Author Notes: The oh-so-frequently done train ride of Albus, Rose, and Scorpius (plus OCs, obviously). Takes place directly after epilogue, with a few significant changes (see NOTES at end of story). Also: there's definitely a possibility that this story will continue—after all, this is just the beginning.
Once upon a time, there was a Hogwarts Express compartment. The compartment had witnessed many scenes: casual, romantic, violent…the bloodstains had long since been cleaned, and the walls were free of other stains as well. House elves had scrubbed the benches with Magical Mess Remover, and that tiny little crack in the wall where once a rat had been flung off a boy's finger was barely noticeable. The dent in the floor where a girl's high heel had slammed down with great force, the way the sliding door got slightly stuck if pulled open too hard, the long-since hardened wad of Droobles' Best Blowing Gum stuck just over the blind on the window…all of these went unnoticed by the compartment's most recent occupants.
There were five of them: a black-haired, green-eyed, bespectacled boy, a beautifully striking redhead with her nose in a book (Transfiguration for Beginners), a grey-eyed blonde boy looking serious, a strawberry-blonde unconsciously playing with a curl on her shoulder, and a brown-haired, brown-eyed boy with a stubborn-looking jaw.
The compartment was oppressively silent. The five eleven-year-olds carefully avoided one another's eyes, each studiously occupying him- or herself with some mildly interesting inanimate object.
The boy with the stubborn jaw happened to be looking out the window, and he saw, just as the train began to move away from Platform 9¾, a black-haired, green-eyed, bespectacled man; a cry burst from him: "Oh my Dumbledore! That's Harry Potter!"
The redhead shut her book in annoyance. "Oh my Dumbledore!" she mocked. "That's my Uncle Harry!"
"Oh my Dumbledore!" the black-haired, green-eyed, bespectacled boy added. "That's my father!"
"Oh my Dumbledore! Really?" asked the strawberry-blonde, looking at the black-haired, green-eyed, bespectacled boy for the first time and becoming instantly mesmerized.
"Oh my Dumbledore!" said the blonde, glaring. "Shut up!"
Sudden, awkward silence.
"Who are you people?" asked the boy with the stubborn jaw.
"Rose Weasley," said the redhead briskly.
"Albus Potter," said the black-haired, green-eyed, bespectacled boy resignedly.
"Lottie Rosier," said the strawberry-blonde offhandedly.
"Scorpius Malfoy," said the blonde in a drawling, bored voice.
"My dad told me to beat you in every test," said Rose, testing the waters.
"Well, kudos if you do, but don't expect me to make it easy for you," replied Scorpius.
"You're on," grinned Rose.
"But," the boy with the stubborn jaw spoke as if he could no longer hold the words back, "Your parents are really famous!" He was looking at Rose and Albus in awe, and the tiniest bit of disappointment. Perhaps he had expected superhuman heroes whose mission was to save the world.
"Yeah, whatever," said Rose, losing interest and reaching for her book.
"Yeah, whatever," echoed Albus, nearly before she'd finished. He settled back into his seat, looking appropriately bored.
"I'm sorry, but who are you?" asked Lottie.
"Oh, I'm Mike Corner the Second," said the boy with the stubborn jaw, throwing out his chest a little.
The others acknowledged this without much interest.
After a small pause, Lottie tried the 'whole-conversation-thing' again. "So…what House does everybody want to be in?"
Before anyone else could say anything, Mike Corner the Second burst in with, "But everyone knows Potters and Weasleys are always in Gryffindor, and Malfoys are always in Slytherin!" He didn't say it, but the "Duh!" in his voice was palpably present.
Rose pulled out an embroidered bookmark and placed it, with great care, at the beginning of Chapter 16. She closed her book and placed it on the seat beside her. Then, and only then, did she comment, "I don't really care, myself. Each of the Houses has an interesting history."
"Yeah," muttered Albus, looking uncomfortable.
Scorpius shrugged agreement. Then, adapting himself to his company, he pulled out a copy of the Daily Prophet, folded it to the Latest Magical Discoveries section, and disappeared behind a moving photograph of a smug-looking older woman with heavy square glasses and artificial blonde curls.
The compartment's occupants whiled the rest of the train ride away in customary, idiosyncratic ways. Rose opened her book again and curled up in one corner, ignoring the rest of the world with monolithic determination; she didn't even miss a beat when the light outside faded—both she and Scorpius muttered "Lumos" and continued reading. Mike Corner the Second frowned at them but refrained from asking for a lesson in simple spell casting. Perhaps he knew both would be only too capable. Albus spent the ride alternately staring out of the window sightlessly and murmuring reassuringly to his owl, who had her head under her wing. Mike Corner the Second talked. And talked. At first, he addressed his remarks to Lottie, who seemed the most amiable of the group, but she disarmed him by falling asleep during his description of the Quidditch World Cup. He didn't notice for nearly half an hour. After that, he addressed his remarks to the group as a whole. It is doubtful that any of his classmates heard as much as a word.
