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Chapter 13 : Destination Downhill
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ACT III: THE SECOND CAPER
13. DESTINATION DOWNHILL
Their agreement definitely sounded a lot better on paper.
Bea never imagined that she would one day be inviting Scorpius Malfoy into her dorm.
While she knew that she would be working with him, she didn't think she'd be working with him. Scorpius insisted that he wanted to be "involved in the process", i.e. in the way. Not two steps into her room and he was already hovering over her shoulder.
Verona Wood appeared from behind a wardrobe door, plainly judging the entourage Bea was leading. First came Scorpius, who was gracing Hogwarts with yet another creatively designed blazer (this time, plaid), followed by Albus stumbling over air. Shaking her head, Verona resumed stuffing Quidditch gear into her duffel, prepping for a strategy session with her twin brother Vincent. Typical co-captains divided the work; the Wood twins doubled the pain.
Scorpius peeled off his pair of Feminine Feet Soles. "No, I mean it, why make these pink?" He had been complaining about the color the whole trek up.
Albus knocked into him as he hopped around on one foot, trying to remove his own pair, and was barely able to avoid a pile-up. "What's wrong with pink? I like it; it's festive."
"For a My Little Centaur tea party, maybe. Gods, Potter, have a little taste."
Both girls gave Scorpius and his blazer a long hard stare.
Bea's section of the room faintly smelled of rot and Scorpius surveyed it with a noticeable grimace. The Ravenclaw girls had learned to live with Bea's messes long ago. After all, they each had their follies—Rose's mood swings, Lucy's absurdities, Verona's indifference (she had more empathy for her Quaffle). The smell was almost quaint in comparison. Swampy, with a tinge of buttery crumbs.
He peered into the portable cauldron on her desk, recoiling with a shudder as the fermenting stink of yesterday's strengthening potion burned his eyes. "Bloody Baron, nutcase, ever hear of a cleaning spell?" Scorpius pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and covered his face. Picking up the cleanest probe he could find on her desk, he prodded through the reagents on her desk.
"Aiya! Don't—" Bea grabbed for the instrument, but he flicked it out of reach. "There are very delicate things here! You can't just poke around willy-nilly. If you want to find something, just ask."
With his handkerchief, he picked up a vial from the table. "Relax, I'll be careful—" Something clattered. "Whoops, what was that?"
She shoved him to the side, eyes darting around her desk. "What was—"
Scorpius grinned at her glower and handed her the probe, which Bea immediately held to his nose.
"I will hurt you with this," she said as ominously as she could.
Shooing him away, she began cleaning up the mess from yesterday's enchanting session. A swish of her wand patched up the singe marks dotting the wall. Albus sidled up to help, rolling leftover walrus tusk pellets into a pouch.
Verona stared at the activity surrounding Bea's desk, curling her lip as she paused by the door. "Bea, Please don't explode anything while I'm gone. I know the rule is that someone needs to be in the room with you, but these two don't exactly count."
Albus had accidentally tipped over a vial of potion while Scorpius had gotten a hold of her welding torch, waving it around as if he'd never seen fire before.
"I never expected that you'd be this popular with the boys. Just make sure they don't burn down the tower."
When the door clicked shut, Bea wrenched the torch from Scorpius' hand, threatening him with the hot end. "You lay one more finger on anything—"
"Aw, ease up." He pushed her hand down, slipping past her and taking residence in her chair. "Remember: I'm going to pay for all your stuff. Least you can do is let me look around at what I'm working with here."
The oak creaked underneath him as he shifted his weight. He muttered something about buying a chair that spun and then tipped backwards to rest his feet on her desk.
So Scorpius was going to play that card. With his newly clean-shaven smirk, he had returned to his old ways, and Bea scolded herself for getting soft.
"I've made a list of things I need," she said testily. "We could ransack the storage whenever you're free—"
"Storage?" Scorpius snorted. "I love a bit of vandalism as much as the next kid, but after what happened last time, I say we get whatever you need through mail-order rush."
That's right: Scorpius was paying. She could have anything she wanted at the snap of her fingers now. No more cutting corners, no unnecessary risk, no —
"See, nutcase? Everything would've been easier if you just signed the deal in the first place."
Her fingers clenched and unclenched as she held back from strangling him.
Truthfully, the idea of no-risk was rather uncomfortable. Bea could always place the value of her inventions in terms of time and work spent, but for the prototype, the price tag was already set: two years of funding. Too much or too little—she wouldn't know until later.
"Guess that means no more adventures," sighed Albus.
Bea patted him on the shoulder. She had never been more thankful for Albus' presence, if only to mitigate her ballooning vexation for the other person in the room. "Who said that? It just means we'll have more time to raid the kitchen, and we don't have to worry about getting expelled."
