Albus woke with a heavy, aching weight in his chest, pressing down on his lungs that forced him to take a deep breath in, releasing the tension slightly. It took a moment to adjust to the dim lighting as he recognised his surroundings as the walls of St Mungos hospital, and a second longer to realise he wasn’t alone. A hand was limply held in his own and he got a mouthful of blond hair when he turned to see Scorpius sleeping softly next to him.
Albus let out a sigh of relief, the last of the tension inside his chest disappearing, leaving him with a slight ache. He didn’t remember what happened, but it didn’t matter because Scorpius was safe and sleeping next to him. The last thing Albus remembered was the blinding light of a purple flame and what sounded like Scorpius scream his name.
From this angle, he couldn’t make out any injuries Scorpius may have, as his body was covered in clothes and his face was angled and buried against Albus’ arm. There was one, however, that Albus could see. Down Scorpius’ forearm on the hand that was holding Albus’ was a long jagged cut, on the verge of scarring. It looked almost like a badly drawn snake, but Albus doubted it was meant to take any shape at all.
Careful not to wake him – because Merlin knows how much sleep he’s lost the past few weeks – Albus carefully moved his arm to wrap it around him. Scorpius unconsciously shuffled closer, reburying his head in the crook of Albus’ underarm, almost like he belonged there. Despite everything, Albus managed a small smile: a victory smile, because Scorpius was alive and well.
Albus cringed as the curtain was pulled open and a healer popped in. “Ah, Albus, you’re awake.”
“Shh,” Albus shushed, pointing at Scorpius and raising his eyebrows. She held her hands up in apology and carried on over with silent footsteps.
“Sorry,” she whispered. “I knew he was in here, James informed us, but I didn’t think he’d be asleep.”
Albus thought it strange that they hadn’t taken him back to his own room but found it even stranger that Scorpius hadn’t so much as stirred. Normally, he’s the lightest sleeper ever, the slightest of noises rousing him. He must really be sleep deprived.
“Why not?” Albus asked.
She shrugged. “He hasn’t slept a wink since you’ve come in, not including being unconscious. We offered him sleeping potions, but he refused, even though many of his symptoms are from exhaustion.”
“What’s wrong with him?” Albus asked as she began checking him over, checking his pulse and all that.
“Are you pain?” Albus shook his head. It wasn’t pain, exactly, just an aching soreness. “There’s a lot ‘wrong’ with him, but mostly it’s boiling down the malnourishment, exhaustion and long-term symptoms of various curses-”
She nodded solemnly, not bothering to elaborate further and leaving Albus in an excruciating suspense.
“Do you remember what happened?” She asked.
“I got hit with a curse, I don’t know – what was that? I’ve never seen it before,” his voice was slightly strained, and the healer handed him a glass of water which he struggled to sip due to him being reluctant to move because of Scorpius.
“It was a popular curse during the war, I haven’t seen it used since. I have treated only one other person with it, and that was your aunt,” she spoke.
The healer nodded. “It’s perfectly treatable, though it can be deadly. You've been lucky, Albus. You’ll be on a few potions for about a week, and for the first few days we’ll warn you off solid foods as you probably won’t be able to stomach them.”
Albus nodded along with her, already feeling tired about all the information. “And Lily and James?”
“Both fine, they’re just here, behind their own set of curtains. Your mother’s with Lily and your dad will be back in a couple of hours,” she explained, almost robotically, like she’d said it a million times before. Albus supposed it was like that, though, explaining to confused kids where they were and where their parents were.
“Where is he?” Albus asked, trying not to sound too annoyed that his father couldn’t even be bothered to stay the night when all three of his children were in hospital.
“At the Ministry, he spent all day here and went straight there to work on Scorpius’ case after you’d all fallen asleep,” she finished up whatever she was checking over and smiled softly. “You just try and get some rest, Albus.”
Just as she was about to walk out, Albus called after her. “Have you got another blanket?” He looked down at Scorpius, who was shivering slightly in his sleep. “He’s freezing.” She nodded, nipping out and returning few minutes later with a soft cotton blanket. Albus thanked her as she placed it over Scorpius before leaving them to it.
