Author's Note: [06/28/2012] This chapter has been edited. Some parts of it might have been changed. Thank you all so much for sticking with this story! If you find mistakes, feel free to tell me in a PM or in a review. Thank you and happy reading!

Chapter 1

"Welcome to the United States, Mr. Potter"

August 6th, 2031

Albus's knees felt like jelly as he stepped off of the airplane. One part of him thought that the whole experience had been very eye-opening. He had even gone so far as to make a mental note to write to his grandfather about his journey.

An entirely different part of him, however, the part he was loath to admit still existed, had been so scared the entire flight from England that now, back on solid ground, he thought he was going to break down and cry like a first-year standing before the Hogwarts Express.

He had been wary about needing to fly in conventional Muggle transport all the way to a foreign country ever since the possibility had been first broached to him. In truth, he had been wary of Muggle transportation all his life, but his father had convinced him that new experiences were well worth the inconvenience. If that had not been enough to convince him (it hadn't been), then the facts remained that it was too difficult and costly to set up a trans-Atlantic Floo connection; getting a Portkey approved took time he did not have; the journey was too long to go by broom; and if he tried to Apparate the whole way, he would probably be splinched to gimlets and spread across the ocean like so much butter before he even managed to reach the half-way point.

After much deliberation, Albus was forced to concede that it seemed that Muggle transportation would be his only option on such short notice. So, early one fine summer morning, Mr. Albus Severus Potter, age: twenty-five, occupation: instructor of magical defensive maneuvers climbed onto a small plane and made his journey from his beloved England, across the vast ocean, all the way to a secluded, private air field in California, on the western coast of the United States of America.

The plane, thankfully, was not entirely pure Muggle technology. It was enchanted and seemed to be created specifically for the use of globe-trotting wizards. The inside of the aircraft reminded him quite heavily of the interior of the Hogwarts Express, in atmosphere if not in design. It was quaintly decorated, organic patterns on carpets and seat, and every seat was a first-class seat. There was even a food trolley that went by Albus several times during his flight without the aid of an attendant. Albus was especially thankful to see that he was not the only one traveling that day.

He spoke to a business man, Australian from his accent and sun-kissed tan, who was going to a few conferences on the benefits of using newt's eye in high-grade potions. As it turned out, the man was going to these conferences as a head hunter for aspiring master potioneers, though, the man eagerly added, he was always looking to expand his clientele and slipped Albus a business card. There was a woman who was going to Canada to see about adopting some specially-bred pixies. She had an unusually long neck and her skin hung from old age. Had he been younger, Albus would have probably discounted her, but he was happy that he had matured for she had a charming, infectious laugh and countless times Albus found himself laughing so much at one of her stories that tears were streaming down his cheeks. The stories had also caught the attention of a little boy who was returning from a summer of visiting relatives in Ireland. Despite his age, the boy had a bit of a penchant for profanity and made it a habit of addressing Albus as "dude" or "man" or "hey". Albus had attempted to give him a lecture on the joys of good manners, but the boy had just rolled his eyes and promptly ignored Albus.

Albus figured he could have been offended, but he had learned and let the snub roll off without another notice. After all, the boy was a good example of the sorts of students he would soon find himself wrangling on a daily basis. Exchanging idle pleasantries with his fellow passengers definitely made the flight much more tolerable, but that did not mean he was not feeling nauseous by the time they landed.

Flying in an airplane had been unlike flying on a broom. On a broom, Albus felt much safer, able to feel his own magic supporting him. In the plane, he had to put full trust in a bunch of metal and circuitry. Albus did not understand how it worked. Albus could not feel it vibrating and living like he could his own magic. That had made him feel blind. That sort of blindness reached into his very core and it was not a feeling he enjoyed at all. Once he was settled in, he would send a letter to his father insisting that a Portkey be requisitioned in time for the holidays later in the year. Albus would not be flying in an airplane again, if he could help it.

It took Albus a few minutes to get his baring and remind his muscles what it meant to stand on terra firma. He squinted against the strong sun, bringing a hand up to shield his green eyes from the unforgiving rays. The passengers had been let off of the airplane directly onto the air field. Two representatives from the airport, a young man and woman in crisp blue uniforms, had greeted them and lead them toward the air conditioned building where they would be able to make sure their papers were in order. Albus trailed behind the group, looking all around them with a sense of half-contained wonder.

