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Wildcard

Chapter Text

Southview High School sprawled across a great green lawn. A flagpole was planted out front, standing proudly and resolutely, and the wide, massive building was characterized by red brick, tinted windows, and gray concrete trim.

To the right of the school was a large parking lot, the asphalt riddled with cracks and potholes, and to the other side of the school was a soccer field. Behind Southview was a football field encircled by a burnt red track. A well-equipped locker room was situated in the corner between the football field/track and the soccer field. It wasn’t difficult to figure out where the school’s funding was directed toward.

On school days, pixelated groups of students would swarm the campus, pouring from the parking lot to the front of the school, congregating around the flagpole and up into the vast structure.

Scorpius took in the scene presented by Southview with no shortage of apprehension. Transitioning to a high school during junior year, a week after school had already started, was no simple task. He found himself wishing his father hadn’t been transferred, that he could have finished his high school career at his old school.

He shoved all his doubts and wishes to the back of his mind to contemplate later—they did him no good at the present, only serving to make him more nervous. Scorpius took a deep breath, then followed the stream of students up the front steps of the school. It took a bit of time to find the office, but thankfully a couple of girls pointed him in the right direction.

The office was cold and looked out onto the school and parking lot. Two rooms branched off from the main office—one was likely storage and the other was Principal McGonagall’s personal office. The walls in the school office were lined with a dull blue and white pinstriped wallpaper and there were potted plants in the corners.

“Oh, you must be Scorpi—Sorp—Scorpis?,” the old lady working behind the counter attempted as soon as he announced he was a new student. Her gray hair was curled into a bob and there was an elegant flower broach pinned to the front of her sweater.

“Er, Scorpius,” he sounded out with a small smile.

She laughed self-deprecatingly. “Oh, Scorpius. Sorry, dear. I completely butchered your name.” She shook her head and shot him an apologetic look. “We don’t get a lot of Scorpiuses around here.”

“It’s an uncommon name,” he agreed kindly.

She got back to business after the whole ordeal, recovering quickly. “Right, well, you just have to fill out some paperwork, then take a picture for your I.D. card.” She slowly typed something into an ancient-looking computer, then peered at him over the top of her glasses. “You’ve already been cleared by your doctor? Got all your tests done?”

Scorpius nodded. “The files were sent in last week.”

She nodded, satisfied, and turned her eyes back to her computer screen. She smelled of powder and a strong lavender perfume. Scorpius scrunched his nose to avoid sneezing, then looked around the office as she printed out some forms for him to sign. There were colorful posters on the walls promoting drug-free lifestyles and abstinence and a few anti-bullying campaign signs.

“Here you are, dear. Just read through this, then sign your name and date it.” She put another paper on top of it. “Here, fill out your information and your parents’ information, just in case of an emergency.” She put yet another form above that one. “And on this one, sign here and here.” She used a long, manicured nail to point to each place Scorpius was to fill out.

He raised his eyebrows, but did as he was told. The only sounds in the room were his pen scratching against the paper and the squeaking of the lady’s chair as she leaned in it. As he was working on filling out the last form, he heard the door to the office open and close behind him. He didn’t look up, not wanting to make awkward eye contact. Once he had filled out the last form, he put the pen down, then pushed the papers across the counter toward the lady.

“Perfect,” she said, flashing him a smile. “It seems we were already sent a picture of you from your previous school, so we’ll have your card printed out and delivered to you during either second or third period.”

“I was summoned,” a girl said behind him, coming up to lean against the counter next to him. She grinned at the lady sitting behind the computer and tucked a curly lock of blonde hair behind her ear. “What can I do for you, Eleanor?”

“Oh, just in time.” The lady—Eleanor—waddled over to the printer, then came back with two sheets of paper, both of which she handed to Scorpius. “Here is your schedule, dear, and a map of the campus.” She turned to the girl standing beside Scorpius. “Scorpius here is new—he’s a junior, but you both have Calculus for your first period.”

The blonde girl turned to Scorpius and shot him a friendly smile, holding out her hand. She was a few inches shorter than him and her eyes twinkled a milky green. “I’m Eve—Eve Carter. What did you say your name was?”

Scorpius shook her hand. “Scorpius. Scorpius Malfoy.”

“Nice meeting you, Scorpius,” Eve said pleasantly, strangely unfazed by his uncommon name. “I’ll walk you to Calculus, then circle where each of your classes are on that handy-dandy map.”

Scorpius smiled, her bubbly personality seeming almost contagious. “Thanks.”

“We should get going—class starts soon,” she said. “Bye, Eleanor!” Eve waved as she led Scorpius out of the office and back into the hallway.

The hallways were less crowded than when Scorpius had last been in them and the stragglers were beginning to head to class. A quick glance out a nearby window showed Scorpius that there were still students loitering outside, chitchatting with friends. He followed Eve up a flight of stairs, then to the left.

“Welcome to Southview,” Eve said with a smile. “Go Swans!”

“That’s the mascot?”

Eve nodded. “Swan pride.”

“Swans,” Scorpius mused. “Terrifying.”

“Hey, swans are vicious creatures,” Eve defended. “Have you ever been attacked by a swan?” He shook his head. “Exactly, because if you had, you’d be dead right now.”

Scorpius grinned, looking around at the signs hanging up in the hallways. Most of them were advertising team tryouts or encouraging people to attend sports games once the seasons started. “Sports are pretty big here, huh?”

“Huge,” Eve confirmed. “Unlike the rest of the US, however, Southview doesn’t only focus on football. Soccer is just as big here, if not bigger.”

Scorpius raised a brow, excitement bubbling in his chest. “Really?”

Eve nodded. “Really. The girls and boys teams are joined, though. Lakeview, our rivals—they’re just a few miles away—was the first high school in the state to allow girls to join the boys’ team. Once their team started kicking ass, the other schools hopped on board.”

“I’ve never heard of that before.” Scorpius followed Eve past rows of lockers.

“It was kind of a scandal until people realized the girls had no trouble keeping up with the boys,” Eve said, almost proudly. “Southview’s team took notes, so we’re not split by gender either.”

“That’s awesome,” Scorpius smiled. He guessed Eve played on the Southview soccer team—she was way too passionate about it not to. It was a good conversation topic for him to latch on to. “I played soccer at my old high school.”

Eve’s face instantly lit up and she turned to face him, though didn’t stop walking. “Are you any good?”

He shrugged. “I’m okay.”

“Listen,” Eve put her hand on his shoulder, as if to make sure he was paying attention, “soccer tryouts are this Friday—you arrived just in time. 3:30 out on the field. You saw it this morning, right?” Scorpius nodded. “Good. You’d better be there. I’m gonna tell Blaze that you’ll be there.”

“Who’s Blaze?”

“He’s the captain. He’s a senior, like me.” Eve grinned. “He lives and breathes soccer, so you’d better show up. He’ll be pissed if you don’t.”

“Right,” Scorpius said, not sure how he ended up convinced to attend tryouts.

“Here we are,” Eve gestured up to the classroom number. “Mrs. Vector is nice, but she’s strict. Don’t sit by Adam or Tim and you’ll be fine.”

Scorpius nodded obediently, despite not knowing who Adam or Tim were, and allowed Eve to push him into the classroom ahead of her. His mind was whirring, already focused on the tryouts on Friday, as far from Calculus as it could be.

Chapter Text

Scorpius changed out in the locker room, claiming a locker away from the humidity of the showers, then met out on the soccer field with about thirty other people. There were both girls and boys there, but the boys seemed hesitant to stand near the girls trying out. Scorpius wasn’t entirely sure why and found himself standing in the midst of the split.

Eve sidled up to him and nudged him with her shoulder, a grin on her face. Her curly hair was up in a ponytail and she was wearing a blue and white Southview t-shirt. It featured an angry swan caught mid-honk.

“Glad to see you showed up, newbie,” she whispered, pleased.

Scorpius grinned, not saying that he was relieved to see her as well. “Why are we whispering?” He asked conspiratorially.

“Because Blaze is coming.” She nodded her head toward the locker rooms.

Scorpius had seen Blaze in at least one of his classes, but this was the first time he was putting a name to the face. He was tall and muscular and made of angles and shadows. His skin was dark and his hair was darker, with the sides faded and tight curls on the top. He looked like a Greek god—beautiful, but menacing. He wore a blue and white Southview soccer t-shirt and was carrying a clipboard.

Walking with him were two people: a woman with spiky white hair and eyes that missed nothing and a boy who he knew he at least had Calculus with. He was maybe half an inch shorter than Scorpius and he had wavy black hair, kept relatively short, narrow gray eyes a little darker than Scorpius’s, and light skin. His face was stoic.

“Tryouts begin right now,” Blaze announced as soon as he stopped before them. His eyes swept over them. “I’m Blaze Zabini, your captain. This is Coach Hooch,” he gestured toward the lady with the white hair, “and this is Timothy Nott, my co-captain.” Coach Hooch shot them all reassuring smiles and Timothy merely gave each of them a level look.

“We will have practice at least five times a week after school, sometimes before school if we feel it’s necessary. Soccer is a commitment and if you’re not ready to fulfill it, leave now.”

When no one left, Blaze nodded, satisfied. “Good. Today we’re going to take a few laps to warm up, then we’re going to run through some drills. If I tell you to play a position, you play it. It doesn’t matter what position you might have played before—if you’re built for that position, I’ll know it. If not, you have no right playing it.” Scorpius barely restrained himself from raising a brow in disbelief—Blaze’s words were rather egotistic. Eve hadn’t been exaggerating when she had told him that soccer was taken seriously at Southview. “You’re all on the same level right now. Don’t expect to get in this year because you did last year or because you’re older than anyone. I judge you guys on your skill, nothing else.” Blaze’s eyes swept over them once more. “Is that clear? If I hear any grumbling over feeling like you’re receiving unfair treatment, I’m kicking you off the field.”

Scorpius quickly got the sense that Coach Hooch let Blaze run the team completely. She seemed smart and, for whatever reason, found it necessary to let Blaze work things out with the players himself. Timothy looked like the last person to disagree with anything Blaze said, simply standing there and sizing up all the hopefuls. His eyes lingered on Scorpius for a moment, then moved away, softening when they went over Eve, not necessarily romantically.

“Ten laps,” Blaze announced, handing the clipboard to Coach Hooch. “Tim and I will lead you guys. I want you running in pairs of two. There are thirty of you and two of us, so I’m going to guess you’re all big boys and girls and can figure this out on your own. Once Tim and I start running, if you don’t have a partner to fall into formation with, you’d better find one fast. I don’t tolerate stragglers.”

Eve looked up at Scorpius with a brow raised questioningly and he nodded, thankful he had a set partner to run with—he didn’t recognize anyone else at the tryouts that he could have asked to partner up with.

“Oh, and if I catch anyone cutting corners, they’re off the field,” Blaze announced.

“Two freshmen and a sophomore got kicked out of tryouts last year for doing that,” Eve murmured to Scorpius. “Tim’s a snitch when it comes to soccer. They’re both way too serious about it. I’m pretty sure Tim would take a soccer ball to prom if he could.” 

Scorpius found himself grinning and trying to avoid looking at either Tim or Blaze, as if they would be able to read his mind and hear what Eve had told him.

He heard feet pounding against the grass and looked up to see Blaze and Tim taking off at a jog, side-by-side. Quickly, pairs fell in behind them as people realized that their captains were beginning. Eve and Scorpius avoided the mad rush, just jogging and falling in wherever they may. They ended up near the middle of the train.

Scorpius was the type of person who didn’t like talking when he ran. He liked to listen to his feet against the ground and his breaths and just be. Running was a relaxing activity and thinking while doing so took all the calming properties from it.

Eve didn’t seem ready to start up a conversation, for which Scorpius was grateful, but the boys behind them were talking and laughing about some girl in their Chemistry class. One of them tried to get Scorpius to join in on the conversation, but he just pretended he couldn’t hear them. He wanted to focus. They quickly got the hint and returned to joking amongst themselves.

If Scorpius hadn’t gone running over the summer, or gone through some drills on his own, he would have been completely exhausted by the end of the tenth lap. Even so, his chest ached and his legs were burning. They all gathered in the middle of the soccer field after the last lap and Scorpius stretched, pulling his knees up to his chest and touching his toes as they waited for the last few pairs. Eve did the same—she was panting softly and her temples and nose were covered in a sheen of sweat. She caught his gaze and shot him a smile.

Some people were wheezing, out of shape due to summer break and the lack of a soccer season. Scorpius noted that neither Tim nor Blaze were panting very hard.

“First off, I’m going to assess your dribbling,” Blaze announced once everyone had gathered and gotten a couple of moments to catch their breath. Tim had already walked off to grab some red cones and set up. “This is a pretty standard drill meant to focus on your control of the ball.” Blaze pointed to where Tim had placed six red cones, spaced apart. “There are going to be six groups of five. One of you is going to start dribbling—we’ll begin with bell touches—and once the first person gets halfway to the cone, the next person will begin. The second round, you’ll do backwards bell touches. You’ll do top-touches after, then backwards top-touches, then after that, outside-inside, then backwards outside-inside.”

Scorpius recognized this drill from his old team. It was a common dribbling drill, though difficult if a player didn’t have full control of the ball. He had practiced it over and over again until he had mastered it. Now that he’d had accuracy down, he pushed himself by trying to do it quicker each time. Despite this, he resolved not to push himself during these tryouts—he didn’t want to mess up and look stupid or, possibly worse, not mess up and look like a show-off.

He joined a group with Eve and a few people she knew. They introduced themselves as Cecelia, Adam, and Rebecca. Cecelia was short and had long, sleek black hair twisted up into a bun. Adam was a couple of inches shorter than Scorpius, though not short, and his hair was black and shiny and gelled back. Rebecca was around the same height as Cecelia and had light brown hair that she’d french-braided back. Cecelia and Adam looked like they were goofing off and having the time of their lives, whereas Rebecca looked more solemn and kept reminding them that they didn’t have a guaranteed spot on the team. It was apparent to Scorpius that Cecelia and Adam were a couple.

“Cece, Adam, Becca, and I were all on the team last year,” Eve explained.

Scorpius was after Adam and Cece in the short order they had created. As soon as Tim tossed over a few balls and Blaze blew the whistle, he watched Cece take off. She moved quickly, with practice, and Adam shot off after her as soon as she was halfway to the cone. Adam was less gentle than her with the ball, seeming more like he was attacking it than persuading it, but he was just as good.

Taking a deep breath, Scorpius dashed after Adam, concentrating on working with the soccer ball. He glanced between the ball and the cone, making sure he had space, then swiftly dribbled around the cone and back toward their starting point. He didn’t bother looking at anything but the ball and the two points, not wanting to psych himself out. He needed to focus.

“Good job, man,” Adam patted him on the back when Scorpius got back.

“Thanks,” he said with a grin.

“I’ve got a good feeling about this one,” Cece said to Adam, though she was looking at Scorpius. A smile was spreading across her face.

Not sure what to say, Scorpius watched Eve dribble her way back. She looked like she was having fun, like she didn’t need to put too much thought into the action. Her hair bounced as she dribbled and the corners of her mouth were quirked upward.

The dribbling drill was over quickly and afterward, they went through a few passing drills, focusing on long-distance, short-distance, and in-the-air passes. Scorpius tried his best and was feeling rather good about how he was doing. Eve and Adam kept shooting him thumbs-ups, helping to ease his anxiety.

Scorpius had just passed a ball off and was jogging to the back of the line again when he felt someone watching him. He looked up and made eye contact with Blaze. The older boy didn’t react, just looked at Scorpius for a moment longer before turning his attention back to the other players. Scorpius didn’t know whether to feel nervous or not, so pushed it out of his mind.

They did a few more passing drills and Scorpius purposely didn’t look back at Blaze. He had announced that they were going to do a shooting drill before ending with a scrimmage.

“If you score on me, stand off to the side by Coach Hooch,” Blaze ordered. “If not, get back in line again and wait for Tim to pass you a ball.”

Scorpius got in line between Eve and Adam and put his hands on his hips to catch his breath as he watched people begin to shoot. It quickly became obvious that Blaze was a formidable goalkeeper. He watched both the ball and the player with a laser-sharp focus and had no qualms about diving and scraping up his arms or legs. He was extremely quick.

“Fuck this,” Cece turned and whispered to them, “I’m defense, not a striker.”

“He’s trying to find someone to replace Piper,” Adam said, sounding just about as pleased as Cece. “Tim needs someone to keep up with him.”

“Piper graduated last year,” Eve explained. “She was a striker—a really good one.”

Scorpius nodded in comprehension. No one had scored on Blaze yet and they were almost halfway through the players. Everyone was getting back into line and grumbling about how difficult it was. Scorpius watched as Tim passed balls for each player to intercept and shoot, doing it so accurately and consistently it was like he was a machine. He would have looked bored if he hadn’t been watching each player so carefully.

Cece scowled as Blaze knocked her shot out of the goal and Scorpius gave her a reassuring smile as she passed him by. Adam missed too, though Blaze had had to jump and hit it to get it out of the goal.

Scorpius took a deep breath, then shot off toward where Tim usually aimed the ball. He intercepted it with ease, then nudged it slightly to aim it how he liked, still running. Leaning into the kick, Scorpius swung his foot into and through the boot. He  quickly slowed down as he watched it—Blaze dove, but it barely slipped past his fingers and into the left corner of the goal.

Cheers erupted behind him and Scorpius felt his jaw go slack. Blaze retrieved the ball, then rolled it to Tim. He looked at Scorpius with an almost-smile.

“Over there,” he nodded toward Coach Hooch.

Scorpius did as he was told, then gave Coach Hooch his name when prompted. He couldn’t help the pride that curled his mouth and unfurled in his chest. Blaze’s look had been close to approval when Scorpius had scored and he had a good feeling about the results of the tryouts.

The scrimmage was quick and Scorpius was ordered to play striker, for which he was pleased. Eve, Adam, and Becca played as mids and Cece played defense.

As Scorpius was leaving the field, once tryouts had been concluded, Tim shot him a grin.

Scorpius hoped that was a good sign.

Chapter Text

The neighborhood Scorpius’s family lived in was distinguished by two-floored houses and large lawns. They were all similar in that regard. Scorpius’s house was beige with white trim and large windows. He was lucky enough to have a balcony that overlooked the backyard—his mother’s vegetable garden and the jacuzzi. The house they lived in was larger than their previous one, though Scorpius didn’t find much in that, no matter how often his mother reminded him—he had no need for a big house.

He was on the front lawn, juggling a soccer ball and keeping count of how many times he could keep it up in the air. The final cut for the soccer team had yet to be released and Scorpius was anxious to find out already whether he had gotten in or not. Eve told him that she was sure he had, but he wanted to be certain. He wasn’t willing to get his hopes up just to discover that she had been wrong.

Tim had introduced himself the day after the tryouts, before Calculus had started. He had congratulated Scorpius on scoring on Blaze, then asked him whether or not he had played much before and what school Scorpius had transferred from. Scorpius had answered his questions to the best of his abilities before Eve had interfered and ordered Tim to leave him alone and talk about soccer later. Tim had scowled at her, but listened nonetheless.

Scorpius had French and Economics with Blaze, but neither of them approached each other. Blaze seemed content to nod at Scorpius from across the room, then continue flirting half-heartedly with some junior girls in the back of the class, so Scorpius didn’t want to disrupt that. Besides, he had no interest in sitting beside Blaze and listening to those girls giggle. Scorpius preferred sitting near the front of the class and messing around on his phone until the period began.

