Scorpius might as well have still been at home for all the sleep he got that night. Around five in the morning, when he could no longer bear staring up at the dark blue curtain over his bed and listening to Ettore's snores, he lit his wand, clambered out from under his duvet, and pushed aside the hangings around Simon's bed.
"Wake up," he whispered, shaking Simon's shoulder. "Come on, I've got something to tell you."
Simon mumbled something incomprehensible. Exasperated, Scorpius tugged Simon's blankets away from his face. Simon cracked an eye open. "Wussa matter wi' you?"
"Did you know Al's been shagging Aiden Cotton since he broke up with Weina?"
Simon gave Scorpius a one-eyed blink. "Wuh? No, wait... gimme a moment."
He struggled to sit up, his movements as sluggish as those of a bear emerging from a winter-long hibernation. Once upright, he shifted to the other side of the bed, giving Scorpius room to sit down. It took a moment for him to blearily fix his eyes on Scorpius's face.
"What was that about Potter?" he asked, covering a yawn with one big hand.
Scorpius hugged one of Simon's pillows to his chest. "He's been sleeping with Aiden Cotton."
"No way," Simon said, his eyes widening. "I take it that's the reason why you've been sulking all day."
"Can we go down to the common room? I don't want to wake the rest of them up."
Nodding, Simon climbed out of bed. Scorpius followed him to the door, the pillow still clutched in his hands. They tiptoed out of the room, down the stairs, and into the common room. There was one person reading by the light of the dying fire: a third-year girl whose name Scorpius couldn't remember.
"Hey, you," Simon said, not unkindly. "Get to bed before a prefect finds you."
With a flustered apology, the girl leapt to her feet and scuttled away, hiding her face behind her purple-streaked hair. Not for the first time, Scorpius was grateful for Simon's widely accepted status of authority in the Ravenclaw Tower.
"I've fucked everything up," Scorpius declared as he flopped down on one of the sofas. He buried his face in Simon's pillow.
Simon tugged the pillow out of his hands. "Smothering yourself won't solve anything. What did you do this time?"
"I kissed Al," Scorpius said in a horrified whisper. It was the first time he'd told anyone, and it felt good to finally get it out, like a burden had been lifted off his shoulders. "I... I might be gay, Simon."
"Well, if you liked it, I don't see what the problem is."
"You're not disgusted?"
Simon sprawled out on another sofa and slung an arm over the back of it. "No, of course not. If you haven't noticed, I've been the one throwing you at Al. What's wrong with you, Scorpius? This isn't like you. You're always on the lookout for a new way to piss off your dad. Isn't this the perfect way to do it?"
"I can't. I... I just can't."
"No! I'm just... worried. This is kind of new to me, all right? I didn't feel like this with Rose. I didn't care when she flirted with other guys, but thinking about Al and that cocky git..." Scorpius scowled and punched the seat cushion next to his head. "I saw them in the bathroom today, and he was treating Al like crap. I don't know what Al sees in an idiot like him."
The placating look Simon gave him made him blush. "Sorry." Scorpius grabbed a quill and a blank sheet of parchment off the table next to him and began doodling to keep his hands away from the string of his pyjama pants, which he'd been twisting nervously between his fingers. "What tipped you off about me and Al?"
"I've suspected it ever since that day in Potions, but it became obvious the day we went to Hogsmeade," Simon said with one-shouldered shrug. "I've known you for six years, Scorpius, and the only person you've ever been too shy to approach is Rose. Not too difficult to piece together the puzzle, y'know." He peered over at Scorpius. "Hey, what're you drawing?"
"Oh, sorry. These are Chinese characters."
"You know Chinese?" Simon said, looking deeply impressed. "How'd you learn Chinese?"
"I never told you?" Simon shook his head. "Mother hired a tutor to teach me languages when I was a kid. She wanted me to be multilingual so I could go travelling around the world with her when I grew up, since Father refused to do it."
"Seriously? So which languages do you know?"
"Russian, French, Italian –"
"Okay, okay, I get it, you're a language guru!"
"It's just those four. Chinese is my favourite. Look..." Scorpius showed Simon the characters he'd been scribbling. "Aren't they neat?"
"What do they say?"
Scorpius bent back over the parchment. "Nothing in particular. They're just random characters." There was no way he was going to translate what he'd written for anyone, not even Simon. It was embarrassing enough just reading over the words.
"Sure," Simon said sceptically. "So what're you going to do now?"
Scorpius ran a hand through his rumpled hair and stared down at the characters he'd written: 喜欢你。往往会想对你告白, 虽然我还不太了解自己的心情。为什么? 是什么令你为他心动? 就算他再怎样负你，你眼里始终都只有他。They were the words he couldn't say out loud, each one encoded so beautifully, so completely, that no one would ever guess he was confessing something taboo.
After a while, he turned the page over. "Nothing, I guess. Al's with Aiden now." He clenched the armrest of the sofa. "Dammit, why Aiden of all people? He's so..."
Scorpius glowered at Simon. "Some friend you are."
Simon's expression sobered. "Look, I know you might not want to hear this, Scorpius, but you haven't exactly been an angel to Potter either. Before break –"
"I know what happened before break, all right? I admit it. I was wrong. What the fuck else am I supposed to say?"