"That's true. Rose could've gotten her Prefect badge taken away, if it weren't for the invisibility cloak—"
He clamped both hands over his mouth, eyes huge.
"Invisibility cloak?" Then it clicked. The subject he kept dodging—how he and Rose had escaped that night when they made the raid. They were hiding under an invisibility cloak!
Scorpius' feet slammed back on the ground. "Potterpuff has an invisibility cloak?"
"W-well," Albus inched away from his keen eyes. "It's not for play. Dad gave it to me. He knew I'd be responsible with it."
"It would've been nice to know you had one," Bea huffed, crossing her arms. Did he not trust her? Well, she was a bit forgetful about returning his quills (sugar quills were never returned), and was awfully close to catapulting his Kneazle off the Astronomy tower before that one Easter holiday...
Bea's grumbles winnowed down. "Oh, fine. I probably would've gotten it confiscated in a day. It's probably for the best if I pretend that I never heard you."
"You give up too easily." Scorpius was practically twirling a mustache. "Come on, Potter. You're honestly going to let an invisibility cloak rot in your wardrobe? Imagine what you could do with it. The world is your oyster now."
"But... I don't like oysters," Albus whimpered.
Bea glared at Scorpius. "Leave him alone."
"Come on, don't tell me you aren't imagining all the biscuit runs you're missing out on." Scorpius winked and stood up, arm out to give Albus a hearty good-ol'-mate pat on the back.
Bea slapped his hand away before it could make contact. "No, stop picking on him."
Scorpius blinked, glancing from Bea to Albus to Bea again. "That's cute. Not to be the bad guy here, but you know this is why people make fun of him, right? Someone has to say it."
Albus tapped her shoulder. "It's all right. I can handle this. I'm—" He mustered all his courage into his lungs. "I'm the son of the Boy-Who-Lived!"
Bea brushed him off. "Yeah, yeah, and I'm the daughter of the girl who rejected him. You—" She jabbed Scorpius' chest. This was personal. "You've been acting like you own the place. Well, you don't. My room, my rules. Take your bravado somewhere else."
Scorpius stared down at her finger for a long moment until he began chuckling. "All right, I'll tone it down. I just didn't want to get too friendly." He leaned away from her, waving his hand around in a circle as if it were supposed to make him seem important. "Knowing how... tenacious you are, I thought it'd be appropriate to establish some lines of authority early, now that we're working together. Sometimes, your rules won't fly. It’s my contract, after all. I'll have rules, too."
"Our contract, and if you ever try to pressure Al like that again, consider it void."
He was unimpressed. "You know, without my consent, that means seven years bad luck for you."
"Call my bluff," she said, steely. "And you won't ever get your hands on my invention."
The spark in his eyes fizzled. If nothing else, at least he had stopped having fun at her expense. A sliver of a smile survived on his lips, his last pretense of indifference. "Fine. I'll leave him alone. A little tiff's not worth it."
She only then felt a flash of fear. Oh no, the risks were greater than ever; it was pride and principles and personal space at stake.
Bea drew herself to her full height again, which wasn't much, even on her tiptoes. "And while we're at it, let me tell you some other things." She squeezed past him and flounced into her seat. "This is my chair, my desk. Keep your feet off of it."
Scorpius was already rolling his eyes, but she paid no mind.
"You want me to work efficiently? Don't touch anything." She cleared out a semi-circle of space in front of her and took her prototype's box from her shelf. "Tool rack on the left. Reference books over there. They're library copies, so keep them clean. Vials in the drawers." She pulled one out. "Stay away from the bottom ones; you'll turn yourself into a Niffler. You got all that?"
His stare still seemed to question whether she was serious. The Bloody Baron's bloomers, she was!
His next words were out of place amongst his earlier cajoles but his tone was not tamed, only quiet, and a harsh edge cut from his first word to the last. "Where do I sit?"
"There's a stool." She pointed behind Albus. As soon as he reached for it, she continued, "It's Al's. He brought it up here, so it's his."
Albus, who had been dawdling nervously, quickly took a seat.
"If you want to sit, bring your own chair."
Scorpius' gaze slowly returned to her, jaw clenched. Good, she thought. Let him be angry.
"I have a better idea." His grip on the side of the desk had gone white-knuckled. "I think you ought to listen closely."
Turning, the tails of his jacket flew sharply upwards as he stormed out. His exit concluded with a slam that shook the tower to its foundations.
The glass seemed to rattle forever in the silence. "Spoiled brat," Bea muttered after she was certain Scorpius wasn't returning. She glanced at Albus, who didn't look confident about anything at the moment as he hugged the curtains for comfort.
The dreams of yesterday fluttered briefly through her mind—a shop with blue awning and her name in gold letters. The prize too much to give up. They were only going to tumble downhill, and from the looks of it, they weren't going to stop until they hit the very bottom.
