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Chapter 11 : Suspecting Scorpius.
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Binns’ class on the war was just as boring as all his other classes. Albus couldn’t help wondering if that was why McGonagall had asked Jones to teach them about it in Defence Against the Dark Arts too, because she knew nobody would listen to anything Binns taught.
“I’d hoped History of Magic might be interesting for once.” Derek looked at Albus apologetically after saying this. “Sorry, I know it must have been awful for your dad and everybody, but it sounded more exciting than the laws and dates Binns usually reels off.”
“I know what you mean,” Albus said. “I’ve already heard enough about the war to last me a lifetime, but I still think it’ll be interesting to hear what Professor Jones has to say about it. She was actually involved, you know. She escorted my dad’s uncle, aunt and cousin into hiding.”
“Your dad’s relatives had to go into hiding?” He looked amazed.
“Yeah. It was a war, you know. And they were Muggles, so they’d have had absolutely no way of defending themselves against magic.” He paused. “I don’t really know much about what happened to them. My dad isn’t close to them. We get Christmas cards from his cousin, but that’s about it. I’ve never met them.”
“I’ve just thought of something,” Rose interrupted.
“WHAT?” Albus and Derek asked in unison.
She looked at Derek for a moment before saying “let’s go back to your dormitory. I’ll tell you both there.”
Thankfully, it was empty.
“What is it?” Albus asked.
She paused for a moment.
“Well, you know how we were thinking about…well, finding something out.” She turned to Derek. “Albus and I were talking about the graffiti and how we could figure out who did it and well, Albus’s dad said it reminded him of something that happened when he was at school.”
“Something to do with Voldemort?” Derek asked nervously.
“Yes. But Albus’s dad says he’s definitely dead, so we don’t have to worry about him being involved in this. The thing is Scorpius’s grandfather was also involved and he’s still alive.”
Albus fidgeted nervously. He’d been the one to suggest the connection, but now he couldn’t help thinking his mother had also been involved. If people knew that, would they suspect him for the same reasons he suspected Scorpius?
Not that it was really the same thing, he told himself. His mother wasn’t Lucius Malfoy. She hadn’t chosen to be involved and she certainly wouldn’t use words like Mudblood or Dark Lord. She didn’t speak about the incident at all and his dad had made it clear she really didn’t want to.
But he still hoped Rose wouldn’t tell Derek that part of the story.
She didn’t. All she said was “so I think we should watch Scorpius pretty closely during Defence class and try and talk to him afterwards, if we can.”
“Do you think he did it?” Derek asked.
“We don’t know,” Rose said quickly. “But he might know something, either way.”
“So what are you suggesting we do?” Albus asked.
“I want you to watch him as closely as possible in class. Try and sit so you can see his face. I’ll try and ask some questions that might get a reaction. Professor Jones wasn’t teaching back then, of course and anyway the class is meant to be about the whole war, not just what happened at Hogwarts, but I’m sure I can think of something.”
“I’ll watch him too,” Derek said.
Rose smiled. “Two pairs of eyes are better than one, I guess.”
But she sounded uncertain.
“I hope it wasn’t a mistake, talking about that in front of Derek,” she said afterwards.
Albus shrugged. “Why would it be?”
“I don’t know.” She started pacing. “I guess even if he was involved, I didn’t say anything that could do any harm, right? After all, he thinks we suspect Scorpius, so that might be good if it was him. It’d put him off the scent.”
“Why would Derek be involved? He’s a Muggleborn, Rose. He’d hardly be using words like… well, you know, what the graffiti called them. And anyway, my dad thinks whoever did it knows all about the Chamber of Secrets. Where would Derek have heard about that?”
“In a book?” she said doubtfully. Not many books would include details like Harry, Ron and Hermione seeing the graffiti first. She sighed. “I just can’t help thinking it’s a mistake to trust anybody except ourselves here.”
“We already talked to Nathan.”
“That’s different. We didn’t tell him anything he couldn’t find out anyway. What your dad wrote is different. I mean, it’s information not everybody is going to have.”
“I really don’t think Derek is involved,” Albus said firmly.
