Chapter 2 : Red Rose
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“I spent almost every day with or at a cousin’s house. Coming back to school will give me a break from quality family time,” Albus said laughing.
Before Scorpius could respond, a voice cut between the two friends like a knife. “I’m sure you hated all that time you and Teddy spent gallivanting around together, Al,” Rose said giving her cousin a poke in the shoulder. Seeing Rose or another one of Albus’ family members traipse to the Slytherin table was not entirely uncommon.
Rose visited the most perhaps as she and Al were close in age and often kept tabs on one another. She was quite pretty, Scorpius decided, and had often come across as intelligent and rather funny. “How are you, Rose?” Scorpius asked with a winning smile. Flirting with one of Albus’ cousins seemed like a very safe start to giving girls a try. “Your hair looks quite stunning.”
“Why thank you, Scorpius,” Rose said with a wide smile. She took to compliments and flattery like a squid to water. “I’m doing quite well.”
“Did you come over here for a reason?” Albus asked coldly. He didn’t like the way his cousin was eyeing Scorpius or the way his eyes raked over her features. Deciding to lighten the mood, he added, “I didn’t think Gryffindors liked being seen at the Slytherin table. Think of what this visit could do to your reputation.”
Rolling her eyes, Rose leaned against the wall behind the long Slytherin table. “Just wanted to see if you finished Pride and Prejudice yet. I have the itch to reread it and the library doesn’t have muggle books.”
Albus wished his cousin had shown more discretion with his literary exploration. Jane Austen’s stories of longsuffering romances and tumultuous relationships felt as real to Al as any he knew of in real life. “I finished it last night but I left it in the Common Room. I’ll give it to you at breakfast,” he said hoping his cousin would leave and let Al return to his conversation with Scorpius.
“I’ll stop by in the morning then,” Rose said with a wave to the two boys.
After a furtive glance to his friend, Scorpius let out a low, “So…”
“Don’t start in on my reading choices,” Al said feeling rather prickly. “She practically forced me to read Jane Eyre last summer.”
Scorpius pushed the remnants of chocolate cake around on his plate for a few moments before saying, “I wasn’t going to comment on the books you read.” He let out a sharp laugh then said, “Do you know if Rose is single?” It was supposed to be a casual question, something not to be read into, but Al jumped on the question like James onto a broom.
There was no reason to lie to Scorpius but it made Albus uneasy to have his best mate ask after his cousin. Not when that best mate had just snogged him in a dark hallway before dinner. “As far as I know,” Al said glaring across the hall at the emptying Gryffindor table. He knew for a fact that she broke up with Alexander Jordan before the break and had been quite over the ordeal by the time Christmas Day rolled around.
“Shall we to the common room?” Scorpius asked standing up from the table. He knew it would be problematic but Rose seemed as any girl as any to give things a try to appease his parents. He felt like it would be the same as when he was forced to try caviar. His mum had said to try it out before turning his nose up at it. After a few bites, Scorpius he was certain he never wanted a bite again. Surely women would be the same.
Albus was late for Herbology weeks later after leaving his dragonhide gloves in the dormitory. He ran into Lily in the Entrance Hall. “Sorry, Lil, didn’t see you,” he said making to skirt around his younger sister.
“Actually, I want a word with you, Al,” she said blocking his path. “Did you put Scorpius up to it?” she asked raising one of her red eyebrows.
Feeling quite bemused, he asked, “Up to what exactly?” It had been several months since either of them got up to any mischief that his sister would inquire about.
Lily crossed her arms and pursed her lips. “Asking Rose to Hogsmeade,” she clarified after deciding her brother wasn’t merely feigning ignorance.
Shock hit Albus hard in the stomach. Not two nights ago Scorpius had been in bed with his head rested on Albus’ shoulder. “News to me, sis,” he said trying to keep a sense of levity in his voice. “I’m late to Herbology, got to run.”
Albus did quite literally run the distance to Herbology. Professor Longbottom was never strict about being a few minutes late, at least he never took points off for it. Slowing down as he approached Greenhouse 2, Albus peered through the green tinted windows. Scorpius and Rose were at a table together with another Gryffindor student. Albus thought it might be Sandra Thomas but didn’t bother to find out.
