Chimes announced Scorpius' arrival. Snow melted from his ruined dress shoes and dripped from the cuff of his wool trousers. Cloak ripped, hatless, gloveless, he clutched Teddy's sign in his fist, smudging the ink with reddened fingers. Alone for the moment, they stared at each other across the shop. Malfoy said Teddy's cold eyes and indifferent slouch. Teddy said Scorpius' wind-bitten face and red fingers. Help me.
"Why would I?" Teddy asked aloud.
Scorpius' head drooped. They both watched water drip from his cloak.
Ten unsteady steps carried Teddy across the shop. He prised the Help Wanted sign from Scorpius' fingers. "I suppose you think that since it's Christmas, everything's forgiven." No answer came, but he'd expected none. He smashed the sign back onto the glass-paned door; Scorpius flinched.
"Never did much believe in it. Christmas," Scorpius clarified in a hoarse whisper. He shuddered – once – then eased his hand onto Teddy's arm.
Teddy tipped his forehead against the glass and shut his eyes. "Have you nowhere else to go?"
"I could go home."
The ripped cloak drew Teddy's eye. "You'd go back there?"
Scorpius exhaled. Another shudder took him, scattering icy droplets. "If I have to."
"You don't have to."
Steam snaked through the cracked door and crept into the hall. Teddy stood, towel in hand, picturing the water exploding from the showerhead and stabbing at Scorpius' chilled skin. His own prickled and grew hot.
He lifted a hand, knocked, and his knuckles came back wet with condensation. Absently, he rubbed them dry against the crotch of his jeans as the waterfall ebbed to a trickle, then a slow drip. "Yes?"
"I've a towel for you."
"Thank you." The door edged open another few inches, and a hand emerged, nails bitten to the quick. Bruises dotted the wrist.
Teddy's fingers dug into the thick terrycloth. Furious, he dropped the towel and took a firm grip of the pale arm.
"He hurt you?"
He counted twenty drips of water before Scorpius answered. "You'll have to be more specific." He stayed huddled behind the door.
Nostrils flaring, Teddy elbowed into the room. Choking equally on steam and guilt, he took Scorpius by the shoulders, for once unaware of his nudity. "Could you just-could you do something for me? Give me one thing?"
"A gift?" goaded Scorpius, smile wry and eyes bloodshot.
"Yes," snapped Teddy. "Stop acting like a whore."
The agent of Teddy's insomnia was curled into a ball under a mound of blankets on his sofa – trying to be invisible. He'd always failed at that. Teddy could pick Scorpius out of a crowd of thousands. He leaned over the cushions. "You're not asleep."
The pile of tatty blankets spoke back. "Neither are you."
"Because I'm worried."
Scorpius slithered out of his cocoon, hair in disarray. "Truly?"
The vitriol stung, but the petulance aroused him. It always had. He was glad for the concealing darkness. "Truly."
For them it was as good as goodnight, I love you, and Teddy was about to flee when Scorpius said, "Wait." The blankets rippled, and a spike of fear that Scorpius would brandish his wand – or worse, his cock – froze Teddy in place.
It was neither. It was worse. It was the snow globe from last Christmas, and inside the five of them – Scorpius, James, Albus, Hugo, and himself – flying over powdery snow in a Thestral-drawn sleigh. Al had both hands in the air. Teddy's lips were against Scorpius' ear, and he was laughing.
"Happier times," Scorpius whispered.
Teddy traced a finger over the glass. "I'm so sorry."
"Don't be. You can't control who you love. Or—" With a flick of his wrist, Scorpius sent the globe rolling across the floor, "—who you don't."
The day they made the snow globe, Teddy recalled the exquisite perfection of Scorpius' weight on his lap, but little else.
It was a mad idea, five bodies wedged together in a sleigh designed for two, but they were all still children at heart, even Teddy, who'd left his schoolboy days behind ten years ago. Predictably, Scorpius jockeyed for a spot near Albus, Teddy pretended indifference, and Hugo watched it all, his pity for Teddy as thick and obvious as the blankets tangled around their legs.
They tussled like puppies until Scorpius ended sprawled across Teddy's lap, cold hands against his abdomen. "The best seat in the house," he crowed.
"Brat," Teddy whispered in his ear. "I know where you'd rather be." But five grown bodies left little room for jealousy, less for remorse, and Scorpius' hands on his bare stomach atoned for much. His ceaseless wriggling made up for the rest.
