Albus wanted to ask me out and I knew that. How did I know that? Well, Rosie had told me the moment her favourite cousin had spilled his guts to her and Albus remained none the wiser. Why did she do that? Because she knew that I returned his feelings. So now I was waiting, waiting for him to pluck up the courage and ask me. It wasn't as if I could ask him out – not because I'm a girl – but because Rosie insisted that Albus had something 'big' planned and it would be a shame to put his weeks of planning to shame.
If I had known his plan was so stupid then I wouldn't have listened to Rosie.
Albus' plan consisted of consulting his male cousins – most of which were still single and failing spectacularly in the love department – for their help. Apparently, according to Rosie, he trusted them more than he trusted himself. Which, even I knew, was a bad move and I was only left to wonder which of them had given him rubbish pieces of advice that they actually believed would work.
It seemed that I didn't have long to wait as he walked into the carriage door.
"Hi, Albus," I called out with a smile, only to frown when he didn't return the greeting, let alone the smile.
Inclining his head, as if to say that he'd heard me, he shut the door behind me before sitting down across from me, beside Rosie. Was this one of the rubbish pieces of advice or was there something truly wrong that had put him into such a bad mood? Settling down into his seat, Albus' eyes passed over me completely, turning to Rosie.
That was odd.
She schooled her features to hide the confusion she felt at his uncharacteristic behaviour. As Albus engaged her in conversation, Rosie looked briefly over at me and raised both eyebrows at me. She was just as confused as I was.
Perhaps he didn't like me? Maybe Rosie had been mistaken and Merlin, if she had then I'd never live it down. I'd have to crawl into a hole and cry my eyes out before I re-emerged into society. The carriage door opened again as Scorpius field into the room, tugging his trunk behind him.
"How was your summer Scorp?" I asked with a smile, rising to my feet to make some space for him to sit beside me.
"Dad and I spent most of the time playing quidditch," he said with a laugh, hoisting his trunk up above, into the overhead storage. "Mum was so annoyed when we missed dinner with some of her friends. What about your summer?"
"The usual," I trailed off, watching as Scorpius moved to sit beside me in the seat I had just vacated for him.
Seeing the movement, Albus rose to his feet and gestured for Scorpius to sit in his seat. Scorpius looked back at me with furrowed eyebrows before complying with Albus's silence gesture. The three of us eyed Albus closely, wondering what was behind his uncharacteristic behaviour when Albus sat down in the space beside me. It would appear that he was the only one unaware of how unlike himself he was currently acting and didn't feel the scrutiny of our eyes.
Although, from the red that was creeping up his neck, he was completely aware but made no comment on it.
Scorpius cleared his throat and looked back at me, "The usual, huh? So, you spent the entire summer binge watching all the television you couldn't watch when we were at school?"
"You say that like it's a bad thing," I muttered with a pout, "Do you have any idea how much good TV there is now, Scorpius?"
He rolled his eyes with a slight smirk playing around his lips. Not that he would admit it – but Scorpius was hooked on watching TV, so much so, that he had convinced his parents to buy one for the manor. Albus suddenly rose to his feet, the action drawing my eyes to his figure. He didn't look at me. Instead, he looked over at Scorpius and gestured for him to follow him out of the carriage.
"I'm going to go find the trolley," he announced, leaving the carriage as Scorpius trailed after him.
"I want a sugar quill," Rosie called out to his retreating back and before he left, Scorpius shared an enquiring look with me. I shrugged my shoulders, having no explanation for Albus' random behaviour.
"Merlin, Rosie," I exclaimed once I knew they were out of earshot, "What is going on with your cousin?"
"I have no idea," she admitted, "He's not in a bad mood – I can tell that much – because he's not pouting in a corner somewhere. But I have no idea what he's doing."
"If you don't know, then how am I supposed to know?" I sighed, looking down at my shoes momentarily. Since when had Albus become so confusing?
"I'm not sure but maybe –"
Rosie trailed off suddenly and I looked curiously up at her to find her watching as Albus and Scorpius returned to the carriage. They hovered in the doorway and I rolled my eyes. Great – even Scorpius was acting weirdly now. Albus threw something towards me and I caught it quickly, staring down at the chocolate frog box before raising my eyes back to his.
