, like the vacuum from a bubble that popped a second too soon, scarcely odd enough to catch his notice. The outlines of light around the edges glimmered out of sight and they were cast into true darkness.
He drew in a breath. The air was hot and stuffy—definitely not the same air he breathed a second ago. Then, he pushed the doors open.
Sherlock, again, belongs to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
A/N I am kind of proud of turning cupcakes and Fred's stalking into legitimate plot points. The next chapter should actually be fairly short (I intended it to be part of this chapter, but I didn't expect to include so much build up), so I would like to get it up very soon. Like, late next week or so soon. ...maybe. The most difficult part was making suspenseful AND seem like Capers at the same time, and thus, er, cupcake forensics. It was also pretty darned hard figuring out how Scorpius wouldn't be traced. And I found out afterwards that the Headmaster's office is on the seventh floor, but I thought it was on the third (and apparently, sometimes it is?), so let's just say that it moves. I have established that the castle likes to move things around very much.
A review would be muchly appreciated ♥ The site has slowed a bit, and it's become a rarer treat, so I'd love to know what you think!