Chapter 1 – The Crime
It was a beautiful day in November, sunny but crisp and cool. After being forced out of the castle at dawn though, Rose longed to return to the common room, curl up in a chair, and take a nice long nap. Everyone else seemed to be making the most of weather and the chance to be outdoors. Her brother and numerous cousins had arranged an impromptu game of Quidditch on the far lawn bordering the forbidden forest. The staff was content to allow them to entertain themselves as long as they kept their distance from the preparations going on at the front of the castle.
Rose gazed over at the tent that had been erected just that morning in front of the castle’s doors. The Triwizard Champions had disappeared inside not long ago and were probably receiving their instructions for the first task. Tiers of benches had been set up on the front lawn surrounding the tent for the students and spectators who would gather in the next hour to watch the first task.
A whistle blew and a cheer went up. Rose turned back to the field to see the game had ended. When the players changed, her brother Hugo and cousin James left the makeshift field to join Rose, her cousin Albus, and her best friend Cora where they rested on the grass watching the game. Ian Halliday handed his beater’s bat to his replacement and joined them, taking the seat on the blanket next to Rose. Propping himself up on one arm, he leaned casually toward her as the talk turned from Quidditch to the tournament.
“I wonder why the Pitch’s sealed off if the task is supposed to take place in the castle,” Ian said, not bothering to hide his disapproval. He had already made it clear he didn’t believe the excitement of the tournament made up for the inconvenience caused by a lack of Quidditch.
“I don’t know,” James said, “but I understand that when my father was here they built a maze inside the stadium for the final task. I doubt they’ll do the same thing this year though.”
“I heard that during breakfast this morning they were moving something from the field into the castle,” Cora said. “So perhaps they were using it as a preparation area for the first task.”
“Or as a holding area for something particularly nasty that they couldn’t risk setting loose in a castle full of students,” Hugo suggested gleefully.
James leveled a stern gaze on his cousin. “From what I understand about the tournament, I don’t think you have to worry about the tasks being too easy. Malfoy will certainly have his work cut out for him as school champion.”
“Oh, I agree,” Hugo said with relish, “especially without a proper wand.”
He grinned slyly as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wand which he twirled between his fingers. Rose snatched it from the air as he tossed it casually.
“Is this his wand?” Rose demanded and Hugo shrugged without a sign of remorse. “Where did you get it?”
“It’s not my fault if he doesn’t keep a proper eye on his things.” Rose had to resist the urge to clout him over the head. “Don’t worry. He won’t discover its missing until it’s too late. I left him a little something in its place. Not that it will do him a lot of good.”
Hugo laughed and Rose gaped at him in horror. “You are going to let him go into the first task of the tournament without a wand?”
“Don’t get your wand in a knot,” Hugo scowled. “It’s no less than he deserves after what he said about James.”
James brow furrowed. “I hope you’re not doing this on my account.”
Several weeks ago before the Champions had been named, James and Scorpius had engaged in a heated bout in which they had taken turns trading insults and then in turn boasting about who would be named school champion. Rose had thought it nothing more than a harmless display of male competitiveness. It seems James had shared her view, but Hugo had had a harder time letting his resentment and disappointment go. Then again her brother had never quite gotten over his embarrassment of losing his first Quidditch match as Gryffindor keeper last year to the Slytherins. Something he’d chosen to blame on Scorpius.
Hugo colored at the sight of so many unfriendly eyes turning his way. “He’s an arrogant git. Someone had to teach him a lesson.”
Rose sat up straighter to glare at her brother. “People have died in this tournament.”
“Not for hundreds of years,” Hugo retorted.
“Yes, well, they’ve all went into the tasks with a proper wand,” Rose said, rising from the blanket.
“What are you doing?” Hugo demanded.
“Fixing this,” Rose declared angrily as she strode away across the lawn.
Her mind started to whirl and her feet slowed in hesitation as she approached the tent. There was no way she could tell any of the staff or tournament officials what her brother had done. He’d be expelled for sure. And if she managed to get in the tent, it was doubtful she would be able to talk to Scorpius alone. Not that she wanted to. He wasn’t going to be happy when she explained that her brother had taken his wand, and she wasn’t at all certain how he would react.
