"Well, I don't know what you expected, but no one ASKED you –"
"I know no one ASKED me! I thought you –"
"Well you SHOULDN'T HAVE, should you? Seeing as thinking's not really your forte!"
"What would YOU know about my forte? It's a wonder you see ANYTHING, given that your fucking HEAD'S always up your fucking ARSE!"
"Using big words now, are we? What'll Mummy say about that, Albus, eh?"
"Like you'd know! Your dad's a Death Eater!"
The Great Hall is silent, and Al knows that the sound of him and Scorpius breathing heavily is all that can be heard. Then Scorpius gives him a really scathing look that jolts him a little, turns away, and marches out of the Hall. Whispers break out as Al stares at his form, shrinking with distance. Then someone grabs his arm and walks him out.
"What the bloody hell was that, Al, mate?" says James, shaking him gently by the shoulders.
Albus focuses his eyes on him.
"I… dunno," he says at last.
"You don't know?" says James incredulously. "Al, I could hear you yelling from the bloody Owlery!"
"Yeah?" says Al, embarrassed and disoriented and miserable.
"Yes! What were you fighting about?"
Al is not sure.
Al and Scorpius have been best mates for about a year and a half now, give or take. Their first two years, they'd engaged in a casual rivalry that was more fun that it was hateful. In their third and fourth years, after numerous shared detentions, their casual rivalry became a casual friendship. Al's mates in Slytherin started to hang around with Scorpius's mates in Ravenclaw. A significant number of Gryffindors joined in because about two-thirds of Al's enormous family are Gryffindors. The Hufflepuffs were soon to follow. Since third year, the lot of them have been one happy family, going to Hogsmeade in a large horde, laughing with each other, full of good-natured ribbing and hormonal drama. Everyone likes Scorpius because of his sharp wit and magnetic intelligence. Everyone likes Al because Al is goofy and sincere and downright nice. Al and Scorpius like each other for a myriad of reasons, and have been pulled inexorably closer because they just get along so bloody well. They've been pretty much best friends since the start of fifth year. Then Scorpius starts dating Miranda Burns.
That's what the start of the fight was about, Al reckons while at Charms. At breakfast, which they usually eat at the Ravenclaw table, Scorpius told him he was going out with Miranda Burns as of last night. Al isn't sure how it spiraled out of control from there. He remembers accusing Scorpius of trying to be cool and popular by taking on a girlfriend; he remembers telling him that she probably only wants to date him because she thinks he might be able to tell him Death Eater stories from the war; he remembers saying loads of unforgivable things. And he doesn't know why he did it. Al has rarely ever crossed the line like that in a fight.
He sighs as he tries half-heartedly to charm engravings on the pewter cup in front of him. He doesn't know what just happened, and he doesn't know what to do about it.
At potions, instead of Scorpius, Al finds himself working with Maxine Boot. He looks around and finds Scorpius working with his new girlfriend. He's angry again, even though he knows he shouldn't be. He's perfectly certain the fight was his fault. Scorpius is at liberty to date whoever he wants to. Al can't work out why he hates the idea so much.
After class, Al begins his dejected walk down to the Slytherin dungeons. However, he is accosted by about six of his friends, who grab him bodily and shove him into the now-empty fourth-year Transfiguration room. Before he can object, they slam the door in his face. Sighing, Al turns around, unsurprised to see Scorpius incarcerated with him. Scorpius, who refuses to look in his direction, much less meet his eyes.
"Er," says Al.
Scorpius gazes furiously at a poster on the wall, which says NEVER FLICK YOUR WAND TO THE LEFT DURING A SWITCHING SPELL. It has little illustrations, which show what might happen if you did flick your wand to the left during a Switching Spell. Apparently the switched objects might burst into flame, or worse, start singing lewd parodies of Celestina Warbeck songs.
"Scorpius," Albus tries again.
