Qasim sat in his office. The flaming sconces on the wall flickered the gently quivering spots of light around, but the room remained heavy with its dark shadows. The Defence Against the Dark Arts professor steepled his fingers and looked down at the piece of parchment on his desk. His nostrils flared a little as he took a deep breath and sighed it away.
A knock rang from his door. “Come in.” He did not look up.
“You sent for us, Professor?” Tommy stepped into the room followed closely by Laun Orris-Whitmoor.
“I did.” Amen Qasim gestured to the chairs in front of him with an open palm. “Sit. Please.”
Laun took a seat quickly and Tom followed suit.
“What can we do for you, Professor?” Laun smiled widely.
Qasim folded his hands in front of him and looked at the two young men. “I will not do either of you the disservice of bandying about when you no doubt wonder why I asked the two of you to come here.
“There have been a series of thefts in this castle. In each instance the classroom or office of a professor has been burgled. And while the staff is endeavouring to get to the bottom of these crimes, I believe we could benefit from the insight and perspective of someone who may be closer to the…” He paused, the faintest twitch of a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Age of the culprits.”
He straightened his back, “Now,” there was a brief glance cast down at the parchment, “no doubt were he here Professor Snape would have this task in the hands of the school’s Head Boy. I, however, do not share that enthusiasm or confidence.” Unfolding his fingers, he laid a hand flat on the unrolled parchment, obscuring most of the words. “I believe this is an endeavor that the pair of you are far more suited to accomplish. You have shown yourselves to be both sharp and capable.” He paused looking from Laun to Tom. “And, I think, a good team.”
Tom felt his cheeks redden. “Thank you sir.” He nodded slightly. “I’m more than happy to help.”
“Of course I’ll help! We’ll get them, sir! Dead or alive!”
Tom rolled his eyes. “Less dead, more alive, sir.”
Laun blushed, “Oh of course! I… well its just a figure of speech…”
“I’m sure this is part of quite incomplete and likely growing list.” He took the paper and held it across his desk. “Some things took some time to notice they had actually turned up missing. Madam Pince in the library has quite extensive records on the books missing from the library’s collections, however. It would seem that she has had this problem all year and indeed years past.”
Tom took the list and gave it a look and then handed it to Laun. “Any ideas of where too start?”
“Yes,” Professor Qasim gestured to the list. “You may notice the most recent thefts occurred in Professor Sinistra’s office in the Astronomy Tower. That may be the best place to look.”
“And gentlemen,” the larger man eyed them for a moment. “I would appreciate your utmost discretion on the matter. Whatever you find or suspect, report it to me. I would not like to see this situation get out of hand.”
“Sir, I do have one thing.” Tom said shifting in his seat nervously. “Lately I’ve been noticing some strange behavior from a seventh year named Liam Liddell. It seems like everywhere my friends and I are he is too. Is it possible he’s behind this trying to frame Dan and Orlando?”
Amen Qasim seemed to consider this. “It is curious that so many might find interest in setting up your friends.” He sat back in his chair, its wooden legs creaking. “The pair of them certainly have a checkered past with their fair share here at Hogwarts.” His dark eyes looked up to the young Gryffindor. “Any history there? With Liam Liddell, I mean. A jilted customer perhaps?”
Tom thought about it for a moment before he answered. “Not that I can think of, sir,” he felt stupid that he had even brought up his thoughts with a professor, “nevermind, sir.”
“It’s never wrong to follow your instincts, Tom. I’ve caught many a dark wizard by following my gut, and you’re here because I trust yours.” Qasim smiled from his seat. “Liddell may not be our culprit, but I shall have a word with him anyway. And don’t worry,” the man’s dark eyes gleamed as his cheeks rose a bit more as his smile turned almost mischievous. “I won’t let on a bit that he is suspected of anything by anyone.”
“Now, he slid his chair back and stood, “you two focus on finding me a few more good leads.”
They both stood and nodded. “Yes, of course.”
Laun was practically skipping down the hall, circling Tom giddily.
“Can you believe this?” He smiled brightly.
“It’s pretty cool.” Tom nodded. “I just don’t know how we’re gonna figure this out yet.”
Laun Wrapped an arm around his friend’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry mate! Me and you? Greatest investigative team this school has ever seen!”
