Disclaimer: If I owned the Harry Potter universe, Merope Gaunt wouldn't have had access to a love potion. (And even though this would cause a massive ripple effect, James I and Lily I would still have fallen in love and had a flawless baby due to their complete flawlessness.) But I s'pose I own characters like Barbara, Cordelia, Patricia ... and, well, anyone who wasn't mentioned in J.K. Rowling's family tree.

Chapter One

"Back to Hogwarts"


The beginning of James's seventh year

And Albus's sixth

And Rose's, too

And...yeah, you get the point.

For James Potter, it began with a conversation.

For Cordelia Gilbert, it began with a Quidditch game.

For Rose Weasley, it began in an alley.

For Scorpius Malfoy, it began at a party.

For Patricia Day, the party sufficed as the beginning, too.

For Barbara Tennant, it began with a hat.

For Fred Weasley, it began on a train.

But we'll get to that much, much later.

The first of September arrived rather quickly, and not for the first time, James was more than ecstatic about school. Tall and athletically built, he was, once again, Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and surprisingly, that wasn't the only badge his letter had arrived with in the summer. The same James Potter who punched Evan Cadwallader in third year, and charmed all the doors in the school to play different songs when opened, had been made Head Boy. He'd barely expected to be made prefect – but this, this had made the family's eyes widen.

He arrived on the platform with his sixth-year brother Albus, predictably straight-laced and law-abiding, except for the odd occasion. Al had been made a prefect, too, and, in all honesty, James had thought he'd be the Head Boy of the family, if there had to be one. His younger sister Lily, now in fourth year, was sarcastic and insightful, with a biting wit and her mother's red hair.

'Promise you won't do anything too bad this year, eh, James?'

'Relax, dad,' he said, stepping onto the train after Lily and Albus, 'I'm Head Boy, remember? Might be a bit contradictory if I break more than thirty rules this year.'

Mr. Potter smirked. 'Or thirty hearts, James.'

'Come on, Dad, you know I can't help my God-given gifts.'

'Well, I'm just saying, if your mum gets another letter home from Neville about people reacting to you "God-given gifts"...'

'Shoot, really?'

His father nodded, smirking. Making a mental note to act sourly next time he saw his Herbology professor, James said goodbye to his parents and went off to the prefect's compartment to do whatever it was the Heads were meant to do. Act responsible. Enforce rules. Things he was only half good at. He greeted the Head Girl Barbara, his fellow Gryffindor prefect of the previous two years, with a quick one-armed hug and a grin.

Being Fred's two best friends – though many an argument had ensued as to whether or not James, as a cousin, counted as a best friend – Barbara and James had written to each other upon their appointment as Heads. One was much more enthusiastic than the other.

The rest of the prefects filed in, many of whom with faces James recognized: Albus and Rose, sixth year Gryffindors, along with their Slytherin classmates Scorpius Malfoy and some girl named Patricia Day. There was a Hufflepuff he'd seen before but didn't know by name, and Cordelia Gilbert from Ravenclaw. Her partner and the other Hufflepuff remained quiet. There were his classmates, Slytherins Isaiah Zabini and the unfortunately named Caladora Goyle, along with Alice Longbottom the Hufflepuff, and a gaggle of twittering fifth years. Both James's crowd and not, simultaneously.

'I'd like to start off by just saying hello,' said Barbara. 'My name is Barbara, I'm the Head Girl...'

'James,' he said on cue, nodding his head slightly. 'Head Boy.'

'It's great to see what Prefects we've got lined up this year, quite a few returning faces, and some new ones as well...'

'Did she bore you to death?' muttered James as he exited the compartment with the others ten minutes later. Scorpius Malfoy, three feet away, smirked and entered a compartment with the Day girl. The remaining prefects gave non-committal answers and left.

Sneaking past the trolley of sweets that he usually would have stopped to buy from, James dodged a couple of fellow Gryffindors, one of whom had a sister that he'd dated. His father's parting statement came back to him. 'Or thirty hearts, James...'

