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22 January 2009 @ 12:29 am
Gift for leochi  
Title: A Sorting, of Sorts
Author: mk_tortie
Recipient: leochi
Pairing(s): Albus Severus/Scorpius
Rating: PG
Warnings: none
Summary: The night before Hogwarts, Albus worries that he might not fit into any House at all.
Word Count: c.7000
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author’s notes: Thanks to a very short-notice beta from L, who is always reliable.


The night before Albus left for Hogwarts, he couldn’t sleep. After he had been to the bathroom three times, got four glasses of water and checked his list of things to pack twice, his mother finally appeared at the door to his room.

‘Albus, go to sleep,’ she told him firmly. Albus climbed into bed and reluctantly pulled the covers over himself and Ginny sat down on the end of the bed. ‘Look, you’re going to have a fantastic time at school, so try to stop feeling nervous and get some sleep. If you’ve forgotten anything, I can always Owl it to you later on, you know.’

Albus could see her smile in the half-light. ‘I’m not nervous, Mum,’ he protested. ‘I just…’

‘You just needed four glasses of water in half an hour?’ Ginny’s tone was teasing. She leaned down, kissed him on the forehead, smoothed the covers over him, and stood up. ‘Night night, sleep tight,’ she said as she pulled the door to behind her.

Albus was left alone in his darkened bedroom. He sighed and turned over in bed, curling up into a ball. It wasn’t worry about Hogwarts in general that was leaving him tense and sleepless. He was sure the Hogwarts experience in general would be incredible – James, after all, had talked about practically nothing else for the last two years, so there was no reason for Albus not to enjoy it too… except that every time Albus tried to go to sleep, a small voice in his head kept repeating the same phrase over and over again: ‘Gryffindor? Slytherin? Hufflepuff? Ravenclaw? You don’t fit into any of them…’ In his head, he saw Rose Weasley being proudly sorted into Gryffindor with the rest of his relatives, James grinning with all of his Quidditch teammates, and even Scorpius Malfoy looking smug at the Slytherin table – and the Sorting Hat being placed on Albus’ own head, and being unable to place him anywhere. What would happen then? Albus wondered. He imagined himself being told to sleep somewhere else… maybe he’d just have to Floo to school every day from home… maybe they wouldn’t let him stay. The problem was, he just couldn’t work out how he fitted into any of the Houses at all.



~

‘Parsons, Penny!’

The girl in front of Albus ran up to the front of the Great Hall and placed the Sorting Hat on her head. After a couple of minutes, she grinned, and the hat shouted out its decision. What House it actually decided on, though, was not something that Albus noticed, because he was too busy panicking.

‘Potter, Albus!’

He felt the boy behind him give him a push, and he half ran, half fell over to where the Sorting Hat sat on it’s chair. He place it on his head, and sat down. ‘Please don’t send me home!’ he thought, desperately. The Hat laughed inside his head. ‘If you’re here, then you are to be Sorted. I don’t choose who belongs at Hogwarts and who does not, only where you fit best whilst you are here. And you are a tricky one…’


~


The Hogwarts train was almost completely full by the time Albus had escaped his mother’s clutches (or rather, forgotten his own nerves) and he walked past several carriages before he found anyone he knew. His cousin Rose was arguing with James and Fred about a Weasley’s Wizarding Wheeze which had mysteriously appeared amongst her robes in her case, causing them to turn bright Hufflepuff yellow the moment she put them on.

‘Unlike you, I don’t care if people think I’ve become a Hufflepuff or something,’ Rose said, glaring at James coldly. ‘It might even be good for House Unity! But I don’t want to get into trouble for being improperly dressed on the first day of term, thank you very much. So change them back!!’

James and Fred glanced at each other and laughed. ‘Sorry, you’ll have to wait for it to wear off, Miss Goody-Two-Shoes. Go promote House Unity somewhere else if you’re just going to moan at us!’

Rose huffed and turned around, then spotted Albus. ‘I wouldn’t sit here if I were you,’ she warned him grumpily. ‘They’ll probably turn you into a toad and leave you here.’

Albus shrugged and slipped past her into the compartment. James grinned at him. ‘Missed me already, did you?’

Albus shrugged again. ‘You’re just the first people I found who I know.’

James looked unsympathetic ‘Well, none of the Muggleborns know anyone at all, so go show off to them. You’re not hanging around with us all year. We have important things to plan!’

He winked conspiratorially at Fred, who grinned at Albus. ‘Off you go, squirt. We need to talk business.’

Albus shrugged for a third time, and turned around again. The train was moving now, and he wobbled as he made his way down the carriage gangway. Behind him, he could hear James explaining something excitedly – the words ‘map’, ‘tunnels’ and ‘Wheezes’ were just audible. It was probably a good thing not to get involved in whatever James and Fred had in mind, Albus thought to himself; if he got too many detentions in his very first term, Dad probably wouldn’t be too impressed.

His train of thought was broken when he suddenly walked straight into someone else.

‘Ouch!’ The boy was blond, thin-faced, and already wearing Hogwarts robes. ‘Watch where you’re going!’

Scorpius Malfoy, Albus realised, and suddenly remembered his Dad’s stories about Scorpius’ father, Draco.

‘He offered me his hand,’ Harry had said. ‘And I didn’t shake it.’ Albus had thought for a moment at that.

