A/N: Dedicated to Liss (fabricated fantasies).
Many thanks to mew-tsubaki for your wonderful beta-job.
any which way but up
Albus chewed on the tip of his pen. The incantation for a colouring spell? Why couldn't he remember it? His head felt as though it was shifting with facts, but none of them was what he needed right now. He cast a glance to the right of him, where Scorpius sat, furiously scribbling with his eyes narrowed as they always were when he was focusing on something.
Albus peeked up underneath his fringe and found that their teacher was involved in a silent but heated debate with one of their classmates, Clara, whom apparently had thought the exam had been badly designed.
He scooted closer to Scorpius and nudged him. Scorpius didn't move.
"Hey, Scor, what's the answer for number three?"
"Shut up, git, I won't answer," Scorpius mumbled back, not letting his eyes off the parchment.
"Come on, Scor,"Albus pleaded, aware of Scorpius' well-thought-out plan not to meet his eyes, so instead of going puppy eyes on him, Albus poked a finger into one of Scorpius' ribs.
"I won't say it." Scorpius jolted, but his voice was quiet and composed.
"Scor," Albus kept nagging, and he realized after a while that he must have found Scorpius' weak spot as the other boy squirmed more and more in his seat with every jab.
Scorpius finally looked up and his eyes were huge. "Albus, lay off," he asked him, looking as though he was on the verge of a breakdown. And, then, of course, Albus couldn't lay off.
So, after a final tickle and a devilish grin from Albus, Scorpius burst out laughing, his cheeks tainted with a redness much brighter than usual (even though that wasn't saying much) from holding it in so long, and the entire class turned their heads to understand what had caused such a commotion. When their teacher raised his eyebrows, Albus smiled sheepishly.
Scorpius lay on the floor, laughing so hard he was clutching his stomach. "Trouble with nerves, I suppose," Albus tried, and their teacher simply shook his head.
"I hate you, Al, do you know that?" Scorpius asked two days later when the two of them stood in the Potions' classroom, equipped with a knife each with which they stood peeling off years of dirt and dried, spilled potions from the tables.
"Nah, you don't, not really," Albus answered cheerily.
"I do, really." Scorpius nodded fervently. "Think of everything you do to me—there's no reason for me not to hate you."
Albus turned around and let his knife fall to the table. He hopped up on it so he was sitting in front of Scorpius and dangled his legs. "What do I do?" he asked innocently.
Scorpius rolled his eyes. "You get me in detention, all the time."
"That's not just my fault…," Albus tried, but he was interrupted.
"It is, always. And I always have to stay up with you and help you with your homework, when I could've been asleep. And…"
"You don't have to," Albus said with narrowed eyebrows, and suddenly Scorpius blushed. "You always offer your help to me, so I don't think that's fair of you," he continued with a little pout.
Scorpius looked as if he was about to say something…then he blushed a bit harder, and Albus narrowed his eyebrows even more.
"Nothing—let's get done with this now, shall we?" Scorpius smiled, but it wasn't his usual, teeth-flashing one, but a smile with pursed lips.
"Sure," Albus answered slowly as he jumped off the table.
They didn't speak until their teacher came to pick them up after another half an hour, and Albus tried his very best to realize what he had said to Scorpius that had made everything so wrong.
"Scor?" Albus whispered the same evening from his bed. "Scor, are you awake?"
The bed beside him creaked a bit as Scorpius turned around. "Yeah," he whispered back. "Why?"
"Why aren't you asleep, then?" Albus asked, not remembering what he had wanted to say to Scorpius in the first place.
The bed creaked again. "Why aren't you asleep?"
"Well, ehm, because I wanted to ask you something."
Scorpius breathed in, soundly. "Sure, go ahead."
"But I can't remember it anymore," Albus answered truthfully.
"Oh." Scorpius breathed in, and for a while there was nothing but silence between them.
"So," Albus whispered again. "What were you dreaming of?"
"Er…nothing," Scorpius answered…and added, as though he just came to think of it, "You?"
"It was something with ice cream and Quidditch and… Oh, yeah, you were there, too!" Albus smiled, even though it was impossible for Scorpius to see him in the darkness.
"I was? And Quidditch, yeah, what else should I expect…," Scorpius mumbled back, but it sounded as though he was talking more to himself than to Albus.
"Just because you don't play Quidditch doesn't mean you shouldn't see the finer things about it." Albus grinned, sitting up in his bed quickly.
"Like what finer things, Al?" Scorpius asked, and it sounded as though he had the pillow inhis mouth. Albus couldn't understand how he was so drowsy when they were talking about Quidditch, for Merlin's sake!
