Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
By Silver Sailor Ganymede
Albus Severus Potter did not believe that divination could ever actually provide accurate results. The only reason he had taken it was because both his father and brother had told him that it was an easy subject (albeit a somewhat pointless one, if Aunt Hermione was to be believed) – and Albus was no Hufflepuff, so he certainly wasn't going to waste time toiling miserably over something like arithmancy when he could do something so simple as divination instead.
Rose had been appalled when she heard what he'd decided to do – she took after her mother as much as Albus took after his father in that respect, it seemed. She had spent the next week attempting to convince him to change his mind, but in the end she had realised that Albus was just as stubborn and lazy as his brother and decided to content herself with the fact that he was doing ancient runes, which was a decent, stable subject.
As it was, Albus found himself waiting outside the North Tower for the first time in his life. As for his housemates, he noticed that his cousin Lucy and her friend Jennie were there, and his fellow Gryffindor third-year boys (his cousin Freddie, Jason Thomas, Dean Finnigan and David Wood) had all opted to do divination, too – and for much the same reason as Albus himself, it soon transpired. There were a surprising number of Ravenclaws in the class (though neither Rose nor Louis were present, he noticed; they were bound to have taken something more 'sensible'), and it seemed all of Hufflepuff seemed to have taken it, but there was a single Slytherin boy skulking in the corner, his head buried in some obscure tome of a book. The sheets of flaxen hair covering the Slytherin's face showed Albus that it was Scorpius Malfoy. Who else hid behind their hair like that?
Finally the trapdoor above them opened and a staircase descended, sending with it the strong stench of incense, tea and ageing cats. Albus noted that Freddie looked thoroughly annoyed – evidently he had been expecting something a little more dramatic than that; trips up to the attic in Freddie's house were almost invariably accompanied by loud bangs as ancient boxes of fireworks spontaneously exploded as soon as you so much as looked at them. At least that was what had happened the last time they were up there, Albus recalled.
"You may enter." The voice that floated down from the tower had the same quality as the incense, Albus decided – it was extremely soporific. He blinked, realising that the others had already started to make their way upstairs, and he ran up after them, narrowly avoiding standing on the back of Scorpius Malfoy's oversized cloak as he did so.
Albus' first impression of the classroom itself was not a good one. The hangings were all in mute shades of raspberry and plum, and the furnishings were plush and mismatched. Crystal balls sat on each, low table, and there was a jumbled collection of willow-patterned teacups sitting haphazardly on a shelf in the corner.
If the room was odd, however, it was nothing compared to the teacher. Professor Trelawney was an ancient old witch with astonishingly wild grey hair and impossibly thick glasses. She was the same Professor who had taught Albus' father and Uncle Ron divination when they were at Hogwarts, and by the looks of things she might actually have been as mad as Uncle Ron suggested.
Albus stopped gawping for a minute and looked for a place to sit. He realised with dismay that the only seats left were those at the same table as Scorpius Malfoy. He suppressed a groan; maybe Rose was right. Maybe he shouldn't have taken divination after all – he definitely wouldn't have if he'd realised that it would mean three years of sitting next to Malfoy, who was probably the most antisocial person Albus had ever met. He wasn't unpleasant, not really: he just didn't speak. Ever.
Albus groaned mentally, resigned himself to his fate and sat down next to Malfoy, who didn't even look up from the book he was reading. Sometimes Albus wondered why Malfoy hadn't been in Ravenclaw; the only time he recalled seeing the boy without a book in his hands was at their Sorting.
The Sorting had been a nerve-wracking day for Albus. James' taunts about his possibly ending up in Slytherin had plagued him throughout the train-ride, so the first thing he had done upon putting on the Sorting Hat was to plead with it to put him in any house other than Slytherin, just like his father before him had done. The Hat had soon announced him a Gryffindor and not long after that Freddie had joined him, Louis and Rose had become Ravenclaws, and all was well in the world again.
Something clinked as it was put down in front of him and Albus jumped, breaking out of his daydreams once again. Malfoy was sitting down opposite him and there were two of the willow-pattered cups and a pot of steaming hot tea on the table in front of them, and Professor Trelawney was droning on about the precise art of reading tea leaves. Evidently he had drifted off for a bit longer than he had thought.
