Disclaimer: I would have soo much trouble deciding which pairing to make canon if I owned it… that's one of the (many) reasons I'm so grateful I do not.
A/N: Okay, I have a confession… I hate when authors do this. They're working on a multi-chap that's not finished, and they post a oneshot when they really should be focusing their energy on the multi-chap… so, I feel like a total hypocrite. But I just had to write this. And I'm not about to let it fester on my desktop for months until I'm finished with Lycanthropy. And, in my defense, I sent HC95 chapters 5 and 6 almost one right after the other, and she deserves a little break… Damn failface never betas my oneshots… says they make her want to throw up glitter and rainbows and unicorns and whatnot… XP
Okay, so this has probably been done before. I realize that. BUT I've read a total of maybe three A/S fics, none of them like this one. So I don't want to hear any crap about it. XP
On with the fluff and whatnot!
"Albus?" Rose peeked her head into the compartment where her cousin and his best friends, and fellow Sixth Year Slytherins, Scorpius Malfoy and Silas Zabini, sat. She was technically supposed to be patrolling the corridors, but the matter at hand was much more important, in her humble opinion.
Al looked up from his intense game of Wizard's Chess with Scorpius (the trio always played the game a little differently: their object wasn't to get a Checkmate; it was to destroy as many pieces as possible) at the redhead. "Hey, Rosie," he said, his bottle-green eyes lighting up as he flashed a trademark thousand-watt grin.
"Can I talk to you?" The usually-energetic girl seemed nervous, fiddling with the sleeve of her robe, her freckle-spotted face flushing.
Al nodded obligingly, and stood up, conveniently knocking over Scorpius's knight and earning himself a dirty look, to which he responded with an endearingly mischievous smile.
He followed his out-of-character cousin down the corridor of the Hogwarts Express wordlessly. He noted with a grimace that she was still taller than he was, with lanky limbs that quite resembled her father's.
Rose abruptly turned into an empty compartment, but didn't sit down like Al did. Instead, she paced the few steps the space would allow her to, every now and then running a hand through her shiny, voluminous curly mane.
Al was beginning to worry. He hadn't seen Rosie looking so stressed since O.W.L.s the previous year.
The girl stopped moving, and exhaled sharply. "I have something to tell you," She said, her blue eyes avoiding his, darting around the compartment.
"Yeah?" He asked casually, though he was extremely interested in what his self-appointed best friend had to say that was so important.
She exhaled again, and squeezed her eyes shut, as if bracing for something painful. "IlikeScorpius." She said, all as one word.
Al's eyebrows instantly shot up. Scorpius and Rose had always been friendly, with none of the Malfoy-Weasley rivalry everyone seemed to expect, but he didn't realize that she felt something more than friendly for the boy who he'd known since the Sorting in First Year.
How did he feel about this new discovery?
It was odd, of course, the idea of two of his best friends dating… he felt like he was about to gag when he pictured the two of them being all cute and couple-y together, sitting at Madame Pudifoot's or something…
But it was also great! There would be no more annoying tagalong situation's like with Scorpius's old girlfriends… when the group went places, it wouldn't be like a "group date", it would be like them hanging out as usual. Plus, he and Silas already liked her. There would be no more awkward times where the two confronted Scorpius, and had to tell him how much they loathed his new bird, which happened way too often. And, if they got married, Scorpius could be a part of their family! The only left out would be Silas… and he could just marry Lily or Lucy or something…
"Al?" Rose asked, carefully trying to read his reaction.
He returned to the present, his unfocused eyes lighting up. "This is brilliant!" He exclaimed.
The redhead smiled, still anxious all the same. "Really?"
"Absolutely! If you got married, Scorpius would be part of the family!" The boy didn't want to go through his entire thought process again, so he just opted for his last idea. He was nearly bouncing in his temporary seat.
Rose flushed more deeply, and stammered, "Well, I don't know about marriage…"
Al shot up, moving a hand excitedly through his close-cropped, unruly black hair. "This is so great! I need to tell Silas!" At this, he flung himself out the door and down the hall.
Rose was alarmed. "Al!"
The boy skidded to a stop out side his first compartment, nearly knocking over a passing Third Year, and looked back to his cousin.
"Don't say anything to him about it!" She pleaded, her eyes wide.
"Got it," He nodded, and slid open the glass door, collapsing beside Silas and across from Scorpius as before.
"You seem happy," Scorpius said, one of his eyebrows raised.
"Yeah," Was all Al offered, grinning more widely than ever at the sight of his best friend's pale face.
"And you're not going to tell me why?" The grin was contagious; the corners of Scorpius's mouth turned up, despite his attempt to sound scolding.
"Nope," He popped the "p" sound.
"All right," Scorpius rolled his silver eyes. "Just don't get me in trouble."
"I won't," Al promised with mischief-soaked eyes. "Silas," He addressed the dark-skinned boy, beckoning him closer.
The other boy obliged, scooting over.
Albus surreptitiously pulled his wand out of his back pocket, and cast a Muffilato at Scorpius, who immediately knew what happened and glared at his friends.
Still precautious, he leaned over to Silas's ear, and whispered, "Rose fancies Scorpius," in his ear.
"No way!" Silas backed away, eyebrows nearly at his hairline.
The Potter nodded enthusiastically. "Brilliant, isn't it?"
"What are we going to do about it?" The other boy asked eagerly, moving closer again, his voice lowering.
"I have a few ideas," Al grinned deviously. "Let's start small, though, okay? Don't make things so obvious."
Al muttered a spell, and Scorpius's hearing was clear once more.
The platinum-blond was still glaring at the pair; they were having trouble keeping smiles off their faces.
"What?" He demanded, his cold tone startling none of them.
"Nothing of interest," Silas shrugged.
Scorpius rolled his eyes theatrically.
"Knight to A4," Al commanded the chessboard, trying to change the subject.
The piece moved, looking terrified. The small marble pieces learned to stop protesting after the second time he ever played with them, since they knew they were going to lose the battle anyway.
Gray eyes sharply pierced the raven-haired boy's blissfully disregarding face.
They sat in peace for quite a while, the time filled with orders to Chess pieces and grins shared between Al and Silas.
There was a knock at the glass, and a familiar person appeared at the doorway.
"Al, James wants some money for Cauldron Cakes, and I don't have any. Can he borrow a few Sickles?" Lily asked, looking agitated.
