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hp_drizzlemod ([personal profile] hp_drizzlemod) wrote in [community profile] hpdrizzle2017-09-18 03:36 pm

FIC: Hungry [Albus/Scorpius]

Title: Hungry
Author: Anonymous
Prompt: # S29 by [personal profile] carpemermaid
Pairing(s): Albus Severus Potter/Scorpius Malfoy
Word Count: 29k
Rating: NC-17
Warning(s): Hogwarts 7th year, mystery, case solving, magical creatures, crushes, pining/mutual pining, bed sharing, masturbation, mutual masturbation, jealousy, misunderstandings, first time, getting together, hurt/comfort, friends to lovers, some light angst, suspense, Head Auror Harry Potter, Unspeakable Draco Malfoy, Albus Severus Potter POV, CC compliant (mostly).
Disclaimer: Harry Potter characters are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: Eternal and heartfelt thanks to my beta, B, for being made of pure gold and looking this over for me, and to M for cheerleading when I too felt like I was being overwhelmed by the bloody fog.
Summary: There’s a fog in the school, in the grounds and the dorms, and the darkness has eyes, but Albus can figure this out. He and Scorpius make a formidable team, and Al’s not letting anything, not even his irremovable and surely unrequited feelings for his best friend, get in the way of solving this mystery.

After all, it’s just fog. Right?


1.


“This is so weird.”

Scorpius pressed his nose further against the glass, his breath gently fogging the window as he stared into the courtyard.

“Hmm?” Albus looked up from his book, homework spread over the common room sofa. The green and black pattern was just visible under the huge sprawl of parchment, quills and the odd chocolate frog wrapper. He was ten inches short on his History of Magic essay, which was due after the break and for which he had done exactly zero preparation. They had the common room to themselves, everyone else having gone home already for the Christmas holidays, and Albus had decided to stay so he could make some decent headway on his somehow never ending pile of homework. He was woefully behind in most of his classes, due to certain… Albus flicked his eyes towards Scorpius. Due to certain distractions, who were currently pressing their face against the window instead of helping him study.

“What’s weird?” Albus asked, frowning slightly as Scorpius leaned forward a little further, resting his fingertips on the thick glass pane. They were charmed now to show the Hogwarts courtyard, instead of the lake, which Albus significantly preferred; he didn’t want to be staring at a bunch of Grindylows all evening. He wasn’t sure what Scorpius was so excited about, though.

“The fog!” Scorpius whispered enthusiastically. Albus blinked at him, then sighed.

“The fog is exciting, huh?” he mumbled distractedly, returning to his essay, reading over the line he’d just written. The Goblin war of 1763 began in 1763 and went for six years, meaning it ended in 1769, marking 1769 as the end of the Goblin war. Which started in 1763. And went for six years.

He groaned as he dropped the parchment onto the floor. He rubbed his eyes, then groaned again when he realised he’d smeared ink across his cheek and up over his forehead. There was no way he was going to get a decent grade with that kind of blatant essay padding, but there was nothing else for it. He couldn’t remember a single thing about the Goblin War ― other than there were presumably Goblins, some kind of disagreement, and a lot of very small armour ― and he couldn't seem to focus on any of his books long enough to glean anything of use. Scorpius had finished his essay three days ago, even going two inches over ‘just for fun’, and was now meant to be helping Albus. Albus needed all the assistance he could get; every time he thought he was getting something done, his mind would wander off somewhere else, to much more pleasant but considerably more confusing things.

Albus chewed on his lip, glancing back at Scorpius who was now craning his neck and standing on tiptoes to stare at the encroaching fog in the courtyard. His shirt was riding up slightly as he leaned up, a strip of skin just visible over the hem of his black trousers. The light from the room made his hair almost seem to shimmer, flickering from white to lightest blond as he turned his face this way and that. Albus blinked, swallowing and looking away.

Yeah. His mind kept wandering to very confusing things.

“It looks like it’s moving,” Scorpius whispered, excitedly, and Albus sighed. He stared at the essay one last time, then dropped it onto the pile and went to go and see what Scorpius was getting so excited about.

It was, as it turned out, just fog.

“No, it’s...it’s been there for days, and it’s moving!” Scorpius insisted, when Albus pointed this out to him.

Albus made a face. “Isn’t that what fog normally does?” he inquired, waving a hand and resting his forehead against the glass. “It rolls, it creeps, it,” he searched for the word, “billows, and all that. Although, I guess it’s usually rolling and creeping across moors, so maybe this is,” Albus shrugged, turning his head to face Scorpius, “wavy, movey fog, which is a bit lost?” he finished, satisfied with his answer. The glass was cold against his skin, the early evening chill settling in, but he felt his cheeks heat up slightly when Scorpius turned to grin at him.

“Oh, it’s just perfectly normal, wavy, movy fog which is lost, is it? That’s your assessment?”

Albus nodded, their faces inches apart.

“Just everyday fog, which happens to have a weird shimmery colour, and which is gliding across the courtyard towards the castle?” Scorpius smiled again, his voice tinged with humour. This close Albus could see the faintest flecks of blue in Scorpius’s light grey eyes, and he blinked, wondering if they’d always been that colour ― before he frowned. He turned to look back out the window.

“Huh,” he said. In the light of the setting sun, the fog did have a strange shine to it. Almost a glittery golden blue, depending on which way he turned his head, as it seemed to creep closer to the castle. “That is weird,” he said after a moment, pressing his hand against the glass next to Scorpius’s.

Scorpius beamed. “I told you!” he whispered. “It’s not normal, rolly moor fog, or whatever you said. It’s been getting closer for a couple of days now, but no one seems to really have noticed it. But it’s weird, isn't it?” Scorpius shook his head lightly. “I know the weather’s been a bit bleak lately, but it shouldn’t be doing that. This time of year, it should be snowing. It could be some new kind of weather phenomenon, or the castle doing something strange. It could be anything!” He smiled, and Albus watched the fog a moment longer, before he smiled back at him.

“Yeah.” He grinned wider, essay forgotten. “Wanna find out what it is?”

Scorpius beamed back.


2.



All excitement aside, they waited until the next morning.

Scorpius wanted to investigate the suspicious and potentially lost moor fog right then and there, but after a solid exposition from Albus expounding the merits of unlocking weather mysteries when fully rested and in possession of a full stomach, Scorpius agreed to do it after breakfast. Albus also rather suspected it was because Scorpius had lost one of his gloves earlier in the week and didn't want cold fingers, but he magnanimously refrained from mentioning that. He even let Scorpius borrow his spare pair, made of a soft grey wool. They weren’t nearly as nice as Scorpius’s leather pair, but Scorpius seemed thrilled to have them all the same. The sight of Scorpius pulling them on as they trudged down to the Great Hall for breakfast made Albus feel rather pleased too. And then a bit weird. He’d certainly never been invested in the wellbeing of Scorpius’s fingers before, beyond a certain, abstract concern for the general well-being of Scorpius’s everything. Albus pushed it all aside and into the “Panic About Later” section of his mind. He knew it was getting rather full in there, but there was a little room left.

“Does it seem like there are less students here today, to you?”

Albus stopped, toast mid-way to his mouth as he regarded his friend.

“Huh?” he mumbled, taking a bite. “‘S’hols, Sc’rp,” he managed around his mouthful. “Plus, hardly anyone stayed around this year because there’s that big Quidditch festival happening in Devon.” He chewed loudly, then grinned. “Hogwarts is a ghost school this Christmas.”

Scorpius frowned, humming as he buttered his own slice. “Yeah, I guess…” He opened the jar of marmalade, long fingers carefully easing the lid open. Albus shook his head and looked away, focussing on his own breakfast.

Toast, and beans, and a sausage. Nice and simple and straightforward, he told himself, which was what he should be focussing on, not on the way Scorpius’s hands suddenly seemed to interest him, or the way he was acutely aware that Scorpius’s hair was just long enough to fall over his eyes. That was the kind of thing he was not supposed to be noticing about his best friend, or boys in general. Probably. Not that there was anything wrong with that, Albus thought with a start, as he tried and failed to avoid watching Scorpius spread the orange jam liberally over his toast. Benjamin from Hufflepuff was gay, and Teddy had had that boyfriend a while back, the one he brought over for Easter Sunday lunch and who James hated for some reason none of them had ever managed to get out of him. He was gone now ― the boyfriend, not James ― and James seemed to be in a much better mood about it all since, and so did Teddy oddly enough. His brother was such a strange guy sometimes, Albus thought, crunching the crust of his toast and staring around at the nearly empty Great Hall. Sometimes, Albus thought it almost seemed as if James fancied Teddy, but that would be weird. He was like a brother to them, was probably James’s best friend, and surely that put him off limits. Albus flicked a confused glance over at Scorpius and then looked away again quickly when Scorpius licked his thumb, looking up and smiling. He suddenly felt a little hot around the neck. The collar of his t-shirt abruptly felt too tight, his cheeks flushing pink.

Sometimes, Albus also thought that it was bloody obvious that he himself had a crush on Scorpius.

He sighed internally, resolutely stuffing more toast into his mouth. Bloody hell, this is getting ridiculous, he thought, trying to will his blush away. It didn’t make any sense at all. He couldn’t like Scorpius. Well, of course he could like him, he was his best friend, but he couldn’t like like him. And anyway, Albus liked girls. Probably. He had that one time, at least. Albus frowned. Well, okay, maybe he was rubbish at liking girls, but that didn’t give him an excuse to go around liking Scorpius instead. He was Albus’s friend. His best friend, the person he was closest to in life. Scorpius knew Albus better than anyone, and Albus didn’t want to go around ruining things by thinking about how nice Scorpius’s hair was, or the way his smile made his eyes crinkle. Merlin forbid, he didn’t want to have another one of those dreams, like the fantastic one he’d had two nights earlier about the two of them kissing in the lake. Kissing! Albus was definitely not supposed to think about those sorts of things, not while sleeping or awake, and it definitely wasn’t supposed to make him feel the way it did.

Scorpius would probably be horrified if he knew about it.

Albus chewed harder, trying to force his mind onto other things. All he managed to focus on, though, was that his toast had gone cold, and the corner was slightly burnt.

“Wasn’t Alex Cummings here yesterday?” Scorpius asked, and Albus returned his attention to him, looking up from his ferocious staring match with his goblet of orange juice.

“Who?”

“You know, Alex. From Ravenclaw.” Scorpius’s brow creased as he looked around the room. “Actually, I don’t remember seeing him at dinner last night. But he was definitely staying here over break. He doesn’t give a stuff about Quidditch and he…” Scorpius broke off, licking his lips. “He said he didn’t want to go home because his parents have just split up,” Scorpius mumbled. Albus looked at Scorpius more closely.

“I didn't know you were such good friends with Alex,” he said, then cringed at the tone of his voice. That sounded almost jealous. He didn’t want to sound like that.

Scorpius shrugged, looking slightly awkward. “‘M not really. We just talk sometimes, in the library.” Scorpius tucked some of his hair behind his ear, and Albus pointedly didn’t watch the movement of his hands while he did it. It took a lot of effort.

“You're sure he was here?” he asked, more out of politeness than interest. He felt bad for sounding snappy. Scorpius was allowed to have friends who weren’t Albus. He was allowed to talk to Alex Cummings from Ravenclaw. “Maybe he just went home yesterday?”

“Hmm.” Scorpius nodded, resting his elbows on the table and his chin in his hands. “And Martha Balik? She was definitely staying here over the holidays, and she’s not…” Scorpius craned his head, leaning back as he surveyed the room. “No, she hasn’t come down, either,” he finished, nodding over at the Gryffindor table, before dropping his chin back down to rest in his cupped palms.

Albus set his goblet of juice back down onto the overladen table. “Actually, yeah.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then noticed Ayesha Hodges staring at him in disgust from the other end of the Slytherin table. Albus grimaced. He picked up a napkin and dabbed at his mouth, then turned back to Scorpius when he heard him snort with laughter. Albus smiled, balling up the napkin and throwing it at him, to Scorpius’s growing laughter, and Ayesha’s apparent continued disgust. Albus shrugged. He was crap at manners, and Ayesha was always looking at him like that; apparently, ‘Albus Potter’ and ‘slug under a damp rock’ were synonyms in her book. There was no pleasing some people, really, so Albus figured to hell with the napkins.

“Yeah, I thought Martha was staying,” Albus said, returning to their previous conversation. “She was at dinner last night though, so maybe she's just,” Albus shrugged again, “having a lie in?”

“Yeah.” Scorpius tilted his head, still resting his chin in his hands. His expression looked fond, happy, as he stared at Albus, and Albus felt that strange fluttering feeling in his stomach again. He wished he had his napkin back so he had something to do with his hands. He began picking at his toast crust instead.

“Hey, Al?”

“Hmm?”

“Do your ankles feel fizzy?”

Albus blinked, looking up slowly at Scorpius’s bemused expression as he tried to process the even more bemusing question. He opened his mouth, then shut it again, attempting to figure out what the hell Scorpius was on about. Fizzy ankles ― was that code for something? Did they have codes? He swallowed, setting his crust back down on the plate and was about to break the news to Scorpius that he had finally gone completely and utterly bonkers when he wiggled his toes in his shoes. He blinked again, frowning as he realised that Scorpius was actually on to something; his feet did feel kind of warm and tingly.

Albus looked down under the table, seeing for the first time that the strange blue-gold fog was now inside the castle, curling around the legs of the tables in the Great Hall ― and that he was ankle deep in it.

He looked up and met Scorpius’s equally startled eyes.

“Okay, we really need to find out what is going on here.”


3.



“Do you think we should be walking in it?”

Albus stepped around a largish rock, then swore as he bumped into a stone bench in the courtyard.

“Ow!” he rubbed his shin, internally cursing the bench. If he knew a Hex that would make a stone feel sorry for what it had done, he would use it right now. He didn’t, though, so he settled for glaring instead. “What were you saying?” he asked, glancing at Scorpius and hopping on one foot.

“I said, should we be walking in it. In the fog,” Scorpius clarified unnecessarily.

“Like, in case it’s cursed, you mean?”

“Yeah, that,” Scorpius agreed, “and also because we can’t see anything,” he said cheekily, looking down pointedly at Albus’s leg.

Albus returned the look balefully, still rubbing his sore shin. “Valid point.” He sighed. “But we can’t just stay in the castle. I mean, it’s in there too, now,” he countered.

“Mmm. No one else seems bothered by it, do they?” Scorpius pulled his cloak around him tighter, although it wasn’t really cold. The fog itself was warm and almost pleasant. It made Albus’s legs feel tingly, like a gentle course of pins and needles running up his calves. It was...deeply unsettling, he felt, a feeling which was only beaten by how unsettling it was that none of the other students or remaining teachers seemed remotely bothered by the encroaching fog. Mcgonagall had looked, when they’d asked her about it that morning, somehow both thrilled and absent-minded about the entire thing, as if the castle in her care being filled with a slow and thick fog was a wonderful surprise. She looked positively cheerful, which was possibly the oddest thing of all; Headmistress McGonagall never usually looked cheerful about surprises in the castle, foggy or otherwise. Albus and Scorpius were rather privy to that fact, having been the cause of quite a few such incidents in their time ― all entirely accidental, of course.

The other students they’d spoken to ― Eleanor in the Great Hall, Martin on their way out, Cassandra by the Entrance Hall ― were definitely aware of the fog, but they didn’t find it strange, or unusual; they seemed oddly fond of it. Really, they should all be in uproar, or at the least a little bit curious as to why the school looked like a graveyard in a bad Muggle horror film. Albus had seen a few of them, mostly with James and Teddy and always with popcorn. He liked them. He really didn't want himself and Scorpius to be in one, though. Scorpius agreed with him there.

They didn’t really agree on what they should do as far as investigating the fog went.

“It just seems like possibly a dangerous move to go and walk further into the weird, warm, mystery fog, that’s all,” Scorpius continued, walking after Albus. Albus held his wand out in front of him, the dim light from his cast Lumos making the fog on the ground marginally easier to see through.

“Yeah, true,” he conceded. Scorpius did kind of have a point. “But Hagrid’s place is down here, and we should see if he’s okay. And maybe if he knows anything about this?”

“Yeah, okayaaahh!”

“Wha ― shit!”

Scorpius stumbled, grabbing Albus’s arm to steady himself as the pebbles slipped out from under his feet ― and then out from under Albus’s as well. They landed with a heavy oof, heads colliding with a solid crack.

“Ow,” Albus groaned, lifting his head up and trying to see in the swirling fog around him. He could make out Scorpius’s face next to his through the dense, bluish cloud. “You alright?”

Scorpius made a sound, something halfway between a yes and a no. He shifted, pushing up onto his hands and swaying slightly before looking down at Albus. There was a slight bump on his head, a little reddening bruise from where it had connected painfully with Albus’s, but he seemed fine. Albus could just make out his face, the fall of his light hair, and he swallowed, suddenly acutely aware of their proximity and the way Scorpius’s legs fell across his. He was lying half on top of him, which meant Albus was lying half under Scorpius and that...well. Albus swallowed, thankful at least that Scorpius probably couldn't see how red his face was turning. Merlin, it was a miracle people didn’t constantly mistake him for a beetroot or a bloody strawberry, given the extent and the frequency with which his face was turning pink and puce in Scorpius’s company these days. He cleared his throat, trying very hard not to enjoy the warmth of Scorpius’s body on top of his own. He could feel his own body responding, a heated tingle in his belly, and then a little lower too.

Oh, god.

“Um,” he started, then stopped when he heard the strange squeak of his voice. He sounded beyond ridiculous. He felt kind of the same, lying on the pebbled road leading to Hagrid’s hut, his best friend on top of him and about a thousand butterflies flying in excited circles in his stomach. Those butterflies needed to bloody calm down, and so did his lower half. There were things to investigate, fog to get out of, and erections to absolutely not get.

“Um,” Scorpius said back, vacantly blinking down at him. He looked a bit flushed too, his eyes slightly unfocussed as they flicked to Albus’s lips and then away, and Albus worried for a moment if perhaps Scorpius had hit his head harder than he’d realised. Before he could ask, though, Scorpius’s eyes widened. He hurriedly scrambled to his feet.