Malfoy poured a cup of tea for himself and then passed the teapot to Albus, who looked at it with a blank expression on his face.
"You know, I've never seen the point of tasseomancy." This caught Albus totally off-guard; was Malfoy speaking of his own accord?
"What's tasseomancy?" he asked.
"Reading tealeaves. And on that note, you do realise that you're supposed to pour yourself a cup of tea, drink it and then read the leaves," Malfoy drawled, looking as though he was finding it hard to resist the urge to roll his eyes. "You really weren't listening to a thing Professor Trelawney said, were you?"
Albus was beginning to feel more and more shocked as this lesson progressed. The other boy had just uttered more words in the last few seconds than Albus had heard in say in two years.
"N… no, I wasn't," Albus replied. "I think it's the incense; it's making me a bit drowsy."
Malfoy sighed. "I suppose that makes sense. She is burning rather a heavily scented one. Opium, if I'm not mistaken." He took a sip of his tea, which reminded Albus that of what he was supposed to be doing. He poured himself a cup of tea, gulped it down and nearly spat it out again; it was boiling hot and scalded his tongue as he swallowed.
Malfoy looked at Albus incredulously. "It's hot, you know."
"Well done for stating the obvious," Albus muttered. It still hadn't quite sunk in yet that he was having a conversation with Scorpius Malfoy of all people. Scorpius Malfoy, whom up until a few minutes ago he had thought of as one of the most antisocial people on the face of the Earth.
Professor Trelawney was telling them that they should all have at least begun to figure out what their teacups were telling them, so Albus forced himself to finish his tea, wincing as he did so and then he began to see if he could get an intelligible message out of the tealeaves. Needless to say it was proving impossible, and as luck would have it Trelawney decided to station herself right beside him and Scorpius.
"So what do you see, my boy?" Trelawney asked.
Albus frowned and decided that the best thing to do would be to follow James' advice (for what would probably be the only time in his life; James wasn't the best person to get guidance from, as he'd learnt over the years) and make up things and read back the definitions from the textbook next to him.
"Umm, I see… a book. It's closed, so that means I'm going to be looking for answers to things. And that's a… I think that's a drum, so that means change. Is that why I'm questioning things, because stuff's changing? And then I can see a spider, so that means I'm going to win something. So I'm going to win something because stuff's changing but I'm going to get very confused along the way."
Professor Trelawney nodded in approval. "I see your third eye is very much opened, boy. Just like your father."
From somewhere behind him, Albus heard Freddie unsuccessfully attempt to suppress a snicker. Luckily Trelawney didn't hear him, as she had already moved to the other side of the table and started to busy herself with Malfoy's tealeaves.
"I see an oak, so that means long li…" Malfoy began, but he was soon interrupted by a screech from Trelawney.
"Boy, you are in danger. I see the Grim in your cup, the Grim!"
Malfoy, however, looked totally unimpressed. "I'm sorry, Professor, but I don't see a Grim in these leaves. I see an oak tree, a sheep and a ring, none of which suggest the misfortune implied by the appearance of a Grim."
Professor Trelawney wasn't listening: she was howling in despair. "Your future is bleak, Mr. Malfoy. I'm terribly sorry but your third eye needs much more training if you can't accept your fate." She looked set to carry on her tirade, but then she realised that the lesson had come to an end. Malfoy had disappeared from the classroom before she even had time to finish her sentence.
"So, who's going to die this year, Asp?"
Albus looked over at his older brother, surprised that James was willingly talking to him in front of all his cool, older friends. He ignored the fact that his brother had used his much-despised nickname and then said, "What?"
"Articulate, you are," James laughed. "Like I said, who's going to die this year? Trelawney predicts the death of a student every year, you know; last year it was me who was supposed to die, so that shows how accurate her predictions are. Dad says she's not as much of fraud as she looks, but like Hell I believe that. So anyway, are you carrying on the great Potter tradition of having your death predicted by the Mad Lady of the North Tower?"
"Nah," Freddie replied before Albus had a chance to speak. "Apparently Malfoy's the next in line to die."
"Good!" James stated. "Slimy little Slytherin bastard if ever there was one, that one."
"Yeah – and he was talking today!"
James looked stunned. "Malfoy talks? I thought he was mute!"