Two figures crept stealthily down the hallway of Hogwarts Castle’s second floor. They paused briefly and one checked a large sheaf of parchment before the pair quietly slipped inside the library, quickly disappearing into the labyrinthine stacks.
“I think the spatial magicks section is over here,” whispered the one without the map. “Right next to Magic Architecture.”
Orlando crept to the edge of the stacks and cast one more look back to the heavy wooden doors that lead into the before they disappeared from view. “Richt.” He tapped the Marauder’s’ Map with his wand and its ink bled away as he started folding it and tucking it under his arm.
The pair split up, turning their wandlight to the spines of books that surrounded them. Orlando grumbled from deep in the tomes about magic and space. “Mebbes shoud develop some wey tae find whit beuks are in this place,” He said, drawing out a copy of Adding by Inches and flipping through it. “Ah reck tha’s something hauf yuir hoose wad pay guid monies fer.” He shook his head and put it back. “Mine tae.”
“Ravenclaws awreddies ken hou tae find thair wey aroond the Library, brither. Check this oot.” He held up another thick book and off the cover. “Bigger on the Inside: Relative Spatial Dimensions. Lekarz Jotka ring a bell?”
Foozle scratched his head, thinking. “Ah think it daes. Ah mynd readin ane o-”
There was a clicking that echoed softly through the dead library to their ears that stopped the Hufflepuff cold.
Their eyes locked, and they hissed, “Shite”
The creaking of the heavy wooden door was louder, leading to a bold closing. The pair of Scots scrambled to get the books they had pilfered hidden away into their bags. The shuffling sound of feet made its way toward them from the front of the library, and with it the sneering sound of Argus Filch, the castle’s caretaker. “I know yer in here…”
“Invisibility,” Foozle groaned quietly to his partner, “cannae be ony haurder than becoming an animag-”
He stopped short, watching as the folded parchment slipped from his arm and sailed across the floor. “Shite.”
“Whit?” The Ravenclaw spun around. He looked down and saw the map come to a halt a few yards away from them. He then watched Mrs. Norris walk right on top of it and sit herself down. The cat stared up at them both with her bright yellow eyes and let go one of her raspy meows.
Orlando palmed his face.
“Well, well, well…” Argus Filch stepped around the shelving and stood behind his cat. He bared his yellowed teeth in a broad, dirty grin. “Bit late for studying, innit?”
His eyes narrowed a little on the pair. “Sneaking around after hours. I caught you well and good this time.” He looked down and saw the bit of paper sticking out from under Mrs. Norris’ front paws. “An red handed, I think.”
Rid handed?” Danny asked, eyes wide, forcing his lopsided grin on his face. “Whit’s rid handed aboot a couple students bein’ in th’ library, Mister Filch?”
Orlando nodded. “We wis studyin’ a bit o’ History of Magic. ‘Twas sae boring we wur napping fur a quick spell.”
“Coorse,” Danny said with a grin. “We hud tae write ten inches o’ parchment aboot th’ squib rights laws passed in 1906.”
The caretaker’s normally pasty face reddened quickly. “I know you two brats have been rooting around my office! I bet it was you filthy little beasts that got Peeves to drop all those ball bearings in the great hall too.”
He snatched the parchment from the ground and waved it in front of the boys. “Wait until the Headmaster sees this!” he said triumphantly. “I’m sure he’ll let me see to your punishment before he expels you for having this dangerous…”
“Spare bit of parchment?” Orlando finished for the caretaker.
Filch let out a snorting laugh as he unfolded the map. “You two with parchment? That’s hardly likely.” He turned over the now blank sheet in his hand, then glared at the two young men. “So it’s hidden. What is this?”
Rolling his eyes, Danny spoke with sarcasm thick in his voice. “Tis a magical map o’ Hogwarts ‘n’ a’ body in it, made by students tae use again’ ye.”
Foozle’s chin dropped, his knuckles covering his face as he started to laugh.
“Don’t get smart with me,” Filch was beaming. He shook the spoils at them both. “I’ve caught you near the restricted section with a dangerous…”
“Piece o’ paper” Orlando said, still chuckling.
The Hogwarts caretaker snorted derisively as he took to unfolding the paper. The pair of Gentlemen watched his expression with great interest. The reaction was slow, but worth the weight. His cheeks reddened and his nostrils flared out until you could practically fit a knut in each one.
