I pushed open the door to the only empty compartment I could see, huffing with the effort of tugging at the stiff door. Albus laughed quietly under his breath at my struggle, and I turned around to shoot him a stern glare I had learnt off my mother. I grinned when he flinched.
'Rosie, do you need a hand?' he asked brightly, still trying to keep the laughter out of his voice. By this point I had managed to pull the door from its stiff hinge and slide it open, so I shook my head and ducked into the compartment.
I jumped when I realised that it wasn't as empty as I'd originally thought. Someone was hunched up over a very thick looking book. I read the title with a note of surprise – Hogwarts: A Revised History. That was one of the school books I had read already, purely for the reason that it gave a detailed description of my family's heroism in the Great Battle Of Hogwarts. Minerva McGonagall, a family friend of ours, was the very person who had made the changes to the old edition of Hogwarts: A History when she had been Headmistress herself.
The boy glanced up with a start as I entered, and I noted with surprise that he was the very boy my father had pointed out to Uncle Harry on the platform; pale, tall for his age, and platinum blond. I didn't really acknowledge that about him though, what I noticed was that he had the saddest grey eyes I had ever seen – stormy and troubled. His eyes looked an awful lot older than eleven.
'Hi,' he said nervously.
'Hello. Do you mind if we sit here?' I asked cheerfully. He shook his head.
I shuffled further into the compartment and took the seat opposite the blond boy. Albus slid the door shut with a small thud and sauntered over to sit by my side, staring at the boy. He must have felt like he was being interviewed.
'I'm Albus, Albus Potter, and this is Rose Weasley,' Al introduced us to the pale boy.
'Scorpius Malfoy,' he replied quietly.
'Are you Draco Malfoy's son then?' Albus asked interestedly. Scorpius Malfoy nodded in a glum sort of way.
'I'm sure everyone's heard my name before,' he sighed wistfully, and the sadness in his eyes increased in intensity. I felt the urge to give him a hug.
'Everyone's heard my name too,' Albus shrugged nonchalantly. I couldn't help but think that he was missing the point a bit, but I wasn't about to tell him that.
'You're father was a war hero, Potter. Mine was a Death Eater.'
Silence stretched between us as we searched desperately for something to say to each other.
'But it's different,' was all I could think of. Pretty pathetic, really. 'It's different now.'
Scorpius Malfoy looked at me with his mercury grey eyes, and I felt like a five year old who didn't get a joke. Except this situation was in no way funny.
'Maybe for you, Rose.'
'Madden, Emily!' Professor Longbottom called. Emily Madden marched forward confidently, hopping onto the stool and jamming the Sorting Hat onto her head. It was silent for a moment, before opening its rip of a mouth and shouting,
A hushed silence met my ears as I watched Scorpius Malfoy ascend the steps to the stool. All eyes followed his progress, mutterings coming from all directions.
'Malfoy, did he say?' said one Ravenclaw.
'His Dad nearly killed Albus Dumbledore!' a Gryffindor whispered to her neighbour.
'His dad was a Death Eater, that's what I heard, an enemy of Harry Potter himself!'
Scorpius Malfoy glanced over at Albus and I, as if to say 'I told you so.'
The hat was silent for a long time when it was placed on his head. The entire hall held their breaths until it opened its ripped mouth wide and yelled to the enchanted ceiling,
A ripple of whispers filled the hall. Even the teachers seemed to be taken aback. I grimaced at Malfoy's expression as he shakily got up from the chair and handed back the Sorting Hat to Professor Longbottom.
'Just like his father after all.' I heard a Ravenclaw whisper to another.
'Rose, what're you doing?' A quiet voice came from behind me and I jumped.
'Nothing really, Scorp, just studying.' I patted the ground beside me as an invitation for him to sit down, which he did.
'What else is new?' he asked, laughter in his voice.
'Are you still hanging around with Darren Nott?' I demanded abruptly. Lately, Scorpius had been worrying me a little. His grandfather had a surprising amount of influence, so he had been making friends with the Slytherins to appease him, and a nasty bunch they all were.
'Granddad thinks he's good for me,' Scorpius shrugged, running a hand through his unruly platinum blond hair.
'He's wrong, Scorp. He's not a nice person at all, really, he...' I stopped speaking as a shadow loomed over me. Scorpius' face whitened as he looked up into Darren Nott's livid expression.
'Weasel, what was that you were saying about me?' he asked in a dangerous voice.
'That you aren't very nice. It's true,' I defended myself.
'Scorpius, is that true? Am I not nice?' Nott glared down at Scorpius, silently daring him to agree with me. Nott was a scary-looking fourth year, all brawn and no brains.