Albus was beginning to feel awkward. "Malfoy's not so bad guys. At least he seems nice enough when he actually decides to say something."
James shook his head in despair. "You've been brainwashed by his sly, slimy Slytherinness already, Asp. You poor, poor boy. He's a Malfoy, how could he not be evil?" He turned back to Freddie. "Oh well, looks like we'll have to wait and see if Lily's going to be the next Potter to die prematurely now."
Albus sighed and turned his attention to his food instead of his brother. He'd only had a very brief conversation with Scorpius Malfoy, but it had been enough to convince him that maybe the other boy wasn't as bad as everyone said he was.
"I still honestly don't understand why you took divination," Rose said with a sigh. "It's such a cop-out, it really is. And it's not as if you're not bright; you're far smarter than most of my housemates, actually. Adam Goldstein, for example; I really can't believe that boy's a Ra…"
"Rose, you're ranting again," Louis sighed. "I like Adam. He might have some slightly daft ideas sometimes, but at least he's nice."
"Slightly daft?" Rose sounded totally exasperated. "What, like going on a trek to the top of the astronomy tower and losing Ravenclaw fifty points?"
"That wasn't just him, that was Maurice as well…"
"I don't care who it was, and they're all stupid for having done it," Rose huffed. "But like I was just saying, I really don't understand why you're doing divination!"
Albus just shrugged in reply. It really wasn't a good thing to try and talk to Rose when she was in one of these moods; she was just like Auntie Hermione, she really was. The only differences were that Rose had red hair, was a Ravenclaw and didn't have any trouble when it came to flying. Other than that they were terrifyingly similar.
Right now they were sitting in the grounds, under one of the willow trees by the Great Lake. It was a nice enough day that they could get away with sitting outside. When the weather was bad they'd either go into a Ravenclaw common room or the Gryffindor one; because Rose and Louis were both Weasleys no one seemed to mind them going into Gryffindor Tower, and it wasn't a challenge for Albus to solve the riddles and get into Ravenclaw Tower on his own.
"Anyway," Louis said. "Who's supposed to die this year?"
Albus groaned. "Not you too. James was going on about that over lunch."
"So it is you then?"
"No; Professor Trelawney seems to have given up on predicting the deaths of every member of the Potter family for the moment," Albus replied.
"Maybe she's realised that her predictions are a load of rubbish," Rose sniffed.
"No; someone's going to die, just not me."
"Who is it then?" Louis asked, getting impatient. "Come on, Al, I want to know!"
"Well according to Trelawney, Malfoy's going to die," Albus said.
"I'm amazed she even noticed he was there," Louis stated. "I've never heard him say anything. He's always got his head in a book."
"There's nothing wrong with that," Rose snapped. "Maybe he just likes reading."
"Or maybe he's mute," Louis said only half-joking.
"He's not" Albus corrected him. "I had a conversation with him in divination this morning."
Louis' jaw dropped. "You had a conversation with Malfoy? Are you mad?"
"I don't see why everyone thinks there's something wrong with him."
"He's a Malfoy you idiot! They're all a load of Death Eaters."
"Louis, be reasonable" Rose sighed. "You're starting to sound like Hugo. None of us were even born then – how could Malfoy possibly be a Death Eater?"
"Alright," Louis said, giving in. "But seriously, everyone would go nuts if they found out you'd been talking to a Malfoy. You know our families don't get on."
Rose paled. "Oh no, I have to go!"
"What is it, Rose? Wait up!"
"I told Lily I'd meet her in the library at 6pm to help her with her transfiguration homework; I'm already five minutes late!"
With that she sprinted off. Albus wrinkled his nose at the thought of willingly helping his annoying, first-year sister with her homework; he already saw enough of her in Gryffindor Tower, so the idea of helping her study didn't appeal to him.
"I have to get going too, mate, sorry," Louis said. "I told Maurice and Adam I'd go play gobstones with them, see if we can beat some of Maurice's brother's sixth year friends."
"Have fun. I'm staying out for a bit; we've got ages till curfew," Albus said quickly. There was very little he hated more than gobstones. With that Louis left, too, and Albus was left sitting on his own under the willow tree. He decided he may as well go for a walk around the grounds; he hadn't had time to do so since they'd got back to school for the new year. He picked up his bag and started to stroll along the edge of the lake.