He had started spending his lunch periods with Eve, Cece, Adam, and Becca, and had begun to take a liking to them. Scorpius wasn’t sure what he would do if he didn’t make the cut. He didn’t know if he would be able to take listening to the four of them discuss soccer—he had no doubt they would each make the team—and didn’t look forward to having to make new friends or slowly pull away from them.

The thought caused Scorpius to falter and lose balance, missing the ball. He sighed and wiped his forehead off on his shirt sleeve, then walked over to pick the ball up. He walked back up his lawn, where there was less of a chance of the ball rolling into the road, then began juggling it again, bouncing it on his knees, toes, and sometimes his head.

“Hey!” Someone called out.

Startled, he missed the ball again. It rolled down his lawn. Scorpius glanced up at the girl who had shouted. She had fiery red hair held back in a knot and strands escaped to frame around her face. Her eyes were large and brown and she had soft features and freckles. Her skin was tan and she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

She picked up the ball before it could roll past the sidewalk and onto the street, then walked it over to Scorpius, tossing it to him a couple of feet away.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” she said apologetically. “You’re pretty good.”

“Thanks,” he smiled and rested the ball underneath his arm, against his hip.

They were quiet for a moment until the girl exclaimed, “Oh! You must be thinking I’m some sort of creep.” She laughed and pointed to the red house across the street. “I live just over there. I noticed the moving vans last week, but didn’t have a chance to come over and say ‘hi.’” She held out her hand. “I’m Rose.”

“Scorpius,” he introduced. “Nice meeting you.”

“You too.” She, like Eve, didn’t comment on his name. “You’re in high school, right?”

He nodded. “I just started at Southview.” He frowned slightly. “I haven’t seen you, though—you’re in high school too, aren’t you?”

Rose smiled. “I am. I go to Lakeview, though. My brother Hugo and I got a district exemption so we could go to the same school as our cousins.” She grinned. “I play for Lakeview’s soccer team.”

“You must be good, then.”

Rose shrugged. “I can hold my own.” She smiled at Scorpius. “What about you? You’re good too. Are you on Southview’s team?”

Scorpius shook his head. “I’m not sure yet. We had tryouts this past week, so I guess we’ll see.”

“Good luck, then,” Rose said genuinely. “What position do you play?”

“Striker,” he said with a grin. “I like being where the action is.”

“Me too,” she beamed. “My cousin and I are the strikers for Lakeview. If you make the team, you’ll be playing with Tim Nott.”

“You know Tim?”

Rose nodded, then the corners of her mouth quirked. “Gotta keep tabs on the other players, don’t I?”

“I suppose so,” Scorpius said wryly. “Is that what you’re doing now?”

Rose smiled and shook her head. “No, not a chance. Now I’m getting to know my new neighbor.”

Scorpius wasn’t sure if he believed her, but he appreciated the sentiment nonetheless. He resolved to ask Eve or Tim about Rose on Monday—they would undoubtedly know a little bit about her.

An old, gray BMW pulled up in the street, right in the middle, between Scorpius and Rose’s houses. A heavy bass poured out of the windows and Scorpius swore he could feel the ground vibrating beneath his feet. The driver honked twice and Rose turned around to look at the car. She rolled her eyes, then tucked a lock of bright hair behind her ear.

“That would be my cousin,” she announced almost apologetically. “Seeing as how it’s a Friday night, I’m in charge of keeping him out of trouble.”

“He makes you do that?” Scorpius asked, an expression of distaste twisting his features.

Rose quickly shook her head. “Oh, no, I make him bring me along. I swear I’m at least thirty percent of his impulse control. His brother’s about fifty.” She shot Scorpius one last smile. “Well, it was nice talking to you, Scorpius. We should practice together sometime,” she gestured toward the soccer ball.

“Definitely,” Scorpius said with a nod. “It was nice meeting you, too.”

He watched as Rose walked over to the car, then climbed into the backseat. There was another girl in the passenger seat and she looked to be about Rose’s age. She had bright red hair, like Rose, though it was in two french braids. Her skin was pale and she looked more petite than Rose, but it was hard for Scorpius to see. Of the driver, he could only make out messy black hair before the car was speeding away.

His eyes remained fixated upon the corner the car had whipped around for a few seconds before Scorpius snapped himself out of it and began juggling the ball again.

He got to almost one hundred consecutive bounces before his mother called him in for dinner.

When he got to the kitchen, his mom, Astoria, was already finishing up setting the table. Draco, Scorpius’s dad, smiled and squeezed his shoulder as he walked past him and into the dining room. As usual, Draco looked tired and faraway.

Anyone who saw the two of them always commented on how similar they looked. Scorpius had his father’s sleek white-blond hair, light gray eyes, and slightly upturned nose. His features were made softer than his father’s, due to his mother’s input, but it didn’t detract from their similarities.

Scorpius followed him into the dining room and sat to the right of him, across the table from where Astoria usually sat. She had made ravioli—one of Scorpius’s favorite dishes.

“I saw you talking to that neighbor girl,” Draco mentioned, putting his napkin over his lap.

“Yeah, her name is Rose.” Scorpius put his napkin over his lap as well and carded his hair away of his face. “She’s nice.”

“Does she go to Southview too, honey?” Astoria took her seat and put glasses of wine in front of she and Draco’s plates.

He shook his head and speared a piece of ravioli on the end of his fork. “Lakeview. She plays soccer too.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re making friends,” Astoria said cheerfully.

“When is your first game?” Draco asked.

Scorpius shook his head and smiled dryly. “I don’t even know if I’m on the team yet, Dad.”

Draco snorted softly and took a sip of his wine. “You’ll make the team. They’d be idiots not to take you.”

He grinned, thankful for his dad’s faith in him. “I hope so.” He chewed thoughtfully and tried to remember the schedule. “If I make the team, it’ll probably be in a few weeks.”

“Well, let us know,” Draco said. “I want to be there to watch.”

“I thought you had to work,” Scorpius looked up, surprised. Hope fluttered in his chest.

“The good thing about taking the job here,” Draco said, a small smile on his face, “is that I get more free time. I’ll have more time at home than before so unless there’s an important meeting or unavoidable fundraiser, I’ll be in the stands watching you score.”

A smile overtook Scorpius’s face. He didn’t know how to convey his happiness in a way that didn’t sound awkward. He settled for, “I look forward to that.”

Draco smiled back, understanding.

Astoria launched into a conversation about her new book club and Scorpius half listened as he ate. His heart swelled with affection for his parents and he found himself looking forward to what his new life had to offer him.

Chapter Text

Scorpius was walking up the steps of the school when an arm linked through his, then tugged him along faster. He recognized Eve’s curly blonde hair and allowed her to drag him through the front doors and over to the main bulletin board. He realized, just before reaching the board, that the final cut was posted that morning.

Heart in his throat, Scorpius was thankful that Eve was pulling him along, keeping him from freezing up. He could hear this pulse thrumming in his ears and his eyes were wide with apprehension.

Right in the middle of the board was a sheet of paper that said, ‘Southview’s 2023-2024 Soccer Team.’ Gulping around the lump in his throat, Scorpius read down the list. The third name down, right beside the second striker position, was his own. Scorpius Malfoy. He felt a smile spread across his face and ran his fingers through his hair, not quite believing it. He wanted to laugh in delight. He wanted to tell his dad.

Only 11 people made the cut: Blaze, Tim, Scorpius, Eve, Adam, Cece, Becca, and four people Scorpius didn’t know. Those people included Victor Crabbe, Gordon Goyle, Daisy Green, and Karl Jenkins. He found himself wondering how they were going to play with only 11 people—there wouldn’t be any substitutes and they’d have to work even harder.

“I knew Vic and Gordon would make the team again,” Eve said with a smile. She turned to Scorpius and ruffled his hair. “Congrats, newbie.”

“I can’t believe I made it,” Scorpius grinned.

“You’d better.” Eve looked just as happy as he felt. “Listen, the day the cut’s posted, we always take the entire team out for ice cream. It’s sort of like a bonding outing and a designated time to go over schedules and stuff.”

“Would that be today?”

Eve nodded. “Meet me in the parking lot after last period—I’ll give you a ride. We always go to Jerry's because rarely any Lakeview kids will bother driving out there.”

Scorpius remembered his plan to ask Eve about Rose. “Oh, speaking of Lakeview,” he mentioned, following Eve up the stairs to Calculus, “do you know a striker for the Lakeview team named Rose?”

“Rose Granger-Weasley?”

Scorpius shrugged. “She only gave me her first name.”

“I know Rose,” Eve said. “Bright red hair? Super big smile?” Scorpius nodded. “She’s nice. She’s a really good striker.” Eve raised a brow. “Why are you asking?”

“She lives across the street from me,” he explained. “I just wanted to know what you guys thought of her.”

Eve paused and seemed to contemplate something. Finally, she spoke. “Rose is dating Lorcan Scamander,” she said gently. “They’ve been going steady since Rose’s freshman year and Lorcan’s sophomore year.”

“Okay,” Scorpius said slowly, feeling as if he was missing something. Eve shot him a strange look, then he realized what she had thought. “Oh! No, I’m not—I’m not into her. I was just wondering what you thought of her. She seemed nice and I wanted to make sure she actually was.”

“Oh,” Eve had the decency to look slightly embarrassed. “Okay, just making sure.” She grinned suddenly. “I’m sure Tim and Blaze will have a lot to say about Rose and the rest of the Lakeview team today.”

Eve was right. She gave Scorpius, Adam, and Cece a ride to Jerry’s after the last period. Blaze and Tim were already in the restaurant. They had claimed a corner booth in the back. Sitting with them were two massive, hulking boys. Cece whispered to Scorpius that the taller one with brown hair was Gordon and the shorter one with the buzzcut was Vic.

“They’re left and right defense,” she explained.

Jerry’s was an ice cream parlor with shiny floors, metal chairs, and brightly colored booths. Large, pristine windows overlooked the street it was on. The ice cream case was massive and filled with at least forty flavors.

The door jingled behind Scorpius and he turned to see Rebecca walk in, followed by a girl and a boy. Scorpius recognized them as two freshmen from the tryouts. The girl had curly brown hair and round eyes and the boy had spiky brown hair and an expression of almost constant wonder.

Scorpius allowed Eve and Cece to lead him to the booth, where they sandwiched him in between the two of them. Vic and Gordon seemed less inclined to be squished in with everyone, instead opting to pull up a couple of chairs. Rebecca shoved the two freshmen into the booth, then sat down at the end. Adam sat between Cece and the freshman boy and Eve sat down beside Tim.

“Here we go,” Blaze placed the largest ice cream sundae Scorpius had ever seen in the middle of the table. “Congratulations to everyone for making the cut,” he said with a rare smile.

Eve gave a whoop and reached for a spoon. She dug in while Tim passed spoons out to everyone else. There were at least ten different scoops of ice cream in the large dish, as well as two bananas, mountains of whipped cream, cherries, nuts, and chocolate fudge.

“Everyone, introduce yourself,” Blaze ordered after they had all gotten a few bites. “Don’t give me that look, Becca—we all know your name, but the newbies might not.”

They did as Blaze said, going around the table and saying what their name was. The two freshmen introduced themselves as Karl and Daisy and Vic and Gordon looked surprised by Scorpius’s name. The quickly got over it, however, and continued demolishing the ice cream sundae.

“Speaking of introductions,” Eve said, swallowing a huge bite of ice cream, “guess who Scorpius met recently?”

“Who?” Blaze looked between Eve and Scorpius.

“Rose Granger-Weasley.”

Eyebrows flew up all around the table. Blaze sat back and looked at Scorpius. “That was quick. How’d you meet her?”

“We’re neighbors,” he explained. “We live across the street from one another.”

“Did she tell you she goes to Lakeview?” Tim asked. Scorpius nodded.

Blaze put down his spoon and steepled his hands beneath his chin. “This is the perfect time to talk about Lakeview. Thank you for broaching the subject, Eve.” Eve popped a cherry into her mouth. “Lakeview High and Southview High are rivals,” Blaze told Scorpius. “I’m sure Karl and Daisy already know.” They both nodded.

“Okay,” Scorpius said slowly, not understanding why it mattered.

“Especially when it comes to soccer,” Blaze clarified. “Especially these past few years.”

Scorpius still wasn’t sure he grasped whatever concept Blaze was trying to convey.

“They’ve got the Potters,” Tim explained. “They’d be nothing without them.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” Eve butt in. “The Weasleys and Scamanders are good players.”

“They wouldn’t be unbeatable if it weren’t for the Potters,” Becca clarified. “Especially James and Albus.”

“What you have to understand about Lakeview’s team,” Blaze said, their ice cream forgotten, “is that they’re practically all related. They're all either cousins or super close family friends. Teamwork is huge to them and they work as a cohesive unit. James, Albus, and Lily are siblings—James is the captain—and their parents were pro soccer players.”

“I’m pretty sure their dad was the youngest mid-fielder on the national team in years,” Vic added.

Gordon nodded. “He was.”

“In order to beat them,” Blaze said, looking at Scorpius, Daisy, and Karl, “you have to understand how they work.” He leaned in closer, fully invested in the conversation. “The two main players you need to watch out for are James and Albus Potter. James is the goalkeeper and Albus is a striker. We call them the Heart and the Wildcard.”

“Why?” Daisy wondered, her brow knit.

“It helps you remember their roles in the Lakeview team. James keeps them together, he keeps them a team. He’s their heart. On the other hand, Albus is the Wildcard. He’s unpredictable and he’s reckless, but he’s talented as hell. Both of them are.” Blaze’s face was completely serious.

“They can’t be that good,” Scorpius said uncertainly. “It’s not like an entire team can rely on just two players.”

“They are,” Eve said darkly, for once sounding less than optimistic. “Albus is one of the top scorers nationally and James rarely ever lets anything through.”

“We’re all good players, though,” Scorpius argued.

“So are the Weasleys, Granger-Weasleys, and Scamanders,” Tim said. “What we need is an Albus Potter on our team to rack up our points.”

“That’s gonna be you,” Blaze said, looking directly at Scorpius.

His eyes widened and he glanced around the table to find everyone already watching him. Blaze’s gaze was unfaltering. Scorpius cleared his throat awkwardly, sure there must be a mistake.

“I’m sorry, what?” He asked after a moment.

“You and Tim need to figure out a way for the two of you to work together better than Albus Potter and Rose Granger-Weasley,” Blaze said. “You’re both good, but so is Rose and Albus is phenomenal. You need to figure out a way to get past them and to score more than them or at least keep up.”

“Okay,” Scorpius said, as if that’s all there was to it. Honestly, how difficult could it be?

“We’re gonna have to step up our game if we want nationals this year,” Blaze told them. His passion for soccer made Scorpius’s blood hot. It made him want to win just as much as Blaze did. It made him yearn for it. “We’ve got a solid team this year, so I have a good feeling about this.”

“Lakeview has a practice tomorrow after school,” Tim informed them. “I can take the three newbies to go watch so they know what we’re up against.”

“Can you point out James and Albus?” Scorpius asked, wanting to know who to watch.

Tim smiled tightly. “Trust me, I won’t need to point them out. They’re impossible not to watch.”

Scorpius wasn’t sure if he believed that, but he didn’t say anything.

 


  

The drive to Lakeview High the following day wasn’t a rowdy affair. Scorpius sat up front with Tim and Karl and Daisy sat in the backseat. Daisy mainly watched the scenery outside her window whilst Karl bombarded Tim and Scorpius with questions about school, soccer, and their personal lives. Karl seemed to be the type of person unfamiliar with comfortable silences.

Tim played some music off his Spotify playlist and Scorpius nodded his head along to it, drumming his fingers on his knee along to the beat. Occasionally, he heard Daisy singing softly along to the music.

Lakeview looked similar to Southview, though it wasn’t as wide. Rather, it was a couple of floors taller than Southview. Its colors seemed to be red and yellow, whereas Southview’s colors were blue and white.

“Here we are,” Tim announced. “Home of the Lakeview Lions.”

The parking lot was right next to the soccer field, so they merely sat in Tim’s car to watch the practice. Tim kept the engine running, but turned down the music so they could concentrate on the players darting up and down the soccer field. They were all practicing scoring on the goal. Standing in the goal was a tall figure in soccer shorts and a red and yellow Lakeview t-shirt. He was bent at the waist and knees, ready to lunge for the ball.

Scorpius turned his attention to the boy dribbling down the field. He had messy black hair and was wearing grey sweatpants—pulled up to his knees to make room for his shinguards and socks—and a Lakeview t-shirt. His arms were muscled and golden. Scorpius recognized the messy black hair as the driver of the car Rose had gotten into—it was as if a lightbulb had gone off in his head: Rose Granger-Weasley was the cousin of the Potters. That meant that this boy was most likely Albus Potter.

His footwork was precise and practiced and he ran so quickly his feet were a blur. Scorpius watched as he leaned into the shot, then kicked the ball at the goal, packing controlled force behind the blow. It rushed through the air, going just above the goalkeeper’s head and into the corner of the goal.

Scorpius watched as Albus bowed, then the goalkeeper flipped him the bird as he passed the ball back to Albus. Albus just laughed, then dribbled back to the rest of the team. The next player ran up to take their shot at the goal.

“He’s good,” Karl said quietly. “I’m guessing Albus is the one with the black hair  who just scored and James is the one in the goal.”

“Bingo,” Tim muttered.

The team scrimmaged next and Scorpius couldn’t take his eyes away from James and Albus. Particularly the latter. He recognized Rose’s flaming hair and saw the same shade on a few other players too. Watching the scrimmage, he saw that Rose was a really good striker, but she was nowhere near as good as Albus. He looked at home on the soccer field and handled the ball like he wasn’t meant to do anything else. He made it seem like dribbling came more naturally to him than walking.

James guarded the goal possessively, though not as viciously as Blaze. He made it seem fun, like he enjoyed diving and lunging for balls, and he laughed and smiled as he kept the netting clear. The only person to score on James was Albus and he only barely did, at the last minute.

Once the practice ended and the team was heading to the locker rooms, Tim turned to look at Scorpius, Karl, and Daisy.

“Now do you see what we’re talking about? You only see that sort of playing and footwork in the pros or at the Olympics.”

Scorpius couldn’t deny that. “We can do it,” he said, half trying to convince himself of the fact. “Sure, they’re naturals, but maybe if we work hard enough…”

Tim grinned and bumped his shoulder against Scorpius’s. “I wish everyone else had the same optimism as you.”

“We’re doomed,” Karl said glumly.

Scorpius shook his head. “We are if we think like that.”

“Like Blaze said,” Daisy chimed in, “we’ve got a solid team. I think if we practice enough, we can hold our own against them.”

They sat in silence for a little bit. Scorpius watched the field, wondering how on earth they were going to beat Lakeview. He hadn’t quite believed Blaze and the rest of his teammates when they were going over the team and describing Albus and James to him, but now he found himself worried. He wondered how it was fair for them to play in the high school league—they were national team material.

“Scouts have been coming to watch James since his sophomore year,” Tim said, as if he had read Scorpius’s thoughts. “Once they saw Albus, they started coming to watch him, too.”

“Wow,” Karl breathed.

“James has already got a full ride to Duke,” Tim said almost sourly, “and Albus can practically choose any college he wants as long as he plays for their soccer team.”

Lakeview players were starting to emerge from the locker rooms, laughing and following one another to their cars. Scorpius watched Rose walk hand-in-hand with a blond boy to a rusty blue pick-up.

“What are we waiting for?” Daisy wondered.

“I want you guys to get a better look at James and Albus.”

