I have wanted to post this for a week, but the fanfictionet-dot-net problem, well...
I am not a happy-ending type of writer, so the ending for this just about did me in with its sugary overkill… That said, this story turned out nothing like I originally planned when I chose to expand my oneshot back in December and has thus had many delays – my apologies!
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed! The encouragement has been wonderful! I hope this final chapter has a satisfying, if possibly rushed-feeling, ending. =D
May 5, 2027, Wednesday
Malfoy Manor's white stone practically glowed in the mid-morning sun, the gravel drive crunching pleasantly under Albus's shoes as he walked. He didn't bother to adjust the wards around the wrought-iron gates as he approached; they were already inclined to let him pass. The gates billowed as smoke as he went through before readjusting to their previous state and the manor's beauty intensified once inside the wards, quite unlike his first visit when he was fourteen: vines that had crawled up and clung to the outside walls then were now removed or readjusted to the trellised archways leading into the plump but trimmed hedges of the well-maintained gardens; no longer were the windows boarded, and instead many of the clean, clear panes were open to let in the early-summer breeze.
Albus felt warmed by the sight. The Malfoy estate owed its returned charm to Scorpius, who had spent a good deal of his free time the first year after Hogwarts restoring the manor and surrounding gardens to the glory they once knew. From the paintings Albus had seen while passing through the manor's parlors, everything about the property appeared to be back to original form.
Well, except that small patch of wilderness in the back gardens, where it felt as though the untamed hedges were looming giants and the flowers and weeds spilling into the pathway were kissing his legs, vines tugging at his arms like long, gnarled fingers. Albus had repeatedly asked Scorpius about that particular area, but every time Scorpius would only smile and wave the topic away, saying, "I'll get to it eventually," in a tone that gave Albus the distinct impression that that garden would remain wild. For whatever reason, Scorpius seemed to hold a certain fondness for the spot.
A sharp trill caught Albus's attention and he watched as several beautiful birds dashed across the path ahead of him, moving from one garden to the next. He had never given much thought to the peafowl roaming the grounds until he'd seen one spread its gorgeous white feathers, looking crowned by both delicate lace and soft clouds, and he'd adored the vain birds ever since. He followed the small flock's quick movements with his eyes until it disappeared behind some bursting rose bushes, and then shook his head with a pleased smile before continuing around the other side of the manor to where he was to have the weekly brunch with Scorpius.
Wednesday visits to Malfoy Manor were the highlight of Albus's week.
Originally he'd visited on Sundays; the first six months of Auror training was mostly classroom based lectures, similar to that of Hogwarts, followed by year of hard training in practical usage through elaborately designed, situational exercises, with both terms arranged in a Monday thru Friday schedule. However, when he had advanced to a class D Auror – the tentative license given to those freshly out of training and which held hardly any liberties beyond an average M.L.E. officer – he'd been assigned to a class B Auror for one-on-one instruction and training. Auror Froi Tiedoll was an affectionately father-like but somehow stoically calm older man, and Albus's main job had then been to follow Auror Tiedoll on trivial assignments as an assistant until he was gradually introduced to and examined under more critical situations.
Since then, Albus had progressed to a class C license, still considered too young and too green for the most dangerous of operations (Albus found it irritating that his father had been a class A Auror – an exceptionally rare license – at the same age). Auror Tiedoll's approaching retirement plans, and consequent transition to lower priority assignments, made him the perfect partner for a freshly-hatched Auror. As Tiedoll covered weekends, Albus's days off fell on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Scorpius hadn't minded changing their brunch from Sundays to Wednesdays; self-employment, apparently, was quite adaptable to irregular hours.
"Good morning, Albus."
Albus smiled at the warm greeting as his attention snapped to Scorpius sitting primly at a simple, iron-edged glass table in the center of the butterfly garden and sipping from a teacup, the brightly-colored insects fluttering from flower to flower in the bushes around them. Albus followed the movement of Scorpius's throat as he swallowed the tea, feeling an incredible urge to lean over and lick and bite the exposed skin.
"Hey," Albus breathed, pushing away the brunch-inappropriate thoughts and sliding into the red-cushioned chair across from Scorpius. A steaming cup of coffee was already waiting for him and he pulled the sugar bowl closer. "It looks like it'll be sunny today."
Scorpius leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, as though soaking in the warmth of the morning sun, and hummed in agreement. Wiltshire was particularly resistant to warm summers.
They discussed the previous week as they ate, their plans for the next. It was effortless and comfortable now, as opposed to the entire first year that Albus visited. He'd felt extremely out of place in the rapidly beautifying estate then, awkward under the sharp and inquisitive stares of Scorpius's parents and grandmother, and foolish for his stumbling words and lame topics of conversation. Now if one or both of the ladies joined them for brunch or if he passed Draco Malfoy on his way out, Albus felt confident enough to keep his head up and the waver out of his voice.
After all, where was his place if not by Scorpius's side?
"Would you like to go for a walk?" Scorpius asked once they'd finished eating, though it was unnecessary for him to do so and Albus was already standing before he finished his question. They always walked after brunch, whether it was through the manor on rainy or cold days or through the gardens on the bright, warm days.
"I'm not so sure about Pickett," Albus said of one of the year's class D Aurors as they casually strolled between hedges. "He didn't fare so well under the more, er, stressful situations last year, and he doesn't appear to being doing that great this year either. He'll probably be washed to basic M.L.E. I don't think he'll become an Auror."
"Not many people do, it seems," Scorpius said, and paused to examine an azalea bush overflowing with blossoms.
"Yeah, it's tough…" Albus answered distractedly, letting his eyes wander appreciatively over the momentarily diverted former-Slytherin, something he did at any available opportunity. Better wandering eyes than wandering hands, he supposed, although the thought of running his hands over Scorpius's smooth skin – up the slender thighs in a gentle tease, preferably with Scorpius gasping, head thrown back against a pillow – had him unconsciously licking his lips. When Scorpius turned back to him, he smiled innocently and asked, "Been working on anything new?"
Scorpius's eyes met his and Albus occluded out of habit. Two of the first lessons in Auror training were Occlumency and Legilimency, and Albus had been encouraged by his father to practice Occlumency at any possible chance. Suspecting Scorpius of being a skilled Legilimens (how else had the blonde known what he was thinking all through school?), Albus was quick to keep his brief, and sometimes not-so-brief, fantasies to himself, shutting Scorpius out of his mind quite often.
Even with the strong barrier shielding his mind, Scorpius's small, amused smirk made Albus wonder if he'd been found out anyway.
"I have adjusted the portables to use less floo powder," Scorpius said as they resumed walking. "There were some complaints from parents about their children sending so many owls that they were going through floo powder by the bucket. The new model will be out soon."
Albus laughed, well aware that he used the owl feature of his own portable quite often, especially ever since Scorpius created the model keeping with the muggle keypad rather than attaching the mini-quill as with previous models. Now Albus's floo-owls were considerably more legible and his hand didn't get nearly as tired during long messages.
The portable floos had been the first invention Scorpius shared with Albus and, eventually, the magical world. Impressed by the resourcefulness of muggles toward communication, Scorpius had taken their concept of "cell phones" and applied it to magic, altering the small objects to run on floo powder and a small ignition source rather than "batteries."
Naturally, older generations were wary of the portable floos, stating that it was bizarre to walk around talking to a small object, especially since one could not see the other person as one would through a fireplace connection.
Amongst the younger and muggle-familiar groups, however, the invention had spread like wildfire: why wait long hours for a real owl to fly across country or kneel awkwardly and uncomfortably in front of a fire place for an extended conversation? Plus, portable floos were exactly as their name implied – portable! No more hoping friends or family got the last minute change in plans in time, or being stranded, without a fireplace and too young or injured to apparate. As long as the portable was connected to the floo network, it could be used anywhere! The sheer convenience of the device already had most Ministry departments requiring that their field employees own a portable, and it was suspected that soon every employee would need one. In fact, the Auror department had participated as the trial group for the first models (due to Albus's encouragement, of course).
