It was an uncharacteristically warm February day, as Lathan de Lancrét lounged like a king in front of his subjects. A blonde Slytherin seventh year girl lay giggling with her head lounging on his lap, as several other Slytherin boys, all younger, sat reverent around de Lancrét.
“And so I told the filthy little mudblood that if she didn’t keep her little mouth shut, I would use a permanent sticking charm on them.”
The assembled throng roared with laughter.
“I wish you would have done it anyway Lathan.” One of them said in between laughs.
“I thought about it,” He smiled, “But really, it would be a waste of spell energy. The stupid mudblood’s mouth flaps so much anyway, she would have broken the charm permanent or not.” This brought even more laughter.
“Hullo Lathan,” Tom sidled up to the group of Slytherins.
Lathan’s crew, startled, all grabbed for their wands but Tom held up his hands in peace.
“Lads, lads,” Tom said with a smile on his voice, “I didn’t come here to pick a fight with you boys. I just came here to talk to dear Mister de Lancrét about a wager that he lost and I won.”
Lathan gave Tom an appraising look and then sighed. “I owe you nothing blood traitor.” He turned back to his retinue and got approving smiles from the others. “The half-blood cheated.” Lathan said with an ease as if he was giving an answer in class. He returned to the others. “I believe this matter resolved.”
“Ah but I beg to differ,” Tom said cheerfully, “first of all, you never call Céilidh a half-blood again. Second, we all saw it. Professor Flitwick blew his whistle and she cast the spell fair and square. You and I both know our dear Head Boy is just slightly full of himself. He was not as prepared as he thought, and Céilidh struck him down easily.”
He walked a few steps closer to the Slytherin camp. “You and I made an honest bet of twenty galleons sir, and I believe it would be best if you paid. We don’t want it to go around that you are not as good as your word.”
Lathan pulled the girl’s head off of his lap and stood. The other Slytherins took their places behind him. “Your Ranga, is a cheat and a liar.” He hissed silkily. “Now then, Llewelyn,” his wand appeared seemingly out of nowhere, “I suggest you forget this little disagreement we’ve had and you walk away back to your little common room.”
Tom kept the same smile on his face. “Realy?” He shook his head with exasperation. “You are really going to go that route lad? Fine, but I guess the whole of Hogwarts will know you as a man of dishonor.”
There was a flash of light and before Tommy knew what hit him he was on his back on the grass. His eyes popping with little sparks.
“I will not be talked to liked that from a blood traitor like you,” Lathan leveled his wand on Tom who was still prone, “honor means nothing to a blood traitor. If it did, then you would know what your place is.”
“Is that it then?” Tom winked at Lathan and then his form shifted into a wildcat, that nimbly jumped between Lathan’s legs and then returned to his normal form, wand at the ready. “Expelliarmus” Tom shouted as Lathan’s wand flew into the air.
All the other Slytherins pulled their wands and leveled them at Tom.
“I just disarmed Lathan, I didn’t threaten him like he did me,” Tom said, “I have no argument with any of you all I just came to get what I fairly won. Let’s not make this worse.”
The Slytherins advanced on Tom.
“You picked the wrong day Gryffindor,” the girl tittered, “we have you outmanned six to one.” She looked back behind her as Lathan reclaimed his wand.
“Six against one,” Tom moved his wand quickly to each of the six, “That sounds just about fair.” His lips curled in a defiant smile. “This wasn’t my plan, and I’m going ask one more time to allow you to save face and walk away.”
Lathan stepped forward pointing his wand at Tom’s heart, “I know you Gryffindor’s are stupid,” he hissed softly, “But I will not hesitate to kill you, Llewelyn. Walk away. Now.”
“Twenty Galleons isn’t worth this.” Tom said relaxing his stance, but not lowering his wand, “I will say this, you are fairly ballsy for a snake. Especially when you have so many friends, and I’m all alone.”