A log snapped in the fireplace, sending sparks flying into the air. Scorpius watched them settle into the ashes and fade to grey. His frustration coiled and knotted inside him. He hated being reminded that he was at fault, hated knowing that he could have done something to prevent this.
At last Simon broke the silence.
"I reckon you should stop holding back. As long as you know where you cocked up, you've still got a chance of redeeming yourself. Go out there and win Potter back. You're a good-looking enough bloke – not sure if you're on Cotton's level, but you're close enough. Your lamentable lack of relationship skills can be worked on, and I'm sure Potter won't mind that you're a bit of a social recluse."
Scorpius couldn't resist a small smile. "Thanks, Simon. I can always count on you to give great motivational speeches."
Simon beamed. "Well, y'know, it's in the best mate job description. I mean it, though. Who cares what other people think? Popular opinion can kiss my arse. If you want Potter, then the only people whose feelings count are yours and his."
"You sound like Doddy. 'Doddy is not caring what others say! They is knowing nothing!'"
"Ah, well, I always thought that house-elf was unusually intelligent. In any case, we'd better get back to bed – looks like the sun's starting to rise."
Sure enough, dawn was beginning to break, spilling its grey light into the common room through the many arched windows. Scorpius followed Simon back upstairs to their dorm room. Simon immediately climbed back into bed and barely managed a mumbled "good night" before he was out. Scorpius, however, sat down at his desk, put aside the sheet of parchment he had brought up with him, and pulled his and Al's Potions essay towards him. He went to work completing the rest of the edits and finished an hour before his first class. Yawning, he gathered together the loose sheets of parchment on his desk into one neat pile. Then he headed for the showers, hoping that a long soak would do the trick of easing the dark circles that had undoubtedly appeared under his eyes.
Charms the next day was nothing short of torturous. Though Scorpius's eyes followed Al's every movement, Al didn't even notice him – his eyes were on Aiden the entire time. Scorpius could see the poorly concealed hope in them, and it made his hands itch to wring Aiden's neck when he didn't acknowledge Al once throughout the entire double period.
I'd treat you better, he wanted to tell Al. I wouldn't hide anything. I wouldn't lie to you.
But he kept silent and went about Confunding his toad as if he wasn't tempted to do the same to Al and make him forget about Aiden.
As promised, Scorpius gave the completed essay to Al after Charms ended. He tried to wait until everyone was gone so that they could have a moment alone, but Al made a point of leaving with the rest of class and waiting outside in the hallway where everyone could see them.
Al received the essay with a nod, tucked it into his bag, and walked off without another word. Scorpius watched him go, the butterflies in his stomach replaced by a heavy stillness that seemed to numb his entire body.
Simon appeared at his side. "Let's go," he said, taking Scorpius's elbow and steering him in the opposite direction.
"Wait," Scorpius said, halting in the middle of the hallway. Instead of heading to his next class, Al was striding purposely towards Aiden, who was standing a short distance away with a group of his friends. When Aiden looked up and saw Al, an alarmed expression immediately flitted across his face. Scorpius tensed. There was something in the way Aiden drew closer to his friends as Al approached that made warning bells go off in his head.
Scorpius watched as Al stopped in front of Aiden, his arms folded, and said something that Scorpius couldn't hear. Aiden glanced over his shoulder at his friends, all of whom were smirking at him, and then turned back to Al, his eyebrows raised.
"No," he said, his voice carrying over to where Scorpius stood watching. "Haven't a clue what you're talking about."
Then Al did something completely unexpected. Instead of walking away, he grabbed the front of Aiden's robes and, in one swift movement, punched him in the jaw. Swearing loudly, Aiden stumbled backwards into the semi-circle his friends had formed behind him. Several of the students passing by turned to gawk, and Scorpius's jaw dropped.
"Does that mean anything to you?" Al spat. He shook the hand he had used to punch Aiden, as if trying to shake all traces of Aiden off of him.
Aiden bared his teeth, hands clenching into fists at his sides. "Don't you fucking touch me, you dirty shirt lifter!"
Even from a distance, Scorpius immediately recognised the hurt look that crossed Al's face. The little restraint he still possessed shattered. Simon's hand came to rest on his shoulder even as he tugged his wand out of his pocket, but Scorpius shrugged it off without a thought and pushed through the small crowd that had gathered around Al and Aiden.
"Who're you calling a shirt lifter?"
Aiden looked momentarily taken aback, but he quickly recollected himself, his mouth twisting into a sneer. "Potter. Didn't you know he's into cock?"
"As a matter of fact, I did. I also know you're into his."
A resounding silence followed Scorpius's words. All the blood had drained from Aiden's face. "Come again? If I didn't know better, I'd say you just called me –"
"Queer?" Scorpius suggested. His voice trembled from the effort of trying to contain his bubbling fury. "Yeah, you heard right. Judging from the way you were groping him in the bathroom the other day, I'd say I was right on the money, too."
The silence around them thickened and congealed. Scorpius felt Al's eyes on him, but his attention remained fixed on Aiden. He couldn't look away. If the rage that had driven him to this point went away now, he'd be in trouble.
