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Chapter 8 : Just a Little Breaking and Entering
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ACT II: THE FIRST CAPER
8. JUST A LITTLE BREAKING AND ENTERING
The biggest threats to Hogwarts were students with too much free time on their hands.
Bea had wanted to find unicorn hair by Thursday, but instead, she was stuck ironing out the kinks in the Stalker Salve. Attempting to 'compromise' was not as fun as Albus had made it sound.
"You said there'd be kittens." Bea pouted as she slumped into the common room armchair.
"I said compromise is like a kitten. Treat him well, see it through until it grows, and you'll be happier in the long run," said Albus as he strained to lift Mr. Welly into his lap. The Kneazle refused to budge. "Fred, conditions?"
Fred was standing idly, flipping his pocket watch open and closed. "Get the Salve ready for the last tests and you can drag me around on whatever you want," he said. "If you want to stop making Wheezes products to focus on your transistor, that's fine, but we should finish what we start."
Bea nodded. She had nothing against making Wheezes products, but side projects divided her attention and the transistor was no simple concept. Fred was giving her the better end of the deal. It was a nice sort of post-reconciliation gesture, not that there was a reconciliation phase before it.
They weren't feelings people; they danced around issues more awkwardly than chaperoned teens at a dance, but like Albus had said, Fred didn't hold grudges. Truthfully, neither did she—it wasn't worth it. She trusted too few people in the world and fewer could put up with her. Fred was reliable and, without notice, would forgive her. And she would always forgive Fred.
For once, they had good timing; she finished the salve at the same time Fred got a literal itch for adventure. "I'll be needing unicorn tail hairs," she said, snapping the prototype open. The sudden burst of static shock sent her hair into a crackling frizz. "Cores too, but I can still wait on that." Common-grade unicorn hair, which was plucked from the mane, wasn't good enough.
That evening, Fred brought Bea, Albus, and Rose to the common room to explain the logistics.
"It's rather simple, if we're lucky," Fred said, holding out the parchment containing the details. Albus and Rose stared as it unrolled all the way to the floor.
"That's simple?" squeaked Rose.
"He was much worse last year," said Bea, unfazed. "Once, he had six of those. One of them was what to do if there was a hurricane."
Fred tried to shoo away Mr. Welly, who was using his master plans as a clawing post. "It was storm season. It was very possible."
"A hurricane of venomous toads."
"You never know what the moors will throw at you. Anyhow..."
Pulling off a Hogwarts heist was an art. Fred went over destinations, main routes, alternate routes, escape routes, precautions, and postcautions.
"Al, you're our supply guy. Take this." Fred draped a utility belt over Albus' shoulder. "There's fragile stuff in there. Goggles, enchanted lock picks, silencing bombs, emergency biscuits, lots of things. Keep it all together."
Albus fastened it around his waist. "So... I'm a pack mule."
"Supply guy," Fred repeated, flipping Albus' bent collar. Albus had dressed for the occasion by imitating Fred's shirt-and-tie combo, but he ended up looking more like a kid in his dad’s work clothes. "The most important thing is to follow close behind. Bea'll take up the rear but watch your back anyway. Now, repeat the signals I taught you."
Meanwhile, Rose edged closer to Bea. "This seems complicated," Rose whispered.
"Nah, the only person who pays attention to all these rules is Fred." Bea laced up her black salamander skin boots, a birthday present from James. It had footstep-silencing enchantments, and it never hurt to go in style. "Just patrol and do what you did last time, when it was just me and Al."
"That was a fluke! I didn't know what I was doing then either. I just talked to people to distract them, but that can't work forever. I stutter and I'm boring and I scare people away."
"Rose, I scare people away." Bea tied the last knot and brushed off her hands. "Really, it's not a big deal; this is Hogwarts, not the Ministry. We're patrolled by a bunch of sixteen-year-olds. People who are just like you."
Rose creased her brow, eyes shifting around the common room. One of the prefects, Edgar Frittleson, was fast asleep and two third years were taking turns launching earwax-flavored jellybeans at his mouth. "...good Godric, we do have rubbish security, don't we?"
"Exactly. Now just relax."
Rose did anything but, her shoulders tightly wound back and her teeth chewing on her lip. A thousand scenarios rained down her head like poison toads.
"Well, I guess that's it," said Fred, clapping Albus on the shoulder. "We can head out in an hour. Ringleward should be asleep then." He took a brief survey of the area, checking to make sure he hadn't dropped any supplies, and headed toward the stairs.
"But what about me?" Rose called after him. "Don't you have some... super secret prefecting tips for me?"
"Aw, you don't need it, Rose; you're a natural. You've got the Weasley genes." Fred smiled brightly. It was only after these prep sessions that he was so eerily easygoing.