Noise was at an all-time low in the library, save for the occasional 'shush!' from Madame Pince. Ever since the Dance club tried to hold their annual flash mob there, anything that remotely sounded like a harmonic note was quickly quashed.
Fred wove through the stacks until he found the periodicals corner, two towering shelves of identically-bound books. Each volume held a year's worth of the Daily Prophet, and the whole archive dated centuries back. His point of interest was the podium in front that displayed the current year's issues.
He flipped through it, page by page. He had a name in mind, fuzzy but tangible. Had he seen it last week or the week before?
Familiar photos called for his attention. James was laughing with the Cannons again. A few pages later, Fred spotted Uncle Percy accepting an award. Directly underneath was an advertisement for Wheezes and their new Color-Changing Mood Robes, which declared in bold lettering to "dress better than the sucker you see above."
Just as Fred was about to give up, he found the name, buried in the middle of an article: Niharika Patil. He glanced at the headline: POTION GIANT POX-B-GON FILING FOR BANKRUPTCY.
A catch in his breath gave him pause. He knew, with a twinge of guilt, that he was indeed prying into matters not meant for him.
The article was short; it seemed as if the bankruptcy had been a long time coming. Declining sales and fierce competition had worn the company down, despite its large presence in Britain. They weren't out of business yet, but it was only a matter of time. The article on Scorpius and Anjali's supposed engagement did seem to insinuate a merger.
Fred shook his head. What was he doing, making wild guesses? He'd only wanted to stop Anjali damned teasing. Ever since she had marked him as Potter's old wingman, she'd made him her toy and turned their banter into a game. He had grown out of such idle pursuits, or so he hoped.
Closing his eyes, he stepped back from the podium. Walk away, Fred. This was none of your concern.
While he did so, he spotted the back of a familiar blond head at a nearby shelf. It was his stance that was truly unmistakable—head cocked to one side, one foot resting on a heel and tapping to an imaginary beat, all too antsy to escape the quiet. Malfoy's sort did not belong in libraries.
Fred hadn't had a chance to speak with him since he finalized his contract with Bea. Fred strolled over to the spot beside him, pulled a random tome from the shelf, and pretended to read. If Scorpius had noticed his presence before then, he did not make it known.
Fred glanced over, lowering his voice when he caught sight of Madam Pince's frown. "Studying... Rare Avian Creatures of Great Britain? Didn't think you were a birdbrain."
"Expanding the mind is always a noble pursuit." Scorpius raised a brow. "Wart Growing for Beginners?"
Fred shut his book and noticed the title for the first time. "It's, uh, it's for a friend."
"Right." Scorpius returned his attention to his reading. "I understand you don't like runarounds. So let's cut the chit-chat."
And so died the pretenses. As a man of efficiency, Fred could hardly complain.
He chose his words carefully, piecing them together as he slid his book back where he had found it. "Even though I approve of this arrangement you have with Bea—encouraged it, in fact—I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I'm keeping an eye on you."
"Noted. Ruthless world out there. Trust no one." Underneath his more flamboyant behavior, Scorpius was rather grim. He turned a page, still not looking up. "Do I get to ask something in return?"
The question caught Fred off-guard. After a moment, he said, "All right."
"Now that James is gone, why do you stick around with Bea? Never pegged you two as close."
Fred frowned. The actual question was even stranger. "Well... we are. We're used to each other, I guess. Why do you ask?"
"Just curious. You're a very loyal man, Weasley. Especially toward a girl who tends to be more trouble than she's worth." He snapped the book shut and tucked it under his arm. "I'm learning that right now."
Scorpius nodded a good-bye and left in the direction where Fred had come from, pausing briefly by the periodicals.
It wasn't until Fred left the library that he remembered the book on the podium. It was still open to the article he had been reading.
Bea had no idea what the Founders were thinking putting the entrance to a seven-story tower on the fifth floor of a castle. She resumed her trek after taking a breather on the staircase. It was her second rest stop on her way home from Hagrid's hut. Albus had dragged her there to see the new brood of salamanders. She had never seen anyone so excited at the prospect of burned pinkies before.
As her feet shuffled over the open doorway of her room, she could almost feel her pillow under her cheek. Instead, she was greeted by Rose and a tub of vials, the ones she had borrowed to distill the Stalker Salve two weeks ago. The clean-up was an on-going effort.
Rose shoved the tub into Bea's arms. "You said you'd clear these out last week."
She had. And since that day, she had also been playing the 'how-long-until-Rose-remembers' game. Sighing, Bea marched herself to the sink.
Once elbow deep in suds, her mind wandered off. Her sister sent her a letter this morning, scolding her for not writing to Mum sooner. How did Sasha know? Mum had already received a notice from Flitwick explaining her trouble with being up after hours with Scorpius. At the mere mention of a boy, she had thought her daughter was pregnant with triplets.
