Author's Note:

Justin: -pantspantspants- Second update in a day… out of practice… getting carpal tunnel…

Tequila: you can do it justin! i believe in you!

Justin: So many words! So many letters! So much effort!

Tequila: do it for the fans, justin! do it for the cake i'll share with you!

Justin: FINISHED!

Disclaimer: not Scottish. Not blonde. Not that awesome. Not the owner of Scorpius or Rose.

Fair Targets

The next day, although Rose was woken up in time for breakfast and lessons, she was only truly awakened by the sight of the post owls arriving. She had forgotten they were supposed to do that, and the sight of hundreds of owls swooping into the Great Hall was quite alarming.

Well, she thought as she made room for Errol (somehow still alive and kicking, albeit feebly) and Pigwidgeon, at least it means I'm properly awake enough for lessons.

As soon as Rose unburdened the owls, Pigwidgeon moved off with a hoot and a bit of stolen toast, but poor Errol remained on the table like a discarded feather duster. Rose, who was quite used to this by now, force-fed him some toast and pumpkin juice, before opening the letters from her family.

"Is it breathing?" Libby asked from beside her, nudging Errol with the end of her spoon.

"Yeah, he's fine, see how his chest is moving?" Rose replied absently, her eyes moving down her first letter, from her grand parents.

Dear Rosie,

Your Grandpa and I are so proud—our little rose petal is at Hogwarts! I remember when we first got in back in 1961, it's one of those memories that never fades with time. Your granddad was in Gryffindor as well, of course—we met during the Welcoming Feast when we both reached for the kippers at the same time. He turned to me with this little bashful smile on his face and an apology, but I beat him to it. Now all he needs to do is smile that little smile and I know he's sorry for whatever he did.

And here I promised myself to keep this short.

So I'll wrap this up for you Rosie, we are so happy for you and hope you enjoy your time at Hogwarts. As a little present, we enclosed some money in the envelope. It's not much, but maybe you can get one of your cousins to buy you something at Hogsmeade.

Lots of love,

Grandma (and Grandpa)

After setting that letter aside with plans to reply to it by evening, she quickly scanned her parents' (and brother's) letter.

Hey little lioness!

It's your father here, following upon your mother's instructions to write you a Comforting Letter. She'd write her own, only she can't find any quills and she had a big case to get to (good thing too, I need time to buy some more quills— all the ones in the drawer exploded when I the Hellish Hacky Sack your brother and I were playing with landed in there. Don't tell your mother).

So, this is my Comforting Letter. I don't really know what I'm expected to write, to tell you the truth, I know you're strong enough to make it through your first couple of weeks. Make sure you beat that Malfoy kid in everything, though maybe not Quidditch since we haven't seen you on a broomstick yet, and don't let the Slytherins get you down. If they give you trouble, sling them with a Bat Bogey hex, or maybe the Jelly-Legs jinx, a good classic. I know you'll have no trouble getting to the top of your class, you have your mother's brains after all, but it's okay if you slack off a bit during History of Magic. Really, everyone needs time to rest.

And don't get too friendly with that Malfoy boy, not that you would, 'cause he's a slimy git like his father. (Your mother might have something to say about this, so don't tell her what I told you). Alright?

We're all excited for our Gryffindor lions to return home for Christmas, and promise to get you and Albus lots of presents. That's comforting, right?

Hope this was a good Comforting Letter,

Your Dad.

PS: Hugo says hi as well. He won't admit it but he misses you, I can tell.

That too, she set aside, making a mental note to tell them about Albus, and defend him from her father's wrath. Poor guy. At least they weren't together in Slytherin, then she wouldn't have any way to protect themselves. Maybe they'd have to run away from home and become fugitives. They could live on the streets of Hogsmeade, or maybe in the corner of the extensive Malfoy Manor. From the sounds of it, the manor was so big it would take more than an entire day to visit every room.

She completely ignored the bit about "the Malfoy kid". Some people never changed.

"C'mon, Rosie," Libby said blearily, clearly not a morning person as well. Which was just as good, Rose reasoned, or she wouldn't be able to stand her. The friendship would be doomed before it started. "It's time for lessons. We've got Charms first—any idea where that might be?"

Rose shook her head, but spotted James, looking distinctly up to something. Well that crossed out that option— she wouldn't approach that on her life. "We'll ask my cousin, come on," she said, tugging Libby away to a shock of orange hair.

Charms turned out to be maddeningly frustrating, though a great deal of fun. The first year Gryffindors had the classroom to themselves as they attempted to get a matchstick to stand on its head—a feat that proved harder than expected. Professor Demelza Robbins seemed accommodating enough, encouraging the first years with gentle guidance and corrections. They soon learned differently. Professor Robbins would start off the day with a pleasant smile and good advice, but as the lesson progressed she would begin to become impatient with the first years' mistakes, especially if they repeated the same error. By the time class was halfway over, she looked about ready to explode.

