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I can hear Albus snoring in the bed next to me, and it’s this racket that wakes me – I lean out of bed and check the little clock on the windowsill, then groan: 5:30. Just what I need, today of all flipping days. It’s not like I won’t be getting much sleep tonight, or like I’ll be demanded my full attention all day – no of course not.

This had better be a joke. Even ignoring today’s events, school holidays are a time for lie-ins, not for getting up earlier than I bloody would at Hogwarts. I roll over and pull the duvet over my head, trying to drown out his noise. Downsides of staying at the Burrow, huh. Al is gonna get one hell of a kick for this tomorrow, no kidding.

The actual morning comes far quicker than I’d have thought, considering I haven’t had one wink of sleep since 5:30. Al is still snoring. I whip my wand from the bedside table and point it threateningly at his head, the fluffy tufts of black poking out from the duvet – what’s better, an ageing spell or one to turn his hair green?

Just as I settle on the hair one, Al jumps awake and sits bolt upright in the bed. (I’m secretly quite glad - I’m only 16 so I shouldn’t be using magic - I had reasoned there’s too many witches and wizards here for them to notice, but I wouldn’t want to get expelled from school or anything.) He blinks blearily, and yawns, his mouth open wide.

“Mum?!”

“No you idiot, it’s me,” I frown at him, I can tell I’m already grouchy from being woken this early. It probably doesn’t help that I’m sleeping on a mattress on the floor of his mum’s old room, either.

“What’s with you?” He looks at me, his still green thick eyes with sleep. I roll my own heavily.

“Only that someone kept me up half the night with their snoring!” I growl.

“Merlin Scorpius! I knew you’d sleep in - I just wanted to set you a personal alarm,” He smirks at me, and I roll my eyes again. He reaches for his glasses from the windowsill, and flicks the little starry lamp on. The soft light floods the room and I squint whilst my eyes adjust.

“What time’s the memorial start?” I yawn, looking longingly back at my plump pillow.

“Kick off’s at 12:30, then speeches, then the banquet, then celebratory ball, then after-party,” Al reels off, looking more awake with his glasses on, “so all in all it’s a 12 hour do really…”

We look at each other and laugh, almost sheepishly – the clock reads 10:25 and there’s bound to be a Potter/Weasley woman shouting to us at any minute. Sure enough, a distinctly familiar voice travels up the stairs, from where, I’m guessing, most of the relatives are bustling round the kitchen.

“BOYS! AND I MEAN ALL OF YOU – ALBUS, JAMES, FRED, HUGO, SCORPIUS! GET YOUR ARSES DOWN HERE THIS INSTANT OR I SWEAR TO MERLIN I’LL JINX YOU ALL! WE HAVE ONE HOUR!!”

“That your Mum?” I look at Al. He grimaces.

“Yep.”

 

 ****

2 hours later, and we’ve all safely made it to Hogwarts. Of course, that’s where the memorial service is being held – which is fitting, seen as it’s where the Battle happened. The anniversary should have been in May, but it was postponed till a new Minister of Magic was appointed.

Unlike a normal school day, the tables are horizontal in the Great Hall, and the floor has been charmed to tilt upwards towards the back, as a result, all the chairs face forwards, and everyone at each table can see the speakers.

Surprisingly, everyone is calm and looks immaculate. Even Al and I have scrubbed up nicely, in clean black dressrobes trimmed with the green Slytherin emblems, white shirts and black trousers. Even our hair is washed and combed back. (Well, maybe it’s not that surprising – I do like Ginny, but she really scares the pants off me, and that’s the truth.)

Speaking of scary women, the first speaker is McGonagall, our Head. She talks about the people we lost in the war and how much they contributed to the defeat of Voldemort. We all raise a toast to Dumbledore especially. Then it’s Hermione Weasley, Al’s Aunt, who of course is Minister for Magic. Her talk is mostly about how far we’ve come and what life would be like now if it weren’t for the bravery of those in the war. Then to no-one’s surprise Harry Potter, Al’s Dad makes a very modest speech about how basically he did nothing and it was all thanks to his parents, family and friends. Sure. That guy’s too self-deprecating for his own good.