‘Do you think he would have been on the good side if you had?’ he had asked.

His father had laughed at him. ‘Nothing’s ever that simply, Al.’


Albus, aged no more than six, had accepted that without thinking anything more, but now the question occurred to him again. He turned to Scorpius. ‘You’re Scorpius Malfoy, aren’t you?’ he asked. ‘I’m Albus Potter. Sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going…’

He stuck out his hand. ‘Nice to meet you, anyway.’

Scorpius looked at him suspiciously. ‘Potter? I should have guessed. My Dad warned me you’d try something.’ He picked up his case pointedly, and made to push past Albus. ‘Have fun in Gryffindor.’

Albus let his hand fall, and felt strangely disappointed. He opened his mouth, and then closed it again, as the other boy squeezed past him down the carriage.

‘Watch out for my…’ he called as Scorpius tried the door to James’ and Fred’s compartment, ‘…brother,’ he finished miserably, as Scorpius reemerged, scowling, covered in what looked like soot. Scorpius stomped back in Albus’ direction.

‘That’s Sweating Soot,’ Albus told him. ‘Do you want the counter spell? It’ll keep coming back everytime you get hot if you don’t use it, ‘til the spell wears off.’

‘Don’t act all nice, Potter,’ Scorpius practically growled. ‘I bet you were in on this. I’ll work it out on my own, thanks.’ With that, he pushed back past Albus and disappeared into the next carriage, wiping at his face with his hands angrily. Albus sighed. He hoped everyone wasn’t going to see him as a carbon copy of James. He wasn’t any good at being like his brother, with his millions of friends and his jokes and his ability to make anybody like him in about five minutes. Albus glanced back at James’ compartment – he could hear James’ guffaws and Fred’s barking laugh. He contemplated going back and joining in the laughter, but having seen Scorpius’ face, he didn’t really find it all that funny. Finally, he turned and headed the way he’d been going. Maybe Roxanne would be interested in talking about something other than her Melissa the Muggle Model game for once.

~

‘You could do well in Hufflepuff,’ the Hat noted. ‘Yes, you could fit in very well… but you would not grow, and develop, and learn new things there as well as in another House…’

~

Albus’ first OWL Transfiguration class didn’t begin well. To begin with, he was late. He had been cornered by his sister after breakfast, and it hadn’t been pleasant.

‘You broke up with Lizzy!’ she hissed. ‘How could you? She’s my best friend! And you didn’t even write to her all summer!’

Albus had tried uncomfortably to push away her wand, which was pressed into his stomach. ‘No Bat-Bogey Hexes, okay? And I did write to her, she just didn’t answer, so I assumed we’d broken up already! Ask her if you want explanations, I don’t know!’

Lily had scowled. ‘Well, maybe you should have written to her more than once then!’

‘Oh, for Merlin’s sake, Lil, you know she was only going out with me to make Malfoy jealous, anyway. She’s fancied him since they had that detention together last year! She doesn’t even like me, she’s always telling me how I’m nothing like you!’

‘You still could have been a bit nicer about it,’ Lily huffed.

Albus tried to push her off. ‘Listen, tell her I’ll do her Arithmancy homework to make up for it or something, but I really have to go, Lily!’

She grabbed his arm. She was surprisingly strong – he guessed it was all that Beating practice she had done over the summer. ‘Her Arithmancy and mine, because I had to listen to her crying for three hours,’ she demanded.

‘Fine, whatever!’ Albus groaned. He finally escaped, and ran all the way to the third floor for Transfiguration.

‘You are late, Mr Potter,’ Professor Quirke said sharply.

‘Sorry,’ Albus muttered, and took the only seat left – right next to Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius glanced at him, gave him a condescending look, and turned back to the lecture, quill poised attentively.

‘Swot,’ Albus muttered under his breath, digging about in his bag for his quill. ‘Accio quill,’ he whispered quickly, and then groaned in dismay as Scorpius’ quill shot out of his hand towards Albus.

‘Sorry!’ he said, trying to avoid Quirke’s scrutiny. Scorpius grabbed the quill back with another glare, but it was too late. Professor Quirke stepped in front of their desk. ‘Mr Potter, Mr Malfoy, I think some lines may be in order. One hundred lines to my office by tomorrow morning, please: ‘I will not disrupt the rest of the class with petty chitter-chatter.’

‘Now see what you did,’ Scorpius whispered angrily to Albus.

Albus opened his mouth to reply, but a scowl from Professor Quirke made him close it again. He rubbed his eyes with his hands and hoped that the day would start improving sometime soon.

The Professor turned to the class. ‘Before we start work on preparation for your OWLs, I must inform you that, for the first time, all students preparing for an OWL in Transfiguration will have an opportunity to secure an Outstanding grade through a special extra-credit project.’

She sniffed, her expression suggesting she did not entirely agree with this decision. Scorpius straightened up in his seat and leaned closer, and Albus stopped rubbing his eyes and scrabbled in his bag for his quill. Scorpius looked at him. ‘Honestly, Potter, you could at least try to behave like a proper Wizard for once.’ He handed him a quill. ‘Try not to break it, hmm?’

‘Thanks,’ Albus said doubtfully.

