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Chapter 21 : Real and Unreal
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The scent of old leather, dust and aged carpet made Albus's nose wrinkle and he found it a brief sanctuary to be in the library for a change. Even though he didn't spend a lot of time here, there was a certain calming effect about it that was even now, making his shoulders slump and his eyes droop with the need to sleep.
Scorpious was having a harder time of it and was resting his blonde head on a pillow Lavender had brought for him and he watched his friend drape a thin blanket (That had little hippogriffs on it) over his shoulders. “Poor thing,” she said while Albus grinned at her, “he's been grumpier than usual. I figure when he gets like that that means he's scared.”
Albus thought that that was a pretty truthful assessment but he was so used to their friend's moods that he barely paid them any attention. With what they had read in the Prophet the other day, he couldn't blame him, “Yeah, there's a lot of stuff going on right now that's got him stressed.”
And the Howlers that they had each gotten from their outraged mothers (And in Lavender's case, Madame Brown) about their upcoming punishment for trekking into the Forest, he didn't blame Scorpious for being upset.
“I really do hope that those things in the Prophet aren't true, you know, about another Death Eater group,” Lavender said as she sat back in her seat and started shuffling through her homework.
They had actually stepped into the library today to go over their plans for Halloween tomorrow night. Albus had liked the thought of looking back over their idea and making sure that there was nothing out of place and he hoped that Rose and Sue Corner arrived so they could get started. They were running a little late but his cousin had informed him after dinner that she had to mail her letter to her mum, asking about the wards in the Forest and he found that to be very important.
Albus shrugged a little, feeling stiff. “Its probably just some rumor that someone started. My mum told me that they do that sometimes at the Prophet so they can sell more papers,” but it had made him worry though when he had read through the newspaper again, feeling nothing but his stomach tightening.
Lavender frowned thoughtfully as she reached forward to grab a moldy book from the pile of books she'd brought. Albus recognized it as the one that Sue Corner and Rose had given her, that she'd checked out again and was now flipping through, “I have this really bad feeling about all that myself. I still find it far too convenient how the murders began right during the summer Scorpious would have come here and now all this talk about Death Eaters coming back? Its just too bizarre.”
“Are you saying that because of what he told us about his grandfather? You know, saying that he was a prince?” Albus asked uncomfortably as he slouched a little in his chair. Scorpious was sound asleep, his brows knitted together and he found it funny that he couldn't even find peace in his dreams, “I mean, what sort of nutter actually goes around believing that?”
Lavender was silent for a while as she flipped through the moldy book, every detail about monsters inked into its pages. “Someone desperate to believe in something, that's who.” Albus stared at her in surprise and she placed the book down, careful to keep her voice low, “think about it, Albus. You're used to having a high position in life for years and years, and suddenly, its all taken away once Voldemort is killed and new laws are brought in to make things fair for everyone.”
Albus had never really thought of that too much but he could see her point a little and nodded slightly. “But to actually go along and make up this story about your own grandson someday rising up to lead purebloods back into power is sort of crazy, even for someone like that, Lav,” he said to her.
“True, but I think there's more to it. I can't remember all that Scorpious told us about it that day we had flying lessons, thanks to Sally,” Lavender said with an eye roll and he laughed a little, earning a harsh whisper from the old librarian, Madame Pince, who was probably staring at them right now. He found that disturbing, “the whole things gives me the creeps.”
Albus could understand her there and he watched her looking back into the moldy book, flipping pages. “But with all that's going on, with the murders and the person taking down the wards...you don't think its all you know, connected or anything do you?” he had no idea why he was asking her but she was the smartest person he knew aside from Rose.
Lavender peeked up from her book, staring at him for the first time without blushing or stammering. There was an intensity in her eyes that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up a little, “I do, actually. I'm not sure why I do but I think the person taking down the wards is in this school,”
“What made you—”
“It would make sense wouldn't it? How else would you get the information you need on Death Eater kids than if you had access to it? I checked in some books and found out that Weasley was right about the Death Eaters and their families having to register with the Ministry and are on a list.” Lavender said seriously and Albus felt prickles dancing on his skin, even though he had figured that for a fact a long time ago.
Albus couldn't help but think that there were a lot more interesting things, most likely hidden at the Ministry of Magic. If the rumors were true, a lot of employees probably didn't appreciate them and were using the murders as an excuse to voice those opinions out loud. The thought made him slightly sick, “So what do you think about the people talking about Death Eaters coming back?”
Lavender shivered slightly and her brown eyes got a little wide. After shrugging it off, she tucked a lock of her black hair behind her ear, “I've been told stories about them and I've read A Revised Hogwarts a History and I'm hoping not, those people sounded just awful. It takes a lot to come in and kill a bunch of kids,” she paused for a moment while Albus agreed, feeling a flush of anger and sadness. “Then again, since its happening again, it does make you wonder.”
“I don't see why it would matter now though,” Albus said to her, thinking out loud. He knew from talking to his father and Uncle Ron that the Auror Department was much stricter, laws were tighter and the world was safer than it had been when they had been growing up.
Lavender looked up from her book again, glanced at Scorpious with a smile as he drooled on his pillow before saying to him. “Why not, though? What did Mr. Hagrid tell us about fear?” when Albus fumbled to say anything, she said with a grin. “He says it makes people do awful things but also helps whoever they're afraid of get more power,”
“Like Voldemort.” Albus said and she nodded. He couldn't help but wonder about that as he thought of all that was happening out there, “the person killing the kids...I don't think its a vampire, I mean, Rose and Corner were right about werewolves.”
Lavender nodded and tapped the moldy book with her finger. “And it says in here that vampires haven't been seen in Britain in a very long time and that even rogue vampires wouldn't risk leaving their evidence behind.” She looked a tad sickened by the words but continued, “werewolves eat flesh, like that ghastly Greyback did.”
Albus felt a flash of both revulsion and anger as he thought about that werewolf, knowing that Teddy Lupin's father had been bitten by him as a child. “Madame Brown was attacked by him though, wasn't she?”
“He didn't bite her, just pushed her over a balcony. She almost died,” Lavender supplied hastily, though Albus gave her a reassuring look, having never suspected the nurse at all. “Whatever that thing is, we'll figure it out. I just have this bad feeling about it all.”
Albus did too and he hadn't been able to shake it for the longest and even with the knowledge that he couldn't do anything about the kids out there made him ill. “I just don't get why its Death Eater kids though and how they're finding them.”
Lavender was silent for a second before saying. “They must have a list of the kids' addresses, the Ministry did make the families do that,” Albus nodded and watched as she frowned a little, looking as if her brain hurt, “but, I'm sure that Headmistress McGonagall and the teachers here have a similar list,”
Albus frowned at the words a little, not thinking it truly impossible and distracted himself by glancing at his unfinished Charms work from earlier in the week. Professor Flitwick was hinting at a quiz soon to prepare them for their future finals, “But why have a list on Death Eater kids here at Hogwarts, if that's true?”
