They met, quite by accident, when they were eight years old; on the day Al's father took him to Diagon Alley to look for a book. Al was quite excited to be on an outing with his father, as it was rare for the two of them to be alone. Al's father let him pick out a book, gave him an affectionate pat on the head, and quickly disappeared into the dark shelves. Al gripped the latest version of Quidditch Through the Ages and looked for a quiet place to sit down and read. He knew his father could spend hours browsing the stacks of books when he was looking for something in particular.
Al noticed a thin, blond-haired boy seated in a nearby window alcove. The boy sat cross-legged with a huge book in his lap. Every so often, he would reach up and tuck an elusive silver-blond strand of hair behind one ear, even though it slipped back down to lie against his cheek almost immediately. Al watched him for a bit, impressed with the boy's concentration. He was fascinating, with that amazing straight hair, pale skin, and impeccable blue robes. He looked… regal. Al was suddenly conscious of his rumpled robes, and his hair that constantly stuck up in all the wrong places.
Al took a deep breath and walked forward. He sat down next to the boy, and was almost mesmerized when the boy's eyes met his in surprise. They were quite an astonishing shade of grey.
"Hi," Al said and smiled.
The boy surveyed him for a moment. He seemed to be calculating the possible consequences of giving Al a simple greeting. Al held his breath. The boy seemed very thoughtful and serious.
"Hi," he said finally. Al grinned happily, assuming he had passed some sort of test that allowed him to be acknowledged. He immediately crossed his legs, bumped his knee into the boy's, and plopped Quidditch Through the Ages on his lap.
"What's your name?" Al asked.
"Scorpius," the boy replied. Al's grin widened, and he nearly guffawed. The silver eyes narrowed.
"You think my name is funny?" Scorpius snapped.
Al shook his head. "Don't worry, it's not half as funny as mine. I'm Albus."
The angry look left the blond's face, and his lips twitched in amusement. "Really? Albus?"
Al grimaced. "Yeah, and my middle name is even worse. My friends call me Al. Pleased to meet you," Al said, recalling the manners his mother had drummed into his head. He stuck out his hand, hoping it wasn't too dirty. The blond looked at it for a moment, and then gripped it lightly. Albus squeezed. Scorpius squeezed back. Al squeezed harder, and so did the blond. Soon they were attempting to crush each other's hand bones. Al began to laugh, and after a moment, Scorpius did, too.
"On the count of three," Al said, feeling his fingertips going numb, "We both let go."
"Three," said Scorpius. They both released their aching hands, and Al giggled so hard he nearly fell forward off the seat. Scorpius chuckled, and Al thought he looked awfully nice when he smiled.
"Do you have a nickname?" he asked.
"No. Just Scorpius."
"Can I call you Score?"
The blond shrugged. "I suppose. If you like." He returned his focus to the book in his lap, and Al felt like he'd been dismissed.
At that moment, the sound of raised voices came to them. Al looked up in surprise, recognizing his father's voice. His father marched out of the shelves, looking angrier than Al had seen him in a long time. A tall man who looked remarkably like Scorpius followed him. He looked just as angry as Al's father.
"Back off, Malfoy!" Al's father hissed. The blond man put a hand out and grabbed his shoulder to spin him around. Al's eyes widened. He had never seen anyone dare to touch his father in anger. Not ever. Not only did the man grab his shoulder, but also clenched both fists into Al's father's robes and slammed him against the nearest bookshelf, making several of the books fall over. Al wondered why his father didn't reach for his wand and hex the man into a toad.
Al looked at Scorpius, who was staring at the angry men in astonishment. Al looked back at the blond man and felt a horrible sinking sensation. He had to be Score's father. The enraged blond man leaned forward and snarled something inaudible into Al's father's ear. His father closed his eyes, as though to block out whatever the man said. Al knew that trick. La la la, I can't hear you. It never really worked, though, not unless you stuck your fingers into your ears at the same time. And Al's father's hands were clenched into fists.
He raised those fists suddenly, but instead of hitting Score's father, he opened his hands and pushed against the blond's chest, shoving the man backward. The two men glared daggers at each other for long moments.
