Rather Lengthy Author's Note:
Nope, I can't leave well enough alone. If the title of this story is vaguely familiar, that's because one of my recent one-shots, "Albus Potter and the Misspent Youth," called the trio of Albus, Rose and Scorpius "The Mercurial Trio." This story stays in that universe, so if you haven't read that 9000-word behemoth, you may want to consider doing so if this story is tough to follow.
There will be a few of these. Probably. I've been pretty well captivated by that universe of late, so I've had a good half-dozen Mercurial Trio plot bunnies hopping around my head. I may get to them all, but I may not. If I do, they'll most likely be out of order. So, this one is a first-year story, but the next one might be a seventh-year tale. Capiche?
So as not to leave readers gasping at under-developed plot elements, they'll all be fully contained one-shots, which, with the background of "Misspent Youth" should be quite pleasant to read on their own. At least I hope so. Either way, please do let me know with a review. I'll try to answer them all. And now, with no further a-do, please enjoy:
The Mercury Chronicles: Beginnings
Friday, 11th August 2017
"Hey Dad," James called out over top of his meatloaf, a sickeningly mischievous expression plastered on his face, "do you still speak Parseltongue?" Dad wasn't impressed.
"No James, I haven't been able to speak Parseltongue since the war ended. You know this."
This was getting too predictable, and as I was well over my recommended exposure level to poor humour for the day, I answered the punch line for him.
"James is afraid that no one will be able to understand my letters home once I'm sorted into Slytherin, Dad. Apparently students in that house are only able to communicate in Parseltongue, as they're all snakes, you see."
"James, you will leave your brother alone about his sorting this instant, do you hear me?" Mum chimed in. Probably wasn't James's wisest move ever to get Mum's hackles up on her birthday, but then again wisdom was never my older brother's strong suit. Her children's sorting was a particular sore spot with her. Beyond the Basilisk story (which we've all heard ever so many times) the details are a bit foggy, but I do know that first year was one of the scariest years in my mother's life, war and all. Uncle Ron knew this too. Hell, he was there for it, but did that stop him from piling on?
"Slytherin, eh? Nope, never happen. A Potter in Slytherin? I don't think any heirs to the house of Potter will wind up there. Bunch of bloody snakes." Rose and I simply roll our eyes, shake our heads and mouth along with Aunt Hermione as she admonishes Uncle Ron for the use of such salty language.
Cue laughter from the four of them. Oh you wacky kids – some things never change, do they? Roll credits. And eyes. Rose had had just about enough of this heart-warming tripe by this point, so she kicked me under the table and asked to be excused. I do the same, of course, and Mum tells me that they'll call us down for cake and ice cream. We head upstairs to my room to de-brief.
"He's right, Rose," I said, fear quite evident in my voice.
"Who's right, and about what, Albus?"
"Your dad. Note that he didn't say I wouldn't wind up in Slytherin, he said No heir to the house of Potter will wind up there."
"Al, you're barking. Your parents are not going to disown you because of your house."
"Maybe not in such a public way – Dad's publicist wouldn't allow it. But you'll see. Soon you'll be on your own going to all those ministry events, the Harry Potter Day ball, Unity Day at Hogwarts…"
"Al, stop it. How are they going to exclude you from those things without causing a scene?"
"It'll be subtle, Rosie. It'll be like 'Al, you know there won't be an awful lot of Slytherin representation at this function. Wouldn't you rather just stay here tonight?' They won't say it outright, but they'll let me know. Really – James said he overheard Mum and Dad talking about it."
"Very well then. What makes you so sure you'll wind up in Slytherin anyway?"
"Besides the fact that even your mum hasn't been able to beat me at poker for two years now? Look, I just have a feeling. Honestly, if it weren't for being snubbed by my family I might rather enjoy it. Could you imagine the look on everyone's faces, Rose? Uncle Neville might actually crack. I'd never have to have another one of those horrid rock cakes at Hagrid's; he'd be bloody scared of me. They all would, as a matter of fact."
"If we wouldn't have to listen to any more of those tedious war stories, it just might be worth it to be uninvited from family functions, you know." Rose was onto something here. "Maybe I'll get sorted there, too."
"No, Rose. I'll get uninvited. Uncle Ron would send you off to live with a foster family. You're all brains, love. You'll wind up in Ravenclaw for sure."
