Chapter Six: Sudden Enemies And Detention
The next morning, Rose and Albus headed for breakfast immediately. Scorpius was nowhere to be seen. He hadn't been in bed when Albus woke up, and wasn't in the Common Room when Albus met Rose after getting dressed. Albus was in the middle of his second helping of eggie-in-the-basket and bacon before Scorpius finally sat down across from him.
Scorpius could tell that his friend wanted to ask where he'd been, but luckily enough, Albus's mouth was far too full to begin to try and communicate. Unluckily enough, Rose was just as curious as Albus was, and had too many manners to just shovel in her food.
"So where have you been?" she began, almost as soon as he sat down. "Al said you weren't in bed when you woke up. We looked, but couldn't find you." Rose took another bite of her poached egg. Scorpius watched her in horror… having the white of an egg be semi-runny when you ate it always seemed too similar to eating bogeys, and who wanted to eat a bogey?
"I was in the seventh year bathroom, practicing," he said quietly. "I lost track of time… if one of the sevenths hadn't kick me out for being out of bounds then I would have forgotten about breakfast entirely." Scorpius nervously bit into a dry crumpet, took a sip of pumpkin juice, and promptly stopped eating. Instead, he began wringing his napkin in his hands, as if trying to squeeze blood from it.
"Well… you should eat more than just a crumpet. We've got a long day ahead of us. The first class this morning is Herbology, then Charms, and after lunch we've got our first flying lesson, and tonight we've got Astronomy." Rose recited their schedules from memory. "If you don't eat something, you'll be falling asleep in Charms, and I hear that Professor Dunstan gets really cross when students do that."
Scorpius looked up at the High Table, where Professor Dunstan sat, laughing at something Professor Flitwick was saying. He could hear Dunstan's deep, rolling laugh quite clearly past nearly the entire student body of Hogwarts. Scorpius wondered how loud if the old man was even capable of being cross.
"What were you practicing?"
Scorpius whipped around to face Albus. The question had surprised him. "What?"
"You said you were practicing in the bathroom. What were you practicing?" Albus took another bite of his breakfast. The yoke of the egg had broken, and he began sopping it up with more toast.
"Oh… well… I was practicing how I was going to ask Dahlia about Father's letter." Scorpius looked over to the Ravenclaw table. "I mean, I can't just walk up to her and stand there with my mouth open, can I? I mean, she's a seventh year... what seventeen year old, boy or girl, is going to want an ickle Firstie bothering them, yeah?"
"Yeah, well… good luck, mate. I wish I could help you with that, but I'm afraid you're quite on your own there." Albus smiled, letting Scorpius know that he meant it all in jest.
"Yeah… luck. I need some luck." He began to stand when Tom MacFarlane, the boy sitting directly to Rose's right pointed upward.
"Look! The mail's here!" Automatically the three friends glanced upward at the dozens of owls swooping into the Great Hall. Several of the owls flew over the Gryffindor table, dropping letters and small packages to several of the students. One letter fell neatly into Rose's hands. Another dropped directly onto Scorpius' lap.
"It's from Dad!" Rose exclaimed. She opened her letter and read it with a surprising intensity. "Oh come now…!"
She looked at Scorpius, who still hadn't opened his. "He wanted me to tell you welcome to Gryffindor. He also says that… I can't believe this… he says… oh my… he says that before you try anything with me, count up the number of cousins I have in this school. I cannot believe he actually said that in a letter."
Scorpius blushed. "What does he mean by 'try anything'? I mean, you're my friend, right? What does he think I'll do? Hex you or something?" He read the address on his envelope. "Oh. This is from my great-aunt Andromeda. I haven't seen her in years."
Albus looked puzzled. "Wait… Andromeda? You don't mean Andromeda Tonks, do you?"
"That's her name, yeah." Scorpius read the letter, wondering why she was writing.
I must admit that when your mother first informed me of your sorting, I was set aback. To my knowledge, no descendant of the House of Malfoy has ever been sorted into Gryffindor. The House of Black, of course, cannot say the same. Not only was my cousin Sirius sorted into Gryffindor, but we can count the many members of the Houses of Weasley, Longbottom, and Potter as distant cousins. If you prefer to think of your sorting as the result of their distant influence, you're all the better for it. You could certainly do worse. Many of my family, and yours, stand as perfect examples of what is worse.
