“He’s my father’s friend,” Lucius replied.
“Oh, he is? Does he work in the ministry?” Tanya asked.
“Yes. My father asked me to return him some money.”
“Can’t your father do it himself?”
“I see. Well, I thought you should know that the professors think some students are buying papers. Apparently, the deal is always struck here.”
“Really? I didn’t know.”
“Of course not. You’re not the type to be buying papers.”
Lucius chuckled and said, “You know me so well.”
Tanya replied with a smile and Lucius nodded before hurrying down the stairs. When he was back on his chair surrounded by his housemates, he found the uneasiness had not left him.
Entering the great hall the next morning, Lucius took quick glances at the professors and found them acting suspicious. He briefly wondered if his perception was altered by his cautiousness, and found it to be true when Professor Dumbledore left the hall just before the arrival of the owls.
Lucius caught himself heaving a sigh, as the professors did not act out of the ordinary when the parcels began falling. His attention was so focused on them that when a parcel fell onto his lap, he jumped out of his seat.
Students turned their heads almost immediately, but when Lucius glared back they quickly looked away. Not thinking twice on how suspicious his next action may seem, Lucius slid the parcel under his cloak and left the great hall.
There was some time before his first class, so Lucius hurried back to the common room and unwrapped the parcel on his feathered bed. Beneath the string and brown paper, Lucius found three thick parchments, each binded with string. The cover page had the official ministry chop and right below it was the name of the subject.
Lucius flipped through the pages quickly and was convinced he was holding the real deal. Hiding the papers at the bottom of his trunk, Lucius hurried back to class and lied about handling a sick student.
As the day carried on, Lucius found himself counting down the hours. He was both fearful and excited at the same time, and that concoction of emotions sent him straight to his feet when the last class of the day ended. But as he strode out of class, he found himself stopping in his tracks. Down the hallway were three older prefects, and they were storming towards them.
In his mind, Lucius weighed out the option of running or waiting, and when he chose both he walked towards the perfects and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“Do you know who Gilbert Puffett is?” the Gryffindor prefect asked.
It was hard not to know Gilbert Puffett. He was the Hufflepuff boy that bragged about his mother’s self-soaping dishcloth all the time.
Nodding his head, Lucius led the prefects to the group of Hufflepuffs he just had class with and pointed at the unsuspecting boy.
“Gilbert Puffett, you’re called to the disciplinary office,” the Hufflepuff prefect said with a croak, clearly embarrassed at whatever offence Gilbert had made.
“Why? What did I do?”
“You know what you did, unless you want us to tell your friends?”
Lucius saw Gilbert hesitating, but eventually he nodded his head. Just as the prefects were about to escort Gilbert, one of them turned to Lucius and said, “We need an extra hand. Could you head to the prefect’s lounge right away?”
Lucius was tempted to ask what for, but instead he said, “Sure.”
The prefect’s lounge was just beside the teachers’ office. As Lucius entered the cosy room, he saw a group of prefects his age. An older prefect was briefing them, and when they saw him they gestured him over.
“Split up in twos or threes and take a list. Leave the N.E.W.T students to us,” the older prefect ended.
“What’s going on?” Lucius asked.
“There was a spot check and O.W.L and N.E.W.T exam papers were found in students’ possessions. Weren’t you assigned to do the checking?” a Ravenclaw prefect asked.
Lucius shook his head as his throat dried up. He wished he was among those assigned for the spot check and couldn’t help but wonder if his name was on the list.
Just as he decided to find out, a group of prefects returned and among them was Tanya. Tanya waved him over and gestured to leave the room. Without hesitation, Lucius hurried after her.
Once outside and out of earshot, Lucius asked, “You knew about the spot check?”
“I told you at The Three Broomsticks didn’t I?”
“Well, not exactly,” Lucius replied, struggling to hide the internal turmoil.
“Why are you so nervous?” Tanya asked.
“Were you assigned to do a spot check?” Lucius asked in reply.
“I was given the Slytherin common room.”
“Did you find anything?”
“We found quite a fair bit. I found yours too,” Tanya answered so casually that Lucius felt his heart falling out of his chest.
Immediately, his head began ringing with his mother’s disappointed voice and his father’s angry shouts. A wave of nausea also swept over him but before it did any damage, Tanya said, “I burnt them.”
“I burnt them. Or did you want me to hand them in?”
What she did was very unlike her. Lucius could not believe how a law-abiding witch would break the rules for him. But just as he was about to thank her, Tanya added, “So, are you going to turn yourself in?”
“What?” Lucius asked in disbelief.
“What you did was wrong. You should turn yourself in.”
“I’m grateful you helped me, but you can’t tell me what to do. Friends don’t tell each other what to do,” Lucius quickly replied.
“I’m telling you as a friend, you have to make up for it.”
“Hey, what you think is wrong might not be wrong to me.”
“Your choice, Lucius,” Tanya simply replied.
“Is that a threat?”
“I burnt your papers, what can I threaten you with?” Tanya asked before turning on her heels and heading back to the prefect’s lounge.
Lucius knew the easiest decision was to return to the group and pretend nothing happened, but something inside him urged him to do the right thing. Lucius hated his conscience but in order to shut it up, he had to make a firm choice.
To Be Continued…
(Leave a comment below or vote on whether Lucius should say something or leave it as it is!)