“Nor do I, really. I’m just not certain he isn’t. When you think about it, Albus, we’ve no idea at all who could have done this. All we can say is they probably knew somebody at Hogwarts in 1992. It’s not really much to go on.”
“I really don’t think we’re going to find out anything at all,” Albus admitted. “Even if it was Scorpius, I can’t see how we’ll prove it. If anybody finds out, it’ll probably be the teachers.”
“If it was Scorpius,” Rose teased. “I thought you said it had to be.”
He squirmed. He didn’t want to admit he’d been thinking people could blame him if they knew what his mother’d done and they’d be wrong, so mightn’t he be too?
“Do you want to find out if it’s him?” She seemed to have mistaken the reason for his silence.
“Yes. Yes, of course I do. I just don’t think we’re going to succeed, that’s all.”
“Well, I think we’ve got to try,” she said seriously. “Think about it. There’s somebody at this school who thinks attacks on Muggleborns are something to laugh about. Maybe the teachers will figure out who it is, but maybe they won’t. And we’ve some advantages they don’t.”
“Your dad, for one. He’s an Auror. He knows things teachers probably wouldn’t. And we’ll hear things teachers wouldn’t. They still don’t know your brother nicked those fanged Frisbees from Filch’s office, after all, but I think every student in the school knows it.”
Albus grinned at the thought of his brother’s daring.
“Okay, you’re right. We should try.”
He still wasn’t convinced they’d succeed, but if all he had to do was look at Scorpius’s face, he was willing to give it a go.
It wasn’t quite as easy as he’d expected.
“Albus Potter,” Professor Jones said sternly, about ten minutes into the lesson. “Please stop staring across the classroom and look up here at the board.”
“You, of all people, should understand the importance of what we’re learning today.”
“I do, Professor. I’m sorry.”
Rose shot him a sympathetic look across the room.
It wasn’t hard to focus on what Professor Jones was saying. The class was actually really interesting. She’d begun begun by telling them of Voldemort’s disappearance back in 1981.
“As those of you from wizarding families certainly know, and even you, Derek and Angie, have probably heard, he disappeared after failing to kill Albus’s father, Harry Potter. For years, nobody understood exactly what had happened and all kind of theories emerged. However, these could be broadly placed in two categories: those who believed, or wanted to believe, that Voldemort was gone for good and those who feared he’d return some day.”
Dora raised her hand.
Albus tried to sneak a glance at Scorpius while Professor Jones focussed on her.
“If he returned after everybody thought he died back then, couldn’t he do it again?”
Professor Jones shook her head. “Everybody didn’t think he’d died back then. Some people thought he’d died. Harry was, and still is, the only person known to have survived the Killing Curse, so it was impossible to say how the caster might be affected. And of course, people wanted to believe him dead because there was a lot of fear out there. That’s what we’re trying to impress upon you with these classes. The war was a truly horrifying time for so many people.”
“But that’s what I meant. If people wanted to believe him dead so much, mightn’t they have believed it even if he wasn’t?”
Professor Jones looked at her sternly. “I believe I’ve spoken to you before about interrupting when others are speaking, Miss Nottingham. In my class, if you have something to say, you raise your hand and wait until I call on you.”
“Voldemort was definitely killed at the Battle of Hogwarts. Numerous witnesses saw his body. Voldemort was a talented wizard.” A gasp went around the room. “It’s true. Being evil doesn’t prevent somebody from being talented magically. Unfortunately. He was a talented wizard, but he cannot return from the dead. Nobody can do that.” She paused. “We were speaking of his disappearance. Does anybody know what happened when he returned?”
She glanced in Albus’s direction.
Realising she expected him to, he half-raised his hand.
He took a deep breath. “It was during the Triwizard Tournament. My dad and this other boy won and they grabbed the cup at the end. It was a portkey and it transported them to…to where Voldemort was waiting. He…he just killed the other boy, because well, it was my dad he wanted.”
She nodded. “Exactly. He killed a young boy, only a few years older than you are now, not because he opposed him or threatened him in any way, but simply because he wasn’t needed. That’s how callous Voldemort was. Albus’s dad was lucky to survive. Had things happened only a little differently, Albus would not be sitting among us today.”