"Weasley genes," she repeated under her breath, never mind that Albus had the same genes, too. "Right-o, of course."
Appropriately, the mission began with an explosion.
An explosive belch, to be precise.
Fred, Bea, and Albus were tiptoeing down to the dungeons in perfect synchronized silence until Albus let out the equivalent of a dragon's roar, smoke rings and all.
Fred swiveled around. "What was that?"
Albus coughed up a few burping aftershocks. The stench of fizzy pop hung in the air. "Sorry, we'd been experimenting."
While Bea and Albus were killing time in the hour prior, she had convinced Albus to drink an unmarked potion that had rolled behind her desk. She had an inkling it was the lost vial of anti-hiccup potion she had brewed last year, which had the unfortunate side-effect of gastric flamebrosis. From the looks of it, she had been correct.
Fred craned his head to judge the glow emanating from next hallway. "Well, try to hold it in. I think Rose stopped someone ahead. I don't see her lantern moving."
Albus twiddled his thumbs. "...I need to use the loo. I drank a lot of fizzy pop."
"Hold that in, too." Fred straightened his tie, trying to uphold some semblance of professionalism in the mission. Cautiously, he approached the corner until he could hear the murmurs.
"Those arm muscles are so... muscley!"
Judging from the high pitch, that was Rose. Fred shuddered. Rose's flirting was like Hog's Head Open Mic Nights—painful to hear, likely to require some form of brain bleach afterwards, but too morbidly intriguing to pass up.
He peeked around. Rose was currently feeling up a Slytherin prefect, Orion Something-or-other. Tall, tan, and a bit of a blithering numbskull.
Bea popped up beside him. "What's she doing?"
"I think she's trying to flirt," said Albus, who wriggled underneath Bea to get a look. They were like three sideways gophers, peering at the train wreck to come.
Except it wasn't a train wreck. Rose was twirling her hair and Orion was perfectly enthralled, as if he had never seen a girl with hair before.
"I think he actually likes her," said Bea. "I don't get it. Is he that desperate?"
Fred and Albus exchanged glances. "Well," Albus began, "it's cause she's, well, she's..."
"She's pretty," Fred finished.
Bea squinted at them and then at Orion, who was staring down at Rose with a giddy smile. "...it's 'cause she's got huge knockers, isn't it?"
"Weasley genes, my arse."
Rose finally managed to get Orion to follow her by draping herself over his arm, doing every hair flip, coy giggle, wink trick ever discovered and then some. The three were about to emerge from hiding when Albus hiccuped.
Orion stopped Rose. "What was that?"
"Oh no," Albus squeaked, pressing his lips tight together until his cheeks grew puffy and red, but it couldn't stop his thunderous belch.
Fred yanked Albus and Bea back. Spinning toward the staircase, he saw another light approaching. "Ah, shit."
Orion's footsteps approached, as did Rose's frantic babbling. They had seconds. Fred dove into the pocket of Albus' utility belt for a Ceiling Claw and pressed the button on its side. The claw shot up and hit stone with a clang.
"Hold tight." He pressed the button again.
"What—" Albus began before Fred kicked him in the face as he rappelled upwards. Bea grabbed Albus by the collar at the last second and the three of them escaped into the safety of the shadows.
Bea held her breath. Don't look up.
Underneath, Orion swung his beefy legs around as he inspected the hallway's nooks. Rose tried to coax him to her with little success. The other light had gone away, thankfully.
At last, Orion passed into the next hallway.
Fred lowered them down. “Are you okay, Al?”
“My mouth tastes like rubber and blood,” he whimpered.
“Sorry, we'll have to patch it up later. There's another prefect on this floor, and Rose won't be back for awhile."
They raced toward the Potions classroom. Fred set up a string of Silencing Charms along the way. When they arrived at the door however, instead of the standard classroom knob, the handle was pointed like a wolf's snout.
Fred jiggled the handle and it snapped into life, growling at his hand with a full set of teeth. He jumped back. "Guard Knob. I don't know how to get past one of these, not without losing a finger." Fred scratched his chin as he studied it closer. "Plus, I have a feeling this isn't the only new security Ringleward put up since our little explosion."
"Does that mean game over already?" Albus slid to the floor. The adventure had barely begun.
"Unless you want to try and figure out where the central storage is. Only Advanced Potions uses unicorn tail hair."
"We can do that instead! We have all night!" Albus nodded eagerly. "...what’s the central storage?"
Fred shook his head. "The central storage is like the Holy Grail. All of the school’s supplies pass through that room. James and I searched for five years and came up with nothing. It’s not that easy."
