It was the morning of the Slytherin-Hufflepuff match. Albus woke with a feeling of excited anticipation surging through him. He called for Scorpius to get up as he pulled on his robes, shoved on his glasses and slipped into his shoes. His wand was sitting next to a very forlorn-looking blessboom plant, which Albus hadn’t sung to in quite some time. Scorpius’s, on the other hand, had bloomed with flowers and berries.
“Scorpius!” Albus called to him, louder than before. “It’s the day of the match! Come on, we don’t want to miss it!”
But Scorpius barely even stirred from his sleep. He murmured a quiet, “I’ll meet you there,” then rolled over and fell back into a doze. Unsure whether Scorpius had really woken for a moment, or if he’d merely been talking in his sleep, Albus stood watching his roommate, debating whether to give him a good shake. Thinking about Scorpius’s briskness the previous night, however, he decided against it.
I hope he doesn’t miss the match, Albus thought as he turned towards the door. There, he paused. He’d heard Scorpius undoing the protective enchantments on it several times over the past couple of weeks, but he’d never done it himself. It took many tries to unseal the locked door, and many more to dissipate the imperturbable charm that acted as an invisible shield around it.
“I’m going!” Albus shouted at Scorpius. The other boy didn’t even stir.
Must’ve had too much Butterbeer, Albus thought. Though, he’d never heard of anyone having a sore head after drinking only a single bottle of the stuff. It was hardly strong.
Pan wasn’t waiting for Albus in the common room as usual. Checking his watch, he realised she must’ve made her way to the Great Hall already. It was nearly time for her to head to the Quidditch pitch. He hurried through the corridors, dodging all the biggest crowds in case he was bombarded with questions about his alleged attack, and had just made it to the Great Hall when he saw Pan and the rest of the Quidditch team getting up from the Slytherin table.
“Good luck,” he said to her as they passed each other.
She nodded silently and carried on walking with her teammates. Once again, Albus was struck by how much smaller she was than the rest of them. Unlike the last match, however, he didn’t feel the same sense of dread as before. He knew now that Pan could more than hold her own on the Quidditch pitch. In fact, he was very much looking forward to watching her play.
“Thought she was going to sleep in,” said Julia Hopkirk as Albus came to sit down. She was talking to the Slytherins at large, a scathing note in her voice. “I left the troll in bed in the end, but it seems she got here in time – just about.” She tutted to herself. “You’d think she’d care more about the team than getting a lay-in. She might’ve missed the match!”
“Oh, please,” spat Salmer. “It wouldn’t have mattered that much if she’d stayed in bed. She’s not that good at Quidditch. The only reason she scored all those goals was because the Gryffindors were too afraid to go near her – worried they’d catch whatever hideous disease she’s got that makes her look like an overgrown gnome.”
“Salmer, if you were any greener, you’d be a toad,” Albus shot at him.
People were already leaving the Great Hall for the match. Salmer scowled at Albus and rose from his seat. He marched out of the hall, followed by his lackeys (Julia included). Albus quickly buttered several pieces of toast, wrapped them in a serviette and joined the crowd heading towards the Quidditch pitch. Danielle caught up with him on the way, and so they walked together, Danielle gushing about her hopes for a Slytherin victory.
When they arrived at the stands, Aberfa called Danielle over to a spare seat she’d saved. Meanwhile, someone else was calling Albus’s name, a pale hand waving him over. It was Scorpius. He was sitting at the front of the stands, in the far corner, his hair not quite as well-styled as usual. “I came straight here,” he said to Albus in a croaky voice.
“I tried to wake you…” Albus said.
“I think I must have a cold coming on,” he said. “I got some Pepper-Up Potion from Madam Pomfrey.” He held out the smoking potion, his eyes noting Albus’s shivering. “Have a sip. It’ll warm you right up.”
Albus placed the toast in his lap and gratefully took the potion, swallowing a large gulp of it. He expected the familiar sizzling heat to rush up into his head like hot steam, but there was no such feeling. The thick liquid oozed down his throat and sat in his stomach like oil. “Are you sure this is Pepper-Up Potion?” he asked.
Scorpius sighed. “I think I’ve had it outside too long,” he said. “It’s lost its effect.”
Albus offered Scorpius some toast and they sat eating the buttered slices while they waited for the Slytherin and Hufflepuff teams to enter the pitch. Scorpius kept checking his watch impatiently.
