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“Malfoys are Slytherins.”
Draco Malfoy knelt before his eleven-year-old son.
The spitting image of his father but scrawny for his age, Scorpius met Draco’s gaze with intense anguish. He gulped nervously.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of, Scorpius,” Draco continued firmly, placing his hands reassuringly on his son’s slight shoulders. Scorpius squirmed uncomfortably under the weight of his father’s grasp. “You come from a long line of Slytherins; proud, great men of honour.” Scorpius winced. “I do not doubt you’ll do me proud.” Draco added in response, with all the warmth he could muster. It was clear he was struggling with making such a sincere admission in so public a place.
“Leave him be, Draco.” Scorpius’ mother called patiently from behind Draco. Naturally she had been listening in on their exchange - staying silent, as usual – and now came to her son’s rescue, as usual.
Scorpius grimaced up at his mother. She smiled back at him forlornly, placing a hand on Draco’s shoulder as he hoisted himself up from the ground. Before either of them could speak again, Draco’s attention seemed to have been caught by something further down the platform. Scorpius followed his father’s gaze. A small huddle of people, adults and children, all but one with red or black hair, was conversing happily. Two of the children had to be his age. Maybe they would be in his year. He turned back to his father in time to see Draco exchange a solemn nod with the black haired man.
Draco suddenly turned back to his son, again placing a hand on his shoulder. He sneered, his voice deathly serious, “You don’t owe those people anything. Don’t let them make you think any differently. You’re a Malfoy, a Slytherin. You’re proud above all.” And with that, Draco dropped his hands to his sides and the tense moment passed.
“I’m going to miss you, sweetheart.” Astoria chimed, her voice breaking as she stepped forward to embrace her son. Scorpius’ heart began to beat faster. This meant she was saying goodbye.
As usual, Draco looked mildly perturbed by Astoria’s blatant demonstration of affection for her son, but allowed himself a smile, nonetheless, as he mussed his son’s hair. “See you at Christmas, son.”
“Have a wonderful time,” Astoria whispered, pulling him in for another hug. Scorpius groaned, praying no one was watching. At this rate, he’d have his head in a toilet by teatime.
“Bye mum, dad.” Scorpius mumbled, offering a weak smile to his parents before turning to head for the dreaded train.
Scorpius felt heavy with anxiety. This was exciting, he reminded himself. At least, it was supposed to be. He wished he knew someone - just one other kid would have been fine, but no, Aunt Daphne’s kids had to be babies, and girls at that.
Stepping wearily onto the train, Scorpius half-heartedly inspected his surroundings, trying his best to soak in every detail of this momentous occasion. Dragging his trunk behind him, he turned left and travelled down the aisle, discreetly peeking into compartments - all full of cheerful, chatting students – as he passed.
Growing more disillusioned by the second, Scorpius came to the last compartment of the carriage. Careful not to be seen, he leant against the wall of the aisle to peer into the compartment, that was, mercifully, only half occupied.
With a sinking feeling in his stomach, however, Scorpius instantly recognised the compartment’s inhabitants: the black-haired boy and the red-haired girl. Scorpius gulped.
Shuffling on the spot, he deliberated. Hauling his trunk through the open connection to the next carriage did not sound remotely appealing to him at this stage, but his father’s words echoed in his ears. He didn’t owe them anything. What did that even mean?
Mustering courage from somewhere - he couldn’t think where - he bravely slid open the compartment door, grimacing. The kids, who had been excitedly chatting amongst themselves, fell silent as their eyes came to rest on him. The redhead turned a distinct shade of pink while the black-haired boy’s eyes darted from his companion to Scorpius in concern.
“Hello.” Scorpius greeted them, rather lamely. “Everywhere is else full.”
The black haired boy looked as though he could have a full-blown panic attack at any second, but the redhead seemed to come to her senses. She gestured to the empty seat beside her cousin with a determinedly civil expression. The seat beside her was occupied by a satchel full to the brim with rectangular shaped objects of all different sizes.
Scorpius set about lifting his trunk onto the rack above the seat. The awkward silence ensued until he had finished and taken his seat. It appeared his travelling companions were engrossed in a silent dialogue, one that clearly involved a lot of raised eyebrows and wide eyes.
The redhead seemed to come to a decision. She turned pointedly towards Scorpius, cleared her throat and said very matter-of-factly. “Hello, my name is Rose Weasley. Nice to meet you.” And immediately turned to glare equally as pointedly to her friend.
“Albus Potter.” The black haired boy conceded unwillingly. “We’re cousins.” He nodded towards Rose.
“Potter, as in Harry Potter?” Scorpius couldn’t refrain from asking. He was merely curious. Everyone knew who Harry Potter was.
“Sure.” Albus shrugged, with a wary glance at his cousin.
“Scorpius Malfoy.” Said Scorpius, looking from Albus to Rose.
“We know.” Rose admitted seriously. Scorpius regarded her with curiosity. Why should they know that?
Albus grimaced, it was clear to Scorpius that he was struggling with some great burden as he considered his cousin with concern. “She’s not supposed to get too friendly.” Albus confessed hurriedly.
Scorpius hadn’t expected that. “Too friendly? What does that mean?”
“I dunno.” Albus shrugged again.
“Well I don’t owe you anything.” Scorpius countered with the only explanation he could think of.
“We only just met you.” Rose replied, puzzled. Her nose wrinkled up in confusion. “What could you possibly owe us?”
“Money or something?” Albus suggested.
“I dunno.” Scorpius conceded, truly lost. He was sure he had never met these people in his life. How could he have borrowed money from them? His dad was weird. He let out a quiet chuckle thinking of it.
Rose – who had been observing him intently the whole time – followed suit. Taking his cue from Rose, Albus began to laugh too. The tension seemed to seep from the room entirely. Even Albus appeared to have relaxed, kicking his feet up to rest on the seat beside Rose, who tucked her feet up from under her to sit on them.
“So what house do you think you’ll be in?” Rose asked conversationally.
“Slytherin.” Scorpius replied automatically.
“No wonder you shouldn’t get too friendly, Rose!” Albus remarked, throwing his arms up in the air. “He’s a Slytherin!”
“Not yet!” Scorpius retorted, affronted. “And what’s wrong with being a Slytherin?” He demanded. His dad was a Slytherin, after all. They couldn’t be that bad.
“Nothing,” Albus muttered quickly, bowing his head.
“So what about you then?” Scorpius asked, all of a sudden feeling very defensive.
“Gryffindor.” Rose and Albus replied simultaneously. They shared a small smile, evidence of a secret Scorpius clearly wasn’t in on.
“What’s so great about Gryffindor?” Scorpius asked genuinely. Wasn’t Slytherin supposed to be the best house?
“My parents were in Gryffindor.” Rose responded simply, as though that settled it. She glanced longingly at the satchel that sat on the seat beside her.
“And mine, and all my uncles and my brother is too,” Albus stressed.
“That would have to be the only downside to Gryffindor…” Rose mused out loud, more to herself. She glanced again at the satchel, this time surrendering and pulling out a red leather bound tome.
“My parents were Slytherins.” Scorpius stated in resignation, as if that settled the matter.
Albus and Scorpius both had slumped at the very thought of the impending sorting. Sensing the sensitive nature of the subject, Rose made a hasty effort to redirect the conversation. “So are you a Quidditch fan?” She asked, peeking over the top of her book and absentmindedly fiddling with one of her red braids. She had diverted her gaze to Albus before she’d even completed the question, but unnecessarily. Both boys perked up the mention of Quidditch.
“Yeah, of course.” Scorpius replied. “Falmouth Falcons.”
Albus gaped at him in horror, “Falcons?!”
“What about them?”
“They’re so…” Albus looked to Rose for support. “Mean!”
Scorpius just gave a non-committal shrug, feeling the colour rise in his cheeks. Wrong house, wrong Quidditch team… he was never going to make friends. “Well, my dad… He goes for them.” Scorpius mumbled, not meeting either of their eyes. He had the distinct impression, however, that Rose was studying him over her book. “Who do you go for then?” he asked Albus.
Now it was Albus’ turn to go red. “Harpies.” He replied shortly.
“Holyhead Harpies?! That’s a girls’ team!” Scorpius laughed.
Rose made no effort to hide her piercing glare behind her book.
“Yeah, but my mum used to play for them.” Albus snapped heatedly. “And she’s got a massive scar on her knee thanks to a Falcons player!”