Al's frowned, but he reached into his pocket anyway, pulling out three silver coins. "What did he spend his on already?"
"He got about forty Licorice Wands off the trolley, and then he remembered that he hates licorice." She rolled her bright blue eyes at the same time Al rolled his green ones.
"Tell him he owes me." Al grumbled.
"Thanks," Lily responded to her brother, and walked back down the hallway.
Silas was staring at her all the way down the hall. "Al, your sister is bloody fit,"
Al looked scandalized. "That is so inappropriate." He shook his head, looking disappointed.
"True, though," Silas pointed out. "So is Rose, but not like Lily,"
"That's incredibly creepy, Silas," Al said.
A wink from the Zabini let Al in on what was happening. Comprehension dawned on him, and he went along with it.
"What do you think, Scorpius?" He asked, keeping things conversational.
The blond shrugged, looking bored, reading their History of Magic textbook. "They're both pretty, I suppose,"
"But, if you had a choice, which one?" Silas pressed.
"If I could have anyone from the Potter/Weasley family, or have either of them?"
"Whole family," Silas decided to humor him. Both he and Albus were leaning forward in their seats, anticipating his answer.
Scorpius hesitated for a moment, trying to look contemplative, though he wasn't even paying much attention to the current situation. The chapter about the Second War was interesting…
"Hmm…" Scorpius waited a moment. "Al, definitely."
The other two boys groaned at his lack of playing along and slumped back in their seats.
The blond grinned and glanced at them over the top of his book. They looked so disappointed.
"Would you ever date either of them?" Silas wasn't going to let this go until he had a solid preface of his feelings for the girl. Their entire scheming depended on it!
"Al? Sure, why not?" He responded dryly.
Al rolled his eyes. "Rose or Lily, he means,"
"Lily is only fourteen," He wrinkled his nose.
"Then Rose?" Silas pushed.
"I guess, I don't know." He said.
The pair exchanged identical triumphant grins.
"Hm," Al concluded the conversation, knowing that Scorpius probably wouldn't offer anymore information.
Silas gave Al a look that easily read as We'll talk about this at the castle.
After hours of meticulous scheduling, they had the entire plan mapped out. If everything went as planned, the two would be an official couple by Halloween.
They both copied the following onto respective scraps of parchment:
September 6 – Prefect Duty together
September 22 – Nick some Amortentia, and have them smell it
*make sure Slughorn has some Amortentia
October 5 – Turn them in for nicking the Amortentia, make them get detention together
*make sure Slughorn gives them the same detention
October 15 – Trap them in broom cupboard
*make sure no one is already in there
October 20 – Trap them on the Astronomy Tower
*make sure they bring jackets
October 31 – Trap them under Mistletoe
They grinned evilly at each other, a mutual understanding that they were inhumanly brilliant passing between them.
The two devious Slytherins snuck out of the dorm at the same time Scorpius left for Prefect Duty, unseen by him thanks to the Invisibility Cloak. It was a Tuesday, the day when the least amount of people were lurking the halls. This was planned by the two on purpose.
Rose was slowly walking down the hall just outside the trio's Common Room by the time they were all out.
"Rose?" Scorpius asked, seeming confused. Slytherin and Gryffindor Prefects were never paired up for duty.
"Hi," Rose was friendly and casual as always, but Al detected a slight tremor in her voice.
"Weren't you paired with Boot today?" He walked over to her anyway.
Al and Silas stayed a few meters away from them.
"He's in the hospital wing. Apparently he ate something bad and got really sick,"
The invisible pair grinned at each other. Puking Pastilles never failed.
Scorpius nodded in understanding. "And Bones has been skipping out all week." He paused. "So, we can just go together, then."
She smiled shyly, playing with one of her red spiral curls. "Okay,"
Al feigned throwing up.
Silas sniggered, earning him an elbow in the ribs.
"Shh!" Al insisted.
"What was that?" Rose asked, looking around.
"You heard something?" Scorpius stopped beside her.
"Yeah, I think it came from that way," She pointed to their right, to a corridor lined with classrooms.
Scorpius lit the tip of his wand, and they walked slowly, cautiously, down that way. Rose was very close behind Scorpius, her front nearly touching his back.
Holding back laughter, the other pair followed them.
"I think it came from in here," Rose whispered, her lips right at his ear.
The blond was as stone-faced as ever, which wasn't working for Al or Silas. Rose was trying her hardest!
Wordlessly, Scorpius pointed his wand at the doorknob and unlocked it, pushing it open and stepping inside.
Rose stayed behind for a moment. She exhaled, straightened her skirt, and combed her fingers through her hair before walking in after Scorpius, pulling the door shut behind her.
What is she doing? Albus thought incredulously. His stomach knotted for a reason he couldn't place, and he hastily threw the Cloak off his body.
"Hey, Al!" Silas protested, but Al was already sprinting down the hall to the classroom.
He whipped his wand out, and panted, "Alohamora,"
Wrenching the door open, he yelled, "Boo!" trying to play his intrusiveness off.
He was grateful to see that Rose hadn't even made her way over to Scorpius yet.
The two whipped around, their hair slapping their faces.
"Merlin, Al, you almost gave us a heart attack," Scorpius said, looking startled.
Rose, on the other hand, was trying to communicate Avada Kedavra through her eyes at him.
"How's Prefect-ing?" He asked with a grin, walking over to the pair and looping an arm around both of them as best as he could; they were both taller than him.
"Was it you that she heard earlier?" Scorpius asked, habitually resting his arm across his friend's shoulders.
"Yeah, probably," he shrugged, and noticed the knot in his stomach was gone, but replaced with a different feeling, as if he was slowly, literally, falling.
"Al, go to bed, you're not supposed to be up right now," Rose said coldly.
The black-haired boy looked hurt. "You know I don't sleep well on Tuesdays,"
"You sleep fine every day," She didn't accept his humor.
"I wonder if there's a Boggart in that desk," Al said eagerly, running towards an unused desk, and wrapping a hand around the drawer handle.
Scorpius was watching him with an amused expression, his arms crossed over his lean chest.
"Bet I'd see one of you guys falling off a broom or something," He continued, speaking very quickly, the speed of his speech nearly matching the racing rate of his heart. "Ready?" He asked, looking expectantly at Scorpius.
The blond rolled his eyes and ran a hand through his pushed-back hair, but nodded anyway.
"One… two… THREE!" He jerked the drawer open dramatically and stepped back quickly.
