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Albus Potter and the Ring Leader
Albus watched his parents shrink away into mist and he felt his courage shrink with them. And as the Hogwarts Express rounded a corner, Harry and Ginny Potter disappeared, leaving Albus with his shivering stomach.
Albus Severus Potter was on his way to his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…and despite all that his father had told him, neither his fear nor excitement was allayed, though he felt that he could finally manage it.
“Albus,” said a soft voice behind him.
Albus turned to see Rose Weasley, his cousin, staring at him. Rose was slightly taller than him, with freckles and blue eyes like her dad, but her hair was all her mother’s, bushy and brown. She’d been so relieved when her mother had fixed her large front teeth a year ago.
“Should we go sit down?” Rose asked.
Albus looked around him and found that he and Rose were nearly alone in the narrow hallway of the train with only a few strangers meandering up and down. Albus swallowed his scratchy throat, and nodded, saying, “Sure.”
Rose led the way down the hall, looking into the crowded compartments as they passed them. Albus could see a couple heads of familiar, red hair in the most crowded of the compartments, but most of the students looked impossibly tall and frightening. He was very careful to not get in any one of the students’ way as they passed him.
Suddenly, Rose stopped beside a somewhat empty compartment; there were only three third-year boys sitting near the window, talking happily.
“May we sit with you?” Rose said as she pulled the sliding door aside.
After a second, the boys caught on and assured her that it was fine with them, then continued with their loud conversation. They were talking of Quidditch, the most famous game in the Wizarding world. Albus was a big fan of the game, but didn’t feel like joining in the discussion.
Albus and Rose sidled in, and sat next to each other without a word, staring ahead at the opposite seats. Albus was sure that Rose was nervous, but he doubted that she could be feeling the same kind of nervousness that he felt; she would definitely be in Gryffindor. She was so much braver than he was….
“Your dad was only joking when he said that thing about us being in Slytherin,” Albus said suddenly. “Right?” He couldn’t help but ask the last part.
“I think that he was,” Rose said. Her unwavering voice was calming to Albus. “Dad’s always joking about things like that.”
Albus nodded, but felt only slightly better. The excitement and fear bouncing around his ribcage would not leave him alone for one second, fighting with each other and messing with his head.
The door to the compartment slid open and Albus turned to see a boy standing in the doorway.
“Sorry, but do you mind? A bunch of Slytherins kicked us out,” he said.
“Come on in,” Albus said immediately.
The boy and a girl came in, sitting down in the two empty seats with a bit of relief on their faces.
Albus ventured his guess, “Are you first-years?”
The two newcomers nodded. “You too?” the girl asked.
Albus nodded, “I’m Albus Potter, and this is my cousin, Rose Weasley.”
“I’m John, John Diggory,” the boy said, smiling as he shook Albus’ hand. John had sharp handsome features; he was tanned and freckled, and his hair and eyes were very dark brown.
Albus nodded again.
“I’m Sophia Ross,” the girl said, reaching over to shake Albus’ hand. Sophia’s hair was cut short like a boy’s and was a bright electric blond; her blue eyes were vivid. “Albus is a weird name…no offense,” she said, smiling her straight teeth. “Were you named after someone?” Albus noticed that she talked strangely.
Albus smiled back at her, “Yes, after a headmaster of Hogwarts actually. He’s dead now though.”
“Oh,” Sophia said.
“Are you from the United States?” Rose said. She’d obviously noticed the same thing as Albus.
“Yeah,” Sophia said. “My family moved here a year ago because my dad got a job offer.”
Time passed and the sun rose higher as the train travelled further through hills and fields. Eventually, the little old witch with the trolley came rolling by, and Albus pulled out his money; his parents had warned him that he would be hungry, and, though it was in vane, they told him to buy something healthy.
Albus was waiting his turn by the cart when he suddenly felt an arm close around his throat from behind and a fist rubbing the top of his head, hard. Albus fought out of the hold and said, “Cut it out, James! That hurts!”
“Ah, come on, little brother,” James said affectionately. “Don’t be a baby.” James, his older brother, had a somewhat stockier frame than Albus and had dark red hair, darker than any of the Weasley family, but still redder than Harry’s or Albus’. James was just going into his third year now.
Albus frowned while he straightened his collar.
And then a seventh-year girl came up behind James and thumped him on the back of the head.
“Why are you beating on Al?” Victoire, their fair-haired cousin said. Victoire was their Uncle Bill’s and Aunt Fleur’s eldest daughter; thanks to her partially-veela blood from her mother’s side of the family, she was rather beautiful with bright blue eyes and silky, white-blond hair to her waist.
“Cause he’s my little brother,” James said, shrugging. “It’s kind of my job.”
“You’re fired,” Albus grumbled.
Victoire laughed and went around James to put an arm around Albus’ shoulders. “How’s my favorite cousin doing?” she asked.
“Oh, real cheeky, Victoire, saying that when I’m standing right here,” James interrupted, pretending to take offense.
Victoire threw him an annoyed look before smiling down at Albus, “How’s the train ride been so far?”
Albus shrugged, “Its ok. I found some new friends. They’re in there with Rose.” He gestured to the compartment next to him.
“Good job, little cousin!” Victoire exclaimed. “Well, I’ll have to meet them! But not right now, if you don’t mind, I got to get back to my friends with their sweets.”
Albus caught a glimpse of the back of James’ head as his older brother left the trolley and a memory stirred in his head.
“Hey, Victoire,” he asked and motioned for her to bend down so that he could whisper in her ear, “were you snogging Teddy?”
Victoire colored and laughed a little before saying, “I should’ve known James would tell you. Yes, I’m seeing Teddy.”
Albus’ eyes widened but he only nodded, not sure what to say.
When it was his turn to buy his things, Albus loaded his arms with his favorites, including a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and ten Chocolate Frogs, before moving back to his compartment and allowing the rest of the students to get what they wanted.
“What are those?” Sophia asked as she watched Albus bite into a beet-flavored piece of candy and pull a face.
“You’ve never had these?” Rose said, pointing at the box of Every Flavor Beans and chewing on a dirt-flavored candy.
Sophia shook her head, “I didn’t even know wizards were real until this summer when I got my letter, so I don’t know about wizard candy.”
“You’re Muggle-born?” John said loudly.
Sophia pursed her lips, “Yeah.”
“Try this, Sophia.” Albus held out a gray, black-specked bean to her.
Without hesitating, Sophia reached over and popped the candy into her mouth. They watched as she chewed and then started coughing in astonishment, “It tastes… like smoke!”
“Oh!” Albus said disappointedly, looking back through the box. “I was sure it was pepper. Here, try this one.” He held out a white bean.
Sophia gave him an excited look and asked, “What does it taste like?”
“I don’t know, do I?” Albus laughed. “Go on, the white ones are usually alright.”
Sophia finally reached over and picked it up, looking at it carefully before putting it in her mouth. She wrinkled her nose, “Glue!”
Albus forgot where they were headed as the train pulled them ever onward and the sun began to sink. Lanterns flickered to life just as the light disappeared from the windows.
“You’re Harry Potter’s son, right?” John asked eventually. “You look just like his pictures.” He held up a Chocolate Frog card with Harry Potter’s face and description on it.
Albus smiled, “Yes.” He had heard that several times; the same green, almond shaped eyes, same unruly black hair, same thin face and arms and legs. The only true differences were the glasses and scar his dad wore.
“Cool,” John said. “So what’s it like, being his son? Is it annoying?”
“No, not really,” Albus said. “I guess it is a bother having people send buckets of owls all the time, but I’m very used to it.”
“Is your dad famous or something?” Sophia asked.
Everyone looked at her silently, and then John, his mouth wide, said, “What?! You don’t know who Harry Potter is?”
“I’m Muggle-born,” Sophia frowned. “Remember? I don’t know about wizard pop-stars or anything.”
John scoffed, “He’s not a pop-star. He’s the most famous wizard in England! He stopped You-Know-Who!”
“Who?” Sophia said.
Rose started laughing, “You still call him You-Know-Who? He’s dead!”
“It doesn’t hurt to show him some respect,” John snapped. “That’s what my dad says. Besides, he’s still got Death Eaters around.”
“Who?!” Sophia repeated.
Albus cut through Rose’s reply to answer Sophia, “Lord Voldemort.”
John looked shocked.
“Who’s that?” Sophia said.
“Well, Voldemort was a bad wizard,” Albus said.
“Like ‘kill people’ bad or just ‘steal money’ bad?” Sophia said.
“More like ‘take over the world’ bad,” Albus said gravely. “Things were really terrible when he was in power. He thought that Muggles were stupid and that they should work for Wizards. He started hunting down Muggle-borns like you once, before my dad stopped him.”
“How’d your dad stop him?” Sophia asked, raptly listening with awe in her eyes.
Albus hesitated, “It’s a long story.”
“I’ll listen,” Sophia said; “there’s nothing else to do.”
Albus looked over at Rose, who shrugged, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. This would be the first time he had ever told someone his dad’s story…and probably not the last, seeing as how famous his father was. He still didn’t see why everyone had to make such a fuss over him, Albus Potter. He wasn’t his father… and he would never be able to be like him.
“Alright,” Albus said finally.
“Hey, you’re Harry Potter’s son!” said one of the third-year boys near the window. This was the first time they’d said anything to them the entire trip, and so everyone was a bit shocked.
“You’re a Potter, right?” said another boy, a little more polite than his companion.
The three boys went back to whispering to each other, casting glances in his direction every once in a while.
“Anyway,” Sophia broke the momentary silence, “how did your dad stop…Volsedork?”
“Voldemort,” Rose corrected her. John shivered.
“Oh, yeah, him,” Sophia said. “How did he stop him, Al?”
Albus cleared his throat, “Well… um…Voldemort, he was a very bad wizard that everyone was afraid of… and… well… a prophecy was made that he could be defeated by a boy whose parents had defied Voldemort three times. He thought that meant my dad. So he tried to kill him when he was just a baby.
“He killed my grandparents and then when he tried to cast the Killing Curse on my dad, it kind of backfired on Voldemort and took away his body.
“So he went into hiding, trying to get his body back, while my dad was growing up with his mum’s family, the Dursleys.”
“Albus, what happened to them? I’ve never seen them,” Rose said.
“I don’t know,” Albus shrugged. “They went into hiding when my dad turned seventeen. He said it was because their first protection stopped working. I never thought to ask where they are right now.”
There was a pause.
“So what happened? Did Voldemort come back?” Sophia said.
Albus recollected his thoughts, “The first year that my dad went to Hogwarts, he stopped Voldemort from getting a powerful stone that would get him his body back. The second year, he stopped Voldemort from taking over my mum’s body and killed a basilisk with a sword. Then in his forth year, he saw Voldemort get his body back in a graveyard and almost got killed. His fifth year, he fought Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic. In his sixth year, he started learning how to defeat Voldemort with Dumbledore, the Headmaster that I’m named after, and then my dad killed Voldemort when he was seventeen; he didn’t go to Hogwarts that year.”
There was another pause while his friends waited for him to continue. Even the third-year boys on the side were listening raptly for the rest of the story.
“How’d he do it?” John said, on the verge of impatience.
“I don’t know. He won’t tell me until I’m older,” Albus said a little darkly. “I don’t know why he can’t just tell me. I’m old enough to know.”
“Maybe it’s Dark Magic,” Rose said.
Albus just nodded; they’d had this conversation before plenty of times.
“Wow,” Sophia said. “So, he’s a like a real life hero! And he fought Voldemort when he was our age? That’s so cool! Maybe we’ll have adventures like that this year?”
Albus was about to say that he wasn’t sure he wanted that, when the compartment door opened again. A tall fifth-year girl with a badge on her robes looked in, “You all had better change into your robes. We’re nearly there.”
Albus looked to the window as everyone in their compartment started to search for their robes; it was starting to grow dark and they were coming up on a forest, dark and thick.
He quickly found his robes and as he pulled them over his head, he felt his excitement mount inside him again. His feelings were mirrored on his friends’ faces.
The train slowed and eventually stopped in a lit up station. “Hogsmeade Station” was in gold letters above a door across the platform.
Albus, Rose, John, and Sophia forced their way through the door of the train and onto the platform. It was misty and dark and very crowded. It was all they could do to just stay together.
“What do we do?” asked Sophia.
“Hagrid’s going to take us to the Castle in boats,” Rose said excitedly.
“Who’s Hagrid?” John asked.
“Firs’ years! Firs’ years over here! Firs’ years!”
They could hear the familiar voice over the heads of the other students, deep and loud. Albus looked in the right direction and could see the huge looming shadow not far away.
“C’mon!” he grabbed John’s sleeve and saw Rose do the same with Sophia. He led John through the crowd until he was right next to the big man.