"My dad," Al whispered miserably.
"Mine, too," Score replied just as quietly.
"I don't think they like each other."
"Scorpius," the blond man said loudly. "Come along."
Score closed his book and got to his feet. He looked at Al with an expression of shared commiseration, and then followed the billowing dark cloak of his father as the man swept out of the store.
Al got up and walked to his father, who smiled at Al, even though he still seemed shaken by whatever Score's father had said.
"Who was that?"
"Draco Malfoy," Al's father said quietly. "An old… friend from school."
Scorpius Malfoy. Now that he knew Score's full name, Al decided he would send him an owl. Just because their fathers did not get along didn't mean Al couldn't talk to his new friend, right? He'd check with Rose, first, of course, just to be sure. She was so much smarter than Al. She would know what to do.Clandestine Affairs
Scorpius Malfoy, as it turned out, was a genius. After Al's first owl message, Score had come up with several secretive ways for them to communicate, beginning with sending owls to each other in the dead of night. It was harder for Al to get owls than Score, because Al shared a house with James Potter, the snoopiest brother alive.
Though he was loath to do it, Al was forced to incinerate all of his notes from Score, because James would have found them. James would have then blackmailed Al into doing his chores for the next million years.
Score was the one that came up with the brilliant plan for them to meet. The next time Score's father went on a shopping trip to Diagon Alley, Score owled Al and told him to arrange a trip at the same time. They would meet at Fortescue's Ice Cream Shop. Al was so excited he nearly gave the game away by making James suspicious. His brother looked at him and sneered.
"Why so eager to go to Diagon Alley, Al-butt?" he asked.
Al shrugged, trying to look nonchalant.
"I want to see if there are any new Quidditch books at Luna's."
James sneered, as expected. The day his brother willingly picked up a book was the day Al would eat a Thestral. "You're so weird."
"Not as weird as you," Al retorted carelessly. James hurtled across the room and pounded Al's head against the floor.
"Take. It. Back," James said, whacking his head with each word.
"I take it back!" Al squealed, seeing stars. James was such a freaking brute. His brother climbed off and dusted his hands with satisfaction.
"Bring me some sweets from Fortescue's, or you die," James said and left the room.
"Sure. Poisoned ones. Ass-hat," Al muttered and rubbed his aching head.
Scorpius sat at a corner table. Before him hovered a large dish of chocolate ice cream. Al happily slid into the seat next to him and grabbed the pale hand that rested on the table. He laced their fingers together and squeezed.
Score looked at him in surprise. He tried to detach his hand, but Albus held tight.
"Boys don't hold hands," Score drawled.
"Why not? Girls do. Why is it okay to shake hands, but not hold them?"
"It's just not. When boys hold hands, people say they're poufters."
"Boys that like other boys," Score explained in a tone that suggested Al was an idiot.
"But I do like you."
Score sighed and rolled his eyes.
"Not like that. Like, boyfriends. You know, snogging and all that mushy stuff."
Al wrinkled his nose. "Ew, that's gross! Snogging is disgusting! Teddy and Victoire do it all the time. They make these slurping sounds and moan at each other. It looks wet and sloppy to me." Al shuddered.
Score shrugged. "Well, that's what people will think."
Al set his jaw stubbornly. "I don't care what people think." He squeezed Score's hand more tightly.
"Well, I do, so let go."
Al tossed his head, but released Scorpius. "All right. If you're afraid."
Scorpius glared at him. "I never said I was afraid!"
"Of course you are. You're afraid of what people will think."
Scorpius snatched Al's hand and squeezed it until Al's knuckles creaked painfully. Al refrained from wincing, barely.
"There. Are you happy now, you obstinate prat?"
Al did not know what obstinate meant, but he grinned and nodded. With his left hand, he picked up the spoon and took a large bite of Score's ice cream. The platinum-haired boy looked at him with an unreadable expression.
"I don't know why I want to be your friend. You're insufferable, really."
