Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all of its characters belong to J.K. Rowling. I own nothing except a few random characters in this fic, which consist of a couple of owls and a house-elf. That is it.
A/N: A big hello to everyone! Now...where to start! Well, three years ago I wrote a Harry Potter story called The Pride of Slytherin, which received some great reviews and some mixed reviews, and I loved every single one of those reviews. Though I doubt a certain reviewer of mine even remembers this, three years ago Kouji-wolf asked me if I could perhaps write more about Albus and Scorpius, and then made the suggestion about perhaps doing a fic about Albus spending his Christmas break at Malfoy Manor, which I had mentioned in The Pride of Slytherin. Three years later, that fic is finally here. (Hey, better late than never, right?) So, a big thank you to Kouji-wolf, who deserves a shout out and some credit for this fic! There is also one other thing I would like to mention, this fic is, in fact, a sequel to The Pride of Slytherin, which means there is one thing I would like to address. I received some mixed reviews for The Pride of Slytherin about using Slytherin as a scapegoat and my somewhat 'anti-Slytherin' approach in the story. I would just like to say this. I absolutely adore Slytherin house and those who belong to it. Two of my all time favorite characters (Draco and Snape) are from Slytherin house. My views are not reflected in these stories. I am merely writing them the way I felt J.K. Rowling would have written them if she'd been writing these stories herself. One of my original options had been to place Albus and Scorpius in Slytherin house, where you would have gotten a very different view of Slytherin had I chosen to do that, but I've seen the whole 'Albus in Slytherin' thing many times and felt it would be more interesting to go the other way and have Scorpius in Gryffindor house. We know how the Potters and Weasleys would have felt about Albus being in Slytherin. They wouldn't have cared, but how would the Malfoys feel about Scorpius being in Gryffindor? A much more interesting idea and one I will explore in future stories. That is it from me. Feel free to leave me a review, whether good or bad, as I always enjoy hearing other people's opinions. I just don't want everyone thinking I'm a Slytherin hater!
The large, fluffy flakes of pure white snow falling in lazy spirals from the pale gray sky on the other side of the glass were so beautiful they were almost breathtaking in their delicate appearance, and smiling to himself, Albus Potter continued to gaze silently out of the frost-covered window of his best friend's second floor bedroom, his bright green eyes eagerly scanning the front lawn down below. A blanket of new snow covered the faded brown grass lying dormant beneath a huge expanse of white, biding its time until the coming of spring when it would once again make a triumphant return, and the wrought-iron gates in the distance sparkled with a fine sheet of ice. Thanks to last night's storm, Malfoy Manor looked like a winter wonderland and Albus couldn't wait to get outside to test his snowball throwing skills against his best mate and fellow Gryffindor student, Scorpius Malfoy.
Speaking of Scorpius...
Albus turned slightly to gaze at the pale blond head just barely poking out of the deep blue sheets covering the double bed situated in the left-hand corner of the room, right next to the window where Albus had stationed himself for a good look at the grounds below, and shaking his head in amusement, he gave Scorpius an exasperated look that went unseen.
Scorpius was snoring softly beneath the sheets, the gold and scarlet Gryffindor banner hanging on the wall above his head shining faintly in the weak light of the sun, its pale rays trying valiantly to break through the clouds, though alas despite putting up a brave fight, the gray mist hovering over the manor refused to dissipate, and though Scorpius was still more or less covered up, his sheets were a tangled mess.
On the other side of the room near the wardrobe, the cot Albus was using for a temporary place to sleep stood empty, and on the desk on the opposite side of the window two owls hooted softly from their cages, their gleaming eyes watching him with mild curiosity.
Both owls had been shut in for the night due to the storm, and raising his dark eyebrows at the owl closest to him, he plastered what he hoped was an apologetic smile on his face. "Sorry about sticking you in your cage, Zephyr, but Scorpius and I thought it would be best if you and Ninlil stayed in for the night. Don't worry, though, I'll let you guys out as soon as Scorpius wakes up."
Zephyr's response was to give him a reproachful look.
"I said I was sorry! There's no need to be like that!"
Zephyrus, a male screech owl who had been a gift from his parents for his eleventh birthday, and whom he had named himself, was normally a loyal companion and a source of comfort when he was upset, but at the moment his owl wasn't being particularly understanding, which he thought was a bit unfair considering the circumstances.