Hagrid was twice the size of an adult man and almost ten-times as round. His wild black hair was just as tangled as ever, and his eyes glittered like black beetles above his mess of a beard. His hands were big enough to cover the bedroom windows when he was hiding a present in the backyard and his boots were big enough for a six year old to sit comfortably in; Albus knew this firsthand.
“Hi, Hagrid!” Albus called up to him.
“Hullo there, Albus, Rosie,” Hagrid beamed down at them, brandishing the lantern in his hand. “How’s yer parents? Everythin’ good, I hope?”
“Everything’s fine,” Rose said, smiling. “This is Sophia Ross, Hagrid. And that’s John Diggory.”
Sophia and John were staring with wide eyes at the half-giant, craning their necks the better to see his face.
“Nice ter meet yeh both,” Hagrid nodded. “Firs’ years! Over here! You four stick close ter me in yer boat, alrigh’? I want ter show yeh summit out on the lake. Firs’ years!”
They waited beside Hagrid until all the first-time students had been gathered around and the rest of the students had gone off to the carriages.
Then Hagrid bellowed, “Righ’ then! Follow me!”
Obediently, the crowd of first years shuffled quickly after Hagrid as he led the way down the platform to a path in the trees. Albus felt Rose press against his arm as it grew dark around them, and could sympathize with her fear; the trees looked menacing in the shadows from Hagrid’s lantern. He wondered if any thestrals were out there, watching them go by, and he shivered.
But it wasn’t long until they were out of the trees again and on a gravelly beach to a huge lake. In the darkness, Albus couldn’t make out the opposite bank.
“This way!” Hagrid yelled to the first years and pointed to a dock with twenty or so little boats around it. “Four ter a boat! Keep yer hands an’ feet inside, an’ don’ rock the boat if yeh wanna stay dry!”
“Hagrid, what is it you want to show us?” Rose asked as everyone started to get into their boats. Albus, Sophia, and John all looked up expectantly at the big man.
“Can’t tell yeh, Rosie,” Hagrid said happily. “It would ruin the surprise!”
“Please, Hagrid! Please, oh, please tell us!” Albus said; pleading was the best way to go if Hagrid was hiding something.
“Nope!” Hagrid shook his head, still beaming. “You’ll see! C’mon, get in yer boat, you four.”
Albus led the way into a boat, sitting near the front with John just to his left. The girls took up the back.
Hagrid had to take his own boat. “Everyone in?!” he yelled. There was a general call of “Yes!” and Hagrid nodded to himself.
All at once, every one of the boats lurched forward of their own accord, Hagrid’s at the lead.
It wasn’t terrifying; the boats were gliding smoothly over the water’s surface, but they were moving fast enough to make Albus feel on edge. What was it that Hagrid wanted to show them… that was in the middle of the lake? He’d better know what he was doing.
As they reached the middle of the lake, the first years received their first view of the castle up on the cliff top. It was an impressive sight, battlements and towers and gargoyles against the dark sky. There were windows ablaze here and there, creating a flaming yellow rectangle against the darkness.
Albus was staring up at his new school in awe when Hagrid called for his attention.
“Al! Al, look! Over there, Al!” he hissed not so quietly; everyone in a five-boat radius was now looking at Hagrid.
Albus looked in the direction Hagrid pointed; all he could see was the black, starry surface of the lake and the trees on the far bank. He narrowed his eyes, but didn’t see anything interesting.
“What is it?” Albus called, looking at Hagrid again as he shrugged.
There was a sudden, loud splash and several of the girls in the boats screamed. Albus whipped his head back around; he could clearly see the tail and scales and fins, but he didn’t know what the thing could be. It was too big to be a merperson and it didn’t have tentacles, so it wasn’t the giant squid.
The creature arched into the air gracefully and crashed into the water only feet away from their boat. Albus cried out as the cold water hit him and his friends. He heard Rose, Sophia, and John sputtering around him as he turned to look at Hagrid. His largest friend was beaming down into the water at the shadow of the large fish-thing, obviously fond of the creature.
Albus thought that he should have known; Hagrid was particularly drawn to magical creatures… dangerous ones mostly. What had he gotten his hands on this time?
They were not splashed again, but Albus could see a huge head breaching the glassy surface of the water every now and then, and he didn’t feel completely safe until they had finally landed on a grassy beach.
“What was that, Hagrid?” Albus asked as soon as he was able. Rose, John, and Sophia were right beside him, listening, but they were not the only ones.
“They’re Hippocampus, Albus,” Hagrid said happily.
“‘They’re’…as in more than one?” Rose asked at the same time that Sophia said, “What are they?”
“Part horse, part fish,” John said.
Sophia’s mouth fell open, “Really? That’s so cool!”
“Got a whole school of ‘em just a couple o’ weeks ago,” Hagrid said, pleased with Sophia’s reaction.
“What exactly do they eat?” said an unfamiliar voice from behind.
Albus turned to see which student it was; a boy with a pale, pointed face, white blond hair, and dripping robes was standing a little out from the crowd, staring at Hagrid with his gray eyes. Albus thought he recognized him from the station…. Uncle Ron and his father had been staring over at the boy’s family on the platform.
“Grass and kelp, mostly,” Hagrid said knowingly. “But they like sea grapes when they can get ‘em.”
“So they’re not dangerous to people?” said another first year girl with red-rimmed glasses.
“Of course not!” Hagrid waved his gigantic hands. “Gentle as kittens, them!”
“Though much bigger than them,” Rose muttered.
“Alrigh’ then!” Hagrid suddenly bellowed, making Albus and his friends flinch. “Follow me, please!”
Albus, Rose, Sophia, and John were close behind Hagrid as he led them up the sloping lawns to the huge oak double doors.
The Castle had seen a great and terrible battle only two decades ago, and it was obvious. There were fading black gouge marks in the walls from the many curses that had flown and a few of the gigantic bricks hadn’t been removed from the grounds as a reminder for the deaths that had occurred there.
Just as Hagrid was leading the first years up the marble steps, the double doors swung outward, torchlight flowing down at them like a carpet.
The warmth in the Entrance Hall was comforting to the students who had been soaked by the Hippocampus, but Albus felt as if his stomach had run away in terror. He clenched his hands in his new school robes and hoped that he wouldn’t throw up. James would never leave him alone after that. He could hear the older students already sitting down at their tables behind the huge doors into the Great Hall.
Sophia appeared to his right, and Albus could feel her shivering. He looked over at her; she looked almost as excited and frightened as Albus was. Somehow, knowing that she was scared made Albus feel slightly braver.
“We’ll be ok,” Albus said to her. “We only have to put on a hat.”
Sophia looked at him with a strange look in her eyes, “Put on a hat? To do what?”
“To sort us into Houses,” Albus explained. “It’s kind of like our family at school. If we break rules, the professors take away points and if we do something good, we get points. Those keep track of the House points.” Albus pointed to the huge hourglasses near the marble staircase. At the moment, all the lower bulbs were empty. “If we have the most points at the end of the year, we win. My dad told me.”
“Sounds cool,” Sophia shrugged. She was very good at pretending to be brave. Maybe acting was something all Americans learned early.
The giant doors began to open, creaking like thunder. Albus looked up at the man coming out of the door.
The professor was young and healthy-looking with dark, well-kept hair and a slightly pudgy, kind face. His robes were deep blue and his hat made him look taller than he normally was. Albus recognized him immediately.
“Hello, new students,” Professor Longbottom said warmly. “If you’ll follow me and line up at the front of the Hall, thank you.” He turned and began walking into the Great Hall.
Albus swallowed hard. He could see the multitude of bodies sitting beyond the doors and felt his stomach clench once again.
The Great Hall was just as his father had told him, but Albus couldn’t believe how amazing the place was. The room was taller than it was long or wide with intricate walls. The ceiling was reflecting the sky full of stars outside. The thousands of candles floating over his head illuminated all the students’ heads and the professors at the Head Table. The four House tables were crowded with children; Albus could see a considerable amount of red hair clustered together on one particular table. James caught his eye and winked, smirking deviously while Fred, his cousin, grinned beside him. Albus glared at his older brother as his stomach made another uncomfortable leap into his throat.
The eleven year olds lined up at the head of the hall. Albus found himself near the end of the line, close to where Hagrid was seated.
Professor Longbottom straightened their line, winking down at Albus and Rose as he passed them, and then moved up the dais toward the Head Table. With a flick of his wrist, the professor made a stool appear.
“Now, students, you will be sorted,” Professor Longbottom said, and then proceeded to say what Albus had previously told Sophia about the Houses and the Sorting.
Albus’ eyes wandered over the stool in the middle of the platform, catching on the ragged piece of grayish-black cloth that lay draped over the seat. He could remember his dad telling him about how the Sorting Hat had been burned at the Battle of Hogwarts, and how his Aunt Hermione had helped in repairing it. He also remembered what his dad said about the hat talking into his head… and about asking to be in Gryffindor.
Please, Albus said in his head, willing the hat to pick up the message.
“Aagard, Tyler,” Professor Longbottom said loudly.
Albus was brought back into his body. He could never remember being so nervous in his entire life.
A short blond boy hesitantly stepped forward and sat on the stool. Carefully, Professor Longbottom set the beaten hat onto his head. The Sorting Hat drooped sadly on Tyler’s head, seemingly lifeless, but Albus knew better. James had been tormenting him about the hat eating his head earlier in the day; it had a mouth.
As Albus watched, Tyler Aagard flinched, his hands rising to touch his head. Professor Longbottom leaned toward Tyler, putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. The Sorting Hat didn’t move, but Albus knew the thing was talking in Tyler’s head. Albus shivered, wondering what the voice sounded like.
After about thirty seconds on Tyler’s head, the hat began to twitch. Albus was surprised as the hat suddenly stood up straight and a trail of blue sparks flew out of its floppy tip. The children sitting at the House tables began to clap. Sophia gasped as the streamer wove a complicated design into the air. Squinting, Albus thought it looked like some sort of bird, wings outstretched.
“Ravenclaw!” Professor Longbottom shouted above the applause from the tables.
Tyler Aagard stood, handing the fragile hat to Professor Longbottom before he walked down to his new table.
“Applewhite, Melanie,” Professor Longbottom said loudly. The applause abated to near silence once more. A tall, brown skinned girl with short, curly hair walked forward now. Albus was impressed by the boldness in her dark eyes. She sat on the stool and after less then fifteen seconds, the hat began spouting red sparks in the shape of a lion.
“Gryffindor!” Professor Longbottom shouted.
“Anders, Jeremy” went to Ravenclaw and “Berk, Chelsea” went to Hufflepuff.
Then John was called to sit on the stool. He looked only a little bit nervous and there was a glint in his eye. The hat didn’t seem to have too much trouble deciding on John’s place. Barely ten seconds later, a red lion was glistening in the air above John.
As the names kept being called, Albus clapped while trying to hold down his leaping stomach; he was just now thinking that he shouldn’t have eaten so much candy on the train. He wondered if everyone else was as nervous as he was.
Albus recognized the name Malfoy when it was called. He’d listened to more than enough stories of ‘the good old days’ when Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione visited. Looking around, Albus saw the blond boy he’d seen on the platform walking toward the stool. Albus thought he looked sick.
“Scorpius Malfoy,” Rose said from Albus’ side. “Dad was teasing me about him.”
Albus knew that the Malfoy family had been on Voldemort’s side of the struggle, but they went quiet and helpful after Voldemort had died. He’d heard his dad mention that the Malfoy’s were a bit unpopular. The whispers at Scorpius’ name proved that.
Albus watched the boy’s straight back as the hat lowered over his head.
“Definitely a Slytherin,” said a boy standing next to Sophia, talking to his friend. “All the Malfoy family is.”
Albus knew it, too. Any minute now, green magic would make a serpent in the air and Scorpius Malfoy would join his friends on the Slytherin table…
Inexplicably, red sparks began to fly around the Malfoy’s head. Albus watched in amazement as a lion appeared in the air, declaring Scorpius a Gryffindor. There was a moment of stunned silence as everyone took the sight in, the lion fading into nothing, and then Professor Longbottom made it official by shouting, “Gryffindor!”
The students sitting at the tables found their hands and began to clap in a confused sort of way, starting to whisper again. Scorpius didn’t look at all better than when he’d stepped up to be Sorted. In fact, Albus thought he looked worse as he handed the hat to Professor Longbottom and went to sit with the staring Gryffindors, staying a fair distance away from the rest of them.
Albus turned to look at Rose, his eyebrows raised. Rose had her mouth open in shock, but for once didn’t have anything to say.
It seemed to take forever and at the same time, no time at all for Professor Longbottom to reach the names starting with P. He called a girl named Angela Peters up, who went to Slytherin, and then called out, “Potter, Albus.”
