The front door of the house opened with a forceful thrust as Harry Potter stormed through the threshold. He held the door open for his daughter, Lily, who bounced into the house, happy to be home, and for his two sons, both stomping with their shoulders tense and headed straight for their rooms. "Boys," Harry started in a menacing tone, "come here," he commanded, as he shut the door. James turned around to glare at him and then at his brother, who only narrowed his eyes and smirked. He turned around and continued on his way to his room.
"Albus," Harry continued to the remaining boy, "what happened?" The father sat down with a sigh in the receiving room on a fluffy couch.
Albus shrugged and walked into the room, leaning against the frame of the door that led into the kitchen. He brought his hand up and examined his fingernails. "I don't know, father," he replied in a drawling tone. "Perhaps he's still upset about the Quidditch match."
Harry caught his son's gaze and crossed his arms, unimpressed. "You and I both know James doesn't hold grudges. That match was almost a month ago."
"Ah, but it was the Quidditch Cup, father," he answered, returning his attention to his hands.
"Albus, he's your older brother. You need to remember that he's your family. Nothing comes before that."
For the first time since his return from school, Albus's emotions had been evoked. Not so obviously that he could be read as an open book, but so that his father could see the hatred mixing with confusion and betrayal, combating for domination, inside stormy emerald eyes. "Maybe, Dad, you should remind him of the same thing," he suggested, his words ringing with suppressed anger. Harry rubbed his eyes at the reply and sighed once more. They both looked up to the sound of footsteps coming near.
"Hey Dad, Al. Mum just told me to tell you that Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron had to cancel their plans this week. Hugo's got some stomach flu or something," Lily dutifully announced. She had pulled her red hair into a messy ponytail but had not changed out of her school robes, not wanting to put away her Ravenclaw colors for the summer just yet.
"Thanks Lil. Go ask your mom to make up a lunch for us, and we'll be right there," Harry answered, looking up from his arms. Taking the hint, the girl walked off. Harry looked back at his son. "You're going to be sixteen this summer, Albus. You and your brother are both close to graduating. You need to learn to control your feuding. It's gotten past the point of ridiculous." He stood up and walked to the kitchen.
Albus soon stood as well, and he made his way gracefully to his bedroom. He raised an eyebrow at his brother, who had been listening to the brief exchange around the corner of the house. James sneered. "Like a snake knows anything about family loyalty."
Dinner in the Potter house was often a tragedy. The clinking of silverware against dishes and the dampened thump of glasses hitting the table were the only sounds in the dining room, vibrating off the practically tangible tenseness to which the entire family succumbed. Harry looked at his sons over his glass. "James," he said lightly, trying to alter the gloomy mood of the room, "what do you have planned during your free time this summer?"
James looked up, hesitant to reply. "Actually, Lorcan, you know him, with the loony mum, and I were planning to, uh, well we actually talked about fixing up the old Hairwire treehouse." He glanced back at his food, hoping to dodge any glances from his parents.
"Really?" Harry asked lowly.
"Yeah. Lorcan's mum told us her dad said that back in the 60s some hippies went there and turned the place into a commune. You know, sex, and drugs, and debauchery-"
"James!" Ginny interjected, reprimanding his son. Lily giggled while Albus just blinked slowly, looking politely in his brother's direction and chewing his food quietly.
"Sorry mum, but it's true. Anyway, she said the place is completely abandoned and we were thinking about making it into a hangout. Lorcan wants to be in charge of decorations, says his mum has got some cool plants. I'm still trying to find a way out of that one."
Harry smiled. "Sounds like fun. I've actually been around that area with Uncle Ron once. It's got a strong foundation, even if the walls are bad. It always kind of reminded me of the Shrieking Shack, just, you know up twenty feet in a tree."
"Yeah," James added lamely.
"So what about you, Lily?" Ginny asked her daughter.
Lily perked up at the chance to talk about herself. "Well, you know Neville and his wife just had those triplets. And he's got to be off for some weird plant hunting expedition thingy that sounds extraordinarily boring, but he paid for the trip a year ago, and he can't back out of it, so I'm to go over there and help Lora with her new batch of kids and tidy the house and such."
"That's right, I remember Lora saying something about asking for your help. Will you be taking the floo?" Ginny asked, trying to keep the conversation going while nervously eyeing her sons.
"Yup. Neville said he already got everything set up," Lily answered, gratefully. She was glad the herbology professor understood that anytime her dad asked to have a new floo connection set up, the media went crazy, constantly creating new insinuations.
The room fell quiet once more. All the Potters knew not to ask Albus of his plans; he never had any, and never agreed to make any.
