Scorpius swallowed. A feeling of intense, uncomfortable anticipation was spreading through him, and he tried to ignore the pit in his stomach as his parents pulled into a parking spot at King’s Cross station. It seemed almost incredible that at this point the year before, he’d been trying (without much success) to pretend that he didn’t find Rose Weasley attractive in the least, when now he’d been going out with her for almost a year.
However, he had never ridden the Hogwarts Express with her.
He and Noah had both signed up to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas, reckoning that two weeks spent in a nearly-deserted common room and on the Quidditch pitch would be far more enjoyable than spending Christmas surrounded by people at least ten years their senior.
It was not a decision he had regretted.
Then, at the end of the year, she and Albus had only taken the carriages into Hogsmeade before following the rest of their family to their cousin Fred’s house to help prepare for their cousin Victoire’s wedding.
It had never really occurred to Scorpius that not everyone rode the train. It seemed like a constant. A rite of passage. But as Albus had pointed out to him, it was damned stupid to ride the train all the way to London if you lived near Hogwarts itself, floo powder or not, and once he’d thought about it, he’d realized that there were classmates he’d never seen on the train.
But that didn’t solve his problem now.
He looked up, and realized that both of his parents had gotten out of the car. He grabbed the owl cage next to him and flung open the car door. Ptolemy gave a shriek of protest at the sudden noise, and Scorpius winced. “Sorry. I was thinking.”
“Do you do that?” his mother asked in a faint tone of surprise. “I must be misremembering your fails on your O.W.L.s.”
Scorpius rolled his eyes. “At least I didn’t get a T,” he pointed out, handing her the cage. Anyway, he’d only failed Divination and History of Magic, and he hardly thought he could be blamed for that. How anyone managed to pass those classes was beyond him. Otherwise, he’d done fairly well.
“Do you even know anyone who’s gotten a T?” his father asked as they pulled Scorpius’s trunk out of the back of the car. “I always thought that they were just a myth. I had friends at Hogwarts who were some of the stupidest people I’ve ever met in my life, and I don’t think any of them managed to get a T.”
“James Potter got one,” Scorpius told him.
“In what?” his father asked curiously, hoisting one end of the trunk up.
Scorpius grabbed the other end. “History of Magic.”
His father laughed. “That hardly counts.”
“How do you know what James Potter got on his O.W.L.s?” his mother asked curiously as they entered the station. “I didn’t know that he’d become a friend of yours.”
“He hasn’t,” Scorpius said. “Not really. I don’t think he has, anyway. Albus told me.” He thought for a moment. “Wait, maybe it was Rose. Well, it was one of them.”
“How is Rose?” his mother asked.
“Good,” he told her. Rose had come to stay with them for a few days at the beginning of the summer. He’d spent the week before the visit feeling very nervous about the entire thing, but it had gone surprisingly well. His father had been friendly, though afterward he had commented privately to Scorpius that if he’d known when he was going into his sixth-year that his son would end up dating Ron Weasley’s daughter, he’d have been absolutely horrified.
And Scorpius’s mother had been downright chummy once Rose had said that she was interested in going into the Beast Division at the Ministry. The Greengrass side of his family was very enthusiastic about that sort of thing, for some reason. Scorpius couldn’t really understand what was so appealing about nearly dying on a regular basis, but sometimes he felt rather like the odd man out.
At least he could always count on Noah to be sensible.
He was still wondering whether or not he should try to find Rose when he pushed his trolley through the barrier to Platform 9 ¾. The thing was, if he found Rose herself, or Albus, it would be easy enough. If he found James or Roxanne or one of their friends instead, however, it would be much more confusing. He didn’t want to admit to any of them that he wasn’t sure what was expected of him, but at the same time, he also didn’t want to come across as not caring about Rose.
Maybe James alone wouldn’t even be so bad. Scorpius had discovered over the past year that James really wasn’t that bad, once he decided he liked you. Scorpius still wasn’t completely sure James had decided he liked him, but Albus and Rose both said he had, and James certainly had been more friendly this past year than he ever had before.
Roxanne, on the other hand, still clearly disliked him, and he was very unlikely to find James without finding her as well.
He scanned the crowd, but couldn’t see either Albus or Rose anywhere. He turned to his parents. “I’m…”
His mother smiled. “Why don’t you go and try to find your friends?” she suggested. “We’ll be over there with Daphne. I’ve been meaning to make plans to get together with her.”
“Okay,” he said, feeling grateful that she’d spared him the awkward moment of ditching them.
If his aunt Daphne was here, Noah had to be. At least Noah would be a voice of reason.
