Chapter 8 : The Long Winter
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Classes resumed. Quidditch continued. Doldrums set in. Surrounded by near constant blinding snow took its toll on everyone. January was a literal, white blur. February was not looking much better.
Kavi, Scorpius, Cornelius, Justine, and Tarani sat in the Great Hall conducting their habitual Wizard’s Chess game. At the moment Kavi was playing Cornelius, while Tarani and Justine watched. Scorpius was working on his Potions essay which was due at the end of the week. All were enjoying the heart shaped homemade cookies baked by Gemma Fairbotham.
“Your mum sure can bake,” Justine said her mouth full with her 4th cookie.
“Quiet, I am trying to plot my next move.” Cornelius was staring at the board in fierce concentration. He took the game very seriously.
“Scorpius, why are you doing homework again?”
“Don’t whine at me, Jussy, I have an essay that’s due.”
“It’s not due until the end of the week! What is up with you lately?”
Looking up at Justine, he responded, “Whatever do you mean?”
“Homework is like an obsession with you. You are always studying, doing work ahead of time. It’s rather revolting.”
“Sorry to upset you.” He continued with his essay while Justine groaned in exasperation.
“You are no fun anymore…” she complained.
Tarani was complimentary. “You are doing fantastic, Scorpius. Don’t let Jussy get you down.”
“Actually, you are doing rather well,” said Cornelius. He’d made his move and turned his attention to the others. “It used to be you and Rose Weasley neck and neck, but you’ve beaten her at every test since Christmas.”
Scorpius didn’t answer. He just kept writing.
“Ugh, you are so annoying! When are you going to stop this?”
“I’m sorry, Jussy. You know you have my complete and utter adoration.” He said with a smile.
“Prat, don’t flatter me. I’ll hex you.”
Raising his left eyebrow at her he smirked, “You don’t know how to hex.”
The entire group looked up in surprise at the interruption. Albus Potter stood slightly behind the group, his bookbag in hand.
“I’m sorry to interrupt. Might I borrow Scorpius for a bit?”
At the look of skepticism from both Justine and Scorpius, Albus responded, “I promise to return him completely intact.”
The two boys moved over to an empty section of the Gryffindor table. Scorpius waited patiently for Albus to begin talking.
It took him a few minutes to speak. Scorpius watched, with some amazement, as Albus deliberately placed his books in a certain order and methodically pulled out a quill and parchment.
Scorpius cleared his throat, causing his Potions partner to blush slightly. Albus finally spoke, “Look, I’m sorry to bother you, but I was really hoping you could help me in Potions. I didn’t quite understand our last assignment.” The words came out haltingly. Immediately Scorpius thought, why not ask Rose to help you?
As if he could read Scorpius’ mind, he continued, “I know you are thinking, why not ask Rose? Well, frankly, Rose isn’t as good at Potions as you are and she’s actually a very lousy teacher. She has trouble explaining things without sounding like a know-it-all.” Quickly Albus looked over his shoulder to see if Rose was lurking. The sudden movement made Scorpius laugh.
“Alright,” he said and set about explaining the details of their last lecture and the essay assignment.
Forty-five minutes later they were done. Scorpius’ patience paid off. Albus had a complete outline for his essay and a thorough understanding of the topic to finish it off without help. He shook Scorpius’ had gratefully, “Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.”
Scorpius was gathering his things when they were approached by more of the Weasleys. They were greeting Albus with warmth and shooting questioning looks at Scorpius.
“Everyone, this is Scorpius Malfoy, my potions partner. Scorpius, these are some of my cousins, Molly, Lucy, Fred, Roxanne, and Louis. Molly and Fred are 4th years, Lucy’s a 3rd year, and Roxanne and Louis are 2nd years.” He explained.
Scorpius nodded politely at the group, “It’s nice to meet you.” They responded back with varying degrees of “hi” and “hello.” He felt very self-conscious in the sea of red heads, although Louis was blonde and Albus had dark hair. Molly, Lucy, and Roxanne all had brown eyes and similar ponytails. Scorpius felt like once he walked away he’d have a hard time telling the 3 apart. It was like he was a mouse surrounded by cats.
About the same time that Rose and James rounded the corner, Tarani approached the group. “Are you ready to return to our game, Scorpius? She smiled at the Weasleys.
