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Albus Potter and the Servant of Slytherin by admiller
Chapter 1 : Friends in Strange Places
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 3

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    The scarlet Hogwarts Express rattled and swayed as it picked up speed, pulling away from platform nine and three-quarters and streaming clouds of pure white steam through the sky behind it. A few students were still wandering the corridors, searching for friends and flitting in and out of the compartments. Their cries and shots of laughter and welcome rang throughout the train.

    In one of the rear compartments, a small boy with untidy black hair and bright green eyes shining from behind round glasses was reluctantly pulling his head inside the compartment and closing the window. Albus Potter slumped back into the seat, sighing heavily and wiping his eyes hastily on his sleeve. Excitement and fear welled inside him. His father had told him that if he told the Sorting Hat not to put him in Slytherin, it would listen to him, but he couldn’t help still feeling nervous.


    The compartment door slid open and Albus looked up to see a young girl with long, bushy red hair pulled back in a braid sidle into the compartment carrying a wicker basket from which issued a low hissing noise in one hand and lugging a heavy trunk with the other. 


    “Hiya, Rose,” Albus said, forcing a small smile at his cousin, who stowed her trunk under the seat before plunking down beside him with her basket in her lap.


    She made a small noise somewhere between a cough and a whimper. 


    Albus patted her on the shoulder and she forced a small smile in reply. “You’re scared, too?” he whispered.


    Rose nodded jerkily and fumbled with the clasp on her basket for a moment before the lid popped open and a slinky black cat with pale yellow eyes leapt from the basket and disappeared beneath the seat opposite them.


    “’Lo, Delaney,” Albus said, staring down at the spot from which the cat’s yellow eyes glared out at them, his long tail flicking back and forth. “Are you sure he’s safe with Driscoll in here?” Albus said, nodding to the cage in which his sleeping hawk owl sat, swaying gently with the train with his head tucked under his wing.


    Rose raised her eyebrows at him. “You realize that my father has an owl a lot smaller than Driscoll and Delaney has never laid a paw on him.” She said it with a slight edge of bitterness in her voice. Perhaps she realized this because she smiled at Albus reassuringly.


    “So,” Albus began, turning his eyes from the sleeping owl to Rose, “Do you reckon we’ll be in Gryffindor?” He tried to keep his tone light and casual but he couldn’t keep a slight note of anxiety out of his voice.


    “I don’t know,” Rose said, and Albus was relieved to see that she was indeed just as nervous as he was. “Since Mum and Dad were both in Gryffindor I think I’ll be but…I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn’t be bad, either. Mum says she was almost put in Ravenclaw when she was sorted.”


    Albus nodded and gulped. He didn’t want to mention that his father had almost been put in Slytherin. “Yea,” he said vaguely, “Ravenclaw wouldn’t be bad. The Headmistress was in Ravenclaw, my Mum said.”


    As Rose opened her mouth to reply, the door to the compartment slide open again and a boy with sleek, white-blonde hair and pale eyes peered in at them. “Er,” he said timidly, “I was wondering, everywhere else is full. Could I…may I join you?”


    Albus raised his eyebrows and exchanged a glance of shock with Rose. “Oh, well,” he said, “I suppose so.”


    The boy’s pale face broke into a small smile. “Thank you,” he muttered, panting slightly as he heaved his trunk and cage holding a snowy white owl into the compartment. Albus stood and helped him stow his trunk without disturbing the hissing Delaney before returning to his seat.


    Sitting across from Albus with his owl in his lap, the boy held out his hand, saying. “Scorpius Malfoy.”


    Albus accepted his hand with a small smile. “Albus Potter.”


    Scorpius shifted his owl’s cage in his lap and held out his hand to Rose, who hesitated for a moment before taking it without returning his smile or speaking. His smile faltered. “You’re a Weasley,” he said, a slight note of questioning in his voice.


    Rose nodded, still not speaking.


    “Our parents went to school together, and yours, Albus,” he said, apparently trying to be friendly.


