Chapter 1: December 2018 :: Scorpius
Scorpius does it for the first time when he’s twelve and at home from Hogwarts for Christmas.
It takes him quite by surprise, actually. Christmas Eve is generally a quiet night in the Malfoy household; Mother makes hot cocoa and fresh shortbread and the three of them sit together for a while in the living room before retiring to bed, and Scorpius pretends to be asleep when Father creeps in to pile the presents at the foot of his bed in the small hours of the morning.
This time around, he’s gotten as far as settling into bed, and he’s still wide awake, and then it happens, the sensation flowing over his whole body like water. He’s so thoroughly startled that he can barely hold onto that sensation and before he knows it he’s lying there as if nothing has changed.
Scorpius gets up and pads into his bathroom. In the mirror his face is as pale as ever, his hair tangled, and when he touches his cheeks his mirror-hands move quite normally, unlike the movements of mere moments ago.
This is unusual. He’s going to have to ask one of his friends about it.
Chapter 2: December 2018 :: Al
There are always owls flying in and out of the Potter home, never more so than at Christmas time. Al’s used to getting downstairs for breakfast and having to unearth his meal from beneath a pile of envelopes.
Antares is just flying in through the open window of the breakfast nook when Al sits down, and he pats his shoulder for the owl to land, which Antares does with a ruffle of feathers, sending a fluff of reddish plumage drifting down into Al’s scrambled eggs. Al’s more focused on the letter, though.
Had something WEIRD happen in bed last night. Don’t know how to describe it. Felt like a whole-body sneeze. Any ideas?
Al can’t help but giggle. Surely Scorpius isn’t that clueless? He plucks a quill and parchment from the stand in the centre of the table, scribbling a reply with one hand while feeding Antares a piece of bacon with the other.
Don’t tell me you’ve never wanked before. Just make sure you wash your own pyjamas, otherwise your dad will give you The Talk.
He ties the response to Antares’s leg and watches the owl take off. James thunders down the stairs, followed more sedately by Lily, and both of them stop short at the sight of Al sitting and eating breakfast by himself.
‘Are you mad?’ James demands. ‘It’s Christmas! You can’t eat breakfast alone!’ He shoves his fork into Al’s eggs and stuffs the forkload into his mouth. Al notes with smug pleasure that it’s the bit with owl feathers in it.
‘Mum’s in the kitchen and Dad’s setting the dining table for dinner, and I’m eating breakfast before one of them realises I’m up and—’
‘Jamesalbuslily!’ Ginny roars from the kitchen. ‘I can hear you! Hurry up and eat, I need help with the turkey and your father needs help with the tablecloth weights!’
‘I’m perfectly capable of attaching the tablecloth weights myself!’ Harry yells from the dining room.
‘You say that every year and they always end up lopsided!’
James looks at Al, who looks at Lily. By mutual silent accord, they each grab their plates and hurry silently back upstairs to eat in peace. Christmastime is wonderful, with all their extended family coming to share it with them, but it’s not a day undertaken on an empty stomach.
Scorpius’s response comes just as Al is getting dressed, and Antares lands on his bed next to the nearly empty plate, snapping up the piece of bacon Al set aside for him.
Of COURSE I’ve wanked before. Don’t be a prat. This was different. Don’t laugh, but I think I turned into a ferret.
STOP LAUGHING YOU GIT.
Will write more later, Grandmother just arrived and I’m not properly attired for a Malfoy family meal, according to her.
Al doesn’t need to wonder how Scorpius knew he’d be laughing. The story of Scorpius’s father being turned into a ferret in his fourth year at Hogwarts is legend. He’s intrigued, though, because that was a spell and this sounds like a natural transformation (although looking at the first note he still thinks Scorpius makes it sounds like he was wanking). He doesn’t know how possible it is to transform naturally, except for werewolves, but he’s never heard of a wereferret and he can’t really ask his parents because they’re sort of busy (and another bellow of, ‘Albus!’ from downstairs indicates that he needs to go and help them be less busy as soon as possible), but there is one person he can ask, and as luck would have it, she’ll be here in just a few hours for the traditional grand combined Potter-Weasley Christmas festivities.
Chapter 3: December 2018 :: Rosie
Rosie chews on the end of her quill and whips it out of her mouth as soon as she realises what she’s doing. ‘Spontaneous animal transformation,’ she says thoughtfully. ‘I know that Animagi can train to transform, and that people can cast spells to transform, but I’ve never heard of it happening by accident before.’
