The bell finally rang, signaling the end of morning classes and the start of lunch. History of Magic had been just as boring as father had warned him it would be, although the novelty of a ghost professor was, at least for the moment, still quite intriguing. A double period of it, though…well, an hour-and-a-half was a terribly long time to sit in one spot and stare blankly at the droning, transparent figure of a long-dead professor. Scorpius hadn’t fallen asleep, but he’d noticed a few of his classmates nodding, their eyes glazed.

To keep himself awake, Scorpius had focused on taking extravagantly detailed notes, although admittedly they were spotted throughout with a few distracted doodles. There was an especially intricate sketch of a broomstick on the top of his third page where he had zoned out for a solid fifteen minutes. The new Firebolt had just come out and Scorpius very much wanted one. He’d spent nearly half-an-hour drooling over it in Diagon Alley when they were there getting his school supplies. For once, though, father had said no when he’d asked for one; Scorpius couldn’t take the broom with him to school and, father had reasonably pointed out, by the time he came home there would inevitably be a new model out that Scorpius would like better. That was no doubt true. He was admittedly fickle when it came to broomsticks, but it was hardly his fault that the manufacturers just kept outdoing themselves.

Scorpius didn’t see why First Years couldn’t have brooms. They had flying lessons, after all, so why shouldn’t they be allowed to bring their own brooms to class, even if they were restricted from using them unsupervised until they had passed the course? It simply wasn’t fair. He’d only been here one day but Scorpius already knew that he was going to terribly miss flying. And besides, if he was going to try and make the House team next year, he’d be at quite a disadvantage after spending nearly a year unable to practice.

He wondered if Albus liked Quidditch; he hadn’t asked. Scorpius glanced over at his new friend and opened his mouth to speak but thought better of it. Albus still had a glassy, zombie-like glaze over his eyes from Binns. If he wanted to get more than monosyllabic responses, Scorpius decided, he’d probably better wait a few minutes for the History of Magic fugue to pass.

Scorpius grinned to himself, still excited to be at Hogwarts even after the numbing ordeal of History class. He didn’t know how everyone else was managing to drag themselves along so unenthusiastically. Yes, Binns had been dull and the lectures smothering and yes, they were halfway through their first day of classes and still hadn’t been allowed to do more than stare longingly at their wands, but still. They were at Hogwarts, and in Slytherin, and Scorpius felt like he was going to simply burst with excitement.

He practically bounced down the stairs to the Great Hall, jumping over the false step that the rest of his classmates were stumbling on; he hadn’t meant to jump it, hadn’t known it was there until Albus tripped on it, but he’d been taking the stairs two-at-a-time anyway and had simply lucked out. He grabbed Albus’s arm and dragged the taller boy back up out of the hole in the steps; Albus looked startled and sulky but Scorpius just grinned at him. At least the sudden shock of finding the floor not waiting where it ought to have been seemed to have jerked the messy-haired boy awake again.

“So do you play any Quidditch, then?” Scorpius asked. “Well, I mean, obviously not proper Quidditch with full teams or anything, but I guess just sort of playing at it, you know, flying around with a Quaffle and such. That sort of thing? Father and I do, all the time, and sometimes Lycoris if he comes over, although he’s not very good, and usually has to be coerced into it…”

Albus blinked. “Uhh...yeah,” he said, shaking his head to clear it the rest of the way. “I mean, um, actually, we do a lot of it with teams, in fact. Just, like, my family—there’s so many of us we can manage proper teams, usually.”

”Wow,” Scorpius said, suddenly jealous. “That sounds brilliant.”

Albus shrugged. “Sure,” he said. “It’s fun. And I guess having that many cousins and uncles and stuff ought to be good for something, right?” He smiled, one of the few genuine smiles that Scorpius had seen him manage since his Sorting.

Then the noise from the Great Hall washed over them and Albus suddenly went pale. Scorpius decided to ignore it and plowed on, asking, “can you believe we aren’t allowed to have our own brooms? Just because it’s our first year? What do they think’s going to happen, we’ll get homesick and try to fly back, get lost and land amidst a bunch of Muggles, wreck the whole Statute of Secrecy? Ridiculous,” he scoffed grumpily.

Albus almost grinned again. “Yeah,” he agreed, “it’s bollocks. And don’t think James hasn’t been just rubbing it in like crazy that he’s got a broom at school this year and I don’t.” He made a face.

“That’s your older brother, right?” Scorpius asked.

Albus nodded, his face going sallow. “In Gryffindor,” he muttered, ducking his head. Scorpius frowned and couldn’t think of anything to say. They had reached the Great Hall, though, so he used the excuse of working their way through the milling crowd to avoid saying anything at all.

Students were clustered at the entryway, greeting friends (and enemies) that mostly hadn’t seen each other all summer. There were more knots of people all throughout the Great Hall, some at their tables and some stopped in the middle of the aisles. Fortunately the prospect of food was a tempting one, and many of the students were at least trying to work their way eventually to their seats.

