They could still hear the shouts and screams emanating from the Great Hall as they ascended the stairs leading from the dungeons to the Entrance Hall. As they stood silently, mere inches from the dungeons, they watched as an Auror flew from the Great Hall and landed hard in the middle of the Entrance Hall. They both ran over to him; he was not breathing.
They both cast a quick glance inside the Great Hall, and saw that the battle was still raging on. Surprisingly, it looked as though none of the students and professors had been harmed, much less stood up and attempted to help. Scorpius pulled James away from the scene and headed for the Grand Staircase.
The Slytherin intended to hide somewhere on the upper levels of the castle; high enough so that, if the Death Eaters won, they would have ample time to prepare themselves. They climbed the stairs quickly, Scorpius taking them two at a time and James trying his best to keep up. They made it to the fifth level, and were about to head down the corridor, when they heard a terrifying scream and decided it best that they keep moving. They climbed up to the seventh floor, ignoring the gaping hole that had once been the Fat Lady's portrait and hurrying off to find somewhere to hide. They ended up climbing the ladder to the Divination Room, where they sat silently for a moment before they noticed someone else occupying the desk at the front of the room. The person was not moving.
James stood, walking over to the Divination Professor, and spoke, quietly, "Professor?"
Sibyll Trelawney remained deathly still, which was appropriate given that she was dead. James looked around the room, examining it for the first time since he had walked in. There was no sign of a struggle; it seemed the Death Eaters hadn't considered Trelawney worth dragging down to the Great Hall and had killed her on the spot. Nothing in the room was out of place; the only hint that the Death Eaters had been here was an upturned desk nearest the ladder.
James ignored his dead professor and sat in a desk, a few seats away from Scorpius. The Slytherin had pulled out his wand and was examining it with a deep frown appearing across his face. Just as James was about to say something, Scorpius spoke. "Flint's wand is a piece of shit. It's all chipped and scratched and filthy... I think she wrote on it."
James laughed, though he couldn't help but ask, "What does it say?"
The younger Slytherin simply shrugged. "I can't read it. Writing was never one of Flint's talents."
Chuckling, James' thoughts turned to the Slytherins they had left in the dungeons. Vaisey had said that Goyle had died. Flint had gone crazy at the idea of going to Azkaban and turned on everyone, and Octavian Nott had helped them out, if only for his friend's sake. He sighed. Things were changing, fast. Could they trust Octavian? More than likely, the answer was no. But Scorpius had said that Octavian was a coward; not directly, but he had implied it.
"I don't like her, you know," Scorpius mumbled, more to himself than to James.
"What?" James asked, turning his head to look at the younger boy.
Scorpius did not meet James' eyes as he continued. "Weasley. Regardless of what Baddock said, I don't. I'm not doing this- helping you- for her. I'm doing it for me. For my family."
"Your family?" James asked, now slightly more interested. His own father was not particularly fond of the Malfoy's, and as a result neither was James. Regardless of what Scorpius had done to help him today, James still felt as though he couldn't trust the Slytherin.
"Yes. My grandfather was a Death Eater and so was my father, for however short a time. People don't trust our family. We've made one bad choice after the next, and I'm not going to continue that trend," Scorpius said, still not meeting James' eyes. He was instead staring at the floor.
"So what does that have to do with Rose?"
Scorpius began concentrating even more intently on the floor, and James could see his cheeks turn the faintest bit pink. "Nothing. Nothing at all."
James smirked to himself and replied, "I saw you staring at her in the Great Hall."
The pink became slightly more prominent as Scorpius turned to look at James, finally meeting his eyes. "What? You did? I mean... I wasn't."
James said nothing, and Scorpius sighed. "I just... I dunno. There's just something about her. I can't figure it out."
James shrugged. "Well, don't worry about it. Now isn't the time to be discussing your little redheaded crush, anyway."
Scorpius glared at the older Gryffindor, though he chose not to say anything. James was finding the Slytherin boy more interesting as their conversation went on. He was fairly certain Rose did not have the same feelings Scorpius held for her; in fact, he was quite sure that she didn't like the boy at all. Her boyfriend, Desmond Cauldwell, would attest to that.
"What's our next move?" James asked, ignoring the fact that Scorpius' cheeks had grown even more red after his last comment. If the Slytherin liked Rose, that was fine. It didn't matter at the moment; not with the Death Eaters in the castle.
"First we should try to figure out who the victor is," replied Scorpius, after a moment of silence. "If it's the Aurors, we're done with all of this. If it's the Death Eaters, we're in for some serious trouble."