Lavender sighed a little, as if she had thought about this herself for a long time and said eventually. “Well, maybe things haven't changed as much as people like to say here. I mean, Scorpious gets bullied all the time about his dad, you get bullied about your dad and I get teased because, well, people say that I'm just plain odd.”
“You're not odd, Lav, just really smart. People just don't know how to handle you, you're more than just an ordinary Gryffindor,” Albus said to her seriously and he watched her turn beet red. Scorpious grumbled in his sleep, “you'll figure this all out before anyone else does.”
Lavender shook her head at his praise, still blushing wildly. “I-I think for now, if we can figure out who's taking down the wards and what Zabini might be up to—I have this feeling that we're so wrong of course,” Albus rolled his eyes, “we might be able to figure this entire thing out.”
“Are you two done confessing your undying love for one another?” Scorpious grumbled as he suddenly woke up, startling them both. Albus frowned at him as he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and tried to wipe it on Lavender's sleeve, “and I'm not a prince.”
Lavender shot him a look as he continued to try and wipe his drool on her and eventually swatted at his hand. “Neither of us think you are but why does your grandfather think its true?” she asked, swatting at him again.
Scorpious gave up on her and stretched, the blanket falling onto the floor and collecting in a little heap. Albus thought he had gotten a bit paler but it might have had something to do with Rose and Sue Corner walking in and spotting them, “Hags,” he said to himself before answering Lavender. “My dad didn't kill the headmaster when he was supposed to and Voldemort told him and my grandparents that if he had a son later in life that I'd have to take his place as his servant. He must have come up with all that prince stuff during that time too, I dunno.”
“But...was there a spell or a curse or something? You're not bound to this!” Albus said, looking horror struck. Lavender looked ill, “that was years and years ago and Dumbledore did die, I mean, I know from what my dad said that it was planned but...your dad couldn't have killed anyone.”
Scorpious looked sour but he took his opportunity to talk freely to them while Rose and Sue Corner stopped and began talking animatedly to Madame Pince at the front desk. “I know he couldn't and wouldn't have. I don't really know too much about it myself, my dad just told me not to pay my granddad any attention when he and his friends start babbling...but it never makes me feel good.” He said miserably.
Albus thought that having a bunch of old, creepy former Death Eater's telling you were a prince would be more than depressing. Which made it even more painful that he couldn't take either of his friends to his home for Christmas to take their minds off things, hating that they would be stuck at Hogwarts. “But its not like its going to happen or anything, we're right here for you. And anyway, everyone knows you're too mean to be a prince anyway,” he said to Scorpious.
“Thanks prat!” his moody blonde friend snapped, though he was grinning.
Lavender asked curiously. “But wouldn't your older brother be the one being called a prince since he's older than you?” she had made a good point.
Scorpious's grin faded and he said grumpily. “Not really cause he's not really a Malfoy. He's just a prat,” he said, reaching over to snatch Lavender's book and dangle it over her head. She frowned at him, “and anyway, we've got to meet him in a few so let's go over this plan one more time for tomorrow and get up to the Astronomy Tower.”
“You sound awfully sure of yourself Malfoy,” Rose said as she walked over with Sue Corner. Albus shot her a warning look, “but we have to pretend to go back to our common rooms until we're supposed to meet your brother, remember?”
Scorpious glared at her and Sue Corner made herself nice and comfortable beside Albus, making him recoil. “I know that, Weasley. Don't take your anger out on me just because you're not a Gryffindor and couldn't celebrate Lav's amazing Quidditch game in the common room with us last week.”
The Hufflepuff and Gryffindor Quidditch match had been a very good one, though Albus and Scorpious hadn't been allowed to go. Their punishment for going into the Forest excluded them from watching the games of course, he thought miserably, “Oh, shut up you prat! Gryffindor lost!” Rose huffed angrily, not even sparing Lavender a glance as she said this smugly.
“By five bloody points!” Scorpious spat back at her.
Lavender nodded happily, looking embarrassed. “Elliot (He still acted like they weren't related, Albus had noted annoyingly) even hugged me and my mum sent me some candy and I got all these letters from my sisters for a change.” She'd been very happy that next day and Albus gave her a proud smile, “but Hufflepuff was a hard team to beat!”
Sue Corner snorted a little as she took some things from her bag, most of them being parchment and quills. Apparently she was going to write down everything that they said tonight and Albus rolled his eyes, “That Roxanne Weasley is a strong Beater.”
“I bet she is,” Scorpious murmured huskily.
Rose glared at him angrily. “Well, I don't see why you should be getting all happy when none of us can go to a Quidditch game or be on the team until third year.” That made Scorpious pale, but his grey eyes narrowed to slits at her, “and we can't go home for the holidays and have to help Filch during that time and thanks to you three, no Halloween Feast!” she said angrily.
“Oh, Weasley get over yourself. You make it sound like me, Albus and Corner got that Sorting Hat ourselves!” Scorpious snarled at her angrily. Lavender shushed him and he shot her a venomous look and she sighed, reaching into her robes for something as he said to Rose, “and we came up with another plan for tomorrow night and if you hadn't been late, we could have got to it sooner!”
Rose appeared as if she might explode and Sue Corner and Albus leaned away from her warily. It brought the girl uncomfortably closer to him and he shrugged her off, unsettled, “Shut up, Malfoy. If you three had been smarter, we wouldn't have had to make another plan!”
Before Scorpious could say anything to this, Lavender pulled out a perfectly ordinary bit of toffee, unwrapped it and stuffed it into his open mouth. Gagging a little, he quickly started chewing it, “Be quiet, both of you. For Merlin's sake, why don't you go and have babies already?” she snapped while stuffing one in Rose's mouth too as she gawped at her.
Albus roared with laughter.
Sue Corner blanched.
“Would you mind being quiet?!” someone snarled just then and the group turned to see that it was Louis the Prefect. Albus hadn't interacted with him much over the last few days and was now glaring at them from around an aisle of books. He wondered how long he had been there and what he had heard, “some of us have OWLs to study for!”
Albus narrowed his eyes on him annoyingly. “You're not helping much, yelling at us you know.” He snapped and the older boy narrowed his eyes on him too, looking a little high strung, “go away, we'll be quiet next time.”
Louis shot them all a threatening look but quickly walked off when Sue Corner looked like she was about to say something. When he was gone, the girl said, “Git,”
Rose's mouth was too full of delicious toffee to reply but she nodded, looking a tad guilty. Albus gave her an exasperated look before asking Lavender if he could have a sweet too, “You could have killed me Patil!” she hissed at her once she'd swallowed.
“Well, it would have kept you quiet, wouldn't it? I am sick to death of you and Scorpious hissing and yelling at each other so much. We have a job to do and before we meet Benjamin Malfoy, we need to get it together,” Lavender said firmly, real anger flashing in her eyes and making Albus nearly choke on his own toffee.
Rose looked flabbergasted by the words, her face turning pink before she nodded, folding her arms in front of her. Scorpious was still gnawing furiously on his toffee but shot her a vicious look, “You're right. In other news, I mailed off my letter to my mum asking about the wards in the Forest and she should get back to me soon,”
Lavender was all smiles and dreamy eyes now and Albus thought that she could prove to be the worst person to have as an enemy. “That's good, I hope she writes back to you soon.” Albus said to her after swallowing his toffee and watching Sue Corner eye Lavender warily, “but now that we're all here, we need to go over our plan one last time for tomorrow, I have to borrow a lot of trick sweets from James to pull this off so we'd all better remember our roles.”
