‘Hurry, hurry, hurry!’ Scorpius hopped from foot to foot, his backpack bouncing on his back, as Albus rifled through the suitcase at the foot of their bed.
‘Scorp, will you please calm down? It's here somewhere, I will find it in a second.’
Scorpius spoke agitatedly, one hand on the door handle of their hotel room. ‘If we don't go now, we'll miss the bus and we won't see the opening show!’
‘I know!’ Albus said shortly, and a moment later unearthed what he'd been searching for: a small spray can of sunscreen. ‘Got it,’ he called, stuffing the can into his own backpack and heading for the door, where Scorpius was now holding out a flattish package wrapped in purple tissue paper.
‘What's this?’ Albus asked, and Scorpius grinned.
‘Just take it, open it on the bus. We have to run!’ Scorpius pushed the package into Albus's hands and pulled open their door, rushing out into the hall. Albus smirked, watching his boyfriend skip down the corridor humming to himself, and pulled their room door closed carefully, listening for the click of the lock. Once they had made their way through the winding hall of the hotel to the main lobby and out to the bus stop - Albus at a brisk walk, Scorpius rushing ahead - they paused to check the electronic screens.
‘See, the next bus isn't for another eight minutes,’ Albus gestured to the display. ‘You were all worried for nothing.’
Scorpius pouted slightly. ‘I wanted to be here in plenty of time, it just makes sense.’
Albus laughed at his boyfriend's pout and playfully nudged his shoulder. ‘I know,’ he grinned, ‘You think I wasn't prepared for how hyper-organised this trip would be? I've known you a long time.’
Scorpius's pout was replaced with a soft smile. ‘You can open that if you like, now we have time.’ He nodded to the parcel Albus still held.
‘Oh, right.’ Albus turned over the parcel, not knowing what to expect, and slowly peeled off the spellotape holding the paper together. He pulled back the tissue and revealed a headband, with large round ears made of black fuzzy material sewn to the top. The headband itself was wrapped with a rainbow-striped ribbon, and embroidered in cursive font along the base of one of the ears was the name Albus.
‘Look! We match!’ Albus looked up from the parcel to see Scorpius now wearing a headband of his own, with the colours reversed - a black headband and bright rainbow ears emblazoned with an embroidered Scorpius. ‘Do you like them? I ordered them specially from a muggle shop.’ Scorpius beamed.
‘They’re quite something,’ Albus turned the ear headband round in his hands, running one finger over the embroidered name. ‘Will we be the only ones dressing up?’
Scorpius shook his head vigorously. ‘Oh no, not at all, lots of people do. And especially the mouse ears, probably half of the people there will be wearing those!’ He reached up and adjusted his own headband, his bright blond hair catching the sunlight as he ruffled it. ‘And besides, I got you the slightly subtler version,’ he gestured to the black ears Albus held, ‘So you can be, you know, just discreetly gay.’ Scorpius finished his sentence in an exaggerated whisper and poked his tongue out at Albus.
‘Ha, instead of full rainbow like you?’ Albus raised an eyebrow at Scorpius.
‘Exactly. Although I'm planning on holding your hand all day anyway so I don't know how much difference it'll make. Right, come here,’ Scorpius pulled the headband from Albus's hand and stood directly before him, pushing his dark hair back softly and putting the headband into place. He stepped back and looked down at Albus with a smile. ‘Perfect.’
‘I know I am, but how about the ears?’ Albus grinned and looked up into those familiar grey eyes, waiting for his boyfriend to groan at his terrible joke. Instead Scorpius held his gaze for a moment, then leaned forward and placed the lightest of kisses on Albus's forehead. 'I love you, you know,’ he whispered as he pulled back, and Albus felt a squirm of happiness shoot through his heart. It had been years now, but still every time he heard Scorpius say those words he felt like a flustered teen with a crush all over again. ‘I love you too,’ he whispered back, and Scorpius blushed. Albus had a feeling that those three words made Scorpius feel exactly the same way.
They stood close, basking in the sun, until a bus appeared a few minutes later. ‘Is this the right one for Magic Land?’ Albus asked.
‘Magic Kingdom,’ Scorpius corrected. ‘We've been through this.’
‘Right, sorry. Magic Kingdom.’ Albus repeatedly carefully to humour Scorpius, who was wearing a very serious expression as he watched the bus pull up to their stop. He was fidgeting with his wristband (MagicBand, as he would no doubt insist Albus called it correctly), which used wireless muggle technology to hold information about their tickets and booking. Scorpius was always a bit nervous in muggle environments after being so sheltered in the wizarding world as he grew up, and even though he'd gotten more confident in the five years since they left Hogwarts, Albus could tell he was getting stressed at the thought of a full week in the muggle world using their money, their customs, and right now - their transportation. The bus pulled up to their stop and a large digital display on its side read ‘Magic Kingdom - When you wish upon a star’.
‘This looks like the one,’ Albus said, and followed close behind Scorpius as he shuffled forward to the yellow line on the ground which indicated where they should board. The bus driver waved them forward and winked at each of them as they climbed onto the bus, and Albus noticed Scorpius tense ever so slightly, as if he was afraid the muggles would suddenly realise he wasn't one of them. Albus placed a hand lightly on his boyfriend's back and steered him towards a pair of seats about two-thirds of the way down the bus. Once they were seated, Scorpius let out a soft sigh of relief, and whispered, ‘That's the first hurdle.’
‘It's just a bus, babe, we're fine.’ Albus gave Scorpius a reassuring pat on the shoulder, then reached up to adjust the mouse-ear headband over his thick, dark hair. Albus didn't often wear bright colours, and summers back home weren't usually hot enough to warrant shorts or tank tops more than a handful of days each year. Now though, on a bus full of muggles across the Atlantic Ocean, in shorts, a bright red tank and a rainbow headband, he felt distinctly on show. Scorpius on the other hand had grown in confidence since Hogwarts, loved to match up clashing colours and prints, and was no stranger to rainbow accessories either - his shoelaces and backpack both sported the multi-coloured stripes today, as well as the new mouse ears. Albus always thought that Scorpius looked gorgeous and was proud to be his boyfriend, but he’d just never really grown comfortable with people looking at him. As he watched other people board the bus after them, Albus became aware of Scorpius still fidgeting with his wristband and tapping his toes nervously, and he started to feel a bit ridiculous. If Scorpius could cope with big crowds of strangers and being immersed in the strange muggle world, surely Albus could wear a headband without worrying. Besides, it looked like Scorpius was right - several others sitting near them were wearing glittery mouse ear headbands and an assortment of brightly patterned clothing. Albus took a breath, stopped adjusting the headband, and focused his attention back on Scorpius.
