Sally Striven had never once been late for anything, apart from Elizabeth Lakeland’s birthday party when she was six. Her parents had forgotten to pick her up from swimming practice at the allocated time, and so she had arrived at the village hall with still-wet hair and without a present. Elizabeth had said Sally had smelt funny, and the young girl had screamed and cried, and her uncontrollable immature magic had caused a light bulb to explode. Her Hogwarts letter had arrived five years later. The letter telling her she was a prefect had only arrived three weeks ago.
So when she found herself racing down the corridor, with her dark hair flying, perfectly preened school robes flapping and prefect badge shining, she cursed herself for being so stupid. She was going to be late for her first prefect meeting and there was no one there to blame apart from herself.
When she finally arrived at the compartment, she took a moment to flatten down her hair and press her cold hands to her slightly flushed cheeks. She breathed in and out, and stepped inside. The Head Boy had been in full swing and was pointing at a patrol rota with everybody’s name on it. Several people turned when they heard the door open. Several people even sent Sally glares, as if by turning up late she had personally insulted them.
Sally had been looking for a seat when the Head Girl spoke. Standing awkwardly between crossed-legged fifth years, she looked up before almost toppling over as she lost her balance.
She saw Dominique Weasley lounging on a seat, her usual gang of seventh-year stalkers seated at her feet, their mouths hanging open as she flicked her hair behind her shoulder and sprayed French perfume on her delicate white wrists. Fred Weasley was throwing and catching a Quaffle, smiling lazily as his twin sister whispered something into his ear.
Sally wanted to sit down as quickly as possible. She didn’t want to make a fool of herself in front the entire Weasley-Potter clan.
“Could I have a word with you? In private, please?”
And Rose Weasley was speaking to her. Sally looked towards the Head Girl, at her red curls and freckled skin, at her summer dress, at her shining Head Girl badge. She was beaming at Sally, showing all her teeth in a brilliant smile that had seduced teachers, the entire student population and stolen the heart of Oscar Moore; her Head Boy, her blond-haired, blue-eyed, clever, funny, good-looking boyfriend. The two of them had been the subject of school gossip for months – even more so than the ever-twisting tale of Scorpius Malfoy and Elodie Desmarais – and their shenanigans had been spread around the school so many times that more than once, Sally had found herself discussing it in her underground dormitory in Hufflepuff house.
“Of course,” Sally said quietly, ignoring the judging looks of Lucy Weasley, who glared at her from behind her book. Rose smiled again, and after sharing a loving look with Oscar, rose elegantly from her seat and easily navigated her way through the seated prefects.
Another smile. Sally returned it sheepishly.
“I’ll be back in a moment, Oscar,” Rose said, and pushed Sally gently out into the corridor. The dark-haired girl suddenly felt very nervous and smoothed down her school robes and straightened her prefect’s badge. There was a moment of silence as the two girls stared out at the countryside, bathed in a glorious sheen on autumn sunlight.
“You’re in Hufflepuff, aren’t you?” Rose said, and Sally blushed for some unknown reason, and tucked her hair behind her ear.
“My cousin’s in Hufflepuff,” the Head Girl continued, “do you like the whole underground thing? Some people think it gets a little bit claustrophobic.”
“It can sometimes, I suppose. I prefer to call it cosy.”
Rose laughed. A high, tinkling giggle that would have made little birds sing and make boys’ jaws drop and convince anyone into doing whatever Rose said. It suited her. It suited her tightly curled hair and brilliant smile. It suited her summer dress and the autumn sun and her handsome boyfriend. Sally was jealous, and hoped that maybe one day she could be as perfect as Rose Weasley appeared to be.
“And who is the other Hufflepuff prefect? Who is the boy you are going to spending so much time with, eh?”
Sally giggled stupidly, blushing again. She had heard rumours that Rose was ruthless, that she cut down anyone who was in her way, that she was an attention-seeking, over-achieving girl who only got her own way because of her looks and a severe case of nepotism. Sally didn’t believe it. The young woman standing in front of her was sweet and kind and polite. She obviously cared enough about Hogwarts and it’s students that she became Head Girl, and she must have worked hard enough to get twelve OWLs or something ridiculous like that.
