So, I was rereading Deathly Hallows in preparation for seeing the movie, and when I got to the epilogue, this idea pretty much attacked me. Though, admittedly, I have been wanting to do some second generation-y stuff for ages, so I didn't need much prodding.
Disclaimer: This is JKR's kingdom, not mine.
"Come on, Al, let's find James so we can share a compartment with him," said Rose, tugging at her cousin's sleeve, but Albus continued to stare out the train window until his parents were obscured by the thick mist.
"What?" he asked blankly when he finally did turn to face her.
She huffed impatiently. "I said, let's go find James so we can—"
Albus cut her off with a violent shake of the head.
"What? Why not?" she asked, frowning.
"I don't want to sit with James," he said firmly. "He'd just keep telling us things to ruin our first day. Let's see if we can find a different compartment first, okay?"
Rose looked uncertain. Even though she'd been dreaming of going to Hogwarts ever since she was old enough to understand what it meant, she was still nervous, and having a second year cousin to show her the ropes had been a comforting thought. But she really wanted to spend the train journey having one more look through all of her schoolbooks, and she knew that if she was in a compartment with both James and Albus, she'd never be able to concentrate.
"Oh, all right then, but what about everyone else? Dominique, Louis, Lucy, Fred, or Roxanne?" The omission of Victoire and Molly from her list had been deliberate, and Albus did not seem to mind. Victoire was a seventh year, so it would just be weird to sit with her. It would feel like she was babysitting them. And Molly always treated her younger cousins like they were small, adorable, helpless children. Rose definitely wasn't interested. The others were all okay, though, and not quite as old.
"Maybe," said Albus. "They're probably all sitting with friends, though. But we might still be able find an empty compartment."
"We'd better hurry, then."
They moved along down the corridor, hauling their trunks (which, thankfully, had both been enchanted by Rose's mother to be much lighter than they should have been, so that they would be easier for eleven-year-olds to manage) along behind them. A large basket was strapped to the top of Rose's trunk. Snoozing inside it was her cat, Ubasti, a sleek, half-kneazle, half-Abyssinian female. Slightly less securely fastened to Albus's trunk was a large birdcage. Inside this perched his owl, a smaller-than-average tawny male by the name of Archimedes, who somehow seemed to emit an air of irritability that would change to grudging affection whenever his large dark eyes fixed on either his master or the boy's auburn-haired cousin.
Every compartment Albus and Rose passed was full of students, and by the time they had gotten halfway down the train, they had seen all of their cousins, who, as Albus had rightly guessed, were absorbed in conversation and laughter with their own friends. There did not seem to be a single empty compartment left, and it was with dismay that they made their way into the final car. However, when Al stood on tiptoe to see into the window of the last compartment, it appeared to be vacant. "Finally!" he said, turning to Rose and giving her an exasperated sort of grin. He slid the door open and they went inside.
It wasn't until he turned to close it again that he realized that the compartment was not empty, after all. A boy with white-blond hair and a pale, pointed face was sitting in the corner seat that faced the back of the train. He looked rather sullen, and was staring out of the window at the outskirts of London now flashing past as though he was not aware that he had company.
"Oh, hello," said Rose, who had also noticed the boy. "We thought this compartment was empty. Do you mind if we join you?"
Albus watched the boy curiously for his response, which took a while to arrive. After a couple of seconds, he turned slowly to look at Rose, and then a few more before he shook his head silently. Rose smiled her thanks, then busied herself with storing her trunk in the luggage rack. Albus did the same with his own trunk, but he was still puzzling over the strange expression he had seen on the boy's face. It had been hard to tell, but he had looked a little surprised by Rose's politeness, as if he expected her and Albus to be mean to him.
Rose's thoughts were traveling along similar lines. She remembered the boy as the one her father had pointed out on the platform. "Make sure you beat him in every test, Rosie." Try as she might, though, she could not remember whether he'd said what the boy's name was. However, she was fairly certain that he had said something like "Granddad Weasley would never forgive you if you married a pureblood."
She wrinkled her nose. Her dad could be so silly sometimes. She was only eleven! As grown-up as eleven was, it was still far too young to be thinking about whom she was going to marry. Honestly. Still, she thought, looking at the boy as she opened Ubasti's basket and pulled the determinedly still napping feline into her arms, she could at least try to be friends with him. He had been sitting in here all by himself, and he had looked so taken aback by her friendly greeting just now. Yes, he definitely seemed like he could do with a friend.