As expected, nothing happened.
"Damn," He crossed his arms, looking saddened.
"Don't worry, Al, I'll buy you a Boggart for Christmas, okay?" Scorpius joked.
"Really?" Al lit up, and ran over to his best friend, vaulting off a desk into his unprepared arms, and nearly making both of them fall down. He almost choked the blond because of how tightly he was clutching his neck.
"Go to bed, mate, you need it," Scorpius laughed, and set the smaller boy down.
The raven-haired Slytherin groaned. "Fine, but only because Rosie wants me to," He winked at his cousin, who still glared holes into his head, now twirling her curl more fiercely than ever.
The three exited the classroom, and Al turned down a different hallway than them to get back to his dorm.
"What was that, Al?" Silas asked, running up behind him, pulling the Cloak off his body. He seemed both confused and angry at once.
"What was what?"
"You ruined any sort of mood that was there!" Silas said as if it was the most obvious thing ever.
Al mumbled something about not wanting them to move so fast, all of his energy suddenly drained. The knot in his stomach returned, but with less intensity as before. He wondered where Scorpius and Rose were going next…
… and also, why he cared so much what Rose was going to do next.
"Oh yeah!" Silas said suddenly, and dove underneath his bed. "Guys! Look what I have!" He waved around a small vial of glistening liquid with a mother-of-pearl sheen.
"What is it?" Al asked interestedly, propping himself up onto his elbows. The four best friends were all lounging in the Slytherin Sixth Year dorms. Luckily for them, the three boys were the only Slytherins in their year, so there was never anyone to disturb them when they brought questionable things back into their room.
Though there were three beds in the room, Al, Rose, and Scorpius were all laying on Scorpius's bed, Rose and Scorpius laying parallel, with Al draped across their midriffs. His head was resting against the blond's stomach. It wasn't the best pillow, since it was mostly solid, but it was ideal to Al over Rose's. The odd falling-feeling in his stomach was almost constant now, so he hardly noticed it.
"Merlin, Al!" Scorpius sat up as well at the feeling of something stabbing into his sternum, which turned out to be Al's sharp elbow. He picked up the other boy's arm and moved it over to the bed.
Instead of steadying himself, Al accidentally fell back onto Scorpius's stomach, knocking the wind out of the blond.
By the time everything was sorted out, and all three of the people on the same bed were sitting up, shoulder to shoulder, Scorpius and Albus were breathless with laughter.
Rolling her eyes, Rose directed her attention back to the most sane of the group. "What do you have, Silas?"
"Amortentia," Scorpius answered for him. "Where'd you get it?"
"Professor Slughorn's office," He said proudly.
"You stole Amortentia?" Rose asked, "Why?"
The other boy shrugged. "Thought it looked cool,"
Al shot him a grin that neither of the others in the room saw.
Silas uncorked the vial, and wafted it underneath his nose. "Smells good," He said, a serene expression taking over his face.
"Let me see it," Al hopped up and snatched the bottle from the other's slackened hand. Sitting back against the headboard, he swirled it underneath his nose as well. "You're right," He agreed, taking in, and getting drunk off, all of his favorite scents of the Quidditch pitch, Christmas Dinner at the Burrow, butterbeer, and the Dorms.
Scorpius reached over for it and sniffed delicately. "Yeah," He said softly, and passed it to the only person who had yet to smell it.
Her eyes widened as their fingers briefly brushed. She wafted it in the same manner Silas had.
"What do you smell?" Al asked, remembering that there was a plan behind this.
"Um, leather-bound books, toffee, the Christmas Feast, and… here, actually," She gestured to the room around them.
Al and Silas shot each other a look.
"How about you, Scorpius?" Silas asked, leaning forward excitedly.
He took the vial again, and inhaled once more. "The Quidditch pitch, like Al, um… Honeydukes, spearmint leaves, and Al's house,"
Al's brow furrowed in confusion at that last scent.
Silas snorted. "You're attracted to Al's house?"
The Malfoy shrugged, and passed the vial back to Silas, who corked it. "It's because I have fun there, I guess. We're always there over the summer," He gestured towards Rose, who blushed lightly.
"What about you, Rose? Our dorms attract you?" Al played off what Silas was saying.
The pinch of pink in her cheeks darkened to nearly crimson, and her eyes flickered toward Scorpius. "I suppose, I don't know."
"I smelled the dorms, too, Rosie, don't feel bad," The Potter grinned, but then became puzzled.
… Why did he smell the dorms?
"Does someone care to tell me why this was found outside your dorm?" It was one of those rare moments where Slughorn looked absolutely livid, thrusting the little bottle in front of Scorpius, Albus, and Silas.
Silas and Al looked at each other, perfectly-feigned guilt on their faces as they, as rehearsed, turned towards Scorpius in sync.
The only thing that would've given them away would be the secret wink Silas sent Albus, signaling them to count to three, and then say, in flawless unison:
"It was Rose and Scorpius."
Scorpius looked at them both, looking scandalized. "What?" He demanded.
"Don't act so innocent, Scorpius, we saw you going into his office," Silas recited quietly.
"Sorry, Scorpius, I can't get another detention. Mum will kill me," Al seemed to feel awful.
"Well, someone go and fetch Miss Weasley, then," Professor Slughorn pinched the bridge of his nose.
Silas nodded, and left the man's office as quickly as possible.
The air was thick with tension for the few minutes that Silas was gone.
Rose walked in the room looking extremely confused. "Yes, Professor?"
"These young gentlemen tell me that you took part in the theft of this." He waved around the vial.
Her mouth fell open. "What? I would never—"
"Rosie, we already told him what happened," Al said quietly.
"But I—" She looked desperately at Scorpius for support. The blond only shrugged.
"Theft is a serious crime, Miss Weasley and Mister Malfoy," The Professor scolded them. "And, I must say, I expected better from you two,"
They hung their heads, feeling accountable for a crime they didn't commit.
Silas and Albus looked at each other and grinned at their work. There was no getting around detention for either of them, plus Slughorn still held enough trust in them to have it together, while he stayed in his office, doing something else…
The knot in Al's stomach came back full-force, and he felt like he was about to double over in the oddly painful sensation of it.
He didn't know why he felt it, or what it even was, but he knew the pain and unpleasantness flared up every time he thought of his cousin and his best friend alone in the same room with no supervision.
His breathing was becoming slightly shallow as the knot only got tighter and tighter.