"And your Stone? How is that coming along?" Albus idly asked. The fall after they'd left Hogwarts, Scorpius had mentioned the desire to try making a new Philosopher's Stone, stating that he had too many ideas to complete in one lifetime and therefore needed an extension. Albus only asked after the progress of the stone on occasion to show dutiful interest, as Scorpius's usual bland answer was–
"As well as expected."
Scorpius moved to sit on a stone bench in an alcove of the hedge and Albus followed suit, the silence that settled between them easy and relaxed as they stared across the west garden to the sloping hills of Wiltshire. There were large, old oaks scattered in the grassy fields beyond the blooming gardens and Albus smirked as he imagined ravishing Scorpius in the shade under those trees. Although, given Wiltshire's cool summers, perhaps the open field, surrounded by the tall grass and under the noon sun, would be just as enjoyable. Scorpius's pale skin and white blonde hair would glow against the vibrant green stalks, his lips would be red and swollen from Albus's rough kisses, light eyes tightly shut against the bright sun as he moaned in Albus's arms–
"What are you grinning about, Albus Potter? You look positively feral."
Said grin widening, Albus occluded his mind again before glancing affectionately at Scorpius. "Just thinking about the beauty of the world."
"Beauty of the world, indeed."
Scorpius shook his head upon remembering Albus's words as he picked up a wicker fan, waving the light steam rising from his cauldron toward himself and breathing in the wafts to see if they smelled sweet. They did, of course, so he slowly added the Wiggentree bark shavings, watching as the potion turned from a bubbling, thick deep purple to a calm, clear thin liquid.
Who did Albus think he was kidding? The brunette's intensely sexual energy had practically smothered Scorpius all afternoon, making him feel light-headed and intoxicated. It was a wonder that he hadn't stumbled around like a drunk! Only his familiarity with handling Albus's increasingly powerful desires kept him from letting the man have him right there in the garden, no thought given to scandalized family members or house elves peeking out the Manor windows. Salazar himself! It was a good thing their brunches were once a week, only occasionally meeting up at other times; Scorpius knew he couldn't handle long periods of exposure to Albus's wildly seductive energy – case in point: seventh year's oblivia-thon.
Satisfied with the potion's progress, Scorpius moved to the next table where another, red potion simmered in an extra large pewter cauldron. In total, the room contained six different healing potions in the makings, and the high windows were open to the crisp night air so the dizzying fumes could escape.
Once Scorpius finished checking and tweaking each healing potion, he would move to the larger room next door which contained almost twenty various brews and philters. As a potioneer, he had devoted both rooms to providing potions for St. Mungo's and assorted businesses – mostly to keep himself busy (having read through his father's entire library by thirteen) while he waited for his experimental concoctions to finish.
And, well, he really enjoyed the art of potion-making, the way the potential energy changed to kinetic within a cauldron – completely fascinating. Other experiments aside, potions were what he truly planned to improve in the wizarding society.
Which led Scorpius to his next healing potion, one that wasn't technically a healing potion – not for St. Mungo's anyway. This potion was in an extra small, gold cauldron, only big enough for a few scoops but that was more than plenty for Scorpius's intentions. The surface of the potion rolled with the occasional bubble as it simmered over a light fire, its milky whiteness looking more like cream was heating rather than the brewing of the Elixir of Life.
Scorpius gave the potion one gentle stir to roll the tiny piece of the Philosopher's Stone at the bottom of the small cauldron. The rest of the stone was safely hidden, not to be touched unless Scorpius had a pressing need for it (he suspected that he wouldn't for some time). Creating the stone had been a delightful process – the first time in years that he had truly felt challenged by magic. Seeing the way the energy wove into the magical form of the stone, Scorpius wondered if Nicolas Flamel had been, well, different like him. It seemed the most probable possibility, as he couldn't imagine a normal wizard just getting lucky.
Perhaps, however, he was attributing too much to his odd ability. Plenty of magicals were excellent casters without having to see the mechanics of their magic, after all.
There weren't documentations on how Flamel had used the stone or consequent Elixir of Life, but Scorpius perfected his own use to suit his routine: one tiny drop of elixir (any more than that and the taste was foul rather than nonexistent) once a week and he could expect an extended life.
Albus didn't know it yet, but he was in for a long life as well.
"Awfully insistent tonight, weren't you?"
Albus glanced back at the wizard still lounging lazily on the bed – hair too yellow, skin too tan, eyes an unattractive blue. Maybe someone else found baby blue attractive. Albus didn't. Looking away, he finished buckling his belt and reached for his shirt. "Yeah. Sorry."
"You're always demanding on Wednesdays," the other wizard mumbled, his slight German accent oddly making him sound irritated. Of course, maybe he was irritated. "An unusual day to be so demanding, Wednesday that is, being the middle of the week and all. You know? But I guess it's the beginning of your week, right?"
Rather than answering, Albus shrugged on his robes. He wasn't in the mood to talk; just wanted to get home, take a shower, and go to sleep. Tiedoll expected him bright and early on Thursdays. When the silence in the room started feeling heavy, Albus caved and said over his shoulder, "Wednesdays tend to wind me up."
There was a pause, and then, "Would that have anything to do with someone named 'Scorpius'?"
Albus froze, hand mid-reach for his shoes.
"Look," the other wizard continued, voice quiet but biting, "I know we're not dating, but the least you could do is remember who's in bed with you."
"I-" Albus sighed roughly and ran a hand through his hair before finally turning to face the other. "Sorry. I just- I mean, I'm- I didn't- Sorry."
The German wizard – Archie – had his mouth pressed in a thin line and his eyes regarded Albus flatly for a moment before he dropped the stare with a sigh of his own. "My internship ends in a couple weeks," he said, abruptly changing the topic.
"Oh. Will you be going back to Germany?" Albus asked, hesitating before leaning over to finish pulling on his shoes, moving a bit slower so he didn't appear to be as in a rush to escape as he actually was.
"I don't know. Maybe. If I don't get offered a permanent position in the department."
The last bit was muttered, and Albus vaguely remembered that that was how they met, with Archie interning in the Department of International Magical Cooperation and Albus and Tiedoll investigating a string of dark object burglaries possibly connected to similar incidents on the continent.
"Do you," Archie cleared his throat, "Do you want to do lunch tomorrow or… something. Or maybe next week?"
Albus fumbled through his robes, checking for his wand or anything else he didn't want to accidentally leave and glad that he wasn't facing Archie anymore. His lies always showed clearly on his face. "I'm… I'm going to be busy for a while, so I don't think…"
"Ugh, fine. Get out."
"I don't want one of your lame apologies!" Archie snapped and finally pushed off the bed to stomp toward his bathroom. "Just get out, Al. And don't floo me again."
The bathroom door slammed shut and Albus sighed, feeling both guilty and frustrated. He considered trying to apologize to the German, at least so they didn't end their, er, association with a bitter resentment, but he couldn't think of anything to say. What could he say? Somehow "thanks for conveniently letting me bang you as a substitute, thought you knew that's what it was about" didn't seem appropriate.
Instead, he took one more look around the room for anything that might be his and then pulled out his wand to apparate.
As he turned and just started to feel the pull of apparition, he heard Archie yell, "You're an asshole, Albus Potter!"
May 12, 2027, Wednesday
"And how is your stone coming along?"
Scorpius glanced up just as Albus drank from his mug of coffee and smirked. "As well as expected."
With a wry grin, Albus set the mug back on the table, waving his hand lightly at a pair of butterflies that fluttered by his head. "Knowing you, it's not only already completed, but probably even better than Flamel's original stone."
Scorpius hummed and took a sip of his own Elixir-tinted drink. A flash of white caught his eye and he turned to see a peahen snipping at the butterflies that ventured too close to her. There were wards, of course, to keep the peafowl away from the butterfly garden (and from eating all the flowers and plants), but the peahen clearly enjoyed the game that she could never win. He smiled, amused by the pretty bird.
A sudden, intense wave of energy slammed into Scorpius and he hastily, set his teacup down before he lost his grip on the porcelain handle. Taking a brief moment to compose himself against Albus's emotions, his purposefully shifted to stare firmly into the other's green eyes, almost sagging in relief when Albus instantly occluded. Occlumency had the fortunate benefit of closing off more than a person's mind; Albus's energy sharply decreased to a low purr.
