Actions

Work Header

Gotta Stay High (To Get You Off My Mind)

Work Text:

Albus downed the last of his drink and slammed it on the bar. He spun in a half circle, grinning wildly as the heavy thud of his heart seemed to line up with the pulsing bass. Lights flashed blue-white overhead, lighting up the club with an almost ethereal glow. His throat burned with the aftertaste of his fifth—sixth? seventh?—drink, and his mouth tasted like fake cranberries and cheap vodka. It was familiar combination by now, and one that made Albus's skin tingle with a well-worn anticipation.

He moved out onto the floor, letting his body fall into the music, knowing he wouldn't be alone for long. Albus had always been a good dancer, and he knew what he looked like: messy dark hair, slim build, a wicked smile, and an arse to die for—he'd been told so on more than one occasion. He swiveled his hips to the beat as he scanned the room. His eyes snagged on a tall, thin bloke about his age, all put together in a crisp button up and dark trousers. Albus's rhythm faltered as his heart gave a painful stutter.

He spun around abruptly, feeling his out-of-control heartbeat in his throat. Merlin, he was such an idiot. The bloke didn't really look anything like Scorpius aside from the preppy clothes; it was stupid to get all worked up. Besides, Albus was completely over it. Albus was over him. With a deep breath, Albus managed to shake off the sadness threatening to latch onto his alcohol addled senses and derail his carefree high. Albus was here to have fun, to find some bloke who would do unimaginable things to him. That's what people did when they moved on, and Albus had definitely—

A halo of white-blond hair glowed in his periphery, and Albus turned towards it on instinct. Every cell inside of him tensed, his mind whiting out, and then kicking back to life as he tried to process the image in front of him. It took him an embarrassing long time to put the puzzle pieces together. Not Scorpius, but his father, Mr Malfoy.

Albus's chest constricted at the sight of him, as confident and imposing as he'd always appeared whenever Albus had seen him. He looked good dressed in Muggle trousers and a pale grey shirt, adorned with silvery buttons that shone in the pulsing lights. He was obviously older than Scorpius, his chest broader, his face more angular and refined, but even so, it was impossible not to see the resemblance between them. Their hair, their innate sense of grace, the way they always seemed like they were taking measure of everybody in the room. Scorpius had hated it when Albus had pointed out any of the similarities between him and his father, but right now it was all Albus could see.

Mr Malfoy's eyes caught his own, and then widened in recognition and something softer. Something like pity. The look hit Albus like a blasting curse, making his cheeks flame red and his stomach roil with a sick and aching loneliness that transfigured into something bitter and blazing hot. How dare Mr Malfoy look at him like that, like Albus was somebody to feel sorry for. Fiery rage spilled through him in a torrential current, burning up his alcohol soaked blood like the fuel it was. In the blink of an eye, Albus found himself standing in front of Mr Malfoy's still form.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Albus spat. "Are you spying on me? Did Scorpius send you? Does he need his daddy to do his dirty work?"

Mr Malfoy looked at him in bemusement. "I own this club, Albus. I'm here to work."

Oh, right, Albus knew that. Albus felt his face flush with embarrassed anger. The fact that Mr Malfoy owned this club was the entire reason Albus had started coming here in the first place, though he'd never expected to actually see Mr Malfoy on the floor. Albus had assumed, as the owner, he would spend his time managing his businesses from afar, and Albus would be free to enjoy himself without running into any Malfoys at all.

When he and Scorpius were together, they'd never been to any of Mr Malfoy's clubs or bars, not even this one, the most popular gay club in all of Muggle and wizarding England. Albus thought Scorpius was probably embarrassed by his dad spending his life on such a tawdry business. Scorpius was like that sometimes, kind of uptight about image. Though Albus had always figured it was warranted, what with the uphill battle he had to fight carrying around his family name. Albus had always thought Mr Malfoy's line of work was cool, though. He'd been disappointed about never getting to visit any of Mr Malfoy's establishments for years, but he was glad of Scorpius stubbornness now. It meant that Albus could go out clubbing without worrying about running into Scorpius. Unfortunately, he hadn't thought about the fact that he might run into Mr Malfoy instead.

"Whatever," he managed to force out. "You can tell Scorpius when you see him that I'm totally fine. In fact, I'm better than fine. I'm great. Getting dumped was the best thing that ever happened to me." Albus tossed his head in a gesture he hoped conveyed his complete lack of caring. "I hope he's happy with that vapid twink he was fucking behind my back for months."

He felt his throat begin to close up as he choked out the words. His eyes began to well and he angrily blinked back the tears, furious at himself for losing control in front of one of the last people he wanted to see him fall apart. Every time he thought about the break-up, it was like a herd of thestrals was stampeding over his heart all over again. It had been months, and it still didn't quite feel real that Scorpius, his Scorpius, had been seeing somebody behind his back, that he'd left Albus because Albus hadn't been enough.

"Albus…" Mr Malfoy's voice was was soft and comforting, like a blanket Albus wanted to wrap himself up in.

He hated it.

He hated being reminded of how much he used to actually like Mr Malfoy. He'd always been so decent to Albus, even back when he and Scorpius first started dating in fourth year. Albus had been practically shaking with nerves when Scorpius had defiantly announced that he was dating a Potter. Mr Malfoy had only looked at Albus for a long moment, before nodding and offering him some tea. Mr Malfoy had actually handled it much better than Albus's own dad, which Albus was pretty sure was at least half of why he'd been so nice. But only half, because he hadn't stopped being supportive over the past four years. Albus hadn't seen him that often, since Scorpius had always been kind of weird about his father, but every time they crossed paths, Mr Malfoy would stop and speak with him. He'd treated Albus like a grownup, and Albus had always felt like Mr Malfoy really liked him, that he approved of Albus dating his only son. That thought used to warm Albus to his core, but now the memory of that approval scalded like a Boiling Hex.

"No! Don't say my name like that! Don't feel sorry for me!" he shouted, wanting nothing more than to hate Mr Malfoy. Here Mr Malfoy was, looking just as beautiful and kind as he'd ever been, and all Albus could think about was how far he'd fallen. The last time they'd spoke, Albus had thought Mr Malfoy would one day be his father-in-law, and now...now he had nothing. Without Scorpius, what reason did Mr Malfoy have to speak so kindly to Albus, other than pity, of course? No, Albus couldn't stand for that. He couldn't bear the further humiliation of his ex-boyfriend's father feeling sorry for him.

"Just go away and leave me alone. You can rot in hell with your fucking son for all I care." Albus's breath escaped in shallow pants, his head swimming with drunken fury and his chest ringing with a hollow ache. His eyes burned with the effort of holding back tears of pain and anger, and all he wanted was to pitch a fit right there in the club and release the maelstrom of emotion raging like an inferno inside of him. He wanted to scream and cry and smash his surroundings until the club looked just as destroyed and broken as Albus felt.

Mr Malfoy's mouth had hardened, but his eyes were still soft. He held his hands up in surrender and began to back away slowly. "Alright, okay. I'm going."

"Good," Albus said, glaring at Mr Malfoy as he melted into the crowd. Albus's body was strung tight with tension as his instinct to lash out and destroy battled with the urge to break down and sob. It was like he'd eaten a Pepper Imp, his body vibrating in that moment before the smoke began to pour out of his ears, that instant when the pressure built up inside of him until it reached an almost fever pitch. He needed some kind of release, preferably one that didn't involve weeping or property damage.

His eyes snagged on a well-built bloke almost immediately. The bloke was probably Teddy's age, with smooth brown skin and a hungry smile. Yes, he would work quite nicely.

Albus pressed close as they danced, letting the bloke slide his palms all over Albus's body, arching back against him like a kneazle in heat. It didn't take long before strong hands were ushering him towards the shadowy recesses of the club and urging him down on his knees.

He didn't need Mr Malfoy's pity. He was doing just fine.

||||||||||

Draco wasn't surprised when Albus slipped off the dance floor with his new friend as he had done so many times over the past few months. The strange twisting in his gut was new, though. He supposed that after weeks of silently keeping an eye on Albus from afar, a confrontation was inevitable, and it was only natural it would leave him a little shaken.

Albus had been coming into his club for weeks now—months really—ever since the end of his relationship with Draco's son. It had taken a while for Draco to notice that he was coming in almost every night, though. Draco had several other business, and he liked to split his time among them. This club, his first purchase and most popular acquisition, had always held a special place in his heart. It had saved him after the hellish year of Scorpius leaving for Hogwarts and his messy divorce had left Draco suddenly, startlingly alone. Purchasing this business, running it, caring for it, and occasionally finding a handsome young man inside of it, had helped keep Draco sane.

The past few years, Draco had begun to diversify his interests, but lately this particular club had been calling to him. He'd been here nearly every night for the past few weeks, and it didn't take a genius to figure out what, or rather, who, he was here for.

He'd tried to ignore it, to turn a blind eye to Albus's drinking, the sex, the fact that he was clearly out of control and just barely holding it together. But he'd always liked Albus. He'd been good for Scorpius, though Draco had tried not to make his approval too apparent—Scorpius had a tendency to rebel against Draco whenever possible. He adored his son, but he knew that Scorpius was spoiled and selfish, a little too concerned with status and what others thought of him, traits that Draco couldn't help but blame himself for passing along. Scorpius was ambitious and driven, with the Slytherin cunning and moral ambiguity that seemed to be a Malfoy birthright. With age, Draco had managed to temper some of those traits in himself, but he remembered well those earlier, reckless days of his youth, absolutely certain of his own righteousness, unwilling to bend or compromise or give an inch. He was hopeful that it wouldn't take Scorpius so long to come to similar realisations, especially when Albus had been such a wonderful, gentling influence on him. Draco suspected the split would ultimately be in Albus's best interests, and he couldn't help but think that Scorpius had lost something very special in Albus.

The both of them had been out of Hogwarts and living together for a year when Scorpius had broken up with Albus this past spring. It had been quite the surprise for Draco, who had been expecting an engagement announcement from the two any day. Apparently, it had been rather shocking for Albus as well. Scorpius seemed to have moved on just fine. He'd mentioned just the other day that he was seeing somebody new—perhaps this "twink" that Albus claimed Scorpius had been seeing while they were still together. The thought saddened him. He hoped he'd raised his son better than that, but he knew better than most how easy it was to make mistakes, especially in one's youth.

Seeing Albus partying hadn't worried Draco at first. He'd just come out of a four year relationship, and it was only natural that he wanted to have a little fun and try new things. It quickly became obvious, however, that Albus was in a lot of pain. Pain that he was trying his best to drown with alcohol, potions, drugs, and sex. Draco wasn't in a position to judge, but he couldn't help but feel partially responsible as the father of the boy that had broken Albus's heart. He did his best to keep an eye on him from the shadows, staying well out of sight. Draco hadn't been sure how Albus would react to seeing him, though he supposed he had his answer now.

Draco let himself be pulled away by work, focussing on balancing accounts and filling out purchase orders until the wee hours of the morning. It was just before closing when Draco finally finished up. The staff were beginning to clear the last of the patrons out when Draco headed over to the loos to have a quick piss before heading home for the night.

The sound of broken sobbing brought him up short. With slow movements, he nudged open the door, preparing to coax out the drunken customer and having the floor manager, Leisel, call him a cab. He froze at the sight of Albus curled up on the filthy floor next to the sinks, his arms wrapped around his knees and his face buried in his trousers as tears streamed down his cheeks.

Without a second thought he kneeled by Albus's side. "Albus, are you alright?"

Albus brought his head up to glare half-heartedly through shining eyes. "Of—of—of course I'm not alright. I—I—" A fresh flood of tears poured from his eyes, cutting off his stuttered speech.

Draco tentatively reached out and touched Albus's shoulder, and, when Albus didn't shake him off, pulled Albus into a loose hug. "I know, sweetheart, I know. It'll be okay."