"So I guess both you and James have summer jobs, now," Harry stated cheerfully. "Lily, you'll have your hands full with helping the Longbottoms and James, you've got that modeling job over in Hogsmeade."
Albus knew it was juvenile, but he could not repress a small snigger as he raised his drink to his mouth. James, always ready for an excuse to argue with his brother, turned to glare sharply at him.
"Think it's funny, Albus, that I've actually got a life for the next two months?" he spat.
Albus put his drink down and looked up at his brother, feigning innocence. "Of course not, James. I understand that a life must be one of your most prized possessions, even if you only have it for two months out of the year." He went back to eating his dinner.
"You're one to talk, snake," James replied, angered. "It must get pretty lonely in those dungeons of yours, no friends and all that. Unless you count that creep, Scorpius, I guess The two of you seemed pretty cozy, snogging in random corners of the school."
Harry and Ginny both glared daggers at James. Lily just rolled her eyes and slurped up another forkful of spaghetti. Harry, who had not taken his eyes from his oldest son, asked "Albus, I think you've had enough. Wash your plate and go to your room." Albus looked at his parents and shrugged, leaving the room as he was told.
As soon as he turned the corner, though, he waited, listening. "James, I can't believe I have to tell you that you should know better," Ginny's dangerous voice rang. "You're seventeen, for Merlin's sake. You think that attitude is befitting of a Prefect, maybe even Head Boy? Think again."
"Sure, Mum. You're right. Take his side. Poor Albus doesn't have anyone in the world."
"He doesn't have anyone, James Potter, because you are so determined to ostracize him," boomed Harry.
"Mum, Dad, give it a rest," Lily's soft voice piped. "Albus isn't exactly innocent, either."
"Exactly!" cried James. "Thanks, Lils."
"He's just as bad as James," she added. The room fell quiet and soon after her comment, Lily walked out of the room, not at all surprised to see her other brother eavesdropping in the dark. She eyed him. "Maybe you should get a job. Finnegan told me some creepy place in Knockturn is hiring. Burkes, I think. You'd do well there." She skipped joyfully to her room.
James turned the corner a moment later, jumping slightly as Albus walked out of the shadows. "Enjoy that exchange about you, did you?" the eldest accused. "I guess dark corners are the only place you feel at home anymore. Too bad you don't have any pet Malfoys there for your enjoyment. Or are you the pet in the relationship?"
Before James could react, Albus had him forcefully pushed up against the wall. "You know, James," Albus whispered, their faces only a centimeter away, "In the past five years it has never ceased to amaze me that you haven't realized how unashamed I am of my house and that you trying your hardest to offend me only comes to me as praise. You act like you want to push some major secret out of me, so here it is. I confess," he sneered, continuing. "You want to know, really, my biggest secret? It's that that I hate being the duplicate of the famous Harry Potter, and when that stupid sorting hat was debating between Gryffindor and Slytherin, just like he did with Dad, I knew it was the only way I'd be distinguished from him."
James, who was much larger than the younger, skinny boy, began to struggle, but Albus's adrenaline and delicately toned muscles gave him the upper hand for the moment he needed. "So I picked Slytherin, James, because I knew it'd be fucking awesome. I looked up at your face, all anxious for your little brother to follow your footsteps, and I fucking picked it. And I love it, you know. I don't have to share anything with you or any obnoxious Gryffindors. I can do and fuck whatever I want . No one cares or gives a damn. And until tonight, I was doing fairly well at keeping that quiet. You think you exposed me because of Scorpius?" His voice was getting louder now, increasing with his temper.
"I thought it was time Mum and Dad knew about your boyfriend," James answered sharply.
Albus laughed, letting go of his brother. "Scorpius isn't my boyfriend," he replied, just as darkly. "Just a good fuck when I need it."
James sputtered for a moment, glaring. "So, what, Albus, you can't actually live in a happy environment? Having a completely normal family turns you off, so you have to go fuck it up? Is that it? Merlin, you're a fucking freak."
"James, Albus, I do think that will be enough," came an older, deeper voice. The boys looked up to see their father.
"How long have you been there?" James asked. Albus rolled his eyes, already knowing the reply.
"Long enough," their father answered. "James, your room. Albus, you come with me." The latter shrugged and followed his father into the sitting room.
"Are you still going to maintain that it's only the Quidditch math that has James wound up?" Harry aked, his question loaded with implications.
Albus sat in the chair across from his father. "How about you ask what you want to, instead of trying to trap me with pleasantries."
Harry crossed his arms. "Fine. What did you do to James."
"I beat his ass at Quidditch for the past two years."
"Language. What else?"
"Nothing that I know of, father. James and I don't exactly talk during the school year." Albus glared. "Thank Merlin," he added.
