“Did you see him, did you see him?”
“It’s Harry Potter!”
Scorpius Malfoy edged past the excited students, keeping his head down and his cloak wrapped tightly around him. Passing a group mostly made up of first years like himself, he felt the sudden urge to stop and tell them that he had seen Harry Potter too, and Ron and Hermione Weasley, just a few metres away from where his parents had waved him off, and wasn’t it amazing to be going to Hogwarts, and did they know that the Herbology teacher was Neville Longbottom, who had killed that giant snake during the Battle of Hogwarts? But he caught the look of suspicion one of the older boys was giving him and hurried on.
He kept his eyes on the floor as he walked through the train, only looking up to check the compartments for occupants. Finally he found what seemed to be an empty one and ducked inside. Standing on tiptoe to push his owl’s cage and his small bag into the luggage rack, he sighed in relief that he had the compartment to himself.
He jumped half a foot in the air and spun around to find a girl seated on the bench opposite him. She was in the corner next to the door, which explained why he hadn’t seen her through the narrow compartment window. She had a thin face with squinty bright green eyes and brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. She smiled, showing an immense number of teeth quite disproportionate to her small size. Scorpius was reminded of a crocodile.
“Um, hello.” Suddenly tense, Scorpius stood awkwardly in front of the seat. Would she ask him to leave?
“I’m Lyra. Who are you?”
Hadn’t she guessed? He answered cautiously, a spark of hope igniting in his chest.
“My name’s Scorpius.”
There. Any child raised in a wizarding household would recognise a pureblood name like Scorpius. He secretly wished he had a less conspicuous middle name that he could use, but his mother had picked Hyperion, which was not only as bad, if not worse, than his first name, it was also blatantly immune to any form of shortening.
“Scorpius?” For a moment, Crocodile Girl seemed confused, and Scorpius thought of reaching for his bags and leaving. “Like Scorpion?”
He frowned at her, although he was secretly relieved. She was a Muggleborn, thank Merlin. He could stay in peace.
“It’s a constellation,” he told her. “All of my family are named after constellations, on my dad’s side, anyway.”
“Really?” Great, Scorpius thought, She hates my other name. I can’t win. “Me too.”
He blinked. “Pardon?”
“Well, not the family thing, but Lyra’s a constellation too. My mum chose it because of the lyre, though. You know, the instrument? She wanted me to be musical.”
“And are you?” Scorpius asked, falling gratefully onto the seat. Lyra smiled, and though the amount of teeth in it still amazed him, she seemed far less predatory than before.
“Nope. Are you… constellation-al?”
“I doubt it. I don’t think I’m made of lots of stars, anyway. And no,” he smiled back, “I’m not scorpion-al either.”
“I didn’t think–” Lyra stopped talking when the door slid open, revealing two students at least a year or two older than them, both wearing Muggle clothing and red and gold Gryffindor scarves. The boy was taller than his friend, with short black hair and a scowl on his face as he strode into the compartment. Scorpius didn’t look at him for more than a second before the girl in the doorway captured his attention. She was incredibly beautiful, with strawberry blonde hair down to her waist, dark blue eyes and a sprinkling of freckles over her nose. It took a moment for Scorpius to realise that her companion was speaking.
“…did you, Malfoy? I’m sure you’ll make loads of friends in Slytherin.”
“James, there’s someone else here.” The blonde girl turned to Lyra. “Are you alright?”
“Um, I’m fine, thanks,” she replied, obviously confused. The newcomers both looked concerned for her wellbeing, though the boy – James – managed to do it while simultaneously glowering at Scorpius.
“Are you a Muggleborn?” he demanded suddenly, turning to Lyra.
“Are your parents magical?”
James turned swiftly to face Scorpius again. “What are you doing?”
The younger boy tried to put on a brave face, but the intruders seemed suddenly furious. “I, uh–”
“We were talking. Are you looking for a compartment?”
Lyra’s confidence seemed to catch James off-guard, but then his eyes narrowed.