In his sleep, Scorpius looked like a soft puppy, innocent and pure and unscarred from the world around him. He looked peaceful and content. He looked like a child – exactly how he should look. There were no frown lines, no bags under his eyes, no furious chewing of his lip. He just lay peacefully, quietly, and existed the way he should always have existed: at peace.
He wasn’t much of a sleeper, never had been. He’s always been plagued with bad nightmares that seemed to only grow worse as he grew himself. Losing his mum, losing Craig, the bullying and now this. It was a miracle Scorpius had fallen asleep at all. So it was nice to watch him, his slight snores that were quiet enough to be cute, watching his chest rising and falling in a steady manner – something that was just as rare these days as well.
He was… well, he was Scorpius. This version of him wasn’t scared, wasn’t broken, wasn’t hurt. He was fixed, alive, not haunted. Albus would watch him forever if it meant he never had to see the fear behind his silver eyes again.
Albus shuffled slightly, curling up closer to Scorpius and closing his eyes. Knowing Scorpius was safe and at his side, and that they were together where no harm could come to him, that was enough to allow him to drift into a gentle sleep.
He was maybe asleep for a couple of hours when he was roused again, the hospital room a little lighter and a soft whimper coming from the side of him.
Albus sat up slightly – the aching in his chest making it a little hard to do – and turned to Scorpius, who wasn’t awake, but was softly murmuring and whimpering, shivering as though he was buried under six feet of snow. Albus shook him gently, saying his name, hoping he wouldn’t scare him out of his nightmare too much. He spoke his name a little louder the second time and Scorpius’ eyes shot open with a gasp.
Albus watched as Scorpius familiarised himself with his surroundings, a clear sense of disorientation clouding his mind. He sat up slightly, finally meeting eyes with Albus – who was looking at him with a concerned expression – when all his disorientation faded to elation. A small smile appeared on his lips, his eyes bright with wonder, like he couldn’t quite believe Albus was there … even though he’d fallen asleep in his bed.
Scorpius never said a word – a sign that should have worried Albus but strangely didn’t. He stared at him for a moment, taking in every feature of his face, before diving in for a hug. Albus groaned slightly, but the pain was nothing compared to finally having Scorpius back and in his arms. He wasn’t the same to hug though. In his arms, he felt like nothing more than a thin sheet of glass, susceptible to breaking and shattering at any point. He was so skinny and fragile. Albus was terrified he was going to break him.
Albus squeezed him slightly and he let out an involuntary hiss that made Albus pull back.
“I’m so sorry, did I hurt you?” Albus asked, slightly panicked as he frantically checked Scorpius for any injuries.
Scorpius shook his head, grabbing Albus’ hands to make them stop. “You’re awake,” he pointed out. His voice sounded sore, like it had been scratched by a thousand cats. Albus grabbed the water off the side and handed to him, which he smiled thankfully at and took a sip. “I woke up a-and-” he sniffed, emotions overwhelming him as he dove back in for a hug and broke down sobbing. Albus held him like one would hold a fragile baby bird in need of being nursed back to health.
He held him until his sobs faded to quiet sniffles, until his body stopped shaking and his heart was not so heavy. They settled back down on the bed, lying in each other’s arms and talking quietly to each other. They mostly skirted around the events of what had happened to them both. Albus explained rather briefly how they found him and what they’d done to get such information. Scorpius didn’t say much at all. He explained who Delphi was and what she wanted, but the actual events of what he went through were left unsaid.
James and Lily were allowed to go home that day, but Albus and Scorpius weren’t discharged until the following day. Albus had ten different potions he was required to take three times a day, whereas Scorpius had left with a prescription of pain potions, vitamin potions, calming draughts and dreamless sleep, in case he ever needed it. Though so far, he’d refused to touch the stuff. They hadn’t separated Albus and Scorpius, but instead moved Scorpius into Albus’ room per the request of both their fathers – if it was going to aid recovery, then they would take every opportunity.
Getting them to go back to separate houses upon discharge was a whole new story. Albus had never seen Scorpius react like that. In all the years he’d known him, Scorpius had never begged for anything – either because Albus was severely weak when it came to giving him whatever he wanted or because Scorpius was rather persuasive. But when he turned to his dad and said, “no, dad, please don’t,” in a voice full of pleading, it shattered Albus’ heart in two. It was raw and deep, full of pain.