As if on cue, the two aforementioned boys entered the parking lot, walking side-by-side. James shouted something to a short girl with auburn hair and hazel eyes and she shouted something back before running over to a different car. James shook his head, but didn’t say anything. The two of them walked over to a red Lexus.

James Potter was just as Blaze had described him: all messy auburn hair, freckles dotted over tanned skin, and wide grins. He looked positively heroic in a boy-next-door sort of way and Scorpius wondered if there was a single person on earth who genuinely disliked him—it seemed doubtful. He was grinning at something Albus said as he climbed into the front seat.

Scorpius’s attention almost instantly turned to the boy leaning against the hood of James’s car, typing something on his phone. It was obvious who he was, though Blaze and Tim’s descriptions didn’t do him justice.

He had the same facial structure as James, but he was leaner and sharper. James was the type of boy who caught you when you fell, whereas his brother looked as if he was the one who had pushed you in the first place. Albus had black hair even messier than his brother’s and his freckles dusted his skin—whereas James’s were bold, his looked like an afterthought; they were barely visible. Even from several feet away, Scorpius could see Albus’s vivid green eyes as they rose to meet his, as if sensing the weight of his stare. A smirk curled his lips and he shot Scorpius a wink.

Just as his teammates had said: a wildcard.

“What—” Daisy exclaimed.

“Did he just wink at you?” Tim demanded, disbelief evident in his voice.

Scorpius’s jaw threatened to drop as Albus maintained their gaze for a few moments longer before slipping his phone into his pocket. His smirk widened as he pushed himself off the hood of the car and made his way over to the passenger seat. He said something to James as he fastened his seatbelt and his brother instantly looked up and made eye contact with Tim. James nodded to Tim in greeting, one corner of his mouth quirked, before starting the engine.

Scorpius’s teammates watched him curiously, their minds all whirring. He watched the Potter boys leave the parking lot.

Chapter Text

At his father’s suggestion, Scorpius had decided to go to the library on Saturday morning to study. It wasn’t as if he had anything else to do and, admittedly, he needed to get caught up on homework. Soccer practices were every day after school and took up a large portion of his time.

The walk to the public library was calm and easy, as the library was only a few blocks away from Scorpius’s house. His mind wandered as he ambled along, contemplating topics such as his classes, strategies for beating the Lakeview team, and some drills Blaze had taught him.

Blaze was determined that Scorpius and Tim would be matches for Albus and Rose and made it very clear that he expected nothing less from them. Thus, he had begun teaching them new drills and had taken to going over new plays and lineups with them between periods, during lunch, or before or after practice. Neither Tim nor Scorpius minded, both desperate to win, but Eve had declared the three of them both insane and obsessed.

Scorpius couldn’t argue with her.

The library was chilly, allowing Scorpius to keep his sweater on—it was soft and pale blue. His mother always told him it brought out his eyes, but he just liked to wear it because it was comfortable and warm. He secured a seat near the back of the library at an individual privacy desk. There were people around him, but they were either talking in low voices, listening to music, or completely absorbed in their books. It was so quiet that all he could hear were soft voices and the sound of the air conditioner humming.

He began outlining his analytical paper on The Great Gatsby and found it increasingly difficult to focus. His mind kept wandering back to soccer as he mentally went through the drills that Blaze had taught him. He was contemplating personalizing one of the drills, wondering how he could do that in order to improve the power behind his kicks, when a large hand practically shoved him out of his chair.

“What the hell—”

“Shut up,” Albus hissed, crawling beneath Scorpius’s desk cubicle. “Sit down and push yourself back in.”

Scorpius did as he was told, though faltered upon wondering why, exactly, he was listening to Albus Potter. A quick tug on his ankle got him moving again. He had difficulty trying to figure out where to put his legs, as Albus was currently taking up all the room.

“Would you move—”

Warm, sure hands circled around Scorpius’s ankles and spread his legs apart, placing them on either side of Albus’s folded body. “There. Comfy now?”

He scowled, not bothering to tell the other boy that it actually was rather comfortable. Albus was like a heater in that he chased away the chill that Scorpius’s sweater couldn’t.

“What are you doing?” Scorpius asked, nudging Albus with his foot. After a moment of contemplation, he frowned. “What am I doing?”

“You’re helping me hide from a lunatic,” Albus replied very matter-of-factly. His voice was low and smooth.

Scorpius ducked his head to look down at Albus between his legs and quickly looked back up in an attempt to hide his blush. He really did not need to think about the fact that Albus Potter was crouched between his legs underneath a desk. That did odd things to his body—including, but not limited to, tightening his jeans—and he really did not need to worry about that. Especially because Albus would be the first to notice, as he had a perfect view of Scorpius’s crotch. He was in a rather compromising position and hoped that no one noticed.

“I don’t see how I got roped into this,” Scorpius gulped and ran his fingers through his hair, thankful that Albus couldn’t see his blush.

“Because you’re a decent human being and you’ve had your fair share of clingy exes, so you can sympathize.”

Scorpius frowned. “Um, no. I don’t.”

Albus sighed. “Well, you have your fair share of exes, so you can understand why I might want to hide from one.”

Scorpius shook his head despite being aware that Albus couldn’t see above his waist. “Nope.”

“You don’t have any exes?” The other boy went quiet for a moment. Carefully, he asked, “Are you in a relationship? Is that why?”

“I don’t have time for dating,” Scorpius mumbled, looking for an excuse.

“You’re kidding.” When Scorpius didn’t reply, Albus shoved his leg. “Tell me you’re kidding. You’re way too hot not to have at least one ex. How have you gotten to your junior year of high school without a single relationship? Are you ace or aro?”

“No,” Scorpius reached down to rub his leg, wondering how Albus knew he was a junior. “And ow, that hurt.” He tried not to blush at the fact that Albus had just called him hot. He failed. His pulse thrummed.

“Please tell me you’ve at least had sex. You’re a sixteen-year-old boy and you have needs—”

“We are not talking about this—”

“Oh my god, you haven’t.”

Scorpius defended himself despite having previously stating that he wasn’t going to have such a conversation with Albus. “I have better things to do than—”

“Trust me, no you do not,” Albus said firmly.

“It’s not that I’m opposed to it, it’s just that—wait, no, why am I even having this conversation with you?” Scorpius ran his fingers through his hair and lowered his voice, realizing he was beginning to talk a little loudly. “I don’t even know you!”

“I mean, you can get to know me,” Albus said, his voice low, as if it were the only thing in the world that made sense.

Scorpius’s mind immediately flicked to the image of Albus crouched between his legs beneath the desk and he clenched his jaw to shove the unhelpful thoughts away. Now was not the time. Albus made him feel simultaneously flustered and as if he were talking to someone he had known for years. It was an odd sensation and Scorpius hadn’t ever talked to someone who made him feel that way before.

He cleared his throat. “Ha, ha, very funny.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m sure your ex is gone by now.”

“How do you know?” Albus asked. “Should we really risk it?”

“What does she look like?” Scorpius didn’t want to stop talking to Albus, but being in such close proximity to the other boy was doing odd things to him, both mentally and physically.

“She has blonde hair and is wearing a pink shirt.” Albus added, “I have a thing for blonds.”

“Good for you,” Scorpius said, not sure what else he could say. He didn’t miss the suggestive tone in Albus’s voice, but didn’t know what to make of it. He leaned and craned his neck, scanning the library. “I don’t see her. You can leave now.”

“Sweet.” Albus shoved at Scorpius’s feet and pushed his chair out before gracefully unfolding himself from beneath the desk. His hair was rumpled and swept with cobwebs and he needed to pull up his jeans. He dusted himself off, then ran his fingers through his hair. Finally, he looked at Scorpius. “Nice talking to you…?”

He filled in the blank. “Scorpius.”

A slow grin spread across Albus’s face. He looked like the epitome of mischief, green eyes twinkling inscrutably. “A guy with a name almost as bad as mine. I’m Albus—you can call me Al.” He straightened his hoodie, then looked Scorpius up and down before meeting his gaze. “I like you, Scorpius.”

With that, he strut out of view.

Chapter Text

Scorpius and Tim were practicing one-tap passes during Monday’s practice, on their own whilst Blaze worked with the midfielders and defense. Scorpius was starting to tire of the drill, but was unwilling to say so, not wanting to procure Blaze’s wrath.

“He thinks you’ve got potential,” Tim said.

Brow raised, Scorpius glanced up at Tim. “Who?”

“Blaze.” Tim nodded toward where the tall, older boy stood, yelling orders at Karl. “He won’t shut up about you. Says scouts will be all over you once our games start.”

Not sure what to say, Scorpius settled for smiling to himself. It felt good knowing that despite how much Blaze pushed him, he had faith in Scorpius. It made him want to work harder, to prove to Blaze that he wasn’t wrong, that Scorpius did have potential and wasn’t just wasting Blaze’s time.

“Hey, I was meaning to ask you,” Tim said after a bit, still passing the ball back and forth, “why did Albus wink at you?”

Scorpius shrugged. At the mention of Albus, butterflies were released into his stomach. Tim didn’t need to know that. “I’m not sure.” 

“You’d never met him before?” Tim asked. Scorpius shook his head. “Well, just be careful, I guess.”

That gained Scorpius’s attention. He nearly missed the ball. Tim didn’t seem to notice, thankfully. “Why is that?” He asked, attempting to sound casual.

“Albus has…he’s been with guys,” Tim said carefully.

Scorpius caught the ball when Tim passed it back, placing his foot on top of it to keep it from rolling away. Anger flared in his chest—he wasn’t sure if he was insulted on his own behalf or on Albus’s. He had to keep his fists from clenching in irritation and surprise at Tim’s intolerance.

“Is that a problem?” He asked, his voice deliberately even.

Tim’s eyes widened and he quickly shook his head. “Oh, no, you misunderstood. I have no problem with that.” He grinned. “Do you think I’d get along with Vic and Gordon if I did?”

Scorpius looked over to where the two hulking defensive players stood, arms crossed over their chests, listening to whatever Blaze was saying. A small “oh” was startled out of him as he realized that they were a couple.

“Yeah,” Tim said, smiling. “I told you to be careful because Albus has a bit of a reputation. He’s settled down since freshman year and the beginning of sophomore year, but…” Tim trailed off and shook his head. “Anyway, I just wanted to caution you.”

“Right,” Scorpius said, his mind unfortunately now filled with thoughts of Albus. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Tim said. “I’d recommend not dating a Lakeview player, if the opportunity ever arises. Not just Albus—any of them. ”

“I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that,” Scorpius said dryly. “With school and soccer, I’m not sure I even have time to date.”

“That’s kind of lonely, you know.”

Scorpius shrugged and continued passing the ball back and forth with Tim. “I guess so. I have you guys, though.”

“That you do,” Tim grinned.

 


 

They were playing a five-on-six scrimmage to end practice on Tuesday evening. Tall light posts illuminated the field, as the sun had set sometime during one of the drills. Scorpius had barely even noticed, too caught up in the sport to pay attention or care. His body burned from exertion, but he was comforted by the familiar ache of his muscles. It helped him sleep at night and reminded him that he was improving.

He had run laps with Eve at the beginning of practice, then parted ways with her to run through some drills with Tim. While they solidified their footwork and aim, Blaze worked with the defenders and midfielders again.

Scorpius knew that the eleven of them had been practicing for at least four hours—school had gotten out at three and it was already dark. They scrimmaged in the twilight, going at it as if it were a real game.

Eve passed him the ball and he caught it easily, running it down the field. He felt Cece fall in beside him and attempt to tackle him for the ball, but he pushed himself to run faster. He could her her footsteps pounding behind him and out of the corner of his eye, he could see Daisy running over as backup for Cece. He knew he could outrun both of them, but wasn’t sure for how long.

Scorpius glanced upward, at the goal, and made eye contact with Blaze. Blaze had already blocked five of his shots and Scorpius was determined to score on him at least once that day. He wanted to watch the ball soar out of Blaze’s reach and into the goal, not watch Blaze grab it and punt it to Tim on the other side of the field again.

Sweat-slicked brow furrowed, Scorpius analyzed the angle at which he’d have to score. It wouldn’t be simple and he’d have to utilize his non-dominant foot—he could aim and play well with his left foot, as he had trained himself to do so, but his right foot was stronger and more accurate.

Relying on his instinct, Scorpius nudged the ball mid-dribble slightly further than he usually would, then leaned forward and to the side, packing as much power as he could behind the kick. He aimed for the bottom corner of the goal and his foot collided with the ball. His momentum forced him to run through the kick and when Blaze dove for it, just barely missing, Scorpius fist-pumped and let out a whoop.

Vic, Gordon, Eve, and Adam all cheered and Scorpius grinned, jogging back to the other side of the field to high-five all of them. Vic and Gordon each patted him on the back and Adam ruffled his hair affectionately. Scorpius laughed and looked back at Blaze. He was smiling proudly.

“That’s a wrap, guys!” Blaze called out. “Vic and Gordon, you guys have clean-up today! Tomorrow’s Cece and Daisy.” Blaze kicked the ball Scorpius had scored over to where all their equipment was. “If you don’t have clean-up, get to the showers! You all stink!”

Scorpius laughed and allowed Adam and Eve to attempt to put their arms over his shoulders. He was forced to lean down exponentially, as he was taller than both of them—especially Eve.

The pride from his goal warmed his chest as he showered, then dried off and pulled on jeans and a Southview hoodie. He was drying his hair and closing his locker when he heard a shout.

“Eve! What the hell?” Adam demanded.

“Sorry! Sorry! I’m not looking!”

Scorpius looked up to see Eve standing in the entrance to the locker room, her hand over her eyes. He grinned and slung his backpack over his shoulder, continuing to dry his hair.

“Um, where’s Scorpius? I don’t want to uncover my eyes, so someone tell me where to look.” She quickly added, “Er, you know, if he’s decent.”

“Over here,” Scorpius called out. He tied his shoes, then scooped up his towel and continued drying his hair as he made his way over to Eve. His hair was thin, but he had a lot of it and it curled around his fingers as he tried to dry it off.

“Oh, good, there you are,” she said. “I was sent to tell you that Albus Potter is in the parking lot.”

His pulse quickened, but he didn’t show any change in emotion. “Okay,” he said slowly.

“And he’s looking for you,” Eve clarified. “He asked Vic, who asked Becca, who asked Cece, who asked me to get you.”

Scorpius shared a look with Tim. The older boy had a furrow between his brows. “I swear I don’t know why he’s here,” Scorpius assured him. To Eve, he said, “Okay, I’ll be right out.”

Mind spinning, Scorpius tossed his towel into the hamper, then followed Eve out of the locker room, ignoring Tim shouting his name. It was chilly outside compared to the humid locker room, but his hoodie kept him relatively warm. Eve pointed to where Scorpius could see a figure leaning against a car, face illuminated by a cell phone screen.

“He’s over there,” Eve said. She looked up at Scorpius. “You know, Karl told me that he winked at you last week.”

“Did he?” Scorpius asked distantly, his eyes focused on Albus’s figure. He looked like a sloping predator.

Eve made a soft noise. “Do you know what you’re doing, Scorpius?”

He looked down at her. “I’m not doing anything,” he said firmly. Eve didn’t look convinced. “I’m going to go see what he wants. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

She said something back, but Scorpius was already walking toward Albus. He tugged down the hem of his hoodie, looking for something to do with his hands, and pulled up the waistband of his jeans. Albus looked up as Scorpius approached, then flashed him a wide smile. Something about Albus was impish, almost elfin. It was utterly charming, and he wished it were more off-putting.

Albus was leaning against his dark gray BMW. As soon as he saw Scorpius, he clicked his phone off and tucked it into his pocket.

“You were looking for me?”

“And here you are,” Albus smoothly finished, still looking pleased. “Hungry?” He raised a dark brow.

Scorpius blinked. “What?”

“Looked like an exhausting practice. Are you hungry?” Albus raised his brows.  It seemed to be a habit of his. Scorpius realized Albus was completely serious. “I could go for a burger, myself.”

“Um, I guess,” Scorpius said slowly.

Albus beamed at him, then pushed off the car and nodded toward the passenger side. “Hop in, then.”

Once more, Scorpius found himself wondering why he was listening to Albus. Nonetheless, he took shotgun and watched Albus slide into the front seat. He put his backpack between his legs and glanced at Albus out of the corner of his eye. The other boy was getting situated and starting the engine.

Loud music and a heavy bass instantly filled the car and Scorpius jumped in his seat. Albus quickly turned it down, shooting Scorpius an apologetic smile.

“Sorry about that.”

Scorpius’s pocket buzzed and he pulled out his phone. He had a text from Eve.

[ u said u weren’t doing anything!! u just got in his car!! ]

He was about to click his phone off and ignore it when it chimed with more messages from Eve.

[ i thought u were just gonna see what he wanted ]

[ this isn’t smart scorpius ]

[ i’m telling tim u got in his car ]

Scorpius sighed and turned the vibration on his phone off. He slid his phone back into his pocket and decided to talk to Eve during Calculus the next day. He didn’t have any answers for her at the moment—he didn’t even know why he had gotten into Albus’s car. He had no idea what he was doing.

They were quiet as Albus pulled out of the parking lot and started down the road. Scorpius felt hypersensitive sitting beside him. Albus’s car smelled like some sort of cologne—musky and soft—and soccer cleats. Albus himself smelled of that same cologne as well as soap. His hair was damp and Scorpius wondered if he had just come from his own practice at Lakeview. He found himself wondering why Albus was there, with Scorpius.

“Why are you doing this?” Scorpius finally asked, his curiosity getting the best of him.

“Let’s call it an apology for our less than ideal introduction.” Albus glanced away from the road, toward Scorpius. “That, and I heard you’re new in town and thought I’d take you to the best burger joint around.”

Scorpius felt his body, particularly his face, heat up at the implication that Albus had been asking around about him. “Where did you hear that from?”

“I asked around about the blond guy from Southview with the killer gray eyes.” Albus fiddled with the radio as Scorpius’s pulse quickened. Albus made him feel like a jumble of nerves. “Turns out my cousins live across the street from you.”

He didn’t have to wonder how Albus knew Scorpius went to Southview—he realized that since Lakeview and Southview were in such close proximity and they had met at the public library, it made sense that Scorpius would go to Southview. Albus went to Lakeview and would have seen Scorpius if he’d attended there. That, and Albus had seen Scorpius with Tim Nott the week previously.

“Oh, right. Rose.” Scorpius remembered that Rose was related to Albus.

“You met her?” Albus’s gaze flicked to Scorpius again.

Scorpius nodded. “We talked for a little bit last Friday. I saw her get into your car.”

“She and Lucy don’t let me go anywhere by myself at night,” Albus explained.

Scorpius wanted to ask who Lucy was, but didn’t want to sound like he was prying. He remembered a petite girl with bright red hair in the seat of Albus’s car and found himself wondering if she was his girlfriend. The thought made Scorpius’s stomach churn. He didn’t want to know.

“So,” Albus asked, “do people actually call you Scorpius or do you have a nickname?”

“They actually call me Scorpius.” He smiled self-deprecatingly.

Albus made a small noise somewhere between disbelief and discontent. “Yikes.” Scorpius had half a mind to be offended, but he wasn’t. “Do you mind if I call you Scor? I can’t imagine having to say all three syllables each time. It doesn’t fit you.”

He didn’t understand Albus’s logic, but nodded nonetheless. “Sure.” He furrowed his brow. “I mean, I don’t mind.”

Albus grinned. “Sweet.”

Chapter Text

As soon as Scorpius walked into Calculus the next day, he was cornered by Eve, Adam, and Tim. He sighed, then walked past them and to his seat in the back of the classroom. His three teammates followed him, taking seats in the desks bordering his.

