Title: A Helping Handshake
Pairing: Scorpius Malfoy/Albus Severus Potter (kind of...)
Rating: M for grown-up language. We say words like 'damn' around here.
Warnings: Yep, still slash.
Hello again, my darlings!
This story/sequel/thing took me much longer than I had planned. I blame Patrick Rothfuss and the fact that I wanted this to be a short, quick, one-shot-ish ficlet and kept getting frustrated when it kept growing and growing... You'd think I learn, eh?
First things first: This is a follow-up to my other story "A Helping Hand, or A Hogwarts Bathroom Ballad" which I strongly suggest you read before this one. References abound, yo!
Also, as in the original story, this is slash. It's not as naughty as the original (like, at all), but it still deals with homosexuality and romance. If that's not your pint of butterbeer, do make use of your browser's back-button (or leave me a scathingly homophobic review. It'll gladly be used for inspirational purposes)!
Anonymousmiss, NateRiver1412, catalunya-triomfant, VampireShinobie, Yukairi, tenshi tsuki, Opinition, luvgirl101, ProperT, xYelloww, Abreca, Intorealm, Suyiro Motsuko, A Dying Species and Not Jeff - thank you all for favving Helping Hand, your nods made me really happy! Furthemore, thanks to Meow, Trish and Miss Paint for reviewing Helping Hand. Trish, thank you for the compliments, I hope this one won't let you down :)
And, last but not least, my sincerest gratitudes go out to Nia aka HP-Lette-Fan, the Original Beta who, despite trials and tribulations, still bore with me and my incessant questions, and to Mandi aka ChiffonShock who bravely handled my BE/AE and punctuation issues and also sponsored the fantastic term 'family hedge'. Thank you both so much!
This story will have 6 (or possibly 7, not sure yet...) chapters. As usual, I'll upload one every evening, it'll be complete by Wednesday the 29th (or possibly Thursday the 30th).
Allllrighty then. Without further ado...
A Helping Handshake
Twitch, twitch-twitch went the eyelid. The muscles in his father's cheeks were also working as if his jaw thought he was already talking, but his teeth were still clenched tightly together and his lips were compressed, so no sound came out.
"Say something, please."
Oh, how he wished his mum were here. She had even offered to support him through this, damn it.
She had been so easy to win over. Her main concern wasn't even the choice of partner; she had been three quarters sold in that regard before he had even opened his mouth to tell her about Albus.
No, she was sorrowful because she knew that this would complicate his life in many ways and might expose him to mindless hatred, ridicule and condescension from many sides.
"But I guess there is no choice in the matter though, is there?" she had asked, wiping a stray tear from the corner of one eye. "The only choice you really had was whether to express what's in your heart or to keep it shut in tightly. You've chosen to express it, and I for one, am so proud of you for that."
Something something mothers saying kitschy things with utmost sincerity something something... Scorpius had made a mental note about asking her to dial back on her Nicholas Sparks novels intake and stop watching so much mid-morning television.
The conversation had then veered into the' Tell Me Everything' direction, with his mum needling him about 'Has He Said The Three Words Yet?' and 'What Do You Like Most About Him?' and 'Who Else Knows?'. Which had (inevitably) culminated in the last of her nosy questions: "When will you tell your father?"
A veritable mood killer and unscrupulous murderer of conversations, that.
He had bitten his lip and made some noises about finding the right moment and catching him in the right humour, yadda yadda. His mother had put a sympathetic arm around his shoulder and told him that, if he wanted her there for moral support, silent or vocal, he only needed to say the word.
Yet here he was, sitting on that couch, all by himself, looking at his father as he was sitting in his armchair. Silent and unmoving.
Well, except for the twitching.
"Say something, Dad," he pleaded again. "You're being a little scary right now."
Maybe he should have confronted him in increments. Scatter hints here and there for a few days. Call attention to how handsome he thought this or that male Quidditch player was, with optional focus on the few who were confirmed non-hetero. Make a point of putting up a life-sized poster of Cristiano Ronaldo in his undies (the one with the photoshopped bulge) over his bed. Possibly comment on pictures of Albus' father that were always in the Prophet, say something adulatory about his jawline or his eyes or whatever.