“Well, not all alone.” A sudden ball of pink light exploded above their heads, leaving behind the faintest scent of flowers –an experiment in making spells smell good. The Ravenclaw prefect, wand drawn, walked over to her friend’s side. “And as ‘ballsy’…” She wrinkled her nose as she used the word, “as this whole scene is. It’s really bad manners to threaten to kill someone in public, especially over something as stupid as a lost bet.”
“Was that,” Tom took a sniff, “lilac?”
The little blonde’s face crumpled. “Lilac?” she repeated, forgetting the Slytherins for a minute. “Oh no. It was supposed to be gardenia.”
“Ah, yeah,” Tom sniffed the air again, “I can smell it now.”
“Oh thank goodness.” Rose beamed at her friend then seemed to remember that they weren’t alone. Lathan and his buddies were staring at her like she’d gone crazy. “Oh yeah. I was about to misuse my power.”
She gave Tommy a quick wink. “You’re not too bright sometimes, but I can’t really punish you for that. However…” All traces of her good humor fell away as she shook her head at the other students in the hallway. “Bullying? Starting fights? I’d love to say that this is just a lesson in why some people shouldn’t gamble. But since I’m sure you haven’t learned anything, I’m afraid it’s detention. I’ll inform the head of your house immediately.” She paused and gave Lathan a chill smile. “Unless you’d like to come with me.”
Lathan snarled at Rose and then pulled a small bag out of his pocket and tossed it on the ground at Tom’s feet before turning on his heel and stalking away with his friends in tow.
“Thanks for the assist,” Tom said as he picked up the bag of gold and counted its contents.
“Thanks? Thanks?” Rose smacked him upside the head. “What part of ‘go bug Lathan for money when he’s surrounded by his foul-tempered friends’ sounded like a good plan to you?”
Tom’s head cocked to one side, “Well I didn’t think he would be that ill tempered.” Tom said sheepishly.
She sighed and shook her head. “You’re such a boy sometimes.” But, because she loved him no matter what, she gave him a quick one armed hug. “I really do need to talk to Professor Slughorn though. I’d say ban Lathan from upcoming duels or something… but then you’d lose your easiest mark.”
Tom laughed, “Well,” he said opening the pouch again, “That is true. How about as a thank you, I order that Moly flower bush you’ve been wanting?”
Rose thought it over then gave another toss of her curls. “Tempting. But I think I’ll say no thank you. If you really want to do something with Lathan’s money, maybe make a donation to St. Mungos. We’ve got an awful lot of people from Hogwarts in there right now.”
“Yeah,” Tom looked across the grounds at Liam Liddell, who was sitting on the steps of the entrance, “can I tell you something and you won’t think I’m crazy?”
“You can sure try.”
Tom sighed heavily, “I can’t shake the feeling Mr. Liddell had something to do with it.”
“With Lathan going all smashy Slytherin on you? I don’t think he needs help for that.” She cocked her head and looked across the way at her housemate. “Why would Liam be involved?”
“I can’t put my finger on it,” he said in almost a whisper, “I have a few bits of coincidence and conjecture, but nothing solid. I just…there’s just something about him.”
Rose chewed on the inside of her cheek as she thought it over. “Well… I guess if you feel that strongly then you just have to keep looking until you find something solid. Right?”
“Yeah,” Tom looked down and the still winter dead grass, “like I said earlier, you don’t think I’m completely mad do you?”
“No way.” She reached out and took his hand. “If you were completely mad you’d be switching from suspect to suspect, coming up with more and more wild theories. I may not be able to see what it is that got you on Liam’s scent, but I know you well enough to know that you’re not crazy. At least not completely,” she added with a grin.
“Thanks for that.” Tom laughed as he threw his arms around her. He knew she was right and that he needed to get proof.
Tom’s thoughts went to trying to convince as many people as possible, and that meant talking to a professor, but which one? Professor Qasim seemed to be trying to cover things up himself now, so he would have to go to Professor McGonagall and convince her.
