The shame hung deeply over Scorpius’ shoulder for the rest of the day, but he tried to overlook it with his usual easy smiles and his casual demeanor. He was not as outgoing as Albus, or dignified as Rose. He was just Scorpius; people knew him to be the quiet one that hovered in the background observing but more intelligent than them all; the one that was laidback but with an avid sharpness that had made him a prefect and Head Boy, to begin with. Even as he sat in potions, his best class, Scorpius did so with an easygoing stance that people wanted to emulate but could not pull off as well as he did. He sat perched on the edge of the tall chair, his arms folded across his stomach, shoulders at a hunch. Albus sat much the same way, but his was with more of a playful attitude, his grin spread wide.
The two were often paired together in class, but Scorpius had purposefully slid his chair over to avoid close contact with Albus. He had to make sure that he could keep a strong mind during class, otherwise he would just lose it. The professor was currently going over the steps for them to brew the perfect draught of living death in practice for the NEWT pretest, and while Scorpius knew it perfectly, he pretended to be watching keenly as Professor Wilde drew a diagram on the chalkboard with his wand. Sporadically, he would scribble something in his notes, and it was just as he was in the middle of finishing off the drawing of the cauldron that he felt his page throb with a subtle heat.
He frowned, his hand moving off as a scratchy scrawl appeared in the place of his notes.
Don’t you already know this stuff?
Scorpius peeked out of the corner of his eye at Albus, but the wizard’s head was down, his quill hanging unused in his hand, having already completed the note that he’d sent to Scorpius. The spell was one the pair had perfected in fifth year, an easier way to talk without getting into trouble for actual talking during the classes they had with each other -- and the ones they didn’t. While the page still beat with a dull light, Scorpius scribbled back an answer.
Figured I might as well still look busy.
Albus’ gaze went to his own notes before Scorpius heard the scratch of his quill across the page.
We need to start brewing soon or I’m going to fall asleep. My dreams are better than this lecture.
Wouldn’t be the first time.
Scorpius heard a snort, and then, Yeah, but at least it was a damn good dream last class.
I know. You moaned one time in your sleep. Two guesses about what you were dreaming about.
Scorpius lifted his head to the board, keeping up the pretense of listening, but he was really just waiting for every hint of something new being written in his notes. He didn’t know why, but talking like this made it easier for him to say things that he would never voice aloud to Albus. Though discussing the wizard’s carnal thoughts was awkward for Scorpius -- even more so now under the circumstances -- writing and reading made it easier to mask his reactions to things. Too, he could at least pretend that the person they were talking about was him; only in his dreams.
You should only need one guess. Merlin knows you’ve caught me enough times to know what I get up to.
Scorpius felt his pulse leap in his throat and he swallowed, hand shaking as he wrote back. Yeah. Then, in a bold move, he added, Your little shag buddies may start to think I’m stalking you or something.
Albus’ response came quickly; almost too quickly, like he had the answer ready-made. Nah, they know the deal. You’re the one person they don’t get jealous of, funnily enough.
Scorpius stared at the sentence: You’re the one person they don’t get jealous of. He wasn’t sure how to feel about it; on the one hand, it meant no one was the wiser to his deepest desires but, on the other hand, it meant that Albus likely wouldn’t have a clue about it, either -- and he wouldn’t see that it may have been alright to look at him in that way. No, Scorpius suddenly thought, you’re not supposed to want him. Stop it.
He shook his head, staring down at the now-blank paper. His hand still trembled slightly, and he started writing before he could stop himself, not really listening to his own mind. Is that a good thing?
Nervously, he peered over at Albus. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the wizard’s head tilt to one side, almost with a questioning undertone. He understood the reason; Scorpius shouldn’t care whether anyone was jealous of him being so close with Albus -- because there was not meant to be anything to be jealous of. He didn’t look at him long, though. Instead, he shifted his gaze immediately, kept his head straight to the front of the room, acting like what he’d asked didn’t have a whole wealth of meaning to it, like it didn’t matter.
Eventually, a response came. It is. Means no choosing. Means I get to keep my best friend.
Scorpius looked at the words. Best friend. That was what he was; that was exactly how Albus saw him. Truthfully, he still considered Albus his best friend, too, but one that he wanted as more. It should have been a good thing that the interest was only one-sided. It meant Scorpius had no encouragement to blur the lines, to misbehave, to act on the desire within himself that would only cause trouble. Still, it sung, but he was spared an awkward reply.
