Chapter 1 : Lakesides and Rooftops
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He threw the little ball against the wall and watched it bounce off, back into his hand. Easy. He threw it again, caught it swiftly, let it drop to the floor without looking, and snapped it back up again.
Al was stretched out on his back on a school desk in an abandoned classroom, his legs resting up on the wall, his hands occupied with throwing and catching the little blue ball, his eyes and mind focussed on following its path. Yes, Al’s mind was blissfully empty, apart from its focus on what he was doing. Al pushed everything else away.
In order to understand the present situation you have to know that there is one thing about Al that he didn’t really talk about a lot, but which was probably the one thing he would use to describe himself, in that very moment, as he lay in that stuffy old Hogwarts classroom, with the summer sun shining in through high dusty windows, making the air dance with illuminated particles.
He was so very tired of it.
Al was tired of complaining about homework and of sitting through boring lessons. He was tired of listening to others bitch about their professors, gossip about their classmates, state for the shut-up-we-know-that-already-billionth time that they were so relieved that school was over now, but that it was also kind of sad and that they would miss Hogwarts.
How many words can you lose on History of Magic? They all knew it was unbearable, so why talk about that for fifteen fucking minutes? That just made it worse, in Al’s opinion. The weather. Really? You want to tell him that the sun’s shining now and that it’s finally summer and that you hope it’ll stay that way for some time, that the heat can be rather stifling in London, but it’s still better than rain and –Al doesn’t bloody care.
Al was so tired of it. He didn’t like all that boring, predictable, fucking-get-over-it-already conversation. It made him want to throw things. The small, dark blue ball in his hand was not a very satisfying thing to throw, though. Topple over a desk was more like it, but Al resisted. It probably wouldn’t make him feel any better about the whole ordeal.
Leaving Hogwarts, he thought, was a lot like family get-togethers. He knew exactly who was going to behave how, say what, react in which way. It got so very tiring.
Grandmum would be bustling about, but spend most of the time in the kitchen, with those who usually insisted on helping her cook dinner –it always came down to the same people, more or less. Granddad would be in the shed, and later talk about Muggles with Audrey, who was an incredibly patient one and put up with his questions. Most of his cousins would want to play Quidditch. Everyone would laugh at old half-funny lines and stories that made Al want to grit his teeth. Dinner would be loud and chaotic. Everyone would eat way too much. The adults would comment on how much they’d grown and on who they looked like and on what had changed and they would ask about Neville and Hagrid and school and friends. The kids would tell them some, but never all of it. (Leave out the juicy bits, you know. Because that wasn’t for parents to know.)
Don’t get him wrong, Al loved his family, just like he loved Hogwarts, too. He liked how funny George was and how much Hermione knew. He liked it when the grown-ups talked of interesting things. He liked the castle, flying, his cousins, his grandma’s cooking, the grounds, Hogsmeade, his family.
Al was enthusiastic about some things. He wasn’t always just bored by everything, not by a long shot. He was fascinated by Astronomy, for example – how very big the solar system, the galaxy, the universe was. He loved learning about that –about stars and the speed of light and distant planets.
There was a time in his sixth year when he read a number of books about Muggle history, colonization to be exact. He’d even gone to a Muggle library during the holidays, he’d watched movies, he’d …well, not exactly forgotten about it, but he’d –you know, been there, done that. He’d moved on to different subjects and from time to time he would read about the Belgians in Congo or the Scramble for Africa or some such thing and get into it again. Discussions were always welcome, but books –there were just too many of them that he wanted to read. He never stayed on one topic for too long, went from house elves, to international trade, undercover Ministry missions in the Muggle world, discrimination against squibs, against Muggleborns, and against non-human magical beings. Al was interested in a lot of things.
Yeah, that was just Al. Currently hiding out, while everyone else was saying goodbye to the castle and indulging in nostalgic conversations.
He threw the blue ball at the wall with a little too much force, it bounced off and out of Al’s reach, to the floor, rolled to the other side of the classroom.
In order to properly explain the situation, there’s another thing you need to know about Al: he can be pretty oblivious at times.
So, take the day in between Christmas and the New Year that his family would spend at the Burrow. As you know by now, Al liked it, but he was also really bored when he wasn’t playing Quidditch and there weren’t any interesting conversations going on. Al would sit by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate, idly listening to his cousins talk. His mind would wander. Last year he’d imagined what the whole gathering would be like with Erin there. Yeah, he’d had a silly little crush on him, even though they hardly ever talked. Anyways, the point is that Al often had his head in the clouds. There was just so much going on –obviously there would be things he’d miss, right?