"What about Professor Aurelia?" said Bea, feeding the knob a biscuit; it quickly decimated it into crumbs. "Didn't she have that demo the other day with unicorn hair, the one she does every year for P.A.R.E.?" Potions Abuse Resistance Education was a program set up by the Ministry to counter misuse of ingredients and unauthorized potions making. She had to attend sessions after getting caught brewing in the loo.
"It's not a sure bet, but better than nothing," Fred muttered, flipping open his timepiece. "Well, we do have all night. Let's go."
The destination was now two floors up. They found Rose again by the staircase and explained the new plan. She was glad enough to hear that she wouldn't run into Orion again.
As they were about to climb up, Bea caught a whiff of the ovens. "Hmm,” she said, “a little biscuit break?"
"That's all the way back there.” Fred had just prepped himself with a mental soundtrack that called for dashing down corridors, flashy diversion tactics and fancy point man acrobatics, not sugar. “Besides, we have the emergency biscuits."
"But there are better biscuits. I'll be real quick." She skipped away before he could say no. "Meet you at Aurelia's. Take Albus to the loo or something while you wait."
"Bea..." Fred glared pointedly. "At least watch out for Prefects!"
Bea shook her head as she turned the corner. Fred was too paranoid.
At the fruit bowl painting, she tickled the pear. A blast of spicy warmth enveloped her as she entered the kitchen. Weaving between the stools and pots and bustling House-Elves, she joined a couple of Hufflepuffs in raiding the snack cupboards.
She bagged some jammy dodgers for Fred, custard creams for Albus, and Bourbons for herself, and then stopped by the cooling racks for freshly baked cookies. Spying the tops of muffins in the ovens, Scorpius' apology cupcake sprang to mind. It suddenly struck her that Scorpius could have very easily lied about baking it. How could she have missed this? It must have been her empty stomach.
There was one way to check.
She tapped an idle House-Elf on the shoulder, who glared at her with his one good eye. "Erm, sorry to bother," she said, "but did you see a Scorpius Malfoy in here about a week ago? About yea high, blond, always in a suit, probably thinks he's better than you?"
He curled his crusty lip and turned away. "Never seen 'im before."
Scorpius had lied after all! What a weaselly snake, hitting her right in her weak spot and making up that whole apology speech with a straight face. Two hours baking a cupcake—who spent two hours baking a single cupcake?
But before she could get riled up, another House-Elf marched over to the elf that answered her question. "Xeeny! Xeeny can't say someone don't exist just a'cause Xeeny don't like them," he chided.
The surly House-Elf spat on the floor. "Xeeny do what Xeeny wants. Xeeny don't like him, he don't exist. If Mibben keep scoldin' Xeeny, mebbe Mibbin don't exist either."
The second elf, apparently named Mibben, sighed and glanced up at Bea. "Terribly sorry, Missus. Mr. Malfoy was in here last week."
"...really?" Reluctantly, Bea gulped down her wrath. She supposed there was no good resurrecting bygone issues, but she had been rather excited at having something to hold over Scorpius. That and the prospect of shouting J'accuse! at him.
"Wouldn't forget someone like Mr. Malfoy. Made a terrific mess."
"There ain't nothing terrific about it," Xeeny grumbled.
Mibben shook his head, twisting his foot about. "Xeeny's still sore about Mr. Malfoy's behavior. Don't like it when instructions aren't followed exactly."
"Twat used the wrong kind of eggs!" Xeeny brandished a spoon, knocking it against a line of pots. "Duck eggs! Supposed to be a chick'uns!"
"Now Xeeny, Mr. Malfoy did the proper baking conversions. One duck egg for two chicken eggs."
"You can't convert a duck to two chick'uns! It's just not right, 'else we'd all stop raising chick'uns and raise ducks and then convert them like Fancy Boy!"
The squabbling continued as Bea crept outside; House-elf fights lasted forever.
So Fancy Boy really did bake. That opened a whole other can of flobberworms. Maybe it was a hobby. Bea threatened to erupt in another bout of giggle-snorts. Maybe—maybe if she went on enough biscuit runs, maybe she would run into him dressed like that cooking celebrity, Julia Cauldron.
She must convince Fred next time.
A loud creak echoed down the hallway and Bea paled, all thoughts of frilly-aproned Scorpius slipping from her mind. Her fears were confirmed when she saw the empty space where the staircase had been. It had moved.
Cursing, she rapped the side of her head with a fist, trying to remember the fastest way to the second floor. There were secret passageways, but she didn't remember where without the Marauders Map. She'd have to take the long way. Tiptoeing up a stairwell, she hovered by the wall, close enough to hide in the shadows, but not enough for the buckles of her bag to scrape against the sleeping portraits.
A prefect walked by an adjoining archway. Bea held her breath. He didn't turn.