A shiver went down his spine. He really didn’t like being reminded how easily his father could have died, how easily he and his brother and sister could never have existed.
“And Albus isn’t the only one. Your father, Scorpius, was threatened with his own death and that of his whole family.”
“I know that,” Scorpius croaked.
Albus glanced at Rose in amazement. He hadn’t known the Malfoys had been threatened. Judging by the look on her face, Rose hadn’t either.
But he was supposed to be watching Scorpius. He turned quickly to glance at him. Scorpius looked pale and distracted, as if he, like Albus was realising just how close he’d come to never being born.
Albus looked away. Suddenly watching him seemed slightly wrong.
“It wasn’t only deaths either,” Professor Jones continued, apparently oblivious to their interplay. “Once Voldemort took power, Muggleborns were rounded up and forced to prove they’d at least one wizarding relative. If they couldn’t, they were placed in Azkaban and subjected to the Dementors.
“During the year he was in control, Muggleborns were banned from attending Hogwarts. Not that the students who did attend – the purebloods and half-bloods – were having a particularly easy time either. Death Eaters were appointed as teachers. They taught students to use the Dark Arts and encouraged them to practice them on students who misbehaved.”
A gasp went around the classroom.
“The Cruciatus Curse was routinely used, as were other Dark spells, like Sectumsempra.”
She paused for a moment, allowing them to digest what she’d just said.
Rose raised her hand.
Jones let a moment pass before saying, “Yes, Rose.”
Rose nodded slightly to Albus and said, “Professor, what happened to the Death Eaters after the war?”
He knew this was his cue. He needed to watch Scorpius carefully, as Professor Jones answered this, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to. The last time he’d looked, it was as if he’d witnessed something very private, something he should never have seen.
But he knew he had to do it, and quickly. He couldn’t miss Scorpius’s immediate reaction.
Professor Jones paused a moment, allowing him to finish arguing with himself and turn his head.
“That’s a complicated question, Rose. A lot of them went to Azkaban.”
Scorpius’s expression didn’t change.
“The Dementors, of course, were removed. Can anybody tell me why that was?”
Scorpius looked up and seemed to catch him watching. He glared at him and Albus quickly looked away.
Rasmus had his hand up.
“They supported the Death Eaters.”
“Yes. That’s why there are no Dementors guarding Azkaban today.” She smiled at Derek and Angie. “I realise I’m using a lot of terms you may not be familiar with. You’ll learn about Dementors in more detail in your third year. For the moment, suffice it to say they are Dark Creatures that feed on human emotion. If a Dementor appeared in the classroom right now, all of the happiness would be sucked out of it. We’d be forced to relive some of the worst memories of our lives.”
Albus shivered. He didn’t think he had any memories that were all that horrifying, but the thought of every happy thought he had being sucked out of him was horrible. He remembered his father telling him he’d feared them more than Voldemort.
“I’ve just remembered I also mentioned some spells you might not be familiar with. The Cruciatus Curse is one of the most terrible spells in existence. It’s a form of torture that causes almost unbearable pain to those who experience it. There have been cases of people being tortured into insanity.”
Again she paused, allowing her words to sink in.
“I would not normally speak to you so seriously when you are so young, but Professor McGonagall believes, and I agree with her, that it’s important you realise just what your parents and other older people in our society lived through. It may seem a long time away, but the day will come when all of you in this classroom will be among those responsible for the future of our world and I hope you will continue to work for a better world, just as we have been doing for the past nineteen years. It’s not so very long ago that prejudice and violence almost tore our world apart and your generation has to be as vigilant as ours must be to ensure that such a thing is never allowed to happen again.
“Can anybody tell me how our world responded to Voldemort’s return?”
Albus raised his hand, as did Rose and Rasmus.
“Opinions were split. Dumble…Professor Dumbledore believed my dad, but a lot of other people, including the Ministry, didn’t. They started interfering at Hogwarts and trying to silence Professor Dumbledore and my dad.”
