Author's Note: Many thanks to the Reviews Lounge staff for putting together a wonderful challenge, and even more thanks to Katy for her sparkling Beta. Thanks as well to the always fabulous Sara Winters for the second-pass Beta, resulting in the July '08 re-post. But the gold star must go to the inimitable Lady Altair, who gave me permission to lift her characterization of Dennis Creevey (and didn't seem to mind me lifting Lavender Brown) directly from her masterful "Cauterize". If you haven't read her work, you're missing out on some of the best fanfiction around.

This story is a bit ambitious, so reviews are more than appreciated. Now, please enjoy:

Albus Potter and the Misspent Youth.

I suppose there are some folks who've forgotten their fathers' birthdays. Not me. No, I'm blessed to have a father with a bloody bank holiday in honor of his birthday. Big effing deal, too. Uncle Percy tried to tone down the Ministry celebrations when he was made Minister two years ago (figured it would be unseemly to go about lauding one's own brother-in-law), but the public wouldn't have it. Looks as though the fine art of worshipping my father is here to stay.

Merlin, but you should have seen it on Unity Day this May. It was the 25th anniversary of his taking down Old Tom Riddle and they stopped the whole bloody world. Heads of state from all over came by to congratulate him, and Uncle Percy had the whole family up to the state dinner. The whole bleeding family. Twenty-five Weasleys and Potters mingled with the families of the French, Bulgarian, Romanian, American, German, Japanese, and every Commonwealth country's minister or president and their families. I still think we outnumbered them. Oh, but you should have seen cousin Dominique all over President DeNîmes's boy. Merlin, but she should have been a Slytherin. I was so proud, I tell you. I digress, of course.

Today, the crowd is different. First of all, the Office of the Minister isn't heading up the gala, it's being hosted by the Auror Corps. Dad's getting feted by his own people, which is nice. Secondly, it's all of Mum and Dad's old DA friends – that super-secret organization Aunt Hermione came up with back in the war. So it'll be wartime stories until dawn. Again. Mum told me I should bring a date, because this is a rather important society event. I asked Rose to bring Scorpius, mostly to have someone to hang out with besides Rose, but he didn't want to come, not even as my date. "If not for me or Rose, at least do it for the press, Scorpius" didn't go down so well, either.

He says he feels like someone's just waiting for him to start ripping off AKs every time he comes to one of our DA-crowd gatherings. Can't say that I blame him. Ever since I got sorted into Slytherin, I've felt the same way. But the tabloid press will be ever so miffed not to have "The Mercurial Trio" together for some pictures. Yes, that's me flipping the cameraman the bird in last month's MagicPeople. Berk wasn't supposed to be on school grounds, anyway. Mum doesn't know that Rose figured out a way to silencio a howler.

Rose and I have been the best of friends since we were in nappies. We're almost exactly the same age (and if I hear one more story of how she got her name, I'm going to be violently ill) and our parents are, as you're quite aware, inseparable, so we've spent more time together than most siblings. From about the age of eight, that time has been devoted to cataloguing the myriad reasons not to be born to members of the Golden Trio.

Our siblings developed differently, of course. James plays Quidditch like Mum. Lily's taking all of the OWLs she'll need to be an Auror like Dad. Hugo devotes himself to rights causes, like Aunt Hermione. They sat in rapturous wonder for years listening to stories of how our parents saved the effing world. Rose and I would develop our Exploding Snap skills and hope that the stories would stop before they all got too tired patting each other on the back to serve dessert.

"The Mercurial Trio" started much like "The Golden Trio," minus the frog. Coming into Platform 9 ¾, I was dead scared to try anything outside of what my parents had done at Hogwarts. James had done a bang-up job of convincing me that were I sorted anywhere other than Gryffindor, my days as a Potter would be over, and I could kiss the life of a child of a celebrity goodbye. Sweet, caring brother I have. But, at the 11th hour, doing his patented 'saving people thing,' Dad disabused me of this notion and made sure I knew I was a Potter regardless of house.

So, after Mum and Dad put Rose and I on the train, and we couldn't see our parents anymore, we found ourselves a compartment where we hoped we wouldn't get bothered by anyone looking to 'Meet a Potter' or sign their bloody Teen Witch Monthly. That's James on this month's cover, looking ever-so GQ in his Puddlemere kit, by the way. Berk. But, as I was saying… Rose and I were getting some quality time when we see Scorpius walk into the car, looking quite lost, the poor dear. Now, Scorpius had been pointed out to us on the platform as the person we ought not make friends with. Uncle Ron may as well have introduced us himself. Anyhow, Rose convinced Scorpius to come into the compartment, and the three of us started talking.

For the first ten or so minutes of our friendship it was difficult trying to get him to say much of anything. When he saw we had invited him in only to cheese off our parents, he bowed to our noble aim. We began to plot our takeover of Hogwarts right then and there, you see; it has worked out better than any of us could have imagined. Professors kiss our arses and let us flout whatever rules we find inconvenient at any given moment. Well, Neville doesn't, but that's because he's known us since we were born. Oh dear, I'm digressing again.