“What is this?” His fist wrapped around it tight, crumpling it in his fingers. He looked from one boy to the other with angry eyes. “You think this is funny?”
Danny and Foozle looked at each other.
“It is a joke parchment efter aw.”
Filch shook it at them. “Well, it’s my parchment now.” He crammed it into his pocket. “And we’ll see what the headmaster thinks of your ‘joke parchment’.”
Danny’s shoulders shrugged. “Fine by us.”
“Dumble daes enjoy a guid lauch.”
“OUT!” roared Filch, pointing his finger toward the library’s exit.
Stifling their chuckling as best they could, Orlando and Danny made for great wooden doors with Argus Filch close behind them.
Tom rubbed his eyes. For the last two hours he had been staring at the parchment that Qasim had given him and Laun and now it felt like his eyes were crossing. “Laun,” he said as he blinked, now realizing just how tired he was, “we’ve been at this all day. I think maybe we need to get a good night’s sleep and try again tomorrow.”
“I’ve got such a feeling that the answer is just under our noses…”
Tom stared up blearily. “I just don’t see what these things have to do with each other.” Tom pulled away from the table. “We’re driving ourselves mad pouring over this bloody list. Maybe we need to look at it from a different angle?”
“They took something from every professor, some of the darkest spells require a possession of the intended victim.” Laun said beginning to pace.
“True,” Tommy nodded his fingers drumming the table, “but then again if it was for a possession spell, why all the other things. Each plausible theory creates an implausibility.”
“Maybe its not about magic at all…” Laun whipped around and slammed his hands on the table.
“How do you mean?” Tom’s eyebrows arched quizzically.
“There’s a lot of reasons to steal, to get a thrill, to hurt someone, to get something the easy way.” Laun shrugged as he pulled away from the table and continued pacing.
“Well, of course.” Tommy laughed. “But that is just not what we need, a few thousand other reasons these things have been stolen.” He laughed as he clapped Laun on the back.
“No, no but think about it; greed, pure human greed. Possibly genius greed…” He said, his eyes lighting up with an idea, “What if they only wanted one of these things, something valuable, and the rest… just to throw us off… brilliant.”
Tom’s eyes narrowed. “Go on.” He said skeptically.
“I mean think about it. No one’s asking why the Swiss army knife for example was stolen, just why it all as a whole was.”
Tom thought about this for a moment, then answered. “That is a good point. I don’t even really know what a bloody Swiss army knife is.”
“Neither do I… but I want one…” Laun grinned broadly.
Tom sighed. We really should have paid more attention in Muggle Studies.” He put his elbow on the table and rested his chin on the palm of his hand.
“So that also brings up a good point, what else on this list aren’t we familiar with? Or don’t understand? Some of these books are restricted for starters.” Laun gestured towards the list Tom held.
“Yeah?” Tom looked back down at the list. “You don’t think this has anything to do with that new set of pranks do you?” Tom looked back down the list. “I read Bigger on the Inside in my fourth year.”
“I hope it does.” Laun said playfully swiping the list from his friend’s hands. “Pranksters I can deal with… something more serious…darker.. that’s a whole different quidditch match.”
“Agreed.” Tom stood up. “I think our next step needs to be we need to go to the library. Maybe we can sweet talk Madam Pince into telling us who the last people were to check out those books.” Tom shrugged. “It’s at least a start.”
“Good idea, she likes me.” Laun smiled brightly.
“She doesn’t like anyone except Filch.” Tom looked down at his watch and swore. “It’s almost a quarter past ten. We’ve been at this so bloody long we went right past the library closing. We’re gonna need to talk to her tomorrow.”
“Man, I wish the library was open 24/7, its not like I’m gonna be able sleep till I know more!” Laun said giddily, hopping a bit a he walked.
“How is it that it is past ten at night and you are still this happy?” Tom yawned as the echoed footfalls on the stones of the castle floor followed them.
“I’m always happy, nothing is gonna bring me down…” Laun started but his smile faded as they turned the corner.
The first sight was Danny DuMorne and Orlando MacFoozle, not the most shocking sight in the halls of Hogwarts after hours and certainly one that Laun was somewhat accustomed to. It was Argus Filch standing behind them, closing the doors to the library that had given his usually unabashedly positive attitude pause.