‘Are you going to be okay with all this?’ Albus said quietly, and Scorpius nodded in response.
‘I’ll be fine, I think. It's just been a long time since I've been around this many… people.’ Scorpius stopped himself from saying muggles at the last moment.
‘I know, but you've been planning this trip for months, you've not left anything to chance.’ Albus rested a hand over Scorpius's own on his knee and gave it a squeeze. ‘Nobody will notice anything, I'm sure of it. You are still excited too, aren't you?’
Scorpius turned to face him. ‘Of course! I can't quite believe it's really happening, though.’
‘Well you'd better start believing it soon, we'll be there in about ten minutes.’ The bus had pulled away from its stop and was en route to the theme park. The couple sat in companionable silence, watching palm trees pass by in the sunshine, until after a short while the landmarks of the park came into view. Scorpius gasped as he caught sight of a circular white building.
‘Space Mountain!’ he cried. ‘It looks exactly like in the video!’
Albus laughed as Scorpius pressed his hands to the bus window and gazed wide-eyed at the building. For months he had been referencing the ‘Walt Disney World video’ which he used to watch as a child. He couldn’t remember the real title, and together they had turned Malfoy Manor upside down trying to find the long-lost copy to no avail, but Albus had heard each scene described in such detail that he felt as if he'd watched it too. Every time Scorpius talked about settling down by the fire with his mum, nestled under a blanket with their hot chocolate and portable muggle video player, his eyes lit up and a dreamy expression softened his face. The video had featured costumed Disney characters showing the viewer around various landmarks and rides in the theme parks. Albus knew that Astoria and Draco had planned to take Scorpius there as a family for his tenth birthday, but by then Astoria was too ill to travel. It meant a lot to Scorpius that he could finally experience the place he'd longed to visit since he was first enthralled by the video all those years ago, but Albus was prepared for this to potentially be an emotional day as those memories of his mother flooded back.
As they pulled up to the bus stop outside Magic Kingdom, Scorpius tightened the straps of his backpack and shuffled forward to the edge of his seat. ‘Are you ready?’ he asked with a quick glance to Albus.
Albus nodded. ‘Yep. We should be in plenty of time for the welcome thing though, so I don't think we need to rush.’
‘But I read a thing that said you need to get a good place to stand! And we need to be near the front so that we can go and get in the line for Space Mountain as soon as it opens.’ Scorpius was already standing up, swaying as the bus came to a halt.
‘Okay, okay,’ Albus stood up to join him. ‘I'll rush a little bit, just for you.’
‘Thank you, babe,’ Scorpius said in a sing-song voice, then leaned in to place a quick kiss on Albus's nose. Albus grinned, then pointed over Scorpius's shoulder. ‘The doors are open.’
Scorpius looked panic-stricken, then whirled around and followed the muggles off the bus, not stopping to wait once he'd disembarked but heading straight for the park entrance at a rapid pace, overtaking a couple unfolding their daughter's pushchair and the group wearing the glittery mouse ears. Albus rolled his eyes and ran to catch up, one hand holding onto his headband to make sure it stayed in place. As they walked amongst the crowds and up to the entry line, he eyed some of the muggles carefully to make sure they weren't acting unusually in comparison. Lots of other people had come wearing backpacks stuffed with sunscreen and water bottles, he noted, and he could see even more mouse ear headbands dotted around. On the whole he thought they blended in pretty well, and nobody seemed to be staring. He patted a hand surreptitiously against his thigh where his wand was hidden in a seam pocket of his shorts, just in case. Scorpius had left his wand back at the hotel (in the safe, of course), but Albus never felt quite comfortable without his when he was out of the house. His Grandma Molly had shown him how to operate a sewing machine a few years ago and he was now quite adept at stitching long, thin wand pockets into the seams of muggle clothing.
They passed through a security check and a ticket gate where they had to swipe their wristbands against a scanner (Scorpius gave a squeak of wonder when the digital scanner beeped and lit up green), then continued into the theme park itself.
‘What?’ Albus looked around wildly for Scorpius, who had disappeared into the crowd.
‘Maps!’ came Scorpius's cry from somewhere to his left, and Albus turned to see him standing next to a display of leaflets and waving enthusiastically. ‘Look, they have them in all different languages!’
Scorpius brandished several park maps at Albus's face as he made his way over. ‘I think I'm going to get two of each so I can keep them as souvenirs,’ he said, pulling yet more leaflets from the rack, ‘Or maybe three or four, so you can have copies too of course. And I should probably take some for your grandpa, so perhaps five or six…’ he tailed off, now holding a huge stack of leaflets and staring at the display with a look of consternation.
‘You don't have to decide how many you need right now,’ Albus pointed out, resting a hand on his boyfriend's shoulder. ‘Why not get one or two for the day and then we can pick up more on the way out for souvenirs?’
‘Oh. Yes, that probably makes sense.’ Scorpius nodded, but didn't take his eyes off the rack of maps.
Albus reached forward and wrapped his hands around Scorpius’s. ‘Let's just take these-’ He pulled the stack of leaflets from his grip, ‘And put them back here for now.’ Albus replaced the multitude of maps back into their slots on the rack, keeping just two and stuffing those into his pocket. He turned to Scorpius. ‘Besides, if you were holding thirty maps I couldn't do this, could I?’
Albus took Scorpius's hand in his own and let them swing gently by his side. Scorpius finally looked away from the maps and down at their joined hands, beaming. ‘And I thought I was going to be the one initiating all the public displays of affection,’ he laughed.
‘Maybe it's the rainbows giving me some extra confidence.’ Albus winked, then pulled Scorpius forwards to rejoin the crowds moving into the park. The sun was bright and the pastel-hued buildings were shining, bedecked with hanging baskets and planters overflowing with flowers in a riot of colour. ‘So this is America's Main Street, right?’ he asked.
