Albus Potter and the Cunning Plan

Chapter five

Pairing(s): Albus/Scorpius (will become), other minor ones

Rating: PG-13 (will go up in later chapters)

Warnings: slight language, some canon is ignored; minor angst and some violence, about what you might find in the average HP book.

Notes: I'm not trying to bash Hagrid at all in this chapter; I don't mind Hagrid as a character in the books, I'm just not a huge fan, and I'm trying to show things more in a Slytherin point of view.

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.

I editted this chapter so you might want to re-read it. thanks!

.-.

Bad Luck and Good Fortune

.-.

The very next morning, after breakfast, Al followed Scorpius out to the pitch, which was deserted for the moment. Rose had seen him leave and decided on meeting them there. Al didn't mind, because it had been a while since he'd last spoken to her. Rose stood beside him, her friend Delia Moon on her other side, having wanted to come along, as they watched Scorpius swooping and diving on his Firebolt 200. He looked quite graceful in the air.

As they observed their friend, Rose opened the conversation with, "I spoke to Hagrid the other day." They still hadn't looked at each other, their eyes staying on Scorpius.

"Oh? How's he taking the news?" Al said.

"Not too well," Rose said. "Although he's still allowed to stay on as the groundkeeper and all that, he can no longer teach. Professor Grubbly-Plank will be taking over the Care of Magical Creatures position this year."

"Did he cry a lot?" Al asked. He didn't like the thought of making an old friend of the family's cry so much; especially when he was a good friend of his dad's, but considering the issue Albus couldn't muster up much care for the old half-giant. He wondered if that made him heartless.

"He sobbed his eyes out," Rose admitted. "I told him that you were sorry for saying the things that you'd said in the hospital wing, but he just nodded sadly and blew his nose. Truthfully, I don't know what to feel about the situation. His manticore did almost kill you, and it is rather illegal to own such a dangerous creature. He's lucky he didn't get kicked off school grounds for good."

"Speaking of the manticore," Al said. "What happened to it?"

"It was taken away and put back where it belonged. Somewhere in Greece, I think. When I talked with Hagrid, he told me that he'd kept the manticore for breeding purposes."

"Breeding?" Al gasped.

"How in the world would Hagrid manage that?" Delia asked.

"I don't know," Rose said. "But it wasn't for other manticores; he was making more Blast-Ended Skrewts. He said they were for his fourth and fifth year students." Rose shrugged. "I don't know how he was managing it, since manticores are extremely dangerous."

"But the one that attacked Albus wasn't fully grown yet," Delia said.

"Yeah, I asked him about that," said Rose. "He said that it was actually the offspring of the one he was trying to breed with a fire crab, which of course got taken away as well. Apparently it was born sometime last spring, after Hagrid purchased the mother."

"Blast-Ended Skrewts? Those sound familiar," said Al.

"Your dad may have mentioned them in passing," Rose said. "Remember when he talked about taking Care of Magical Creatures?"

"Oh, right," said Al. "It was one of the times he actually dreaded going to class. Normally he'd liked being taught by Hagrid."

"Are you going to take that class for our third year?" Delia asked.

"Dunno. I guess it all depends."

"On what?"

"On whether Hagrid will be allowed back to teach it."

There was a whoop and a cheer, and they turned their attentions back to Scorpius, who'd just landed a few feet away. With a smile, Scorpius jogged up to them, broomstick casually flung over one shoulder.

"Did you see that loop-de-loop, mate?"

"Oh, yes," Al said, grinning. "It was smashing. Um, look, could I have a go on it? The only other good broom I've been on at home was my dad's old one, and Uncle Ron's old Cleansweep Eleven."

"Oh, I suppose so," Scorpius said. He reluctantly handed over his Firebolt 200. "But don't scratch it."

"Now why would I do a thing like that?" Al said. Immediately, before Scorpius could change his mind, Al mounted the broom and kicked off hard from the ground.

It was the best feeling in the world, flying. It was probably one of the things he enjoyed most about being a wizard. His dad, and his brother, was good at it, and so was he. He wasn't sure about Lily; he hadn't really seen her on a broom. It made him wonder, while making figure eights through the goal hoops, if she'd get on her house's Quidditch team too. That in turn made him wonder what house his sister would end up in, and then he came back to wondering what his family would think once they realized that he was a Slytherin.

He'd been so busy flying, and thinking, that he'd missed when the others had joined Rose, Delia, and Scorpius by the stands. He didn't want to hog Scorpius's broom anyway, thinking that maybe Rose or Delia would like a try, so he ended his last loop around the pitch and touched down gently a few feet away from the group.