The grounds were mostly deserted, with students either struggling to make headway on their work or talking among themselves in the common rooms. It was getting cold now, so Albus drew his cloak tighter around him as he walked. He didn't see anyone at all for a while, and then he suddenly caught sight of a group of people. He soon realised that they were all Slytherins in his year, and that Scorpius Malfoy was right in the middle of the group.
"Come on, Malfoy; you know you want to do our homework for us." A tall, thickset boy with messy black hair was the one talking – Janus Rosier, the ringleader of the Slytherins. "That's all a bloodtraitor like you is useful for anyway."
Malfoy didn't open his mouth. He simply glared at Rosier as though he were something unpleasant stuck to the bottom of his shoe, an expression that did not sit well with the other boy.
"Speak, bloodtraitor," Rosier hissed. "We know you can, so why don't you? Afraid of the sound of your own voice? Seeing as your family are such traitorous cowards…"
Albus shook his head in dismay. How could Malfoy stand this? And that hideous language Rosier was using – it was disgusting.
"Leave him alone!" Albus shouted, marching right over to the Slytherins.
"Oh look, now you've had to have a Gryffindork come and save you," Rosier said and his friends guffawed.
"You need a lesson in humour if you think that's funny," Albus said, rolling his eyes.
"Just the sort of dragon dung you'd expect from a bloodtraitor like you, Potter."
"Use that word again and I'll report you to Professor McGonagall," Albus replied. "It's almost as disgusting as you are."
"Do you want me to hex you?"
"Just try it!"
Rosier's eyes narrowed. "C'mon boys, let's leave the bloodtraitors alone before they pollute us as well."
With that Rosier and his cronies walked off, leaving Albus with Malfoy.
"Are you alright?" Albus asked.
Malfoy's reaction was not at all what he was expecting. "Why did you do that?" he snapped. "You just completely humiliated me! At least if you'd stayed out of it all they would have done would have been to hex me. Now they're not going to let me live this down for months!"
"Fine," Albus snapped back. "Have it your way. I was just trying to help, but now I can see that you really are a jerk!"
He turned and stormed back to the castle, leaving Malfoy behind him. He should never have bothered trying to help. Stupid Gryffindor instincts…
Weeks passed. James pulled pranks, Hugo complained about not being able to try out for the Quidditch team, and Scorpius Malfoy remained silent as ever. In short everything had gone back to normal after that rather odd day in September when Albus had had his first divination lesson.
Things started to change again one day when Professor Trelawney announced one day that she had had a premonition telling her that it was no longer safe for the class to practice reading tealeaves, and so they were moving on to tarot cards significantly earlier than expected. Albus later found out that her sudden 'premonition' had in fact been due at least in part to the fact that James and two of his friends had 'accidentally' caused a number of her precious willow-patterned cups to 'spontaneously' blow up. It wouldn't be long before James was giving Uncle George a run for his money in the pranks department; that was one prediction Albus could make with certainty.
Professor Trelawney was walking round the room now, handing out ancient, battered packs of tarot cards to everyone. She dropped one in front of Albus, who noted that they were the same colour as the hangings on the walls next to him and that there was a large, scarlet ink-stain on the box, and then handed one to Malfoy, who handed the box straight back to her.
"I don't need those, Professor," Malfoy said. These were the first words he'd spoken in class since their first lesson, and so it took everyone by surprise.
"And why is that, my dear boy? Is your third eye too closed to see the…"
"No, Professor," Malfoy said waspishly, "it's just that I've already got my own cards, and one produces the most accurate results with ones own cards, just like one produces the most powerful spells with ones own wand."
"But you need to learn how to use the card before you can say such things," Trelawney said. "It is a delicate art."
"And one that my grandmother's been teaching me since I was seven," Malfoy replied. "I think I should have a basic grasp on it by now, don't you?"
Professor Trelawney evidently decided it would be better not to argue with Malfoy on that point, as she took back her tattered pack of tarot cards and let Malfoy use his own without making any further complaints.
"Stupid woman," Malfoy muttered under his breath. "I'm beginning to wonder if she knows a single thing about divination, I really am."