With this idea in mind, she took the seat directly across from him (Ubasti somehow managed to slink out of her arms and drape herself across her lap without actually moving any muscles or waking up). He had gone back to staring out the window, but this caught his attention, and he looked around at her again. She flashed him another bright smile. A little crease appeared between his eyebrows for a moment, and then the corners of his lips twitched up uncertainly.
Albus watched all of this, his admiration for his cousin rising. He doubted he could have been brave enough to try coaxing a smile out of this boy, when he had seemed so intent on staring out the window and not being noticed. And even if he had tried, he doubted that he would have succeeded. But now that she had gotten this far, he decided that he would help, so he took the seat next to her.
"I'm Rose Weasley," said Rose. "And this is my cousin," she went on, shooting Albus a look.
"Albus Potter," he finished hastily. "But everyone calls me Al."
The boy's eyes had widened and that oddly fearful expression was back.
"What's your name?" asked Rose, still smiling.
The boy seemed to shrink inward slightly. "Scorpius Malfoy," he muttered, barely audibly.
Albus recognized the surname, and he knew Rose did too, but her open, friendly expression did not falter. "Are you a first year, too?"
"Any brothers and sisters in Hogwarts already?"
He shook his head. "I'm an only child," he said, in the same quiet voice as before.
Unexpectedly, Ubasti suddenly opened her large, golden-brown eyes and leapt from Rose's lap to Scorpius's in one fluid movement, then continued her nap as if nothing had happened. Scorpius stared at the cat, looking completely bewildered. Rose beamed. "She likes you!" she said, delighted.
Tentatively, Scorpius reached up a hand and scratched Ubasti lightly behind the ears. She purred. From overhead, there came a low hoot. Albus and Rose jumped and looked up. In the luggage rack above Scorpius, next to a very expensive-looking trunk with the Malfoy crest on the side, was a cage containing a large and rather majestic-looking owl.
"Ooh, what a beautiful owl!" said Rose. (Archimedes hooted indignantly from their side of the compartment.) "What breed is he? He's not European."
"Pharaoh eagle-owl," said Scorpius. He seemed to be relaxing a little, though still reluctant to converse. "He's from Egypt."
"What's his name?" asked Albus.
"Wow, really?" said Rose, her smile even wider. "He and my cat should get on well, then. Her name is Ubasti."
This drew the first real smile from Scorpius. It changed the shape of his whole face, making it look full and round. Even though it faded quickly, something of it lingered in his eyes. Rose cheered inwardly in triumph, and began plotting ways to make him smile again. He looked so nice when he smiled. The next challenge would be to get a laugh out of him. Her plans for reviewing her schoolbooks were completely forgotten.
"Have you been to Egypt, then?" she asked.
Scorpius nodded. "With Mum and Dad last year."
"And you got Horus while you were there?"
He nodded again.
Rose sighed. "The farthest I've ever been on holiday was Albi in France, to visit family."
"Do you think you'll end up on one of the house Quidditch teams?" blurted Albus, who hadn't been able to think of anything relevant to say.
Scorpius shrugged. "First years aren't allowed. The older students are probably better players, anyway."
"Well, yeah, but do you play?"
"I know how to fly," said Scorpius with another shrug. "And I've played with Dad a bit, but never a real game with teams and everything."
"Maybe we could invite you and your family over when we have one of our big matches at the Burrow," said Rose eagerly. "Then you could play with us."
Though she had been perfectly sincere in her offer, it had apparently been the wrong thing to say, for Scorpius was suddenly looking withdrawn and sullen again. "I doubt the rest of your family would want mine to come over," he said.
"Why shouldn't they?" asked Albus, frowning. He knew enough about his dad's history with Scorpius's dad to know that they weren't exactly friends, but it wasn't like they hated each other, or anything. At least, not anymore.
"Because my family served the Dark Lord," said Scorpius. His face had darkened and he wasn't looking at either of them.
"Who cares?" said Rose defiantly. "All of that happened years before we were born. None of it matters now."
"You'd be surprised," said Scorpius.
Albus was beginning to understand why Scorpius had found a compartment all to himself, at the very back of the train, why he had been so reluctant to talk to them at first, and why he still looked afraid that they might say something harsh. "Well," he said, trying to sound determined, "it doesn't matter to us. I mean, he's gone, and it's not like they still support him, is it?"
Scorpius shook his head forcefully, the breeze of it ruffling his hair.
"Then that's what counts, isn't it?" said Rose.
"Not with most people." He swallowed hard. "Mum's family doesn't even let Dad and me come over for tea."
Rose and Albus exchanged a glance of mingled shock and pity.
