"Substantial casualties were suffered by both parties when, due to unintended effects of a misdirected curse, a large portion of the West Wing collapsed, resulting in some fifty cubed yards of rubble falling at a great…"
"Only Binns could make the greatest battle of the century this boring!" moaned Trudi softly, as the Professor droned on. "Half the people in this room had relatives that fought – and died! – on these very grounds, all to bring Voldemort down, and when we learn about it in class it's tedious enough to put us to sleep. Ugh!"
"Not everyone cares about things like this, Trudi," Roxanne reminded her lazily, tossing her flame-red hair out of her eyes. "Even though my uncle Fred and your uncle Colin gave their lives to make all of us safe today, some people – " she threw a contemptuous glance over her shoulder " – had relatives, even parents, who sat around and snivelled. It'd be no wonder if people like that didn't want to hear about the greatest battle in history, when their ancestors showed the courage and morality of rats during it!"
Behind the two students, a third scowled resentfully. "It's easy for some to talk…" he said pointedly to the backs of the girls in front of him. "Some people had relatives who ran around throwing jinxes at werewolves and giants, and died without having ever even seen the real power their descendants claim they died fighting to."
Eyebrows raised, both Roxanne and Trudi turned to face Scorpius. Both girls opened their mouths to retort, but Roxanne got there first. "So? So what if my uncle died fighting Voldemort's forces, and not the monster himself? That's hardly something to be ashamed about! Better than fighting for the wrong side, and not contributing to history at all."
"Ah…" Scorpius retorted, leaning forward onto the desk and cradling his pointed chin in the cup of one hand, "now, there you're mistaken, Miss Weasley. Had you listened at all to the good Professor – " here he nodded ironically at their ghostly teacher, who ploughed on, oblivious to the conversation playing out in the back of his classroom " – you'd know that, had it not been for someone's grandmother, the Dark Lord would have realised at once that Potter had not, in fact, died in the Forbidden Forest. Think about it: had Narcissa Malfoy not given false testimony to the boy's death, the game would have been up, and I think things would be very different to how they were today."
He sat back, satisfied that he'd made his point. Persistent Trudi, however, hadn't finished. "True – but was that because she wanted good to triumph? Or was it out of selfishness for herself and the rest of her precious pure-blood family? Poisonous toadstools don't change their spots, and noxious Death Eaters like the Malfoys – "
"Don't you call my family – "
All voices ceased as the Headmistress stood in the doorway, nostrils flared. Scorpius, who had leapt to his feet, muttered an apology as he sat back down again. Satisfied of the students' good behaviour, Professor McGonagall turned to their teacher. "Professor Binns – I apologise to have interrupted your class. One of last year's graduates has made us a visit, and requires your opinion on her History of Magic N.E.W.T. marks." McGonagall pursed her lips, surveying the class, as the ghostly Professor drifted through the wall to tend to the ex-seventh year.
"Scorpius Malfoy!" He jumped in his seat as her beady eyes fixed once more on him. "As you seem so vocal, why don't you take the class while Professor Binns is occupied?"
Whispers ruffled through the other students as Scorpius, grey-faced, made his hesitant way to the front of the classroom. McGonagall looked on, impassive, as the boy gulped, wiped suddenly-sweating hands on his robes, and cleared his cracking voice. Roxanne thought McGonagall must know that Malfoy, always so confident at his desk in the back row, hated being brought out into the class's view, like a cockroach into the light.
"Well, when the hour was up, and midnight was about to strike, V-Voldemort," he stumbled over the name that was now compulsory for reference to the fallen villain, "summoned all the Death Eaters back to the Acromantula Clearing. They knew that Potter's failure to present himself to their leader meant that they were to resume the attack on the castle, and they were glad of it, 'cos they wanted the battle over so they could rescue the bodies of their killed and injured. The Dar… that is, Voldemort's supporters didn't know what was being done to their fallen comrades. Honour came from dying for their Lord, but not if their corpses were horribly abused in some way – "
"Yeah, right! We were better than them! We wouldn't have done anything like that to the Death Eaters' disgusting remains!"
