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“Can you help me with something?”

“No,” Score said flatly.

“Please?”

“No,” Score said, again, and just as flatly.

“It’ll be good for you too,” Al said.

“I doubt that,” Score said, and then gave into curiosity. “What are you planning?”

Al motioned for him to lean closer, leant in himself and asked quietly, “You don’t like Rita Skeeter, do you?”

“Rita Skeeter’s mother doesn’t like Rita Skeeter. Why?”

 

“She’s an illegal Animagus so I was hoping I could use that to make her stop saying bad things about us,” Al said.

Score stared at him. “What? Explain.”

“Which bit?”

“I would settle for any of it.”

Al outlined his discovery and rough plan as quickly and quietly as he could. Score still didn’t look as if he believed him, but apparently dismissed the big problem of thinking Al was a big fat liar in favour of one of the little ones.

“How do you intend to convince her to meet with you? Ask nicely?”

“Actually, I was hoping she’d ask me,” Al said.

“Potter. How?” Score asked, just as the morning post swept into the Great Hall and an envelope addressed in acid-green ink fell into Al’s bowl. Al fished it out hurriedly.

Dear Mr Albus Potter,

I know we’ve had our little disagreements in the past,




Al wasn’t sure if they were really disagreements. Beyond the fact that Rita Skeeter was telling everyone he was evil and he thought he wasn’t.

but after all, there are two sides to every story, and you haven't yet had a chance to tell yours, have you? I'd be happy to remedy that for you, Al. Our readers love a misunderstood hero, after all. Would you like to meet me for a private little chat?

Affectionately yours,
 

Rita Skeeter




Al shifted towards Score to show him the letter and saw that he’d got one of his own, which was written in tidy copperplate handwriting and began:

We’re very sorry. We had forgotten that we had lied to you about that.




Score let out an exasperated huff of air, flipped the parchment over and scrawled across the back (in writing which was still much neater than Al’s):

 

Father, Mother, Grandmother: my kindest regards.

 




 

 




What else did you forget to tell me you lied about? This Lupin hardly counts as a proper relative, does he? If I am expected to lay down my life for an honorary Potter I shall fling myself off the Astronomy Tower and be done with

 

“Potter! It’s exceedingly rude to read other people’s private correspondence!”

 

“Ooops, sorry,” said Faith, who was reading over Score’s other shoulder. Score glared at her. Faith grinned cheerfully back at him. Score gave up.

 

Al offered Score the letter. “Unless you don’t want to read my private correspondence?”

 

Score glowered at him - for some odd reason Score had become a lot more open around him ever since deciding that Al was some sort of evil puppetmaster - and took it.

“I think Rita Skeeter might think I’m a bit thick,” Al observed happily.

“Alternatively, she thinks you’re a Slytherin, and therefore evil, and therefore likely to value revenge on the other Potter over your dislike of her,” Score said.

“His name’s James,” Al volunteered.

“How nice for him,” Score said, and put the letter down. Al was about to ask what he thought of it when Lia chimed in.

 

“Hey, Malfoy’s talking to Potter! Finally! How many sips did we decide that was worth?”

“I think it might have been the entire bottle,” Grim said.

“No, I’m pretty sure the whole bottle was Harper using diplomacy instead of punching someone.”

They thought about it.

“Avery?”

“On the 23rd of September you decided that Malfoy deigning to have a civil conversation with Potter would be worth an entire bottle. On the 11th of November you decided that this would never happen and, in light of Harper’s newfound rivalry with the other Potter, upgraded her development of a basic grasp of diplomacy from three-quarters to the whole bottle.” Avery turned a page of his book and said “You should keep better track of your own decisions.”

 

“We’re not rivals, I just hate his face,” Faith said, not that anyone listened.

 

“Thanks, El Supremo,” the twins said simultaneously, and then just as simultaneously frowned at each other and said “Does he actually remember the dates, or is he just being peculiar?”

 

“More importantly, do we still drink or not?” Grim asked. “Dpending on whether the later decision is interpreted as overwriting the earlier or whether the earlier holds by virtue of being-"

 

“Here’s an easier method: do we want to drink this entire bottle of Firewhiskey?” Lia asked, producing a bottle from her robe like some sort of alcoholic conjuror.