“Oh, Salazar, sor ― sorry, Al!” he stammered offering his hand and helping Albus to his feet. “Sorry, are you hurt? Did you hit your ―”

“No, it’s fine!” Albus smiled, reluctantly letting go of Scorpius’s fingers. They felt nice in his hand. “You though, you hit your head ―” He pointed at Scorpius’s forehead, and Scorpius gingerly touched the bump.

“Oh. It doesn’t really hurt.” He smiled and Albus returned it, feeling hot, and weird and awkward. Scorpius looked down at his feet, then over Albus’s shoulder. He frowned suddenly. Albus turned to follow his eyeline, catching a glimpse of something large and dark as it moved quickly out of view and behind a tree.

“Did you just see ―”

“Maybe.” Scorpius nodded. “Was that a bird, or…”

“Bloody big bird,” Albus mumbled, raising his eyebrows. He pulled his cloak tighter around himself as he stared at the space the shape had been. The fog was unsettled, curling slightly off the ground where they’d seen the figure, confirming at least that something had been there. It wasn’t very comforting though, Albus thought, feeling suddenly cold. He felt Scorpius move closer to him, and Albus resisted the urge to step even closer again himself. He was starting to feel properly rattled.

“So. Um, the hut?” Scorpius suggested quietly.

“Yes.” Albus nodded vehemently, turning around fully and facing Hagrid’s hut.

“Yes, let’s...see if Hagrid knows what’s going on.”



4.



“So, that was ― oh. ”

Albus trailed off, stepping gingerly into the dorm and looking down at his feet. As he suspected, the usually bare floor was now covered, as the Common Room and the stairs had been too, with a thick layer of the dense fog. He grimaced.

“Gross.”

“Merlin,” Scorpius mumbled behind him, and Albus stepped into the room, resisting the urge to tiptoe. It was difficult; the fog was making his legs feel warm, as if a cat was brushing against them. There was something oddly invasive about the fog having entered their dorm, about the way it licked around the carved wooden legs of their beds. Albus made another unhappy face.

He really didn’t like it.

He took three large strides then hopped onto the nearest bed; Scorpius’s as it turned out. Scorpius followed suit after taking a large breath and all but jumped onto the bed next to Albus. Albus laughed, settling his head against the pillow. He sighed, glad to be in their dorm and inside after their bizarre and unsettling afternoon in the hut.

“So Hagrid was useless.”

“And Professor Longbottom, too,” Scorpius agreed. “I don’t understand how he could have forgotten who Alex is!” He looked at Albus with a frown.

Albus hummed in agreement. He didn’t want to admit it, but that was very strange indeed. Alex was a quiet boy, the kind some would say was forgettable, but he was an avid Herbology student and top of their year. He even tutored some of the students from younger years who were struggling with the class, which Professor Longbottom had helped set up, so there was really no reason at all for the Professor to suddenly now have no idea who Alex was.

And yet, when they had arrived at Hagrid’s hut to find him taking tea with Professor Longbottom, their relief was quickly replaced by baffled apprehension as they saw the same vacantly pleased expression on their faces as McGonagall had been wearing. No concern about the fog, no interest in finding out why or where it was coming from ― and absolutely zero memory of Alex Cummings.

“It doesn't make any sense,”Albus lamented, toeing his shoes off and letting them drop onto the floor with a thud. “None of it. And this fog is really…” He glanced down at the floor. “Creeping me out.”

Scorpius was silent, as he undid his scarf. He raised his head, peeling the green and silver wool from around his neck. “What was that thing we saw?” he asked quietly after a moment. “Earlier, near the Forest?”

Albus worried his lower lip, turning to meet Scorpius’s wide grey eyes. “‘M not really sure,” he mumbled. “Probably nothing,” he tried, even though he couldn't quite shake the feeling that it had definitely been something.

Scorpius folded his scarf once, and then again, fingers working over the soft wool. Albus watched him, trying not to think about the dark shape they’d both seen, about the strange way everyone was acting.

“Do you wanna ―” Scorpius cleared his throat, picking at a button on his shirt. “D’you wanna maybe share, tonight?” he mumbled.

Albus blinked at him, unsure of what Scorpius meant, before his eyes widened in understanding.

It wasn't something they did that often, or had done for years, really. Every now and again, for one reason or another, they used to cram into one bed, staying up late reading comics or telling stories, keeping each other company and their minds distracted from whatever was prodding at their periphery. The first time they’d done it had been in third year, on Scorpius’s mother’s birthday ― the first since she’d passed. They’d spent a lot of time together around then, Scorpius pale and drawn but holding it together. Until her birthday, that is, when he didn’t want to get out of bed, and didn’t want to be on his own either. Albus could understand Scorpius not wanting to be alone that night ― and not the next, or the next, either. They’d played cards, ate chocolate frogs, and fell asleep, bed curtains drawn and knees inches from each other as Albus closed his eyes and pretended he couldn't hear the quiet sounds of Scorpius crying. He wasn’t great at talking about those sorts of things, not then and still not now.

A lot had happened since, and he understood it a bit better, but he’d never lost someone like that, not really. He never knew how to talk about it with Scorpius, but at least now he knew that he should, rather than stuffing it all down like he had back then. He’d always shuffled closer to Scorpius in the bed, but that was the best he could do.

He shuffled a little closer to him now, turning on his side and smiling. He could understand not wanting to sleep alone with this fog ebbing around the legs of their beds, too.

“Yours or mine then?” he said, twisting his mouth into a warm smile, and feeling his stomach flip when Scorpius returned it tenfold. Sometimes it really did take so little to make Scorpius happy, Albus thought, feeling a spike of guilt in his gut at knowing that this would be making Albus happy in an entirely different way. He was suddenly hit with the knowledge of what sharing a bed with Scorpius would be like. They hadn’t done this in a few years, and definitely not since Albus had developed his weird, persistent staring-at-Scorpius-and-thinking-inappropriate-things habit, which he was quite sure he would continue to do while in bed with him.

But ― Albus told himself as he stood up, jumped to his bed, grabbing his pyjamas and then jumping back onto Scorpius’s bed so as to avoid touching the insipid fog ― he’d just have to get it together. He and his probably imminent erection could handle sleeping in the same bed as Scorpius, and that was that. He kept his back to Scorpius as he undressed, then dressed again quickly, shivering slightly at the cold material of his nightshirt and boxers. Clothes safely on and warming to his body, he flopped down onto the bed and scooted his legs under the covers, shifting when Scorpius, now clad in pea-green t-shirt and black shorts, got under them too.

The bed was not really big enough for them both, not at all considering their relative heights, and the fact that they were closer to adulthood than being kids anymore. They lay side by side, elbows almost touching and both staring at the ceiling. They were silent for such a long moment that Albus thought Scorpius had fallen asleep, until the sheets rustled and Scorpius turned to look at Albus’s profile.

“What’s going on, Al?” Scorpius mumbled faintly, and Albus shifted, one knee brushing up against his, then moved it back again quickly. No touching, he reminded himself, imaging his body was a plank of wood and trying to keep his limbs arranged in a straight line.

“We’ll figure it out,” Albus said, confidently, pointing his toes towards the end of the bed and silently promising his dick that he would hex it off if he had another dream about kissing Scorpius tonight.

“We’ll figure this fog out in the morning, Scorp. Trust me.”


5.



They figured nothing out in the morning.

“This is impossible!” Albus groaned, head resting on his forearms. His legs ached from being crossed up on the chair as they were, but he couldn't stand to let them rest in the fog, even though it wasn't painful or unpleasant in the least. It still irked him, and he was already in a mood prone to being irked after having gotten nowhere enough sleep the night before. At first, he’d been consumed with thinking about the fog, and then he’d been consumed with not thinking about Scorpius lying beside him. When he’d accepted that the latter was impossible, given Scorpius was lying inches from him, warm and sleep-soft and with one hand resting over the crook of Albus’s elbow, he’d almost considered getting up to go to the dorm room bathroom and have a nice, long wank but then he’d have to walk in the fog, which took him right back to obsessing over that again.

And then, curiously, by 5am he’d just been hungry. Apparently lying up all night trying to ignore a friendship-ruining erection and a creepy indoor fog gave him an appetite.

On the other side of the library table, Scorpius sighed, his own hair sticking up oddly and three heavy books open in front of him.

“This does seem a bit impossible,” he agreed dejectedly. There were bags under his eyes, his face wan and gloomy the way it always looked when he hadn’t had a proper sleep, and Albus frowned. He was pretty sure Scorpius had slept like a baby, especially considering he hadn't even woken up when his leg kept slipping over Albus’s, his hand inching onto Albus’s chest. Albus swallowed, flushing at the memory of it. He quickly dropped his legs onto the floor, felt the tingle of the fog against them, and sighed. The fog at least had one use; it was as effective as a bucket of Flobberworms when it came to getting rid of Albus’s rising libido.

“I can’t find anything on this!” Albus griped, looking down at his own open book. A picture of a manticore looked back at him, and Albus resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at it.

“Maybe we’re looking in the wrong section?” Scorpius suggested, looking up at Albus imploringly. Albus lifted his legs back up onto the wooden chair, perching on it unhappily.

“Well, I couldn't find a section for ‘friendly, horrible, mysterious and shimmery inside fog’, so,” Albus waved a hand grumpily at the books on the table, “it’s either a magical weather phenomenon, or something is causing this.” He swallowed, not wanting to think about the dark shape they’d seen the day before. “In which case, the creature would be in one of these books,” he finished, his voice low and his stomach dropping. He hoped it wasn’t a creature, that he and Scorpius had simply seen something entirely ordinary, but he couldn't shake the feeling that what they had seen wasn’t something that usually lived in the Forbidden Forest. At least, not something that came to the edge of the Forest, or close to the castle.

“Right.” Scorpius breathed out in a huff, pushing his hair away from his forehead with renewed vigour. “It’s got to be in here somewhere then.” He turned his book upside down, sitting forwards on his own chair and showing Albus the page. “Could it be…a Hippocamp?”

Albus rubbed his tired eyes. “A what?”

“A Hippocamp. It’s like a...horse fish thing,” Scorpius explained, raising his shoulders and then dropping them again as he leaned closer still. “With wings,” he added, smiling slightly at Albus’s laugh.

“Scorp, how could a fishy hippo ―”

“― no, horse, Albus, it’s a fishy horse

“― be responsible for this, Scorpius?” Albus inquired indulgently.

“Well, they’re water creatures, from Greece, and Ancient Etruscan origin as well, which makes sense, of course, given their view of the afterlife and how to get there. You know, ancient wizards used to think that Hippocamps knew where to find a gateway to another word, and some spent their lives trying to follow them and find it! There’s even been some literature which connects it to the concept of Atlantis, which is, well, fascinating!” Scorpius laughed giddily, but Albus only blinked in reply, and Scorpius cleared his throat. “Well, anyway, I think it is.” Scorpius tucked some of his pale hair behind one ear. Albus watched the movement of his hands, tilting his head to the side wistfully, before he caught himself. He sat bolt upright as Scorpius continued. “They’re water creatures, Albus, and they’re powerful, and they have been known to inhabit lakes, so they could perhaps affect the weather in the lake out there and create…maybe...” Scorpius trailed off, ending on a heavy sigh. “And there’s no way this has anything to do with a Hippocamp,” he finished, with resignation.

Albus patted him on the arm consolingly, then smiled. “Why do I get the feeling you really wanted it to be?”

“Because it would have been brilliant,” Scorpius admitted with a toothy grin.

“Maybe we can get you a ride on an Atlantic fish hippo next time,” Albus joked, adjusting his weight as he uncrossed his legs, then crossed them again, this time his left leg over the right. Merlin, they were aching, but there was no way he was letting them dangle in the fog, not for all the magical Hippos in Greece.

Scorpius stuck his tongue out at him, then puffed up his cheeks, letting the air out in a tired raspberry sound against the heel of his palm.

“What about,” Albus turned his own book around, the heavy black cover scratching over the wood of the library table, “a Nymph?”

“No, not my type,” Scorpius replied flippantly, smiling cheekily at Albus up from under his messy fringe.

“Ha ha ha, you’re a real comedian,” Albus replied, his cheeks heating up as his stomach did several somersaults at Scorpius’s mischievous tone, the warm glint in his eyes. It was almost flirtatious, which was far more than Albus’s constitution could handle; he currently found it borderline obscenely attractive when Scorpius did mundane things like leave the top button of his shirt undone, spread jam on his toast, or two weeks ago when Scorpius cut the pad of his thumb in Potions and then sucked on it. Sucked on his thumb, for Merlin’s sake! Albus had almost had a coronary, the blood rushing south so quickly he’d thought he was about to faint. He was never going to make it to the end of the year in one piece if Scorpius added being occasionally fucking flirty to his repertoire. Albus cleared his throat, rallying his wits, and continued.

“It could be a Nymph, a water Nymph.” He pointed at the picture on the page, of a supine woman combing her hair with a seashell and looking fabulously and serenely bored with her entire surroundings. “I mean, they hang about near lakes too?”

“Yeah...” Scorpius looked at him skeptically. “But why would a swishy naked lady who hangs about near lakes cause all this fog and make students disappear?”

“Maybe she’s...enchanting them?”

“Do Nymphs do that, though, or is that Sirens?”

“Oh.” Albus furrowed his brow. “I don’t know, actually. But that thing, you know, that we saw. It looked,” he licked his lips, lowering his voice, “well, it looked sort of upright, didn’t it?” His voice was tentative, his reluctance to properly broach this topic making him quiet, on edge. “It looked, maybe, like it was walking. Or gliding, really. But, upright,” he repeated.

Scorpius’s mouth twisted, one cheek lifting as he bit the inside of it in consternation.

“I don’t think it was a Nymph, though, Albus,” he answered, softly. “It was sort of dark, and…..”

Scorpius didn’t continue, shoulders slumping slightly, and Albus set his own in response, leaning forwards until their foreheads almost touched.

“You know what I think it looked like,” he mumbled, watching Scorpius’s face carefully, trying to read his expression. He was on shaky ground here, and every inch of Scorpius’s tense posture, the tight set of his lips, was telling Albus proceed with caution. Be sensitive.

“Yeah. Dementor,” Scorpius murmured, his voice almost inaudible.

“Well… they can affect atmosphere, I guess. Make people feel certain things,” Albus said tentatively. He knew Scorpius had more experience than he did with this, but he also knew that that experience wasn’t something Scorpius would likely want to relive. He didn’t want to, either.

“Maybe. But.” Scorpius dropped his chin onto his hands, his expression troubled and forehead creased. “But they affect how you feel, affect the emotional atmosphere I guess, and this doesn't feel like it did with them, does it?” he inquired genuinely, his voice almost plaintive. “It doesn't feel like that to me. I don’t hear,” he swallowed thickly, breaking off. “I don’t feel like last time. And I don’t know how they would create a fog, or why they would want to, and if they did why it would feel,” Scorpius looked down at the three-inch deep fog licking at the legs of their library table, “why it would feel so benign,” he finished.

“It doesn't feel benign to me,” Albus grumbled, and Scorpius flicked a glance at him, tilted his head in a nod of acknowledgement.

“No, well maybe not entirely benign, but it doesn't feel like a Dementor. It feels almost soothing,” Scorpius said, looking down at the floor and at his feet disappearing into the fog. Albus bit his lip, a surge of strangled worry creeping up his spine.

“Hey Scorpius?” he said softly.

“Hmm?”

“Would you take your feet off the ground?” Albus asked quietly. He felt stupid as soon as he’d said it. But he didn’t like the idea of the fog being on Scorpius, of his feet being engulfed in it. He thought of Mcgonagall's vacant smiles and the way Professor Longbottom couldn’t remember who Alex Cummings, his star pupil, was. He didn’t like that Scorpius was finding the fog soothing.

“Oh.” Scorpius shrugged in confusion, in almost mild irritation. “But I’ll get in trouble, we can’t have our feet on library chairs,” he said, looking pointedly at Albus’s shoes on the dark wood.

“No one’s here, though, I haven’t seen the librarian for hours,” Albus said hurriedly, feeling stupider and more desperate by the second. “I just. You don’t have to, I mean. It’s stupid, I know the fog’s just thick air, isn’t it?” Albus tried to laugh, but the sound was heavy and clunky instead of light, and he let his head drop, his hair obscuring his face. “I just don’t like it,” he mumbled, swallowing. And I don’t understand it, or trust it, and I don't want you in it, went unsaid. Albus didn’t want to say those thoughts out loud.

Scorpius said nothing, and Albus tried to think of a joke, something to diffuse the tension he’d created. He was suddenly glad he needed a haircut, his messy tangle of waves a thankful barrier between him and having to see Scorpius presumably regarding him like he was nuts, but Albus looked up, sudden and sharp, when he heard Scorpius’s chair scrape against the floor.

He almost sighed with relief when he said Scorpius curl both legs up underneath him, resting on his chair in an awkward squat, and smiling openly and easily and astoundingly comfortingly at Albus’s worried, flushed, embarrassed face.

“No one’s here,” Scorpius repeated softly at Albus’s relieved expression, and Albus nodded, pushing his hair behind his ears with both hands and willing his face to go back to its normal colour.

“So, probably not Dementors,” Scorpius went on, looking away and giving Albus a much needed moment to compose himself. He oddly almost felt like crying. The relief and comfort of Scorpius doing something so simple and so stupid just because Albus had asked him to was an overwhelming combination. Albus decided to blame it on the lack of sleep.

“Maybe something like a Dementor, then,” Albus croaked, then cringed. Get it together, you overemotional berk, he just put his feet on the chair! he chided himself, turning back to his book. Scorpius hummed, nodding, running a finger down an index of his book. He stopped at a word, frowning in the gentle way he did when something occurred to him.

“I wonder…” he mumbled, then began to turn several pages, stopping when he reached a long chapter with intricately detailed borders. “Enenra!” he blurted, suddenly.

Albus rubbed his eyebrow, confused. “Pardon?”