What perverted thoughts were going through your head this time, Albus? Scorpius wondered, amused but wanting to shake his head in disbelief – he'd only looked away for a second, for Merlin's sake. Albus's blatant desire had his body tingling warmly, and he suppressed a shudder to ask, "How is Auror Tiedoll?"
Albus gave a small smirk, clearly thinking he'd gotten away with whatever fantasy, and then started explaining his and Tiedoll's involvement in a recent cursed object case.
May 14, 2027, Friday
The Department of International Magical Cooperation was not nearly as crowded as Scorpius had expected, although it was only mid-morning and thus had a likely chance of becoming busier as the day progressed.
Stepping away from the lifts, Scorpius casually ducked several memos that zipped overhead and made his way to the help desk at the far end of the rectangular room. Several offices lined the walls, with the occasional secretary waiting just outside the doors, the memos either landing in their inboxes or flying from their outboxes. A few glanced at Scorpius as he passed, some doing double takes and blatantly staring, but he ignored them.
The witch seated behind the help desk didn't notice Scorpius at first, her painted red lips pursed and dark locks being twisted around a manicured finger as she browsed Witch Weekly. Scorpius recognized her as being a Gryffindor three years ahead of him at Hogwarts, Matilda Merrylite to be exact. He lightly tapped on the counter to catch her attention and when she finally looked at him it was with none of the apprehension of her coworkers.
"Hey there, Malfoy," Matilda greeted, her smile showing big, white teeth. "Been a while. What brings you here today?"
"Indeed, it has been a while, Miss Merrylite." Scorpius remembered liking her friendliness, forceful though it may be, and returned the smile before indicating the parchment in his hand. "One of the vendors I supply potions for is hoping to spread his clientele to the rest of Europe and has asked all of his potioneers to procure the proper permits."
"Ah, then you want the International Trading Standards Body," Matilda said and leaned back to pull one of the silver tassels hanging behind her. "I'll get Archie to help you. He's real nice. So, potions, eh?"
They chatted about the Scorpius's potions that were intended for the continent until a young, hay-colored blonde wizard entered from the door to the left of Matilda's desk. Scorpius gave the young man credit for only flinching slightly at the sight of his Death's Eyes (one quick look at Matilda's easy smile and bright attitude and the blonde's nervous energy was relaxing). Matilda introduced the German wizard as Archie Holt and then demanded that Scorpius owl her sometime, real owl or through her portable floo, before letting Archie escort him away from her desk.
"One more thing, Malfoy," she called after him with a smirk, "The Auror Office is on Level 2, in case you wanted to know."
Scorpius smiled knowingly at her, but the energy of the wizard next to him strangely tensed. As they walked into a private office Holt asked, his German accent sounding more pronounced, "You have business with the Aurors?"
"A friend of mine is an Auror," Scorpius explained lightly.
"Oh. How lovely." Both Holt's energy and tone indicated that he thought it was anything but. However, as he motioned Scorpius toward one of the cushioned chairs and settled himself behind his desk, his earlier calmness seemed to overtake the irritation. When his looked at Scorpius again, it was with a business-like friendliness. "Matilda said something about a continental permit? Is this for Europe only or are you looking for an extended certification for Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas?"
"Europe alone will be enough."
At Scorpius's words, filing drawers behind Archie opened and a few parchments flew out, coming to rest under Holt's poised hand, his quill already prepped. He asked, not looking up from the forms, "Are you looking for a merchant license or a supplier permit?"
"A supplier permit," Scorpius answered. Again, drawers opened and parchments escaped, this time landing in a neat pile in front of Scorpius.
"Please fill those out and promptly owl them back," Holt explained and handed Scorpius a clip for the parchments. "We'll have to have someone conduct a field exam to guarantee the quality of environment where the potions are made and that supplies used aren't out of date or tampered with-" his eyes ran over Scorpius's impeccable, well-tailored robes appreciatively and he smiled, "-which I don't think will be a problem for you, but it's standard protocol. I have just a few more questions and then we can get the filing process going. Can you spell your name out for me? Last name first, then first name and middle initial."
"Malfoy. M-A-L-F-O-Y. Scorpius. S-C-O…" Scorpius trailed off at the sudden sharp, angry hitch in Holt's energy, similar to before at the mention of Aurors. The German's eyes moved over him again but this time the inspection was less approving and more gauging.
"Please continue," Holt said after a moment, but his tone held a certain chill.
"S-C-O-R-P-I-U-S, H," Scorpius finished, a little confused but mostly curious.
Holt tapped his parchments into alignment, the action not as casual as he wanted Scorpius to believe, his annoyed vibrations a crackling giveaway. "That's a rare name. Scorpius. At least in Germany. Is it common here in England?"
"I have neither met nor heard of anyone sharing my name," Scorpius said slowly.
Holt's grip on the edges of the parchments tightened. "That Auror friend of yours... Is it- It's not… Albus Potter, is it?"
Intrigued, Scorpius only meant to probe lightly, unobtrusively – Holt's eyes were narrowed and firmly locked on his, making it easy – to find the cause of saying Albus's name like it was vile, but the first image that flittered between their minds was of skin on skin and, shocked, Scorpius pressed forcefully into the other wizard's head. He was immediately assaulted by memories of lingering and rushed kisses, roaming hands, rocking bodies, of a sweaty Albus, deep voice moaning, "Scorpius…"
Scorpius quickly ended the connection between them and Holt reeled from the legilimency, gripping the armrests of his chair to keep from tumbling over. He choked over breaths and wildly eyed Scorpius, hand scrambling for his drawer in obvious search for his wand.
"You-! Did you just–"
The spell was out of Scorpius's mouth before he could consider otherwise. Holt slammed back into his chair under its force as every memory of Albus Potter was completely erased from his conscious mind.
The energy in the room sparked and wavered in response Scorpius's unrestrained emotions. Trembling, he fell back into his own chair, not remembering having stood, and tried to breathe long, calming breaths, watching anxiously as Holt's head lolled dizzily from the two invasive spells. Pain radiated out from Scorpius's chest as the images of Albus with Holt replayed in his mind and he felt a sudden, but brief, surge of anger toward the German wizard.
But no, this wasn't Holt's fault. Scorpius had no one to blame but himself. Albus was no longer a child and Scorpius had purposefully put distance between them even though he knew of Albus's desires, all under the guise of encouraging Albus to find someone normal. He had known Albus was… involved with others – the man was young with a healthy sexual appetite, after all, and had to express it somehow – but knowing and seeing were entirely different. What idiocy had possessed him to ever believe that he could accept Albus being with someone else?
Scorpius closed his eyes and concentrated on relaxing the energy in the room so that Holt would have an easier time breathing. The hot vibrations were quickly soothed and when Scorpius opened his eyes it was to see Holt still looking a tad sick but blinking back into awareness.
"Mr. Holt," Scorpius started quietly, and he hoped that Holt was still too woozy to hear the tremor in his voice, "If you are feeling ill, perhaps we should reconvene at a later date? I can return with the completed paperwork at that time."
Holt weakly reached for his quill and nodded, more confused than sick. "Yes… Yes, that's fine. I-I have a Monday opening at nine if you could stop by… I apologize for not being able to finish today. I… I am not sure what has come over me."
"No need to apologize," Scorpius assured guiltily. "I will be here at nine on Monday. Please rest well."
Scorpius almost forgot the parchments he was to complete in his hurry to leave the office and he did forget about Matilda Merrylite, not even hearing her call his name as he all but dashed to the lifts. Once the grate closed behind him and the lift was descending back to the Atrium, Scorpius slumped against the wall, rubbing the heel of his hand against his temple, glad that no one else was aboard to witness his weakness.
It was time to stop playing games. Scorpius more than wanted to, but had he waited too long, wasted too much time drawing out their friendship? Albus's desires did seem to be more frequent and intense each week, but Scorpius had both flirted with and avoided Albus for so long that the possibility of their relationship changing made him nervous. What would Albus even say if Scorpius suddenly confessed? Sexual attraction did not mean that Albus was interested in anything more.
Maybe his expectations are too high now… What if I ruin his idea of me? Scorpius cringed inwardly at the thought. It was like eyeing a beautifully decorated cake all day and then finally getting a piece only to find that the cake is stale, the icing brittle and sour.
