Chapter 11 : Smoke and Mirrors
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A dark spot of blood dribbled from Albus’s mouth and the agonizing pain finally drew him away from Zabini’s fathomless dark eyes and he was able to clamp a hand over his lips. But the blood remained on the dusty floor and Albus waited for some sort of reaction from Zabini, some sort of animalistic growl to slip from his lips before he buried his fangs into his throat.
Instead, there was nothing but silence and that was somehow a lot worse. It left his stomach churning in the same way that it would have done if he had just finished eating one of Aunt Hermione’s green bean casseroles.
“Albus, are you all right?” Professor Longbottom asked, being the first of the adults to say a word. Filch had leapt back against his desk, looking startled and expecting far worse than three Hogwarts students lying on his floor but Zabini was, to make matters even more frightening….chillingly silent.
Scorpious and Lavender distracted Albus from saying anything as his blonde friend groaned. “Merlin, that piece of (Professor Longbottom shot him a look) ghost!” he was rubbing his forehead and sitting up, a large bump visible beneath his fingers.
Lavender was rubbing her jaw where Albus could see a bruise forming on her brown skin and he felt a wave of stupidity. If he had just told them that Peeves had been coming then they might have been able to slip away before the terror had pushed them but now…. “Albus, you’re bleeding!” the girl said, eyes wide as she turned towards him.
Scorpious looked indignant. “I’m hurt too you know!”
Professor Longbottom gave a weary sigh as Albus fended Lavender off from overreacting, not wanting to give Zabini the chance to sneer at him. “Would it even make sense for me to bother asking what you three thought you were doing?” their Herbology teacher asked gently.
Albus wanted to speak but his tongue was throbbing and Zabini was still staring at him, as if he wanted to rip his innards out and feed them to his hellhounds. He was almost positive that he had at least one that he fed students to, “I think he needs to go to the hospital wing, professor,” Lavender said worriedly as Scorpious grumbled and roughly stood up.
“That sounds like a good idea; the three of you took a nasty fall.” Professor Longbottom said with true concern. Albus shot a wary glance at Zabini, whose robes were still in disarray and his eyes shot warily to the wound in his shoulder, where the skin was swollen and red. “Blaise, you wouldn’t mind…?”
Zabini snapped out of his murderous thoughts and turned narrowed eyes on Professor Longbottom. “I’m assuming that you’re letting them go without punishment?” he asked nastily.
Lavender was dusting Albus’s robes off and Scorpious was moodily tugging on her hair until she turned and investigated the bump on his forehead. Leaving his moody blonde friend to look awfully pleased with himself, Albus caught Professor Longbottom’s strained words, “We can ask them later what they were up to. They’re from my House; I’ll take care of everything.”
Albus was almost certain that he wouldn’t bury them.
Zabini made a motion with his hands as if he were going to wring Professor Lonbottom’s throat but stopped himself. Instead, he flung his hands into his robes, withdrew his wand and Albus had a horrible thought that he was going to turn them into bugs and squash them but instead, he flicked it over himself. Instantly, any evidence that he had been hurt or bleeding was gone, concealed perfectly just like the man himself, “I want them in my office after you’re through with them,”
“That won’t be necessary.” Professor Longbottom assured tightly. Albus could sense the tension between them and wondered if they would be asked what they had heard before Peeves had blown their cover. He couldn’t come up with a reason for them not to be expelled.
Zabini’s lip curled slowly, as if savoring some poor victim’s blood before he turned away. Albus had a feeling that he was trying to weigh his options, it was obvious that he didn’t like being told what to do, especially by a Gryffindor, “….I have too much on the line for this. Take care of the three of them and keep them out of my way if you know what’s best,” he snarled to Professor Longbottom before moving away.
Albus snatched Lavender away from Scorpious (Who was enjoying having some attention) before Zabini walked directly through them. “Are you going to take points?” he asked Professor Longbottom.
Before he could answer, Zabini turned as he flung the door open, which had slammed shut right after the three of them had fallen in. Albus felt the fine hairs on the back of his neck stand up and a chill grip him, “House points are the least of your worries Potter Jr. and fans,” he said this pointedly to Lavender and Scorpious, who shot him a very nasty look.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Scorpious snarled, flushing.
Lavender shot him a warning look.
Zabini tilted his head at him but Albus had a feeling that the dislike gripping him was coming from memories of Mr. Malfoy. It made his stomach knot with all that he had heard and what the creature might know that he wasn’t saying, “Now, why would I tell you something like that? Then it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
Professor Longbottom was frowning severely. “Blaise, that’s enough." His tone was hard and he said, almost with a smile, 'we could have just used a simple Muffliato if you're worried about what they heard."