Five minutes later, a buzz of excitement swept through the stands as the two Quidditch teams were led onto the lawn by Madam Hooch, who was carrying the crate of balls under one arm. The players took to the air, arranging themselves into their positions, the two Seekers flying above proceedings, ready to begin their search for the Snitch as soon as it was released.
Madam Hooch’s whistle sounded, the Quaffle was thrown high in the air, and the game began. James’s voice echoed around the stands as he spoke into the commentator’s microphone. “And they’re off – Slytherin take possession – that’s Humphries with the Quaffle. He ducks a well-aimed Bludger by Hufflepuff Beater, Travis Bewtree. Humphries swerves Chaser, Femi Akintola, and races up the pitch – passes to Gobshawe – passes to Parkinson. Now here we are, the girl everyone’s talking about. Can she hold up to the expectation?”
There was a cacophony of cheering and whooping from the Slytherins as Pan darted towards the goalposts. She had that determined look on her face she’d worn in the last game. Albus had stopped chewing his toast. His hand was clutching the piece in his hand so tightly that melted butter was dripping down his fingers.
Come on, Pan, he thought, his heart racing.
Pan took aim and launched the Quaffle. It soared through the air. There was a brief silence. Then…
A great sigh of disappointment swept the crowd as the Quaffle flew past the goalposts, wide by quite some distance. Albus’s heart sank. Pan’s expression didn’t falter. Stone-faced, she wheeled around to her end of the pitch.
“Well, not the best start for Parkinson,” James said through the speakers. “She was far off the mark there. Now, Hufflepuff in possession. Keeper, An Suen, passes to Sally Gardiner – Gardiner to Chopra – Chopra pelts up the pitch. The Hufflepuff team captain dodges Chaser Humphries. Oooh! That was a bad Bludger to Chopra’s shoulder from Slytherin Beater, Nettles. Slytherin take possession – Gobshawe with the Quaffle – passes to Parkinson – ah, I don’t believe it! She’s fumbled it! Parkinson’s fumbled it!”
Scorpius was frowning at the game, his half-eaten toast going cold in his lap. Albus was gripping the edge of his seat, watching Pan with a rising sense of foreboding.
She’ll recover, he told himself. It’s just nerves.
But Pan didn’t recover. Hufflepuff scored three goals in quick succession. Slytherin, on the other hand, were yet to score one. In fact, they hadn’t even come close. Pan had made two more attempts at goal, and each time her shots were so wide of the mark it might’ve been laughable had it not been so excruciating.
After her fourth failed shot, the Slytherin spectators groaned miserably. Their star player was falling apart before their eyes. Scorpius kept glancing down at his feet, apparently unable to watch. Albus didn’t seem to be able to look away. Over and over again, Pan either fumbled the Quaffle or bashed into her fellow teammates or else made wild and inaccurate attempts to score. An Suen, the Hufflepuff Keeper, looked like she was having the time of her life. Clearly, she hadn’t expected to be given such an easy time of it.
It wasn’t long before Humphries was yelling at his team, screaming wildly at Pan to get her act together. The rest of the Slytherin team stopped passing to her, but with only two Chasers, they were no match for the Hufflepuffs. Owen Chopra, the Hufflepuff captain, regularly tackled the Quaffle from them. He breezed through their players, scoring goal after goal.
“Hufflepuff lead, one hundred and ten points to twenty!” James bellowed through the speakers. “What a washout. Who knew Slytherin were this bad?”
There was an outcry of angry jeers from some of the Slytherins, but many had sat back in their seats, watching the match with forlorn expressions.
“I can’t watch this any longer,” Scorpius said. He shot out of his seat. “Come on, we’ll get some hot chocolate from the kitchens to give to Pan. She’ll need it after this.”
Albus was reluctant to leave the match, but, like Scorpius, he wasn’t sure he could watch the disaster unfolding any longer. His heart aching for Pan, he followed Scorpius to the stairs, where they descended to the ground.
“I wonder what’s got into her,” Albus said as they walked towards the castle entrance, the cold wind battering them. “She’s usually so good.”
Scorpius didn’t appear to be listening. He checked his watch, then took a deep breath as if he was stealing himself for something. “Albus,” he said, “how do you feel about me?”
Albus stared at him, bemused. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“Do you think…?” His voice trailed off. “We’re close… aren’t we.”
Albus’s neck had turned very hot, he could feel the flush rising up to his chin. “We’re friends,” he said awkwardly.