I almost doze off during the songs by the school choir; I sneak a glance at Al and he looks just as fed up as I feel. At least he got a full night’s sleep. We’ve got pride of place front row seats because basically all of Al’s family are war heroes or are related to war heroes. And of course I’m staying with them for this part of the holidays, like I often do.

At the end of the speeches, the food, as usual, appears magically on all the tables. There’s countless shining gold platters of everything you could wish for – warm rolls, soup, sausages, lamb, salmon, chicken legs, lasagne, vegetable stew, baked potatoes, roast potatoes, mash, chips. Wow, the house-elves have really outdone themselves this time. Starving, I reach for a scoop of roast potatoes, but someone’s hand pushes me out the way.

“Move over, Malfoy, these are for everyone, you know,” It’s Rose. I’m outraged at this – I haven’t even had any! “In fact, squidge up a bit, I’m avoiding Hunter Flint,” I frown, but direct our row to all move down a chair and then I do too, so there’s a space for her. She wedges herself in the new spare seat between me and James.

“Well it’s not like you’re easy to spot – there’s at least 20 redheads at this table,” I snap as I wriggle a little closer to Al.

“Oh shut up, you’re just jealous no one’s hit on-“

She breaks off mid-sentence and gasps, ducking her head and flicking a few red ringlets over her face. Al looks up knowingly, and spots the offending Flint.

“It’s alright cus, he’s going to speak to Ethel Crabbe – he’s not seen you, you can sit up now,” Al is fighting the urge not to laugh as he piles his plate with sausages. I start to fill my own, now Rose’s spoon has finally vacated the potatoes. James is sniggering on the other side of me.

“Wonder when you got so fanciable, Ginger?” It’s hard to smirk with your mouth full of a chicken drumstick, but James manages it. Rose doesn’t even dignify this with a response as she waves across the hall to Aria and Gregory Philips, who are walking to the back table. Lily, however, hears this from opposite him and her and Hugo exchange incredulous looks.

“You’re a fine one to talk, James,” Oh, how she sounds like her mother. “I heard that you had, what was it, Hugh? Oh – only eight girls ask you to be their date to this celebratory dance.” She pushes her long red hair back over her shoulder and stares her brother out. I like Lily. She’d make a cool guy if she wasn’t such a girl.

“What’s this about girls?” Ron leans over from the end of the table where he and the other Potter/Weasley adults are sat, looking interested.

“It better be nothing,” Hermione chimes in, “and I’m looking at you, Rosie. Don’t think we were born yesterday.” Her eyebrows are raised, but she’s half smiling. Ginny nods, but Harry and Ron make eye contact and smirk, sensibly keeping their heads lowered.

Al and I look at each other and grin. Neither of us have ever had girlfriends, but I’m sure sixth year is the perfect time to start. Bring on September.

 

****

This evening has dragged. And we’re not even at the after-party yet. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love a good do, but 12 hours? Bit much.

To be fair, the Great Hall has transformed into a ballroom seamlessly – the ceiling’s full of its usual enchanted stars, and everything else is a variation on the midnight blue sky and stars theme. There’s even enchanted silver petals rising and falling at the edges of the room. Anyway, I’m sick of watching overdressed middle-aged couples manoeuvre stiffly round the dancefloor. Celestina Warbeck is still singing on the stage at the front, and I think my ears are about to bleed. I haven’t even got Al to mess about with, seen as he’s been roped in to dance with his cousin Dom, in order to ‘set a good impression’: Ginny’s words, not mine. James and Lily are the same – while she’s partnered with Hugo, James has, surprise surprise, managed to bag himself a gorgeous seventh year, Serenity Twycross. Even now, she’s shaking out her long blonde hair and flashing perfect white teeth at something he just murmured in her ear.

