Chapter 1 : New Slang
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James’ voice rang like a bell into Albus’ room as he asked, “Still asleep? Mum owled to see if we’re going to make it for brunch.”
“We’re just getting up,” Al called, planting a kiss on Derrick’s cheek. “Just need a few minutes to-“
Opening the door to his brother’s room, James poked his head in, “Merlin, put some clothes on, Al. You don’t have time for that, let’s get going.” Derrick had pulled the blankets midway up his torso causing James to laugh, “It’s not anything I haven’t seen in the locker room, Williams.”
Al rolled his eyes as he grabbed his wand to levitate a sheet to obscure James’ view of him getting dressed. “You could have just waited in the living room – I would have been out in a few minutes.”
“I thought you guys needed adult supervision,” James said, leaning against the doorframe.
By the time Albus had his trousers on, Derrick was finished dressing. “I should duck out. Thanks for the fun night,” he said as he tugged at Al’s waistband, pulling him close. The slow kiss caused Al’s concentration to lapse long enough for the sheet between him and the rest of the room to fall.
“Oy!” James shouted causing Derrick to snap his head away from Al. “Didn’t you get enough of that last night?” he asked with his eyebrows raised.
“I suppose I did, Potter,” Derrick said with a wink to Al. “See you at practice. Bye, Al.” After watching Derrick leave, Al returned to his task of finding an acceptable top to wear to family brunch.
James and Albus moved into their flat some six months previous to try living outside of their parents’ house for a spell. It had been James’ idea but he did the math and realized that he would have a closet for a flat if he moved out on his own. Being a professional quidditch player was his dream job but it did not pay enough for a lush lifestyle – not if the team continued to be near the bottom of the league. Albus was the one who suggested they get a place together. His pay at Weasley Wizard Wheezes was enough to float on but he fancied eating more than bits of crackers and cheese for meals.
Finally pulling on his robes and adjusting his collar, Albus looked over at his older brother and laughed. “Staring at your watch won’t make me go faster.”
“You can tell Mum we’re late because you couldn’t take your hands off my teammate,” James snipped. Al smiled, knowing that any conversation about physical affection in front of their parents would send James over the edge.
It took ten more minutes for them to finally appear in the living room at Harry and Ginny Potter’s house – their childhood home. Lily came running into the living room when she heard her brothers amble out of the fireplace. “You’re almost late,” she declared, causing James to shoot Albus a significant look. “Let me guess, you threw another party for your team?” she asked looking at James, crossing her arms.
He nodded, then said, “Have to boost team morale.” Albus stifled a laugh as he recalled the ruckus drinking and rather intense quidditch debates from the previous night.
“When can I go to one of your parties?” Lily asked, narrowing her eyes at the idea of her brothers having so much fun without her.
“I was thinking never,” Al offered, taking a seat on the couch. “Those guys only want one thing, Lil.”
“Maybe I only want one thing,” Lily retorted, causing James to screw his face up with disgust. “Oh puh-lease. You guys get to go have all the fun.”
“Older brothers are like that,” came Ginny’s voice from the doorway. Lily’s eyes showed momentary discomfort as she worried about how much her mother overheard. “I wouldn’t mention wanting one thing to your father, he’s liable to snap his wand,” she added, not able to hold in her grin. “Come on, you three, food is up.”
Sunday Brunch was a recent tradition for the Potter household. With all their children out of Hogwarts and two living out of the house, it was important to Harry and Ginny to pull them together at least once a week, if not more, for quality family time.
“Do you have plans this afternoon, Al?” Harry asked as he pushed his mostly clean plate towards the center of the table.
Nodding, Al said, “I’m meeting Scorpius for tea to go over some potion ideas he wants to try on the market.”
With a groan, James gave his brother a withering look before asking, “Why do you still hang out with that creep?”
It wasn’t Al who spoke up first to defend Scorpius, it was Lily. “Don’t call him a creep, James. Albus can be friends who whomever he likes.”
James had been the last in the family to put together the nature Albus and Scorpius’ relationship while they were at school. It took Albus’ blunt explanation for James to get that they weren’t just best friends who shared a dorm. His main objection to the relationship was that he had gotten into a fight with Billy Finnegan who claimed that he had seen Albus and Scorpius snogging in the library. He would have hexed Billy either way but it didn’t sit well with him to not know about Al’s relationship. Now James disliked Scorpius for the way he played Al and manipulated Rose, not taking into account that neither of the wronged parties held a grudge.