That was probably why he spent the first couple of years at Hogwarts with only his family and the friends he’d made in first year –people from his own house. Al was so focussed on his life and studies and -yeah, he just didn’t think about anything more or different or about questioning anything.
He’d grown up in a family that firmly believed in good and bad. They were tolerant and accepting and they criticized, sure –but Al had to think for himself, right? Learn to ask questions –not just the ones they posed. Question his parents’ beliefs too, because why should he take those as given?
Al remembered his fifth year pretty well –when he’d started to really grow up, he thought. When he’d pulled his head out of his arse and looked at the world, instead of only his tiny little sheltered world. When he’d gotten to know Rich and Caroline, who were so refreshingly open-minded and had taught him so much.
Fifth year was when he’d read about relations of power, and how the media manipulated, and that pretty much everything was socially constructed anyways. That was around the time he realized that his parents really were right about a lot of things, but that he didn’t like everything they said and did, because he wasn’t quite as traditional as they were about some things. He didn’t see the bad thing about trying hallucinogenic potions, for example, as long as he didn’t abuse them or take them very often. He didn’t like the stereotypes either, that his family still largely held onto; disliked the quips at Hufflepuffs and jokes about Slytherin that his uncles liked so much.
And some time during his fifth year Al had also run into Scorpius. Back then, they’d both been a little scrawnier. Al hadn’t had the dragon fang in his ear or the piercing in his lower lip. Scorpius’ blonde hair had been a little longer and shaggier. Someone had given him trouble for being a Malfoy, when Al had walked by. It didn’t happen a lot, Scorpius had told him later. His family was respected and influential, but there were some, who felt distaste at his name.
Al had stood up for him, of course, absolutely outraged that anyone would be treated so unfairly. Muggle parents or purebloods, it shouldn’t matter one bit.
They’d become friends, Scorpius and Al –especially once they shared their NEWT lessons in sixth and seventh year. Apart from Astronomy (Al) and Herbology (Scorpius) they took all the same classes.
So now you know that at the end of his seventh year at Hogwarts, when Al was lounging in that abandoned classroom, he had a dragon fang in his ear and a less conspicuous piercing in his lip. He could be rather oblivious, because sometimes he spent more time in his head than observing his surroundings. He was open-minded, interested in social issues and didn’t like prejudice or judgement. Al had a friend named Scorpius, played Quidditch, loved his family and couldn’t stand tedious chatter.
Now, there’s one more thing you need to know about Al, if you want to understand what was going on as Al sighed and looked up at the ceiling: Al might be oblivious at times, but he wasn’t always totally clueless; and the night before he’d had an epiphany, just that it didn’t feel like one, because he’d subconsciously known all along (he told himself) and merely only now opened his eyes to that knowledge.
Al sat up on the table to retrieve his little blue ball. He was there, alone, because he couldn’t stand the drawn-out goodbyes. But his previously controlled thoughts were invariably pulled back to the night before and the state of idle blankness that he’d achieved while almost hypnotically following the moves of the dark blue ball gave way to more important musings. What better way to use his alone time, than to spend it calming down and then thinking. Leaving Hogwarts was on his mind, yeah. But it was not his primary concern.
He’d been by the Black Lake, eyes closed, taking in everything he could feel and hear. Sometimes he did that, trying to push all thoughts from his mind, and only concentrate on the present moment. (Every once in a while he needed to remind himself to take a break from the chaos in his mind, from the flow of day to day life.)
Al had felt the light breeze, smelt the summer air, flowers and the lake. He’d felt the soft earthly ground beneath his feet, the material of his Muggle shorts and T-shirt on his body –exams were over, there was no need for a school uniform anymore.
“Hey Al!” He’d heard Scorpius’ familiar voice shout from the castle, heard his hurried steps approach and Al had opened his eyes to watch his friend run over.
Maybe it was because he’d fully realized that he’d gotten over his crush on Erin and could now see other people in that light again. Maybe it was because Al had been in such a serene, peaceful state, with thoughts pushed away from his mind and so utterly unprepared. Probably it was a combination of the two, that made Al’s perspective on Scorpius change so drastically in that one moment when he opened his eyes and looked over at his friend.