Urgh. I don’t have a clue where Rose or Fred are either, the last of the Potter/Weasleys my age. Molly is ignored as her company doesn’t even bear thinking about; Lucy and Louis are babies in this world that is life. So now I’m sat alone, at an ivory coloured table filled with empty Butterbeer glasses and girls’ handbags. I lean back in my chair and stretch my legs out. I’m gonna be stuck stiff if this carries on.

“Hey, loner,” I look up to see Teddy, holding two glasses of Firewhiskey and looking slightly flushed from dancing. “Here,” he hands me one. “You look like you could do with that – no-one’ll notice.” He winks at me.

“Ah, thanks!" I grin. Nothing better than a sneaky bit of alcohol to cheer you up. "Where’s Victoire?” I ask, taking a sip of the burning liquid.

“Bathroom,” he rolls his eyes. “She takes forever though – it’s a girl thing. And my legs could do with a break anyway.” He plonks himself in the chair next to me, pushing his slightly sweaty hair back from his forehead.

“So what’s new with you then, Scorpius? Excited for sixth year? You should be – it’s the best one of them all, I’m telling you,” He tips his glass toward me. “And that’s when you’ll really reel those girls in Scorp, don’t you worry.”

I shake my head and laugh at this. “Don’t be so sure – Gregory Philips and Markus Creed are in my year, didn’t you know? I’ll only pull a girl when I look like that! And, I couldn’t flirt if I tried.”

“Nah, that’s where you’re wrong! I’ve seen girls checking you out already.”

I’m not sure if he’s saying this to make me feel better or if it’s the actual truth.

“Hmmm… Maybe I could do with being a Metamorphagus, you know, to look hot at will? Know any?” He laughs at this, and turns his hair blue on the spot just to prove my point.

“You wanna look in the mirror sometime Scorpius – you might be surprised,” He smirks at me, and I’m suddenly very jealous of Teddy Lupin. I still don’t believe him though.

“How’s it going at the Ministry?” I ask him, and we talk about his work for a little while.

“Hey, there’s Victoire." he says, spotting her heading over. "But owl me when you go back, you know, I can give you advice if you ever need it. Not that you will!”

He calls this last bit over his shoulder as he walks over to Victoire. I like Teddy, he’s definitely one of my favourites of Al’s cousins – but I’m pretty sure his girl insight leaves something to be desired.

I shake my head, again, and decide to take a walk too.

I start down the corridor off the Great Hall and don’t realise how hot I was till the cool air rushes over my face. I take a deep breath in and check my watch. 10:50. The after-party should be starting soon – not long till we can leave this place and I can get a full night’s sleep. I carry on down the corridor, no clue where I’m heading, just enjoying the cooler temperature.

Just as I’m thinking how chilled it is down here, I can suddenly hear voices talking in low, hushed undertones. Hung on the wall, there’s a large sewn picture of a field of sunflowers, with crows flying above it. And the sound seems like it’s coming from right behind it.

Gingerly, I stretch my hand towards the tapestry – I’m pretty cautious because there’s all sorts of crazy magic here – it could be anything. But just as I place my hand on it, the whole thing comes away from the wall and pools in a heap on the wooden floor. Behind it is a large cavity, just big enough for two people to sit without being on top of each other. Yet these two already are.

“Rose!? What in Merlin’s name is this!?” The words burst out of my mouth in shock. I don’t even think they’d noticed anything until I spoke – Rose only pulls away from Gregory Philips’ lips at the sound of my voice. For a second, they stare at me in utter disbelief, then Rose’s face blushes beetroot red, right to her hairline.

“Malfoy?! What the… GET OUT! What the hell do you think you’re doing, coming to spy on me!? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE?” She practically spits at me, her hands curled in fists. I can’t even think of a retort to this injustice.

“Wh- Wel- No! For Merlin’s sake, Weasley! – how are you so self-obsessed!? I was literally just WALKING, to cool down!”

