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Ignite by Slide
Chapter 4 : Sackcloth and Ashes
 
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The rest of the day passed with little of significance. Albus had remained quiet, which had been awkward because Scorpius usually dealt with his bad moods by talking a lot, to both distract him and cheer him up. But since he, Scorpius, was the cause of this upset, that had seemed imprudent, and so Charms had been spent in a dour, miserable silence.

News of the Potions class hijinks had spread. He'd received glares from the rest of Rose's friends, Hestia Kirke in particular glowering as if trying to put the evil eye on him. More relaxed Gryffindors, like Hedley and Willoughby, had apparently found the story hilarious and had given him grins and even backslaps over lunch.

After all, even if he did have to suffer Albus' silence, the fury of the newly-showered Rose Weasley, and a detention, Scorpius had to accept that blowing up the potions supply cupboard in the face of their year's most uptight prefect was kind of funny.

He just didn't feel much like laughing about it.

Once in class, Hollis, one of the few Slytherins who hadn't been closing ranks with Miranda, had been prepared to talk, but Scorpius had always considered Peregrine Hollis to be a mind-numbingly boring boy, and being happy and chatty while Albus was still clearly upset seemed rude, like indicating he didn't care.

He did.

Albus had left for the Library almost the moment Charms was over, and Scorpius knew this was about him still wanting some time on his own. His heart just sank further when Bellamy and Abena Tau went with him, the two fiercest adherents of Miranda's rules against associating with him.

If he thought less of Albus, he'd have wondered if he'd done that on purpose. As it was, all he could do was worry if he'd really gone too far this time.

He had a few hours until he needed to report to Professor Lockett's office, and though he sat down in the common room with the Potions book to try to figure out what he'd not been paying attention to in class, the words just washed over him.

In the end he slunk into his dormitory and pulled out his guitar. Normally, Scorpius preferred an audience - entertained classmates, girls who were still impressed by two different chords strummed one after the other, his father snapping at him to stop - but it would do to fill the silence. For once, classical guitar seemed safer, required more concentration, required him to keep his thoughts on the technical skills he neglected in his music - and in everything else about his life.

Oakes and Bellamy had come in part way through, and just to spite them he'd played some modern Muggle songs, loudly, while they'd got changed and Oakes had showered. That was one advantage of being persona non grata with half of Slytherin House right then - quite often, they would ignore him even if it inconvenienced them to do so. And Scorpius was not a man to take these slights with good grace.

When, three hours later, Albus came in with a bag of books to get changed and tell him they had best head down to Professor Lockett's office, Scorpius didn't say anything, just did as he was told. Because he clearly hadn't yet been forgiven.

And he was going to have to behave until that happened.



* *



'I can't believe he did that,' said Hestia Kirke for about the fifteenth time.

'I can. It's Scorpius Malfoy. I totally believe there's nothing he wouldn't do.' Cheryl Hawkins was lounging back on her bed in the Gryffindor sixth year girls' dorm room, still in her Quidditch gear. She smirked. 'Isn't that kind of the appeal?'

'Sorry,' said Rose, not looking up from rummaging through her trunk. 'I don't find rodents appealing. Oh, for goodness sake, Artemis!' The smoky-coated cat, who had helpfully decided to lunge into her open trunk to explore hitherto unknown vistas of things that made mysterious crinkling noises, was unceremoniously dumped on the bed. There she promptly began kneading at the scarf Rose had already dug out.

Hestia was finally distracted from holding court on the Evils of Scorpius Malfoy, a topic she could engage with a vigour that put even Rose herself to shame. The difference was that where Rose ranted, Hestia was more the kind to conclude her diatribe with informative pamphlets. Literally, in the case of when Scorpius had caused a leak in the girls' showers in the Ravenclaw Quidditch changing rooms and the entire female half of the team had emerged after a practice, sopping wet into the warm sun for most of the school to see.

Rose suspected Hestia wouldn't have cared so much if she hadn't been caught in the periphery of the deluge. And according to Albus, Scorpius had taken the pamphlet explaining what a menace to society he was and had it framed. She'd not had the heart to tell Hestia.

'Why exactly are you getting out your winter clothes, Rose?' Hestia wrinkled her nose.

'I'm not getting my winter clothes, but I want something warm. Professor Lockett sent a message telling us to wrap up decently and wear good boots. I bet she's going to drag us down to the Herbology greenhouses or something equally dire.' Finally, Rose found her dragonskin trousers and tossed them onto the bed.

Cheryl eyeballed them enviously. 'So, if you're going to roll around in the mud down there, you have to look like you're ready to join a motorcycle gang?'

