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The Apples Fall Far

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Owl and Ferret

The first thing Albus Severus Potter does after giving his first steps when he is one year old is trying to run with them. He falls, of course, and is promptly helped back on his feet by his mother, so he can try taking one more step or two. Which he does, only to fall again after trying to move too quickly.

It comes as a surprise to absolutely no one that the second he hops on his first toy broomstick he tries to reach the height professional Quidditch players did at the games his father took him to, which is why his father is ready to cast a Hover Charm when Albus pushes the toy past its limits.

When Albus is five years old, his parents enroll him at a muggle primary school in Devon, where he goes along with his cousin Rose, since both his father and his aunt Hermione agreed it was important for their kids to both benefit from the early life socialisation home-schooling didn’t provide and to have at least some kind of contact with the muggle world.

Albus is disappointed at first when he finds they don’t play Quidditch at his new school, but he quickly forgets when he’s introduced to football. It’s not long before little Albus is running around chasing a ball and his parents are summoned so his teacher can explain how they’ve got an extraordinarily competitive son. His older brother James never got the appeal, and was usually frustrated when he found Albus kicking his toy Quaffles around and trying to shoot them through a makeshift goal made with rocks at their backyard. Still, Albus never quite drops his devotion for all things Quidditch.

Shortly after his eight birthday Albus gets to see his Quidditch idol, Brazilian Gonçalo Flores, at the 427th Quidditch World Cup, for whom he cheers loudly, despite his family’s affiliation to Bulgarian’s national selection. You could tell apart his room from this sibling’s simply from the green that covered each and every one of the walls, all of which showcased a poster of the renowned Chaser.

By the time he’s eleven, he can run faster than even his older brother when he’s on the ground and he can fly higher than his father at his age when he’s airborne, closely supervised by one or both of his Quidditch celebrity parents.

When James leaves for Hogwarts, Albus is devastated. Since they were very little the two of them had been partners in crime. They both had a knack for troublemaking, amplified by Albus competitive nature and James’ proclivity to show off. The two-year gap between them did little to keep them apart and their father wasn’t kidding when he told them they were only rooming together when he wanted his house remodelled. So James leaves and Albus only comfort as he waits patiently for his eleventh birthday is throwing a Quaffle around when at home and kicking a football when at school.

There is no doubt on Harry Potter’s mind as the train at platform nine and three-quarters takes his middle child away to begin his Hogwarts education that Albus Severus Potter will be called for his House’s Quidditch team when he starts his second year.

He could not have been more wrong.

 

“Is this seat taken?” Albus asks when he finds a compartment that isn’t completely crowded or occupied by a member of his family. He decided weeks prior to his first day at Hogwarts that it would be good for him to make friends outside the Potter-Weasley-Granger clan. The boy he addresses his question to is pale with platinum blond hair and silver intelligent eyes, lean without being skinny and with the posture that comes from a high class upbringing. Beside him, the kid has a large birdcage where an alert eagle owl is perched, mimicking the same proud posture as his owner.

“Be my guest,” the boy says as he motions Albus to sit opposite to him, which the boy does after placing his luggage on the case above the seat and depositing his pet ferret next to him.

“Interesting choice of a pet,” the blond boy comments.

“It’s more like he chose me, he followed me home,” Albus explains, “I was visiting my granddad last year and the little guy found me when I was strolling though the woods near his place.”

“And you chose to keep it? That can’t possibly be safe.”

“We took him to a Medivet at Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley and he made sure to give him all his vaccines and make sure he was healthy. He turned out to be merely months old, so it seems like he got lost or separated from his family, so I begged dad to let me take him in; he said as long as I understood I am responsible for him I could, and I did so I got to keep Scout.”

“Scout?”

“That’s his name, because he was exploring the woods all on his own, though he was probably just lost and scared out of his mind.”

“Well, at least you got an ice-breaker story for meeting people here,” the boy points out.

“That’s what my dad said!” Albus agrees. “How about you? What’s your owl called?” he asks pointing at the large bird inside the cage.

“Hunter. He’s an eagle owl, because that’s the tradition in my family, and he gets his name because he’s always chasing after other animals and stuff. I’ve even seen him catching a garden gnome once. Not that we have those at home,” the kid explains. Albus notes how the other boy refers to his owl as a “he” instead of an “it”, just like he does and he likes that, he hates when pet owners talk about their pets like they’re things.

“Everyone in your family gets an eagle owl for their first year at Hogwarts?”

“I’ve had mine for a year now, dad wanted me to learn to take care of him before I came here, but yes, my dad had one and so did my grandfather and so on.”

“Cool. And cool name too.”

“Thanks.”

“I’m Albus Potter, by the way,” Albus says to the other boy, who raises a sceptical eyebrow.

“Scorpius Malfoy,” he deadpans.

“Oh,” Albus frowns, recognising the last name immediately, as well as the cause of the irony in his new acquaintance’s tone. He wasn’t really paying attention when his uncle Ron was scolded for pitting his cousin Rose against Draco Malfoy’s son before they even met each other, so he had no idea how Scorpius Malfoy actually looked like.

“I know.”

Awkward silence befalls the two boys, neither of them knowing what to say or where to look, so Scorpius turns to the window and Albus becomes very interested in his ferret’s current state, who’s currently lying on his lap without a care for the tension between the boys. After a while Albus decides nothing could be more uncomfortable than that charged silence so he speaks again.

“I knew … well, my dad might have mentioned you coming to Hogwarts this year.” Apparently, something could be worse.

“So did mine,” Scorpius agrees.

“Is it weird that our families are expecting us to start the Third Wizarding War if we run into each other?”

“It’s ridiculous if you ask me. Two teenagers apparently couldn’t stand each other in school, two decades later their kids go to school and it’s suddenly a big deal. I don’t know about your dad, but mine doesn’t really talk about yours.”

“Yeah, mine doesn’t either. It’s like whatever rivalry they had is mentioned from time to time in the media, or in the books about the War, but, yeah, you’re right, it’s absurd they just assume our last names would make anyone carrying them natural enemies like cats and dogs. I mean, I didn’t see you and automatically want to pounce you or something”

“Neither did I,” Scorpius concedes.

“So no cats and dogs then?”

“More like owl and ferret.”

“Sound good to me,” Albus smiles. “Hey, do you like Quidditch?”

The number one wizarding sport becomes the main topic of conversation during their first trip to Hogwarts. Turns out they’re both avid Quidditch fans, though Scorpius favours Japan’s National Team rather than Brazil’s as Albus does, and if he were to pick a position, he’d prefer Keeper over Chaser. When it comes to the National League, Scorpius supports Puddlemere United while Albus is a big Ballycastle Bats fan. By the time the old lady pushing the Honeydukes Express strolls by, both boys are immersed in a heated discussion over the latest League final, which was disputed between both teams, again.

The subject of their parents, however, is not that easy to avoid.

“I got Minverva McGonagall, what’s yours?” Albus asks eagerly when he looks at his Chocolate Frog Card, but Scorpius’s gone quiet and awkward again.

“I — hum, I got your dad,” he says as he shows Albus the image of his father flashing what his family’s come to call his “Daily Prophet smile” from the card.

“Oh,” Albus mutters, “hum, I get it if you don’t want to keep it”, he offers and Scorpius looks down at his card, lost in thought for a moment before he barks a laugh.

“Man, this is ridiculous.”

“I know,” Albus agrees before tossing a second Chocolate Frog to Scorpius, who catches it effortlessly, then he picks one for him and unwraps it.

“Let’s try again. I got …” his face falls, “my dad.”

They both stare at each other in silence for two seconds before bursting into laughter, Albus throwing his head back so abruptly Scout angrily leaps from the back of his neck where he had taken residence for the previous half an hour.

 

The boat ride to the castle after the Express drops them off is uneventful, though Albus does manage to catch a puzzled look coming from his brother as he makes his way to the carriages for the older boys. Everyone not a first-year is already at the Great Hall when Albus and Scorpius’ class is told to line up in an orderly fashion so they can begin with the Sorting Ceremony.

Albus hadn’t given much thought to the Sorting Ceremony during his ride on the Hogwarts Express, immersed as he was in his Quidditch discussion with Scorpius, but as he marches inside the Great Hall, all he can think about is the conversation he had with his father right before he boarded the train.

Would he be a Gryffindor like practically every single Potter and Weasley in his family? Would James mind if he wasn’t? Is Slytherin as bad as his mom’s side of the family declares? Would the Hat take into consideration his fears? And what about Scorpius? He doesn’t really want to lose the first friend he’s made at school that wasn’t related to him.

The voice of Headmistress McGonagall announcing the first student to be sorted only intensifies his nervousness. It’s time.

“Abercrombie, Jackson!” McGonagall calls and a tall handsome looking kid at the front of the line makes his way to the stool placed between the staff and the Houses tables and sits so the Headmistress can put the dusty pointy hat on his head. It’s a few seconds later, during which Albus wondered what kind of thought process the Hat goes through to reach its decision (he wasn’t really paying attention, but he figures a hat that can sing a song must have some kind of brain), that Jackson Abercrombie becomes the first student from the 2017-2024 class to be sorted.

“Gryffindor!” the Hat roars and Albus can see James and their cousins Molly, Fred, Lucy and Roxanne clapping and cheering loudly from the red and gold decorated table, which becomes Jackson’s destination after he leaves the stool.

“Bones, Amanda!” McGonagall calls.

“Hufflepuff!”

“Branstone, Charles!”

“Gryffindor!”

“Bostock, Horace!”

“Hufflepuff!”

Sometimes the Hat announces the House as soon as it touches the kid’s head, Albus notes.

“Caruso, Jane!”

“Gryffindor!”

“Caxton, Cassandra!”

“Slytherin!”

“Claverdon, Liam!”

“Ravenclaw!”

Some others, the Hat takes its sweet time making a decision.

“Cornfoot, Damien!”

“Hufflepuff!”

“Dunbar, Andrew!”

“Slytherin!”

“Fladbury, Brittany!”

“Ravenclaw!”

On such occasions, Albus can even see some of his classmates’ lips moving in silence, like they’re having a conversation with the Hat. He sure hopes that doesn’t happen to him.

“Gifford, Arianna!”

“Gryffindor!”

“Goldstein, Olivia!”

“Slytherin!”

“Harper, Alexandra!”

“Ravenclaw!”

He wonders if there’s some specific quota per House the Hat must meet or if a House can receive significantly more students than the rest.

“Holmwood, Ferdinand!”

“Gryffindor!”

“Hopkins, Larissa!”

“Hufflepuff!”

“Johnson, Dylan!”

“Ravenclaw!”