The professor suddenly clapped his hands, drawing everyone’s attention. “Gather your ingredients, and get to work. Double period, so you’ve got time to brew the first stage of the draught. Chop, chop!” He clapped again.
Scorpius jerked off the edge of his chair, rushing over to the cabinet to gather the ingredients that were not in his kit already. He moved with purposeful delay, offering to help others get theirs, to avoid going back to the table where Albus was already setting the heat beneath his cauldron and slicing his shrivelfigs. He needed a moment to compose himself; to shake away the rejection that he’d felt. It wasn’t his place to be jealous, to feel rejected, to hate the fact that nothing between him and Albus would ever happen. That was the way it should be. It didn’t matter that he was gay and accepted it. Albus was his best friend. Rose was his best friend, too. They were all so close, and it was too fragile of a situation to mess with. What he wanted didn’t matter, at all, because his happiness wasn’t worth the sadness and the heartbreak that would be rendered between them all. It was too much to bare.
His feelings were his own to hold on to, and to get rid of as quickly as he could.
“Knight to E5.”
Rose watched as the chess piece moved, knocking away the pawn on Louis’ side, and then beamed smugly when her cousin groaned, tugging his queen down and lifting his hands, brandishing a sign of surrender in the game.
“I don’t know why I even bother,” he drawled, “because you beat me every time. Uncle Ron needs to stop training you.” His brows furrowed as he gently pushed the chessboard away. “Us lowly folk don’t even stand a chance.”
“Oh, come on. You were close that time,” Rose said, rearranging the pieces on the board. “One more game?”
“You call being checked five minutes into the game close?” Louis snorted. “No. I think I’m done. Why not ask your dear old boyfriend to play?” Louis smirked, jerking his thumb towards the door of the student commons just as Scorpius entered, his other hand busy closing the clasp of his satchel. He yanked it up, standing. “I’m out.” He waved on his way out, nodding at Scorpius. But Rose wasn’t watching him; she was watching her boyfriend.
Her grin spread wider at the sight of him, her body still humming from the love making of the previous evening. Her neck was still lined with a hicky or two, having not removed them just for the sake of having the reminder.
Even now, she touched one faintly as she waved Scorpius over. The wizard saddled over and then sat in the seat that Louis had occupied. Rose furrowed her brow at him, and he looked at her, confused for a moment, before leaning over and placing a kiss -- on her cheek. She tried not to drop her smile, and reached for his hand, linking the fingers.
“Rough day?” she asked, hoping there was some reason he was distant, again. She couldn’t believe that something was still wrong with him from before; not after how good their night together had been. She had thought that it was over, whatever rough patch they’d struck, but he still seemed dazed. She squeezed his hand. “Scorpius?”
He hummed, before blinking and shaking his head, as if he needed to focus himself. “Yeah, yeah. It was my full day of classes today,” he told her with a sigh, squeezing her hand back, before unraveling their hands and sliding his to his side of the table. He folded his arms, grey eyes going to the chessboard. “Practicing, again?” he asked.
She twisted her lips, before sighing. She wasn’t going to question him; she wasn’t going to be the nagging girlfriend that questioned everything her boyfriend did -- or didn’t do, in Scorpius’ case. She had to trust Albus was right; that Scorpius would tell her if something was really wrong with him and that their relationship wasn’t on the rocks. Even though it sure as hell felt like that. She picked up the white queen, fiddling with it. “Yes, I am. The chess tournament in Hogsmeade is coming up. I want to be ready. Speaking of Hogsmeade…” She perked up, leaning forward with a glint in her eye, like she had some exciting news. Scorpius looked at her with a calm expression. “Neville said that we can go into the village tonight. Get the things we need for the party. No booze. He was adamant about that and he’s going to be checking the stuff we bring back, anyway, but it’d still be fun to go. See the village outside of what we say when we go on Saturdays.” She paused, titling her head, studying Scorpius. “Do you want to come?”
Still quiet, Scorpius shrugged his shoulder. “I don’t know. I’ve got a lot of reading to catch up on for Runes.”
“But it’s the weekend. You’ll have plenty of time to catch up on it. Besides, we don’t plan to be gone that long.”
“Who’s we? Who’s going?”
“Well, I am, of course, and Roxanne,” she said, “and Dom said she wants to go, but I know it’s only so she can sneak off to see Frank. He’s working in the Hogsmeade station this weekend. Albus volunteered to go, too.”
Scorpius’ head lifted from where he’d been leaning it against his hand, eyes blinking. “Albus is going?”