"No it won't. Scorpius doesn't love me anymore. I gave him everything and it still wasn't enough. And now I'm all alone and I have n—n—nothing."

"I'm sure that's not—"

With a wobbly lurch, Albus leaned away from Draco and threw up on the floor. Draco wrinkled his nose as the sour smell of beer and bile perfumed the room. He rubbed Albus's back until the tremors wracking Albus's body subsided. With a quick glance at the door, Draco unsheathed his wand and vanished the pile of sick, cleaning off Albus in the process. Albus blinked at him in blurry, tear-stained confusion. His eyes were cloudy, and Draco had a feeling Albus wouldn't remember this at all come morning.

"Why don't we get you home?"

Draco escorted Albus to his office. He had a Floo connection, but given Albus's state, Draco didn't trust him to correctly enunciate. Side Apparition would be the best bet.

Albus was already swaying on his feet, his eyelids drooping and his body sagging. Draco grabbed him firmly by the waist before Apparating them both into Albus's flat.

It had been nearly six months since the last time Draco had been here, back when Scorpius had still shared the space with Albus. It looked almost exactly as Draco remembered. He wondered if Scorpius let Albus keep the flat and furnishings to make the break quicker and cleaner, or if he'd been so distant from the process of making a home with Albus that none of the objects really mattered to him anyway. Either way, it made Draco ache for Albus and the loneliness emanating from every drooping throw pillow and dusty bookshelf.

He guided Albus down the hall, past the kitchen filled with empty takeout containers and pizza boxes, and into the bedroom that Albus and Scorpius used to share.

With surprising difficulty, Draco managed to strip Albus down to his pants, and usher him into bed. It was an oddly uncomfortable experience, stripping an attractive young man out of his clothes without the promise of sex hanging overhead. His prick began to instinctively stir as his hands slid over Albus's toned stomach and arms with as perfunctory a movement as Draco could manage. He tried to tell himself it was no different from putting Scorpius to bed, but Draco hadn't done that since Scorpius was a child, and it had certainly never inspired such a longing to touch and linger.

He tucked Albus in, thankful that the unwelcome whispers of arousal began to fade once all that skin was out of sight, and the sound of heavy snores began to fill the room. Albus looked so beautiful and peaceful in sleep, and Draco found himself leaning over to press a kiss to Albus's forehead and wishing him sweet dreams.

Draco straightened before reaching into his satchel and searching through the small arsenal of personal potions he always kept on hand. He pulled out a hangover potion he'd brewed last month, and set it on the table next to Albus's bed. As he did, he couldn't help but notice the oversized picture frame taking up a large portion of the surface. A smiling Scorpius and Albus waved out at him from behind the glass. Their arms were entwined and their smiles were sunny as they alternated between looking out of the frame and gazing soulfully into each other's eyes.

Draco realised with a heavy heart that, months after the break-up, this picture was still probably the first thing Albus saw every morning when he woke up.

Draco loved his son, but at that moment, he was unaccountably furious with him for breaking Albus's heart.

---------------

Albus bounced on the balls of his feet as Jillian made her way over with two precariously balanced handfuls of shots. She passed them around to their gathered group of friends, and Albus took his with a grin.

"To our good health!" Fabian shouted.

Albus cheered along with the rest of them as he threw back the shot of cinnamon liquor in one smooth swallow. It tingled as it slid down his throat, the sensation intensified by whatever potion Fabian had slipped him when Albus had first entered the club. The thought of the potion made Albus's mind flicker to the hangover potion he'd found on his bedside table that morning. He didn't really remember how he'd gotten home the previous night, but after swallowing down the potion, it didn't take him long to realise who must have left it. Mr Malfoy.

It had made his chest go all funny and tight, an inexplicable smile flitting over his face, before embarrassment set in. He must have been completely out of it for Mr Malfoy to have taken him home without Albus remembering a thing. The thought of what Albus might have said to him in his blacked out stupor, about what Mr Malfoy must think of Albus after last night..it made Albus feel dirty, a sick feeling of shame hardening into a knot of resentment. What right did Mr Malfoy have to take Albus home, tuck him in, and leave him a hangover potion? Albus didn't need to be taken care of. He was an adult now, and he didn't need to be looked after like a child. Who did Mr Malfoy think he was? Albus's dad?

Albus's eyes snagged on Mr Malfoy's form across the bar, tall and imposing and impeccably dressed, his dark eyes burning with some kind of unfathomable emotion. No, Mr Malfoy certainly wasn't anything like Albus's dad. Whatever was in Fabian's potion latched onto the little flicker of desire in Albus's belly and fanned the flames into an inferno. Mr Malfoy was attractive, no doubt about it, and he was older, which Albus had recently discovered was something that really did it for him. Not to mention that Mr Malfoy happened to be Scorpius's father, a slick voice purred in his head. Something small, petty, and vicious inside of him took root and grew, a small seed of hurt, watered with humiliation and fury. If he wanted to get back at Scorpius, the voice whispered, Albus couldn't do better than sleeping with his father. Albus let his eyes linger on Mr Malfoy's shining hair and his strong, capable hands and let the potion do its work, magnifying the arousal that came to him all too naturally. It wouldn't exactly be a hardship, getting on his hands and knees for Mr Malfoy.

Mr Malfoy's gaze seemed to bore into him as Albus broke away from his mates and began to pick his way through the crowd. He let his lust shine through his expression, his lips curling into his most seductive smile. Pleasure curled through him at the wide-eyed look of startlement on Mr Malfoy's face. He gave his hips an extra roll as he strode over, noting the downward flicker of Mr Malfoy's eyes with smug satisfaction.

Without skipping a beat, he plastered himself all along Mr Malfoy's broad chest. The muscles beneath his fingers were pleasantly firm, and the shiver that shook through Albus's body was all too real as he looked up at Mr Malfoy with his most alluring doe-eyed stare.

"Hi, Mr Malfoy," he purred.

||||||||||

Nimble hands began to wander over Draco's body, slipping beneath his vest and rubbing against his chest. Draco was frozen with shock and an uncomfortable arousal that he tried desperately to suppress. It was obvious that Albus had taken something in addition to the shot Draco had just seen him down. His eyes were red rimmed and glazed, his entire body a little too relaxed even as he insinuated himself into Draco's personal space.

Draco squirmed, trying to dislodge Albus without alerting him to his slowly hardening prick. "What are you doing, Albus? I thought you wanted me to leave you alone."

Albus's head lolled back and he smiled wickedly at Draco as he scraped over one of Draco's nipples with his nail. Draco couldn't suppress his shudder. His nipples had always been sensitive. "That's before I knew how much you wanted me."

Draco frowned. He couldn't say that he wasn't attracted to Albus, with his slim hips, messy hair, and infectious laugh. It was just a simple attraction though, and certainly not one that Draco ever planned to act on. Draco couldn't think of any reason why Albus would be so convinced that Draco wanted him

"What are you talking about?"

"Come on, Mr Malfoy." Albus leaned in, nuzzling at Draco's neck before speaking low and hot in Draco's ear. "You took me home last night, took my clothes off. You must have been disappointed when I fell asleep so quickly, but don't worry, I'm wide awake now." He punctuated his sentence with a soft bite to Draco's earlobe, and Draco jolted backwards. Albus followed, clinging to Draco like a Grindylow.

"I was only helping you home, Albus," Draco protested. "I wasn't looking for anything more."

Albus snorted. "Yeah, right. I know what men like you want. It's okay, I want it too." He looked up at Draco from beneath kohl smudged lashes. "Are you worried about what Scorpius will think? Don't worry, I'm sure he won't mind." Albus's voice was all sugar, but Draco heard the thread of venom underneath—Draco was a pure-blood Slytherin, after all; poison-laced pleasantries were practically his bread and butter back at Hogwarts.

"I'm not going to let you use me to get back at my son, Albus," he said, his voice threaded with steel.

It was as if the words lifted some kind of Glamour; Albus's coy, enticing face went cold with fury in the blink of an eye. He disentangled himself from Draco, and Draco felt a strange sense of loss. "What, are you saying you don't want to fuck me? Is that it?"

No, that wasn't it at all. Despite the awkwardness of the situation, Draco's cock still throbbed with the memory of Albus's fit, young body plastered against Draco's own. But Draco wasn't some teenager being ruled by his prick—he hadn't been for a long damn time. "Fucking me isn't going to make you feel better, Albus. In fact, I'm guessing it will only make you feel worse. What you need is—"

"Don't tell me what I need," Albus spat. "Merlin, no wonder Scorpius always talked about what a doormat you are. You don't have the balls to go after what you want. Whatever, I don't need you anyway. Half the men in this club would kill to have a go at my arse. It's your loss."

He flounced away, back towards his rowdy group of friends, leaving Draco to stew in his rage and pity. Draco knew that Albus was only lashing out because he was hurt and far too proud to accept anybody's help. He remembered feeling similarly after the war, when his and his family's bad choices had made them social outcasts. Draco had been so angry at himself, at his parents, at the world for making him feel so ashamed and alone. He'd been unbearable for a long while, until his mother had finally set him straight. But it had taken a long time for her to get through, and he'd had significantly more reason to listen to her than Albus had to listen to him. He couldn't let Albus's misguided attack get to him.

Honestly, he doubted Scorpius had said anything so direct about him, but it wouldn't surprise Draco if Scorpius had implied as such. He'd never made it a secret that he disliked how Draco accommodated the wizarding world at large, how he let himself bend under various pressures from the Ministry and society. He saw it as Draco being weak, as him giving in and letting the world walk all over the Malfoy family. Scorpius didn't understand. Draco had committed unforgivable sins in his youth, sins that he'd never be able to undo or repay. The Malfoy family had stood unbending and rigid, uncompromising in their purity and quest for power for generations, and look where it had led them? Draco was willing to do whatever it took to show the world that he was a different person now, that he and his family were willing to grow and evolve with the times. Acknowledging that he'd been wrong and opening himself up change didn't make Draco weak. With time, he hoped Scorpius would come to see that, and learn that lesson for himself.

He shook off the melancholy thoughts just in time to see Albus stomp past, dragging an attractive dark haired man nearly Draco's age behind him. Albus flashed Draco a smug, meanly victorious look as the bloke ran a possessive hand down Albus's back to squeeze his arse.

Draco mustered a sad smile as Albus disappeared out the door. He ignored the small twinge of jealousy. He'd done the right thing in turning Albus down, and he couldn't stop him from pulling somebody else.

Draco went back to work, and hoped that the gentleman Albus went home with was able to give Albus whatever it was he was looking for.

---------------

Albus had been at Mr Malfoy's club every day for the past week, ever since the horrifying rejection. He didn't know why he kept going back, drawn forward night after night like some terrible masochistic moth to the flame. And he didn't know why it almost made things worse that he hadn't seen Mr Malfoy once since the incident. Just thinking about it made something sick writhe inside his guts, a whole bellyful of snakes slithering around whenever he thought about the fact that two Malfoys didn't want him. Luckily there were plenty of ways to dull the sharp knife's edge of pain.

He scowled into his drink before throwing it back. Unfortunately, his quest to dull some of his pain earlier that day had only made things worse.

Albus had been in Diagon Alley, heading over to Fabian's flat at the far end of the district. Fabian was a genius with potions, and he'd developed quite a few rather fantastic ones that Albus was more than willing to test out for him. He'd been hurrying—he'd forgotten his coat and his thin shirt wasn't much of a barrier against the crisp fall air.

His skin had just begun to break out in gooseflesh when he saw them. Scorpius's hair was a perfectly coiffed wave of white-gold, gleaming like Lumos beneath the autumn sun. At Scorpius's side, their hands twined together, was Justin. His light brown hair was just as perfectly coiffed, his smile photo-ready as he strolled out of Twilfitt and Tattings. They were each carrying several shopping bags, and they looked every inch the happy, flawless couple, out for a day at the shops. Albus's chest constricted, his eyes went fuzzy, and world began to swim as the chill of the day seemed to permeate through his thin shirt and all the way down to his soul.