Scorpius shook his head. ‘It's called Main Street USA. When we get round that corner you'll be able to see the castle.’
‘And that's where the show thing is?’
‘Yep.’ They reached the foot of the main walkway and the vast sky-blue and pink castle appeared in the centre of their view. They both paused, Scorpius in complete shock; and even Albus had to admit that it made for a pretty breathtaking sight. He took in the colours, the happy, chattering muggles swarming up towards the castle, and the jaunty, old-fashioned piano music filling the air, before looking over at Scorpius. His gaze was fixed on the castle and although he was smiling, it looked as though he was trying not to cry.
‘Just like in the video?’ Albus whispered, squeezing Scorpius's hand gently. He didn't reply, just blinked and nodded. Before Albus could say anything else, they were interrupted by a smiling woman in Disney uniform, holding a large camera. ‘Hi, I'm Alyssa! Would you two like a picture?’ She held up the camera and gestured to the castle.
‘Oh!’ Scorpius was shaken out of his reverie, and looked to Albus. ‘Shall we?’
Albus shrugged, not wanting to pressure Scorpius into a decision. ‘If you'd like one, I'm up for it.’
‘Then let's do it! How many other times will we have this opportunity?’ Scorpius grinned and pulled Albus round to pose in front of the castle.
‘Actually, we have photographers all around the parks so you can get pictures in a variety of locations!’ Alyssa said happily.
‘Oh right.’ Scorpius looked embarrassed for second. ‘Well, never mind, this can just be the first of many opportunities I suppose!’
They let the photographer direct them to the right position - half a step to the left, shuffle closer together - then smiled and held hands while Alyssa snapped half a dozen pictures. As she lowered her camera, Albus made to move away, but he felt Scorpius pulling him back and speaking to the photographer. ‘Sorry, so sorry. Could we have just one more?’
‘Sure, go right ahead!’ she said, gesturing for them to return to the same spot.
Albus turned around to face Scorpius with a questioning look, then was taken by surprise as he found one of Scorpius's hands snaking around his waist and the other reaching up to cup his cheek. He leaned in and planted a tender kiss on Albus's lips, and Albus could barely hear the click of the photographer's camera or the crowds around them as he melted into the embrace. After a second or two they pulled apart, Scorpius blushing furiously, and turned to face Alyssa, who beamed at them.
‘Well aren't you two the sweetest! That'll be one for the photo album. I just need to scan one of your MagicBands,’ she said, and Albus held out his wrist for her to pass over the portable scanner. 'There you go! That should appear in a few hours on your app. And can I just say,’ she leaned in towards them, ‘I adore your ears.’
Albus raised a hand self-consciously to his headband. ‘Thanks, that's really kind,’ he said sheepishly, and as Alyssa turned away to photograph the next family waiting in line he caught sight of a tiny rainbow-striped Mickey Mouse badge pinned to the lanyard she wore. He smiled to himself and felt a small burst of confidence somewhere deep in his chest.
‘Was that okay?’ Scorpius asked as they proceeded up the street towards the castle, ‘I should probably have asked you first but I just thought-’
‘It was nice,’ Albus cut him off, nudging Scorpius gently with his elbow. ‘Better than nice. Let’s just hope I don’t look too surprised in the picture. What did she say? One for the photo album.’
Scorpius ran his thumb over the back of Albus’s hand and smiled. ‘I hope it will be. I’m just glad you didn’t push me away, you’ve never been that good with affection in public. Or surprises.’
‘Hey, I’m getting better!’ Albus replied, ‘And this isn’t like it used to be back home or at school where I’m around a bunch of people who might tease me. You know I love kissing you. It’s just difficult not to be self-conscious sometimes. But I suppose that because here it’s just us and a load of muggle strangers we’ll never see again, it’s different. I guess I feel a bit freer. Don’t you?’
‘I do,’ Scorpius nodded along. ‘Plus you know me, any chance to have my picture taken!’
‘Well, if I was as handsome as you, I’d be asking people to take my picture all the time too,’ Albus said slyly, and Scorpius blushed again. They had reached the top of Main Street now and the crowds began to swell towards the foot of the tall castle. Ropes were hung across the entrances to each of the paths leading away from the round paved area they stood in, and some groups of people hung close to them, presumably prepared to run for their favourite attractions once the ropes dropped. Albus spotted the glittery-mouse-ear group from their bus heading towards the path to ‘Adventureland’ and one of the women caught his eye and waved. They found a spot close to the path to ‘Tomorrowland’, where they could see the huge white structure of Space Mountain to their right but still had a clear view of the castle before them, Albus standing slightly in front so he could rest his head back against Scorpius’s shoulder.
Scorpius checked his watch compulsively, updating Albus with minute-by-minute countdowns to 9am, when the park was officially due to open. Once they were thirty seconds away, Albus took Scorpius’s hands and pulled them around himself, leaning back against his boyfriend’s chest and whispering, ‘You don’t need to count down every second now, you know.’
‘Sorry,’ Scorpius whispered back, leaning into the hug. ‘It’s almost time though. I don’t know what to expect, it’s probably completely different to the video now.’
Albus stroked Scorpius’s arm softly. ‘It’ll be great, I’m sure. Here goes.’ They both looked up to the castle as the clock hit nine and a musical fanfare began. Costumed characters appeared on the stage at the foot of the castle, including some, like Mickey Mouse and Cinderella, who Albus recognised from the Disney films he had watched with his grandparents as a child (his Grandpa Arthur adored everything about muggles and had a large but quite random collection of muggle music and films which he let his grandchildren have free run of whenever they visited the Burrow). The characters sang and danced, and then asked all the waiting crowds to join them in counting down to open the park. Right on cue, a round of bright fireworks soared over the castle, surprising Scorpius and causing him to clench his arms even tighter around Albus. A cheer ran through the crowd as the music blared, and then they became aware that the ropes at their side had dropped and each of the park’s ‘lands’ was now open.
‘Space Mountain!’ Scorpius yelped, disentangling his arms from around Albus and making to run in the direction of Tomorrowland.
‘Hey, hey, calm down! Don’t run too fast!’ Albus called after him, hurrying to catch up and trying not to get lost amongst the crowd of muggles heading in the same direction. He managed to pull up alongside Scorpius after a few yards. ‘You’re going to lose me,’ he said, slightly out of breath.