Not feeling up to sitting next to his traitor cousin and friend, Al turned on his heel and ran back into the castle and to the Slytherin common room. He would make some excuse to tell Professor Longbottom later but he needed to be alone while his carefully constructed world crashed around him.
After an hour or so of moody reflection, Ablus heard footsteps pounding the stone staircase to the dormitory. Quickly wiping away tears, Albus grabbed a book to pretend to read.
“Where were you during Herbology?” Scorpius asked taking in the abandoned school bag and upside-down book Albus was holding. “Are you all right?”
“How did you expect me to feel after you ask my cousin out?” Albus spat out. “I thought we had something between us.” It was impossible for Albus to hide the hurt from his voice.
“It’s just a trip to Hogsmeade,” Scorpius said hoping to minimize the entire date situation. “We do have something between us, we’re best mates.”
Albus knew Scorpius didn’t mean to sound callous but his words caused anger to flare up rather than the pity he had been experiencing. “Best mates don’t snog in hidden passageways or hold hands when no one is looking. They certainly don’t slow dance at their parents’ party!” Albus’ voice was raised just below the level of a shout.
“I’ve always told you, we can only be friends… no matter how I feel about you,” Scorpius said with his voice catching in his throat. Albus couldn’t know how hard it was for him to contemplate seeing someone else but he was a Malfoy and had obligations.
“Go, have your way with Rose,” Albus yelled. “Just don’t expect me to wait around while you test out the waters with the fairer sex.” Deep down he knew it was a lie – he had been waiting for more than two years for Scorpius and Albus had just waited around for their relationship to actuate.
Scorpius took Rose on a date to Hogsmeade, then another. Soon they were close to inseparable. Part of Scorpius’ gusto was fueled by Albus’ angry words and indifferent behavior. He was determined to make the best out of a relationship with Rose. She was quite pleasant company to keep, he found. Holding hands in the hallway was not uncommon nor was Scorpius’ presence at the Gryffindor table for meals.
“Why don’t you invite Albus to eat with us?” Rose asked during one lunch. “He looks so lonely without you.”
That wasn’t entirely true. Albus was deep in discussion with the Slytherin quidditch captain, Douglas Dawlish. Scorpius narrowed his eyes as Al leaned back laughing at something Dawlish said. “It looks like he’s plenty occupied without me,” he said nonchalantly.
“That’s only when people are looking,” Rose pushed on. “Did you guys have a row? Lily told me he’s been a bit distant with her for a few months.”
Scorpius shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of. You know how moody he can be though.”
Rose shrugged. “I suppose you’re right. Still, it would be nice if you could keep an eye on him,” she said squeezing Scorpius’ knee.
It might have been the jolt of thrill or his desire to not raise many questions about Albus’ new demeanor but Scorpius agreed to keep a closer eye on his friend.
Easter holiday did not come fast enough for Albus. He was desperate for a break from watching his best mate and cousin gallivant around the school together. Albus was nursing a heartache that he couldn’t confide in anyone else. Deep down he wanted the best for Rose and if that meant Scorpius then he’d have to displace those feelings of injured jealousy.
Upon hearing that Albus was coming home for the brief holiday, Harry took the week off work to spend time with his middle child. It was apparent by the second day of his trip home that something was not quite right with his son. This was one of the few times as a dad that Harry wished he had examples from his childhood that would guide his actions with the children.
Albus was lounging on the couch reading a book large enough to break his nose if he dropped it when Harry decided to probe his son for the source of his mood. “Al, could you come help me in the garage? I need to replace the oil on my motorbike.”
Harry thought asking invasive questions while working on something would lower Albus’ defenses slightly. “Sure, Dad,” Al said setting the book on the sofa and grabbing his wand.
It was thanks to his father-in-law that Harry started to play mechanic to his old motorbike. He often had his children help so that they’d get a feel for working with their hands. It really wasn’t a two-person job but Harry didn’t think Al would try to dodge helping him out. Out in the garage, Harry had his motorbike resting on its stand and a set of tools at the ready. Getting on his back, Harry scooted so that he could see under the bike. “Could you give me some light, Al?” he asked peeking out from under the vehicle.
After a quiet lumos Harry could see much better. “How are things at school?” he asked as the black liquid began to pour into the container below the motorbike.