Somehow, he'd managed to make it back to his flat—the flat that used to belong to him and Scorpius. He hadn't stopped shaking for hours, curled up on his sofa, wrapped in the thick multi-coloured afghan that Grandma Molly had knitted for him when he was a baby. Merlin, he was such an idiot.

He'd known that Scorpius was seeing somebody else. Hell, it hadn't been long after the break-up when he'd heard about Scorpius and Justin, that Scorpius's perfectly pedigreed American coworker was, well, more than just a coworker, and apparently had been for several months. It had cut him deeply, widening wounds that hadn't even begun to think about healing. Seeing them in person together for the first time...it shattered something inside of Albus, that tiny bubble of hope that maybe, maybe…

It had been stupid, Albus had been stupid. Scorpius had made it clear that Albus just didn't have what Scorpius wanted. Seeing Scorpius with his new boytoy, Albus had felt that chasm between them yawn ever wider. He missed Scorpius something awful, like a piece of his very soul had been lopped off. Worse, like a piece of his soul had decided it didn't like the rest of his soul and decided to willingly abdicate. How terrible, how boring and pathetic must Albus be to inspire such abandonment?

Which was why Albus was already blitzed out of his mind when he showed up at the club with his mates that night. He taken one of Fabian's potions, a little white pill that Jillian swore by, and had downed half a bottle of white rum before he'd even stepped foot in the frenzied club. He let the music slide over his skin like warm water as he began to dance.

"Hello, gorgeous."

"Buy you a drink?"

Albus blinked, looking up to see two large men moving in close. They were a little rougher and less attractive than the men Albus usually pulled, but he supposed there was nothing wrong with accepting a drink. He flashed a smile, his legs wobbling and the room spinning a little as he stepped forward. Perhaps mixing potions, alcohol, and Muggle drugs hadn't been the best idea.

One of the men reached out to steady Albus's arm, and the other moved to Albus's other side, taking a firm grip of Albus's bicep.

"Why don't we help you, pretty."

"To the bar?" Albus slurred.

One of the men gave Albus a smile that made his skin prickle, though he wasn't sure why. "Yes, of course, to the bar."

Albus leaned into the support, letting them guide him without a conscious thought. It wasn't until he felt a blast of chilled air on his face that he finally looked around.

"Oh," Albus giggled, his brows furrowing, "I don't think this is the way to the bar."

The larger of the two men laughed, and something in his tone made Albus's heart begin to race. "No, I don't think it is. But don't worry, we've got something better for you than another drink."

They both stepped closer, trapping Albus between them and running their hands over his body. It took longer than it should have for their intentions to finally pierce through the fog of drink and drugs clouding Albus's brain. He recoiled, but there was nowhere to go.

"Um oh, that's, I really should be getting back. My friends—"

"Don't pretend you don't want this. We've seen you before, always leaving with a different bloke. Such a little slut for it, aren't you? Maybe taking us both will finally satisfy you."

"No, I don't—"

Albus felt his throat close with panic, spots starting to form in his vision when Mr Malfoy stepped out from the shadows. His golden hair wreathed his head like a halo, the lamplight illuminating his thunderous expression. He looked like some kind of avenging angel, swooping in to save the day.

"I think that's enough, gentlemen. The boy said no."

"Who the hell are you?"

"I'm the owner of this club, and I suggest you leave. Now."

The men looked at Mr Malfoy warily, but neither made a move to leave. Instead, their hands only tightened on Albus's body. "Why do you care, anyway? The little slut was begging for it earlier."

Albus trembled, and Mr Malfoy took a deliberate step forward, his eyes flashing. "He's not begging for it now, is he? Sexual assault is bad for business, so I'll tell you one last time to leave, before things get messy."

Mr Malfoy casually pushed aside his blazer, revealing his firm stomach beneath a crisp white shirt, and the edge of a gun. If Albus squinted, he could just make out the haze of a hastily cast glamour over what was very likely Mr Malfoy's wand, not a gun. The men didn't know that though, and it wasn't as if a wand was less dangerous than a gun, really. The men's eyes widened at the obvious threat. They sneered and pushed Albus towards Mr Malfoy, before slinking off down the street.

Albus took a moment to revel in the strength of Mr Malfoy's body against his own, in the rush of warmth and safety his presence brought over Albus. He lingered in that feeling for just a moment, before the first stirrings of displeasure made themselves known. Mr Malfoy was just everywhere, wasn't he? Swooping in to see Albus at his lowest points. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair.

"What the hell did you do that for?" Albus spat, stepping away and giving Mr Malfoy his most impressive glare.

||||||||||

Draco blinked at Albus in shock, thrown by the indignation in Albus's voice. Though by that point, Draco didn't know why he was surprised. "I beg your pardon?"

"I didn't need to you to come in and rescue me like some damsel in distress. I was handling it."

"Yes, it looked like that was going wonderfully for you." Draco turned and walked back towards his club. He'd had a long week of putting out fires, both literal and metaphorical at one of his other establishments, and Albus had made it clear time and again that he found Draco's very existence distasteful. Draco knew it wasn't really him, that pain was making Albus lash out at those around him, but it was still exhausting.

"I was," Albus contested hotly, following Draco through the side entrance. "I had everything under control."

"Be that as it may, I was there, and I wasn't in the mood to sit around and watch you be assaulted while you handled things."

Albus managed to get in front of him, his green eyes shooting sparks. Staring into those vibrant eyes made something twist and squirm in Draco's belly, a sort of thrumming, magical current zapping every dormant cell in his body back to life. Even bitter and angry and full of pain, Albus Severus was a thing of beauty. Draco wondered what he was like when his spark wasn't dulled by intoxicants, when his eyes flashed with joy and passion instead of outrage. The thought made Draco's throat run dry.

"I don't need your help. I'm not weak."

Draco felt the flame of his earlier indignation fizzle out. Albus was just as stubborn and proud as ever, just as unwilling to accept any kind of help. That was fine; Draco didn't need him to be grateful. The important thing was that he hadn't been hurt.

"I know, Albus. I don't think you're weak at all."

Albus's face scrunched, as if he wasn't quite sure to do with Draco's acquiescence. "Alright, good." He looked around at the offices surrounding them, his nose crinkling as he tried to puzzle out where they were. After several moments, he looked at Draco with obvious reluctance. "Can you show me how to get back to the club?"

Draco nodded and took him down the corridor that led back out to the main floor. Albus paused at the door, his voice so soft Draco could barely make it out over the thud of music radiating out from the room beyond. "Thanks, Mr Malfoy."

Draco's face warmed, like he was standing beneath the open sky on a perfect summer day. He knew Albus wasn't thanking Draco for leading him back to the dance floor. "You're welcome, Albus."

"I'll see you around?" The fiery resentment had left Albus's tone. Instead he sounded cautious and almost hopeful.

Draco grinned, and then frowned at the ridiculous anticipation rolling around in his gut. The fact that Albus wasn't currently treating him like a leper shouldn't be cause for such feelings of joy. He took a deep breath to calm himself as Albus began to open the heavy door to the main floor, loud music tumbling through in a veritable wall of sound.

Draco wasn't sure if Albus would be able to hear him, but he answered just the same.

"Yes, I suspect you will."

---------------

Albus awoke slowly, every inch of his body throbbing with a low-level ache. His mouth tasted like a flobberworm had died in it, and his head felt like somebody had hit him with a Bludger bat. Judging from the extremely uncomfortable and slightly contorted position his body was in, he wasn't in his bed.

He blinked open his eyes, his pupils screaming with the sudden influx of pale grey light filtering in through the partially covered windows. It took several long, excruciating moments, but eventually his head stopping spinning, and his vision cleared enough for him to take in his surroundings.

The previous night was a blacked-out blur, but it looked like several of them had decided to come over to Jillian's flat after they'd gone to Mr Malfoy's club. Albus was sharing her large sofa with a half naked bloke covered in tattoos, and it looked like there were several other people passed out on her floor. Albus huffed a laugh when he caught sight of Fabian all squished up on the smaller sofa across the room, his long legs tucked up beneath his chin in an impressive display of flexibility.

Albus stretched and managed to wriggle off the sofa without waking Tattoo Bloke. The bloke snuffled in his sleep and moved to take over Albus's vacated space, showing off a flat stomach and too-tight jeans. He was definitely attractive, and Albus vaguely remembered dancing with him the night before. He wondered if they'd hooked up last night. His jaw and throat ached, like he'd maybe had his throat fucked, but that could've just been from grinding his teeth and drinking too much alcohol. He shrugged. It didn't really matter either way.

Albus took a deep breath, stomach churning at the stale scent of sweat and booze. He needed to get home and take a shower, and then maybe fall into bed and sleep for the next one hundred years. Apparating while hungover was total shit, but there was nothing for it. Jillian didn't have a Floo, and there was no way he was braving Muggle transportation in his state. Bracing himself, he thought of home. He didn't bother finding Jillian or leaving a note—he'd see everybody again that evening.

As expected, Apparating home was a tricky affair, leaving Albus panting and nauseated as he gripped the back of his sofa in an attempt to steady himself. But thirty minutes later, after a hot shower and a fresh set of clothes, Albus's outlook on life had much improved. He finally felt like waving a wand wouldn't topple him right over, and his hunger set upon him with a vengeance. Luckily he still had some Chinese take away from a couple of nights ago. He gave it a good sniff to make sure it hadn't spoiled, before standing over the rubbish bin and shovelling it into his mouth with little fanfare.

He tossed the container when he'd finished and was contemplating whether he wanted to take a long nap or do something marginally more productive, when his gaze landed on a piece of paper with a scribbled sketch of Scorpius's face on it. His stomach roiled, anger and embarrassment threatening to bring the Chinese food back up. He stomped over to the paper, picking it up and glaring at it like the admission of failure it was.

The sketch had been Albus's pathetic attempt at doing something more productive last week. He'd always loved art when he was little, especially drawing and painting. For a while there, he'd thought he might try and make a career out of it—it wasn't like he needed money, and creating things had always made that flickering light inside of him blaze like the sun. But Scorpius hadn't thought being an artist was a practical profession, and eventually he convinced Albus to take a job at the Ministry instead. A respectable job with benefits, upward mobility, and normal work hours. Those kinds of things were important to Scorpius, and because Albus loved him, they were important to Albus, too. He'd hated that job, though, and he'd quit the day after Scorpius left him. Silver lining, he supposed.

Albus had recently had the insane idea that he should try sketching again, but all he'd been able to think about was Scorpius. The likeness on the crumpled sheet in his hand wasn't even worth the cost of the paper it was on. Scorpius was right. He'd never been good enough to make any kind of go of it as an artist. Albus had just been fooling himself.

He closed his fist, balling up the drawing before tossing it into the rubbish on his way to bed. Napping was a much more productive use of his time. Besides, he had that evening to look forward to. He felt a strange tingle of anticipation creep across the back of his neck. He pretended it was solely due to the debaucherous night that was no doubt in store for him, and not at all because of the prospect of seeing Mr Malfoy again.

||||||||||

Draco had been shocked when Albus had shown up the night after Draco had saved him, and began chatting with Draco as if they'd always gotten on. He hadn't known what to expect, but he figured that maybe this was Albus's way of reaching out, his version of extending an olive branch. Draco had accepted it with a smile, and a request that Albus call him Draco; Draco wasn't his boyfriend's father anymore, and Mr Malfoy made him feel old.

"Sure thing, Draco," Albus drawled, the emphasis doing strange things to Draco's insides. "Buy me a drink?" Draco raised his brows pointedly, and Albus had the grace to flush, the dark pink staining his cheeks in the most becoming way. "Not like that. Promise."

"Alright then." He waved over his bartender Greg—a slender, slightly flamboyant man in his late twenties that couldn't have been farther in looks and temperament from Gregory Goyle—and ordered two gin and tonics, made with the good stuff. Albus whistled appreciatively after taking a sip. Draco smiled. "Don't think you'll be able to use me for free drinks every night."

