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Chapter 6 : The Flying Lesson.
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Over the following weeks, Albus opened his mail warily, but there were no more suspicious packages. It looked as if everybody who’d suggested the chocolates were a one-off practical joke had been right.
And yet, he still wished he knew who’d sent them. He couldn’t help feeling that this level of secrecy was more than the average joker could maintain. Nobody seemed to know anything at all.
He and Rose discussed every possible explanation, without getting much further.
“I’m sure it’s not Derek,” he said. “He looked shocked when my mouth started to swell up, don’t you think?”
“I didn’t really notice. But he’s a Muggleborn anyway. He probably wouldn’t know what Swelling Solution was. The same goes for Angie. Though I suppose Derek could have read it somewhere. He’s always reading those books about our world.”
“I don’t think he’s read much about potions,” Albus said quickly. He didn’t want to believe Derek was lying to him, insisting he knew nothing when he’d done it himself. He didn’t believe his friend would do that.
“You want it to be Scorpius, don’t you?” Rose said.
He shrugged. He supposed he did really. It was better than believing some Dark Wizard was out to torment him or even that one of his own dormitory mates would keep silent when he’d begged them to tell him if they knew anything.
Rasmus’s reaction had been similar to Rose’s.
“If I’d known anything, I’d have warned you. Messing about with potions like that is dangerous. I can’t imagine who’d be so stupid.”
“Rose thought my brother might be. But he says he didn’t and I believe him. Neither of you know anything?” He turned to Derek and Nathan.
They both shook their heads.
“I wish I did, mate,” Derek said sympathetically. “But the first I heard of Swelling Solution was when you told Slughorn that was what was in the chocolates. I’ve been paying attention to see if anybody’s mentioned it since, but if they have, I haven’t heard it.”
“Thanks anyway,” Albus said.
Rose reported similar comments from the Ravenclaw girls.
“Fionnuala said she didn’t even notice you leave the table. I think that’s kind of suspicious actually. Everybody was asking what happened and she says she didn’t hear any of it.”
He shook his head doubtfully. “I think Fionnuala is always that vague. She nearly missed Charms the other day. Didn’t notice us all leaving the Great Hall or something. I suppose it could be put on.”
“Why though? Just to play a joke on you? I can’t imagine she’d go to that much trouble.”
“I suppose. What about Dora and Angie? What did they say?”
“Dora thinks we’re not going to solve it. She says we don’t even know it was somebody at Hogwarts. Which is true; we don’t. The third years making Swelling Solution the day before might just be a coincidence.”
A shiver went down Albus’s spine. He really didn’t want to think of it being somebody from outside.
“Angie didn’t really have any ideas,” Rose continued. “She said she doesn’t understand half the stuff we talk about - Quidditch and all - so she probably wouldn’t have noticed if somebody had a potion or talked about a potion.”
“Could she have been avoiding the question?” Albus asked eagerly. He didn’t know much about Angie. She seemed to keep herself to herself. Maybe she had something to hide.
“I doubt it really. Where would a Muggleborn learn about potions? Or any other wizarding world stuff?”
“She could have wizarding relations, like aunts or cousins or stuff.”
“I suppose so. But honestly, I get the impression she’s just a bit lost here really. It can’t be easy adjusting to a whole new world.”
“She never does talk about her relations though. Or her home or anything.”
“Nor does Dora.” Rose shrugged. “Some people just don’t. Maybe she’s just not that close to them or something.”
“I suppose so.”
He sighed. They really weren’t getting very far. Not that he’d expected they would really. There was no real reason any of the first year Ravenclaws should know anything.
He’d have loved to have questioned Scorpius, but finding an opportunity to do so wasn’t easy. Especially since he really didn’t want to remind Scorpius of the incident. Guilty or innocent, Albus suspected he’d find the whole thing hilarious. He didn’t want to set himself up to be laughed at.
Not that he’d any reason to believe Scorpius would laugh really, other than what his dad and Ron had said about the Malfoy family. Scorpius, like Angie, seemed to keep himself to himself. He didn’t even seem to have any close friends among the other Slytherins.
Still, there was no way he was just going to go up to him and ask if he knew anything.
“Honestly, Albus, I think we’ll just have to let it drop,” Rose said. If anything else happens, we’ll start worrying again, but it’s beginning to look unlikely. After all, it’s been over a week now. Maybe it’s time to forget it and just accept we’ll never know.”
“Easy for you to say,” he said quietly.
She looked at him in silence for a moment.
“OK, yes, you’ve a point. It wasn’t me they were targeting. But if you think it’s easy for me to stand back and do nothing when somebody could have hurt you, then you’re wrong. I want to find out who did it too. I’m just not sure we can .”