“I think we’re more than that,” Scorpius replied. “You’re always covering for me.”
Albus stopped walking. He was peering closely at Scorpius, wondering if he’d gone mad. “We’re not more than friends,” Albus told him. “I cover for you because you’re my mate. I’m not going to start telling people your secrets.”
“Secrets?” Scorpius said quickly. “And what are my secrets?”
“Well, your mum being ill for one thing,” Albus said, feeling increasingly uncomfortable. “The fact that you can sing. That you talk in your sleep.” He shrugged his shoulders. “What else is there?”
“You tell me,” Scorpius said.
Albus didn’t know what else Scorpius expected him to say. He carried on walking. Scorpius kept apace beside him. A feeling of growing discomfort was rising inside Albus. He didn’t know what had got into his friend, but he was keen for this conversation to be over.
But Scorpius, it seemed, wasn’t ready to let it go. “What if I said I had put a spell on you?” he asked. “A love spell.”
Albus did a double-take. “I’d say you were mad.”
“Don’t you think it’s strange that you always stick up for me?” he probed. “And your arm. That was… That was my fault.”
“I’ve told you,” Albus said firmly, “it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t mean for it to happen.”
Without warning, Scorpius grabbed him by the upper arms. The movement put them incredibly close together, their faces inches apart. Scorpius was gazing into Albus’s eyes intently. Albus’s heart was fluttering strangely.
“I was the one who attacked you, wasn’t I,” Scorpius said.
Albus, who wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting Scorpius to say, definitely had not expected this. Had his roommate hit his head on his four-poster this morning? “No,” Albus told him exasperatedly. “You know you didn’t. What’s got into you?”
“We keep arguing,” Scorpius said, still staring into Albus’s eyes, as if he was looking for something. “I was angry with you…”
“But you didn’t set the silver wolf on me,” Albus said. “It attacked on its own. I was the one that jumped in its way.” Albus pulled away from Scorpius’s grip. “I don’t know why you’re saying these things, Scorpius. But you don’t have to feel guilty. What happened to my arm – it wasn’t your fault.”
Scorpius was nodding distractedly. He started muttering to himself. “Okay, but… Yes, I need to check…” Suddenly, he grabbed Albus by the wrist. “We need to go to the common room. I have to show you something.”
Flabbergasted, Albus let himself be pulled along, gaping at the platinum-haired boy, afraid he really had gone mad. “What about Pan’s hot chocolate?”
“We’ll get it on the way back.”
Scorpius was in such a flap that he kept taking wrong turns on the way to the common room. In the end, Albus had to take over from him and lead the way. “Galleons,” Albus said to the hidden door that led to the glowing green room. They passed inside, Scorpius glancing around open-mouthed, his gaze lingering on the windows into the Black Lake. “What do you want to show me, then?” Albus asked.
Scorpius pointed to the dormitories. “In our room,” he said.
Albus’s heart fluttered again in that strange, unsettling way. Why had Scorpius been asking about their friendship? Why had he been talking about love spells? And now – why was he so keen for the two of them to return to their dormitory?
Scorpius hung back, letting Albus lead the way. When they reached the door, Albus looked to Scorpius to undo the protection spells, but he didn’t even pull out his wand. Instead, he reached for the handle without a second’s pause. His brow furrowed in confusion when his hand bashed against the invisible barrier of the imperturbable charm.
“What’s going on with you?” Albus questioned, genuine alarm shooting through him. “Did someone hit you with a confundus charm? Was it Salmer?”
“No,” Scorpius replied, shaking his head as if to clear it. “I forgot. We seal the door…” He waved his wand and spoke the counter-spells in a harassed voice. As he turned the handle, he looked at Albus. “You can’t come in yet,” he said. “It’s a surprise…”
“B-but…” Albus spluttered. “Why am I here? What surprise?”
Scorpius didn’t answer. He slipped into the room and slammed the door shut behind him.
Albus looked at his watch. He reasoned he’d wait two minutes at the most and then he’d go inside, permission or not. Something was clearly very wrong with his friend. Either it was a confundus charm or someone had given him a Forgetfulness Potion. Albus wondered how much Scorpius would argue if he tried to take him to the Hospital Wing.
From inside the room came the unmistakeable sounds of someone looking for something. Drawers and wardrobe doors were being pulled open and promptly shut again. It sounded like things were being dropped on the floor, shoved aside. What on earth was he looking for? Had he brought Albus some kind of present?