“Evenin, gents,” said the Hufflepuff Scot, breaking into the awkward moment with a half wave.
Tom’s eyebrows furrowed. You have got to be kidding me. He thought to himself. “What?”
“Caught these two in the library,” said the caretaker. His mouth curled up into twisted snarl as if the pair of Gentlemen had slipped a dungbomb in his trousers as well and he was just now smelling it. “Long after it closed. Up to no good. Again.” He clapped them both on the back. Hard. “And this time I’m taking it right to the headmaster.”
Danny groaned. “No lang efter it closed, barely a few hoors.”
Foozle shrugged. “Juist felled asleep,” he explained with a perfectly sheepish grin. “Ye ken hou boring Historie o Magic can be.”
“Aye. Binns haen us oan punishment.”
The two Scots shared a look and a subtle smile. “Ten inches o’ parchment aboot th’ squib rights laws passed in 1906.”
“Right,” Tom said without skipping a beat. All the years of being friends with Lando and Danny taught him one thing: always follow their lead, “how is that going?”
Danny sighed. “We’ve figured oot that they were brought up by the Society for the Support of Squibs, but we couldnae find the biography o’ Idris Oakby.” Danny winked at Tommy. He’d actually done some Squib research after finding the Qwickspell course in Filch’s office, and his research had finally paid off.
Laun resisted rolling his eyes; they were laying this all on a little thick.
“I’m sure you understand, Mister Filch, how sometimes while researching such a fascinating subject, you can sometimes get carried away?”
Filch’s pale eyes narrowed. “And what about you? Being a bleedin’ prefect don’t mean you or your friend there get to be out after curfew either.” He gave an evil smile, “And you ain’t scheduled to be patrolling tonight.”
“Well, he has us there,” Tom said putting on his best smile. For some reason he really enjoyed taunting Filch, “Mister Filch, you are astounding you are.”
“Don’t be flip with me, boy,” Filch snarled as Mrs. Norris hissed at Tom, “you’re in enough trouble out of bed after curfew.”
Danny snorted. “Come noo, Filch. Thae twa ur as honest ‘n’ upstanding as thay come.” Walking between the other two he threw his arms around Laun and Tommy. “A’m sure thay wur sent by a teacher tae track us doon, richt guys?
“Exactly.” Tommy nodded. “Isn’t that right Laun.”
“This is true.” The Slytherin agreed.
At this, Filch glared at the Slytherin and the Gryffindor. “What teacher sent you two looking for these troublemakers?”
“Professor…” Tom started.
“Qasim.” Laun ended cheerily.
Tom shot Laun a sideways glance, but quickly decided to just go with it. Usually Professor Flitwick was their go to alibi professor, but in a pinch it would do.
Danny glanced at Lando. “Ah kin they’ve been hangin’ oot taegether too much,” he said with a smile.
“Aye,” nodded the fellow Scot.
“Professor Qasim.” The way the castle’s caretaker repeated the name it wasn’t so much of a question, but it did come with a pause. His head tilted back, his narrow eyes looking down on the boys. “Well…” he said with the faintest hint of nerves. In one word, Filch had shown his cards, “alright then.”
He shook the crumpled parchment at the both of them. “But I’ll be keeping this…” He sneered, stuffing it into his coat. “And mark my words, when I find out just what this is…”
Filch snorted and turned, leaving the four boys to their own devices. Danny and Orlando watched the older man go, Mrs. Norris slinking between the legs of his shuffling gate.
“Thank’s for tha,” Foozle said, giving a small smile to Tommy and Laun. “Thoucht he wis gauntae gae thru wi it aw the wey this time.”
“Always a pleasure.” Tom bowed to the other gents. As he came back up he looked in the direction Filch walked. “Was that the map?”
Foozle grumbled a little. “It wis.”
Laun snapped his fingers, “Oh no! Not the map!”
Raising an eyebrow, Danny looked over at Laun. “D’ye even kin whit the map is?”
“Not really, I just hate feeling left out.” Laun grinned sheepishly.
Laughing, Dan tuned back to Foozle. “Uncle’s still with Céilidh, right?”
Foozle nodded. “She wis daen a plook o wirk oan the kins the nicht as a maiter o fact.” He shook his head, clearly unhappy with Filch’s appropriation. “But thare’s plenty o kinks tae be wirked oot afore tis duin fur prime time.”
