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Once More by oldershouldknowbetter
Chapter 1: Once More
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The names you recognise belong to Ms. JK Rowling, the circumstance belongs to my broken heart .
This is dedicated to Banshee who personally showed me what slash could and should be.
For the rest of his life Scorpius would remember that it had started off as a beautiful day.
He’d always been a light sleeper and once woken found it hard to resume his slumber. It was still dark when he woke, though the muted light coming through his dorm window told him that dawn wasn’t far off. It was Rosier, he realised, who had woken him. His usual snoring was, for some reason, amplified that morning and it suddenly made sense of the dream that had been the cause of his waking – being chased through the woods by a bear, a bear of all things. The ‘bear’ snorted, rolled over and the snores continued with such an alarming rattle that Scorpius knew he would not find sleep again that morning.
He dressed, smartly as was his wont. He’d an ‘arrangement’ with the house-elves and stood, looking in the mirror at the figure he cut in his perfectly pressed and pleated slacks and his fine, white linen shirt with its starched collar and cuffs. Looking at his watch, he knew that it was an hour or more till breakfast and was suddenly at a loss as to what to do: his homework had been finished; there were no other outstanding assignments he had to do; none of his friends were up. He eventually decided to grab his cardigan and the novel he was currently reading and see what kind of a day it was.
It was beautiful.
It was one of those crisp and clear autumn days. There were a few fluffy white clouds scudding over the nearby mountains, but apart from them the sky was blue and clear. He mentally berated himself for his sloppy thinking - ‘fluffy cloud’ indeed - and corrected himself; cumulus, they were and far off too. There was a bench, near the castle doors that he knew caught the morning sun at that time of year so he sought it out and began to read.
At some indeterminate time later, measured in pages read and not in minutes, he heard the sound of footfalls. Moving his eyes and nothing else, he glanced up to see Rose Weasley returning from her morning jog. ‘Alone today,’ thought Scorpius, ‘I wonder where her usual group of followers are.’ Either from his stillness or her lack of attention (she did have her earphones in), she didn’t even glance his way. The crunch of her feet upon the gravel of the path gave way to the slap of her shoes upon the paving stones and then it was silent once more as she entered the castle and was away.
When he moved later, to go in for breakfast, he happened to catch sight of his cardigan. He held his arm up, juxtaposing the grey of his sleeves against the stonework behind him – they were almost a perfect match. Maybe it hadn’t been inattention or rudeness on Rose’s part, perhaps he’d unintentionally done his best to camouflage himself from anyone’s observation.
The Great Hall was only half full when he arrived. Rose was sitting at her usual spot near the end of the table, but a quick scan didn’t reveal Albus to him. He thought he’d inquire of Rose whether her cousin had managed to show his head yet. “Good morning, Miss Weasley, such a fine day ahead. I hope you enjoyed your run this morning?”
She looked up at him, knife and fork poised over her plate of bacon and eggs, “Malfoy,” she almost spat, “what do you want?”
He had simply been going to enquire as to his friend’s whereabouts, but at her nasty spiteful tone something within him broke. Six years of almost unrelenting hatred will do something to a person. For one, it certainly had cooled his ardour. This was all he was to expect? All the years wasted over pining for her and still this was the greeting he received from her; and it wasn’t even just her having a bad day, this was her sort of attitude more often than not. Something broke in him and fell away.
For years he'd told himself she'd come round, he was a hopeless romantic that way. He knew that Albus had plied his case to her countless times, even James - James of all people - in his last year of school, the previous year, had done so. Scorpius had heard him tell Rose, 'you know that Malfoy kid ain't all bad.' But none of it had been to any avail. Scorpius had read countless books where the initial hate the protagonists feel towards each other would soften over time and turn to love, but that wasn't the case here. No, in his experience hate stayed pretty much as hate. But this was it, the final straw, the one time too many that she'd been dismissively nasty to him - well no longer. He couldn’t say he didn’t fancy her, he knew he did, but the love that he had once felt for her curdled within himself and now drained away.
