Stuck On a Puzzle

Pattern

18/11/2018

Pattern
And never in my wildest dreams
Has it occurred to me to try to go to sleep
Wonder whether I'll grow curious
When old doctor dusk comes to call for me
Midnight I'm like her specialty
She'll outmuscle me certainly in the end
Midnight has got the hots for me
And I'm about to be born again

'So,' said Professor Sinistra slowly, 'you said it was Clement Rosier and Edmund Goyle.'

'And Caliber Montague and Laertus Zabini,' added Scorpius. Albus nodded vigorously.

With one hand the head mistress tapped her nails against her desk and in the other she scribbled out the name onto the parchment before her. 'And then this other person they were with – they weren't a student?'

'No, the Slytherins had gone there to meet him,' said Scorpius.

'Could you give us a description of him?'

'We couldn't see him. They had the door closed,' said Albus. 'But he definitely was talking about the Christmas Day Massacre, and he definitely said they were planning more attacks.

'And his name is August?'

'Yes.'

'No surname mentioned?'

'No.'

'So, you heard his voice clearly?'

'Yes.'

'Do you think, having heard his voice, you could guess his age?'

'Pretty young, I guess,' Albus told her. 'Like – in his twenties maybe?'

'And could you describe his voice? Anything that would stand out about it?'

'He sounded like he was from London, I think,' said Albus. 'And his voice was like – like friendly almost.'

'Yeah, kind of like - like it was familiar or something,' said Scorpius.

The head mistress glanced up. 'Familiar because he was friendly, or familiar because you think you might recognise it?'

'I don't know. Friendly, I suppose, but I'd recognise it if I heard it again,' Scorpius assured her. 'If the Ministry can get a list of wizards called August, and bring them in, and have them like – like speak or something-'

'That's definitely a possibility,' said Professor Sinistra, but Albus knew from the way she said it that she thought it unlikely. 'It will be up to the Auror Office as to how they approach the situation. That's why I need to give them as much information as I can so they can decide if this could be useful.'

'Useful? How could it not be useful?' said Scorpius hotly. 'He did it. He killed the aurors – he and the rest of the Reclamation Army. And now the Slytherins are going to join up too-'

'I understand, Mr Malfoy,' said Professor Sinistra sharply, calling Scorpius into silence. 'And I do appreciate you telling myself and Professor Longbottom what you heard. Is there anything else you think might be of use to the aurors?'

Albus seemed at a loss. The exhilaration they had felt as they had run back to the school was depleting. He had half-expected Neville to summon the aurors as soon as he and Scorpius came to his office. Instead he had merely asked them to sit, explain what they had heard, and then after some deliberation led them upstairs to the head mistress's office.

'You could get the Slytherins to tell you his last name,' he insisted. 'Like, give the veritaserum…'

At this, Professor Sinistra's careful calmness seemed to falter. She frowned at him. 'Thank you, Mr Potter, but I'm not in the habit of administering veritaserum to students. I'm sure you know it's use is limited to the Auror Office and the Wizengamot. And if that's all the information you have for me then I'd say you should both head down to the Great Hall. You're missing supper.'

Scorpius and Albus looked at each other again, disbelieving, before they turned back to the head mistress.

'But you will try to get the Slytherins to tell you more, right?' said Albus. 'So, you can include it in the letter to the Auror Office?'

Professor Sinistra hesitated, setting down her quill, before she said evenly, 'The four students you believe you saw weren't in Hogsmeade today.'

'What?' spat Scorpius.

'They were!' protested Albus. 'We saw them – of course it was them! Goyle and Rosier and Montague and Zabini…'

'Yes, I understand, Mr Potter,' said the head mistress. 'But the four of them weren't permitted to go to the village for this month. The head girl found them out after curfew earlier this week. Mrs MacDougal did not let them leave the school gates.'

'But they were there,' urged Scorpius. 'We saw them. We wouldn't lie about this.'

Professor Sinistra raised her hand, signalling for calm. 'Believe me, Mr Malfoy, I'm not accusing either of you of lying. Perhaps you mistook some other students for them. From what you told me you were following them from quite a distance, is that right?'

'Yes, but we know what they look like!' said Albus.

'And then you heard their voices through the door. It's possible their voices might have been distorted, is that right?'

'Yes I mean no, I mean…' Albus stopped, stifling a groan. 'But we did see them! Edmund Goyle was right in front of us.'

Professor Sinistra remained placid as she said, 'Mrs MacDougal did not permit them to leave-'

Unable to stop himself, Albus cut across her. 'But there are other ways out of the castle. Like… passageways and stuff.'

At this, the head mistress raised her eyebrows. 'Do you know of any?'

From the corner of his eye, Albus saw Scorpius shoot him a warning look, but Albus continued. 'There's… there's one in the west wing. Behind that statue of the hump-backed witch on the third floor. It comes up in the Forbidden Forest. I know the Slytherins know about it.'

Professor Sinistra seemed to hesitate, before saying slowly, 'Well, perhaps I can ask their head of house to speak to them. But both of you, I must forbid you to speak of this with anyone else. What you're accusing the four students of is very serious, and I do not want you spreading unfounded rumours.'

'Unfounded?' said Scorpius incredulously. 'But, Professor…'

'Enough now, Mr Malfoy,' said Professor Sinistra firmly. 'I've told you I appreciate what you've told me and I will pass the information onto the Auror Office. I'm afraid that's all the time I can afford to give you.'

Albus and Scorpius sat still for several disbelieving seconds. Professor Sinistra did not spare them another glance, but rather continued scribbling on the parchment in front of her. Albus and Scorpius looked at each other and, both knowing they had exhausted all their protests, got to their feet.

As they reached the door, the head mistress called to them, 'And boys?'