So, when eventually Draco dragged him through the floo and the Potters took Albus and his siblings home too, Albus could do nothing but flop onto the sofa and bury his head in his knees, desperate for the image of Scorpius’ pleading face to leave his brain. He felt the sofa dip next to him, and then his brothers arms were around him. Lily followed suit, cuddling up on the other side and together, the three Potter siblings let themselves sob. They cried for their lives, that they’d made it home with Scorpius alive, but it didn’t come without the consequences of trauma.
They sat curled up together, under a single blanket their mother had provided for them and watched some awful Halloween kids film they used to love when they were younger. Harry and Ginny had assured them that he and Lily didn’t have to go back to school until they were ready, and luckily their dad was James’ boss, which meant he hadn’t quite lost his job.
“I didn’t get much chance to speak to him,” Lily said about halfway through their second film. “Was he okay?”
Albus didn’t need to ask to know who she was talking about. “He’s… quieter than normal. But I suppose that’s almost a given.”
“Do you know what happened?”
Albus shook his head. “He asked me not to ask him about it, that if he ever wants to, he’ll talk when he’s ready. I think that’s fair enough.”
“You know,” James spoke up, “the healers said they don't know how he’s alive.”
“What did you just say?” Albus asked, sitting up and staring at his brother, anxiously fiddling with the necklace that carried Scorpius’ heartbeat.
“They said that his injuries suggested that he shouldn’t be alive, it’s a miracle that he is.”
Albus stared at him in disbelief, waiting for puzzle pieces to connect in his head. “It wasn’t a fault in the magic,” he collapsed back into the sofa. “Scorpius died. ” Albus stood, pulling the blanket off both his siblings and scrunching it up, throwing it back in his now empty seat. He rushed over to the fireplace and grabbed a handful of floo powder.
“Where are you going?”
“Malfoy Manor, I need to see him.” And with a flash of green light, Albus was engulfed in the flames and spat out at the other end of the fireplace. Draco greeted him, seemingly not surprised to see him at all, instead telling him Scorpius was in his room and proceeded to floo call the Potters to let them know Albus got there safely.
Albus bounded up the stairs, ignoring the ache in his chest that had become all too familiar. He’d only seen Scorpius’ room once, back in third year at his mothers funeral. Albus wished that was the only time he’d seen Scorpius so empty of any light, but it turns out his light remained extinguished after that day. It only came back in flickers on extremely good days, and Albus doubted he’d be having any of those soon.
He knocked softly on Scorpius’ room, but upon not hearing a response, took it upon himself to enter anyway. Scorpius was sat on the end of his bed, staring at nothing in particular. Albus knew that look, he was away with the fairies, lost in the dimensions of his brilliant mind.
“Scorpius?” He spoke, softly. Scorpius jumped a mile before realising the intruder was just Albus and he smiled ever-so-slightly. It came almost as fast as it appeared, Albus almost missed it. “What are you doing?” Albus asked, crossing the room and taking a seat next to him.
“I was – er – going to run a bath, but I… forgot,” he looked around, as if a freshly drawn bath was just going to appear in front of him.
“I’ll go run it, okay?” He patted Scorpius’ knee before crossing the room into his en-suite bathroom. Albus plugged the bath before turning the hot water on, looking around and finding a bath bomb, throwing that in along with some coconut flavoured bubble bath he’d found. He left the bath to run, going back into Scorpius’ room and sitting next him.
As soon as he did, Scorpius collapsed into him, clearly feeling weary. Albus suspected he’d been crying again, judging by his bloodshot eyes. Albus simply held him, letting his presence be enough to calm his weary heart.
After about fifteen minutes, Albus stood to check on his bath, turning the hot water off and adding some cold to it so he wouldn’t burn himself. He went out, leaning on the door frame of the opening to the bathroom. “Your bath’s nearly ready,” he spoke, scaring Scorpius out of yet another reverie he’d pulled himself into.
Scorpius nodded absentmindedly and stood up, a little unsteady on his feet as he made his way over. Albus caught his arms to steady him, guiding him into the bathroom.
“I’ll – erm – leave you to it,” Albus spoke, a little awkwardly.
