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Chapter 14 : The Interrogation
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Well, well, well. Look who decided to actually ask his brother for help! And here I was thinking you didn’t even like me. This just warms my heart.
I got your letter a while back and I’m curious, what sort of trouble are you in? Whatever it is, I have to say I’m actually a little proud to say that we’re related for once. Then again, what I did when I was going to Hogwarts is probably tame compared to the sort of disasters you’ve been getting yourself into.
I don’t know why you want to know where Zabini’s room is unless you’re hoping to be eaten alive but I’ll tell you if you apologize for what you did before you left home. And don’t try to lie and say you don’t remember you little snot.
I’ll be at Hogwarts the night before Halloween to pick up my girlfriend (Jealous?) for the weekend so make sure you show up. Meet me in the Astronomy Tower at midnight and bring your little friends while you’re at it, I’m curious to know what sort of people can actually put up with you.
P.S.: Emily told me to tell you hello, says you’re still the complete shame of the family for being in Gryffindor (Think you’re something special now, don’t you?) and Dad is all right. Mum is about to explode from worrying about you, I think she might be going bald from pulling on her hair. How many owls have we gotten about you blowing up the Charms room by now? I think I’ve lost count.
Leave the light on,
Benjamin F. Malfoy
“He, uhm, sounds charming.” Lavender managed to say for the thousandth time as the three of them stood outside the Great Hall. Chatter and conversation boomed around them but they were much too preoccupied with rereading the letter that Benjamin Malfoy had sent Scorpious a few weeks ago, “I mean, he sounds…”
“Like a prat. You can say it, Lav,” Scorpious snarled furiously as he nearly balled the letter up and tossed it onto the ground. Albus snatched it from his hand and smoothed out the many wrinkles that were marking the surface.
Lavender nodded a little. “Well. He does sound like a prat.”
Albus laughed. “He can’t be all that bad, I mean, he said he’d help us.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean anything. He might change his mind at the last minute just to piss me off,” Scorpious growled furiously, stuffing his hands into his robe pockets and glowering at Lavender as if she had did something wrong.
Albus looked down at the letter again and felt that same brief flicker of hope go through him. It had been a few weeks of course since he had first read it but the fact that Scorpious’s older brother had agreed to write at all was enough to put him in a good mood about their situation with Zabini.
After that first terrible day at the Dueling Club, Albus wasn’t surprised when dozens of parents sent worrisome and sometimes angry owls to the teachers. Professor Longbottom received his fair share but from what Albus had been able to see during breakfast, Zabini had gotten the worst, some of the parents accusing him of trying to actually kill the children.
While he didn’t doubt that Zabini would if he could get the chance, the blame really wasn’t his to take in Albus’s opinion. Smith had been the one who hadn’t known what he’d been doing the entire time and even if Goyle hadn’t have gotten into that fight with his moody blonde friend it would have been a disaster regardless.
Since then though, the classes were more boring and more controlled than Albus would have thought possible. They mostly went up to the Muggle Studies classroom to hear the dos and don’ts of being prey.
Albus had wanted to point out to Professor Longbottom during one lesson (Smith had been prancing around with his chest poked out and his two friends had snorted with laughter) that it hardly mattered if they were in a group or not when a vampire could easily pick through and eat them all.
But no one had said a thing and the classes had become the biggest disappointment next to going into History of Magic and trying to stay awake during goblin history and theory. With the holidays approaching they were being buried underneath ridiculous amounts of homework and Albus found himself spending far too much time in the library with Lavender, Rose and Sue Corner.
His cousin and odd little friend often talked about monsters when their homework was finished while Albus was still worrying over his own. The moldy book that Lavender had borrowed from Sue Corner had had to be returned to the library but she’d checked it out again and was carrying it around as if all the answers to the universe lay between the pages.
Albus wished that they did, or at least described in detail if Zabini were human or not, which he severely doubted by this point, though his cousin rarely wanted to listen to what he had to say. Scorpious usually fell asleep during these boring study sessions so they ignored him (Lavender had begun bringing a blanket for him) and Sue Corner was free to sneer and remark unkindly on what she thought was wrong with him.
Albus had had to be stopped from hexing her during these moments (Rose usually smoothed things over before Scorpious could grumble awake), though Lavender had whispered to him that she was just being cranky. It was becoming wildly known that even though the boils, while gone from Goyle’s hex, had left really nasty marks that had caused Sue to wear a lot of ointment that smelt like old feet.
Albus thought it was fitting but it left the girl in a terrible mood, even more so than usual. Rose on the other hand was anxiously jotting and rewriting various plans for their Halloween trip into Zabini’s office, though Albus hadn’t really told her about Benjamin Mlafoy’s letter just yet.
If she got her hands on it, she wouldn’t want to give it back and Albus didn’t like the thought of his cousin being the one to lead them into another disaster. Halloween couldn’t turn out to be as horrible as the night they’d stolen the Sorting Hat but if he told Rose this, she would only get her feelings hurt and he’d rather not deal with all the girl emotions.
“Why are we standing here anyway?” Scorpious grumbled as he blew on his hands and looked longingly into the Great Hall, where lunch was nearly ready. The warmth issuing out of it had the snot in Albus’s nose melting and he wiped at it distractedly, “it’s colder here than it is outside.”
Lavender reminded him with a sigh. “We’re waiting on Weasley and Corner so they can help us interrogate Hagrid remember?” she asked and Scorpious reached out and pinched her nose.