They looked back at her hopefully.

'I appreciate your interest in helping the aurors, but that doesn't give you permission to enter the Shrieking Shack. If a situation like this occurs in the future I want you to tell a teacher rather than take it upon yourselves to investigate, understand?'

'Yes, Professor,' said Albus.

'And you, Mr Malfoy?'

'Yes, Professor,' grumbled Malfoy.

'Thank you. And I'll be taking twenty points each from Gryffindor and Ravenclaw for being out of bounds. Off you go.'

Scorpius turned away, glaring, and wrenched open the door of the head mistress's office, marching outside, before he realised Albus was not with him. He looked back into the room. 'Come on, let's go.'

'Will you be taking eighty points from Slytherin?' asked Albus.

'I'm sorry, Mr Potter?'

'They were out of bounds too, and there were four of them, so don't they get eighty points taken?'

Professor Sinistra seemed to hesitate, before she said very evenly, 'Perhaps I would if they were out of bounds, but that remains to be seen, and it's not of any concern of yours, Mr Potter. Please go.'

Albus stayed where he was, struggling to think of a response before Scorpius put his hand on his shoulder.

'Just forget it,' Scorpius muttered furiously, and Albus allowed himself to be steered out of the head mistress's office.

Scorpius slammed the door shut and started down the stairs, Albus at his heels. They had reached the bottom of the flight of stairs before Scorpius spoke again, 'This is total bullshit.'

'I know,' said Albus.

'I mean for fuck's sake, what else does she need to know?'

'I agree.'

'We saw them. We know it was them. And I know I recognised August's voice. I know it.'

'You really think so?'

'Yes,' said Scorpius harshly. 'I just – I just can't remember where.'

'Do you think… maybe… you know, because of your dad…'

'No,' snarled Scorpius. 'From somewhere else.'

'Like, someone famous?'

'No, like… I don't know. I just know him.'

'Well, I guess we need to prove it some other way,' said Albus slowly as they reached the staircase. 'Are you coming down to dinner?'

'I'm not hungry,' grumbled Scorpius. 'I'm going back to Ravenclaw tower. I want to capitalise on the idiots I share a dorm with being out.'

Albus laughed, before he gave a low, 'Oh.'

'What?' said Scorpius.

'I was supposed to meet Mei in the library this afternoon.'

'Oh, dear.'

'Yeah. Very oh dear.'

'Well, good luck,' said Scorpius. 'I'll see you at breakfast, I guess.'

'Yeah, see you.'

And Scorpius started up the stairs as Albus started downwards.

Monday morning dawned like a hangover that wouldn't go away. Her dread woke her early, and she showered and dressed before her parents or Victoire woke. She didn't want to see them; didn't want to have to stomach their sympathy.

It had been nearly three weeks since the attack, and only now had the Ministry deemed it safe for the general staff to re-enter. She knew her superiors had gone back as soon as the rubble had been cleared away, but she wasn't important enough to have her presence required.

When she arrived at the atrium, she stepped out of the fireplace and took a cautious look around. It looked pristine; the ceiling and golden trimmings had been restored, immaculate and unchanging. She couldn't decide if that made it better or worse; perhaps it would have been less unsettling if a trace of the destruction was still visible.

There was one acute difference, however; the security at the entry to the Ministry had increased tenfold. The usual two aurors checking people's wands had been joined by ten others. She waited in line for nearly fifteen minutes before she made it to the front of the queue., and another ten minutes for her security clearance to be granted.

Her heart was pounding when she made it to the escalator, and she was hyperventilating by the time she made it to her floor. She wondered what it would be like in her office; she wondered if people would be crying; she wondered if there would be flowers.

For perhaps the first time in more than three weeks, she was not wondering about Teddy Lupin, but that changed when the elevator doors opened and she found him before her.

He looked up from the sheet of parchment he had been reading, saw who it was, and said slowly, 'Oh.'

She stood frozen in her spot long enough that the elevator doors began to shut. She threw an arm forward to hold them open, and at the same time as Teddy did so, and they narrowly avoided brushing hands as she jumped out into the corridor.

She tried to find somewhere else to look, but it was impossible to remove him from her line of sight. It was the first time she had seen him since the memorial; she had been determined to avoid him, and so when she heard his voice at Shell Cottage she would lock herself in her bedroom or escape from the house.

Looking at him now, she realised there was something unfamiliar about him. He had always looked thin, but now he looked properly unhealthy. His hair was still the same shade of brown it had been at the memorial, and he wasn't smiling, something unusual for him.

'Dom,' he said in an uneven voice, 'hullo.'

'Hi,' she squeaked back.

'I didn't know you'd be here,' he said, as if trying to apologise for crossing paths with her. 'I thought the office staff weren't coming back until next week.'

'No, we're back today.'

'Oh, right…' He seemed unsure what to do with his hands, fiddling with the sheet of parchment he was holding, before he looked down at it, and in inspiration held it aloft for her to look at it. 'Have you seen this?'

'Um, no, I don't think so… What is it?'

'Well, they're been handed out in our department. I came to ask Harry about it before I signed it, but he's in a meeting,' said Teddy. 'I don't really get it… lots of big words, you see. Here, look.'

He offered it to her and she took it, unfurling the parchment. It was very long, and the font was very small, and she had to read it several times before she understood what it was asking for. She looked up at Teddy. 'It's a consent form. They're asking you to absolve the Ministry of responsibility if you get killed.'

Teddy gave a slow nod. 'Yeah, that's what it seemed like to me.'

She rolled the parchment back up and passed it to him. 'Do you want to borrow a quill?'

Teddy seemed to consider this, before he said slowly, 'You're not going to sign yours, are you?'

