Chapter 5 The Cold Shoulder

The Enchanter’s Princess

Chapter 5: The Cold Shoulder

The man who entered the compartment did not automatically look too rough or severe. He stared around expectantly, as if looking for something, or someone. Albus could hear Scorpius’ heavy breathing as the man looked through his wide green eyes at them all. The man had rough blonde hair resting ruffled and course on a lined face. He looked very severe but there was something about him, his eyes maybe that suggested an amicable nature. Albus could not immediately tell what Scorpius’ issue with him was. Behind him were Alpha and Proxima.

“This is the compartment, Father,” Alpha mumbled.

“Excuse me, children,” he said in a deep voice and Albus’ doubts vanished. The voice was cold and demanding. “But I believe a blonde boy of around your age was sitting with you…”

“Left just when the train slowed down,” Rose covered, face impassive. “Said he had friends to see.”

The man looked around again, as if expecting him to pop up out of thin air. As he went silent again, he once again looked amicable and fine. This man was of a contradictory nature, Albus could tell. Even after he left, Albus was still thinking deeply about him. He had a bad feeling about this year.

What was more? Scorpius refused to show himself for the remainder of the journey and Albus stayed behind with him when the train finally arrived at Hogwarts. Rose peeked out to let him know when Rojer had disappeared down the hall. Only then did Scorpius show his face and reluctantly handed his cloak back to Albus.

The wet, rainy path to Howarts was taken by what appeared before as horseless carriages but what were actually pulled by Invisible horses. Albus remembered, with a pang, worrying about whether they would be visible to him back before first year started. James, he remember used to tease him. This year, Albus could see them quite plainly and Scorpius, who could always see them, looked over at Albus for confirmation that this time, both were seeing the same thing. Skeletal black horses stood, wings folded, staring at him through white eyes. Albus gulped as he regarded them all. They all reminded him of the same thing. The one whose passing made their appearance possible. Hagrid.

“First years!” a familiar voice called through the rain. Albus spun around. Standing in the rain, blonde hair resting matted against his forehead was Rolf Scamander. Albus was not told of this though. He knew they’d be getting someone new but Rolf? And who was that beside him? For beside Rolf was a girl Albus had never met before. The girl appeared to be a year younger than him but he did not recognize her as a student and she was holding a lantern for Rolf.

“Al!”

Albus snapped back to the carriages. Scorpius and Rose were already inside. Albus threw one last look at the Thestrals and climbed in. “They’re actually quite beautiful once you’ve gotten used to them,” Scorpius shrugged as Albus sat himself down between him and Rose and stayed silent all throughout the ride. It was with a relief when they all trudged through the grounds to the great oak doors and the warm halls beyond. Albus and Scorpius were mercifully warmed by Rose before she was whisked away by Louis and Fred. Daniel, Albus noticed looked forlorn and rather red-faced as Rose walked past him without acknowledgment.

This, of course was the part Albus was most used to. The sorting ceremony. Scorpius was going though Quidditch plans with a silent Albus as though he was the one who was made Captain of the team while Albus looked around. A voice called up to him, “Potter. Oi! Potter!”

Albus cringed. The voice belonged to Jennifer. He expected this sooner or later. Scorpius stopped midsentence as Jennifer Salsty, a seventh year and previous Quidditch Captain walked up to him. “Quidditch Captain?” she said pointedly, gazing at his badge.

“Erm… yeah…” he said slowly.

“Don’t misunderstand me,” she said shortly. “I’m a big girl and Scamander put me up to this in the first place. When are you holding tryouts?”

“Dunno, I just got back,” Albus said quickly. “I need time t”-

“Just let me know,” she said quickly. “I- I want to go over some strategies with you, even if I’m not on the team. I figure you deserve to know some things as Captain. I’ll see you around.”

And she disappeared amongst the crowd. Albus turned to a bewildered Scorpius. Jennifer was not the only one to stop and say hi though. Mark and Walter finally caught up with them. Walter, it seemed was showing Mark his newest owl when they caught up and Scorpius caught up with them both. “See that Rojer man?” Walter asked them all. “Looks a right sight, doesn’t he? Reckon he’ll”-

“Trust me, Walter, you’ll want to stay away from him,” Scorpius said frankly. “It’s”-

“Maaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaarrrrrk!” an excited squeal went. Mark cringed at the sound of his nme and went red. “Help me, Al. Walt?”

