People always liked to joke that Al Potter and I had a “history”. In first year, on the very first day at Hogwarts, I accidentally tripped him on his way up to get Sorted, and he fell flat on his face. In third year, I got the blame for the food fight he and his friends started. I had no idea how the teachers believed that, because a sweet Hufflepuff that refused to swat a fly on the wall really wasn’t capable of creating chaos at that scale. And later that year, in an effort to look cool, Al asked me out, which meant he offered to trade Potions notes (his were of terrible quality) and then went on to tell everyone we were dating. Last year, I kissed him briefly when I got a little too tipsy (I also couldn’t remember how that happened. Ellie Rinkle told me it had something to do with my O.W.L. that I was convinced I’d botched and a conveniently timed Hogsmeade trip). So people said it was no surprise that we seriously, honestly started dating once sixth year rolled around.
It was a cold, rainy Monday morning, but surprisingly, Al and his friends’ moods didn’t reflect the weather as they usually did. Al hung out exclusively with his Slytherin Quidditch teammates, and I’d found out way back in first year that all jocks’ cheerful moods tended to depend on warm, sunny days. But Al’s friends still weren’t as obsessive about Quidditch as last year’s graduating class. As hard as that was to imagine.
“Marty Goodwill got detention!” crowed Scorpius Malfoy, the spirited team captain, who was shorter than the youngest player on the team, a fourth year. “Ravenclaw has no Seeker for a week! Kev, make sure you train hard this week, because we need to use this to our advantage. We could be playing them for the Cup.”
“Always do,” grunted the seventh year Seeker, Kevin Dawson.
“What was the detention for?” I asked mildly. This was only my third or fourth time sitting at the Slytherin table, and I rarely entered their discussions. Al’s friends spoke more words in one meal than I did all day, and I also wasn’t quite used to the large food quantities they consumed. Even as I watched, Al dug into an enormous mountain of scrambled eggs. Across from him, Eddie McKenley had six slices of toast, all completely slathered with different types of jam. Eddie was the previously mentioned fourth year on the team, a small boy with a rat-like face and an attention span the size of a Sickle.
Scorpius looked sideways at me. Apparently I was supposed to know what Marty Goodwill got up to in his spare time that had landed him a detention and a banning of Quidditch for a week. “He was caught snogging Miranda Franklin on the Astronomy Tower last night.” He said finally with his mouth full, crushed, soggy cereal visible between his teeth.
“But he does that every Wednesday,” Eddie put in, “I can’t believe he hasn’t been caught until now. It’s what, February?”
“Goodwill’s sneaky.” Al said, his mouth also full. “He would’ve made a good Slytherin.”
“But we don’t need that filth,” said Scorpius, “We’ve got you!”
Both laughed loudly and slapped a high five across the table. They proceeded to bash Marty, Marty’s mother, and the entire Ravenclaw Quidditch team. Although honestly, I didn’t think there was that much to be proud of about Slytherin’s team. Their diversity, for instance. There were no girls at all on the Quidditch team, and Eddie, as a fourth year, had been one of the youngest players on the team for a few years.
I was no feminist or anything, but Hufflepuff and Gryffindor’s captains were both girls. Hufflepuff’s star Chaser was also a girl, and Ravenclaw had two second years on their team. One of them had the tendency to knock himself out with his own bat, but the other wasn’t half bad. I sincerely hoped it was just a coincidence that Slytherin’s team was all males and all older students.
Of course, that meant that in a few years, Slytherin would have to start its team almost entirely from scratch. It was in their best interest to start training some younger kids. I’d pointed that out to Al and his friends before, but unsurprisingly, none of them had taken in a word I’d said. Even Eddie, who should’ve cared, had been in an arrogant streak, and had just shaken his head. He’d said something about me not understanding.
“Weike gave me a P on my latest paper.” Russ Towers, a Chaser, was saying when I returned to the present. “And she wants me to come up during my free time to study with her.”
“Russ,” Al said, “No offense, but how did you even get into N.E.W.T. level Transfiguration?”
“I got an A on my O.W.L.s,” Russ said sadly, “And Weike told me that if I’d gotten four more points, it would’ve been an E. I guess I just wasn’t expecting that it would get so hard this year.”
“Mate,” Scorpius said, “Just practice transforming Gryffindors’ heads in gargoyles. That’s how I got my E average.”
“Yeah right,” Al said playfully, “You got your E average by copying off my tests!”
“Both yield the same results.” Scorpius replied.
“C’mon, it’s time for class.” Eddie said then, and with a sigh we all rose from the table and split up outside the Great Hall. The Slytherin Quidditch team was comprised of two seventh years, four sixth years, and a fourth year, so I stuck with Al, Scorpius, Russ, and a quiet Beater named Jon Reynolds as we made our way to Charms.
I had only two classes with Slytherin that year; Charms and Potions. I had taken Divination in third year, and I’d had that with Slytherin, but I’d dropped it. Al didn’t take Divination, anyway, and it was his presence I craved most. I could usually do without Scorpius chattering on about tactics for hours on end and Eddie’s hormonal cravings for a girlfriend.
Al’s friends could be a distraction in class, anyway. And that was putting it lightly. They were the masters of tossing notes, whether in the form of paper airplanes, crumpled up parchment, or, Al’s personal favorite, paper frogs Charmed to hop across the floor and onto someone’s desk. They played hangman, twenty questions, and made up dirty nicknames for whichever teacher they were pretending to listen to. And oddly enough, they all managed to scrape at least an A in all the classes that were important.
