Albus sat back in the leather chair, a glass of water in his hand, and let his feet warm by the fire. Around him, his fellow Gryffindor’s were partying loudly, and drinking heavily. He watched his fifteen year old sister, Lily, sip on her second drink while Alex Jordan tried to make his move. Lily had a little amused smile on her face that probably read to Alex as a good thing but Albus knew his sister, and he knew that look meant she was waiting for the perfect moment to blow him off gently and maybe even get another drink out of it. She was smart and pretty, and Albus liked that she didn’t just date anyone.
“I hope she can find someone who she actually wants to date someday.” Rose said, sitting in the chair next to Albus. She caught Lily’s eye, and the girls shared a knowing grin. Alex turned to look and gave a smug smile, but quickly looked back to Lily when he saw Albus cross his arms over his chest protectively. Seconds later Alex said something to Lily and moved away from her to go talk to his friends. Lily laughed, and went over to her brother and cousin. “That was too funny,” Rose laughed.
“I almost got a third drink out of him,” Lily said wistfully.
“You should go easy on the drinking.” Albus warned, taking a sip of water.
“Really Albus? Says the boy who’s drinking water – and for what reason exactly?” Lily teased, leaning against the chair where Rose sat. She slumped next to Rose and leaned her head against her cousins.
“You’re drunk,” said a voice, and Albus turned to see that Scorpius had arrived. He was wearing his Slytherin robes proudly despite the majority of students having changed into Muggle clothes.
“And you couldn’t change?” Lily slurred standing up again. “Just had to wear your Slytherin robes in here.”
“You’re lucky she’s drunk or she’d probably be hex you.” Rose mused.
“No were lucky Al here is drinking water – water? Really? It’s the annual Gryffindor Welcome Back party and you’re drinking water?” Scorpius couldn’t hold a grin from his face.
“Can we all please get over the fact that I am drinking water. I’m still feeling a little rough from the last time I drank.” Albus defended. Lily giggled, and took a sip from her drink. One of her friends, Meredith Brooke appeared at her side and Albus watched as they both disappeared into the crowd of dancing students.
“So Rose, would you care to dance with me?” Scorpius asked, looking at Rose.
Albus looked between Scorpius and Rose in disbelief. Rose, also surprised, looked caught off guard and seemed to be unable to speak. She didn’t have to because Scorpius seemed to take this as a yes and reached out for her hand. Stunned, Albus watched with a gaping mouth as Rose took his hand and the two joined the throng of dancers laughing as they went.
“Did that really just happen?” Albus said to know no one in particular. Taking another sip of his water he wished it was something more. The music seemed to grow louder, and everyone’s voices became braver. Albus had thought that the party wouldn’t be anything great especially since his brother and his friends had graduated. They were the ones to start the parties, and the reason why all houses were invited. They had called themselves the Marauders (after the many stories his father had told James) and were comprised of all of James’ closest friends and family. Albus had to admit, it was strange being at school without his brother and cousins, Fred, Louis, Lucy and their friend Lewis Wood running around to cause mayhem.
The common room was packed to capacity and it would probably go on for several hours, and Albus really needed a drink or solitude so he could make it through the night. Getting up, Albus put his glass down and made his way to the portrait hole. When he reached the door another wave of tipsy sixth year Hufflepuff’s entered the Common Room.
“Potter!” Mathew Corner exclaimed when he saw Albus.
“Oh hey, how was your summer?” Albus greeted, trying not to act distracted. Mathew was on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, and by the shiny badge on his robes he had been made captain for his sixth year.
“Just great, wonderful, would you know where your sister is?” Mathew slurred.
Albus blinked at Mathew, and pointed behind him to the crowd of students. “In there, good luck.” With that Albus pushed past Mathew and his friends and entered the corridor. Sighing a breath of relief, he let the cool air hit him, and enjoyed that the party was now a distant sound. There were a few groups of students in the hall all coming and going to the party. Looking out the window it he saw that the sky was clear, and Albus trusted that since it was still September that it would be warm to go for a walk in just his jumper.