California was certainly different from anything he had seen before in his young life. The land was flat and there were only a few trees planted around them. Most of them seemed to have been intentionally planted, as Albus doubted palm trees grew wild in that region, especially in a pattern that would best accentuate the building. In the distance, on almost all sides, he could see tall, rocky, mountains. It was nothing like the misty, forested areas he was used to, but it held its own charm. It felt so large and open, almost as if the small group of people around him were the only living souls for miles around. For all he knew, they were.

He had heard from his Uncle George, a mirthful soul who had made frequent trips around the world in order to expand his business, that California was a colorful place, if a little crowded. Albus wondered what parts of the state his uncle had been thinking about as wherever he currently stood seemed to have a pronounced sense of isolation.

How strangely different it all was. It almost felt like he had been let off on another planet, not a different country. Even the very sky seemed surreal. Back home, the sun cast a gentle, silver glow, making everything seem cool to the touch. This place, though, it radiated gold. Even with the sun beginning to start its downward descent, the air felt charged with energy and heat. He could feel it warm his skin.

Albus had been so lost in thought that he practically jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Spinning around, his hand instinctively reached for his wand. He relaxed only when he spotted a slender, mousy looking man. Albus's reaction must have startled the old man as well because he had jumped back. Albus gave the man a bright smile. His name was Mr. Franklin Rutherford, the principal of the school at which he would be teaching. The man before him had come to England personally to recruit Albus.

The man looked to be in his late sixties and his graying hair was beginning to recede, though it still retained a healthy thickness. Despite his initial demeanor, hands wringing and his frame stooped somewhat, he had strong features. He looked like someone who had been quite handsome in his youth, but had been worn down over the years from heavy burden. From the way the man was wiping nervous sweat from his forehead, Albus would not have been surprised if the hair loss had been from stress rather than genetics. Nervous though he might have been by habit, Albus knew the man to be jovial enough.

"Ah, didn't mean to scare you, Albus! It's good to see you again, though I suppose it hasn't been that long, now has it? I'm just happy that you accepted our invitation to teach at the school so quickly! I've already got your papers all sorted out so there's no need to go through that headache." When Albus cast a sidelong glance towards the plane, Rutherford continued, "I sent your bags ahead to the school, so they'll be there soon enough. I figured that we might as well have some proper food first before we get you settled in. Oh, god, here I am prattling off like some old man," he said, clearing his throat. He made a show of adjusting his suit, standing up as tall as he could. Holding out a hand, he grinned at the younger man. "Welcome to the United States, Mr. Potter."

Grinning from ear to ear, Albus reached out and took the older man's hand, shaking it enthusiastically. "Thank you for having me, Mr. Rutherford! I am rather looking forward to seeing how the wizarding community of this country operates."

Rutherford tossed his head back as he laughed loudly. He patted Albus on the back. Albus smiled. The man reminded him of his grandfather. Rutherford and Albus chatted as Rutherford steered him towards a rather stylish blue sports car. As Albus stood, somewhat dumbfounded, Rutherford went over to the passenger side, holding the door open for Albus. There was so much wrong with the scene before him that Albus, unable to find any words to speak, simply moved to take a seat.

"Do wizards of this country really use Muggle transport? Willingly?"

"I suppose this must come off as a surprise, huh? You English lot are rather fond of Floo and Apparation, aren't you?" Rutherford relaxed back against the seat, a pleasant smile on his face, before he pulled the car out onto the empty desert road. "Though, if I remember correctly, your grandparents have an enchanted car that's seen better days."

Albus smiled almost shyly as he clutched onto his seat belt. He hated cars. Oh, how he hated them. He was starting to feel the motion sickness settle in his belly. "Ah, yes, they do. It's- it's a flying Ford Anglia, actually. Is this...also...?"

Rutherford just grinned as he stepped on the gas peddle suddenly, leaving a startled Albus to instinctively clutch at the door. "Nope, just a normal sports car for a normal man a few decades too late for a proper midlife crisis. Cost a pretty penny, though." Almost anticipating Albus's next question, he continued. "Muggle culture is pretty popular with people here. Most of the students you'll be teaching are half-bloods or Muggle-borns and are exposed to both cultures. They're just as comfortable around computers and cell phones as they are cauldrons and dragons."

Looking over at the man thoughtfully, Albus nodded his head. "I can understand that. I think observing how such an influence has impacted a magical community could be rather fun!"