He had to admit she’d a point. Despite all their discussions, they knew no more than they’d known a week ago. Maybe it was time to give up.
It was getting harder to concentrate on sleuthing anyway, as other aspects of life at Hogwarts began to demand their attention. Having given them some time to settle in and grasp the basics of magic, the teachers were now beginning to demand more of them. Not that Albus really minded. After spending what felt like forever on the introductory material, he was pleased to move on to something more interesting.
In Transfiguration, all of the class had finally succeeded in turning their matches into needles.
Professor Blackburn congratulated them.
“That’s the first task completed,” she said, smiling. “And the first one is always the most difficult. There’s still a lot to learn or we wouldn’t be spending almost another five years on the subject, or seven, if you continue to N.E.W.T. level. But you’ve all managed your first transfiguration, so well done. Fifteen points to Ravenclaw.”
To Albus’s relief, her irritation with him and Rose after they’d returned from James’s try-out seemed to be completely forgotten. In fact, Transfiguration was one of the more relaxed classes on their timetable, as Professor Blackburn rarely seemed to give detentions or dock points and encouraged them to ask any questions they might have.
Neville too, went out of his way to help any students who were having problems and appeared particularly fond of Nathan, who was appallingly bad at his subject.
Any subject with a practical element stumped Nathan, though when it came to theory, he could often equal Rose and Rasmus, who were undoubtedly the two brightest in their year.
In Potions, he could list off the ingredients needed for a particular potion and the order in which you added them, but when faced with making the actual potion, he would stumble and drop an ingredient in too soon or simply knock the whole thing over. In Charms and Transfiguration, he knew the magic words perfectly, but couldn’t seem to manage the hand movements necessary. At one point, he set his match alight instead of transfiguring it.
Albus had glanced up anxiously, wondering how Blackburn would react, but she’d simply quenched it with a wave of her wand and handed Nathan another.
When the first flying lesson was announced, he sighed.
“I hate flying,” he said plaintively. “I tried it once on my cousin’s broom and…well, let’s just say it didn’t end too well. I’ve never been on a broom since. I know I’m going to make a complete fool of myself.”
“You don’t know that,” said Albus, who’d spent most of his childhood on a broom and was actually feeling pretty confident about this class.
“Yes, I do,” Nathan replied. “In fact I’ll be lucky if making a fool of myself is the worst I do. Knowing me, I’ll probably fall and break my ribs or something.”
Angie and Derek looked almost as nervous as he was.
“Flying looks cool,” Derek said. “But I think I’d rather watch it from a safe distance. You know? Especially since we’re with the Slytherins. From what everybody says, it sounds like they’d find it very funny watching Muggleborns struggle.”
Albus couldn’t argue with him on that point.
“But you mightn’t struggle,” he said. “My dad was raised by Muggles and he was a fantastic flyer, right from his first lesson. He was so good McGonagall immediately recruited him for the Gryffindor team.”
“I thought first years weren’t allowed to play?”
“That’s what was so amazing. He was so good they changed the rules for him. For all you know, you might be as talented.”
“I wish,” he muttered, but he looked a little less worried.
Like most purebloods and halfbloods, Albus wished they were allowed bring their own brooms, rather than using the school ones which were old and looked pretty uncomfortable.
Scorpius seemed particularly dissatisfied.
“I don’t see why we’ve got to use these things when I’ve a perfectly good broom at home. And my dad’s promised me a Golden Arrow for Christmas, provided my grades are satisfactory. I’ve a good mind to sneak it in to school somehow. It’s ridiculous we’ve got to leave them at hope just because we’re first years.”
Dora, who was standing next to him, rolled her eyes.
“Of course, you’d have a Golden Arrow. The Malfoys always have everything, don’t they? Everybody knows what your family did in the past, but apparently that doesn’t matter. Enough gold can get you out of anything, I guess. What did they do? Bribe the Wizengamot?”
Scorpius glared at her and fingered his wand.
“Don’t talk about my family.”
“That’s enough.” Madame Chang strolled onto the field and stared at them both, until they stopped talking.
“Now if you’ve all quite finished chattering,” she continued, “we’ll begin. It’s very important you pay attention to me, as flying can be dangerous if you don’t follow the rules. Anybody causing trouble will leave the lesson. You have been warned.
“The first thing I want you to do is to reach out your arms over your brooms.”
Even Scorpius and Dora stopped glaring at each other and did as she said.
“Now, say ‘up’.”
“UP” they all called.
Albus’s broom leapt into his hand immediately.
He glanced around and saw that both Rose’s and Scorpius’s had done likewise, but a number of others, including Nathan’s, Angie’s and Derek’s didn’t appear to have budged.
“Quite a few of you need to try again,” Madame Chang said. “Say ‘up’ again.”
A few more brooms flew into their owners’ hands.
