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Stood back from the doorway and hidden by a shadow, Scorpius watched as his father’s hand shook on the handkerchief, more tears instantly replacing the ones he wiped away from his face. As he cried, he was speaking softly to his wife, and Scorpius could hear his mother’s kind tones responding. It had been almost four years. Four years of watching his heartbroken father weep before the portrait of his late wife, the woman who had made him feel more than a Death Eater, who had given him worth and made him a better person. It crushed Scorpius to realise there was nothing he could do to comfort his father. That first, horrible summer, he had tried wrapping his arms around him where she no longer could, but it had just made his father upset and ashamed to have been witnessed losing his composure. Since then, he had been helpless to do anything except watch as every night his dad broke down and grieved.

 

If Scorpius had learnt anything from watching his father, it was that to be in love meant to be in pain. He watched the man he looked up to most, the strongest, most composed and graceful person he knew come undone by the force of his heartbreak and vowed never to fall in love. Love was not worth the price. He had always known he did not have the same resilience as his father, he was far more sensitive and easily hurt. If love had destroyed his dad that much, Scorpius was sure he would never survive if he were to give his heart away. 

 

Once upon a time, he had thought he liked Rose Granger-Weasley in that kind of way, but when she had started to be more friendly towards Albus and himself, he had realised that what he wanted from her was acceptance, validation and respect, not love. He had deliberately quashed any and every feeling that could not be classified as platonic ever since. He had to protect himself. He could live a perfectly happy life, surrounded by friends and family, focus on building a career and never risk everything for romantic endeavours. 

 

He slipped silently away from his weeping father and climbed under the cool sheets of his bed. The first night of the holidays was always the hardest because it destroyed the tiny hope that maybe his father would have made some progress towards healing this time, maybe his pain would be less raw and all-consuming by now. He closed his eyes to the world and remembered the feeling of comfort his mother’s embrace used to bring.

 

...

 

Teddy Lupin had a tradition of taking his pseudo siblings out for ice cream the day after they returned from Hogwarts for summer. It had been started by Harry Potter himself as a treat for his godson, but when James finished his first year he had been invited along, and Teddy had made it a god-sibling thing after he finished attending the school himself. Scorpius had first been included at the end of his fourth year, the invitation being a way for Teddy to make up for never having known his cousin before that year. This would mark his third time joining the event. 

 

The five of them were crowded around a table at the back of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour listening to Lily rant about a boy who was infuriating her. 

“I just don’t get it! One minute I think he definitely likes me and the next he makes me doubt it!”

“That’s why I’m never going to fall in love. Love just isn’t worth all the drama and the pain.”

There was an awkward silence after Scorpius’ declaration, in which he thought he saw James and Teddy glance at Albus, but he seemed more interested in reaching the ice cream at the bottom of his sundae than the conversation at that moment. 

“Love isn’t worth it? You do know that Lily I’m named after literally saved our Dad’s life and defeated the big bad dark wizard with the power of her love, right? It’s kind of a famous story...”

“Of course I know that. But that was a mother’s love, not romantic love.”

There was another awkward pause. 

“...So are you going to owl him over the summer, Lily?”

 

They moved onto talking about their plans for the summer and Teddy and James’ jobs. Scorpius couldn’t help but notice that Albus was rather quiet beside him. He leant over to ask him if he was alright, but just got a shrug and ‘I’m fine’ in response. He tried not to be upset that his best friend didn’t want to tell him what was causing his silence. There was nothing he could do if Albus wasn’t ready to share what was on his mind. 

 

Scorpius had an unfortunate habit of drinking excessive quantities of tea. Despite this being amazing because it was tea, it did have rather obvious consequences on his body. As such, he ended up excusing himself from the table to use the conveniences halfway through their ice creams. The loos were located at the top of a staircase just behind their table. As Scorpius rounded the corner and headed towards the steps, he spotted a familiar unpleasant figure at the top. Not wanting to interact with Polly Chapman of all people, he crept back towards their table and out of Polly’s line of sight. He had planned on returning to tell the others of his conundrum, but hearing his own name made him pause, still just behind the wall and not visible to his friends. 

 

“...Scorpius said?”

“It’s fine. It’s not like it changes anything. There was never any chance of him liking me back. If anything, it’s better because at least I’m less likely to have to watch him with someone else.”

Scorpius’ brain began to go into overdrive, the thoughts whirling around like a tornado, making him dizzy, as he tried to make sense of what he had just heard. Who were they talking about? Albus was saying about someone not liking him back. It must have been a guy because he said ‘him’. What did the second part mean, about not wanting to watch him with someone else? 

 

None of it made any sense. Was this the thing making Albus quiet? Did he not want to tell him? If so, then maybe Scorpius shouldn’t listen... he felt guilty, yet couldn’t help himself from straining to hear again as he tuned back into the conversation. 

“...about telling him?”

“Oh yeah, because I’m sure that would go down really well. I can just picture it. ‘Hi Scorpius, how’s it going? By the way, I think you’re ridiculously attractive and I might even be in love with you. What? That’s really weird and not something you should feel for your best friend? Yeah. I know.’ That’s why I’m obviously not telling-“

Albus cut his rant short as Scorpius finally understood that this whole discussion had been about him and unthinkingly stepped into his line of sight. He could feel the heat in his face, and knew that Albus correctly interpreted the meaning of his blush because he stood from the table and sprinted out of the café. As Scorpius moved to follow him, he felt a strong arm on his, holding him back. He watched helplessly as Lily and James sprinted out after their brother, leaving him sat in the ice cream parlour with Teddy, awash with confusion. 

 

“Sit. They’ll have apparated by now, and you know you’ll never get through the Potter wards if you try to follow.”

Scorpius sat.

“So. How much of that did you hear?”

“I...I... Polly. Stairs. I...”

“Polly? Who’s Polly?”

“Bully.”

“Ah, I see. So you saw her on the stairs and came back?”

Scorpius nodded. 

“I’m guessing from your reaction that you at least heard the last bit of what Albus was saying?”

Scorpius just nodded again. Yes/No questions were about all he could handle right now. His mind had focused on two pieces of information: Albus found him attractive and Albus thought he might be in love with him. 

 

“Scorpius? I can see that you’re very shocked. That’s understandable. Albus has tried very hard to hide how he feels about you.”

“Why?”

“Well... I’m assuming you heard that he’s got it into his head that it’s weird and wrong to feel that way about you?”

“Because I’m pale, pointy and awkward? Or because I’m a Malfoy? Or because I’m geek-“

“Because you’re his best friend. Possibly also because you’re both male. He’s convinced himself that his feelings will make you uncomfortable around him.”

“He thinks I’m homophobic?”

“Not generally... but he thought you might freak out if you knew another guy fancied you. Especially when that guy is your best friend who you share a dorm with and you have to change in front of etcetera...”

Scorpius felt his face heating up again at the implication of Teddy’s words. 

“But he’s been respectful! Ever since he started feeling this way he’s made sure to turn his back to you whenever you’re changing or shut his eyes or leave the room. He’s desperate to try to protect your privacy...”

 

Teddy trailed off as Scorpius’ head hit the table. He was being overloaded by all the new information and didn’t quite know what to make of any of it. Albus liked him, but didn’t want him to know, and there was some complicated stuff about homophobia and changing and privacy. His brain was still stuck on the bit about Albus liking him and hadn’t got much space left to process any of the other stuff. Apparently his cognitive meltdown was obvious, because Teddy stopped being speculative and started using words with less than three syllables. 

 

“Ok, so. I feel like we’re missing the point here. Right now, Albus is probably bawling his eyes out because he thinks you won’t want to be his best friend anymore, now that you know he likes you. He doesn’t expect you to reciprocate his feelings. He knows you can’t make yourself like him back. He understands that, but he’s terrified of losing you as a friend.”

“What? Of course I still want to be his friend! He’s my best friend! You really think he’s upset because of me? Oh no. Oh no. That’s not right. I don’t want to make Albus upset. No no no no no. Albus always makes me feel better and now I’ve made him feel bad. Oh dear, oh dear, oh no.”

The idea that he had unintentionally hurt Albus made him feel sick to the stomach. His focus had shifted entirely into a full blown panic over his best friend’s wellbeing. 

“Scorpius! Calm down. It’s ok. He’ll be ok. I promise. He’s just scared.”

 

Teddy stood and guided Scorpius up and out onto the street. As they walked, he spoke in quiet, soft, calming tones. 

“I’m going to go to the Potters’ now. Would you like to come with me?”

“He. He ran away. You stopped me going after him. He doesn’t want to see me?”

“He’s Albus. You know he needs a few moments to cool off before anyone can get through to him.”

“Yeah. You’re right. Normally I just sit by him while he calms down and then we talk it through. It’s never been me causing the problem before though.”

His voice cracked around the last sentence and his eyes began to water. 

“Scorpius, you know that you haven’t done anything wrong, right? This isn’t anyone’s fault. I do think that Albus would like to see you though.”

“I need to see him. I need to make sure he knows I’d never give up our friendship for anything.”

“I think you’re the only one who can reassure him that this isn’t the end of the world.”

 

They apparated to an alleyway at the end of the Potters’ road and walked together towards the house. When they reached the front gate, Teddy grasped Scorpius around the wrist, as Albus had done so many times previously, before pressing his palm against the gate. It opened upon recognising a family member and Teddy escorted Scorpius through the wards onto the property. He lead the way up the garden path and into the house. As he walked through the front door he called out a hello. Scorpius followed silently behind, unsure of whether he was truly welcome there right now. James responded to Teddy’s shout, directing them to the living room. 

 

Scorpius hesitated as Teddy pushed open the door. Albus was sat on the sofa with his brother and sister supporting him from either side. As the door opened, his head snapped up to look at Teddy, revealing a splotchy red face with puffy eyes and tears still running down his cheeks. He hadn’t noticed Scorpius, half hidden by Teddy and still slightly in shadow. 

“T-T-Teddy? Y-y-you s-stayed with S-S-Sc-Scorpius didn’t you? Is-is he o-ok?”

“You can ask him that yourself.”

Teddy stepped aside to reveal Scorpius. Albus’ eyes widened and he began to shake. Scorpius was completely horrified that his presence could spark such a reaction in his best friend. His body moved of its own volition at the sight. Albus closed his eyes as he visibly swallowed a silent sob. When Scorpius reached him, he slid his arms around Albus and pulled him up into a hug. 

 

Scorpius’ shoulder was becoming damp from where Albus was burying his face into it and had half collapsed against him. Scorpius didn’t care. He would have done just about anything to make Albus feel better. A mixture of guilt and sadness was running through him at the knowledge that he’d inadvertently hurt his best friend this badly. He didn’t know how long they stood there hugging. They were the only ones left in the room, but he hadn’t noticed the others leaving. Eventually, Albus raised his head to stutter ‘sorry, I’m sorry’ over and over again. Scorpius guided them down onto the sofa and pulled far enough away to look into Albus’ eyes. 

 

“Albus, listen to me. There’s nothing you need to be sorry about. It’s me who’s sorry! I feel like I made you feel this bad because I don’t-“

“No! No, you shouldn’t be sorry! I know you don’t feel the same way and that’s ok. I understand. I’m just so scared things will change between us now that you know. I’m so lucky to be able to call you my best friend and spend time with you and I really don’t want my stupid feelings to mess that up!”

“You’re the one who makes me laugh and who is there even when I feel rotten. This doesn’t change that. So long as you’re still Albus then you’ll always be my best friend. I’m lucky to have you as a best mate too. And I’m sorry for all the pain this is causing you. I hate seeing you so upset. I just want to make you smile again. I like it when you’re happy.”

“I like it when you’re happy too.”

“Tea?”

“Yeah, alright.”

 

They found the others in the kitchen with Albus’ parents. Teddy simply said ‘friends?’ when they entered and they both nodded. Albus bounced back remarkably well from what had been a significant crying session. After a singular cup of tea he was his usual self again, joking around with James, trying to sneak chocolate out of the cupboard under Ginny’s sharp gaze. It was only then that Scorpius realised that Albus had practice at pretending everything was ok, when maybe sometimes he wasn’t completely alright. Something about the informality and cosiness of the Potter household always put Scorpius at ease, and he found himself relaxing and almost forgetting the earlier stress as they laughed at Lily getting caught copying her brother’s chocolate thievery.

 

In the afternoon they went for a walk in the park. James quickly left to flirt with some muggles, and Lily was preoccupied with the dog she had rescued and guilt-tripped her parents into letting her keep. Said parents were holding hands and quietly talking to each other, making Scorpius feel a pang of sadness as he remembered when his own parents had been like that. Teddy had been called into work, so it was just Scorpius and Albus walking side by side through the trees. For the first time ever, it was slightly awkward between them, Scorpius now being able to appreciate that Albus might be wanting to take his hand as they strolled. Then Albus started mocking the way James was showing off to the muggles and everything felt normal again. 

 

That night, as usual, Scorpius’ father was sat before the portrait of Scorpius’ mother, the tears readily falling as his eyes traced the lines of her beautiful face, the artist having almost captured her breathtaking features, just not quite perfectly. This time, Scorpius didn’t hide in the darkness, watching silently. After seeing the one person he cared about the most, equal only to his father and late mother, in the kind of pain only love could cause, love for him no less, he had to approach his father. He needed to know, needed his dad to tell him, because he couldn’t work it out for himself. Why did they willingly put themselves through the total agony of love? 

 

“Dad?”

“Scorpius? I didn’t realise you were still awake. Come in, sit. Is there something on your mind?”

“Are you sure it’s ok?”

His eyes flicked to his mother’s portrait. She gazed down at him serenely, in that open friendly way that encouraged him to speak honestly. Or had always done, when it had graced her real face, not the one made of pigment and oil. His father caught the glance. 

“She would have been very proud of you, you know.”

“I hope so. Dad, I know you miss her...”

“And I know you do too.”

“Yeah. Of course. But... I think it’s different...”

“How so?”

 

“Well... I miss her when the post arrives at Hogwarts and I know she won’t have sent anything, when the train pulls in and she’s not standing on the platform, when I hear her favourite song or smell her favourite food. I miss her when something reminds me of her, but then it’s remembering her with fondness too. Only when I want to be comforted or I just feel like I need to talk to her do I feel so sad that I cry now. But you... you seem to miss her that painfully every single day. I know you sit in here in tears every single night. I hate knowing how much loving Mum hurts you now.”

“Scorpius. I don’t sit in here every night. Sometimes I come in here for other reasons, but mostly I come in here because of you. In the term time it’s to read and reply to your letters. When you’re home, there’s so much more I wish I could tell her. It’s hard for me too, waiting on that platform alone. You are the child we loved and raised together. The first steps you took, the first accidental magic you did, the first letter you sent home from Hogwarts, she was always there. I’m so incredibly proud of you and it’s hard not being able to share that pride and love for you with the one person who felt exactly the same.”

 

“Her portrait is a poor imitation, yet it helps. Loving your mother may hurt a little now, but I would suffer the pain a thousand times to keep all the wonderful memories and joy she brought me while alive. Loving Astoria gave me you, and you have been the source of more happiness than I ever thought possible.”

