Chapter 9 : Giants and Exchange Students
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After their disastrous late night exploration of the grounds, Albus, Rose and Scorpius had little choice but to make their way down to Hagrid’s cabin on Saturday afternoon under a weak yet persistent sun, their cloaks rustling in the cool air. Not that they hadn’t been wanting to visit Hagrid, though Rose did grumble something about a Herbology essay she needed to finish, but they felt somewhat guilty knowing that the visit was forced from a lie.
Rose walked slightly ahead of the two boys, her thick red hair falling around her upturned face. She had still not forgiven them for, as she put it, “nearly costing her her entire Hogwarts career for their own selfish endeavors.”
“You don’t have to come with us,” Scorpius had said when Rose had quipped this at them after Potions the day before.
“Yes, well, I actually want to visit Hagrid,” she had said with a dignified sniff, not looking at Scorpius as she spoke. “And I’ll thank you not to tell me what to do, Malfoy.” Since Thursday she had refused to call Scorpius by his first name, something Albus found rather unfair, as it had been her choice to join them under the cloak in the first place.
“Well, Weasley,” Scorpius had replied, not looking at Rose but smirking slightly at the look of deepest disgust she threw him. “I won’t if you do the same for us.”
She had flounced off at this, not sparing them a backwards glance, which was lucky because they were both snickering quite a lot at that point.
They had both been on the receiving end of Rose’s annoyance before, though, so they didn’t mind the haughty silence they were being treated to as they strode across the sloping lawns, merely exchanging the odd smirk and fighting back their laughter.
When they reached Hagrid’s cabin, however, Rose knocking stiffly on the door and pointedly avoiding looking at them, they were surprised to find that it was empty. Scorpius peered through the window curiously, his forehead pressed against the glass and his sleek blond hair pushed back from where it usually fell across his grey eyes.
“Think he forgot?” he said, squinting into the dark room. “Maybe he’s--AH!”
He screamed and jumped back from the window, stumbling on the hem of his cloak and falling heavily backwards. Albus turned quickly to the window to see Fergus glaring at them, his small, fanged mouth working furiously as he shouted unheard insults at them from the other side of the glass.
Scorpius groaned, rubbing his lower back as he struggled to his feet, slipped on the wet grass, and fell again. Rose giggled.
“Think that’s funny, Weasley?” Scorpius said, pretending to glare, though the corners of his mouth twitched as he ripped up a handful of grass and threw it at Rose.
Rose’s giggle bloomed into full laughter and soon Albus and Scorpius had joined in; Albus reached out to pull Scorpius up, but found himself sprawled on the grass as Scorpius poked him hard in the back of the knee with a shout of laughter, causing his legs to buckle involuntarily.
“You prat!” Albus cried through his grin, pushing Scorpius over into the grass as Rose sat down on his other side and nudged him in the ribs with her elbow. “Oi! Not fair!” Albus said. “I can’t hit a girl!”
They laid back in the grass, breathless with laughter as they watched the thin clouds waft lazily across the pale sky. Albus saw Scorpius lift himself off the ground a few inches to look over at Rose with a small, confidential smile. She rolled her eyes but smiled back.
Suddenly, the ground was shaking and they all sat up, exchanging scared looks.
“Al, Rosie, Scorpius!”
They turned where they sat and Albus heard Scorpius gasp with a small noise of shock and fear.
Hagrid was striding towards them, his bushy beard and hair blowing around wildly even in the light breeze. Walking beside him, each step shaking the earth as his feet hit the ground like sledges, was Grawp.
Sixteen feet tall, with an usually round head shaped like a boulder and dressed in a grey shirt and a pair of stained coveralls that made Albus wonder just where one found that much material, the giant gave them a lop-sided grin, displaying yellowing teeth, Buckbeak the hippogriff was absurdly clutched in one arm like a puppy, and waved with his free hand.
Scorpius swore under his breath, the little color drained from his skin.
Albus and Rose, though they had never seen Grawp in person, were less shocked by the giant as they had heard stories about him and seen pictures from their parents throughout their childhood.
“Now, set Beaky down gen’l like, Grawpy,” Hagrid said as though speaking to a child, grinning happily up at Grawp as the giant set the Hippogriff onto the grass. “An’ here’s Al an’ Rosie an’ Scorpius, like I said, Grawpy! New friends fer yeh.”
Scorpius made an indiscriminate noise in the back of his throat, obviously already regretting the friendship he had been involuntarily entered into.
Albus laughed as he stood, hauling Scorpius up back his arm with him. “Calm down, he’s related to Hagrid so he can’t be that bad.”
Rose was already patting Buckbeak on the wing, smiling sweetly up at Grawp, who looked down at her through small eyes and said, in a low, grating voice, “Rosie.”
