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Chapter 4 : Potters and Pumpkins
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Numb with shock, Albus felt his wand slip from his fingers. It fell with a clatter and Emily froze, turning shakily to look at him.
“Emily?” Albus said apprehensively, trying not to look at the dark crimson staining her hands.
She stood silently, shaking her sandy hair off her green eyes. “Why aren’t you at dinner?” she said, stuffing her hands in her pockets.
“I wasn’t hungry,” Albus said weakly.
She took several steps towards him and he moved back. She smiled. “You shouldn’t be sneaking around, Potter.”
Albus gulped, he suddenly wished he had gone down to the dungeons. His Charms essay was definitely preferable to finding a Prefect hiding alone, crying and covered in blood.
Emily suddenly pulled out her wand and Albus flinched. She smiled again and pointed her wand at her left palm.
“Tergeo,” she muttered. She siphoned the blood off her hand and Albus saw a deep cut running across palm.
“Shouldn’t, shouldn’t you go see Madam Pomfrey?” Albus said nervously.
Ignoring him, Emily passed her wand over the cut, saying, “Episky,” as she did. The wound knitted itself closed and she turned again to Albus.
Kneeling down, she picked up his wand and held it out to him.
He took it with a muttered thanks and slipped it in his pocket.
“Now,” Emily said, “you’re not going to tell anyone about this, do you understand? It’s nothing. I just, got cut.”
Albus stared at her and she frowned.
“Did you hear me, Potter?” she growled, moving toward him, “You’d better keep it shut about this or you’ll regret it. That’s a promise.”
With that, she swept past Albus into the dark corridor. He stood there, frozen by shock as he listened to her retreating footsteps.
An owl hooted somewhere out in the twilight and Albus’ feet were suddenly carrying him back down toward the dungeons. Before he knew it, he was running and by the time he reached the blank stretch of wall, he was clutching a stitch in his side as he gasped out the password.
Curious faces turned to look at him as he stumbled into the common room. He spotted Scorpius sitting alone in an armchair near the fire working on his Charms essay and he made a beeline for him.
“Oh, hey,” Scorpius said, shuffling his papers, “I need your help on--what’s wrong?”
“I need to talk to you,” Albus murmured after he had caught his breath.
“Not here,” Albus said, gesturing to the door leading to the dormitories.
Scorpius gathered up his essay and followed Albus up the spiral staircase and into their dormitory, looking confused and concerned.
Albus sat down on his four-poster bed and Scorpius dropped his books onto his own.
“What’s up?” he said, sitting down.
Albus quickly recounted what had happened in the empty classroom, occasionally pausing to make sure no one was coming.
“And she threatened you?” Scorpius said incredulously when Albus had fallen silent.
“Not exactly,” Albus said, his mind racing.
“’Keep it shut or you’ll regret it?’” Scorpius hissed. “Sounds like a threat to me. Go to Zabini. Go Aldebrand!”
“No way!” Albus said firmly. “I’m not bothering them with this. She didn’t hurt anyone, she probably just slipped and cut her hand is all.”
“Come off it,” Scorpius scoffed. “You don’t believe that. Why would she tell you to keep quiet if that was all that happened?”
Albus shrugged. He didn’t have an answer. There was no denying that what had happened had been strange, but as he had no proof that it was anything more than Emily claimed it to be, he pushed it from his mind and pulled his Charms essay, The Practical Theory and Method of Levitation, from his bag.
“Come on,” he said as Scorpius opened his mouth to speak, “We need to get this done, we’ve still got Potions to do.”
Scorpius, realizing the discussion of Emily was over, sighed and pulled his own essay towards him again.
September faded into dreary October, taking with it the last feeble rays of summer sun. They had successfully learned Levitation in Charms and in Transfiguration were moving onto basic animal Transfiguration; Albus was still having trouble turning his newt into a fountain pen and had to spend his break one Tuesday mopping up the ink his newt had sprayed across the classroom.
Potions had become nothing more than a competition between Rose and Scorpius, who each seemed determined to edge out the other as Zabini showered them both with praise, while Albus sat in an embarrassed silence with Quinn, who was still spending most of her time with James. Every time Albus saw them together in the corridors he had to resist the urge to try and turn James into a sea slug.