Having girls throwing themselves at him constantly was an inexcusable part of being Harry Potter's son. It wasn't that James revelled in it, particularly, though his cousin Dominique had always said he was "too clueless with girls for his own good". He had a talent for making friends; however, the boundaries of said friendships were quite often blurred.

After six years and five semi-romantic encounters, James was still very much a seventeen-year-old boy. In short: he had a rather hazy understanding of what "love" had come to mean.

Rose Weasley had always prided herself on the fact that she was an intelligent, level-headed witch. However, in the last few weeks, she had been incredibly not so. For once, her family had let her go and buy her schoolbooks alone, as per her request, and her time in Diagon Alley had gone well-spent. But not exactly as her parents would have thought.

While Mr. and Mrs. Weasley—well, one pair of them—had thought their daughter would be doing nothing more than visiting the apothecary, Flourish Blott's, and perhaps her uncles' shop, Rose had made other plans.

She hadn't meant to snog Scorpius Malfoy in the narrow slit alleyway between The Leaky Cauldron and the neighbouring shop. She hadn't planned to have a drink with him, either, or spend three hours doing things that her father would have killed her for doing. Rose was sure Scorpius hadn't even thought about the events of that day continuing in any form, given who his father was and the identity of hers. However, being a one-off snog appealed to her even less than being in some kind of relationship with a Malfoy.

'What are we doing?' she had asked him as they broke apart. The alley was dark, but it was safe from the eyes of other passersby in the street. Scorpius's grey-green eyes seemed to tease her.

'I don't know, Weasley – I thought we were snogging.'

'Yes, you dunce, but is this going to happen again, or...?'

'Do you want it to?'

Rose scowled. 'You're not making this any easier. I want to know if you're snogging me because you want to go out on a proper date, instead of having a bloody shufti in an alley two weeks before we go back to school, or if you're just doing it because I'm around and you're a bastard.'

Scorpius looked contemplative. 'Which would you prefer? Do you want to make this into something, or would you rather stick to keeping our distance?'

'Well, let's see. Snog a girl's brains out and then ask if she wants to be in a relationship, or go back to ignoring each other like nothing ever happened? I wonder.'

He glared at her. 'Fine. See you in Charms, then?'

She punched him.

'Yes – all right – are we exclusive?'

Rose felt triumphant. She straightened herself out, pulling hair out of her face. 'Yes, that sounds about right.' She moved to leave, because she'd been an hour later than she ought to have been, but Scorpius called out to her.

'Where are you going?' he asked. 'Snog me, become — strictly speaking — my girlfriend and then leave without so much as goodbye? And you're lecturing me about morals!'

But that was two weeks ago, and if there was any time for morals, becoming a labeled thing was the end of that front. She hadn't told her parents, her friends, no one in her family. They would have hexed her. She would have hexed herself. If it weren't for the fact that she had snuck out to see him five nights in a row last week, and six times the week before that, then she would have probably done something drastic — like obliviating him. Rose would have liked it if he loved her, but where was the realism in that? He was a Slytherin. The enemy. But — enemy or not — Scorpius Malfoy was a damn good kisser.

Rose stayed behind, near an empty compartment, while Albus and the other prefects continued on. She had her rounds in 25 minutes, but Scorpius's were set up to begin in five, so she didn't have to wait long. He had told her he'd split from Patricia to meet her in Compartment G, which had fortunately remained empty.

She carefully slid open the door and entered, flicking the lock shut on the door as she did so. She closed the blinds so that no one could see inside — which you technically weren't allowed to do, but Rose would get herself out of that later, were she caught — and then she waited.

'Oh, god, it's about time,' she said, when the knock on the door sounded and Scorpius was revealed. She pulled him inside and locked the door again, charming it so that no one else could open it before they left.

'I've got five minutes,' said Scorpius quickly.

'Then we'd best not waste it talking.'

Scorpius looked at her for a few seconds. 'Wow, Rose Weasley, I'm beginning to think you might be fond of me.'

Rose ignored him. 'Four minutes,' she said tersely.