Hagrid beamed at Albus and Scorpius as they approached the giant, Scorpius still rather hesitant.
Grawp turned to look at them, his brow furrowed as though in concentration. “Harry,” the giant rumbled.
Hagrid laughed and shook his head. “No, Grawpy, this is Al, Harry’s son. An’ Scorpius.”
“Scorpius,” Grawp said slowly, as though digesting the word. His face broke into a huge grin. “Grawp likes that name.”
Hagrid chuckled and Scorpius gave the giant a weak smile and let out a slow, shaky breath.
“I fig’red Grawpy would like ter meet yeh at last,” Hagrid said, threading his thumbs in his belt loops and grinning at them all happily. “An’ since it’s getting’ ter be spring, it seemed like a good time ter bring him down from ‘is cave fer a visit.”
“Brilliant,” Scorpius said in a rather high voice.
Rose giggled at his discomfort and even Albus had trouble suppressing a grin.
They spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the lake with Hagrid and Grawp while Buckbeak trotted ahead of them, occasionally stopping to dig for worms or snap playfully at a passing bird. They talked about Quidditch, since the first match, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor had both slaughtered Hufflepuff and Slytherin had scraped a win against Ravenclaw, and of their classes, and Hagrid explained, through near tears of mirth, why Fergus refused to be around Grawp. Apparently the giant had, on Hagrid’s last visit to his cave, kept several dead ferrets for Buckbeak to eat hanging at the entrance of his home.
“I ne’er seen ‘im so quiet,” Hagrid remarked about the jarvey with a backwards glance to his cabin.
Their peals of laughter echoed across the lake and Albus felt incredibly warm from the inside out, despite the chill wind.
When they made their way back to the Castle for dinner, pink-faced and waving enthusiastically to Hagrid and Grawp as they strode in the direction of Hogsmeade, Buckbeak circling their heads, Albus saw Scorpius cast Rose a questioning look.
“So you forgive us?” Scorpius said at last as they climbed the stairs to the oak front doors.
“Hmm?” Rose said, frowning at him.
“You forgive us?” Scorpius repeated. “For our attempts on your live at Hogwarts? Will you admit we’re not out to destroy you?”
“Haha,” Rose said, turning a deeper shade of pink, despite the warmth of the entrance hall.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Scorpius said smugly as he followed Albus down the Slytherin table, though his eyes remained on Rose until they took their seats, across from Penelope Ryan, one of the girls in their year, and a girl Albus had never seen with long, honey blonde hair and amethyst eyes.
“Hello,” the girl said, giving them a warm smile.
They muttered their replies, more intent on digging into their plates of roast beef than starting a conversation.
“You’re Albus Potter, aren’t you?” she said.
Albus nodded, inwardly annoyed that this girl he had never met knew who he was. Even through his annoyance, he picked up her accent, she clearly wasn’t British and he found himself wondering vaguely where she was from.
“Arianna Bianchi,” she supplied, though they had not asked. She turned to Scorpius, tilting her head slightly to the side. “It’s Scorpius, no? Scorpius Malfoy?”
“Er,” Scorpius said, blushing slightly. In his short time at Hogwarts, Albus had grown used to people knowing who he was, to the curious whispers and double-takes that sometimes occurred in the corridors. Even Rose was occasionally asked about her parents, but no one had ever known Scorpius if they were not in direct association with him.
“Yes,” Scorpius said at last.
Arianna gave him another small smile.
“Arianna’s just transferred here,” Penelope said. “From Liceo della Magia.”
They both stared at her blankly and she rolled her eyes.
“The school,” she continued. They continued to gaze at her silently and she sighed impatiently. “In Rome. Italy.”
“Oh, right,” Scorpius said slowly, still frowning.
Well, that explained why Albus hadn’t recognized her. But it didn’t explained…
“How do you know who we are?” Scorpius said, finishing Albus’ thought aloud, something that had become strangely common for them.
Arianna smiled; she had very white teeth. “I am reading very much about Hogwarts before I come. It is much different from the Liceo. There we have stone columns as old as Roma itself, but it is not as big as Hogwarts, and we have no Houses, only split for boys and girls. My family is moving here when my father became the Italian Ambassador to your Ministry.”
Albus, despite his hunger, abandoned his food as curiosity overcame him. He knew there were other magical schools around the globe, his Aunt Fleur had attended Beauxbatons Academy of Magic but he had never heard of an exchange student before.
“You speak English very well,” Scorpius said with a small smile.
Arianna flashed him another dazzling smile. “Grazie,” she said. “You are very kind. I am hearing that the Malfoy family is not friendly, but I see this is wrong.”