“So?” Adam asked as soon as Scorpius sat down.

“So what?” Scorpius adjusted his Southview hoodie.

Eve rolled her eyes. “Come on, Scorpius. What happened?”

He was about to open his mouth to answer when Tim cut him off.

“I thought you said you were going to stay away from Albus Potter. We talked about this and agreed that you’d stay away from Lakeview players.”

“In my defense,” Scorpius chimed in, “I never said that I’d stay away from them. I just said I wouldn’t date them.”

“You left practice with Albus Potter yesterday,” Adam said, his eyes wide. “What did you guys even do?”

Scorpius cleared his throat and looked down at his hands. He was rubbing eraser dust between his fingers. “We went to get food.” All three of them stared at him.

“Um—” Eve started.

“It wasn’t a date,” Scorpius insisted. “He just wanted to talk.”

Adam leaned forward. “You do realize that people talk on dates, right?”

“It wasn’t like that.”

Tim was massaging the bridge of his nose. “I can’t believe we finally get a miracle striker and he ends up falling in love with Albus Potter.”

“I am not in love with Albus Potter,” Scorpius viciously denied. “We went to get food. That’s it. It wasn’t a date. Like I told you, I don’t have time to date.”

Eve was suspiciously quiet. “You know,” she finally said, “I don’t think it would be the worst thing if it was a date.”

Eve!” Both Tim and Adam looked shocked.

“Albus Potter is toxic,” Tim said, his eyes wide.

“Okay, that was probably a phase,” Eve said, waving him off. “But I think Scorpius could use something to think about besides school and soccer.”

“Don’t let Blaze hear you say that,” Adam muttered.

“But why does it have to be Albus Potter?” Tim looked affronted.

“I’m not saying it has to be him,” Eve argued. “I just think maybe it’s nice for Scorpius to get out.”

Tim looked like he was about to say something, so Scorpius cut in. “It doesn’t matter, okay?” He purposefully made eye contact with each of them. “It wasn’t a date and I really don’t have time to date. We need to win championships this year and I can’t practice if I’m focusing on someone else.”

“You sound exactly like Blaze,” Eve groaned.

“Besides,” Scorpius added, “I think Albus has a girlfriend. I saw her in his car once when he picked up Rose.”

“What?” Eve frowned.

“Oh, wait, does she have really red hair?” Adam asked. Scorpius nodded. “Was she pale? Really small?” Scorpius nodded. “That’s Lucy Weasley. She’s their cousin. She’s Lakeview’s left mid. Albus is always either with Rose, Lucy, or James.”

“Oh.” Scorpius felt as if a weight had been taken off his shoulders. His chest felt warm and he had to bite his lip to keep from smiling. He ducked his head to school his expression.

“Look at his face,” Tim practically wailed. “He totally has a crush on Potter.”

“Shut up,” Scorpius said, his tone lacking bite. “I don’t.”

“Mr. Nott, please face the board. I’m sure what I’m teaching isn’t as fascinating as whatever Mr. Malfoy is saying, but your parents are sending you to school for a reason.” Mrs. Vector was shooting Tim a pointed look. He sluggishly did as he was told, a scowl on his face. “Thank you. You soccer boys can talk after class. For now, please try not to disrupt your peers.”

Adam was laughing quietly, amused by Tim’s scolding. He shot a grin at Scorpius, then leaned back in his seat to pay attention to whatever Mrs. Vector was saying.

Scorpius’s mind was now on Albus. He found himself inexplicably pleased by the fact that the girl in Albus’s car wasn’t his girlfriend. Nonetheless, he knew that he couldn’t have a relationship. Even if Albus did like him, which he did not, Scorpius wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. He had trouble balancing soccer and school as it was—adding another variable to the mix would just complicate things.

He spent the rest of the period playing tic-tac-toe with Adam on the corner of his notes and trying to avoid thinking of Albus.

 


 

“I heard you went on a date with Albus Potter.”

Scorpius nearly missed the ball he was about to pass to Eve. He passed it and watched her receive and start dribbling with it, then turned to look at Blaze, who had his arms crossed over his chest. He was standing in the goal, his expression inscrutable.

“Who told you that?” Scorpius frowned.

Blaze’s cheek twitched. “They.”

“They talk a lot, don’t they?” Scorpius’s brow was still knit. His money was on Tim.

“They sure do,” Blaze smirked.

“Well, I didn’t,” Scorpius said, his tone pointed. “They is full of shit.”

“So you didn’t go out to dinner with him yesterday?”

Scorpius sighed and put his hands on his hips to catch his breath more effectively. “I did, but it wasn’t like that.”

“Wait, you went on a date with Albus Potter?” Daisy asked, eyes wide. She was standing across the field, but listening in on their conversation.

Who went on a date with Albus Potter?” Cece spun around and looked between the three of them.

“Nobody,” Scorpius and Blaze said at the same time. They shared a look.

“Fine, fine,” Daisy put her hands up in the universal signal of surrender and turned away, redirecting her focus to where the ball was on the field.

“Get some, Scorpius,” Cece said with a grin, but she turned away too.

Scorpius groaned and rubbed his face, wondering how gossip spread so quickly amongst his teammates. He moved to turn away too and get back into the scrimmage, but Blaze spoke again.

“Listen,” he said, “I don’t care what or who you do in your free time.” Scorpius was about to interrupt, but Blaze cut him off. “As long as it doesn’t affect your game, I don’t care.” Blaze shot him a pointed look. “Don’t let this, whatever it is, affect your game and we won’t have a problem. Got it?”

Scorpius sighed, but didn’t bother telling him that there was no this. “Got it.”

“Good.”

Chapter Text

Scorpius put his keys in the pocket of his hoodie, then tucked his soccer ball underneath his arm. The backpack slung over his shoulder contained his wallet, soccer cleats, socks, and shinguards.

Looking up at the sky, he made his way down his driveway. The sky was a pale blue and some clouds lingered near the mountains. The sun was out, but it was faint. He silently asked it to hold out a bit longer, just enough that he could get in some practice. Walking to and from school, he had noticed a public park near his neighborhood, a couple of blocks away. He had stored the location away for future reference and was thankful that he had.

“Going somewhere?”

He looked up to see Rose grinning at him from across the street. She was leaving the house with her own soccer ball, her gear in a drawstring bag slung on her back. Her fiery hair was up in its usual frizzy knot and she was wearing layered long-sleeved shirts and black yoga pants. Scorpius found himself wondering how warm that was.

“The park a couple blocks down,” he called out, making his way down to the street. “You?”

“Same.” Rose crossed the street over to him. “Wanna go together?”

Scorpius didn’t see the harm. “Sure.”

Rose was a couple of inches shorter than him, probably around five foot eight. As they walked, she tried to match their strides. After a couple of minutes, she dropped her ball and dribbled it as they walked, easily controlling it even on the frictionless sidewalk.

“Al mentioned you guys met,” she finally said.

Scorpius glanced at her. Her large brown eyes were watching the ball and her hands were clasping the strings of her bag. “Did he?”

“Mm,” Rose hummed in confirmation. “Said you guys went out for dinner on Tuesday.”

“We did.”

“That’s nice,” Rose said pleasantly. She was the first person to sound pleased about he and Albus’s interaction. “I’ve always hoped he’d venture outside the family to make friends.”

Scorpius was a little surprised by the personal route the discussion was taking, but decided to go along with it. “He doesn’t usually?”

Rose shook her head, then faltered and sighed. “Well, he used to spend time with other people, but he never really got to know them. And he never really used to let them get to know him.” She shrugged. “I guess he’s never really had a reason to make other friends since we all go to school together.” She shot Scorpius a grin. “You must be interesting.”

He wasn’t sure how to take that. “Not really,” he said honestly. “I’m kind of boring, actually. All I talk about is soccer.”

They rounded a corner and Rose bumped her shoulder against his. “You sound perfect for each other.” Scorpius shot her a look and she laughed. “Don’t worry, I’m not trying to set you guys up. I’m just trying to get to know you. I try to get to know anyone Al starts hanging out with.”

“We’ve only hung out once,” Scorpius said wryly.

“And how was it?”

Scorpius shook his head and chuckled. “You’re his cousin. You’ll tell him anything I tell you.”

“Not true,” she denied. Her eyes were shining happily and her mouth was curved upward. “Al and Lucy are the ones who talk about their feelings. I just help Jamie keep him in check and let him copy my notes when he falls asleep in class.”

“Right,” Scorpius said, pretending he understood their dynamic. He felt oddly pleased with this influx of information about Albus. He cleared his throat and tucked his hands in the pockets of his hoodie. “It was nice. He’s…different.”

“Different?” Rose quirked a brow.

“Not bad different,” Scorpius amended. “Just different. I don’t know if I understand him.”

Rose snorted softly. “The day anyone understands Al is the day I pass my babysitting duties onto them.” Upon seeing Scorpius’s face, she quickly said, “Not that I don’t love him—I do, honestly—but he needs someone who gets him. You know?”

Scorpius could relate. “Yeah,” he agreed.

“I mean, Lucy’s good with all that mushy, gushy stuff, but I don’t know if she really understands Al. And he knows that.” Rose was watching the ball as she nudged it along the sidewalk. The park was visible in the distance. “Jamie probably comes the closest. Maybe Al’s dad.”

They were quiet for a little bit, both of them contemplating their own thoughts. Scorpius was filing away all this knowledge of Albus, not sure if he would ever need to access it in the future, but keeping it because it was interesting. Because Albus was interesting. Scorpius wanted to know more about him.

“Why are you telling me this?” He wondered.

Rose shrugged and smiled up at him. “If you’ve been in Al’s car, he must like you. That, and you look interested. This is the longest conversation we’ve ever had.”

He felt a faint blush rise to his cheeks—he hadn’t known he had been obvious about how much Albus intrigued him.

Rose’s phone buzzed once, then a few times more in quick succession. She reached for where it was wedged between her hip and the waistband of her leggings, then unlocked and read the messages. Scorpius politely looked away, giving her privacy. They stepped onto the grass of the park and Scorpius took the time to observe his surroundings—the trees around them, the playground in the corner, the parking lot near some rundown tennis courts. There were a few people running, some kids playing, and a couple of dog owners playing fetch with their pets.

“Speak of the devil.” She sounded amused. “Guess who’s here and complaining of boredom?”

What?” Scorpius felt butterflies emerge in his stomach. He looked around for Albus.

Rose stopped walking, balancing her foot atop her soccer ball, and glanced down at her screen, then looked up and around. Scorpius stopped walking too and followed her gaze.

Beneath a tree, sitting in the shade, was a petite girl with bright red hair. She had sunglasses on and was leaning against the trunk, typing on a phone. Her hair was in two french braids going down her back and she was wearing jeans and a knit sweater.

Juggling a soccer ball a couple of feet away from her was Albus. He had a faded baseball cap worn backwards to cover his messy hair and was wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and light grey sweatpants.

“Let’s see if I can make this.”

Scorpius looked back at Rose to see that she was lining up the soccer ball. She took a couple of steps back, then glanced between Albus and the ball.

“Oi!” She shouted.

Albus caught the ball he was juggling, then spun his head around, looking for the source of the noise. The girl—supposedly Lucy—said something to him and pointed toward Rose and Scorpius. Albus turned to face them, then his eyes widened almost comically when he saw Rose aiming for him.

Once she knew that Albus had seen her, Rose ran up to the ball, then booted it, swinging her foot through the kick. Scorpius grinned and watched it soar through the air, toward Albus. Albus’s eyes tracked the ball and as it approached him, he only moved his upper body slightly so it would hit his chest, stopping its path of travel. He didn’t react to the impact, merely stomping his foot down on the ball after the first bounce, keeping it in control. Scorpius wondered how he made it look so easy.

Albus looked back up at them. He was grinning that wide, impish smile. “Your aim is shit, Rosie!”

She laughed and started walking toward Albus and Lucy. Scorpius hesitated and she noticed, turning to look back at him. “Come on—Lucy’s dying to meet you and I’m sure Al wants to say hi.”

His mind was made for him. He obediently followed Rose over to the tree. As they approached, Lucy stood and pushed her glasses atop her head. Her eyes were bright blue and took in Scorpius with interest.

“Hey, Scor,” Albus said, grinning. Scorpius couldn’t help but notice that his eyes were the same vibrant color as the grass. Albus raised his hat off his head and ran his fingers through his tousled hair before replacing his hat.

“So you’re Scor,” Lucy said, beaming. “Rosie and Al were telling me about you. You play for Southview, huh?”

Scorpius nodded. “I’m a striker.”

This amused Lucy, as her smile widened. “No wonder you guys became friends. You’re all strikers.” She ignored Rose’s proud grin. “I’m Lucy.”

“Nice meeting you,” he said genuinely. “I’ve heard a bit about you.”

“All good things, I hope.”

“Only good things,” he confirmed with a smile.

“Were you gonna practice?” Albus asked, gesturing toward Scorpius’s ball and backpack of gear. “That’s a stupid question. Of course you were.” He pushed the sleeves of his shirt up to the tops of his toned forearms. “I have my gear in my car if you don’t mind me joining in.”

“Not at all.” Scorpius wanted to know what it was like playing with Albus and wanted to see if he could pick up any pointers.

“Look at us, inviting ourselves to your impromptu practice,” Rose said apologetically.

“Scor loves us,” Albus shot back, pulling his keys from his pocket. “Don’t you?”

Scorpius couldn’t help but grin at the shit-eating smirk on Albus’s face. “So much,” he said mock-seriously.

“See?” Albus turned to Rose, looking pleased.

“Go get your gear.” She kicked at him, purposely missing.

He did as he was told, jogging over to his car. Rather than watch him leave, Scorpius sat down on the grass next to Rose. She was resting her head on the ball and texting someone on her phone. Lucy took a seat next to Scorpius. She smelled like lavender.

“Al must be thrilled that he’s finally met someone just as crazy about soccer as him,” she mused.

“Jamie,” Rose pointed out.

“Yeah, but that’s Jamie.” She sighed. “I can’t believe you guys are practicing on a Saturday.”

Rose said something and they launched into a different conversation. He busied himself by spinning his soccer ball atop his forefinger and very studiously not thinking of Albus. He wasn’t very successful.

Eventually, Albus jogged back and dropped a duffel bag onto the grass beside Lucy. “You guys want to run a couple of laps just to warm up?”

Rose and Scorpius nodded and stood.

“I’ll stay here and watch the stuff,” Lucy offered. “Five practices a week is enough for me. You guys are insane.”

“I prefer to call it passionate,” Albus defended.

“Of course you do.”

The three of them ran in a triangle, Scorpius in the lead and Albus and Rose flanking him. The two of them kept up with him easily and they maintained a steady speed as they made their way around the park. He was worried for a bit that he was running too slowly, but his fears were eased when he heard soft panting from behind him. He felt like he had something to prove to Albus and Rose.

After two laps around the perimeter of the park, they stood by Lucy for a couple of moments, catching their breath with their elbows up and hands behind their heads.

“You run much, Scor?” Rose asked, her breathing heavy.

He shrugged and smiled. “Helps me think.”

Practicing with Albus and Rose, he almost felt like he was cheating on his teammates. It was near impossible not to stare at Albus as he played. Even the most simple motions on the other boy’s part—such as kicking a ball, navigating around an obstacle, or receiving and shooting back the ball—were done so simply and beautifully that Scorpius thought it a waste not to appreciate it.

It was a struggle not to be distracted by the way Albus played and the only way Scorpius could get around that was by focusing on Albus’s technique and attempting to mimic it or at least gather bits and pieces to apply to his own style.

After about an hour of drills, the three of them were taking a water break. Rose was by Lucy, attempting to hug and wipe her sweat on her and getting squeals and protests in return, and Albus and Scorpius were sitting several feet away. Scorpius had his knees brought up to his chest and Albus was sitting with his legs out in front of him. He used his cap to keep his hair out of his face.

“You’re really good,” Albus spoke up. He was alternating between taking sips of water and wiping the condensation off the side of the bottle.

“Not as good as you.” Scorpius laughed quietly and shook his head. “You belong in the pros.”

“That’s the dream, isn’t it?” He asked almost ruefully. He turned to look at Scorpius and Scorpius kept his gaze lowered, focused on the blades of grass he was picking at. “My parents played in the pros, you know. For years. They quit once they realized they had enough money to raise my siblings and I and live a pretty set life.”

Scorpius didn’t want to look at Albus, afraid he wouldn’t be able to look away. “Is that why you play? Because your parents did?”

Albus nodded. “I mean, I love soccer, but I’m not sure I would if I weren’t raised on it. I’m pretty sure I had a soccer ball in my hands before a teddy bear.”

He smiled to himself, imagining an infant Albus holding a soccer ball.

“My mom signed me up when I was younger. U6, I think.” He shrugged. “I’ve been playing ever since. I never really thought about quitting.”

“Why?” Albus asked. Scorpius had the odd sense that his answer would need to satisfy something within Albus. He picked a blade of grass out from the ground, thinking of the best way to respond. “First thought that comes into your head. Go.”

He exhaled softly and wrapped his arms around his knees. “It…it makes me quiet.”

Albus was still looking at him. Out of the corner of his eye, Scorpius could see the corner of Albus’s mouth pull upward. He felt as if he had passed some sort of test and found himself wondering what was going on in Albus’s head.

“I like that,” Albus said. “Quiet.”

Albus glanced away and they were silent for a little bit, catching their breaths and mulling over their thoughts. It was a comfortable silence and it seemed to stretch on for a content eternity.

“Come on,” Rose called over to them. “I want to play two on one, then go get food.”

Lucy said something about Rose being demanding and Scorpius tuned them out. He stretched his arms up above his head, then took one last sip of water. Beside him, Albus stood. Scorpius was about to stand up as well, but Albus put his open palm in front of him, offering him a hand up. Scorpius looked up at him to see Albus’s green eyes crinkled in lingering amusement at something Rose had said.

Scorpius took his hand and let Albus hoist him up. Albus’s hand was cool and calloused and just a bit larger than Scorpius’s. Their hands slotted together perfectly.

“Let’s team up and destroy her,” Albus said with a grin.

Scorpius’s heart dilated.

Chapter Text

Southview’s first game was against a school called Riverside. Tim and Eve had assured him that they had an almost guaranteed win, but Blaze had been quick to shut them down.

“No win is guaranteed,” he’d said brusquely. “We need to play every game as if we were playing Lakeview. If we get comfortable, we get vulnerable.”

Scorpius wasn’t quite sure if he agreed with Blaze’s serious attitude, but he listened to him nonetheless. It was a home game, so he practically knew the field by heart due to the countless hours he’d spent on it. He knew where the dips in the grass were, where the dirt was harder and there would be less traction for the ball, where the dirt was loose and would be easier to lose balance on.

Riverside had the field first for warmups, so Scorpius and his teammates took the time to jog around the perimeter. Spectators were filling up the stands in varying colors of blue and white and purple and yellow. He grinned as he saw his parents finding a seat—they were both wearing blue t-shirts and his dad was wearing a white Southview cap. His mom waved at him excitedly and nudged Draco, who searched the field, then smiled and waved too. Scorpius felt his cheeks heat as he waved back.

“Your parents are so cute,” Eve remarked, beaming.

“Yeah,” he agreed, still smiling.

After Riverside was off the field, they warmed up by going through some standard passing drills, then taking turns passing and shooting. Scorpius had just scored on Blaze and was jogging to get back in line when he looked up at the stands. He saw flashes of bright red hair.