“Sorry, mate, you’re on your own,” Walter said, backing away as Mark’s self-proclaimed fiancée grabbed onto his arm. “Where were you? Are you even getting my letters? Come on, the twins are waiting for you and I’ve got so much to tell you.”

Mark had no choice but to allow himself to be dragged away as Aries chattered on and on about who-knew-what. Walter shrugged and walked into the Great Hall too. “Reckon we should foll”-

“Al!” a familiar voice called.

“I’ll go on,” Scorpius said hurriedly, which Albus was grateful for as he turned and met Alexis Ackerly, who pat his shoulder affectionately, making him go red. They embraced briefly, Albus being forcibly reminded of their short-lived relationship last year before breaking apart and regarding each other.

“Quidditch Captain?” she asked pointedly, looking at Albus’ badge. “Guess we’ll be shaking hands on the pitch this time, huh?”

“Guess so,” Albus grinned shiftily as they walked into the Great hall together.

“See you around, Al,” she said hurriedly once they were each hailed by fellow housemates. As he walked in, this time, Albus got a clear glimpse of the small girl he saw beside Uncle Rolf. Her size suggested she was Albus’ age but her face and looks, looks that had scratches and bruises all over it and disheveled blonde hair so dirty it looked as if she had just come out of the forest, gave her the appearance of a downsized woman in her thirties. Beside her was Rolf Scamander, looking just as dirty, had Albus not known him, he would’ve guessed the girl was his daughter. The two led a group of first years in, Professor Era walked in with the sorting hat and the song begun.

Oh, Hogwarts began,
The Founders four
They build this great old school.
And little did they know back then
Its ending would be cruel.
As once before,
Oh, evermore,
The school might once stand strong.
For as long as we
Refuse to see
The error of our ways.
I fear the school may finally face
The end of its great old days.
Oh, Gryffindor, stand straight and strong.
And face the opposing throng.
And Slytherin, preserving mind,
Courage you should find.
And Hufflepuff, your loyalty
Where does it truly lie?
For if you miss the bitter truth,
The school you love may die.
And Ravenclaw, your clever brain,
Use it for the school’s own gain!
Unite, stand strong, Hogwarts,
Hear my hardened call.
We face it then, we face it now,
So Hogwarts may not fall!

The hat seemed oblivious to the muttering that took place halfway through the song. Professor Era had to call for silence so her voice could be heard throughout the hall as the first years clamored up nervously. “Silence please.”

“Easy for her to say,” Scorpius muttered. “He accused us of being cowards.”

“I- wouldn’t say that,” Albus shrugged.

“What do you think he meant when he told us to find courage? We’re the only house he insulted outright.”

“Silence please.”

Albus disagreed of course. He pointed to the Hufflepuff table who didn’t look too pleased themselves. “Basically accused them of having separate loyalties. We’re not alone.”

Albus looked around at the Ravenclaw table. Alexis alone seemed to be quiet while all her peers were muttering and chattering. He made a mental note of bringing this song up to her next time they spoke.

“Silence!!!” The chattering died down at once. Era sighed and read the first of the names from the long piece of parchment.

“Alberts, Fiona!”

“You’ll be wise to listen to the hat,” a low voice said beside them. Scorpius gave a small gasp. This was the first time in Albus’ memory that the Bloody Baron spoke to any of them. The pale, blood-stained ghost gazed down at them through narrows, pearly white eyes. “This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that the hat gives the school significant warning when it senses danger for it.”

“How many times before has it given warnings?” Albus asked interestedly.

“In memory, seven times, eight if counting the time when I was alive,” the ghost growled. “The seventh time was back when your fathers were in Hogwarts. It’s always wise to listen to the hat”-

Albus looked up. Era had passed through the C’s and began with the D’s.

“There he is,” Scorpius breathed, lowering himself slightly as the new man walked into the hall.

The man they met on the train came walking in, head held high. He did not look at the Slytherin table at all but walked up to where the Headmaster Phoenix sat. He bent down and whispered something to him, Phoenix frowned slightly as he listened but nodded in consent to whatever was said and the man took a seat at the far end. Two seats off from where Phoenix sat was another strange man. He seemed a lot rougher and a bad feeling washed over Albus as he laid eyes on this man. The man turned to face him, eye to eye and Albus looked down. Something about those eyes were very familiar to him. Right beside him was yet another stranger. A burly man with a broad chest, a square jaw and a hard, wide face that looked almost like a bush. The new faces of Hogwarts. Albus wondered vaguely what Harry had in mind to counter this and whether it would be effective if Harry was arrested.