"That was a brilliant bit of flying, Potter!" Emmett Annesley said. "It's too bad you weren't Sorted into Ravenclaw."

Albus smiled shyly at Emmett, and then handed Scorpius his broom back. Scorpius took it, but he hadn't been looking at Al; he'd been glaring at Annesley. Why, Albus hadn't a clue.

"Who cares if Malfoy gets on the team?" said Corvus Zabini, as if he were continuing a conversation Al hadn't heard. "It's not like he can't be replaced next year by Potter—ow! What was that for?"

"Must I explain why, Zabini?" Scorpius said. "Or have you been put in the wrong house?"

"Well, it's the truth," Corvus said, rubbing the back of his head. "No need to get snippy about it."

"So where's your twin?" Hydrus Nott asked. "Isn't he interested in Scorpius's broomstick too?"

"I thought you would know, seeing how you're both in the same house," Corvus said. "And I don't know really, to answer your question. I'm his twin, not his keeper."

"Talking of, isn't that what you want to tryout for next year?" Emmett said.

"Beater, actually," said Corvus. "And Cosmo wants to try for Chaser. He's pretty decent on a broom, from what I've heard."

"How about you, Weasley?" Nott asked. "Are you going to tryout for a position?" He had almost a perverted look on his face when he said this.

"I'm not much into playing Quidditch actually," Rose admitted. "Not to say I dislike the game or anything, but I'd much rather concentrate on my studies."

"I agree that one's studies must come first," Corvus said. "But it is also said that you can't have just a healthy mind but also a healthy body. As long as I get a good work out, the winning doesn't really matter that much to me—"

"How can you say that?" Scorpius gasped.

Albus agreed with Scorpius, but he wasn't sure if he was really that surprised by that statement made by a Ravenclaw. What was the point of playing Quidditch if you're not playing to win?

"Very easily, my snaky friend," Corvus replied. "Quidditch is just a sport; it is not something that will harm your career if you don't win a game here at school. Even if you decide to play professionally, I doubt they'd take your past school performances into much consideration—"

"You go on thinking that, if it'll help you go on with life," Al said.

Before much more of a row about Quidditch and careers could get started, they were suddenly invaded by a sea of red and gold.

"Oi, clear off you lot! We've booked the pitch."

"We weren't doing any harm," Al said, turning to face his brother. "Just having a go on Scorpius's new broomstick." He beamed when James pulled a disgusted face. "That's right, let out all your bigotry in one go, come on then."

James ruffled Al's hair, messing it up more than what the wind had done to it. Al huffed and yanked his head away.

The Gryffindors stood nearly shoulder to shoulder, but with a couple shorter ones standing in the front and James at the forefront of them all, medium in height to the rest of the team. Albus stood almost toe to toe with his brother, his Slytherin friends behind him, and around them were their Ravenclaw friends. Rose was standing somewhere just behind him in the heart of their group with a calming hand on his back.

"I'm not too worried about Malfoy," James said. "I doubt they'd even let him on the team, anyway. First years aren't allowed."

"Neither was your father," Scorpius snarled. "And yet, they allowed it."

'They' being Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore, who had decided on bending the no-first-years rule in order to have a better Gryffindor team.

"Don't even think about having a go at my dad!" James said, pointing a finger at Scorpius in warning.

"I'm afraid I must agree," Al said gently to Scorpius, placing a hand on his shoulder. "He is my dad, too."

"Right," said Scorpius, frowning and looking away.

"Oh, and in case you were wondering, baby brother, I'm not too happy with you," James said. "So don't even try buttering me up with all this brotherly love crap by taking my side."

"What? Why, what did I do?"

"You got Hagrid fired from his job, that's what," James sneered.

"And he's been crying his eyes out ever since," Gareth Jupitus said. "Every time someone talks to him about some beast or creature, he completely loses it and runs off bawling."

"I nearly DIED!" Al shouted. "What part of that do you Gryffindorks not understand?"

"Hey, watch who you're calling a dork, little snake in the grass," James said, nearly stabbing his finger into Al's eye. "It's not like you were really hurt that bad, and maybe if you hadn't run away like a coward and thought of using your wand to stop it like Knight had—"

"No spells can penetrate the hide of a manticore, you idiot. And what difference would it have made if I hadn't run? It would have come after me sooner or later, and I did give Knight time to send up some red sparks—"

"Which you didn't think to do first, I might add," James said.