Sue Corner and Rose looked suddenly very intense and leaned forward, Lavender finding and Scorpious doing the same. As Albus went into detailing, explaining and tweaking their plan for Halloween night, he couldn't help but notice that they were only five eleven year old children in a very big, dark world.
Albus had never really seen Scorpious this nervous before as the two of them huddled a few feet from the portrait hole in the empty common room. The fire had gone down to flickering red embers and the house-elves had already cleaned up the mess James and Mason had made when they'd decided to have a food fight, “What's the matter with you?” Albus asked Scorpious, watching him pacing.
With his Cloak draped over his arm, Albus was feeling quite excited about finally meeting the mysterious Benjamin Malfoy. Scorpious on the other hand was appearing sweaty, grumpier (If there was such a thing) than he had been for the past few days and jumpy. Irritably, he turned his face to his, frowning, “What do you mean? Nothing's the matter.”
“You look jumpy.” Albus clarified.
Scorpious shrugged, ceasing his pacing and staring at him warily, as if he thought Albus might laugh at him. When it became clear that he wouldn't, he said, “I just haven't seen Ben in a while, that's all.”
“Why not?” Albus asked curiously.
Scorpious ran his fingers through his blonde hair. “Cause he's never home, he works a lot. He's going to move out soon and doesn't want to stay at the house with our dad—he doesn't like our step-mum, but not because she's Muggle-born or anything like that,” he said to Albus hastily.
More mystery around the Malfoy home then, Albus decided. He remembered that Scorpious's parents were divorced and that his dad had married again but he hadn't heard how Benjamin felt about that until now, “Do he and your dad fight a lot or something?”
“Yeah, whenever he comes home. Not really about anything but just cause Ben's so wild you know? He does stupid things and says stupid things. I can't stand it when he makes Dad upset and gets Emily to fawning all over him,” Scorpious said angrily, kicking at the floor.
If Albus dared to say it, he would ask if he were jealous. Sometimes he felt tad of envy for James, who was a lot more popular and funny than he'd ever be and their sister, who could be just entirely happy and sweet for no reason at all, “So is he a prat to your mum and grandparents and stuff too?”
Scorpious looked deadly ill as he turned to face him. “If only. He's all sweet and nice with Mum and them. They love him, not like its such a big deal that he's all tall and good-looking and was Quidditch Captain and is dating my future wife—is she going to show up tonight? She promised me she would.” He said suddenly to him, making Albus laugh.
Roxanne had stopped by earlier tonight to see the three of them (Lavender had been especially happy to see her and they'd talked Quidditch for a while) and to tell James that he would be staying with her for the summer. While his brother had appeared quite happy and had bullied her into letting Mason come too, she'd pulled Scorpious aside and whispered something in his ear.
Apparently she'd been telling him that she would come see him, even though Albus had already figured. “Yeah, I'm sure. I mean, she said she would that night we stole my Cloak back from Zabini.”
“Fine, but she'd better still let me write to her over the summer like she promised.” Scorpious said, looking lovestruck. Albus wasn't so sure about his everlasting love for his cousin, “she's so cool, I don't see why she likes Benjamin and his creepiness.”
Albus snorted. “He can't be that bad.”
Scorpious rolled his eyes. “Of course he is.”
Lavender's voice suddenly came from behind them. “I'm really excited to meet your brother, but I hope he isn't as mean as you.” She said, her own Cloak hanging over her arm when they turned to look at her, “what does he do since he graduated?”
Scorpious frowned and waited until they were standing together before pinching her face in his hands. Albus sighed wearily, “He works at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures cause he likes animals and stuff,”
“Stop that, would you?” Albus snapped, smacking him away from her.
While Lavender rubbed her cheeks and Scorpious folded his arms, looking antsy and moody, they detected a certain scent. It was horrible, not nearly as terrible as the Wolfsbane that Zabini was brewing down in the Potions room, but nearly as bad in Albus's opinion, “They always use too much!” he snapped.
The three of them walked over to the portrait hole and opened it, Rose and Sue Corner climbing in and making the Fat Lady grumble. “Sorry that we're late!” his cousin said to them, huffing a little, “the girls in our dorm were up talking about what they thought—well, it doesn't matter,” she said hastily, blushing.
“Talking about what they thought boys looked like naked?” Lavender asked curiously, looking all dreamy and doe-eyed. Albus and Scorpious blushed a little, though his friend appeared as if he wouldn't mind revealing this information, “Sally was talking about that last night, it got awfully boring.”
Sue Corner stared at her weirdly. “You all talk about that stuff too?”
“Of course, well, I have five sisters so I hear that sort of thing all the time, though I don't really get all of what they talk about.” Lavender said happily, while Rose just blushed and looked down at her feet. “I used to think that babies came from burying a Snitch in the back garden and wishing on a star,”
Scorpious said dryly. “Well, a snitch is involved just not in the way you think.”
Albus snorted with laughter but Rose shot him a dark look and he coughed into his fist, trying to appear big and grown up. “Should we uhm, go now? Corner, Rose, you're under Lavender's Cloak,” he said hastily.
Sue Corner was eyeing Scorpious in revulsion but when Lavender handed over her Cloak reluctantly to Rose, she didn't make much of a fuss. While the girls got themselves situated, Albus and his friends slipped under his Cloak, a burst of happiness going into his chest.
Since getting it back, he hadn't been able to stop smiling and felt that his Grandpa James was proud of him for, not only breaking the rules but for getting the family heirloom back. “So who told you where babies come from?” Albus found himself asking Scorpious.
Rose held out her hand. “Here, Albus, take my hand.”
“Okay,” Albus said with a sigh, clasping it.
Scorpious answered him after linking arms with Lavender and blowing in her ear for something to do. She pinched his nose threateningly and only let him go when he turned a little blue, “That hurts you know!” he snapped at her.
“Well? Who told you?” Albus pressed.
After glowering at Lavender, who ignored him, Scorpious said simply. “Benjamin did.” Albus had a feeling that he had told him not only what his parents had embarrassingly told him (It had been a very awkward day), but lots of other things, “I don't know why you'd want to kiss a girl there but he said I'll figure it out eventually.”
“What was your brother teaching you?” Lavender asked in alarm.
Albus didn't really get it but Rose was tugging them out of the portrait hole and they were all hopping, cursing and stumbling out of the common room. The Fat Lady hissed at them as they landed outside and started walking off, “And don't think I'll be awake when you all get back! I should get the Headmistress on you all—now I've lost my bloody page,” she said angrily.
“What was she talking about?” Lavender asked curiously.
Sue Corner supplied helpfully, sounding devilish. “I gave her a romance novel that I stole from an older girl to read a while back to keep her distracted. If she tattles on us, I won't give her anymore.” Albus found that awfully crafty of her, “its got a lot of stuff about men with hairy chests in it so I suppose she likes it.”
