November 21, 2027 - Diagon Alley, Match Me Office
The blond reporter stood on the threshold of the office for a moment, stunned by the copious amounts of pink hearts and red roses and other sappy things strewn everywhere. It reminded him of fumbling visits to Madam Puddifoot's with his Hogwarts girlfriends. A tinkle rang through the room as he entered and he was wondering if he was even in the right place when the man he was to interview popped his head through a door off to the side of the room.
"Avarick Bagman!" Albus Severus Potter was as friendly and outgoing as Rick remembered from school. "It's so nice to see you! Please, come in, come in. The real office is this way." He waved Rick over to the doorway he was standing in and then ushered him through to the room beyond. It was far less disturbing than the room Rick had just been in, and he was glad to see that the only pink in the room was the background on Albus's name tag.
He sat in the chair that Albus pointed out to him and waited as Albus poured milk and then tea into a cup for him. "Sugar, Avarick?"
"No, thank you, Mr. Potter. And I go by Rick now." He accepted the tea with a thank you and placed it on the desk before him in favour of pulling out a quill and a piece of parchment. "Do you want to begin the interview now?"
"No, no, let's talk for a bit first. And do call me Al. It's so uncomfortable to have one of my Slytherin 'elders' call me by my last name." Albus settled himself into the chair next to Rick, instead of across the desk from him as one would expect. Rick found himself thinking of Al less as a successful businessman and more as the young boy he had been when Rick had last seen him. They had been four years apart at Hogwarts, and their paths had rarely crossed, but they had both been Slytherins, along with Al's business partner, Scorpius Malfoy. Al had been a rambunctious third year, always getting into trouble and then worming his way out of it with a bright smile or a few well-placed words.
Rick shook off the memories and tried to regain control of the conversation. "How have you and Mr. Malfoy been? I can hardly connect you with the scrawny little boys you used to be."
Al laughed gently. "Well, I'm not scrawny anymore, but Scorpius actually hasn't gained much in the way of height. You should see the muscles he has now. Merlin, the boy is a natural at Quidditch. I tried to get him to take it up as a career, but he wanted to join me here instead. He still plays pickup games on Saturdays though."
Rick's hands itched to grab the quill that rested on his lap. "Please, Mr. Potter, Al, may I start the interview?"
Al frowned but nodded in acquiescence. "All right, but I do want to lay down a few ground rules. First of all, no using an enchanted quill of any kind. Any dictation must be an exact transcription of my words. I also want to review the article before it is published." He pulled a sheet of parchment across the desk. "And I'll need you to sign this contract saying that you agree to this."
Rick read over the contract and found it was exactly what Al had just said. He signed it with a sigh. "I see my mother's reputation precedes me."
"Believe me, I understand. Being the son of the 'Great Harry Potter' doesn't come without its problems. However, you are correct; Rita's reputation does affect you." Rick sighed and nodded. It was true that his mother wasn't exactly an angel, and it had been a struggle to get to where he was in his career because of the impressions she had left on people. "I will, however, let you interview me with next to no restriction on what kind of questions you ask because no one deserves to be condemned because of their parents' mistakes."
Rick smiled at him, grateful to know that he wasn't being completely judged by his parents' actions. "Let's get started then. First, why on Earth is your office so pink? You cater to both men and women; wouldn't the colour scheme turn the men away?"
"When people come to a matchmaker's office they expect to see hearts and flowers and all kinds of Valentine's Day themed things." He leaned forward conspiratorially, giving Rick the impression he was about to be let in on some huge secret. "But, you know, I really hate pink."
Rick let out a sharp bark of laughter. "How can you stand working here then?"
"Oh, I usually stay here in the blue office," he said, gesturing to the robin's egg blue walls, "and Scorpius works the front desk. The blue helps calm our clients down so that we can work out exactly what they are looking for in a partner."
"Mr. Malfoy is the secretary then?"
"Merlin, no! And don't let him hear you call him that! Our business isn't so busy that we need to interview more than one client at a time, so I usually interview the female customers and Scorpius interviews the male customers. We discovered a long time ago that things worked a lot smoother that way. I seem to put the women more at ease and Scorpius is better at identifying what the men are after. Unfortunately, we do have more female than male clients at this time, so I simply end up using this office more often."
Rick nodded, and scribbled that down on his parchment. A quick glance over the questions he still had left to ask prompted him to get back on track. "Well then, Al, now that I know a little bit about some of your current business practices, tell me more about how you got into this business. Matchmaking is normally something nosy, old aunts do, not young men fresh out of Hogwarts."
"You wouldn't remember, would you? It started back when Scorpius and I were fourth years, the year after you finished Hogwarts." He jostled the tea cup he was holding slightly as he set it on the desk, obviously settling in for a long story. "There was a kid named Lucas in our dorm room..."
September 12, 2020 - Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Al nudged Scorpius in the side with his elbow. "Look at Lucas!" he hissed.
Scorpius rubbed his ribcage and glowered at Al. "What about him?"
"He's staring at Topaz again! Do you think he has a crush on her?" Al leaned sideways in his seat so that he could see around a Hufflepuff to where Lucas sat, getting in Scorpius's way in the process.
"Does it really matter?" He shoved Al away from his notes, intent on copying down Binns's lecture on the spread of vampirism in the early 1400's. "It's not like you're competing for her hand."
"But..." Al frowned. "They aren't right for each other."
Scorpius looked up and examined the two of them. Al waited anxiously to see what he would say.
"They match well."
"They are so different though. Lucas is shy and unassuming and Topaz is one of the most popular girls in our year. Plus, she's a Hufflepuff and he's a Slytherin." Al reached over and snatched Scorpius's quill from his hand. "Pay attention to me! You know this is the same lecture we heard last year, and you still have your notes from then."
Scorpius yanked his quill back. "No talking during class, Mr. Potter."
They shared a glare before both of them broke down into laughter. "As if Binns would even notice the roof falling in on him. I heard he kept lecturing right through the attack on Hogwarts during Voldemort War II."
"I can imagine that. Now, since we are on the subject of history anyway, can I please go back to the lecture?"
Al stuck out his lower lip and grabbed Scorpius's hand. "No! You have to help me set up Lucas and Topaz with the proper people. They'll never get along well enough to stick together, and I don't want either of them to get hurt. Lucas was my first friend before we started getting along, remember?"
"Fine." Scorpius rolled up his notes and placed the parchment back into his bag, pulling out a small bound book of blank paper. "We're going to do it scientifically though. First, let's list all of the students in our year, as well as the year above us and the year below us."
Scorpius pushed the book over to him. "Now, you write down the third years and I'll name all of us fourth years. And don't just write down Slytherins and Hufflepuffs either. We are allowed to date outside of our houses."
It took them the rest of History of Magic and part of lunch to finish the list. That was when they began to determine the criteria that made people perfect for each other.
"Well, what about the saying 'opposites attract?' Do we want to consider that?" Scorpius tilted his head to the side as he waited for Al's answer.
"I don't know. I don't think opposites like Jennifer and Matthew would work at all because she's so sarcastic and he's far too literal. But people need to have enough contrast between themselves and their date that it doesn't feel like they are dating themselves."
Scorpius hummed for a moment and then brought up another criterion. "Are we going to use blood status as a determining factor?"
Shaking his head Al marked down "blood status" in the middle column of the criteria sheet. "It should only be a criterion if one of the people has a prejudice against a group. I would never match up Leo Nott with a Muggleborn, for example."