Anyway, using the information my dad gave me on the platform about how to get sorted into the house I wanted, the three of us planned our houses for maximum effect. Scorpius had to go into Ravenclaw, as it would have pleased his father too much had he been a Slytherin like me. Rose was only going to be able to go Ravenclaw or Gryffindor, so she had to go Ravenclaw, too. As for me, as anxious as I had been on the platform about being sorted into the House of the Serpent, I began to realize what an asset it would be for us to have a Slytherin in our group. After all, we don't make friends and enemies, we make allies and adversaries. And as a Potter, and the spitting image of the Boy Who Lived himself, I certainly wasn't going to make too many adversaries. They'd all be afraid of my expelliarmus. Once I realized that my parents weren't going to disown me, and I would get to keep my influential name, it became a possibility. When it came time to strategize, it became clear who the Slytherin should be.

Armed with the knowledge of how our sorting was going to wind up, the three of us rather strutted off of the train, onto the boats, and into the Great Hall. Scorpius was sorted first, and when he went into Ravenclaw the place went deadly quiet, but we had anticipated this. He took a moment to get his bearings, and he raised his head and took a seat at the end of the table, saving one for Rose. However, when I was sorted into Slytherin, I thought all hell would break loose. Students were screaming that the hat had gone mental. Poor James looked as though it was all his fault. I suppose it was mere coincidence that I smiled all the way to my seat. Rose's sorting was rather anti-climactic after that. Ravenclaw wasn't such a surprise to anyone, as her mum's braininess was well documented. Somehow, after my sitting down with the Snakes, it wasn't such a big deal that she was the first Weasley in family history not to be sorted Gryffindor.

Oh. Speaking of Rose, she's finally here to help me get ready.

"Albus, darling, do you have to wear the green robes tonight? You know my dad's just going to lecture you about family or some other such rot," Rose says as she kisses my cheeks in greeting. I return the greeting, of course.

"But Rose, sweets, they match my eyes ever so perfectly, and as the first Slytherin born to the house of Potter in, oh, ever, it is my duty to represent the good name of Salazar as best I can. Now be a dear and lend me your eyeliner." She does, and I take a moment to apply it. She takes that moment to ponder, which can hurt in large doses.

"Oh, sweet Rowena. Luna and Rolf Scamander are coming to this thing, aren't they? Do you think Rolf is going to bring his guitar? Damn it, I think I'm just going to make up some female ailment and convince Dad I can't go. You understand, don't you darling?" I look up from my mirror.

"What? And leave me to deal with the whole bloody Golden Generation by myself? Merlin's balls, woman, do you want me to have to hang out with James? Or my irrepressibly perky sister?"

"There's always Hugo."

"Poor kid always looks like he's about to cry. He's okay as far as Gryffs go, but I'm so sick of his bloody causes. Don't try to sell me on Uncle George's kids, either. Goofy and Goofina just don't make it for me as proper companionship for the evening."

"Why didn't you bring a date like your mum asked?"

"Ha. Why didn't you?"

Of course we both knew that our answers were identical. Either of us could have picked up the Hogwarts directory, picked out two names at random, and gotten ourselves very, very grateful dates for the evening. Dates who would have either clung onto us for dear life, thinking they could marry well (oh, sweet Merlin, no), or would have run as soon as they saw the first tabloid at the grocers with their picture waving back. Scorpius is the only one I know with a last name that isn't Potter or Weasley to have dealt with that effectively. He flips the bastards the bird like Rose and I do.

"I did, though," she says with a smirk. On cue, in walks Scorpius.

"Albus, darling," he says with an affectation, and he kisses me on both cheeks. I, of course, return the greeting.

"Scorpius, do tell me you two worked out that grand entrance beforehand. That was much too fabulous to have just worked out by some insipid Gryffindoresque luck."

Scorpius kissed Rose firmly on the lips and held her arms out, admiring her smart frock.

"Darling, you look marvelous in teal. I've told you that a dozen times – so glad to see you take my fashion advice for once. And Albus, of course we worked that out. We used Protean charmed knuts, and I Flooed over when she said she got here. After that, it was just a matter of waiting outside the door for my cue."

Rose and Scorpius are inseparable; they have been since the train. At Hogwarts, there are those who are convinced Scorpius is as gay as they come and Rose has been trying to 'convert' him, and there are those who are convinced that he and Rose have just wanted to get together for years but don't know how to tell each other. The latter group almost all have autographed copies of Ron and Hermione: The Golden Trio's Pair at home. No, there is no one who just doesn't care. This is, of course, Scorpius Malfoy we're talking about. Yes, I know the answer. And no, I'm not telling. Ha. Like you won't make up your own story about it anyway.

After a bit of prater, we head downstairs arm in arm in arm where Mum has thrown a bit of a 'family and friends only' party for Dad. There's the obligatory cake in the shape of a snitch (ye gods, all we need is more bloody 'youngest seeker in three millennia' stories), there's some singing, and there are presents. He loves my cape-clasp with the Auror Corps shield design, as well as Scorpius's redwood desktop wand caddy and Rose's red and gold quill set. Mum makes some sickeningly sweet reference to 'getting his present later', which sends Uncle Ron mental, as always. Honestly, Uncle Ron. The joke was wearisome the first time, it became useless about the same time James became useless (which is to say, when James was born), and now it's gone well past its sell-by date.