“So you don’t regret falling in love?”

“Being in love is the most amazing feeling in the world. That’s why it hurts so much to lose it. I’d never regret falling for your mother. She made me a kinder, nicer, better person, and I would never want to forget the ecstasy I felt when she said yes to my marriage proposal, or when she told me she was pregnant with you. Love is incredible. I was very lucky to get the chance to love your mother.”

 

“You’re not miserable?”

“Oh, Scorpius. I’m so sorry that I’ve made you worry about me. I will admit I was devastated when she died. I saw a professional, which made it easier to deal with my emotions and helped me to heal. I should have told you, but I suppose I was ashamed. Nowadays, I’m far from miserable. For starters, I have the best son in the world. It makes me happy every time I see you enjoying your life. You remind me of her in the most wonderful way.” 

“Draco, I think now is the moment to tell him. Be courageous, I believe Scorpius may find your news reassuring.”

Scorpius looked at his mother, who was smiling sympathetically at them both. As his father nodded in response to her words, she left the frame. It was slightly alarming to watch her go. 

“She’s giving us the privacy to live in the present without the shadow of the past. That’s how she always explains it.”

 

“What do you need to tell me?”

“You’re worried that I’m miserable and sitting alone with your mother’s portrait all the time while you’re away. I can’t apologise enough for giving you that impression because it is not the truth. I need you to understand that I will always love your mother, and that you will always be my number one priority above everything else. There is no one on this planet who I could ever love more than you. However, the reason I am happy again, aside from being your father, is because I have met someone.”

“You’ve met someone?”

“Yes. I understand if that upsets you, but I promise this isn’t about replacing your mother. No one could do that.”

“No! I’m glad you’re happy. It’s not like I could be scared you’re forgetting her or anything... I guess I’m mostly just worried that you’ll get hurt again, I don’t want you to suffer even more than you already have.”

“Scorpius. There is always a risk of getting your heart broken when you give it to someone else, but there is no better feeling than being in love. I would far sooner take the risk of getting hurt than face the prospect of the rest of my life alone. I’m happier now than I have been since before she died.”

 

The Malfoys were not exactly renowned for their communication skills, preferring to take the stereotypical, unhealthy, stiff upper lip approach that was engrained in British culture. Scorpius was realising how damaging not discussing anything emotional with his father had been. For years he had worried incessantly about his poor heartbroken dad, and now he found that at least some of that concern had been misplaced. His father did not spend his entire life sat at home with his grief. He had got professional help and despite all of the pain he had suffered, he had still found someone new. Scorpius’ perspective on love, based entirely on trying to avoid that kind of hurt himself, had suddenly been called into question. He had never allowed himself to consider the possibility of love being anything but excruciating. Was it really worth the risk? 

 

“You really like her?”

His father shifted uncomfortably. 

“Here’s the thing, she is a... he.”

“What? You’re dating a man? But you aren’t gay. You loved Mum.”

“I will always love your mother. You are correct that I am not gay. I’m bisexual. So yes, he is a man.”

“Oh, ok. Can you just say bi next time though? I don’t ever want to hear my father say the word ‘sexual’ again.”

His father laughed. 

“I think I can agree to that. You’re ok with this?”

“Why wouldn’t I be? Why does everyone think I’m homophobic today?”

His dad gave him a funny look. 

“That’s not what I said.”

“You really like him, then?”

“Yes, I do. He’s very different to your mother. It’s a different relationship. He’s got a strong character and it’s nice to have someone to lean on.”

 

“How did you meet him?”

“Well, you know how the Potters started to try to include me in social events after the whole time turner saga?”

“Yeah...”

“I was introduced to him at one of their dinner parties. He’s one of Ginny’s brothers.”

“You’re dating Charlie Weasley?”

“How did you know it was Charlie?”

“A. He’s the only one of Ginny’s brothers that’s not married. That’s still alive, at least. B. He’s gay. C. He loves dragons. You’re Draco as in dragon. It fits.”

“I’m Draco and he loves dragons? I can’t wait to tell him that logic... You don’t mind that I’m going out with Albus’ uncle?”

“Why would I care about that? Charlie’s cool. Albus likes him.”

“I just wanted to check. Now, you can say no to this if you don’t feel ready, we would both understand, but would you like to meet him?”

“I’ve already met him. Loads of times.”

“I mean officially. As your father’s partner.”

“Oh. Yeah, I guess.”

“How about if I arrange for us to go to dinner tomorrow night, would that be ok?”

“Yeah, alright. Can I bring Albus?”

“If that would make it easier for you, then yes, of course.”

 

Scorpius returned to the serenity of his bedroom with his mind spinning. The day had been filled with more dramatic and life changing revelations than should really be contained in a single 24 hour period. Albus fancied him and his father wasn’t still doing nothing but being miserable and grieving because he was dating Charlie Weasley. There was no way he would be able to sleep with his brain buzzing as much as it was, so he ended up writing to Albus with the day’s final bombshell. Albus would always be first person he wanted to tell anything that happened in his life. For everything big, Scorpius knew he’d forever need Albus there beside him to get him through it. This shock was one of them. 

 

Dear Albus, 

 

Right, so you know how I told you my Dad sits and cries to my Mum’s portrait every night and I’m really worried about him? (That’s still a secret by the way, so don’t tell anyone). Well, this evening, probably because of the whole thing today which I’m still really sorry about, I actually went and spoke to him while he was crying. I guess it was because I’d seen you so upset because of liking me and then he was there so upset because of liking my Mum and I just didn’t understand why someone would willingly expose themselves to that pain (no offence, obviously). Anyway. When I spoke to him, he said that he only spoke to her when I was home because they’re both my parents and he’s talking about me. So I’ve been worrying more than I needed to. 

 

The second absolutely insane thing he told me is that he’s SEEING SOMEONE. Like, he’s in a relationship! So then he tells me that he is BI. Actually he said bisexual and I was like eewww please don’t say the word sexual you’re my father and therefore I never want to hear you say stuff like that. I literally never knew, can you believe it? How did I not even know my own father’s sexuality??? Ew that word has sex in it too. Gross. Old people should get new words or something so that they don’t make their children want to vomit. 

 

Do you want to know the craziest thing about all of this though? MY FATHER’S NEW MAN IS YOUR UNCLE CHARLIE!!! Can you actually believe that? He asked me if I was ok with it because Charlie’s your uncle, why wouldn’t I be, it was such a weird question for him to ask. Then Father was like, do you want to meet him, and I was like, what do you even mean, I’ve met him loads of times, he’s my best friend’s uncle, duh. He seems to think we need to have dinner so I can ‘officially’ meet him which sounds incredibly awkward, are they expecting me to be like, oh should I call you Step-Father or something? Please please please can you come I don’t think I’ll be able to deal with the awkwardness of watching my father with someone he likes romantically without you there. Pleasseeeeee. It’s tomorrow evening. You have to come. I’ll even go muggle bowling with you, even though I don’t get it. I’m begging youuuuu! 

 

Scorpius 

 

P.S. I’m just going to send this now but I’m giving Phoebe strict instructions not to wake you up so if she has then I’m very sorry and you should tell her off and not give her any owl treats. 

 

When he went to find his owl, he heard his father laughing. When he asked what was so funny, his Dad showed him a letter. 

 

Dear Draco, 

 

Dinner sounds perfect, I’m looking forward to seeing Scorpius again. I guess I’ll put up with seeing you too ;) 

 

Are you sure about inviting the Potter boy? Isn’t his Mum one of those Weasleys? Aren’t they all blood traitors with red hair, freckles and more children than they can afford? 

 

Love Charlie x

 

P.S. Albus is my favourite nephew, of course he should come.

 

“Why is he insulting his own family?”

“He’s taking the Mickey out of something Potter and the Granger-Weasleys told him I said once, back when I was young and bigoted.”

“Oh, right. You know he says they’re all his favourite?”

“I guessed as much. Why are you still up? Owling Albus?”

Scorpius held up the letter in response. 

“Well, I’m headed to bed, don’t stay up too late.”

Scorpius gave Phoebe the letter and sat watching her fly away. He still didn’t feel like he would be able to sleep, though writing to Albus had helped. He went into the library, found a book and curled up in the window seat. Not too long later, Phoebe returned.

 

Dear Scorpius,

 

You have nothing to be sorry for, how many times do I need to say that! You know that I didn’t deliberately start liking you though, right? You just kept on doing things that made me feel things I shouldn’t and I just started noticing how incredibly perfect you are and how good you looked in basically everything you wear. I’m sorry. Me saying things like that probably makes you feel uncomfortable. I’m just going to say that liking you isn’t painful. Obviously it hurts that its unrequited but otherwise it’s more like a positive feeling. At first I really tried to get over you, but I realised pretty quickly that I didn’t actually want to. Even though it’s difficult I don’t want to stop feeling this way. I’m sorry if that makes it even more awkward for you. Let’s just agree to completely ignore my feelings for you from now on and never mention them again. 

 

I’m so glad that your Dad is doing better than you thought and that you don’t need to worry so much anymore. 

 

I’m sorry but I’m laughing at your hatred of the word sex right now. Sex sex sexy sex sex sexy sex sex. I really hope you went bright red reading that. Hahahahahaha evil laugh! 

 

Ok back to being serious. I guess it’s normal that you didn’t know your Dad was bi if he’s never spoken about being with anyone male before. It’s easy to just assume that parents are all straight but probably loads of them are bi or pan or whatever, we just never ask them because according to you even the word sexuality isn’t something appropriate to say around parents. (You would have absolutely hated the talk my parents gave me when I came out to them. It included words like lubricant and was entirely too graphic...)

 

Wowowowowow Uncle Charlie! Omgggggg! So is my Uncle Charlie going to be your stepdad now? You’d be my step-cousin! That would be so cool! And it probably means you get to come to the Burrow for all our family events! This is awesome! Ok I got really carried away then. Sorry. How do you feel about it? You don’t sound entirely thrilled? Or is that just because he’s making you do an awkward dinner introduction? (I agree it’s completely unnecessary, you know him already.) OF COURSE I’M COMING! You know you don’t have to bribe me to be there, just saying you want me to come is enough. BUT if you’re offering to go bowling with me then I’m not exactly going to turn that down either... A Malfoy, begging? Your grandfather is probably going to come back from the dead to kill you for that! 

 

Albus 

 

P.S. Phoebe couldn’t wake me up when I wasn’t asleep. I was worrying about us if I’m honest, but we’re still normal so I should stop. I had to fight her to give me the letter. I still can’t believe you named your owl after a character in an old muggle tv show. Your grandfather probably wants to kill you for that too...

 

Scorpius read Albus’ letter with a smile on his face. Albus always understood exactly how he felt and made every single situation better just by being himself. He felt himself blush at Albus’ comments about his appearance. They made him feel self-conscious and pleased all at once. Something twisted in his stomach as he read about how Albus liked liking him and didn’t want to stop, and he felt a bizarre wave of relief, which he immediately felt bad for because it was selfish to keep Albus’ attention when he didn’t return it. 

 

Albus had of course noticed that Scorpius hadn’t said how he felt. The truth was that he didn’t know. He wanted to be happy for his father. It felt more complicated than that, when he knew it should be that simple. Albus made him feel so much better about having thought his dad was straight, which he hadn’t even realised he had been feeling guilty about until Albus made it dissipate. Even when he laughed and made Scorpius turn bright red deliberately, he made him feel happier because it lightened the mood. 

 

His excitement was catching and made Scorpius see how maybe this was something to celebrate rather than just accept. Charlie was witty and kind and might be fun to spend time with. It could be ok. When he read that Albus would come to the dinner, he felt a tsunami size wave of relief and gratefulness wash over him at the knowledge he wasn’t going to have to face this alone, he wouldn’t be playing the third wheel to his own father. 

 

By the time Scorpius set the letter down, he was feeling warm and far happier than he had been previously. He climbed into bed resolving to write the reply to his best friend in the morning. As he closed his eyes, he considered the new perspective he had been given on the concept of love that day. No one else seemed to think of it as a terrible thing. His dad was embracing the chance to have it again, and Albus didn’t want his feelings to go away even though they hurt him. Maybe love wasn’t such a catastrophe after all. Maybe Scorpius should allow his heart the chance to feel something more. Maybe he should be brave like his Dad, brave like Albus. 

 

...

 

Scorpius and his father were the first to arrive at the restaurant. It was his father’s favourite, and while it was less posh than those his grandparents had favoured, it was still a little too formal for Scorpius to feel completely at ease. His dad was visibly nervous as they waited for the others to arrive. This struck Scorpius as a little bizarre, because he had already met Charlie and had told his Dad that he liked him. He couldn’t entirely imagine Charlie dressing smartly enough to fit in here, based on what he wore to family events and given his profession. The more he considered it, the more he realised his father and Charlie were radically different in a way his parents hadn’t been. They must somehow work as a couple though, for this whole awkward introduction thing to be necessary and for his dad to be so desperate for it to go well. He was beyond relieved that Albus was coming and he wouldn’t have to survive the anxious atmosphere alone. Knowing Albus, the tension would leave Scorpius the instant he was by his side.

 

Charlie entered, sporting clothing that Scorpius instantly knew must have been bought by his father. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that. It was only when he had almost reached the table that Scorpius realised Albus was following him. Albus, who was not looking at all like Albus. Scorpius couldn’t stop staring. His hair had somehow been tamed, he was wearing beautiful dress robes that highlighted his muscular figure, his trim waist and his broad shoulders, which were visibly stiff with discomfort. Scorpius hated it. The sight made his gut twist. The only part of Albus’ appearance that remained the same was the blazing eyes that were currently piercing him and making him feel like the only person in the room. As a light blush grew on Albus’ cheeks, Scorpius forced himself to close his mouth and stop staring. 

 

Albus moved towards the seat next to Scorpius, speaking shyly.

“Are my dress robes OK? I don’t normally go to places like this...”

“They’re perfect. They’d probably look good, if it wasn’t so obvious how much you hate them.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your shoulders are all hunched. You don’t look at all comfortable in stuffy formalwear. You look far better in those odd muggle t-shirts you always wear.”

“But I’m wearing the right thing for here, right?”

“Yeah. I just hate seeing you so tense. That’s all. Your hair looks incredible, but it’s not at all Albus-y so I kind of hate it. Does that make sense?”

“Albus-y?”

“Yeah. It’s a thing. Shut up.”

“I kind of get what you mean. I guess I just can’t pull off anything and look good in everything, like you can.”

“What? No, that’s not at all what I meant! You do look good! Those robes are stunning, they bring out your eyes and accentuate all your best features. You just don’t look comfortable wearing them, which makes me hate them.”

“Oh. Ok. I like your robes-“

 

They were cut off by Scorpius’ father clearing his throat loudly. Charlie had now sat down and was looking at them with a raised eyebrow and an amused expression. 

“Awww come on Draco, let them keep flirting. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my nephew go that colour before. Red suits him.”

“We-we weren’t flirting, Uncle Charlie. P-please don’t say that. It’ll just make Scorpius feel even more awkward around me.”