"How could I have thought to do the spell if no one had taught me it in the first place?" Al roared.

"All right, stop it, you two," Rose said, pushing them apart. Al hadn't realized that he'd been getting more and more in his brother's face with each argument. "We don't want you to get a detention, do we?"

James slowly relented, but only because he couldn't come up with a retort against his cousin. Finally, he said, "Whatever. Come on, let's practice now—and everyone clear off; I don't want either houses seeing what our plan of attack is."

"Like Gryffindors could ever come up with good strategic plans," whispered Corvus. Scorpius, Nott, and Emmett laughed without caring if anyone heard them. Rose, Al, and Delia tried to hide their amusement. Although why he tried to hide it when the Gryffindors hadn't heard what Corvus said he wasn't sure. It probably had to do with politeness or something. That or he didn't want to anger his older brother any more than he was.

"C'mon, let's leave them to it then," Scorpius said. "I've got to stash my broom somewhere safe in the dormitory where no one could get at it to tamper with it."

"Are you suggesting," Al said, in as sarcastic a tone as he could, "that my brother would know an actual dark arts spell that could tamper with a state-of-the-art broom? I think you're giving him way too much credit."

They high-tailed it before James could retaliate in some way.

.-.

It was finally Halloween, Albus's favorite time of the year. He loved the decorations, the darker atmosphere, the smell of baking pumpkin, and the excuse of having to eat loads of sweets.

Of course, there was more to the feast than just sweets; there were baked potatoes, glazed hams, candied yams, pies, pumpkin cider, caramel apples, cakes, haggis (which Al didn't touch), and roasted pumpkin seeds. There were also the traditional flying bats that hung around the enchanted ceiling, the candled-filled pumpkins that fluttered about in an eerie way, and orange and black streamers. Although he wasn't into being overly scared, he liked the spookiness of it all just the same. It was a strange contradiction of himself.

Scorpius, of course, had something negative to say about the holiday.

"Too many sweets are bad for you," he'd said after Al explained his love of the holiday. "And what's so great about dressing up in silly costumes and going around scaring people silly? That doesn't sound like much fun to me."

"It is if you're the one doing the scaring," Al said. "I hear that even the Proudfoot twins are getting into it."

"Yeah, well, that's them. They'll do anything to cause mischief and mayhem. Hence, their nicknames."

"Still, you have to admit it is fun," Al said. "I mean—I understand where you're coming from, because I don't like being scared either; but it's really all in fun, yeah? Take those bats for example. They're not going to hurt us, are they? Yet there's the strange, eerie quality to them that helps make the atmosphere. And the floating jack-o-lanterns; you've got to admit that they're rather cool."

"I suppose," Scorpius said, frowning somewhat. "Well, I'll try to have some fun, for your sake, Al. But if anyone tries to scare the living daylights out of me, they'll surely hear from my fa—"

"Scorpius—" came a ghostly voice from behind them, and Scorpius jumped nearly a foot off his seat and shrieked. Al was only startled a little, and turned quickly around.

The person who'd spoke was wearing a mask, and it was a familiar mask but Albus couldn't put his finger on it. The look Scorpius had on his face, however, gave him the hint. The person had somehow gotten hold of a scowling wizard picture of Draco Malfoy, blew it up to life-sized proportions, and made his face into a mask. The voice, too, had sounded exactly like Mr Malfoy. Albus was merely gobsmacked, but poor Scorpius was patting his chest and gasping for breath. He looked like death warmed up.

The person took off the mask, laughing his arse off. "Oh, the look on your face, Malfoy!" a Proudfoot twin wheezed. "Priceless!"

"That wasn't very nice," Al said, feeling his hackles rise as he got to his feet. "You could've given him a heart attack!"

"Oh lighten up, Potter," Proudfoot said. "It's Halloween! Time for tricks and high jinks and things that go bump in the night."

Albus checked on Scorpius, who was still looking pale and upset. Al rubbed his back while glaring at the Proudfoot twin.

What was worse was that almost the entire school had seen the prank. Some were laughing, although Albus was glad to see some shaking their heads in dismay. Not everyone saw what had happened. But soon word got around as those people asked their neighbours who'd seen the whole thing. It spread quickly, and when Albus looked over at the Gryffindor table, he could see James and his friends laughing hysterically. Al glowered and looked away.

Just then, the other twin came running out from the double doors and screeched to a halt beside them.

"Henry!" he cried.

"House!" Henricus answered in the same tone.

"Dungeons!"