Bloody hell, she’s touchy! Can’t she see it was a flipping accident? I’m sick of Rose and her uncalled-for outbursts, when will she learn everything’s not always someone else’s fault? I’m so angry with her, I can already tell I’m going to say something I shouldn’t.

“It’s not my fault you’ll curl yourself round any random guy just because you’re jealous you don’t get as much action as James!”

Shit. That was probably a low blow. Rose steps carefully out of the opening and towards me, literally shaking with rage. When she speaks, her voice is low and dangerous.

“Oh yeah? Who was it I heard complaining to Al that he’d never even so much had a girlfriend – that girls always went for the good-looking Gryffindors or the famous Potter relatives? NOT YOU? Well no, of course not – everyone knows Scorpius Malfoy is SUCH a womaniser! Just PISS OFF, Malfoy, and stop poking your big nose in everyone else’s relationships! GET YOUR BLOODY OWN!” She screams.

“Relationships? RELATIONSHIPS?!” I gesture wildly to Philips, “You’ve known him about two minutes!”

“Actually, he’s my boyfriend, you prick!” she spits back angrily.

“Yeah, since today, Malfoy, actually, so why don’t you pipe down?” Philips adds in from sat in the cavity.

Rose shoots him a nasty glare, as if to say that’s not helping. She stands a few centimetres from me, shooting daggers, her arms folded. Under her breath, she mutters something about ‘typical Slytherins’ and ‘just go crawling back to Al, where you belong’. She looks right in my eyes and stares me out. I give her one last glare and turn on my heels. That girl is so bloody infuriating!

I get back to the hall a lot faster than the first time. Probably the anger fuelling my speed. Pushing all thoughts of a certain pissy redhead out of my mind, I reach up and grab the giant brass handle, but it won’t open. The door to the Great Hall is sealed. Not budging. Then I remember – the after party. All the responsible adults will have left now, the hall will be magically cleaning itself, and everyone under 30 will be partying madly – where? Could it be in the Room of Requirement? That’s worth a shot I guess, as it’s where most parties are held when we’re at school. Rose might know, but of course I won’t be speaking to her this side of the millennium.

On this note, I start to head there, my head still full of my latest confrontation with Rose-'I’m so perfect'-Weasley. I’ve known Rose for five years, and I should be used to her annoying traits by now – but unlike everyone else I know, she gets under my skin like nothing else. She’s so self-centred and stubborn it’s unreal. I mean, we get on well often too: me, Al, Rose, Dom, James and Fred are always lumped together at holidays and there’s always tons of laughs. But this, this time, she’s just taken it too far. For Merlin’s sake - I don’t even know who’d want to date her! She’s so bloody high-maintenance.

I was right about the Room of Requirement. You can hear the music blaring even from outside – it’s ‘Cloaks Off’ by Crystal Balls. The party’s already in full swing by the time I get in, and I spot Al straight away, stood with Fred and James. The Room’s grown an extra floor to accommodate us all, and it comes in the form of a mezzanine, with a little balcony rimming three of the walls. There’s still blue and silver decorations everywhere, but someone’s magically amplified a radio so we can listen to – well, better music than Celestina Warbeck, at least. There’s about fifty people here, mostly tipsy, dancing, singing and talking drunk rubbish. I head over to James, Al and Fred, stood near to the refreshments table.

“You look like your dog’s just died, Scorpy! You need to lighten up!” This is Freddie, swinging his cup full of drink near my head. I duck, narrowly avoiding Gigglewater shots in my hair.

“What is it?” Al, slightly less tipsy, is more concerned.

“Your bloody cousin!” I mutter, and take a drink from James.

“A pain, isn’t she?” Al agrees. I didn’t even need to explain, he knows about Rose and I so well.

“Well this is a party, Scorpius, so come on, let’s have some fun! Forget about everyone’s favourite feisty redhead and drink up! That’s my man!” James is already drunk, but I decide to listen and down the drink in one. Let’s do this…

Al has drunk an awful lot of alcohol in an awfully short amount of time. He’s sat next to me on the plush sofa, and I can smell the clear reek of it waving off him.