'Ha.' Rose picked up the scarf, but instead of putting it away was promptly entangled in a tug-of-war with Artemis, who rather fancied the tassels and thought their being waved around was awfully good fun. 'No, I just refuse to wear something that can be ruined, stained, or ripped. There is absolutely no way I am going to give that odious little rat another opportunity for a petty little strike.'

'He might be over it,' Hestia said dubiously. 'Since he was looking like Al had thoroughly told him off in Charms.'

Rose made a face, and in her distraction Artemis yanked the scarf from her hands and dragged it off the bed to be properly savaged in appropriate privacy. 'Al probably just told him to look penitent until I forgot about it.'

'He's not really a rat, is he...' Cheryl made a half-hearted effort at removing her Quidditch gear. She got as far as her gloves before giving up, flopping back down again. 'He's a bit too... you know, suave for a rat.'

'Sure. Suave. If your standards were staggeringly low to begin with.' Rose gave her a look of disapproval. She knew for a fact all they'd done down at the pitch was a warm-up and assessment of the remaining Quidditch players so Hugo had a better idea of what he was looking for at try-outs next week, and yet Cheryl was acting as if she had just come out of an exhausting game.

'Then who would you say is suave, Rose?' Cheryl lifted her head, voice holding a faint bite. 'Because it's sure as anything not Hector.'

'I don't expect Hector to be suave.' Rose tossed her hair defensively, and pulled on an old t-shirt. 'I expect him to be nice, polite, good company...'

'...silent, so you don't have to think about how bone-crunchingly stupid he is while you're tongue-wrestling in closets when you're supposed to be on patrol -'

'That's not fair!' squeaked Hestia. 'Rose would never neglect her prefect duty!'

Rose, right then, rather fancied dying. Instead she opted for escaping, pulling on a thick jacket and knocking her trunk shut. 'If I don't come back, assume Malfoy finally crossed the line in the mutually assured destruction doctrine and I blew up the Herbology greenhouses. I bequeath my scarf to Artemis, as I think I don't have a choice on that count.'

Hestia looked like a kicked puppy. 'Oh, you said we could go up to the Astronomy Tower tonight -'

'I'm not stopping you,' Rose said. 'But I didn't expect detention tonight, either. I might be back in time, I'm not actually planning on blowing up greenhouses.'

'I think they take your badge off you for that,' mused Cheryl.

'And then you might have to do something, Cher. Wouldn't that be terrible.' Rose stuck her tongue out at her roommate good-naturedly. 'Try to not have too much fun on a Friday night without me.'

'Oh, your slave-driver brother's seen to it that's not going to happen...' groaned Cheryl, at the same time as Hestia squeaked, 'We won't!'

Rose left the dorm room with a sigh. It wasn't that she didn't love her friends and roommates dearly, but sometimes they were a lot to handle. She suspected Hestia had been overdoing it on the tea, or the biscuits, or both, and was a little too hyped up on caffeine and sugar right then.

Matthias was sat in the common room, lounging back with his feet up on a table and a thick book in his hands. It was quiet down there, as they were still at the time of year where it wasn't too dark or too cold outside, and the students knew to make the most of it before bitter winter came. When Matthias took his feet off the table the moment he saw her it looked like it was an instinctive move, and instinctive for him to look a little guilty about it. But, then, "guilty" summarised a good deal of their interactions these days.

He frowned. 'What are you wearing?'

'It's my all-new anti-Malfoy gear.' Rose put a hand on her hip. 'You like it?'

It was, of course, the wrong thing to say when she was in leather trousers. Matthias lifted his book with a grunt, and she saw it was a selection of treatises on the interaction of Christianity and magic in the central middle ages.

Once, she'd have stopped to ask him about it, or maybe even to borrow it. Now, even though she didn't have the time, she knew it wouldn't be sensible. Pretending everything was absolutely fine between them, with no lingering resentment, affection, or certainly anything resembling regrets, would only go so far. Even if it was the expected code of conduct.

'Flynn - Hector - he's outside.' Matthias wrinkled his nose in disapproval at his own stumble. 'Down by the Fat Lady.'

'You didn't let him in?'

'He didn't ask,' said Matthias stubbornly. 'And you know I don't like inviting non-Gryffindors up to the common room.'

'Oh, really, Matthias, people don't care about that anymore -'

'I do,' he said, and looked back at his book. 'Anyway. He's waiting for you. You don't want to be late for your detention.'

He was probably just in a bad mood, she knew, over something which had nothing to do with her. Every day they saw each other, and every day they were friendly, cordial, even enjoyed spending time together, and stuck to the party line that their breakup had been both amiable and mutual. Most days that was the truth.