Next to Zephyr, the female snowy owl belonging to Scorpius hooted in sympathy and crossing his arms over his chest, Albus gave his own owl a meaningful look. "See? Ninlil understands. Now, I guess I should wake Scorpius. His snoring is just as bad here as it is in Gryffindor Tower!"
Albus arrived at Malfoy Manor with his cousin Rose Weasley yesterday evening, on Christmas Day to be exact, and since both of them were underage wizards, they had arrived at the mansion by means of Side-Along Apparition, escorted by none other than the famous Harry Potter himself, and by Albus's favorite uncle, Ronald Weasley, who maybe wasn't quite as famous as the former 'Chosen One' but was certainly just as memorable in his own right.
Last night's dinner had been delicious thanks to the combined efforts of the Malfoy's new house-elf, a young female elf by the name of Tillie, and by Scorpius Malfoy's mother, who had assisted Tillie with dinner preparations to make sure the meal was a huge success.
It was a pleasant meal, and Albus had enjoyed himself immensely, but there was no denying that Scorpius had most definitely been the life of the party, entertaining his parents and grandparents with news and stories about Hogwarts.
Albus had heard many tales about the Malfoy family in the four months he had been at Hogwarts, many of them true, and combined with the stories he'd heard from his parents and family even before attending Hogwarts, he had expected to feel slightly intimidated by Scorpius's family within the walls of Malfoy Manor, but surprisingly that wasn't the case at all.
Former servants of Voldemort, indeed they were, but Albus knew there was much more to the Malfoys than their tainted past, regardless of their Slytherin ties. Scorpius was an excellent example of that, and that was all the proof Albus needed, which had absolutely nothing to do with Scorpius being placed in Gryffindor house.
"Maybe we should all take a leaf out of the Sorting Hat's book," muttered Albus, speaking more to himself than to the pair of owls regarding him with obvious amusement. "He doesn't care what house we're in."
It was then that Albus realized his stomach was rumbling, which made him momentarily forget his own embarrassment over the fact that he, himself, had been adamant not to end up in Slytherin house, which he secretly suspected was the reason why it had placed him in Gryffindor, and moving away from the window he stepped towards the bed to give his sleeping friend's shoulder a hearty shake, but before he could even make it around to the other side of the bedpost the door banged open and his cousin Rose Weasley came striding into the room.
"Aren't you two awake yet?" demanded Rose, crossing her arms over her chest and giving him a look that reminded him forcibly of his Aunt Hermione. "Honestly! We have better things to do than sleep in on a nice Boxing Day morning like this! How can you be so lazy, Al? No wonder you never get your homework done. This is exactly why your school work is suffering! You know that, don't you? Honestly, I swear Scorpius is a bad influence on you."
"Do I look like I'm asleep? I'm not the one who's still in bed, in case you didn't notice," Albus pointed out, glancing meaningfully in the direction of the unfortunate Scorpius Malfoy.
Once Rose got started on one of her rants, it was almost impossible to get her to calm down until she had stated exactly what was on her mind, in a rather frightening way that made you think twice about getting on her bad side.
Forget Voldemort and the Death Eaters. When it came to instilling fear in others, they were nothing compared to Rose Weasley. Though brilliant and quite charming when she wanted to be, her sharp tongue and her fondness for causing physical pain to those who strayed across the path of her anger could sometimes be a little bit of a setback in Albus's opinion.
Like now, for instance.
"Oh, for heaven's sake!" snapped Rose, stomping over to the side of the bed and glaring down at the poor unsuspecting Scorpius, who was currently unaware of the danger he was in, her wand in her hand.
Fully aware of the fact that underage wizards weren't allowed to use magic outside of Hogwarts, Rose did the next best thing. She raised her arm and poked Scorpius sharply in the nose with the gleaming tip of her wand.
"Wait, Rosie!" Albus started to shout, but his words came a little too late.
With a startled yell and a blur of wildly failing limbs, Scorpius fell out of bed onto the floor with a spectacular crash, and rubbing sleep from his pale gray eyes he gazed blearily up at Rose, looking very much disoriented and confused. "Huh? What? Where's the fire?"
"Fire? What a load of rubbish. Scorpius Malfoy, you get up this instant!" shouted Rose, her hands on her hips and a no-nonsense expression on her face.
"I'm up, I'm up," grumbled Scorpius, glaring at Rose, who pretended not to notice.
"You do realize what time it is, don't you?" inquired Rose, raising her eyebrows.
