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Ignite by Slide
Chapter 32 : Hot Blooded
 
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Chapter 32: Hot Blooded


'How did he see my spell coming -'

'Just hold on, okay, if you hold on you'll be -'

'Why didn't we see her? Why didn't we see her?'

'It's not possible, he shouldn't have been able to -'

'Stop!' Methuselah Jones almost never raised his voice. That he did, if only for one word, was enough to stun the other three into silence. He pointed to the door to the Infirmary. 'Malfoy. Potter. Out. Now.'

Scorpius was hovering next to where he'd laid Rose down on the first bed they'd got to, and his jaw dropped. 'Like hell I'm going -'

'Need to work. Dittany, healing salves, bandages, clotting solutions. Selena knows where they are. You two do not.'

Scorpius straightened. 'I'm not going anywhere.'

Albus stepped up beside him and planted a hand on his shoulder. 'Scorp, we should let them work.'

'She's -'

'In good hands. Come on.' But there was something very tense about Albus' voice, more tense than Scorpius had ever heard it before, and it was clear there'd be no tolerance for anything less than his complete cooperation. Nevertheless, Scorpius had to be nearly dragged from the Infirmary, Methuselah and Selena already swinging into frantic action around the prone form of Rose.

She was so pale. So, so pale.

Albus slammed the doors to the Infirmary shut once they were out and stood for a moment facing them, his back to Scorpius. Then his shoulders squared and when he turned, his gaze was thunderous. 'We're going to talk to Downing.'

This time, Scorpius had to hurry to keep up as Albus stormed down the corridor, headed for the stairs. 'Where did Harley take him?' Scorpius asked. The House Elves had been called the moment they'd made it back to the castle grounds, taking the bundled form of Downing off their hands while they focused on Rose. Scorpius was trying to not look down at himself, at the padded Quidditch gear under his coat, because he knew it would be stained with blood. Her blood.

What was it with him and getting other people's blood all over himself?

'The dungeons,' Albus said, fists clenched. 'Jones might be right, he can do more for Rose than either of us, but we can get what we went out for in the first place, why she risked herself in the first place.'

Scorpius nodded, jaw setting. 'This bastard better know something. And if he does, he'd better talk.'

'He will,' Albus promised. 'Oh, he will.'

The two of them marched down the corridors and stairways in a stiff silence. Scorpius tried to focus on his breathing, on walking straight, on whatever awaited them ahead with Downing. Not on how small and frail Rose had felt in his arms as he'd carried her up to the castle while Albus fairly dragged Downing, how light she'd been, how shallow her breath.

Nobody else is dying. And yet that was out of his hands. Downing, perhaps, was not.

Harley was outside the dungeon chamber he'd picked, the door locked and solidly bolted. He stood straight, tall for a House Elf, arms folded across his chest as he waited, and his gaze for once was serious as he looked down the corridor at their approach. 'How is she?'

'Jones is taking care of her,' said Albus.

Harley nodded. 'Should we alert the Professor?'

'There's no potion to fix this,' sneered Scorpius, 'and she's probably drunk.'

'Rose is in good hands,' said Albus, and turned to the door. 'How's he been?'

'Silent. That'd be on account of how he's gagged,' said Harley, jerking his head. 'Trussed up on a chair. Doesn't seem perturbed. Yet.'

Albus' expression twisted. 'He will be.'

Harley faltered. 'What're you planning on doing?'

'Talking to him. Do you have a problem with that, after what he did to Rose?'

The House Elf bristled. 'That girl is Hermione Granger's daughter. Don't you imply I don't care.' It was the most overt admission, Scorpius realised, he'd ever heard Harley make that he valued a human, any human's wellbeing for any reason but absent-minded pragmatism. The shot of concern running through Harley's voice, the voice of this House Elf who had been so dismissive at the care-taking of the magical children of Hogwarts, was genuine.

'Then don't get in my way,' said Albus, and Scorpius felt a chill run down his spine. Albus opened the door and they all stepped into the dungeon.

These rooms were old. They dated back to the first construction of Hogwarts, not as a school but as a castle, where such rooms had been invaluable for storage. The storage had not always been of goods. Over time, any prisons had been converted for the castle's more general use, though greater sophistication on the part of magical storage meant real space was less necessary, and so over the centuries the rooms had fallen completely out of disuse. It was telling that Harley had picked what looked like the gloomiest, dankest chamber he could find in the whole castle to throw Downing into.

