Joella Macmillan - Darla Baker
Albus Potter - Robbie Wadge
Scorpius Malfoy - Sebastian Sauve
Delilah Winslow - Tasha Sapojnikova
Joella Macmillan had always thought it was odd that Albus Potter was not, as might have been expected from the great Harry Potter’s son, a lady’s man.
While more than usually attractive, he did not suffer from an enlarged ego as someone with a family like his might (well, no more than any other Slytherin did anyway), and had a small circle of friends that, if asked to describe Albus in one word, would probably have said something like, “One word? Erm, alright. I guess he’s a bit — well. Bollocks. You know. He’s Albus.”
Well, except for Scorpius Malfoy, who might have said something along the lines of, “Oh, Al? He’s a right twerp, innie?” in his crisp, heirloom china voice, accompanied with either an affectionate sigh or a glare, depending on what kind of mood he was in that day.
Scorpius’ moods tended to be of a wide variety and usually depended on the weather, school work, Quidditch standings, his mum, the strength of his coffee that morning, his dad, the volume of Rose Weasley’s bushy hair, how much sleep he’d gotten the night before, the time of day, if his jumper was made of cashmere or not, what was being served for lunch, his hair, and of course, Albus.
At least, that was what Joella had observed from her usual seat at the house table. As an introverted Hufflepuff, her social role was marginal, doomed to be constantly overshadowed by the more bubbly members of her house and the bolder Gryffindors, and so she chose to observe people instead.
Take her best friend Delilah for instance. Shy but unfailingly sweet, Delilah liked the soft tickle of the quill against her nose as she wrote essays, required about a hundred pillows to be able to fall asleep in her bed, her favorite drink was warm spiced pumpkin juice, and secretly, so secretly she probably hadn’t even admitted to herself, let alone to Joella, Delilah loved Albus Potter.
She was very careful about it, only showing her feelings in the corners of her mouth and eyes when he entered the Transfiguration classroom or the Great Hall. Even when they had been assigned to work together turning their tortoise into a comb one class period, she had hardly said a word. Of course, that situation was made more hilarious because Delilah was brilliant at Transfiguration and Albus, who was much more suited to subjects like Potions (“All that wand-waving is a bit girly, if you ask me,” Joella had overheard him saying once to his other good friend Felix Nott) and was of the usual Slytherin opinion that Hufflepuffs weren’t good for much other than free hugs, had been shocked when she got the comb on only her second try.
Joella had been partnered with Scorpius, who, instead of trying to transfigure their tortoise, had named it Walter and decided to adopt it. This gave her ample opportunity to watch Delilah try and explain to Albus, her eyes a wide and alert blue, timidly that it all had less to do with the wand movement and more to do with committing to the spell.
Albus lost interest quickly, obviously irritated by anything that didn’t involve a written recipe until Delilah, in a show of boldness that was most unlike her (Joella decided she must have lost her patience with him at last, which was a rare occurrence), had grabbed his wand hand and said firmly, “You just have to decide that what you want more than anything at that moment is for the tortoise to become a comb and picture the end product. You can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you want to end up. Are you imagining that?”
He nodded, biting his lip in concentration.
“And then,” she moved his hand for him, “just swish and flick.”
For a moment, nothing happened and Albus’ face fell, but then the tortoise molded itself into a perfect comb with a funny shrinking, squelching sound. He looked from it to Delilah with wide eyes as she smiled in satisfaction.
“There! See? All you needed was a bit of determination. It’s easy as long as you don’t over-think it.” Delilah dropped his hand after a moment, seeming to realize what she’d done, and Joella could almost see her shrink back into herself like a hermit crab.
Still looking at her with curious green eyes, Albus opened his mouth to say something (Joella certainly hoped it was some form of a “thank you”) when suddenly the bell rang.
“Albus, you little sex moppet. What on earth are you still doing over here with the Hufflepuffs?” Scorpius stared at Joella and Delilah a bit like they were extremely modern art in a museum: too ordinary to look at, too strange to discuss and absolutely forbidden to touch.
Albus looked from him to Delilah, mouth still open uncertainly and Scorpius went on blithely, “Do you think they’ll have those sandwiches I like so much for lunch? I’ve been craving them all week. Also, have you met Walter? I’ve decided to save him from a life as a horribly tacky comb that no one in their right mind would wear and keep him as my pet instead. Don’t you think he’ll look nice in a tiny cashmere jumper? I’ve been thinking of shrinking that mauve one I hate so much to fit him.”
He dragged Albus away, still chattering as Delilah sat frozen in her chair, slowly reddening with either embarrassment or a sort of excitement Joella couldn’t quite put her finger on.
And honestly, part of her — that innate sense girls always seemed to have of how things should turn out — thought maybe it might work. That perhaps that moment in Transfiguration class that day would somehow alter the way Albus saw Delilah, like the earth shifting slightly on its axis, and it would all turn out miraculously perfect.
Of course, the rest of her — the parts that had observed hundreds of heartbreaks from a distance and had been unable to understand such a thing, that ripping and tearing of one’s insides by another person, from any angle, no matter how many times she tried — knew nothing would really change.
In fact, the more Joella observed Albus Potter, the more apparent it became that poor, timid little Delilah never stood a chance.