She headed toward the south end of the castle, but as she was about to round the corner, the bright glare of a lantern flashed against a mirror, reflecting the shadowed visage of Professor Hiddlebum, the Runes teacher. A startled gasp leapt out of her throat before she could push it down, and her feet tangled backwards in retreat.
"Who's there?" he wheezed.
Bea scanned the hallway she had just traversed, blood freezing. There was nowhere to hide. The glow was growing brighter and her legs stretched to flee. Suddenly, a hand clawed at her shirt, yanking her backwards. Another hand closed over her mouth, silencing her impulse to yelp.
Her cheek scraped against carpet—had she fallen on the floor? But her back slammed against someone warm, not cold stone, and she was enclosed in silk and velvet. On instinct, she swung her elbow back, getting in one good hit before an arm wrapped around her middle.
"Shh, shh! Stop squirming, nutcase!"
The shock stunned her like a Stupefy. Scorpius.
The footsteps neared and an outline of a rectangle lit up the dark space to her left. Scorpius must have pulled her behind a tapestry. She should have known it was him; no one else was showy enough to own a velvet blazer.
The light lingered, one second, two seconds. Even the faint exhale by her ear echoed loudly in the cramped chamber. Finally, the footsteps walked away, and the light left with it.
Bea tried to charge out of his grasp, wriggling an arm out, but Scorpius caught her again and held her even tighter.
"Don't get us both caught," he whispered harshly. "I just saved your arse."
After another unruly thrash, she slackened.
"Are you going to yell when I let go?"
She shook her head. Scorpius dropped his arms. Bea bolted to the other wall. They both drew their wands—his cast Lumos, hers was at his neck.
"Why are you following me?" she hissed.
He rolled his eyes and tried to brush aside her wand, but it only dug deeper into his throat. "Put that down. I drew first anyway. If I had any intention of harming you, I would have done it already. I'm not here for... whatever you think I'm here for."
"So you were following me." Bea circled around him in hopes of snatching his wand, but he held it out of reach.
"For your own good. Now put your wand down." Scorpius seized her wrist and wrenched it away. Bea tumbled back against the tapestry and would have fallen out if he hadn't held on.
She braced her feet, wand reluctantly at her side. "What do you want?"
"I assume you're not interested whether or not I explain myself." A hint of irritation pricked his brow.
"As if one cupcake would change my mind about you. You're a—" She was about to say smarmy git, but he hadn't really been one lately. He hadn't been much of anything lately, except being in a hypothetical apron. "I don't know, but I still don't trust you."
"What if I say I'm here to help you and you're not obligated to do anything in return?"
There was always a catch. "Why?"
"Because I can." He advanced a step so that the light from his wand could catch both of their faces. "Because I like your spunk and your invention and let me tell you: it's a lost cause without someone like me. With Killjoy, Potterpuff, and Mad-Eye Weasley? You couldn't even get past the Guard Knob."
"As if you can."
"My father installed them all around the manor. I could tame and disassemble one by the time I was eight. But"—the wheedling gleam reignited—"that's small stuff."
"For the last time, I don't want your money."
"Even for free?"
"There's no such thing," Bea snapped. "Maybe I don't know the cost yet but it's there. It might start out dandy, but one day, you'll buy me some fancy supplies and when I run out, then what? Then you suddenly have a bargaining chip, and you can pull out whatever you're hiding up your sleeve."
He held up his hands, empty sans the wand tucked between his fingers. "I'd swear there's nothing, but it was poker night and I still have my deck of aces in there." It was startling how the steely grey of his eyes resisted the warm lighting, and how much that made him the perfect picture of his famed father. "I don't like needing to prove myself, but if I have to, I will. What if I said I know where the central storage is?"
A shiver of anticipation numbed her feet. Her gut told her he wasn't lying and yet—"I'd say you're a liar."
"Would you? Well, I might be heading over right now. You're welcome to join."
His eyes flitted to the right and Bea had only just noticed that they weren't in an alcove, but an entire passageway. Scorpius took two steps toward the looming unknown, and then glanced back. He was waiting for her.
J'accuse means 'I accuse'; 'P.A.R.E. is adapted from the D.A.R.E. program, and Julia Cauldron is inspired by Julia Child
A/N I originally planned for this entire adventure to take up one chapter. That... did not happen. Anyhow, it's a bit of a reprieve from the melodramatic conflicts. Do tell me what you think!
Coming soon: The adventure continues! Sock gremlins, fight scenes...
Another stun whizzed past and she felt her right arm free, but a fresh mob of the greedy gremlins pounced onto her stomach. Bea was quite fortunate that her reflexes were slow; she was about to raise her head to push them off when the second figure landed beside her and knocked the socremlins off with a sweeping circle kick only inches from her face. She sucked in a sharp breath and caught a whiff of strangely familiar perfume.
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