Scorpius looked across at him with a concerned expression. ‘Sorry, I’m sorry,’ he apologised, and reached over to take Albus’s hand, pulling them close together and falling into sync with Albus’s steps.
‘It’s okay,’ Albus replied, always more at ease when he could hold his favourite person’s hand. ‘We’ll still be near the front of the queue, let’s not run out of energy before we’ve even started, yeah?’
‘Yes.’ Scorpius nodded. ‘You’re so wise.’
‘You know it,’ Albus grinned. They made their way into the futuristic-themed Tomorrowland and around a tall metal structure orbited by colourful planets and spaceships, towards Space Mountain. The ride entrance was flanked by smiling and waving members of staff who chorused ‘Hi there!’ to all the people who passed. Scorpius responded with an enthusiastic ‘Hello!’ as they entered and Albus gave an awkward wave.
Once they were inside, they both found themselves blinking to adjust their eyes from the bright sunshine outside to the cool dark of the air-conditioned queueing area. The metallic walls and neon lights gave the impression of being in a sci-fi film set or on a space station, and Albus almost wished the queue was longer so he could take in more of the detail of their surroundings. They walked through several long, winding corridors, past murals of planets and spacecrafts, until they reached a large open room lit in blue neon, where they could see people boarding the ride cars. An voice came over the tannoy in the room: ‘Greetings, galactic travellers. Space Mountain is a thrilling, high-speed, turbulent, roller coaster-type ride in the dark. Those who are prone to motion sickness should not ride.’
Albus thought he saw Scorpius tense his shoulders and gulp nervously. ‘Everything okay?’ he asked.
Scorpius nodded. ‘Y-yes. Are you excited?’
‘Yeah, it sounds great.’ Albus smiled up at Scorpius, who tried to match his expression but instead looked rather pained, the blue lights reflecting off his hair and eyes and giving him a slightly wan look. Albus narrowed his eyes. ‘You have… you have been on a roller coaster before, right?’ he asked.
Scorpius hesitated. ‘I mean- well, technically, no, but I’m sure it’ll be fine, I’ve flown lots of times and we went on the Knight Bus that one time, and-’
‘Scorp!’ Albus cut him off, placing a firm hand on his chest, ‘Why didn’t you tell me? We don’t have to go on this if you don’t want to. It’s fine to be scared-’
‘I’m not scared!’ Scorpius said insistently, continuing to shuffle forwards in the queue as more people boarded the ride in front of them. He tried to maintain a casual expression but faltered under Albus’s silent glare. ‘Okay fine, I’m a bit scared, yes, but I still want to try it. It was in the v-’
‘In the video.’ Albus finished the sentence for him and sighed. ‘Well, if you’re sure you want to. We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.’
Scorpius nodded. ‘I do want to. Anyway, when have you been on roller coasters?’
‘Not that many times. But my parents and grandparents took us on a few trips to theme parks when we were younger, in summer holidays. I remember going on this one massive roller coaster with three upside-down loops when I was about eight, but I had to beg for ages to be allowed even though they let James go on the first time he asked, and he was only two years older than me.’
‘Sometimes you still sound about eight when you talk about your brother, you know,’ Scorpius laughed. ‘But you enjoyed it though, the roller coaster?’
‘Oh yeah, I loved it,’ Albus replied. ‘We went on a few others that day too. Plus mum let us get enormous ice creams at lunch.’ He smiled at the memory.
By now they had reached the front of the queue and a uniformed man asked them with a smile, ‘How many people in your party?’
‘Just us couple,’ Scorpius said, then stuttered over his words, ‘Just us two, I mean. Two- a couple- we’re a couple. Of people.’
Albus tried not to laugh as the man looked slightly bemused, but he maintained his smile and then gestured them towards two numbered rows ready to board the roller coaster. They stepped up to the lines and waited for the next car to pull up, and Albus snuck a few furtive glances at Scorpius to check on his obvious nerves. Scorpius watched carefully as the roller coaster cars moved towards them and came to a halt, then realised Albus was watching and caught his eye.
‘It’ll be fun,’ he said, almost a question.
Albus reached over and linked their little fingers together, just for a second - their ritual in stressful moments. ‘Stay calm.’ Scorpius nodded, closing his eyes briefly and exhaling. Then it was their turn to clamber into the cars (which Scorpius just about managed, his long limbs barely fitting into the low, cramped seats) and pull down the safety bars which would keep them from falling during the ride.
Albus sat in front, and tried to crane his head to look back at Scorpius as they set off, but the cars were pulled into darkness and began their ascent up the steep lift chain surrounded by flashing lights. Their car crested the hill, everything went black and the coaster began to drop, wind rushing past them as they picked up speed. Albus whooped and flung his arms up into the dark to feel the full force of the roller coaster as it spun them around tight curves and down steep drops. He could feel the whoosh of other cars passing them in the dark and hear the screams and whoops of other people on the ride nearby, but it wasn’t until they had almost reached the end of the coaster that he realised Scorpius had been completely silent. The cars sped into their final helix and the sound effects whirred louder and louder, before shooting them out towards the final straight and back to the loading docks.
Albus exhaled and laughed, his heart pounding in his ears and adrenaline coursing through his veins. ‘That was awesome,’ he said, pushing up the safety bar and clambering out of the car. He turned to face Scorpius behind him but his boyfriend was nowhere to be seen - until he looked back down at the car and saw Scorpius frozen in his seat in the otherwise empty car, completely white and with his hands clenched around the safety bar which still locked him in place. A sympathetic-looking member of staff was already headed over to where he was sitting, gesturing to another woman behind a podium full of buttons as she did so, presumably to halt the car from moving any further.
‘Babe, are you alright?’ Albus dropped his backpack and rushed over to Scorpius’s side, one hand nervously hovering over the wand pocket at his side, just in case. Scorpius blinked a few times and slowly turned to face Albus, his grey eyes wide with shock and the blood still completely drained from his face. The ride attendant on the other side of the cart spoke with a soft southern accent, ‘Honey, how are you feeling? We’re gonna need to get you out of the ride but after that you can take as long as you like, okay?’ She reached across and released the safety bar, then took one of Scorpius’s hands as Albus held the other and they pulled him upwards together. He took one shaky step out onto the dock at the side of the track, then another, and one more until he was completely clear of the cars and Albus could manoeuvre him to a low bench against the far wall and crouch down in front of him.