The Hufflepuff turned his attention to the other boys, feeling a little hyper aware of their conversation in the presence of a Prefect. Although Laun was good friends with Tommy and Rose and had proven himself to be a stand-up guy despite his house, the Hufflepuff still had his reservations about just how much should be divulged in his presence.
“Sae,” he said with a pleasant smile, “whit really brings the twa o ye oot this wey efter oors?”
“Doing a little detective work, playing Watson to Tommy’s Holmes.” Laun laughed.
“Who now?” Tom raised an eyebrow.
“Its from a book, Sam lent me. Muggle aurors who catch Dark-Muggles without magic, only through reasoning and the occasional use of recreational drugs.” Laun grinned with excitement.
“Whit exactly are ye twa detectin’?” Danny asked skeptically.
“Well we’re not exactly supposed to talk about it,” Tommy looked toward Laun for a moment, “there’s been a bunch of thefts around the castle lately and Professor Qasim is having us look into it.”
Foozle’s head cocked to the side curiously. “Ye dinnae say.”
“Don’t worry, Tom, obviously we can trust these guys!”
“Acoorse ye kin,” replied Lando with a smile. “Ah reck Danny an me haen learnit a twa or three things aboot pilking in the castle ower the years.” He gave a quick smirk in his partner’s direction. “Efter aw, gif ye git accused enouch, ye pick hings up.”
Tommy studied Orlando. There was something about the way he was talking that made Tommy know that Lando knew more than he was letting on. “Okay.” Tommy said as the four started walking down the corridor. He needed to get Lando and Danny alone and find out what exactly they did know. He would play along though for now. “So why would someone steal all this stuff?”
“Mebbes it’s someane tryin’ tae start a new schuil,” Danny said with a shrug. “Ah dinnaekin where they’d put aw o’ this junk.”
Again watching one of his friends, one of his brothers, Tommy couldn’t quite shake the feeling Danny knew more than he said. He recognized the small curl at the corner of his mouth and the cocked eyebrow as Dan’s tell. Tom’s lip curled into a smile. “Then why would they do it, you know, in your opinion?”
Danny frowned. “Mebbes someone is daein’ pure ill in thair lessons.”
“Or Peeves is up tae something, lik’ th’ ball-bearings in th’ Hall.” Orlando chimed in.
“Maybe keepsakes?” the duo asked simultaneously.
Shrugging, Danny leaned against the wall. “Who knows.” He mused.
“How dae we ken th’ thefts wur a’ by th’ same body?” The Hufflepuff wondered aloud. “Thay coud be separate ‘n’ unconnected.”
Tom almost laughed out loud. “You know, Laun,” he said with a giant grin on his face, “The boys may be right. None of these may be connected at all.”
“This many thefts in the same time period? I doubt that. Factoring in some form of influence spell, mass possession or broad-based imperio usage itself, that would only allow for the illusion of disassociation, with the reality still being a single and/or unified culprit.” Laun said as he absentmindedly brushed a lock of his long blond hair behind his ear.
The three Gents exchanged glances. None of the trio of young men had ever heard Laun posit a theory this down-to-Earth and subdued. His usual musings on the castle’s mysterious goings-on were punctuated by wild speculation more suited to the pages of the Quibbler. But this made sense.
“Mebbes yuir richt, Laun,” Danny said rubbing the back of his neck. “Whit aboot some o’ the lot in yuir hoose? Coud a Slytherin hiv any use for those things?”
“What Slytherins have use for astounds me sometimes, valuing the fact that one’s great great grandparents were able to levitate a feather over the ability to create the poptart!” Laun laughed, “Now that is astounding!”
The three Gents looked at each other again, this time with large grins.
“There he is.” Tom said with a laugh.
Danny raised an eyebrow. “Bit th’ guid Slytherin does huv a point. Why value th’ ability tae rame a spell ower th’ idea tae mak’ breeks oot o’ denim?” He asked with a grin.
The Ravenclaw pushed off the wall and looked at his friends. “Anyone want a butterbeer?” he asked with a smile. “Ah kin a couple common rooms that’re priddy well stocked.”