"I did it, too," Albus choked out in the middle of Slughorn's lecture.
He stopped, and looked at the boy. "Excuse me?"
"I helped them steal the Amortentia," He said, looking guilty enough to be convincing, while also masking his stomach pain.
"Did you now?" Slughorn sighed, exasperated. "I don't suppose a detention would do any more to curb your kleptomania than telling you not to do it anymore, would it?" He asked, actually negotiating a detention for once.
"Honestly, no, sir," He replied sheepishly.
"Then I'd better not waste any of our time, should I?"
Silas was looking back and forth at all of them, not quite sure what was going on.
"I suppose not, sir," Al said politely.
Slughorn sighed deeply, rubbing his temples. "Albus Potter, Scorpius Malfoy, and Rose Weasley, it will be a month's worth of detentions to each of you next time I hear you've stolen something." He said, resorting to that as an ultimatum.
The three's faces brightened, while Zabini's darkened.
"Really, sir?" Rose asked hopefully.
The wide-set man sat down in the plush armchair behind his desk. "Yes, now get on,"
Feeling a weight lift off all of their shoulders, the four said, "Thank you, sir," at different times, all while filing out of his office.
When they were in the hallway outside the classroom, the first thing Scorpius did was punch both Al and Silas in their shoulders.
"Why did you tell him we did it?" He asked angrily.
Al rubbed the spot where Scorpius hit him, feeling truly guilty for the first time, not liking the expression on his friend's face at all.
"Sorry, mate, my dad would've sent me to live with my grandmother had I gotten another detention," Silas apologized.
Though still glaring, the blond nodded at Silas. He then turned to Al for his explanation.
"I would've gotten kicked off the Quidditch team; Professor McGonagall said so,"
Scorpius's hard expression softened slightly. He knew that Albus would be miserable without Quidditch. Pursing his lips still, he nodded.
"Sorry 'bout that, Rosie," Silas said lightly, smiling.
Rose rolled her eyes and huffed. "Why do I associate myself with you three?"
"Because you love us," Scorpius grinned one of his rare full-grins, and looped his arm around the girl's shoulders.
She blushed nearly crimson, but tried to play it off as she rolled her eyes again.
The two began walking, leaving Al, Silas, and the monster, that was flaring up in Al's stomach again, behind.
"Al," Silas said quietly as they began to walk as well.
"Hm?" His eyes didn't move from the backs of his best friends. Something about the way they were all tangled unsettled him.
"You did it again,"
"Did what?" He asked distractedly.
"Ruined the plan," Silas didn't look angry at all this time, only confused at his friend's actions. The way he was staring blatantly at Scorpius didn't help anything.
"I felt bad, Silas; they have a record to maintain, unlike us." He made that lie up on the spot. He didn't want to tell anyone about the weird feeling he was getting in his stomach, since he no longer thought that it was triggered by anything physical, but something emotional, until he figured it out himself.
"Al, if you don't stop interrupting, they won't be together by Halloween; and do you want Scorpius to start dating some really annoying bird like always?"
"No," Al answered quickly. He didn't want Scorpius dating any girl at all… Except Rose. He told himself, though he knew that that wasn't the whole truth.
"Scorpius, I left the Map in there, and it's too high up for me to reach it. Can you get it for me?" Al lied.
"Why can't you just Summon it like the rest of us, Al?" Scorpius rolled his eyes.
"Please?" His perfectly prepared doe-eyes were impossible to resist.
The blond groaned, and walked into the small space of the broom cupboard, reaching upward toward the top shelf.
Albus nearly missed his chance to lock him in because he couldn't tear his eyes away from the boy. The way his hair fell back when he looked up, the way his back muscles flexed as he reached to the top shelf, the way his pale, outstretched arms were perfectly toned, the way his white button-up shirt was so teasingly stretched against his body, revealing a sliver of his back just above his waistband…
"Al!" Silas hissing angrily broke him out of his reverie.
He shook his head, thoroughly confused by what the hell just happened, to regain his mind.
"Al, I don't see it," Scorpius said.
Feeling quite regretful, he swung the door closed, and locked it all before Scorpius had a chance to realize what was happening.
"Al?" His muffled voice sounded confused.
The boy didn't respond, and only felt suddenly downcast, a weight pressing on his chest.
"Albus Severus Potter, let me out of this bloody closet!"
He didn't let like the tone Scorpius had; it made him feel horrible for doing this. He turned around from where he was leaning against the door, and almost had his hand on the lock when he was suddenly tackled from his left.
"Ow!" He said angrily, rubbing his head where it collided with the ground.
"Sorry, but you almost let him out!" Silas hissed, and then cast a Silencing Charm on the broom cupboard.
The Potter pinched the bridge of his nose to prevent the headache he knew was about to hit full-force.
"I'm going to the dorms," He grumbled, and stood up from the ground, brushing himself off.
"Go ahead; I can get Rose in here by myself," Silas shrugged.
Turning on his heel, Al began to stalk in the opposite direction. He had just rounded a corner when he heard Silas's voice.
"Rose! I think Scorpius is stuck in here, and I don't know how to get him out!"
"Silas, we learned this in First Year. Alohamora." A door creaked open. "There. Silas!" She shrieked, and there was the sound of a door closing, and a lock clicking.
So they were both in the cupboard now. Good, thought Al. Things were going as planned.
The knot in his stomach pulled tighter than ever as he imagined the two of them in the small space, pressed up against each other with nowhere else to stand. He imagined Rose saying something charming, and Scorpius brushing a piece of hair out of her face, and both of them leaning in…
His breath suddenly choked in his throat, he pivoted and began walking back to where the closet was.
"They're both in there, Al," Silas grinned, looking rather triumphant, seeing his friend walking back to him.
"Excellent," He forced a grin as well. "Want to go to the kitchens?" He asked the first thing that came to his mind.
"Good idea," The dark-skinned boy said, and began to walk the opposite direction from which Al came.
Sneakily, Al snaked his wand out of his sleeve, making sure the sleeve still concealed the sliver of wood. He concentrated harder than he ever had, and thought Alohamora, praying that the wordless incantation would work.
The suspense was killing him. Having done this while passing the cupboard, he wasn't sure if it would work or not. He could hardly turn around and make sure they were out, either, without looking suspicious.
The pair was almost all the way down the hall when there was the tiniest noise that caused Al's heart to lift.