“Your mum used to play Quidditch?” Scorpius asked reverently, deflecting the Falcon comment. “Cool…”
Albus smiled, visibly pleased.
“What about you, Rose?” asked Scorpius.
“I suppose Canons, if I cared…” Rose replied, not bothering to look up from her book.
“But the Canons are terrible!” said Scorpius.
“Her dad’s mental,” Albus explained.
They fell into a lingering, but not uneasy silence. Albus fiddled with his wand, twisting it around his fingers. Scorpius stared out the window for the most part, wondering how long this journey was going to take. But Rose could not be torn from her book. She kept the book so close to her face, Scorpius was sure her nose must be touching the page.
Scorpius eventually broke the silence. “Is she always like that?” he asked Albus in hushed tones. From the small smile that played on her lips, Scorpius was sure Rose heard him.
“Yep.” Albus replied simply. “Always.” He sighed. “Everywhere. At the dinner table – Gran doesn’t like that, at the Quidditch – her dad doesn’t like that, even on Christmas Day!”
“It’s not like I read all day Christmas Day!” Rose found the strength to tear herself away from her book. “Just a bit…”
“During presents, at dinner, when we played Quidditch…” Albus listed.
“It was a really good book!” Rose cried. “Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with reading, Al. You read.”
“Not all the time!”
“A lot!” Rose taunted.
Albus suddenly turned to Scorpius apologetically, “There’s nothing wrong with reading,” he insisted.
Scorpius just shrugged. He didn’t like reading at all. The place in his stomach that seemed to throb with anxiety gave a little jolt. Was he going to have anything in common with anyone at Hogwarts?
Another silence, this one not so comfortable.
Why couldn’t he be a Muggle? Then he could have gone to Muggle school and made lots of Muggle friends back when he was little. He wouldn’t be in this horrible mess if he was a Muggle. He didn’t have a clue how you were supposed to become friends with strangers. He didn’t know any kids his age. Flora and Persephone, Aunt Daphne’ kids, were two and four – babies. His dad didn’t have any friends - except for Mr Goyle – and no lady in her right mind would go anywhere near him, let alone have kids with him…
Yep, Muggles had the right idea, Scorpius concluded.
Scorpius was half-asleep, staring out the window again when Albus stood and reached up for something in his trunk. Scorpius was not impressed when he discovered it was a book, but watched on anyway as Albus sat down again and began turning the dog-eared pages. Out of sheer boredom, he squinted to make out the title, The Wonderful World of Wizard’s Chess.
Scorpius’ heart skipped a beat. “Wizard’s chess!”
Albus looked up at him in surprise. “You play?”
“You bet I do!” Scorpius couldn’t contain his glee. A fellow chess player! Finally, miraculously, something they had in common!
“Brilliant! I love it, but Rose sucks.” Said Albus.
Rose gave an irritated harrumph from behind her book.
“Why don’t we have a game? Do you have a set? I’ve got mine-”
In their excitement, neither of the boys had notice the compartment door slide open.
Another black-haired boy, who looked so much like Albus that he simply had to be his dreaded brother, stood arms-crossed in the doorway, accompanied by a tall boy with curly blonde hair and a smug look on face.
“What’s he doing here?!” The intruder demanded, incredulous.
“This is my brother James.” Albus explained with a roll of his eyes. “And his friend Will-”
“Finch-Fletchley.” The friend added genially.
“Finch-Fletchley,” Albus concluded dully.
James leant against the door frame, “Your dad will be so mad, Ro-Ro…” He teased gleefully.
“Don’t call me Ro-Ro.” Rose muttered through gritted teeth, unmoving from behind her book. With a sudden jolt, she snapped her book shut and glared pointedly at her cousin, “There’s nothing wrong with Scorpius being here. He can sit wherever he likes. Leave him alone, Jamesy.”
And with that, she returned to her book. Scorpius was filled with a rush of affection for the redhead.
James looked mildly perturbed, but rounded on his brother. “At least you’ll have a friend in Slytherin, now, Al.” He grinned.
Albus frowned, muttering, “Sod off, James.”
Seemingly satisfied with the results of his teasing, James was off, Will Finch-Fletchley in tow, sliding the door closed with a resounding thud.
Albus seemed embarrassed, but James’ interruption didn’t faze Scorpius in the slightest. They’d already established that there was nothing owing, that no one really understood what ‘too-friendly’ meant. Scorpius was far too concerned with getting this chess match going.
“Do you have brothers and sisters?” Albus asked him glumly.
“No,” Scorpius replied. “But I wish I did,”
“No, you don’t.” said Al with a bleak shake of the head.
And so they played; Albus was good, better than Scorpius had expected. The chess match occupying their hands, the boys – Rose occasionally speaking up from behind her beloved book – got to know each other. Albus talked about his family - Scorpius was very envious of Albus’ many uncles and aunts and cousins, they talked Quidditch - both agreeing Pride of Portee would win the Cup this year.
It was a close match - but Scorpius’ main opponent and teacher had been his grandfather - who did not take failure very well. Scorpius won.
When the train came to a steady halt, the anxiety that had so kindly left Scorpius’ stomach a few joyous hours ago decided that it should make a reappearance. Suddenly, thoughts of the imminent sorting seemed to chain Scorpius to where he sat. Only very begrudgingly did he manage to pull himself up to collect his trunk and trudge off the train, his new friends at his side as a giant man with a bushy beard called out into the night, “Firs’ years! Firs’ years this way!”
The castle was bigger, brighter and more wonderful than Scorpius could ever have imagined. Completely overwhelmed, he waited impatiently before a pair of great oak doors, Rose and Albus at his side.
Having just made the trek over the lake, the first years were windswept and anxious; nervous chatter broke out as the last of the new students clambered into the antechamber.
“Hello, hello!” came an altogether affable voice. The first years turned in unison towards an archway leading onto another corridor. Striding toward them was a jovial-looking, middle-aged man in a brown tweed suit with elbow patches. He sported horn-rimmed glasses and a decidedly side-parted hairstyle. “Welcome to Hogwarts! How excited you all must be - simply bursting with enthusiasm, I am sure.” He grinned happily down at the children, clasping his hands together. “My name is Professor Penrose and I’m Deputy Head, not to mention professor of Muggle Studies. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait ‘til third year to enjoy that wonderful subject!”
Scorpius caught Albus’ eye and had to suppress a laugh at Albus’ single raised eyebrow.
“Well, any second now we’ll bring you into the Great Hall to be sorted into your houses. Your house at Hogwarts will become like your family here. But not to worry!” Professor Penrose exclaimed, obviously in response to the many grimacing students, “Nothing too tricky! I’ll call out your name, one by one, plop the Sorting Hat your head and abracadabra – you’re sorted!”
Both Scorpius and Albus were now chewing their lips in an attempt to stop the giggles welling up in their throats from escaping. Rose shot them a scornful look, but frowned. She had good reason; they were seconds away from sorting now. Scorpius suddenly remembered he had reason to be anxious too – the grin slipped from his face.
“Alrighty then! Let’s get a move on!” Professor Penrose announced, barely able to contain his own excitement. Rather reluctantly, the first years followed him through the oak doors and into the magnificent, cavernous Great Hall. There was so much to take in that Scorpius barely noticed the rows and rows of students, unabashedly staring them down as they passed.
They soon came to a halt before the long High Table. At the centre sat an elegant woman with shining, long black hair under a bedazzled black witches’ hat, dressed in equally shiny black robes that shimmered in the light. She surveyed the group with keen interest. To her right sat a smiling, round-faced man who waved fervently at Rose and Albus, who solemnly returned the favour.
Sitting on a stool in front of the High Table was a mangy brown hat. The moment the first years had properly assembled themselves, a tear in the hat opened and it began to sing in a harsh voice…
Another year, another bunch,
Of minds to kindly mould…
But Scorpius was not listening. A hot panic seemed to break out in his chest, spreading quickly to his head and fingers. He had to be in Slytherin, he had no choice. But the more he thought about it, Gryffindor wasn’t looking so bad. Rose and Albus were born Gryffindors, there was no doubt about it – they were friendly and nice and helpful. Would they still be his friends if he were a Slytherin – since he was definitely going to be a Slytherin? He had to be a Slytherin. He just had to.
Scorpius came back to reality as the hat came to the end of its song.
