Every Tuesday, thick ropes of unbreathable fumes coiled about the room. The stench, especially around the potions table, clung to his clothing and filled the inside of his mouth with a foul sludge. It was a normal and acceptable state of affairs, as Tuesdays were for staining and finishing.
Mondays were for sanding, which he did by hand. No spell or Charm could cushion the fine-grit paper like his own roughened palm. There wasn't a spell in existence that could sense when one more pass against the smooth wood would be too much, or when to lighten its touch so that the sandpaper brushed the surface in such a way that it did little more than raise the grain.
But today was Tuesday – finishing day – which meant odorous potions and fine, porous sponges. Just the thought of it made his nose tickle. Scorpius scratched it as he stood in the middle of his crowded workshop, examining his current project. The desk measured more than eight feet across, a vulgar display of pretentiousness. It had four visible drawers, a dozen more magical hidden ones, three security spells, and a handful of other Charms. Such a combination of magic would preserve the piece's beauty and functionality for hundreds of years to come. It'd last far longer than the stuffed shirt who was planning to sit behind it.
Scorpius made his furniture to last.
His current commission had taken him over a month to complete, and he despised it. It dripped with character – custom carvings and trim were Scorpius' specialty – but possessed no feeling. (The worst sort of malignancy, in his mind.) Still, his client had examined it just yesterday and had left the shop pleased and preening. Scorpius supposed the Gringotts gold was all that mattered in the end.
He turned from the desk, pulled his wand from his sleeve, and set about readying the shop for the day's task; staining was messy business. Coaxed by his magic, his half-completed projects scraped across the floor and precariously stacked themselves, one atop another, against the walls. Another flick of his wand and wood stain-spattered sheets billowed over the furniture to form makeshift mountains.
One more swish and the door that connected the shop to his one-room flat swung closed. Such precautions didn't usually stop the smell from pervading everything, but Scorpius didn't mind. There was something comforting about cocooning into his blankets at night and breathing in the potion-laced wood stain. It smelled of home. Of security. It eased his anxiety to such a degree that he often pushed his face deep into his pillow while he touched himself, inhaling fumes until he was dizzy from both the smell and the frustration.
The timeless frustration.
Some nights the need cut him so deep he could feel it in the very base of his spine, pulsing. Begging. His head would pound with it, his mouth would first go dry, then flood with saliva, and he'd shiver uncontrollably. He'd push back the spectre-like memories and concentrate on the feel of his palm against his skin while he gasped into his pillow. But no amount of stimulation brought him his coveted release.
If this was the punishment everyone implied he deserved, it was a mighty one.
Idly, he scratched at his stomach while the tints bubbled in their cauldrons. He would finish the desk today, barring interruptions and mistakes. Now that the piece was almost complete, he itched to have it gone and replaced with something he could imbue with feeling.
The stains – one for colour, one for shine, and one for sealing – reached a rolling boil and Scorpius extinguished the flames under the cauldrons. Just as he turned to reach for his sponges and rags, a chime sounded. A moment later, the door to his shop opened.
Scorpius bit back his frustration and turned to face the visitor. "Sorry. I must have forgotten to turn the sign. I'm closed on Tuesdays."
The stranger, a dark-haired man, stopped short. Slack-jawed, he stared at Scorpius.
Scorpius tugged on the hem of his t-shirt and rubbed his palms down the worn denim of his jeans. "May I help you?"
The other man, who couldn't have been older than Scorpius, snapped his mouth closed and cleared his throat. "Yeah. Sorry. I just wasn't expecting…. How are you, Malfoy?"
Scorpius froze. He, too, cleared his throat. He laid the sponge on the table and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm well, thank you." He bit his tongue, hating the next part. "Do we know each other?"
The other man blinked. "Oh," he said and shifted his feet. Strangely, the creaking of his leather jacket hypnotized Scorpius. It sounded for a moment as though his stain-splattered ghosts were stuttering to life. He fought the urge to cut his eyes to the looming pile of covered furniture on his left.
"Oh," the man repeated. "Yeah, we do. I'm Albus Potter." He gestured at Scorpius, then himself. "We went to Hogwarts together."
"I see." That was the best response, Scorpius had discovered, to such a declaration. "Were we friends?"
"Uh… not really." Albus looked almost apologetic.
Scorpius' fingers tightened on his forearms. Not really meant I hated you, in all likelihood. Another jaunt down the dark path of semantics, and one he could traverse with his eyes closed. The best he could hope for was that this Albus Potter person had left his grudges at Hogwarts. "Sorry," he said. "I don't remember any of that."
"I know," Albus blurted. "I knew about your accident, but I'd forgotten about… the other."
The laughter bubbled out of Scorpius before he could stop it. Albus turned red, and Scorpius spoke up right away. "It's okay." He waved Albus' embarrassment off.
Albus dropped his eyes and chuckled under his breath. "Sorry about that."
"Is there something I can help you with?" Scorpius pressed. It was past time to move the conversation along; he hated being at a disadvantage. He could hardly stand around sharing schoolboy stories and unrepentant laughter, even if Albus seemed inclined to put their as yet unnamed rivalries behind him.
"Yeah." Albus gathered himself. "I wanted… well, we wanted… my brother and sister and I… wanted to have a new wardrobe made for our mum. A boggart got in her old one – nasty thing – and damn near shook it to pieces before we could banish it. It's my parents' thirtieth anniversary coming up, and we thought… well, that this would be a nice gift."
Since talk had turned to more comfortable subjects, Scorpius' defensiveness eased. He leant back against the table and dug his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. "What did you have in mind? Something just the same as what she had?"
"No. I want something different. Something special." Albus stopped and pursed his lips. "I was told this was the place to go if I wanted something special."
Scorpius gave Albus a half-smile. "That's always good to hear."
"I suppose so."
The cooling potions behind him reminded Scorpius of his waiting project. "Do you have a picture, maybe? An idea of size, what type of wood, and how you want it Charmed?"
"Uh." Albus cleared his throat. "No, sorry. I thought you might have some samples. Or something."
"But," Albus continued hastily, "I can get together with my brother and sister and we can talk about all that. Then maybe I can bring you a sketch?"
"That's fine." Scorpius turned and re-ignited the flames under the three cauldrons. "Just come back when you have the basic parameters of what you want. I can help you with the details." He turned back in time to see Albus' face transformed by a wide smile.
At the base of his spine, the ever-present desire flared to life. If he had such a thing as a 'type', he supposed Albus Potter was it. In the five years he could remember, Albus was only the third person to coax such a knee-jerk response from his confused body, and he had the same look as the other two: dark, intense, and dangerous.
"Stop by anytime," he said as casually as he could. "Just not Tuesdays."
"Okay." Albus flashed that smile again and turned to leave. "One more thing." He hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his jacket and rocked back on his heels.
Scorpius kept his eyes resolutely on Albus' face – not that it helped matters much. "Yes?"
"This will be expensive, right? I heard that, too."
Scorpius gave a slow nod. "Yes. But you'll get what you pay for."
"Sounds fair to me." With a wink, Albus disappeared through the door.
Scorpius flicked his wand at the sign and it flipped to 'closed' with enough force to rattle the glass. He stayed bent over his cauldrons, staring at his scratches on his worktable, until the potions began to burn.
"You poor thing. You poor, poor thing."
"An accident. A terrible accident."
"Don't try to move."
"What's happening to me?"
Six months ago, a man had come to him, claiming to be an old lover. His touch had left Scorpius cold. He'd been Albus' opposite in every way: fair and slight with a false smile and eyes that focused on everything except Scorpius himself.
"You're not telling me the truth," Scorpius had said as he pushed the wandering hands away.
"Baby," the man had replied in a breathless voice, "you're breaking my heart," and he'd pressed Scorpius' hand against his erection.
"I've never touched you," Scorpius had answered with quiet certainty. He'd clenched his fist closed with a harsh twist. "And I've no desire to start now." The pained grimace on the man's face had been worth the punch to the stomach Scorpius got in return – even if the blow had made it difficult to rise from his bed for several days.
His wariness of strangers grew even more pronounced after that.
Yet he found himself looking forward to seeing Albus – a stranger (in all the ways that counted) who stirred him in dangerous, painful ways. More than once, he was sure he heard leather creaking, just as Albus' jacket had sounded as he'd prowled around Scorpius' workshop, but of course, there was nothing there. Nothing except the heavy and persistent erection that accompanied any thought of the man.
Six days were all he lasted before the temptation became unbearable. Sunday night he retired early. He crawled across the blankets with both dread and delight and barely made it between the sheets before his hand found his cock.
"I want something different. Something special," he whispered, wishing his voice had Albus' rough quality. His left hand trailed across his chest, circled his nipples, then moved to draw patterns around his navel. His cock jumped in his hand, and knowing it was a mistake but unable to help himself, he tightened his fist and began to stroke.
Pleasure built and built, but wouldn't crest. Almost sobbing in frustration, Scorpius rolled to his stomach and burrowed into the soft mattress and pillows. He imagined Albus against him, pressing close, gasping and thrusting. His cock dripped steadily onto his fingers as the images drew him to the very cusp of orgasm, but never pushed him over the edge.
In his fantasy, Albus came again and again, marking him. Scalding him. Sometimes he yelled and swore and gripped Scorpius hard enough to hurt, and other times he came without a sound, whispering unintelligible words against Scorpius' neck.