At last Aiden drew himself up to his full, admittedly impressive height. "I'd be careful who you go around accusing of sodomy, Malfoy," he snarled. "I'm a prefect, in case you haven't noticed."
"Oh, I've noticed. To tell you the truth, I expected better behaviour from a prefect, but apparently this school's standards aren't what they used to be. Tell me, Cotton, who'd you have to suck off to get that shiny badge on your chest?"
"Stay the fuck out of this, Al."
Aiden let out a bark of laughter. "Careful, you're going to need your boyfriend's help once I'm through with you." He drew his wand. "I'll destroy you, Malfoy. Don't think I'll hesitate to send you down the same road your filthy grandfather went down. Murdered by his own kind, wasn't he? Shame they didn't get to the rest of your vile family before –"
Aiden fell over backwards, stiff as a board. The students around them broke into excited whispers. Scorpius crouched down beside Aiden and dug his wand into his throat.
"Before what?" he hissed. The wild look of terror in Aiden's eyes filled him with vindictive pleasure. "What, you've got nothing to say? How disappointing. I thought you were going to – what was the term you used? 'Destroy' me, wasn't it?"
He flicked his wand, releasing Aiden's lips from the spell so he could speak.
"Get away from me, fag!" was the first thing Aiden spat out.
Scorpius jabbed his wand harder into Aiden's throat, making Aiden choke. "Watch it, Cotton. You're forgetting that this fag here could finish you off right now if he wanted to. You reckon they'll write that on your gravestone? 'Here lies Aiden Cotton, done in by that Malfoy fag'?"
The spectators had stopped whispering; they backed away, clearly worried Scorpius had finally gone off the deep end. Scorpius felt an insistent hand on his shoulder, but in his fury, in his determination to hurt the bastard at his feet, he shrugged it off easily. This must be how his father had felt, he realised. Judged. Despised. Scorned. All for reasons beyond his control. For his father, it had been his name. For Scorpius, it was more than just his name: it was his very nature.
Scorpius's entire world seemed to freeze. He had admitted it. He had said it out loud. He was fucked.
Scorpius pushed himself to his feet and stumbled backwards.
"Forget it," Scorpius interrupted, striding past Al. He didn't want to hear it. He had screwed things over for Al and Aiden, but even if Al hated him for it, he didn't regret what he'd done. At the moment, however, he needed time to recollect himself.
Simon was waiting just outside the circle of students. Without a word, he slung an arm around Scorpius's shoulders, causing the storm of panic raging inside of Scorpius to subside a little. Together, the two of them walked back to the Ravenclaw Tower. Another common room talk seemed in order.
Scorpius straightened up, snapping out of the stupor he'd fallen into while Slughorn had been describing the uses of gurdyroot in medicinal potions. He glanced over his shoulder, found himself face to face with Al, and immediately turned back to the front, his back stiff and straight.
"Scorpius," Al hissed again, "I need to talk to you. Meet me outside after class."
"Can't," Scorpius mumbled. "Detention."
It wasn't entirely false – after yesterday's incident, Flitwick had cornered him in the Ravenclaw Tower and lectured him for an hour about duelling in the hallways before slapping a weeklong detention on him. Al didn't need to know that Scorpius was allowed to choose which free periods he wanted to spend carrying out his punishment.
"Then come to my room after your classes end. Please. The password's Amortentia."
Scorpius snorted quietly. "You can't be serious."
"I am. It's very Slytherin, isn't it?"
That wasn't exactly how Scorpius would describe it, but he let it drop. "How am I supposed to get in without the other students seeing me?"
"Lower your left hand," Al whispered. Scorpius obeyed, and felt Al press something cool and slippery into it. "Careful, don't let anyone else see."
Scorpius checked to make sure Slughorn wasn't paying attention before lifting the material Al had handed him under the table. It was an Invisibility Cloak. Dumbfounded, Scorpius stuffed it into his bag. "What –?"
"Come," was all Al said.
Scorpius stared apprehensively at the blank stretch of wall that guarded the Slytherin common room. Though he had decided to come after much internal debate, he still wasn't entirely sure if it was a good idea for him to venture into Slytherin territory. For all he knew, they could be eating babies in there.
He glanced down at the Invisibility Cloak in his hands and felt a thrill of excitement travel up his spine. He was holding an actual Invisibility Cloak. If that weren't incredible enough, it was the one-of-a-kind Invisibility Cloak Harry Potter had once owned. His father would turn green with envy if he knew – Scorpius knew he'd been dying to get his hands on the Cloak for some time now.
Father. Scorpius's fingers clenched around the silken material. He had not yet heard from his parents regarding his behaviour the previous day, but the moment when he'd have to face their response couldn't be too far off in the future. Still, he felt very little resentment. For the first time, he thought he understood why his father was so stubborn. He'd only wanted to protect Scorpius.
It hadn't worked, though. Scorpius had resisted his father, and now he knew – he knew what it felt like to be openly regarded as different, as an outsider. He sensed it in the way his housemates averted their eyes when he stepped into the common room. Simon had insisted this was partly because they were still reeling from seeing Scorpius stand up to Aiden, but Scorpius suspected otherwise. Oddly enough, he wasn't bothered. Silence in this case was infinitely preferable to open hostility.