He didn't want to be Albus's stale cake.
The lift opened at the Atrium and Scorpius straightened as other patrons entered, but he made no move to exit, frozen with his thoughts.
Albus quietly sighed and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. A quick look at Tiedoll standing next to him showed the older Auror to be snoozing vertically, arms folded and head slumped, the occasional quiet snore. The other Aurors packed into the small room seemed to be in similar states of boredom or catnaps, the only people paying any attention to Harry Potter's droning agenda being the unlucky ones at the front of the crowd. The Auror Office needed to invest in some chairs, Albus decided, legs sore from standing for so long – or a bigger meeting room, as someone had just accidentally elbowed him in the back.
You need that important file.
The thought flashed, completely unexpected.
Albus blinked vacantly.
Yeah, that's right, there was a file that he needed, now that his mind reminded him. It was the... the file, that important one sitting on his desk.
But he didn't have a desk.
On Auror Tiedoll's desk, his mind corrected quickly.
Oh. Yeah. Obviously.
Albus's feet were already moving toward the door before he realized as though he were on autopilot, but a hand slipped gently around his bicep to stop him. Albus blinked some more, at first not entirely sure why he stopped, before understanding that he was being tugged by another person. Even as he turned to face the other person, his eyes were drawn to the door and he felt a compelling need to leave the room.
For that file, of course.
"Where are you going, Al?" Tiedoll asked quietly, apparently not as asleep as Albus originally believed.
"I need to get that file," Albus whispered back.
Tiedoll's arched an eyebrow. "What file?"
"The important one," Albus said impatiently and brushed off the older man's hand.
"Can't it wait?" Tiedoll asked, but Albus only shook his head in response and continued maneuvering through the crowded meeting room for the door.
When he stepped through, he was startled to find the office empty. Normally, M.L.E. officers, employees, and secretaries still bustled between all the difference divisions. Even the receptionist that always sat at the large front desk at the entrance to the Auror Office was mysteriously absent. Albus suddenly felt uneasy but when he spun around to search the other direction, he bowled over the person standing there.
"Oh! Sorry!" Albus apologized, grabbing narrow shoulders to steady them both. It took him but half a second to recognize the other. "Scorpius!"
Scorpius smiled, but something about it seemed off to Albus. Not quite forced, but not as relaxed as normal.
"Hello, Albus," Scorpius greeted in his usual polite tone. "I hope you don't mind me stopping by your office. I'm not interrupting, am I?"
"Not at all!" Albus assured, grinning. "You're making my day!"
The smile Scorpius gave this time was small and almost gloomy and Albus gently massaged the shoulders he still held.
"What's wrong?" he asked, feeling his stomach clench when Scorpius wouldn't look at him. "Did something happen?"
"No, nothing," Scorpius said, but still wouldn't fully meet Albus's eyes, ducking his head when Albus tried to lean into his line of sight. Instead, he reached up and began to smooth the collar of Albus's Auror robes, brushing away breakfast crumbs Albus hadn't even noticed, and untwisted Albus's ID lanyard so that it lay flat.
Albus immediately recognized the obsessive habit – Scorpius always took to grooming when nervous, something the blonde had apparently never noticed about himself. Albus slid his hands down Scorpius's arms to close lightly on the thin wrists, stopping Scorpius's fidgeting. "Scorpius, what–"
"Tuesday," Scorpius said, abruptly cutting off Albus's concern. He finally lifted his head and stared firmly into Albus's eyes. "If you are not busy, would you like to come to the manor for lunch or dinner on Tuesday?"
"I'll come. Either time works," Albus said slowly, confused. "You'll be busy on Wednesday or something?"
"No, that is not what I meant," Scorpius answered quickly. "I would like you to come for brunch, too, of course, but I… I was hoping we could, maybe, spend more time together…"
A rare blush crept into Scorpius's cheeks and he looked away once more.
Albus's whole body jerked with sudden desire at the shy words and he half-wished the office wasn't empty so that he would have more motive to restrain himself. His other half was seriously considering pushing Scorpius back onto a desk and having the man right there, with full intentions of ignoring anyone who returned and damn Ministry laws of public indecency. As it was, however, the only sign of Albus's inner debate was his grip on Scorpius's wrists tightening a bit and he was rather proud of himself for not jumping the blonde.
Wanting to spend more time together doesn't mean he's interested, Albus told himself with an inward sigh. After all, Scorpius's parents and grandmother traveled often and Scorpius spent most of the time cooped up alone with potions. It was more likely that Scorpius was simply feeling lonely.
"How about lunch, then?" Albus breathed finally, already planning to stay long enough on Tuesday for dinner as well.
Scorpius smiled again and this time it looked real and at its normal brightness. "Lunch it is."
Before either of them could say any more, the door to the meeting room opened slightly and Auror Tiedoll slipped through the crack.
"Al?" he called, searching the room before settling on the pair standing nearby. "I was wondering if you'd planned on coming back."
"Oh yeah!" Albus gasped, having forgotten about the Auror meeting entirely.
"Oh yeah," Tiedoll mocked in a friendly tone, but his eyes studied Scorpius before flicking back to Albus.
"I should go," Scorpius said and stepped back – Albus hadn't realized they were standing so close. He nodded at Tiedoll and gave Albus another smile with, strangely enough, another light blush and then swiftly left the office toward the lifts. As he went, he passed the receptionist at the door, offering her a small nod, too.
"Where is everyone?" Tiedoll called to her as soon as Scorpius was out of sight, clearly having noticed the emptiness of the office.
The receptionist confusedly looked around the room and then shook her head as she moved behind her desk. "I'm not sure. I had a startling urge to go to the Atrium, but when I got there, I couldn't remember why I needed to be there in the first place. I saw some others leaving, too, but I didn't ask them where they were going…"
As she spoke, more employees and some officers started to drift back into the room with equally confused and frustrated expressions.
"How odd," Tiedoll mused quietly. "What about that important file you needed, Al?"
"Huh?" Albus blinked at the question. "What fi– oh! Oh… I… I don't even know which file I wanted, now that I think about it."
Tiedoll's expression was calculating and guarded, as though he were working something out in his head, but he shrugged after a moment and gestured for Albus to follow him back to the meeting.
"That friend of yours that came by this morning…"
Albus glanced up over the steaming bowl of soup at Tiedoll, blowing across his noodles before asking, "You mean Scorpius?"
"Is that his name?" Tiedoll asked, twisting his fork in his own soup bowl.
"Yeah, Scorpius Malfoy," Albus answered, watching Tiedoll's expression carefully.
As expected, the older man's eyebrows rose at the mention of Scorpius's last name. Albus frowned. His father had explained once about the Malfoys' roles in the Dark Wars but Albus, being from a different generation, still couldn't understand the instant dislike that people had for the family. Death's Eyes alone had caused Scorpius plenty of problems; the blonde didn't need people holding crimes that had happened before he was born against him, too.
"Don't look at me like that, Albus," Tiedoll chided gently without looking up from his lunch. "I mean young Mr. Malfoy no insult. Simply curious, is all."
"Sorry," Albus sighed. "I get pretty defensive when it comes to him."
"A close friend?"
"I… I was hoping we could, maybe, spend more time together…"
Maybe closer than friends, Albus hoped with a small smile and said, "Yeah. We were in the same year at Hogwarts."
"I see," Tiedoll hummed and slurped long noodles off of his fork, chewing them slowly before swallowing and adding, "Top of your class, I imagine."
"He was Head Boy, too." It wasn't his own accomplishment, yet Albus couldn't help but say the words proudly.
Tiedoll set his fork aside and finally looked at Albus, his gaze firm. "Yes, the kind of magical who can confund an entire office full of skilled witches and wizards without disrupting any wards tends to try harder to be an exemplary student. No one ever suspects the good kids, but they can be just as dangerous."
Albus's fork froze halfway to his mouth. "What?"