"Exactly!" Rutherford declared enthusiastically, the car slipping off the road just enough to cause some color to drain from Albus's face. "See, I knew that the son of Harry Potter would understand." Albus blushed. It seemed he was still "son of Harry Potter", even in California. "We had spoken to several young candidates about this position, but when they found out about the students' love of Muggle culture, well, their feelings were quite obvious even if they said nothing. Finding you really was like a miracle!"

Albus could feel his cheeks begin to heat. The man was making him sound like some sort of saint. That was not how it had played out at all. He just wanted to get out of Europe for a while. "It is I who ought to be thankful, Mr. Rutherford."

"Please, just call me Frank."

"O-oh, alright then, Frank. Your job offer gave me a chance to make something of myself, apart from my family name. It is," he trailed off, taking a moment to find just the right word, "difficult to be just 'Albus' when everyone sees you as the Slytherin son of Harry Potter," he said. He had tried to keep the comment light-hearted, but he worried it carried too bitter a tone. In England, it was well known what sort of people Slytherin produced, but he wasn't sure what sort of connotations, if any, that House name would have to the foreign wizard who sat next to him, driving the car with no care for the posted speed signs.

Not that it mattered as it seemed they owned the road, no other car within sight.

"Yes, yes, Slytherin. I've heard a thing or two about them. I can appreciate the cunning sort," he said with a chuckle. "But I guess for you, it must have been difficult, huh? From what your father tells me, almost everyone else in the Potter-Weasley clan gets sorted into Gryffindor."

"That's right. It must sound childish to you, but I mostly accepted this post because it was the first position I secured with my own talents."

Rutherford just shook his head. "I don't think it's childish at all. A lot of good people I know have spent their whole lives trying to outgrow the boxes they're put into. I think it's that unique perspective that will help you survive."

Albus furrowed his brows. Well, that was rather somber. " life?"

"That too," Rutherford said, looking over at Albus with a bit of a mischievous smile. "But I mostly meant survive at the school."

Rutherford was not joking when he said living at the school would be a game of survival, Albus realized as he splashed water on his face, trying to resist the urge to vomit again. He was thankful that each teacher was given his own quarters, complete with private bathroom.

After a rather pleasant snack at a restaurant about twenty minutes from the school, Rutherford and Albus arrived without any trouble. The whole area was very much unlike Hogwarts, Albus mused for what felt like the millionth time that day.

The school, called the Peppertongue School of Wizard Studies, was situated on a hill to the west of a relatively bustling wizarding town the locals called Dragons Camp. That in itself was not odd. After all, it was a similar relationship as that between Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. What struck Albus as odd was that Peppertongue was not the only school around Dragons Camp. No, there were actually two other schools: The Zenbazi Institute of the Higher Craft to the east and The Kingston Wizardry Academy to the south.

Initially, Albus thought that was far too many schools in close proximity and had voiced his confusion. Rutherford had then explained to Albus that Peppertongue and the other schools, like many of the schools in the West, did not have things like school Houses. Instead, there were enough schools per region that competition was sought from outside of schools, not within. It was as if someone had put the House dorms miles apart instead of in a single castle.

There was still a prize, however, Rutherford had added. Albus could feel his ears perking at that. Earning the House Cup was always one of his favorite parts of being in school. "We actually have several competitions per year against each other," Rutherford had said as he led Albus through the small parking lot in the back of the school. "There's the Quidditch Harvest Bowl, but there are also other competitions for those future potion masters or those that excel in transfigurations. I confess, we're a competitive lot. Anything a student could possibly excel in, we have a competition for.

"At the end, there's a final winner declared and for the whole following year, all of the buildings and businesses in Dragons Camp are decorated in the winning school's colors with their banners hanging everywhere," he said with a weak smile. "I'm afraid...we haven't won in quite some time. But with you here, I'm sure that'll change!" Rutherford had declared rather triumphantly as they walked up the stairs to the entrance of the school, a hop in his step.

Albus was about to ask why the school had not won in a quite some time when he heard voices from above call out, "Look down below!" Before Albus even knew what had happened, several large goblets of green liquid fell around him, a number of them landing square on his head and shoulders, soaking him through. For a moment he thought he had been doused with water, until the smell assailed his olfactory senses.

It was like a volley of concentrated stink bombs, but without the stitched bags that normally held the components together. Instead, the stink bombs that hit Albus had had water charmed into a protective skin. Albus had all of half a second to admire the ingenuity before he rushed over to one of the bushes, vomiting up his dinner. Rutherford, obviously used to the antics, just covered his nose as he went over to Albus, lightly patting his back. "Ah, sorry about that, Albus. I completely forgot to warn you that some of the students stay here for the summer," he muttered lightly.

