Albus Potter and the Cunning Plan
Pairing(s): Albus/Scorpius, other minor ones (including Harry/Ginny, loosely, and Draco/Astoria)
Warnings: language, some canon is ignored; OC's for story's sake; minor angst, dark tones and violence in later chapters, about what you might find in the average HP book.
Notes: Post-epilogue; takes place right after the end of the epilogue when Albus boarded the Hogwarts Express. This will be a much different take on the life of Albus Severus Potter than my other fic, and will probably ignore some canon.
Spoilers: All seven books
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and its characters belong to JK Rowling and Warner Brothers, etc. But the original characters in here are mine. Don't use them without my permission.
The Infamous Sorting
Once the Hogwarts Express rounded the bend and Albus could no longer see his parents and sister waving at him, he made his way down the aisle to find a compartment. It was only rational that he would sit with his brother and cousin, and so he did, at least for a while.
But his cousin, Rose, decided to find another compartment. The reason being that she couldn't stand the roughhousing James and his friends Kevin Mars and Gareth Jupitus were doing. She wanted to finish reading the first chapter of her Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1), but she couldn't concentrate from all the noise.
Although Albus wasn't doing the same as his cousin, he found the rowdiness of his Gryffindor brother, and his brother's friends, to be a bit taxing. So he agreed to follow Rose out, thankfully without any comments from James for doing so. He honestly couldn't understand James most times, and he didn't think he wanted to. Could he even stand to be in the same common room as him, let alone the same House?
The only other compartment that was free for them to sit in had one person inside already. He recognized the blond-haired boy as Scorpius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy's son. Rose recollected him being mentioned by her parents too, but didn't seem to care.
"Remember," Albus jokingly said in a low tone, "don't get too friendly with him."
"Oh hush," Rose said, cheeks lightly dusted with pink. Although Rose had freckles like the average Weasley, they were a cinnamon brown, and her hair was more like a burnt amber than flaming red, which made her stand out during the Weasley family gatherings. So did the fact that she much preferred a book to any Quidditch game. She was somewhat of the odd duck out, like Albus.
"Guess this is as good a spot as any," Albus said. He'd only heard vague mentions of the Malfoy family, but he hadn't paid it much mind. To him, the Malfoys were just that old wizarding family that had given his Dad and Uncle Ron trouble, but nothing too sinister (or so his Dad had said, but his uncle would go on and on about how evil the Malfoys were and how they came from a long line of Slytherins). Besides, if Malfoy was quiet during the trip it would save on his headache, and Rose would get her reading done.
Ever since they were little, Al and Rose had been rather close, both of them despairing for their brothers and cousins. Albus was almost frequently teased by James, and it became doubly so whenever James had his friends over. Rose was forever annoyed with her little brother Hugo, who seemed to like snooping into her stuff even though she would repeatedly tell him not to. Whenever Rose and Hugo came to visit the Potters, Rose always hid in Al's room for some peace and quiet, and because they got along a lot better than the other cousins. Yes, even his cousins Lucy and Molly sometimes got on his—their—nerves.
Albus slid the compartment door open. It startled Malfoy and he looked up, mouth opening as if ready to make some sort of remark, but when he saw who it was that entered his retort died and he began to stare dumbfounded.
"Mind if we sit here? The other compartments are full."
"Suppose not," Malfoy said. His voice had a slight haughty manner to it, but Al paid it no mind.
"Thanks," said Al. He seated himself across from Malfoy, doing his best to seem friendly. "I'm Albus," he added after a pause, not wanting to seem rude as well. "Albus Potter."
"Yes, I've heard of you," Malfoy said. "Father talks about the Potters and Weasleys often enough." He looked over as Rose sat herself beside Albus. "You're a Weasley, aren't you? I can't tell for sure."
"Yeah, I am," Rose said, blushing softly. "And you're Scorpius Malfoy."
"Obviously," Malfoy said. He looked as if he wasn't sure whether to be nice or put on a sneer. Finally he settled for staring out the window. Albus decided to do the same since he didn't want to cause any trouble before he even got to Hogwarts. Rose sighed in pleasure at the silence and took out her book.
"Oh," Malfoy said after a moment, startling Al to look away from the passing scenery. "You're one of those bookworms, I see." He then looked as if he couldn't believe he'd just said that.
Albus glanced at Rose, but Rose hadn't raised her eyes from her book, obviously trying to ignore Malfoy. Albus looked back at Malfoy, wondering what he was getting at.
"So what if she is?" Al spoke up for his cousin. "Is there something wrong with being interested in books and knowledge?"
"'Course not," Malfoy sniffed. "But it's obvious from the swottiness that Miss Weasley here is the daughter of Hermione Weasley, nee Granger, wife of Ronald Weasley."
Albus had no clue as to how Malfoy knew all this, and then remembered how he'd said that he heard about Al from his father and figured that that was where Malfoy had heard of Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione too.
"And I suppose it was obvious that I'm the son of Harry Potter," Albus said.
"Yes," said Malfoy, "and it's also obvious that you'll end up in the same House as him. Harry Potter was a notorious Gryffindor, getting into danger and getting out of it by sheer luck; having a 'saving people thing'; thinking he was above everyone else just because he defeated the Dark Lord during the war, that sort of thing."
Albus felt anger burn deep within his core, but tamed it quickly. Scorpius Malfoy had most likely heard all this from his father, and hadn't heard much from the other perspective. He had no idea what Malfoy meant by the whole 'defeating the Dark Lord' thing, but maybe he was talking about the war his parents had been in at Hogwarts. Al took a few calming breaths and then looked Malfoy in the eye.