“Albus, I don’t feel awkward around you. I promise. It’s ok. Nothing has changed.”

“Scorpius? I feel like there’s something Charlie and I are missing here?”

“It’s nothing.”

“Scorpius found out yesterday that I like him. But it’s ok, Mr Malfoy, you don’t have to worry, I promise I’m not going to act on it. I know and have accepted that Scorpius doesn’t feel the same way.”

 

“So, you’re not together?”

“No.”

“Ah. I’m terribly sorry, I must have misread the signs. Is that what prompted our chat last night, Scorpius?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“I stand by what I said, you know. Next time, I hope you feel you can discuss these things more openly. I promise I won’t even use the s word.”

“The S word?”

“I forgot to let you know, Charlie. I’m only allowed to describe myself as bi now. Not the longer version. That contains a word beginning with S that as a father I’m not allowed to say.”

“I don’t like the way you two are looking at each other right now, either. It’s not funny! Stop it! Albus, you’re supposed to be on my side, stop laughing!”

“I’m sorry Scor. My parents are so open about sex and everything that-“

“Stop! I refuse to accept that my baby sister knows about sex.”

“Charlie, you know she has 3 kids, right?”

“And as her older brother I maintain the right to believe that my lovely nephews and niece were left by a stalk on Ginny’s doorstep!”

“Isn’t it Hagrid that leaves babies on doorsteps?”

“Really, Albus? You’ve decided to take after Harry in the terrible jokes department? What about the Weasley reputation? That’s Fred’s legacy! I’m going to have to set Uncle George on you, make you live up to the title of Grandson of a Marauder and the Weasley name!”

 

Somehow, everyone else’s enjoyment of Scorpius’ supreme discomfort broke the tension, and their conversation flowed freely for the rest of the meal. His father seemed to light up a little whenever Charlie spoke and he was laughing more than Scorpius could remember him doing since before his mother’s illness had worsened. In return, Charlie kept staring with a kind of dazed expression at Scorpius’ father and then catching himself and looking quickly away. He thought they might be holding hands under the table, which was the kind of sweet behaviour that old people were allowed to do to express their affection for one another. 

 

Laughing at Scorpius’ expense had also relaxed Albus, who had now begun to look a lot less like a fish out of water in his posh clothes at the expensive restaurant. Scorpius found his gaze was repeatedly drawn to him, especially as he recounted ridiculous tales about the Weasley family with Charlie and his eyes sparkled with amusement. Seeing Albus in such different clothing made Scorpius pay more attention to the way he looked than usual. He had never noticed how handsome he was. Objectively, Albus was very good looking, now Scorpius had taken the time to look at him beyond recognising that he was Albus. He wondered when he had stopped looking like the scruffy child he had been on the train the day they met and started looking so masculine and alluring. It was slightly disconcerting to realise that Albus was very physically attractive. 

 

“Scorpius? Charlie asked you a question. It would be polite to answer him.”

“No, Draco, it’s ok. He doesn’t have to answer if he doesn’t want to.”

“Both of you are aware that he’s just zoned out, right? Like, he’s not trying to be rude or anything, he just got distracted by his thoughts and stopped listening. He normally pays attention again if you say his name. Or like, when we’re in class I just nudge him...”

“He stops paying attention in class? How often, how long for? Does this-“

“Father, please calm down. I’m very sorry I didn’t answer your question, Charlie. Would you mind repeating it?”

“I was just asking if you have any idea what you’d like to do after you finish school?”

“Oh. I’m not really sure...”

“That’s understandable.”

 

“What’s your favourite subject?”

“I like all the subjects I’ve continued, I don’t think I could pick a favourite...”

“What he means is that he’s a super geek who’s top of the class in everything.”

“Is he the one Rose is always moaning about beating her?“

“Rose talks about me?”

“I thought you said you didn’t fancy her anymore?”

“No, Albus, I don’t. I can be happy about beating her in school though, can’t I? Her Mum was my childhood hero, so it’s oddly validating...”

“Hermione is certainly a worthy hero. I could get you work experience with her if you wanted? You’re practically family, so-“

“It’s that serious with my father then?”

“I was thinking of you being Albus’ best friend, but that doesn’t mean I’m not serious about Draco. We’ve not been together that long and I’m sure he’ll realise very soon that I often smell like dragon dung. I really like him though, so I’m hoping he won’t dump me for a while.”

“It’s in his best interests not to dump you, Uncle Charlie. Mum said she’d attack him if he hurt you.”

“Charming. Do send her my regards. Charlie, I promise I will not dump you for your dragon dung odour. I might force you to wash, though. And my son doing work experience with the woman who once punched me in the face sounds like a wonderful idea.”

“Hermione punched you? You must have deserved it. She’s nothing if not fair.”

“Thank you for being so defensive and concerned. You’re lucky I don’t hold your family’s violent tendencies against you either!”

“Because that Dark Mark on your arm is a symbol of peace and pacifism, right?”

 

Albus caught Scorpius’ attention and then quickly flicked his eyes towards his uncle and Scorpius’ father, widening them slightly, tilting his head a fraction to the side and smiling almost imperceptibly. To Scorpius, it was obvious that he was trying to say the pair had chemistry and seemed good together. They had been best friends for so long that they no longer needed to use words to communicate. In return, Scorpius bowed his head the littlest bit and quirked the edges of his lips upwards the smallest amount, to let Albus know he agreed and was happy about it. The answer came as a tiny raise of Albus’ eyebrows and a sharp look. Of course Albus didn’t believe him, he knew Scorpius too well for him to be able to hide anything. He gave a minuscule shrug in return. Albus now wore a slight frown, which somehow conveyed, ‘are you OK’, ‘I understand’ and ‘I’m here for you’ all at once. Scorpius made a weak attempt at a subtle smile to say thank you before looking down, letting Albus know he didn’t want to continue the conversation. 

 

A few minutes later, Charlie got up from the table to go to the loo. Almost as soon as he had left, Scorpius’ father turned to him with an eager, expectant yet nervous expression. Scorpius dreaded the question he was undoubtedly about to ask. Albus must have correctly read his body language, because he spoke up before Scorpius’ father got the chance.

“So. Mr. Malfoy. You and Uncle Charlie seem to know each other pretty well. I take it you’ve been dating for a while?”

Up until that moment, Scorpius hadn’t understood why he didn’t feel entirely happy about his father’s new relationship. Albus had not only rescued Scorpius from a conversation he wasn’t ready to have, but had also figured out what was bothering him and was now confronting the issue head on, when Scorpius would have just internalised the turmoil and never tried to discuss the issue with his father. Once again he felt grateful to have such an amazing, perceptive best friend. 

 

“Right. Yes, Albus, we do know each other reasonably well. We met just before he went to Romania the last time but have only been properly dating for the last six months.”

“He left again the Christmas before last, so you’ve known him about a year and a half? And have been going out since what, the beginning of this year?”

“That is correct, yes, Albus. I don’t quite understand how any of this is your concern though.”

“Oh, well, I was just wondering why Scorpius only just found out about this, when you and Uncle Charlie have clearly been together for a fair amount of time.”

There was a tense silence, during which both of the Malfoys looked back and forth between their table mates. Albus kept his eyes firmly locked on Scorpius’ Dad. 

 

At this point, Charlie returned from the toilets. 

“Draco? Why does my nephew look like he’s about to hex you?”

“We’re waiting for ‘Draco’ here to explain why he didn’t tell Scorpius about you before now.”

“Albus, you can’t ask that. It’s not your place. Draco, I’m sorry.”

“It is if I’m the one who has listened to Scorpius worrying about his Dad for the past four years!”

“No, Albus, it isn’t. It’s between Scorpius and his Dad. It’s not our business.”

“Charlie, it’s ok. His heart is in the right place.”

“That doesn’t mean he can-“

“I want to know. Albus could tell. That’s why he asked, because he knows I want to know but wouldn’t have been brave enough to bring it up without him.”

“Ok.”

“Al? Come on, we should-“

“It’s Ok, Charlie, you may as well stay. You already know and Scorpius will no doubt tell Albus anyway.”

 

“Scorpius, I’m very sorry that I did not tell you about my relationship sooner. I would like to say that it was because I was worried it would not work out, or that I was waiting for you to return from school or that I did not want to upset you, or even that I did not realise you were concerned about my wellbeing. All of those reasons do hold some truth, but I would be lying if I said they were my main motivation in not telling you. The reality is that I did not tell you out of cowardice and selfishness. I was so afraid that you would react badly and see me less admirably, or believe I was forgetting your wonderful mother. I knew that I would be unable to stay with Charlie if you were unhappy about us being together and the closer we grew, the more attached I became to him and the less I wanted to lose him. So, selfishly I did not tell you, so I could have more time before I risked having to say goodbye to him. I should have had more faith in your infinite kindness and acceptance. I’m sorry, Scorpius.”

“It’s ok. I understand. Thank you for explaining.”

“Can you forgive me for not telling you sooner?”

“Of course I forgive you, Dad.”

 

The atmosphere had become so heavy Scorpius felt as if it was smothering him. His father’s words were still sinking in but he hated the feeling of everyone watching him, trying to work out if his forgiveness had been genuine. Then Albus started talking about the kennel his sister was trying to build muggle-style and the intensity was shattered, the mood lifted. He shot a grateful look at his extraordinarily understanding best friend, who sent back a look that said you’re welcome, followed by one checking he was alright. As he replied to Albus with an affirmative look, he knew he really was OK. The air had been cleared and the niggling feeling he had had about his father’s relationship had gone. He smiled in earnest and Albus beamed back at him. 

 

When he closed his eyes to sleep later that evening he found his mind drifting to the outfit Albus had worn, the way Scorpius had hated it at first for making him not seem himself, and then the way Albus had looked at the end of the night, his focus far from the clothing he wore as they hugged goodbye. He was breathtaking when he relaxed and that genuine smile graced his features. Scorpius couldn’t shake the image of the way Albus had laughed and their eyes had met, that brilliant green locking onto him, as if they were the only people in existence. Usually when thoughts like these floated into Scorpius’ mind he dismissed them, it was natural for him to like it when Albus smiled, they were best friends. Now, he found himself wondering whether these thoughts on Albus’ appearance stemmed from something else entirely. 

 

...

 

It surprised Scorpius how quickly they fell back into the familiar rhythm of their friendship, and he found himself almost forgetting about Albus’ feelings. Every now and then he would see little things that he hadn’t noticed before but could now put down to the unrequited situation between them. Like how Albus always sat wedged between a family member and the arm of the sofa, or plopped himself onto the floor, so they wouldn’t be squished up against each other, or how he looked pained when Scorpius wore his jumper after his own had been accidentally destroyed in one Harry’s impromptu defence lessons, but then mumbled that he liked Scorpius wearing it when he tried to give it back. 

 

The worst instance was when they went to the cinema and saw a film that was meant to be about some muggle war but ended up being a romance. Scorpius glanced at Albus when the protagonists shared their first kiss. He was staring at the screen with a kind of sad longing on his face that tore Scorpius into a thousand tiny, guilt ridden pieces. It was clear when they walked out of the darkened room that Albus was putting on a brave face and trying to act normal and cheerful. Either he wasn’t a very good actor or Scorpius could read him like a book. Regardless, he could see straight through the façade to the agony Albus was concealing. He wanted more than anything to make that smile genuine again. And that was how he ended up in front of a grim looking building with a garish sign that glowed unnaturally, spelling out the word ‘BOWLING’.

 

Scorpius hated bowling. His hatred had absolutely nothing to do with it being muggle and everything to do with the place itself. It was a sign of how relieved he was to see Albus’ face break into a disbelieving, surprised grin that he barely noticed his shoes sticking to the floor as they approached the reception desk. The requirement to wear offensively hideous footwear, however, was less easy to ignore. It was only because Albus was beaming with excitement like a child in Honeydukes that Scorpius took a deep breath, cast all the cleaning, cleansing and deodorising charms he knew at the shoes and put the ugly things on his feet. 

 

Scorpius would never understand why Albus loved bowling so much. He could not see the point at all. It seemed all you did was hurl an inanimate bludger down a track at some white things and celebrated if they fell over. He could have made them fall over just by waving his hand and focusing a bit, he probably wouldn’t even need his wand, it was that simple! Yet Albus’ face lit up with glee and he jumped around the place punching the air whenever he knocked them all over. Watching Albus was the only part of the experience that Scorpius enjoyed. It was very difficult to begrudge something that made his best friend so happy, even when he was pretty sure he had sprained at least three muscles in his arm trying to lift and throw the stupidly heavy ball. 

 

Albus bought them large cups full of something bizarre and luridly coloured called a ‘slush puppy’ that Scorpius was assured did not actually contain any canine ingredients, nor was it intended for dogs. Muggle marketing could be baffling. Scorpius watched Albus slurping his bright blue one up through the plastic hollow wand that he had been told was a straw, despite looking nothing like the golden stuff with the same name. His own cup was filled with something so red it looked a little like lumpy blood. He gave it a sip, foregoing the ridiculous plastic thing, because last time he’d tried to use one he’d got ‘coke’ up his nose from it fizzing everywhere. The red stuff was actually quite nice, if a little too sweet and cold for Scorpius’ preference. 

 

When he looked back up at Albus to tell him it wasn’t disgusting, the words caught in his throat at the sight that met him. The lurid slush puppy had coloured Albus’ lips a vivid blue. Noticing Scorpius’ sudden pause, his eyes glinted with mischief as he asked “is my tongue blue?” and stuck it out for all to see. It had turned the same colour as the drink. He looked absolutely ridiculous and Scorpius couldn’t prevent his amusement from showing. Albus finally put his tongue away, his smile wide and enthusiastic as he encouraged Scorpius to show him if his mouth was bright red. It was. Albus genuinely squealed in delight and dragged them into a tiny cubicle that had surely only been designed to hold one person. He directed Scorpius to look at one of the walls and stick his tongue out again while he fiddled with some buttons, fed coins into a slot and a random lady’s voice gave them instructions. 

 

They spilled out of the tiny enclosed space and Albus explained that it was a photo booth, a muggle contraption that instantly gave you the pictures. He fished out the strip of four photographs, surreptitiously cast a gemino charm on them and handed over one of the sets. When Scorpius caught sight of the pair of them, frozen in place in the frames with their stained tongues out, he let out a little ‘oh!’ Albus was clearly pleased, pointing out just how effectively their mouths had been dyed. Scorpius was surprised by how much he loved the photos of the two of them together, captured in a single moment of time, the picture somehow hilarious and nice at the same time. Going to the bowling alley hadn’t been that bad, in the end.

 

He got back home that to find his father had company. Now that their relationship was common knowledge, Charlie often came over to see his ‘favourite dragon’ after he’d finished work at the Welsh Green and Hebridean Black reserves. Scorpius was proud of himself for not physically vomiting when he first heard the term of affection. Charlie sometimes ate with them but never stayed past pudding, something Scorpius found a touch curious but never questioned. 

 

They had just sat down for dinner when Charlie produced a letter from Hermione and started reading it aloud.