It was torture, and in the end, completely for naught. Orgasm stayed as out of reach as it always did. Scorpius finally twisted out of his blankets, still unfulfilled, and stumbled across the room for a vial of Dreamless Sleep. He drank it down with sticky, shaking hands and limped back to bed in the dark. His head throbbed. His cock throbbed. But finally, after long, agonizing minutes, sleep carried him away from the pain.
His last thought was to hope he never saw Albus Potter again.
Never give up hope, one doctor had been fond of saying after the accident. Precious little good that advice had been, as Albus – the last person Scorpius wanted to see – was the very first person at his door the next morning.
His jeans were different, more faded, but the t-shirt looked a bit cleaner. The jacket, Scorpius noted with dismay, was the same.
"I've got it!" Albus waved a roll of parchment in the air as he came through the door. "We had lunch together yesterday." He grinned as he brushed his fringe off his forehead.
Scorpius retreated behind his worktable. "We?"
"Yeah, me and James and Lily."
"Oh." Scorpius began to organize his sanding blocks. It was Monday – sanding day. That he knew. He had no idea who James and Lily were.
Albus hissed and slapped the rolled parchment against his palm. "Sorry. James and Lily – my brother and sister."
Scorpius nodded. More ghosts from his forgotten Hogwarts days. "You've settled on something then?"
"Well, yeah, in a way. You said you'd help with the details, right?"
Had he? He should kick himself if he had. "Of course." He set the sanding blocks to the side. "Bring it over. Let's take a look."
As Albus walked across the shop, that damn leather jacket creaking loud enough to wake the dead, Scorpius took his wand to the clutter on the table. A few seconds later, the surface was clear. Albus ducked as a tub of stain whizzed by his head to a high shelf. Then laughed as a rag hit him square in the chest. "Where'd you learn to do all this?" he asked as he peeled it off and dropped it into a nearby bucket.
Scorpius shrugged. "Most of it just comes to me."
Albus walked right up beside him, then spun and hoisted himself up onto the table. He bumped his knee against Scorpius' thigh. "I guess that makes sense, considering all the stuff you did in school."
There was no way Scorpius could resist asking. And Albus had no idea what he'd offered. It made things both better and worse. "What do you mean?" As he spoke, he unrolled Albus' rough sketch and spread it across the table.
His faked nonchalance worked. Or Albus was feeling kind. Either way, he answered without making Scorpius feel like an idiot for asking. "You used to build all kinds of things. Um, let's see…." Albus screwed his face up as he thought. "It's been nearly eight years since we left. Some of the details kind of blur over time. But I still remember when someone smashed the trophy cases in the long hall to the Divination Tower. You pieced them all back together." He stopped and winked. "With improvements, of course."
A warm feeling stole over Scorpius. He didn't recall the incident, but it seemed to reflect well on him. "Improvements?" he asked.
Albus chuckled under his breath. "Yeah. You made sure all the Slytherin trophies were front and centre. Some even had their own cases. The others… well, they got crammed in a cabinet round the corner next to the toilets." He tipped his head back and laughed.
It served him right for asking. Horrified, Scorpius' fingers tightened on the edge of the table. "I'm sorry."
"What?" Albus bent to look at him. "Why?"
Scorpius Summoned a pencil and began to make notes on the parchment. He shook his head. "Never mind. Is this a group of drawers you have here?" He pointed to a scribble.
"Yes. Listen, Scorpius—"
"Do you want three or four? All the same size or different?"
"It was a good thing, what you did," Albus said quietly. "I thought so, anyway."
Scorpius snorted. "I'd wager all the Slytherins did."
"They did, but I wasn't in Slytherin. I was in Gryffindor." Scorpius' head jerked up, and Albus held his gaze. "Nobody would take responsibility for it because McGonagall said whoever did would have to fix the mess. Without magic. Everything sat there in pieces for a month before you set it to rights. You took the blame for something you didn't do, and made your House look good for it. That's nothing to be ashamed of."
It was nothing to be proud of, either, Scorpius wanted to say. He shrugged and gripped his pencil tighter. "The drawers?"
He kept his eyes on the drawing until he heard Albus sigh and slide off the table. "Four, I think. Two small ones for her jewellery and two bigger ones for her… you know."
Scorpius smirked. "Her lingerie?"
"Agh! God! Yes, I suppose. Did you have to say it?"
"Her unmentionables, then?"
Albus groaned. "Do we have to mention them at all? She's my mother."
"So you've said. Will two drawers be enough for all that silk and lace?"
Albus looked horrified. "How would I know?"
Scorpius burst out laughing. Albus blinked at him, then joined in. "Listen, if you need any more details like that, owl my sister." He shuddered.
Scorpius ran his hand over the crude sketch, already envisioning the piece in his head. This one would have feeling, he knew. Feeling and elegance. He felt committed to doing his best for Albus' mother. Ideas and plans spun through his head. Cedar lining. Wizarding space built into the main compartment. Security spells. "I can hide the jewellery drawers," he muttered, "and Charm the others to be mirrored when they're not needed."
"You can do that?" Albus' voice drew Scorpius from his musings, and he turned, shocked to see how close together they were standing. Wary, he drew back. Albus followed, eyes on his. "That would be fantastic," he continued. "I had no idea all of that was possible."
Albus' face split into his familiar grin, and Scorpius suddenly found it difficult to breathe. "I think you're right about that," Albus said. His gaze slid over Scorpius' face with blatant interest.
A fierce heat reared up within Scorpius, so hot he shivered. The table blocked his retreat on one side, Albus on another, so he backed himself towards the corner. "I'll owl you in a couple of weeks. I'll need more details by then." The words spilled clumsily from his mouth.
Albus' lips quirked. "That long?" He took a step forward and reached out to ruffle Scorpius' hair. "This is new," he mused. "You wore it differently when we—back in seventh year."
Scorpius took one last step back and hit the wall. "Different how?"
"Just… more put together. More groomed." He grinned. "This length makes you look a bit rough around the edges, actually."
"It's my busy time of year." Scorpius scratched at the stubble on his chin, but resisted combing his fingers through his mop of blond hair. Truthfully, his appearance varied little regardless of the season, and in hindsight, it irked that he felt compelled to explain it.
Albus smirked. "It's okay," he said, voice a low purr. "I like it."
At a loss for words, Scorpius nodded. He'd been half-aroused since Albus stepped through the door, a condition that was growing worse, not better. Albus took another step closer, and desperate to forestall him, Scorpius said the first thing that came to mind.
"Why didn't you like me? In school?"
"What?" Albus drew back, and Scorpius sagged in relief. He inched along the edge of the table until he'd slid past, then retreated to the opposite side of the room. Albus watched him go. His calculated expression reminded Scorpius of a coiled panther, ready to pounce.
Safely away, Scorpius answered, "You said we weren't friends in school. Why didn't you like me then?"
Albus slid his hands into the pockets of his jacket and gave a sad smile. One that made Scorpius' toes curl inside his shoes. "I did like you," Albus said. "It was you who didn't like me."
The revelations didn't stop today, apparently. Scorpius licked his lips. "I don't remember why."
"Maybe someday you will."
"They say I won't."
Something shifted in Albus' expression, and he took a step forward. "I'm sorry."
"Are you?" He'd never spoken about his condition to anyone except his doctors. His true feelings on the subject had always been his alone. He lifted his hands and ran them through his hair, uncaring anymore of how Albus would interpret the gesture. "I'm not sorry," he said. "I'm not sorry at all."
"What do I do now?"
"What do you want to do?"
"What did I do before?"
"No, no. Don't worry about that. It's what you like now that's important."
"I like to build things."
His doctor pauses before answering. "Then build things."
"That's not what I used to do, is it?"
"The past isn't important."
Out of the corner of his eye, Scorpius watches the two nurses tidy his room. They look everywhere but at him. "The past is everything," he says.
He was Scorpius Malfoy, they'd told him, which sounded respectable enough until he noticed the name tended to put shadows on people's faces. Just Scorpius, he'd taken to saying after that, but the small alteration made little difference in the long run.
The sound of his name being shouted stopped him dead in the centre of the street.
"Scorpius, I thought that was you." A petite redhead caught him by the arm. He stood there, staring down at her, desperately trying to match her face to a name, until a horn blared, startling them both. Still distracted, Scorpius guided her to the pavement.
She wore a scarf wrapped round her head and ears, and though it was tied in a secure knot under her chin, the wind sent the loose ends flapping against his face. "Oh, sorry 'bout that!" she said in a low and throaty voice. She patted his cheek with her mittened hand. "This thing is a hazard, but does keep me warm. I didn't mean to assault you, I promise. How've you been?"
"I—" he faltered.
Desperate for some equilibrium, he stepped back, but the young woman followed. Corkscrew ringlets escaped her makeshift hat and blew in a tumble around her face. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "I didn't mean to startle you. Are you all right?"
"Yes," he managed.
"Oh!" She slapped a hand to her mouth and gasped. "Merlin, I'm sorry." She sidled back a few feet, and the tightness in Scorpius' chest eased. "It's Lily Potter. I'm Lily. I know you don't remember, but we were… friendly. Back in school."
The eyes, he thought, as Lily scolded herself under her breath. He should've guessed the moment he saw her. They didn't necessarily match Albus' in colour, but they did reflect the same flawless clarity. He forced himself to relax. "Hello, Lily. How are you?"