They stared at each other for a long moment and, for the first time in Tiedoll's presence, Albus was glad he'd been trained to automatically occlude when meeting another's eyes as he felt the distinct tingle of Tiedoll probing at his barriers. Albus was torn between anger at Tiedoll's hint that Scorpius pretended to be a good person and concern because Tiedoll was not the sort of man that would make such an accusation lightly. What was the Tiedoll trying to find in his mind? If Scorpius had ever given Albus reason to doubt, then he certainly didn't remember it and he was tempted to show Tiedoll such.
But then Tiedoll's gaze dropped to his half-finished soup and he resumed eating, saying between bites, "Your performance lately has been noted. We may be involved in some more dangerous assignments soon."
"Right," Albus snorted, knowing full well the kind of assignments his father wanted to give him, but grinned when Tiedoll sent him a warning look. "Right now, someone's cursing her teapot to bite fingers off, I'm sure. I'd hate to miss out on that mission."
"It'd be a step up from hexed calculatrons, no doubt," Tiedoll agreed lightly, smiling warmly, and the tenseness between them dissipated as they joked about previous assignments over the rest of lunch.
May 16, 2027, Sunday
When the glimmer left, that was the moment Albus had known he was too late.
There hadn't been a need to check, to confirm, because he saw, watched, Tiedoll's eyes quickly dim until the last glimmer of life vanished completely, leaving a vacant and painless stare in its place, like the soul itself escaping its bodily confines. Albus had stared into those empty eyes for a long time before his father pulled him away, away from the dead body, away from the curse-wrecked room, and away from the crumbling house. How long had he sat there, hearing his name being called, body being shook, but only able to think about those familiar eyes staring at him, first shocked and then dead?
Albus remembered looking down at his body that was covered in the other's blood, and remembered losing his stomach when he recalled the way Tiedoll's leg had exploded when the first curse hit. Things after that were a blur. He knew that he had been taken straight the St. Mungo's after they magicked the blood off him, had him with a mind-healer immediately. Albus remembered talking to her, losing his stomach again, and, mostly, feeling numb, confused almost. He had been taken to his old house after that, rather than the flat he shared with Louis and Hugo, and his father had whispered directions to his mother about him being in shock and needing rest – there would likely be nightmares.
But these memories didn't feel real to him; the time had moved as though he had watched the events on fast forward in a pensieve, and everything kept returning to the beginning and repeating, with Tiedoll shoving him aside as the curses flew toward them.
That was the only part of his memory that moved slowly.
The little amount of sanity he still grasped told him that everything had happened hours ago. It was morning when they had started up those stairs in the abandoned house – supposed to be abandoned, emptied, no one, nothing there but some dark objects – and now it was night, only a few muggle cars moving in the streets behind him as he sat on the bench and watched the way the raindrops rippled the surface of a river he didn't recognize.
Froi Tiedoll, his mentor for a year and half, like a second father to him, dead.
The cold that soaked through his robes went unnoticed, but when he stopped feeling the rain beat down on him, he slowly turned his head to see why.
"You have an umbrella," he murmured.
Scorpius's eyebrows knitted together in concern and he whispered back, "Yes. It is raining."
He stared at Scorpius blankly and asked, "Are you real?"
Instead of answering, Scorpius placed a warm hand against his cold cheek and Albus breathed in sharply at the feel of it, that he felt it, as he hadn't been feeling anything for a while. He closed his eyes and leaned into the touch, covering Scorpius's hand with his own icy one. He had a brief moment of nuzzling into the warm hand and then Scorpius had one knee on the bench next to him, leaning over him and using the other hand to brush his soaked hair out of his face. Albus opened his eyes, first seeing the umbrella still floating nearby, and then turning his head slightly so that all he saw was Scorpius's intense, anxious gaze.
"Albus, why are you sitting in the rain?" Scorpius demanded quietly. "How long have you been out here?"
Albus stared at Scorpius as he tried, with great difficulty, to get his mind working. He didn't know how long he'd been sitting on the bench, how he had gotten there, or even where he there was. The last thing he remembered was his mother helping him change clothes and then into his old bed. The only answer he could give Scorpius was a small shake of the head.
Scorpius took Albus's hands in his own, giving a gentle tug. "Come with me?" was his soft request, and Albus obediently stood.
Scorpius led him down the stone walkway that followed the river and over a small bridge into the trees beyond, the river dividing the wilderness from the city. Once they were safely hidden in the trees, Scorpius asked, "Are you okay to apparate?" and at Albus's slight nod they were soon twisting into apparition. When they landed, Albus shook away Scorpius's hands and fell to his knees, dry-heaving over the edge of one of Malfoy Manor's many balconies. Scorpius kneeled next to him and rubbed his back soothingly until he finished hacking.
Then Albus was led inside, through a warm bedroom and into a large bathroom. Scorpius left Albus's side for a moment, pushing up his sleeves and starting hot water running from multiple ornate faucets into the huge, spa-like bath. Albus watched blandly as Scorpius walked to the nearby cabinets and studied the potions within before deciding on one and carrying it back to the filling bath. After pouring the entire bottle of potion in the water, he returned to Albus, kneeling to untie Albus's shoes and asking Albus to step out of them.
Albus wasn't even wearing socks.
Scorpius then helped him out of the soaked robes until he was naked and dropped the heavy clothing down a shoot cleverly disguised as a picture of the ocean. Albus was still too out of it to be embarrassed about his nudity and didn't even blush or shiver when Scorpius wrapped a towel snugly around his waist, tucking the edge in so that it would stay in place. Scorpius took his hands again and tugged him to the edge of the bath, stopping the water with a flick, and then helping him into the painfully hot water, making sure he was comfortable before whispering, "I'll be right back."
Albus lay back against the smooth side of the bath, feeling his entire body tingle oddly, possibly pleasantly, and guessed it had something to do with Scorpius's potion. He absently looked around the bathroom, noticing several everyday objects on the counter, the relaxed tranquility of the room, and dimly wondered if it was Scorpius's personal bathroom.
Scorpius returned, and he slipped out of his own outer robe, dropping it down the same hidden shoot. He hiked up his under-robe and moved behind Albus to sit on the edge of the bath, pressing a hand gently against Albus's shoulder. In slow response, Albus sat up a little straighter, then waited for Scorpius to adjust before slumping back again and Scorpius's legs were in the water on either side of him. He kept one hand at rest in his lap but laid the other along Scorpius's thigh and laid his head against it, closing his eyes. A moment later he felt Scorpius start to comb a hand slowly and lightly through his hair and he released a shaky sigh. Albus distantly knew that the closeness of their bodies, this intimate familiarity, should be making him both ecstatic and nervous, but the only thing his clogged mind could acknowledge was the tension leaving his body as he relaxed against Scorpius.
"What time is it?" he murmured, mouth moving before his mind registered the thought.
"Almost three in the morning," Scorpius answered. Then, just as quietly, "Keep your eyes closed while I wash your hair."
Albus soon felt warm water running softly over his head and then there was the smell of soap as Scorpius soothingly lathered the shampoo in, using just enough pressure and scratching ever so lightly that Albus wouldn't have been able to keep his eyes open even if he wanted to. He tilted his head forward and side to side when Scorpius asked, waiting patiently when Scorpius rinsed the first out and then applied another nice-smelling soap. While the second soap settled, Scorpius moved his hands lower to Albus's neck and shoulders to start a gentle massage.
"Why were you outside in the rain so late?" Albus asked, again finding himself speaking without connection to his thoughts.
"I needed an ingredient that requires a rainy, moonless night to shed its skin," Scorpius whispered.
"Oh," was all Albus said in response. He vaguely wondered about the notion of "fate." Was it fate that repeatedly brought Scorpius to him and him to Scorpius? He wanted to ask, but what he said instead was, "I watched Froi Tiedoll die today."
Scorpius's hands paused, but he didn't say anything, and a second later his hands were moving again.
"The place was supposed to be empty, we were just there for dark object pickup, but a couple of their guys returned… They panicked when they saw us," Albus continued, a lump in his throat, voice starting to shake. He felt the light pressure of Scorpius's hand under his chin and tilted his head back accordingly for the rinse. "He pushed me away, wouldn't let me help… I- I don't know what the curse was, but when it hit Froi in the knee…" Albus hesitated, swallowing thickly, and opened his eyes, staring up at Scorpius as the suds were rubbed from his hair. "I didn't know what to do. I tried an anti-bleeding spell, but his leg… And the curses kept coming…"
"Close your eyes, Albus," Scorpius ordered meekly.