They walked for a while in silence as Albus tried to imagine himself with chest hair and if he'd ever figure out what kissing a girl there would ever mean. Aside from Peeves bustling by singing a lovely song about Roxanne (In a pair of frilly white panties of course) , they didn't really see anything odd and were able to maneuver with each other easily enough.
“Do you think your brother showed up , Malfoy?” Rose asked after they'd gone up a few stairs, the Astronomy Tower one of Albus's least favorite places to go. It was always drafty and he could never figure out which star belonged to what, “I hope we didn't miss him.”
Scorpious rolled his eyes a little and said to her invisible self. “I'm sure the prat showed up since Roxanne is going to come too. I bet he's going to rub that in my face and I have to say I'm sorry too or he won't tell us where Zabini's room is or anything,” he grumbled.
At the thought of the man, Albus could only shudder. Though he couldn't prove it and hadn't been able to say that they had stolen his Cloak back from him, his suspicion made him very uncomfortable. He had felt Zabini's distaste for the three of them every time they'd gone into the Potions room these past few days and the rotting smell of Wolfsbane didn't help.
There was the occasional strange scratching noises in the walls though (The girls feared there were rats) that were a little distracting. But it hadn't helped Albus and his poisons or tonics and he knew that he was failing horribly.
“Why do you have to apologize to him?” Lavender questioned.
“Cause I said some mean stuff to him before I got on the train,” Scorpious said angrily, flushing a bit pink. Albus wondered what he had said but could only imagine the filth that had flown from his mouth, “that's why he hasn't written me or anything, he's been real mad at me and our sister said I was a git in more than one letter.”
Rose snorted with laughter and Sue Corner added. “She wouldn't be lying.”
Scorpious snarled. “Shut up!”
Albus shushed him as they continued down the corridor, walking the long distance towards the Astronomy Tower. It took a long time and there were a lot of stairs and he wasn't sure he wanted to be here long, there was always something so spooky about Hogwarts at night.
“Anyway, so you say you're sorry, he tells us where Zabini's room is and maybe even a password and we're on our way.” Albus said with a shrug.
“Yeah...but Benjamin won't make it easy cause he's such a prat,” Scorpious grumbled as they walked, falling silent afterward. They were nearing their destination when a figure heading towards them caused the group to stop, “Prefect,” his moody blonde friend hissed.
Indeed it was and Albus found it very irritating to see Louis once again, looking smug and pleased with himself. He was holding a few pieces of parchment in his hands and there was a glimmer in his eye, “Prat,” Albus muttered under his breath.
Louis turned and halted, as if he had heard him and Lavender shot him a glare that made him feel like the dumbest person. Rose's hand in his felt clammy and he squeezed it reassuringly, “Someone there? Blasted Potter and Finnigan probably. I'll show them,” he said to himself, stuffing the parchment into his robes and strutting off down the corridor.
Albus rolled his eyes. “Come on, forget about him.” He said once he was sure that he wasn't coming back and the group continued on their way, “he really gets on my nerves, he's so sure of himself.”
“Yeah, but he's pretty smart.” Rose said defensively.
Scorpious sneered. “In love with him, Weasley?”
Rose's hand tightened on Albus's and he winced. “Of course not but who do you think gave me and Sue the password into Headmistress McGonagall's office?” he had never asked her so he found this big news. The Misfits exchanged a look, “me and Sue caught him coming out of there and asked him what he was doing and he didn't say.”
“And how'd he wind up giving you the password?” Albus demanded.
Rose sighed wearily, sounding embarrassed. “Well, me and Sue kept asking and he said that it was Prefect business, that McGonagall had wanted to speak with him. The Headmistress did show up a few minutes later and told us not to be bothering him, so I guess he wasn't lying.” She said with a sigh.
“Yeah, and how'd you get the password then?” Scorpious asked impatiently.
Sue said importantly. “We know a secret about Louis that he doesn't want anyone to know, Headmistress McGonagall said something to him that we overheard and he got really upset. We told him we wouldn't say anything, after she was gone, if he gave us the password to the office and he did.”
Albus thought that that was rather strange, he didn't think Louis was the type to have secrets. He seemed to put his nose in everyone else's, “So what was it? Louis's secret that you know?”
“We can't tell you, Potter. Its a void of contract,” Sue said haughtily, sounding as if she took pride in this sort of thing. “My dad is a lawyer, he tells me never to break deals with your important clients.”
Scorpious snorted. “Well, my dad is Head of that department, Corner, so you can tell me!” he said angrily, Albus picking up on this with interest. He couldn't quite picture Mr. Malfoy as a lawyer, “he likes being able to push more laws to treat Muggle-born's better you know.”
“That doesn't make you special,” Sue spat at him, sounding annoyed.
Rose sounded interested in this turn of conversation, even though Albus was still wondering what Louis could be hiding. It had to be something important if the Headmistress had wanted to speak to him about it but he couldn't come up with anything that would demand her attention. Unless there was a shortage of parchment, “My mum never mentioned that your dad was Head of the Department, Malfoy.”
“How is that my problem? My dad might not be the greatest, but he's not a completely bad person like everyone says.” Scorpious shot back defensively.
Rose sounded as if she were embarrassed. “I never said—”
Scorpious interrupted sourly. “But you have said it, just like everyone else and I'm tired of it. My dad was a Death Eater, true, but that doesn't make me, my brother or my sister one either,” he said and Albus sent him a worried glance. There was an almost wild look to his face, “...I'm not bad.”
There was an awkward silence after this and Lavender broke it by saying softly to him, looking as happy and dreamy as ever. “Of course you're not bad, Scorpious and me and Albus know that better than anyone. You're super brave and super clever,”
“She's right you know. Its get eaten together or not at all,” Albus said with a glance at him, watching his friend's face turning a bit pink.
Rose and Sue muttered to themselves.
Scorpious, blushing slightly, said stiffly. “Shut up, I know all that but I don't want to get eaten either. I'm pretty sure I don't taste that good,” he said and Albus was quite sure that he was right, as he was sure that he wouldn't be that succulent either.
“I hope you don't mind us using your Cloak, Patil.” Rose said hastily, desperate to change the topic and making Albus frown. He wished the two of them would get along better but that was like wishing Zabini would start doing the tango with Professor Longbottom, “your sister, Nora, uses it doesn't she? I heard her talking to some of her friends.”
Lavender spluttered and Scorpious roared with laughter. Nora Patil was also the same sister that liked swimming naked in the Black Lake if Albus remembered correctly and he grinned, “She talks to her friends about swimming naked in the Black Lake?” she cried, aghast.
Rose laughed, sounding sort of pitying, making Albus frown. The feel of her hand in his was a little sweaty and he thought that Scorpious talking about his family must have really bothered her. Some part of him thought it suited her right, “I just overheard her talking to them, I'm not sure, Patil.”
Albus felt very sorry for Lavender and she blushed, glaring at Scorpious as he snorted with more laughter. “So about Louis, you don't think he'll mention to any of the teachers about your arrangement or anything, do you?” he asked, still worried about this.
