Hey, check it out, my muse is interested enough in this to help me out some more after all! So now we have the beginning of the aftermath of Scorpius's letter to Rose.

Albus and Scorpius were, as usual, the first of the Slytherin sixth year boys to leave the dormitory. None of the others had friends from other houses they wanted to meet before breakfast, so they generally slept in a bit longer. This was a blessing in the case of Gavin Goyle, Matthias Flint, Patrick Parkinson, and Bartholomew Baddock, with whom Albus and Scorpius had never got on well at all and preferred to avoid as often as possible, but somewhat irritating in the case of their friends, Andre Pucey and Tristan Higgs, both of whom they had long since given up attempting to pry out of bed any earlier than was absolutely necessary.

Though the euphoria Albus felt from having successfully asked out Alice Longbottom the previous evening hadn't worn off at all, the night's sleep had at least helped to clear his mind enough for him to be aware of what was going on around him again. Which meant that he was no longer oblivious to the tension that was radiating off his very reserved best friend in waves. Scorpius had always been pale, and the gray eyes and white-blond hair didn't much help with that, but this morning his face was as white as a sheet, and every step they took towards the Great Hall seemed to make whatever was bothering him worse.

Albus couldn't understand it. Even if he rarely said much, Scorpius was normally very animated in the mornings—much more so than Albus, who (on days that didn't follow successfully asking out Alice Longbottom) tended to be rather zombie-like until he got some food in him—but today he seemed stiff and full of dread. Albus was beginning to suspect that he had missed something important the previous evening while his head was stuck in the clouds.

He had just opened his mouth to ask Scorpius if everything was okay when Scorpius froze in his tracks. They had just rounded a corner into the corridor that led to the Great Hall. Albus looked around, frowning, to see what Scorpius was staring at, but all he saw was Rose standing at the other end of the corridor waiting for them, just like every other day. He looked back at Scorpius again. His eyes were definitely on Rose, and yet he looked terrified. Albus still didn't understand what was going on, but something told him that it was between his cousin and his friend alone, so he clapped Scorpius encouragingly on the back before continuing on towards the Great Hall without him. As he passed Rose, who didn't even seem to notice him, he saw that her wide brown eyes were fixed on Scorpius, and rather than the bright smile she normally greeted them with, she wore a rather troubled and uncertain expression.

Had the two of them argued? Albus hadn't read the note Rose sent down to their dormitory with Ubasti last night. His thoughts had been too full of Alice and her sweet smile when she agreed to go to Hogsmeade with him to concentrate on anything else, even one of Rose's amusing letters. Nor had he written anything back to her. He had left it all to Scorpius, and now he wondered if that had been a mistake. But it didn't make sense that something could have gone so badly wrong between them after the exchange of just two more letters. Scorpius would do anything for Rose, and Albus had lost track of how many times Rose had stood up to Slytherins and Gryffindors (especially his brother) alike in defense of Scorpius. That was how it had always been, so what could have happened to change it? And they had been perfectly normal with each other yesterday.

Feeling rather anxious himself now, Albus walked the remainder of the way to the Great Hall alone. Mere seconds after he entered it, Alice sprang up from the Hufflepuff table where she and her friends were chattering happily, already halfway through their breakfast (the Hufflepuffs always seemed to be the earliest risers in the school, possibly because their common room and dormitories were close enough to the kitchens that they could actually smell breakfast cooking before it was on the table), and skipped over to meet him, looking, if possible, even more cheerful than usual, her long, silky, golden-blonde hair, which she had left loose today, rippling out behind her. But before she reached him, she seemed to notice his mood, for she slowed to a walk and her face fell a little.

"What's wrong, Al?" she asked, slipping one of her small, warm hands into his as if it was the most natural thing in the world, rather than something she'd never done before.

A bit of the grin Albus had worn all the previous evening returned to his face, but his worries were not entirely dispelled. "I think something's wrong with Scorpius and Rose," he said as they made their way over to the Slytherin table, which was deserted enough to afford them some privacy in their conversation, because they could both hear her friends and many of the other Hufflepuffs whispering and giggling in reaction to their joined hands.

"What do you mean?" she asked, her bright blue eyes full of concern.

"Well, Scorpius was even quieter than usual this morning, if that's possible, and he looked like he was on his way to his own execution or something. And when we got to where we could see Rose waiting for us like always, she wasn't smiling, and they both just stared at each other from thirty feet apart without moving," he said. "What?" he added, frowning, for Alice was quite inexplicably beaming with delight, not a single trace of worry over the state of Rose and Scorpius's friendship on her face. Albus knew that Alice had the extraordinary ability to be full of infectious happiness in almost any circumstances—in fact, it was precisely that ability, more than anything else, that had drawn him to her in the first place, but he thought that this was taking it a bit far.

"Oh, Al, this is your sixth year sharing a dormitory with Scorpius and you still don't see it?" she said gently, though she did sound a little amused, and her eyes were twinkling.

"See what?" he asked almost crossly. Was she suggesting that there was something about his best friend that he had failed to notice in all this time? He had difficulty believing that. This was his fifth season playing Seeker for Slytherin, after all, and his signature match-winning move had even been dubbed the Asp's Lightning Strike by the rest of the team. Being observant was kind of his forte.

"If he hasn't told you, then I don't think I can," said Alice. "I don't think he even knows I know, and I can only imagine how mortified he'd be if he did. It wouldn't be fair of me to spread it around. And I think everyone's about to find out anyway."

"Alice, I'm his best friend. Telling me would hardly count as 'spreading it around'. It's not like I'd go telling the whole school or teasing him. I'm not Parkinson."

Alice giggled so endearingly that Albus found it impossible to remain even slightly irritated about her refusal to divulge this mysterious secret knowledge she had of Scorpius. "I know you're not, Al," she said. "I certainly wouldn't have agreed to go into Hogsmeade with Parkinson. But it's not my place to tell, so if you don't already know, then you'll just have to find out when everyone else does."

There will be at least one more chapter, and it will most likely be from Rose's perspective. Originally, I wasn't sure I wanted to put Albus on the Quidditch team, because I thought maybe it would be better if there was at least one Potter kid who didn't inherit his parents' madskillz at the sport, but then I remembered that his initials are ASP, which would make a pretty wicked nickname for a Slytherin player, and after that, he pretty much had to be their Seeker. Anyway. Now we've gotten to know a little more about Alice Longbottom. I hope you like her. It seems to me that any daughter of Neville and Hannah's would have an incredibly sweet personality, which also seems like the sort of personality Albus would be drawn to. Also a brief glimpse of the rest of the Slytherin boys in Al's year. I wanted him and Scorpius to have at least a couple of other friends in their own house, but there are definitely the ones they don't get along with, too. Those are the same four boys from "Destiny and Free Will" with whom Scorpius was very worried about sharing a dormitory when they were getting sorted.