Scorpius slowly picked himself up off the lush golden carpet, which had thankfully done a good job of breaking his fall, but instead of responding he ignored Rose and said to Albus instead, "Why didn't you warn me?"
"Sorry, mate, but she kind of just appeared out of nowhere. You know, that thing she does."
"Scary, isn't it?" said Scorpius, a thoughtful look on his face. "You just never know when she's going to sneak up behind you and-"
"As I was saying," interrupted Rose, more loudly than was strictly necessary, "you two don't have time to be sleeping! For one thing, your breakfast is going to get cold and I happen to know for a fact that your mother was just getting ready to send Tillie up here to fetch you!"
"What for?" cried Scorpius, looking mildly indignant at this piece of news. "I haven't done anything wrong! I haven't had a chance to!"
"Yet," snorted Rose, a slight smile on her face.
She looked about to say something more, but before she could take advantage of such a perfect opportunity to scold Scorpius, Tillie the house-elf came bouncing into the room, a huge smile on her young face and a spark of excitement in her large, bulbous blue eyes. "Master Scorpius, Miss. Astoria asked me to fetch you for breakfast. She says once you're done she has a job for you and your friends."
"Is she mad? It's Boxing Day!" groaned Scorpius, rolling his gray eyes at the ceiling, a deep sigh escaping his lips. "Who does work of any kind on a holiday, really? Besides you, Rosie. We're supposed to be having a break from doing work!"
"Oh stop your whining, would you?" scolded Rose, her hands on her hips again. "I'm sure it's nothing really difficult. Then again, you do seem to have an uncanny knack for making even the simplest of tasks-"
"I get it!" Scorpius cut her off, dropping back onto his bed and throwing an arm over his eyes. "Quit nagging me before I'm tempted to hex you."
At this, Rose raised her eyebrows, and frowning at Scorpius, she said sternly, "No magic outside of school, remember?"
"Like I could forget with you constantly reminding me all the time! Come on, Rosie, we're supposed to be enjoying the holidays. If you think I'm going to do any kind of work, especially if it involves giving up my free time, then you're as mad as my mum."
"Why don't you tell your mum that then?" Rose shot back, a dangerous gleam sparkling in her eyes.
"Barking," muttered Scorpius, shaking his head. "Completely mad."
"Please do hurry, Master Scorpius," chirped Tillie, bouncing on the balls of her feet. "You don't want your breakfast to get cold!"
"We're coming already," groaned Scorpius, waving the house-elf out the door with a lazy flick of his wrist.
Albus watched the elf's retreating back, though she hadn't left before bowing low to Scorpius, and turning to Rose he felt a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. His cousin was glaring at Scorpius again, a reproachful look on her face. "In case you didn't notice, Tillie practically worships you. You should be a little nicer to her, you know."
"I am nice to her!" protested Scorpius, sitting up quickly and glaring right back at Rose. "I've got nothing against house-elves! You know that, Rosie."
"I never said you did. I was merely pointing out that you were acting a bit uncivilized towards her."
"I was not!" shouted Scorpius, growing increasingly angry. "Come on, back me up here, Al."
Albus jumped at the sound of his own name and turning to Rose, he took a stab at trying valiantly to defend his friend. "You know he's right, Rosie. Scorpius doesn't have anything against house-elves any more than you do. He just likes to have a bit of fun, that's all."
"Exactly!" Scorpius defended himself, a triumphant look on his face.
Albus sat down on the bed next to Scorpius, and glancing at Rose he gave his best friend an apologetic smile. "Then again, just last night weren't you trying to trick Tillie into doing some of your unfinished homework?"
At this little piece of information, Rose's eyebrows disappeared into her hairline. "Really, Scorpius, a word of advice, don't let my mother hear you say that!"
"Oh that. Yeah, mum wasn't too pleased either," Scorpius admitted, who despite the laughter in his eyes at least had the grace to look a little sheepish.
"Speaking of your mum, we'd better get downstairs quickly before she's up here next ordering us to get a move on," said Rose, moving briskly towards the door. "If not her then your dad, and I doubt either one of them is going to let us get away with skipping out on whatever it is your mum wants us to do."
"You coming, Al?" asked Scorpius, nudging him in the ribs before leaping up to join Rose at the door.
"In a moment. I'm just going to let the owls out."