Quirke raised an eyebrow at them warningly before continuing. ‘In order to achieve this extra credit, you will be required to research, practise, and carry out in full the Animagus transformation. If you succeed by the end of the year, and can perform the transformation during your exam, then you will automatically receive an Outstanding grade.’

Surprised and excited gasps echoed through the vaulted room. Scorpius looked at Albus out of the corner of his eye, and then leaned across to Gerry Fawcett and whispered pointedly. ‘We have every book ever written on the transformation in the library at home… I started on them last summer anyway.’ Gerry raised his eyebrows and grinned, whilst Albus rolled his eyes. Of course the Malfoys would have every book ever written. Why were his own parents not more interested in reading? Albus shared his Aunt Hermione’s view that books were one of the most important parts of life – although he didn’t think they were the be-all and end-all, just a really useful place to start in most situations.

He was still feeling annoyed when he got to lunch, where he bumped into Hugo Weasley.

‘What’s the matter with you?’ Hugo asked curiously at Albus’ ferocious expression.

Albus looked up at Hugo – although he was only in his Second Year, he’d already grown taller than Albus, James, and their Dad – and tried to stop scowling. ‘I don’t suppose your Mum has any one-of-a-kind books on becoming an Animagus, does she?’ he asked hopefully.

Hugo shrugged. ‘Sorry mate, I wouldn’t know. Owl her and ask! You coming to watch the Quidditch later on?’

Albus nodded. ‘Probably… Lily would kill me if I didn’t.’ Hugo laughed, and headed to the Gryffindor table. Albus stared after him for a second, before abruptly turning on his heel and heading out of the Great Hall, ignoring his sister as he brushed past her. ‘Don’t forget my Arithmancy!’ she called after him. He ran towards the library, a plan gradually formulating in his head. He knew that the Hogwarts library wouldn’t have anywhere near as many books as the library at the Malfoy’s estate, and he was pretty certain that he would only have a chance at completing the transformation if he could get hold of every text he could possibly find. He would bet anything that his Granddad and the other Marauders had only managed it through Sirius borrowing from his relatives, and since there weren’t any books on becoming an Animagus at 12 Grimmauld Place any more, Albus could only assume they’d ended up at another Black house. And if Malfoy said his family had lots of books like that… well, Narcissa Malfoy had been a Black, hadn’t she?

Albus realised there was only one thing for it. He was going to have to persuade Scorpius somehow to lend him those books. The problem was that although they didn’t have the vicious rivalry that their fathers had had, Scorpius’ only real conversation with Albus consisted of sarcastic remarks and the odd contribution to ideas that Albus suggested in class. Albus couldn’t deny that Scorpius was really very clever, but he found him far too arrogant and concerned with his appearance for his liking. Scorpius’ hair was always sleek, he never had any acne, and his robes were always perfect, compared to Albus’ messy hair, inherited from his father, and his ink-splattered robes. Albus couldn’t help but envy Malfoy, but he didn’t have to go on about it like that, did he?

Albus ran one hand through his hair, unconsciously trying to flatten it down. How was he going to get Scorpius to lend him the books? What did he have that Scorpius wanted? He had… a collection of twenty year old copies of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle, inherited from his Uncle Ron (but he doubted Scorpius would be at all interested in anything about Muggles, Post-Wizarding War enlightenment, or not)… a case of as-yet-unreleased Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes (but Scorpius thought jokes like the kind of thing James and Fred played at were immature and beneath him – a view that Albus sometimes thought he shared, a little bit)… or a selection of books that Aunt Hermione had given him over the years (but Scorpius probably had them all, and more, in his incredible Malfoy family library)… Albus closed his eyes dejectedly. There was no way he was going to be able to talk Scorpius into a straight swap.

It was only when he had slept on the problem that he came up with a plan. The next morning in Potions, he leaned across to Roxanne, who was partnered with Scorpius. ‘Can you meet me at Hagrid’s on Saturday? I wrote to my Dad… he’s going to come and meet us.’ He leaned closer, and checked quickly to see if Scorpius was listening before whispering. ‘He’s got some Marauding help for us for Transfiguration!’ Roxanne’s eyes widened curiously, but she grinned and nodded. Albus glanced over at Scorpius again. Satisfied that he’d heard from the incredulous expression on the boy’s face, Albus went back to his potion, humming as he did so.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, and Harry was chatting quietly to Hagrid when Albus and Roxanne arrived at the hut. Harry grinned at his son when he spotted him. ‘Al! So what mischief have you got planned then?’

Roxanne turned to Albus. ‘That’s what I’d like to know too, actually. What’s this all about?’

‘Did you bring the map, Dad?’ he asked.

Harry nodded. ‘But I’m not waiting ‘til the tenth time you get it confiscated to take it back.’

Albus grimaced. ‘Not James here, remember, Dad? I’m your sensible son.’

Harry took out the Marauder’s Map and handed it to him. ‘Alright, alright, here it is. Use it wisely. And don’t tell your mother. Actually, don’t tell me what it’s for either. I’ll just get into trouble with you when you get caught! And her Bat Bogey Hex still beats Lily’s, no matter what she might claim.’

Roxanne laughed. ‘I still want to know what it’s for, though, Al. I don’t see how this is going to help with Transfiguration.’

Harry patted Albus on the shoulder. ‘I’ll leave you to it, then,’ he said. ‘See you at Easter!’