“Well, let’s begin shall we?” Professor Penrose bounced on the balls of his feet, grinning as he unrolled up a long scroll of parchment with a flourish. “Let’s begin with… Adam Ainsley,”
A short, sandy haired boy pushed his way to the front of the group and shuffled over to the stool. He pulled the hat cautiously onto his head and in a matter of seconds, the hat cried, “RAVENCLAW!”
Well, at least it didn’t look painful.
The sorting continued. Already, a haughty looking girl with dark brown pigtails and a tall boy with a closely shaved head had already been sorted into Slytherin. Scorpius concentrated on his breathing. Glancing beside him, he saw Rose and Albus appeared to be struggling with the basic concept of breathing as well.
Scorpius’ heart skipped a beat as he heard Professor Penrose call out, “Shirley Mack,”
Scorpius watched in horror as the tiny Shirley skipped over to the cheering Hufflepuff table.
All eyes were on Scorpius now. He dared not look in any one particular direction for too long, trying to block out all the staring as he took his place on the stool. He couldn’t avoid, however, seeing the pensive faces of Rose and Albus directly in front of him. From the worried looks on their faces, Scorpius considered that perhaps they feared he would get his wish. It was a thought that both pleased and horrified him at the same time.
Warily, Scorpius pulled the aged hat onto his head.
“Malfoy, eh? Only one place for Malfoys…” Came the sinister voice. Scorpius was sure his heart would burst through his chest at any moment. “But difficult… there’s pride here, ambition, clever too… but kinder than expected. Could this Malfoy be a Gryffindor perhaps?” Scorpius winced at the mention of Gryffindor. Slytherin, he chanted, Slytherin – for his dad. “There it is, pride… no, better make it SLYTHERIN!”
Scorpius was momentarily too stunned to move, but the eruption of cheering from the Slytherin table pulled him out of his shock. Tearing off the hat, he quickly staggered over to the table, but not without catching the look on both Rose and Albus’ faces. A sort of devastated frown had appeared there as they both watched him cross the platform.
Scorpius was too confused to fully enjoy neither the welcoming cheers from his new housemates nor the sense of relief that washed over him. He was a Slytherin. He wouldn’t be disowned, Grandfather wouldn’t have him killed, his dad would be so proud - but the look on Rose’s face, Albus’ face… Had he already lost his first friends?
Scorpius was pulled from his thoughts immediately by the words “Albus Potter,”
Albus swallowed hard, glanced anxiously at his cousin and marched towards the stool with surprising determination. He yanked the hat onto his head and barely a second passed before the hat cried triumphantly, “GRYFFINDOR!”
Albus slumped with relief, grinning from ear to ear before he bounded over to the Gryffindor table, where his brother James was standing on his seat, making loud whooping noises. The whole table applauded and whistled as Albus took his seat.
That left Rose. Scorpius sought her out amongst the remaining first years. She looked even more petrified than ever, chewing her thumbnail nervously.
In the mean time, Georgiana Price and Demetrius Smith joined the Slytherin table. Scorpius waited patiently for Rose to be sorted, wondering if she would become a Gryffindor like she so hoped. She did seem to read a lot, so maybe she would be sorted into Ravenclaw. She was friendly too, so maybe Hufflepuff. Foolishly, Scorpius momentarily wondered if she too were to become a Slytherin. He quickly pushed that thought aside. She was too nice.
Growing impatient, Scorpius began to only bother looking up when he heard a change in letter.
“Portia Stefano,” called Professor Penrose. Another Ravenclaw.
“Edgar Thornton,” Gryffindor.
“Henry Urville,” Ravenclaw.
“Beatrice Vanderberg,” Hufflepuff.
Scorpius’ head snapped up. Distracted, he failed to hear the Sorting Hat’s announcement and only mumbled a quiet welcome to Valentina, who took her seat beside him.
Rose simultaneously paled, frowned and sighed at the same time. Not unlike Albus, she appeared to steel herself before marching directly towards the stool. The hat had barely touched the top of her head before it roared, “GRYFFINDOR!”
Beaming, Rose leapt from the stool, red braids swinging, and bounded towards the Gryffindor table where she was met by Albus, James and a whole host of other people who she obviously knew.
Rose’s sorting left three first years to be sorted. Boadicea Wisp, a petite girl with a brown bob, immediately joined Rose at the Gryffindor table while Jonathon Young joined the Hufflepuff table and Julius Zabini joined Slytherin. The sorting was completed.
The stately witch at the centre of the staff table rose gracefully. “Good evening,” she said, her voice low and rich.
“Who’s that?” whispered Valentina from beside Scorpius. His father had mentioned the Headmistress at Hogwarts a few times, but her name had slipped his mind altogether.
“Headmistress Sinistra,” Julius murmured in an undertone, before Scorpius could respond. The boy kept his focus on Professor Sinistra, barely moving a muscle as he answered Valentina.
“Welcome to Hogwarts,” Professor Sinistra greeted them. “It pleases me to see you all returned refreshed and eager to begin your studies. I pray this year sees great growth and improvement in all your endeavours. Mr Filch would like me to remind you that all Weasley products are strictly forbidden,” she smiled coyly at that, which was met with much sniggering from the Gryffindor table. “And of course many thanks to Professor Penrose for his assistance with the sorting. So, without any further ado, let the feast begin!” She waved a lithe hand and the tables filled with a vast array of mouth-watering food.
“So,” Julius began. There was something about the boy that was slightly intimidating; he was tall for his age and seemed to have a permanently distrustful look in his slanted, dark eyes. “You’re Scorpius Malfoy. My father said you’d be starting this year.”
“Who’s your father?” Scorpius asked, mildly interested. He couldn’t help himself from glancing over to the Gryffindor table, where Rose and Albus were having a great time, surrounded by family and newly made friends.
“Blaise Zabini.” Julius replied, with the air that this should mean something to Scorpius. It did, but not in the way Scorpius was sure Julius meant it to. Scorpius recognised the name, and thought he might even be able to put a face to it – dark and slant-eyed, just like Julius.
“He manages the Italian Quidditch team.” Julius didn’t attempt to disguise his boasting.
“I think he was friends with my dad at school.” Scorpius replied.
Julius looked slightly affronted that he hadn’t gotten the response from Scorpius that he had hoped for and immediately turned his attention to Demetrius Smith.
Scorpius ate in silence for a while, before he heard his name murmured close beside him.
“Malfoy…” Valentina was musing, twirling a strand of her long black hair in her fingers. “It sounds familiar. Hmm… that’s right! Astoria Greengrass – well Malfoy,” she corrected herself, “She’s your mother!”
“Greengrass,” Valentina enthused, “As in Daphne Greengrass! She’s wonderful!”
Scorpius looked at Valentina in confusion. His aunt was nice enough, but he didn’t think he’d go so far as to call her wonderful – especially to a complete stranger.
Valentina noticed the bemused and slightly concerned look on Scorpius’ face and heaved a small sigh, explaining, “I read in an interview with her in Witch Weekly once about her sister Astoria, Astoria Malfoy. I remember these things. Daphne Greengrass, she teaches at W.A.D.A, doesn’t she?”
That she did, but Scorpius had never found that to be particularly exciting. But the way Valentina’s eyes glazed over, reverently murmuring her name, “Daphne Greengrass…”
This girl had quite obviously lost her marbles.
Valentina finally picked up on the confused, slightly disgusted look on Scorpius’ face, putting it quite simply, “She has the most wonderful voice. I can’t wait until I get to W.A.D.A. – of course, I don’t see how any of the classes here will assist me much. I don’t see why they can’t offer Dramatic Arts related subjects, when we have to put up with Care of Magical Creatures and – worse – Muggle Studies. Really, how is that going to help me in the real world?” She looked pointedly to Scorpius, expecting an answer. He gave a non-committal shrug.
She may have been completely mad, but at least she was mildly entertaining and didn’t look like she would hex him into oblivion, as a great number of Slytherins along the table did.
Valentina continued to babble about W.A.D.A-this and W.A.D.A-that, giving Scorpius the chance to glance over to the Gryffindor table again.
To his complete surprise, Rose Weasley was staring right back at him, a kind of mournful look in her eyes. When their eyes met, she went pink in the cheeks, grimaced a small smile and turned back to Albus, who was chatting excitedly with another boy.
Maybe they could still be friends. Slytherin was going to be hard, he could see that now, but perhaps, if it was at all possible, Scorpius could manage to endure Slytherin – if it meant he could befriend even two Gryffindors.