“From you, Miss Weasley, I want nothing. Good day.”
At his dismissive tone he thought he saw something behind her eyes, it could have been regret or it might have been reproach towards herself for the rudeness of her tone, but whatever it was he was done with it; done with guessing and trying to interpret her feelings any other way than as nastiness and spite.
He walked away without a backwards glance, to find the object of his search walking through the doors of the hall. He felt his face break into a smile that was truly genuine and also felt something inside him shift too. It had been a long time coming and had been mixed up with his feelings of propriety and uncertainty about what he should be thinking; muddled up with his confusing feelings for Rose; and the general fear of what it meant about him and the way the world might judge him. But the feeling of his heart soaring as he saw him, went a long way to dismissing all of those fears and uncertainties – they were a problem for another time, future Scorpius would have to deal with them when and as they arose.
“Hey, mate, ready for breakfast?”
Their first lesson of the day was Care of Magical Creatures, the one lesson Scorpius was free of Rose. They shared all of their other subjects but this one, Rose had never had the touch with animals and creatures that he had. With the new feelings that were bursting forth inside of him, it was a welcome happenstance that he had been removed from her general location. The feelings weren’t new though, he corrected himself; they were, in actuality, old, but had lain dormant and been paid scant attention to for so long – that they were bursting forth from beneath the surface now, didn’t mean that they’d come upon him suddenly.
All through breakfast, Scorpius could barely concentrate upon what his friend was talking to him about. Admittedly, on the few occasions he had to dive back into the conversation and give a ‘yeah’ or a ‘no’ or even a ‘that’s crazy, mate’ – to give the pretence that he was actually paying attention - it’d only been Albus going on about his latest break up. Albus, since about third or fourth year, had had a string of girlfriends. Though ‘string’ was doing a disservice to the sheer number of girls he had gotten through, it was more like an unbroken chain – none had lasted more than two months maximum and there weren’t that many left in their year and the two below that he hadn’t been with. And he had done his best to extend the number by getting back together with some he’d previously dumped or been dumped by.
Scorpius had realised, some time ago, and it had come as an unwelcome conclusion, that the type of girl he liked had been distinctly androgynous, to put a kind name to it. To be unkind, you could have called them mannish. Even Rose, or especially Rose fell into this category. She had inherited the harsher features of her father and not the soft ones of her mother and further accentuated it by cutting her hair short; the bushiness of her hair when it was longer got in her eyes and became 'too distracting,' according to her. No, it was her brother who'd inherited his mother's good looks and was the pretty one – and some of the stories that had circulated about him … the way he was treated made Scorpius doubly sure that he didn’t want his new-found desires to be publicly known, till he was surer of himself.
He’d been gazing across at Hugo, half caught up in his own thoughts, half in contemplation of the young man, when he’d been busted by Albus. “What’re you looking at Hugo for Scorp?”
He had blushed as he’d answered, trying to brush it off with a, “Nothing, didn’t realise I was.” It was to cover up the fact that Scorpius had been looking critically at Hugo, trying to find him attractive and coming up with nothing.
So now, on the way down the hill in the bright sunshine and all the way to Hagrid’s Hut, Scorpius was consumed in contemplation of just exactly what his feelings were. He was trying to recollect any person of the male persuasion who he found attractive and … there were a few. Not many, but then his libido wasn’t the marauding Manticore sort that, say, Albus’ was. There weren’t that many girls either, come to think of it. He was beginning to believe it was personality as well as looks that were the deciding factor for him, and not the sex of the person. It was like with Rose, he’d always liked Rose and when she forgot that she was supposed to hate him (for some strange family/anti-Slytherin reason) she was quite pleasant and they shared many of the same likes and interests: Quidditch and sport; reading and studies. It was the same with Albus.
