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“I got a week of detentions for having a broom in the first place,” Scorpius complained as they waited for Slughorn to arrive for Potions the following day. “And they docked twenty points from Slytherin. But do they care who actually took my broom and broke it? Oh, no, that doesn’t matter at all, apparently.”
“It serves you right,” Dora said. “You broke the rules; you got punished. Get over it.”
He glared at her. “It’s a stupid rule. Why shouldn’t first years have brooms if we know how to fly them? I’ve been flying a broom longer than a Muggleborn third year and they’re allowed brooms.”
“Thought you didn’t care if people were Muggleborn,” Rose said.
“I don’t. I’mnot saying Muggleborns shouldn’t have brooms. I’m just saying it’s silly to assume first years aren’t good enough to even try out for the school team or just have a broom, just because we’re first years. Some of us have been flying since we were tiny, but now, apparently just flying a broom is a bigger crime than breaking somebody’s. Not that you’d care about that. One of you probably broke it.”
He glared around at the Ravenclaws in the room.
“Oh, for goodness sake,” Rose began, “just because I think bringing a broom to school is stupid doesn’t mean I’m going to go around breaking it. Why would I do that?”
“Let’s see. Maybe because your whole family hates me. You and Albus already thought I was trying to poison him or something. Maybe you were trying to get your own back.”
“We wouldn’t do that!” Rose sounded appalled.
“Well, I’ve only your word for it. And as for you…” He turned to Dora. “You’ve been taunting me for ages just because I have a Golden Arrow. Like I should be ashamed my parents are rich or something.”
“That’s not why you should be ashamed,” she said.
What she thought he should be ashamed of, they never found out, as Slughorn’s arrival stopped her saying any more.
“Settle down now, settle down,” he said. “What’s going on in here?”
“It’s not fair, Sir,” Scorpius said. “What are the staff doing to find out who broke my broom?”
“We’ve already discussed that, Scorpius.”
“Yes, and you gave me detention and docked twenty points, but you didn’t do anything about whoever broke it.”
“We’re looking into it. When we find out what happened, then we’ll deal with it fully, but at the moment…”
“I think I should be refunded the cost of the broom.”
“Now listen!” Slughorn sounded uncharacteristically stern. “You had no right to even have that broom at Hogwarts. It doesn’t give anybody the right to break it, that’s true, but you have to accept a share of the blame too. The reason this happened is because you broke the rules and hid your broom where anybody had access to it. If you want to discuss this further, we can do so after class. Right now, we have potions to study.”
He launched into the lesson.
Scorpius folded his arms sulkily and didn’t even attempt the potion they were supposed to be making.
“He’s going to be in trouble when Slughorn checks our potions at the end of class,” Albus whispered to Rose.
Slughorn, however, simply glanced at his empty cauldron and made a note with his quill. He didn’t ask any questions and Scorpius didn’t offer any excuses. He just waited until Slughorn had finished pacing the classroom, then he stormed out of the room and off in the opposite direction to the rest of the class.
“Where’s he going?” Albus wondered. “Don’t the Slytherins have a class now?”
Rose shrugged. “I’m sure they do. Who knows?” She lowered her voice. “We’re going to have to find out what’s going on, you know.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Why now” was what he really meant. He knew it was important to find out if somebody at Hogwarts was a Death Eater but he didn’t see how Scorpius’s broom being broken made it any more urgent.
“There’s way too much bad feeling here. We’re all looking at each other and thinking ‘did you do that? Does he hate me?’ It can’t go on.”
“What can we do about it though?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to do my level best to think of something.”
Albus felt himself relax. Rose was the smartest of the Weasley family, apart from her mother, of course. If she put her mind to it, she was sure to think of something.
“And maybe I should write to my dad,” he said. “He said to tell him if anything else happened. This is something else, isn’t it?”
She chuckled. “I doubt it’s the something else he meant. A broom being broken is hardly in the same league as adding Swelling Solution to your food. But you’re right. There’s no harm in asking him. Things like this might be normal at Hogwarts, but…”
“I don’t think so. James never mentioned things being damaged like that.”