"Can you come up with any more criteria then?" Scorpius waited for Al to contemplate what they had already written down.
They grinned at each other. "Let the matching begin!"
Al threw the book at Scorpius. "Fine then! Who would you match her up with?"
Scorpius caught the book and opened it to the list of students. Thumbing through the pages, he paused on the fifth year Gryffindors. "Zack Sloper."
Throwing himself onto Scorpius's bed, Al grabbed the book from his hands. "Hmm. Maybe you're right. He's outgoing too, and he plays Quidditch. Topaz doesn't play Quidditch, but she likes athletic boys and she really likes exotic boys."
"Yes, Zack's part Asian. Plus, they both adore Potions."
"But then what about Lucas? He really seems to like Topaz." Al worried at his bottom lip with his teeth. "Do you really think he'll be okay with her dating someone else?"
"Of course not." Scorpius stretched out next to Al, pulling the book away from him. "At least, he won't be okay until we tell him Serenity MacMillan likes him."
"Wait, Lily's best friend? She's only a second year! She likes him?" A look of horror grew on Al's face. "You mean Lily likes boys already?"
"Were you, or were you not, noticing girls' tits by the time you were a second year?" Scorpius offered him a sly grin.
"No!" Al grimaced. "I don't notice those now. Why... do you?"
Scorpius smirked. "Yes, and I can tell you that I was noticing them as a second year. I can promise you that almost all of the girls at Hogwarts have been scoping out blokes since their very first Sorting Feast."
"Really? Girls are so strange."
He ignored Scorpius's murmur of "You're strange too, you know."
"Does Serenity really like Lucas? She's a Gryffindor!"
Scorpius poked Al in the stomach, laughing when it made him giggle. "No, but they are really similar, regardless of house loyalties. Which we decided weren't going to affect our decisions."
Al coloured slightly. "Right. Still... how is this supposed to work if neither of them likes each other?"
"They are both so shy and gentle that if we tell them that they like each other, they'll start dancing around each other. If all goes well, the dance will end in them dating."
Al cuddled up next to Scorpius, pouting when he was pushed away. Scorpius hadn't let him cuddle since they were second years, something about "growing up" and it not being "right" anymore. "How do we know he won't decide he hates her? Or vice-versa?"
Scorpius pulled even farther away from Al, standing up and walking over to the door. "We don't. Now come on; it's dinner time, and we can set the plan into action."
Grumbling, Al stood and followed him. "You don't care about the plan. You just want to eat. I swear, your stomach rules your brain."
"Shut your gob, ankle-biter." Scorpius ruffled his hair, grinning down at Al's glare.
"You can't call me an ankle-biter; I'm not that much shorter than you are. Plus, I'm older than you are, thank you very much!"
"Uh-huh. Do you think we are having shepherd's pie for dinner tonight? Mother refuses to serve it at the Manor, even though she knows it's my favourite." Scorpius pulled Al down the hallway by his robe sleeve when he started to dawdle. "I think we need to tell Serenity about Lucas first, that way she'll already be casting him funny looks when he starts looking at her."
Al nodded. "Then we need to arrange for Zack and Topaz to meet for lunch at Puddifoot's after Lucas and Serenity get used to each other. When Zack and Topaz get together she'll be there to comfort him."
"You're catching on." Scorpius almost ran the last few feet to the Great Hall. "Yum, I smell bangers and mash. That's almost as good as shepherd's pie!"
Al snatched at him and managed to grab the back of his robe. "Hold on!" he hissed. "Don't let your appetite distract you! We still have to put on the plan."
"I was just going to grab a banger or two..." Scorpius looked pitifully towards the Slytherin table.
Rolling his eyes, Al headed over to his sister. "There are bangers at the Gryffindor table too, dickhead." Knowing how the insult would irritate Scorpius, Al waited four and a half seconds, and then moved to the left. Scorpius's fist smashed through empty air where his head had once been. "Come on then, mate, give it up."
Scorpius shouldered past him and Al was worried he had truly offended him. Then Scorpius turned around and stuck his tongue out before he raced off to the Gryffindor table and its bountiful bangers.
It only took them a few minutes to convince Lily and Serenity that Lucas really did have a crush on her and even less time to convince Lucas that Serenity liked him. After that everything happened just as they planned.
November 21, 2027 - Diagon Alley, Match Me Office
"So, you see, we never consciously decided to become matchmakers. We just did such a good job matching up those two couples that we decided to match up a few more friends." Al smiled lightly, reaching out for his teacup. "And once we had matched up a lot of our friends, we had people start coming up to us and offering to pay us if we found them a boyfriend or girlfriend."
Rick scribbled down the last few words of Al's story. "Is that really all there was to it?" Al nodded and sipped on his tea. "Why did you decide to help Lucas find a girlfriend again?"
"Well, like I mentioned, he was one of my first friends at Hogwarts. I hadn't expected to be sorted into Slytherin, and I hated being there at first, but he helped me open up."
Snickering lightly, Rick wrote that down as well. "You were a bit of a frightened mouse at first. I don't think you talked to me once in the three years we were in Slytherin together."
"Yes, I was, and still am, a bit shy. Scorpius helped me overcome that though, when he forced me to be his friend."
That was something Rick had never heard before. "He forced you to be his friend?"
"Oh, yes! My father and mother," he motioned to a family picture on the desk, "didn't care who I became friends with, but James and my Uncle Ron both told me they would be upset with me if I befriended a Malfoy."
"How did that lead to Scorpius making the two of you become friends?"
Al swirled the tea in his cup lightly, drinking a large swallow and grimacing. "I do dislike when tea's gone cold." He waved his wand over the cup, murmuring a heating charm. He took another sip and sighed contentedly. "Much better. Scorpius had no qualms about approaching me to become friends. For some reason he decided he liked me."
Rick was tempted to watch the tea cup when Al swirled it, but he focused on Al's words as best as he could. "When I told him I wasn't allowed to be friends, he continued to treat me like I was a friend: inviting me to hang out with him, sharing his treats from home with me, and even helping me study. Eventually it got to the point where we were acting like friends all of the time, though I still refused to call him anything more than an acquaintance."
"What changed that?"
"It was actually Lucas. He ended up becoming best mates with one of the other Slytherin boys when they got paired up in Herbology. He never abandoned me, but I realised we weren't close anymore. I thought I would be lonely." He chuckled. "I was in a right funk until Scorpius swooped down on me and told me we were playing a joke on Professor Zeller. It was the most fun I had that year, even if we both got detention with Filch for it! Scorpius helped me realise that I wasn't alone."
Rick nodded and noted it on his parchment. Then he leaned towards Al, hoping to weasel out some more interesting information. "You and Mr. Malfoy are still friends, of course. There have been rumours that maybe there's more than friendship to your relationship."
Al crushed his inquiry with a few hearty laughs. "Goodness! Who would have imagined people would gossip about us? It's the truth though."
Feeling sore that he had not had to wring the information out of Al, Rick asked tersely, "How close are you?"
Al winked. "Our apartment is across the street from the office here. It's a tiny flat... and there's only one bed in the bedroom."
Blushing, Rick soldiered on with his questions. "Well, does having a boyfriend--"
"Lover." Al smirked gently, the corner of his mouth curling up. "Scorpius is far too prickly for me to give him such a cuddly term as boyfriend."
"Alright then, does having a male lover affect your business at all? I would think it would make women and straight men feel like you wouldn't comprehend a heterosexual relationship."