"Like," Albus began, "the speed, the feeling that comes from flying, the adrenaline, and the power you feel, the…"
"All that is just silly, Al," Scorpius answered in the middle of a yawn.
"It's not silly, Scor, how can you say such a thing? That's…that's like…blas—blisph—blas…"
"Blasphemy, Al, and it's not," Scorpius supplied, but the next moment he had a pillow thrown in his face. "Al?" he asked when he had recovered from the shock.
Albus smirked. "That's for calling Quidditch silly."
Scorpius pursed his lips tightly. Then he picked up the pillow and threw it back—not very hard, but still. "And that's for throwing a pillow at me, prat!"
"Oh, really?" Albus raised his eyebrows, and he jumped out of his bed and on top of Scorpius. "And this is for throwing a pillow at me and calling me 'prat'!" Albus now sat on Scorpius' stomach and grinned widely.
"…Al, I can't…breathe," Scorpius choked out, and Albus lifted himself a little; he didn't want to kill Scorpius just because he was a little heavier, with broader shoulders and a better build than Scorpius' thin one.
"Well, I won't move," Albus stated, and he tilted his head.
Scorpius' eyes were suddenly removed of all their drowsiness—big, alert, and not really meeting Al's. "You have to, sometime," he said at last.
"Nope, I can sit here all my life. I'll get a house-elf to provide me with food…"
"You can't fly again." Scorpius chewed on his lower lip and waggled his eyebrows, but still with a faint something that told Albus that everything wasn't completely right.
"Oh!" Albus gasped and slid off Scorpius so that he was sitting next to him on the bed instead.
Scorpius put his elbows against the mattress and pulled himself up a bit, so that he was half lying. "What?"
"I just remember what I wanted to ask you." Albus smiled. "What did I say earlier today, in detention?"
"'Say'?" Scorpius' forehead wrinkled itself. "What d'you mean?"
"You know, that…er…made you a bit…made you act strangely?"
Scorpius was silent for a beat, and Albus wasn't sure because it was so dark, but he could've sworn Scorpius was blushing. Which he never usually did, and certainly not so much in a couple of days.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he finally answered. "And if you don't mind, I'd like to go to sleep now," he finished, and he pulled his cover on top of him, turning around so that he no longer looked at Albus.
Albus bit on his lower lip and went back silently to his own bed. What wrong had he done now? He really couldn't understand what was going on with Scorpius these days.
"Slept well?" Albus asked the next morning when they were heading to the Great Hall for breakfast. Scorpius hadn't once met his eyes, and—to be honest—it was beginning to get on his nerves.
"Sure," Scorpius answered shortly, and he did some kind of half-shrug.
Albus swallowed as they walked down the stairs. When they reached the final step, he jerked an arm out and pulled Scorpius with him, netting him from the stream of people that was flowing into the Great Hall. "What's going on, Scor?"
"Nothing's going on." Scorpius pushed Albus' arm away and looked at him, almost—but only almost—the way one would look at something disgusting.
"Sure, nothing's going on, sure." Albus shook his head and pulled Scorpius back.
Scorpius breathed in through his nose. "Would you consider stopping touching me?"
"You've never had a problem with that before," Albus protested, letting go of Scorpius' arm in surprise.
"Maybe I haven't, but that doesn't make any difference to what I feel now," Scorpius spoke through gritted teeth, and Albus felt an urge to hit him. This was not the Scorpius he knew.
"But what's the difference, what made you change your mind?"
"Oh, just because you're slow doesn't mean I should explain everything to you, does it?"
"Yeah, because you're so clever, you and your pretty little head, aren't you?" Albus didn't even remember what they were fighting about, but suddenly Scorpius shot through the air and made the two of them stumble down on the floor. After that, it was only a haze of grunting and hurting and "ouch"es and "arsehole"s, until Albus felt himself pushed away from Scorpius and drawn up to his feet.
"What are you two doing? Are you completely witless?" McGonagall stood in front of them, looking furious, and Albus cast a sideways glance at Scorpius, who stood up, bleeding from his nose, but looking as proud as ever.
Neither of them answered.
"I didn't think this little of you." McGonagall shook her head and continued, "That will be another detention for you two this week, and it has cost you 25 points from Gryffindor."
After she had walked away, Albus turned to Scorpius, but it took no more than a second of eye contact until Scorpius turned around and hurried away, and not in the direction of the Great Hall.
Albus was hungry, though, so he would have to deal with that later.
