Laura’s behaviour changed little over the first week at school. They shared a majority of their classes together with the exception of Potions, and Albus quickly realised that she was going to remain partial to his presence. Ever since that first attempt in Charms Albus had chosen to continue trying to get a response out of her, a little irritated that she was acting so rude. He had, after all been kind to her when she was upset and now she was treating him like he was a piece of furniture.
It was the second Friday of Albus’s attempts at response when Scorpius finally decided to confront Albus on his behaviour.
“Can you explain to me what exactly you’re trying with that Smith girl?” asked Scorpius. They were sitting in the Slytherin common room playing a game of chess. They had returned after supper, and it was one of the rare occasions that Albus had been able to hang out with his mate without Rose around. She had Prefect duties, and was currently on rounds with Andrew Kay.
“What do you mean?” asked Albus, distracted. Scorpius currently had his king cornered, one false move and it would be check mate.
“Well every class we have with her you sit next to her. Then you proceed to try and start a conversation with her even though she has made it pretty clear that she doesn’t want to talk.” Scorpius ordered his piece to kill Albus’s knight.
Albus furrowed his brow. “I don’t know, she ignores me. I don’t get it. Brooke to B6,” Albus ordered.
“Maybe because until this year you two never spoke?” Scorpius suggested, whilst destroying Albus’s Brooke.
“Dammit,” Albus mumbled.
“Is it because she’s pretty?” Scorpius continued.
“Huh?” Albus looked up at this. “What did you say?”
Scorpius shrugged, this time moving his Queen with his hand. “Well she would be. Perhaps if she smiled a little more.”
A picture of Laura suddenly popped into his head, and he thought of her smiling, something he hadn’t seen her do yet. “She is really pretty–” Scorpius raised an eye brow, smirking. “I mean you’re right about her being pretty, but really it just bothers me that she ignores me. Especially after-”
“After what?” Scorpius interrupted, rather loudly. The few students in the common room sneered at Scorpius.
Albus looked up and shrugged. “The first night back, when I went down to the Lake. She came down too, she was really upset. We talked a little bit, and I made sure she got back to the castle.”
“Shut your mouth, you look like an idiot.” Rose had joined them, sitting down in the empty seat next to Albus. “What are you two talking about?” she looked at Albus.
“Nothing,” Albus quickly said, managing to kill one of Scorpius’s Knights.
“Scorpius?” Rose looked to him.
Distracted, Scorpius mumbled: “Albus’s secret love for Laura Smith.”
“I’m sorry?” Rose turned to Albus.
Albus groaned. “It’s not like that!”
“Then explain the dreamy look you got when I mentioned she was pretty,” said Scorpius calmly.
“I don’t need to explain anything. I merely want her to acknowledge me.”
“Why?” asked Rose, looking bewildered.
“Exactly my point,” said Scorpius, triumphant.
“Because she acts as if we’ve never spoken.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “Really, Albus, you’re acting more and more like James these days, being so dramatic.”
“That being said, leave her alone. She is dealing with a lot of things – I doubt she has enough space in her mind to make chit-chat with you each class you share.” Rose said knowingly.
“I know about her sister,” said Albus.
“Then why do you persist? Just leave her alone, Albus, you are being a little silly about all of this.”
“I know that, but it still bothers me.” Albus frowned.
“It’s because of your secret love for her,” said Scorpius after a few moments of silence, moving his Queen across the board and killing Albus’s king. “Check mate.”
“Scorpius!” Albus and Rose shouted in unison, earning a fresh set of glares from fellow students.
“What?” Scorpius threw his hands in the air.
Heeding Rose’s warnings, Albus decided that his plan to force conversation with Laura perhaps wasn’t the best idea given the circumstances. But he couldn’t deny that he wasn’t a little bit interested in her. There was something different in the way she talked to him – or really the lack of talking. But in that first conversation they shared by the lake Albus found that there was something different about her. Something that almost felt real. She had awoken him in a way, and every second she avoided him made the need to have her talk even more.
Second period the following Monday, Albus quietly took his seat in the middle of the classroom. Rose and Scorpius were arguing about some article that was in the Daily Prophet, and Albus was trying very hard to keep his face passive and casual as Laura entered the charms classroom and took her customary seat next to him. For a few seconds she got settled, unpacking her bag, but Albus could see her sideways glance at him. He fought a smirk as she took a braver look at him. She clearly had noticed the disappearance of his eager greeting.
Despite this, Laura seemed to push this off and she said nothing to Albus. Professor Flitwick began teaching at the front, but Albus paid little attention. He kept stealing glances at Laura who had become very focused with the front of the room, and he tried to keep cool. She was so infuriating! Why couldn’t they just talk? Why did she have to be such a snob? When class had finished, Albus’s knuckles had turned white he had been squeezing them so tightly. Laura, as she always did, collected her things and disappeared before Albus could blink.
