The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 16: A Little Advice
Malcolm didn’t raise anything, so Albus had reason to suspect Samantha kept quiet, even after that remark he made. December dawned. Gryffindor played Ravenclaw on Quidditch and flattened them. But a whole new problem sparked. Mark, the twins, Molly, Louis, Hugo, Lily, and Laura had challenged Albus, Scorpius, Walter, Albert, Nate, Roxanne, Lucy, and Gabriel Dagger to a snowball fight. Albus was convinced a victory would’ve been achieved if Gabriel wasn’t such a comic. But alas, they lost.
Gabriel, though responsible for their loss, had committed an act that made him funny to the Gryffindors as well. He took a large snowball, and rolled it upon the ground, as if making a snowman. Taking a lot of hits, he made it up in front of Mark and his team, and kicked all the snow at them. The funny part: All of them missed.
Of the Gryffindors, only Hugo looked indifferent. He just rolled his eyes, and looked away as Mark and Eric shared a laugh. At the end, Albus whispered to Lily, “Tell Hugo to do something nice for Albert. It might help.”
“Ok,” she whispered, and ran up to whisper to Hugo.
Hugo looked at her incredulously, but stopped at her pleading look. Resigning, he went up, and took Albert’s hand to help him up. Albus raised his eyebrows, and Scorpius caught Albus’ eye knowingly.
“Hmm, thanks,” Albert said uncertainly. He nodded and then left, waiting for Albus and Scorpius inside. Albus was pleased when Albert nodded at Albus, and said, “Hugo wasn’t so bad. If he keeps this up, I might actually like him.”
When they walked back in, they ran into Master Cantharis. Snow tracks were left behind them, and when Cantharis caught sight of it, he jumped. The twins jumped out of the way from Cantharis’ grasp, so he started yelling. Laura was the closest, and spit started flying at her face. Mark and the twins backed off, and Albert took Gabriel and ran off. Only Albus and Scorpius stayed to watch the assault on little Creevey.
They reduced Laura to tears, and she ran away. Alex and Eric turned to walk back to their dormitory, but turned back when they heard something they never heard before. Mark was yelling. “YOU CLEAN ON SATURDAY MORNING WHEN PEOPLE ARE BOUND TO MAKE A MESS. WHY TAKE FUN AWAY EVEN ON THE WEEKENDS?!!”
Cantharis walked towards him slowly. Alex and Eric braced themselves for another scene, but miraculously, Cantharis only said, “Butt out Wallader, or you will be sorry. I am taking ten points.” With that final word before the holidays, he walked off.
“Real smart,” Alex said shaking his head. “Hell smart, mate!”
“I couldn’t help it,” Mark shrugged quietly. “He was being unfair.”
“If you ask me, she deserved”-
“C’mon Eric,” Mark interrupted. “Do you seriously go against anyone who annoys you and hold a grudge against them forever?”
“Maybe,” Eric shrugged. “At least Princess Laura doesn’t get the same treatment she gets from- what- King Creevey. I’d say it’s pretty good for her. Breaks her a bit, ya know?”
“Well, I got no business here,” Scorpius said, and walked off. Albus shrugged, and followed his friend hurriedly. He could just hear more Mark yelling and twin bashing as he followed Scorpius outside.
Mark fought with the twins, mostly Eric, simply because he had stuck up for a girl he claimed to dislike. When it was time to return home for the Christmas holidays, for the first time in his life, Mark found himself happy to be rid of them. Mark felt he needed someone to talk to, and who else but his brother and roommate, Albus. But how could he talk to Albus when Scorpius was also going to be there? This was going to be one hell of a Christmas.
Before they left the school, Albert decided to wish Hugo a Happy Christmas. As Hugo was walking down the staircase, Albert used a Charm to make them fly down for him, and said, “There you go. Happy Christmas.”
Albus never really expected this. He just wanted to show Albert that Gryffindors were ok, but Albert actually responded. Showed what kind of person he was. Indeed, when Hugo and Lily climbed on, Albus overheard him saying to her, “I did this for you, ok? Now, I got a Slytherin as a friend!”
“Well, that’s good isn’t it?” Rose said testily. “Al, Roxanne and Lucy are Slytherin. Though that’s thanks to yet another Slytherin.”
Sighing, Hugo shrugged in an ‘I-guess-so’ sort of way.
