Chapter 1 : Who Said Hindsight Was 20/20?
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“Are you mental?” The harsh whisper of Xavier Spinks cut over the sound of splintered glass still dropping from the hole left in the wake of the strike against it. “Nobody breaks Hogwarts windows.”
“You’ve never heard: windows of opportunity occasionally require a rock,” Scorpius Malfoy quoted in his typical unapologetic tone. He swiveled his broom from a battering ram grip to prop the Nimbus, tail twigs up, over his shoulder.
“What the hell?” Al sprinted around the corner, catching the Slytherin Beaters, still in their practice kits, facing off over the low manicured bushes bordering the base of the Training Grounds Tower. He’d checked every ground level entrance in the vain hope one of the doors hadn’t been sealed. All Scorpius had to do was fly past the third and fourth floor windows to find someone working late in the library.
Al glared at the broom, its wood glinting in the shine of the moonlight. “Dammit, Malfoy. The plan was to get someone to open from inside.”
“Library’s dark. Empty, mate.” Xavier, the shorter beater, supplied in a disgusted tone. He thumped his wristwatch. “Screwed with our watches too.”
“Damn ‘Claws for sure.” Scorpius swept an impatient hand to the window in a gesture meant to encourage the others to bloody move already.
His skin tone and platinum hair all but assured he’d be the one to get spotted first, well before Al with his dark hair and ruddy complexion. Xavier even nearly blended with his olive skin.
“Oi! Fastest way’s through,” Scorpius prompted with another flourish.
Xavier cast Al a quick glance before resigning, flicking glass out of the way with his Quidditch gloves, and moving his thick frame carefully through the window while managing to dislodge more shards in the process.
Al approached the window next. “How far past curfew?”
“Enough.” Xavier’s flat voice floated out from the dark interior of the castle.
Al grimaced and climbed through himself, fitting the width more easily but having to twist to maneuver longer legs and gain his footing on the other side. He moved past Xavier and began pacing the vicinity of their improvised entrance with swift strides.
Xavier appeared again at the window to grab the broom Scorpius levitated through the opening ahead of him. “Send this bloody thing to the shed.”
“Not likely.” Scorpius narrowed his eyes at Xavier‘s grip on his broom. Scorpius routinely took his possessions for granted, but he had little tolerance for others touching them. He hoisted himself over the sill next with cat-like dexterity. “Damn ‘Claws aren‘t getting their hands on that too.”
“We don‘t need it found in the dormitories after this,” Xavier insisted, but stopped short of sending the Nimbus to the broom shed himself. He was careful never to provoke too much and the line with Scorpius was a fine one.
Al returned from his check of the surroundings and repaired the window with a precise incantation and a decisive flick of his wand.
Scorpius smirked. “After what?”
Albus Potter’s utility extended beyond his mastery of an efficient Reparo Charm. A fact they all knew without discussion. He’d bear the responsibility of getting them back to the dungeons that night - under the protection of his Prefect badge, if necessary - just as his teammates expected he would.
Their team hadn’t created this situation, but they had to deal with it. For that, Al wouldn’t question the need or the complications the others threw his way. Complications like damaging school property without the slightest thought to a pre-emptive Silencing Charm.
Consequences never registered with Scorpius. He seldom stopped or cared to consider them. Xavier, on the other hand, considered everything. The captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team had spent the last half hour considering how they could have been so thoroughly blindsided.
The trio moved out to the corridors with an unspoken formation born through hours of flight time together on the pitch. They dodged the open areas, keeping to the shadows, but were too heavy footed to be comfortable with the limited cover. Brooms would have been a more nimble option for two of the three -the two that had left their brooms in the shed.
“No one fancies tampering with your stick, princess,” Xavier chanced one last low volume taunt to the lone figure carrying a broom, a means of getting his own frustration out. “That's outright cheating," he said with a glare into the darkness. "Tossers were smart enough to stay well out of that territory."
Scorpius’ usual expression hinted at a sneer he was too bored to muster. Xavier’s last comment inspired a full one. “Sealing us outside the castle is - what - sportsmanship?” Unlike his captain, he wasn’t impressed with the wisdom of staying within boundaries. “How noble to allow us a full night‘s practice. School spirit at its finest.”
“Shut it!” Al interrupted.
They’d reached a stairwell. They were late. The dungeons were still a considerable distance below. And with respect to Slytherin House, they were on the wrong side of the castle.
"Any ghost wisdom you want to impart?" Al whispered the question over his shoulder to Scorpius, who shared more than a common translucent complexion with a few of the permanent castle residents.
The answer took a second, either to calculate the advice or minimize the knowledge Scorpius wanted to transfer.
"No light," he said finally. "The portraits in the corridor below can't be trusted. Hide your face; don't flash your crest."
Hindsight was the NaNo project life stole, but I'm going to make it happen. The story stands alone, but it does continue some characters from For Keeps. Al is in sixth year here, and there will be some indication of the outcome of FK, but not before I've finished the first story.
Tremendous thanks to Danii from Perfect Imagination for reading through this for me. Thanks also to GinnyPotter25 and Rollerblades at TDA for offering some suggestions for the banner. Much appreciated!
Edit: October 2012
I axed the first part of the chapter, after much feedback. It's better all around, I know that now, and we'll get back to the arena when the story catches up. Promise.