Scorpius took a deep breath, looked around to make sure no one was watching, and then swung the Cloak over his head. It settled around him like water.
"Amortentia," he said.
The stone wall slid aside, revealing a low, dungeon-like common room. To Scorpius's relief, no one was around to see the entrance open of its own accord. Holding the cloak close around him, he stepped through the opening in the wall and hurried down the stone corridor beyond, careful not to attract the attention of students gathered around the fireplace as he passed by.
Either Salazar Slytherin had thought his well-hidden entrance to the common room would do the trick of keeping intruders out, or the Slytherins were even stupider than they made themselves out to be in public, because the layout of the dormitories was surprisingly simple. A corridor split into two just beyond the common room, with the left half leading to the boys' dormitories and the right half leading to the girls'. Each dormitory branched off from these two narrower corridors, and it appeared, as Scorpius began heading down the left one, that they were arranged in chronological order beginning with the first-years and ending with the seventh.
Just as Scorpius passed the fifth-year boys' dormitory, the door ahead of him flew open and three sixth-years he vaguely recognised tumbled out into the corridor. Scorpius's heart lodged itself in his throat. He pressed himself against the wall, but it was no use – as the boys walked by, the nearest one, a short, skinny boy with closely cropped hair, bumped into him.
"What the hell?" he demanded, squinting at a spot just above Scorpius's left shoulder.
His companions stopped. "What's wrong?" said one of them, a tubby blond boy with thick, round glasses.
"I just hit something," said the first boy. He stretched out a hand towards Scorpius, who leaned away, afraid that if he moved he'd make a sound that would confirm his presence. His mind raced. How would his father react when he heard the news? Would he be pleased that Scorpius had met his death at the hands of Slytherins? Would he consider it poetic justice?
The hand never made contact. "Come on, leave it alone," the blond boy complained, grabbing his friend's sleeve and dragging him away. "It's probably the Baron trying to scare us."
Relief swept over Scorpius, so great that his knees bowed under the weight of it and the Invisibility Cloak nearly slipped off of him.
"You sure we shouldn't have asked Al to come along?" asked the short boy as he and his friends walked away. Apparently he was used to being harassed by the House ghost, because his bump into Scorpius seemed to have already slipped his mind.
"Nah, he's still moping over that Ravenclaw prefect. Best to let him alone when he's like this."
"What about Malfoy?"
"Don't ask me. All I know is that Al's been reading all day, so it's got to be a Ravenclaw."
"I don't get it. Why does he keep going after Ravenclaws when half the girls in our House are dying to spread their legs for him?"
"Dunno. I asked him, but he just gave me his 'fuck off' look."
"Eh, that's Al for you."
Their voices trailed off as they disappeared down the corridor. Scorpius clutched the cloak tightly between his sweaty fingers. So Al still wanted Aiden, even after all that had happened. No wonder he'd invited Scorpius into the snake pit; he must really have wanted Scorpius to suffer.
Scorpius set his jaw. He would have to try that much harder to change Al's mind, then. Straightening the Invisibility Cloak, he approached the sixth-year boys' dormitory and peeked inside. Al was lying on his stomach on the nearest bed, a comic open in front of him. Another boy stood nearby, pulling on his cloak.
Scorpius tiptoed over to Al's bed. Closer inspection revealed that the comic – The Astounding Adventures of Alvin the Ambitious Auror – was open to the publisher's page and Al was staring blankly into space.
"I'm here," Scorpius murmured into Al's ear.
Al jumped. His roommate looked over. "You all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." Al's eyes flicked over in Scorpius's direction. "Um, when're you leaving, Daphnis?"
"Right now," Daphnis answered as he pulled on a pair of leather gloves. "Later, Al."
He left the room, passing within an inch of Scorpius. Once the door closed behind him, Scorpius swung off the Cloak and dropped it on Al's bed. "Sorry for scaring you," he said gruffly.
"No worries. You can sit down if you want."
Scorpius sat down on the end of Al's bed.
"Did you get in fine? It wasn't too hard, right?"
"Yeah. What's with the password?"
"It's probably referring to the controlling nature of love. You know, since Amortentia puts you under someone else's power. That's what I meant earlier about it being a Slytherin thing." Al grimaced. "Magic can be cruel sometimes."
So can reality.
Scorpius took a deep breath. "Look," he said to the ground, "I know you probably hate me after what happened, but... I don't care. I don't care if I'm just another person on your fuck list. Do whatever you want with me; I'm yours."
He ended, thoroughly flustered. The speech he'd prepared had been considerably longer; he had meant to say more, to tell Al exactly how he felt and list all the reasons why Aiden was wrong for him, but the words had somehow got ahead of themselves, tumbling out before he could organise them into something more coherent.
When Al didn't respond, Scorpius peeked up through his fringe. The other boy looked flummoxed. "Scorpius, what the hell are you going on about? What fuck list?"