She cocked her head. A smile teased at her lips, but the wind kept pushing it back. She bounced on her toes as she shivered. "Faring well, thanks. But it's far too cold for the first week of December, don't you think? Sometimes I wish Mum and Dad had settled someplace a bit warmer." She gave a dismissive wave. "Anyway, I was on my way to see you, but I got a bit lost."
Scorpius took in her knee-length skirt and sockless feet – a sharp contrast to the woolly jacket and scarf that protected her from the waist up – and frowned. He slipped his hand into his pocket, gripped his wand, and sent a strong Warming Charm sailing toward her.
"Ah," she said with a sigh. "Much better." She peered down at her toes. "Think you could hit me again, a bit lower this time?"
It never occurred to him to insist she warm herself. A wave of protectiveness welled up and without another thought, he sent another spell, then drew her under his arm and out of the worst of the wind. "Better?"
"Much." She squinted up at him. "What luck I found you."
"Is that so?"
"'Tis." She bumped him with her hip. "That git, Albus, promised me a Portkey, but then went off with his mates without making one." She pouted prettily. "I knew the name of the village, but not much else. I've been wandering around here for close to ten minutes!"
He stifled a smile. "That long?"
"Oh, you!" She punched his arm. Her laughter rang through him, warming places in his chest he'd forgot existed. It wasn't the sharp stab of desire he felt when Albus looked at him. Rather it was the friendly comfort of something all together different, but just as missed, he realized.
"Well, I've found you, so all's well." Lily stamped her feet again and rubbed her hands together. "Fancy Apparating me to that pretty shop of yours?"
"It's not pretty, by any stretch of the imagination."
"No, perhaps not. But I hear the fellow that owns it isn't so hard on the eyes." She winked, then burst out laughing when Scorpius blushed.
Without answering, he took her arm and steered her around a corner and into a secluded courtyard.
Lily let herself be led, but Scorpius knew already – without any additional evidence – that she wasn't the docile sort. Which she proved a moment later. "Aren't you going to ask where I heard such a scandalous bit of gossip?" She yanked playfully on his fingers.
"Not that it's news to anyone in my family."
The spark of mischief in her eye was enough to prompt his next move. He had little forbearance for teasing, and Lily looked to be just getting started. He scooped her up in his arms, smiling at her squeak of surprise, and Apparated them. They landed laughing and stumbling, Lily with her arms twisted around his neck, his around her waist.
"Oh, not fair!" she cried. "You're trying to distract me!"
Scorpius smiled and tugged on the end of her scarf. "Did it work?"
"Undoubtedly," a deep voice answered, tinged with ice. "She flusters rather easily."
Scorpius spun to find Albus leaning against his worktable, his face a mess of chiselled lines, his stare fixed where Lily's arms rested on Scorpius' shoulders. "I was worried about you, sis," he said as his gaze dropped to where Scorpius' fingers grasped her coat. "But I see you have things well in hand. Or, at least, somebody does."
Scorpius' heart rate, which had spiked upon seeing Albus, began to gallop even faster. He snatched his hands away from Lily and retreated a respectable distance. The suppressed anger in Albus' voice, as well as the accusation, roused his own temper. "I don't suppose you would've needed to worry at all had you left her a Portkey like you promised."
"I—" Albus pushed off from the table. "This is none of your affair, Malfoy. And I don't understand why you're complaining. If she'd waited until this afternoon like I told her to, you never would've had the opportunity to provide your convenient side-along services."
Scorpius raised an eyebrow.
"Albus," Lily hissed. She shot Scorpius a look of apology over her shoulder.
Scorpius ignored her. "Well, lucky for me she didn't wait, then."
Lily squeaked. Eyes narrowed, Albus stepped towards them. "Enjoyed your little grope, did you? Shall I stay for the thank-you kiss?"
"Albus!" Lily stamped her foot. More curls bounced loose from underneath her scarf.
"If you've nothing better to do, you're welcome to watch."
"Enough!" Lily yelled. Reluctantly, Scorpius complied, and was pleased to see Albus equally cowed. Robbed of his bluster, he eased back into his posture of disinterest and scowled at his sister.
Lily glowered back before turning to Scorpius with a tight smile. "I'm just here to see the wardrobe."
"Of course. I’m sorry." Scorpius took her by the elbow and guided her forward. Albus didn't so much as twitch as they passed, but Lily paused and spoke under her breath.
"What's the next step in your brilliant plan, brother dear? Club him over the head and drag him off by his hair?" She capped her question with a sugary, tight-lipped smile.
Albus' answer was a sharp pull to a stray lock of hair. "Maybe," he growled – not unlike the wild beast Lily had accused him of being. The sound, almost physical in nature, made the hair on the back of Scorpius' neck stand on end, and he suppressed a shiver.
Lily winced and batted his hand away. Out of the corner of his eye, Scorpius saw a look pass between them, some unspoken communiqué, then Lily spun back around and grabbed his hand in hers. "Well, then. Let's have a look. Is that it there?" she asked.
"Yes." Scorpius flicked his wand at the dust sheet and it floated off and away from the wardrobe, then folded itself neatly and landed on a nearby table. Lily's soft "oh" of appreciation brought a grin to his face. "You like it?"
"Oh, it's lovely! Just lovely!" She pranced forward and laid her palms against the wood. "I can feel it humming."
"I've put the spells in place already. It's the magic that you feel."
She circled it twice before stopping in front of the doors. Glancing over her shoulder, she asked, "Can I bring you her old door handles? I think they'll go well. And they'll lend a bit of sentimentality, don't you think?"
Scorpius nodded. "Of course. But in the meantime…." He flicked his wand and the doors swung open.
"Oh, my," Lily said. Steadying herself on a drawer handle, she leant into the space Scorpius had built for hanging clothes. "Roomy!" her voice echoed back. "How far back does it go?"
"Far enough, I hope, to meet her storage needs. Not far enough to get lost in." He returned Lily's smile when she peeked at him over her shoulder. Her eyes flitted past him – towards her brother, he imagined. In a heartbeat, her open smile morphed into a playful smirk. Scorpius bit the inside of his cheek; he almost pitied Albus then.
"So," she said, leaning back in, "how far down does it go?"
"Down?" Scorpius parroted.
Lily surfaced, pulled her scarf off, and shook out her auburn tresses. "I know how important discretion is to Mum. She'll want an out of the way place for those thigh-high red sequined leather boots that Daddy adores."
Behind Scorpius, Albus choked. "Plenty of room," Scorpius assured her. "I even put in a hook for her matching whip."
"Clever boy!" Lily cried. "She'll be thrilled."
"Lily!" Albus was beet red. "God!" He shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and turned away from the two of them.
Lily straightened up and rubbed her palms together, then glided forward to peck Scorpius on the cheek. "My work here is done," she said with a wink. "It's absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much."
He smiled down at her. "It's nothing."
"I have a feeling that's as far from the truth as things get." She wrapped her scarf around her waist and tied it in a sloppy bow. "Bye for now, Al. Will you be round for dinner?"
"I might be along."
She snorted. "As if you'd turn down a free meal." She blew Scorpius a kiss and Disapparated.
The levity and humour went with her. Scorpius felt the change, as though the air pressure had dropped ahead of an electrical storm. His skin prickled. Sick with anticipation, he steeled himself with a deep breath and turned around. He blinked, both relieved and disappointed when he saw that Albus wasn't even looking at him.
"It is beautiful. She's right about that," Albus said, staring at the wardrobe. He crossed his arms in front of him, the jacket bending and folding with that sound. Not the unseasoned squeak of new leather, but the creak and groan of something well broken in. Scorpius couldn't take his eyes from it.
"Are you going to run away again?"
Scorpius gaze shot to Albus' face. He wet his lips, ready to answer, but in the end, simply shook his head. He was a masochist, he knew. And weak. But he'd heard of men and women alike who'd traded whole lives of ordinary for a few moments of spectacular. Would it be so bad to be counted among them?
He knew it would end in pain. So be it.
Albus unfolded his arms and walked towards him. Scorpius' focus wavered between his intent-darkened eyes, the leather that covered and shifted with him, and the bulge of his hardened cock, hidden beneath the folds of denim. He didn't run.
Albus stepped right up to him, chest to chest. With a start of surprise, Scorpius found himself to be the shorter one, by at least an inch or two. His body thought it a glorious discovery. His cock filled and throbbed with the intense pressure that he'd come to both love and hate. Heady from the scent of leather, he swayed even closer. Then – taken by an urge he couldn't control – he reached out and stroked his hand down the front of the jacket.
Albus grinned. "Do you want me to take it off?"
"Most definitely… not," Scorpius said, voice gravelled. He massaged the material with his fingers.
Albus' eyes went dark. He surged forward, pushing Scorpius ahead of him until they met an unyielding pile of covered furniture. "Like it, do you?" he whispered against Scorpius' cheek. Scorpius barely had time to nod, then Albus' fingers were tangling into the hair at the nape of his neck and pushing his face against his jacket.
Scorpius gasped, and the smell of leather filled his lungs. He gave a drawn out, breathy moan and inhaled again, spawning threads of writhing, tingling pleasure that settled in his groin. Mouth open, he rubbed his face back and forth along Albus' shoulder. On the third pass, he bit down. The soft give of flesh under leather drew a low growl from deep in his throat.
Albus jumped. "Oh, God. You—" He grabbed a handful of Scorpius' hair and yanked him back.