Albus thought there were twice as many eyes turned on him than the others as he walked up to the stool, and that the hall was twice as quiet. Shaking, he sat on the stool, clenching his hands on the seat and telling himself over and over that he wouldn’t be in Slytherin. He would plead with the hat and ask with all his heart to be in Gryffindor; he didn’t know what he’d do if he didn’t get into Gryffindor. What would other people say? He’d be an outcast like Scorpius Malfoy.
“Don’t worry, Al,” Professor Longbottom whispered as he held up the hat.
Albus started to smile up at his parents’ friend, but then the hat had been placed on his head and the torment began. Albus held completely still, waiting on pins and needles for the hat to whisper to him. Though he’d expected it, Albus jumped when a low voice spoke into his ear.
“Rather jumpy for wanting to be in Gryffindor aren’t you?” it said.
Albus swallowed and thought, “Please, not Slytherin.”
The voice laughed quietly, “Much more like your father than your brother aren’t you? All James would ask for was Gryffindor, but both Harry and Albus Potter just want to be kept out of Slytherin. It isn’t an all bad House, you know.”
Albus eyed the students at the Slytherin Table, seeing the hard, calculating faces and shrinking at the thought of them becoming his temporary family. Albus tried to keep the terror from showing on his face and closed his eyes. “Don’t put me in Slytherin. Please, don’t put me in Slytherin.”
The hat chuckled, making Albus shiver. “Your namesake was a very powerful man, as is your father. Slytherin is for the ambitious, hungry sort. It seems to me that you have that thirst to prove yourself every bit as important as the famous Harry Potter.”
Albus didn’t know what to think to the hat. It could probably see his mind better than he could; how could he tell it that it was wrong? Despair hit him as he thought about going to Slytherin and having to face his brother and his dad and his mum and his little sister and Rose…
The Sorting Hat sighed, “You have every ounce of courage that your predecessors had. As a matter of fact, it might overwhelm any other traits you have. All you need now is how to find it. I wish you luck, Albus Potter.”
As the hat said his name, scarlet sparks swirled around Albus.
Albus smiled with relief. “Thank you,” he thought to the hat. He didn’t get a response.
“Gryffindor!” Professor Longbottom shouted above the screaming from the Gryffindor Table. Albus handed him the hat and then ran grinning down to the table where his brother and John were cheering.
“Good job, bro!” James said, playfully punching his shoulder.
“That hat took its time, didn’t it?” John asked.
Albus couldn’t stop smiling. He glanced up at Hagrid and received a thumbs up.
Attention went back to the front of the Great Hall as Sophia stepped up to the stool. She seemed at ease, to Albus’ surprise. She chatted with Professor Longbottom before he set the hat on her head. Almost immediately, the red magic swirled from the hat and Sophia was declared a Gryffindor. As she came to sit next to Albus, she gave him a high-five.
“Russel, Terry” became a Slytherin.
“Rutherford, Fiona” became a Hufflepuff.
“Simons, Brett” became a Gryffindor.
“Sutherland, Maria” became a Hufflepuff.
“Suzuka, Matthew” became a Ravenclaw.
And it continued until the number of first-years dwindled into single digits and then only Rose and a tall, blond boy stood alone.
Albus unconsciously bit his lip as Rose stepped forward and sat on the stool, breathing deeply. She was going to make it, Albus was sure. She couldn’t pull a “Scorpius” and suddenly move into Slytherin. Albus didn’t know how he would be able to face her if she didn’t make it. It took longer than Albus liked for the hat to finally spout red sparks and mark Rose a Gryffindor. She sat next to Sophia, beaming.
The blond boy, “Yellar, Derek,” became a Hufflepuff.
Soon after Derek sat with the other Hufflepuffs, Professor Longbottom shouted, “Headmistress Bones will have a few words.”
The woman sitting in the center of the Head Table stood up. Albus thought she was better looking than the rest of the girl professors. She was younger than the rest, maybe as old as Professor Longbottom. Her shiny, brown hair was cut around her square jaw and her eyes were amazingly blue. She wore red velvet robes and her black hat set off the ruby earrings in her ears. Her hands had numerous rings.
“Hello, children,” she said in a powerful voice. “I would like to welcome all our students back to Hogwarts for another year and to go through a few things for our new students. I dare say, some of you others will need a refresher or two.” She smiled as the general audience chuckled.
“First,” Headmistress Bones held up her forefinger. “The Forbidden Forest is off limits to everyone. There are dangerous creatures in there that can harm students, and I’d rather not have to deal with your unhappy parents.
“Second; there will be no magic in the corridors between classes and there is a list of forbidden items tacked onto the door of Mrs. Norris’ office. I hope you will spare me and Mrs. Norris a bit of trouble by at least glancing at the list before purchasing any Weasley Wizard Wheezes’ Products.
“My third and final point before we eat; enjoy this year, children!”
Headmistress Bones clapped her hands and the golden plates all along the tables filled with every kind of food Albus could imagine. John began digging into his food, talking animatedly with two other first-year boys who sat across from them. Sophia gaped at the food sitting before her. Albus began to laugh at her around his mouthful of turkey leg and Sophia nudged him with her shoulder, saying, “Shut up,” before reaching for a platter of lamb chops.
The feast was full of loud talk and incessant eating. Albus laughed and he talked with everyone within earshot, including a few Ravenclaw girls who’d leaned over to ask him if he was related to Harry Potter. It was such a relief to have the Sorting over with… and to be in Gryffindor.
“How are you liking Hogwarts so far, Sophia?” Rose asked.
“I freaking love it!” Sophia exclaimed. “Finding out I’m a witch is the best thing that’s ever happened to me! Who knew, right?”
Albus looked over Sophia’s head at Rose and shared a laugh with her. Sophia’s American ways were showing.
About halfway through the feast, the ghosts appeared through the walls. Albus had been wondering where Nearly Headless Nick was, along with the Bloody Baron; ever since he’d heard the Baron’s story from his mother, Albus had been excited to put bloody image with the name. The tall ghost with a ruff and tights floated straight through the center of the table, greeting the students.
“Hey, Sir Nick,” James called as he glided through their section of the table.
“Hello, young James,” Nick nodded, his curly head wobbling. “Back for another year of tormenting Mrs. Norris?”
“That’s Nearly Headless Nick,” Rose said to an excited Sophia. “He died by getting his head cut off by a blunt ax. It didn’t come all the way off, apparently.”
“Well, hello,” Sir Nick said to Albus. “I was wondering when we’d see the Harry Potter look-a-like. How are you, Albus?”
“I’m alright, Sir Nick,” Albus said.
“Mr. Nick?” Sophia said, drawing Nick’s attention. “Why’d you get your head chopped off?”
Sir Nick looked down at her with a bemused expression, then asked, “What is your name, child?”
“You have the strangest dialect. Are you an immigrant?”
“Huh?” Sophia wrinkled her nose.
Albus leaned over and whispered, “He wants to know where you lived before.”
“Oh! I used to live in the U.S.” Sophia said, laughing.
“That country over in the Americas?” Nick asked. When Rose nodded to him, he smiled. “A pleasure to meet you, Miss Ross. To answer your question, I was found on the losing side of a… political debate over five hundred years ago. My sentence was to be beheaded by ax, though there were more efficient ways to dispose of wizards back then. By the time my turn came on that eventful day, the ax was dulled so ridiculously that it took over forty blows to kill me.”
“Go on, Sir Nick,” said a fourth-year sitting across from Rose. “Show them your neck.”
Nick didn’t look very eager.
“So you can pull your head off?” Sophia exclaimed. “That is so cool! Please show me, Sir Nick!”
Nearly Headless Nick huffed heavily, looking halfway between annoyed and amused, and grabbed a handful of his hair to pull his head sideways, the neck barely held together by a small piece of skin.
Sophia stood up, trying to get a better view, but Nick quickly replaced his head and adjusted the ruff.
It was well into the night when the Headmistress stood again and excused them all to follow their Prefects to their dorms. Albus stood up, stretching. Then he felt the affects of the food and exhausting fear. How had he not felt this before now? Yawning, he made his way over to a tall boy and girl with badges pinned to their robes.
The Prefects told them to all stay close and then led them out into the Entry Hall and up the huge marble staircase. Sophia was amazed by the paintings and stopped to talk to the people staring out through the canvas. Several times, Albus had to run back and grab her before she was lost from the group. The moving staircases were treated like some kind of roller coaster when it came to Sophia. Rose seemed to be embarrassed by her whooping, but Sophia didn’t seem to care what the staring people thought; good thing too, because Albus and John couldn’t stop laughing.
The Prefects led them up a few corridors and finally to a life-sized portrait of an extremely fat lady dressed in a frilly pink dress. “Hello, students! Welcome,” she trilled in a high voice. “Password?”
“Dumbledore’s Nightdress,” the girl stated, smiling as the first-years laughed.
The fat woman giggled, and then her picture swung forward, frame and everything. Behind it was a hole.
The Prefects didn’t hesitate to climb through it, ducking their heads and stepping over the high threshold. Albus, Sophia, John and Rose were the last to enter the circular Common Room. It seemed like just the place Albus would need to unwind after a hard day; it reminded him of home. The worn, red, comfortable furniture, the large fireplace, the tall windows; Albus wondered if his parents knew how similar their house was to the Gryffindor Common Room.
“Alright, first-years, listen up!” the boy Prefect yelled. “Girls’ dorm rooms are up the staircase to your right, boys’ to the left. Your names will be on the door of your rooms and your things will be waiting for you. Breakfast in the Great Hall is at eight in the morning and classes begin at nine. If you have any questions, Charlotte and I can answer them. If not, sleep tight!”
“C’mon,” John said to Albus, nodding to the staircase on the left.
“See you tomorrow!” Albus said to Rose and Sophia as he followed John.
They found their dorm almost halfway up the staircase. The boys were relieved to see that their names were together. John went in first, finding the room empty except for five four-poster beds with trunks and equipment next to them. As Albus moved past the door, he looked at the paper with their names on it again. “Scorpius Malfoy” was printed just after “John Diggory.”
“Did you see the Malfoy boy is with us?” Albus asked as he found his trunk. Bruce, his tawny owl, rested in his cage beside the bed.
John looked up from the pajamas in his hands. “No.”
“It’s weird he’s in Gryffindor, isn’t it? I thought all Malfoys went to Slytherin,” Albus said, looking through his trunk.
“So did I,” John stated.
Just then they were joined by two boys. They introduced themselves as Brett Simons and Zack Luker. Brett looked a little on the hefty side, his arms hanging away from his body and his dark hair cropped short; apparently, his father was in the Armed Forces for the Muggles. Zack was thin and tall with dirty blond hair; he had the slight air of being the spoiled, only-child of a rich couple. Pretty soon, the four were acting as if they’d known each other for a long time, horsing around and talking about how nervous they’d been during the Sorting.
At first, they didn’t notice that Scorpius Malfoy had joined them. They all went silent, looking at the pale boy without expression. Scorpius shut the door, looking at the floor, and then hurried to the only unoccupied bed. He dressed quickly in his pajamas and shut the drapes to his bed without a word.
“Not too friendly, is he?” John asked Albus quietly before climbing into his own bed.
Albus looked over to Scorpius’ bed. He wouldn’t want to be in the blond boy’s shoes, that was sure. He knew that what Scorpius was going through was exactly what he’d been scared of during the Sorting. What had made the Hat put a boy like Scorpius in Gryffindor?
Giving Bruce a quick stroke, Albus climbed into bed, bidding the other boys good night. The last thing he thought before drifting off was that he couldn’t wait to write to Lily about his being Sorted into Gryffindor.
Albus woke to the dormitory door closing. Looking at the window, he noticed that the sun hadn’t risen yet, and then looking at his clock, he saw that it was nearly six in the morning. Rising up on his elbow, Albus yawned. Someone had just come in or just left, but his grogginess wouldn’t let him think just yet.
“Hey, Al!” said a quiet voice.
Albus started, sitting up quickly. “James?”
“Morning!” His older brother’s shadow suddenly jumped onto his bed. “Just wanted to check on how your first night in Hogwarts was. By the way, how’d you sleep with a snake in the same room as you?”
“What,” Albus said, rubbing his eyes, “are you talking about? What snake?”
“Well, I guess a scorpion would be the right word for him, wouldn’t it?” James said.
Albus looked in the direction James nodded. “Oh! Scorpius.”
“Weird isn’t it?” James whispered. “Who ever heard of a Malfoy in Gryffindor? I can see maybe Ravenclaw if not Slytherin, but Gryffindor?!”
“Do you think Aunt Hermione might’ve made a mistake when she fixed it?” Albus asked. He knew the answer before he’d asked the question.
“Nah,” they both said in unison.
“Maybe it’s finally going senile,” James said. “It’s got to be as old as this castle. A wonder it lasted this long.”