Albus, trembling, looked up at his attackers; there were three boys practically hanging out the window, wide grins on their faces as they waved at him and Rutherford. One of them was a little on the pudgy side with short cropped sandy hair, his pale cheeks bright red from laughing. The second boy was tall and gangly and wore wire-framed glasses. He was sitting on the window ledge, a clipboard in hand, a pen tucked behind his ear. The third boy stood in between the other two, obviously the ring leader.

Albus felt a conflicted pang of dread and joy in his heart. The boy was shorter than either of his companions and was looking at Albus with an almost impish grin, his chin resting on one hand as he leaned out of the window. His white blond hair was picked up in the warm summer wind and looked tousled. It was like looking up at the face of a young Scorpius Malfoy.

For a moment, Albus panicked. He needed to remind himself that Scorpius had been an only child and he would have known if he had had a son that boy's age. It was a coincidence—an unfortunate coincidence.

"Hey!" the-boy-who-was-not-Malfoy called out. Merlin, he even sounded like Scorpius had at his age. "Old man! Welcome back! We missed you!" Rutherford, rather than being upset, just chuckled with a shake of his head as he waved at the boys. The boys had almost pelted the older man with the most potent stink bombs Albus had ever witnessed, but there was not a single speck of malice in their expressions. They seemed sincere in their affection towards the old principal.

Suddenly the boys ran from the windows, screaming as they did so. Albus looked concerned before he saw an older woman appear at the window, panting for breath. Her graying brown hair was put up in a bun and she put her hands on her hips as she called out to the three running boys, "You can expect a detention for this, you three! And you will be cleaning up this mess!" she shouted before she looked out the window, smiling at the two men below warmly. "Welcome back, Franklin!" She called out, "I will meet you and young Mr. Potter later for dinner. Have him go to his room first and get cleaned up, will you? His things are already there," She called out before disappearing from the window.

In terms of appearance, the woman reminded him a bit of a younger Professor McGonagall, but she had the open and warm personality of his grandmother. Albus would have smiled except he was overcome with the urge to vomit once more.

When his stomach settled down a bit, Rutherford took him to his quarters in order to give him an opportunity to get cleaned up before meeting the rest of the staff. It was there that Albus had stayed longer than he needed to, trying to come to terms with what he had seen of the school so far.

He was still unnerved by the presence of a boy that looked so much like the younger Malfoy. Albus had partly left the country because of him and, somehow, he had inadvertently stumbled upon his doppelganger there. It figured. Fate had never been on Albus' side, why would it suddenly decide to support him now? He stepped into the shower, hoping that it would help to clear his mind. Instead, it just gave him more time to contemplate thoughts he had been sure were long buried.

All through school, he and Scorpius Malfoy had been something of friends, or so he thought. There was even a time when Albus may have even called Scorpius his closest friend. After school ended, they had continued to spend time with each other. Even when Scorpius left the country to earn his Mastery in Potions, they had continued to communicate via owl and the occasional visit.

But then, one day, completely without warning, he received a brief letter from Scorpius. It simply said Scorpius found their friendship to be tiresome and an ill-use of his time. He had said Albus had outlasted his usefulness. Sometimes, when his mind would wander, Albus could remember all of the messages he sent Scorpius, desperately wanting to know if he had done something wrong. He never received anything else from his cruel-hearted friend.

He had tried to insist that he didn't mind the break. He tried to tell people that such a conclusion was inevitable for a friendship based on convenience. He had done his best to make that little lie the truth. It was easy enough. They were Slytherins, after all. Who didn't think that all Slytherin friendships were based on convenience alone? Albus took advantage of this to protect himself, but in reality, news of Scorpius's constant successes hurt. Scorpius really hadn't needed Albus it seemed. Albus had seen his new job as a way to go to a country that had never heard of Scorpius Malfoy and all of the amazing things he had done.

He was debating if he should just decline Rutherford's invitation to dinner when there came an impatient knock on the door. Taking the towel off of his still partly wet hair, he walked over to the door, opening it curiously. He was a little taken aback to see the young Malfoy-look-alike standing there with a deep frown, his hands shoved in the pockets of his well-worn jeans. They even shared a similar pout.