Albus glanced nervously at Scorpius. To his surprise, he did not look upset by the throwaway remark about his family, but rather mollified.
“Arianna just got Sorted this morning, in Aldebrand’s office,” Penelope said, not catching the look that passed between Scorpius and Arianna. “Said she almost got put in Ravenclaw. Dodged a hex there, I’d say.” She smirked as several passing Ravenclaws threw her a dirty look.
Dinners forgotten, they spent the next twenty minutes listening to Arianna talk, she positively gushed over Hogwarts, thoroughly impressed by the massive grounds--“At the Liceo, we are having almost no grounds, everything is vineyards, with no trees”--the lake--“I am hearing there is a giant squid? Does it not hurt you?”--and the classes--“We are only having four main classes, Spells, Potions, History, and Magical Creatures and Plants. So many different things to take here!”
Albus couldn’t help but notice the way Scorpius leaned forward as she spoke. He grinned into his pumpkin juice; only Scorpius would be this excited to talk about lessons with someone. Well, maybe Rose, he thought fairly.
When Penelope and Arianna stood to leave, Scorpius hastened to follow suit. Penelope gave him a look of distain and rolled her eyes as Albus laughed silently before standing to walk with them. When they had reached the end of the Slytherin table, however, someone called their names and they turned to see Rose running towards them from the Gryffindor.
“Al, Scorp! Wait up.” She stopped suddenly as she saw Penelope and Arianna, frowning slightly. “Oh, hello Penelope.”
“Rose,” Penelope said indifferently.
“Who--” she began, looking at Arianna.
“Arianna Bianchi,” Arianna said, shaking Rose’s hand.
“She just transferred here from Italy,” Scorpius said enthusiastically.
Rose gave him a strange look between a frown and grimace before turning back to Arianna. “Il Liceo della Magia?” she said.
Arianna nodded. “Yes, you know of it?”
Rose folded her arms across her chest. “I’ve heard of it,” she said simply, eyes slightly narrowed.
Arianna did not seem to catch the slight edge on Rose’s voice and merely flashed her a smile.
There was an anxious and uncomfortable moment of silence. Scorpius had taken to staring at his feet, occasionally glancing shiftily at Rose, who was glaring openly at him. Albus watched them nervously. Penelope was examining her fingernails and seemed rather bored with the whole conversation. Arianna remained oblivious to the tension.
“Well, not that this isn’t thrilling,” Penelope said at last. “But I promised Arianna that Caroline and I would help her get settled and I still have to find Caroline. Probably at the Hufflepuff table talking to that Oliver Cadmir again. Honestly, what she sees in that troll I’ll never know.” And with that, she grabbed Arianna’s arm and pulled her off in the direction of the Hufflepuff table. Arianna waved to them and flashed another smile before disappearing among the mass of students.
Rose stared at Scorpius, who was frowning at his shoes again, before making a noise of disgust and storming from the Hall.
“Rose,” Scorpius groaned, hurrying to follow her, Albus on his heels. She ignored him and set up off the marble staircase.
“Rose, stop!” Scorpius called from the bottom of the stairs. She stopped at the top of the stairs and turned to look down at them, her eyes oddly bright. “Come one, Rose, don’t be like this.”
“Like what? Like what, exactly?” she snapped.
Albus hung back, watching the exchange nervously.
“Rose,” Scorpius said, his voice much softer.
“No, you know what,” Rose hissed, her voice quivering. “Why don’t you just go have fun with your new girlfriend, Malfoy, she’s obviously much more fun that I am, being an exchange student. I’m sure you’ll have many happy study sessions together.”
“Rubbish,” Scorpius said, his voice rising in anger. “I was just talking to her, Rose. Besides, not everyone’s a swot like you.”
There was a long, drawn out silence at his words. Rose’s lip quivered slightly before her jaw tightened and her eyes hardened with deep loathing. Albus wondered if her red hair might catch fire. At last she spoke, her voice low and full of contempt, each word spitting like a knife from her tongue.
“Sod off, Malfoy, you smarmy git.”
She turned on her heel and marched off down the corridor.
They stood in silence for a moment, Scorpius staring at the spot where Rose had been standing, his mouth open in shock.
“Blimey,” Scorpius said at last, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. “She’s not happy with me.”
Albus gave him an incredulous look.
“I didn’t mean what I said,” Scorpius said, grey eyes suddenly full of regret. “I--that was stupid. Merlin, I am a git.” He ran his hand fitfully through his hair, glancing at Albus. “Sorry,” he muttered.
“I’m not the one you should apologize to, mate,” Albus said weakly.
Scorpius nodded, biting his lip and looking thoroughly depressed. “You reckon I should go after her?”