"Are you saying I'm not as devious as you are?"
"I wouldn't dream of saying that. But you are simply much too smart to wind up anywhere but Ravenclaw. Pity about that last name of yours, though. No Weasley has ever not been sorted – "
"Oh shite! Am I going to wind up in Gryffindor like Mum and Dad?" It was Rose's turn to lose all colour in her face.
"Do you mean you don't want to see your darling cousin James morning, noon and night? Hey Rosie," I teased, "how about a prank war? Wouldn't that be wacky?"
"Merlin and Morgana, that's right," Rose was in a lather now. "Goofy and Goofina are in that god-awful house too, aren't they?" Goofy and Goofina are Uncle George's two third-year menaces, Freddie and Roxie.
"Right again. Oh, and don't forget your ever-so-lovely Head Veela and her blonder-than-thou sister." Rose smacked her hand against her forehead and slumped onto my bed with a defeated look about her.
"Promise me that if they do disown you, Albus, you'll come find me and take me with you?"
"What, you'd rather miss seeing your family photos on the pages of Teen Witch Monthly? What was that caption? 'Diagon Alley Shopping with the Golden Kids'?" Rose knew I was taking the piss, but it was a bit of a sore subject.
"Don't ever bring that up again, Al. That morning, I knew it, too. When Mum suggested I wear that horrid denim skirt with the Harpies kit and the trainers, I knew there would be paparazzi. Did she listen? No – and there I am for the world to see dressed like a pauper. Two weeks before Harry Potter Day and there wouldn't be paparazzi buzzing about like gnats? Who is she kidding? She had four interview requests that week that I know of. When we go book shopping tomorrow, though, I'll be ready. Got the outfit all planned. The new Muggle-Wizard hybrid fashion is brilliant, Albus. And there are wonderful things for boys, too. Wizard-chic without being too terribly fourteenth century. Oh, we'll have to get you loads of that before school starts. Miss Patil's on Diagon Alley has a shop full of that style – and of course Pavarti would help you put together a wardrobe and –"
I love my cousin Rose to pieces, but sometimes even today she needs to know when to stop talking.
"Rose, we're going to have to take that shopping trip some other weekend. Tomorrow I'll just make due with what I have. Now help me find something to wear; Merlin, how did I ever survive without you?" I teased, putting a friendly arm around her shoulder and squeezing.
"Oh, those three days you were alive before I was born must have been just awful, love," Rose teases back. "But why can't we go to Miss Patil's tomorrow? I'm sure Aunt Ginny would love to see her old housemate." I couldn't believe she couldn't see why this was a bad idea, so I laid it out there for her.
"If the paparazzi are going to be out – and you know they will be, you're going to wind up giving them carte blanche to watch us calculatingly develop an image. Not good. No, here's how we'll do it: You convince our mums that there's this brilliant new store that they simply must see. Then as we do the whole 'girls are separating from the boys' routine, and your dad is trying to teach me how to catch a bludger or some such thing, you'll grab my hand and tell me that I simply must come with you. I'll try to make a face as if clothes shopping is the last thing I want to do, let Dad, Uncle Ron and James have their laugh and – oh sweet Merlin. We forgot about Lily." I paused for a moment, and then two ideas came to me.
"Do you think two Galleons would buy her off? Or should you try to convince her to go with Dad?"
"Definitely the latter," Rose replied. She's such a Daddy's girl anyway; we might not have to bother. But how are we going to get you an entire wardrobe without the Paparazzi thinking we're endorsing Miss Patil's?"
"Easy enough. You're going to accidentally find something that would look 'just darling' on me. Please be nice though, this is for both of us. Anyway, the seamstress will certainly call out my measurements, so you just have to be quick with a scratch pad. Just get all that down and grab an owl-order catalogue. Tuck that into your bag with your things and we'll order a few outfits and have them sent round to your house. Then you bring them over here, et voilà, we look as fabulous as we can for our big Hogwarts entrance on the first."
We were called for cake and ice-cream after that, and Lily just had to ask Aunt Hermione about how they saved Buckwheat, or whatever that creature's name was. After about the eighth time we had to hear Hugo squeal "but Mum, that's so unfair!" Rose and I started making rude faces at each other, and were unceremoniously excused from the table shortly thereafter, going upstairs to perfect some details of what we began to call Operation Wardrobe.