I knew that one of Al’s teammates was always scribbling down a sentence or two in class on what the teacher was saying; then they’d combine their scanty notes later that night. They’d also bully Ravenclaws in our year into helping them study for important tests.
We trooped into Charms, a few minutes late because of a detour to watch two seventh year Gryffindors break up noisily on the second floor. Al and his team settled down in the back of the classroom, and proceeded to finish last night’s homework. It was simple, just questions on the differences between charms spoken and charms done nonverbally.
“Sharon, aren’t more powerful spells harder to do properly without speaking?” Al murmured to me out of the corner of his mouth, as Proffessor Flitwick, a tiny old coot with horrible hearing, squeaked out instructions.
“Yeah.” I whispered back, while Flitwick was scolding a student on his illegible handwriting.
“Now class,” said Flitwick, “Please get out last night’s homework so that Mr. Potter can collect it, then open your textbooks to page eighty-seven, and read the section on Silencing Charms. Off you go.”
With a groan, and a devilish smile for my benefit, Al rose out of his chair and walked around the room, collecting homework. He saved his friends for last, although they were right next to him, so that they could finish up the work. When he was done, he dropped it carelessly on Flitwick’s desk, slouched down in his chair, and began assembling a small arsenal of spitballs.
Meanwhile, his friends had been complying a list of Hogwarts’ hottest girls. If I glanced behind my shoulder in a certain way, I could just read the names, written in Scorpius’ chicken scratch.
Miranda Franklin, Ellie Rinkle, Dominique Weasley, Tatiana Smith, Lily Potter…
When Al had made enough spitballs, he turned around in his desk to look at the list. His jaw dropped.
“Lily Potter? That’s my sister, you dopes! You can’t put her on a list of hot girls!”
“Dom Weasley’s on there,” offered Jon, “And she’s not even in school anymore.”
“Dom’s part Veela,” retorted Al, drawing out the last word, “If she weren’t on there, I’d be afraid for your health. But Lily is just an average, freckly girl.”
“Mate,” said Scorpius, eyes wide, “Have you see her—!”
Before he could finish, Al plugged his ears and hummed loudly. Flitwick looked up from his desk. “Mr. Potter? Have you read the section on Silencing Charms?”
“Almost done, sir.” said Al quickly, and he glared half-heartedly at Scorpius. “I don’t want to hear another word about Lily!” He hissed, so that Flitwick couldn’t hear.
“Your call,” Scorpius shrugged, and he stuffed the parchment in his pocket so that he could skim the required reading.
After a painful Charms class, which was punctuated by Al and his friend demonstrating their spitball skills, we had a free block, and I dragged Al to the library to finish his essay on Everlasting Elixirs. His friends tried to hide their winks and nudges, but I saw them; they were all sorry for Al, because he had a girlfriend that made him turn in his homework on time.
But I also could see through Al’s mask; he’d groan about the work, but he secretly enjoyed his civilized time alone with me, at least a little, during which he could prove he had more brains than he tried to get away with. Plus, he was usually able to convince me to snog him in some deserted hall once we were done with schoolwork.
“We have Potions last period today!” moaned Al, as I grabbed his hand to keep him from running away. “I’ll have plenty of time to write the essay before then!”
“Al, we have a break so that we can work,” I replied evenly, grinning, “Not so that you can discuss Quidditch with your friends.”
“Quidditch is important!” Al whined, “If we beat Gryffindor in our game next week, we’ll go to the Quidditch Cup!”
“I thought Gryffindor was the best team in the school, and that they’ve crushed everyone they’ve played?”
“Exactly why we need to talk about Quidditch during break!” Al finished, as we entered the library and found a secluded table.
I smiled to myself once Al had gone to look for a book; he was so much smarter than he cared to admit. He could win any argument, whether it was why he didn’t need any more knitted socks from his grandmother to why the Department of Mysteries should figure out a way to Apparate to another planet. And if he paid attention in class more than once in a blue moon, he would find it positively easy to get O’s in all his subjects.
Al returned, grumbling about the complexity of the library’s organization, and clutching a Potions book. “So, these Everlasting Elixirs… last forever?”
It was such a lame joke, but coupled with Al’s perfected puppy dog face, begging to be let out of the stuffy library, I burst out laughing. Al cracked a grin also, and in one fluid motion had slid onto my seat and pulled me up on his lap.
“Let’s forget about homework, and go find someplace nice and quiet.” He murmured in my ear, when my laughs had faded.
“We have to… finish the essay,” I said, not sure whether I was breathless from laughing or from Al’s singular scent, which was a mixture of leather, freshly mown grass, and broomstick polish.
“I promise I’ll do the essay later,” Al breathed, his mouth brushing my ear.
“I guess we can—” I began, but in the middle of my sentence the library door burst open and Al’s sixth year teammates, with Kev tagging along, poured into the room, taking up more space than should’ve been allowed. “Potter!” Scorpius said loudly, “The pitch is free! Let’s go!”
Al glanced at me, and I nodded. “I’ll see you at lunch.”
Al leaned forward and kissed me briefly on the lips. “Sorry.” He said, and the puppy dog face was back, but this time it was a genuine disappointment.
“Don’t be.” I said, and I meant it. Al spent plenty of time with me; I wouldn’t mind if we hung out more, of course, but he really cared about Quidditch, and I knew it wasn’t anything personal against me.
I just hoped one day he wouldn’t have to choose, say, between World Cup tickets and me.
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