 

They both thought about that and concluded that yes, yes they did.

 

“Hurrah! Problem solved.”

 

“This is hardly a civil conversation,” Score pointed out, a little sulkily.

 

“We’re Slytherins! You’re not stabbing each other, so it’s good enough,” Lia said.

 

“I wouldn’t stab Score,” Al said, in the interests of friendship, and then realised that if he thought that was a declaration of friendship then the prefects must have done something to his brain.

 

Score shot him a cold look and said “Of course. Potters have never been known to resort to such methods of conflict resolution as near-murder.”

 

“…I don’t think we have, no,” Al said.

 

The look Score gave him after that was sub-arctic. Maybe Score was jealous. Al decided to change the subject.

 

“So what do you think?”

 

Score picked the letter back up and tapped his fingers against the parchment. “Is Harper coming?”

 

Faith was Score’s friend as well, Al remembered. So if he was planning to do anything bad to Score, Faith would be mad. Al didn’t think anyone would like having Faith mad at them, except maybe James but that was because James was insane.

 

“Hopefully?”

 

Score considered that, then scowled. “So you convinced her to spend all night practising Summoning Charms instead of doing her homework deliberately?”

 

He’d figured that out faster than Al liked people to figure things out.

 

“I didn’t know she’d get that obsessive about it,” Al said, apologetically.

 

“If she loses us house points it will be your fault,” Score said, and tapped Faith on the arm. “Harper, do you know what Potter’s been up to?”

 

Faith paused with a spoonful of cornflakes in her mouth, thought about it and offered “Mrrfeff?”

 

“…No,” Score said. “He tricked you into learning the Summoning Charm yesterday for his own undoubtedly diabolical reasons.”

 

Faith said something that sounded like an ‘eh?’

 

“You got played, Harper,” Score clarified.

 

Faith’s eyes widened, and she let out a startled “Mrff!”

 

“With vile duplicity, yes,” Score agreed.

 

Faith swallowed her cornflakes. “Potter!” She leant over across Score and thwapped him upside the head. “You could have just asked!”

 

Oh yeah.

 

“I thought if I said I needed it you might be upset if you couldn’t do it!” Al lied immediately.

 

Faith smacked him across the head again. “Quit not having confidence in me!”

 

“Okay, sorry,” Al said, ducking down and coverering his head. “Will you help me anyway?”

 

“Eh? You need help? Sure. What are we doing?”

 

Al looked at Score, who tapped his fingers irritably on the table.

 

“You do want her to stop saying nasty things about you and your family, right?” Al prompted.

 

“Stop trying to manipulate me, Potter.”

 

“I’m not manipulating you!” Al said. “I’m just explaining why helping me’d be good for you.”

 

 Score let out a weary sigh and said, “If Harper’s attending the festivities I may as well join her.”

 

“Oh good,” Al said, turned Rita Skeeter’s letter over and wrote

 

Dear Mrs Skeeter

 




 

 




I think that would be nice. Can I meet you just inside the Forbidden Forest past the Whomping Willow before dinner? Also I am going to bring Scorpius Malfoy and another friend of mine with me. I hope that’s not a problem.

 




 

 




Al

 

 

“Why the Forbidden Forest?” Score asked, though from the way he said it Al thought he might not be thinking about the giant spiders so much as the dirt.

 

“It can’t be that dangerous if we’re only very near the edge,” Al said, and took a jar of jam off the table. “Have either of you got any string?”

 








 

 So later that day, just before dinner, Al, Score and Faith were sitting in the Forbidden Forest waiting for Rita Skeeter to show up (but not too far inside - close enough to still see the lawns through the trees.) Al had found a sort of circular depression surrounded by  a ring of trees, and he was perched on a tree root at the edge, Faith was loitering menacingly (not her fault, Al didn't think she knew any other way to loiter) somewhere between the depression and the treeline, and Score was standing by another tree as thought he would be leaning against it but didn’t actually want to touch any part of the Forbidden Forest. Al would have said something to him, made some sort of small talk, but he didn’t actually know if Rita Skeeter was sneaking around spying on them Animaged into a mouse or something and that made conversation difficult.

