A rather ordinary boy stood staring out the window of the Hogwarts Express. He looked unremarkable—the type of person who would go unnoticed in crowds. His jet black hair was almost comically messy and stuck up at the back, and his bright green eyes hid behind his round glasses. But this was no ordinary boy; he was famous. Not because of his own achievements, though. He got this fame from his last name, or more specificially, his father's name. Ironically, he did not like the fame. He would rather be left alone in crowds, and would greatly appreciate it if reporters would stop taking pictures of him. He was shy, reserved, and hated attention of any kind. However, hidden in the depths of his heart—so deep, in fact, that he didn't even know it—was a desire to be just as much of a hero as his father was.
Albus Severus Potter, second son of Harry Potter, watched as the Hogwarts Express sped away from Platform 9 ¾, his heart heavy. He continued waving, even though he could no longer see his parents. He turned around to see his cousin, Rose Weasley, bouncing around excitedly. "Oh, Al, we're finally going to Hogwarts! Imagine all the fun we're going to have! You'd better not get Sorted into Slytherin, Al! You need to help me prank them!" Rose squealed, all of her sentences ending on a high note.
Albus rolled his eyes. Nearly all of his cousins were obsessed with pranking. Christmas and birthdays were days to be feared rather than days to anticipate. Albus, unlike the rest of his family, despised pranking. Sadly, he seemed to always get the worst of it. There was nothing more hilarious to his mischievous cousins to see quiet, nerdy Albus getting stuck on top of a tree, drowning in a pond, or having to sleep with maggots multiplying in his bed. James especially loved to torture his younger brother. Albus had to deal with James' constant taunts about getting into Slytherin the whole summer. James had also found it funny to lock Albus in the attic several times, set three garter snakes loose in Albus' room, and force-feed him candy that made him hiss like a serpent.
Albus loathed it all. He was an outcast, and he had never fit in. In contrast to his loud and happy family, Albus would prefer to daydream quietly in a corner or read books about Potions or Defense Against the Dark Arts. He didn't even play Quidditch in front of anyone else. James was the star Seeker, and Albus did not want to compete with his domineering and talented older brother. Sometimes at night, Albus would take James' broom out and fly around the yard, trying to catch the Snitch. He enjoyed flying, but hated doing in front of others. And he certainly didn't want James to find out that he was an equally talented Seeker.
"Albus, are you even paying attention to me?" Rose asked, looking a bit annoyed. "I was just talking about that prank that James played on you this summer. Perhaps we should reuse it on that Malfoy boy that Dad pointed out earlier?"
Albus gritted his teeth. Apparently, no one in his family had yet realized that he wanted nothing to do with pranks. "Er—no t-thanks," he mumbled, shuffling his feet.
Rose shrugged, looking a bit hurt. "All right, but you're missing out." Then she grinned again, her disappointment evidently forgotten. "Let's go find a compartment."
Albus nodded in agreement, glad to have his cousin with him. Rose may have been clueless and tiringly energetic, but he wasn't sure what he'd do without her.
"Hey, Rose," said a cocky voice from behind Albus and Rose. Albus turned to see his brother, James, smirking over at them. "I'm an expert on everything at Hogwarts, so I can tell you what to do. First years sit with their new housemates," James explained.
Albus gulped. "James, y-you're only in s-second year," he said, a bit nervously.
James ignored Albus' words and continued speaking to Rose. "I can show you a few girls that look like they'll be Sorted into Gryffindor," James offered. "As for you, little Slytherin, you can join your new Housemates in the back of the train."
Albus winced, but tried to put on a brave face. He remembered that his father had assured him that it wouldn't matter if he was Sorted into Slytherin. In fact, he was more terrified of being rejected by his family and the rest of the wizarding world than being Sorted into Slytherin. "T-That's getting old. It doesn't scare m-me anymore," he stammered, trying to reassure himself.
"It scared you five minutes ago," said James, smirking. "Come on, Rose, let's leave Snivellus to find his own friends."
Rose bit her lip. "Al can come, can't he?" she asked. Albus was at least grateful that Rose wasn't abandoning him without a backwards glance to go with James like most people did.
