Author's Note: This is my first time writing Scorbus—or next-gen at all, honestly. I haven't seen or read Cursed Child, but I did read the spoilers when the show first premiered, so I am familiar with things, and some of those details (like Astoria dying between Scorpius and Albus's second and third year at Hogwarts) have been used. However, this story is NOT Cursed Child-compliant (a sentence I never expected to write, ever), so many things differ from CC as far as I know.

The rating is for a few fucks—the word, not the action. If you think the rating should be higher, just let me know!

I worked on this story for over a year, and I have first-time-writing-for-this-pairing nerves, so I hope I do it justice even though I imagine this story is similar to so many others out there. Feel free to let me know what you think. :)


Lazy Saturday afternoons were in limited supply, the knowledge of which made Scorpius's heart swell with appreciation and sadness. Longing. That was what this feeling was. His final year at Hogwarts had only just begun, but he already longed for more sunny days with Albus and Rose sitting under their favorite tree next to the Great Lake.

A breeze tousled his hair, which he had decided over the summer to grow out. The length bothered him more than he would admit. Strands just long enough to reach his eyes and tickle his ears irritated him no matter how much hair product or what kind of stasis spells he used to keep them in place. Running his fingers through his hair, he urged it back with an impatient huff.

"What's wrong? Sleekeazy's isn't working for you?" Albus asked with a knowing grin. He laid stretched out on his back next to Scorpius, one arm behind his head, his other hand innocuous but dangerous where it rested on his stomach.

Scorpius had to focus to keep from glancing at that hand, pulling his gaze away to meet Albus's eyes instead. Also a mistake. Those startling green eyes had an uncanny ability to pierce him straight through the heart as if they could see the organ beating inside his rib cage. When they were crinkled at the edges in mirth, especially over something Scorpius had done or said, Scorpius struggled to remember how to breathe.

With effort, he looked away, back to the waters of the lake, which sparkled like diamonds in the noonday sun. His breath came back to him as soon as he was free of Albus's oblivious, emerald gaze.

"It's always worked for me before," Scorpius grumbled.

"You look like a hooligan," Rose said as she finally lifted her nose from The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 7.

Scorpius posed thoughtfully, his head tilted at an angle just so. "But do I look like a dashing hooligan?"

Albus snorted. "You look like you need a haircut. What even made you decide to grow it out like that?"

A blush warmed Scorpius's cheeks, and he self-consciously fingered an unruly strand at his ear. Then, clutching his knees to his chest, he recalled an incident on the Hogwarts Express at the end of the previous term.

As the train had pulled into King's Cross, Albus had asked from the window, "Did your dad have long hair at Christmas?"

"No." Peering out onto the platform, Scorpius saw what had prompted the strange question. "Oh, that's my Grandfather Malfoy. Dad didn't tell me he was coming to pick me up."

An indefinable expression had passed Albus's face as he glanced between the window and Scorpius, back and forth a few times until a smile stretched across his mouth. "Bizarre. It's like looking at you, but an older version of you."

Scorpius hadn't said anything to that because he'd heard much of the same his entire life. Malfoy men favored each other so eerily, they might as well have been clones.

Albus hadn't let it go, though. As they'd climbed off the train a few minutes later, he'd picked the topic back up by saying, "Can't you just picture yourself with long hair? You'd look like a dignified wanker, I bet. That is to say, not like your normal wanker self at all."

He'd laughed and bounded off to give Mrs. Potter a hug, but Scorpius had remained frozen in place, trying to picture himself with hair like his grandfather, long and silky and thick. An image of his grandfather in miniature, glowering and imperious even in a shrunken body was what invaded his mind until, suddenly, he was overwhelmed with images of Albus running his fingers through that long, silky hair. Admiring it or laughing at it, either way, it hadn't mattered. Scorpius just had to close his eyes to feel his best friend's phantom fingers running over his scalp.

"I dunno," Scorpius said as breezily as he could in response to Albus's question. "Just thought I could go for a change."

Rose's eyes bored into his back, but he didn't acknowledge her. She, of course, knew exactly what had prompted Scorpius to let his hair grow, and he couldn't stand to see her smirk at him like the know-it-all she was, so he ignored her.

In a desire to remove the attention from himself, Scorpius changed the subject. "It's weird having your dad as a teacher."

Another mistake. Albus made a sound of displeasure, his good mood of moments ago now hijacked by the fury that Scorpius had assumed had burned out by the end of the summer.

"I'm surprised Professor McGonagall offered him the position while his children were still in school," said Rose.

Her comment, of course, did nothing to cool Albus's anger. He clenched two handfuls of grass and pulled them out of the ground, but he was staring up at the canopy of the tree intently, and Scorpius didn't think he was aware of what he was doing.

"It isn't bloody fair that I have to look at his face every day after what he did to my mum. All he had to do was wait one more year for me to leave."

In the face of Albus's distress, Scorpius regretted bringing up the topic. He should have known better. He and Albus, already in the habit of sending each other weekly letters during the summer hols when they couldn't be together, had discussed the Potters' divorce ad nauseum, though Scorpius's letters had been filled less with discussion and more with empty sympathetic platitudes. Empty only because he quickly arrived at the conclusion that it wouldn't have mattered what Scorpius said in response to the news of Harry and Ginny Potter's divorce. Albus needed to vent, and Scorpius was his favorite receptacle for his family drama.

Now that the divorce was final, Mr. Potter had taken a sabbatical from his position as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to retreat to Hogwarts and lick his self-inflicted wounds outside the public eye while teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts to his mortified children. Well, that's how Albus had described it, anyway.

"Have you talked to Uncle Harry yet?" Rose asked, her textbook now closed and forgotten.