"Are you upset about the bludger?" Harry asked, calming his voice down a bit.
"You mean the bludger he almost dislodged my head with, or the one he ripped my arm off with?"
"I think they were the same," the father pointed out.
"Ah. Well, for your information, no. I got even, did I not?"
Albus looked up at his father, who was taking in the boy's words. He looked Albus over seriously for a moment.
"I think that is what's wrong, Albus. Between you two, it's always about being the better man by getting even, never by actually forgiving each other or admitting your wrongs."
"Spare me," Albus drawled.
"He will not," Ginny answered, joining the conversation and sitting by his husband. "You have been absolutely rotten since you started going to Hogwarts. It's only gotten worse after you started spending time with that Malfoy boy."
"Are you going to go off James on this one, because he really doesn't know anything about that," Albus pointed out, annoyed with his parents.
"Then how about you do the manly thing, Albus Severus, and tell us yourself," Harry demanded.
"I would," Albus pointed out, drawing his words out slowly, "except there's nothing to tell."
"Nothing?" Harry asked, narrowing his eyes. "Not even a good fuck when you need it?" Ginny's mouth opened slightly at the language, but she soon focused her attention on to her son.
"Yes, I suppose he's that. Along with half of the Slytherin house. So, you see, it's not like he's special just because he's seen me starkers. Most of my classmates have." He stood up and brushed his attire, looking ready to leave.
Ginny, upset with her son's attitude left the room. "You will stay," Harry stated, calmly. His son sat down obediently. He looked at the boy. "I'm very disappointed about this, Albus. Not because you're rude to your family or because you're so nonchalant about whoring yourself around, but because you haven't taken responsibility for any of it." He looked directly at his son, who automatically met his gaze. "When is the last time you've talked to Snape?"
Albus's posture froze. He looked up very slowly to his father with pursed lips and glared, refusing to answer.
"When is the last time you talked to Snape, Albus?" Harry repeated, more forcefully.
"Fourth year," Albus answered, with gritted teeth.
Harry's eyes were unreadable. "You didn't talk to him at all last year?" he asked, his voice airy.
Albus sighed, clearly uncomfortable. "I didn't need to."
"Oh yes," Harry scoffed. "Because you're doing so fine on your own." Albus's head shot up and he glared. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you." Harry ran his hand through his hair. "Well, I'll be arranging things with Draco, then, and you'll be spending a few days over there, I guess. I will not have you in this house if you are going to continue the way you are."
Albus searched frantically for words. He tried sincerity. "I don't want to go there."
Harry was stern again. "I don't care what you want. You'll be there for a week or so, I imagine. Longer, if it takes that."
Albus sneered, moving on to his characteristic contempt. "Sending me to my namesake as an act of punishment doesn't sound like something he would enjoy," he pointed out.
"Most likely not," Harry agreed, just as spiteful, "but he understands better than anyone the nature of last resorts." Harry turned and stormed out of the room, leaving a brooding Albus behind.
Albus stepped out of the fireplace gracefully and found Scorpius and his father, Draco, standing to receive him.
"Welcome, Albus," Draco greeted formally, as he always had. "I'm glad to see you, as always," he smiled politely. Scorpius stood in the corner without emotion.
"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy. I am happy to be here," Albus replied, somewhat truthfully. The release from his family was appreciated. The entrapment in the Malfoy house was not.
"Of course. Your father said you would be staying at least a week. I let him know that you are welcome as long as you need. We certainly don't mind." Draco summoned a house elf to relieve Albus of his belongings. "Scorpius, go show Albus where he'll be staying, please. I have to be off to the Ministry."
As soon as his name was called, Scorpius snapped into action. He nodded toward Albus as his father left. "Potter."
Albus returned the gesture. "Malfoy."
"You know where you'll be staying."
"Will you need my assistance?" Scorpius asked, emphasizing his meaning.
"Not today, thank you," Albus replied, his chest tight.
"That is not a problem. When you desire my company, you know where to find me. In the mean time, I imagine you'll be in conference with Snape."
The man's name cleared Albus's mind instantly, sending chills through his nervous system. "Indeed."
"His portrait has been moved to the room across the hall from yours, for your convenience, of course." Scorpius turned to leave.
"Thank you for the accommodations. I don't mean to be a hassle."
Scorpius changed his direction and walked determinedly to Albus, leaving no space between them. "You are not a hassle, Potter. Our fathers are friends. It is natural of my father to be concerned if there is something that is bothering yours. He would do anything in his power to make sure you are well."
"Why?" Albus asked, breathless and forgetting his manners.