‘Say hello to Mum for me,’ Albus called as his Dad headed back over to Hagrid, who was feeding his latest Care of Magical Creatures monstrosity, which looked like something between a Crup and a Kneazle, but with very large pointy teeth.

Roxanne pulled him around to face her. ‘So,’ she said firmly. ‘Explain, please.’

Albus pulled out his wand and pointed it at the map. ‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good.’ The map of Hogwarts rolled out on the grubby parchment, and Roxanne pulled it towards her, fascinated.

‘This is it?’ she asked. ‘Well, I mean, of course it is… wow! Dad told me about it, but I’ve never seen it up close before.’

Albus grinned, suddenly feeling warmly proud of his heritage. He hoped Scorpius really had overheard in Potions and was listening from somewhere. This was way better than any old massive family library. He tapped the map again. ‘Albus Potter and Roxanne Weasley would like to enquire after the health of Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.’

Words began to scroll across the map.

Mr Moony thinks that Albus Potter sounds far too serious for his own good.

Mr Prongs agrees, but thinks that Mr Moony should look up the definitions of Pot, Kettle and Black.


Albus and Roxanne exchanged grins. ‘Prongs, Padfoot… and Wormtail,’ Albus added reluctantly, ‘we know you’re all Animagus. We want to be too. Can you help?’

Mr Padfoot suggests that Mr Potter and Miss Weasley do their own research.

Mr Prongs would like to add that the second to last row near the window in the library holds many secrets for those who look closely enough.

Mr Wormtail advises that a potion is involved.

Mr Padfoot would like to remind Mr Wormtail who made the potion in the first place.


Albus read their comments aloud, amused, then tapped the map with his wand again. ‘Thanks Granddad,’ he murmured softly. ‘Mischief Managed!’ He rolled the map up and shoved it in his bag.

Roxanne was grinning like it was Christmas morning. ‘This is amazing! Library?’ Albus nodded.

He wasn’t too surprised to find Scorpius waiting conspicuously in front of the door when they got there. ‘Morning Malfoy,’ Albus called airily.

Scorpius folded his arms and raised one eyebrow. ‘Finally found yourself someone to organise your life, Potter? In the library on a Saturday… that’s a bit too dedicated for you, isn’t it?’

Roxanne bristled, but Albus smiled. ‘Oh, I’m just anxious to get started on the Transfiguration project. You’re not the only one who’s already done some preparation, you know!’

Scorpius followed them into the library. ‘Yes, I am aware you’ve found yourself some ‘help’. Some of us don’t need to be nannied through everything in life, you know.’

‘Why are you hanging around here then, Malfoy? You’ve got all your books from home already, surely?’ Albus bit back a more irritated response. He needed Scorpius to make the offer, or his whole plan wouldn’t work. Roxanne was giving them both curious, mildly amused glances. Albus knew he would have to explain later – Roxanne was hard to put off once she got interested in something.

Scorpius sighed. ‘Don’t play games with me, Potter. You’re getting some kind of extra help from your Dad. He works for the Ministry. That means it’s got to be help worth knowing about. And I know you want to look at the books my Dad sent me!’ He broke off at the look on Albus’ face, then continued, exasperated. ‘Oh, don’t look so surprised. I saw your face when I told Fawcett about them on Thursday.’

Albus sighed. Roxanne frowned, then buried her head in her hands. ‘You set this up, didn’t you, Albus Severus?’ Albus looked sheepish. ‘You only told me so that he would overhear and you could see his books!’

‘Okay, so maybe my genius plan wasn’t quite as genius as I thought,’ Albus said, trying to defend himself from Roxanne’s wrath. She could get scary when she was annoyed. ‘But listen! We’re all three of us here now… why don’t we just work on it together? Three heads have got to be better than one.’

Roxanne glared at him, but shrugged. ‘Actually, not if you’re a Three-Headed Bush Cricket – they eat themselves accidentally a lot – but fine. What have you got?’ she asked, turning to Scorpius.

Scorpius looked confused. ‘She’s a big fan of the Quibbler,’ Albus explained under his breath.

‘Oh, right,’ Scorpius said, not sounding like he understood at all. ‘Well, I’ve got six different books on the transformation… but what about the shelves near the window?’

Albus looked at him, then decided not to push his luck. ‘Sure… let’s get started.’

‘Not Slytherin, my parents would disown me!’ Albus thought to the Hat, which chuckled again at him. ‘Your father asked the same thing of me, and I shall say the same to you as I did him. You could do great things in Slytherin, yes, you could be great there… but if not that House, then perhaps…’ Albus didn’t have time to digest this startling new piece of information about his father before the Hat continued.

~

The Yule Ball was a giant pain in the proverbial, Albus decided. For one thing, the decision that parents of students should be invited as well was insane, because none of the Muggleborns’ parents had a clue what was going on, and all of the others were acting like they were students again. Watching his parents giggle like twelve year olds was something he could definitely have done without. For another, his date, Ceci Jones, had spent the entire evening dancing with Lysander Scamander (and if a girl likes a boy with a rhyming name better than you, you know you have problems, he decided), Rose Weasley had spent half an hour explaining in great detail how events like the Yule Ball were institutionally sexist towards witches, and Scorpius Malfoy had once again stolen the show with his dress robes, which somehow managed to make him look at least twenty and half a foot taller than he actually was. Albus sidled to the back of the Great Hall, hoping to make an escape without anyone noticing, when his Uncle Ron entered, hotly pursued by Scorpius’ father.