“Enenra,” Scorpius repeated, licking his lips excitedly. He tapped the page with his index finger, turning it to its side so they could both see. “It’s a type of Yōkai, a Japanese, well, apparition is the translation here, or spectre. There are a lot different kinds ― Grandmother has a book on them, in fact, loads of books actually! The Manor library is full of this kind of thing. Nothing dark,” Scorpius rushed to clarify, “she just finds them fascinating, and they are. They’re connected to Dementors, they think, and Lethifolds. Well, it’s all speculation really, as there’s so little known about what Dementors actually are, how they work, and Lethifolds, well.” Scorpius grimaced. “They’re just awful.”

“Those are the, um.” Albus waved his hand in a vague circular motion, eyes trained on the illustrations of the strange, smokey beings as they wafted and dissipated, in dark and malevolent-seeming waves across the page. “Lethifolds are the creepy smothering sheets, aren’t they?”

Scorpius laughed softly, the puff of his breath gusting over Albus’s cheek as he leaned closer. “Yeah. That’s pretty accurate.” His voice was soft, and Albus let himself lean into it, under the pretense of looking closer at the book. “They’re not quite like Dementors, more beast than...whatever Dementors are,” Scorpius said, his lip turning down into a grimace. “But there’s an undeniable relation between creatures of this nature, and the Enenra...well, they’ve long been associated with atmospheric elements, with smoke, clouds.”

“Hmm.” Albus furrowed his brow as he read, trying not to look too closely at the billowing form of the creatures on the page. They did look reminiscent of what he’d seen, but it was such a brief glimpse, more a shape, a presence, than anything he could solidly describe, and this just seemed to be creating more questions than answers. “Smoke is not the same as making rooms fill up with fog though, is it?” He peered over the table at the floor, wrinkling his nose at the misty blue-grey swirl covering it. “And what would be the point of doing that? This Barbara spectre's not hiding in it, is it?” he said playfully.

“Enenra,” Scorpius corrected him, laughing. “Not Barbara.”

“I know. I prefer Barbara.” Albus flicked another playful look at him, smiling himself now. This close, he could again see the flecks of darker blue in Scorpius's eyes, little bursts of lapis lazuli in amongst the grey. It almost reminded him of the blue-ish fog around them. Albus frowned. He didn’t fucking like the thought of that at all.

“Want to finish up here?” Scorpius asked quietly, reading Albus’s expression. Albus sighed, then nodded. He was tired, and sore, and more unsettled than he wanted to admit, or was able to hide, apparently. He consoled himself with the thought of food, and getting a good sleep, and figuring this all out tomorrow. He was certain they could get to the bottom of it.

“So how do we leave without either of us having to walk in the fog?” Albus asked, aiming for light, and also asking with some sincerity. He really didn’t want to put his feet in it, and he really, really didn’t want Scorpius to.

Scorpius closed his book, lower lip sucked into his mouth before he looked up at Albus, eyes glinting with humour.

“Do you want me to piggy back you?” he offered, eyes crinkling and cheeks pink, and Albus had to swallow the sound ― shocked, wistful and revealing ― that tried to slip out of his lips.

“Shut up,” he croaked back, and Scorpius laughed.

“I can, you know.”

“You can’t carry me, I’m too heavy.”

“Hmm. Doubt it.” Scorpius stood, feet disappearing into the mist and face twisted in mild contemplation. “What about Levicorpus, then, and I’ll tie a string around your waist?” He grinned. “And pull you along like a balloo ― ow!” Scorpius laughed again, rubbing his arm where Albus had flicked him. “Not keen on being a balloon, then?”

“No, and it’s not,” Albus stepped from one chair to the next, book bag slung over his shoulder, “it’s not me who I don’t want in the fog,” he forced himself to admit, taking a breath and hopping down into it; it dispersed around him in a gentle wave, settling back once more. Albus wanted to kick it.

Scorpius tiled his head one way, and then the other. “So...You want to piggy back me?”

“What,” Albus’s head shot up, his eyes wide as embarrassed saucers, “no, I didn’t ―”

“Alright, then.” Scorpius stepped back, and lifting himself onto the table. He sat, legs spread and arms open, beckoning Albus towards him. Albus wondered if the fog was high enough for him to lie down in it so he could disappear forever.

“You,” Albus swallowed, “want me to piggy back you?”

“Mmhmm.”

“To the Great Hall?”

“Yup.” Scorpius dropped his hands, swinging his legs happily. “You don’t have to,” he said, causing little puffs of fogs to swirl up around the kick of his feet.

Albus inhaled deeply, steeling his will and his nerve and reminding his lower half that it better not fucking enjoy this, and turned around. He backed into the V of Scorpius’s legs, praying to every god he’d ever heard of, and a few that he thought he might have just invented, that he didn’t get an erection during this. He bent his knees.

“Up you hop, then,” he said, his stomach somersaulting.

“You sure?”

“Yes.”

“What if I’m too heavy ―”

“Oh, get on my sodding back!” Abus half-laughed, half-hissed. “This was your idea, and if anyone walks in right now,” Albus gestured at their position, “we’re gonna look like a right pair of twats.”

“We’re not going to look any less twattish with you carrying me, Al,” Scorpius reasoned, but he banged his knees against Albus’s hips all the same, draping one arm and then the next around Albus’s shoulders. Albus bent his legs further, curving his arms around Scorpius’s thighs and straightened, pulling Scorpius closer to his ― oh Merlin ― his back. Scorpius pressed against him tightly as Albus lifted him up.

He was, in fact, heavier than Albus had been expecting.

“You can put me down, then, you don’t ―” Scorpius started when Albus informed him of this.

“No, you’re fine,” Albus wobbled a little, taking one step, and then the next, resisting the urge to gloat at the fog.

“We can switch halfway if it’s too much?” Scorpius mumbled against Albus’s ear, and Albus had to take four more evenly paced steps before he could get his mouth to reply properly. There was no way he could trust his body if Scorpius was piggybacking him. He might as well just poke him in the back with a baguette now, and be done with pretending that wasn’t was going to happen the second Albus felt his legs around Scorpius’ waist, his chest pressed against the jut of his shoulder blades and Scorpius’s hands ―

“Shit!”

“Sorry!” Albus cringed, correcting his stance after nearly toppling them both over. “Sorry, just,” thought about touching you and nearly fell over, “lost my footing.” Albus sighed, resigned to his fate to consistently be the worst friend ever.

“Shall we switch now then?”

“No!” Albus pulled Scorpius up higher, tightening his hands on the firm shape of Scorpius’s thighs. “No, this is fine.” And it was, really, more than fine. It felt so much more than fine that it was ebbing back around into being not fine again, but the alternate was even worse.

“Well, the Hall’s not far,” Scorpius said pleasantly. “So, giddy up. I’m hungry.”

“Giddy up?” Albus turned indignantly, hitching Scorpius up a little higher all the same and upping the pace of his feet. “I’m not a bloody Thestral.”

“You’re bony as one.”

“Oi!”

Scorpius laughed again, easy and happy, as he swung his legs. He rested his cheek on his own arm, his face near Albus’s cheek, and sighed. Albus focussed on his feet, on putting one in front of the other, and not on how nice that was

“Mmm.” Albus kept walking down the uncharacteristically empty passageway, Scorpius’s legs bobbing in and out of his view. “The Great Hall’s not far at all,” he mumbled. The fog licking around his ankles, and he almost wished the walk could take just a little bit longer.


6.



Albus could not fucking sleep.

It wasn’t because of the fog, although the fact that it was in the room with them was still bothering him deeply. It wasn’t even the fact that there were two more students ― two! ― that they had noticed not coming down for dinner. Albus could no longer cling on to the idea that the two things were not connected, and the pair of them had eaten a curiously quiet dinner, before heading back to their dorm room to sleep. They planned to get back onto looking into the encroaching fog in the morning, the prospect of heading back to the library making Scorpius’s eyes bright, his cheeks pulling into a smile. He’d been in a particularly good mood since Albus had carried him to dinner, and Albus had to assume it was just the prospect of spending more tedious hours in the company of books that was making Scorpius look so pleased and borderline optimistic. Albus couldn't really think of any other reason for it.

And then, after they got back to their room and into their pyjamas, Scorpius had suggested they share again.

Albus would like to think that sharing for the second night in a row might not have been a problem for him, even though the previous night had been a bit of a disaster. He was tired enough from that, and a fruitless day of research, that he might have fallen asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. The problem, though, was that Albus felt so keyed up, so restless and fidgety, from carrying Scorpius, that ending up lying in bed next to him was borderline torturous. It wasn't helped by the fact that Scorpius looked so happy when Albus had said yes, crawling into Albus’s bed with him and bumping his cold knees down Albus’s legs as he slid in next to him. Albus lay still, trying to keep his breathing normal, and watched with wide eyes as any hope of him getting to sleep got up out of the bed, gave him the finger, and sauntered out the door, like the flighty jerk it was.

Almost an hour later, and Albus was still in that position; one leg crooked to hide the shape of his erection as it pressed up against the covers, the other hand on his belly, and his mind completely, and utterly in the gutter.

He was just considering that maybe it really wouldn't be that bad an idea to brave the fog and go and have that surreptitious loo wank, when he startled, Scorpius shifting next to him.

“Albus?”

Albus stiffened, turning his head to just make out the shape of Scorpius in the dark. “Yeah?”

“You’re not sleeping,” Scorpius whispered again.

“No,” Albus turned back to looking at the thick green curtains ― made dark by the absence of light ― hanging over them. “Sorry. I didn’t meant to wake you up,” he mumbled.

“No, you didnt.” Scorpius let his breath out, rubbing at his cheek, crease-marked from the pillow. “I wasn’t asleep.”

“Oh?” Albus could have sworn he was. “Why not?”

“Mmm,” Scorpius hummed noncommittally. “Just can’t sleep.” He rolled onto his back, the sheets pulling against Albus as he did so. “My brain won’t shut up.”

“Mine either,” Albus agreed vehemently, although his problem was rather more significantly southward based.

“Yeah?” Scorpius pushed the covers down to his hips. “Merlin, I swear your bed is hotter than mine,” he said lightly, still whispering even though they were the only two people left in the dorm.

“Might be because I pulled the curtains shut,” Albus managed, trying not to stare at the strip of Scorpius’s belly he could see now exposed, and desperately hoping Scorpius wouldn’t pull the covers down on Albus’s side too.

“Yeah.” Scorpius scratched at his belly, t-shirt riding up even higher. He stretched. “S’hot in here.”

Albus snorted a laugh. “Seductive, Scorp,” he joked, the levity a welcome relief from the tension in Albus’s body.

“What?” Scorpius dropped his arms back to the bed.

“Sounds like a cheesy pick-up line,” Albus elaborated. “Next you'll be asking if you can take all your clothes off.”

“Oh.” Scorpius laughed, half in embarrassment. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“No, I know you didn’t,” Albus replied, managing to keep the disappointment out of his tone. They lay silent for several beats, Scorpius worrying his lower lip and Albus wondering if there was a spell to make oneself flaccid. He could really do with something like that right now, he thought.

“I mean, I do kind of feel a bit...you know,” Scorpius mumbled. Albus frowned, his throat working as he tried to make sense of that.

“Sorry?” he croaked. “You mean, like…” he trailed off, unable to say turned on out loud in case he was wrong. He hoped he was wrong. Even more so, he hoped he wasn’t.

“Yeah.” Scorpius shifted, his voice low and thick the way it often dropped when he was embarrassed. Albus’s mind raced as he processed that. The idea of Scorpius lying in bed next to him and feeling aroused made Albus’s body feel hot, the room suddenly shrinking around him, stifling them.

“Do you want me to...get out of the bed?” he offered stupidly, his heart racing and his cheeks flaming at offering to vacate the bed so that Scorpius could wank.

Scorpius only laughed, slightly strangled, in reply. “It’s your bed, Albus,” he said softly, fidgeting his hips. Albus moved his own in sympathy, then forced them to still. Merlin, don’t be a pervert, he reprimanded himself. “You don’t need to get out of your own bed,” Scorpius went on. “I can leave, and ―” Scorpius began to sit up, pulling up onto his elbows in stilted movements. “Sorry for making you uncomfortable,” Scorpius mumbled, and Albus laughed, once, shaking his head at the complete incorrectness of that sentence, and at how much he really didn’t want Scorpius to go.

“No, no, I’m not. I’m,” he licked his lips, weighing up his options. Honesty? Lie? Honesty? He licked his lips again. Fuck it, he decided. He didn’t want Scorpius to leave. “I'm kind of, y’know, as well,” he let out, in a rush of air and pent up frustration, humiliation and an almost relief tip-toeing in behind it.

“Oh,” Scorpius exhaled, sounding almost relieved himself. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Albus laughed again, not sure if he was annoyed with himself, or happy. It was one thing to be turned on at night, like Scorpius was, but Albus was well aware that the reason why he himself was turned on was because of Scorpius. “Yeah,” he repeated, as Scorpius lay back down, legs stretching out alongside Albus’s.

“Oh, well.” Scorpius pulled the covers slightly higher, resting one hand over his belly. “Lucky us, I guess,” he finished, and Albus laughed again, this time loud and goofy. He was too hot, really, smothered by the covers, but he couldn't push them away, because then it would be painfully obvious exactly how “y’know” he was. Instead, he let them lapse back into silence, tense yet companionable.

“Wanna take turns going to the bathroom, then?” Scorpius offered abruptly, the smile clear in his voice, and Albus barked a sound, a cough of a laugh. Merlin, he was in bed with Scorpius, talking about wanking. Maybe the fog was starting to get to him, after all. Which, well. Albus blanched at the reminder.

“Too much fog,” Albus replied, wrinkling his nose. “Don't wanna do, um, that while standing in it.”

“Ew,” Scorpius agreed. “No, quite. Bed is much more sensible,” he mumbled.

“Wanna take turns doing it in here instead?” Albus joked absently, pulling at the collar of his t-shirt and pushing the covers down a little. Scorpius was right; it was bloody hot in here.

“All right.”

“Huh?” Albus stopped his fidgeting, turning to look at Scorpius’s profile.

“In here. We can. You said. Didn’t you?” Scorpius turned to look at him, just visible in the glint of the room. “Did you?” he asked again, his voice less sure, something like self-consciousness creeping in. It was probably that, the instinctual need to stop Scorpius feeling uncomfortable or uncertain, that made Albus reply, with a low;

“Yeah, okay.” He opened his mouth to say more, then shut it, amazed by himself, in a vague sort of shock about everything that was happening. “If you, I mean you don't mi ―”

“I don’t mind,” Scorpius said quickly. He swallowed, his throat audibly clicking, loud enough for Albus to hear it. “I mean if you. If you don’t. Then I don't mind.”

Albus turned his head sharply to look back at the curtains hanging over his bed. “Right.” He blinked stupidly. “Okay.”

Scorpius said nothing, lying still against the sheet. Albus felt tense, confused, his erection hot and pressing against the material of the boxers he’d put on to sleep in. It jerked when Scorpius, in slow movements, began easing the covers back down to his own hips. Albus took in a tremulous breath, then began to do the same, stopping at his belly.

Fucking hell, they were actually going to do this.

“You can,” Scorpius cleared his throat, his voice thick, “you can pretend I'm not here,” he mumbled, something in his tone Albus couldn't quite place. Nervousness? Apprehension? Hopefulness?

Albus shook his head, giving up on thinking and sliding one hand over his own hip. If Scorpius wasn't here next to him, Albus would just be fantasising that he was here. Given that fact that he was, that Scorpius was wearing only a t-shirt and thin pyjama bottoms too, that he was slipping his hand beneath the dip of the covers, was more than Albus had ever hoped he would see, or feel. Scorpius wasn't thinking of Albus the way Albus was thinking of him, Albus was certain of that, but Scorpius was definitely moving his hand beneath the sheets, his mouth dropping open on a soft sigh as he cupped himself. Albus tightened the fingers he had on his own hip, itching to move them lower too.

“It's okay,” Albus murmured distractedly, not letting himself add I want you to be here. Instead he said, “it's maybe weird. But I like weird,” and felt his stomach flip at the sound Scorpius made, a laugh, a groan.

“I like weird, too,” he replied, and Albus gave in. He ran his finger overs the hem of his boxers, the head of his cock pressing against it, and he inhaled sharply at the contact. Beside him, Scorpius made a responding sound, the sheets pulling slightly as he began to move his hand in repetitive movements. Albus shut his eyes, almost overwhelmed simply by the idea of it. Scorpius was wanking, no doubt about it, and Albus pressed his lips together, trying to be as quiet as he could as he pushed his hand underneath his boxers, and touched himself.

He was already hard. He had been for almost an hour, the head of his cock leaking against the thin, satin material of his boxers. He bit his lip as he wrapped his hand around it, not moving it yet, not quite stroking. He felt another wave of heat over his face, his neck, followed by a shocked and exhilarated feeling ― like almost being caught doing something he shouldn't, sneaking off under cover of his dad's cloak or stealing a sip of firewhiskey from Uncle Bill’s cabinet. Except, he was allowed to do this. Scorpius had said it was fine, had initiated it. That didn’t stop the toe-curling rush through Albus, though, as he tried to keep himself as silent as possible, drinking in every sound in the room ― of the sheets moving with Scorpius’s hand, of the almost imperceptible creak of the bed, of the hitching sound of Scorpius's breathing. Albus wanted to memorise it all, and he pushed the material of his boxers further down his hips, freeing his cock. He moved his hand in one experimental pull, his fist a loose curl, and couldn't stop the hitch of his own breath at the deep throb of pleasure it brought him. Beside him, Scorpius gasped too.

“Al,” he breathed out, and Albus bit his lip almost hard enough to bleed. “Al, are you…” Scorpius trailed off, the question ending on a gusted exhale, but Albus caught it, hips moving up from the bed of their own accord.

“Yeah,” he murmured, embarrassment slipping away as he began to move his hand faster. He tried to keep his legs as still as possible, his hips rolling up almost uncontrollably into his fist as he fought to keep silent. He didn't want to hear himself; he wanted to hear Scorpius.

“Mm,” Scorpius seemed to nod, pleased or relieved or Merlin only knew what, at Albus’s reply. He exhaled shakily, spreading his knees, and Albus almost choked as he felt the brush of Scorpius leg against his. He stilled further, breathing out harshly through his nose, and resting the circle of his fist around his cock. It was driving him mad, the pressure not quite enough, the pace nowhere near as fast as he would usually do this, but he wanted to draw this out, to try and make this last.