“Norman. Norman Widdecombe.”
“Is he the tall one? With the blue eyes?”
Sally nodded, and Rose smiled again, clapping her hands together and jumping up and down slightly.
“You two are so cute.”
The two of them talked a little more about boys, about Norman. Sally was hoping she might get some information about Rose and Oscar, but Rose persisted in asking questions; about her home, her parents, what classes she was taking, whether she liked Professor Weston, what she thought of house elf welfare. They chatted so easily and freely, and Sally was a little taken aback by the older girl’s kindness and enthusiasm. Rumours of a ruthless bitch flitted from her mind.
“Now, Sally, I’m sure you didn’t think I would drag you out here just to talk about boys and Professor Weston, as fun as it sounds,” Rose said.
“Of course not,” Sally replied.
“I just wanted to tell you that if you are ever late to a prefect meeting again, I would personally strip you of your badge.” Her voice had suddenly changed. Now it was cold, uncaring and Sally felt like she was about to cry.
“Yes, but Rose, I… err…” she whimpered in response.
“It’s just not good enough, is it? People look up to you, don’t they?”
“I know you are. Now off you go,” Rose said, voice bursting with false sweetness and patronising grin plastered all over her face, “you’ll miss all the good bits if you stand around out here.”
Rose Weasley watched as the younger girl hurried back into the compartment and, after the door closed, she smiled. The younger prefects just needed to be trained, that’s all. They needed to be taught the ways of the world and eventually, with a stern grip on the rules and an inspiring leader to guide them, they would come out at the other end as well-rounded, morally superior individuals.
She sighed, satisfied, and was about to re-enter the compartment when she saw her cousin Albus, standing stock still outside a door at the other end of the train. Rose rolled her eyes. The enigmatic qualities of her sociopathic cousin could be explored at a later date. She breathed in and out, pretending not be fascinated by the workings of his mind and dampened the desire to make him more normal. She stepped back into the compartment. Rose Weasley flashed her boyfriend a majestic smile, which he returned, and all thoughts of her unfathomable cousin were gone.
It took Scorpius Malfoy a while to realise that someone was standing in the doorway. He continued to read, his eyes skimming the pages, impervious to the stares of the young, dark-haired man who stood, stock still, at entrance to the compartment.
And when he did realise, he simply nodded in greeting. The boy, Potter, was quiet, polite. He liked to read. He liked to study. He was good at Quidditch. Scorpius took in his appearance: the shined shoes, the straightened collar and the neatly parted hair. He wanted to laugh at him, but all he felt was a strange sense of sympathy for the boy.
He didn’t know much else about Potter - even though they had shared a dorm for the past six years - aside from the fact that his older brother was a bastard and his younger sister was prat. Scorpius remembered, briefly, a time in his fifth year when Lily Potter and her eldest brother had taunted him in front of the entire school about his grandfather and his history. He had hit James rather lamely, his broken hand barely bruising the older boy's face. The girl had smirked horribly when her brother gripped Scorpius in a headlock and threw her head back and laughing manically as James thrust his own fists into Scorpius' stomach. The other Weasleys had looked on listlessly, bored as Scorpius' skin became blackened and bruised. He remembered crumpling to the floor, blood issuing from his nose, James being lead off to a detention that would never happen and Elodie's wide concerned eyes as she forced him to his feet and towards the hospital wing.
Scorpius shook his head, before focusing his eyes back on the book page. He had reread the same sentence over and over, but the clanging of Potter’s trunk on the rail and the constant nagging reminders of Elodie’s face meant he could not concentrate.
“Do you want some help?”
Potter turned quickly at Scorpius’ question, surprised, his hands slipping from the handle. The whole trunk fell from its precariously balanced position and onto Potter’s leg.
“You all right?”
“Yeah... it’s just heavy, that’s all.”
Scorpius nodded, lighting another cigarette and turning the page of his book. In between paragraphs, his gaze would flick towards the other boy that shared his compartment and his dormitory. It had surprised all the Slytherins, obviously, when he had been sorted into their house. It had been a certainty that every Potter and every Weasley would be sorted into Gryffindors, where they would be praised and pampered until their hearts content.