At the staff table, Albus can see some of the teachers are wearing a badge with the emblem of a specific House. He assumes they’re the Head of Houses. Gryffindor’s is family friend Neville Longbottom, Slytherin’s is handsome and has green eyes and dirty blond hair, Ravenclaw’s looks incredibly short and his hair is snowy white, and Hufflepuff’s is stout-looking with blondish hair. They all clap politely after every sorting, but their enthusiasm is clear when a kid is called to their House.

“Kettletoft, Jeremy!”

“Hufflepuff!”

“Langdon, Tyler!”

“Gryffindor!”

“Lofthouse, Nathaniel!”

“Slytherin!”

Considerably ahead of him, Albus can see Scorpius’ turn is almost up.

“MacDougal, Gregory!”

“Ravenclaw!”

“Macmillan, Lindsay!”

“Slytherin!”

“Malfoy, Scorpius!”

Albus can hear his own pulse pounding on his ears as his newly made friend walks over to the stool and sits down. Not an instant later comes the Hat’s answer, to absolutely no one’s surprise, Albus figures.

“Slytherin!”

Claps from the second table to the right welcome the youngest Malfoy into their fold and Albus moves his sight two tables to the left, where his older brother is looking at him with an unreadable expression.

“O’Deluga, Lorelai!”

“Ravenclaw!”

“Peakes, Julian!”

“Hufflepuff!”

“Pembrock, Tamara!”

“Slytherin!”

They’ve started with the P’s, which means it won’t be long before it’s Albus turn. He counts ahead of him and realises there are only two kids left before him.

“Pritchard, Mason!”

“Gryffindor!”

“Portchester, Johanna!”

“Hufflepuff!”

“Potter, Albus!”

This is it, he thinks, time to have his brains picked by an ancient piece of headwear. He walks over to the stool and sits and the Headmistress places the Sorting Hat on him.

My, my, a little terrified, are we? A voice that sounds like it’s coming from between his ears asks.

I’m not afraid, Albus thinks, though he can’t believe his own lie, much less the Hat, he suspects.

Yes, you are, but worry not, for being brave is not about not feeling fear, but about feeling it and conquering it.

I’m conquering it, Albus thinks, still not sounding convincing enough to himself.

I feel like I’ve had this conversation before.

My father said you let him choose.

Ah, yes, yes, I did. And what would you choose?

I don’t know. I don’t want to be in the wrong House.

You won’t be, trust me. Though there is no such thing as a wrong House, you know? Didn’t you pay attention to my song?

I — I’m sorry, my mind was kind of somewhere else.

I see … If you don’t know, why don’t you let me decide then?

A — alright.

Very well. I see … a troublemaker, which runs in the family, don’t think I forget. I never know what to do with troublemakers, since rule-breaking requires guts but also ambition. So what is it then? Guts or ambition? I see plenty of both in you.

The Hat goes silent for a moment, long enough to make Albus worry.

Are you still there?

Oh, yes, yes, I’m here. I think … I think you’d be best suited in … “Slytherin!” the Hat roars at last to the crowd.

The reaction is not like the one the rest of his classmates got. For one, Albus is sure he can hear Headmistress McGonagall gasp. Then there’s the fact that the cheers over at the Slytherin table are both enthusiastic and surprised, which somehow makes them sound not as strong. And of course, there’s the fact that the entire Gryffindor table’s gone completely silent and he can see his brother’s mouth slack open like he can’t believe what he just witnessed, and by the looks of it, neither can his cousins. And to be honest, neither can Albus.

He can barely hear the next name on the list being called as he walks from the stool to the green and silver table, where Scorpius makes sure to make a seat for him at his side. Some older boys congratulate him and clap him on the shoulder, they all look genuinely happy to have him there, but none of them can hide their astonishment at having one of the Potter heirs with them at the Slytherin table.

It takes a while for another Slytherin to join them. Sebastian Queensbury is sorted in Ravenclaw; Katerina Reynolds, Hufflepuff; Sabrina Samuels, Ravenclaw; Jonathan Smith, Hufflepuff; Roderick Swann, Ravenclaw; Caroline Tate, Gryffindor; Natalia Thrussington, Gryffindor. Albus is starting to think he was the last Slytherin to be sorted, which does nothing to take the spotlight off of him both at his table and at Gryffindor’s, where his brother is still unable to tear his eyes away. Finally, Stephania Vane is called to the stool.

“Slytherin!” And Albus lets out a sigh of relief. His housemates promptly give the girl a warm welcome and all eyes are no longer on Albus. Next to him, Scorpius looks at him like he can tell exactly how he’s feeling, like he gets it.

“Warmsley, Diana!”

“Gryffindor!”

Albus watches Diana Warmsley walk over to where his brother Is sitting, but, unlike his fellow Slytherins, James can’t be bothered to acknowledge his new housemate, he’s to busy staring at Albus.

“Weasley-Granger, Rose!” Finally, another family member. That seems to turn James’ attention back to the Ceremony.

“Ravenclaw!” No surprise there. His cousins Victoire and Dominique, born to his aunt Fleur and his uncle Bill, were the first Weasleys ever to be sorted out of Gryffindor, both of them being in Ravenclaw, and everyone knew his cousin Rose would be the third eagle in the family, even though his uncle Ron hoped she would be a Gryffindor, seeing as her mother was brilliant but still got into the so-called brawny House. Still, the response to her sorting is entirely different than the one Albus received, given James and his cousins aren’t looking at Rose like she’s a freak.

“Weasley, Louis!” It’s turn for the youngest of Bill and Fleur’s kids to get sorted, and presumably to become the fourth ever Weasley in the blue and bronze House. Apparently, the Delacour family is one of intellectuals and scholars. The redheaded boy walks up to the stool and waits for his answer, the Sorting Hat placed firmly on his shiny hair. Surely due to the combination of Weasley genes and his mother’s veela heritage, Louis’ slick hair has a mesmerising metallic quality to it, that can either look pink, bright red or even deep burgundy, depending on the light, which makes a sharp contrast with his freckled milky white skin.

“Slytherin!” The Hat roars and the reaction is mostly the same as the one Albus got: taken aback cousins, now both at Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, a shocked out of his mind James and surprised but enthusiastic Slytherins. Louis walks over to his assigned table and Albus moves to make room for him to his right.

“Is he your cousin?” Scorpius asks from his left side.

“Yeah, he’s the son of my uncle Bill,” Albus answers as Louis is welcomed to their table and the final student from their class is sorted.

“Zeller, Veronica!”

“Hufflepuff!”

 

After dinner, Albus and the rest of the Slytherins are told to form a line so the prefects can conduct them to their House common room. Not far from the Great Hall they take a flight of stairs that leads them to what looks like the basement of the castle.

“Are we really going to the dungeons?” Albus asks Scorpius, pictures of dark underground cells coming to his mind.

“Relax, my father says it’s one of the most elegant rooms in Hogwarts,” Scorpius waves him off, Louis not missing a word closely behind.

Turns out, Scorpius was right. After being taught the password (In omnia paratus, which they’re told changes every fortnight), Albus walks into one of the most luxurious and tasteful pieces of architecture he’s had the pleasure of stepping into. The room is wide with lots of space and the ceilings are high as a cathedral. Albus can see the top windows are actually below the Great Lake, which gives the place a bluish green tinge. The sofas are all expensive leather and there are fine ebony cupboards on the walls.

“It’s beautiful!” Albus exclaims out of breath and Louis nods his agreement.

“Told you,” Scorpius replies smugly.

First graders are retold the rules (no one out after ten o’clock, save for Astronomy class, Forbidden Forest is forbidden, lights out at eleven) and shown to their dormitories. Their quarters are as elegant as the common room, with five huge four-poster beds with both light green translucent hangings and heavy dark green curtains to block the light. Three of the walls are made of stone but one of them is a large window that gives to the Lake, making Albus realise with exhilaration that he’ll be living practically underwater, which he finds incredible.

Albus, Scorpius and Louis will share the room with two other boys: Andrew Dunbar and Nathaniel Lofthouse. They all go through multiple rounds rock-paper-scissors and coin tosses to pick the beds and Albus and Scorpius end up taking the nearest ones to the glass window, which were admittedly the two most coveted ones.

That first night Albus takes a long while to fall asleep, replaying the events of the day in his mind, from the anxious last moment preparations before leaving his home to his first encounter with Scorpius Malfoy to the intense first dinner at the castle. He still can’t forget how utterly shocked his brother James looked as he barely paid attention to his housemates introducing him to the Bloody Baron. They both had always been too close and the thought of him being sorted in Slytherin causing a rift between them makes his throat constrict and his eyes burn. He doesn’t know if he can take it.

 

Next morning it’s Saturday so students have no class to worry about for two days. Albus follows his new housemates out of the common room (and wow, does the morning light filtered through the Lake makes it look beautiful) and heads to the Great Hall for breakfast.

Albus makes a quick stop by one of the bathrooms before going in, so he’s alone when his brother finds him in a deserted hallway.

“Hey, Albus,” he greets him cautiously but amicably.

“Hey, James,” Albus replies shyly before casting his eyes down.

“I’m glad I caught you before breakfast,” James says, nervous all of a sudden, “listen, I wanted to apologise.” Albus’ eyes jump up to meet James’ at this, wide and wondering.

“I wrote to mum and dad last night, told them about you being sorted in Slytherin and how I didn’t react as well as I should have. I mean, I know I teased you a lot about this but I knew my reaction wasn’t the best.”

“You think?” Albus asks sarcastically, James just snorts and keeps on talking.

“I got an owl from dad this morning. He must have promised his owl quite a treat if I got his message before breakfast because the little guy flew fast. Anyways, he told me not to be a git and get over myself. He also told me about how he named you after a very brave Slytherin he admired a lot and how he had been this close to be sorted in Slytherin himself but the Hat —”

“The Hat let him choose,” Albus finishes for him, “yeah, dad told me before I got on the train. He told me I could tell the Hat where I wanted to be.”

“And did you?” James asks curiously, no hint of reproach in his voice, just genuine curiosity.

“I was about to, but I feared I’d pick the wrong House, so I asked him to decide.”

“It took him a while,” James points out.

“He said I was a troublemaker,” James snorts, the you think? going unspoken, “and he never knew what to do with troublemakers, ‘cause they we’re both brave and ambitious. He chose Slytherin in the end.”

“That … actually makes sense,” James concedes.

“So you’re not mad?” Albus asks, insecurity clear in his voice.

“No, I’m not mad, I should be the one asking you that. I was being a prat and I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, James, I know it must’ve been a shock to the whole family.”

“Oh, you have no idea,” James laughs.

“So we’re okay?”

“We’re okay, though I gotta admit, I’m kinda gonna miss my partner in crime. It’s quite a dynamic duo we would’ve made.”

“I was bummed about that at first too, but then I thought: with you in Gryffindor and me in Slytherin, we can prank hard from both fronts! Think about it. And with Rose in Ravenclaw, all we have to do is find ourselves a Hufflepuff and Hogwarts will never know what hit it! Though I doubt Rose will go for any kind of troublemaking, she takes after her mom.” At that, James burst out laughing.