He lay still, body taut and heavy against the mattress, as Scorpius moved his hand steadily, his knee a burning point against Albus’s own leg. Albus gave in, letting himself move his hand down and adding a little twist of his wrist. He began to wank himself at the same pace as Scorpius, trying to match him movement for movement. It was messed up, he knew, to be doing this, to be thinking so much about Scorpius while he did, but he couldn't help it, and as Scorpius sped his hand up, so too did Albus, their hands moving in tandem.

Albus lifted his hips off the bed, his t-shirt sweltering in the heat of the enclosed bed space, and couldn't stop the moan that slipped out of his mouth as he ran his thumb over the head of his cock, over the moisture gathering there. He moaned again, cock twitching, when Scorpius made a sound, a low and breathy groan, one leg slipping free from the covers. Scorpius did it again, this time quieter, as if he was trying to stifle the sound, to keep it in, and Albus wanted to say no, don't, make it again, don't be quiet.

Outwardly, he said nothing, just slipped his free hand into his boxers, breathing hard and loud now, as he cupped his balls, gasping softly. They were tight, drawn up against his body, and he could feel his orgasm building, the pull of release trickling up his legs and down his spine. He turned his head down, chin against his chest and eyes towards Scorpius so he could surreptitiously watch the movement of his hand under the covers. It was probably obvious what he was doing, but he didn't care. In the dark, even with his eyes adjusted, he couldn't see much, just outlines and movement. He could see Scorpius was turned towards him too, his breath warm as it left his open mouth and then landed against Albus’s overheated shoulder.

Scorpius suddenly lifted his hand out of his pyjama bottoms, and Albus frowned in confusion and then shocked arousal when he saw the silhouette of Scorpius running his fingertips over his lips, before Scorpius ― oh god ― licked his palm. He did it again, a broad swipe of his tongue, before slipping it back under the sheets, and fuck!

Albus shut his eyes, clenching them tightly. His hand flew over his dick as well as he could in the confines of the sheets, when he felt the tug of climax hit him. He gasped, throwing his head against the pillow and trying to breathe properly, to keep himself quiet and still, but it was impossible. He let his mouth fall open, his groan feeling like it was pulled up from his feet, as he felt the first hit splash of come over his fingers, his wrist. Beside him, Scorpius gasped, high and loud and sudden, and Albus felt another hot spike run through him at hearing Scorpius come, feeling his leg jerk away as his hips lifted up off the bed. He was muffling his sounds, the heel of one hand over his mouth, and Albus thought he should have done the same, but he couldn't move his hands away, his cock spurting over them, over his belly and the material of his boxers as he came harder, and with more intensity than he could ever remember before in his life. He wasn't even sure he’d known it was possible for it to feel like that, and combined with intimacy of knowing Scorpius had just come next to him, he was feeling dazed, boneless, lax against the bed. He felt Scorpius still too, his leg against Albus’s.

Scorpius exhaled, roughly, hand still over his mouth. “Fuck,” he mumbled, sounding almost dazed himself.

Albus laughed, involuntarily, extricating his hands with some effort. He waited a moment, his fingers sticky and wet as he wondered where he’d left his wand, and decided to shakily wipe them on his t-shirt instead. He’d clean it later, before the elves could be traumatised; he didn't like using cleaning charms on his body anyway, not really. He instinctively pulled his t-shirt off, adjusting his boxers and wiping over his stomach, trying not to feel embarrassed about his lack of finesse, about his artless and magicless removal of the mess.

Beside him, Scorpius said nothing, watching silently until he removed his t-shirt too, wordlessly following Albus’s lead. He followed again when Albus tossed his dirty t-shirt toward the end of the bed, both items of clothing landing together.

“Gross,” Scorpius said quietly, his voice tired and warm as he gestured at the foot of the bed. Albus hummed, laying back down. He knew there was something tickling inside him, something that would rear its head sooner or later. In the morning, perhaps, or maybe later, he would feel ashamed about this, maybe guilty at what he’d been thinking while it happened, at how much he’d liked it. But just for now, he let himself enjoy it, ― enjoy the company, and the fact that this was the first time he’d done something like this and it had been with his best friend. With the person whom, of all people, Albus would have wanted it to be with. He would think about the rest later.

“Can you sleep now?” he murmured, and Scorpius laughed, still a little breathless. His shoulder was bare, the skin a sudden warm press as he moved a little close to Albus, and Albus sighed, so content he could barely even process it.

“Yeah,” Scorpius replied, voice heavy with sleep, sated and happy, and his skin against Albus’s own bare skin. “I think I can.”

Albus could, too.


7.



The next day was worse than the first.

Albus had slept brilliantly, the kind of deep and untroubled sleep that always followed after he got himself off. He’d woken up warm and rested, wrapped in blankets and the comfort of his bed curtains pulled tight around him.

He’d also woken up with Scorpius behind him, his forehead warm as it pressed against Albus’s shoulder blade. They weren’t touching anywhere else, Scorpius’s body still angled away from him, but even that small point of contact had felt so thrilling, so exciting, and when compounded by what they’d done the night before ― well, even the reminder of that had shot through Albus like an electric jolt. He’d slept well because he’d wanked in bed with Scorpius, got off not inches away from him. He’d got off next to Scorpius!

That’s when it had all gone to shit, really. Because Albus didn't know what to do from here, or how to act, as he blinked himself awake and felt Scorpius groggily stir behind him. He knew he needed to act normal, as though this hadn’t meant as much to him as it had. When Scorpius mumbled a soft “A’bus?”, his breath against Albus’s bare spine, goosebumps prickled over Albus’s entire skin, and he’d murmured a good morning and thrown himself out of bed and into the shower as quickly as if he were trying for Chaser on the Slytherin Quidditch team tryouts.

They’d dressed in a not-quite uncomfortable, and not entirely comfortable silence, Scorpius looking the same as he always did, mostly. His eyes were a little bright as he pulled on his borrowed gloves from Albus, his arm bumping against Albus’s as they walked side-by-side down to the Great Hall for breakfast. It was unfair, Albus thought, that Scorpius would be so blithely affectionate, so casually touch-y after what they had done. Scorpius had no idea what Albus had been thinking, he can’t have, otherwise he would be running a mile. It made Albus want to turn back around and bury his head under his pillow, sucking on a Sugar Quill until the strange combination of elation and uneasy guilt ebbed away.

By the time they sat down to eat, Albus was in a foul mood, some of it brushing off on Scorpius, too. He was still smiling, casual and easy, but there was an edge to it, a confused and almost hurt look lingering in the corner of his eyes, and Albus hated himself even more for putting that there. When Scorpius counted the students left in the hall, noting their vacant smiles and the complete lack of concern from the teaching staff ― Headmistress McGonnagall and Professor Longbottom, Professor Twillet and Professor Singh, all completely unfazed by the now knee-deep fog ― Albus lost his appetite entirely. They trudged up to the library, Scorpius nibbling on a corner of toast with rhubarb compote spread liberally over it, and Albus doing his best impression of a surly, green-eyed thunder cloud.

By lunch-time, they had gone through what feasibly counted for all the creatures that could affect weather, as well as all historical instances of fog-related weather phenomenon, and had also eaten an entire packet of lemon drops. Albus had cut his tongue on one, the sharp pain and the tangy burst of coppery blood mingling with the zing of the lemon, which suited his mood just fine. Scorpius had started off determinedly chipper, but his curiously upbeat and happy mood had been slowly beaten by Albus’s refusal to join him in jokes, and Albus’s grunted answers whenever he tried to start up conversations. When Scorpius leaned over him, standing behind him to point out something in Albus’s book, his hair had tickled Albus’s cheek, and Albus had let himself lean into it for one lovely, stolen moment, before he realised what he was doing and flinched away. Scorpius had straightened, slowly and silently, moving back to his own seat. He hadn’t come over to Albus’s side again, and Albus wanted to tell himself he was relieved, but Scorpius also hadn’t looked him properly in the eye since either. Albus couldn't shake the feeling that he’d done something even worse by shrugging Scorpius off than by getting off on listening to his best friend wank next to him.

It was fucking confusing.

And still, they’d found out nothing about why the interior of the school was doing it’s best impression of a Scottish moor.

By early evening, things were even worse. Scorpius went to ask the librarian for access to the Restricted Section, something he had never had any success with in the past, however she was softening towards him. They had quietly mused in the past few weeks that they were on the verge of a breakthrough, that Madame Baker the librarian was on the edge of smiling at Scorpius, and agreeing that he was only looking at the Restricted books in the pursuit of intellectual endeavours, and let him have access. She was a stern woman, but she always let him chat to her without telling him to bugger off, so it had to be worth something. Truthfully, Albus thought it was more likely that she just enjoyed Scorpius’s company, and Scorpius oddly enjoyed hers too; he always had a spring in his step after pestering her about books for half an hour.

This time, though, when Scorpius sat back down, eyes wide and his hair a mess from a day’s worth of fingers running through it, he did not look happy at all.

“How did it go with Madam Baker?” Albus grumbled after a moment of Scorpius saying nothing, just staring at a corner of his ink-splotched parchment. Albus looked up when Scorpius still didn’t say anything.

“Scorpius?” he asked again, unsettled by Scorpius’s silence.

“Um.” Scorpius played with the thumb of his gloves, folding it over, then doing the same to the forefinger. When he moved to the third, Albus made an impatient sound, worry making him snappish, along with everything else that was already making him very short-tempered and unpleasant company.

“She didn’t know who I was,” Scorpius said quietly.

Albus’s head shot up. “She didn’t...not at all?”

“No,” Scorpius mumbled, looking worried. “She just looked politely pleased to see me, but she had no idea who I am, or if we’d met before.”

Albus sat up straighter in his chair, lips pursed into a tight line, and feet high up on his chair. “This is getting a bit out of hand,” he said heavily, the sense of unease ratcheting up inside him. Madame Baker knew who Scorpius was. She knew who both of them were, and could recognise their (often too loud) voices from a mile away! The fact that she now didn't know Scorpius was not just unsettling. It was almost frightening. Albus suddenly realised, for the first time, that perhaps they weren't really safe here, in the school, in the knee-high fog. Perhaps this was out of their depth, was something they couldn't solve on their own.

From the look on Scorpius’s pale and drawn face, he was thinking the same.

“Maybe we should ask Rose?” he said quietly, after another long minute

Albus looked at him sharply. “Rose went home for the hols,” he snapped, an icy surge slipping down his spine into his stomach. Jealousy. He loved his cousin, but of all the people he wanted to ask for help for with this, he didn’t want it to be person Scorpius had once had a crush on. He’d assumed that was gone now, but perhaps that wasn’t true. Albus was familiar with this feeling, at least.

“I know,” Scorpius said quietly. “We could write to her, though, perhaps. Send an owl?”

“Why?” Albus flicked his hair away from his eyes in irritation, resting his elbows against the table and staring down at his book. “She can’t help us from her place.”

“She might know something.”

“She’ll probably just tell my dad, or worse ― her mum.”

“She might not.”

“Why do you wanna tell Rose so bad all of a sudden, huh?” Albus felt his mouth twist into an ugly shape. “Missing her, are you?”

“No.” Scorpius’s voice was soft, taken aback by Albus’s sudden flip from surly to antagonistic. Albus felt awful. It didn’t stop him from scowling, though. “She just might be able to help us, that’s all,” Scorpius continued. “She’s our friend, isn’t she?”

Albus scoffed, smiling unpleasantly. “You know, if you still fancy her, it would be easier just to ask her out on a date, rather that pretend it’s about wanting her help with this.”

Scorpius blinked at him, shocked. Albus stared back resolutely, internally aware that he was being horrible. He couldn't stop himself though, jealousy fueling the unpleasant fire inside him. He could hear it roaring in his ears, heating up his cheeks.

“No, I don’t fancy…” Scorpius flushed, his face colouring a deep pink. “I don’t have a crush on her,” he mumbled. Albus narrowed his eyes, unable to miss hearing the faint emphasis Scorpius had put on ‘her’. He set his jaw, ears burning and his stomach doing another unpleasant acidic roll.

“So you do like someone, then,” he stated sharply, reading into what Scorpius had said.

Scorpius shifted uncomfortably, as bad a liar as ever. He looked up at Albus, then away again guiltily.

“I might...maybe,” he murmured, cheeks now stained a deep, uncomfortable red.

“Who is it?” Albus snapped, then pursed his lips shut. That was rude. He was being awful, and there was no way he could justify it. “Do they.” Albus cleared his throat, trying to squash the terrible, relentless waves of jealousy and nausea down and keep his voice normal. “Do they like you back?” he asked in what he hoped was a reasonable, conversational tone. It came out wobbly, slightly too loud, and he shut his eyes, then forced himself to look at Scorpius. He tried to smile, but he felt like a kicked dog baring its teeth. He wanted to hide under the table, and for this conversation to never have happened. He didn’t want to know that Scorpius liked someone. Albus already knew it wasn’t him.

On the other side of the table, Scorpius stared at him for a moment. He blinked once, his eyes wide and open as he seemed to try and read Albus’s expression, before he swallowed, thickly, looking down at his hands. He shook his head, slowly, the faintest of movements, as his mouth formed the word no. He licked his lips, then tried again, this time managing to make a sound.

“No. I ― I don’t think so.” His voice was barely over a whisper. “I thought they did. I really thought they liked me, too. But I think I...I think I got it wrong.” He swallowed, staring down at his hands as they rested over Albus’s borrowed grey gloves. “I think I read it all wrong,” he said to his knuckles, his eyes bright and almost watery and his voice a feeble thing. He didn’t fold the fingers of the gloves over as he had been before. He didn’t look up, make a joke, and try to change the subject. He didn’t do anything at all, simply stared down in front of him, silent and looking utterly dejected.

Albus watched the fall of Scorpius’s fringe as it covered his face, and he suddenly felt another emotion crash down on top of his earlier jealousy; empathy. Scorpius looked miserable, rejected, his face flushed with embarrassment and emotion, and while Albus had to admit he did feel a little bit of relief at knowing Scorpius’s feelings weren’t requited ― at least as far as Scorpius himself knew ― by this other person, Albus mostly just felt a horrible, overwhelming sadness at seeing him look like that. He knew how it felt to like someone when they didn’t like you back, he thought dismally. He didn’t wish that on Scorpius.

“More,” Albus cleared his throat, tried to find his voice, “more fool them, then, yeah?” he managed on the second attempt, trying to look kind and friendly and hoping he didn’t look as sad as he felt himself. “If they don’t. ‘Cause you’re great, and they.” Albus blinked, momentarily floored by the bleakness in Scorpius’s eyes when he looked up at Albus. “You’re great, and they suck,” he finished stupidly.

Scorpius stared at him balefully. “They don’t suck,” he replied, barely louder than a whisper.

Albus let his shoulders sag, the jealousy now completely gone. In its place, he just felt like an arsehole and across from him, Scorpius looked like he felt like shit. Albus tried to smile again, but it wouldn’t stick, the corners falling off as he tried to glue the expression onto his face.

“Hey, Scorp?” Scorpius blinked up at him blankly. “You wanna stop for the night?” Albus offered. “Maybe, go read in the dorm?”

Scorpius waited a moment, then nodded. He was silent as they packed up their books, the atmosphere heavy and the fog light and insidious as it swirled around his knees. Albus worried his lower lip, shifting his weight from foot to foot, and resisting the urge to hurry Scorpius along. Albus hated standing in the fog, hated the warm feeling it left over his legs, but he made himself bear it; he was worried about Scorpius, who was packing his things away listlessly, blinking away what looked like unshed tears. Albus couldn't remember the last time he had seen Scorpius so quiet, so upset. Merlin, Albus was such an arsehole, Albus reprimanded himself as they finally walked side by dejected side out of the library and into the hallway, the fog parting around them, then settling back in their wake. The hallway was empty, the fog making it feel almost warm, and they kept a steady pace, both of them looking in opposite directions.

Albus wanted to bang his head on a large suit of armour as they walked past it.

He was so angry with himself. Scorpius was his best friend, and Albus was being a prick to him. Because he was jealous, Albus thought as his shoes clicked, feet obscured entirely by the fog, against the stone floor. Because he was jealous, and he was a creep, and because he’d enjoyed lying with Scorpius last night, listening to him and imagining Scorpius might want him to hear it. He glared morosely into the fog as they turned a corner, the dark stoned walls illuminated by lamplight. He was nearly three steps ahead of Scorpius, deep in his own miserable musings, when he realised Scorpius had stopped.

Scorpius had stopped and he was staring at something in an alcove, a metre or so behind him. Something dark, and almost shapeless, which was lurking in the shadows and casting darker shapes amongst them of its own.

Albus closed his mouth, a bucket of cold water sliding down his spine as he stared at it, unable to determine anything specific, unable to define what it was. But it was there, he was certain, and Scorpius was staring right at it, silent and still and with rapt attention. The fog licked around his ankles as Albus held his breath, green eyes flicking from Scorpius’s, to the shape, then back again. Scorpius was staring after it, eyes fixed on the darkness with a riveted intensity that Albus hadn’t seen on him before. He stepped closer to Scorpius on shaking legs, moving as slowly as he could and trying to breathe steadily around the thump of his heartbeat in his ears.

He slipped his hand into his pocket to curl cold fingers around his wand, then lurched forwards suddenly, grabbing Scorpius by the arm just as Scorpius leant forwards, heading towards the swathe of darkness in the alcove.

“Hey, don’t!” Albus pulled Scorpius back towards him, wand held out in his other hand and Stupefy on the tip of his tongue. Scorpius wobbled, blinking as he tried to orient himself. When Albus looked back at the alcove, he found it was still dark, but undeniably empty. It didn’t feel very comforting, and Albus pulled Scorpius closer to him again.

“Scorpius?”

Scorpius blinked rapidly. He looked confused, disoriented, before he exhaled deeply and stilled. His expression brightened when he saw Albus.

“Hello, Al,” he said happily, smiling. It was bright, unconcerned, but didn’t quite match his eyes. He seemed to look at Albus without really seeing him. “Why have you got your wand out?”