‘Scorp, what’s the matter?’ Albus said in an urgent whisper. The ride attendant hovered nearby. ‘Are you hurt?’
Scorpius looked up at Albus with wide round eyes, shaking slightly, and stuttered, ‘It- it was- it went really f-fast.’
Albus blinked. ‘Is that all?’ Scorpius nodded slowly. ‘...It’s a roller coaster. They go fast,’ Albus said, almost apologetically.
Scorpius hung his head and looked as though he might burst into tears. ‘I was just s-scared,’ he said quietly, and Albus was somewhere between wanting to wrap his boyfriend up in bubble wrap to protect him, and wanting to laugh loudly at his reaction. He glanced up at the ride attendant and mouthed ‘He’ll be fine’, then turned back to Scorpius and rested both of his hands on Scorpius’s knees.
‘It was completely safe, you know,’ he said.
Scorpius didn’t look up. ‘It felt like we were going to fly off the track- or- and- and one of those cars went so close past us I thought we going to crash-’
Albus couldn’t help snorting with laughter, and Scorpius found his eyes, looking just a little hurt. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ Albus said quickly, ‘But love, you said you wanted to go on. It’s just a ride.’ He stood up and offered out his hands. Scorpius accepted and Albus pulled him up into a hug.
Nestling into Albus’s neck, Scorpius whispered, ‘Am I being stupid?’
Albus stroked his boyfriend’s soft blond hair and couldn’t help laughing again as he spoke. ‘Poor baby, you’re not being stupid. You’re maybe overreacting a tiny bit, that’s all.’
‘I’m sorry,’ Scorpius said, wrapping his arms tight around Albus.
‘Don’t be,’ Albus breathed, ‘I love you.’ He felt Scorpius nod his head, then pull back slightly until they were almost nose-to-nose. Even in the dim lighting, he could see the colour returning to Scorpius’s cheeks. ‘Maybe something a bit gentler for our next ride, yeah?’
‘Yeah,’ Scorpius replied sheepishly. They gathered their backpacks and made their way towards the ride exit, Albus giving a subtle thumbs up to the ride attendant as she watched them leave. Once they’d made a quick round of the Space Mountain gift shop, they moved back out into the bright sunshine and consulted the theme park map for their next move. They settled on “it’s a small world”, another of the rides featured in Scorpius’s childhood video, but one in which the passengers were seated in large boats and taken around the ride on a gentle, slow-moving track with no drops or twists or darkness. As they strolled up towards the ‘Fantasyland’ area of the park, Scorpius grew more relaxed, taking hold of Albus’s hand again and delighting in pointing out bits of scenery or other attractions he recognised from the video.
Albus adored Scorpius like this: free of any of the pressures he used to be under at home or at school, at peace with himself and able to express his sheer joy and wonder at his surroundings. Albus stayed almost silent, listening intently to Scorpius’s running commentary and stealing glances up at him as he gestured wildly at the landmarks they passed or brushed his hair off his forehead as he looked around. Sunshine suited him, Albus thought, and he marvelled at his boyfriend, radiant in his rainbow mouse ears and matching accessories, completely at ease - a long way from the nervous, dark-robed boy he’d first met at school. After a little while, Scorpius sensed the eyes on him and looked down. ‘What’s up?’
Albus smiled, and replied in a mock shy voice, ‘You’re preeeetty.’
Scorpius laughed, and leaned over to kiss Albus casually on the cheek. ‘You’re silly,’ he said.
‘You are though,’ Albus insisted, and Scorpius started to blush.
‘Well you’re not so bad yourself. And you look especially good in those ears,’ Scorpius nodded to the headband over Albus’s dark hair. ‘You should wear them all the time.’
Albus raised an eyebrow. ‘...All the time?’ he said, smirking.
Scorpius looked confused for a second, then his eyes widened. ‘Al! We’re at Magic Kingdom, of all the places-’
‘What? It was just a question,’ Albus laughed.
‘We are not talking about that here.’ Scorpius said in a low voice as Albus continued to grin up at him.
‘Can we talk about it later then? In our hotel room? Alone? Wearing nothing but our mouse ea-’
‘Albus!’ Scorpius shushed him, his face bright red as he tried not to giggle out loud. ‘Look, there’s kids around and we’re almost there anyway.’ He gestured to the pastel-coloured building ahead, bearing a large sign reading “it’s a small world”.
Albus gave in, shooting one last wink at Scorpius before they reached the entrance to the ride queue. He loved to harmlessly tease Scorpius, especially when he got all flustered and adorable. For now he was mostly glad that Scorpius seemed to have entirely forgotten Space Mountain and was back to his gleeful I’m-at-Disney-World state.
The next ride was much more successful than Space Mountain, and they both spent the rest of the morning humming the catchy song from “it’s a small world” as they criss-crossed the park, quickly racking up the tally of rides Scorpius wanted to experience. They took a trip through a haunted mansion complete with translucent special-effects ghosts (‘Don’t you think they look surprisingly like the real ones, Al?’), a boat ride through a fake jungle (‘Look! Look! Al, there’s an elephant!’), and even braved a go on the Splash Mountain log flume and its fifty-foot drop, albeit with a lot of screaming.
By early afternoon, they were both in need of a break from the searing heat, and stopped for a meal in one of the heavily air-conditioned cafes. Scorpius managed to find a table tucked away in a quiet corner of the vast seating area, and Albus navigated his way through the tables carrying their tray of food carefully as he passed several families with small children, including a pair of twin toddlers chasing each other around their table in circles.
‘Phew,’ he said as he flopped down in the seat next to Scorpius, ‘I’m exhausted already.’
Scorpius lifted the huge plates of pasta from their tray and pushed one towards Albus. ‘You’ll feel better once you’ve had food.’
‘That’s true. You don’t like me when I’m hungry.’ Albus grabbed a knife and fork and began to eat.
‘Hangry, more like,’ Scorpius said, sticking his tongue out at Albus before tucking into his own pasta.
Albus rolled his eyes. ‘You’re just as bad,’ he retorted. ‘Hey, you’re all pink.’ He nodded to Scorpius’s shoulders, which were indeed looking as though he’d caught the sun.