Scorpius turns his back to him and looks at the poster next to the Switching Spell one. This one is an illustration of Human Transfiguration from human to fish. It looks like a backwards version of a Muggle evolution poster. Al knows this because Aunt Hermione is always trying to keep his family somewhat abreast of Muggle matters.
"I'm sorry," says Al. Scorpius's shoulders stiffen, but he doesn't say anything. Nor does he look at Al. "I was an idiot. I don't know why I said any of the things I did. Your dad's not a Death Eater. I know that. I was just… probably having a bad day or something. I don't know, I just – lost it, all of a sudden."
"That's no excuse," says Scorpius tightly.
"I know," offers Al. "I know it's not. You don't have to forgive me. What I said was awful. I just need you to know that I didn't mean any of it."
"Then why'd you say it?" Scorpius says, finally turning towards him. Al shrugs.
"I went somewhat berserk. I can't remember why. I – you told me you were seeing that Burns girl, and it made me angry, because – because I thought you were going to become one of those people, you know, like Fawcett and Reid, all wrapped up in each other with no time for anyone else."
"So," Scorpius says, his eyes narrow, "You yelled your arse off at me, insulted my dad, and said snide things about both me and my girlfriend because you thought that I might, potentially, fall in love?"
It sounds awful put this way, but Al nods miserably.
"I told you," he says "I probably slept wrong. I can't believe I lost my temper like that. I've never even lost it that badly on James. I really don't know why it happened. But I am sorry. It won't happen again, I promise. You don't have to be friends with me again if you don't want to. I'll stay away from you. But –"
"No, don't – don't stay away," says Scorpius, sighing gustily. "Look, I won't pretend I wasn't offended and hurt, but I know you wouldn't apologise if you didn't mean it. But Al – never again, okay?"
"I promise," Al says, immeasurably relieved.
"And I'm still going out with Miranda."
Al feels a twinge at that, but right now it's nothing compared to the thankfulness he feels towards the fact that he hasn't, in fact, destroyed his friendship with Scorpius.
The next few weeks are somewhat the usual. Al and Scorpius do their homework together in the library as always. They sit around in each others' common rooms and play Exploding Snap, or talk about random things like whether Professor Belby glamours her face to look like that, and whether the Lightning Bolt is an improvement on the Thunderbolt at all, or just a more stylish version of the same broom. Scorpius is still partnered with Burns at Potions. Al hides his dismay when Scorpius tells him that he can't just ditch her now that he's friends with Al again. Worse, the next Hogsmeade weekend, Scorpius vanishes into one of the more date-type places with Burns, leaving Al with the rest of the horde, who drag him into Dervish & Banges, and into Zonko's, which is the Hogsmeade branch of the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Al feels prickly and uncomfortable for the rest of the day. He avoids Scorpius when they get back to Hogwarts in the evening.
It is a late afternoon in mid-May when Albus walks in on Scorpius snogging Burns. He watches in fascinated horror as their lips slide and pucker over one another's. Scorpius is pressing Burns into the wall in a corner of the Entrance Hall. Albus can't look away. Burns's hands are fondling Scorpius's hair, and Al thinks he might be sick. They turn on the spot, still gripping each other determinedly, and Scorpius opens his eyes. He spots Albus out of the corner of the eye that's facing him, and fixes it on him, his mouth still working on Burns's. Albus feels as though his own eyes might pop out of his head. With an effort, he tears his gaze away and power-walks out of the Entrance Hall, breaking into a run when he's sure Scorpius won't hear his thudding footsteps. He skips supper that evening. He doesn't get much sleep at night.
By morning, he has decided that the reason he was so… shaken by the sight of Scorpius snogging Burns is because he's never snogged anyone himself. Naturally, being a hormone-driven teenager, the spectacle moved his curiosity. All he needs to do is to find someone to snog, and he'll be all right. Overnight, he has run all the eligible girls at Hogwarts (that aren't related to him) through his mind, and decided that he will ask Ellen Corner out at breakfast. Simple and straightforward. No need to indulge in any histrionics over it.