"No way!" Henry said, incredulously.

"Totally!"

"Abandon ship!"

The Proudfoot twins then skedaddled from the Great Hall, as if a rampaging dragon were after them, heading toward the Slytherin dungeons.

"The bloody hell was all that about?" Orion said.

"I don't know, but I don't think I like the sound of it," Al said.

They got their answer a minute later. The old caretaker, Argus Filch, came barreling into the Hall, puffing and wheezing and eyes bulging. He looked ready to pass out. He also looked as if he'd just tripped down a million flights of stairs; ones that moved and had trick steps in them, that was.

"Mr Filch?" said McGonagall, standing from her spot at the high table. "Whatever is the matter?"

Filch tried to explain, but words were failing him. He huffed and choked on his breath, and then finally his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell backward into a dead faint.

"Argus!" McGonagall cried in alarm, but then snapped back into her no-nonsense manner. "Neville, Wilhelmina, Hagrid, please assist Filch to the hospital wing."

"Is he dead?" Neville asked.

"He's still breathing," McGonagall said. "So I would assume not."

The three staff members did as asked. Even though Hagrid was not allowed to teach this year, he was still considered part of the staff because he was still the keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts. Besides, his strength was much needed at the moment. Although Hagrid wasn't overly fond of the old squib, he wasn't heartless either (and he would do anything to get back into McGonagall's good graces).

After watching them haul Filch out, Albus turned his attentions back to his friend. Scorpius was looking better now, but was still a bit shaky.

"You all right now?" Al asked. He sat down beside Scorpius again, their legs touching. He ran circled over Scorpius's back.

"Yeah, I will be," Scorpius said. "Those damn Proudfoots—I can't believe they had to nerve to do that to me."

Albus leaned in and whispered, "Why would you be frightened of seeing your father right now?"

Scorpius just looked at him, and the heaviness in that look seemed to say it all, but Al was still confused.

"You'd rather not get into it, would you?" Al said.

"I would rather not, no," Scorpius said. Then he smiled. "Thanks, Al. You're the best friend I could ever have."

Al pinked up, feeling rather pleased with himself.

.-.

The next day, Albus wanted to do nothing but study in the common room with Scorpius and not socialize with some of the others. Just that morning, Rose had tried to get them to see Hagrid with her, because she reminded Al that he'd said he would apologize to Hagrid in person for the things he'd said in the infirmary. Al didn't feel ready to face Hagrid after what had happened. He was still somewhat angry with him, but he didn't want Hagrid to know that.

Whenever Albus mentioned it to Scorpius, Scorpius would shake his head and say, "Honestly, the oaf got what he deserved. He shouldn't have kept a manticore as a pet in the first place. Besides, you just helped some of the older students out by doing what you did."

"How do you figure that?" Al asked.

"They won't have to put up with Blast-Ended Skrewts."

Rose hadn't been so sure about that, because when she last spoke to Hagrid he said he'd already done the breeding.

"The manticore was female, though, wasn't it?" Al had said to her. "It had already given birth to the monster that nearly killed me."

"Yes, but the young manticore that almost killed you was a male," Rose had said. "It was mature enough to mate—Hagrid hadn't lied, though; it wasn't a fully grown manticore, but it was still mature enough to do the whole mating thing."

"So we haven't saved a bunch of students from having to learn how to take care of those horrible creatures?" Al sighed.

"I'm afraid not," Rose had said.

Scorpius wasn't too happy to hear of it either. "That settles it for me; I'm not taking Care of Magical Creatures for my third year."

"We'll have to see where we are in our studies by the end of next year," Al said. "Who knows, it might be fine if Professor Grubbly-Plank is still teaching. I doubt she'd have the students try taking care of anything as dangerous as one of those Skrewts."

"That would be fortunate for us, then."

.-.

The next couple of days, Albus had excuse after excuse for not visiting Hagrid: he had to study for Herbology; he had a Potions test to prepare for; he had to finish his Astronomy chart; he had a stomachache; Scorpius needed his help with his homework; he had a detention (which was usually a lie, but there was one time it wasn't—he'd been caught with a Weasley's Wizard Wheezes order form outside the Transfiguration class room. He thought he could get away with buying something out of it since Filch had been holed up in the hospital wing at the time), and so on and so forth.

Then, Professor d'Eath had sent for them. Well, more like he'd sent for Scorpius, but Al came with on account of Scorpius begging him to.