Scorpius dipped his head back. His wool hat scratched Teddy's cheek. "All right?"
He closed his eyes, fantasized they were alone - and that Scorpius wasn't smiling shyly at Al.
"That was a good day," Scorpius said. Teddy bent and rescued the globe from under the table. Inside, five tiny figures waved at him through swirling snow. He nodded. "The best."
Did all heartsick teens look like fallen angels? Disheveled and tragic and beautiful?
Sleep-rumpled Scorpius stood outside his back door, shoulders hunched against the snow, gnawing his bottom lip and staring at the icicles above his head. He screwed his eyes shut, stomped his foot once, twice. The icicles shook, but held. Scorpius pouted.
Were all fallen angels so melodramatic?
Teddy eased the door open. "They'd give a nasty cut, but I doubt they'd open your throat."
Scorpius plunged his hands into his coat pockets and lifted his foot again. Teddy hauled him inside by the scruff of his neck. "Idiot."
"Leave it to you to get to the truth of things."
Teddy swallowed a bitter laugh. They made a pair, the two of them: the angel and the martyr. He grabbed a tea towel and began rubbing the melting snowflakes from Scorpius' hair.
Scorpius endured it silently, all artless innocence, until Teddy couldn't pretend there was any more reason to keep touching him. He threw the towel on the table. "Who put those marks on you? Was it Albus?"
Scorpius' mouth fell open. "Of course not! He wouldn't…"
Scorpius lifted his hands. They both studied the irregular black smudges. "Not like this."
No, Al's disinterest was enough of a blow. "A stranger, then." He ground his teeth until blood pounded in his temples. He took Scorpius' hand in his. "Why do you do it? Does it really help?"
"I just want…."
What he couldn't have. Didn't they all? Teddy lifted the captured hand to his mouth, kissed a finger-shaped bruise, and Scorpius blinked like a child. "What are you doing?"
"Helping. And my pain management techniques don't leave marks.
Scorpius knocked before entering, raising the mug in silent question. Teddy hated the sudden tentativeness between them, though the blame sat squarely on his shoulders. "Thanks."
Scorpius padded in, head lowered. "I added some whisky."
"Knew I needed it, did you?" As if his panicked flight from the kitchen earlier hadn't been evidence enough. One taste of Scorpius' skin and he'd been ready to kick the boy's legs out from beneath him and pin him to the floor. So much for aplomb and self-constraint.
Scorpius set the steaming mug on the desk, then hovered, thigh pressed to Teddy's shoulder. Torture was the order of the day, apparently. Teddy closed his eyes, too shaky to reach for the whisky-laced tea. "Go home, Scorpius. Kiss and make up with Al and Hugo."
"No. I came here because I knew you'd take care of me. I knew you wouldn't judge me."
"One for two," Teddy muttered.
Scorpius tilted his head. "Oh? Which one?" He traced the line of Teddy's cheek with his finger.
"I'm not your keeper."
That drew a laugh. "No, I suppose that's Hugo's role. And Al's my judge and jury."
"Then what could you possibly want here?" Teddy ground out.
Scorpius pushed the mug aside and slid onto Teddy's lap. "I'm still figuring that out."
Al told Scorpius he wasn't in love with him during one of their late night poker games. It hadn't exactly been breaking news. James shot his brother a withering look, then casually dealt the next hand. Hugo escaped to the kitchen for another beer. Teddy stayed slumped in his chair and watched Scorpius quietly fall apart. That was the beginning.
It was Teddy who reaped the unexpected and immoral reward of stripping an alcohol-addled Scorpius for bed several hours later, just as the sun broke over the horizon. A fairly bland ending, as tragic love stories went.
He wished he could forget what happened in the middle.
There were angry tears, drunken confessions, and a jaunt through a silent, snow-covered park. There was also the part where Scorpius pushed him onto a bench, crawled into his lap and kissed him, and the part where Teddy didn't protest.
He dug under Scorpius' shirt, scratched his fingers over his ribs and under his arms, and rolled his thumbs in circles over his nipples. Scorpius made small, desperate sounds in the back of his throat, reciprocating as skillfully as a half a bottle of Old Ogden's allowed for. Morning-after consequences hadn't a prayer against years of repressed lust; Teddy yanked Scorpius tight against his lap and rocked against the warm weight of his arse. "There," he hissed. "Right there."
