The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 18: Quidditch Argument
Albus was happy to see Scorpius was enjoying himself. By the time Christmas came Scorpius was happier than Albus had seen him in the Malfoy Manor. Rose and Hugo came for frequent visits too with Uncle Ron. Rose laughed herself dead when she heard Scorpius’ version of Deck the Halls. She asked if he made it up himself, and was surprised when she heard he didn’t. It was a Pure-blood Christmas Carol.
Hugo found Scorpius’ attitude toward the Potter house interesting. Albus thought Hugo would be like his father, and prejudiced toward Slytherins but he took an interest. Albus didn’t say anything for fear of sounding a little pretentious, but he believed it was in part because of his idea of Hugo doing something nice for a Slytherin like Albert.
Often, throughout the holidays, Albus and Scorpius were sitting on the edge of the river, and soak their feet in it. Scorpius found it rather interesting, and Albus decided to hammer it in more, to show how much better the Potter household was. “Granted, in the Malfoy house, you got the hot spring. Over here, you can swim in the river, and soak all you like. It’s quite shallow. Besides, feel the river rushing through your legs.”
Scorpius shrugged, and sighed, “At least you’re not living in fear of a Banshee yell.”
“When was the last time it yelled?”
“I was four,” Scorpius said shortly. “But the Malfoy Manor is bigger, and more enjoyable.”
“When did it matter how big something was?” Albus challenged.
Scorpius really had little against the Potter house, and he didn’t say anything, but he loved Godric’s Hollow. He found it a nice feel-good place, and somewhere he could go for some peace. At least it was more inviting. It was not until Albus and Scorpius got up to walk back inside and they were inches away from the door when they sensed movement behind them. Albus stopped and an unfamiliar yellow hand reached out and knocked the door.
“Young Master Potter,” a calm wispy voice said from behind, making Albus jump in unmistakable yet unexplainable terror. Scorpius seemed tense and Albus decided to take Scorpius’ expertise of Ministry officials to heart and trust his tension. Whoever this man was, he could not be trusted. The man was tall and black-haired with dreadlocks on either side. His skin was papery and yellow and he wore robes of blood-red. He looked very fierce and yet contrastingly calm. Something told Albus to run away and yet still a stronger force told him he was too petrified to move.
He had with him one accomplice. The other man, however less terrifying was more striking simply because Albus and Scorpius had met him before. He had black hair with blonde hair streaking through the middle. His green eyes were almost slit-like but normal enough even though there was a reddish tint in them. Scorpius stepped back. It was Soto. He had tried attacking Albus and his friends not even one year ago. He was surprised he had the gull to show his face on the Potter grounds let alone outside whatever hole he hid in.
The man looked over at him. “Master Malfoy. How is your father?”
For the first time ever, Scorpius could not speak. He was simply too terrified. He gazed determinedly at the ground as if aware that looking the yellow-faced man in the eyes would turn him to stone; an effect it seemed to have had on Albus. He barely managed to open his mouth as the door opened.
Harry stood at the door, “Albus, Scor- oh… hello. Soto. May I help you?”
“Don’t ignore the man beside me,” Soto said threateningly. “I would not be here if my interests did not require so. Step outside please. I’m sure I am not welcome.”
“I’m not even sure you’re welcome on our grounds, particularly with present company,” Harry retorted calmly.
“Calmness, Soto, he’ll learn respect,” the papery man said in a wispy, deadened voice that made Albus paralyzed to the spot.
“Forgive me,” Soto said calmly. “Mr. Potter, I am concerned about your welfare within the Ministry nowadays. As you see, everything is going haywire what with the Goblin trouble, trouble at Hogwarts not two months ago… and all and Mors is not happy.”
Albus so wanted to blurt out ‘thanks to you,’ but he could not find the will to speak. Harry spoke for him but Albus did not know if Harry awas aware that Soto was rhe villain of the year before. The man whose accomplice, a former Death Eater had almost killed Mark. “Well, seeing as how you instigated this trouble, I’m sure it is easily solved.”
“Ah, not so easy,” the man corrected wispily. “See, I believe that it is time a new leadership is needed. I sent a recommendation to the Hogwarts School Board and another to the Minister. We’re asking for both Otto and Phoenix to leave their respective posts. I have an offer to make you; however, we will not ask you to leave if you accept the offer.”
“The offer being…”
“You’re in touch with Mrs. Weasley, I presume,” he guessed. “Pressure her to cease and desist her campaign against Rita Skeeter. She is a heroine after the scandal she uncovered last year and helping to stop the trouble. As you know, you are appearing very bitter with her. Your approval rating is slipping as people come to see you have been swallowed by the Ministry’s corruption. We’re ready to save your image though. If Weasley stops the meddling and you send in your own letter of recommendation to drive both Phoenix and Blackberry out of their posts, we will cease all trouble with the Goblins. Everything shall go back to normal.”