Albus's grin was downright sinful. "I wouldn't dream of it."

The boy swallowed his drink down far too quickly, his leg bouncing restlessly as his eyes scanned to room. Draco felt a moment of disappointment before swallowing it down with his gin.

"Looking for tonight's conquest?" he asked lightly.

"Yeah," Albus said absently, doing another sweep of the crowded club before focussing back onto Draco. "Having a tough time of it tonight."

Draco felt a bizarre urge to help, to linger around just a little longer and prove himself useful. "What are you looking for?"

"What's it to you?" Albus snapped, defensive.

Draco sighed. "I can hardly help you if I don't know what you like, now can I?

"Really? You want to help?"

Draco shrugged. "Why not? It's certainly more interesting than going over my finances."

Albus paused thoughtfully, his pearly white teeth dragging over his plush lower lip as he thought it over. "I don't know if I really have a type or anything."

Draco scanned the bar, before pointing to a boy near Albus's age with sandy blond hair and stylish glasses. "What about him?"

Albus looked at him consideringly. "Too young."

"Too young? He's got to be nearly your age." Nearly Scorpius's age.

Albus shrugged. "I like them a little older I guess. More experienced."

"How much older?"

"I don't know, thirties? Forties?"

"Forties!?" Draco hated that his heart sped up at the thought that Albus was attracted to older men, men who were Draco's age.

Albus scoffed. "Don't look so scandalised, I bet you pick up pretty young things all the time. Nothing wrong with being that pretty young thing."

Draco huffed a small, slightly disbelieving laugh. "I suppose you have a point. Though I think you'd be surprised by the number of pretty young things I go home with these days."

"Really?" Albus's disbelief was a lovely boost for Draco's ego, as was the blatantly appreciative gaze that Albus swept up and down Draco's form. "But you're still so fit, and you dress nice, and you own this club. How do you not have your pick of the litter?"

"It's not so much that I can't pull, it's more that I generally don't. Casual sex and one night stands aren't all that satisfying for me anymore. It begins to feel like more of the same."

"If you say so." Albus wrinkled his nose in obvious incredulity. He'd been sleeping with multiple men a week for months now, and it was clear he couldn't imagine a time when that would no longer feel new and exciting. Part of Draco envied that, but mostly he just felt sad for him and Albus both.

Silence settled over them as they both gazed out on the crowd. At the bar, Draco spotted one of the regulars chatting amiably with Greg. He was maybe ten years younger than Draco, with straight, dark brown hair, and a shirt that was a little too tight. He was a decent enough customer, a great tipper, and Draco knew for a fact that Greg had gone home with him last month, and he'd enjoyed himself enough to tell the entire staff about it.

"What about that man over there?"

"The one in the tight black shirt?"

"Yes. My bartender's gone home with him before. He quite enjoyed himself."

"Yeah?" Albus's gaze was appraising as he took the man in. "He could work." Albus nodded to himself and chewed on the straw in his empty drink as he stared. "Yeah, I could definitely hit that."

Greg was still lingering in front of the bloke, a flirtatious smile on his face. Draco looked from the attractive man in the tight shirt and then back at Albus. Albus's pretty pink lips wrapped around his now mangled straw, and a sick jealousy gnawed at Draco's stomach at the thought of Albus leaving here with him. A not inconsiderable part of Draco suddenly hoped that Greg would claim the bloke for the night before Albus made his move.

Possessiveness tried to claw its way up Draco's throat as a silken voice whispered that if Albus was going to be leaving the club with anybody, it should be Draco. Draco swallowed, forcing the feeling back down. Draco didn't have any intention of acting on the ill-advised desire, and there was nothing Draco could do to prevent Albus from leaving with somebody else. As unpleasant as the thought was, Draco would rather Albus went home with somebody Draco knew, than with somebody potentially unsafe. Draco sighed, low enough that Albus wouldn't hear.

"You should go over and make your move then, before my bartender decides he wants another go."

Albus laughed, bright and merry and just a little too loud, though the alcoholic amplification was hardly noticeable in the packed club. "Excellent point."

He slid off the stool, steadying himself on the table as he stood. Albus looked over at the man in the tight shirt, then back at Draco, something peculiar flashing over his face quick as the fluttering wings of a Snitch. And then that confident, seductive mask of Albus's settled over his expression, and Albus flashed Draco a wink as he squared his shoulders.

"Thanks for the drink, Draco."

Draco managed a smile, even as his chest went tight. "Good luck."

Albus's lips twisted, cocky and almost bitter. "I don't need it."

---------------

Albus's arse ached, a low, steady throb that shivered up his spine with every step into his cold and silent flat. It was gone four in the morning, and Albus had just left the flat of some Muggle he'd picked up at Draco's club. He'd been quite vigorously shagged over the man's brown suede sofa, and while it had been enjoyable enough, Albus hadn't lost much time in making his excuses and slipping away afterwards. Luckily the man hadn't seemed too bothered by it.

He'd been another of Draco's picks for Albus, the latest in the string of suggestions Draco offered whenever Albus began looking around the club for somebody to pull. Draco was surprisingly good at the game, always managing to find a bloke that was attractive and usually fairly decent in the sack. Albus wasn't sure why he always felt a flicker of annoyance and something too much like disappointment every time Draco pointed out another bloke he thought Albus might like. It was probably some weird reaction to the strangeness of going out on the pull with Scorpius's dad. Not that he'd ever seen Draco go home with anyone, a fact that Albus couldn't help but acknowledge with a steady, confusing thrum of satisfaction.

Albus picked his way through his messy living room and made his way to the kitchen, pulling out a tub of ice cream. After a night of drinking and sex, Albus was proper starving.

He grabbed a spoon of dubious cleanliness from atop the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, and shot a quick cleaning charm at it before leaning against the counter and digging into the carton. Albus spared a half-hearted glance at the dishes in the sink, wishing he'd managed to master all those cleaning charms Grandma Molly was so good at. He shrugged and looked away as he took another giant bite of ice cream, closing his eyes at the brain freeze that immediately followed. Albus shook it off and took a smaller spoonful. He wondered if he had chocolate sauce.

His gaze stuck on the teetering pile of mail on his countertop: Daily Prophets with flickering, waving cover photos, flyers and menus from local restaurants, the occasional note or letter from one of his family members. Moving the carton to the countertop, he began to rifle through the stack. Most of it was junk, or little notes from his friends confirming dates that had already passed. Though there was one cream-coloured envelope that Albus could tell was from his mum. From the slant of the writing, Albus was pretty sure she'd been angry when she'd written it, but at least it wasn't a howler.

He scraped the last sticky remnants from the tub of ice cream, and braced himself as he opened the envelope. Might as well get it over with now, while he was still pleasantly buzzed.

As expected, it was another lecture, this time on missing last week's Sunday lunch at the Burrow. The was something about disappointment, and how she and his dad had raised him better than that, and, of course, a reference to the recent unfortunate incident with his sister that last time he'd missed Sunday with the family. Albus maintained that he could have sex wherever he damn well pleased in his own flat, and maybe they should try the door instead of bursting through the Floo at all hours if they were so worried about the state he'd be in.

Frustration frothed in his stomach, bubbling up his throat and making him feel sick. His family had never been wild about Scorpius—none of them had ever really understood what Albus had seen in him. In fact, James had referred to him as "your twat of a boyfriend" for their entire relationship (he'd been downgraded to "your complete and utter wanker of an ex-boyfriend" after the breakup). Most of Albus's family had accepted Scorpius well enough, but Albus knew they'd been relieved when Scorpius had broken things off. None of them seemed to truly understand what Albus was going through, and it was obvious they didn't know how to handle Albus's recent change in behaviour. Albus loved them, truly he did, but he didn't know how to be around them, not now. It was all too much.

That was one of the many reasons Albus enjoyed his time with Draco so much. Draco was the same age as his parents and most of Albus's aunts and uncles, but he never lectured Albus, never made him feel stupid, or useless, or like he was wasting his life away. In fact, thinking of Draco now made his skin flush with a strange heat, a tingling sensation itching over his skin, lingering over the ache in his hips and arse from where the bloke had gripped Albus as he'd fucked him. A fresh wave of heat stole over him as he remembered the smooth feel of Draco's fingers beneath his own as he passed Albus a glass, the teasing smile as they bantered over a sticky table.

His family wasn't overly fond of Scorpius, so what would they say about Albus's new friendship with Draco? Would they be disappointed and horrified? Would they take one look at Albus and know that his feelings for Draco had started to go beyond innocent friendship?

The churning in his stomach worsened, and it took Albus a beat to realise that he was about to be sick. He just barely made it to the loo in time, kneeling on the ground and throwing up into the tub. Albus's breath was stuttered as he pressed his sweaty cheek to the cool porcelain. The smell in the tiny space was overwhelming, and after several shaky tries, he managed to clear the mess away.

With an extraordinary effort, he managed to pull himself off his bathroom floor and stumble into his bed.

His eyes closed as soon as his head hit the pillow. His sleep was blessedly free of dreams.

---------------

As was becoming alarming habit, Draco seemed to know exactly when Albus arrived at his club. Draco was a compass, and Albus was north. The metaphor worried him.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, it was hard to stay worried when Albus was walking towards him with that too-wide smile. Even with wobbly legs and red-rimmed eyes, Albus was far too captivating. Their brief time together most nights was always the highlight of Draco's day. He knew that Albus was still hurting, that the drugs and the alcohol and the sex we're all in an effort to numb the pain Draco sometimes saw flicker across Albus's eyes whenever a happy couple brushed past.

Draco didn't think Albus needed another somebody in his life telling him what to do—surely he had his family for that. No, Albus needed a friend, and even though Draco had become increasingly aware that friendship wasn't all he desired from Albus, Draco would just have to control himself. It was only a little infatuation, and an entirely inappropriate one at that. Draco was sure he'd move past it in no time. Still, he could only thank his lucky stars that he hadn't spent too much time with Albus when he and Scorpius had been together. Scorpius was far too shrewd not to notice Draco's predicament, and Draco could only imagine how he would have reacted.

"What's up, Draco?" Albus said, plopping down in the chair next to him.

Draco rolled his eyes fondly. "Nothing all that exciting. How are you, Albus?"

Albus wrinkled his nose and took a long pull from the beer bottle he'd brought over with him. "'M alright. My mates all decided to try out that new club across town. But—" Albus shrugged, his eyes troubled for a moment before he smiled brightly. "Couldn't abandon you, now could I?"

"Of course not. Very kind of you." Draco gave a bright smile, and hoped Albus wasn't looking closely enough to see the sympathy in it. Draco knew Albus and Scorpius used to go out together on the weekends. If Scorpius was out tonight, it would likely be at the hottest club in town that didn't belong to Draco.

Desperate to change the subject, Draco murmured, "So, Albus, what do you do during the daytime?"

"Huh?"

"Are you employed? I seem to remember you working...at the Ministry was it?" Draco vaguely recalled Scorpius talking about Albus's respectable job as some Ministry drone, but Draco couldn't remember the particulars. He found it difficult to imagine Albus getting much work done with how often he stayed out late. Equally difficult was imagining Albus in a suit with a desk job.

Albus scowled. "Yeah, but I hated it. I only worked there because Scorp thought I should have a proper job. I quit after he dumped me."

"Oh? What do you do now?"

"Nothing." Albus snorted. "It's not like I have to work, you know. My inheritance is enough to support me for the rest of my life."

Draco's brows rose. "I can't imagine your father would be happy with that attitude."