"Oh, no!" said James in mock horror. "I can't have my nerdy little brother around me. It would ruin my reputation!" With that, James seized Rose by the arm and dragged her toward the front of the train.
Albus, trying to blink back unshed tears, began to pull his luggage through the train. All of the occupants of the compartments he passed began whispering and pointing at him, and it was getting quite annoying. Some people actually ran out of their compartments to stare at him. By the time he had reached the end of the train, he desperately wished that he could sink into the ground. After what seemed like three thousand years plus five minutes later, his long and torturous search was over. The last compartment was mercifully empty. Albus slid open the door and dragged his trunk in, panting heavily. He sat down, detached his owl's cage from his trunk, and set it beside him. He wasn't nearly strong enough to lift his heavy trunk to the rack above him, so he left in the middle of the compartment. He absentmindedly stroked his new snowy owl, Herwina, which had been a present from his father. The two of them had spent one warm summer afternoon looking through textbooks to find a name for her. Albus had been particularly fond of the name 'Hedwig,' but Harry had suggested that he name his owl something different. Albus grinned at the memory. His father was extremely supportive—even if Albus was a bit of a disappointment to his popular and famous family—and was fair and kind to him.
Without warning, the compartment door slid open, jerking Albus out of his thoughts. He looked up, startled. A boy with a pale, pointed face and cold gray eyes had just entered the compartment. His nose looked permanently stuck up in the air, and he held himself in an annoyingly aristocratic manner. Albus immediately realized that this boy must be Scorpius Malfoy, who Uncle Ron had briefly mentioned on the platform earlier.
"Can I sit here?" the boy asked snobbishly. He did not apparently think that Albus' answer was important, because he sat down before Albus could even speak.
"Yes...," said Albus lamely, too late.
The boy took a closer look at Albus, and then widened his eyes in shock. He mouthed wordlessly for a moment, and then finally caught his breath and closed it. "You're a Potter," he said, suddenly smirking.
"Um—yeah, I-I am," said Albus, tripping over his words pathetically.
Malfoy held out his hand. "Scorpius, Scorpius Malfoy."
Albus shook his hand uncertainly. "Albus."
The two boys sat quietly for a few minutes. Albus passed the time by staring blankly out at the scenery, wondering what to make of his new companion. Scorpius Malfoy was evidently just as shy as he was, and had not tried to start a conversation. Albus looked back to see that Scorpius had taken out Hogwarts, A History and was reading it at what seemed an impossible speed. His eyes simply scanned the page before he turned it. Albus stared at him in shock. He, too, read very fast, but he had never known anyone who quickly as he did.
"D-Do you like that book?" Albus asked, forgetting that he was shy for a moment.
Scorpius looked up, slightly annoyed that Albus had interrupted him. "Yeah."
Albus, who was feeling braver now that he had found someone as clever as him, spoke again. "Do you like history?"
"I guess so. I'm more interested in modern politics of the wizarding world, though," Scorpius answered.
"Oh. Er—I just like Potions. Maybe Defense Against the Dark Arts," said Albus.
"Interesting. I'd like to become Minister of Magic some day, though Father says that I'd be lucky to be accepted as a caretaker at the Ministry of Magic," said Scorpius, putting his book down. He looked a bit excited in his haste to explain.
"W-Why?" Albus asked. "Why wouldn't the Ministry of Magic want you?"
"Because I'm a Malfoy and a future Slytherin," said Scorpius, sighing slightly. "Neither Slytherins nor Malfoys are treated very well now."
Albus sat in silence for a few seconds. "T-That's rubbish," he said.
"Yeah," said Scorpius sadly.
"I'd like to invent potions and spells," said Albus, the stutter finally disappearing from his voice. "I spend all of my free time reading about the Laws of Magic. I think it's possible to break every single one of them. And I like to experiment with magic, too."
"You think of changing the world, don't you?" asked Scorpius. "Me, too."
"Yeah, but in different ways," said Albus. The two boys grinned at each other. Finally, he seemed to have met someone who was equally as talented and ambitious.
The two boys continued to talk about their goals, often smirking and discussing their private plans of climbing their way to holding powerful and respected positions in the world.