Scorpius's eyes twinkled. "Because it's the right thing to do, isn't it, Potter? It would be very vile and base of him if he used your father and just tossed him aside with no care for his feelings, don't you think?"
Albus was only slightly confused. He knew his father and Draco had cooperated to purify the Malfoy name and encourage the Ministry's forgiveness, but he was lost beyond that. He decided instead to reply to the insinuation Scorpius's words formed. "Indeed. It is a good thing neither of our families are that cruel, then." He twisted his body from Scorpius's stance and left the room.
Albus sighed as he walked up the wide marble staircase to his room. Once inside, he laid on his bed, thankful for the moment of solitude. He mused to himself, regarding this as the calm before the storm. Confronting Snape would not be a pleasant matter, and although Albus was not often intimidated by challenges, he could not possibly look forward to explaining the current situation.
He curled on his side, wrapping his arms around his chest as he brought his legs up into a fetal position. He closed his eyes and let the dark red of his eyelids swallow him in his thoughts. His body, wearied from arguments and physical encounters with his family, ached. He remembered how ashamed his mother was of him and how forceful his father was with him. His anger at their actions was soon replaced with guilt when he understood that it was their passion that drove them to their decisions. They punished him because they loved him. It was an hour later when he realized the hoarse ripping sounds were of his ragged breathing, and the dampness his face was surrounded in was fed by the streams of saltwater pouring down his face.
"Yes, Potter. I was told you would be arriving today to ruin my solitude," came the sneering voice. "I suppose it would be too much of me to ask you to leave me to myself?"
Albus pulled a chair up and sat across from the portrait. "And do what, Professor? Bask in your glory?"
Snape's lip curled. "Something of the sort," he replied lowly. He did not leave room for Albus to speak again. "I have not spoken with you since your fourth year. I hear from the younger Malfoy you have become quite the moll since then, depreciating the Slytherin name."
Albus shrugged. "It's not that big of a deal."
"On the contrary, Mr. Potter, I believe it is a very big deal that you think so lowly of your classmates. Surely you understand that sleeping with you would bring anyone's reputation to the ground."
"If I believed you, Professor, I would ask since when exactly have Slytherins come to care about their reputations." Albus sighed. This was an old game of theirs, stating theoretical responses to every point. He thought it would have passed now, this childish occupation, but he found that he only felt safe behind those hypothetical lines.
"And, if you had said that, I would have pointed out that you feel Slytherins are the only ones worthy enough to touch your body," Snape replied.
"What if I said that you would have been wrong? Possibly that it was only Slytherins who would think of touching me?"
Severus was quiet. "If I had accepted your pathetic self-oriented slander, I would tell you that you are a useless excuse of a Slytherin, too weak to survive on your own."
Albus was gone before he had finished the sentence.
His hair reminded Albus of silk, the way it could make his hand feel wet when he ran his fingers through it. The brunette was taken aback by the blinding brightness of its color, blonde enough to be believed fake. He stood behind the couch that Scorpius sat on, reading and remaining silent. Albus could not help but reach his hand out and twist a strand of white gold silk between his fingers. He stood there for what seemed like hours, taking in the sensation.
"Are you fixed now?" Scorpius asked, not looking up from his book.
Albus was now all but petting the blonde, who did not react to the attentions. He walked around to sit next to Scorpius and looked out the window. "Probably not," he answered quietly.
"Would you like to talk about it?" Scorpius continued, not appearing to care.
"No," Albus sighed. Scorpius looked up and took in Albus's body language.
"Tell me, Potter." He went back to his reading.
Albus all but pouted. He considered refusing, but he knew that, in the end, it would happen anyway. He sighed. "I think I'm lost."
"Because I don't know what I want." "You're fifteen. That's normal." "It's not that. I don't know what I want, what I like, who I like, what I hate. I'm always telling myself that it doesn't matter, but I don't feel like I have anywhere to belong."
"And that surprises you?"
Albus ran his hand through his hair. "Shouldn't it? I mean, shouldn't I have a best friend or a girlfriend or a bunch of groupies following me around? Shouldn't I have something?"
Scorpius closed his book sharply and pursed his lips. "You do have something, Potter. You're just not willing to open your eyes and accept it." Albus looked at Scorpius with open eyes. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Malfoy."
"You do. It's in your head somewhere. You just won't allow it to be brought to the front of your line of thoughts. I've waited for years for it to happen and it hasn't. I'm sick of waiting." He stood up abruptly. "When you've realized that what you want, what you need, and what you have are the same, please come find me." A bewildered Albus watched him leave.
"How do you know if you're supposed to lead or follow?"
Snape almost rolled his eyes. "I am told that you would feel it. Something like an internal instinct, perhaps from your gut. Dumbledore would tell you from your heart."
