I’d never even met Albus Potter until he saved my life. Alright, that’s an exaggeration. We had met, although only briefly and only in the context of a Potions lesson. I’m pretty sure he knew who I was and I definitely knew who he was. I mean, you’d have had to have been living in a cave for, like, the past century not to have heard of Albus Potter. He’s pretty cool. Everybody has heard of Albus Potter.
Not many people have heard of Flora Lancaster. Mostly because she’s me.
I’m not the sort of person that gets heard of. I’m a Hufflepuff, for starters. My sole aim in life is to be loyal and hardworking and get food from the kitchens. And to look hot in yellow and black stripes, which is a difficult look to pull off unless you’re a bumblebee, and especially if you have a general lack of hotness. Especially if you’ve got knobbly knees and gappy teeth and enormous reading glasses – glasses that are as thick as bottle caps, if bottle caps were square, horn-rimmed and had legs.
I’m also kind of socially awkward. I’m the sort of wallflower that’s been on the wall so long that if you wanted to rip me off, you’d end up tearing the whole house down. I basically have my roots in the foundations of social awkwardness. I’m like the Japanese knotweed of awkward.
Which is why, up until the day he saved my life, the only conversation I’d ever had with Albus Potter was about horned slugs.
It all changed with that train journey to Hogwarts on that September the first. Of course, when I woke up that day, I had no idea that something big and totally zoomified would be on the horizon. Like, mega zoomified on toast. It was a pretty average day. Willoughby, my cat-kneazle cross, woke me up at six by purring into my face, and then I had a great two-hour yawn to dress, eat, and make myself look presentable within. Two hours, then it was into the car with me, my trunk, Willoughby and my batty muggle Mum, and off to King’s Cross.
I’m kind of a witch. You’d think that’d make me special, but it totally doesn’t. Magic’s just sort of incidental, and it’s not so cool when not only can everyone else do it, but everyone else is far better at it. I’m more special for my mega talent at getting food from the kitchens and falling up stairs, although not at the same time. If being a klutz was a talent, I could totally win talent shows and stuff. I’m not really selling myself very well, I know, but my mum told me I shouldn’t sell myself.
And now I’m rambling. Anyway, I was talking about my talents, magic not being one of them. I have a talent, though, for sugary snacks. Finding them, hoarding them, eating them, not sharing them, etc. But sugary snacks make the world go around; they basically demand my express attention. And the conversation with Albus only happened because of sugary snacks. But I’ll get onto that later.
We got to King’s Cross at a quarter to eleven that day. My mother waved me away at the platform, enveloping me in a hug that smelled a little bit like face powder but mostly like cat food, gave me one last proverb to treasure until I saw her again at Christmas (‘too many cooks spoil the broth!’) and then I hopped, skipped and tripped onto the train.
If there’s a good way to start your sixth year, it’s falling flat on your face on the train.
Willoughby leapt out of my arms the moment I hit the floor, tearing up the corridor and hissing as he went, like a balloon that’d just been let go – and then, as I jumped up and made to speed after him, a familiar blonde-haired boy leant out of a carriage and deftly caught Willoughby in his arms.
I’d already started to yell after my cat, so, when I saw Scorpius, I ended up yelling ‘Willoughpius!’ instead.
‘Er, hello,’ Scorpius called back. Willoughby, who’s fairly antisocial for a cat (and cats are generally about as antisocial as I am), landed an impressive right hook on Scorpius’ jaw. Scorpius, grimacing, held Willoughby at arm’s length, giving him a stern look.
‘Hey!’ I sped off down the corridor, giving him a cheery wave. He shoved Willoughby into my arms, went in as if to give me a hug, seemed to think better of it, and then backed off, leaning nonchalantly against the doorframe.
‘How was your summer?’ he said, as I cuddled Willoughby up to my chest and buried my nose into his gingery fur.
‘You asked me this last week, Scor. It was mega, as usual.’
‘Really brill and mega. How about yours?’
‘Oh, so-so,’ he held the door for me, letting me into the compartment he’d evidently been saving for some time. Once inside, I flopped down into my favourite place by the window, set Willoughby down on the seat beside me, and then snuggled into the threadbare cushions. Scorpius sat opposite me and picked up a book, although he continued to squint at me through his huge spectacles.