Albus, despite his extraordinary family background, was a fairly average teenage boy. His favorite meal usually consisted of an enormous plate of assorted biscuits, bacon and a cup of tea. He was a champion speller (and could often be seen slashing away at Scorpius and their friend Felix’s essays each morning before class making corrections), liked his older brother James more than he would ever let on, and he had a bad habit of picking at the cuffs and hem of his jumpers until they were quite frayed and his mum made him throw them out and get a new one.
He also had a bit of trouble with a hopeless obsession (Joella had heard James Potter mention that it was hereditary when he had been on one of his big brother rants), but one didn’t really have to be particularly observant to notice that.
Exhibit A: Eight o’clock one morning after breakfast, Joella and Delilah were headed off to Arithmancy and ended up exiting the Great Hall following Albus and Scorpius. Joella saw the corners of Delilah’s mouth twitch and her eyes start to shine like they always did when she caught sight of his head of dark hair, while both of the boys completely failed to register their presence. The reason for their distraction became clear as the uninterested face of Ambrosia Vaisey, one of the Slytherin seventh years, came into view.
“For the last time, Potter, I can carry my own books.” She didn’t sound angry. In fact, she didn’t even sound irritated. Mostly she just seemed desperately bored. She pushed her long curtain of hair, which was black and shiny as an oil slick, away from her face.
Undeterred, Albus said eagerly, “Have I told you today that your skin glows like the surface of the full moon?”
Scorpius, who had been standing off to the side watching the exchange and looking generally irritated (Joella had been able to overhear his ranting about the rubbishy coffee all the way from where she sat munching her toast during breakfast), facepalmed.
Ambrosia, who’s skin Joella could grudgingly admit did have a rather celestial milky quality, fished a piece of chewing gum out of her bag and headed up the staircase without another word.
“I’ll see you at lunch then!” Albus called after her brightly and Scorpius patted him consolingly on the shoulder.
“You’re going to have to give up at some point, mate. Practically everyone thinks you and I are dating anyway, so that’s a bit of a catch.”
“I won’t give up! Didn’t I tell you my grandmother acted like that? And in the end she changed her mind and married my granddad. History will repeat itself, even if I have to die in my attempt!”
“Also I’m pretty sure she hates you.”
Faced with this new bit of evidence, his face went a bit slack for a moment before reforming into a hopeful grin. “I’m sure her resentment is a masterpiece of camouflage.”
He nodded knowingly and Scorpius busied himself with his reflection in the marble floor, obviously knowing it was hopeless to pursue the subject any further.
“Excuse me, Albus?” Delilah’s soft, silvery voice seemed so weak in comparison to Ambrosia’s throaty consonants and Joella nearly cringed. “I think you dropped this while you were — ”
“What!” He whirled towards her and Scorpius made a sort of frightened flouncing motion, going from best mate to startled queen in about three seconds flat, and clutched his hair.
“Y-your Charms homework,” she stuttered, flushing. “I think you must have dropped it.”
Albus stared at the parchment covered in his spindly writing for a moment and then asked her curiously, “Do I know you?”
Joella’s jaw dropped to the floor and Delilah’s eyes grew wide with surprise.
“I’ve only been in your class for the last five years…” she said trailing off at the end, face pooled with disappointment, and Albus snapped his fingers in remembering.
“Oh, I know you! You’re that Hufflepuff girl from Transfiguration!”
And this time, unlike any of the other moments she had watched, Joella could feel Delilah’s quiet hurt tear at her own chest and heard herself let out a tiny gasp.
“Well, thanks anyway,” Albus said, completely oblivious, and grabbed the parchment out of Delilah’s limp fingers.
Scorpius, eyeing them both somewhat warily, finished toying with his hair and adjusted Albus’ collar like a protective mother hen. “Come on, the Hufflepuff might rub off and we’re going to be late to Charms in a minute.”
Nodding, Albus sent Delilah another impersonal smile and headed off down the corridor.
Joella’s eyes followed the pair until they were out of sight, jaw still hanging open at Albus’ obliviousness. She chanced a look at Delilah. The Entrance Hall was deserted now and she wondered if her friend might cry.
Of course, she didn’t. After all their years of friendship, Joella knew Delilah was never one for tears.
She simply stood there, frozen in that moment in time, hands outstretched with palms turned towards heaven and her eyes still wide.
“Oh, Delilah,” Joella heard herself say sadly and saw her friend’s pale lips begin to tremble. She wanted to hug her, to wrap her arms around her friend and say how sorry she was, that she had seen it all from the beginning and how much she wished she had said something before now — but after a moment, Delilah blinked and licked her lips.
Lowering her hands slowly, she said, “It’s no worse than I expected, Jo. I never really thought he knew me anyway.”
Joella wanted to say that of course he should know her, that she had seen it, that time in Transfiguration with the tortoise, and that that should have meant something. That if they lived in a perfect world, it would.
She didn’t though. Delilah would have realized it might be like this long ago. She was always practical like that.
Methodically, Delilah smoothed the creases out of her skirt and cleared her throat slightly. “Come on, we’re already late for class as it is. Professor Pettyfrances will have our heads if we miss a whole lesson.”
Swallowing the raw edge of Albus’ easy dismissal of Delilah like it was a piece of ragged metal lodged in her throat, Joella trudged up the staircase. She wondered if it was wrong to treat other people’s lives like books open to be read, when the writing of it looked so horribly and inevitably painful.
A/N: Just a little nextgen romp with clueless Albus, flamboyant Scorpius and some misfit Hufflepuffs. Carry on!
Diclaimer: As always, the wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. I own nothing you recognize.