 

Finally Rita Skeeter appeared, in eye-searingly orange robes, picking her way gingerly through the Forest towards them. She passed Faith, who was leaning against a tree glowering at her, spinning her wand between her fingers, and who fell in behind her as she went past in a way that would have been pretty intimidating except that Faith was twelve.

 

Rita Skeeter paused at the top of the small root-tangled cliff and eyed it suspiciously, then apparently decided she wasn’t risking it in high heels.

 

“Lovely place for it, dear. Positively cosy-” She examined Al and Score over her horn-rimmed glasses,  gimlet eyes sweeping over them, and drew out her acid-green quill with a conspiratorial smile. “Where would you like to start?”

 

“Er,” Al said, and gnawed on his lower lip. He hadn’t actually planned on small talk. “Faith?”

 

Al had also planned on Faith using a spell rather than a rugby tackle, but that also worked. Rita Skeeter let out a shriek as Faith cannoned into her back, the acid-green quill flew out of her hand, and both of them went tumbling down the bank.



“Amazing, Harper! Encore, encore!” Score shouted.



"Battuo!" Rita Skeeter shrieked, and Faith went flying and crashed to the ground in a heap twenty feet away. Rita Skeeter hauled herself to her feet, glasses askew, robes filthy and a few twigs stuck at a rakish angle in her hair, and pointed her wand at Faith. Al, not being much of a duellist, hurriedly got behind a tree.



"Lingua Evane-"



"Balatus!" Score shouted, and the rest of Rita Skeeter's curse came out as a bleat. "Stupefy! Stupefy!"



Both spells missed by a dozen feet or more, but Al was pretty sure that was intentional. Rita Skeeter bleated a snarl and brandished her wand at her own face, breaking the hex.



"Dirima Scapula!" Rita Skeeter yelled. Score dodged just in time, but the trunk that the hex hit instead burst into pulpy shrapnel and the treetop came down with a crash. Score dashed away from it, arms over his head, weaving between the trees and providing suppressive fire where he could.



Behind Rita, Faith clawed to her feet and instead of doing the sensible thing, which would have been half-hopping half-limping to behind the nearest tree, pointed her wand at Skeeter's back and barked "Matikleisto!"



Skeeter shrieked as her eyes sealed shut, spun round and brandished her wand wildly. "Quasso!"



Something cracked, and Faith went sprawling on her back in the dirt again. Al hissed between his teeth.



"Harper!" Score shouted, dashing forward and blasting Stunning Spells at Skeeter, and she she whirled back to deflect them Al jumped out from behind his tree, ran over to Faith, and tried to drag her back behind a convenient tree with him. This didn't work.



"Mrrf? Potter? Hell are you doing?" Faith scrambled to her feet, grabbed Al and hauled him back behind the nearest tree with her. "Stay there!"



"Are you all right?"



"Fine! Crappy aim!" Faith hissed back, before reaching gingerly into her robe and pulling out the jamjar, which had broken into little pieces. "Well, crap."



"Pependi!" Rita Skeeter shouted. Score crashed to the ground and struggled to get back up, as though there was a weight pinning him to the ground.

"Harper! A bit of help!"



Faith shoved the jar at Al with a curse and went after him. Luckily the string wound around the jar had kept most of the pieces together. Al hissed "Reparo!" and the glass sealed back together.



"Accio wand!" Faih shouted.



Rita Skeeter's wand flew out of her hand, arced gracefully through the air, and Faith snatched it out of the air just before it could bounce off her skull. Skeeter wheeled around to face her.



"Hey, Malfoy! Piggy inna middle!" Faith shouted, and flung Skeeter's wand towards him, high over Skeeter's head. Score caught it and snapped it in half.



Skeeter let out a cry of outrage, but then very abruptly calmed down - too sudden to be real, Al thought. Her eyes flicked calculatingly from one of them to the other - Al was pretty sure he recognised that too: when you can't fight, negotiate.



"What on earth are you three planning?" Skeeter asked, with an amused chuckle, still very calm (which wasn't helpful and which Al didn't like.) "You aren't going to accomplish anything like this - after all, I can just get another wand - and don't expect this to endear you to our readers when I tell them!"