We weren't the trio yet, but I've always thought of that trip to Miss Patil's as the first salvo in our full-frontal assault on the Magical Society pages. Rose managed to be a doll, naturally, and pick out a royal blue poplin floor-length sports coat lined with cooling charms that works very nicely over top of muggle clothing. Problem was, it fit perfectly, so there was no measuring required. That was solved as Rose began to whinge about how this was such a lovely store, and she wanted her Hogwarts robes to come from there, as Miss Patil was so awfully kind to them… you get the point. Turns out that, surprise surprise, Miss Patil did sell Hogwarts robes, ties and hats, and Rose and I were outfitted with a full set, plus the tailor charms for when we grow both up and out.
After that performance I was convinced that all girls should get sorted into Slytherin.
Rose got the measurements, and she and I spent a deliciously lazy Sunday afternoon in my room perusing the owl-order catalogue, talking about our new wands – hers is an alder wand with a hippogriff core, mine is a cedar wand with a gryphon core, and both are equally suited for transfiguration and charms – and thinking about our sorting, or the consequences thereof.
"Right. So if I sit on the stool and attempt to scam the hat, that's pretty much a one-way ticket to Slytherin, unless I scam it very, very well. But, since if I do nothing I'm going into Slytherin anyway, I might as well give it the old Hogwarts try. Alright, target house rather has to be Gryffindor, doesn't it? Are you coming there with me, Rose?"
"Of course, Al. I'd not leave you there alone. Besides, as a bloody Weasley I probably can't help it. Have you thought about asking your Dad for advice? He can be pretty devious when he has to, and he somehow wound up Gryffindor." My eyes hurt from rolling so hard.
"Oh, that'd be fun. Then he and your parents could climb under the invisibility cloak and maybe sneak over to the restricted section right under Madam Pince's nose. Do you think they'd let us come along? Hope we don't lose any house points!"
Rose just shook her head and blew a raspberry in my direction. I tackled her and started tickling her sides and we were both laughing hysterically for a couple of minutes. Then James had to poke his head in the door.
"Oh, isn't that sweet," he mocked. "Lily, come look, these two can have fun occasionally. OW!"
The door had slammed straight onto his fingers. James began howling in pain. Lily came out of her room and started crying, too. Mum and Dad almost tripped over each other getting upstairs to see what was happening. Rose and I were standing, mouth agape, tears in both of our eyes, not quite sure what was going on. Mum had scooped up James and brought him downstairs. Mum's episkey is just fine, a relic of her days as a Harpy, but James and Lily needed a bit of spoiling just then, so she took the both of them to the Burrow. Instead of treacle tart, Rose and I got to be interrogated by the Head Auror.
"Alright guys, what happened? Doors don't just close by themselves." We told him the story, but he didn't seem to believe it. Then he asked us for our wands. Rose's was back at her house in her room. Mine was on top of my desk, still in the case. Dad looked at it thoughtfully, then looked at me with a pained expression and sat on my bed with Rose and I.
"Al, I'm going to cast a spell on your wand. Please don't think that I don't trust you, but now that you have a wand, accidental magic like that is looked at a lot differently. And you being Harry Potter's son makes it that much more likely that someone, somewhere will do the looking. Are we clear on why I'm doing this?" No. No we weren't clear at all. Would they bring the Dementors back to Azkaban just for me? Is Sirius's cell still available? Will I even get a trial?
"Good lad." Then he kissed the top of my head, ruffled my hair a bit and cast a Prior Incantato, which showed, surprisingly enough, just the red sparks that came from the tip when I had bought the wand the day before. He then cast a couple of spells in the area of the door that showed him what had happened and how. Apparently Rose and I both had a burst of accidental magic at the same time when James surprised us, and because we both wanted the door closed so badly at the same time, it did so. Poor salve to our hurt pride and frayed nerves, though. Rose went home; and Mum came back without James or Lily, who both got to spend a bit of time being spoilt by Grandmum.