"Oh Merlin," Silas suddenly seemed panicked, and began sprinting.
Albus followed his lead. "How did they get out?" He asked incredulously while they ran down one of the many Hogwarts corridors, attracting many odd stares from portraits they passed.
"Did you check to see if either of them had their wands?" Silas puffed.
"Damn!" Al was grateful for this assumption from Silas.
"How could we forget that?" Silas seemed more disappointed than anything.
Slowing his feet down, Al patted his friend's shoulder. "Next time, mate."
Saying this caused a certain sickness in the Potter's stomach that he couldn't place.
"Al, maybe you should skip out on this one," Silas said carefully, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Why?" Al asked, puzzled. They were just going over the entire plan to get both Rose and Scorpius to the Astronomy Tower, and he thought it was nearly foolproof.
"Well," He rubbed his neck more distractedly, avoiding his friend's eyes, "the first times you… kind of ruined everything,"
The raven-haired boy didn't look offended, or hurt, or anything of the like, because he knew that it was completely true. "I won't ruin it this time," He said, sounding more convinced than he felt.
"Why do you keep doing that?" Silas asked, still looking uncomfortable.
"Do you think I'm doing it on purpose?" Al's brow furrowed, the first traces of anger crossing his face.
"No—well, erm… kind of?—I don't know!" The dark-skinned boy looked like there was a war going on in his brain, and all of the sudden brain-flow was giving him a splitting headache.
The other boy waited patiently for Silas's explanation.
"I don't know, mate; it just seems like you… don't want them to get together or something,"
"That's ridiculous," Albus said hollowly.
"Is it, though? The first time, you barged into the room when Rose was trying to make her move, and the second time you got everyone out of a detention, which was completely opposite of what we were trying to do. And last time, that was both of our faults, but still…"
"Silas, I already told you why I did both of those things; I don't have to explain myself again." Al's voice was hostile. He didn't like the facts being thrown in his face when they all led to such an impossible conclusion.
Silas held his hands up in defense. "I was just saying, Al, try to stick with the plan this time, okay?"
The other boy let out a breath. "Okay,"
"All right," Silas still seemed like he was being overly-careful with Albus. "I checked, and there's no one up there right now. So, we'll get both of them, and then walk up there, and then we're leaving. Okay?"
"Okay!" Al already heard the plan.
"Right. So, go get Scorpius, and meet me and Rose in front of the Gryffindor Common Room."
The Potter nodded, and stood up from his spot on his bed, walking into the Slytherin Common Room. He thought he was feeling nauseas, but then he finally identified the omnipresent feeling of falling down as butterflies in his stomach.
He grimaced. Butterflies? What the hell?
And, much to his dismay, they only strengthened when he spotted Scorpius sitting in one of the armchairs in front of the crackling fire. He felt like punching himself in the stomach to make them stop, but, thankfully, decided against it at the last second.
"Hey," He said brightly, sitting down on the arm of the chair.
Scorpius ignored him, his brows knitted together as he continued to read his ridiculously thick, yawn-inducing book.
Feeling roguish, Al raised a hand that was slightly trembling for Merlin-know-what reason, and snatched the book from his friend's hands. He stuck his index finger in the crease to mark the page he was on, and closed it.
"I was reading that." Scorpius said, looking angry, but his eyes softening as he looked up at his friend.
"We're all going to the Astronomy Tower for some butterbeer, want to go?" Al, just as he had for the past five days, was having trouble looking at Scorpius's face without blushing.
"I want to continue reading," Scorpius mumbled.
"Well, that's out of the question. So let's go," Al grinned, and stood up, dog-earing the page and setting it down on a table conveniently right beside them.
Scorpius looked reluctant. Going somewhere with his friends, especially after dark, especially on a Saturday, always spelled trouble.
"We're not going to get in trouble," Al promised, reading Scorpius's mind. "So come on,"
Sighing, Scorpius stood up. He paused for a moment, stretching, his muscles tight from sitting in a stationary position for such a long time.
Al's mouth was agape, looking quite dumb, as Scorpius was once again, unintentionally, teasing him as he raised his arms, revealing the smooth protrusions of his hip bones underneath his shirt.
What the hell is wrong with me? Al asked himself.
"Are we going or not?" Scorpius asked confusedly as his friend just stood there.
"Sorry," Al shook his head quickly, coming back to the present. "Let's go,"
Grinning, Scorpius draped an arm around Al's slight shoulders and steered them out of the Common Room in an ever-habitual manner.
"You're short," He pointed out with a smile, noticing that the boy barely reached his chin.
Al frowned. "Am not,"
"Yes you are. Have you grown at all since First Year?" He teased.
The smaller boy looked offended. "Fourth Year, not First Year, git. Just because you grow half a meter every year doesn't mean we all can!" He ranted, anger rising in his chest, only adding to the feeling of the damned butterflies that just wouldn't go away.
"I was just kidding, Al," Scorpius laughed at his friend's sudden outrage. He readjusted his arm to where it forced the boy closer, and ruffled his already-messy hair with his free hand.
Al batted his hand away, the bloody butterflies going on a rampage. He hated the things. Hated them.
"Scorpius, Albus!" Silas called from in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady.
Scorpius waved at Silas and Rose, who was standing next to the other boy. The envious expression on her face, directed toward Albus, made Al feel proud, almost guiltily so.
"Got the butterbeer?" Albus asked Silas.
The other boy reached into his pocket, and pulled out four toy-sized bottles, which he'd obviously shrunken.
"Excellent," He grinned.
The four set off the short distance to the Astronomy Tower, joking, laughing, and being comfortable with each other as always. Al wondered if things would still be the same, once Scorpius and Rose started dating, except with Rose in his position instead of him.
Contrary to how he viewed the situation back on the train, this didn't excite him. Rather, it caused the knot to return in his stomach.
Why don't I want them together anymore? He wondered just as they were opening the door to the tower, and stepping out into the chilly night air.
The thought didn't get a chance to be answered, even though it was, inadvertently, because Al caught sight of Scorpius standing in the moonlight.
He was always good-looking to Al, especially as of late, but now he was more than ever. The pale light was hitting him in all the right places, highlighting his aristocratic features and causing his mercury-eyes to have an added dimension that Al never noticed until just then.
And, all in that one fleeting moment, everything was put into place. The knot in his stomach, the fucking butterflies, the reason why he felt the undying need to interrupt the two, the reason why he was noticing that Scorpius looked so good…
He liked Scorpius.