Your father is probably going spare, but I trust my nephew to eventually accept the situation. He might be aloof and distant, but he does love you in his own way. Be patient with him and you'll do fine. But if not, feel free to turn to me should you need to talk to someone who knows what it's like to be an outcast from your family.
Finally, I do have some words of advice, if you don't mind taking advice from an old Slytherin like me: one of Harry Potter's sons is entering school with you, and there's no doubt in my mind that he will be in Gryffindor with you. Befriend him. The Potters are nothing if not loyal to their friends, and you will do well in life with a Potter at your side.
With Great Love,
Scorpius glanced up from the letter to see a questioning look on Albus' face. It took a moment for Scorpius to realize Albus had asked a question and that he had completely missed it.
"Sorry, what did you say?" Scorpius folded up his letter and placed it in his pocket.
"I asked if you knew Teddy Lupin! He's my oldest brother… sort of." Albus smiled.
"Sort of? How is someone sort of your brother?" Scorpius was confused. "I mean, you're either brothers or not, right?"
"Well… Dad's his godfather, so he was over a lot, and Dad always treated him like a son, and we sort of always treated him like he was an older brother. I mean, he's not really, but almost." Albus explained.
"I don't think I've ever met him. Mother talks to Auntie 'Dromeda, but Father never does." Scorpius replied.
"You mean you never knew you had a cousin?" Coming from such a large extended family, where you couldn't whirl a kneazle by its tail without hitting four or five cousins, Rose found the idea a bit shocking.
Scorpius shrugged. "I do now, I suppose. Is he here at Hogwarts? Which year is he in?"
Rose shook her head. "He's been out of school for two years now. He's at St. Mungo's, working as an apprentice Healer. One more year and he's through with his courses."
"If you come over during the summer, I'm sure you'll meet him." Albus casually issued the invitation, knowing instinctively that his parents wouldn't protest too hard.
Scorpius shrugged. His attention was suddenly on Dahlia Parkinson. The Head Girl was walking out of the Great Hall with two other girls. If Scorpius was going to talk to her, it was now or never. With a look to Albus and Rose to let them know where he was going, he stood up.
Scorpius tried to angle his path to cut her off at the end of the Ravenclaw table. He watched her walk down the other side of the table, figuring he had the timing worked out so they'd just naturally be near each other, when suddenly he was falling.
Off balance, Scorpius tried to catch onto something, anything, but before he could, he slammed shoulder-first into the stonework of the floor. The other students around him were silent for a moment, but then burst out with either a low murmur-and-whisper or outright laughter. An older Ravenclaw boy, a look of concern on his face, bent to help Scorpius stand. The smile on the other boy's face grew suddenly cruel as Scorpius found his feet.
"And where do you think you're doing, following Dahlia like that? I heard from someone on the train that you were sucking up to her. She's got better things to do than mess with a mis-sorted little snake like you." The boy leaned in so only Scorpius could hear his half-whispered insults. "Your grandfather killed my dad and my uncles and made my mother a nervous wreck. So I'm going to stomp you, you little turdie… you'd best believe it. And before you think of tellin' on me, keep it in mind that there's lots of folks like me who your lot killed in the war… who do you think they'll believe if you tell? A snake like you or a prefect like me?"
The boy stood back and brushed Scorpius' robes, as if cleaning him of dust. "There you go, right as rain. Looks like he tripped on his own shoe laces, perfessor."
Scorpius looked back to see Professor MacDougal, the Ravenclaw Head of House, approaching swiftly. "Well then," she said, "looks like Mister Malfoy is no worse for wear then. Carry on." She nodded at both students, and then turned to walk back to the High Table.
The other boy smiled at Malfoy, then slapped him on the back much harder than necessary. "Be seeing you, Malfoy."
Unsettled and vulnerable, Scorpius ran from the Great Hall as quickly as he could.