Albus rolled his eyes. "He keeps making noise about cutting me off if I don't start trying to make something of my life, but he's just blowing smoke. He's way too big a softie." Albus paused to take another large swig of his beer. His wet lips shimmered in the flashing strobe and Draco had to blink and look away as Albus continued rambling on. "Whatever. The whole family's narked off at me right now for my poor lifestyle choices. Just because I've shown up hungover a couple of times to Sunday Lunch—come on, we're adults, why do we have to get together with the whole family every Sunday. And, I mean, there was one time when Lily came over to get me after I didn't show, and she walked in on me blowing some bloke in front of the Floo. But it's my flat, and I still don't know why she had to announce it to the whole family." Albus scoffed. "As if it's any of their business who I'm fucking, anyway."

Draco stayed silent, not wanting to embroil himself in a discussion about the Potter-Weasley family. That was clearly a topic best avoided. "Surely there's something you're interested in doing. Something you're passionate about?"

Albus blinked and looked at him in wide-eyed confusion for a moment, before an unbearably attractive flush bloomed on his cheeks. "I guess, but—it's stupid."

Draco's curiosity was peaked. "I'm sure it's not."

Albus hesitated, before saying quietly, barely audible over the din of the club, "I...I used to be really into art, back at Hogwarts. Paintings and drawings, mostly, though I did some sculpture, too. I wasn't half bad, but…" He shook his head, the openness his expression had taken on disappearing in an instant. "It's hardly practical to make a career out of it, is it?"

"I don't know about that. Passion is hardly something to discard. And if, as you say, you can live off your inheritance anyway, you won't have to rely on your income. You're privileged enough to have the means and connections to do whatever you'd like." Draco hadn't done much himself after he left Hogwarts. He'd had his family money, and it wasn't as if anybody would have hired him anyway. It wasn't until he was much older, when he purchased this club and started managing a business, that he'd discovered his own passion. Finding something to do with his life that he sincerely enjoyed had saved him. Maybe it would save Albus, too. "When was the last time you painted anything?"

Albus bit his lip and played with the rim of his glass. "I don't know. Not since before Scorp and I moved in together. He thought I should get serious about my life, so…I think he was worried I'd turn into one of those crazy artist types." Albus shrugged. "I tried to do some sketches the other day, but they were all shit."

Draco couldn't help but picture Albus standing in front of a canvas, flecks of paint dotting his clothes and adding coloured freckles to his skin. He could perfectly imagine that look of intense concentration as Albus lost himself in creation, the way the sunlight would illuminate his rounded cheeks and wild hair as the air pulsed with energy and ideas and riotous emotion. The image suited Albus beautifully, and Draco felt a spasm of sadness for the Albus that had struggled to suppress all that was unique and brilliant about himself by donning a suit and working for the Ministry. For somebody like Albus, working a job like that would have been beyond stifling. A year at an uninspiring job combined with his refusal to deal with his recent breakup, and no wonder Albus was having difficulties finding his way back into something he loved so much.

"Art's all about emotion, wouldn't you say? Tapping into your feelings and expressing them through your chosen artistic medium."

Albus's nose wrinkled. "I guess."

"Would you say that you've been particularly in touch with your emotions lately?" With all the narcotic substances Albus had been taking, Draco seriously doubted it.

Albus glared. "Feelings are stupid. They just...they just fuck everything up."

"Better to be numb?"

Albus sighed and gave Draco and inscrutable look. "Yeah." A silence fell over them as Albus scanned the dance floor. He pointed to a man with sandy blonde hair towards the end of the bar who was looking at Albus with blatant interest. "What do you think about him?"

Draco felt the familiar jealousy claw at his insights, but he suppressed his instinctual dislike and looked the man over. He'd seen him around a few times, and he hadn't heard anything worrying about him. "If you're into that sort of thing."

Albus flashed him a wicked grin that shivered straight through Draco's stomach and into his cock. "There's not a lot I'm not into." He slid off his stool with a slightly drunken wobble, before turning back around to down the rest of his drink. "Cheers, Draco."

And then he was off, batting his eyelashes at the bloke at the end of the bar. The lucky bastard didn't stand a chance. Not a minute later they were grinding on the dance floor, and not long after that, they'd slipped entirely from view, no doubt heading somewhere a little more private.

Draco sighed as he downed the rest of his drink and headed off towards the back room. He had books to balance, and a pretty green-eyed boy to forget.

---------------

Albus sat silently on a bench in a park in Muggle London, feeling exhausted and hungover. The brisk late-autumn air helped to keep him awake, as did the styrofoam container of piping hot chips in his hand. He ate them slowly, relishing the heated crunch and the sharp tang of vinegar as he watched the happy people in the park.

He didn't remember much from the previous night, though that wasn't unusual these days. There was a kind of comfort in the pattern, in the frozen numbness that snaked through his veins, dulling the violent throb of emotion buried deep.

Albus watched the smiling couples and laughing families with a distant sort of apathy as he sucked grease and salt from his fingers. He felt lazy and listless, and he figured spending his day here on this bench was as good a place as any to pass the hours until night fell.

The day was grey and overcast, surprisingly dry, though every once in awhile the clouds would part long enough for a shining beam of sunlight to illuminate a lucky patch of grass. Albus had been staring absently at a young boy with messy raven hair playing beneath a small cluster of trees, when a gap in the clouds appeared, and the sun filtered down to grace the trees with its golden glow. Though it was late in autumn, the trees still had quite a few leaves left on them: russet orange, tawny brown, and mustard yellow, all dappled with patches of faded green on the spindly branches of the trees. The way the sunshine reflected and danced across the leaves as it spilled down below to light the giggling face of that laughing, carefree boy stirred something inside of Albus. It felt like a slumbering beast was yawning awake, stretching and shaking off the veil of hibernation, a vast reserve of emotion stirring and swelling inside of Albus. The numbness receded as Albus's eyes prickled at the uncomplicated beauty.

It made him think of Draco, with his sunlight hair, gentle smile, and quiet steadiness as he talked to Albus about emotion, about joy. Albus's fingers itched for a paint brush or charcoal, for something to capture the loveliness of the trees and the boy, the magnitude and simplicity of an autumn day at the park. He was taken off guard by this sudden desire to create, an urge he hadn't felt so strongly in years. Equally shocking, was how much he wished Draco was here with him. He wanted to share this moment with Draco, wanted to see Draco's face illuminated by natural daylight, the better to see his fond eyes.

Albus had only recently begun to realise the depth of his feelings for Draco. They'd grown so slowly, so steadily, that they'd completely snuck up on him. There were some nights where Albus wanted nothing more than to lean over and kiss Draco, to lick the smoky, sweet taste of whisky from Draco's lovely mouth. It shouldn't have been a surprise, really. Draco was older and experienced, undeniably handsome, and he talked to Albus like an equal. He didn't try to lecture Albus like most of the other adults in Albus's life did. There had always been a spark of attraction there, barely a flicker, really, but in the past few months, it had begun to rage like an inferno.

It was silly, of course. Draco had already turned him down once before, and he'd been quite firm about it. Draco didn't want him, and with Albus's past with Scorpius, and the current mess that was his life, Albus couldn't blame him. Strangely, though, Albus didn't think Scorpius had much to do with his attraction to Draco now, because they really weren't at all as alike as most people thought...like Albus used to think. Of course there were similarities, but most of them were superficial, surface looks and reserved traits that were shared by most of the pure-blood families. But where Scorpius was ambitious and unwilling to compromise, sometimes cold in his desire that everything in his life be perfect, Draco was vibrant and supportive. He talked of passion, and was willing to bend. He made Albus feel warm, right in the coldest depths of his soul, made him feel like maybe there was a light at the end of this dark, dark tunnel.

Albus sighed and looked over at the boy again, this time noticing the older, well-dressed man leaning against one of the trees and keeping a lazy eye on the active boy—clearly his father. He was an attractive man, though he didn't seem particularly concerned with playing with his son. In fact, he seemed far more interested in looking at Albus. His eyes were dark, and even from this distance, Albus could see the heat in them, the hunger. Albus was still dressed in his club clothes from the previous night, clothes that were tight and left little to the imagination. Their gazes locked, and the man tilted his his head in invitation.

It would be so easy to go over there and give the man what he so obviously wanted. The boy was playing with a little girl now, and the man waved familiarly at the pair of women watching over her. It would be nothing to leave the boy under their watchful gaze for twenty minutes and sneak off to some alcove or alleyway, or maybe even to the man's home—he probably lived nearby. The man would be efficient, bossy, maybe a bit rough as he pushed Albus to his knees, or pressed him face first against a wall before sliding his cock inside of Albus.

It would be easy, and good, and not much different from what he'd been doing every night, though he usually had the buzz of alcohol or the prickle of potions to help smooth the way. Albus didn't know why the thought of going over there now made his stomach roil and his skin break out in a cold sweat. The slight breeze slid across his damp skin like an ice cube, and Albus needed to leave, needed to get out of there right now. He wanted to go home to his apartment and take a long, hot shower and throw back a stiff drink to drown out this sick feeling clawing its way up his throat.

He hurried to a empty, shaded area, and Apparated home, feeling shaky and dizzy. Albus found an opened, mostly full beer on the counter, and he gulped it down in one long swallow. It was foul—flat and warm—but it helped to get his galloping brain under control, a dampening, calming fog quieting his firing synapses.

He needed to forget about Draco. He needed to forget about his ridiculous, childish feelings, and about the soft look of caring and conviction on Draco's face when he talked about emotion, about that flicker of worry that Draco never managed to fully conceal whenever Albus downed another shot before ambling off in search of another person to lose himself in for the night. What did Draco know about anything?

Albus took a deep breath, relishing the silence in his brain and his heart.

Draco didn't know what he was talking about. It was better to be numb.

---------------

Draco had become quite accustomed to his new routine. He still had to visit his other businesses on occasion, but most nights found him at his club, waiting for Albus to arrive and pretending that the anxious flutter in his stomach was perfectly normal.

Usually, Albus would find Draco and join him for a drink or two while they talked. Albus opened up to him little by little in those brief, cosy conversations under the flashing lights in the club, before inevitably something would hit a nerve, and Albus would take his cue to go and pull the first attractive bloke he saw. Draco hated it, but he knew he didn't have a right to say anything. He didn't have any claim on Albus. He'd never have a claim on him. And, really, who was Draco to criticise somebody's life choices. He'd been making far stupider decisions, far younger than Albus. Instead, Draco settled on being there for the boy as much as he could, offering him his ear and his patience, and bottling up the jealousy and uncontrollable desire that only seemed to increase the more time they spent together.

Of course, some nights ended differently, when Albus couldn't decide on anybody to go home with, or he was too fucked up to pull. Then, he'd stay till closing, and Draco would let him nap on the leather couch in his office while Draco finished making his rounds. Sometimes, if Albus was lucid enough, they'd talk after, losing track of time in his tiny office. He'd pour them tea and force Albus to eat some of the emergency biscuits he kept in his desk drawer, and Albus would tell him all about the past four years of his life. He mostly talked about his family: about how he felt like the fuck-up middle child, about how much he hated the pitying stares his cousins gave him now, about how guilty he felt about the stress he knew he was causing his mum and dad. Albus rarely talked about Scorpius directly, but his absence was written between the lines. It made Draco burn with sympathy and anger and a horrifying envy that thrilled and shamed him. Draco liked to think that Albus was starting not to feel Scorpius's absence as powerfully as the days passed, but he didn't trust his assessment. How could he, when he wanted it to be true so desperately?

Albus never tried to seduce him again (Draco told himself quite firmly that this was a good thing) but sometimes Draco thought he saw a flicker of heat in his eyes. He'd become quite comfortable with Draco, leaning his head on Draco's shoulder, clasping his hand, steadying himself on Draco's arm. Each touch left phantom prickles of heat on Draco's skin, even as he told himself that Albus was only touching him because he felt comfortable and safe around Draco. Albus would likely be horrified if he knew Draco's true thoughts, if he knew what those innocent little gestures inspired in Draco.