Rose, Lucy, and Albus were making their way up the stands, followed by several people. He saw a couple more redheads, two auburns, three blonds—two of which looked like twins—and a few dark-headed kids. Albus noticed Scorpius’s attention was on them and grinned, lifting a hand in greeting. Scorpius mirrored him. The other people Albus was with looked between him and Scorpius and Rose and Lucy waved too.

“Don’t tell me you’re friends with the entire Lakeview team now,” Tim said, looking between Albus and the stands.

“That’s the Lakeview team?”

Tim nodded. “The ones with dark red hair are James and Lily Potter. The blond twins are Lorcan and Lysander and the other blond one is Louis Weasley. The ones with black hair are Fred and Roxanne Weasley and the one with brown hair is Hugo Granger-Weasley.”

Scorpius turned away from the stands to look at Tim. “How do you know all their names?”

“Know thine enemy.”

“That’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it?” He quirked a brow. “Why are they our enemies?”

Tim shot him a hopeless look, then nudged Adam, who turned to face them. “We have a Lakeview sympathizer.”

Adam’s face screwed up. “I knew it.”

“Knew what?” Cece turned around too.

“He and Albus Potter are totally dating. Scorpius is a Lakeview sympathizer now.”

Cece grinned. “You guys are cute together.”

“We’re not together,” Scorpius insisted, scowling and running his fingers through his hair. “We’re just friends.”

“That’s what Adam and Cece said at first,” Eve said, patting Scorpius on the back consolingly.

Scorpius sighed and shook his head. He decided not to look toward the stands again—he didn’t need any distractions and didn’t need his teammates to start bugging him about Albus again.

After their warmups, they all gathered near their bleachers and Coach Hooch. The referees came by for their standard equipment check, but that went by quickly. Southview’s cheerleaders were still shouting cheers and riling up the audience as Blaze went over their plays.

“We have less players than them, so we’re going to need to stay on top of it,” Blaze said. “For the first half, I’m playing Eve and Becca—Karl and Adam, you guys are subbing in for the second half.”

“Wait, we’re only playing with nine?” Cece demanded. “They’re putting eleven players out there.”

“Nine of us is better than eleven of them, any day,” Tim backed up Blaze.

“Exactly,” Blaze said firmly. “Besides, I need Karl and Adam to be rested up so they can go hard during the second half. Scorpius and Tim will be getting tired since they’re not in top shape yet, so Karl and Adam might need to pick up some of the slack.”

The ref blew the whistle, signaling that they needed to send someone for the coin toss. Blaze handed the clipboard back to Coach Hooch, then went to meet Riverside’s captain at half-field. Scorpius watched them shake hands before turning back to where he and his teammates were huddled up.

“I still think he’s crazy,” Cece muttered.

Tim rolled his eyes. “Have faith.”

Blaze jogged back to them. “We have first kick off.”

Coach Hooch turned to the defenders and midfielders. “Guys, keep the ball on the other side of the field. Each time Blaze has to touch it to keep it out of the goal is one lap on Monday, got it?”

They all nodded. The ref blew the whistle and Scorpius took a deep breath. The Riverside team was making their way onto the field already. Nerves wracked his body and he struggled to contain them. He pushed any thoughts of his parents and the Lakeview team from his mind, reminding himself to focus on the game.

“Let’s do this,” Tim said quietly, knocking his knuckles against Scorpius’s.

As a team, they made their way onto the field, getting into their positions. Tim and Scorpius stood in the center circle. Once the whistle was blown, Tim nodded at him. Scorpius nudged the ball toward him, across the line, effectively starting the game. Once he’d touched the ball, he sprinted onto the other side of the field, running into the clear. Opposing players struggled to get on him and block him.

Tim booted the ball to Scorpius, sending it over the heads of the Riverside players. He tracked the ball as he ran, making sure he would be where it landed. From the corner of his eye, he could see Tim sprinting forward, making sure he was open when Scorpius needed to pass it back. Eve and Becca were running to catch up with them, getting open in case they were needed. Eve blocked a Riverside mid who had been on Scorpius, allowing him to run closer to the goal.

He dodged a defender, then passed the ball to Tim, who intercepted it smoothly. A defender tackled Tim for the ball and he passed it back to Scorpius, who had to quickly dodge another defender. Riverside’s defense was fast, but not as fast as Scorpius. He was watching the position of each defender, ensuring he wasn’t offsides.

A defender ran at him and he glanced around—Tim wasn’t clear and neither was Becca. He rolled it back to Eve, then darted around a defender, getting in the clear. She intercepted it, dribbled until he was open, then kicked it back to him.

The same defender who had been on him earlier was running toward him. He had a clear shot at the goal, so he kicked the ball further ahead as he sprinted with it, then swung a quick kick at the goal. The goalie dove for it, but it made it through.

Scorpius pumped his fist in the air and grinned. The stands were going wild. Tim ran at him and slung his arm over Scorpius’s shoulder, ruffling his hair and laughing as they ran back to their side of the court.

That is what I’m talking about!” Tim shouted.

Eve and Becca high-fived him and he shared grins with the rest of his teammates as he jogged back to his position. A quick glance in the stands showed that his parents were standing up, cheering and clapping. His father’s face was shining with pride.

Albus was standing up, shouting, both fists in the air. He was looking directly at Scorpius and beaming with joy, looking just as proud as Scorpius’s dad had. Rose and Lucy were clapping and cheering too. Scorpius felt his heart swell as he looked at Albus and had to force himself to look away.

He needed to get his focus back. His mind needed to be on the game.

They managed to keep the ball on Riverside’s side of the field for most of the first half and by half-time, Tim had scored twice and Scorpius once more. The score was four to nothing.

By the second half, his legs felt numb due to all the running. They burned with overexertion, but he ignored the pain. Having Adam and Karl on the field gave them all a much-needed energy boost and Adam and Karl did end up picking up some of the slack. Adam seemed more than happy to run up and down the field, keeping defenders off of Scorpius, and Karl was like an overexcited puppy as he bounded from player to player.

Riverside scored once during the second half, but Southview scored twice. By the time the game clocked out, it was eight to one, in favor of Southview. As soon as the game ended, Scorpius let out a long sigh, then let himself be enveloped by Adam and Tim. Soon after, Daisy joined the huddle, then Cece, dragging Vic and Gordon with her. Becca ran over too and Eve jumped in with Blaze. It was a mass of sweaty, muddy, overheated bodies.

“He’s our new Piper!” Becca shouted. “I told you, Blaze!”

Blaze shook his head and ruffled Scorpius’s hair—he and Tim both seemed fond of doing that. “Nah, he’s not. He’s better than Piper.”

Scorpius grinned, then held his breath as his teammates hugged him harder. He was proud—of himself and of his team. The crowd in the stands was cheering and the cheerleaders were continuing to rile them up despite the game being over. Scorpius could get used to that feeling.

After their brief celebration, they met with the Riverside team at half-field to shake hands and share polite sentiments of ‘good game.’ The crowd was beginning to flood onto the field now and after they were done shaking hands and making their way to their own sides of the field, Scorpius watched as the family and friends of his teammates enveloped them.

He wiped his forehead off on the sleeve of his uniform and was about to go looking for a towel when he looked up and his eyes connected with a dancing green gaze. Albus was beaming and weaving through the crowd, attempting to make his way over to Scorpius.

Sometime during the game, he had used duct tape to put Scorpius’s number—a 10—on his t-shirt. Scorpius’s mouth curved up into a wide smile on its own accord and he felt his pulse accelerate. Albus looked so proud and it made Scorpius almost dizzy with the knowledge that Albus was proud of him.

“Congrats, Scor!” Albus pulled him into a hug.

“Thanks,” Scorpius’s cheeks hurt from smiling. “Oh god, I stink. I’m all sweaty.”

Albus’s chest and arms were warm and muscular and Scorpius felt an inexplicable sense of safety in his arms. The knowledge that he didn’t want Albus to let go caused his breath to hitch and made him freeze for a moment. He shook his head to clear his thoughts, not wanting to deal with them at the moment.

“Don’t care,” Albus said, but he was pulling back. “I can’t believe you scored in the first five minutes of the game—that was insane.”

Scorpius was smiling again. He couldn’t remember the last time he had smiled so much. “The entire game feels like a blur.”

“Well done, Scor!” Lucy wedged her way in between he and Albus to hug him—he had to bend down slightly.

“You did such a good job!” Rose hugged him next. None of them seemed to care that he was filthy. “Scor, this is my boyfriend, Lorcan. Lorcan, this is Scor—the one I was telling you about.”

Lorcan had wavy blond hair and a mega-watt smile. He shook Scorpius’s hand firmly. “Nice to meet you.” He sounded completely genuine, like there was nothing he’d rather be doing than meeting Scorpius. “That was a great game you played.”

“Thanks,” Scorpius said, “and nice meeting you too.”

Rose and Lorcan left to go find the rest of their teammates, pulling Lucy along with them. Scorpius was about to say something to Albus, who somehow managed to look slightly intimidating with duct tape on his shirt, when his parents walked up.

“Good job, honey!” Astoria said, wrapping her arms around him. “I’m so proud of you!”

“Thanks, Mom,” Scorpius chuckled.

“It was an excellent game,” Draco agreed, squeezing Scorpius’s shoulder affectionately.

Albus was standing beside him, politely looking away, his hands in the pockets of his jeans. He and Scorpius made brief eye contact and Scorpius quickly remembered his manners.

“Mom, Dad,” he said, “this is my friend, Al. Al, Mom and Dad.”

A dazzling smile immediately overtook Albus’s features and he shook Draco and Astoria’s hands. “Nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy.”

“Please, call us Astoria and Draco,” his mom insisted, beaming back at Albus. “Do you go to Southview too, Al?”

Albus shook his head. “Actually, I go to Lakeview High. It’s a couple of miles from Southview.”

“How did you two meet?” Draco asked, his eyes catching on the duct tape ’10’ on his shirt. Unlike Astoria, he wasn’t completely charmed by Albus. “If you don’t go to Southview…”

Albus took the question in stride and with a smile. “I’m Rose’s cousin—she lives across the street from you guys.”

“Oh, Scorpius did mention a girl named Rose,” Astoria said. “What a small world!”

“Truly,” Draco agreed, still studying Albus.

Once Albus and his parents had left and he was showering in the locker rooms, Scorpius realized that he had just introduced Albus to his parents. He found himself wondering if that was premature.

He shut his thoughts down immediately, not willing to dwell on them. What was done was done. He shouldn’t have been analyzing every interaction and decision he made in Albus’s presence. It was unnecessary and would undoubtedly drive him insane with anxiety.

“What are you doing to me?” Scorpius murmured to himself, thinking of nothing but bright green eyes.

Chapter Text

Scorpius was stepping out of the shower, his towel wrapped around his hips, when he came face to face with Cece. As soon as he had processed that she was in the boys locker room, he practically yelped and brought his hands up self-consciously to cover his chest. She rolled her eyes.

“Nothing I haven’t seen before,” she said. “Besides, you have nothing to worry about.”

“What are you doing here?” He asked, eyes wide.

“That’s exactly what I asked,” Tim chimed in. He had a towel around his waist too and was shooting Cece an accusatory look, his arms crossed over his chest.

“I’ll be out in a jiff, I just needed to tell Scorpius something.”

Scorpius raised his brows expectantly, arms still covering his chest.

“Guess who’s in the parking lot again asking for you?” Cece’s eyes were sparkling.

What?” Scorpius’s pulse accelerated and he looked toward the exit to the locker room, as if he would be able to see Albus through the door.

“Couldn’t you guys have, oh, I don’t know, texted that information to him?” Vic asked, a scowl on his face.

Cece shrugged. “I guess. But then I’d miss hearing Karl squeal.”

“I didn’t squeal,” the freshman insisted, his face red.

Scorpius walked away from them, ignoring the rest of the conversation. He dried off and got dressed quickly, making sure Cece left the locker room before he completely removed the towel. He was sure that he finished changing in a record time. His hair was damp and tousled as he tossed his towel into the hamper and rushed out of the room.

As he made his way over to the parking lot, consciously slowing down his pace so he didn’t seem overeager, he finger-combed his hair. Just like the week before, he saw Albus leaning against his old BMW, texting someone on his phone. He looked up and grinned when he saw Scorpius.

“Hungry?”

“You’ve got to stop sending my teammates to get me,” he said, sliding into the passenger seat of the car. “They all think we’re dating.”

“Oh no,” Albus said as he started the engine, his voice filled with playful sarcasm. “How horrible.”

Scorpius smiled despite himself. “Where’s your phone?”

Albus produced it from his pocket, then unlocked it and handed it to Scorpius. Scorpius was surprised at the trust displayed in such a simple action, but didn’t say anything. He put his contact into Albus’s phone, then handed it back.

“There,” he said. “Now you don’t need to send Eve or Cece into the boys locker room to get me and the entire team won’t question me about you so often.”

“I don’t mean to play devil’s advocate here,” Albus said, “but isn’t there more for them to question now? I mean, you did just give me your phone number.”

Scorpius paused, then made a soft noise of discontent upon realizing Albus was right. He ran his fingers through his hair, finger-combing it in lieu of replying to Albus and admitting his mistake.

“There, there,” Albus said, amusement tinging his voice, “being seen as gay isn’t the end of the world.”

Scorpius shook his head. “I don’t care if they think I’m gay—I mean, I am—I just don’t want any distractions…”

Albus’s head had whipped around to stare at Scorpius, brows raised, and Scorpius let his sentence trail off in favor of shooting Albus a questioning look. Albus answered him without prompting. “I didn’t know you knew you weren’t straight.”

Scorpius’s brow instantly furrowed and he leveled an incredulous look at Albus, who had turned his attention back to the road. “You didn’t know I—what?!” He sputtered for a moment. “How could I not know?”

“A lot of people don’t know,” Albus said, a smile dancing on his lips. “I thought you were one of those people. I figured soccer had suppressed your sexuality.”

Scorpius could feel a blush rising to his cheeks. “Sure, I like soccer, but I’m sixteen.”

Albus shrugged. “You said in the library that you’d never had sex before.”

“There are other things to do besides…besides sex.”

“I am aware,” Albus grinned. “I’m glad that you are aware.”

Scorpius couldn’t suppress a small smile. “You’re awful,” he announced. Somehow, he didn’t feel embarrassed by their conversation.

Albus just beamed impishly at him as they pulled into the parking lot of Lola’s, the same restaurant they had gone to the week before. Albus had explained to Scorpius that it was his favorite restaurant because it was like stepping back into time.

Lola’s was all red booths, chrome furniture, and shiny black and white tile floors. A jukebox sat proudly against one of the walls. Hanging in black frames all around the restaurant were signed pictures of various celebrities who had visited Lola’s, alongside pictures of vintage cars.

The bell dinged as Scorpius held the door open for Albus, who shot him a smile in thanks. The two of them were the same height, though Albus’s messy hair made him look slightly taller. Scorpius was in jeans and a gray sweater and Albus was wearing jeans and a t-shirt with the album cover of some indie band.

They were seated quickly and Scorpius watched on in amusement as Albus playfully flirted with Dorothy, the waitress. She laughed and swatted his shoulder.

“You’re young enough to be my grandson, Al Potter.” She gestured toward Scorpius. “Pay attention to your fella instead.”

Albus didn’t bother correcting her. He just smiled and said, “Yes, ma’am.”

“Figure out what you two want to order and wave me down.” Dorothy gave them each another smile, then went to tend to another customer.

“Does she think we’re dating too?”

Albus shrugged and smirked. “She thinks we’re something.” Albus passed Scorpius his menu from where Dorothy had left them laying on the table. “Why does it bother you so much?”

Scorpius didn’t know how to reply. Truthfully, he wasn’t sure why it bugged him that people thought he and Albus were more than friends. It just made his face warm and his pulse thrum. He settled for saying, “I don’t know.”

“You could do a lot worse than me, you know,” Albus said playfully. To save Scorpius from responding, he gestured to the menu. “Do you know what you want?”

“I’ll just get the same thing as last time.”

Albus waved down Dorothy, who rung up a customer, then headed their way. “All right, what can I get you boys?”

“I’ll have a burger with fries and a water, please,” Scorpius ordered.

“All right, hon. And what for you?”

“A burger with fries and a chocolate milkshake.” Albus handed her their menus. “Thanks, Dot.”

“I’ll get your food started,” she said, smiling at them before making her way to the kitchen.

Scorpius laughed softly to himself. “How do you stay in shape?”

“Hey, you got a burger and fries too,” Albus argued, a grin dancing on his lips.

“But not a milkshake.” Albus hummed in agreement. “Whenever we go out to eat, we end up going to a fast food joint.”

“I enjoy the simple pleasures in life,” Albus said. “Such as burgers, fries, and shakes.”

“Is this your master plan?” Scorpius asked dryly. “Get me out of shape so Southview has no hope of winning nationals?”

Albus put his forefinger in front of Scorpius’s lips. Scorpius’s heart skipped at their proximity. “We established this last time,” Albus said. “No talking about schools or the rivalry.” Scorpius shook his head, but Albus continued. “This way, we can pretend we go to the same school and we wreak havoc and pass notes to each other in class and walk down to the soccer field together.”

Scorpius bit his lip to keep from saying, But we don’t. He wished they did. He wished Albus could transfer from Lakeview, but that would be absolutely ridiculous.

“Does ignoring problems usually work out for you?” Scorpius asked, a wry smile on his lips.

Albus grinned. “Usually, yes.”

They slipped into a comfortable silence. Dorothy returned with their drinks and the two of them thanked her. Albus insisted upon giving Scorpius the excess shake that was brought in a metal cup. As they sipped the milkshake, Scorpius allowed himself small glances at Albus.

It was a bit difficult not to look at him, considering how attractive and almost magnetic he was. Scorpius couldn’t tell what it was about Albus that made him so appealing because separately, his features were odd—his eyes were large and narrow and seemed unnaturally vibrant, his facial structure was very angled and sharp, and his mouth was wide—but altogether they worked. They worked well. To top it off, he somehow rocked the messiest hair Scorpius had ever seen.

“Pictures last longer, you know,” Albus pointed out.

“What?” Scorpius felt his cheeks heat up and he mentally berated himself for looking for too long.

Albus only smiled, one softer than his usual mischievous expression. “Don’t worry. I was staring too.”

 


 

Scorpius was staring at his ceiling, thinking about soccer and his classes and anything but Albus. His friendship with Albus was confusing and Scorpius preferred not to think about it—he didn’t understand it or know what he wanted from it.

His phone buzzed beside him and he turned his head to look at the screen. It was an unknown number.

[ my first game is on friday. will u come? ]

[ oh this is al btw ]

His chest heated upon realizing that it was Albus. He turned on his side as he contemplated what to say. He created Albus’s contact, then just as he was about to begin typing, his phone buzzed again.

[ afterparty’s at my place. at least come to that? ]

Scorpius felt himself smile—Albus wanted to see him. He quickly replied.

[ I’ll be at both. ]

The reply was instant.

[ :) ]

If he was being completely honest with himself, Scorpius knew that he and Albus weren’t just friends. There were undertones of something more beneath the surface, but neither of them seemed willing to breach it yet. He worried that doing so would end up complicating things for the both of them.

Chapter Text

“Well, don’t you look nice?” Cece eyed him approvingly. Adam made a face and self-consciously looked down at his own hoodie and jeans.

“Thanks.”

Scorpius, loath as he was to admit it, had taken more care when choosing what to wear to the game. He’d decided upon dark jeans, a soft shirt, and a loose coat. He wanted to look good, but not as if he’d put much thought into his outfit.