Heading towards the entrance hall, Albus made sure to check his watch every few minutes. He had about an hour before curfew. But if he could make it outside onto the grounds he would be safe from any trouble. It didn’t matter much, he had been smart enough to grab the Marauders Map earlier in the evening as he had a feeling he would need it. However he thought he would have been with Scorpius or Rose when he had gone for his evening walk like they had done many times before. But it seemed that things were changing faster than he expected, and he supposed it was time for him to get used to being on his own.
Rose and Scorpius had talked the entire train ride to Hogwarts. The only real time Albus had to talk with Scorpius was when Rose had do her rounds as Prefect. A whole thirty minutes they sat in silence, staring out the window. Albus was annoyed by being ignored by his two best mates that he just found it easier to sit in silence and wait to arrive at Hogwarts. They weren’t even actually dating yet, Merlin knows what it would be like when that happened.
Albus had reached the first floor, and quickened his pace as he reached the marble staircase. Looking down at his watch again to check the time he didn’t notice the girl running up the marble steps until it was too late. She seemed to be upset, and collided straight into Albus. With a loud cry, Albus found himself knocked over and pinned by the girl in Hufflepuff robes.
“Oh, I’m so-sorry I wasn’t lo-looking where I was going.” The girl quickly got off of Albus and stood up to straighten her robes. Her brown her was a mess, covering her face. As she began brushing it away Albus recognized the girl to be Laura Smith, a fellow seventh year. Her face was a deep shade of red, and at first Albus believed it was from embarrassment but he noticed there were tears in her eyes, and the end of her nose a bright red. She was crying, and before Albus could stand up she began to sob. “S-s-sorry again.” She stuttered again, and continued to run down the corridor.
“Blimey,” Albus found himself saying. Standing up, he dusted himself off and stretched out his back which was now sore. Checking the his wand and map were still intact in his back pocket he shook off the strange occurrence. Continuing down the marble steps he aimed for the large oak front doors that were shut. As he reached to open them, he heard the sound of voices behind him, and glancing back he saw two very worried looking girls, Eliza Smith and Jane Bennet.
“I didn’t know she had a sister.” Jane said feverishly to Eliza.
“Yes, a twin sister. I should’ve told you before it was- oh Albus!” Eliza waved Albus over, and he turned to her.
“Hi Eliza, what can I do?” Albus asked. Eliza and Jane were both in his year, and had been best mates since first year. They were nice girls, but were gossips and would often be found giggling. Albus couldn’t quite remember ever seeing them look so serious before.
“Did you see my cousin, Laura run by? It’s important,” Eliza asked.
“Uh yeah, crashed into her actually. She looked upset.” Albus said, feeling a bit awkward.
“Oh no, really upset? Was she crying? She just ran out of the common room before I could stop her.” Jane asked quickly.
Albus blinked at her. “What’s wrong with her?”
“Her sister died a month ago,” Jane explained.
“Jane!” Eliza punched her friend hard on the arm.
Albus frowned, “That’s awful.” He felt bad for the girl, especially when she clearly had two idiot friends to depend on.
“I didn’t really know her, my cousin.” Eliza said looking at her hands. “We should probably go find her, thanks Albus.”
“Not a problem,” Albus said uncomfortably. Standing still he watched Eliza hurry up the steps, pulling Jane along with her. “Poor girl, I would’ve run too.” With that he turned back to the doors and pushed them open and walked across the damp grass towards the forbidden forest. He could see light in Hagrid’s hunt but decided that he did not wish to visit the elderly half-giant. Instead he aimed for the lake, cutting past the greenhouses and vegetable patches. He could hear students not far off talking, probably coming inside from an evening stroll. It was nearing curfew, but Albus felt it would be a very long time before he would heading back in. The school seemed very chaotic on his first day back, but in reality it was always that way. Since the last war the school had been experiencing a surplus in students leading too larger grades and classes and subsequently this meant it was harder for the staff to keep them under control. Professor Longbottom could often be heard complaining about it to Albus’ parents.
