Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's note: This story is a joint effort between me and YuumeiUke. It is less a collaboration fic than YuumeiUke's story (of the same name) which I beta and for which I offer suggestions. Since my input has been significant, we have decided to publish the story under my name as well. Please note that I will continue to update "A Saviour Uncaused" regularly.
Albus Is a LOSER
The Hogwarts Express chugged slowly out of Platfrom 9 ¾, pulled out of the station and slunk up the railway, slowly fading in a cloud of smoke as it turned a bend.
Scorpius Malfoy was thankful for his empty compartment. He wanted privacy to contemplate the conversation his mother had with him in the parlour of Malfoy Manor a few hours ago. Astoria Malfoy, which was to say Draco Malfoy, thought it an appropriate time for him to begin "looking around for someone special." In other words, Scorpius thought wryly, a suitable incubator.
The mountainous scenery flew by, hypnotising Scorpius into somnolence, but his mind was whirring with disbelief and uncertainty about his new, baffling charge that he kept awake.
The door to his compartment opened and two boys walked in engrossed in mirthful conversation. Scorpius ignored Albus Potter and Liam Bones as they took their seats opposite him and prattled about nonsensical tripe. He exhaled loudly, feeling annoyed suddenly.
"If you want to remain here, I'd appreciate it if you kept a lid on it," he announced tersely.
The pair quieted immediately, shock visible on their faces.
"Sorry?" Potter said incredulously. "Funnily enough last I checked the name of the train wasn't the Malfoy Express."
Scorpius noticed that Bones said nothing but maintained a look of indifference. Counting to ten did nothing to improve his anger. Grinding his teeth, he turned back mulishly to the window, folded his farms to hide his clenched fists and tried to keep his composure while his two Housemates continued their insolent dialogue.
For the next eight hours he exercised great self-control. He fixed his eyes on the travelling landscapes through the compartment window. He was able to tune the other boys out, and yet at the same time wished he, too, could have a friend with whom to speak. In all of his past five years at Hogwarts, no one had ever approached him and extended a hand of friendship (except briefly whenever he won Hoggy's Finest Male Person and a giggling band of girls surrounded him, only to slough off a week later). To them he was a freak of nature: royalty with a father on the teaching roster. He was neither shoved nor taunted nor bullied. Worse: he was left alone, not interacted with and eyed from a distance. He had remarkable grades, he walked with his back straight and he barely spoke to anyone. The students were content with keeping him an enigma they were not quite interested in to decipher.
His father, though a professor at the school, never paid the slightest bit of attention to him unless he did something wrong. Sometimes Scorpius preferred his father forget about him (and he encouraged this by actively avoiding his father sometimes). On the rare occasion his father decided Scorpius had done something to embarrass the family name, he would end up with scars on his body.
For the first time in eight hours he glanced up at the two boys who shared his compartment. They had partially undressed and were changing into their robes. Following suit, Scorpius stood up and reached for his own robe in the overhead compartment. His eyes strayed back over to the other boys curiously – a habit he had cherished for as long as he could remember – only to be belatedly awoken to the impropriety of his actions. He brought his eyes back to himself and dressed, eager to get to school and have his meal. Staring was almost as awful as being blatantly rude. He was very thankful his Housemates had not noticed his slip in manners, and were his mother here she would have chided him for staring longer than the Five Seconds Rule she had taught him prescribed.
The train screeched to a halt, white smoke billowing past the windows. The doors opened slowly and the loud hiss of steam and raucous laughter and chatter rendered clear thinking impossible. Scorpius ran to the first empty horseless carriage and entered it.
When Lucius died, Scorpius lost a grandfather, a confidant, counsellor and indeed a friend. His father did not deign to play either of those roles in his life – nor, indeed, did Lucius play any of them in Draco's life. So who was Lucius to lecture Draco in being more responsive to his son? Instead of lecturing, Lucius became to Scorpius what Draco seemed compelled not to be. But when Lucius died, Draco's mind seemed to have gone with him. Suddenly, everything big and small thing began to bother Draco. Anything Scorpius did that remotely sinister had been deemed a crime perpetrated through disrespect of heritage – be it speaking out of turn or coming late to dinner – and followed by punishment.