"Miss Creevey!" Trudi fell silent as Professor McGonagall, still by the door, glared at her. Scorpius gulped and continued, and the class, more interested than they'd ever been before in History of Magic, gave him their full attention.
"So, anyway… Dolohov came back and told them that Potter wasn't coming. Voldemort wasn't happy. He stared into the fire in the middle of the clearing, and the fire was reflected in his eyes, making them two shades of red rage. 'I thought he would come… I expected him to come,' he said, 'I was, it seems, mistaken.' Then Harry Potter stepped out of nowhere, and silence fell so completely that the Death Eaters could hear the fire as it crackled, and the breath of the massive giants, and the chink of a small stone that Potter dropped – "
"Potter dropped a stone?" Roxanne interrupted, frowning.
"Yeah," Scorpius replied, looking bemused, "My grandfather told me…" But whatever else Lucius Malfoy had told his grandson was drowned out as the bell signalling end of class clanged through the corridors. Whispering amongst themselves about the unusually eventful History class, the students shuffled out, Scorpius a dull shade of pink as he slipped through the door.
Taking her time over gathering her books, Roxanne regarded him thoughtfully as he went out. "A small stone…" she murmured to herself.
The Hallowe'en feast was as delicious as ever, made even more enjoyable by the hearty discussion, yelled compliments and criticisms, that centred around this year's challenge: to come to the dinner in costume. The usual sea of black had been replaced with haphazard colours and patterns, each House of students trying to outdo the others with intricate designs and themes. A general moan of dismay went up amongst the students when Professor McGonagall informed them all it was time for bed.
Roxanne let herself be jostled along by her fellow Gryffindors, out of the Great Hall and into the Entrance Hall. Finding her way blocked by a sixth-year dressed as a massive replica of the House Cup (wishful thinking, Hufflepuff!), Roxanne elbowed her way out of the crowd, and had soon disappeared into a niche hidden by the base of the staircase. The niche, in turn, hid the opening to a passageway that led out of the castle and into the grounds outside.
Once out into the clear night air, her shoulders relaxed, at the same moment as goose bumps raised on her arms. The October night was chilly and she suddenly regretted her own costume – she was dressed as the Muggles liked to imagine fairies, complete with summery dress and butterfly wings. A faint wind stirred her hair and she felt the wings on her back open and close lazily, the charm on them not yet worn off.
"Lumos!" The enchanted light illuminating her way, Roxanne smiled slightly as she realised that she was possibly the first ever "fairy" to have a real wand. This feeling was reinforced by the occasional gust of wind that caught the wings on her back, making her skim inches above the ground for the distance of a few steps, as she made her way to the Forbidden Forest.
Once safely under the cover of its brooding trees she let out a sigh of relief. The way to where she wanted to go wasn't difficult to find – by the time they graduated, everyone had been there at some stage, for a dare, or research for History of Magic, or simple interest. No, you weren't supposed to, and you copped a detention if you got caught, but everyone took the trip to the clearing where Harry Potter survived the Death Curse for a second time. The path leading to it was worn by the passage of twenty-three years' worth of students, and most said that evil hung so strongly around the clearing that, in it, you were pretty much safe from the Forest's dangers.
Although, most didn't go alone. Roxanne shivered, wishing once more that she'd brought her cloak.
The clearing, once she reached it, was actually disappointingly nondescript. With a little imagination one could infer that the giants Voldemort had brought with him had stood there, in the slight indent in the soil, and the Death Eaters had sat along those logs, and their master had paced in that flat area there… The ashes of a fire had been magically preserved, but other than that, nothing was to show that a crucial part of history had played itself out here. Nothing… but a slight edge to the air, the trace of muffled whispers echoing as if through a veil and the feeling that she was being watched by malevolent eyes lurking just beyond her reach.
It was the type of place where, no matter how often and how fast you whip your head around, the shadows are always in your blind spot.