"As if I would use some spell that Potter advised." Zabini muttered with distaste and Albus shot him a look of pure, hot annoyance. "They've heard too much."
Professor Longbottom looked patient, though weary. "I’m sure that this was all a misunderstanding.”
“It really was!” Albus cried hastily, the pain in his mouth forgotten.
Lavender nodded and because he had totally forgotten about it, he was surprised to see her grabbing her broomstick. It had fallen out of her hand when they’d hit the floor of course and Filch shot her a suspicious glance but she ignored him, “I-I wanted to show Professor Lonbottom my new broomstick. I heard that Albus’s dad was on the Quidditch team when he was a first year and I thought he’d like to hear about me…maybe…” she faltered as Zabini’s upper lip curled with displeasure.
Professor Longbottom looked briefly distracted by the broom, whose wrappings were falling apart. “Is that a Neon Star, Patil? Best in the world—nonetheless,” he said hastily as Zabini looked like he meant to break it over his knee, “you could have waited until class—”
“I heard your voice and you’re my favorite teacher! I thought you’d be happy for me,” Lavender said with such sincerity that Albus almost thought he saw angels swooning and a rainbow behind her head. Scorpious was looking at her with stunned silence, “I-I’m sorry,” she said earnestly.
Zabini looked truly sickened even as Filch was eyeing a pair of suspiciously shined manacles in the corner. Professor Longbottom was blushing a little, “This is precisely why I despise children.” Albus heard him say and he was quite sure it had to do with dozens of babies crying whenever he walked by their cradles. “I won’t be made a fool of, Neville.”
“No one is making you out to be the fool, Blaise.” Professor Longbottom said severely, snapping out of his flattered reverie. “Just let me take care of this. I know how important it is to you to gather the Wolfsbane—”
“No.” Zabini said with startling severity. “No, you don’t.”
Scorpious was giving him a dark look. “What do you need it for then? Why does it have to be such a secret?” he asked around a frown and Albus and Lavender shot him a glare.
Zabini’s back stiffened. “I’d watch that mouth if I were you.” And then, something struck him, as if he were recalling a tasty treat and Albus was wondering now if he had some sort of horrible punishment in store for them. Like scrubbing old lady’s feet with nothing but their bare hands and a bar of soap…“Especially after I get through with you all,” the man said and with that, he gave them a sunny smile and departed, the door somehow closing silently behind him.
Albus was petrified.
There was no telling what he would do to the three of them once he got a chance to get them all alone and he then remembered that he had first period Potions. There were so many cauldrons in there! He was going to chop the three of them up and cook them…did he even taste good with the right seasonings?
His head was swimming with various thoughts of Lavender potpie, Scorpious stew and boiled Albus and potatoes that he hardly heard Professor Longbottom saying. “…..like to know what you thought you were doing—Albus are you even paying attention to me?”
Albus snapped out of his thoughts and was aware that Professor Longbottom was staring down at him. Apparently, while he’d been daydreaming, they’d been ushered out of Filch’s musty office and were now standing in the corridor, distant sounds of other students sounding like the echo of another world. “Erm, sorry?”
Professor Longbottom sighed and Lavender and Scorpious were appearing distracted or annoyed. He wasn’t able to tell, “Albus, this isn’t really the time to be spacing out.” He was told and he nodded, blushing, “what did you hear outside the door?”
“Nothing, just that Zabini said he thought he knew what was happening with the murders,” Lavender intervened and because that had been the last thing that they had heard before they’d fallen into the room, Albus breathed a sigh of relief. Scorpious’s shoulder’s relaxed, “we had just finished with breakfast and were going to find you and I heard your voice in Mr. Filch’s room,”
Professor Longbottom crossed his arms and regarded the three of them curiously, his eyes narrowed a little. Albus felt a bead of sweat beginning on his forehead and he hoped that it didn’t make him look that suspicious, just dirty, “I’m not really sure that I can believe that, Ms. Patil. With whatever that you heard outside of that door—I’m not even going to ask why you were eavesdropping,” he said, sighing and looking very tired and a bit amused. “But I’m warning you now not to go snooping in places that are best left alone.”
“We won’t do it again,” Lavender murmured softly.
Which meant that yes; they were going to do it anyway.
Albus swallowed hard. “We’re just worried about Scorpious and Zabini hates us and we know that it’s bad.” He said to Professor Longbottom, “my dad won’t tell me what’s going on and Uncle Ron won’t either.”