"It's true that my dad was a well-known Gryffindor and that he was into saving people (isn't that a Gryffindor thing anyway?), but you're wrong in thinking that he thought himself better than anyone else. My dad is very humble about such things, and whenever anyone asks him about any of the stuff he did during his school days, he gets embarrassed and changes the subject. I know him much better than you, so don't assume that everything you hear about him is true. That's being condemnatory."
"Big word for a Gryffindor," said Malfoy.
"And how do you know I'll be a Gryffindor?" Albus shot back. "For all you know, I could get Sorted into a different House."
"I don't know about that," Malfoy said. "You've got an older brother in Gryffindor, don't you? It's obvious you'll follow his example."
Albus was getting really tired of others thinking they knew him better than he did. While it was true that he'd been worried about what his family would think if he wasn't Sorted into Gryffindor, the main reason for it wasn't what everyone thought. James kept teasing him, saying he'll be in Slytherin; his Uncle Ron would teasingly say that he'd disown them (Al and Rose) if they were Sorted into Slytherin, and so on. He was worried mainly because he knew that he wasn't a Gryffindor. He didn't want to disappoint his parents or his aunt and uncles, but the more Al thought on it the more likely it became.
He glanced at Rose, but she was still busy trying to concentrate on her textbook. And from the looks of it, she was done with chapter one and going on chapter two.
Al didn't know why he said it, especially with his cousin sitting right there, but he admitted aloud, "I won't be in Gryffindor."
Rose gasped and looked up from The Standard Book of Spells. Malfoy's posture straightened considerably in his seat. They were both staring at him with confused and bewildered expressions.
"What do you mean you won't be in Gryffindor?" Rose said. "You're brave, aren't you? And chivalrous."
"That's just it," Al said, shrugging. He looked at his feet, scuffing the toe of his shoe on the floor. "I really don't want to be… brave all the time."
Rose looked as if she'd just seen a troll in a tutu doing rhythmic gymnastics.
"I'm serious; I'm not brave," Al explained more clearly. "I just… didn't want to disappoint Dad." He hung his head.
"Oh, Al," Rose sighed. She placed her bookmark into the textbook and closed it, set it aside, and scooted closer to her favorite cousin. "You know that sometimes bravery doesn't come easy. Look at Professor Longbottom. Our parents have told us again and again how when he was a student at Hogwarts he was somewhat meek and scared a lot, but he still stood up for what was right, and had done some really courageous acts during the battle at Hogwarts."
"True," Al sighed. "But that isn't what I mean by saying that I'm not brave. What I mean is: I'm not like James. I'm not even like Dad in that respect, not overly anyway. And I…" Albus swallowed a lump in his throat, sensing that Malfoy was watching and listening closely, but Al didn't care. He'd never spoken about his thoughts on who he was and what he was like aloud. "You see, Rose, if I had the choice between saving my own skin and fighting…" Here, Albus shrugged, hoping Rose understood.
"You mean… you'd run away?" Rose said, voice barely above a whisper. She sounded flabbergasted.
"To live another day," Al said jokingly, and he gave her a half-smile, hoping it was enough to defuse the situation.
"You're—you're serious," Malfoy said, looking just as stunned. "But, if you won't be telling the Sorting Hat that you want to be in Gryffindor, then what will you tell it?"
"That's just it," Albus frowned. "I'm not sure. I'm definitely not a Hufflepuff. I don't like hard work and always being so bloody truthful (who wants to live like that?). I'm certainly not a swotty Ravenclaw—no offense, Rose. I mean, I like learning and being able to acquire new spells and such, but I don't want to keep my nose buried in books."
Albus looked away sheepishly, eyes lowered. He didn't want to say what else he was thinking, about his characteristics and viewpoints. Of course, not saying anything was also as good as telling them outright about where he knew he'd be sorted.
"And?" Malfoy said, hanging off the edge of his seat. "What about Slytherin?"
Al's frown deepened and his brow knitted together, but he still didn't look at either of them.
"My parents, and most of my relatives, hope I don't end up in Slytherin," he said gloomily.
Malfoy and Rose waited to see if he would say anything else, but he didn't. They looked at each other and then back to Albus.
"And?" Malfoy repeated.
"And," said Albus, "I—I'm a coward!" He buried his face into his hands; his voice was muffled on rest of his words. "I'm shifty, cunning, resourceful, and… and full of determination… and I want to-to prove myself..."
The compartment was dead silent. Albus's shoulders shook as he tried to keep hold of his emotions, but it was futile. Rose realized almost immediately that her cousin was crying and put an arm around his shoulders. Unable to help it, Al pressed his wet face into her shoulder and let the tears silently fall. He had no idea why he was crying; he must have been bottling it all up since he'd first realized he wasn't a Gryffindor. Which had probably been the day before they left for King's Cross. Not only that, but he'd had an inkling of it since he was six years old, but hadn't thought much of it.
"I'm—I'm n-not evil," Al sobbed into Rose's neck. "I swear I'm not! But if I'm Sorted into Slytherin, all—my family will—will think so!"
"Of course they won't think you're evil," Rose said, continuing to rub his back in a soothing manner. "Remember what your dad said before we left for King's Cross? He said that it is our choices that show who we really are, not our abilities. And remember that you're named after one of the greatest Slytherin headmasters Hogwarts had even had, and he was Dumbledore's man through and through, just like your dad." Rose blushed lightly when she realized she'd been mostly repeating what she'd read in one of the books that talked about her uncle Harry and his adventures.