    Rose, however, narrowed her eyes and her tone was icy as she said, “Yes, I suppose you could put it that way.”


    Scorpius blushed scarlet and mumbled, “I didn’t mean…I just--”


    “It’s fine,” Albus said loudly. He looked pointedly at Rose as he said, “We can’t blame each other for what happened between our parents.”


    Rose glared at him, her brown eyes narrowed and her lips pursed so that she bore a striking resemblance to her mother.


    “Rose,” Albus said, returning the gaze, which he had learned from his own mother, “it’s fine.”


    She frowned at him but said nothing. Albus understood why she was acting that way towards Scorpius, his father and grandparents had caused a great deal of pain for both her and his own family, especially to Rose’s mother. But Albus had been taught not to discriminate. After all, that is what his and Rose’s parents had fought for in the second Wizarding War.


    “I like your owl,” Albus said, nodding at the snowy owl in Scorpius’ lap.


    Scorpius, who had been gazing sheepishly at Rose, jumped slightly. “Oh,” he said, glancing down at the owl, “Thank you, her name is Neilina.”


    Rose snorted and Scorpius’ face turned a deeper shade of scarlet. “My mother picked it,” he mumbled. “I just call her Lina.”


    “Don’t mind her,” Albus muttered, jerking his head at Rose, who had pulled out her copy of Standard Book of Spells: Grade One and was perusing it with her brows furrowed. She was so very like her mother. “This is Driscoll,” Albus said gesturing to his sleeping Hawk Owl.


    Scorpius glanced at the owl before turning back to Albus. “Have you read your spell books, yet?” he asked, glancing at the book in Rose’s hands.


    Albus shook his head. “Well, I’ve looked through them,” he whispered. “But Rose is like her mother. She’ll be top of the class for sure. She’s strange like that.”


    “I heard that,” Rose growled, not looking up from her book.


    Albus exchanged a shifty grin with Scorpius. “Do you play Quidditch?” Albus said, lounging back in the seat.


    Scorpius, who seemed to feel much more relaxed, set Lina on the seat next to him beside Driscoll and nodded fervently. “Oh, yes, my father lets me use his old Nimbus and I fly in the fields behind my grandparent’s house a lot. I’d like to try out for the House team next year since first years can’t play. Well, except your father, I heard he was the youngest player in a century. My father still doesn’t seem to happy about it. They used to play each other.”


    “I know,” Albus said, smiling slightly. He had heard countless reminiscing from his parents and uncle about the matches they had played when they were at Hogwarts. “What position do you play?


    “Chaser,” Scorpius replied, frowning slightly. “But I think my father would rather I was a Seeker like him. I’m not much for snitch-catching though. What about you?”


    “Seeker,” Albus said. “But my brother James says I’m rubbish at it. He has my Dad’s old Firebolt and I’m on my Mum’s old Cleansweep. They said they’ll get me a new one next year if I still want to play for the House team. I’d be happy with my mom’s Firebolt from when she played for the Harpies.” He sighed heavily and gazed out the window. “I don’t know what the point it though, James will probably make Seeker this year now the old one has left so I’d just be a reserve anyway.”


    “You don’t know that,” Scorpius said kindly. “You might not even be in the same House as him.”


    Albus gulped and went pale. “Yea,” he muttered, “maybe not. James would love that.”


    “I’m sorry,” Scorpius said quickly, “I didn’t mean…”


    “It’s okay,” Albus said, speaking over him. “If I’m not in Gryffindor, it’s not the end of the world,” he said, echoing his father.


    Scorpius sighed. “My father will probably disown me if I’m not in Slytherin. Mum isn’t too fussed over it but she was in Slytherin, too.”


    As he said it, Albus looked up to see the door of the compartment open for the third time. He blushed as his brother peered in at him, his dark hair sweeping across his brown eyes and a smirk plastered on his face. 


    “What have we here?” James sneered. “Little first years? Rosie, Al.” he froze as he spotted Scorpius. “What’s he doing in here?”