Albus looked at the drawn curtains around Scorpius’ bed. “Maybe he’s supposed to be in Gryffindor…”
“No way bro,” James shook his head. “Have you heard anything Dad’s told us about his dad? He was a Death Eater! Everyone knows that type goes to Slytherin. Voldemort was Slytherin’s heir anyhow.”
“Yes, but the Malfoy’s aren’t related to Voldemort.”
“They still followed him. Counts for something, doesn’t it?”
“Who is his mum? Did Dad ever tell us?”
“Her name is Astoria. That much I know, but I don’t think Dad’s ever told us about her.”
They were silent for a moment and then James suddenly asked, “So, up for the first day of school?”
“I think so,” Albus murmured. “It’s better to just know I’m in Gryffindor. The hat scared me, saying that I was like the other Slytherins. It isn’t very nice.”
James laughed, “He freaked me out too.”
“How do you know it’s a he?”
“I can tell. He talks like that old man who lives down the street from us.”
“The hat doesn’t talk, James…”
“Oh, hush up,” James said impatiently. “I can just tell, alright?”
Albus pursed his lips. Arguing with James never really ended up with Albus winning. Maybe now that he had a wand too…
“Wass gone on?” John suddenly sat straight up.
James jumped up. Albus could now see that he was already dressed in his robes. “Hey, Albus’ roommate. I was just leaving. Remember to watch out for Peeves, Albus. He likes the first-years more than the others.” He sauntered out.
“Who was that?” John asked, stretching out under his blankets.
“My brother James,” Albus explained as he got out of bed. Now that he was up, the excitement for his first day of classes was prominent. He didn’t think he could go back to sleep even though breakfast wasn’t for a long while. Moving to the foot of his bed, Albus opened his neatly organized trunk and proceeded to disorganize it while searching for his clean uniform.
Soon, Albus was sitting in the Common Room at a table, Bruce sitting next to his inkwell as he wrote his first letter to his family. He was too excited to be embarrassed about writing so soon.
Dear Dad, Mum and Lily,
I’m in Gryffindor! The Hat said that I am a lot more like Dad than James is, but I don’t really know what it meant. The hat doesn’t have eyes, so I don’t know how it could see that I look like Dad. The Hat put Scorpius Malfoy in Gryffindor too. He is also in my dorm. James thinks the Hat is getting old but the rest of us don’t know what to think about him not being in Slytherin.
Hogwarts is amazing! I can’t wait to show Lily the Great Hall and Nearly Headless Nick. His head is awesome! Did you know that it took almost forty blows to cut it off? – Well, nearly off.
Rose and I have met knew friends. The boys in my dormitory are nice. I’m getting along with them fine. John Diggory especially. I met him and a girl named Sophia Ross on the train. Sophia’s from the United States and she has the funniest way of talking. She’s also Muggle-born, so everything is funny to her, which only makes her funnier.
I love you all.
P.S. Hagrid has a herd of hippocampus in the lake. He says they’re gentle as kittens, but I don’t know whether to believe him or not. They are very big.
Finishing his letter, Albus tied the rolled up parchment to Bruce’s leg, murmuring, “Take this home, Bruce. I know it’s your first delivery, but don’t be nervous. You won’t get too lost, will you?”
Bruce fluffed up his feathers, flustered at being doubted.
Albus smiled, “I guess not.” He carried the tawny owl to the window and watched Bruce fly away. Then, excited once again, Albus walked back to the boys’ staircase. Just as he was about half the distance to his dorm, Scorpius Malfoy appeared on the steps. Albus thought he looked tired; he was dragging his feet and his head hung low.
Before Albus could think of something to say, the blond boy had passed him, glancing up with a weary anger in his gray eyes.
Feeling another stab of pity, Albus walked the rest of the way up to his dorm to find that the three remaining boys were still asleep. Thoroughly bored, Albus grabbed up his bag, searching through it one last time to make sure he had all of his textbooks. Albus was most looking forward to his Defense Against the Dark Arts class. His dad said that Professor Walker had a respectable knowledge on fighting Dark magic. Apparently, she’d worked with him in the Auror Department hunting down Death Eaters before she became a teacher.
Picking up his wand, Albus remembered his visit to Ollivander’s. The woman there had been very flustered when it took so long for Albus to find a wand that chose him. Albus had felt bad as the wands piled up around his ankles, but his mum said the woman was just scared of upsetting his father. Eventually, though, a wand 10 and a half inches long, made of holly with a dragon heartstring core had chosen him. The golden sparks that swirled out of the tip had startled everyone, especially the saleswoman.
Tucking the wand into his pocket and shouldering his bag, Albus noticed that the clock now said five thirty. He took a deep breath, wondering how he would be able to stand all the waiting.
Albus walked down the steps yet again to the Common Room.
The loud voice was startling after the quiet of the morning. Sophia was sitting in an armchair, her smile wide. Scorpius Malfoy was seated in the one next to her, looking slightly uncomfortable in her presence. Her knee-high black boots, shaggy, pixie hairstyle, feathered earrings, and forward, American attitude seemed to be too much for him.
“Hi Sophia,” Albus smiled, walking over to them. “Hello, Scorpius.”
Scorpius didn’t look up. “Hello.” He looked positively livid.
“Have a nice nap did you?” Albus asked Sophia, learning to leave Scorpius alone.
“Nap is right! I’m so excited, I could barely close my eyes!”
“Me too,” Albus laughed, sitting in the chair facing hers. “I can’t wait for Defense Against the Dark Arts.”
“Really? I’m just excited to finally use this wand!” Sophia pulled out her wand. “Maple and phoenix feather. The woman at the shop told me that it’s surprising that the first wand I touched chose me.”
“That’s the first wand you touched?” Albus said, his mouth wide. “It took ages for me to find the one to choose me.”
Sophia shrugged. “I’m just lucky, I guess.”
Suddenly, Scorpius stood, walking straight to the portrait hole and climbed out.
Sophia huffed in frustration, watching the pale figure disappear behind the portrait swinging closed. “He’s a tough one.”
“What?” Albus asked.
“What’s a Mudblood?” Sophia asked instead of answering.
Albus gaped at her. “Did he call you that?”
“Yeah,” Sophia sighed, leaning back and folding her arms with a thoughtful expression, “after I told him about my parents.”
“People like him and his family think they’re better than others because they’ve never married a Muggle,” Albus explained. “They think Muggles are dirt. They actually followed Voldemort when he was alive.”
Sophia didn’t seem upset, only contemplating as she stared at the back of the Fat Lady’s portrait. “This all happened before we were born, huh? This Voldemort stuff.”
“Yes,” Albus said.
“I wonder how that would feel,” Sophia said. “To be judged before I was even born. Seems weird that everyone knows exactly what should happen to certain people.”
Albus wasn’t sure what to say to that. He was just grateful that Sophia didn’t sound accusing.
“Anyway,” Sophia said, snapping out of her reverie, “Rose doesn’t like me very much.”
“What? Why?” Albus asked.
“Because I’m in her dorm,” Sophia said, laughing. “She’s a little bossy, but she doesn’t like to be told that.”
Albus laughed too. “I know!”
Almost an hour later, Rose joined Albus and Sophia. She was beaming and she was fidgety, constantly smoothing down her robes and adjusting her bag on her shoulder. The wild look in her blue eyes and her bushy brown hair added to the effect of her crazy appearance.
“Good morning,” she said. “Why are you up so early? It will probably affect your performance in class today.”
“I couldn’t go back to sleep,” Sophia explained.
“And James came and woke me up early,” Albus said.
“Well,” Rose said, rolling her shoulders, “what can we do until breakfast?”
“Lets go exploring!” Sophia said. “I was talking to a picture of a little knight and he said there was a big tapestry about a huge battle that happened here. He said that Al’s dad is in it.”
“Ok, let’s go,” Albus said.
They all stood and had gone out of the portrait hole before Albus remembered.
“Wait! I’m going to get John. Wait here,” he said, climbing back through the hole and racing up to his dorm again.
John was sitting up in his bed, yawning. The other boys were still asleep.
“John! Rose and Sophia are waiting for us,” Albus said, walking over to his new friend. “Hurry up! We’re going to explore the Castle.”
“Alright, alright, I’m up,” John said as he pushed his blankets away from him. It seemed to take John forever to get dressed and grab his bag. As a courtesy, Albus woke up the other boys before heading back down to the girls with John.
“Finally,” Rose said. “A creepy ghost floated by just a minute ago.”
“He was awesome!” Sophia said. “He was dripping blood and he had a sword. You should’ve seen him, Al.”
“I’ll bet that was the Bloody Baron,” John said.
“Let’s go!” Rose said impatiently.
As they began walking down the corridor toward the changing staircases, Rose asked, “Did the knight tell you where the tapestry was, Sophia?”
“He said that it was by the statue of a headmaster… um, whatshisname… I can’t remember, but Sir Cadogan said that it was on the fourth floor.”
“Ok, so let’s get to the fourth floor and start looking,” John said, shrugging. “What’s this tapestry?”
“It’s of the Battle of Hogwarts,” Albus answered.
“Oh, cool,” John said.
“What floor are we on?” Sophia asked.
“I think this is the seventh,” Rose said. “I was looking at a map in Hogwarts, A History. Of course they wouldn’t have the Common Rooms mapped out in a book, they’re supposed to be secret in case of emergencies, but we were just in a tower and all the towers have entrances on the seventh floor.”
“Ok, so we need to go down a few stories,” Albus said. “Isn’t there a staircase over here somewhere?”
They found a staircase that led down two stories, but about halfway down, both of the boys got their legs stuck in the same step. Rose and Sophia had to help them, laughing as they tugged them out of the quicksand-step.
The foursome made it to the fourth floor without any other incident, and they began to look for a tapestry across from a statue. It didn’t take long.
“Whoa,” Sophia said, craning her neck to look up at the white marble statue of a tall wizard with a beard and hair long enough to tuck into his belt. He was sitting in a chair, his fingertips pressed together and he was looking over his hands down at them, his half-moon spectacles perched on a crooked nose. Albus could see a knowing, playful twinkle in the wizard’s marble eyes, almost as if he were alive.
“Albus Dumbledore,” Rose said. She was looking at a plaque at the statue’s feet, but she’d know who he was without looking at it.
“Hey! This is the headmaster you were named after!” Sophia exclaimed. “How’d I forget his name?”
“I don’t know,” Albus said, never looking away from the statue. He wished he’d known this stranger.
“Wow,” John said a little distance away. “Look at this, guys.”
The tapestry took up a large part of the wall; it could’ve been at least thirty feet long. It was strange that this tapestry didn’t move like the others, but Rose guessed that it might be inappropriate for children if it were in motion. Hogwarts Castle took up much of the background, looking broken and scared by magic. The trees of the Forbidden Forest took up the rest of the background. Most of the space was filled with wizards, some wearing robes of black with masks that looked like skulls, others wearing colorful robes and their faces unshielded. They were aiming wands at each other, casting spells and cursing. By the forest, huge spiders and centaurs were fighting with the wizards, and by the castle, giants were reaching into windows and swinging clubs. In the center of the tapestry, two figures commanded most of the attention. One was Albus’ father, unruly black hair and round glasses. Harry Potter was pointing a wand at the other figure, his importance evident in the tapestry.
“So that’s Voldemort,” Sophia said quietly, staring up at the second of the biggest figures with her mouth open. Voldemort was hairless and deathly pale, his nose flat like a snake’s, and his red eyes had vertical pupils like a cat’s; his presence was potent, even if he wasn’t really there. Albus could feel a cold tingling on the back of his neck as he looked at his father’s foe.
John shivered. “See what you guys have done? Now Sophia’s saying it.”
“Maybe you should too,” Rose said. “It only gives power to a dead person when you’re scared of his name.”
John just shivered again.
“Hey, he looks familiar,” Sophia said, pointing at the tapestry.
Albus looked at what Sophia had pointed at; it was a man holding a long sword, the body of a headless snake at his feet. A charred, ancient hat was fluttering to the ground, seeming to have just come off the hero’s head.
“That’s Professor Longbottom,” Rose said. “He’s the one who put the Sorting Hat on our heads.”
“That’s so cool! We have a hero for a teacher! What does he teach?” Sophia asked, bouncing on her toes.
“Herbology,” Albus said, smiling. “He visits me and Rose sometimes. James says he’s a cool teacher, even if he is clumsy sometimes. He has lots of jokes.”
They stood in the shadow of Dumbledore’s statue for a few minutes, laughing at the jokes Albus and Rose remembered from Professor Longbottom and looking up at the stationary tapestry. Then, Sophia’s curiosity got the better of her patience and they were off exploring again.
They found a few more statues on the fourth floor, all of them older than the one of Albus Dumbledore but each with their own interesting and strange history written on plaques. They walked far, looking into some empty classrooms and talking to different portraits.
“How come there are so many rooms? There aren’t that many teachers are there?” Sophia asked.