“What were you doing?” Albus asked frantically. He gestured his head towards the alcove, swallowing hard.

“I was walking with you,” Scorpius responded blithely. Albus stared at him in disbelief.

“But, you were...” Albus lifted his wand, letting the weight of the wood in his hand ground him. “You stopped, and. Did you see something?”

“Mmm.” Scorpius looked down at their legs. “The fog’s warm, isn’t it?” he said brightly. Albus stepped closer, worry making him frown.

“Scorpius, did you...did you see that?” he asked in a rush. “The, the thing, Barbara. Were you looking at it?” He didn’t want to ask and was it looking at you? but the question lingered on his lips, making them tingle. He bit them closed, eyes wide and palms sweating.

Scorpius didn’t answer, only hummed again, shrugging one shoulder. He looked happy, unconcerned, his previous low mood forgotten, and Albus wanted to step closer again, to shake him, to grab him into a hug. Something had just happened, and he didn’t understand what. He didn’t want to understand. He wanted Scorpius to stop looking at him like that.

“Scorpius,” Albus whispered urgently. “Are you okay?”

Scorpius sighed, nodding mutely. “Yep, I’m great. This fog is nice, isn’t it?” He grinned. “It makes my legs feel fuzzy.” He rocked on his heels and Albus gripped his arm tighter, forefinger and thumb digging in just above Scorpius’s elbow.

“You’re being really weird, Scorp!” Albus blurted, his voice plaintive and his hands suddenly cold, frightened. Scorpius looked up at him.

“I like weird,” he replied distantly, smiling broadly, and Albus felt even colder. The reminder of the previous evening felt wrong, again, but not the way it had before. Scorpius sounded wrong. He didn’t sound worried at all! He’d been looking at it, whatever it was, and Albus couldn't shake the feeling that it had been looking back at Scorpius. Like it knew he was there, like it was staring at Scorpius with as much intensity as he was staring back. Something had happened, Albus thought frantically, wiping his damp palm on his jeans and trying to keep his fear in check. He could feel it ratcheting up, his chest quivering, and he scrubbed his hand over his face, pulling Scorpius closer.

“Are you okay, Albus?” Scorpius asked politely, his eyebrows raised in concern. “You look a little pale.”

Albus tried to answer, but the words stuck in his throat, his voice stuck somewhere even lower. He was not okay, but he didn’t want to say it out loud. Instead, he began pulling Scorpius towards their dorm, away from the alcove, through the fog.

Scorpius let himself be pulled, humming a nursery rhyme under his breath as he walked. He smiled again as Albus whispered the Slytherin password ― Mugwort and Milkweed ― and they slipped inside. He hurried Scorpius along, ushering him into the bedroom and watching as Scorpius lay down without getting changed, his shoes and socks still on. Albus frowned unhappily, pushing his hair away from his forehead and turning on the spot, heading towards his own bed. He chewed his lip as he stood on the mattress to get undressed, not wanting to have his feet in the wretched fog for a moment longer. His hair brushed the top of the bed-curtains as he pulled his jumper and t-shirt off, then wrestled his jeans off, and himself into some sweatpants and a long sleeved t-shirt.

Once done, he flopped down into a cross legged sitting position, staring at Scorpius, still clad in his trousers, robe, and lilac t-shirt.

“Scorpius?” Albus whispered, his posture tense, alert. “Are you going to sleep in your clothes.”

Scorpius shut his eyes, nodding and still wearing that vacant, pleased, horrible smile.

“Yeah.” He sighed. “I think I’ll just sleep like this.” He turned his hands palms down against the bed covers. “I’m happy like this.”

Albus watched him for a moment, brow furrowed, before he set his jaw. He stood quickly, jumping off his own bed and grimacing as his feet landed in the fog. He hopped onto Scorpius’s bed with determination.

“I’m sleeping here tonight,” he announced.

“Oh? Okay then.” Scorpius looked at him as Albus pulled the curtains tightly shut around them, pressing them close to the bed and making sure there was no fog inside. “What’re you doing?” Scorpius asked, half-laughing.

“I’m making it safe in here,” Albus said roughly, pulling the curtains tight on Scorpius's side too. He was tempted to use a sticking charm to make sure that the curtains were fixed against the bed, but he pushed that aside. That was going too far. Still, he didn’t want even a wisp of this fog in here with them. Not tonight, not after...whatever they had seen before.

Albus straddled Scorpius’s legs, clambering over him before he lay down back on his side of the bed. “I hate this fog,” he said with feeling. “I hate it so much.”

Albus kicked his legs out, worried and angry and scared, then pulled the sheets over them. He waited a beat, then pulled them over Scorpius too. He was still wearing his shoes, and Albus thought maybe he should take them off for him, but he didn’t. Everything was too weird right now, and all Albus really wanted was to know that Scorpius was next to him, in once piece and not going anywhere. Scorpius could stay in his shoes, if he wanted, could sleep in his winter cloak or his heavy winter jacket. As long as he was here, and safe, and next to him, Albus thought absently, he didn’t mind what Scorpius did. Albus lay back down, trying to let the dark of the room comfort him. It wasn’t working.

“I wish it would disappear,” he mumbled vehemently at the ceiling. “I can’t wait until it does.”

“Oh. The fog is alright, really,” Scorpius said lightly, a far away tone in his voice. Albus frowned, that strange, desperate unease settling in the pit of his stomach.

“No it isn’t!” He shifted a little closer, letting his knees bump against Scorpius’s thighs. “It’s not alright at all, Scorp, it creeps us out. Remember?” he whispered. “Remember?”

Scorpius sighed wistfully, the sheets rustling as he shrugged gently.

“Oh, I don’t know. It’s not so bad.” He sighed again, letting his eyes slide shut, his expression fixed into one of vacant contentment. It looked almost familiar to Albus, almost reminiscent of McGonagall, or Professor Longbottom. He didn’t like it all, and he impulsively slipped his hand under the covers, fingers touching Scorpius’s wrist. It was warm, bony, and Albus almost sighed with relief as he wrapped his hand around it. Scorpius would tease him about this later, but Albus couldn’t help it. He pressed his palm against the bony notch of Scorpius’s wrist, let the shape of it fit into his cupped hand, his thumb against this pulse point.

He felt scared.

“This is nice, Albus,” Scorpius mumbled.

Albus swallowed. “Yeah. Good...G’night Scorp,” he muttered back, watching Scorpius's profile in the darkness.

“Sweet dreams,” Scorpius murmured vacantly, his voice heavy with sleep and Albus inched a little closer. He wanted to say, please stop talking like that, like you don’t mind this fog, like you’ve forgotten we want to get rid of it. He wanted to scream, please don’t look at that thing again, please! If you see it, Scorp, don’t look! But he said nothing, only pressed his cheek into the pillow, watched the silhouette of Scorpius’s lashes against his cheek. He slowly let his eyes fall shut, listening intently to the rise and fall of Scorpius’s breathing.

After a moment, he shuffled closer still, tightening his fingers around Scorpius’s wrist.


8.



When Albus woke up, Scorpius was gone.

Albus didn’t process this at first. He woke slowly, groggily, some time still well before dawn; he could see through the open bed curtains that the room was still dark, heavy with night. The bed was warm, but Albus’s leg was cold, from where the covers had turned down and exposed his knee. He frowned, grumbling against the pillow and bringing his goosebumped leg back into the warm cocoon of the thick green covers, when his eyes suddenly flew open. His knee was cold, because the bed covers were turned down.

Because the other half of the bed was empty.

Albus sat up with a start.

“Scorpius?” he whispered, stupid and frantic, even though it was clear the room was empty. Albus grappled under his pillow for his wand, whispering Lumos Maxima and looking around the room with wide, sleep-muddled eyes. He rubbed a hand over them, pushing his messy hair away from his face as his heart thumped in his chest. He kicked the blankets away from his legs, sitting up onto his knees.

Scorpius!” he hissed again into the room. There was no reply, only the silence of the room and the swirl of the shimmering, blue-grey fog as Albus’s wand illuminated it. He sat in his bed like a castaway on an island, the almost gently pulsating fog insidious as it crawled up the legs of the four poster. Albus made a worried sound, jumping from Scorpius’s bed to his own without touching the ground, and pulling his thick, black outdoor cloak on over the clothes he’d slept in. He breathed in deeply, shut his eyes, and jumped down into the fog.

He tried to be sensible. First, he checked the bathrooms, knocking on each toilet door, and gently pulling back the shower curtains to make sure they were empty. Then, he checked every bed, pulling the curtains back, and even shining the light of this wand underneath them, through the horrible fog, to make sure Scorpius wasn’t under there.

Nothing.

Next, he checked the Great Hall. The ceiling was dark, early morning stars blinking their pale light against the black night sky, through the faint cover of clouds. Albus could see the moon, a crescent shape, could see the empty lines of tables and their empty chairs. He could see everything in the room, and he could see that it was empty. There was nothing in there.

Nothing.

The kitchens were next, the elves preparing the morning fest with wide happy, unconcerned eyes, bright smiles and no news of wandering students with pale hair and paler faces. The Astronomy tower was empty. The secret passage near the Charms classroom, underneath a landscape painting of a starry winter’s night and behind a thick curtain, where Scorpius and Albus liked to eat apples sometimes before class, was empty. The Potions classroom, and the Potions cupboard, all revealed nothing. Nothing in the Arithmancy rooms, nothing outside. In the cold night air and with the fog warm around his legs, Albus stared at the darkness and saw nobody, and nothing.

Nothing.

Panic was cold. It wasn’t hot like anger, or frustration. It didn’t burn like shame or sit in him, still and deep, like fear. It buzzed through him like cold, icy shards, down his spine, from the nape of his neck, up into his hair and across his temples. It sat in him like ice, as he walked the halls, wand extended in front of him and bare feet slapping hard and desperate against the cold stone floor. He shivered, a cold sheen of sweat dampening his forehead and his lungs not quite working properly, every inhale a shaking thing, every exhale letting out more air than he could gasp back down. Scorpius was gone. He wasn’t anywhere. Albus had looked, and looked, and soon the sun would rise, and Scorpius was still not here.

Albus turned a corner, heading onto a staircase and clutching the side as it began to lift, to shift its course and tilt him up towards a higher level. The fog climbed with him, twirling spires that inched their way along the staircase columns like ivy. Everywhere he looked, the fog was there, and he stepped off the stairs, rushing around a corner and trying to remember where the Headmistress’s office was, trying not to think about whether or not she would actually be any help at all. He was concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, when he saw a flash out of the corner of his eyes, a glint of embroidered gold and a turquoise jumper as he saw someone walking ahead of him. Albus stopped, squinting to make out who it was. He let out a shaky ‘ha!’ when he recognised them.

“Ayesha!” he yelled, running to catch up with her. “Ayesha, hey, wait!”

Slowly, Ayesha turned, watching as Albus approached her. Albus could have hugged her, could have spun her around, so great was his relief at seeing someone ― anyone ― he knew.

“Ayesha!” he repeated, smiling and shaking his head. “Merlin, am I glad to see you!” He grinned in shaky relief.

Ayesha smiled back. “Oh, hello Albus! I’m happy to see you, too,” she said pleasantly.

Albus almost laughed, half in confusion, half in surprise. Ayesha had never looked happy to see him in her life. But perhaps, he reasoned, she was just relieved too, frightened by this fog and glad to see any familiar face. Either way, she was here, and Albus clung to that thought.

“Hey, weird question I know, but have you seen Scorpius?” he asked, trying to downplay his fear. He pressed his lips together, controlling his breathing as he waited for her to reply.

“Who?” she queried, a gentle frown creasing her dark brows.

“Scorpius!” Albus repeated, closing his eyes quickly and blinking them open again. He licked his lips. “You know, my friend. The one I’m always with. Blond hair, big eyes, tall.” He swallowed around the wave of worry, of affection, that run through him. Ayesha, though, looked nonplussed. “You caught us, remember!” Albus continued, laughing a little in confusion. “You caught us, trying to break into the Prefect's bathroom! And another time, when we accidentally let off those dungbombs in Charms, and you didn’t think it was an accident, but it was, although I don’t really blame you for being irked. They were gross, but anyway, you must remember it!” He laughed, then stopped, his frown deepening and the smile slipping from his face. “That was me, and...and Scorpius. Remember?” he swallowed, thickly. “That was me and my friend Scorpius.”

Ayesha hummed, tilting her head slightly. She smiled, sweet, slow, and horrible.

“Who?” she asked again, kindly.

Albus’s stomach filled with dread.

“Scorpius,” he repeated in a whisper. He took a step backwards. “You know who he is.”

“I don’t think so,” she said again. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you! You look horribly peaky.” She trailed one hand through the thigh-deep fog, humming contentedly. “Say, shall go get some cake? That will cheer you up!” She grinned, her delicate features friendly but vacant. “Then afterwards, you can keep looking for your friend. Simon, was it?”

Albus turned, and ran. Panic stabbed through him with every, thudding step as he left Ayesha behind him, standing in the fog and letting her hands run through it as if she were leaving ripples in the ocean.

He ran as far, and as long as he could, not sure where he was going. Around corners, down stairs, he ran because he had nothing else to do, retracing his steps and finding himself on route to the library. The corridor was familiar, and eerie reminder of the thing he had seen with Scorpius earlier that evening, the thing that had seen them too. Maybe, if he found that, he could find ―

Albus tripped, feet skidding on something underneath him and wand skittering loudly across the floor as he landed hard on his chest, the wind knocked out of him. He pushed himself up onto his palms, disoriented and sore, as he blinked his hair out of his eyes. Each breath hurt, his stomach aching from the impact and the fog swimming before him. It didn’t seem so thick, now he was underneath it, and he was able to see the shape of his wand as it lay on the ground. He Summoned it towards him, struggling to sit up. He leant against the wall, miserable and tired and scared. Sitting up, the fog reached his shoulders, and he let his head clunk back against the wall. The fog seemed thinner here, more transparent than opaque, and warmer, like heavy and damp mist. Albus shivered, revolted by it ― by its calming tingle, by the way he couldn't get away from it. He pushed his hair away from his face, and distracted himself by looking back to see what had tripped him. He saw it a metre or so behind him, a small, light coloured shape, resting just near the alcove which was tucked away from the hallway Albus was sitting in. He realised this was where they had seen the shape the night before, at the same time as he realised what was lying on the ground in front of it, and what his foot had slipped on.

It was a glove.

It was medium sized, soft grey wool and well-worn around the fingers, and as Albus crawled closer, leaning down to pick it up, he recognised it instantly. It was his glove. It was from the pair his sister had given for christmas, two year ago, and which Albus had given to Scorpius after he’d lost his own earlier in the week. Albus held it in his hand, stroking the soft wool with his thumb. Scorpius had been carrying these with him since Albus had leant them to him, had left them in the pocket of his robe ― the robe he’d gone to bed still wearing. Which meant...

Albus turned his head slowly, heart hammering in his chest. Deep in the alcove, obscured somewhat by the fog, he saw a shadow. Tilting his head back further, Albus could see that it was an opening, a crack in the wall. Unfinished repairs, some said these were, leftovers from the Battle of Hogwarts when the school had been breached and magic had run wild. That was years ago, so many years, but every now and again, students and teachers would find these little remnants, forgotten cracks that weren’t fully patched over. Albus peered closer, able to see now that inside this crack ― about a foot and a half in width ― was what looked like jagged steps. Curls of thick, wispy fog curved out of it, mingling with the lighter, mistier fog around him. It was tight, he thought as he regarded it, but wide enough for someone to fit through. Wide enough for Scorpius to slip through, if he squeezed. Albus frowned and leaned closer still, crawling towards the opening on hands and knees. There, on a broken corner of stone, was a torn scrap of lilac fabric, hanging from a sharp point. There was a darker colour on it, Albus saw as he reached up and pulled it down, a smear of crimson on the edge. Drying blood. Scorpius could fit through if he squeezed, Albus estimated, and if he maybe let his shirt get snagged on the sharper edge, let it scrape against his chest.

Albus looked down at the ripped swatch of Scorpius’s t-shirt, at the undeniable proof that he had been here. There wasn’t much blood on it, Albus thought, his vision blurring as his eyes misted with tears. Scorpius was probably fine. There wasn't much blood, but the rock would have scratched deeply, would have stung. It would still sting now, wherever Scorpius was on the other side of the cracked stones. It would hurt. Albus peered closer, wiping at his eyes. What was Scorpius doing, slipping away at night going back to where they’d seen the shadowy silhouette? Had he gone on his own, or had something else ―

A breeze suddenly brushed past his cheek, and Albus sat back quickly. He scrabbled backwards out of the alcove on his hands and feet, then staggered upright into a sitting position.

He looked a the crack in the wall, fierce and frightened, but nothing happened, and after another moment, Albus set his jaw.

“I know you’re watching me,” he hissed to the air in front of him. He balled his hand into a fist, quickly stuffing the glove, the scrap of torn fabric, into his pocket.

There was no reply, only the faintest movement of warm air against Albus’s face, and the cavernous sounds of the fog moving in the emptiness at the bottom of the jagged stairs.

Albus glared down at it. “I’m coming back,” he whispered furiously. “I’m coming back to get Scorpius!”

He turned on his heel and raced as fast as he could towards the owlery.

9.


The owlery was quiet, in the pre-dawn glow.

The only noise was the scrape of the door against the floor as Albus pushed it open, followed by the gentle rustle of wings. He crept in on tiptoes unfathomably relieved to find that the owls were still here, still perched on their awnings as always. The fog was in here, like it was everywhere, but it only covered Albus’s toes, running over the tops of his feet. He inched into the room, finding his way easily to his familiar owl. She raised her head from under her wing and regarding him silently as he approached. Albus could have cried when she preened her feathers, looking up at him in immediate recognition.

“Hello, Emma,” he said holding his arm out and letting the tawny owl hop on. Her talons dug into his arm, just gently, and Albus sat on the window ledge, lifting his legs out of the fog and breathing out in deep, tired relief.

“I can’t stay long,” he whispered, stroking her soft, smooth head. She nibbled at his cheek affectionately, and he smiled. “Something bad has happened and the school has gone crazy,” he mumbled. “And Scorpius is,” he broke off, swallowing down the tremble in his voice. “You remember Scorpius, don’t you?” he asked, almost plaintively, fingers stilling on the owl’s dusky head.