Scorpius and Valentina had followed the Slytherin prefects down to the dungeons in silence. Valentina was proving to be good value; she took a no-nonsense sort of attitude towards most things, excluding W.A.D.A, and didn’t seem at all interested in the other girls in their year who had giggled and gossiped their way through the feast.
Scorpius was grateful for the companionship; Julius Zabini had taken a distinct disliking to him since the feast, when the latter had failed to fall over himself to befriend the boy.
Julius had quickly set about establishing himself as the Alpha Slytherin. Already, in the space of a few hours, he had either intimidated or talked his way into a position of some authority amongst the first years. He called the first bed in the dorm – and then proceeded to decide the order for the rest of the boys to choose their beds. Unsurprisingly, Scorpius came last.
None of the other boys objected to Julius’ little bid for power. Constantine Georgas and Demetrius Smith, already friends before coming to Hogwarts, put up no fight when Julius began bossing them around, while Jeremy Davis, a gangly Muggleborn with a shaved head, had attached himself as Julius’ right hand man before the feast had even started.
Lying awake in bed that night, Scorpius couldn’t help but imagine what he would be doing right now, had he been sorted into Gryffindor. He might be playing a game of Exploding Snap with Rose in the Gryffindor common room, or taking on Albus in a game of Wizard’s Chess on the floor of the First Year boys’ dormitories. Instead, he found himself hiding out behind the emerald green curtains that hung around his four-poster bed.
Unable to sleep, he decided to write to his parents to fill them in on his sorting. Still unsure of his father’s odd warning about Rose and Albus, he excluded them entirely, focusing more on the sorting ceremony, his thoughts on Hogwarts castle and how the Slytherin common room reminded him so much of home. Sleepily folding the letter and shoving it into an envelope, he stashed it under his pillow before drifting off into a dreamless sleep.
The next morning Scorpius woke early, eager to post his letter and be on his way before any of his dorm-mates could wake up and talk to him. As he quietly pulled on his robes, he considered however, that perhaps it was the opposite he was avoiding – that he was fleeing the dorm before his dorm-mates could completely ignore him. He shrugged away the thought; Valentina was nice enough to him and there was always Rose and Albus, if they still wanted to be friends…
Slipping out of the passage entrance, Scorpius ambled down the castle hallways in search of the Owlery. Rounding the corner of the corridor leading into the entrance hall, he froze at the sound of footsteps coming from the marble staircase above and jumped behind a suit of armour.
Panicking slightly, Scorpius feared there might be rules about wandering the castle in the mornings, just like there were about wandering the castle at night…
The footsteps grew louder as the person approaching crossed the entrance hall and marched straight towards where Scorpius was hiding.
Suddenly, they came to a cruel halt.
Scorpius held his breath, steeled himself and bravely peeked out from behind the suit or armour.
Rose Weasley was standing directly in front of his hiding place, hands on hips and head cocked to the side, a thoughtful look gracing her features.
“What are you doing hiding from me?” Rose asked patiently as Scorpius slunk out from behind the suit.
“I wasn’t hiding from you – exactly.” Scorpius protested, somewhat sheepish. “I mean, I didn’t know it was you.”
Rose studied him with her brow furrowed.
“Are you going to the Owlery?” she asked.
Scorpius frowned until she nodded towards the letter in his hand. “Oh, yeah.” His cheeks tinged a bit and he offered a crooked smile, “You don’t happen to know where it is, do you?”
“I was just headed there myself!” Rose grinned and turned on her heel, marching off in the opposite direction. Scorpius raced after her.
“So,” Rose began as they stepped onto a moving staircase. “How’s Slytherin?”
Scorpius fidgeted with his letter, taking his time to respond. “Well, it’s – it’s fine.”
Rose surveyed him suspiciously as they reached the landing and started on the next flight of stairs. She was obviously torn as to how to reply to such a response and simply chose to nod.
Scorpius grinned at her silence. “Okay then, how is Gryffindor?”
Now it was Rose’s turn to grin. “Wonderful, thank you for asking.”
“Really?” teased Scorpius, raising an eyebrow. “You’re sure you wouldn’t prefer Slytherin?”
Rose rolled her eyes and they continued their trek to the Owlery tower eagerly discussing their upcoming lessons.
At such an elevated height and with the early morning breezes whipping through the open tower windows, the Owlery made for a chilly destination. Pulling their robes tight around them, Rose and Scorpius quickly set about searching for their respective owls. Scorpius’ eagle owl, Zeus, regarded him moodily as he lazily stuck out his leg. His letter attached, Scorpius looked over to Rose, who was still scouring the compartments for her owl.
“Which one’s yours?” asked Scorpius, leaning against a dropping-covered bench.
“Oh, I don’t have an owl. I don’t need one. James and Al both have one, and Mum and Dad have Pig-“
Rose grinned. “Pigwidgeon. My aunt named him. A terrible name, don’t you think?”
Scorpius just shrugged.
“But I can’t seem to find Octavius… Al’s owl.” she added, frowning and scanning the compartments again. “Lancelot it is, then...” She sighed, as a tawny barn owl swept towards her, missing her entirely and smacking straight into the stone tower wall.
Rose knelt down to help the owl pick itself up and attached a letter to Lancelot’s leg. A scrap of parchment fell from her robes pocket.
“Poor Lance,” she murmured. “Almost as dim as James.”
Scorpius picked up the parchment scrap. Turning it over, he fleetingly saw how it read,
What did Dad mean about ‘not getting too friendly’ with Scorpius Malfoy? Al and I sat with him on the train, and he’s actually a really lovely-“Ouch!”
Scorpius looked up from the parchment to discover Rose waving a bleeding finger and Lancelot the owl looking rather guilty as he waddled further down the bench, fleeing the scene of his crime.
“Ruddy bird got me!” Rose winced, sucking on her injured finger.
“Here,” offered Scorpius, taking out his pale green handkerchief, embroidered with his initials. “Don’t worry, it’s clean,”
He gingerly wrapped it around her bleeding finger.
“… I think.”
Rose gave him a crooked smile and thanked him, before noticing the scrap of parchment, now slightly scrunched up, Scorpius still held in his hands. “Oh, I almost forgot!” she exclaimed, either oblivious to his obvious nosiness or kindly masking her disapproval, Scorpius wasn’t sure.
She briskly tugged the parchment from his hands and attached it to the begrudging owl who with an absent hoot, promptly flew out of the open window.
Clapping her handkerchief-bedecked hands together, she beamed and announced, “Right then, breakfast!”
The hallways were less empty now as they walked down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Rose and Scorpius walked down chatting idly about the differences in their respective common rooms.
Rose was fawning over the most wonderful book her mother had given her for her birthday when they entered the Great Hall. “It’s so in-depth, it’s fantastic. It’s an updated version, with a foreword from Professor Minerva McGonagall.” Rose spoke the name with great reverence. “It covers the entire history of Hogwarts castle, and its founders, and the origins of many of its unique architectural…”
Scorpius had come to a solemn halt.
“You’re not listening to me at all, are you?” Rose asked, more as an observation than an accusation. She too stopped beside Scorpius as he stood stock still in the middle of the open doorway to the Great Hall.
Julius Zabini was already sitting at the Slytherin table, flanked by the rest of the first year Slytherin boys. Thankfully, by the grace of some merciful god, he had not yet caught a glimpse of Scorpius gallivanting with a Gryffindor of all people.
“Sorry,” Scorpius mumbled in apology, turning his attention back to Rose.
The redhead simply studied him, as was becoming a habit of hers. It was slightly off-putting; Scorpius could feel his cheeks tinging pink, giving away his unease.
“Well, I should go.” He stammered, feeling sheepish under Rose’s gaze. He grew increasingly sure with every passing second that Julius’ eyes were boring into the back of his head. He was becoming paranoid now.
“See you later,” Rose said with a smile, before traipsing over to the Gryffindor table where she was met a willowy, older blonde girl.
Scorpius begrudgingly trudged over to the Slytherin table. None of the boys bothered to even look up at him as he took his seat, which Scorpius decided was fine by him. Yes, they were choosing to ignore him – but it could be worse, they could have chosen to gang up on him and together go out of their way to give him a hard time. He could deal with being ignored; in fact, he even relished it.
Scorpius was digging into his second helping of scrambled eggs when Valentina appeared and slid into the vacant seat beside him.
“Good morning,” she greeted him civilly, helping herself to a piece of toast and humming some classical tune absentmindedly.