At breakfast, instead of heading over to the Ravenclaw table and sitting next to Scorpius, he moves towards Hufflepuff and has a chat with Ellen. She is a petite, practical little thing, which is good, because Albus can't lie worth a knut, and doesn't want to pretend he's in love with her or anything. He tells her that he thinks it would be nice to have a girlfriend, and that she is quite agreeable, which is all true. She says she wouldn't mind, and that it would be interesting to have a boyfriend too. They smile at each other; Al stays at her table for the rest of breakfast.
At potions, Al suddenly finds himself paired with Scorpius again.
"Why were you at Hufflepuff during breakfast?" Scorpius asks, with obviously forced casualness.
"I was talking to Ellen Corner," says Al. "We're going out now."
"Since when?" asks Scorpius, his tone ridiculously light.
"Er, this morning. I asked her out."
"Oh," says Scorpius.
"Yeah," says Albus. They are silent for a few seconds. Al tosses some fluxweed into their yellow concoction. Scorpius slices some Salamander tails.
"So… why didn't you tell me you were thinking of asking her out?" asks Scorpius, carefully concentrating on measuring the pieces of tail he has cut. "I mean, I didn't even know you liked her."
"I only decided on it yesterday," says Albus.
"Oh?" says Scorpius, and Al knows that he's thinking of the unacknowledged Al-walking-in-on-snogging moment too.
Al adds a dash of basil into the potion, which is now a simmering orange. Scorpius weighs a tiny amount of copper shavings on their tiniest set of scales, and then drops them into the potion.
"I mean," Scorpius begins again, "If you liked her, you might have told me. I'd have thought you'd tell me. I mean, we are best friends. Right?"
"I – it was spur of the moment –" starts Albus.
"But you didn't come to supper," says Scorpius, finally meeting his eyes.
"I know. I wanted some time to think on it."
"Well, you might've discussed it with me. I thought you trusted me, you know."
"I do! I was just confused!"
"Confused because you walked in on me snogging my girlfriend?" Scorpius asks acidly. "Do you still think I'm trying to be cool? Do you still think I'm trying to score popularity points?"
"Because it really does seem to me like you want to compete with me or something, Albus! Come on! You walk in on me snogging and the next morning you find yourself a candidate to snog too?"
"Scorpius, shut up!"
"It's pointless anyway. We've been snogging for months. That was hardly our first kiss."
"I could tell –"
"Then why are you being such a ninny?"
"I'm being a ninny?" gasps Albus indignantly. "All I do is ask a girl out, and you jump down my throat for not consulting you about it! You don't control anything I do, all right? If I want to date, I'll bloody well date! It's not like you discussed it with me before deciding to go out with Burns, is it?"
"She asked me out!" says Scorpius wildly. "I was pressed for time! I had to give her an answer! I didn't have time to discuss it with you!"
"Bollocks!" shouts Al, dimly aware that the rest of the class is gaping at the two of them , Professor Belby included. "You could have said you'd think about it! I can't believe I'm having this conversation with you! You bloody hypocrite!"
Scorpius opens and shuts his mouth a few times. Al hears blood pounding in his ears. He tosses his equipment into his bag, leaving the potion, now a boiling red, incomplete.
"Sorry, Professor," he spits, still staring angrily at Scorpius. He hoists the bag onto his back. "I don't feel well." He strides out of the class, his hands shaking. He can barely see straight in his fury. He marches straight up into his dorm and lies on his bed, breathing heavily. He stays there until lunch time, at which point he realizes that he will have to face everyone sooner or later. With a sigh, he goes down for lunch. He sits at the Gryffindor table with Lily and Hugo, who keep the conversation focused on light subjects, like The Shield Charmers and the latest WWW product.