Al stood up on top of the table and made his way over to the other side of the classroom, stepping from school desk to school desk and finally summoned the little blue ball, before he proceeded to a high window and opened it widely, to let in some fresh air.
He remembered how it had just hit him, how gorgeous Scorpius looked, how well he knew that smile on his face, and how much he liked it, the way Scorpius talked, thought, laughed. It had been there all along, and Al still felt pretty stupid for not seeing it sooner. He’d known, he just hadn’t realized. Oblivious, yeah –Al could be rather oblivious. Too caught up in everything that was going on to see.
And then Scorpius had stopped next to him and thrown and arm around his shoulders.
“Finally found you,” he’d said with a smile.
But Al had been more enthralled with the way Scorpius’ lips moved, his eyes sparkled, the way his hair looked in the evening light, how his voice sounded, than with what Scorpius had said. He’d felt Scorpius’ arm around his shoulders, his body heat, like he’d felt the wind on his skin and the ground beneath his bare feet – so very aware of everything.
Al had been utterly overtaken with emotion, too. Sometimes that happened. And he liked it better when it took him by surprise. It felt more real, Al thought. Day to day life could get so wearisome. He liked those moments of real wonder –kind of like a fresh wind that shook him out of his stupor.
And like he’d felt the breeze and Scorpius’ arm, Al had also felt a warm tingle of something within – a stir in his chest. He’d felt drawn to Scorpius (and the feeling hadn’t gone away even one bit, since then). He’d been captured by Scorpius standing next to him –suddenly Al’s eyes hadn’t wanted to stop looking. He’d wanted to take in everything –from their surroundings, sweeping grass and cool water, to Scorpius’ eyebrows, hairline, arms, the way he looked out over the grounds and absentmindedly tapped his fingers against Al’s shoulder. Al had wanted to pull Scorpius closer, hug him tightly – feel physically as close to him as he had felt emotionally close to him in that moment.
And now, as Al looked down from the fourth floor window, he thought about Scorpius. About him and Scorpius.
It wasn’t a crush, Al didn’t think so. He knew Scorpius. They’d been friends for years now. They hung out in the Great Hall and in Hogsmeade, they went flying together, they’d even ventured a little ways into the Forbidden Forest that one time. They’d shared classes and work and they’d almost fallen asleep in the library. Al knew Scorpius. It wasn’t a crush. (The whole thing with Erin had felt entirely different.)
What was it then, this feeling?
And as Al sat down on the broad windowsill, he dared pose a question in the solitude of his mind that made his heart thud faster and his mind wonder.
Am I in love with Scorpius?
Al swallowed and let the question hang in the air before him. You can think everything, because no one will know. Only thinking it is not that dangerous.
What does it feel like to be in love? Al didn’t know.
Can you fall in love without noticing? Was it possible, that he had been too absent to realize what was happening? Too focussed on Erin and on not-him-any-more and on exams and… now what? Was he in love with Scorpius?
Al remembered asking himself a different question in the same way.
Do I like guys?
That had been in fourth year. He’d let that question dangle in front of him too.
And once he’d consciously raised the question, Al had felt like he’d already known the answer for ages anyway. It wasn’t new to him that he liked guys. –And pretty quickly, Al had gotten comfortable –comfortable with knowing that he was definitely gay.
Am I in love with Scorpius?
So, what is love, Al asked himself. What does it feel like to be in love? How do I know if that is what I feel?
He’d listened to Rose ask the same questions to Victoire, once. There had been some answer that included butterflies and a racing heart and risk-taking and just knowing, Al wasn’t sure. It had sounded too girly and poetic for him. Too predictable and boring, too. It was the standard answer, wasn’t it? (Boredom.)
He wanted to figure things out for himself, because right now –this adrenaline in his system and the fierce warmth he felt for Scorpius – that was exciting. He didn’t want to escape it, didn’t want to take any shortcuts. Feel it –Al wanted to feel it all.
Am I in love with Scorpius?
(His heart thudded excitedly in his chest and Al revelled in feeling so alive.)
He liked Scorpius – that was for sure. They were friends after all, and Al really liked the guy. He really liked him.
Al cared for him too; cared for Scorpius in a way that he only cared for a handful of people. Friends, who he’d known for a very long time and who he was very close to. Friends who he’d met and known in the same minute that they’d get along wonderfully. Friends who he’d shared the most intense and intimate moments of his life with. The kind of people, you know, who you could not see or hear from for a year, but then meet and the friendship would still be the same. Scorpius was all of the above.