His father would take him to a room and barred the door to prevent his mother from intervening. After what would feel like hours upon hours, Draco would finally have enough and Scorpius would emerge from the room to fall into the arms of his mother, who would immediately tend to him as he cried into her neck. Scorpius never understood why his mother never stopped his father.
The carriage stopped rocking, harshly bringing Scorpius back to the present. He stumbled out and righted himself before anyone could notice. Legions of students swarmed the castle. The first-years had not yet joined them but were still crossing the Black Lake in the small boats, setting eyes on Hogwarts for the first time.
Scorpius sat down at the Slytherin table. The professors were speaking quietly amongst themselves at the High Table. His father was leading the first-years into the Great Hall. As professionally focused as his father seemed in carrying out his duty, somehow Scorpius felt his father's eyes on him as he strode past the Slytherin table before stopping at the front of the Hall before the High Table. Scorpius looked away and had a flitting wish to be the weightless child of a hallucinatory vagrant who was convinced he was a king and lived in a sprawling castle and had Galleons to last several lifetimes.
When Scorpius looked up again, the last of the first-years had been Sorted, Professor Malfoy had returned to the High Table and Headmistress McGonagall (who still took her senior Transfiguration classes) was standing up to make her speech. A few minutes later food appeared on the table; Scorpius picked at his plate but his appetite was lost. The Start-of-Term Feast was soon over and Scorpius had hardly eaten. He could feel the constant heaviness of his father's stare on him but not once did he look up to meet it.
Journeying to the Slytherin common room alone, Scorpius began to think inwardly. If this was the year he would become engaged, his entire life would change. His father would actually be proud of him, for one thing. And he would marry a beautiful girl and deliver an heir.
But to someone who barely spoke to the student body, this was a herculean challenge. It took him almost an entire month of intense preparation to utter a single word outside of academia to his Potions partner Poppy Keane.
He felt that he, quite unfairly so, had extra homework that no one else was getting. Then again there was no other adolescent Malfoy at Hogwarts. Why did he have to contemplate grownup things like marriage when he was still a teenager? Why did he have to navigate the world of dating when he preferred his Sentech broom over sweet smiles and rosy cheeks? This tired indignation coloured all his interactions with girls. And, quite surprisingly, the mutinous reluctance borne from it that intermittently surfaced during these interactions afforded him a kind of naturalness and ease he ordinarily would not have been able to find amidst girls with a map in hand.
Bathing in the easy, comfortable air between him and his female Transfiguration partner, Scorpius happened to look across the room and his eyes found the back of Albus Potter. The other boy was hunched over in hilarity at the expense of his friend, who was on the ground writhing in mirth – the unambiguous result of a Tickling Charm. The spell was not part of the curriculum of sixth-year Transfiguration, which was precisely why Scorpius was not surprised when Professor McGonagall strode past them having turned the mischievous boys into two five-feet-tall tomes titled The Courtly Manners of Yester.
But Scorpius was far from amused. This daring streak of the Potters – he had heard of it from his father, usually in annoyed tones, when his father had been more familial. He felt it too: there was something irksome about it. It was the sheer nerve. The mindless abandon. The flagrant abuse of duty and rules because he believed they did not apply to him; he was famous to boot. And he must have no onerous obligations imposed upon him like marriage – he was not of old cloth. He, Scorpius, could not afford to tickle his friend – what friend? – and be turned into a tome.
And yet, there had been something about Potter's body being rocked by laughter, about his teeth as he grinned, his crinkled eyes, that sent a sizzling pulse through Scorpius' body. He had felt similarly about other boys before – but not a boy like Albus Potter – someone he felt compelled to hate in honour of the heavy yoke of tradition.
Albus sat at the Slytherin table with his girlfriend Adrianna Marwick perched on his lap and feeding him vegetables off her plate. Nobody was paying them any mind, upon which Albus took liberty to act naturally – at least until he had to perform again. He took another forkful and failed to contain the smile widening around the fork to a smirk. Everything else had disappeared, and his eyes were only for Adrianna. She paused to stare back at him, a purr on her lips.
As popular as he was, Albus was conspicuously unsociable. Much of his fame derived from the fact that he was the son of the "Chosen One". It also did not help that he was the spitting image of Harry Potter: his hair was the same jet-black, unruly mop (which, however, he did not mind that too much as it gave him that timeless just-hopped-off-a-broom look), but this trendy appearance fell in sharp contradiction with his inherited scrawny and relatively meagre build. But his lack of muscles enabled his lithe and agile carry, which came in extremely handy in his Seeker duties. In fact, were it not for his older brother James, Gryffindor would have seen a return to the lengthy luckless streak they had suffered before Harry Potter showed up as chronicled in the trophy room.