"What would you tell me?"
"From your bowel."
"What if you don't feel anything?"
"Perhaps you shouldn't exist."
"If I believed that, would it be right for the person who doesn't feel anything to kill themselves?
Snape was silent for a long while. "If that person was a coward, that would be a fitting action."
Albus choked on unshed tears. "Does being afraid make you a coward?"
Snape pursed his lips. "No, Potter. Being afraid makes you human."
"Is that what I am?"
"I would assume so."
"Am I a poor excuse for a human?"
This time, Snape actually did roll his eyes. "You're asking advice on your love life from a portrait of a dead man. Yes, Potter, I would say so."
"This isn't my love life, Professor."
"Yes it is, Potter."
Albus stood, ready to leave. "No, it's not. This has nothing to do with love."
Snape sighed, impatient. "Everything has everything to do with love, even hate."
The boy remained standing, shocked at the reply from the normally callous professor. His words had confused him. "You… you think I have love? Of all things, you think I have love?"
"I think you have everything that embodies the lack of love. But be it still, the focus is still love itself."
"What does it matter? What does love make someone? If suicide makes a coward and fear makes a human, what could love possibly make?"
"You will have to figure that out for yourself." "Because you don't know!" Albus stomped, accusing wildly. "You give out advice under false pretenses, Snape!"
"I will not tolerate your childlike manners. You will calm yourself or leave."
Albus did calm down. He sat once again and looked up to the portrait. Snape never seemed to be a happy man. His father never described the professor as such. He only described him as brave. "What does bravery make someone?"
Albus stood and walked to the door.
"Potter," the picture called out. The boy did not turn to face the voice. "You have your grandmother's eyes."
Albus put his hand on the doorknob, fighting with himself in his mind. "My father says you are the strongest man he knows, Professor," he said, hoping the man would catch his meaning.
Albus took dinner in his room, as always. He sat cross-legged on the fluffy duvet, considering the past few days. Scorpius had angered him, calling him, in more or less words, unintelligent and oblivious. The Professor had confused him, telling him everything was about love and then insisting Albus did not have any. He had love, did he not? He never actually said he loved anyone other than family members, and even then when he was young, but he was sure he felt some sort of love. But every time Albus tried to analyze his feelings, he just ended up empty. Lost. Alone. He had certainly never loved anyone he had slept with. There would have been something more than just climax. There must have been, if he had loved someone. And there never was.
He walked aimlessly to the library to find Scorpius relaxed in a bay window, light reflecting off of his fair skin and hair. He proceeded cautiously to the other boy, lonely and desperate for company. "Have you figured it out, yet?" Scorpius asked, once again fixating his eyes on his reading. He turned a page.
Albus put his hands in his pockets, nervous. He had not solved the mystery, and he knew Scorpius was aware of it. "Does it have anything to do with love?" he asked, quietly.
Scorpius looked up, his mouth parted. "Yes. How did you come to that conclusion?
"Professor Snape gave me some guidance… about love." "Did he?" The blonde resumed reading.
Albus sat next to his peer. "He said it was what everything was about, or something like that. That everything is about love, whether we realize it or not."
Albus rubbed his nose with his sleeve. "He said I embody the lack of love." Albus sat looking ahead, ignoring the boy next to him. Scorpius eventually looked up, curious about the quiet, and saw the tears streaming down Albus's face.
"Perhaps he was right." Scorpius put his book down and closed his eyes. He did not want this to happen right now.
Albus glared with bloodshot eyes and a wet nose. "What does it mean, then? That I have no love?" he spat. "Does it make me a monster? Or a freak? What does that make me? Empty?"
"I would assume, Potter, that love makes you happy." Albus was quiet. "And perhaps the reason you feel lost is because you are unhappy. And you would be unhappy because you cannot accept love."
Albus sputtered angrily. "I can accept love."
"Really?" Scorpius challenged.
"Of course I can! I could easily accept love, if I could find any! Maybe that's all I need, love!" he scoffed.
"Yes, you need it, I would say."
"Enlighten me, as you seem to be omniscient in this matter."
"You obviously need love. And you want it, I would assume, since you acted earlier like you wanted to belong somewhere, and we just established that love would find you."
"But I don't have it."
"You don't see it," Scorpius replied. "I told you earlier that they're the same. It's all the same. You're just too fucking blind to see it!" He left the window quickly.
"Love makes a person happy."
"Did you figure that out yourself?"
"No. Scorpius told me. He said that you were right about me being void of love. That that's why I'm unhappy. Why I feel lost."
Snape regarded the state of the boy, eyes swollen and red, lips puffy and nose irritated. "And do you think it's true? Because nothing matters if you don't believe it."
