They had a couple of peaceful days after Christmas Day. Boxing Day was normally one of Albus’s favourite days of the year; they lazily ate sweets and played games, and with Scorpius present, Albus thought that it was even better than usual.
Harry was going to work again three days after Christmas. He had told Albus that he would try to speak to Mr Malfoy first thing after he returned. Albus hadn’t told Scorpius about his talk with Harry and Aunt Hermione. There was no need to tell him, really… But Albus had started to have second thoughts. Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea after all. He knew that Harry and Mr Malfoy had to cooperate at work sometimes, and that even if they didn’t especially like each other, they were not opponents like they had been when they were at Hogwarts. This matter, though, wasn’t an everyday work issue. What if Dad really couldn’t keep his temper? Maybe he would infuriate Mr Malfoy even more!
Albus slept uneasily and woke up early in the morning on the day that his father was going to talk to Mr Malfoy. He realized with a sigh that there was no use in trying to get back to sleep, so he decided to get dressed and have an early breakfast instead. He went down to the kitchen and made himself some toast. The tea was still warm, but the kitchen was empty. He could hear his mother humming from the laundry room next to the kitchen, and he went to find her.
‘Morning,’ Albus said, jumping up to sit on a free spot on the table they used to fold and sort the clean laundry. He took a bite from his toast and put his cup of tea on the table beside him.
‘Good morning!’ Mum said. ‘Don’t you dare spill that tea on the clean shirts!’
‘Mum! I’m not a child anymore!’ Albus sighed, and he rolled his green eyes.
‘I know. But still…’ Ginny said, and she stopped folding clothes long enough to touch his cheek for a brief moment. ‘You just missed Dad.’
‘Yeah… Do you think he’s going to talk to Mr Malfoy?’ Albus asked, even if he knew the answer.
‘You’re quite nervous, aren’t you?’ his Mum asked.
‘I am,’ Albus said. ‘There’s nothing I would want more right now than for Scorpius’s parents to understand and accept our relationship. I know that he misses them a lot.’
‘Of course he does.’
‘Can you believe how they treated him in the infirmary after he fell at the Quidditch game? They just stared at us and left. They looked at us like we were vermin or something, and then they didn’t even reply to the letters Scorp sent. How can parents do that to their child? It’s like they don’t even care about him at all!’ Albus said, visibly upset. He always got angry when he thought about how Scorpius’s parents had behaved.
‘I’m sure they love him.’ Ginny tried to calm him down.
‘Why don’t they show him that, then?’ Albus spat.
‘Al, please! I’m on your side, remember?’ Mum said.
‘I know… Sorry, Mum!’ Albus said, jumping down from the table and walking over to give her a hug. ‘I know you are. I’m glad you and Dad are so supportive.’
‘Albie, love…’ Mum said softly in a quiet voice, and she hugged him back. Albus usually protested vividly when she called him by his old nickname, which he had possessed since he was a toddler, but he didn’t mind today. They held each other for a moment. Albus had never seen his mother cry, but could almost feel her sniffling now.
‘Can you pair the socks for me?’ Ginny then said briskly. They worked together silently for a while. Albus used his wand to match and roll up the socks while his mother dried clothes with a spell. He was contented with the fact that Scorpius spent the holidays with them, but it was nice to have some alone time with his Mum. Apparently she thought so too, because when all the laundry was done Ginny seemed to take much longer than necessary to re-organize the neatly folded heaps of clothes.
‘It’s so good of you to help me,’ she said. ‘There’s lots of laundry when all of you are at home…’
‘I suppose…’ Albus said. He had placed himself on the table again.
‘I really like Scorpius,’ Mum said, and she sat down on a stool.
‘Me too,’ Albus smiled.
‘Yeah, I figured that already…’ Ginny said with a wink. ‘I’m glad you found each other. He is both kind and thoughtful, and I can see that he cares a lot about you, and that you care about him.’
‘I… I love him, Mum,’ Albus said, and he didn’t mind that he was blushing.
‘I know you do,’ his mother said with a smile. ‘And I’m so pleased for your sake. I’ve wanted you to be happy for so long. It pained me to see how you were so unhappy last summer.’
‘Thanks,’ Albus said, and he hugged her again.
Albus had a knot in his stomach all day, though he tried carefully not to show it around Scorpius. Rose and Hugo were visiting, and Albus tried hard to laugh just as hard as anyone else about the jokes James was telling them as they played Exploding Snap and ate fudge.
‘Anybody care for a game of Quidditch?’ suggested Lily, looking around.
‘Are you serious? Look how much it’s snowing!’ Albus tried, but no one else seemed to care about the weather. They decided that James, Rose and Hugo would be on one team and Scorpius, Jennifer and Lily on the other. Albus was happy to pass. He stood in the garden covered in warm winter clothes, trying to keep warm with a heating spell. It was snowing hard, and he could hardly see the game because of the snow. Luckily, the game didn’t last long before James caught the Snitch. Lily thought that James had put on an annoying gloating smirk, and she threw a snowball at him. He threw one back, and then the snowball fight was in full swing.