Unsurprisingly, Albus received plenty of stares from both sides of the aisle, but he never paid it any mind and he smiled back at them. No one mattered to him besides Adrianna.
Albus jerked back to reality and gently extracted Adrianna from his lap. "Liam?" Albus replied. He quickly switched on his sleepy, blasé expression – his "cool" look – as he eyed the crowd around him.
"I've been calling you for the past three minutes!" Exasperation was evident in Liam's tone.
"I highly doubt that," Albus replied stiffly, suddenly annoyed by his best friend. Pulling out of his moment with Adrianna was like being doused with freezing water.
It was in some ways exhausting to maintain pretences, and Liam and Adrianna were the only souls who knew he kept them. To everyone else he was an immense narcissist who thought himself above all others. Everyone, that is, besides Liam, whose talent for observation, begot from his Auror father, had quickly seen through his façade. He had happened to be friends with Adrianna, whom he informed of Albus' pretentions. It was for this reason that he and Albus could become best friends and Albus and Adrianna lovers.
She, the closest person to Albus besides his siblings, came to find out the reason behind his inglorious bastardness: it was an elaborate scheme to keep people away. But Albus was slowly, reluctantly, coming to the resolve that the scheme was wearing thin: it seemed only the smarter and more discerning section of the school body was repulsed by such conceit (in other words, almost the entire Ravenclaw House). The rest (basically every House besides Ravenclaw), in the likes of admirers and stalkers, ate it up.
Indeed he was protective of his fictitious ego. His father would arrive at Hogwarts any day now for his guest lectures, something about which he felt conflicted: on the one hand, Harry Potter's presence would bolster his own popularity. On the other, however, Albus feared it would diminish it. He looked over to his brother James and his sister Lily from across the Hall at the Gryffindor table. Their profiles, too, would be elevated in the glow of their father's presence, he thought. Should he be jealous of that?
"Liam," said Albus, turning to face his friend with a serene expression, "how can I be of service?" Sarcasm dripped from his voice. He squeezed Adrianna's hand beneath the table to reassure her they would have their moment back.
"Albus, be serious for one moment, this is important."
Albus said nothing and nodded, encouraging Liam to continue. Liam eyed the other students in their vicinity warily before he leaned across the table closer to the other boy.
"Hogwarts is ge-"
But Albus had raised his hand to silence him. Liam looked confounded.
"What?" Liam whispered with a slight tone of indignation.
"Muffliato!" Albus murmured; Liam's body language suggested to him that what he was about to reveal information that was either not for public consumption or one Liam wanted them to share between themselves before it; it was always a thrill, even a social currency in school, to know something before anyone else did and leverage the information to social-climb. "Carry on."
Shaking his head, Liam continued, "We're getting a new headmaster."
If Albus was expecting something, it certainly was not this. He recoiled slightly. "Pardon?"
Liam leaned even closer. "I've only heard rumours, right? But I hear it's someone no one's expecting. And he's even older than McGonagall!" he exclaimed with a mixed expression of distaste and amazement.
"Why are we getting a new headmaster?" Adrianna whispered.
"Who knows? But remember I mentioned McGonagall talking with Mrs P about something like honouring herself because she's a good headmaster when I was in the infirmary after I tripped on that fickle staircase that everyone but me seems to have mastered?" The couple nodded. "I'm almost certain now that she was talking about this geezer doing a sort of honorary headmastership at Hogwarts. It's so obvious now that it was too good to be true that McGonagall would blow her own trumpet like that."
"You know that still sounds like an utter load of bollocks, right?" Albus said.
"It might sound like it's not true, Potter, but you just watch. Something's going to happen to this school – something maybe even amazing."
"Right. Sounds nice," Albus said shortly. Liam took the hint, rolled his eyes and returned to a fellow Slytherin with which he had been having a conversation before coming over to Albus.
"Let's go to the lake, Adrianna," Albus suggested quietly and stroked her hand with his thumb.
"Is everything all right, Albus?" she asked, her voice quieting to a low murmur.
