Albus clutched the letter Snitch had brought to him just minutes before as he raced down the stairs to the Gryffindor common room. He was looking specifically for Rose and James, but would settle for Lily if he had to, he was so excited. He was bursting to share with his brother and cousin the contents of his father's letter, the unclassified details of Scorpius Malfoy's rescue.
"Where are you going in such a hurry?" his friend Kenneth asked as Albus started to barrel past him.
"Common room," Albus asked, pausing when Kenneth wouldn't let him by. "Have you seen James or Rose?"
Kenneth tilted his head to one side, a gesture he often used to annoy Albus when they both knew Kenneth wanted to take the mickey.
"Come on, Kenneth, where are they?" Albus impatiently began tapping his foot on the step he stood on until Kenneth grinned and said, "They're both at the long table at the back of the common room."
Albus punched him gently in the arm and Kenneth stepped aside. "Took you long enough to remember. Thanks, mate," he said, smiling, and he resumed his headlong dash towards the entrance to the common room.
James and Rose were indeed sharing the table, or more accurately, Rose had commandeered a corner of James' table, having pushed several piles of books and parchments in his direction so she had a small space in which to work. Albus sat beside her in the only chair that wasn't filled with James' possessions and took several books off one stack and put them on the other. He peered through the gap as James growled in frustration, "Leave me alone, Albus."
In reply, Albus thrust their dad's letter through the gap and sat staring at his brother until James put down his quill and glared at him. Albus gave him a go-on-and-read-it look. With a sigh, James picked up the letter. "Who's it from?" he asked.
"Dad. It's about Scorpius' rescue. It's quite interesting," Albus replied as blandly as he could.
James raised an eyebrow and began reading, with Rose trying to peer over his shoulder at the letter. He elbowed her out of the way and she sat back in her chair, pouting with her arms folded across her chest, until he finished it and passed it over to her. She snatched it and began reading avidly; Albus couldn't help the snicker that bubbled up inside him because it was nice to see Rose interested in something more than just doodling hearts filled with "RW + SM = RM" on her History of Magic notes—yes, Albus had been sitting next to her yesterday when she'd drawn that one.
"How come they're keeping Scorpius in hospital so long?" she asked when she finished.
"Dad said he was pretty dehydrated and slightly hypothermic when Auror Carmichael took him to St Mungo's. I'm guessing the healers are watching him closely to make sure he's doing well enough before sending him home," James replied.
"Do you think he'll be coming back to school soon?" she asked.
Albus exchanged looks with James. "I doubt it," he said. "You read what Dad said: your dad arranged it with the school so that Scorpius could do all his lessons at home until he was ready to come back. That doesn't sound to me like Scorpius will be back at Hogwarts any time soon."
Rose scowled. "But why? If he wasn't hurt by those people, why can't he come back?"
James threw Albus a look and the younger boy knew what his brother was thinking about. He nodded, letting James tell the story because he usually told it better, being a year older and able to understand more at the time than both he and Rose. James smiled tightly.
"Rose, do you remember that mission our dads were on together about six years ago, the one where the healers kept them at St Mungo's several days longer than usual because of the curses they were hit with?" he asked.
"Maybe," she answered. "Who were they trying to catch?"
"That wizard who was hurting the little kids," James said. "I remember it because it was the only mission Mum kept us home from primary school for several weeks prior to it occurring. She even took an unpaid holiday to stay with us until Dad sent her a Patronus message saying they'd finally caught the wanker."
"My mum did the same thing," interrupted Rose. "But what does that have to do with Scorpius?"
"I'm getting there," James growled. "Anyway, both of our dads took a few days to get over the curses they'd been hit with during the ending duel and they were physically fine to go home after that, but the healers still kept them in hospital because they weren't sleeping the required amount of time each night."
Rose gasped. "I remember that," she exclaimed. "You're thinking that Scorpius is having nightmares about his kidnapping." James nodded. "If that's what's happening, I don't think Madam Pomfrey would let him come back for fear he'd wake the rest of his roommates every night." Her eyes lit up as the words came tumbling from her mouth, reminding Albus of his Aunt Hermione when she was excited about an idea. Like mother, like daughter, he thought as Rose rushed on, "Oh, poor Scorpius! I'm going to write a letter to Dad to see if it would be all right to correspond with him until he decides to come back to school. I bet he's lonely in that big house all by himself with just his parents. But what if he doesn't want to write back to me? I don't want to spend the time writing to someone who won't read what I've written. I think it's safer to have Dad ask Scorpius if it's all right for me to write to him."