Albus remembered, but it didn't make him feel any better. James was going to tease and mock him even worse now. He was doomed to be nicknamed Asp forever.
"Hey, Slytherin House is the best," Malfoy said, and Al wasn't sure if he was trying to make him feel better or was boasting. "Father told me about it all. The other three Houses despise Slytherin, but they don't know what they're missing, really. The House may have turned out more dark witches and wizards than any other, but that doesn't mean that all dark witches and wizards came from Slytherin. Father told me that there had been a few bad eggs from Gryffindor and Hufflepuff as well, and even a handful from Ravenclaw. So really, just because a person is Sorted into Slytherin doesn't necessarily mean they're evil."
Albus removed himself from Rose midway through Scorpius's little speech and sat there listening. When Malfoy finished, Al nodded solemnly, wondering if it was possible that he could be Slytherin and good at the same time.
"You'll be a great wizard, Albus, just like your father and namesakes," Rose said, still looking at him with sympathetic eyes. "Just because your temperament is aimed more toward Slytherin doesn't necessarily mean you're a bad person. I mean, your dad had a few Slytherin qualities when he was at Hogwarts, did you know? I've read all about it in the new edition of Hogwarts, A History. Your dad had a lot of resourcefulness and a certain disregard for the rules. That didn't mean he'd wound up bad."
"No, but he still ended up in Gryffindor because he told the Hat to put him in there," Albus said. He sighed and brought his knees up to hug, burying half his face into his knees. "I'm going to disappoint him, I just know it."
"Of course you won't! Just like I won't disappoint my parents by going into Ravenclaw."
Albus uncoiled himself and angled closer to Rose. "You really mean that?"
"Mean what?" Rose asked, leaning away from him.
"That you'll be Sorted into Ravenclaw."
"Oh, yes," she said, straightening up in her seat. "I'm bound to be put in Ravenclaw. I mean, Gryffindor's nice and all, but I'd much prefer a good book to all the running around and breaking rules."
Albus smiled. "Yeah, me too. You don't think… I mean, maybe I could try for Ravenclaw after all."
"But you've just said that you're not a Ravenclaw," Rose pointed out. "You don't want to be always stuck with your nose in a book, remember? That's what you said."
"Oh yeah," Al sighed. He knew he'd make a terrible Ravenclaw. "But—but Slytherin?" He felt miserable again.
"Oi, pureblood Slytherin sitting right here!" Malfoy huffed.
"Case in point," Albus laughed. And just like that, the majority of his sadness left him.
"Not funny, Potter."
"Oh, quit your pouting. Besides, who says you're a Slytherin? What if you end up in Hufflepuff?"
"Perish the thought!" Malfoy gasped. "I'd beg Father to put me in Durmstrang if that were to happen. I'm sure he could do it, too."
"Well, you definitely have the determination down," Rose commented. "And some cunning, too."
"That I do," Malfoy smirked.
"So you should have no worries as to which House you're to be Sorted into," Al said. "As for me…"
"So what if you're put in Slytherin?" Malfoy said, glowering. "You certainly won't regret it; I can assure you of that. Father has told me loads of stories of his time in Slytherin, and believe me, none of those goodie-goodie Gryffindors know of the things that happen down in the dungeons."
That piqued Al's interest, so with dry eyes and curiosity thrumming through him, he urged Malfoy to go on. Malfoy looked to Rose, as if silently wondering if it was okay to speak while she was there, and Albus reassured him that Rose was fine and that they could trust her.
"She must promise not to tell," Malfoy said. "I know that some handpicked Ravenclaws have been invited to a few Slytherin do's, so I'm sure it'll be fine with the Head of Slytherin as long as she promises."
"Yes, of course I promise not to tell," Rose said straightaway. "What do you take me for, a Hufflepuff?"
"All right then," Malfoy said, leaning closer toward them. "And I'm only saying this to you now, Potter; because you're sure you'll be Sorted into Slytherin." He motioned for them to come closer, and they did. "There are private parties that the Slytherin House throws, and other such get-togethers, that the other Houses have no knowledge of—except for, of course, a handful of chosen Ravenclaws."
"What sort of parties?" Rose asked in a hushed, yet excited, voice.
"Depends on the age groups and the things being celebrated. There are also other things available to the Slytherin students once they hit a certain age. There used to be other goings-on before the War of Hogwarts, but since then those things have been eliminated."
"What other things?" Al asked.
"I don't know the details because my father wouldn't tell me," Malfoy said. He sat back in his seat again, and Rose and Al did the same, knowing that Malfoy was done telling them secrets—for now.
"Do you feel any better now, Al?" Rose asked.
"Somewhat," said Al. He turned toward her with a pleading look. "Rose, please do whatever it takes to be Sorted into Ravenclaw. I wouldn't be able to invite you to any Slytherin parties and things if you were put in Gryffindor."
"Don't worry," Rose said with a slight smile. "Hadn't I told you already that I know that I won't be in Gryffindor? Al, you have nothing to worry about. If you're Sorted into Slytherin, you've got my back. Let James be an arse; it'll be his problem if he can't handle it, not yours."
She was right, Albus knew. He didn't care what James thought of him, not really. It was his dad he was more worried about. He knew that his dad had told him that he wouldn't mind if he were Sorted into Slytherin, that he wouldn't think any less of him. Even though he would have Dad's support, and Rose's, he still wondered how the rest of his Gryffindor family would react to the news.