Al drank the last of his tea, but continued to hold the cup, playing with it."That's another reason why Scorpius is the one who interviews the men. He's not actually gay. He sometimes even refuses to call himself bisexual. Before we started going out, he dated girls; I'm the only man he's ever been sexually attracted to." Al smiled lightly, but Rick could see he wasn't really happy. There was probably a story behind that smile...
"What about you then? Do you play for both teams?"
Al's shudder was obvious. "No. I never have and I can't imagine I ever will. Women are lovely creatures, really, but they turn me on about as much as a Flobberworm does."
Rick rechecked something he had written earlier. "You mentioned you were the person who interviewed the women. Isn't it hard to understand them if you can't think of them in a sexual light?"
"I can think of them as sexual beings, in the same way that one knows that their parents have sex. I just can't imagine myself having sex with them." Al set down his now empty tea cup. "It's actually quite useful. Women are embarrassed by discussing sex with a straight man who they feel will respond to them sexually. They are also uncomfortable talking to a woman who may judge them based on their answers. Talking to a gay man is the best of both worlds. Women recognise that we men are going to be more comfortable with sex and less judging than a woman. They also recognise that I won't try to come on to them if they say something that may be seen as provocative."
Rick could see the sense in that. "Are a lot of the questions you ask in your interviews about sex?"
Al shrugged. "Really we only try to ascertain how sexually experienced someone is and the basics of what they would look for in a sex partner, as well as if they have any kinks. Really, it wouldn't do to have two dominants together"--Rick dropped his quill--"now would it? Some people also don't like their partner to be more or less sexually experienced than they are."
"Well. I hadn't really considered that you would need to know those aspects of a relationship." He picked his quill up off of the floor in an attempt to hide his blush. The way Al snickered as he sat back up made it obvious he had not been successful. "Moving on to another topic: how did you and Mr. Malfoy end up together? Especially since Mr. Malfoy isn't gay."
Al's green eyes flickered away from the reporter. "I never expected us to get together. Scorpius had always been straight as a pin and I had never owned up to the fact that I was gay." He looked back at Rick, his eyes lit with passion. "The wizarding world still isn't overly comfortable with homosexuals after all. Being the son of Harry Potter meant that I was supposed to be normal. Better than normal even. I had always felt that I had to be amazing to impress everyone, to show that I could be more than my father was."
He paused and smiled, but the fire in his eyes didn't dim. "Lily and James both had the same problems coming to terms with their lives. James wanted to be a Potions master. Instead he went into the Aurors because Dad had always wanted us to join him, and he hated it. Lily had the opposite problem. She wanted to be an Auror badly, but Dad refused to let her do something so dangerous. She's training to be a curse breaker with Uncle Bill now though, and she loves it. James finally gave up on the Aurors and he's enjoying working at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes."
"And you, of course, have Match Me." Rick prodded the topic back to his relationship with Mr. Malfoy. "How did that affect you getting together with Mr. Malfoy?"
"I hated seeing my siblings unhappy--family means a lot to me. So, when my brother ended up hating Auror training, I decided to set him up with someone, hoping to bring a little bit of happiness to his life. Unfortunately, my efforts failed over and over again…"
June 9, 2027 - Diagon Alley, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes
Felicity Thomas stood in front of Al, hand still outstretched from the slap she had just landed on his face. "Don't ever try to match me up with anyone ever again, Albus Severus Potter. Especially not your brother!" She turned on her heel and strode out of the store, the bell jingling merrily behind her as the door slammed loudly.
Uncle George stuck his head out from the back room. "Everything okay, Al?"
Al poked his cheek gently, grimacing when he realised he was going to end up with a bruise. "James chased off another girl."
Uncle George frowned. "Why don't you just give up on him?" He must have considered the question rhetorical because he turned and headed back into the office, closing the door behind him.
Al sighed and returned to what he had been doing. His uncles, George and Ron, had hired him to work for them over the summer. It was something they had done for all of the Weasley kids, offering them a job with an inflated pay rate the summer after they left Hogwarts. They claimed that they needed the help, but Wheezes was always quietest during the summer. Al knew it was just their way of giving the kids a jump start in life, and he appreciated it. Between the money Al would make this summer and the fees he and Scorpius had charged for their matchmaking services in school, they would have enough money to rent out a small office within six months. Scorpius was working too; he had taken a job as an errand boy in the Ministry.
Al snickered at the thought of Scorpius running to and fro like a niffler. Immediately he felt bad, knowing that Scorpius was working horrible hours for bad pay, just so that he and Al would be able to start up their matchmaking service. He placed the last box of Reusable Hangmen in its place on the shelf and shuffled over to the front counter, straightening products as he went. He paused at the Patented Daydream Charms, remembering the time he had tried one. He had thought himself a Muggle duke, back in the days when they walked around wearing stiff ruffled collars and too tight trousers. For some reason the Daydream Charm had portrayed Scorpius as his "love interest." Al chalked it up to the fact that he didn't have a crush on any girls and Scorpius was just the person he was closest to, but he smiled every time he caught sight of the display, remembering how utterly silly Scorpius had looked in a pale pink dress, his hair pulled back with a matching ribbon. Not that the pink colour was funny; Al thought it looked very nice on Scorpius. It had given his normally pallid skin a little bit of a flush and turned his hair's shade from an ice-white to a sunny yellow.
Blushing, and not entirely sure why, Al tidied up the area around the register. He had pictures of his family and one of him and Scorpius at the Leaving Feast stuck on the wall next to it. Picture-Al slung an arm around Picture-Scorpius and was happily surprised when Picture-Scorpius pulled him into a long hug. It was Al's favourite picture of the two of them. He loved Scorpius's bright smile and the fact that Scorpius had initiated the hug, something he hadn't done in years.
James and Teddy stomped into the store then, startling Al.
"Are you staring at that picture again, Al? You'd think he was your boyfriend for all the time you spend mooning over him!" James scooted behind the counter, narrowly avoiding running into a basket of Whiz-Bang fireworks, and ruffled Al's hair.
The small space behind the counter was cramped, or so Al told James when he retaliated for Felicity's slap with an elbow to James's stomach. "What the hell did you do to Felicity?"
Teddy snorted and his hair flared blue for a moment before settling back into its normal light brown. "He met her for drinks and promised to call her the next day, and then he forgot."
James glared at him over Al's shoulder, making Al feel uncomfortable being between them. The two of them had always been connected, far more than anyone else Al knew, except for him and Scorpius. Being in between them at any time made Al feel like an intruder. "It's not my fault you forced me to go on that Auror mission with you!"
Teddy pushed himself up against the counter, glaring back at James fiercely. "So it's my fault? Oh, no, you don't! I'm not taking the blame for your relationship failing before it even got started." James practically pushed Al away as he pressed closer to the counter and Teddy.
"You were the reason why I dropped Laura though! And what about Marie?"
"No effing way! Marie dumped you because you kept calling her Margie." ("That's what you wrote her name as when you gave me her phone number!") "And Laura thought you were a poof because you spent more time on your hair than you did talking to her." ("You told me it looked like a rat's nest; I was worried.") "And you know that every other one of the girls you dated dumped you because of you!"
Al focused his attention on the door, willing a customer to come in so he could run away from the fight. Someone even better walked in.
"Scorpius!" Al launched himself from behind the counter and flung his arms around his friend. Scorpius pushed him away, but Al didn't feel too hurt because James and Teddy were still in the room and Scorpius almost never let Al hug him when anyone else was around. "I thought we weren't meeting up until Friday."
