Scorpius Malfoy leaned back in his seat and watched the scenery slide by as the Hogwarts Express chugged steadily northward out of London. At the moment, he was alone in his compartment, and for now that was fine with him; he needed the time alone to come to terms with the events of the last week. For the first time in his life, he was glad to be going back to school. The beginning of the holidays had been fun enough, but the attack on his father's warehouse had so seriously spooked his parents that the atmosphere at Malfoy Manor had been tense and silent since the break-in had occurred. They had cancelled every appointment and activity—including their annual New Years celebration and Scorpius' trip to Diagon Alley with his mates—and sealed the fireplaces and estate gates with maximum-security enchantments. His father had even conducted most of his business from the library while the repairs to the outer office were being made.
Scorpius sighed, letting the tension escape from his body and feeling sorry for himself to a certain extent; all that caution had taken its toll on him since he'd been forced to endure the last week alone in the mansion. It would be good to step back into the familiarity of Hogwarts and the established daily routine of lessons, homework and Quidditch.
The door to the compartment banged open as five other fourth year boys—two Ravenclaws, a Gryffindor, a Hufflepuff and one of Scorpius' Slytherin roommates—came in, talking and joking amongst themselves. They fell haphazardly onto the benches, each greeting Scorpius in their own way.
"Hey there," Scorpius managed to say. It was nice to have the company, he decided, even though he didn't feel very talkative at the moment.
"How were your holidays?" a boy named Ben asked.
"Alright. Yours?" he answered.
"Pretty good, if you like being cooped up in a sick room most of the time," Ben answered. "My little sister and brother both had Dragon Pox over Christmas and Mum wouldn't let me go anywhere for fear I'd give it to someone."
"You weren't sick, were you?" Scorpius asked, edging away from Ben a few inches.
"Naw, I had the pox when I was ten. Mum was just being cautious."
"Tough luck," Scorpius responded and looked out the window again.
The other boys had settled in while the two were talking and now a boy named Evan asked, "Anyone up for Exploding Snap?" He had taken three packs of cards out of his bag and was waving them about.
"I'm in," Ben and Scott said together, making the others laugh.
Evan looked at Scorpius. "You playing, mate?"
Shrugging, Scorpius slid down onto the floor with the others as he answered, "Sure." Any distraction would be better than thinking about the week just passed.
"Sweet. You playing with me or Neal?"
"Neal. He's not as annoying as you," Scorpius joked half-heartedly as Evan gave him a look.
Evan handed out the cards and soon all six boys were competing to see whose eyebrows would be singed first.
Scorpius had just ignited his for the third time when the door to the compartment opened and a tiny Hufflepuff girl walked in.
"Erm, I'm looking for Scorpius Malfoy," she squeaked as Ben's cards exploded.
Scorpius raised his hand. "I'm him," he said. "What's up?"
"I have a note for you," the girl said, holding out a small, tightly-rolled scroll.
Scorpius took it and set it on the floor beside his bag. He felt slightly suspicious about it and didn't want to open it. "Thanks," he said.
The girl eyed the scroll. "Erm, the man who gave that to me said to tell you to open it straight away and not to forget," she said.
He picked up the scroll again. It made his fingers tingle a little. "All right, I'll read it in a minute. Anything else?" he asked, setting it down again.
The girl shook her head as she glanced between Scorpius and the rest of his friends. Then, without further reply, she turned and scurried away, blushing furiously because Neal had smiled at her.
Scorpius picked up the scroll and turned it over in his fingers. He was almost afraid to open it, especially when he thought about what the girl had said, the man who gave it to me…
"What's it say?" Scott asked, leaning over to inspect the scroll.
Shrugging off his apprehension as a by-product of the week just past, Scorpius broke the seal and began unrolling the parchment. As he did, the train seemed to lurch, the Exploding Snap cards all exploded at once and without warning, he felt the yank to his middle that signalled the activation of a Portkey. His surprised yelp was cut short as the Portkey wrenched him away from the train.
The distress signal from the Hogwarts Express arrived in the Situation Room just as Garrett Carmichael was thinking about going to lunch. The Auror Office had been very quiet all morning, so Garrett had been able to get the bulk of his parchment work caught up while he sat monitoring the specialized fireplaces. Sunday duty was a monotonous responsibility every Auror had to endure once a month, and this particular Sunday, that duty had fallen to Garret and a witch, Auror Mary Beth Pendergast.