Scorpius extended his arms and looked down at his pale skin. ‘Oh yeah,’ he said, and shrugged.
‘I don’t want you to get sunburnt,’ Albus said. ‘You should put more sunscreen on. I’ll do it for you once we’ve eaten, if you want, you won’t reach the back of your neck.’
Scorpius nodded, his mouth full of pasta. They ate in contented silence, and Albus felt his energy levels starting to rise again as his body absorbed the fuel. He hadn’t expected a day at a theme park to be so tiring, but he knew that Scorpius wanted to stay until 9pm to see the nightly firework show so he resolved to power through - and maybe try to find some iced coffee on the way to their next ride.
After they’d finished their meals, Albus pulled the sunscreen from his backpack and rose from his chair to stand behind Scorpius. ‘Lean forward a bit,’ he instructed, and sprayed across Scorpius’s shoulders.
Scorpius shivered. ‘Cold! Ah, it’s cold,’ he whined, and Albus laughed at his dramatic reaction.
‘Better?’ he asked, instead spraying the sunscreen directly onto his hands and using them to massage his boyfriend’s shoulders and down onto his arms.
‘Much better, thank you,’ Scorpius said. Albus ran his hands over the pale skin exposed by his tank top, and as he moved around to Scorpius’s front, trailed one finger down his forearm and traced a soft circle in the palm of his hand.
‘Almost done’, he said quietly, spraying a small amount of sunscreen onto his fingers and then gently stroking them across Scorpius’s forehead and tapping the end of his nose. ‘No sunburn for you.’
‘Your turn now.’ Scorpius grabbed the sunscreen and gestured for him to sit down, pulling his chair forward so he sat directly behind Albus, and resting his chin on Albus’s shoulder from behind. ‘You’ve got new freckles.’
‘Have I?’ Albus leaned to one side and tried to look down at his shoulders.
‘Yep,’ Scorpius said. ‘Right here.’ A shiver ran down Albus’s spine as Scorpius placed a light kiss on his shoulder blade. ‘And here.’ Another kiss at the nape of his neck. ‘And another one.’ Just below his ear. Albus closed his eyes and leaned back slightly, feeling Scorpius’s warm breath on his neck and rather enjoying this moment.
Scorpius inhaled deeply and then sighed, pulling back. Albus opened his eyes. ‘Is that all?’ he said, turning around in his chair to look back at Scorpius.
‘For now.’ Scorpius was busying himself with the sunscreen. ‘Maybe I’ll find more later,’ he said as he looked up, biting his lip in a way Albus knew was entirely deliberate.
‘You,’ Albus said, pointing one finger at his boyfriend, ‘Are very, very bad.’
Scorpius pouted, and Albus couldn’t keep a straight face. ‘Stop teasing me and do my shoulders,’ he laughed, ‘Or I’ll have sunburn, not cute freckles.’
‘Fine, fine,’ Scorpius relented, and copied Albus’s method of spraying the sunscreen onto his hands and gently rubbing it across Albus’s shoulders. After a minute or so he seemed satisfied, gave Albus one quick peck on the cheek and then rose to start clearing away their empty plates.
‘What’s the plan now, babe?’ Albus asked, replacing the sunscreen in his backpack and hoisting it onto his back.
‘I want to do the railroad that goes all the way around the park,’ Scorpius said, pulling out one of the Magic Kingdom maps and pointing at the train loop to show Albus. ‘And then we have a FastPass for the Buzz Lightyear ride, remember.’
‘Sounds good. We should refill these soon, by the way,’ Albus said, waving his near-empty water bottle at Scorpius.
‘Oh yes, hydration is key!’ Scorpius said in his sing-song way, and looped his arm around Albus’s shoulder as they walked towards the exit. Once they had located the nearest water fountain and refilled their bottles, they headed for the railroad. The brightly coloured steam trains circled the park and stopped at three different stations in different lands, but they decided to ride the whole loop in one go so as not to miss any of the views. They managed to get a pair of seats in a relatively empty carriage and sat nestled close to one another, Albus insisting on Scorpius taking the outside seat so he could have an uninterrupted view out of the window. Once again Scorpius took joy in pointing out and naming rides they passed, and he followed their route closely on the park map, much to Albus’s amusement.
After the peaceful trip, they disembarked and headed back to Tomorrowland to use their FastPass - a pre-booked time slot which allowed them to skip the main queue for the ride.
‘Oh hey, I recognise this!’ Albus exclaimed as they approached the ride. ‘Buzz Lightyear! From Toy Story, right?’
‘That’s the one!’ Scorpius said excitedly. ‘Did you watch that with your grandpa?’
‘Yep, loads of times. This looks fun.’ They passed under the large Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin entrance sign and into the ride queue, which was decorated in bright, toy-like colours.
‘Who do you think is going to win?’ Scorpius asked as they approached the boarding area for the ride.
‘Win? What do you mean?’
‘The ride! You know, you get to shoot at the aliens and score points and then you get a score at the end. That’s what the laser gun things are for.’ Scorpius looked across at Albus as if this was the most obvious thing in the world, and Albus racked his brain for whichever of the many Disney World planning conversations this information had been included in.
‘I’d forgotten,’ Albus admitted, ‘But obviously I will triumph.’
Scorpius gasped and splayed a hand across his chest in mock offence. ‘How dare you,’ he said, ‘I am quite clearly the superior alien-shooter.’ They were directed to their ride car and clambered in, tucking their backpacks down by their sides. Scorpius immediately picked up his laser gun from in front of his seat and pretended to target Albus, making high-pitched ‘pew pew’ noises and waving the weapon around wildly.
‘See, you have no technique,’ Albus laughed, picking up his own laser gun, ‘No finesse! Watch the professional at work.’ He narrowed his eyes and slid down in his seat, trying to adopt what he imagined to be a cool, secret-agent kind of pose, but Scorpius just giggled at him.
Their car set off into the ride, rounding a corner and emerging into a vast room full of giant animatronic toys and aliens, all plastered with circular targets for them to aim at with their lasers. Scorpius let out a yelp of surprise and then immediately focused intently, sticking out his tongue in concentration as he pointed the gun in the direction of each target in turn. Albus dragged his eyes away from his adorable boyfriend after a few seconds and began shooting too, dazzled by the bright colours and lights flashing all around them. The ride car moved slowly along its track, propelling them through several different rooms full of more aliens and targets, and after a couple of minutes Albus glanced down at the digital displays on the front of their car.