Scorpius had run out of the Great Hall and through the front doors of the school. He didn't much care where he ended up, he just felt the need to find some hidden spot so he could let go, crying and screaming and yelling if he needed to without anyone, even his friends, seeing him. Being seen as a baby is one of the primary concerns in the life of an eleven year old, and Scorpius Malfoy was no different.
And so Scorpius had found himself sitting with his back to a long stone table, in a structure he'd never been to or even seen on campus before. He finally took his first look around while wiping the last tears from his eyes. It was strange, he thought. The building had no front wall… that side was open to the outside, with a set of columns holding up the ceilings.
The floor itself was broken up into large squares, alternating rose and white marble, and each square had writing on it. He stepped toward the nearest square and read "ALICIA MARGARET SPINNET. DUMBLEDORE'S ARMY. 1978 – 1998. GRYFFINDOR HOUSE." The next one to it read "CHARLES AUGUSTUS PENWORTHY. 1942 – 1998. HOGSMEADE VOLUNTEER." His eyes searched the wide open floor until they landed on the table he'd been leaning against. It wasn't a table. It was an altar, of a sort, a whatchicallit… sepulcher… with a flame burning in thin air above dead center. He suddenly realized he was in the Battle of Hogwarts Memorial.
"I wondered if you'd be in here. To tell you the truth, almost no one ever comes in here anymore. It's a bit of a shock." It was Fred Weasley. The older boy stood easily, leaning against a column. "Al is going spare, he's so worried about you. And I won't even go into how pissed Professor Longbottom is right now. You're missing his class, you see. He's got Hagrid and Sir Nicholas combing the castle for you right now. But they're off looking in the owlery and the kitchens. I had a hunch you'd run outside somewhere."
Scorpius sniffled. "I didn't want to be in the castle, where that muscle-headed git could find me. He said… he said he was going to stomp on me, and called me a turd. Because of something my grandfather did during the war." Scorpius took a deep, shuddering breath. "I never even knew my grandfather," he said, so quietly that Fred almost missed it.
Fred nodded. "Yeah."
Scorpius wiped at his nose, which still was a bit snotty. "He said there was more who thought like him, who blamed me for things that happened to their families. He also said he was a prefect and that no one would believe him if I told…"
Fred sucked air in through his teeth. "Did he now. Well… did you happen to catch this gentleman's name? I know all the Ravenclaw prefects, and I assure you we'll get this cleared up, one way or the other." The was definitely an air of menace about the older boy when he said this, but for some reason it wasn't directed at Scorpius. The older boy suddenly smiled at the younger boy's nervousness. "Don't worry, Scorp… Gryffindors protect their own. You're a Gryffindor. The hat wouldn't have sorted you here if you didn't belong. Now, did this toadlike example of inbreeding tell you his name?"
"No, he didn't tell me what his name was, but he was in Ravenclaw. And I know he's not the only one, because I've had people say things to me since the train ride. Or else they point and they say things behind my back. I've even had people in Gryffindor give me nasty looks." Scorpius didn't meet Fred's eyes. "One of your cousins, even."
Fred's mouth twisted slightly. "Well… we can't have that. I'll talk to my cousins."
For a moment, Scorpius studied Fred Weasley. He tried to do it casually, not wanting the other boy to notice. Despite the darker skin color and the dreadlocks, Fred's face still carried the same solid, squarish shape as the other Weasleys. Fred might look different, but it was obvious he was made from the same original timber.
Fred didn't notice the scrutiny. He was too busy looking around. "Come on, Scorp… let's get you to class. This place gives me the willies." Fred shivered. "Not anyone's favorite place to be. The Victory Day service every year is often enough for me."
Scorpius hadn't decided if he liked "Scorp", but he wasn't going to say anything that might cause the older boy to withdraw his offer of protection. "Why? What's here that bothers you?" Scorpius asked.
Without answering immediately, Fred walked the younger boy toward the back wall and pointed to a particular square. It read, FRED WEASLEY. DUMBLEDORE'S ARMY. 1978 – 1998. GRYFFINDOR HOUSE.