Funny thing happens to the three of us at these gatherings. As much as we like to make an entrance, we of the Mercurial Trio rather go our separate ways at these things, leaving us at the mercy of whatever DA member feels it's their turn to act in loco parentis at any given moment. None of us like being without our shields, it's just that we're incapable of stopping this phenomenon. You want to be nice, you want to pay attention to what are actually stories of true importance in our world, because these are quite powerful people, regardless of their unassuming natures. So we each retreat into our shells, knowing we can dish the dirt when it's all over and it's just the three of us.

Luna and Rolf have shown up with their two rugrats, as have Neville and Hannah. But it's Luna who has me cornered at present.

"Albus, you look quite dashing this evening. How are you doing? Looking forward to seventh year?"

I give her a peck on the cheek in response to her warm hug and greeting.

"Oh, I'm doing well Luna. Thanks for asking. Yes, seventh year is almost here, isn't it? N.E.W.T.s are right around the corner, I suppose."

"How many N.E.W.T.s will you sit then, Albus?"

"Seven, actually."

"Goodness, dear. Any idea what you'll be doing once you leave Hogwarts?"

Ugh. I do so hate that question. No, I won't be playing Quidditch like Mum and James, and no, I won't be following Dad into the Auror Corps like Lily wants to. Could be arsed to take up causes like Aunt Hermione, and I certainly didn't inherit my Uncles Ron and George's head for business. Mostly, I'd like to never have to answer that question again. But, as one can't make much of a living simply being fabulously intelligent and witty, I'm sure it's going to come up in conversation again. So, here's my standard answer:

"I'm sure the right opportunity will present itself, Luna. I honestly don't know at present what that might be." Cue Golden Generation's pitch for their own profession in three, two, one…

"You know, you don't need a Magical Creatures N.E.W.T. to work in Mageozoology, Albus."

Yep. I call 'em like I see 'em.

"That's good to know, Luna. Why don't I send you an owl with my C.V. when I'm done with my N.E.W.T.s? Oh dear, I think I have to rescue Scorpius from Lysander. Excuse me." Oh, thank Merlin.

Now, that was disappointing. Luna Scamander has always been my favorite of Mum and Dad's old DA friends. Normally she's quite pleasant, with her hyper-pragmatic lack of bullshite and ability to point out that which no one else cares to see. But here she is, rambling on like the rest of them about careers and futures… I suppose she wants to help in her way; she probably knows that she's my favorite, but I'm not sure anyone can help, to be perfectly honest.

"Lysander? Did Scorpius invite you to treat him like a set of monkey bars?"

"No, Albus," the five-year-old answers.

"Then be a good lad and play with your brother now. Ta." Scorpius cocks his head back and puts the back of his hand over his forehead.

"Oh, so this is what it feels like to be rescued by a Potter. With those dashing emerald eyes all ablaze, I can see how Riddle himself just collapsed. I know I'm all a-twitter," Scorpius teases. I just flip him the bird.

"Treating me like a common photographer, are you? There there, darling. Tell Uncle Scorpius what has your knickers all twisted."

"Luna. She was asking me about my future. Of all people. Tsk."

"Oh dear. And she's the pleasant one, isn't she? Hey, can we escape this thing yet? Your uncle keeps trying to check out my forearm."

"Merlin no, mate. Miles to go before we're through tonight. Shall I get you a garter so you can keep your sleeves up?"

"What, and ruin this ensemble?" Sometimes I can't tell when Scorpius is kidding and when he's not. This is one of those times. He actually seemed put off by the question.

"Where's my date, anyway?"

"She's with Mum and Hannah in the kitchen. I think they're trying to make a girl out of her yet, for Merlin's sake."

"Didn't work on her mum. Woman still can't cook a lick. Suppose I ought to get my Gryffindor on and rescue the fair maiden. What do you say, Albus?"

"You go on ahead, sweets. No one ought to endure that for any longer than necessary."

As Scorpius swishes off, I find myself blissfully alone on the chair in the corner where I found him being abused by a toddler. Now, why in the hell does Luna all of a sudden care about my future? I've spent the better part of six years developing alliances throughout the Magical world just so I don't have to concern myself with such mundanity. If I want a job, Scorpius's Grandad Greengrass will simply call up one of his offices and make it happen. And if he doesn't have the right opportunity for me, the Notts, the Fletchers, the Fawcetts… and that's just the Slytherins. Merlin knows the Hufflepuffs would give their eye teeth to be in the same room as the three of us, and there are any number of Lily and Hugo's housemates who've been trying to save us from a life of calculated debauchery. Hmm. Now that sounds appealing. Calculated de-

"You know, you give your father a run for his money with a brood like that, Albus."

Inside, I hit the ceiling. However, I've practiced being caught unawares like this, so I'm able to keep my cool exterior.