'Not gotten sick of me, have you?' Scorpius asked moments later, pulling away when he felt Rose's enthusiasm slacken.

She shook her head. 'Of course not.'

'Then what's the problem?'

Rose contemplated telling him — telling him that even though the danger of being found here on the train was greater than the times in Diagon Alley or in the trees surrounding his house, she wasn't really getting anything from this — but thought better of it. 'Nothing. Everything's fantastic.'

It was two minutes before Scorpius had to leave, and so Rose decided to forget her sodding disappointment and try to enjoy whatever it was still lingering. If she could.

Straightening Scorpius's tie, she noticed a forgotten smear of her lip gloss and wiped it away quickly. He looked at her for clarification, raising his eyebrows.

'You're good to go.'

And then he did.

The squabbling could be heard from the corridor outside, but no one could imagine how intense the argument was unless you were witnessing it firsthand. The Weasley family — any member of it — was a nightmare to be around when debating which Quidditch team was superior. These arguments fortunately did not include school teams, because most of the family were in Gryffindor, but it was teams like Puddlemere United and the Appleby Arrows that one had to worry about.

'I'm telling you!' cried fourteen-year-old Hugo, 'the Cannons are bound to have a streak of luck soon — they've got a new Keeper, Byron Temple — '

' — Real interesting, mate,' Fred said loudly, 'but you only support the Chudley Cannons because you were brainwashed by your dad. They stink! Puddlemere's got the cup for sure!'

Roxanne, Louis and Lucy yelled their support, while the others in the compartment: Molly and Lily primarily, exclaimed that other teams like Pride of Portree and the Holyhead Harpies were much better.

Barbara, a supporter of the Harpies, remained quiet in the corner, because she didn't want to partake in the bloodshed that would surely be at risk of ensuing. Were Dominique or Victoire or Teddy here, they would probably argue favorably, but Dominique had left Hogwarts last year, and Victoire and Teddy were long gone. More than five years, long gone.

'You lot do know you're causing quite a stir outside,' said Albus loudly, entering the compartment. 'I don't think people in the Pacific Ocean heard you.'

Hugo and Fred glared at each other. It looked a bit funny; Fred, tall, tough and muscular, bearing the same expression as his cousin, thin, stringy and about to hit a growth spurt. Roxanne and Lucy laughed and stood, grabbing their things from where they sat on the shelf.

'We're going to go and see if we can find Denise Crockford.'

Lily got up, too, just after her cousins left. 'Martin Macmillan told me he needed to speak to Hugo,' she said. 'We should get going.'

Hugo rose, still glaring at Fred and nodded. Both retrieved their jumpers and sweets and departed, leaving Molly, Fred, Albus, Louis, and Barbara in the compartment together. There wasn't much to argue about now. Molly and Fred were seventh years, like Barbara, and Louis and Albus were in the year below, N.E.W.T.s leaning over all of them like astutely-placed vultures.

'Thank Merlin they're gone,' said Molly. She sighed and leaned forward. 'I couldn't have Lucy knowing this... I'm seeing Archie Myers.'

Barbara raised her eyebrows. Archie Myers was a Beater on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. He had fair hair and a strong jawline, almost square. Barbara had never known him to utter one word, except when yelling plays. Apparently, he got good marks, though.

'That git with a face that looks like it's been hit by a Bludger?'

Molly scowled at Fred. 'I don't know what you're talking about.'

'Come on—the Ravenclaw one?'

'What other Archie Myers' do we know, Fred?' asked Molly angrily. She looked around at Albus, Louis and Barbara, like she was seeking approval.

'How long have you two...?' asked Al.

'Not too long. Since the end of last term, we've been writing all holidays.'

Fred didn't look too happy. Barbara knew that, as he was one of the Gryffindor Beaters, he was obliged to feel less than cordial about Molly's relationship with Archie Myers. In fact, on many an occasion, Fred had called the Ravenclaw many names, the nicest of which was 'saucepan face'.

'Look, I understand that you lot mightn't be too happy for me, but at least try to pretend you are—'

'No, no!' cried Barbara. 'Of course we're happy for you. Archie's... sublime. It's just that we've never really seen you two together, and...'