Albus was just about to burst into the room when Scorpius emerged, his face shining with sweat. He closed the door before Albus could see inside. “Nothing,” Scorpius was muttering to himself, looking faintly annoyed. “Nothing. No talismans or curses under the pillow.”
The boy frowned. He recast the protection enchantments on the door and led the way back upstairs to the common room, continuing to mutter to himself as he went. Once they reached the top of the stairs, Scorpius turned on Albus with the appearance of someone grasping at straws. “That potion I’ve been giving you every morning—”
“What potion?” Albus interrupted angrily. “Scorpius you’re scaring me.”
“I’ve threatened you,” he continued desperately. “I know I have. I’ve threatened you. The silver dog – I conjured it. I set it loose on you.”
Albus grabbed him by the shoulders. “No, you’re my friend!” he shouted. “We’re going to the Hospital Wing. You need to see Madam Pomfrey.”
“Arty!” Scorpius yelled, louder than before. “I got rid of Arty. I was the one who got him out of the way to become your roommate.”
“No, you saved me from Arty,” Albus said. “He almost killed me. He lost control of his werewolf form. You know this.”
Scorpius’s eyes widened. “Arty, a werewolf…” He stood there for several seconds, lost in thought. Then he shook himself and checked his watch. His face drained of colour. “Oh no!” he gasped. “I have to go. I need to see—”
“You’re not going anywhere,” Albus told him firmly. “I’m taking you to the Hospital Wing.”
“I can’t. I have to leave. I have to—”
“Look, I’ll carry you to the Hospital Wing if you don’t come on your own,” Albus interrupted. “You’ve been given a potion that’s making you act crazy.”
“NO!” he yelled. “I have to go. I’m meeting my friends.”
“Who?” Albus asked. “You mean Wood and the other Ravenclaws?”
“Yes, Wood!” Scorpius said, backing towards the entrance to the common room. “I have to go!”
But a thought had struck Albus. “Have you spoken to Wood this morning?” he asked. He remembered, suddenly, the potion Scorpius had been holding when he first met him on the Quidditch stands – the potion Albus had taken a sip of. His insides turned over. “Did Wood give you that Pepper-Up Potion?” Albus questioned.
What exactly had that potion contained? Albus dreaded to think.
But Scorpius was now hurrying towards the hidden entrance to the common room, his hand pressed to his hair as if he was trying to hide it.
Albus raced after him, but then Scorpius stopped running. He doubled over in apparent agony. Alarmed, Albus ran to his side, silently cursing Gregory Wood for whatever foul potion he’d given to Scorpius in some cruel idea of a practical joke.
Albus’s thoughts were scattered, however, when he noticed something incredibly strange happening to the back of Scorpius’s hair. Though Scorpius’s hands were trying to hide it, the platinum strands were lengthening, growing between his fingers, growing at such a rate that, within a matter of moments, they had reached past his shoulders. That wasn’t the only change. His hair was turning from platinum-blond to bright, flaming red. Albus was frozen on the spot, stunned. Then, Scorpius’s body began to change. He became shorter, his thin frame softening, his long, slender fingers shortening.
Albus moved to stand directly in front of his friend, reaching out to place steadying hands on his shoulders. Scorpius shook him off. He was keeping his head bowed, refusing to look up. What sort of insane potion had Gregory Wood given to him?
But then, Scorpius finally raised his head and Albus saw his face.
It wasn’t Scorpius looking up at him, with his sharp features and his silver eyes. It was a girl – a very familiar girl. Her brown eyes were wide with guilt, her bushy red hair much messier than usual. Albus took a staggering step backwards as he took in the appearance of his cousin.
For a long time, he merely stared at her, uncomprehending. But, slowly, he began to understand. He thought about the morning’s events. Piece by piece, the truth of what had happened – of what Rose had done – started falling into place in his mind – only to be confirmed when the real Scorpius Malfoy came sprinting into the common room, breathing heavily. “Oh no!” he exclaimed. “Did I miss it? Did I miss the match? I must’ve overslept! I only just woke up!” He shot an angry look at Albus. “Why didn’t you wake me?” Then he thumbed over his shoulder. “And why is our room in an absolute state?”
Albus’s mind was too frantic with thoughts to reply. His brain was still trying to untangle everything. He thought back to every question Scorpius had asked him that morning, tried to figure out the reason Scorpius had spent time rummaging through their dormitory.