“A lot of the rooms are never used,” Rose said. “The teachers each have their preferences in their rooms and hardly ever move throughout their career in the school. There is one teacher that my dad told me about; his classroom was rendered to look like the forest because he was a centaur.”
“But if you think about it,” John said, “why did the Four Founders make the castle so big? Did they have lot more teachers back then?”
A very old portrait of a thin wizard in medieval clothing spoke up loudly, “Indeed they did, young students. Witches and wizards used to be made out of Muggles and the demand for more teachers required a large castle.”
“What do you mean, ‘wizards made out of Muggles?’” Rose asked.
“Oh, a very long time ago, wizards would go out into the Muggle population and teach different sorts of spells and the like to them. A lot of the time, Muggles could actually do a spell or two,” the portrait explained matter-of-factly. “But sadly, they became very demanding of wizards for their problems. We went into hiding, and rather well, in fact. Now, it is mere fantasy that we exist to almost all Muggles.”
Sophia looked at Albus with a bright look in her electric eyes and shrugged as if to say, “Well, how about that?”
Eventually, they decided to head down to the Great Hall. John’s watch had just ticked away to seven thirty.
About halfway down the Marble Staircase, a loud cackling made them all look up. A small man was floating in the air above them, a jester’s uniform making him easy to spot.
“Oh, little firsties!” the man said as he started spitting sticky wads of parchment at them through a straw.
The four quickly covered their heads with their arms and ran the rest of the way down the staircase and toward the doors to the Great Hall. Peeves followed them, laughing madly as he continued to pelt them with sticky parchment at the impossible rate of a machine gun. Their speed caused them to sting wherever they struck skin.
“Oi! Peeves, leave them alone!” said a voice.
Albus looked around to see Victoire standing on the Marble Staircase.
Peeves spat another round of spitballs directly at Rose’s hair.
“Protego!” Victoire yelled, waving her wand.
The spitballs hit an invisible wall and fell to the ground.
“Get out of here, Peeves,” Victoire said severely, walking down the stairs.
Peeves blew a wet raspberry at the four first years trying to dislodge his spitballs from their clothes and hair, and then flew down a hallway, giggling as he went.
“Thank you, Victoire,” Rose said, pulling a rather large spitball from behind her ear.
“Yeah, thanks, Vic,” Albus said, smiling as Victoire made her way over to them.
“No problem,” the seventh year girl said. “So, who are your friends?”
“This is Sophia Ross and John Diggory,” Rose said, brushing her arms off.
“Nice to meet you both,” Victoire smiled, reaching out a hand to shake with Sophia. When she turned to John, she saw his slack-jawed smile and couldn’t help but chuckle a little before turning back to her cousins.
“You should’ve waited for the rest of your House to start heading down here,” she said. “Having the more experienced students can be helpful when going up against Peeves.”
“We’ll keep that in mind next time,” Rose said sullenly. “When Mum and Dad said he was a pain I didn’t think he’d give you real pain.”
Victoire laughed and put her arms around Albus and Rose’s shoulders. “C’mon. I bet the House Elves will have made the best breakfast you guys have ever eaten.”
“Where are your friends, Victoire?” Albus asked as they entered the Great Hall.
“Still in their beds, I expect,” Victoire shrugged. “They like to cut it close, even if they are supposed to be the brains, being in Ravenclaw and all. I think one or two of them came down early, though.”
Albus could see that the tables were laid with every breakfast food he could think of, and now that he thought of it, he was famished. The Hall was nearly empty of students and the only one seated at the Head Table was the Headmistress.
“I’ll be seeing you around, guys,” Victoire said, waving as she went to the Ravenclaw table.
Albus waved absentmindedly; he’d could see a single figure sitting alone and still at the Gryffindor Table, staring at the Slytherin Table. Albus wondered why he would want so badly to be in Slytherin… and then remembered how badly he’d wanted to stay out of Slytherin.
“Hey, guys, let’s sit by that kid,” Sophia said, nodding to Scorpius as they started to sit at the table.
Albus looked at her with a bewildered expression. “Do you not remember what he called you this morning?”
“Oh, hey, I’ve been called worse,” Sophia shrugged, and then laughed. “Believe me, a lot worse.”
“Maybe in Muggle terms,” Albus said. “But what he said is one of the worst things you can call someone in the Wizarding World.”
“Well, I’m going to sit by him,” Sophia said. “He can move again if he wants to, and you don’t have to come either.” With that, she walked down the table toward Scorpius.
“What’d he call her?” John whispered as they watched Sophia approach the moody blond boy.
“He called her a Mudblood after he found out she was Muggle-born,” Albus said, never taking his eyes off his new friend as she asked Scorpius something politely. Why did she insist on playing with fire? She was definitely going to get burned.
Scorpius turned away from her without answering, going back to play with his food. It was nicer than Albus was expecting.
“Why is she trying to be his friend?” Rose asked incredulously. “He obviously isn’t a nice person and he has a foul mouth already. I definitely would just leave him alone.”
Sophia was sitting next to Scorpius now, not too close, but close enough to suggest that she was sitting with him. She didn’t speak to him or even look at him as she helped herself to the plate of waffles.
Albus looked over at them often while he ate and talked with Rose and John. His curiosity nearly got him out of his seat when Scorpius suddenly asked Sophia a question and they talked for a minute, and then went silent again. The Great Hall filled up with students and the noise level grew. The professors began to file in as well, sitting at the Head Table with Professor Bones.
Just as Albus was making his way through his second plate of eggs, Professor Longbottom came to him and handed him, Rose, and John a sheet of parchment. “I look forward to seeing you in class,” he said, smiling down at them as he passed them by.
“See you later, Nev… Professor Longbottom,” Rose said.
Their first class that morning was Charms. Professor Flitwick was a tiny man, barely reaching up to Albus' elbows. He greeted Albus and Rose graciously, complimenting Rose on her mother's talent and mentioning Albus' grandfather and grandmother. "He has to be simply ancient if he taught your grandma!" Rose whispered to Albus. Professor Flitwick was enchanted by Sophia's bubbly attitude and was kind when John mentioned his height. To start class off, he showed them all a few charms that they would be learning that year and warning them to not try the magic until they knew their way around their wands better. Albus' favorite charm was the dancing desk. And then Professor Flitwick showed them the proper techniques to wave their wands. They didn't receive any homework.
Their next class, Defense Against the Dark Arts, was taught by Professor Walker. She was an older woman with steel-gray hair and dark, observant eyes. Her voice was brassier than most women's voices and carried in an almost unusual way. She looked as if her looks didn't matter to her, but she was clean and crisp in her pale gray robes. Her classroom was essentially bare except for her desk, the students' desks, and a blackboard at the front. "Alright, class," she said, using her wand to shut the door. "Have you all got your textbooks? Excellent. I will start you first-years off with a few Dark creatures that aren't too difficult..." Her class was very high-paced and was filled with fact after fact. "Pogrebins are creatures that like to follow a human around, creating a feeling of hopelessness until said human collapses; they like how we taste." Rose's quill was moving incredibly fast as she took notes on pogrebins, making Albus feel a little like a slacker and judging by John's and Sophia's expressions, they felt the same way. "Now, pogrebins are usually found in Russia, but they can be found in any corner of the globe due to the black market; their intestinal juices can be used as valuable anti-depressants if prepared properly." As the bell rang, signaling the end of class, Professor Walker was saying, "Your homework: read what your textbook tells you about pogrebins on page one hundred and fifty-three, though I doubt there is anything I haven't already told you. Next class, we will practice the spell that will zap the pogrebin's into leaving you alone. Now, go on, get out of here!"
The Gryffindors and Ravenclaws stood up, pushing their notes into their bags.
"That was incredible!" Rose said as they lined up to leave the classroom. "She told us everything the book says without even looking at her notes, and she told us more than the book!"
"She's definitely my favorite teacher," Albus said, looking back to see Professor Walker writing something with a smile on her face.
"What class do we have next?" John asked as he squeezed through the door with Sophia.
Rose pulled her schedule out of her bag, "It's a homework hour until lunch and then after lunch, it's Potions."
"I heard Potions is hard," John said, his face turning worried. "My older sister says Professor Gibberman is strict."
"At least you knew you had to learn about Potions!" Sophia grunted as she shouldered her way through a crowd of fifth years the others had been able to dodge. "I'm already freaking out and I haven't even been through one day! What do pogrebins look like?" She looked over her shoulder warily.
The library was at least as big as the Great Hall, but where the Great Hall was alive with talk, the library was nearly silent. The bookshelves went up to the tall, vaulted ceiling, making Albus feel impossibly small, and they jutted out from the walls to make a narrow passageway to the desk at the center of the room. It definitely wasn't Albus' favorite place, as it was too quiet for how big it was, but Rose was in love the moment they walked through the doors. Albus knew she would be.
And she wasn't the only one. "Wow," Sophia breathed, looked up at the huge shelves, the feathers in her ears swinging. "This is a lot better than the library back home."
"You mean at home in England or in the U.S?" Albus asked as they walked through the shelves.
"I haven't been to a library here yet," Sophia said. "But I bet this is better than any library in the world!"
"Shh, quiet! You're in a library, after all!" hissed a thin, battered-looking woman carrying a tall stack of books that looked about to topple onto the floor.
Sophia rushed over to her, "Do you know where the books about magical creatures are? Here, let me take some of those." She grabbed the top half of the stack of books out of the woman's arms. "Where did you need them?" she asked as she almost dropped some of them.
The woman stared at her. "Just over here…" she gestured to the giant desk at the center of the library. Sophia started off without a guide, looking down at the floor which was the moving picture of the solar system.
Albus looked over at John, who's eyes were wide, and then over at Rose, who looked a little disgruntled.
"How can one person be so happy to be here?" Rose asked, folding her arms. "I mean, I'm happy to finally be here, but she is…"
Albus just shrugged, and walked over to where Sophia was chatting with the librarian.
"Oh, thank you," Sophia said just as they caught up with her. She turned to them, and said, "The books are just over here…"
"I'm sure the books are everywhere, Soph," John said, making Albus grin.
"Ha! Here's one," Sophia said, pulling out a book. "'Nefarious Creatures and their Services' by Luna Scamander. Sounds weird."
"Luna Scamander?" Rose asked.
Albus grabbed the book and turned to the end page, the others looking over his shoulder. The face of Luna Scamander was a familiar one. The woman was smiling vaguely up at them, her bulbous, blue eyes misty and her dirty blond hair wavy and wild. Occasionally, she would wave at them or adjust the odd hat on her head.
"What is that thing on her head?" John asked, his nose wrinkling.
Rose squinted, grabbing the book. "It looks like a Blast-Ended Skrewt shell."
"A Blast-Ended what shell?" Sophia giggled.
"Skrewt," Albus murmured. "Didn't our parents know her?"
"I'm sure they did," Rose said. "Isn't Lily's middle name Luna?"
"Yeah," Albus nodded.
"Hey, I want to know what a Skrewt is," Sophia said, taking her book back and opening it.
"I've never seen anyone that like books as much as Rose does," Albus laughed. Rose smiled sarcastically at him and ruffled his hair, knowing how self-conscious he was about the way it stuck up at the back.
"That's what a pogrebin looks like," Sophia announced later, holding up the book for everyone to see.
Albus put down his book about racing brooms to look at the sketch she was showing him.
"Are you sure that's it?" John asked, his quill poised over a letter he'd been writing. "It looks like a rock."
"Yes, look, the caption says 'pogrebin,'" Sophia pointed.
"You can see its legs and mouth on the next page," Rose said, not looking up from her book.
Sophia turned the page and started laughing. "It's exactly how I imagined a pet rock would look like! Only… it's trying to eat a person…"
"What are you reading about, Rose?" Albus asked.
"I'm just looking at some commonly known potion ingredients," Rose stated, turning a page.
"Like what?" Sophia asked.
"Well, a bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat," Rose listed. Since she had an audience willing to listen to her lecture, Rose talked the entire homework hour.
Sophia sat with them during lunch, leaving Scorpius to himself. Scorpius looked miserable, poking at his shepherd's pie. All the Gryffindors looked sideways at him before sitting far away from him.
"What did Scorpius say to you at breakfast?" Rose asked Sophia. She'd considerable warmed to Sophia in the library.
"He asked why I was sitting with him," Sophia said. "And I said that I could sit anywhere I wanted. Then he asked if I knew who he was and I said his name." She shrugged. "I kept asking him questions and he kept calling me Mudblood until I decided to leave him alone."
Albus looked over at Scorpius again, who was getting up to leave. He thought of what Sophia had said this morning, about being 'judged before even being born.' It actually made Albus think of how much pressure he'd felt to be in Gryffindor so that he could be like his parents… and now he thought of how much pressure must've been put on Scorpius to be in Slytherin.
"You should leave him alone, Sophia," John said. "He obviously doesn't like you trying to be his pal."
