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Chapter 6 : Second Chances
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Uneventful would be the wrong word so describe the first week of school that year. Far from, actually, all things considered. Despite the expected amounts of homework and lectures from teachers, the four of them had become quite the celebrities since the Start of Term Feast.
“House Traitor!” was a commonly heard phrase as they walked through the halls to their classes with all the Slytherins still sore about their precious Malfoy “abandoning” them for the Gryffindors. Even some of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs looked on them with scorn in their eyes, but they were kind enough not to loudly proclaim their opinions. The Sorting Hat had never been wrong in anyone’s memory, and if it sorted Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy in Gryffindor it must have had a good reason to.
But the best reaction was James’ the morning after Sorting at the breakfast table.
Dragging himself into the Great Hall that morning, he groggily wished Albus and Rose a good morning and pulled one of the golden plates over to him and piled on toast and bacon, nearly spilling his pumpkin juice as he took a hearty swig from his goblet. He shook his head to clear it and yawned widely. Opening his eyes fully for the first time to see a pale blonde head seated across from him.
“What in the name of Merlin’s baggy Y-fronts?!” he exclaimed, attracting the attention of everyone in the Great Hall.
Immediately, Albus seized his brother’s sleeve while he was still dumbstruck enough to not notice. Dragging him out into the entrance hall, he guided him over to a remote corner he noticed on the way into the Hall that morning.
“Not a word, James,” he said as soon as he was sure he had his brother’s attention.
“Al, what’s wrong with you? Didn’t you see the Malfoy scum seated at our table?” James said in a heated whisper, gesturing wildly to the large double doors. “What in the bloody hell is he doing there?”
“Language, James,” said Albus, receiving a reproachful glare from his older brother. “Don’t worry about Scorpius. He’s fine.”
“Wouldn’t he be much more fine at the Slytherin table?”
“He was sorted into Gryffindor, remember?” said Albus as he grabbed the sleeve of his brother as he tried to sidle back into the Great Hall. He didn’t know where he was getting the audacity to stand up to his brother, he just knew that he like the power it gave him.
“Of course I remember, I just thought that he’d realize the Hat’s mistake and sit with the Slytherins like he’s supposed to!”
“He’s my friend, James! Rose and Azalea are his friends, too!” He felt color filling his cheeks. “Give him a chance!”
With a final glare, James nodded curtly, respecting the wishes of his brother. “But I’m going to keep a watch on him for any funny business, you understand?”
Nodding just as curtly, Albus left his brother to his own devices as he returned to the Hall for breakfast to see that the hubbub had returned to it normal level after James’ outburst. Azalea budged up to give him a seat by her and across from Rose and Scorpius when he returned. James left his plate of toast and bacon where he left it, going over to the other end of the table to sit with other second years.
So all in all, the week was going by smoother than planned. Despite the overload of work from the Professors and hours of practice on wand movements, they were kept busy. No mentions of any of the week’s first few incidents were mentioned at all, especially not Rose and Scorpius’ conversation. Besides not being able to have more than a few minutes homework-free every night, neither wanted to bring up the issue again for a while.
The fact that three of the Professor’s names were Weasley didn’t help in the least.
“Honestly,” complained Rose in the common room one evening. “I know Aunt Fleur is just a stand in for now until they get someone else to take over Transfiguration, but this is ridiculous! I can’t even talk about Uncle Percy or George without someone mistaking one for the other.”
Albus made a small grunt that showed he had heard her; even though Scorpius and Rose were finally done with their first essay from Professor Firmament, the Astrology teacher, that didn’t mean that Albus was. He took out his wand and measured the length that he had written and sighed, relieved that it met the requirements of one foot about “Why Do We See the Man in the Moon?”
“Finished!” he said exuberantly. He turned to a chair that was across from his where several books were stacked on top of each other, where he was sure his study partner was concealed behind. “What about you Azalea?”
Upon hearing her name, she looked over the back of the armchair near the fire that she was drawing in to look at Albus. Seeing the surprised look on his face because he didn’t see her where he had expected to, she smiled. “Yes, I finished a few minutes ago.”
Albus shrugged. “We have an hour before lights out,” he said after glancing at the clock. Turning to his friends, he said, “What do you want to do?”