"Dad was an amateur brooder, Aunt Hermione. And yes, Grandmum's shown me the pictures of him between fifth and sixth years. It's eyeliner that makes the brood, and Great Aunt Petunia would never let him be anymore freakish than he could help," I reply with a well-worn smirk. Aunt Hermione just shakes her head and chuckles to herself. Then she gets one of those looks in her eyes. Not a wicked one like her daughter has. More the type that would generally precede her, Uncle Ron and Dad ducking under the Cloak for a midnight trip to Hagrid's.

"All right, spill it, boy. What's going on between Rosie and Scorpius?" Now it was my turn for the look. Grandmum Potter's eyes don't come in handy quite as often as I wish I could wear colored contact lenses, but there are times….

"Aunt Hermione," I say, opening them as wide as I can, with a look suggesting butter wouldn't melt in my mouth, "What reason could I possibly have for spilling my two best friends' biggest secret?" She opens her mouth to give a quick reply, but I have her cornered. She knows I'm talking about quid pro quo, and I know she could never stoop to such a thing. Moreover, she knows that I know that. She's trapped, and with my Grandmum's eyes doing their thing, she almost appreciates being allowed to be trapped.

"You know, if your uncle Percy had a look like that, he'd have been Minister years ago. Have you thought about politics, Albus? You seem to have…" and as she goes on and on, the only word that comes to mind is


"What's that, dear? Why do you look like you've seen a boggart?"

"Never mind, Aunt Hermione. Look, I'm not going to give up your daughter, and I have no intention of talking with Uncle Percy about the Ministry, at least not right now. I know the work you do there is important; really I do, but right now – "

"Right now you just couldn't be arsed."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me, Albus Potter. Right now it's ever-so-much-more-important for the three of you to go gallivanting about like society prats than to consider even for the shortest moment what the future might have in store for you. Tops of your class, the lot of you, you could do anything you wanted to. But…"

Oh, sweet Merlin's hairy arse. People are starting to look.

"… ambition, put it to some good use! Are you even listening?"

"Of course I am, Aunt Hermione. I am, and I understand what you're saying."

Okay, Potter. Quickly now. What does she want? She wants her daughter safe and well – this is a maternal fright in her eyes. What can I give her? Can't promise to keep Rose safe. Oh, but I can distract her with a project.

"I really do understand it. It's just that… May I confide in you, Aunt Hermione?" That softened her demeanor a bit.

"Of course you can, Al." She's even huddling in a bit closer. I might be able to salvage some dignity out of this encounter yet.

"It's, well… Look, I really don't know what it is I want to do with my future, and the thought of leaving Hogwarts without anywhere to go has me a bit frightened. I've just been masking that fear behind this ambivalent exterior, hoping it would buy me enough time to get things figured out. I'm sorry if this has worried you about Rose, but she may very well be further on her way to deciding for herself what she wants." Now, let's judge non-verbals.

Okay, we have a knowing smirk. That could say 'Thank you for playing, but I see right through you, you useless ponce,' or 'Oh, you poor dear, I know how that feels.' Shall we be optimistic then and go with answer number two? Oh, wait. She's backing off a bit.

"Thank you for that, Albus. I'm sure it must be very difficult for you. Just know, honestly now, that you can come to any of us for any advice at all."

"Thank you, Aunt Hermione. I'll keep that in mind. Still won't give up the dirt on Rose, but I will keep that in mind." Smarmy grin, and… scene. OK, that was a bit too saccharine from Aunt Hermione, so she didn't buy it at all. But, she did leave, so I guess I get to keep my dignity for now. Oh, thank the gods above, Rose and Scorpius are back.

"Sweetie, do I have to rescue you from Mum again?"

"No, darling. She stopped mid-scene this time. I was able to distract her, or at least amuse her. She also wanted me to give up the goods on you two."

"You wouldn't dare!"

"Rose, love, I may be Slytherin, but I'm still human. Of course I didn't. Can we go upstairs? I think I need a break."

We're able to steal twenty minutes for Scorpius, who, surprisingly is the least scathed of all of us this evening. Rose gets twenty-five, and I get thirty minutes to regain my composure. We've placed thirty minutes as the most we allow ourselves before we wind up making a bigger scene with our absence than we would with our presence. I certainly hope we don't need more time than that this evening.

It's amazing how this all started, us being in complete control over our destinies at Hogwarts. As soon as the whole sorting thing had settled down, we began to put our plan into motion. It was a three-pronged attack. First, there was mystery. We commandeered the Great Hall as our own personal common room, and just sat there and talked, studied, played exploding snap (Rose was snap queen, of course). We had, in effect, our own house. This is where that androgynous affectation started, as well. Don't ask us to quit it, either, believe me, we've tried. It's a part of who we are by now. Second, we had to be nice and welcoming to all. There was, at least on the outside, to be no excluding, no barring of a class of 'undesirables' from our midst. Everyone at Hogwarts has, at one time or another, felt themselves 'a part of' our group, and that's just fine. Engenders loyalty and all that.