‘Maybe he was just dreaming,’ Al says. ‘He said he was in bed at the time; he might have already been asleep and not realised it.’
Rosie nods. ‘It’s possible, but so is the notion that he’s an Animagus whose powers have developed faster than usual.’ Her face goes pink. ‘He is, um, going through certain changes, after all.’
‘It’s called puberty, Rosie, you can talk about it.’
‘Please. I’ve heard far too much about it from Mum. Contraceptive brews and pain amulets and I don’t even remember what else. I tried to assure her that I had no interest whatsoever in sex, but she just wouldn’t listen.’
Now Al can feel his own face going pink. ‘Too much information.’
‘This from the boy who was just telling me I could talk about puberty,’ she huffs, and after that both of them have to laugh.
They write the next note together, temporarily unmissed by the teeming horde currently overrunning the dining room and living room downstairs.
Al tells me that you experienced a spontaneous transformation last night. What can you tell me about it? I’ll be researching it, of course, but I need to know whatever you can tell me. Are you currently experiencing any hormone-related changes, such as a growth spurt or anything like that?
I promise I didn’t mention the wanking.
Al’s just sent the note off with Bianca, who Lily named and who now won’t answer to anything cooler, when James appears in the bedroom doorway.
‘There you are! Come on, freaklings, we’re gonna do presents soon and I’m not waiting all day for you two to get downstairs. Move it!’
They move it. James is rambunctious (annoying), boisterous (annoying), extroverted (annoying), and the apple of Harry and Ginny’s respective eyes. Al... isn’t. Rose is less of a disappointment to her parents, but when they’re both overshadowed by James’s annoyingly annoying annoyingness, neither of them quite measure up to what their parents were expecting.
The presents are the usual round of chocolates and books and diaries and quills and hand-knitted jumpers. It looks like Gramma Molly enchanted the wool this year, because the gold A on the front of his black jumper glimmers when he moves, as does the bronze R on Rosie’s blue jumper.
Of all the family, Gramma Molly is the only one who accepted their Sorting right from the start. When Al owled home, his dad actually owled back to tell him that his thoughts could’ve influenced the Hat and why didn’t he ask to be in Gryffindor? Al never had the heart to tell him what he’d actually told the Hat: he was sick of James insisting he be in Gryffindor and he didn’t want to disappoint his parents by winding up in Slytherin and he wasn’t smart enough for Ravenclaw, and the Hat had made the logical response.
Rosie was smart enough for Ravenclaw. His aunt and uncle weren’t exactly disappointed, but with a family full of Gryffindors they’d been surprised, and Rosie had debated the issue with them and won. But she and Al still look out of place in the sea of red, and James still calls them ‘freaklings’, and Al knows that it makes Rosie more upset than she’ll ever let on.
Chapter 4: December 2018 :: Al
Bianca doesn’t return with Scorpius’s reply until dusk, a white spot growing out of the darkness and circling in through Al’s bedroom window. The seal’s broken on the letter, meaning that Bianca visited Rosie first and Rosie’s already read the reply. Sure enough, below Scorpius’s not very detailed description of his transformation, Rosie’s tidier handwriting says they should wait to discuss it until they’re all back at school but that he simply must let them know if it happens again; Scorpius’s response below that is simply ‘OK’. Al folds the letter and puts it away, rewarding Bianca for her efforts with a headscratch and a handful of raisins from the plum pudding. Mostly owls don’t eat anything but meat, but Bianca has always been a little bit different.
Chapter 5: January 2019 :: Rosie
Second-years don’t get much free time. All their parents have assured them that when they reach OWL level they’ll wish they still had constant classes because then free time exists only to study in. Rosie always scoffs at this; Al and Scorpius are a little more worried, but the chances of them failing anything when they have Rosie to help them study are remote. She’s set the boundaries from the very beginning: she won’t write anything for them, but she will tell them which chapter of the book to look in. She doesn’t share any morning classes with them: all her classes are with the Gryffindors, who still look at her Weasley hair above her Ravenclaw tie and snicker.
Sometimes she wishes she’d ended up in Slytherin, just to really show them all.
All this means that they don’t get to see each other until lunchtime on their first day back, when Rosie marches over to the Hufflepuff table, unceremoniously dragging Scorpius by the scruff of his neck, and plonks herself down beside Al. A murmur ripples down along the table, but a stern look from Headmistress McGonagall quells it. Professor Longbottom tips them a wink and Rosie winks back. Professor Longbottom’s a bit daffy, but after Gramma Molly is the second-most accepting person Rosie knows; he doesn’t give a fig for what colour her jumper is as long as she doesn’t get dirt on it.