After searching up and down the platform, however, he couldn’t find his cousin anywhere. He wondered if he was just missing him in the crowd; finding someone with brown hair of average height when there were literally hundreds of people milling around was no easy feat. However, while he did see and exchange a quick hello with Mr. and Mrs. Potter, he didn’t see Albus, either, and there was no missing his friend’s red hair.
He was just starting to think he’d be better off to just get on the train and try to find them there when Natalia Jordan appeared in front of him. “How was your holiday?” she asked, flashing a smile.
Natalia was somebody he probably could ask; she was one of Rose’s closest friends, and he certainly felt more comfortable around her than he did around Roxanne or some of the other seventh-year Gryffindors Rose tended to hang around with. “Okay,” he said, still scanning the crowd. “Have you seen Albus or Noah?”
“Oh, they’re already on the train,” she told him. “I said I’d tell you if I saw you.”
“Thanks,” he said. “Have you seen Rose?” When she shook her head, he sighed inwardly. It would be just like Rose to decide at the last minute that she didn’t really feel like riding the train after all and wanted to visit Fred instead. “What car are they in, do you remember?” He’d just find them and ask them what they thought he should do. Maybe Albus would know where Rose was.
“The second,” she said, pointing to it. “About halfway up the car. Come on, get your trunk and I’ll show you.”
“Don’t go out of your way,” he said, feeling distinctly wrongfooted.
“Oh, it’s no problem.” She smiled cheerfully. “Where’s your trunk, then?”
He decided not to bother to try and understand why she was being so helpful. Natalia was not a malicious type of person, and she had no reason to wish him ill or put him in an uncomfortable situation. Once he’d retrieved his trunk and Ptolemy from his parents and bid them goodbye, he followed Natalia onto the train and into the compartment. He immediately felt as if he’d stepped into a very strange alternate reality.
James was lounging in one of the seats with his arm around his girlfriend, and Albus was arguing with Roxanne and Natalia’s brother Tyler about which Quidditch national team was the best. Noah was sitting in a corner with a book in front of his face, but the speed with which he lowered it when they walked in told Scorpius that he hadn’t really been reading it.
“Oh, good, you found us,” Albus said, breaking away from the conversation. “If you hadn’t shown up in the next couple minutes, I was going to go look for you.”
“Natalia told me you were here. Where’s Rose?” he asked, looking at the trunks already stored above the seats and wondering how he was going to manage to fit his in next to them without dropping it on someone.
“Oh, she’s running late,” James said. “Hugo forgot something and then they hit some kind of traffic. Need help with your trunk?”
Scorpius considered this. On one hand, it was James Potter offering to help him, and he didn’t especially like the idea of taking help from James Potter. On the other, he also didn’t like the idea of injuring someone while he was struggling to make it fit. “Sure.”
James sprang to his feet and grabbed one end of the trunk. Scorpius grabbed the other, and with James’s help, he managed to wedge it in next to Albus’s and another one that he didn’t recognize.
“Thanks,” he said as he sat down next to Noah.
“No problem.” James rejoined Marion by the window. As he was putting his arm around her again, she murmured something to him that made him smirk and flex it. “Beater muscles,” he said.
Scorpius looked away, feeling that he would be just as happy to not know exactly what Marion thought of James’s muscles. “I’ll take him now,” he told Natalia, who handed Ptolemy to him. There were several owl cages swinging above their heads, but he had no idea how they’d managed to get them up there.
“Hey, Al,” he said, examining the ceiling. “How did you manage to get Hazel’s cage up there?”
“Huh?” Albus followed his gaze. “Oh.” He pointed to a hook above Scorpius’s seat. “Use that. The cage should just slide on. Need help?”
“No, it’s fine.” Scorpius climbed up onto the seat to reach it. To his surprise, the cage did just slide on. “I always wondered what those were for,” he said. After stroking the owl’s feathers and giving him a treat, he dropped down into the seat next to Noah.
“How did I get roped into sitting with them?” Noah asked in an undertone.
“I thought Rose had grown on you.”
“She has.” Noah folded over the corner of a page and put the book aside. “But that doesn’t mean I want to sit with her friends.”
“Hey, Noah,” James said suddenly. “Who’s the new Slytherin Quidditch captain, do you know?”
“Me,” Noah told him, looking a little wary.
James grinned. “Yeah, I thought it would be. Nice one.”
“Have to replace anyone?” Marion asked.
Noah looked calm, but Scorpius knew his cousin well enough to know that he was resisting the urge to groan with great difficulty. He had been stressed about finding replacements all summer. “We need a new Beater and a new Keeper. Jaclyn and Ashleigh were seventh-years last year.”
James and Marion both winced. “Ouch,” James said. “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Noah repeated. When James and Marion turned to answer something Natalia had just asked them, Noah shot Scorpius a bemused look. Scorpius shrugged.