As First Years, Albus and Scorpius didn’t really have anyone to greet—not with Albus clearly trying to avoid his family—so they went straight through the crowd as best they could, aiming for the table against the far wall where their green and silver-clad Housemates were already gathering. Scorpius glanced over to make sure that Albus was keeping up and saw that the taller boy had his shoulders hunched in and his head tucked down and he was shooting quick, furtive glances over at the Gryffindor table, as if trying to hide from them. Scorpius looked over at the table and couldn’t see a single Gryffindor paying Albus any attention or even glancing Slytherin’s way. He looked back at Albus and couldn’t help but smirk; he wondered how the much taller boy thought he’d be able to keep out of sight by hiding behind him.

Neither boy looked back at the Gryffindors in time to see a tall witch with a mane of bushy red hair stand up and wave wildly in Albus’s direction. She stared crossly at the oblivious boys who passed her by without a word, then she sat back down in a huff amidst her fellow Gryffindors. She pulled a book out of her school bag and began to read while she attacked her food in earnest.

Scorpius and Albus easily found a clear spot along the benches at the Slytherin table; most of their Housemates were still making their way through the press of students clogging up the entrance. Lycoris had wandered off somewhere else so it was just the two of them again. Scorpius didn’t mind; Lycoris seemed hesitant and somewhat bewildered by Albus Potter and this way Scorpius could focus on trying to cheer up his new friend without trying to deal with the other boy at the same time. Besides, he didn’t think Albus wanted anyone else, even Lycoris, to know how truly miserable he was about being Sorted into Slytherin.

Not that he was doing a very good job of hiding it right now. Albus had sunk down at the table like a puppet with its strings cut. Scorpius elbowed him lightly. “Hey,” he said, “cheer up. It’s just five points,” he told him, even though he didn’t think it was the points that were bothering Albus right now. “I’m sure we can make that back up in no time.”

Albus managed a vague smile. “Thanks,” he said. He paused. “What do you mean, ‘we’?” he asked. “You haven’t lost any points.”

“Yet,” Scorpius pointed out reasonably. “Besides, not only do I want my House to win the Cup this year, but I’d make a really rubbish friend if I wasn’t willing to help you out.”

Albus grinned but the expression was tremulous. “Are we friends, then?” he asked hesitantly.

Scorpius shrugged, trying to appear more confident than he felt. “I’d think so,” he said. “At least, I’d like us to be.”

Albus managed a proper smile this time. “Cool,” he replied. “Me, too.”

Scorpius grinned broadly. “Then hurry up and eat,” he said. “Maybe we can get to our next class early and win some of those points back.”

Albus nodded firmly and attacked his food as if it were the only thing standing between him and eternal glory. Scorpius grinned and filled his plate with slightly more discretion than the dark-haired boy. He liked food as much as any eleven-year-old, but there were limits to the amount he could comfortably ingest. Albus didn’t seem to have those.

Scorpius couldn’t help but snicker when the other boy swallowed a little too fast and ended up coughing pumpkin juice up all over his treacle tart. Albus glared and eyed the brimming pitcher of juice with obvious thoughts of retribution in his green eyes, but just then Professor Sixsmith swept by on his way up to the dais to join the other professors that had come down for lunch.

“Later,” Albus muttered to Scorpius, who grinned innocently in response. If Albus was making retaliatory threats, he had to be feeling better. Scorpius toyed with the idea of flicking cherries at his new friend’s head but decided that now was no time to risk such an assault, not when they were five points down already.

Besides, Albus would probably throw something back, and there was no way Scorpius was going to class with dirty robes. What kind of an impression would that make? He shuddered and decided to move the pitcher of pumpkin juice back further from the edge of the table.

No sense risking disaster, after all.

 
 

As it turned out, he might as well not have bothered with his prudence.

Halfway through lunch the students were interrupted by a flurry of hooting, feathery visitors. Generally the owl-post arrived in the mornings, but this being the first day of the year, most of the students—whether they were first years excitedly/anxiously telling their parents how the Sorting had turned out or older students writing their first of many “so I forgot to bring my…” notes—had sent letters off with breakfast, and replies were just coming back now.

Scorpius eagerly scanned the crowd of birds, his food forgotten. He had, of course, received a letter that morning, along with a small parcel of welcome-to-school treats, but as his parents could not yet have been aware of anything that had happened at Hogwarts, such as Scorpius’s great good fortune, it had consisted mainly of vague encouragement and hopes that he would enjoy his time at school. Now that they must have received his own letter detailing his arrival at Hogwarts and his first impressions of the place and, most importantly, news of which House he had been Sorted into, they would write again to congratulate him, Scorpius was certain.