Auror Pendergast looked up from the report she was writing as a bright silver polar bear bounded into the office. "That's the Hogwarts Express driver's Patronus!" she exclaimed, causing Garrett to turn around.
The bear opened its mouth and a deep bass voice said, "Hogwarts Express Distress Alert: A student has been kidnapped. Train will delay in Retford. Headmaster has been notified."
Garrett and Auror Pendergast stared at the polar bear as it dissolved into mist. Then Garrett grabbed a clipboard from its place on the wall between the fireplaces and began reading aloud the procedures listed on a bright yellow piece of parchment.
"'Contact Head Auror. Assemble Auror team(s) necessary for emergency.'" He stopped there and looked up at Auror Pendergast. "Which team is on call this weekend?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
Auror Pendergast consulted another clipboard. "Ron Weasley's team of Bones, Boot, Carmichael, and Chambers," she answered. She eyed him enviously. "Looks like you get to escape this monotony, Carmichael. Better call the team and have them meet you here."
Garrett shook his head. "No, I want to meet the Express as soon as possible. I'll have them meet me in the freight car of the train. That train is filled with children. We can't take any chances. I'm calling Baker's team as back-up. If anything, the extra Aurors can help the prefects maintain order," he said, thinking out loud.
"Very well," sighed Auror Pendergast. "I'll stay here and contact Robards to see if he wants to meet you there or let Weasley handle the coordination."
"Thanks," Garrett said, and turning his back to her, he quickly composed a message for his Patronus to deliver to the ten other Aurors. A moment later, multiple eagle Patronuses left the office on their urgent mission.
It took only fifteen minutes for all the Aurors to assemble in the freight car of the Hogwarts Express. Garrett had arrived first and was pleased to see that both Baker and Weasley arrived within seconds of each other. Garrett briefed them and Weasley immediate Apparated to the front of the train to talk to the driver.
He returned a few minutes later looking grim. "Scorpius Malfoy is the student who was taken," Ron reported. "Susan, would you go to the Prefects' compartment, please? The Head Boy and Girl are with the student who delivered the Portkey to Master Malfoy. Apparently, the girl is so distraught they can't understand a thing she's saying. Get her calmed down enough to take her statement.
"Garrett, you and Brodie go to the last compartment in the first carriage. Interview the five fourth years who were riding with Scorpius Malfoy. It's a mixed-house group of friends in that compartment. Terry, see if you can locate Mr and Mrs Malfoy. They must be notified of their son's disappearance. If they ask you if their son's disappearance has anything to do with the other matter, be honest with them and confirm the possibility. Answer any questions they have truthfully. The rest of you, fan out and see if anyone saw anything suspicious on the platform before the train left at eleven o'clock. Report back to me as soon as you have something. I'll tell the driver he can resume the journey."
The Aurors scattered. Garrett and Brodie followed Susan nearly all the way up the train, which had stopped on a siding at the back of the Retford goodsyard. When they reached the proper compartment, Garrett knocked on the door. It was opened by a scared-looking boy of about fifteen years of age.
"Hello, I'm Auror Carmichael and this is Auror Chambers. May we come in and have a word with you?" Garrett asked as he and Brodie held up their Auror badges.
The boy stepped aside to let them in and then closed and locked the door with a spell. Garrett smiled at him. "I understand you and your mates are scared and that's perfectly understandable. Auror Chambers and I need your help to find Scorpius. What can you tell us about the moments leading up to the Portkey activating?"
The story was quickly told with the boys interrupting each other when one left out a detail another remembered. Finally, Garrett and Brodie closed their notebooks. "Thank you very much," Brodie said. "You've been quite helpful."
"How will our statements help you find Scorpius?" the boy called Neal asked.
"It gives us a place to start," Brodie answered.
Garrett added, "Every statement helps us piece together exactly what occurred. You boys have been very helpful. We'll let the headmaster know how cooperative you have been." He and Brodie then bid the boys good-bye and returned to the freight car.
"What happened?" Ron asked as they walked in.