Scorpius mewled something in his ear, nuzzled closer, and he smelled so fucking delicious, Teddy's mouth watered. He clamped a hand around the nape of Scorpius' neck and kissed him harder, hips pumping in time with his tongue, trying not to bellow from how good it felt and not wholly succeeding. By the time he realized what Scorpius had whispered – please Albus please – he was coming.
He'd never let himself get that close to Scorpius again. Until now.
"Am I interrupting?" Hugo stood in the doorway, eyebrows arched so high they disappeared beneath his fringe. An evergreen wreath was looped over one of his arms.
Teddy shoved Scorpius off his lap and stood. "No."
"No?" Hugo looked between them, frowning when his eyes landed on Scorpius. "And how are you, Romeo?"
"Fine," Hugo parroted. Teddy's lips twitched. Sarcasm was Hugo's forte, inherited from his mother.
Scorpius lifted his chin. "Yes."
Hugo handed the wreath to Teddy. "From Mum. Apparently you're incapable of decorating your own home." He jerked his head at Scorpius. "How'd you reduce him to one word sentences, by the way? That's a nifty trick, if you'd care to share."
"Arse," Scorpius muttered, but ducked to hide his smile.
Hugo studied Teddy for a long moment. His lips thinned. "Let's go, Malfoy. It's time to come home and apologize for being such a brat. Teddy has his own life to live."
Always the responsible one, Hugo. The peacekeeper. How lucky for Scorpius that he'd been drafted for the search and recovery mission. It could've easily been James, whose methods weren't nearly as diplomatic. "You should go and apologize, at least," Teddy agreed.
"I'm not ready." Scorpius' fingers stroked across Teddy's wrist. Teddy's heart lurched.
Protectiveness flashed in Hugo's eyes. "Leave him alone, Scorpius."
"I want to stay."
"It's okay," Teddy said, hating his weakness. The pine wreath bit into his one palm, Scorpius' fingers into the other. "It's fine. He can stay."
The moment the door slammed behind Hugo was the moment Teddy understood the term buyer's remorse. The depth of his emotional handicap was quite possibly unrivaled.
For once, Scorpius' angelic smile made things worse. "If you're going to stay, you'll have to work."
"I said I would."
In point of fact, he'd said no such thing. He'd just dripped on Teddy's floor and looked pathetic. "Then let's go."
They Apparated into the dark shop, and Teddy said nothing when Scorpius peeled the Help Wanted sign from the window. He sent him to a corner with a box of Christmas decorations and tackled the month-to-date receipts.
Scorpius gave him exactly five minutes of peace. "You still have it." He held up a red, velvet stocking – crushed, tattered, and looking like a band of drunken Kneazles had stitched it together. Which wasn't far off the mark. They'd been tipsy on butterbeer and laughter that night.
"Of course I still have it."
Scorpius fondled the material. "I remember that year. Christmas at the Potter's." His eyes grew unfocused with reminiscence. "They were so good to me. Like parents. And you lot, you were like my brothers." He fell silent, staring into space for so long that Teddy grew concerned. He cast about for something to say.
Scorpius spoke first. "I'm losing Al."
"He wasn't yours to lose," Teddy said, bitter.
"I meant, as a friend."
"I doubt that would ever happen."
Scorpius nodded, thought some more, then asked, "Do you still think of me that way?"
"Like a brother."
Teddy nearly laughed. The page of numbers in front of him blurred. He sat hunched over his desk, quill crushed in his fist, until he heard Scorpius begin to rifle through the box again.
Nostalgia had a way of making memory better than reality. Teddy recalled the Christmas Scorpius spent with them - the year the older Malfoys went on holiday to celebrate twenty years of thinly-veiled, mutual tolerance. What's one more child underfoot? Ginny kept saying, but her smile never reached her eyes. Subtlety was no more the Weasley claim to fame than acumen was the Potter's. Al, James, and Hugo remembered the late night talks, the antics, the stocking-making debacle. Teddy remembered shielding one small, scared boy from everything that wasn't said.
Of course he'd kept the stocking.
"You hung it up," Scorpius said from the doorway. He came forward and flicked the tiny jingle bell sewed to the red velvet. "And what would you like Santa to fill it with?" he teased.
"Oh, you know, all the usual. Integrity, moral fiber, a modicum of courage." Some self-respect wouldn't be amiss.