Malfoy was now staring at him differently than he had when he first saw him. Albus wasn't sure if he should be pleased by that or not. He hunted around in his head for a topic so that he could continue getting to know the blond boy, but was interrupted mid-thought by the lady with the cart full of sweets.
Together, the three of them bought as much as they liked. Malfoy had the most gold on him, but didn't spend it all. He told them it was because his father wanted him to save as much pocket change as possible, because he never knew when he'd need a Galleon or two. Albus tried to be prudent in his pickings, and Rose only bought a few things to tide her over until the Sorting Feast. Al knew about most of these candies of course; especially the Chocolate Frogs. He had quite the card collection. He bought as many as he could, hoping to get a few cards he didn't have yet. Albus also bought some Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, and a couple Drooble's Best Blowing Gum.
When Al got his fifth Dumbledore card, he offered it to Scorpius.
"That's… kind of you, but I'm not really much into collecting those."
"How can you say that?" Al exclaimed. "Chocolate Frog cards are awesome. I'm close to getting them all. I even have a card that Uncle Ron doesn't have yet: Cornelius Agrippa. I'm only missing Andros the Invincible and Cyprian Youdle."
"Willing to trade then?" Rose said, a sudden gleam in her eyes. She had a card clutched against her chest, her knuckles white.
Al stared at her face for a moment, wondering why she was looking like that, and then glanced at the card she was clutching. "Wait—you're not saying—"
"Well, I don't have Ketteridge yet," Rose nodded toward Albus's pile of Frog cards. "So I was thinking you'd like to trade that for…" she paused for a moment for dramatic effect, and then slowly revealed the card she had hidden: it was Andros the Invincible.
"Rosie!" Al gasped in delight, bouncing slightly in his seat. "Oh, I can't believe this! Oh, yes, by all means!" Al scooped up the card she wanted and held it out to her. "I have Elladora Ketteridge already, so yes, let's trade!"
Rose took the Ketteridge card from Al's hand first, and then teased Al with the Andros card, trying to play keep-away, but she was shorter than him and he had much better reflexes than her. He snatched it out of her hand after a bit of flailing, and although he was acting annoyed he was smiling. He hadn't felt this lighthearted in days.
Malfoy was shaking his head in dismay and rubbing his eyes. "Why couldn't I have a compartment to myself?" he muttered.
When Albus finally opened his Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans carton, he tried offering some to Malfoy, but Malfoy politely declined. He told them he'd had too much bad luck when I came to those beans.
"I always get the horrible ones," he told Al. "I have no idea why."
"Working off some bad karma?" Rose snickered. "All right, you big babies, I'll try one."
Albus and Malfoy watched her as she stuck a hand inside the box and carefully searched. When she finally felt confident enough with what she had, she lifted the bean up for inspection first. It was gray with spots.
"I'll bet that's dust flavored," Malfoy said.
"Nah, I'm betting on pepper," Al said.
"If it were me picking, it would be dust, no doubt about it," said Malfoy. "Or some other horrible flavor."
Rose bravely put it into her mouth and chewed. A few seconds later, she was sticking out her tongue and fanning it with her hand. "Ohh, hot! Hot!"
"It was pepper then?" Al said smugly. "I knew it!"
"If you're so good at knowing which is which," said Malfoy, "then you try one."
"All right, I will!" Albus said. So he wouldn't lose his nerve, Al plunged his hand in quickly and grabbed the first one he could find. The bean was a green color, but that didn't mean it was innocent.
"Perfect bean for you, Al," said Rose. "Green's your favorite color, isn't it? Well, go on then. Eat it!"
"It's probably green apple," Al reasoned. "Or maybe lime… or sprout—" he bit into it and then quickly spit it out. "Ugh, grass!"
Rose and Scorpius laughed. Well, at least it wasn't bogie flavored.
The train finally stopped in Hogsmeade. Albus was still nervous but not as nervous has he had been when he first boarded. During the majority of the ride, not only did he have fun with his favorite cousin, but Malfoy was slowly warming up to them. Although Malfoy still seemed a little prickly, he wasn't sneering as often anymore. He'd learned only a few things about Scorpius Malfoy during their ride: like his favorite colors were green, black, blue, and aquamarine; he had a fat, spoiled eagle owl named Horus, and his favorite food was black pudding. In return, Albus had told him a bit about himself: that his favorite colors were green, blue, and purple; he owned a sleek, black owl named Merlin; and his favorite foods were treacle tart, Chocolate Frogs, and chips (the British kind). Rose didn't comment much during this, but had only mentioned that her favorite colors were pink and blue.
As they walked down the train aisle - Malfoy in front of them, Al in the middle - James came out suddenly from one of the compartments closest to the prefects' carriage. Al almost forgot where James and his friends were on the train, but as James stuck his head out and noticed them, he smiled at Al before sticking his foot out. Malfoy didn't see James' foot in time and fell forward. Albus tried to catch him, but wasn't fast enough to break his fall; all he'd done was grab a fistful of robes and end up ripping them. Malfoy had automatically put his hands out to catch himself, only giving himself slight scrapes and bruises on his palms.
"James!" Rose reprimanded. "What did you do that for?"
"Oh, I think Malfoy knows," James said with a cheeky grin. "Don't you, you little snake?"
"Leave him alone," Al growled. He faced his brother after helping Malfoy up, and as they were having a glaring contest, Malfoy noticed the rip in his robes.
"Potter, look what you did!" he bellowed, holding the hem of his new robes up.
Both Potters turned their heads toward Malfoy.
"It was your own fault you weren't looking where you were going," James said.