“Not really, I thought I'd mention it when we saw him in the library but didn't bother. He's awfully tense as it is,” Sue Corner said with what he could figure was an unconcerned shrug.
Rose sounded just as confident, which was always a bad sign. “It was nice of him to give us the password—James and Mason shouldn't pick on him so much, he's really not all that bad from what I can see. He's studying for his OWLs!”
“Well, he's a prat too you know.” Albus said dismissively as they finally ventured towards the Astronomy Tower, his legs aching from all the stairs they'd climbed.
Rose pointed out dryly. “So's James,”
Albus couldn't deny this and had nothing witty to say as they stepped into the Astronomy Tower, a cool wind blowing from all around. There was a lantern lit, pooling orange light onto the wooden floors but the moonlight dominated the entire space, covering everything in a silvery sheen.
It was very beautiful but he saw no sign that there was another human presence in the room, though the back of his neck was tingling a little in the saw way it did when there was a monster in the room. “I don't see your brother anywhere, Malfoy,” Rose was saying as they huddled uncertainly in the center of the giant space, taking in the old and new stone around them.
There had been a lot of damage done to the Astronomy Tower during the Battle of Hogwarts from what Albus's father had told him. He, Uncle Ron and Bill had come back to rebuild it, Uncle George not allowing himself to return for issues he didn't really understand but he found the atmosphere depressing.
Although he knew it wherever he went, Albus had never been able to shake the unsettling and very sad thought that no matter where he walked, someone had died in the corridor, out on the grounds. The Astronomy Tower wasn't his favorite place, not only for those reasons but because he always found himself looking out towards the Forbidden Forest.
Even now, he had to fight the urge to drag his two friends to the edge and look across the expanse of the grounds just to stare at those eerie, skeletal trees. Since Kane had led him out and he'd seen the horrible things that happened there, Albus hadn't been able to glance at the expanse of trees without shivering.
“The prat had better be here, lumos,” Scorpious muttered from underneath the Cloak, his wand suddenly throwing off silvery light. Albus and Lavender winced from the brightness of it before following suit, their friend shoving his under the Cloak to look around “the prat's here, there's his broom over there,” he said.
Albus and Lavender turned to see that there was a broomstick, a very fancy one, resting casually against a wall. But he couldn't see anyone around, there was only moonlight and shadows, “Maybe something came up—”
The words were barely out of his mouth when there was a noise a few feet from them, the shifting of heavy boots on wood. It made Rose and Sue Corner jump and Albus winced as his cousin's grip on his fingers tightened painfully, “For a moment I didn't think you'd show up, Scorpy.” A very deep voice said and Albus looked around in confusion, trying to pinpoint where it was coming from.
Eventually, he was able to see a tall, blurred shape resting against a wall to their left, nearly blended completely into the shadows. Lavender let out a strange sound, although Scorpious sounded vastly annoyed as he snapped, “Come out into the light, git! Mum told you to stop hiding in the dark like that!”
Albus opened his mouth to question that but there was a deep, annoyed sort of sigh that reminded him of Satan purring. It caused him to recoil slightly but didn't stop the figure from moving into the splash of moonlight, heavy boots clunking and clunking like stone against bone.
“Honestly, Scorpy, its not my fault that you're afraid of the dark.” Benjamin Malfoy said as he came into view, observing them all from eyes that were neither brown or blue, but some strange mixture of the two.
Albus was certain that what he was looking at would never have come close to how he'd envisioned Scorpious's older brother. Benjamin Malfoy was big and tall, sporting braided black hair that shifted as he walked, reminding Albus of a poisonous snake.
There was a scar above one of his eyebrows was the only slight imperfection of his face that Albus was annoyed to note was pretty good-looking. Not that he would be an expert on these things.
Scorpious was sounding furious as he suddenly ducked from underneath the Cloak, causing Lavender to stumble a bit as their linked arms tangled.“I'm not afraid of the dark anymore! And stop calling me Scorpy, I'm not five!” he snapped while trying to free himself from Lavender, “you're such a git!”
“Well, that's not nice.” Benjamin said to his brother, tilting his head a little while Albus tried to take him in a bit more. “And you'll always be ickle wickle Scorpy to me, brat, I still look at your naked baby pictures.”
Scorpious's entire face turned beet red and Albus snorted with laughter. “Y-you better not be looking at those!” he cried furiously. Benjamin grinned at him, looking suddenly more approachable, “I'll tell mum what I caught you talking about with your friends if you do!”
Benjamin's eyes narrowed and he looked very unnerved. Albus figured that their mother, Mrs. Malfoy was a no-nonsense sort of parent, “You wouldn't. And who told you to be listening to that conversation anyway?”
“I was passing by!” Scorpious cried angrily, Albus snickering. “I don't even know what all that meant! I mean, I still don't get why you'd want to kiss a girl there,” he said, sounding more upset that he didn't.
Benjamin grinned wider and Albus thought he heard Rose or Sue Corner sigh dreamily. “You'll figure it out when you're older. Where are your little friends at anyway? I know I heard voices other than yours.” He said, looking around and making Rose swallow hard.
“You're freaking them out!” Scorpious spat.
It was true.
There was a weird sort of energy about Benjamin, like he was waiting on either laughing, attacking or chasing them. “You should be a little nicer to me, I came all this way to see you, brat.”
Scorpious fumed. “Shut up!”
Albus, feeling that it would do little good to hide anymore, lifted the Cloak from over his head. Lavender did the same and he stuffed it into his robes, his hand still held tightly by Rose's, “Uh, hi. I'm Albus,” he said to the boy.
“Oh, there you are.” Benjamin said with a swift grin as he took in his untidy black hair and green eyes. Albus frowned, knowing what was coming but instead, the older boy said with a laugh, “you look intense. Relax kid, I've already eaten my fair share of plump maidens.”
Albus snorted with laughter.
Scorpious rolled his eyes. “Think you're so cool,” he muttered.
Lavender appeared more and more curious as she stared at Benjamin, who had flicked his eyes to her with interest. It was a slightly creepy thing, the way he appeared not to blink but Albus supposed that it could be a trick of the moonlight, “How come you have your hair so long? Do you braid it yourself?” she asked the boy.
“I feel more manly with it long but mostly because it looks cool. Sometimes my girlfriend owes me a special favor and braids it for me.” Benjamin said to her with an amused smile. Albus supposed he was the only one that caught the weird way he'd said that, “who're you? Scorpy's girlfriend?”
Scorpious spluttered, turning beet red. “N-no!”
Lavender ignored him and said, blushing slightly. “I'm Lavender Patil, I've got five sisters. I'm the youngest.” She informed with a shrug, her voice as dry as paint.
Albus smirked at the expression on her face and Benjamin wagged his finger at her, as if trying to place something. “Your older sister is Miranda right?” Lavender nodded, looking bored already. Albus laughed, “I went to school with her, she talked too much.”
“She still does,” Lavender said with an exasperated eye roll.
Benjamin turned his attention to his blushing brother with a smile. It made him look ten times nicer and Albus relaxed, “She's pretty cute, Scorpy (Albus was sure that he heard Sue Corner snort). You sure she's not your girlfriend? Or is Potter more your type?”