Albus returned his eyes to the High table and looked at Vulneroman. He still sat there, beside the new teacher. Further along sat Rolf Scamander and beside him the girl who watched the sorting with mild interest.

“Far, Simon!”

Albus looked up and there was the boy who was beside Seth on the train. He was a hostage. Albus remembered. Soto freed them but in the end of the day, the boy was once a hostage and he still seemed perfectly lax. For once, Albus hoped he would make another house besides Slytherin. Alas…

“Slytherin!”

Two first years later, Era called “Greengrass, Alpha!”

Scorpius stared in interest, fingers plainly crossed. His cousin was being sorted. It took a long while to decide, the hat quietly verbalizing its thought process as Albus knew it to do. If Albus knew the hat, the two were discussing something very intensely because the hat’s expression showed it and it was taking a while. Albus began to formulate a joke in his head involving the hat taking so long because of the presence of another hat on the boy’s head. Then, after almost two whole minutes, “Ravenclaw!”

Scorpius looked mildly surprised at the sorting choice. Albus saw Alexis clap along with everyone else, patting the boy on the back when he took a seat close to her. Era called Proxima Greengrass next. Alpha’s twin sister walked up, head being held high as the hat was placed on her head, falling to over her eyes. The hat took not three seconds before shouting “Slytherin!”

Pleased with her sorting, she made her way to the Slytherin table. Scorpius did not budge up or make room for her either. In fact, he made sure Albus squeezed closer to him. Proxima had to take a seat futher away instead, close Albus noticed to Malcolm Mold, sixth year boy whom Albus had an intense dislike for. Albus saw him pat Proxima on the back and bend close for conversation.

“Figures,” Scorpius muttered.

“They’re your cousins, you don’t like them?” Albus asked interestedly.

“Erm… well, they can be difficult,” Scorpius shrugged. “We’re ok, really. It’s their father I’m on bad terms with.”

Albus turned to where Proxima sat as the hat sorted Georgina Dobbs. Proxima seemed to be ignoring Malcolm and just sat with a dignified air about her. Like nothing mattered in the hall or nothing was worth her attention. She did not even turn to the Ravenclaw table where her brother was sitting with the same expression, clearly both trying to make a dignified first impression.

“Lean, Sierra!”

Albus crocked his head around again so fast, he felt a crick in his neck. The girl that ran forward looked like Seth. Blonde hair falling a little under her shoulders, blue eyes and a rather impassive demeanor. “Slytherin!”

“Longbottom, Alice!”

“Ravenclaw!”

“Longbottom, Frank!”

“Hufflepuff!”

“Macmillan, Pierre!”

A miniature version of their old Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher ran up. A stout blonde boy with a babyishly pink face and a proper air about him.

“Hufflepuff!”

“Mandy, Fibs!”

“Mandy fibs? That’s not very nice of her,” Gabriel muttered few seats down, making Albus snort with near laughter and causing Redgrow at the high table to frown at him.

“Know the Longbottom twins?” Scorpius muttered.

“Family friends,” Albus shrugged. “They’re younger though so I don’t see them often. I can see why Frank made Hufflepuff though. It suits him.”

“Oh, he has undecided loyalties?” Scorpius quipped.

“Shut it,” Albus muttered.

“Nott, Neil!”

The hat took a while on this boy too. He was stringy and had brown hair that looked like it had recently been in mud. He looked really forlorn and tired like the entire process was a waste of time. Apparently, the hat disagreed though. It took five whole minutes to sort him and still the hat seemed unsure of itself. The boy’s face was screwed up as well, as if thinking really hard. Albus could tell they were having a real argument inside. He stared in half interest until Scorpius snapped him out of it, “Neil Nott. Our fathers have had a lot of meetings lately. I don’t know him too well, though.”

“Gryffindor!”

Scorpius gaped at the hat like it had made the stupidest decision on earth. The stringy boy walked over to the Gryffindor table with an expression of slight disappointment and Albus could tell that he lost whatever battle he had waged. Very few people greeted him with applause, even Mark kept his hands to himself. He took a seat at the very end and ignored the stares and mutterings of those around him. Albus thought vaguely that he would’ve been more kindly welcomed in Slytherin than in Gryffindor.

“Ollivander, Melvin!”

“Ollivander’s son,” Albus muttered. “Met him last summer. A real nasty piece of work when he’s selling wands.”

“Ravenclaw.”