“Dear Charlie, I think Draco Malfoy is rubbing off on you.”

Strangely, Scorpius’ father started spluttering on the elf wine he’d just drunk. Charlie’s lips quirked up in amusement but he continued to read.

“How dare you pull such Slytherin tactics. I thought you were too nice for emotional blackmail, Charlie Weasley. Despite the terrible influence your boyfriend is clearly having on you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this happy, so I’m prepared to overlook your underhanded methods.”

“Eurgh. Boyfriend sounds so juvenile. Can’t I be called your partner or something? And I’m not a bad influence! She’s just bitter because I’ve got better hair than her.”

“Yes Draco, because you don’t sound juvenile or bitter at all right now. I think it’s time to build a bridge and get over the fact that she once punched you. You’re ignoring the bit where she said you make me happy.”

“Hmph.”

 

“Anyway. She has agreed that Scorpius can spend some time in the ministry and attend some meetings with her.”

“Awesome!”

“I’m curious as to how you emotionally blackmailed her?”

“Oh. Yes. That. I sort of said that I needed to win Scorpius over, because I kind of really liked his Dad but knew that he’d break up with me if his son hated me...”

“I don’t hate you, though.”

“Yes, but Granger doesn’t know that, does she? I’m so proud of your manipulation skills, Charlie. I kind of really like you too.”

“Son present! Please stop kissing. You’re putting me off my food with all your sickening affection.”

“It was only a peck on the cheek!”

 

Immediately after supper, Scorpius wrote to Albus to tell him about the work experience he was going to do later in the holidays with Hermione. Albus’ response was clearly trying to be positive, but Scorpius could read between the lines. He knew Albus still found the admiration his best friend held for his close family members a little weird. It was just that Scorpius had grown up reading about a trio of friends who had together fought for the peaceful, tolerant society in which they now lived, and as a lonely child with no friends, the story had captured his imagination. He would always idolise the people who had given him hope of one day finding friends at a time when he had been alone in the world, even now that he had a friendship fiercer than he had ever dared to hope he would have. He couldn’t help but continue to hold the admiration for Hermione, Harry and Ron on behalf of his younger self. 

 

...

 

Scorpius and Albus had planned to spend the next day on their broomsticks around Malfoy Manor, the location chosen because Albus only enjoyed flying when there was no pressure from leering siblings or cousins. Scorpius’ father had other ideas. It was a bit of a surprise when the response to “is it OK for Albus to come here to go flying tomorrow” was a resounding no. Apparently they were going to have a family bonding day, and his father had already bought a pair of tickets to something muggle called a theme park. He looked so hopeful and excited when he told him that Scorpius didn’t have the heart to say he’d rather go flying with Albus. 

 

The theme park was actually quite fun. His father dressed in muggle jeans which astonished Scorpius, at least until he admitted that they had been bought for him by Charlie. They went on all of the rides, laughing and talking more easily than they had done since Scorpius’ Mum had died and their family had been ripped apart. It was late by the time they climbed back into their rented muggle car to head home, but Scorpius could admit that he felt a lot closer to his father than he had before. 

“I can’t wait to tell Albus all about our muggle day out! It would have been so good if he’d been here.”

“You didn’t enjoy the day with me? I’m sorry. I wanted to spend some quality time with you. You’re always with Albus these days, it doesn’t leave much space for father-son time.”

“No! I did have fun with you Dad! I like hanging out with you! Today was a good idea. I just like when Albus is there, too.”

“I know, Scorpius. I had noticed.”

 

“Oh! That reminds me! Why did you think we were together? It was so embarrassing when you said that in front of him. Especially when Albus actually likes me like that.”

“I’m sorry. I genuinely thought you were with him, you talk about him more than pretty much anything else, and whenever anyone mentions him, your face lights up, like you’ve just become happier merely thinking about him. I am sorry I made an incorrect assumption.”

“Thinking about Albus does make me happy. Albus makes me happy. He’s my best friend. That doesn’t mean I like him like that.”

“No. I guess it doesn’t. I’m sorry. I suppose part of me hoped... I just want you to be happy. You’re my son and I love you so much, I hope you know that.”

“Yeah, I know. I love you too, Dad.”

 

... 

 

It turned out that it was very possible to admire someone greatly and not want to follow in their footsteps. Scorpius made this discovery approximately two hours into his week of work experience in the office of the Minister of Magic. Hermione Granger-Weasley was undeniably a formidable, incredible, force of nature. She had done many exciting and dramatic things in her life. Her working day, however, was possibly the most dull thing Scorpius had ever witnessed. There had been a half hour debate on the exact wording of a single sentence within a law, a meeting with the muggle Prime Minister who somehow managed to say a lot without saying anything with real meaning, and a large stack of letters filled with illogical arguments from members of the public. 

 

At lunchtime, Scorpius met up with Albus, who was working in the family joke shop, fulfilling a Weasley rite of passage. He spent about ten minutes complaining about how intensely boring his day had been before he even let Albus have a chance to respond. 

“I don’t know why you’re surprised. I thought you were mad as Walburga when you said you were going to spend time at Aunt Hermione’s work. Obviously I love her because she’s my auntie, but the one rule with her is never, ever mention anything related to work. She’ll launch into some mind-numbing explanation of some random thing she’s trying to get approved until you wish you’d never asked!”

“But, she’s always so nice at your family events?”

“She is nice! She just gets very passionate about things most people don’t care about...”

“Eurgh! I’m going to lose my mind with boredom by the end of the week!”

“Yep!”

 

Scorpius finished eating his lunch and started to help Albus with some spellwork. George and Ron gave them free reign to come up with new product ideas, and Albus was trying to create a kind of personal rain cloud that you could stick onto someone’s clothes to constantly soak them. George had enthusiastically approved the concept. They were trying to work out both what could be charmed and how they could get it to work. Scorpius had the idea that it pull the moisture from the air, and had just about worked out the spell they needed before he had to return to the ministry. 

 

Hermione was alone in her office when Scorpius returned. She smiled at him as he entered and returned to the seat he had been allocated.

“Scorpius! You’re back! Did you have a good lunch?”

“Yeah, it was good. I saw Albus.”

“Ah, how is my lovely nephew?”

“He’s good. He’s working on a kind of personal raincloud. I helped him a bit, we worked out we need to suck the water from the air.”

“Clever! He should ask Ron about that. He once had to do try to do the reverse...”

“When you broke into the ministry?”

“Yes, exactly. Charlie said you were interested in all that history.”

“Yeah. I used to dream about having friends like you did, and looked up to you so much.”

“But now you’ve got Albus?”

“Now I’ve got Albus. He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“And you didn’t even have to survive a troll attack to make friends with him! You’re already doing better than I did.”

“You think?”

Hermione nodded, still smiling kindly.

 

“How are you finding the insight into my working life? Is it enlightening?”

“Um. Yes. It’s very enlightening. I think... maybe I’m not cut out for politics, though.”

“I wish I could tell my teenage self that Draco Malfoy would one day be dating my brother-in-law and have a son who is so polite he even found a way to tactfully say he finds my job boring.”

“I didn’t mean to be rude!”

“It’s OK, Scorpius. My husband, my entire family actually, say far worse. Last night Ron said my job was ‘like reading the dictionary in a foreign language with no translations.’ And then my son added ‘backwards, with a migraine.’ Saying you’re not cut out for politics is about the nicest way anyone has ever put it. You sounded enthusiastic about the charms you were working on with Albus. If you would prefer to spend your time working at the joke shop, I’m sure I could pull a few strings. I happen to know the owners.”

“Really? You wouldn’t be offended?”

“Not at all. I’ll firecall Ron and let him know you’re on your way.”

“Thank you.”

“No worries. And Scorpius?”

“Yes?”

“Albus is like his mother. He may not shout about it as much, but he’s got that same steely ferociousness, the same complete conviction in everything he does and feels. Now, off you go. Have fun!”

 

Scorpius tried to decipher the riddle of a sentence Hermione had just said to him. Was she trying to tell him that Albus was tough enough to survive the pain of his unrequited love? Steely surely meant strong. The references to conviction and ferocity were more confusing. How was Albus like his mother? They were both stubborn, maybe that was the conviction part? Scorpius already knew that Albus was stubborn, anyone who had spent more than five minutes with him probably knew that, so why would she tell him? He instinctively knew that this had something to do with the whole love situation, he just couldn’t work out what message she had tried to deliver. Why did she have to speak so cryptically?

 

...

 

The issue with living in Great Britain, is that ‘summer’ sometimes only lasts two days before dreary rain and clouds resume their rightful position on the weather map. As such, when the sun rose to reveal a day of blue skies unmarred by even a single cloud, those Weasleys not required to work excitedly organised a day at the beach. Scorpius, having finished his work experience, joined the group meeting at the Burrow to take a portkey to a secluded beach the muggles believed to be too dangerous to reach.

 

Both Molly and Ginny had asked him multiple times if he’d taken the sun protection potion and had shot an excessive number of charms at his skin to be sure. Rose, Hugo, Freddie and Roxy all looked very smug about their skin’s ability to see the sun without going an angry painful red, at least until they were forced to drink the gross tasting potion ‘just in case’. Despite Albus moaning that they were in Devon not the Dominican Republic and that it would probably cloud over within five minutes, Scorpius secretly enjoyed being fussed over. It made him feel like a member of the family and though it wasn’t the same, it was reminiscent of the motherly love he remembered from when he was little. It filled him with warmth that was only slightly tinged with longing. 

 

When they arrived at the beach, pretty much everyone instantly stripped down to swimsuits. Scorpius felt distinctly awkward being surrounded by so much bare flesh. He really wasn’t sure where to put his eyes. Ginny Potter in a bikini wasn’t exactly top on the list of images he wanted burnt into his retinas, and yet how was he supposed to avoid it when she kept on talking to him? That said, the situation with everyone else was absolutely nothing in comparison to the one with Albus. Scorpius was sure that there must be an unwritten rule somewhere that stated you aren’t meant to look at your best friend’s partially naked body at the beach. He blamed the social convention which forbade him from looking at the way Albus’ muscles rippled through his chest and his strong thighs for his inability to stop his eyes from straying towards them. It was just curiosity brought on by the knowledge he shouldn’t look. Nothing more. 

 

Albus was stood beside Scorpius looking resolutely out towards the horizon and ignoring his mother’s offers for them to play beach cricket or build sandcastles or throw a frisbee, when James ran over to them. 

“Hey, Albus, Scorpius’ trunks are nice, aren’t they?”

“Umm hmm.”

Albus stayed staring out to sea. Scorpius squirmed slightly at the attention James had drawn to his swimwear and therefore his body. 

“What colour would you say they are? Teal, maybe? They suit his skin tone, don’t they?”

“James. Shut. Up. I will kill you. I promise, I will kill you.”

“Wow, who would have thought a blush could spread that far? Look, Scorpius, it’s even reached his chest!”

“Oh. Yes. Well. Only just. It’s level with his collarbones.”

Albus’ gaze fell to his feet. His arm came up suddenly and swung at his brother, who dodged, laughing. 

“I’m going to see if I can climb those rocks.”

Scorpius gave the still smirking James a sharp look before turning to run after his red faced friend. 

 

‘Those rocks’ turned out to be a cliff. An actual, real life cliff, that Albus was in the process of attempting to scale. To Scorpius’ horror, he seemed to be succeeding, and had already made it a good few metres above the sandy beach by the time Scorpius got to where he had started his climb. He tried fruitlessly to call Albus back down and ended up helplessly watching him rise further up the rock face, wishing he had his wand so he would at least be able to cast some cushioning charms if he were to fall. Even through his mild panic at the speed he was climbing, Scorpius couldn’t help but notice the way Albus’ trunks became taut over his body as his legs moved up the cliff. Oddly, he found himself staring directly at his friend’s bum, and realised he had at some point stopped remembering how to breathe. He put the bum-staring down to his position below Albus and the difficulty breathing down to his panic that he might fall. 

 

Albus turned halfway up and waved at Scorpius, gesturing for him to join him in climbing. Scorpius felt his pulse rise at the even more precarious looking position the waving had put Albus in, and told him he was completely mad and that he himself would be keeping both feet on the ground, thank you very much. Albus shrugged and made his way higher still. Scorpius began to feel a little dizzy even looking at how far up Albus had gone. He kept on moving up and up. Eventually, he reached the top and heaved himself over onto the grassy verge. At least, it looked like a grassy verge from the beach, where Scorpius still stood squinting upwards. 

 

He had assumed that Albus would make his way back down via a small coast path that meandered through the sandbanks a few hundred metres away from the steep section of cliff he had scaled. Never to be so predictable, Albus turned in the opposite direction to the safe-looking path, and picked his way along the rock towards a spit that stuck out into the sea. Scorpius could barely believe what he was seeing as he watched his best friend move further out along the cliff formation and eventually stop at the very apex of a natural archway. He must have been at least 100 metres above the waves. Then, Scorpius felt everything stop as he watched Albus take a giant leap off the cliff. 

 

Scorpius was filled with an all consuming fear. It brought back a memory that he had long buried, of another time when he had faced the prospect of a world without Albus. The nausea threatened to overwhelm him, the nightmare that had plagued him for months returning and making him feel physically sick. He felt the exact same sense of helplessness, of terror and need for Albus as he had when he had been thrown into a world where his best friend did not exist. Then, he had thought that he could not live without Albus. Now, he was completely certain. He could not let anything happen to him, and yet here he was, watching Albus drop like a stone, entirely powerless to do anything to break the fall. 

 

The splash as Albus’ body crashed into the water below brought Scorpius back to the present. His body moved of its own volition, his limbs propelling him forward, his legs sprinting towards the shoreline closest to where Albus had disappeared. He was a couple of metres from the water’s edge when a head of shaggy wet hair erupted from the depths of the sea, waves rippling away from where Albus had burst through the surface. Seeing the evidence that Albus was not in fact drowning was not enough to shake Scorpius from his terrified state of shock and dread. He threw himself into the sea and swam ferociously, still fuelled by adrenaline, until he made it to Albus. 

 

His arms reached up of their own accord towards Albus. For a second, he beamed at Scorpius, thriving off his own adrenaline rush from the leap. When Scorpius’ hands made contact with his face, the smile vanished and was replaced by a look of uncertainty. Albus’ entire body froze as Scorpius raked his hair back out of his eyes. It was a simple action, reassuring him that Albus was still alive and well, the warmth of his skin comforting beneath his fingers. Albus suddenly stilling every muscle in his body while in deep, wavy, saltwater very quickly resulted in his head sinking under again. The inability to breathe was the catalyst his body needed to return to normal function, pushing him coughing and spluttering back above the surface. Scorpius wasn’t sure at what point he had let go of Albus, but they stayed there, staring wide eyed at each other, gently treading water and trying to work out what the other was thinking. 

 

Lily, Hugo and Freddie broke the bubble that had formed around the two of them. They had accosted the lilo that had been used as the portkey and were sitting astride it, paddling like you would a muggle boat, shrieking and splashing as they went. Albus and Scorpius’ attention distracted, they both glanced back from the floating Weasleys to each other for a second, their confusion at what had passed between them translating into a foreign shyness they normally did not feel when together. They swam back to the beach, the sounds of their swim strokes and the distant family members the only things preventing silence from engulfing them. 