"It's pretty straight-forward," Garrett answered. "The Hufflepuff girl entered the compartment, interrupting the boys at their game of Exploding Snap. She asked for Scorpius by name and then gave him the parchment when he identified himself. When he didn't open it right away, she insisted he do so. After she left, a boy named Neal reported that Scorpius unrolled the parchment enough for a boy named Scott to read a few words of the message inside."
"What did it say?" Ron asked.
"Scott said it was something like, 'your father has been warned.'" Garrett quoted, reading from his notebook.
"Apparently there was more," Brodie added, "but Scott didn't get the chance to read the rest because the Portkey activated. Neal said he and Scott tried to grab Scorpius' robes, but his friend was taken too quickly."
Ron ran a hand through his hair. "I'm glad he disappeared too fast for his friends to hold him back. Otherwise, we'd probably be notifying three sets of parents instead of only one." He started pacing down the narrow aisle between the neatly-stacked boxes and animal cages. At length he stopped and looked at Garrett and the other Aurors. "I'm nearly convinced this is connected with that other investigation we're conducting," he said. "If Susan gets a good description of the person who gave the girl the scroll, I'm willing to bet it matches the perpetrator from the warehouse break-in and some of the other occurrences we've been looking into."
"I never thought I'd say this, but poor Draco," Susan said, shaking her head as she joined them. "I finally was able to get a good description from the first year Hufflepuff girl. Her name is Hattie Ross."
Garrett and the others looked at her expectantly.
"She told me the man was with a woman dressed in black robes and a tall witch's hat with a huge floppy brim. Hattie couldn't see the witch's face," Susan said as she read through her notes.
"Did the witch say anything?" Ron asked.
"No, but Hattie thinks she saw the witch pointing her wand at the man," Susan said.
"Imperius?" Brodie asked.
"That's my guess. Hattie said his voice sounded funny, like he was being told what to say."
"Go on," Ron said, "What else did Hattie say?"
"Her description of the man was fairly good. She told me he had dirty blond hair, brown eyes and very scruffy beard. She remembered that he wore stained blue robes that smelled like old people and that she didn't want to get too near him. She also told me that he was rather short and very thin."
While she had been speaking, a slow grin had spread across Ron's face. When she finished he said excitedly, "We know what the male suspect looks like now. That's the same description Draco Malfoy gave me of the bloke who broke into his warehouse. I think if we check with the data we've gleaned from the memories we've been viewing, the two descriptions will match the individual we're seeking."
"You think the three cases are related?" Garrett asked.
"I do. Let's get back to the office," Ron said. He looked at the other Aurors who had been filtering in. "We'll meet in the big conference room in fifteen minutes."
In the Potter-Weasley compartment of the Hogwarts Express, Lily sat holding Rose as the older girl sniffled. Her brother Al stood at the window staring at the goodsyard the train had pulled into. Rose's brother, Hugo, had taken to wearing a circle in the floor near the door with his pacing, and James had gone to find Kendra and some of the other students from their year. Lily was glad he'd left, because he was just as restless as Hugo and his fidgeting had been really annoying.
"I'm being silly," Rose hiccupped. "Scorpius doesn't even know I exist, and here I am crying my eyes out because he's been kidnapped."
Lily fumbled for her handkerchief and handed it to her cousin. "I'm scared for him, too, Rose," she murmured.
"Yeah, but you aren't blubbering like a baby like I am," Rose said. She blew her nose and mopped at her eyes again. "Who do you think took him?"
"I don't know. I just hope whoever it is doesn't hurt him," Albus said without turning around and Rose burst into fresh tears. The two girls huddled together until the train started moving again.
A break in the case! Ron thought as he waited for the rest of the Aurors to assemble in the big conference room. Just a few minutes ago he'd sent a Patronus message to Healer Stilwell. The Healer had sent one back agreeing to the abandonment of the plan to capture the Matron with Ron as bait. If he had to admit it, Ron was rather relieved at the turn of events.
Ron looked at his watch. Seven minutes… Enough time to message Hermione, he thought as he grabbed a quill, some ink and a blank piece of parchment.
The plan to capture the suspect—the one I told you about the other day—has been scrapped. Scorpius Malfoy has been kidnapped from the Hogwarts Express and the team thinks that we will capture the prime suspect when we rescue Draco's son. I repeat… the other plan has been cancelled.