The young boy looked to be around fourteen and for a while just stood there silently, not even looking up at him, which was alright with Albus. Taking that moment of strange silence to look over the young student, Albus was surprised to see Malfoy's clone look so, well, un-Malfoy-like. His clothing was obviously second-hand, for one. His shoes were old sneakers that had at one time been white but were now an almost dull gray. The only thing new about them was the shoe laces, both of which were a proud, blinding, neon green. His jeans had stains along the legs, probably left behind from various potion experiments, Albus guessed. He wore a T-shirt, a dark green one. There had been a tear on the hem at some point but it had since been meticulously repaired with thread and needle.

That amused Albus. If his Malfoy had ever torn his clothing, he would have rather thrown it away than even use a simple repair spell on it. This one would rather mend it the old fashioned way than to repair it with magic. Suddenly, the whole situation felt incredibly funny to Albus. Malfoy had once said that Weasleys were known for dressing like paupers and here was Scorpius' double dressed in second hand clothing, looking like an orphan out of some story book. Albus actually chuckled out loud before he could stop himself.

Hearing the laugh, the young boy looked up at Albus so sharply, with an expression filled with so much loathing that Albus's laughter was cut off right at the source. "What the hell is so funny, huh? Find something about me hilarious, asshole?" the young boy spat out, venomously.

Albus was completely taken aback. He wanted to say a lot of things, mainly to remind the young man not to be so rude to his teacher, but he remembered the young boy on the airplane and stopped himself from acting out reflexively. He had laughed because he had mentally thought of the boy as a pauper. He had been in the wrong. "I am terribly sorry," he said apologetically, looking at the young boy with a small smile.

If it had been Scorpius, he would have continued the argument until Albus would consider Stupefying himself just to end matters. Instead, the boy just nodded his head, accepting the apology, the whole thing forgotten in an instant. It was in that moment, Albus decided to stop comparing the two. Malfoy was gone from his life. He could move on now. He had the world's permission to do it.

"So, I just came by to apologize for pelting you with stink bombs earlier. They were a welcome home present for the old man. We honestly forgot that he would be coming back with you," he explained before a grin crept onto his face. "The stink bombs were set to release when someone stepped on one of the stairs. He skipped over it but you didn't, so you got hit. Really, it's his fault. What's an old man doing, skipping steps like a spring chicken? He could have fallen, broken a hip, even."

Albus chuckled at that as he nodded in agreement, rubbing the back of his neck. "I suppose you are right about that one. But Mr. Rutherford does not strike me as someone who accepts his old age without a little fight. Do you normally aim stink bombs at him?"

The boy shook his head. "'Course not. That'd get boring and he'd catch on quick. It was only stink bombs because we wanted to show him that we mastered the water manipulation he showed us before summer break."

"Ah, I saw that. It really was quite impressive. I should get you in touch with my Uncle George. He would be interested in seeing your super-stink bombs. If there's a way to make get them mass- produced and easily transported, he could probably sell them at his shops."

The boy looked at him in awe, his silver gray eyes large as saucers now. " Uncle George you don't mean...George Weasley do you? From... Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes?" he asked excitedly, stepping towards Albus until they were both practically standing in Albus' room.

"The very same. I take it you're a fan?"

"A fan! You have no idea! Me, Matthew and Logan have made a bunch of stuff over the years hoping they could get picked up by Wheezes! Hell, there's even a Wheezes down in Dragons Camp. Dude, do you think Mr. Weasley would be interested in seeing the stink bombs? We... we've got other things too! Loads of other things!" he rattled off, his slender body practically trembling as he tried to contain himself.

Albus nodded his head, smiling. "I know he would be. He and my cousin Roxanne are always looking for new talent. I'll owl him and let him know that I've found a group to watch out for. So it's Matthew, Logan and..."

At that the boy's pale cheeks went bright pink. Standing up a bit straighter, he cleared his throat. "My name's Marius Lucas Rutherford, but I prefer Lucas or just Luke. I think Marius is a stupid name."

"'Rutherford'? Are you related to the principal?"

He shrugged. "Not really. We aren't family, but he's good to me. I took his last name because it's much better than my real one," he explained, hands clenching into fists at his side. "Not that it matters," he added, hands relaxing. "There are loads of people that have taken the old man's last name here. You'll understand eventually. Just don't go around asking every student like you asked me," he said, crossing his arms across his chest, "I'm tough and I don't care bringing up the past, but there are lots of kids, especially the younger ones that'll just start to cry. Or get angry. Or stop talking. It's better to not bring up anything to anyone."