"If the Death Eaters won, we're dead," James muttered. His father had brought the entire Auror Department, or most of it, with him to fight the Death Eaters. If they had failed, things were going to get far worse than they were now.
Scorpius nodded and stood. "Let's go see."
James stood as well, and was preparing to follow Scorpius down the ladder when a head appeared; someone was climbing up the ladder. Both James and Scorpius pulled their wands and aimed it at the newcomer, who quickly noticed their presence and raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. After only two seconds of this, he lost his balance on the ladder and fell backwards, landing on the floor a few feet beneath him. James and Scorpius hurried over to see who it was.
"Lysander, are you alright?" a female voice asked, concerned for the boy.
Lysander Scamander simply grinned up at James and Scorpius, waving at them from the ground before he got up. He nodded at the female, who had yet to find her way into James and Scorpius' line of sight, and looked up at the two. "What are you two doing up there?"
James smiled; Lysander was a welcome sight. The Ravenclaw boy was just one year younger than James, putting him in Albus' year. He was tall, fair skinned and lanky; his hair was a light blond and his eyes a bright blue. The Scamander twins were considered two of the most talented wizards of their age; Lorcan had done things in Transfiguration that had managed to surprise his professor and Lysander... well, Lysander was a bit lazy. It was generally agreed that if Lysander were to push himself and work a bit more than he did, he'd be just as smart as Lorcan.
Lysander's smile widened a bit as he beckoned the two to come down. They did; James first and then Scorpius. Lysander didn't know Scorpius very well and, after seeing a look his female friend gave the Slytherin boy, chose to simply ignore him altogether, which was something Scorpius was getting used to by now.
"James, I believe you know Miss Madeleine Creevey. Miss Creevey, Mr. Potter. Mr. Potter, Miss-"
"There's no need for introductions, Lysander," Madeleine said, smiling at the Ravenclaw boy. She adjusted the Hufflepuff badge upon her chest before she spoke. "I know James very well."
James smiled. The two had dated a short while in their fifth year before a rather abrupt breakup that had left Madeleine particularly heartbroken. She had held a bit of a grudge against James, and when she had been made a prefect in her sixth year she had made it clear to James that she didn't like him; she had taken every opportunity to take house points from him and stick him in detention.
"So what brings the two of you to the seventh floor?" Lysander asked, unaware of the history between the two. Scorpius answered Lysander's question; Madeleine was busy glaring at James and James was busy staring at the ground.
"We were hiding from the Death Eaters," Scorpius explained; this caught the attention of Madeleine, who stopped glaring and spoke.
"What was that explosion we heard earlier? Was it the Aurors?" she asked.
Scorpius nodded. "Do you know anything about the battle downstairs?"
Lysander's smile faded. "I have no idea. We haven't ventured down there since the Death Eaters appeared. But we can talk about this somewhere else; you'd best follow us."
They followed Lysander and Madeleine through the corridors of the seventh floor; Lysander was leading the way, though it seemed he had no idea where he was going and had to keep asking Madeleine for directions until she finally had it and stormed ahead of him. Both Scorpius and James were silent, neither wanting to talk with the other. James was tempted to go and talk to Lysander, but he decided against it as they continued walking.
It took them about ten minutes to figure out where they needed to go. They stopped outside a door which was cracked open ever so slightly, and Madeleine hurried inside. Lysander opened the door wide, ushering them inside. With a smile, he said, "Welcome to the Room of Requirement."
James had never been inside the Room of Requirement. He had heard plenty of stories, several from his father and even a few from his mother. Lily had bragged about finding it once, though she had refused to show him where it was. He had heard the room would appear when you needed it most, and would appear as whatever you needed.
The room he entered was a decent size and relatively featureless. There was a fireplace to his left, as well as a couch and several armchairs just in front of it. There was a bookcase on the far wall, as well as a table with a good amount of food spread all over it. Several people sat near the fireplace, surprising James with their presence.
Lysander and Madeleine walked over to the couch, taking a seat there. Scorpius stood next to James at the door, closing it behind him. Next to the fireplace, along with Lysander and Madeleine, were Lorcan Scamander, Claudia Cadwallader and their Herbology professor, Neville Longbottom. Lorcan turned to look at them from his position on the floor and promptly resumed reading his book; Claudia looked at them and began whispering with Madeleine, who was smirking as Claudia spoke. Neville turned to the boys and smiled wide.
"James! Fantastic to see you!" he said, before realizing he should say something similar about Scorpius. "Nice to see you as well, Scorpius," he added, still smiling.
Scorpius nodded in response as James replied, "Nice to see you too, Professor Longbottom."