"I saw a list of names in your notebook," Scorpius mumbled. "I – shit, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to look, but I was curious. The names were all I saw, I swear. I assumed – Simon told me it was probably a list of people you wanted to sleep with."
Again, Al was quiet for a very long time. Scorpius stood up. "I'll show myself out," he said.
"Wait." The corners of Al's lips twitched. "There's no need to be so dramatic. The list you saw is a list of the top ten students in our year. A friend of mine broke into the school's records at the end of last year and found the student rankings. My housemates aren't very bright, so I wrote the top ten down in case I ever needed help on exams."
Scorpius groaned. He was going to murder Simon with his bare hands. "Why'd you get so shirty with me when you thought I read it, then?"
"It's just... I've got some private stuff in there," Al mumbled, turning pink. He shook his head. "The notebook's not what I wanted to talk about. What you did on Monday was pretty brave. Thanks. I didn't know you had it in you."
"Yeah, well, someone had to put Cotton in his place." Scorpius sat back down. "Why him, Al? You could've had anyone else, but you stuck with him. I don't get it. Rose told me you always go after the things you want. Why didn't you find someone better?"
Al's features contorted in bitterness. "How could I? I know everyone around me doesn't approve of my sexuality. It's fine for me to be open about it because I've got Dad behind me, but there comes a point when I just can't push people's tolerance anymore. I can't force anyone to accept me. I-I can't force anyone to be with me; it's not fair."
"You could've just dated girls," Scorpius said quietly.
"You think I didn't consider that, Scorpius? God, you have no idea how many times I wished I could just stop giving a fuck about men after all the one-night stands and ignored letters. The sex was great, but once I started wanting emotional attachment, they bolted. It was all a stupid sodding game to them. Even Teddy..."
"Teddy? Isn't he your cousin?"
"I told you before, he's not my cousin. He's my dad's godson."
"You had sex with him?" Scorpius demanded, scandalised.
"Can you shut up for one second, Scorpius? I only had a bit of a crush on him. One day – I think it was two summers back – I was watching him play Quidditch in the yard with my dad. He was shirtless and sweaty, and he..." Al's eyes glazed over, as if he could see that very scene revisited in his mind's eye, "...he was bloody gorgeous. I wouldn't have looked away from him for all the gold in the world. I mean, I'd always admired and liked Teddy, but that was the day I realised I wanted him, too. When he came back inside..."
Scorpius clenched his fists. "When he came back inside?" he prompted, desperate to hear the rest even though he felt slightly nauseous.
"Nothing. Nothing came of it. I cornered him, but he laughed it off. Said I was only curious and he wasn't going to betray my dad's trust by besmirching my virtue or some rubbish like that. Then he walked away as if nothing had happened. Needless to say, my virtue didn't stay intact for very long after that."
Al closed his eyes, and for one trembling second, Scorpius thought he caught a glimpse of what he'd been waiting for Al to reveal: vulnerability. He didn't feel nearly as triumphant as he had thought he would.
"When I started going out with Weina, I thought I'd finally set things right. But the more I tried to be a good boyfriend, the harder it was to stay with her. You... when you started talking to me, and I saw the way you looked at me, I couldn't stand it. You reminded me of all the reasons why I kept going back to blokes."
The raw emotion in Al's voice made Scorpius shiver. "Um," he choked out past the lump in his throat, "but you... you stopped speaking to me."
"Didn't I just explain? I wasn't going to force you into anything. I didn't want to scare you off. Besides, I thought you were another one of the Aidens in this world, leading me on and then balking at the first sight of something meaningful." Al tilted his head back and smiled at Scorpius. "Then I saw what you wrote."
"What I wrote?"
"The Chinese characters on the back of our Potions assignment."
Scorpius's heart sunk to the ground. He frantically ran through memories of the night he and Simon had talked in the common room. He had taken the parchment upstairs with him, and then... he must have mistaken it for a page from the essay and included it in the final assignment.
"How did you figure out what they said?"
Al rolled his eyes. "My ex-girlfriend's half-Chinese, remember? It's not like we don't talk anymore. I saw what you wrote and asked her to translate it for me."
"So you –?"
"I like you. Sometimes I wish I could tell you that, even though I still don't completely understand how I feel."
"Stop," Scorpius groaned, mortified. He was never going to live this down.
"Why?" Al continued, his tone softening as he recited the next few lines. "What draws you to him? No matter how much he hurts you, he's still the only one you see." He moved closer to Scorpius. "Chinese, huh?"
"Those words were for my eyes only!" Scorpius insisted. He should have known the message would find its way into Al's hands somehow. After all, Al seemed to take pleasure in unearthing the secrets he went to the greatest lengths to bury away – except that he hadn't made much of an effort this time, had he? He had kept the parchment instead of tossing it into the fire when he had the chance to. Perhaps he had wanted Al to find out, after all.
"I gathered as much. To tell you the truth, Weina's translation was the last thing I expected. I figured the message was your way of telling me to sod off without being too explicit. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a love confession."
Scorpius turned red. "Leave off. I'm not usually that..."