Al had friends who he knew he’d lose contact with after school. Friends in the same house as him, who he liked, but wouldn’t miss terribly. They’d stuck together for obvious reasons. But Scorpius –he was a friend Al had made even though they didn’t share a common room and dorm, a friend who was just that because you can choose friends and Al and Scorpius liked each other, and they would hang out after they’d left Hogwarts, still.
There were these warm feelings in his chest and a tingling anticipation in his fingertips when Al thought of Scorpius and he knew that he was scared for a reason. It felt wonderful now, but it had the potential to make him feel wretched, too.
But Al liked feeling scared and warm and tingly –he liked being out of his comfort zone. And Al didn’t need an answer to his question right away. Asking it in the first place was the point. And going from there was the adventure.
Now… to find Scorpius, Al decided. It was almost time to leave the castle, anyway.
As you know by now, Al had been pretty oblivious, when it had come to him and Scorpius. Now that he wasn’t anymore, though, now that he looked at Scorpius and was so overwhelmingly aware of his own emotions –now Al spotted Scorpius’ attraction to him at once, too. (Or at least he thought so. He wasn’t sure if it was seeing or wishing.)
It was in the happy twinkle of Scorpius’ eyes, as he spotted Al; in his easy smile as he approached; and in the familiar way he leaned against Al, nudging him slightly before standing up straight again, their shoulders brushing naturally as they observed the rest of the seventh years assembled in the courtyard. It would be time to leave soon. They lounged among their luggage and pets as they waited for the carriages to arrive –teary goodbyes, last farewells to the Great Hall and the ghosts passing by. They were laughing and making plans and soaking up the sun and the atmosphere of summer, leaving school and new beginnings.
Al and Scorpius watched the on-goings for a couple of moments in comfortable silence.
“You wanna head up to our roof one last time?” Al finally asked.
Scorpius shrugged. “Sure. We’ve got about twenty minutes before the carriages get here.”
Scorpius wore dark green shorts and a light T-shirt in beige and although Al had always known that he was a good looking bloke, that is just the kind of thing you notice differently about your friends than you do about someone you fancy. As Al looked at him sideways, gaze lingering maybe a little too long, and Scorpius caught his eye, Al asked himself again whether it was all just in his head, if Scorpius’ attraction to him was just imagined. He grinned and he thought that there might be something, but instead Al started talking about his sister, who’d apparently nicked a school broom and was taking it home with her for the summer. (“Not that she needs it, you know. Lily just likes to do that kind of stuff. I don’t know if I should be proud or worried.”)
The day before, when Scorpius had sought him out by the lake, they’d gone for a fly about the grounds. They’d done that from time to time and in the mild summer evening the school grounds and the surrounding mountains had looked particularly beautiful from up high.
There was a sense of camaraderie between them –always. But as Al had been so hyperaware of Scorpius, he had felt oddly connected to him and no matter how hard he had tried –Al hadn’t been sure if that thing between them was actually going on or if reading it the way he was, was just wishful thinking.
He still didn’t know. It had always been like this, hadn’t it? Or maybe not –maybe he’d just been too caught up to take note of the changes. Sometimes Al thought that head-in-the-clouds is actually really more self-absorption than anything else.
Scorpius had never really shown a preference for either guys or girls. He found people good-looking or not regardless of their sex. Kissing was kissing and groping felt good in any case. He was a fairly easy-going bloke and his only rule was that ruining other people’s freedom was bad and shouldn’t be done –respect was crucial, he thought. He just wished other people would respect them and their choices too, he’d told Al –and realise that what he did with who was really none of their business. Scorpius was curious –so what.
Their roof was a small stretch slanting down, towards the edge of the Forbidden Forest. They could step out onto it from the windows of an abandoned classroom on the fourth floor. They’d shared a bottle of nettle wine here, a while ago, just talking and laughing and sharing in the dark until it had become too cold and they’d gone to bed. They’d spent afternoons here with Rich and Caroline and the others before they’d left Hogwarts. They’d tried smoking a variety of plants up on this roof –Muggle and magic, sometimes with other friends, other times just the two of them.
Al sat down in the shade and looked out over the trees, Scorpius’ legs in his line of sight distracting him. It seemed he couldn’t stop thinking of him, looking at him or even simply feeling him.