It should've been completely impossible, and, in a way, it was. Scorpius wasn't a girl! He was a bloke, Al's best friend, at that. He was the same kid who'd soothed his mortified First Year self when he'd been sorted into Slytherin instead of Gryffindor, the same kid who lived with him for six years, the same kid who seemed to only date the most annoying girls… girls.
Well, at least this explained why he never got the damned butterflies around girls. He was a bloody pouf.
This was all so damn confusing. Did he have to find out in the middle of trying to get Scorpius and Rose together?
He rubbed his temples. All of this thinking was not doing his head any good.
"You okay?" The object of his affections asked, noticing his change in demeanor.
"Fine," Al grumbled, then looked up at Scorpius again.
His cheeks reddened at the concerned look the blond was giving him. He internally groaned. Just because he knew he liked Scorpius now meant that he was going to blush at every turn? He hated the idea already.
The other boy tightened his grip on him. "Cold, isn't it?"
"A little bit," He mumbled, his brain reducing to mush.
"Albus, want to go get a jacket or something? I forgot mine, too," Silas asked, looking at him deliberately, taking his opening.
"Huh?" Al asked, still particularly entranced by how close he was to Scorpius.
"Want to go get jackets?" Silas repeated slowly, looking at him with wide eyes, trying desperately to convey his point.
"Oh," His heart fell. "All right,"
Looking forlorn, Scorpius dropped his arm.
With one more glance at Scorpius, then one at Rose, who was still just looking at him, envy not suiting her face, Al walked numbly to the door with Silas.
It was much warmer in the castle, but it did nothing to warm Albus, who felt almost comfortably scorching with Scorpius's arm around him.
"All right, it's locked." Silas declared proudly.
Al nodded desolately.
"What's wrong, mate?" The other boy asked, like Scorpius, noticing that Al wasn't his usual bright self.
"Nothing," Al lied, trying to make himself realize that it would be better if Scorpius was with Rose instead of him.
She's a girl. And she's liked him for a much longer time. And we're best friends, and it could ruin everything. I'll probably lose both him and Rosie as friends… And she's a girl. And this is probably just a stupid little phase… I'll be over it in a few weeks…
Al felt the most selfish happiness when Scorpius told them that he and Rose didn't do anything when they were trapped on the Astronomy Tower together.
Silas, on the other hand, his sights still on the original plan, became antsy. The plan was to get them together by Halloween… if the mistletoe trick didn't work, their entire plan would have failed…
"Did your uncle send it?" Silas asked anxiously.
"Right here," Al said, with a weak smile. He hadn't been up to his normal cheerfulness as of late. The new discovery about himself only complicated everything… he was no longer able to be in the same room with Scorpius without staring at him… wasn't able to speak to him without blushing… for some reason, couldn't take his eyes of the other boy's lips…
"Excellent. And it's the same kind we got last Christmas, right?"
The Potter nodded. The patented Weasley's Wizard Wheezes Enchanted Mistletoe had never failed them before…
Silas grinned. There was nothing that could go wrong with this plan… once he and Al trapped them underneath it, they wouldn't be able to move their legs until they kissed!
This fact made Al feel absolutely nauseas. "Where are we putting it?" he asked somberly.
Silas shrugged, holding up the ordinary sprig of mistletoe. "Astronomy Tower?"
Al shook his head. "We already used the Astronomy Tower."
The other boy looked contemplative. "By the lake? No one would bother them; everyone is going to be at the Feast tonight,"
Nodding, Al mumbled, "That would be fine. Hang it on a tree or something," sounding none-too enthusiastic.
"Brilliant," Silas was excited enough for both of them. "Let's go plant it, then,"
At this, Al shook his head. "You go; I'll go find them,"
Silas still looked at his friend oddly. "All right, but get there quickly, okay?"
The other boy nodded, and waved Silas away. As soon as the door was shut, Al slumped back on his bed, rubbing his eyes. He knew this had to happen… there was no real way that he could be with Scorpius… but did it have to hurt so badly?
"Happy Halloween," said a familiar voice from the doorway.
Al squeezed his eyes shut more tightly, and murmured a greeting back.
"Al, what's wrong?" Scorpius asked, walking over to his friend and sitting down on his bed.
The Potter felt his face get hot, and his heart skip a beat. "Nothing,"
"It's not important, okay?" Al sighed.
"Of course it's important," Scorpius contradicted. "You've been depressed for over a week now, and I want to know why."
Again exhaling deeply, Al sat up against his headboard, opening his eyes. Seeing Scorpius's intense stare didn't help his thought-process whatsoever.
"So?" The other boy pressed.
Al racked his brain, trying to find a plausible reason to not be happy for a week straight. Finding none, he resorted to honesty. "Have you ever liked someone, but you knew that there was no chance for you to be together?"
Scorpius's face hardened, his eyes growing darker. Sorrowfully, he nodded. "I know exactly how you feel,"
"So, now you know." Al mumbled. "Silas is down by the lake, want to get Rose and go down there?" He asked, his heart suddenly feeling much heavier.
"What about the feast?"
Al shrugged. "I figured this would be more fun. We can nick some food from the kitchens later, or something."
Scorpius smiled. "All right,"
The smaller boy got off his bed, and began to walk to the door, with Scorpius right behind him.
"Slow down," Scorpius called as he had to nearly run to keep up with him down the corridor in the direction of the Great Hall.
Al didn't realize he was trying to avoid Scorpius… he just didn't want to feel his arm around him only moments before he was supposed to realize he was in love with Rose.
Still, he obliged Scorpius's request, clenching his jaw as he felt Scorpius's arm go around his shoulders as usual.
Whoever said love was so great had serious masochism issues.
Rounding the corner of the Great Hall, the taller boy poked his head in the doors, and signalled for Rose to come with them.
Though Al couldn't see her, he was sure Rosie's face lit up at the sight of Scorpius. He almost laughed. He and his cousin had the same taste in men.
The girl came skipping out of the Great Hall, looking very excited.
Her face fell slightly as she saw that Albus was there.
Al smirked. Like hell he'd let her be alone with Scorpius…
Oh wait… that's why he was going to the grounds in the first place.
He felt his heart drop, seeing them together as they all walked down the hall and out the door. They were a nice couple. Much nicer, and more conventional, than him and Scorpius.
They saw Silas waving at them from the lake soon after they left the castle. He was nothing more than a small silhouette, but he was still there.