Orlando smiled. “Aye,” he said with a nod. “Naethin like a guid frothy butterbeer tae loosen the mynd.” The Hufflepuff looked around, “afore anither unwelcome body shaes up, eh? Hufflepuff?” He turned his gaze to Laun. “Ahm shuir Sam’d be richt happy tae see ye.”
“Okay, but maybe you should tell me where you two hid the stuff before we get there so that the others won’t hear.” Laun smiled.
Tom shot an almost imperceptible glance at Lando and Danny and then smiled at Laun. “What are you talking about, Laun?” He could feel his heart starting to speed up slightly.
“Oh please, all the little smirks, and the looks. Serena Orris didn’t raise no fool.” Laun tousled Lando’s hair, “I said we could trust you guys, and when there’s trouble, jokes or general mischief, I trust you to be at the bottom of it.”
Foozle raised that scar bisected brow. “Sairy? He looked between The prefect and Tommy, a look of confusion that was almost genuine. “Did Ah miss something?”
“I think I missed something too,” Tommy said with a laugh, “mind telling us what you mean?”
“I’m accusing Lando and Dan of misdemeanors, malfeasance and general mischief. It’s not exactly the biggest intuitive leap.” Laun laughed, “Certainly not the the biggest I’ve taken.”
“So what are you planning on doing, Laun?” Tom said with more than a little bit of concern in his voice.”We can’t turn them in to Professor Qasim.”
“The thought never crossed my mind.” Laun smiled, “So obviously we need the items back, we just don’t necessarily need to be totally upfront about where we got them.”
Orlando blinked a few times. “Look. See this list ye’v git? E’en gif Danny an Ah hud th’ things yuir keekin fer, dae ye pure think ye cuid bring thaim bak? Nae questions asked?”
The Scot shook his head, bearing that unamused look Amen Qasim always seemed to rouse. “Hae ye iver met an Auror? Tha’s nae howfur they wirk, pal. Amen Qasim didnae git whaur git tae by letting culprits run free.” His eyes passed between the pair of them, Laun to Tom and back. “An he’s no tapping twa students hoping they’ll juist round the things up.”
Tom’s eyebrows furrowed, “I never thought about it. I just figured he wanted us to get some you know, experience.”
Laun had a thoughtful expression on his face.
“Guys, lets not do this. I’m not sure what the endgame is here, but jokes over. The faculty is duly unsettled, but I’ve been given a job to do by a teacher I respect and admire, and I’m going to do it unless you’ve got a killer reason for me not to.”
Danny turned and looked at Laun, his eyes cold. “Sae whit? Ye’r gaun tae caw us ower tae Qasim wi’ na proof, na items, juist yer say-so?” The Ravenclaw shook his head, tired of being accused with little or no proof, even if he did do it. “An’ a’ tae prove yersel’ tae th’ guid Slytherin.”
“Lads,” Tommy said with a nervous smile, “there is no reason to get your dander up. Blimey, we’re all all friends here.” Tom eyed both Laun and Danny and then looked at Orlando. “I’m sure that whoever has all that stuff will be more than happy to put everything back once their done.” Tom nodded at Orlando.
The Hufflepuff shook his head. “Ah dinnaken whit thay’d dae.” He wasn’t going to admit anything to Tommy here. Not in public. “Bit gif ye think me or Danny is guilty than A wid ask ye tae ask yersel gif in aw the years o misdemeanors, malfeasance, ‘n’ general mischief,” he said, quoting Laun’s initial accusation, “Huv we iver dane anything malevolent? Wid ye truist us as ye ken us e’en gif we wur guilty?”
His eyes rested on Laun. “Gif no, by aw means.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Haul us in. But dinnae expect me tae fin the evidence fur ye.”
“Who said anything about hauling you in? I’m only supposed to find the missing items, not arrest anybody. Listen, I don’t get any pleasure out of being the wet blanket for following the rules, but my gut says I’m right.
“I know the cool thing to do would be to forget this and let you have your prank, but Dumbledore made me a prefect, and that means something to me.”
“If ye think,” Danny began, “if ye’r sae sure Lando ‘n’ ah ur guilty, then how come dinnae ye prove it.” His face was impassive, the perfect poker face, while inside his blood boiled. From any other Slytherin he’d expect it, but from Laun? He expected Laun to at least have something to back up his accusations. “Fin’ th’ nicked stuff. Prove we teuk it. Then dae yer prefect’s duty ‘n’ caw us in tae Professor Qasim.”