"You won't be able to tell your readers anything, because you'll be dead," Al said cheerfully. "Incendio!"



Skeeter let out a shriek and ducked as the blast of fire shot over her head (five feet above her head, even if she hadn't ducked, and luckily the trees were too green to burn easily). Al tossed the jar to Faith in the second Skeeter wasn't watching him, but Skeeter had already pulled something out of her pocket, crushed it in her hand, and flung the dust into the air. The dust burst into a black cloud that billowed out like ink in water and rushed over Al like a wave, so dark he thought for a second she might have used a blinding hex on him. Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder. Great.



Al blundered backwards, trying to get out of the darkness, and fell over a root. "Faith! Don't do anything stupid!"



At the exact same second, Score barked "Harper! Don't do anything! At all!"



"Accio Rita Skeeter!" Faith shouted.



"...Dammit, Harper, what did I just tell you," Score said, as Al scrambled to his feet and found himself half outside the darkness. Faith was standing ten feet away. She waved at him cheerfully.



"Faith! What've you done?"



"What are you complaining for?" Faith asked, and held up the jar. "It worked, didn't it?"



"Is she all right?" Al asked anxiously.



“Well, I’m like ninety percent sure I didn’t accidentally squish her to death.” Faith held the jar up at eye level and stared in, and then shook it hard. “Oh yeah, she’s not dead. I think she’s swearing at me, too.” So Faith swore back at her.



"Wait, did Harper actually succeed at something?" Score asked, from somewhere in the Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder. "That's remarkable. Mark it on the calen-" There was a thump as Score blundered into a tree. "Ow!"



“Faith, the Aurors’ Handbook has rules on the treatment of prisoners, you really aren’t supposed to shake them,” Al said reproachfully. “What if she gets brain damaged?”



There was another thump from quite close by as Score collided with another tree. "I hate trees."



“I think I’d be okay with that,” Faith said, so Al looked sad and cute at her until she quit grinning and handed him the jar.



"Strange. I could have sworn you were threatening to kill her a few minutes ago," Score called, from somewhere nearby but still inside the cloud. "Ow!"



"That was only intimidation tactics, I can show you the bit in the Aurors' Handbook about them if you like." Al peered in at the beetle scurrying around on the bottom, took the lid off an inch or two and told her “I guess you could just break the jar by transforming back, but considering you haven’t got your wand it might not be a good idea to smash glass with your face right now, and besides, the diameter of the string around the jar is less than the diameter of, um, you, so it might not work out so well. You should probably just sit tight for a minute.” He put the lid back on and handed it back to Faith.



"Score?"



"...I hate trees," Score said.



"Do you want some help?" Al offered.



"No, thank you," Score said. Faith rolled her eyes and went to help him anyway. Then she almost immediately fell over him and brought them both crashing to the ground.



"Harper, stop helping me," Score said. "And then die."



Faith laughed, grabbed Score's arm and dragged him after her (not that Al could see them, but he was guessing from Score's indignant "Harper! Stop that! I want my shoulder to stay located!") Unexpectedly, this worked, as about thirty seconds Faith came back. Score staggered out after her, eyes wild, hair dishevelled and dirt and dead leaves all down his robes.



"I really hate trees," Score told them both.



"We know, stop whinging about it," Faith said, and the three of them headed up to the castle, Faith swinging Rita Skeeter around by the jar and Score trying to get his hair back into something approaching order.


When they got up to the entrance hall, students were just starting to flood into the Great Hall for dinner, the Slytherins coming up from the dungeons and the other houses coming down the stairs on the other side of the hall.

 

Al uncapped the jar, tossed Rita Skeeter onto the floor (beetles were good at falling, he knew that from Lily) and asked “Faith?”

 

Faith immediately bounded forward and tried to stomp on her, laughing like a hyena. Rita Skeeter scuttled frantically towards the doors, realised Al and Score were standing in it and made a dash for the dungeons instead. Faith shot after her, and then mid-step her knee gave way and with a cry of shock she crashed to the ground, twisting to avoid Rita Skeeter as she fell.

 

“Oh, dear,” Score murmured.