‘I overheard what you said about my son, Weasley,’ Draco Malfoy muttered, grabbing the back of Ron’s robes. Ron whipped around, his face nearly the colour of his hair. ‘Maybe you should stop eavesdropping on private conversations then, Malfoy, if you don’t want to hear things about yourself.’

The pair were practically nose to nose, or would have been, had Ron not been half a head taller than Draco. ‘Maybe you should learn some manners before your ‘Muggleborn’ wife lets you out in public again,’ Draco sneered. Albus was slightly shocked – he’d never heard anybody put quite so much sarcasm into the word Muggleborn before. Of course, he knew about the reasons for the War, but it was another thing entirely hearing such scorn voiced.

‘Keep your sneaky Slytherin opinions to yourself, Malfoy,’ Ron said angrily. ‘I’m off to enjoy my evening.’ He marched away towards where Harry, Hermione, and Ginny were laughing. Draco Malfoy stared after him for a moment, then spotted Albus. His mouth twisted into a strange expression for a moment, but he turned away quickly and left without saying anything.

Albus leant against the wall. He couldn’t understand why some people took their Houses so seriously, so long after they had left Hogwarts. After all, seven years out of a Wizard’s lifetime wasn’t all that long – why did everyone allow themselves to become so separated?

It was something which Albus was still pondering at breakfast the next morning. He had been thinking about the Sorting Hat songs he had heard over the years, and what he knew of the warnings about unity the Hat had given at times. That was the root of the House Unity exercises which all the First and Second Years had to complete, of course, but Albus wondered what the original intention of the Houses had even been. If the Founders had been so great, wouldn’t they have realised that dividing up students into what amounted to opposing forces would only be detrimental to development and learning? Why would they do that, if that was indeed what they wanted to achieve? Albus found himself heading to the library whilst he pondered. He wasn’t really sure where to look to find an answer – Hogwarts, a History, wasn’t much help (he’d read it aged nine, when Aunt Hermione had given it to him as a birthday present), and he didn’t know of any other books covering the founding of the school.

Madam Pince had died in Albus’ Second Year, but she had obviously been so attached to making sure students didn’t damage the books in the library that her ghost had simply continued her job. This, of course, had the added advantage that she now never needed to sleep, and so could keep an eye on the Restricted Section twenty-four hours a day. James had been most put out.

Albus approached her desk, still frowning slightly in thought. ‘Yes, dear?’ the librarian asked. She had something of a soft-spot for Albus – he tended to take books away with him when he borrowed them, rather than make noise in the library itself – ‘Can I help you at all?’

When Albus had explained what he was looking for, Madam Pince pointed over his shoulder. ‘Mr. Malfoy has the book you require, I think you’ll find.’

Albus turned around to see Scorpius, poring over a thick, leather-bound tome. Hearing his name, he looked up, and spotted Albus. ‘What do you want, Potter?’ he asked, but he didn’t sound quite as scornful as he usually did.

Albus sat down opposite him. ‘I… well, I happened to overhear an argument last night, and it got me thinking about the Founders. So I wanted to look them up.’ No need to mention who was arguing, Albus decided, but he was sure that Scorpius was about to pull him to pieces. His explanation did sound pretty poor, it had to be said.

Scorpius, however, simply laid the book on the table and regarded Albus for a moment before speaking. ‘So… you’re not just a pretty face, then. You overheard my Dad, arguing with Weasley… your Uncle, right?’

Albus nodded, slightly taken aback. Scorpius avoided his eyes, but carried on. ‘And now you’re wondering what the Founders originally intended with the Houses and so on, yeah?’

Albus nodded again, now really quite surprised. He knew Scorpius was pretty intelligent, but he didn’t think Legilimency was one of his many talents.

Scorpius eyes scanned the open book on the table, but he didn’t seem to be reading it. ‘And now you’re wondering why only one of the Houses is seen as any good by the purebloods these days?’

Albus couldn’t help himself. He laughed, out of pure relief that Scorpius couldn’t actually read his mind. ‘Actually, I was wondering what on earth they were thinking, dividing everyone up like that, when it was obviously only going to hinder learning in the end.’

Scorpius looked at him again. Albus began to feel a little bit confused – if he wasn’t imagining it, the expression on Scorpius’ face was actually bordering on respect.

‘You really aren’t just a pretty face, are you, Potter?’ Scorpius asked rhetorically. Albus blushed, and then, embarrassed, blushed even more. Scorpius snorted. ‘Look, you can have the book, I’m finished with it. Learn to take a compliment, then you might actually be worth talking to.’ He got up and stalked out of the library. Albus stared at his retreating back, unable to work out if he should feel insulted or pleased.

Sighing, he pulled the book towards him, and flicked to front. Underneath where the book had lain, he noticed another book, much newer and thinner. He reached out and read the title. ‘Hufflepuffs are happy, Gryffindors like goats?’ he muttered. Why on earth had Scorpius been reading ‘A Guide to understanding your inter-House relationship’?

~

‘Ravenclaw, then,’ the Hat mused.

‘But I’m not clever enough for Ravenclaw! I never get top marks…’ Albus argued.