With that, she rummaged in her bag and pulled out several small pieces of light blue parchment with frilled edges and a stylized 'R' printed at the top. As Albus took his Dad's letter back from James—who rolled his eyes at their cousin behind his mountain of books—she began writing at top speed, so that little splatters of ink flew from the end of her quill and landed on the essay she'd been writing earlier.
James reached over and put the books Albus had moved earlier back on their proper pile, saying, "Go away, Albus. I need to finish this essay."
Albus smiled at his brother's book pile and stood up. "Good night, you two," he said, and headed for the stairs. It didn't bother him that the two at the table were ignoring him. His mind was already occupied with something else: his own letter to Scorpius Malfoy.
0439 hours, Wednesday, 20 January 2021
Officially, he'd been home for a week, but it felt like a month. All the time he'd been in the cave, he'd dreamed and wished he was home playing chess by the fire with his father or strolling through the countryside with his mother—she called it strolling, but what they'd really done was hike in Muggle clothes and sturdy, dragon hide hiking boots. Unfortunately, once he was rescued, he couldn't get the terror of the experience out of his head and would wake several times during the night screaming bloody murder.
Tonight was such a night, and for the fourth time since he'd crawled into bed, Scorpius found himself being gently shaken by his father.
"Scorpius, wake up, son," Father repeated over and over, his voice betraying how tired he was. "You're having another nightmare."
Scorpius opened his eyes and stared blankly at his father. "Where… where am I?" he asked in confusion, for he was convinced he had just been yanked upside down by the sadistic witch and then Cruciated. He could still feel the curse burning his every nerve.
Father answered patiently, "You're at home, Scorpius, just as you have been for the last seven days. Can I get you anything? A drink of water perhaps?"
After a few seconds consideration, Scorpius requested, "A drink of water, please." His father conjured a glass and filled it. Scorpius accepted it gratefully just as he in the cave. He really wasn't thirsty, but sipping the cool liquid gave him a few more seconds to think about his father's reaction to his real request. Finally, he chanced asking, "Would you light my lamp, please? I'd like to try sleeping with it on."
With a flick of his wand, Father lit the lamp on the bedside table. The concerned expression on his face gave Scorpius no indication of what he was thinking
"Thank you, Father. I feel safer already," he said, meaning every word.
"Good night, then, son," his father said between two enormous yawns. "I hope the lamp works for you."
Scorpius disentangled himself from his rumpled covers and then pulled them up to his chin. "I do, too," he said. He closed his eyes as his father left his room, leaving the door open.
Scorpius sighed. His room was one of the bigger bedrooms in the house, light and airy and sparsely furnished because he had enjoyed riding his toy broom in here on cold winter days when he was younger and his mother wouldn't let him go outside; the only bedroom larger was the master suite which had been closed for longer than Scorpius could remember. Still, despite the fact that it had no resemblance to the cell in the cave, Scorpius insisted that the door be left open just so he didn't feel like he was locked in. He closed his eyes and tried to relax even though his heart was still racing and he was shivering despite the layers of blankets and eiderdown.
Sleep did not come easily, but it finally did and Scorpius was surprised to find his door partly closed when he woke up several hours later. He wondered what had awakened him and lay listening to the house until he finally located the source: his parents' voices drifting across the passage from their private sitting room.
"… at my wit's end. I cannot work on so little sleep," his father was saying.
"Draco, you know I've told you several times I'll sleep on a camp bed so you can Silence our bed so you can rest," he heard his mother reply.
"I know you have, but I don't think that's the answer to Scorpius' nightmares. Healer Stilwell told us when we brought him home that he must face his memories either by talking about them or viewing them in a Pensieve. He's not been willing to do either and I'm very concerned," Father said.
"Which do you think would be the best approach, then?" Mother asked. "Forcing him to talk to a stranger or finding someone with a Pensieve?"
Footsteps echoed through the house as his father paced the room. Finally, they stopped as he said, "Let me contact a few people about the Pensieve. We could use mine, but I think we need an expert's advice on how to use it effectively and who is allowed to see the memories." There was a long pause accompanied by more pacing and then, "Asteria, I think it might help him if we could actually see what went on rather than having someone listen to him relive the experience."
"I agree. Would Healer Stilwell be the one to ask?"
"No, I think Harry Potter and maybe Auror Carmichael would be the best to ask. I think Harry has more experience using a Pensieve for this purpose than I and Auror Carmichael is the one Scorpius trusted to take his statement at the hospital."
Upon hearing this, Scorpius couldn't remain in bed any longer. After thrusting his feet into his carpet slippers and donning the warm dressing gown he'd thrown over the footboard of his bed last night, he walked across the passage to his parents' room. He didn't bother knocking before he entered, startling his parents into speechlessness.