In the back of his mind, he continued to wonder about Emily. Occasionally he would see her sitting alone in the common room, looking morose, but when she’s catch him watching her, she would smile and retreat to her dormitory. When he had told Rose about it she seemed shocked but didn’t seem to see anything sinister in what had happened.
The Thursday before Halloween, Albus had just left a particularly boring History of Magic lesson about the Goblin Rebellions of 1722 and was on his way back to the dungeons to get his Transfiguration things while Scorpius left to use the bathroom when he heard a voice call his name.
Albus turned and, with a great jolt of surprise, saw his father striding toward his down the corridor, grinning broadly. Many of the students were gazing at him shamelessly, mouths open and eyes wide. A group of sixth-year girls giggled madly as they passed him, whispering behind their hands to each other.
“Dad?” Albus said as his father ruffled his hair. “What are you doing here? Is James expelled?” he added as a hopeful afterthought.
His father laughed and shook his head, sweeping his untidy black hair back so that the lightning scar on his forehead was partially visible. “No,” he said, “I was doing a lecture on Patronuses for Professor Cooney’s sixth years.”
“Oh, right,” Albus said. It was very irritating to have all those people gawping at him.
“Come on,” his father said, leading him down the corridor past the whispering students. He sighed heavily. “I miss this place,” he said, gazing around reminiscently, even the portraits on the walls stared at him, some waving and shouting out greetings.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” Albus said as they strode into the chilly courtyard.
“Just found out this morning,” his father said, frowning slightly as he turned to face him. “Why? Don’t’ you want me here?”
“That’s not it,” Albus muttered, glancing at the small crowd of students gathering in the corner of the courtyard to get a good look at the famous Harry Potter.
Realizing what Albus was looking at, his father laid a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I know this must be strange for you. You never asked for this. Just ignore them.” When Albus didn’t reply he straightened up and said, “So Neville tells me James has a girlfriend of sorts. Quinn, I think. Do you know her? Neville said she was in your year.”
Albus felt the color rise in his face as he muttered, “She’s okay.” He thought he saw a flicker of understanding in his father’s eyes but before either of them could speak, Scorpius came dashing up to Albus, clutching his bag and Albus’ Transfiguration book.
“I didn’t see you in the dorm and your book was still there,” he gasped. “We’re going to be late and you know Kapoor--” he froze as he spotted Albus’ father. Albus’ Transfiguration book slipped from his fingers and fell open in the grass at his feet.
Albus saw his father’s jaw tighten and Scorpius blushed furiously as he knelt to pick up Albus’ book.
“Well, I’ve got to get back to work. Be good,” Albus father said, hugging him briefly. “Have fun at the Halloween feast. See you at Christmas.”
Albus nodded as he watched his father striding away across the courtyard.
“Sorry about that,” he said, turning to Scorpius, “Thanks for getting my--” he stopped; Scorpius was holding a slip of parchment in his hand, frowning down at it, Albus’ copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguaration held loosely in his other hand.
With a jolt, Albus realized that it was the letter he had received from his parents on their first day of classes, the one that warned Albus to be careful about be friendly Scorpius.
Scorpius looked up at him. He looked hurt, disappointed and angry.
“Don’t,” Scorpius said, shaking his head and thrusting the letter and book into Albus’ hands.
They went to Transfiguration in silence, taking their seats moment before the bell rang.
They barely spoke the rest of the day. For the first time in his life, Albus felt ashamed of his parents.
The following morning they had just left Defense Against the Dark Arts for their last class of the day, Potions, and were crossing the entrance hall when Hagrid strode in through the oak front doors carrying a massive pumpkin that several students could have comfortably sat in.
“Hagrid!” Albus shouted, running to the Gamekeeper.
Hagrid turned, swinging the pumpkin through the air and nearly hitting a pair of third-year Hufflepuffs, who ducked just as the pumpkin soared overhead.
“Oh, sorry ‘bout that,” Hagrid said as the Hufflepuffs scurried away. “’Lo, Al,” he said, beaming. “Scorpius.”
“If it isn’t dung for brains and the nit!”
The jarvey that Hagrid had had tethered in his garden over a month ago appeared over the Gamekeeper’s shoulder. It clamored up to sit by Hagrid’s ear, wagging its tongue at them.
“I thought you would have let that thing go by now, Hagird,” Albus said with some distaste.
