NOTES: This is the first finished story of a 'nextgen' series I'm hoping to write focusing on Rose, Albus, Scorpius, and an original character. It's not the first story in the chronology, but it's sort of my first sketch where I'm working out the personalities of the various characters. We'll see how it goes.

The Pointy End Of The Stick

Albus is nearly worried by the time Scorpius drags Bran Pendergast into the classroom.

"Had trouble collaring him?"

"Nothing I needed your help for."

Branthwaite Pendergast might have been voted 'Best-Looking Boy At Hogwarts' for the last three years, but he's a coward at heart, and a sniveller besides. He sprawls on the floor where Scorpius dumped him, nearly trembling with fear. Most other guys Al knows would at least be on their feet, wands out, ready to fight back.

Then again, most of the guys Al knows well are also Gryffindors.

"What's this about?"

"For a Ravenclaw, he's not too bright, is he?" Al glances at Scorpius. "You want to spell it out for him?"

"It'll be my pleasure." Scorpius kneels down beside the other boy and smiles. It's not a nice smile. "See, here's the thing, Pendergast. You're dating one of our friends, which means certain rules come into play."

"Rose isn't dating either of you! She's entirely free to see whoever she wants."

"Did I say she wasn't free to see other guys, Al?"

"I don't recall that you did, Scorps."

"That's what I thought, Al. However, Pendergast, as I mentioned before, Rose is a friend. In Potter's case, she's family. It's that Weasley clan thing - and you know how the Weasleys are about family, don't you, Pendergast?"

"Uh... Yes?"

Pendergast really isn't all that bright. Clever, perhaps, in the way that you can learn facts and figures; but not the sharpest quill in the pot when it comes to people.

"So, you and Rose are an item. Al doesn't have a problem with that. Hils is fine with it. Even I'm going to refrain from hexing you into next week. However, Rose's brother Hugo has...should we call it 'concerns', Al?"

"Concerns is a good word."

"Hugo Weasley is a hothead," Pendergast snaps, colour rising in his cheeks. "Did you see him at the Duelling club the other week?"

"Did you see Hugo at the Duelling club the other week, Al?"

"I think everyone saw Hugo at the Duelling club. He was kind of hard to miss."

"He hexed me!"

"I thought that was the point of Duelling Club," Al murmured.

"Really?" Scorpius has astonishment written all over his face. "I thought the point was to learn how to shield. Which, clearly, you need to learn better, Pendergast. But we've gotten off-track."

"Hugo's concerns."

Pendergast's eyes flicker to Al, then back to Scorpius as the other guy begins talking.

"Exactly. Hugo's young and hotheaded - it's the Weasley temper. If you do anything to hurt Rose, you'll see Hugo coming from a long way off. You'll have plenty of time to shield. Of course, then your shields have to hold. But, you see, you'll have warning with Hugo. And then there'll be Al, here. Upright and responsible..."

"On occasion."

"When the mood hits him," Scorpius agrees. "Chivalrous and straight-shooting. Gryffindor to the core. You'll see him coming, because he'll be coming at you from the front. Of course, Al's got a bit of the Weasley temper in him, so there's no telling what might happen, eh? Plus, his dad's Harry Potter, which I imagine counts for a few things, right, Al?"

"Well, maybe a few."

Al makes sure he sounds off-hand. In truth, he's having way more fun with this than he ever supposed he would. So is Scorpius from the sound of it. They didn't plan it quite like this, but it's working out better than he ever expected.

"And then there's me, since Hils has agreed to leave dealing with you up to us." Scorpius slides his wand through his fingers, back and forth like a violin bow, and his eyes rest on Pendergast with an unwavering regard.

"Dealing with me? But I haven't done anything wrong yet!"

"Yet?" Al inquires and watches Pendergast pale.

"I mean, I'm not going to- We're just-"

"You know, Pendergast, the Malfoys have been Slytherins since Salazar's time. We're generally self-interested, cunning, and ruthlessly practical. Emphasis on the 'ruthless' part. But we do understand about protecting our own. And if you hurt Rose, then you might see Hugo coming, and you might have time to shield against Al, but this is the only warning you're going to get from me." Scorpius pauses. "And I don't play nice. Do I, Al?"

"He plays dirty," Al says, going for earnest and disarming honesty. "Trust me. It's all about the winning with Malfoy."

"When you're good, you're good. And I'm good." And that's Scorpius to the core: modesty is for lesser mortals. "So do we understand each other, Pendergast?"

"Y...Yes."

"Excellent. Then I think our work here is done." Scorpius climbs to his feet, then taps his wand on his fingers. "You're not going to say anything to Rose, are you?"

"N...No."

"Then we'll leave you to get back to Ravenclaw Tower. You'd better have practised those Notice Me Not charms, Pendergast, because Al and I aren't going to escort you back."

The Ravenclaw, suitably warned, just stares at them, as though waiting for the next blow. But Albus has the cloak in hand, Scorpius opens the door, and they slip out of the room under its folds before Pendergast has so much as climbed to his feet.

They're several corridors away and in a deserted passage - no portraits or anything - before Albus speaks. "I think that went well."

"He nearly wet himself when I grabbed him." Scorpius' voice echoes Albus' disgust of the other guy's cowardice before he grins. "But yeah, it was fun. I like being the bad guy."

Al thinks it's time to end that spell. "You do know that if Rose ever finds out we threatened Pendergast, she'll serve our balls up on toast?"

"Maybe she'll go easy on us - she likes us, after all."

Albus isn't so sure about that. Rose has changed a lot in the last year - from bookworm to beauty, as his mum noted at Christmas. Not that she's anything like, say, Dominique, who keeps score of the guys whose hearts she's broken along the way. She's just Rose.

Still, Bran Pendergast isn't the kind of guy he'd ever have thought Rose might be interested in.

"What does she see in Pendergast, anyway?" Scorpius asks, unconsciously echoing Al's thoughts as they reach the intersection where they part ways to their respective common rooms. "I mean, sure he's good looking, but he's a prat."

"Says one good-looking prat of another." Albus smirks as Scorpius ducks out from beneath the cloak and gives him a mock-glare.

"I'm not the only prat the girls find irresistable around here." The smile on the proud, pointed face is wickedly smug. "Or were those rumours I heard about you and Mira Patil down in the Herbology greenhouses complete bunk, then?"

Ice-blue eyes laugh as Albus' ears heat up, but he's not about to kiss and tell. "I'll see you in Potions tomorrow."

"And I can tell Helena she hasn't got a Gryffindor's chance at the House Cup, then?"

Albus rolls his eyes. Helena Bosevic is a man-eater, plain and simple. And this year, she's set her sights on Albus Severus Potter - much to the amusement of those near and dear to him. "Shut up and slither back to your dungeon, Scorpius."

"And that wasn't Sukey Warwick-Mason sending you love letters last year?"

Albus pulls the cloak over his head to disguise the fact that his cheeks are now going red. "I'm going now, Malfoy," he announces as he walks away. "If you work out what Rose sees in him, let me know. In the meantime, better practise your own Notice-Me-Not charms."

He glances back once - just in time to see Scorpius grin and wave his wand as his lips move in the incantation - and then Albus' attention is taken by a gleam of light off one of the suits of armour in the corridor.

When he remembers his friend in the corridor, he looks back but there's no-one there.

- fin -

FEEDBACK: I'd love to know what you think! I've never written an HP Next Gen fic before, so it's an interesting experience!