Albus did as told and soon the water was running over his forehead, down the sides of his face and bridge of his nose, but his chest was heaving with quick breaths now, and he couldn't stop swallowing, the feeling of something lodged in his throat choking him.
"I… I watched him die, and there was nothing I could do," he rasped and his heartbeat quickened.
The water stopped flowing abruptly and Albus immediately twisted around to focus on Scorpius with wide, horrified eyes. "Not like that, I've never… never seen someone…"
And then he was wrapping his arms around Scorpius's waist and pulling the other man onto his lap, the fact that he was dragging Scorpius into the water not even registering in his grief-ridden mind. He pressed his face to Scorpius's chest and choked out a sob as Scorpius embraced him just as tightly around the shoulders. Albus's body shuddered from the uncontrollable emotions finally flooding into him now that the numbness was receding, the image of Tiedoll's torn body not going away from his sight.
Froi Tiedoll, who was kind and warm but stern when necessary, who was reasonable and understanding, who was retiring to travel with his wife in only seven more months.
Albus didn't know how long he held Scorpius fixed to him before he finally lost all his strength, when he had nothing left to give to sorrow. Scorpius didn't say a word, keeping his grip on Albus's shoulders even with Albus's arms fell slack around his waist. The possessive hold was comforting in ways that words would never be.
When Scorpius did move, it was only to take Albus's face in his hands and press a soft kiss to the weary Auror's forehead.
They stayed like that for a little longer and then Scorpius was leading him out of the bath and handing him warm, fluffy towels. Albus didn't remember a house elf coming in the bathroom at any point, but there was a night shirt and his cleaned boxers on the counter. Though he was too exhausted to really work himself into an embarrassed fluster about it, Albus at least had the awareness by this point to blush at his nakedness in front of the other man. Scorpius thankfully left him to finish drying and change, giving his hand a quick squeeze on the way. When Albus finally exited the bathroom, Scorpius had changed into a night robe and was pulling back the thick comforter on the bed, beckoning Albus over.
The cool sheets and soft bed felt amazing. Albus briefly wondered if he was going to be left alone, but then Scorpius was sliding in next to him and he lifted his arms to draw Scorpius closer. He returned the kiss to the forehead that Scorpius had given him and then rolled onto his side, pulling Scorpius's smaller body firmly against his and breathing in the earthy tang that only someone who spent most of the day pouring over potions would have. Scorpius didn't protest, merely allowing Albus to maneuver them both into place.
The earlier distress had left behind a throbbing emptiness and Albus hugged Scorpius tighter, willing the emptiness to fill with the love and tenderness that Scorpius gave him.
Scorpius was rubbing small, slow circles on Albus's chest, and it didn't take long for his warmth to lull Albus into sleep.
May 17, 2027, Monday
Scorpius awoke hours later still in Albus's embrace, though the grip had considerably loosened. Bright sunlight streamed in the large windows on either side of the bed and he idly wondered what time of day it was. His body felt heavy and stiff from lying in the same position for so long, but he didn't dare move lest he rouse Albus.
Albus's breathing was even and relaxed, but Scorpius could feel the pain that yet disrupted the man's energy, the grief that lingered in the air. The familiarity of Albus's presence had first come as a surprise to Scorpius while he walked along the river, searching for occamy skins, but the wall of sorrow that had slammed into him soon after had quickly alerted him to the former-Gryffindor's distress. Albus sitting on that bench, staring emptily at the river and letting the rain soak straight to the bone, had clawed at Scorpius's heart and sucked the breath right out of him.
Scorpius had only seen Froi Tiedoll that one time, a couple days earlier at the Auror Office. The man hadn't flinched when their eyes met, and his energy had had an inquisitive but peaceful hum. Albus had spoken of Tiedoll often during their brunches and Scorpius could tell that he really admired the older Auror. It was hard to not be able to cure Albus's pain.
The concerns Scorpius had had over the last couple of days – worrying about how to advance their relationship without simply throwing himself at Albus and planning to make Albus stay long enough on Tuesday for dinner as well – seemed so childish compared to death.
Yet, the selfish side of Scorpius was immensely relieved that it had been Tiedoll to die and not Albus, and Scorpius hated himself for the comfort that that relief brought him, as Tiedoll's family was no doubt in sorrow.
Scorpius lay still for a long time before Albus stirred. Only when Albus blearily rubbed his eyes did Scorpius shift into a kneeling position, brushing his thumb lightly over Albus's cheek and asking quietly, "Would you like something to drink?"
Albus nodded and then drew Scorpius's hand back to press a kiss to the palm. Scorpius sat by his side a moment longer before easing off the bed to leave through a door on the opposite wall from the bathroom. It led into his sitting room where a tray with two glasses and a pitcher full of cool water already waited, but instead of immediately taking the water back into the bedroom, Scorpius sat in one of the chairs around the small table and closed his eyes, concentrating on the other life energies in Malfoy Manor. He had felt the wards waver that morning and now, feeling out the halls all the way to the front parlor, he recognized the familiar power of Harry Potter.
Scorpius relaxed with a small sigh.
Harry Potter was, of course, not a threat to Albus.
Giving Albus some personal time, Scorpius waited a bit longer before returning to the bedroom. Albus was coming out of the bathroom just as he entered with the tray hovering in pursuit. He eased the tray onto the foot of his bed and poured a glass of water, which Albus gratefully accepted and chugged the whole thing down in a few large gulps.
Scorpius sat down next to Albus as he refilled his glass, saying, "If you feel like it, I can have breakfast brought to my sitting room."
Finishing a gulp, Albus shook his head. "I don't think I could, you know, keep it down. I still feel a bit…"
With a sad smile, Scorpius nodded in understanding. Albus's eyes were puffy and had dark rings. Even his complexion looked paler. His energy still had that anguished hiccup in its vibration, the gravity of which made Scorpius swallow back an empathic sob.
"Oh!" Albus startled, "I should tell everyone where I am… My parents…"
"They know that you are here and safe. I sent them an owl last night after we arrived," Scorpius assured, shifting on the bed to face Albus. "In fact, your father is downstairs in the sunroom."
Seeing Albus's eyebrows knit in unease, Scorpius quickly added, "You don't have to leave, or even go downstairs, if you don't want to."
"No, it's- I should go," Albus sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "He's probably worried out of his mind. I… Last night… I don't even remember how I got to that river. Everything yesterday just…" Albus swallowed and Scorpius felt a surge of pain, "It's all… I need to talk to him."
When they made it downstairs a little later, Scorpius's father was sitting quietly with Harry Potter. The man once known as "The Chosen One" had the same uneven hitch in his energy that Albus did, the same sunken-eyed cheerless expression, and Scorpius knew that Albus wasn't the only one mourning the death of Froi Tiedoll.
May 18, 2027, Tuesday
"I'm not sure I want to talk about… about what happened just yet…"
Albus's father rubbed his back soothingly, much in the same manner that Scorpius had that night on the balcony.
"I know," Harry said, "and you don't have to, but the mind-healer can help you relax all the same. You just need to give her a chance, okay? Will you try?"
Sighing, Albus nodded and rubbed his eyes. It was department protocol that he speak with a mind-healer but he had hoped they'd give him more time to sort his thoughts before having him try it again. Or some more time with Scorpius, at least, as the few hours he'd spent at Malfoy Manor Monday morning had already helped him greatly. Scorpius's presence alone was enough to ease Albus's distress and all he wanted to do was wrap his arms around the blonde and burrow close once more.
Albus could be contentedly lost forever in the comfort that Scorpius provided.
His father patted him then and Albus looked up to see the mind-healer approaching them. She smiled at Albus and he was relieved to find that it wasn't pitying or fake but warm and kind.
"Please follow me," she said quietly, and both Albus and Harry rose to follow her. Albus was thankful that his father was staying beside him through the mind-healing ordeal. They'd always been close and if he wanted anyone helping him (besides Scorpius) it was his dad. The mind-healer led them down a soft-blue hallway and into a basic St. Mungo's exam room. She motioned for Albus to sit on the edge of the exam bed, saying, "We have a few simple tests to run first in order to tailor the potions to your needs."