“Still, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. All it would take was a spell going wrong. I mean, somebody might have taken the broom to practice levitation or something and then ran off when it got damaged. Not that practicing levitation by the Whomping Willow would be a good idea, but people do stupid things sometimes. Or it could have been a prank. A pretty malicious one, but…”
Albus didn’t think he liked that sort of prank. Damaging other people’s things wasn’t funny, in his opinion.
A picture of James dangling Lily’s doll out the window entered his head. No! Threatening to do something was very different from actually doing it. James might have been annoyed Scorpius managed to sneak a broom into Hogwarts when he hadn’t, but he wouldn’t do this.
He decided not to even mention that thought to Rose. She was already inclined to blame James for just about anything. He didn’t want to give her ideas.
He’d have liked to hear any other ideas she had though, but they reached the Transfiguration classroom before he got a chance.
To their surprise, Neville was sitting at the top of the room.
He smiled around at the class.
“Yes, I’m afraid Professor Blackburn is absent today. I’m sure you’re all very disappointed. She’s asked that you finish reading chapter seven and complete the questions at the end and she’s assured me it should keep you occupied for the entire lesson if done properly. If you’ve any questions, just raise your hand and I’ll be happy to help you. Otherwise, please concentrate on your work.”
For a moment, Albus considered beginning his letter to his father or passing a note to Rose, asking if she really thought Scorpius’s broom had been damaged deliberately and whether it had been done by the same person as everything that had happened the previous term, but one look at the amount of work they’d been left convinced him not to. Otherwise, he’d be working on homework all evening.
He just about managed to complete the questions by the end of the lesson.
“Great! No Transfiguration homework,” he commented to Rose as they left the classroom. “That gives me a bit more time to write to Dad.”
“You write to your parents practically every evening,” she pointed out. “You always manage to find time.”
“Yeah, but I want to take extra care over this letter. I want to know what he thinks about what happened to Scorpius’s broom.”
“Well, just ask him what you want to know. It shouldn’t be that difficult.”
The difficult part was knowing exactly what it was he did want to know. What he really wanted was reassurance that whatever was happening at Hogwarts wasn’t serious, but he wasn’t sure he wanted his dad to know just how worried he was.
He sighed as he picked up his quill that evening. It wasn’t easy. He supposed he should begin by describing what had happened and then decide just what he should ask about it.
Dear Dad, he began.
I was coming back from the Quidditch match against Slytherin last night and we saw…
He tore the page up. He should mention they’d won the match. That’d interest his parents and he hadn’t written to them the previous evening. It had taken all his time to get his homework done after he and Rose had finished discussing what he’d seen.
He began again.
Yesterday was the match against Slytherin and we won by two hundred points! Everybody says their team is rubbish, but that’s still pretty good and should make up for Gryffindor beating us.
On our way back from the pitch, Derek and I saw a group of people gathered by the Whomping Willow. Apparently, it had damaged Scorpius’s broom. I don’t think it can be fixed.
I think I told you Scorpius snuck a broom in to school and he was hiding it on the grounds, but not anywhere near the Whomping Willow. He says he didn’t break it himself, so we’re wondering who did and if it could have anything to do with the other stuff that happened last term.
The Malfoys were Death Eaters, right? So somebody who supported them probably wouldn’t want to get him in trouble, would they?
But Rose says Scorpius might be considered a blood traitor because he says he doesn’t care whether people are pureblood or not.
What do you think?
Just sending the letter made him feel better. His dad would know what they should do.
It was the following morning that a reply arrived.
That’s great about the match. Well, not for James, I suppose. I know he’d love to win the Cup his first year on the team and your mum and I would love him to do it. Plus, we’re a bit biased in favour of Gryffindor anyway, when it comes to Quidditch. But we wish your house luck too.
Now we can be proud whichever of your houses win!
About Scorpius’s broom, I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions. Pranks are pretty common at Hogwarts and there have been some pretty mean ones over the years. I’ve never heard of anybody’s broom being broken, but I’ve heard of things that were equally nasty. Even your grandfather and his friends did some pretty mean things on occasion. I’ll tell you some day how I can be so sure about that!