“Man, I can’t believe I was ever surprised. You definitely are a Slytherin.”

“And don’t you forget it,” Albus replies smugly, feeling for the first time the pride of belonging to the House he was sorted in. James laughs again and gives his brother a one-arm hug.

“Come on, let’s get you to breakfast. You’ve got two days to explore the school so you don’t get lost on your first day of classes. Don’t think I’ll be lending you dad’s map when you’re running around in circles,” he says as he walks with Albus to the Great Hall, his arm still around Albus’ shoulders.

“I’ll have this place mapped out in my head by the end of the week, I don’t need your stupid map.” James chuckles.

“Slytherin,” they both declare at the same time and walk through the Great Hall doors laughing.

 

Monday morning marks the start of Albus and his classmates’ education at Hogwarts. First-year Slytherins are welcomed with first period Transfiguration, one of the hardest classes they’ll take, or so they’re told, which makes Scorpius mumble something about it being a terrific idea to stick it first thing Monday morning. The class is in charge of the Head of Hufflepuff House, Ernie Macmillan, much to his daughter’s Lyndsay’s embarrassment. After the mandatory round of introductions, Professor Macmillan makes them go through half of the first chapter of Magical Theory and promises (threatens, Scorpius says) they’ll be doing their first transfigurations by the end of the week.

Albus and Scorpius are almost at the door when Professor Macmillan’s voice stops them in their tracks.

“You look just like him,” he says, “your father. I really admired him a great deal when we were students, a real leader.” As he speaks, his gaze shifts from Albus to Scorpius and can’t hide the fact that he’s taken aback by what he sees.

“You look just like yours as well,” he comments.

Albus never knows how to respond when someone compares him to his dad. On one hand, he feels insanely proud, not only because he knows what Harry Potter represents to the wizarding world, but also because he too admires his father. On the other hand, it always feels like there’s this unspoken expectation that he should turn out to be just like him, and those are some pretty big shoes to fill. From the expression on Scorpion’s face, it looks like his new friend doesn’t feel much differently.

In the end, Albus does what he always does: he thanks politely and flashes a perfect imitation of his dad’s Daily Prophet smile (hey, if they want him to be just like his dad, he can do just that) and leaves the classroom along with Scorpius.

Next they have Charms with professor Filius Flitwick, the tiny and old Head of Ravenclaw House, and that’s the class where Scorpius finds true love. Apparently, while the magic required to change what an object is fails to capture the youngest Malfoy’s interest, the magic to alter what an object does manages to have him listening closely to every word spilling from the teacher’s mouth with rapt fascination. Their Magical Theory book makes a second appearance that day and they’re told it will be the base upon which they’ll learn both subjects. Still, Professor Flitwick’s seems to favour a more practical approach and has them learn the basic Wand-Lighting Charm. The class struggles to get it right, most of them only managing to get a small flicker of light coming momentarily out of their wands, but Scorpius surprises their teacher succeeding on his first try.

Lumos!” he exclaims with conviction and performs the instructed wand movement, producing a bright and warm sphere of light at the tip of his wand, as well as several ooohs from his fellow Slytherins.

“Brilliant!” Professor Flitwick exclaims excitedly with an avid clap of his hands before he flicks his wand to dim the lights, so Scorpius’ wand shines brighter. “And on your first try, too. I believe this calls for a reward. 10 points for Slytherin!”.

The entire class claps making Scorpius’ cheeks gain the slightest trace of colour, luckily hidden behind the brightness of his wand and the darkness of the room. He can’t believe he just got his House the first points of the year.

 

“Congratulations,” Albus says as Scorpius exits the classroom and they both head to Herbology class, which they share with the Ravenclaws. Scorpius had been delayed talking to Professor Flitwick, who once again applauded his knack for the Wand-Lighting Charm, and the young Malfoy had been disappointed when he realised he’d have to wait until Thursday’s last period for their next class.

“Thanks,” Scorpius smiles shyly as they try to find the way to the greenhouses.

The Herbology Professor is no stranger to Albus: Neville Longbottom, former war hero and Head of Gryffindor House. He waits until both Houses arrive and asks them to form teams of three, preferably not all members of the same House. Albus quickly pulls his cousin Rose to his side so she can work with him and Scorpius, while Louis pairs with fellow Slytherin Tamara Pembrock and Lorelai O’Deluga, from Ravenclaw.

Neville keeps the class informal and easy-going as he presents them with different kinds of plants, asks them to identify them and explains their uses and the best way to take care of them. It is merely an introductory lesson, but it’s hands-on and full of information, and by the end of the hour both Houses have earned several points.

After third period it is time for a much needed lunch break, during which both Albus and Scorpius plop on their seats to cradle their heads.

“I am brain-dead,” Albus states.

“It’s like an information overload,” Scorpius moans.

“I know. I can’t believe last year I was learning basic math and stuff at school and now I’m supposed to turn my wand into a flashlight and actually understand Magical Theory.” At that, Scorpius raises an incredulous eyebrow.

“At school? You went to school? As in muggle school?”

“Yeah, primary school in Devon, why? You didn’t? How did you learn to read and count then?”

“Home-school,” Scorpius replies like it’s obvious, like even the question itself is outrageous. “By one of the finest and most renowned governess you’ll find in Britain,” the like all Malfoys do going unspoken but loudly heard. Albus just blinks.

“B — but, what about friends? And you know, getting to know other people. An PE class! There’s nothing better than PE class,”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Physical Education, it’s basically sports class. It’s awesome. You learn to play football and stuff.”

“Football?”

“Muggle sport, all the rage in Muggle England. Next year will be the World Cup in Russia. Russia!”

“What’s so amazing about a sport where, I’m sure, you can’t fly?”

“I thought the same thing! But then I kicked a ball for the first time, and man, I understood. We also played basketball and volleyball, which are fun too. Actually, I’m kind of surprised there are more sports to play at muggle schools than here.”

“We’ve got Quidditch, what more do you need?”

“I guess you’re right. Too bad we’ll have to wait ‘till next year.”

“Yeah, it stinks.”

After a moment of silence and of wolfing down the food magically placed on their plates by the kitchen house-elves, Scorpius picks up the topic.

“So you were, like, in muggle school and all your classmates were muggles and you couldn’t talk of magic and stuff?”

“It was hard at first, but our parents were very strict on that point. I think one time James slipped and started talking about Quidditch and there were Memory Charms involved. Dad went ballistic and since then we were all very careful.”

“But why would you risk it in the first place? What is the point?”

“My dad was muggle raised, so was my aunt. They say it would help us learn to socialise and that knowing how to get by without magic never hurts. Besides, many families send their kids to muggle schools before they go to Hogwarts.”

“I don’t think I’d have survived,” Scorpius muses, still taken aback.

“You’re about to find out. Our next class is Muggle Studies.” Scorpius groans.

 

First year Slytherins have Muggle Studies on the seventh floor Mondays and Fridays after lunch. Their teacher is tall, dark-skinned and handsome and insists they call him Dean instead of Professor Thomas.

“I can’t believe we have to take this class. Dad said it used to be an elective for those muggle-crazed lunatics to take,” Scorpius had complained as they walked along the moving staircase.

“I think that’s the point. Dad told me the class became compulsory during the War, and it was used to show how stupid and pointless muggles were. After the War was over it was decided to leave it as a core class so there would be a better understanding of muggles, so they wouldn’t be oddities for some eccentrics to study. And believe me, I’ve dealt with muggles, they’re anything but stupid,” Albus had explained. Scorpius hadn’t been convinced.

Like Longbottom, Professor Thomas, or Dean, prefers the hands-on approach. He asks them to keep their wands away and goes briefly over the programme, which is basically an introduction to modern muggle technology. Then he hands them implements and asks them to use them to successfully build a small model house. The tools include a screwdriver, some screw eyes, nuts, bolts, duct tape and a wrench. He also makes it a boys-versus-girls contest, so Albus, Scorpius, Louis, Andrew and Nathaniel scramble to get the wooden pieces together and make them look like the house drawn on the blackboard.

The purpose, Dean explains, is they work on their three-dimensional thinking, which he says is way more developed in muggles than in wizards, given how they have to come up with ways of getting things done without the luxury of a wand. Albus figures this kind of exercises are meant to tear down the prejudices about muggles being dumb and hollow.

This is Albus first real chance to shine that day, as he’s the only Slytherin with any muggle experience whatsoever, and the only one who actually knows how to use a wrench. It takes them a while, but they manage to beat the girls and they’re awarded ten points for their problem-solving skills.

When the class is over, they all run to the door as Slytherins have their last period free. All but Albus, who’s waiting for Scorpius to grab his stuff and leave, but the blond boy standing still staring down at his hands in wonder.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know what to think.”

“About this class?”

“About the class, this exercise, muggle life in general, really.”

“Never worked with your hands before?”

“Never to build something, no. Is this what muggle kids do at school? Learn how to build houses and stuff?”

“Merlin, no!” Albus huffs, “It’s more like math and English grammar and things like that. But we do occasionally do some practical stuff, like age-appropriate stuff. Like, first year, we made a bean grow by planting it inside a piece of cotton. We watered it and tended to it until it sprouted a steam. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re five and you see you just made some tiny plant come to life, it’s pretty incredible. And who knows? Maybe that’ll come in handy in Herbology.”

“So you learn math and to plant beans, like, to become produce grocers.” The utter seriousness with which Scorpius states this makes Albus crack up.

“It’s more like discovering the world around you. You know: plant a tree, climb the monkey bars.”

“Monkey bars?” Scorpius asks with a raised eyebrow and an incredulous smirk.

“Not with actual monkeys, you twit.”

“I’m not sure you’re succeeding at making me see muggles as civilised.”

“Good thing that’s not my job, that’s Dean’s.”

“I can’t believe you’re calling Professor Thomas ‘Dean’!” Scorpius says scandalised.

“He asked us to.”

“It’s improper!”

“He asked us to.”

“And an absolute display of lack of manners.”

“He asked us to.”

“What’s next? Are you gonna call the Headmistress ‘Minerva’?

“He asked us to!”

“I can’t believe it.” Albus hangs his head.

 

They spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the grounds. They go by the Great Lake and Albus really, really wants to dive inside, but Scorpius pulls him away.

“One, it’s chilling. Two, you’ll probably get expelled, if you’re lucky, or eaten by the giant squid, if you’re not.” Albus just pouts.

Albus takes Scorpius to the groundskeeper house, Rubeus Hagrid, and explains he’s also the Care of Magical Creatures Professor and a family friend. Sadly, the family friend is not at his hut when they knock on the door, nor is his dog, so the pair decides to skirt the limits of the Forbidden Forest and wonder about the creatures that inhabit it and dare each other to venture inside as they do so.