Albus waited until the other two had left the room before opening the owl cages sitting atop Scorpius's desk, and carrying one owl on each arm over towards the window, he smiled at them, their bright eyes regarding him with keen interest. "Have fun, guys, I'll see you this evening. Actually, make that tomorrow morning, since I know you go hunting at night."
Both Zephyr and Ninlil nipped him affectionately on the fingers before spreading their wings and soaring through the now open window into the chilly mourning air, and shutting it tightly behind the owls, Albus proceeded to make his way towards the stairs.
As he descended the huge spiral staircase towards the front hallway leading towards the entrance to the mansion, the pale faces of the many Malfoys who had come before Scorpius watched him with curiosity from their portraits, their eyes watching his every move.
Voices coming from a door to his left caught Albus's attention, and stepping into the room he found himself once again standing in the Malfoy's large spacious kitchen where Tillie the house-elf was passing full plates around and Rose and the Malfoy clan were engaged in various morning tasks. Last night's dinner had been in the dining room, which was even more elaborate than the kitchen, but though the dining room was grand, Albus definitely preferred the kitchen, which looked more lived in.
Smiling, Albus quickly made his way towards the table, and scooting around Tillie he nearly ran into Scorpius's grandmother, Narcissa Malfoy, who was on her way out of the room to see to an errand for her daughter-in-law. She smiled briefly at him as she passed, her stony face and her somewhat cold expression not quite hiding the swarm of emotions glittering in her icy blue eyes, and watching her retreating back, her long white hair streaming out behind her as she passed, Albus once again felt himself humbled by her presence.
Albus knew that Narcissa Malfoy had never forgotten what his father, Harry Potter, had done for her and her family, and although she had never once brought up the subject in nineteen years, from her smile alone, Albus knew it was her way of showing gratitude for Lord Voldemort's defeat, thus sparing her son's life from his wrath.
It might not seem like much, but for Albus it was enough.
"Come, sit down, Al!" called Scorpius, waving him over to a seat.
Albus quickly sat down next to Scorpius and he turned to grin at Rose, who sat across from him. At the head of the table sat Lucius Malfoy, who was reading a copy of the Daily Prophet, and sensing a pair of eyes on him, he looked up in search of who had taken a sudden interest in him. Their eyes connected, and Lucius Malfoy nodded briefly to him before turning back to his paper, the lines on his pale, pointed face softened by the candlelight flickering from the crystal chandelier hanging above the long breakfast table. His pale blond hair had turned as white as his wife's and though Scorpius's grandfather hadn't said much to Albus since his arrival the night before, when they had spoken Lucius had been pleasant enough, the look in his eyes almost a mirror image of his wife's, though much more subdued.
Standing by the sink were Scorpius's parents, Draco and Astoria Malfoy. At the moment, Draco was busy magically making himself a cup of tea and Astoria was busy handing out last minute instructions to Tillie, who was nearly tripping over herself to bring Scorpius his breakfast.
"Tillie said something about you having a job for us to do?" asked Scorpius, turning in his seat to gaze apprehensively at his mother.
At first glance, Astoria Malfoy looked a bit on the haughty side, her no-nonsense expression and the intimidating look in her eyes giving her a somewhat hardened appearance, but after having spent only one night in her presence, Albus had learned quickly that looks could be deceiving. There was no denying that Astoria had a bit of a temper, but she was also vibrant, funny, and a bit of a daredevil, much like Scorpius in fact. Sometimes she lacked a little patience and she had a bit of a stubborn streak, but despite her somewhat formidable presence, Albus liked her very much and she, despite his last name and despite being a former Slytherin student herself, seemed rather fond of him, as well. She also seemed fond of Rose, now that he thought about it.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do have a job for you," said Astoria in a brisk voice, her eyes on her son. "And, Al, dear, if you and Rosie don't mind helping out, I would certainly appreciate it."
"Not at all, Mrs. Malfoy!" Rose cheerfully replied, sitting up straight in her chair.
"What exactly do you want us to do?" asked Scorpius, the expression on his face immediately becoming suspicious.
Astoria took the seat next to Rose, across from her son, and seeing the look on Scorpius's face, she snorted into the cup of tea Draco had made for her after finishing with his own. "Nothing too difficult, I assure you."
"But still, better you than me," Draco added, sitting down at the opposite end of the table from Lucius, at Albus's right, a slight smile on his face at the look of horror Scorpius gave him. Clearly Scorpius suspected that whatever he had to do must be something foul.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Instead of responding, Draco merely shrugged his shoulders and motioned for his son to carry on with his breakfast. At the other end of the table, Lucius glanced over his paper to shake his head at his grandson before ducking down again.