She must be a morning person, Rose thought sourly as her matchstick balanced itself on the wrong end, either that or this teaching thing really isn't for her.

After Charms came History of Magic, an infinitely boring class which (especially just after the hectic fun of Charms) proved to be something students of all ages considered "nap-time". Rose struggled to pay attention through the early September heat and took down what notes she could. In the back of her mind was the knowledge that she would need the notes later, as would Libby, Al, and Scorpius—it wasn't like the boys would look ahead, and Libby was currently napping with her head in her arms. When she wasn't forcing herself to concentrate, Rose briefly daydreamed about an alternative universe, one in which History of Magic was taught by another teacher. That was the bad thing—the subject could be so much more interesting than the rubbish the ghostly Professor spewed. Truth be told, Professor Binns could probably make the Battle of Hogwarts sound dull.

At lunch, Rose and her fellow Gryffindors discussed the lessons they had and their general wonder. Basil's and Libby's reactions to new magic made Rose smile, and even Oliver lost his disinterested mask in the face of his first day. Rose felt comfortable as the Gryffindors complained, teased, and joked. After the initial shyness, it felt almost like home.

Somehow she managed to find her way to Potions that afternoon without being late or getting lost more than a handful of times. There, she saw the familiar face of Horace Slughorn (just as her parents described him, though perhaps a tad more weathered and grey in certain places) and got an unexpected surprise. Already sitting down and looking as well as one could expect, was her cousin Albus. He beamed at her, and Scorpius beside him politely nodded a greeting. At first Rose felt snubbed and slightly offended at the cold welcome before she remembered her promise. She let it go, thinking that was just how Scorpius was.

"Al! Scorpius!" She laughed, and took up a chair next to them. With some hesitation Libby chose one nearby as well, though as far from the two Slytherins as she could get. "I didn't know we would have classes together!"

"Well as you can see, we do," Scorpius pointed out in a drawl. Rose wasn't fooled this time, she saw the tiny smile on his face.

"This is great Rosie," Albus whispered excitedly. "Now we can see each other everyday!"

"Well we could always work together in the library for class work and stuff," Rose felt compelled to point out. "There's no rule against small study groups."

Albus rolled his eyes in the scorn of class work, but Scorpius looked thoughtful. Before Rose had a chance to ask about their day, Slughorn asked them all to settle down. He set them into teams of four, his eyes widening almost comically when he saw the odd team of mixed students. Rose only smiled grimly at his disbelief. She would prove the stereotype wrong. She had promised.

The lesson turned out to be hard, but enjoyable. An attempt at a Boil Be-gone Potion and a few explosions later, Rose got ready to leave with mixed feelings of relief and regret. She turned around to speak with her partners, but was interrupted by a rich chuckle.

"It's Rose, isn't it?" Slughorn asked, somehow stopping her and her friends from leaving. He wasn't that big. "Rose Weasley?"

Rose nodded. "The red hair give it away, sir?" She asked politely.

Slughorn chuckled once more. "That, and the fact that you're sitting by young Albus Potter there. You reminded me so much of your parents that I had to come over." He completely ignored the other two at the table.

From the corner of her eyes, she said Scorpius's jaw tense and Libby's eyes glaze over. She was beginning to feel quite uncomfortable herself. "We're cousins, sir," she explained. "And these are our friends, Elizabeth Alby and Scorpius Malfoy."

"Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy," Scorpius muttered under his breath.

If Slughorn had heard him, he gave no sign of it. Instead he gave Scorpius a scrutinizing look and didn't say anything. Scorpius stared stonily back, just as mute. The silence was beginning to get uncomfortable when Slughorn tore his eyes away, and casted them instead on the shy Libby.

"Alby, that's not a well-known name, is it?" He asked, his pudgy mouth turning slightly downwards at the corners.

Libby shook her head. "No, I'm Muggleborn sir."

"Ah, yes, as I thought…" He trailed off delicately, and then moved aside for them to pass. "Better move along now kids, get started on your class work and all that."

Dismissed, they made their way along the dark corridors before they had to part ways, the boys to the Slytherin Common Room, and the girls back to the Gryffindor tower. Rose waved them goodbye and followed a gaggle of older Gryffindors back to the tower, explaining to Libby why she was so friendly with two Slytherins. After a bit of persuading, Libby grudgingly admitted that they didn't seem that bad, and Rose breathed a sigh of relief. She had feared the wrath of her fellow Gryffindors, and knowing that she had one good friend in her own House made everything easier.