Albus smacked his hand away. “Stop that!” he snapped but Scorpious sent him a glare before tugging on Lavender’s hair, which made her squeal, “you can’t go around bullying Lav when we go see Hagrid you know!”
“Why not?” Scorpious demanded, now smashing Lavender’s cheeks.
Albus smacked him away again. “Because, stupid, we have to get on his good side and he won’t like you being mean.” Hagrid was one of the nicest people and Albus knew from experience that he couldn’t stand bullies, and it didn’t help that he had known Mr. Malfoy.
Scorpious crossed his arms, frowning a little. “You really think he knows something about why Zabini is going into the Forest?” he asked.
Albus had, of course, told his friends and Rose (Sue Corner didn’t exactly count as a person even though she’d been there) when they all had been in Gryffindor Tower a few days ago. “I don’t think Madame Brown would have lied about it, she’d heard from Professor Longbottom.”
And he was still sniffing around too, waiting for them to do something they weren’t supposed to and Albus couldn’t wait until he gave it a rest. It wasn’t as if they were going to cause the destruction of the universe simply by walking down the corridor, though Scorpious had indeed blown up the Charms room yesterday, “And Hagrid knows about it too? I wonder what sort of lies Zabini told him,” Scorpious replied.
His moody blonde friend had never met Hagrid before but Albus had thought this himself. For some reason he couldn’t quite imagine Zabini getting the best of him but then again, there was no telling what the Potions teacher could or couldn’t do, he probably ate imps for breakfast. If he ate at all, “I don’t believe that Mr. Hagrid would help him if he knew he was doing something evil,” Lavender said firmly, defending her favorite teacher.
“You don’t even believe that Zabini is evil anymore anyway, Lav!” Scorpious snapped. Albus was reminded of the strange conversation that they’d had while he’d been in the hospital and the odd points Lavender had made about the murders. “You got a crush on him or something?”
Lavender flushed. “Don’t be stupid! Of course I don’t!” she shot Albus a shy glance from her veil of black hair and turned bright red (Scorpious nudged him sharply in the ribs and he punched him in the arm). “He’s not exactly my type.”
“So he’s got to be a two-headed piranha?” Scorpious asked dryly.
Lavender glared at them both. “You leave Sheriff out of this, Scorpious. You’re just mad because he’s a good pet and you’re just mean.” She said and this had their blonde friend gaping in outrage even though Albus could tell that she was just teasing.
“Think I’m going to blast you to smithereens Lav?” Scorpious demanded hotly and a few Hufflepuff boys walking past nearly ran into the Great Hall. Albus rolled his eyes, “ever since that stupid Dueling Club everyone’s been acting like I’ll snap their necks.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have said you’d kill Goyle then, Malfoy.” A new voice broke out and Albus groaned as Rose and Sue Corner, who’d spoken, walked down to them. They were both heavily dressed in scarves and hats, “and it’s not like anyone was thinking you were nice before.”
Albus scowled at her and then felt his lips twitching a bit at the sight of the scabs on her forehead and cheeks. “Not like you’re all that sweet and sugary either,” he found himself saying and she glared hatefully at him.
Scorpious and Rose were sending each other scathing looks as he replied. “It’s not like I meant it. I was just mad,” but he appeared regretful and Albus knew that it didn’t help with most of their House regarding him as if he were some mutant demon bent on eating human flesh.
That was what Zabini was for.
“You shouldn’t have said it at all, Malfoy. Hello, Patil,” Rose replied with a dignified sniff while nodding at Lavender, who smiled in a friendly way. “What if someone does think it’s true?”
“And if they do?” Scorpious asked smartly.
Rose thought hard and folded her arms. “Well, with all the murders going on and what happened in the Dueling Club people are scared. They’ll believe anything,” she said and Albus had to agree with her. “My mum told me that everyone thought Uncle Harry was the Heir of Slytherin but it really just turned out to be Voldemort.”
Sue flinched a little. “Don’t say his name!”
“He’s dead and what’s dead is dead,” Lavender replied with an exasperated expression that mirrored the one Rose was giving Scorpious. “Unless, I guess if you’re undead, which is a completely different—”
“Anyway,” Albus interjected before she could go on. “Scorpious wouldn’t kill anyone, no matter what’s going on out there, Rose.” His cousin looked briefly ashamed of herself but her friend merely harrumphed. “And I think we have enough stuff to worry about.
This was very true and that caused the others faces to become rather sober and serious. It was then though, that Goyle and a group of his friends walked by, each of them wearing freshly pressed Slytherin robes to match their nasty expressions, “Oh, look! It’s the Misfits and their entourage,” Goyle said with a leer.
“We don’t belong to anyone’s entourage you big, fat—” Sue snarled and Albus and his friends gawped at the naughty, horrible words she used in between Rose trying to calm her down. Being tied in to the Misfits was far too horrifying he supposed.
Goyle was gawping at her and was about to say something more but he flicked his gaze at Lavender, who’s expression was rather hard and visibly blanched. He didn’t need to get into any more trouble anyway, from what Albus knew because Professor Chang was still making him do detentions and his parents had been notified of his behavior more than once. “Er, whatever. Let’s get out of here and leave the prince and his stupid friends alone,” he grumbled and he and his group wandered into the noisy Great Hall.
“Sue! Haven’t you gotten into enough trouble with your mouth?” Rose asked her friend sharply while the other girl harrumphed and straightened her robes. Scorpious was gawping at her and Albus was inching towards Lavender, “Merlin, I swear you and Malfoy are just alike!”