A handsome man in neatly tailored dark grey robes and with blonde hair greying at the temples sauntered towards the Slytherin table. Though he carried in his arms a sizeable pile of rectangular sheets of parchment, the man still carried himself with an air of great self-importance.
“Boys and girls, your attention, please.” He called out along the table, his disinterested but firm voice reaching the ears of every Slytherin. “Terrence Higgs, Head of Slytherin.” He introduced himself briskly, beginning to pass out timetables to eager first years. “These are your timetables for this year. I ask that you take the time to study them closely and commit them to memory as best you can, so as to avoid a reputation for tardiness that could tarnish the great name of Slytherin house.” With that, Professor Higgs straightened his black cravat and swiftly marched from the Great Hall.
Scorpius studied his timetable with mild interest. His first lesson was Transfiguration, Professor Llewellyn, with Ravenclaw. Scorpius immediately scanned his timetable for lessons with Gryffindor; second lesson – History of Magic, Professor Binns, with Gryffindor. Tomorrow he would have Defence Against the Dark Arts with a Professor Slinkhard and Wednesday night would be Astronomy, Professor Circinus both with Gryffindor. Barely able to suppress a grin, Scorpius marvelled at his luck - three out of seven classes with Gryffindor! Plus Flying lessons on Friday afternoons with all first years!
Valentina had noticed his inexplicable grinning, but met it with only a cocked eyebrow and returned to her toast and jam.
With breakfast over, Scorpius and Valentina ambled wordlessly across to the Transfiguration classroom. This did not mean silently, however; Valentina hummed contentedly to herself the entire time. Fortunately, it had become apparent that her hopes of attending W.A.D.A weren’t completely unfounded; she had a rather sweet voice, from what Scorpius could tell from her incessant humming, so much so that it hadn’t yet started to annoy him.
There were only a handful of other students inside when they arrived, so they had no problem finding a pair of desks to claim. Soon the classroom filled up, the Ravenclaws clearly eager to begin their lessons, while Julius and Jeremy Davis were the last to file in.
All the students were seated now and sat in expectant silence. All of a sudden, the stack of parchment scrolls on the teacher’s desk began to flutter, lifted by an invisible wind, before they shot up into the air and began to spin around in a cyclonic circle. As they spun, the colour of the pages changed from beige into a vibrant red, with splatters of rich greens and yellows. The children watched in wonder as the great tropical birds spun out of their circle, taking the place of the parchment scrolls. They now fluttered around over the heads of the students, as a smiling, bearded man with shoulder length russet hair appeared from behind the blackboard.
Though he beamed up at the exotic birds overhead, he now clapped his hands together in an altogether businesslike manner, speaking in a thick Welsh accent. “Magnificent, aren’t they?” he mused. “Just a little peek into the wonder that is Transfiguration.”
He planted himself down on his desk, crossing his arms over his plain brown robes under which he wore a neat shirt and tie. “Well, I’m Professor Llewellyn. I’ve been teaching Transfiguration here at Hogwarts now for nine years, I’m Head of Gryffindor house and I’m a keen supporter of Puddlemere United. I’m certain I’ll get to know all your names soon enough. So shall we get started?” He rose with one sudden effortless movement and stood before the blackboard, chalk in hand, before Scorpius could even dip his quill in ink. “If you can open up your textbooks to page eleven, we’ll begin with Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration…”
Professor Llewellyn was a very enigmatic teacher; so much so that Scorpius was surprised by how fast the lesson went. Valentina kept to herself and the other Slytherin boys were quite content to completely ignore Scorpius altogether, which Scorpius appreciated. Eager for his first lesson with Gryffindor to begin, he was pleased when the teacher clasped his hands together again and announced in his amiable, lilting accent, “You’re dismissed. Have yourselves a lovely day.”
Scorpius packed his belongings and threw his satchel over his shoulder. He cast a sideways look at Valentina, unsure as to how far their new friendship – if it could even be called that – lent itself. Quickly deciding that it was best to keep at least one Slytherin onside, Scorpius proceeded to wait patiently for Valentina to clear her desk and pack her bag. Thankfully, she didn’t take long and barely even exchanging a glance, Scorpius and Valentina were on their feet, marching towards the library on the fourth floor to pad out the half hour break before their next lesson.
Author's Note: Thanks to lovely beta kaityb!
It wasn’t long before Valentina was dutifully following Scorpius down the corridor to the History of Magic classroom. Already, a few Gryffindor students were trickling into the classroom though Rose and Albus were no were to be seen.
Scorpius sped up, a small scheme formulating in his head. If he could be in the classroom, seated before Rose and Albus entered, then they would have to choose whether to sit with him or not. Consequently, Scorpius would be able to suss out the likelihood of their friendship continuing.
Inside, Rose and Albus were thankfully absent. Scorpius hastened to take his seat. Slightly bemused, Valentina did her best to keep up and wordlessly slid into the seat beside Scorpius.
“Oh,” said Scorpius, realising that Valentina’s sitting next to him had boxed him in against the wall. Sheepishly, he muttered, “Do you mind swapping?”
Valentina looked curious as she stood up and swapped places with Scorpius, but said nothing in response. Taking his seat, Scorpius let out an anxious sigh. Any second now it would all become clear. To pass the time, he took out his textbooks and parchment and skimmed the pages of A History of Magic. It was a subject he had some interest in, so much so that history of magic had been the topic of a number of books he had willingly read for entertainment purposes. He was studying a picture of Justus Pilliwickle when a cheerful voice came from beside him, “I thought you didn’t like reading.”
Scorpius looked up and to his immense pleasure and relief Rose Weasley was taking her seat in the desk beside him. Albus too was taking his place beside his cousin and smiled at Scorpius in greeting. A smaller girl unfamiliar to Scorpius, also Gryffindor with a chocolaty bob-cut was in tow. She happily took her place in the desk adjacent to Albus.
Scorpius was grinning stupidly, overcome by a rush of happiness that it wasn’t until Rose met his grinning stare with a concerned look that he remembered what it was that she had just said. He shrugged and did away with his foolish smiling. “I never said I didn’t like reading. I just wouldn’t consider it a hobby. Not like you.”
Rose smiled contentedly, pulling out her parchment and quill and fiddling with her textbooks. “How rude of me,” She remarked suddenly. “Scorpius, this is our new friend-“
“Oh hi, how lovely to meet you!” the little brunette girl greeted him enthusiastically, leaning across both Albus and Rose to shake his hand zealously, knocking over her quill tin in the process. “My name’s Boadicea Wisp, but please don’t call me that, it’s a very silly name. You can call me Bo, but only if you want.” She smiled happily. She had bright, big hazel eyes and seemed to unconsciously bat her lashes profusely, though whether this was out of excitement or general dottiness remained to be seen.
Scorpius greeted Boadicea warily, but smiling only to be drawn from his contentment by Valentina emitting a quiet ‘harrumph’. Scorpius met her eyes questioningly, but she only responded with a very pointed glare that seemed to read, ‘what on earth do you think you’re doing?’
Scorpius was relieved when a distraction came from Albus. He leaned back to see past Rose and asked genially, “How was your first class?”
Ignoring Valentina to his right, Scorpius replied casually, “Not too bad. Transfiguration teacher seemed all right. He’s Head of Gryffindor, isn’t he? What do you think of him?”
But before Albus could respond, the rest of class let out gasps and shrieks of surprise as a pearly white ghost flew through the black board. The ghost himself paid no attention to this, setting about preparing for his class. While the first years all looked on, the professor shuffled some papers and dawdled over to the lectern. He heaved a sigh before beginning to speak in a droll, monotone voice, his pitch and intonation barely changing, “Good morning class, my name is Professor Binns. Let us begin with the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. Please turn to page twenty-seven of A History of Magic. The Statute of Secrecy came about in 1689, but was not fully established until 1692…”
While Rose and Albus were already scribbling fastidiously across their parchment, Scorpius was really struggling to decipher clear words from the professor’s incomprehensible monologue.
“… until such time, witches and wizards practiced magic openly, often sparking outcry and condemnation from the Muggle population.”
Scorpius began to grow frustrated. Out of all the subjects on the first year syllabus, it was History of Magic that really stood out as a possible favourite subject. His grandfather had gone to great lengths to instil in him an appreciation for magical history, and indeed, the Malfoy family’s proud place as a powerful and prosperous player in the Wizarding world. This teacher was clearly completely incompetent.
Professor Binns continued to drone, “Consistent and organised persecution resulted in the proposal that Wizarding kind should go into hiding, so as to avoid further attacks and discrimination.”