The Hat sighed. ‘Ravenclaw is not just books and cleverness, you know. But no, I don’t think Ravenclaw is where you fit best. Which leaves one choice…’


~

Albus’ only detention of Seventh Year couldn’t have come at a worse time. It was the last week of term before Christmas, the snow was lying thick on the ground, and he had been caught smoking Muggle Cigarettes in the Rose Garden by Denton Drudge, the caretaker who had started the year before. Unfortunately for Albus, Drudge had taken him straight to the Deputy Head.

‘You know what your parents would say about you killing yourself pointlessly with those disgusting things,’ Aunt Hermione (or Professor Weasley, as he mostly remembered to call her these days) had told him sternly. ‘If you want to stand around outside so much, then you can at least make yourself useful at the same time. Detention with Hagrid, tomorrow night.’

Albus made his way to Hagrid’s hut, still feeling annoyed. He’d only tried the stupid things because Lily had when she went to Majorca with her Muggleborn friends, and she’d said they were great for relaxing. With all the NEWT stress piling on, Albus thought he had as good an excuse as any for a chemical means of relaxing, and a Muggle way of doing it seemed somehow less harmful than making a potion. And I’m useless at Potions, he thought, suddenly anxious about his NEWTs again. What a waste of time, having to do detention when I could be studying.

He was surprised to see someone else waiting outside Hagrid’s hut – Scorpius Malfoy and Lorcan Scamander, both wrapped up against the cold but still shivering slightly. ‘What are you doing here?’ Lorcan asked. ‘Come to keep us company?’

Albus could never understand how Lorcan managed to be so normal compared to his brother and the rest of his family. He claimed he wanted to work for Gringott’s bank as a Stockbreaker – the Stocks were winged, somewhat like the keys Albus’ Dad had encountered in his first year, and had to be broken in when they gained value because it made them flighty. It was a thoroughly uninteresting job, at least compared to every other Scamander and Lovegood out there.

‘Professor Weasley,’ Albus muttered. ‘Caught me smoking.’

Scorpius looked incredulous. ‘Why are you killing yourself with those Muggle things?’

Albus was unamused. ‘You sound just like her.’

At that moment Hagrid appeared. ‘Righ’ then boys, we’re off into the Forest. Got some news tha’ there’s somethin’ disturbin’ the creatures up on the North side, so we’re goin’ ter take a look. Yer all pretty handy with Stunning spells, righ’?’

The three boys exchanged glances. Trips into the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid never seemed to end without somebody injuring themselves – Albus had often wondered why the half-giant was still allowed to take students in there. As much as he enjoyed Hagrid’s company, his idea of what was safe and what wasn’t differed a lot from every other sane person in the world.

The Forest was dark and foreboding, the trees rustling as snow dripped off their branches and onto the ground. ‘Lumos,’ Scorpius said under his breath, and Lorcan and Albus followed suit. They followed Hagrid through the snow, trying not to trip over the branches that flicked back behind his large legs, and eventually found themselves in a large clearing.

‘So… what are we actually looking for?’ Lorcan asked sceptically. ‘All I’ve seen so far is snow, snow and more snow.’

Hagrid paused and turned around. ‘Somethin’s been ripping animals apar’ – mostly the smaller ones, Bowtruckles and Red Caps, things like tha’. Jus’ don’t want it ter start on anythin’ bigger.’

‘Great,’ Scorpius muttered. ‘Getting ripped apart would be a great way to end the evening.’

Albus said nothing. He had been peering into the Forest to his right, where he thought he had seen something gleaming. ‘What’s that over there, Hagrid? Looks like…’

He was interrupted as a large creature sprung out of the bushes, knocking past a tree as it did so. The tree was obviously dead, because instead of bending and then springing back, it simply snapped off in the middle, falling straight over into the clearing – and onto Hagrid’s head. Hagrid slumped to the floor with a small groan. The beast, whatever it was, raced off into the night.

‘What was that?’ Scorpius demanded furiously.

‘More to the point, what in Merlin’s name do we do now?’ Albus added.

Lorcan twisted his hands nervously. ‘You’re not going to believe me,’ he said slowly. ‘But that was a Crumple-Horned Snorkack.’

Albus looked at him. The other boy’s face showed no sign that he was joking. ‘And are.. um.. Snorkacks dangerous?’ he asked.

Lorcan looked worried. ‘No, they feed off plants. But they’re usually very slow-moving, calm creatures. They don’t race around like that, unless something’s got them really, really scared.’

‘Oh, great,’ Albus said sarcastically. He looked at Hagrid. ‘We have to get out of here. But we can’t leave him here to get ripped apart.’

‘Um… I think that may not be something we need to worry about,’ Scorpius whispered. ‘Turn around, very slowly.’

Lorcan and Albus turned, to see a full-sized, angry-looking, flame-blowing dragon, perched in a tree on the other side of the clearing.

There was a sudden thump. Albus looked down quickly, to see Lorcan, who had fainted dead away, lying in the snow.

‘Ravenclaws,’ Scorpius said, trying to sound disdainful. The nervous squeak of his voice gave his true fear away, but it also attracted the dragon’s attention. Albus and Scorpius watched in horror as the dragon stretched it’s wings, almost lazily, and swooped straight towards them. Scorpius stood rooted to the spot with fear, his wand hanging uselessly by his side. Albus hesitated for a moment, his mind racing with possible options. The Triwizard Tournament in his Dad’s stories! They had dragons there… what did they do? The eyes – get them in the eyes, Albus remembered, and before he had really thought about it, he had pointed his wand straight at the monster flying towards them.