She hadn't questioned that she would until Teddy had. 'Well, I… I can't quit I've tried applying for other jobs, but I haven't found any others. I don't know what I'd do for money if I stopped working here.'

'Neither do I,' said Teddy. 'But I'm not sure I want to be part of the Ministry anymore. Not while people like Rowle work here.'

'Teddy,' she hissed, glancing up and down the corridor. 'Be careful. Some people here really like him.'

'I know. That's the problem, isn't it?'

Dominique didn't have a response for this. They stood staring at each other, and all at once she was back in the Burrow at Christmas, with his dark eyes hovering over her, his lips inches from his. It made her feel awful and sick and shameful, and she knew he felt it too.

'I need to get into the office,' she murmured.

'Right,' he said. 'I suppose I should head back downstairs. You've got a quill, have you?'

'You're going to sign it?'

'I suppose I don't have much of a choice. Vicky wants a big wedding.'

And all at once, Dominique knew that was going to be it. That as all it would ever be. Teddy was going to allow it to fall to the wayside, put it onto the list of things that were unseemly to think of, and they would forget. She decided she would follow his lead. She reached into her bag and retrieved a quill.

'Thanks.' He stepped towards the wall and pressed the parchment up against it.

She watched him scribble on the dotted line. She liked the way he signed his name, big and loopy and somewhat askew from the uneven surface he was writing on. Edward Remus Lupin.

When he was finished he turned back to her, handing her the quill, and smiled in thanks. 'I'll be round for dinner tomorrow night,' he told her. 'Will you be there?'

'I think so.'

'Great. See you then, Dom.'

'Yes, bye, Teddy.'

He raised a hand in farewell and stepped into the elevator, and she turned away into her office.

'I just don't know why you're getting involved.'

'I'm not getting involved.'

'But you are, Albus. You had twenty points taken from Gryffindor, and you could have gotten a lot worse for being out of bounds.'

He rolled over in her four-poster to run a hand along her shoulder. 'I'm really sorry I didn't tell you where I was going.'

Mei sighed, sitting up in bed to tie her long hair into a ponytail. 'I'm not mad, Albus. I just don't want you getting distracted. Not when your OWLs are coming up.'

He grinned up at her. 'I think you care a lot more about my OWLs than I do.'

Mei rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. 'That's silly.'

He reached for her hand. 'I know you think so.'

'I do.'

'But don't you think it's important to stop Rowle?'

'I just won't know what you think you can do. Why can't you just leave it to the aurors?'

'Well, we tried. But Professor Sinistra won't ask the Slytherins about it.'

'You can't have honestly expected her to. Why would the people who attacked the Ministry trust school kids with that sort of information?'

Albus tried to think of an explanation, but fell short. He gave her a shrug. 'I know it sounds stupid, and I'm sorry, but I just… I just want to find out what's going on.'

Mei hesitated, before giving a low sigh. She lay back down beside him, leaning into him, and he looped his arm around her. 'Just promise me you're not going to do anything stupid.'

'I won't.'

'Get yourself hurt, I mean.'

'Okay.'

'Or fail your hours.'

He laughed, and inclined to kiss her. 'I promise.'

'Don't go.'

'I have to. Lucy Weasley's a nutcase.'

'Tell her you're ill.'

'She won't believe that.'

Zaina pouted. He stood at the foot of the bed, watching her, wanting very much not to leave her.

'If you wait up I'll come past your dorm on my way back in,' he said.

She gave a breathy sigh. 'I'll just be exhausted tomorrow.'

He turned away and snatched up his trousers from the floor. 'Well, I won't then.'

'Oh, sweetie, don't sulk.'

'I'm not sulking.'

He pulled on his trousers before sitting back down on the bed to tie up the laces of his school shoes. He felt Zaina shift on the bed, moving towards him, before she laced her long, slender arms around his shoulders, pressing her lips against his neck. He leant into her, raising a hand over his shoulder to touch her cheek.

'I missed you,' she said.

'I missed you too.'

'Liar.'

'It's true. I did.'

'Then why are you abandoning me?'

He laughed and shifted to face her, taking hold of her and pushing her back onto the bed. 'I'm not abandoning you. Prefect duty must come first.'

With her pinned beneath him, he kissed her chest and she let out a shrill giggle. He still had fifteen minutes before he had to be at the prefect's office – surely he had time. He moved his lips to hers and she responded keenly, lacing her fingers through his hair, and with the other hand sliding town his chest…

They both heard the door of his dormitory click open. They jumped away from each other, Zaina grabbing the sheets of his bed to pull them over her. He lunged towards the door in an attempt to shut it, but before he could reach is Zaina called sharply, 'We're in here!'

Whoever it was on the other side of the door stopped immediately, pulling the door closed again. There was a second's delay before Connor Davies said through the door, 'Sorry, Zaina!'

Zaina looked at Scorpius, rolling her eyes, but she was smiling. 'Come back in ten minutes, Connor,' she called to him.

Connor did as he was instructed. Scorpius listened to his footsteps retreat away back down the stairs to the common room. He found himself suddenly irritated: none of his dorm-mates would ever heed any request from him not to be interrupted, but there was something in the way Zaina spoke to people that made it impossible not to obey.

'I don't know why you don't warn him that I'm in here,' sighed Zaina.

He suddenly wasn't interested in delaying his departure. He turned to his trunk and pulled a shirt out from it.

'Oh, no. You're annoyed, aren't you?' said Zaina.

He shook his head as he buttoned his shirt. 'What would I have to be annoyed about?'

'Oh, nothing, but you always find something, love.'

Don't do it, he said to himself. Be quiet. Be sensible.

'I'm not annoyed,' he replied. 'I just find it funny.'