“Yes, I’m done here.” He walked off with Tarani before Rose and James had a chance to speak.
Professor Binns was droning on in the history of magic. Scorpius was taking notes attentively while Justine and Cornelius were playing hangman, a simple muggle game that Cornelius had introduced her to a few days ago.
It was now early March.
The weather had not improved much. Instead of whirling snow they now had to contend with pouring rain.
Most of the Slytherins were asleep, daydreaming, or writing messages to each other. Professor Binns failed to notice the flying pieces of paper.
Scorpius was oblivious to the distractions. He sat in the front row taking notes.
After losing to Cornelius for the fifth time in a row, she tried to get Scorpius’ attention. “Psst, you can seriously be taking that many notes.”
“We have a test next class, don’t you remember?” He whispered back.
“I don’t need to remember, I have you to remind me...”
“So stop talking to me so I can take notes. You’ll want to borrow them later.” He hissed.
“Scorpius, you are just no fun anymore.” She hissed back.
“So you’ve said…”
“Children, children,” Cornelius murmured, “settle down before you both are kicked out of class.”
“Right,” Scorpius snapped, “then where would you all be without my notes?”
Justine looked at him in shock, but Cornelius never lost his cool, “We’d be just fine, Scorpius, seeing how this is the one class I’ve managed to beat you in the entire year!”
The two boys’ eyes locked for a moment and then broke. Scorpius agreed with some sense of shame, “you are right, but can I go back to my notes now?”
Cornelius nodded with a sense of grace, “yes, underling, you have my permission to continue...”
Justine snorted into her hand as the class was finally dismissed.
As they all gathered up their things, Scorpius became vaguely aware of gestures and whispers coming from the Slytherins. Normally such things didn’t register with him, but today he found it odd. After the shock of his sorting last September, there had been a month of snide remarks from the Slytherins, but after a while it had all died down. Since then, most treated Scorpius as if he didn’t exist. That arrangement was fine by him.
This made the present buzz a little perplexing.
Paul Parkinson-Jones and Ned Nott were talking loudly with Damien Krum as Scorpius was passing them by.
“…Mother has great plans for the company,” Paul said with importance, “things have been rather dicey the last few years. She’s really going to make a lot of changes.”
“I thought things were going vell?” Damien inquired. “The Eastern European Division has had record numbers the last five years.”
“Ah well, I don’t know about that,” he said, glancing at Scorpius.
Scorpius ran to catch up with his friends, not giving the conversation another thought.
“Really Scorpius,” Justine complained for the umpteenth time, “will you just get off your studying kick? I am getting tired of only seeing you with your nose in a book or taking notes on parchment.” Taking another bite of her dinner, she continued, unheeding of the food in her mouth, “You’ve got to let loose somehow…”
“Is this your subtle way of telling me that I am a boring person?”
“Obviously,” she snorted.
Setting down his fork he looked her in the eye. Justine and Cornelius sat across from Scorpius while Kavi sat on his left. “Alright Jussy, just what is it that you want to do?”
“We need an adventure. I am getting restless.”
“What sort of adventure?”
“Shall we make a midnight run to the kitchens?” Cornelius suggested. Scorpius felt his spirits perk at the thought of food.
Justine shook her head vigorously. “No, that is too tame. Let’s explore the castle after curfew!”
The three boys were silent. What’s wrong with food, he thought.
“Or we could go explore the Forbidden Forest!” She continued.
“Why?” Kavi finally asked.
“Like I said, I’m feeling restless.”
“Justine, going out after curfew may not be the best idea you’ve had. It’s detention if we’re caught and it’s not like we have an invisibility cloak to help hide us.” Scorpius argued. “Besides, what is it exactly that you want to do or what are you looking for?”
She sighed in exasperation, “I don’t know! I’m just bored…”
“You know,” observed Kavi, “you are sounding just like James Potter. Tarani says he’s always going on about going out on ‘adventures’ and such.”
Kavi stopped short at the scathing look Justine was shooting him.
“Don’t you EVER mention me in the same sentence with that git again.”
Kavi’s comparison of Justine to James was enough to get her to stop suggesting sneaking out after hours, much to the relief of Cornelius and Scorpius.
That evening, the two boys sat with Garridan in the Hufflepuff common room. He was talking to them about the upcoming match against Slytherin.