Albus was wondering whether he should open his mouth to agree with Malfoy (which, privately, he did), when Trelawney announced that they would be working in pairs for this lesson – this, of course, meant that he and Malfoy would have to communicate, Malfoy's rudeness and James' warnings to Albus about not talking to Slytherins be damned.
"Right, so we're starting off reading each other, correct?" Malfoy said. "Ergh, I hate doing this. I'm much happier reading my own cards, I really am."
He took a small, square object wrapped in purple silk out of his bag. Albus wondered if he always carried it with him, as Trelawney had given them no prior warning about today's change of lesson plan. He unwrapped the silk and set a set of tarot cards on the table in front of him, them handed them to Albus.
"You shuffle them and then I'll read them. I don't give a damn how Trelawney does things; this is how Grandmamma taught me to read the cards."
Albus took the cards in his hands. They felt icy cold. He wondered briefly what sorts of enchantments Malfoy had put on these cards.
"Don't ask me," Malfoy said, sensing the question Albus was about to ask. "They belonged to my great-grandfather, Abraxas; if there's any sort of charms on them then they'd be his doing, not mine."
"When do I stop shuffling?" Albus asked.
"Whenever you feel that you ought to stop," came the reply.
"Ok," said Albus, handing the cards back to Malfoy, who put them down on the table and then laid out three cards in a line in front of him.
"Right, this first card represents your past, the second your present and the third your future," Malfoy said, turning the cards over. "Ok, this first card is the eight of Wands. This basically shows a surge of energy. Probably because you've been excited about coming back to Hogwarts, I'm guessing. This second card is the Ace of Pentacles. This card indicates the beginning of a new project – so I'm assuming it refers to this class. And finally this card is the Fool, which implies that you'll have new beginnings pretty soon, and that you ought to make the best of the opportunities given to you in the near future. Make any sense?"
Albus sat there, shocked. It was almost like Malfoy had used legilimency on him (except, of course, he knew that he hadn't. Malfoy was the same age as him, still a young wizard-in-training, so how could he possibly have used legilimency?)
"How did you do that?" he asked at last, amazed. He was beginning to think that his father, Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione were wrong about divination. "You got it spot on. And how do you know all the different meanings of the cards? There are so many of them!" Albus was beginning to panic – he would never be able to do this.
"Like I said earlier, my grandmother started teaching me how to read cards when I was seven-years-old, so I've had my fair share of practice," Malfoy replied. "Anyway, I could always, you know, help you if you're finding this a little hard. I mean, only if you want me to, of course…"
"Sure," Albus said, smiling. "I'd like that."
Once again he had come to the conclusion that Scorpius Malfoy wasn't so much of a jerk as he made himself out to be a lot of the time.
It was raining, but Albus didn't care. He was completely sheltered under the willow tree, and he liked being alone in the grounds. Well, almost alone. He could see Malfoy hurrying towards him now, some sort of protective charm repelling the heavy rain away from him. Malfoy sat down besides Albus.
"Do you want more help with divination?" he asked.
"Not really," Albus replied. "I just thought you might want some shelter from Rosier and the others; they're never going to follow you outside in this weather, seeing as they're all too stupid to be able to pull of any sort of water-repelling charm."
Malfoy winced at the mention of Rosier's name. Albus wondered for a moment whether it had been a bad idea to bring him up, but then Malfoy started speaking. Not in the usual bored-know-it-all tone of voice he used either. He was really, willingly talking to Albus.
"I shouldn't have reacted the way I did when you helped me a while back," Malfoy said. "It's just that Slytherin doesn't operate on the same sort of rules as the other houses do. In Slytherin it's not good to show any sign of weakness, and the weakest person of all is the one who has other people fight his battles for him. At least that's what I've always been told.
"I didn't want to be a Slytherin, you know." He sighed at the shocked expression on Albus' face. "I tried to convince the Sorting Hat to put me in Ravenclaw, but it said I wouldn't be happy there. As if I'm happy now," he spat. "It didn't even give me a chance. Just like everyone else. They hear the name 'Malfoy' and they assume you're pure evil. It's ridiculous. That's why I never really spoke much, because I thought that no one would listen to me anyway."
"So why did you decide to speak to me?" Albus asked. It was something he'd been quite curious about for a while.
"Because you interest me," came the blunt reply. "You're a snake in lions' clothing, Potter, you realise that?"