Their head of house was in his office, and it was colder than usual. With November had come snow and chill weather. Scorpius and Albus huddled in their winter cloaks and scarves, even when they were in certain parts of the castle. The stone walls didn't keep heat in very well, even with all the candles lit everywhere. Their dormitory wasn't so bad, especially when the stove was blazing with heat. The common room was both warm and cold, depending on where you sat.

Thankfully, when Professor d'Eath saw them shivering, he flicked his wand at his fireplace and a nice, roaring fire leapt to life. They sighed in contentment as the warmth seeped into them. Professor d'Eath wasn't looking affected by the cold at all, nor was he affect by the change in temperature.

"Thank you, Professor," Al said.

"You're welcome, Mr Potter," said Professor d'Eath. "Although why you're here is a mystery. Care to enlighten me?"

"Scorpius begged me to come with."

"I did not beg!" Scorpius huffed. "I simply asked you politely if you could come along. A Malfoy does not beg."

"Funny, it sounded like begging to me," Al said, and then he began to imitate Scorpius as best he could, "Please come with me, Al! Please~! I don't want to be in his office all alone—"

"All right, shut it already!" Scorpius said, face red. Albus laughed.

"Anyway," Professor d'Eath said impassively. "On to business. I have some good news and some bad news for you, Mr Malfoy. Which would you rather hear first?"

Scorpius straightened up more in his chair at that. "I'd like the good news first, sir."

"I think we should hear the bad news first," Al said.

"Oh, no. It's my news and I should get the chance to choose which to hear first."

"But if we hear the bad news first then we'll get the painful part over with sooner—"

"I'd much rather hear the good news first, because I want to delay the bad news for as long as possible, thanks."

"Fine," Al sighed. "But don't say I didn't warn you."

Professor d'Eath cleared his throat. "If I may, gentlemen? Mr Malfoy, the good news is that after your father and I had a few nights of negotiating with the Headmistress, it has been decided that you should be allowed to play on the Quidditch team..."

"Congratulations, Scorp!" Al said. They grinned and gave each other high fives.

"Hold up on the celebrations, boys; you hadn't heard the bad news yet."

"Oh, I don't think I'm going to like this," Scorpius groaned.

"Although you'd been given permission to tryout, it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll get on the team. Mr Thickey is very cross to learn that he might have to step down as the Slytherin Seeker—"

"Oh, how heartbreaking," Scorpius deadpanned.

"—and it is possible," Professor d'Eath continued tersely, "that you might not get that position. Thickey is going to do whatever it takes to stay on as Seeker. However, Thickey's parents will be notified about what is going on and they may try to retaliate in some way. I will be writing to your parents, Mr Malfoy, and inform them of what I have learned so that we could get this whole mess taken care of. In the meantime, you must go report to the captain and find out when she'll be conducting the new tryouts. And to make it fair, those that missed out on getting certain positions will have another chance at it. You might not actually get the Seeker spot."

"Well, it's better than nothing," Scorpius said.

"You'll do it, Scorp, I know you will," Al said.

"That's all I have to tell you at the moment," Professor d'Eath said. "You can go back to your dormitories now."

.-.

"Guys, guys!" Rose called out as she ran toward them. They were halfway to the dungeons when she had spotted them. "Did you hear about what happened to Filch?"

"Why should we care?" Scorpius said. "The squib got what he deserved."

"I don't think he deserved a week's worth of bad luck, do you?" Rose said.

Scorpius and Al exchanged an incredulous look.

"What do you mean?" Al said.

"I'd gone to the hospital wing the day after Halloween, because I was curious as to what the Proudfoot twins did to him," she said as she followed them all the way down to the dungeons. "Get this: Houseley Proudfoot had switched Filch's lobster dinner with a Mackled Malaclaw!"

Scorpius laughed, but Al was confused. "A Mackled what?" he said.

"Mackled Malaclaw. It looks similar to a regular lobster. If it bites you, you'll have bad luck for a week!"

"Like if you break a mirror?" Al said, trying not to grin.

"No, that's superstitious nonsense, Al," Rose said. "You know that. A Mackled Malaclaw is the real deal. Why do you think the Felix Felicis potion was invented in the first place?"

Al had only heard of the good luck potion in passing, and had read a blurb in an old book the year before he got his Hogwarts letter.

"So Filch will have bad luck for the rest of the week?" Which meant, by Al's calculations, that Filch had about three and a half more days of bad luck. Halloween was about four days ago.

"Unless Professor d'Eath can cook up some Felix Felicis potion before the week's done, yes."