He and his teammates were sitting in the bleachers at Lakeview. Scorpius found himself sandwiched between Eve and Tim. In front of him sat Adam and Cece and behind him were Gordon, Vic, Daisy, and Karl. Becca and Blaze sat on either side of Eve and Tim, respectively.

Lakeview’s team was warming up on the field, doing shooting practice for the strikers and midfielders, as well as James, as he was guarding the goal. The defense was going through passing and footwork drills. The other team, Ridgeway, was running laps around the field.

Scorpius watched as Albus almost scored on James. The auburn-haired boy knocked the ball out of the goal at the last minute, then shot his brother a smug grin. As Albus dribbled back to get in line to shoot again, his eyes scanned the stands. They landed on Scorpius, who suddenly couldn’t keep a smile off his face. Albus grinned back at him and waved. Scorpius returned the gesture.

Tim, who hadn’t missed the exchange, sighed heavily.

“Shut up,” Eve directed at Tim, leaning around Scorpius to see him. “I think it’s cute.”

“He’s a rival striker—

“As long as it doesn’t become a distraction or hinder his performance on the field,” Blaze butted in, “it’s none of our business.”

“I’m literally right here,” Scorpius announced.

Tim shook his head mournfully. “You’re so whipped.”

“Am not,” he denied halfheartedly.

Lakeview trickled off the field and got water. Scorpius watched as they went over plays on a clipboard James was holding. Their equipment check was brief, then the ref was calling James to the field for the coin toss.

The coin toss gave Ridgeway first kickoff. Despite this, Lucy quickly intercepted the ball and kicked it up the field to Albus. Scorpius watched as Albus ran with it—he was incredible to watch. He was probably the fastest person on the field and his footwork as he evaded Ridgeway’s midfielders and defense was so quick and controlled that it was a blur. Scorpius wasn’t able to keep up with each of his movements.

“God,” Tim muttered beside him. He was watching Albus too.

Albus passed the ball to Rose, then darted around a couple of defenders. She sidestepped a Ridgeway player, then passed it back to Albus. Albus regained control of the ball, then shot. The goalkeeper kicked the ball away from the goal quickly, but Albus was quicker. He ran at the ball, halting its progress through the air, then shot again. He scored.

The stands erupted and Scorpius jumped in the air with Eve. They cheered and Scorpius couldn’t help but beam proudly. As Albus ran back to his teammates, his eyes sought out Scorpius. His mouth instantly slipped into a wide grin when he saw that Scorpius was cheering for him.

“Someone else looks pretty whipped too,” Eve murmured to him, amusement tinging her voice.

Scorpius felt a blush creep up his neck. “Shut up,” he muttered, to which Eve laughed.

They sat down as Ridgeway kicked off again, getting as comfortable as one could on metal bleachers. Blaze was sitting on the edge of his seat, watching the game intently. Scorpius couldn’t quell a smile upon seeing that Blaze was taking notes on his phone.

“I still don’t see why we had to come and watch their game,” Karl said. “What’s the point?”

Blaze whipped his head around to look at him. “This is how we know how to play a team. We analyze how they play against other teams and strategize so that we know how to beat them. Each team has a distinctive style and we can use that to our advantage.”

Karl frowned. “But why did all of us have to come?”

“Because we’re a team,” Blaze said firmly.

Scorpius tuned them out to continue watching the game. A Ridgeway striker had gotten past Lakeview’s midfielders and most of their defense and was advancing upon the goal. James didn’t look worried. Rather, he had a wicked smile on his face, like he was just daring the striker to try and get the ball past him.

The striker ran right up close to the goal, closer than strikers usually did. Rather than wait for him to shoot, James ran right at him, then threw himself down on top of the ball, grabbing it and rolling up onto his feet. In one swift motion, before Scorpius had even processed the bold move, James punted the ball to the other side of the field, where Albus easily caught it and swiftly manipulated it toward Ridgeway’s goal.

James stood in the middle of the goal, muscled arms crossed over his chest. He had a self-satisfied expression as he watched Albus score again.

Scorpius felt intimidated at the mere thought of attempting to score on James—he wasn’t sure what he’d do when Southview and Lakeview played one another.

“It’s like they’re barely even trying,” Daisy observed gloomily.

Karl nodded, looking just as dejected. “They’re really good.”

“So are we.” Blaze shot each of them sharp looks. “If we don’t believe we can beat them, we won’t.”

By the end of the first half, Lakeview had eleven points and Ridgeway had none. James and Albus were speaking together on the sidelines, heads bowed, water bottles in hand. They were gesturing toward the field, most likely going over plays and tweaking their strategy for the second half. Albus’s hair was messier and fluffier than ever. Not only was it windblown, but he kept running his hands through it in order to keep it out of his eyes.

Scorpius realized he was staring and quickly averted his gaze. Eve was shooting him a knowing look so he avoided looking at her too.

During the second half, Albus took a nasty fall that caused Scorpius’s blood to run cold. A Ridgeway defender, most likely frustrated at the amount of points Albus was racking up, tackled him for the ball with more aggression than necessary. He threw his entire weight into Albus’s lithe form and Albus barely had the time to catch his fall before he was being shoved into the ground shoulder-first.

The referee immediately blew the whistle and jogged over to Albus, where he lay in the dirt. Rose was screaming incoherently at the defender and a girl with hair the same shade as James’s was running over to Albus. Scorpius watched as James left the goal to check up on his brother.

Scorpius couldn’t see what was happening, as there were people huddled around Albus. It was deathly silent and Scorpius held his breath, his entire body tense with worry.

Eventually, he saw the huddle open up a bit and saw a head of messy hair poking out. People started clapping when they saw that Albus had stood up and Scorpius joined them. Albus looked to be arguing with James, who kept pointing to the sidelines. Albus was shaking his head adamantly, massaging his shoulder as everyone walked back to their positions. Eventually, James ran his fingers through his hair, put his hands up in the universal symbol of surrender, then walked back to the goal.

Albus’s eyes met Scorpius’s and Albus gave him a reassuring smile. It did little to quell Scorpius’s worry.

Rather than hold Lakeview back, Albus’s injury only made them angry and determined. Rose crashed through players as she sped down the field with the ball and the shots she took were strong, fast, and dirty. Lakeview’s defense was impenetrable and by the end of the second half, James hadn’t touched the ball once and Rose and Albus had scored thrice and once, respectively. Lucy and the same auburn girl who had run to Albus each scored as well, despite the fact that they weren’t strikers.

Injuring Albus, no matter how minor it was, was Ridgeway’s ultimate downfall.

By the end of the game, the score was 16 to nothing. Lakeview had completely decimated Ridgeway. When the final whistle blew, signaling the end of the game, the entire Lakeview team sprinted and threw themselves at James, forming a tangle of limbs and cries of victory. Even Albus disappeared inside the massive team hug.

While the two teams shook hands, the audience stood and started walking toward the field. Scorpius’s teammates declined to join him, with the exception of Eve and Cece, and headed to the parking lot instead.

“Let’s meet your loverboy,” Cece said happily.

Scorpius barely kept himself from burying his hands in his face. “Please don’t call him that.”

Cece grinned, but did as she was told. Standing on his toes, Scorpius spotted Albus standing with Rose and Lucy, wiping his forehead off with the bottom of his shirt. Scorpius’s heart stuttered and his face heated upon seeing Albus’s defined abdomen and the V of his hipbones that disappeared beneath his waistband.

He pulled his gaze away just as Albus noticed him and he couldn’t help the flutter in his chest at the beaming smile that overtook Albus’s face. He was sure his expression was mirroring Albus’s.

“Congratulations,” Scorpius said, going in for a hug despite the sheen of sweat on Albus’s skin. The hug was warm and sweaty and Scorpius wanted another. Despite that, he stepped back. “Are you okay? How’s your shoulder?”

“Sorry, I must reek,” Albus said with a laugh. “The shoulder’s fine, don’t worry—it just looked bad because everyone else overreacted.”

Scorpius sighed and shook his head, albeit fondly. He turned to Rose and Lucy and congratulated them as well.

“These are my friends, Eve and Cece,” he introduced. “Eve, Cece, this is Albus, Rose, and Lucy.” He gestured toward them as he said each of their names.

Eve and Cece struck up a conversation with Rose and Lucy, leaving Albus and Scorpius together.

“Honestly, you did a really good job,” Scorpius informed him. “You’re incredible.”

Albus grinned and his cheeks flushed slightly. “Thanks, Scor.” He ran his fingers through his hair and wet his lips. “And thanks for coming. To this and the afterparty. I’m really glad you said you would.”

Scorpius smiled. “Me too.”

He walked Cece and Eve to the parking lot, then said his good-byes to the rest of the team as Albus showered. Cece wouldn’t stop wiggling her eyebrows at him suggestively after discovering that he was going to Albus’s house and Tim looked like he was in mourning.

As he walked over to Albus’s car, he felt pinpricks of anxiety in his chest. He was nervous about meeting the rest of Albus’s teammates and hoped he would make a good first impression. He wasn’t sure how much they knew about him—if anything—and he wasn’t sure how they’d react to him. He was a Southview player.

Chapter Text

Scorpius didn’t have to wait by the car for long. Several minutes after arriving, the faint smell of soap and musky cologne hit his nostrils and he glanced up at a grinning Albus. He was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a loose denim jacket.

“I think this victory calls for celebration,” Albus announced, unlocking the car.

They both slid in as Albus started the engine.

“I haven’t been to a party before,” Scorpius said hesitantly.

“We’ll make this memorable, then.” Albus glanced at him as he pulled out of the parking lot. “Have you at least drank before?”

“Yeah.” Scorpius nodded. “I’ve only ever done that with a few friends, though.”

“This party shouldn’t be too big. It’s mainly just the team and maybe some of their friends and dates.” Albus skipped a song on his phone, then fiddled with the volume. “I’m not sure who James and Lily invited, but they never really invite a bunch of people.”

Scorpius gave a hum of comprehension. “Where are your parents?”

“London,” Albus said. “Their anniversary’s this weekend, so James, Lily, and I have got the house to ourselves.”

The drive was calm and comfortable and soon enough, Albus was pulling into the driveway of a two-storied, typical suburban family home. There was a large yard with a small goal on one end and a large tree on the other, complete with a swing hanging from one of the branches. A white picket fence wrapped around the lot. Scorpius could already hear music coming from inside the house.

After getting out of the car, Scorpius took a deep breath, calming his nerves. Meeting and being around a lot of new people was stressful and he needed to make sure he wouldn’t be too uncomfortable.

“Don’t worry,” Albus said, bumping his shoulder against Scorpius’s. “I won’t ditch you or leave you with anyone you don’t know. I’d like to see you try to get away from me.”

Scorpius released a relieved laugh and grinned at Albus. “Thanks.”

Albus led Scorpius up the driveway, then unlocked the front door. The music instantly got louder. There were already a lot of people inside, lounging on the couches or standing in small groups. Scorpius recognized the Lakeview players, but there were several people who didn’t look familiar at all.

A cheer erupted through the house when Albus’s presence was made known and as Albus led Scorpius to the kitchen, he got countless high-fives and pats on the back. Scorpius greeted Lorcan and Rose as he followed Albus through the house, sharing a friendly smile with each of them.

“Rum and coke for me, Jamie,” Albus said upon entering the kitchen.

James glanced up and grinned at Albus, then at Scorpius. “Got it. What’s your poison, Scor?”

Scorpius’s eyes widened slightly—not only did James know who he was, but he was using Albus’s nickname for him. He found himself wondering if Albus had been talking about him. “I’ll have the same, thanks.”

“On it.”

Having James’s grin directed at him made Scorpius fully understand his popularity. James had a way of making one feel at ease, of making someone feel like there was no one on earth he’d rather be talking to. Both brothers were charming in their own ways: Albus made one feel interesting and James made them feel important.

“Jamie, are you—Hey, Al!”

The boy who walked into the kitchen grinned upon seeing Albus. He was tall and had dark skin and curly black hair. His eyes were big and bright and he had a mischievous smile. Scorpius remembered seeing him on the field—he was pretty sure he played center defense.

“Hey, Fred, this is Scor,” Albus introduced. “Scor, this is my cousin, Fred.”

“So you’re Scorpius.” Fred pulled him in for a smooth hand-clasp-back-pat thing. “Nice to finally meet you.” He smiled and Scorpius returned it.

“You too,” he said genuinely.

“Here you guys go.” James handed each of them a red Solo cup.

Scorpius took a tentative sip and struggled not to wince—James made it strong. Albus took a long gulp, then wiped his mouth off with the back of his hand.

“Fred, I’m looking for Jal, do you know—oh!” The auburn girl from the game looked happily surprised to see them. She had large hazel eyes, freckles, and soft features. Scorpius realized, with a start, that James looked like a mixture of Albus and this girl. He assumed that this was Lily, their younger sister.

Albus leaned in to quietly explain to Scorpius, “She calls us ‘Jal’ instead of ‘James and Al’ because it’s shorter and because it was easier for her to say when we were all younger.” Scorpius let out a soft, elongated “oh” of comprehension.

“You must be Scor,” Lily said, smiling. “I’m Lily, Al’s younger sister. It’s nice to finally meet you—Lucy and Rose have been telling me all about you.”

“They have?” Albus and Scorpius asked at the same time, then shared an amused look.

“They have,” she confirmed enigmatically, grinning.

Fred moved around Lily to speak to James.

“That was a really good goal you scored earlier,” Scorpius told her, searching for something to say.

“Thanks!” Lily beamed at him. “I saw you play last week and you’re not so bad yourself.”

“Hey, Lil, did you need something?” Albus piped up, suddenly remembering that she had entered the kitchen in search of he and James.

“Oh, right.”

Scorpius took another sip of his drink, politely averting his attention to give them some privacy. Music was booming into the kitchen and he found himself wondering if their neighbors were used to this.

Albus nudged Scorpius, drawing his attention. “Come on, I’ll show you my room.” As they left the kitchen, Albus turned to tell James they’d be upstairs if he needed anything. James gave him a thumbs up, then took a shot with Fred.

As they wove through the people in the living room and sitting on the stairs, Scorpius stayed close to Albus. The party was hectic and slightly overwhelming and he was relieved when they stopped in front of a door with a big, green A on it.

Albus ushered him inside, closing and locking the door behind them. “I’m not risking some horny couple barging in, in search of a place to fuck.”

“Has that happened before?”

“Unfortunately.”

Scorpius wrinkled his nose, then took another sip of his drink. As he looked around the bedroom, he was struck by how very Albus it was. The bed was unmade, the dark comforter rumpled, yet soft-looking, and there were way more pillows and blankets on the bed than necessary. One wall was covered in posters, mainly ones of professional soccer players, and pictures of family and friends were scattered throughout the room. A soccer ball was at the foot of his bed and above his desk hung multiple shelves of trophies.

“I like it,” Scorpius said.

“Yeah?” Albus looked pleased, scanning his room as if trying to see it from Scorpius’s eyes. “It’s a bit messy, but…”

“It’s very you.”

Albus grinned. “A bit messy?”

Scorpius shoved him playfully. “You know what I mean.”

He watched as Albus plugged in his phone, then turned on some music to drown out the sounds of the party—it was the same alternative/indie music he had taken to playing in the car upon noticing Scorpius’s dislike for the loud, thudding bass. He flopped down onto the bed, then sat with his legs crossed and watched as Scorpius examined his trophies.

“Those are from when I was really young, too,” Albus explained, almost sheepishly. “It’s not like I’ve collected them all recently.”

Scorpius moved on from the trophies, looking at the polaroids on his wall. One was of Albus and James with their arms around one another, fists raised in obvious victory; another of Albus, Rose, and Lucy making goofy faces; Lily and James covered in mud, obviously chasing after whoever took the picture; Albus sitting on top of a goalpost, shirtless, a soccer ball balanced on his feet. Something within Scorpius’s chest unfurled and warmed. A framed picture caught his attention and he grinned—in the picture was a pudgy infant with messy black hair and huge green eyes, his arms barely wrapping around a soccer ball.

“You were cute,” Scorpius said.

Albus feigned hurt. “Were?”

He sat down on the bed next to Albus, looking down at his drink. “I mean, you still are, but now you’re more…” He searched for the right word, aware of the fact that Albus was watching him intently—it made it difficult for him to think properly. “…more intimidating.”

“Intimidating?” Albus’s expression was caught between amusement and disbelief. “Really?”

“It’s just your hair and your eyes and your muscles and that whole confident yet mysterious thing you have going on,” Scorpius gestured vaguely toward him. “Just all of it. It’s intimidating.”

Albus’s was practically glowing, but he hid his smile behind his cup. He then glanced up at Scorpius, a brow raised. “You really think I’m mysterious?”

Scorpius shrugged. “I mean, I know that Rose and Lucy don’t let you go anywhere alone, especially at night. And I’ve heard bits and pieces about some reputation you had in the beginning of high school.”

“Is that a question?” Albus raised a brow.

“Only if you want to answer it.”

Albus leaned back on his elbows, his legs still crossed, and Scorpius took another sip of his drink, watching him. Eventually, Albus spoke. “I just fell into the wrong crowd when high school began. I was trying to make friends outside of my family and I just found the wrong people. They were fun and I was flattered because they were all older than me, but none of them really cared about me—we were all just looking to have a good time. That whole dream of being a wild teen, you know?

“Anyways, it started to get kind of out of control. I started skipping practices to go and race cars, stayed out all night partying. It got bad. James, Rose, or Lucy usually had to come and pick me up at the crack of dawn from some stranger’s house or from a warehouse rave or wherever and eventually they gave me an ultimatum: I could either keep on doing what I was doing and end up dead in a ditch or I could shape up and be Albus again.” Albus shrugged, a humorless smile on his face. “I chose to stay alive.”

Scorpius absorbed this quietly, not sure what to think or how to react. He now understood why Rose and Lucy were so protective and why Tim had warned him about Albus. Nonetheless, Albus had changed. He wasn’t that reckless boy anymore—he was Albus.

“Why do you think you did it?” Scorpius wondered, hoping he wasn’t prying. “I mean, besides wanting to make friends outside your family. Because I know you would’ve been able to have other friends—you know you’re charming.”

Albus accepted the compliment with a grin. “Honestly, I think I just wanted to show my parents that I wasn’t just a striker, you know? I’m Albus, not some soccer prodigy. They expect so much—did you know I’m named after one of the best players on the professional team from a few decades ago? Albus Dumbledore.”

“That’s tough to live up to,” Scorpius murmured, gently bumping his shoulder against Albus’s.

“Yeah.” Albus finished his drink, then leaned over to put his empty cup on his bedside table. “I just wanted to be something more than a soccer player for a little while. I guess that was the most dramatic, huh?”

Scorpius chuckled, then finished his drink too and put his cup beside Albus’s. “Yeah, that’s one way to put it.”

They were quiet for a little while, both lost in their own thoughts, and Scorpius could hear the sound of his racing pulse above the music coming from Albus’s speakers. He didn’t judge Albus whatsoever—he understood how much pressure was on him and how that could eat away at someone and push them to do something drastic. If anything, he admired Albus more for being able to control himself and still be an incredible player.

“What about you?” Albus asked, breaking the silence. “Any skeletons in your closet?”

Scorpius shook his head. “Not really. All I’ve done is play soccer and go to school. Transferring to Southview is the most interesting thing that’s happened to me in a while.” He felt his cheeks heat up as he admitted, “I’m pretty boring.”

“Not to me,” Albus murmured, so quietly Scorpius wasn’t sure he’d even spoken.