I watched Scorpius out of the corner of my eye for his reaction. He shook his head back and forth jerkily.
'Well, then. Weasel's a liar. And my friends don't mix with liars.' Nott seized Scorpius roughly by the wrist and dragged him to his feet. 'C'mon, Scor.'
My blue eyes met his stormy grey, and they were full of apology. 'Sorry, Rosie,' he mouthed at me as Nott led him away.
I bit my lip to stop myself from crying. Or shouting. Possibly both.
I watched Albus sort through a large pile of parchment, muttering dire threats about his Divination professor, old Trelawney, and where she could stick her stupid dream diaries. I tried not to laugh at his harassed expression.
'Al, why are you taking Divination? You know what Uncle Harry said about Trelawney...'
'Yeah, but I want Firenze, he's meant to be...'
'Potter, Weasley.' A drawling, bored voice interrupted our conversation. I glanced up to see a tall, blond boy with a sneer on his handsome face. It didn't look like it belonged there.
'Hello, Malfoy,' Al said coldly. I hated this. I hated us not being friends anymore. Something had changed in second year. Something had broken between us, and we all felt it. Then, when third year started up... we were categorically not friends anymore.
'You're in my spot,' Scorpius spat at us.
'Don't see your name on it, Malfoy.' Albus had settled into the old prejudice a lot more comfortably than I had, and seemed perfectly content to hate Scorpius with all the passion that he could muster up.
'Well, you need glasses like your famous father then, Potter. Move.'
'Stop it!' I snapped at the pair of them, furious. 'What's happened to you?'
Both of them looked at me like I was deliberately being stupid. Like I refused to see the truth when it was as plain as the noses on their faces.
'It's called growing up, Rose,' both boys said at the same time.
I nearly collided with Scorpius Malfoy and his cronies as I turned the corner on the way to Potions, but I managed to keep quiet and hide behind a wall. Some Gryffindor I was, I thought miserably. The Cowardly Lion looked like Braveheart next to me.
'And personally, I think the whole idea of a Yule Ball is just stupid,' Scorpius was venting, and I could practically hear his eyes rolling.
'Who are you taking, Scor? I bet you won't have any trouble finding a date!' Joseph Corner, Scorpius's only Ravenclaw friend asked cheerfully.
'I don't know yet, I'll have to think,' he said carefully, and I secretly began to hope. I had been hoping, on and off for the last fortnight, that he might ask me. Maybe, if he decided I was right, that we were being stupid about the whole "enemies" thing...
'Hey, in case all the girls are taken before you decide, I expect you could always take Weasley!' Ferdinand Goyle said scornfully, and all the boys laughed. I frowned against the injustice of their laughter.
Scorpius would tell them off, surely?
'Weasley?' he sneered, his voice vicious. 'Why in Merlin's name would I ever ask her? Of all the girls in Hogwarts... she looks like a troll that someone experimented on and accidentally shrunk... only with ginger hair and spattergroit!'
The boys roared with laughter again. I held my breath to keep from gasping. I didn't want them to know I was here, and I really didn't want to give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry. I tried to rein in the tears, but they spilled down my cheeks anyway. How could he say that about me? How could he?
'Hey, Scor, you dropped one of your quills over there.' I could see the quill Joseph was referring to. It was directly in my eye line, so if he came to retrieve it... he would see me. It wasn't like I could move without exposing myself though.
I heard steady, even footfalls, and then Scorpius was in front of me, bending down to pick up his peacock feather quill. He straightened up and turned to go back to his friends... and his eyes fell on me, back pressed against the wall and tears streaming down my face.
He winced like he'd been crucioed. His grey gaze held mine for a moment, and his eyes were full of anguish. He knew I'd heard, and I hoped he felt terrible.
'How could you be that cruel?' I asked in the barest hint of a whisper. Obstructed from view as we were, they couldn't even see their friend properly.
Remorse flashed across Scorpius's face for a second. 'I didn't mean it,' he replied in an equally silent way.
I glared into his face, wishing for nothing more than being able to perform the Cruciatus curse on him for real. He was so handsome, even more so than when we started school... but he wasn't the same boy, and in that second, I knew he never would be. Now, he was just like them. Pathetic. A coward.
'Yeah? Well, I mean this. I hate you, Scorpius Malfoy. I really, truly hate you. And you drove me to it.'
I watched his face drain of all colour, before it became smooth and expressionless. An unfeeling, unthinking mask.
'Weasley, don't lurk behind pillars. You know what they say about eavesdroppers,' he said nastily, and in a very carrying voice.
I gasped. If I had thought that he was cruel before...
'What do they say, Malfoy?' I asked in a voice like ice. Hatred burned white hot in my veins.