Albus wasn’t very keen on Quidditch, but he was not bad at snowball fights. He couldn’t remember having a snowball fight this fun for several years. Scorpius hit him with a snowball on the back of his neck, and Albus hunted him across the snowy lawn, threatening to rub snow in his face. When he finally caught him they fell over in the snow. Albus fell on top of Scorpius, but instead of rubbing snow in Scorpius’s flustered face, he kissed him. Scorpius kissed him back. Neither of them moved; they just remained there on the ground, kissing intensely, oblivious to the snowball fight still going on at the other end of the garden. They didn’t mind the snowflakes that started to cover Albus’s back and head, nor did they mind the cold creeping up from the ground through Scorpius’s cloak. The only thing there was to care about was the warmth from each other, their lips, their teeth, their dancing tongues, and their heavy breathing.
Both Albus and Scorpius froze at the sound of Harry’s voice.
‘Eh… Hi, Dad!’ Albus managed. Scorpius looked terrified and didn’t even say hello. Albus felt embarrassed, but relaxed a little after he noticed the amused expression on his father’s face.
‘How was work?’ Albus asked. He hoped that his father understood that the real question was: ‘Did you speak to Mr Malfoy?’
‘Good, I think,’ Harry said, and he winked at Albus. ‘I think I’ll go in now. It’s pretty cold and snowy, don’t you think?’
Albus suddenly discovered that the others must have given up the snowball fight too, because the garden was empty now. They followed Harry into the house and joined the rest of the family, who were sitting in the kitchen drinking hot chocolate.
There were only a few days of the year left. This year had been the most eventful year in Albus’s life so far – probably the best one, too. They were planning to spend New Year’s Eve at Dominique’s party. Albus didn’t know exactly what his father had said to Mr Malfoy, but whatever he had said, it couldn’t have been too bad, because the Malfoys’ owl delivered another letter to Scorpius the day before New Year’s Eve. Scorpius quickly read the letter and handed it over to Albus.
Your mother and I would like to talk to you. Please join us tomorrow at New Year’s dinner.
Albus didn’t know what to say. He didn’t like the cold, formal tone of the letter, but then again, he didn’t know how Mr Malfoy usually sounded in letters. He looked questioningly at Scorpius.
‘So… Are you going to see them, then?’ Albus asked.
‘Only if you’ll come with me,’ Scorpius said pleadingly.
‘I really don’t think your father meant to invite me to their New Year’s dinner…’ Albus said.
‘Probably not… But I can’t face them alone. Please!’ Scorpius said in a small voice.
‘You don’t have to. Of course I’ll go with you, love.’ Albus said, kissing his cheek.
‘I’m going to write to them right away. I think we should tell them in advance that you’ll be coming too… Also, we should tell them that we’ll only stay for dinner. It’s a good thing that we got Dominique’s party later. I guess an awkward dinner is enough on its own, don’t you think?’
Albus couldn’t agree more, so he just hugged Scorpius. He felt his heart beat faster, and a lump formed again in his stomach.
‘Merlin’s beard… I feel so nervous!’ he whispered.
Albus didn’t sleep much the night before New Year’s Eve. He twisted and turned, but whenever he got to sleep, he had a bad dream and woke up again. Albus tiptoed through the corridor to the guest room where Scorpius was sleeping. He slipped in under the blanket and nestled close to Scorpius. Albus felt himself relax immediately after inhaling Scorpius’s scent, and he was able to doze off at last by listening to the other boy’s calm breaths. The last conscious thought he had was that no matter how badly he wanted the Malfoys to understand and approve of them, the most important thing was for him and Scorpius to be together. He would be there for Scorpius and he would take care of him if things went wrong with his parents. They would be all right in the end.
When the morning came, Scorpius smiled at him and kissed him.
‘I didn’t sleep very well before you came here,’ he yawned. ‘I was having scary dreams about Father yelling and Mother crying… But I slept well after you arrived. I could really get used to this, you know.’
‘Me too… I would love to wake up like this every morning,’ Albus agreed. They spent some time together before getting up. Albus cast a few spells to guarantee their privacy, and the worries of the outside world ceased to exist. It was only the pair of them, their kisses, their hands, their mouths and their love. What did they care about anything else as long as they were together?
Later, when they finally thought it was time for a shower and breakfast, Albus found that he, much to his own surprise, didn’t care the slightest about who might see him when he left Scorpius’s room and went to the bathroom. There was no need for sneaking around, no need to pretend. He and Scorpius were in love and that was the only thing that truly mattered.