The chair had been conjured up from elsewhere, and was the only furniture in the room. Downing was tied to it, bound ankle and wrist and elbow and knee to the legs, the armrest, bound to the back. A filthy rag had been shoved in his mouth as a gag, the man trussed up beyond all struggling, muffled beyond all speaking. And yet he did not move. He was alive and awake, for certain; dark eyes glinted in their direction as they walked into the gloomy chamber, but his expression remained set. His were sharp, pointed features, his face narrow, but despite his desperate situation there was nothing in his gaze which implied anything other than perfect control.

He was tied up and at their mercy but, closing the door behind him, Scorpius couldn't help but feel like the teenager facing off against a hardened mercenary that he was.

If Albus felt at all the same, he didn't show it as he strode up to Downing and yanked the gag from his mouth. 'We know who you are,' he said, voice low and flat. 'We know your name's Elijah Downing, we know you work for Prometheus Thane. We know what Phlegethon is and we know you helped unleash it on Hogwarts. You are here and at our mercy. Nobody is getting into or out of this castle without our say-so. As such, getting into or our of this cell is completely out of the question. So, tell me: why have your people all been watching Hogwarts still?'

Elijah Downing sat there, dark eyes locked on Albus, and didn't say a word.

Albus' expression twitched. 'It will go a lot easier if you talk. Or you can wait this out from inside a cell guarded by Aurors.'

And nothing.

A still silence filled the room as Albus straightened and folded his arms across his chest. If he was getting half as flustered as Scorpius felt, he was doing a good job of hiding it. 'I know who you are. You attended Hogwarts fifteen years ago. Your parents were two Muggle-borns. And then you disappeared off the map shortly after graduating. The only other record of you came up four years ago when your name was connected with dark potion trafficking in Hong Kong.' They had Selena's mother to thank for that last tidbit. Selena had taken the path of it being better to beg forgiveness than ask permission and this factoid of Downing's life had been found. All else she'd said was that her mother wasn't going to ask too many questions. Scorpius anticipated cat-fights up and down the Ministry between Selena's mother and Rose's mother if this ever came out.

But even as Albus spoke, Downing kept his cold, unblinking gaze fixed on him and didn't say a word.

This isn't going to work. The thought was like ice down Scorpius' spine. This man's a professional, we're a pair of kids and a House Elf...

In a blur Albus lunged forwards and grabbed Downing by the front of his jacket, shoving him back to balance on the back legs of his chair. Then he planted his fist in the man's nose. 'Do you think I'm fucking around?' Albus hollered, face red, voice deafening as it echoed about the small chamber. Blood was already streaming from Downing's mangled face, the man's head rocking back hard. 'You near enough cleaved my cousin in half; do you think I'm just going to let you play silent?'

'Al!' Scorpius bounded forwards to grab Albus by his right arm, yanking him back and away from Downing. For a moment he didn't budge, too big, too solid, too angry, but then he staggered away and Downing's chair crashed back onto all four legs, the mercenary's head lolling forwards with a spray of blood.

It took Scorpius a moment to realise Albus hadn't given up, but, rather, Harley had lunged for his other side to help drag him back, and with the strength born of magic they began to haul him to the door.

'Potter! Stand down!' Harley yelled, and Albus did subside, if only enough to let himself be bundled back into the corridor. Scorpius slammed the door shut behind them, but thought he caught a glimpse, as he looked into the room, of Downing smiling a bloodied smile.

He knows exactly how little a threat we are.

Albus rounded on them the moment Scorpius turned back, and he found himself almost backing up against the door. 'Why did you stop me?' he barked. 'That just undermined any credibility -'

Then Harley had stepped up, dark eyes blazing, and jabbed a finger into Albus' midriff. 'You don't have a clue what you're doing, Potter; don't talk about an interrogator's credibility like it's something you understand, like it's what mattered in there!' Despite that he was less than half Albus' height, somehow his presence had been enough to let him interrupt.

But not to stop Albus. 'I have to get answers out of him and if he's just going to stare at me with those angry eyes -'

'Then you should know you are completely out of your depth with this!' Harley said. 'This is something real. This is a mercenary. Stop playing action hero Auror, you are not your father - and even if you were, your father wouldn't be brutalising a helpless prisoner!'

'I punched him in the face -'

'And if he didn't talk, then what were you going to do?'