They didn't meet again until after lunch, during the first class of the day that they had together. And it was Potions, so they would have to work together. Albus felt incredibly happy about this, of course. Especially as Scorpius hadn't even acknowledged him, not even bothered to throw him a glance, or even an irritated glance at him. Because, actually, even that would have felt much better, to be honest.
"So, what've you been up to today?" Albus asked with a loud voice. He didn't want to be fighting with Scorpius; it irritated him and made him glum all at once—even though no more than a couple of hours had passed in their not-best-friends-anymore state.
Scorpius raised an eyebrow, cutting the root he was working on with slow movements. "And you're asking me why?"
"Because…What does it matter anyway? Can't I just ask?"
"Mind your own business, for once," Scorpius answered shortly.
Albus inhaled. He felt something, a pain in his chest which he had never felt before. A part of him wanted to punch Scorpius so hard he wouldn't be able to stand up, but another part of him…he didn't really know what it was doing. It made it harder to get enough air, and it made dots dance in front of his eyes.
He looked down and flicked through his textbook, not knowing what he was looking for exactly. He just wanted to get out of there. Now.
And so he did; he couldn't stand it anymore. He burst through the door and he didn't listen to the yelling his teacher shot after him. He knew he would end up in detention again, but in that moment he couldn't have cared less.
When he arrived at the dormitory, he laid down on his bed. Damn, he was ashamed of himself. Why did he care so much about what Scorpius did to him? He shouldn't be bothered like this; it was embarrassing.
"Al, what's been going on between you and Scorpius?" Dominique was obviously trying not to sound interested…and she was failing quite a bit.
"Going on?" Albus asked as innocently as he could. "Nothing's going on."
Dominique laughed, and it was good she had managed to swallow all of her pumpkin juice, or Albus would have been sprayed. "Well, so tell me why he's sitting down there." She pointed to the other end of the Gryffindor table. "And you're here."
Albus chewed his toast. "What do you mean?"
"Don't pull that with me, Al. You're this tight, usually." She put two of her fingers across each other and looked challengingly at Albus. "And now it's been weeks since I saw the two of you together."
"We…We're just…not that close anymore." Albus smiled as brightly as he could.
Dominique rose from her chair in one swift movement. She walked down to where Scorpius sat and Albus' eyes widened. Her hips were swaying more than usual and he could see Scorpius snap his head up.
"What, Weasley?" he asked with narrowed eyes.
"What did you do to Albus?" she retorted, and Albus could see on Scorpius' face that her eyes were like piercing spears.
"Nothing," he answered, and Albus couldn't help but admire his braveness. He would have given in immediately having those eyes directed at him; he had done so numerous times.
"Sure, so that's—" Dominique began, but she was interrupted by Scorpius.
"How can you be so sure I'm the one who's done something wrong, Weasley?" Scorpius asked sharply, and he rose from his chair.
Dominique stared at him, apparently caught off-guard, which was a rare sight when it came to the silver-blonde witch.
"Exactly, you can't," Scorpius said with wide eyes, and he emphasized each word. Then he turned around, swirling almost, and left the Great Hall in long strides.
Dominique returned to Albus and sat down, not meeting his eyes. "Did you do something to him?" she asked quietly.
"No, of course not!" Albus answered, and even he felt a little bit offended.
Dominique suddenly looked up, and—in a heartbeat—her mouth formed a perfect little "o" and then she smirked.
"Nothing." She shook her head. "Absolutely nothing, dearest cousin. I'm sure you and Scorpius will make up soon, no worries."
And she left, and Albus had no idea what she was talking about, and why her mood had changed like that.
"Scorpius, can I talk to you for a second?" Albus had grabbed Scorpius' sleeve on their way out of Flitwick's classroom. Another week had passed, and he had realized more and more by every day that went by how much he missed Scorpius.
Scorpius' jaw clenched. "Make it quick, then, Potter."
"Good," Albus answered, wanting to wring his hands, but he thought that would make him look a bit nervous. Which he, in fact, was. But he didn't want Scorpius to know that, for some reason that existed in his stomach and which he couldn't decipher.
"…so?" Scorpius asked when they had stopped in an alcove and Albus hadn't yet spoken up.
"Um. Well, what happened? What did I do wrong?" Albus asked, squinting with his eyes.
Scorpius inhaled. "You? You didn't do anything wrong, actually. I suppose I did wrong—no, I did wrong. I screwed up, so sorry, but that's just how it is, okay?" He made a movement as if he was going to leave, but Albus put his hand out.
"You can't just say that—it's not okay, Scor!" he said, exasperated. He didn't understand a thing, why Scorpius looked so hurried to get away from there, why Scorpius blamed himself and didn't see how Albus wanted them to be okay again… "You're lying, aren't you?"