 

Rita Skeeter had been fleeing as fast as her tiny beetle legs could carry her, but now she circled slowly and skittered a little closer. Faith propped herself up on her elbows and made an annoyed noise (which, being Faith, was profane.) That was bad, if she’d realised they weren’t actually that keen on killing her.

 

Faith scowled at Rita, who scurried back and forth tauntingly in front of her. Okay, so Rita’d definitely figured it out, and judging from Faith’s expression Al hoped she was remembering it as well.

 

“Harper, what are you doing? Is it evil?” James demanded, and struck a dramatic pose at the top of the staircase. He had Fred and Louis with him, as usual. Oh good.

 

“Trying to stomp an annoying little bug, what does it look like,” Faith said, getting with difficulty onto her hands and knees, and grinned. “Hey! Want to help?”

 

Rita Skeeter turned around abruptly and made a break for the doorway.

 

“Harper!” James said. “You can’t stomp bugs! It’s not right.”

 

Faith blinked at him in surprise, and then went straight back to anger. “Where the hell do you get off lecturing me about what’s right?” she demanded, and added a “Stupid bastard,” out of habit.

 

“You’re evil, I keep telling everyone so and they all just say I’m maaaad,” James said exasperatedly. “Killing beetles is immoral, not nice, rude and-”

 

Fred drew his wand, pointed it at Skeeter and said “It’s just a bug, Potter. Oblit-!”

 

There was a shriek, that sounded quite a long way away, and Rita Skeeter reappeared, fountaining up from the floor. Her horn-rimmed glasses were crooked and her rigid hairdo had come loose and was draggling stiffly around her face. Faith whooped. Fred yelped and dropped his wand.

 

“What is the meaning of this commotion?” Professor McGonagall demanded, marching in from the Great Hall. “Ms Skeeter? I have warned you before to stay out of the Hogwarts grounds-”

 

Rita Skeeter looked at up at Fred (who was gaping at her), at the stunned crowd of witnesses, and turned slowly, shaking, to face Al.

 

Al didn't smile. That would have been unfair gloating, and he certainly didn't want anyone to see him doing that.

 









More importantly, though, Al, Score and Faith had to go to the hospital wing. As it turned out, Score had picked up a lot of scrapes and bruises; Faith had a sprained ankle, a torn muscle near her knee, a cracked rib and what Madame Zeller referred to as ‘chronic and terminal stupidity’; and Al was totally fine and really just there to keep the other two company.

 

“Have I congratulated you yet on how you hid and let us do most of the work, Potter?” Score asked, lying back on one of the beds. “That was masterful.”

 

“Hey, I planned things,” Al said, perched on the edge of another bed. Faith was sleeping peacefully on another bed, because Madame Zeller had got fed up with her trying to run around and jump on the beds and Stupefied her.

 

"Did you ever consider just blackmailing Skeeter?" Score asked. "Or do you think prosecution is a better revenge?"

 

"It's not revenge. She committed a crime. She ought to be put on trial and given a fair sentence," Al said.

 

Score looked at him in disbelief.

 

"Besides, it would have been suspicious if she'd suddenly changed tack and then if she hadn't cooperated and I'd told everyone they'd all have found out that I tried to blackmail her."



Score snorted. Al thought that was unfair. Couldn't he have genuine moral and practical reasons to do things?

 

“Privyet!” somebody said. Al thought what? Hedges? before looking up and seeing the Durmstrang champion. Oh, okay, Russians needed medical attention as well, after all.

 

It became slightly odder when she went over to Score, sat on the edge of his bed, and started talking to him in Russian. Score sat up, glanced sourly at Al and replied, in more Russian. Al caught ‘Potter’ and ‘Harper’ a lot, usually in tones of incredulity, and what seemed to be a mime rendition of their tendency to get hexed at and fall over.

 

Score could speak Russian? Al thought about that, waited for a gap in the conversation, and said “Hi!”

 

Score glanced at him and relayed that to the Durmstrang champion, who said something in Russian.

 

“Oksana says it’s very nice to meet you,” Score translated. She said something else, as well, something that sounded like a goodbye, and got up and left.

 

“Oops. Sorry,” Al said, not actually all that sorry.

 

“Liar. Now that you’ve rudely interrupted that conversation,” Score drawled. “What is it you want?”