Turning his head, he caught Albus’s gaze. His vibrant eyes were impenetrable, yet they softened and Scorpius felt his pulse accelerate. They were both toeing a line that terrified Scorpius and he knew that was the only reason Albus hadn’t crossed it yet—he was waiting for him. Albus’s gaze flickered down to Scorpius’s mouth and he gulped. It felt as if they were the only two people in the world and Scorpius had never felt like more of a cliché teen from some romance movie.

Albus cleared his throat and looked away, breaking the trance. Scorpius knew his cheeks were red and glanced down at his feet. It was obvious, now more than ever, that there was more to their relationship than simple friendship, but he couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge it yet. Besides, it wouldn’t have been smart to do so after drinking.

He didn’t know what Albus wanted—he knew that Albus had had sex before and what if that was all he was interested in? Scorpius wasn’t even sure what he wanted from Albus. He just knew that he was becoming steadily more attached, more captivated and entranced by him. He’d never felt that way about anyone before and wasn’t sure what to do with it. It was a stark contrast to the petty crushes he’d had on other guys previously. It seemed much more daunting.

Chapter Text

Scorpius was a mess and he knew it. Throughout practice, his teammates had sent him questioning looks as he was so obviously distracted. He winced as he nearly missed an easy pass from Tim, lunging forward to intercept the ball and dribble it. Scorpius shot it toward the goal, unsurprised when Blaze caught it.

The sun was setting and they all glanced upward as the tall light posts flicked on, illuminating the field. That meant there were only fifteen minutes left of practice. Scorpius could do this—he just needed to focus. He owed it to his team to be present and to give it his all, especially after watching Lakeview’s game. Blaze had been pushing them even harder, putting them through rigorous drills and being more critical of them even since they witnessed Lakeview’s victory over Ridgeway.

He was about to turn back around, away from the goal, when Blaze called him over. Preparing for the critique that was sure to come, Scorpius took a deep breath and jogged over to him.

“Your form is absolute shit today,” Blaze said, his eyes burning. “Remember what I told you? Do whatever you want with whoever you want, just don’t let it impact your game. It’s affecting your game right now, Scorpius. Fix it.”

“I know,” he defended. “It won’t happen again.”

Blaze nodded, then threw the ball back into play, not bothering to dismiss him. Taking the hint, Scorpius sprinted back onto the field and pushed all thoughts of Albus from his mind—Blaze was right. He couldn’t afford to be distracted while he was supposed to be practicing.

He ran hard, intercepting the ball from Karl and maneuvering it past the other mid-fielders. Eve was sprinting behind him, a shadow after the ball, and he pushed himself harder, speeding up and glancing around to see where the defense was. Vic and Gordon were approaching so he passed it off to Tim, then ran past them, trying to get clear. His mind began to wander again and he mentally slapped himself, as he was almost offsides. Scorpius forced himself to concentrate.

Vic and Gordon surrounded Tim and he passed the ball back to Becca, who stayed in control of it for a few paces before kicking it up to Scorpius once Eve gained on her. Moving quickly and relying upon instinct, Scorpius remained in possession of the ball, darting around Gordon, then passed it off to Tim once he was open.

A deep breath was released from his lungs as Tim scored and he put his hands on his knees, catching his breath. Blaze shot Scorpius a nod of approval, then announced the end of practice.

As it was Scorpius and Eve’s turn to clean up the field, he stayed back, watching as the rest of the team disappeared into the locker rooms. Tim, thankfully, didn’t say anything about Scorpius’s performance, though he knew that he wanted to. He must have figured that Blaze’s scolding was enough.

He started picking up the cones they’d used for drills, Eve picking up the ones a few feet away. His sweat cooled on his skin as the brisk night air surrounded them and he raised his arm to wipe his face off on his sleeve.

“Wanna talk about it?” Eve asked, glancing over at him.

Scorpius sighed, stacking the cones. “There’s not much to talk about. I just don’t know what to do about Albus.”

She nodded, obviously already having guessed it was about him. “Well, if it helps, he’s into you.”

“I don’t know what he wants, though,” Scorpius said. “He’s difficult to read.”

“Have you tried asking him?”

Scorpius quickly shook his head. “That seems too presumptuous.”

Eve hummed, kicking a cone over, then using her foot to pick it up. “What do you want from him? Do you want to be his boyfriend?”

He paused, looking down at the cones in his hands. Eve continued on, picking up cones, but stopped once she realized Scorpius had. Her expression softened and she walked over to him.

“I think I do,” he murmured. “I’m just nervous. I’ve never been in a relationship before and he seems so experienced. What if I screw it up?”

Eve smiled. “Then you screw it up and you’ll figure out a solution. You’ll never know unless you give it a shot, though, and I’ve never known Albus Potter to care this much about anyone outside his family. Even when he was hanging out with other people, he didn’t really care about them—he was distant. He’s seemed to latch onto you, though.”

Scorpius’s heart fluttered and he felt his cheeks warm. Noticing his blush, Eve laughed and wrapped her arms around him, knocking his cones out of the way and hugging him tightly. They were both sweaty and Eve was shorter than him, but he tucked his chin over her head and hugged her back. She was strong and unwavering in his arms and when they both pulled back, she was beaming at him.

“You stink, Scorpius.” She grabbed his cones from him, then gestured toward the parking lot. “Loverboy’s car just pulled in. Go shower and change, I can finish this up.”

He followed Eve’s gaze and saw the gray BMW. Heart pounding, he turned back toward her. “Are you sure? I can help you, Al wouldn’t mind—”

“Go away, Scorpius,” she said, grinning. “You’re doing me a favor, you’ll make me pass out with that stench.”

Scorpius laughed, feeling his heart soar with affection for her, then jogged over to the locker room. He showered in record time and ignored Adam’s wiggling eyebrows and wolf whistles.

“Get ‘em, Tiger,” Adam said, clapping him on the back.

He blushed, shoving his clothes into his bag. “Shut up.”

Slamming his locker shut, he heard Blaze shout “Fix it!” as he left and he raised his arm, giving him a thumbs-up. Of course he wasn’t sure that he would, at least not that night, but it would sort itself out eventually. For the time being, he was looking forward to Lola’s and to seeing Albus again.

As usual, Albus was leaning against the hood of his car and a smile spread across his face as Scorpius approached. His hair was damp and curling at his ears and the nape of his neck, but still messy as ever.

“Food?” He raised his brows.

Scorpius nodded. “Food.”

He slung his bag in the backseat of the car and basked in the knowledge that this was familiar to him—everything from Albus’s cologne to the gentle purr of the powerful engine was familiar and it made Scorpius’s chest warm. Yes, he was certain that he wanted Albus and that, if Albus was willing, he wanted a romantic relationship. It was nerve-wracking and made his stomach churn, but he knew that it was true.

Glancing at Albus as he pulled out of the parking lot, Scorpius wondered if Albus felt the same way. He knew that Albus felt something, otherwise he wouldn’t show up every day after practice and drive Scorpius home. It had become almost a routine for them and Scorpius wasn’t sure how it had even begun.

“You’ll never guess the prank Fred and James pulled today during lunch,” Albus said, grinning, as he steered them toward Lola’s.

Scorpius listened, his heart warm and a smile on his face.

Chapter Text

Saturday morning was overcast, the clouds gloomy and churning, cloaking the sun. Nevertheless, Scorpius changed into a pair of sweatpants and threw on a hoodie, tucking his phone and keys into his pocket and threading his earbuds beneath his top, letting them hang from the neckline. He felt antsy and his thoughts were racing through his mind, remnants of a dream that left him unnerved. Though he couldn’t remember what it had been about, its effects still lingered.

His parents were sitting in the living room and they both looked up as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

“I’ll be back later—I’m just going for a jog.”

“Bring an umbrella,” Astoria suggested.

Scorpius grinned and shook his head. “I can’t jog with an umbrella, Mom.”

“Well, be careful,” Draco said. “It looks like it’s going to rain soon. I don’t want you to catch a cold.”

“I’ll be okay,” he said, shooting them a reassuring smile.

As he walked down his driveway, he saw Rose getting the mail across the street. He waved and her and she waved back, walking to the end of her own driveway.

“You can’t seriously be going running now,” Rose said, looking worried, yet amused. “It looks like it’ll start pouring at any moment.”

Scorpius shrugged. “A bit of rain won’t kill me.”

Though she looked skeptical, she merely shook her head, a smile on her face, and headed back up toward her house. Scorpius put in his earbuds, then started down the street at a slow jog. It was cloudy, yes, but he didn't mind the rain.

His steps echoed on the sidewalk and drowned out his thoughts, allowing him to focus on the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other. He hadn’t realized he’d started running faster until his breaths became more labored and his legs began to burn.

It was a good burn, one he was familiar with and one that made sense to him—they burned because he was exerting those muscles. Scorpius wished that everything else made sense so simply, that cause and effect were always so clear. He listened to his breaths and focused on the rhythm of his body, the pumping of his arms and the sureness of each step he took. The sky rumbled, but he ignored it, instead focusing on his movements, how they were something he had control over.

The rain started out as a drizzle, misting over Scorpius’s skin, then came down harder, washing away his sweat and trickling through his hair. He watched the concrete before him, only caring that he didn’t slip or step into a puddle. Scorpius wiped his face on the sleeve of his hoodie, getting the rain and sweat out of his eyes, and pushed himself harder.

When he was running he didn’t need to think about anything. Soccer, Southview, Lakeview, nationals, school, Albus, his teammates, his parents, it all faded to the back of his mind, left in his dust.

The water was cold against his hot skin and Scorpius relished in the liberating feeling of running through the rainfall. He didn’t pay attention to where he was running, he just knew that he was in their neighborhood. There was no set destination—he went in whichever direction meant he didn’t need to slow down.

Cars zoomed past him on the road, their windshield wipers splashing water onto him, but he didn’t care—he was wet anyway, it didn’t matter. His clothes were thoroughly soaked and if it were warmer, he would have taken off his hoodie, as it was weighing him down.

Thunder rumbled once more, deafening despite the music playing in Scorpius’s earbuds. He pulled them out and stuffed them into his pocket with his phone, not wanting them to be exposed to the rain—somehow, his pocket was still dry.

The smell of rain on asphalt was heady and that combined with the steady rhythm of his breaths and footsteps, with the numbness of his legs and the ache in his feet, kept Scorpius going. He was at a full-on sprint now, running as if his life depended upon it, and he had never felt so free. He felt as if he was going so fast he was flying and the rain and wind whipped at his cheeks and hair, making him squint to see properly.

Scorpius didn’t recognize his surroundings, but he didn’t worry too much—he had a GPS and could use it if he were truly lost. All that mattered was that he kept running, kept sprinting, kept urging himself on faster. His legs were a blur beneath him and his feet pounded against the cement as he pushed off against the ground even harder with each step he took.

Scor!”

The sound of his name being called jerked him back to reality and he slowed down, panting, searching for the source. He realized that he was a couple of miles away from his house. Through the rain, Scorpius could see a figure running toward him from a dark car.

Al?” He asked, dumbfounded. Struggling to catch his breath, he put his hands behind his head and walked toward him, confused. “What are you doing?” He asked, raising his voice so Albus could hear him.

“What am I doing? What are you doing?” Albus’s eyes were wide and he stopped before Scorpius, catching his breath. “You’re running like a bat out of hell in the middle of a thunderstorm!” He ran his fingers through his hair, not seeming to care that he was getting soaked. Droplets of water caught in his eyelashes, making them appear thicker and darker. “Rose told me you were jogging in this, so I came to get you before you got struck by lightning!”

They stared at one another, catching their breath. Scorpius wiped the rainwater out of his eyes, gaping at Albus. “You went out into the rain just to find me?” He asked, his voice full of incredulity.

Yes. You’ll catch a cold, you dumbass!” Albus looked worried and frustrated and he was now drenched, looking rather like a drowned puppy, but Scorpius had never been more attracted to him.

Scorpius grinned, unable to help himself. “You’re an idiot,” he informed Albus, despite the fact that he was the one who had gone jogging during a storm.

Albus’s eyes widened. “I’m the idiot? I can’t—”

Taking courage from whatever adrenaline was coursing through him, Scorpius leaned forward and grabbed Albus by the front of his sweatshirt, swallowing whatever he had been about to say. Albus froze, but quickly caught on, reaching up to curl his hand around the back of Scorpius’s neck and pull him closer.

Albus’s mouth was hot and wet against his and he smelled of rain and cologne. The kiss was searing and their mouths slotted together perfectly, as they were the same height. Scorpius could feel Albus’s heart thudding beneath his knuckles and he pulled back to catch his breath. Instantly, Albus dragged him back into another kiss, tangling his fingers in Scorpius’s hair and bringing his other hand down to cradle his jaw.

Every nerve in Scorpius’s body was singing and his chest felt swollen with happiness. Albus was warm and solid in his arms and Scorpius had never felt such an aching desire to never stop kissing someone. He uncurled his fingers from where they had been gripping Albus’s sweatshirt and instead cradled Albus’s cheek, tracing the planes of his cheek and jaw, sliding through his hair and around to the back of his neck. He felt lightheaded and drunk off of Albus and when they finally pulled away, Albus’s eyes were dilated.

Panting for breath, they stared at one another, still caught in their embrace, and at the same time, smiles stretched across their faces. Scorpius grinned, wondering if he had truly just kissed Albus, and Albus laughed, an expression of pure joy on his face.

“About fucking time,” Albus muttered, pressing a fierce kiss to Scorpius’s mouth.

“I’ve wanted to do that since the first time I saw you, in the parking lot at Lakeview,” Scorpius admitted, drinking in the sight of Albus, sopping wet, his lips swollen.

Albus grinned, brushing his thumb across Scorpius’s bottom lip. “So have I. I didn’t want to push you, though.”

Thunder rumbled once more and Albus swore, pulling away. He grabbed Scorpius’s hand, dragging him along as he jogged to his car—Scorpius had forgotten that it was raining. He allowed Albus to shove him into the passenger seat, shutting the door behind him, and watched as Albus sprinted around to get in on his side. Compared to outside, the car was utterly silent.

Towels were already draped across the seats, as if Albus had hastily arranged them there before coming to find Scorpius. Inside the car, Scorpius shivered and wrapped his arms around himself. Noticing that, Albus cranked up the heat, then began driving.

“I still can’t believe you took a look at the sky today and thought it would be the perfect day for a jog,” Albus said, shaking his head. “I must’ve called you at least ten times.”

“You’re cute when you’re worried,” Scorpius murmured, a small smile on his face.

He watched as a blush crept up Albus’s neck, settling on his cheeks. The fact that he had the ability to make Albus blush would never fail to amaze him. They were both quiet as Albus drove and Scorpius found himself staring at Albus for most of it. Every once in a while, Albus’s eyes would flick over to him and they’d both glance away, blushing.

Scorpius didn’t question where they were going and once the car stopped, he was vaguely surprised that they were at Albus’s house. He shot a questioning look toward Albus, who shrugged.

“It’s closer than your house. I figured you’d want to shower and change into something dry.” They both jogged through the rain toward the front door, despite the fact that they were already wet. “Everyone’s at brunch, so you don’t have to worry about introductions.”

“Thank god,” Scorpius muttered. “Can you imagine if I met your parents like this? Sopping wet.”

Albus grinned and unlocked the door, then led the way up toward his bedroom. “I doubt they’d care, honestly. My parents are pretty easygoing. My mom would probably give you a high-five for having the balls to go running in this weather.”

Inside Albus’s room, it was warm and Scorpius felt awful, just standing there, dripping onto the floor. Albus handed Scorpius a towel, then led him to the bathroom.

“Are you sure?” Scorpius asked, eyeing Albus, who was shivering. “Aren’t you cold too?”

“Yes, but I didn’t think you’d be comfortable with us sharing a shower,” he said dryly.

Scorpius’s cheeks flooded with heat. “I meant you could shower first, if you want. I don’t mind.”

Albus shook his head, pushing Scorpius into the bathroom. “You were out there for longer than I was. Besides, your lips are turning blue and you’re shaking. You take first shower.”

Not willing to argue, he murmured, “Thanks.”

He closed the bathroom door behind them, then looked in the mirror. Albus was right—he looked horribly pale. Scorpius put his phone, keys, and earbuds on the counter, amazed that they had stayed miraculously dry, then peeled off his soaked clothes, his teeth chattering.

Stepping into the shower, he twisted the knob and sighed in pleasure as the hot water hit his skin. His legs were sore and his skin felt raw from the cold, but the shower did wonders to warm him up. He used the first body wash he saw, smiling to himself upon realizing he’d smell like Albus, and was massaging shampoo into his hair when there was a knock at the door. Scorpius peeked out from behind the shower curtain as Albus appeared in the doorway.

“Sorry, I just thought you’d want some dry clothes.” He put a stack of folded clothes on the counter, then laughed when he saw Scorpius’s hair. “Digging the new look,” he teased.

Scorpius grinned, flipping him off as he disappeared again, closing the door. He rinsed off quickly and it took an immense amount of willpower to turn the hot water off. As Scorpius dried himself off, he looked at the clothes Albus had brought him—it was boxer-briefs, a pair of sweatpants, and a soft, dark green knit sweater with the letter A on it. He dressed quickly, not wanting to make Albus wait for any longer, and put his belongings into the pockets of the sweatpants, scooping his damp clothes off the floor.

As Albus showered, he waited for him on his bed, sprawled out and looking at the pictures on his walls. His mind kept wandering back to their kiss and he couldn’t help the warmth that unfurled in his chest or the smile that crept onto his face.

The water cut off and a few moments later, Albus appeared in the doorway, the towel slung low around his hips. Scorpius’s eyes followed droplets of water as they fell from his hair, then trickled down his chest, down his defined abdomen, down the faint trail of hair bridging his navel and the start of the towel. He felt his cheeks flush and turned away to face the wall, giving Albus privacy.

“I don’t care if you look, you know,” Albus said. Scorpius could hear him opening and closing the doors to his dresser.

Scorpius turned back around. Albus was wearing a pair of sweatpants now, similar to the ones Scorpius was in, and he was watching Scorpius. As he towel-dried his hair, Scorpius watched hard muscle shift and flex beneath his skin. He pulled on a fleecy gray sweater, then flopped down next to Scorpius on the bed, turning so they were laying facing each other.

“I wasn’t sure you were into me,” Albus confessed quietly, reaching up to brush Scorpius’s hair out of his eyes. “I didn’t expect you to ever make a move.”

Scorpius snorted softly, bumping his knee against Albus’s. “How could I not be into you?” They shared a smile and tangled their legs together—warmth radiated off of Albus. “And, honestly, I didn’t think I’d make a move either.”

“Why not?” He asked quietly, looking up at Scorpius through his dark lashes.

Scorpius shrugged. “It seemed too complicated, I suppose.”

They were quiet for a while and Scorpius gazed at Albus. His eyes traced the gentle slope of his nose, the faint freckles that dotted it, the full shape of his lips. Everything about him was perfect. Scorpius reached up to brush his thumb across Albus’s cheekbone and green eyes flicked up to meet his.

Albus reached up to intercept Scorpius’s hand, holding it within his own and slotting their fingers together. His skin was warm and his palm was calloused and Scorpius hadn’t been aware that one could derive such comfort from a gesture so simple.

“Be my boyfriend,” Albus murmured, his eyes drinking in Scorpius.

Scorpius grinned, then leaned forward to brush a kiss against Albus’s lips. “If you insist.”