However, and I don’t want you to worry about this, but there are reasons why the Death Eaters might not be too pleased with the Malfoys, even apart from what Scorpius said. I think I told you Draco couldn’t bring himself to kill Dumbledore when Voldemort ordered him to and later on, during the Battle of Hogwarts, Scorpius’s grandmother lied to Voldemort, saying I was dead; at that point she just wanted to know her son was all right. So it is possible somebody might blame the Malfoys for my survival and therefore Voldemort’s defeat.
Again, though, I want to repeat that I think it highly unlikely there’s a Death Eater at Hogwarts. What is more likely is that somebody might have a parent or other relative who was a Death Eater or even just supported Voldemort and they may have heard this relative criticising both the Malfoys and our family and decided to play a few pranks on our children.
I don’t like the idea of a young person being raised with those ideas, but I really don’t think the person is likely to be a serious threat, at least not at this stage.
And that is assuming this has anything to do with the Malfoys past. It’s quite possible it doesn’t and that it’s just a prank that went too far.
One thing I’ve learnt over my years as an Auror is never to make decisions before you’ve the full facts. I did it quite a few times during my years at Hogwarts and there were times when it ended quite badly. Keeping an open mind is usually the better option.
And on that note, I don’t want you taking any risks just because I said I doubt there is anybody dangerous at Hogwarts at the moment. I feel fairly sure of that. If they meant to harm you, they’ve had opportunities to do so. However “fairly sure” is not certainty and it’s better to be cautious.
As a Ravenclaw though, you should know that better than us Gryffindors.
Albus’s heart fell. Was his father saying he wasn’t brave because he didn’t get into Gryffindor?
He passed the letter to Rose.
“Do you think Dad thinks I’m a coward?”
“At the end of the letter, he makes a comment about me not being a Gryffindor.”
“Well, let me read it first, but I really doubt your dad would say you’re a coward.”
She skimmed the letter quickly and shook her head, laughing.
“Albus, being cautious isn’t a bad thing.”
“Isn’t it?” He didn’t think James would see it that way.
“Of course not. Your dad just said it was a good thing in the line above. He just meant Ravenclaws usually think things through, rather than rushing in and doing something stupid.”
“Do you think so?”
“I know so.” She sounded so certain he felt himself relax. “Now,” she continued, “I think we should talk to Scorpius.”
“What?” The sudden change of subject confused him. “Why should we do that?”
“He might be able to tell us some more about what happened to his broom. He might even have some idea who broke it.”
“Yeah, us,” he muttered. “That’s what he thinks.”
“Perhaps, but if he thinks about it, he might remember something more useful. It’s worth asking him anyway. We’ve nothing to lose.”
He wasn’t so sure about that. Scorpius was unlikely to be too anxious to talk to them and the last thing Albus wanted was another row. Rose wouldn’t care though, not if she thought there was a chance of learning something useful.
To his relief, however, finding an opportunity to talk to Scorpius wasn’t that easy. Practically they only times they saw him were in Potions classes or at meals, when there were too many other people around.
But Rose wasn’t prepared to give up that easily.
“We’ll corner him after lunch,” she said on Saturday morning. “If we sit where we can see him, we can follow him as soon as he gets up.”
“What if he won’t talk to us?” Albus protested weakly.
“Well, there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?”
Scorpius ate his lunch quickly, and got up to leave the Great Hall immediately, which surprised Albus. On Saturdays, most people sat around for a while, chatting with their classmates.
“Come on,” Rose said.
Reluctantly, he did as she said.
To his surprise, Scorpius seemed to be heading out of the castle. It was freezing cold and his broom was no longer out there, so what on earth was he doing?
They followed him to the Black Lake.
“Hey,” Rose called, as he stood there staring out across it.
Scorpius turned around somewhat warily.
“What do you want?” He didn’t sound particularly friendly.
If he’d been alone, Albus would have been tempted to say “nothing” and just leave, but he knew Rose wouldn’t let him do that.