He stood just inside the room, his hand resting on the smooth plinth of the marble bust of his great-great-great-grandfather Malfoy. His mum scowled at his hand and eventually he let it drop to his side. "Mum, Dad, if you're going to make me discuss the time I spent in the cave, I'll tell you now that I'd rather show you than talk about it. I've already given Auror Carmichael my statement and I don't want to talk about what happened ever again." He focused on his father as he said, "I'll drag anyone you choose into a Pensieve with me, but don't make me talk about it."
Father nodded once. "Very well. I'll see what I can do."
Several hours later, Scorpius was struggling to stay awake while reading his latest History of Magic assignment—his teachers agreed with his parents that it would be best if he completed his school work at home while recovering rather than let it pile up—when his father knocked on the study door before entering. Scorpius closed his book gratefully and leaned back in his chair as his father approached the desk.
A small smile appeared on his face as he said, "If I didn't know you were revising, Scorpius, I'd say you looked the very image of a young business wizard going over the family accounts. How goes the revision?"
"If there is a way to make the Goblin Wars of the sixteenth century more exciting, I'll gladly welcome it," Scorpius replied with a long-suffering sigh. "I can't understand why Professor Binns is allowed to continue teaching when a living professor would make the subject so much more dynamic."
His father chuckled. "Professor Binns has been a thorn in many a Hogwarts headmaster's side, son. There seems to be no more of a way of exorcising that ghost from the post of History of Magic teacher than there is of making the Goblin Wars any more interesting, so I sympathise with your predicament. I have an idea. In a week or two, might you be interested in going to see some of the battlefields where the wars took place? Some of them are very well preserved."
Scorpius considered the proposition. "Maybe, but right now I'm content to stay here at the Manor."
A disappointed look passed fleetingly over his father's face before he nodded his acceptance. The bald, terrifying truth was that Scorpius wasn't ready to venture outside the comforting confines of the family estate… at least not at the moment. He knew he was physically ready and able to go on the outing with his father, but mentally, that was another story.
He cleared his throat and asked, "What did you want to see me about, Father?"
His father perched on the arm of one of the chairs facing the desk. "I've talked to Healer Stilwell, Mr Potter, several other healers at St Mungo's and the head of the Aurors at the Ministry. Mr Potter will be coming to see you tomorrow morning, accompanied by Auror Carmichael and possibly another Auror." At this Scorpius couldn't help smiling. It would be good to see Auror Carmichael again. His father went on, "You may choose how we view your memories—either above the Pensieve or immersed in the memories—as well as how many and who will see them with you. No matter what, though, it's important for you to confront at least one memory tomorrow."
Scorpius closed his eyes, thankful that he was being allowed so many choices. "Thank you, Father. Please know that I want you there with me," he said when he opened them again to find his father standing next to him.
The concerned expression on his father's face softened as he placed a hand on Scorpius' shoulder, squeezing gently. "I'm glad you do, son," was all he said before he turned and headed out the door, again leaving it open. Scorpius sighed and opened his book again, but didn't begin reading for several long moments.
0855 hours, Thursday, 21 January 2021
"There are visitors to see you, Master Scorpius," Mabel, their house-elf, announced as she Apparated into the sitting room after breakfast the next morning. "Mr Harry Potter, Auror Garrett Carmichael and Auror Ronald Weasley."
Mother's eyebrow rose a fraction of an inch as she asked Father, "Why is Ron Weasley here?"
"You may recall that he heads the investigation of the witch they call the Matron, the one who kidnapped Scorpius," Father explained stiffly, his face a stony mask. As Mother inclined her head, Scorpius wondered if there was still something amiss between Auror Weasley and his father still or if the mention of the Matron was making Father angry.
"Send them in," Father said brusquely. Mabel acknowledged his request with a quick smile and left the room as quietly as she had come in.
Mother must have picked up on Father's demeanour, too, for she said, "I thought you and Auror Weasley patched up your differences over a month ago."
"We did," Father replied, "I promise to keep a civil tongue in my head."
A small smile twitched at Mother's lips as she returned to her embroidery. "Now tell me why you're scowling."
"I'm about to see the witch who kidnapped our son for the first time and just thinking about her makes me very angry," Father admitted, surprising Scorpius with his frankness.
Before any more could be said, Mr Potter and the two Aurors entered the room behind Mabel. Scorpius put down the Transfiguration book he had been reading and rose to greet his visitors.
"Thank you for coming, gentlemen," he said stiffly as he tried to remember the proper etiquette for greeting Ministry officials, even though he was on a first name basis with one of them. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught his mother's pleased smile and his father's approving expression.
Mr Potter rolled forward and shook Scorpius' outstretched hand. "Scorpius, it's a pleasure to see you again," he said. "You look so much better than the last time I saw you."