"I'm sorry, Scorpius," Al said. He knew it was his fault, after all. "I meant to catch you before you could fall and break your nose."
"Would have been funny to see that, actually," James said with a grin.
"No, it would not!" Rose cried. "Will you stop being a bully already? Remember what our parents told us?"
"You're not my mother, Rose," James said. "Nor are you yours, so shut it."
Before Albus could get back into James' face, somebody behind them complained because they wanted to get off the train before they missed the carriages. They all agreed to get a move on, the first years needing to get to the boats. Al stuck as close as possible to Malfoy after that, afraid someone else might try to do the blond boy harm. Malfoy was dusting his hands off best he could; the train's floor wasn't as clean when they'd first boarded.
"Here, let me help you with that," Rose said to Malfoy as they lined up to follow Hagrid to the boats. She took out her wand—ash, ten inches, unicorn hair—and with a quick flick she had mended Malfoy's robes.
Malfoy was both shocked and confused. He looked over his robes to see how she'd done, and when he couldn't find anything wrong with them, he was grateful. "Thank you, Weasley."
"Don't mention it," she said with a shrug and a blush. "I learned all about mending and knitting from my mother. She's aces at spells and charms. Also, let me help you with your scrapes as well." She flourished her wand, and Malfoy's hands were as good as new again.
"Wow," said a girl standing next to them. "That an awesome bit of magic. Where'd you learn that?"
"My mother taught me," Rose replied. "Of course, it wasn't until after I continued to pester her about it after seeing her do it to me. I don't like to get hurt, you see, but it is sometimes unavoidable and I'd like to know how to heal myself in case of emergencies."
"Maybe you could teach me that spell," the girl said. "I can sometimes be a bit clumsy, and that spell will definitely come in handy." The blonde-haired girl looked clumsy too, if her appearance was anything to go by; she looked as if she'd tripped twice on the train already.
"Of course," Rose said. "What's your name, then, and what House do you think you'll be in? I'm betting I'll be in Ravenclaw."
"I'm Delia Moon," said the girl. "My parents were both in Ravenclaw, so I'm pretty sure that's where I'll go too. I know quite a few spells myself, but never tried a healing spell. What's your name?"
"Rose Weasley," said Rose. They shook hands. "Pleasure to meet you."
"And you," Delia Moon said. "And are these your friends?" she looked at Al, Scorpius, and another boy who'd been behind them heading for the boats.
"Albus is my cousin," Rose said. "My favorite cousin, I'd like to think. Scorpius is a friend, I suppose. We just met on the train. This boy here… um, sorry, I don't know him. He just happened to be behind us on the train and is following us to the boats."
The boy scoffed, obviously amused. He had dark brown hair and blue-green eyes, a little taller than Al, almost the height of Malfoy. Albus thought about asking him for his name, but then he would have missed the continued conversation between Moon and his cousin.
"Oh, I see," said Moon. "Well, pleased to meet you, Albus and Scorpius. Will you two be in Ravenclaw too?"
"Slytherin," Malfoy said, and Albus kept his eyes down on his feet as he nodded very minutely. He wasn't sure if Moon saw his nod or just took Scorpius' answer to mean he was speaking for the both of them.
"Oh, I see," Moon said again. She pursed her lips as if in thought. Then she finally said, "Well, I suppose that's all right. Mother knew a couple Slytherins, but they had no part in the last war at Hogwarts. I suppose they were decent enough."
They were able to get into the boats three to four at a time. Al, Malfoy, Rose, and Moon were in one boat. The boy that had been following them went into another boat with two other boys. Albus noticed that he'd stared at him and Malfoy for a bit, as if he wanted to say something, but then thought better of it. Albus wondered if the boy knew who he and Scorpius were, and if he'd be in one of their houses.
The fleet of boats moved at the same time, gliding across the lake. The castle loomed before them as they sailed toward it. Al heard Hagrid tell them to put their heads down and they obeyed. They went through a curtain of ivy and found themselves in a dark tunnel. Al heard a few other kids mutter and talk in hushed voices, obviously a bit thrilled and frightened all at once. The dark didn't scare Albus; he was mostly worried about falling into the smooth, glass-like water and drowning.
Finally, they reached an underground harbor. Climbing out, Albus was glad to be off the water. Malfoy made a noise that echoed his feeling. The eerie thought of being more like Malfoy than he first thought worried him only slightly. He would like to be his own person, and not have to take after anyone (although he knew that wasn't going to happen; he was probably like his dad in many ways, except for a few details in his personality).
They followed Hagrid and his lamp out of the passageway and onto some grass. There was a flight of stone steps they had to climb before entering the castle. Hagrid knocked and the door swung open. Before them stood Professor Longbottom in his ruby-red robes. There was a smudge of dirt on his cheek and a cut on his forehead as if he'd already been working in the greenhouses.
"Evening, Neville," said Hagrid. "Er, I mean, Professor Longbottom." They shared a grin. "'Ere are the firs' years then."
"Thanks, Hagrid," Neville said. He pulled the double doors wide open. Albus gawked at how huge the entrance hall was, and the marble staircase that faced them no doubt led to the upper floors. He heard the one boy behind him mutter a swear word at the sight, and only a few first years around them giggled nervously from the boy's boldness.
They follow Professor Longbottom into a small, empty chamber off the hall and not inside the Great Hall yet. They crowded around, and at once Neville noticed Albus and Rose standing at the front, along with Scorpius, Delia, and the other boy whom had been mistaken as someone they already knew.
"All right, Al?" Neville said. "Rose?"