“No!” He bellowed before catching himself. “Oh, erm, I’m sorry. No that’s stupid, I’m having a bath, it’s weird for you to stay. And you probably don’t want to either so-”
“I don’t mind,” Albus interrupted, shrugging. They’ve shared a dorm for seven years, it doesn’t leave much down to the imagination. Scorpius nodded slowly, fiddling with the hem of his t-shirt before pulling it over his head. Albus turned around as he stripped down and waited until he heard him settle in the bath to turn back around.
Albus settled on his knees the other side of the bath, leaning his arms on the edge of the tub and smiled at Scorpius. He reached up, running a hand through his messy, knot-filled hair. Scorpius managed a weak smile, and Albus was worried that would be the only reaction he’d get out of him for a while.
“Scorpius? Can I ask you something?” Albus asked. Scorpius nodded, looking at him and managing to keep his eye for the first time. The black circles around his eyes had lessoned slightly following the sleep he’d been getting in the hospital, but various parts of his face and neck were still painted with fading purple bruises. “You- did you die?”
Scorpius opened his mouth a few times before snapping it shut again. “I…” he pursed his lips, clearly thinking about his next words carefully. “I think so… but I didn’t… not really anyway.” He stopped, collecting a bunch of bubbles in his hands before dropping them back into the water. “I saw mum.”
He nodded. “She was on the swing at the back of the manor. She told me that I had a choice, to go with her or to live, to stay with you.”
“And… you chose to stay?”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I didn’t get the choice. Delphi brought me back before I could choose.”
“And… if you did get the choice?”
“Don’t make me do that, Albus. I couldn’t make it then and I don’t want you to make me now,” he spoke, voice slightly harsh but Albus couldn’t blame him. He shouldn’t have pushed him, he was just curious.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“It’s okay,” Scorpius said, smiling at him before diving under the water. He stayed under the water for fifteen seconds – Albus counted – until he came back up for air. He rose to the surface, staying lying down and looking up at the ceiling. He slowly sat up and Albus grabbed some shampoo, pouring a small circle into his palm and rubbing it softly through his hair. Scorpius washed it off himself, then Albus put another load in his hair for extra effectiveness before he washed it out and applied conditioner to smooth out the knots.
Before he washed it off, Scorpius turned to him. “Does – does your dad still have a pensieve?”
“I think so, why?” Albus responded, furrowing his brows in confusion.
“I… I-” he took a deep breath. “In order to try and make me join her side, she manipulated some of my memories and made me re-watch them. I don’t know how to get them back, so I was wondering if I could see your memories of it, to remember them the way they’re supposed to happen,” he looked at him with hopeful eyes, and even though the idea scared Albus a little, there was no way he could say no.
“Of course, if that will help. I’ll ask my dad,” he assured. “What did she try and change?”
“Memories of you. She wanted me to think you didn’t like me, to make me feel isolated and alone, but it didn’t work because I knew in my heart that we were friends… you can change thoughts, you can’t change feelings.” And with that, he ducked back under the water.
That was the first either of them had mentioned feeling anything towards each other. Albus hadn’t brought it up yet – the opportunity hadn’t really risen, and Scorpius was clearly struggling to comprehend the events of the past month. It was an unspoken thing between them, but Albus vowed he’d bring it up as soon as he thought Scorpius was ready. He didn’t want to push him into anything just yet.
Once Scorpius was bathed thoroughly and in fresh pyjamas, Albus realised he’d have to go home at some point. He left Scorpius with a kiss on the forehead and a promise that he could come over the next day to look at the pensieve. Scorpius hugged him tight, making Albus wish he never had to go home.
That night, lying in his own bed, sleeping on his own for the first time, Albus felt a little lost. In the middle of the night, he crawled out of bed and tiptoed across to his older brothers room, a blanket from Scorpius wrapped around him. He knocked softly and was surprised when James answered.
“Jamie?” Albus spoke as he walked in. “This is stupid, I know. I’m seventeen, but a lot has happened, and I was wondering if-”
“Get over here,” James interrupted, gesturing him over. Albus smiled climbing into the bed and closing his eyes. He felt safer with James there, like he had been every night when Albus really needed someone. He, James and Lily curled up together most nights in those hotel rooms, desperate for some sense of normality.
When he woke in the early morning, he almost wasn’t surprised to see Lily in between them both, just like she had been all those nights. Albus was reminded of the fierce love he had for his siblings, and he grabbed Lily’s hand under the covers, drifting back into a sleep.