After dinner they’re all given directions to the Astronomy Tower, where they’ll be attending class every Monday at midnight.

“Seriously, what’s up with this schedule from hell? Transfiguration first thing in the morning and Monday ends with Astronomy at midnight!”

“Well, technically, that makes it our first class of Tuesdays,” Albus points out.

“And then we have first period History of Magic. And dad says it is taught by a ghost. A ghost! He talked himself to death, Albus!”

Albus laughs at his friend at first, but it doesn’t take long for him to realise Scorpius had been right: after Professor Aurora Sinistra spends the hour teaching them the basics of using a telescope, they all quickly make their way from the top of the Astronomy Tower to the castle dungeons, eager to get as much hours of sleep as possible before their morning class, which turns out to be every bit the agonising hell everyone’s parents said it would be.

Professor Cuthbert Binns floats through the class blackboard, takes one minute to introduce himself to the Slytherin and Hufflepuff students assembled in the classroom before launching off on his never-ending monologue about the history of magic since the beginning of time.

“Maybe muggle education is not such a bad idea,” Scorpius concludes as they make their way to their Transfiguration class. Albus’ brain is too numb to laugh at his friend’s despair, or to agree with him, for that matter.

After a second theoretical Transfiguration lesson, they have Defence Against the Dark Arts with Professor John Dawlish. Even though they’ll be doing a lot of reading of The Essential Defence Against the Dark Arts, Dawlish does teach them how to cast a Shield Charm, which makes it the second spell they learn.

“Hey, Albus, look! A break, finally! We’ve got the day off after lunch and tomorrow’s first period free! Then it’s Transfiguration and Herbology and after lunch History of Magic and Defence Against the Dark Arts. Come on, where do you wanna go?”

Unlike the day before, Albus, Scorpius and Louis, who tags along with them, decide to explore the castle instead of the grounds. They use what they’ve heard so far to successfully locate the entrance to the Ravenclaw Tower on the west side of the castle as well as to the Hufflepuff Basement near the kitchens (because both Albus and Louis got detailed information from their uncles on how to get to the kitchens). They even try to break into the Ravenclaw common room, but none of them can guess the answer to the riddle they’re posed by the bronze eagle-shaped knocker.

“What for each of us is inevitable?” the musical voice had asked them.

“Ageing!” Albus had cried promptly.

“Death!” Scorpius had said.

“The passage of time!” had been Louis’ answer.

“None of those, I’m afraid,” the knocker had said.

“What happens if you really can’t get the answer? How do you get into your frigging room?” Scorpius had asked, frustrated.

“You wait until somebody does, so you learn” had been the reply Scorpius got from the knocker before he flipped it off, prompting Albus to tease him mercilessly about being “improper” and showing “an absolute display of lack of manners”.

 

“Death by homework, that’s what is for each of us inevitable!” Albus cries later that night as he plops on an armchair next to Scorpius at their common room. Turns out, free periods were there for a reason, and now they have to deal with the assignments from four classes that are due the next day. Scorpius barely acknowledges his friend as he runs his eyes through pages and pages of books, trying to absorb as much information as possible so he can regurgitate it later on the ten-inch parchment he must hand in for Transfiguration. On the other side of the room, Louis, Andrew and Nathaniel aren’t doing much better.

As much as he complains about homework and poorly planned schedules, Albus soon discovers his friend Scorpius is secretly a bookworm and possesses a laser focus when it comes to acquiring and understanding new information. Albus can barely keep up with the blond as he goes through their assignments, seamlessly moving from the basics of Transfiguration to the uses for Mimbulus Mimbletonia to the intricacies of the hand movements of the Shield Charm. For his part, Albus tries not to pass out while reading the assigned chapter of A History of Magic.

In the end, Albus has to forcibly drag his stubborn friend to their dorm and promise him they’ll use their free first period to pick up where they left off.

Wednesday is a day from hell. Not only do they arrive late, sleep-deprived and with a growing migraine to Macmillan’s class, but it’s also the day the little bubble they’d been living in is burst by none other than Hogwarts’ resident poltergeist.

Albus had heard of Peeves from both his brother’s and his father’s stories but hadn’t come across the irreverent incarnation of chaos until he and Scorpius are on their way to Greenhouse 3 that morning.

“Oooooooh, and what do we have here?” the floating anthropomorphic figure asks in delight as he sees the pair walking through the halls, his dark eyes shining with a hint of mischief.

“Do my eyes deceive me or am I seeing the youngest Potter son and the youngest Malfoy walking together like two harmless innocent little Puffskeins? Surely a wrangle is about to come about, maybe an exchange of fisticuffs? I would start crying Protego if I were you,” he said, addressing the final part to the crowd that was starting to notice the commotion, all while floating drawing circles before the boys’ dumbfounded eyes.

“Or is it possible? That potty wee Potter and killjoy Malfoy are actually … friends?” he asks in fake incredulity, with an exaggerated dramatic pause before spitting the word “friends” in a mocking tone. People around them start whispering. So far, they hadn’t socialised much beyond their own House, except their History of Magic lessons with the Hufflepuffs, who seemed to mind their own business, and Herbology with the Ravenclaws, where everyone was distracted by being taught by a former war hero to pay much attention to the two of them, except for Rose, who seemed to take everything in stride.

But now they were frozen in the middle of an increasingly crowded hall with the spotlight on them and people realising that yes, it was the son of that Potter and the son of that Malfoy actually breathing the same air without coming to blows and Al wished the castle would open up and swallow him whole, and Scorpius too, who seems to be suffering the same mortification, which only grows tenfold when among the crowd they spot Albus’ older brother James.

Scorpius can’t take the tension and the silence anymore and turns around to push his way through the assembling crowd and look for an alternate route to the greenhouses.

“Hey, Scorpius, wait!” Albus yells and follows after him, much to James’ utter disbelief and Peeves’ delight.

“Oooooooh, it just got interesting! It’s been a while since we had a good gossip at lil’ old Hogwarts!” he shrieks excitedly clapping his hands. James turns to him scandalised.

 

“Al, wait!” James calls after him after battling the crowd to try to catch up with his brother, who pointedly ignores him and quickens his pace. Scorpius is nowhere to be found and it frustrates him.

“Al!” James calls again.

“Save it,” Albus spat, not bothering to slow down or turn around to face his brother, who finally catches up with him and grabs his shoulder to get his attention.

“Al, come on.”

“What is it?” Albus huffs exasperated.

“I just wanna talk.”

“So talk.”

“You know who he is, don’t you?”

“He’s Scorpius,” Albus replies innocently.

“You know who his father is. Al, come on, you know how he and dad didn’t …”

“We are not our fathers,” Albus cuts him off darkly. For the first time ever, he allows himself to feel the anger at being constantly compared with his father. He soaks it up, lets it seep through him.

“You are not granddad, I am not dad and Scorpius is not his father. So stop being a git and leave me alone,” he growls shoving his brother’s hand off his shoulder and goes in search of the greenhouses, leaving James standing alone and dejected on the empty corridor.

Herbology class is awkward and full of forced silences as Professor Longbottom fully dives into the proper tending to Mimbulus Mimbletonia. They’re still working in teams of three, as they will for the rest of the year, and now that the hype of Neville Longbottom being their teacher is mostly over, their classmates are fully aware of how out of place a Malfoy looks sandwiched between a Potter and a Weasley. Surely it would’ve made more sense if Albus and Rose had paired with Louis, but, alas, the part-veela kid is calmly transplanting a Mimbulus Mimbletonia root standing at ease between Tamara Pembrock and Lorelai O’Deluga, elegantly ignoring the hushed whispers floating inside the greenhouse. Professor Longbottom, thankfully, does his best to ignore them too.

“Don’t let it get to you”, Rose tells Albus when Scorpius leaves them to fetch a watering can. So far, the blond boy has limited himself to speak only when necessary, looking subdued and choosing to focus on work instead of talking. “I know dad would probably have a fit but I like Scorpius, and I don’t feel like competing against someone for grades. I study to learn, not to compete,” the red-headed girl says, prompting Albus to produce a shy snort as he thinks Ravenclaws.

“Don’t worry about it, Rose. James is just being a git.”

“What else is new? Anyways, you should tell your parents about this.”

“Don’t worry, Rose. I will.”

 

Dear mom and dad,

I’m sorry I didn’t write you when I first got here, but in all honesty I was worried about how you would react about me being sorted in Slytherin. I know you told me I had nothing to worry about, dad, but I guess I needed time to process it myself. I always thought I’d be in Gryffindor just like you guys and James and all our family, but I guess even the Sorting Hat knew better that to let me and James share a dorm.

But there is nothing for you to worry about. Slytherin is great, the common room is stunning and our dorm is under the Lake. The Lake! One of our dorm walls is actually a window that gives to the Lake, so it looks like we’re sleeping inside an aquarium. I know you guys once told me dad had been to the Slytherin common room once, but I doubt he had the time to appreciate how utterly wonderful it is. Though I admit I must be somewhat biased, as dad probably would have been at the time.

Classes are great. Transfiguration is full of work and we only had our first go at trying to turn a matchstick into a needle today, and I sort of pant at Lumos, which is the first thing we learnt at Charms Monday morning, but it’s all still great. History of Magic is every bit as boring as you said it would be, even Rose looks a little disheartened to take the class, and you guys know that’s saying something. Defence Against the Dark Arts is great, I’ve nearly mastered Protego, and Muggle Studies is also fun. Professor Thomas says hi, by the way, and so do Professors Macmillan, Dawlish and Longbottom.

Anyways, there’s something I should probably tell you guys before you hear it from somebody else, most likely James. On the train ride here I made a friend, and he was sorted in my House too! So we share a dorm and all our classes. We seem to get along, he’s my partner in Herbology along with Rose (we share that class with the Ravenclaws) and he’s brilliant at Charms. Brilliant! He managed to do the Wand-Lighting Charm on his first go. Anyways, his name is … well, he’s Scorpius Malfoy.

I can imagine you guys probably aren’t thrilled (and uncle Ron and aunt Hermione probably won’t be either), James already made his opinion clear. But Scorpius and I’ve talked about it and we don’t really want to stop hanging out because of our last names.

I don’t know how you guys will take the news, but I’m scared James might do something stupid and tomorrow we have our first Flying lesson with the Gryffindors and I’m afraid for what could happen. I am only glad James is two years ahead of me, otherwise I’d be freaking out of my mind.

Anyways, that’s all for now. I hope I’m not being a complete disappointment already. I hope you are doing great, give Lily my best. I love you.

Sincerely,
Al

 

There are no owls for Albus during breakfast the next morning, though Scorpius receives his third letter from home that day. His friend explains to him how they set up a corresponding schedule at home where he writes to his parents on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so he gets their reply on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Albus is amazed at the order pushed forward at the Malfoy household, as it was evident when he saw the absolute pulchritude inside Hunter’s nest at the castle Owlery.