Al and Rose nodded and smiled. Neville's gaze slowly went to Malfoy, and he smiled. Scorpius didn't know what to make of this professor, but he'd heard a few things from his father. He bowed his head slightly in respect, because Longbottom was a professor after all, and tried to return the smile.
"Scorpius Malfoy, I presume?" Professor Longbottom said. "I hope you won't give my friend's, I mean, Harry Potter's son any trouble. He's a good lad."
"Malfoy's a friend, Neville," said Albus. "Er, I mean, Professor…"
Neville grinned from ear to ear. "Well, that'll shock the ever living dung out of old Draco. Er, anyway," he put his professor voice back on, "welcome to Hogwarts, everyone! The start-of-term feast will begin very soon, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall you'll be Sorted into your Houses." This was something Albus and Rose already knew, of course, but Neville had to give this speech at the beginning of every year. "The Sorting is important, as I'm sure most of you know. While you're here, your house will be like your family. You'll have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory, and spend free time in your respective house common rooms. Please do not visit other's common rooms too often, if you make yourself a friend from another house. If you wish to spend time together, I suggest you meet somewhere neutral, like the library or the lovely courtyard we have located in the middle of the castle.
"I'm sure many of you already know the Houses, but I'm obliged to say them because some of you have never heard of Hogwarts before. They are: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has a noble history, and believe it or not, each has produced many outstanding witches and wizards—yes, even Slytherin. So while you're here at Hogwarts your triumphs will earn your House points, while any rule breaking will lose you points, and at the end of the year the House with the most points gets the house cup.
"The Sorting Ceremony will happen in just a few minutes here, which will take place in front of the rest of the school. Don't be too nervous, now; it won't hurt, I assure you. Just stay calm and be yourselves, all right? I'll return when we're ready for you. Wait patiently for just a little while longer."
Professor Longbottom left the chamber. Albus, Rose, and Scorpius glanced at one another.
"How are we being Sorted?" the boy next to them asked. "Why didn't the Professor say how we're to be Sorted? Is it a pop quiz or something?"
"I don't think so," Albus said. "I'm trying to remember what my brother had told me… I think there's a hat of some kind."
"I do hope you're right," said the boy. "I haven't even cracked open any of my textbooks yet. I didn't think we'd have to worry about tests in the beginning, since we're first years and all."
Albus decided that since they've spoken more than a few words with each other, it was only polite to exchange names. He turned to the boy and said, "I'm Albus Potter. What's your name?"
"I'm Knight," said the boy. "Harold Knight, but everyone calls me Harry." He ducked his head in embarrassment. Then he suddenly jerked his head back up and stared dumbfounded at Al. "Wait, did you say 'Potter'? As in, Harry Potter? I mean, are you two related in some way?"
Albus nodded. "Yeah, he's my dad."
"Bloody hell," Knight exclaimed. "I was named after him. It's a little embarrassing."
Albus's eyes widened. Rose was also taking interest in the conversation, and just as shocked by the news.
"Well, it's nice to meet you," said Albus. He held out his hand and at first Knight didn't take it, but then after staring into Al's determined face for a few seconds, he smiled and put his hand into Al's.
"A pleasure," Knight said. "What House do you think you'll be Sorted into?"
"Um… I'm not entirely sure—"
"But, Al," said Scorpius, "you told Rose and I that—" Albus stomped on his foot in order to shut him up.
"I do know that I won't be in Hufflepuff," Albus said loudly over Scorpius's gasps of pain and swearing. "So that's narrowed it down."
"I know about the Houses, of course," said Knight. "Yet, I don't recall the whole Sorting thing. If someone told me, I must have forgotten. I'm not the most studious person in the world, you see." He laughed nervously. "Sometimes I'm a bit forgetful, too, especially when it comes to certain academics."
"You won't be in Ravenclaw then," Rose said. "That's the house I'll be in, I know…"
Before any more could be said between the three, the doors opened again and Professor Longbottom was back.
"The Sorting Ceremony's about to start. Form a double line and follow me—no pushing now; it's not a first come, first serve ordeal."
They did as they were told. Just as they were entering the Great Hall, ghosts appeared from behind walls and up from the floor. A few first years gasped and a couple of them hid behind those that were taller than them. Albus, Rose, and Scorpius just watched them in awe (they've been told about ghosts, and even Rose and Al had met the ghoul in the Burrow's attic). Even Harold Knight and Delia Moon were watching the ghosts without fear. One particular sandy-haired boy, however, was cowering behind a stout girl, nearly sobbing.
"Bet that one's in Slytherin," guffawed Knight when he noticed the cowering boy. "Look at him shake!"
"You know," said Al, "it's not nice to pick on those less fortunate. I'm sure there's something you're frightened of, too."
Harold Knight turned and looked at Albus with raised eyebrows. "Me? Don't be absurd, Potter. The only thing I'm afraid of is my Auntie Mable when she's overly affectionate."
"Great," Malfoy whispered into Albus's ear from his other side. "You've just made friends with a goodie-goodie Gryffindor. Good going, Potter."
"Well, how was I to know where he might be Sorted?" Albus whispered harshly back. "It's not like we all know for certain. And anyway, I'm not going to suddenly hate him just because of what House he gets in. We should all remember that."
"He's being obnoxious and rude," Malfoy countered.
"You weren't all sunshine and daisies yourself, Malfoy," Albus retorted. "But I still want to be your friend."
Malfoy mumbled something inaudible and backed off. Al hoped he hadn't ruined their newly bonded friendship already.