Scorpius tsked. "You're supposed to ask for things you don't have."
The compliment warmed him through. Bugger the self-respect then. "You're chipper this morning." He'd expected dark-smudged eyes and a mood to match. Pacing all night would do that. "You didn't sleep much."
Scorpius flicked the bell again. "I was thinking. Past due, wouldn't you say?"
He would, but wouldn't throw salt in the wound by admitting it out loud. "What about?" That seemed a fair question.
Scorpius tugged the stocking from its hook and folded it against his chest. He sighed before meeting Teddy's eyes. "About you."
Another? The nutcracker offered Teddy a chestnut.
The shell gave easily between the tall, white teeth, and the nutcracker tossed the kernel to Teddy. Even slouched on the sofa, brooding, eyes half closed, Teddy caught it one-handed. "Thanks."
The nutcracker gave a stiff bow. Teddy rolled the nut around in his mouth before chewing and swallowing.
I was thinking… about you. Heat arrowed down his chest to his cock, and he sank lower into the cushions. His index finger stretched, searched, found the inseam of his jeans, then traced it back to his crotch.
The nutcracker clacked its teeth. Held out a nut. Another?
Lightheaded, Teddy rolled the pad of his finger over his balls. His lips parted on an unsteady breath. I was thinking… about you. But I need some more time. May I stay?
And Teddy had smiled, because masochism was his middle name. Stay as long as you need.
His cock was full, its weight a dull, throbbing ache between his legs. Calling up the taste of Scorpius' skin in his memory, he cupped his palm over it and squeezed. At his low moan, the nutcracker clacked its teeth.
He looked up and found Scorpius just inside the door, glassy-eyed and open-mouthed, watching – watching – Teddy knead his cock. Mortification and lust warred until, shaking like a leaf, Teddy lifted his hand away.
"No!" Scorpius' hoarse voice ordered. He sagged against the doorframe, hands pressed to his thighs, fingers clutched in the material of his trousers. "Put it back."
"Scorpius," Teddy gasped.
"Please put it back."
And he almost had, fingertips brushing the denim, cock leaping eagerly against his zip, when the Floo roared to life, and Al's head appeared.
"Are you alone?" Al asked.
Scorpius had fled faster than a Snitch, and since a raging erection didn't necessarily evidence a second party, Teddy nodded.
"May I come through?"
No was tempting, but Teddy's hesitation was his Waterloo. Al stumbled out of the Floo and collapsed into a chair. He looked rumpled, hair everywhere. He'd either just rolled out of bed or hadn't slept at all. Teddy pointed at his feet. "You've got two different shoes on."
"Do I?" The fact didn't seem to bother him. He snapped his fingers at the nutcracker, and it obliged, shelling a chestnut and lobbing it directly into Al's mouth. He chewed and swallowed. "Teddy, you have to help me."
"Scorpius." He raised a hand to ward off Teddy's protest, and the nutcracker threw another kernel at him. "I'm losing him. I mean, I've tried to tell-to show him without being-and he always throws a tantrum and runs off."
Which Al's sensitive nature had no bearing on, surely. Teddy rolled his eyes.
Al dropped his head, curled his fingers into his hair. "I just want my best friend back."
They all wanted something that would hurt the other; it was thin ice to be skating on. "I'll think on it," Teddy promised as he fought his way to his feet.
Al stood too. "You look like shit, by the way. Are you okay?"
And there was part of the root problem. Albus had the tact of a five-year-old. "Fine." Unless heartache with a side of sexual frustration counted. In which case, no.
Al stepped up to hug him. "I miss him," he whispered in Teddy's ear.
A small sound drew Teddy's attention to the doorway, where a miserable looking Scorpius hovered. Teddy patted Al's back. "I know you do."
Harry saw it first. He told Teddy at the candle-lighting, as they stood silently respecting their losses, while Al, James, Hugo, and Scorpius gallivanted in the row behind. After the third loud thump, Harry spoke, the command barely carrying over his shoulder. "Gentlemen. I'd appreciate some respect."
He may as well have smote them with a lightning bolt. Teddy bit back a grin when Harry winked at him.
Later, after Teddy had lit candles for his parents, and the antics behind them had resumed, Harry asked, "Does Al know Scorpius fancies him?"