Albus frowns. "Why do you think that?"
"Because your name is Asp. Albus Severus Potter – Asp. Your very name's a snake's name," he laughed. "And you don't usually act like a Gryffindor. Except for when you put Rosier and the others in their places; that was the only time I've understood why you're in the house you're in."
Albus decided that Malfoy was strange. Yes, there was no denying that he was odd, but there was no harm in him. In fact when he thought about it Malfoy reminded him a little of Rose. He laughed.
"What is it?" Malfoy asked.
"Nothing, nothing," Albus said. "I just realised how similar you are to my cousin."
"Which cousin?" Malfoy asked. "You have too many of them for me to automatically know which one you're talking about."
"Never mind; it doesn't matter," Albus replied. "You know what? Everyone's really wrong about you, Malfoy. You're a nice guy."
Malfoy's face flushed scarlet. The sight was somewhat shocking considering that the boy was usually deathly pale. Albus couldn't quite tell whether Malfoy was blushing because he was infuriated at being called 'a nice guy' (which Slytherins tried to make themselves out not to be, because being overly nice made them look weak) or because he was so totally unused to being given compliments.
"You know, no one's ever called me 'nice' before," Malfoy said, his tone distant. "It's not something anyone expects me to be, I suppose."
"Well I think you are," Albus replied. "And I'm sure my cousins all will once they get to know you."
"What do you mean, once the get to know me?" Scorpius said, frowning.
"I mean that I'm inviting you to hang round with us – I mean, if you want to, that is. If you don't want to you don't have to. But anyway, if you want you can meet me, Rose, Louis and a couple of other people in the library after dinner tomorrow."
"Thanks, Asp," Malfoy replied. "I may take you up on that offer."
It was then that Albus saw Malfoy smile for the first time since they'd started at Hogwarts.
"What the Hell is Malfoy doing here!" James snarled upon seeing Malfoy.
"He's come to study with us," Albus replied. "He's helping me with the charms homework we have, and then maybe we'll do some divination practice, too. In fact, I think it'd be rather good if he helped you with divination as well, James, because you're going to fail it otherwise."
James looked thoroughly unimpressed at this suggestion. "How on earth do you expect a third year brat like you to be able to help me?"
"If I remember correctly, Rose was helping you with your muggle studies essay last week," Albus shot back.
"That doesn't count! Rose's grandparents are muggles, she's bound to know more about them than we do."
"So? Our dad grew up with muggles, too. Your excuse is rubbish, James," Albus sighed. "What are you doing anyway?"
"Transfiguration essay," James muttered. "And it was going ok until you came along and interrupted me."
"Right, so writing your name and doodling all over your parchment counts as 'going ok' for you, does it?" Albus drawled. James suppressed what Albus suspected was a snort of laughter. "What are you laughing at?"
"You really have been spending too much time with Malfoy," James replied, speaking as though Malfoy weren't standing right next to Albus. "You're starting to sound like a Slytherin." Albus wanted to argue, but before he had had a chance to open his mouth, James had stood up. "Sod this. I'm going to the common room before Rose appears and makes me look stupid again. See you, snake-lover!"
The librarian shot a filthy look over in James' direction, but he had bolted out of the library before she had a chance to say anything. Moments later Rose and Louis strode in, dragging a highly unimpressed-looking Freddie and David with them.
"What was James running away from this time? Did he set off another firework in here? I'm going to kill him if he has; he promised he'd wait for me to be there before he did!" Freddie ranted as he sat down. "Oh, hia Malfoy." He did a double take, realising what he'd just said. "What are you doing here?"
"He's with me," Albus said.
David groaned, "Should have figured."
Rose was the only one who didn't appear too surprised by Malfoy's presence. Instead she decided that they should all concentrate on what they were supposed to be doing – writing their charms essays.
"Right, so we have to write an essay on the possible reasons for having to use cheering charms," Rose stated.
Freddie and David both groaned, looking as though they would much rather be anywhere other than in the library doing homework.
It was then that Malfoy leaned over and whispered to Albus, "It looks like those two could use a cheering charm or two right now."
Albus laughed and so did Malfoy, much to everyone's astonishment.