Albus scowled. 'I knew what I was doing -'

Scorpius stepped forwards, lifting his hands. 'You lost control, mate, I've never seen you like that before -'

'Yes, I had to change the plan a bit!' Albus shouted, pointing a finger at the door. 'The plan changed when he slashed up Rose!'

'What was the plan, Potter?' Harley folded his arms across his chest. 'You had this scheme on how to capture one of Thane's people. What was your plan, originally, once you had him in your hands?' Albus hesitated, and the House Elf's gaze darkened. 'You didn't have a plan -'

'I have a plan now,' Albus growled.

'No. No, you don't,' said Harley. 'Because this is not some sort of thug off the streets, this is a mercenary hired for a job which has killed a child and put hundreds of people in mortal peril. He is not going to fold because you punched him in the face -'

'Then I'll do what I have to until he does fold -'

Harley lunged up in the air. His boots braced on Albus' waist, both hands grabbing the front of his jumper, and the entire thing would have looked comical were the situation not so serious, were Harley's expression not so thunderously grave. 'Never, ever, ever, not in my school, not against someone who can't defend themselves, not ever, Potter, you hear -'

Then there was a flash of magic and both of them were falling back. Albus had drawn his wand without Scorpius noticing and sent Harley flying into the opposite wall. In reflex, Harley had kicked and Albus went staggering, hitting the door, then the two of them were scrambling to gather themselves, Harley lifting a hand, Albus brandishing his wand -

'Protego!' That was Scorpius, and his Shield shimmered in the air between them as twin spells splashed off it. 'Stop! Both of you, this isn't helping!'

'We've got to get answers out of him, Scorp, explanations - and why do you care after what he did to Rose?'

'Because she wouldn't want it to go like this!' The words tore themselves past his lips before he even thought them, and once he had, he knew they were right.

Albus' expression twisted. 'Downing should have thought of that,' he snarled, 'before he almost cut her in half.' He moved to the door, watching them both. Scorpius just eyed Harley in case the House Elf was going to make another move but Harley bent over, looking winded. So Albus strode into the dungeon and slammed the door shut after him.

Harley straightened. His ears had drooped back, and he made a fuss of adjusting his shirt, his tie. His nose twitched. 'He's just locked the door magically and warded it against entry and noise.' He sounded, at last, exhausted.

'I thought you were going to go for him again,' said Scorpius.

'I didn't want to hurt him. But I will if I have to.' Harley's lips thinned. 'The boy's in trouble. He won't listen to you?'

'You just heard me try -'

'I know, I just... hoped.' Harley gave up and loosened his tie. 'If you don't think you can talk him down then I am going to bash through those wardings and put a stop to this. That kind of anger's no good for the boy. Doing that kind of thing's bad enough for him. But above all, it's wrong.'

Scorpius shivered. 'Downing wouldn't think twice about doing the same thing to us.'

Harley looked at him. 'Right and wrong aren't a case of how bad they are or how angry you are.'

'Some people deserve bad things.'

'Maybe. But this isn't about giving Downing what he deserves, this is about getting what we want and not caring what has to be done to get it. To boot, who the hell are we to decide what that man deserves? Two kids and a House Elf?' Harley jabbed a finger at the door. 'He might have come after the people in my castle, but I will kick down that door and drag Potter out here unconscious if I have to -'

'No.' Scorpius lifted a hand, something glinting in his eyes. 'I have a much, much better idea. It just...'

His voice trailed off, and Harley cocked his head. 'It just...?'

'Relies on me being persuasive.'

Despite the grim situation, Harley rolled his eyes as he shoved his little hands in his pockets. 'Oh, good,' the House Elf drawled. 'Something comforting.'


* *


Selena had brought Methuselah everything he needed, stayed as long as he was giving her instructions as he weaved his spells, poured his potions across Rose's wounds, muttered to himself about dark magic being harder to heal immediately. And then when he'd asked for space she'd gone to Madam Pheasey's desk and waited.

Thirty minutes later there was no more noise from Rose's bed, and only then, when silence had reigned for long moments, did she dare peep over in that direction. All was still. Methuselah stood at the foot of the bed, brow furrowed, hands hanging by his side, palms and fingers and the rolled-up sleeves of his shirt still stained with blood. But he’d stopped working.