Bea found letter-writing terribly laborious. It wasn't as if her family took interest in her inventing. Certainly, they tried and Mum was quite proud of her talents, but she didn't understand. Dad... didn't needed to be reminded of magic.
A shrill scream interrupted, and Bea dropped the last vial in the tub. Rose? Wide-eyed, she dashed outside.
Lucy and Rose were staring at the doorway. There stood Scorpius with a pained wince, his hands pressed against the side of his head in an attempt to salvage his eardrums. "Oh yeah, I forgot Mad-Eye Weasley lives here, too," he muttered, lowering his arms.
"What are you doing here?" Rose cried.
Quickly, Bea ran back to the sink and rinsed off the soap. "Rose, I already told you. I'm working with him now." She then muttered, "Although I thought he stormed out of here for good."
When Bea came back out, Rose was in the final stages of acceptance. "Fine," the prefect said. "I suppose it can't be helped. But I will not hide my distaste of your presence, Malfoy."
"Nor will I hide my apathy toward your opinion," Scorpius quipped cheerily as he strode over to Bea. As soon as they met midway, his smile dropped. He had a book in his grasp and he held it up, pointing to a tiny paragraph. "You asked for Runespoor eggs. Well, they're illegal. Banned since 1903."
"Yeah, so? It's not like illegal means unobtainable."
His frown turned into complete disbelief. "You knew? I can't release a product that needs this in it! How do you expect me to produce them?"
She hadn't thought about that. "Well... I can find an alternate. But it'd be easier—much easier—if I had one to work with first."
"How do you know that?"
"I just do, all right?" She wrinkled her nose. "I just have to... well, there's some things..."
"I think you have no idea what you're doing." Scorpius shook his head. "You probably don't even know how your own invention's supposed to work, and you're expecting me to go out on a limb to—"
"Oi!" She stomped her foot, instantly fuming. If he wanted her to prove herself, he should have asked. And he wasn't going to understand a lick of it!
"In theory," she began, hands on her hips, "any magical energy directed at the Muggle device with the transistor would be neutralized or converted into energy it can handle. You know the special binding spell they use for curse wards—oh wait, no you don't. That's beyond N.E.W.T. level. Brushed up on my physics over summer to deal with the Muggle end, too. Circuits, conductors, and batteries. I'm sure you know what those are like though."
Scorpius had shrunk back as she advanced, and he suddenly looked very uncomfortable and out of place.
"Muggles make up so much rubbish to explain magical things." She waved her hand around, mocking that idiotic gesture of his. "The Many-Worlds theory, string theory, lots of theories. Sometimes I wish I could break the Statute of Secrecy to fix their physics textbooks. Dad would be proud at least. They haven't even heard of the Confounding Polaris effect. Not many wizards have either, but it's a really dry subject. Sorry, did I lose you?"
His gaping mouth slowly closed. In the background, Lucy whispered loudly, "Ooh, burn."
"It's just science, Smarmy." Bea flipped her hair—she'd always wanted to do that. It mostly got in her face. "Even Al can pretend like he knows what I'm talking about."
Scorpius licked his lips. Finally, he croaked out some words: "Are you like a secret genius or something?"
She brushed away her hair, blinking. "What?"
Scorpius looked genuinely stunned, and he wasn't so much as gawking at her, like she first thought, as much as admiring her. "I knew you were smart, but is this what you're like when you're not hopped up on sugar?"
Bea blushed faintly, feeling very silly all of a sudden. "Er, thanks? I'm really not a genius. I just... I don't know, connect the dots differently—and oi! I happen to enjoy being hopped up on sugar."
"Grand," he chuckled, shaking his head. "Look, I—never mind, I guess."
Now they were both standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, neither knowing where to go from there. They hadn't technically resolved anything, but their fighting felt rather ridiculous all of a sudden.
Scorpius scanned his book again, scratching his head. "Well, there is one way we could get a Runespoor egg, I suppose."
He glanced at Rose, who was studying with her noiseless earmuffs on. Lucy waved from her bed, mouthing, 'Don't mind me.'
"Well, prior to that," he said, pointing to another passage, "They were mainly used in Bludgers. And guess what Hogwarts has?"
For once, Bea shared the same devious glint as he did. "...some really old Bludgers?"
"Hooch never cleans out the closets."
"How are we supposed to sneak in?"
Scorpius shut the book slowly. "For that... we're going to need a little something from Potterpuff."
My Little Centaur is a riff on My Little Pony, which I believe I do not own. Also I finally got to break out the very first aiyaaa, which is just a sound for a very Chinese flail of worry
A/N Hah! I updated in under three weeks! And for a fairly hefty chapter at that. I shall give myself a pat on the shoulder. A review would be lovely, like always!
Coming soon: Potterpuff is our king. Fred is a stalker. More bickering.
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