They didn't speak, just looked at each other, both breathless. Reeling and flustered, Scorpius arched his hips forward, seeking and finding Albus' erection. After a quick indrawn breath, Albus shifted, pushed back, and it started – back and forth, cock to cock, give and take – and the whole time Scorpius keened under his breath while Albus held him still, hand tight in his hair, and stared into his eyes.
"Please," Scorpius whispered. He flicked his tongue at Albus' lips. When the act wasn't discouraged, he did it again. Albus trembled, hesitated one more moment, then shot forward and pressed their mouths together.
Scorpius thought the wave of lust sizzling through him would buckle his knees. This is what he needed. This is what he'd been missing. A hot mouth over his own, taking without apology, and the pure zing of electricity that made every hair on his body stand on end.
Albus' tongue stroked over his, went exploring, then returned, while Scorpius' hands slid across and underneath leather to find the soft cotton t-shirt beneath. He scrubbed his palms up Albus' chest, over his nipples, then dragged them back down over the waistband of his jeans and over the bulge of his cock. Albus jerked into the touch. Clumsily, he forced his hands between them, reaching to reciprocate, and just the thought of Albus' fingers around his cock sent a spike of pleasure shooting up Scorpius' spine. He moaned into Albus' mouth, dizzy with the scent of sweat and musk and leather.
"Can't wait to touch you. Can't wait to taste you." Albus spoke the harsh words against his lips. "Want to watch you come." His fingers brushed the buttons on Scorpius' jeans.
Scorpius froze in horror. He'd forgot for a moment – forgot that he was broken. Damaged in all the ways that would matter to Albus. His stomach rolled over with a sickening lurch. Determined to give something, he batted the hands away from his buttons and reached for Albus' zip. "Wait. You first."
"Together," Albus insisted, and his nimble fingers snuck past Scorpius' hands and ripped open the three buttons on his jeans with a quick pop pop pop. "All over each other." He ducked his head and nuzzled Scorpius' neck. "Fuck, so hot for you…."
Truly distressed, Scorpius tried to pull away.
The arm Albus had thrown around his waist tightened and pulled him closer. "Where are you going?" he whispered as he stroked Scorpius' cock through his pants.
"Please," Scorpius gasped. Shame closed his throat
"I just… wait." He pushed at Albus' chest.
Albus pulled back a few inches, enough for Scorpius to see the hard cock arching from his open jeans – red and glistening at the tip and so fucking beautiful. His fingers twitched to touch and explore it. Sensing his conflict, Albus eased forward until the tip brushed Scorpius' pants. He eased to and fro, tracing the damp outline of Scorpius' prick with his erection. Scorpius whimpered as another wave of lust barrelled through him, but the embarrassment had too great a hold. He gave Albus another push. "I can't do this," he said, voice tortured.
"Why?" Albus tried to pull him in again.
"I said no!" Scorpius yelled.
Albus released him immediately and took two steps back.
Scorpius felt sick to his stomach. "I just— I can't—"
Albus spun away, and Scorpius could see him tucking himself away, zipping up his jeans, straightening his shirt. When he was finished, he ran his hands through his hair and stood quietly. Composing himself, Scorpius imagined, and God knew he needed to as well. With shaking hands, he did up his own buttons. As an afterthought, he smoothed his t-shirt back into place, then tried again to apologize. "Albus—"
Albus lifted a hand, shushing him. He shook his head with a bitter chuckle. "Nothing much has changed, after all, has it, Malfoy?"
Scorpius swallowed heavily. "What do you mean?"
"You're still a cold, manipulative bastard." He threw a glance over his shoulder, eyes dark and completely unreadable. "Just like you used to be."
Heartsick, Scorpius watched the sawdust swirl in his wake.
Another stranger with no name, the third one this month. But maybe this hand will be the one.
Beefy fingers jerk him in a merciless rhythm. Hot breath blows profanity into his ear. "Fuck. Fuck, yes. So hot."
After several minutes, the pleasure becomes discomfort, and Scorpius whimpers.
"Oh yeah. Come on. That's it."
"Stop." He twists away.
"What? What's wrong?"
"Just stop." He's angry and scared and hates the hand. He peels it off his cock.
It creeps back anyway. Scorpius hisses and struggles free.
The hand pushes him away. "What's wrong with you?"
He started with frigid water, but even that didn't kill the need. When the shivering grew into bone-jarring shudders, he turned the temperature to scalding and stood hunched under the spray, arms wrapped around his middle. His hair clung to his face, dripped into his eyes, and he shut them against the invading droplets. Thick, hot steam billowed around him until he was dizzy and half-sick from the heat, but his balls still ached. He allowed a hand to slip between his legs to cup them, hoping to soothe, and an arrow of pain shot to his toes. His head fell forward and he moaned. Remarkably, the chipped tile felt cold against his skin. He pressed his face against it and cursed until his voice was hoarse.
Albus' face haunted him. His face, his jealousy, his persistent hands. And Scorpius needed. He needed. He needed. He….
He spun out of the spray and planted his feet against the slick porcelain. The first touch to his cock buckled his knees and he fell hard, but the pain in his shins didn't keep him from working himself with tight, jerking strokes. Pain shot up his spine, pleasure a distant echo behind it.
"Please," he whispered. "Please, please, please…."
As always, his efforts carried him to the very edge of release, but no further. Dripping wet and aware that he'd begun to hyperventilate, Scorpius crawled out of the shower. Three times he tried to stand before his legs deigned to hold his weight, though they shook uncontrollably as he scrambled to grab two vials of potion from the shelf above the basin.
A double dose, he thought as he drank them both, was a ruinous idea, but he felt on a knife's-edge, leaning out over the abyss and staring into something that wasn't insanity – not quite yet – but was too damn close for comfort. He fumbled the empty vials onto the basin's edge. One missed its mark and fell to shatter on the tiles.
Unsteady, vision blurred, he set off across the room toward his bed. His legs gave out halfway across, and he fell first to his knees, then onto his side. The world began to spin, and he squeezed his eyes shut against the sickening movement. As an afterthought, he pulled the edge of the cotton rug up and over his damp, naked body. It covered him like a tightly wrapped cocoon.
At the last, before unconsciousness took him, he imagined the heat leeching into his body wasn't from the scratchy and dusty cotton rug, but instead from Albus' arms, pulling him flush and tight against his chest.
"It's all right," Albus said, cradling him close. "It's all right now."
Dazed, Scorpius shook his head back and forth.
"Yes, it is," Albus insisted. "It's all right. I promise."
In the end, it didn't matter that the words were born of a potion-induced hallucination. It was the first time in five years anyone had promised him anything.
Lips turned up in a small smile, Scorpius fell asleep.
"I hear you're earning quite the reputation."
"Don't you know?"
Scorpius lifts one shoulder in a shrug. "I enjoy my work."
"Yet this other problem persists?"
"I think… I'm still not well."
"You're perfectly healthy, I assure you."
"Then why can't I—?" To his horror, he's too embarrassed to say it.
"Something's holding you back."
His doctor shrugs. "Guilt?"
A pit of ice forms in his stomach. "Why would I feel guilty?"
"It was just an example."
Scorpius waited two weeks, alternately buoyed and depressed by his infatuation. At times he cursed Albus – with his leather jacket and his easy smile and his demanding hands. He cursed his own family of strangers – with their damnable fancy flying car of death – for putting him in this situation in the first place. But most of all, he cursed himself for letting someone get under his skin when he knew the consequences of such a thing.
His current commission stood as a silent reminder of what was left unresolved between them. Each morning he entered the shop and shivered in both anticipation and anxiety when he saw the wardrobe. And day after day, he put off contacting Albus about the finishing touches. Finally, though, the approaching anniversary party forced his hand, and he owled about approval of the final details.
He kept the correspondence emotionless and professional. No doubt it would give Albus another excuse to call him cold and unfeeling, but perhaps it was the push they both needed to let go of this ridiculous flirtation.
There are some items we need to discuss concerning the item you commissioned. Please stop by at your earliest convenience.
He grimaced, but rolled, sealed, and sent it anyway, telling himself once again that putting this project – and Albus – behind him was the best idea for everyone.
But it wasn't Albus who came. It was his father. Harry Potter – the hero of a war Scorpius should have had some opinion on, yet didn't. Still, his stomach fluttered with nerves. More, he knew, because this was Albus' father, rather than the man who'd saved them all. That was the legend, at any rate. Scorpius took it with a grain of salt.
Harry stomped his feet free of the rare December snow and blew into his cupped hands. "Chilly," he remarked. He flashed Scorpius a cock-eyed smile. "I hate the cold."
"You and Lily." Harry shot him a puzzled look, and Scorpius swallowed a sigh and moved forward to shake his hand. He nodded when Harry introduced himself. "I recognize you, Mr. Potter. It'd be a bit difficult not to, even as out as touch as I am."
Harry gave a rueful laugh. "I suppose not. Call me Harry, all right?" He dropped Scorpius' hand after a firm shake and glanced around the shop. "I'm here in my son's stead. Apparently, my children feel the time has come for me to offer my input on their little gift." He said it with a smile, and Scorpius was instantly at ease.
"Not exactly little," he remarked.
"No. That was my impression. Although what they want me to say or do, I have no idea. That's why we hired an expert." He gestured at Scorpius.