"I think they're all being ridiculous, not to mention dreadfully unfair," said Rose, folding her arms, "and that's what I'd tell them if I met them."
Albus nodded his agreement. The prospect was a bit frightening, but he knew he could do it if Rose could.
Scorpius was unable to suppress a small smile at their defense of him, but he wasn't sure they would still offer it if they knew the rest of the story. It wasn't just that the members of his family were social pariahs amongst the respected magical community, though that was certainly bad enough. Scorpius's father and grandparents had attempted to cut ties with those less apologetic former supporters of the Dark Lord, but there was still a commonly held unspoken belief amongst them that the Malfoys were their allies. The weight of this and the expectations that came with it fell particularly heavily on Scorpius, because he was the sole representative of the new generation. He was the one they all believed would redeem his family from the supposed disgrace of bowing to the postwar regime.
What terrified Scorpius more than anything, and what made him feel like he did not deserve to be receiving friendly overtures from the likes of Rose Weasley and Albus Potter, was the possibility that those people were right about him. He was only a kid now, but his father had once been a kid and so had his grandfather, and Draco and Lucius had both become Death-Eaters. So what if it was in Scorpius's blood? What if this was his destiny, and there was no escaping it? All he wanted was to be himself: Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy, without the stigma on one side or the pressure from the other. But would he be allowed to? He wasn't at home anymore. His parents would not be at Hogwarts to protect him. What would he become there?
"Scorpius," came Rose's concerned voice from what seemed like a great distance. "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah," he said, not meeting her eyes. "I'm fine."
Albus and Rose exchanged another glance, through which they communicated their shared skepticism.
"How hard do you two reckon the classes are going to be on Monday?" asked Albus, his nervousness seeping into his tone despite his best efforts.
"I don't think they'll be too difficult," said Rose. "They can't expect us to know much already."
"James said they're going to be murder," said Albus.
Rose rolled her eyes. "Of course he said that. You shouldn't listen to him, Al. He's always trying to freak you out."
"Who's James?" asked Scorpius.
"My brother," said Albus. "He's a second year."
"What house is he in?" The question seemed automatic, and Scorpius looked as if he wanted to retract it.
"Gryffindor," said Albus.
"Oh," said Scorpius. There had been a flicker of something like distaste in his expression, but it vanished quickly and was replaced with more gloom.
"What house do you think you'll be in?" asked Rose, whose desire to discuss the matter had not been entirely sated on the platform.
"Slytherin," said Scorpius with neither uncertainty nor enthusiasm. He seemed to be merely stating a fact.
"Do you want to be?" asked Albus curiously. The idea of wanting to be in Slytherin was so foreign to him that he'd had to ask.
"Yes. My whole family has been."
"Everyone in our family was in Gryffindor for generations, but now we've got some Ravenclaw cousins," Rose countered reasonably. "People don't always go in the house their families did."
"But the other houses aren't about family lines the way Slytherin is," said Scorpius, whose grandfather had spoken to him at length on this subject. "Slytherin families are like dynasties. It isn't just about having personality traits in common. When someone from a Slytherin family ends up somewhere else, it's because they don't have proper pride in their family."
He fully believed this; it was how he had been raised. And he certainly did have the requisite family pride, though it was perhaps not of the same type that Lucius had intended to instill in him. It wasn't the pureblood heritage, the noble pedigree, the wealth, or the legacy that mattered most to Scorpius, no matter how Lucius had stressed them. He loved his parents and his grandparents, and they loved him. They had a strong and nurturing home, and he was fiercely loyal to them all. Being sorted into one of the other three houses had never even entered into his mind. But none of that made the prospect of being confined in the same dormitory with the children and grandchildren of the Dark Lord's supporters and sympathizers an inviting one.
"I suppose you two plan on being in Gryffindor," he said.
Rose nodded, and Albus said, "It's the house I've always wanted to be in."
Scorpius dropped his gaze, swallowing to get rid of the bitter taste that had risen in his throat.
"Well, I'll still be your friend, even if you're in Slytherin and I'm in Gryffindor," said Rose, sitting up straight in her seat, her face blazing with resolve.
"So will I," said Albus. He wondered briefly what his brother would think of that, but then decided that he didn't care. He could choose his own friends, and there was nothing wrong with Scorpius.
Scorpius looked up at them, surprised. His eyes found Rose's fierce, wide, brown ones and he felt heat rise in his cheeks. He hastily averted his gaze again, slightly confused by what had just happened. "Thank you," he mumbled.