A darker part of Draco's mind would sometimes whisper that Albus had shown a marked interest in blonds during his time at Draco's club, and most of them had been men closer to Draco's age than to Albus's. Perhaps Albus wouldn't be horrified by Draco's lustful thoughts—he might even welcome them. Unfortunately, those musings weren't as comforting as Draco might have hoped, because Draco had come to realise that his feelings for Albus had grown beyond a purely sexual desire. He felt an almost overwhelming urge to protect and care for Albus, to see him smile and take joy in life. Draco wanted to make him laugh, he wanted hear about his day, about his dreams and his fears, he wanted to thread their fingers together while he made love to Albus, slow and tender, until all those other meaningless fucks melted away.

Draco was a fool.

He gazed at Albus's messy locks, currently fanned out on the armrest of Draco's sofa. Something inside of him expanded like he'd been hit with an Engorgio, his chest going tight as his heart zoomed at a breakneck speed. He took several moments try and get himself under some kind of control, before carefully scooping Albus up into his arms. He grunted at the dead weight and steadied himself before Apparating them to Albus's flat.

It was just as cold and lonely as the last time he'd been there, and Draco barely resisted the urge to clean away the empty takeaway containers and the piles of adverts and junk mail spilling over the countertop and pooling below in a paper waterfall. Slowly, he carried his slumbering prince to the bedroom, stripping him down and putting him into bed in as fast as possible. He ignored the curl of heat low in his spine at the sight of Albus's pale, bare flesh, even stronger than it had been the last time he'd done this for Albus. Salazar help him.

He pulled the covers up over Albus's shoulders, freezing when Albus turned towards him and opened a sleepy eye.

"Draco?"

"Yes, Albus?"

Albus smiled, a soft, beatific thing that slammed into Draco full force and pushed the air from Draco's lungs. "You're so shiny."

"Shiny?"

Albus sighed happily. "Yeah. The shiniest. I'd paint you all in silver."

Draco huffed a silent laugh, delighting in the silly comment and the thought of Albus painting him. "I'd like that."

Albus's eyes lit up. "Yeah?"

"Very much."

Albus smiled as he shut his eyes and burrowed down into his pillow. "'Kay. You'll stay?"

Draco's hands shook, but his voice was steady. "I think you'll be alright on your own."

"Don't want to be on my own anymore. Want to be…want to be with you." He let out a sleepy sigh as his breathing evened out into sleep. Draco exhaled his own breath he hadn't realised he was holding, ears ringing with the force of Albus's sleepy confession.

Draco was reading too much into things. Albus was exhausted, and high, and clearly hadn't meant those words the way Draco wanted him to. He wanted a guardian to watch him as he slept, was all.

He stood to leave, placing one of the bottles of fresh-brewed Hangover Potion that Draco had recently begun carrying in triplicate. Instinctively, he turned to look at the picture of his son and Albus on the bedside table, the one where they both looked so happy and carefree.

To his astonishment, the picture was gone.

---------------

Albus bounced his leg and bit his lip as he waited for Draco in his office. He tried to relax back against the butter soft leather of Draco's sofa, but a wild energy coursed through him—probably partially due to the uppers Jillian had slipped him earlier that night. Albus could still feel the fuzzy cloud of alcohol hanging over him, but it had been hours since his last drink, and the mist was fading fast as he moved and burned through the tequila lining his stomach.

His heart raced with nerves and anticipation, but Albus couldn't figure out why. He was only waiting for Draco to get back from making his final sweep of the club. There wasn't anything else on the docket for the night. But even as he thought Draco's name, his stomach gave a little spasm of something like jubilant terror.

Albus tried to get ahold of himself, to puzzle out what the hell was happening inside of him. He thought back over the past few weeks, about the fact that this was the fifth night in a row that he hadn't gone home with anybody, and that before the last bloke, it had been just as long. His heart just hadn't been in pulling lately, and the past couple of times he'd gone home with somebody had left Albus feeling particularly alone and unsatisfied. Compared to an evening in Draco's office, talking quietly on opposite ends of the sofa, a night of filthy sex just didn't seem to rank anymore. More of the same.

Somehow, over the past couple of months, seeing Draco at the club before he went home with somebody, or talking to him until the wee hours of the morning on the nights when he didn't, had become the highlight of Albus's day. Not the mind-bending experience of trying one of Fabian's new potions, nor the thrill of swallowing whatever little white pill Jillian had for him. Not the burning freedom of tequila and lime, the seductive lure of the dance floor, nor mindless frenzy of anonymous sex. It was Draco. It all came back to Draco.

Albus thought about the reason why he'd even run into Draco again in the first place and realised that it had been weeks since he'd truly thought of Scorpius. The anger and hurt was still there if Albus wanted to reach for it, buried deep, but the pain had lessened. He didn't long for Scorpius anymore, didn't dream of them reuniting, of Scorpius realising the error of his ways and sweeping Albus back into his arms. Nor did he dream of wrathful vengeance, of watching with savage delight as Scorpius suffered the same raw humiliation he'd inflicted on Albus. Albus wasn't sure he was quite at the point where he could wish Scorpius well, but his every thought no longer revolved around him, about their relationship, and what could've been—what Albus used to think should've been.

He wasn't so sure he thought that anymore. Now, when he thought about being swept of his feet, it was a completely different Malfoy doing the sweeping. One who listened to Albus and actually heard what he was saying, one who encouraged and respected Albus's dreams, one with knowledge and experience, who knew who he was and didn't need to world to validate his every move.

The door to the office opened and Draco stepped in, florescent lights reflecting off his hair in a bright burst of white fire. When his gaze landed on Albus, awake and bouncing, his lips split into that small, genuine little smile, the one that showed the barest hint of his teeth and made his eyes crinkle at the corners. Albus hadn't ever seen him smile like that at anybody else, and he liked to think it was just for him. Draco didn't smile much at all, really. It made him look serious and severe, hid the kindness and empathy underneath the stony exterior. Albus wanted Draco to smile all the time. He wanted Draco to be happy. He wanted to be the one who made Draco happy.

Fuck.

It was entirely possible that Albus had gone and managed to fall in love with Draco Malfoy.

The thought came out of nowhere, hitting him like a Bludger to the gut. He'd known he had feelings for Draco, but he hadn't wanted to acknowledge them or think about what those feelings meant. He hadn't wanted to examine them too closely, for fear of what he might find. He was right to be afraid.

Albus knew he should leave right that instant. He should make his excuses and go home to sleep off the dregs of alcohol and drugs in his system. Giving himself time to process what this all meant when he was sober would be the smart thing to do. But Draco was across from him, close enough to touch and smiling like he couldn't be happier to see Albus right there in his office, and Albus wanted.

He staggered to his feet, his fading buzz of alcohol urging him on, pointing out the intensity in Draco's eyes, sending a cascade of lust prickling over his skin. His heart raced, his palms grew slick with sweat, and Draco's eyes widened as Albus grew nearer and nearer, not stopping until their lips were pressed together.

Albus kissed Draco, and for one brief and beautiful moment, Draco kissed him back. His thin lips were soft and sure, coaxing Albus's mouth apart with skill and expertise that made Albus's knees go shaky and his breath exhale on a moan.

And then strong, broad hands were on Albus's shoulders, but instead of drawing him close, they pushed him away with an inexorable, final sort of tenderness that made tears begin to well up in Albus's eyes.

Heart pounding, he raised his watery gaze to meet Draco's wide-eyed stare.

||||||||||

Draco stared into Albus's beautiful green eyes and tried not to reel as the world spun around him like the rush of a Floo. It was all he could to not to raise his fingers and touch his tingling lips. Salazar, he could still taste Albus on them, lime and tequila and something summery sweet. He wanted to pull Albus close and taste that lush mouth again, scrape his teeth along Albus's pillowy bottom lip, slide his tongue into Albus's warm, sweet mouth. Draco wanted Albus more than he'd wanted anybody in a long, long time, and he knew he couldn't have him. Draco had done more than his share of terrible things in his day, he supposed having to deny himself this lovely, sweet creature was the least he deserved.

"We can't do this, Albus," Draco said, keeping his voice as even as possible. His hands were shaking, and he gripped the edge of his chair to hide it.

"Why not?" Albus asked, not bothering, or perhaps unable, to cover the quaver in his own voice. "I want you, and I know you're attracted to me. We're adults, why shouldn't we have this if we want it?"

"We've been over this before."

Albus shook his head, eyes earnest and a little wild. "This isn't like last time, Draco. I like you, I want you for real." He stepped closer, pressing his delicate hands to Draco's chest. Even through two layers of fabric, his touch burned. Albus looked up at him again, eyes gleaming like brilliant emeralds. "Don't you want me, too?"

Draco drew in a deep breath as he covered Albus's smooth hands with his own. "You're lovely, Albus." His tone was sincere, soft, but Albus must have realised what the statement preluded, because his sweet face crumpled with Draco's words.

"But?" he asked, his tone bitter as over-brewed tea.

"But," Draco confirmed. "I care for you deeply, Albus. You're a remarkable young man. You've got so much life in you, so much love and potential. But you're in pain, and you have been for a long time now. You're losing yourself in substances and doing everything in your power to cover up that hurt and loss without really dealing with any of it." Draco sighed and ran a hand through his hair, before pushing on. "I won't be another method you use to mask your pain. I—" His voice shook and he took in a deep breath to steady himself before looking dead into Albus's eyes. "I can't be a replacement."

Those pretty eyes went wide, pain and guilt and anger all swirling together with other emotions Draco couldn't quite catch. "That's not—I mean, I wouldn't—How could you—" Albus sputtered, unable to finish a thought, but Draco got the gist.

"Maybe that's true. I want that to be true. But even if it is, I still don't believe you've fully dealt with your issues. We both know your break-up took its toll on you, and it's not a blow you've fully recovered from."

"So, what?" Albus spat. "You're saying I'm too broken for you?"

"No, Albus. I'm saying that I'm at a point in my life where I want a relationship, and I'm not sure you can say the same. You're not broken, Albus, but your heart is—or was—and my son is the one who broke it. I won't risk my relationship with him, or with you, for that matter, just for a fuck. I'd need to be more than a notch in your bedpost, and as much as I want to believe otherwise, I don't know if you're ready for that."

"Don't tell me what I'm ready for! You don't know me."

Draco knew his expression displayed all the complicated empathy and sadness he felt and he tried to tuck that emotion behind a clam mask, knowing that the sadness would only fan Albus's enraged embarrassment even higher.

"Maybe not," he acknowledged, though he wasn't sure he quite believed it, not after months of deep conversation and quiet confessions. "Can you tell me I'm wrong?"

Albus glared at him, chest rising and falling in time with his rapid breaths, cheeks a blazing red. It reminded Draco of their first encounter at his club all those months ago, and he hated the thought that he might have ruined this, that the relationship they'd formed over the past few months might have unraveled because Draco had done the right thing.

"Fine, then. Whatever. You don't want me, then good, great, I'm gone."

"Albus…" Draco reached out, but Albus tilted his shoulder away and out of Draco's reach.

"No, Draco, you're right. Message received. I won't bother you anymore."

Before Draco had a chance to open his mouth and protest, Albus Disapparated. Draco's heart leapt out of his chest as he checked the space where Albus had stood, praying that he wouldn't find some body part of Albus's splinched off in his haste to Apparate away. But the space was clear, empty.

Albus was gone.

---------------

The weeks dragged.

Draco knew he should be happy that Albus was no longer spending every night haunting Draco's club, but instead it left his insides hollow. It had been torture getting to know Albus, falling for the bright, beautiful boy, and then watching him go home with a new bloke every night. But worse still was not knowing where he was or what (who) he was doing. There were a million other clubs in the city, and Albus could be at any one of them, going wild and putting himself in danger with nobody there to look out for him.

Draco missed him. When he'd turned Albus down, he'd thought maybe, maybe, Albus would stay away for a couple of days, or come in and yell at Draco like he had that first night, before things would go back to normal. He hadn't expected Albus to abandon him entirely, and as ridiculous as it was, there was a pain that throbbed in his chest every time he thought about the fact that it had been weeks since he'd last seen Albus's face.