Shocked, Teddy glanced over his shoulder. Embroiled in their shenanigans, Al and Scorpius didn't even notice. Hugo went pale and still. James arched an eyebrow, every ounce the innocent bystander.
Teddy turned back to Harry. "Al prefers them a bit darker and—" He unclasped his hands to pantomime an hourglass.
"Soft, I was going to say."
"Of course you were." Harry twitched, and everything behind them went quiet again. "Al should do something about it. Before someone gets hurt."
Someone. Innocuous, coming from anybody but his godfather. "You know?" Teddy whispered.
"Everyone knows, Teddy." Harry turned to him, wise eyes stealing Teddy's breath as always. "Except Scorpius. Are you going to tell him?"
"I'm working up to it."
"It may not hurt to work a bit faster. And have a chat with Al."
Which he'd done, not that it'd prevented the ensuing catastrophe. Together, they were fearless in a crisis, strength upon strength. Alone, they hadn't a drop of Harry's equanimity.
Teddy had lit many candles since that day.
Teddy opened his eyes to find Scorpius sitting cross-legged on the bed in a pool of moonlight, gnawing on his thumbnail. It was a strange fantasy, fragmentary, like a half-baked cake. His dreams of Scorpius rarely involved thoughtful staring. Or clothing, for that matter.
Scorpius released the tortured nail and dropped his hands to his lap. "The fruitcake."
"It's not done."
"It's not done," Teddy said patiently, "or you'd be naked. And not so interested in talking."
Scorpius' mouth fell open, then curved into a smile. "Do you think you're dreaming?"
"Or hallucinating. You drive me mad."
The smile slipped. "I'm sorry about that. I've made a mess of things, haven't I?"
Yes and no. The blame lay with them all. Apparently Teddy's punishment was emotionally complex wet dreams. He slid his hand onto Scorpius' knee and smiled when Scorpius' sudden indrawn breath shook his whole body. That was better. Teddy curled his fingers, pressing cool cotton into hot skin.
Voice hoarse, Scorpius said, "The fruitcake."
"Hugo's mum put a spell on it, so she'd know if we tried to throw it away. We split it five ways - equal torture for all."
"You hate fruitcake," Teddy thought he'd point out.
Scorpius leant forward, whispered, "You ate my piece too, so I wouldn't have to."
And had suffered plenty of harassment for it from the others, if he remembered.
Scorpius fit his hand over Teddy's and laced their fingers. "You do things like that all the time. Why?"
The conversation had turned too serious to pretend he was asleep. "Why do you think?" Teddy rasped.
Scorpius didn't answer, except to lean forward and kiss him.
Their drunken park bench tryst of last winter, though ending on a sour note – for Teddy, at least – had begun brilliantly. Much like this, as a matter of fact. Teddy twisted his hands in the blankets rather than reach for Scorpius, determined to not let things come to a similar, sticky end this go around. It left him disadvantaged, especially when Scorpius fed him a needy moan and twisted around to straddle his legs. Even prone, mattress solid against his back, vertigo stole Teddy's breath.
"Touch me," Scorpius breathed, and Teddy's arms shook with renitence all the way to his elbows.
"Please. Just a little."
That's all it would take, anyway, and what was a dab more humiliation at this juncture? He bent his legs up, sent Scorpius sliding onto his lap, and snapped his hands around his waist. Scorpius answered with another moan, bent to bite at Teddy's exposed throat, and please, Albus, please… with a tortured groan, Teddy lifted him up and off. The mattress creaked a protest when he landed, and Scorpius echoed it. Teddy stared at the ceiling, close enough to orgasm that moving even an inch was out of the question.
They panted together in the dark.
After a while, Scorpius said (as though every night involved grand epiphanies, declarations of love, and incandescent, half-clothed sex), "I've got some things to sort out today. Conversations long past due. You'd best use the time wisely."
Scorpius rolled onto his elbow, face flushed and serious. "When I get back, we're going to finish this."
As if being smitten meant he'd bow to the boy's every whim. Teddy framed a sharp answer, pulled it to the tip of his tongue, and said, "Okay."
Teddy surfaced from his fugue to find his tea cold, his lunch burnt, and his cock stiff. He Banished the soup and poured the tea down the drain – two-thirds of his problem solved. As for the last, he retired to the living room to deal with it properly. For the third time that morning.
The nutcracker saw him coming and rolled its eyes.