He rolled up the parchment, sealed it and strode over to the communications fireplace in one corner of the room. Strictly speaking, individual Aurors were not supposed to use the fireplace for personal business, but at one time or another everyone in the office made quick Floo calls home. This was one of those times, and the only thing Ron was going to do was hand Hermione the scroll.
He lit the fire, threw in a pinch of Floo Powder and stuck the scroll in his teeth. "Her-ione?" he called around the parchment once his head had been transported to Weasel's Keep.
"Coming, Ron." His wife knelt before him and took the scroll with a laugh. "You're silly, you know that?"
Ron smiled. "You know me," he said, letting his affection for his wife colour his voice. "Hey, I have no idea when I'll get home. I'm waiting for the others to get here. Don't wait up for me."
Hermione sighed. "Be careful, dear. I love you," she said.
"I love you, too. I'll send word when I can," he promised. He felt someone tap his shoulder. "Gotta go." Abruptly, he pulled his head from the fireplace and turned to greet the other Aurors.
Hermione watched the green flames die away before she opened Ron's message. As she read what he'd written, her body relaxed until she felt almost normal; she hadn't realized how worried she was over Ron's mission until the anxiety was removed. Sighing with relief, she sank onto a pouf and reread the note.
Oh, that poor boy! Asteria must be devastated, she thought. I do hope they find him quickly and that he's not been harmed…
James stood with Kendra in the corridor outside her compartment. They'd been there for over an hour just holding each other and not saying much. It didn't feel right to engage in the passionate snog they'd started on the platform; it didn't seem right under the circumstances. Besides, there would be ample time and more than enough broom cupboards to explore once they reached Hogwarts. They were content to wait because the pall of uncertainty, which had fallen over the train when Scorpius Malfoy's kidnapping had been discovered, certainly hadn't lifted.
James had chosen to sit with his family rather than Kendra at the beginning of the journey because it was the polite thing to do, but as soon as the train had slowed and finally stopped, he'd gone in search of his girlfriend. Not wanting to share the same space with her sister and her friends, the two had left Kendra's compartment in the middle of the train to study the view on that side of the carriage. It was a good place to watch the drama unfold, too, as the journey to Hogwarts resumed. James knew something serious, other than engine trouble, was going on when he recognized several Aurors from his dad's team going from compartment to compartment. One of them had confirmed just a few minutes ago that it was Scorpius Malfoy who was missing.
Kendra looked up at him. "Who would do such a thing? Why would they do it in the first place?" she asked.
James didn't say anything for a moment. Then, heaving a frightened sigh, he replied, "Last summer my dad told me about some of the things that went on during the Second War. He said I was old enough to know because we'd cover that period in History of Magic this year."
"What did he tell you?" Kendra asked.
"One of the things the Death Eaters did to silence out-spoken parents was to kidnap their children from the Express when they went home for holidays," James answered.
"That's barbaric!" Kendra exclaimed indignantly.
"Yeah, it is, but I know it's true. I know one of the people who was taken and why."
"I think you might know of her, too. She's Luna Scamander, that naturalist who came to speak to our Care of Magical Creatures class last spring. Remember?"
Kendra chuckled. "I do remember. I thought she was brilliant," she said. "So many of our classmates didn't, but she has that spacey Ravenclaw aura about her that my Aunt Mary gets sometimes."
"O-K," James said elongating the letters. He glanced down at Kendra and then back at the scenery slipping past. "Anyway, she was in my mum's year and her father was a staunch supporter of my dad's cause, writing pro-Harry Potter articles in the magazine he printed."
"The Quibbler? I remember reading about that before Christmas in our history book."
"Yeah, well, the Death Eaters didn't like him printing that stuff, so they took his daughter to teach him a lesson…" James let his sentence trail off, not really wanting to finish it.
Kendra finished it for him. "And you think that whoever kidnapped Scorpius did it to silence or scare his parents?"
James nodded. "I do."
"I think it has something to do with the people who hurt my dad. I heard him and my Uncle Ron talking over the hols. You know how adults talk when they don't think you're listening but you really are."
Kendra nodded knowingly. "So what did they say?"
"They were talking very quietly, but I think Scorpius' dad is involved somehow. It made my dad angry when Uncle Ron mentioned Mr Malfoy. Dad made Uncle Ron swear that he'd not reveal something and my uncle agreed. Made me wonder…" James shook himself. "Then, last Sunday morning, Uncle Ron had to leave abruptly to investigate a fire in a warehouse that turned out to belong to Mr Malfoy."