That had the two enemies crying. “We are not!” and Albus laughed.
“Regardless, we should be going down to Hagrid’s don’t you think?” Rose asked importantly and they all nodded. Albus had sent him a letter and he’d happily gotten a response not even an hour or so earlier this morning (He’d been busy wrestling with giant flobber worms for the past few weeks) and he was thankful that today was Saturday and they didn’t have to worry about classes. “Come on then.” He heard his cousin snap while trumping to the entrance doors and flinging them open.
“She’s rather bossy don’t you think?” Lavender asked Albus with a dry expression. Sue Corner was up ahead but shot her a look over her shoulder, “no wonder she and Corner like one another.”
Scorpious sneered a little as they were hounded by the cold air and the dismal expanse of the grounds. Though it was afternoon, there was hardly any sunlight and it cast everything into blues and murky, dull greys, “They’re hags Lav. That’s why they like one another.”
Albus shot him a teasing look. “It’s not our fault you and Corner are alike you know.” That earned him a glare and a punch in the arm but they continued walking behind his cousin, grass and frost crunching eerily underneath their feet and making him think of little mice bones in the Owlery.
October had come with the force of a battering ram and the grounds of Hogwarts were icy, the leaves having vanished into a frightened puff of chilly wind and the Black Lake had frozen over. A cold wind blew and the group had to force their hats back on as they nearly flew off their heads and tumbled along the hard ground, “I hope Hagrid has some tea ready for us,” Albus heard Rose saying, her voice barely distinguishable over the roar.
Albus hoped so as well and kept his head down as they slowly made their way over the expanse of the grounds. Hills sloped and dipped and once or twice he saw James and Mason running around with ropes and bottles of some potion or another and decided that he didn’t want to know. His brother and his best friend merely ignored them, looking incredibly suspicious as they ran back towards the castle and he had a feeling that they’d probably get found out for whatever they’d done.
Albus was just wondering if they would be boiled alive in a big pot conveniently hidden in Zabini’s dungeon (Which looked like a torture chamber of course complete with wailing village maidens) when Scorpious asked Lavender. “So how’re things going on the Quidditch team?”
Lavender had practice before sunrise every other morning and Albus wasn’t sure how she did it when she had homework and classes. But she hardly ever complained and if he saw her with dark circles under her eyes, it was mostly due to her staying up later than usual either reading her sister’s Charms book or that moldy monster book she’d gotten from Rose and Sue Corner so long ago.
“It’s been all right. Victoire has been really intense lately because we’ve got a game coming up.” Lavender replied honestly.
“Against Hufflepuff?” Albus asked, though he had been following all of the Quidditch news daily. Everyone always got really excited about a game and Gryffindor had always been a hard team to beat, “are you nervous?”
Lavender thought about it, looking dreamy and far away and Scorpious pinched her nose until she swatted at him. Giving him a look, she replied to Albus, “I’m not too nervous. I wrote my sister Angelina about it and she told me that I should have fun and not take it so seriously.”
Scorpious gawped. “But it is serious! It’s Quidditch!”
Albus fervently agreed.
Before Lavender could say anything, Rose’s voice hissed ahead of them. “What are you three doing? Hurry up!” and they saw that she and her friend had walked on ahead without them.
They were only a few feet from Hagrid’s hut, which was a massive wood and stone structure that always reminded Albus of some fairy tale hideaway. Smoke was billowing pleasantly from the chimney and even from this distance he could see gigantic orange pumpkins scattered around, the other vegetables appearing like little dots.
Hagrid must have been growing them like this for weeks for the upcoming Halloween Feast and Albus wondered if he would let them help carve them. “No one is in a hurry, Weasley!” Scorpious snapped even though they sort of were.
“If you haven’t noticed Malfoy, we have business! Hmf!” Rose cried loudly over the wind, turning her back on them. Sue Corner sent him a withering look and Albus rolled his eyes, wondering if he could somehow get rid of her by rolling a pumpkin over her.
The thought was oddly tempting.
Scorpious rolled his eyes as they watched Rose and Sue Corner stand in front of Hagrid’s door. Albus sighed and motioned for them to continue walking, the wind nearly throwing them back and onto the hard grass, “She’s like some horrible nightmare.” He heard his moody blonde friend say grumpily.
“Don’t be mean, Scorpious.” Lavender said warningly.
“You know I can’t stand her.” Scorpious spat back.
Albus intervened. “Just cause you don’t doesn’t mean that you have to be so nasty to her!” he had told Rose this sort of thing before as well and said with a frown. “Rose is probably still mad that you belong in Gryffindor and she doesn’t.”
Lavender was confused. “I thought she was happy about being in Ravenclaw now?”
“I think she is but that doesn’t mean that has to like that Scorpious is in Gryffindor.” Albus pointed out fairly and Lavender thought about this, agreeing a little before he said to his other friend, “and she still owes you a favor since she lost the bet you two made remember?”
Scorpious smiled evilly and Lavender frowned as he said. “Oh, I remember and she’s going to hate every minute of it.” Albus was worried that he might make Rose jump around in her underwear or run around with a beehive on her head.
He would have asked him what he had in mind and made sure that neither of these things were about to happen but they were now standing with his cousin and her friend and Albus figured that it would be right to talk about it just now.
Rose gave them a level stare. “I was just going to knock,” she said impatiently and Albus and his friends exchanged exasperated looks. Sue Corner was looking as if she wanted to hit them all over the head and his eyes glanced to a pumpkin curiously, wondering if he had the strength to push it over her— “We’re going to have to be careful, okay? This is Hagrid. He’s our friend and we don’t want to hurt his feelings.”