Remembering the silence of the Great Hall when the hat had called out Slytherin, Scorpius wondered whether the small, dark-haired boy with green eyes had told the hat to sort him into that house, or whether Potter did actually have some cunning in him.
If he did, he definitely wasn’t showing it. He was sitting with his back straight in the leather seat, book open on his lap. The sight made Scorpius want to shut his own novel. He felt as if the two of them shouldn’t have anything in common. He was a Potter, who belonged in Gryffindor with the rest of his petulant family. They destroyed the Dark Lord. People worshipped them.
People didn’t worship Scorpius, or his family, or Slytherin. Nobody did anymore, not even Purebloods or the remaining Death Eaters. After his father’s disappearance and his mother’s illness, their name had become less and less respected. Everyone knew it, even Elodie’s family.
Scorpius watched as Potter pulled out a copy of the Daily Prophet from his satchel, unfolding it. He could see a picture of his father staring back at him - scowling and glaring even from the newspaper ink. He could also feel Potter’s gaze on him.
Potter blinked, and shook his head slightly. Scorpius smirked. He knew that the younger Potter had some unhealthy relationship with Elodie. He would always catch him staring at her from over the top of his book, or at her reflection in the mirror in the mornings when he was straightening his tie.
“Sorry,” Potter said. His cheeks had suddenly filled with colour and Scorpius couldn’t help but think that he was looking at some ten-year old with a particularly lanky frame.
Another few minutes passed in awkward silence, the only sound the crinkling of book pages and the rumble of the train on the tracks.
“I’m sorry about your mother, by the way.”
Albus had thought that it was the right thing to say.
It had taken him a couple of moments while standing in the doorway to gather up the courage to step inside. He knew he was being stupid. He shared a room with Malfoy for six years, and they had talked before, about the weather and Binns’ essay.
He was simply worried at the thought of conversation.
His heart was still palpitating slightly after the encounter with Elodie when he had finally stepped inside and struggled with his luggage. It seemed to miss a beat when the blond boy had offered him his help. Albus didn’t understand why he was so affected by this human contact, why socialising was so difficult for him, why - at a single question - he seemed to tense up and lose all possible train of thought in the hope that he could think of something witty and interesting to say in return.
Albus had thought that they could find some subject to talk about, some mutual interest that would allow the entire journey to be filled with intellectual conversation. He knew that they shared a mutual interest: Elodie, of course, but he knew that bringing that up would simply delve the two of them into some sort of argument that Albus wouldn’t win. Malfoy shouldn’t know about his fixation with the girl, and him, and the relationship the two shared.
Removing the newspaper from his satchel, Albus had skimmed over the headlines and then opened it up. Draco Malfoy had been staring up at him from the central page, his receding hairline and pointed chin even more prominent in the unflattering photo.
He switched his gaze towards the blond young man. They hardly had the relationship were they could talk easily of each other’s familial problems. Albus knew that Malfoy hated the Potters and the Weasleys. He also knew that he should hate the Malfoys, but he was strangely fascinated by the way they had been segregated from society; how the family that had once been so powerful and wealthy had then descended the ranks as a result of their insatiable appetite for power. Albus had never witnessed that sort of undoing.
Unless he counted his sister’s tantrums.
He watched as Malfoy raised his eyebrow.
"Sorry, I was just reading about it in the paper, and... " Albus stopped talking after noticing the expression on the blond man's face. Cold indifference, staring. Completely still against the curling smoke of his cigarette. It was obvious that the other boy did not want to talk to Albus about his family issues, and he understood: he would never share his thoughts on his petulant sister Lily, or the oddly patronizing nature of his parents to a roommate who he didn't care about.
But he did care, obviously, otherwise Albus wouldn't have spent the past six years analyzing and determining the complex nature and constantly changing landscape of Elodie and Malfoy's relationship.
"Sorry," he repeated, and silence descended upon the compartment again. Albus' eyes flickered from the headlines to the report about the Malfoys to the Quidditch results, trying to avoid the way the other boy was staring at him, his eyes accusing and angry. Albus could almost burst with the awkwardness. In any normal situation, like when Malfoy had ever caught him gazing at Elodie over the top of his book, he would simply look away, then make a swift departure before either of them could make their way over to him and ask him - again - why he was staring. He couldn't do that now, though. He couldn't go and do rounds, because he wasn't a prefect. He couldn't go to a Quidditch meeting, because the season hadn't started yet. He couldn't go and meet his friends, because he didn't have any.