(‘Your mum would give me what-for if you got all grubby,’ he explained once.
‘Is it even possible to do Herbology without getting grubby?’ Rosie had asked.
‘No,’ he’d admitted. ‘But just try not to, all right?’)
‘He can’t transform on command,’ she says now to Al, who manages to look thoroughly unsurprised even with a mouthful of sausage.
‘I’m not a circus animal,’ Scorpius grumbles, helping himself to a handful of strawberries and nibbling them down to the stem one by one.
‘Ferrets would be good circus animals. They’re very intelligent. Ow, Rosie, don’t kick.’
‘Don’t mock him, Al. We all get enough of that.’
The trio fall silent for a moment. Rosie can feel James’s gaze burning into them from the Gryffindor table, can see Adelle Parkinson-Tibbs tittering about something at the Slytherin table, and doesn’t even look at her own table because what’s the point?
‘I did some studying over the Christmas break,’ she tells them, ‘and it’s rare, but people can spontaneously develop Animagus powers.’ She takes a deep breath and pushes her glasses up on her nose. ‘It’s usually due to an inherited tendency towards the ability from a parent who has Animagus powers, but it can skip over a few generations—’
Scorpius gives her a weary smile. ‘Or it could just be because my father got turned into a ferret once.’
‘—or it could just be because your father got turned into a ferret once,’ Rosie concedes. She puts one of the books on the table between them. ‘I know it’s an embarrassing story, Scorpius, but if it’s left you with this ability, it has amazing potential.’ She taps the cover of the book; it’s an advanced Transfiguration text that she found in her mother’s library. ‘And it brings to mind a story that Uncle Harry tells about—’
‘The Marauders!’ Al blurts before covering his mouth. ‘Rosie, you’re a genius!’
‘That’s why I’m a Ravenclaw,’ Rosie says, rolling her eyes.
Chapter 6: March 2022 :: Al
It takes time and effort to learn to become an Animagus and even Scorpius has to learn to control the transformation on command. They work on it in secret over the next few years, and it turns out that learning the transformation itself isn’t nearly as hard as keeping it secret. James in particular seems hell-bent on finding out what the ‘freaklings’ are hiding and pesters Al at every opportunity, until at last their dad takes Al aside.
‘James is really worried that you’re keeping something important secret, Al,’ he says, rubbing a smudge off one lens of his glasses, squinting at his son. ‘We all know that just because Voldemort’s long gone doesn’t mean that there aren’t still dangers out there, and as my son you’re a likely target.’
‘It’s nothing, Dad,’ Al says, his words sounding a lot more confident now that his voice is deeper, rather than the squeak he used to get when he was indignant. ‘James just can’t mind his own business.’
Surprisingly, Harry nods. ‘I can understand. I never had an older brother, but your Uncle Ron used to complain about his brothers all the time.’ He’s got a cloth-wrapped bundle under his arm and now he hands it to Al. ‘I don’t want you fighting any secret was, whether it’s against Death Eaters or your brother. If anything really dangerous is going on, I want you to tell me. But in case it isn’t and all you really need is privacy...’
Al unwraps the bundle and it turns out that the cloth itself is the bundle, a shimmering cloak from which an aged piece of parchment falls. He stares wide-eyed at his father, who smiles.
‘Dad, you can’t give me this! It’s... it’s...’
‘It’s going to be very useful if you want to hide anything from your brother,’ Harry says, bending down to retrieve the parchment from the floor. ‘So will this.’
Al can’t even say anything, because he knows what that parchment is and cannot believe his father is giving it to him.
‘I thought you’d give this to James,’ he blurts.
Harry raises his eyebrows. ‘James gets into quite enough trouble without assistance,’ he says, and it’s true; Al has no idea whether it’s a Gryffindor thing or just a James thing, but his older brother embodies the notion of leaping without looking. Their dad’s never stated it so overtly, though. ‘Just, er, don’t use it for – well, I know you’re very close friends with Rosie, but—’
‘I thought marrying cousins was practically mandatory amongst pureblood wizarding families,’ Al teases, although he can’t help but blush a little, because this is his dad he’s talking to.
‘Albus Severus, that’s downright terrible,’ says his mother from the doorway where she’s standing with her arms folded. She’s smiling, though, and it widens when Harry jumps with surprise.
‘Ginny! How long have you been there?’
‘Only a moment. You don’t really have designs on Rosie, do you?’