“Of course we don’t! We’re just going to ask him about Zabini and see if he tells us anything.” Albus said with a determined nod. He didn’t like the idea of tricking Hagrid though and it must have shown on his face because his cousin suddenly appeared unsure and he said, “We can at least get some tea.”
“So knock on the door! It’s freezing!” Scorpious grumbled, glaring at Lavender as if she had somehow made the weather bad. She shot him an annoyed look, “I hope he has something to eat too, while we’re here.”
“You might not want any,” Rose said with troubled eyes.
Scorpious was about to ask what she meant by that even though Albus knew (His father and Uncle Ron had told him not to ever put his life at risk by eating one of Hagrid’s rock cakes) when the door opened. Hagrid dominated the doorway, towering over them in a furry vest, unruly wiry black hair and a friendly smile, “Though I ‘eard voices out here! Good ter see yeh all. Thought ye’d forgotten about yer friend with all the excitement in the castle,”
Scorpious and Sue Corner had never been around Hagrid before (They saw him in the Great Hall but never really this close) so they were gawping up at him, eyes wide. Lavender looked simply thrilled and Rose replied while Albus got a heavy pat on the head, “We could never forget about you Hagrid! We’ve missed you very much!” she said truthfully.
“Might as well get outta this cold then, I put a bit a tea on,” Hagrid said, looking embarrassed but very pleased. He stepped back and they all gratefully rushed inside into the smothering warmth of the hut, which was filled with some very interesting weapons and what suspiciously looked like a crate filled with chattering pixies.
They were making a bit of fuss and Albus thought they looked like menacing blueberries as he shrugged out of his coat and hung it up on a peg that Hagrid had thankfully made a lot shorter. “Don’t do anything stupid,” he hissed in a low whisper to his moody blonde friend when he stepped up to hang his coat.
“I’m not! Merlin, would you two lay off?” Scorpious spat back, frowning.
Albus took in the slightly worried look around his grey eyes. “Hagrid’s real nice, you don’t have to be nervous or anything.” He reassured as he unwound his scarf and draped it on the peg with his hat, “he’s not going to hate you.”
Scorpious looked as if he might say something to that but he noticeably relaxed and nodded. “He’s even bigger up close. My dad told me that he’s a wizard and his mum’s a giant right?”
Albus knew this was touchy territory. While the War was going on, a lot of giants had sided with Voldemort and his followers and attacked the castle and from what he knew, there were barely a handful of them left. They’d been dying out before then but the War itself had ravaged the few that had remained and survived while the others had either been killed, subdued by the Ministry or hidden away. “Yeah, it’s true,” he said defensively.
Scorpious appeared more curious than aghast, since giants were all supposed to be cruel, vicious beasts. It idly made him think about werewolves before he thought of Teddy Lupin’s father, who Albus had heard had been very nice, “That’s cool! I wish my mum were that interesting.” His moody blonde friend said.
Albus laughed. “What’s wrong with her now?”
“Nothing, but it’d be great if she could crush Benjamin under her shoe or something when he’s being mean to me.” Scorpious replied casually.
Before he could say something about this, Hagrid asked curiously from behind them, while the others chattered and warmed up. “What are yeh two talkin’ about over there? Not tryin’ ter come up with any bad business are yeh?”
“No!” Albus and Scorpious said as one.
Lavender giggled but Rose appeared slightly suspicious. “James comes in here to visit you all the time when he’s in trouble doesn’t he Hagrid?” she asked their friend, peering up at him from her mass of frizzy red hair. Her coat and things had been neatly placed behind one of his chairs, which were ten times bigger than any human man.
Hagrid nodded with a shake of his head. “Comes in here with that Mason Finnigan all the time hidin’ from that prefect, whatever his name,” he said idly.
“Louis?” Albus supplied.
“Yeah, that’s the one. Picks on him quite a bit ter be honest but I never let’em catch him when he comes knockin’ on my door.” Hagrid said with a prideful stance.
With all his cousins coming to and fro, Albus wasn’t surprised when he looked around to see some of their photos on the fireplace mantle. Some were even of his parents and grandparents and some people he didn’t know, “James gets into too much trouble if you ask me!” Rose said, sounding like her mother.
Hagrid laughed good naturedly. “Not as much as Roxanne. She tries ter keep things lively since Fred graduated last year,” he said, naming their older cousins and making Albus wonder what sort of pranks they’d gotten into.
Rose shook her head at Scorpious’s suddenly lovesick expression. Sue Corner was raising her upper lip at him in disgust but Lavender appeared amused, “Well, she’s just like Uncle George and Aunt Angie doesn’t help either. They like that she gets into trouble,” she said, sounding confused as to why they would be proud of the fact that their daughter probably got an owl sent home every week.
“Nothin’ wrong with a little prank every now and then, Rose. ‘Specially with what the Daily Prophet’s been pouring out,” Hagrid said gravely, the words making Albus feel slightly uncomfortable. It brought to mind all of the things that they were here to find out and he felt like the lowliest mortal for trying to trick his friend.
Lavender piped up before Rose could plow on. “We get into a lot of pranks in the castle Hagrid! Scorpious blows up the Charms room all the time!” she said happily.
“Lav!” Scorpious spat, flushing while Albus laughed.