He’d spent so much time with Albus – at school they were practically inseparable. He’d long suspected that it was one of the main causes of Rose’s problem with him; the two cousins had grown up together, like a combination of best friend and sibling. When he came along and monopolised Albus’ attention, it created a rift between the them that time hadn’t healed and had only made worse. But it wasn’t just at school, it was holidays too. In and out of each other’s houses, there was hardly a day that he and Albus hadn’t spent together in six or so years. There was a genuine attachment there and Scorpius had long been suppressing the thoughts he was now entertaining – that their relationship transcended being ‘merely’ best friends.
The last thing he thought of before his attention was drawn back into the present, was what it would be like to kiss Albus. His daydreams had long involved locking lips with Rose, but when he pictured Albus in her stead … he found himself not minding the change one little bit.
“Earth to Scorpius, I think we’ve lost him; come in, come in.” Albus was waving his hand in front of his friend’s face and it was a bit of a dislocation for Scorpius to go from the mental image of Albus’s face and what he’d like to be doing to it, to the real thing, in the flesh, right in front of him. He blushed so hard that he wouldn’t have been surprised to find that even his hair had turned Weasley red.
Albus laughed at him, “Oh, now what were you thinking about, Scorpius me boy?” and good naturedly hugged him, one armed, about the shoulders.
The butterflies that erupted in Scorpius’ stomach at this behaviour – up until now something that would have been completely innocent and comradely - told him, as nothing else had, the depth of the feelings he was finally admitting to himself.
Professor Hagrid was beginning to address the class, so Scorpius could throw his mates arm off himself good naturedly by saying, “Hey mate, stop it, Professor Hagrid’s starting the lesson.”
“Yer all here? Good. Got summat right interesting fer yer all today. I used to do this creature earlier on, but there were a couple o’ nasty incidents, particularly…” As Hagrid had been speaking his eyes had moved around the students in front of him, but as he had said the last his eyes had fallen upon Scorpius. They had widened in surprise and that’s when he had come to a complete halt. The silence with him staring at Scorpius seemed to go on a bit too long, until Hagrid broke it with a ‘Hurumph.’
Muttering, “um, yeah…” He eventually shook himself, like the great shaggy dog he owned, and righted himself. “OK, if yer all come round the back here, I’ll show yers what we’ll be studdin’ today.”
The class, with a few strange looks thrown Scorpius’ way, moved to obey their giant teacher. Albus shot him a quizzical look too, but Scorpius had to shrug in response; he had no clue what had given Hagrid pause. Only half of the class had rounded his hut, when Hagrid boomed out, “Hippogriffs.” He was standing there beaming, one arm thrust out towards the paddock that held the beasts.
They were beautiful. Scorpius had always liked animals of all shapes and sizes, didn’t matter whether they were magical or not, but these … wow, they looked fantastic. The way the feathers of the bird-like heads and shoulders blended in and gave way to the hair of the horse-like bodies was beautiful; teh muted colours of them were sublime. Scorpius listened avidly as Hagrid explained how ‘they was proud beasts’ and about the correct manner with which you had to approach them. Hagrid even said that they should be able to flown, or at least some of them would be, by the end of the lesson. Scorpius couldn’t wait and he and Albus were the first to approach the creatures.
They bowed as they had been told to and after the hippogriff they’d approached bowed back, they began to pet and groom the magnificent creature. Scorpius was stroking the feathers down from the back of its head onto its shoulders, grinning at the pleasure of the feel of the soft feathers overlying the strong muscles that were so close under the skin. The feathers were so soft and luxuriant, but underneath the surface, the muscles of the beast’s neck and flank were hard and strong. Every now and then the creature would shift its stance slightly and the muscles would ripple with suppressed power. It really spoke to Scorpius on some primal level and, truth to be told, it was beginning to affect him in a visceral way.
He’d just run his hand down the creature’s neck and along it’s back when, very briefly, very lightly, his fingers touched those of Albus who was doing the same as him on the other side of the hippogriff. Scorpius met the eyes of his friend and he briefly noted that Albus had that same look on his face that Scorpius knew was on his – of raw sensual pleasure. It was only briefly because those feelings for Albus rose within him once again – threatening to overwhelm him - and, blushing furiously, he snatched his gaze from Albus and looked away. In his haste, he failed to see a similar blush appear upon his friends face.