Scorpius’ hand shot into the air. At first, Professor Binns continued with his monotonous recital, but after a good thirty seconds or so, he realised Scorpius had raised his hand. Binns frowned in curiosity, as if he were witnessing a rare phenomenon, as though pupils raising their hands in class were some sort of bizarre novelty.
“Excuse me, sir. I don’t understand.” Scorpius said earnestly. “Wizards are much more powerful than Muggles. We’ve got magic. Why did we have to go into hiding? Couldn’t they - the wizards and witches back then – couldn’t they have just fought back?”
A few fellow Slytherins were nodding in agreement and beside him, Valentina had sat up straighter in her chair, all traces of the sour expression from before gone from her face. But when Scorpius met Rose’s eyes, anticipating her approval, he was bitterly disappointed when she met his gaze with concerned disapproval. She was studying him again.
Binns appeared entirely flummoxed. “Well, well-” he wheezed. “The Statute of Secrecy was a means of peaceful submission to increasing hostility-”
Angered by Rose’ reaction, Scorpius took the liberty to scoff at Binns’ response. “Submission?”
He had earned some guffaws from fellow Slytherins. All the other boys, excluding Julius, were grinning at their teacher’s humiliation and Valentina was looking rather smug. Unfortunately, Rose only turned further away from him, her jaw locked as she exchanged a look with her cousin.
Scorpius’ heart sank. This was not what he wanted. Julius and his cronies were not people he wanted to impress and Valentina, though convenient to have as a companion, had hardly proven herself to possess the sort of genuine consideration and sense of friendship that Rose and Albus had displayed. He swallowed hard and shut his mouth decidedly.
The rest of the class passed agonizingly slowly, worsened by Rose’s hostility. Scorpius was all too pleased to hear the lunch bell fifty minutes later, though his relief was short lived. Both Rose and Albus began to pack their belongings speedily, maintaining an icy front.
Scorpius waited patiently for them to finish, waving away a sour looking Valentina and muttering something about catching up later. When Rose’s bag was packed, she slung it over her shoulder and headed for the door, flanked by the equally cold Albus and Bo, without even casting Scorpius a sideways look.
After a moment of stunned and confused paralysis, Scorpius raced after her, catching up with the three of them halfway down the fourth floor corridor. He grabbed her by the elbow, stopping her. Calmly, Rose turned to face him, her thick auburn braid whipping around to frame her expectant face.
“I’m sorry,” Scorpius mumbled lamely, taken aback by her calm disposition.
“For?” Rose demanded, something quite diplomatic to her air.
“Well, I’m not quite sure,” Scorpius replied, hastily continuing when he saw the look on Rose’s face. “But I wasn’t very nice to Professor Binns back there.”
Rose became deathly serious. “If there’s any part of you that thinks for one minute that Wizards are better than Muggles, I really don’t think we can be friends.”
“No, no, of course-” Scorpius began to protest.
“Because my mum’s a Muggle-born and my grandparents are Muggles and if you have a problem with that, then -” Rose interjected.
“Rose, I promise I don’t! I swear!” Scorpius refuted, with pathetic desperation.
Rose seemed appeased. She turned on her heel leading Albus and Bo down the corridor. When she realised Scorpius wasn’t following, she called back over her shoulder, grinning, “Well, are you coming, or not?”
Scorpius made sure he wouldn’t be seen entering the Great Hall for lunch with a horde of Gryffindors, stopping in the entrance hall and shooing Rose, Albus and Bo away with the excuse of having to tie his shoelace. It did the trick, and a minute later, he ambled in and took his place beside Valentina at the Slytherin table.
“Hi,” he greeted Valentina cheerily, ladling stew onto his plate contentedly.
Valentina glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and pouted, before spooning a spoonful of stew into her mouth sullenly. Scorpius watched, confused.
In one sharp movement, Valentina dropped her fork to the table and turned to Scorpius stiffly. “Is this how it’s going to be then?”
Scorpius looked from side to side, confused again. “What?”
“You’ve been sneaking around with those Gryffindors. Harry Potter’s kid and the redhead.”
“Keep your voice down!” Scorpius insisted in an undertone, scanning the table to see if Julius or any of his underlings had heard her.
“Oh please,” scoffed Valentina. “You’re not doing a very good job hiding it.”
Scorpius felt the blood rushing to his cheeks.
“If that’s how it is, fine. I don’t have to be nice to you. No one else is.”
Scorpius resented that ‘no one else’ seemed to only cover the Slytherins in their year.
“I don’t see people lining up to be your friend,” he muttered moodily.
Valentina stiffened, insulted, but tried her best not to let it show. “It’s not like it matters,” she replied icily, apparently choosing to ignore Scorpius’ jibe. “I don’t like to be crowded anyway. I like being by myself. These stupid children don’t appreciate me or my talent.” She absently let her eyes wander down to the gaggle of first year girls down the table and an almost sad look played on her usually poised features. Quickly, she collected herself and returned her focus to Scorpius. “Really, I don’t care. I don’t understand-” she added, tone dripping with disgust as she shot a brief glare in Rose’s direction. “But I don’t care. It’s just nice to know where I stand.”
With that, Valentina rose from her seat, gathered her belongings and began to march away.
Feeling confused and slightly disgruntled, Scorpius returned to his lunch, all too aware of the vulnerable position he found himself in, sitting alone at the Slytherin table. His concerns proved well founded, when barely a minute later none other than Julius Zabini slid into the seat across from Scorpius, his shaved-head sidekick, Jeremy Davis, flanking him, cross-armed.
Scorpius lowered his fork, letting his right hand fall to his side and fingering his wand. There was something in the way Julius was watching him snidely that indicated that this was entirely appropriate.
“What do you think you’re doing exactly?” Julius spat derisively.
“Eating my lunch?” Scorpius replied casually – though beneath his uniform, his heart was beginning to pound speedily.
“You think you’re being funny, do you?” Julius glared.
“See I’ve got a bit of a problem.” Julius began seriously. “Looks to me like you think you’re so much better than the rest of us, running around with the ginger girl and the Potter kid, just ‘cause his dad’s famous.” Scorpius made to protest, but Julius interrupted. “Not good enough for you, are we?”
His unease growing rapidly, Scorpius stood and clenched his fists. “No, that’s not true at all-”
Julius, too, got to his feet. He made no effort to disguise the fact that his fingers were entwined tightly around his wand.
Scorpius gulped. “I don’t want to fight you, Julius.”
Julius simply sneered, his slanted eyes gleeful in his mocking, “Too bad.” Clumsily, he whipped his wand through the air, emitting a purple flash that hurtled towards Scorpius.
But Scorpius was too quick. He’d seen his father and grandfather deflect too many spells in their regular duel practice to miss this ungainly hex. The movement was easy and the spell fresh in his mind, “Protego!” he shouted.
Julius stumbled back a bit, completely taken aback at Scorpius’ quick action. Gawkish Jeremy watched on helpless, no aid to his supposed protector.
In truth, Scorpius was entirely gobsmacked that it had worked; he’d never before actually performed any sort of defensive charm, only studied his father and grandfather on the regular occasions in which they duelled for fun.
Scorpius took full advantage of Julius’s momentary weakness, lurching forward and blasting the boy with another charm he had seen his father perform - a swift tickling charm, “Rictumsempra!”
Julius writhed around on the floor in a fit of giggles, his face contorted with a mixture of rage and irritation at the relentless tickling. Students from all houses now laughed and guffawed loudly as they pointed and got out of their seats to see what the fuss was about.
“OI!” A booming voice came from the great oak doors that lead on from the Entrance Hall. “What’s going on in here, then?”
Scorpius spun around to decipher from whom the authorative, but jovial voice was coming. Professor Llewellyn was marching briskly towards them, his brown robes billowing out behind him. As he approached the crowd encircling Julius now writhing on the floor, he clapped his hands together – as was seemingly his trademark – and observed the surrounding spectators suspiciously.
The other students halted their laughter and moved back to their tables warily, leaving only Scorpius still standing.
“I take it this is your handiwork, Mr…?” Professor Llewellyn asked pleasantly, stroking his short, russet beard as his gaze moved back and forth from Scorpius to Julius on the floor.
“Malfoy,” Scorpius confessed dolefully. He was going to be in big trouble. His parent’s wouldn’t be a problem – his dad would probably beam with pride – but he could just imagine the look on his grandfather’s face now, when he heard of his only grandson getting a detention on his first day of school. He nodded miserably.