Scorpius swallowed down the rush of pride and led Harry across the shop. "It's always wise to inspect the piece at various stages. People often find themselves making last minute changes in design. There's still time for that, by the way, if you don't like any part of it." He flicked his wand, and the protective sheet slid off the wardrobe. Politely, he stepped back.
Harry stood quietly, his fingers against his lips as he stared. Nervous, Scorpius turned a professional eye on his creation. There were still many decorative details to finish, but it was almost complete. He'd added all the spells Albus had requested and a few of his own as well. It had plenty of space and functionality, yet it was the workmanship itself that Scorpius felt made the piece special.
He'd put feeling into it. More than he'd planned from the start, in all likelihood. Something else to blame on Albus. His best hope was that Mrs. Potter appreciated it. If she had one-tenth of Lily's life in her, she'd feel it, at the very least. Women were funny that way.
Harry's continued silence put him quickly on edge. "If—if there's anything you'd like changed or—"
Harry held up a hand, cutting him off. "No." He swivelled to Scorpius. After a long, searching stare, he moved to unbutton his coat. "It's exquisite. Absolutely exquisite." He shook his head as he shrugged out of it. "I expected something special. That's what I told Albus we'd get. But this…." His eyes drifted back to the wardrobe and he reached towards it, stopping when his hand hovered a few inches away from the carved wood. "It rings with magic. Funny thing to say about a piece of furniture, isn't it? But it does. It truly does."
"That was you?" Scorpius asked, awed.
Harry turned. "Me?"
"No, I meant—" Scorpius cleared his throat. "You're the one who told Albus to come here."
"I am." Harry looked back to the wardrobe and ran a hand reverently over a piece of curved trim. "He was surprised to find you in charge of things."
Astute, Scorpius retorted, "But you wouldn’t have been."
It was a riddle, which was something Scorpius appreciated most of the time. Today, though, he felt disinclined to puzzle it out, and knew after another glance at Harry that it wasn't necessary to do so immediately. He let the comment slide, saying instead, "I'm glad you're pleased. Albus actually has good taste. He approved all the detailing work."
Harry's deep laugh rang through the shop, throwing floating dust particles into tiny cyclones. He clapped Scorpius on the back. "That's kind of you to say, but I know where my son's strengths lie. I'm positive Lily coached him on exactly what to choose."
"He's not that bad," Scorpius mumbled, hating himself for feeling protective of someone who couldn't care less. "What do you mean, she coached him?"
"So that, at the very best, he would impress you, and at the very least, wouldn't embarrass himself hopelessly."
"He didn't need to do that." But the thought made him smile.
"Didn't he?" Harry winked at him.
Talk of Albus agitated him. Scorpius called his ledger to hand and set it on the table between himself and Harry. He cleared his throat and pretended he didn't see Harry's knowing smile. "I, uh, need a final decision on the colour stain you want. I've picked a few that will probably work best, but frankly, I can work with whatever you choose."
Harry stepped up and ran his fingers down the colour samples. "Do you have larger examples?"
"I have a dresser I use for that specifically. I can Charm it to any colour you like."
With a careless shrug, Harry pushed the ledger aside. "Wonderful. I'll choose before I leave."
He was in no hurry to go, Scorpius realized. The thought both incensed and pleased him. Harry meandered around the small shop, his touch alighting on one thing, then another. A carved armchair. A sideboard. The frame of a mirror, to which he paid extra scrutiny. "Is it magical?"
Scorpius' lips twitched. "No, though I can Charm it if someone asks for it. I don't have much use for enchanted mirrors, myself."
"They're rather honest, aren't they? And the truth isn't always easy to hear." Harry chuckled under his breath. "I agree with you on that." He moved on to a side table.
Entertaining prospective customers in his shop was never something Scorpius had been comfortable with, though he'd become quite good at hiding his distaste over time. It wouldn't do for people to know that their presence bothered him, or that their dirty, inquisitive fingers touching his creations made him twitch to slap their hands away. Strangely, the opposite was true for Harry. Scorpius found himself silently urging the man to certain corners of the shop, hoping he would give in to the desire to touch whatever caught his eye. Each time he did, and his lips turned up in a smile of approval, Scorpius warmed a bit more.
"I was going to work on the door carvings for your piece this afternoon," he said. "Would you be interested in watching?"
Without waiting for Harry's answer, Scorpius used his wand to call the wood and tools to him. Things flew from all corners of the shop and assembled on the worktable. When he looked up again, Harry was at his side. "I think that would be fascinating," Harry said.
Scorpius nodded and began. He never forgot Harry's presence, but it slipped with seamless precision into the background. The man belonged, Scorpius realized. Effortlessly. His magic hummed in perfect tune with the rest of the world's. It was an enviable characteristic, and Scorpius beat down a wave of jealousy.
Harry stood close while he worked, but didn't shift about in a distracting manner. After nearly an hour, Scorpius pulled back from the intricate carving he'd been burning into the wood with his wand. He pulled his right hand against his chest and massaged it with his left.
Harry finally spoke. "Your hand was severely injured, if I recall."
Scorpius faltered, then resumed the gentle rubbing. He nodded.
"I don’t remember."
Harry gave a soft grunt of acknowledgement. "That's right. I'm sorry. You don't remember any of it."
It hadn't been a question, but Scorpius' breath caught, and Harry's eyes narrowed. He leant closer. "You don't, do you?" He placed a warm, heavy hand on Scorpius' shoulder. "What do you remember, son?"
A tack cloth was squeezed in his fist, spreading its stickiness between his fingers, but Scorpius didn't recall picking it up. Slowly, without answering, he began to run it over the freshly carved wood, gathering shavings and wood dust. Seconds, then minutes passed, and even though Harry's hand stayed resolutely on his shoulder, he didn't coax Scorpius to answer.
And that, once he'd worked up the courage, was why he did.
He shook the soiled cloth from his hand, considered his wand, then ignored it and took up a hand plane. Its solid weight in his hand helped settle his mind. One would be hard pressed to find a simpler tool, yet only the most talented of hands could make it work its magic. As he used it to caress the wood in long strokes, he spoke. "They said, they figured, that once the enchantments failed and we started to drop, we fell for only ten, maybe fifteen seconds." He shifted the plane to the opposite side of the carving, but held it still against the wood. "It felt like longer," he whispered.
Harry's hand tightened on his shoulder.
Scorpius set the plane to the side when he noticed his hands shaking. "Do you have any idea what it's like? Knowing you're going to die? Knowing it for sure?"
Harry's hand shifted to cup the back of Scorpius' neck. "Yes," he said simply.
"That's the part I remember."
He cut his eyes to the side and found Harry staring into space, a thoughtful frown on his face. "For me, that part wasn’t the worst," Harry said, voice whisper-soft. "It was after."
The plane found its way back into Scorpius' palm. With great care, mindful of the residual tremble in his hands, he began to run it across the wood. As Harry had done for him during his own confession, he kept silent at first. After a few minutes, though, curiosity won out over propriety.
He leant over the carving and blew gently, scattering the curly shavings. "What part after?"
Harry sighed, but answered without hesitation. "When I realized I'd survived. Been reborn, actually. But so many others hadn't. That…." His voice died off.
Scorpius considered his words. "Did you get over it?"
"Enough that I can appreciate what I have. There's a time for guilt. And a place. For me, that time and place has passed." With another sigh, Harry stepped away and reached for his coat. As he shrugged it on, he kept his gaze fixed on Scorpius. When the last button was done up, he pointed a finger at him. "Maybe it's that time for you, as well."
Scorpius bit the inside of his cheek. He'd give a small fortune to believe that. "Have you decided on a colour?" he asked.
If Harry noticed the effort at deflection, he didn't comment. "You choose," he said. "I trust you."
Scorpius was still working past his shock when Harry turned away. "Thank you," he called over his shoulder. "You were very indulgent of an old man." He meandered his way through the maze of furniture to the front of the shop. He stared at the wardrobe for several seconds before pushing through the door and into the snow.
"Get back on the horse, that's what they say."
"Why not start with a broom? I hear you used to play Quidditch."
Scorpius shakes his head.
"What is it that you fear?"
He touches the few bandages that remain. One around his head. Another around his right hand. He doesn't answer the doctor.
"You didn't cheat death, Scorpius. There's no Reaper waiting in the sky, eager to finish the job."
"Not in the sky, no."
"There's no death in the sky. It's not the fall that kills you." He wraps his unbandaged fingers around the arm of his chair. "It's when you hit the ground."
Shrinking a piece of Charmed furniture and transporting it safely was always a challenge. Cushioning spells were standard, but he gave the Potter wardrobe special treatment. When it was safely ensconced in the pocket of his trousers, he Apparated to the address Harry had given him. A stiff gust of wind nearly blew him over, but it was the buzz of many overlapping voices coming from just inside the door that truly threw him off-balance. He lifted a hand to knock, then dropped it back to his side, cringing at his cowardice. He was no Gryffindor. The thought of facing a house full of strangers-who-may-not-be-strangers unnerved him. In the end, it was imagining the disappointment in both Harry and Albus' eyes that prompted him to deliver two sharp raps to the door.
Another gust of crisp wind swept by, rustling his cloak and whipping hair into his eyes. He pulled the cool air into his lungs and held it, bracing himself to see Albus. Instead, the man who answered his knock was someone else all together.
James, Scorpius decided, and was immediately – inexplicably – on guard. James gave him no time to analyze the sudden wariness.