"Are the two of you alright? Do you need anything? We have food and some drinks over there, and I know a few basic healing spells that could-"
"Professor," interrupted James, "we're fine. Don't worry."
Neville smiled warmly, letting out a heavy sigh. "You two are the only friendly faces we've seen since the Auror showed up."
James blinked. "What? What Auror?"
Neville pointed towards the far right corner, which James could see was occupied by someone. "The Auror. Came down this corridor and dropped to the floor, unconscious. We brought him in here, figured he could use some rest."
Scorpius allowed a small smile to appear about his face. "At least we know one of the Aurors is still here to help."
The head of the man peeked out from the shadows of the corner, revealing his face to the room's occupants. James' expression immediately turned hostile as he spoke. "No, that's no friend of ours. That's Braeden Pritchard."
"We've won, sir. The Aurors are defeated."
"We aren't sure. We have yet to search through the bodies."
"What about that red-headed bloke? The one that killed Macnair?"
"He was giving us some trouble, Rodolphus. He managed to kill Jugson as well before we killed him."
"You know of him, but not Potter?"
"I killed the man myself."
"Well, let's see how many of us are still standing before we proceed. Oh, and Rabastan?"
"Is Yaxley dead?"
"No, sir. He managed to survive."
"Who the hell is Braeden Pritchard?" asked Scorpius, looking from James to Pritchard, confused.
Pritchard, sensing that something was about to go wrong for him, retreated back to the relative safety of the shadows, mumbling to himself.
"Do you remember how Aidan had told you that we'd attempted sending an owl to the Ministry already?" James voice quivered as he spoke Aidan's name; he was still struggling with his friend's death, though he was trying his best not to show it.
"Yes. That failed, didn't it?" asked Scorpius. Neville stood silently, listening intently to their conversation.
"No. Two Aurors intercepted the message. They were working for the Death Eaters. That one in the corner is one of them."
"What about the other?" Neville asked, though he felt he knew the answer already.
"She's dead," James answered. "Lestrange killed her."
Neville blinked, then closed his eyes as though deep in thought. "Lestrange... I know of the Lestranges." He paused, and James could see his eyes beginning to tear up. "We have some history together."
James nodded, though he did not ask Neville to elaborate. "That one in the corner got away."
"So," Scorpius began, eying the Auror, "what's so special about him?"
"I think he knows what the Death Eaters want."
Scorpius grinned, and took a few steps toward the Auror. "Well, let's see what he knows."
James, Scorpius and Neville walked to the corner where Pritchard sat, curled up into a ball. The man's eyes were red, his cheeks tear-stained and his hair a mess. He did not speak. Scorpius and James both pulled out their wands, though Neville did not do so, watching the Auror with interest.
"Do you know what the Death Eaters want here?" James asked, his wand pointed at Pritchard.
Pritchard looked up, found himself staring at the tip of two wands, and immediately tucked his head away again. Ten seconds later, he peeked his head out once again, and found that the wands were still pointed at him, though now the wizards they belonged to looked a bit confused. He took a deep breath, attempting to calm himself, and upon failing that, said simply, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Liar," Scorpius snarled, moving his wand so that it was mere inches from the tip of Pritchard's nose. Pritchard yelped in surprise, which got the attention of the other occupants of the room. Lysander got up and walked over to see what was going on while the others remained where they were, warming themselves at the fire.
"I swear, I don't know anything!" Pritchard begged; Scorpius poked the Auror's nose with his wand, causing him to yelp again. "I swear! They told Sian everything, not me!"
Lysander frowned, looking unimpressed and more than a bit disgusted. "Some Auror."
Pritchard's eyes began to well up with tears as he continued. "I didn't want to get involved in any of this! It was Sian's idea! Rookwood talked to her, not me! I didn't-"
"Shut up!" James roared, silencing the man immediately. The Auror was saying that Rookwood had talked with Sian Deverill and... and what?
James realized that everyone was looking at him. He ignored their stares and focused on Pritchard, who looked absolutely miserable. He found that he couldn't feel sorry for the man; it was because of him that Aidan had died. It was because of him that the Death Eaters may have defeated the Aurors. He could not forgive the man responsible, however indirectly, for the death of his friend and, quite possibly, his father. He couldn't think like that, though. He bit his lip before he spoke again.
"What do you know about all of this? What do the Death Eaters want? Why are they here?"
Pritchard was silent, and it took James a moment to realize that everyone in the room was crowded around the Auror. However, Pritchard did not appear nervous; actually, he looked terrified. Nonetheless, after a moment, he replied, "I don't know a lot. They didn't tell Sian a whole lot either. They told her enough to convince her that helping them would be the right choice."