"That's not good."
"It wasn't. He came back several hours later and immediately took my dad out to my grandfather's shed. Albus and I tried to eavesdrop on their conversation, but there were enough privacy charms on the building for an army," James said, remembering how curious he'd been.
Kendra pushed her hair away from her face with the hand that wasn't around James' waist. "I never thought I'd say this, but I really don't want anything to happen to Scorpius," she said with a sigh.
James smiled. "He may be a rival Chaser, and we may joke about wanting something bad to happen to the Slytherins before a Quidditch match, but lots of people like Scorpius—my brother included—so I sort of feel scared for him," he admitted.
"Me, too, James," called a voice from their left.
James and Kendra turned towards the voice to find Rose Weasley standing just inside the door leading to the next car back. She advanced up the corridor and came to stand with them at the window.
"We're about an hour out of Hogsmeade. You'd better come back and put on your school robes, James," she said.
James hugged Kendra one more time, stealing a quick kiss on the lips as he pulled away, making her giggle. "I'd better go. I'll wait for you on the platform and we'll get a carriage together," he promised.
Kendra smiled as she turned towards the door to her compartment. "All right. See you in a bit," she said, and with a little wave, disappeared behind the door.
James sighed and followed Rose back to where their families were waiting for them.
Earlier, 1314 hours at Malfoy Manor
"Draco, there's someone at the front gate," Asteria called as a soft, melodious chime echoed through the rooms of Malfoy Manor. "Shall I send Mabel to see who it is?"
"No, I'll go down. I still have my coat on," he answered, getting up from his desk chair where he'd been perusing a stack of mail after returning from seeing Scorpius off to school.
He was surprised that someone was at the front gates. For years now, the only visitors the Malfoy family had were those who came via the Floo, and then only when invited. Quickly buttoning his coat and donning a Muggle fedora, Draco exited the house by the front door and slogged his way through the ankle-deep snow down the lane to the gate.
"Mr Malfoy?" a voice called out when Draco was within earshot. It seemed vaguely familiar, perhaps belonging to someone from Draco's past. "Draco Malfoy?"
"Yes, it is I," Draco answered stiffly. He came to a stop several feet from his side of the gate and stared warily at the lone figure standing on the other side. "Whom may I ask is calling?"
"Terrence Boot, Auror Terrence Boot," the man answered. "I would like to speak to you and your wife on a matter of importance."
The word "Auror" was like a cold fist slamming into Draco's middle. He inhaled sharply, but managed to keep his composure. "I have done nothing wrong. My house arrest was lifted fifteen years ago. Why should I let you in?" he asked suspiciously. "And how do I know you're not a reporter? We still get a few of those trying to dredge up ancient history."
"I'm here on official Auror business, Mr Malfoy," the man answered. A hand holding a wallet slid through the bars of the gate. It flipped the wallet open to reveal a shiny shield-shaped metal object on one side and a piece of heavy parchment on the other. "Will this help?" the man asked.
Draco put on his reading glasses and stepped forward enough to read the writing on the parchment and the badge. "Thank you," he said, straightening up, satisfied that the man on the other side of the gate was who he said he was—a Ravenclaw from Draco's own year. He'd seen enough of these badges over the years to recognize a real one… and this one was genuine. "Now what can I do for you, Auror Boot?" he asked as he put his glasses away.
"If you'll let me in, I'll tell you," Auror Boot replied.
Knowing he wasn't likely to get more information than this, Draco raised his wand and opened the small door in the left side of the main gate, allowing Auror Boot to step through. The door sealed itself with a soft clang as Draco asked the Auror to follow him up to the house.
Asteria was standing on the front steps when the two approached the house. "Welcome to Malfoy Manor," she said graciously. "Please, come inside where it's warm."
"Thank you, Mrs Malfoy," Auror Boot said and they went inside.
Once Mabel had taken Auror Boot's cloak, Draco performed the introduction. "This is Auror Terrance Boot, Asteria."
Asteria suddenly looked uncomfortable. "I am sorry to be rude, Auror Boot, but whatever business you have with us must be conducted here in the entrance hall. We do not use the drawing room, which is where we would ordinarily receive visitors."