‘Of course not!’ Al blurts. ‘She’s my cousin. And all she ever does is talk my ear off about studying for O.W.L.s, And besides, she’s already in love.’
‘Really?’ his parents ask in unison.
‘With books. She’s determined to be librarian when Madam Pince dies, if she ever does die and doesn’t just keep going on, powered by yelling at students for doing perfectly harmless things like talking.’
Harry and Ginny exchange a glance, one that Al can’t read, but at least it’s gotten them off the topic of relationships, licit, illicit, incestuous or otherwise.
He’s quite certain they’d be utterly shocked if he said anything to them about his feelings for Scorpius, after all.
Chapter 7: March 2022 :: Notes
You won’t believe what Dad gave me as an Easter present.
Was it a lecture on spending too much time with students from other Houses? That’s what my mother gave me. I’m getting tired of them; she gives the same one every time I come home for the holidays. This one was worse, probably because I spent Christmas at Hogwarts instead of coming home. She accused me of trying to weasel my way out of familial traditions.
What was it really?
Did you tell her you’re a ferret, not a weasel?
You are stunningly brilliant at missing the point. What was your Easter gift?
Probably easier to show you than tell you.
Albus Potter –
Cease and desist with the teasing, or I shall be forced to weasel my way back into familial traditions by declaring war on your entire family.
– Scorpius Malfoy
Astronomy tower, midnight.
Do not ever call me that in a note that might be intercepted again. I’ll see you at midnight.
Chapter 8: March 2022 :: Scorpius
Scorpius waits on the edge of the windowsill. It’s dangerous but he nonetheless feels safe, perched high above the whole of Hogwarts, looking out at the nearby lights of Gryffindor Tower and the lower lights of the Great Hall and the distant dimmer lights of Hogsmeade village. Besides, he’s probably safer like this, crouched down small, claws hooked into tiny fissures in the rock, than he would be if he were sitting there in a human body, subject to the buffeting of the wind. Even at nearly-sixteen his human body is small, thin, would be frail if not for the amount of exercise he gets. He likes this body best, likes its sleek shape, sharp claws, strong muscles. He likes transforming on the coldest of winter nights, sleeping in a veritable kingdom of quilts. If he could carry his book bag in ferret form he’d be able to get from class to class far faster, but that more than anything else would give him away as an unregistered Animagus and, although they know they ought to, somehow none of them want their names and forms on record. It’s safer to be secret and more fun.
It’s been softly raining for some time now, the water pattering down past him, a drop or two occasionally splashing his whiskers. The wind blows some of it right into his face, but shaking his head flicks it back off. He likes the feeling; it’s not as nice as lying out in the grass and letting the sun warm his belly, but it’s nice in its own way.
Al is typically late, bursting through the Astronomy Tower door at ten past midnight. His face is flushed a hectic red and his hair is ruffled and there’s something draped over his arms that shimmers and makes it hard for Scorpius to see his midsection.
‘Scorpius? Scamper?’ Al finally spots him on the windowsill and scoops him up, hugging him against his chest. ‘You’ll freeze sitting there like that.’
Scorpius reluctantly transforms back, deliberately stepping on Al’s toes. ‘Will not. I have fur. I’ll be fine.’
‘Not with your cold little paws...’ Al takes one of Scorpius’s hands between his and starts rubbing it briskly to warm it up.
‘So what’s this fabulous present that your father gave you?’ Scorpius asks, pulling his hand back and tugging his sleeve down over it, folding his arms.
Al looks bemused for a second and then remembers. ‘Oh! It’s this.’ He lifts the shimmering thing and shakes it out and suddenly he’s invisible. Scorpius stares, mouth gaping. ‘Pretty neat, huh?’
‘Albus Severus Potter, you own an Invisibility Cloak and all you can say is, “Pretty neat, huh?”? You’re a disgrace to the name of wizard.’ Scorpius scuffles with thin air, gets a corner of the Cloak, ducks under it. Now he can see Al and the rest of the room appears to be shrouded in a fine veil, like looking through one’s own chilled breath on a cold morning.
‘James says that all the time,’ Al says cheerfully. ‘Blimey, it’s cold up here.’
‘Yes, I know. Why you couldn’t choose somewhere with a decent fireplace to have this little rendezvous, I don’t know.’
Al pokes his wand out from underneath the cloak and suddenly the rarely-used fireplace is burning merrily with buttercup-yellow flames. ‘There we go.’ He picks up a cushion from the pile by the door – not everyone can stand up all night gazing at the stars – and plops it in front of the fire, then puts a second one beside it, dragging Scorpius along with him all the way. They sit down together; to an observer they’d just be two boy-shaped indents on two cushions in front of the fire. It’s a much cheerier light than that which comes through the overhead dome, the frosty light of the distant stars.