    Scorpius blushed again and stared blankly out the window.


    “Shove it, James,” Albus murmured. “He’s not hurting you, is he?”


    James scoffed. “Well, at least the little Slytherins get along.” He leaned back into the hallway and called, “Oi! Fred.”


    After a moment, a gangly boy with bright red hair and a smattering of freckles across his face appeared next to James.


    “You called?” he said. He was slightly taller than James, though James was the ringleader of the second year Gryffindor boys.


    James nodded at Scorpius, who was still gazing out the window. Fred raised his eyebrows and exchanged a smirk with James. “Ickle Slytherins,” Fred said in a voice like James. Rose had lowered her book and was watching the exchange nervously.


    “We’re not in Slytherin,” Albus said loudly. 


    “Yet,” James sniggered.


    Albus leapt to his feet and pulled out his wand, pointing it at James. He could feel the heat rising in his face. “Just go, James!”


    James and Fred roared with laughter. “What are you going to do?” James cried. “You haven’t even been Sorted and you want to duel. Just sit back down, Al. We’ll leave you Slytherins alone. See you, Rosie.”


    He and Fred strode away down the corridor, still howling with laughter.


    Albus walked across the compartment and slammed the door shut. “Git,” he hissed, stuffing his wand back in his jeans and slumping back in his seat. His heart was still pounding. He had never stood up to James before.


    “Thank you.”


    Albus looked up to see Scorpius watching him. “Your quite brave for standing up to your brother like that.”


    Albus smiled back at him, feeling slightly mollified. “No problem,” he said. “He’s an idiot anyway. Maybe I’ll be in Slytherin just to be away from him.”


    Scorpius smiled and Rose, who had returned to her Standard Book of Spells, rolled her eyes.


    Tthe day wore on uneventfully as the train wound its way through emerald fields and glided between gorse-strewn hillsides. Cottony clouds drifted lazily across the golden sun, which filled the compartment with warm light. As they went further and further north, the scenery became steadily wilder and Albus felt his anxiety rising.


    Around noon, a distraction appeared in the form of a stooped old witch pushing the lunch trolley past the compartment and he suddenly realized how hungry he was. 


    They gathered around the cart and picked out an assortment of sweets that included a box of chocolate frogs, half a dozen cauldron cakes, a packet of Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum and Albus’ favorite: Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, He and Rose pulled out their money bags to pay but Scorpius waved them down as he reached into his own bag and pulled out some gold.


    “It’s on me,” he said, smiling.


    “Oh, no, I can pay,” Albus said, fishing coins from his bag.


     Rose glared at Scorpius and said rather coolly, “I can pay for my own, thank you.”


    “I insist,” Scorpius said, though he looked slightly nervous as her eyebrows contracted. “Please?” he said timidly.


    Rose didn’t reply, but made a small scoffing noise before returning to her seat and burying herself in her book again. Albus rolled his eyes and stuffed his money bag back in his trunk. “Thanks,” he said to Scorpius, who was handing the trolley witch twelve silver Sickles and eleven bronze Knuts, though his eyes darted nervously to Rose.


     “No problem,” Scorpius said, tossing Albus the Every Flavor Beans and closing the compartment door. “You can get it next time.”


     “You’re on,” Albus said, now accepting a Chocolate Frog from Scorpius, who had sat back down across from him.


    “Rose, would you like a frog?” Scorpius said, holding a small box out to Rose. She raised her eyes to his and he blushed again. Her expression softened slightly and she accepted the sweet with a small smile.


     “Thanks,” she murmured, setting down her book and joining them.


     “I got your Dad,” Albus said, holding up the card he had pulled from his own box. Rose’s father grinned up at them from the card, winking and waving occasionally.


    “And I got your Dad,” Scorpius said, holding out his own card. Albus glanced at the familiar picture of his father as Scorpius flipped the card over and read,


     “Harry J. Potter. Potter is best known for his legendary defeat of the wizard known as Lord Voldemort, who has been widely named the most evil wizard of all time, in 1998. Currently Head of the Auror Offices at the Ministry of Magic, Potter enjoys spending time with his family and playing Quidditch in his spare time.”


