"You're leaving so soon?" Rose followed Albus down the hallway, munching on a tree-shaped sugar cookie. "But the party has barely started! Uncle Percy's family hasn't even come in yet, or Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur…"
"I promised Scorp I'd be there ages ago," Albus sighed apologetically. "Look, it's not like I never get to see my family anyway. Everybody's always coming in and out of Grandma Molly's house."
"And you spend every day with Scorpius!" Rose retorted, her cheeks flushing in anger. "You've stopped talking to James, you barely even talk to me anymore…"
"But I've never gotten to really meet his family. As for not talking to you – I'm sorry. I try to make time, but I'm in a different house!" He protested. Then his expression darkened. "And as for James – that's his fault."
"Albus, you shouldn't fight with your brother."
"You hear the sorts of things he says about me! About my house!" He shook his head. "Never mind. I don't expect you to get it. Look, I need to get going. I'll see you in a few days."
"Well…" She finished the cookie and brushed off the crumbs. "Couldn't I come with you?"
"You don't have anything packed. Your parents wouldn't give you permission. And besides, you can't just invite yourself over to somebody else's house for a few days!"
"I can pack up in about five minutes, they can't say no if I don't ask and I'm sure you could convince Scorpius to let me come with you," she said, ticking off the reasons one by one on her fingers. "Come on, Albus! I'm your cousin. And your friend. And your friends should get to know your other friends, don't you think?" She gave him a too-bright smile but his expression didn't change. "Fine, then! What about inter-house unity? Your dad's always going on about that. Convince Scorpius to let me visit, make a few Slytherin-Ravenclaw connections…"
"Fine!" He threw up his hands in defeat and grabbed a handful of floo power from the jar on the mantle. "Fine! Just stop talking my ear off. We can ask. Alright? Come on. We'll go first and see if it's okay and then you can pop back and grab your stuff."
She clapped him on the back. "Thanks, Al. Knew you'd see it my way."
"I'm going to regret this, aren't I?" He moaned and threw the power into the fire, tugging her in when it turned green. "The Malfoy mansion on Bleecker Street!"
Normie paced and looked at the clock on the microwave nervously. "It's almost seven! The party starts at seven! I don't know what I'm supposed to do." He muttered to nobody in particular.
"Why don't you take a cab over?" Harry's girlfriend Lily suggested brightly, lifting a cup of warm spiked punch to her lips.
The boy glared at her, sneering. "You can't just find their house. It's not that easy, dummy. It has charms and stuff."
Harry crossed his arms and glared back. "You know, I really don't like you hanging out with these freaks…"
The grandfather clock in the hall started chiming the hour and, in between the chimes, Normie heard hoots. Getting up from the table, he barreled down the hall to the clock, followed shortly by his father and Lily. There, atop the clock, was an owl, staring down at them as the clock rang for the last time and the sonorous chime faded.
"Damn it, Normie!" Harry snapped. "I told you, I don't want your friend's pet in the house! It's not sanitary!"
"That's not Quicksilver," Normie whispered. "And he's not carrying a letter. What…"
"Most observant of you, child." Suddenly, in place of the owl, there was a robed man sitting atop the clock. He leapt down, his deep green, embroidered cloak billowing out and giving them the impression that he was floating. "And a very Merry Christmas to you, young Norman."
"Mr. Nott!" He gasped and clapped.
Taking no notice of the other adults present, he handed the boy a package. "Here."
"A present for me?"
"No," he laughed. "Merely proper attire for tonight." Before Normie's face could fall, he went on. "But I do have a gift for you – on I think you'll find to be rather splendid. The only problem is – I need to build it."
"Build it?" Normie looked at him, fingering the deep maroon fabric of his new robes.
"Would you do me the honor of showing me to your room?"
"Hey!" Harry grabbed Nott's shoulder. "What do you think you're doing? This is my house; you can't just invite yourself in! And what do you think you're planning for his room?"
"Touch me again," Nott said, looking him in the eye, "and I'll stupefy you for the whole evening."
His eyes bored into Harry's and then into Lily's, making them shudder. By the time they recovered, Normie and Nott had vanished down the hall and up the stairs.
"So what's my present?" Normie asked, sitting on his bed.
"This. Now, watch carefully." Nott floated the furniture in his room around until there was a blank spot on the wall. "A permanent transfiguration spell, when I use the right materials. Nobody will be able to undo the charm. And you will… well… here." He waved his wand at several stones he'd set on the floor which promptly shaped themselves into an elaborate, tall fireplace, complete with friezes.