"They're you're favourite," was all he said in explanation and Rose made a sudden noise of understanding.
She was quick to clear her throat and accept the sugar quill that Albus handed to her. I gave her a look and she silently gestured that she'd tell me later. The two boys, rather than return to the carriage, appeared to turn to leave again.
"Where are you going?" Rose asked, setting her sugar quill aside.
"To find James," Albus explained before he left the carriage.
Once the two boys had left the carriage, Rose was on her feet and shutting the carriage door. Drawing the blind closed over the window of the door, she pressed her back against it before she looked back to me. Her eyes were alight with amusement and she bounced on her feet slightly, just like she did when she had figured out the solution to a particularly annoying problem.
"What is it?" I asked, opening my chocolate frog. I peered down at the card and couldn't help but giggle at the sight of Mr Potter as he stared up at me, looking powerful and imposing. The real Mr Potter was nothing like that.
"I know why he's acting so weirdly," she rushed out.
"Well go on then, explain."
"He's taking James advice." She stopped her bouncing. "He gave some rubbish advice that acting like he didn't care would make you curious."
"Which it did," I admitted.
"But then he said that a small random act of warmth," here she gestured to my chocolate frog, "would fluster you and get you to fall for him."
"And this was James' advice?" I furrowed my eyebrows, "Well it's crap. Maybe it would have more merit if he actually tried it himself."
Rosie snorted in agreement. "Tell me about it – James isn't in any position to be giving anyone any advice about girls. He can barely get his crush to give him the time of day."
No one was more pleased than I was when Albus moved on from following James' advice. He had seemed to return to normal but I couldn't be sure of that. My scepticism had been proved justified when Albus returned to the Slytherin table for breakfast the next morning acting very … Gryffindor. It seemed that Albus had inherited his father's heroism.
Although, I didn't see how his small acts of 'heroism' were actually that brave. In fact, some of them were just downright stupid. If we were walking through Hogsmeade and a carriage was coming down the road towards us, then the normal thing to do would be to tell me so I could move out of the way. Right? That was what any normal person would think.
But not Albus Severus Potter. No, he leapt in the way, pushing me out of the way and endangering himself like a bloody moron. He was lucky that the carriage driver had seen him and came to a stop before he hit him. Bloody idiot.
Apparently, if Rose's words were to be trusted, then Albus was currently acting on the words of Fred. Out of all the extensive family members he could have asked, he had asked Fred. Merlin, Albus was supposed to be smart.
I had considered putting him out of his misery by asking him out already, just to stop these antics before they progressed any further but I stopped myself. What if he thought that the only reason I asked him out was because of the way he had started to act? Knowing Albus, he'd instantly assume that that was the reason I was attracted to him and I didn't want him to think that. I wanted him to know that I liked him for him – the nervous in an adorable way, slightly angsty person that he was. I'd just have to wait until he ran out of family members to ask – I'd be waiting a long time.
We were currently sat on the quidditch stands, watching as Gryffindor went head to head with Ravenclaw. Rosie arced through the air, quaffle tucked tight beneath her arm as she raced towards the goal hoop. She scored another goal and I rose to my feet to give an almighty cheer. Albus laughed, rising to his feet to join in on my cheering.
"Sometimes I forget how much you love quidditch," he remarked, shuffling in closer to me when the crowd started to jostle around because of the cold. His shoulder brushed against mine and I turned to face him. "And then you go and do something embarrassing like screaming so much louder than every other spectator and I remember."
"Albus Severus Potter," I gasped, smacking him on the shoulder. "If you're so embarrassed to be seen with me then don't sit with me at the games anymore. You know what, don't even go anywhere with me."
"Alright, alright, you big baby," he said placatingly, nudging me. "I'll stop teasing you."
"Good." I nudged him back.
"Besides," he continued quietly, and I almost wondered whether he wanted me to hear the words at all, "I never said that I didn't like it."