Llewellyn simply looked to Jeremy questioningly, “You there, Mr…?”
“Davis,” Jeremy squeaked in reply, blanching.
“Mr Davis, you’ll escort your friend to the Hospital Wing, if you could be so kind.” Llewellyn instructed.
Jeremy nodded and hoisted the irate Julius onto his feet.
“And that’ll be a detention for both of you, I’m afraid. I find it very hard to believe Mr Malfoy here would act entirely unprovoked.”
Though he had anticipated it, Scorpius winced nonetheless.
Professor Llewellyn watched Jeremy waddle through the passageway dragging Julius as he went for a few moments before turning back to Scorpius. “I really shouldn’t condone what just happened here, but that was some pretty spectacular work for a first year like you. Professor Slinkhard and I head up the Duelling Club. I have an inkling it would be right up your alley…”
“Um, yes, sure,” Scorpius replied, dumbstruck. His eyes scanned the Hall for signs of Rose and Albus. Sure enough, both were seated at the Gryffindor table, Rose watching on with great interest in her usual critically observant way. Albus on the other hand, had happily returned to his sausages. “Can I bring some friends?”
“Absolutely. Terrific.” Professor Llewellyn remarked briskly. “Friday evenings, from October.”
Scorpius nodded soberly.
Llewellyn made to leave, but not before promptly spinning around to remind Scorpius, “Detention, four o’clock, Sunday, my office. Inform your friend, will you?”
Dear Mum and Dad,That would do the trick. He’d apologised enough. Feeling as content as the situation permitted, Scorpius folded up his parchment and shoved it in his pocket, with plans to visit the owlery after dinner.
Dinner proved to be an interesting event. Though she fiercely denied it, Valentina was clearly still put out about their row at lunch and particularly icy, only speaking when asking for the potatoes. Fortunately, Scorpius was able to relish both Julius’ absence and his new status among the other first year Slytherin boys. The three of them positioned themselves at the absolute furthest possible point from Scorpius along the table and shot wary looks in his direction throughout the meal.
Half an hour later, as he ambled back from the owlery to the dungeons, it occurred to Scorpius that there were more people in Slytherin house that wished him ill than he could count on one hand. In fact, he probably had good reason to fear for the presence of all manner of nasty surprises in his bed. He resolved to check between the sheets before hopping in.
Surprisingly, Scorpius was able to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep, with not a creepy crawly to be seen. It appeared that in so brazenly taking on Julius, Scorpius had secured himself a certain level of respect amongst the other boys and they had blissfully chosen to leave him be.
Saturday passed peacefully, with much time spent avoiding the dungeons and the ceaseless rain, and instead claiming a corner of the castle’s library, discussing Wizarding history with Rose, battling Albus in chess and trying to figure out if Bo was actually aware of how often she bat her eyelashes.
Scorpius was particularly interested in the witch-hunts of the middle ages, but talk eventually turned to later conflicts. Rose spoke glowingly of her parents’ involvement in the war; Albus, on the other hand, showed no interest in boasting about his father, as Scorpius expected he would.
“But what he did was amazing, he’s the most famous wizard in the world!” Scorpius pressed.
“Exactly.” Albus replied resolutely. “You don’t need me to tell you what he did or how great he is. You already know.”
“What about your parents?” Rose asked interestedly, her features shifting into the increasingly familiar pattern required for intensive Scorpius scrutinizing.
“I dunno.” Scorpius replied honestly. “My dad doesn’t talk about it. I know they were affected though, that was when my grandparents moved to St Petersburg, just after I think. My dad went with them too, but he came back and met my mum. Someone died, I think, my grandmother always gets upset at any mention of it.”
Rose continued to watch him from over the top of her book as he returned to his game of chess. It was becoming increasingly apparent that what Rose did best was study – and this went further than her schoolwork. It was with a little resentment that he discovered that Rose had taken to studying Bo as well, pensively regarding her, eyebrows furrowed, for a long moment as the strange girl spoke. Perhaps it was his ego coming into play, but Scorpius realised with immense pleasure that Rose tended to hold her gaze longer when she studied him. On several occasions, too, he could swear he caught her studying him even when he said nothing at all.
Even his detention passed uneventfully. Only a few days into the teaching year, Professor Llewellyn struggled to think of a suitable punishment for the boys and ultimately decided to make them alphabetize his vast, wall length bookcase. Scorpius and Julius worked at either end of the wall of books, only coming within a few feet of each other after an hour’s work. Julius scowled the whole time, grumbling incoherent insults under his breath. Scorpius wasn’t perturbed though, unfazed by such a mild sentence. Professor Llewellyn was kind enough to cut their detention short, letting them go after only an hour. Needless to say, Scorpius and Julius walked back to the dungeons keeping their distance a good yard apart.
When Monday morning arrived, the castle was showered with fresh sunlight after a very grey and miserable weekend. Scorpius was practically chipper, counting down the seconds until his first class with Gryffindor. Fortunately, Valentina had taken the weekend to find the strength to forgive him. They chatted contentedly as they took the stairs two at a time on their way to History of Magic. When they arrived on the fourth floor, however, Valentina made no effort to disguise her disgust on witnessing Scorpius speed up to reach his favourite Gryffindors.
“You’re like a silly little puppy, you know. Your eyes light up.” She teased. “Oh look, you’re drooling.”
Scorpius simply grinned at her and doubled his pace.
Albus, Rose and Bo were waiting impatiently at the door. “Hurry up, then.” Albus grinned, waving them over. “Looks like we’re the last ones…”
All holding their breath, they filed gingerly into the classroom only to discover that the remaining vacant seats were positioned at the very front of the classroom. Grimacing, the five of them clambered down the aisle and took their places, garnering disapproving looks from Slytherins and Gryffindors alike.
And yet, Professor Binns did not once look up from behind his opaque spectacles. On and on he droned about some ancient conflict, indistinguishable from the next, until he was pulled from his rambling by an indignant voice.
“They’re late, sir. Aren’t you even going to tell them off?” scoffed Julius from the back row, fuming. Whether he had raised his hand to pre-empt his disdain remained to be seen, Professor Binns wouldn’t have noticed all the same.
Their teacher was puzzled as he returned from his educational reverie. “Er, um, I beg your pardon, boy?”
“Malfoy and those Gryffindors, they’re late, sir.” Julius sneered.
“What are you talking about, Zuchini? Everyone’s seated. Mind you quiet down, now.” Professor Binns instructed distractedly, harrumphing before returning to the blackboard. Scorpius and Albus shared a grin at Julius’ expense.
But unfortunately, as much as Scorpius appreciated Binn’s lax attitude when it came to his constant tardiness, History of Magic quickly became the bane of his school week. The lessons themselves were agonizing; there was something about Binn’s tone of voice that had Scorpius feeling torn between consciousness and the overwhelming desire to sleep. So dull where Binn’s lectures that Scorpius was required to reread most of the material covered in class; a chore he didn’t begrudge, History of Magic being a personal interest, but time consuming nonetheless. On top of that, the papers he slaved over were returned to him without one comment, marked only with Binn’s initials and an ‘E’ for Exceeds Expectations. A quick survey of classmates revealed that this was the standard marking procedure for every first year student, regardless of the work produced. It was downright infuriating, and Scorpius had vented his frustration in a number of letters to his parents.
Scorpius’ letters were only ever met with his mother’s usual non-committal optimism. Her letters were full of general reassurance and vague support, as she skirted around the issue of his discontent and focussed on Tulip the house elf’s latest mishap or the health of the peacocks that resided in their gardens. His father, on the other hand, had been much less communicative, much as Scorpius assumed he would. It was not in his father’s character to wile away his time writing soppy letters to his eleven-year-old son. Consequently, Scorpius was rather surprised to discover a crisp parchment letter with his name penned in his father’s pointed scrawl attached to the ankle of his owl, Zeus.
Scorpius,Before he knew it, Scorpius found himself a month into his first year. So much had happened in such a short time. Along with the eternally aloof Valentina, Scorpius could now count Rose, Albus and Bo as firm friends. On weekends, he was invited to eat with them on the Gryffindor table. They played exploding snap and wizard’s chess in the library and explored the grounds. Rose and Albus had promised to take him to tea with Hagrid, the half-giant Gamekeeper – a very exciting and slightly terrifying prospect.