Al did not know what insufferable meant, either, but he knew Score wasn't serious.
"You want to be my friend because you're terribly lonely in that big, old house by yourself."
"I am not lonely," Scorpius said, but his hand stopped trying to turn Al's into jelly.
"Well, I am, and I have a brother and sister. I can't wait until schools starts and James is gone. Be glad you don't have an older brother." Al dropped the spoon and rubbed the sore spot on the back of his head. He must remember to buy James sweets or he would have a matching wound on the front of his head.
"I can't wait until school starts for us," said Scorpius.
"You are going to Hogwarts, right?"
"Yes. Mother wanted to send me to Durmstrang, but Father wouldn't hear of it."
Al was relieved, and mentally thanked Score's father. Even though he was mean to Al's father, and shoved him into bookshelves. "What House do you think you'll be in?"
Score shrugged. "Slytherin, of course. All the Malfoys have been in Slytherin."
Al was horrified for a moment. James had told him horror stories about Slytherins. And Uncle Ron was constantly mentioning "that evil Slytherin git" although which one he referred to varied. "I don't really care, as long as it isn't Hufflepuff."
"What's wrong with Hufflepuff?" Al asked.
"They're sheep," Scorpius explained. "Idiots, the lot of them. Their only redeeming quality is loyalty, and they'll throw their lot in with anyone willing to lead. March dead off a cliff, I'll bet. Loyal to the end."
"Make an excellent army, wouldn't they?"
Scorpius looked at him critically.
"You know, Al, you're smarter than you look. Maybe you'll be in Ravenclaw."
Al nearly laughed. James always called Al an idiot. No way he was smart enough to be a Ravenclaw.
"Probably Gryffindor. James is a Gryffindor. And Mum and Dad were Gryffindors. And Uncle Ron, and Aunt Hermione. And Teddy. Uncle George and Uncle Bill. Oh yes, and Uncle Charlie. And Percy…"
Scorpius laughed, and Al stared at him in amazement. He had never heard the blond boy laugh aloud before. Score had a great laugh. Al joined in just from the sound of it.
Score's laugh silenced abruptly as his gaze shifted out the glass door. "Father is coming. I'll owl you next time we plan to come to Diagon Alley." He gave Al's hand a squeeze, and went outside before Draco Malfoy could enter. Their greeting seemed stiff and formal to Al, who would have leaped on his father with a huge hug, but then he saw the elder Malfoy grip his son's shoulder. No exuberance, but affection, at least.
Al and Score met clandestinely several times after that. Twice in the ice cream parlour, once at the bookstore, and once at the Quidditch World Cup, shortly before both were scheduled to attend Hogwarts. Their families were seated not far from each other, although the riotous Potter-Weasley clan was a loud contrast to the pale, reserved Malfoys. Albus thought they all looked beautiful—pale and aloof, like expensive statues.
Scorpius caught Al's eye and made an obscure gesture. Al excused himself to use the lavatory, but his mother insisted he take Lily along. Al pouted in annoyance, but complied.
"Score! The World Cup! Isn't it exciting?"
"Not really. My team is not playing, so I don't care who wins. Who is your little shadow?"
Lily glared. "I'm no shadow. I'm his sister. Who are you?"
"Never mind, Lily. Just use the damn toilet and hurry it up."
"I'm telling Mum you said a bad word!"
Al stuck his tongue out at her. Lily did the same and marched away. Al rolled his eyes.
"Be glad you're an only child," he said. Score smiled and Al laughed aloud. He leaned close and touched Score's hand with a quick squeeze. "Just think, Score! We'll be at school soon! Then we can be together every day."
"Unless we're in different Houses," Scorpius said. Al sobered.
"Yeah, but we'll still have classes together, right?"
Al was quiet, knowing it was likely that he would be in Gryffindor, and Scorpius would be in Slytherin. They would make friends in their own Houses and see each other rarely. Al was suddenly annoyed at the unfairness of it. If only their fathers didn't hate each other, they would at least be able to see one another away from school.
"Why does your dad hate mine, anyway?" Al asked quietly, wishing there were some way to force the Sorting Hat into putting them into the same House.