She nodded. “As I said, a lot of people had faced horrors none of you can even imagine the first time Voldemort attempted to seize power and many couldn’t face the idea of those times returning. It was understandable, but it made things even more difficult for those who were trying to defeat him, as we had to work in secret. Professor Dumbledore revived an old organisation called the Order of the Phoenix to organise resistance.”
Albus felt himself begin to relax. This was the enjoyable part, hearing about the Order and its heroics, rather than about the torture and murder of students. However, Professor Jones didn’t seem inclined to dwell on that part.
“This is why you need to remain vigilant and why that graffiti caused such concern to those of us who lived through those dark times. Words may seem harmless but a person’s words reflect their thoughts and it was thoughts like those that allowed the Death Eaters to rise, not once, but twice.
“I want to impress upon you all very strongly that decent witches and wizards do not use slurs like the one we saw on that wall. Being Muggleborn is nothing to be ashamed of and should never be spoken of in those terms.”
Albus turned to see how Scorpius responded to this. He was looking down at his desk. Albus wondered if he was ashamed. Maybe he had written it; maybe they’d been right.
But he wasn’t certain anymore and he didn’t know why that was.
Rose, however, seemed determined to continue with their plan.
She led him over to Scorpius after they left the classroom.
He looked around warily.
“What’d you think of that class?”
“What do you mean what did I think of it?”
“Learn anything interesting? Or did you know it all already?”
Scorpius exploded. “Oh, just leave me alone! I know exactly what you’re hinting at. I’m a Malfoy; I’m probably doing Dark rites to bring back the Dark Lord or something. That’s what you think, isn’t it?” He glared at Albus. “Don’t think I didn’t see you watching me in class! What did you think I’d be doing? Rubbing my hands in glee at the thought of Death Eater murders? Never mind that my dad and grandparents could easily have been among them! You probably think I’m the one who wrote that graffiti too, don’t you?”
Albus looked away.
“You DO think that. Well, let me tell you, I have never used that word. Why would I? I don’t care what blood anybody has. And I certainly don’t want the Dark Lord coming back! My dad still has nightmares about him. I’ve heard him and Mum talking about it. But what’s the point of telling you any of that? You’ve got your minds made up already, haven’t you? Just like half of our stupid world. You know, sometimes I wish I was a Muggle. At least then, nobody’d know who my family are and what they done.”
He stormed off, without waiting for an answer
Albus and Rose stared at one another. Albus didn’t know about Rose, but he was feeling rather guilty. Scorpius wasn’t far wrong about what he’d been thinking.
“We’d better get to Charms.” Rose broke the silence awkwardly.
“Oh, yes, yes, of course.”
They didn’t see Scorpius again that day. Albus wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or worried. He didn’t know what he’d say when he did see him, but until he did, he wouldn’t know how much he’d hurt him.
“Is everything all right, Albus?” Neville asked after Herbology.
Albus scuffed his shoe against the greenhouse floor.
“Professor, what if you’d just done something you now think might have been really stupid?”
Neville looked at him in confusion. “I’d need a bit more information before I could give you any advice on that one, I’m afraid.”
He paused for a moment. He wasn’t sure how much he could tell Neville without getting in serious trouble.
“Well, I said something to someone…well, not exactly, but sort of. Anyway, they knew what I meant and..and I think it upset them. And now I think I might have been wrong.” He sighed.
Neville smiled and shook his head. “Oh, Albus, if I’m understanding you correctly, you are just like your father.”
Suddenly, things didn’t seem so irredeemable. If there was one thing Albus wanted, it was to be like his father.
“He’d a habit of jumping to conclusions too,” Neville continued. “It sounds to me as if you owe somebody an apology.”
“But what if they won’t listen? I really don’t think he’s going to want to hear anything I’ve to say.”
“Just do your best. Not everybody is going to like you, Albus and not everything can be solved immediately, but you’ll never know until you try.”
“OK, I’ll try. Thank you, Sir.”
Apologising to Scorpius wasn’t something he was looking forward to, but Neville was right; he had to at least attempt it.