By this time, Albus was curious to know what Astoria had planned for him as well, and glancing between Scorpius's parents, he frowned in confusion. "What would you like us to do, Mrs. Malfoy?"
"Nothing the three of you can't handle, I'm sure. Somehow, and don't ask me how because it's never happened here, of all places before, several gnomes managed to sneak their way into the garden last night, during a storm of all things! Anyways, they're scaring the peacocks, so if you three wouldn't mind getting rid of them for me, it'll be one less thing I'll have to worry about."
"Sure," Rose promptly replied, much to the astonishment of Scorpius, who goggled at her in disbelief. "We don't mind at all, right, Al?"
Albus suddenly found himself the centre of attention, the eyes of every Malfoy in the house, including Narcissa, who had just come back though the door, watching him, and shrugging his shoulders, he said, "Sure. No problem."
"What?" yelped Scorpius, rounding on him in outrage. "You're not serious, are you? Al, it's the holidays! Have you gone completely mad?"
"I don't see what the big deal is. It's not like I've never had to de-gnome a garden before. Rosie and I do it at our grandparents house all the time. You know, the Burrow."
"Really? You never told me that!"
"Sorry, mate, I just never thought of it before. The subject never came up. Haven't you ever de-gnomed a garden before?"
"No. You heard my mum. There's never been gnomes at Malfoy Manor before."
"Well, since both Rosie and Al have experience with this sort of thing, it shouldn't be too hard a task for you, Scorpius," said Astoria, clapping her hands in delight. "And here I was thinking I'd have to explain how to do it, though I've never done it myself. I must say, this is certainly a relief for me. You two don't mind showing Scorpius how it's done, do you?"
"Not at all. I'm sure it'll be an...er...interesting experience," replied Rose, looking as though she were trying not to smile.
"And when you're done that, Scorpius, I think you should get started on that homework you've been neglecting," added Draco, a slight frown on his pale, pointed face. "And I don't want to hear any more rubbish about you trying to get the house-elf to do it."
"But, Dad, it's the holidays!" hollered Scorpius, his gray eyes flashing. "And what about Al and Rosie?"
Puffing herself up in her chair, Rosie gave Scorpius a very dignified look. "I had my homework done ages ago."
"Figures," muttered Scorpius, throwing her an angry look. "What about Al then?"
Albus felt Draco Malofy's eyes on him, and glancing up he gave Scorpius's father a sheepish look. "I trust he'll follow your example if he doesn't want a similar lecture from his own parents. And I'd advise you to hurry up and get it done or I may reconsider allowing you to spend next Christmas at Mr. and Mrs. Potter's house."
"I get the hint," grumbled Scorpius, giving his father a dirty look before bending over his plate again and muttering something that sounded suspiciously like, "Totally unfair."
Albus couldn't help feeling sorry for his friend and leaning over in his seat, he whispered, "Peacocks, mate? Seriously?"
"Yeah, didn't you see them on your way past the gates?" Scorpius whispered back, their heads bent close together. "My grandfather always was a bit flashy. Real taste for flare, you know?"
A sudden thought occurred to Albus, and nudging Scorpius, he mumbled, "Wait a second...peacocks out there in the winter? How do they stand the cold?"
Scorpius shrugged. "Don't ask me. Probably some kind of charm."
"If you two are finished over there, can we get on with it then?" inquired Rose, a questioning look on her face.
"Mind the hedges," Lucius Malfoy called after them as they departed from the kitchen, "and don't scare the peacocks."
"Come inside if you get too cold before you finish," Narcissa added in her cold voice. "We'll warm you up before sending you out again."
"Don't throw snowballs at the house either!" Draco shouted at their retreating backs.
"And for goodness sake, Scorpius, make sure you dress warmly," Astoria scolded, throwing a Gryffindor scarf at her son's head, which was quickly followed by a pair of gloves.
Pulling on heavy cloaks, as well as the rest of their winter attire, Albus followed is fellow Gryffindor students out into the garden, his cheeks stinging from the cold morning air. Almost immediately he spotted a pair of gnomes lurking behind the fountain in the middle of the garden, and further down the straight drive there were at least three of them peeking out from beneath the yew hedges leading down towards the wrought-iron gates.