 

“I might not have wanted anything,” Al said, looked at Score’s glare, and said, “Oh, fine. You speak Russian.”

 

You’re a manipulative little weasel and nowhere near as pleasant as you act,” Score replied.

 

Al blinked at him.

 

“Oh, sorry, I thought we were stating the obvious. What’s your point?”

 

“How’d you learn Russian?” Al asked, perching himself on the edge of Score’s bed.

 

“My parents briefly considered sending me to Durmstrang, which requires its students to be fluent in Russian,” Score said, with a shrug. “It’s not complicated.”

 

Al swung his legs and thought about it. “Briefly considered it for long enough for you to become fluent in Russian?”

 

“It’s a surprisingly simple language,” Score said. “I realise you’re annoyed that my parents were more invested in my education than yours were in yours, but that hardly merits interrogation.”

 

“Hey, my parents were very invested in my- don’t try to distract me,” Al said. “They were going to send you to Durmstrang for most of your life and then changed their minds?”

 

“My family aren’t renowned for their decision-making skills,” Score pointed out, stretching out on the bed with his hands behind his head.

 

“I guess not,” Al agreed. “Why did you want to come to Hogwarts?”

 

“…excuse me?” Score sat up, casual attitude evaporating instantly. “What on earth are you talking about?”

 

“If your parents were planning to send you to Durmstrang for that long, why would they change their minds so suddenly? That’d be completely stupid. I mean… don’t be offended, but you’re not very popular here,” Al said.

 

“I’m not?” Score drawled. “But everyone is so lovely and friendly! Are you sure?”

 

Al nodded absently. “So the only alternative is that you decided to come to Hogwarts yourself. Why’d you do that?”

 

“Superior educational facilities?” Score offered, which Al didn’t think was true because probably at Durmstrang the DADA professor wouldn't try to kill him.

 

Al thought. What did Score do? He acted like Al, really - talked to people, acted nice. Why was it important to do that at Hogwarts instead of at Durmstrang?

 

Huh. Score tried to make friends, and he’d got really upset when Rita Skeeter badmouthed his family - actually, he got upset when anyone badmouthed his family.

 

“Are you trying to restore your family honour, or something?”

 

Score started.

 

“You are? Really?” Al asked excitedly.

 

“Are you familiar with the meaning of the name Malfoy? It means ‘bad faith’. I doubt there’s any honour to be restored,” Score hedged.

 

“Well, making some, then,” Al said. “That’s what you’re doing, right?”

 

Score sat up. His eyes narrowed.

 

“What are you planning?” Which was as good as confirmation that Al was right.

 

“Why? Wouldn’t that be really hard?” Al wondered out loud, and watched for Score’s reaction.

 

“They’re my family,” Score spat, glacier cold. “I don’t care if it’s hard.” He sounded as if he thought Al must be very stupid to need that explained to him.

 

Al grinned. Score drew back.

 

“What do you plan to do now?” he asked, very coolly and precisely.

 

“Nothing evil, I swear,” Al said. “I’ve got a plan too. Do you want to know what it is?”

 

Score’s eyes narrowed further, to the point where Al wasn’t entirely certain Score could still see him. “Fine. Go ahead.”

 

Al looked around, lowered his voice and said, “I think it’s unfair how people talk about Slytherin when they’re actually all quite nice so I want to make everyone like them.”

 

“You’re what?”

 

Al repeated himself, a little louder and clearer.

 

“Are you seriously telling me that you chose to be sorted into Slytherin because of your innate love of justice and compassion for all mankind?”

 

“I wouldn’t have said it exactly like that,” Al said.

 

“Potter, that has never happened before.”

 

“Oh.” Al thought about it. “Is that good?”

 

“It means you’re uniquely mad, at least,” Score said. A faint thoughtful crease appeared between his eyebrows. “I had noticed that you devote a great deal of your time to cultivating friendships with the other houses. I assumed you were doing so for personal gain.”

 

“Well, it is personal gain really, I want everyone to be happy and not discriminated against,” Al pointed out.

 

“I’m not sure you understand the concept of personal gain. Can you prove it?”

 

“Well, if I just wanted to be popular by myself I’d have asked the Hat not to put me in Slytherin.”