"Hullo, Malfoy. Dad said you'd be by this afternoon." He sagged against the doorframe, looking lazy and indifferent, hands buried wrist deep in the pockets of his jeans. His eyes, however, played over Scorpius with a sharp intensity that he recognized well. Apparently, all Potters had the knack of looking straight into his soul.
Scorpius dropped his eyes, more unnerved than ever. "Yes." He cleared his throat. "Is now a good time?"
"It is. We're just getting ready for the party while Mum's out. Did you bring it?" He craned his neck to search the yard behind Scorpius.
Scorpius stifled a small huff of amusement. "I did, but…." He glanced over his shoulder. "You won't find it out there. It's in my pocket."
James' eyes widened fractionally. "You shrank it? Even with all those Charms Lily said you added?"
Pride in his work finally gave Scorpius the courage to mimic James' casual pose. "I did. It's tricky, but doable. When it comes to delivery, I don't make mistakes."
A retort had been on James' lips, but at the last, he clamped them shut without saying anything. He smiled instead, and Scorpius couldn't shake the feeling he'd passed some sort of test. "Come on in, then," James said. "Let's get it set up."
He stepped aside, and Scorpius brushed past him. Directly inside the door, in the corner of the small hall, was a coat rack, sporting several hands rather than the standard hooks. Curious as to the workmanship, Scorpius stepped close, and one of the hands made a grabbing motion at his cloak. He handed it over, chuckling at how the hand snagged it away, shook out the wrinkles, then pinched it primly between thumb and forefinger.
The rack was nearly full, and when Scorpius' gaze drifted to the garments next to his – a set of standard Auror-issue robes – he blinked in shock. "Yours?" he asked James over his shoulder.
James hid his look of surprise well. At least, Scorpius thought he did. It had barely crossed his face, at any rate, before his features melted back into cool indifference. He nodded.
Magical Law Enforcement felt appropriate for James, Scorpius mused. Like one soul recognizing a brother, he understood after only a few moments in the man's company that this Potter didn't trust easily. Or at all.
"You really don't remember," James said, quite slowly.
Scorpius squelched an upsurge of irritation. "No, I don't. Forgive me, I wasn't aware the validity of my… affliction was in question."
"It's not." James shook himself. "I'm sorry. It's just… strange. Seeing someone you have a history with, talking to them, and knowing they have no memory of any of it."
"We have a history?"
James' lopsided smile returned, but his eyes stayed shuttered. "Not that kind, Malfoy. That's my brother's job. Always has been."
Scorpius cursed the unwanted blush that crept across his cheeks, even as he wondered at the obscure reference. He ducked his head as he pulled the small wrapped bundle from his pocket. "Shall we get to it, then?"
"Absolutely. Follow me."
James set off toward the back of the house, and Scorpius followed. They passed an open archway that held a tastefully decorated, if crowded, living room. A dozen people milled about, laughing and talking. Wands waved to and fro, Charming balloons to inflate and gifts to wrap themselves. He and James moved past quickly, to Scorpius' immense relief. The stairs appeared on their left a moment later. "It's a big deal, I suppose. Being married that long. Dad seemed to think Mum would want a party," James said. "It seems like every member of our extended family's been in on the planning."
How nice, Scorpius tried to say, but the words wouldn't come. So he simply nodded and followed James up the staircase, down the hall, and into the last room on the left. An immense bed filled most of the space but Scorpius could see a bare spot on the carpet where a piece of furniture had once sat. He pointed, and James nodded. "I've protected this one against boggarts, by the way," Scorpius said as he walked over and carefully unwrapped his masterpiece.
James sighed. "Thank Merlin. I don't want to go through that again. Watching Mum cry and sift through the broken pieces was worse than that last week of Auror training. You know – the one when you get every fucking piece of shit job that the seniors can come up with?" He shuddered.
Scorpius unfolded the cloth around the shrunken wardrobe with painstaking care. "No, I don't," he said as he placed it on the floor where the old one had stood.
"Oh yeah, you do. You—" For the first time since he'd opened the door, James looked embarrassed. Contrite. "Never mind," he mumbled.
Scorpius let it go for the moment. He pretended to concentrate on unshrinking the wardrobe, levitating it into place, and checking each of the spells to make sure they'd survived the Apparition. When he was done, nearly ten minutes later, he turned to James. "You're saying I took the Auror training program."
A range of emotions crossed James' face before he answered. "Yes. You did."
"So…" Scorpius nibbled on his bottom lip, "we worked together. We knew each other."
"I knew you well."
"I don't remember that." His hands clenched at his sides. And even worse…. "Nobody ever told me about being an Auror."
"Probably because they knew you wouldn't want to go back to it now that your fa—" Again, James cut himself off.
Scorpius crumpled up the small cloth and stuffed it in his pocket. He stared at the wardrobe and tried to remember that he was proud of it – and of himself – and that his life was different now. Empty, but different.
"I was an Auror," he whispered. "I became an Auror for my father, and I hated it."
"Yeah. You pretty much hated it." James left the rest of Scorpius' statement unconfirmed.
Scorpius turned the idea around once more in his head, then dismissed it. But not without a shudder. "It doesn't appeal to me now."
"It didn't then either." And I never really understood why you were there, his tone implied. Scorpius didn't understand it himself, although there was no guessing at what his motivations might have been. Not anymore.
"Was I any good?" he asked. Even as the words left his mouth, he realized he didn't care. If it was a link to his past, it was a dead one.
"Yeah. You were good at everything you did. Just… not so good with people."
So there were constants in the universe. "That's what I hear," Scorpius said. He turned to go.
"You seem different now, though." James caught his arm as he passed.
He thought of Albus then; he couldn't help it. How he'd stood in the centre of Scorpius' shop with his flushed cheeks and hard eyes, and how his opinion on this point had been vastly dissimilar to his brother's. "Not so different," he told James. He handed over a rolled parchment. "Here are all the details for the wardrobe. Spells, Charms, and such. Owl if you have any questions."
James took it, eyeing Scorpius speculatively all the while. "My dad wanted to let you know he was sorry he couldn't be here. But we needed him to get Mum out of the house while we got everything ready."
Scorpius swallowed his disappointment, calling himself a fool for thinking Harry would be there in the first place. The man wasn't his friend. And he certainly wasn't his father. It made perfect sense he hadn't been waiting to see Scorpius deliver the wardrobe. After all, he had his own life to live. His own family to care for. All the man owed Scorpius was a receipt for a Gringotts transfer.
"But," James said, interrupting his reverie, "Albus is out back. I know he'd want to see you. To thank you."
Scorpius glanced up in surprise, but James' eyes were unreadable once more. "Go on," James said. "Left off the stairs and through the kitchen."
It was a matter of propriety, Scorpius told himself. Albus had been his first contact – the one who'd requested the commission originally – and he deserved to be notified that it was complete.
At the bottom of the stairs, he Summoned his cloak, then turned left, away from the cacophony of voices near the front of the house, and made his way to the kitchen. A smile touched his lips as he took in the chaos. Mixing bowls and a collection of spoons littered the butcher block island, and a trail of tiny footprints marred the perfect dusting of flour that covered the floor.
Remnants of a family. Currently abandoned, the room should have felt as empty as his flat, yet the opposite was true. If Scorpius hadn't been in such a hurry to finish his task, he'd linger and try to puzzle out why it appealed to him so much. But Albus waited. Scorpius stepped around the obstacles and approached the back door quietly, wanting the element of surprise, but the creaky hinges on the door gave him away before he'd even stepped outside.
Albus was hunched over the seat of a black motorbike, fiddling with something near the front wheel. When he glanced up through his messy fringe, Scorpius felt suddenly dizzy. Self-conscious, he slipped his hands into his cloak pockets and let the door swing shut with a bang. The shiver that ran through him he blamed on the sudden blast of cold air.
The words on the tip of his tongue – the 'thank you very much for your business, I hope you're satisfied' – blew away with the wind. Naked, defenceless, he pressed his lips together and hoped Albus would understand that silence was the only goodbye he could give.
Slowly, Albus straightened. Today, his leather jacket hid a bright white t-shirt, but the jeans were the same as always. Scorpius' lips parted on a small sigh when he recalled how they looked peeled open.
Albus' eyes never left his. "Malfoy," he said, offering nothing more.
Scorpius nodded once. He swallowed past the ball of churning emotion crawling up his throat and wet his lips. "I just wanted to let you know that I delivered your mother's wardrobe this afternoon. It's in her bedroom, and your brother has the paperwork and final invoice. I hope…." He faltered when his voice cracked. "I hope it meets your expectations."
Albus' gaze bored into him. The only movement was his unruly hair blowing in the wind. "I know it will," he said after several seconds. He shifted his weight on the bike, and Scorpius' ears filled with the sound of creaking leather.
"Right, then," Scorpius said, barely able to choke the words out. "Thank you for your business." He was turning before the last word left his mouth, fumbling for the door knob. Behind him, he heard Albus curse.
"Scorpius, just… wait. Wait a minute."
The knob was cold under his palm. Beyond the smudged glass, the empty kitchen – his escape – beckoned. He heard movement behind him and then Albus spoke again, voice so close that Scorpius jumped. "Wait. Please." A hand crept into his line of vision and cold fingers curled with his around the knob. "Please."
"Albus." Scorpius cringed, hating the desperate neediness in his voice. Albus stepped close, not crowding him, but close enough that his body heat lured Scorpius like a damn welcome home beacon.