Of course, it was going to happen sooner or later. Albus had to get over Scorpius eventually, and when he did, he would realise that spending his life drinking and partying was no way to live. Draco had known that day would come, but he hadn't realised how much he'd counted on being there when it did.

No matter how much it hurt, Draco knew he had made the right call. Albus was vulnerable, and doing anything with him while he was in his current state would be taking advantage. The situation would be inadvisable enough without Albus's compromised emotional state, and Draco cared for him too much to risk doing anything that would hurt him further. Besides, Draco knew that it would hurt far more to have Albus and then lose him once Albus came to his senses, than to never have had him at all. True as it was, it was hard to remember this fact when Draco went home to his cold, lonely bed every night.

Last Friday, he'd been making the rounds on the dance floor, when some pretty young thing with soft brown eyes and messy chestnut hair had wrapped his arms around Draco's neck and begged him to dance. It would have been so easy, taking him out onto the dance floor, rubbing up against one another before inviting the boy somewhere a little more private. He was tempted. Sorely tempted. But Draco knew he would only be thinking of Albus, and he knew far too well how unsatisfying and empty that kind of tryst would be. He'd gently pried the boy's arms loose and locked himself in the office for the rest of the night, allowing himself one lonely wank to the memory of Albus's velvet mouth against his own.

It didn't help matters that Scorpius had recently invited Draco out to lunch with him and his new beau, Justin. He worked with Scorpius at his law firm and was apparently very well connected back in America where he'd grown up. His parents worked for two of the more prestigious law firms in New York City, and Scorpius practically glowed with satisfaction and accomplishment every time he looked at Justin. There was no doubt that Justin grew up in society, and he had all of the fine manners and gentle refinement that Albus had lacked. He made pleasant small talk and took delicate bites of his light salad and listened with rapt and fascinated attention whenever Scorpius spoke of his tedious cases.

Draco hated him.

He couldn't understand how his son could possibly prefer this bland, boring, uptight Justin to funny, caring, beautiful Albus. Draco couldn't deny that Scorpius seemed happy, though, and as angry as he was at Scorpius for hurting Albus, he wanted his son to be happy. He may have disliked Justin on principle, but he couldn't deny that he seemed much better suited to Scorpius than Albus had.

Of course, there was also the small, furtive part of him that thrilled at Scorpius's newfound happiness for more personal reasons. It was ridiculous. Draco had turned Albus down, but he still felt an embarrassing competitiveness, a desire to prevent Scorpius from coming back into the picture to sweep Albus off his feet. His son was handsome, young, and Albus had been madly in love with him. He probably was still in love with him. If Scorpius wanted Albus back, how could Draco possibly compare? Draco had never been lacking when it came to self-confidence, but growing older was a difficult thing, and sometimes Draco found it hard to imagine that he could hold bright and brilliant Albus's attention for long

Scorpius didn't show any signs of wanting Albus back though, and as they ate, Draco couldn't help but wonder how Scorpius would react if Draco and Albus had begun dating. Would his assertions that he was over Albus still hold up then? Would he be angry and jealous? Or would he be happy for his father and his former lover?

Draco snorted. The whole concept was a silly little daydream. Albus was in no place to date, and there were a million reasons why Draco and Albus would never work, starting with their ages and ending with Albus's former relationship with Draco's son.

No, it would be best for Draco to put his feelings for Albus behind him, just as he'd so frequently advised Albus to do with his relationship with Scorpius. It had been weeks since Draco had seen Albus, and Draco had a sinking suspicion that he wouldn't be seeing him around anytime soon.

It was for the best. Even if it hurt.

---------------

Albus's hands shook a little as he stepped into the club, Draco's club. It had been three months since he'd been here, three months since he'd last seen Draco, and his entire body trembled at the thought of seeing him again after so long. He'd spent hours planning this meeting, wondering where he should do it, planning out what he'd say and imaging Draco's different reactions. Nervousness settled on his chest like a heavy stone as he pushed his way through the writhing crowd. It was Friday—one of the club's busiest nights—and even though it was still pretty early in the night, Albus felt certain Draco would be there.

It was strange being back here, at any club really, without the promise of alcohol, the spark of potions or drugs amping him up. His Mind Healer had warned him that it might be difficult coming back to the club, harder not to fall back into his old destructive routine. Albus hadn't known what to expect, but he was pleased not to feel any burning desire to go over to the bar and order a drink, despite his nerves over the impending conversation. Three months ago, the prospect of dealing with all of this emotion would have been too much to bear without some kind of substance smoothing the way. But things were different now.

Albus had been a mess after his last conversation with Draco and the electrifying kiss that had ended in Albus's rejection and mortification. He'd woken up the following morning, taken a hangover potion, and sat beneath the cool spray of his shower until he'd felt alert and awake. After, he'd sat on his sofa and took a good hard look at the state of his life, Draco's words echoing through his skull. As hurt and upset as he'd been by them, Albus knew that they were true. He could see the empty spaces Scorpius had left in his flat and in his heart, and until he really worked through his feelings, he was in no shape to truly be with anybody, let alone somebody as brilliant as Draco.

So he'd made a vow to start getting his life on track. He started seeing a Mind Healer, and she'd helped him start sorting through his feelings. He stopped drinking and partying, knowing that if he was going to heal, he needed to stop using substances and sex as a crutch. Albus began attending Sunday lunches at the Burrow again, after apologising to his family for his behaviour, and they welcomed him back with open arms. His mum helped him start looking for a new flat, and something inside of him settled into place when they entered a particularly beautiful and well-lit studio. He could see himself painting there, creating there. Albus had put down a deposit, packed up his stuff, and never looked back.

Albus had finally started feeling settled, content. He'd begun to paint, just little things for now, but it lit him up like working at the Ministry never had. Every once in awhile he'd feel a pang of sadness, that first moment coming home to an empty flat, the goodbye kiss he'd grown accustomed to receiving every morning before Scorpius had left for work. It was those moments, habits, and little comforting gestures that he missed with a kind of sad wistfulness. He missed having a boyfriend, having somebody care for him. Albus wasn't sure he particularly missed Scorpius though. Not anymore.

He might not have missed Scorpius, but there was one Malfoy who he missed with a low, steady ache that throbbed persistently in the background as Albus attempted to put his life in order.

Albus hadn't gone back to see him, despite the fact that Draco was never far from his mind. He felt embarrassed by his behaviour and ashamed of how he'd acted. Draco had been so good and kind, a steady influence when Albus had been running as far away from steady as he could. Albus felt himself grow hot every time he remembered that ill-fated kiss, that beautiful moment when Draco had kissed back. Even though Draco had ultimately turned him down, and had thrown some uncomfortable truths at Albus in the process, he'd also said so many wonderful things, things that made Albus hope that maybe, maybe, Draco would be interested, when Albus was ready. Draco wasn't the main reason Albus had started making changes, but he'd been the catalyst, and Albus couldn't help but keep the possibility of Draco humming in the back of his mind.

It had been three months, and though Albus wasn't perfect, when would he ever be, really? He still wanted Draco with a sweet longing that shivered through his bones, and if they were really, truly an impossibility, Albus wanted to know sooner, rather than later. If the past year had taught him anything, it was that he needed to start facing his problems head-on, and not bury his head in the sand, hoping they'd go away on their own if he ignored them long enough.

A shimmer of white-blond hair streaked across the edge of his vision like a shooting star, and Albus's breath caught in his throat. He turned, and there Draco was, looking just as gorgeous as Albus remembered. Draco was dressed in dark grey trousers, and a navy shirt that emphasised his shoulders and trim waist. It gaped open at the collar, revealing milky collarbones that seemed to pulse with an ghostly glow under the white-blue flash of the club lights.

He felt paralysed, petrified by the sight of Draco after so long. Albus drank in the clean lines of him, the smooth edge of his jaw, the prominent ridge of his cheekbones, the sharp gestures of his strong hands as he gave instructions to his floor manager. Their conversation finished, and Draco turned, his gaze somehow managing to find Albus's with perfect precision in the crowded space. His eyes widened in evident shock and surprise, and Albus's stomach flipped at the confusion and anxiousness there. Draco clearly hadn't been expecting him, and Albus had no clue how Draco would react to his confession. It seemed like they were both on equal, awkward footing.

"Hi, Draco." Albus wasn't even sure how he'd gotten over there, or maybe Draco had come over to him? Silly things like time and space didn't seem to matter, not on the precipice of this monumental moment.

"Hello, Albus," Draco said, cautiously. "You look...well."

"Thanks, I am, I think. I was…" Albus ran a hand through his hair and averted his eyes as he huffed a nervous laugh. "I was hoping we could talk? Somewhere private? Uh...if you have time?"

Draco didn't hesitate for even a moment, before saying, "Yes, of course. My office?" Warmth stole through Albus, slow and syrupy sweet.

"Lead the way."

Albus followed Draco off the dance floor and towards his office, the heavy door to the private area clanging shut beyond them with a definitive bang, suppressing the chaotic blare of music into a distant murmur. Albus shivered at the sudden silence, heart beating double time as they neared the moment Albus had been planning for months.

Draco immediately made his way over to his desk, turning around to face Albus as he leaned against the edge, his hands gripping the smooth mahogany. It was a casual pose, but for his white knuckles belying his nervousness.

"What can I do for you?"

Albus took a deep breath, and dove in. "I wanted to tell you that you were right."

"I was?"

"Yeah, and...I'm sorry for how I reacted. You were being honest, and I needed to hear it. I shouldn't have lashed out at you."

"That's alright, I understand. But I appreciate the apology nonetheless."

"I started seeing a Mind Healer, and she's been helping me work through some things." Albus wrung his hands together as he continued, "When Scorpius left…it felt like it had come out of nowhere, and it threw my whole world out of alignment. He was my first everything, and I'd planned out our whole life together. I didn't know what to do when I found out everything we had was a lie." Draco opened his mouth to respond but Albus held out his hand to stop him. "No, no, let me get this out. Please?"

"Alright."

"I was so convinced that we were soulmates, that we were meant to be together, that I didn't even realise how unhappy I was, how stagnant life had become. I'm still angry at Scorpius for how he ended things, but I can't blame him for being the first to come to terms with the fact that we weren't right for each other." He paused to take a breath, chancing a look over at Draco, pleased by the attentive expression on Draco's face.

"I've been trying to work through things, like you said, and I've realised that it's been a long time since I've been in love with Scorpius. I thought that emptiness I was feeling was because I missed him, but it was more that I missed the idea of him, the silly romance I had playing out in my head since we were kids. We started growing apart a long time ago, and we didn't want the same things. I wish Scorpius had talked to me first before shacking up with Justin, but...I'm glad we broke up now, rather than five years from now."

Draco was silent for a moment, his face not giving anything away. "I'm happy to hear you're working through your feelings, Albus, but why are you telling me this?"

Albus wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans, heart lodged in his throat, preventing him from saying the words he was desperate and terrified to utter. He cleared his throat. "I'm telling you this, because I want you to know that I'm not in love with your son. I haven't been in love with him for a long time, and my going off the deep end when he left me had more to do with me mourning a lifestyle than a person. I want you to know that I don't want him back. And mostly, I want you to know that you're not a replacement."

Draco's eyes widened, and his mouth opened, but no sound came out. Albus barrelled on. "I still want you, Draco. I haven't gone out since that night you turned me down. I haven't drank anything, haven't taken any potions or popped any pills, haven't had sex..." Draco licked his lips, and Albus's breath stuttered. "I can't stop thinking about you. I know you have your concerns, and I don't blame you, but I need you to know that me wanting you has nothing to do with Scorpius. You're—" Albus felt a flush crawl up his neck as he looked nervously into Draco's mercury eyes. "You make me feel...you make me feel. You make me want to feel."