“Scooorrpiuuss?”

“Mm?”

“You think everyone from school is here?”

“Well, most of the older ones, yeahh, no kids of ex-Death Eaters though,”

“But you’re here, Scorpy-Oh!”

“Is there a point to this?”

“I want… Well I don’t… Do you know? Probably not! Well she’s my DREAM GIRL Sssscorpius, and it’s gonna come true – you better believe it!”

I sigh at him. I’m drunk too – but compared to Al I feel as sober as McGonagall on a Monday morning. His eyes are already starting to close, and I pick up his feet and swivel him horizontally on the sofa, putting a pillow behind his head. Give him five minutes and he’ll be gone.

“Right little mother, aren’t you?”

“Thea?”

“Oi Scorp, I’m here too!”

“Sorry, Dom, hello to the both of you - you enjoying the party?"

Shiny blonde hair abruptly turns round to reveal Dom has arrived, along with the third member of her and Rose’s little gang, Thea Carleston. They look at each other and begin to giggle like teenagers. Bemused, I frown at them both, then, you know what - sod it - I pass them two tumblers of Firewhiskey.

“Cheers! Let’s start off sixth year like we mean to go on!” We try and fail to clink our glasses and slop the drinks a little onto the floor. Thea is straightening her thick auburn fringe with her free hand, before she frowns at me when what I’ve said sinks in.

“Scorp, it is only July, you do know that, right!?”

“Thea, liven up a little! September’s almost here, I can start afresh now if I want to!”

“Yeah, leave the boy alone, Thea! Let’s all do another shot!” Dom bursts out.

“Dom!”

“Scorp?!”

“Your hair!”

“Oh, do you like it? I got it cut in the holidays,” she twirls round, shaking her head to accentuate the newly shoulder-length ice blonde locks. “I was sick of looking like a fucking princess all the time!” she grins at me.

“You mean, exactly like your mum and Victoire?” I tease, but her pin straight hair does actually look very elegant and eye-catching, just brushing her shoulders.

“Oh shut it, Sporcius, I mean, Scorpius – we know you had a fight with our cousin! My cousin,” Dom points a finger at me accusingly. Thea takes a shaky step closer to Dom and looks me straight in the face.

“She was snogging Gregory Philips too! You interrupted!”

Dom looks at Thea. “Isn’t he hot?” They giggle again. Well. Didn’t take long for that news to spread then.

“Actually, you should tell your stupid cousin to wait till she’s in private before she starts her make-out sessions!” I retort.

“Soo, a secret cubby-hole doesn’t count as private then?”

“No,” I snap, “She was right near to the Hall and talking too loudly with Philips for me to not notice.”

The girls exchange looks and then seem to leave it there, as Thea just shrugs and Dom laughs at me again. High chance they’ve just ignored everything I said and will take Rose’s side. Or maybe, they’re so drunk the whole thing will be forgotten tomorrow? As I’m deciding over this, I feel a sharp tug on my arm.

“Lil? What’s up?” (I try my best to keep the slur out of my voice.) She doesn’t seem fazed - I swear that girl’s been conditioned, living with Al and James all her life.

“Well, Mum said we had to be out of here by one. Thought I’d let you know that it’s now five to, and the Portkey’s leaving in three. So we’d better get Al up, I guess.” She looks towards his lifeless form slumped on the sofa.

“Blimey, that’s gone quick… Okay, help me move him then, yeah?”

On the count of three, all four of us carry/drag Al to where the Portkey is – it’s on one of the little coffee tables, in the form of an old Crystal Balls record. Around us, the party’s still raging, but Al’s out cold. Oh well, we’ll all be straight to sleep when we get back anyway. I know I need it.

The record starts to shiver and glow, and I grab on quickly. Wow, I can’t wait to get to bed.