From that point on, conversation between the three of them was light and flowed easily. Following Rose's lead, Albus overcame what remained of his shyness, and Scorpius's reserve and solemnity did not outlast it by much. By the time the lunch trolley made its appearance, they had returned to the topic of Quidditch. Albus and Rose both supported the Holyhead Harpies, and Scorpius was very impressed when Albus told him that the reason was that his mother had played Chaser for them for five years, the final three of which she had also been the captain.
Scorpius quickly became animated when he spoke of his favorite team, the Kenmare Kestrels, and of the games his parents had taken him to see during the past two seasons. He showed them the complete set of three-inch tall model players he'd gotten for his birthday (which had actually been specially commissioned by his grandparents, as Quality Quidditch Supplies didn't normally make them for any teams below the national level), and they had fun watching them zoom around the compartment on their tiny broomsticks, wishing they had another team set so there could be a tiny Quidditch match. Until Ubasti decided they were interfering with her nap and started trying to bat them with her paws, that was, at which point Scorpius hastily returned them to their case inside his trunk.
Rose accomplished her goal of making Scorpius laugh with a story about a bit of accidental magic she had performed when she was six, which had earned her the permanent ire of her family's old cat, Crookshanks. She thought he looked even nicer when he laughed than when he smiled. To her delight, he returned the favor with a story of his own about his grandmother's reaction to the "surprise" he had brought back to the manor after exploring in the fields one afternoon when he was five. But Albus's story won; neither of the other two could compete with the mischief he and his siblings had gotten themselves into during the yearly family reunion teas they'd had with their non-magical Dursley cousins.
"Hey, it's your dad, Al," said Scorpius. It was a couple of hours later; the country had become very wild and the sky outside was darkening under a heavy layer of increasingly stormy-looking clouds. The three of them had finally made it through to the Chocolate Frogs at the bottom of the large pile of sweets and cakes they had bought from the lunch trolley, and were now looking at the cards.
Albus rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I've seen that one about fifty times." The amazement and pride he had once felt at seeing his father's face on the Chocolate Frog cards had long since faded. He held up his own card, grinning broadly. "Dumbledore. I was named after him."
"Cool," said Scorpius appreciatively, taking the card and looking at the wizard on it. As he watched, the piercing blue eyes crinkled and the silver beard twitched in a smile.
"Ooh, look, I got two of the Hogwarts founders!" said Rose excitedly. She showed them her cards of Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin. "Quick, look and see if the other two are in any of your cards."
They were. Albus found Helga Hufflepuff under Merlin and Circe in his stack, and Scorpius found the elusive Godric Gryffindor hiding at the very bottom of his own, after two Hengist cards. They arranged the four Founders' cards together on one of the empty seats and felt very pleased with themselves for having the complete set.
Mountains were rising in the distance, and it became apparent that night was falling beyond the thick canopy of clouds, so Albus and Scorpius pulled on their Hogwarts robes and Rose, already wearing hers, returned Ubasti to her basket. No sooner had they done this than a voice echoed down the train: "We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes' time. Please leave your luggage on the train; it will be taken to the school separately."
The three of them exchanged looks of nervous excitement. Rose, unable to contain herself, was bouncing up and down and twisting her hands together, her expression alternating between panic and inexpressible glee. Albus felt like he might be sick, and seeing his cousin in such a state did not help. Meanwhile, all of Scorpius's worries were creeping back up on him. No matter what they had said or how wonderful the last seven hours had been, he was terrified that this friendship Rose and Albus had forged with him would die soon after they were in the castle.
The train slowed. Rose opened the compartment door and beckoned the other two out into the corridor, which was already packed with students leaving their compartments. Scorpius paused on the way out so he could reach through the bars of Horus's cage to stroke the owl's glossy, sand-colored feathers with his trembling fingers.
"I'll come and visit you with a letter for Mum and Dad as soon as I can find the Owlery, okay?"
Horus gave one of his low-pitched hoots and turned his head to nudge Scorpius's finger with his beak, a reassuring gesture.
"Coming, Scorpius?" said Albus, sticking his head back in the compartment.
"Yeah," said Scorpius, withdrawing his hand, hopping down from the seat, and following Albus out into the corridor to join Rose.
Everyone staggered slightly when the train finally came to a full stop. The doors opened, and they all pressed forward to disembark. Rose grabbed Albus's right hand with her left and Scorpius's left with her right to keep them from being separated by the crush of students, most of whom were much taller than they were. A gust of chill wind swept the platform, and they shivered and drew closer together. Albus thought he caught a glimpse of one of his other cousins and waved with his free hand. Roxanne waved back and smiled, but couldn't get nearer.