‘What?!’ he yelled as he saw the scores. ‘Scorp, how can you have over a hundred thousand points when I only have nine thousand?’
Scorpius glanced down for a second and burst out laughing. ‘Who’s the professional now?’ he shouted with glee.
‘No, no, this is rigged,’ Albus blustered, ‘I’m not letting you get away with this!’ He fired his laser gun furiously, jabbing the trigger button and waving it in all directions as Scorpius continued to roar with laughter. After another thirty seconds, Albus looked back at the scores and saw with dismay that they now read two hundred and three thousand to twenty-seven thousand.
‘Right,’ he said loudly as he abandoned his laser gun, ‘There’s only one thing for it!’ Albus raised his hands in claw motions towards Scorpius, paused for a moment, then lunged across and began to tickle him furiously. Scorpius squealed and dropped his laser gun in surprise, scrambling back across the seat and giggling helplessly as Albus’s fingers ran around his waist, up to his neck, down his back.
‘Albus, nooooo,’ Scorpius cried through his breathless laughter, flailing his arms to try and slow the attack. Albus started to catch his infectious giggles too, and after a few seconds more they ended up collapsed against each other, Scorpius wiping tears from the corners of his eyes and both trying to catch their breath as their car approached the end of the ride.
‘You’ve ruined my record score attempt,’ Scorpius said in an exaggerated haughty tone, replacing the laser gun on the front console of the car.
Albus gave Scorpius’s shoulder a gentle poke with one finger. ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures,’ he said, grinning. ‘And look, you’ve still beaten me by about a hundred and fifty thousand points.’
‘Well I could have been at least three hundred thousand clear if you hadn’t cruelly cheated me of my rightful score,’ Scorpius said loftily, sticking his chin in the air and looking remarkably like his father for a split second.
Albus sidled across the seat, leaned his head on Scorpius’s shoulder, and gazed up at him, eyes wide. ‘I’m sorryyyy,’ he crooned, playing along with his boyfriend’s charade.
Scorpius sighed dramatically. ‘I suppose I will have to forgive you,’ he said, rolling his eyes and looking down at Albus, ‘I must rise above and be the mature one in this relationship.’ At this, his stony-faced act dropped and his expression split into a loving smile, then he leaned down and pressed a kiss to Albus’s nose. Albus felt his heart swell with a rush of adoration and he wished, not for the first time that day, that he could preserve this moment forever - here in a world of muggle-created magic with the boy he loved by his side, floating on the feeling of being able to revel in their affection with no responsibilities weighing them down.
They spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the park at a more leisurely pace, taking in the sights and making a few stops to cool down in air-conditioned shops and cafes. By around 7pm, the sun was setting and the park was aglow with lights, from the bright neon of Tomorrowland’s space-themed buildings to twinkling lights lining the faux historic facades of Main Street USA, and flaming torches casting flickering shadows across the paths of Adventureland. Scorpius suggested they stop for post-dinner ice cream and they found an empty bench with a view towards the eerily illuminated Haunted Mansion.
As they sat, the muggle phone in Albus’s pocket beeped with a notification. He was their nominated ‘tech person’ since Scorpius was notoriously bad with any kind of muggle device, and usually found a way to fumble with its buttons or touchscreen to mess up its settings and render it unusable. Albus pulled out the phone and saw a small Mickey Mouse-shaped icon in the top left of the screen, accompanied by the message ‘You have a new photo!’
‘Oh babe, our picture from earlier has come through,’ Albus said through his final mouthful of pineapple sorbet. Scorpius watched over his shoulder as he clicked the notification and pulled up the app containing their photos. A small loading wheel appeared in the centre of the screen, then the photo appeared and Albus felt warmth bloom through his heart at the sight. The tiny photo versions of themselves were still, like in all muggle photos, but Alyssa the photographer had managed to capture them perfectly framed in front of the great blue and pink castle, Albus on the right and leaning back in Scorpius’s arms, one hand tousled in that bright blond hair as they both smiled into their kiss.
Scorpius exhaled slowly at Albus’s side. ‘We look pretty cute, don’t we?’ he said quietly.
‘I’d have to agree,’ Albus replied, offering the phone to Scorpius for a closer look. He took the phone and awkwardly used both thumbs to zoom in on the photo, smiling to himself as Albus stacked their empty ice cream cups together and then grabbed his water bottle for a drink.
‘Here you go,’ Scorpius said after a minute, holding out the phone. Albus reached out to take it back and as Scorpius let go, his thumb swiped across the screen and a second photo appeared, causing Albus to spray his mouthful of water out in a fountain as he burst out laughing.
‘Oh my god, Scorp,’ Albus cried, ‘Look at it!’
Outlined in a Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin frame, the photo showed their little digital selves mid-ride, their laser guns abandoned out of shot and Scorpius clearly shrieking at the top of his voice, arms flailing as Albus leaned across and tickled him, his own face all scrunched up and his tongue sticking out. Scorpius took one look at the photo and also fell about laughing. ‘We look completely ridiculous!’ he wheezed, ‘Imagine the poor people who work the ride looking at that, they’ll have thought we were insane.’
‘From the look of you, I bet they could hear you screaming from outside the ride anyway,’ Albus giggled.
‘Ironic really,’ Scorpius said, composing himself and nudging Albus with his elbow, ‘Since you’re usually the one who makes all the noise.’
Albus gasped and turned open-mouthed to his boyfriend. ‘Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy, what a scandalous comment! In Magic Kingdom, of all places-’
Scorpius interrupted him with a finger across Albus’s lips. ‘Couldn’t resist,’ he said, and grinned. ‘Anyway come on, we can probably still fit in another ride or two before the fireworks.’ They stood, adjusting their backpacks and disposing of the ice cream cups in a nearby trashcan before setting off towards Fantasyland, hand in hand.
They rode “it’s a small world” once more, both singing along to the song for most of the way round (Scorpius considerably louder than Albus), and then ambled back over to Tomorrowland for its gentle monorail ride, the PeopleMover. Albus watched Scorpius sitting across from him, his chin resting on his folded arms as he leaned on the side of their monorail car, and his delicate features illuminated by the bright neon lights as he gazed out at their surroundings.