By that night I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that my family didn't trust me, and that the only way I was going to be accepted by them again was to be sorted Gryffindor. Most of the following three weeks were spent in my room, fruitlessly researching Golden Trio memoirs and stories to see what they did at their sorting to wind up in Gryffindor. Rose told me that she would do her best to keep my good name in the family if my plans failed, and if nothing else, I'd always be her guest to events and balls, so they couldn't just shoo me away. That helped some, but not enough. The beautiful owl-order ensembles that arrived a week later could barely cheer me up. I was a wreck during our Hogwarts party, trying to be as good a Gryffindor as I could, but knowing that trying to get one over on that lot would have me in Slytherin for certain. Hell, I even stayed to listen to Rolf Scamander's guitar playing. It took everything I had to help Rose find the perfect train ride outfit the night before we left. I slept little, ate less, and became sullen and withdrawn. And I was writing down the names of relatives who joked that this made me look even more like my father – as soon as I learned a good hex or two, they were going down.
Friday 1st September 2017. For years that day had seemed so far away, but once it arrived, it hit with the force of a good stunner. I had packed all my things the night before, which earned me no shortage of grief from James. I was flipping through Rose's Teen Witch Monthly, looking to see how the shots from the most recent Diagon Alley trip came out, and waiting for James to peel his shorts from the floor of his closet and get them in his trunk when I heard the dulcet shriek of an 11-year-old Rose Weasley come from the fireplace.
"Rose, what's going on?"
"Al, please, just come over here. It's important."
"I'm in the middle of something, Rose, and we're about to leave. I'll see you at the station. Can't it wait until – "
"Albus Severus Potter, you useless bloody ponce," hissed Rose through the floo connection, "you will get your candy arse over here this instant or so help me –"
"Rosie!" my mother gasped.
"Full marks for creativity, though," quipped Dad. "You had better head on over there, Al, sounds like a three-name emergency. Be back in 10, all right? They have a much longer drive ahead of them than we do."
And yes, it was an emergency. The outfit we took hours to put together was ruined; courtesy of a hairball provided by Aunt Hermione's Kneazle kitten, Yorick. She had precisely five minutes to get into the car and she needed help. She was in tears, and my white dress shirt and I were both quite glad she hadn't started wearing make-up yet.
"Al, what do I do? I don't know, I'm…"
"Rose, it's going to be alright. What did your mum say?"
"Mum?! You expect me to leave a fashion decision this important to a woman who can't take her nose out of a book long enough to do her hair in the morning? There will be cameras there, Albus. And not just TWM – the Prophet will be there to see us off! You know what they're capable of doing – look at my mother!" That's when it came to me.
"Rose, put on your robes."
"My what? Albus, have you gone completely round the bend now? I can't be –"
I took a deep breath and tried to remain calm for both of us. "You want a good picture on the front of the Prophet?" She nodded. "Well, your mother wore her robes on her first day, so why don't you put yours on, carry around that Hogwarts: A History that's been collecting dust on your vanity as if you read it religiously, and the 'aw' factor will be off the scale. How does that sound, Rosie? Can you do that?" She was a mess, but we got her face cleaned up and her in her sparkling-new Hogwarts dress robes, which wound up thrilling Aunt Hermione to no end. I wished Uncle Ron luck with his first drive into London, and headed back into the floo to sit and worry whilst James took his sweet time about getting together.
What occurred on the platform is, of course, no secret, and the Prophet reporter got it right, for the most part. I was a bit miffed at James for harping on the whole Slytherin nonsense, and he did go barrelling through the barrier just as we got there. I did open up to Dad about my fears, and he was amazingly kind with me, telling me about how he had convinced the hat not to put him in Slytherin, but that if I were to be sorted there, he'd be dead proud of me. And he made me believe him, at that. But it wasn't the broad, confident smile of the Gryffindor that appeared on my face, as the Prophet's scribe detailed. Instead it was the calculating grin of the Slytherin that re-appeared underneath cherubic eyes, and the second Mercurial salvo was launched.
Rose and I filed onto the train shortly after James went mental about Victoire and Teddy (Gods! They were 17 and 19 – what did he think they'd be doing, playing Exploding Snap?), we found an empty compartment and dutifully waved goodbye to the press – er, to our parents. Then as the train rolled away, I saw a flash of blonde drift by the compartment door. I opened the door, and shouted eleven of the most important words in my young life.
"Malfoy! How'd you like to piss off your parents something awful?"