Albus and Scorpius don't speak for the rest of the school year. Al resolutely avoids getting thrown into some empty classroom for a forced reconciliation this time. He spends time with Ellen, who is fun in a quiet, stereotypically feminine sort of way. He tries some snogging of his own, and discovers that it's not half bad. He is still sometimes disturbed by the image of Scorpius and Burns snogging, but each time, he firmly sets it in some dusty, disused corner of his brain, covers it up with some images of Hagrid in a bikini, and hopes it won't find its way out again. On the last Hogsmeade weekend, two swarms form instead of the one large horde. Nobody takes any permanent sides in the Potter-Malfoy split, however. They all simply refrain from mentioning the other's name in front of either of them. Al discovers that besides having a pretty, nice girlfriend, he also has a wonderfully supportive family and a set of perfectly marvelous friends and classmates. He is miserable.
Summer comes upon them, sneaking up when they were looking the other way, worrying about exams and end-of-term assignments (five rolls of parchment on the uses and dangers of Bubotuber Pus, thanks a lot Professor Longbottom). Before he knows it, Al's getting off the Hogwarts express and greeting his parents. He kisses Ellen goodbye before she leaves with her family.
"Who was that?" Ginny asks, looking at Albus with a curious smile.
"Er, my girlfriend," Albus says, going slightly red.
"You never told Mum and Dad about Ellen?" asks Lily incredulously. "They've been dating since, oh, at least a month ago. I can't believe he didn't tell you. Boys."
Albus doesn't remember writing to his parents since he's been dating Ellen. He doesn't remember much of the last month and a half, to be honest. It just sort of dragged meaninglessly by. The exams, he reckons. Not half stressful.
That evening, as he is about to get into bed, Al hears a tapping noise at his window. He lets in Balthazar, Scorpius's severe looking masked owl. Balthazar hops around on Al's dresser as Al unrolls the parchment he brought.
This is stupid. I'm really, really sorry. Please be my friend again.
Al feels something bubble up from deep inside him. He is appalled when he realizes that his eyes are watery. Scrabbling at them in disgust, he walks over to his desk and sets the parchment down. Picking up his nearest self-replenishing quill, he writes a reply on a fresh square of parchment.
It really is. I'm sorry too. Of course we're friends.
Summer passes well.
James, done with his final year at Hogwarts, is offered beating position on the Appleby Arrows. Al's parents are delighted. They go for an impromptu vacation across Europe with Uncle Ron, Aunt Hermione, Rose and Hugo. They tour France, Italy, Greece, Hungary and Bulgaria (where Aunt Hermione meets some old friends, and Uncle Ron is oddly tight-lipped). When they return, they have a large Weasley Family Get-Together at the Burrow, where Teddy and Victoire announce that they are expecting their first baby. Gran, Lily, Dad and Aunt Hermione become teary-eyed. Mum makes fun of Dad. Dad sulks. James would probably have joined in the teasing, Al reckons, but he's feeling a bit self-important right now, so he's acting as though he's above it all. It'll wear off, Al is sure. It was the same when he'd been made Gryffindor prefect. He writes as much to Scorpius, whose reply is amused.
Soon, it's time to go back to Hogwarts, at least for Al and Lily. Al is uncomfortably aware that it's his final year. Dad is teary at the station. For once, Mum seems close to it. Al hastily hugs them goodbye and boards the train.
He walks down it, peering into compartments, hoping to see Scorpius. He is accosted by Ellen instead, who drags him into her compartment, where he spends a lovely fifteen minutes listening to a gaggle of giggling Hufflepuff girls argue the merits of Professor Longbottom's attractiveness versus that of Professor Smith. Al doesn't know what started that discussion, and hopes he never has to find out. He finally manages to tell Ellen that he'll be back in a bit, and goes out in search of Scorpius again. Of course, it hits him that Scorpius might be with his girlfriend as well, but Al tells himself firmly that he will be mature about this, and that surely Scorpius will be able to spare him five minutes, so that they can greet each other. He finds Scorpius in a last compartment on the train. He is alone, and looks morose. Al walks in.
"Al!" says Scorpius, catching sight of him, his eyes widening and his face looking somewhat flushed.