"Not a mere fireplace." He withdrew a bottle of green powder from a bag around his waist. "A floo port." He walked up to the flames and extended his hand. "Now come, child. The night grows deep. And we've a celebration to attend."
Harry reached the door just in time to see his son disappear into a green fire.
As her parents drifted off to talk to the other adults, Petra stood still and fidgeted with her sleeve, looking over at the massive table of refreshments that had been set out. She was considering going over and getting something to drink, but was a bit wary of getting anything on the lovely new dress Mr. Nott had given her, despite her parents' objections, to wear that evening. It wasn't often she got clothing so nice and she didn't want to splash it with punch or drop an hors d'oeuvre on it.
"Hey there lovely lady."
Petra turned her head to see Scorpius in a high-collared dress robe. "Scor!" She gave him a hug. "I was wondering why you weren't at your own party."
"It's my parents' party actually," he said, hugging her with a laugh. "And I was trying to make sure I looked perfect for tonight."
"Oh?" She grinned. "Any special reason?" She snapped her fingers. "I know! It must be that charming Normie fellow I heard was coming. Dressing to impress him are we?"
He gave her a light, playful punch to the jaw. "Keep talking like that and people will believe you. Speaking of looking perfect though… wow."
"Your godfather gave it to me." She blushed. "To think, I was going to show up in jeans."
"Well you'd have looked great either way. Red is really your color though – and I love the way it flows. Shall we get something to eat?" He began leading her over to the table.
"I was going to. But I'm worried about the dress." Her blush deepened. "You know I'm a bit messy and I don't want to ruin such a lovely gift."
He shook his head and smiled. "No worries. If my Uncle Nott gave it to you, that means it's wizard clothing, so I'm sure it's been enchanted to be extra stain resistant. And even if you did manage to get something on it, there are spells that can take it off. With all the wizards wandering around here, I'm sure somebody could spare a wand to sop up a punch stain."
"Well then, you've taken away all my objections." She grinned. "And that food looks delicious. Let's eat!"
As they made their way down the line, a hand suddenly grabbed Scorpius' shoulder and he turned to see Albus. "Al! You're here!" He tapped Petra so that she turned around too. "Petra, this is my friend Al, from school."
"You told me about him." She offered Al the hand that wasn't holding her plate. "So is your name really Albus Severus?"
Albus glared. "You told her that?"
"What! It's your full name."
"Don't worry," she whispered. "I laughed when I heard Scorpius Magnus for the first time too."
"Scorp, we gotta talk."
"What's the matter? Here, grab some food." He passed him a plate. "The house elves have been working at it all day. It looks fantastic and, believe me, it probably is."
"Scorp, Rosie followed me," he blurted.
"What?" He didn't look angry, merely surprised.
"She says she wants to get to know my friends. Including you. Says it will build inter-house unity."
Scorpius quirked an eyebrow. "Uh… okay… was she thinking of staying over?"
"Yeah, I think so. Look, I'm sorry, it's really rude, I'll tell her to go…"
"Not at all. I don't mind." The silver-haired boy leaned in. "But isn't her dad going to be furious?" He whispered.
"He kinda doesn't know she's here," Albus explained as he grabbed various little pastries and savory treats.
"Who's Rosie?" Petra asked, popping a petit four into her mouth.
"Al's cousin. A Ravenclaw. Smart, red-head… that's about all I know."
"Bossy," Al filled in, and then cleared his throat when he saw their looks. "She's really nice though, once you get to know her."
"I see." He paused. "Well… do you want her to come?"
Al shrugged. "I have been ignoring her a bit of late, what with all our training and everything. And, well, maybe she does have a point about inter-house unity. Dad's always asking me if we've made friends in other houses."
"What?" Scorpius scoffed. "Like the Gryffindors."
"Something like that."
"So is Rosie your only cousin?" Petra sat down in a chair that Scorpisu pulled out for her.
"Not by a long shot!" Al laughed. "My mum had six brothers and four of them have kids. Not to mention all the really close friends of the family who practically count as cousins. I've got more than I know what to do with." He began eating. "Kinda of why I want to come here," he said between bites. "The house is always way crowded at the holidays. Enough to drive a person spare." He looked at Scor who was seated between Albus and Petra. "But she can come?"
"Fine by me," he shrugged.
"Shouldn't you ask your parents?"
"The house is huge and always half-empty. My parents probably won't even notice. And mom will be more than happy to have more company."
"And your dad?" Albus raised an eyebrow.
"Won't notice?" Scor grinned. "Hey, if she's hanging out with us, getting in trouble… those are the risks."
"I'll go get her." Al winked.