Sue Corner quickly destroyed him by saying. “And you can’t seem to make anything other than panties in Transfiguration, Potter. Don’t look too happy,” Rose shot her a glance.
Hagrid was too busy laughing, not looking very sympathetic in Albus’s opinion and he frowned. Lavender was appearing as dreamy and happy as ever though and it seemed to infuriate their moody blonde friend, “Good ter see yeh again Lavender. How’s yer piranha?” he asked Lavender curiously as she folded her coat over a massive chair in the corner.
Scorpious frowned and opened his mouth to say something about this just as Lavender replied with a warning glance in his direction. “Sheriff is doing really well Mr. Hagrid! I think he sometimes misses all his brothers and sisters though.” She said worriedly and Albus wondered if he’d eaten them all before he noticed that Sue and Rose had wandered over to a massive fish tank in the corner of the room.
A fire was crackling happily in the hearth and a large, ancient boarhound was lying on a rug, not paying them any attention. When Albus walked over to see what his cousin and friend were doing, the dog raised his head, showing nearly blind eyes and stood on shaking legs to follow, “What on earth are these?” Rose asked Hagrid, appalled.
Hagrid was taking the teapot and various dishes towards a round wooden table, looking pleased to have company. Scorpious eyed him apprehensively as he caught his attention, “More two-headed piranhas, I was thinkin’ of puttin’ them in the Black Lake with the giant squid’s babies,” he explained.
Albus wondered why he and Lavender seemed to find these dangerous monsters so adorable and shuddered. If there were more two-headed piranhas floating around in the Black Lake then he would never, ever find himself taking a morning swim while at Hogwarts and saw Sue Corner raise her upper lip. “That would be so nice. I bet they would all get along,” Lavender said to Hagrid with a beaming smile that made Albus think about kittens and rainbows.
Wondering where his little friend got her happiness from, Albus and the ancient boarhound, stood looking at the piranha. Hagrid had them in a murky looking tank filled with Black Lake water, weeds and what suspiciously looked like chicken bones while the terrors floated around. They weren’t very big and probably the ugliest things that he had ever seen but they regarded him with slightly narrowed eyes as if they didn’t find him all that attractive either.
“Think I might have’em in the Black Lake by the end of the year, Lavender. You should bring yer piranha with you so he can say goodbye to his family,” Hagrid advised, looking truly concerned on Sheriff’s behalf.
Albus thought that they were both mental but Lavender went into a long debate on whether or not to find something suitable for Sheriff to wear (He wasn’t sure how she would be able to do this) and tuned them out. When he glanced back at Scorpious, he was looking between them in complete bewilderment and he stifled a laugh and turned back to the piranha, watching them gnawing and snapping.
Rose was rather pale and Sue Corner had turned away with a grimace. “When was the last time that you fed these Hagrid?” Albus heard his cousin ask while he watched in grim fascination as a group of the beasts startled circling a rather scrawny one hungrily.
“Just a bit before yeh all came,” Hagrid answered, sounding pleased with himself before going back to his conversation with a chattering Lavender.
“You don’t feed them yourself do you Hagrid?” Albus asked worriedly.
Lavender was giving Scorpious a warning look as he started to sneak over to the tank, a sneaky look on his face. “You leave them alone!” she hissed.
“Let me make faces at them!” Scorpious said in a huff.
Albus rolled his eyes at their bickering, noticing that Hagrid looked very amused as he watched them. “So, erm, Hagrid, you don’t feed them yourself do you?” he asked again, directing his attention back to him.
“Course I do! How else would I feed’em?” Hagrid asked lightly and it was just then that Albus noticed that his fingers were all bandaged up. Scorpious, finished with arguing Lavender (He’d tugged on her hair quite a bit) tried to avoid him as he walked towards the piranha tank but was caught by the back of his robes, “yer that Malfoy boy aren’t yeh?”
Scorpious struggled furiously. “Yeah, what of it?!” he demanded, panicked.
Albus rushed over to see what the problem was but was surprised when Hagrid barked with laughter. It made the entire hut shake and Lavender stared at a crossbow with far too much interest as it wobbled off a neighboring wall, “Neville told me yeh’ve got an attitude but yeh’ve been good to this lot, haven’t yeh?” Hagrid asked, releasing him.
Scorpious glanced at Rose and Sue Corner with barely concealed disgust before hastily nodding. He smoothed out his robes grumpily, “Yeah,” he muttered up at him, craning his neck. “Albus and Lavender are my friends.”
“Good ter see yer not like yer dad. He used to bully Harry and his friends a lot when they went here,” Hagrid said with some sort of memory flickering in his eyes before he smiled down at Scorpious, who frowned. “But that was a long time ago, yeh be who yeh want to be.”
Albus thought this was very good advice but Scorpious merely snorted and folded his arms stubbornly. Rose asked Hagrid curiously, “Did our parents come to see you a lot when they were here?” she had removed her coat. Sue was warily moving towards the table and shooting Lavender, who was idly staring at a crossbow with disdain, “I’d visit all the time but we’ve been getting so much homework.”
Hagrid nodded a little with a smile coming into his face. “Had a lot of conversations with yer parents when they were yer age,” Rose appeared rather pleased as their friend motioned for them all to sit down. Lavender turned away from the crossbow with a reluctant sigh and seated herself beside Scorpious, who smiled smugly at Albus when he realized that he would be stuck sitting beside Sue Corner.