‘What did make you choose up here as the best place to show me this, anyway?’ Scorpius asks once they’re settled. ‘You know full well that if it were a little warmer we’d be fighting over this space with half a dozen other couples.’ He feels himself blush violently when he says other; hopes that Al didn’t see it.
Al is quiet for the longest time, and then says, ‘There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about besides the Cloak.’
Oh. Oh. So that’s how this is going to be.
‘Before you say anything, there’s something I need to tell you first,’ Scorpius interrupts. ‘It’s really important.’
Al turns to him, a worried look on his face. Being tucked away under the Cloak makes this all seem so much more secretive, but it doesn’t make it any easier for Scorpius to speak what’s on his mind, especially now he’s seen that expression.
‘You’re not dying are you?’
‘Wh—Al, for Salazar’s sake, what on earth would make you think that?’
‘Just that you—look thinner,’ Al says lamely. ‘In the face. Like you’re wasting away.’
Scorpius makes an irritated sound and grabs Al’s wrist, squeezing with enough pressure to make Al wince. ‘Does that feel like I’m wasting away to you?’
‘Ow. No. Let go.’
Scorpius doesn’t let go, but he does slacken his grip and move his hand down so his fingers are twined around Al’s instead of locked around his wrist. Now Al just looks befuddled.
‘What I was going to say,’ he continues, ‘is that I—kind of feel more comfortable being a ferret than being human. Sometimes. Well, a lot. It feels more natural, you know? Like I was born to be able to change like this.’
‘You probably were,’ Al says, ‘Rosie did say that it was something that could be inherited—’
‘Not just like that. Like I was meant to be born—not human.’
Al is quiet for a long while, the flickering fire painting long dancing shadows across his face so that Scorpius can’t quite read his expression. The only sound in the room is the crackle of the flames and the flapping of wings from outside, probably an owl lost en route to the Owlery.
‘D’you think—would you be okay with being human some of the time?’
‘I’ll have to, won’t I? I have classes, and homework, and—why do you ask?’
‘That brings me back to what I was going to say...’ Al says, and Scorpius knows what Al is going to say, so he cuts the stammering short and just leans in to press his human lips to Al’s.
The way that Al sighs and his fingers tighten on Scorpius’s hand tell him that he was right.
Chapter 9: March 2022 :: Rosie
The school library doesn’t have books for this sort of situation, or at least it doesn’t have them where students can readily access them, which is quite frankly ridiculous in Rosie’s opinion. Everyone here goes through puberty and the attendant hormonal changes during their time at the school, and the question of same-sex attraction, not to mention alternate-species attraction, is one that ought to be addressed openly, in her not so humble opinion.
But then she’s not limited to the school library and, after reading between the lines of every letter she got from Al last summer (he might as well have doodled lovehearts around Scorpius’s name every time he mentioned it), she raided the books that used to be Great-Uncle Remus’s, and she sets two books down beside the sleeping boys -- well, one boy, and, curled against him, one ferret -- now. An alarm clock is next—set for half past five, but they’ll need the time to get back to their respective dormitories.
She could wake them herself, but the alarm will be enough. She can’t understand the drives that impel anyone to ruin a perfectly good night’s sleep to snog someone else in a cold tower room, but she knows that other people do, and she doesn’t want them to think she was watching or anything.
The note she leaves them reads:
Dear Brock and Scamper,
Discretion is the better part of valour. Fortunately, none of us are Gryffindors, and so aren’t expected to have valour. Still, you might want to be more discreet next time. Everyone knows there’s only one reason to come up to the Astronomy Tower when there aren’t any classes on, and it has nothing to do with observing constellations. (Yes, I know Scorpio is a constellation. That doesn’t count.)
The top floor of Ravenclaw Tower is disused and locked. I’m sure that between the two of you you’ll be able to work out how to get in.
See you at breakfast,
Then she steps up onto the windowsill, spreads her arms – spreads her wings – and swoops silently through the rain back towards her bedroom window, already wondering how long it will be before they figure out that the easiest way to get into Ravenclaw Tower is simply to ask her.
It won’t be long. If she can be a cunning Claw, then Al can be a bright Puff and Scorpius can be a logical Slytherin. After all, they’ve never fit into the boxes they’ve been put in, and always been stronger united.
Freaklings or not.