Zaina gave a tired sigh. 'Find what funny?'

'That if I were to tell Connor not to come in he'd completely ignore me, but when you do it he heeds your every command.'

'Well, Connor adores me.'

'I know that.'

'Aw, are you jealous?'

Don't do it, he said to himself once more, but he did it.

'Should I be?' he asked.

Zaina gave him a knowing smile. 'Don't pick a fight, Scorp.'

'Yeah, good. Ignore the question.'

Sighing, Zaina swung her long legs over the side of the bed and got to her feet. She had a way of moving that was somehow lyrical, fluid and assured, and he watched her as she pulled on her clothes.

'You're a very difficult person, you know?' she told him.

'Thanks.'

She strode towards the door, saying as she did, 'Enjoy your evening with Weasley.'

She pulled the door shut after her, and he slumped back on his bed. It had been going so well, but he had pushed too far, as he always did with Zaina. When they had first gotten together he had been so careful, so chivalrous, and she had been charming and doting, and then they had revealed themselves to each other.

And yet he had an admiration for her that kept him drawn in. He liked her confidence; he liked her grace; he liked the fact that he was the type of person she liked.

He dwelled on this as he left his dormitory, and was still thinking of Zaina and the stupid things he had said as he descended the stairs of Ravenclaw tower. He had, at the beginning, been so careful with what he would allow himself to say to her, but the closer he became to her the less he censored himself.

Rose Weasley was waiting for him, sitting on a window sill at the top of the marble staircase. Her lanky legs were intertwined and her bony arms were folded. She was wearing her usual scowl, and she refused to meet his eye until he was standing right before her. The sight of her did nothing to improve his mood.

'Evening,' he said.

Very curtly, she said, 'You're late.'

'Hah. Funny.'

'What's funny?'

'Because I'm not late, but that's what I said to you last week.'

'You are late. It's a quarter past ten.'

'Oh, let's not start,' he grumbled. In that moment he saw fully, for perhaps the first time, the reality of his predicament; three hours of incessant bickering each week for the next five months. The prospect was exhausting. 'How about we make a rule?'

'What do you mean?'

'You know… we're not allowed to speak to each other unless what we have to say relates directly to prefect duty?'

She gave a humourless laugh. 'That's infantile.'

'Infantile seems necessary when dealing with you.'

She made to protest, but then seemed to realise that would validate his suggestion. After a few seconds' thought she said, 'Fine.'

'Shall we get this over with, then?'

In answer, she launched herself off of the window sill and started down the corridor ahead of him, and he followed after her, hands in his pockets.

They made it to the third floor without cause to speak to each other. He was beginning to feel rather proud of his rule when, as they neared the transfiguration room, he heard the sound of laughter from the empty classroom.

He looked towards Rose and asked, 'Shall I go or you?'

'Go where?'

'To tell them to go to bed.'

She raised her eyebrows. 'Do you honestly care if someone's out of bed?'

'Last time we ignored students out of bed your mental cousin found them, and I don't want her to have another go at us.'

Rose still looked unconvinced, and so he said to her, 'Do you want your Hogsmeade privileges revoked?'

'Fine,' she relented. 'You do it then.'

He opened the door and the giggling inside stopped immediately. The two first-years drawing on the chalkboard looked terrified by the sight of them.

'Evening,' he said to the pair, and he heard Rose give an impatient sigh. 'You two should probably be in your dorms.'

The pair of Hufflepuff girls they found in the transfiguration room were the first of several students they found out after curfew. He and Rose took in turns telling them to go to bed, and other than that they were silent. It was a good rule, he thought to himself, and he also liked that he briefly proved himself more reasonable than Weasley.

The end of their patrol was blissfully close when, on the sixth floor, they heard hushed voices from the History of Magic classroom. Without a word to Rose, he approached the classroom and pulled open the door, and the group of six third-year Slytherins within looked around at him. They were in the midst of a game of exploding snap, and at the sight of the two prefects seemed unsure of how they should behave.

'Evening,' Scorpius said to them. Rose rolled her eyes (she had been doing this, or something or this nature, every time he greeted students in such a manner), but he continued unbothered. 'Not to break up the party, but you lot should be in bed.'

'Why though?' grumbled one of the boys in the group. Scorpius recognised him as the Slytherin seeker. 'It's only a game.'

'Because we said so,' said Rose coolly. 'And we can tell youf head of house if you don't. Do you want detentions?'

The Slytherins exchanged glances with each other, before they resolved to gather up their playing cards and get to their feet. Rose and Scorpius stood aside as they trudged out of the room, glaring at the prefects.

As the Slytherin seeker passed them, he gave Rose a scouring glance up and down and said in a low voice, 'Your mudblood mum's gonna get what's coming to her.'

'Hey, mate,' said Scorpius sharply, 'you know we can give you detention if you want us to.'

'Oh, get over yourself, Malfoy,' sighed Rose, and she turned away from him and started back up along the corridor.

Scorpius hesitated, watching the Slytherins slouching off in the other direction towards the marble staircase. They were talking amongst themselves, looking back at himself and Rose and laughing, and he felt himself surge with anger. He turned away and hurried down the passageway to catch up with Rose.

'Hey, Weasley, wait…'

'Is this prefect related?' she asked.

'How do you not have a problem with that?' he demanded.

'This isn't prefect related.'

'It doesn't bother you that that kid just said… that he called your mother…'

When he didn't say it she glanced back at him. 'A mudblood? Don't act like you've never used that word.'

He gaped at her. 'I've never – I would never –'

'Oh, spare me.'

'Where have you gotten this idea that I have some kind of prejudice?'

'You've made it fairly clear.'

'How? What have I ever done?'

'It's what you don't do.'

'What does that mean?'