 

Ginny and Molly watched Albus and Scorpius emerge from the water wearing matching expressions of trepidation and uncertainty. The women shared a questioning glance before Molly called the boys over, citing the need to refresh their skin protection charms as her excuse to draw them towards the little camp she and her daughter had made. Scorpius found himself being ushered to sit down beside Albus on the picnic blanket, where they were flanked by the curious and determined Weasley matriarchs. The women took a moment to fuss, but after a flurry of drying, warming and sun charms, they began their main assault. 

 

“You two seem quiet.”

Neither of them responded to Molly’s question. 

“Albus? Did something happen between you and Scorpius?”

Ginny’s probing was met by silence. 

“Scorpius? Can you tell us what has gone on?”

Unlike Albus, Scorpius was not used to the gentle, kind, motherly tones Molly was directing towards him. In his fragile state, it struck a chord that left him sorely missing his own mother. She wouldn’t have even needed to ask. Mortifyingly, his eyes began to fill with tears. Molly didn’t hesitate to pull him towards her in a warm, soft hug. 

“Oh, Scorpius, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you! Albus, what on earth did you do?”

“I-I-I didn’t...”

“I-I thought. He. He. The cliff. He climbed. He jumped. I-I thought. He-he was falling. I-I-I...”

“Albus! Scorpius isn’t seriously telling us you climbed the cliff and then jumped off it? Please, dear Merlin, tell me you at least had your wand? How high did you climb?”

As his Mum berated him, Albus jutted his chin out and shot a betrayed look at Scorpius. He normally would have felt guilty at telling the fearsome Ginny tales, but he could still feel the residual dread and terror from watching Albus, and he honestly thought he deserved the dressing down he would no doubt receive. 

 

While Albus desperately tried to persuade his mother that his actions had not been entirely reckless and irresponsible, Molly spoke quietly to Scorpius. 

“I’m very sorry for my grandson’s actions. I can tell they’ve shocked you.”

“I was so scared.”

“You thought he would injure himself?”

“Watching him jump. It-it gave me a flashback to. To the world without Albus.”

“Oh my goodness. You poor boy. I’m sure that was terrifying.”

“I just couldn’t bear it. If anything happened to him. I couldn’t. It wouldn’t...”

“It’s ok, Scorpius, I understand.”

“I don’t know what I would do. I couldn’t survive in a world without him. I don’t know what I would do if he were injured, even.”

“Hey, it’s ok. He’s ok.”

“But he’s not. I’m hurting him all the time and I can’t help it, but I hate it.”

“What do you mean?”

“He likes me and I just. I can’t. So I’m hurting him. And it tears me up inside to see how much it hurts him. But I can’t stop. Just now, when I got to him in the water. He was ok, so I put my hands on his face, but then he froze and now I think maybe that hurt him too. Me doing that. But I didn’t mean to hurt him.”

“Scorpius, you can’t help the way you feel any more than Albus can help the way he feels. He knows you aren’t intentionally hurting him. He’ll be alright. They’re tough, my lot.”

 

The sound of Ginny’s voice, amplified by the sonorous charm rang out over the beach. Their group was sure to be the only one for miles, so she did not need to hold back her rant for fear of others hearing. Scorpius had long since decided that she was a wonderful but mildly terrifying woman.

“JAMES SIRIUS POTTER! What was the one thing, the only thing your father and I asked of you? That you not antagonise your brother or tease him in any way, especially not about Scorpius. And what’s the first thing you do? Humiliate both him and Scorpius. You are well aware that your brother was already worried about today and you had to go and make it ten times worse for him, didn’t you. Do you know how Albus reacted to this? He climbed the freaking CLIFF and THREW HIMSELF off it. Angry doesn’t even cover it right now.”

 

Albus cowered away from his fuming mother. Everyone thought Harry Potter would be the strong and strict parent, when in reality he struggled with anything that he thought might make them hate him, whereas his wife had no such qualms. Scorpius could tell by the mixture of misery and regret Albus was wearing that he had been punished for his reckless behaviour. Ginny’s words made Scorpius wonder whether Albus had been trying to escape the awkwardness by scaling the rock face, and found he couldn’t blame him so much, not as he felt some of the guilt shifting towards himself for making Albus feel that way. 

 

Scorpius retrieved his novel and settled down on a towel a little way from the women. Albus picked up a book of his own and settled beside him. They didn’t speak, but the lack of conversation was not uncomfortable. After a while, Scorpius had lost himself in another world to the extent that he was surprised when James spoke from directly in front of them, having not heard his approach. Albus was scowling at his brother. 

“Erm, hi Albus, Scorpius. I just wanted to come over here and... look, I’m really sorry about earlier, ok. It was stupid. I was overexcited and insensitive and I really messed up. I guess... I saw you looking so uptight and worried about seeing Scorpius in his trunks, Albus, that I thought if I came over and gave you an excuse to look, then that would break the tension or something...”

“James. Do you think I was deliberately not looking at Scorpius for fun? Like oooh what a cool game?”

“Well no, bu-“

“I don’t want to violate him! Just because he’s in a swimsuit doesn’t mean he wants me ogling his body, does it? You made both Scorpius and me feel awkward!”

“Yeah. I know. I’m really sorry. It was stupid. I won’t do it again.”

James slunk off. Scorpius thought that if he were a dog he would have his tail between his legs. 

 

Scorpius turned to Albus, who was still watching his brother’s retreat. 

“I don’t mind, you know.”

“What?”

“I don’t mind, if you... want to look at me. It’s ok. We’re at the beach. It’s hard to avoid sometimes.”

“Are... are you sure? Because you know how I feel Scorpius. I don’t to make you feel uncomfortable.”

“Well... so long as you don’t literally stare, then I think it’s ok.”

“Ok.”

Scorpius turned back to his book while Albus began to sift the sand in front of them between his fingers. 

 

“Scorpius?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m really sorry.”

“You are?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry for being awkward and for James making us uncomfortable-“

“That wasn’t your fault.”

“I’m sorry for climbing the cliff. I only meant to go a little way, just to see if I could do it but I got carried away. I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok.”

“I’m sorry for not coming back when you tried to call me. It was like I suddenly had this restlessness and was drunk on adrenaline and I’d stopped feeling fear normally.”

“Do you have any idea how scared I was?”

“I’m sorry. That’s the bit I’m most sorry for, out of everything. I’m so sorry I made you worried.”

Scorpius sighed. 

“It’s ok. Just... please try not to do it again?”

“Oh yeah, I’m definitely not going to risk Mum’s wrath again. I thought she was going to hex me!”

“You deserved it!”

“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry about jumping in as well. It was fun until I saw you in the water. You looked terrified. I can’t believe I put that expression on your face. I’m so sorry.”

“Is that why you froze?”

“I guess, maybe partly? Mostly it was because you had your hands on me and were pushing my hair back. I’m sorry! I’ll shut up now.”

“Albus, it’s ok! You don’t need to check everything you say around me. It’s fine. Besides, I sort of like you saying stuff like that. Stuff that makes it seem like I’m special somehow.”

“You are special Scorp.”

“Yeah. SPECIAL.”

“I didn’t mean it like that!”

 

Unfortunately, not even magic could prevent sand and it’s innate ability to find its way into absolutely everything. Scorpius was fairly certain that if the mornings stress and swim hadn’t left him famished, he wouldn’t have eaten the sandwiches that actually crunched they contained so much beach. At least Ginny and Molly had brought copious amounts of butterbeer and a muggle drink called Pimms that contained a lot of fruit and tasted like summer itself. Scorpius had consumed about 3 and a half glasses of the deliciousness before he started to feel tipsy and realised it was alcoholic. Everyone else found his predicament hilarious. Ginny cast a bubblehead charm over him so he wouldn’t drown if he drunkenly stumbled into the water, which only increased the laughter around him. 

 

The Weasleys started a very competitive version of a muggle game called rounders after lunch. One person would hit a ball and then try to run around four bases. You could get whole rounders or half rounders and people could get out but Scorpius didn’t quite manage to work out how any of that happened. Albus was terrible at hitting the ball but very successful at running, which apparently meant he kept getting half rounders. Lily was scarily effective at whacking the ball. Scorpius made a note never to anger her when she had a bat in her hand. He didn’t take part himself. He tried to catch the ball once, when it flew close to him. The resulting mouthful of sand was enough to put him off trying again. It was a rather unpleasant way to discover bubblehead charms only kept water out. 

 

Nobody knew who had won the rounders game. When it finished, everyone collectively ran into the ocean, laughing and splashing each other, jovially arguing over who had played best. Without the adrenaline he’d had earlier, Scorpius found he became freezing cold and started shivering incredibly quickly. The English Channel was hardly warm. Albus had been brought up amongst numerous siblings and cousins who all tried to out-tough each other, so was therefore far more hardy and didn’t seem to have even noticed that the water wouldn’t have been much colder if blocks of ice had been floating in it. Scorpius decided to retreat from the sea when Lily suggested they see how long they could hold their heads underwater. The whole family were mad as Walburga for actually agreeing to compete. 

 

Molly was waiting at the shoreline for Scorpius, holding up a massive muggle towel, which was embedded with warming and drying charms. She wrapped it around his shoulders and gave his upper arms a bracing rub. She pulled out her wand and added some extra charms of her own, fussing about his blue lips and tutting about her grandchildren and their apparent desire to catch pneumonia. Now feeling far less like he was about to lose his fingers and toes to frostbite, Scorpius sat a couple of metres up the beach beside Molly and watched the others in the water. He saw how easy their relationships were with each other and wondered what it would have been like to have siblings, or even cousins. Teddy was technically related to him but they’d not met in childhood, so lacked the closeness he saw between the Weasleys. 

 

He found his eyes drawn constantly towards his best friend. He only realised that seeing Albus’ face light up in a laugh had invoked a smile on his own face when Molly commented on it. 

“He’s got his father’s smile, Albus. I have always been fond of Harry’s grin.”

“Yeah? I just like when Albus is happy, that’s all.”

“Of course.”

Molly gave him a kind smile of her own, but Scorpius couldn’t help but feel there was something knowing in her look as well. He deliberately dragged his gaze away from Albus, landing instead on the cliff from which he’d watched him jump. Molly couldn’t have been practicing legilimency because they weren’t making eye contact, however she was still somehow reading Scorpius’ mind. 

“Can’t stop replaying him plummeting towards the sea?”

“I can’t decide whether it’s better for him to have simply not thought about how I would feel, or for him to have deliberately done it because he thinks I don’t care about him.”

“Try not to agonise over it. He was hurting. He needed to escape. When we’re fuelled by pain it’s very difficult to consider how we’re affecting others.”

“I caused that pain. He thinks I don’t care.”

“Let Albus worry about Albus. You’re allowed to have feelings and to react to this situation too. I think everyone is so busy worrying about Albus that they haven’t seen how hard this has been on you. Including you.”

“I’m fine.”

“Ok. Just, please do try to think about yourself too. Now, I hear you did work experience with Hermione?”

 

Molly and Scorpius’ conversation about career options was cut short by Albus realising his friend was absent from the group in the sea. It was the least opportune moment for Scorpius’ brain to focus on such things, but as he watched Albus running up the beach towards them, he couldn’t help but notice the way that the water had affected the fabric of his trunks, alarmingly meaning that he could now see the outline of Albus’ cock bobbing up and down as he jogged. Watching the movement felt illicit and forbidden, but Scorpius found the sight too captivating to look away. Then Albus was standing in front of them and it was suddenly very obvious where his gaze was. Unfortunately, as he dragged his eyes higher, they caught on the droplets of water dripping down Albus’ chest, tracing the faint lines of muscles. He had the strange desire to run his hands down that lightly tanned torso, to feel how the skin covered in goosebumps felt, whether it would be cold as was Albus shivering. He didn’t. Instead, he stayed sitting and watched his best friend shaking the seawater from his hair and mentally shook himself.

 

“How come you’re up here with my Grannie and not out there with us?”

“Albus, not everyone has no sense and no feeling. Scorpius realised he was cold and got out of the freezing water. Novel, I know.”

“It’s alright when you get used to it!”

“Yeah, sure. That’s why you’re shivering so much.”

“He’s right, dear. If you won’t take one of my lovely towels then at least let me cast a couple of warming charms?”

“Stop fussing! I’m fine! Are you coming back Scorpy?”

“Nope, I’m sorry. I’m not as tough as you!”

“Oh! I...I’m not tough...”

“Yes, you are. But you go, I’m all good here. I’m going to try to convince Molly to teach me how to knit.”

“You’re such a dork.”

“You love me for it!”

Albus went bright red and looked at the floor. He mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like “yeah. I do.” before turning and racing back to the sea and diving into the waves. 

 

As their working days ended, the rest of the Weasleys descended onto the beach, bringing with them mountains of food to barbecue. Scorpius’ Dad arrived, hand in hand with Charlie. Draco Malfoy did not belong on a beach. Scorpius doubted he’d ever even visited the coast before. He was barefoot, clearly Charlie’s influence, and was walking gingerly along the sand wearing clothes that belonged in a muggle yacht catalogue. Despite all of this, he looked reasonably relaxed and he kept shooting smiles at Charlie, who returned them with a mixture of fondness and something else.  Mostly, the sight made Scorpius feel warm, relieved and pleased to see his father so happy, but there was something else mixed in there, something that felt a little like jealousy, or maybe regret, or guilt, that he couldn’t make sense of as he wondered what it felt like to be in a relationship like that. 

 

Ginny, having not been at work all day, was made chief barbecue minder. While her exploits in the actual kitchen were generally not considered gourmet, she proved a dab hand at outdoor cookery. Scorpius found himself sat between Albus and Rose as they filled up on the delicious food. Rose had been lecturing them on tides since they had sat down. Tides were admittedly very interesting, but Scorpius found his mind wandering after only a couple of minutes. 

 

He examined his own thoughts in a way he had never before allowed. Up until that summer, he had crushed and shoved away any thought that might be uncomfortable, such as his eyes being drawn to Albus’ crotch. The floodgates opened, and what felt like hundreds of occasions where he had been captivated by Albus’ body filled his mind. Next, came the torrent of memories of times when he had felt happier just because his best friend had arrived. Finally, it hit him that he could only imagine feeling the onslaught of horror and pain and dread that had accompanied Albus’ idiocy that morning for one other person. His father. The only person still alive that he loved. Did that mean that by extension he loved Albus? 

 

Scorpius had no idea what loving someone felt like. Loving his parents was something he had always done and never had to question. But Albus? He was, in all honestly, his only close friend. How could Scorpius know whether his feelings were normal friendship feelings or something more? He had always assumed they were the former. What if they weren’t? He felt panic rising in him as he realised he had no point of reference. For everything else, he would have turned to a book. Would books really be able to tell him exactly what love felt like? He had read all the classic muggle and wizarding stories and still felt at sea. He would have to ask an actual real life person. 