"If I was Minister of Magic, there would be no discrimination. Not against muggleborns, not against pureblood families," Scorpius said. "Perhaps if I was good enough, I could spread my influence further."
"I'd create a magical revolution. Imagine this: Everything you've known about magic changes forever. Now, suddenly, everything's possible," Albus said eagerly.
"Everyone would laugh at you," Scorpius pointed out. "You'd be ridiculed for your bright ideas. I'd be ridiculed, too, come to think of it."
Albus snorted. "They won't be able to. I'll shove so much evidence up their nose that they'll have to agree with me."
"And if they still don't?" Scorpius asked.
"There's always the Cruciatus Curse," said Albus. The two boys burst out into laughter. Albus had also found someone with an oddly dark sense of humor, just like him.
Suddenly, the compartment door banged open. The two boys immediately stopped laughing and resumed their brooding. Rose had entered the compartment, bouncing around as usual. "That prank that James played on the fourth-year Slytherins was absolutely amazing! They were running around with their pants on fire for twenty minutes!" she squealed, clapping her hands together in glee. "Serves those disgusting snakes right! They don't deserve to ride on a train with us clean people. Slytherins are disgusting scum. They had it coming for them. James is a genius for coming up with that prank!"
Scorpius snorted derisively. "Oh, yes, what a truly hilarious idea. You must be proud of yourselves."
Albus wholeheartedly agreed with Scorpius' sarcastic statement. Rose, James, and the rest were simply kidding themselves if they thought their jokes were funny. It wasn't right what they did to Slytherins.
"Excuse me?" said Rose furiously to Scorpius. She took in his appearance for a moment and her face changed from happy to murderous in only a second. "You! You're Scorpius Malfoy."
"Certainly," Scorpius drawled, narrowing his eyes at her. "Thank you for noticing. I must say, that was quicker than I expected."
It took Rose a few seconds to figure out what Scorpius had said. Albus tried desperately to keep his face straight. It appeared that Rose, for once in her life, was short of words. Her face turned purple, which was always a danger sign. "Al, why are you sitting with it?" She gestured to Scorpius in disgust.
"I am a person, you know," Scorpius said coolly, barely hiding his smile.
Albus tried to come up with an answer to Rose's question, but the only thing he could honestly say without her biting his head off was, "H-He asked to sit here and I—er—let him."
Rose glared at him, and then she glared at Malfoy. Then she glared at Albus again. This went on for a few seconds while Scorpius steadily became more amused and Albus more embarrassed.
"Your kind doesn't belong here!" she spat. "They should have a separate train for you!"
"I'm not diseased," Scorpius said. He had long since given up trying to contain his laughter and was now snickering, which was driving Rose insane.
"Go away," Rose said. "I won't ask again."
"Well, I shouldn't disobey the great Weasley Queen with the superiority complex. Off I go." Scorpius stalked out of the compartment with his trunk.
Albus bit his lip from trying not to laugh. His attempt did not go unnoticed by Rose. The moment Scorpius left, she turned on Albus. "You were laughing with that—that thing before I came in the compartment! I heard you!" she shrieked.
Albus tried to look guilty, but he couldn't. Why should he feel guilty for enjoying a Malfoy's company? Yes, he knew that the Malfoys and Slytherins were the scum of the Earth. This was common knowledge in the wizarding world. But, even so, Rose had no right to chase Scorpius out. "Er—sorry?" said Albus, knowing that it didn't really sound like an apology.
Rose gritted her teeth. "Al, you can't seriously be considering making friends with him, can you?"
Albus sighed. He supposed he and Scorpius had no chance to be friends, now that Rose made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with him. It was quite sad, for he had never met someone so much like himself. For the first time ever, he didn't feel like he was alone.
"No," Albus muttered. "I didn't consider it, Rose. Don't worry."
"And you'll be a Gryffindor, right?" Rose asked.