Rose was wincing at Albus. He realised he must’ve been glaring at her. He wasn’t sure he’d ever been so angry with her. “Polyjuice Potion?” he questioned.
She hesitated a moment, then nodded almost imperceptibly.
“What’s going on?” Scorpius asked, coming towards them. “Why’s Rose in here?”
Albus opened his mouth to respond, but he was interrupted by the arrival of another Slytherin – this time from the girls’ dormitories. Awful realisation hit Albus – his stomach turning to lead – at the sight of Pan stumbling up the steps. Pan – who was supposed to be on the Quidditch Pitch at this very moment, but instead, she was here in the Slytherin common room. In two places at once.
Pan’s face was wild and desperate. She barrelled into the common room, almost falling headfirst into one of the leather armchairs. She came to a grounding halt when she saw Albus. “I missed it?” she asked, her deep voice cracking. It was the one and only time he’d ever seen her look so emotional, so fragile.
Albus turned his cold, rage-filled eyes on his cousin, who shrank away from him like she’d been burned. “No Pan, you didn’t miss it,” he said, his eyes not leaving Rose’s face. “Not exactly.”
There was an expectant pause. Scorpius was glancing between Albus, Pan and Rose with troubled eyes. Rose was gulping every few seconds as if afraid she was going to be sick. Pan, on the other hand, clearly wasn’t content to stand here waiting around. She paced towards the hidden door, but Albus shook his head at her and she paused mid-step. “What is it?” she said, her voice deadened. “Is it over? Did we lose?”
Albus stepped back and gestured towards Rose. “You explain,” he said to his cousin. “I think we’d all like to hear this.”
Rose opened her mouth to speak, but Pan didn’t seem at all inclined to wait around to listen. “I’ve got a match to get to!” she barked, pacing towards the hidden door.
“Wait!” Albus called after her.
“Galleons!” she yelled at the door, ignoring Albus. It slid open. Pan made to step through it, but she’d barely moved an inch when she stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes widening in utter astonishment. Scorpius let out a disbelieving gasp. Albus, on the other hand, simply let out a long sigh.
On the other side of the doorway stood an exact – an utterly perfect – replica of Pan, right down to the coiled serpent on her Quidditch robes. The only difference was that the Pan in the corridor was holding her wand aloft, pointing it inside the common room, her eyes narrowed. “I came for Rose,” she said. “Let her out and I won’t curse any of you.” She jabbed her wand at the other Pan threateningly. “Rose!” she shouted. “Get out he—”
But corridor-Pan’s voice suddenly cut off. A violent shudder had passed through her. Then, she began to change. Her skin started to bubble like it was made of liquid rather than flesh. She doubled-over in pain, her wand slipping from her fingers. Her short, black hair began thickening and turning brown. She glanced up at them with a pained expression, her jaw squaring, her chin lengthening. Then, her skin snapped into place and both Pan and Scorpius, who were grimacing in shocked disgust, both cursed loudly at the sight of the person now standing before them. The smug, over-confident face of Ace McLaggen leered at them as he reached for his wand. After grabbing it, he stood up straight and pointed it at Pan. The Slytherin Quidditch robes he was wearing were now several inches too short, flapping around his ankles.
Pan’s fists were bunched. “What – did – you – do?” she said, her voice rumbling like thunder.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” McLaggen said smoothly. “I’ll take Rose and go. We’ve played our parts. The show’s over.”
Pan gaped. “Albus!” she bellowed, turning on him furiously. “What’s going on?”
Albus gestured silently towards Rose, but she wasn’t beside him as he’d expected. She was making her way towards Ace. Albus made a grab for her, his hands grasping a fistful of her robes. She groaned as she tumbled backwards. With an angry growl, Ace pointed his wand at Albus, but Pan was quicker. She drew her wand from the folds of her robe and directed it straight at McLaggen’s face. “There’s a Sardine Hex I’ve been wanting to try out,” she said to him. “You even attempt to curse Albus and you’ll end up with half-a-tonne of fish pouring out of your nose.”
McLaggen curled his lip at her, but he didn’t attack. Neither did he lower his wand. He kept it trained on Albus.
Rose, who was staggering to her feet, sent a repressive look at Ace. “We have to tell them what we did,” she said to him.
“Not likely,” he replied.
“We’ll get expelled if a teacher finds—”
“They’ve got no proof!” Ace spat.