Scorpius had been quite nervous about Hogwarts. After the war his father became a bit of a recluse, knowing full well that Lucius had bought his way out of trouble yet again. Mrs Malfoy was much more of a free spirit, though. This created a remarkably unhealthy family dynamic, and Scorpius had spent the first eleven-plus years of his life watching the tension at home build to a boil, watch his mother run roughshod over his father, lather, rinse, repeat. Too young to know any other type of family, all he knew was that home life was unpleasant, as neither parent was exactly occlumens-like with their emotions. In second year, Scorpius confessed to me that he was so wound up entering the train, that those were probably the only eleven words that would have gotten him even as far as the door of our compartment.
"Potter, right?" Scorpius asked, and I stuck out my hand in greeting.
"Albus." Scorpius shook my hand and looked behind me.
"Rose," she called ahead, got up, and shook Scorpius's hand. He looked at us for a good ten seconds before speaking again.
"Right, so exactly how is this supposed to piss off my parents?"
Rose piped up. "Well, my father made it crystal clear that I was to beat you at every test. As our families have something of a history, I'd expect your father said much the same thing." Scorpius cracked a wary smile.
"As a matter of fact, he did mention that you two would be in my year."
"Then grab a seat, Malfoy. You and I have seven years of grade-fixing to start planning."
"It's Scorpius, by the way. Not Scorp, Not Scor – Scorpius."
"Then you should know that it's Rose and Albus, never Rosie or Al," Rose replied, looking at me for confirmation. I nodded, and from then on, nicknames were strictly taboo amongst us.
We began with small talk, general, pleasant. He asked about our siblings, as not having any of his own, he wanted to know what it was like. Hugo's generally an okay kid, but he was definitely a bit morose for a nine-year-old back then. James and Lily – obnoxious and perky – ugh. Scorpius told us about his parents, his grandparents ("That Racist Bastard" was name eleven-year-old Scorpius gave to his darling grandfather), and the fact that all of his father's friends had scattered to the winds once the war was lost on their side – the ones that weren't still in Azkaban, that is. We continued on, chatting pleasantly, and then there was a pause. Scorpius broke the pause rather dramatically.
"So, how are we going to do this, then? You two are obviously going to be in Gryffindor, whilst I'm certain of going to Slytherin." Rose looked at me helplessly for answers. I had a wide grin on my face and information that was bursting to get out.
"Neither Rose nor I will be in Gryffindor, Scorpius. And you don't have to be in Slytherin if you don't wish to be." Rose looked at me as if I'd grown a second head.
"How's that, Albus? Are you just going to let our parents disown us? Given up on Ministry balls already?"
"I spoke with my father on the platform, Rose. When I pressed him about my being sorted Slytherin he said, and I quote: 'Then Slytherin House will have gained an excellent student.' He said it didn't matter to them where I was sorted, and I believe him."
"But my father said I'd be disowned if I wasn't sorted Gryffindor. You're not a Weasley, Albus; you don't know…"
"Rose, your mother would have his dangly bits in her handbag if he ever seriously thought that for a moment. And there's more: Dad said that we can tell the hat where we want to be sorted. He said that he was nearly a Slytherin himself before he told the hat he wanted to be Gryffindor."
"Wait, wait," Scorpius interjected. "We just tell the hat where we want to go, and it does our bidding?"
"Dad did say that it listens. Now, I doubt that if Rose here really, really asked to be Hufflepuff, that she'd wind up wearing yellow and black for seven years. The hat would probably laugh at her. But besides that, I don't see why we couldn't just pick our houses right now. Scorpius, we offered you a chance to cheese off your parents. Will you still work with us if you're in Gryffindor?"
"Merlin's knickers, man. Why in the world would I want to go there? Besides, I run from mice – we'd have to dose the hat before it would put me in Gryffindor. No, I was thinking Ravenclaw. Would that still work?"
"Excellent choice, my good man," I said, smiling more than I had in, well, ever. "Now, Rose darling, where would you like to be sorted?"
"I'd prefer Ravenclaw too, although we probably should have at least one Slytherin in the group. What do you say, Albus? Made peace with your inner serpent, love?"
I sighed. Yes, of course I wanted to be Slytherin; it was, after all, where I'd best fit in. But I wasn't sure if I wanted to be by myself. Apparently I wasn't doing such a good job of masking this fear.
