The common room was the only bad aspect concerning Slytherin, Al Potter figured. It was built right under the lake, so there was always an eerie greenish light, and a damp feeling about the place. No matter how many lamps were there, the room was always a little bit too dark, a few too many shadows lurking in corners. The hard leather couches weren’t nearly as comfortable as the comfy, plump ones Sharon described, and the fireplace barely produced any warmth. The stone walls felt harder every time you tripped coming down the staircase and stubbed your toe on one.
Al stretched out on the couch closest to the fire and pushed the thought of how much homework he had out of his mind. His head was still throbbing from being hit by a Bludger during Scorpius’ spontaneous half hour Quidditch practice that morning.
“I can’t believe we have another practice tonight,” Al grumbled, “I’ve got a splitting headache here.”
“Suck it up, you’re an athlete,” Scorpius answered unsympathetically from a nearby table, over which all his homework was spread out. He was even more behind than Al, because of all his Quidditch planning. “Merwin Finwick of the ’99 Tornadoes once got hit by sixteen Bludgers in a single game, and he didn’t even stop to mop up his nosebleed.”
Al chose not to answer that, and instead closed his eyes. Sharon’s sweet, caring, gorgeous face grinned shyly back at him. He felt himself smiling unconsciously.
He could still remember the very moment he got a crush on Sharon Whitby. It had been in March, and the entire fifth year was doing a mock O.W.L. exam, in the Great Hall and everything. The written tests were shortened, so that the whole thing could be taken in one day, and teachers conducted the practical part of it.
Al was sitting towards the back left corner of the Great Hall, and, as in the real exam, had his own individual desk. His quill, ink and parchment had been charmed to resist cheating, and he was trying to answer his Astronomy questions as quickly as possible.
However, as usually happened with Astronomy, Al was quickly both utterly confused and completely bored. He scratched his quill aimlessly against the desk, bit his tongue and tried to remember what the constellation Virgo looked like. It was futile, of course; Al couldn’t even remember what dates went along with the Zodiac sign.
As Al struggled with the problem whose answer he knew wouldn’t even help him in his later life, since Astronomy wasn’t something he expected to pursue, he caught site of the girl sitting in front of him and one seat to the right.
She was bent intently over her paper, scribbling faster than he thought was possible, and Al’s first thought was bitter: I bet she knows what effing Virgo looks like.
Al watched the girl for a minute as she wrote, and tried to remember her name. She was in his year, obviously, but not his house; he vaguely thought she was a Hufflepuff. He didn’t have many classes with Hufflepuff, but surely he could remember her. He went through all the Hufflepuff girls in his mind: She wasn’t Ellie Rinkle; nor was she Steph Tilley; she couldn’t be Wanda something-or-other, who had red hair; this girl had flowing light brown hair, nearly blonde, that crawled down her back.
There were only two other Hufflepuff girls; A nice Russian girl whose last name was impossible to pronounce, and that left— Who?!
Al gave up on the girl’s name and simply studied her as she wrote. Her face was mostly hidden by the angle at which Al was looking and a curtain of hair that had swung forward off her shoulder. But he could make out the delicate curves of her small face, her button nose, a few freckles splattered under her eyes. Her brow was scrunched in the effort of remembering the answer to a hard question, and Al couldn’t exactly see her eyes but he saw the movement of them as they scanned the rest of the page, perhaps for a clue to an answer.
Just as Al sank into a full reverie, a tightly rolled scroll of parchment rapped him sharply on the shoulder. Al jumped and turned; Headmistress McGonagall, who had retired after the war but came back a few years before, was looking down on him with her lips pressed together.
“Eyes on your own paper, Mr. Potter, or are you finished?”
“Just… thinking of an answer.” Al replied quickly. He scribbled down a random description of Virgo and stared hard at the next question until McGonagall had moved on.
Al rushed through the rest of the exam; after all, the grades didn’t count for anything, the school just wanted to get kids ready for what the exam would feel like. When all the papers were collected, the kids filed out of the Great Hall for a quick break, and Al followed the girl.