     “I’ve already got about a dozen of those,” Albus said, nodding to the car, “And these,” he added, holding up his own card. “My Dad says they always make things seem cooler than they are.”


    “That’s what my Mum says, too,” said Rose, setting down her own card, which depicted a rather mad looking wizard in a lopsided hat. “My Dad loves it, though. He says it’s about time they get some thanks. Mum said the statue of the three of them at the Ministry was quite enough but he just said, “I didn’t break into the Ministry and Gringotts and destroy Horcruxes for a bloody statue!’” She said in a passable imitation of her father.


    Albus chuckled but Scorpius said, “What’s a Horcrux?”


    Rose shrugged. “I asked but they said I had no business learning about something so evil.”


    Scorpius raised his eyebrows curiously but did not ask further. Instead, he bit into a second frog as Albus sifted cautiously through his Every Flavor Beans. James had once given him a mud-flavored one that he had claimed  was chocolate so he was rather wary as he picked a dark grey bean from the box.


    He sniffed it carefully before popping it into his mouth, chewing once and pulling a wry face. “Blech,” he said, snatching up a cauldron cake and biting into it.


    “What did you get?” Scorpius said as he and Rose helped themselves to some Beans.


    “Sardine,” Albus repled thickly around the mouthful of cake.


    Scorpius sniggered, even Rose smiled reluctantly.


    They ate their way slowly through the Beans, cakes, and frogs and had just started on the Drooble’s when the lamps in the compartment flickered to life. They had not realized how late it was getting, or that sky outside the window had turned inky black, the mountains and lochs flying by gleaming palely in the moonlight.


    “We ought to change into our robes,” Rose said, waving off the large blue bubble that Albus had just blown into the air from his piece of Drooble’s. She rummaged in her trunk, pulling out her neatly folded black robes and leaving to change. Albus and Scorpius followed suit, Albus having a bit more difficulty extricating his own robes from his trunk as Delaney had been sleeping on the trunk and didn’t much like being forced to move. The cat hissed angrily at Albus, swiping at his feet and ankles as he struggled to pull his robes over his head.


    He stuffed his Muggle clothes in his trunk and sat back down, Driscoll’s cage in his lap. Exchanging a nervous smile with Scorpius, they both took to staring out the window.


    Rose returned after a few minutes, looking annoyed. “Your brother,” she said to Albus as she stuffed her Muggle attire in her trunk. “Is a prat.”


    “Tell me something I don’t know,” Albus muttered.


    She didn’t reply, but knelt down and tried to coax Delaney back into his wicker basket. The black cat, however, seemed quite content hunched under the seat, his yellow eyes glaring haughtily at them all.


    Scorpius slid off his seat to help and after a short struggle resulting in a bumped head and several rather badly scratched fingers, Rose was sitting with the basket holding Delaney clutched securely in her lap. She muttered her thanks and apologies to Scorpius’ as he sat back down.


    “It’s nothing,” Scorpius said hastily rubbing the back of his head and wrapping his right hand in his robes to stop it bleeding.


    They lapsed into silence. Rose had stowed her book and was now staring blankly at the wall, her face taut with anxiety and excitement. Scorpius was poking Owl Treats through the bars of Lina’s cage, though his eyes darted occasionally to Rose. Albus had pulled out his wand and was turning it over in his fingers. His parents had taken him to get it two weeks ago but he remembered clearly walking into Ollivander’s with his father to get it while his mother took James and Lily to Flourish & Blotts to get James’ and his books.


    “Ah, Potter,” Mr. Ollivander had said, his large, silvery eyes gazing down at Albus through thick cataracts. He had shaken Albus’ and his father’s hands with his own gnarled one. “I remember when you came in her for the first time, years ago,” he had said to Albus’ father, who smiled and gripped Albus’ shoulder comfortingly as Ollivander wandered through the cluttered rows of of shelves, occasionally pulling down a long thin box.