Albus’s hands were sweaty and he felt his heart thumping. He had that distinct nauseous feeling one only can get from being tremendously nervous. They were in Diagon Alley, where they had bought some fancy chocolates for Scorpius’s mother. Albus didn’t even know that such expensive chocolate existed. Although his parents had money, they never bought luxuries like that. The thought of the Malfoy family’s expensive and posh habits only added to his tension. He suddenly felt very unsure of himself and his appearance despite having dressed in his very best clothes. He looked at Scorpius beside him, who was smartly dressed and looking breathtaking in Albus’s opinion. He looked equally nervous, though.
‘Are you ready?’ Scorpius asked, and he held out his arm.
‘No,’ Albus answered, but he took his arm anyway.
‘Me either,’ Scorpius said, and he Apparated them both to the road that led to the gates of Malfoy Manor.
‘Merlin,’ Albus said as they walked up towards the manor. ‘What a house! It is enormous!’
‘Well… Yeah, it probably is…’ Scorpius admitted.
‘You know what happened here during the war, don’t you?’ Albus whispered. Scorpius nodded.
‘I’ve been told the story countless times…’ Albus continued. ‘It feels so weird to actually be here, and even weirder that this is where you grew up. This is where Dad and Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione were brought by the Snatchers and…’
‘Er…’ Scorpius said, looking uncomfortable. ‘What can I say, really? I know that my family was on the wrong side during the war. I’m sorry…’
‘Scorp! I didn’t mean it like that!’ Albus exclaimed. ‘It’s not your fault! You shouldn’t be apologising.’
‘I am sorry, and I’m ashamed of what my father and my grandparents did during the war.’
‘Don’t be,’ Albus said, giving him a hug. ‘Scorp, love, we’re not our parents or our grandparents. You know that.’
‘I know… Thanks,’ Scorpius said, and he took Albus’s hand.
They walked up to the entrance of the Manor together. Albus was going to let go of Scorpius’s hand, but Scorpius clasped his hand firmly and intertwined their fingers as he introduced Albus to his parents. Mr Malfoy looked at their hands, making Albus feel uneasy. Scorpius, in contrast, looked straight at his father with a daring and cheeky look on his face. Mr Malfoy met his son’s eyes and held them for a moment. Albus couldn’t interpret Mr Malfoy’s expression.
Mrs Malfoy smiled politely and led them through a huge corridor to the dining room. Albus felt out of place, but Scorpius smiled reassuringly at him and squeezed his hand. Scorpius looked much more at ease now. The conversation during the dinner was a bit strained and awkward, but everyone tried their best to keep it polite and neutral. A house-elf was serving the dinner, and Albus couldn’t help but wonder what Aunt Hermione would have to say about that.
‘So…’ Scorpius’s mother said. ‘You’re going to some New Year’s party later, as I understand?’
Albus could have sworn that he heard Mr Malfoy muttering something under his breath about blood traitors, but he didn’t say anything aloud.
‘I hope you’ve been studying for your N.E.W.T. exams during the holidays,’ Mrs Malfoy said, just to change the subject.
‘Um… Sure,’ Scorpius tried.
‘You haven’t, then,’ Mr Malfoy stated. ‘I don’t think that I need to remind you of how important the N.E.W.T results are…’
‘Look, there’s plenty of time during the spring,’ Scorpius said. ‘Besides, we have been studying. Albus is going to become a Healer, you know, so he needs top grades. And I’m studying too, I promise.’
Albus knew that Scorpius, in fact, had hardly studied at all, but this was not the time to say anything about that. Scorpius had probably brought up Albus’s grades just to divert his parents’ focus from his own grades.
When Scorpius and Albus had said good-bye to Mr and Mrs Malfoy, and the front door had closed behind them, Albus sighed with relief. The dinner with Scorpius’s parents had been easier than he had imagined. Although Mr Malfoy kept his distance, Mrs Malfoy had been quite nice to him, and Albus thought that he probably would grow to like her eventually. Scorpius gave his hand a squeeze as they started to walk towards the gate in the wall that surrounded Malfoy Manor.
As soon as they were outside the gate, Albus found himself pinned to the wall by Scorpius who kissed him forcefully. It was dark outside now, and it had started to snow again. Albus felt lightheaded and dizzy, maybe from the wine during dinner, maybe from the earlier tension, or maybe from the intense kissing. Then again, maybe it was from sheer happiness. He had everything he had ever wished for, and he was utterly happy. They were going to Dominique’s party, but there was no hurry. They could stay like this forever, and yet it wouldn’t be long enough.
Albus kissed Scorpius back, feeling confident that the new year would be just as fabulous as this one.
Author's note: This is where we leave Albus and Scorpius, hopefully to live happily ever after... If you want to know more about Astoria's thoughts and feelings about Scorpius and Albus I've written a one-shot "Never a Road Without a Turning" that is a spin-off from this story.