"He just doesn't know why I'm trying to be his friend, so he acts mean."
"Why are you trying?" Albus asked.
Sophia shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe he'll turn out to be nice later."
Rose looked like she was about to say something, but she held her tongue.
Their Potions classroom was in the dungeons, but the many torches around the room made the gloomy atmosphere lighter. Professor Gibberman was an aging man with small eyes, large nostrils, and a pot-belly. His thin hair was fluorescent purple and sticking up in strange directions, his face looked red, as if he'd caught too much sun, and his arms were longer than average. Albus thought he looked a little like an angry, purple monkey, sitting behind his desk and tapping his hairy fingers as they entered.
As the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs were sitting down at their cauldrons, a boy raised his hand and asked, "Sir, why is your hair purple?"
"What a question to ask, young man!" Professor Gibberman said loudly, standing with a huff. "What is your name, boy?"
"Robert Timmins, sir," said the boy quietly, looking very uncomfortable.
"Well, Mister Timmins," Professor Gibberman said, walking around his desk to stand right in front of Robert. "I will ask to think about how such questions as yours would affect the well-being of those you ask of!"
Albus could feel his nose wrinkling, as it often did when he was confronted by Aunt Hermione's ancient cat, Crookshanks; he'd never been fond of cats and it didn't help that the creature's orange fur always managed to get up his nose. He sneezed then, bringing the professor's gaze upon him.
"With a sneeze like that, you'll wake the dead, young man!" Professor Gibberman said, pacing toward Albus' and John's table. "Have a care and cover your nose when you sneeze in this classroom! A boogey shooting into a potion can singe the lashes off your eyes!"
Albus didn't like Professor Gibberman, he decided.
Sophia, who was sitting at the table next to Albus and John, raised her hand, looking docile in the light of Professor Gibberman's purple wrath.
"Yes, what is your name?" Professor Gibberman snapped.
"Sophia Ross, sir," she said, smiling softly. "May I ask a question, professor?"
Professor Gibberman's mouth twisted as if he'd just tasted a rather sour lemon. "That is why I called on you, Miss!"
"Thank you sir," Sophia said, and cleared her throat. "Have you actually seen a potion singe off eyelashes?"
Professor Gibberman huffed, "Of course I have. It happened just a moment ago. Idiot Longbottom tripped on his way through here and dropped his idiot plant in a potion I was preparing for this class. The explosion was enough to melt the bottom out of my best cauldron."
"So that's why his hair is purple," John murmured to Albus.
By the end of class, Sophia had become Professor Gibberman's favorite; he didn't glare as hard at her and she was simply able to ask the right kind of questions so that he would answer them, so everyone, even Rose, left her to ask every single one of them.
"How do you do it?" Albus asked in a whisper as they filed out of the dungeon classroom. "He wouldn't let anyone else talk, except for you!"
"He's just having a bad day. I wouldn't mind, though, if my hair turned purple. And my mom taught me how to ask questions like that. All you have to do is ask a question that won't give you the answer, but will give you enough clues…" Sophia trailed off, staring ahead.
Albus followed her gaze and saw five or six Slytherin students standing close together in the hall. He couldn't see their faces, only their backs.
"…Hat doesn't make mistakes, Malfoy," a tall, dark-haired boy was saying near the center of their group. "You were put in screw-up-ville because your father's a useless traitor…"
"Shut up," Scorpius said, his voice dangerously low. He stood alone, opposite the Slytherins.
A girl with long blond hair giggled. "Your daddy's a spine-less flip-flopper," she said in a breathy voice. "No use denying it."
Scorpius just glared at her, clenching his fist over his wand which was starting to glow.
"Wait guys…" Sophia murmured as they walked past the group.
"Don't get into it," John said, trying to herd her toward the stairs.
"Come on, Soph," Albus said, grabbing her arm and eyeing a particularly tall boy with thick shoulders. Sophia was even shorter than Albus.
"He's alone, Al!" she said urgently, and pushed past him.
"Wait, Sophia!" Rose called after her, but Sophia didn't look back.
She went around the crowd and stood next to Scorpius. He looked at her through narrowed eyes. "What are you doing?" he whispered.
Sophia smiled at him, "There's no law saying I can't stand here, Scorpius. You can walk if you want to."
Scorpius just stared at her.
"Oh, how cute!" the dark-haired boy barked. "The traitor has a lap dog!"
"Are you going to sick her on us, Malfoy?" the blond girl asked as their group laughed.
Sophia smiled grimly. Albus had never seen her so serious.
"What are we going to do?" Rose whispered, grabbing Albus' elbow.
Albus shook his head.
"We have to do something," John said.
"You're the American, aren't you?" the blond girl said in a simpering voice, walking toward Sophia.
Sophia was still smiling in a hard way as she raised an eyebrow.
"My dad always said that Americans…" the girl continued as she walked closer to Sophia, her voice getting lower so that Albus couldn't hear what she said.
Scorpius, who could hear the Slytherin girl, was obviously shocked, looking between the girls as if he expected one of them to explode.
Sophia, however, simply blinked, her expression unchanged from the strangely confident smile.
The blond girl stood still in front of her for a moment, as if waiting for something, and then backed up to stand next to the dark-haired boy.
"Come on," Albus said, his heart in his throat as he walked over to the group. Rose and John hesitated for a moment before following him.
"Hey, guys," Sophia said, still staring at the blond girl.
Albus saw that the girl was incredibly pale, as if she had been rolled in flour, and her eyes looked very dark, the shadowed eyelids standing out against her skin. Her lips were puffy and almost as pale as the rest of her. Her gold hair was the only thing colorful about her appearance, besides the green in her uniform. Her dark eyes swept over them, pausing on Albus.
"What're your names, Gryffindors?" her friend asked. He was tall and his skin was a darker complexion than most. His eyes were black as his pupils and his black hair had a crisp wave in it.
"What's yours?" Albus retorted. His voice was weaker than he'd thought it would be.
"Will Quentin," the boy said, smiling. "But of course, you're a Potter. You look just like your snobbish father."
"You're a Weasley, aren't you?" asked the blond Slytherin girl, looking to Rose.
"Yes," Rose said, her chin lifting.
"Bet you're happy that you didn't get carrot hair!" said one of the other girls in the Slytherin group.
Rose's nostrils flared and she flipped her brown, frizzy hair over her shoulder.
"And you, freckles?" asked Will Quentin, looking at John appraisingly.
"John Diggory," John said, clenching his jaw.
The pale girl smiled at Sophia; her teeth were blindingly white. "What's yours, American?" Her voice was still airy, as if she had something lodged in her throat. It was very annoying, Albus thought.
"Jillian Gigglestern," Sophia said. Albus looked at her sideways and she grinned at him before saying to the girl, "What's yours, vampire-ess?"
The girl's smile turned to a warning look, "Elektra Tepes."
"Was there something else we could do for you, Elektra Tepes, or did you just want to look?" Sophia asked, putting an elbow on Albus' shoulder in mock-swagger. Albus smiled.
"What a freak show!" a Slytherin boy laughed. "With the Mudblood as a main attraction, talking tough!"
"What are you, Malfoy?" Quentin asked. "You don't have a backbone, so maybe you could be the… flexible… twisty… person…What are they called?" he whispered to Tepes.
Suddenly, Scorpius pushed past Albus and ran up the stone stairs, nearly crashing into a group of sixth years heading down. Albus hadn't seen the look on his face, but he hoped he wasn't crying…
"It's a 'contortionist,' butt-face," Sophia snapped at Quentin. "Maybe if you grew a few brain-cells, you'd know how to hurt someone's feelings. Oh," she turned to Tepes, "and who were you named after, an electric eel?"
Albus laughed as Sophia saluted the Slytherins and ran up the stairs, her boots clomping with each step.
John snorted and ran after her. Rose looked at Albus, smiled smugly at Quentin and Tepes, and strutted away, her nose in the air. Albus smirked and caught up with Rose to walk with her.
"Dad wasn't kidding when he said the Slytherins were toe-rags," Rose fumed as she and Albus entered the Great Hall. "I can't wait to learn that Bat-Bogey Jinx your mom was telling us about so I can practice on that Elektra girl."
Albus laughed and pocketed his wand now that they were in a safer place with a bunch of tall Gryffindors around.
"Where did John and Sophia go?" Rose asked, looking around at the Marble Staircase.
"I don't know…"
"AL!" someone screamed. Albus didn't have time to react before he was suddenly being hugged tightly by someone.
"ROSE!" the person said, releasing him and throwing her arms around Rose.
"Hi, Dominique," Albus gasped, pulling his robes straight again.
Dominique was in James' year, but she looked older. Her straight strawberry-blond hair reached her shoulders and she was every bit as beautiful as her older sister, Victoire. Albus knew from childhood experiences that Dom was the enthusiast for tiaras and poufy dresses, and her neon pink eye-shadow and thick mascara was evidence to her obsession.
"I'm so excited you guys are finally here," Dominique said, clasping her hands together. "Isn't Hogwarts the best? Except for Peeves of course…"
"Calm down, Dom," their other cousin, Molly, said as she walked toward them. She smiled at them, pushing her horn-rimmed glasses back up her narrow, freckled nose. Her curly hair was as bright red as any of the Weasley's and she had the exact same birthday as Dominique.
"Hi, Molly," Rose said. "How are you?"
"Especially bothered," Molly said stiffly, straightening the stack of books in her arms. "A very loud girl with weird earrings bowled me over just a moment ago, yelling something about scorpions."
"That had to be Sophia," Albus said.
"Is that the American Vicky was telling me about?" Dominique asked. When Rose nodded, she added, "Oh, I love her boots!"
Molly sighed, rolling her eyes at Dominique. "How has your first day been so far, guys?"
"Good," Albus said. "I definitely like Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"Yeah, Professor Walker's amazing, isn't she?" Dominique said happily. "She's intense though; her pop quizzes are pretty hard…"
"We need to go, Albus," Rose suddenly announced, looking at her watch. "We'll be late."
"Alrighty, Al, Rose," Dominique said, giving them each another hug. "I'll look for you at dinner."
"Ok. Bye, Dommers."
"See you, Molly."
Rose and Albus waved, walking toward the giant doors leading outside.
They were one of the first people to the greenhouses; they had visited the school before and, apparently, they were hard to find for students who had never been to the Castle. Professor Longbottom was waiting outside Greenhouse One, talking with a few girl students Albus knew were in Gryffindor.
"Hello, Professor Longbottom," Albus greeted him, smiling.
"Well, hello," Neville said. "And what are your names?" he asked, pretending to not know them very convincingly.
Rose coughed importantly, "I'm Rose Weasley, Professor, and this is Albus Potter. I think you know our parents."
"Ah, yes, I remember them," Neville said, snapping his fingers.
The three stood silent for a moment. Albus was trying not to smile at the strange looks the Gryffindor girls were giving them. Then Professor Longbottom started to chuckle and then Rose was giggling and Albus couldn't help laughing a little too.
Suddenly, John appeared.
"Where did you go?" Albus asked.
"We were looking for you and Sophia in the Entrance Hall," Rose explained. "Where is she?"
John shrugged. "I think she was chasing Scorpius up the stairs."
"The Malfoy boy?" Professor Longbottom asked. "Excuse my intruding."
"I don't know why she's following him around," Rose said, putting her hands on her hips. "He's been nothing but rude to her and..."
Albus poked her shoulder.
"What?" she asked and then looked up where Albus was staring.
Sophia and Scorpius were walking around the corner of the Castle, headed toward them. They were several feet apart as they walked together and Scorpius' feelings of discomfort were very apparent, but Sophia was looking as chipper as she ever had.
"Hi, guys," she said, joining them. Scorpius stayed away, hands in the pockets of his robes, staring at the door to the greenhouse lazily. Albus thought he didn't look so miserable anymore and it could only have something to do with Sophia.
"This," Sophia sighed as they were walking to dinner in the Great Hall, "is the bestest, most awesomest, freaking day of my entire life."
"So far," Albus joked. "You still have tomorrow."
Sophia laughed, "You're right! Maybe something will explode and turn my hair purple like Professor Gibberman's!"
"I would rather my hair be turned red," Rose said loudly as they walked by the Slytherin Table. Elektra Tepes sniffed and flipped her long hair over her shoulder as John and Albus glared at Quentin.
Sophia fist-bumped with Rose, muttering, "Ni-ice."
They sat down together, and just as they were tucking into their food, Sophia suddenly shouted, "Hey, Scorpius!"
Scorpius saw Sophia waving, hesitated, and then walked slowly down the table toward them. Albus, Rose, and John didn't say anything as he came to stand opposite them, all clueless as to what they should do.
"Do you like dumplings, Scorpius?" Sophia said as if he'd always been there. "I don't like the Chinese things but these ones are good, I guess."
Scorpius was obviously a little confused and/or uncomfortable as he said, "I guess so."
