Chapter 13 : A Bit of Doubt
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Albus could hear the humming of noise around his head and struggled to wake out of the foggy haze of pain luring him back to sleep. He could smell medicine, chocolate and there was a pressure on his forehead that burned underneath what could only be thickly wrapped bandages. “Why’s his tongue sticking out like that?” this surly voice could only belong to Scorpious and he angled his head at the sound of it and felt a jolt of pain down his neck.
“He’s asleep!” came the practical reply, belonging to Lavender.
There was a slight pause before Scorpious spoke again and Albus felt something stabbing him in the cheek. Underneath the pain, he felt a pool of annoyance and managed to open one eye to see him leaning over his face, his wand buried against his jaw. “But he looks dead.” His moody blonde friend observed worriedly.
Lavender’s tone was as dry as paint. “I’m pretty sure he isn’t,”
“Let’s poke at him to make sure,” Scorpious insisted and Albus felt something pinching his face together and he grumbled a curse. “I think he said something!”
“He can’t say anything with you smashing his face!” Lavender cried in a panic and there was the sound of a squabble and Albus imagined that Scorpious had decided to bully her instead.
Relieved that he’d been spared for the time being, Albus cracked open both of his eyes, the pain in his forehead conjuring tears. Wiping them away hastily, he sat up slowly and was unsurprised to find Scorpious smashing Lavender’s cheeks together with a malicious gleam in his eye while she wailed.
“What are you two doing? Stop that right now! Patients are trying to sleep!” the sound came from a figure stomping over and he recognized it as Madame Brown.
She had her wand out as if she would hex his two friends and upon noticing her, Scorpious released Lavender and attempted a look of innocence. Lavender was rubbing her cheeks and glaring at him a little, “We’re sorry but we didn’t think that Albus was really alive,” his blonde friend said stupidly.
“Well. Obviously he is,” Madame Brown replied dryly while glancing at Albus briefly before reaching over to fluff his pillows. She piled them behind his back to help him sit up even though he was all right and tucked his blankets around him more securely with a little tsk, “and having to hear all this noise!”
Scorpious and Lavender brightened at the sight of him. “You’re okay!” they both exclaimed too loudly and Madame Brown shot them a look.
Albus had to bite back his grin.
Madame Brown shook her head, locks of blonde hair swaying in front of his face before she moved back and asked. “Would you like something to eat?” Albus hadn’t even been aware of his stomach growling and he nodded sheepishly. “You’ve been here for most of the day and missed lunch I’m afraid.”
“I’ve been here all day?” Albus asked in alarm. He touched his bandaged forehead and pulled his fingers back sharply, “am I that messed up?”
Madame Brown looked very sympathetic. “Not too bad, which is lucky,” she said while he glanced around and spotted a nightstand. It was flooded with cards and his wand was snuggled between some chocolate, “your cousins sent you some treats and get-well cards. It was so nice of them,”
Lavender piped. “Your cousin Roxanne tried to send you a toilet seat!”
Scorpious nodded, blushing a little and probably thinking of some exaggerated moment with his impish cousin. “But Madame Brown said it might not be sanitary,”
Albus was slightly disappointed by the fact that he’d missed his cousins pouring in to see him. But he had about five million letters to look forward to from family and that brightened his mood a little, “Did Rose send me anything?”
Lavender took a pile of Cauldron Cakes from the nightstand and placed them carefully in his lap. “She’s been really worried about you.” Scorpious snarled something under his breath, “she only just left after checking on Corner and hissing at Scorpious.”
Of course she would be mad at Scorpious for something, Albus thought wryly while opening one of the Cauldron Cakes. His forehead hurt though and he touched it with a wince just as Madame Brown said with a cluck, “Poor thing, getting such a nasty curse like that,”
“What?” Albus asked curiously. He couldn’t really remember anything except for wrestling with Scorpious and shoving him out of the way of— “Goyle!” he snapped angrily and Madame Brown shot him a vicious look, “er, sorry.”
Scorpious was looking down at the floor, probably recalling exactly why Albus had been shot in the face. “It was only a matter of time before I saw you in here with all the accidents you three get into.” Madame Brown was saying with a shake of her head.
Albus rolled his eyes a little before asking curiously. “So what happened after I got hit?” he couldn’t remember anything but pain. “Did the Club still go on?”
“Oh, no, it was cancelled immediately. A lot of people were complaining that they got hit with all those spells bouncing around but I think they were just hoping to get away from Zabini,” Lavender replied simply.
“Who doesn’t?” Scorpious asked dryly.