"You're wishing you had your own. Don't deny it," Teddy said. He settled into his chair, but managed little more than a welcoming pat – hullo, how are you, ready for some more fun? – before he saw the crystal globe atop the fireplace mantel, etched with Scorpius' elegant scrawl.
James, it said.
Teddy considered. Intelligent forethought would be contrary to his behavior these past several months, but Scorpius was capable. He consulted the nutcracker. "From the brat?"
The nutcracker nodded.
Teddy sighed and activated the globe. James' voice filled the room. "Why are you telling me this?"
Scorpius answered, apologetic and fractious. Some things never changed. "Because I need to apologize. For everything I've put you through this year."
"I'm not the one—"
"I know. But it's affected you too. Please." The petulance gave way to sincerity. "I'm sorry, Jamie."
In the ensuing weighty silence, Teddy tipped his head back and closed his eyes.
"Apology accepted. Now go fucking fix it."
The nutcracker clacked its teeth, and Teddy smiled.
Hugo, the sphere said.
Teddy studied it for several minutes before retreating to the safety of mindless paperwork. He'd expected Hugo's before Al's; Scorpius always deferred the most difficult tasks. Not that this conversation would prove easy.
Hugo's protective gestures had the edge of something more serious, and in the grand tradition that plagued their little group, Teddy had ignored the implication, wary of even one more spoonful of unrequited love.
The realization that his insensitivity likely rivaled Al's sent him trudging back to the living room, a bottle of fortifying whisky under his arm. He hugged it like an old friend as he activated the globe.
Hugo employed less profanity, as was his nature, but more reproach, for which he was genetically wired. His cold voice carried over the off-key singing of at least a dozen Weasley children. "It took you long enough, you prat."
"I realize-oh, fuck you, Hugo. You might've said something. It's not as though you've ever held your tongue in the past."
"This was different. And it was Al's place to put things right."
Scorpius' next words were lost under a chorus of It's a Kneazle Christmas. Teddy took a swig from his bottle.
"You're way off the mark," Hugo was saying when the singing died down. "He's a friend. The best I've got. Nothing more."
Relief made Teddy fumble the whisky. It poured a lake of amber liquid across the table, and the nutcracker began to splash happily.
"The best you've got?" Teddy knew that voice; Scorpius was pouting.
"Warped and self-centred, the lot of you. Fine, one of the best then. Now get out of my house and go make this right."
The orb disappeared with a pop. Giddy, Teddy poured more whisky for the nutcracker.
The third conversation went like this:
"Al, I need to talk to you."
"I need to talk to you. And you, Scorpius, are going to keep your mouth shut and listen."
On the sofa in his living room, Teddy raised an eyebrow.
"First," Al said, "hold this."
The nutcracker shot Teddy a look of alarm. "What's done is done," Teddy said, tense for an explosion, verbal or otherwise. Far be it from Al to disappoint him. A loud CRACK split the air, and the nutcracker jumped, then scurried to Teddy's side. He set it on his knee and let it hold the bottle.
"What the fuck was that for?"
"I wanted to make sure you were awake. This is going to be an important conversation. And I wanted to test Uncle George's crackers before I used them on Lily. What do you think?"
There was a pause, presumably while Scorpius considered. "You don't want to make her cry, just pee her pants at the table. Less sting, more noise," he said, and Al gave an approving grunt.
The lure of mischief was ever so hard for these two to resist. Teddy engaged the nutcracker in a brief struggle for the whisky, then gave up, sat back, and waited for Al to remember he had a point to make.
They took a breath at the same time, but it was Albus who got his mouth running first. "Scorpius, I should've told you ages ago, but—"
"Be quiet." The missive held more gentleness than bluster, but Al shockingly fell silent. "I know the truth of it now," Scorpius said. "I'm sorry for letting things get so bad between us. I know you-that you don't—"
"I do love you, Scorpius."
Teddy went still. After a moment, the nutcracker placed the bottle in his lap.
Al sighed. "Just not how you want me to. I suppose I could've said that awhile back and saved everyone some heartache."
"Yes, I suppose you could've."
Teddy held up a finger. Scorpius – 1, Albus – 0.
"Of course, I suppose you could admit that you knew that all along, decided to be a spiteful brat about it, slept around, made us all worry, and hurt Teddy in the bargain."
Scorpius didn't answer.
"Well," Teddy said.
The nutcracker raised five fingers for Al.