Albus stares longingly at the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall, begrudgingly finishing his breakfast before his first Flying lesson he dreads to share with the Gryffindors. Before they set foot on the deserted Quidditch pitch, he decides to pull Scorpius aside and put an end to the uncomfortable silence between them.

“Listen, I meant it at the train, I am not my last name and neither are you. I don’t care what everyone says.”

“I know, I don’t either,” Scorpius agrees, “sorry for being distant and stuff, I just didn’t want to make things worse.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Albus assures him.

“So, are you ready to prove you’re as talented on the broom as you claim to be?”

“I bet you five Frog Chocolate Cards I can fly higher and faster than you!” Albus challenges him.

“Challenge accepted. And Salazar Slytherin and Paracelsus better be among those five.”

They run to the pitch considerably more animated and eagerly get in line to attend Professor Spinnet’s instructions.

Though they still receive not so covert side glances from them, Gryffindors don’t make the fuss Albus thought they’d make, as they seem to be much more interested on hopping on the broom and be finally airborne. Albus and Scorpius barely wait for professor Spinnet to give the go-ahead to the students with previous broom experience before kicking the ground and taking off.

Scorpius proves to be a skilled flyer, but Albus is clearly a natural. He whoops in delight as he soars through the pitch, his blond friend chasing close behind, but never close enough. When they land, professor Spinnet congratulates them and Jackson Abercrombie from Gryffindor for their outstanding abilities on the broom and assures them they’d have no problem getting into their Houses’ Quidditch Teams the next year, should they try out for them.

“You take after your father,” Professor Spinnet says to Albus, “I played with him for Gryffindor. He was the youngest player to play in over a hundred years. Are you trying out for the Seeker position next year?”

“I’ve always wanted to be a Chaser, like Gonçalo Flores!” The teacher smiles.

“I was a Chaser for Gryffindor. You’ll have a lot of fun, and with that speed, you’ll be pretty good too.” Albus beams.

 

Albus’ parents reply finally arrives during the free period after their double Flying session. His father’s owl finds him and Scorpius sprawled on the grass by the Lake (they did not learn their lesson about free periods) and Albus jumps to take the envelope from the bird. Inside, there are two pieces of parchment with two different sets of handwriting. He opens the first one and immediately recognises his dad’s.

 

Dear Albus,

First of all, we are happy you finally wrote to us. We were beginning to worry James had teased you too much about writing home every day. Second, I’ll tell you once again what I told you at King’s Cross: I don’t care in the least what House you were sorted in, neither does your mother, and Slytherin has gained an excellent student. And third, you could never, ever, be a disappointment to us, got that? So don’t you ever think that again.

I am glad you’re finding your dorm to your liking and that classes are going well for you. I know the work load can be tough, especially if you compare it with what you got at muggle school.

And wow, did Flitwick really taught you the Wand-Lightning Charm on your first day of school? That used to be on the programme of Defence Against the Dark Arts later in the year, I’m glad to know the man’s shaking things up a little. Don’t worry about not getting it right on your first try, spells can take a while to master (unless you’re your aunt Hermione or, apparently, young Scorpius Malfoy).

Speaking of which. I never told you how Scorpius’ dad and I met, did I? We met on the train, just like you two did. I was already making friends with your uncle Ron when he came to our car. He and Ron immediately disliked each other, as Weasleys and Malfoys had stood on opposite sides regarding muggles and muggle-borns since forever. I remember Draco offering me his hand so we could be friends. Of course, the implication was obvious: to be his friend and not Ron’s, and as you can imagine I never shook it.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe things could’ve been different had I just taken Draco’s hand. I don’t mean ditching your uncle Ron, but realising that it wasn’t a question of either or. But I was eleven and saw a lot of things black and white (or red and green, as seems to be the trend at Hogwarts) so I picked a side not realising I could’ve picked both and maybe prevented years of bad blood between Draco and us.

So I am glad you and Scorpius were able to see past the last names and House colours and made the choice I didn’t make. You seem to think highly of him (and for good reason, if he got the Wand-Lighting Charm right on the first go, that spell is tricky) and I trust your judgement, I’ve always had.

People will always see anything that defies the status quo with wary eyes, so it’s normal if there’s a reaction to your friendship with Scorpius, but don’t let it get to you. I like to think your mother and I (and all your family, really) fought so you could be free to choose your own path, something Scorpius’ dad, and many in our generation never had.

And don’t worry about James, I‘ll have a word with him. Don’t let this kind of things drive a wedge between you two. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d miss my little pair of troublemakers wrecking havoc wherever they go. Maybe you do have a point about the Sorting Hat purposely separating you.

I hope you keep having fun in your classes (or that at least you don’t die of boredom at History of Magic) and don’t forget you have tea with Hagrid this Friday after classes. Take care of yourself and try not to let your Potter and Weasley genes get you into too much trouble.

Lots of love,
Dad

 

The second letter goes along the same lines and offers some useful advice for his classes.

 

Dear Albus,

There’s not much I can say your father hasn’t said already, so I’ll just stress, so you never doubt it, that we love you no matter what. Slytherin is lucky to have you and your cousin Louis and I’m glad you like it there.

As for your new friend, there was a lot of bad blood between your father and his father, and also between his grandfather and myself, which is why I am utterly relieved history isn’t repeating itself. It certainly did a lot in our generation, when a new history was much needed instead. I hope this friendship can grow to be just like your dad and your uncle Ron’s was. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too, that’s what Hogwarts years are for: to start to find your own place in the world.

Don’t let classes stress you too much. Remember the key to the Wand-Lighting Charm is in the wrist movement, and don’t let Neville’s informal tone fool you, everything that comes out of his mouth will be on the final exam. He takes after his mentor, Professor Sprout, when it comes to grading tests.

Give our love to Neville and Hagrid, Lily sends hers to you and James. Say hi to Rose and Louis for us and don’t hesitate to write anytime you want.

Loves you,
Mom

 

After he’s done reading, Albus shows his letters to a curious Scorpius. The weight he’d felt all morning over his chest swiftly fading away.

“See? Nothing to worry about,” Albus tells him.

“I can see that,” Scorpius agrees, “it doesn’t sound like he hated my dad. People always made it seem like they were these irreconcilable enemies.”

“I think they were, but I think it’s the kind of thing you leave behind after school. Like, they’re not kids anymore, they can’t keep going at it, can they?”

“I guess not,” Scorpius concedes, “it that Lumos spell really that hard? I don’t see what all the fuss is about.” His friend raises an incredulous eyebrow before answering.

“You’re joking, right? No one in the class could do it. No one. And I don’t know why you’re surprised. We both know under that devil may care thing you’ve got going, you’re secretly a nerd.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“I’ll hex you.”

“And you’ll get called to the Headmistress’ office and you’ll miss the Charms lesson you’ve been waiting for all week.” That seems to shut Scorpius up.

“See? Nerd.” Albus grins before running back to the castle, chased by a jokingly outraged Scorpius.

Scorpius still bounces eagerly on his way to the Charms classroom, after bolting straight to the door the instant Dawlish’s class is over. Albus might have been joking about his too-cool-for-school pose, but the young Malfoy can’t deny how the act falls as soon as Flitwick’s lesson begins. Albus laughs and shakes his head, but figures he’ll let him be; after all, his friend just lost five Chocolate Frog Cards at their Flying lesson.

 

James finds them on their way to their common room after dinner. He’s clutching a small package with both hands as he fidgets, nervously shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Scorpius makes a detour for the bathroom to give the pair some privacy.

“So, I got another owl from dad. I think it must be a new record, two reprimands in less than a week,” he tries to joke, but the serious mood makes the quip fall flat, “he kindly reminded me that he fought a war so kids would never be judged because of their blood, and that judging Scorpius for who his father is is exactly the kind of mentality Voldemort capitalised on during the War.” He says it all in one breath, as if he’d memorised it word by word from his dad’s letter, and Albus can tell his brother truly regrets his previous attitude.

“So, can you forgive me for being a git, again, so we can be brothers again?” James asks when Albus doesn’t reply right away.

“It’s alright, James. Don’t worry about it.”

“I do worry. I feel so proud of carrying two of the original Order of the Phoenix members’ names and here I am, acting like everything our parents stood against.”

“It’s okay, James, I mean it, don’t beat yourself up about it,” Albus assures him.

“You think I could apologise to Scorpius?” James asks, “I haven’t been the nicest person to him. And look, I even got him something as a peace offering,” he says presenting Albus with the Chocolate Frog he’d been holding.

When Albus calls Scorpius to come out of the bathroom, James awkwardly apologises and assures him he’ll never interfere with their friendship again, then gives him the Chocolate Frog he got for him. Scorpius waits until he’s left alone with Albus to tear the wrapping open, shove the treat inside his mouth and look down at the card he got.

“Here. Now I only owe you four.”

“I don’t want Neville Longbottom! I want Circe!”

“In your dreams, Potter,” Scorpius singsongs as he runs towards the dungeons.

“Oh, you bugger!” Albus mutters with a grin as he follows suit.

 

Friday is the day Albus and Scorpius finally take a class with the Head of their own House. They’d met Professor Higgs when they first got installed inside their dorms their first night at Hogwarts, but it isn’t until their double session Potions class with the Gryffindors that they actually get to know him.

Professor Terence Higgs is tall, has light green eyes and dirty blond hair and, despite being in his forties, he looks surprisingly fit and well preserved. He has them started on a simple Hair-Growing Potion that, according to him, will allow them to go through the basics of potion-making, from setting up the cauldron and selecting and preparing the ingredients to brewing and performing the correct wand movements.

Unlike anything Albus had heard from his father about his namesake Severus Snape, Professor Higgs is pretty laidback and friendly. He answers kindly any questions addressed to him and doesn’t seem to pit the Slytherins and the Gryffindors against each other.

Unlike anything Scorpius had heard from his father about the now retired Horace Slughorn, Professor Higgs pays little attention to his students last names or the potential for mutually beneficial connections that could derive from them. Instead he makes sure they all know he’ll be pretty ambitious with the programme he wants to cover during their first year and that slacking will not be tolerated.

He makes no comment when a late-arriving Jackson Abercrombie sits with Albus and Scorpius as they were the only ones not in a group of three (Louis had walked from their Charms class with Andrew and Nathaniel so he sat with them). Jackson is one of the few Gryffindors not wary about socialising with the Slytherins, specially with Albus and Scorpius, as he had bonded with them over their shared flying skills during Professor Spinnet’s class the day before.

When the lesson is over, Professor Higgs asks Scorpius to stay behind so he can have a word with him.

