It was cold. Cold, dark, dismal - it felt as though all the happiness had gone from the world. Black, cloaked figures loomed around Albus as he walked down a stone corridor. He did his best to ignore them and remain calm, though he wondered why the dark figures were there. Albus did not know what they were, but somehow he knew that they were not supposed to be there.
He stopped before a thick metal door that had a window with bars. Peering inside, he could see a shaggy-haired figure huddled in a corner, hunched over and biting down on the bones left behind by his latest meal. The figure looked up at him suddenly, as though sensing that someone was watching him. The man in the cell grinned, revealing sharp, bloodstained teeth. Albus winced slightly. "You my 'legal counsel'?" the man asked in a harsh voice.
"Of a sort," Albus said. He felt his mouth moving, but his voice was unfamiliar to him. It was a deeper, darker voice.
"By all means, come in," the man said, his eyes glinting. "Don't be afraid—it's not a full moon tonight, and besides, as you can see, I'm chained to the wall." He shook his wrists, and the chains binding him to the stone wall rattled. Fenrir Greyback's eyes glinted.
Albus' eyes flew open as he felt someone shaking him. He tried to pull the covers over his head. "It can't be morning already," he moaned. Whoever was shaking him pulled the sheets off his body. "Hey!" Albus exclaimed. Scorpius was standing beside the bed, his face revealing his distress. "What's wrong?"
"I'm going to prove my mum's innocent."
Albus blinked, his mind still groggy. "What?"
"I'm not going to let my nightmare happen. I won't let the Ministry…" Scorpius shuddered and trailed off. "Listen," Scorpius said quietly, sitting on Albus' bed. "Your dad read something from an old book. After that, the Aurors took my mum away. We have to find out what was in that book. Then we can disprove it."
"And what if it proves Professor Malfoy is guilty?" Albus asked.
Scorpius appeared stupefied. A few moments later, his face flushed in anger. "You think my mum's a liar?" he asked furiously, his voice rising. Theodore groaned and rolled over from the nearest bed. Scorpius glanced at him before continuing. "You think my mum's a murderer?" he hissed more quietly through clenched teeth.
Albus sighed and looked away. "I don't know. I don't know what to believe."
Scorpius eyed him suspiciously. "Do you know something about the murders that I don't?"
Albus hesitated. Should he tell Scorpius about the dream? He had dreamed about someone discussing a murder with Fenrir Greyback and then…
Albus' recent dream suddenly flooded into his mind. Fenrir was in some sort of prison with those dark, cold creatures. Albus shivered, the horrible feeling he had had during the dream coming back to him. He shuddered.
"Remember that werewolf? The murder suspect?"
Scorpius' brow furrowed. "Yes. What's that got to do with my mum?"
Albus sat up, looking at the still figures of their roommates. "Come on, let's go to the common room."
A dying fire was still burning in the fireplace. The two sat near it in high-back chairs. Scorpius leaned forward. "So? What do you know about the werewolf?" he asked eagerly.
Albus took a deep breath. "I think…I think he's in prison. I think he's been arrested."
"How do you know that?"
An innocent question—but Albus felt almost guilty about the answer. How could he tell his friend that he had been having dreams about the werewolf? It wasn't normal. "I just…I think I know. But let's wait until the Daily Prophet arrives Monday. If he's been arrested, it'll probably be in there."
Scorpius' eyes narrowed, obviously knowing that Albus wasn't telling the whole truth, but he didn't press any further on that subject. "Can you ask your dad about the book?"
Albus shifted uncomfortably, remembering his father's letter. "I don't think he would tell me anything."
"You have to try," Scorpius pleaded. "We'll have to go through the whole library otherwise, and the book might be in the Restricted Section, or not in there at all! If you can find out which book, maybe we can find out what it was your uncle found."
Albus sighed heavily, leaning back in the chair as he imagined his father reacting to his son asking about what he had read before taking Professor Malfoy away. He probably wouldn't be happy about it, and be suspicious. Perhaps he would even think it was forged, or that someone forced him to write it.
"I'm not sure if I can be subtle about something like that," Albus said. "But if I'm too obvious, he won't tell me. I'm not sure he would tell me anyway." Albus and Scorpius thought in silence for a few moments. "What about Professor Malfoy?"
Scorpius looked up in surprise. "You want to ask my mum about it?"
"If she's innocent as you believe, it should be no problem. But I think you should ask, not me," Albus added quickly. "She might be suspicious of Harry Potter's son, but not of her own."
"But mum might not know anything about what's in the book!" Scorpius said.
"Will she blame her son for asking?" Albus said sincerely. "She must know how worried you are. And you were there when Uncle Ron showed my dad the book."
Scorpius looked at the floor as he thought about this. "I suppose…" His eyes lit up as he looked back up at Albus. "Professor Longbottom!"
"Neville?" Albus said, blinking in confusion. "What about him?"
"You know him! You can ask him, too. He might know something. Remember what Professor Hagrid said?" Albus shook his head. His memory didn't function all that brilliantly in the middle of the night. "He said that no one at Hogwarts really knows my mum except Professor Longbottom."