Al did laugh then, joining Scorpius, and they held onto each other to keep from falling over.

"This is no laughing matter," Rose said, hands on hips. "What the Proudfoot twins did to him was really mean, especially since this is his last year at Hogwarts. His last year here should be a good and memorable one."

Slowly, Al stopped laughing. He placed a hand on her shoulder. "Rose, look, it's not like Filch is dead. And anyway, think about what you just said. What Filch thinks is a good year at Hogwarts would be a disaster for us students. You know, from what our parents had told us of him, that he's been hoping that Hogwarts' laws on capital punishment would go back to the olden days; do you really want that to happen? Next time I get detention, Filch might put me on the rack!"

"Yeah, I suppose you do have a point," Rose said. "But no luck is better than bad luck, surely? His last year here should go as smooth as possible. Does he really deserve to be given more aggravation than necessary?"

"Yes," Al and Scorpius said as one.

Rose huffed. "Oh, honestly, you two!"

They made it to the entrance to the Slytherin common room. Rose had been following them, frowning all the while.

"You should go back to Ravenclaw Tower," Al said as he turned to his cousin. "You might get in trouble if you come in with us."

"Can't I come in just for a little while?" she asked. "Aren't I an entitled Ravenclaw friend?" she then fluttered her lashes.

Scorpius rolled his eyes and sighed. "Look, we'll let you know when we're having our first get-together; you'll probably get an invitation by owl. But you shouldn't come in yet. Let the party be your first introduction to the rest of the Slytherins, let them get used to seeing you in here. Then you can come in the common room once in a while, with a prefect or teacher's permission."

"Oh, all right," Rose said. "Maybe we could converge in the Ravenclaw common room sometime before then, or maybe after. I'm sure the other Ravenclaw students won't mind."

They agreed and waved Rose goodbye as she left. Scorpius then turned back to the stone entrance.

"Re'em blood," he said, and the stone slab slide away, allowing them entry.

Orion Zabini, his Ravenclaw twin Corvus, the Proudfoot twins, Owain Thickey, and Spica Baddock, the captain for the Slytherin Quidditch team, were sitting around the hearth. When Al and Scorpius entered the room, all heads turned to look at them.

"Well, if it isn't daddy's boy himself," said Thickey. "Anyone else's life you'd like to ruin, like Spica's for one? You'd just love to become the new captain too, wouldn't you?"

"Bugger off, Thicko," Albus said. "You're just worried that Scorpius will take away your position as Seeker. And you know what? You might be right."

"Don't call me that!" Thickey growled, standing up with his fists balled.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mister Thickey… thicky thick McThickson!"

Thickey went red in the face. He took out his wand and aimed it straight at Al. "Last warning, Pothead!"

"Oi, don't even think of hexing Al," Scorpius warned. He plunged his hand into his robes and wrapped a hand around his wand, but didn't take it out yet. The movement was threatening enough. "Because you'll regret it."

"Bring it on, Firsties!" Thickey bellowed. "I doubt you've even mastered the tickling charm!"

"What the devil is going on here?" their head of house said as he stormed in. "Mr Thickey, put your wand away. There will be none of that in the common room. Five points from Slytherin."

"But, sir!" Thickey said.

"You will be silent," Professor d'Eath ordered. "Save your aggression and anger for the tryouts. We'll see just how motivated you are in keeping your position on the team. Mr Zabini—"

"Yes?" Corvus and Orion answered together.

"I mean you, Mr Corvus. What are you doing here? Get back to your own common room at once."

Corvus didn't argue. He grabbed his school bag and got up to leave.

"See you tomorrow at breakfast," Orion said.

"Yeah, see you."

"Thanks for helping me with my Transfiguration assignment," Orion called out as Corvus made for the exit.

"You're welcome, bro," Corvus said over his shoulder. Once the stone door slid shut behind him, Professor d'Eath went back to addressing the rest of the students.

"I don't want to see that sort of behaviour again. You're Slytherins, not a bunch of hotheaded, moronic Gryffindors. You should know better by now, Mr Thickey. And Miss Baddock, you should have stepped in and stopped them. Actually, I'm surprised you hadn't."

"Sorry, sir," she said. "I was waiting to see what they'd do, and if it got out of hand…"

"Next time stop it before it escalates into wand brandishing."

"Yes, sir."

"Now then, on to the reason why I'm here. Mr Malfoy," d'Eath said, turning suddenly to face Scorpius. "I wish to speak with you about your latest Potions essay."

"Yes, sir," Scorpius said.