"He's not your uncle anymore, Rose," Albus spat back, as lethal as a venomous snake on which some unsuspecting soul had just trod.

"He may not be my uncle, but you're still my cousin, and you don't have to speak to me like that!" She stuffed her textbook and parchment into her bag and stood up. "See you later, Scor," she threw out as she stormed back up to the castle.

Her voice drew the attention of some second-years trying to coax the Giant Squid out of the lake. They turned around and looked at them as Rose left and the squid waved.

Scorpius dug his chin into his knees and chastised himself for putting Albus in this mood when he'd just been teasing Scorpius. "Sorry for bringing it up."

Albus sighed, his fingers unclenching to leave a pile of shredded grass under his hands. "It's not your fault, really. I'm just pissed. This was going to be our best year, and now my dad's here to ruin it."

In the silence that followed, Scorpius turned his head, resting his temple on his knees to get a better look at his best friend.

If someone had asked him when his feelings for Albus began to change, Scorpius wouldn't have been able to answer. His feelings had crept up on him, most likely starting, in hindsight, from the moment Albus Potter had been Sorted into Slytherin and sat down next to fellow first-year, Scorpius Malfoy, at the Slytherin table. He'd only identified the true nature of his feelings sixth year, after Professor Slughorn had shown his NEWTs-level Potions class a cauldron of Amortentia.

At first, Scorpius had been certain the potion had been brewed incorrectly because the only scent Scorpius could detect had been the cologne of his best friend standing beside him. Albus, on the other hand, had smelled soap and leather and some other scent he hadn't been able to identify, which told Scorpius quite neatly that the potion had worked just the way Slughorn said it would—and that Scorpius was in love with his best friend.

The revelation had caused Scorpius to act in a peculiar manner around Albus, by avoiding him and blushing every time Al looked his way while pointedly making an effort not to stare. Within a week, Rose had figured out Scorpius's secret and sworn to keep it. Her silence had been a comfort at first, but Scorpius had since grown weary of the secret and desperate to confess his feelings.

He couldn't though. He didn't want to wreck his friendship with his best mate. He couldn't stand the thought of making things awkward between them. Albus was straight; he'd dated three different girls since fourth year, so it was hopeless to think that he could ever return Scorpius's feelings.

So the secret festered inside him, and his desperation grew.

His heart swelled with emotion. The words lingered so close to the precipice of his lips that they almost fell out. Every time he and Albus were alone, his secret drew closer to the edge, threatening to fly or fall, whichever the case may be. So Scorpius tried to distract himself with an objective—a hopefully surreptitious perusal of Albus lounging in the grass—to keep those forbidden words at bay.

Albus's sun-kissed skin was such a rich, warm color, Scorpius couldn't look away, and his fingers itched to stroke Albus's arm, just to see how warm he really was. His stunning green eyes had fluttered closed, but Scorpius could picture them just the same, flashing like emeralds in the sun. Both hands, with their blunt fingers, laid on Albus's stomach now, lightly clasped one over the other and callused from hours of Quidditch training. Albus's jet black hair, which sat in a rakishly nonchalant fashion on his head, gave him a dashing hooligan vibe that Scorpius envied, even though he knew Albus was neither nonchalant nor a hooligan.

Underneath the feigned nonchalance, Albus carried a chip on his shoulder. He, more than his siblings, felt the burden and pressure of being Harry Potter's child. Though he hid his insecurity behind his Quidditch prowess and a grin, Scorpius knew more than anyone, even Albus's cousins, how much having his father at Hogwarts meant to him. It was more than the divorce—it was the constant reminder of a man whose shoes he could never fill, though Scorpius always thought it was silly of him to try. No one could possibly wear the same shoes as Harry Potter, defender of the wizarding world before the age of eighteen, legendary Auror for fifteen years after that, and then the youngest Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in Ministry history, up until he suddenly left his position to come to Hogwarts.

Scorpius, whose own father carried the shame of wearing Voldemort's Dark Mark, among other crimes attempted during The War, didn't understand the impulse to try to live up to a father's reputation. He had always been happy to take after his mother, and his father constantly announced a similar relief.

Even though Scorpius couldn't relate, it still hurt him to see Albus hurt. Underneath that insecurity, Albus was a loyal, caring friend, willing to go to the ends of the earth for Scorpius if asked. And Scorpius would do just the same for Albus.

A flutter at the corner of his eye alerted him to Albus changing position. Those beautiful green eyes were on him now, and—once again, always—Scorpius's breath hitched.

"So what's the deal with you and Rose?"

"The deal?"

"She spent most of last year whispering with you in dark corners, and then she talked about you all summer, and now she's glued to our hips like she doesn't have a gaggle of her own friends. Are you dating?"

Dread shot up Scorpius's spine and back down to settle in his stomach, snuffing out the urge to laugh that suddenly overcame him. Rose had told him he could use her as a cover if he needed, but Scorpius didn't lie to Albus, and even if he did, he didn't think he would be able to lie about this.

"No, it's not like that."

"It's kind of weird. My best mate and my cousin."

"We're not dating," Scorpius said again, more insistent this time.

The moue that graced Albus's lips suggested both disbelief and displeasure. "Good, because that would be weird."

"As you've already said. What's wrong with Rose anyway?"

"Nothing! Rose is great! But… you're my best mate, and she's my cousin!"

Annoyance prickled Scorpius and leached into his words. "You keep saying that, but that doesn't explain anything. Is it me? Am I not good enough for her?"

Am I not good enough for you? The question lingered just behind the one asked.