'Meaning that if you really cared about blood equality you would do something about it.'

'Well, I'm trying, aren't I? Albus and I tried to find out who August is. Which is more than I can say for you.'

'If you care so much then why are you still going out with Zaina Faheem?'

He frowned at her. Hearing her say Zaina's name annoyed him. 'What does Zaina have to do with anything?'

'She doesn't seem to think too highly about blood equality,' said Rose matter-of-factly.

He paused, glaring at her, before he realised what she was talking about. 'Oh, what, because of what she said in History of Magic last term? That was one time.'

'She made it clear what she thinks, and you obviously don't have a problem with it or you wouldn't be going out with her.'

'In case you weren't listening, Weasley, I was on Chandra's side,' said Scorpius coolly. 'And Zaina doesn't have any problems with Muggles. She's just been brought up in an old-fashioned household.

'Oh, yes, of course. Old-fashioned. It's lovely to have such a flattering word for bigoted.'

'Look, Weasley, it's alright. I get it.'

She narrowed her eyes at him, suspicious. 'Get what?'

'Most girls don't like Zaina.'

'Excuse me?'

'Girls don't like her because she's pretty and she likes herself. That doesn't make her a bad person.'

Rose seemed to swell with anger. 'I don't care how pretty she is. What makes her a bad person is her total complacency with how Purebloods view Muggle-borns.'

'And how are you any different?' he demanded. 'You can have a go at Zaina all you like, but you're not exactly doing anything to protest Rowle. You wouldn't even help Albus and I find out what the Slytherins were doing.'

'Albus and me,' she corrected, and he groaned impatiently, but she continued. 'And it worked out very well for the two of you, didn't it? You two following them into the Shrieking Shack did nothing but lose house points.'

'At least we're trying. How do you expect to make a difference if you won't even… Okay.' He stopped himself. 'We're going around in circles. Let's re-invoke the rule, shall we?'

'You broke it. Not me.'

'Well, you – forget it. Keep walking.'

She spun on her heel, her bushy, ginger hair bouncing on her shoulders. She walked with her arms folded, sulking. He found himself getting a headache as he tried to follow her logic.

'I just don't get you,' he said to her, and she sighed, but he persisted. 'How can you be so disinterested when you've been raised by parents like yours?'

'By that logic you should be a Death Eater.'

'Well, according to you I already am,' he said. 'Doesn't your ambivalence bother your mum and dad?'

'My parents would prefer it if I never picked up a newspaper,' she retorted.

He wasn't entirely sure what she meant by this, and so he kept talking. 'You act very hard done by, don't you? You live a hard life with your mother being the head of the DMLE and your father being a famous auror.'

'And I'm sure your days are a struggle. Having your house-elves answer your beckoned call. Living in a manor house built with money your family stole from Muggles.'

He felt himself flush with anger – anger that came from knowing that she was right. 'You think it's fun having journalists waiting at my gate hoping to catch my father dragging dead bodies into the cellar?'

'And it's not a pain having journalists at my gate hounding my mother?'

'Your mother has journalists there because people love her. My father has journalists after him because everyone hates him.'

'Try having strangers take photos of you your whole life.'

'Strangers take my pictures too,' he said, for lack of a better retort.

'Not as much as they take mine.'

'Well, you don't have to brag about it.'

'I'm not bragging about it, Malfoy,' she spat at him. 'It's awful.'

'You can't find it flattering?'

Even in the dim light of the torches, he could see the knot appear before her eyebrows as she glared at him. 'Are you serious?'

'What?'

'Flattering…' she hissed in disbelief. 'God, you're pathetic.'

She turned away from him, and he followed her.

'Okay, fine, Weasley. That was a stupid thing to say.'

'Yes, and that's a first for you.'

'I was saying sorry, but if you'd want me to apologise-'

'You weren't apologising, were you? You were acknowledging your own stupidity.'

'I misspoke,' he told her. 'Your life is infinitely more difficult than mine. I should never, ever have tried to speculate on the horrors that you have to endure in your home life. My heart bleeds for you. You're an inspiration to all.'

She put her hands on her hips. 'Why do you do that?'

'Do what, Weasley?'

'Speak as if you're ten years older than everyone around you.'

'I speak to you the way you speak to me,' he snapped back.

'You speak to everyone like that. Even Albus, and you two are apparently best friends now-'

'Oh, is that what's bothering you? Albus has found someone else to be friends with other than you? Are you jealous?'

Rose gave a harsh laugh. 'If Albus wants to be friends with someone as infuriating as you he can go ahead and do it.'

'Yes, he must have a type, having been friends with you for so long.' He glanced at his watch and before she could say anything he continued. 'Look, it's nearly one. We did the patrol. Let's just go back to the prefect's office and sign your cousin's damn parchment, okay?'

'Gladly.'

'And we'll do it in silence, how about that?'

'Please.'

They strode along the empty corridors, descending towards the prefects' office. It was too late to catch any stragglers now, and they were both preoccupied with their own thoughts.

Money your family stole from Muggles.

That's what she had said to him, and what made it worse was that this wasn't a revelation. It was something he had thought to himself over and over again as he lay in his bed at Malfoy Manor gazing as the cornices in the ceiling.

But what gave her the right to say that to him? Why was she any better because her parents were who they were? She wasn't allowed to choose hers, and he wasn't allowed to choose his, and the implication that he ought to riled him.

The parchment that Lucy Weasley had brandished at them had been pinned up on the notice board in the prefect's office. Rose reached it first, snatched up a quill from the head girl's desk, and began scribbling on the parchment. When she was finished she dropped the quill back onto the desk and marched off, leaving him alone in the empty room.

He picked up the quill and turned to the notice board. He inspected what she had written.

