Chapter 1 : morning
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He wiggled his fingers and toes—all ten accounted for. He felt at his face to find his nose and his cheeks and his lips and his eyes; none had run off in the night. Scouring the room, he found all six beds in place although maybe, just maybe, upon closer inspection, his own bed had moved an inch to the right.
That would explain the off-kilter feeling.
But that wasn't it.
Then he remembered... breakfast.
He leaned over the side of his bed and groped around blindly for a piece of parchment and his quill. He knew they were down there somewhere...
Across the room, Louis grumbled in his sleep. Albus bit his lip guiltily, then scratched his head again, and rested the found parchment against his folded legs.
Going to Breakfast with Scorpius, he wrote quickly. Underneath, he added two messy, inked rows.
Pros: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
Cons: It’s Scorpius, he’ll probably whine the whole time about his daddy issues, Rose will snort her pumpkin juice at me again, the fact that we’re disrupting the whole Gryffindor-Slytherin dichotomy will probably throw the entire Great Hall into a black hole
“Rather con-heavy today, aren’t we?” Albus asked the parchment. The parchment remained silent. His stomach, however, interrupted with an ironic growl. Albus gave it a pat and nodded. “Breakfast it is.”
Tossing the parchment aside, Albus slid into a pair of worn blue jeans and the only clean t-shirt he could find (a bright orange Chudley Cannons t-shirt from his Uncle Ron). He ran a hand through his sandy brown hair and nodded at his reflection in the mirror beside Joel’s bed. His reflection nodded back, red-eyed and pale-faced.
He’d been up all night again. It was only Wednesday and already the second time this week he’d watched the night wax by through the pages of a book. This time, the biography of Cornelius Agrippa, famous wizard author imprisoned by Muggles who thought his writings were evil. He had died in that prison, at age 53.
Even as Albus’s feet carried him down the moving staircases towards breakfast, his mind dwelt behind the metal bars of a cold prison cell. He saw the jeering faces of Muggles, who held pitchforks and torches in his imaginings. He smelled must, could almost feel the straw prison bedding. It itched through his t-shirt, prickling his skin.
Albus shivered and then smiled. He would never understand the appeal of fiction when a biography held far more hair-raising, fantastical stories that were real, that kept him up at night with—embarrassingly—goosebumps. And anyway, he was seventeen years old. What use did he have for the make believe?
“Did you lose something?”
Albus blinked. The Great Hall materialized before him, as did a confused and slightly displeased Scorpius Malfoy.
“Mm?” was Albus’s response.
“I said, ‘did you lose something?’ And by something I meant your self-respect. You were scratching at yourself like a dog with fleas.”
Albus shrugged and sat down at the Slytherin table. He could feel the glares like heat on his freckled skin.
Scorpius scoffed, brushing a gelled strand of dirty blond hair from his brow. “Sure, let’s act like a complete nutter and then sit by Scorpius. Brilliant.”
“’Morning,” Albus muttered in response.
Scorpius ignored him for the majority of breakfast, his jaw clenching and unclenching almost mechanically. The silence suited Albus just fine. He liked it better when Scorpius was silent. This way, he could pretend that Scorpius wasn’t such an insufferable, self-centered ass.
Albus and Scorpius had an accidental friendship, which didn’t necessarily equal real friendship. During fourth year, Albus’s sister—then a third year—had developed an innocent crush on the Slytherin “bad boy.” Naturally, Albus had done some (minor) investigating that resulted in heartbreak for Lily and a strained almost-friendship for Albus and Scorpius. The latter never discovered Lily’s feelings, but Albus had learned enough about Scorpius to feel responsible for the boy.
It was an accidental responsibility, which didn’t necessarily equal real responsibility.
Perhaps the only tendril of authenticity that kept Albus and Scorpius gravitating to each other was a shared longing to escape their fathers’ legacies. Forget their vastly different reasoning—it was a connection. A connection—albeit a tenuous one—that spawned conversations so illuminating, their reality couldn’t be denied.
When breakfast stopped replenishing itself, the mail came. Hundreds of owls appeared overhead, narrowly missing one another as their wings carved paths to their recipients. Albus wasn’t expecting anything—his parents only sent letters once a week, and no one else wrote to him regularly—but he couldn’t help feeling a little jealous of the thick stack of letters that fell on Scorpius’s lap.
His friend barely looked at the letters before announcing, “All from mother,” and frowning to himself. His eyes (an indecisive hazel) smoldered in unspoken anger, which hung in the air like a bitter aftertaste. He stuffed the letters in his bag, grumbling incoherently and ignoring Albus, who was left to ponder the allure of Scorpius's smoldering gaze.
The owls finished their business of delivery quickly and were gone just as Albus was finishing his scrambled eggs. Eager to be rid of Scorpius’s brooding, but pleased that he had paid his dues, Albus shoved the remaining eggs into his mouth and gathered his belongings. He was just about to stand when a crumpled up parchment bounced off his shoulder and landed on his breakfast plate.
Albus stared blankly at the parchment—which began soaking up the left over syrup on his plate—before shooting an angry glance over his shoulder at Rose. Seated alone, Rose was gnawing at a breakfast roll drowsily, eyelids drooping over her baby blues. Her fiery red hair (a Potter-Weasley trademark that Albus could claim only in certain lights and from certain angles), draped her shoulders in knotted curls.
If Albus were to write Rose's biography, he'd start with two simple yet unchanging facts: Rose was not a morning person, but, no matter the hour, she was always the culprit.
Rose perked up at the sound of her name. She caught Albus's eye and her face broke out in an enthusiastic, but sleepy smile.