“Getting ready for NEWTS,” Al said with a shrug. “There’s been a bit of stress to revise non-stop.”
“Is that why you’ve elected to come home for a week of possible revision time?” Harry asked dryly. Al didn’t respond, nor did Harry expect him to. “You’ve been as down as I’ve ever seen you, son. What’s the matter? Romance problems?” Harry didn’t think it was academic worries that drove his son from school. It had to be something personal and close to his heart.
The oil had stopped draining for a few moments but Harry didn’t take his gaze off Albus. “You could say that,” Al confessed quietly. “It’s complicated though.” Albus pointed his wand at the oil and vanished it.
“Thanks for getting that,” Harry said sitting up to get at the filter. “Could you hand me that wrench?” he asked pointing at the nearby table. Albus held up a tool for Harry to look at before handing it over. “That one,” Harry confirmed. “What makes your romance problem so complicated?” Harry asked as he removed the oil filter from his bike.
Albus huffed and crossed his arms. “Only everything,” he said with a dramatic huff.
Deciding that better eye contact was more important that keeping up the pretense of working on his old motorbike, Harry stood up so he was face to face with his son. “Al,” Harry started feeling quite unprepared for this discussion. “Your mum and I will love anyone you love, boy or girl,” Harry said with his heart racing. Ginny had commented a number of years back that Albus seemed rather more interested in other boys than any girl he’d met. After that they thought it’d be a matter of time before Al started dating and they’d see who he preferred.
While Harry was worrying that he just put Al in an uncomfortable situation, his son latched onto Harry with a tight hug. “Oh, Dad,” Albus sobbed. “I always knew you and Mum wouldn’t look twice if I came home with a bloke. That’s not my problem.” Harry stroked the back of Al’s head as he cried quietly for a few minutes. Pulling back from his dad, he said, “The person I love doesn’t love me back.”
Harry wished he could confer with Hermione before continuing the conversation but his son’s emotions couldn’t wait on his aunt’s advice. “Is it that he doesn’t fancy blokes or does he love someone else?” Harry asked tentatively.
“I’m not daft enough to fall for a bloke that only likes girls, Dad,” Albus said with a strained laugh. “He just doesn’t love me. Or he doesn’t love me enough.”
It felt surreal to have a discussion about love with his son. The words of his son’s namesake floated through Harry’s head. “Love is a force more terrible than death, human intelligence, and all the forces of nature. It’s not a gift easily given nor should it be lightly abandoned. But, you would be wise not to squander it on someone who is not smart enough to love you back.”
Albus nodded stoically. “I just thought we’d turn out differently,” Al sighed wiping the last tears from his long eyelashes.
“You never know, Al,” Harry said ruffling his son’s hair. “Your Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron took a long path to love – and there were several obstacles in their way.”
Al wanted to let the other shoe drop – tell his dad that it was Scorpius and Rose’s relationship that had spun his life around. Letting out a heavy sigh, Albus decided to hold onto that piece of information. “Shouldn’t we put the oil back into the bike?” he asked returning them to the task at hand.
“Er, right,” Harry said summoning the oilcan from the corner.
That night Albus returned to Hogwarts. His parents were understanding that there was still a lot of revising to get on with but they did insist on having him stay through dinner. Al could tell by the long hug his mum gave before he left that his dad had conveyed their conversation from the garage. “See you after term ends,” she said kissing his forehead.
The velvety green of the Common Room felt rich and luxurious to Albus as he stepped out of the tickling flames that had brought him back to Hogwarts. “Hi, Al!” came a few voices from around the room. Scanning the emerald room, Albus saw that a handful of his classmates were studying at tables throughout the area.
“You’re back early,” Cindy Bletchley said looking up from the parchment she was leaning over. A smiled formed on her narrow face. “Couldn’t say no to a long weekend of revising?” Cindy was one of the few girls Albus was more than cordial with – she was an unobtrusive friend that was kind but didn’t pry into matters. Anytime Albus wasn’t with Scorpius, he spent time with her. Recently, that had been quite a bit of time.
“I just don’t want to rely on Dad to get me a killer job after school,” he said cracking a grin. Setting his rucksack down at the same table she was at he said, “I’ll be back in a mo’. I need to run up to my dorm.”