“Oh, I know why you’re talking to a Muggleborn – they’re the only ones who don’t know what you are,” the boy said in a disgusted tone. Turning to Lyra, he warned, “If you’re smart, you’ll stay away from this guy. He’s a Malfoy.”
He left before either could reply, sliding the compartment door shut behind him. The beautiful blonde girl cast Lyra a concerned look from behind the window, saying something inaudible to her friend before they headed further down the train.
“What a git,” Lyra remarked. Seeing Scorpius’ downcast expression, she asked, “What’s a Malfoy, anyway?”
“It’s my last name,” he muttered reluctantly, refusing to meet her eyes.
“Really? That’s harsh,” she joked, unaware of his discomfort. “I think I’d leave the school if someone called me a Jones.”
“Um. So, what house do you think you’ll be in?” Maybe if he changed the subject she wouldn’t notice how much James’s comment had shaken his confidence. “Gryffindor or Ravenclaw or,” he added hopefully, “maybe Slytherin?”
“Don’t know,” she answered, successfully distracted. “What house are you in?”
“I haven’t got one yet; all the first years get Sorted at the start of year feast when we get to the school.”
“You mean, today? ” Her bright green eyes widened in alarm. “Do we have to prepare for it? I’m really bad at tests. Are we supposed to know magic?” Her face was going red as she spoke faster and faster. “I-tried-to-practise-at-home-but-I-didn’t-have-much-time-andmymumwouldn’tletmetryspellsinsidethehouseand–” Her air supply ran out and Scorpius cut in as she gasped for breath.
“No, I don’t think we have to know magic. Anyway, my parents went to Hogwarts and they won’t let me practise at home either. Actually,” he grinned and pulled down his bag, “we can try magic now! There-” he pulled a light brown wand with an elegant handle from between a pile of books and his spare jumper. He held it up so she could see the carved pattern that twisted up the side. His dark grey eyes stared for a moment at the wand, as if in disbelief. Then he smiled, and started digging for one of his spell books. “Apple and phoenix feather, I can’t remember how many inches, twelve and something…”
Truth be told, Scorpius wasn’t sure if he was ever told the length of his wand. The shop owner, an ancient man named Mr Ollivander, had distracted him by saying, with a hard look at his mother (his father had refused to accompany them), “Apple wood mixes poorly with Dark Magic, and the phoenix is not easily won. You’d do well to keep that in mind, young man.”
So even the local wandmaker was convinced he was a bad egg. Brilliant.
Lyra, who it seemed was perpetually oblivious to the moods of others, didn’t notice his sudden frown, instead reaching into her coat pocket for her own wand. It was grey-white and longer than her forearm, with thin silver bands around the edges of the handle. She gave it an experimental swish, and blue sparks burst from the tip. “Are you sure we’re not tested?” she asked, but just holding the wand seemed to give her new confidence and her tone was more eager than nervous.
“I don’t think so. But I was looking up this one spell, it seemed simple enough…” He finally found the book he was looking for and flipped it open to the marked page. “The Colour-Change Charm, incantation Colovaria. This says we should start on small objects, because animals and people are much more advanced magic.”
“How about a pen?” Lyra suggested. “I mean, a quill.”
“Mum always told me never to point a wand at something I want to keep, and I like my quills. Do you have anything?”
A quick ruffle through their pockets revealed a handful of mixed Muggle and Wizarding coinage in Lyra’s, and nine Sickles and a Dungbomb in Scorpius’s. The discovery of the latter resulted in a sheepish explanation of wizarding pranks by Scorpius, and their first spell ended up being a clumsily executed Cleaning Charm as they attempted to remove the dirt from the Dungbomb from their hands.
Suddenly, a loud knock on the compartment door made them jump and Scorpius hastily stuffed the Dungbomb back into his pocket. The door slid open and revealed a tall blonde witch in her early twenties with a long ponytail going down her back. She was pushing a trolley covered in brightly coloured packages that Scorpius recognised as Honeydukes sweets. She noticed that they both had their wands out and sniffed disapprovingly. “Oh, not you first years too. There’s enough trouble with the fifth years when they learn how to blow things up and spend all summer dying to practise. It takes three weeks to repair everything!”