Rose stopped only feet from the tent when her confidence fled and her self-righteous anger began to wane. How could she manage to get the wand to Scorpius without arousing suspicion? She wasn’t surprised when she saw Ian had followed her.
“Are you sure about this?” he asked. “It’s not going to take Malfoy long to notice the switch once the task starts. I doubt he’ll have the chance to get hurt, and when he shows the judges the fake wand, I’m sure they’ll just postpone the task until they can get him a replacement. If you tell them now, you’ll likely only get Hugo into trouble.”
“I’ve thought of that,” Rose said with a sigh. “But I can’t do it. I can’t let him go in there without a wand.”
“Then what are you going to do?”
The students were now filing in off the lawn and into the stands. A buzz of excited chatter followed them and Rose knew it wouldn’t be long now before the task began. She gazed uncertainly at the closed flaps of the tent and then back at the castle’s imposing façade. With sudden inspiration, Rose grabbed Ian’s arm and pulled him away from the tent and its growing crowd of spectators.
“Show me where you left your broom.”
Slipping his hand into the pocket of his robes, Scorpius’ fingers tightened around his wand and felt reassured when it vibrated in his hand. Hugo may have not succeeded in ruining Scorpius’ chances in the task, but he would still answer for the attempt. After he made it successfully through the task that is.
“Alright everyone, gather round,” Mr. Tennant called, beckoning them toward the front of the tent.
Tufts of sandy brown hair stuck up at odd angles over Tennant’s head as if he had worried it repeatedly with his hands. This was his first assignment as the new head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation and it was clear he was anxious that everything go well. He grinned uneasily at the large Durmstrang champion then turned to include the others.
“Before we get started, I need to explain the rules. Once you get inside the castle you will have one hour to complete the task. Each champion has his - or her,” he paused to smile at the Beauxbaton’s champion, “own trail of magical clues that will lead you to your goal. Once you have secured your prize and the clue to the next task, you need to make your way as quickly as possible back here. You’ll want to be careful because some clues may be false and will lead to obstacles that can divert you from your task. If you get into trouble send out a signal and someone will come in to get you. Now does everyone understand?”
He surveyed them gravely and was careful to make sure each indicated his or her understanding. “Well, then let’s get started.”
Mr. Tennant led them out onto the lawn in front of the castle to great applause. Scorpius knew his father was in the crowd but pointedly avoided glancing in his direction. He didn’t need to be reminded how important it was that he win this tournament. He had already gotten an owl a day since he had been named school champion lecturing him on his responsibility.
Before following the others inside, he glanced at the students’ section of the stands but couldn’t find Hugo in the sea of faces. He had hoped he might be with his sister, but Rose Weasley’s bright coppery locks were nowhere to be seen. It would have been nice to witness Hugo’s expression when he was the first to emerge victorious from the castle.
The crowd’s cheers were cut off by the castle doors closing behind them. The other two champions wasted no time in chasing their first clues down a path through the school, but Scorpius wouldn’t let a sense of urgency make him careless. There was no sense in being hasty when a wrongly read clue could send him on wild goose chase across the school.
He had already managed to avoid several cleverly disguised obstacles by the time he made it to the next clue. Somewhere in the upper levels of the castle, he heard a scream and knew one of the other champions had just fallen victim to one of its perils. Not to be distracted, he continued and his confidence grew as, without incident, he followed the clues up and then back down through countless castle corridors.
He froze instantly alert when he rounded a corner to find an abandoned wand lying several feet away. Further down the corridor, he could see an opening in the stone floor that was large enough to contain any number of dangers. He proceeded cautiously, his unease deepening when he got close enough to see that the wand looked remarkably similar to his own. The sound of scrabbling followed by a grunt rose from the opening.
“Blasted wand!” Scorpius heard the muttered curse come from the direction of the opening. “When I get out of here, I’m going to throttle Hugo.”
He thought that he had recognized that voice. Now he was sure. She must have accidentally triggered one of the traps set up for the champions when she snuck back into the castle. He was sure he had seen her on the lawn earlier this morning with the others.
Hugo must have discovered that his little wand swap attempt this morning had failed, which is why he hadn’t seen them in the stands. Scorpius found he was more than annoyed that Hugo had been able to talk his sister into helping with his plan to knock him out of the tournament.