Conjunctiva!’ he shouted. Then, without waiting to see how it would react, he barrelled into Scorpius, throwing him to the ground, and rolling over in the snow until they were covered in it and totally soaked.

The dragon roared in pain, and shot two long jets of flame from its nostrils, narrowly missing the two boys lying in the snow. Albus felt the skin on his back twinge in pain from the boiling heat, just inches away.

‘Shield charm!’ Scorpius hissed.

‘Oh, right!’ Albus desperately tried to remember how to shield against heat and cold. Finally, he remembered. ‘P..protego aestum!’ He hoped it had worked – his teeth were chattering so much that he could hardly get the words out, and his wand hand was shaking with fear. The dragon was swooping around above them, randomly flying back and forth, shaking its head.

‘It’s trying to smell us!’ Scorpius groaned, sounding as if he was about to faint too.

Albus racked his brains. There had to be a spell to stop their smell from getting out… he tried the first thing that came to mind, hoping against hope that it would do what he wanted it to. ‘Nox nidor!’ he mumbled. The pair waited, huddled up against each other, barely daring to move, whilst the dragon flew backwards and forwards, occasionally letting off jets of flame. Finally, after what seemed like hours, it flew away.

Albus watched it leave, then let out the breath he hadn’t realised he was still holding. Embarrassed, he noticed he had had his arm around Scorpius, his head tucked into the other boy’s cloak. Albus pulled himself away, and shook Scorpius. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked, worriedly.

‘Merlin, I’m so cold.’ Scorpius’ reply was faint. ‘And I think my arm is broken. You weigh about as much as a Hippogriff, Potter!’

‘I’m so sorry,’ Albus said, and meant it. The adrenalin was leaving him now, and he was beginning to feel cold, and scared about how he was actually going to get out of this alive, with two unconscious bodies and now Scorpius with a broken arm. He wished again that his Animagus form had actually turned out to be something useful. Lily still hadn’t stopped teasing him – he supposed being able to turn into a tortoise wasn’t really very cool.

Scorpius grabbed his arm. ‘Don’t be….’ Despite the cold, he blushed. ‘You saved my life, I think. So really, don’t be sorry.’

Albus sank back down into the snow. ‘It really is cold, isn’t it? Do you think if I send a Patronus back to the castle they’ll get here before any of us die of exposure?’

Accio my wand and I’ll light a fire. Weasley taught us that charm a while back, don’t you remember?’ Scorpius looked more worried than sarcastic.

‘Oh, Aunt Hermione’s speciality? I never got the hang of that. If you can do it though… Accio Scorpius’ wand!’ The wand flew through the air and Scorpius grabbed it with his good hand. Albus concentrated on the memory of his first time on a broomstick and shouted ‘Expecto Patronum!’ A silvery tortoise appeared out of his wand and disappeared into the trees. Albus watched it go, and then turned to Scorpius, who was conjuring a jar and casting the charm to fill it with fire.

‘You’re good with that sort of thing,’ he commented. Scorpius shrugged. ‘You’re good at Transfiguration, much better than me. I never did get the whole Animagus thing.’

Albus shrugged. ‘It doesn’t matter.’ He got up and made his way slowly to Hagrid and Lorcan. Both were still unconscious. ‘They’re going to freeze… Can you make some more of those jars? They’re too cold already, and there’s not much else we can do. We might be here for ages, I doubt we’re outside the Apparition boundary so they’re going to have a hard time finding us.’

Scorpius conjured two more jars and handed them to Albus. ‘Can’t you cast Protego Aestum again?’ he asked.

‘I don’t want to risk protecting them from the warmth as well as the cold,’ Albus replied. It’s harder to cast a protection barrier around someone else.’

He placed the flame-filled jars next to their unconscious friends and sat down next to Scorpius, warming his hands on the flame in front of them. Scorpius edged closer to him. ‘Listen, Potter… Al. I never thought anyone would bother risking themselves to save me like that… it’s a bit… never mind. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you.’

Albus blushed. ‘It was automatic, honestly,’ he stammered.

‘Still can’t take a compliment?’ Scorpius asked, more jokingly than anything. Albus stared at the flames in the jar, unsure what to say. Suddenly he shivered hard, suddenly realising just how close he himself had come to death. Scorpius threw and arm around his shoulder and squeezed him. ‘I guess we’re still not totally out of the woods,’ he added, then laughed. ‘Out of the woods!’

Albus looked at him for a moment, wondering if he’d gone mad, then realised what he said, and started to laugh. The laugh turned into a massive belly laugh, a welcome release to all the nervous energy and adrenalin that had built up inside them both.

When they finally managed to bring their laughs down to the occasional giggle, Albus grinned at Scorpius. ‘I feel a lot warmer now,’ he said.

Scorpius looked at him. ‘You have snow on your nose,’ he remarked. He reached out to brush it off with his good hand, but paused.

‘What?’ Albus asked, confused. He reached up and brushed off his nose himself, but Scorpius touched his cheek softly.

‘You’re not just a pretty face, Potter,’ he said, and then he kissed him.