After the lamps had been lit for some time, Rose and Scorpius slid neatly from their seats as if by prearranged signal, and Albus gave a start, shook Lottie's shoulder, and pulled on his school robes over his jeans with the rest.
Mike Corner the Second gave Rose and Albus strange looks when they exchanged friendly greetings with Hagrid, but joined their boat anyway. Lottie stared upward at the castle in unabashed fascination, but the rest avoided such gaucherie with studied nonchalance.
Before the eleven-year-olds could believe it, the Hat was singing (the Hat was singing!) while they gazed into a sea of older, unknown faces. Mike Corner the Second wished, for the first time in his life, that he wasn't the eldest child.
He swaggered up to the stool, jammed on the battered Hat, and waited, feeling belligerent. When the Hat spoke to him, he had to work very hard not to jump. It blathered on a bit, but he wasn't really listening. He was thinking how much he didn't want to disappoint his father. His father had been a Ravenclaw, but the truth was, he wasn't convinced he had the smarts to get in there. He knew any parents would be proud of a Gryffindor (with the possible exception of Malfoy's) but he wasn't sure he belonged there, either. A true Gryffindor would have punched Malfoy, just for what he stood for, but Mike hadn't been able to bring himself to do so—and not just because Rose Weasley could have taken him out with jinxes he'd never even heard of, either. It just wouldn't have been right. Malfoy hadn't even done anything—just sat there, hiding behind the Daily Prophet while Rita Skeeter grinned like the cat who ate the pixy on the other side. It wasn't really fair, Mike supposed—the way the Gryffindors treated people like the Malfoys. Like they were the last vestiges of some dread disease, or—
Mike stifled a sigh, thinking his parents would be disappointed he hadn't made the cut to Ravenclaw. As he walked toward his new Housemates, he comforted himself with this reflection: At least it's not Slytherin.
Scorpius resisted the urge to twiddle his thumbs. Really, this was taking forever. That, he shrewdly suspected, was what people left out when they described life-altering experiences like being Sorted by Godric Gryffindor's hat. The waiting. Sure, he'd been nervous when they'd first walked in to the Great Hall. He'd scanned the room for those he knew, and gotten a wink from his big sister and a thumbs up from her best friend, to counteract the glares he was receiving from all three other tables (so perhaps the pointed chin he shared with his father was rather noticeable). But now, as sometimes happened, he'd been standing here for at least half an hour being glared at, and his nerves had transformed into annoyance.
Scorpius icily ignored the snickers of "Scorpius?" that seemed to fill the Hall, and walked regally to the stool. He even put the Hat on unhurriedly. Its voice seemed to fill his ears, and, although he initially recoiled, he overcame his slight disgust at another voice filling his thoughts. He wanted to make sure the Hat knew everything it needed to, so it could sort him into the House that would bring him the most success in his quest to honor and uphold the family name, understand the universe, and find personal happiness. Even at eleven, his goals were clear in his mind. Ironically enough, it was his determination to give the Hat what it needed to determine his destiny that decided it. It seriously considered Ravenclaw, but,
Scorpius took off the intrusive Hat (which had not been above a few comments about his father, his mother, and how they ever got together—he had told it repressively that this was not its concern) with profound relief. He even gave it a bit of a flourish before joining his sister and her friends at the Slytherin table.
Albus sighed. This was so nerve-racking. He would never understand how James could laugh aside the trauma of standing here, doing NOTHING, and waiting for a life-altering decision. The truth was, whatever his father said, it would NOT be okay if he wasn't Sorted into Gryffindor. His grandparents, and most of his cousins, wound never look at him the same way again. As for his stepmother—ugh! He knew she was James's mother, and Rosie's aunt, but he personally found Aunt Ginny terrifying. Honestly, he couldn't figure out why one Glare from Aunt Ginny hadn't been enough to make Lord Voldemort keel over, dead, long before Dad, Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione had gotten into the act. And he certainly understood why his father hadn't been able to keep their marriage together. He would never say so to James, of course, but he thought his own Mom was a lot cooler.