Behind him, someone knocked hard into Scorpius, almost making him fall over. Scorpius looked around and saw the smirking face of Theobald Nott, a fourth year who towered over him.
"Alright, Malfoy?" he said. "Thought I'd see you on the train. Selwyn, Montague, Zabini, and I were saving you a seat. Who's your little girlfriend?"
Scorpius felt heat flood into his cheeks.
Rose, who had just realized what was going on next to her, turned a fierce glare on Nott and tightened her grip on Scorpius's hand. Just then, a loud call of "Firs' years! Firs' years, over 'ere! Firs' years!" boomed out across the platform.
"It's Hagrid!" cried Albus excitedly.
Rose shot Nott a parting glare while saying, "Come on, Scorpius," and the three of them moved with some difficulty through the crowd to where the other first years were now gathering around the immensely tall, broad figure of Rubeus Hagrid. The light from his lamp caught in the streaks of silver in his hair and beard. He continued to call for the first years, and then his crinkled black beetle eyes found Albus and Rose, and he winked. The two cousins beamed at him and then at each other, and Albus leaned forward slightly so he could see Scorpius, who appeared pale and shaken. "Hey, if you want to, you can come to tea with us at Hagrid's next Friday."
Scorpius looked startled. "I-I don't know if—" But the rest of his sentence was drowned by Hagrid, who was now shouting over the noise of the crowd for the first years to follow him down a steep, narrow path that ran between thick trees that were almost impossible to see, it was so dark now.
All at once, after rounding a bend in the path, they were struck with an awe-inspiring view of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, set atop a mountain across a vast black lake. Hagrid paused, his beard hiding another smile, allowing them a moment to take in the spectacular sight. Albus, Rose, and Scorpius all temporarily forgot their anxieties as they stared in wonder at the great castle, with its many turrets and towers, and the windows that were shining specks of golden light in the darkness.
"All right, then," said Hagrid when they had looked their fill, waving a massive arm in the direction of a fleet of little boats tethered at the edge of the water a few feet away. "No more'n four of yeh to a boat, now."
Albus and Scorpius followed Rose into one of the boats, and they were soon joined by a girl with a round, friendly face and blonde pigtails.
"Alice!" said Rose in delight.
"Hi, Rose," said Alice Longbottom. "Hi, Al."
"We didn't see you on the train," said Al in a slightly crestfallen tone. He and Rose had met Alice several times whenever their parents got together, the most recent occurrence having taken place a fortnight ago when they went to Diagon Alley to do their school shopping.
"I didn't take the train," said Alice. "Dad brought me along with him this morning, and we've just spent the day together in Hogsmeade. He said the journey across the lake was traditional, though, so he dropped me off at the station before he took one of the carriages up to the castle."
Hagrid signaled for the boats to move, and they were off.
Alice's eyes fell on Scorpius, who was sitting on the board that served as the boat's back row of seats next to Albus, and attempting once again not to be noticed. She smiled politely and then looked at Albus, who took the hint. "Oh, Alice, this is Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius, this is Alice Longbottom. Her dad's the Herbology professor."
"Nice to meet you," said Alice.
Scorpius only offered a faint smile in return, too overcome by nerves now to actually say anything.
"Are you glad you'll get to have your dad at school with you all the time?" asked Rose.
Alice nodded happily. "It'll be really nice to spend more time with him during the school year. I always missed him a lot when he was gone before," she said. Then she giggled. "And Mum told me to keep an eye on him for her, in case he gets in trouble."
Rose laughed, and the two of them began a spirited conversation about what they thought life at Hogwarts would be like. Scorpius and Albus glanced at each other grimly, both wondering how the girls could be having such a cheerful conversation while they were starting to feel like they would be sick if they opened their mouths. They spent the rest of the short boat journey staring up at the castle that loomed larger and larger until it completely filled their view as they drew closer to it, Rose's and Alice's voices washing vaguely over them all the while.
Just before they reached the cliff face, Hagrid called for them to duck their heads. They did so, and then the boats passed through a curtain of ivy and into a dark tunnel that led under the castle. Shortly thereafter, they reached an underground harbor of sorts, and they all got out, a few of them stumbling a little on the small pebbles. They followed Hagrid along a passageway that sloped upward, emerging onto a stretch of grass in the shadow of the castle. Next, Hagrid led them up a flight of stone steps that brought them to the huge oak front doors.
"Right, we still got everyone?" he asked, looking around at the crowd of first years. They all nodded, and he turned and knocked three times on the castle door. It opened immediately, and Alice beamed: inside stood Neville Longbottom, the Herbology professor and Head of Gryffindor House.