Teddy stopped yelling at James long enough to say "Hello," and James nodded, but both were too involved in their argument to pay them much attention.
Scorpius raised an eyebrow at the two of them. "What is it this time?"
"James's love life and lack thereof. But, what are you doing here?" Scorpius's eyes lit up and Al's breath caught in his throat for a moment. He loved the sparkles that flickered in the grey eyes when Scorpius was happy.
Al was so busy watching Scorpius's face that he almost missed his words. "I found us an office!" When what he had said registered, Al squealed.
Teddy and James's gazes turned towards them. "What was that Al? You sounded like Lily for a minute," James snickered.
Al blushed. "Nothing. Go back to your battle."
James got a look on his face then, the look that Al hated and had hated she he first learned to recognise it as a baby. "Al's turning red! Did your boyfriend just ask you out?" Al felt like sinking into the floor.
"I'm sorry, James. We just aren't as interested in men as you are." Scorpius's voice dripped with sarcasm.
"Sod off, you prat!"James made to fling himself at Scorpius, but Teddy grabbed him and wrapped his arms around his stomach to hold him back.
Scorpius started to smirk. "See, you're the one whose boyfriend has to hold him back.
James snarled and Teddy shot Scorpius a look. "If you weren't my only blood-related cousin, I'd let him kill you." Scorpius shrugged which made James growl at him. "Whatever then. We stopped by to invite you to a party at my flat."
The mention of a party made James perk up. "Yeah, it's to cheer up Teddy since Victoire is getting married next month." ("Gee, thanks for telling everyone, James.") "We're transfiguring his flat to look like the Gryffindor common room and calling it a 'Back to Hogwarts Bash'."
"And you think we're the gay ones?" Al couldn't help but say. Scorpius drifted away, heading over to the shelf full of Skiving Snackboxes.
Teddy unwrapped his arms from around James, but he kept a hand on his shoulder, keeping him from going after Al. "We've got hot girls coming," James added.
Scorpius came back over, a pack of Puking Pastilles in hand. "How hot?"
"Hot." They shared a leer that made Al frown.
"Anyway," Teddy interrupted them, "we're still on Auror patrol since Harry's assigned me to mentor this tosser for the week."
"Oy! Better me than Michael Creevy. He trips over his own feet at least once an hour!"
Teddy nodded and headed for the door. "I guess. You're both invited, so drop by anytime after four on Saturday. The party doesn't officially start till six, but we could use a little help getting everything transfigured." Then he was gone, James hot on his heels, leaving Al and Scorpius to themselves.
"You want to go, right?" Scorpius picked up a Buttercream Blossom sample and popped it into his mouth. The sight of his blond hair turning into sunny yellow flowers distracted Al from his question. "Al?"
"Oh, yeah, I wanna go." He shook his head lightly, trying to focus himself on the conversation. "I guess I'm still stuck back on your announcement. What do you mean we've got an office?"
Scorpius grinned broadly. "Well, we haven't got one yet, but we will have one soon! There's an office on the east end of Diagon Alley that's empty. It's tiny, only a front room, one office and a minuscule loo, but the owner wants to rent it out with a flat across the street, so the rent's cheap."
"We'll have a flat then too?" Al couldn't believe his ears. It sounded way too good to be true.
Wincing slightly, Scorpius said, "Yeah, we'll have a flat."
Al couldn't help but squeal again.
"Don't get too excited, Al. The flat's even smaller than the office."
"If it has a bathroom and a place to sleep, I'm good."
"Well, it has a bathroom. It's so small that the toilet is almost in the shower, and there's no sink in it, you have to use the one in the other room, but there is a loo."
Al looked at him quizzically. "The other room?"
"The other room. Which serves as living area, kitchen, bedroom, library, etc."
"Oh." Al fiddled with a Flaming Flamingo Float for a minute before responding. "I'm guessing it will be tight living quarters."
Snort. Al glared at his friend.
"To say the least. But the price is good. We'll be spending almost fifty galleons less a month than if we rented something else. And that's if we could find anything else in our price range." Scorpius started to speak, paused, and the frowned before continuing. "It would mean I could quit at the Ministry and work on getting the office ready." Al opened his mouth to reply and Scorpius cut him off. "No, I'm sorry, that's really awful of me. It's not fair that you have to work and I don't."
Al felt strangely elated. He knew how much Scorpius hated working for the Ministry and him offering to stick around there was really giving of him. "No, Scorpius, I think it sounds great! I want to go look at it first, but if we can move in soon it would be awesome."
Scorpius looked relieved. "Good, I'm glad it sounds okay. The owner said he'd give us a look-about next Monday if you were interested."
"Awesome!" He looked at his watch. "I still have about two hours until I get off. Do you want to hang about or meet up later?"
Scorpius's smile was a little sheepish. "I'll wait for you. I called in sick this morning when I heard about the office, so they aren't expecting me at work."
Uncle George stepped out of the back room then. "Is James already gone?" He sighed at Al's nod. "Darn. I wanted to see if he could break one of our new charms with his Auror skills." He pointed at a pile of mail on the counter. "If you two can get all of these orders filled and owled out before seven, I'll give you money for dinner at the Leaky Cauldron."
Never ones to pass up a free meal, Al and Scorpius both agreed and set to work on the orders. They worked silently at first, comfortable in the silence. It reminded Al of long hours spent studying together in the library back at Hogwarts. Eventually one of them would break the silence with something random and this time it was Scorpius.
"Al, do you think your brother's gay?"
"What?" Surely Al had heard wrong!
"Do you think James is gay?"
Al blinked. "No." He finished tying a package onto a large barn owl and sent it off. "What makes you think he's gay?"
Scorpius shrugged. "I dunno. He talks about other people being gay a lot, which I thought might be his way of covering it up. Plus, he's really close to Teddy."
"But, he's dated so many girls!"
Scorpius finished tying off a package and sent off his owl. He pushed another order over to Al, who began mindlessly filling it. "Maybe he's just covering it up?"
"I think you are crazy." Al shook his head and glanced down at the package he had been filling. The order called for three boxes of Snapping Snickers, some bastardisation of a muggle candy that Uncle Ron had come up with, and a Double-Strength Patented Daydream. Instead he had dropped in five Skiving Snackbox Assortments.
There was just no way James was gay. He hadn't gone a week without a girlfriend since he was a fourth year!
"What about all the girls we've matched him up with? We never mismatch someone! James is the only person we have consistently been unable to find a girlfriend for." Scorpius tossed another Two-Ton Toffee into his package and began Spellotaping it shut. "Maybe it's because he isn't looking for a girl."
Al finished fixing the order and snatched the Spellotape from Scorpius. "Why wouldn't he tell us? Why would he keep dating girls?"
"I don't know. I want to know though."
Al stopped working entirely. "How the hell are you going to find out? March right up to him and ask?"
Scorpius nudged him. "Get back to work. And I don't know yet. But I'll find out somehow."
June 12, 2027 - Muggle London, Teddy's Flat
Al and Scorpius were standing in front of the door to Teddy's flat when Scorpius revealed how he would figure out if James was gay or not.
Al thought the idea was stupid. "Honestly, why would any grown adult want to play 'Spin the Bottle' or 'Truth or Dare' or any of those other muggle games we played in school?"
"Because we are going to up the ante a bit. Who cares about a little peck? Instead we'll offer up five minute snogging sessions. And those dorky truth questions of 'who do you like?' will be replaced with 'who did you last give oral sex to?'"