"If I did believe it, what should I do about it?"
"Open your eyes."
"What do you mean?" "Open your eyes so you can see how many people love you."
"I know that people love me," Albus insisted, insulted. "Who?"
"My parents. My family. Except James. Well, no. I don't know how he feels about me," Albus murmured.
"Do you see who loves you in any other way than familial or friendly ties?"
Albus thought, honestly trying to think of anyone. "There is no one."
"Then you are blind."
Albus seethed. "Both you and Scorpius seem to know more about this than me. Why don't I just transfer my soul into your body?"
"Because Horcruxes are difficult to create, well beyond your capability, and even more difficult to destroy."
Albus paled. "I didn't mean that. I would never do something so horrid."
Severus raised his eyebrow. "Have you not already?"
"What do you mean by that, Snape?"
"I mean that you have cast aside your family and your friends for no apparent reason. You do not know why you are so vile toward anyone. And yet, you do not do anything to change. Your moral standing is no better than that of the deceased Voldemort."
"I am nothing like him!" Albus cried.
"You are everything like him, Potter. You have no love inside you. You refuse to credit the most powerful and mystical phenomenon of the universe. You will not accept the love your best friend has for you. In your current state, Potter, you are nothing short of a monster."
"DON'T CALL ME THAT!" Albus spat. His chest heaved as his rabid expression calmed. "I am no monster."
"You are. And you will remain a monster until you change." Snape's face displayed no emotion as the boy before him sagged to the floor, his resolve crumbling.
"If I believed it, Professor," Albus whispered, quietly, "how would you suggest I do that?"
Snape was quiet. "Go love someone," he suggested simply.
Albus's head shot up. "We've already established I'm incapable of doing so."
"Bollocks. We established that you are void of love. That you refuse to accept it. If you are human, which we have established, you should be able to learn, over time, how to accept love. And you will fill yourself with it, then. And you will belong. And you will be happy."
"How do I love someone, Professor?"
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Surely you know the mechanics."
"Sex is not love."
"Not the way you have abused it, no. But if you think about it, I'm sure there was one person who was always willing to please you, sexually and otherwise, even if you didn't want it at that particular moment. There is someone who loves you. You need to learn that you love him, in return."
Albus stared through the portrait. His dazed expression did not falter. "I do not love anyone. I would know if I loved someone. I would feel it. I feel nothing."
"You feel nothing because you have numbed yourself."
Albus glared. "And how would I fix that? It's not like a Pepper Up could fix me, is it?"
"No, it is not. But you could be persistent. You could go in search of love."
"A Holy Grail of highest esteem," the boy scoffed.
Snape glared, completely serious with his reply. "The Holiest."
Albus was quiet, accepting the reprimand easily, but not throwing away the lesson. "Who is he, then? The man I supposedly love?"
"I have already told you. He is your best friend."
"I have no best friend."
"I do not mean your bosom buddy, Potter. I mean that, if you were to analyze the quality of the few friends you have, the one you would find to be of the best moral standing and loyalty to you. He is the one."
And Albus knew immediately of who the professor spoke. "He told me that what I need, want, and have are the same," Albus whispered.
"He is not a stupid boy. Love is a necessity. He is prepared to force feed it to you, if the situation becomes that dire, which, I will admit, seems entirely possible."
"Why are you doing this?" Albus asked suddenly.
"Acting as a counselor to me?" For the first time since Albus met the man, Snape stood from his chair and left the portrait.
Albus opened the door without knocking. He walked over to the bed and made himself comfortable under the blankets, ignoring the still figure beside him. He rested his hands behind his head as he tried to make out the ceiling above him in the dark. "Snape told me that love is a necessity." The body grunted, letting out what sounded suspiciously like a snort. "I think he was right. I … I think that you were right."
"About what, exactly?"
"About the fact that I need love. That I want love. That… I already have it."
"You have no ounce of love in you, Potter."
Albus rolled to his side, his front closest to his companion. "You're right, of course, Scorpius. I have no love in me. But someone does love me. And I am sick of being empty. I'm ready to be fulfilled."
Scorpius turned on the light and faced the other boy. "Are you seriously suggesting we fuck right now, because, if you are, your timing sucks."
Albus sighed. "No. Not like that. I … I mean I want to learn how to love. I want to accept the person who loves me. I want to learn how to feel the way he feels for me. I want to be there for him when he's destitute of meaning, completely lost. When he's hurting." Albus struggled to explain himself as his chest jumped erratically and he sobbed uncontrollably. "I want, Scorpius," he said to get the blonde to look at him, "I want to love you."