Rose walked over to him. Albus didn’t try to stop her this time. Once she’d reached him, she began whispering in McLaggen’s ear. In a matter of seconds, his expression changed from extreme smugness to intense irritation. Begrudgingly, he lowered his wand. Pan didn’t follow suit. She kept hers pointed resolutely at McLaggen’s face.
“We have to go,” Rose said. “The Slytherins will be back from the match soon. If you come with us, we’ll explain everything.”
“So, the match is over, then,” Pan said.
McLaggen smirked. “Yep, dead and buried.”
Albus had to resist the urge to go over and hit him. For Pan’s sake, he almost willed McLaggen to try to attack them, to give them an excuse to curse him. Even now, Pan had no idea what had happened on the Quidditch pitch and Albus couldn’t bear to think about how she’d react when she found out what McLaggen had done. Rose’s involvement in the plot only made Albus more furious. How could she have gone along with it?
They followed Ace and Rose through the corridors and passages, all five of them hurrying to avoid the rush of students returning from the match. The two Gryffindor first-years led them to a first-floor bathroom. “No one goes in here,” Rose told them in explanation. “We’ll be able to talk.”
The stone floor of the bathroom was damp, reflecting the pale, grey light shining in through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
“Well?” Albus pressed his cousin once they were all inside. “Are you going to explain?”
Rose went to stand by one of the windows. She’d lost some of her initial embarrassment. In fact, her usual self-righteousness had returned in full-force. “I did it all out of concern,” she said to Albus. “You can’t blame me for being worried about you. I’d seen you and Scorpius arguing on several different occasions, and there was Skeeter’s article about Lestrange having an accomplice at Hogwarts. I thought Scorpius must have bewitched you with some sort of spell.” She let out a sigh. “I tried talking to you, but you always pushed me away, wouldn’t confide in me. So I came up with a plan. I stole Polyjuice Potion from Slughorn’s classroom and I was planning to use it to take Scorpius’s place for a while, just to question you.”
Scorpius, who had been eyeing Rose coolly, now raised his eyebrows. “Where did you get the hair you needed?” he asked through clenched teeth.
“During our duel in Defence Against the Dark Arts,” she said. “I took it off your robes when you weren’t looking. Albus had been badly injured – I was determined to carry out the plan.” She turned her gaze on Albus. “I knew when I saw the bandages on your arm that it was a bad injury. I became sure Scorpius was controlling you, harming you. I was terrified about it. I couldn’t sleep.”
She paced over to McLaggen, where he was standing by the sinks, and took his hand. “I told Ace about it all and he thought it was a great plan, told me he’d even help out. He thought if he turned into Pan, we could both question you together, get more out of you. We were going to wait until next weekend, but Ace didn’t want me spending another week fretting about it all. So we decided to do it today.”
“I suppose,” Albus said, barely able to keep the anger out of his voice, “the fact that the Quidditch game was happening today wasn’t on his mind at all! Just a coincidence!”
McLaggen’s lips turned up at the corners. “Complete coincidence,” he said.
Rose rested her head on his shoulder in a sort of caress, then lifted it back up, gazing defiantly at them all. “I’d forgotten about the match,” she said. “My mind was so focussed on the plan. Of course, by the time I realised the game was being played today, it was too late. And, anyway, I realised it might work to our advantage. Everyone would be busy watching. I might be able to get you on your own easier.”
“What I don’t understand,” Scorpius said coldly, “is why McLaggen had to change into Pan at all. It served no purpose as far as I can see.”
“I had to get Albus away from the game,” Rose said. “Making the match difficult to watch helped with that.”
Pan, who had been leaning against the wall, her arms crossed over her chest, now took a step forward. “Difficult to watch?” she repeated, her large eyes popping. “What do you mean by that?”
McLaggen sent her a falsely apologetic look. “Well, for the plan to work,” he said, “we had to drive Albus away from the Quidditch stands so Rose could talk to him one-on-one. So, in order to help Rose with the plan to save Albus’s life – and it pained me to do it – I had to pretend to be dreadful at Quidditch. Had to play as badly as I possibly could.”
Pan had gone pure white. Albus was surprised the stone flagons at her feet hadn’t turned to ice. She was squeezing her fists so tight that her arms were shaking. Her jaw was fluttering as she clenched it.
McLaggen put his hand over his heart. “It was a terrible sacrifice,” he said. “I knew it would just ruin your reputation, make everyone think you couldn’t fly to save your life, might even get you bumped off the team, but all the time, I was just thinking of poor Albus. For all we knew, he was under the influence of Scorpius’s dark magic. So there really was no choice. It’s a shame Slytherin lost the match by two hundred and eighty points, but it is what it is.”