28/1/2022. 1:00 am. Rose W.

Her signature was simple, unremarkable. She wrote her name the way she had written the other words, in her small, rigid handwriting. No flourish or character or style. Rose W.

Not Weasley: just W.

He pressed the quill onto the parchment.

28/1/2022. 1:01 am. Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy.

He stared at his own scrawl, hesitating over it. He wondered now why he hadn't had the ingenuity to do what she did; to omit her father's name from her signature. He supposed it was too late to fix it now.

He set the quill back and turned away, striding out of the room. Somewhere within him he felt relief for the fact that they had made it through the patrol, but it was diminished by the fact that they would be putting themselves through the same ordeal in a week's time.

Her dorm-mates were all asleep when she returned from patrol. On other nights, she usually relished this time; the quiet of her dormitory, the moonlight through her window, the knowledge that she had another week of peace until the next prefect patrol.

But she didn't feel so enthralled at the moment. She could only lie on her bed stewing over her predicament.

He was a contradiction, and a purposeful one at that. She didn't like that; a contrarian for the sake of being a contrarian. Hair too long to be fashionable but not long enough to verge back around into fashionable. An unmade tie because he wanted to seem unkempt, but a silk shirt because he wanted to appear rich. Turning homework in late and unfinished but arriving at exams over prepared.

She lay back on her pillows and pressed her eyes shut. Like it or not, Scorpius Malfoy was her patrol partner. She had exhausted all attempts to squirm her way out of it. She would need to make her peace with it, but peace with Scorpius Malfoy seemed like an impossible feat.

'I just don't get it,' said Scorpius.

'Yes,' said Albus slowly. 'But do you need to… I mean…'

'What?'

Albus sighed and set down his quill. 'I mean, I said I'd help you with the potions essay. I didn't know we were going to have to talk about Rose the entire time.'

'I haven't been talking about her the entire time,' retorted Scorpius. 'I just – all the stupid shit she says is still fresh in my mind.'

'Yes, she'll do that,' said Albus.

In an attempt to steer the conversation away from Rose, he took a glance around the library and his eyes came to rest on the entrance. Edmund Goyle and Clement Rosier had just come through the door. Looking around for a free table, they both caught sight of him staring, and he didn't look away in time. He could feel them watching him venomously as they crossed the library. He had become accustomed to them snarling at him over the last week.

'I swear they know it was me,' Albus muttered to Scorpius.

'Well, I told you the invisiblity cloak didn't work. It must be fifty years old.'

'It does work,' insisted Albus. 'I reckon they recognised my voice when I stupefied Goyle. And they know I overheard them at the beginning of the year when they asked you to help them.'

'You're paranoid,' said Scorpius.

'You won't say that if I turn up dead.'

'Goyle doesn't know how to kill anyone. He can barely cast a levitation charm.'

Albus gave a sniff of laughter, before he inclined across the table to say to Scorpius, 'There's been nothing in the papers about the aurors having new leads.'

Scorpius nodded. 'I'm guessing that means the aurors didn't believe what we told Sinistra.'

'No, I'm guessing not.'

Sighing, Scorpius tossed down his quill and slumped back in his chair. 'I hate the Ministry.'

'Yeah, I'm starting to feel that way too.' Albus gestured towards Scorpius's parchment. 'You finished?'

'Don't rush me. It's a process.'

'Yeah, but Rose is coming to meet me at four o'clock. It's really exhausting be around you two when you're together.'

'Well, thanks.'

'It's not my fault.'

'What's not your fault, Ducky?'

Albus and Scorpius both looked around. James had appeared beside their table, and he pulled out a chair beside Albus and dropped into it.

'Nothing,' said Albus quickly. 'What do you want?'

'The cloak, please.'

'It's up in my dorm.'

James gave a sigh, swinging on his back legs, grinning at them. 'Can't trust you with anything, can I? You've had it for a week.'

'I know, I'll give it back-'

'And after all I've done for you. Pre-meditating your girlfriend to shag you.' Albus rolled his eyes, but didn't reply, and so James instead turned his attention to Scorpius. 'Good game on the weekend, Malfoy.'

'Thanks,' said Scorpius.

'I owe you one, mate. I mean, I didn't really expect you to hand Slytherin the snitch, but seeming you did it will make it a lot easier for us to win the cup.'

Scorpius scowled, but didn't reply. He passed Albus his unfinished essay and began to stuff his books into his bag. 'I should go,' he said to Albus. 'I'm supposed to meet Zaina before dinner.'

'Ooh, can I come?' asked James eagerly. 'I'm very fond of Zaina.'

'Funny. She can't stand you,' said Scorpius, and he made to turn away, but rather failed as Rose had strode up behind him. He ran into her and they both jumped back. He began to apologise, before he realised who it was, and matched her scowl.

'Watch where you're going,' he said to her.

'You walked into me,' she snapped.

'Well, don't sneak up on people,' he growled, and he pushed past her towards the exit.

Rose dropped down into Scorpius's vacated seat. Albus could see her eyebrows knitting together as she unpacked her bag. It was only when she had deposited all of her books on the desk that she apparently registered James's presence.

'What are you doing here?' she asked.

'That's not very nice, Rosie,' said James. 'Were you aware of this?'

'Aware of what?'

'Ducky's gotten chummy with Malfoy.'

'Yes, I'm aware.'

'And do you approve?'

'Absolutely not.'

James rounded back to Albus. 'Rose doesn't approve.'

Albus picked up Scorpius's essay and began to scan it. 'Rose doesn't approve of anything.'

James laughed, but Rose only pursed her lips. She turned to James and said coolly, 'Can you go away, please? We need to study.'