'Should we be grateful we've never had to witness that?' Louis put in. Leave it to Louis to ponder the physicality of the relationship. Molly cracked a smile.

'I don't know,' she said. 'We've only been on a couple of dates.'

'Can't you leave this pansy-love stuff for the girls' dormitories?' asked Fred, thoroughly disgusted.

While Barbara rolled her eyes, Albus and Louis nodded their agreement. 'I mean, we're happy for you. But, really, Molls?'

This bickering continued until Molly left the compartment to seek out Saucepan Face herself and the topic moved from her relationship to Louis's mismatched socks.

It was announced that they would be arriving in half an hour, and Cordelia Gilbert was ecstatic. She was on prefects' rounds and her partner, Connor Wilson, had just left to go down the other side of the train. Though he was mildly attractive and somewhat intelligent, Connor was awkward and Cordelia found it hard to have a conversation with him about anything. He also kind of gave her the creeps.

She was passing by Compartment J when she couldn't help but overhear a conversation transpiring between James Potter and Christopher Wood. The door was slightly ajar and she paused briefly, trying to appear as though she were checking neighbouring compartments for something.

'Now that Davies is gone, I wonder who their new captain is,' James was saying.

'Better not be Bowen.'

James scoffed. 'He'd deserve it after four years, yeah, but I'm not overly keen on that idea.'

So they were talking about the Quidditch cup, and who the new Ravenclaw captain was. A smile played on her lips. Was "funny" the word for how she felt that they hadn't thought a girl could get it? She'd been playing as long as Will Bowen – surely that meant something.

'Merlin, though, if it's Myers—'

'If it's Myers, it'll only take ten minutes for him to hit himself with the Bludger. How he's a Ravenclaw, I'll never know.'

Archie Myers, thought Cordelia, was a gifted Quidditch player. Not the best, not going to play for Britain, but he was a very good Beater. And yet –

'Archie's not the captain.'

Both James and Christopher turned in shock to see whom it was standing in the doorway. Half surprised that she'd barged in on their conversation, and half very pleased about it, Cordelia remained standing in the doorway.

'He's not?' said James, half-coy. He sounded more—for lack of a better word—sultry than he had when speaking to Wood. 'How would you know, Gilbert?'

'He's only been playing for two years,' she said, inviting herself in and sitting down on the bench opposite them to address the boys in an almost businesslike manner.

'Not Ashwood or any of his lot, though?' said James, grinning.

Cordelia replied monotonously, 'he's an idiot.'

'Then who is it, dearest?' James asked.

She shrugged. 'If it hasn't occurred to you – '

' – It's not you, is it, Gilbert?'

Another shrug, coupled with a bit of a smirk.

James raised his eyebrows, and Wood shot him a glance, like he wasn't exactly sure what Cordelia was on about. The Head Boy turned to Wood and sighed, resting his hands on his knees. 'Well, then, mate, we've got a lot more planning to do than I thought.'

'It'd be stupid to ask if you were captaining Gryffindor again, wouldn't it?'

James grinned. 'Wouldn't want to be stupid, would you, Gilbert?'

'And... as cocky as ever,' she said, standing. 'I'm off.'

As she left, with the compartment door slightly ajar, James called, 'bye, Gilbert!'

Continuing down the hall, smiling slightly, she heard Christopher Wood say something to James Potter, and she could almost see the incredulity on his face when he stated, 'you want to snog her, don't you?'

Having the friends she did, Rose never had to worry about carriages, and rushing to get to one once everyone disembarked from the train. Liz Pembridge, stocky in build and incredibly stubborn, had grabbed a carriage in record time; Rose stepped inside with a deep breath and pulled her coat from her shoulders. The inside of the carriage was much warmer than the nippy day outside. It was a second or two before Liz opened the carriage window and craned her neck to look for the right people in the crowd outside.

'Oi!' Liz yelled, putting arm out the window so to wave. 'Lottie! Lottie Flanagan! Come on, you — yes, you tosser, it's Liz!'