~

‘Just one choice then!’ the Hat remarked. ‘Better be GRYFFINDOR!’

Albus removed the Hat from his head and stood up slowly, barely noticed the cheers from the Gryffindor table. As he made his way to the benches, he spotted Scorpius Malfoy, over at the Slytherin table, and caught his eye. Albus gave him a half smile.

Albus recalled later that Scorpius had nearly smiled back.
 
 
 
maevemist: albusmaevemist on January 22nd, 2009 12:11 pm (UTC)
This is really good! I love all the cameo appearences of the minor characters espeically Hugo and the Scamander Twins, oh and let's not forget the Marauder's via the map.

I like that you gave all the kids charcter traits from their parents without making them clones and I LOVE Albus's Animagus being a tortoise that is brilliant. lol

Thoroughly enjoyable thanks for sharing *adds to memories*
Mockingbird Q: senseimockingbirdq on January 22nd, 2009 12:39 pm (UTC)
This is really nice. Most stories just change the boys houses to allow them to become friends. I like Albus and Scorpius sorted into their fathers' houses but overcoming their rivalry.
nolagal: asstatnamesnolagal on January 22nd, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
So very cute! I love Albus and Scorpius here. The sorting hat throughout. I love how you worked so many characters into the story! Great!!!
Leochileochi on January 22nd, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
Awwww - this was such a sweet and amusing story! I liked the way you kept Al's house secret till the end. And I loved that you included so many of the other next generation's kids.

LOVELY! Thank you so much, Mystery Writer! <333
gabtastic!whimseywisp on January 22nd, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC)
This was wonderful :) :).

Love Albus here, all anxious.
Lyvchiralove on January 23rd, 2009 01:24 am (UTC)
Awww, lovely! <3
she had the face of an angel & the body of a devilnuclearsugars on January 23rd, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
This was a very sweet fic. I like how you gave us glimpses into Albus' life at Hogwarts. I especially enjoyed the Marauders Map; you wrote them very well. I like how you sectioned off the story with the Sorting Hat talking to Albus. Great fic!
salviagsalviag on January 23rd, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
V. sweet. I loved how Albus misses all the little hints, and Scorpius' defensiveness...and the Marauders' Map--"Mr. Prongs would like to say to Mr. Moony--pot-kettle-black!" *sigh* I wouldn't have to read nearly so much fanfiction if I could just have my own Marauders' Map to converse with.
trichinopoly ash: art: fear & curiosityaldehyde on January 23rd, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
beautiful story :) you've done something so different here! i liked how we didn't know what house al was in until close to the end [when the sorting hat had already gone through the other 3 in the flashbacks], and i enjoyed the flashbacks themselves.

i found the jumps in time to be really effective. you focused just the right amount of time on each scene without dragging them out for too long or cutting them abruptly.

i'm also really fond of the actual characterisation. al and scorpius aren't carbon copies of their fathers [or of other versions of al and scorpius that i've seen so many times in other fics]. the way they interact throughout their school years and how they finally get together was realistic and sweet :D fantastic job!
Chris: Albus Severus Potter: Smirkestioe on January 23rd, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)
This was so sweet! Thank you for including Hugo! I rarely see him in New Era kids fics, so it was lovely to see a cameo appearance from him. :) And Rose! <3 I mostly liked how the reader didn't know what house Albus was in until the end. It kept me guessing all throughout and I loved that!

Thank you!
Beth H: Booksbooksbooks (bethbethbeth)bethbethbeth on January 25th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC)
Lovely story! Very believable characterizations, given the parents and environments in which the kids all grew up, and I loved that Albus was a bookworm despite the fact that neither of his parents were particularly interested in reading.
Robynarobynsung on January 27th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
Oh Hagrid.
Why do they let him handle detentions?

This was absolutely lovely.
Thanks for sharing :D
laila_ruelaila_rue on January 29th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
Wow. I wish there were more. Thank you for such a lovely read. ^^
maggie: SAS - Albus chairmarguerite_26 on January 31st, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
Ooops! I recced this last week and forgot to comment. Sorry!

From my rec:
This is a fun fic that basically takes the reader through all the houses that Albus doesn't get put in while telling a sweet as/s plot. Really neat concept and well done.

I really loved the little adventure at the end. Nice fic.

Edited at 2009-01-31 09:51 pm (UTC)
Camden: AS/SPicabusing_sarcasm on February 6th, 2009 08:11 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this! I liked all the different scenes from Albus's time at Hogwarts juxtaposed with the scenes from his Sorting. Very effective and a clever idea! Thanks for sharing! :D

*hugs*
Verdeniaverdenia on February 11th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
awww, sweet! very cute! great sorting angst and eventual al/scorp
funny tortoise too!
LJdelorispea on April 12th, 2009 09:48 pm (UTC)
w00t. this rocks :D
Annamk_tortie on April 12th, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much! :)
asherlev1: Not for femmeslash but this icon is enchasherlev1 on February 1st, 2011 12:46 am (UTC)
ASDLFSHWEOTHW THE.BEST.THING.EVER.

This line: ‘You’re not just a pretty face, Potter,’ he said, and then he kissed him.


You're killiinngg me. Adored this. <3
chocolatte-owl: pic#121586270chocolatte_owl on September 1st, 2013 03:13 am (UTC)
so cute!! but does it really end here?? :(