"And make sure she's dressed!" Scorpius whispered. "I'm not big on clothes like these either but the last thing I'm sure she needs is my dad or my grandparents making 'Weasley' remarks!"
"Your grandparents are showing up?" Al and Petra echoed simultaneously.
"Yes! Now go!" He shooed Al away then looked at Petra. "Why are you blushing like that?"
"No reason." She hummed to herself. "So when's Normie getting here?"
"Uncle Nott was going to get him…"
"Right behind you." Normie plunked into the seat next to Petra. "Check out the robes your uncle gave me! Aren't these sweet?! And he installed a floo port in my room!"
"Me too!" Petra grinned. "Seriously, Scor, you have the best godfather ever. I mean, I love my Uncle Pietro. But… wow."
"Oh! And speaking of presents, I brought yours." He winked. "You're going to love it."
Scorpius looked from one friend to the other, both of whom were barely suppressing giggles. "What did you two do? I hate to think…"
"Back!" Albus sat back down, a red-head a few steps behind him.
"Aren't you going to introduce me?" The freckled girl demanded.
"I was getting to that!" He stood back up. "Scor, Petra… Normie?" The other boy nodded. "This is my cousin Rose Weasley. And I'm Al Potter."
"Albus Severus," Rose corrected and Al blushed as Normie stifled a laugh but managed to keep his eyes on Rose.
"Yes." He snapped, irately shaking Normie's hand while trying to glare at Rose. "Albus Severus."
"Well it's good to have you here Rose. Did the house elves get your bags?"
"Yeah, they said they were going to set us up on the third floor."
"You're staying too?" Petra looked over at the girl who nodded. "Cool! We can show you two around the city then."
"We'd love to," Normie added. "You're going to have the time of your life."
"I don't think it could be better than London," Rose said with a snippy air.
"It is," Normie insisted. "I've been to both. I would know."
"Have you been to wizard London?" She challenged.
"Rose!" Al hissed.
"Come on, let's get some food, alright? And I'll show you to my parents." Scorpius tapped their shoulders and tried to gear Rosie away.
The moment he was gone, Petra smiled at Normie. "So, you have the magazine all ready?"
"Ready, wrapped and waiting beneath their family tree. Mr. Nott put it there, especially."
"Did you tell him what was inside?"
"I don't think I need to tell him anything. But I did. Because… you know."
"Yeah. Yeah." She took a drink of punch. "He's really awesome. Sometimes I wonder why he never had kids."
"Who knows?" Normie shrugged. "People who shouldn't have kids do, people who'd be great parents never are… the way things work. Besides, Scorp's his kid, kinda."
"Kinda. And speaking of parents – when do you think his grandparents are going to get here?"
"I dunno. You think his grandpa's going to be mad about the Playwitch?"
"Maybe." Petra grinned. "And if he is, I kinda hope we're there to see it."
"A Weasley?" Draco grumbled.
"Dear!" His wife gave him a warning glance.
"Good relationships with their family would not go amiss," Nott reminded him. "Children of war heroes and all that?"
"Don't remind me."
"Besides, Albus was quite nice. The girl was a bit… strong."
"At least she's not a Gryffindor."
"Dear!" Wanda slapped his arm, and then turned with a smile as a guest came in the door. "Stephen!" She beamed and went over to give him a brief embrace. "How lovely to see you!"
"Good to see you as well, Wanda. Draco. Mr… Nott?"
"Yes." He stretched out his hand. "Good to see you again Dr. Strange."
He nodded. "You'll forgive me if my memory is not all that it could be at the moment."
"Something on your mind?" Wanda asked, coming up to him with punch.
"There always is," he said with a smile and drifted off to mingle.
On his way over to the table of food, he noticed Scorpius brush past him with a wave. As the boy sat down with the four other children, Stephen felt his attention being sharply drawn. He observed them for a few moments: the black haired boy was wildly gesticulating and the others were laughing at whatever story he was telling.
For a brief moment, power had emanated like a breaking wave. It was gone in a moment, however, and with all five so close together there was no way to tell which had caused it. Scorpius' potential was worrying to some, he knew, and he wondered if this wasn't a sign of things to come.
Whatever it signified, though, it meant the boy and his confidants bore close watching.
A/N: Next time, the Malfoy grandparents enter the picture. Along with a few more hints of some long term plans. Oh, and kudos to however gets what the first scene between Nott and Normie is referencing. ;) Oh, and yeah… the floo stuff… couldn't remember if Muggles could floo or not. But we'll say yes, here, if with a wizard. And barring that… Normie and Petra are special? Maybe?
And there it is.