Madame Brown tried to hide a sudden smile. “And after I got hit?” Albus asked, motioning for Lavender to go on.
She informed him with a worried frown. “It was a really big mess in the classroom because of all the glass.” Scorpious nodded fervently. “And Smith was hiding out in a corner and looking like he was about to cry.”
Albus snickered while Scorpious continued for Lavender as she was overcome with giggles. “He ran out before anyone else could!”
Lavender stopped giggling long enough to say with a nervous expression that made Albus worry a little. “Zabini was saying all sorts of bad words after you and Corner were taken to the hospital.” He shuddered a little, imagining how horrible that must have been, “and Professor Chang dragged Goyle off to her classroom for a detention.”
Scorpious snorted while Madame Brown shook her head at them all, amazed by how much trouble they could get into. “He was lucky too because Zabini looked like he was going to break him over his knee.” Albus stared at him sharply and he flinched, saying. “I didn’t get into any trouble, okay? Zabini says he still owes us for stealing the Sorting Hat!”
“Who carried me?” Albus wanted to know while he tried to banish the horrible image of himself drooling and sagging in front of hordes of students (His brother would never let him live it down and had probably told everyone). Sally Creevey would continue to call him a dork and he sank a little into the blankets, “did it look bad?”
Lavender nodded vigorously. “Professor Longbottom. You were unconscious but your tongue was hanging out like this,” she stuck out her tongue and groaned. Scorpious burst out laughing and Madame Brown frowned, “and your neck was all twisted,” she demonstrated by angling her head grotesquely to the side.
Albus wondered how far he could fall into a hole.
Scorpious roared with laughter. “And I think you farted while Professor Longbottom was taking you out of the room!” Albus buried his face in his hands while his friend doubled over, choking. “Corner was in better shape than you by a mile!”
“Mr. Malfoy!” Madame Brown snapped. “Has no one taught you the meaning of empathy?” she asked tautly and Scorpious shrugged a little, looking annoyingly pleased with himself.
Albus raised his head from his hands and saw Lavender still groaning with her tongue lolling out and said. “You can stop that,” and she did with a bright and happy smile on her face that grated on him, “where’s Corner?” he didn’t really care but he’d rather not have her here laughing at him too.
“Ms. Corner is sleeping a few beds down from you.” Madame Brown said tersely, reminding them to keep their voices down and Albus glanced around quickly, seeing from the light in the windows that it was probably late afternoon. “I managed to get most of the boils off of her but she’s a bit weak.”
Lavender rolled her eyes. “No she isn’t. Her giant ego is wounded,”
Scorpious roared with laughter.
“Mr. Malfoy!” Madame Brown barked and the three friends jumped. Shaking her head at them, the nurse, “If Madame Pomfrey saw this I’d never hear the end of it!” she said, naming the senior Head Nurse at the school.
Albus didn’t see her around but his father had told him that she could be far worse than she looked. He would know of course since he’d practically lived at the hospital while he’d been going to school, “We’re sorry!” he said hastily.
Madame Brown turned her attention on the two of his friends, who flinched visibly at her icy stare. “I don’t even know if I should let you two stay in to see him after the way you’re behaving!” she said with a fierce shake of her head at the two of them. Lavender looked especially chagrined, “if you weren’t my goddaughter I’d write your mum about you.”
“I’m sorry,” Lavender said sincerely and Albus wondered if she were lying or not until he saw her expression. She hardly spoke about her mother but he had sensed that they didn’t really get on too well, “we were just really worried about him.”
Madame Brown opened her mouth to retort something, her face turning a bit red before she subsided. “That’s all right then, I suppose. Just try to keep your voices down, Lavvy. I have too many sick students in here in need of a good rest,” and with that and a pat on Lavender’s dark head, she walked off.
Albus saw her going towards a boy with antlers growing out of his head, making sure she was truly gone before saying to his friends. “You didn’t have to poke me like that, I wasn’t dead!”
“Well, you were looking pretty dead to me.” Scorpious said with a shrug as he sat down on the bed and stole a Cauldron Cake. Lavender occupied Albus’s right and blushed the entire time while fidgeting with the blankets, “I thought you were really hurt.”
There was a slight silence after this and Albus reassured him carefully. “I’m all right but are you?” he asked pointedly and Scorpious snorted and muttered nastily underneath his breath. “Goyle was asking for it but you don’t need to get into any more trouble.”
Scorpious’s face turned red with renewed anger. “I wasn’t just going to stand there and let him talk about my family. It’s bad enough that my grandfather calls me a prince but I’m not going to let him and his freaky friends do it here,”
“Do Goyle’s parents believe that you’re going to rise up and lead purebloods back into power?” Lavender asked him carefully.