Emma clacked her beak sharply, round eyes fixing on him intensely.

“Of course you do,” Albus said with a quiet, relieved laugh, feeling his lip wobble slightly. “Would take more than some stupid fog to make you forget him, ‘cause he always brought you treats, didn’t he?” Albus shut his eyes, shaking his head. “Brings,” he corrected himself. “He always brings you treats. He’ll be back, soon. I’ll get him...”

Albus couldn’t finish. He looked around the room, wiping at his cheek, before he set Emma down against the ledge, near his feet. She walked sideways down his arm, hopping off when she reached his wrist. She turned to regard Albus quietly as he pulled a piece of parchment and a self-inking quill out of his pocket.

He sighed heavily, then began to write.

“Dad,

Albus stopped, already unsure how to proceed. He didn’t know how to explain what was happening, what was going on here. He felt stupid, and useless, but as the tip of the quill rested against the parchment, he realised that didn’t matter. He could feel stupid and useless, but he couldn't waste any more time, not when Scorpius was alone and when that shadowy Barbara thing was nearby.

Albus started writing again.

Something bad is happening at the school. There’s fog everywhere. It doesn’t hurt, but I don't think it’s friendly. It feels like it’s friendly, but I don’t think it is. No one seems to have noticed it, and everyone is acting weird. The professors aren’t bothered by it, and we thought we could sort it out on our own, but it hasn’t worked. And now Scorpius has gone miss

Albus stared at the half written word. A fat tear drop rolled off of his nose and landed onto the dark ink, spreading it into a rorschach smear. This was his fault, he thought suddenly, his head dropping towards his knees. Why hadn’t he asked someone for help sooner? Why did they think they could solve this on their own? And Albus had been so awful to Scorpius, in the library, right before he’d gone missing. Because he was jealous! Albus shut his eyes, feeling his lip wobble and another hot tear roll down his cheek, catching on the corner of his mouth. Because he was jealous, and too scared to talk to Scorpius about how he felt about him, and so he’d been cruel and mean, and lashed out. And Scorpius had been so upset, and then he suddenly wasn’t anymore, and now he was gone, and it was Albus’s fault.

Albus let his head fall as he began to cry in earnest, the parchment crumpled against his chest and his forehead against his knee. The owls around him hooted faintly as he sobbed, miserable and alone and so worried about Scorpius his head was spinning. He let himself cry, ugly and loud, too tired to be able to keep it in. The sound echoed through the owlery, amongst the sleeping birds, the high rafters and the feather covered floor.

It was a long, choked moment before Albus could make himself stop, blinking his red eyes up to see Emma, still perched near his feet, still watching him. She bit at his foot affectionately, and he raised his head properly, straightening his shoulders. He tasted the salt as he licked at his lips, then wiped angrily at his cheeks, at his nose and chin. Emma watched him, head tilted to the left at the kind of angle only an owl could manage, and Albus nodded back, steeling his resolve.

So what if it was his fault Scorpius was gone ― that just meant that Albus needed to find him. This wasn’t the time to sit in a windowsill, or for self-pity. He tightened his fist around the glove in his sweatpants pocket. He shut his eyes, exhaled a steadying breath, then began writing again with determination.

Scorpius has gone missing, too, but I think I know where he is, and I’m going to get him. I think there’s something in the school, and I think it isn't safe.

I think I need some help, Dad.
Albus.


He finished it hurriedly, then rolled it up and tied it with shaking fingers to Emma’s helpfully outstretched leg. “Go take this to Dad, yeah?” he said quietly. Emma hooted in reply, hopping around to face the window, and then spreading her wings. She took flight in a swift rush of air, and Albus stood, grimacing as he let his feet dip back into the hated fog. As he turned to watch Emma’s dark shape flying out into the sunrise, he didn’t feel quite so bad, or so hopeless. He slipped his hand into his pocket once more, touched the soft wool of the glove, the other wrapped around his wand. He knew what he had to do, now.

He headed back towards the alcove.

10.


It was warm, behind the stones.

That was the first thing Albus noticed, after he had squeezed through, holding his breath and his stomach in tight as he inched inside. He’d left his cloak off, reasoning it would only snag on the edges of the gash in the wall, and he’d slipped through in only his long-sleeved t-shirt sweatpants. Now, as he stepped through the misty fog, the light of his wand illuminating the way before him and revealing a large, wide and arched passage, he properly noticed how warm it was in here. He wasn’t sure if it was the fog, or something else, but the air was humid, almost tropical.

It was gross.

Albus shook his hair away from his face, then pushed his sleeves up his arms, stepping down off the last jagged step with a quiet puff of exertion. It wasn’t far down, the steps more broken stones than anything human made, but they did look like they had been arranged there, as though someone had created a deliberate way down into the extended passage. The roof was high, Albus noted, when he shone the Lumos light of his wand up at it, and he swallowed thickly. He could see the faint sheen of what he hoped was condensation, and he couldn't deny the way the fog had shifted consistency again, becoming lighter, clearer, and yet feeling more insidious all at once. He didn’t like that it was warmer down here. The humidity made it feel more organic, somehow, even alive. He shuddered, sliding his cold feet against the now moderately warm stones. He walked slowly, cautiously, reciting useful spells in his mind.

Stupefy, if he saw anything move, he thought as he listened to the sound of condensation drip from the roof onto the floor. If he saw this thing, this shadowy shape, he must stun it. He couldn't let it get to him, or whatever it did, not properly. He knew that walking into this alcove, by stepping behind the stones into the heart of the fog, he was increasing his likelihood of that happening, but he had no choice. If he saw it, this Barbara, he needed to stun it ― and then to find Scorpius.

Albus’s chest tightened, eyes moving quickly around the room for any signs of movement, for any sight of familiar white-blond hair. He focussed again on his spells.

He would use Episkey, if Scorpius was bleeding still, or hurt in any other way. Albus clenched his jaw, his stomach rolling anxiously. He didn’t want to think about that possibility. He would use Reparifors, if Scorpius couldn’t move, or was too badly hurt to walk. He wasn’t sure exactly how much that spell would heal, but he also didn’t know any others beyond those two. He bit at his lower lip, his hand shaking slightly. He wished he’d paid more attention when learning the other basic healing spells, but he’d been mucking around with Scorpius, doodling things in the margins of his note book.

He shook his head in annoyance. This wasn’t the time for lamenting his shitty ability to focus in the less interesting classes. He needed to focus now. He stepped forward again, the light of his wand illuminating the room enough to glint off light hair, off the pale face of someone slumped in a corner. Albus ran towards it, heart hammering hard.

“Scorpiu ―” he stopped, kneeling down beside the person on the floor.

It wasn’t Scorpius.

Disappointment and then fear crashed over Albus as he looked at the pale, immobile face of Alex Cummings, eyes shut and mouth twisted into what could be a smile, or a grimace. Albus tried to keep breathing.

“Alex?” he whispered, shining the light of his wand over Alex’s face. He moved a hand to his neck, trying to feel for a pulse, trying to remember when the last time he’d seen Alex had been. He couldn't recall it, though, but as he pressed his fingers against Alex’s clammy neck he thought maybe he felt the flutter of a heartbeat. It could have been his own panicked pulse, though. He pulled his fingers back.

“I’ll come back,” he murmured, in case Alex could hear him. He didn’t look hurt, or in pain. He could have almost looked like he was just asleep, if he wasn’t slumped against a wall in a room full of warm and horrible fog. “I’ll come back for you,” Albus repeated.

He stood with a crack of knees.

He felt worse, now that he was halfway into the room, and after having found Alex. On the one hand, it was comforting to know that Alex was okay, but Albus also knew he had no idea if Alex actually was okay or not. Being in one piece wasn’t the same as being okay, Albus knew that much. He also didn’t like that now there was space behind him, that he had to look back as well as forward. He upped his pace, goosebumps prickling up his spine as he whipped his head around, trying to look into the unlit areas of the room and to see if there was anything moving, anything there. It was impossible.

This whole room gave him the fucking creeps.

He looked ahead again, walking faster and then stopped, leaning forwards before he burst into a sprint, his wand illuminating another figure slumped against the wall. The light glinted off a flash of pale hair, above a shock of torn lilac, and Albus’s feet slapped loudly against the floor as he ran.

“Scorpius!” he whispered hoarsely, skidding to a halt and dropping down in front of him. The ground was hard, jarring, as his knees hit it, but Albus barely noticed. He touched Scorpius’s face, his neck, felt the clammy, warm skin and the faint sheen of condensation over him. “Scorpius,” he whispered again, smiling in urgent relief, wiping at Scorpius’s cheeks, then his eyelids, gently. “Hey, wake up, I got you!” He drew Scorpius to his chest, away from the wall. “I found you!”

Scorpius was pliant in his hands, moving easily, his eyes shut and his arms limp beside him. His hands bent as Albus pulled him closer, and his head dropped back, lolling like a doll with a snapped neck.

Albus made a strangled, horrified sound. ““Hey, hey, don’t,” he moved his hand to support Scorpius’s head, “don’t do that!” he whispered. “Wake up, wake ―”

He scrabbled for his wand, frantic as he gave up all pretence of being stealthy and cast Lumos, letting it light the area around them. He could see now that Scorpius’s shirt was ripped, an angry gash across his chest where the material was pulled away. He moved his hand, trying to prop Scorpius up and keep his head from doing that horrible, limp hang. He tipped Scorpius against his shoulder.

Episkey,” he whispered, watching each side of the small wound on Scorpius’s chest knit together. “Better,” he said, stupidly, trying to soothe himself, to keep his mind under control. Scorpius hadn’t moved. Albus pointed his wand again, aimed at Scorpius’s chest once more.

Reparifors!” he cast, soft but firm. A dull light left his wand, washing over Scorpius’s skin, but nothing happened. Scorpius didn’t move. Albus cast again, the light from his wand flaring once more.

Once more, nothing happened.

Albus groaned in frustration, rubbing desperately at his forehead. Fuck! He didn’t know any other spells. He didn’t know anything he should in a situation like this. He groaned again, the sound muffled through his tightly pressed together lips as he dragged Scorpius with him to the wall, resting his back against it and Scorpius between his parted legs. Scorpius’s head flopped, limp and unresponsive, against Albus shoulder, and why was he so heavy, Albus thought inanely. The words dead weight flashed through his mind, and he made another high-pitched sound, wiping at his mouth and pulling Scorpius closer. Scorpius didn’t feel cold, but the room wasn’t cold either. The room was warm, an almost fetid smell emanating from it, and it was dark, so dark in here. Albus looked up sharply.

The room was getting darker.

“Sc ― Scorpius,” he whispered, shaking Scorpius’s limp arm as the darkness unfolded from one end of the room, seeming to emerge from the wall itself. “Scorpius, we need to,” Albus tried to sit up, to pull Scorpius with him. “We need to leave, now!” He scrabbled for his wand, unsure if he should try and cast a Lumos Maxima, or if he should try and sit as still as he could.

“Scorpius, we need ―”

All words left Albus as he raised his head.

He was looking at nothing. He was also, undeniably, looking at something. Something that was making the fog part around it as it unfolded itself from the opposing wall, black upon black upon black. Something that was made of shadows, of smoke, that felt hot and alive even while it looked like a dense span of nothing.

Something that was looking back at him.

Stu ―” Albus raised his wand with trembling fingers. “Stupefy,” he tried, his voice barely above a whisper.

The room filled with a loud, wet, rattling intake of breath. A shock of bright, lightning blue ran through the air in front of him, illuminating the skeletal outline of the creature. Empty eye sockets stared down at him, its mouth a twisted, bare bones grin.

Sleep.

Albus dropped his wand, clutching Scorpius as the voice echoed in his head. His eyes were wide, terrified, as he felt desperately on the ground for it, trying to sit up higher, to lift Scorpius, to run. He couldn’t move.

Sleep now.

Albus gasped, his heart hitting his stomach as the words rolled silently into his head, echoing in his ears. He couldn't hear them. He could hear them perfectly. He was terrified, and he wasn’t terrified at all. A numbing wash of calm licked down over his fear, curling up over the pang of terror in his gut. He tried for his wand, once more, but his hands felt heavy, his fingers clumsy and thick. He felt Scorpius slip down against his chest, and Albus tried to pull him up, but his arms wouldn't move. His legs felt heavy and tired, his chest constricted with fear, with calm, with nothing. The fog ebbed and flowed over his thighs, thicker and darker now, shimmering the same blue and with the same pulse of light that lit up the shadowed shape of the creature, illuminating its skeletal frame.

Rest in the darkness.

Empty sockets bore down on him, shocks of blue-grey flashing in the black smoke, against the bone-white skull of its face. Albus stared, immobile, paralysed, the voice in his head settling over him as warm and smothering as thick, heavy wool. Another, familiar voice echoed faintly around him.

Albus!”

With another rattling breath, the creature drew closer. It was dark around Albus now, surrounding them. The fog was black and warm, Scorpius heavy and still against his chest, and Albus was so tired.

Sleep now.

Yes, Albus thought. He wanted to sleep. The voice grated inside his mind, like stone on stone, billowing smoke obscuring his view.

Albus, are you in there? Albus!

I’m here, Albus thought, but he couldn't make his voice work. He couldn’t remember whose voice that was. His head tilted back, softly hitting the wall, his eyes sinking closed. He forced them open, but it was impossible. He wanted to sleep.

Sleep.

"Adams, help me get this open, quick!”

The air felt putrid, thick, as the creature moved closer, its face inches from Albus’s. The fog coiled thick and angry around them.

I’m hungry.

Albus shut his eyes.

Albus, are you ― Expecto Patronum!”

Light filled the room, blinding, white, warm. Safe, Albus thought distantly, as the darkness dissipated. The shape of antlers, of powerful hooves, were stark against his closed eyelids as a piercing, wailing scream sliced through his mind.

I’m safe.

Albus’s hand fell limp, fingers next to Scorpius’s as the room went black.


11.


Albus gasped.

“Hey, hey, you’re all right!”

“Wher’m’I?” he mumbled his tongue thick in his mouth. The room swam, rolling from side to side as if on an ocean, and Albus groaned again, confused, alarmed. He tried to open his eyes, wincing at the stab of pain behind them.

“Shh, take it easy,” the voice crooned above him, deep and familiar. “Don’t open your eyes, not yet.”

“Where is Sco―”

“Don’t worry, it’s okay,” a broad hand on his forehead, “you need to rest, to sleep.”

“I don’t want to sleep!” Albus struggled up onto his elbows, his eyes fluttering open and wincing shut as the light assaulted his oversensitive nerves. “I don’t want to ―”

“Al ―”

“Where’s Scorpius?” he asked desperately, elbows slipping against the cool hospital bed sheets. “Where is,” Albus gasped, his stomach churning, “We were, in the fog, and he was, he wasn’t mov ―”

Albus stopped, leaning over the side of the bed as he suddenly retched. His stomach heaved, and then again, empty and acidic. He spat, his head throbbing, as the same cool, broad hand smoothed his hair away from his forehead, comfortingly, another palm wrapped around his forearm. Albus groaned again, eyes slipping open just enough to make out his father’s concerned face and vivid Auror uniform as he held Albus over the side of the bed.

“Better?” Harry asked softly. Albus moaned feebly. “Okay, back we go now, onto the pillows.” He righted Albus gently, settling him back against the bed.

“Gave us a bit of a fright there,” he said softly, clearing away the mess with a wave of his wand and a muttered word. Albus opened his eyes, registering his father’s face, a lock of silver and black hair falling over the wire frames of his glasses. Albus winced again as the light hit him.

“Close your eyes, love,” Harry murmured. “Let yourself rest.”

“Dad,” Albus croaked miserably. “Dad.” He tried to say something more, to explain what had happened. He had a thousand questions, a thousand things he needed to know, but he sagged against the stiff hospital mattress. “Dad, I should have told you ―”

“It’s okay.” Albus felt the sheets being pulled over him, up to his bare chest. “I’m here.”

“No, but it was ―” Albus felt his eyes stinging with tears. “Alex was there, and I couldn’t move, and Scorpius wouldn’t wake up,” the words tumbled out, in a hoarse and scratchy rush, “and Ayesha said she didn’t know who he was, and then he wasn’t moving!” Albus tried to sit up again. “And the fog is ―”

“Gone,” Harry gently pressed him down again. “The fog is gone. Now, can you...stop trying to sit up so much, Al. Please?” Harry’s voice sounded light, but underneath it was something Albus hadn’t heard in his father’s voice in a while; worry, the aftermath of deep, bone-shaking fear that something had happened to one of his children. “You’ve had a shock, and I need you to ―” Harry sighed, cutting himself off. “You need to rest.”

Albus waited a moment, then nodded, his hair catching against the pillow. “It’s gone?”

“Yes, it’s gone,” Harry confirmed. “The fog went when...it went.”

Albus swallowed thickly. “And is...did,” he licked his lips. He drew in a shaking breath. “Is Scorpius okay?” he whispered, terrified of the answer.

“Yeah,” Harry patted his shoulder, and Albus sagged into the mattress with relief. “Yeah, he’s okay, Al.” Harry smiled. “They’re all okay, everyone it took. Scorpius’s with his dad right now, just over th ― no, hey, don’t open your eyes!” Harry gently lay his thumb and forefinger over each of Albus’s eyelids.

“Dad, I,” Albus wriggled, desperate. “I need to see him ―”

“No, Al,” Harry said, firm but kind. “You need to rest your eyes.”

“What’s wrong with them?” Al asked, worried.

“Nothing,” Harry chuckled. “Madam Pomfrey added a tincture to them, that’s all, to combat any effects of your...experience. Think of it like a migraine. You just need sleep, quiet, minimal light. That thing was...was very close to you.” Harry’s voice lost all levity. “It was very close to you, when we arrived, and you won’t feel well for a little while. So, keep them shut for a bit, okay? That’s all.”

Albus shivered. “I heard it,” he mumbled, as Harry removed his fingers from Albus’s face. “I heard it, in my head.”