Scorpius looked at Al then, who must have looked upset. "Not that you have to pick truth, Al."
Al blushed. Scorpius knew that he had never had sex of any kind with anyone and that he hated it, but he had never been able to find a girl he liked well enough to remedy the problem with.
"All right," he said. "I guess it could work. But will James answer a question like that truthfully?"
Al couldn't help, but feel it was unfair that even Scorpius's smirk was attractive. "Not unless we slip some Uninhibitors into the drinks."
"James is an Auror, as is Teddy. I think they'll probably catch on."
"George told me he put some of this in your father's drink about a month ago and he didn't figure it out until your grandmum asked him if he liked the turnip and chives casserole and he said it was awful."
"Hey!" Al said. "I remember that dinner! Grandmum thought it was Dad's favourite too. She wouldn't talk to him for a week after that."
"I don't understand why your dad doesn't like it. It's one of my favourite dishes that your grandmother came up with."
Teddy flung the door open at that minute. "Hey! Glad you're here. Come in and make yourselves comfortable."
"Comfortable?" James scoffed. "More like, make yourselves useful. We've still got piles of transfigurations to do."
Al nodded and handed Teddy the pack of bitters he had brought. "Everything in blaring red and gold then?"
"Of course!" James replied as he transformed the sofa into a replica of the one in Gryffindor Tower, dirty spots and all.
It took a while to get everything to James's exact preferences, but eventually the living area and loo were fully decked out. James admitted that the bedroom had already been transformed into a miniature Astronomy Tower and even Teddy had been impressed by the fake sky. ("Though it was incredibly odd to sleep 'outside' last night. I wish James would have waited to do the final spell...") The kitchen had not been changed, but they weren't expecting the guests to worry about it since most of them hadn't actually been in the Hogwarts kitchen.
When people began arriving, Al was surprised how into the theme they all were. Most of them had donned their old uniforms, which tended to be a bit small and looked rather... sexy. The party had been going strong for a while when Scorpius began passing out mixed drinks. When almost everyone had accepted one, he suggested that they play "Truth or Dare."
For some reason the girls jumped on the idea and ran away with it. Before he knew what was happening, he was seated on the floor in a loose circle. They started out with tame truths, but the game turned raunchy before it got to Al. He tried to fortify himself with some alcohol, but was careful to only drink some firewhisky he knew didn't have Uninhibitors in it.
Scorpius was sitting to his right and was called on before Al. Dora Robins turned to him after answering her question of whether she was a true blonde ("Yes, and I've the pubes to prove it!") and asked him, "Scorpius, truth or dare?"
Scorpius quirked an eyebrow and smiled, making a couple girls giggle. "Truth."
"Have you ever wanted to have sex with a man?"
Al wasn't sure why, but his heart hurt a little when Scorpius said no. He peered down into his glass, and noticed it was empty. He grabbed an unattended glass nearby and downed it, shuddering when he felt suddenly lightheaded. He wasn't surprised when Scorpius turned to James next.
"James, since you're one of our fabulous hosts, tell me: truth or dare?"
James sneered at him. "Truth."
"All right then, I pass on my question. Have you ever wanted to have sex with a man?"
The Uninhibitors must have been working because James blurted out. "Yes. But not because he was a bloke. It was when I started Auror training and I was still working on discovering spies. I met this super hot bird at a club I was supposed to be surveying and she enticed me back to the backrooms. I was totally into it, until she morphed back into Teddy."
Teddy grinned. "He learned his lesson. He's one of the best at discovering disguises now. You should have heard his scream when he figured out who he was snogging."
Al burst out laughing with the rest of the people at the party, only he must have laughed a little louder than the others because James's stare fell on him. "Well, then little brother, if you think it's such a funny question, why don't I pass it on to you?"
Al panicked. "Wait, what? I get to pick truth or dare!"
James rolled his eyes and sighed. "Fine. Truth or dare?"
Al couldn't imagine answering the question because he wasn't sure what his answer would be. "Um, dare..." he finally muttered.
James scowled at him. "Fine. I dare you to kiss your boyfriend."
Dora jumped on the statement. "You have a boyfriend?"
Eyes flickering around the room, Al felt trapped. "No, I don't! What the hell are you on about James?"
"Scorpius." James's voice was smug and Al knew he was upset he hadn't been able to pass the question on. If he couldn't embarrass Al with a question, he was going to do it with a dare.
Scorpius caught his gaze and nodded. "It's okay, Al."
"But, he's not my boyfriend!" Al was desperate. He couldn't kiss Scorpius. He couldn't! It would be like... kissing James or Lily!
James's look was steely. "Kiss him. A proper kiss too, not some pathetic peck."
Al closed his eyes.
"Or are you being a cowardly Slytherin again?"
His eyes flew open.
"I'm no coward." He turned to Scorpius. "I'm sorry." And then he kissed him.
There were no fireworks. He didn't feel the earth shift beneath his feet. But it definitely did not feel like he was snogging a sibling. Scorpius's lips were warm and just a little wet and he tasted like the scotch he had been drinking all evening. When Al raised his hand to Scorpius's hair, it felt soft beneath his fingers. And when Scorpius began to return the kiss the floor did wobble just a bit.
As he pulled away from the kiss, he found himself a little short of breath. Scorpius's eyes were on his face, looking for something he wasn't sure he wanted found. Trying to escape the situation, he turned to find someone to question. Everyone was watching him with wide eyes and a few jaws had even dropped. Teddy looked semi-normal, though his hair was fire-engine red, so Al pounced on him.
"Teddy, truth or dare?"
He was startled and blurted, "Dare?"
Al glared at his brother. "Kiss James." Then he turned and stalked out of the door, the giggles of various girls behind him telling him that Teddy had complied with the dare. Scorpius caught him at the door, grabbing him by the wrist. Scorpius never touched anyone, and Al cherished every time he felt Scorpius even brush up against him. The feeling of his hand wrapped around Al's arm was enough to make his heart rate skyrocket.
"Al, it's okay. Really. We'll just forget it ever happened." And that made Al's heart hurt so badly he was afraid it would break.
He offered up the best smile he could muster, aware that it was probably trembling. "Yeah. We'll just forget it. I want to go."
Scorpius returned the smile. "I'll see you Monday for the viewing of the office, right?"
Al nodded--"I have to go"--and fled. The dark streets of muggle London with all the thieves and rapists had never looked so welcoming.
June 14, 2027 - Diagon Alley, Empty Flat
Al hadn't been able to think or sleep or eat or work since Saturday. And now, standing here with his arm pressed up against Scorpius's in the tiny flat, he couldn't breathe either. The only thing he had done was stare at a picture of Scorpius for hours on end and wank himself raw.
He was hard again, his cock pressing against his trousers painfully. He couldn't look at Scorpius, not without coming in his pants. Instead he listened to his voice as he conversed with the realtor, strong and casual. He didn't sound like he was interested in anything besides the flat. Al didn't know how, didn't know why. How could he have forgotten the kiss? He had said he would, Al had too, but it was impossible to forget.
Al was positive he was gay though. It was as easy as that to decide, now that he knew what it was like to kiss a man. He had never been interested in girls and their kisses during games like Saturday's, had left him with the impression of kissing a dead fish. Scorpius's kiss was like a burning fire, slowly turning his heart to embers in his chest. There had never been any other blokes that he liked, but he had always looked at them more and noticed which ones were attractive. So, he was gay, but mostly he was Scorpisexual because he couldn't imagine being with any man other than Scorpius now.