The students were allowed to wear any clothes they wanted for the mock exams, to ensure they were comfortable. The mystery girl wore loose jeans that clung to her legs and a thin lilac sweater. As she left the school and headed for the lake, she rolled up her sleeves. She didn’t turn as they walked slowly around the lake, nor as she sat down in the shade of a large willow and Al crouched under another. But finally she said quietly, studying her folded hands intently, “Why are you following me?”
Al was shocked into silence. He had been sure she hadn’t noticed him; he was a Slytherin after all, and Slytherins were supposed to be sneaky!
“Well?” Suddenly she was standing over him, blocking out the sun, and Al blinked and looked up into her spellbinding face. He scrambled to find his train of thought, and was horrified to discover that when his voice came out, it wasn’t nearly as cool and commanding as he’d have liked.
“I, er, just forgot your name. I wanted to figure out who you were.”
“You could’ve asked.” She sniffed, but Al could find an irritated person from a hundred meters away (his mother was good practice) and the girl certainly wasn’t the slightest bit annoyed. Even as Al watched, a smile flitted across her rosy lips, then disappeared.
Al couldn’t think of anything to say but for the obvious. “Er, what is your name?”
“Sharon Whitby.” she answered, and grinned fully, uncrossed her arms. “C’mon, I think it’s time to go back in.”
And she led the way inside, Al reveling in her beauty and wit.
It didn’t hurt that she got totally wasted a week later and kissed him full on the lips.
“Quit daydreaming about your girlfriend and help me with this dumb essay.” Scorpius snapped his fingers in front of Al’s closed eyelids, making his friend jump.
“Damn it, don’t do that!” Al snapped, standing up and following Scorpius back to the table.
“What were you thinking about? A broom closet? Behind a suit of armor? A deserted corridor? An un-deserted corridor?”
“No!” Al said quickly. “I was just remembering the first time I realized I wanted to date her, that’s all.”
“Mate, do you ever think dirty thoughts about Sharon?” Scorpius asked dubiously, shuffling through the pages of his Transfiguration book to find the one he wanted Al to look at.
“Of course! I just wasn’t a minute ago.”
“Good. Otherwise I’d have to declare you a first year for being so… immature.”
“You want immature? How about shaving ‘arse’ into Kev’s crew cut last year!”
Scorpius snickered, and handed Al the textbook.
“All right, everyone!” Scorpius bellowed, once the entire team was floating twenty feet in the air and Dash Parkinson had stopped racing poor Eddie around the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch. Besides the fact that William Parkinson had earned his nickname for his speed, he had a Helios 900 while Eddie was stuck on a Firebolt 161.
“Listen up!” Scorpius shouted, and the most of the team quieted to hear Scorpius’ instructions, although Kev and Dash deliberately kept on whispering to each other. Scorpius ignored them. They were the two seventh years on the team, and were still stung from the fact that Scorpius, a mere sixth year, had been made team captain that year. Kev and Dash were good players, they just weren’t good at stringing together tactics or keeping order. Scorpius, on the other hand, was a brilliant keeper who’d made the team in second year and studied Quidditch constantly. Scorpius was aware of the humiliation he’d brought on Kev and Dash, and so he spared them from a few of the rules, to keep peace on the team.
“All right, today we’re going to practice coming to a complete stop, then shooting off in the other direction. It’s called a stop-and-go. You’ve all done it before, but every single one of you has a completely ridiculous stop-and-go. The two most common mistakes are not coming to a complete stop, or stopping but taking off slowly. The whole point is to stop and change direction sharply so quickly, your opponent doesn’t see you until you’re speeding off behind him.”
Scorpius demonstrated, and he did it fairly well. Then he made everyone on the team go through the move until they’d all done it perfectly at least twice.
Just as Scorpius opened his mouth to yell at Eddie for slamming into him as he turned too sharply, several scarlet-clad figures appeared from the direction of the changing rooms. As one, they mounted their brooms, rose into the air, and flew up to where Al and his team were hovering.
“Up for a little scrimmage, Malfoy?” jeered Gryffindor’s captain, Pete Wood.
“Always, Wood!” Scorpius shouted back, though Al could see that he was annoyed his practice was getting interrupted. “Eddie, go get the balls.”