She didn't fancy it being not one of those days, however, and with a mumble of thanks she slunk to the stairs leading their winding way down and out of Gryffindor Tower.

Indeed, as the Fat Lady swung open to let her out, there was Hector, resplendent in his Quidditch gear. He wore it well, of course - it was new, since he'd grown in the last two years, the leather gleaming and fitting his broad shape nicely.

There were times Rose missed being able to have an intellectual discussion with Matthias. And then there were times she remembered that Hector, scrubbed up or rumpled, could look really good.

He gave the broad, toothy grin that could melt hearts when he saw her, and even if he'd been irritated by having to wait, he didn't show it. His leather cap was shoved under one arm. 'I've got practice,' he said apologetically, 'but I thought I'd come wish you luck for the evening.'

'Luck? You think I'm going to need luck?' She nevertheless crossed the space between them to plant a kiss on his cheek. 'It's just a detention.'

'With Malfoy. So, maybe not luck. Maybe strength?' Hector's smile turned hopeful. 'He's not worth it, you know. Getting angry over. Getting into trouble over.'

'I know,' she sighed. 'But I just - ugh. Why does Al have to have such awful taste? He's rude, he's obnoxious, he's inconsiderate...' She pondered the tautological nature of what she'd just said, and reflected with relief that Hector would neither pick up on the redundancies nor point them out.

'You're preaching to the choir, babe,' he assured her. 'I've got to go, team's got to be in top condition if we're going to trounce your brother this year. I just wanted to swing by to give you a boost. I know it's going to be a boring evening.'

'If we're going down to the greenhouses, "boring" doesn't begin to cover it. But thank you.' She played with a couple of the ties on the front of his uniform padding. 'I know this wasn't on your way.'

Hector smirked. 'And I thought I'd been so subtle about just dropping by...'

She kissed him goodnight, because she did appreciate him swinging by, even if it made her feel a little guilty about Matthias. Then they parted ways, since there was no sensible route to wander in the same direction if she quickly needed to get to Professor Lockett's office and he quickly needed to get down to the Quidditch pitch.

To her frustration, when she finally reached the Potions teacher's office she realised she was very likely the last one there. That was what she got for being distracted by her roommates, her cat, her ex, and her boyfriend. And she'd clearly missed that something had happened, as she stepped in and saw more than just Albus and Scorpius waiting for her.

Professor Lockett wasn't there yet, and her cousin and his best friend were lounging against the office wall doing a good job of pretending nothing was wrong between them. But Rose knew Albus, and knew that the upset she'd seen in him right after Potions hadn't dissipated.

Good. So long as he's still upset with Malfoy, too.

But there were two more figures, figures she recognised instantly, and she quirked an eyebrow with bewilderment. 'What're you doing here?'

Methuselah Jones looked away from where he'd been critically evaluating Professor Lockett's book collection. 'Detention,' he said archly - then, realising this wouldn't suffice, sighed with irritation. 'I got a bad mark today. Only an "E". Patently unfair. Debated it with the Professor. We... disagreed.'

'He called her a hack,' Scorpius provided helpfully.

Jones looked indignant. 'I most certainly did not. I simply queried her aptitude at student management. Not her credentials as a Potions Expert. Those speak for themselves.'

'So you said she was a perfectly capable Potioneer,' said Scorpius, though he sounded amused, 'just a crappy teacher? Your diplomacy astounds, Jones.'

Rose rolled her eyes. 'As does your hypocrisy, Malfoy.'

'I know what diplomacy is. Whether I consider the people around me worthy of it is something else.' He quirked an eyebrow at her. 'What are you wearing?'

It was patently unfair, Rose reflected, that the two men who'd commented on her clothing tonight had been her ex-boyfriend and Scorpius Malfoy. Would it have killed Hector to notice that, actually, she looked pretty good?

Not that looking good had been the goal. But if it was an advantageous side-effect of dressing practically, she would have liked to have reaped greater benefits.

'Something practical, Malfoy,' she said with a sigh. 'Not everyone tries to look like an outrageous dandy all the time.'

'Hey.' Scorpius lifted his hands, and smirked. 'I'm not complaining.'

Albus gave a grunt of irritation, the first sound he'd made since she'd come in. He had barely looked up, just been standing with his arms folded across his chest, brow furrowed. 'Can you two stop it? Just for tonight? I know that sounds like closing the gate after the horse has bolted...'