"Do I really have to do this?" moaned Scorpius, glaring at the two gnomes hiding behind the fountain, who proceeded to giggle and make obscene gestures at him.
"The sooner we get this done the sooner we can get back inside," was Rose's sympathetic reply.
"What, to do homework? No thanks. I don't fancy that either."
"Here, Scorpius, I'll show you how it's done," said Albus, taking his friend's arm and pulling the reluctant Scorpius towards the fountain. "Basically, all you have to do is catch them by the ankles, swing em around in a circle until they get dizzy, and let them fly. Toss them over the gates or the hedges."
"Why do we want to make them dizzy?" asked Scorpius, mildly confused.
"It makes it harder for them to find their way back," explained Rose with an air of superiority. "Go ahead, Al."
Without waiting to see if Scorpius was watching, Albus moved stealthily towards the fountain, hoping to catch one of the gnomes off guard. At his approach, both gnomes immediately grew wary, and backing away from the fountain they proceeded to make a run for the yew hedges, sending startled peacocks scattering in all directions.
Unfortunately for his quarry, Albus, who had plenty of practice on rounding up gnomes, was too quick for them, and diving at the one who was lagging behind, he tackled it to the ground, panting a little from the effort.
"See?" said Albus, holding the gnome up by the ankles and smiling at Scorpius.
Before Scorpius could reply, the gnome swung itself forwards and it bit Albus right on the nose. There was instant agony, and clapping his hands over his nose (while unfortunately dropping the gnome in the process, allowing it to escape) Albus let out a squawk of outrage, his bright green eyes watering with pain.
"Al, are you okay?" squealed Rose, racing over to study the damage to his nose.
Next to her, Scorpius was roaring with laughter, and glaring at his best friend Albus couldn't help feeling a tiny little bit embarrassed. "Thanks a lot, mate. It's not that funny!"
"You should have seen your face!" Scorpius managed to wheeze between laughs. "Priceless!"
Albus glared at his best friend, but apparently it had no effect whatsoever because Scorpius continued to stand there doubled up with laughter, an arm over his ribs as if he were in pain or suffering from some kind of stubborn ailment.
This was not exactly how Albus had intended to show off to his friend and thinking back now on his failed attempt to impress Scorpius, he felt perhaps next time it would be best for Scorpius to just try it for himself instead of witnessing a second demonstration. Albus had learned his lesson only too well and he wasn't about to show off again after such a spectacular display of how not to de-gnome a garden.
"It doesn't look too bad, but maybe I should ask Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy about it just in case," worried Rose, gingerly touching his nose. "I'll be back in a minute."
And without further ado, Rose went racing back to the house, her dark cloak flapping in the breeze behind her.
"You sure you're okay, mate?" asked Scorpius, sitting down next to him on the edge of the fountain and giving him a critical look.
Albus sat down next to Scorpius, and gazing back at the house, the diamond-paned windows twinkling at him in the weak sunshine, he nodded glumly, ignoring the gnomes cackling at him from the yew hedges.
"Well, we'd better not let the Slytherins hear about this one. They'll never let it go!" said Scorpius, shaking his pale blond head in amusement.
A sudden thought occurred to Albus, and lowering his eyes to the trampled snow beneath his feet, he avoided his friend's eyes. Not once since the beginning of the school year had he ever asked Scorpius how he felt about being in Gryffindor house, and why it had suddenly come to him now, he did not really know. Perhaps it was due to the fact that he had never met anyone like Scorpius before, and being at Malfoy Manor, which he had come to love as a third home, next to his own house and Hogwarts, it had suddenly occurred to him just how much he might have missed out on due to something as silly as Scorpius being placed in a different house. It pained him to think that something with so little meaning could have changed everything, most notably his entire life at Hogwarts.
"What's up?" asked Scorpius, turning to glance curiously at him.
"Do you...do you sometimes wish you would have ended up in Slytherin house after all?"
There was a pause, and then turning away from him, Scorpius said quietly, "What do you mean?"
"Well...your family has always been a big part of Slytherin house and over the years they've really been the backbone of Slytherin. You would have been really popular with them."
"And hated by Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws alike?" said Scorpius dryly, a slight smile on his face.
"Yeah, but if you had been in Slytherin, Goyle and the others would have left you alone and you wouldn't have to spend half your days at Hogwarts being tortured all the time..."