“Probably. A lot of people in my grandfather’s circle believe it; Voldemort said that I had to take my dad’s place since he didn’t kill the Headmaster.” Scorpious said with a grimace. Albus watched him clench his fists, “this is all my dad’s fault.”
Albus frowned disapprovingly. “Don’t say that—”
Scorpious overrode him fiercely. “If he hadn’t agreed to try and kill the Headmaster then this would never have happened. I wouldn’t be the one paying for his mistakes,” he hissed and even though the words were harsh, Albus wondered if there was some truth to them underneath it all.
Lavender frowned and stopped playing with the blankets long enough to say in a careful, reassuring way that instantly made Albus feel better too. “It’s just a silly rumor, like you said Scorpious.”
“A lot of people believe it—” Scorpious began.
Lavender interrupted him sternly. “It’s not going to happen so don’t get angry at your dad, okay?” she tried to smile but he glared at her until it faded. “Maybe Goyle just picks on you so much because he’s jealous that he’s not getting any of the attention.”
“Why would anyone want that sort of attention?” Albus asked with a repulsed frown, his skin breaking out in an angry flush. To have people fawning all over you and promoting that sort of hatred made him sick to his stomach but it was far worse when one of those people was your own flesh and blood. His friend’s grandfather sounded insane and it was bad enough that he scared him so badly but the pressure of it all had to be more than one person could deal with.
“Maybe some people like it,” Lavender replied with a thoughtful expression on her face, as if she couldn’t believe she had said the words out loud.
Scorpious snorted. “There are enough nutters out there that probably do. My grandfather lives with us and he’s always talking about it and how Voldemort promised that I’d make up for what my dad didn’t do.”
“But how would you do it?” Albus asked in alarm. “You’re only a kid.”
“I don’t know, okay? All he keeps saying is that I’m destined to bring purebloods back into their rightful place,” Scorpious said angrily, though his skin was paler than snow. “I don’t know what he expects me to do.”
There was a stiff and uncomfortable silence after that until Lavender spoke, her tone serious and her eyes flicking between them. “Isn’t it sort of strange though?” when neither of them said anything she continued uneasily, “Scorpious told us about his grandfather telling him he was a prince and I just thought it was strange that the murders are happening right when he starts at Hogwarts.”
That had the boys exchanging quick looks of their own. “What are you trying to say? That that thing is just after me?” Scorpious demanded hotly.
Lavender shook her head and said gently, as if she were soothing some sort of terrible demon. With their friends temper, he probably could be one, “I’m just saying that it’s odd, okay? Someone out there is at the Ministry probably finding all the names of the Death Eaters and their families because of the registry.” She smoothed down her faded Gryffindor robes as she continued on, a frown on her face, “I reread some of the older Daily Prophets and they were saying that the murders started over the summer, right when Scorpious would have been getting ready to come here.”
“So what are you saying?” Albus demanded, feeling a rush of unease.
Lavender looked a bit stricken but she was silent for a while as Scorpious glared at her and waiting for her to speak. “I don’t know, but…I just get this feeling that it’s not what we think it is. The vampire or whatever it is.”
“And Zabini? You think he’s not as bad as he looks?” Scorpious asked her heatedly, his eyes sparking dangerously. “He’s going into the Forest for Wolfsbane and you said that it can cure werewolf bites,”
“I never said it did. Only that people believed it could,” Lavender corrected, her eyes narrowing a little at his tone.
Scorpious ignored that and snapped. “That prat is out there, sneaking around and Professor Longbottom knows about it. For all we know, he has the list of Death Eater kids at Hogwarts here with him! Zabini’s a teacher, he’d have all of that information,” he insisted in a rush and Albus had to agree with him on that.
Lavender looked unsure of herself now. “I just don’t know,” she said after a long time when there was nothing but silence between them. “Zabini has never been out of school because of the full moon and we all know he’s going out into the Forest but what we don’t know is why he’s looking for Wolfsbane.”
Albus knew that she was right but Scorpious didn’t like that she had pointed this obvious fact out. “It’s like we thought. The thing out there is a werewolf pretending to be a vampire to get my dad and everyone off its trail.”
“Maybe Zabini wants to find the Wolfsbane, figure out the cure and give it to his friend so no one will ever know.” Scorpious finished this gruesome thought for him and Albus had to swallow back the hysteria bubbling in his throat.