“Do you know him to ever turn down a chance to get out of the castle?” Rose said with a snort. She reached for his hand again, trailing her fingers along his knuckles. It normally didn’t take this much effort to get him to even hold her hand, but eventually he seemed to understand and his palm turned over, offering his hand. She latched on with a softer smile, but when she looked up at him, his eyes was dazed, gaze somewhere off towards the entrance. Rose looked over her shoulder with a frown, but saw no one. “Scorpius?” She clipped her fingers. “What is it?”
He blinked, straightening in his seat. “Nothing. Just thinking. So, erm, what time did you say we’re leaving?”
Rose beamed, glad to see that he wanted to come. Maybe she, too, could sneak off with him. They could walk along to the park like they used to when they’d first started dating. Maybe doing that would rekindle whatever spark was beginning to fizzle out between them. She would take every opportunity to draw Scorpius back to her, and even if a group date to get drinks and food for a party was her only option, she would take it and hold onto it tightly.
“We’re leaving for six,” she said, “so be down at the Entrance Hall by quarter to. All six of us are going to need to get the permission slip from Neville...Professor Longbottom.”
Scorpius, who had seemed to suddenly lighten up -- a sign that maybe he just need a night out and that it was just schoolwork that had him distracted and not something worse than that -- frowned over to her. “Six of us? But you said it’s you, me, Roxanne, Dom and Albus. That’s five.”
Rose looked confused for a moment before it dawned on her. “Oh, right! Ernie’s coming, too,” she said with a wave of her hand. She shook her head, as if laughing at herself for forgetting, and started packing away her chess pieces in the engraved chest that her father had bought for her. “I forgot about him until just then. Al asked if he could come, since Ernie heard about it and begged to go. I think he just wants to shag Al somewhere else other than all of their usual spots in the castle. I swear, sometimes I think Ernie really fancies Albus for more than just-” She stopped short when the table rocked, some of her chess pieces falling on the count of Scorpius’ sudden movement. “What-”
“I just remembered I have a meeting,” Scorpius was saying, his eyes down as he quickly righted the pieces that had fallen and then shoved the chair he’d been sitting in aside. “School newspaper. Sorry. I should go.” He was talking in a rush, his face seeming to have darkened in the space of two minutes. Rose, her worry on the edge when it came to Scorpius, stood up quickly and reached for his hand. She caught him at the wrist, and could have sworn she felt him jerk, as if he wanted to shove her off. He didn’t, though, but the feeling of unease lingered inside of her.
“Are you sure that’s it?” she asked him, her voice low, concern tinging it. “You’ve been acting really-”
“I’m fine,” Scorpius quickly said, twisting his wrist until he was free and starting towards the exit. “Really. Like I said, I just have a meeting to get to. I’ll see you later. At six.” He waved, not even looking back at her as he left.
Rose remained where she was, glancing down at her palm, the same one that Scorpius had wiggled out of. Dropping it, she rubbed it on the material of her skirt, as if it would erase the disconcerting feeling that had settled within her gut. Scorpius had been with her for all of five minutes, but in that time, her worry for him had escalated. He’d gone from aloof to exhausted to upbeat to dismissive in mere seconds. It wasn’t like him, and the longer he continued to slip away from her, the more she began to wonder if he was the same Scorpius she had fallen in love with when she was thirteen. The same Scorpius that everyone could read as easily as a book. He was harder to read, now, though.
He wasn’t her Scorpius, anymore.
He was there by five thirty.
Scorpius glanced at his watch, before readjusting his position on the small bench right outside the Entrance Hall. He was the only one there out of the party that was meant to be traveling to Hogsmeade that evening, but he’d come a tad earlier to make sure that he would have time to control his expression. When he had left Rose earlier that day, it had been in a huff. He had nearly lost it when he’d found out that Ernie would be joining them. His only reason for agreeing to go was because Albus was going, and Scorpius -- despite his constant battles -- couldn’t help but want to be wherever Albus was. Perhaps it would help him get over him quicker, in some twisted, deluded way.
But when Rose had gone on about Ernie, something inside of Scorpius had snapped. He didn’t want to hear about it, about how the two seemed to be getting close. Just the hint that Ernie may have fancied Albus made his gut do a flip, a sense of dread settling inside of him. That wasn’t right. Albus wasn’t the committing kind, something that he clung to because it made him feel better about the possibility that there would never be anyone that he’d choose to settle with. In some weird -- selfish -- way, it made Scorpius feel better about being unable to act on his desire; he would always have Albus has a best friend, but no one would have him as anything more. He didn’t want them.