Albus sat up, his grimace replaced by horror. "Dumbledore, no! That's not it at all. I—I don't know what it is or what I'm saying. I'm sorry. If you like her, of course you should ask her out. It seems like she likes you."

If Scorpius rolled his eyes any harder, they'd fall out of his head. "We're just friends, Al. I don't like her like that, and I can guarantee she doesn't like me like that, either. Don't get your knickers in a twist over nothing."

That pulled a smile out of Albus. "Shove off, will you? My knickers are none of your concern."

Scorpius hid his face in his knees, but his laughter shook his entire body.

It was really, really unfortunate that Harry Potter was their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Like, really unfortunate.

For the first few weeks of the term, Mr. Potter—wait, that should be Professor Potter now, shouldn't it?—could be seen around the castle being trailed by giggling and awestruck students of all ages. Professor Potter, to his credit, had declined to sign any autographs and restricted his classroom to questions about his specific lessons only, keeping his personal life—and former world-saving accomplishments—private. He seemed uncomfortable with his popularity, even now, more than two decades after the war that made him famous, maybe because most of the students didn't truly understand the war in which he had fought.

For the thousandth time, Scorpius and Albus were stopped in the corridor on their way to class, this time by Beatrice Armistead, a fifth year Ravenclaw. "Has anyone ever told you you look just like your dad? Except for the glasses. And the scar, of course," she said without preamble.

It was over a month into the term and students still commented on the similarity between Albus and his father, even if they had never exchanged words with Albus previously.

Albus scowled, and Scorpius could almost see steam streaming out of his nose in his anger. His patience for these encounters ran out before they ever began, so each new one made him even more volatile to deal with. He'd lashed out at his classmates on more than one occasion, making him even less popular with the other Houses than he'd been before.

"We get it, Beatrice. Get to class now before I take points!" Scorpius said as he flashed his Prefect badge at her.

Beatrice directed a sneer at him. "I wasn't talking to you, Malfoy! Git."

Albus glowered at Beatrice's back as she hurried down a flight of stairs.

"Al, don't pay any attention to them. They've just excited themselves into thinking something cool is going to happen now that your dad is back."

"Something cool. Like monsters hunting students in the corridors? Or people dying? Death Eaters controlling the castle? They don't even know anything!"

"I know."

Because Albus was no longer paying attention to where he was going, Scorpius pushed him through the crowd, directing him up stairs and down corridors as needed.

"They think my dad had a good time on all those adventures, but they don't know how saving this school over and over again wrecked him."

"I know."

Scorpius did know. In their six years of friendship, Albus had told him all of his father's stories, including the ones no one knew about. Like how Mr. Potter sometimes had panic attacks when he came down with headaches, or how he still woke up in the middle of the night calling out the name of his old classmate Cedric, or how deeply he continued to mourn Albus's grandparents and how often he visited their graves. Not just his parents' graves, either, but the graves of every soldier who died fighting at the Battle of Hogwarts in 1998.

Scorpius had even asked his own father about some of the stories, but Draco Malfoy was a reticent man when it came to his past, so Scorpius had learned what he could about his father's childhood through Albus's stories instead.

Albus tripped over his feet and stopped, turning to face Scorpius as the crowd of students around them thinned.

"They look at me, and they see him."

"I know," Scorpius said, his voice soft. He wished it was enough for Albus that Scorpius saw him, every part of him and only him.

He ached to run his thumbs over Albus's brow, to smooth out the lines there before delving into his gloriously thick, dark hair. Scorpius had always been intrigued by their contrasting color schemes: Albus's jet black hair next to Scorpius's silver; sparkling green eyes versus flat gray-blue; brown, lightly freckled skin against Scorpius's milk-pale and flawless complexion. Aesthetically, they were opposites in almost every way. Mentally, they were as close as brothers.

"Gentlemen?" a voice at the door asked, and Albus's face hardened as he turned to his father and entered the Defense classroom.

Scorpius sighed and followed.

The truly unfortunate thing about Harry Potter being their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, though, was that Scorpius was forced to stare up at him three times a week and imagine exactly how much more rakishly dashing Albus would become.

He'd noticed before, of course, as he'd met Al's parents on more than one occasion over the last six years, but it was utterly unfair that a constant reminder of his best friend's good genes tortured Scorpius every other day with lectures on defensive spells. As a result, Scorpius's attention had a tendency to wander in class, distracted by the boy beside him and the bearded man at the front of the room.

He tried to be surreptitious about staring, but he knew he failed at subtlety and could only hope Albus's intense focus on ignoring the teacher prevented him from noticing Scorpius' absorption. The last thing he needed was for Albus to notice his preoccupation with his father and assume someone else in the castle had chosen Harry Potter over Albus again.

If Professor Potter noticed the staring, hopefully he interpreted Scorpius's preoccupation as interest in the subject, not the man.

At the end of class, Professor Potter said, "Scorpius, would you mind waiting for a moment?"

Scorpius looked between Albus and the professor, almost seeking permission from the former, but Albus just shoved his parchment and quill into his bag and stormed out the door.

Professor Potter smiled, though the expression was tight.

"How are you?"

Scorpius wanted to be insolent on Albus's behalf, but his good breeding and his mother's memory prevented him from being rude.

"I'm very well, sir. How are you?"

Amused, Professor Potter perched on the edge of his desk, one leg dangling, and Scorpius tried not to stare at the way his foot swung back and forth, the only sign of the professor's unease.

"I'm well, thank you. I don't want to put you in an awkward situation, but I wanted to ask you how Albus is doing." His eyes shifted as if he knew he was not being fair to either Scorpius or Albus, but he didn't retract his words.

Scorpius, uncertain of the proper response, remained silent until those green eyes, so much like Albus's, settled on him again.