“We just wanted to talk to you,” she said.
“Yeah, right,” Scorpius muttered.
“You know how somebody sent Albus Swelling Solution laced chocolates?”
He rolled his eyes. “I already told you, I didn’t do it, so if you’re going to start accusing me again, you can just save your breath.”
“I wasn’t going to. But there’ve been a lot of odds things happening recently, between that and the graffiti outside Slughorn’s office, remember? And then your broom. We – Albus and I – were wondering if it might all be connected and then Albus’s dad suggested that maybe somebody might hate both your families.”
“Everybody hates my family,” Scorpius said morosely.
Albus realised this was probably true. If the Death Eaters thought they’d betrayed them and the rest of the wizarding world mistrusted them because they’d been Death Eaters in the first place, they couldn’t have many friends. He suddenly felt pretty sorry for Scorpius.
“But anybody in particular?” Rose continued. “Especially anybody who might know about the Chamber of Secrets?”
“I don’t know. I’m not exactly keeping records. And what has the Chamber of Secrets got to do with anything ?”
“What do you know about it?” Rose asked.
Scorpius shrugged. “The same as most people, I suppose. There was some kind of beast there that attacked students here a couple of times. I think some girl was supposed to have died or something. I don’t see what it has to do with somebody breaking my broom.”
“Not with your broom, no, but when it was opened the second time, there was graffiti announcing it had been opened. My parents and Albus’s dad were the ones who found it, so it seems like somebody was trying to copy that by having us find this graffiti. Your dad would have been at school at the time.”
“So it might be somebody who knew all our parents back then. Somebody who’d a grudge against them for some reason.”
“I don’t know much about my dad’s schooldays. He doesn’t like to talk about them.”
“Lots of people don’t,” Rose said. “ What with the war and all. That’s what it all so difficult. Of course there are loads of books about the war and all, but they don’t tell us the kind of things we want to know. We don’t want dates of battles or lists of deaths. What we want to know is the personal stuff, who might still harbour a grudge twenty-five years later. And so many people don’t want to talk about it.” She sighed.
Scorpius paused for a moment, looking out over the lake.
“Well, if you think you can catch whoever broke my broom, I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. If I’d the slightest idea where to start, I’d have gone after them myself. They’ve got me in so much trouble.”
“Why?” Albus asked.
Scorpius grinned. “So you do speak? I thought you were going to just stand there in silence listening to us.”
“Rose is better at this stuff.”
“At what? Talking.”
“At knowing what to say to people. Are your parents going to be very angry?”
“Well, they won’t be pleased. My mum didn’t want me to bring it in the first place, but I begged my dad, promising him I’d take care of it and he backed me up. He’ll say I let him down now.” He sighed.
“It’s not your fault somebody else broke it.”
“They’ll say I shouldn’t have shown it to everyone, that I was just showing off.” He kicked a stone that was lying by the lakeside. “Do you really think you can find out who did it?”
Albus didn’t really. Every time they tried to find out anything, they hit a dead end.
“I think we have to at least try,” Rose said. “Otherwise everybody’s going to carry on suspecting and blaming each other and worrying whether it’s safe to take their eyes off their stuff for a moment. It can’t continue.”
Scorpius, however, didn’t seem to be able to shed any light on the subject.
“I don’t know any more than anybody else,” he said. “I last used it the day before. Abric wanted a ride on it, so we snuck down about nine pm and messed about on it for a while. Then I put it back where I’d been keeping it and the next I saw it was when Slughorn brought me down to Flitwick’s office.”
“Were you at the match?” Rose asked.
“Who knew you were going?”
He shrugged. “I didn’t tell anybody, but I guess anybody could have seen me going to the pitch.”
“I suppose so,” Rose said. “Especially if they made up their mind to find out.”
Scorpius started. “You think somebody was watching me?”
“You never know. If it is the same person who did the graffiti, they put a lot of thought into that.”
They talked a while longer but didn’t learn any more.
“I wish you luck,” Scorpius said as they parted. “With a bit of luck, they’ll be expelled.” He scowled.
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