    He had only tried two wands before the one he now held in h is hand.


    “Ah, yes,” Ollivander had said as Albus clutched the wand in his shaking hand, a shower of gold sparks shooting from its tip. “Willow, eleven and a quarter inches, rather flexible with a dragon heartstring core, a good wand for charming. Your grandmother’s wand was quite similar, quite similar.”


    At this, he had glanced at his father, who had smiled encouragingly, though his eyes were rather bright.


    “Almost there.”


    Albus looked up at Rose, who had spoken in a voice rather higher than usual. He had not realized that the train was slowly down.


    He gazed out the window and gasped. Stretched before him was a massive lake, black as the night sky, though the silvery moon threw its light over the rippling surface, causing it to gleam and glitter. High above the lake, perched on a cliff, the towers and turrets of Hogwarts Castle stood out against the starry background, a few windows casting warm, yellow firelight into the night. 


    He exchanged an awestruck look with Scorpius, whose face was flushed with excitement as he was sure his own must be. Their view of the lake and Castle was obstructed as the train pulled slowly into the station with the hiss of pistons and low squeal of metal. With a soft ump that shifted them all in their seats, they came to a halt and the compartment door flew open.


    They all glanced at each other before standing together and moving into the corridor, hauling their trunks and cages--or, in Rose’s case, Delaney’s basket, Albus in the lead. They were buffeted to the side by the older students, who were all calling out to friends and laughing. Someone knocked Albus hard in the shoulder and he looked up to see James and Fred glancing back at him, smirking.


    “Have fun crossing the lake, Al, don’t let the giant squid get you,” he shouted as they he and Fred leapt off the train with their trunks and owls, still sniggering.


    Albus glared after him but followed, heaving his trunk and Driscoll’s cage down the stairs out onto the packed platform. He glanced around at Scorpius and Rose, who looked as frightened as he felt.


    “Over there,” said Rose, pointing at the steadily growing pile of luggage on the other side of the platform. They struggled to it and set their trunks down, panting slightly.


    “See you, Driscoll,” Albus said, turning to follow the mass the mass of students leaving the platform. He ran smack into two tall, third year boys with dirty-blonde hair.


    “Sorry, I--oh, hello, Lorcan, Lysander,” Albus said as he recognized them. The two were identical, from their dreamy, vacant expressions and wide, pale eyes to their matching necklaces, from which hung what looked like orange radishes. In fact, Albus wouldn’t have been able to tell the Scamander twins apart if it weren’t for the fact that one was wearing the yellow and black of Hufflepuff while the other bore the blue and bronze of Ravenclaw under their black robes.


    “Hello, Albus, Rose,” said the boy in Hufflepuff colors.


    “Hello, Lorcan,” Rose replied, smiling. “Did you have a nice summer? We didn’t see you much.”


    “Oh, yes,” Lysander replied dreamily. “Mother and father took us to Sweden. There was another Snorkack sighting and Mum wanted to talk to the witness. She’s still doing research for her book.”


    “Sounds thrilling,” Albus said, repressing a grin, as he knew Rose was next to him. Scorpius looked utterly bewildered.


    “Who is you friend?” Lorcan asked, nodding to Scorpius.


    “Oh, right,” Albus said, “Lorcan, Lysander, this is Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius, Lorcan and Lysander’s parents, Luna and Rolf Scamander are, er, well, they study magical creatures all over Europe.”


    Scorpius shook both their hands, still looking confused.


    “Malfoy? Lysander said, raising his pale eyebrows, "Our mother has mentioned your father once or twice. I don’t think they got along very well in school.”


    “Er,” Scorpius said, glancing at Albus, who was biting his tongue to keep from laughing, “er, yes, I mean, no, I don’t think they did.”


    Albus wished he could have warned Scorpius about the Scamanders’ blunt, though not unkind, form of honestly, something they had inherited directly from their mother.