The need to make conversation was pressing down on him, a heavy weight on his mind. He didn’t understand it. He didn’t understand why he suddenly felt like he should be able to impress Malfoy, why he so desperately wanted his approval. The atmosphere in the overly hot compartment delved into awkwardness, and Albus couldn’t look anywhere else than at the picture of Malfoy’s father or at the ceiling, or at the old, yellowing pages of his book.
“I’m sorry,” Albus repeated. For some reason, he felt a second apology was needed. Hopefully, he thought, it would get rid of the blanket of uneasiness that had shrouded them.
“We could talk about something else.”
“How about we just don’t talk?” Malfoy’s voice was strained. He had lit another cigarette and as he gesticulated, Albus watched the glowing tip as it swerved dangerously close to the pages of the blond man’s book and the cuff of his sleeve.
“I’m sorry.” Albus surprised himself; his voice sounded unnatural to him – tense and uneasy. He clenched his jaw. He suddenly felt very angry that Malfoy had shot him down. The surge of emotion for difficult for him to process – the reaction was unprecedented. He didn’t know whether to act on it or whether he should just bottle it up. He preferred the latter. Albus was used to feeling when surrounded by his idiotic cousins, or when his patronising parents forced him to join in. Not now. Not with Malfoy.
“You’ve got to stop saying that.”
Albus was about to apologise again but he stopped himself just in time. Instead he said something else – something he had been keeping to himself all summer. No one else knew. It had the secret he alone kept.
“What about Dominique?”
Scorpius Malfoy took a long drag of his cigarette and stared at the dark-haired boy. He knew. Albus Potter knew. Scorpius didn’t understand how, but somehow word had got out. Somehow, someone had found out that he was having some sort of illicit affair with Dominique Weasley. It was true, and Scorpius knew the renowned beauty would deny they had ever spoken. She would toss her hair over her shoulder, flutter some eyelashes, and the rumour would deteriorate. Nobody would question her. He didn’t mind if the news got out: he couldn’t care less about it. But by some means, little Albus Potter had crawled out of his isolated, anti-social hole and found out about it.
Scorpius turned at the sound of a muffled yelp outside the compartment. The last thing he wanted was some obnoxious second year asking about his father or gawking at Potter’s resemblance to his father.
“How do you know?”
“You’re not denying it?”
Scorpius flicked his cigarette out of the window. Potter’s tone of voice surprised him: it was stern, almost cruel, and Scorpius held back a laugh. He probably thought that he was defending his cousin’s honour and virtue by questioning Scorpius like this.
“How did you find out?”
“I saw you two together.”
“Oh yes, I forgot you stalked me,” Scorpius replied nonchalantly and the other boy blushed. Maybe it wasn’t to do with his cousin, as Potter rarely ever spoke to his family – his relationship with them was hardly affectionate, hardly familial – but more to do with Elodie. Scorpius had seen the way he looked at her. Their eyes used to meet while they both looked at her.
"And what about Elodie?" Albus said, as the quip about his stalker tendencies slid over his head like all the other insults he had faced that day. He ignored only the slight truth in Malfoy’s words.
Albus expected a play of emotions to cross Scorpius' face at the question, for him to show some emotion at the mention of his old love. He had remembered the intensity that coloured Malfoy and Elodie's relationship - the lust, ache and redemption that characterized their every act. But now, something was different – Albus saw it immediately - over the course of the summer, their all-consuming relationship had adopted a new hue: there was more apathy, a blankness in Malfoy’s eyes that suggested that the beautiful blonde girl didn’t mean anything to him anymore.
"I suppose you'll be happy to now that we're completely over," Malfoy said. Albus tried to ignore the swooping sense of dread building up inside.
"She doesn't know," he said simply.
"Are you going to tell her?"
"No," Scorpius replied.