For a second time, Albus looked at Lucas apologetically. "You certainly are very perceptive for someone your age."

Lucas snorted a bit at that. "Uh, duh. You can't stay a kid for too long or else you'll get crushed," he said simply, as if the idea were obvious. Unable to help himself, Albus reached out and ruffled the boy's hair. That startled Lucas, but he didn't pull away. He stood there quietly, letting Albus muss his hair for a while before he pulled away, looking over at the older man shyly, " A-anyway, I have some stuff so to do before dinner. S-s-so see you around, Mr. Potter. I'll try not to hit you with any more stink bombs. Unless you piss me off," he quickly muttered before all but running down the hall.

Watching the boy run off, Albus smiled a bit. He was happy that he had gotten a chance to connect with his first student. But almost just as quickly, a wave of sadness washed over him. Much of what Lucas had said to him just made him feel miserable, but he had taken the child's words to heart. His curiosity had always gotten the better of him at times and luckily, Lucas had given him fair warning that the students here were probably more delicate than they appeared.

Ruefully, Albus thought that it was like having a school full of nothing but Slytherin. As Lucas's form disappeared from sight, Albus thought that the resemblance between him and Scorpius perhaps was not as strong as he thought. It had to have just been his tired mind.

No longer dripping wet, he decided to go for a walk around the school in an attempt to get a feel for his surroundings. He soon realized that the whole building probably had several dozen size charms on it. From the outside, it looked to be a small building, only around three stories and not very wide. Inside, however, he was shocked to see all of the twists and turns, all of the stairways and dead-ends. It was almost like it was a totally different building from how it appeared on the outside. The sheer expanse reminded him a little of the wonder he felt the first time walking through Hogwarts.

He soon realized Peppertongue was a very different beast. The hallways were wider and everything felt new. One feature he liked in particular was the maps on the walls. They showed the rooms on that floor, the room descriptions changing as the rooms did. He would find out later that if one was polite enough, the rooms would wait until one's destination was reached before changing. A lack of punctuality was a pet peeve of the rooms and would cause them to change quickly out of spite.

Albus was equally surprised to see that even though it was summer, many students could be seen running through the halls or practicing magic in the empty classrooms. He only thought it off, however, until he thought back to what Lucas had said. Maybe these students weren't close to their families. Maybe they didn't have anyone to stay with during the summer holidays. Thinking about it now, he realized that it was indeed also unusual to have teachers staying at the school during the summer holidays.

Albus felt a feeling of longing swell in his heart. He was thankful that no matter how chaotic his house (and his family in general) was he always felt like he had a place to go to when school ended. A place he belonged.

He soon heard a familiar voice shouting out commands. He went over to a large open window, leaning against the frame a bit as he looked down. Lucas, his two friends, Matthew and Logan, and a handful of other students were playing a game of Quodpot. He had seen it played a number of times, and, seeing the modified Quaffle quiver in that telltale manner, his hands went up to his ears, bracing himself as it exploded in Logan's hand, Lucas screaming out in joy as his team was awarded points.

Watching the boys play together reminded Albus a little of his younger days, playing Quidditch. Much to his mother's chagrin, he hadn't turned out to be much of a Quidditch player himself, though he always loved to watch the matches back at school.

Lily had been a fantastic Chaser and his brother, James, had been a good Seeker. He could never hold a candle up to Scorpius, though. That was a fact Scorpius loved to rub in James' face at every opportunity. Even when Slytherin was trailing behind in points badly, with no chance of ever catching up, Scorpius would always make sure to catch the Golden Snitch in the most dramatic flourish possible. It was just the kind of person he was.

Even if his House lost to James', Scorpius wanted James to know that he lost to Scorpius, personally. Albus always figured that if it wasn't for the fact that Scorpius was an amazing Seeker, he would have gotten kicked off the team his first year.

All through school, Scorpius never even bothered to pretend to be a team player. Even from the stories his father had told him, Scorpius's father, Draco, at least had a group of friends. Scorpius floated from one group to another, never bothering to fit in with any of them. The only constant beside the golden-haired wonder from the Slytherin dungeons had been Albus, trailing behind him like a shadow. Not that it mattered now, he supposed.