Taking his chance, sticking with the plan, his heart shattering, he started to sprint over to the boy, leaving Scorpius rather confused, and Rose excited.
"Where's it at?" He puffed to his friend, arriving next to the bank of the lake.
"Over there, under that tree." He pointed to a tree nearby. "If we stay right here, they'll have to pass under it in order to get over here." Silas grinned impishly. "Genius isn't it?"
Al nodded, but couldn't force any words out of his mouth as it suddenly went desert-dry.
"So now, we wait." Silas concluded. "The plan is finally going to work!"
"Yeah," Al said softly, watching the soon-to-be couple walk down the grounds toward them. She was too tall for him, he decided. They were almost the exact same height. That wasn't right. And her hair was too long. He always liked girls with shorter hair. And their personalities were too similar… they would have nothing to fight about, nothing to talk about. They would get bored with each other…
That was mostly wishful thinking on Al's part, the result of severe jealously. She didn't deserve to have him…
"They're almost there…" Silas narrated.
Al felt a familiar weight bearing down on his chest, threatening to suffocate him. His mouth still felt dry, the knot in his stomach twisting and pulling tighter than ever.
A small distance away, much too soon, in Al's opinion, both of them were stopped abruptly in the middle of walking.
He saw them struggle for a moment to free themselves, mostly Scorpius, he noted happily.
"It isn't even Christmas," He heard Scorpius's voice grumble.
Al grinned for the first time all night. So Scorpius didn't jump at the chance to kiss Rose… it was excellent.
"Well, I guess we have to…" Rose said, her voice much too breathy to Al.
"Yeah," The blond responded. He turned to where he was facing her.
They were in a perfect profile. Al could see everything. The way Rose leaned up, closing her eyes, the way she rested her hands against his chest… the way Scorpius looked down at her lips, to make sure he didn't miss, the way he barely touched her elbow…
… the way they were less than centimeters away… the way Al's heart felt like it was being stabbed with an icy knife…
"Accio mistletoe!" He cried softly at the last moment, not bearing the mental image of their lips touching.
"Al, what are you doing?" Silas demanded as the sprig came zooming in their direction, stopping just to the right of Al's hand.
Al didn't reply at once, first making sure that Scorpius realized that they were no longer bound.
His heart soared when he saw his friend step quickly away from the girl, an almost relieved expression on his face.
"I—I," Al couldn't come up with a good enough response. He decided he had to resort to the truth too much. "I don't want them to be together, Silas," He whispered, "You were right."
"Of course I was right, you daft git, why do you think I planned this whole thing?" Silas shouted.
Al's mind was blown as he became inexplicably confused. "Huh?"
"I knew you liked Scorpius from the beginning; Rose was just the perfect catalyst. Of course, I feel bad for manipulating you and her like that, but you deserve him more than she does."
Silas's mini-speech only bewildered him more. He opened his mouth to speak a few times, realized he didn't have anything to say, and shut it again.
"I'll go get Rose," He sighed, still looking disappointed at the fact that the plan, no matter how angled it was, failed.
Al nodded, still staring into the space where Silas had just been standing.
Thanks to Al's lack of paying attention, Silas was able to Levitate the sprig of mistletoe to where it was before. If everything went as planned in his mind, the two would have to pass right under it in order to get back to the castle…
"Did you see that?" Scorpius asked, pointing backwards to the tree. "Someone put some of your uncle's mistletoe up already,"
"Really?" Al asked weakly, his heart speeding up.
"Yeah, I almost had to kiss your cousin," His nose wrinkled up.
"You don't like her?" The smaller boy looked up at the taller one expectantly.
"Not particularly. I never really saw her in that way." Scorpius stopped in front of Albus.
"Because she likes you," He blurted out.
"I know," He shrugged. "I felt bad at first, for not liking her, but you can't force yourself to like someone, you know?"
Al nodded, his heart sinking. He felt like he should tell Scorpius… but couldn't find the tongue.
"Scorpius?" He said after clearing his throat.
"Yeah?" The deep stare was back… the one that caused his brain-process to slow down completely.
"I'm hungry. Let's go back into the castle." He made up hastily, no longer feeling up to being around the lake.
"All right," Scorpius rolled his eyes. "I knew you'd say that as soon as you got out here,"
He smiled weakly, feeling warmer as Scorpius's arm went back around him.
It was then that he decided. He didn't know what possessed him to realize so suddenly, or what made him want to do it at all, but he just felt the undying need to tell him.
"Hey Scorpius?" He began again.
"Yeah?" The taller boy repeated, looking almost concerned.
Al expertly avoided his eyes in order to make sure his thoughts stayed on one path. "Have—have you ever found out that your cousin liked someone, tried to get them together, and realized you liked the same person in the middle of all of it?" He asked all in one breath, his face heating considerably.
Scorpius chuckled. "Not exactly, no,"
"Oh, well, that's what happened to me," he murmured, coming to the realization that he was a stupid moron for telling Scorpius that.
"And this is the same person that you can't be together with?" Scorpius asked.
"Yeah," The weight on his chest felt heavier than ever.
"I'm sorry, then," Scorpius resorted to an apology, not knowing quite what else to say.
Al nodded miserably. He knew that Scorpius must know who he was talking about; his lack of acknowledgement of it only confirmed the fact that he didn't feel the same. It made Albus feel completely empty.
They continued walking toward the castle, Albus feeling incredibly awkward at what he just explained to his best friend, when his knees suddenly locked backward, and he wasn't able to move them anymore.
Looking over confusedly, he saw that Scorpius was in the exact same predicament.
Simultaneously, their hearts racing in unison, they looked at each other, and then up.
There, in all of its enchanted glory, was the mistletoe Al had Summoned earlier. Apparently, someone had put it back up there…
Cheeks reddening to near-crimson, he pulled his wand out of his back pocket, lifting it towards the tree, preparing to Vanish it.
A hand caught his wrist before he had a chance to say anything.
Shocked, he turned towards Scorpius, who was looking at him in a way that made his breath catch in his throat, and his train of though to crash.
The blond lowered Al's wrist, and placed it on his own hip, his eyes never moving from Al's.
The new contact with Scorpius's body made the Potter blush darker than ever. What is he doing?
In one smooth, abrupt move, Scorpius cupped Al's cheek and captured his lips.
What. The. Bloody. Hell? Was the first place Al's mind went, and then, as Scorpius shifted his head slightly sideways, it went completely blank in rapture.