Walking along the edge of the forest Albus made his way to the lake where he spotted the schools herd of Threstals drinking. The half moon lit the path towards the shoreline, and Albus cautiously approached a spot on the rocks not too far from the creatures. A few of them looked up at him when he took his spot on the rocks but for the most part they kept to themselves. Albus had been aware of these creatures long before he attended school from his parents and uncles when they felt chatty. He had been told that he would only see them if he had seen someone die. He was shocked however when he arrived for his second year and found that the carriages were being pulled by the creatures his father had long ago described. But they were harmless enough and after talking with James he discovered he too could see them.
“Because we saw Lily die,” Albus suggested.
“That’s what dad thinks.” James agreed.
Albus often wondered how many people could see them. But by large the carriages were referred as the horseless carriages, and he assumed that the few who could see the Threstals most likely kept it to themselves. That’s how things worked in Hogwarts, everyone just followed the crowd. Well, perhaps not in the same way as their parents had. After all his best mate was Scorpius Malfoy – the last person his entire family expected.
“So stupid to come back. Stuck with these stupid people, and these stupid clothes. Should’ve said no, should’ve never come back.”
Albus turned behind him to see none other than Laura Smith walking rather clumsily down the path towards the lake. She was waving her hands madly, a hanky dangling in her left hand. She seemed to still be crying, and her hair was in an even bigger mess than before.
“I should have stayed home.” She said, stopping only a few metres behind Albus. Looking up, she pushed her hair behind her ears.
“Er, hello,” Albus greeted. He watched as her eyes grew wide upon recognizing him. Then suddenly she looked terrified, and Albus noticed that her attention was on the Threstals.
“What are they?” she asked, her voice hoarse.
Albus wasn’t quite sure what to say or do at first. She looked upset and a little scared, but ultimately just curious. He felt bad for her, she seemed out of sorts. Getting to his feet he walked over to the closest Threstal and slowly raised his hand to rubs it’s beaked nose. “They’re called Threstals. Bad omens to some, mostly because the ability to see them means you have seen death.”
“Oh of course it’s death.” Laura grumbled, pocketing her hanky. Running her hands through her hair, and wiping her face with the sleeve of her robes. “Erm, sorry for bothering you again, twice now.” Laura said in a forced tone. Turning her back on Albus she began to follow the path along the lake towards the castle.
Albus watched her go, feeling sorry that she was so distraught. She seemed like a nice girl, if not a little mad with the talking to herself but she had a valid reason. He was surprised that she had even come back to school if her sister had only died a month ago. Albus couldn’t imagine what he would do if Lily and James died. He definitely would not have been able to return to school.
“There you are! Scorpius and I have been searching all over for you.” Rose was standing at the top of the large hill leading to the lake, Scorpius not far behind. Albus saw him glance at the Threstal to his right but he said nothing. Rose couldn’t see them, and had no idea that the entire herd was there. As if they sensed Rose’s ignorance they moved away from the water and retreated into the forest.
“Why were you looking for me?” Albus asked walking up the path, meeting them. “Party get boring?”
“More like it got busted. Everyone was sent to bed to sleep and sober up.” Scorpius laughed.
“What about you two?” Albus asked. He swore Rose blushed, but it was too dark to tell.
“We left before, looking for you. Saw Professor Longbottom and Professor Pike coming down the corridor as we left.” Scorpius explained.
“I borrowed the cloak by the way.” Rose said, and Albus noticed the cloak in her hands.
“Good thinking, it’s way past curfew.” Albus said taking it from her.
“We should get back – you know I don’t know how you come out here alone. It is absolutely creepy, I always feel like there’s something around watching you.” Rose said, looking across the lake nervously.
Albus thought suddenly of Laura, walking alone down the path. She was upset, and suddenly he wondered if she would be okay, and that it was probably better for her to be in the castle then walking alone near the Forbidden Forest.
“Albus are you coming?” both Rose and Scorpius were giving him an odd look, probably wondering what on Earth he was thinking of.
“Actually, no, I’ll be fine. I just need to walk a bit more. Here, take the map,” Albus reached into his pocket and handed them the Marauders map. “I’ve got the cloak so I should be fine.”