Thankfully, Albus' reminiscing was put to a merciful end when he felt a familiar hand on his shoulders. Rutherford gave him a friendly smile as he looked out at the children tossing around the Quaffle, howling as it exploded in Lucas' face. The young boy hurled out obscenities before chasing Matthew with his broom, wanting revenge. "He's a good boy, Lucas is. Not much of a gracious loser, though. He only likes to play if the cards are in his favor, if you know what I mean."

Albus couldn't help but smile. "Oh, yes. I've known people like him."

"I hope he's properly apologized to you, Albus," he said, looking over at him. "Margaret made sure that all three boys will be disciplined. Though, to be totally honest with you, I don't know what good it will do. They've been here for about five years and have been handed maybe five hundred detentions between them."

Five hundred? Albus looked shocked. "That many detentions and the idea of expulsions haven't come up?"

Rutherford gave a small, sad shake of the head. " This school is home to most of them. Now imagine us expelling orphans with the ability to do magic. The other schools do dish out expulsions, mind you, but not us. I know, it's a weakness in me, I suppose, but I can't bear to kick any of them out."

Albus smiled, turning his attention back to the Quodpot game. "I don't think it's a weakness at all. I am happy you didn't expel Lucas. He and his friends are obviously bright. That stink bomb might have been a rather annoying prank, but it did show off how much they know about charms and potions," Albus said before turning to smile at Rutherford, "They can become excellent wizards if they want. I just hope I can teach them to use their abilities for good instead of evil."

At that, Rutherford snickered, dabbing his handkerchief against his forehead as was his habit. "You have no idea how thrilled I am to hear that! After what happened earlier, I was worried that you were going to leave on the first plane back."

"If I did that, I would never live it down. Besides, I think I am starting to understand the students here, a little at a time," Albus said gently, "From what I gather, they are crass and very blunt, they're quick to hide behind a scowl or a glare, but," Albus leaned against the window sill once more, smiling as he watched the children play, "for the most part, they're still just children."

"You really are as perceptive as I thought," Rutherford said softly, tossing a sidelong glance over at the young teacher. "Your father told me that you were the quiet, observant type. I see that you really do have a good head on your shoulders. Though I should warn you, Occlumency is very popular among the students."

"Occlumency, huh?" Albus asked, looking impressed, "That's a rather difficult ability to learn, especially for school children, isn't it? Even my father has trouble with it to this day and he's the head of the Auror Office back home."

"Well, it isn't part of the regular curriculum but they figure out how to use it if they need it," the older man explained. "It has been rather difficult to keep certain techniques hidden away ever since the War."

Albus nodded his head, understanding Rutherford's meaning. "I suppose one's upbringing has a large effect on what one can do from the beginning. I mean, because of my family, I was always very good at defense against the dark arts," Albus said, hoping that his words didn't seem like a boast.

"And that is why I'm thrilled to have you working for me. Though on that topic, I should warn you about a few things now that I have had a chance to read through your lesson plans," He said, motioning for Albus to follow him down the hallway. "Boggarts and Patronii have, historically, not gone over well here."

Albus glanced over his shoulder at his students one last time before he followed Rutherford. He caught those small expressions between expressions. Guarded hearts. Mistrust. Hopelessness. With the sorts of monsters that no doubt lurked in their hearts, just how much light would it take to cast them out? How much good could Albus really do?

Albus opened his mouth to say something, but Rutherford continued before he could. "Ah, here's the dining hall. After what happened earlier, I hope you've still got an appetite."

Albus just nodded as he followed after Rutherford, his hands feeling cold.

He had been as quiet as a church mouse as Rutherford introduced him to the rest of the staff.

Ms. Hope, the older woman he had met earlier, taught the first years how to fly, the older students how to Apparate, and kept an eye over the Quidditch and Quodpot teams, though it was ultimately up to the captains to actually lay out the training.

Mr. Harwood was a short, ancient looking man who was in charge of potions, though it seemed not for much longer as he mentioned retiring soon. He also mentioned that he was looking forward to backpacking through the Amazon.

Mr. Foster was a fat, good-natured man who taught Herbology and was also the head of the joint school committee that oversaw all inter-school related events.

Mrs. Newberry was a tall, thin woman who appeared to Albus to be skittish by nature, her hands trembling from nerves as she sipped at her coffee. Albus wasn't sure if she trembled so much because of all the caffeine or from the fact that she taught Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Astronomy, and Divination.

Misses Jennifer and Patricia Collins, twins and not much older than Albus from the looks of it, were hired only about three years ago and taught Transfiguration and Charms, respectively.