'Look, I only came to get the cloak,' said James, and he got to his feet. 'I expect it back in my possession by dinner, Al, or I'll be going to Zhao to ask if she wants me to give you any tips.'

And he too turned away and strode towards the exit. James's departure didn't do anything to improve Rose's mood, however; Albus could sense her anger in the forceful way she was turning the pages of her book.

'How was class?' he asked her.

'Terrible. You know I hate ancient runes.'

'Right.' He turned back towards Scorpius's essay, before he said in a low voice, 'I did tell him to leave before you got here, you know?'

She glanced up at him. 'What?'

'Scorpius. I did tell him you were coming-'

'I don't care, Albus.'

'He's not that bad, you know.'

'Yes, I know you two are best friends now,' she drawled. 'You don't need my permission.'

'It would just be a lot easier if you two could get along.'

'No,' she snapped. 'He's a spoilt little brat, Albus, and the fact that you trust him is ludicrous. And it's not my responsibility to keep you away from him, but nor am I going to play nice with him for your sake.'

'I'm not asking you to.'

'Good, because I won't,' she snapped. 'Do you want me to help you with Defence or not? It doesn't bother me if you fail, you know.'

Sighing, but consenting, Albus opened his notepad and passed her the first draft of his essay.

The week until the next prefects' patrol passed oppressively quickly. She felt that she could focus on little else other than her dread for that three hours period in which she would be forced into Scorpius Malfoy's company.

Her temperament wasn't lightened by the morning Prophet's heralding of more aurors being put out onto the streets and opinion polls tipping in Mikhael Rowle's favour.

'He'll never win,' said Xan confidently over breakfast one day. 'People aren't so stupid as to vote for him.'

But she was feeling increasingly less confident of the fact. She knew, not from anything her parents had told her but from her own reading, how it had been when her parents were at school. People had been complacent with the war. People had continued on living for as long as they could under the Death Eaters' regime without any rebellion. A small, dark part of her could understand that.

On the night of her patrol, she passed the hours after dinner reading in the common room. Chandra was with Connor and Albus was with Mei, and so she had no reasonably distraction to delay her reporting for prefects' duty.

Malfoy was waiting for her at the usual rendezvous at the top of the marble staircase.

'Evening,' he drawled when she reached him.

'Why do you always say that?' she asked.

He frowned at her. 'Say what?'

'Evening. Like you're a hundred years old.'

He gave a low sigh. 'Shall we invoke last week's rule? The no talking rule?'

'Yes, it worked wonderfully last week, didn't it?'

He ignored her and started down the corridor. She started after him. The first hour passed in silence as they strode through the dark, silent passageways.

As they rounded the corridor towards the transfiguration classroom, she heard the sound of a girl laughing faintly in the distance, and both she and Scorpius looked at each other.

'Well, in you go,' he said to her.

'Why me?'

'Because it's your turn,' he informed her. 'I sent the Slytherin gits off to bed at the end of our last patrol. Not that you appreciated it, of course.'

She shut her eyes, drew a sigh, and pushed her hair back from her face. Brushing past him, she continued down the passageway to the transfiguration classroom, the laughter growing louder. She wrenched open the door and the laughter from inside died away immediately.

Lily Potter, who was perched on the teacher's desk, blinked back at them. Adam Farouk stood at the chalkboard, halfway through drawing up a round of hangman. He was looking between Lily and the two prefects, apparently waiting for someone to tell him what to do.

Lily,' said Rose tiredly, 'Lucy's going to kill you.'

Lily, who seemed unperturbed by their arrival, gave a dramatic sigh. 'We're not doing anything.'

'I don't care. You know if you get caught out of bed Lucy will blame me.'

Lily sighed again, before saying to Rose, 'Well, you owe me. Come on, Adam.'

She slipped off of the desk and flounced out of the room. Adam hurriedly picked up a duster and erased the unfinished game from the chalkboard, before scurrying out of after Lily.

'Sorry,' he muttered to Rose and Scorpius as he passed them.

Once they were alone, Scorpius looked back at Rose. 'You know they're just going to go to a different room?'

Rose shrugged. 'We tried. Well, I tried. You're doing the next one.'

'That's not fair. You hardly had to say anything. She's your cousin.'

'That doesn't mean it's not painful to talk to her.'

'You really don't like anyone, then? Other than Albus and Chandra?'

'This is veering away from prefect duty talk.' And she turned out of the room and started along the passageway once again, and she heard him follow after her, but he didn't attempt to speak to her again.

The castle war far less busy on their patrol than their last, and after Lily and Adam they passed most of their patrol without any disturbances. It wasn't until they were passing along the east passageway that they heard a loud clatter of metal hitting stone, and she let out a low sigh.

'Where'd that come from?' she groaned.

'Trophy room, I reckon.'

'Well, off you go. Your turn.'

'Fine. At least stand behind me or something for moral support.'

He strode to the door of the trophy room, tapped it with his wand, and the door swung open inwards. There were no students to be seen, but the room was none-the-less in disarray. A trophy cabinet had been tipped over, scattering the floor with broken glass, plaques and trophies that had rolled to all ends of the room.

Scorpius looked back over his shoulder to Rose. 'Peeves, I bet.'

'Lovely.'

'We should clean it up.'

'Should we?'

'What will Lucy say if we don't?'

Rose sighed deeply. 'Probably something derogatory.'

'That's a safe bet. So, do you want to help me or not?'

'Not really,' she said, but she brushed past him into the trophy room, withdrawing her wand. She vanished away the broken glass before she aimed her wand at the toppled trophy cabinet, slowly levitating upwards.

'I can do that,' he said, stepping forward with his own wand withdrawn.

'So can I,' she retorted, as she righted the cabinet against the wall. 'It's not difficult, Malfoy. Just because I'm a girl doesn't been I'm incapable of casting a levitation charm.'