"I think it would be more appropriate for you to ask Albus."

Professor Potter nodded as if this was the reasonable answer he'd expected. "I've tried. I guess I can't blame him. I just wish he would talk to me." Silence stretched between them, awkward on Scorpius's side and contemplative on Professor Potter's. "Do you, er, ever fight with your dad?"

"No, my father loves me."

Scorpius's eyes widened in horror as he hoped to Merlin he had not just said what he thought he said, but the look in Professor Potter's eyes confirmed it for him. The pain that lanced through those green eyes was as compelling to Scorpius as if Albus had been the one he'd hurt. For a fraction of a moment, Scorpius considered closing the distance between them, putting a hand on Professor Potter in support, or just being near enough for comfort, as he would have done for Albus.

"I didn't mean—"

"It's okay." He stood up and went around the desk to sit in his chair. "Thank you, Mr. Malfoy. You can go now."

Scorpius opened his mouth to say something, to apologize again, to explain, but he just grabbed his bag and rushed out of the classroom, knowing that it was not okay and hoping he had not ruined something that could have been fixed.

Scorpius dodged Albus for the rest of the day to avoid having to tell him about the meeting with his father. It was a difficult endeavor considering they usually spent their study break together (he sought out Rose and hid with her at Hagrid's hut, where they discussed an Arithmancy problem over Hagrid's rock cakes) and they shared one more class before dinner. In the end, Scorpius flat out ignored Albus's attempts to question him in Charms and ate his dinner as quickly as possible before retreating to the dormitory.

Of course, a dormitory was no place to hide when he and Albus were roommates.

The curtains around Scorpius's four-poster bed parted, and Albus climbed inside, still wearing his robes and shoes. Scorpius put his textbook down and just looked at him as Albus stretched out and made himself comfortable.

Several moments passed, each silent second compounding until the lack of sound became a presence in itself, a thick, uncomfortable barrier between mates. Scorpius spent that time examining Albus, who had taken up his favorite horizontal position of one arm behind his head, hand on his stomach. Strong fingers gently tapping a button on his robe captured Scorpius's attention. A shiver descended down his spine as he imagined those fingers on his own skin instead.

Finally, apropos of nothing, Albus broke the silence. "I didn't say anything this summer, but it's my fault my parents got divorced." His gaze remained elevated to the canopy, avoiding Scorpius's creased brow and skeptical eyes.

"Could you elaborate?"

Albus hesitated for a moment, and then he rolled onto this side, eyes locking with Scorpius in determination.

"I know I'm the cause. My parents were fine. The perfect model couple. And then this summer I told them something… something important, something… shameful. A secret. They were reassuring and supportive at the time, but a month later they told us—James, Lily, and me—and now they're divorced, and I just know it's because of what I said."

"That's absolutely ridiculous."

"That's how I feel."

Scorpius couldn't possibly entertain Albus's theory. He refused to. But what did he know about love and marriage? What did he know about Harry and Ginny Potter's relationship? A ball of unease began to grow in Scorpius's stomach, making him feel ill at the thought that Albus—insecure but brash, kind, and perfect Albus—had anything at all to do with his parents' failed marriage.

"Well, what did you say to them?" he asked, another kind of unease taking form and spreading.

Albus shrugged, his eyes darting away before returning, his face carefully composed. "It's not important."

Scorpius didn't keep secrets from Albus (except the one that concerned Albus most). He had assumed Albus, too, had never kept a secret from him before. Hearing that he had shared a secret with his parents and kept it from Scorpius sent a wave of sick jealousy through him, the likes of which Scorpius could never remember feeling before.

"You just told me it was important, and if you think it wrecked your parents' marriage, it most certainly is important."

"It doesn't matter what I said, okay? That's not the point. The point is I fucked up my parents' relationship. The point is my dad came to Hogwarts to watch over me and make sure I don't embarrass him. The point is my parents don't like me anymore. That's why I'm telling you this now."

Pain lanced Scorpius's heart at those unfathomable words, and an anguished, "Albus!" slipped from his lips. "That can't be true," he choked out.

Instead of deigning to reply, Albus returned to staring up at the canopy, a scowl marring his features.

No, my father loves me. That's what Scorpius had said to Mr. Potter earlier that afternoon, and his regret at making such a hateful implication multiplied. He hadn't meant to suggest that Mr. Potter didn't love Albus, but here Albus was with the idea that his parents didn't like him anymore—could it be true?

No. Scorpius was biased, but everyone who was willing to look past the fact that Albus was Sorted into Slytherin took to him easily. He was a fiercely protective bloke, always sticking up for others, always willing to help if someone needed him. How could his own parents dislike him? It didn't make sense.

"Rose said you studied with her during our break today," Albus said, a sullen tone in his voice.

Scorpius's head spun from the abrupt change of subject, so he didn't respond. Explaining would defeat the purpose of studying with Rose to avoid Albus anyway.

More silence passed. The barrier between them grew more solid, until Albus once again chiseled at the wall. "See? I'm not the only one with secrets, Scor. I know what you said a few weeks ago, but, seriously, if… if you want to date Rose, you should. Don't let me stand in your way. I want you to be happy. And you two… you look good together."

Albus didn't sound like he wanted Scorpius to be happy at all. He sounded and looked frustrated and upset by the very thought of Scorpius's happiness. He crossed his arms over his stomach as if trying to hold himself together, and his face wrinkled in a frown. He continued to aggressively avoid Scorpius's gaze, burning a hole through the canopy with his own.