"We'll figure something out about the common rooms," Rose said, placing a warm hand over my knotted fingers. "Besides, look here," she opened her Hogwarts: A History to the Great Hall diagram. "Ravenclaw and Slytherin are right next to each other. We'll almost be sitting together for meals. But if you're that afraid, you're plenty clever for Ravenclaw. We'll just have to add a fourth to our group." Later I'd realize exactly how well she played me then and there. But at that moment, I just decided to let nature take its course.
"We will work something out about the common room, then?" They nodded. "Well, I guess that settles it. Slytherin it is." I paused, almost expecting theme music.
"You're the perfect one for it, anyway," Scorpius said, surprising both Rose and I.
"How's that?" I asked.
"Besides the fact that it was your idea to scam the bloody Sorting Hat?" Rose and I shared a giggle over this. "Albus, the reason we have you in Slytherin at all is to diversify our contacts as broadly as possible. Come now, we don't just want to cheese off our parents, here, do we? Just by sitting here together, that's already been done. No, we have the chance to really do something. We'll have the school at our feet by the time we're out of here. Perfect freedom. Between your parents' contacts on the light side and my father's reputation on the other side, we'll be able to scare them all into letting us do just as we please. All we'd have to do is paint a lightning bolt on your head, Albus, and people would cower in fear of your expelliarmus." We all had a chuckle now. Then Rose got a thoughtful look on her face.
"Excellent idea that, taking over the school. I like where that's headed, and we should explore it further. But I don't think a fear-based approach is the way to get it done. Let's have a look around first, see where the lines of power are drawn, and then we'll know how and where to begin controlling things ourselves." Scorpius and I looked at each other, then back at Rose. "What?" she asked, "I might not read this book of my mother's," she said, pointing at Hogwarts: A History, "but the rest of them are fair game." The beatific smile she had on her face at that moment would chill the spine of Salazar himself, and we all shared another laugh. This was going to be fun.
Scorpius and I changed into our dress robes, and by the time the train arrived at Hogsmeade, the three of us were chatting as if we'd known Scorpius our whole life. Arm in arm in arm we walked off of the train, Rose in the middle, and got quite a few looks from the older students. Flashbulbs from press agents unable to secure a spot in London went off, and the three of us tossed our hair and smiled for them, as we had practiced on the train.
"First years! First years over here!" Hagrid was in the middle of his yearly "mind the firsties" task, and stopped the three of us as we passed by.
"Right. Al and Rosie, is it? Seems like just last year that little James was making his way into the boats," Hagrid said, affectionately.
"Um, unless you're talking about my grandfather, Hagrid, that was last year. And we go by Albus and Rose, not Al and Rosie," I said, trying unsuccessfully not to drip condescension with each syllable.
"Right you are, lad. And who's this, then?" Hagrid continued, looking warily at Scorpius.
"Scorpius Malfoy, sir," Scorpius replied, extending his hand. "Very pleased to meet you." Hagrid shook his hand in return.
"There's a fine young man. You'll look out for these two, right?" Hagrid continued, pointing at Rose and I. "Don't suppose the three of you will be round for tea tomorrow?"
"I'm not sure the others would appreciate being seen with some ickle firsties, Hagrid. We'll be sure to let you know if that changes, though," Rose answered with a pleasant smile.
"Right, well, you lot be safe out there. Mind the Squid." And we were into our boat – the only boat with three instead of four.
Arriving at the castle, we were greeted by Professor Flitwick, the deputy headmaster and head of Ravenclaw house. He sized the three of us up – as we had gone from linked arms on the platform at Hogsmeade to holding hands – and looked rather forlornly at Rose.
"Ah, Miss Weasley," he said, "A shame that your mother wasn't sorted into my house. But as you're a Weasley, it looks as though I won't get the pleasure of having the daughter in Ravenclaw, either."
"Oh, I wouldn't know about that, Professor," Rose answered. "I suppose it's up to the Hat, wouldn't you think? Would I get extra charms lessons if I managed to make Ravenclaw despite my last name, then?" She offered a wink in the diminutive professor's direction. He laughed heartily.
"It seems as though you have all the charm you need, young lady. But it would of course be an honour to have you in Ravenclaw." Flitwick winked back, smiled warmly, and then went into the prepared portion of that evening's palaver.