"Eloquent?" Laughing, Al twined his fingers in Scorpius's hair and turned his head so that they were facing each other. "For the record, he wasn't the only one I saw," he whispered, and the next thing Scorpius knew, Al's lips were on his, and his indignation died a quick and painless death.
Scorpius gripped Al's collar and returned the kiss eagerly, pouring into it all of the frustration, regret, and pent-up desire that had led him to this point. He mimicked everything he remembered Al doing the last time they had kissed, determined to make Al forget everyone he had ever been intimate with. When they broke apart, Al was flushed and breathing hard.
"You've impressed me yet again, Scorpius. Who would've thought you could kiss like that?" Grinning, Scorpius removed his glasses and placed them on the bedside table before turning around fully and nuzzling the crook of Al's neck and shoulder. His breathing accelerated as Al's hands slid down his sides, pushing his robes off his shoulders and freeing his shirttails. "Are you sure about this?" Al asked when Scorpius made no move to stop him.
Scorpius inhaled, letting Al's familiar scent soothe his nerves, wound so tight they were fit to snap. "Yeah," he mumbled against Al's collarbone. "I... just go easy on me, all right? No overly kinky stuff."
"I'll try," Al said, planting one last quick kiss on Scorpius's lips before setting to work on the buttons of his shirt. Scorpius hoped Al couldn't feel his heart pounding furiously against his ribcage. He was going to have sex. With a bloke. With Al. Everything was moving so fast, spinning out of his control, but for once, he didn't mind. He wanted to get carried away, to let go, to experience this moment without any restraints. With Rose, everything had felt so stilted and uncertain: what to say, what to do, should I kiss her now. But here and now, with Al, thinking was an unnecessary hindrance. He wanted to feel.
Scorpius reached up to loosen his tie as Al tugged his shirt off, but Al knocked his hand away. "No, leave this on."
"Why?" Scorpius said, bemused. "You have a thing for ties?"
"Just Ravenclaw ones," Al said, hooking a finger under the loop of the tie as he deftly undid the buttons on Scorpius's trousers with his other hand.
Scorpius opened his mouth to reply, but Al's fingers grazed his erection, and he cut himself off with a gasp. He arched into Al's touch, desperate for more contact, and Al complied. Scorpius clenched his teeth, trying to hold back a moan. No one had ever touched him down there, and he couldn't help wondering what the bloody hell he'd been waiting for, because this felt fucking brilliant.
"No," he protested hoarsely when Al pulled his hand away. "No, keep going."
Al shook his head and kissed him. "I want to be in you," he murmured against Scorpius's lips. Scorpius's heart leapt into his throat. "Is that all right?"
"I-I don't know." Scorpius's brain provided him with a mental image of himself lying on his back as Al thrust into him. Despite the fresh wave of arousal that surged through him at the thought, the idea of being fucked was slightly frightening. Slowly, he shook his head. "Not now," he croaked.
He expected Al to frown and push him away, but instead, Al smiled and nodded. "Okay."
Scorpius barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief before Al lowered himself onto his stomach, bringing his mouth level with Scorpius's groin. With a jolt, Scorpius realised what Al was about to do. "Wait –"
Al's mouth closed around his cock, and whatever words Scorpius had been about to say were drowned by a low moan that tore from his throat. "Sweet Merlin," he gasped, his hands flying down to grab at handfuls of Al's hair.
Al worked his head up and down, his eyes fixed on Scorpius's the entire time, and there was no way Scorpius could close his eyes now, not even if he wanted to. He was drowning in those green irises, in the intense pressure building in his abdomen, and in no time, he was coming down Al's throat, whimpering as – oh God – Al swallowed around him.
"I'm sorry," he blurted out once he had regained his breath.
Al sat up and licked his lips. "What're you sorry for?" he said, the rasp in his voice colouring Scorpius's cheeks. Al smirked. "Have I mentioned that seeing you blush turns me on?"
It was then that Scorpius noticed that Al was pulling himself off with quick, short strokes, jeans around his knees and free hand splayed out on the bed behind him. Scorpius's breath caught in his throat. Without thinking, he swatted Al's hand aside, replacing it with his own. He gave a tentative stroke, and then another when Al nodded his encouragement. It felt odd – like wanking himself, except not, because Al's cock felt different in his hand.
"Faster," Al choked out, thrusting into the circle of Scorpius's hand. Scorpius obeyed, tightening his grip and quickening his hand movements. He delighted in the way Al moaned and threw his head back, exposing the pale curve of his throat. Leaning down, Scorpius trailed his lips up Al's throat before capturing Al's lips in his own. He grimaced at the bitter taste on Al's lips, wondering what was so appealing about giving blowjobs.
Scorpius felt a surge of smug pride when Al came silently, biting his lip and screwing his eyes shut as his release coated Scorpius's fingers. Scorpius drew back and wiped his fingers on Al's sheets.
"God," Al panted, leaning back on his elbows. He levelled Scorpius with a heavy-lidded look and grinned lazily. "Thanks."
"No problem," Scorpius said awkwardly. What did one usually say after sex? Was he supposed to leave or stay now? "Er..."
As if he could read Scorpius's mind, Al grabbed the end of Scorpius's tie and tugged him down. "Stay," he whispered.