Moments later, the carriage door opened and in shuffled two very different girls. The first was the aforementioned Lottie Flanagan, who — like Liz — was Muggleborn, and who — unlike Liz — was just about as Irish as a person could get. She was tiny, with twinkling green eyes, permanently wide and slightly translucent, making her look constantly naïve and childish. Her hair was red, though lighter than Rose's and her family's, and flew out in loose curls from her head.

The second, Melissa Jordan, was reasonably tall, dark-skinned and confident. She was easily the strangest of Rose's friends, but having heard what Melissa's father — Lee — got up to with Uncles Fred and George, Rose was never surprised.

Melissa took the seat beside Rose, and Lottie beside Liz, who was shutting the window very robustly. As the carriage began pulling away, they began the usual talk of the previous summer; what had happened, what hadn't, who they wish they had seen, who they would have avoided given the chance, and Rose did not see fit to mention Scorpius. Lottie, Liz, and Melissa knew of the old rivalry, and though they didn't particularly care for it, Liz at least would have named it a travesty and gone immediately to inform James or Fred or Molly.

'I heard Shelley Corner stole Tracey McLaggen's boyfriend,' Liz said.

Shelley Corner was a Ravenclaw, equally talented with magic and being the topic of gossip. Rose had to admit that stealing Tracey McLaggen's boyfriend was no small feat. Tracey herself had been a seventh year in the one last, so she wasn't going to be parading around the halls with her full head of gorgeous, golden hair any more, making lads swoon just as much as any Veela — except perhaps Victoire, who had been gone a fair few years now — could have. Tracey certainly wouldn't be flirting with James any more, though, which had caused quite a scandal a few Valentine's Days past. The most recent of James' girlfriends, no one else ever really compared.

Except, perhaps, Shelley Corner.

'How do you know?' Melissa demanded.

Lottie blushed. She did that a lot. 'They were found snogging at Tracey's brother's wedding — apparently Shelley's sister was a friend of the bride — and Tracey just went to get a firewhiskey or something, came back, and someone was yelling about them in the bushes! It was frightful!' She paused for a moment before continuing, more reasonably. 'I do feel bad for poor Tracey, though; I mean, she's gorgeous, and losing her boyfriend to a tart like that — at her brother's wedding, too...'

The four girls bowed their heads, as if in mourning.

'I don't know how we're supposed to get boyfriends if we've got Shelley Corner romping around this year,' said Melissa. 'She'll snog anything with a pulse.'

'I doubt that's even an important factor for her,' Liz muttered.

'Well, at least I'm sure my family's safe,' Rose said, setting her coat down beside her and exhaling. 'I mean, if she's already had James – '

'Wait, when was she with James?' asked Lottie.

'Fourth year,' Rose clarified, quickly moving on, 'and if she has any ethics—which I'm sure she probably doesn't, but let's give her the benefit of the doubt—she won't go after any more Weasleys.'

'Yeah, but then what about Scorpius Malfoy?'

Liz glared at the rest of them when they looked at her with puzzled expressions. 'I mean, I know he's a Slytherin, and he can be a right pain in the arse, but he's dishy and none of you can say otherwise.'

Liz was certainly right on that one, Rose agreed. Scorpius Malfoy was dishy. He was also meeting her every other night for a good, long snog if he knew what was right for him.

'I suppose...but isn't he with that Day bird? What's her name — Patricia?'

Rose snorted. 'They're just best mates. Trust me: there is nothing happening there.'

Ignoring her friends' questioning looks, and the fact that she probably shouldn't have let her guard down long enough to say even that, Rose looked out the window at the rapidly darkening sky, and saw Hogwarts looming over them.

'We're almost there.'

They were climbing out of the carriage a little later when Liz said, 'Merlin knows how much things are going to change around here.'

Lottie jumped out of the carriage and landed on the ground with a little hop, and then Rose did the same. The castle stood omnipotent before her. She couldn't help agreeing with Liz. The year was about to begin, and only Merlin knew what was in store.