Albus gawped in denial at the words, saying. “I am not!” at the same time Scorpious said confidently, “Of course he is.” And Benjamin roared with laughter, the sound deep and thick, like smoke.
“What's that supposed to mean, prat?” Albus cried, punching Scorpious in the arm furiously. Lavender giggled, Rose and Sue Corner stirring restlessly, “do you know what that sounds like?”
Scorpious glared at him, rubbing at his arm. Lavender continued to giggle and he frowned, reaching over and smashing her face in his hands while Benjamin continued to laugh, very amused by the three of them, “Shut up, Lav!” he commanded. It only made her giggle harder though and he said to Albus, “you have to play along with Ben or he won't leave you alone, okay?”
Albus rolled his eyes, though he had a feeling that he was telling the truth. While he tried to come up with something to say, he felt his cousin's hand gripping his and realized that he'd nearly forgotten about her, “Rose, erm, you can let me go now.”
“Uhm, r-right,” Rose said weakly while revealing herself and placing Lavender's Cloak over her arm. Sue Corner went stiff and at the sight of Benjamin, his cousin turned beet red and Albus's hand was released as she smoothed over her rumpled robes, “erm...”
Scorpious rolled his eyes, briefly turning his attention from Lavender. He was still smashing her face though and Albus smacked him away from her, “Stop that already!” he cried.
“You're an odd trio aren't you? Not what I was imagining at all.” Benjamin said curiously, looking truly surprised. Scorpious turned his nose up at him and he snorted with laughter, “brat, you should consider yourself lucky.” There was something wistful in his tone that made Albus wonder what he meant by that.
Scorpious was curious as well. “What do you mean, prat?”
Benjamin ignored him, turning his attention to a gawping Rose and Sue Corner blanched when he roamed his eyes over them, looking very confused by their sudden appearance. “Who are you?” he asked curiously to the girls, “Scorpy didn't mention in his letter more than these two over here,” he said, pointing at Albus and Lavender.
Rose spluttered a little, blushing wildly. Albus wasn't sure why she was so embarrassed really, “We...I'm Albus's cousin, Rose Weasley and this is my friend Su...Sue Corner.” She fumbled nervously as the older boy's lips turned up with interest.
“Really, now?” Benjamin asked curiously as he suddenly walked over to them, bathed in moonlight and looking as if he ate unicorns for breakfast. Albus watched as the boy stopped near Scorpious, reached out and gave him a rough pat on the head, making him scowl, “I never thought I'd see my brother with a Weasley.”
Rose huffed and folded her arms a little while Sue Corner continued to gawp at him, looking oddly entranced. Albus felt ghastly ill, “We're not friends.”
“She wishes!” Scorpious muttered. Lavender appeared amused as Benjamin started pinching his cheek and then smashing his pale face together. “Shtap tshat!” he cried.
Albus thought it was only fair when he was constantly bullying Lavender and Benjamin grinned evilly. “Ickle Wickle Scorpy! Look at you all big and grown up!” he said while his brother squirmed, trying to escape him. Albus wanted to tell him that it would be useless when he knew from experience from being bullied by Freddie and Teddy Lupin (And sometimes Uncle George) that it was useless to fight.
“Shuwp up!” Scorpious growled in a panic as Benjamin roared with laughter, grinning impishly. Albus watched his friend turn red with embarrassment, Lavender laughing, “qwuit it—stell Mum on yeou!” he threatened.
Benjamin appeared to be having too much fun torturing his brother and Albus figured that they weren't nearly as distant as Scorpious had made it sound. After nearly making him cry, he released him, “You're looking pretty decent. And you've gotten taller, have you been bathing naked in moonlight like I told you?”
Rose and Sue Corner blushed.
Lavender glanced at Benjamin warily. “Does that really work then?”
Benjamin shot her a wink (Albus heard Sue Corner sigh). “Of course it does,” he said, lying through his teeth and making him shake his head. Scorpious appeared quite pleased though that his brother had noticed and started poking his chest out, “this brat might eventually get as tall as me.”
Scorpious smacked his hand from his head, giving him a challenging look. It only made his brother grin down at him in amusement, “I'll get taller!” he declared, raising his fist up and shaking it at him, “I'll show you, Ben!”
“Sure...” Benjamin said doubtfully, looking as if he were trying not to laugh and while Scorpious fumed at his obvious disbelief, his brother asked suddenly. “So what are you little dorks up to anyway? Scorpy told me you all needed to know where Zabini's room was.”
Albus felt his shoulders sag a little as they suddenly got down to business, wondering how he had been able to forget in the first place. After exchanging a look with the others, he explained, watching as Scorpious latched himself to his brother's side and stared up at him with pure adoration, “Yeah, well, its sort of a long story.”
Benjamin raised his black brows. “Give me the short version, Potter.”
“Albus, and okay.” Albus corrected before spending a few minutes giving up what they had started to suspect about the Potions master. Benjamin, to his credit didn't immediately burst out laughing or tell him to stop, though his eyes had narrowed a little with speculation, “...and he's got the Wolfsbane in the Potions room now and tomorrow is Halloween.”
There was a long pause after the words and Benjamin stared at the five of them, resting his hand on Scorpious's head. Worry worked into his brow and he asked Albus warily, “You ever heard of staying out of people's business, Potter? Saying that someone is in league with a murderer is stretching it and I know what you mean, Zabini is an awfully weird bloke but you should be careful about throwing blame,” he warned and Albus felt as if he'd been smacked properly in the face.
Rose took up for him while Lavender's face creased in thought, taking Benjamin's words and logging them in for later. Sue Corner and Scorpious were frowning in disbelief, looking eerily similar, “But...but that's why we need to know! I mean, there's just too many coincidences!”
Benjamin held up his hand to stop her from saying much more and he suddenly looked less like a teasing brother and more like a stern adult. Albus felt himself flushing guiltily in the same way he would have if it had been any of his relatives, “Listen, Weasley, you're not getting the point. You're putting not only yourself in danger but my brother and his friends and no matter what you think, is it really worth risking everything for?”
Rose flushed an ugly red and shot Albus a glance before looking back up at the boy, having to crane her neck a tad. “We're doing it for the kids, its so wrong what's happening out there and we want answers. The Ministry isn't giving them and I think we deserve to know.”
Benjamin shook his head wearily, as if he had never heard something so ridiculous before and Albus saw their chances starting to fade. It wasn't surprising that he had reservations but he had felt that lying to him would have been wrong, he had had enough of lies for a while, “I'm sorry but I'm not risking my brother's life or any of yours on a whim.”
“But its not a whim! There's Wolfsbane in the Potions rooms, you can smell it, its like...I don't know, the worst fart you've ever smelt!” Albus cried desperately and Benjamin, though he tried not to, roared with laughter. The others shot him a look and he coughed into his fist, “we just want to know the truth. And those kids out there that have been killed, they deserve justice.”