So Scorpius did.
"C'mon, Scorpius, you've got to eat something."
Scorpius turned away from the forkful of scrambled eggs Simon was waving in his face, trying to block out the nauseating smell radiating from it. "No thanks." He never ate before a Quidditch game, no matter how persistent Simon was about getting food into his mouth. Breakfast and a churning stomach didn't go well together.
"Why?" Simon whined. "Dad says Mr Potter always gave his best performances when he'd eaten a hearty breakfast beforehand."
"I don't care. I'm not eating."
Scorpius tugged at his hair, wondering if he should pin it back. It was getting long, and he didn't want it obscuring his vision while he was flying. He decided against the idea, and resumed fiddling with the straps on his knee-high boots. He always put on his Quidditch gear before coming down to breakfast on game days – it gave him time for a quick walk around the grounds to calm his nerves before he had to go into the locker room and listen to his captain – a loud, enthusiastic seventh-year named Ron Lawley – go over any last minute changes to their game plan.
"Please?" Simon pleaded, this time shoving a piece of buttered toast at Scorpius. "You'll need your energy to beat your boyfriend today."
"He's not my boyfriend, idiot. Besides, it's not like he's particularly hard to beat. Trust me, I'll knock him off his broom two seconds into the game."
"In that case, you'll need your energy for the make-up sex you two will have in the locker room after the game's over."
Scorpius buried his face in his hands. "You're incorrigible."
The sound of the morning post arriving made Scorpius look up. He felt a massive knot of dread form and settle in the pit of his stomach, effectively squashing the fluttering nerves that had previously occupied the same space. A few days had passed since the incident in the hallway – his father must have heard about the duel and had time to compose an adequate reply by now.
Simon noticed the Howler first. "Ah... that's unfortunate," he said, scooting away from Scorpius. Everyone else nearby followed suit.
"Why today?" Scorpius groaned. He became aware of an ominous silence in the Great Hall as all eyes turned towards the red envelope making its way to Scorpius.
They didn't have to wait long. Less than a second later, the Howler exploded.
"SCORPIUS HYPERION MALFOY!" shrieked his father's voice.
"Not the middle name," Scorpius heard Simon mutter. Scorpius slouched low in his seat and hoped fervently that his father would finish saying what he had to say before the game started.
"...CONDUCTED YOURSELF IN SUCH A MANNER THAT YOUR FACE IS NOW ON THE FRONT PAGE OF EVERY WIZARDING NEWSPAPER, YOUR MOTHER AND I FEEL THAT SUBTLETY IN HANDLING THIS UNFORTUNATE SITUATION WOULD BE LOST ON YOU. AS SUCH, YOU WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE UNABASHED DELCARATION OF OUR FEELINGS IN THE SAME WAY WE HAD TO DEAL WITH YOURS WHEN WE WOKE UP AND SAW THE HEADLINES OF THE DAILY PROPHET. WE CAN ONLY HOPE THAT YOU WILL LEARN A LESSON ABOUT THE REPERCUSSIONS OF BEHAVING IN SUCH AN UNDIGNIFIED MANNER AND..."
All around Scorpius, students were crowding around those who had copies of the day's Daily Prophet. Scorpius had sunk so low in his seat that his face was level with the edge of the table.
"...BRAWLING IN PUBLIC? I WOULD HAVE EXPECTED SUCH UNSEEMLY BEHAVIOUR FROM THE LONGBOTTOM BOY, NOT MY OWN SON! HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU THAT RESTRAINT IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS? A TRUE MAN DOES NOT ALLOW HIS EMOTIONS TO CONTROL – GO BACK TO PACKING, ASTORIA, I'M NOT FINISHED –
"SCORPIUS? SCORPIUS, THIS IS YOUR MOTHER. I APOLOGISE FOR YOUR FATHER'S LACK OF CONSIDERATION. IF THAT AIDEN COTTON BOY IS AROUND, MAKE SURE HE HEARS THIS..."
Scorpius glanced around wildly, but to his relief, Aiden was nowhere to be seen.
"...WON'T STAND FOR IT. YOUR MOTHER AND I ARE GOOD FRIENDS, AND SHE IS EQUALLY APPALLED BY YOUR DISGUSTING INTOLERANCE. BISEXUAL OR NOT, MY SON IS A FINE YOUNG MAN. HE DOES NOT DESERVE YOUR HALF-BLOOD INSULTS. IF YOU EVER UTTER ANOTHER SLANDEROUS WORD ABOUT HIM, REST ASSURED THAT I WILL KNOW. THERE IS NOTHING SHAMEFUL ABOUT TWO MEN IN LOVE; THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE BEEN RAISED BY MUGGLES OUGHT TO KNOW THAT. WHY, MY GREAT GRANDFATHER MADE A LIVING OFF OF –
"SHUT UP, WOMAN, THIS IS ABOUT SCORPIUS –
"I'M SORRY, SCORPIUS, IT APPEARS YOUR FATHER HAS SOMETHING TO SAY –
"SCORPIUS, IT'S YOUR FATHER. AS I WAS SAYING BEFORE YOUR MOTHER RUDELY INTERRUPTED ME, YOU MIGHT BE UNDER THE IMPRESSION THAT I'M VERY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU. 'DISAPPOINTED' IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT. HOWEVER, I WOULD ALSO LIKE YOU TO KNOW THAT... I, ER, STAND BY WHAT I SAID. I STILL SUPPORT YOU. YOUR MOTHER AND I ARE PROUD OF YOU FOR, ER, FINALLY DEFENDING WHAT MATTERS TO YOU. THAT – THAT'S ALL."