The words caught me by surprise and I looked back at him again, taking my attention away from the quidditch pitch. "Albus –"
His eyes widened in surprise and before I knew it he had taken me in his arms, making me brace myself against his chest. I felt my face flush as I looked into his face, suddenly becoming aware of the shocked screams around us. Looking back to the pitch, I saw a Gryffindor beater hurtle a bludger in the direction of the Slytherin stand. I screwed my eyes shut, waiting for the impact when I felt Albus tighten his arms protectively around me.
The screams stopped and I dared to open my eyes to see the same Gryffindor beater, strike the bludger with his bat before it could hit the stand. The beater remained hovering in front of where we were standing and turned to see the position the two of us were in. Wriggling his eyebrows suggestively, Fred tipped an imaginary hat in our direction before heading back to join the game.
I felt my mouth part in shock; they were willing to endanger my life for this stupidity.
Once this was all over, I would tell Albus never to take relationship advice from a man who was pining after his younger sister's best friend but was yet to realise it. Truly, Fred's blatant acts of 'heroism' that he saw as being innocent brotherly feelings were not that and one day he'd open his eyes and realise it. When that day came, he'd be in for one hell of a surprise.
The arms around me tightened and I realised that I was still being held in Albus's arms even though there was no sign of any danger. So instead of drawing back from him, I turned in his arms to watch the game. He made no comment on it, so I saw no reason to pull away from him.
But I could have sworn that I felt him smile against my hair.
"What the hell is wrong with all the boys in my family?" Lily demanded as she stormed up to the Slytherin table to join me for lunch.
I shared a look with Rosie as Lily forced herself between two of the boys that sat across from us. The rest of my house were now used to Rose and Lily's presence at the table and didn't even bother to try and argue about them taking their space. They knew better than to do that.
"I'm going to need a bit more context, Lily," I remarked, pouring some pumpkin juice into her glass.
She smiled thankfully and took a sip before putting her glass down. The action rang with finality and Rose and I straightened up in our seats. Whatever Lily was going to tell us, it was something that she thought was very important. She leaned across the table slightly, and Rose and I leaned towards her; it was obvious that she didn't want anyone to hear what she was going to say.
"Albus has a crush on you," she whispered quietly to me, "And he's planning to ask you out." When it became obvious that I wasn't going to react to the fact, Lily drew back and furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. "Why aren't you reacting to what I just told you – it is big news, you know."
"I already know Lily," I admitted watching as her mouth dropped open in outrage, "Rosie told me during the summer holidays."
"You've known for that long," Lily began slowly, eyes narrowing into slits, "You've known for that one but you didn't tell me – you cow!"
"Lily Luna Potter," Rosie admonished, "If your mother heard you –"
"Don't act like you didn't get Uncle Ron's potty mouth." Lily smiled mischievously at her cousin before turning her eyes back to me. She turned serious again. "But there's more – he's asking the boys in my family for advice! Of all people, he's asking them! Merlin knows that they pretend to have some game when in fact they've got none." I shared a look with Rosie and when we both turned back to face Lily, she sighed, "Let me guess, you already know about that too?"
"Kind of," I trailed off with a sheepish smile. "Rosie told me that as well."
"Well that's perfect." Lily waved her fork around before pointing it accusingly in her cousin's direction. "The next time you tell her something Rosie, it might help if you let me in on it too – you know, so I don't have spend a day and a half trying to track the two of you down so I can spill the gossip."
"Sorry Lily," Rose apologised with a small smile as I loaded another sausage on her plate to appease her.
It worked. Lily was already busy cutting into it. Looking down at her plate, Lily remarked offhandedly, "You probably already know that he asked mum for advice, right?" I was silent, taking in what she had just said. Merlin, Albus had actually spoken to his mother about this. Noticing that I was silent, Lily raised her eyes to mine, "You didn't know about that?"
I shook my head, "No, I didn't."
"Well at least I was of some use to you." She tilted her head to the side pondering over something, "If you don't know that then there might be other stuff you don't know."
"Like what?" Rose asked curiously before I could.
Lily rolled her eyes, "You know how being dramatic runs in our blood," at this we both nodded, "Well, when you were doing your rounds last night Rosie, James forcefully cleared the common room and the boys stayed down in the common room to talk about this 'situation' that they've created. I think they forgot I was there, to be honest." She rolled her eyes, "But Merlin, you should have heard them; Fred and James were acting as if they knew everything about girls when in fact they know nothing, Louis was the only sensible one there and I think Scorpius was there to pick up some tips as well."