Scorpius's temper began to flare, and he tried to distract himself from it by mentally stepping back in order to take all of Albus in:

The scowl on Albus's full lips that Scorpius had dreamt about for almost a year. The freckles that dotted his tawny brown skin, forming a constellation across his nose. Those vivid green eyes, bright as summer leaves but angry now. Thick, dark eyebrows met above the bridge of a round nose, forming creases in his forehead that reminded Scorpius of desert sands. He wanted so much to smooth the tracks away and ease him however he could.

Another part of him wanted to punch Albus in his offensively defined jaw for being a git. Albus, oblivious, stupid Albus, thought no one would choose him, that no one saw him or appreciated him for who he was beyond Harry Potter's son and doppelganger. But Scorpius was there; he always had been. And here was Albus trying to pawn Scorpius off onto Rose—who was lovely and perfectly adequate if he only had a taste for her gender. Which Scorpius didn't.

The anger wasn't fair to Albus since Albus didn't know about Scorpius's sexuality. Scorpius hadn't even thought he'd had a sexuality until he'd identified the scent of that Amortentia last year, and he'd been too afraid to share his discovery with Albus lest he realize the depths of Scorpius's feelings for him.

Some part of Scorpius knew this, but he couldn't stop the hurt or annoyance at Albus's continued insistence that Scorpius date Rose.

"It's not like that between us, Al."

"It's really okay. You don't have to—"

"I don't fancy Rose, you fucker. I fancy you!"

For the second time that day, words Scorpius had never intended to say spilled out of his mouth. For the second time that day, green eyes stared at him, widening in shock. Albus propped himself up, slowly rising to a sitting position. The scowl he'd been wearing moments ago had disappeared, replaced with an expression that made Scorpius sick.

"Did… did you just…."

Scorpius squeezed his eyes closed, trying to take it back take it back take it back. Sweat, sticky and uncomfortable, built up under his armpits, and his hands grew clammy. He buried them in the folds of the duvet, trying to quell the shaking that suddenly overcame him. Any moment now his stomach was going to rebel, and the last thing he needed to do was retch all over his best mate… who he had just confessed to fancying.

Albus licked his lips. "Did you just call me a fucker?"

"That's your takeaway here? That I called you a fucker?"

Albus grinned in light of Scorpius's outrage. "Scor, you never swear. You're the most innocent seventeen-year-old I've ever known."

"I'm swearing because you're an obtuse idiot, that's why I'm swearing! Why are you smiling like that?"

Albus moved onto his hands and knees, tugged the textbook out of Scorpius's lap, and stalked closer until Scorpius fell onto his pillow with Albus hovering over him. Albus's face was hidden in even deeper shadows now, but his eyes were bright, and something hot and dangerous shot through Scorpius's body as those eyes flickered down to his lips and up to his eyes again.

Albus's smile also flickered, replaced with an expression of wonder. "Because, you fucker, I fancy you, too."

Their faces were only separated by a foot of space, but Scorpius still didn't expect the feel of full lips on his until they were there, sending bolts of lightning through the nerves in his mouth to his brain, paralyzing him as effectively as a Stunning Charm.

The instant Scorpius realized what was happening, his chest seemed to explode, his heart thumping so hard, he feared he was suffering heart failure for a moment, his veins burning so hot, Scorpius expected to catch fire any second. Panicked, he tried to tell Albus he was in the throes of death, but when he opened his mouth, Albus sucked his bottom lip into his, nibbling on the fleshy center and sending Scorpius's heart palpitations into overdrive.

Scorpius's hands rose and instinctively clenched in the material of Albus's robes, but he didn't think to pull him closer or shove him away. He simply held on, tethering himself to an impossible reality, his mind completely empty at the bliss of experiencing Albus's kiss.

Lips trailed up his jaw, allowing him to breathe, which was a joke because how could he possibly breathe? And then those lips pressed against Scorpius's neck, forging a path down to the collar of his pajamas and back up again. Albus's hands moved up to cup Scorpius's face before he pulled away, his eyes darting as if searching and waiting for something from Scorpius.

"Fuck," Scorpius said, which brought back Albus's manic grin. "You're fucking with me."

"Listen to him, gents! Hasn't cursed in seventeen years and now he can't stop!"

A rough shove shut Albus up as Scorpius drew away from him. He was burning to death and he knew his cheeks and ears were alarmingly red. Probably more flushed than they'd ever been in his life.

"What's wrong?" Albus asked once he noticed the unhappiness on Scorpius's face.

Scorpius retreated from him, pressing his back to the headboard and clutching his pillow against his chest in an attempt to smother his heart—either the sound of its beating or the traitorous palpitations themselves, Scorpius didn't care.

"This isn't funny, Al. These are my feelings! Don't kiss me like that unless you mean it. Don't—don't let me hope for something that can never happen."

Albus's moodiness returned with a scowl. "Who says this can never happen?"

"Since when have you been gay?"

"Since when have you?"

They stared at each other, trapped in a standoff.

"I didn't know until last year," Scorpius conceded.

"Neither did I!"

"But… but you've dated girls!"

Albus's brow creased in thought. "Well, maybe I'm not gay then. Maybe I'm bi. I haven't given it much thought honestly. You're the only one I've been thinking about for over a year."

Scorpius wanted to argue, to question Albus further. Maybe Albus had confused platonic feelings with romantic ones. Maybe he was lonely after his last breakup, even though the relationship had ended amicably. He kept his mouth shut, though, because he tried to imagine someone questioning him about his feelings for Albus—as if he hadn't already done that to himself enough.

"Rose knows, doesn't she?" Albus asked. Scorpius nodded. "That's why you two have been so close. I thought it was strange when she started hanging around us."