Already unnerved and determined to spend as little time there as possible, Roxanne dropped to her knees on the very outskirts of the clearing and began to sort through the pebbles littering the soil. Every so often she would happen across one that almost looked likely – small enough to fit in her palm, smooth, almost perfectly round – only to find, upon turning it over and brushing off the moss, that it was unmarked and unblemished. Sighing, she'd throw it down and continue to quest over the ground with the fingers of her right hand, holding her wand – and the ray of light it cast – aloft with her left.
She still felt as though she were being watched.
Presently she had made a half-circle around the clearing, and at the insistence of her aching wrist, swapped hands. She was working automatically, one part of her mind inspecting the stones; whilst another hoped Trudi had made her excuses to the other girls in their dorm; whilst yet another felt, with the sinking feeling that comes of being alone in the dark and cold, that this had been a very stupid idea.
"What am I doing here," she grumbled, digging another stone from the ground and rubbing over it with her thumb, "when I could be in my warm four-poster, without bloody wings on my back, gossipping with the girls over everyone's costu – oh!"
She had found it. In her fingers, moist clods of earth and plant growth peeled off the stone's underside to reveal an outline etched into the stone's surface. Almost Egyptian in appearance, the design was simple: a triangle surrounding a perfect circle. From the apex of the triangle there ran a neat crack, evenly bisecting the circle. Roxanne, heart threatening to leap out of her mouth, let out a disbelieving snatch of laughter.
"This is it? This is the Stone Uncle Harry dropped, that's supposed to bring people back from the – "
Behind her, a twig snapped.
Roxanne attempted to shove the Stone into a nonexistent pocket, whirl around to face the shadows at her back, and to straighten up from her crouch all at the same moment. The resulting movement highly resembled a drunken troll trying to execute a pirouette.
By the time she'd disentangled her wings from a shrub, spat the dirt from her mouth, reclaimed the Stone, and raised her wand to dispel the darkness from beneath the trees around her, whatever had made the noise was long gone. And, she realised, it might be a good idea for her to go the same way; wishing for the umpteenth time that she had a cloak to draw around her, Roxanne stumbled without a backward glance, away from the historical clearing back along the winding path that led back to the castle.
She'd barely gone a dozen steps when she felt the first tendril of mist lick at her sandal-clad feet. "Oh, you're joking," she murmured in disbelief, as she added Hallowe'en plus Forbidden Forest plus mist plus sometime near midnight, and came up with "girl wandering alone, lost". Sure enough, the path was fading from sight, and before long she was tripping over gnarled roots and twisted branches that she couldn't recall encountering on her way to the clearing.
Cursing, she turned around to try and retrace her footsteps, and froze as a flicker of dark movement in the mist ducked behind a tree. Heart ticking away like a clock on Billiwig wings, she raised her wand higher, throwing the beam of luminance further through the trees. It caught the beads of mist eerily, and they glittered like a million malevolent eyes. But they weren't the eyes she was worried about.
"OK, so maybe going back the way I came is out..." she muttered under her breath, warily wheeling around and striding further into the haunting trees. The mist thickened, but not enough that it muffled the nudging sounds of pursuit that Roxanne was now listening for. Entering a particularly thick thicket of trees, Roxanne deftly slipped behind one and held her breath.
Presently her pursuer came into view, peering guardedly around to try and see where Roxanne had disappeared to. He was masked and robed (better dressed for the weather than herself, she thought) and held a wand in front of him in a death-pale hand. The shapeless black mask betrayed no emotion, and through the slits that were the eyes Roxanne fancied she saw a glint of crimson.
...and the fire was reflected in his eyes, making them two shades of red rage...
She shivered involuntarily, and her enemy's head snapped around to face her. Without giving him time to do more than that, Roxanne leapt out at him, screaming, "Stupefy!"
He spat an expletive, lunging away just in time to miss the spell. She shot another one at him – a jinx – but he yelled, "Protego!" and it rebounded, useless, off his shield and back at Roxanne. She ducked, and the Stone went spilling, once again, from her grasp.
Distracted, she dropped her eyes from her adversary for a split second, and he took the chance to take the offensive.