Perhaps what set us apart from the rest was our third rule, and its corollary: we had to keep our grades up. And not just near the top, but at the top of our class. In every one of our classes, Weasley, Potter, Malfoy or some combination of the three were (and are) at the top of the grade sheet. This serves two purposes: We earn respect from our teachers and earn admiration from the students. For the first three years we were also hyper-vigilant about following rules. We knew that by following them early in our careers, we would set a precedent whereby a slip here or there would go unpunished. Also, with the entire school watching our every move, it would have been difficult for us to get away with much.

Now, you'd be right to think that this is a bit of advanced group dynamics thinking for a few eleven-year-olds. Okay, we're not that good. The three-pronged attack came upon us slowly through the first two months of our first year. The Great Hall happened because we didn't want to worry about a first-year Slytherin in the Ravenclaw common room. Then, as we were generally kind to all that came by, not knowing who was more or less advantageous to align with, we saw that we had a host of friendly acquaintances built up, some of them as old as fourth-years. We also saw that part of our allure as a group was that we were sitting in the Great Hall when no one else would dream of doing such a thing, and moreover that we didn't give a rat's candy-red arse who said what about it.

"Albus? Yoo-hoo, are you in there?" Scorpius is laughing at me. Effing brilliant.

"Yes, what? Of course I am. Can't a bloke get a good brood in every once in awhile?"

"Perhaps, but you were going on forever. Why are you so all over the place, then? Still worked up over Luna?"

"What did Luna say to you, sweets?" Great. Now Rose is concerned. Oh well, we did promise to tell each other the truth, seeing as no one else would be getting that from us.

"She wanted to talk about the future." My voice gets comically grave. Rose picks up on that with a feigned shriek – did I mention she's my favorite cousin?

"So what did that dizzy bint say about the future that got you all out of sorts? Come and tell Mummy Rose everything."

"She asked me what I was planning on doing with my life." Ugh. She's really going to drag this out of me, isn't she?

"And you gave her a song and dance and then told her you'd be happy to send her a C.V., right?" Rose is good.

"Yes, of course. What did you want me to do, tell her 'Mrs Scamander, I have decided to spend the balance of my days living a quiet life of carefully calculated debauchery.' If you could only see Scorpius's and Rose's eyes light up.

"That's it, love! Calculated debauchery! It'll be like Hogwarts, only now we need to weave our magic on all of Wizarding Britain." The idea has apparently (--unnecessary) earned me a sloppy peck on the cheek from the old boy. Rose gets two for good measure.

"Ha." Rose says with finality. "Figures you two would wind up extending your wasted youths into adulthood. Me, I'm going to be a travel writer." Scorpius and I are rolling in laughter at this assertion.

"Right then. What's so funny, boys?" Rose asks.

"Same bloody thing, dear cousin. Besides, where've you been that you can write about, save visiting your Muggle grandparents down under?" I'm still having a laugh about this. Scorpius, not so much.

"But Rosie, how would Albus and I ever be able to plan our takeover without your help? You wouldn't just leave us to fend for ourselves, would you? Darling, we need you if we're going to live this life."

"Ha. If you're going to live that life all you'll need is a decent press representative. So, how shall we attack this Harry Potter Day bash?"

Scorpius and Rose have been strategizing for a good twenty minutes now. I offer to let them continue whilst I head back down to face the DA. Ten minutes later they mention something about wind charms to blow back our hair as we wade through the photographers arm in arm in arm. Which is okay, but Rose fails to mention that she whipped up a floating caption for us as we walk underneath the Impervius charm hanging over the red carpet. So our red carpet shot was certain to read "Rose Weasley (17), Albus Potter (17) and Scorpius Malfoy (17) entering the Auror Corps's Harry Potter Day Ball with their usual flair on 31 July, 2025."

"That was pure genius, darling." I tell her, and she gives me a peck on the cheek just as a flashbulb goes off. I think I'm going get some of these shots when they come out in the press. You just don't make moments like these happen – okay, we do, or at least we try to have a bigger say in them than most. But, there's something about an entrance when everything comes together just right – when the lighting is perfect, the occasion is perfect, the snark is perfect, the outfits are perfect… This just did it. Scorpius is gorgeous, Rose is gorgeous – hell, I'm gorgeous. And we breeze through the doors and meet pure, unadulterated indifference. Gods. Worse than that, I think Mum just waved at us.

"Albus, come over here a minute. There's someone I'd like you to say hello to."

Now, after an entrance like we had; after the kind of coordination, planning and effort that went into such an entrance, one would think my first words upon entering the Ministry ballroom wouldn't be

"Be right there, Mum!"

But they are. Well, that's karma for you, I suppose. Rose and Scorpius did do most of the planning, hopefully they fare better.

"Albus, you remember Minister Shacklebolt, don't you?"

"Ginny, you know I don't stand on formalities like that. It's Kingsley, lad, and the last time I saw you must have been…"

"At the party Mum and Dad had for James's Hogwarts letter, sir. That was right before you retired." No, I don't think I'm going to call the most important person in modern magical history that I don't call "Dad" by his given name. But it was kind of him to offer.

"Excellent, of course," he says with a booming laugh. "Ginny, this is quite a young wizard you've got here. The Ministry still needs men like you, Albus – it's what keeps us strong. Merlin, but you look so much like your father at his age."