 

He looked around the beach at those gathered. He couldn’t ask any of the Weasleys. Teddy Lupin was an option. He was his cousin, seemed to be truly kind and was engaged to Victoire, so he must know what love felt like. They weren’t yet very close, and somehow this felt like something too deep to throw at him when they didn’t know each other that well. The only person that left was his father. Out of everyone in the world, Scorpius knew his dad would be the last person to judge him. He loved him unconditionally, and had promised him years ago to always be honest. While it would not be an easy conversation, his father was the only person Scorpius could possibly approach with this. 

 

Both Rose and Albus looked shocked when Scorpius suddenly stood up. He answered Albus’ worried look with a quick “just gotta ask my Dad something” but still felt him watching him with concern as he walked over to where his father was sat leant against Charlie. 

“Hey, Dad, can I talk to you for minute?”

“Of course, are you OK, Scorpius?”

“Yeah. Yeah I’m fine. But I meant like, just us two.”

“Go on, Draco. Scorpius should be able to talk to his Dad without an annoying ginger bloke getting in the way!”

“Oh! It’s not anything against you! I just wanted-“

“I know, it’s all good. It’ll give me a nice break from your Dad.”

 

The man in question reached out to playfully swat his partner, who caught his hand and kissed it, earning an eye roll and a barely suppressed smile. Scorpius’ dad pulled his hand away and lead them a little further up the beach, casting a couple of privacy charms before turning to his son.

“So.”

“Right. This is the bit where I tell you why I wanted to talk to you in private, isn’t it.”

“I’m listening.”

“Umm Hmm. Yep. Ok. I need to talk. Ok. I can do this. Right. Yep. Yes. I don’t know how better to put this so I’m just going to say it.... what does being in love feel like?”

“What does love... that wasn’t what I was expecting. Where is this coming from?”

“I...I...Would. Could you possibly just answer the question? I don’t think I know how to answer that.”

“If you think that my input will help, then of course, whatever you need. Come on, let’s sit.” 

 

Scorpius sat on the chair conjured by his father and waited. 

“The thing about love, is that it doesn’t feel the same every time. The way I love you is different from how I loved your mother, and again that’s different to the way I feel about Charlie now.”

“Because he’s a man and Mum was a woman?”

“Because they’re different people, and... how can I put this? ...Right now, my love for your mother is wrapped up in my love and pride for you, the pain I feel at her loss as well as the years worth of memories from the life we made together, plus everything I felt for her at the start. With Charlie on the other hand, it’s more about the future. I’m excited about the memories I’m yet to make with him, but at the same time I don’t have the past and that foundation I had with your Mother, so there’s uncertainty and a little fear mixed in there too.”

 

It didn’t make that much sense to Scorpius. The only thing he was getting from this was that love was complicated.

“I’m sorry, I don’t think that I really answered your question. You asked how love felt. It’s not something I can define as such. Maybe it would help if I described falling in love?”

“I think yeah, maybe.”

“With your Mother, it wasn’t love at first sight. I was vaguely aware of her at Hogwarts previously, but you know already that we got together when I was sent by the courts to take the final year I had missed with the year below. The first thing I felt towards your Mum was gratitude. I was universally hated, yet she still agreed to be my potions partner. I was in a bad place mentally back then. Over the year, more people began to acknowledge my presence, largely thanks to her. My affection for her slowly grew as she stuck by me and pulled me out of the dark place, stopped me focusing on my past mistakes. It was only quite a while after, when I saw her wearing this incredible blue dress, that I first felt attraction towards her. I’d known she was beautiful objectively, but I wasn’t in a place where I could feel anything for anyone at the start of that year. That affection and attraction just kept growing. I was happier when she was there, more relaxed but somehow also more energetic. She gave me hope, picked me up from the floor and made me see the positives in myself rather than just the negatives. She made me feel when I had closed myself off to everything. She was everything. All of that, all those emotions and more, that was love.”

 

By the time he finished speaking, both of the Malfoys had tears tracking their way down their cheeks. A couple of members of the group had noticed their crying but had looked away out of respect for their privacy. Both Albus and Charlie were obviously trying very hard to do the same, but he kept making quick, concerned glances back towards them. 

“I think Albus is worried because I’m crying.”

“I imagine he is. Charlie too. It’s not easy to watch people you love suffer.”

“Are you in love with Charlie? Sorry! You don’t have to ans-”

“Yes. I am. I haven’t told him yet, but I am. It’s a different love to the one I shared with your Mum, but it’s equally powerful.”

“I still don’t understand how love doesn’t always feel the same way. Happiness does.”

“Ok... let me reassure Charlie and then I’ll try to explain.” 

 

His dad sent a patronus to Charlie simply saying “Astoria.” It was met by a look of understanding, and a second later two butterbeers and a box of tissues floated over to settle on the floor in front of them. A forlorn and frowning Albus moved to sit beside his uncle, who immediately gave him a supportive hug.

“Now. You said happiness always feels the same. Are you sure that’s true? When we bought your Hogwarts books and when you first beat me at chess. You were happy both times, but did they feel the same?”

“Well... they didn’t feel exactly the same, no. There was an overall kind of happy feeling in both though.”

“Love is similar in that sense. The way I hope you feel towards myself will share some elements of what you will feel for the partner you choose, but mostly it will be different. And if you’re lucky enough to have children it will be yet another kind of love. Does this make sense?”

“Yeah. I think maybe. I was mostly asking about, you know, the more, romantic kind of love. I still don’t understand how it’s meant to feel.”

 

“Right. Well, I’ve already spoken about your mother. Would it be OK if I talked about Charlie?”

“Yeahhhh...Just. No um. Like. I’m your son.”

“I do understand that, Scorpius, I wouldn’t want my parents talking like that either. Eurgh. Horrible image.”

“See!”

“Focusing on the much nicer image of Charlie. I was attracted to Charlie instantly. Attraction is OK right?”

“Yeah. Yeah it’s fine. You’d got to the love at first sight part.”

“I said attracted to, not in love with. There’s a difference. Attraction is more about being drawn towards someone, based on appearance, certain traits or things like demeanour. It can be passing or it can stay for years. Love runs much deeper.”

“How do you know if you’re attracted to someone?”

“It depends, but if you’d like to, say, kiss them, that would be a good indication.”

“Oh. I see.”

“You can’t force yourself to feel attraction.”

“You can’t?”

“You either feel it or you don’t. Sometimes it develops halfway through knowing someone like it did for me with your Mum, but no matter what, you can’t control it.”

 

Scorpius was baffled. He had spent so long trying to suppress anything that didn’t feel 100% friendly that he had never allowed himself to imagine kissing anyone. He wondered what that felt like. When he truthfully reflected, he could remember times when he had wondered what Albus’ lips would feel like. There was that time when he’d put Ginny’s lipstick on to make fun of her and Scorpius hadn’t been able to tear his eyes from the deep red, shininess. And there had been an occasion in the dorm once when he’d wanted to touch Albus’ bum while he was bending over. There was also the small matter of the way his heart raced and he felt dizzily ecstatic whenever Albus embraced him. His dad had continued to talk so he pushed the thoughts aside, not forever as he had previously, just until he had time to think.

 

“I gradually fell in love with Charlie. We didn’t start dating until over a year after we met, though I assume my feelings built somewhat through the letters we sent while he was in Romania. Then he came back and we started properly seeing each other. As I got to know him better, all of the little things I found and I liked kept adding up and clicking together until I realised one day that I loved him.”

“You just suddenly woke up and were like, I love him?”

“Exactly that, actually. It was a couple of weeks before you returned. I woke up and saw him lying next to me, fast asleep, and it hit me that I wanted to wake up with him beside me every day for the rest of my life.”

“But he never stays at ours?”

”While you’re back, neither of us want to do anything to make you feel uncomfortable, especially not in your own home.”

“Why would I- Wait. So loving someone is wanting to wake up next to them?”

“It’s much more than that, but to an extent, yes. When you love someone you want to spend time with them, they make any situation better. You don’t want to live without them. I’m sorry, I’m terrible at articulating what love feels like. Have I helped a little at least?”

“Yeah. I think so. Thanks Dad.”

 

They briefly hugged before moving back towards the group. Both Albus and Charlie stood up. Charlie casually slid an arm around his partner’s waist while giving Scorpius his condolences about his mum and checking he was ok. Albus had paused looking hesitant. He kept moving his arms minutely forward and then back again, his hands balled into fists. Scorpius looked at his Dad leaning into Charlie’s side, the way his tears were being brushed away by soft touches. He wished he could melt into Albus like that. He always made everything better, but right now he looked like he was having an internal conflict of his own. Scorpius felt nervous, but decided that he needed to start being brave and truthful with himself about what he wanted. 

“Um. Albus. Um. Could um. Could I maybe have a hug?”

Albus looked relieved when he nodded, and then they were hugging and everything was better. Albus was there, he was warm and solid and made Scorpius feel so much stronger and able to deal with the confusion. He knew he would be OK so long as he had Albus. 

 

When Albus finally pulled away, his eyes darted around Scorpius’ face as if searching for something.

“Are you OK? Charlie said it was about your Mum?”

“Yeah. I’m ok. Come on, let’s go see if we can toast some marshmallows?”

“Yeah, I’ll ask Mum to find them.”

“Awesome! Actually, hang on... Charlie?”

“Yeah? What’s up, Scorpius?”

“Can you try to stop my Dad blaring the wireless across the house at 6.30 in the morning please?”

“I love that you think I have that power. I can certainly try. Does this mean...?”

“Yeah, of course I don’t mind you staying over. Especially not if you bring pain au chocolats...?”

“You certainly take after your Dad with those Slytherin tactics, you’re just lucky I have a bit of a weakness for Malfoys or I might not be so easily persuaded. I’ll try to make it to the bakery in the morning. Enjoy the marshmallows, boys.”

 

Ginny looked slightly concerned at the tear stains on Scorpius’ cheeks and Harry told him that if he ever wanted to talk to someone who had also lost their mother too soon, then he would always be there. In the same breath he advised them to use skewers or twigs not their wands to roast the marshmallows. They set up a small fire slightly away from the group and sat quietly while they toasted and ate the gooey delicious treats. Albus seemed to sense that Scorpius needed time to reflect, contemplate and think, but it was comforting to feel his presence beside him. The waves crashed gently and the fire crackled as they sat side by side beneath the star studded evening sky. 

 

Scorpius thought over his father’s words. Most of what he had said was intangible and vague, making it hard for Scorpius to imagine. The part about always wanting someone to be there, however, was easy to comprehend. It was the exact way he felt about Albus. When his Dad had wanted to introduce him to Charlie, Scorpius needed Albus there. Albus made every single situation better just by being there, he made Scorpius feel less hopeless when he was down and he was often the reason why he was happy. He liked term time best because they were always together at school. The bullies didn’t seem so bad when they suffered them together. When he had seen Albus taking that stupid risk he had felt like his brain was going to explode because he didn’t think he could physically live if anything happened to him. 

 

The other part of his chat with his Dad had been about attraction. Surely you couldn’t be in love with someone if you weren’t attracted to them? He tried to imagine kissing someone. His brain immediately inserted Albus into the vision. He tried to consider how his lips may feel against another’s. He couldn’t really picture it. He glanced over at Albus, who was blowing delicately at his marshmallow, his lips pursed into a cute little ‘o’ shape. Then they opened slightly as he tried to take a bite, but it was still too hot so he pulled away, his tongue darting out to lick at his lips. A bit of the marshmallow had stuck, fixing itself just below Albus’ lip. The small white dot of imperfection on his best friend’s face irritated Scorpius intensely. Albus hadn’t noticed it and had gone back to blowing the marshmallow to cool it. 

 

Scorpius stared at the tiny blob below Albus’ lip as if he could will it away. Why hadn’t he licked it off yet? Scorpius could do that for him. That thought was unexpected, but once it was there he couldn’t stop it reverberating around his mind, the compulsion to do just that growing difficult to resist. 

“Scorpius?”

“Whaaa? Yeah?”

“You spaced out. You were kind of staring at me.”

“Oh. Right. You... You’ve got a bit of marshmallow on your face.”

“I do? Oops. Where is it?”

“Just-just below your lip.”

Albus ran his tongue over his bottom lip.

“Did I get it?”

“No. Not quite. It’s just....there.”

At the same time as Scorpius reached out to point to the white mark, Albus tried to lick it. Scorpius was captivated by the sight of the movement, and didn’t realise how close his finger had come to Albus’ face until it made contact with his tongue. It was warm and smooth yet textured and sent shivers down his back. 

 

Albus jerked his head back as if he had been stung. Scorpius didn’t understand the wave of hurt and disappointment that followed. Albus was bright red and seemed flustered. 

“I-I’m so sorry. That was an accident. I promise. I didn’t do that on purpose I’m really, really trying to ignore my urges around you. I’m sorry.”

“Hey, it’s OK. I promise Albie, it’s ok. I didn’t mean to get my finger so close anyway, so it’s partly my fault. Don’t worry about it.”

Albus had tears in his eyes.

“How can you be so nice about this? It’s awful and inappropriate and you should be so angry at me but you just keep on being amazing and understanding and I don’t deserve you.”

“Why would I be angry? My Dad told me you can’t choose who you’re attracted to. If anything, you should be angry with me for not, you know. I’m not amazing, I just need you too much for anything to be able to change that.”

“I need you too Scor.”

 

The silence fell back upon them. All Scorpius could focus on was how that soft tongue had felt against his skin. He found himself imagining how that same tongue would feel against his lips, against his own tongue. Albus had said he was trying to control his urges. He knew Albus found him attractive, but they hadn’t kissed, so why was he talking about controlling his urges? Were there other things related to attraction that Albus wanted to do? Somewhere in his mind Scorpius recalled wanting to lick the droplets of water from Albus’ chest, the way he had been captivated by the sight of his body in swimming trunks earlier that day. He was starting to suspect the reason why those type of thoughts arose, but he couldn’t trust his logic, not after it had so spectacularly failed previously when it came to love. 

 

They both consumed more sugar than was advisable, until Albus declared that he was so stuffed he was starting to feel queasy. They laid down on the sand and looked up at the constellations. Scorpius stared at the one he had been named after, hoping it would give him some answers. It didn’t. He would later blame the sugar-buzz, the butterbeer, the sea air and the quiet atmosphere for what happened next. 

“Hey, Albus?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you ever wonder what kissing feels like?”

He felt Albus’ body tense beside him, and his voice sounded slightly constricted and twinged with sadness as he spoke. 

“Yeah. Yeah, I wonder. Why?”

“I do too. I was thinking... maybe. Maybe we could try it. Just so we could know what it feels like.”

There was a long pause before Albus replied, in which Scorpius could hear his own heart beating a fast rhythm in his chest. 

“You. You want to kiss me, not because you like me, but so you know what it feels like?”

“Yeah, just the once... to experience it I guess.”

“To experience it...”

“You can say no. I just thought. Because. You know. You said you liked me. So I thought maybe you wouldn’t mind.”

“Right. Um. I don’t know. I’m not sure I can- just, let me think about it?”