"Expelliarmus!" Roxanne's wand flew from her grasp, and she stood, empty fingers curling and uncurling, breathing hard as she faced down the masked wizard before her.
"Go ahead, then!" she dared him, brazen. "I'm wandless! You got me! Come on!"
He laughed, but not a maniacal cackle: it was a relieved, faltering chuckle. With a shaking hand he ripped his mask from his face – and Roxanne saw that his eyes were grey, not red, his skin simply fair, not deathly hue.
"Scorpius Malfoy!" she hissed, taking a threatening step towards her. "Why, you little – !"
"Hey, hey, sorry! I'm not trying to hurt you! I just saw you heading towards the Forest and decided to see what you were up to, that's all! I was just... curious!"
Roxanne, blushing pink with fury, opened her mouth to tell him where he could shove his curiosity, but was rudely interrupted by a loud, dim-sounding roar.
From between the mist there stumped a very large, very ugly, and very smelly forest troll. Almost comically, both Roxanne and Scorpius's mouths dropped open at the exact same time. The troll's piggy eyes focussed on them, and with an almost visible turning of gears it deduced that the young witch and wizard didn't belong there, were smaller than it (and therefore probably squishable), and may be edible. It charged.
Roxanne dived aside and hit the ground in a roll, wincing at an audible crunch from her wings. Panting, she snatched up the Stone and her wand, whirling around as Scorpius yelped. The troll had made for him, and by the looks of things its man-sized club had narrowly missed the boy's head.
"Oi!" Roxanne aimed a Stunning spell at the creature, to no effect. Desperate, and worried about the welfare of her classmate's scalp, she scooped a rotten piece of wood off the forest floor and lobbed it at the great beast's head. She missed, hitting Scorpius instead.
"I said I was sorry!" he bellowed at her, clutching a bruised ankle and hopping to avoid another blow of the club.
Giggling a little hysterically, Roxanne chucked another piece of forest ammo, taking care to aim for the troll this time. The wood found its mark, and the troll, grunting stupidly, turned and started to lumber towards her instead. She fired off jinx after hex after curse at it, but all bounced similarly off its thick hide. Slightly desperate, Roxanne made a wild leap for the gap between its feet, feeling the breeze of the club as it whistled towards her. She clenched her teeth, waiting for the impact... but it didn't come. Her crumpled wings, aided by the draught from the troll's club, fluttered a little and she sped forward a couple of feet, toes skimming the ground. Behind her, the troll roared as its club, directed at her as she'd darted between its legs, missed her and slammed into the troll itself. Between its legs. Despite himself, Scorpius winced in sympathy.
But Roxanne's wings, and their levitating charm, had given her an idea.
"Scorpius!" she panted, running towards him and clutching at his arm. "Levitate my wings! They're already Charmed enough that it'll be damn close to flying!"
He blinked in befuddlement, but stepped back and did as he was told. The battered wings strained, beating crazily to lift Roxanne wholly off the ground, then to continue to drag her into the misty air…
"Don't just stand there gawking!" she screeched at Scorpius. "Grab on, and keep levitating!"
He started and leapt, catching her around the waist with his right hand as he directed the levitation charm with the other. Slowly, and with much shuddering of Roxanne's costume fairy wings, they rose up, up, up towards a likely-looking branch in a tree above.
But the troll had recovered from its self-clubbed injury. Bellowing, it started towards them, swinging a giant hand at the pair's ankles, dangling just within its reach…
"Oh, Merlin…" Roxanne breathed, at the end of her creativity. Scorpius screamed, and his scream sounded terrified and desperate and strangely Latin…
His spell flew true, and the tree behind the troll shuddered and, almost in slow motion, began to fall… With another idiot grunt, the troll turned just in time to see the ancient trunk rush towards his head.
There was a sickening thump as the huge trunk connected with the troll's head and split in two, the leafy halves falling pathetically to the forest floor. Scorpius and Roxanne gaped – surely a falling tree would have some effect on it! – and the troll blinked vacuously back at them, swayed once, and crumpled to the ground, moaning and clutching at its head.