Scorpius did not touch the hysterical boy. He just watched as Potter wrapped his arms around his chest and pulled his knees basically up to his chin. He listened as the boy let out howling sobs and ragged breaths. He waited for the breathing to become normal, but, after an hour, he understood that Albus was not going to settle. He was purging himself of all impurities. He was performing the largest detoxification process he was possible of, and Scorpius just watched as the one person he loved more than anyone else fell to pieces, much like a delicate glass figurine on the edge of sanity being pushed to its doom. He did not help, because he knew that Albus needed to sink to the lowest possibility before he could rise above the emptiness and fill it with love.
When Albus fell asleep, Scorpius stayed awake. He observed the boy from a distance and, as he reached over to put out the light, he whispered, "I want you to love me, too."
Albus woke up warm. He wiggled his toes against the satin sheets and smiled at the feeling. He opened his eyes to see Scorpius watching him.
"Good morning," the blonde greeted.
"Mmm. Morning," Albus mumbled, failing to fight back a yawn.
Scorpius looked at him tenderly. "Are you sore?"
Albus yawned again and stretched, grimacing when he moved his entire body. He laughed lightly. "Yeah, guess so."
Scorpius brushed a clump of hair from Albus's eyes. He ran his hand down the boy's cheek. "Did you sleep well?"
"Yeah, I guess. I kinda got knocked out."
"Yes, I know," Scorpius agreed softly. "How does your chest feel?"
Albus was taken aback. "It's tight. Feels like it's burning. How did you know?"
"I know you very well."
Albus looked confused. "How? I mean, we've never really been friends or anything…"
"I'm observant. You used to do that all the time when we were younger. First year. Then a little in third year. Once in forth." Scorpius continued to touch Albus's face, intimate enough to draw any anger Albus felt at Scorpius's confession away. After a pause, he spoke again. "It was always after you talked to Headmaster Snape."
Albus froze at the words. He wanted to deny the truth, but he knew he would be called out. "Yes. Always after Snape."
Scorpius's forehead crinkled. "Why?"
Albus considered his answer, trying to figure out what to edit. He decided he was sick of picking and choosing his words. "Because he's the only one who could point out how horrible I am and make me feel the regret I know I should. James always tried his best, but I never listened to his words. And Mum and Dad are too gentle with me. I think Dad knows that. So he sends me to Snape. Not to do his work, but kind of like a mentor. I … don't know why Snape puts up with me."
"My father says Snape was an amazing man, that he was braver than anyone in the war, braver than Dumbledore and even," Scorpius paused, careful with his words, "even more brave than your father." He watched Albus as he spoke to gauge his reaction.
Albus laughed lightly. "So does my dad." Albus propped himself up with his arm, facing Scorpius. "Did you know I'm named after him, Snape, I mean?" Scorpius waited for an explanation. "My full name is Albus Severus Potter." Scorpius was almost completely silent but for one small giggle. "What?" Albus asked, pouting?
Scorpius broke out in laughter. "Your name is Albus Severus?"
Albus burrowed his eyebrows, confused at the boy's reaction. "Yes," he replied cautiously.
Scorpius laughed even louder. Between gasps for air, he said "I. Am. So. Sorry!"
Albus's mouth dropped. "Yeah, well, Scorpius isn't exactly pleasant, either. I mean, aren't you named after a bug?"
Scorpius sniffed. "For your information, it's an arthropod."
"Which is what," Albus asked, "Latin for really ugly bug?" He howled with laughter. After a moment he asked, "What's your middle name?"
Scorpius glared. "Do you promise never to tell anyone? And not to laugh?" Albus found this a bit unfair, but he nodded anyway. Scorpius looked behind his shoulder to make sure no one was listening, which amused Albus to no end. "It's Hyperion."
Albus's eyes popped, and his cheeks puffed out from him trying to repress his laughter. He blew out a heavy sigh. "Okay. Um, topic change?"
"Absolutely," Scorpius grinned.
"Uh… well. I'm kind of thirsty. Do you want to go get something to drink?"
"No need, I'll have Solly bring something up. Solly," Scorpius called. Instantly, a small elf-like creature appeared. "Please bring up some lemonade. A pitcher and two glasses will do." A moment later his request was granted.
"Thanks," Albus grinned, accepting a glass gratefully. He took a deep drink, and soon looked desperate to spit the drink out.
"If you spit that out, Albus Severus, I will hex your balls and hang them like diamonds from your ears," Scorpius drawled.
Albus swallowed dramatically and scratched his tongue with his teeth. "YECK! What was that shite?"
Scorpius sipped his drink. "That is ginger lemonade, Potter. Amazing drink."
"Are you taking the piss out of me?"