"The firs' years, Professor Longbottom," said Hagrid.
"Thanks, Hagrid," said Neville, smiling at all of them, and giving his daughter a wink, which caused her to giggle. "I can take it from here."
The first years crossed the threshold and followed Professor Longbottom across the enormous flagstone hall lit by flaming torches, with a ceiling so high they couldn't make it out and a wide staircase made of white marble, which led to the upper floors. Judging by the noise coming from a set of doors on one side of the hall, the rest of the students must have already arrived. Albus noticed four enormous hourglasses set into one wall. All of the lower bulbs were empty, but each upper bulb contained hundreds of the same type of gemstone: rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and yellow topaz, respectively.
Professor Longbottom directed them through a door into small chamber that proved to be a rather tight fit for all of them. They fidgeted nervously while he explained about the Sorting Ceremony (which, to everyone's horror, would take place in front of the entire school), the four houses, house points, and the inter-house competition. He then instructed them to wait until he came back to get them for the Sorting, and left the room.
For a few moments, they were all silent, but nervous whispers slowly filled the room. Scorpius spotted the large, scowling Patrick Parkinson and the equally forbidding Matthias Flint just a few people away from him on one side, and he inched sideways and ducked slightly in order to hide behind Albus, who was slightly shorter than him. His heart was banging so wildly he felt sure his ribs would not be able to contain it much longer.
Rose was now discussing the four houses with Alice, both of their voices a little higher than usual. To keep his mind off what was to come, Albus was looking around at his classmates. There seemed to be about seventy or eighty of them in all. There were a few faces he recognized from brief encounters in Diagon Alley here and there, but he didn't know any of them by name.
All too soon, Professor Longbottom was back. "Okay, you lot. We're ready for you." Many of them stared up at him in terror, as if they were about to be led to the gallows. Noticing this, he smiled kindly. "Now, there's no need for any of you get yourselves in a state about this. I remember how scared I was when I was in your shoes, but the Sorting is a piece of cake, and it'll be over before you know it. Come on. Form a line; the Headmistress won't be happy if I lead in a disorganized mob."
A couple of them laughed, Alice and Rose included, and the tension eased a little. They got in line and followed him back out into the entrance hall and, at last, into the Great Hall. Scorpius could hear all of the others gasp at yet another dazzling sight, but he barely saw any of it. His fate and possibly his doom were upon him at last, and there was no escaping. His eyes and ears were still not working properly when they reached the front of the hall, just below the Top Table, and turned to face the four long house tables, nor when the ripped, dirty, and charred hat that had been placed on a stool in front of them burst into song.
Albus's nerves weren't quite as bad as Scorpius's, and they were having the opposite effect on his senses. Everything seemed twice as loud and bright as it ought to have been: the Sorting Hat's song, the light of the thousands of candles floating overhead, the occasional flash of lightning visible through the enchanted ceiling as a storm brewed outside. James's smirking face stood out very clearly amongst the many faces at the Gryffindor table, but Albus tried to focus instead on those of his cousins whom he could see from where he stood. They were all smiling encouragingly at both him and Rose and he felt a little better.
"Abercrombie, Emily," called Professor Longbottom, who was now holding a long role of parchment. Albus jumped, not having noticed that the actual Sorting was starting.
All eyes in the hall followed the brown-haired girl with glasses who was making her way shakily to the stool where the Sorting Hat was once again lying motionless. She put on the hat and sat down. After about ten seconds, the hat shouted, "RAVENCLAW!"
There was a round of applause, and Emily got up and went to sit at the Ravenclaw table.
Albus noticed Scorpius stiffen at the sound of this name, and when Baddock was pronounced the first new Slytherin, he saw his face, already pale, lose even more color. He frowned and looked at the Slytherin table. Several of the faces there seemed to be pointing towards Scorpius, and Albus had to suppress a shiver at the expectant leers they wore. He looked back at Scorpius, who was determinedly not looking at the Slytherins.
Professor Longbottom moved on down the alphabet. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw received a new student each before Coote, Valerie and Creevey, Colin became the first new Gryffindors.
Whenever a student was sorted into Slytherin, Albus would sneak a covert glance at Scorpius, but it wasn't until Flint, Matthias joined their ranks that it produced the same reaction as when Baddock had been sorted. And then it happened all over again with Goyle, Gavin.
"Longbottom, Alice," Professor Longbottom read out, then beamed proudly as he watched his daughter step out of line and move towards the hat.