The Howler burst into flames. Face burning hotter than the smouldering letter, Scorpius hauled himself into an upright position and cleared his throat. Before he could say anything to the crowd of students and professors waiting for his reaction, however, someone else spoke up.
"I can't believe you!"
All eyes swivelled over to the Slytherin table. Lily Potter had stormed over and now loomed over Al, one hand on her hip and the other clutching a long, white scarf.
"You knew I liked him!" she wailed, the scarf flying around in the air as she made angry hand gestures. "Why are you always stealing my things?"
Several titters rose from the crowd of onlookers. Across the Great Hall, Scorpius tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible. As tempting as it was to go over to the Slytherin table and point out that he wasn't a thing, much less a thing that belonged to Lily, he had a feeling it would be wiser to shrink into the background and let the Potter children duke it out.
"Shut up, Lily," Al said tiredly. He shovelled hash browns into his mouth, apparently unimpressed with the drama unfolding around him. "Scorpius doesn't like you. Go find someone else."
"Fine!" Lily balled up the scarf and threw it at her brother. "You can keep your stupid scarf. I didn't need it anyway!"
Scorpius couldn't resist sneaking a peek at the Gryffindor table. James Potter looked quite beyond himself. His friends were all patting him sympathetically on the back while he opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water.
This, thought Scorpius, is the most bizarre morning of my life.
Eventually the Heads of House came down to restore order, and breakfast resumed as usual. Scorpius had to endure Simon's taunts throughout, and at one point Rose came up to congratulate him on finally getting over her, but otherwise, the rest of the Ravenclaw table continued to ignore him.
Not soon enough, breakfast was over, and Scorpius set off for his traditional walk around the grounds. Al joined him as he stepped through the double doors into the cold, crisp morning.
"That was interesting," Al remarked, taking a bite from the apple he'd brought out with him.
"You could say that," Scorpius agreed. "What was up with your sister? Why'd she throw that scarf at you?"
"I bought it for her at Diagon Alley over the hols. She's always wearing low-cut tops, so I figured I should get her something to keep her warm during the winter before she catches pneumonia."
Realisation dawned upon Scorpius. "Wait... so you're saying the person you mentioned in that Daily Prophet article was your sister?"
"Oh, you read that rubbish?" Al bit off one last chunk of apple before tossing the core away. "Yeah, that was her. I figured I'd have a bit of fun and pander to the reporters for once. They ate it up."
"So did the rest of the world," Scorpius said, feeling somewhat resentful. He had been worrying over nothing.
"I'm assuming you're not going to your locker room right now," Al said, gesturing at Scorpius's attire. "You look great, by the way."
Scorpius blushed. "Thanks, but complimenting me right now won't help you later."
"I'm serious!" Al protested. "Speaking of the game, you still sure you don't want to bet on it?"
It took Scorpius a moment to remember what Al was referring to. "I already told you, I don't need a bet to prove I'm better than your Beaters."
"What if I said the winner..."
Al leaned in and whispered something into Scorpius's ear. Scorpius turned red.
"I'm not interested in your bribes!"
"Oh?" Al nodded at Scorpius's crotch, which his Quidditch gear, unfortunately, did not conceal as well as his school robes. "It looks like that part of you is interested."
"I hate you."
Al laughed, and warmth swelled in Scorpius's chest. He had come to cherish the simple joy in these moments, when the only person he saw was the one right in front of him, and nothing else mattered.
"Good luck, then," Al said as they approached the point where they would part ways.
"Wait, before you go, let me have the scarf."
Al stopped in his tracks. "Why? I can buy you a better one."
"You prat, I don't need you to buy me anything. I'm going to return it to Lily."
"You don't need to –"
"I want to," Scorpius said firmly, though in truth, he wasn't thrilled at the prospect of confronting Lily in private. "Someone needs to talk to her. If you're not going to do it, I will."
Al's expression softened. "All right."
He handed over the scarf. Scorpius took it and tucked it away safely into his pocket. When he glanced back up, Al had taken a step forwards. He looked uncertain.
"Sorry, do you mind if I...?"
Al's hesitation undid Scorpius. He slid an arm around Al's waist and tugged him into a kiss, not caring if all of Hogwarts was watching from the castle.
"Kiss me whenever you want," he said when he released Al.
Al's eyes glowed in the bright sunlight. "You're going to regret saying that."
"I'll be the judge of that," Scorpius said, smiling. "See you on the pitch, Al."
He watched until Al disappeared around the castle, then glanced up to check the flying conditions. The sun was out, but it was cloudy enough that he'd be able to see the other players without any trouble. Pleased, Scorpius set off in the direction of the lake.
It was going to be a good game.