Scorpius rolled his eyes. "No."
"Bollocks that's lemonade. I know lemonade, and that's not lemonade!"
Scorpius sighed. "Your bourgeois expectations of lemonade aside, Potter, it really is quite a good drink."
"Psh. It's terrible. I know a good drink when I drink one." Albus flipped his wrist, mocking Scorpius.
"Ah, yes, I forgot your capability to consume copious amounts of alcohol," Scorpius mentioned.
"Without even getting dizzy," Albus added, proudly.
"You know," Scorpius mused, "you're not a very good role model. Sex and alcohol, you know."
Albus looked curiously at the blonde. "Does it bother you?"
"Not really. The sex did, for a while, but I got used to it."
"You didn't like when we-"
"It's not that. I loved that. It was amazing. I didn't like it when you fucked other people. Especially other boys. I hated that."
"Oh," Albus remarked, thinking. "I'm sorry that I've been so oblivious."
"I know you are. I knew that was how everything was going to be when I fell-" he sucked in a breath. "When I decided I wanted to be with you."
"I don't know how to be in a relationship," Albus confessed, worried about Scorpius's reaction.
"Really?" the other boy replied sarcastically. "And here I found your nightly jaunts just a twisted way of courting me."
"Fuck off, Malfoy."
"Mmm, I'm sure," Scorpius replied, playing with Albus's hair again. "Albus?"
"Yeah?" he replied, opening his eyes.
"Who was your first?" Albus froze again. "I mean, was it me?"
"No. It… it wasn't you. Um, actually, it was James's friend, Lorcan. He's a Gryffindor." Albus fidgeted with his hands. "I didn't really want to sleep with you. I didn't know if I could handle you. You're too," he scrunched his nose, thinking of a word while Scorpius waited patiently, "You're too pretty."
Scorpius blinked. "I'm too pretty?"
"Yeah, you know. I didn't want to feel down about myself while in the middle of the act, you know?"
"You are… a dolt."
Albus glared. "I'm not sure I know exactly what that is, but thank you."
"I'm sure whatever you would call me would only imply the nicest things about my charming character."
"Mmm," Scorpius agreed, leaning in to kiss Albus gently. "Is this alright?" he asked carefully. Albus pulled him in closer.
"Has everything been settled with young Mr. Malfoy, then?" Professor Snape asked, not looking the least bit interested.
"Yes, I think. I feel almost indebted to him, but I think I have my eyes open now," Albus smiled as he replied, sitting next to the portrait.
"And you are leaving today?"
"Yes. Scorpius is coming over for a couple days and then we'll meet up at Diagon Alley for supply shopping and all that. He's excited for his N.E.W.T. classes. "And you are not?"
"I will tell you that I am."
"Well, if that is the case, and you really are leaving, I thought I should inform you that I will no longer be able to speak with you."
Albus felt that his world had just crashed into the sun. "If I believed you, Professor, I would ask you why."
"And if I felt you worthy of an answer, I would tell you it is because you are ready to stop following and start leading."
Albus twisted his nose in an attempt to ignore the suspicious burning that was beginning to build in his eyes. "I haven't had any emotionally moving bowel movements of late, sir," he replied, referring to their previous conversation.
Snape let out a rich and hearty laugh. "Perhaps I was wrong about that. But certainly you have had a considerable movement in your heart."
"Only fools demented with wisdom would believe in such a thing," Albus said, praying that he would not lose his connection to Professor Snape.
"It has been my experience, and believe that I am experienced with demented and wise fools who spew nothing but utter nonsense seventy-five percent of the time, that said fools are usually correct. It must be something about their brain waves being altered to see things the normal cannot."
Albus panicked. "I do not want you to leave me. You have been there for years helping me. In first year when I was afraid and third when I was confused and fourth when I -"
The portrait did not listen. He had already switched to a new topic. "Albus Severus Potter. Think of whose legends your title immortalizes. What a powerful name," he mused.
"And what does power make of someone?" Albus asked, swallowing nervously.
Severus looked directly at the younger boy. "Power makes you absolutely nothing, unless it is combined with fear and love. And then, power makes you complete. You have experienced fear in unnatural amounts. You have learned to accept love and will learn how to give it. Once you are set free from me and pushed into a world where you are forced to discover how to live, you will fly by the expectations your name has set for you."
"I don't know how to live on my own. I'm not ready to do that."
"I did not say you had to live on your own, but that you had discover how to live. You have to learn that you need support, and you need to find that support. You have learned from me all that I can teach. It is time for you to utilize that education and move on from the past. There is nothing there for you anymore. You have been brought down from your pedestal, purged of all toxins and placed in the proper direction. It is up to you to move your feet."