"I'm afraid I don't remember much about your visit, sir," Scorpius said, feeling his ears heat up.
"It's perfectly all right," Mr Potter said gently. "No one remembers much about the first hours they spend in the Non-Magical Injuries Ward at St Mungo's." He patted the large wheels of his chair. "I know I don't remember much about the first few days."
The admission startled Scorpius, who could only mumble, "Oh!" Then, Auror Carmichael's large hand was thrust forward and he automatically took it. The two exchanged a meaningful look over their joined hands. "It's all right to hug me, Auror Carmichael. You know I won't break and after what we went through together…" Scorpius let the thought stop there as Auror Carmichael pulled him into a hug. Strangely enough, his nervousness at what was about to happen vanished as he willingly stepped into the embrace. It was brief, but when he stepped back, he felt calmer and finally ready to share one of the memories he'd been trying to squash since he'd been rescued.
Now Auror Weasley greeted him. "You're Rose's dad!" Scorpius exclaimed as he realized who he was shaking hands with. "How is she?"
Auror Weasley studied him for a moment as if wondering how to approach a particularly nasty problem. Then he grinned, putting Scorpius a little more at ease. "Very eager to have first-hand news about you. She made me promise to ask you if she could send you a letter or two, so is it all right if she does?"
Scorpius grinned back. He couldn't help it because he suddenly realized he wanted to correspond with Rose very much. "It would be very nice to receive a letter from her, Auror Weasley," he said, trying to regain his formal demeanour and failing miserably: it was hard to do because he'd wanted to ask Rose to go with him the next time there was a Hogsmeade weekend and knowing that she wanted to correspond with him was all the encouragement he needed. "I'll send her a letter this evening, in fact," he said, while studying Rose's father's face.
Auror Weasley's expression became a little more businesslike. "Then I'll reply to her note in the affirmative," he said. He seemed to remember something then, and fished in the pockets of his robes for a moment, finally pulling out a small blue envelope, which he handed to Scorpius. "Erm, this came with her letter to me," he explained.
"Thank you, Auror Weasley," Scorpius murmured as he felt his ears warm. He took the envelope and put it in his own pocket, thinking it would be impolite to read Rose's message in front of company.
Father now cleared his throat. He was holding a small Pensieve that Scorpius knew was usually stored in his father's office. "Scorpius, these gentlemen are here to help you, not exchange pleasantries about their families. Shall we get started?"
Scorpius sighed as a tight knot began forming in his stomach. "Yes, Father."
Mr Potter asked, "Where would be the best place to view your memories, Scorpius? Where are you most comfortable?"
Scorpius looked around the sitting room. "Let's go over to the sofas," he suggested, pointing to the group of chairs and sofas arranged around a low table on the other side of the room where his Mother liked to serve tea. "Father, I think the table will be the best place for the Pensieve. Mother, you can pull the curtains closed over there and I think there is enough room for Mr Potter's wheelchair." He looked nervously over at Albus' father, hoping his comment hadn't offended the older wizard. "Will that be all right with you?"
Mr Potter smiled. "I can pretty much fit anywhere in this room, so lead the way."
Once the group was settled, Auror Weasley stood before him with his wand ready and Scorpius concentrated on the memory that had been plaguing him the last few nights. When he was ready, he nodded and felt a slight tingle as Auror Weasley lifted the silvery thread away from his temple. It dangled precariously on the wand tip until Auror Weasley gently lowered it into Father's Pensieve where it swirled slowly, as if waiting for someone to view it.
Scorpius glanced apprehensively at the adults who gazed at him with encouraging expressions. It was unnerving to be the centre of their attention and he breathed in and out several times while trying to stop his hands from shaking. Finally, just to break the awkward tension, he said, "The cave was always in shadow, even with the torches burning."
"I remember," Auror Weasley said quietly. "The place gave me the collywobbles."
This admission made Scorpius feel better.
Mr Potter cleared his throat, drawing Scorpius' attention to him. "Why have you picked this memory, Scorpius?" he asked.
"It's been waking me up the last few nights," Scorpius replied quietly, somewhat ashamed that a memory would do this to him.
"Let's see if we can help you with it, then," Mr Potter said gently. He gestured towards the Pensieve and Auror Weasley prodded it with his wand. The image of himself hanging upside down rose from the memory. The group watched as memory Scorpius reacted to something and stuck his fingers in his ears, murmuring over and over that he wanted something to stop.
Scorpius stiffened and waited for the entire scene to materialize. When it didn't, he said, "Looks like we're all going to have to go in. You need to see everything to understand why I've been having this show up in my nightmares."