The pair stood there and stared at the memorial for a moment, before Fred broke the silence. "Now, I understand that the problems your name cause you are potentially worse than the problems my name cause me, but can you imagine what it's like, having this hanging over you?. Got any idea how creepy it is to look down on the tomb of some war hero you've never met and see your own name staring up at you? There are days… lots of days… that I wish I was named something other than Fred." He looked to Scorpius, who seemed to understand.
"Not that I don't like the name, mind you, or that I am ashamed of being named after my uncle…" Fred sighed. "It's just… right about my thirteenth birthday I realized that my dad treated me more like a replacement brother and less like a son. For the most part, that was cool… but there were times I needed a dad, not a big brother, and it was hard. And my grandmother… I'm telling you…" Fred wiped his hand down his face, pulling a bit on his lower jaw. "You don't know what it's like, knowing that of all of her grand-children… and there are a lot of us, Scorp… I've got cousins back home you haven't seen yet… but imagine you are your Gramma's favorite grandchild just because of your name." Fred let that sink in for a moment. "Not because you've done anything special, or for any other stupid reason, but just because you're named Fred-bloody-Weasley. Got any idea the good will that generates among the other kids in your family?" Fred looked Scorpius in the eye.
The younger boy just shook his head.
The pair were quiet for a while as they stood there, looking down on the tomb of the first Fred Weasley. Scorpius finally put his hand on Fred's arm and smiled. To Scorpius' great surprise, Fred smiled back. "Yeah, well, enough of this codswallop. Let's get you to class."
As they walked out, it occurred to Scorpius to ask, "Hey Fred… what does codswallop mean?"
Fred chuckled. "No idea. Its something Hagrid always says."
As he listened to the rain gently tap on the ceiling of his cherished greenhouses, Professor Neville Longbottom couldn't really state a reason why he felt so uneasy. He thought about it as he carried the bags of dragon dung fertilizer into Greenhouse 3's rear area. It was just a detention, like so many others he had issued during his nearly fifteen years as a Hogwarts professor. But this time it was with a Malfoy. The thought of having Draco Malfoy's son in a detention, making him do some greatly exaggeratedly unpleasant task, was a disturbingly pleasurable one.
And that bothered him. He'd always strived to follow the late Professional McGonagall's example: no matter what you felt about an individual student, you treated them fairly and appropriately. Up until now, Neville thought he had succeeded in doing just that. Every student in the school knew that he never favored Gryffindor House in any of his classes, nor did he unduly penalize the Slytherins.
At least not in any significant way, that was. There were always the little things… like his not enforcing the school's lights out policy as stringently on the sixth and seventh years as he did on the others, or the fact that he was generally more lenient when it came to the first years and their rule-breaking…
Generally more lenient. His thoughts again arrived at the subject of Scorpius Malfoy, who was, of course, the spitting image of Draco Malfoy. His childhood tormentor. The bully who, for so much of Neville's time at Hogwarts, had made Neville's life a living hell. That Malfoy. If forced to admit it, Neville had actually enjoyed levying punishment on the boy not because of who Scorpius was, but because of who Scorpius' father was.
Neville wasn't sure what to do about that. The last thing he wanted was to turn into Severus Snape.
He took up a pair of tongs from his toolbox and a set of small gloves and set them both next to the fertilizer. No… it wasn't really fair to the boy. But Neville didn't really know what to do about his feelings. Perhaps he should talk to someone. He'd be home tonight late, and no doubt Hannah would already be in bed asleep… and anyway, Hannah hated it when he brought work home, as much as he hated when she brought issues with the tavern to bed with her. Hermione, then. Or better yet, Harry. He'd contact Harry about his feelings regarding the Malfoy boy. After all, if anyone understood what it was like to be hated for who your parents were…
With Harry in mind, he took a deep breath and simply stood there for a long moment, collecting his thoughts by watching the raindrops strike the glass roof of the greenhouse.
Neville jumped in surprise, then turned to the newly arrived Scorpius Malfoy. The boy stood just inside the door to the greenhouse, still dripping from the rain. He had a look of confusion on his face, obviously wondering what his teacher was doing just standing there looking into space.