"Come on now, stop bickering," Rose said from behind him. "We've not even reached the front of the room yet."
Soon enough, after admiring the way the Great Hall was, and the ceiling (which apparently was bewitched to look like the night sky, according to Rose), they made it to the top of the hall in front of a long table where there were adults sitting (most likely teachers and staff). The other four tables they had passed between were full of other students already, and as Al walked by one of the tables he saw his brother sit up straighter and wave at him frantically. Albus waved back, but with less enthusiasm.
They stood in a line at the front, the head table was on a slightly raised dais and there were four steps up to it. Professor Longbottom placed a four-legged stool in front of them on the top of the dais, and then on top of the stool Neville put a pointed wizard's hat. Albus stared and wondered if this was how they were going to get Sorted.
The hat looked very old. It was frayed and patched and really dirty. It looked like something Scorpius, or even Uncle Percy, would never touch with a ten-foot pole. But how was a battered old thing supposed to Sort them exactly?
Albus's thought was answered when it opened its brim and began to speak. Well, not speak… more like sing!
Although I'm quite old,
And maybe a little ratty
You'll find no other hat,
That is as smart or steady.
For the Hogwarts founders
Stuck some brains into me,
And I'll be able to sort you
Where you best ought to be.
Do you belong in Gryffindor,
Where those possess bravery and daring?
Or is it hardworking and loyal Hufflepuff
That sounds most endearing?
Perhaps you'd be in Ravenclaw,
With those of sharp wit and love of learning.
But then there's the cunning Slytherin
That's ambitious and full of yearning.
Each house is uniquely gifted,
Has produced many wonderful
Wizards and witches.
And so with my power I shall pull,
To find deep inside what makes you great.
So put me on, young ones,
And I'll tell you your fate.
Once the Sorting Hat was done singing, the entire Hall broke out into applause. Albus wasn't expecting the hat to actually sing, let alone have a mouth; but he supposed that just as the Sorting Hat had said: the Hogwarts founders had stuck some brains into it. Besides that, Albus mused, it was magical.
Now Professor Longbottom stepped up holding a long scroll of parchment. Albus was sure he knew what was to come next.
"Okay then, when I call your name—surname first, of course, then your given name… it's in alphabetical order, you see—then I'll put the hat on you once you've sat yourself on the stool. The Hat will then Sort you into your house." Neville then brought his gaze back to the parchment and read aloud:
A boy with dark hair and piercing blue eyes stepped forward. Albus recognized him as someone that he saw hanging around Moon and one other boy. Emmett sat nervously on the stool, the hat going right over his eyes. It took a little time for the hat to do anything, and then finally it shouted: "Ravenclaw!"
Emmett took off the hat, handed it to Neville, and went to join his fellow Ravenclaws. The whole Ravenclaw table was clapping and cheering for their first new fellow bookworm.
A rather cute, small girl went to the stool in an almost robotic fashion. She looked very nervous. But the hat didn't take much time at all in deciding where to put her—
"Boo, hiss," said Knight, and Albus looked back at him and gave him a glare. Malfoy was doing the same, and when Knight realized they were staring daggers at him, he gave them an unconcerned look and a shoulder shrug.
"Gryffindor!" the hat proclaimed almost immediately. The entire Gryffindor table erupted into huge applause. The girl, Belby, took off the hat and confidently went to her family of lions.
"Slytherin!" There were more booing and hissing from certain tables. Albus was starting to get sick of them.
"Ravenclaw!" the hat shouted. "Carmichael, Naomi" had gone into Ravenclaw as well. Then "Cauldwell, Tiffany" was put in Hufflepuff (their first of the evening), and again "Chambers, Cosmo" was put into Ravenclaw.
Finally, the hat found another Slytherin in "Cornfoot, Caroline". Albus couldn't help but find her pretty too, but she seemed rather full of herself.
A few more Gryffindors were announced (including "Finnigan, Shannon!") as well as more Ravenclaws ("Entwhistle, Ariel!"), and some Slytherins. "Goyle, Vincent" was among them. A few more Hufflepuffs ("Hurt, Hailey!"), and then one more Gryffindor before Knight was called up.
A little apprehensive, Knight went up to put the hat on. He actually sat there for a while, biting his bottom lip. If Albus could guess what was happening, it looked to him like Knight was arguing with the hat inside his head.
Finally, the hat shouted: "Gryffindor!"
"Told you," Malfoy whispered into his ear, his breath hot. "There was no other explanation for his attitude."
"He could've been a Hufflepuff," Al whispered back. It was true; his dad had told him about this one really annoying Hufflepuff during his school year. Albus hoped this batch of Hufflepuffs weren't going to be the same.
There were only a few more names called out before Professor Longbottom reached: "Malfoy, Scorpius!"
With only a few nerves, Malfoy slid onto the stool as Neville placed the hat on his head. It didn't take very long for the hat to shout: "Slytherin!"
Albus clapped along with the rest of the Slytherin table.
"Good luck," Scorpius whispered to him on his way to the sea of green and silver. Albus smiled his thanks.
After "Montague, Terra" was made a Slytherin too, it was Delia Moon's turn. Rose wished her luck; it seemed that she'd struck a fast friendship with the odd girl.
Albus applauded kindly, and Moon smiled and nodded at him in recognition. He hoped she'd become a friend of sort too, even if he was Sorted into another house…
It was almost Albus's turn now. "Morgan, Rupert" was made a Gryffindor. "Nott, Hydrus" was made a Slytherin. "Peakes, Zerelda" became a Gryffindor.