Harry made a concerned noise, but he didn’t sound entirely surprised. “Teddy said he thought it might have been...trying to communicate with you.”

“Teddy?”

Harry hummed again. “He was here, with the Creature Investigations Unit,” he said in a measured tone. “Here to collect…” Harry trailed off, his voice thick.

“Barbara,” Albus murmured, and Harry made a quizzical sound. “What was it?” Albus asked, soft and scared.

“You don't need to know, right now,” Harry tried, but Albus grunted unhappily.

“Dad, it tried to eat me!” Albus shifted against the sheets. “I think I have a right to know what it was.”

“Eat you?” Harry asked sharply.

“Well, it,” Albus lowered his voice, unsure. “It said it was hungry.”

Harry's voice was sharp, alert. “It told you it was hungry, clearly, and in coherent sentences?”

“Yeah,” Albus muttered. “And that I should sleep.”

Harry sighed heavily. “That’s more than we thought it was capable of.”

“Dad, what was it?” Albus asked into the tense silence. Harry’s boots creaked against the floor of the hospital wing as he shifted slightly.

“We don’t know what it is, Albus.” Harry sighed again. “It’s not something the creature experts, Teddy’s team, have seen before.”

“How can that,” Albus frowned his mind reeling and his head throbbing at the same time. “How is that possible?”

His father was silent, before he muttered. “It’s something new. It’s...” He trailed off.

“It’s a hybrid,” a crisp voice finished for him.

“Jesus, Malfoy,” Harry scoffed, half in exasperation, half in surprise. “Please, feel free to join our conversation.” Harry’s voice was stern, reprimanding, but not really mad. Albus knew his father and Scorpius’s dad worked together sometimes, as an Auror and Unspeakable liaison.

“Thank you, I already have,” Draco said in clipped, but not unfriendly, tones. “You look better, Albus.”

“‘lo, Mr Malfoy,” Albus managed to reply. “How is...How’s Scorpius?” he mumbled, the guilt and fear still lingering inside him.

“Oh, he’s all right. We had a little chat. He’s had quite a night.” Draco’s boots clicked against the stones as he stepped closer. “And now, he is sound asleep, and a little worse for wear, but he is safe, and that is enough for me. For us all, I imagine,” he said pointedly. Draco’s tone was soft, that strange mixture of warm yet distant that he always managed. He did sound tired, though. “I would like to say that he won’t be playing detective again any time soon,” he went on. “But I rather suspect you two are terrible influences on each other.” His voice lowered slightly. “But please, if this happens again, for the sake of my constitution and your father’s greying hair ― include us in the game, next time, if you please, Albus?”

Albus swallowed at Draco’s tone, then nodded. “‘Kay,” he murmured thickly. He felt stupid, and tired again, all of a sudden. His head was killing him. “‘M’sorry,” he mumbled.

“You’re not in trouble, Albus.” Harry patted his leg. “Malfoy’s just a mean bugger when he’s worried.”

“Quite. And at other times, too, I’ve been told.” Draco cleared his throat. “But no, you’re not in trouble.”

Albus was silent, as he worried his lip. “A hybrid of what?” he eventually asked. He blinked his eyes open, registering Mr Malfoy, tall and impressive and dress in sombre black robes of Unspeakables, sharing a look with his father, clad in his deep, Auror red and sitting by Albus’s legs. Albus shut his eyes again quickly, grimacing faintly at the pain.

The two men waited a moment before Harry reluctantly replied.

“Well, Mr Unspeakable is the expert on this sort of thing.”

“Knowing more than you, Harry, does not make one an expert. I’d be drowning in expertise in all facets of life if that were the case.

“Charming, Malfoy.”

“As for the creature, that has yet to be confirmed, but…” At Harry’s encouraging sound, Draco went on. “It seems likely the creature’s ancestry comes from that of a Lethifold, and something of a similar genus. Possibly from ta family of Japanese apparitio ―”

“Oh, the ―” Albus struggled with the word. “Enenra?”

“Yes.” Draco stepped closer, more curious than annoyed by the interruption. “How could you possibly have guessed that?”

“Scorpius,” Albus replied. “He thought that might be what it was.”

“Mmm.” Draco hummed proudly. “He’s very smart, isn’t he?” He sighed. “Well, that may be part of its origin. I posit there is also a relation to Dementors, given the particular proclivities it displayed, its...appetites.”

“Its what?”

“Malfoy, must we go into this with him ―”

“ ― He’ll hear it eventually, Harry ―”

“Its what?” Albus repeated, fixated on the word ‘appetite’. “Tell me! What was...what was it eating?”

Harry sighed in resignation.

“Memories, emotions, we believe,” Draco explained. “Negative ones, to be specific, although it was also able to obscure its presence, and the memory of those it had taken, or was interested in. I believe that was the doing of the fog it created. It acted like a calming agent, soothing people and allowing the creature to pick them off, lure them down to the space it had...occupied.” His tone dropped in distaste. “It doesn't appear to have had the same feeding mechanism of a Lethifold. No desire for flesh, but instead for bad memories, for fear, anxiety, worry. Pain. All those affected were mostly physically unharmed, just very dehydrated and weak, the fog keeping them happy and trapped in their mind while the creature fed off the fear they instinctively felt on some level. Well, except for you.” Harry's hand returned to Albus’s leg as Draco talked. “I don’t think the fog had much success with calming you, Albus.”

“I hated the fog,” Albus replied vehemently. “I didn’t want it to get to me. I didn’t…” Abus shifted uncomfortably. “I didn’t want to think about it.”

“I gathered as much.” Draco paused. “Perhaps that’s why it had so little success with you,” he said softly.

“Because I ignored it?”

“That,” Draco conceded, “and ignoring other things you felt. Fear, high emotion. That’s what attracted this creature, and repressing what you felt might have let you... slip under its radar. Until you walked right up to it, that is. I gather you had its full attention then.” Draco sighed. “Which can’t have been pleasant.” He patted Albus’s ankle, a silent thank you for saving my son. “The headache will ease,” Draco went on, “and there’s chocolate waiting for you when you’re feeling less queasy.”

“Thank you,” Albus mumbled, eyelids fluttering as he weighed Draco’s words. He didn’t think ignoring how he felt would have let the fog ignore him in return, but then again, he was used to pushing things down, and aside, and trying not to feel them. He thought about Scorpius’s downcast expression in the library, about all the other things that had been swimming in his head the last few days, and Albus swallowed. He muttered, “I just didn’t want to think about it, that’s all. And I hated that thing being in my head.”

“Mmm.” Draco nodded. “Good. Nasty stuff, getting into people’s minds. I wonder if that’s why...” He tapped his fingers against the bedpost, thinking. “I just can’t fathom why it would be created, its purpose! And its ability to conjure images, to lure students away with it. Scorpius said…” Draco stopped.

“He said what?” Albus asked. Draco was silent for a long moment, before he answered.

“He’ll tell you what he saw, if he wants to.” Draco cleared his throat. His voice was low, something in it Albus hadn’t heard before. “It’s not my place to say.” He exhaled roughly, and Albus felt his father move against the bed.

“You were saying you can’t fathom its purpose?” Harry prompted, his tone soft and almost understanding.

“Yes.” Draco tapped the bedpost again. “This creature is certainly not…Not something anyone has seen before,” he said almost to the room.

“And not something that should exist,” Harry added pointedly, and Draco hummed in agreement.

“No. No, it’s not something that could exist, naturally. Which means that someone must have ―” He stopped, clicking his tongue in annoyance with himself.

“You think someone made it?” Albus sat up higher. “Someone bred this?”

“I think I ought to leave,” Draco replied with finality, a laugh still present in the edges of his voice. “Before I lose my job.”

“But why would they ―”

“Good bye, Albus,” Draco interrupted politely, talking over Albus’s inquisitive protests. “I will be back in the morning, to see Scorpius. I wanted to take him home, but I gather he was quite keen to stay here tonight.” Draco tapped his finger against the bedpost. “Can’t think why,” he said conversationally.

Albus flushed, deep and embarrassed and obvious, given his bare chest. He wasn’t sure what Mr Malfoy meant, but he couldn't stop the heat over his chest, and he wriggled lower in the blanket, suddenly very keen for everyone to leave. His mind was full of new information, and a headache, and he was tired again, even though he didn't want to admit it.

He wanted to see Scorpius.

“Stop it, Draco,” Harry reprimanded with a gentle chuckle.

“Stop what?” Draco asked innocently.

“You know what.” Harry stood with a grunt, stretching his back out. “I need to finish securing the castle, talk with Minerva again. I want to be sure there’s no more…what did you call it, Al?”

“Oh,” Albus mumbled sleepily, managing a smile. “Barbara”

“Barbara?” Draco’s tone was light, confused. “I was going to go with ‘Dementifold’, myself.”

“Yeah,” Albus sagged further against the bed, “s’better than Barbara.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Albus could hear the smile in Draco’s voice, “I’ve always been a fan of silly names. Haven’t I, Scarhead?”

Harry laughed. “Steady on, Ferret.” He adjusted his cloak, resting his hand on the bed by Albus’s head. “All right, Albus.” Harry leant down to kiss his forehead, and Albus wanted to grumble at his dad for being soppy and lame and that he wasn’t a baby, but he was too tired, too comforted by his father’s presence. He imagined Harry arriving, in a fury of swirling Auror crimson, storming the castle to get him, and felt another was of safe wash over him. “I need to make sure the castle is safe.” Harry straightened. “I’ll be back before I leave, if you’re awake, and then again tomorrow. We’ll take you home with us for the rest of the Christmas break, I think.”

Albus nodded, sleepily.

“Alright, Albus. You rest now, okay?”

“Okay, Dad.”

12.


It was several hours later, when Albus woke again.
The room was dark, night time filtering through, and Albus let his eyes slip open, the pain in his head now a distant throb. He lay on his side, curved around his pillow and hospital bed curtains drawn around him. There was nothing on the floor, no fog, and Albus sighed contentedly, stretching his legs out. He stopped when he felt a prickling over his back.

He was being stared at.

Albus swallowed, gently turning his neck to peer over his shoulder, and coming face to face with large grey eyes.

“Hey.” Scorpius smiled, shifting from foot to foot on the cold floor. His hair messy and his white nightshirt rumbled. Albus blinked up at him, slowly turning onto his back.

“H ― hey,” he managed around the lump in his throat. He suddenly wasn’t sure what to say, his mind still fuzzy with sleep, with the events of the previous night, and day. His chest felt tight again, an unnameable emotion constricting him and a thousand different words trying to be said all at once. He opened his mouth again, but nothing came out, and Scorpius just smiled, lopsided and dimpled, and only a little bruised and wobbly.

Albus looked away, his eyes suddenly hot with unshed tears. That was Scorpius’s smile, his real smile; uneven and wonky and playful. It tugged at Albus’s heart in a way he didn’t know how to handle, and he scratched at his cheek, blinking rapidly and wiping at the corner of his eyes. He waited for Scorpius to say something, to ask what was wrong with him, but Scorpius didn’t. He only rested his fingers against the mattress, near Albus’s hip.

“Can I get in with you?” he whispered after a moment and Albus nodded. He sniffed, not trusting himself to look at Scorpius as he climbed onto the bed, as he slipped his legs under the lifted corner of the covers. Albus shifted across, making room, but Scorpius surprised him by laying a hand across his hip, stilling him. He waited another moment, then lifted Albus’s right arm, slipping himself under it and resting his head on Albus’s bare chest. He pulled Albus’s arm back around himself, his breath warm against Albus’s skin as he sighed deeply.

Albus stared at the ceiling, shocked, surprised, unsure how to react. He’d never held anyone like this, not in a bed or otherwise, and he wondered what he should do, what would be the normal way to behave. He suddenly decided he didn’t care any longer. If Scorpius wanted a hug, he could bloody have one.
He tightened his arm around Scorpius’s shoulders, pulling him closer. Scorpius hummed, moving his legs over Albus’s, his hair tickling his chin, and Albus settled the blankets around them, Scorpius’s arm around his waist. He wiped at his eyes one last time, sniffing, and feeling a little bit stupid, a little bit overwhelmed, and completely and utterly overjoyed that Scorpius was here, and okay. After a quiet moment, Scorpius sniffed too, wiping at his own eyes with his thumb. Albus frowned, peering down at him.

“Are you okay?” he asked quickly, and Scorpius nodded, not looking up.

“Yeah.” He drew out the word. “Just…emotional,” he mumbled, running the heel of his palm over his cheekbone. Albus laughed wetly at Scorpius’s honest answer.

“Same,” he admitted, something in his chest loosening at saying it out loud. “It’s like someone left a tap on in here, lately,” he joked, wiping at his eyes again, and Scorpius laughed, nodding.

“Thank you for finding me,” Scorpius said thickly.

“Oh,” Albus sucked on his lip, unable to answer. He wanted to make another joke, but he couldn't quite do it yet, the fear and horror of waking to find that Scorpius was gone, of seeing his limp and unresponsive body, was still too real. “What happened?” he asked instead, his voice cracking slightly.

Scorpius was warm, his legs hot against Albus’s under the blankets, and he sighed, heavily. “I thought I saw my mum,” he mumbled after a moment.

Albus started, looking down and trying to see Scorpius’s face. All he could see was tousled blond hair. “Your mum?” he whispered back. Scorpius nodded, cheek moving against Albus’s chest.

“In the alcove. And then again, in the night.” He curled his hand into a fist on Albus’s hip. “I thought she was,” he whispered, “I thought she came and got me. Last...last night. She came into the room, and got me, and she said…” Scorpius broke off, his voice thick and hoarse. Albus suddenly remembered Scorpius’s dad saying what the creature had been able to do, the way it had lured students to where it wanted them to be. He’ll tell you, if he wants to. He tightened his arm around Scorpius’s shoulders.

“What did she say?”

“I can’t really remember.” Scorpius swallowed, moving his legs higher against Albus’s thighs, and Albus stroked his hand experimentally down his back. When Scorpius sighed, he did it again. “It was just nice,” Scorpius went on, “and not nice, at the same time. It was like a memory, like when I was little, and she would tell me to come inside, that I’d played long enough. Only it was wrong somehow, and I was scared, but I also didn’t care for some reason. And this time, she was saying...saying that I should come with her, and I knew it wasn’t real, but.” He swallowed, sitting upright and leaning on his elbow. “She said she missed me, and she wanted me to come with her, and it was just...nice. So I did,” he whispered. He finally looked at Albus, grey eyes watery and bright. “Pretty stupid of me, huh?”

Albus opened his mouth, then shut it again, before he forced himself to talk. He was bad at this, but he could do it. “It’s not stupid,” he eventually managed in a cracked whispered.

“It kind of is.” Scorpius smiled wryly.

“No, it. It got in your head. And I would have followed it, too, Scorp,” he said, as Scorpius looked at him. “If it was...I would have gone, too.” He lifted one shoulder, playing with a corner of the bedsheet. “I mean, I followed you down there, didn’t I? In a way,” he mumbled, trying to joke. Scorpius laughed softly, dropping his head to rest against his own shoulder.

“Yeah, but I’m not dead, Albus,” he said bluntly, but not unkindly.

Albus inhaled sharply. “I thought you were.” His voice was so quiet it was barely audible. “I thought you were, when I found…” He trailed off, his eyes misting over infuriatingly again. He grunted, turning his face into the pillow, letting it soak up his embarrassing tears. “Bloody hell.”

“Someone...left the tap on again?” Scorpius tried softly, and Albus barked a dry laugh.

“Yep.” He sniffed. “Fuck’s sake,” he grumbled, sighing as Scorpius moved closer, his hand on Albus’s chest. “I did, though,” Albus forced himself to say. “I thought you were...And I’m sorry I,” he shut his eyes, “I’m sorry I was such a prick in the library.”

“Al, you weren’t ―”

“No, I really was,” Albus said emphatically, “and I know it. I was,” say it you, idiot, he thought, remembering how much time he’d spent on not thinking about this, not dealing with it. Say it and deal with the consequences, you owe him that at least. “I was jealous,” Albus uttered, eyes still shut. “Because you said you liked someone, and I'm so sorry Scorpius, I know this is going to wreck everything because you don’t like me like that, or like guys I think, but I do.” Albus made a face, opening his eyes and looking up at the high ceiling. Merlin, saying this out loud was both worse, and easier, than he’d expected it to be. “I like you, a lot, and in, like, that way, and it makes me act like an arsehole sometimes, and I’m just.” He lifted his hand, then dropped it against the bed. “I figured I should probably tell you, after all the. After everything. That I’m, that I like guys, but not even that, that I just like. I like you.” He sighed. “And you’ll probably want to get out of the bed now,” he said around the knot in his stomach, “because I can guarantee if you stay in here things will start to get awkward, you know.” Albus felt his face heat up miserably. “Because I like you.”

He let his breath out in a rush, not looking at Scorpius, not looking at anything really. On the one hand, at least he’d said it, and cleared the air, and Scorpius would know why Albus had acted like an arse. On the other, heavier and more upsetting hand, now Scorpius knew. Albus braced himself for Scorpius’s awkward reply, for him to unfold his long legs and get out of the bed.

But it didn’t happen.

Instead, though, Scorpius only unfolded his fist, laying his palm over Albus’s bare hip. He leant forward, slow and deliberate, then kissed Albus’s hot cheek, his own warm lips cool in comparison. Albus’s eyelids fluttered in confusion.

“Um, did. Did you hear me?” he asked stupidly, and Scorpius nodded, his cheek brushing against Albus’s.

“I thought I’d got it wrong,” he mumbled, almost to himself. His voice wasn’t awkward, or upset. He didn’t sound mad, or embarrassed, Albus thought, as his mind rushed to make sense of what his ears were hearing. Scorpius sounded happy.

“Got...Got what wrong?” Albus mumbled, his voice slow and confused, and his heart beating hard in his chest.

“I was so sure you liked me, too,” Scorpius continued to mumble against Albus’s skin, kissing him again, this time harder. “And then after the night, in your bed, I thought after that we would. I thought surely something would happen after that!” His voice sounded high, almost giddy, his hand curving further over Albus’s hip and his face still against Albus’s, his expression hidden.