Scorpius searched the area for any sign of other traps. The hole wasn’t large enough to block his way. He could continue on with the task without her ever even knowing he had been there. But without reason he found himself lingering, curiosity overruling caution.
Picking up the fake replica of his own wand, Scorpius wondered once again how they could possibly think this would fool him. He moved over to the opening and bent down to peer over the side. It was only four feet wide but almost twice as deep and sure enough at the bottom staring morosely at its smooth sides was Rose Weasley.
“Having some trouble?” he drawled.
Rose spun toward him, craning her neck back to see him. The force of her bright smile rendering him temporarily speechless.
“You’re alright,” she panted.
She seemed happy to see him and Scorpius chided himself for allowing it to sway him for even a moment. No one would deny that Rose was a rare beauty but at the moment she was his enemy. He hardened his gaze and saw her smile falter.
“Where’s your brother?”
He was going to be angry if he discovered her brother had sent her in alone to do his dirty work. These tasks were designed to test them, to push them to the extent of their capabilities, which made them dangerous. He had no right to ask her to take such a risk. But maybe he had assumed wrong. Maybe this had all been her idea.
“Outside with the others, I suppose,” she responded warily, and she was right to be cautious. He was in no mood to be generous.
For the first time, Scorpius noticed she wasn’t holding a wand. Which he supposed made sense. There were any number of simple spells that could have had her out of there by now. A cursory glance of the surrounding area revealed she hadn’t lost it when she dropped the fake.
“Where’s your wand?”
“I didn’t bring it.” She sounded pained by the admission, which told him she wasn’t a complete fool. Had she been that anxious to see him fail then that she would forget something as important as her wand?
He lifted one imperial brow. “You came in here without a wand.”
“Of course not,” she declared hotly. “I am not a complete dolt.”
He gave her a look that clearly stated his skepticism. “I dropped it. It must be up there somewhere,” she huffed.
“Do you mean this?” he said, holding up the fake.
Color flooded her cheeks, betraying her guilt. He was a little shocked to have his suspicions confirmed. She had always seemed more intelligent and broadminded than the others. It was disappointing to discover he was wrong.
“I know how this looks,” she pleaded, but Scorpius was too angry to hear anymore; He had wasted enough time here. He rose to leave and saw her flash of panic. She would be safe here, though, until the task was over. Then if he was feeling charitable he would come back for her.
“I always meant to give it back,” she called out to him as he walked away then more desperately, “You can’t leave me here.”
He stopped but didn’t turn back. “Do you really expect me to help you after what you tried to do?”
Several moments ticked by. Her silence worked on him like nothing else would. Feeling ten times the fool, he spun around and pointed his wand at the mouth of the opening. He couldn’t risk letting her out, but his shield would keep anyone and anything else from finding her before he returned.
He still felt uneasy as he mounted the stairs to the next floor. He wished fervently that he had not wasted his time confronting her. His concentration was scattered and he could no longer focus on the task. It wasn’t long before he started making mistakes.
He followed one false clue down two corridors before he realized it and encountered several obstacles that he should have been able to avoid. One of which resulted in a fight with a troll that wasted valuable time before he was able to escape.
When Scorpius finally made it to the front lawn, he wasn’t surprised to see the others were already there. It seemed Rose and Hugo had succeeded after all. The final results had hardly been announced when he saw his father come charging out of the stands. Grateful for the excuse, Scorpius hurried into the castle telling his father he had left something inside. He was only delaying the inevitable though. His father wouldn’t leave without delivering his lecture in person.
He hadn’t gone far before he spotted her. She was hovering near the stairs watching him with a mixed expression of guilt and trepidation. Her cloak and scarf were missing but otherwise she looked none the worse for her ordeal. Either she had been hiding a wand or was cleverer than he had thought and had managed to find a way out on her own.
“I’m sorry,” she said, her hand white knuckled where she gripped the stair railing.
“If I were you and your brother I would stay out of my way during the remainder of the tournament. I can’t be responsible for what happens otherwise.”
He didn’t bother to wait for her response. Taking the stairs two a time, he made his way down through the dungeons to the Slytherin common room. He wasn’t in the mood to face anyone at the moment. If his father wanted to talk to him then he would have to come looking for him.
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