Rose didn't want to give Scorpius the satisfaction of a formally accepted cease-fire, but she also neither wanted to upset Albus more nor commit herself to an evening of verbal wrestling matches. Her concession to Albus, then, was to look away from the two Slytherin boys and turn to the last figure in the room. 'I didn't think you even did Potions.'

Selena Rourke had been sat on the only chair in the room that wasn't Professor Lockett's, filing her nails with an air of supreme disinterest in the disagreements that swirled around her, as if she was above it all. Rose knew this was a lie; Selena would just come back later, all of her arguments stored up, and bring friends. It was her usual method.

'I don't,' Selena said, as if one of the most complicated and demanding NEWTs offered by Hogwarts was simply beneath her, not unavailable to her. 'I didn't get detention from Professor Lockett. I got it from Diarmuid.'

Rose wrinkled her nose. The Head Boy could technically give out detentions, subject to the approval of the Deputy Headmaster, but this was a rare occurrence and for Diarmuid to dare try in the first week was particularly foolhardy. 'What on Earth did you do to him?'

'It's not what she did to Diarmuid,' said Scorpius, with his ear irritatingly more to the ground than her when it came to misdemeanours in Hogwarts. 'It's what she did to Marie Laroche.'

'I didn't do anything,' Selena said peevishly, working by now on her cuticles. 'I just wondered why she was wearing that top with those earrings, and if it meant she was going to join the circus any time soon.'

Rose found herself unhappily looking to Scorpius for clarification. 'That doesn't sound so bad.' It sounded, at least, par for the course from Selena Rourke.

'It wouldn't be,' Scorpius agreed, 'except that Diarmuid gave Laroche those earrings in the first place.'

'So, because Professor Tully adores Diarmuid, I get given a detention because I dared criticise his frankly terrifying fashion sense, and his girlfriend's failure to properly accessorise,' Selena sniffed derisively. 'And because this is the only detention organised tonight for NEWT students, I get stuck with all of you.'

The "you", Rose noted, seemed more directed at her and Jones, who was still paying more attention to the bookshelf. 'Don't worry,' she sighed. 'You can rest assured the suffering's mutual.'

Scorpius opened his mouth to say something - then he glanced at Albus and subsided, and mercifully the office door swung open to let Professor Lockett in. She was clad in equally hard-wearing gear, including some sturdy gloves and a good coat which Rose thought was, perhaps, a little excessive for early September, even night-time in Scotland in early September.

She quirked an eyebrow at them all. 'So you got my message.'

'Get ready to troop around in the dirty greenhouses,' Rose confirmed gloomily. 'I know we need to replace the lost supplies, Professor, but do we have to -'

'No, you don't have to troop around in the dirty greenhouses,' Professor Lockett confirmed, and Rose sagged with relief.

Selena wrinkled her perfect nose. 'Ugh, so you mean I had to dig up all of my old Herbology gear for nothing -'

'Not for nothing. You'll need it. Just not in the greenhouses.'

Scorpius pinched the bridge of his nose. 'Crap. Saw that one coming.'

Lockett opened a drawer in her desk and pulled out a few rolls of parchment, which she slid into a sturdy leather scroll case attached to her belt. 'Some of the components which Malfoy managed to destroy today -'

'Presumed destroyed, Professor, it's not proven.'

She gave Scorpius a stony glare which immediately silenced him, and Rose wondered if she should take notes. Lockett cleared her throat and continued. '...which Malfoy destroyed today, were the last of my stock. Now, I can order some more, but that will take several days and in the meantime I have students who are going to need this stock for classes. I have absolutely no desire to alter my class plans because of these petty misdemeanours.'

Rose had guessed this much, but she still didn't understand. 'Then, why not the greenhouses?'

Lockett pulled out some more papers and handed a roll to each of the five of the students. 'Here's a list of what we need which I think we can reasonably acquire. If we do not complete the list tonight, I shall certainly be seeing Malfoy and Weasley tomorrow to continue the work. The rest of you will have served your time.'

Scorpius squinted at the paper as he unrolled it. 'Where, exactly, are we going to get half of this stuff?'

Rose made a small noise of disbelief as she read it and put two and two together. 'You must be joking. Professor.'

'What?' Selena looked utterly lost. 'What is all of this?'

'You worked really hard for that "A" in your Potions OWL, didn't you?' Rose sneered.

Scorpius remained equally bewildered. 'Someone going to enlighten me?'

'These components? Only one place to get them. Unless Professor Lockett has a Floo connection or Portkey set up to elsewhere tonight - both highly unlikely,' said Methuselah Jones, sounding more bored than quite as horrified as Rose felt at the prospect looming before them. 'The Forbidden Forest.'


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