Heart in her throat, Selena padded over. Rose was now a bundle on the mattress, hair wild, skin pale, abdomen neatly bound with a bandage, and between that and the shallow rise and fall of her chest, Selena dared relax a little. Her hand slipped into Methuselah's, not caring of the blood, and his fingertips twitched a reassuring response at the touch, his only sign that he'd realised she was there. 'Is she going to be all right?' Selena croaked.

'Hard to say.' Methuselah's voice was hoarse. 'Applied all I know. Stopped bleeding. Applied regenerative salves and blood rejuvenating draughts. All depends on nature of dark magic. On if healing solutions will be enough. If not, bleeding doesn't stop.'

Selena's gaze landed on the bandages. 'Those look clean.'

'Surface bleeding easily contended with. Magical spells easily applied. Internal bleeding the concern.'

'And if that doesn't stop?'

'She dies.'

Silence reigned for long moments more, before Methuselah drew another, sharp breath. 'I'm not the best at this.' He jerked his head forwards. 'This. Healing.'

'You're more than good enough.'

He gave her a wry, sideways glance. 'Not qualified to make that assessment.'

She met his gaze, eyes wide, scared, but honest. 'I believe in you.'

His lips twisted sadly, and he looked back to Rose's body to assess, to observe, to wait, and all he said was simply, 'Faith doesn't heal.'


* *


Albus stared at Downing for over ten minutes of silence before he finally stepped forwards. And that's when the man spoke.

'Look, boy. You're the Potter son, ain't you?' His voice was rough, uncultured, and by all expectations at odds with the supreme confidence with which he spoke - just as that confidence was at odds with how thoroughly trussed up he was. 'Must be a bright lad -'

'Don't patronise me.'

Downing paused, dark eyes assessing. 'All right,' he said at last. 'I'll put it blunt, then. There ain't no way my mates ain't gonna come get me out of 'ere. There ain't no way you're gonna be makin' me talk. I spent time in a Mongolian prison. Hogwarts is almost literal'y a fuckin' picnic in comparison, you get what I'm sayin'?'

'You know about Phlegethon. Your people have to have a cure, you've risked being exposed. That's all I want,' said Albus. 'You can go once I have it.'

'Except, you're bluffin'. You ain't got no intentions of lettin' me go. You want me to sing an' then you want me in a cell.' Downing blew out his cheeks as he exhaled. Blood was encrusting down the front of his face from where his nose had streamed. 'That ain't bargainin'.'

'The way I see it,' said Albus, 'you're not in much of a position to bargain.'

Downing leaned forwards a little. 'All I got to do is wait. You got time, Potter? Do the kids?'

Albus was across the cell in a heartbeat, planting his foot on the corner of Downing's chair and kicking it over backwards, sending him to the floor with a crash. As Downing hit the stones, stunned, Albus brandished his wand in his face.

'You think I won't hurt you? You've harmed this school, endangered my family, my little sister, almost killed my cousin! You think I won't?' he thundered, face red.

'Then why ain't you done it yet? You ain't got the stones -'

It wasn't a strictly conscious spell that Albus cast. He knew his wand was moving and let it, knew a spell was rising to the forefront of his mind and let it. The bone-breaking hex thudded into Downing's right elbow with a sickening crunch and, despite his bravado, the man gave a yell of pain.

Which, after the first few, shocked seconds, he turned into a bark of laughter. 'Thank you for the clean break!' he howled. 'It'll mend up right better than my left knee did after Peru!'

Then Albus wasn't conscious of what he was doing. 'If you think this is funny,' he hissed, wand snapping down -

And the door came bursting inward off its hinges.

Both Downing and Albus looked over in surprise through the ferocious dust kicked up to see the diminutive figure of Foreman Harley stood in the doorway, brushing off his hands.

'I'll have to fix that, later,' he said, sauntering in, and straightened his jacket. 'Nobody will say, "Thank you, Harley, for breaking through ancient oak and some truly powerful magical wardings". They won't say, "Thank you, Harley, for stopping an injustice in action without laying a finger or spell on a person". They'll say, "Harley, go get the hammer".'

Albus' expression tensed. 'Harley, we talked about this -'

And then Professor Lockett walked in. 'Harley, go get the hammer.'

Albus looked down at himself. At his wand, at Downing, whose breathing, despite his bravado, had gone ragged through the pain of his broken arm. He straightened slowly. 'Professor. What're you -'

'Scorpius and Harley fetched me,' she said, and Scorpius popped his head self-consciously around the doorway. 'Once they explained the situation, I had to act.' She looked not much less of a state than ever before. Her heavy over-robe had clearly been thrown on in a hurry, hair still wild, face still smudged, eyes still tired. But nevertheless she was looking at him with a gaze which would brook no insubordination.