Laun just stood there for a moment, a look of indescribable sadness on his face.
“I guess that’s what I’ll have to do then.”
Tom placed a hand on Laun’s shoulder, “Can I talk to you for a minute lad?”
“Of course.” Laun nodded.
Tom lead Laun a few steps away just out of Lando and Danny’s earshot. “Listen Laun,” Tom said in a whisper, “we really don’t have anything. Their folks are aurors just like my dad and your mum. Do you honestly think they would do something that would cause their mums problems?” He looked back at the two Scots. “Look we both know that they are,” Tom thought about the right words, “spirited,” a smile grew again on his face, “but have they ever done anything truly wrong? Do you honestly, in your heart of hearts believe they would do something like that?”
“You mean like swapping a professor’s personal quarters for his classroom in the middle of the night and making sure he stayed asleep until his first class walked in?” Laun said stone-faced.
Tom stopped cold with his mouth open. “We-ell,” Tom said buying time, “no one ever proved that was them.”
“Tom, I get that they are your best friends, but we’re not talking about crimes on par with You Know Who here, we’re talking about someone swiping school property which these two are absolutely capable of. Beyond that though, it doesn’t matter because you know they did it, because they are your best friends.” Laun placed his hand on Tom’s shoulder.
Tom’s lips pursed, “Laun, they are your friends too.” Tom shoved his hands into his pockets. “All I’m saying is,” he sighed heavily, “trust me and trust them that everything will be back in it’s rightful place soon. If it’s not, you can turn all three of us in. You certainly know enough to prolly get all three of us expelled if you want. All I’m saying is, just trust me. You don’t have to trust them, trust me.”
“I do trust you, Tom, but thing is I called them on it, nicely. I was laughing about it, and instead of leveling with me, I became the enemy in two seconds flat. Some friends.”
“Think about this,” Tom said softly, even quieter than before, “you hate being lumped in with the rest of the Slytherins. I’ve seen it. Well, how is that different than being blamed, rightly or wrongly, for every bad thing that happens in this school. Including what Eric did to them, and you and Céilidh by the way.” Tom shook his head, the slight anger in his eyes replaced by sadness. “You weren’t around them last year, Laun. you didn’t see how much it hurt them that the whole bloody school turned on them. Hell, I almost turned on them. It’s still an open wound that may never really heal that just had salt poured in it.”
Laun opened his mouth to speak but Tom held up a hand.
“I know you weren’t meaning it that way; I know that, but I think that’s how they took it.” Tom sighed again as he pulled his hand out of his pocket and rubbed his chin.
Laun just stood for a moment silently.
“I can see that, but the problem with that comparison is that I have never given you a reason to treat me like the other Slytherins. They, on the other hand, actually often do what they’re accused of. If they want people to stop coming after them every time there’s trouble maybe they should stop causing trouble.
“You just said yourself, it hurt them when the whole school turned on them, so what do they do? They go ahead start another massive school-wide prank. They can’t use people’s guilt over falsely accusing them to get away with anything they please.
“In the end, I have always been the first one to laugh as their well crafted punchlines played out in front of the whole school, part of me even used to wish I could be one of them; plotting their plots and pulling off all their amazing feats. But now we’ve been given a responsibility, and I think its time to embrace that and take this opportunity to grow a little.”
“Well,” Tom said with a nod, “I get what you’re saying, but I know these guys really well. Trust me, lets give them a little wiggle room. I know what I’m doing.”
Laun thought for a moment, these days Tom was pretty much his best friend and he was asking him to trust him.
“If you say so, Tommy.” Laun nodded after moment.
“You are wise beyond your years, my boy.” Tom grinned and put his arm around Laun. “Stay here a minute let me go talk to them.”
Tom walked back over to Danny and Lando with a grin on his face. “Ok, so we talked.” Tommy lowered his voice to a whisper. “Just tell me this, this isn’t gonna be something that’s gonna bite me on the bloody arse later, right?”
The Scot duo shared a glanced at each other then looked at Tommy. “Nae,” they said simply.
“Alright then,” Tom said brightly clapping his hands together, “shall we get these two back to their common rooms.”
“Yes, lets.” Laun smiled quietly as he came to stand by Tom.