"Yes, sir. I get that a lot." Mum is mouthing "I'm sorry, love" behind his back.

"Right, yes… I suppose you do. What year are you going into this year, Albus?"

"Seventh, sir." Escape. Escape. Escape…

"Excellent. Make sure you send me a copy of your CV if I can be of any help."

"Of course, sir. Pleasure to see you again."

"Right, lad. I expect to be seeing you here in a couple of years, what?"

"Albus, honey, I think Rose has left poor Scorpius alone. Why don't you go make sure he's having a good time?" Okay, have the sense not to actually run away from the man. Walk, slowly… confidently… there. Make sure to get something nice for Mum for her birthday in a couple of weeks.

"Merlin, mate, was that Kingsley Shacklebolt you were talking to?" I don't think I've ever heard Scorpius actually impressed by someone other than the three of us before.

"Gods yes. Ten years as Minister and you'd think the man would know when to shut the hell up." I am remembering to whisper, dreadful as that was. Scorpius is not exactly nursing a flagon of firewhiskey as we chat. Rose comes by with her own, and I excuse myself to the open bar to see about my own libations. Merlin knows I'll be needing them tonight. Another nice thing about fame is that I never need proof. You don't know I'm seventeen? Borrow someone's Witches' World.

"Quite a crowd here, isn't it?"

Watch me try not to fall apart here. I'm not going to ask for an autograph. I'm going to maintain… Harry Potter's son, damn it; I can do this. Remember to breathe is all…

"Mr. Creevey, a pleasure, sir."

Interesting how when you meet your idols, you wind up noticing everything. His book of photographs of victims of the war, Scars, has been one of my stylistic inspirations since I first laid eyes on it summer after second year. Dad was able to get a print of Lavender Brown's picture for me for my birthday this year. She's gorgeous, of course, as only Fenrir Greyback could've made her. He's shorter than you'd think someone who took photographs with that level of importance would be. Maybe five foot four, in boots with a raised sole. He has a remarkably youthful face; only thinning hair and lines etched by grief and seeing too much at too young an age betray that he's the other side of forty.

Merlin's balls, but all it takes is close proximity to a celebrity for me to turn into a bloody poet.

"Please, call me Dennis. That was quite an entrance you three made tonight, Albus. I loved the caption. And the wind charm was genius."

"Right. Glad to hear someone noticed. Rose and Scorpius worked hard on that. Not sure these things would have much for us if we didn't have our entrances."

"Certainly have those down. I've been impressed with you three over the years. You've developed a style, nearly a brand. That certainly doesn't happen by accident."

"Thank you, Dennis. That means quite a bit coming from you. I suppose you've heard I'm a bit of a fan of your work, too."

"Quite. Your dad's mentioned something to that effect. Are you enjoying that print of Lavender, by the way? Would you like me to introduce you to her?"

Lavender Brown? Style maven and all-around diva extraordinaire? Why, yes. Yes I think I would like to meet her.

"That'd be brilliant, Dennis. Thanks."

The old cliché that talks about how wizards get distinguished with age while witches just get old? Trumped by one Miss Lavender Brown. Forty-three years old, same age as Dad, and with head-turning looks. She's not merely fit; she has a style and grace that simply refuse to be ignored. So, I don't. Pair her in the scene with Dennis Creevey and the cool factor is much greater than the some of its very worthy parts. Dennis in an all-black ensemble: boots, baggy trousers and a sleeveless vest. Lavender in a very smart black cocktail dress with enough of her back exposed to show her breathtaking ink work.

"Lavender, let me introduce you to Albus – "

"Of course. Albus Potter. I've followed you and your friends in the style rags for years." Kinder words have probably never been spoken. And then she surpasses that mark by a mile.

"You do know that you have those wankers wrapped around your finger, right?"

Blushing. I'm actually blushing. And I think I'm enjoying it.

"The thought has crossed my mind, Miss Brown," I reply, feigning confidence. Dennis knocks that confidence right off of the wickets.

"Lavender, sweetie, you've made him blush." The three of us share a bit of a laugh over this, mentioning my Weasley heritage and a story or two about Mum back at Hogwarts. Somehow, I don't mind. We chat for a bit longer – dish is probably the more appropriate term. I tell them about my run-in with Minister Shacklebolt, Lavender just tears apart Aunt Hermione's outfit (Dennis stifles a chuckle at this, but I can see where she's coming from. Honestly – we know you're a witch, but must you wear robes to everything?), Dennis is convinced Ms. Chang has gotten some work done recently ("have you ever seen her really smile?" he asks), and we all get a good laugh at the Wizarding Wireless press who've turned out. Lavender floors me, though, when I mention how I've always admired Uncle Percy's fashion sense.

"You do know he's one of my clients, right?"

"Your clients, Lavender?" I ask, not quite sure what she means by that.

"My dear child, what did you think I did for a living, get by on my good looks alone?" We share a chuckle at this, although if good looks did pay the bills, neither of them would be poor.

"No sweetie," she continues, "I'm a style and image consultant. I help people like your dear Uncle Percy determine and follow a style concept. He was a tough case, but Merlin is he ever improved over his Hogwarts days."