Rose was beside Hagrid as he filled chipped teacups with hot, steaming tea that made the air warm and pleasant. Noticing a few other plates on the table, Albus spotted that little brown things were cooling and he recoiled privately even as Scorpious reached for one and munched on it. He thought he heard a crack, “So, what have you been up to Hagrid?” Albus asked hastily over Scorpious’s outraged grumbles.
Lavender rammed her elbow into his ribs.
Sue Corner took a cup from Rose and sent Albus a dark expression as he accidentally bumped against her arm. “Been busy with the pumpkins out there fer Halloween mostly.” Hagrid replied with a proud glimmer in his black eyes.
“Will you let us carve them with you, Hagrid?” Albus asked eagerly.
“Roxanne and yer brother were thinkin’ of blowin’ some up.” Hagrid said with a laugh and Albus thought that it oddly sounded like fun. “But I’ll let yeh have a small one ter carve, yeh probably won’t cause too much trouble.”
If only he knew, Albus thought. “You’ve heard all about how much stuff they get into didn’t you, Hagrid?” Rose asked him after taking a sip of her tea. Scorpious was now looking down at the rock cake in his hand with a slight tear of pain in his eye and Lavender was giving him a sympathetic look, “and Albus was in the hospital!”
Hagrid had been pleasantly sipping his tea and regarding them all with affection that made Albus feel sort of shamed for coming here trying to interrogate him. “I ‘eard all about that from Neville!” he said with a widening of his eyes. “Yeh all right Albus?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Albus replied honestly. He didn’t have any bandages around his head anymore and the curse that Goyle had shot at him hadn’t really left a mark thanks to Madame Brown’s diligent care, “that stupid Goyle shot me in the face!”
Scorpious nodded firmly. “He made a mess of the Dueling Club,” he was holding his jaw while he spoke and the words came out a bit garbled.
Sue Corner asked dryly. “I thought that was you?” Rose sent her a warning look just as Lavender’s eyes narrowed. Scorpious frowned meanly, “if you hadn’t lost your temper, you wouldn’t have gotten into that fight!”
“Shut up! You’re just mad because you’ve got those nasty scars all over your face!” Scorpious spat back hotly and Albus snorted into his tea. Folding his arms and nudging Lavender roughly as he did so, he continued, “I wasn’t going to just stand there and let that git talk about my family!”
Sue glared at him, a bit of color flooding into her face. It made the scars on her face stand out a bit more and Albus could detect the faint odor of smelly feet, “Maybe you should have thought of the fact that you could have gotten people hurt firing hexes everywhere!”
Scorpious glanced at Albus guiltily. “If you’re talking about yourself, I don’t really think you count as a person!” he countered and just as the girl was about to open her mouth to say something to that, Hagrid thumped his large hand on the table for silence.
It nearly threw them all out of their seats.
“That’s enough outta yeh! I ‘eard about what happened in the Dueling Club, it was an accident.” Hagrid said firmly and while Albus agreed with him, he couldn’t help but think that it had been Goyle’s fault for being such a prat. Rose was appearing nervous and Lavender was lightly nibbling on a rock cake (Albus wondered how she was doing it but didn’t say anything), “I didn’t think it was that best of an idea meself with Smith bein’ the one teachin’ yeh.”
Albus had to nod his head in agreement. “He can’t teach anything,” he said with a roll of his eyes and Lavender giggled privately to herself. Scorpious and Sue Corner were still glaring at one another, “it was a real waste of time and the classes are so boring now.”
Lavender finished eating her rock cake and reached for another, which made Hagrid smile happily. Feeling bad, Albus reached for one too and, praying that he would have all of his teeth after putting it into his mouth, he took a hesitant bite, “We don’t really do much now, just talk about the vampire. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to let us practice on each other anymore.”
Hagrid finished his tea and set it down on the table, looking as if something had sparked in his mind. Albus was worried that he had broken his jaw but tried to swallow, hoping that he didn’t appear too pained, “They just want ter be careful. Awful things happenin’ out there with them kids yeh know,”
Rose shot Albus a look before she went on, carefully smiling up at Hagrid and asking. “What do you think it is, Hagrid? I mean, it’s not really a vampire is it?” He could hear his cousin’s true fear in her voice and felt a moment of concern that what they’d thought before was wrong.
Hagrid hesitated and Albus felt a prickling at the back of his neck but it might have been from Sue shifting in her seat and brushing her shoulder against his. Spiders danced along his skin, “Not sure what ter tell yeh about it, Rose. Don’ know much about it meslef,”
“But you talk to our parents all the time don’t you? You have to know something about what’s going on!” Rose cried, aghast that he couldn’t share valuable information with her of all people. Albus wondered vaguely if their parents had sworn him not to tell a thing and he saw Hagrid’s eyes shift a little, confirming this, “We’re really worried about it.”
“Everyone thinks I’m going to get eaten,” Scorpious said with a dark look as he lowered his hand from what looked like a bruised jaw. Lavender stood, reached for the teapot and poured him another cup and he shot her a glance but said nothing, “They think that vampire is going to find me and kill me, just like it did all the other kids.”
Hagrid frowned at this and Albus knew that he couldn’t stand the thought of anyone getting hurt. He had been at the Battle of Hogwarts as well so he understood the sort of fear that was brimming, “Yeh shouldn’t listen ter all them kids up at the castle. People say stupid things outta fear,” Scorpious considered this as he stared into his steaming teacup. “That thing that’s out there is goin’ ter be caught with Harry lookin’ into it.”