"I don't know. Why does yours hate mine?"
Al shrugged. "Maybe we should ask them."
Lily returned, and glared at them both.
"I should go," said Score. "See you on the Hogwarts Express."
Al grinned. "That's right! I'll meet you in the last car. Wait; make that the second to the last car. James always sits in the last car, and we don't want to be with him."
Scorpius bowed slightly to Lily. "Pleased to meet you, Al's sister. Bye, Al."
He sauntered away, and Lily looked up at Al. "I guess he's not so bad," she admitted. Al grinned before yanking at her hair ribbon and running back to the stands with Lily in angry pursuit.Hogwarts
Al fidgeted nervously while he waited to board the train. He craned his neck now and again, trying to spot Scorpius through the crowd of taller people in his way. James was bouncing like an idiot, waving to everyone he even vaguely recognized. James was the most popular boy at school, at least according to James. Rose Weasley stood next to Al, looking as nervous as he felt. He only wanted to be in Gryffindor if Score was there also, and it was a good bet Score would be in Slytherin. James had been terrifying Al all morning with stories about the evil children in Slytherin House, and suggesting that Al might be sorted there.
The steam cleared for a moment and Al caught sight of Scorpius. His relief was nearly crushing. He had been terrified that Score's father had changed his mind and decided to send Score to Durmstrang. He smiled widely, and a tiny smile touched Score's lips before he pretended to ignore Al.
Uncle Ron made a joke about disinheriting Rose if she was not sorted into Gryffindor, giving Al a moment of panic. "He doesn't mean it," Aunt Hermione said, and Al's mother agreed, giving her brother a poke. Al's uncle straightened suddenly, and moved closer to Al's dad.
"Look who it is," Uncle Ron said as the steam thinned again.
Both Al and his father turned to look at Draco Malfoy and Scorpius. Al noticed a beautiful, thin blond woman standing with them. Al's forehead wrinkled. Was the woman Score's mother? She looked a lot like Al's father, so perhaps she was another relative, like an aunt. She wasn't fussing over Score the way Al's mother was fussing over Lily, tucking her scarf around her neck to keep it from blowing away.
Uncle Ron advised Rose to beat Scorpius in every test, earning a glare from Al. What did Uncle Ron have against Score? Al nearly asked, but Aunt Hermione lectured Uncle Ron, so his uncle apologized. James returned in a complete tizzy about Cousin Teddy kissing Cousin Victoire. Al rolled his eyes. Who cared about kissing? He just wanted to get on the train and see Score.
James kicked at Al, made an obnoxious comment, and boarded the train. Al's mother kissed him, and then Al's father hugged him hard.
"What if I'm in Slytherin?" Al asked, reluctantly disturbed by James's warnings.
Al's father knelt down, and Al looked into the green eyes so like his own. His father spoke quietly, easing his fears about Slytherin House, and then revealed a secret that made excitement leap through Al's veins. The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account.
Al quickly boarded the train and hurried to the second to last car. He fidgeted impatiently until a familiar silver-blond head peered in. Scorpius grinned.
"Al. I was afraid you would be in here with your hoards of relations."
"No, it's just us so far," Al said and shifted aside. Score sat beside him, after stowing a small travel bag in the overhead compartment.
"Father insisted I bring some sweets from home. He says the food on the train is substandard."
Al thought that was terribly funny. His mother was a good cook, but Al thought train food would be a wonderfully amazing change from home-cooked meals. He grabbed Score's hand happily.
"I can't believe we're finally going! And wait until you hear what my father told me!" He repeated the news about the Sorting Hat considering the wearer's choices. "It's a secret, of course. My father never told anyone before, not even James! I know it, or James would have told me." Al felt terribly special about that.
Score looked at him thoughtfully. "You know, Al, that opens up a world of possibilities. It means we can be in any house we choose."
"And it means we can be together! Will you be in Gryffindor with me?"
Score laughed. "Certainly not. Gryffindor is for brave idiots."