Hagrid was beside them now. “Good work boys. I had feared that it might not be possible today. Some o’ them is feelin’ off and the whole heard is skittish, fer some reason.”
Hagrid raised his voice and addressed the rest of the class. “OK anyone else keen ter give it a go?”
Most of the students tried their luck, but in the end only about half of the creatures proved tractable enough to approach. Hagrid looked concerned, but when Scorpius asked him what could be wrong he shook his head, “Don’t right know, boys. They’s been off for a week or more, I thought they were gettin’ better but … look at those two. Notice the way they’s been coughing? Might get the animal healer in town ter have a look at em.” Hagrid had a pensive look upon his face, but then he glanced around at the students. “Good work all of yer, I don’t think any more ‘o them’ll come over. Now who wants ter have a go at flyin’?”
Albus had the first go and Scorpius distinctly heard Hagrid say, “Just like his father,” but he wasn’t sure how many other people heard the comment. Scorpius had a go too, as did a few others.
Scorpius stood beside one Hippogriff, one who was too small to ride according to Hagrid, watching Albus help out some girls. They were nervous, but still wanted to have a go at flying the beasts themselves. Albus was so personable. Scorpius could see the two girls relaxing and becoming more confident under the guidance of Albus; the beast beside them also calming down and allowing a girl to clamber up onto his back. Albus looked up and noticed Scorpius’ regard, a big grin blossomed on his face and he waved happily at his mate.
That’s when the dragon burst out of the forest.
Scorpius was one of the first to see it, because of the direction he was facing. Everyone else was soon to notice however, what with the roaring and the flames. Albus threw the other girl up onto the hippogriff’s back and gave the animal a whack upon its flank. The hippogriff didn’t really need the encouragement and galloped off and up into the air bearing the two girls to safety.
Just like he always did, thinking more of others than himself, Albus looked around to see if anyone else needed any help. Scorpius couldn’t help but feel a little exasperated; always playing the hero was Albus Severus Potter. Luckily his had been one of the closest groups to where the dragon had appeared, so all he had to do was get back and …
Scorpius saw the girl only seconds after Albus had. She had frozen in fear and fallen over into the dirt, churned into mud by the hooves of the hippogriffs. In that clarity you sometimes find in moments of extreme terror or excitement, Scorpius suddenly realised that the girl lying in abject fear was the one that saw a dragon for her boggart back in fifth year. Albus was running towards the girl, paying no attention to the dragon that had made a beeline to his moving form. Scorpius noted that Albus hadn’t even drawn his wand.
Then time sped back up and Scorpius found himself running, running flat out, drawing his wand, but knowing he wouldn't, couldn’t make it in time. “Stupefy,” he cast a stunning spell that just played across the beasts flank to no avail. “Protego,” and a shield sprang up in front of it, that caused it a second of pause – Scorpius was rightly proud of his ability with the shield charm - but it broke through with a roar and a spray of flame that backed up against the shield and broke it. The time the shield gave them probably ended up saving Albus’ life.
Albus had reached the girl and was struggling to get her moving, but she might have been made of stone for all the help she gave him in helping to save her own life. Nothing was getting them moving, but Scorpius arrived; skidding to a halt in the mud, grasping Albus’ shoulder with his left hand and raising his wand in the face of the dragon bearing down upon them. “PROTEGO” up came the shield, smaller now because it only needed to cover the three of them. Stronger too because Scorpius knew that he was protecting the one he loved. He could almost feel the love streaming up his arm from the contact with Albus.