He felt it anyway. 'Now you come in to act -?'

'We'll discuss me,' said Lockett, sweeping past him and over to Downing, 'and even you, later. For the moment, we have this reprobate to deal with.'

'Oh, it's the potions teacher,' said Downing, rolling his eyes. 'I'm bloody quakin'.'

'I don't intend to scare you. Get him upright, Potter,' said Lockett, and Albus moved to do so despite himself, hauling Downing's chair back onto its four legs. Behind him, Harley and Scorpius had slunk to places on either side of the doorway, both looking tired, subdued. 'You really should have come spoken to me sooner,' she continued, almost absentmindedly, as she fished about the pouches at her belts. 'I know I might have been locked in my room but there are some problems for which potions are very good.'

Albus grimaced. 'I'm not sure a potion will fix this -'

'Because your aunt has done such an excellent job of limiting what can and can't be used. The restrictions on this little gem have been positively ridiculous.' Triumphantly, Lockett pulled a narrow vial from a pouch. 'Even your father can't use this without so much paperwork and burden of proof that it's barely even worth it. Once upon a time, this was even used on schoolchildren, if you can imagine that. But no.' She sighed. 'That'd invade our privacy.'

Downing looked sick.

'What is it?' Albus asked reluctantly.

'Simple. Veritaserum. One dose of this and he will be compelled to tell the truth.' Lockett gave a thin, superior smile. 'Its usage is very uncommon. Its brewing barely less rare. If it'll appease your sense of "Do what needs to be done", Potter, know that it's not legal for me to possess this, much less brew it.' She looked at Downing. 'Now, this will get briefly unpleasant, because he's not going to want to drink this. Does this meet with your approval, Mister Harley?'

Harley seemed to swell at the address, though his gaze was troubled. 'I'm trusting you, Professor.'

'This will be no more than discomfiting and if I ask questions which do not meet your approval, I invite you to report this entire incident to Hermione Granger. I assure you, she'll both listen to you and have my guts for garters. Now.' Lockett looked at Albus, and her voice actually went gentle. 'I would be grateful if you could hold him still.'

It wasn't as bad as Albus was afraid it would be. Pinning Downing's head and shoulders saw the man squirm - but then Lockett swished her wand and he went slack, as patients did when they used the charms to feed them their potions when unconscious, and then she was tipping the vial down his throat.

'Bottoms up,' she mused with dark humour, before pulling back and putting her elixir away. 'Let's give him a moment.'

They stood in silence for a moment as Downing regained his senses, blinking owlishly, but it was Scorpius who broke the silence. 'Can't he get around this just by not answering? If he stays silent he's not lying.'

'If it were a dosage prepared by a lesser potioneer, yes,' said Lockett without pride. 'Thankfully, I am not a lesser potioneer. He’ll tell us what he absolutely believes to be the truth.'

And Downing's expression creased with fury. 'They're gonna come here,' he growled. 'An' they're gonna rip you apart.'

Lockett nodded. 'Jolly good. How many are there?'

'Six. Including me.'

'And Thane is your leader?'

'Yes.'

'Where are you camped?'

'We move around the Forest. They'll have changed to another camp by now. I wouldn't be able to find it.'

'Why are you remaining in the area?'

Downing's expression twisted, like he knew he didn't want to answer but was doing it anyway. 'To monitor Hogwarts and the progression of Phlegethon,' he reeled off mechanically. 'To observe your communications, progress against Phlegethon, an' the virus' development.'

'Why?'

Downing shrugged. 'We were told to.'

'Wonderful,' Lockett drawled. 'We get some answers and they're from a lackey. Let's go back. What is your profession?'

Downing smiled a distant, malicious smile. 'Problem solver.'

'How positively quaint. Why are you doing this?'

'I was paid to.'

'By whom?'

'Prometheus Thane.'

'Why is he doing this?'

'He was paid to.'

'Do you know who by?' Downing shook his head, and Lockett sighed. 'It's almost as if they're professionally compartmentalising their information,' she said dryly. 'Did you know Thane before this job?'

'Crossed his path in Peru. He approached me in May. Said he had a job for me if I was interested. Required high-end ritual magic, professional wandmanship, an' discipline an' patience.'