There was a slight silence that was only broken up by the Bloody Baron popping out of a corridor wall and passing them by, brooding. After he was gone, Professor Longbottom said with more force than he had ever used with Albus before, “Your father and uncle are only trying to protect you. What’s happening out there isn’t something for children to be worrying about.”
Albus thought it was a low blow to remind him of that but he nodded and bowed his head a little. It was true that this was dangerous but if Zabini were the one behind it all then his family would be too late, Scorpious needed help now, “I know.” He said with so much feeling that Professor Longbottom briefly appeared sorry for him.
An awkward silence fell just then and his tongue chose that moment to sting with pain and Professor Longbottom inhaled, as if getting rid of the past few minutes. “All right, I won’t dock points for this you three but I’m going to be keeping my eyes on you. Come on, let’s get you to the hospital wing,” he started to usher them down the corridor, Albus’s mind still reeling with all that he had heard. “Anyway, Patil, tell me about that broom…”
If Albus had hoped that the day would go by smoother after such a disastrous start, he was horribly wrong. No sooner had he and his friends been patched up by Madame Brown and ushered back to class, did the day go through its normal rounds of destruction, embarrassment and catastrophe.
Luckily, they had missed their usual Potions class but Albus had felt that if they had even dared to have shown themselves, Zabini would have obliterated them with nothing but his essence. As worrying as that was, Professor Longbottom kept his promise and Albus and his friends had barely had time to conspire their next move in Herbology when he had hovered around their stations.
They didn’t have time during the lesson to tell Rose or Sue Corner what had happened. But Albus had seen his cousin shooting him suspicious looks over her Flailing Vines (These were nasty things that smacked you in the face if you tried to steal their fruit) but he’d hastily looked away.
And to make matters worse, there was so much homework from all of their classes, and he had a feeling that most of the teachers were trying to torture them properly before they became too distracted by the upcoming Halloween feast.
Albus had never truly thought much about the Feast itself when he had heard so many stories about it from his cousins and parents. But he felt a twisting in his stomach as he thought about what he and his strange little group were going to do then.
If only Zabini weren’t so eerie and strange…if only some nutter weren’t going around killing Death Eater kids then perhaps his first year at Hogwarts wouldn’t have been so bad. But then Albus recalled that he and his two friends could hardly go down the corridor without something horrible happening (The three of them had run into a Shield Charm in the corridor that some older students had been playing around with) and he allowed the wistful thought to fade away.
Somehow though, even with their House table treating them like unworthy slime and Goyle sending threatening messages with his fingers at them during dinner, the Misfits enjoyed a decent meal that night.
If you could ignore the fact that Zabini was digging daggers into your skull, that is. And by the time Albus and his friends managed to file out of the Great Hall while also avoiding Rose and Sue Corner, they were exhausted.
But there was too much homework to be ignored when they got into their Common Room and Lavender had steadfastly refused to let Albus and Scorpious mope around or play Exploding Snap. So instead, the three of them sitting at a study table and taking a look at the ridiculous pile of essays that they all had to do for Transfiguration and Charms.
Albus’s head hurt and he wasn’t quite sure how he was going to survive exams later on in the year. The other students were too busy laughing and joking and he could hear James serenading Mason Finnigan in the background but he didn’t bother trying to see what they were on about.
They were probably still excited about Lavender’s broomstick but the noise was aggravating Louis the Prefect (He rarely paid much attention to him since he was such a prat) and he heard the bark, “Would you quiet down? Some people have studies to attend to!”
James said something back at him that would have gotten him a bar of soap in his mouth if their mother had heard but it shut Louis the Prefect up. Albus envied his brother’s carefree attitude but figured that if he somehow figured out what wand motion would cause his pineapple to turn into a hedgehog, he could have some fun to eventually.
Lavender on the other hand was trying to get Scorpious to do his own homework but he was in such a bad mood that it was impossible. Albus had given up a long time ago but was so accustomed to his moods that he barely paid his glowering and puppy kicking a glance, “You need to study you know!” his odd little friend was chastising.
Albus’s head was pounding and he wasn’t sure why he needed to know how to turn a pineapple into a hedgehog anyway. “What’s the point in doing my homework if Zabini is going to eat me?” Scorpious snapped at Lavender after a minute or two of her trying to get him started on his Charms paper.
“You’re not going to get eaten. And if you do, we’ll get eaten with you, so stop being stupid,” Albus replied annoyingly, shooting him a glance.
Lavender nodded sternly, her brow furrowed. Her homework was arranged in a much neater pile around her and Albus was curious on how she was able to do it all without her head exploding from the stress, “I know we had a tough time today but you don’t have to be so mean, Scorpious. We’re your friends.”