Just when he was starting to get nervous that he’d be stuck with these people for the entire ride without Rose, the compartment door flew open. “James, Roxanne, come and help us with our trunks,” Rose said, panting. Then she was gone.
James and Roxanne both rose immediately and followed her out. After a minute, she and James reappeared, carrying her trunk. She allowed him to push it onto the rack above their seats and collapsed onto the seat next to Scorpius.
“Hi,” she said, still a little breathless. The train lurched and started to move forward, and she rested her head against the seat back and closed her eyes. Scorpius tried not to let her rapid breathing draw his attention to her chest; while he would usually enjoy the sight immensely, the very last thing he needed was to spend an entire day wanting to do everything he’d been thinking about doing all summer with Rose when he had to spend it in the company of her family. “Merlin, that was close.”
“What happened?” Tyler asked curiously.
“Hugo forgot his wand, and then we hit traffic,” she answered without opening her eyes.
“He forgot his wand?” James asked, looking stunned. “How do you forget your wand?”
Rose shrugged. “I don’t know, but he did.” She opened her eyes and picked her head up. “Hi, sweetie,” she said, and kissed Scorpius on the cheek.
The compartment door opened again and Roxanne walked in. “Did Rose tell you why they were late?” she asked, sinking back into the seat between Natalia and Marion.
“Did he really forget his wand?” Natalia asked incredulously.
Roxanne groaned. “How do you forget your wand?”
As the day wore on, Scorpius began to relax a little. While this particular group of Rose’s friends were hardly his favorite people in the world, it wasn’t half as bad as he’d expected it to be.
After they’d been on the train for several hours, Albus got up. “I’m going to go get something from the cart,” he said, working the kinks out of his neck. “Does anyone want anything?” Natalia, who was now comparing O.W.L. marks with Rose, shook her head.
“Get me some gum?” Roxanne asked. She had abandoned her seat on the bench and was now sitting on the floor playing gobstones with Noah. She was clearly very good at it, and Scorpius suspected that she’d asked if anyone was interested in a game in hopes of finding an unwitting victim in either Scorpius or Noah.
Unfortunately for her, Noah had been happy to agree because Scorpius and Albus had refused to play with him since third-year, when they’d both gotten tired of losing. Scorpius relaxed this rule on Noah’s birthday and on Christmas, and Albus could usually be persuaded to play a game once the memory of the last one had faded into distant memory. This still only added up to nine or ten games a year, so he was always on the lookout for new opponents.
The two were now struggling for dominance, a sight that Scorpius found very amusing.
“Sure,” Albus said, looking like he was trying to hide a grin. “Noah?”
Noah looked up, his brow furrowed. “What?”
“Do you want me to get you anything?” Albus repeated.
After a moment of consideration, Noah said, “I wouldn’t say no to a licorice wand.”
“Okay.” Albus looked at James and Marion, who shrugged.
Scorpius got to his feet. The sun in their compartment was making him feel like following Tyler’s example and going to sleep. “I’ll come, too,” he said. “I could use some pumpkin juice. Rose, do you want anything?”
She looked up from Natalia’s O.W.L. results. “Could you get me some chocolate frogs?” she asked.
“Sure.” He leaned down to kiss her cheek and murmured in her ear, “You know, it’s all going to go straight to your hips.”
She let out a laugh. “Are you complaining?” she asked, her eyes twinkling.
“Never.” Just as he was about to straighten up, she put a hand on his face and kissed him.
“Love you,” she said when she pulled away, a smile on her face.
Scorpius smiled back. “Love you, too,” he said softly.
“Young love,” commented James from the corner. “It’s touching, really. Brings a tear to my eye.” Rose rolled her eyes and threw the Charms book she’d been looking through earlier in the ride at him. “Hey!”
Scorpius followed Albus out of the compartment.
“You know, last year at this time I think you were complaining about how unbearable she is,” Albus pointed out as they made their way down the train.
Scorpius laughed. “Probably,” he admitted. “Don’t you prefer it this way?”
Albus shrugged. “It’s been nice to have the two of you mostly getting along,” he agreed. “But sometimes you’re so sweet to each other it’s sickening and I wonder whether I didn’t like you better when you hated each other.”
“We are not!” When he glanced at Albus, his best friend was grinning.
“No, not really,” Albus admitted. “Once in awhile, but not often.” The train swerved, and they both caught hold of the wall to steady themselves. Albus gave Scorpius a sly look. “And on the whole, I think I prefer sickeningly sweet to the alternative.”
Scorpius felt his face getting red. “I don’t know what you mean,” he said, brushing past Albus and continuing on up the train.
Albus snorted. “Oh, please, I know what you’re sneaking off for. Just make sure no one can stumble across you and be scarred for life.”