"Mister Malfoy. You're right on time. Good work, considering the weather." Neville gave him a polite smile and motioned him further inside the greenhouse. "We're going to be fertilizing the dragon lilies this evening. You'll find some work robes over there, and I have a pair of gloves for you as well. Once you're prepared, come back and meet me in the rear."
Neville turned away from the boy and walked back to the rear tables. The newly planted dragon lilies were still too young to breathe fire, but they were nevertheless aggressively pushing and snapping at each their neighbors. He scooped several pounds of fertilizer into a large metal bowl and set it aside, still thinking to himself.
He felt rather than actually saw Malfoy approach. "Ah, here you go. All right, young man, here's how this is going to work. These are dragon lilies. Have you ever seen them before? Ever dealt with them?"
The boy shook his head, warily eyeing the aggressive flowers.
Neville smiled. "Well then, you're in for an experience. Now, when they are larger and more fully grown, these flowers have the capacity to actually breathe fire on creatures they perceive as a threat. Right now, though, they're still young enough that the worst they can do is give you a nasty bite. You've got your gloves on, though, so that shouldn't be a worry."
Neville watched the boy's eyes go wide as he stared at the dragon lilies. The flowers had taken notice of Neville and the boy's presence. Several were bending low in their pots and growling at the pair. Neville gestured toward the bowl of fertilizer. "Now pick up that bowl… I'll use the tongs to hold the dragon lily away from you. You spread a goodly amount of fertilizer around its base."
For a moment, Neville expected the boy to freeze in place rather than follow his directions. But without so much as a moment's hesitation, Scorpius stepped forward and picked up the bowl. The action abruptly reminded Neville that this young man was a member of his own house… the house of Godric Gryffindor. It was clear that the boy was nervous, but he wasn't frightened.
Neville nodded. "When you need more fertilizer, the bag is right over there. Just let me know when your bowl runs out and I'll help you refill it." He raised the tongs. "Ready, Mister Malfoy?"
The boy nodded. "Ready, professor."
They worked in silence for nearly an hour and a half. To Neville's surprise, he found that Scorpius might be a reluctant worker, but once on a task he was diligent and attentive, and he followed directions willingly enough. Finding things to admire about the boy made Neville's next words a bit easier to say. Given the trouble he was having viewing Scorpius Malfoy separate from Draco, the professor had been dreading this part of the evening.
"Mister Malfoy… I have been informed that you are having some problems with some of the other students," Neville said. The dragon lily had evaded his grip, and Neville found himself using his tongs as a makeshift weapon to fend off its snapping attacks. "Is this true?"
"yrhrm prfmrhmrm," Malfoy murmured with a shrug. The boy was studying his shoes rather than meet Neville's eye, which told the Herbology Professor exactly what he wanted to know.
Neville spared a quick second to glance at the boy. "What was that? Speak up, Mister Malfoy… I am afraid I am no longer fluent in mumbling child."
The boy sighed, then nodded, saying, "I said 'yes, professor'."
"Who?" Neville finally caught the lily and pulled its blossom back. He motioned for Scorpius to fill its pot with fertilizer. "Who specifically has been causing you grief?"
"I… um…" Scorpius hesitated.
"Mister Malfoy, the urge to not be seen as a tattletale is a fine thing, but there are limits." Neville put the tongs down and turned toward his student. "Mister Malfoy… Scorpius… look…" Neville began. He thought for a long moment about what to say and what not to say. "Professor Anydots tells me she turned around the other day to find you spattered in toad intestines, and she has yet to determine precisely who it was who threw them at you. Professor Jones has informed me that you showed up for her class hopping under the effects of a Leg Locker Jinx. And then there's the slightly fading bruise on your right cheek."
The boy looked like he was going to bolt at any moment. Neville sighed. "Let me guess. Someone… perhaps more than one someone… has cornered you alone and told you that if you tell they'll make it worse for you. Maybe take it out on your friends, too. Is that it?
Scorpius' eyes grew wider, but he nodded.
Neville ground his teeth, then nodded. "Who, Mister Malfoy? I can't put a stop to it unless I know who it is. And believe me, I can make it stop."