The adults all nodded. "I'll go first," Mr Potter volunteered. "I don't know if my chair will come with me and I don't want anyone hurt by it if it does." Before anyone could respond, he dipped his nose into the Pensieve and both he and the chair disappeared into the memory. In rapid succession Scorpius, his parents, Rose's dad and Auror Carmichael followed him until they were all standing in a back corner of Scorpius' cell, staring at their surroundings. The sight of himself hanging in the middle of the room triggered a panic attack and Scorpius suddenly wanted out of the memory.
"Son, calm down, tell me what's about to happen." His father's voice in his ear was soothing enough that Scorpius managed to regain a little of his composure.
"The man in the blue robes is going to come to the cell," he explained as he tried to remain calm. Unfortunately, he couldn't control the pounding of his heart or the fact that he had broken out in a cold sweat. His mother must have sensed his shaky control because she stepped close and put her arm around his waist, allowing him to lean on her a little. As had happened many years before when he was much younger, Scorpius felt a little less afraid with his parents so near, so he chanced a look around the cell.
To his front was the wall of bars and the cell door, to his left was the partition wall between the cells and to the right was… Oh, Merlin! He was going to vomit! He wrenched away from his mother and somehow managed to get out of the memory before his stomach started heaving. There was a thump as someone followed him out of the Pensieve and a moment later, the pool of sick soaking into the worn carpet of the sitting room vanished and a warm hand began rubbing soothing circles on his back. Scorpius glanced up, expecting one of his parents, but was startled to find himself staring into Auror Weasley's blue eyes.
"That's a sight to turn anyone's stomach," he said, sounding sympathetic. He conjured a glass of water and handed it to Scorpius who sipped at it cautiously. His stomach clenched, but did not heave, as Auror Weasley continued, "I've seen several memories like this one and it never gets any easier to look at."
"How do you keep from getting sick, then?" Scorpius whispered.
"I remind myself that what I'm seeing is something that happened in the past and that I'll only be in the memory for a little while. It helps, too, to remind myself that the people in the memory can't be hurt again, that they have lived through the experience," Auror Weasley replied. Scorpius nodded. "If it's my own memory," the older wizard went on, "then I remind myself that I'm visiting it to find out what has frightened me or if there might be a hidden purpose for reliving the memory. Sometimes, I even discover that my mind has exaggerated one element into something so frightening that I believe what I've imagined is real. It's a relief to know that I've sort of been lying to myself."
Scorpius considered this, knowing that the next thing Auror Weasley was going to ask him was if he was ready to go back into the memory. He liked the idea of telling himself that what he was seeing was only a memory. Finally, he sat up and said firmly, "I think I'm ready to go back in now."
"It'll be just us inside, then, because the scene was starting for the others as I left," Auror Weasley said.
"I thought so. Maybe it will be easier for me now," Scorpius said, feeling hopeful. And before he had second thoughts about going back in, he lowered his nose until it touched the memory and he was sucked back in the cell.
Immediately, as soon as Auror Weasley stood beside him, Scorpius turned to look at the back wall and the gruesome scene that had made him leave: the sight of one of the Matron's victims chained to the wall by his wrists and ankles. The man, whose body was naked from the waist up, hung in his shackles, battered and bloody. He looked worse right side up than he had upside down.
"We found the remains of a disfigured body half-submerged in the boat slip," Auror Weasley said. "Do you know anything about this man?"
"I do," Scorpius replied, "but someone's coming."
Auror Weasley nodded and turned his attention to the scene again.
A moment later, the wizard in blue robes appeared on the other side of the bars. He stopped half-way between the far wall and the door and stood glaring at his two prisoners. Scorpius watched his memory-self twisting to swing towards a side wall so he didn't have to look at either adult; he didn't get very far before the chained man let out a piercing scream. Scorpius put his hands over his ears to drown out the sound and was startled to feel Auror Weasley laughing beside him.
"Look at yourself," he said and Scorpius looked to see his memory-self doing the exact same thing.
"Why are you laughing?" he asked, somewhat confused. The Auror's reaction didn't seem appropriate at all. "I heard that scream every time the witch and her friends came to the cave. I still hear it in my sleep."
"I know, Scorpius, but if you can find small things to laugh at, memories like this are more bearable, I think." He stopped talking and put his own hands over his ears, elbows sticking out to the sides; he did look a bit ridiculous…
Scorpius considered this and decided maybe Auror Weasley was right. He forced himself to chuckle and the positive sound made him feel ready for the rest of the memory.
The blue-robed wizard cackled, "You're a coward, that's what you are! I haven't even cast the spell yet!"
"Please! Please don't cast the spell!" begged the shackled man, but the other wizard raised his wand and flicked it at him. Instantly, blood-curdling screams filled the air for as long as the spell was applied and when it was over, the shackled man hung against the wall gasping and whimpering while his tormentor addressed Scorpius.