"Want to sit down…?" Albus asked, pointing at the table.
Scorpius looked at him, and this time he wasn't glaring as he sank onto the bench opposite them.
Sophia acted like there was nothing to be awkward about, asking many questions about life growing up as wizards while they ate. Scorpius never said anything unless Sophia directly asked him a question and the others were unsure of what they would say to him, so they didn't say anything to him. Albus' and Rose's parents had been mortal enemies with his dad in school and they'd heard all the stories, and John had always heard the name Malfoy in the same sentence as You-Know-Who. Even Dominique acted cautiously as she walked over to say hello, her usually toothy grin turning into a weak smile when she saw Scorpius.
I'm glad to hear you were put in Gryffindor. That must be a relief for you.
As for the Malfoy boy being in Gryffindor, I'm shocked but I guess it can happen. My godfather, Sirius Black, was from a traditionally Slytherin family and he became a Gryffindor. Regardless of what Ron said, try to be nice to the kid… that is unless he's at all like his father. If he is, I wouldn't blame you if you ended up punching him. Your mother will have my head for saying that.
I'm happy that you have made friends. Sophia sounds like an interesting character. And find out John's parent's names for me. I might've known his relations.
I can't wait to find out how you like your classes.
Congratulations on being Sorted into Gryffindor! Lily was literally bouncing off the walls when she heard… your dad and I will be very relieved when Lily gets her wand and all that magic can be channeled.
I want you to be at least civil to the Malfoy boy, especially if he's in your dorm. His father may be a toe-rag, but people can surprise you. I met his mother at the paper just the other day and she isn't bad as far as Slytherins go.
Have fun at school, work hard, and make sure Hagrid is careful when he shows you his pets.
It's so good that you're in Grifindor! I can't wait to go. Dad says he might take me when he has to go there and teach. I want to see the ghost with his head chopped off! And I want to see the hippo's Hagrid showed you.
Dear Dad, Mum, and Lily,
I love Defense Against the Dark Arts! Dad wasn't kidding when he said Professor Walker knew what she was doing. I think I did really well with the pogrebin hex she taught us. The Potions professor is mean, but he likes Sophia, so my class isn't as bad as James'. He says that Professor Gibberman yells at him the most. Transfiguration is my worst class. Professor Martam is probably the only teacher that doesn't like me at all. I just can't make the stupid twig turn into a fountain pen. Rose of course made about fifty of them first day.
How are things at the Ministry? What's the latest on Puddlemere United, Mum? And the HIPPOCAMPUS are horse-fish things, Lily.
P.S. John's parents are Dodger and Klinda Diggory.
I never did well in Transfiguration either. Keep your head up and don't worry about Professor Martam. He doesn't like kids. The only reason he's teaching at all is because he lost his job at the Ministry a while back and Professor Bones wasn't able to convince Professor McGonagall to come out of retirement until a permanent teacher is found.
Things at the Ministry are as chaotic as they always are. No doubt you've heard about the Muggle murder in downtown London, just a few streets down from the Leaky Cauldron. Hannah's alright and she didn't see anything.
Keep having fun.
I'm so glad that you are getting along with Professor Walker. When I met her, she seemed the type to snap easily at a boy as shy as you are. And Professor Gibberman sounds as cheerful as ever. He's never liked James and I don't think he ever will but I hope he warms up to you.
As for Puddlemere United, they did well if not fabulous against the Chudley Cannons, much to your Uncle Ron's disappointment. They will be playing against the Holyhead Harpies in a few weeks. I'm planning on winning our bet. The Harpies all but crushed the Wimborne Wasps last week.
I know what a hippocampus is! I'm not stupid. And guess what? Mum bought me a real broom that can fly over the house and everything! She says that I'll be as good as dad if I practice hard enough but I can't practice without her or dad there. Good luck with your homework. Hope you can make the twig turn into a pen soon.
Dear Dad and Mum,
Scorpius' dad was here. At first, me and Sophia thought he'd come to see Scorpius but he was yelling at Professor Bones about Scorpius being in Gryffindor and he sounded extremely mad.
I heard he'd made a visit to the headmistress. Well, there's nothing to do about it. Don't worry, Al. Just make sure you're being nice as possible to Scorpius.
I just saw Scorpius' mother yesterday. She says that he's having a very hard time at school. If you could just try saying good morning to him or smile at him, I'm sure he'd be a lot happier.
I AM trying. He just doesn't want to do anything with me. Sophia's being nice to him though and he's stopped calling her Mudblood now since she's stood up for him in the corridors every day for the last week. I don't know what else to do, Mum. I really am trying to be nice to him but I might as well be nice to a wall.
Anyway, why didn't you warn me about Hagrid's rock cakes? I nearly lost a tooth trying to eat one at tea today.
If you have time, please come visit me tomorrow. And bring your friends. I think that American girl will like to meet my new friends.
Hagrid has at least a hundred Golden Snidgets living in his hut now. They're small, round birds with bright gold feathers and shiny red eyes like rubies and they are super-fast and hardly ever stop flying around his hut. Hagrid says that he's got permission to make a reserve for them in the Forbidden Forest since they're a rare race.
I just hope he hurries up and gets their giant cage finished soon. His hut isn't going to hold much more Snidgets and they're already laying red eggs all over the place.
This is the fourth Muggle that's been found dead this week and Rose is starting to get scared. Please tell me what's happening. I swear I won't tell anyone but Rose. And John and Sophia. And James will no doubt drag it out of me. Never mind. Just tell me as much as you can.
Tell Rose to not freak out. The office has gotten closer to finding the murderer. He's got a definite pattern. No one has actually seen him, but because Uncle Ron had a stroke of genius, we got a spell to show us that the murderer is definitely male and most likely a wizard.
Don't be worrying about things outside school right now. I want you to just concentrate on getting grades that even Rose would be impressed with, alright?
I love you son.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Potter,
We regret to inform you that your son, Albus Potter, has been given detention for using magic in the corridors between classes and for attempting to curse another student. Please understand that all punishments are to better our students and are in accordance with the Ministry of Magic.
P.S. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, guys. If I weren't Deputy Headmaster, I'd let him slide, but you know. Responsibilities.
Of course, I'm angry with you and I know that I should be furious, but I can't say that I haven't ever received detention myself. All I really feel I can say is that I hope the boy deserved it. Just promise me you'll try to be more subtle next time you feel the urge to hex him.
Try to stay out of trouble from now on.
P.S. You owe me a cauldron. Lily cracked mine when she heard you were getting detention.
Dear Dad and Mum,
Sorry for getting detention. You have no idea how sorry.
I just couldn't help trying to curse this stupid Quentin boy when he said dad was just a showoff and didn't really get rid of Voldemort. I missed him anyway and hit the corridor wall so he's still got his ugly face. Neville had to break us up and then Professor Gibberman gave us detention and took thirty points from Gryffindor. Except for a couple of bruises, I'm not hurt. John had a tooth knocked out, but Madam Clara put it back in again. Sophia and Rose were at the library when it happened. If she was there, I think Sophia would've fought too. Rose keeps on nagging me and John for getting into a fight, and it's getting really annoying now. So don't worry about me not getting punished in every way possible.
The only good thing about this is Quentin and his friends have detention too.
I wasn't expecting you to have a clean slate. You have Teddy as a role model and even Aunt Hermione had detention her first year, for Merlin's sake. I'd appreciate it if you don't tell Rose I told you that because it's bound to reach Hermione's ears if you do. And a word to the wise, don't try sneaking out at night until you know how to turn invisible. You'll get into heaps more trouble if you're caught.
There will always be the fact that I did fight Voldemort and it will affect you, no matter how much I wish it wouldn't. Just don't let your wand get faster than your head and remember that I'm proud of you no matter what, alright? It doesn't matter what other people say because we are a family.
Dear Dad, Mum, and Lily,
Detention wasn't as bad as I thought. Me and John just had to shovel manure for Professor Longbottom and he was helping. Quentin and his friends got Professor Gibberman's store closet and they had to clean out all the expired potion ingredients. They left his office with sheep puke all over their robes. John was laughing so hard he tripped on the Marble Staircase and almost broke his ankle.
See you guys later.
Gone skinny-dipping in the lake yet? Only joking. Your mum might strangle me for putting that idea in your head. She should just be glad I didn't give it to James because he's the one that would do it.
I was just wondering how your first week turned out and by the sounds of it, you're having fun. Your dad told me about you fighting with that Quentin boy. I personally don't blame you one bit. I met the scamp's parents one day at the bank and I was one millimeter away from cursing his daddy's tongue out.
Did I ever tell you about my first week at Hogwarts? I'd succeeded in fighting with every first-year Slytherin by Saturday. If it hadn't been for really good reasons, I would've been shunned for loosing Hufflepuff so many House points. Madam Clara sure had fun having me in the hospital wing all the time.
Keep it real, little bro.
Dear Dad, Mum, and Lily,
Sorry I haven't written for a while. Homework is starting to get stressful. I've been forgetting some assignments until Rose reminds me to work on them. I never knew she could get any bossier than she already was.
Thanks for the giant box of Every Flavor Beans. Me and my friends play "What Do You Taste" all the time now.
We miss you too. Lily has resorted to cleaning her room due to her boredom without you here and dad misses his work being rifled through. I miss your help in the kitchen as well.
Aunt Hermione took the liberty of buying you a homework planner. I hope it helps you stay more organized, though I never saw the use of them myself.
I read in the newspapers that you and Uncle Ron were seen down Knockturn Alley in a shop called Croop's Constituents. You said Knockturn Alley was full of Dark wizards' stuff. I remember because James was really angry when you told us that we weren't allowed down there. Was there a clue about the Muggles' murderer?
Sophia wants to know what made you want to be an Auror.
Yes, I was following a lead. There were vials of bugbear blood with Croop's seal on them around the last dead Muggle we found. We were able to confirm that the vials were bought from that shop. I'm sorry, Al, but I can't tell you anymore without you becoming a risk to the investigation. Sorry.
Tell Sophia that a wizard named Alastor Moody was my main inspiration to become an Auror, but Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks were Aurors when I was growing up also and they contributed to the idea. It also helped that my favorite subject was Defense Against the Dark Arts.
How are you, Al? Keeping up with your work?
Dear Dad, Mum, and Lily,
I've been trying to write stuff in that homework book Aunt Hermione gave me but I can't write in a book that says Homework Journal on the front. Journals are for girls. But thank Aunt Hermione for it anyway.
I haven't felt the urge to curse Quentin at all for the past two weeks, but I've tried to punch him quite a few times. If I lose any more House points, the other Gryffindors will hate my guts forever so me and my friends need to start ignoring him.
Does Uncle Ron know any pranks that cause bodily harm and are untraceable back to me? Only joking Mum.
Mr. and Mrs. Potter,
We regret to inform you that your son, James Potter, has been critically injured in a serious fall from one of the Moving Staircases. Many of his bones were broken in the fall and he is presently unconscious but will be perfectly fine under the care of our able medical staff. Please feel free to visit him at your own convenience.
Hogwarts Deputy Head Nurse
Will you please tell me what really happened to James and Fred? And don't you dare tell me he fell off a staircase, because I know that's a load of dragon dung!
James and Fred would turn me into a mouse if I told you.
Your mother is going insane and I don't think Lily and I can take very much more of it. Please, just tell us what happened! You know you wouldn't stay a mouse very long if James somehow became adept at Transfiguration. Aunt Hermione would be able to bring you back in a snap.
Dear Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny,
Albus told me the story said to write you what really happened to James and Fred.
They got Albus out of bed at midnight that night and convinced him to sneak out with them to go see a tunnel they'd found. They'd never been down it before and needed him to watch the corridor just in case someone came along, since they knew he'd be too scared to actually go himself. When they were in the tunnel, the ceiling collapsed and James and Fred were pinned under a big pile of rocks. Albus ran in and levitated the rocks out of the way so he could pull them out. It was an impressive magical feat since Professor Flitwick just barely taught us the charm. It was incredibly stupid of him, I think, to not go immediately to a teacher, but it was also very brave of him to save them like that. I mean, Madam Clara fixed them up pretty quickly and now they're awake. Madam Pomfrey said that it should've been a lot worse. (I think she knows the 'stairs' story isn't true, she's been at this school long enough to tell if students are lying about injuries or not.)
Albus says he's alright, but I can tell he's shaken up. I can imagine seeing James and Fred all broken up and bloodied like that would be quite a horrible sight. Not to mention, they lost Gryffindor at least three hundred House points so we're last now. We'll have to do incredible in the Quidditch match this week if we want any hope of catching up to Slytherin.
I hope everything is well at your house and I hope to see you sometime soon.
I always knew you would be saving James' neck someday. I'd just hoped it didn't end up with him in the hospital wing. It takes someone really brave to do what you did. I'm sure Godric Gryffindor couldn't have done better. I'm so proud to call you my son, Albus.