Harry looked very tense and almost fearful. The fear was not caused by Soto’s presence but rather started when Soto mentioned this Mors character that Albus had yet to see or hear. He straightened himself up. “You do know that Skeeter is spying illegally, do you not?”
“Contrary, Mr. Potter, we believe you are spreading lies,” Soto said back. “We are offering you a chance to get out of this, sacrificing those who you know full well have been hiding facts from the Wizarding world last year.”
“You see,” the wispy man said, moving closer to Harry who alone looked used to the man’s presence. “Though you are part of this scandal, we’re ready to save the image of a hero.”
Scorpius caught Albus’ eye and motioned inside significantly. Albus caught the meaning and made to walk in but the man called them back with a voice devoid of all wispiness and replaced with a surprisingly powerful voice. “Potter, Malfoy! Back here!” Then his voice went wispy again, “Are you aware of the scandal your father was mired in last year?”
“Y-y-yes,” Albus stuttered fearfully, trying to catch a glance at his father.
“Eyes on me, young Potter,” the man said warningly. “Do you want your father’s image tarnished forever?” Albus was afraid of catching his dad’s eye so he looked down. “Eyes on me, I said!” the man said angrily, voice losing wispiness. “Learn respect!”
“DON’T talk like that to my son!” Harry blurt out angrily.
“Well, Mr. Potter?” he asked forcefully, ignoring Harry’s protests.
“No!” Albus said confidently. “I do not want his image tarnished.”
“Well, he has one choice then,” Soto laughed. “I suggest you think it over.”
“I’ve already made my decision,” Harry said bravely, apparently able to stand up to the wispy man’s voice.
“Absolutely not,” Harry said confidently.
“Troublesome,” the man said, voice reverting again, clicking his tongue. “Ok, then you will take this. It’s an order of suspension signed by my entire department. You’ll also see signatures from members of other departments. If you refuse this popular petition demanding your suspension from the Ministry, this Ministry will divide enough to be split in two and you’ll be at the head of one side of a Wizarding war. Understood?”
“Unless of course you change your mind,” Soto smiled.
“We’ll trouble you no further,” the wispy man said lowly. In a flash, the wispy man disappeared. Soto stayed put, eyeing Harry significantly. Then, he sighed, shook his head and bowed to Harry, “Mr. Potter.” He looked over at Albus next and nodded respectfully, “Pleasure to see you again, young Master Potter.” And he too disappeared with a loud crack.
Harry touched Albus’ shoulder calmly, “Inside, now.”
“Who the bloody”-
“Not now,” Scorpius whispered tensely.
Harry shut the door and locked it. Throwing the key to the stand beside the door and charming it magically sealed, he turned to Albus and Scorpius. “Know who that was?”
“Soto,” Albus whispered. “He… attacked us last year,” he added with Scorpius nodding vigorously beside him. “He attacked us and got the exchange students kicked out. It’s him.”
“Professor Phoenix told me as much,” Harry nodded. “Pity to see he’s with Incommodo in this business. Now, I see he’s involved you as well. Trying to psychologically force me into surrender. Know who the other man was.”
Albus shook his head but Scorpius looked close to fainting. Albus was bursting with questions but he did not know where to begin nor did he think Harry would answer them all. Harry shook his head. “Malfoy has the gist of it, I see. His presence is enough to make anyone go nuts. I’ve had to deal with him since he took Head of Education Job. Now, I believe he wants mine.”
“Who was that?” Albus asked quietly.
“It didn’t occur to you?” Harry asked testily. “The one man who has control over all this Goblin business?”
Albus gasped as Harry nodded in affirmative.
Mors’ presence on the Potter grounds was soon forgotten; however, and even when Albus looked back at it he wasn’t too frightened. He knew he’d be afraid if he showed up again though, because Mors was the type of man whose terror was forgotten once he left.
Quickly, Scorpius grew accustomed to the Potter house. He engaged with Hugo, talked with Rose, and even found himself in intelligent discussion with Ron, who took a vague interest in his Quidditch fandom and their common phobia of spiders.
“You’re scared of spiders?” Ron asked interestedly.
“Oh, yeah!” Scorpius said with his eyes widened. “I was bitten by a Black Widow when I was young, and”-
“I’m dead serious,” Scorpius swore, hand up. “It bit me, pained me for days. Father got so angry and grandfather was out on a business trip for the Ministry. Father tried killing it, but only made it bigger. It was like an Acromantula, and”-
“I don’t believe you,” Ron interrupted.
“Ask father!” Scorpius challenged. “It forced the evacuation of my room for weeks. We had to call the Reversal Squad, and even they had trouble! I don’t fear them, I hate them.”
But phobias and fears were not the only discussion they had. A major one took place with Ron and Scorpius as the major parties when Hugo brought Quidditch up. “Seen the Arrows, Al? They beat the Wasps 170-10! Apparently, they were short of wasps!”