"I just feel a little claustrophobic," he answered.
The couple stood up and left before a harassed-looking Headmistress McGonagall could stop them. They held hands and enjoyed the newfound silence that surrounded them as they left the Great Hall and headed out to the grounds. The late September air was pleasant on the Slytherins' faces, making Albus smile for the first time that day.
"Don't you just love the cold?" he gushed happily, twirling around with his arms stretched out.
"I do!" Adrianna replied cheerfully. Albus laughed with her and they pranced towards the Black Lake. When they arrived at its brim, Albus took off his shoes and socks and stuck his feet into the cold water, testing its temperature delicately.
"The water is absolutely freezing!" he shrieked, stepping back quickly. Adrianna simply looked at Albus, her eyebrows raised in amusement. He waded back in, more slowly this time. He kept going until the water hit his knees. When he turned back to look, Adrianna had not moved from where he had left her on the pebbles. His head tilted his head to the side but she offered no explanation and stuck her tongue out at him. Albus chuckled.
"Come join me!" he said, offering a hand.
Adrianna shook her head, sitting up slightly and resting on her elbows. She was smiling at him winningly.
"I dare you." Albus grinned wildly.
Trudging through the water and keeping his eyes glued to Adrianna's, Albus moved slowly, splashing water everywhere. His robes were wetter than he would have liked but that was a peripheral concern he should have left at the castle. He leapt out of the lake towards Adrianna. Prepared for this, Adrianna braced herself when he landed on her. Albus watched her mischievously, his hands on her sides, their bodies lying flush together.
"Adrianna love, why is it you don't want to join me in the Black Lake? We came here to relax and you're just... relaxing!"
"Yes, Albus, I am relaxing."
Albus nuzzled into her, breathing gently on her ear. Adrianna squirmed beneath him and Albus asked again, "Adrianna, why don't you join me in the Black Lake?" He kissed her neck and she moaned into his ear.
Adrianna was whimpering and Albus almost lost his control. Forcing himself to calm down, Albus asked a third time; only this time he hoped she would say no.
"Adrianna? Black Lake?"
Adrianna laughed breathlessly, "Albus Severus Potter, I'm perfectly comfortable sitting here and watching you. And now you've made my nice clothes wet!"
At that point Albus knew Adrianna did not care about her clothes. Her face had a delightful blush on it. He kissed her lips chastely and pulled back slightly to see her reaction. Her lips were parted pleadingly. Albus kissed her again and took the time to pay attention to every part of her mouth.
"Let's just stay here, Albus," she murmured to him gently, wrapping her legs around his thighs. Her skirt had fallen past her knees, exposing her naked skin. The sight stopped Albus in his tracks and he took a moment to appreciate the beauty of her soft, pale skin and the elegant curves of her legs. She was so beautiful... It did not matter to him that he had seen her naked skin a thousand times before – every time it was presented to him, he would become excited and aroused.
Adrianna wrapped her arms around Albus and pulled him closer, causing his arms, which he had used to brace himself above her, to collapse. For a while neither of them spoke; with their bodies intertwined and their hearts beating as one, speech was obsolete.
Albus leant closer to Adrianna and kissed her again. He moaned into the soft pliable feel of her lips. His heart thundered against her breast and he mirrored Adrianna's deep pants. He grew harder faster as his girlfriend pushed her hips up to meet his own with each of his thrusts.
For a moment, Albus forgot that he was in a very public area where anyone keen on spying would have no trouble spotting them. But he could not bring himself to stop; his lips continued to move furiously, kissing Adrianna thoroughly and roaming his hands all over her body. He lost track of time and after what felt like hours they finally detached and lay quietly beside each other.
"I love you," Albus murmured softly to her.
"I love you too."
Liam accosted the couple by the lake, his eyes frantic and wild. "Albus, Adrianna! Where've you been?"
"Here?" Albus offered.
"Turns out I was right," Liam ploughed on airily after Adrianna snickered.
Albus still had no idea what his friend was talking about. He helped Adrianna up and together they walked to their next class, Liam, lost in thought, trailing behind them.
"What were you right about?" Albus enquired curiously, though the sudden sick feeling in the pit of his stomach seemed to answer the question for him.
"The new headmaster!"
"Who is it?" Adrianna asked.