'It's not about you being a girl. I'm trying to be helpful.'

'Well, then stop talking and help me put the trophies back.'

Glaring at her, he did as he was told while she repaired the glass in the cabinet's face. One by one they collected the Quidditch trophies that had rolled away across the room and under cabinets, bickering over which shelf they belonged to.

'You're doing it wrong,' snapped Rose. 'They're arranged by years.'

'No, they're arranged by house,' he insisted. 'The Slytherin ones go on this shelf, and the Hufflepuff ones on this shelf.'

'That's ridiculous. Who in their right mind would arrange them like that?'

'Well, clearly the person who organised this shelf wasn't in their right mind because this was how they were. Believe me, Weasley, I spent several hours polishing the bloody things with Albus.' He snatched the plaque she had been holding off of her, setting it down on the top shelf. 'That one's a Ravenclaw one, so that goes… Fuck.'

He was staring at the plaque. The little colour in his already pale face seemed to have drained away. She stood on her toes to inspect the plaque he had just set on the shelf. It was a framed photo of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team winning the house cup, inscribed with the year 2017 followed by the names of the players and their positions. She recognised none of the faces.

She glanced back at Scorpius. 'What?'

He raised a finger to the inscription. 'August Selwyn.'

'August… no. What?'

She looked towards the name. Scrawled into the gold inscription was the name August Selwyn followed by the word Seeker.

'It says he played seeker,' said Scorpius. His voice was sounding unlike she had ever heard it, low and even. His finger flinched from the inscription to the photograph, pausing over the face of a dark-haired boy sitting in the front row. 'It's him. I knew I recognised his voice. I knew it. He was head boy in our first year, remember?'

"Well, move your finger and I'll look, could you?' She forced his arm away and he reluctantly stepped back, allowing her to inspect the photograph.

The boy sitting in the seeker's seat was smiling at the camera, waving a hand up at her. He had a handsome, nondescript kind of face beneath a brunette fringe, but after staring at his bright, blue eyes for a moment she began to sense the familiarity. 'Yes… vaguely. Two-thousand and seventeen. That was the year my cousin Victoire was head girl.'

'He was a Ravenclaw,' said Scorpius. 'He was in my common room every night. I can't believe I didn't recognise his voice sooner. I just couldn't place him, I just couldn't... I need to go tell Professor Sinistra.'

He turned away from her, but she called him back. 'Malfoy, wait.'

He looked back at her, and snapped impatiently, 'What?'

'Look,' she insisted, pointing back towards the plaque at the smaller inscription jotted at the very bottom of the frame.

Frowning, Scorpius crossed back to her side, to inspect the Latin that had been inked below the frame.

'He's dead,' said Rose. 'In memorium. August Selwyn. Two-thousand to two-thousand and nineteen.'

Scorpius appeared not to understand. He continued to stare down at the plaque, his grey eyes narrowed. 'No, but… That's not right.'

'That's what it says.'

'I can see what it says, Weasley. I know how to read,' he growled. 'It's him though. I know it was him.'

'But it says…'

'I know what it says!'

'Listen,' she bit back, 'it says he's dead. The school must have been told he was dead. Who would have told them that?'

He stared at her, his frown still in place, but he wasn't looking angry. 'You mean, if he's part of the Reclamation Army…'

'If they want people to think he's dead…'

'Then he could keep killing people without getting caught,' he concluded. 'He could do all their work for them. So, you believe me?'

Rose hesitated. She glanced back towards the smiling boy in the photograph, his blue eyes glinting in the photo frame, before she turned back to Scorpius. 'It was definitely his voice?'

'Definitely.'

'Well, if the school's been told he's dead then Professor Sinistra won't believe you,' she said. 'You should write to my dad.'

'To your dad?'

'He's leading the investigation,' she reminded him.

'But what do I say?'

'Exactly what you know.'

'Will he believe that?'

Rose considered this for a moment. She imagined her father, sitting at his desk in the azure robes he wore into Diagon Alley (for she refused to picture him in aurors' robes), receiving a letter signed by a Malfoy. 'Perhaps Albus should write to him.'

Scorpius cocked an eyebrow. 'You're so disinterested you won't even write to your father?'

'I don't know all the details,' she dismissed, 'but if Albus writes to him he'll believe it.'

'You're certain?'

'I wouldn't say certain. Although I wouldn't tell you to do it if I thought he'd immediately toss the letter in the fire.'

Scorpius gave one of his short, sharp laughs. 'Alright.'

There was a brief silence in which neither of them had anything clever to say to each other, and so they both looked back towards the photo of August Selwyn.

She could recall him very faintly, like a story in a history book, but the longer she stared at the photo the more memory of him came back to her. He had caught the snitch at the first Quidditch match she ever went to at school. He had been friends with Victoire. He had smiled at her when she passed him in the passageways. He had, apparently, killed people.

'It must be nearly one,' she said. 'Surely we can go back now.'

From the corner of her eye she saw Scorpius glance at his watch. 'Quarter to. By the time we walk downstairs it will be finished.'

'Lovely.'

He raised a hand towards the door. 'After you.'

She decided against rolling her eyes at the gesture, and brushed past him out of the room.

Song Credit: Pattern by The Last Shadow Puppets.

A/N: I'm so shocked with myself by how quickly I'm updating but I've finished studying for the year and I've had a lot of the Scorose bits written in advance so I'm hoping to begin updating more frequently!

Thank you to everyone who has been reviewing! Receiving such lengthy, thoughtful reviews really makes me want to keep writing. And I'm very appreciative of anonymous reviewer Nina who I haven't been able to reply to, but who has been so incredibly patient and encouraging!