The dragon drew back its head, inhaling as it did and once it had drawn in all the air it could, it paused and time seemed to slow down again. The dragon began to thrust its head forward to spew flames at them. Raised voices he could dimly hear from behind him, where Hagrid must have rallied the other students at the edge of the paddock. The beast’s neck now fully extended, it's muzzle starting to open. One word shouted in unison by all the remaining students. The flames gushing out and striking the shield, it sparking and straining, but holding. Even behind the shield, the hairs on his exposed forearm were curling and burning up from the barely contained heat. The combined beams of a dozen or so stunning spells flying overhead and slamming into the dragon. The flames still coming, but the beast succumbing to the stunning - it was a race to see which would fall first: the dragon, the flames or the shield. The beasts eyes finally rolling up and back into its head, it slumping to the ground. The shield finally giving way and the last dregs of the flames making it through. Scorpius pushing his mate over into the mud and taking the brunt of the remnants of the fire over the right side of his body.
There was sudden and immense pain and Scorpius was barely aware of falling over. The next thing he was conscious of was being cradled in someone's arms. He opened his eyes and was mildly surprised that his right one didn't respond - only mildly because he felt a big disconnect from reality at that moment for some reason. A few bits of his higher functions, that were open to him, were trying to tell him that it was most likely him going into shock, but he found that easy to ignore because he found himself looking up into a pair of beautiful green eyes. Someone was ... yes, rocking him, but he could hardly feel it, and the person was saying, "Scorp, why," over and over again.
He smiled, but only felt the left side of his mouth work, and reached up with his left hand and cupped his friends cheek. His closeness to death giving him a bravery he normally wouldn't have had, he managed to croak out, just barely, "Albus, for you I'd do anything, I love you." But even that was too much for his poor, abused body, his arm fell to the ground and for a time he knew no more.
He didn't feel the tears hit the right side of his face and sizzle into steam. He didn’t hear his friend whisper to him, "I love you too."
Over A Year Later
His condition had steadily worsened since that day in the late autumn sun, so much so that for the past few months he'd been not just confined to St Mungos, but also confined to his bed. It was always early morning, when the halls were largely empty, that his friend came to visit him.
That had been the one good thing that had come from that day, their relationship. Before then, Albus hadn’t known that Scorpius loved him, and Scorpius hadn't known that Albus returned that love. It had turned out that Albus's almost relentless pursuit of girls and the inevitable doom of any relationship, had been his own way of dealing with the feelings he'd had for Scorpius. They had a few, brief months in the sun, glorifying in their time together, until his poor ravaged body had necessitated his removal from Hogwarts and his incarceration in a hospital.
His hand was on the door to the private ward that his friend was in and he saw him propped up in bed, though he was still fast asleep. The nurses had failed to close the curtains, again, but he knew that's the way he liked it - to be able to see out and see people walking by. It was only his family that insisted on the curtains being closed and his deformity to be shut away from sight. It had been one of the many points he'd argued with his mother about, the chief one being his presence there at all - what shame it might bring to their family name. It was surprising to him that it was the father that had plead his case, “You do know dear how hard true love is to find. I do not believe our son would want the person he loves to be sent away from him.”
He looked so peaceful, despite the ravages so clearly wrought upon his face. Opening the door didn't rouse him, the magical instruments by his bed indicated he was stable, and a bit improved since yesterday - that was good. His unruly hair, though, had fallen into his eyes - he would have to have a talk with the hospital hairdressers to see what could be done. So he quietly approached the sleeping form, reaching out with his good hand, and smoothed the dark fringe out of his mate's eyes.
Even though he had employed the lightest of touches, the closed eyes flickered open and those beautiful green eyes of the boy who lay dying upon the hospital bed looked up into his own. "Scorpius," Albus managed to barely breathe out, hardly more than a whisper. Scorpius only heard it because he was bent down over the bed so close to Albus and also because of the deathly quiet that lay like a blanket upon the sterile, white halls of the Hospital this early in the morning.