On second thought, maybe he simply shouldn't have started the whole conversation – which was supposed to be an innocuous invitation to dinner, no less – by bursting out, "Dad, I've been meaning to tell you that I've sort of fallen in love with Albus Potter and we're together now".
Literally anything else would have been better than that.
Ah well. Too late.
"Auntie Ginny," Fred asked, mouth still half-full with the mashed potato he had just shovelled into it with all the dexterity a four year old could command. "What's 'gay' mean?"
The table fell abruptly silent, interrupted only by the rustle of paper as Harry Potter, sitting at the head of the table, turned the page of the Evening Prophet that rested on his knee.
Albus felt the not-so-surreptitious side glances of his siblings on him.
Ginny smiled and leaned toward her baby nephew a little. "Where'd you hear that word, Freddy darling?"
"Lily sayed it." He shrugged and already focussed on the food before him again. "A lot of times."
Lily shrank a little and also twitched her shoulder as if to shrug off her mother's quizzical gaze that accompanied an almost absent-minded "It's 'said', not 'sayed', Freddy".
Fred must have overheard us talking earlier, Albus thought, gnawing his lip. That nosey little-
"Is there anything you'd like to share with us, Lily?" Ginny asked, not unkindly.
Lily speared a single pea with her fork and said nothing.
Albus felt his heart thumping insistingly against his sternum.
He took a deep breath, then cleared his throat softly.
Lily looked at him, eyes wide.
Ginny followed her daughter's gaze.
Albus met his mother's eyes and saw puzzlement give way to blinking surprise. Her mouth went open a little and her lips formed a silent 'o'. He gave her a sheepish little nod that said Sorry and I swear I'll tell you everything once I've dealt with this... From her, Al looked to his father at the head of the table and back, a gesture as clear as pointing a finger at him.
He was still deeply immersed in the Prophet, fork in mid-air, the load of peas and mashed potatoes on it probably long cold. He had tuned out of the conversation five minutes ago and obviously hadn't caught any of what had just transpired.
Ginny followed Al's gaze in turn to her husband, then back. Al could see realisation dawn on it. Her eyebrows crept up to her hairline. Next, she set her jaw, then nodded as if to herself and got up with some momentum.
"Alright, everyone! Let's go to the living room, why don't we? Right now. Come on, Freddy, you too. Dada's going to come pick you up in a quarter of an hour anyway and I know that you have no intention of eating those peas."
Lily and James both dropped their cutlery and shot up at once. Albus gave them both a narrow-eyed, pointed glances for that. Sure, he wanted privacy and all that, but they didn't have to look so eager to get away, as if something bad was about to take place in this kitchen.
Because nothing bad was about to take place in this kitchen.
The skin on the back of his neck started to go all prickly.
He was going to tell his dad about his relationship. That was all. Nothing dramatic.
Nothing bad. At. All.
The living room door closed audibly.
Albus exhaled once like a bellows.
Al sighed. That damn newspaper. He could see why his mum was so frequently annoyed with it.
"Dad." He tried a little louder, and a little pointy as if to jab him with the word.
Harry twitched and finally looked up, quickly taking in the sight of the abandoned table, with half-eaten food still steaming on the plates. "Oh," he made, then frowned in confusion. "Where'd everyone go?"
"To the living room," Albus said, mentally adding But their ears are still with us, basically. He wouldn't be surprised if, right now, his sister was using one of those eavesdropping spells she was so good at. For once with her mother's full support.
"Huh. Why's that?" He rediscovered the fork in his hand, frowned at it and lowered it back onto his plate.
"Because I, uhm... I wanted to talk to you in private."
"What, right now?" he asked, perplexed, but folded the newspaper nonetheless. "It really couldn't have waited until after dinner?"
What his father couldn't know, of course, was that it had waited until after dinner fifteen times in the past fifteen days already. Every time, it had waited until after dinner, and then after clearing the table, and then after washing the dishes, and then some.
Albus had been trying to somehow initiate this conversation over and over at several different instances, and then shied away again at the last moment. His dad, being Head Auror and Very Busy Important Person and all, had slipped away to do something or another during that moment of hesitation, perfectly unaware of his son's intentions, and the window of opportunity had snapped closed.
"Right now," Al repeated, nodding, then took a deep if shaky breath. Now or never.