“I’m not with either of them,” Scorpius shrugged. “I’m with the Magpies.”
“Montrose Magpies suck, Scorps,” Ron shook his head. “The Chudley Cannons are the team any Quidditch fan would support.”
“Any Quidditch fan,” Scorpius repeated almost mockingly. “Chudley Cannons are the bottom of the league, and always have been. Who supports them besides you?”
“I repeat, anyone who claims Quidditch as his sport will agree with me. The Chudley Cannons know the spirit of Quidditch and the fun of the game. If they cared about winning, they’d have made a dramatic change to their team, but they keep them all in for experience and fun.”
“The Montrose Magpies have a sense of fun,” Scorpius hit back. “The seeker would passionately circle the stadium every time a Chaser intercepts the Quaffle, and even the Chasers would yell when they score. That’s passion.”
“That’s a childish argument, but it is nonetheless being self-conceited,” Ron humorously attacked. “Therefore, resting my case.”
“If it was being conceited, why do they return donations people make?” Scorpius triumphantly challenged. “That’s not even required… but I got 100 galleons plus interest because of a generous contribution I made when I was nine! Saved all my pocket money for that donation and they paid it back!”
“That’s for commercializing themselves,” Ron refuted.
“Commercializing? I just stabbed a big hole in your logic that you had to resort to the commercializing tactic? The Chudley Cannons could use that tactic of commercializing themselves. They’re so low in the league, the Tornadoes are better than them?”
The room went quiet at that comment. Ron widened his eyes at Scorpius who stared through his triumphant grey eyes at Ron. It was common knowledge that Ron hated the Tornadoes. “I’ll have you know, Malfoy, that the Chudley Cannons beat the Tornadoes in that last game of theirs. 190-160! And Cannons caught the snitch. Worse seeker in a millennia, and he caught the snitch.”
Scorpius seemed unimpressed, “Oh, the seeker isn’t everything in a game. The Chasers of the Tornadoes are obviously better then, and if you recall correctly, you’ll know that the four goals the Cannons made were freak accidents. Two were penalties and one was an accidental self-goal made by the keeper.”
“Well, then the Tornadoes have one stupid keeper.”
“Are we talking about the Tornadoes or the Magpies?” Scorpius challenged, drawing laughter from Albus and Hugo. Scorpius looked ready for a wider argument concerning all aspects and grounds of Quidditch; however, when Ginny interrupted him by stepping in between them and facing Scorpius with fiery eyes. “Do you remember who beat the Magpies last week?”
“Holyhead Harpies,” Scorpius shrugged. “So wh- Oh, oh, c’mon. I don’t even like the Harpies!”
“Well, I played for them, and won them seven games out of ten.”
“Yeah, Al told me,” Scorpius rolled his eyes. “But my team is simply the Magpies. Not a crime is it? Do you attack any Tornadoes fan that enters?”
“Yes,” Ron answered immediately. “And I attack Harpies too.”
“Mum waged a Hurricane when Uncle Ron supported the Cannons over the Harpies,” Albus informed him.
“Yeah, well dad waged a Tornado, remember,” Hugo reminded them. “Scorps, it’s a family of Quidditch players. Dad is with the Cannons, Aunt Ginny is Harpies, and Al and me are Appleby Arrows.”
“Oh, then how’d you feel if I reminded you of”-
“Don’t say it, Scorps,” Ron warned, getting tense.
“The Wimbourne Wasps massacred you guys last year! 300-0!”
“That was an accident!” Albus swore with Hugo looked like he was in midair meaning to leap on Scorpius when Rose grabbed on to him. Ginny and Harry laughed. There was fierce rivalry between the Wimbourne Wasps and the Appleby Arrows. “A pure accident. Three goals were cheats, the referee was biased, and the snitch was right by the Wasps’ seeker’s ankle. How fair is that?”
“The Arrows are the true winners of that game, and they avenged themselves a couple weeks ago, remember Al? 500-30!” Hugo yelled triumphantly into Scorpius’ ear. “Never, ever attack the Arrows again! The Arrows braved fog and rain for over two weeks to beat the Vrasta Vultures in 1932 and gave us the European championship!”
“Well, I acknowledge you know your history, but”-
“I’ll have to cut this short,” Hermione interrupted from behind him. “The family is arriving soon, so we all need to get ready.”
“We will continue this later,” Ron humorously promised Scorpius as Hermione pulled him away. “This isn’t over Malfoy,” he called as Hermione forced him up and away so that the last thing they heard was, “It doesn’t end here!”
Scorpius smirked widely as he and Albus walked upstairs, shaking his head. “Your Uncle Ron is brilliant and all, but he needs to understand the Magpies are better. I like your team of choice though. Appleby Arrows. Never knew that about you. In all honesty, the Wasps did start the rivalry… with using a wasps’ nest against the Arrows.”