"Perhaps with information from them both, we can put some evidence together and prove that you're mum's innocent," Albus said, smiling. He really liked Professor Malfoy, no matter what his father said, and he wanted to believe that she was good. And Albus was going to help prove it.
Albus and Scorpius were very glad it was Saturday. They could easily find time to speak with Professors Malfoy and Longbottom at some point during the day. Albus had written a letter to his father, but had not sent it yet. The two had determined after writing it that they should find out as much information as they could first.
Albus found Professor Longbottom feeding Venomous Tentacula in Greenhouse 3. "Professor?"
"Keep away from these plants, Albus," Neville warned. "What do you need?"
"To talk to you, sir. It's about…Professor Malfoy."
Longbottom turned toward him, slapping away a tentacle from the Tentacula that crept over his shoulder. "Oh."
"Is my dad right about her, Professor?" Albus asked hesitatingly. "I don't want to believe it, but…she's my head of house, see, and…"
Neville approached him and guided him out of the greenhouse and into his office nearby. "She's not evil, Albus. I know that much," he said quietly.
"Why do they think it's her killing all these people?"
Longbottom gulped. "I'm not in the Ministry's confidence in this matter. You'll have to ask your father."
"My father won't tell me. He only says that she's a murderer. But Hagrid said that you know her better than anyone, Professor," Albus added.
"Professor Hagrid gives me a great deal more credit than I deserve," Neville said with a small smile. "She's my friend. We've been friends for years, which is how I know she is not a murderer. She's not perfect. She's made mistakes. But she did not kill Nott or the others."
"Why do they think that she did?"
"As I said, the Ministry has not told me," Longbottom said firmly. "This will be all sorted out shortly, I think. Now why don't you run along to lunch?"
Albus poked at his food as he thought on his brief conversation with Professor Longbottom. Although Neville clearly believed that Alea was innocent, something about his tone of voice and his behavior made him feel as though he had been holding something back – something big.
"Why do you guys keep doing that?"
Albus looked over at Aries. "What are you talking about?" Aries and Iris rolled their eyes at each other.
"Why are you two watching the High Table like that?" Aries asked.
Scorpius cocked an eyebrow. "I don't know what you're talking about. I'm just thinking."
"You're a horrible liar, Scorpius," Iris said, shaking her head.
"Father would be so ashamed," Aries said sarcastically. She and Iris exchanged a grin.
Scorpius suddenly stood and left the Great Hall. "Wait, you hardly touched your food!" Aries called after him. "I was kidding!"
"I'll get him," Albus said, following his friend.
Scorpius was sitting on the steps that led to the Grand Staircase, his head in his hands. "I can't even lie to my own sister convincingly," he said when Albus approached. "Bloody hell, how am I supposed to lie to my mother?"
Albus sat down beside him. "It's not lying. You're just asking other questions than the ones you're trying to get answers to." Albus sighed. "I see your point. Then…don't lie." Scorpius looked at him in surprise.
"You want me to tell her that we're trying to find out what was in the book?"
"You could ask about the Chamber, too, she'd wouldn't—." Albus snapped his mouth shut as Scorpius' eyes widened. Albus had forgotten that he and Aries had kept the information about the basilisk to themselves.
"The Chamber? Of Secrets?" Scorpius gasped. "You do know something about the murders that I don't!" he accused.
"No, no, no," Albus said quickly, looking around to make sure no one was nearby. "Aries and I talked to Moaning Myrtle…"
"Moaning who?" Scorpius interrupted.
"Moaning Myrtle, she's a ghost in one of the girl's bathrooms," Albus quickly explained. "Anyway, we talked to her, and she told us about a monster in the Chamber—a monster that your mum raised," Albus whispered so quietly even he couldn't hear himself.
Scorpius' eyes widened. "No!" he exclaimed. "She wouldn't."
"She did—a basilisk. Say that you heard about that from your father."
Scorpius shook his head. "What if my father doesn't know? And what if she knows he doesn't know?"
Albus sighed. "Just ask about the Chamber then, not the basilisk."
The blond put his hands over his face and shook his head. "No, no, I can't do this."
"Don't worry, you'll be fine." When Scorpius did not respond, Albus put his arm around him in an attempt to comfort him. "She's you're mother, you can talk to her."
"Talk to me about what? Scorpius, what's wrong?"
Albus and Scorpius both gasped and leapt to their feet as they heard Professor Malfoy's voice. "Are you two all right?" she asked, looking from one startled face to the other. "You know, either of you can talk to me about anything," she said with a small smile. Her eyes fell onto her son. "Scorpius?" she asked, her green eyes shining with worry.
Scorpius looked at Albus, his eyes pleading for help. Albus took a deep breath. "We're just…we're worried, Professor," Albus said. "We want to talk to you." Albus glanced at Scorpius, who silently thanked him with his eyes for not leaving him alone in this.
"Worried about what?" Professor Malfoy said, taking a few steps closer to the two of them.
"You, mum," Scorpius suddenly said. He bit his lip.
Malfoy smiled sadly and embraced her son. "Come on, you two. Let's talk in my office." She put an arm around each other their shoulders and led them to the dungeons. Albus gulped, eyeing the black tattoo on Malfoy's wrist worriedly. His father would not be happy if he ever heard about this.