Andromeda put Teddy in the Ministry-sponsored "Battle of Hogwarts" reenactment play when he turned ten years old. Half the population took the annual performance seriously; most others giggled through the ridiculous parody.
Andromeda was of the former. Teddy studied his lines ("For Hogwarts!" and "Take that, Death Eater scum!") for weeks before his grandmother was satisfied. But on the night of the play, he fell victim to stage fright and said nothing at all. He was crowned Best Young Actor for his convincing role of Terrified Student. Luckily, the award mollified Andromeda.
He felt now as he had then: over prepared for something he understood hardly at all. He half wanted to throw Scorpius out on his arse the moment he arrived, though he wouldn't. Martyrdom was so passé.
Which wasn't to say he was adverse to a spot of good-natured torment. What goes around comes around, after all. While the nutcracker marched around the outside of his gingerbread house, playing Godzilla to the tiny biscuit people inside, Teddy planned Scorpius' punishment.
The floo came to life a short while later, and Harry's head appeared. They grinned at each other. "Well, about damn time," Harry said.
"Word travels fast."
"Yes, it does. Which is quite miraculous, as you boys have a reputation for being tight-lipped."
"Only when there's mischief involved."
Harry raised a brow. "And is there going to be mischief involved?"
Teddy's grin widened. "Oh yes. The lad needs a good spanking, wouldn't you say?"
"It's long overdue." Harry pointed a fire-finger at him. "If you ever tell Draco I said that, I'll deny it."
"Your secret's safe with me." Teddy winked. "It's only fair."
It took Harry a moment to answer. "You've always been too clever by half. Happy Christmas, Teddy." Harry saluted him, then disappeared.
Scorpius nearly foiled his plan; the caveat to never trust a Slytherin had merit.
Before he risked appearing in person, Scorpius sent a letter. It arrived with his owl, Cassander, the poor creature. Teddy failed to stifle a chuckle when Cass stumbled across the window sill, his noble head plumage weighed down with two miniature reindeer antlers.
"Your master thinks he's funny." Teddy considered the sealed letter, then the whisky. The nutcracker caught the look and shook its head. "Better read sober, eh?" He weighed the letter in his hand. "You're probably right. But I'm still tying him up when he gets here." He marched to the sofa, breaking the seal as he went. Cass and the nutcracker hopped along behind, then settled side-by-side on the table.
"Dear Teddy," he read aloud for his audience. "I'll be along a little later, if that's acceptable. I expect there won't be much talking straight off, though, and I need to get this off my chest."
Teddy rolled his eyes. Cass' sharp answering hoot upset his already precarious balance, and he began to tip antler-first toward the table. The nutcracker caught and steadied him.
"Out of everyone, it's you who deserves the biggest apology. I once promised my father I would never blind myself to the truth – it was the one thing he ever asked of me. That I've disappointed him so utterly will haunt me for some time. I'm sorry for being selfish and stupid. It's not too late for us, is it?
Yours (if you still want me),
Teddy's laugh gave his audience a start. The nutcracker grabbed Cass and hugged him like an oversized cuddly toy while Teddy dashed off a quick reply, then read it out loud. "Of course it's not too late. All is forgiven. Please come as soon as you're able."
He sent Cass off, watching until his wings and antlers grew too small to see in the growing dusk, then shared a smirk with the nutcracker.
Teddy watched from his bedroom window as Scorpius Summoned the storm. His incantation blew away in the wind, but his laughter carried through the thick, falling flakes. Troublesome things were always the most beautiful.
"Now it's like the snow globe," Scorpius said when he came in, untroubled face turned up in a shy smile. Feigned, Teddy was sure.
"Yes, it's very clever."
If Teddy's lack of enthusiasm dampened Scorpius' glow, it had little effect on his impudence. He shed his clothing one article at a time. "Did you get my messages? My talks with the others?" Off went the cloak and scarf.
"I thought it the best way to—" One boot clunked to the floor. "—prove to you that I was serious about this." He pulled his jumper over his head.
Teddy unfolded himself from the window seat, revealing the wand clasped in his fist. He tapped it against his palm. Scorpius' hands froze on his trouser zip, eyes wide, mouth a matching O. Teddy basked. Revenge truly was the sweetest victory. "Thanks," he said. "I'm happy you've squared things with Al. Your 'spurned lover' tantrums had grown tedious, to say the least."