They both blushed and hurriedly stowed their wands away. “Sorry,” Scorpius said.
“Hmph,” was all she said in response. “Would you like anything from the trolley?” she asked briskly. Lyra looked bemusedly at the offerings. “They’re magical sweets. Completely harmless, though you’d do well to be ready when you open the Chocolate Frogs.”
Lyra’s eyes widened. She proceeded to “hmm” and “mm” and “uh” and “um” over the trolley, flitting between one end and the other as the witch, whose nametag labelled her as Daffodil Flume of Honeydukes Sweet Shop, watched her with a mixture of impatience and boredom. Scorpius selected a few of his favourite sweets – a pack of Jelly Slugs, some Pepper Imps, and several Chocolate Frogs – and handed over his Sickles, then waited as Lyra questioned him about the relative magicalness of this sweet or the other. She eventually settled on a packet of Fizzing Whizzbees, Sugar Quills, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, and, on Scorpius advice, two Chocolate Frogs. Scorpius saw Daffodil sigh with relief as she closed the compartment door.
“What do your parents do in the muggle world?” he asked as he pulled out a Jelly Slug.
“They run a bookstore. Dad was thrilled when I got my letter; he always loved magic. What about yours?”
Scorpius shuddered slightly as the Jelly Slug made its slimy descent down his throat. After swallowing a few times to get rid of the odd sensation, he replied, “Dad’s a potioneer, mostly Healing Potions for St Mungo’s. Mum works at the Ministry, in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. She’s always saying she’ll quit and go back to Magizoology, but she does like working there. Dad says– why are you staring at me?”
Lyra had frozen in the middle of raising a Fizzing Whizzbee to her mouth. After a moment, she found her tongue. “Are you speaking English?”
“Um… Yes?” He ran through the words in his head, looking for something that would have confused her. “Magizoology is the study of magical creatures, you know, like gnomes and knarls and things like that.”
“So what’s a potioneer? And a Sanemuncos?”
“A potioneer’s someone who makes potions professionally. St Mungo’s is the hospital in London, the wizarding one. My dad makes Healing Potions for them and teaches the junior Healers how to make the Wolfsbane Potion.” He eyed her dubiously. “Muggles do have Healers, right?”
“Well, we have doctors, but it’s more or less the same thing.” Lyra returned her attention to the sweet she was holding. “Do these make you foam at the mouth or something?”
“Fizzing Whizzbees? No, but they make you float when you suck on them.”
“Seriously? You have sweets that make you fly? What, do they mix them with fairy dust?”
“No, it’s more like hovering. They say it’s a spell, but everyone knows they use dried Billywig stings. You can use a broomstick to fly, but we’re not allowed them in first year.”
“You actually fly on brooms? I thought that note in the letter was a joke; you know, warning all the people whose parents weren’t witches not to pack their mum’s old mop or something.”
“Well, they have to be enchan–”
A loud yowling from outside the compartment cut him off. Lyra pulled open the compartment door to find a girl with frizzy red hair sprawled on the floor of the corridor. She was tangled up in the black robes she was wearing and seemed to be wrestling a large orange cat.
“No, Charlie! Stop! OW!” The cat had taken a swipe at her face and blood was now spilling from the scratch on her nose. She pressed her hand to her face to stem the flow and the cat shot off down the corridor. “Charlie, come back!”
She scrambled up off the ground, tripped over her robes and fell, and then got up again. She shook a fist in the direction of the fleeing cat, which made Scorpius laugh in surprise. In a moment the girl spun around and, a look of recognition crossing her face, glared fiercely at him. “SHUT UP, MALFOY!” she yelled, and stormed off after her cat.
Scorpius and Lyra stared after her in shock. After a moment, Lyra turned to him and said, “What is it with people and your last name? Do you even know her?”
Slowly, still staring down the corridor, he shook his head. “No. No, I don’t.”