"Sometimes, sometimes...
We can see beyond our history
The last place you hope to find
The one that's been there all the time"

- Beth Orton, "Paris Train"

September 1, 2017

The Hogwarts Express began to meander through the lush Scottish countryside en route to the Wizarding village of Hogsmeade, where numerous students were eager to return to the halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But to the fair many number of first year students, feelings of deep anxiety and excitement bubbled beneath their façades. The carriages up and down the train were a symphony of great enthusiasm and lighthearted merriment. The older students took it upon themselves to enrapture the first years with greatly exaggerated tales about daily student life at Hogwarts – a somewhat unofficial ritual preceding their symbolic journey across the Black Lake aboard the small boats towards the imposing yet majestic castle that was the training ground to many notable names in magical history. And none was more enchanted and bewitched about these tales than one Albus Severus Potter.

Second child to the legendary Man Who Lived, Albus (or Al, as he liked to be addressed) was a highly gregarious child. Smart and inherently inquisitive, Al had gone through so many phases one would invariably notice on a child growing up – from exploring the fields beside his grandparents' house, the Burrow, to making countless messes in his own home with various pranks and experiments. He was very active during most of his childhood, and through the years, maintained the typical sibling love/rivalry between his older brother, James Sirius, and his youngest sister, Lily Luna. It wasn't until a year before he was to start his education at Hogwarts that he truly grasped how extremely famous his family name was to the whole of Britain's wizarding population. The surname 'Potter' was synonymous with constant media attention even until now, and it was a very daunting task indeed for Harry and Ginny Potter to provide a quiet and stable family life with their children, given the very heroic roles they played during those dark times when Voldemort terrorized the Wizarding world.

Yes, Al heard the stories countless times from his dad, his mum, his Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron, and various other relatives; all of whom had slightly different, but nonetheless cohesive and vivid recollections before he and his cousins were even born. But now Al felt the pressure on his shoulders, seeing as he felt that he had extremely large shoes to fill. It somewhat didn't help that amongst his siblings, Al was the only one who was an eerily near-exact replica of their famous father. The impossibly messy head of jet-black hair and the deep, bright green eyes were there, save for the round glasses and the lightning-shaped scar on Al's forehead. Another subtle difference between Harry and his second son was that Al had a faint sprinkling of adorable freckles scattered right across the bridge of his nose; discernible only when you carefully examined his face up close – a physical trait which sprung up from the Weasley side of his genetic makeup. Aside from that, Al was a picture of perfect pre-adolescent health, compared to the days when he learned his father was pale and skinny, and lived in a cupboard under the stairs with his unpleasant Muggle relatives at his age.

But now, it had come to a point where Al, after being extremely jealous about James that he was going to Hogwarts first, was now filled with a lingering sense of fear underneath the guise of enthusiasm that he was finally going to the school where all those wonderful stories of his parents and relatives happened. This fear was sent into overdrive the instant James began to instill in Al's mind about his potential House once he got Sorted. Al knew that most of his family, immediate and extended alike, was Sorted into Gryffindor – the House he knew and believed he was going to before he even considered the other three. His brother's teasing about the possibility of being housed in Slytherin made it even worse. And although Harry had reassured him that Slytherin wasn't so bad, Al still wasn't comforted fully by the fact that he was, after all, named after one of Slytherin's bravest man who played a very crucial role in the war against the Dark Lord.

Now, sitting in the crowded compartment with his cousin Rose and four other friendly first years whom he just met, plus James who popped by to check on him, Al was starting to feel agitated when the talk turned to the Sorting. He excused himself from the group and murmured to James that he needed to use the loo, in order to prevent James from asking questions in a protective brother sort of way. Passing several compartments, he walked without thinking where he was going; trying to mull things over in his head and figure out a way to assuage his anxiety. Though several students peered through the glass windows because they recognized another one of the famous Potter spawn, Al paid them no mind; his thoughts simmering in his head. It wasn't until a few minutes before Al realized he had reached the very end of the train. He was about to head back to his compartment when something (or rather, someone) caught his attention.

Al was standing in front of an almost empty compartment; a lone passenger sitting by the window, staring at the passing scenery before him. Al noticed that the passenger was a Hogwarts student, a boy, and a first year at that, given the looks of the school robes which he already donned. What struck Al's curiosity was the fact that this boy was sitting all alone from the rest of the commuters on the train. The boy in the compartment had not noticed Al's presence outside of the cabin, as he continued to stare wistfully out of the window; a look of sadness etched upon his delicate face. Al silently moved towards a corner where he continued to observe the mysterious boy inside the compartment without being seen, and it took him a few moments before he realized that he had seen him before – back on Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters, standing by a woman and a man who looked exactly like him, presumably his parents. His Uncle Ron had pointed them out earlier, but he was privy to the tense nonverbal acknowledgment the tall blond man and his guardians had exchanged, seeing that a lot was going through his mind at that point.

With his troubled thoughts on hold, Al wondered why this boy isolated himself from his fellow first years. Considering himself of a slightly extroverted nature, Al would have taken the initiative to get to know his classmates and hopefully make friends. This boy piqued his curiosity, and yet, Al still hadn't made a move to just come right in and talk to the lonely boy he was gazing at. The minutes ticked by, and Al had begun to notice certain aspects of this silent enigma before him: the boy had a classical beauty to his features. His eyes were a hypnotic whirl of mercurial shades, unlike any Al had ever seen, and framed and somewhat magnified by wire-thin and expensive-looking rectangular glasses. The boy's hair was the polar opposite of Al's. Where Al's was jet-black, thick, shaggy, and hopelessly unkempt-looking, the other boy's was long, loose, and impeccably styled without looking too fussy and overdone, in a sublimely ethereal shade of blond; vividly reminding Al of his beautiful part-Veela aunts, Fleur and Gabrielle. His skin looked as if he constantly bathed in the purest of milk, making Al twinge uncomfortably for a second with his healthy, sun-kissed appearance.

It took a while for Al to realize that he felt something light and fluttering inside himself. Something that didn't involve him thinking about where he was going to be Sorted, or what other half-truths James was about to spring on him before he even sets foot at the school. Al couldn't fathom what in the world was happening to him that very moment, but he didn't feel an overwhelming sense of fear. Instead, Al felt a sweeping rush of unknown emotions humming throughout his body which he allowed himself to drown in. At the back of his mind, he suspected that this might have something to do with the boy inside the compartment. But as he logically told himself that the boy was only a first year, and would not know about highly advanced spells or whatnot, Al dismissed this ludicrous notion. Still, when Al couldn't find the will to tear his hungry gaze at the lonesome but attractive blond boy sitting by the window, the butterflies inside him only seemed to flutter faster and faster…

It wasn't when he felt someone grab his shoulder and forcibly turn Al around that the butterflies immediately subsided. James had an extremely curious look on his face, bordering between being pissed off and genuinely worried. While James didn't shout at him, Al could not blame his brother from voicing out his concerns as to his whereabouts, and reminding him that James was under orders from their fiercely protective mother to keep an eye on him, lest he be sent a Howler anytime within the month should something bad happen to Al. Al, on the other hand, smiled warmly at James and told him that he just walked around after the loo to have a quiet time alone to think about the impending Sorting. James put his arm around his younger brother, playfully resumed his teasing repertoire of a possible slot in Slytherin, and led him back to their compartment, amidst Al's equally jesting remarks.

And as the Potter brothers returned to their compartment, Al still felt a residual buzz from covertly and unintentionally spying on the anonymous boy at the back of the train.

He never knew that the mysterious boy was scrutinizing him as well the moment James found Al outside the last compartment…