“She is completely mental mate, time to move on I think,” said Scorpius, gripping Albus’s shoulder and giving him a little shake.
“Shut up,” grumbled Albus, knocking Scorpius’s hand off his shoulder. Grabbing his things he led the way out of the classroom, Rose and Scorpius falling in step with him on either side.
“There’s a Hogsmeade weekend coming up, I was thinking we use the floo network at the Hogs Head and go to Diagon Alley for the day,” suggested Rose.
“And do what exactly? Shop?” Scorpius mocked.
Rose gave him a hard look. “I thought it would be nice. We could meet up with Teddy and Victoire and the baby.”
“We could just tell them to meet us at Hogsmeade,” Albus pointed out.
Rose huffed. “Since when did you two resist reason to break the rules?”
“Since I don’t want to go,” explained Scorpius.
“To Diagon Alley? Or Hogsmeade? It was just an idea.” Rose frowned.
“Neither, not if we have to meet Teddy and Victoire. Why would I want to spend a weekend with the most nauseating of couples and a crying baby?” asked Scorpius.
“Because it would be fun,” Rose looked a bit miffed now.
“Well I’m definitely not going with you two if you’re meeting Teddy and Vic. I’d be like the third wheel – or rather fifth wheel. I’d end taking up taking care of the baby.” Albus blurted.
Both Scorpius and Rose stopped to gape at Albus.
“What?” They said in unison.
“What?” Albus repeated, feeling his face go red.
“What do you mean fifth wheel?” Rose gave him a fierce look.
“I think he means it would be like he was the fifth wheel on a double date...” Scorpius supplied, his eyes very intense on Rose.
“You mean Ted and Vic... and you and I?” Rose turned away from Albus and moved a little closer to Scorpius.
Albus sputtered, and looked at his watch. “Blimey, is that the time? Really I best be going, get some lunch before class starts. See you later,” Albus raced away from his two friends, not daring to look back. He was afraid of what he might see. Reaching the marble steps he fell in with the queue of students entering the Great Hall and saw Lily sitting with a group of Gryffindor’s.
“Hey Lil’s, how’s it going?” asked Albus, squeezing between Lily and her mate Melanie Taylor.
“Hey!” Melanie exclaimed, shoving Albus.
“Hey,” responded Albus, distracted, and turned back to Lily. “I haven’t talked to you in awhile, everything good? I thought I should check in, you know, be the good older brother. How are things with Mathew?”
Lily looked at her brother as if he had just sprouted donkey’s ears. “Are you having a mental breakdown?”
Her mates laughed, but Albus ignored them. “Can’t I, as your brother, ask you how things are? Isn’t that my responsibility or something?”
“No!” Lily exclaimed, then frowned. “Well yes, you can as my brother. It’s rather sweet, actually,” Lily said, paused and took a closer look at her brother. “Why are you acting so weird?”
“I’m fairly sure I just put it out into the open,” admitted Albus.
“What?” Lily gave him an annoyed look.
“The thing between Rose and Scorpius.”
“Really?” Lily’s annoyance turned into excitement as her eyes seemed to pop out of her head. “I was hoping he might ask her to go with him to Hogsmeade.”
“Well I kind of did,” said Albus.
“You asked your own cousin out? That is so wrong!” Melanie exclaimed, furthering the space between she and Albus as much as she could.
Albus made a disgusted face. “No! I simply suggested something about being the fifth wheel and they both sort of looked at each other in some weird you-like-me thing. It was just wrong, I got out of there as quickly as possible.”
“Fifth wheel? I think you mean third wheel,” Melanie corrected.
“No, I meant fifth wheel,” said Albus in a mock girl voice. “I said it because Rose wanted us to meet up with Teddy and Vic and it would have been the four of them and me stuck with the baby. I pointed it out that I would be tagging along on their double date. Next thing I knew the two of them were making eyes at each other.”
“That’s amazing!” Lily hugged Albus.
“No it bloody well isn’t!” Albus pushed his sister away.
Lily frowned. “Calm down. What’s wrong? You’ve been saying all along that this would happen. Stop acting like such a child. This is good news.”
Albus thought about it. He knew she was right, but he couldn’t deny that he was hoping that their relationship would remain friends until the end of the year. This would change everything. He would be forever the third wheel, and it wasn’t like he had any other good friends to hang out with.
“I’ve got to go,” Albus stood up, grabbing a cucumber sandwich as he did. “I’ll see you later,” he said and began to walk away.
“Albus!” Lily called after him, but Albus didn’t stop. Eating as he went, Albus moved quickly through the hall and to the double doors. He walked up the marble steps, passing a swarm of fifth year Ravenclaw’s laughing about something. When Albus reached the South court yard he had to blink in the sunlight. Approaching the east side, facing the lake Albus inhaled deeply as the September breeze ruffled his hair. Shutting his eyes for a moment he focused on forcing the sick feeling from his stomach.