Albus smiled when, before joining the Hufflepuff table, Alice ran back to her father and hugged him tightly, an enormous, relieved grin on her face. "Your mum'll be so proud, sweetheart," he told her. "Now run along." She shot him one last smile, then went to sit with Laura Archer and the rest of the new Hufflepuffs.
Trembling visibly, Scorpius walked forward. Perhaps it was Albus's imagination, but the expectant hush that fell in anticipation of Scorpius's sorting felt different than it had for all of the other first years so far. He looked around. Many of the older students from Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff seemed to be eyeing Scorpius with suspicion and distrust. He remembered the way Scorpius had acted with him and Rose at first, as if he expected them to be mean to him once they knew who he was. He looked at the Slytherins. Some of them looked wary too, but even more of them wore that same expectant leer he had seen earlier.
Scorpius sat down on the stool, and the hat had barely been on his head for a second before it announced, "SLYTHERIN!"
That one word, Albus noticed, seemed to have confirmed the misgivings of all of those students in the other three houses, while the leering Slytherins now looked smug and triumphant. He felt a sudden rush of trepidation as he watched Scorpius walk over to join them. Most of the first years had lost their nervousness once they were sorted, but Scorpius was trembling even harder than before, and Albus didn't at all like the way the other students were looking at his friend. What was going to happen to him?
Albus looked around at Rose. She seemed to have noticed the same thing he had, but he couldn't catch her eye because she was too busy glaring daggers at the Slytherin boy (fourth or fifth year, by the look of him) who had made a space for Scorpius on the bench. Scorpius, now sitting next to him, looked like he was trying to make himself appear as small and invisible as possible.
When Montague, Cecilia joined the Slytherins a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor later, Albus saw Scorpius shoot the large, sour-faced girl a frightened glance before staring back down at the empty golden plate in front of him. The same happened after the sorting of Parkinson, Patrick, who sat down across from him.
Albus's heart seemed to jolt upward into his throat. He had been so busy watching Scorpius's predicament that he'd completely forgotten that his own sorting was so near. Rose gave him an encouraging smile and pushed him forward slightly. He swallowed, trying to ignore the excited whispering breaking out across the Hall as he walked to the stool, sat down, and put on the ancient hat. As it had done with all of his classmates, it fell down right past his eyes. The last thing he saw before his vision was obscured by ragged black material was Scorpius looking back at him, a hopeless sort of resignation on his face.
"Why, if it isn't another Potter," whispered a voice in his ear.
Albus's heart hammered, and his mind flew to what his father had told him back at Platform 9¾. He thought of Gryffindor, and how he'd dreamed of being there his whole life. He thought of James's smirking face. And then, he thought of Scorpius, surrounded by leering Slytherins, already disliked by all those students from the other houses even though he'd never done anything to deserve it. Suddenly, something clicked in his brain.
I need to be in Slytherin, he thought.
"Really?" said the voice, which sounded as surprised as Albus felt. "A moment ago, you had your heart set on Gryffindor."
I don't care, thought Albus, his resolve strengthening even though the squirming of his stomach betrayed his anxiety at such a monumental decision.
"You realize, young Potter, that facing down this greatest fear for the sake of your friend proves that you in fact possess the courage of a Gryffindor, do you not?"
But that doesn't mean I have to be in Gryffindor, does it? I could still go somewhere else. Dad told me he chose Gryffindor. Well, I choose Slytherin.
The hat was silent for what felt like a long time, and Albus feared that his choice wasn't going to be taken into account after all. And the hat did have a point. Was it really even possible to pick one house using qualities that belonged to another? Apparently it was, for the hat finally shouted, "SLYTHERIN!"
Either Albus had gone deaf or the Great Hall had gone silent. Feeling rather lightheaded and still a little frightened of what he had done, he took the hat off. All of the students in the hall were gaping at him in shock, including James, whose mouth was hanging open rather comically. It was a few seconds before anyone clapped, and many were still too surprised to join in before the rest of the applause had already died away. But Albus ignored all of them.
He looked over his shoulder at Rose, who also appeared very surprised, smiled reassuringly at her, then walked purposefully to the Slytherin table. Many of his new housemates gave him quizzical, appraising glances, and some smiled at him in welcome, while others glared suspiciously. He tried not to look at any of them. At last, he reached Scorpius and sat down next to him. The older boy who had already been sitting there moved aside automatically to make room, wearing an expression appropriate to having been punched in the face.
"Hi," said Albus rather shakily.