Tittering in disbelieving relief, Roxanne alighted on the high branch of their (intact) tree, pulling Scorpius up after her.
"That was amazing!" she told him, voice teetering up an octave. "Felling the tree at just the right angle – fantastic!" Wobbling unstably on the high branch, she gave the boy a quick hug, then realised whom she was hugging and stepped away hurriedly, blushing. Luckily, she thought, is was dark.
"I didn't even know it was going to work," he admitted. "Really, it was just sheer dumb luck."
Roxanne gawked. "How did you know…? That's what Professor McGonagall said when Uncle Harry and Ron – "
"Can't you forget your famous relatives for one minute?" groaned Scorpius. "This is us! We just defeated a mad forest troll! We're the heroes here! I don't give a Porlock apple about what your precious uncles did, all right? I'm more interested in you!"
Shocked again, Roxanne half-opened her mouth to form a retort, but was unable to as his lips effectively sealed hers off. His mouth was warm and soft, rubbing against hers apprehensively. Despite herself, Roxanne couldn't help responding; she pressed herself against him, trying to pull him closer. She was vaguely aware that she shouldn't move too much, perched on this high-up tree branch, vaguely aware that the Stone was still clutched in her hand as she held Scorpius, and vaguely aware that her spent wings were peeling off her back and spiralling away through the mist below. "Oops," she murmured, pulling back from the kiss. Scorpius chuckled, rubbing the now-exposed skin on her shoulders.
"I don't think they were meant for real flying…" he told her. "But you made a beautiful fairy, all the same."
She grinned, disentangling herself from him and crouching down on the tree branch, feeling safer as she lowered her centre of gravity. "My dad made the costume for me. He's good at that kind of thing. I don't think he meant for me to go running into the Forest with it, though – I'm freezing!"
She'd barely finished when Scorpius took his own cloak off and handed it to her. "Oh no, I didn't mean –" she protested, but he shrugged, assuring her that the robes he'd worn underneath were plenty warm enough for him. Gratefully, Roxanne wrapped the warm cloak around her.
"Why did you go running off into the Forest?" Scorpius asked. Roxanne swallowed, considered telling him to mind his own business – then realised that this had become his own business.
"Well… you know the tale of the three brothers who met Death on the bridge?" He nodded, and she paused, trying to word it properly. "I always thought it was just another tale, but then once in History of Magic, Binns mentioned something called the Deathstick – the Unbeatable Wand. I thought, wait a second, wasn't there a big kerfuffle about some wand during the Battle of Hogwarts? And doesn't my cousin James have an infallible Invisibility Cloak that's been in the family for decades? And didn't Uncle Harry say something before he killed Voldemort about having some weapon Voldemort didn't?
"Well, I thought, maybe those three objects Death gave the brothers really did exist. So I did some research, and unearthed the word 'Hallows.'" She cast Scorpius a sharp glance, but although it was dark she saw no hint of recognition on his face. "And then in History you said something about Harry dropping a small stone, and I thought –"
"I knew it!" Scorpius interrupted. "You had a funny look on your face when I mentioned that! I had a hunch you were planning something!"
Roxanne grimaced. "Yeah, well, I was. And I found it – the Resurrection Stone." Lighting her wand, she held it over her open palm and showed him the innocent-looking pebble that lay there. Scorpius's eyes widened.
"So... this Stone... does it really...?" Almost involuntarily, he made to grab it from her palm.
Roxanne snatched her hand back, blue eyes flashing. "It's mine, Malfoy!" she snapped, scooting precariously along the branch, away from him. "Don't you dare try to take it off me!"
"Whoa, calm down, Roxanne!" Scorpius held his hands palm-up before him, trying to placate her. "Why would I want it? Think about it: my family's got enough living enemies without bringing more back from the dead." His voice was bitter as he twisted his mouth into a self-deprecating sneer.
Roxanne looked away, ashamed at her flare of temper. She inched closer again in apology. "So if you didn't want the Stone… why'd you follow me, then?"