Albus lost his footing and stumbled. "You're joking," he spluttered. A sudden, gut-wrenching feeling twisted his insides.
"No. You missed it! He was so—so fabulous. Just... different. It was shocking, really."
"Go ahead then – what happened?" Albus urged. For could not explain his rising sense of panic to himself. Liam eyed him curiously before continuing his explanation.
"Well, he came in a few minutes after you disappeared. The rest of the students didn't even see him make his entrance, I don't think."
"This can't be real," Albus muttered to himself.
"It's quite real, Albus," Liam told him rather uppishly. "Wait, let me finish!"
Albus walked slower. The other two followed suit uncertainly.
"All right there, mate?" Liam inquired of his best friend, for the other boy appeared weak. But Albus merely shook his head again and motioned for him to continue.
"So everyone was eating, yeah? And no one was paying attention to the teachers. Yours truly saw him come in through that door behind the High Table. He looked a lot like Dumbledore on our Chocolate Frog cards, I swear. And then I realised who it was! Dumbledore's brother's here to be the headmaster! He used to work at that old tavern, didn't he? Anyway, McGonagall introduced him as Aberforth Dumbledore and said that he'd be headmaster for the 'foreseeable future.' Mate, he was—The way he looked... He's nothing like a professor – never mind a headmaster. He's just amazing! Finally something to break the colourless professionalism of this place. That alone is enough to overlook the fact that the school's going to be run by someone who ran a tavern once. The experience must count for something, right? What am I saying? It did!"
"Just a smidge," Albus said, his lips twitching. "Ah. So a little, um, agricultural charm?" He remembered the smell of goat that prevailed in the old tavern from his several surreptitious visits there.
"A little bit of that, yes," Liam replied, also struggling to straighten his face.
Albus stood up again, found his knees sturdier than before and he and his friends scaled the rolling grounds and continued on their way to their next class.
"Do you think maybe we should sneak in?" Albus asked. "I mean, we've skipped class and breakfast – surely the teachers noticed by now..." He trailed off as they walked into the Entrance Hall and met the tall figure of Aberforth Dumbledore.
"Shit!" Liam muttered under his breath.
"Good morning, students," Dumbledore greeted. Albus, Liam and Adrianna mumbled greetings back bashfully. Dumbledore beamed down at them as he reached into the breast of his scarlet robes and pulled out a scroll so thick it looked like extra-wide toilet paper, which he let roll open and fall to his feet. He hissed a Muggle expletive (three jaws clattered against the floor) before he pulled out his glasses and very quickly began working down the scroll while intermittently glancing at the three students in front of him.
The scroll seemed so long that it was exceedingly obvious to the three students what was written on it. When Albus opened his mouth Dumbledore jerked and made a protesting noise. Recoiled, Albus shut his mouth.
Dumbledore ran through a few more feet of parchment before Albus tentatively pointed out – in defiance of Liam's silent urge against the motion – that they were late for class, to which the headmaster made a very unceremonious snort which startled, and worried, Albus slightly.
"It's my school now, boy – I run the classes," Dumbledore muttered darkly under his breath as his eyes continued to run down more scroll.
Adrianna looked perfectly scandalized but Liam had met the love of his life.
"Ah!" shouted Dumbledore after a full five minutes. Albus and Adrianna felt stupid for starting again. "Liam! And... Adrianna!" Dumbledore sucked a breath in through his teeth, looking extremely satisfied with himself. He muttered a charm that rolled up the scroll, which he replaced in his breast.
"I think you have to use our last names, sir," Albus muttered almost apologetically. There was something wrong in the world when he was feeling guilty about correcting what appeared to be a mentally unsound old man who happened to be his new headmaster.
Dumbledore frowned. "Well, I guess that's very proper, isn't it? No wonder I was serving more and more of your schoolmates down at the pub – the teachers talk to you like from the other side of the bridge. How they fathom they're gonna get to you if they talk to you like that? Right then, hem hem. So you and... It's Mr... Remini?" Dumbledore asked as he grimaced at Albus. When Albus grimaced back he swore again in Muggle and reached inside his robe again.
"NO!" Albus, Adrianna and even Liam screamed, holding their arms up.
"No!" Albus said. "My name is Mr Potter, she's Ms Marwick and he's Mr Bones."