Scorpius's mind raced, trying to figure out how to determine Albus's sincerity, trying to imagine a way to move forward from here. Normally when he had a problem he couldn't solve, especially of the interpersonal variety, he always turned to Albus, and considering the source of his confusion, perhaps it would be a good idea to continue that practice now.

He lowered the pillow, clutching it in his lap instead of against his chest. "Do you really fancy me?" He thought he would choke on his heart if it continued its relentless beating. The thing wouldn't be satisfied until Scorpius expired.

Albus's eyes burned with an intensity normally reserved for Quidditch, an intensity Scorpius had dreamt of seeing turned on him.

"Yes, Scor. This summer, what I told my parents, I said to them—I told them that I thought I was gay. I told them you were more than just my best friend to me." He blushed at the admission, the skin of his cheeks darkening.

Scorpius gulped, remembering the meeting he'd had with Mr. Potter earlier that afternoon and wondering what the man thought of him now. He knew in the beginning of his friendship with Albus that the Potters had been suspicious of him, though they'd never shown outright dislike toward him. It was a natural reaction considering his last name and family history. But as years had passed and as his bond with Albus had grown stronger, the whole Potter family had come to accept Scorpius almost as one of their own. He'd been invited to family gatherings, both at Albus's parents' and his grandparents' homes, and sometimes he'd even holidayed with them abroad. How would the Potters treat him now?

"You think your parents got a divorce because of your feelings for me?"

Albus shrugged, petulantly averting his gaze.

"Al," Scorpius said, his tone soft. "Al, please talk to your dad. You don't know what really happened. It can't be because of that. Maybe he made some mistakes, but your dad loves you…"

Despite what Scorpius had said earlier in the day, Mr. Potter truly did love his troubled middle son. Scorpius knew that. He'd known it when he'd said it, too.

Albus gave no indication that he was listening, so Scorpius came closer and grabbed his face, jerking his head around to look Scorpius in the eye. "Talk. To. Him."

Those green eyes dilated as he stared at Scorpius, both boys becoming trapped in each other's gazes.

"I'll talk to him if you kiss me," Albus said, low and so serious, no hint of his usual suave charm or jokes.

Heat seared Scorpius, starting in his head and traveling lower, lower, dangerously lower. His breath came out as short, hot pants, and his fingers, still clutching the sides of Albus's face, flexed. He fixated on Albus's lips, at first pressed tightly together in a firm, cautious line, but the longer the tension built between them the more top and bottom lip loosened, until Scorpius finally allowed himself to stop thinking and pulled Albus's head to his.

Albus's nose nuzzled his cheek, his lips trailing along Scorpius's jaw as though his lips were not enough to satisfy his appetite. It didn't take long, though, for him to find Scorpius's pliant mouth, to move his over Scorpius's lips, to explore and nibble until both of their breaths rasped out of them, raking against their throats.

A tongue tentatively stroked along the seam of Scorpius's mouth, and the sensation kindled a thrill that settled below the belt, quickly inflaming him. He tried to put a stop to this, concerned they were going too fast too soon, but once his mouth opened, Albus inundated him with open mouthed kisses, wet and rapacious and criminally persuasive. Pushing him away would have been an impossible feat at this point, so Scorpius wrapped his arms around Albus's neck and moved closer until they were both sprawled on the bed, chest to chest, hips pressed together.

"Dumbledore help me," Albus groaned, which startled a laugh out of Scorpius. Al had always thought it funny to appeal to his namesake as he would have appealed to a god in prayer. In their current situation, the exclamation was absurd.

Albus kissed Scorpius's forehead as his laughter subsided, and then they both sat up, cheeks flushed, eyes alight, though Scorpius found making eye contact near impossible.

"I'll talk to my dad," Albus said.


"But you should come with me."

"I don't think so."

"Yes." Albus grabbed Scorpius' hand, squeezing it for emphasis. "Please."

Green eyes stared at Scorpius, filled with light and hope and worry and all the things that Albus had never had to put into words for Scorpius's sake because Scorpius knew him all too well. Meeting with Mr. Potter again would be uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable for Scorpius as it would be for Albus. The least he could do was give his best friend some moral support.

Scorpius nodded.

But, honestly, when had he ever had the ability to say no to Albus?

The next afternoon, during their study break, the two young men descended upon Mr. Potter's office.

Scorpius couldn't stop himself from glancing at Albus every now and then, just waiting for his expression to crack, for Albus to stop abruptly and announce that he couldn't go through with this meeting.

They made it all the way to the door before Albus sighed, his shoulders loosening with the release of his breath.

It had been a great disappointment when Albus had left Scorpius's bed the previous night for his own. Scorpius hadn't slept well, half-anticipating Albus' return, drifting in and out of sleep where Albus's warm lips dominated his fractured dreams.

He had awoken to Albus's kisses though, which had soothed the sting of disappointment adequately. More than adequately. And now Scorpius let his hand drift to Albus's, entwining their fingers together as a gesture of comfort, solidarity, and, yes, affection.

His heart pounded at the reality of holding Albus's hand and the knowledge that later, after this meeting's conclusion, he could spend the rest of the afternoon hidden away in Albus's arms.

"Everything will be fine," Scorpius said, and though Albus nodded, he looked less than convinced.

The door opened, and their hands dropped, but not before Mr. Potter's eyes darted to the space between them, just where their hands had been conspicuously clasped together.

"Albus. Scorpius," Mr. Potter said slowly, wariness apparent in his stiff posture.

Scorpius was glad not to be called Mr. Malfoy again. Not by his best friend's dad. Not by a man who had welcomed Scorpius into his home on numerous occasions.

"We should talk," Albus said.

The door opened wider, and Mr. Potter took a step back to let them in.