Scorpius let his gaze travel over the school grounds in front of them, such a familiar sight that he would leave behind –before he turned and looked down at Al.
He wanted to say something; there was so much on his tongue –how he felt that things would change. That it would be different when they didn’t live in the same castle and he couldn’t just ask around if anyone had seen Al. They’d have to actually make plans now. And sure, they’d have a great time going out with their friends and having their own flats and seeing the world or whatever. But it would be different and Scorpius-… well, he just kept on looking at Al, looking at him, and didn’t say anything because he wasn’t sure how to voice anything really. He wasn’t even sure what it was that he had on his mind.
Al looked back up at his friend and returned the scrutiny, feeling heat in his chest and his stomach and all over, really.
“What?” he finally asked, sure that there was something his friends wanted to say.
Scorpius shrugged and sat down next to Al, looking back out at the forest.
“When we go camping with the others,” he said. “D’you think a hammock would be a good place to sleep in? During the night I mean –outdoors, the ocean, the stars. I mean, sure the tents have comfortable bunk beds, but do you know if a full night in a hammock makes you feel sore?”
Al shrugged. “Dunno,” he answered. “But if Mal and Caroline are really hooking up it might be better than the tent anyway.”
Their eyes caught during that game of looking out over the forest and glancing back at each other, and Al wondered if this had happened a lot before, and he’d just looked away again every time.
Scorpius was so close. They were almost shoulder to shoulder again; and his gaze seemed intense to Al, even though he really had no idea about eyes and what looks meant or any of that. He just felt really intense as they sat there staring at each other without saying anything while his thoughts whirred, chaotic and somehow jumbled through his mind and he told himself not to look away.
Scorpius’ eyes glanced down at his lips. Al looked steadily back at him as Scorpius went back to studying his expression and neither of them really knew what to say or do.
Then Al found his own eyes drawn to Scorpius’ lips; and maybe because he knew that Scorpius had caught that too, he felt trepidation at looking back up at him. So instead Al looked at his lips a tad longer before letting his scrutiny continue on down Scorpius’ neck and his chest and then he glanced back at his friend and found that all of the intensity was still there and he couldn’t just be imagining this.
Al sat up and turned his body towards Scorpius, holding his gaze, but then looking over his body again, at his lips and his hair and his arms and his chest and –Al wasn’t that good at focussing on any one thing. And he felt Scorpius next to him, felt so aware of their exchange –what was going on there? – of the possibilities and his own beating heart, and maybe that’s exactly why, when he looked up again, he found that Scorpius was much closer than before –his eyes jumping between Al’s, his hands pushing him up from where he’d been leaning back, and towards Al into an upright position.
They looked at each other that way for a moment –glances and eyes travelling over skin. Familiarity. Breathlessness. So close. Was this really happening?
Their eyes met again and Scorpius leaned forwards deliberately, holding his breath. Their noses touched. Al felt tingles in his lips and Scorpius’ breath lightly fanning over his face.
He closed his eyes and kissed Scorpius tenderly.
Lips brushed against lips. Heads tilted. Hands reached up to hold onto a shoulder, the back of a head. Scorpius pressed kiss after kiss to Al’s lips, the edge of his mouth, his piercing, pushed his fingers through his hair. Al ran his tongue over his bottom lip and then their tentative kissing turned into a heated, needy embrace of tongues and limbs and they forgot all about everything for a few gloriously intense moments.
Then Scorpius ran his hand down Al’s back and Al rested his palm on Scorpius’ cheek and they shared a few more fleeting kisses before they leaned their foreheads against each other and opened their eyes and returned to the world outside of their own bubble.
Scorpius laughed breathlessly. Al grinned at him and grazed his thumb over his face.
“I like you,” he said.
Scorpius pressed a smiling kiss onto his lips. “And I like you,” he answered matter-of-factly. “A lot.”
They were silent for a moment; back to looking at each other.
“Well,” Scorpius finally said. “The ride home’s not going to be boring.”
And suddenly Al broke into a carefree laugh. Joy. And again he felt so connected to Scorpius and so very aware of their closeness –like the day before when he had opened his eyes to see Scorpius come towards him and he had realized that he liked him. He embraced Scorpius tightly and felt his chuckles and his bliss travel through every cell in his body until he thought he could fly.
“I think we might want to take the beach,” Al mused. “Bunk beds and hammock be damned.”
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