"Hi," says Al, awkwardly.
"Hi!" says Scorpius breathlessly.
"Where's your, er, girlfriend?" says Al, trying to grin.
"She's – er – not my girlfriend anymore," says Scorpius.
Some sort of blockage that Al wasn't aware has been inside him disintegrates. He feels ridiculously light, and has the sudden urge to burst into song. Instead, he strides forward and hugs Scorpius. Scorpius starts, and then hugs him back just as fervently.
"We shouldn't fight," Scorpius says weakly, as they finally let go of each other.
"No," says Al, smiling wider than he has for, oh, who knows how long. "I missed you."
"Er, me too," says Scorpius, awkwardly scratching the back of his neck. "Where's your Ellen person?" he continues, tripping over the words.
"She's somewhere in the middle of the train," says Al. "I told her I'd be back in a bit, but I'm sure her friends are good enough company for her."
Scorpius nods, he face falling a bit. Al's not sure if he should ask, so he doesn't.
Seventh year starts well enough. Al and Scorpius spend as much time together as ever. Al eats breakfast at the Ravenclaw table, Scorpius eats lunch with the Slytherins, and dinner is spent wherever catches their fancy. Often, they skip dinner entirely and go to the kitchens for a late-night snack. Seventh-years have all the freedom in the world. Al and Scorpius get closer than ever before, sneaking up to the top of the Astronomy tower under Al's Invisibility Cloak with some Butterbeer, or, occasionally, Firewhisky. They discuss Scorpius's grandfather, who is in Azkaban, and whom Scorpius hadn't been allowed to meet until he came of age the past summer. They discuss the press and all the nonsense it prints about Al's dad. They discuss what they want to do after Hogwarts: Scorpius is thinking of starting an Arithmantic Accounting company (an announcement that causes Al to tease him about being a typical brainy Ravenclaw). Albus is hoping to get into Wizarding Theatre, or something equally artsy. He was never much of an academic.
Albus spends less and less time with Ellen, finally only hanging out with her when they have a Hogsmeade weekend. One day, she asks to talk to him after lunch. He goes out on the grounds with her, and they sit down near the Black Lake.
"It's been nice, being your girlfriend, Al," says Ellen. "You're a sweet guy. But we both know that neither of us has feelings for the other. I've met someone I actually like. His name is Alex Creevey. I really want to go out with him. So, well, it's time we broke up."
Al nods dumbly.
"Besides," she goes on. "You need to face up to things. It's time you stopped using me as your cover."
"What do you mean?" says Al.
"Oh come off it," says Ellen. "You don't expect me to believe that you weren't using me to cover up the fact that you fancy Scorpius Malfoy?"
"What?" chokes Albus.
"You – oh forget it, it doesn't matter," Ellen stands up. "Either way, it's been nice, Al. I hope we can stay friends." She pats his shoulder and sweeps away, leaving Al staring at the lake in horror.
Ellen's words are like some kind of evil catalyst. When Scorpius comes looking for him, Albus becomes so nervous that he fumbles for words like a dying fish.
"You all right, mate?" Scorpius asks.
"What did she want to talk to you about?" asks Scorpius patiently.
"Heh-broke up for Creevey because! Cover?"
"She broke up with you?"
Scorpius pats Al on the back, and suddenly his touch gives Al goosebumps on the back of his neck. Every light quarter-of-a-second touch of Scorpius's fingers to Al's shoulderblade feels like a loud, harsh jarring that reverberates through all his senses.
"Think I'll, er, go up. Er. Down. Slytherin," Al says. Scorpius nods understandingly.
"Want me to walk you there?" he asks.
"NO!" says Al. Scorpius looks taken aback. "Er. No. Thanks, though. I, er. Need. Alone." Al gestures towards the castle wildly, and in a flash, runs away and down to the dungeons. He needs to think.