Though, there was the nagging worry that he wanted Ernie in the same way, and it made his throat go dry.
“This is a million degrees of screwed up,” Scorpius mumbled to himself.
His eyes lifted as Albus breezed pass him, slipping into the spot next to him. Where Scorpius sat bent over, with his elbows on his thighs, Albus lounged in his seat, arms spreading out on both sides. He looked at Scorpius.
“What’s a million degrees of screwed up?” Albus asked again.
Scorpius shook his head, looking away from the rather tempting sight of Albus’ collared shirt splayed open enough to show his collarbone. “Nothing, just talking outloud.” Idly, he drilled his thumb into his palm. “Debating whether I should still come with you lot. I’ve got a ton of-”
“Work to do, yes I know,” Albus finished. “You’ve always got a ton of work to do, which is why you should get a chance to unwind. You’re going, even if I’ve got to tie you down and drag you there, myself.” He dropped his arm, his hand landing on Scorpius’ back with a thud. “Your choice. Come willingly, or as my prisoner.”
He squeezed the wizard’s side, and Scorpius nearly leaned against that touch. He indulged for a moment, pooling his attention to that spot, mentally outlining every inch of his skin beneath his shirt covered by Albus’ hand. His head turned, grey eyes peering at Albus from over his shoulder. He said nothing for a moment, and then, “I’ll come.”
“Good.” Albus grinned, but then his green eyes shifted up and his smile seemed to dip just a little, before it was back in place. Scorpius, who was still looking at Albus, didn’t see Ernie until the Hufflepuff was already dropping himself in the seat next to Albus, squeezing the three of them on the bench. He looked away from them as Ernie leaned in to Albus’ side. “Hey, Ernie,” Albus greeted, but Scorpius noted it was with a heavier tone than when he’d been talking to Scorpius. Scorpius also noted, with a flutter of butterflies, that Albus’ hand was still against his side, still holding a little tightly, while his other arm had not moved to touch Ernie, despite the wizard’s blatant request for it.
Smugness settled onto Scorpius’ face, and even though he was looking forward, the wizard sat up. Albus, almost in an automatic way, lifted his arm up to accommodate him, but just as Scorpius had predicted, it did not move from around him. He was tempted to trail his own fingers over where Albus’ peeked out from between his elbow and his side, but he didn’t. This was enough to put a genuine smile back on his face, and when Rose and Dom and Roxanne showed up nearly ten minutes later, it was still there. Ernie had prattled on the whole time, Albus merely muttering a few responses without engaging fully in the conversation -- and, all that time, his hand had not moved.
Scorpius didn’t want to think anything of it. It wasn’t like Albus never touched him. The two were close enough that tiny nudges and shoulder brushes were normal, but Scorpius analyzed everything, now, and even when Albus stood and his hand slid free, he couldn’t help but to feel like he was forever encased in his arms. Not even Rose slipping in to his side and wrapping her arms around his waist could alleviate it, and Scorpius even felt good enough to put his arm around her shoulder, which seemed to make her smile wider. He imagined his actions earlier that day had put her off, and while he didn’t want to apologize because it would mean explaining, he could cover it up by giving her what she wanted. He stood, pulling her along, and placed a kiss to her temple as they moved as a group.
Neville was waiting for them, waving a slip of paper in his hands. “Two hours,” he told them. “That’s all you’ve got. You’ll need this to get back in the castle, but it’s only good until eight. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” everyone chorused, and then they were heading down the road towards Hogsmeade, moving in quick and automatic pairs. Dominique and Roxanne took the lead, with Albus and Ernie taking up the middle. Scorpius took up the rear with Rose, the girl clinging to him. She spoke softly about what they would need to get, but Scorpius was not really listening. His eyes were on the couple in front of them. Ernie was holding on to Albus’ elbow, clearly still going on about whatever the hell he’d been talking about earlier. Albus, though, walked with his hands shoved into his pockets, and Scorpius’ secret grin settled on his lips. Rose had been right; Ernie was infatuated with Albus. But Scorpius had been wrong. Albus didn’t fancy him in return, which meant Ernie was on his way out.
It was only later that night, when they were back from the village and Scorpius was crawling into bed, did the wizard realize how truly selfish his thoughts were. It didn’t matter whether Albus fancied Ernie or not. There was no room for him, anyway, and he had to remember that. He may have wanted Albus, but he couldn’t have him.
He couldn’t have him -- and he just had to find a way to face it, and to get over it. And he’d find a way. He would.
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