“After...After, in my bed?” Albus stammered. He was getting hot, and was still so, so confused. This was not how this went, any time he had imagined it in his mind. This was not how he thought Scorpius would react. “You mean, when you woke up, and we…”

“Yeah!” Scorpius half said, half laughed. He sat up, resting his weight on the hand by Albus’s head, the other still splayed on Albus’s hip. “But then the next day, you wouldn't look at me, and when I tried to get close you flinched,” Scorpius shook his head, “and I thought I’d got it all wrong and that you didn’t like me after all. I felt so stupid. It was horrible!”

He beamed down at Albus, his expression entirely at odds with what he’d just said, and Albus wondered if anything was ever going to make sense again. He blinked up at Scorpius’s euphoric face, his white-blond hair falling over his forehead, tickling at his cheekbones. Albus frowned, entirely baffled by everything.

And then, something did click into place.

“Wait,” he mumbled, pushing up onto his elbows. “You said...you said you thought I liked you, too?” he said quietly. Scorpius nodded, looking at Albus happily, and expectant, as if there was something there he’d been waiting for Albus to figure out, something he’d been wanting him to get. Albus was almost frightened to think of what it might be, the possibility making him dizzy.

“So, you,” he started, cutting himself off when he heard how deep his voice was, how low. He was close enough to feel Scorpius’s breath over his cheeks, his legs still slung over Albus’s. “You like me,” Albus stated, his voice hitching on the words as if it were a question. He knew his face was stuck in an expression of dumb-shock, his brows creased in a frown. But Scorpius didn’t laugh at him, or tease him. He just tipped his head forwards again, mouth against Albus’s cheek once more.

“I like you,” he whispered against Albus’s hot skin. “In the library, when you asked who it was. It was you.”

“Oh my god.”

“And I was so sure that you did too, so sure,” he repeated, lips moving against Albus’s cheekbone. “And then I was so sure I’d got that wrong, and it sucked.”

“Oh my god!” Albus huffed a startled laugh, lips curved into an idiotic smile. He smoothed one hand over his mouth, remembering there were other people in the hospital wing, that he needed to be quieter. “Since when?” he whispered.

“Since when what?” Scorpius mumbled, kissing his jaw lightly.

“Since when do you like me?”

Scorpius hummed, kissing his jaw again, this time open mouthed and slightly wet. Albus’s breath hitched, a wonderful heat settling inside his belly, over his thighs. He chewed his lip, then impulsively angled his head away slightly to let Scorpius kiss behind his ear. Albus made a sound, then pressed his lips together to stop from making another. Scorpius moved his lips again, kissing Albus’s earlobe and pulling it slightly between his lips. His thumb was running loose circles on Albus’s hip, shaking slightly, and his chest was rising and falling quickly. Excitement, maybe, or relief, happiness. Albus wasn’t quite sure what Scorpius was feeling. He wasn’t quite sure what he was feeling himself, except that it was brilliant, and tenuous, and he wanted to grab it with both hands and not let it go. His elbows were shaking from holding himself up, his head was still sore from that thing being inside it and Scorpius’s leg was his, lips against his skin, alive and whole and well. Albus didn’t want to second guess this, even though every instinct of his was used to doing that. He decided he didn’t care about that anymore, couldn’t be bothered with things beyond feeling, and this felt good.

“A while,” Scorpius mumbled, pulling back slightly, lips trailing over Albus’s jaw. “I’ve liked you for a while.”

Albus turned back to look at him, the angle letting his lips brush over Scorpius’s. It wasn’t quite a kiss, and wasn’t not a kiss at the same time. It was exhilarating, and Albus held his breath as Scorpius adjusted his weight on his hands. He didn’t move back, wide eyes flicking from Albus’s, lower, then back to his eyes. Albus swallowed, nervous and happy and unable to believe this was happening.

“Same,” he mumbled, lips moving against Scorpius’s.

He brushed his mouth over Scorpius’s, his eyes open wide and his arms quivering slightly when Scorpius leant forwards, grazing his lips over Albus’s in an answering move. He did it again, as Albus let his arms give out beneath him, slowly lowering himself back onto the pillow, almost-kiss following almost-kiss as Scorpius moved with him. Albus’s eyes slipped closed as they lay side by side, knees touching. His hand moved to hover just above Scorpius’s cheek, not quite sure if he should touch him, until Scorpius reached up, pulling it down towards his face. The kiss deepened, still soft, as their lips moved faster, each soft brush moving into something more. Albus curved his fingers into Scorpius’s hair, sighing at the feel of it. It was thick, dead straight, and so soft as Albus carded his fingers through it. His breath left him in soft, unsteady exhales, and he moved closer, their thighs brushing against each other.

Albus was aware that Scorpius had done more of this before than he had. He’d had a few girlfriends, back before Albus really minded about that sort of thing, and had told Albus in hushed tones about the things they’d done. Not much, really, is how ‘the things Scorpius had done’ could all be summed up, but still. It was marginally more than Albus had done, and neither of them really had a lot of experience, and as far as Albus knew, none of that experience was horizontal, and none of it counted as sex; the closest Albus had come to that had happened two night ago, and with Scorpius lying next to him, panting at the ceiling. Albus moaned at the memory, his cock thickening in his sweatpants. He angled his hips away from Scorpius, trying to keep this innocent, keep his own reaction away from him. He didn’t know if anything was going to happen here ― in the infirmary, of all places ― or what Scorpius wanted. Albus was happy with this, was happy with Scorpius just lying with his head on his chest ― when he’d said he liked him too. Albus frowned slightly on a moan, kissing Scorpius again, and opening his mouth slightly. If more than this happened, Albus would probably burst from happiness.

He moved his fingers in Scorpius’s hair again, Scorpius’s tongue swiping against his own, and he groaned. He did it again, more insistently, sucking on Scorpius’s lower lip, and Scorpius exhaled shakily, his hand on Albus’s side. His fingers were warm, long, gripping at Albus’s skin in a rhythmic motion as he kissed him deeper, tongues sliding messily and wet, noses bumping. It was artless, uncoordinated at times and Albus kept stopping to smile, to laugh breathlessly and incredulously while Scorpius followed him with insistent, breathless kisses of his own.

He was wearing only his sweatpants, taken from his room earlier while he slept, and he could feel his erection growing, pushing against the soft material. That was okay though, he thought absently, as Scorpius moved closer. Albus could keep kissing, could just keep his lower half out of reach, and Scorpius would never have to know that kissing alone had worked Albus up this much. That plan might have worked, tenuous as it was, if Scorpius hadn't kissed down Albus chin, back to his mouth, his hand tugging in his messy hair. Albus jerked forwards, breath hitching on the jolt of pleasure that ran through him as Scorpius bit gently at his lip, and then again as Albus’s hips met Scorpius’s.

“Oh, god.” Albus pulled back quickly. “S ― Sorry,” he mumbled, still kissing Scorpius as he tried to angle his lower half away. He laughed a little goofily, Scorpius blinking at him wide-eyed and flushed. “Sorry, I’m, just kind of, ” Albus gestured between them, kissing Scorpius more slowly, “Y’know.”

Scorpius breathed a laugh. “Yeah, I figured.” He pulled Albus’s lower lip between his own, rolling it. “Same,” he mumbled, Albus groaned again, his cock pressing insistently against the material of his sweatpants.

“Should we stop?” he murmured, words muffled as he kissed Scorpius again. He couldn’st stop doing it. He’d never liked kissing this much before, never really been fussed with it, but Scorpius’s lips were soft, his jaw firm under Albus’s hands, and Albus sighed into it again as Scorpius shook his head.

“Um, do you want to stop?” Scorpius asked breathily.

“No,” Albus replied quickly, honestly.

“Okay,” Scorpius kissed him again, moving a fraction closer for every inch Albus moved back. Albus moaned, slightly, when Scorpius ran his hand up his side, knuckles running over his stomach. Albus’s stomach twitched away, and then again, the muscles quivering as Scorpius trailed his fingers over the hair on Albus’s belly, leading into the V of his hips and then lower still.

“I, uh,” Albus kissed the corner of Scorpius’s mouth, his stomach flipping with nerves, with arousal. “I don’t actually know what not stopping involves, though,” he mumbled. Scorpius laughed again, a nervous sound of his own.

“No,” he inhaled shakily. “No, I don’t either.” He ran his hand over Albus’s stomach again, then bit his lip as he picked up Albus’s hand. He fingers were hot against Albus’s as he placed them under his night shirt, resting Albus’s hand against his own stomach. “We probably shouldn’t be doing this in here,” he whispered, half incredulous at himself. Albus laughed back, quietly, shaking his head.

“No, we definitely shouldn’t be,” he murmured, sliding his hand up Scorpius’s stomach, to his chest.

“Should we stop?” Scorpius asked again, a slight furrow between his brows. Albus spread his fingers over the place where the scratch had been, now healed and gone. His cheek scratched against the pillow as he shook his head.

“I don’t want to,” he said honestly. He wanted to say more, but it all sounded embarrassing, soppy, in his head, and he suspected it would sound worse out loud, so he left it at that. He kissed Scorpius instead, lips at the corner of his mouth, his cheek, and his fingertips grazing down the fluttering muscles of Scorpius’s stomach. He stopped at his belly button, Scorpius's fingers around his wrist. .

“Yeah. Me either.” Scorpius licked his lips, pushing Albus’s hand lower. “Maybe we,” Scorpius breath hitched, Albus kissing over his cheek. “Maybe we can do this. Like the other night, only...together.”

Albus moaned, nodding his enthusiastic agreement as he spread his palm over Scorpius’s stomach, over the slight curve of his belly as Scorpius talked.

“Like, touch each other?” he mumbled, his face red from saying it out loud, as he ran his fingers over Scorpius’s skin, to the dip of his hips. He felt stupid for asking, but he wanted to be sure, of this, of everything, before he did it. That felt important.

Scorpius nodded as Albus reached the hem of his underwear, as he pulled it away with his forefinger. Scorpius gasped, following Albus’s lead and slipping his own hand lower. He kissed Albus again, their foreheads resting together and noses almost bumping as they breathed each other’s air. Albus swallowed, running his finger along the hem of Scorpius’s underwear, moving to the side of his hip. He stopped, then starting inching them slowly down, breath held in his chest.

“Is this, should we take these, um, off?”

“Yeah,” Scorpius lifted his hips, breathing shakily as he helped Albus ease them down to his thighs. The material caught on his cock, Albus’s wrist bumping against the hot length of Scorpius’s erection, and Scorpius gasped, high and loud. Albus groaned at the same time, stilling his hand and taking steadying breath before letting his wrist brush up again Scorpius’s cock. Scorpius exhaled shakily against his mouth.

“Merlin, that’s ―” Scorpius swallowed, blinking fast.

“Okay?”

“Yeah,” Scorpius nodded emphatically, smiling, and Albus moved his hands to his own hips, easing his sweat-pants and underwear down to just under his balls. It was awkward, a little embarrassing, to have his dick out with someone else in the bed with him, and he quickly returned his own hand to Scorpius’s bare hip to distract himself. He paused, then, impulsively lifting his hand to his mouth. He waited a moment,holding Scorpius’s gaze, then licked his palm. Scorpius watched with wide and slightly unfocussed eyes as Albus did it again.

“You like that, right?” Albus mumbled, face red, slipping his spit-slicked hand beneath the covers once more. Scorpius blinked at him, then smiled, shocked.

“How did...were you watching me?”

Albus nodded, embarrassed. “Sort of.” He swallowed, feeling like a creep again. “Not, well, I couldn't see much ―” Scorpius cut him off with a hard kiss, fingers scrabbling to push Albus’s pants down further.

“I was listening to you,” Scorpius whispered, kissing Albus again as his hand crept lower, and Albus groaned, once at the idea of Scorpius listening to him the other night, and then again as he felt Scorpius’s long fingers wrap around his cock.

“Oh, god,” he gasped, hips moving forwards even as he tried to still them. “Shit, Scorp...” Albus trailed off on another moan.

“Good?”

“Mmm,” Albus hummed, moving his own slick palm to Scorpius’s erection. He wrapped his fingers around it, exhilarated and flushed and dizzy.

Scorpius was hot, smooth, as Albus ran his hand up his cock, then back down. He had no idea what he was doing, beyond what he liked doing to himself, so he tightened his grip slightly, listening to Scorpius gasp. Albus pressed his lips together, suppressing his moan as Scorpius moved his own hand too, mirroring Albus’s own movements. Scorpius’s fingers were long, one still gripping Albus’s side and the other moving tentatively over his cock and Albus choked out a groan, overwhelmed by all of it. His balls were tight against his body, sweat gathering at the base of his spine, and he kissed Scorpius again, messily and breathless.

“This is good,” he gasped against his cheek, feeling Scorpius nod, his breathing rapid and hard as he pressed his forehead against Albus’s.

Really good,” Scorpius replied, his hips moving into Albus’s hand. Albus tightened his grip, and so did Scorpius, both of them gasping as they moved their hands faster.

“Sc ― Scorp,” Albus licked his lips, his eyes wide, “I’m not going to last very, uh, v ― very long,” he managed, pumping himself into Scorpius’s hand. Scorpius groaned in reply, his own eyes squeezed tightly shut.

“S’okay, uh, Al,” he murmured, making little breathless sounds on every thrust.

Scorp, I ―” Albus repeated, high pitched and hitching as his balls tightened further, his thighs tensing and his mouth dropping open as he felt his orgasm building. His movements turned jerky, erratic, his hand losing its rhythm over Scorpius’s cock as he panted, trying to keep quiet, his breath hot over Scorpius’s face. He gasped, one last time, the sound turning into a strangled groan as he felt his cock pulse, hot and perfect in Scorpius’s fist. Scorpius kissed him, frantic and messy, teeth scraping over Albus’s lips and Albus gasped again, the sound ending in a shuddering groan as his hips canted forwards. His cock spurted over Scorpius’s fingers, his stomach, the bed sheets underneath them.

“Fuck,” Scorpius breathed, “oh, fu ― uhh!” He pressed his lips together, muffling the sound as he gripped Albus’s side, fingers tight, his other hand slackening around Albus’s cock. Scorpius’s hips bucked forwards, his cock jerking in Albus’s hand, and Albus felt the first hot splash against his wrist, his fingers. Albus groaned, kissing him again, and again in quick succession, catching the soft sounds Scorpius made as he came. He tried to move his own hand between them, to keep quiet, but it was hard to concentrate, to think. His cock jerked again, Scorpius’s fingers gripping rhythmically around it, and Albus rode it out, sighing into Scorpius’s mouth.

Slowly, Scorpius stilled, sagging against the mattress and panting, and Albus did the same. He felt dazed, boneless, brilliant. He moved his hand away from Scorpius’s softening cock, feeling Scorpius moan slightly as he did so. Albus was suddenly aware of the stickiness on it, and that he didn’t have his wand. Scorpius seemed to be thinking the same thing, as they looked at each other, flushed and sweaty and sated.

“I can’t believe we just did that,” Albus blurted, staring at his hand.

Scorpius, laughed, then pressed his lips together, nodding. “I imagine it’s maybe worth a detention, yeah,” he murmured cheekily, eyes bright. “Or a few hundred points from Slytherin.”

“Whatever,” Albus summoned his wand with his clean hand, pleased when it slapped into his hand. “We just saved the school, we deserve a…” he trailed off, flushing, and cast a quick Scourgify over them both, righting his own underwear.

“What, deserve a wank?” Scorpius finished for him, grinning as he tucked himself away, and Albus’s face heated up further.

“Merlin,” Albus shook his head. He opened his mouth to say more, but he stopped, looking towards the end of the hospital wing. They both tensed as they heard the sound of someone turning over in a bed at the far end of the room, exhaling deeply before they settled once more.

“Shit,” Albus mouthed, pushing his hair away from his face with his clean hand. “Alex is in here!” he hissed. “And the others! There are people sleeping in here, Scorp!”

Scorpius’s eyes widened, his mouth dropping open. “Oh, Merlin,” he whispered, laughing. “I don’t know if we were very quiet!”

Albus’s mouth twisted as he tried to contain his laughter too. “D’you think anyone woke up?”

“Bloody hope not.”

Albus snorted a laugh at that, at Scorpius’s earnestly appalled expression. He smiled, then licked his lips, kissing Scorpius quickly before pulling away. He lay back down with happy determination.

“You like me,” he said with a grin, goofy and lopsided. Scorpius returned it.

“Yep.” He shifted under the blankets. “You finally noticed.” Scorpius’s expression was half playful, half something else, something so sincere it made Albus’s chest ache. “I mean, not that I told you I liked you, exactly, before now,” Scorpius went on, flushing a little, “but I thought it was obvious. I would have said something, as well, but I wasn’t.” He chewed his lip. “I wasn’t sure how you would react,” he finished, pushing his messy hair out of his eyes. “Anyway, doesn’t matter now.” He swallowed, looking at Albus. “Does it?”

Albus blinked, quickly pulled Scorpius against his chest, ignoring his huff at the sudden change of position.

“Al, we should be quiet!” he said, extricating himself slightly, but not entirely.

“Then be quiet.”

“That was your fault!” Scorpius shook his hair out of his eyes, then lay his head on Albus’s chest. “People might wake up, and see us.”

“Who cares,” Albus said, grinning into Scorpius’s hair.

“Probably Alex? And anyone else in here?” Scorpius’s tone was light, despite his words. Albus suspected Scorpius didn’t really care, either.

“‘Course it doesn’t matter,” he murmured, answering Scorpius’s question from earlier. Scorpius sighed, as Albus manhandled him into a more comfortable position. “All that stuff you said, it doesn’t matter,” Albus clarified. “Because I know now. And you know now, too. Right?”

Scorpius nodded, cheek hot against Albus’s skin. “Yeah, I know,” he mumbled.

“Good. ‘Cause now you’re stuck with me.” Albus shut his eyes, happy and warm and safe. He felt Scorpius’s shoulder move as he laughed gently.

“You’re so weird, Al.” Scorpius sighed, his face buried in Albus’s neck. Albus could feel the smile against his skin as he ran his hand through his hair, fingers pulling the strands gently between his own.

“I like weird,” Scorpius murmured, smiling still as he nestled closer.

Albus smiled, too.

*

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