Scorpius now had a good sense of his favourite subjects and teachers; he found Potions was hard and messy, Charms was manageable and Professor Llewellyn made Transfiguration worthwhile. Then there was Defence Against the Dark Arts and History of Magic – classes in which he had begun to discover his love of the word why. Why were banshees so unhappy? Why would witches allow themselves to be caught, if only to laugh at their feet being tickled by the flames at their feet? And for the first time in his life, he was reading for pleasure, hungry for answers to such questions.
October was swiftly upon them bringing with it the commencement of the Duelling Club’s weekly meetings.
The Great Hall buzzed with anticipation on the first Friday in October. As dinner came to an end, students began to clear and Scorpius bade goodbye to a disinterested Valentina and traipsed over to the Gryffindor table.
“Do you know if this club’s any good, then?” he asked his trio of Gryffindors by way of greeting, planting himself beside Albus on the long bench.
“I guess so,” shrugged Albus. “Plenty of our family are in it.”
“Dad says duelling’s the most important skill for a wizard to master,” piped Rose, brow furrowed – clearly this assertion worried her – but she quickly grinned, “After Quidditch of course, but I’ve given up on ever mastering that.”
“Yeah,” scoffed Albus. “That would involve you putting down your books for a minute.”
Rose shot him an offended glare.
The Hall was well and truly emptying now, and it was apparent that those remaining were Duelling Club members. Scorpius was glad to note Julius and his cronies hadn’t signed up. With a jolt, however, he realised not all of his enemies were absent – cruelly, James Potter was in attendance and had taken a place among some other second year students further down the table.
James had taken it upon himself to reinforce the more traditional segregation of the Hogwarts houses. In his mind, it was altogether unhealthy for his little brother and younger cousin to be associating with a Slytherin and James liked nothing – not a single thing – better than irritating Scorpius. This usually involved taunting in the corridor or at lunch - nothing too unbearable, but embarrassing all the same.
Fortunately, before James could notice Scorpius’ presence, the Great Hall’s broad oak doors swung open and with a small flourish, in came Professors Slinkhard and Llewellyn. Professor Llewellyn, most definitely one for showmanship, led the way, while the more reserved, mousey Professor Slinkhard followed close behind.
“Evening, ladies and gentlemen,” bellowed Professor Llewellyn contentedly. “Might we all shuffle to the sides of the hall, so the lovely Professor Slinkhard and myself can set up?” Professor Slinkhard shot her colleague a wary but amused look and proceeded to role up the sleeves of her navy robes. She may have been middle-aged and liberal with her allocation of homework, but the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher had a keen sense of humour. Together, they both began to rearrange the furniture to clear space for duelling.
“So this must be the mysterious Mr Malfoy I’ve heard so much about…”
Scorpius spun around in his seat. A beautiful girl, undoubtedly a seventh year, with shining long blonde hair was grinning down at him. Scorpius felt himself flush scarlet as he looked to Rose and Albus for an explanation. Amusingly, he discovered a familiar shade of red creeping onto Rose’s fair cheeks.
“Oh, hi Vic,” she muttered, uncomfortable. “Yes, this is our friend Scorpius. Scorp, this is our cousin Victoire.”
The older girl flashed him a brilliant smile. She had the whitest teeth he had ever seen. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Scorpius. I’ve heard so much about you.” Victoire shot a scandalised Rose the most teasing grin, before adding, “Well, good luck!” and waving goodbye to join her friends.
Rose immediately sought to cover her embarrassment by ducking into in the nearest book, disappearing behind its protective cover while Albus shrugged off his cousin’s teasing as best he could. “We don’t sit around talking about you, I promise.” He assured him, adding hastily, “That would be weird.”
“You do.” Bo interjected apologetically, seemingly out of nowhere, her eyelashes aflutter. “And it is. Just a bit weird.”
Fortunately a distraction came in the form of Professor Llewellyn, “Rightio, then!” he called. “Welcome to the Duelling Club! For those of you who’ve only just joined us, welcome! I promise we’ll take it easy on you – for now.” He added with a sly grin. “And for the rest of you lot, what d’you think you’re doing sitting around? We’ve got work to do! Up you get!”
There was a rumbling noise as the older students rose from their seats, their excited chatter accompanied by the loud sound of stools scraping across the stone floor.
“Disarming spells! The most important charm you can have up your sleeve in a duel. Your opponent can’t do you any harm if they’ve not got a wand!” Professor Lleweylln gestured emphatically with his own wand before turning to Professor Slinkhard. “Professor Slinkhard, if you’ll do me a favour, we’ll need some willing volunteers.”
Professor Slinkhard nodded calmly, shaking her grey bob, and turned to the audience at large. “Some of our more experience duellers should do the trick.” She said in her very businesslike manner. “Mr Cattermole?”
A smug looking boy with a slightly upturned nose sauntered out from the crowd, brandishing his wand expectantly.
“And perhaps… Miss Weasley?”
Around the room, at least three girls stepped forwards. The beautiful Victoire had emerged from the crowd, but so had another girl with strawberry blonde hair and a round face, as well as a serious looking girl with a brown bob and a Hufflepuff girl with long red hair. Beside him, Rose too had stepped forwards and her obvious shock and terror was palpable.
Professor Slinkhard corrected herself with a laugh, “A Miss Victoire Weasley, I should say.”
With a wry smile, Victoire continued into the centre of the room. Rose appeared to recall how to breathe beside him.
“Disarming spells, if you don’t mind.” Professor Llewellyn instructed enthusiastically. “Show ‘em how it’s done!”
Both professors cleared the space leaving Victoire and Cattermole in the cleared space. They bowed, before turning and marching ten paces in opposite directions. Both came to a swift halt before spinning around and exclaiming Expelliarmus!
Victoire was too quick. The smug boy’s wand went flying through the air and into a gaggle of Ravenclaw girls. The boy himself stumbled backwards slightly, while Victoire, this slender, willowy girl, still stood proudly on both feet, hands on hips, a triumphant smile playing on her beautiful lips.
Professors Llewellyn and Slinkhard went through basic duelling protocol, bowing procedures and rules before demonstrating the disarming spell itself. After five minutes practice, Professor Slinkhard announced it was time to pair up.
Scorpius instantly discovered Rose at his side. She was chewing her bottom lip fervently, a deep crease forming in between her eyebrows. Scorpius had to refrain from laughing at how seriously she was taking this. He’d seen his father and grandfather disarm each other loads of times. It was easy. Rose looked fit to faint.
Professor Llewellyn called from the centre of the room, “Bow!” The both did so, Rose almost losing her balance as she continued to gnaw at her bottom lip.
“Turn!” came the teacher’s voice and again they followed his instructions, marching for ten paces. Scorpius spun on the spot, whipping his wand around in a circular motion and shouting, “Expelliarmus!”
Rose didn’t stand a chance. In her panic, she had been slow with her wandwork. Scorpius’ spell had worked – perhaps better than he had hoped. Not only had Rose’ wand gone flying, but Rose herself had been sent flying backwards, travelling a good five feet in the process.
Wracked with guilt, Scorpius ran over to her, barely hearing a booming voice calling his name from behind him. “MALFOY!”
Ignoring this, Scorpius offered Rose his hand, apologies coming thick and fast. “Merlin, Rose, I’m so sorry. I really didn’t mean to- I mean, I didn’t realise it would – oh Rose, I’m sorry!”
Rose gave a shaky laugh as she allowed herself to be pulled onto her feet. She had opened her mouth to say something when, her eyes fell upon a figure behind Scorpius, her face contorting from giddy confusion to slight terror.
Scorpius turned to discover Professor Llewellyn looming over him. He was quite a tall man, and from this angle, he was downright intimidating. “Malfoy!” He bellowed, “What on earth was that?”
Scorpius gulped. He hadn’t meant it! It was a mistake! Surely the Professor could understand that. Scorpius opened his mouth to explain himself but was cut off.
“A first year! Disarming like that! I’d better keep an eye on you. Promising work! Very promising!” and with that, he clapped Scorpius on the shoulder, squinted down at Rose and added. “All right, Miss Weasley? Of course you are.”
Scorpius felt himself deflate as he watched Professor Llewellyn walk away. Bemused, he turned back to Rose and remembered his guilt.
“I really didn’t mean it, Rose. Are you sure you’re all right?”
Still wide-eyed from the shock, Rose nodded vaguely. “I- I don’t know what happened.” She murmured, “I’ve read all about disarming charms…”
Scorpius grinned. “You do realise that there are some things you can’t learn from a book?”