It was going to be a good day, he could actually say his name today. One of Albus' hands fluttered upon the counterpane - oh, it was going to be a very good day, he actually moved his hand - and Scorpius reached out with his left hand and grasped it. His right still worked, he could use it when he needed to, it was just that it had no feeling in it at all; the flames had burnt away the nerves. The arm and his face had been healed, but, due to the magical nature of the fire, they could never be repaired. His clothing had protected most of his body from the worst of the fire, it was just his forearm (where he'd had his sleeve rolled up) and the right side of his face that looked like the skin had melted and reset. He just thanked his lucky stars that his right eye still worked, though most people found his lack of an eyelid somewhat disconcerting - out in public he usually wore sunglasses.
"Yeah, I'm here, mate." There was a soft squeeze on his hand and Scorpius beamed at him. "You'll never guess what, Rosier actually sent me a letter, yep Rosier! All evidence during his tenure at school to the contrary, he actually can write; and more than just his name. You'll also never guess what he's up to; far out, that guy always seems to land on his feet... "
Before Albus had become too frail to communicate properly, he'd insisted that Scorpius write to all their schoolmates begging them to write back with details about what they were doing and what they'd been up to. Every single one of them had sent back at least one letter and most had sent regular correspondence. Other people in Albus' position might rail against the unfairness of his friends getting on while he had been reduced to such a low state, but not warm-hearted, generous Albus - he was just happy to hear they were all doing well.
While his mouth was engaged with the inanities of who was now sleeping with whom, Scorpius was railing against the unfairness of it all. It all came down to that bloody dragon.
Welsh Greens were usually one of the most placid of their kind but dragon pox had driven it mad: that's why it was so far from its usual territory; that's why it had attacked that day; and that's why all the hippogriffs were sick. Once Hagrid had seen the fallen dragon he knew and put two and two together about the hippogriffs. The whole class had been quarantined in the hospital wing for weeks as one after another came down with it ... But they'd all gotten better, all except Albus. It could have been a personal susceptibility or a genetic, inherited weakness or something else; the healers didn't know, no one knew.
Albus' strength flagged sometime around what Suzie Attwater had been up to. His eyelids fluttered, then closed and his hand fell limp within Scorpius' own. Scorpius straightened his mate up, tucking him in and once more pushing his unruly hair out of his eyes. He finished off with a tender kiss to his forehead. In a strange quirk of fate the pustules and lesions only covered the left side of Albus' face - so that between the two of them they made one sort of whole, normal boy.
Turning with dread, he looked at the medical instruments. It was as he feared: every time Albus woke stronger, when he fell back into unconsciousness his vitals were always weaker.
Scorpius found himself praying, as he did every day he was here and every time this happened, 'please once more. Please, please let him wake at least once more.'
EDIT: I lengthened the hippogriff scene (because it lacked something, and I'd like to thank HappyMollyWeasley for giving words to my vague doubts about the matter) and I strengthened the language surrounding just who was lying dying upon the bed - I'd left it too weak at that important stage. I had to make it more obvious that it was Albus who was dying.
Well this came about because I was a bit peeved that my entry for the Terry Pratchet quote challenge, as angst ridden as it was, wasn’t going to be accepted for the Angst Galore challenge. If I’d only have been just a little slower and not posted the story within three or four days of receiving the challenge, it would have been OK.
So there I was stamping my little feet and pouting like a little sook and going over all the challenges; when I came upon the Scorbus challenge and this little story idea just popped into my head. I realised, that of course that it would then also qualify for the diversity challenge too.
Looking around for what else it could potentially be a fit for, I spied the Sink Your Ship challenge. I realised that the start of one romance necessitated the conclusion of the other. So if I was going to break my own heart with the ending of Rose and Scorpius (the One True Paring by the way) then the people I was going to be pleasing by the start of Albus/Scorpius, I was just going to have to break their hearts too.
Thank you all for the inspiring challenges and a big thanks to my amazing beta Bittersweetflames, who I asked to have a look over this so that I wouldn’t embarrass myself with the Slash sections – something I have never attempted before. She not only looked it over, but actually betaed it - she is awesome.
I’d also like to thank ad_astra, my guru for all things LGBTA+ and to Banshee.