Albus returned to looking around the Hall. Alexis Ackerly was resting her head on her palms. When she noticed Albus looking at her, she gave him a small, tired smile and winked, making his stomach leap. He returned the wink awkwardly and moved his eyes to the Gryffindor table. James’ friend Samuel Redgrow was talking to his sister Fauna. James caught Albus’ eye for the slightest minute and nodded. The Dueling Instructor, Professor Vulneroman’s daughter Flora also seemed rather bored with the night’s proceedings. She was in conversation with Frank Longbottom now.

Up at the high table, the new faces were already making themselves at home. Albus had already had the pleasure of meeting one of them and none of them with the exception of Rolf Scamander had struck him as kindly figures. Finally, Zeller, Mindy Hufflepuff and the lionish Headmaster Albus had grown so used to, and was somewhat pleased to see since laying eyes on the other unpleasant figures, stood up and faced the hall. Albus breathed a sigh of relief. He straightened himself up as the sorting neared its end. Finally, the speech:

“Welcome, all, to Hogwarts!” Galadral Phoenix called. “Now, I have a few words to say, as is our custom before getting down to more important matters. Firstly, the village of Hogsmeade is forbidden to those below third year as is the Forbidden Forest to all students. In light of the unfortunate… departure of our Groundskeeper, Professor Hagrid, Professors Era and Vulneroman and I have cordoned off the Forbidden Forest completely. Please do not attempt to enter the forest unless you wish for an extensive visit to the Hospital Wing.

“Now, we are doing a change of staff this year involving two positions that opened up and a new monitoring system in place at the behest of the Ministry of Magic. First and foremost, due to the unfortunate departure of Hagrid last term, I would like to welcome his replacements. Groundskeeper duties will go to Miss Lycah Thrope who due to her young age will consent to act as assistant to Care of Magical Creatures Professor Rolf Scamander!”

The applause was pounding. Gryffindors wolf-whistled, Lorcan went red as some fellow Slytherins pat his back. Lysander sat at the Gryffindor table, staring mistily up at the ceiling like nothing of particular importance had happened yet. The blonde Rolf Scamander smiled jovially at them all, nodded in acknowledgment, clearly grateful for no lack of excitement. It took a while for the applause to die down and once it did, Phoenix went on, “I am glad the hall seems appreciative. Now, Professor Ernest Macmillan last summer resigned to pursue… other careers and his place will be taken by a new find of mine, Professor Neal Soot who has kindly consented to share what he knows of the Dark Arts for at least two more years. Good luck, Professor.”

The applause this time was polite and accepting. No one had met this man before but he did the same as Rolf and nodded in acknowledgment of the students before turning his head to face Phoenix again, listening intently to his speech himself. Phoenix was not yet finished, “Now, for the first time, Hogwarts will play host to two Overseers from the Ministry of Magic whose stay here will take place from now till the end of Christmas. This is to… err… ensure that students are up to standards in their grades as well as work ethic. I therefore urge each and every one of you to come up to scratch on your work and give no reason for the Ministry to keep their eyes on you. Please, give a warm welcome to Hogwarts Overseer Rojer Selwyn and his right hand Hogan Ridge.”

Applause was very minimal as Rojer stood up. With him stood the square-jawed man who looked around with searching eyes. They seemed to be taking note of the lack of applause. Out of loyalty, Albus kept his hands to himself and Scorpius only clapped once before stopping, going red and keeping his eyes determinedly on the ground.

“Thank you, Hogwarts, I hop”-

“Off that particular note,” Phoenix interrupted, clearly giving Rojer the cold-shoulder. “Quidditch tryouts shall”-

Albus gaped and Scorpius looked at Phoenix with half pride. Phoenix interrupted a man he knew full well was from the Ministry? Could he get away with that? “What does that mean? He asked us to listen to them and then interrupts them himself. Wouldn’t the Ministry”-

“The Ministry hasn’t had control over Hogwarts since the 1990’s,” Scorpius muttered. “Blimey, did you see my Uncle Rojer’s face? He’s not gonna forget this. And see Ridge?”

Albus did. Ridge looked unmistakably furious, like he had just been slapped on the face. Rojer returned to his seat quietly but Ridge, it seemed thought that by remaining standing, Phoenix might realize what he had done and shut himself up for their sake. When it became clear a minute later that Phoenix would do no such thing, he returned to his seat, his large face redder than before.

“And what of that Lycah girl?” Scorpius asked. “Seen the state of her? I guess she’s been home schooled in Wizardry. She looks old enough to have come here for at least three years.”

“And with those final notes, let the feast begin!”