Nathan, whose broom was still lying on the ground, glanced around anxiously, but he needn’t have worried. He certainly wasn’t the only one still unsuccessful. Derek was staring down at his pleadingly, as if willing it to obey him.
Scorpius sighed impatiently.
Albus glared at him. Some people were using brooms for the first time. So what if it took them two or three tries?
Once everybody had hold of their brooms, Madame Chang called for attention again.
“Now I will demonstrate how you mount. Up,” she ordered her own broom.
It flew into her hand.
“You catch the broom here and climb on carefully. Watch where my hands are. It’s very important not to let go.”
She climbed back off her broom and instructed them to try
“Yes, that’s correct, Albus. Nathan, you need to relax your grip a little. It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll be far more secure that way. Scorpius, that’s excellent. Could you step forward, please.”
A smile crossed Scorpius’s face and he did as he was told.
“I want you all to pay attention to how Scorpius is sitting, how he grips his broom. That’s what I want you all to aim for. Angie, see how Scorpius is leaning forward, just a little. Try and imitate that. Sitting perfectly straight may be good for your posture, but it doesn’t allow you enough control over your broom.”
Finally, she allowed them to kick off from the ground and fly a mere couple of feet.
All eyes turned to Nathan who was sitting in surprise on the ground, his broom floating just above him.
“Whoops,” he said.
“Well, I didn’t mean you to relax your grip quite that much,” Madame Chang said sarcastically.
“Sorry Madame Chang.”
Albus bit his lip to keep from laughing. Nathan did look funny just sitting there. Many of the other students were openly laughing.
Madame Chang turned on them.
“I’m sure Nathan won’t be the only one to fall off a broom before our series of lessons are over. This is how we learn. Nathan, you need to get back on now and try again.”
He tried awkwardly to mount the broom in the air.
She shook her head.
“Grasp the broom first. Take control of it. The broom is under your control, Nathan. Don’t let it rule you. The same goes for all of you. It’s only a broom after all.”
Doing as she said, Nathan managed once again to mount his broom. She showed him again how to sit and hold it correctly and this time he managed to balance rather precariously until she called the lesson to an end.
“Good first attempt, all of you. I’ll see you again next week and we’ll try to improve on this.”
“Did you hear the way Scorpius was going on about that fantastic broom his dad’s going to buy him?” Dora said scornfully, as the class headed back towards the castle.
Albus turned automatically to look at Scorpius. To his surprise, he had turned away from his classmates and was heading away from the castle rather than towards it.
“Where do you think he’s going?” Albus asked Rose.
“Yeah, what would he be doing outside at this time? Let’s follow him.”
She grinned. “OK, but we’d better not take too long. I still have homework to finish.”
At a safe distance, they followed him to the Black Lake.
“What is he doing?” Albus asked.
He didn’t appear to be doing anything. As far as Albus could see, he was simply standing there. While they watched, he picked up a small stone and threw it into the lake.
“Come on,” Rose said. “Let’s go back to the castle.”
“All right.” There wasn’t much point in watching if he wasn’t going to do anything.
“I wonder how his family has kept their gold actually,” Albus wondered as they walked back. “I thought the Wizengamot stripped the families following Voldemort of most of theirs after the war.”
Rose shrugged. “They did, but the Malfoys turned against Voldemort at the last moment and I guess the Wizengamot had enough to do with those who still supported him. It was all pretty messy, I think. Remember Voldemort had taken over the Ministry so lots of people were forced into pretending to support him. Some were even working against him secretly, but still giving the impression of loyalty. Then there were people who were Imperiused. Trying to figure out who was acting of their own accord and who was Imperiused or forced into it must have been quite a task. The trials took well over a year, I believe. I doubt punishing the Malfoys was top priority.”
Albus stared at her. “How do you know all that?”
“Mum. Like I said, she thinks it’s important we learn history. So we know what not to repeat. Hugo and I have had the wizarding war shoved down our throats since we were little.”
“So the Malfoys got no punishment whatsoever?”
“Not as far as I know. Not after the war anyway. I think Lucius Malfoy might have spent time in Azkaban before that, but I don’t know why.”
It didn’t seem right. Albus didn’t know as much about the war as Rose seemed to, but from what he did know, it sounded like the Malfoys were right in the thick of it. How could they just say “oh sorry, we changed our minds” and walk off without even losing any of their vast fortune?
And even though Scorpius hadn’t actually done anything that evening, Albus still found his behaviour rather odd. The sun had been going down by the time their flying lesson finished and the evening had been getting cold. It wasn’t the time Albus would have chosen for a walk by the lake.
He couldn’t imagine what it had to do with the chocolates he’d received, but all the same, he thought he’d keep an eye on Scorpius.
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