Albus bit his lip. For some reason, his fear of being Sorted into Slytherin had disappeared after his father had assured him that it wouldn't matter to them. But, even so, Albus was going to join the red-and-gold-clad students, simply another Potter-Weasley. He had to. If he was Sorted into Slytherin, Rose would hate him. His uncles and aunts would insult him. James would torture him, and he'd practically be disowned. He couldn't risk that. He loved his family, even if they didn't appreciate him completely. Even if he was an outcast, he was still a Potter. Slytherin was the disgraced House, the House that was hated, the House that was barely even considered to be a part of Hogwarts anymore.
"Y-Yeah, of course," said Albus finally, his voice trembling slightly.
Rose didn't notice the tremor in his words, though, and she looked relieved that he had agreed with her. "Good. I don't know what I would do if we were separated," she said.
Albus smiled widely. This was why Rose was his favorite cousin and his best friend. She was extremely loyal and caring, not to mention that she always tried to defend Albus. One day, Rose had been as shy as him, but that had quickly changed. Rose was now loud, bossy, and prank-loving. Even so, Albus still held on to her, hoping that the kinder and quieter Rose would return.
From there, the conversation went downhill. Albus doubted that he could continue discussing his plans of world domination with his honorable and brave cousin, so he kept quiet. Rose, who knew that Albus didn't like to talk, simply took out a book on Quidditch and aimlessly paged through it. Rose was considered extremely smart, but Albus suspected that he was cleverer than anyone else in the family. But no one knew that, and he preferred that it stayed that way.
Albus was a boy of secrets, and a boy that had many of them. He carefully guarded his own and never revealed them. He was the listener, the schemer, and the dreamer. He was different—not only from his family, but from the average wizard. When he had been younger, his parents had constantly discussed his well-being. From what he had summed up from the hushed whispers, his magic level was unnaturally high.
Albus had realized this, too. Whenever he was angry, hurt, or scared, his magic exploded out of him in an extremely violent and dangerous way. Albus had been teased and pranked so much by his family that it was a miracle that he didn't explode every day. Somehow, he had found a way to block all of it out. Once, James had viciously insulted him, causing him to glow bright green and blast his older brother painfully to the ground. James had been confined to St. Mungo's for a week, and Albus had received a month-long punishment. His parents had assured him that he was so powerful because he was a budding magical prodigy, comparable to gifted wizards like Dumbledore.
But Albus had overheard other family members comparing him to Voldemort instead.
His underage magic incidents weren't like those little accidents that happened to most underage wizards—such as jumping exceptionally high or regrown hair. Whenever Albus got angry or scared, he would end up blowing up whole rooms—and once, his entire house—and his underage magic tantrums were always accompanied by an odd, bright green glow that had never been seen before in a young wizard—even a powerful one. What was more, Albus had shown strangely well-developed magic for someone so young. He had been able to control small animals and sometimes even people. He had caused the grumpy alley cat that everyone hated to fall of the roof and break its leg, and he had even managed to drive the town bully insane by simply staring into his eyes. No one had traced these incidents back to Albus. However, the muggles did not like him very much. They got along well with the Potters and the Weasleys in general, but there was something about Albus that they did not trust. Perhaps this was because Albus had always relished destroying places and hurting people and animals, and he had often done it purposely. His delight at seeing despair alarmed him, and he often wondered why he was like that.
But he did know that, slumbering deep within him, there was an evil desire to destroy, to kill, and, most of all, to win.
And he knew that, sometimes, he couldn't control it.
"Al, is it me, or is the train getting slower?" Rose asked.
Albus noticed that the sky was a marvelous dark blue shade, and it was clearly just a little bit past sunset. He quickly pulled on his robes, remembering that he hadn't changed yet. Suddenly, a voice echoed through the train: "We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train, it will be taken to the school separately."
Albus' stomach knotted with nerves. Rose, however, didn't look worried at all—she looked positively eager. "All right, Rose Weasley is coming to Hogwarts! I'll make sure the school never forgets my name!" she said spiritedly.
Albus smiled weakly at his cousin's enthusiasm. He was fairly certain that Rose would instantly become popular, just like James had. Albus, on the other hand, hoped to simply blend in with the crowd. But he knew that was too much to hope for. His father was a famous hero, after all. Albus could either be revered or hated.