He really had been the only person Al had ever connected with. Scorpius knew him, knew he liked to sleep till noon and eat his carrots with a bit of honey on them and that he giggled if you poked him near his bellybutton. The only thing he didn't know about Al was something Al hadn't known about himself either.
He loved Scorpius. He always had. And Al hadn't realised it until that kiss. He had felt the lust in him, felt it churn his stomach over. And when he had Apparated home and fell into bed the lust had exploded into an orgasm that left him gasping. As he lay there panting, the lust had faded, leaving behind a feeling of utter desperation. Scorpius was straight as a wand. He liked girls, liked them tall and blonde and busty and everything Al wasn't. All Al could ever have was his friendship.
It was that friendship that had convinced Al to join him in viewing the flat. Being friends with Scorpius was better than nothing and Al couldn't imagine life without his friend by his side. And that was how he knew he was in love because the thought of losing Scorpius to some girl somewhere hurt worse than anything Al had ever felt, but the thought of Scorpius being sad hurt even more than that. So Al was prepared to treasure his time with his best mate, prepared to back off the moment Scorpius found a girl he liked, but he was going to hold on with both hands until that day.
Scorpius was shaking hands with the realtor, a buxom brunette, and Al couldn't help but feel jealous when he offered her a bright smile. His own smile was tight and he shook her hand briskly.
She looked slightly confused as she walked over to the door. "I'll give you some time to think about everything. Owl me if you are interested and feel free to poke about the flat for a little while. The door is spelled to lock behind you, so leave whenever you've finished deciding. Have a good day!"
And then she was gone and there was nothing to look at but the dingy walls or the dirty floor or the grimy ceiling or Scorpius. And when Scorpius cleared his throat Al found his gaze was on his friend and that Scorpius's cheeks weren't red and hot like Al's were.
"Well, what do you think?" Al surveyed the room. There was room for a bunk-bed on one wall and a table in the corner where the stove and sink were. If they really squeezed they might even be able to fit a large armchair in the room. It was perfect though because Scorpius was there.
"I like it." Scorpius's smile made him shiver.
"I like it too." He nodded his head towards the far wall. "I think we should put beds over on that end."
Al faced the wall with imaginary furniture floating in his mind. "If we got bunk beds we'd have some extra room. Some extra big pillows propped up against the wall on the bottom bed would make it into a couch too.
Scorpius moved next to him and Al's shoulder brushed against his chest. They both laughed, though Al's laughter was more than slightly nervous. "It's small, but it's home."
Al looked up at Scorpius, his stomach fluttering at the happy look on his face. "And home is where the heart is," he whispered to himself.
July 21, 2027 - Diagon Alley, Scorpius and Al's Flat
Al laughed as he picked up the Daily Prophet from the newsstand he passed everyday on the way home from work. James was on the front page again with yet another girl. It seemed that the reason James couldn't keep a girlfriend was because he was too self-absorbed and immature. Or at least that was what Al and Scorpius had decided because he definitely wasn't gay. Scorpius said he punched Teddy in the nose after Al left and then proceeded to complete dare after dare after dare, each more raunchy than the last, until he ended up giving a girl oral sex in front of everyone. Al wrinkled his nose at that thought; he hated hearing about how promiscuous his siblings could be.
He browsed the front page before refolding it and walking up the stairs to the flat. Pausing to make sure no letters had been left on the owl ledge by the door, Al made to open the door when he felt something wrapped around the doorknob. He looked down – sure enough there was a dingy Slytherin tie hanging there. His stomach began to churn. At Hogwarts, they would put a tie on the knob when they brought someone back to the dorm. Al had never done it and Scorpius had favoured places that were a little more private, but some of their dorm mates had been happy to kick them out of the room for a while.
It wasn't possible though. Scorpius hadn't been dating anyone. Al would have known! Their whole lives were about each other right now. They moved into the flat right after they signed the papers and bought some furniture, and they had been living there for almost a month now. Al had never been happier. Even at Hogwarts, he had shared Scorpius with a room full of boys. Here he had Scorpius all to himself. Scorpius had even been relaxing around him a bit, letting Al cuddle up next to him when they were both sitting on the couch-bed and giving him hugs when Al left for work in the morning and when he came home at night.
He backed away from the door, staring at the tie. Who could she be, this girl? Did Scorpius love her? Would he leave Al for her? Al had known he would have to give up Scorpius one day, but he hadn't thought it would happen so soon. He had hoped it would happen gradually, giving him some time to distance himself from Scorpius before he moved out and moved on.
He hadn't thought it would hurt so much.
His cheeks felt damp and when Al reached up he realised he was crying. He dropped his paper, not caring where it fell, as he tried to stop the tears from flowing. Glancing once more at the tie on the door, Al turned and walked away. What else could he do? He had no reason to barge in there, jealous and angry because Scorpius had never even mentioned that he and Al could have any kind of a relationship. Al wasn't a girlfriend with a rightful reason to be envious; he was just a best mate who was supposed to cheer on his friend when he bagged a bird.
The streets of Diagon Alley soon merged into other areas as Al kept walking. Al knew he had walked through Knockturn Alley, but he wasn't sure where he was when darkness began to fall. The road was empty and stretched far out in front of him with nary a house in sight. He shivered as the sun set, his summer robes thin and ill equipped for the brisk breeze that had begun to blow. When a stinging rain began to fall he collapsed under a tree and cast a warming charm. He fell asleep huddled in the darkness and it wasn't until the dawn sky began to turn a deep red that he woke up. With soaking wet robes and a rumbling stomach, Al finally pulled out his wand and Apparated home.
He Apparated straight into his flat, almost landing on top of Scorpius. He kept his eyes focused on the floor as he moved to the cast iron stove and lit it, desperate for warmth. He didn't hear anyone moving, so he assumed Scorpius's girl was gone, but he didn't dare look to check. Long moments passed before Scorpius stomped up to him and grabbed his shoulder, spinning him around. Still Al kept looking at the floor, vaguely noticing that one of his shoes was a bit muddy.
"Where the hell have you been?" Scorpius's words, loud and angry, filled the flat. "I've been so worried! I thought you were supposed to be home at six last night."
Al spoke to the floor. "There was a tie on the door."
"You still could have owled or something! Slipped a note under the door, hollered at me through it." Al was perversely pleased to hear the anxiety in Scorpius's voice. "I only had her over for a quick shag while you were at work. I wouldn't kick you out of your own flat for an entire night, at least not without discussing it with you beforehand. She's been gone for hours and hours, and I took the tie off of the door ages ago!"
Al couldn't keep the tears at bay and he hoped Scorpius couldn't see them. "There was a tie."
Scorpius grabbed his shoulders. "Look at me, Albus Severus Potter!"
Scorpius's voice gentled. "Al, what's wrong? Are those tears?"
"There was a tie. You don't need me." Al heard his voice crack. "You've a girl now and you're going to move in with her and I'll just be a mate, someone you work with, just an acquaintance." He sounded desperate and he was telling Scorpius too much and he should shut up, but it was like he wasn't really talking, the words were just falling out of his mouth and he could not stop them. "There was a tie."
"Al? We'll always be best mates, nothing can change that." But even as he spoke, Scorpius dropped his hands from Al's shoulder and moved away.
Feeling rejected, Al kept babbling. "It's already changed. I can't go back to the way it used to be. I can't forget."
That sobered Al up. "Nothing, just... forget I said anything." He turned back to stove, attempting to dismiss the conversation.