Albus’ pounded the familiar path to his dormitory and pushed the door open with a thud. He needed to grab his essays that were due in a few days and they were in the trunk at the end of his bed. The sight in the dormitory made Albus wish he had stayed downstairs and left his essay for later. He was halfway to the trunk when a squeal met his ears and caused him to turn around.
Rose was tugging her shirt towards her navel and blushing a deep scarlet. “Al! I thought you were going to be home all weekend,” she said looking far more embarrassed than he’d ever seen her – and this was the cousin who had once dared to ride her Shooting Star X in her undergarments.
Scorpius was also red-faced but Albus recognized his former best mate’s expression as arousal and lust rather than shame or contrition. “I didn’t realize you’d be back so soon,” he said coolly. “I would have put my tie on the door.”
Giving Scorpius a quick kiss on the cheek, Rose said, “I’m going to get back to Gryffindor Tower. Will you walk me out?” Nodding, Scorpius straighten his shirt and followed Rose out of the dormitory.
Al grabbed his essays and ran back to the table where Cindy was still working. Looking slightly alarmed by the look on Albus’ face, she asked, “Are you crying? What’s happened, Al?”
Keeping his voice low, Albus responded, “I don’t want to talk about it, Cin. Let’s just work on our Potions essay.”
It was clear by the look on her face that this would be brought up later but she consented to focus on schoolwork. “Did you find the theoretical properties of a bezoar?” she asked opening an old musty book from the library. Albus shook his head feeling relief at having a friend who would let him be.
It turned out that the dormitory, where they had once shared everything and yet nothing, became a battleground for their broken friendship.
“You’re free to gallivant around with whomever you wish,” Al said waving a lacy bra in his hand. “But, I don’t want to find this,” he shook the bra, “under my bed.” Tossing the bra towards Scorpius he added, “Find another place to maul my cousin. I don’t bring people back here and you shouldn’t either.”
Scorpius looked shocked at that last statement before he was able to make his face indifferent to the information. “Gotten close to Cindy have you? Or is it Dawlish?” he asked trying to sound insulting rather than jealous.
“You gave up your right to know that sort of information when you stabbed me in the back and started dating my cousin,” Albus growled. Truth would be that it was his heart that was stabbed and that he hadn’t done more than talk with anyone in months. He wouldn’t tell Scorpius that – he would let him have his jealousy.
“Don’t pretend that this has anything to do with her,” he said with venom. “It’s about your and your inability to let go of something you never had.” Low blow would be a kind way to describe Scorpius’ words. Truthfully, in the rare moments he could be honest with himself, he knew that Albus had been closer to him than anyone else could be. Scorpius didn’t know how to repair what had once been a friendship like no other. Neither had the humility to apologize.
“Do you love her?” Albus asked narrowing his eyes.
Scorpius had the sense to look offended at the question and unspoken accusation. “Of course. She’s fun to be around and she’s brilliant.”
A cold laugh left Albus’ lips before he could stop it. “That’s not love, Scorpius. Do you miss her when she’s gone? Even for a few hours? Does your world feel complete when she’s with you?” The words stung him as he felt the not so distant emotions pang his heart.
“That kind of love comes in time,” Scorpius said as if he had practiced them. Wanting to offer an olive branch, Scorpius added, “We’re best mates, Al, but I have to, want to do this.” Putting a comforting arm around his friend, Scorpius went on, “We can still be friends.”
He leaned in, almost an inch away from Albus’ face when he pried himself out of Scorpius’ reach. “Have you gone insane? I’m not going to stay on the sidelines while you run off with my cousin and play the part-time lover,” he said with venom in his voice. “She deserves more than that from you. I deserve more from you.”
Scorpius stepped back from Al. “I’m sorry, Al. I don’t know what I was thinking – what came over me.” He had meant to make a peace offering, not snog Albus. “Listen, Al, we have just over a month until school is out. If we can’t be friends, let’s just avoid yelling at each other.”
It was infuriating to listen to Scorpius pretend to be the bigger person when he was really the one who had been the hag. Wearing a scowl, Al grumbled, “Fine, no more yelling. Just another month and I don’t have to put up with your smug face.”
Beyond repair – that was how broken their relationship felt. Scorpius was sure he liked Rose and would be happy with her. What he couldn’t truthfully say was that he would be his happiest with her.
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