“I knew you father, you know,” he tells the boy when they’re left alone, “I was in my seventh year when he first got here, so I really only coincided with him for a year, but I was a prefect so I made it my business to know everyone. He was a good lad. I know many people outside his House would say differently, but he was a good friend and loyal to those he called his own.”

Scorpius nods silently unsure of what to say. He, of course, had seen the side of his dad most people preferred to pretend didn’t exist, the loving and fiercely loyal one. But he knew the general opinion about the Malfoy family.

“I’m telling you this because I know kids from Slytherin parents can have a hard time from time to time, specially if they are in Slytherin too, but times have changed and there’s no reason to perpetuate old grudges that aren’t ours. I see you’re friends with Albus Potter.”

Scorpius nods again.

“He looks like a nice lad. His father certainly was. A hell of a Seeker, too, I remember him giving me a run for my money during his first year, even if he did catch the Snitch with his mouth.” Scorpius barks an incredulous laugh at that. That particular bit of information is usually omitted from the multiple biographies of the heroes of the Second Wizarding War.

“Anyways, what I’m trying to say is don’t be afraid to be your own person, and if anyone gives you a hard time, you come to me, alright?” He waits for Scorpius’ nod before adding “my door is always open.”

“Thank you, Professor Higgs.”

“Not at all. Now go, it’s lunch time and your friend must be waiting for you.”

Muggle Studies and Herbology mark Slytherins’ two final classes of the week and give way to a much expected weekend, though they’ve got enough homework to keep them all busy until Monday morning.

Albus takes Scorpius with him to his tea date with Hagrid at his hut. This time, both the groundskeeper and his oversized boarhound dog are home when they arrive.

“Down, boy,” they can hear Hagrid command his dog, who started to bark aggressively from the other side of the door from the moment the boys approached the front steps.

“Easy, Fang, ’s probably jus’ Albus comin’ fer tea,” Hagrid says as he opens the door, “see, ’s jus’ —” the half-giant trails off as he sees two boys at his doorstep instead of just the one, and he startles when he recognises in Scorpius the features of a boy he knew all too well.

“Hey, Albus, I see yeh brought a friend,” he says unsurely.

“Hey, Hagrid. This is my friend Scorpius, he’s a Slytherin, just like me. Scorpius, meet Hagrid,”

The young blond boy politely offers his hand to the long-bearded man before him, who takes it not without hesitation.

“Scorpius Malfoy. Somehow it doesn’ surprise me yeh’re in Slytherin. Yeh, on the other hand,” he adds turning to Albus.

“I’m ambitious and competitive and everyone’s known that since I was five. I honestly don’t know why everyone is so surprised,” Albus says with a roll of his eyes as he makes his way inside Hagrid’s hut, dragging Scorpius with him.

“All yer family’s bin in Gryffindor since forever, I guess we all expected yeh to —”

“Victoire, Dominique and Rose are in Ravenclaw, and Louis is in Slytherin with me,” Albus counters as he goes to pet Fang, who has taken to sniff both boys and decides he likes them both, showing it by licking both of their hands as they pet him.

“Hey, Fang. This is Scorpius.”

“Hey, Fang,” Scorpius greets as he scratches behind Fang’s ears.

“Well, I guess if Fang approves,” Hagrid shrugs at last before closing the door.

Hagrid serves the young boys steaming cups of quince tea along with a tray of Honeydukes’ pastries as Albus tells him about their classes, with Scorpius nodding along, still unsure of how to act around the half-giant, as he keeps eying him suspiciously for a while. But by their third cup of tea, Hagrid seems to have decided he doesn’t dislike the boy and stops, making Scorpius a feel a tad more relaxed.

“And Scorpius and I were the best fliers at our Flying lesson, along with a Gryffindor kid called Jackson. We’re gonna try-out for the Quidditch Team next year!” Albus says excitedly.

“With Harry and Ginny as yer paren’s, I’m pretty sure yeh’ll be an excellen’ Seeker,” Hagrid tells him.

“I’m actually aiming for the Chaser position, and Scorpius wants to be a Keeper, don’t you?”

“That’s right.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot, yer Gonçalo Flores obsession,” Hagrid comments.

“I am not obsessed with him!” Albus protests.

“You kind of are,” Scorpius agrees with a shy smile, making his friend glare at him.

“Didn’ yer dad mention yeh had all yer walls covered with posters o’ ‘im?”

“And didn’t you said his performance at the Quidditch World Cup was like poetry made sport?” Scorpius managed to get Hagrid to laugh at that.

“I hate you both,” Albus sulks.

 

After that first week, their magical education is a rollercoaster ride of homework and increasingly complicated spellwork, that even Rose finds herself struggling with from time to time. Potions grow more and more intricate by the week and so do the transfigurations they learn. After the initial games that first day at Muggle Studies, Professor Thomas dives into the basics of electricity and muggle technology, all of which perplexes Scorpius to no end. Learning that free periods are for catching up on homework and not for slacking is a rite of passage they all go through before October begins.

It is during that month when the first of many newspaper bombs arrives during their morning owl post delivery.

 

Potter and Malfoy’s offspring. The apples fall far from the tree?

by Rita Skeeter

The arrival of the 2017-2024 class to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry brought with it the progeny of one of the most notorious wizarding rivalries of the Second War, that is the one between The Boy Who Lived, Harry Potter, and pure-blooded Draco Malfoy, son of former, and some say wrongly exonerated, Death Eater Lucius Malfoy.

As it seems to have transpired, the youngest Potter son, Albus Severus, named after two late controversial Hogwarts Headmasters, and Malfoy’s only heir, Scorpius, could have formed and unlikely friendship no doubt born from both of them being sorted in the same House: the green and silver House of Salazar Slytherin.

While young Scorpius, no doubt, should feel at home in Slytherin since the entire Malfoy line has been sorted there for generations, as well as his mother’s line, the Greengrass family, it certainly came as a surprise when Albus Severus Potter, who seems to be the spitting image of his father except for the visual impairment, was placed in the House of the serpent by the Sorting Hat. This is even said to have caused frictions between him and his older brother, James Sirius, known for causing several points losses to the Gryffindor House due to his constant acts of indiscipline and rebellion.

Little is known about Draco Malfoy’s current whereabouts after he and his parents were pardoned after the War on the grounds of providing substantial information that lead to the capture of several Death Eaters, except that he lives as a recluse at his family manor, paying little attention to anything else aside from his Alchemy scrolls. What is well known, however, is how the upstanding position of the Malfoy family name plummeted to the ground after the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Is it possible that the Malfoy elders are pitching for a strong political alliance by having their youngest befriend the son of The Chosen One?

With the wizarding world still reeling with the repercussions of the Second Wizarding War, is it safe for all to have two halves of one of the most volatile last name combinations together during their magical education at Hogwarts? Let’s not forget Albus’ mother is former Holyhead Harpies Chaser and current Quidditch correspondent Ginevra Potter (née Weasley), born to a long line of Gryffindors and, according to several documental sources about the Second War, nearly an assassination victim by none other than Lucius Malfoy himself.

Is there an angle the Potter and Malfoy families are going for with this unlikely friendship between their sons or did this improbable relationship happen by mere chance? Only time will tell.

 

Albus is speechless after he’s done reading. He can’t believe what he just read is something that actually exists. From the looks of it, neither can Scorpius, as he’s not only shocked into silence too, but also so pale that his marble white skin looks almost translucent.

“I can’t believe this,” Albus mutters.

“My dad’s not a recluse!” Scorpius complains in a choked voice, still unable to tear his eyes from the newspaper before him, “I mean, he might not go out as much, because some people think it’s okay to treat him like rubbish, but he’s not — he’s not a —”

“I know, Scorpius, I know. This is all rubbish. I mean, it was me who approached you at the train! And you weren’t even keen on the idea of us talking in the first place. This story makes it sound like you were targeting me.”

“My dad actually warned me to beware the Potters. I think he might have thought you would bully me.” Albus huffs a laugh at that.

“That utter bitch!” Rose appears at their table holding a copy of The Daily Prophet, which she furiously slams on the table. “Have you seen this?”

“Yes, Rose, we have.”

“It was that Rita Skeeter hag, you know who, the one that described our family as fake appearance-keeping hypocrites during the World Cup. The one mom discovered to be an unregistered animagus and who is somehow still employed by this dreadful excuse for a newspaper.”

“Unregistered animagus?” Scorpius asks.

“That’s how she gets her information, she turns herself into a beetle. So if you see one near you, probably best to crush it.”

“That would be murder, Rose.”

“I don’t care!” Rose shrieks as Scorpius laughs. “Things had been doing so well. After the initial shocked passed, people stopped giving you guys a hard time. James’ come around and even Peeves has lost interest.”

“And things will continue to be fine. People will talk about this and wonder if I’m really ‘going for an angle’ here and then it will die out. Some other rumour will capture everyone’s interest,” Scorpius reasons.

“Does your dad know we are friends?” Albus asks cautiously.

“If he didn’t, he does now,” Rose says.

“He does. I told him about you in the first letter I wrote home. He warned me again to be careful and that you and your family might make my life hell, but after the next couple of letters he seemed to be appeased.”

“Well, then I wouldn’t worry about this. It’s just this Skeeter hag trying too hard. But I was serious about her being a beetle. If you see one, you better do something about it, like trap it in a jar and take it to McGonagall.”

“Or crush it?” Albus suggests with a playful smile.

“Yeah, that too,” Rose replies with a blush at her previous outburst.

 

Skeeter’s story on The Daily Prophet is long forgotten by the time Halloween arrives. There was some talk about it at first, but by then everybody in their year knew the genuine nature of the friendship between Albus and Scorpius so it died soon after it started, none of the students aware of the ripple it had caused outside of Hogwarts.

Halloween celebrations with the Weasleys begin after school with a small gathering at Hagrid’s hut, to which Scorpius is invited due to his friendship with Albus, Rose and Louis.

“Oh, good! Non-Gryffindors!” Victoire greets the first-year foursome as they arrive at Hagrid’s, “Dominique and I were feeling awfully outnumbered.”

“Which is one more reason she’s moping about Teddy not being here,” her sister Dominique teases.

“Oh, shut up,” Victoire snaps.

Aside from Victoire, who is finishing her seventh and last year, the party is assembled by Molly Weasley, who is in her sixth year; Fred and Lucy, who are in their fifth; Roxanne, a fourth-year, and Dominique and James, who are in their third.

Just like Louis, Victoire’s and Dominique’s veela heritage is evident, just in varying degrees. Whereas Louis’ hair is bright metallic red, in Victoire the Delacour genes were more prominent, giving her shiny strawberry blond hair. Dominique, in turn, had silvery blond hair with slight pink shades to it. All of them were beautiful and had a magnetic quality to their attractiveness.

Molly and Lucy are the textbook definition of Weasley women: tall, fiery red hair, strong personality and unapologetic boldness. Both Gryffindors, of course. Meanwhile, Fred and Roxanne’s mixed ascent gave them distinctly unique features with darker red hair, brown eyes and darker skin than the rest of their family, kissed by a light dust of freckles.