"You're next, mate," he cackled, rubbing his hands together. "We'll send you back to your father in worse shape than that one over there." He pointed to the man on the wall.
"You leave my father out of this!" memory Scorpius yelled. "You let me go!"
"Your father's lies to the Aurors are what landed you here, you little toerag," spat the wizard. "He didn't know when to keep his big mouth shut, so I torched his warehouse. He still blabbed to the Aurors, that same day, in fact, so we took you to scare him into staying quiet. If the Matron has her way, he'll never see you again." These last words were said with unconcealed glee that were as chilling now as they had been when Scorpius had first heard them. His stomach lurched uncomfortably.
"Easy there, now, Scorpius. We proved him wrong, didn't we?" Auror Weasley asked, drawing Scorpius' attention away from the scene.
Scorpius couldn't help grinning. "Yeah, we did," he agreed as his stomach calmed down again.
The blue-robed man now Summoned a bowl and a goblet and walked to the door, which he opened. Scorpius watched his memory self track the man's movements and lick his lips, remembering how unbearably thirsty he'd been during his captivity. The man flicked his wand at his dangling victim and lowered him until his head was touching the floor. Scorpius remembered feeling confused by the careful treatment; at the time he had wondered why the man hadn't simply dropped him on his head the way he dropped his legs upon ending the suspension spell.
"Get up and relieve yourself. You have five minutes to eat after that," the man barked.
Scorpius watched his memory self struggle to stand: his legs ached in sympathy as he remembered forcing himself to ignore the pins and needles coursing through his body as the blood returned to his feet. This was followed by the humiliation of being unable to relieve himself as commanded.
"You're too scared of me to pee!" snickered the man. "I thought you'd wet yourself the first chance you had."
Memory Scorpius buttoned his trousers and faced his tormentor. "Give me more to drink and I will," he challenged.
"Not a good thing to do," commented Auror Weasley. "Gets a victim in trouble more often than not."
"Tell me about it," Scorpius agreed as he watched the man cast the Cruciatus Curse on his memory self. He glanced at the man with the wand and was startled to see him holding it with both hands. "Look how he's holding his wand. I never noticed that before."
"Scorpius, this man, the one victimizing you, was a victim himself," Auror Weasley said. "He was Imperiused and poisoned by the witch and most likely, she's commanded him to Cruciate you. That spell takes a lot of hatred and a lot of power to cast. At this point, a few days before his own death, I really don't think this man had the will to hurt you like this on his own."
"You sound like you feel sorry for him," commented Scorpius.
"I do," replied Auror Weasley. "Dying from poison is not pleasant and this man suffered horribly at the end. We can talk about this later if you wish."
"I'd appreciate that," he said as the memory faded and quickly came back looking a bit different.
Memory Scorpius was once again suspended by his ankles. He hung there clutching his stomach above a pool of sick.
"What happened?" Auror Weasley asked.
"I ate the gruel and drank the water too fast because I was given only five minutes to eat before the man hung me upside down again. I tried hard not to vomit, but it's almost impossible not to when something you've just eaten is trying to slide out of your stomach."
"That explains Auror Bones' report that you refused the food she offered you that day," Auror Weasley commented.
"Yeah, it's not fun when vomit gets in your nose," Scorpius said with a shudder.
When Auror Weasley didn't comment further, Scorpius looked to see what had caught his attention.
The cave was still dimly lit with the flickering torches that cast long shadows everywhere. It would have been a less frightening scene had the air not been filled with the agonizing screams coming from deeper in the cave. Above the screams he could hear two witches cackling and the delighted guffawing of the wizard who didn't tend the prisoners. The memory seemed to blink several times before the screaming stopped and footsteps were heard approaching the cell.
"What caused the flicker?" Auror Weasley asked.
"I sort of skipped several hours of screaming to get to what happens next," explained Scorpius.
"I see," murmured the Auror. "Did you ever get to drink anything more that night?"
"No, I didn't. I was given food and water twice a day and if I couldn't keep it down I didn't get more," Scorpius said, turning to look back at the memory as Auror Weasley growled disapprovingly.
A body was now being floated past the bars to the door by the blue-robed man. He dropped the victim on the floor and used his wand to unlock the lock before levitating him once again and bringing him inside the cell.
"Got a new fella to keep you company," the wizard sniggered as he chained up the victim. "He ought to be awake in a bit. Have fun, Mr Malfoy. He's not done screaming yet."
He left the cell and walked away, yawning. Scorpius shivered and felt Auror Weasley's hand on his shoulder. The shivering stopped.
Behind memory Scorpius, the chained man whispered loudly, "He gone?"
Memory Scorpius twisted around. "Yeah, he is. Why?"