"You mean, I wouldn't have to listen to them taunt me because I'm friends with a Potter."
"I know they bug you about your family, but most of the time it's because of me..." said Albus, gazing miserably at his feet. "If you had never become friends with me-"
"I'd rather be friends with a million Potters than be friends with them."
Startled, Albus looked up at his friend, and he was surprised to find Scorpius gazing back at him, a fierce look in his gray eyes.
"I don't really have anything against the Slytherins, despite the way they treat me, but if they can't see what I see, then they're not worth it," interrupted Scorpius, his tone leaving no room for argument.
"But...if you had ended up in Slytherin, or you in Gryffindor and me in Slytherin, we wouldn't have become friends..."
"Do you regret being friends with me, mate?"
"What? No! It's just..."
For a long moment, Scorpius said nothing, and then gazing back at the house he spoke so softly, Albus had to strain his ears to listen. "I already liked you long before we were sorted into houses, right from the very first moment I met you on the train. It wouldn't have mattered what houses we ended up in. I was determined to be your friend regardless. Your history and your last name mean nothing to me. It didn't then and it doesn't now, and you should know by now it never will. You feel the same way about me...right?"
Albus thought back to the day he'd met Scorpius on the train. Out of everyone on the Hogwarts Express, with the exception of his own family, Scorpius had been the only person who hadn't reacted to his name. Instead, the grandson of a former Death Eater had merely smiled at him and offered him a seat, and it was like something just clicked.
Out of all the available compartments on the Hogwarts Express, Albus had been lucky enough to choose the one that mattered most of all, regardless of what the Sorting Hat would have said about them.
Glancing at Scorpius, Albus could tell his friend was waiting for a reply, and really there was only one answer he could give. "You know I do."
Their eyes met, and they both beamed at each other, forgetting for a moment all about hunting gnomes.
Or at least, they would have forgotten about the gnomes if it hadn't been for the sound of Rose tramping down the gravel drive with Draco Malfoy on her heels.
"Let's have a look," said Mr. Malfoy, kneeling in front of Albus and peering closely at his mangled nose.
The night his father had dropped him off at the Malfoys, Albus had seen his father and Draco exchange a few quiet words before saying a quick goodbye, and gazing into Draco's eyes now, he couldn't help feeling a bit curious as to what they might have said to each other, though he knew he would probably never know for certain.
"Rosie's right, it doesn't look too serious. A quick spell should mend it easily," said Mr. Malfoy, holding out his wand and tapping it gently against Albus's nose.
Immediately, Albus felt the throbbing pain in his nose recede and he beamed at Scorpius's father. "Thanks, Mr. Malfoy."
"Next time be a little more careful."
"We will be," promised Scorpius, a smirk on his face.
"And you might want to hurry it up a bit here. Your mother won't be too happy if you don't finish this up before lunch."
"Well, in that case," said Rose, a determined look on her face, "let's get this over with."
Stalking towards the yew hedges, Rose pointed at the gnome that had bit Albus and snapped, "You there! What a horrendous display of unfair play! Get over here this instant before I lose my patience!"
To the surprise of everyone in the garden, the gnome froze on the spot, clearly startled at being singled out and addressed in such a direct manner, and before he could recover his wits, Rose was on him. Lunging at the gnome, Rose grabbed it by the ankles and swinging it around she let it fly over the hedges where it flew more than thirteen feet, catching Albus by surprise.
He'd never managed to throw a gnome that far, and staring at Rose with his mouth hanging open, he couldn't help feeling mildly impressed.
"Whoa," breathed Scorpius, staring at Rose with a dumbstruck look on his face.
"That's one down!" said Rose cheerfully, dusting her hands off on her cloak. "Come on, you two, we don't have all day here."
Both Albus and Scorpius turned to goggle at Draco Malfoy, who merely shrugged his shoulders at the expressions on their faces, a slight smile on his face. "You might want to watch her right hook too, just to be safe. If it's anything like her mother's slaps, worse I expect, then trust me, it hurts. A lot."
Neither Albus nor Scorpius knew quite what to sat to that, as neither of them had a clue what Mr. Malfoy was talking about, and shaking their heads they ran off to join Rose, sending gnomes fleeing in terror, (mostly because of Rose) with Draco Malfoy overseeing the proceedings. Malfoy Manor did indeed look like a winter wonderland that day, but it was also a place for new beginnings, for those of both Gryffindor and Slytherin descent.