There was a flickering of indecision in Benjamin's strange colored eyes and Albus felt himself swallowing hard. It felt as if he had swallowed a rock before the older boy finally spoke, his deep voice grave and serious, “I know that Zabini looks like the type to eat cute little kids like you but let's just say you get the answers you want—have you ever even thought about what you might find?” he demanded and the children shook their heads.
“Well, uhm....not really.” Albus said stupidly for the entire group.
Benjamin groaned in exasperation and Scorpious glared up at him and moved away as if he couldn't believe his nerve. When his brother spoke again, he sounded incredulously amused, “Give me one reason why I should even consider doing this.”
“But you said that you would, prat!” Scorpious reminded furiously. “You can't go back on your word now, that would make you nothing but a liar!”
Benjamin shot him a glare that caused him to step back but he forced a smile onto his face, even though Albus could still feel the pule of his anger. “I came here to see you, to be honest, brat.”
Scorpious frowned. “Then what about Zabini's room? Did you lie about that too, git?” he demanded, looking as if he would punch him.
Albus didn't think it would hurt very much but Benjamin heaved a weary sort of sigh that made him wonder if that was how devils purred. “I know where Zabini's room is, I even know the password because of the lump but how do you think I'd feel if something happened to you?”the older boy asked.
Scorpious glared at him viciously and kicked at the floor, Albus sensing that his anger was about to pop. Before it could however, Albus said to Benjamin seriously, knowing that his fists were clenched, “We're doing this for Scorpious. Its already hard enough going to school but I don't want to keep worrying about him not being around with I graduate, he or Lavender.”
“What about your cousin?” Benjamin asked dryly.
Albus flushed and Rose glared at him, looking hurt and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders comfortingly. After she was appearing more at ease, he said to Benjamin honestly, not knowing where the words were coming from, “This started out with me, Lavender and Scorpious and it'll end with the three of us, my cousin and her friend are helping us out.”
“Hunh. You've been busy then, brat,” Benjamin said dryly.
Albus ignored him and the dark look Scorpious shot him to say heavily, hoping that he would get the help that they needed. “To be honest, I don't want anyone to be hurt but I'll stop looking, stop poking around after tomorrow night,” he hesitated for a moment before continuing. “I'll take responsibility for everything if Scorpious gets hurt.”
“I'm not your lover!” Scorpious cried angrily while Lavender shot him a very annoyed look. Rose and Sue Corner looked as if they wanted to really question that, “You don't have to take care of me!” he snapped.
Lavender frowned severely and Albus inched away from her, looking both hurt and angry. Scorpious blanched and Benjamin quirked his brow, looking less amused now as she said, “Shut up, Scorpious. Albus and I are your friends and we'd do anything for you and you should just learn to accept that we're together in this, no one is ever going to abandon you,” A very awkward silence fell after the words and Albus wasn't sure what to say, even though it was the truth.
Rose and Sue Corner even looked understanding, though he wasn't sure if they would consider themselves friends of Scorpious's anytime soon. “In that case, Scorpy, I suppose I could relent, so long as you keep your little ass out of trouble after Halloween.” Benjamin warned to his brother, his voice a growl.
Scorpious, who had been beet red turned his shocked, wide eyes away from Lavender's with relief. Albus patted her warily on the back and she turned and gave him a beaming smile that made him think of bunnies with machine guns, “I already got into enough trouble! I can't come home for the holidays—not that I'd want to with Granddad there anyway.”
Benjamin's face clouded with his own thoughts and he opened his mouth to say something but then thought better of it. Albus wondered what was really going on in the Malfoy home, “...Mum's not too happy about that and Dad is really disappointed in you, he was hoping that your first year would go by smoothly. Shape up, Scorpious,” he said seriously and Albus watched his brother flush.
Scorpious's face turned even redder at the command and he folded his arms over his chest defiantly. Albus thought he looked like a major brat just then, “That's easy for you to say, no one hates you because of your last name. Or because of Dad,”
“People hate me just for breathing.” Benjamin corrected with a wolfish grin that made Rose and Sue Corner inch closer to Albus's side, even though he was a little creeped out himself. “You can get mad at Dad about whatever you like but at the end of the day, he is our dad.”
“....Not really yours,” Scorpious muttered sourly.
Benjamin's eyes widened a little and for just one second he looked very hurt before he was able to cover it completely. Albus frowned at his friend, wondering what was wrong with him but he never got to say anything as a familiar voice called, “Ben? Is that you?” and he watched Scorpious's head twist so fast that he feared he'd broken his neck.
There was even an ominous crack. When Albus and the others turned to see who the new intruder was, Roxanne Weasley was walking towards them in pair of jeans and a really tight pink shirt and jacket. A bulky, yellow backpack was hooked onto her left shoulder, “Yeah, its me lump. Just talking to my brother and his weird little group of friends.” Benjamin announced, sounding instantly relaxed.
Roxanne didn't seem at all surprised to see the five of them and laughed a little at their defensive faces. After giving Albus, Rose, Sue and Lavender a hug, she spent a few moments smashing Scorpious into her chest, where he promptly died, “What are you monsters up to now? You all looked so tense!” she said.
Albus hoped Scorpious was all right because he didn't think that he was able to breathe properly. “These little brats want to get into Zabini's room. I was telling them it was a bad idea and you're late, lump,” Benjamin said to her disapprovingly, even as his eyes were caressing her lovingly.
Roxanne's smile brightened into something that made her resemble his Uncle George almost eerily well. She released Scorpious but kept an arm around him, Albus rolling his eyes at the smug look he sent his glowering brother, “Peeves and I were talking and I lost track of time.” She said to Benjamin, who frowned irritably, “he was upset that I was leaving.”
“That ghost is in love with you.” Benjamin said, still frowning and looking, to his amazement a tad jealous. Roxanne roared with laughter but Albus suspected that it might be true, “I'm going to exorcise him the way I did Binns if he doesn't lay off.”
Roxanne laughed and ran her fingers through Scorpious's hair for something to do, sounding simply amused. Benjamin rolled his eyes a little, “Peeves is my friend, not my lover, Ben. Don't be jealous,”
Benjamin flushed pink and Albus snickered a little, the girls whispering amongst themselves at this startling development. “Shut up.” He grunted at his grinning girlfriend, Scorpious looking far too pleased, “didn't you say he tossed rose petals on your bed the other day?”
Roxanne shrugged carelessly, giving him a saucy wink. “Yeah and he always runs my bath for me. Unlike some people,” she said, turning her nose up at him and Benjamin's lips twitched, “and he likes the giant squid.”
“That thing is disgusting.” Benjamin said, looking revolted.
Scorpious asked. “I thought you liked animals?”
Benjamin made a slight face while Roxanne pinched his brother's cheeks, looking simply delighted. Scorpious had turned to goo, “Some animals, brat. And what's with all that, lump? I haven't gotten a hug from you yet,” he complained, looking simply outraged, even grasping his chest as if he couldn't stand the pain.
Roxanne, heaving a mortified sigh as if it were the worst thing in the world, released Scorpious and hugged her boyfriend. Albus thought it was very nice that they got along so well but he gawped, covering Lavender's eyes as Benjamin bent his head and kissed her....and kissed her...and kissed her... “Wow,” Rose said as Sue Corner shot Albus a weird glance that made him flinch.