“Tried,” Hagrid said, hoisting the pumpkin a little higher. “But Fergus didn’t want to go.”
“Fergus?” Scorpius said in disbelief, staring at the creature that was now insulting a fifth-year Ravenclaw girl who looked highly affronted.
“Tha’s what I’ve named ‘im,” Hagrid said happily. “Said he wasn’t goin’ back to the Forest to fight off werewolves when he could be livin’ outside my. An’ he keeps the gnomes out o’ the garden so he’s earnin’ ‘is keep. I can always threaten’ ‘im with Buckbeak if he gets out o’ line.”
Fergus frowned at him and shouted, “Are you going to stand here yappin’ all day or are you going to move? I’m sick of sitting up here, you smell worse than your brother!”
Hagrid chuckled and strode off into the Great Hall, where decorations for the next day’s feast were being put up.
“Oh, I can’t wait to tell Rose,” Scorpius muttered.
Albus glanced at him. He was still treating him rather coolly. “I’m sorry,” he said, staring at his feet. “It--the letter was from when we first got here. I told them that, that you’re not you’re father.” He looked up at Scorpius, who was smiling slightly.
“It’s okay,” he said, shrugging, “I’ve been thinking, my parents would probably react the same way. Well, my father at least.”
“You mean he doesn’t know we’re friends?” Albus said as they began their descent into the dungeons to Potions.
“Oh, I’m sure he knows,” Scorpius said, grinning slightly. “But I told him back on Platform nine and three-quarters that if we ended up friends it would probably at least end up better than when he ended up enemies with your dad.”
Saturday morning was cold and windy, though the Castle was nearly empty as most of the older students had gone to Hogsmeade for the first visit of the year. Only first and second years and a few older students who had grown bored of the village stayed behind.
Bundled in cloaks and gloves, Albus, Scorpius and Rose trudged up to the Owlery after breakfast to visit Driscoll and Lina. Quinn was once again with James.
They cleared a spot on the dropping-strewn floor and sat, watching the occasional owl swooping in after a night of hunting. After an hour of talking, laughing, and feeding toast to the birds, a scrawny grey cat sidled into through the door behind them, meowing loudly.
“Mrs. Norris,” Scorpius muttered.
“We’re not doing anything wrong,” Rose said angrily, glaring at the cat as it watched the owls perched in the rafters, meowing hungrily.
“I don’t’ want to deal with Filch,” Albus said, standing and brushing himself off. “Let’s go, we can go to the library, it’ll be warmer there.”
“I wish that cat would just die,” Scorpius said scathingly. “She was here when my parents were.”
“No, that was the old Mrs. Norris,” Rose said, “My Mum said when Filch gets a new cat, he always names her Mrs. Norris. I know because she said he has to get a license to breed a cat and a kneazle. Mrs., Norris is a cross. She was complaining a few years ago about having to go to her old department to deal with him.”
“Yea, I’d complain to,” Scorpius said. “Having to deal with Filch outside of Hogwarts, can you imagine?”
As they gathered up their things, Albus glanced out the window. Frowning, he walked to it and squinted across the grounds. In the distance, there was a cloaked and hooded figure running towards the lake from the courtyard.
Frowning, he turned to Scorpius and Rose, who were waiting at the door. “Who do you suppose that is?” he said.
They moved toward the window, frowning, and he turned back to look across the grounds. His jaw dropped.
“Who?” Rose said, her eyes scanning the grounds.
“I--” Albus swept the grounds twice but there was no denying what he was seeing. Whoever had been dashing across the grounds moments before was gone.
“Maybe they went under the Whomping Willow? There’s a passage that leads to Hogsmeade there, my dad said.”
They were sitting in the library, gathered around a table in the corner holding a whispered conversation while the vulture-like Librarian, Madam Pince, prowled amongst the shelves..
“No,” Albus said, shaking his head at Rose, “they were nowhere near the Whomping Willow. They were heading to the lake. I know what I saw.”
“Maybe,” Scorpius said, exchanging a glance with Rose, “maybe it wasn’t anything, Al, I mean, it was the other side of the grounds and your eyes can play tricks on you sometimes.”
“So now I’m seeing things, am I?” Albus snapped.
“We’re not saying that, Al,” Rose soothed, reaching out to touch his arm comfortingly but he pulled it off the table and stood.
“I’m going to take a walk,” he said, pushing his chair back and walking quickly from the library before they could stop him.