We talk a bit further about this – Dennis makes his graceful exit to go chat up the Patil twins and their families – and she tells me that her business really got off the ground after her picture was shown in Dennis's gallery. Others who'd had their appearances damaged by the war sought her out, as she was so comfortable with hers, and she turned that into a small business. As the war victims became fewer and fewer, she used her DA contacts (including Aunt Hermione, she's quick to point out – probably trying to make up for her earlier dishy comments) to build a network of potential clients, and today she has a waiting list just to make an appointment.

"So, would being the Minister's nephew get me a discount, then?" I quip.

"Darling, you and your friends may be the only three people in Wizarding Britain that don't need my services. Your sense of style is impeccable; and Scorpius… Merlin's balls can that young man dress. Pissed as he is right now, you wouldn't know it, but…" I look over at Scorpius, who is quite pissed and talking rather closely with Rose. No, this isn't a good look on him.

"No, I don't think I could be of much help to you, Albus. In a few years, who knows – I may be coming to you for guidance. Here, take my card, love. Floo on over before Hogwarts starts up again. We should grab our seats. It just wouldn't do to be gabbing whilst Harry Potter's giving a speech now, would it?" she says with a wink, and kisses me on both cheeks, which I have the composure to return, gobsmacked as I am.

Dad's been in rare form tonight. Mum always tells me how shy he is naturally, and how long it took for him to get out of his shell, even after the war. But tonight he's been walking around, glad-handing the guests and his old DA friends, chatting up a storm and even taking Mum and Lily for a spin on the dance floor. By the time he starts his speech, he has the entire room transfixed by his every move. Dad's good like that.

"Amazing stuff, this magic," he starts. "For my eleventh birthday I get a cake with my name on it for the first time, and by my 43rd I have a day named after me and a Ministry ball." Cheap joke, but it will work for an opening.

"You know, I never did want any of this. Of course, that's been well documented. It's been well documented that from the time I was eleven to the day Tom Riddle died, all I really wanted was a bit of peace and quiet in the world that I had just come to find out was my own. We all know I didn't get that, and that was due to a prophecy made years before I picked up a wand for the first time.

"Tom Riddle may have been a model for deceitful megalomaniacs everywhere, but never did he speak truer words about me than when he called me 'a child of no extraordinary magical power.' What was it, then, that brought about his demise? What allowed a group of teenagers to not only bring a war to this evil invading our society, but win that war against some of the most powerful witches and wizards in the nation, and do so with relatively few casualties?

"Given who we were and when this all took place, it's not surprising that there were no Slytherins in our group, but when I think about what allowed us, the DA, to win the war, it is a very Slytherin skill. We were able to take what we were given by the Fates, whether good or bad, and use it to our maximum advantage. Our generation was given no particular genetic advantage in dueling, we simply worked hard, trusted each other, and made the most of the gifts we had. And when our generation is looked back upon in history books, it is my hope that that is how we will be remembered. I'd like to thank you all for coming this evening, and I certainly hope you have a good time"

Must make sure to ask the old man if he's going to be running for office himself. Oh sweet Rowena, we're singing Happy Birthday, are we? Lavender chuckles and smiles at me as I hold my shaking head in my hands. Then again, she's not singing, either. Well, there's been an entrance, there's been some palaver, there's been a speech and there's been cake (mercifully not in the shape of a snitch this time). I guess that's my cue to make the earliest graceful exit I can. I make a fond farewell to Lavender (only after I promise to make an appointment to meet with her before school starts up again to discuss the fashion consulting industry), and head off looking for Rose and Scorpius. They must be dying to get out of here. Oh look. Fancy that. They're not.

"Oh now that's attractive," I say quite pointedly, and watch as they jump off of one another and start re-arranging bits of robes and blouses.

"Honestly, snogging like fourth-years behind a pot plant? And you two are supposed to be two-thirds of the epicenter of style? How many cameras do you think there are in here tonight? Ye gods, but you two are mental. Well, at least I don't have to hold your secret for much longer."

"Albush, w-wait. W-we were jusht…"

"Rose, you're as boiled as an owl. Don't talk, either of you. Just dress yourselves, gather some modicum of respectability back and let me get you home. Scorpius, you're staying with me tonight. I'll Floo Astoria when we get back to my house. Rose, I'm going to find your mum and let her know I'm taking you back to your room. Bloody good thing you can use the "but I'm of age" excuse in the morning, love. You're going to need it. That, a good hangover potion and a Pensieve to help you remember what you did."

"Those don't w-work on dr-"

"Can it, Rose. Pull yourself together. I'm going to find your folks."

Blessedly, there was a minimum of drama as I relayed the state in which I found her daughter to Aunt Hermione. She just shook her head and kissed me on the cheek, telling me I was a good friend for Apparating her home in that condition. I told mum that Scorpius would be sobering up in my room, too.

"Anything happen then tonight, love?" she asked me when I was done with my explanation.

"Oh, nothing you won't read about in tomorrow's Prophet, I imagine," I replied with a smirk. Mum tilted her head at me questioningly, but I merely smiled and gave her a peck on the cheek. Then I nodded my head in the direction of the less than discreet foliage still being used as cover by Scorpius and Rose.