Overnight, Al ponders his situation. First, he tries to convince himself that Ellen was talking out of her arse. Him? Fancy Scorpius? Why on earth would he fancy Scorpius? About half an hour later, Al emerges from rapturous thoughts of Scorpius's wispy halo of golden hair that looks alarmingly soft, and of his smooth, long-fingered hands, and decides that yes, there is in fact rather a lot to fancy about Scorpius Malfoy. Next, Al argues that he can't fancy Scorpius, because he isn't gay. He dismisses that argument as facile. Who cares what label he sticks onto himself? Fancying is fancying. He could be straight or gay or a tomato, but if he fancied Scorpius, that would be that and there is nothing he could do about it. So, he wonders, does he fancy Scorpius?
Yes, an uncomfortably insistent voice in his head says.
You can't know that, he tells the voice.
You'll see, says the voice maliciously.
All right, Al says. He turns over and drops into a fitful sleep.
The next few days, Al tries to figure out his feelings towards Scorpius. He can tell right away that he is blatantly jealous when Scorpius spends too much time with anybody else, or talks too much about them, or appears to like them too much, or anything, really. He's also increasingly aware of Scorpius's proximity to him.
One day, during potions, his body reacts in a decidedly non-platonic way when Scorpius bends across him to reach for a vial of dragon's blood. Another day, he finds himself staring at the small of Scorpius's back, and quite absurdly imagining touching his face to it, perhaps tracing his spine with his lips… Yet another day, while sitting next to him in Defence against the Dark Arts, Al accidentally brushes his leg on Scorpius's, and finds that he rather likes the feeling. The next time it happens, he leaves their legs touching.
About a month after the incident with Ellen, Al is certain that he has feelings of the decidedly romantic type for his best mate. He is terrified.
Time alone with Scorpius is now excruciating. Nights alone together at the top of the Astronomy tower take on strange new meanings for Al, ones that he's sure Scorpius would be appalled to find out about. Al sits next to Scorpius on those nights, watching his throat move while drinking Butterbeer in the pale moonlight, and strange feelings rush through him, feelings of lust, desire, longing, and something that suspiciously resembles love. Al can't believe it when he first identifies it, but he soon becomes aware that he is slowly falling in love with his best friend, being pulled towards him romantically in the same inexorable way that they were pulled towards each other in friendship. Only, this time, Al is very, very unsure that Scorpius will ever return his feelings. Scorpius is not homophobic, but Al doesn't even know if he's open to having a same-sex relationship of his own. He wonders if he should pull away, get out of this before it hurts too much – but at the same time, he knows it's impossible to look back. He's in love. The fallout will hurt no matter when it happens. Till then, he may as well enjoy spending as much time with Scorpius as he can.
Another bittersweet month or so passes. Albus and Scorpius are rarely seen apart. They are closer than they have ever been. The Christmas Holidays soon come upon them, the last before they leave Hogwarts. Albus asks Scorpius if he wants to stay at Hogwarts, for a change, this time, since it's their last chance to. Scorpius agrees.
Hogwarts is extremely empty over the holiday. Al and Scorpius are among about sixteen people left behind, in all, not counting the professors. They spend their days prancing about in the snow like idiots, and then warming up in front of the fire in the Ravenclaw Common Room.
Albus moves into Ravenclaw for the winter, since it's warmer. Seeing Scorpius in an environment where he feels at home stirs things inside him he didn't know existed. He stores up images of Scorpius to sustain him after Hogwarts. Scorpius asleep in front of the fire, his face reflecting the flickering light of the flames. Scorpius changing, his arms stretched up above him, his skinny little waist bare as he pulls on his robes. Scorpius sleepy and tousled in the morning. Scorpius, Scorpius, Scorpius.
Christmas is nice but uneventful. Al gets a cartload of presents from his gargantuan family. Scorpius also receives a respectable amount of things. Al gives Scorpius a book about how to start, run and advertise one's own business (by George Weasley). Scorpius seems delighted that Al remembers his idea for a career. His smile is like a blast of concentrated light to Al, who has to blink and try not to faint. He gives Al a ring with a Scrambling Hex on it. It ruins any film that hasn't been coded into it, so paparazzi photographs taken of him won't develop. Al loves it, though admittedly, he'd love Scorpius's gift even if it had been a vial of Stinksap. He hugs Scorpius, who blushes red.