 

“…Good point.”

 

“If I was going to be a Dark Lord, I think my first step would be not being in Slytherin,” Al observed. “It makes people suspicious. Probably the next Dark Lord’s in Hufflepuff.”

 

“I knew those little bastards were planning something,” Score drawled. “What do you think your adorable little plan has to do with me?”

 

“Isn’t it obvious?” Al asked. “We should be friends!”

 

“…excuse me, I think I may have briefly hallucinated there. What did you say?”

 

“Look. I want everyone to like Slytherin, right? And you want everyone to like you, and you are a Slytherin, so your plan helps my plan and I can help you. It’d be stupid for us not to work together!”

 

Score scowled.

 

“Why not, then?” Al asked, crushed.

 

“Potter, I’m sure you’re a lovely person really,” Score said. “A wonderful person, who would never try to disembowel me in the ladies’ room. But still-”

 

“I’d never try to disembowel you in the ladies’,” Al said. “I never even thought about it.”

 

Score glowered at him.

 

“Are you particularly concerned about me disemboweling you in the ladies’ or something?” Al asked. No, that couldn’t be right. It didn’t make any sense at all.

 

“Forget it,” Score said exasperatedly.

 

“I could promise never to disembowel you at all if that would help,” Al said, a bit lost.

 

“I said forget it!” Score barked.

 

Al decided to set that aside as a minor eccentricity.

 

“I don’t need help,” Score said. “Particularly not from you.”

 

“Have some anyway?”

 

“Why would you be so intent on helping me in the first place? Our families don’t get on very well, if you haven’t noticed.”

 

“I get on with you fine and I like helping people. Why not?” Al said. “Besides, since - not to be rude or anything - since your family doesn’t get on with mine because my family’s very heroic and yours… sort of isn’t, just being friends with me helps your plan.”

 

“Don’t try to puppeteer me, Potter,” Score told him warningly.

 

“Who’s puppeteering? I’m just explaining what you’d get out of it,” Al said. See? As soon as anyone knew you might have once manipulated somebody the tiniest bit for their own good, they assumed you were trying to manipulate everybody all the time.

 

Score looked away and frowned. Al watched him, on tenterhooks.

 

“Perhaps some sort of provisionary alliance?” Score suggested eventually.

 

“Yes! That’s perfect!” Al said, beaming. “What does ‘provisionary’ mean?”

 

“Conditional,” Score said. “The condition being that it works.”

 

“It’ll be fine,” Al promised, and gave Score a big hug.

 

"Potter! No! No hugging! Bad Potter! If your hair is contagious I will kill you! Get off!"

 

‘Provisionary alliance’. Al could make that work.

 





Dear Dad,

Rita Skeeter is an illegal Animagus and I got her to Animage in front of lots of witnesses probably most of Hogwarts! So you can arrest her now. Thanks for the Invisibility Cloak! Faith and Score helped but I will tell you how later because right now Professor McGonagall wants to shout at us for going into the Forbidden Forest (don’t worry, we’re all fine.)

Also Score and me are friends now! On the condition that I help him with some stuff he’s doing. Except I can’t tell you what that stuff is. He’s helping me with my plan to help Slytherin too, though.

Love Al





Al,

Good job! I wasn’t expecting you to come up with something like that. Already got a warrant for Skeeter.

Are you sure whatever you’re doing with Malfoy is a good idea? A friendship based on what you can get out of the other person’s not much of a friendship.

Dad

P.S. What’s this plan of his, anyway? I don’t like the sound of that.





Dad,

I don’t get it. Isn’t a friendship based on helping each other and working towards common goals the best sort of friendship? It says on page 17 of the Aurors’ Handbook that that’s the sort of friendship Aurors should strive to develop with other Aurors. Besides, even if he’s using me I’m using him just as much, so it’s fair.

Love Al
P.S. I can’t tell you. I promise it’s not evil!









A very great number of spells in this are taken from Elwood's Encyclopedia project, located on the forums. These spells would be 'Lingua Evanesca', 'Balatus', and 'Pependi'. So actually less a very great number and more three. I am bad at maths.

Privyet is Russian for 'hedge'. Or 'hello'. One of them.

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