Of course, as agreed the previous summer, if Albus was to visit the Malfoy Manor, Scortpius was to see Godric’s Hollow over Christmas. True to the agreement, the Malfoy’s sent Albus a good luck and a happy Christmas as well as a letter to Scorpius asking him to remember to say goodbye at the station before leaving. That, he did. Scorpius had a quick goodbye with his parents before leaving to Godric’s Hollow between Albus and Mark in the back.
The Christmas with Scorpius Malfoy wasn’t what Albus planned though, as a lot more people were coming over. Ron and Hermione were due over, and that meant Rose, Hugo, and the twins.
Mark was usually happy the twins were joining, but now he wasn’t so sure. The last time he saw them, they fought. He sat quietly on Christmas Eve at the table as Harry and Ginny talked to Scorpius, getting to know Albus’ best friend.
“Do you mind if we call you Scorps?” Harry asked as he, Albus, Mark, James and Lily sat down for dinner.
Scorpius shrugged, taking a bite of turkey. “Fine, everyone does.”
“Tell us about yourself,” Ginny said softly, almost kindly as she stared at him. “Slytherin, right?”
Mouth full, Scorpius nodded in affirmative. Harry raised his eyebrows, and gave Ginny an odd look. James looked up, grinning mischievously. “Sway anyone lately? Apart from Al?”
Scorpius smiled guiltily, “Slytherin’s a cool house. I got Lorcan Scamander in, if you know him, and I wanted to get Lily, but Al wouldn’t let me, so I got a boy called Gabriel, and some girl named Lucy.”
Lily went red at the mention of her name and kept her eyes firmly off Scorpius though Albus had a funny feeling it was not because she did not like him. “Oh yeah, that’s my brother Percy’s daughter,” Ginny recalled brightly. “Well, you’re in for it. He was Gryffindor. Complete opposite of George too.”
The two laughed, and Ginny smiled at Scorpius, apparently taking a liking for him. It was strange. Harry seemed indifferent and only talked to Scorpius during dinner because it was common courtesy. Ginny seemed to have an interest, and she said, “Al has an Uncle George. Owner of”-
“Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes!” James and Scorpius said in unison. James said it proudly but Scorpius said it in awe, lightening up. “He’s your Uncle, Al? Why didn’t you tell me? He’s awesome!”
“I didn’t know you were interested in that stuff,” Albus shrugged.
“Al, everyone is interested in that stuff,” James said happily, nodding approvingly at Scorpius. “Except Lysander, but he’s more… out-there… than to play any pranks.”
“Reminds me,” Mark said, straightening up.
Lily nodded beside him. “Lorcs and Sander were angry yesterday. I heard them fight with Phoenix before we left.”
“Lorcan’s mad, for some reason,” Albus said at the table.
“Have any idea about what?” Mark asked questioningly. “I noticed it a couple of times and he fought with Phoenix last week.”
“Did he, I missed that?” Albus said surprised.
“Something about Era and Hagrid,” Mark shrugged.
Albus sighed as he looked at his plate. He could sense Harry and Ginny watching in interest at Mark and Albus talking. Albus felt he had explaining to do. “Well, Lorcan is angry at Phoenix because he expelled Riley, Nate before he could even do anything, and demoted Era without admitting it.”
“He should talk to Aunt Hermione,” Harry shrugged. “She’ll vouch for him. But why’s he taking Riley’s fate personally?”
“For the cause, I think,” Albus shrugged. “Riley’s not a half bad guy, but he did go crazy last year.”
“Well, that was Mark’s fault,” Scorpius grinned, making Mark go red.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” Ginny asked, changing the subject and looking directly at Scorpius.
Scorpius looked rather uncomfortable with all the questions being asked, but he answered them all the same. “No.”
“But he’s pursuing Laura Creevey,” Mark added, almost sulking. Albus honestly expected him to speak long before this. What took him so long? It must’ve been because he had nothing to say about Scorpius, particularly on the subject of Slytherin.
Scorpius went furiously red, and Harry widened his eyes. Albus looked over at his father, and asked, “Dad, do you know her father? He’s Muggle Studies Professor.”
But it was Ginny who answered, “I knew his brother.”
Harry smiled sadly, “Don’t talk to the Professor about it, ok. Both of you. He was kinda torn up.”
“What happened?” Scorpius asked.
