Al sidestepped Xavier, who was coming out of the seventh year dormitory, and clipped the back of Scorpius's heel. Scorpius grunted. The annoyed sound was the first vocalization either had managed that morning. Al heard his mother's voice in the back of his mind instructing him to apologise. He might have, if the heel had belonged to someone who didn't habitually need to walk a half step ahead of everyone else.
Xavier entered the hallway talking. "Anyone hear what the 'Claws got?"
The question was useless. The three had been confined to their dormitories not long after Longbottom's arrival with Angela and the Gryffindor kid.
"Same crime, same punishment, yeah?" Xavier continued, running scenarios in his head as he did feints and Beater formations. Weekend detention was a given; the variables were where
the punishment would be served. Gone were the days when a House Head decided punishments themselves.
"Anything else wouldn't be unified
." Xavier's voice carried the undertone of disbelief that the current administration's campaign would be beneficial for them in any meaningful way.
Al and Scorpius scoffed in unison.
"School unity, my arse," Al replied, taking the opportunity to vent what he could. He hadn't slept. The waiting, not knowing, was punishment itself. His nerves were shot.
"They’re unified - against us." Scorpius straightened his tie on the way through the nearly empty common room, an action he normally reserved for funerals and family dinners. All three were spit-polished and straightened for their pre-class meeting with Professor Vector. The Slytherin Head of House ran a tight ship and expected a show of respect when she summoned anyone to her office.
They turned in the opposite direction of everyone else leaving Slytherin that morning. Vector's office occupied the part of the castle furthest under the lake. Few ventured so far without an invitation. Those entering Vector's quarters were treated to an eerily beautiful glimpse of a cove within the depths of the lake. The times Al had been there for Prefect duties, he'd found the tranquil atmosphere relaxing.
He'd take tranquility today.
"Anything from the clinger
?" Xavier asked Al, who didn't take exception to what his friends called his girlfriend and merely shook his head.
"Too busy listening to her friends bash you," Scorpius said, liking the thought a little too much.
Al let that slide too. Another day, he might have done something, on principle, but as he hadn't yet given any thought to Rachel or her reaction to the incident, he wasn't going to digress at this point.
"Oy," Xavier agreed, "doesn't look good, mate. You're Undesirable Number One in that House."
Al shrugged. He'd face that later.
Professor Vector waited inside her quarters with her back to the underwater equivalent of a solarium extending from her low ceilinged, tidy office. First year Slytherins were taken here directly after the Sorting Feast. The atmosphere of the dungeon required a fair amount of adjustment. Before joining the rest of the House, Vector made an effort to introduce the new students to the beauty of the lake, whose filtered light traded the colors of everything in its midst with its own green hue.
The feel of her office was pure efficiency, but the glass-walled room, offering a view of the cove, was designed for comfort. An underwater garden floated beyond the windows. Several species of luminescent plants cast their glow across the scene, highlighting and enticing aquatic creatures into view.
Vector didn't extend an invitation into the room with the view. The three were seated in armless chairs with their backs to the lake, across from a sleek ebony table-style desk. Their view was all business. A disappointed Professor sat behind the desk. A credenza, stacked with neat wire bins holding mounds of Arithmancy assignments, lined the wall behind her. A set of ancient scrolls - number charts in Greek, Aramaic, Aztec, Hebrew and two Al didn't recognize - filled the wall space above the bins. Each neatly hung from filigree iron hooks with a thick black velvet ribbon.
All preliminaries were dispensed with quickly.
“In light of the latest information, the Headmistress is dismissing the curfew violation for the Slytherin team."
The news was good, but no one understood or trusted the sudden reversal. "What information, Professor?" Al asked what they had all been wondering.
"A Gryffindor wand was borrowed
to cast the spells which kept you out past curfew. The Headmistress excused your transgressions, directly resulting from that incident, to send a message." She gave them all a stern look to silence any thought of celebration. "The message I
want to send: the matter ends here."
She waited, her pause demanding a display of acknowledgment, before she dropped the other shoe. "Now, the fighting must be addressed.”
"They started it, Professor." Xavier was quick to point out.
Vector, visibly unimpressed with that argument, replied anyway. "Mr. Newton and his cohorts have already accepted their punishment -"
"Like it costs them
anything." This interruption Scorpius delivered with a disgusted toss of his head.
The professor narrowed unsympathetic brown eyes. "Take heed, Mr. Malfoy," she warned, drawing his glare back from the wall behind her. "Your temper will continue to get the better of you if you don't learn to channel that aggression. Consequences tend to escalate with age." The light of the room glinting off her chestnut hair gave the fairer strands around her temples a khaki tint as she shook her head. "I’d hoped Quidditch would have worked some of the antagonism out of you."
The mention of Quidditch only incited Scorpius more. "They don’t have a match this weekend!"
"Neither do you," Vector stated with a tone and a look that warned not to interrupt her again.
Al's own anger replaced the nervous energy in him. He fumed, casting his eyes down and using the advantage he knew he had with his glasses to avoid giving away the extent of his irritation. The Ravenclaw’s were going to get away with ruining Slytherin’s standing for the House Cup. Three starters off the line and Gryffindor would be sure to win on Saturday.
James would get an easy win.
Their professor surveyed her three students before she made her announcement. "This weekend’s match has been postponed a fortnight."
Al's head snapped up at Vector's words. He found her gauging his reaction.