"You have a sense of humour?" Freddie asked, shocked, but Louis poked him in the side and reminded him not to be rude, and that they had work to be getting on with.
For the rest of the evening, despite the difficult homework they had to work on, Scorpius Malfoy looked genuinely happy.
When Albus stumbled through the portrait hole to the Gryffindor common room past curfew for the fourth night in a row, Freddie shook his head in exasperation.
"You've been out with the bloody Slytherins again, haven't you?"
"No," Albus replied. "Not with Slytherins. Just with Malfoy. We were…"
"Working on your tarot reading, we know," David replied, rolling his eyes. "Man, you're going to turn into Professor Trelawney mark two if we're not careful."
"You know that James would be disappointed in you," Freddie said. "Out past curfew and you're not even causing total havoc."
Albus rolled his eyes and sat down. "Anyone fancy a game of exploding snap?"
Their game was only ended when Victoire came down and shouted at them all to get to bed before she took points off Gryffindor for the amount of noise they were causing.
"I've never been to Hogsmeade before."
Malfoy's announcement shocked Albus. No wonder the other boy looked so excited. He honestly couldn't believe that a pureblood like Malfoy had never been to Hogsmede. Then again, he mused, the Malfoys weren't a particularly well-liked family among much of the wizarding world, so maybe they tended to stay away from crowded places like Hogsmeade.
"I can't believe they had to cancel the first Hogsmeade weekend because of the weather," Malfoy continued. "I was really looking forward to it, and then we woke up in the morning to be told that it'd been cancelled because of a snow storm! It's idiotic."
"So, seeing as you've never been to Hogsmeade, is there anywhere you'd like to go in particular?" Albus asked.
"I'm not sure. Maybe we could go and see the Shrieking Shack first? And then we could always go get some butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, couldn't we? I've heard that it's really nice there."
"It is!" Albus agreed. "And then we could meet Rose and Louis in there, if you want." He still felt a little annoyed that his cousins had decided to go off on their own rather than coming with him and Scorpius. He supposed that they just weren't quite used to being seen with a Slytherin yet.
They wandered into Hogsmeade itself, Scorpius gazing round in barely concealed glee at all the shops. It felt so nice to be free of the school grounds for the first time in months. No matter how beautiful Hogwarts was, it still got a little dull every now and then.
They walked up the hill towards the Shrieking Shack, which looked even more dilapidated than it had the last time Albus had seem it a couple of years back. It really was rather creepy. He looked at Malfoy and saw him shiver slightly.
"Well, well, well. Look what we have here – it's Bloodtraitors United," came a drawling voice from behind them.
Albus groaned as he realised that Rosier and his gang of goons had followed them up to the Shrieking Shack. In their excitement at having left the school grounds, Albus and Scorpius had completely failed to notice them.
"Sod off, Rosier. It's a nice day and we're not in the mood for any rubbish from you," Albus snapped.
"Rude, aren't you? Then again I don't suppose we could expect much more from a filthy little bloodtraitor like y…" A streak of black came racing across to them and a blinding streak of light hit Rosier straight in the middle of the chest, cutting him off in the middle of his sentence. Albus saw that it was James, accompanied by two of his fourth year friends.
"You leave my brother alone, you slimy git!" James shouted, and it was then that Albus realised that James hadn't been lying when he said that he had inherited their mother's aptitude for that particular curse. Rosier doubled up on the ground, attempting in vain to shield himself from the vicious attacks of his own snot. The other Slytherins had already sprinted off, afraid they'd be the next ones to find themselves on the wrong end of one of James' hexes.
Albus opened his mouth to say thank you, but the first thing he actually said was "You're going to get in trouble for that when we get back to the castle!"
"So? I couldn't let that lot get away with picking on my brother and his friend, could I?" James replied. "Anyway, Rosier will keep his big gob shut if he doesn't want me to hex him doubly hard next time." He grinned wickedly, reminding Albus of old photographs of Uncle Sirius that his father had shown them.
Malfoy looked at James, clearly embarrassed by the fact that he had had to rely on someone else to get rid of the bullies for him once again.
"Thank you," he muttered, and James looked amazed.
"Don't mention it. Like I said, no one gets away with hurting Asp or his friends; that's my job." He winked at them and turned back to his friends. "Come on you two! Are we going to try and break into the Shrieking Shack or not?"