“Yeah. Ok.”

 

They lay there, Scorpius worrying that he had upset Albus and kind of confused as to why the question had made his friend uncomfortable, because surely he wanted to kiss him if he said he liked him? It didn’t make any sense, and the whole thing was starting to give Scorpius a headache. They were pulled from their silence by George standing up and announcing that there was a tradition they needed to uphold. 

“Charlie, don’t kill me for saying this, but I have a feeling that initiating this one is going to be particularly enjoyable. I may have forgiven him for his part in the war that killed my twin, but he was a Death Eater nonetheless.”

“Yeah, yeah, you do your worst George. Good luck, Draco.”

“Charlie! You’re supposed to be on my side! What happened to the sexy strong protectiveness?!”

“You find that sexy? Duly noted. I’m afraid I’m not stupid enough to go up against my brother when he’s wearing that expression, though. You’re on your own, my dragon.”

 

Scorpius tried to block out his father flirting. It was too weird. He didn’t block out the sight of George levitating him from the beach out over the sea and then dropping him into the ice cold water though. Nor did he block out the hilarious squawking noises and thrashing about as he complained about the indignity of it all. He stomped back out of the sea looking perturbed, until Molly cast multiple drying charms on him, said “welcome to the family” and gave him a warm hug, at which point he looked pleased and slightly embarrassed. Then the rest of the Weasley adults started giving him hugs and shaking his hand and he looked overwhelmed with the warmth he was being shown. Scorpius knew he was welcomed by extension, but somehow he wished it were because of him and Albus, not just through his Dad. 

 

The tension between Scorpius and Albus had thankfully now broken. They joined the rest of the group again for a game of charades around the big fire. He had almost forgotten about his earlier question when Albus turned to him while everyone was packing up to leave. 

“Scorpy?”

“Yeah?”

“You know what you asked earlier? I’ve been thinking about it, and if you still want to, then I’ll say ok.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I figure that even though it will be hard to know that it’s not going to happen again, I’d rather know how it feels and have that memory, you know?”

“Oh. That’s why you had to think about it. Do-do you want to do it now?”

“Erm. Ok. Yeah. Can we go somewhere? I don’t want to have to explain to my family.”

“Of course. We could go over there?”

“Alright.”

 

They walked in silence up off the beach, to where there was an old dilapidated building. As they made their way behind it, to where the others wouldn’t see, Scorpius could feel the tension radiating from Albus, matching his own overwhelming nervousness. When they were sure they were out of sight, they turned to face each other.

“So.”

“Are you ready?”

“Yeah. I think so. You?”

“Yeah.”

“Ok, then.”

“Ok.”

They both leaned in slowly. Their noses connected and bumped together so they pulled apart, mumbling embarrassed apologies. 

 

They leaned in again, and Albus tilted his head slightly to the right, so Scorpius matched the movement. This time their noses didn’t collide. Suddenly Scorpius’ lips met Albus’ and then they were kissing. It felt blissful and exciting and incredible all at once. Scorpius wanted to see how his tongue felt against those soft warm lips so he opened his own mouth just wide enough to flick it against Albus’ lovely mouth. Albus inhaled sharply, and as his lips parted Scorpius found his tongue just reaching between them. It felt insanely good, so he pushed his tongue a little further, and Albus opened his mouth a little more to let his tongue inside, just far enough to slide against Albus’ tentatively moving tongue in a wicked and wonderful way. As the kiss continued Albus seemed to gain confidence, meeting Scorpius with more enthusiasm, even taking his bottom lip between his teeth and lightly sucking it in a way that made Scorpius involuntarily let out an odd noise. He had no idea how long the kiss lasted. All he knew was that it was the most extraordinary, glorious set of sensations he had ever experienced. 

 

When they finally pulled apart, they were both panting. Albus was wearing a dreamy kind of expression as Scorpius watched his eyes slowly open. They locked onto Scorpius’ and widened, the dreaminess fading into something like horror, and then he stumbled out some incomprehensible words that might have included sorry, and sprinted back to the group, leaving Scorpius feeling cold, alone and more confused than ever. 

 

By the time he had got back to the others, walking in a daze, he couldn’t see Albus anywhere. James, however, stormed right up to Scorpius with fire in his eyes.

“What did you do to my brother?”

“I-I...”

“What. Did. You. Do. You’ve obviously done something, for him to run over hyperventilating and acting crazed, shouting about finding his wand because he needed to apparate away right that instant. So? I swear to Dumbledore, if you don’t tell me...”

“He didn’t apparate did he? Not if he was in a state? Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. He’s going to have splinched himself and it’s all my fau-“

“No. Dad took him side-along. It is your fault, though. Tell me what you did!”

“James! Stop threatening him!”

“Stay out of this, Uncle Charlie! Just because you’re screwing his Death Eater Dad, doesn’t give you the right to interfere! He hurt my brother!”

“That is enough. Don’t you ever talk to me like that again, James Sirius Potter. You are an adult, it’s time you started acting like one. Either you apologise and talk about what happened like a sane person, or I get your Mum over here to punish you like a child. It’s your choice.”

 

Scorpius had never seen Charlie look so angry and dangerous. 

“I’m sorry I spoke to you in that way, Uncle Charlie.”

“Unspecific and I’m not the only one who deserves an apology.”

“I’m sorry I was rude, I’m sorry I called your boyfriend a Death Eater, even though he was one, and I’m sorry I was aggressive towards Scorpius.”

“Not perfect but it’ll have to do. Now, Scorpius, can you tell us what’s going on with Albus?”

“We-we-we... we k-k-k-kissed.”

“Wait, what?”

“Albus kissed you?”

“Yes. Well. No. I don’t know. We kissed each other.”

“OK, so do you know why he became upset?”

“No.”

“Alright, let’s try to work it out, then. What happened in the lead up to the kiss?”

“Um. Well. Earlier on I asked Albus if we could maybe kiss so we’d know what it felt like, and he said he’d think about it and then just now, he said ok yes, he wanted to have the experience even if it was just once, and we went and kissed and-and  now...”

“Ah. I see. James, you’ve found out why your brother is upset, you can leave now.”

 

James reluctantly gathered his things and apparated home.

“You know why he’s upset?”

“I’ve got a good guess. How about we find your Dad and go discuss this over a cup of tea at your house?”

“Alright... Charlie?”

“Yeah?”

“Am I a terrible person?”

“No! Of course not! You just didn’t realise, that’s all. Come on, your Dad’s seen us, I’ll apparate you home.”

They arrived just outside the front door of Malfoy Manor and Charlie lead him inside then settled him on a sofa. A second later, he heard low voices, presumably discussing what had happened, followed by his father coming to sit beside him.

 

“So, you shared a kiss with Albus.”

“I did.”

“Is that related to our conversation earlier?”

“Yes.”

“Did you come to any conclusions?”

“What do you mean?”

“About how what you feel towards Albus.”

“Oh! I... I...”

“It’s ok not to be sure. Let’s start with something simpler. Did you enjoy the kiss?”

“Um, yeah. I did.”

“And would you like to kiss him again?”

“I... I think so, yes. But I don’t think he’ll want to kiss me back.”

“We can worry about that in a minute. Firstly, I heard you told him it was to experience kissing? I want you to think about this before you answer, OK? I want you to think about kissing someone else, someone who isn’t Albus. Somebody from school or a magazine for example. I want you to tell me whether you would rather kiss Albus again, or kiss that other person. Take your time, really think about it.”

“Albus again. I don’t want to kiss anyone else. Just Albus.”

“You’re sure? You’ve thought about a few people?”

“Yeah. I’m sure.”

 

There was a soft knock on the door, and Charlie entered. 

“Two teas, and I brought some of my Mum’s biscuits too. I’ll leave you guys to it now, I hope everything works out Scorpius. I’ll see you tomorrow maybe Draco?”

“You aren’t staying?”

“You need your Dad, Scorpius. I’d never interfere with that.”

“You made James stop yelling at me, and you said you know why Albus was upset. I need you to stay and explain!”

“I’m sure your Dad could explain, but if you’d like me to stay then I’d be more than willing. It’s your decision.”

“Stay.”

 

“We’ve established that he wants to kiss Albus, and only Albus.”

“Ok, good.”

“Alright, I want you to think about whether you would like to date him.”

“I-I-I don’t think I know.”

“Would it help if we told you what dating is like?”

“Yeah. Yeah I guess so.”

“Dates can be any number of things, you can go out to do things like eating or seeing Quidditch matches, or you can stay in and spend time together at one of your houses.”

“Me and Albus already do those things.”

“All your Dad means is that when you date, you spend time together, usually just with the two of you.”

“That’s what we do.”

“You feel closest to the person you are dating. The word partner is quite accurate. Some people say they’re your other half, too.”

“Me and Albus are always partners at school.”

“Dating is like being someone’s partner in life, rather than just in one class.” 

“Oh, OK. I guess I kind of already feel like that with Albus, because we’re best friends.”

“You two are probably closer than most friends. I think if you were his boyfriend then the difference would be that you and Albus might also do things like kissing, if you both wanted.”

“So it would be like being best friends but with kissing?”

“Basically, yes.”

“Possibly he would ask to do some other things too, but the important thing is that you know you never have to do anything you don’t want to do. You can always tell Albus no. My sister will have taught him the importance of consent. Obviously, the same applies the other way around, you should always ask permission before you do anything like kissing him.”

 

“So do you think you’d like that? To be his boyfriend?

“Yeah. I do. But I don’t think he liked kissing me. That’s why he ran away, isn’t it?”

“Evidently neither of us can speak for Albus, but we don’t think he left because he didn’t enjoy the kiss.”

“Scorpius, I want you to think about how you would feel in Albus’ position. I think we’ve established that you feel a similar way to he does. Now imagine what it would be like if Albus knew you liked him, and asked you to kiss him, but not because he liked you, just so he knew what kissing felt like.”

“He agreed! He said he wanted the experience too!”

“Let’s put it this way, how would you feel if you knew that would be the only kiss you and Albus ever shared, and nothing would change?”

“I would... I would be disappointed. It would be kind of devastating. You think Albus feels like that?”

“Quite possibly.”

 

Scorpius began to panic. He could not bear the thought of being the source of Albus’ pain yet again.

“Oh no. Oh no. Oh no no no. I’ve hurt him!”

“Hey, it’s ok. We can fix this. We can go over there now and you can talk to him.”

“Might be best if I go ahead. Harry Potter destroyed the darkest wizard of our time and Ginny is the scariest woman I know, all of my brothers avoid angering her. Let me just get their wands lowered and then you can come and clear everything up. I’ll open their Floo to you too.”

“I’m glad your family are so mild and nonaggressive Charlie. It’s really reassuring.” 

“We fiercely protect our own. I thought you found that sexy?”

“I thought you were Flooing to the Potters’?”

“I’m going. Give me five minutes, then come through.”

 

It was possibly the tensest five minutes of Scorpius’ life. His father gave him a calming potion after about 30 seconds of watching him nervously twitching, tapping his foot and talking nonsense. It did help, but it couldn’t touch the fear that Albus had just hated the kiss, or the dread of telling him that he thought he might like him. The time dragged, right up until the moment when his Dad cleared his throat and said he thought it had probably been five minutes, when it suddenly felt like the clock hands had moved too fast. He wasn’t ready for this. He was no Gryffindor. His family were Slytherins because they didn’t do bravery! There was no way this would go well. He felt physically sick as his Father held out the jar of Floo powder. He summoned every ounce of courage he possessed, threw the powder into the fireplace and shouted Albus’ address. 

 

When he arrived, the entire Potter family was in the living room. Harry and Ginny were stood up talking to Charlie in the centre of the room and Albus was sat all hunched into himself on the sofa, his head down, Lily hugging him and talking to him on his left and James with a possessive arm around him to his right. Albus lifted his head at the noise of the Floo, revealing his beautiful face marred by the evidence of an intensive bout of crying. His eyes were puffy and the redness spread over most of his face, the tears still silently spilling from eyes that widened slightly then closed at the sight of Scorpius. It was as if the whole room had frozen in suspense, waiting to see what would happen. The Floo lighting back up with the arrival of the oldest Malfoy broke the moment. 

 

“Charlie? What did you tell them?”

“Just that there’s been a misunderstanding and Scorpius wants to make it right, and that I don’t think he’s going to make Albus feel worse.”

“Ok. I take it the boys haven’t said anything to each other yet?”

“No. The rest of the Potters are going to stay. I know that will make it harder for Scorpius to say his piece, but like I said, we protect our own and Albus is very vulnerable right now.”

“No, that makes sense. I’m sure Scorpius understands. I gave him a calming potion to soothe his nerves so hopefully he won’t be too nervous to explain himself.”

“Charlie, Draco, are you quite finished? I thought Scorpius had something to say?”

“Right. Sorry Ginny.”

“Sorry. You can do this Scorpius, if it’s easier, just repeat what you said to us earlier.”

 

With his Dad handing over to him, and Albus looking at him with such a wounded expression, Scorpius knew he could put this off no longer. He drew in a deep breath and prepared to start speaking, but before he could get the first word out, Albus spoke up. 

“Scorpius. I’m so sorry. They’re all blaming you, but this is my fault. I shouldn’t have agreed. I thought you just meant a quick peck and I knew it would bring it home that you don’t like me back but I didn’t anticipate the kiss going like that and my heart aching so much afterwards. It’s not your fault. I’m so sorry.”

“You didn’t run away because I was a terrible kisser?”

“Are you kidding? I ran away because that kiss was the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced and it hurts like hell that I won’t ever do it again.”

“You can. If you want.”

“What?”

“We could kiss again.”

 

“Scorpius, did you not hear what I just said about us kissing making it harder that you don’t like me back?”

“About that. I probably wasn’t entirely truthful with you, and if I’m honest myself, for a long time. That’s separate though. What I said to you today wasn’t the whole truth. You know I said that I wondered what kissing felt like?”

“I don’t think I could forget.”

“Well, what I meant was that I wondered what kissing you would feel like. Dad said you know you’re attracted to someone if you want to kiss them, but I wasn’t sure what would be like... so that’s why I wanted to kiss you.”

“To work out if you were attracted to me?”

“Yeah.”

“Scorpius, I don’t think it works like that. If you actually liked me you would have known way before now, you would have felt things for me and just known, like I did for you.”

“But I swore I’d never fall in love because I knew how much pain it caused my Father, so I just ignored and suppressed any and every non friendly feeling I ever had.”

 

“But... your Dad isn’t miserable anymore, is he? And how does that even work? Surely it’s not possible just to stop yourself from feeling anything?”

“I did feel some things. I just told myself they were because we were best friends, that I liked your smile because it showed you were happy, that kind of thing. But the erm, the other things, I just kind of didn’t let myself think them, every time I started to think something like that I reminded myself why I had vowed never to fall in love.”

“So whenever you had any sexual thoughts or urges you drove them away by thinking about your Mum dying? Scorpy, that’s... that’s really sad.”

“It’s not sad. And I’m trying not to suppress them anymore, I allowed myself to think about kissing you...”