As the son passed the father, Scorpius realized for the first time that the two Potters were not true doppelgangers. Albus would probably find dissatisfaction with the realization, but he seemed to have taken after his mother in stature. The top of his unruly black hair reached Mr. Potter's nose, leaving a difference of several inches in their height. Albus's ability to freckle had also been inherited from the Weasleys.

Even the green eyes that Albus and his father shared were not completely identical. The shape of them was different, Albus's a little rounder, a little wider apart than his father's.

If anyone cared to look past their coloring, they would see the differences between the two men plain as day, but most people couldn't. Most people found it too difficult to look past the Slytherin patch on Albus's school robe.

Mr. Potter sat on the corner of his desk, just like he had the day before when he'd met with Scorpius. "What's this ab—"

"Did you and Mum get divorced because of me?"

Mr. Potter blinked, his eyebrows rising in surprise. "Blimey, Al, of course not!"

Albus didn't back down, didn't look away, didn't let himself relax for one second. It wouldn't have surprised Scorpius if nothing Mr. Potter said could persuade Albus of the contrary, but at least Mr. Potter would know why tensions were high between them.

"Are you sure?" Albus asked. "Because you were happy together until I… until… I told you about my feelings for Scorpius, and you…." He looked away then, and Scorpius's heart ached when Albus's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed compulsively, blinking too quickly.

Mr. Potter's face drained of color, his mouth falling open for just a second before his expression hardened. He took the four steps that separated him from his son and grabbed Albus's shoulders, his grip tight.

"Albus, what you told your mother and me did not affect our relationship. You couldn't tell because you are at Hogwarts most of the year, and when you and James and Lily came home, we did what we had to to hide our problems. We weren't happy. We hadn't been happy for a while, and we finally realized that we couldn't keep on as we were. We love you so much, and what you told us did not change how we feel about you or each other. I know you don't want to hear this, but there is nothing you could have done to keep us together."

Renegade tears ran down Albus's face as he stared at his father's shoes and tried valiantly not to sniff or sob like a child. The effort of containing his emotion showed in the trembling of his lips and shoulders, and Scorpius's heart broke all over again. He wished he could offer his support, but he didn't want to intrude, and he felt as awkward and out of place as he'd expected he would having to witness this tenderness between father and son.

The urge to write to his own father suddenly overcame him, but Scorpius pushed that urge away. He wasn't ready to say what needed to be said. He wasn't sure if his father was ready to hear it.

"Why did you come back to Hogwarts? Are you keeping an eye on me?" Despite Albus's tears, the words came out harsh and without a single waver.

In an equally firm voice, Mr. Potter said, "No." He sighed and ran a hand through his own unruly hair, extending it past rakish disarray and into bird's nest territory. "I'm afraid I was being selfish when I applied to teach here."

Albus looked up, his tears slowing, the tracks drying on his cheeks.

Mr. Potter's lips lifted in a small smile. "Despite what you may think, divorcing your mother and tearing our family in two did not fill me with joy. Relief, maybe, but not happiness. Hogwarts is where I was happiest as a child. I thought I could reclaim some of that happiness if I returned. I should have waited one more year for you to leave school. Or three more for Lily. I didn't think how it would make you feel if I came back with you. I'm sorry, Al."

There was a moment of hesitation as Albus processed his father's answer, and then he nodded and closed the space separating him and Mr. Potter, his face buried in his father's shoulder, his arms dangling uselessly at his side.

Mr. Potter had no qualms about hugging his son in front of Scorpius and wrapped his own arms around Albus, holding him tight.

Scorpius's cheeks warmed as Mr. Potter said in a low voice intended just for Albus, but overheard nevertheless, "I'm glad you have Scorpius as a friend. You're in good hands."

Scorpius tried not to choke as his mind flooded with last night's fantasies of how he could put his hands to good use. He also tried to stem his hurt when Albus didn't correct his father to say he and Scorpius were more than friends now. It didn't make sense to be hurt over something that was so new, that they hadn't yet defined. He didn't know what they were or what they were going to be—and maybe Scorpius didn't really care. Not as long as they were together.

Perhaps Mr. Potter didn't want Scorpius to feel left out, because he lifted his head and an arm, motioning for Scorpius to join them.

He stood and crossed the room to their side, and then Albus took hold of Scorpius's robes and pulled him into the embrace with a wobbly laugh. Mr. Potter hugged him as if he were a member of the family, equal in his eyes to his own son, and Albus hugged him as if he were more. Scorpius didn't think he imagined that.

His throat tightened at the acceptance he felt in the Potters' grasp, a gift he never expected to receive from either one of them after they discovered his truth.

He tried to pour as much gratitude into the hug as he could, and perhaps they understood, perhaps they sensed what Scorpius needed, because their hold only tightened, claiming him as their own.

"Have you ever thought about telling your father? You know, how you feel about… men?" Albus asked the next Saturday as they took a stroll around the lake after lunch.

The October breeze knocked their fingers together, casually brushing against each other, but, out in the open, neither one of them could bring themselves to take the plunge and grasp the other's hand.

"Of course I've thought about it. Loads of times," Scorpius replied, a bit distracted by Albus's fleeting touch. His heart soared every time their fingers met, and he kept telling himself, This time—this time I'll take his hand… No, maybe this time… This time….

"What's stopped you?"

"I think he knows already, and I don't know what will happen if I confirm it."

"Why do you think that?"

Sand and rocks shifted under their shoes, each step making a satisfyingly crunchy sound. It was an odd thing to notice considering the import of the conversation, but perhaps that was exactly why Scorpius noticed it. Since last year, he'd tried not to think about his father in relation to Scorpius's love life. He'd forced himself to think of something else as soon as his thoughts had turned mawkish. Albus pushing the topic now made him seek out a distraction to distance himself from any potential truths.