That first letter this morning had very carefully made no mention whatsoever of the four Houses at Hogwarts; Scorpius’s parents knew that he had been worried about not making it into Slytherin, and hadn’t wanted to risk bringing up what might have been a delicate topic, not before they knew the results of their son’s Sorting. Scorpius’s father had assured him in no uncertain terms that it didn’t matter at all what House he was chosen for, but Scorpius had been unconvinced. Now, though, it was a moot point, because he was in Slytherin, and he was certain that his parents would be just as thrilled and nearly as relieved as he was.

Scorpius’s whole face lit up when he spotted his father’s golden masked owl soaring through the window. Scorpius barely waited for the bird to settle itself on the table before he snatched the attached scroll from its leg. The owl hooted in annoyance but Scorpius ignored it, eagerly unfurling the thick parchment. He read it with a steadily broadening grin. He’d known they would be pleased but they sounded even prouder than he’d hoped.

Scorpius looked up from the letter at last, smiling broadly. His ecstatic expression shattered, however, when he caught sight of the face of the boy sitting next to him. Albus was staring unblinkingly at the Gryffindor table and his face had gone chillingly white. Scorpius turned around to see what the dark-haired boy was staring at but saw only a raucous sea of red and gold. He tried tracing along Albus’s fixed eyeline and finally spotted a boy to whom Albus had to be related. He seemed a little taller than Albus, although it was hard to tell from so far away, and he had dark, messy red hair, freckles, and a face so like Albus’s that Scorpius would have been surprised to learn they weren’t related. This must be the James that Albus spoke of with such wretched jealousy.

James Potter was perched on the Gryffindor table, his feet on the bench that his more civilized Housemates were sitting on. A small group of them seemed to be staring at him while he gave some sort of a performance. There was an owl perched next to him drinking out of his forgotten goblet. James appeared to be reading aloud from the letter the owl had brought him and was garnering much amusement with his recitation. As Scorpius watched, though, a tall First Year girl with bushy red hair stalked over to him from further up the table. She snatched the letter from his hands and launched into a short but ferocious lecture that had James’s friends laughing while the boy in question ducked his head as if fending off blows. The girl stomped off with the letter and James moved to shoo the owl away from his drink while his friends laughed.

Scorpius turned back around but the bereft look on Albus’s face was unchanged. Scorpius wondered that he hadn’t gotten an owl from his parents but then, he hadn’t sent a letter of his own that morning, either. Maybe Albus’s parents were waiting to hear from him first and had just assumed that Albus hadn’t had a chance to post an owl before morning classes. Scorpius thought about suggesting that Albus write one now, they could run it up to the owlery before lunch ended, but he didn’t know what to advise Albus to say in it, and Scorpius furthermore didn’t know if he’d have wanted to write one himself if their situations had been reversed.

He looked back at the Gryffindor table and shuddered. Suddenly, Scorpius was no longer hungry. “Hey,” he said to Albus, “are you done eating?”

Albus started, as if he’d forgotten the other boy was there, and wrenched his gaze away from his brother and the other Gryffindors. “Oh…yeah,” he said, looking down distractedly at the half-eaten food still on his plate. He grimaced. “Yeah, I’m done,” he said. Albus stood up and shot another glance towards the students clad in red and gold. He didn’t notice how close he was sitting to the table until his knee banged into it.

Albus yelped and dropped back onto the bench. He put a hand out to catch himself but it skidded on the smooth surface of the table and knocked into the pitcher of pumpkin juice. That tipped forward and slopped its full contents out across the table, the girl next to him, and all over Scorpius Malfoy’s robes.

The girl shrieked, said something nasty to Albus, and hurried out of the room with a scowling friend at her side. Scorpius stared down in shock at the cold liquid, then up at Albus, whose expression echoed his own. “Sorry!” Albus gasped. Then his lips twitched. He fought against it, but couldn’t prevent a small snicker from escaping. Scorpius glared at him. “Sorry,” Albus said again, but a laugh followed his words.

“Well,” Scorpius said dryly, “I suppose it’s a good thing we were done eating as I definitely need to go change before class.”

Albus managed to somehow look contrite and amused all at the same time. “I’m really sorry,” he said, grinning.

Scorpius cocked an eyebrow. “Not yet you aren’t,” he said calmly.

Albus didn’t have a reply for that. Scorpius stood up, wrung out his robes as best he could, and picked up his bag. He tossed his head back firmly and strode out of the Great Hall, Albus hurrying at his heels and torn between muttered apologies and stifled giggles. Scorpius did his best to ignore the squelching sound his feet made, and the occasional snicker as someone looked up, and the clinging, wet robes that flapped around his legs. He was drenched from his chest all the way to his feet—he’d no idea how one pitcher could have held so much liquid—but he would be damned if he’d look like he was embarrassed. After all, he hadn’t been the one to spill the pumpkin juice.

Albus Potter was clearly going to have to die for this.

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