His pressed their lips together more tightly, slowly snaking the hand that was still on Scorpius's hip upwards, across the tantalizingly solid plane of his chest to his neck, where the other arm joined it in pulling the taller boy down to his level.
Scorpius responded with enthusiasm, looping both of his arms around the boy's waist, pulling their bodies flush against each other.
Al's heart was beating dangerously quickly, blood pounding in his ears. He didn't know why Scorpius was suddenly kissing him, but he knew that he didn't want him to stop… ever.
He tilted his head opposite Scorpius's, deepening the gentle kiss just slightly.
Elation was mutually felt between the two as both of their feelings exploded in the sensation of their lips moving against each other.
Blood raced in Al's veins, and smoldered in his lips as Scorpius's only pressed more and more pressure onto them as their chaste kiss became something a little more every second.
When they broke apart after much too soon a time, in Al's opinion, both were breathing heavily.
Scorpius pressed his forehead against Al's. "And here I was, about to give up on you," He whispered, his breath blowing against the boy's mouth.
Al opened his eyes for the first time, searching in Scorpius's silver depths for what he meant by that last statement, his heart still going a mile a minute.
The blond licked his lips, and moved his hand to run it through Al's charmingly dishevelled hair.
The Potter felt a shiver go down his spine.
"I've liked you since Fourth Year, Al, and it's taken you this long to notice?" Scorpius asked, looking straight into the boy's face.
Al's eyes widened considerably, but then he closed them serenely, smiling. "Sorry about that," he said breathily.
Scorpius chuckled softly, and lightly pressed his lips against Al's again.
Even the half-second kiss left both of them breathless.
Smiling, Scorpius maneuvered Al into a hug, burying his head in his neck.
He was thoroughly enjoying the feel of Scorpius's breath on his skin… it caused goosebumps to appear all along his arms. "Oh Merlin," Al said, suddenly remembering that they were still in reality.
"What?" Scorpius asked, alarmed.
"Rose," He licked his lips nervously. He knew that she was going to be so hurt to learn that Scorpius chose him over her…
"What about her?" The taller boy asked, his voice content again.
"She's going to get hurt," Al tightened his grip around Scorpius's neck possessively.
"Al," Scorpius said seriously, pulling back slightly to look the boy in his face.
The passion in his eyes caused Al to feel self-conscious.
"I don't care who gets hurt. I want you."
Al's breath stopped in his throat. There was no interpreting that statement in any way that didn't make Al want to scream that he loved him.
Not feeling quite up to screaming, he did the next best thing, and craned his neck to press their lips together again.
The taller boy sighed against his lips in a way that caused Al's knees to weaken.
This meant-to-be-simple kiss was quickly becoming much more intense than it was originally intended to be, not that either was complaining.
Their heads leaned this way and that, their lips breaking apart and re-joining repeatedly enough to make their breathing shallow in less than thirty seconds.
Scorpius took the liberty to deepen things a little further, running his tongue lightly against Al's lower lip.
Al groaned in bliss. His lips were barely parting, giving Scorpius an invitation…
It was shock enough that the two heard her over the sound of their pounding hearts. They broke apart with a small pop type noise; their heads whipped around to the sound.
There stood Rose, tears streaming down her face, with a look of extreme betrayal.
"H-hey, Rosie," Al said weakly. He felt like he should do something about his current position, but knew it wouldn't happen when he felt Scorpius's grip tighten around his waist.
There were a thousand questions swirling around in her expression.
"Rosie, I—" Al couldn't find the tongue to explain. His mind was still somewhat muddled from the intensity of Scorpius's kiss.
"Rose, I'm sorry." Scorpius stepped in for Al.
The pair of cousins were both staring up at the boy with whom they were both in love.
"I… I'm in love with Al." He said.
Al closed his eyes in bliss, loving the way the words sounded on his lips.
Rose closed her eyes as well, but her reason was to prevent any more tears to fall down her face… she was greatly unsuccessful.
"Just…" Her voice choked. "Make him happy, okay Al?" She attempted a smile, which only turned up the very corners of her lips before she coughed out another sob.
Silas appeared then from somewhere behind the tree, and placed a comforting arm around her shoulders. He steered her away from the new couple, shooting them an encouraging smile right before they were out of eyeshot.
Al heaved a sigh, and buried his face in Scorpius's chest. "I feel awful," He muttered.
"I'm sorry… about all this," Scorpius said softly, resting his chin on top of Al's head, the boy's near-vertical hair tickling his lips.
The boy shook his head. "It's not your fault. And either way," He paused, a blush creeping up on his cheeks. "You're worth the trouble,"
Scorpius responded by placing a light kiss on the top of Al's head, pulling his body closer to him. They both happily noticed how well they fit together, how warm their bodies felt against each other.
They were both quickly becoming intoxicated by each others' presence, and knew they'd never get back to the castle if they stayed any longer.
It was something unspoken, but mutually understood. They pulled apart briefly, and, per usual, Scorpius wrapped his arm around Al's shoulders.
There were no words that needed to be spoken on the way back to the castle; there were only content smiles and thoughts that wondered where the year would take them.
Al wondered if he would have ever realized he loved Scorpius had it not been for Silas's sly planning. He wondered if Rose and Scorpius would have ended up together, walking towards the castle intertwined, if Al had never gotten the courage to do anything about it. He wondered if Silas slipped some Felix Felicis into his morning pumpkin juice or something…
Then it hit him that he never properly told Scorpius how he felt.
"I love you," He said, seemingly out of nowhere, as they approached the grandiose entrance to the castle.
Scorpius smiled widely, the type that outshone the moonlight, and brushed his lips lightly against Al's temple. "I love you, too."
Albus didn't want to bother himself with wondering why these words seemed to fill every crack and crevice in his heart, why the knot in his stomach completely disappeared, why he suddenly felt more courageous than the truest Gryffindor.
It was easier just to blame Silas for everything.
A/N: I'm satisfied with it.
… You know, I can't really imagine Al being anything other than gay… probably because of his first name. What other Albus do we know who was gay… hmm? XP
Again, so much damn fluff. HC95 would probably projectile-vomit if she read it… that's how I know I did my job right. :D
SO… PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE review! Because… it makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Like fleece pajama pants. :D
Lycanthropy is in the works… I promise.
I love love love you all! (Yes, even you in the back over there!)