‘How are you feeling?’ Albus asked, nudging Scorpius’s foot with his own.
Scorpius turned his head to look at Albus and smiled, still resting his cheek on his arms. ‘Tired,’ he said, ‘But peaceful. Happy. I’m having a wonderful day.’
Albus returned his smile. ‘Good. Me too.’
By the time they had disembarked the monorail, it was time for them to find a place to watch the evening’s fireworks. Scorpius had started to get fidgety again, rotating his MagicBand repeatedly around his wrist as they walked up towards the round plaza in front of the castle. Albus kept pace with his boyfriend, taking note of the swelling crowds in front of them and not wanting to get lost.
‘How about here?’ Scorpius said finally, after they had pressed their way through and around several large groups of people and found a small empty spot just in front of one of the fenced gardens which were dotted around the plaza.
‘I’m happy here if you are,’ Albus said, looking up at the castle. ‘It looks like we should have a pretty good view, we’re almost right in the centre.’ Scorpius nodded and they shuffled into place, side by side so that they could still keep their hands linked.
There were still twenty minutes until the fireworks were due to begin, but the crowds were building and continued to press in on them as the time ticked by. Scorpius chattered away about his favourite rides and ticked off all the attractions from his childhood video that they’d seen during the day, Albus chipping in now and again to remind him of specific details. When they reached around five to nine however, Scorpius suddenly fell silent.
Albus was used to Scorpius losing or switching his trains of thought mid-conversation so he barely noticed anything until he felt his boyfriend break their handhold. He looked across at Scorpius and saw that he was looking down at his hands, clawing nervously at his MagicBand once more and evidently trying quite hard to control his erratic breathing. Albus placed one hand on Scorpius’s pale arm. ‘Scorp, what’s up?’
Scorpius exhaled shakily and raised his eyes to meet Albus’s. ‘I…’ he faltered, ‘I think it just hit me that I’m here- going to see the fireworks, but not with- with…’ He tailed off, leaving the sentence unfinished.
‘With your mum.’
Scorpius nodded and broke eye contact again, focusing back on his hands. Albus whispered urgently, ‘We can go, if you want. We don’t have to stay.’ He stroked Scorpius’s arm, turning his body inwards to face him and trying to block out the crowds.
‘There’s so many people,’ Scorpius’s voice was barely audible over the loud hum of the crowd, and as they looked around, all they could see was a solid sea of people, packed into the plaza shoulder to shoulder. ‘We wouldn’t get out.’
Albus felt pained as Scorpius’s voice rose higher, panic starting to creep into his expression. ‘We could find a way,’ he said, clasping his boyfriend’s hands in his own.
Scorpius shook his head. ‘I think I want to stay. I just…’ he tailed off, looking desperately to Albus for reassurance.
‘Okay,’ Albus reached into his pocket and his hand found the hilt of his wand. Closing his eyes and mustering all the concentration he could, he focused on visualising a tight ring of space around them and muttered a silencing charm as quietly as possible under his breath. Immediately the overwhelming noise of the crowd disappeared, replaced with a gentle buzz, as if they were several hundred feet distant from the loud conversations surrounding them.
Scorpius breathed a long sigh of relief, but still spoke in a whisper. ‘How did you do that?’
Albus smiled nervously. ‘I practiced,’ he admitted, ‘I thought there was a chance we might end up somewhere busy and need some quiet. It’s a two-way spell. But small, though, it just covers us. And I’ve managed to get it to a cylinder kind of shape so we should still be able to hear the fireworks above us.’
‘You… I don’t deserve you,’ Scorpius said softly, looking considerably less tense now that they were encased in their little bubble of quiet.
‘It’s just a spell,’ Albus replied, shrugging. ‘I wanted to make sure you’d be comfortable.’ He released the wand in his pocket, satisfied that the charm seemed to be holding steady and hadn’t caught the attention of any nearby muggles, and took hold of Scorpius’s hands once more. ‘Look, there’s a couple of minutes to go. Are you sure you want to stay? We’ve had a perfect day, I don’t want to do this if it’s going to upset you and ruin everything.’
Scorpius shook his head, more confident now. ‘No, I want to see the show,’ he said firmly, ‘Everything just got a bit much for a minute, but I’m alright. You know it’s difficult sometimes when things remind me of mum-’
He paused, closing his eyes for a moment and taking a deep breath. Albus stroked the palms of Scorpius’s hands slowly with his thumbs.
‘But being here with you is perfect,’ Scorpius continued. ‘And mum- she would have loved that we were here together. She would be happy for us.’
He gazed into Albus’s eyes, and a slow smile lit up his features. Albus considered Scorpius, taking in every part of this face which was so familiar to him, but still took his breath away. ‘Okay,’ he murmured, ‘We’ll stay.’
Scorpius nodded minutely, and they turned to face the castle again as the lights around the packed plaza started to dim. A fanfare sounded to signal the start of the show, and even through their silencing charm they could tell that the noise from the crowd dropped. As one, thousands of people gazed up at the castle, and when a deafening burst of bright fireworks exploded across the sky, both Scorpius and Albus completely forgot the stresses of a few minutes earlier.
They had seen fireworks before, of course - for the odd special occasion at school, New Year’s Eve displays courtesy of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes - but nothing like this. The castle was transformed by projections into towers of ice, a tropical jungle scene, shifting ocean waves, and fireworks in every colour of the rainbow were perfectly synchronised with the soaring strings and vocals of the soundtrack, the booming explosions echoing and reverberating around the park.
Sheltered in their cocoon of quiet they stood transfixed, hands clasped between them and united in the joy tingling through their veins. As the music built to a crescendo and the fireworks intensified, Albus found himself tearing his gaze from the show to look across at his boyfriend. He took in Scorpius’s profile, his head tilted up to stare, utterly captivated, at the fireworks as they blazed overhead. The dazzling explosions painted his pale hair in ever-changing colours, an expression of sheer joy illuminated his face and his eyes welled with tears, reflecting a sky dancing with glitter and stars. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so beautiful,’ Scorpius breathed, his voice thick with emotion.
Albus felt as though his heart might burst. ‘I think I feel the same way.’