Tom paced in front of Professor McGonagall’s office for what seemed like forever. Normally he would never be nervous about talking to the Professor at all, but this was different. Finally after one more heavy sigh, he knocked on the door.
Tom opened the door and walked into the Transfiguration Professor’s office. “Evening Professor,” He said shutting the door behind him, “may I have a word?”
“You may,” she said not even looking up from the papers she was marking, “have a seat Michael.” She nodded to one of the chairs in front of her desk. “How may I help you?”
Tom looked down at his knees for a moment before answering. “Ma’am, I wanted to speak with you about the incident the other day in the Great Hall.”
The Vice Headmistress looked up from the ungraded papers and stared at Tom over her square spectacles. “Yes Michael?”
Well,” Tom felt his throat suddenly become very dry, “I know that Professor Qasim is running the investigation, but…”
The Professor cut across him. “But you want to make sure that Messers MacFoozle and DuMorne aren’t being looked at? Because Professor Qasim has told the Headmaster and I that he has found the culprits. Two house elves.” She gave him a wry smile.
“Actually ma’am,” Tom said shaking his head, “It’s not that at all, especially since Daniel was one of the victims, and I don’t believe that those house elves had anything to do with it either.”
“And you have not gone to Professor Qasim?” McGonagall continued to stare down her glasses at him.
“Well actually Professor,” Tom said nervously, “he found me in the kitchens and told me the case was closed.”
Professor McGonagall leaned back in her chair and studied Tom for a few moments. “You were in the kitchens?”
“Yes ma’am,” Tom said softly.
“You understand that students are not normally allowed in the kitchens correct?”
“Yes ma’am,” he locked his eyes onto hers, “but I just don’t believe that those two house elves did it.”
“And who do you believe did?”
Tom sighed. This was the moment of truth. Could he trust the Professor? “I believe that a Ravenclaw seventh year named Liam Liddell has something to do with it.”
Professor McGonagall was silent for several moments before speaking again. “Liam Liddell? The Ravenclaw prefect?”
“Yes ma’am.” Tom nodded.
“And your proof?” The Professor leaned forward again.
Tom looked down at his knees again. He couldn’t tell her that he and Orlando went into the kitchens and for lack of a better term stole several pans. “Well, when we spoke to the house elves, they said that he had been in the kitchens.”
“Is there a possibility,” she said folding her hands on the desk, “that as a prefect, Mister Liddell was in those kitchens at Professor Qasim’s request to start investigating what had occurred?”
“No Professor, but the elves said he had been in the kitchens before the incident occurred.” Tom said a little more passionately than he wanted to.
“And I believe Michael,” the professor’s lips pursed tightly, “that those same house elves were drunk off butterbeer, isn’t that correct?”
“Well yes Professor, but…”
“And is it possible that since they were drunk that they mistook the timeline of how events occurred?” The Professor sat back again.
“I don’t think that is the case Professor,” Tom shook his head, “neither of the elves admitted to drinking before the incident, only after. I really believe, Professor, that Liam has something to do with this.”
Professor McGonagall sighed heavily. She picked up her wand and conjured a tin of biscuits onto her desk. “Have a ginger newt Michael.” She said calmly.
Tom took one of the biscuits.
“I can understand the wish to find an answer to what happened to your friend,” the professor said motherly, “but making accusations without any real proof can do nothing but harm the situation.”
“What if I had real proof?” Tom said slightly angrier than he had expected to.
“Do you have such proof?” Professor McGonagall snapped.
Tom opened his mouth to speak. Of course he had proof. He had the pans in the cave. Then he thought about it. How could he prove that the pans were from the kitchens, or that Liam even tampered with them. “No ma’am.”
“Then I suggest Mister Llewelyn,” Mcgonagall said as she stood up, “that we consider this matter closed.” She walked over to the door and opened it telling him that Tom was dismissed.
“Yes ma’am,” Tom bit back his anger as he stood up. He had thought for sure that Professor McGonagall would believe him and now that she didn’t, Tom knew that there was no other solution but for the Gentlemen to do it themselves.