Scorpius wondered if Rose would be up for sneaking over to the Room of Requirement tonight. He didn’t even care if he got detention. “I’ll do my best.” A girl stepped out of the compartment ahead of them, and they both came to a stop. “Hi, Claire.”
“Hey,” she said, smiling. “I thought I heard your voices. How was your summer?”
“All right,” Albus answered. “Yours?”
She smiled. “Oh, you know. The usual.” Scorpius wasn’t sure what the usual was, but he was not interested enough to ask. Just as he was about to say goodbye, she asked, “So, how is it sitting with the popular kids?” Her smile was still friendly, but like most of Claire’s jokes, this one had an edge to it. He heard Albus sigh.
Scorpius had absolutely no interest in indulging Claire. In his opinion, people indulged her far too often. She was his friend, but that didn’t mean that he would just put up with her being a bitch. “Well, I doubt James Potter and I are going to become best friends, but they’re all right,” he said coolly.
She looked like she was trying to hide a smile. “How’s Noah doing, sitting with the Gryffindor Quidditch team?”
“He’ll survive,” Albus said irritably. “We’ll see you later.”
She flashed a quick smile and retreated back into her compartment. Scorpius sighed. “Sometimes I want to feed her to the giant squid,” he muttered.
“You?” Albus asked. “I’m the one who got the silent treatment for a month because I didn’t want to go out with her.”
Scorpius laughed. “True. You think she’ll ever forgive me for dating Rose?”
He and Claire had spent their first four years at Hogwarts complaining to each other about how much they didn’t like Rose. She therefore viewed his going out with Rose as being comparable to high treason.
“Maybe, but don’t hold your breath.”
When they reentered their compartment, Roxanne and Noah had apparently decided to call it quits, though neither had moved from their spot of the floor and seemed to be discussing the finer points of Ancient Runes, and Rose and Natalia had progressed to dissecting what that they thought they’d done wrong on the tests.
Scorpius groaned. “Here’s an idea,” he said, handling Rose her frogs and taking his seat next to her. “How about you stop thinking about it, and start thinking about what you’re going to sign up for?”
Rose bit her lip. “I’m not sure. I need Care of Magical Creatures, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, and Transfiguration, so I’m definitely taking those, at any rate. What are you signing up for?”
He shrugged. “Everything I need to be a Healer, and maybe Astronomy. I’m not sure I want to deal with six classes.”
“Six classes aren’t so bad,” James said, looking away from the trees flashing by the window. “I’ve managed just fine.”
“You want to be a Healer?” Natalia asked in interest.
Scorpius gave a noncommittal jerk of his head. “Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it.”
“You’ll have a good time mopping all of this lot up, then,” Tyler said without opening his eyes. “You can start a club with Charlotte Finnigan.”
“Are you actually awake?” his sister demanded. “Or did you wake up enough to make a smart comment?”
“The second one.” He stretched out a little more, taking advantage of the empty space that had been left by Roxanne when she’d moved to sit on the floor.
“Club and support group,” Marion muttered. “Can I join?” James stared at her, and she smiled brightly. “What’s wrong, dear?”
“Going out with me does not require a support group,” he snapped.
She patted his hand. “Of course it doesn’t.” She glanced at Scorpius. “Tell me if you start the club, though.”
He hid a smile. James, however, seemed decidedly less amused. “Since when does going out with me require a support group?”
“Oh, James.” He continued to stare at her, and she sighed. “Because your ‘things I want to do before I die’ list includes facing a quintaped, a lethifold, and at least three dementors.”
“Really?” Scorpius asked before he could help himself. “But that’s…”
James shrugged. “Guess I’m going into the right field,” he said, smirking. “Anyway, it’s not just me, it’s Rosie, too, isn’t it?”
Scorpius pulled back to stare at Rose. “Really?”
She shook her head. “No, don’t be ridiculous. I want to face a basilisk, a chimaera, and a manticore.” She was smiling, but he wasn’t sure whether she was joking.
Scorpius looked back at Marion. “Let’s form that support group,” he said. She raised an imaginary glass to toast him. He turned back to Rose. “A basilisk?”
“I know, I don’t expect to ever find one.” She looked downright disappointed. “But I can dream.”
Scorpius rubbed his temples. “You’re insane,” he told her.
“I’m going out with you, aren’t I?” He snorted, and she kissed him.
He really, really hoped that she would be up for sneaking over to the Room of Requirement that night.
A/N: Before anyone says anything - yes, Draco Malfoy owns a car. It's all Astoria's fault.
CINAS isn't quite done yet, but it almost is, so I figure I'm not spoiling anything. The sequel will be upcoming, so keep an eye out for it. :) Thanks for being wonderful readers, and if you have any comments, I'd love to hear them!