“Yeah, no one is stopping you from being friends with Dawlish,” Al shot out there. “He cheated on my friend and slugged a ref at a match.”
Harry cutoff the building argument with a, “As long as no one is hanging out with death eaters, you’re all permitted to be friends with anyone you like.”
“Malfoy’s dad was a death eater,” James grumbled, causing Ginny to smirk from behind her napkin as she wiped her mouth.
“Cut it out, you two,” she said once all traces of the grin left her face. “You boys can argue all week at your flat but keep a lid on it at home.”
“Yes, Mum,” came Al’s voice while James merely grunted his agreement.
Overall it was a pleasant time with the family. James and Al kept their bickering to a minimum and focused instead on teasing Lily. When Al got up to leave for tea, Ginny insisted he go with a stack of lemon cakes to share with Scorpius as they were both just getting on their feet and shouldn’t be subjected to tea without proper snacks.
Within minutes of departing his parents’ house, Albus was being greeted by Scorpius at his small flat in Diagon Alley. It was just over a year back that Scorpius asked Albus to give him another shot at being friends. They both approached the relationship with caution as they had both been heartbroken at their fallout.
“Mum sent me with these,” Albus said, handing Scorpius the lemon cakes. “How was your week?”
“Sales were good – I got three orders for shrinking potion which seemed a bit unusual,” he mused out loud.
“Maybe they’re packing a lot into their trunk and need everything to be smaller,” Albus suggested, thinking that most people who bought something as simple as a shrinking potion would be horrible at a complicated spell like undetectable expansion.
“Could be… I forgot to ask. I’ve been a bit distracted I suppose,” Scorpius confessed, not quite making eye contact with Al.
“Is everything alright?” Al said with concern. He raked his eyes over Scorpius’ features, checking for signs of malnutrition or emotional woes. It was unusual for Scorpius not to inquire about the buying habits of his customers, especially as his business relied on understanding why people needed his potions. He and Al often sat around speculating why people needed specific potions, often embellishing tales about various clients.
“I met someone,” Scorpius nearly sang with excitement.
“Like a new customer?” Albus asked with a sarcastic edge to his voice.
The smile that passed over Scorpius’ face told him it wasn’t a business acquaintance. “No, not a new customer.”
Albus stared at Scorpius waiting for more details, but his friend sipped on his tea with a sly smile curving the corners of his mouth. “Oh, come out with the details, for Merlin’s sake,” Albus finally appealed. “Give me something more to go on here.”
Scorpius seemed to relish his ability to keep Al on the edge of his seat, waiting for more information. “His name is Corbin and we’ve gone out a few times,” Scorpius supplied.
The way Scorpius’ face lit up while he was talking about Corbin told Albus much more than the words used – he was enthralled with the man called Corbin. Through all his excitement for Scorpius, Al could not quell the unease of jealousy. Trying to come across as nonchalant, Albus asked, “So… what makes him so promising?”
It took a great deal of self-control to listen to Scorpius excitedly detail how they first met up for drinks, then Corbin took him out for dinner, and how he’s been completely wonderful to be around. Albus considered how Brandon, would react in this situation and decided to encourage Scorpius to keep seeing Corbin. Brandon had been the first person Albus dated who accepted his affection without conditions or the need to hide their relationship. He had been an exceptional partner but saw the need to end their relationship once it became clear that Albus was using him as an emotional crutch. Brandon would be the understanding friend in situation, so Al was trying to do the same.
“When do you see him again?” Albus asked, leaning back in his chair.
“He’s making me dinner Tuesday,” Scorpius grinned toothily. “I think I’ll stay over that night,” he added with a hint of shyness to his voice.
Al was starting to wonder if Scorpius was trying to make him jealous but didn’t let his emotions run amok. “You have to tell me all about it,” he said with genuine interest.
Later that evening, when Albus gave Scorpius a hug goodbye, he resisted the urge to kiss him goodnight, as he’d considered doing several times before. “Goodnight, Al,” Scorpius murmured as if he had also felt the same swoosh of desire.
James was splayed on the couch with a magazine in hand when Albus got back to their flat. “How’s Malfoy?” he called, not bothering to look up from his reading.