Scorpious opened his mouth as if he were going to say something really nasty but then seemed to think better of it. He ran a hand through his hair, frowning, “Didn’t you hear all that stuff Zabini was talking about?” he asked sharply.
“Of course I did,” Lavender replied calmly.
“And didn’t you hear him saying how he knows what’s going on and hasn’t said anything?” Scorpious continued, staring at her as if she were stupid.
Albus didn’t think that that was necessary when Lavender had been the one to, once again, spare them their hides. Her Neon Star was up in her dorm, safely tucked underneath her bed and they’d continued to get compliments (And in one case Lavender had gotten some Hufflepuff boy’s address before Scorpious had chased him away) before it had become old news. “Stop being mean to Lavender. You’re not the only one who’s freaked out,”
Scorpious shot him a look but then sank further into his seat and crumpled a bit of parchment in his fist. Albus imagined that it was the same thing he would have wanted to do to Zabini if he could get the chance, “But I’m the only one that’s being talked about behind my back.”
“No you’re not. Sally Creevey called Albus a dork last night,” Lavender replied with an apologetic look at Albus. He glanced over his shoulder at Sally and saw that she was whispering to Samantha Jordan and pointing in their direction, “Just ignore her. She’s just still mad that I might get on the Quidditch team,”
Scorpious glared over at the girls and tossed his parchment at them. It barely missed and instead of hitting Sally or Samantha, it smacked James in the face as he was trying to put his wand up Mason’s nose (He had finished singing to him a while ago), “Chipmunk,” he muttered before turning the conversation back. “Well, no one’s dad owes a favor to a vampire.”
This was true. Albus had been wondering about what his father might have owed to Zabini, aside from his immortal soul that is, and he hadn’t come up with much. “For all we know, someone out there does, Zabini is pretty mean.” He said reasonably and his friends had to nod at that. “Maybe your dad is just worried about you.”
“Worried?” Scorpious snorted but a guilty flush spread into his cheeks at the thought that his father was worrying about him so much. “He could have asked another teacher to look out for me. Why’d it have to be Zabini? He hates me,” he scowled while pulling on Lavender’s hair to emphasize his point. She swatted at him until he let her go, “but at least we know for sure that he’s going into the Forest for Wolfsbane.”
Albus nodded and then asked aloud. “But why would Professor Longbottom know about it too?” if he were in league with him, it would just be too impossible to believe and he shook his head of that thought. There was no way, “what do you think he needs it for if it’s supposed to be this poison?”
“Some people say it can cure werewolf bites.” Lavender supplied helpfully as she looked over some of her homework. Albus hoped she’d let him cheat off of her, “I don’t think he’s trying to poison any of us but you never know, he’s awfully mean.”
“And constipated,” Scorpious said and Albus laughed.
Lavender smiled for a moment before sobering thoughtfully. “The only thing we can say for sure is that he’s getting the Wolfsbane. When we go and find his room on Halloween, we’ll know for sure what he’s up to— he has to have some notes or something that we can look at.”
Albus hoped that it would be that easy but his stomach was knotting in that horrible way when he was offered some of Aunt Hermione’s homemade cookies. It was not going to go the way they thought but he pushed it aside hastily, “We still have to figure out what we’re going to do on Halloween with Rose and Corner.”
Scorpious rolled his eyes.
Lavender nodded. “We should tell them about what we heard later. I’m surprised they haven’t come in yet,” she said while looking towards the portrait hole. Albus didn’t want to feel relieved but he was, “they probably had someone else to bother.”
“Nice, Lav,” Scorpious said with a laugh and she shrugged. “You don’t like Weasley do you?” he asked curiously and Albus frowned.
“I like Weasley just fine, she’s very nice but that Corner girl…I can understand why you two don’t get along,” Lavender said slyly and Albus sent her a grin, wondering why she enjoyed teasing Scorpious so much.
Scorpious frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Lavender shrugged secretively. “It’s nothing, I’m sure you’ll figure it out for yourself.” Scorpious glowered at her and looked as if he might reach over and pinch her face but Albus shook his head at him firmly and he reluctantly kept his hands to himself, looking annoyed. “But for right now, we have the Dueling Club to worry about.” Zabini would be the one there and with Smith heading the lesson, Albus knew that it was not going to be a pleasant experience. If he weren’t worried about Professor Longbottom, he might have felt a bit more relief, “but we’re going to have to be careful about who we talk to and where we do it.”
“So that means I don’t have to talk to my prat of a brother?” Scorpious asked hopefully and with all that had happened, Albus had almost forgotten about the mysterious figure that was Benjamin Malfoy. Lavender frowned, “Fine, I’ll write him but that doesn’t mean he’ll answer!” he snapped.