Pan launched herself at McLaggen, a strangled sound escaping her throat. Albus ran to restrain her, Scorpius coming at her from her other side. She fought against them brutally. Albus got several elbows to the face. Scorpius almost fell over from the force of her attempts to break free of him. “Let go of me!” she yelled. “I’m going to kill him!”
McLaggen, who had initially backed away a step, now watched Pan with an amused smile on his face. “Typical Slytherin,” he said. “We try to do something good, something to help you, and you try to attack us.”
“Really, Pan!” Rose exclaimed, eyeing Pan with shock. “Calm down! It’s only Quidditch! What we did was in the hope of saving Albus’s life.”
Pan only fought harder. “Let me at him!” she roared. “Let me at them both!”
It took several minutes for Pan to calm down. By the time she’d stopped fighting, Scorpius’s lip was bleeding and he was breathing very heavily. Pan was bent-double and Albus thought he caught tears dripping from her downturned face onto the already wet floor.
Albus straightened up, trying to catch his breath.
Rose was looking scandalised. “You see,” she said to Albus, “this is why we did what we did. Look at the friends you keep, Albus. You must understand why we were worried about you! I thought you were under a dark enchantment.” She withdrew a half-empty bottle from her bag. “The potion I gave you when we were in the Quidditch stands – it was a Disenchantment Potion. I brewed it in this bathroom so none of the teachers would find out. It reverses any mind-controlling spells. If you were bewitched, I knew the potion would release you, let you talk to me truthfully.”
“Well it had no effect, did it,” Albus said sharply, “because there was nothing to reverse. I wasn’t under an enchantment.”
Rose folded her arms. “I spent hours and hours making that potion,” she said. Albus was shocked to see tears forming in her eyes. “I did it all because I was determined to save you. I got the idea from Mum. She brewed a Polyjuice Potion in here when she was in her second-year, all because she was trying to get information out of somebody. That’s all I was trying to do as well – to get information. To save you!”
“But I wasn’t in danger!” Albus yelled. “I wasn’t under a spell! Scorpius hasn’t been trying to kill me!”
“No,” she replied. “But something else has – a silver wolf. That’s what you said.”
“A wolf?” McLaggen cut in, sounding intrigued. “So there is a beast running amok in the castle?”
“It’s got nothing to do with you,” Albus told him, his anger flaring.
McLaggen didn’t appear to have heard him. He was gazing out of the nearest window, a hungry, eager look on his face. “Finally,” he said, “a chance to prove myself, an enemy to defeat. If I’m lucky, I might just summon the Sword of Gryffindor – like your father, Albus.”
Scorpius huffed. “The teachers don’t want us getting involved,” he told McLaggen. “And they want the silver wolf to stay a secret.”
“Don’t worry, Malfoy,” Ace said silkily, “I’m not going to blab to everyone in the castle, only a few trusted friends. I doubt I’ll be able to slay the beast on my own.”
“Ace,” Rose said weakly, both hands gripping his arm possessively, “I think you should be careful. We don’t know anything about this wolf.”
He shrugged her off. “I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’m not nearly as delicate as Albus. I’ll kill the wolf before it comes anywhere near me.” He patted Rose on the shoulder. “We’ve got to protect the school, Rose. Got to keep people safe. We’re Gryffindors, remember.”
Her eyes clouded with worry.
Scorpius gave an impatient cough. “What I want to know,” he said, his icy gaze on Rose, “is how you managed to drug me and Pan. I’m guessing you used the Dreamweed you took from Herbology, but how did you get us to take it?”
Rose squared her shoulders. “Yes, it was Dreamweed,” she replied, meeting Scorpius’s gaze reluctantly, as if she found the sight of him unpleasant. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to give it to you myself, so I asked Danielle Varda to do it. I’m guessing she slipped it into your drinks.”
Albus felt a fresh wave of shock and anger rush through him. Danielle had helped her! Danielle had drugged Pan and Scorpius! He thought back to the previous evening – the Butterbeers. She must’ve slipped the Dreamweed into Pan’s and Scorpius’s bottles. No wonder Pan had thought the beer tasted funny. “Why?” Albus shot at Rose furiously. “Why would Danielle help you?”