Lavender appeared thoughtful, but resigned and she said to their moody blonde friend. “I’m sorry then, for making you worry.” He snorted. “I’ll do all your Charms homework for you, okay?” she said with a sweet smile.
“Fine, but make sure you don’t forget,” Scorpious grumbled, relenting.
With everything that they’d discussed, Albus was relieved to see them making up so easily but he wasn’t sure how Scorpious dealt with it.
Carefully, he found himself saying to them, bringing the conversation back around to unsettling things. “My dad said that a lot of Death Eaters that didn’t get caught after the War still believed that Voldemort was going to come back, even after all the things he’d done.”
Albus thought they were insane but his father had said something strange, about how people were willingly trapped in what they wanted to believe. He didn’t really know what that meant but some part of him agreed as he thought about his friend’s situation that seemed to grow darker and darker each day.
“Goyle and I used to be friends until everyone found out that my dad was dating my step-mum. They still don’t like Muggle-born people,” Scorpious admitted with a disgusted look on his face. “I mean, my step-mum is really nice. Benjamin doesn’t like her but me and Emily think she’s all right.”
There was a slight silence after that that was only broken up by someone else coughing and whining a few beds down. Madame Brown appeared out of her office and went to them, medicine in one hand and a stern expression on her face, “At least you have a dad.” Lavender said after a long while. “I don’t know anything about mine.”
“It’s not all that great,” Scorpious tried to say hastily.
Albus turned to her and said with a grin. “At least you have five sisters to keep you busy and you’ve got us and Rose (Scorpious made a nasty face) and you can have James if you want.” He offered and Lavender seemed awfully considering, as if she could buy his brother on sale at Diagon Alley.
Before Lavender could say anything to that, Madame Brown came over and the three of them pasted innocent expressions onto their faces. “I think you’ve gotten Mr. Potter riled up enough.”
“But—” his two friends began.
“I don’t want to hear it. I think he’ll be well enough for dinner later but he needs his rest and the two of you probably have tons of homework to get done,” Madame Brown said slyly and Scorpious blanched. Lavender appeared as if she wouldn’t mind getting their weeks homework done and Albus shook his head at her craziness, “now go on. I’ll be taking care of him for you.”
Scorpious appeared doubtful but punched Albus in the arm before he hopped off the bed and started walking away. “Don’t die,” he warned over his shoulder.
Albus rubbed his arm and snapped. “I’ll try not to, thanks,”
Lavender gave him an awkward pat on the head and he felt like some odd little pet and heard her say. “I’ll bring Sheriff down for you to keep you company. He’s really good at listening.”
Albus wanted to point out that the beast couldn’t talk but she was already walking away, humming. Madame Brown watched her go fondly before plumping his pillows and handing him some of his get-well cards from his family, “Do you really think I can leave for dinner?” he asked.
“Oh, yes. But you need all the rest you can get.” Madame Brown said as she tucked his legs back into the blankets with unnecessary force. He felt like a mummy and wondered if he would even be able to slide out to go to the bathroom, “things are getting so strange, don’t you think? Vampires out there causing all this trouble and Professor Zabini so stressed.”
“What do you mean?” Albus asked her sharply.
Madame Brown appeared uncomfortable and surprised by her mishap. “I forget that you’re not your dad. You look so much like him you know, except for the glasses,” she said with a sigh.
Albus rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I know that but what’s stressing Zabini out?” Madame Brown gave him a suspicious glance but he lied hastily, thanking that he knew Lavender Patil at all (She could lie better than anyone he knew), “he’s my, uhm, favorite teacher. I want to be just like him,” the words felt like acid coming from his tongue.
“Isn’t that sweet?” Madame Brown said with a sigh, resting a hand over her heart as if Albus had just confessed his undying love for Zabini. Complete with a bouquet, “I only heard this from Professor Longbottom over tea the other day but last year, Professor Zabini was in a serious accident of some kind and he’s been trying to find a cure.”
The Wolfsbane! “What sort of accident?”
“Oh, Professor Longbottom didn’t say, only that it was very serious. He and Hagrid have been helping Professor Zabini with finding something to help, that’s all I know.” Madame Brown said while Albus’s mind reeled from this new information.
So, Hagrd knew about him sneaking into the Forbidden Forest too! How could he not tell them? They would have to talk to him too and wheedle information from him.
Albus wondered what sort of lies Zabini had told him and Professor Longbottom and felt a wave of anger go through him. They had to figure out what he was up to unless no one would ever find out the truth, “Erm, thanks,” he said to her, distracted and she smiled at him sweetly.