Scorpius is a funny lad. Alright, he’s been my friend since forever and he’s pretty zoomified as friends go, but that just makes it even more okay to say he’s a funny lad. He’s a Hufflepuff, like me, and just one notch down from me on the scale of social awkwardness. Like me, he’s a fan of cats, although his dad’s allergic so he can’t have one, and, like me, he’s a fan of apple crumble. We’ve had our fair share of crumble-eating-competitions in the Great Hall. Like me, he’s mega shy around strangers, and he even made up the word ‘zoomified’, which is pretty zoomified in itself. And he’s pretty much one of my only friends. I kind of have a secret mental agreement that, if by the age of thirty, I’m still a lonely cat lady, I’ll marry him. He doesn’t know, but I guess he likes surprises. And it’s not like any other girl would ever want him.
‘Hey,’ the compartment door slid open again, and the third member of our little trio came stomping in, pulling her trunk behind her and balancing a cage in the crook of her arm. ‘It’s rammed out there! Did you guys have a good summer?’
‘I saw you last week, Fauna…’
‘It was mega,’ Scorpius said. ‘And Flora’s was mega too.’
Fauna Chang, my bestest ever friend if you don’t count Scorpius, took the seat beside Willoughby, idly patting him on the head. She put her owl, Mr Darcy, into the seat next to Scorpius, poked an owl treat or two through the bars, and then settled back in her chair.
‘Mega,’ she agreed, nodding at us all. ‘You done the History of Magic homework? I haven’t.’
We all dived into our bags for our unfinished holiday homework; at that moment, the conductor’s whistle blew outside and the train set off. Scorpius, visibly comforted by this, settled back into his seat with a sigh, notes in hand.
Between us, I guess we embody the three perfect Hufflepuff traits. Scorpius is the hardworking one, Fauna’s the loyal one, and I’m the one who’s good at finding food and eating it. We’re basically the Hufflepuff trifecta, except I think the real Hufflepuff trifecta would be a bit pissed if we stole their name. But disregarding the obvious traits, we’re all Hufflepuffs for our own reasons. I’m a Hufflepuff for the close proximity of the dorms to the kitchens, Fauna’s a Hufflepuff for the lack of expectation hovering over her academic performance, and Scorpius is a Hufflepuff because his dad told him to be a Slytherin.
There’s nothing wrong with picking a house just for the food, by the way. If a girl likes to have three square meals a day, she deserves to get three square meals a day.
Speaking of food, no sooner had we started swapping our half-finished History of Magic notes, I heard the trolley lady outside (she’s called Agnes, you know, but nobody is nice enough to ask her name, except for me). I think I must have supersonic hearing, because I can always tell just when she’s started her rounds from the distant trundling of her little metal trolley of sugary nirvana. Maybe I was a bat in a past life or something. A bat with a seriously sweet tooth.
‘Gotta go,’ I said, throwing my notes aside and seizing up my moneybag. ‘Trolley.’
Fauna and Scorpius, who’d learnt to expect this by now, nodded.
‘Would you get me a chocolate frog?’ Scorpius said. ‘I’ll pay you back…’
‘Pumpkin pasty for me if you don’t mind,’ Fauna said. ‘Actually, make it two.’
I made a mental note of their orders, added at least fifteen of my own, and then stepped out into the corridor, sliding the compartment door shut behind me. And I’m really convinced that I do have supersonic hearing, because the Agnes and her trolley were all the way at the other end of the corridor. No matter. It’s always best to get your teeth (figuratively speaking) into the trolley before anyone else, or all the chocolate frogs are gone before the train’s even got to the Midlands.
Little did I know that my very destiny was in that trolley.
My mind focused solely on the prospect of sugary heaven, I didn’t really register much else in the corridor as I walked along it. I mean, I probably should have noticed something, like the unusually high concentration of seventh years hanging around the compartment doors, or the way everything had gone kind of quiet. Or maybe I should have noticed the entire compartment full of blindfolded first years, but, you know, being good ol’ sweet-toothed four-eyes Flora, I barely noticed a thing.
Agnes looked pretty pleased to see me, waving as I approached. I’m pretty sure I was the one responsible for keeping her in business. But I was barely two broomsticks’ length from her when three burly seventh year Slytherins emerged from a nearby carriage, blocking my way. Two of them turned to Agnes, but the third turned to me.
‘Back off, sunshine,’ he snarled.
Queue jumping is not something I appreciate; I gave him my best disapproving look before standing back, arms folded, still clutching my moneybag. I was pretty certain they’d be off in a second, probably only wanting a couple of liquorice wands or something. Again, I didn’t pay much attention. I’ve got a one-track mind, and that mind is focused on food.
But I certainly started paying attention when they pushed Agnes’ tray over.
Poor old Agnes, she’s such a dear. A squib, you know, and a friend of the driver. She’s the most harmless old lady you could ever think of. Retired, and her only job these days is going up and down with the trolley on the few occasions the Hogwarts Express travels. She’s mega and as sweet as the sugary snacks she peddles, and, even if you don’t know her name or her story like I do, you love her.