"What did they promise her?" Scorpius asked, his wand lowered a bit.
Pritchard blinked. "Money. Power. They told her she would be the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She would have more money than she could possibly imagine. They-"
"She sold the Ministry out for money?" James fumed, unable to believe that the now deceased Auror had betrayed the government for money. Especially money promised to her by Death Eaters.
"It wasn't the money, really," Pritchard said, "it was the power. Sian was an ambitious person. I went to Hogwarts with her. We were in the same year, just different houses. She was a Slytherin, while I was in Ravenclaw. She was so clever, so cunning, so..." he trailed off, suddenly lost in his thoughts.
"So what?" asked Scorpius impatiently. They didn't have time for the man's daydreams.
Pritchard blinked, and then said, "She played Quidditch, did you know that? A Seeker."
"What does that have to do with-" James interrupted, before Pritchard interrupted him in turn.
"There was a boy who was keeping her from the position. Talented kid. He wound up in the Hospital Wing one morning; he had so many hexes cast on him that the nurse wasn't sure which to tend to first. He had to spend the better part of the year in the Hospital Wing. She got the spot."
"So she was violent, alright, fine. Are you going to tell us what we'd like to know?" James asked, beginning to grow quite impatient with the Auror.
"I'm only trying to explain that when Rookwood offered her this, her help in exchange for a position of power, it was in her nature to accept. She came to me for help."
"Why? And why did you help her?"
Pritchard shook his head. "She told me what she knew, but she never explained why she needed my help." He paused, and then added, "Why I helped her is my own business."
Scorpius was about to demand that he stop talking about Sian and just get to the bloody point before Pritchard spoke once again. "She only told me a few things. She said that the Death Eaters had a plan that would allow them to conquer the wizarding world."
"They always have that sort of a plan," mumbled Neville.
"All they told her was that they would need her to help them escape, and once they were free, make sure that the Ministry could not find them. Judging from the explosion I heard, I assume the Ministry found them."
There were several nods and Pritchard resumed. "Rookwood told her that they needed Hogwarts for a very specific reason. Apparently, Rodolphus Lestrange's son, Adrastos, held a position as an Unspeakable for some time. There was a potion that they discovered, and Adrastos quickly let his father know of it."
"So Adrastos wasn't doing his job very well then, eh?" Lysander muttered, hoping for a laugh; he only got a bit of a nervous one out of Madeleine.
"What does the potion do?" asked Scorpius, now certain that things were not at all good. If this potion had come from the Unspeakables, it had to be something powerful. Why else would Adrastos rush to tell his father about it?
Pritchard shrugged. "Rookwood said nothing about the potion. He would only say that it required only one more ingredient, one that could be found at Hogwarts." A short pause before he added, "Well, it could be found several other places, but it would be much easier to get here."
"What is it?" asked James.
"He didn't say," Pritchard said, the beginnings of a smile appearing on his face. "Aren't you sensing a pattern here? Rookwood hints at something and then doesn't elaborate. Terribly sorry I can't tell you more."
"Did he say where this ingredient could be found?" asked Neville, now beginning to guess at what it could be. It would have to be something rare. Neville knew little about Potions; he had not enjoyed the class while he had been at school and had never bothered practicing the art. He knew of a few ingredients that would be considering rare, as he had had many conversations with the current Potions Master regarding such things; Re'em blood, for one thing, considering the rarity of the creature, and runespoor eggs for another, as the creatures were a protected species. But Hogwarts did not have those, and Neville found that he was not entirely sure at all what the Death Eaters could want.
Pritchard shrugged. "Sian said all Rookwood told her was that it would be found in some sort of chamber."
"Well that's bloody fantastic!" James said, now extremely frustrated. "The castle is filled with chambers! How do we know which one?"
"Well," Pritchard began, "Sian had asked him to elaborate."
"He told her it's a secret
"The Aurors managed to cut our ranks in half. There are little more than twenty of us left."
"Who was killed?"
"Macnair and Jugson, as you already know. Macnair's son is dead, as is Mulciber's. The Wilkes boy is also among the dead."
"Is that all?"
"No, sir... my... my son was killed, as well."
"I'm terribly sorry for you, Rabastan. However, now is not the time to grieve. We must continue with our business. What of the Aurors?"
"We managed to kill a good number of them. Things worked to our advantage; they were attempting to take us alive, while we were doing no such thing. Shall we deal with any survivors?"
"No, leave them. We're almost done here. Have the professors killed. Take the students and do as I specified earlier."
"Find Potter and, if he's alive, bring him to me. I'd like to have a nice long chat with The Boy Who Lived."