"Now then, First Years. You are going to enter the Great Hall two-by-two, in alphabetical order, and you will be seated. After the Sorting Hat has finished its song, I will call your name, again in alphabetical order. You will come up to the head table and I will place the Sorting Hat on your head. You will then take your seat with your house. This house will be your home and family for the next seven years, and even beyond. Anywhere you go in Magical Britain, you are identified by your house, and house loyalties permeate all strata of society. But, regardless of whatever any older brothers or cousins have told you, you will be sorted, so have no fear. Also, there is absolutely no re-sorting, as the hat is infallible. Are there any questions? Good. I will give you a moment to compose yourself, and then will open the doors for your entrance. Welcome to Hogwarts!"
Flitwick left after having killed our grand Great Hall entrance, but there was solace in the thought that the actual sorting would provide fireworks enough. We looked around at the rest of our class. They were eyeing us a bit suspiciously, to be sure, which did nothing for my confidence at that moment. How were we supposed to take over an entire school if we wound up alienating thirty-seven classmates before we even got into the Great Hall? I turned to the girl next to me and offered my hand.
"Hi, I'm Albus."
"Angelica. Pleased to meet you." She took my hand and shook it without asking me about my family.
"The pleasure's mine. Muggleborn, then?"
"How'd you guess?"
"Well, you didn't – I mean, I can just tell."
"Of course you can… What's the secret handshake, then?"
"Oh, it's nothing, just that – " and we were rather rudely interrupted.
"Oi, Potter! Yer da' saves the worl' and that means you can go chattin' up birds and struttin' around like yer someone?" Before I had my witty retort queued up, Angelica had her wand out and pointed in the direction of the distraction.
"Right. Call me a bird one more time, freak, and I'll show you just how dangerous 'accidental' magic can be!" Angelica's hair blew back dramatically, and her eyes began to glisten. The distraction rather clumsily recanted his earlier statement, and Angelica sat back down.
"You weren't bluffing, were you?" I asked her, trying to compose myself.
"No I wasn't," she replied matter-of-factly. "Berks piss me off, they wind up hurt. This magic stuff is dead useful. And those people taking pictures of you at the station weren't some relations you have in the Highlands, were they?"
"Press passes give them away?" I asked. This was fun.
"That and the 'saving the world' bit our friend commented on. Plus I think I saw a picture of your dad in the paper."
"Oh dear. Let me guess, twenty-fifth anniversary of his going to the loo for the first time at the Leaky?"
"That bad, is it?"
"I've learned to use it. Probably the same way you've learned to control your 'accidental' magic." Angelica just smiled.
"You three seem pretty tight. Grow up together?"
"Rose and I did, but we just met Scorpius today. Why, do you want in?" And I'd have let her in in a heartbeat. Alas,
"No thanks, I'm a bit more of a loner myself. But I get what you guys are up to, and I'll certainly not get in the way."
"I appreciate that, Angelica." I thought it would be nice to do something for her. "Hey, would you like the secret to the sorting hat?" I asked.
"Um, sure," she said, carefully. I leaned right into her ear and whispered.
"You just tell the hat what house you'd like to be in, and you should wind up there. I'm going into Slytherin. Those two are going into Ravenclaw."
"All by yourself then? Not sure we can have that." She gave me a smile as the doors opened and we felt ourselves being drawn into place alphabetically. Angelica wound up next to Scorpius, and I was next to a smallish boy with a mop of blonde hair. We walked in, the proud entering class of 2017. The Sorting Hat gave its song; something about house unity, and we began to get sorted.
There were plenty of murmurs and the words "Death Eater" was not-so-cleverly disguised as coughing from the Gryffindor table. Scorpius rolled his eyes, smiled, and sat under the hat. His face screwed up a few times, and you could see him close his eyes tightly and shake his head before a satisfied expression came across him, and the hat loudly proclaimed:
The Great Hall went quiet in disbelief. Scorpius took a moment to gather his bearings, stood up, breathed deeply and walked with his head high to the Slytherin side of the Ravenclaw table. As he began walking, the lonely clapping sounds of Professor Flitwick were soon joined by less-than-heartfelt applause from the rest of Ravenclaw house. One down, two to go. So far, things were looking up.
She sat down comfortably, but then began to look quite cross under the hat. The hat itself began to shake on her head, but then drooped a bit and answered:
Now that was a shock. I'd have to ask her about that when I got to the house table, where she waved and was saving me a seat. There were three more between Angelica and myself. The hat seemed a little nonplussed, but resolutely placed two Hufflepuffs and a Gryffindor, including the berk who called me out, whatever his name was.