Just like every time they visit, Hagrid serves them Honeydukes’ pastries to go along with their tea. They discuss classes and tease each other and for the first time Scorpius feels fully embraced by Albus’ family.

They all head together to the Halloween Feast held at the castle, which like every year doesn’t disappoint neither in the decoration, the entertainment nor the food. Albus and Scorpius stuff themselves with cake and candy and Louis comments animatedly on the show offered by the school ghosts with Rose, who sat at the Slytherin table with them. Albus is daring Scorpius to use their recently learned Levitation Charm on the pumpkins set by Hagrid at the staff table when the howler arrives.

A small sized owl flies through the candle lit Hall and dropps the red envelope on Scorpius’ now empty plate, prompting concerned looks from Albus, Rose and Louis.

“Is that a howler?” Albus asks incredulous.

“It — looks like it,” Scorpius replies unsure.

“Your dad sent it to you?” Rose asks.

“I don’t think so, though there’s no sender written on the envelope.”

“Open it before it explodes!” Louis urges, shifting slightly away from his friend.

With shaking hands, Scorpius opens the howler, well aware of his classmates’ eyes on him, as most of the ones seated close to him had noticed the presence of the bright red envelope on the table.

A loud boom precedes the message on the howler, forcing the entire Hall into silence, then an unnaturally deep voice reverberates through the castle.

“YOU FILTHY DEATH EATER SCUM!

“IF I HAD KNOWN YOUR DISGUSTING MURDERING FATHER HAD THE NERVE TO SEND HIS SPAWN TO HOGWARTS I WOULD HAVE MADE SURE YOU NEVER BOARDED THE TRAIN.

“STAY AWAY FROM THE MUGGLE-BORNS, YOU LITTLE PIECE OF SHIT, OR I’LL PERSONALLY GO THERE AND KILL YOUR SORRY ARSE. AND YOU BETTER WATCH YOUR BACK, YOUR FAMILY CAUSED SO MUCH PAIN THAT IF I SEE YOUR UGLY FACE I’LL MAKE SURE I KILL YOU TO MAKE SURE YOU DON’T FOLLOW INTO YOUR ROTTEN FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS.

“TELL THAT ARSEHOLE TO STOP REPRODUCING, WE DON’T NEED MORE MALFOYS RUNNING AROUND. TELL HIM I’LL FIND HIM AND KILL HIM RIGHT AFTER I SHOVE HIS WAND UP HIS —”

Scorpius never got to hear where the sender intended to shove his father’s wand, as the howler bursts into flames before his horrified eyes. Behind him, Headmistress McGonagall has her wand pointed at the pile of ashes now settled on his plate. The Great Hall had been stunned into silence and Scorpius just sits there, open-mouthed and teary-eyed, with his hands shaking and his lip trembling.

“Mr. Malfoy,” McGonagall says, getting no response from the boy.

“Scor —” Albus starts, placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder, but the boy shoves it away before getting on his feet and bolting towards the Hall entrance.

“Scorpius, wait!” Albus call as he chases after him, Rose and Louis following behind.

 

Albus finds Scorpius sitting on a deserted corridor with his head buried between his arms. He can see his friend is sobbing, all Malfoy composure forgotten, not that Albus faults him for it.

“Hey, Scorpius, are you okay?” he asks cautiously and mentally kicks himself. Scorpius is decidedly not okay.

“Go away,” his friend says between sobs.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Albus states as he sits besides the other boy and tentatively puts an arm around his shoulder. On the corner of his eye he can see Rose and Louis finally catching up to them.

“I don’t know who sent you that howler, but don’t let him get to you. He didn’t even have the balls to sign it, and his voice was magically distorted, so he’s obviously a coward. Screw him.”

“Yes, a coward and a monumental git for sending death threats to a child,” Rose agrees.

“We could probably take him on if he tried to live up to them, though, specially you, being so brilliant at Charms and all,” Louis adds trying to lighten the mood, but Scorpius is still unresponsive, though his sobs have stopped, which Albus counts as a win.

“Come on, Scorpius, let’s go to bed. We could all use a good night sleep,” Albus tries to coax his friend, to no avail, so he pulls him to his side and tightens the hold on him instead. Scorpius lets him.

“Um, Al?” A voice calls from the end of the corridor. It’s James.

“Scorpius’ dad is here, McGonagall summoned him. So is dad. They’re at her office, I was sent to get Scorpius, but McGonagall said it was okay if you guys went with him.”

“I don’t know if I can face my dad right now,” Scorpius says at last in a choked voice.

“He’s probably worried out of his mind. I know I would be if I were him,” Rose assures him.

“Come on, let’s take you to McGonagall’s,” Albus says as he tries to get his friend on his feet.

 

Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter are already sitting at the Headmistress office when the four friends arrive.

“Scorpius!” Draco exclaims as he jumps off his chair to hug his son, who wraps him in a tight embrace.

“I’m sorry, dad,” he sobs.

“Nothing to be sorry about, champ, nothing at all,” Draco assures him. Meanwhile, Harry stands up to meet his son, who hugs him too.

“They sent him a death threat, dad,” Albus says.

“I know, son, that’s why I’m here,” Harry explains.

“You’re gonna find who did it, right dad? And send him to Azkaban.”

“We will find him, son, sending death threats to a child is something very serious, we won’t take it lightly, I promise,” Harry vows, addressing the last part to Scorpius’ father.

“It’s all because of that story in the paper, the one Rita Skeeter wrote. She caused all this,” Rose bristles.

“I read what she wrote. I can’t believe the Prophet still publishes her scum,” Harry says.

“How did she even —” Draco begins to ask and then he remembers, "oh, right. Beetle."

“We’ll keep an eye out for her, then,” McGonagall declares.

“And what are we doing about this?” Draco asks, still holding his son tightly.

“I’m going to look for the man who sent this howler and bring him to justice. I am sure Scorpius will be safe here at Hogwarts, won’t he, Headmistress?”

“Of course he will. This school is still one of the safest places in the wizarding world,” McGonagall promises.

“And what about his classmates? Will they — are they — what if they give him a hard time?”

“Dad!” Scorpius complains with an embarrassed whine, but still doesn’t let go of his father.

“From time to time, kids of wizards involved with Voldemort during the War are targeted by confused kids who think it’s alright to harass them,” McGonagall admits, “but we put and end to it pretty quickly, the teaching staff and myself. It is a conduct we do not tolerate at Hogwarts and it is dealt with swiftly. If young Scorpius happens to be in the receiving end of any kind of untoward treatment, I assure you, Mr. Malfoy, we will stop it.” Draco acknowledges the Headmistress’ promise with a curt nod before turning to his son.

“Why don’t you and your friends go to bed? You must all be tired. I assure you everything will be alright. You already heard Mr. Potter, he’ll find who did this, so you mustn’t worry, alright?”

“Yes, dad.” With a final hug, Scorpius lets go of his father’s robes and takes his advice, his friends following behind him.

After a longer adult talk with the Headmistress about the issue at hand, Draco and Harry exit McGonagall’s office well past midnight. Before saying their goodbyes, Draco stops Harry forcibly grabbing his arm.

“He’s my only son,” he says with a trembling voice, “and possibly the only thing in my life I’ve done right.”

“He looks like a wonderful child,” Harry agrees, “and from what Albus tells me, a very bright and gifted wizard.”

“He is,” Draco confirms proudly.

“I’ll find who sent him that howler, Draco, I promise,” Harry says and Draco’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise at hearing him call him by his first name. Ultimately that’s what makes Draco believe the other man is not taking the matter lightly.

“Thank you.”

 

Unfortunately for Harry and the aurors he assigned to investigate the death threat, the howler sends a precedent for others to arrive. Some are similar threats of violence, some are merely hate messages aimed at Scorpius, and some are even addressed to McGonagall for allowing the children of known Death Eaters to attend Hogwarts. McGonagall teaches Scorpius a potent Freezing Charm, slightly advanced for his year, so he can prevent the howlers from exploding and send them to Harry for his office to investigate, which makes it pretty clear there is more than one author to them.

It doesn’t take long for the animosity to permeate to the student body, as shortly before winter break, Tyler Langdon from Gryffindor runs into Scorpius as he, Albus and Rose are heading for Herbology. Albus is recounting excitedly how Scorpius managed a Magnetic Charm so potent earlier that morning that the nails Flitwick had given the class for them to practice flew from all the tables directly to the small metallic cup he had enchanted, even the windows blew open as the iron window frames had been affected by the strong magnetism. Scorpius is shyly muttering that it was nothing when Tyler walks by and makes it a point to bump his shoulder into him to shove him aside.

“Watch it, Death Eater!” he spits.

“Hey!” Albus protests.

“Take it easy, Al, it’s not worth it,” Scorpius mutters trying to placate his friend.

“What did you just say?” Tyler flares up, “huh?”

“I said you’re not worth it,” Scorpius repeats meeting the other boy’s eyes, more confident this time.

“The Death Eater says I’m not worth it, is that right? You think you’re all that, don’t you? With your money and your arsehole sense of privilege. I bet I could take you on any day.”

“Is that a challenge?” Scorpius asks darkly.

“What if it is, huh? What if it is? Are you gonna duel me or are you gonna go cry to daddy?”

Before he or his friends can answer, an indignant voice shrieks behind Tyler.

“Tyler Langdon!” Minerva McGonagall calls making all colour drain from the Gryffindor’s face. “I didn’t just hear you instigate a duel, did I?”

Tyler gapes like a fish, unable to put thoughts into coherent words.

“I’ll tell you what, normally, proposing or engaging in a duel would call for House points deduction, but somehow I doubt that would teach you anything, so this is what we’ll do. As you know, there’s a Duelling Club organised by Professor Dawlish. It is normally for students in their second year and onwards, but if you are confident you can take on a duel with your half a year of magical education, I’m sure we can make an exception for you, Mr. Langdon. As it happens, Duelling Club meets on Mondays after class, so why don’t we all meet there and you can show us all your magical prowess?”

Scorpius, Albus and Rose’s mouth fall open, Rose specially can’t believe their Headmistress is actually encouraging them to fight. Tyler, for his part, turns even whiter, but being a true Gryffindor, and probably to avoid the point deduction that would undoubtedly follow if he refuses, he agrees.

“It’s all set then,” McGonagall states, “see you all after class.”

 

Scorpius can barely concentrate through the rest of the day, though Albus, Rose and Louis do their best to ease his friend’s worries away. His fellow Slytherins also try to lift his confidence, but to no avail.

“Come on, Malfoy, we all know you’re an overachiever magical prodigy, Langdon’s got nothing on you,” Nathaniel tells him after class.