“His brother was killed in the second war,” Harry sighed. “I owe that family a lot for that. A favor I never really repaid,” he added thoughtfully.
Scorpius cleared his throat and looked up at Harry interestedly. Albus could see a controversy was on his mind but surely it was not the second war. Scorpius said many times he was on Harry’s side. So… “Um, Mr. Potter. Pardon me, I have a question.”
“Shoot,” Harry shrugged.
“Skeeter Scandal,” Scorpius said testily, almost challengingly.
Mark and Albus tensed up and James and Lily widened their eyes. Ginny looked nervously at Harry and Albus shot an apologetic look at his dad. A look he wasn’t sure his dad caught. Harry looked taken-aback. “Skeeter”-
“Scandal, what about it?” Scorpius asked. “I heard their story. I read Skeeter, I read Incommodo. What’s yours?”
“Why do you want to know?” Harry asked rigidly, going a little stiff as Albus kept his mouth shut, looking very nervous as James and Lily stared on. “I wasn’t aware that my position interested anyone at all.”
“Grandfather despises Incommodo,” Scorpius told them. “I don’t want to hear only his side. What is yours?”
“You’re in Hogwarts. Ask Phoenix,” Harry said stiffly.
“But… you’re the war hero, I’m asking you.”
Harry opened his mouth as if for an angry retort but Ginny’s hand shot out and touched his shoulder to calm him. Scorpius watched Harry calm down and James and Lily held their breaths along with Albus. Mark was watching in interest. Then, as if to assure him further, Scorpius said tentatively, “I’m not my father.”
“You look alarmingly like him,” Harry muttered. “Ok, Scorpius, what do you want to know?”
“Did you really plot in secret and without Ministerial knowledge?” Scorpius asked calmly, finishing his turkey.
“Yes,” Harry answered calmly. “Does that bother you?”
“Yes, it does,” Scorpius said curtly.
“Did you like the exchange students at all?” Harry asked.
“I did, but it isn’t the point,” Scorpius grunted. “Har- sorry, Mr. Potter, I have no idea what to believe. You know how much it stinks to see that someone we in the Malfoy family really hate turns out to be right?”
“Who said he’s right?” Harry challenged, not taking too good to being challenged. “Who said he has the right to interfere in Hogwarts? The Head of Education never has the right. He knows that. He had to break into a vault, committing a crime to manipulate public opinion against us. Exchange students coming to Hogwarts are the sole matter of both the International Department and Hogwarts itself. That was why Otto and Phoenix were big in this.”
“What about the Minister?” Scorpius asked.
Now that the discussion was under way, Harry felt more at ease and he spoke of the matter in a cool manner. “The Minister was informed but he did not give an ok or a refusal. In any case, the Minister himself does not interfere at Hogwarts either, so his silence in a matter he had full knowledge of gives us perfect right to go ahead. Now you see Phoenix being supported by Skeeter and Incommodo over his vampire policy, hence Lorcan’s attitude. He cuddles up to their support and yet fights them when the Goblins come into the picture. It’s not loyalty but cowardice that’s driving Phoenix and the Minister right now.”
“Phoenix seems fine at Hogwarts,” Scorpius protested, still disagreeing somewhat.
“Let me tell you something,” Harry said strongly. “Public opinion is with Incommodo right now because of the vampire issue. They fear the vampires and know he may be right. That is how the issue is working for them. Because it relates to Otto, Phoenix and by extension me. If Riley was never found out, this Goblin issue would have been Incommodo’s downfall because he’s instigating something with them. He’s getting away with it as long as he relates it to the exchange students and the vampires.”
“One more question then,” Scorpius said, moving his head closer over the table. “What does all this have to do with you, as Head of Aurors?”
The silence around the table now was less tense and more curious. This was something even Albus wanted to know. Harry kept perfectly at ease though, as if he was expert at hiding this particular piece of information. “That, Malfoy, is classified information and you know enough already; more than most considering the fact we discussed it last year over the fire.”
The dinner conversation ended then. Albus and Scorpius were just thinking of leaving upstairs when Mark opened conversation with Harry. It repelled Scorpius, who told Albus he was proceeding upstairs to lay his stuff down and unpack. Albus decided to stay behind and hear what Mark wanted to say, and give Scorpius a minute to brood over the discussion he had with Harry.