“Honestly,” he said, “it is probably Hufflepuff’s last match of the year—my last of my school career.” He spoke rather benignly, as if the occasion was anticlimactic.
“Why do you say that?” Cornelius questioned. He was ever optimistic about Hufflepuff’s Quidditch standing.
“We’ve majorly lost every match this year. The only reason we are still playing is due to a technicality. It’s alright, guys, I’ve never thought my future was in Quidditch.”
“What are you going to do after finishing school?” Suddenly, looking utterly confused, Cornelius continued on, “In fact, what do Witches and Wizards do after their schooling?”
Garridan laughed, “Just about anything, I guess. I plan to go into the Ministry of Magic. I have an appointment to meet with several departments within the Ministry during the Easter Holidays. Should my NEWTs go well, and I expect them to,” he pointedly interjected, “I expect to have something lined up by August.”
“Impressive,” observed Cornelius.
“Jussy will be disappointed.” Scorpius commented. “About the Quidditch, I mean.”
“Where is she, anyway? She’s usually with you lot.” Garridan inquired.
“Dunno,” Cornelius responded. He looked over Garridan’s shoulder at Scorpius and the two boys exchanged a look that said, wonder if she acted on an adventurous impulse?
The entrance of a pretty, 6th year Prefect, named Fiona, availed the two of their Head Boy and left them to ponder over Justine’s whereabouts. Before too long, however, she appeared.
She burst through the secret doorway from the kitchens looking very un-Justine-like. Her hair was loose from its usual ponytail, and slightly wet as if she just came in from the rain. Her cheeks were pink and she was slightly out-of-breath.
“Where have you been?” Cornelius admonished.
“I found an exit to the grounds from the kitchens. I was out by the Quidditch pitch.”
Clearly Justine had satisfied her need for an adventure.
She continued, “There were 6 or so 1st & 2nd Year Slytherins out there, meeting in secret. One of them was Paul Parkinson-Jones. He was talking about something to do with your father.”
“My father?” Scorpius inquired.
“Yeah,” she said, still breathless. “Does Paul’s mum have some beef with your dad?”
Scorpius thought for a moment. “I honestly don’t know. Our families have been friends since before I was born, although that friendship has wavered since I started Hogwarts.”
“Well, he spoke as if there was something else. I couldn’t make out all he was saying.”
The arrival of the post the next day shed some light on what Justine overheard.
Scorpius and Justine received letters from home and Cornelius read his copy of the Daily Prophet.
“Bugger,” Cornelius whispered.
“What’s up Cornelius?” Scorpius asked as he opened his letter.
Silently Cornelius showed Scorpius the headline of the Daily Prophet.
Quality Quidditch Supplies taken over by Pansy Parkinson-Jones
“Will this affect your dad?” He asked with concern.
“I don’t know.” Suddenly some of what Paul was saying after class made some sense. Quickly he glanced at his letters. One was from Mum and the other was from his father, Draco.
I hope this letter finds you well. Your father and I are very pleased with your marks this year. You have certainly done us proud. (Yes, your father is proud of you.) I hope you are also taking some time to have fun with your friends.
I do have some unfortunate news to convey. Your father may be sacked from Quality Quidditch Supplies. The Daily Prophet will be reporting this as a certainty, but it is not over yet. Certain forces are at work to oust you father. Luckily he has Victor Krum as an ally. One would think, after thirteen years of service and success that he would at least be given a reason. He simply arrived for work the other day and was told his services may no longer be required. For economic reasons we are selling the flat in Prague. The future is too uncertain. Currently your father and I are in the London. He is sorting through his various business contacts looking for employment in case the worse should happen. Once we sell the Prague flat we will probably look for a house somewhere. You know how your father dislikes London.
I hope this news doesn’t distress you too much. All will be fine in the end.
Scorpius read the letter over and over again. Guilt inexplicably crept through his senses.
“Scorpius? Your face is looking kind of green.”
He looked over at Cornelius. “My dad may be sacked.” He showed his friend the letter.
“What do you reckon happened?”
Scorpius shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. He’s worked there my whole life. It seemed to make him happy.”
He stared at the letter from his father. He was unwilling to open it.
Taking a deep breath he broke the seal.
A/N: Sorry it has taken so long to update. I really struggled with this chapter. It is mostly filler, I needed to put some things in place for the future. Please R&R :)
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