Albus paled amidst the awed whispers. "Potter? Like, one of THE Potters?" He was supremely grateful to whoever watched over his footsteps and prevented him from falling flat on his face. Before the Hat could say a word, he was begging it to place him in Gryffindor. It told him such family loyalty belonged in Hufflepuff; it insisted a brain like his belonged in Ravenclaw; it spoke of greatness in Slytherin; but Albus remained adamant. In the end, it was his forceful thought, Put me in Gryffindor or I'll leave; I haven't seen much here worth staying for anyway; that prompted the Hat to admit that, perhaps, rather a lot of courage was required for Albus to simply go through life's everyday ordeals.
Dazed, Albus replaced the Hat, and sat down next to James, who clapped him on the back and whispered, "Knew you had it in you, Al."
Lottie was not obsessing. She was NOT. Yet she couldn't stop thinking about her Sorting. Any second now…They were still in the Ps…There was the nice-looking boy from the train. He was the son of Harry Potter. Lottie knew that must be tough. She felt a little sorry for the poor boy. Being famous for your parents wasn't the worst thing, but it certainly could fray the nerves. She sighed a little when he was Sorted into Gryffindor. Now he would probably never confide in her.
In an instant, all Lottie's anxiety, anticipation, resentment, and schemes returned. She spared a thought of hatred for her full name. The Hat, she found at once, was far from cooperative. It insisted upon blathering on about her inner strengths and weaknesses, as though it had the right to judge her, while she was busy trying to plot ways to "accidentally" meet up with the Potter boy, what she should say, how to get him to talk to her—how to make him trust that she would understand his secrets. She wasn't judgmental. And there was an intriguing project if ever she saw one. What made Albus Potter unique? And why did he look so depressed?
Lottie swung herself gracefully from the stool. When she reached the table, she sat beside the boy from the train. He was a Malfoy. Her parents would have wanted her to make a friend of him for his bloodline, but she rather thought she might need his expertise in an entirely different matter.
Rose watched as the line of first years dwindled. Sometimes, being a Weasley really sucks. Then again, she thought as Lucy was Sorted into Gryffindor and Molly leapt onto the tabletop, punching the air, while Roxy gave Rose a reassuring wink, sometimes it was really great.
As Rose made her way to the stool, she distracted herself from being nervous by mentally reviewing how many of her classmates had so far joined each House, and how many were left to be Sorted. The Hat was telling her a long-winded story about her parents she was sure she'd heard in at least five different incarnations, while she wondered how it could be exact in its Sorting. Was there never a year in which fewer students went to Slytherin and more to Hufflepuff? Indeed, she would have assumed, by the laws of human nature and probability, that fluctuations were to be expected. So how was it that, out of 122 eleven-year-olds, 30 had gone to Hufflepuff, 29 to Ravenclaw, 31 to Gryffindor, and 28 to Slytherin, while 3 students remained to be Sorted after herself? Where would they put the extra beds? And even if magic could take care of that, it couldn't account for the laws of probability. Furthermore, she knew popular support had swung dramatically toward Gryffindors in the years since the Battle of Hogwarts, and she found it hard to believe that this wouldn't be reflected in the student body. It was just as her mother said: wizards really didn't understand simple logic.
As Rose set the Hat gently upon the stool, patting it and thinking that it was just like one of her parents' friends from their castle-wrecking, Horcrux-hunting days, a hush fell over the Gryffindor table. It was surprise. A Weasley—in Ravenclaw? Rose would have been disappointed in her relatives, had she known just how shocked they were at this impossibly improbable occurrence. Yet one face, had she glanced at the table that appeared more than half composed of Weasley cousins (though this was an optical illusion) would have stood out. Albus Potter stared in horrified consternation at his favorite cousin—wondering if this was the beginning of the end.
NOTES: In my personal canon of the next generation, Scorpius Malfoy has two sisters (one older and one younger) and Harry and Ginny got divorced when James Sirius Potter was about one. Later on, Harry married Luna and they had five more children (well, he was lonely growing up—and so was she). Albus is Luna's eldest son. I am aware this does not tally exactly with what J.K. Rowling has told us—but neither Scorpius's sisters nor Harry and Ginny's divorce (and Harry's subsequent remarriage) are explicitly contradicted in the infamous epilogue. Still, I suppose one might call this AU…
Additionally, Rose's numbers: 31 Gryffindors, 30 Hufflepuffs, 29 Ravenclaws, 28 Slytherins, plus her and 3 remaining--there is much debate over just how big Hogwarts is. I have compromised between tiny (10 students per House per year) and huge (800 students watching the Quidditch matches). Also, there was a bit of a baby boom after the Battle of Hogwarts (or, as many in the Wizarding World call it, the End of the Great War).