"It would be better for him to forget everything he'd heard," I muttered under my breath.
"Tell me about it." Lily rolled her eyes. "Good Godric, even Hugo was there – Albus asked bloody Hugo for advice."
"Hugo? As in, my brother Hugo?" Rosie repeated as if she couldn't believe her ears. Lily nodded. "Hugo can't even look at a girl without tripping over himself."
"Well clearly Albus isn't thinking straight." Lily shrugged her shoulders, "But you should have heard what Hugo told him to do – 'make her jealous' and that was it."
My eyes widened slightly and I shared another look with Rosie, disbelief settling in. So, that had been why he'd practically glued himself to Chang's side during charms.
"Merlin, he didn't," Lily moaned seeing the look we shared.
"He tried to make me jealous during charms," I said dismissively, not wanting to get into it.
"What do you mean tried?" Rosie nudged me, "It worked, didn't it? And you got back at him anyway by flirting with Higgs right in front of him. You should have seen him Lily – he looked like he was going to hex Higgs when he put his arm around her."
"He wouldn't have." I waved my hand dismissively and trailed off when Albus slid into the seat beside me.
He smiled at the three of us, oblivious to the topic of our previous conversation. "So, what are you girls talking about?"
"The fact that Johnathon Higgs asked me out," I lied, turning back to Lily.
"And what did you say?" I made no attempt to answer him. He nudged me in the side but I didn't acknowledge it. "You said no, right? Right?"
I heard Scorpius snigger from beside Albus and forced myself to hide a smile. That would teach him for trying to make me jealous.
It was safe to say that Albus had learned his lesson and he had given up on making me jealous. He had switched tactics and whichever cousin of his was responsible for this one, was in some serious trouble. The moment I found out who was behind this, I was going to track him down and hurt him. What had I ever done to him, for him to respond by bringing this on me?
Albus was smothering me to the point where I could feel my breath suffocating. There was a thin line between being attentive and being annoying and Albus had passed that line a long time ago.
At first, I had liked him being attentive to me because I knew that he was paying attention to me, that he liked me. But that was before it got all too much. I mean, even before his cousins had begun this entire fiasco, Albus had paid a lot of attention to me, but this? This was taking it too far.
Which of his cousins had told him to treat me as if I had no arms? Of course, it was sweet when he offered to hold my bag or take my books or even open the door for me to pass through. But it stopped being sweet when he started to walk me to my dorm or even to the toilet. Merlin, he was causing such a scene! He even insisted on walking me to the classes he didn't even takr and Merlin forbid we shared a class. If we did, then he pulled my chair out for me and the unnecessary action brought so much attention from the rest of the class.
"Albus Severus Potter," I hissed at the boy that was trying to pack my stuff up for me.
We were sitting in the library, working through our homework together and Albus had been distracted from smothering me. That changed the moment we had both finished and started to pack up to leave. At the sound of my voice, Albus halted in his motion, dropping my quill from his hands.
"What's the matter?" he asked curiously.
I took the chance to pack up my things away before he could make another move to do it for me. "I don't need you to pack my stuff up for me."
"I know you don't need me to." He gave me a small smile, "But I want to."
"Well stop it." I frowned, rising to my feet and looking down at him. "You've been acting really odd over the past few weeks Al, maybe you should go and see the nurse."
"I haven't," he denied, colour rising to his cheeks. Albus stood as well, taking my bag before I could stop him.
I rolled my eyes and clutched my textbooks to my chest. Heading out of the library, I heard him follow after me. Albus caught up quickly, dropping into step beside me as we both made our way back to the common room. We walked in silence and I internally wondered whether or not it would be a good idea for me to reveal that I already knew everything to Albus. On one hand, I wouldn't have to sit through more weeks of who knows what. But on the other, I didn't know how Albus would react to the news.
"Are you alright?" Albus asked in blatant concern as we stepped into the common room. "You're being really quiet, are you sure you don't want to see the nurse."