Albus rolled his eyes glanced over at Malfoy. "We'd better get out of here then, before they rope us into one of their pranks. Where do you want to go now, Malfoy?"
"To get some butterbeer," came Malfoy's reply. "And for goodness sake, Asp – call me Scorpius!"
Something good was going to happen that day: Albus could tell that much as soon as he woke up. He didn't really know what the aforementioned 'good thing' was, but he knew that there was something there. Maybe he was developing into a Seer already, he thought, but then he realised that there was no chance of that happening. Malfoy had explained to him that true Seers were born, not made, and as far as Albus knew no one in his family had been a Seer.
He had been back at home for the Christmas holidays for three days so far. Ever since James had scared Rosier and the others away, Albus and Malfoy had grown closer and closer. Even James, Louis and Rose were beginning to like him now, though Freddie still seemed to need quite a lot of convincing. He had sent Malfoy a large number of chocolate frogs for Christmas, but he wasn't really expecting anything in return.
It was then that he heard a tapping at the window. He considered ignoring it (his bed was warm and comfortable, and the tapping was possibly one of James' rather annoying wake-up-call pranks), but something told him that this wasn't his brother bothering him again.
He got out of bed and stared out the window to see a large eagle owl hovering out there, a small package clasped in its talons. He opened the window and the owl dropped the package on his bed before swooping out again.
Albus recognised the slanting, loopy handwriting on the envelope, and realised that this was probably his Christmas present from Scorpius. He left the package alone, resisting the urge to open it, but he ripped open the letter at once. It read:
I have sent your Christmas present along with this letter. I hope that you are having an enjoyable Christmas holiday so far. Mother, Father and I will be spending this Christmas with Grandmamma Narcissa, as usual. Luckily Mother's side of the family are rather busy at the moment – I know it seems mean to say that, but it's true!
Anyway, your Christmas present is a set of tarot cards. I know I'm not supposed to tell you what they are, but I don't want to wait. They're proper ones like the ones Grandmamma Narcissa gave me, not useless, cheap rubbish like Professor Trelawney insists on using. I did consider sending you a tea set, but then I figured that the cards would be a better idea. You seem to enjoy reading them so much.
Do you think your parents would allow you to come and spend some time with my family before the holidays are over? I've already talked this over with my father, and while he seemed surprised at first (I would be, too, of course; who ever would have thought that'd I'd have friends at all, let alone ones in Gryffindor and Ravenclaw?) he said you were very welcome to come and see me. Your cousins and brother are invited too, of course – at least if they can stand my company for a whole day, that is.
Again, I hope you are having a wonderful holiday,
Send my regards to all,
Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy
Albus grinned. He had to go downstairs and show his present and Scorpius' letter to everyone.
He found his father in one of the sitting rooms, talking to his Uncle Ron. Probably about Quidditch, knowing them. It was odd, Albus thought, that he had grown up in a family which was so obsessed with Quidditch, yet he didn't see the appeal of the game at all.
"Dad," Albus asked, walking over to where his father and uncle were sitting. "Dad, dad, can I go and visit Scorpius Malfoy sometime before we have to go back to school?"
"Of course you can," Harry said absent-mindedly, then looked up at his son in shock as he realised what he had just said.
"Scorpius Malfoy?" Uncle Ron said incredulously. "But… but he's a Malfoy! And a Slytherin! What are you hanging round with Slytherins for!"
"I'm not hanging round with Slytherins, Uncle Ron," Albus explained. "Just Scorpius. And even if you and dad didn't get on with his dad, Scorpius and I get along great!
"So please can I go, dad? Please?"
Harry laughed. "I haven't heard anyone beg for something like that since your brother tried to convince me to buy him a Nimbus 3001 two years ago. Well, you'll have to ask your mother, but I guess it's fine by me. It's your business who you're friends with – and if Scorpius Malfoy's turned out to be a better person than his father was when we were your age then I'm glad for both of you."
Albus smiled, still clutching the letter in his hand. He had a new friend – a friend whom he'd never have guessed he would have had, not even a couple of months ago. No matter what Aunt Hermione said about it being a weak subject, Albus Severus Potter was now thoroughly convinced that taking divination this year was one of the best choices he'd ever made.