'That they never hear good of themselves. And you certainly didn't.' His comment was half drowned out by the crowing laughter of his animalistic friends.
'I wouldn't stand too close to me for the next few years then, Malfoy. I'd take your own advice.' My voice was venomous.
'I wouldn't – spattergroit is contagious.' Another laugh echoed down the halls.
'I was talking about eavesdropping.'
'But it only affects you if you actually care, Weasley.' Malfoy pointed out coldly.
'Hate is a strong word Malfoy, but for you, not strong enough.'
'That hurt, Weasley,' he said scathingly. But one look in his eyes told me it did, deep down.
What surprised me more was that I didn't care how much I hurt him anymore. The more hurt the better. I wanted him to hate me as much as I hated him.
'Have you seen Malfoy play Quidditch? He's amazing!' Lily swooned to Hugo as they walked down to the pitch, a little way ahead of myself and a very nervous Albus. He had gone a nasty shade of green. It was only natural – it was his first year as Quidditch Captain.
'Shut up about sodding Malfoy, Lily!' Hugo cried in exasperation. I had a sudden urge to hug my brother tightly and give him my entire supply of puking pastilles. He'd been after them for years.
'But he's gorgeous!' Lily sighed wistfully.
'He's an idiot!' Al disagreed hotly. I nodded fiercely at Al's comment, before I realised that Lily couldn't see me. I knew, perhaps better than most, how much of an idiot Scorpius Malfoy was.
'That's a tad harsh, Potter.' A drawling voice interrupted our conversation. I flinched before I turned around. There, green robes billowing slightly in the wind and broomstick clutched in his hand, stood the bane of my existence.
'Malfoy, surely you have someone else to annoy?' I growled at him, speeding up my pace. Tall as he was, he kept up easily, one of his long strides matching two of my own.
'But then, why would I when annoying you gives me so much satisfaction?' he smirked.
'Go play with the venomous tentacula, Malfoy,' I retorted.
'It's a damn sight nicer than you, Weasley, true enough, but its reactions aren't as funny.'
'Or better yet...' I whipped around, so that Malfoy stopped dead to avoid walking into me. 'Why don't you go and help Professor Longbottom repot Mandrakes without earmuffs? That way, I can dance on your grave.'
It looked like Malfoy was about to laugh at my comment. His lips twitched, anyway.
'At least I'd never have to look at your ugly face again,' he shrugged, and I ground my teeth together.
'Leave, Malfoy! Just bloody well go back to wherever you came from, under some slimy rock with your Death Eater family, okay?!' Hugo shouted viciously. We all gasped at his comment. Nobody ever used that insult. Nobody talked about the Death Eaters, unless it was before Voldemort died.
Malfoy's face was unreadable. 'Sure, Weasley. Wow, that was almost as good an insult as a punch in the face. Your filthy mudblood mother would be proud.'
There was a stunned, horrible silence. Worse than calling someone a Death Eater... you never used the word Mudblood.
I didn't see Hugo's fist as it flew through the air, but I certainly heard the crunch it made when he broke Malfoy's nose.
And he deserved it.
'No way!' I shouted, disgusted. 'I have to do prefect duty with Scorpius Malfoy?'
'Rosie, it isn't that bad,' Albus tried to console me, but I wasn't buying it.
'Are you kidding? Scorpius bloody Malfoy! Who're you paired with?' I demanded, folding my arms across my chest so tightly that I seemed unlikely to ever uncross them.
'Um... Tia Goldstein,' he replied apologetically.
'What? How is that fair?' I cried, slamming my fist into the prefect notice board.
'No way! Weasley! I have to do prefect duties with Weasley!' I heard a cry from somewhere behind me, and then a sympathetic, 'Aww, Scor!'
'Seriously, Sophie, how am I supposed to even look at her without being sick?' Scorpius Malfoy demanded to his fellow sixth year prefect, Sophie Avery.
'I dunno, Scor, but I feel so sorry for you!'
'Who've you got?' he asked her abruptly.
'Um... Mark Macmillan,' she admitted.
'You get a Hufflepuff! Why do I get stuck with a bloody Gryffindor? And not just any bloody Gryffindor, but Rose know-it-all Weasley! She's insufferable! What in the name of Merlin was McGonagall thinking?'
I had heard enough to want to vomit all over my shoes. Scorpius Malfoy had that effect on me.
'C'mon Rosie, let's go...' Al tugged at my arm, and I obeyed him silently. Arrogant Malfoy, who had the handsomest outside in our year... and the ugliest inside in our school. I couldn't stomach a whole year with him. I couldn't stomach a whole minute with him.
At least it was only an hour every second night. It wasn't like I had to live with him.
Only an hour's endurance.