"Albus, why don't you have Rose spend the night, too? We'll put her in the guest room, and Scorpius can bunk in with you."

"Why's that, Mum?"

"Your uncle Ron is going to do his nut over finding out about the two of them because of some pictures in the Prophet. I'll call some of my editor friends over there to head off the worst of the worst, but that won't stop Witch Weekly or any of those rags from buying the more lascivious ones straight from the photographer. She's better off at our place."

Astoria Malfoy is just as understanding. A cheery "Ta ta for now," and the flames die down. Rose and Scorpius have long since passed out. It's been quite the day. I think I'm going to join them.

Epilogue: Nineteen Hours Later

As usual, Mum made the right call about Uncle Ron. He still doesn't trust either Scorpius or me (although Dad says I'm mental for thinking he doesn't trust me) any farther than he can throw us, and he was not at all pleased to find out that Rose and Scorpius have been an item since first year. At least Dad was able to convince him to "let the kids sober up a bit before you lay into them, mate," and one of those dreadful scenes was averted at our breakfast table. It was Aunt Hermione who retrieved a very chastened looking Rose from our place, after she and Scorpius were finally able to spend a day like a couple. They had wanted to wait until after Hogwarts, to see if they were still together at that point before letting people know, but the Fates seemed to have other plans. Now that the cat's out of the bag, though, it looks as though they're going to make a go of it after all. After only five and a half years, too…

I made an appointment to see Lavender at her loft offices in Muggle Kensington this coming Friday the fourth. Her assistant seemed to be expecting my Floo call and was very gracious. Her make-up was impeccable, too. Lavender had her relay to me that she expected me to come with a portfolio of some of my stylistic achievements. Of course, I've saved each and every clipping in which 'The Mercurial Trio' has been featured, but it would be good if I attached a small write-up to each of those clippings.

"What are you up to, son?"

"I made an appointment to see Lavender Brown on Friday, Dad. She asked me to put together a portfolio of my best work, so I'm gathering some of my old clippings and annotating them. Was there something you needed, Dad?" I ask this in a friendly manner. It's not that Dad isn't welcome to knock on my bedroom door; it's just that he so rarely does – I assumed he wasn't just up here to shoot the breeze.

"Right. Well, I just wanted to see how you were handling things with your friends' little tryst at the party last night getting such coverage. I've been the third in a trio before, and – "

"It's okay, Dad. They've been together for years; it's just that I was the only one who knew about it. I'm used to it. I just hope they manage to rebuild their dignity before school starts up again. This is our seventh year, after all."

"And if that doesn't happen?"

If there's one thing in this world I've tried to stay away from, it's cliché. I don't want to be typecast, I don't want to have any of my actions perceived as expected because of a particular character type – I will not be pigeonholed. Yet, at this moment, Dad has just asked such a ridiculous question that I can't help but laugh along with him. It's a heartwarming family moment, and I'm glad I've already had supper. Ah well, these things happen.

"May I see this portfolio of yours, Al?"

"Of course, Dad."

We spend the next three hours going over bits of the last six years of my life. He's amazed that it was me who came up with the name of our trio and passed it along to a reporter we knew we could trust. He loves the careful planning that went into each event, loves how the three of us work so well together, and how conscious we've been about what look like forgettable details. I give him many, many more stories about how we deceived and manipulated faculty and students alike. He gets a bit of a glisten in his famously emerald eyes as he listens.

"You know I'm dead proud of all three of you, right?" he asks, and I brace myself for another father-son moment.

"And it's not that James or Lily have done something less impressive following in their parents' footsteps, mind. But it takes something special to forge your own way in this world, Al, and I admire that. It can't have been easy growing up under the specter of being Harry Potter's Son," Dad does that quote-thing with his fingers as he says this, "but you've really found a place for yourself in this world. If I'm honest, your mum and I had been a bit worried about what you'd be doing after Hogwarts. I'm not anymore, son, not at all. Why don't you get back to that? If you need a hand with something, I'll be glad to lend one."

So I continue to peruse the paparazzi's chronicling of my life, and if there were a more melancholy pursuit, I don't know what it is. Looking at pictures of Rose and Scorpius, I know they're going to recover from what will be seen as a set-back in their plans. I'll certainly mention them to Lavender on Friday, although I'm not sure either of them will see the merit of making that particular connection.

Do we consider that we've achieved everything we've wanted to in six years rather than seven? Do Rose and Scorpius allow themselves finally to be seen walking hand in hand through the corridors? Might one of us show up to a house Quidditch match just to see what the excitement is all about? Probably not. But there will be changes this year in the Mercurial Trio; it wouldn't be seventh year if there weren't. We're going to need to re-define ourselves, our personas, our mission. And if we're going to lead this life of calculated debauchery, I think we're going to need to define that a bit better. But there will be time for that on the train ride north. Until then, I should get busy on this portfolio.

More Author's Note: Like the story? Like the Trio? Then you'll love my series on their Hogwarts years: The Mercury Chronicles. Look for them in my profile. Happy Reading!