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“Albus, why can’t we sit with James?” Rosie demanded, hauling her trunk after her, grunting with the effort and wobbling as the train shook underfoot. Al held the carriage door open for her and then Rosie dumped her trunk on his foot by accident.


Rosie pushed her frizzy red hair out of her eyes and scowled. Maybe it hadn’t been an accident. “Just because they were teasing you, Albus. That’s no reason to go haring off half an hour into the train journey. Besides, I thought we were looking for somewhere quiet to study? You’ve gone past three empty compartments already.”

Al might have deliberately implied that, sort of. Mostly because he’d wanted Rosie to come with him.

“Actually, I wanted to find some other first-years.”

Rosie glared.

“Or you could go study, and I could look for first-years,” Al suggested. Rosie’s owl was glaring at him too, in a diagonal way. Rosie had used a Sticking Charm to fix the cage to her trunk, and now the owl was sort of tilted sideways and looking very fed up with the whole thing. Al’s own owl was determinedly pretending to sleep.

Rosie muttered something sulky about abandoning Al to certain death and dragged her trunk off his foot. Al looked down the corridor and said, “But I don’t see any-”

“Well they’ll all be in the compartments now, won’t they?” Rosie huffed and grabbed hold of her trunk again. “They’ll all have found other people to sit with by now, and they won’t want-” Then she realised Al was staring and followed his gaze.

“Oh. I know that boy-”

That boy was standing at the other end of the carriage, frozen in the doorway; he was already in his robes, like Rosie, and hanging onto an eagle owl in a huge cage, and the sunlight through the windows glowed on his fair hair.

“Malfoy,” Rosie growled. Al wasn’t sure exactly what she meant, but the boy looked like a first year, so he started down the corridor towards him.

“Hello! I mean, hi! Are you a first year?” Al stopped in front of the new boy, who didn’t answer. “Er,” Al said. “We’re first years, so…if you are one, you could sit with us…we wouldn’t mind? Um, I’m Al. What‘s your name?”

“Albus, that’s Scorpius Malfoy,” Rosie said exasperatedly, puffing up behind him. “Dad showed him to me on the platform.”

“Oh,” Al said, horrorstruck. It must be terrible being named Scorpius. “Do you want to sit with us? We were just looking for an empty compartment.” Rosie called him a liar under her breath.

“Actually, I - I’m sorry, but I had planned to sit with someone back this way,” Scorpius said, retreating.

“But you just came from there,” Al pointed out. Scorpius stopped dead, which was lucky because in another step he would have fallen over his own trunk.

“You ought to sit with us,” Rosie announced. The compartment next to them was empty, so she pointed her wand at it and mumbled, “Adaperius!”

The door clicked and then slowly, squeakily, slid open. Rosie looked at Al.

“Well done,” Al said obediently and grabbed the eagle owl cage out of Scorpius’s arms. He thought he’d heard his dad talking about a Malfoy sometimes, actually. Mostly it had come after ‘that git’. That probably wasn’t Scorpius’s dad’s first name. Maybe they could be friends anyway?

“You first,” Rosie ordered. Al made to move towards the compartment, but she threw out an arm to stop him and said, “No, Malfoy first.”

So he could have the window seat? That was nice of her, he supposed. Al handed Scorpius’s owl cage to Rosie and went to get the rest.

When he’d managed to get both owls and both trunks into the compartment, Scorpius and Rosie were sitting opposite each other, both with arms folded, both staring out the window.

“Er, so, hi,” Al said, flopping down next to Rosie. “So what house do you think you’ll be in, Scorpius?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t been Sorted yet,” Scorpius answered. He kept glancing between Al and Rosie. Al looked back at Rosie.

Rosie glowered. “Fine, then. What do you think of Muggleborns?”

That was a weird question to ask. Al looked at Scorpius.

“I’ve never met any,” Scorpius said. “But I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with them.”

Rosie made the huffy noise again and Al looked back at her. “What about Muggles?”

“Um. Rosie?” Al leant over and whispered into her ear “You’re being a bit rude.” Rosie usually needed help figuring that out.