Rose caught his pointed gaze. “We all have our essays done, and we’ve practiced those wand movements a hundred times over, so our homework is finished. It is Friday, after all. I don’t think it matters much how late we stay up tonight, for once.”
“Oh, how un-Aunt Hermione-ish of you!” gleefully exclaimed Albus as he sat down in one of the four armchairs they had staked as their own in the common room. No one challenged them over something as trivial as the best seats in the common room after they had witnessed how savagely they had stood up for their “House Traitor” friend after the Start of Term Feast.
“We could go and visit Hagrid,” said Rose guiltily. She took out a small slip of battered parchment with an untidy scrawl written on it. “He owled me this morning to ask us to come over and tell him how school’s going.”
“Hagrid was the one who led us in the boats, right?” asked Azalea, a dreamy look on her face as swayed from the conversation to her scale drawing of a hippocampus and back again.
“Yes,” said Scorpius, speaking for the first time that evening, since classes had let out. He hadn’t spoken much since his and Rose’s discussion on the first night.
Azalea glanced up from her sketch pad to look at her blonde haired friend. His gaze was locked on the blazing fire in the grate. Tilting her head to the side, she saw more clearly the slight shadows under his eyes. For a moment, his jaw tightened as if he was holding back a yawn.
“I’m in,” promptly said Albus. “Besides, it’s pretty safe going to visit him anyways, since he’s a teacher and we have,” he lowered his voice secretively, “a foolproof secret weapon.”
A rare smile, a wolfish grin, lit up Scorpius face as he sat up straighter, all traces of sleepiness forgotten. Azalea giggled at his sudden change of appearance at the mentioning of sneaking out, and said, “So long as I can bring my sketch pad.”
Rose grinned despite herself. “Hagrid’s it is, then.”
“Are you sure this thing will cover all four of us?” asked Azalea skeptically as she watched Albus pull a silvery piece of material out from underneath his hooded sweatshirt. It looked like he had just lost twenty pounds from his midriff.
The seventh-floor corridor was quiet except for the quiet shuffling of the portrait’s occupants as they moved in their sleep. Albus, Azalea, Rose and Scorpius stood alone as they hid in a side alcove near the portrait hole. They had had enough of the Fat Lady’s exclamations about being out of bed after the hours first years were allowed.
“Sure I’m sure,” said Albus a little less confidently than he wanted to. “But it will be a little tight.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Scorpius. They all watched as he muttered a spell and tapped his own head. It was as if he had water pouring from his wand as he melted away from sight; only when he moved was there a hint he was there. “I may not be invisible like you guys will be, but I can still be a chameleon and tag along.”
Mouths agape, the three looked at him, or at least where he had been before he disappeared like he had just sprouted three extra heads instead of becoming invisible. Rose was the first to get her voice back as she asked, “Was that a Disillusionment Charm?”
Scorpius nodded before remembering that he was Disillusioned, shrugged and said aloud, “My dad taught me how.”
"Tick tock!” muttered Albus as he jabbed his finger at his watch. “If we want to be back before midnight, we have to move.”
After much shuffling and one close call with Peeves as he lathered doorknobs with sticks of butter in the Transfigurations corridor, they were out on the grounds and running through the dew soaked grass to a small hut near the forest with a thin column of smoke rising from the chimney. Slowing before they reached it, they decided to leave the cloak on for the element of surprise.
Rose took her hand from beneath the folds of the cloak, watching with an odd twist of her stomach as her seemingly floating hand knocked on the large front door. Loud barking erupted as they heard the gruff voice of the gamekeeper calling the dog off as he answered the door.
“What’s that?” he said. Light poured out from the hut onto the darkening grounds as he opened his door. The slightly drooling face of a puppy boarhound fought in vain against Hagrid’s legs. Seeing no one, the parts of his face that was visible from underneath his beard twisted into confusion as he looked around the front stoop.
“Hi, Hagrid!” yelled Rose, Azalea, and Albus as one as they flung off the cloak; Scorpius discreetly muttered the countercharm at the same time to cover up his feat of extraordinary magical skill.