"Potter, Albus. Settle down, Gryffindor; you can cheer when he's sorted."
I remember this walk as if it were yesterday. I stared at the Gryffindor table the whole time with a cheeky grin on my face. James kept making hissing noises, Fred and Roxanne were clearing a spot for me between them next to a pile of some rather too-innocuous looking candy, and the rest of the table were just waiting for the hat to shout out "Gryffindor" so that they could erupt.
"Right then. You're the one who tipped off Malfoy and Moran, I imagine?"
"That was me. My dad told me about the conversation he had with you a few years back."
"He told you I'd put you where you really wanted to go?"
"I don't think I'd wind up in Hufflepuff unless you were missing a few stitches. But within reason, I bet you accommodate."
"Awfully brave of you to put your faith in your father's twenty-five year old memories."
"Cheeky piece of felt. You wouldn't dare."
"You're right, I wouldn't. Just having some fun. Glad to see you can, too; it's important at your age. Now, hold onto that whilst you're taking over the school from SLYTHERIN!"
And as I got up, there was silence, just as when Scorpius was sorted. Then a gasp. Then the room exploded, or at least it seemed to.
"Al, no! I was just teasing you, mate!" was the cry from James. The rest of the Gryffindor table was in a similar uproar. Hufflepuff was agog. Ravenclaw was amused. Slytherin was busy figuring out how they could best use this to their advantage (alright, that was a guess. They were applauding politely, as they did for every new first-year. But as a Slytherin will analyze owl droppings to see how they could be best used to his advantage, it's an educated guess). I just had a wide, snarky grin on my face. I turned to the Gryffindor table and shot James a cheeky wink. I sent a sober nod back to Rose, who nodded in reply. Scorpius got up as I walked over to what became our side of our tables and gave me a one-armed hug in greeting. Angelica followed his lead, and gave me the same surprisingly masculine hug. After I sat down, a Slytherin prefect nodded his approval in my direction, and I tipped my goblet in salute. It was going to be okay.
Fred and Roxanne still had that spot open, and patted the bench between them, albeit a bit more anxiously than they had when I was walking towards the stool. As Rose strutted up the aisle as the last first-year to be sorted, a couple of Ravenclaws were heard to whisper, "Oh dear. Don't think that one's going Gryffindor, either." She sat down on the stool, crossed her legs at the knees and held onto the stool with her hands at the back. She shook out her hair and demurely looked over at Professor Flitwick, who placed the hat on her head with amusement. Five seconds later it announced "RAVENCLAW", and Rose jumped up, flashed a bright smile at Flitwick, and ran over to join Scorpius, Angelica and I at the dining tables, where she received the same one-arm hugs I had, all to the sound of bewildered, but honest applause.
The four of us sat there; the as-yet unnamed trio and our first ally, and ate dinner with silly grins on our faces, speaking in riddles so convoluted that we ourselves were only half-sure of what we meant, and mostly only speaking with each other, across house lines. As I settled into my new dormitory room that night, with three other suspicious-looking first-year Slytherins, I wrote a note to Dad, thanking him for his advice.
You may or may not have heard the screaming down in London, but I was sorted into Slytherin. What you told me on the platform really made sense to me, and thank you for telling me that you'll be proud of me either way; it helped me accept that this is the house I should be in – and believe me, it is. Rose is in Ravenclaw, but you may have heard the screams from Uncle Ron about that, too. Our new friend Scorpius is in Ravenclaw with her – the three of us got pretty close on the train, and we'll be hanging out a lot together I'm sure. You may want to write James and explain to him that my sorting isn't his fault. He looked crushed. Tell Mum that green looks just fine on me, as it matches my eyes. Tell Grandmum that I'd like a green and silver jumper for Christmas, and tell Uncle Ron – oh, I suppose you should go easy on Uncle Ron. He doesn't do change well, does he? Tell Lily and everyone that I love them and can't wait to see them for the holidays. That includes you, Dad.
With love from your son,
PS: Rose and I decided that we don't want to be called Rosie and Al anymore, so if you could pass that on, that would be great.
The line "Then Slytherin House will have gained an excellent student" was lifted directly from canon, as you are well aware. To be more precise:
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (p. 758). New York: Scholastic, 2007.