Scorpious looked simply enraged as the couple threatened to sway dreamily on the spot and kicked his brother sharply in the leg. “Oi! Knock it off already and give us the password to Zabini's room!” he snarled and the couple broke apart, Roxanne's cheeks flushed and Benjamin appearing as if he wanted to gobble her up.
Albus scrunched his face in distaste at the thought (He removed his hand from Lavender's eyes) but Rose and Sue Corner were giggling. Roxanne took a bow, “Look you little brat, if I give you this password, you had better apologize and you know about what.” Benjamin suddenly said to his brother, looking furious.
Scorpious frowned up at him but at the exasperated looks on their faces and the encouraging smile from Roxanne, he muttered. “Okay, I'm sorry that I said you weren't really my brother and that I hated you before I got on the train. Happy?” he snapped, flushing pink.
Benjamin seemed to consider his apology warily, even nodding every so often before he finally relented. Roxanne heaved a fond sigh, pinching his cheek, “All right, all right, the password to Zabini's room is “cactus”. Sort of anticlimactic if you ask me, I was expecting something much more gruesome.”
Rose had pounced onto the information eagerly, her eyes glowing. Roxanne reached over and pinched her on the nose and after fending her off, she said in a very passionate rush, “Thank you so much! Do you know where he sleeps?”
Benjamin appeared slightly unnerved as he took his eyes away from Scorpious's strangely glum face. “What are you five, his stalker?” Albus and the others didn't bother denying it and Roxanne roared with laughter, “he sleeps down in the dungeons behind the bookshelves, there's a little passageway there. The lump told me,” he informed them seriously, looking a tad reluctant.
Albus supposed that “lump” meant Roxanne and he turned to stare at his cousin curiously, wondering why he seemed to get this knot in his stomach. “How do you know all that stuff?” and why hadn't they bothered to even ask her in the first place? And why was Zabini's password a plant?
He had expected passwords like; “Maim,” or “Evil”.
Roxanne's eyes appeared a tad sad before she informed them carefully, as if she had omitted certain facts. Benjamin nudged her in the arm, “He invited me down to talk to me about something important last year and told me the password, he says it reminds him of his wife.” She said, sounding dismayed.
Albus and the others exchanged looks at the words before Scorpious asked, sounding simply revolted. “He's married?”
“Someone willingly married him?” Albus asked, horrified.
Lavender was awed. “She must not mind his chronic constipation.”
Rose shot them a look as Roxanne and Benjamin burst out laughing. Sue Corner looked ill to her stomach but Albus wasn't sure if it was from them or not, “You three are honestly so weird!”
“Shut up Weasley!” Scorpious spat, flushing.
Before the two of them could really get into it, Albus said to Benjamin thankfully, hoping that he wouldn't regret this. “Thanks for helping us, me and Lav will look out for Scorpious for you.”
Benjamin's blue-brown eyes narrowed and Roxanne shot him a glance as he said, leaning forward into Albus's face. It was a very scary thing as his voice turned into the most menacing, haunting growl that he had ever heard, “If something happens to my brother, I'll find you Potter and make you sorry.”
Roxanne popped him upside the head and he winced, reeling away from Albus's pale face as he did so. “Oh, knock it off would you? I swear to Merlin!” she cried as Benjamin bowed his head in shame and threatened to get down on his knees, “don't you dare threaten my cousin! No one does that but me,” Albus felt a spark of irritation.
“Y..you weren't serious?” Scorpious cried.
Benjamin, after properly begging for forgiveness from Roxanne, who merely huffed at him, grinned. It was a very annoying sight and Albus wanted to suddenly punch him as hard as he could in the face, “Of course not. You five be careful though and I'll see you at the end of the year brat,” he said to Scorpious, ruffling his hair. To Albus and the rest, he promised, “we'll see each other again.”
“Okay,” Lavender said happily, as if she were looking forward to it.
Sue Corner murmured. “I hope not...”
Albus nodded at him, unsure if he should respond or not and Rose gave him a wan smile. Roxanne sighed in annoyance, “Now you've freaked them out. Ben, go get your broom and lets get out of here already, do you want me to ride in front or behind?”
Benjamin's response as he walked away was very interested, Scorpious watching him with barely held annoyance and something else that Albus couldn't name. “Ooh, ask me that again, sweet only slower.”
Roxanne snorted irritably before turning her attention to the five of them with a warm, happy smile. Albus wasn't quite sure what Benjamin had meant and took a few minutes trying to figure it out before giving up, “Okay, you five. You've got Zabini's password but promise me that you won't get into too much trouble all right?”
Albus nodded reassuringly. “We won't, we'll be all right, Roxie.” He said and he hoped that he wasn't dooming them all by saying this, “it was really nice of Benjamin to show up and everything.”
Roxanne nodded happily as Benjamin started to come back with his broom in one hand, looking as if he were lost in his thoughts. Scorpious walked over importantly to have a word with him and Albus watched the pair of them hissing at one another for a few minutes before his friend surprisingly hugged him, Benjamin giving his head a fond pat, “He's not as bad as people think.”
Rose was doubtful. “Are you sure about that?”
“Well...I might be stretching it a bit but Ben's just really sensitive. When he was here, he got bullied a lot and became really guarded, it took a long time for him to even admit that he was desperately in love with me,” Roxanne said dramatically, though Albus was certain that she was telling the truth. Rose and Sue Corner sighed dreamily but Lavender appeared bored, “its hard when people hate your last name, it was even worse for Ben since he's adopted.”
That stunned Albus and he and the others exchanged looks at the revelation, that explaining why the two brothers looked nothing alike. “Adopted?” Albus asked in confusion, Roxanne appearing startled that they hadn't known before clamping her mouth shut guiltily, “Scorpious didn't tell us anything.”
Roxanne hesitated for a moment as the two brothers, having reconciled whatever issue that they had had, started coming over. “Don't mention it to baby Malfoy unless he brings it up first. Its a touchy subject okay, monsters?” Albus and Lavender nodded, Rose and Sue Corner following suit. “Ben, you ready, prat?” she snarled playfully at her boyfriend.
Benjamin shot her a weird, heated look that made her all giggly. He had walked to one of the open, arched windows and was already leaping out onto his broom, reminding Albus of some nightmarish owl, “I've been ready, lump. Come on or I'll leave without you!” he said challengingly.
“You can't even start without me.” Roxanne said smugly.
Benjamin waggled his eyebrows at her from outside, seated expertly on his broom with a tender smile. “You're right about that.”
Roxanne grinned naughtily but before she walked away, she gave the group one last hug, kissed Scorpious's cheek and headed towards him, hips swaying (Scorpious paid extra attention to this). Albus and the others watched as Benjamin gently helped her slip out of the window and onto the broom in front of him, the pair vanishing soon after, his cousin's laughter echoing in the night. With them gone, the children stood there for a moment longer, promises hanging in the air and answers within their grasp.
See you all, hopefully much sooner in the future! Much love, Gabbie.
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