Try to take it easy and I'll see you very soon.
Thank you so much for getting Rose to send that letter. I never thought that I would ever say this, but I'm glad James brought you on one of his escapades. Do not let James ever forget that you pulled him from that tunnel. I, for one, will never let him forget this and neither will his grandmother.
We will be visiting tomorrow to check on James. We'll be there around ten o' clock if you want to meet us.
Albus folded up his mum's letter and put it into his pocket, pausing outside the hospital wing as he heard a girl yelling, "You two will never change, will you? I can't believe you would risk the Quidditch Cup like this for your stupid games! Falling off stairs… Ugh! Do you know how hard we have to work to keep up the Gryffindor streak? If we lose to Ravenclaw next week, we'd be the first Gryffindor team to lose a match in over a decade! You have no idea what kind of pressure that puts on me, the captain…"
"We know, Camille!" Fred exclaimed. "You've told us at every practice for two years!"
"We'll be out of here and practicing by tomorrow, Camille," James said in his best rational tone.
"And you will be working your butts off to make up for the practices you've missed!"
Albus sighed and walked the rest of the way into the hospital wing, smiling.
"Hey, Camille," he said as he came to stand next to her.
"Oh, hello, Albus," she said wearily, her hands on her hips.
Camille Wood was a tall, pretty girl with long brown hair and enormous brown eyes. She had been voted Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team even though she was only a fifth year, but she had been on the team as an excellent Chaser since her second year. She was good friends with her team, even if she was very highly strung about their performances, and she was determined to have Albus on her team since she'd heard James talk about their illegal broom races over Godric's Hollow so she was especially nice to him.
"Oh, wonderful," James groaned. "Come to gloat, my Heroic Savior?" He was nearly completely healed except for a bruised liver and lung, and the ripped muscles between his ribs. Magical bandages were wrapped around his chest to keep him from breathing too deeply or bending over too far while the potions went to work repairing his damaged organs.
Albus smirked, sticking his hands into his trouser pockets. "I just wanted to tell you that Mum's coming to see you today."
"I know," James said, wincing as he shifted positions on his pillows.
Fred had to turn his whole body to look at Albus since his bandages wouldn't allow him to turn his neck; the muscles there had been torn severely. "I hope your mum gets as mad as mine did when she gets here. Who knew she could look exactly like Grandma Weasley, even when they're not even related?"
Albus only shrugged.
"I've got to go do my Potions essay," Camille said, glaring at James and Fred. Then turning and smiling tightly at Albus. "See you around Albus."
"See you, Camille," he answered as she stormed past him and out the doors.
"We'll never be forgiven if Gryffindor doesn't win next week," Fred sighed, lying down with a plop.
"Is it true Gryffindor hasn't lost a match in a decade?" Albus asked, sitting on the foot of Fred's bed.
James ran his fingers through his thick hair, "Give or take a year. Do you think the tunnel is completely blocked now?" he added in a quieter voice.
"We'll have to check," Fred mused.
"I'm not coming along this time," Albus said.
James snorted. "You're bad luck anyway. We shouldn't have brought you the first time."
"Next time, I'll let the boulder squish your fat head. That'll show you bad luck."
The door opened and Sophia came in. She caught sight of Albus and hurried over to him, her eyes excited.
"Hey," she said to James and Fred, "how much does it hurt?"
"A lot," Fred grunted.
Sophia smiled widely. "This is so rad!" she exclaimed, jumping onto James' bed. "You guys were completely crushed by a ton of rocks and then whoosh, Madam Clara waves her wand and you're back to normal! Well, almost back to normal… but it's still so cool!"
"Glad to hear it," James said, shifting again uncomfortably. "I wouldn't want anyone to be bored while my ribcage was being inflated."
"That'd be quite a shame, really," Fred commented, grinning. "All that trouble for nothing? Poor Madam Clara."
"Anyway," Sophia said, folding her legs up on the bed, "Rose said she will be here in a minute, she had to see Professor Martam about her Transfiguration essay, and John got distracted by Camille and went to watch Quidditch practice." She rolled her eyes. "He said he'd see us at lunch."
"Ok," Albus nodded.
There was tapping at the window. Everyone turned to see one of the school's owls sitting on the window sill with a letter in its beak. Albus stood and pushed the window open, taking the letter addressed to him as the owl flew away back to the Owlery.
The Snidget eggs are just about ready to hatch. It's supposed to be quite a sight, so I was wondering if you and Rose and your friends would be interested in watching them hatch with me. They only hatch at noon, in case you plan on coming down.
Hope James is alright.
"We definitely have to go!" Sophia said after Albus told her about the Snidget eggs.
"Definitely," Albus smiled, sticking Hagrid's note into his pocket with his mother's letter. "We'll head down there after dinner."
The door to the hospital wing opened and Lily Potter came running in, her long and vibrant red hair messily pulled into a braid.
"Hi, Al!" she said loudly, throwing her arms around his neck and nearly knocking him off of Fred's bed.
"Hey, Lily," Albus said, hugging her back hesitantly because Sophia looked about ready to giggle.
"Hi, Lils," James smiled. "How's it going?"
"Hi, James," she said, reaching to hug him but then stepping back and patting his head gingerly. "Mum is going to be real mad at you when she gets here."
Fred did a fist pump as James sighed, "Bring it on. Where is she?"
"She's coming," Lily said.
"Did Dad come?" asked Albus.
"Yeah, he came," Lily nodded. "He just stopped to talk with Hagrid for a moment." Then she caught sight of the blond girl sitting Indian-style at the end of James' bed and her red eyebrows rose high on her forehead.
"Hi, Lily," Sophia said, grinning. "I'm Sophia." She held out her hand and Lily hesitantly shook it.
"What are you wearing?" Lily asked.
"Hmm, let's see," Sophia stood up and looked down at her outfit, "Johnny Cash t-shirt, my rock'n'roll jeans, plaid socks, butt-kicking boots, navy blue underwear, and lime-green hairclip complete with sparkly belt." She smiled widely and said, "I like your shoes," pointing at Lily's red BroomGliders while Lily turned to look up at Albus with wide eyes.
"I'm glad to see that Hogwarts hasn't changed too much since I was here last," Albus' mother said, appearing at the foot of James' bed. "I'm a little surprise you lot haven't torn it down yet." She grinned and turned to her younger son, holding out her arms to him.
Ginerva Potter was a beautiful woman that obviously had a resilient and calm personality. Her red hair was pulled up elegantly, adding to the professional aura her robes set off, but her posture was evidence of her outgoing nature.
"Hi, Mum," Albus said, giving her a quick hug.
"How are you feeling, James?" Ginny asked, looking down at him with what Sophia or Fred might've thought was concern, but her children knew the look in her eyes only meant they were in deep trouble.
James shifted under his blanket again, "I feel fine, Mum."
Of all her children, James looked the most like Mrs. Potter. They were both freckled across their noses and cheeks and their brown eyes were the exact same shade and their faces were the exact same shape. Their only real difference was the redness of their hair.
"Well," Ginny said, sitting next to James and trying to fix his wild hair, "you shouldn't. You should feel absolutely terrible. If the brain leaking out of your ears doesn't hurt I would think the bruised liver would."
Sophia wasn't able to completely catch her laugh before it was heard. Albus nudged her, giving her a pointed look but his mother had heard and was looking around now.
Mrs. Potter smiled, "Hello, I'm Albus and James' mother." She glanced at Sophia's clothes with a small smile.
"I'm Sophia," Sophia said, smiling back and sticking her thumbs in her pockets. "Nice to meet you finally."
"It's a pleasure to meet you too," Ginny said, laughing lightly.
The door opened again and Harry Potter came strolling in. He looked exactly like a grown-up Albus with glasses and a walk with slightly more swagger in it than Albus'. "Hey, boys! Had quite the adventure, I hear." He gave Albus a one-armed hug before turning and looking at James and Fred appraisingly. "You two look a little worse for wear."
"You could say that," Fred said, smiling. "I'm betting that it'll be even worse when Wood gets us back for Quidditch practice."
"Hey son," Mr. Potter said, reaching over and ruffling James' hair. "Glad you're ok."
"Thanks, Dad," James smiled.
Mrs. Potter put her arm around her husband's waist and stared at him with a deceptively sweet smile.
Mr. Potter smiled down at her and it was evident that he was trying his best to not roll his eyes as he said to James, "It was very irresponsible of you to sneak out at night. Have I changed your mind at all on going through with your next plan?"
"Probably not," James and Fred said together.
Mr. Potter shrugged and looked back at his wife, "I told you."
Mrs. Potter sighed disgustedly and playfully shoved him away from her, sitting on James' bed again.
Mr. Potter just laughed.
Sophia and Albus stood at the foot of the dormitory staircases, leaning on the walls.
"Rose!" Albus yelled up the stairs. "It's almost noon!"
"Hurry up, John!" Sophia said loudly.
"Don't get your knickers in a twist, I'm coming, I'm coming," John said as he walked down the boys' staircase.
"Rose! We're going to leave you!" Albus called.
"Calm down, I'm here," Rose said, hurrying down the steps.
"Why are we watching a bunch of birds hatch again?" John asked as they climbed out of the portrait hole.
"Because Hagrid said, 'It's supposed to be quite a sight,' in his letter," Albus explained.
"I hope we're back before lunch is over," Rose said, "because I'm not eating anything Hagrid cooks ever again."
"Me neither," Sophia laughed.
When they knocked on the door, Hagrid had to have them squish into an inch-wide crack so the Snidgets wouldn't fly out. "Yer just in time," he said, closing the door quickly.
Hagrid's small hut was barely big enough to hold a table and a bed large enough to accommodate him, even with the small addition he'd added just a few months ago. The one hundred golf-ball sized, golden-feathered birds zoomed around the small house as they pleased, occasionally coming close to crashing into the people standing around or the walls but changing direction at the last possible moment. Small nests made of strands of Hagrid's black hair and bits of his wicker baskets were placed in every nook the hut offered, each with at least one ruby-red egg lying in it. There wasn't very much sound, seeing as how the Snidget species were completely silent excepting the beat of their little fully-rotational wings.
"Hagrid," Albus said as one bird came close to colliding with the side of his head, "do you have their cage done yet?"
"Eh, not yet," Hagrid grunted. "I still have ter put a spell up to keep the other critters out there from goin' after 'em."
"Shouldn't you hurry?" Sophia asked, her arms up around her head. "You're going to have more than a thousand here soon."
"Not quite a thousan," Hagrid said sadly, flinching as a Snidget almost flew into his face. "Most of the babies don' survive the hatchin'. Tha's part of the reason they're such a rare bird."
Albus thought about what Hagrid's note had said… it's supposed to be quite a sight.
"Um… what exactly happens when they hatch, Hagrid?" John asked nervously.
Hagrid had just opened his mouth to answer when they heard whistling in the rafters. Everyone looked up but there was no telling which nest it was coming from.
"It's starting," Rose whispered. She sounded more than a little afraid.
One by one, every nest began to whistle, making Albus' ears hurt. He, Rose, John, and Sophia drew close to Hagrid unconsciously, their hands raised protectively as the birds zoomed around them, even though they'd never been hit by a bird yet. Hagrid looked a little apprehensive himself as he yelled over the whistling, "Don' worry, kids."
Suddenly, the pitch of the whistling changed and then at least a million golden mini-fireworks went off simultaneously. Albus heard Rose scream as he fell over with the shock, blinded.
And just like that, it was over.
Albus sat up, feeling his hair sticking up at odd angles, and saw that the Snidgets were still flying around, flashing their gold feathers and ruby eyes. There was scarlet smoke in the rafters and a few charred marks on the walls and floor, but Hagrid's hut was still standing, which was a major feat, Albus thought.
"Is everyone alrigh'?" Hagrid asked. He was the only one still standing, patting a few little sparks out on the quilt on his bed.
"Did you know what was going to happen, Hagrid?" Rose asked shakily, her blue eyes wide as she stared around the hut.
"No," Hagrid said, heaving John to his feet by his collar. "I looked at some books, but all they would tell me was 'spectacular display.' Authors. I didn' think they'd ruddy explode or I wouldn' have invited ya four."
Sophia was standing on Hagrid's table, looking into one of the Snidget nests. "This nest is completely empty, Hagrid. Did the babies just burn up in the fireworks?"
"I reckon so," Hagrid said, checking another nest. "Poor birds."
"This one has a baby in it," Rose said, pointing. "It's rather ugly, isn't it, Al?"
Albus thought so. It was about the size of a peanut and looked more like a scrawny, shriveled old man than a bird.
"Look! There's some eggs that didn't hatch!" John said.
"Yeah, the books said tha' some eggs get faulty and won' ever hatch," Hagrid said, picking up a fallen chair and sitting down.