He also met Mr. Huerta who was the in-school doctor. The man looked rather haggard. He had terrible bags under his eyes, half-hidden by his black, square glasses. He was also unshaven, stubble on his sharp jaw lines. He would have made for quite the romantic figure if it were not for his cantankerous attitude and penchant for sneering out of habit. He looked to be a man who rarely left his office as even his naturally dark skin had a sickly dullness to it.

Albus was surprised to hear that, despite being the principal of the school, Rutherford also taught History of Magic and Muggle Studies. History and social science happened to be passions of his. He was sure that Rutherford's teaching of history of magic was probably more entertaining than Binns' had been.

"Do you also teach care of magical creatures at this school?" Albus asked as he took a bite of his food, looking around the table.

Most of the teachers looked between annoyed and disgusted, but Mr. Foster laughed. "Oh, yes we do, but we actually take that class with the other two schools. It's taught every Saturday. You have to forgive the other teachers," he said when he noticed their faces, "I'm afraid they can be more competitive than the students sometimes."

Washing down his mouthful of food with some water, he nodded his head. "I see. So it's an inter-school class? Do all of the professors attend since it's on a Saturday?"

It was Ms. Hope who answered him now, reaching up to tidy up her bun. "Oh, it's not mandatory or anything like that, Al, but believe me you're gonna want to go. It's a great way to scope out the competition. You get to see the other schools' squirts, see who's a leader and who's a follower." The other teachers nodded in agreement. They all had their own teams and all used the inter-school class as a way of making notes of the other students. "Since you'll be teaching Defense, that means you'll be in charge of putting together some duelists. It's good to keep an eye out for the skills that the other schools have so you can pick the best students for each match."

"Wait, I-I will be putting together a dueling team?" he asked, startled. It was definitely the first time he had heard of that.

"I'm sorry, Albus, I should have mentioned it earlier," Rutherford interjected. "Dueling is indeed one of the many competitions we hold during the year. I figured since you were already teaching the students Defense Against the Dark Arts, you wouldn't mind also being their dueling instructor," the old principal said, nervously swiping sweat off his large forehead.

Albus in fact did not mind. Actually, he was looking forward to it. He smiled slyly as he cut up his potatoes, feigning insult. "Mr. Rutherford, really, taking such liberties without asking for my permission!"

The other teachers at the table burst out in laughter. Albus had been on his best behavior thus far, so it was nice to see the young man relaxing enough to crack jokes. "I think the lady doth protest too much," Huerta said with a snicker as he playfully elbowed Rutherford's side. The whole table laughed once more before the teachers dissolved into smaller conversations, openly trying to talk over each other. Albus was reminded of being back at home where volume control was a foreign concept. He liked sitting around loud, boisterous people, even if he was more of the quiet, reserved type.

With the other teachers distracted, he took the time to take a look around the dining hall. There were many tables, filled with food, but few students. Most of them, Albus noted, came into the room, took the food they wanted and left, their heads bowed low the entire time, not making eye contact, not walking with a group. Albus could see why these students would have such a hard time producing a Patronus. It wasn't their fault. Albus felt his heart ache as he watched children snatching food, some shoving it into their pockets, glancing over their shoulders suspiciously before darting out. Some of the younger ones went to the corners and sat on the ground, trying to make themselves as small as possible. The teachers said nothing. The younger students would adjust to school life at their own pace.

Almost as if blessing Albus with a sign of hope, Lucas and the rest of the students who had been playing Quodpot walked in, their clothing drenched in mud, Quaffle bits, and anti-explosion solution, and headed over to the nearest arrangement of food. Sitting down at the table, they talked as loud as the teachers did, openly laughing and rough housing. Albus' hope was renewed as he watched the group. There was a time when those boys and girls had been scared, angry and by themselves. Eventually, they had found each other and made their own little family. They were proof the school worked.

Turning his attention back to the teachers, he laughed at a story Mr. Harwood was saying about a first year who broke into his supply cabinet and thought he was drinking a Felix Felicis potion. That same student later tried to openly lie about it, even when he was clearly breaking out into painful boils all over his body. Albus laughed even harder when he realized that the first year that Mr. Harwood was talking about was none other than Lucas.

Thousands of miles away from all that he had known, Albus was beginning to think that he had finally found his true calling. He was happy that he decided to be a teacher at Peppertongue. At the very least, it was certainly going for be an interesting semester.