After helping the other First Years with their History of Magic class work in exchange for assistance with Charms, Rose made her way to the Owlery with her reply letters in hand. Her mind was focused on what she wrote, and namely, her father's reaction to what she wrote, so it came as a complete surprise when James leapt out at her from behind the tapestry of Wendel the Weird while yelling a battle cry from one of the many Goblin Revolutions.

She shrieked.

James laughed, and didn't even have the proper decency to look ashamed when Rose glared at him angrily. "I thought you were Dominque," he explained after she demanded a reason for his actions "She caught me in a little trap of hers—ended up glued to the ceiling of the Charms classroom for hours until someone came in. I was going to pay her back."

Rose would later wonder what spirit had possessed her to utter her next words. "She stuck you to the ceiling for hours, and your payback was to shout at her as she walked past a statue? That's a bit weak James, especially for you."

James rolled his eyes and ran a hand through his tousled hair. "That wasn't all of it," he whined. "I have something planned. I was on my way to the Owlery when I saw red hair and seized the moment. Though you're right, I need something bigger… I'll have to rework what I've got…"

Rose sighed, and immediately let go of any plans to interfere. The Weasley family had a strict Don't-Meddle-Or-You're-Considered-A-Fair-Target policy. The war between James and Dominque was just one of many.

"I'm going to the Owlery too," she said as she thought about the Weasley family motto. It usually didn't hold up. When it came to pranking, either everyone was considered a fair target or nobody cared if they were innocent bystanders under fire. "Do your parents still write to you on the first day back?"

James scowled. "Yes, and I'm still expected to reply. These letters here are for Mum and Dad, and Lily," he explained as they started walking.

"Lily wrote to you?" Rose asked incredulously. Hugo had barely been mentioned in her letter.

"Nope," James smirked. "I won a bet, and she owes me money." He grinned at Rose's flabbergasted expression, and quickly added. "It was about Albus. I didn't really believe it was gonna happen myself, but I had been teasing him about being Slytherin so I had to follow through. Now Lily owes me a galleon!"

Rose shook her head and decided not to comment. The Potter branch of the family already knew they were insane, repeating common knowledge wouldn't change anything.

They attached their letters to the hooting owls in silence. Rose, after wavering slightly, put both her letters on the eager Pigwidgeon's leg. He seemed up to the job despite his size, and old Errol was peacefully comatose on his perch.

Suddenly James spoke up.

"I didn't actually believe he would do it," he muttered with a frown. "I didn't think he would abandon Gryffindor."

Now it was Rose's turn to frown. "He's not abandoning Gryffindor James, he just didn't get Sorted into it."

"That's not true," James protested "Dad said everyone had a choice with the Sorting Hat. He said you got to choose your House, and that means Albus chose Slytherin, and left the rest of us in Gryffindor! He chose to be away from us!"

Rose, sensing danger, was quick to argue. Unfortunately for her, and most likely Albus, James Sirius Potter had got it into his head that now was the time to Not Listen. "James, that's not true—"

"—Look Rose, I know what I know. Don't bother with it, okay? I'm done here, it's time to plan that prank I was talking about." He even had the audacity to whistle cheerfully as he exited the Owlery, leaving an apprehensive Rose in his wake.

"It's not going to get easier you know," came a familiar drawl from the shadows, making Rose nearly jump out of her skin. "He's not going to be the only one to not like Al's being Slytherin."

Rose felt a slight twinge of jealousy. Scorpius had known Albus for all of two days, and was already using his nickname? "That was just James," she replied "the rest of them won't do that."

"You're family won't, maybe," Scorpius said passively, keeping his eyes firmly on the dropping-strewn countertop. "Maybe. But the rest will. The Gryffindors and the Slytherins and the Ravenclaws and the Hufflepuffs. They won't want you talking with him. They won't want you associating with a Slytherin."

Rose opened her mouth, intending to give Scorpius a lecture that would make her mum go green with envy and her dad whistle impressively. But Scorpius met her eyes, and for once the barriers were down. All she could read there was fact. Plain stark fact, and… sadness? "Oh Scorp," Rose sighed, and was unaware of Scorpius's suddenly stiff back and hardened eyes. "It won't matter, not in the end. I'll always be Al's friend, and yours. I promised, didn't I? And my parents had to deal with all sorts of gossip back in their day, they still do, I'm sure I'll be able to handle it."

"They never had to deal with this." Scorpius said as he gave her a bitter-edged smile. "It won't be easy."

Rose scowled, her pride sorely wounded. "I'm not afraid of a challenge."

The boy sneered. "Gryffindor." He moved to tie a very slim letter to a beautiful eagle owl.

"Slytherin," Rose muttered back. Scorpius turned around with a composed calm and met her eyes squarely.

Rose grinned. Scorpius didn't.

Author's Note (Return letter):

Justin: Alllllllllllllright. Review please! Make our days :)