Albus wanted to believe this but he felt a wave of unease go through him nonetheless and was about to take another bite out of his rock cake when he felt something heavy land on his lap. Jumping, the rock cake flew out of his hand and he let out a yelp of surprise, “What’s wrong with you Potter?” Sue demanded furiously, reeling away.
“Something’s on my lap!” Albus said in a panic while looking down. To his embarrassment, it was only Hagrid’s old boarhound drooling copiously on his robes and he felt his cheeks heating, “erm, it’s nothing.”
Hagrid laughed and Sue rolled her eyes a little. “Fang gettin’ ter know yeh better that’s all. Don’t mind him,” he said while Albus patted the beast on the head idly with his fingers, “bit jumpy aren’t yeh, Albus?”
“I can’t help but be. Something bad happens to me every time I wake up,” Albus replied honestly while Sue looked as if she thought it were funny. He sent her a glare before saying to Hagrid, “I can’t do anything right and I’m failing Potions.”
Hagrid appeared thoughtful for a moment before he said. “Yer dad wasn’t too good at Potions either. Snape was a hard teacher to please,” there was a faint smile on his face though while he said it and to Albus’s surprise he mentioned, “Professor Zabini is a lot like him from what I’m ablet ter see,”
Rose seemed to take this upon herself to ask him. “What do you know about Professor Zabini Hagrid? How long has he been working here?” she tried to sound innocent but there was an obvious gleam of slyness in her eyes. This of course was the information that they had come here for, “he doesn’t seem to like anyone much.”
“Don’ know much about him ter be honest. Started workin’ here a little while after Professor Slughorn finally retired, he was gettin’ on in years yeh know,” Hagrid replied while Albus reached for another rock cake the same time Lavender did. He rammed Sue in the ribs and she reluctantly snatched one and carefully nibbled on it, looking pained, “Professor Zabini likes ter keep things private.”
Lavender questioned him curiously. “He and Professor Longbottom get along don’t they? I see them talking a lot.” Albus wasn’t sure if she were lying or not but the fact that the Herbology teacher knew he was going into the Forest wasn’t exactly false.
Hagrid thrummed his fingers on the table, looking slightly anxious. Albus sensed that he was hiding very valuable information, “Never been too friendly with one another if yeh ask me, though. Neville’s only been talkin’ ter him recently ever since that accident last year,”
Rose leapt on the information like a wild dog even though Albus had already told her about what Madame Brown had revealed. “What sort of accident?”
“A bad sort that left Professor Zabini real torn up,” Hagrid replied carefully while studying their suddenly rapt expressions. Suspicion gleamed in his eyes, “yeh all aren’t up ter somethin’ yeh shouldn’t be are yeh?”
Albus and his friends were determined not to exchange obvious looks at the accusation but the truth was more than apparent. “No, we’re just…curious.” He said lamely and Hagrid looked completely unconvinced.
Lavender bit on her lower lip for a moment and said to Hagrid. “We saw Professor Zabini going into the Forbidden Forest a while ago,” everyone gawped at her in both surprise and horror. “We were wondering what he goes in there for and then we uhm, overheard,” she dodged Scorpious’s elbow into her ribs smoothly even though Albus would have fallen out of his chair, “that Professor Zabini goes into the Forest for Wolfsbane,”
“Overheard all that did yeh?” Hagrid asked with the same suspicious look at the five of them. Rose was looking as if something had exploded in her brain and Sue Corner was sending Lavender murderous glares that merely had Albus’s friend staring blankly at her in return, “I hope yeh all aren’t pokin’ yer noses into anyone’s business,” he said warningly and Albus flinched a little with guilt.
Scorpious glared at Lavender and tugged on her hair for a moment before noticing Hagrid’s disapproving stare and releasing her. She rubbed her head, “We just want to know what he goes in there for! Aren’t there all sorts of monsters and stuff living in the Forest?”
Albus felt the lie flying off his tongue before he could stop himself. “And he’s my… favorite teacher. I worry that he’ll get, uhm, you know, hurt and stuff,” he said while Lavender and Scorpious gawped at him in astonishment.
Rose and Sue Corner had paled.
Hagrid appeared incredibly doubtful about this but Albus held his breath, feeling his face turning redder and redder as his family friend finally said. “Well, I don’ know what he needs Wolfsbane fer, it’s more like a poison from what Neville told me. But he asked that I go in and talk ter the centaurs for Professor Zabini after that last incident,”
“What last incident?” Rose demanded even though they already knew.
Hagrid hesitated for a moment, poured himself a bit more tea and then took a leisurely drink of it. After setting it back down with a surprisingly delicate clink, Albus let out his breath and listened to him say, “The centaurs are a superstitious lot already but all these murders ‘ave them a little nervous. When I talked to’em a while after Professor Zabini got shot with an arrow,”
“Ha!” Scorpious said triumphantly, as if this were the greatest news in the universe. Lavender rammed her elbow into his ribs and stuffed a rock cake into his mouth before he could say anything else.
Hagrid continued on as if they hadn’t interrupted him. “I walked in ter talk to them about that, sayin’ that they couldn’ be shootin’ at the teachers. Firenze, one of their herd leaders told me that times are too dangerous fer anyone, teacher or not ter be in the Forest.”
Rose asked worriedly. “How come? Is it because of the giant spiders?” Albus could only imagine how horrible running into one of those could be. “I thought there weren’t any more in there.”