"No, why would I?" Scorpius asked lightly. "Just let me go, okay?"
"No! Because you aren't making any sense—you have to be lying, Scorpius. Tell me the truth, and I'll leave you alone."
It wasn't even a request, but Albus could see that Scorpius understood him, as he always had. Scorpius clenched his jaw again, and he stared at Albus' chest, as that was where his eyes were when he looked straight forward, being so short compared to Albus' length. He breathed in heavily.
"Okay." Scorpius nodded to himself, speaking much faster than usual, and much lighter again. "I'm in love with you, Albus. There, I said it. Can you please let me go now?"
Albus' arm fell to his side, and Scorpius was gone in a heartbeat. That had been…unexpected. Albus really didn't know what to think, he hadn't even considered that to be the reason—heck, he hadn't even known it was an option.
But, in retrospect, it makes sense, Albus mused. Or, hell no, it doesn't, not at all! Scor couldn't be in love with him—it simply wasn't right! They were supposed to be best friends, and now…now Scor had come and destroyed it all by being in love with him. It wasn't okay.
He walked away from the alcove, heading on his way to the Great Hall for lunch, and he still felt pissed off at each and every thing. When he arrived there, he spotted Scorpius sitting on the other end of the table together with Lorcan and Rose, and thankfully none of them noticed him entering. He could have skipped lunch, of course, but he was hungry.
"Al!" someone shouted at Albus, who turned around and saw it was his younger sister. Sure, he could sit with her, he hadn't for ages, and maybe her gossiping would take his mind off things. "How are you?" she asked when he had sat down and grabbed a plate.
"Fine, you?" Albus answered quickly.
"You're not fine, Al, otherwise I wouldn't have asked." What was wrong with his sister? Couldn't she see that Albus, the poor bloke, wanted not to speak of…it?
"Whatever," he said through his mouthful as she furrowed her brow.
"I know that you and Scorpius have fallen out, but are you still not back as friends?" she asked, but she continued before Albus had time to answer. "I mean, you really should talk to him, I bet he wants to get back as friends, too, so really there's no harm in just speaking. You shouldn't be so stubborn, Albus; that's not you."
"You don't know what you're talking about, Lils."
She raised one eyebrow. "Don't I? Could you in that case please inform me?"
Albus cast a glance in the direction where Scorpius was sitting and saw him engrossed in a conversation with Rose and Lorcan, but still looking pale and edgy. "Not here," he said, at last.
Lily gave him one long look and nodded. "You're finished?" she asked, indicating his lunch and, without waiting for an answer, she grabbed his arm and pulled him with her out of the Great Hall and onto the grounds.
Albus hadn't finished, but he actually wanted to talk with his sister, as she sometimes had very good advice when it came to things like this.
Albus swallowed; he had no idea as to how Lily would react. If he remembered correctly, she had been crushing on Scorpius a couple of years ago. "Scorpius told me he was in love with me," he explained nevertheless.
Lily gave him an incredulous look, a smile lurking behind her expression of surprise. "Really?"
"What do you think of that?" she asked, as if Albus was completely stupid. And well, maybe he was, because he still didn't get what she was wondering. She must have seen that in his face though, because she continued, "And are you in love with him?"
Albus narrowed his eyes. "No, what—no!" He hadn't even been struck by that thought until now or even considered it was something he should decide on, whether he loved Scorpius, too. And, either way, he didn't.
"You're sure?" Lily asked, and she looked a little bit more somber this time. "Completely certain?"
"Then I guess you'll have to tell him that, Al. You can't let him keep his hopes up, even though I guess you haven't said anything hinting that you might like him back, you probably haven't said anything of the opposite either, and tormenting him like that is just cruel."
"You're saying I should go tell Scor I don't like him?" Albus asked. He really couldn't do that…then there was no chance in hell he and Scorpius would be friends again—though maybe there was none at all, as it was now…
"Yes, I am." They had been sitting on the grass, but now Lily rose, patted him on his back, and left. And Albus still didn't know what to do—thank you very much for the help, Lily.
Or, okay, she had probably helped him in the best way possible; she had probably told him what he should do…but the thing was, he just couldn't do that.
He leaned down so that he was lying and closed his eyes. He knew he had a lesson, anytime now, but he couldn't be bothered. And, besides, Professor Longbottom always paired him up with Scorpius just to be nice, and Albus really didn't want to be paired up with him today. Really.
He assumed he wouldn't be able to stay out there forever, of course not. But he really would have wanted to have that option. Just to lie on the grass, letting it grow across him and never releasing him again.