“You could’ve just asked me over instead of throwing things at me,” he replied, gesturing at the parchment, which was now a syrupy mess.
Rose’s brow furrowed. “Throwing things? Me?”
Albus rolled his eyes, though there was something almost genuine in her voice. Suspicion rose in his throat like bile.
With his fork, he fished the parchment from the sea of syrup and, frowning, began to peel it apart. Scorpius coughed impatiently. Unsatisfied with how slow the process was moving, he reached across the table to grab the parchment and tore it in half in his haste.
“‘Promise me you won’t—’” he read from the first half as Albus sat listening, half-dazed. Fumbling with the second half, Scorpius flipped it one direction and then the other, stared at it cross-eyed, and eventually gave up. “I can’t even read the second one. It’s all syrup.”
He thrust the halves back into Albus’s unsuspecting lap and wiped his hands on a napkin. His eyes were expectant as Albus squinted at the torn note.
“Well?” Scorpius urged.
Rose had moved to Slytherin table, next to Albus. “What does it say?” she added.
“Stop it, Rose. I know it’s from you,” Albus responded. His voice wavered. He held the second half close to his face.
“‘Promise me you won’t,’” he repeated, “‘fall in… fall in lone’?”
“It says ‘love’!” Rose squealed, clearly awake now. “‘Promise me you won’t fall in love’!”
Albus hushed Rose, who shrugged her shoulders apologetically. “It definitely says ‘love.’”
Scorpius raised an eyebrow. “Al, why didn’t you tell me you had a girlfriend? You having a secret love affair behind my back?”
This time, it was Albus’s turn to ignore him.
“There’s more!” Rose whispered urgently. She was tying her wayward hair into a bun, clearing her vision so as to properly read: “‘Promise me you won’t fall in love with me—’”
“Rose, you’re my cousin…”
“No, that’s what the note says: ‘Promise me you won’t fall in love with me… this time.’”
“This time?” Albus choked. “I don’t remember there being a last time. This is obviously a prank.” His face felt hot.
“It’s signed,” Rose continued. “D.L.Z.”
“Know anyone with those initials, Al?” Scorpius asked. His lips twisted into a smile, half curious, half something dark.
“Know any girls with those initials?” Rose winked.
Albus grabbed the torn parchment from Rose and stood up, accidentally bumping his fork, which clattered to the floor in a sticky puddle. Several nearby students turned to look.
“It’s just a prank. Leave it alone,” he snapped, his face red hot. He felt the concern in their eyes as he stormed away, but he didn’t look back. He was frustrated and sticky and wanted to be alone. He headed straight for his classroom.
Albus had discovered his classroom during his first year at Hogwarts. He’d been wandering around after hours—a trick James had taught him to cure insomnia—and had heard a noise. He'd scurried down the fifth floor hallway, to the very end, where a collection of statues was being stored. His intention was to hide behind them. That’s when he found the room.
Inside, he saw what appeared to him as a ghastly specter in the darkness. As his eyes adjusted, the specter slowly disintegrated into an innocent heap of desks, piled at the center of the room in various stages of disrepair, and covered in the dust of a decade’s worth of neglect.
For nearly half an hour he stood there, in the doorway, trying and failing to cast a Lumos spell.
Finally his wand ignited and he entered the room to find a sad, forgotten sort of beauty. A crystal chandelier floated overhead, covered in dust, reflecting fractured light on the gray stone floor. A chalkboard, covered in faded chalk drawings of owls, swallowed the entire wall to his left. Wooden bookcases bloated with age hugged the three remaining walls. They were empty. So Albus filled them.
Little by little, he worked to build a library in the unused classroom. It consisted of merely 43 books, which he placed haphazardly, at least one per shelf. He then moved the desks, one by one, to the Room of Requirement using the map his father had passed down to him.
When the floor was cleared and dusted, he brought in pillows—some from the Gryffindor Common Room, some from his own bed, some (stolen) from friends. He piled them in a corner.
And just like that, the room became his sanctuary.
Over the years, he’d added personal trinkets to the room. A beautiful, antique letterbox his mother had sent him for Christmas fourth year. The first Snitch he’d ever caught, which had broken apart in his hands in its aged fragility. His father’s old Sneakoscope. His collection of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans trading cards. A flask containing the (probably horrendously mis-brewed) sleeping potion he’d made in first year Potions. And a bag of dungbombs… just in case.
He came to his classroom when girls rejected him. He came when he failed a test. He came when his family got on his nerves, when he felt forgotten, off-kilter, different.
His classroom was the one place he could be totally alone. It was the only place he felt totally at peace.
And now, as Albus stood in the doorway of his classroom, he thought of endings come all too quickly. Graduation. How far away it had seemed when, eyes sparkling with wonder, he’d first walked through the doors of Hogwarts castle. When he’d found this classroom and made it his sanctuary. And now it was his seventh year. His final year.
Albus threw himself atop the pile of pillows, face down, and groaned.
“Seventh year and what have I done?” he said to no one.
Without conscious thought, his hand reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out the two halves of his syrupy note. He flipped onto his back and stared at them.
Promise me you won’t fall in love with me this time. – D.L.Z.
He let out a dry laugh. “No worries, D.L.Z. I don’t have time to fall in love.”
And he crumpled the parchment up and hurled it across the room.
Author’s Note: I think I’ve written this chapter 5 times now. Hopefully this one sticks.
But anyway, thank you for reading. This is my first update in over two years and it feels so good to be posting fanfiction again. I’d love to hear from you—good or bad—so please, leave a review.
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