“Albus just come inside with us. We started school tomorrow, you should really get your sleep.” Rose argued, not wanting to take the map.
“Leave him be Rose, I think he can make his own decisions.” Scorpius said, taking the map. “See you in the morning then?”
“Yeah, in the morning.” Albus gave a small smile. The one thing he liked best about Scorpius is he understood when Albus wanted to be alone, and always managed to convince Rose to leave him alone when he wished.
“Be careful,” Rose said, poking him in the shoulder and followed after Scorpius. She looked worried but didn’t look back at him.
Sighing, Albus shoved the cloak into his pocket and began walking down the path by the lake. It didn’t take him long to find her. She was perched on a rather large rock, her knees pulled up to her chest. She was no longer crying, and she had put her hair into a long pony tail down her back. Albus had to admit, she was kind of pretty. As he moved closer, she heard his footsteps and jumped when she saw him.
“Oh it’s you,” she said looking away from him and out across the lake.
“Sorry to scare you but,” Albus stumbled on some rocks, and almost fell.
“Are you okay?” Laura asked when he regained his footing.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I – uh – I was wanting to make sure you were okay. You seem upset and it’s after curfew, and it’s not always safe to be by the Forbidden Forest this late at night.” Albus explained.
Laura raised an eyebrow at him. “That’s really sweet of you but I’m fine. You can go, I’m fine.” She repeated and once again looked away from Albus. He knew he was making her uncomfortable, she probably just wanted to be alone. He couldn’t blame her for that.
“I know I seem a bit-”
“Weird?” Laura interrupted. Albus wasn’t expecting that, but she seemed to want to talk so he let her. “Most blokes would run the other way if they saw a girl crying. But you follow them? Yeah I’d say you’re a bit weird. And it’s nice, sweet, and whatnot but I’m guessing it’s the Gryffindor thing. You don’t need to save me or whatever. I’m fine here, and besides you it’s been pretty quiet and I like that. So you can go clear of conscious knowing that the weird crying girl refused your help and there was nothing you can do. You know in case some murderous creature comes out of the forest and kills me.”
“Okay,” Albus said slowly. He felt awkward now. He hadn’t really put much thought into going to find her, but she clearly had in the ten seconds that he had appeared before her. Girls are insane, he knew that much.
She shifted on the rock and climbed off it. Glancing behind her at the forest she walked over to where Albus stood. “On second thought the forest is kind of creepy. I’ll walk back with you, but you don’t have to say anything. Conversation isn’t necessary.”
“Okay,” Albus said again, and he pulled out his cloak. This girl was pretty intent on saying everything on her mind.
“Okay,” Laura nodded, and began to walk up the path. Albus followed quietly, and an uncomfortable silence fell between them. They didn’t really need to talk, she was right. What would they have to talk about anyway? Albus didn’t really know her, and she didn’t know him. They had classes together, plenty of them but despite how much she had just said, it was the most he ever remembered hearing her say. Laura was just another one of the masses, and Albus, well he kept to himself. Sure, he was on good terms with everyone but he only ever talked to Rose and Scorpius. Most of his cousins couldn’t even get that much out of him. Scorpius often teased him that he should be in Slytherin he was so anti social.
Upon entering the castle Laura thanked him for walking her back and she headed down the steps toward the Hufflepuff dormitories before he could say anything back. It didn’t really matter anyway because he wasn’t exactly sure what he could say. Pulling the cloak out of his pocket he pulled it over himself. After checking that his ankles were covered he began walking back to the Gryffindor tower. Checking his watch he saw that it was quarter after one, and he groaned to think how tired he would be in the morning.
“Ten points from Gryffindor,” Professor Longbottom was behind Albus.
“Sorry Professor,” Albus stopped to look at his Professor. Neville couldn’t actually see Albus but he had probably heard him groan. It had been discovered years ago that having a Professor who was friends with your father had its positives and negatives. “It won’t happen again.”
“I know that to be a lie, but next time you may want to try walking a little more quietly – and avoid groaning.” Neville smirked.
“You’d think I’d learn,” Albus joked and then continued on his way, this time taking time to ensure that he wasn’t walking too loudly.