Chapter 1 : It Takes a Thief
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No one stole from Scorpius Malfoy unless he allowed it. He didn't leave boxes of sweets in the common room and extra writing quills on his desk on accident. He did it on purpose. Although he didn't much care for sweets, he was fond of his grandmother, who sent them in the mistaken belief that he was just like his father. The quills kept his dorm mate Nott—who broke into Scorpius' desk twice during first-year to "borrow" a quill and triggered security wards—from a third stay in the hospital wing. The goodwill of housemates and evasion of detention were added benefits.
Seven weeks into Scorpius' fifth year at Hogwarts, the house-elf Slinky sent a note relating a different kind of theft: one not planned.
Scorpius turned the note into a parchment bat and sent it winging across the dorm room. "Edgar, catch."
Edgar Goyle glanced up from the Quidditch Illustrated racing broom edition he was poring over. His broad face remained inscrutable as the bat swooped around his head. "A Hallowe'en decoration. Nice."
"It's a note."
Edgar grabbed the bat. His lips moved as he silently sounded out the words.
At their desks, Nathaniel Nott and Guy Willoughby gave up pretending to revise. They sniggered.
"Want me to read it to you, Goyle?" Nathaniel asked.
Scorpius answered, "Want to wobble to dinner on jelly-legs?"
"Not particularly." Nathaniel promptly buried his nose in the book he'd been reading.
Scorpius looked at Edgar and jerked his head toward the door.
Once they exited the Slytherin common room, Scorpius said, "Mouthing words? What's next, dragging your knuckles on the ground when you walk?"
"Too obvious." Edgar dropped the hulking posture he assumed around others and stood tall.
Scorpius frowned. Usually, his friend's crony act was amusing. Today, it irritated. He said, "Doesn't it get old pretending you're not smart? Aren't you tired of being treated like you're—"
"My father? No. I prefer to be underestimated."
So did Scorpius, as a rule.
Edgar said, "It's the thief, isn't it? You think he's laughing at you."
Scorpius refused to admit the possibility touched a nerve. He quickened his stride.
When they neared the kitchens, Edgar tickled the pear in the painting of a bowl of fruit to gain entrance. Within, house-elves clustered around long tables, readying for dinner. Scorpius skirted the edges of the room to reach a side door.
An elf stood guard. His triangular face was doleful. "Slinky has failed in his duty to Slytherin House." He opened the door. "Six is gone."
Scorpius looked from the cellar lined with mounds of pumpkins to the elf who slumped in dejection. "Is it possible you miscounted?"
"No, young sir."
"Beg pardon," Scorpius said with every ounce of sincerity he could muster. Slinky wasn't his personal house-elf, he served Slytherin House of his own volition. If he became offended and chose to stop being helpful, the consequences would be dire: mainly for Scorpius. To distract himself from the vision of running through corridors dodging hexes, he said, "Theories, anyone?"
"The thief signed up for the House carving competition," Edgar said. "He heard you bought a load of pumpkins for Slytherins to practice on and decided to nick a few to do the same."
Slinky nodded. "He is sneaking them out each night when I is busy."
Scorpius noticed the way Slinky's eyes flickered toward the nearest preparation table. Had a girlfriend, did he? Scorpius said, "I'll stand watch tonight and deal with the thief." He looked at Edgar.
"Can't," his friend said. "I have a tutoring session."
"Astronomy, with Marianne Willoughby."
"Guy's sister? She's a seventh-year."
Scorpius said, "Right. Well, when I catch the thief, I'll let you two know—if you're not too busy."
On the return to Slytherin House, Scorpius announced, "I could be busy if I wanted to. I'm not a troll. Girls like the way I look. They don't think my hair's too long." He scowled, remembering the way his father had tried to talk him into cutting his hair at the ears or slicking it back. "I simply choose not to be."
"Busy." It wasn't that he didn't like girls or snogging, either; it was the other nonsense Scorpius could do without. Girls who acted thrilled to be alone on Hogsmeade Weekend afterwards expected him to join their group of friends and pretend interest in meaningless chatter. The boredom wasn't worth the convenience of a regular snogging partner.
Scorpius spent the dinner hour mentally tallying a list of suspects. Most were Gryffindors.
"A Galleon it's James Potter," Edgar said in a low voice.
"The Head Boy a thief?" Scorpius smirked. "Not likely."
"They say absolute power corrupts absolutely."
"Who's they? Hufflepuffs? My bet's on Fred Weasley. Double or nothing."
Three hours later, Scorpius gave up trying to count the pumpkins in the torch-lit cellar. He'd lost track six times in the last hour. Bored, he sat on the small patch of unobstructed floor and waved his hand in front of his face. Disillusionment Charms didn't give true invisibility. Movement created an interesting blurring effect. After a few more waves, he lost interest and stared at the door. What had dotty old Trelawney said about creative visualisation? Something about changing the outer world through thought, imagining an event in the present tense.
"I see the door handle turn," he muttered. "I hear the click of metal. I smell kitchen herbs when the door opens, I feel . . . like a bloody idiot."
The door handle turned with a click.
Scorpius froze in disbelief. Could it be that something Trelawney taught wasn't complete rubbish? He sniffed the air and relaxed. No smell of herbs: the thief's arrival was coincidence.
His jaw dropped when Rose Weasley stepped into the cellar.
Miss Perfect Prefect, must get the highest marks, always correcting others was a thief? Her design for the Gryffindor pumpkin must be amazingly intricate if she needed practice badly enough to steal. Scorpius decided to follow her and size up the competition.
She marched briskly to a corridor off the Entrance Hall, never once looking over her shoulder. Such bold obliviousness would mark her as a Gryffindor even if she wasn't wearing a scarlet dressing gown.