For some odd reason that sparked a memory within Albus. "Wait, sir. I have a request to ask."

Professor d'Eath turned to face Al so quickly that it startled him. "Yes, Mr Potter?"

Albus gasped and stepped back. "Oh, er, I was wondering if you could give me permission to search the Restricted Section. You see—"

"Absolutely not," the professor said at once. "I know what you're up to, Mr Potter, and I forbid you from acquiring any information on them."

"Them?" Scorpius said, staring at Al for answers.

Albus ignored Scorpius and kept his gaze on the professor. "But, sir, I won't be searching for them. I just want to understand—"

"Don't lie to me, Potter," Professor d'Eath said. His eyes narrowed. "I can tell when someone is lying to me, so don't even try thinking up another excuse. The answer will always be no."

"Right… sorry, sir."

"Come, Mr Malfoy," d'Eath said. Scorpius slowly followed his teacher out. He looked over his shoulder at Albus before he exited the room, curiosity marring his every feature.

Albus broke eye contact. He hadn't necessarily given up on his plan; he just knew now that he had to be extra careful around the half vampire.

.-.

As Albus and Scorpius made their way down to the pitch the next evening, they had to quickly get out of the way of a zooming Peeves, who was cackling like a madman. They were confused as to why for only a second before they heard the sound of crashing, swearing, and then clanging. They raced toward the noise, too curious for their own good.

In a nearby corridor, they saw Filch on his back with his arms and legs spread out and littering the floor around him were loads of heavy objects and a tipped over cardboard box. From what Al could see, there were hammers of all shapes and sizes, large steel-tipped boots, heavy-duty sauce pans, frying pans, teakettles, pieces of broken china, and other little steel bits and bobs. There was no movement from Filch.

"Peeves has finally gone and done it, hadn't he?" Scorpius said, almost in awe. "He's gone and killed him."

"I think he's just knocked out," Al said, cautiously stepping closer to Filch. "I think I can see him breathing… maybe we should tell someone."

"And get blamed for it? No way."

"We'll explain to them that we saw Peeves." Al poked the tip of his toe into Filch's side. There was no reaction. "Seriously, we need to tell someone."

"What about the Quidditch tryouts?" Scorpius said. He waved his broomstick around in front of Al to add to his oral reminder. "I can't be late."

"Go ahead without me, I'll be there when I can. Besides, it's best we don't let him stay here. He's got bad luck now, remember? Best we make sure nothing else too horrible happens to him."

"What if," Scorpius whispered ominously. "What if touching him has given you bad luck now? Or just being around him will attract the bad luck to you? You might get hit with something that was meant for only him."

"I'll just run, get a teacher, and then clear out. I won't be long." Albus was already halfway to the staffroom.

"Okay, but please hurry! I want you to witness me beating the pants off Thickey and get the position of Seeker!"

As Albus neared the staffroom door, the two stone gargoyles that flanked it spoke before he got within a few feet from them.

"Well, well, look who it is," said one of the statues. "One of Harry Potter's sprogs."

"Hey, Sonny Jim, how'd you end up in Slytherin?" said the other one. "Did you inherit your da's parseltongue then?"

"Bet he did," the first one laughed. "Bet he can speak with forked tongue."

"Sod off, the both of you," Al snapped. He knocked on the door.

"Ohhh, that's told us! Made me feel like a right Charlie."

"Oh yes, a complete and total Richard…"

The door opened before Albus could tell the statues to shut their stone gobs. It was Professor Longbottom who answered.

"Oh, Al, what's wrong?" he said kindly.

"It's Filch," Al said, pointing his finger behind him down the hall as he spoke. "Peeves had done something horrible to him and he's out cold."

"Thanks for letting me know," Longbottom said. "Mind you, between the two of us, I think the old coot had this coming for a while. It's a pity that your Uncle George and his late twin hadn't thought of doing it much sooner. Unless they just never got the chance. Anyway, I'll let Hagrid and Professor Flitwick know and we'll get him to the infirmary."

"Thanks, Professor," Al said. He turned to go but Longbottom stopped him.

"Hey, Al… er, look, I don't care personally that you were Sorted into Slytherin. I know that you're not a bad person. Just, er, so you know… you've got my back. I mean if your parents raise a fuss about it when they find out. I don't think your dad will mind, but I'm a little concerned for your mum and Uncle Ron. I'm sure they'll come around though, after they get used to it. Anyway, just know that you can come to me for anything, all right? My door's always open."