"I can't last much longer, mate," the chained man said. "That witch, she done unspeakable things to me. Will you tell the Aurors if you're rescued?"
Memory Scorpius whispered back, "I will. What did she do to you? How did you get here in the first place?"
"I tried to buy the young witch a drink at one of the pubs in Knockturn Alley. The other bloke who was with her didn't like me doing that, so when I left, they followed me and stopped me in a dark alley. Before I knew it, they were dragging me in here." He coughed and spat a dark substance on the floor. "Kid, I'm full of pieces of metal they threw at me. That witch is mental, sick in the head! Said she was treating me for my rheumatism, that the potion she'd soaked the metal in would help me get well. Hah!" The odd attempt at laughter made him cough again and he hung for a few moments from his chains, breathing harshly. "That stuff is poison, I tell you. It's eating me alive every time they cast that damned spell," he whimpered at length.
The new arrival stirred, letting out a strangled sob. The chained man glanced over at him as did Scorpius and his memory self. "Tell the Aurors what those horrible creatures did to Kenward Rankin. Tell them I have a wife named Sara and two kids going to Hogwarts next year. Tell them… tell them… I'm sorry." The man's head sagged, his body went limp and the cell went quiet as Scorpius felt himself being tugged out of the fading memory.
He emerged from the Pensieve to find himself enveloped first in his mother's embrace and then his father's. The three of them stood together holding each other until someone behind them finally cleared their throat.
"Scorpius," Mr Potter said, once he had their attention, "Are you all right?"
Scorpius nodded. "Why don't I feel scared of that memory any more?" he countered with a question of his own.
"I think you know why," Auror Carmichael said, making Scorpius and his parents look in his direction. "By showing us that last part, you've given us some valuable clues for a missing person's investigation one of the other Auror teams is conducting. I think you were experiencing that nightmare so much because you needed to fulfil your promise to Mr Rankin."
"And now that I have, it won't bother me so much?" asked Scorpius.
"I believe you have put that memory to rest," Mr Potter said, smiling. "How do you feel?"
This last comment made the adults chuckle. Mother moved away and a moment later Mabel appeared. She listened intently and then disappeared again. Mother joined the group.
"Come, sit down everyone. Lunch will be served in a few minutes. I think we could all use some refreshment after what we've seen," she said.
Scorpius sank gratefully onto the sofa facing the windows. The heavy curtains were still drawn and he suddenly frowned, wishing they were open. Instantly, the curtains parted, flooding the room with light.
"Scorpius! What have I told you about controlling your magic when you're upset?" Mother hissed in dismay. "We have Aurors in the room! Do you want to get in trouble?"
Scorpius cringed. "I'm sorry. It was an accident. I don't want a letter from the Ministry," he said.
"You won't be receiving one," Auror Weasley spoke up.
"It's perfectly understandable that a kidnap victim would want to be surrounded by light," explained Mr Potter, looking at Mother, "especially someone like Scorpius who was kept in the dark for so long. They crave the ability to see everything instantly upon opening their eyes because the captors used darkness as an intimidation factor. I don't blame Scorpius for wishing the curtains open."
"So he's not going to get in trouble?" Father asked.
"No, he won't because although the Ministry can detect the magic, they don't who did it," answered Auror Weasley. "This is a magical household where magic goes on night and day." He glanced at Mr Potter who gave him a 'you-wouldn't' look before he added, "It would be different in a home where a magical child was being raised by a Muggle family. Then, the Ministry would know absolutely who performed the magic."
However, Mr Potter shook his head and murmured so quietly that only Scorpius could hear, "Not necessarily."
Curious, Scorpius asked, "Why not?"
Mr Potter leaned over and answered, "I'll tell you the story some other time," so Scorpius let the subject drop and turned his attention to his parents and the two Aurors.
During this exchanged, his father murmured something that sounded like, "True," and left it at that, but Mother pressed on, "I don't understand why Scorpius is doing so much accidental magic. He hasn't done any since he began at Hogwarts and now… now it's happening so frequently it scares me."
"It's because he's a kidnap victim who is still adjusting to what occurred during his captivity," Auror Weasley replied gently. "He's probably opening curtains and keeping doors open and lighting lamps without using his wand, correct?"
Mother's eyes widened as she answered, "Yes! But why?"
Auror Weasley smiled sadly. "It's his mind's way of helping him cope with what he's seen and heard as well as his need to control his environment. All freedom was taken from him, Mrs Malfoy. Most prisoners are allowed to prowl their cells, but your son was hung upside down, unable to do more than twist in the wind. It's enough to drive a person insane, but Scorpius—" He stopped and came over to squeeze Scorpius' shoulder, which felt wonderfully comforting. "Scorpius didn't give up hope that someone would rescue him. He even tried to escape and when that didn't work, he sent information that helped us find him, even though he was scared and probably greatly discouraged. Mrs Malfoy, your son is an incredibly brave and resourceful person. I think that with time and support from you and his father the incidences of accidental magic will disappear. Does that put your mind to rest?"