So when those seventh years shoved her trolley to the ground, scattering sweets and crisps and pasties and drinks everywhere – I saw red.
‘Hey!’ I shouted. ‘Leave her alone!’
They ignored me. Then, I was horrified to see two of them rooting about in the bottom few shelves of the trolley for the moneybox while the third kept his wand pointed at Agnes’ quivering, tearful face.
That was when I realised it was serious. Like, mega serious. But there was nobody else around, nothing between them and Agnes except for the overturned trolley. And someone had to stop them.
Unfortunately, that someone happened to be me. Four-eyes Flora, her limbs and fingers and even her eyelashes quivering from the shock and sugar deprivation.
So I stamped my foot and stared them down and, when that didn’t work, I jabbed the nearest one in the back.
‘Hey!’ I tried again. ‘Leave her alone!’
I was then mega shocked to find the wands pointing at me instead.
‘I thought I told you to back off,’ one of them snarled. ‘Sunshine.’
I really should have come out with a super-duper comeback like ‘oh, like a patronising name’s going to hurt me,’ or ‘that’s right, and they call me sunshine because I can kick you where the sun doesn’t shine,’ or whatever, but instead I kind of just stood there, quivering, still staring at them, absolutely petrified. I felt like I was about to vomit all of my internal organs out onto the floor.
But then there was a voice from behind me. An oddly soothing voice, sort of calm but tough at the same time. The sort of voice you’d like to read books to you. And the voice said-
‘Why don’t you back off, Fletcher?’
The three seventh years turned their attentions from me to the person behind me, glaring. Worse, one of them started to laugh.
‘Oh, like you’re going to do anything, Potter…’
The next thing I knew I’d gone flying into the wall and my glasses had slipped off – I ended up crouching near the skirting board, patting the floor around me so I could find my specs. Only when I discovered them, put them on again, and saw Albus Potter facing the three seventh years with a murderous glare on his face did I realise that one of them must have shoved me aside. Agnes was staring, horrified.
‘Not cool, Fletcher,’ Albus Potter said, and then punched him in the face.
It was mega, really. That’s all I can say about it. In the week or so that followed the train journey, all people could ask me about was what it was like to see Albus Potter take on the biggest bully in the entire school and win just to protect four-eyes Flora and Agnes the trolley lady. And really, it was mega. I mean, it was a bit dazed, I can’t really remember much. I was kind of in awe. But it worked. The three Slytherins took off down the corridor and vanished into a compartment.
Albus crouched beside me and extended a hand. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked.
And, before you ask, no, there wasn’t a spark then. When I raised my eyes to meet his (fluttery eyelashes and all), I wasn’t instantly struck by his mega beautiful green orbs or anything. I just saw him – kind of worried, with his hazely-green eyes shining, his breath coming in little gasps from the effort of the punch.
I felt so overwhelmed I could barely say a word. I was pretty sure I’d just witnessed the most serious robbery in the history of Hogwarts ever, and Albus Potter had just saved my life. Okay, in hindsight, I’d just witnessed a semi-serious incident and Albus had just saved me from a spot of minor assault and probably a lot of wounded pride, but, still. A girl on a sugar comedown can’t be expected to think all that straight.
I took his hand. He helped me up, patted me vaguely on the shoulder, then went to check if Agnes was alright.
‘It’s Flora, right?’ he said, as I bent, shakily, to pick up an armful of chocolate frogs and replace them on the trolley. ‘Flora Lancaster?’
I was astonished he’d even remembered my name, seeing as the only conversation we’d ever shared was about horned slugs and had been in, like, third year.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘And you’re Albus. Albus Potter.’
He smiled. ‘Flora, would you mind taking care of Agnes? I’ll go and tell the driver and get some other prefects.’
Not only did he know my name, but he knew Agnes’. This boy either was a freak of memory, or just…well…genuinely nice. Mega nice.
‘Oh, and,’ he stooped to pick up a chocolate frog and pressed it into my hand. ‘You look like you could use some sugar.’
a/n: Writing this on a whim because I miss writing teenage love triangles. No joke. This is dedicated to Gubby for her blogs, and I owe a bit to Gina and Melissa for the original support of the idea, especially the descent into shipping-themed crack. Oh, and I owe ALL the things to the raver puffins and their raving. Also Hannah, just for being cool cool cool and the Troy to my Abed. (also - edited in a new supa hipster and supa nostalgic chapter image, but I should point out that the idea wasn't mine - it came from an awesome online tutorial.)
edited 09/08/2012 - general grammar/phrasing edits
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