Scorpius's voice was frustrated. "Forget what, Al? Do you mean the girl? She was just a one-off!"
"No! It's nothing!"
"Damn it, Al! Would you look at me?"
Al couldn't turn around though, couldn't face Scorpius's anger. He summoned some eggs from the icebox and grabbed a frying pan to put on the stove. "Do you want some eggs, Scorpius?"
"I want you to look at me."
Al cracked an egg into the pan and it began to sizzle. He wasn't sure, but he thought perhaps he was supposed to put a bit of oil in the pan. Oh well, it was already in there now, the edges turning black and crispy.
"Why won't you look at me?" Scorpius grabbed him then and Al felt like laughing as he was forced to turn around. Scorpius had never touched him this much before, not of his own free will. The fire reflected in his eyes was slightly exhilarating.
"What can't you forget?" The softly spoken question was too much for Al.
"This," he said and pressed himself up against Scorpius, wrapping his fingers up into his hair and forcing his lips against the other man's. It was a moment of pure bliss and then Al was shoved away.
"I can't do that, Al." Scorpius's face was twisted with disgust. "I have to go."
And then he was gone, the door left hanging open behind him. Al slumped against the nearest surface, yelping as his hand landed on the edge of the frying pan. The egg was black now. He grabbed the handle and dumped it into the trash bin. It lay there, dried out and dead looking.
Al couldn't be sure it wasn't actually his heart.
July 28, 2027 - Diagon Alley, Al's Flat
There was a knock on the door. Al rushed to answer it, hoping beyond all hope that it would be Scorpius. When he saw it was James on the other side of the threshold he sagged against the door frame.
James grinned. "Nice to see you too, little brother!" When Al didn't reply and just walked back over to his bed, James's grin fell. "Are you okay?"
Al slumped down onto the bed. "Yeah, I'm fine, just a little run-down."
James closed the door behind him and then sat down next to Al. "You're more than a bit run down. Uncle Ron said you haven't been in to work in a week and Mum's worried sick because you haven't replied to any of her owls."
Al shrugged and fell back against his pillows. "I'm a little sick is all."
Al's gaze flew to James's. "What?"
James smiled sadly. "I know you, Al. This is how you've always reacted when Scorpius fought with you. I saw him at the Ministry on Monday doing his old job."
"Did he look happy?" Al searched his brother's face, looking for any hint as to how Scorpius was.
"No, he looked about as miserable as you. When I asked him what he was doing there, he said you got into a fight."
"What happened, Al?" James wrapped his hand around his brother's. They hadn't held hands since James decided it was too girly when he was seven.
Al started to cry, feeling like a right baby. "I kissed him."
"I know, I watched you."
"No," Al said. "I kissed him again, last week, and it disgusted him. He left and he hasn't come back, not for his clothes or anything."
"Ha! I knew you liked him!" James took a moment to crow over his victory and Al couldn't help but laugh. His brother truly had the emotional range of a teaspoon. "Oh, sorry. That was a little mean..."
"No, it was just you."
James glared at him and Al laughed again. "I'm not mean."
"No, you're just clueless."
Sheepishly James said, "Yeah. But are you okay?"
"No." Al's voice was frank. "I'm not sure I'll ever be okay."
"Geez." James stood and pulled Al up by the hand he still held. "You've got it bad, but that's okay. We are going to go combat this by going on a bender and getting you smashed!"
"I don't want to..."
"Nope, too late, you don't get an opinion. Now hold on tight, I'm going to Side-Along you!"
When Al stopped feeling dizzy from the sudden Apparition he realized they were nowhere near a pub of any kind.
"You lied to me!" he snarled at his brother.
"Yep! It wasn't Scorpius I talked to at the Ministry; it was his father." James was non-repentant. "Hey, Mr. Malfoy, I've got him!" he hollered.
Draco Malfoy entered the room then, his eyebrow quirked. "I do realise that. I felt the two of you come through the wards."
Al glared at the two of them. "I'm going home!" He attempted to Apparate only to get the feeling that he had been squeezed through the eye of a needle without actually moving.
Mr. Malfoy smirked. "And I closed them off as soon as you arrived."
Al gave up. "What do you want with me?"
"My son has been stomping around his room for the past week, cursing and breaking priceless antiques. I want to know why."
James piped up helpfully. "It's because Al kissed him."
Mr. Malfoy's gaze was sharp when he focused on Al. "Indeed. And why would this upset Scorpius?"
"I disgusted him," Al muttered, quailing under the look. He was surprised to hear the stately Draco Malfoy snort.
"He's no homophobe and the Malfoy's aren't exactly straight as wands. I doubt a man kissing him disgusted him that much."
Al's heart sunk even further into his stomach. "It must have been me. I'm not very attractive."
"Nah, you've got the Potter genes, Al. We're all hot!" James had always known how to make Al laugh, no matter how down in the dumps he got.
"I don't know then." He looked back and forth between the other two men. "I don't know."
"Come." Mr. Malfoy turned and strode away. Al followed, knowing exactly where he was going and not sure whether he was happy about it or not.
Sure enough, they arrived at Scorpius's bedroom door. Mr. Malfoy knocked and called out his name, but the only response was the sound of shattering glass.
Mr. Malfoy pulled out his wand and unlocked the door. "Scorpius, if you throw something at me you will be thrown from the Manor forcibly and I won't let you back in this time, no matter how much you and your mother plead." He opened the door slowly and when nothing flew through the air towards him he motioned them in.
Al was shocked to see Scorpius. His hair was ruffled and he was unshaven. He looked as unhappy and unkempt as Al. He glared at all of them.
"What are you doing here, Al?"
Al moved back towards the door. "I wanted to see if you were okay. So, I'll go then."
He turned to leave and was shocked when Scorpius called out, "Wait!"
He kept his back to the room, afraid to look and see what Scorpius looked like. Mr. Malfoy and James pushed past him.
"We'll leave you two alone," Mr. Malfoy murmured as he closed the door behind himself.
Al felt tense. The room was so quiet he jumped when Scorpius spoke. "I'm sorry."
That wasn't what he was expecting to hear. "For what? It was my fault. I shouldn't have done that."
"Look at me, please." Al turned to find Scorpius standing behind him. "I didn't mean it the way it sounded. I was just afraid."
Al scoffed at him. "Afraid of a kiss?"
Scorpius nodded. "I've never been attracted to a man, not even once. I always thought I would end up married to a girl and we would live in the Manor till we were old and grey and had twenty kids. Then you kissed me at the party and I had never been as hard as I was at that moment."
"You said to forget it though! You never brought it up and you acted just like normal!"
Scorpius threw his hands up in the air. "I was scared! This was new to me! I just wanted things to stay the same!"
Al glared at him. "I never said things would have to change. I knew you weren't gay. But I am gay and for me it was an eye-opening experience. My life will never be the same now. I would have liked to discuss this with my best friend, but he told me to forget it."
"You're gay?" Scorpius was taken aback. "Since when?"
"Since I got a bloody hard-on from kissing my best mate!" Al stomped over to the door and pulled on the handle. "Damn it! Let me out, James!"
He was hammering on the door when Scorpius pulled him away and into his arms. "Albus! Stop this. We need to talk."
Al relished the feel of Scorpius's arms around him. "Merlin, I've missed you." He sagged into Scorpius, laying his head on the other man's shoulder. "I was afraid I had lost you forever."
"I'm so afraid of losing our friendship, Al. I don't want this—this thing to destroy it."