There weren’t many people left in the corridors, but those that he saw stared at him as he passed. Since his father had been at Hogwarts, Albus had noticed a sudden upswing in the amount of muttering when he walked to halls. The appearance of the famous Harry Potter seemed to confirm the fact that he, Albus, was the odd man out for being in Slytherin.
James had always loved the attention, and often special treatment, they received from almost everyone in the wizarding world.
But he’s in Gryffindor, Albus thought angrily, He’s not a freak like me.
He headed in the direction of the dungeons, thinking he would get a head start on his Transfiguration essay when he realized he had left his bag in the library. Swearing angrily, he kicked the wall, swearing more loudly as his foot erupted in pain. He limped back to the common room, which was empty save a few second years, who stared at him as he crossed the room.
He took the armchair furthest from the others and stared into the dancing flames. Pulling out his wand, he began levitating objects across the table. The wall opened and Scorpius walked in with Rose.
“Hey,” one of the second years cried, pointing at Rose, “She can’t be in here, she’s a Gryffindor!”
“Shut it, Bletchly,” Scorpius growled. He set Albus’ bag down.
“Thanks,” Albus grunted, not looking at them.
They sat on one of the sofas next to Albus.
“We don’t think you’re crazy,” Rose muttered.
Scorpius nodded. “And you can’t let the idiots gets to you,” he said, jerking his head to the group of second years, who were whispering in a huddled group, occasionally glancing at Albus.
Letting the inkwell he had been levitating fall back onto the table, Albus sighed. “Yea,” he said, “You’re right.”
They sat around the fire talking until the common room began to fill with students returning from Hogsmeade, pink-faced, laughing and showing off their purchases to their friends.
“I’d better go,” Rose said, swinging her bag onto her shoulder and sweeping her bushy red hair back. “See you at the feast.”
When she was gone, they took their own bags upstairs, where Andre, Theo, and Max were gathered around Andre’s bed.
Andre waved a box in the air. “Honeydukes!” he cried through a mouthful of chocolate.
“How’d you get that?” Scorpius said, catching the custard cream Theo threw him.
Andrew swallowed hugely. “My older brother, Logan,” he said, now sifting through the contents of a bag emblazoned with three large, red, W’s. “He’s a fourth year. I gave him some money to get what I wanted.”
“I though Filch banned everything from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes?” Albus said, sitting on Andre’s bed and helping himself to a toffee.
Max rolled his eyes. “Does anyone ever listen to him? He tried to confiscate it but so many students had their stuff that he gave up.”
“Apparently it’s been the same thing every year since they bought out Zonko’s,” Theo said, examining a brightly colored box labeled “Whirling Wisp--watch your friends scream as it jumps down their shoes!”
“You’d think he’s learn after, what, twelve years?” Albus said thoughtfully.
“Come on,” Scorpius muttered, nudging him, “feast.”
They left just as Theo was letting out the Whirling Wisp, which looked like a little ball of dancing white smoke that smoke that spun around the room, popping occasionally and trying to leap up their sleeves and into their shoes.
The Great Hall was nearly full when they reached it. There were live bats flying amongst the floating candles. A thumbnail moon peered from behind dark, wispy clouds that floated across the navy sky spread over the enchanted ceiling and a dozen massive jack-o‘-lanterns sat around the Hall, their twisted smiles alight with the glow of the candles within.
There were mountains of sweets amongst the usual fare; candy corn, peppermint toads and chocolate bats jostled for space between bowls of carrots and roast pork. They exchanged gleeful looks and were soon filling their plates at the Slytherin table.
While they ate, the ghosts of the Castle glided in and out of the walls, occasionally popping up through dishes of beans to screams and laughter. Feeling very content and full, Albus pushed his empty plate away and yawned. He allowed the lull of the low talk to wash over him and soon felt his eyelids drooping.
He looked up to see Mark, the sixth-year Slytherin Prefect, leaning over the table toward him.
“Hm?” Albus said, rubbing his eyes..
“Have you seen Emily?” Mark said. He looked worried. “I haven’t seen her since this morning. She’s supposed to be on duty tonight.”
Albus shrugged. “Haven’t seen her,” he replied, sitting up a little straighter. Now that eh thought about it, he had barely seen Emily over the past few weeks. Of course they were in completely different classes and after the incident in the Charms corridor she seemed to be avoiding him.