Scorpius stared at him, his mouth open just like James's, but by the time Prichard, Mary had been sorted into Gryffindor, his face had split into the biggest smile Albus had ever seen. Albus grinned back, knowing he had made the right choice.
Rose had watched their exchange from her place in line. She wasn't at all sure what had just happened, but from the looks she observed on Albus's and Scorpius's faces, it didn't seem to be anything bad. Still, she was definitely going to have to ask her cousin about it later.
By the time Professor Longbottom reached her name, there were only five people left in line. She hurried forward and put on the hat.
"Ah, another Weasley," said a voice in her ear.
She giggled nervously. I don't suppose you're going to tell me what happened with my cousin? she thought hopefully.
"I'm afraid it's not my place to say, as you already know," the voice chuckled. "But I'm sure you'll be proud of him once he tells you. Now, then, Miss Weasley, it's you we ought to be discussing."
"Hmm. You do remind me of your mother. Very sharp mind you've got there."
Rose blushed, feeling very pleased. Did that mean she was going to end up in Ravenclaw?
"But even so, that's not really what defines you, is it?" the hat continued musingly.
What do you mean? she thought, confused.
"Courage, my dear. Fearlessness. Daring. You've exercised all of them rather a lot today, haven't you? It's that Weasley fire. I can't remember the last time I met a Weasley who didn't have it, and you have a greater share of it than most. That's not to say your mother wasn't brave, but she was a Gryffindor far more by choice than by nature when she was your age."
Well, then the choice here should be obvious, shouldn't it? thought Rose reasonably, while part of her was bursting with pride to be a Weasley and with excitement about what the hat had said about her mum. She was going to have to write an even longer letter home than the one she had already planned.
"And there you go, trying to confuse me by turning this into a matter of logic like a Ravenclaw would," said the hat, chuckling again.
Rose rolled her eyes at the dark interior of the hat and smiled. What's it to be, then?
Okay, final author's note. I've always thought it would be awesome if Albus and Scorpius ended up in Slytherin together, but it never made sense, given how terrified Albus was of being in Slytherin in the DH epilogue. What Harry said didn't make Albus want to be in Slytherin, it just made him realize that it was really his choice, and that it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if he was in Slytherin. But then I realized that if Albus befriended Scorpius before they were sorted, he'd actually have a reason to choose Slytherin. And perhaps he displayed a bit of cunning in his exploitation of the knowledge Harry gave him about how the hat works. Determination, certainly. As to Scorpius, I've always seen him as the Malfoy who breaks the pattern, even though he doesn't do it by rebelling against his family. His family already chose Harry's side (or neutrality, at least), so there was no need to rebel. And as wonderful as that final scene in Hogwarts seemed, with all races and houses intermingled and celebrating, people don't let go of such long-held prejudices that quickly. The Malfoys would certainly endure a fair amount of stigma from the good guys, and they were bad guys for so long that the other bad guys wouldn't be willing to let them go so easily. Also, any Slytherin families that wanted to prove their loyalty (like the Greengrass family) to the new regime as much as possible would distance themselves from the Malfoys. Hence the situation Scorpius finds himself in (and, being a kid, it's all a little more dramatic in his head than it is in reality). And Rose, to me, is somewhere between Hermione and Ginny, personality-wise. (No, you were not imagining those hints of Rose/Scorpius-ness. I ship them very hard, and they will totally get together in the vague unwritten future of this fic.) Finally, there's Alice Longbottom. JKR never said whether or not Neville and Hannah had kids, but why wouldn't they? I wanted a main-ish character in Hufflepuff (eventually the Scamander twins will come along, possibly in Lily's class, and be the Ravenclaws of the group), and that worked very well. Obviously they named her after Neville's mum, and her middle name is for Hannah's mum (who, as you may recall, was killed in HBP). A few of the other kids in the Sorting lineup were named after people, too. Colin Creevey, for instance. Obviously he's Dennis's son (I did the math; Dennis would have needed to get married around nineteen or twenty and start having kids right away, but it's not impossible), and he named him in honor of his brother. Oh, and in case the hint was too subtle, McGonagall is Headmistress. Why on earth would it be anyone else? If Hagrid's still around, then she is too. So there.
This is it for now, and I don't have plans for an update (mainly because at this point, I can't think of a decent overarching conflict to break up the whole "going to school" mundanity, so it's just not worth it). Asking for an update (or a sequel, for that matter) will, therefore, mostly just irritate me, as it will prove that you either ignored or did not read this paragraph. Reviews that do not ask for updates, on the other hand, would be very welcome.
(What I do have plans for is a Teddy-centric one-shot, and you may ask about that if you wish.)