"I—"

"It's okay if you don't want me back. You're so—and I'm…" Albus growled in annoyance at his tied tongue. "I know things would be complicated between us, but I just...I want you. I needed you to know that I want you."

He swallowed, and the sound was loud in the silence of the room. He stared into Draco's stunned eyes, feeling desperate and fragile and flayed open, but he'd done it. It was in Draco's hands now.

||||||||||

Draco could hear his heartbeat echoing in his ears, a steady metronome underscoring Albus's pretty words.

It had been so long since he'd seen Albus, and having Albus in front of him now felt like a luxury. It was undeniably Albus in front of him, but Draco couldn't help but categorise the changes. Gone were the painted on jeans, ripped shirts, and smudged kohl liner. Instead, Albus was wearing jeans that were only a little too tight, and a comfortable-looking purple hoodie that made his green eyes pop. Green eyes that were crystal clear and more alert and aware than Draco had seen them in the past year. A teensy part of Draco almost missed Albus's clubbing get-up, but looking into Albus's lovely eyes and no longer seeing those the shadows of pain and self-loathing lurking in their depths was more than worth their absence. Yes, the bright awareness sparkling in Albus's expression was much preferred.

"Are you going to say anything?" Albus asked, voice cracking. Salazar, Draco had been so busy admiring Albus that he'd completely forgotten that he was waiting for an answer.

"Are you sure?" he asked quietly.

Albus's mouth dropped open. "What?"

"Are you sure? What I want hasn't changed. You're right, things would be complicated if we were to be together. Our age difference, your past relationship with my son, my past interactions with your father...You need to be sure."

Albus stepped close, until their chests were almost touching. He tilted his head up to look in Draco's eyes

"I'm sure," he breathed.

Draco pushed himself off the edge of the desk, and this time their chests really did touch, a soft rustle of silk and cotton.

"Alright then." He brought a hand up to caress the smooth, soft curve of Albus's cheek. Albus's lips curved up into a sweet smile, plumping the cheek beneath Draco's fingers and making Draco's heart skip several beats.

The first brush of their lips was electric, tingles like sparking magic rippling over Draco's skin. It was soft and sweet, tentative as they felt each other out, as Draco's mind confirmed that this was really happening, that they were really doing this. Draco slid his hand through Albus's silken locks, his fingers tangling in the gorgeous, inky strands. Albus opened his mouth on a sweet little moan, pressing his body that much closer into Draco's, and suddenly there was nothing tentative or testing about the kiss any longer.

Draco kept one hand buried in Albus's hair, while the other drifted down to the small of his back, resting in the beautiful dip of his spine. Albus kissed him with enthusiasm and a surprisingly lack of finesse, considering all of the experience Draco knew he had. But he supposed Albus hadn't been going home with those men for kissing, and Draco couldn't deny that his eagerness was incredibly arousing. Draco didn't care how many men Albus had been with, but there was a growling in his chest that said he was going to do his best to make Albus forget about every single one.

Albus's slim fingers moved to Draco's shirt, undoing the buttons with quick, practiced motions, leaving Draco shirtless before he'd fully registered what Albus was doing. Warm hands traced the faded scars on his chest, making his stomach flip as they rubbed over Draco's slightly softened belly. He felt a prickle of self-consciousness over the loose skin that had come with age and had remained no matter his diet or exercise. Draco couldn't help but feel immediately aware of every wrinkle, grey hair, and aching muscle when confronted with the tight, young perfection of Albus's body beneath Draco's hands.

He pulled back unsteadily, but when he looked into Albus's eyes, they were glazed with lust.

Albus continued to run his hands over Draco's body: his sensitive sides, the breadth of his shoulders, the curve of his biceps, and the stiff peaks of his nipples. Draco shivered when Albus rubbed a thumb over one of the rosy buds, his throat bobbing at Draco's shudder.

"Fuck, Draco. You're so…" He flicked the nub again, before leaning in to suck, opening his mouth to scrape his lower teeth against the hardened nipple. Draco moaned as a current of white-hot pleasure shot through his chest.

"So sexy," Albus growled, before beginning to kiss his way across Draco's collarbone, sucking at the curve of Draco's throat. The spot seemed to have a direct line to Draco's cock, and it pulsed and twitched with every flick of Albus's sinful tongue against Draco's flesh. Fuck, it felt good, but Draco wanted to make Albus feel good, wanted to spoil Albus with pleasure. So far all he'd managed to do was twitch helplessly while Albus did all the work. That wouldn't do at all.

Careful not to knock Albus's head, Draco spun them around, urging them back until Albus's rounded bum pressed against the edge of Draco's desk. A sweet little huff of breath escape Albus's throat at the impact, sending a shivery rush of air over Draco's saliva-slick skin.

"Wha—?" Draco didn't give him a chance to finish, using the hand still entwined in Albus's hair to tilt his head back up for further kissing. Albus melted into him like chocolate on the tip of Draco's tongue, sweet and decadent and delicious.

"You should—I want you—God you need to fuck me," Albus stuttered out between hungry kisses. Desire went off inside of Draco like a Reducto, obliterating all higher thought and leaving behind only a naked, all-consuming hunger. He kissed Albus harder, sucking on his tongue and pressing him more urgently against the desk until Albus let out a little whimper of discomfort. The sound brought Draco back to his senses, and he eased back, running his hands down Albus's sides in silent apology. Albus arched against him, their hard cocks grinding together, highlighting the need sparking between them.

Oh, Draco wanted Albus all right. Draco wanted him with an intensity he wasn't sure he'd ever felt. Albus made Draco feel young again, bright and new, life brimming with possibility. He wanted to claim this impossibly beautiful boy for his own, but as badly as he wanted Albus, Draco didn't want to do it here. Albus deserved more than a quick shag in a locked office. If Draco had any say in the matter, there would be plenty of time for furtive fucks in the future. Sappy as it was, Draco wanted their first time to be special.

"I'm not going to fuck you right now, Albus."

Albus blinked up at him with wide eyes, glittering with hurt. "Why not?"

"Because," Draco purred, his hands sliding to Albus's flies and undoing the buttons. "The first time we make love, it's going to be slow." He tore open Albus's flies to reveal a hard cock pressing against silk pants. "Hot." Draco pushed Albus's trousers and pants down his legs, his pretty cock springing free. "I'm going to lay you out on my bed and work you over for hours." He wrapped a hand around the velvet strength of Albus's cock, and Albus's long black lashes fluttered closed in pleasure. "I'll turn you over on your stomach, open you up on my fingers." Draco slid down to his knees, and looked up at Albus, heart thumping at the wide-eyed pleasure on Albus's face. "My mouth."

Albus let out a shocked sounding moan, hands flying to brace himself against the edge of the desk. "Are you—?"

Draco pumped his hand again. He watched the foreskin roll over Albus's prick, covering the tip before sliding back to reveal the shiny mushroom head, liquid precome pearling at the tip.

"You'll be so sweet for me, won't you Albus? You'll be so soft and pliant beneath my fingers. And when you're finally ready, I'll slide inside of you, like I was made to be there."

The little yearning cry Albus let out was nearly enough to do Draco in. His hips twitched desperately towards Draco's face, setting his cock to bobbing. Draco took mercy on him—on them both—and took Albus's prick into his mouth.

It had been over a year since the last time he'd done this, and he was a little out of practice, but Draco managed it well enough, sucking and bobbing his head while one hand came up to fondle Albus's balls. He felt a momentary frisson of nervousness, worried that perhaps his rustiness would be overly apparent, but when he looked up at Albus through his lashes, he looked lost in pleasure. His green eyes were glassy, his lips a bitten strawberry red, his hair a riotous tangle of curls, and his normally pale skin glowed a perfect flushed pink.

Albus looked down at Draco with those lust-drugged eyes, full of naked want and adoration, and undiluted emotion poured through Draco like water from a spigot on full-blast. It made him suck harder, faster, made him clutch at Albus's hips like a drowning man, as his impending orgasm licked a blazing trail of heat up his spine. He must have done something miraculously good in a previous life, because Merlin knows he hadn't done anything nearly good enough in this one to deserve Albus Severus Potter looking down at him like Albus was the lucky one.

Draco ran his tongue against the underside of Albus's cock, sliding up to rub tight, wet circles beneath the fleshy tip. Albus's knuckles went white against the desk, and with a shouted curse, he came. Draco swallowed down the salty-sweet release, sucking Albus clean as he pulled his own aching cock from the tight confines of his trousers.

"No, wait," Albus mumbled, before dropping gracelessly to his knees, barely fitting in the tight space between Draco and the desk. He straddled one of Draco's thighs, messy locks brushing against Draco's cheek as his mouth released hot puffs of air against Draco's ear. His hands slid over Draco where he had just begun to stroke his cock, and he whispered, "Let me. Please?"

"By all means," Draco choked out, letting go and gripping Albus's hips as slender hands took him in a tentative grip.

"You're so big," Albus whispered, voice dreamy as he began to wank Draco. He nuzzled against Draco's face, that sweetness and the pleasure of it all making Draco see stars.

"I like how you feel," Albus confessed. His hand moved faster. Draco's fingers gripped tighter. "I can't wait until you fuck me, just like you said."

"Yeah?" Draco's voice was scratchy and worn, his body unable to spare more than the bare minimum amount of energy for talking. The rest of him was too focused on the coiling energy pulsing and throbbing in his groin, spiraling out through muscle and ligament, blood and bone.

"I want it to be soon. Please, Draco? Can you fuck me soon?"

Draco came in a blinding, head-spinning rush. The intensity of it was unbelievable, leaving him shaking and shivering against Albus's slender form, as ropes of sticky come coated Albus's hand.

They sat like that for awhile, tangled up half naked and covered in come on the floor of Draco's office. The bass from the club music down the hall sent faint vibrations up through the hardwood, tickling Draco's balls.

Draco reached for his wand, clearing the both of them off with a cleaning charm, before easing Albus off of his lap, and standing with an audible groan. His back ached and his knees screamed at him as he stretched—he was probably a little too old to be giving blow jobs on his knees, especially without a Cushioning Charm. Stupid of him to forget, but Albus had a knack for making Draco forget all reason.

He reached a hand down to Albus and helped him to his feet, and when Albus stood, he didn't let go. Draco's entire body warmed.

Albus was the first to break their gentle silence.

"You don't regret it, do you?"

Draco spun to face him. "No, I don't. Do you?"

Albus grinned, sweet and boyish and unendingly charming. "No. Though we should probably talk about what this all means, huh? Besides the incredible sex, of course."

"Of course," Draco laughed. He planned on there being a lot of incredible sex.

"Maybe we could talk over dinner? Tomorrow night?"

"Dinner sounds...perfect."

"I know a few good places in Muggle London. We should probably have that talk before we start eating out in Diagon Alley."

Draco snorted. "Yes, that seems wise."

Albus bit his lip, looking down at the floor before looking back over at Draco. "I'll owl you the details about tomorrow?"

"I'll await your owl."

"Okay." Albus shot him a nervous smile, before darting close and pressing a sweet, lingering kiss to Draco's lips. Before Draco had a chance to deepen it, Albus had danced away towards the Floo.

He grabbed a fistful of powder, before turning back for one last look at Draco, his grin as blindingly beautiful and joyful as a Patronus. "I'll see you tomorrow, Draco."

With a flash of green flame, he was gone, leaving Draco standing alone in his office, his lips still tingling with the memory of Albus's lips.

Draco knew they had their fair share of challenges ahead. There were Potters and Weasleys, sons and ex-boyfriends, age differences and careers and any number of obstacles that would inevitably find themselves in the way of Albus and Draco's happiness. But after years of solitude and shadowed loneliness, Draco wasn't about to turn away from Albus's glowing, piercing light. He wasn't going to turn down a chance at genuine happiness.

He raised a hand to his lips and soaked in the warmth that still lingered in the office from Albus's presence.

"Until tomorrow."

 

The End.