Despite the difficulty of speaking, Scorpius did not leave Albus waiting too long for a response.

"He doesn't ask me if I've got a girlfriend or if I fancy anyone like my grandfather does. He always tries to change the subject when Grandfather goes on a rant about how I must consider our family's future. Maybe he's protecting me from Grandfather's disappointment, or maybe he's protecting himself from his own."

"Do you think he'd be very disappointed, then?"

Scorpius stopped and looked out at the still, glittering lake as he thought about it, but his lips trembled, transforming into a broad grin that made Albus's eyes narrow when Scorpius turned his attention back to his best friend.

"I think he'd perish on the spot if he knew how his son felt about a Potter. Can't you just picture his face?"

Albus didn't laugh. Instead, he elbowed Scorpius, his lips bowed into a frown. "Seriously, Scor. Do you really think it matters to him?"

"I don't know," Scorpius said, somber at the failed levity. "My mother wouldn't have cared, which makes me hope my father won't, either."

They continued walking, silent as they became lost in their thoughts until Albus said, "She was nice when I met her that summer."

Scorpius's throat closed up, and his eyes burned. A few weeks before her death during the summer between second and third year, the Malfoys and Potters had coincidentally run into each other while shopping in Diagon Alley, which was where Albus had finally officially met Scorpius's mother for the first time. He'd seen her at King's Cross of course, at the beginning and end of their second year at Hogwarts. But her illness had fatigued her, and Scorpius's father had refused to dawdle on the platform lest she exhaust herself detrimentally, so proper introductions had not been made prior to the Diagon Alley meetup.

That trip to London had occurred on a good day, when her strength and spirits had been high. She'd begged his father for an outing, but she'd been bedridden for the rest of her short life afterward. Still, Scorpius treasured the memory of all the Malfoys and Potters having lunch together at the Leaky Cauldron. He held it dear in his heart not only because of Albus but because it was the last time he saw his mother laugh.

"I wish you could have known her the way I knew her."

Albus heard the emotion in Scorpius's voice, he must have, because he bridged the gap between their hands, clasping Scorpius's tightly within his fingers and squeezing.

It didn't change his mother's death or the uncertainty of his father's reaction to his true self, but, all the same, Scorpius could not put into words how good it felt to have that touch knowing now what it meant to Albus, too.

"I can't believe it!"

Albus and Scorpius spun around, their hands dropping in surprise at the arrival of an intruder in their private moment. But upon being faced with Rose, her eyes wide and her smile even wider, Scorpius relaxed. He didn't notice until she skipped closer that Albus had fallen back and become tense.

Rose didn't seem to notice her cousin's wariness, because she threw her arms around Albus's neck, squealing as Scorpius had never heard her do before. She sounded like the first years who discovered the Giant Squid in the lake for the first time, both taken aback and thrilled.

She jumped away from Albus suddenly, clasping her hands behind her back as she looked between him and Scorpius in uncertainty.

"It's okay," Scorpius said with a growing grin. "He knows."

"He reciprocates," Albus added, one corner of his lips lifting into a smug smile that made Scorpius's heart race. The prat had to practice those expressions in the mirror—he looked too good making them. "And you've known for ages."

Rose's nose lifted. "Yes, because I'm not completely blind."

"Al thought I fancied you," Scorpius said.

"He would."

Albus rolled his eyes. "He's standing right here, thank you."

Rose ignored him and turned to Scorpius. "Anyway, I just came to find you because I overheard Parkinson telling your cousin that he heard you snogging someone in your bed a few days ago, and I just couldn't believe it, but then here you were holding hands like—"

"Did Parkinson say who Scorpius was snogging?" Albus asked at the same time Scorpius asked, "What did Colleen say?"

"No, he didn't know who the mysterious snogger was, but he seemed to think Creevey would."

"But what did she say?" Scorpius asked, his stomach roiling at the idea of someone in his family knowing his secret and sharing it with his father prematurely.

"You know what she's like," Rose replied with a roll of her eyes. "She told him you were probably practicing on your own because she couldn't imagine anyone boring enough to take an interest in you."

Despite the unkind account, Scorpius's lips twitched. Twelve-year-old Colleen Creevey took after her mother, Daphne, rather than her aunt, Astoria. She was a miniature snob with little regard for anything or anyone outside of her interest, and at the moment, her list of interests included teenage boys with strong jaws sharp enough to slice bread and excluded her bookish, mild-mannered elder cousin. How Uncle Dennis and Aunt Daphne managed her—and would manage her as she transitioned into a teenager and then a young adult—Scorpius couldn't fathom.

"Should I be insulted?" Albus asked.

Scorpius shook his head. "No. That's just Colleen for you."

"Come," Rose said. "Let's go sit under that tree so you can tell me everything."

For the next half-hour, Scorpius and Albus told her their stories of pining and despair. When Albus had admitted his fears about the truth of his parents' divorce to her, she had gasped and grabbed his arm, her head shaking slowly in disbelief.

"But it turned out all right in the end, didn't it?" Albus asked. He'd taken his usual position lying down on his back, but this time his arm did not cushion his head—Scorpius's lap did.

It thrilled Scorpius to no end to be able to run his fingers through Albus's untidy hair, just as he'd always dreamed. It thrilled him even more every time Albus looked up at him and smiled, emerald eyes sparkling in delight.

"Yes," Rose said, "it did indeed."

Lazy Saturday afternoons were in limited supply, the knowledge of which made Scorpius's heart swell with anticipation.

Their final year at Hogwarts had only just begun.