    “Yes, well,” Lorcan said, cutting the silence that everyone but he and his brother found awkward. “Good luck at your Sorting, Albus, Rose, Scorpius.”


    “Yes,” Lysander echoed, “Have a nice term. I expect we’ll see you.” And they both drifted off towards the throng of students jostling from the platform.


    Rose giggled and the three of them strode after the twins, Scorpius still frowning.


    “Firs’ years! Firs’ years, o’er here!”


    Albus’ heart leapt and he peered through the mass of black-robed students towards the lake, where a wild looking man carrying a lantern towered above them all.


    “Hagrid!” Rose squealed, grabbing Albus and Scorpius’ hands and pushing her way through the crowd to the man.


    “’Lo, Rosie!” Hagrid roared, beaming down at them through his wild black beard, his beetle-black eyes crinkled in his grin.


    As Hagrid was easily twice the size of any other man and three times as broad, Albus understood why some of the other first years were casting him rather frightened looks. Albus, however, knew Hagrid to be one of the most kind and gentle men he had ever met.


    Releasing Albus and Scorpius’ hands, Rose threw her arms around Hagrid, well, around his vast belly, which was the highest she could reach and her hands barely touched either side.


    Hagrid patted her on the head with his free hand, chuckling. “’Lo, Albus,” he shouted as Rose released him.


    “Hello, Hagrid,” said Albus, grinning as the Gamekeeper ruffled his hair fondly. “Where’s Grawp?” he added, thinking of Hagrid’s half-brother. Grawp, unlike Hagrid, was a full-blooded giant, who Albus had never met but had heard quite a lot about from his and Rose’s parents.


    “Waitin’ on t’other side at the hut,” Hagrid said. “Don’ ‘spect he’d fit in the boats very well.” He waved a massive hand behind him at the narrow path that Albus knew led to the boats that would carry them across the lake.


    “No, I don’t expect he would,” Rose muttered to Albus, who grinned.


    “Who’s Grawp?” Scorpius, who had been staring at Hagrid open-mouthed, muttered.


    “An’ you’ll be the Malfoy boy,” Hagrid said loudly before Albus could reply.


    Scorpius blushed but said, “Yes, sir. Scorpius.”


    “Yea,” Hagrid said, staring at Scorpius with a mingled look of skepticism and shock at being called “sir”. “Yes, I heard it was yer firs’ year.”


    There was a slightly uncomfortable silence before Rose piped up, “Shall we go find a boat?”


    “Wha- oh, yes, let’s,” Albus said, and they scurried past Hagrid, whose cries of “Firs’ years!” started up again.


    They stumbled slightly as they strode down the narrow pathway to the lake, the thick trees on either side breaking up the white moonlight so that it was dappled across the dark earth. After a few minutes, the vast black lake came into view, with twenty or so small boats bobbing along at the bank which were steadily filling with other first years. They clamored into one of the last empty boats, shivering slightly in the cool breeze coming off the water.


    Albus’ gaze returned to the Castle, which looked large and imposing from their new vantage point. He barely noticed the girl standing beside the boat until she said, “May I?"


    Albus turned to look at her and blushed. She was taller than him, he could tell, with pale skin that shone white in the moonlight and wavy brown hair that just brushed her shoulders. He eyes were a deep, welcoming blue and a small, timid smile was on her lips.


    Albus opened and closed his mouth stupidly but Rose smiled and said, “Of course.”


    “I’m Quinn,” the girl said, smiling at them all. “Quinn Thorton.”


    They introduced themselves, Albus feeling rather hot around the collar of his robes.


    “So, what House do you think you’ll be in?’ Quinn said, her blue eyes wide with excitement. They all shrugged, Albus felt as though he might swallow his own tongue if he spoke.