Albus laughed humorlessly. “Only if you want her to turn you into a Flobberworm. I’d give her some time to cool off.”
“Right,” Scorpius said vaguely, running his hand through his hair again.
Albus took a few steps towards the dungeons, glancing expectantly back at Scorpius, who threw one last nervous look up the stairs, sighed heavily, and followed
To say that Rose was “not happy” with Scorpius was perhaps the biggest understatement Albus had ever heard. She refused to acknowledge him, to look at or speak to him, even when he was practically shouting apologies to her in the corridors, something that, over the next week, lost him a total of fifty points from Slytherin and earned him two detentions. She and Quinn had moved from their Potions table to sit with the other Gryffindor girls and their seats were filled, much to Albus’ dismay, by Arianna and Penelope.
Arianna, it seemed, was not very good at Potions, or perhaps she was just trying to find an excuse to talk to Scorpius, to ask for his help, and to fawn over his prowess for the subject. Scorpius grudgingly helped her, occasionally shooting an anxious glance at Rose, who simply sneered at as Arianna’s cauldron let off a cloud of black smoke in Scorpius’ face that set them all coughing and made Scorpius look as though he had just stepped out of a coal mine.
Three weeks after the Potions incident, little had change other than the fact the Albus was now dealing with the almost constant, and admittedly irritating, presence of Arianna, occasionally joined by Penelope and Caroline Fletcher. Strangely enough, her company seemed to annoy Scorpius just as much as it did him.
There were sitting in the library one afternoon, two days before the Easter holidays started, Albus was trying desperately to study for their Charms test the next day as Arianna giggled across from him, flicking her wand and sending their books and quills zooming around the table.
“Arianna,” Scorpius sighed, placing his hand on hers and lowering her wand. “Please, we need to study.”
“But Charms, it is so easy,” she said, pulling her hand away from Scorpius and making the quill Albus had been about to reach for flying out of his reach.
Albus closed his eyes and took a deep breath, grinding his teeth angrily. He had to admit, his patience was waning. He had contemplated perhaps writing his father to see if he could get Arianna’s father fired and sent back to Italy just to give him some peace. Standing, he snatched his quill from the air, ignoring that look of disappointment on Arianna’s face as she pouted.
“Scorp,” she whined, turning to Scorpius.
Albus looked up at her. Scorp? That was his and Rose’s--now just his, he supposed since it didn’t seem likely that Rose would ever call Scorpius anything more than a berk for the rest of their lives--nickname for him. Scorpius looked both shocked and annoyed but remained silent, turning back to his Charms notes.
The sound of footsteps reached his ears and he looked up to see Rose and James walking towards them. Rose looked solemn, a letter clutched in her hands and James was…crying.
His hazel eyes were swimming with tears and there were pronounced tear tracts on his cheeks.
The shock of this sight struck Albus dumb for a moment.
He shook his head. “What’s wrong?” he said nervously. He nodded to the letter in Rose’s hand. “Who’s that from.”
“Mum,” James croaked. He opened his mouth to speak again, closed it and swallowed hard as fresh tears fell down his face.
Albus’ stomach clenched with fear. Had something happened to his father? To Lily? “What’s going on?” he said seriously, standing up. Scorpius looked up at Rose apprehensively, brushing away Arianna’s hand as she tried to brush his hair off his face. With a sigh of annoyance, Arianna stuffed her wand in her pocket and flounced from the library, her nose turned up as she passed Rose, who’s jaw tightened slightly but said nothing.
Albus looked between Rose and James. “What’s going on?” he repeated.
Rose glanced at James, who gave her a small nod before wiping his eyes on his robes.
“Al,” Rose said gently, cutting over him. She was not crying, but her eyes were full of unshed tears. “It’s Teddy’s Grandmum, Auntie Dromeda.” She blinked and two small tears slid down her face. “She passed away last night…in St. Mungo’s. She…she’s gone.”
Albus stared at her. His brain had stopped working, refusing to process the words that had just slid through it.
And then something happened that shocked Albus more than anything else could have.
James closed the gap between them in three steps and pulled him into a tight, reassuring hug. Albus felt the tears on James’ chin against his temple and suddenly he could taste salty sweet and he realized that he, too, had started to cry.
A/N: So, I always wondered why the subject of exchange students was never brought up in the original books. If Hogwarts was anything like my school, they'd have kids from all over coming out the wazoo. And my school wasn't even cool. Also, for those of you who don't know, a swot is someone who studies way to much. Like a bookworm, but meaner. Hence, Rose's anger. I haven't started the next chapter yet because it's going to be hard to write, what with all the crying....but hey, James has realized he's a prat so it's all good, right?....right? :)