“That’s as far as your fantasies go? Just kissing?”

“Well... Uh. I... I wanted to touch your chest earlier?”

“Merlin Draco, how did you, of all people manage to have such an innocent son?”

“Charlie. My son just confided that Astoria’s passing, my reaction to her death and my consequent communication failure have completely messed up his view on relationships and made him repress his sexuality in a frankly unhealthy manner, and you’re making a joke?”

“Ah. I’m sorry. You’re right. That was inappropriate. I was just trying to lighten the mood.”

 

Albus’ eyes no longer held the look of total despair, which Scorpius saw as a considerable improvement, even if they were now fixed on him in a calculating manner. His awkwardness was overridden by concern for Albus, so he didn’t even feel embarrassed about everyone having heard his very personal confession. 

“Scorpius? When we get home, we’re going to have a long talk about sexuality, relationships and all of this, but I just want to check you know that even though losing your Mum was incredibly painful, it hasn’t broken me and I still believe in love, and I want nothing more than for you to one day fall in love. Wanting to be intimate with another person is an innate part of being human, it’s natural and you’re allowed to have desires. Understood?”

“Yes. I thought I might have been wrong when you told me you were with Charlie, and then when you said you were in love with him, I knew I was definitely mistaken. You wouldn’t willingly put yourself back into love’s the line of fire if it wasn’t worth it. And I think the defences I built up to stop myself from falling in love were the same ones that stopped me allowing myself to feel um, desires. Or maybe the walls only ever kept the desires away, and I couldn’t stop myself feeling love? I’m not sure, but I’m trying to be brave enough to tear them all down.”

 

Scorpius’ father let out a long breath and closed his eyes. He looked relieved, exhausted and still somewhat troubled. 

“There’s still a lot we need to discuss. I know you don’t like talking about these things with me, but you don’t have to deal with all of this alone anymore. I’m always here, but if you’d prefer I’m sure Charlie or Teddy would listen. For at least some of it I’m sure you can talk to Albus.”

“Scorpius, you already know you can talk about literally anything with me, and I’d never judge you for it, right?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Draco’s right Scorpius, I’m here for you too, if you’d like me to be.”

“Thanks, Charlie. For the record, I’m glad it was you my father chose.”

“So, is now a good time to rewind back to that reason you knew you were mistaken?”

“Oh. I was hoping you hadn’t heard that bit. Thanks, Scorpius. As if tonight wasn’t stressful enough. Yes Charlie, he said I was in love with you. I wasn’t going to tell you yet, and it’s hardly the setting I would have chosen, but there’s no point trying to deny it now. I love you, Charlie Weasley. Ok, back to Albus and Scorpius now!”

“Wait! I need to say I love you too! Draco Malfoy, I am in love with you.”

“You do?”

“Of course I love you too, you’re my favourite dragon.”

“Will you two stop being cute and pay attention to our sons!”

 

“Albus?”

“Yeah?”

“Everything is kind of confused in my head right now and I don’t really understand what all of the things I’m feeling mean, but I think I might like you back, and I know that I’d like to kiss you again. I think- I think I’d like to go out with you, if you want to?”

“Scorpius, you know I’d love to date you, but I don’t think it’s wise when you haven’t figured everything out yet...”

“My Dad and Charlie say that dating is basically the same as what we do now, like you spend time together and you want them to be your partner for everything not just potions. I want to spend all my time with you because you make everything brighter and you’re the person I care about most and I was so scared earlier when you jumped off that cliff because I don’t think I want to live my life without you there and those were the kinds of things Dad said he felt for Mum and feels for Charlie. I’ve felt those things for a long time, I was just lying to myself that they were platonic, because I know now that I really, really like kissing you.”

“That’s how I feel about you too. I knew way back in fourth year when I watched you getting hurt that I would do anything, absolutely anything to keep you from harm of any kind. I want you there for everything too because you make me happy.”

“I made you sad today. Which I hate hate hate because you make me so happy just by being Albus.”

“You’re making me feel better now. And I’d feel even better if we maybe kissed again? If you want to.”

“Oh! Um. Ok. Um. But um. Everyone is here?”

 

“Yeah, I veto the idea of you kissing in front of me. Scorpius, I love you very much but I draw the line at watching you snog a Potter.”

“They can go to Al’s room if they like?”

“Potter, is that really advisable?”

“We’ve just established that your son is about as innocent as a My Little Pony, I don’t think it will be a problem.”

“I have no idea what that is, but it may be a problem if your son starts corrupting or pressuring mine.”

“Albus cares for Scorpius more than anything in the world, and we have been responsible parents and given him a particular talk that you clearly haven’t had with Scorpius yet, including a large amount on consent, so I trust that they will be fine. By the sounds of it Scorpius could do with a little corrupting anyway.”

“Potter! My son does not need to be corrup-“

“My Dragon, come on. Harry’s not entirely wrong. Scorpius is a little too virtuous to be a true Malfoy, isn’t he? 

“I don’t know what you mean, the Malfoys are respectable!”

“Ha! You’re kidding, right?”

“We are!”

“I have a large amount anecdotal evidence to contradict that statement.”

“Alright, fine. My son is respectable but I’ve been corrupted by a Weasley. Better?”

 

Albus took Scorpius’ hand and lead him out of the room, away from the incessant and downright disturbing flirting. They climbed up the stairs and eventually Albus clicked his bedroom door closed behind them. Scorpius sat cautiously on the edge of the bed and started tracing his fingers along the patterns on the duvet cover, watching his hand moving across the fabric so he didn’t have to awkwardly look at Albus. The boy in question stood by the door silently for a minute, before coming to sit beside Scorpius on the bed, leaving a fair sized gap between them. Albus cleared his throat to get Scorpius to look up at him, his face clearly showing as much anxiety as Scorpius felt. 

 

“Scorpius? We don’t have to kiss again. Not if you don’t want to. We can just sit and chat like usual. I don’t care how slow we go, I don’t care what we do, so long as I’m with you.”

“Oh. Um. Actually, I think I’d quite like to kiss you again. If you still want to.”

“You’re sure?”

Scorpius nodded as he leaned towards Albus. Their second kiss was different to the first. Where before Albus had been hesitant, now he was confident and enthusiastic, immediately opening his mouth and running his tongue along Scorpius’ lips. It felt incredible, it was as if he were setting Scorpius alight wherever they touched. He responded by parting his lips, allowing Albus inside. Scorpius remembered how incredible Albus sucking his lip had felt, so he tried it, making Albus hum in approval. After that he stopped thinking and let his instincts take over. At some point Albus brought a hand up to Scorpius’ neck, and Scorpius’ fingers started running through Albus’ hair. 

 

A couple of times they broke the kiss to get their breath back, their foreheads pressed together as they smiled at each other. Eventually Albus pulled away, but he kept his hand on Scorpius’ neck, his thumb softly tracing the line of his jaw. He was looking straight into his eyes with an intensity Scorpius had never seen before, but there was openness, honesty and vulnerability there too. His other hand gently reached out to brush the hair that had fallen over Scorpius’ face back. They stayed like that for a few moments, before Albus took a deep breath, closed his eyes for a second and then opened them to continue staring into Scorpius’ soul. 

 

Albus’ words were soft, gentle and slightly shaking. 

“Are-are you sure about this?”

“What?”

“Are you sure you want me? You... you could be with anyone you wanted Scor. You’re the most intelligent, beautiful, kind, incredible person ever. Why would you want to be with me?”

“You really think that?”

“Think what?”

“That I’m intelligent and beautiful and kind.”

“Well, yeah. Of course. Because you are all of those things, plus loads of others too.”

“Oh wow. I have this odd feeling that’s like a mix of euphoria and dizziness and some other things. It’s very strange. It’s like someone’s made my insides flutter.”

“You know you’re ridiculously cute too, right?”

“I am?”

“Yes! And when you actually realise that then you’re also going to work out that you could do so much better than me!”

“What? How could I do better than you?”

 

Up until that moment, Scorpius had thought Albus had understood him when he said he wanted them to be together. Only now did he realise that Albus needed more than just actions to reassure him. He needed words.

“I’ve never met anyone, ever, who was better than you. I cannot think of one single person. No one else is Albus. Apart from Dumbledore, obviously. He was also called Albus. I never met him, but he doesn’t sound nearly as amazing as you. You’re my Albus and I think you’re perfect and I might maybe love you. I’m still trying to figure the whole love thing out, but I feel almost everything Dad says he feels when he’s in love... Why are you crying again? Did I say something wrong? I’m so sorry. I was trying to explain why I want to be with you but I keep on accidentally upsetting you and I-“

“I’m not upset. You didn’t say anything wrong, you said everything in the most Scorpy way possible and I loved it. These aren’t sad tears, I’ve just felt extreme levels of so many emotions today and then you say something like that and I don’t have enough space for all the feelings I have right now so I guess they’re escaping through my eyes. I love you so much Scorpius, and I just can’t even process that you want to be with me.”

 

As much as Albus said he wasn’t upset, his explanation made very little sense to Scorpius. Albus was crying and he really didn’t like seeing that, so he wrapped his arms around him and pulled him close, resting his chin on Albus’ shoulder and rubbing his hand down his back. They had never hugged for so long. Scorpius had never quite appreciated just how good Albus smelt either. 

“Albus?”

“Yeah?”

“How do I make it better?”

“What?”

“Is there something I can do to make you feel better?”

“No. No, there’s nothing you can do to make me feel better because I already feel like the luckiest person on the planet, to get to be with you. You can keep playing with my hair though, it feels really nice.”

“Ok. Your hair is soft. Just for the record, I’m pretty sure it’s me that’s lucky.”

 

When Scorpius woke the next morning, he could feel the warmth of the sunlight on his face. He blinked his eyes open, disoriented by the colourful walls until he recognised the room. It took him another few moments to recall why he was not waking up in his own home, and only then did it strike him that he was not just in Albus’ room but also in his bed. Scorpius’ mind began to race. They had evidently fallen asleep at some point while they were holding each other the night before, as he couldn’t recall anything past lying down, Albus still tearful in his arms. They were both still wearing their slightly sandy and smoky clothes from the beach. Finally, having figured out how he had got into this situation, Scorpius allowed his mental guards of logic and reason to fall, leaving him with nothing but his own reaction and all of the feelings which that entailed. 

 

Albus had curled himself up into a ball overnight, his knees up by his chest and his arms tucked in. Scorpius let his eyes take in the whole of his sleeping form before coming to rest on his face. He looked so peaceful and relaxed. Albus was the most beautiful sight Scorpius had ever seen. In the light of the morning he drank in all of the features he knew so well and felt himself overcome with a multitude of emotions. None of the feelings he was experiencing were new, he had felt them all for Albus before, it was just that now they were all hitting him at once and knocking his breath away with powerful force. He now understood exactly what his father had meant, how you could wake up, look at the gorgeous sleeping form of an incredible man and know that you were in love. Looking at Albus lying next to him, Scorpius knew with more certainty than he had ever felt before, that he was in love with his best friend. 

 

He reached a hand out to run his fingers across Albus’ jawline, wondering at how his light stubble managed to feel both smooth and rough at once, enjoying the heat of the skin against his own. It was the lightest of touches but somehow it still tore Albus from his slumber. His eyes fluttered open in the most adorable way, making Scorpius break out into a smile. 

“Morning. I’m sorry I woke you.”

“It’s ok. My imagination is doing a very good job this morning, I’d almost think I wasn’t dreaming if I didn’t know that was impossible.”

“I never knew you talked such nonsense right after you woke up. I like it. You’re not dreaming though. I’m pretty sure we’re both awake.”

“This can’t be real. This kind of scene only exists inside my brain. Did I get hit by a spell or a potion or something?”

“Nope, we just fell asleep here last night. We didn’t even change out of our clothes from the beach. Remember, Albie?”

 

Scorpius could see the cogs whirring as Albus thought back to the previous evening and finally realised that this wasn’t a dream. He lifted his head slightly to get a better look at Scorpius’ face on the pillow beside him, opening his eyes fully now. 

“You’re still here.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry. I can go-“

“No! Don’t go. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve fantasised about waking up in your arms?”

“Technically, you’re not in my arms.”

“Oh, well that’s the whole thing ruined then. You may as well go if the exact details don’t match up.”

“Hmmm I could go, but your bed is incredibly warm and comfy and has this amazing guy in it...”

“Yeah, you are amazing.”

“I was talking about you, idiot.”

“You think I’m amazing?”

“Yes. And I think you’re an idiot if you didn’t know that already.”

“Fine. I guess I’m an idiot then.”

“Maybe, but you’re my idiot, so it’s ok.”

“I am?”

“Yeah. Of course. Aren’t you?”

“I-I’d like that.”

“That’s settled then. You’re my idiot.”

 

The pair were both still beaming at each other from ear to ear five minutes later when there was a knock at the door. 

“Morning boys. Can I come in?”

“Morning Mum. Yeah, sure.”

“Scorpius, you seem to have my brother wrapped around your little finger. Not only did he persuade your Dad to let you spend the night here when we found you fast asleep together, but he has also sent a huge bag of viennoiseries for breakfast because you wanted pain au chocolats. On the down side, you do need to get up because your Dad is expecting you home in half an hour for a lovely talk that I’m sure will be great fun for both of you.”

“Oh Merlin, Scorpius, you’re going to have the talk! Run away now before you die of embarrassment!”

“Albus, stop teasing him! I’m sure it won’t be that bad Scorpius. Come on, you need to get to the kitchen before James and Lily eat all the pastries.”

 

“Thank you for letting me stay, Mrs Potter. We’ll be down in a moment.”

“Mrs Potter? What happened to calling me Ginny?”

“Oh. Well. Um. I thought that if I was talking to you as my boyfriend’s Mum not my best friend’s Mum that it would be different?”

“So you’re boyfriends then? Ginny’s still fine though, Scorpius.”

“Oh! Well I just assumed...”

“You’re sure you officially want to be my boyfriend Scorpy? You don’t have to be, we can wait and see how it goes if you want...?”

“Why wouldn’t I want to be? I love you. Of course I want to be your boyfriend, if you’ll have me.”

“You love me? Are you sure? Last night you said you were still trying to figure it all out...”

“I know, but then this morning you were so beautiful and perfect, and I suddenly understood what my father told me about waking up and knowing that you were in love. I’m absolutely certain that I, Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy, am in love with you, Albus Severus Potter.”

“I love you too.”

“So... will you be my boyfriend then?”

“Yeah. Yes. Definitely. I love you, Scorpy.”

 

At some point Ginny had left again, closing the door almost silently. They smiled shyly at each other, both of their faces reflecting how incredibly pleased they were that the other loved them back. Scorpius wasn’t sure which of them initiated the kiss, he just knew that it was a perfect combination of sweet and earnest, that it felt like coming home and taking flight all at once. He just knew that he was in love and happier than he ever had been. When he finally pulled away, Albus took his hand and lead them out of the room, saying “Mum wasn’t kidding about my greedy family eating all the food” and Scorpius realised that this was what he had been missing, what he hadn’t even known he needed. Love was, without a shadow of a doubt, worth the risk.