Albus almost groaned aloud at the idea of being prescribed potions, but instead only frowned and nodded, sitting on the bed as the mind-healer requested. A second later she was easing her wand, tip glowing, to the side of his head – he recognized the slow movement as one intended to not startle him, of which he was reluctantly thankful. He had had enough dreams the night before about curses and their power so that having a wand pointed at him made him distinctly uncomfortable. The mind-healer's wand traced over his temple with a calming warmth and gentle probe. Albus began to feel drowsy.
"Oh!" the mind-healer gasped suddenly and Albus's eyes flew open to see that she was gaping at him.
"What? What is it?" Harry demanded, stepping up next to her.
The wand was again pressed to Albus's temple and he almost drew away from it, not at all liking the startled expression on the mind-healer's face.
"This…" she started, "This is…"
Scorpius was in his safe haven when he felt Albus apparate into Malfoy Manor, having been given access through the wards the night Scorpius brought them both to his balcony. That was where Albus landed now, but would soon discover that Scorpius wasn't in or near his bedroom. He sat up on the broken stone bench, wild vines in his untamed garden tugging at him as though beckoning him back, and quickly brushed the dirt from his robes. He hadn't expected Albus to come for their lunch date, not after what had happened over the weekend, and was thus unprepared for the former Gryffindor's arrival.
Something felt… off about Albus's energy.
Ducking under the overgrown hedges, Scorpius shook the last of the leaves out of his hair as Albus disappeared from the balcony and reappeared in the butterfly garden, clearly searching for him. He hastily changed directions and hurried to the garden before Albus could apparate somewhere else, almost breaking into a jog in his rush. They were too far apart for Scorpius to get a good grasp of Albus's state of mind, but even at the distance Scorpius could feel twinges, proof enough that the man was under some powerful emotions. As he got closer, he recognized the waves of pain and grief, but they were different from earlier somehow and felt smothered by another emotion, one of–
Scorpius rounded the azalea bushes just as Albus turned and their eyes met.
In a few quick strides, Albus was across the garden and in front of Scorpius, the expression on his face intimidating Scorpius into stumbling backward until his back hit a hedge. The furious waves of energy wrapped around Scorpius like a vice and made his blood run cold as Albus stood over him. Never had he known Albus to have such anger and never had Albus's anger been directed at him.
Their eyes were still locked and Scorpius felt Albus push against his mind with legilimency. He occluded, mostly out of confusion, but even then the force Albus used on top of the tightening grasp of energy made his head swim with dizziness. Scorpius had the ability to fight back, to break free, but this was Albus, and something was obviously wrong.
When Scorpius felt he just might crack, Albus finally ended the contact between their minds, settling back into a glare as Scorpius wobbled from the intrusion. He weakly lifted a hand to push Albus back, to gain some breathing room, but Albus snatched him by the wrist, holding him tightly in place.
"Al-Albus!" Scorpius gasped. "What are y-you–"
"You've been obliviating me," Albus growled, voice low and dark.
It had been three years since he had last obliviated Albus. How had the man found–
Seeing the understanding dawn on Scorpius's face, Albus's hand on his wrist squeezed painfully, the other hand coming up to grab Scorpius's other arm and press him into the hedge so that the small branches jabbed at his back.
"She only detected it because you did it so much it left an imprint!" Albus shouted and, unbeknownst to him, his rage constricted around Scorpius, making it difficult to breathe. "All this time- all these years! I've trusted you! You, Scorpius! Above all others! And now I know you've been lying to me, using magic against me! Why?"
Scorpius's vision began to get splotchy; Albus's energy was choking him.
"Froi even said that you were dangerous and I was ready to defend you!" Albus continued, unaware of Scorpius's problem. "And now he's dead, and I know that you've been deceiving me, and everything is just- I can't- Argghh!"
Albus shoved away from Scorpius with his angry yell and his energy, too, released its hold.
Scorpius stumbled forward, having to grasp at the hedge in order to stay upright, and gasped for air, staring at Albus's back. Albus was still radiating pain and anger, and knowing that he was the cause made Scorpius's heart clench agonizingly.
What comfort would his words or actions be to Albus now?
"I can't do this. I can't deal with this," Albus said, voice rough and still standing with his back to Scorpius. "Not… Not… I can't… I trusted you."
There was a flash of immense regret and then Albus disappeared with a sharp crack!
Scorpius stared at the empty space before him for a long moment, at the environmental waves still staggering from Albus's violent energy, and then his knees buckled and he dropped to the ground. Slowly, he lifted a trembling hand to touch his still-aching throat.
He had done this, had betrayed Albus.
Albus needed to know, needed to understand, why Scorpius had lied to him, but would he listen to Scorpius now? He had no reason to, not now when he knew of Scorpius's manipulations. That Albus would have his memories returned at an already painful time had only caused him more distress, and with the memories Albus would remember why he should fear rather than love Scorpius.
Numbly, Scorpius lurched to his feet, legs shaking, and stumbled his way back to his wild garden, his own memories already starting to whisper through his mind.
"What a frightening child."
"Get out of here! I don't serve Death Eaters or their unnatural offspring!"
"Something is wrong with him, Draco!"
"Only lowlifes like the Malfoys would bring such a monster into this world."
"Nasty li'l shit with ya empty eyes. Like Death himself a lookin' at me."
"He's not normal, not right."
The wild garden of Scorpius's childhood welcomed him as it always had and he lay down on the cold, broken bench.
"I trusted you."
May 20, 2027, Thursday
Albus stared hard at the gates of the Malfoy Estate, mentally willing them to give him answers.
The wards were still open to him, and he had considered simply apparating to Scorpius's balcony, but doing so seemed inappropriate given their last encounter – like a horrible rift between them and it would be rude to force his way across the gap. Albus had spent the previous two days trying to sort himself: Tiedoll's death, the sessions he had yet to complete with the mind-healer, the potions to help him fight the depression, his future as an Auror, and, of course, Scorpius.
Everything and anything that encompassed their relationship. Friendship. Whatever they had.
The memories the mind-healer had been able to restore were blurry and disconnected, but he'd remembered enough to have been positively livid with his best friend. Even now, having had time to calm down, he felt a rush of anger toward Scorpius, but he swallowed it back. Brooding about it wouldn't get him answers, and he wanted answers.
Taking a deep breath, Albus stepped through the gates, intending to head up the gravel drive but instead he froze again. There were lights on in the manor. If he waltzed up to the front door and knocked, he'd have to talk to whoever answered (and what if it was Draco Malfoy and not simply a house-elf?) and then he'd have to trek through the halls all the way Scorpius's room, with paintings upon paintings of Malfoy ancestors glaring down at him – and that only if the door wasn't slammed in his face for yelling at Scorpius in the gardens like a mad man. Plus, did he ever remember the way to Scorpius's room? Would Mr. Malfoy turn him loose in the manor, hoping he'd get lost and wander into a cursed room?
Opting for rudeness, Albus twisted and a second later landed on Scorpius's balcony, and he sighed as he remembered having landed in the same spot not so long ago, the same questions he had now running through his much angrier mind then as well.
The lights were off in the bedroom but it was still early evening, the sun only just setting, so Albus doubted Scorpius was asleep. Still, he quietly pushed the balcony door open and eased inside. It was odd to think that the first time he'd been in the room was because Scorpius had found him in the rain and the second time because he was furious, even odder that the occurrences were all within the same week.
Scorpius's voice was scarcely audible in the quiet and completely unexpected. Albus jerked so hard he thumped into the Scorpius's desk, causing a few papers to scatter and random objects to fall to the floor, not to mention a blooming pain in his leg. Looking around, Albus spotted Scorpius sitting on the bed, knees tented, arms folded, as he leaned against the headboard. The last few rays of orange sunlight barely filtered into the room, but Scorpius was so pale he practically glowed against the dark duvet and carved wood. Their eyes met but Scorpius immediately lowered his gaze to the bed with a flinch and Albus felt a sharp stab of guilt at having used legilimency so forcefully against him.