For her part, Rose can’t hide her disapproval of McGonagall’s methods.

“I get that she’s trying to teach Tyler a lesson, but what fault does Scorpius have?”

“She probably knows you can beat him with your eyes closed, right mate?” Albus says throwing an arm around his friend’s shoulder as they walk to the Duelling Club. Scorpius is too nervous to reply.

 

The classroom where the Duelling Club is held is unusually crowded that afternoon. Aside from the regular attendants, members from both Slytherin and Gryffindor Houses are there, including the Weasley cousins, who are gathered somewhat apart from the rest of their housemates, probably as they’re all secretly rooting for Scorpius to win. Jackson Abercrombie too stands far from the other lions, settled next to Rose and Louis. McGonagall, as well as Professors Flitwick, Longbottom and Higgs are there too, waiting for Professor Dawlish to begin the session.

“Alright, so today we have a special programme here at the Duelling Club, as we won’t start the session with the practical lesson, but we’ll dive directly to the duelling part. Young Tyler Langdon here has challenged Scorpius Malfoy to a duel, so without further ado, I call both contenders to present themselves at the centre of the room.”

A long elevated wooden platform, similar to a fencing piste, is built at the centre of the classroom, with stairs on both ends for contestants to climb. Scorpius and Tyler take a side each and get on the platform.

“Alright, gentlemen, salute,” Dawlish instructs, to which both boys hold their wands before their faces before swiftly putting them down to their sides, “you may begin the duel.”

Tyler wastes no time yelling his incantation but Scorpius is faster.

Protego!” he screams, producing a shield that bounces the opposing spell back to Tyler, who ducks to avoid being hit by it. When he does so, the sleeves of his robe climb up a little, revealing a small metallic bracelet on the boy’s left wrist. This gives Scorpius an idea.

Wingardium leviosa!” he yells as soon as the shield disappears, and hits Tyler squarely on the chest, lifting the boy off his feet. Scorpius directs his floating yelping opponent in the air with his wand and when his head is nearly bumping the ceiling, he points to the heavy iron candle chandelier hanging from it.

Magneto!” he exclaims pointing at the chandelier. Tyler is freefalling as soon as Scorpius’ attention is no longer directed at him, but the chandelier is suddenly imbued with strong magnetic energy and the boy is sent flying upwards once again pulled by the bracelet on his wrist. The metallic trinket adheres itself firmly on the iron ring and Tyler drops his wand in an effort to hold on to the chandelier with both hands, crying for help. Some students laugh as they see Tyler helplessly kicking the air.

“Tyler Langdon has dropped his wand and is no longer able to battle. Scorpius Malfoy wins the duel,” Dawlish declares, prompting an explosion of claps, and Scorpius smiles smugly.

Finite Incantatem!” McGonagall exclaims to remove the Magnetic Charm from the chandelier, “you can let go now, Mr. Langdon, I’ll cast a Hover Charm so you can float safely to the floor.”

Tyler shakes his head vigorously in refusal, causing more laughs from the audience.

“Mr. Langdon, I assure you I am quite capable of performing a Hover Charm, so you can let go of the chandelier and allow me to put you down,” McGonagall says with a hint of exasperation.

After a pause, filled with more laughter, Tyler finally releases his grip on the chandelier and McGonagall gently puts him down back on the raised platform.

“For showing exceptional duelling skills after mere months of magical training, I believe you just earned your House a hundred points, Mr. Malfoy.” McGonagall declares, triggering a burst of clapping and cheers from every Slytherin in the room, including Professor Higgs. Rose, Victoire and Dominique are clapping too and, while they’re not overtly cheering, James and all his Gryffindor cousins look quite happy. Jackson looks pleased too.

“And for performing a Levitation Charm powerful enough to raise something as heavy as a human, I am giving you another fifty points,” Flitwick adds, to the absolute elation of the Slytherins.

“And it should be noted that, unlike the majority of charms, transfiguration spells like the one you attempted, Mr. Langdon, need to be modified to work on people, which you would know, if you paid more attention to your classes instead of picking fights,” McGonagall scolds Tyler, who casts his eyes down in shame.

“Today was a good exercise,” she adds, “but, and this goes for everyone, duelling or challenging to a duel outside of Duelling Club is strictly prohibited and will be dealt with in the future with disciplinary measures, which can go from point deductions to expulsion, are we clear?” There’s a murmur of agreement.

“Good, then I believe we are finished here. Professor Dawlish, I leave you and your students to continue your session.”

“Thank you, Headmistress, and thank you, Scorpius, for such an enjoyable duel,” Professor Dawlish says. Scorpius beams.

 

“You were brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!” Albus exclaims hopping up and down as he, Rose and Louis take Scorpius to a well deserved afternoon by the Lake.

“Your Levitation Charm, it was incredible,” Rose adds, “I couldn’t believe it when you managed to lift Tyler all the way to the ceiling.”

“You nearly made him piss his trousers. So much for Gryffindor bravery,” Louis quips and they all laugh. Scorpius keeps silent, letting his broad smile do the talking for him as Albus envelops him in a one arm hug. He can’t believe he just survived his first ever duel and came out winning.

Before reaching the castle front doors, they are intercepted by a tall and handsome dark-skinned boy wearing a prefect badge over his Slytherin robes. Albus and Louis had met their fifth year prefect, Yvain Zabini, upon their arrival at Hogwarts, but they hadn’t had much contact with him. For his part, Scorpius and Yvain’s fathers were friends since their school years, making the two boys more than acquainted.

“Hello, Scorpius, can we talk?” he asks in a deep voice.

“Go ahead, I’ll catch up with you,” Scorpius tells his friends.

 

“I wanted to congratulate you for your performance at Duelling Club, not every first-year can pull of magic with the skill you did,” Yvain tells him when Albus, Rose and Louis leave for the Lake.

“Thank you, Yvain.”

“You get any more trouble from Langdon or anyone else, you come to me, got it?”

“Does it happen a lot?” Scorpius asks.

“From time to time, but us Slytherins take care of our own. The howlers are new, though.”

“Did they ever bother you?”

“Once or twice. My parents were never Death Eaters, neither were my grandparents, but sometimes carrying our House colours can be enough of a crime for some people. You might get it rougher, though, your grandfather was a prominent supporter of the Dark Lord, some even say his number one. But sometimes I wonder if the roles haven’t been reversed.”

“Our cross to bear, I guess.”

“Bollocks. We did none of that, we don’t get to be the price our parents pay. As I said, we take care of our own, and what you did today, standing up for Langdon, beating him, it was a powerful message. You did notice how the better part of the audience was on your side.” Scorpius nods with a faint smile. He hadn’t had the time to properly process the events at the Duelling Club, but he does remember getting the distinct feeling that everyone, from his housemates to the teachers to even some of the Gryffindors, were rooting for him.

“It was a good thing you did,” Yvain insists.

“Thanks, Yvain.”

“No. Thank you.”

 

Yvain was right. Things calm down after that day. The news of Scorpius’ performance at Duelling Club spreads like wildfire through the castle and the following days he is met with impressed looks from students of all years. More so, there seems to be a new atmosphere breathed at the castle, a bit more of inter-house fraternity. Longbottom and Higgs’ efforts to group them in mixed teams no longer feel forced and there seems to be a genuine cooperation between all Houses.

The howlers don’t stop coming, but Scorpius masters pretty quickly the Freezing Charm, and sometimes his classmates give him a heads up and yell “Howler!” the second they spot an owl carrying a bright red envelope during morning post delivery and Scorpius casts the charm before the letter even hits the table.

The news of the howlers reaches Rita Skeeter, who blasts a second bomb titled “Hogwarts after the War: death threats and underage duelling”, much to Rose’s indignation, but if anything, it seems to put in perspective the fact that kids are being threatened and the hate mail dies down somewhat after that.

When the school year ends, King’s Cross station receives a much more carefree Albus and a much happier Scorpius than the ones who boarded the train the year before. Albus is bursting with news about getting top marks in Flying and Scorpius beating everyone in Charms. Rose is still the best student overall. Louis, for his part, looks a little subdued when he follows his sisters to meet his parents.

“What’s wrong with him?” Harry asks.

“Oh, nothing, he’s probably down because he had a fight with Tamara Pembrock before taking the boats to the station,” Albus informs him.

“Is that so?”

“Yeah, she caught him snogging Lorelai O’Deluga inside the broom closet on the third floor.” Harry’s eyebrows shoot up.

“Snogging?” he sputters.

“Yeah, and he had snogged with Tamara not two days before.”

“They’re twelve!” Harry exclaims scandalised, “kids these days, seriously.” Albus laughs.

A few steps ahead, Draco and Astoria Malfoy are helping Scorpius unload his luggage.

“There’s only Hunter’s cage left inside, I’ll go get it,” the blond boy informs his parents as he heads back inside the train.

“Wait here,” Albus tells his dad and chases after his friend.

“Hey, Scorpius,” he says when he finds the other boy carrying a large birdcage where his eagle owl is perched, clearly annoyed by the crowded loud station and the constant movement.

“Hey, Al.”

“So, we’ve got this weird calendar at home to make sure we all spend time with all our families. The first week we stay at our homes, then we spend some time at the Burrow with Rose’s family, then they all come to ours at Godric’s Hollow. We also usually spend a week with aunt Hermione’s parents at Muggle London and well, you’re invited to all of that, if you want.” Scorpius raises a sceptical eyebrow.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, I owled my dad earlier this week, he said it was alright if you wanted to come. If your parents let you, of course.”

“Muggle London, are you real?”

“Yeah, and I’m sure you’ll love it. It’s not all beans and monkey bars.” Scorpius laughs. If Professor Thomas had taught him anything, it was that muggle life was definitely much more than monkey bars.

“I’ll make sure to tell my parents,” Scorpius promises.

“It’s a deal!” Albus exclaims before wrapping his friend in a tight hug, “I better go now, Lily must be getting impatient. Have fun this summer, and you better show your mug at some point!” and with that he runs back to the platform, where his mom and little sister are already there and James is talking non-stop about a prank he and Albus pulled on a sixth-year that had picked on Scorpius.

“And then the toilet seat followed him all the way to the lavatories,” James laughs and, despite themselves, so do his parents.

“Dear Merlin, these two are going to make mom’s nightmares about Hogwarts toilet seats come true,” Ginny says and Harry laughs louder.

“Such a family of miscreants, we are,” he agrees, “now come on, Ron is already in the car, any bets on how long he’ll last without turning to his wand?” Ginny slaps him half-heartedly on the arm, and James, Albus and Lily are already placing bets, Lily declaring thirty seconds.

As they cross through the barrier to Muggle London, Albus turns back to search for his friend, who is being hugged by his mom as his dad ruffles his hair. He waves at him and Scorpius waves back, a bright smile on his face. Albus knows he won’t be able to wait to see his best mate again.