“There’re a couple,” Hagrid said evasively and Albus had a feeling that he knew all too well how many of them there were. His disdain for the Forbidden Forest increased drastically, “anyhow, I asked Firenze what he meant by that and he said that there was evil comin’. They could see it in the stars formin’,”
That didn’t bode very well and Albus wondered if that evil were really Zabini himself and his murderous friend out there. A chill seemed to descend onto his skin and settle into his bones, “What sort of evil?” he found himself asking.
“Didn’ say, now did he? Could mean nothin’, could mean somethin’. Hard to tell with the centaurs, yeh know.” Hagrid replied honestly, though he appeared slightly troubled as his thoughts continued to spin. “Firenze did say that he was worried about the state of the castle,”
Lavender was smacking Scorpious on the back while he nearly choked on the rock cake but managed to ask, over his hacking and gagging. “What do they mean? There’s nothing wrong with the wards on the school I hope.”
Hagrid appeared slightly uncomfortable. “Well, there was one thing,” he said and Albus and the others piqued with grim interest. “Professor Finch-Fletchley was tellin’ me that someone’s been sneakin’ in there, other than Professor Zabini I think and tearin’ down some of the spells. Might be some kid just messin’ around but I was asked to keep a close eye out, just in case someone came at night, pokin’ their heads around.”
This was very troubling news. Albus wondered if Zabini was not only looking for the Wolfsbane but making gradual gaps in the wards to allow his friend in and if the creature wasn’t a vampire…. “Hey, Hagrid, werewolves are alive right?” he asked his friend.
Hagrid nodded, looking confused on why that seemed to suddenly matter to him so much and Albus felt a cold wash of panic go over him. “There hasn’t been any werewolves round these parts in years. They didn’ fight in the War, except for that Greyback and he’s been dead for a long time now,” he said to them, staring at their wide eyed faces worriedly. “Speakin’ of, there haven’t been any vampires in Britain from what I know in a long time. Odd that one would suddenly come up now startin’ trouble.”
“Why would it? I mean, they don’t really hate the Ministry do they?” Rose asked while looking down into what had to be cold tea. Sue Corner was gnawing on her nails a little, appearing lost in thought or just wishing she were elsewhere, “my mum said that she had them put under a Protected Species Act so people wouldn’t kill them.”
Albus knew that his Aunt Hermione had done a lot of things in the Ministry but she was rather adamant about magical creatures having more rights. Goblins and house-elves were what she spoke about mostly but he was sure that vampires and even werewolves fell into her line of justice, “Yer mum is tryin’ her best, Rose but a lot of people don’ want ter let some of the old laws go.” Hagrid said and he watched her face pinch with annoyance, not quite understanding, “that vampire that’s out there, I’ve been thinkin’ that it might be a rogue, not belongin’ to anythin’ and just tryin’ to make people afraid.”
Albus wanted to believe this but he had a feeling that it wasn’t at all true and he stroked Fang’s ears distractedly. The boarhound had fallen asleep on his lap and drool was making a rather large stain on his robes that he didn’t think he would be able to get out with just water, “Why would they want to do that? People are already afraid,” Scorpious asked annoyingly. He had stopped hacking and coughing up the rock cake and Lavender was appearing relieved, “they still think Voldemort’s followers are gonna rise up any minute and kill us all.”
“Been a long time but that hardly matters to some people,” Hagrid replied, looking as if he agreed and doubted at the same time. It had been nearly twenty years since Voldemort had been killed and the peace that had settled over the Wizarding world would be easy to break down if these current murders continued. “Doesn’ take much to frighten people. That’s how the Second War got so outta control fer a while,”
An uncomfortable and heavy silence fell at the end of these words and Albus felt his brain throbbing painfully. There was so much that he was confused over and so little time before Halloween, “Hagrid, have you heard about Patil getting on the Gryffindor Quidditch team? They have a game coming up,” Rose said, desperately trying to change the subject.
Hagrid snapped out of his own thoughts and said with a little smile in Lavender’s direction that caused her to blush furiously. “Neville told me all about yer Neon Star!” he exclaimed excitedly and she looked as if she wanted to sink into the floor while Scorpious sent Rose a smug glance that made her frown furiously. “Nervous about yer firs’ game?”
“Maybe a little. I don’t think I’m all that good,” Lavender replied and Sue Corner looked as if she wanted to say something to that and Albus shot her a menacing look. Scorpious and Rose were still glaring at one another, “I wish I could talk to someone older about it.”
“Why don’t you write one of my cousins? I’m sure one of them was a Chaser.” Albus said helpfully. He gratefully came out of his troubled thoughts and thought about the fact that he couldn’t worry about it too much when there was nothing to be done about it just now, “and your sister played Quidditch didn’t she?”
Lavender nodded, still appearing bashful while Hagrid beamed at her. “She did but I don’t want to disappoint her.” She muttered.
Rose glared at Scorpious furiously before turning her attention to her with a kind smile that made her look a lot more likeable. “I’m sure you’ll do fine, Patil. We’ll be cheering you on from the Ravenclaw stands,” she nudged Sue, who rolled her eyes but said nothing.
“Hufflepuff doesn’t stand a chance!” Scorpious said smugly.
Albus pointed out dryly. “Roxanne is on the team. She’s a Beater.” Scorpious appeared tormented and despite the lighter conversation, he felt that bit of unsettling doom settle happily onto his shoulders.Halloween seemed so far away and yet some part of him wanted to hurry, so they could finally figure out what seemed to be right before their eyes.
There you go! This ones kind of massive but I got a bit carried away! Enjoy it anyway and I'll be back soon! Much love from Gabbie.
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