Rosie made the huffy noise. It made Al think of cats sneezing. “Why didn’t you just go and sit with some other Slytherins?”

“What do you think of the houses?” Al asked him, leaning forward a bit. He’d been looking for someone who thought they would be in Slytherin.

“I already told you,” Rosie answered. “Gryffindor is all right, Ravenclaw is best - Mum agreed that was the best house for me - Hufflepuff are a lot of ineffectual duffers and I’d rather be in Hufflepuff than Slytherin.” She glowered over the top of her book in Scorpius’s direction. He didn’t seem to notice.

“Um, I know what you think,” Al said. “I was talking to him. Scorpius, what do you think of the houses?”

Scorpius looked at him a bit suspiciously and said “I don’t have any problems with any of them.”

Al waited for him to be a bit more specific and then realised he wasn’t going to. “So…you don’t think Slytherin’s a bad house to be in?”

“Not especially,” Scorpius said.

Rosie made a comment under her breath about that not being very hard to believe.

“What about Gryffindor and Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw?” Al persisted.

“There’s nothing wrong with Gryffindor and Ravenclaw,” Scorpius said. “And I suppose the Hufflepuffs like Hufflepuff well enough.”

Al nodded slowly and thought he should go look for someone else, someone who wouldn’t be as vague.. He just wasn’t sure how to get Rosie to come with him this time.

“Anything from the trolley, dears?”

It was the most beautiful thing Al had ever seen.

Well maybe there’d been other stuff like sunsets were pretty and Lily had probably been cute when she was a baby but - boxes of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and jars of liquorice wands and stacks of Cauldron Cakes and a plate piled high with golden pumpkin pasties, a tin of Chocoballs, jugs of iced pumpkin juice-

Then Rosie elbowed him in the ribs and said “Albus, you’re drooling.”

“Oh! Sorry!” Al quickly wiped his mouth on his sleeve. The old witch pushing the trolley was chuckling. Scorpius was staring out the window. “Um, can I have a bit of everything please? Rosie, do you-”

“I think your bit of everything will be enough for us, thank you,” Rosie said, a bit muffled because she had her hands over her face.


“No, thank you,” Scorpius said, without looking around.

Al helped the trolley witch pile up his new stash on the seat next to him, handed over eleven Sickles and seven Knuts and then tried to put an entire pumpkin pasty in his mouth at once.

“You’re terrible,” Rosie told him severely. “If you choke on that, it’ll be your own fault.”

Scorpius looked slightly ill.

“B’ff ffo guff,” Al said, spraying the compartment with little bits of pasty. Scorpius’s eagle owl squawked, and he pulled its cage a little closer to him. Al’s snowy owl was still pointedly pretending to sleep. Al’s owl had never seemed very impressed with him.

Rosie opened her bag, pulled out Magical Plants and their Uses and put it up in front of her face, though Al could see she was keeping an eye on Scorpius over the top of the book. Scorpius was still looking out the window. Maybe he was shy, or an amateur landscape painter or something. Al ate a second pumpkin pasty and thought about it while Rosie tried to memorize the book. There was a long, uncomfortable silence. Al licked his fingers, took a swig from the jug of pumpkin juice, and picked up a Cauldron Cake.

Rosie turned a page in a vaguely critical way.

“I missed breakfast,” Al said defensively - which was a lie, but at least Rosie stopped glaring at him.

Rosie huffed and went back to her book, glancing occasionally at him over the top to make sure he knew what she thought of his eating habits. “…Wait, where are you going now?”

“I was going to find some more first-years,” Al said, and added “You don’t have to come.”

Rosie glanced between him and Scorpius Malfoy, who was still staring out of the window. She looked torn.

“I’ll be back in an hour,” Al said experimentally, and showed her his watch. She let him go. Al hurried away before she changed her mind and he had to just ignore her, heading towards the front of the train, where Scorpius Malfoy had come from. Some of the compartments were empty, but most were full of older students chatting - none of them Slytherins - and those first-years that he could find said either “Gryffindor”, “Ravenclaw,” or “Probably Hufflepuff” (with downcast eyes). Al was just thinking that he would never find anyone (and also that he should have brought a Cauldron Cake with him) when a third-year apparently flung a very large tabby cat at his head.