The thought of what he’d say played on his mind all evening, but he woke up next morning very little the wiser. It was starting to worry him. They’d Potions with the Slytherins third lesson. He’d have to say something then.
“Albus.” Rose nudged him at breakfast.
“Wendelin is waiting there with a letter for you. Have you suddenly gone blind or something?”
“Oh, right, thanks.”
He slowly removed the letter.
It was from his dad.
I know you’re probably busy, particularly now the term is moving on and if I remember correctly from my own days at Hogwarts, the classes are probably getting a little more difficult, but your mother’s been wondering why you haven’t written to her yet this week. I’m not scolding you here, but if you could drop her a line, she’d be really pleased. She’s starting to worry there’s something wrong and I know that’s not true, because you’ve obviously been able to write to me and Lily!
All right, lecture over. Life is pretty boring here. Even at work. Being an Auror sounds exciting, but there’s an awful lot of paperwork and routine, which as you know, aren’t exactly my favourite parts of the job. I suppose I should be grateful though. At least it means all is reasonable well in the world, or our little part of it anyway.
Hope you’re having a good time and not worrying too much about that graffiti and what I wrote to you.
Your loving father.
Albus buried his head in his hands and sighed. He seemed to be doing absolutely everything wrong lately. Whatever about Scorpius, he certainly didn’t want to hurt his mother.
“What is it?” Rose sounded concerned.
He passed her the letter.
“Ah, Albus, why haven’t you written to her?”
It was too hard to explain. His father’d asked him not to remind her of the Chamber of Secrets and just about everything he was most focussed on was likely to do so. If he couldn’t bring up the graffiti, then he couldn’t talk about their suspicions of Scorpius or yesterday’s Defence Against the Dark Arts class or McGonagall’s serious talk to them on Friday. And leaving all of that out made any letter he tried to write seem like a fake.
“I’ll write to her this evening,” he mumbled, which seemed to satisfy her.
He’d worry about what he was going to write later. First of all, he’d an apology to make.
He stopped Scorpius in the corridor after Potions.
Scorpius folded his arms. “What now?”
“Um, I just wanted to apologise…to say sorry,” he amended, thinking that the latter sounded more genuine. “You’re right. I shouldn’t have…well, assumed you were doing anything wrong.”
“Um, thanks.” Scorpius sounded surprised.
“OK, well, that’s all I wanted to say.”
They glanced at each other for a moment longer before parting.
“What was that all about?” Rose asked.
“I figured we owed him an apology. After yesterday.”
She thought for a moment. “Yeah, you’re probably right. If you told me, I’d have done it with you.”
He shrugged. “Well, it’s done now.”
Now, he just had to write to his mother.
“What am I going to say to her, Rose?” he asked when he sat down to write the letter that evening.
“She’s your mother, Albus; it shouldn’t be that difficult.”
“Yeah, but Dad says I shouldn’t remind her, you know, of the Chamber of Secrets and all, so that doesn’t leave much I can say.”
She thought for a moment.
“Write about Potions and how Nathan melted his cauldron.”
Albus laughed at the memory. He’d hardly paid any attention at the time, as he’d been so busy worrying about what he should say to Scorpius, but now he thought about it, it had been pretty funny.
“Slughorn looked so utterly disdainful.” Rose laughed.
That was just why Albus didn’t really like Slughorn. If a student wasn’t talented or well-connected, he wasn’t interested.
Dear Mum, he began.
Sorry I haven’t written to you in a bit. We’ve been pretty busy here. The teachers are piling on the work. I’ll be glad to get home for Christmas.
That paragraph wasn’t entirely true. He had been busy, but it wasn’t only with class and nor was it the reason he hadn’t written. He stifled his guilt and carried on writing.
Wait until you hear what happened in Potions yesterday. I’m not sure what Nathan did, but his cauldron suddenly melted and the potion spilled out all over the floor. There was chaos as everybody near it got out of the way. Slughorn looked at Nathan like he was stupid or something. And he’s not. He knew how to make that potion perfectly. He didn’t have to check his notes once, unlike me! I don’t think Slughorn likes Nathan much.
Once he’d started, the letter wasn’t so difficult.
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