The Auror shuffled his feet, looking ill at ease. "Is there somewhere we can sit down, madam? I'm afraid the news I bring is somewhat upsetting," he said quietly.
Asteria threw a startled glance at Draco and he stepped forward and put an arm around his wife's waist. "If you don't mind, there's a table in the kitchen we can use," he said, and his wife nodded, suddenly looking quite afraid.
"That will be fine," Auror Boot said. "Which way?"
Draco led his wife and the Auror towards the kitchen where two of their house-elves had started preparations for dinner. "Leave us, please," he ordered softly. The elves obeyed, quickly going to their quarters through a door on the opposite side of the room. Asteria immediately went to the cooker and picked up the kettle, taking it to the sink to fill it with water.
"Now what is so pressing that you came in person to tell us?" Draco asked the Auror as they sat at a table the family usually reserved for informal family breakfasts.
Auror Boot sighed. "At approximately a quarter past twelve this afternoon, your son, Scorpius, was kidnapped via Portkey from the Hogwarts Express," he said as Asteria took the chair next to Draco.
Asteria let out a strangled wail and collapsed against Draco. He held her as she sobbed and a rage he hadn't felt in years began to fester within him.
"What do you know?" he asked Auror Boot through clenched teeth.
The Auror told them about a charmed note and what little was known about the wizard who had coerced a first year into delivering it to Scorpius. At the end of the recitation, Auror Boot asked, "Do you know of anyone who might have wanted to scare you for any reason?"
Draco closed his eyes, pictures of the burning office at the warehouse flashing across his eyelids. "There is at least one, maybe two," he said slowly.
"What would be the reason these people would want to scare you?" Auror Boot asked.
"A few weeks ago I gave Harry Potter the address of a warehouse that might be connected to a case he and Ronald Weasley are investigating," Draco said softly.
At this, Asteria raised her head from his shoulder and asked, "Is that why you think the warehouse was broken into and you were attacked?"
Keeping his eyes on Auror Boot, whose eyes were alert but his posture relaxed in his chair, Draco answered her, "Yes, Asteria. I'm sure of it."
"Why does every nice thing you try to do blow up in your face?" she asked, pulling away. "You were only trying to help." The kettle whistled and she walked over to the cupboard where they kept their everyday tea set and busied herself making tea as Draco answered her.
"I suppose it's my fate, Asteria. I spent so many years being an obnoxious git that now that I'm trying to atone for my misdeeds it's all coming back to haunt me," he said wearily.
"That doesn't make sense," Auror Boot said, "at least not with the group of criminals we think are behind your son's kidnapping. They're led by a particularly vicious witch who will stop at nothing and think nothing of getting rid of those who impede her goals."
"And you think that because Draco gave your office the address, they're trying to send him a message of some sort?" Asteria asked as she set the tea tray on the table and poured tea into three cups.
Auror Boot nodded as he accepted his cup. "Auror Weasley is nearly positive, and he's sent me to stay with you if you'd like the company. If the kidnappers follow the typical pattern, you'll hear from them within twenty-four hours. Would you like me to remain in the house with you?"
Draco looked at his wife. She shrugged. "What form of communication would they use?" he asked.
"Most likely an owl, but some Banish their messages so they're untraceable," Auror Boot replied.
"And if you didn't remain and we receive the kidnappers' message, what would we need to do?"
"Just contact the Auror Office and tell the Auror on duty you've had a communication from the kidnappers."
Draco glanced at Asteria again. She indicated the door with an almost imperceptible inclination of her head. He covered the hand that wasn't holding her cup as he said, "I think we'll be all right, Auror Boot." He stood up and so did the Auror. "We'll be in touch if we receive anything from the kidnappers."
"Very well. We'll keep you apprised if we hear anything," Auror Boot said. Mabel brought his cloak into the kitchen. "I can see myself out," he said as he took it with a small smile for the elf. She curtseyed and scurried away.
"I'm sorry, but I'll need to escort you," Draco said as Mabel brought their cloaks. "The protective enchantments prevent anyone entering or leaving the estate without Asteria or myself present."
"Would you like to use the Floo Network?" Asteria asked, stopping the men. "It will be warmer than walking all the way to the gates."
"Thank you, madam," Auror Boot said. "Someone from my office will be in contact, then."