Did all of that really just happened? Albus asked himself. It all seemed a little rash, how it all went down. For all he knew Rose and Scorpius were in some cupboard snogging and professing their eternal love for each other meanwhile he was hiding out, alone in the courtyard trying to wrap his head around the idea that his best mates were together. Could be together, Albus corrected himself. And then there was the whole issue with Laura. He was beginning to realise that Scorpius was right, and that he had some weird sort of attraction to the moody girl from Hufflepuff.
Albus groaned loudly, his eyes fluttering open. Why did the word ‘weird’ always so easily associate itself to him? Everyone always told him he was. From his mates to his family.
“Are you all right?”
Albus sucked in a breath. Laura Smith was leaning against the courtyard wall next to him. Now that Albus could look at her wholly he saw the dark circles around her eyes, and the lines on her forehead. He couldn’t remember her ever looking paler.
“Why do you ignore me?” he blurted. He seemed to be doing a lot of that today.
“Why are you always bugging me?”
“Because you’re always ignoring me!”
“Well I ignore you because you’re always bugging me.”
“I simply ask you how you are!”
“I never asked you to do that!”
“What? I ask you how you are because I’m trying to be nice! Something I thought Hufflepuff’s were famous for!”
“I am nice, just not to prat’s like you!”
“HOW AM I A PRAT FOR ASKING YOU HOW YOU ARE?”
“BACK OFF!” Laura shouted. Albus had gotten so heated he hadn’t noticed how close he had moved to Laura. Their faces were barely centimetres apart. Albus could see every line, every crease and every freckle on her pale face. Staring in her eyes for the first time he could remember, he was a little surprised to see the fear in her dark green eyes. Albus relaxed, and suddenly Laura gave him a shove with both hands. Albus lost his balance and fell to the ground with a ‘thud’.
Laura threw a dark look at Albus and collected her bag that she had dropped, and hurried past him, pushing through the crowd of students who had gathered, all curiously whispering to one another about everything that had just occurred, all staring at Albus.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT!” shouted Albus, hopping to his feet. The gathering of students, mostly younger all quickly dispersed, trying to get as far away as possible from Albus. As they cleared, Albus reached down to pick up his own bag, still shaking.
“Mr. Potter,” a terse voice said.
Albus spun around to face the Headmistress, McGonagall. His shoulders sagged, his arms sinking to his side, and approached the elderly professor.
“Professor McGonagall,” Albus mumbled.
“A word, if you would,” said Professor McGonagall, and Albus followed her out of the courtyard. They entered an empty classroom, and the door swung shut behind Albus once they had entered. Only a few short steps into the room, and McGonagall spun around to face Albus making him jump. “I just wanted to know why exactly you find it necessary to yell at fellow students in the court yard?”
“Erm,” Albus shifted on his feet uncomfortably.
McGonagall uncharacteristically rolled her eyes. “I am much too old for this, Mr. Potter. I am not in the mood to give you romance advice, but it appears that Miss Smith is not interested, and I would prefer that you do not upset her further. She has quite enough on her mind to have to deal with you as well.”
“Professor?” Albus’s voice was barely a whisper.
McGonagall gave Albus a stern look. “Mr. Potter, I want you to promise me that you will not put Miss Smith in anymore distress. I do not want anymore yelling matches in or outside of my school between you two.”
Albus slowly nodded, still a little stunned that he was having this conversation with Professor McGonagall. Sure, she had been present at all of his birthday’s since age one, but for the most part she kept out of his personal business and he never gave her much trouble. Well, besides the few times he had been caught in a prank with James or the few shouting matches he had had with his sibling’s over the years.
“Now, if I’m correct you’re late for Herbology. Here’s a note to give Professor Longbottom.” McGonagall handed Albus a note from her robe pocket.
“Thank you,” Albus mumbled as he took the note. Turning from McGonagall he rushed out of the classroom and headed towards the Greenhouses.
He checked his watch and surely enough he was now ten minutes late for Herbology. However, Albus still found his feet dragging. He had no idea what state that he would his friends in, whether they would now be officially dating or just planning to go on a date, or still friends. He had no idea. And then there was this new development with Laura. Her words still seemed to echo in his mind, and the feeling – the feeling of complete frustration and confusion still lingered in his gut. Not even James could get such a rise out of him. Laura was impossible to understand.
When Albus reached the last Greenhouse, he peered through a dirty window and saw his fellow NEWT students sitting down. Scorpius was flipping through his textbook while Rose had clearly noticed his absence, and also the absence of Laura, whom Albus noted was not sitting in her usual spot with the other Hufflepuffs. Heaving a sigh of relief, Albus reached for the Greenhouse door and entered.
A/N: I am really pleased with this chapter. I had re-written it twice, never fully satisfied with where I ended it each time. Then I took a break, read a bit and found the perfect way to move the plot along to where I wanted it go. I hope you liked it. I am a little disappointed in its shortness, but I feel that the next chapter will make up for everything this one lacks. Thank you for reading!