"The Gaming Commissioner has moved up the tryouts for Hogwarts' team," she explained with a slight smile at the corner of her mouth. "It seems he’s found out Durmstrang selected their team over the summer and has been hitting the Pitch ever since."
Nobody interrupted that. A few beats passed as the information settled in.
Xavier recovered first. "What does that mean for us?"
"Everyone involved in this altercation will serve detention Saturday and Sunday." She Summoned a piece of parchment to drop on the desk in front of them. "Your list of detention assignments. I'll leave the choice of who does what to you."
Xavier, in the middle chair, snagged the paper and scanned it. "Tryouts?"
"Are scheduled for Saturday and will be conducted by the Commissioner. You miss the call for your position, you miss the opportunity." She issued the statement as a challenge. "Plan wisely, work fast. I'd like to see Slytherin represented on the team."
Ever the team captain, Xavier nodded and retained possession of the paper. He accepted her dismissal with a distracted, "Thank you, Professor." He turned to the door, his heavy brows knitting together as one, and absently chewed the inside of his cheek, already working out odds and possibilities in his head.
As the other two stood, Vector requested that Al stay. He wasn't surprised. No one had addressed his involvement directly.
Scorpius shut the door behind him, but not before Al caught the look of pity on his face.
Professor Vector didn't ask for an explanation. The formality would have wasted time. "Mr. Potter, your Prefect badge is a responsibility," she lectured, leaning forward with her elbows on the desk and one had clasped over the other in front of her. "Not a privilege. Not a guarantee
." She punctuated those points by lightly tapping the desk with a finger. "It can and will be taken if you disrespect the principles for which it stands."
He bowed his head in an obedient nod before meeting her eyes. "I understand, Professor."
"I hope you do." Her gaze was challenging as she sat back farther in her chair. "Oscar Newton lost his Captaincy and his spot on the team. Had we not received the information about his brother, things would have gone a different way. You were lucky someone thought to look out for you."
"I'll thank Professor Longbottom when I see him in Herbology."
She raised an eyebrow at his conclusion.
"And thank you for giving me a chance," Al added, feeling as though he had still missed something in her meaning.
"The Deputy Head didn't come by his information by chance."
Definitely missed something.
She waited for him at the bottom of the spiral staircase leading to the dungeon, face determined, but relief evident when she verified the owner of the shoes she'd whipped around to see approaching. Al wondered how long she'd been waiting and how many other pairs of shoes she'd watched descend.
The eastern path to Slytherin House wasn't well traveled, especially during the lull between the after dinner hour and the rush to beat curfew. That fact made the location, and the lesser-known alcove behind those stairs, the place Rachel would seek him out when she felt he hadn't paid sufficient attention to her.
That day, Rachel had been the distant one, and she was not the person waiting for him below.
The girl bouncing on her heels at the bottom of the stairs was a pip-squeak, red hair piled in a ponytail that bore every indication of having had the life twirled out of it while she waited. Her vigil would have required a fair bit of courage or, more likely, stubbornness. Al didn't bother anticipating what Lily had on her mind. Predictably, her thoughts came bursting out of her as soon as she pulled him to the side of the corridor with the surprising strength of a fourth year's pent up impatience.
If only he could understand
Lily’s animated words never paused for her breath; they traveled with it, stuttering with the inhale and whooshing out with the exhale. Her voice so high it was nearly a whistle. Al only managed to catch 'Awful', 'Innocent', 'Nice', and 'Meanies'.
"Lils," he coached the agitated girl, "I need action words. Bring on the verbs."
"Cast those spells," she gushed, looking at him with huge, serious eyes. "Davey didn't."
“I know that.”
“Those were advanced NEWT spells.” He straightened from where he'd unconsciously leaned down to her level.
She grabbed onto his arm. “They took his wand. He didn't know what they’d planned.”
“No one’s blaming your friend.”
“I needed to know you
Al breathed out a long sigh. “We’re not the bad guys here.”
“I know. It stinks, what they did to you.” More heavy language from Lily.
“Are you missing tryouts?” she asked, concern replacing the hysterics she'd purged on him, subduing her for the time being.
“Not if I can help it," he said, not liking the number of variables involved in the answer. Variables largely out of his direct control. "We all have detention. Depends on how long that goes, whether I’ll be able to make it.”
“Can James delay it?”
“Not sure he can. Or cares to.”
“Of course he cares to!” She appeared as if she was going to wind up again, but blinked instead, attention drawn upward.
A shadow interrupted the light filtering down the stairs. Footsteps, barely loud enough to announce the arrival of someone, padded down the flight in long strides. Angela passed, leaving the pair to their privacy. Except, two steps beyond them, her third step slowed when she turned her head over her shoulder to glance back at the siblings before turning into the Slytherin corridor.
Lily missed the change in pace, but not the glance. “She seventh year?”
“She’s my year,” her brother corrected with an offended scowl.
Lily didn't catch his expression either. Her speculative gaze remained on the turn where Angela had disappeared. “I don’t know her.”
“You’re not meant to,” Al replied, staring down the empty passage with his sister.
Al couldn’t get past the look. He knew several distinct looks girls would give. He knew the look when a girl disliked him. He knew the look when a girl liked him. He knew damn well the looks from girls who liked his name. But he didn't know that
And he wanted to know.
A little sibling action here, more next chapter.
I'm wondering if the small chapters are working. Hope so : )
I'd love to know what anyone thinks. If you have the chance to leave a comment, that would be lovely.
Thanks another million to Danii for pointing out my typos and confusing spots :)