Albus wondered what he hated so much about his brother just as James tossed a bit of garbage at his head from the other side of the room. “Git!” he snapped back as he flung bits of gum wrappers out of his hair before turning to his friends and watching Scorpious furiously scribbling on a bit of parchment (That looked suspiciously like his Transfiguration homework), “so you’ll ask him if he knows where Zabini’s room is, right?”
“I’ll ask the prat,” Scorpious snarled and Lavender shot him a worried look but he wasn’t paying her any attention. He was digging his quill so hard into the parchment that Albus worried that it might break in two, “he’s probably too busy snogging his reflection or eating small animals.”
Lavender looked very concerned. “I hope not.”
Albus was too busy getting the remainder of trash out of his hair and while his friend was busy writing, he stood up and walked over to his brother. James was now playing with his Gobstone set with Mason at a table, looking awfully pleased with himself, “Hey, do you know anything about Scorpious’s brother?” he asked by way of greeting.
His brother turned his brown eyes up at him annoyingly. Mason was wiping slime off his face where a marble had hit him, “Brother?” he asked vaguely.
“Yeah, Scorpious has a brother. Benjamin or something,” Albus said and he wasn’t sure why he was asking his own brother but he might have seen him around at some point.
Mason kicked Albus in the knee for something to do and he glowered at him angrily before he grinned. Chris and Elliot Thomas were lounging around reading Quidditch Weekly and Albus had never disliked them more for it, looking so calm and easy when he might get eaten. “Benjamin Malfoy? That does sound familiar.” He angled his head at James, “didn’t he sell us illegal fireworks last year?”
“Oh, yeah…” James said with delight, grinning. Albus felt a bit of unease going down his back, “and he showed us naughty pictures too—I mean, he showed us perfectly respectable photography of women fully dressed.”
Albus rolled his eyes. “So you knew him then?”
James thought about it. “Wouldn’t say I knew him but yeah, he was always hanging round Roxie and so I guess we were all right.”
Mason nodded thoughtfully. “Caught them snogging each other a few times. I’d rather forget that,” he said with a shudder and Albus thought it was a good thing Scorpious couldn’t hear this. He had such a crush on her, “Graduated last year didn’t he?” he asked James, who nodded.
“So, what’s he look like?” Albus asked curiously, trying to imagine an older version of Scorpious. It made him slightly afraid though if his older brother were anything like him and he had to bite back a scream, “I’ve been wondering.” And it would help to know what he looked like if he were going to meet them all in some dark, misty alley.
James narrowed his eyes on him for a moment or two, clearly suspicious. But thinking that he probably was up to no good seemed to please him, “You can’t miss him Albus.” Mason was setting up the Gobstone set again, looking determined. “He’s a tall, creepy bloke with real freaky eyes. What are you so curious for?”
Tall, creepy bloke…that didn’t sound very good, Albus thought but he figured that with Scorpious, he could probably be Satan himself. “None of your business,” he said to his brother, who pretended to gasp with girlish shock, “thanks anyway,” he said before turning away.
When he walked back to Lavender and Scorpious, he saw that his blonde friend was glaring at her annoyingly while folding up his letter. Albus wondered what had happened in the brief time that he had been gone, “What’s wrong?” he asked to Lavender, who appeared as dreamy as ever.
“Lav told me that she wishes she had a brother. I was telling her that it’s not really that big of a deal, especially when all he does is bully you and make you feel like crap,” Scorpious said with a frown.
Albus wondered what it was like for Lavender to have five sisters but he imagined that it wasn’t really all that much fun. Lily was always hanging around him at home and he didn’t mind it most of the time. “That’s easy for you to say. I’d like to have a big brother, at least he wouldn’t want to bore me with dresses and tell me how fat I am,” Lavender said with a roll of her eyes.
“Actually, my brother would.” Scorpious said dryly. Lavender looked rather wistful regardless though and spent the remainder of the night doing her homework and eventually doing their own for them until she said her goodnights and headed towards the girl’s dorm.
Albus watched her go and then turned his attention to Scorpious. “It won’t be so bad, having your brother helping us out.” There was a slight pause as the Common Room started to file out.
“It’s going to be bad,” Scorpious growled, standing up from the table. “You just don’t know it yet.” He warned before stalking towards their dorm.
Albus wished that he could tell him about how knotted his stomach was, but he would rather not think about it because he had a feeling that his friend was right, things were going to get really bad.
There you go! Now, I have to update for my favorite stripper and Weasley and "A Force of Wills" but I should be back to this pretty quickly! Promise you guys won't have to wait for three months! D':
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