So would her hair. Darker than the infamous Weasley ginger, the reddish brown colour proclaimed her one of the many Potter/Weasley spawn infesting Hogwarts. Until now, Scorpius had purposely treated the clan as beneath his notice. He ignored them, and for the most part found himself ignored in return. In the interest of maintaining the truce, he would deal with Rose personally.
He trailed along as she brought the pumpkin into an unused classroom and placed it on a table.
"Seven is a lucky number, a number of completion," she said, drawing a pattern in the air with her wand. "Incidere profundus!"
A rectangular-shaped cut appeared on the pumpkin.
Scorpius used a counter charm to become visible. "If you want to practice carving, you really should scrape the insides first."
For a moment, he thought Rose would faint. Her face lost all colour.
"This isn't what it looks like," she said.
Scorpius almost laughed. "What, you're not stealing the pumpkins, you're borrowing them permanently?"
Her cheeks flushed. "I can explain."
Rose took a deep breath. "It's the contest," she said in rush. "I have a pattern that would transfer brilliantly onto one of Hagrid's pumpkins, but my cousin James doesn't want to use it. He thinks Uncle Harry's idea would win."
"No, but if I don't show what my idea will look like the team will choose his." She lifted her chin. "I only took a few pumpkins."
"And that makes stealing all right?"
"Of course it doesn't," Rose said. "But there are mitigating circumstances."
Spoken like the daughter of a witch who dealt in magical law. Scorpius raised an eyebrow. "Plan on telling that to Headmaster Slughorn?"
"If you force me to."
Her eyes asked a question Scorpius refused to answer directly. He wasn't a Gryffindor, after all. "So you need a demonstration model." He cast spells to cut the bottom off the pumpkin and clean out the seeds and pulp. "Your mother's Muggle-born. How is it you've never carved a pumpkin?"
"Dad's all thumbs with knives. We use paint to decorate."
What fun. "Make sure you wave your wand evenly when you cast the scraping spell," he said. "The inside needs to be a uniform thickness for the effect to work properly." He held out his hand, expecting her to give him the pattern she wanted to trace.
She placed her hand in his. "Are you going to teach me a spell?"
He couldn't say no. She might think he was trying to get on with her when he wasn't, and wouldn't, even if she was better-looking than most Weasleys and had— "Blue eyes," he said. "Your eyes are blue, not brown." He had never been close enough to see the colour before.
"My mother's heterozygous," she whispered.
"Obviously." Scorpius cleared his throat. "The pattern," he said, placing Rose's hand on the pumpkin. "If the pumpkin isn't dry, the transfer spell won't trace the pattern onto the skin."
"Do you have a pattern?"
"I made one for the giant pumpkin."
That meant no. He strode over to the teacher's desk to hunt for self-inking quills. He found the two he needed. "Black for holes, red for areas you want to peel," Scorpius said. "Go on."
Rose didn't take the quills. "I made a negative image of a black and white photograph for my pattern. I can't draw."
She expected to carve a pumpkin that would sway her House using only the memory of a photograph. "Barking," he said between bursts of laughter. "You are absolutely barking."
"I'm glad I amuse," she said icily.
Scorpius said, "I can leave or I can draw. Your choice."
"Slytherin already has a pattern," he said. "One that will transfer brilliantly. I won't steal your idea."
"I wasn't—it's just—" Rose exhaled sharply. "I don't think it's possible to carve the Shrieking Shack on a normal-sized pumpkin."
"The basic silhouette should be enough." Scorpius got to work.
When it came to carving, he talked her through the steps. She cut all the holes and then took out the pieces before using a peeling spell to remove the skin in targeted areas.
"All it needs is a sealant charm and a candle," Scorpius said when they were done.
"It's fantastic." Rose sighed. "I probably shouldn't ask, but why did you help me?"
Scorpius said, "I have my reasons."
On the day of Hallowe'en, the teams selected by each House cleaned and carved the giant pumpkins transported from Hagrid's garden to the front entrance of Hogwarts. At sunset, house-elves lit candles inside each pumpkin. As the crowd of students watched, the Heads of House and the Headmaster consulted together to judge the entries.
Scorpius curled his lip over Hufflepuff's witch flying on her broomstick beneath a full moon and glanced dismissively at the complex vine design of Ravenclaw House. Gryffindor's effort was the only true competition. The image of Shrieking Shack looked more eerie and menacing than the real thing.
"Quite a feat," he said softly. His eyes went to the Celtic dragon the Slytherin team had carved into pumpkin shell. It was so lifelike; he could almost feel the heat from the flames.
It was no surprise when the Headmaster raised his hand for silence and announced Slytherin House the winner. That didn't make the victory any less sweet. Scorpius clapped Edgar on the shoulder and added his cheers to those of his housemates.
During the Hallowe'en Feast, while the other Slytherins toasted each other and crowed over their supremacy, Scorpius kept his eye on a group of Gryffindors.
Edgar leaned over to grab the salt. "Marianne overheard James Potter say if they had carved Snape's face like his father suggested they would have won."
Scorpius said, "Marianne overheard—how?"
"She happened to be standing near the Gryffindors when Slughorn announced the winner." Edgar grinned. "I told her that would be good place to stand."
"Very good indeed." Scorpius looked over at Rose Weasley and caught her staring daggers at him. She realised why he'd helped her: he hadn't wanted to take the chance that Potter's idea was better than his.
He raised his goblet to her in a private toast. Next Hallowe'en, the Gryffindors would no doubt be carving Severus Snape's portrait, but the thought didn't intimidate Scorpius. He smiled.
He would carve Voldemort.