Al couldn't stop grinning even if he wanted to. He even got a little teary-eyed, but kept it together. "Thanks, sir… er, Neville. I really appreciate it. Thank you."

"No problem. Now then, care to explain why you went and befriended Scorpius Malfoy of all people? I'm not saying that you shouldn't be friends with him, I'm just a little shocked, and maybe concerned."

"He's not a bad bloke, really. He might be somewhat pretentious, and maybe spoiled, but he's all right."

"Well, you've definitely got your dad's heart, that's for sure. I don't know if anyone from the Weasley side of the family would ever consider becoming friends with a Malfoy. You're a good person, Al." Neville then smiled widely. "You're more your namesake than I thought."

Albus didn't know what to say to that, so he just left and let the professors get on with helping Filch. When he got to the hall where he'd found the old caretaker, he saw that he was still there and still unconscious. Not wishing to stick around in case something else bad happened, Al hoofed it to the Quidditch pitch.

It was only after he got to the pitch that he realized he could have asked Neville to sign his permission form so he could get into the Restricted Section. He'd have to remember to do it later.

The new tryouts for the Slytherin Quidditch team had already been in full swing. They must have started a bit before Scorpius had even arrived from the looks of it, because off to one side of the pitch was a crowd of onlookers and some of them seemed to have been trying to get on the team again. Al recognized some of them from last time they had tryouts, and it looked like they struck out again. Albus soon spotted the Proudfoot twins sitting on the edge of the grassy field whispering to each other behind their hands, their positions relaxed and brooms lying beside them; they must have also made the team again, which didn't surprise him. A second later, Spica Baddock blew her whistle and ordered for the Chasers in the air to land.

"Nothing new happened here," she said. "Rigel and Lepus, you two are still the Chasers, along with moi. You can join Pucey in the showers while we finally do the main reason why we're all here in the first place." Spica then glowered at those hoping to get on the team as the new Seeker. He saw Scorpius standing at the front of the group and Thickey stood way in the back.

"Time to get out the Snitch!" Spica announced.

Albus decided he might as well make himself comfortable and found a good seat. It might take a while to get through all those hopefuls. Once he'd sat himself on a bit of soft grass by the bleachers, he noticed that Spica and the Proudfoot twins had newer brooms than last time he'd seen them.

He didn't even need to ask. He had a feeling he knew just who had gone through the trouble of buying the Slytherin team the newest racing brooms. Not that he blamed Mr Malfoy for it, but he really didn't need to go that far. Albus knew that Scorpius could get on the team without the help of buying his way in. At least he hoped so.

The moment Spica released the Snitch, a dozen candidates rose up high on their brooms. Al then noticed that they were all on school brooms, and that Orion was standing on the other side of the pitch holding Scorpius' Firebolt 200 for him. It also looked as if someone else was holding Thickey's Comet 390. The rules for the new tryouts must be that they all had to use the same exact broom type or it wouldn't be considered fair since Scorpius would have had the advantage on his new broom.

One of the applicants suddenly nose-dived, as if they'd seen the Snitch, but then barreled into the ground with a large 'woomph!' and a pained yell. The person was helped immediately.

It was later discovered that it had been a third year named Kay Rosier who was trying to pretend he'd seen the Snitch and trick the others, but only ended up injuring himself. Only one other person had almost fallen for his trick, but came out of the dive before hitting the ground. The others seemed to have known it had been a trick from the beginning.

Thickey and Scorpius were still circling the air like hungry vultures. Albus watched the latter with apprehension and concern. He was also scanning the skies for the elusive Snitch, which had become something of a habit whenever there was a Snitch in need of catching whether he was playing or not.

It seemed like it had been an hour, but it was only almost half an hour, and no one had caught the Snitch yet. Albus had spotted it about ten minutes ago hovering around the middle goal post, but he knew he couldn't say anything; the tryout had to be as fair as possible, or the Headmistress might cancel it and Thickey might stay on as Seeker.

Finally, after almost five minutes more, the Snitch had been spotted by Scorpius. When Thickey saw that he'd seen it, he went racing after him. The crowd in the stands and around the pitch were on their feet; they shouted and cheered or jeered, and Albus could just hear others rooting for their favorite player over his own shouting of "Go Scorp!"…

It was over before he knew it. The Snitch was caught and the victor rose high in the air, Snitch over his head and grin huge and beaming on his face. Albus cheered so loud his voice cracked, and he was pretty sure he'd strained a muscle with all the jumping around and clapping he was doing.

Scorpius won; he'd caught the Snitch.

TBC