"Can I—?" Albus asked. Again, he cursed under his breath. Scorpius bit his lip and waited, surprised at how Albus struggled with his words. "Don't go yet," he said after several seconds. "Not just yet."
"I can't stay."
"Then—" He peeled Scorpius' fingers from the knob. "—Let me take you home." He eased Scorpius around.
"I was just going to Apparate," Scorpius said, a hint of humour in his voice. "I haven't needed help with that for quite some time now."
Albus answered with a teasing smile of his own. "Yeah, but what fun is that? Come on." He started down the steps, tugging Scorpius behind him. As surreptitiously as possible, Scorpius rubbed the leather jacket cuff with the tips of his fingers. Albus surely noticed, but if he did, he didn't let on with anything more than a gentle caress of his own along Scorpius' palm. "I know you can Apparate. But let's do it my way instead. You'll love it."
Saying that it was exactly that possibility that scared him would have likely stopped Albus in his tracks, but Scorpius bit back the words and let himself be led down the steps and over the to the motorbike.
"What d'you think?" Albus asked with a grin.
"It's—" Scorpius bit the inside of his cheek. "—impractical."
Albus' soft laughter swept past his ear, and Scorpius' shivers returned. "I suppose. But I promise you, there's not another feeling like it in the world." His took their joined hands and placed them on the seat of the bike. "It's a bit like flying," he said softly. Scorpius stiffened, but Albus didn't let him pull away. "It's like flying, but we never have to leave the ground, if you don't want. In fact," he paused to put Scorpius' other hand on the slim metal handlebar, "I prefer it that way."
"Yeah. Because the road's already been laid for you, see, and you have to follow it, to a certain extent anyway. You're bound to the road, but how you ride it is up to you." He leant forward and whispered in Scorpius' ear. "Easier to get lost, too."
"That's a good thing?" Scorpius murmured.
"Could be. Come on." Albus swung his leg over the seat and gestured for Scorpius to join him.
Wary, Scorpius worked his jaw back and forth. "It's awfully cold for a ride through the countryside."
"It is. But I always cast a Warming Charm. You'll be perfectly comfortable."
"How long have you had this thing?"
Albus grinned at the roundabout inquisition. "Long enough. And I've never had any problems. I know what I’m doing." He gestured Scorpius forward again. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you."
Another gust of frigid air decided the issue. Scorpius stepped up to the bike, swung his leg over, and settled behind Albus. He sighed at the sudden warmth.
As though Scorpius hadn't been planning to do just that. "Yeah, I think I will, if it's all the same." He linked his hands around Albus' waist.
Albus' laughter followed them down the drive and onto the road.
"How long will this take?" Scorpius yelled.
Albus' hand clasped his. "An hour?" he yelled back over his shoulder. "Depends on how fast I go."
"Take your time."
Albus did just that – at first. But as the minutes passed, the trees and houses sped by faster and faster. Scorpius laid his cheek against Albus' leather jacket, noticing but not understanding, why his tension continued to ease, despite the increase in speed. It was like flying, after all. It had to be. He didn't remember his parents' Charmed car, and he hadn't been on a broom since before the accident. But this…this was like floating on a mass of pure energy. Of fresh, crackling magic. Just like flying.
They followed road after road, avoiding the busier thoroughfares, Albus navigating without any apparent effort, and it wasn't until much later that Scorpius heard him laughing again. The engine and the rushing wind muffled most of it, but Scorpius felt it rumble though Albus' chest, and every once in a while a hint of it would drift back to Scorpius' ears.
He found himself joining in.
"Faster," he yelled. When Albus glanced back in surprise, Scorpius pressed a kiss to his cheek. "Faster." He rewarded the sudden burst of speed with another kiss, this one on Albus' neck, below his ear, then scooted closer, and the last few inches between them disappeared. His nostrils filled with the smell of leather and wind. Before he could second guess his behaviour, he slid his hands up over Albus' chest, then back down into his lap.
"Scorpius," Albus growled.
"Faster," Scorpius said. He tipped his hips forward. He was hard. His cock ached inside his jeans, and he couldn't resist the extra zing that came from grinding against Albus while the bike rumbled underneath them. Faster, he thought as the vibrations rushed up his legs. Faster. He eased his hands onto Albus' thighs, then walked them up, one finger at a time, to his crotch.
Albus pulled the bike to the side of the road and killed the engine. His hands clamped over the top of Scorpius', holding them still. For several seconds, neither spoke.
"How much longer?" Scorpius asked.
Albus' chest rose and fell in a rapid rhythm. "Twenty minutes. Unless…."
"Unless we fly. Then I can have us there in five."
At first, Scorpius didn't move. He stayed pressed close, while he played with Albus' hardening cock through his jeans. Albus did nothing to stop him, but he didn't encourage the touch either.
It was his choice, Scorpius realized. His decision. He lifted his head from Albus' shoulder and pressed his lips against his ear. "Let's fly, then."
Albus turned, his eyes searching, but when he opened his mouth to speak, Scorpius kissed him. "Now. Hurry."
He sensed the Charm Albus cast to hide their presence. The sinking sensation in his stomach that indicated they were rising off the ground – so alien and yet so familiar. The occasional rut in the road, the hard turns, they disappeared. The air got colder, but the ride smoother. Scorpius closed his eyes and held on. He only had to last five minutes.
"No," he heard Albus say. "Open your eyes. Look. It's okay."
So he did.
He'd been wrong. Riding the bike on the ground hadn't been like flying at all.
He'd vowed not to glance down, so of course, it was the first thing he did. His hands dug into Albus' jacket, but he didn't look away. The bike rushed low over a thick tangle of trees, no road in sight. As they rose even higher, the earth became a patchwork of fields and trees and houses. Deep inside Scorpius, a spark flared, but not the panic he expected. Familiarity, maybe. How the line of the earth tilted when Albus banked into a turn, how the bravest of the birds raced alongside of them, and how it seemed natural to laugh into the wind.
Too soon, it was over.
They set down in a small grassy area behind his shop where he stored old cauldrons, and in the summertime, where he brewed stains. Now it was bare, brown grass peeking through patches of dirty snow, but all Scorpius could focus on was the back door
the one that led directly to his flat
and how Albus was turning in the seat and kissing him before the engine had even completely died.
They stumbled off the bike together. Albus clutched at him, at his hair, his cloak, and Scorpius considered not moving another step, opting to let Albus take what he wanted right there. Then they slipped beyond the boundary of the Warming Charm and a blast of icy air pelted his face. A smidgen of sanity returned, but the way Albus was kissing him, it wouldn't last long.
"Inside," he said and added a shove for good measure.
Albus went, but dragged Scorpius with him. Five steps to the door, an interminable moment for Scorpius to clear his head enough to open the wards, then they were through. Albus gave him two seconds to slam the door shut behind them before he lifted Scorpius under the arms and pinned him against it.
Scorpius' cloak suffered from Albus' expired patience. Buttons flew and scattered across the floor, and though Scorpius thought for a brief second to complain, one look at Albus' wild eyes had him reconsidering. He sank his fingers into that dark hair and yanked Albus down for another kiss.
Fumbling through two layers of clothes, kissing until they were dizzy for air, and rutting together like teenagers satisfied him for a time. Distantly, he sensed his brain warning him to stop, to back off, to calm down before the desire became painful. He ignored it.
With a growl, he levered Albus away and propelled him backward towards the table. His one chair had the misfortune of being in his path, and Scorpius kicked it away before pushing Albus onto the cluttered surface. The book he'd been reading that morning tumbled to the floor and a half-empty mug upended, creating tiny zigzagging rivers of cold tea.
Scorpius stripped the leather jacket off Albus' shoulders. It caught on his forearms, and, frustrated, Scorpius gave it a hard yank. Albus chuckled breathlessly. "You don't want me to keep it on today?" Without waiting for an answer, he shed it in one quick movement.
"Want everything off," Scorpius panted. But, fuck, he didn't think they'd make it that far. He couldn't wait. He twisted his fingers into Albus' white t-shirt and eased him back. "Lie down."
Albus obeyed, trembling, unmindful of how his t-shirt met the spilt tea and soaked it up. The button on Albus' jeans gave easily, and Scorpius found the hard cock waiting for him as gorgeous and needy as he remembered. He slid it into his mouth with a moan. Albus answered him, his own groan drawing out as Scorpius swirled his tongue over the head. He hoisted himself onto one elbow to watch while sliding his opposite hand into Scorpius' hair.
Scorpius hadn't forgotten the mechanics, the motion, how to use his tongue – that part came naturally. But the experience was like his very first. Albus filled his mouth, slid into his throat, and all Scorpius could do was whimper as the taste exploded through him and pulsed in his groin.
Miraculously, no pain followed the bloom of pleasure.
Albus jerked, let out a breathy moan. His knee bumped the bulge in Scorpius' jeans, and suddenly the sensations doubled. Excruciating pressure
the kind that pushed everything else aside
twisted in his gut, and he couldn't stop himself from reaching inside his own jeans, not bothering with the button or the zip, and squeezing a fist around his prick. He tried to stroke, but the material was too tight. All he managed was to swipe his thumb over the tip, then swirl it through the slick fluid there.