And as he had that thought, he felt it was a little bit creepy. He sat up quickly, glaring at the grass, just in caseit was going to try and strangle him.
"Sorry I'm late," he said a few minutes later when he slipped into the greenhouse where they were having the lesson.
Professor Longbottom gave him a little frown but didn't say anything but, "Take a seat, Potter."
And of course (what else should have been expected?) the only free seat was next to Scorpius. Well, it shouldn't have been a surprise because they had to stick with the seats they had chosen since the first lesson every year, but Albus still felt it as if something was mocking him by causing him slowly to move over to Scorpius and sit down.
Scorpius didn't move. He stared straight ahead at Professor Longbottom without even flicking his sight away from the teacher. It was quite scary, actually, the way he resembled a statue, completely still with his jawline set in stone and hands lying fisted on the table without even shivering.
"Malfoy and Potter? Could you please get a move on—everyone's already started!"
Albus looked away from Scorpius and found the rest of the class was busy, some grabbing pots from a table nearby, others gathering seed bags and soil or putting on gloves. "What?" he asked, confused, but Professor Longbottom had already walked on, now trying to reassure one of their classmates something.
Scorpius cleared his throat. "Maybe we should get to work, then." He was sucking in his cheeks, and he looked at Albus with a look that Albus knew perfectly well meant "Shut up, you twat, and I'll fix this." It was that look he always wore when he had tired of Albus not paying attention in class and had decided to do the work himself—under the condition that Albus was quiet and didn't bother him.
Albus had missed that look. A lot. He hadn't seen it in ages.
Scorpius hurried off to get the stuff they needed to…do whatever they were supposed to do, and Albus stayed, fiddling with the gloves that Scorpius had taken off again when walking away. He remembered how it used to be, when they worked together in the Herbology lessons; Scorpius was supposed to laugh at Albus when Albus threw dirt at those next to him, and Albus was supposed to laugh at Scorpius whenever they had to do something particularly nasty and Scorpius wrinkled his nose in disgust.
It was how it was supposed to be. It was not supposed to be like this, with drawn-out silences and Scorpius working without even glancing at Albus—not that Albus worked usually, but Scorpius was supposed to at least tell him to do so.
For the entire lesson, they didn't say a word. Albus at first had considered talking to Scorpius now that they finally were forced to stay together, but as they stood by the table, he realized he neither knew what it was he should say, nor could he do it as Scorpius clearly had begged him without noticing it himself not to say a word about…things.
But then the lesson ended, and Albus knew what it was he wanted to know—and now they could talk privately. He grabbed hold of Scorpius' arm and tugged him with him out of the greenhouse and towards the Forbidden Forest.
"Al, what are you doing?" Scorpius asked, and Albus realized Scorpius hadn't called him "Al" since their fight.
"I have something I need to test." Albus said, and he stopped, holding on to both of Scorpius' shoulders and staring intently at him. "Close your eyes."
Scorpius didn't close his eyes. Albus sighed. "But why? I mean—"
"Just do it, okay?"
Scorpius looked at Albus with very big and open eyes. Then he closed them.
"Good," Albus said quietly, leaning forward. Their lips met, and he could sense Scorpius jolting, but he wasn't pulling back.
They stood like that for a while, just pressing their lips together, when Scorpius opened his mouth, extremely slowly. Albus wondered if it was an invite for him to slip his tongue in, but then Scorpius breathed, "Why are you doing this, Al?"
Albus leaned backwards, but he didn't let go of Scorpius' shoulders. "You said you were gay, right? I was thinking of that and realized you've never kissed a boy before, so I just wanted to help you make sure you really are gay."
Scorpius smiled. "How do you know I've never kissed a boy?"
"Because I know you…hang on. Have you?" Albus asked, removing his hands from Scorpius and shoving them in his pockets.
"No, I haven't," Scorpius admitted.
"Good," Albus said, not knowing why. "So, did you like it?"
"Yeah, yeah, I did. Thanks for helping me find out, Al." Scorpius looked down on his feet, biting his lip. "But, eh…"
"What did you think of that kiss?" Scorpius asked, carefully.
Albus stared at him. It had, in fact, made his stomach spin…but wasn't that just because Scorpius for the first time in weeks didn't resent him?
"Al?" Scorpius put a hand on Albus' arm.
"I think…I liked it."
Scorpius quirked up an eyebrow, and his eyes sparkled just as much as they did every Christmas morning that he sat in Albus' bed, opening Albus' presents.
"Sure?" he asked, and Albus nodded.