"Right," said Dumbledore jovially. "You, Mr Bones and Ms Marwick, can go on to your classes. Mr Potter, I want to see you in my office," he said with relish, "tonight at eight o'clock." Dumbledore did not wait for a reply and continued on his way, singing a tune that Albus did not recognise. Shaking slightly and very thankful that he had not been expelled just yet for skipping the headmaster's maiden speech, Albus caught up to his friends as they approached the Transfiguration class, glad somewhat that he would enjoy a few more hours of being a Hogwarts student.
"I think I might be in trouble," Albus told Liam needlessly.
"Kind of figured that out when Dumbledore said he wanted to see you tonight."
"You're late," Professor McGonagall said tersely.
"Sorry, Professor, we were interrupted by Headmaster Dumbledore."
"You were interrupted?" McGonagall replied incredulously, lips thinning. "Dumbledore is the headmaster of this school. I should think you would know that, Mr Potter – he cannot possibly interrupt you. But naturally you were busy with your own activities."
Albus' mouth dropped open. Figuring it was better to react as minimally as possible, he said nothing in reply, bowed his head in apology and took his seat.
"Now that Mr Potter is through with interrupting the class..."
Facing glowing in embarrassment, Albus tuned Professor McGonagall out and he was unable to concentrate on anything she said. Liam had to drag him out of class when he lingered in his seat after the bell rang. During lunch, Albus could not eat anything: the sight of food and the thought of eating it made him nauseous. He did not take notes in any of his subsequent classes either. Liam took notes for him in a thoughtful attempt to try to take his mind off what would happen in a few hours' time.
Dinner finally arrived. Adrianna tried to force food down his throat so as to stop the growling from his stomach that had not stopped since his penultimate class of the day. He opened his mouth to speak and Adrianna did not wait for a second invitation. Choking, Albus spat out the offensive forkful.
Glaring, he growled, "I am going to get expelled, guys. The only reason I'm still here's because I'm part Harry Potter's sperm."
"Oi, we're eating here, mate!" Liam protested. "You aren't getting expelled, maybe just detention. They don't expel students on the basis of bunking class and missing a speech!"
"He's right, Albus," Adrianna chimed in, having given up on trying to feed her boyfriend.
"Then why did it have to be a private meeting? Why couldn't he have just told me what he wanted to right there and then?"
His best friend and girlfriend shook their heads ignorantly.
"Why don't you go wait for Dumbledore by his office? The extra time might calm your nerves down."
Albus nodded dolefully. Headmaster Dumbledore (the title on its own sounded like a punch line to a joke) was still eating at the High Table and Albus doubted he would be along any time soon, but anything was better than agonising over his untouched dinner. Albus stood up from the Slytherin table and made his way to the Entrance Hall. The short walk seemed to take forever, but he was finally away from all the noise.
Portraits greeted him kindly and helped him find Dumbledore's office, a path Albus had never taken before. It was the first time he had been summoned to the headmaster's office.
Miserably, Albus sat down next to the stone gargoyle, which ignored him. He rested his head between his knees and forced himself to breath normally. In and out. In and out, he instructed himself.
"Potter—Mr Potter, I mean to say," an elderly voice called.
Albus looked up and stood quickly, almost stumbling over in his haste to explain himself.
"Headmaster Dumbledore," he stuttered hesitantly, "I swear, I—I didn't know you were showing up! I'm so sorry!"
"Don't worry, my boy. Besides, my speech was dismal, if I do say so myself – you didn't miss anything interesting."
"So I'm not getting expelled?" Albus asked hopefully.
"No, of course not, Albus."
Albus' eyes widened in shock. Why had Dumbledore used his first name? Dumbledore led him up the spiral staircase, which fascinated Albus greatly.
"M&M?" Dumbledore offered, holding out an oval looking, blue coloured candy.
"What is that, sir?" Albus asked uncertainly, reaching for the proffered candy.
"Oh, a delightful Muggle candy. Albus, my brother, wasn't so keen on these – he much preferred things like Lemon Drops and Mint Toffees. But I'm keen on the peanut ones of these. You aren't allergic to peanuts, I hope?"
"No, sir," Albus replied, popping the blue coloured candy into his mouth and chewing thoughtfully. "These are quite good, Headmaster!" Aberforth beamed happily.
Dumbledore wheezed and shook in his seat. "So, Albus," he said in a starkly serious tone, "I called you here to ask a favour of you."