    “Oh, I don’t know either,” Quinn said, biting her lip. “My parents are Muggles so I don’t have them to refer to. I couldn’t believe it when I got my letter. Nor could my parents.” She laughed and Albus felt his hands shake involuntarily. “My Da’ threatened to whack the Ministry Official who came to tell us with a coat rack. But the Official just turned it into a flamingo and my Da’ fainted! When he came round, he started taking it a bit better.” She sighed. “I hope I’ll be alright. I’ve been reading though my spell books and it’s just all quite shocking, isn’t it? I still wake up sometimes wondering if it’s all real, but,” she gestured up at the towering Castle, “I suppose it must be! I’ve read through Hogwarts: A History and I just can’t believe there are ghosts and poltergeists and all a manner of such things.” She fell silent, looking excited. 


    “You’ve read Hogwarts: A History?” Rose said, looking surprised.


    “Ooo, yes,” Quinn said, turning to Rose. “I bought it at Diagon Alley to learn a bit more about the school.”


    Albus glanced at Scorpius, who smirked back as Rose and Quinn fell into an excited discussion about Hogwarts.


    Just as Albus was about to wonder aloud when they would leave, Hagrid came striding towards them down the path, his lamp swinging at his side.


    “He’s rather frightening,” Quinn said quietly, breaking off from her conversation with Rose. 


    “Don’t worry,” Albus said, blushing as she turned her dark eyes to his. “Hagrid’s great. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Rose nodded in agreement and patted Quinn on the shoulder.


    She seemed to feel a little better at this, but still bit her lip nervously as Hagrid climbed into the last and largest of the boats and tapped the prow with the tip of an old, pink umbrella, crying, “Forward!”


    The small fleet scraped against the lake bottom as they pulled away from the shore and out into the lake. Quinn gasped excitedly as they sailed into the wide expanse of black water towards the Castle, bumping and bucking ever so slightly across the rippling surface.


    Albus stared down into the depths of the lake as it soared under them. He thought he saw a giant tentacle waving below the surface but before he could get Scorpius to confirm it, they were far passed the spot.


    “Wow,” Rose said softly and they all followed her gaze upward.


    Hogwarts towered almost directly above them, its shadow cast over them and the surrounding water. Before they had a chance to drink it all in, the boats began to pass through a curtain of thick ivy hanging down to the water from above. “Mind yer heads,” Hagrid called.


     Albus, who was sitting at the front of the boat, pushed the ivy aside as they soared through it into a dark tunnel, which, after a few minutes, opened into a large cavern. 


    The boats slowed and pulled up to stop on the pebbly shoreline. Hagrid, who had arrived first, was already standing on the shore and helping some other students out of their boats.


    Albus jumped from the boat and stared around. There was an opening the cavern wall, apparently a passage in the stone, with blazing torches flanking it. Their flickering light reflected off the water and cast an eerie glow on the damp walls and high ceiling.


    Scorpius climbed up beside him and turned to help Rose, who reluctantly accepted his hand and hopped onto the shore next to them. Albus turned to help Quinn but she was already clamoring out beside Rose.


    “This way, you lot,” Hagrid called out to them, striding off into the dark passage  off the cavern, they all followed, keeping a steady eye on Hagrid’s lantern, the only source of light in the narrow passage.


    The passage sloped upward and by the time they were standing on the moonlit grounds, many of them were panting and clutching their sides. The castle was closer than ever now. They strode through the grounds, the damp grass gleaming beneath their feet. They gazed around the dark grounds and up at the towering Castle with open mouths, coming at last to a wide set of stone steps leading to a pair of massive, oak front doors. They climbed the stairs after Hagrid and he pushed the doors inward. They swung wide open, leading into a wide entrance hall.


    Albus gazed around at the marble staircase opposite them, with passages leading off on either side; the huge set of doors to the right, from which loud chatter and laughter drifted out to them. Hagrid strode across to a door leading off the hall and threw it open. They all trooped into the small antechamber, glancing nervously around at each other.


    “Professor Kapoor will be with yeh in a bit,” Hagrid said, smiling at them all and winking at Rose and Albus before going back into the hall and closing the door behind him.


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