The boy shrugged. "He said his name was McCorkindale…"
Neville nodded. "Slytherin prefect. No doubt his friends Leatherby and Bletchley were there too, I suppose? And whatever girl McCorkindale is seeing this week?"
Scorpius nodded grimly.
"Four sixteen year olds, ganging up on a First Year. Perfect." Neville stood. "Mister Malfoy, we're done for the night. Let's go back into my private workroom." He led Scorpius through a door marked "Teachers Only", into a room that was half-office, half gardening storeroom.
The professor took out his wand and conjured a glass of pumpkin juice and several large pieces of chocolate for Scorpius, and a mug of butterbeer for himself. Neville motioned toward the chocolate, and waited for the boy to avail himself of it before continuing. "So what did McCorkindale and his henchmen do?"
Malfoy didn't say anything. He just stared into his glass.
"What did he do, Mister Malfoy?"
Scorpius shrugged, and this time it was obvious to Neville that the boy was trying to make it all seem very casual. To Neville, though, this sort of thing was never casual. Harry Potter was once again called to Neville's memory. Both Harry and the young man currently sitting in front of Neville had the same bad habit of not admitting when they needed help.
The boy sighed once more. "He threw me out of my compartment on the train. I tripped and bashed my face into the wall of the train. That's how I got the bruise."
"And the rest?" Neville ran a hand through his hair, thinking about how to handle all this. I'll have to talk to Professor Rajapaksa, no doubt…
"Well, there was a boy from Ravenclaw…" Scorpius continued.
…and MacDougal… Neville continued his thought.
"He said he was a prefect, but I didn't see a badge. And I don't know his name." Scorpius went on. There were tears in the boy's eyes. Neville felt like a heel, making him go through this, but it had to be done. "He said he was going to make me pay, because something happened during the war and it was my fault because I'm a Death Eater."
Neville's face grew grim. "You're not a Death Eater, Malfoy. Trust me. If anyone at this school knows who is and who isn't a Death Eater, it's me. And you…" he stopped. "Just trust me, son. You don't qualify. Anyone else?"
"Well… um… I know who cast the Leg Locker." Neville watched the boy's eyes suddenly move away from Neville, moving to the wall behind the Herbology professor, then to the desk. It was obvious that the young man didn't want to say the name.
"Well?" Neville asked, gently. "Who was it?"
Scorpius seemed to fold in on himself. "Fortnum. Adam Fortnum."
Neville's mouth fell open. He was honestly shocked by this revelation. "You're talking about Adam Fortnum the Head Boy? The GRYFFINDOR Head Boy? He did that to you?"
Scorpius only nodded. He was carefully studying his shoes.
Neville put both hands to his face and rubbed for a moment. "Stupid arrogant… no sense of house loyalty… what in the bloody hell is he thinking…" The professor stared into space, Scorpius momentarily forgotten. He would have liked to think that no Gryffindor would indulge in such pettiness, but he knew all too well that thinking that all the people in their various houses perfectly exemplified the ideals of that house as if they were perfectly carved copies of one another was…
"Professor…" Neville blinked, then turned his attention back to Malfoy. The boy was on the edge of crying.
"Sorry, Mister Malfoy. Thinking." Neville dug a handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it over. "Blow your nose, Malfoy. Did you wish to ask me something?"
Scorpius blew his nose on the handkerchief while nodding. "Yes, Professor. Do you… can you tell me… why they hate me? I haven't done anything to them…"
Neville went white. He could hear the voice his conscience speaking to him. Well… now was the perfect chance to put those fables ideals of nobility and fairness and courage to the test, old bean…It always amazed him that the voice of his conscience sounded suspiciously like the late, lamented Fred Weasley.
"Well… um… all right, Mister Malfoy. Have a seat. This might be a long story, but it's a story you deserve to hear." Neville waited until Scorpius sat. He sat in silence, staring at the boy for a couple of minutes… just long enough for Scorpius to start fidgeting beneath his gaze.
Neville let out a long breath and began to speak. "First -- and understand this, Mister Malfoy, because its very important -- not all wizards are good. Some of them go bad. Almost fifty years ago, there was one wizard who went as bad as you can go, and his name was Tom Riddle…"