Mark frowned. “Well, if you see her,” he said before turning to his lamb chops.
The tables were emptying as people left in groups of three and four, yawning and stretching, it seemed that everyone felt the same sleep satisfaction as Albus. Rose waved to them as she passed them with Quinn, Fred and James.
Albus glanced at Scorpius, who was pushing a half-eaten pumpkin pasty around his plate with his fork.
“Ready to head out?” Albus said, stifling a yawn in the back of his hand.
Scorpius nodded and was unsuccessful in stifling a huge yawn as he stood. “I’m s-s-s-so tired,” he said, blinking a shaking his head as though trying to clear it.
They walked out into the empty entrance hall, waving off a few low-flying bats that had escaped the Hall behind them. Albus glanced at the giant hourglasses to the side of the oak front doors, marveling at the way the candlelight caused the jewels to twinkle and flash like stars. His eyes roved to the window and he stopped head, his heart suddenly pounding.
A figure, pearly white and glowing was gliding over the grounds. Albus ran to the window just as the figure was passing around the side of the Castle towards the lake.
“Come on!” he shouted, taking off towards the dungeons. If they hurried, they would have a perfect view of the spot from their dormitory window.
Scorpius ran after him. “Al, what is it?” he cried, struggling to keep up as Albus pelted down the corridor.
Albus shouted out the password and ran across the common room, ignoring the shocked stared; past Max, Theo and Andre, who were roaring with laughter as Nick ran screaming around the room--apparently the Whirling Wisp had gone up his trouser leg--and up the spiral staircase to the green-carpeted hallway. He banged the door to the dormitory open causing Lina, who had been sitting on Scorpius’ bed, to screech and take off with shock before coming to a rest on the top of Max’s bed.
Ignoring the searing pain in his side, Albus ran to the window and stared over the lake towards the shoreline where they sometimes studied during warm weather.
Scorpius came up behind him, frowning. “What in the--”
“There!” Albus cried, pointing. Passing over the grass in the distance was the same figure Albus had seen from the entrance hall.
“I don’t see anything,” Scorpius said, frowning.
“Right there, on the beach,” Albus said, pointing across the darkened grounds.
“Oh,” Scorpius said, eyes widening with shock. “But, Al,” he said, turning to Albus. “It’s probably just a school ghost.”
“Have you ever seen any of them outside the Castle before?” Albus said, still staring at the figure.
“Well, no,” Scorpius said fairly, “But that doesn’t mean they can’t leave, does it?”
Albus would have glared at him but he had just seen something that made his voice catch in his throat. As the clouds parted and the moon cast its pale light over the grounds, he gripped the window.
Striding beside the glowing figure was the same black-cloaked and hooded someone he had seen from the Owlery earlier that day.
“Look,” he hissed, eyes burning as he refused to blink, his gaze fixed on the two figures.
Scorpius followed his gaze again. He looked surprised to see the cloaked figure but still doubtful. “Well, I’ll admit its odd, Al, but it could be--” he stopped suddenly as they both gasped.
The pale figure had past straight through the cloaked one so that its glow seemed to come from the figure in black, who fell to its knees, shaking violently as its cloak swirled in what seemed to be a sudden strong wind. The hood fell back and Albus saw a flash of pale skin and then, they were gone.
They stared at the spot in shock.
“What,” Scorpius said, turning to Albus, his face even paler than usual, “was that?”
“I don’t know,” Albus said, sweeping the grounds one last time before stepping back and lowering himself onto his bed. He shivered violently, though he wasn’t cold at all.
Then, a spark of inspiration his him. “Can I borrow Lina?” he said excitedly, pulling parchment, quill and ink from his bag.
“Er,” Scorpius said, frowning and glancing up at the snowy owl. “Sure, but, why?”
“I know a way we can see whose sneaking around if they do it again.” Albus said, laying out the parchment and scribbling furiously.
“How?” Scorpius said as he coaxed Lina down from the top of Max’s bed. He untied the letter from his parents and passed the snowy owl to Albus, who was folding up his letter and writing Rose’s name across it. “Rose?” he said, looking anxious and concerned. “Al, what are you going on about? How will you know who that was?”
Albus stood, grinning broadly and holding up his letter. “The Marauder’s Map!”
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