Albus lifted his legs, linked them around Scorpius' back. Still, it wasn't enough. He needed to know Albus was his, even if it was only for this small moment in time. He relaxed his throat and sank down on Albus' cock until the thick patch of hair around it brushed his cheek. Albus cried out, stiffened, and Scorpius groaned as the flesh in his mouth swelled, then began to spasm.
That's when it happened.
His legs went numb. His stomach clenched. The hair on the back of his neck stood completely on end. His world shrank to the sound of Albus' yell, the taste of his seed, the hand clamped around his prick like a vice, and his thumb as it brushed back and forth, back and forth, over the damp head. A jolt seized him, then gathered in his stomach. There it sizzled and crackled for another few heartbeats
long enough for Scorpius to pull off and bury his face in the crease between Albus' leg and groin
before shooting into his balls, and oh god oh god oh god out his cock and over his hand.
He screamed silently against Albus' musky skin as the rapture went on and on. And he knew, as he lost himself in the explosion of white light… that he was falling.
It was sometime later when he finally opened his eyes, blinking the sweat from his vision. More from reflex than need, he tried to push the hair off his face, but his free hand, the one not buried in his jeans, wouldn't cooperate. Someone chuckled close to his ear, and another hand, not his, swept his damp fringe off his forehead. Blearily, Scorpius saw that he was on the floor, his head in Albus' lap, the kitchen table above him. He had fallen, then. But Albus had caught him.
"We made it twenty-five miles on that damn bike, and we couldn't manage the last twenty feet to your bed?" Albus asked, voice gravelled.
"Is that a question?"
Scorpius smiled up at him, exhausted, giddy, and sated. The bed may have been close, but moving was out of the question at the moment. Perhaps for the next several days, actually.
Albus' lips pressed against his – soft, then determined. When he pulled back, Scorpius sighed, then extracted his hand from his jeans. He grinned at the mess, and Albus laughed. "Come on," he said, nudging Scorpius with his elbow. "I want you on the bed."
Scorpius caught his breath at the words. Because that was all it took, those few words, and the tension was back. Like he hadn't just had (what he was sure had been) the strongest orgasm of his life. He sat up and Albus helped him onto shaky feet. They stumbled across the floor, shedding their remaining clothing quickly, but with very little grace. That Albus tried to kiss him the whole time didn't help.
When the last sock was gone, Albus sat on the bed and pulled Scorpius forward. "My turn."
His lips closed around Scorpius' cock, teasing him with a barely-there swipe of his tongue. Scorpius' knees shook, then started to buckle, but Albus slipped a steadying arm around his waist.
The promise of another climax crept up on him with embarrassing speed. He slid his hands into Albus' hair and pulled him off. "Close," he choked. Albus wrapped his arms round Scorpius' waist and pressed his face into his stomach.
"God. Want you," he rasped. "Want you," he said again, looking up.
Scorpius stroked a thumb over Albus' cheek. "Okay."
He climbed over the mussed sheets and settled onto his stomach. Apprehension plagued him. Worry that the first time had been a fluke. But when Albus started to prepare him – slowly, carefully – the fear evaporated, overshadowed by lust. And when Albus entered him, Scorpius' only concern was the overly gentle treatment. He began to rub against the sheets in counterpoint to the steady thrusts until Albus cursed and clamped a hand around his hip.
"Damn it! Stop that. Stop." He panted against Scorpius' back for several seconds before pulling back with a growl. "Fuck, fuck, fuck," he whispered, then sat up and back, taking Scorpius with him. The new position – splayed across Albus' lap – opened him perfectly, and he cried out, struggling, for once, not to come. Albus began to rock up and into him, over and over. One of his arms looped around Scorpius' chest, held him tight, and teased at his nipple. The other he wrapped around Scorpius' cock.
"Fuck, oh fuck," Albus chanted under his breath. "You bastard. Not gonna…" His voice trailed off and his movements did the same, much to Scorpius' dismay. He tilted his head back to rest on Albus' shoulder, panting in time with him while he begged under his breath.
Everything slowed. Albus was barely moving, but it wasn't going to matter, Scorpius realized, because he was coming apart again. Turning inside-out and riding the edge for endless seconds. He strained forward, trying to twist out of Albus' embrace so he could ride him faster, harder, but Albus held him easily.
Then, right before the panic set in, the hand on his cock started to move. Making up for lost time, it flew back and forth over his erection, keeping time with Albus' renewed, erratic thrusts. "I've got you," Albus said, like a prayer. "I've got you."
It was enough. Albus' soft words, the promise in them, threw him into a climax that rivalled his first of the evening. At the edge of his awareness, he heard Albus shout, felt him shudder. His hand slipped from Scorpius' cock to circle his waist and hold him tight, even after the waves of pleasure had passed.
That was the moment when Scorpius knew that Albus had been telling the truth.
He did have him.
Spinning, spinning. He's crushed against something hard. Then against something soft.
A woman screams.
He can't catch the air with his lungs. He can't reach his wand.
The world tilts again, and he can see the ground. It's right there. It's right there.
He was awake long before he opened his eyes. Air in, air out, he breathed deep and even while he shed the panic as quietly as he could. Spooned behind him, Albus mumbled into his ear.
"I said, are you okay?" He used the arm thrown over Scorpius' waist to tug him closer.
Scorpius took a huge breath, and this time his lungs filled. The tension created by the memory slipped away. This particular dream plagued him often, but the subconscious was a cruel thing. Each time it did, the emotions ripped into him like he was still there – with the spinning and the screaming and the ground rushing up to meet him
"Liar." Albus pushed up onto his elbow. When Scorpius rolled back to look at him, he trailed a finger along his jaw. "Did you remember something?"
He said it with a casualness that belied the enormity of the question. Scorpius sensed the turning point – a trust was about to be made, or lost. He flashed back to the feel of Albus kneeling behind him, his arm an iron rail across his chest, his hand on Scorpius' cock, his voice in his ear. How his words tipped Scorpius so forcefully into orgasm. And maybe good sex wasn’t a basis for sharing the most intimate secrets of one's heart, but at the moment, it felt appropriate.
So instead of sharing the details of his dream, which was just a bad memory and, in the grand scheme of things, rather unimportant, he said something else entirely.
"I hadn't even been awake an hour when they sent the Aurors to see me. I lied. I told them I didn't remember anything."
Albus arched a brow, but he didn't speak.
"One of them told me he'd seen the wreck. I guess it's standard for them to investigate in case… well, in case. There was nothing left, he said. Bits and pieces. A hole in the ground."
"Bastard," Albus whispered under his breath.
Scorpius shook his head. "No, he wasn’t trying to be cruel. He wanted me to know…. He didn't think there was any way I could've survived it without magic. He was positive someone cast a cushioning spell on me at the last second. It was almost too late, and it wasn't strong, but it saved my life."
Albus didn't speak, just ran his fingers through Scorpius' hair and waited patiently. Scorpius appreciated the gesture, but now that the confession had begun, it spilled from his mouth unchecked. "Someone got to their wand in time. Who was it? My father, my grandfather? Why didn't they save themselves instead?" He didn't cringe when Albus reached to wipe the one lonely tear from his cheek. "Why me?"
"Someone loved you enough to put you first. Is that so hard to believe?"
A chill spread through him, and Scorpius fumbled for the blanket. Albus pulled it up, tucked it around him, then pressed close again.
"I don't know," Scorpius said. "I just don't know. It was the ultimate sacrifice, and — I don't even remember them. I don't miss them. Shouldn't you miss someone who gave their life for yours? Shouldn't you want to remember them?"
"Shouldn't you honour their sacrifice by living your life instead of punishing yourself like a martyr?"
Scorpius sagged in his arms. "It sounds so easy when you say it."
Albus pressed his face into Scorpius' hair. "It's not easy, but you're doing fine. Look how far you've come already. We'll get there." He disentangled himself from the sheets and scooted to the edge of the bed. It took him a moment to find his pants (inside-out under the nightstand), and he snatched them up while scanning the rest of the room. "Jeans?" he asked, turning to Scorpius.
"Jeans?" Scorpius repeated, still reeling from Albus' last words.
"Yeah." He squinted at the wall clock by the kitchen. "It's almost time for Mum's party. Dad'll kill me if I'm late. Ah, there they are." He pushed off the bed.
"The party. Of course." Scorpius melted back into the blankets, trying not to look as upset as he felt, while Albus crossed the room to fetch the rest of his clothes.
Albus shrugged the jeans over his hips, then came to stand over the bed, arms crossed in front of him. Bare-chested, tousled, lids heavy over sated eyes – it was all Scorpius could do to resist licking his lips. A slow grin spread over Albus' face. "Keep looking at me like that, and we'll be truly late. Now come on, get up."
"Aren't you coming?"
Scorpius blinked. "No."
"Please come. Lily wants to see you. Dad wants to see you." He yanked the blankets off, ignoring Scorpius' indignant yelp. "I know they're a bit…." He studied the ceiling while he thought. "Overwhelming," he settled on at last. "But you'll have to get used to them at some point." He held out his hand. "No time like the present."
The fear flared, but, surprisingly not with its usual strength. The ride back would take an hour if they stayed on the ground. They'd most certainly be late.
Unless Albus was planning to fly.
The thought still scared him. But when he closed his eyes, he could feel the motor hum against his thighs and the engine shift as it sped and slowed. He could smell the leather of Albus' jacket and hear his careless laughter floating on the wind.
"Back on the horse," he whispered to himself.
He reached up and clasped Albus' hand.
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