Al shakingly got up to the stool. He knew he was being stared at, because so many had heard and read about Dad. He was never told exactly what his dad had done (vanquished some sort of dark wizard, he guessed), but it had become more and more evident that his dad was rather well-known throughout the wizarding world. Dad seemed to like keeping a few of his school days a secret, even from his family. He reminded himself quickly that he should ask Rose about it and then together they could search the library for answers (that was, if Harry didn't feel the need to tell them anything still).
The hat was placed on his head and suddenly he lost his sight. He could still feel the entire Hall staring at him, though, waiting for the verdict. Then Al heard a little voice in his ear, and he figured it must be the Sorting Hat.
"Well, well, well—" it drawled. "We've got ourselves another Potter. Your brother was quite easy to place, but it seems you're not so lucky. So, let me see…"
I'm no Hufflepuff, I know that, Albus thought.
"Yes," agreed the Hat. "That's no place for you. Hmm… interesting; I can see two distinct possibilities here, but where should I put you?"
Al knew that before, when he and his family had got ready for their trip to King's Cross, he'd been worried that he'd be Sorted into Slytherin, and it was mainly because of the fact that the majority of his family had been in Gryffindor. He was also worried what Dad would think, and James' teasing that he'd be put into Slytherin hadn't helped matters at all. But when his dad assured him that they—Harry and Ginny—wouldn't really care if he were Sorted into Slytherin, that had eased a lot of his worry. He wasn't like his brother; he wasn't his dad; and he certainly wasn't his aunts and uncles. Not only that, but he doubted he could even put up with being in the lion's den.
Not Gryffindor, Albus thought hard, gripping the edges of the stool. Please, not Gryffindor—I know it's not for me…
"Well, this is a switch," the hat said. It sounded rather amused by the prospect. "But I do believe you're right. Gryffindor isn't the right house for you, young one. You're bright, of course, but I see a lot of ambition here; plenty of cunning, imagination, and a desire to prove yourself. Oh, yes… You best be put in—SLYTHERIN!"
The hat had yelled the last word out loud to the rest of the hall. At first, the entire Hall had become silent. Even Professor Longbottom was looking aghast. Slowly, Albus stood from the stool and placed the hat back on it. As he made his way toward the Slytherin table, it had suddenly erupted into loud cheers and stomping when they'd realized it wasn't a hoax. The other three houses were still deathly silent, unable to believe that a Potter had been Sorted into the nest of vipers.
Albus didn't dare turn his head toward the Gryffindor table; afraid of the look he'd see on his brother's face. He sat beside Scorpius, and Scorpius patted his shoulder in a friendly manner. "Well done, Al!" he said. "For a moment there I was worried."
The Sorting continued. There were more Hufflepuffs Sorted. A few more Gryffindors, including Polly Roper, Henry Thomas, and Jack Turner. Another Slytherin ("Warrington, Sophie!"), and finally it was Rose's turn.
Al nervously watched as the hat was placed onto Rose's head. Malfoy was even looking slightly worried, because in all the years he'd heard, Weasleys were all put into Gryffindor; even Percy, who had ambition and a thirst for power during his days at Hogwarts.
Finally, the hat shouted "Ravenclaw!" to the Hall. Albus clapped and cheered, and so did Scorpius. He watched as Moon, Annesley, Carmichael, and Entwhistle applauded for her and then made room for her to sit (Annesley was even chanting: "We got a Weasley, we got a Weasley!"). Rose looked up, caught Albus staring, and waved frantically at him wearing a huge grin. Al smiled and waved back.
At long last, the Sorting was dwindling. "Whitby, Olivia" and "Young, Seth" were made Hufflepuffs. And last, but not least, twin Zabinis were sorted (Orion and Corvus); one went to Ravenclaw while the other was sorted into Slytherin. That twin came and sat right next to him and shook his hand. Then Zabini reached around Al and shook Malfoy's.
"Well done, Zabini," said Malfoy. "Good to see a friend of the family get into the right house."
"Yeah," said Orion Zabini. "I was shocked when my twin was put into Ravenclaw, but I guess his love of books and knowledge won over his cunning. Still, Ravenclaw's not bad; imagine having a sibling in Gryffindor? I'd die of embarrassment!"
Albus frowned into his empty, golden plate.
Malfoy noticed and patted Al's back. "Don't take it hard, Potter. He didn't know you've a brother in Gryffindor."
Orion Zabini whipped his head around when he heard that. "Oh, right; I forgot for a second there that you're the son of the famous Harry Potter, the notorious Gryffindor. James Potter is your older brother, right? Still, at least one of you was put in Slytherin. Any other Potters awaiting their Sorting days, or are you the youngest in your family?"
"I have a younger sister," Albus said. "But I'm not sure which house she'll go in. It could be Gryffindor, like my brother James. But she might surprise us."
"Talking of surprise," Scorpius gestured toward the Gryffindor table with his head. Albus slowly raised his eyes to look where he indicated, even though he was afraid to.
James was still looking gobsmacked by the news that his little brother really had been Sorted into Slytherin. His friend, Kevin Mars, was waving a hand in front of his face to get his attention. After a few waves, James snapped out of it and looked over at his friend. Mars said something to him, but James didn't respond; he only stared down at his plate for a few seconds before lifting his eyes.
The Potters' gazes locked from across the room. Albus tried to give his brother a friendly smile and waved nervously. James scowled and turned away to speak to his other friend, Gareth Jupitus, on the other side of him.
It felt like his own brother had just stuck a knife into his chest and yanked his heart out.