Breathing in deep to calm his sudden frantic nerves, Albus slowly made his way to the bedside. He could tell by Scorpius's tensing that the blonde wanted to bolt and flee, no doubt fearing his wrath, and he again regretted his earlier actions.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly, and Scorpius's eyes flickered to him in surprise, "I'm sorry for… for last time. Tiedoll's death was… and then I found out that you…" Albus closed his eyes and shoved back the anger that threatened to return. He sighed heavily and opened his eyes to stare at Scorpius firmly. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I'm sorry."
"No, I…" Scorpius's voice sounded raw and scratchy, "I am the one who should apologize. I never meant to hurt you, either."
"Then why?" Albus demanded, taking another step closer. Scorpius looked away again, much to his displeasure, but he strove onward, "When I calmed down enough to think about it, I first thought that you just didn't want to be with me, not like that, and so my obsession had backed you into a corner. But in some of these memories, you're the one who… I just don't understand, Scorpius. Tell me why."
Scorpius was silent for a long time, long enough for Albus to ease the rest of the way to the bed and sit at the foot so that they were facing one another. As he waited for an answer, Albus studied the tense form in front of him. Scorpius looked horrible, worse than Albus had ever seen him – hell, Albus had never seen Scorpius looking anything less than perfect, not even that time in fifth year when half the Slytherin House, including Scorpius, was bedridden for a week with kneazle-scratch fever. Now the blonde looked as he should have then: ill and exhausted.
Had Albus's anger truly been that devastating to Scorpius?
The watery memory of Scorpius sending three grown men flying without using a wand passed through Albus's mind. He could remember the feeling of surprise, the utter shock, because he had recognized that that wasn't normal magic, and also the way Scorpius wouldn't meet his eyes, the expression of terrible anguish, as though Scorpius had expected him to be disgusted.
Almost like the time they first met, so long ago, when Scorpius had sighed and turned away, thinking that Albus was afraid of his eyes like everyone else.
"I don't hate you," Albus blurted, and Scorpius's head snapped up so fast he worried that the blonde would slam it into the headboard. "I'm angry with you, and it feels weird because I've not been angry with you before, but I don't hate you. I could never hate you, Scorpius. So just…" he sighed and ran a hand through his hair, "Just tell me if there's anything else I need to know. Any other secrets you're keeping from me?"
"I…" Scorpius hesitated, and Albus saw his hands clench tighter in attempt to stop his body's trembling. "I have been putting the Elixir of Life in your coffee every week since you started coming here."
"The Elixir of…" Albus's mouth dropped open in shock and then he struggled to find words. "You… in my… You've been putting the… the Elixir of Life… in my coffee…?" A thought occurred to him and he couldn't help but smile softly, shaking his head. "You have created the Philosopher's Stone, then."
"Yes," Scorpius whispered with a light shrug. "It is as you once said, I formed the stone years ago and I do not doubt that it is superior to Flamel's own."
"But why?" Albus asked. "Why have you been giving me Elixir but still avoiding me? Erasing my memories? You wanted to extend my life– for what? To keep me by your side for as long as you deemed me useful? Is that it? To fill some need for human contact?"
"No!" Scorpius croaked, looking at Albus desperately. "No! I…"
"Then why?" Albus demanded, and quickly moved across the bed to kneel in front of Scorpius, stopping the pale hands from covering Scorpius's face.
"Because I… I…" Scorpius sucked in a sharp breath and he turned his head away to keep from looking at Albus, like he was trying to hide his eyes.
Albus knew he had a right to be angry – Scorpius had been wiping his memories for who knew how long, some of which he could never get back – but, holding shivering wrists in his hands, still bruised from where he had roughly gripped them two days prior, and watching Scorpius blink back never-before shed tears, he felt all of his anger ebbing away, being swiftly replaced by the need to protect Scorpius. This was an emotion he was familiar with when it came to the blonde, like a comforting blanket.
Scorpius had been slipping him the Elixir of Life for three years. That combined with the many returned memories of Scorpius spontaneously kissing him gave Albus a pretty good idea of how Scorpius felt about him, but he asked anyway, "Because you love me?"
"…Yes," Scorpius whispered and slumped against Albus. "I love you."
"I love you."
How long had he wanted to hear those words?
Albus tugged Scorpius tight to him, letting Scorpius hide against his shoulder, evidently embarrassed by the confession. It made him smile. "Well, you already know, but I also love you and I fully expect you let me remember this night and to let me just love you already. I still want to know why you did what you did, but you don't have to tell me tonight, or even tomorrow, but if we're going to be living together for a really long time, I figure you'll tell me eventually, right? Just stop running from me, Scorpius, okay?"
Scorpius nodded into his shoulder.
"So…" Albus prompted, "If you don't want to talk about that right now, are there any other secrets you do feel like sharing?"
There was a long pause where Scorpius stiffened and then Albus heard the muffled, quick confessions.
"I confunded Professor Weedle once so that he would forget to assign you detention. That really long quidditch rally between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff in the rain back in sixth year? I casted a notice me spell for the snitch on you and the other seeker so the game would finally end. I rearranged the thoughts of and obliviated Ethan Evans after he confessed because I did not want him to like me. I lied to you about the Pepper Up potion before your final exam from Auror training because I knew you could do it without the potion calming you. Last Friday I confunded the entire Magical Law Enforcement Office so that everyone would leave and give me time to talk to you alone, and that was after I obliviated Archie Holt from International Magical Cooperation and he has absolutely no memory of you now. I also–"
"Okay!" Albus interrupted, patting Scorpius awkwardly on the back and wondering how he even knew Archie, blushing at the thought of him discovering how Albus knew Archie, although maybe that was why he deemed Archie an obliviation target… "We'll be together a long time, remember? You don't have to tell me everything at once."
Scorpius nodded again.
Really, Albus thought affectionately, what am I going to do with you?
Then, he caught Scorpius by the chin and lifted, easing forward for a kiss.
One that he wasn't going to forget.
June 19, 2027, Saturday
Scorpius wasn't in his room, so Albus set out to find his potions labs, having a feeling that he was busy with work at this time of morning.
Four weeks later and Albus had a new partner with a new schedule, his time off now falling on the weekends. It still felt too early to move on from Froi Tiedoll's death, but life goes on, his father had said. The adjustment was strange but it would help, or so the mind-healer told him.
"Mr. Potter, wandering down the wrong hallway again, I see."
Albus spun around to find Draco Malfoy standing imperiously in a nearby doorway, sneering ever so slightly, and grinned with an awkwardly shrug. "It's like a maze in here."
Draco regarded him carefully, sizing him up like always, and then slowly stepped closer, waiting until he was looming over Albus before saying, "You have been… visiting more often as of late. As Scorpius's father, I am sure you understand why I must ask of your intentions toward my son."
Albus paled slightly. As if Draco Malfoy wasn't intimidating enough simply being aloof but now he was being the concerned aristocratic parent, and the commanding stare he gave was enough to make Albus almost wet his pants like a school boy. "I, er… Well…"
"Do be quick and enunciate," Draco ordered, eyes narrowing.
"I have loved you since you told me that you liked my eyes and then insisted that we would be friends no matter our Houses, but I did not think you could ever truly be happy with someone as… different as I."
Scorpius's confession flashed through Albus's mind and he felt sobered by it.
"I love him," Albus stated, watching the surprise light on Draco's face at his bluntness. He smiled. "I love him, and I intend to spend the rest of my life, however long that may be, telling him why he's perfect just the way he is."
Draco stared at Albus, appalled, before swiftly turning on his heel and stalking back the way he had come, muttering, "Honestly! Potters. Saps, the whole lot of them!"
"Just so you're informed," Albus called after Draco, now feeling brave, "I'll be kissing him a lot and maybe I'll even try proposing to him, and I'll probably do both in public venues, if my previous history is anything to go by."
Albus chuckled as he saw the red blush streak across Draco's face as the older man ducked into the nearest doorway. Well, at least now Albus knew from whom Scorpius drew his shyness.
Then, realizing that he was still lost, "Hey! Wait! You didn't tell me how to find Scorpius in this place! Where do I go? Come back!"
Thank you for reading to the end. =)
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