"Hey." Scorpius brandished his adorable pout.
Teddy was unmoved. "However, you haven't squared things with me yet."
"That's what I'm doing."
The brat's eye roll was the proverbial straw. Teddy caught Scorpius in a body bind, admiring the way his trousers tangled around his thighs as he fell. He levitated him to the bed, taking little care with his comfort. Treating Scorpius like a china doll is what had precipitated this problem in the first place.
Scorpius made a pretty picture, bare-chested and flushed, hair disheveled and legs cobbled by his fancy clothes. But the best by far was how his pulse pounded against his throat.
Teddy edged onto the mattress and dipped the tip of his wand into Scorpius' navel. "I won't be your second choice. No matter how much you shake your cock at me." He leant close. "And there's only one way to make sure I'm truly the one you want. Shall I tell you how?"
"Veritaserum?" Scorpius ventured when Teddy released the spell.
It was a thought. "Not nearly painful enough."
Scorpius blanched. "So this is going to hurt?"
"Does it matter?"
"No." The quick answer surprised them both. Scorpius lifted his chin. "No, it doesn't matter."
"My brave boy. Don't. Move." Teddy straddled him, and the soft mattress swallowed his weight until they were pressed groin to groin. Scorpius (always thinking the rules never applied to him) hissed and bucked. The prospect of a bit of torture hadn't dampened his enthusiasm.
Teddy began with his neck – long, slow licks that made Scorpius arch his back and bite his lip, but he endured silently. Until Teddy found his nipples. "Maybe you should spank me," he gasped.
Teddy's whole body surged forward. His hands shot to Scorpius' throat. "Don't tempt me. And stop talking."
"You should spank me." Scorpius wriggled beneath him, and Teddy groaned. "I've been very bad, after all. And it might be the only way I last. If you keep that up, I'm going to be coming all—"
Teddy slapped a hand over his mouth. It was too late, though. His mind conjured the image: Scorpius gasping and straining below him, on the edge from nothing more than Teddy's tongue on his skin and Teddy's weight pinning him down. His grand plan for revenge boiled away to nothing. Gasping, he slid his hands into Scorpius' hair and angled his mouth around for a kiss. Approving, Scorpius purred. His thighs fell open. He curled his legs around Teddy's back, found the rhythm, and took it up.
It wasn't only Scorpius. They were both going to come, and Teddy still fully dressed to boot. But what Scorpius was doing under him now could only be called thrashing, and he was barking commands – yes and harder and fuck me – and really, what man could possibly hold out against that. Embarrassment gave him five extra precious seconds, and Scorpius came first with a ferocious cry. Teddy laughed through his own climax. A narrow victory was a victory nonetheless.
So at the end of it all – the entire interminable year – it didn't matter about the revenge or the test or the punishment, because at the last second, when it did matter, Scorpius said, "Teddy."
Christmas dinner at Harry's. It was Teddy's tradition, so it was only right to share.
Scorpius twined his legs in the sheets, then pinned Teddy beneath him. Not a very effective trap. "I'd rather not go." He rested his chin on Teddy's chest. "I don't imagine anyone is very happy with me at the moment."
Teddy shrugged. "You've made great strides. Which isn't to say you don't have the last year to atone for," he added, to be fair.
Scorpius threw an arm over his eyes. "They'll make me wash the dishes. And a host of other horrid things, I imagine." He tightened his embrace. "Like putting the little Weasleys to bed after they've had too many sweets. And I'll have to endure Mr Potter's look all evening."
"The disappointed one."
As was typical, Scorpius' flare for drama obscured the bigger picture. "Harry considers you part of his family." Teddy sifted strands of blond hair through his fingers. "He cares for you."
"Even—with everything?" Scorpius asked into his shoulder.
"I thought I'd made that obvious."
Scorpius whispered a spell and the sheets twisted around Teddy's wrists and ankles. One more quiet word had them cinched tight around the bedposts. Teddy didn't even pretend to fight the claiming.
"Would you care to make it obvious again?" Scorpius purred.
Scorpius acknowledged the candor with a string of kisses along the line of Teddy's throat. "I'll come to dinner at the Potters. Just—stay close. I was serious about being terrified of Hugo's flock of cousins."
No, he hadn't been, but it didn't matter. Teddy curled up for another kiss. "I won't leave your side. That's a promise."
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