“Scorpius is just fine,” Al told him. “He has a boyfriend, actually.”
This news caused James to be momentarily distracted and sit up. “I thought you two were going to…” he sputtered, unable to finish the sentence. Albus rolled his eyes and retreated to his room, only to be followed by James. “I’m sorry, Al. That must be hard.”
Albus stared at his brother for a few minutes before responding. “I’m happy for him,” he insisted but then added, after James crossed his arms, “but it is difficult to know he’s finally moved on. Merlin, I don’t even know if I would want him back except for a good shag.” It was more bravado than he really felt at the moment, but Al didn’t want to dwell on a tiny moment of jealousy.
“Do you think it’ll get serious for you and Williams?” James asked with a smirk. “You two definitely seemed to get serious last night.”
“He’s pretty but kind of dim,” Al laughed. “Besides, I get enough quidditch talk from you.”
“We can’t both be perpetually single,” James grinned. “I thought playing professional quidditch meant witches queued up for a date.”
“It would help if you left the pitch sometimes,” Albus suggested in a mock-helpful voice. “I’ve gotten plenty of dates from you being a professional quidditch player,” he added, laughing.
“Dead helpful that’s been to me,” James pouted.
“We can go out this week and I’ll be your wing-man.”
“Can you pull that off?” James asked, his interest piqued.
It was Thursday before their schedules allowed the two Potter brothers to go out to a pub to help James meet a pretty witch. Dragon Tail was a popular place for younger witches and wizards to hang out. Al least no one their parents age frequented the pub.
“You know,” Al started and they started in on their first drinks for the evening – butterbeer and mulled mead – “I think Rose has some friends who are single.”
“You’re not calling tonight quits yet, are you?” James teased with a crooked smirk. “You don’t have to snog someone just to be the wingman.”
“That’s too bad, he’s quite good at it,” came a voice that caused Albus’ stomach to lurch excitedly. He turned to see Brandon, running a hand through his hair. “I saw you two here and thought I’d say hi.”
“How’ve you been, Bran?” James asked as if greeting an old friend.
Albus, on the other hand hurriedly took a gulp of butterbeer and wished he had ordered something a bit stronger. “Brandon,” he finally got out. “Nice seeing you here.”
“I’ve been quite well, thanks,” Brandon said over the noise of the pub. He took a moment to answer Al – perhaps he was remembering the last time they enjoyed drinks together and had snogged in a bathroom. “It’s a pleasure to see you,” he added before downing a gulp from his pint glass.
“Why don’t you join us?” James asked, pulling out a chair. “We’re trying to find me a date.”
“There’s a group of witches over there,” Brandon pointed to a small group in the corner. “At least one of them has to have a weakness for hunky blokes who are good on a broom.”
Al frowned for a moment trying to work out if that was a pass at his brother. “Maybe one will even fancy you, James,” he quipped, taking the low shot.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” James said darkly, taking a long draw from his glass. “No time like the present.”
They made Al go initiate conversation with the women as he’d be less wounded by the rejection than James. Brandon and James watched as Al chatted with the group of women, both trying not to stare but wanting to see how it was going.
“I’m glad you could make it out tonight,” James told Brandon.
“I thought you said Al wanted to see me,” Brandon said with a glance in Al’s direction to check he was still busy with his task.
“He does,” James assured him. “He just didn’t know you’d be here tonight,” he added, grinning.
Albus and Brandon had gone out for drinks a few times since their breakup but neither seemed to contain their behavior to friendly interaction – they usually ended up with one of their backs against an alley wall being kissed fiercely by the other. Neither objected to this happening but it caused confusing pang that lasted for days afterwards.
Several minutes into his quest to engage the witches, Albus returned with a triumphant grin. “They’d like to play darts,” he announced as if he’d just negotiated peace between two warring nations.
James laughed and stood from his chair. “It’s going to be a good night.” Catching the gleam in Brandon’s eyes, Albus silently agreed.
A/N: gah, I don’t know if I like this chapter but I had to start the novel off somehow. The title of this chapter is a song by The Shins. I highly recommend listening to it (for your own musical edification). Thanks for the read! I’d love a quick review to get your thoughts.
Also, a huge thanks to LightLeviosa, Kenpo, Rumpel, and Veritaserum27 – you all helped me get off my rear and start on this after months of talking it up.
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