I shook my head, smiling reassuringly at him. "I'm fine Albus."
"I can take you there myself."
Of for the love of –
"Albus," I said with a sigh as we came to a stop in the middle of the common room.
"Go on," he encouraged.
"I have this friend," I started cautiously, watching his expression flicker slightly. "And my friend has a crush on one of their friends. Now this friend, she comes from a big extended family and because she didn't want to endanger the relationship she had with her guy best friend, she asked her family members for advice. But her family members gave her bad advice – advice she didn't realise was bad – and her guy friend is growing kind of sick of it. Why can't she just act like she normally does?"
"What?" He asked quietly, after a moment's silence. He went rigid, closing himself off from me.
"Never mind," I said with a shake of my head.
Taking my bag from him, I slung it over my shoulder. "Wait a minute –"
"Goodnight Albus," I said quietly, leaving him standing in the common room and heading up to my dorm.
Since our rather one sided conversation in the common room, Albus had reverted to normal. He was acting like himself but he seemed more distant in a way that was slightly unnerving. He wasn't distant in a way that was noticeable by others; he didn't sit in the furthest seat away from me, he didn't go out of his way to avoid sitting next to me in class and he didn't stop talking to me. He did none of that.
He was distant in small ways, in ways that counted. When we sat together he went to extra lengths to not touch me and that stunned me because, just the feeling of his thigh pressed against mine was so comforting. There was no casual arm around my shoulder as he laughed at something I said, there was no random holding my hand and there were no warm smiles that said everything that his lips were yet to say.
"Hey," Albus said, rising to his feet as we sat in the common room. I looked up at him, watching as he held out his hand for me to talk. Glancing behind him to meet Scorpius' eyes, I raised an eyebrow and all he did in response was gesture for me to take the extended hand. "Can we talk?"
"Of course we can," I said softly, slipping my hand into his and rose to my feet.
I let him lead me up the stairs to the boys' dorm and when we were in his dorm, I walked towards the bed that I knew was his. Perching on the edge of the bed, I waited for him to say something. Albus fidgeted in front of the now closed door and I sighed. I hated that things were this awkward between us now.
"What did you want to talk about?" I asked eventually.
"You knew," Albus said, not accusingly as he approached the bed, "You knew what I was doing and why I was doing it."
"I did." I kept my eyes on his, waiting for him to progress.
"Why didn't you say anything?" He sat down beside him, thigh brushing against mine. "Merlin, why didn't you say anything instead of letting me carry on like that? Not that you'll think of it this way, but what you did was cruel – to make me think that I stood a chance when –"
"What are you talking about?" My incredulous tone carried across to him, making him trail off.
Albus swallowed nervously but met my gaze head on. "If you knew what I was doing and you didn't return my feelings, you should have told me that. That way I'd have spared myself from stupidly raising my hopes up."
"That's not it at all." My eyebrows rose when I realised that he really believed it to be true. "How could you think that Albus? Merlin's beard, you know me Albus, why would I do something so hurtful?" I rose to my feet, pacing back and forth in front of him. "How could you possibly have it so wrong? I was waiting, Al. I was waiting for you to stop pretending to be someone you're not and to start acting like yourself, so I could –"
He took a hold of my wrist suddenly, stopping me mid-step. I looked at him curiously, finding him rising to his feet. "So you could what?
"So I could say yes," I said quietly, looking up into his eyes.
He showed no outward reaction to my words. But I knew Albus; his mind was probably running right now. Dropping my wrist, he took a small step back and asked hesitantly, "You would?"
I nodded, reaching out to take his hand. "I would."
He interlinked our fingers then, smiling shyly down at our hands. "I've wasted a lot of time by doing this, haven't I?"
He groaned aloud suddenly, dropping my hand to take two fistfuls of his hair. I watched him cautiously, mouth parting when he tugged at his hair.
"Albus." I put my hands on his arms, trying to get him to stop. "What the hell are you doing?"
He dropped his arms and said despairingly, "I should have just listened to Teddy. He's the one that said to just ask you out without follow any of the other's advice. If I had just listened to him then we'd already be dating by now!"
"There was a reason he was chosen to be head boy, Al."