Mother sighed and for the first time since he'd begun doing the accidental magic, Scorpius thought she looked relieved. "I suppose."
Scorpius glanced at his father who asked, "And if he does receive a letter of reprimand?"
"Send me a copy and I'll get it taken care of," Auror Weasley requested. Father nodded, seemingly satisfied. "We've already made note of his reaction to the closed curtains," Auror Weasley added.
Mabel chose that moment to enter the sitting room with two lunch trays floating in front of her. Mother had her put them on the table where the Pensieve sat and Scorpius' mouth began to water as he decided what he wanted to eat. Etiquette called for the guests to fill their plates first, so Scorpius waited—somewhat impatiently—for the adults to select what they wanted before making a sandwich for himself.
When they were done eating, Auror Carmichael stood up. "Scorpius, I am continually amazed by what a brave young man you are. I think the names you gave us will be helpful not only to the prosecution of Shirley Gorman, but with the investigation of several other cases as well. I'm going to take the information back to headquarters." He looked at Mr Potter and Auror Weasley. "I'll see you two later, perhaps?"
Both men nodded and he excused himself, leaving Scorpius, his parents and their guests talking quietly. They conversed a while longer until Auror Weasley and Mr Potter had to leave as well.
That night, Scorpius sat propped up in his bed, chewing on the end of his quill and staring down at the words he'd written on his piece of parchment:
That didn't look right, so he grabbed his wand and siphoned away the greeting while the ink was still wet. He tried again.
He didn't like that either and again erased the greeting. Finally, he settled on writing just her name at the top of the page.
It was nice to get your note this morning. I'm doing much better, thank you, but I'm not ready to come back to school just yet. I think your dad told you I still need some time to get over what happened to me. We viewed one of my memories in a Pensieve today and he helped me to understand why I was remembering it so vividly in my dreams. I have some other "issues"—Mr Potter's term—to deal with before I go back to Hogwarts, but I want you to know that I miss you and my other friends and think it would be great to correspond with you.
He had the same problem with his closing salutation, finally deciding to end his letter with
He signed his name and called his owl, Mephistopheles. The eagle owl entered his room with a loud, "WHOO!" and settled on Scorpius' bent knees, eyeing him expectantly.
"Take this to Rose Weasley at Hogwarts," Scorpius requested as he tied the rolled-up message to the owl's outstretched leg. "Make sure she gets it tomorrow at breakfast, please."
Mephistopheles gave another loud, "WHOO!" and left the room, flying out the open bedroom door. Scorpius sighed and watched him go, wondering when he was going to get over needing to always leave doors open. He extinguished his lamp and twitched the curtains around his bed closed a little more. He waited, staring at the top of the canopy, for the sensation of being trapped to manifest itself. When it came, though, it wasn't a bad as it had been last night. With another sigh, he opened them again. "Maybe when I find a way to laugh at myself again," he thought as he drifted off.
A/N: When I started writing the closing chapter to this story, I thought I'd be done zip, bang, boom in one chapter. Not so, because when I looked at how detailed my list of loose ends was—and what I wanted to do with them—I realized that the Aftermath would not be one chapter, but four and maybe even five chapters long! It's important to me that issues I've brought up in this story be neatly packaged up so that no one and nothing is left hanging unintentionally because I've read long fics where the authors leave their readership wondering about why this happened or what would become of that character. I can't do that, so this is the first chapter of the Aftermath section of the story.
There are two people I really need to thank for the ideas I've included in this section of the Aftermath. The first is Cardgirl91 who wanted to see a Pensieve viewing for Scorpius prior to his going back to Hogwarts. I may not have made it the laughable incident she wanted, but I hope she knows that I valued her suggestion enough to use it. The second is RSS, one of my pre-betas, who suggested the content I used in this chapter. I had written the first and second sections and was absolutely stuck as to which memories to have Scorpius view and emailed her in a panic. Her ideas allowed me to show Scorpius healing a little from his ordeal and for that I'm grateful to her. Thank you both for the brilliant ideas.
Finally, I extend my standard thank yous go to my pre-beta team of Miz636, Mutt n Feathers, RebeccaRipple, Rosina Ferguson, and RSS. I gave them three days in which to get the chapter back to me and all five came through with their wonderfully helpful comments and suggestions. And Aggiebell, thanks for making me rewrite the discussion about accidental magic… I think the rewrite turned out better than the original.