They walked over to the kitchen fireplace and Asteria waved her wand at it, opening the Network for Auror Boot. He bowed to her and nodded stiffly to Draco. Then, in a burst of green flame, was gone. Asteria closed the connection before she turned her teary-eyed face to him.
"What are we going to do, Draco?" she asked tremulously.
"I don't know, sweetheart." He folded her into his embrace. "The only thing we can do, wait."
1220 hours, 3 January 2021
The Portkey dropped Scorpius into darkness so complete he couldn't have seen the tip of his nose if he tried to look at it. Disoriented, his feet slammed violently onto a rough, slippery surface, the impact causing his knees to buckle so that he immediately fell over. He skidded backwards, finally coming to rest in a puddle of water when his head hit a wall. To his horror, he was immediately yanked upwards by his ankles until he was suspended in mid-air. He hung there, slowly revolving in place, too scared to scream until the blood rushed to his head and he blacked out.
It was much lighter in his prison when he regained consciousness. Although everything was still upside down, Scorpius was able to see his surroundings and what he saw terrified him even more than the unexpected Portkey journey had.
The room he was in was tiny, its three walls, floor and ceiling all carved from roughly hewn rock and chained to the back wall was a man who was covered in blood and appeared to be dead. Scorpius clapped a hand over his mouth and bit back a scream of terror, twisting his body so that it spun just enough to move him away from the awful sight.
Oh Merlin! Where am I? he thought as he squeezed his eyes closed to shut out the awful sight. It didn't work… the image seemed to be imprinted on the backs of his eyelids.
His body rotated a little more. When he felt brave enough, Scorpius opened his eyes and found himself looking at the fourth wall. It was open to a larger chamber, but blocked by bars like those of an animal cage. In one corner was an access door, also made of bars.
The man behind him suddenly bellowed. Scorpius jumped at the sound, which caused his body to rotate again. Now he could see both the bars and the back wall and as the man continued to scream a shadowy figure appeared at the bars and raised a wand.
"Shut it, you!" the figure yelled and without warning, flicked the wand. A spell shot from its tip, hitting the man in the chest. The victim let out a blood-curdling shriek. Scorpius put his hands over his ears.
"Take it out! Make it stop!" the man pleaded over and over while the figure at the bars laughed cruelly.
Scorpius' movement must have caught the figure's attention for the figure at the bars lifted the spell and walked towards the door to the cage. It opened the door and walked in, coming to stop in front of the revolving boy.
"I see you're awake," the cruel voice said, sounding amused. "I'll make sure Matron knows. She'll be delighted her latest guest is conscious. Crucio!"
The spell took Scorpius completely by surprise, causing him to scream as fire ripped through his every nerve. He tried to curl up in a ball, but he couldn't; gravity prevented the movement so that the only thing he could do was twist about in agony.
After an interminable amount of time, the curse was lifted. Scorpius hung there, gasping and shaking and wondering why he was here in this cave instead of on the Hogwarts Express.
Help me! Scorpius pleaded silently. Help me, Father! I'm scared! I don't know where I am! His next thought brought a fresh wave of sorrow and terror. Do Dad and Mum know I'm here?
And as the figure stowed its wand and walked over to the door, Scorpius gave into the stinging and burning behind his eyes and wept in silent despair.
A/N: I must apologize for how messed up the timeline is in this chapter. Because of the multiple points of view needed to show what's happening to all of the characters involved, I needed to show linearly what was happening simultaneously within a period of one or two hours' time. I hope you can forgive me for all the moving forward and backing up I did.
As always, I have some thank you wishes to express. First, to my pre-beta team of Jedi34, Mutt n Feathers, RebeccaRipple, Rosina Ferguson, and RSS, thank you for your comments and help with turning American railroading terms into their British equivalents. I also appreciate those of you who scolded me because I'd forgotten the children always put their trunks in their compartments rather than in a baggage car as Americans do. We (Rosina and I) finally came to an agreement that the Express most likely carried supplies and live animals, which wouldn't fare well through the Floo Network or by being translocated magically. Second, to my beta, Aggiebell, thank you for all you do to help me get my chapters ready for publication. You're the best. Finally, to you, my readers, thank you for the many wonderful comments about the last chapter. I look forward to responding to your reviews of this chapter.