The train pulled to a slow stop, and Rose immediately ran out of the compartment. Albus followed after her, trying to get all his emotions in order. He was nervous, excited, and downright scared at the same time. Albus and Rose were quickly trampled by the older students, and he desperately grabbed her wrist so that they wouldn't be separated. Following the crowd, the two tiny first years were swept outside the train.
Albus saw the horseless carriages waiting patiently off to the side. He knew better, though. The carriages were pulled by thestrals. He was quite relieved that he couldn't see them.
"Firs' years, firs' years over here! Rosie, Al!"
Albus' face broke out into a wide grin as he saw a large, lumbering figure in the distance.
"Hagrid!" Rose squealed. She and Albus sprinted toward the large half-giant, throwing their arms around him.
"Rosie! Yeh look beau'iful as always, an' Al, yeh look jus' like yer dad—'cept fer the freckles!" Hagrid bellowed, pulling them into a bone-crushing hug. Fortunately, Hagrid let him go before Albus lost too much air. A few minutes later, a large crowd of first-years had formed around the half-giant. Albus saw Scorpius Malfoy standing at the edge of the group, looking bored.
"C'mon, follow me—any more firs' years? Mind yer step, now! Firs' years, follow me!" The first years stumbled on the slippery ground behind him as Hagrid led them down a steep, narrow path. "Yeh'll get yer firs' sight o' Hogwarts in a sec," Hagrid called over his shoulder as he walked. "Jus' round this bend here."
When they turned, the first years let out shocked gasps. Albus was speechless. The narrow path had opened up onto the edge of a great black lake. Upon a high mountain on the other side, was a beautiful castle with many turrets and towers. The windows of the school sparkled and shimmered in the starry sky, and Albus couldn't take his eyes off it.
"Brilliant," Rose whispered. Albus nodded in agreement. He had heard many stories about the school and had seen many pictures, but nothing compared to actually seeing it in person like this.
Hagrid, who looked amused at the first years' reactions, pointed to a small fleet of boats. "No more'n four to a boat!" Hagrid called. Albus and Rose climbed into the nearest boat and were joined by a boy with curly hair and long ears. He looked slightly elfish, and he scanned both Albus and Rose with his huge brown eyes.
"Hello! I'm Oswald Nesbitt," the elfish boy said, "and you're Harry Potter's son!" This last statement caused everyone to stare at Albus in awe.
Annoyed, Albus said, "I-I know I am." He wished people would address him as something other than 'Harry Potter's son.'
Oswald Nesbitt looked very hurt and wiped his eyes hurriedly. Albus did not feel guilty. He looked sideways to see Scorpius Malfoy, who looked unsure about where to sit. Everyone that Scorpius approached simply hissed at him. Albus decided not to invite Scorpius not to sit with them. He had promised Rose that he wouldn't try to make friends with Malfoy, and he was going to honor his word. But Scorpius joined their boat anyways, which made Rose turn purple. Fortunately, she had decided not to a start a fight and did not protest.
"Everyone in?" shouted Hagrid, who had a boat to himself. "Right then—FORWARD!"
The fleet of boats surged forward magically. Albus found himself admiring the scenery and imagining all his classes. For a second, he almost forgot the Sorting. "Do you think we're going to have an exciting year at Hogwarts? With monsters and evil professors?" Rose asked suddenly.
Albus gulped and fidgeted with his collar. "I-I hope not! I just want a normal year."
"Oh, really? I wish that we could have those adventures like Mum and Dad did!" Rose said passionately.
Be careful what you wish for, Albus thought. He wasn't brave or adventure-seeking. All he wanted was to be respected, though he didn't even have that. He was the timid, shy, and stuttering boy that everyone made fun of.
As the boats sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff where the castle stood, Hagrid called, "Heads down!" They all did, and soon they went through a curtain of ivy that hid an opening in the cliff face. They were carried along a dark tunnel which seemed to be taking them under the school itself. They continued to sit in the boats until they stopped at an underground harbor. Excited, all the first years clambered out onto to the wet pebbles, slipping and sliding as they did so.
Once everyone was safely out of the boats, Hagrid said, "All righ', everyone here?" Then he raised a giant fist and knocked three times on the castle door.
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