Al watched Eddie zoom downward to retrieve the balls that weren’t already in the air or held by one of his teammates, and noticed a lone person sitting in the stands. She was far away, but Al could tell instantly that it was Sharon, bundled up against the cold. Her warm, honey colored hair crept out from under a rose-colored hat, her face mostly concealed by a scarf. Al’s heart swelled, and he waved hard in her direction. She blew him a kiss back.
With butterflies swarming in his stomach, and his instinct or conscious or whatever it was ordering him to play like a pro while Sharon was watching, Al turned back to the game being planned.
“You can start with the Quaffle,” sneered Wood, “Since you’re gonna need all the advantages you can get.”
“We’ll start with it,” replied Scorpius coolly, “But only because we’ll get it quickly, regardless of who starts with it.”
Wood looked livid. “Play ‘til someone reaches fifty points, or the Snitch is caught.” He ordered his team, and Al watched Scorpius bite back a retort as to why Wood should get to make the terms of play.
We aligned ourselves as we did every game, in an original Scorpius Malfoy formation. It involved us all aligned around Dash, Beaters Russ and John hovering protectively above and below, and only Scorpius, as Keeper, exempt from the sphere of players. A Gryffindor player unleashed the Bludgers and the Snitch, and the game was on.
Dash shot off immediately towards Gryffindor’s Keeper, and just as Wood was about to grab it from him, dropped the Quaffle to Al, who’d been speeding along below. Al flew straight up into the air to lose Wood, who was tailing him. His hair whipped off his face and slapped loudly against his ears, and Al felt the thrill of flying fill his body and soul. Just as his ears started to pop from the height, he flipped downward and flew towards Gryffindor’s Keeper, effectively losing Wood.
C’mon, c’mon… Al could never quite perfect his aim. He was great at getting to the opposing team’s end of the field, and yet he often missed the actual hoop. But today he had to score; Sharon was watching!
Just as Al wound up to shoot, someone flew straight into him, causing him to drop the Quaffle and spin off in another direction. He’d only had the wind knocked out of him, but Al was incensed; the only thing that kept him from beating the living daylights out of Wood was Sharon.
Al bent over and caught his breath, watching numbly as Wood sped off and scored. Grimly, Scorpius threw the Quaffle back to Eddie.
Eddie took off, weaving through players and dodging a Bludger. Al raced up to fly alongside him.
“Fly ahead!” Eddie shouted, “I got it!”
Al obeyed, and had a minor shoving match with another Chaser who wanted to block the pass. When the boy nearly knocked Al off his broom, Al attempted to punch him, but missed. It was sometime around then that Gryffindor got the Quaffle and scored again.
Scorpius was mad now, roaring at Wood and the Slytherin team alike, insulting and threatening and ordering. Clouds had gathered overhead, and a light mist of rain began to fall. Al glanced back at Sharon; her face was flushed from the cold, but she smiled and waved to him when she saw him looking. Al turned back to the game, ready to fight for the Quaffle. His stomach squirmed at the thought of being humiliated in front of Sharon.
But a minute later, Russ got hit by a Bludger, and Gryffindor scored again. Just as Scorpius was getting ready to seriously injure someone, Petra Mahoney caught the Snitch, and it was all over.
Al and his team floated slowly down to the ground, Scorpius fuming but everyone else dejected. Al ruffled Eddie’s hair as the kid trooped silently past, and Russ and Jon bent their heads together to talk.
Wet and humiliated, the team trooped back to the changing rooms. The Gryffindors think they’re all that, Al thought sourly, watching the cheering players jog off the field, because they’re so brave. Well, they can laugh all they want, but they’re not the only good ones. We Slytherins are clever; they can call it sneaky, or slimy, but we know we’re just good at getting the job done. And then that crazy idea that Slytherins are all “bad guys”? That’s all Gryffindor’s fault, too. Because all their parents were in the Order, and all the Slytherins were Death Eaters… I’ve got news for them: My dad was the guy who defeated You-Know-Who! So they can shut up about that, ‘cause it’s all over. Now that You-Know-Who is gone, it’s time for we Slytherins to stand up and prove that we’re just as good as— no, scratch that— better than all those sissy scarlet women.