Al pouted, recalling the taunts of James outside the train. He was terrified to be in Slytherin, and almost hesitated to ask. "Not… not Slytherin?"
"I've been thinking about that, Al. My father has told me story after story of Slytherin House. To prepare me. Frankly, they don't sound at all friendly. The chief trait of Slytherin seems to be to get ahead, and while I can certainly relate to that, I hate to have so much bloody competition. It must get very tiresome, being on your toes all the time, fighting to be top dog. And once you are top dog, how do you stay there?"
Al nearly sighed with relief, although he was nearly as nervous at the next suggestion. "Ravenclaw, then? I told you, I don't think I'm smart enough."
Score made a huffing sound. "Of course you're smart enough. You're my friend, aren't you? That alone qualifies you for brilliance. However, I think I've found a better option for both of us. Hufflepuff."
"Huff… Hufflepuff?" Al was astounded. He'd been called a Hufflepuff as a curse word by his brother for the past year, every time he'd done something remotely stupid or annoying. "But you said they were…"
Score nodded. "Sheep, yes. But then I thought about what you said, that they would make the perfect army. Think of it, Al! We could rule Hufflepuff! With my brains, and your… well, whatever makes you you… we could take over Hufflepuff without a fuss. I would be their king, and you would be my…"
"…queen?" Al said dubiously, the first thing that came to mind. Score socked him in the shoulder with his free hand.
"No, you idiot! My right hand man. The king's champion."
"The king's champion," Al breathed, enraptured. Score's brilliance was beyond comprehension.
"Besides, I look stunning in yellow, and you… well, we'll just have to keep you in black, I suppose. Yellow will do nothing for your complexion and it won't highlight those green eyes of yours at all, but one cannot have everything. It's settled, then? We'll ask the bloody hat to put us in Hufflepuff?"
"Absolutely." Al smiled and thanked his stars that M came before P in the alphabet. Regardless of what house Scorpius ended up in, Al planned to spend his every instant under the hat begging to be placed in the same, even if it turned out to be Slytherin.
As it turned out, Al's father was correct. Scorpius spent quite a long time beneath the hat before it finally yelled out, "Hufflepuff!" Al thought it sounded a bit confused. There were more than a few shocked murmurs throughout the hall, especially from the teacher's table. Al thought Professor Longbottom looked stunned as he watched Scorpius walk triumphantly to the yellow-bedecked table.
Al's turn came shortly thereafter, and as the oversized, battered thing darkened his vision, he heard a small voice in his ear. "Another Potter, eh? Always interesting, the Potters…"
"Hufflepuff," Al whispered desperately. "Hufflepuff, please. Oh please."
"Hufflepuff? Are you sure? You seem to know your own mind… Slytherin would take you far. Intelligent enough for Ravenclaw, you are, and brave… yes, bravery goes without saying…"
Hufflepuff. Hufflepuff, Hufflepuff.
"Odd," the hat muttered. "You're the second boy ignoring my choices tonight, but if you insist, let it be… HUFFLEPUFF!"
Al nearly collapsed with relief and ignored the shout of horror coming from where his brother sat. He nearly threw the hat at the next student to be sorted, and raced to the Hufflepuff table, where his new housemates welcomed him with slaps on the back and loud cheers. Al looked only at Scorpius, whose silvery eyes glowed with triumph as he held out his hand to Al.
He heard a recurring whisper from along the table, and it sounded excited and a bit awed. "We've got a Potter! A Potter!"
"We must send your father a thank you card," Score whispered with a chuckle as Al joined him on the bench. Under the table, Al gripped Score's hand tightly with barely suppressed excitement, and his friend did not try to pull away. "Bloody hat wanted to argue with me. Insisted I should go in Slytherin."
"It said Slytherin would take me far," Al murmured. "But that I could be in Ravenclaw, too."
Scorp grinned. "See? I knew you were smart."
Al's heart soared. Tomorrow, he would have to face his brother, and explain to all of his sundry relatives why he was the only non-Gryffindor in the lot, but tonight he simply didn't care. Score's plan had worked brilliantly.