'Did you know you were committing to spending months camping out in the Forbidden Forest?'

'Yes.' Downing grimaced. 'We're very well-paid.'

'The other four. Who are they?'

Downing reeled off four names that Scorpius scribbled down quickly, and concluded with, 'other professionals in the trade. I knew some before. Didn't know others. They all knew Thane.'

'But he is doing this on someone's marching orders. What do you know about them?'

'That they're paying -'

Lockett sighed. 'Bloody potions, always have to be so specific. What do you suspect?'

Downing was silent for a moment, and Albus looked to Lockett with some concern. But she looked only calm, patient. When Downing spoke, his voice was tense, unsteady. 'Dark magic practitioner. Get impression - multiple people. Group hired Thane. Thane doesn't like them much. Thane doesn't like the job much. Thane's a professional. This operation - can't be -' He cut himself off, hissing with tension.

'What's wrong?' said Scorpius.

'I'm asking him to give us conjecture while he is compelled to tell the truth,' said Lockett, lips thinning. 'It's awkward. He doubts some of what he's saying, or he thinks multiple possibilities. He'll get there, he just needs to sift it through in his own mind.'

'This op, it ain't the be all an' end all. It's part of something,' said Downing, voice thin and reedy. 'Maybe it's an experiment, or it's a first strike, or it's a message. It's part of the whole. Not the whole itself.' He drew a ragged breath. 'These people - rich. Cold. They didn't care 'bout the dead child.'

Scorpius had gone very still. 'Did you?' he spat.

'Business is business, don't fling a virus at a child if you ain't gonna take the risk, so I told Thane, so he punched me,' Downing said, sounding like he was remembering more than responding. 'Wasn't supposed to happen, though, that weren't the plan, deaths so soon, wasn't expected.'

Lockett lifted a hand to Scorpius. 'What is Phlegethon?'

He sniffed. 'Magical virus designed to infuse wizarding body with corrupting necromantic energy an’ erode not just flesh and bone but the soul. Grossly incapacitatin’ and, at present, slow-acting.'

'How were the lot of you supposed to get cured of Phlegethon, seeing as you all, while immune, are effectively carriers?'

Downing blinked. 'Thane said we'd be cured once the job's done. No point in us being cured before then.'

'So it was something out of your hands, which would be dealt with by Thane or his employers.' Downing nodded and Lockett sighed. 'How is Phlegethon empowered?'

'It requires a sustainable source of necromantic energy to trigger initial infection.'

'Such as the ritual site?'

'Location of death of Harry Potter and destruction of Horcrux within him of Lord Voldemort,' Downing reeled off. 'Ritual harnessed latent necromantic energies in the location an’ utilised them to empower Phlegethon and project infection across immediate area of Hogwarts.'

Albus drew a hissing breath through his teeth. 'Jones was right.'

'Scorpius, pencil and paper.' Lockett snapped her fingers, and Scorpius hurried over to comply. She hunkered down in front of Downing. 'Did you conduct the ritual?'

He gave a jerky nod. 'Thane hired me partly for that. Also for wandwork.'

'Explain and describe it to me.'

He did. Most of it went over Albus' head, but not over Lockett's, and she sketched and scribbled as he ran through the different levels of enchantment, binding, and projection of the ritual which had been let loose at what they had come to think of as Ground Zero. The entire process of explanation took the better part of fifteen minutes, and when Lockett was done, she only looked troubled.

'One last series of questions,' she said. 'Do you know where the Resurrection Stone is?'

Downing lifted his head. 'Thane has it.'

'Was it a component part in the development of Phlegethon?'

His brow furrowed. 'He said it was.'

'You don't fully believe him?' Downing shook his head. 'Does he still have it?'

'Yes. I suspect -' He flinched. 'Some goal of his own. Not sure what.'

'Very good.' Lockett looked over her shoulder. 'I think we're done here. Leave him, he'll doze this off.'

Harley grimaced. 'I'll fix his nose and arm and then the door.'

She waved a dismissive hand and turned for the corridor, Albus and Scorpius following in her footsteps. She took them a good way away from the chamber with its open door before she eventually stopped, and when she did turn to face them he was struck by how utterly exhausted she looked. But there was a spark in her eye. 'He didn't tell us much new,' she said, 'but he did confirm some things I suspected, and he has given me an excellent idea.

'I know what Phlegethon is. And I know how to cure it.'


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