He felt bad about lying but by the time that he finished reading all of his cousins cards, eaten his lunch and been given something to sleep, his brain was pulsing. The Dueling Club was still a little fuzzy but he didn’t think that it was hard to recall the mud on Zabini’s robes or the sense that all was not as seemed.
Albus couldn’t shake the feeling that they’d missed something important but with this latest news ringing in his ears, he pushed it aside. There were so many other, stranger things that he needed answers to and with that uneasy fact hovering on the edge of his dreams, he slept.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d slept but when he woke up again, he was more energized than he’d been since he’d first came to Hogwarts, thinking that his times here wouldn’t be nearly as bad as they’d turned out to be. After Madame Brown deemed him well enough even with the bandages still wrapped around his head and allowed him to dress, he was able to go down to the Great Hall for dinner.
Blessedly, Lavender hadn’t brought her two-headed piranha from her dorm to keep him company and he didn’t have to worry about lugging the monster’s bowl under his arm (Lavender wouldn’t have liked it if he’d dropped it). The castle was rumbling with the hundreds and hundreds of voices of students, teachers and Albus could have sworn he saw Peeves playing tennis with Fat Friar around the corner.
Winter was coming with such force that Albus wasn’t surprised when he glanced outside and saw that there was frost clinging to the windows and he wondered vaguely if it would snow soon. While he walked, he didn’t see anyone he recognized and passed by the Headmistress office hastily not wanting to be anywhere near it after what he and his strange little group had done.
One of the gargoyles laughed at him. It was a long, drafty walk by himself and he took that time to wonder what their next move would be and how soon they would be able to come up with a good enough plan to fool the adults (The fact that he had a bad feeling about it was quickly forgotten).
Going into Zabini’s office on Halloween seemed like the most important. But he was also wondering when they would be able to sneak down to visit Hagrid and decided that he would send his friend an owl.
With all the mess that he’d gotten into lately he hadn’t even been able to go down for tea but when he’d explained all of this to his giant family friend, Hagrid had seemed more amused than hurt. Apparently, everyone knew about the mishaps of the Misfits and Albus hadn’t let it bother him too much but now he wondered if he could honestly lie to Hagrid to get the information he and his friends needed.
It made him distinctly uncomfortable to even think about it but it had to be done. Zabini and his killer friend had to be stopped. It was what his father would have done and that gave him a confident boost while he pondered what his next move would have been in this situation.
His father had faced off against giant snakes, a rogue Bludger, crazy house-elves, Boggarts and had stopped the most evil wizard of all time. Albus didn’t think that there was anything his father couldn’t do and he felt a bit silly trying to compare himself to him, not when he couldn’t do anything right.
As he walked and thought about all the trouble that was most likely up ahead no matter how much he’d like to think otherwise, he rammed into someone. There was a clatter of papers and Albus found himself skidding back and nearly falling, only barely managing to grip the old stone wall to support himself. “Watch where you’re going would you?” a snide voice snapped and Albus blinked in the darkness and lantern light to see that it was Louis the Prefect.
Albus frowned in irritation. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” he snapped back. He had never liked the Prefect and he wasn’t in the mood to be bothered with him just now.
Louis appeared flustered and a little affronted and it was then that Albus noticed that he’d dropped sheets of parchment. Hastily, the older boy bent down and scooped them up, probably bits of homework that he was desperate to get done and shot him a glare once he had resorted them to their rightful place. “I’d watch that attitude if I were you, Potter Jr.” He barked, “I’ll have you know that I’m your House’s Prefect!”
“Like I care,” Albus replied, shoving him out of his way and walking the rest of the way to the Great Hall. He could hear Louis cursing fluently under his breath but shrugged it off, vaguely knowing that he was going to make sure he told James and Mason to do something to him.
By the time he made it into the Great Hall, dinner was well under way and a few people sent him curious glances as he walked down towards the Gryffindor table. Elliot Thomas and Chris Finnigan began whispering to one another and Sally Creevey shot him a nasty look as he finally sat down between Lavender and Scorpious, “How are you feeling?” Lavender asked worriedly.
“All right,” Albus replied truthfully and he was about to say something more but Scorpious was pulling something out of his robes. “What’s that?” he asked him, though Lavender appeared very pleased.
“My owl sent me a letter not too long ago.” Scorpious replied with a grimace as he extended the parchment to Albus, who took it. “My brother Benjamin wrote back. He’s going to help us. He knows where Zabini’s room is.”
Hope you enjoyed this! What's next...? I think a bit more Audrey and her Weeeasley? Hm. Perhaps! Until next time!
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