“Pineapple!” the girl barked. “Bad cat! Very bad! Stop attacking people!” She hauled the cat off Al’s robes, pinned it against her chest and said “Sorry about that, he’s a little bugger. Aren’t you, you bastard?” She looked Al up and down. “Awright?” She had a liquorice wand dangling out of the corner of her mouth, and there was a smaller, sandy-haired boy standing a little behind her.

“Er, yes, I’m fine,” Al said. “I’m Al, a first-year? It’s nice to meet you.”

“I’m Faith, and me too,” the girl said, which was a surprise considering the size of her. “This is-”

“What house do you think you’ll be in?” Al asked. “Wait, sorry. I mean-”

“Bloody hell, you get straight to the point, don’t you?” Faith said. “I’m going into Slytherin.” Al almost stopped breathing. “And Lew here,” Faith continued, not noticing his reaction, “-the shrimp behind me that is, doesn’t know where-”

“Why do you want to be in Slytherin?” Al asked quickly, before she could go off-topic.

“Because it’s the best house, I worked that out with logic,” Faith said, putting her cat down so she could make explanatory hand gestures. “See, Slytherin is for people who are cunning and ambitious and resourceful, yeah? And cunning is basically the same as clever, and ambitious people are usually hardworking because they have goals to work towards, so basically Slytherin is Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff added together, yeah? …They aren’t Gryffindor, though, because Gryffindor’s rubbish, they’re just a bunch of smug cocky gits,” she added on, as an afterthought. “If I get Sorted into Gryffindor I’m going to take a flying leap off a Thestral. Luckily there’s not much chance of that because I’m not very brave, chivalrous or heroic.” She glanced quizzically at Al. “You all right?”

Al had been staring at her, transfixed.

“You’ve got a really weird face on,” Faith said, and turned to Lew behind her. “Do you think he’s having a brain problem? I don’t know how to do anything about those.”

“No, I’m not having a brain problem,” Al said. “Are any of your relatives already in Slytherin?”

“My mum was a Ravenclaw. My dad was a Hufflepuff. My dad’s brother Johnny was one, though. Not a very bright one, mind – ran off with my mum’s sister who was a Gryffindor and a total cow. Last I heard they were raising flying sheep in New Zealand. Do you want a chart?”

“…Why flying sheep?” Al asked. They all thought about it.

“…higher-quality wool,” Faith said suddenly, and laughed like a hyena. Lew let her cackle hysterically for a few seconds, then reached up and closed her mouth for her.


“Right,” Al said. “Are you-” He was trying to think of a way to phrase the next question that wasn’t actually are you evil? or would you like to kill Muggleborns? when Faith scooped her cat up and ended the conversation for him.

“All the questions are getting boring, yeah? So we’re going to leave. See you at the Sorting!” She brushed past him to further down the train. Lew followed her with an apologetic shrug to Al, who just stared after them as they left. Faith hadn’t seemed evil. Painfully honest and a bit weird, yes, but not evil.

Al reached a decision. His dad had said there was nothing wrong with Slytherins, and he’d liked a Slytherin enough to name Al after him. If even a couple of them were good, then it wasn’t fair that people talked about them like they did. And letting people do things that were wrong ought to be a crime; his dad had taught him that. So Al had to fix it.

“That was an hour and seven minutes!” Rosie greeted him as he returned to their compartment. Scorpius Malfoy was reading A History of Magic and didn’t seem to have noticed he was back. “It’s not like you to be unpunctual. What happened?”

“Lost track of time. Sorry,” Al lied, pouring himself a glass of pumpkin juice. Rosie let out a great sigh of half-despair and half-contentment, sat him down next to her, and opened her book again.

Al took sips of his juice, closed his eyes, and rested his head against the seat. He had to fix Slytherin, or fix its reputation, or do whatever it was that would make everything better, because that was what was right and it would make his dad proud. He was just pretty sure that to do it, he was going to have to be in Slytherin.

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