Albus breathed out heavily as disappointment flooded him. He thought that Scorpius would at least tell her, to save her from hearing it from someone else, to show her respect. At his refusal, Albus felt that the relationship that had engrossed and overpowered him for a long year had finally finished, that they were behind the games and torturing that had grown so accustomed to. A new relationship, one where Scorpius was so closely entwined with his own family, one as equally destructive, had grown in its place.
"What if she hears it from somewhere else?"
"Well, you have no one to tell."
How was it possible to never be open to anyone, and yet to find yourself entirely consumed by another person? How was it possible to be so mean with your sentiments, and yet to be a conduit for the most life-altering relationship Albus had witnessed?
"And Dominique? What about my cousin?"
Albus Potter watched the blond man’s face carefully, searching for any sign of a reaction. There seemingly was none. He was cold and indifferent as before.
It was easier to think of them as separate entities: the Dominique he knew was one of the most selfish, devious figures he had ever met, with her undeniable looks and other-worldly demeanour, and she could seduce and destroy someone if the need arose. Enticed by the thrill, she was obviously fascinated by the prospect of a rebellious relationship with the offspring of her family's enemy.
No one wanted to get on the wrong side of Dominique Weasley, not when her cousin could give so many detentions that you would never see the light of day again, or when there were rumours of her monster blood and werewolf father and definitely not when she could make you want to kiss or kill her with a single look or One first year swore she had seen the ethereal beauty turn into a great bird with terrifying talons and bloodthirsty eyes and she had watched as the bird-woman had ripped the life from an unsuspecting rabbit and fed on its flesh. Another had suggested that Dominique drank the blood of unicorns and young children to retain her youth and beauty, and she was in fact a hundred years old. One little boy thought she was an angel.
And Scorpius was obviously drawn to her, like everyone else. She picked him out because he was weak and now she enthralled him. That's how it worked, Albus mused, he had seen it often enough.
"She wouldn't tell."
Albus didn't believe him, but he nodded anyway. In a way, that nod was a signal to himself of the closure that had fallen upon Scorpius and Elodie's relationship.
They had given him the greatest experience of love; better than the picture perfect pretence of his parents and his family or the shallow, childish love shared between Rose and her Head Boy. From watching and imitating, Albus had learnt the exact way to hold someone's hand, how to whisper tenderly into someone's ear, how to finally swap one's own secrets for another's.
"He was a fascination, in a way. I mean, they both were," Albus would find himself telling girls as they lay in his bed, years later, their hands over his heart, "and at the time – it sounds stupid now – but at the time, the way there were together seemed like something amazing. They seemed so special and the way they clawed at each other was so raw. It was like… watching something… I don't know. Something big." They would tell him it wasn't stupid, kiss him (each would still feel new and unsure) and caress him. Hours, days, weeks or months later the girls would leave unsatisfied, somehow disappointed that the quiet, observant young man that talked of love so easily was so incapable of it and that the only feeling they had held over him was simply powerful infatuation.
But what would Albus do now? Looking down at the pages of his book, he ran his fingertips over the words and letters. He contemplated writing a story about them, for their entire tumultuous journey to be recorded in ink and parchment. Albus would write himself in as their friend and confidante, popular and intelligent, the boy his parents' wanted and the boy who excelled.
“I suppose you think that you know her better than I do,” Malfoy said. Albus raised his eyebrows and shook his head.
“I don’t know my family.”
“Let’s not turn this into some sort of bonding session.”
“I’m sorry,” Albus replied, looking towards the door as he heard another muted cry from the corridor. He considered going outside look whether anyone was there. It would definitely be better if no one were listening.
Scorpius Malfoy shuffled in his seat and lit another cigarette, shaking his head as the dark haired boy apologised again. He offered the packet to the other boy.
“No thank you.” His voice had returned to the timid tones that Scorpius recognized from their small talk in the Slytherin dormitory. Potter took a long look at him before smoothing down his hair and returning to the pages of his book. It was as if the conversation between them had never happened.
As the train stumbled over a bump in the track, the compartment rolled back into silence. The weight of the summer secret flittered out of Albus Potter’s mind, and was placed into much more able hands.
Rose Weasley beamed as she leant off the compartment wall and set off back down the train, red hair swinging, Head Girl badge shining, and bright smile beaming.
Thanks to Ramita who looked over this for me. Maybe next chapter they'll get off the train.