Albus looked up, his heart suddenly pounding, reeling from the quick change of subject. The M&M got stuck in his throat and he swallowed painfully.
"I happened to stumble across your name on the L. O. S. E. R. list; it seems you've got some serious skills with the quill."
Albus' first encounter with the headmaster had not gone as expected. So he did not know if he had just been insulted or the contrary.
"Sir?" he repeated.
"Ah, you must not have heard of LOSER. Figures since I invented the blasted thing today." Dumbledore fell into a fit of chuckles. Albus' expression was almost obliging. Dumbledore gathered himself and then explained, "The List of Students with Extraordinary Results. I reckon the name is quite self-explanatory, yes?" Albus nodded uncertainly. So he had not been insulted? "It's a list of eleven pupils who are doing extremely well with the books and the broom. Four students and one Quidditch player from sixth year and five students and another Quidditch player from seventh year. We're going to see how we can make the kids busy and show them around places where they might work one day and mingle with the who's-who of the world and all the rest of it," he finished, waving a hand casually.
Albus had never thought himself uptight but quite honestly there was a certain decorum with which headmasters had to conduct themselves, was there not? He could not take Aberforth Dumbledore seriously enough because the man clearly did not take himself – nor his job – seriously enough.
"The reason I'm telling you all this is that I want you to host a Silk & Leather Ball this year for Hogwarts this Halloween."
Albus said nothing.
"Well? May I seek your hand in planning the spectacle, Mr Potter?" Dumbledore asked in a wildly inflected, mock-polished voice.
Albus felt his jaw slacken from shock. The Silk & Leather Ball was an annual party for which boys had to wear leather in whatever form and girls silk. Naturally the majority of the latter could not afford silk and had to be quite inventive and creative. In typical subversive Hogwarts fashion, it was the girls who had court the boys.
"You—You want me to help you plan the ball?" he asked incredulously. This Dumbledore was no saner than his older brother had been, if anything his father said was true of the latter. "I—What exactly needs to be planned, Headmaster?"
"The key is in your hands, Albus!" trilled Dumbledore as he pulled open his drawer and from it extracted, hanging on a very fine silver chain, the smallest key Albus had ever seen that could not possibly have any function. Dumbledore handed it to Albus, who, stunned, wordlessly hung the chain around his neck and tucked it into his robes. "That key will help you, Albus, I am certain of it," said Dumbledore gravely with much scarcer inflections.
Baffled, Albus resolved that he should simply accept the man's words and let them be. "Thank you, Headmaster. I will do my best to assist in the planning."
Dumbledore nodded. "Go then, my boy, I have things to do."
Albus had been just about to ask what exactly his responsibilities were or when he would receive them. But after the abrupt dismissal he had no choice but to leave Dumbledore's office. Stepping off the spiral stairs, he had a much lighter heart in some way, yet he still felt burdened with this new task. He made his way back to the Slytherin dungeons. He needed a good sleep that night.
Liam and Adrianna were waiting for him when he stepped into the common room. They leapt to their feet, their solemn expressions improving when they noticed the calm look on Albus' face.
"Not expelled then?" Liam chuckled knowingly.
"Not this time," Albus responded cheekily. He kissed Adrianna good night and then made his way to the dormitories. Liam followed him, waving goodbye to Adrianna.
"Tomorrow?" asked Liam, who had noted Albus' reluctance to talk about his meeting with Dumbledore.
"Tomorrow," Albus confirmed. He stripped to his pyjamas and opened the drapes of his four poster bed. "Make sure I get up on time," he instructed Liam before he added, "And by the way, the man is nutters."
"What did he say? What did he do?" Liam whispered eagerly.
"Goodnight, Liam," said Albus.
When he was finally in the privacy of his bed and the curtains were closed, he shut his eyes and cleared his mind. No one had ever asked him to do anything so enormous before. The entire school and the teaching staff, to some extent, depended on him.
Albus tried to retire his mind but it was futile.
He could discuss with Liam and Adrianna a plan of action. Dumbledore had not specifically prohibited him from telling his friends. Liam's keen mind and Adrianna's knowledge of all things womanly would help him help the school plan the perfect, and perhaps even biggest, Silk & Leather Ball.
Feeling assured and already accomplished, Albus finally relaxed into sleep.