On New Year's Eve, they find themselves at the top of the Astronomy Tower again, Butterbeer and all.
"How often d'you think we'll be able to see each other," Scorpius asks, gazing down at the grounds through the glass walls. "You know, after we leave."
"Often," says Albus, swallowing the lump in his throat. "We'll meet often, Scorpius. You won't be able to get rid of me." He smiles, trying to make a joke of it. "I'll visit you all the time, and when I can't, I'll call you over the Floo. I'll be an absolute pest."
"Nah," smiles Scorpius. "You wouldn't be a pest."
"We'll be fine," laughs Al.
Scorpius downs the last of his Butterbeer before he turns to face Al. His face is set. Al sits up straighter, wondering what Scorpius will say.
"All right, Al," says Scorpius. "I am going to say something now, and you won't interrupt. Got it?"
"Okay," says Al, surprised. "Go on."
"I'm going to tell you something that may – well, it'll probably ruin our friendship forever. But well, what the hey. It's already ruined as far as I'm concerned. It's never going to be the same again. So I may as well say this."
"What do you mean?" says Al uncertainly. "Did I –"
"It's not you at all," says Scorpius. "Well, it is, but it's not your fault, it's mine."
"Wha?" says Al incoherently.
"Shut up a minute, Al," says Scorpius, his pointed nose flaring. "Sh. Let me speak, and then you can shout at me and tell me what a git I am, or be disgusted and leave, or say it's okay –" his voice breaks – "Whatever. But let me finish first."
Al nods nervously.
Scorpius breathes in. He breathes out. He breathes in again. Then he closes his eyes.
"Icandothis, Icandothis, Icandothis," he mutters. "Al?"
Scorpius keeps his eyes shut.
"I'm in love with you," he says.
And time stops.
It starts up again when Scorpius starts babbling.
"It's – you don't have to – I'm not expecting – it's got nothing to do with you – of course it has, what am I saying – but you don't have to do anything – I'll deal with it – it's my problem. I just could keep it inside me anymore. I just had to tell you. I'm sorry if this ruins everything, but it's really hard to spend so much time with you, it felt like it was bubbling up, and oh no, I shouldn't have said anything, I'm sorry Al, let's just forget this, it's okay, can we just go back to how it was? I take it back, we'll be fine, oh God don't hate me –"
He stops abruptly when Al brushes his cheekbone with his knuckles, and then keeps his hand there.
"Don't you dare take it back," breathes Al, feeling like there's a supernova taking place inside him. "How long?"
"How long, Scorpius?"
"Since – oh, since summer, I suppose. It was why I broke up with Miranda. Since we stopped talking and I was so miserable I thought I'd died–"
"Since summer?" Al says, astonished.
"Yeah. Al," Scorpius sounds pained. "You're, you're touching my face."
"I know," says Al.
"Why?" says Scorpius.
"I thought it'd make a good prelude to this," Al says, leaning in and kissing him.
Scorpius jerks and his eyes open wide, but Al kneels up and draws his arms around his skinny body. Scorpius pulls his mouth away.
"So you're – not – running away in horror, then?" he enquires in amazement.
"You git. I've been in love with you since the middle of October," Al informs him.
"You've – what? You have?" says Scorpius, his face full of hopeful wonder.
"Yes. I didn't have the slightest idea that you felt the same way. I thought this whole affair was going to be a tragic episode of unrequited love, at the end of which I pine away and die."
Scorpius kisses him again.
"I love you!" he says unnecessarily.
"I love you!" Al tells him, and they laugh breathlessly like idiots. Then they kiss again. A lot.
New Year is ushered in in quite a satisfactory manner.
A/N: If you liked it, leave a review :)