Rose looked startled at Albus’s question. “Isn’t it obvious?” she asked. “Danielle cares about you. When I explained my worries, that Pan and Scorpius wouldn’t be harmed, that this was the only way to find out if you were safe, she agreed to help me.” Rose cast a derisive glance at Pan and Scorpius. “Danielle understood the importance of what I was doing. She was genuinely worried about you.”
“And did you tell her that Pan would miss the Quidditch match?” Albus asked, suspecting he already knew the answer.
“I can’t remember,” Rose replied. “We talked about a lot of things…”
Pan had straightened up. There wasn’t a single trace of a tear on her face – her eyes weren’t even watery – but her whole body was rigid with tension. “So, you got Danielle to drug us,” she seethed, “and while we were asleep in our rooms, you took the Polyjuice Potion and took our places?”
Rose had a self-satisfied smile on her face. “Yes,” she said. “We got one of the house-elves to lend us some Slytherin robes for the final finishing touch. I went straight to the Quidditch stands. Ace went to the Great Hall. We knew the two of you would be in bed so there was no chance of you giving us away.”
“And why,” Scorpius said frostily, “does my room look like it’s been hit by an exploding charm? I woke up to find all my stuff thrown everywhere.”
Rose threw up her hands in exasperation. “Well how else was I going to check if you were using dark charms or amulets?” she asked. “I needed to know if you’d placed a curse under Albus’s pillow, or if there were any other dark objects in your room.”
“And did you find any?” Scorpius asked contemptuously.
“No,” Rose replied, “but I’m not going to apologise for checking if the son of a known Death Eater – maybe even the son of Voldemort – was keeping illegal items in his room.”
“Well, maybe we should see what McGonagall thinks of your actions,” Scorpius said, heading for the door.
“No!” Rose shouted. “You can’t! We might get expelled!”
“Rose,” Albus said, his tone slightly gentler than before, “McGonagall isn’t going to expel you. I’m not saying you won’t be in a lot of trouble, but she won’t expel you.”
“But we were trying to help you!” Rose moaned as Albus followed Scorpius towards the door. Pan was still staring daggers at McLaggen. Albus paused in the doorway, afraid Pan might lunge forward and attack him again. After a moment, however, some of the rigidity left her body and she turned towards the door as well.
“Do something!” McLaggen hissed at Rose. “He’s your cousin. Do something! I can’t be expelled! What will my father say?”
“STOP!” Rose screamed.
Albus, Pan and Scorpius all turned to stare at Rose. She looked quite mad, her lips quivering, her hair bushier than Albus had ever seen it. “If you tell McGonagall about what we did,” she said, her voice shaking, “then I’ll tell everyone the truth about Arty Oakes.”
Albus, Pan and Scorpius exchanged glances. Pan was breathing very heavily again. Scorpius’s mouth had dropped open. Albus fixed his cousin with a look of outrage. “What?” he said.
“I’ll tell everyone that Arty is a werewolf,” she said. “The news will spread, Albus. If Rita Skeeter gets wind of it, his life will be ruined.”
He frowned at her. “You’d really do that to him?”
“Not if you keep quiet about what we did today,” she said. She raised her chin, an obstinate look on her face. “Please don’t make me ruin someone’s life, Albus.”
McLaggen took hold of Rose’s hand, a triumphant smile lighting up his face, which, moments before, had been pale and anxious.
Scorpius nodded to Albus. Pan was slower to respond. She seemed to be struggling with two very conflicting desires. At last, she gave a reluctant nod. Albus narrowed his eyes at his cousin. “Fine, we won’t tell,” he said coolly.
Rose sniffed. “I really dislike that you’ve forced me to do that, Albus,” she said. “All I’ve done is try to help you and you were going to try to get me expelled.” Rose lifted her eyes to the ceiling. “All because your house team lost a silly game of Quidditch.”
Pan grunted. “I’m leaving,” she said in a low, dangerous voice, “before I break one of their necks.” She trudged out of the bathroom, her heavy steps echoing along the empty corridor.
“Keep quiet about Arty,” Albus said over his shoulder as he and Scorpius followed after Pan.
“Oh, we will,” McLaggen replied. “So long as you keep up your end of the deal.” He began to chuckle.
Albus slammed the bathroom door on them, shutting off the sound of McLaggen’s amusement.
Scorpius was watching Pan, whose whole body was heavy, slumping, as if weights were pulling her down. “I’m going to make McLaggen pay for what he’s done to Pan,” he murmured to Albus. “I don’t know how yet, but I’m going to make him pay, even if it kills me.”