"It doesn't have to." Al focused on Scorpius's face. "We can be together and it could be even better than being friends."
Al's heart beat stuttered to a stop as Scorpius pulled away. "Friendship can turn to love, but love to friendship, never. If we took this step and it didn't work out, I would lose you. I'd rather have your friendship than nothing."
Al remembered how he had felt when he saw that tie on the door. Friendship wasn't enough. He turned the experience around and threw it in Scorpius's face. " You just want to be friends? Fine. So when you come home one night and find a tie on the door, you'll be okay with that? You'll be okay with knowing I'm in there with someone else, that he's kissing me, touching me, that his body is pressed up against mine, his mouth on my skin?"
Scorpius just stared at him, his face turning red with rage for only a moment before a look of comprehension replaced it.
Al stepped forward and placed his hand on Scorpius's arm. "Don't you see? That's how I felt when I saw the tie on the door. Friendship isn't enough. It has to be all or nothing."
Scorpius backed away. "I can't lose you, but I don't know if I'm ready for this. I just never saw myself with a man."
"I'm not just a bloke. I'm someone who has known you for seven years, who knows you almost better than you know yourself. I'm your best mate." The frown on Scorpius's face killed any hope that had been growing in Al's heart. "And because I'm your best mate I'm willing to walk away. I just want you to be happy."
"I don't know what will make me happy."
Al walked over to the door, which was now unlocked. "Then I'll leave and you can let me know when you do. You're more than just a best mate to me, and if you aren't happy then this isn't worth it."
As he walked out of the Manor, he didn't look back. Al wouldn't hurt Scorpius anymore and he wouldn't let Scorpius hurt him. It was time to move on.
Finding Scorpius at the flat later that evening when he wandered home from the Leaky Cauldron was a surprise. So was what Scorpius had to say.
"I can't let you go. I know what makes me happy: you."
Al knew it was somewhat feminine to start sobbing and throw himself at Scorpius, but he couldn't help it. And it was probably pretty girly that he started telling Scorpius how much he loved him and how much he missed him and that he was never going to let him go no matter how many skinny blondes tried to seduce him, but he really didn't care. Scorpius was back and that was all that mattered.
November 21, 2027 - Diagon Alley, Match Me Office
Albus Potter was pure gold. His descriptions of his relationship with Scorpius Malfoy were detailed and full of emotion, yet he managed to get through the story without breaking down. And the story itself would make any of his romantic female readers swoon. Rick found himself calculating the chances of his story making the front page before Al even finished, and needless to say, the probability of that happening was very high.
"... so Scorpius moved back in to the flat with me and we've been together ever since." Al's proclamation was so obviously happy that Rick had to smile. He had always wondered how a man could love another man but he couldn't doubt Al's love in the slightest. He was so passionate about his lover that his eyes actually lit up every time he said his name.
"I have to tell you now that I would really like to focus less on the business side of your relationship and more on the romantic part. Do you have any problems with that?"
The door creaked open behind him and Scorpius Malfoy walked into the room. "Albus Potter! Are you manipulating the interview so that we'll finally be 'outted'?"
Al tried to grin, but he quailed under Scorpius's stern gaze. "All right, yes. Sorry?"
Rick couldn't tell if he was apologising to him, Scorpius, or the both of them, but he spoke up anyway. "I don't mind at all, really." If he got the story of Harry Potter's gay son before anyone else did, his career would be made.
He and Al both turned to Scorpius. "Scorp?"
The blond rolled his eyes. "All right fine. If you must. I expect a fabulous dinner tonight in return though."
"I already have a reservation for two at Le Poison Magnifique."
Scorpius smiled then. "You know me too well. Thus, you should be able to tell me you have a proper pot of tea and a scone ready for me too."
"Next to the muggle stapler. You'll have to wash a cup though, I used them both."
Scorpius nicked Al's cup and proceeded to fill it with tea. "Seriously, I sleep in the same bed as you. A few measly germs on your cup won't do me any harm." He nodded at Rick then. "I do apologise. I've been quite rude; I should have introduced myself when I came in. I'm sure you have figured this out by now, but I'm Scorpius Malfoy. You are Avarick Skeeter, correct? Five years above us at Hogwarts?"
"Only four years actually and I recognised you as soon as you entered the room. You've changed quite a bit from Hogwarts, but you still have the Malfoy hair." They shook hands and Rick cast a quick Tempus. "I'm glad I had a chance to meet you, but I need to run if I'm to have this story written up before tomorrow's issue goes to press! Have a good evening, gentlemen."
"And you as well," Scorpius replied.
"Bye!" Al called as Rick walked out the door.
Anxious to get to the office and begin writing, Rick almost forgot that his editor had asked him to grab a picture of the business and its owners for the article. He pulled the camera from the robe pocket he had shoved it in. Thankfully it wasn't half as large as the ones they had used twenty years ago. "Hey, I'm sorry, but..."
His voice dropped off as he stuck his head back into the office and found Scorpius sitting on Al's lap. Neither of them noticed him.
"You—manipulative—little—snake!" With every word, Scorpius pressed a chaste kiss on his lover's lips.
Al responded with a saucy grin. "And I'm your manipulate little snake."
"Yes, you are." He leaned forward to kiss Al again. Rick fumbled with the camera in his hand, finally positioning it just as the kiss grew deeper and Scorpius pulled away to moan. He made sure to hold it steady so that he caught what came next.
"Pure gold!" he whispered to himself as he dashed out of the door.
November 22, 2027 - Diagon Alley, Scorpius and Al's Flat
Al picked up the paper that was sitting on the owl ledge outside of the flat. He could only see the headline, but he knew he had achieved his goal.
He tossed the paper to Scorpius with a smirk. "Paper's here, love!"
Scorpius just groaned. "Oh, Merlin, I don't even want to know what they had to say about this. Just look at the headline: 'Match Me Owners' Best Match? Their Own!' Talk about cheesy..."
Then he unfolded the paper and a piece of parchment fluttered out. "What's this? A note?"
Al peaked over his shoulder and read the writing aloud. "'The contract didn't mention photos.' Oh, bloody hell."
They glanced at each other for a moment and then down at the opened paper. A picture of the two of them kissing passionately covered half of the front page. They would kiss for a few seconds and then Scorpius would pull away to moan and Al would lick a line from his collarbone to his chin. It ended with the two of them grinning at each other like love sick puppies for a moment before they returned to the kiss. The two kisses meshed so well that at first they didn't realize it was looping.
"I'm never going to be able to show my face in public again." Scorpius glared at the happily smiling Al. "Are you happy now?"
"Yes. After seeing this picture there is no way any girl in the wizarding world is going to be able to forget that you are mine."
Scorpius rolled his eyes. "I knew you were upset about that girl flirting with me."
Al shrugged. "A little. I'm going to pop outside for a minute and make sure that there's no mail at the office."
When he returned hardly thirty seconds later, Scorpius quirked an eyebrow at him in question.
"There is a line of men and women halfway down the street wanting to get into our office!"
Now it was Scorpius's turn to smirk. "And that's why I let you do your silly little interview."
Al was outraged. "Why you—you dirty little snake!"
Scorpius stood and wrapped his arms around Al. "Yes, but I'm your dirty little snake."
Al frowned, cast a Tempus and beamed. "We've ten minutes till we have to open the office. Are you up for a quickie?"
"Thank Merlin we have a short commute..." Scorpius muttered as Al pulled him to bed.