Hagrid’s beetle black eyes glimmered with excitement and amusement as he saw them appear in front of him. “Shoulda known that it’d be you four,” he said. After he said this, he seemed to notice Scorpius for the first time.
Scorpius managed a small smile, trying desperately not to let it go into the famous Malfoy smirk. Hagrid seemed to have frozen as he looked him over, standing stock still on his front stoop. After a few seconds Scorpius saw Azalea move out of the corner of his eye, her long raven-black hair shimmering in the firelight pouring out of the front door. The small boarhound gave a small whiff at Hagrid’s hand before slipping out and going up to Scorpius, panting and wagging her tail furiously, waiting for him to give her a pat on the head.
As her snout nudged against his hand, Scorpius broke Hagrid’s gaze and looked down at the puppy, his face softening. He scratched her behind her ears, giving into her begging. Immediately, the tension seemed to lift from the group as the other three first years moved closer to pat a piece of the dog as she reveled in the attention. Even Hagrid felt a smile tug at his lips as the dog’s long pink tongue found Albus’ ear and began to lick it furiously, forcing him to his knees as he laughed.
“I haven’t gotten the chance to congratulate all of you on being sorted into the best house there is,” he said. Waving his dustbin-lid sized hands, he invited them in.
“Avoid the rock cakes,” Albus hastily whispered before entering, heeding his father’s warning about the cement like treats Hagrid was infamous for.
“Imagine my surprise,” the half-giant said as he fought off his puppy boarhound while preparing tea in his huge kettle, “when I didn’t see the four of ya come up when yur name was called for sortin’. Down, Claw, you ruddy beast!” The puppy whined pitifully at the rough tone he had taken with her, which Hagrid gave into as he slipped her a dog treat discreetly from the pocket of his trousers. “Then to have all of ya just appear through the doors in the middle of it all, smack down on your faces. I’m surprised the Headmistress didn’t punish you more to make a point to the rest of the school. And then, to have ya sorted into Gryffindor, each of you one after the other!”
Here, he stopped and looked to where his table was occupied by the four first years, all paying attention to him respectfully in their oversized chairs. They looked like china dolls that were a bit too small for the furniture in the doll house. But Hagrid’s hut was no doll house, so this image was skewed a bit. The look he gave the blonde haired boy was hard to read, as the emotions shown in his eyes changed so quickly, but the one that was there predominantly was wariness.
“It’s nice that ya are all in the same House, though. Makes it easier to stick together than if you’d been split up, like,” he said to break the slightly awkward silence. “Kind of reminds me of the Marauders, back in their heyday. Best of troublemakers, they were; best friends you could have, though.”
Hagrid sat himself down between Albus and Rose, pouring a few swigs of firewhiskey into his large mug of tea. Taking a hearty gulp as the rest sipped cautiously at the steaming brew, he breathed a sigh of contentment. Looking over at them with a knowing twinkle in his eyes, he said, “But I trust you four ter be less trouble, ya ‘ear? These ol’ bones ain’t what they used ter be.”
For the next hour, they kept up amiable conversation over their tea. At one point, Hagrid reached over and grabbed a plate of awful looking cakes and offered it to each of them. Following Albus’ lead, they all took one in all politeness but hid it beneath their robes to be disposed of later, heeding Harry’s warning. When the clock above Hagrid’s front door chimed ten thirty, he exclaimed that it was late and he had things to do in the morning and sent them on their way.
“Keep the cloak handy, you four,” he said, looking at each of them with a stern expression. “That’s a very valuable item, that is. You shan’t go ruining it, or Harry will have yur heads.”
“Good night, Hagrid!” they all called.
Scorpius slipped under the cloak until the light from Hagrid’s windows didn’t touch the lawn of the grounds. He chucked the rock cake out of his pocket at the Whomping Willow as soon as he had left the stuffy confines of the cloak, and had Disillusioned himself again.
“He seems pleasant, albeit not very intelligent,” he said quietly as the others equally disposed of their inedible treats. “Father must have been…never mind.” Quickly realizing what he had almost said he turned to the others. None of them seemed to have heard him, so he breathed a small sigh of relief.
Rose was right. They hadn’t been friends for very long. How could he know that they wouldn’t turn on him and use his words against him?
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