Scorpius rolled his eyes. "According to Dad, my family owes yours. He's always bugging me: have I gotten into fights with any Potters or Weasleys? Am I on civil terms with Albus? Am I dissuading my fellow Slytherins from giving you all a hard time? I figured, if I saved your life or something, then our families might be on even ground." He paused, and then added reluctantly, "And... the Forest's dangerous. I didn't want you to get hurt, just 'cos of some stupid story I told in class."
An awkward silence fell. Both students stared fixedly at the moaning troll twenty feet below them, as droplets of mist condensed on their brows and trickled down their faces.
"Well... thanks, Scorpius. I mean, if it weren't for you... Actually, if it weren't for you I'd never have wandered off into this bloody forest at all. I'll take the thanks back." She smiled. "But I suppose, had you not come after me some troll would be using my hair as tooth floss right now. So, yeah, thanks."
He grinned back, reaching out to brush her arm lightly. "My pleasure. Even if you did throw a rotten branch at me."
A thought occurred to Roxanne, as his touch still thrilled up her arm: fighting a troll together had been the first step towards friendship between Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione, and now they were married. Blushing again, Roxanne dropped her eyes to the forest floor far beneath them. "Oh – the troll's gone. I was a bit worried it was gonna try and fell our tree, actually, but apparently you gave it enough of a headache for it to go straight home to its mummy."
Scorpius clambered to his feet, peering at her expectantly. "So, how're we gonna get down? Got any more costume wings to fly us around?"
A smile twitched Roxanne's lips. "Nope. I think we're going to have to do some climbing."
Half an hour later, after much swearing, near-falling, and even a broken branch or two, Scorpius and Roxanne finally stood at the base of the tree, in the clearing that had been created by Scorpius's fallen tree.
"But… which way's the one back to Hogwarts?" Scorpius peered into the mist that pooled at the feet of the stern trees around them, but could discern nothing that betrayed their path back home.
"Oh!" Roxanne laughed aloud. "I've been so stupid! Of course, there's a way to find our way back. My uncle, Harry, used it during the Triwizard Tournament. Point me!" Her wand span in her open palm, presently coming to a halt pointing in what, Roxanne assured Scorpius, was true north. She started marching off in that direction, then stopped when she realised that Scorpius had hesitated, and wasn't following her.
"What... Scorpius, come on! You don't want to stay in this forest all night, do you? I'm quite happy to get back to my dorm before dawn!" She smiled, but he only frowned back at her.
"I think you should drop the Stone. Leave it here."
Instantly suspicious, Roxanne raised her wand at him. "You're only saying that because you –"
But Scorpius cut across her, apparently unfazed by the wand levelled at his chest. "Look... I don't think... Your uncle left that Stone in the clearing for a reason, didn't he? Think about it: he lost so many friends and family during that war; don't you reckon he would have liked to bring them back? But he didn't, and he sure knew a damn lot more about the whole business than we do."
"But – !"
"Dragging people back into this world when they've passed on isn't right, Roxanne. I know more than a lot of people what the proper uses of magic are, and that's not one of them. I think you should leave it here, where it won't cause anyone harm."
Roxanne opened her mouth again, but fell quiet. Still wordless, she produced the small, cracked pebble and weighed it in her hand. Scorpius, too, kept mute, sensing the conflicting emotions clamouring to be heard within her.
After a moment spent as a statue Roxanne appeared to come back to life. She took a swig of the chilly night air, and, with a decisive movement of her hand, made her decision. Without waiting for comment from Scorpius, she turned around and strode away determinedly through the silent trees, back towards the castle still decked out for All Hallow's Eve.
Author's Note: There's not going to be a second chapter. I leave it up to you to decide whether Roxanne tipped the Stone onto the ground, or withdrew it back into the borrowed cloak. I'd like to think she made the latter decision, just because it's a little less predictable, but it's your choice, reader.
I really hope you enjoyed this Hallowe'en fic! Thankyou, who made the fic a million times better through her betaing expertise and honesty. Oh, and I have to thank JK Rowling, whose world and characters I play with. Happy Hallowe'en!