Chapter Text

Scorpius flipped through his Economics notes, familiarizing himself with them before class started. He didn’t look up as someone slid into the desk beside him, too busy trying to absorb the information—most of his weekend had been spent with Albus, eating at Lola’s or going to the movies, mainly to stay out of the rain. Being forced to stay inside and not being able to practice had nearly driven him mad, but Albus was a good distraction.

“Did you fix it?”

Surprised, Scorpius glanced up to see Blaze looking at him intently. His brows were raised and, for once, he was sitting in the front of the room instead of the back, where it was easier to socialize.

“Fix what?” Scorpius asked. Blaze gave him a look and Scorpius let out an ‘oh’ of comprehension, then smirked. “Yes, I fixed it.”

Blaze nodded, pleased, then pulled out his notebook—Scorpius appreciated that he didn’t ask questions, he just trusted Scorpius and let him do his own thing. He barely avoided being bombarded by questions by Eve, Adam, and Tim during Calculus and he knew that he would be cornered by them during lunch. For now, though, he could enjoy Blaze’s disinterest in his love life.

“Good. I have some plays I want to run by you. Tim and I worked over them this weekend and want to practice them today after school.”

Leaning over, Scorpius was relieved to be focusing back on soccer again. Blaze showed him the diagrams he’d sketched into his notebook, using his pen as he explained the logistics of each one. Though soccer put pressure on Scorpius, it was only because he was so passionate about it. He didn’t want to ever go more than a few days without being on the field.

“If we want this one to work on Lakeview, Tim and I need to do more drills centered on our aim,” Scorpius said, pointing to Blaze’s notes. “James guards by studying our shots throughout the game to predict where we’ll shoot, so we’ll have to work on it during practices and only pull it out during our match with Lakeview. That’s the only way he won’t see it coming.”

Blaze nodded in agreement. “You guys can work on aiming and feinting—that’s our best shot at scoring on him.”

They continued going through plays until the bell rang, then Blaze leaned back in his seat and tucked his notebook away.

“I’ll show you the rest of them during French,” he offered.

Scorpius smiled—if they kept this up, he truly believed they stood a chance at beating Lakeview. With he, Blaze, and Tim optimistic, the rest of the team was starting to believe it too.

 


 

Eve sidled up to him just as he finished paying for his lunch. He shot her an amused look, then led the way over to their usual table, ignoring her raised brows and expectant expression. Cece had her legs in Adam’s lap and they were debating whether Calculus or Physics was worse, but they both glanced up when Scorpius and Eve took their seats. Even Becca put her phone down to fix an eager expression upon him.

“You guys are awful,” Scorpius announced, unwrapping his sandwich.

“Blaze told us you fixed it,” Cece said carefully. “Are we happy for you or are we preparing to destroy Lakeview in a few months?”

Scorpius sighed, but he couldn’t help the small smile that slid onto his face. “You’re happy for me.”

Adam grinned and Eve wrapped her arm around Scorpius excitedly as Becca and Cece squealed. Scorpius laughed, thankful that his friends were supportive, and was secretly pleased that someone else was just as elated as he was about his new relationship with Albus.

“However,” he said, “we’re still preparing to destroy Lakeview. Blaze and I were going over plays earlier and I have some ideas for the defense to make it harder for Al and Rose to get past you—”

Cece groaned. “You guys are obsessed.”

“And your boyfriend is perfectly fine with you actively plotting against him?” Adam asked, a brow raised.

Scorpius shrugged. “It’s not like he doesn’t know. Plus, he’s actively plotting against me, so it’s even. We just don’t talk about the game.”

“Aren’t you scared about what will happen after the match?” Becca wondered.

Eve waved her off. “Let him be happy. Besides, that’s months away. I’m sure they’re both mature enough to be supportive of one another no matter what the outcome is,” she said confidently.

“Exactly,” Scorpius said, shooting Eve a grateful smile.

“You just made Vic about twenty bucks, by the way,” Eve said, twirling spaghetti around her fork. “Everyone in the pool but him bet that you’d chicken out and nothing would happen with you and Albus.”

Scorpius raised his brows. “You guys were betting on me?”

Eve waved him off. “Only a few people. Besides, now that you’ve made him some money, Vic won’t let any mids anywhere near you on the field and he’ll probably relay the ball to you whenever he gets the chance.”

Scorpius hummed softly, a mixture of annoyance and amusement warring within his chest at the thought of his teammates betting on him. Nonetheless, he supposed that it would work out in his favor if Eve was right about Vic—he was a formidable defender.

“Oh, right,” Scorpius said, remembering what he had been saying, “Blaze and I were working on some plays for you guys, Cece.” He took a bite of his sandwich, swallowing quickly, ignoring their grumbling about his changing of the subject. “Rose and Al tend to take the ball down the sides of the field before sweeping the ball toward the center, so if Vic and Gordon can clear it out and pass to you guys before they have a chance to shoot, I think we’ll stand a better chance at keeping Blaze idle.”

“Obsessed,” Adam declared.

 


 

That night, once practice was over, Scorpius showered and changed quickly, barely drying his hair before he was heading toward the parking lot. Adam let out wolf whistles as he left and Scorpius didn’t bother looking back. He merely held up his middle finger and shook the excess water out of his hair.

The previous bliss he had basked in upon being able to practice again faded to the back of his mind once he saw Albus. His boyfriend—god, that sounded nice—was wearing joggers and a Lakeview sweatshirt. The neckline of the sweatshirt was damp and Scorpius grinned upon realizing that Albus had been in just as much of a rush as he had.

“Hey,” Scorpius called out, grinning.

Albus’s expression mirrored his own as he pushed himself off the side of his car, intercepting Scorpius. His fingers combed through the hair at the back of Scorpius’s head as he pulled him in for a gentle kiss. The mere feeling of Albus’s lips against his sent a jolt all the way down to Scorpius’s toes and he felt his smile widen.

“Not tired of me yet, huh?” Scorpius breathed, his eyes drinking in Albus’s flushed cheeks, the faint freckles dusted over his nose.

“Mm-mm,” Albus hummed, pecking Scorpius on the lips one last time before releasing him. “You’re out of luck.”

They climbed into the car and Albus turned down his music before backing out of the lot. As he drove, he steered with his left hand and reached over the gearshift with his right to thread his fingers with Scorpius’s, their hands resting in Scorpius’s lap. It made his heart thrum and his cheeks hurt.

Lola’s?” Albus asked, brushing his thumb against Scorpius’s.

“Do you even need to ask, at this point?”

Albus chuckled. Scorpius tended to avoid looking out the windows as Albus drove, as he seemed to view the speed limit as more of a friendly suggestion than a law. Instead, he looked at Albus, responded to notifications on his phone, or allowed himself to zone out.

It wasn’t that Albus wasn’t a good driver—he was. He was very good driver, actually. It was the fact that he loved to drive fast, loved to weave in and out of lanes and accelerate on open road, his clever eyes scanning everything. He was a speed demon. It reminded Scorpius of why Rose and Lucy were hesitant to let him drive alone.

“You make me nervous,” Scorpius murmured, shaking his head fondly.

Albus grinned and brought their joined hands up, brushing his lips against Scorpius’s knuckles. “Sorry.” He didn’t need to ask what Scorpius was referring to.

They gradually slowed down so they were cruising with the other cars on the road. His muscles slowly relaxed and he slouched back into the seat.

“How have you not gotten a ticket yet?”

Albus shrugged. “I’m careful. Plus, I know all the usual places the cops like to hide and wait.” He smirked and took his hand off the wheel for a moment to tap his temple. “I’m not that reckless. Trust me.”

“I do,” Scorpius said.

Albus smiled.

Chapter Text

As soon as the game ended, Scorpius let out a deep breath and grinned, putting his hands on his knees. They had won, six to one, and he had scored three of those. He glanced up to the stands to see his parents cheering, his dad with his fists in the air and his Southview cap on, beaming with pride. Before he could look for Albus, someone was crashing into him and he was quickly engulfed in a team hug.

Despite his groaning, Tim and Vic kept their arms around him, bearing the brunt of the force as the rest of their teammates smashed into them. Eve, Tim, and Karl were howling up at the setting sun and Blaze was laughing, carefree and happy. Scorpius grinned, feeling his heart swell with fondness for his teammates.

“Afterparty at my place,” Cece announced, “no dates! You hear me, Blaze?”

“That’s not fair, your boyfriend’s on the team,” Blaze protested.

Adam wiggled his eyebrows at Blaze and planted a wet smooch on Cece’s cheek. Before Blaze could object further, Cece cut him off.

“You’re getting free alcohol, Zabini. Take it or leave it.” Her grin was already victorious.

Scorpius laughed, resigning himself to Cece’s will. Tim ruffled Scorpius’s hair, then let out one last, long howl, Karl, Eve, and Adam joining in. Scorpius felt alive and remembered why he spent so much time practicing: it was for this. For these little victories and for these memories with his team. With adrenaline surging through his veins, he genuinely believed they had a shot at beating Lakeview.

As a collective unit, they all hugged one another more tightly, so tightly it hurt, before letting go and jogging to meet the other team at half-field to shake hands. Scorpius pushed the sleeves of his uniform up to his shoulders, cooling off, and sought out Albus in the stands once more.

He was standing with James and Fred, laughing at something one of them had said, his head tilted back and his smile wide. His eyes were bright when they met Scorpius’s, as if feeling the weight of his stare, and he shot him a wink. Scorpius grinned and winked back, reminded of a similar wink a few weeks ago.

“No dates,” Cece reminded him, amusement lacing her voice, as they walked back to their side of the field. “He can come to the next one.”

“Yes, Mom.”

Cece shoved him playfully, then grabbed his arm and pulled it over her shoulder. Eve ran up to them then did the same on Scorpius’s other side and soon enough, the entire team had formed a wall as they trudged back to their equipment. Scorpius’s chest was warm.

 


 

Once the game was over, Scorpius caught a ride with Tim to Cece’s place. Blaze nabbed shotgun, so he sat in the back with Karl, who looked increasingly more nervous. Scorpius raised a brow and nudged Karl with his shoulder.

“You okay?” He asked quietly.

Karl smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, it’s just, uh…it’s just this is my first time going to a party. You know, like, a real party. Not, like, a birthday party or something.”

Scorpius shot him a reassuring look. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Besides, it’s just us. You’ve got nothing to prove to us, okay?”

He nodded, looking a little relieved. “I’ve never drank before, you know.”

Tim turned his head to glance at Karl. “I didn’t drink until freshman year either. You’re in good company.”

Karl was more relaxed for the rest of the ride, gradually becoming his typical talkative self. Scorpius couldn’t help but smile fondly as Karl interrogated Blaze on his multiple on-and-off girlfriends.

Adam, Cece, Becca, Eve, and Daisy were already at the house upon their arrival. Cece lived about twenty minutes away from Scorpius in a neighborhood similar to his own and gave them a quick tour while they waited for Vic and Gordon. The two boys showed up with chasers and a few bags of chips and quickly began making drinks.

While the rest of the team made themselves comfortable in the living room, Scorpius padded into the kitchen. They both glanced up when he entered and Vic grinned.

“Never got to thank you for the twenty bucks you won me,” he said. “Whether you knew it or not.”

Scorpius smiled wryly. “Anytime.”

“Half the team was convinced you were straight and the other half was convinced you and Potter were never gonna happen,” Gordon said. “Lucky for him, Vic’s an eternal optimist.”

“Shut up,” Vic growled, though his tone lacked bite. “Someone’ll hear you.”

Scorpius laughed and joined the two boys at the counter, helping them pour out drinks. “Your secret’s safe with me.”

“Knew you were worth rooting for,” Vic smirked, ruffling Scorpius’s hair before carrying out drinks to the rest of the team. Amusement coursed through him as he realized that his entire team had an affinity for messing up his hair.

“Glad to have another gay on the team again,” Gordon said, beaming at Scorpius before following Vic out of the room with more drinks.

Scorpius was about to follow them out when his phone buzzed in his pocket. He had a text from Albus.

[ lmk if u need a ride home tonight. stay safe (: ]

His heart swelled and he quickly typed out a reply.

[ Will do. I wish you were here. ]

[ that’s ok have fun w ur teammates. we can hang out tomorrow if u want ]

[ Sounds like a plan! ]

[ <3 ]

He slid his phone back into his pocket, still smiling, and grabbed the last of the drinks as he joined his teammates in the living room. They were all sitting in a circle, some on the couch and some on the floor, and he passed the remaining drinks out, keeping one for himself. Blaze had taken out his speaker and was playing music and Becca was advising Karl and Daisy to drink slowly and to stop if they didn’t feel comfortable.

Scorpius settled down between Eve and Tim on the floor and sipped his drink, tuning into the conversation. Eve leaned back against him and Tim knocked their knees together, grinning and nudging Scorpius’s cup with his own before taking a sip.

“—only rule is no soccer,” Cece declared, making purposeful eye contact with Blaze, then Scorpius. “Otherwise, the perps have to run ten laps on Monday.”

Scorpius grinned, about to agree, but Daisy piped up before he could.

“Okay, that’s not even fair, Scorpius loves to run,” she remarked.

“Ugh, you’re right,” Cece grumbled. “Okay, perps have to sit out of Monday’s practice.”

Everyone but Scorpius and Blaze agreed—even Tim, the traitor. A game of “spin the truth or dare” somehow began, a game which Scorpius had never played before. From what he gathered, it was a mixture of spin the bottle and truth or dare in which a person spun a bottle and got to ask a truth or dare to the person the bottle landed on. He was perfectly content to sit back and sip his vodka and sprite and soak up the juicy information on his teammates.

The bottle was currently on Blaze and Becca was grilling him, causing Cece to throw her head back in laughter, her legs draped over Adam’s and her arm over his shoulders.

“Oh, come on, that’s not even embarrassing,” Becca insisted. “You’ve got to answer truthfully.”

“Fine,” Blaze bit out. He thought for a moment, all focus upon him, and took a long sip of his drink. Eventually, he let out a soft chuckle, then grinned. “Okay, it was in sophomore year. I was at one of Piper’s parties.”

“Oh, man,” Tim cackled, “I already know what you’re gonna say.”

“I was really drunk, this was only like the fourth or fifth time I’d ever drank. Anyways, I got way too drunk, so drunk that Piper called me an Uber home. I was in the Uber trying to act sober for what felt like hours when suddenly I felt like puking. I was too scared to open my mouth and tell the driver I was gonna puke because then he’d know, you know? I was paranoid as hell. So instead of asking him to pull over, I threw the door open, launched myself out of the car, rolled halfway down the sidewalk, crawled into some random person’s yard, ignoring the Uber driver shouting at me, curled up in a bush, and vomited my guts out. Turns out I vomited in Piper’s yard and we had barely even been driving—he was just turning around to leave the cul de sac. Almost half the people at the party saw me dive out of a car I’d just gotten into and immediately vomit into Piper’s mom’s rose garden.”

Everyone was cracking up and Scorpius wiped tears from his eyes as he laughed, proceeding to laugh even harder upon hearing Karl snort and seeing Adam silently slap his knee, looking like a silent seal. Blaze chuckled and finished off his drink as Tim caught his breath, raising his cup toward him.

“Here’s to you kissing goodbye your career as a stuntman,” he panted, wiping his tears off on the sleeve of his shirt. “Man, I still remember that.”

“Piper couldn’t even be pissed, she was so shocked,” Eve finally said.

“There, I said it, it’s done. If any of you fuckers try to blackmail me, you’re dead, Blaze announced, though he was grinning. “My turn to spin now.”

The bottle landed on Daisy. “Truth or dare?”

“Dare.”

Blaze’s grin was wicked. “I dare you to recreate the ‘welcome to chili’s’ vine and post it on your story.”

They all began roaring once more and Scorpius and Tim slung their arms over one another’s shoulders, shaking with laughter. Cece got up to show Daisy where the bathroom was and they all waited, a chuckle or giggle escaping each of them upon hearing Daisy down the hall. A few minutes later, she shouted at them to check her story. This prompted even more laughter and Adam begged her to save the video and send it to them in the team group chat.

As the bottle continued to spin, Scorpius took in the room. He and Tim were leaning against one another, arms over each other’s shoulders, and Eve was laying on the ground, using Scorpius’s knee as a pillow. Cece was sprawled in Adam’s lap and he was gazing up at her as she laughed at something Becca said. Beside them, Blaze chugged his drink, letting loose for the first time that Scorpius could remember, and on the other side of him, Vic and Gordon were snuggled together, Gordon’s face buried in his boyfriend’s neck as he hid his own grin. Karl and Daisy were on the floor, cracking up as Karl snorted into his cup, splashing his drink all over his face.

Looking at his team, at the 10 people who had so quickly become his best friends, Scorpius felt his heart warm. If he hadn’t thought so before, he now knew that Southview was his new home. He wouldn’t give it up for anything.

Chapter Text

Albus’s old BMW was parked outside Scorpius’s house, dimly illuminated by the streetlights and the moon. Darkness had fallen much earlier, right as Scorpius’s practice had ended, and they had eaten at Lola’s and gone to see a movie before Albus dropped him off.

Though it had been a long week filled with group projects and quizzes, it all fell away when Scorpius was with Albus. All he saw were bright green eyes and a smile like a comet.

Shadows cast across his face, Albus reached forward and brushed his thumb across Scorpius’s cheekbone, threading his fingers through his hair. His hand slowly fell to cup his jaw and Scorpius watched as Albus’s eyes traveled across his face—taking in his pale hair, brows, eyes, down the slope of his nose, across his cheeks, skated along his jaw, then landed upon his lips. Scorpius gulped and tilted his head forward slightly as Albus leaned in to kiss him.

Scorpius knew he would never tire of this. Ever. Kissing Albus made his blood hot, his skin buzz, and his head light. It was almost an out-of-body experience. With his eyes closed, all he was aware of was Albus’s warm mouth and his fingertips gently tracing the invisible lines framing his face.

Desperate to ground himself, feeling as if he may float away, Scorpius surged forward. One hand curled around the back of Albus’s neck, fingertips knotting in his hair, and the other splayed across the hard planes of Albus’s chest, feeling the dips and curves of his abdomen before twisting into the soft material of his t-shirt. Albus hummed, a sound that vibrated down Scorpius’s throat, and they smiled into the kiss at the same time.

Scorpius was hyperaware of Albus’s hand as it traveled down his neck, over his chest, across his ribs, then ducked beneath his shirt. His fingers were cold and Scorpius hissed and tensed up. Laughing softly, Albus kissed the corner of Scorpius’s mouth, then ran his fingertips up and down Scorpius’s spine, then traced his shoulder blade. Feeling his lids grow heavy, Scorpius prodded Albus’s nose with his own, then captured his mouth once more.

Feeling like he was missing out, Scorpius followed Albus’s lead and slid his fingers beneath Albus’s shirt. Albus’s lips fell open as he winced against the cold and Scorpius merely grinned, then nudged Albus’s tongue with his own. Albus let out a soft noise of approval and Scorpius delighted in the fact that Albus tasted like the blue vanilla Icee he’d had at the movies.

Albus’s skin was hot and smooth and Scorpius felt as if he couldn’t cover enough ground fast enough. They were both leaning over the middle console now, an awkward angle to be at, but neither noticed, too caught up in the moment. Scorpius flattened his palm against Albus’s skin as his hand roamed over his back, up the neck of his t-shirt to tug gently on his messy hair, then dragged his fingernails lightly down his spine.

Albus groaned softly, then pressed a shiver-inducing kiss to the side of Scorpius’s neck. “Do that again.”

Before Albus, Scorpius had never realized that making out with someone could be so much fun. Or that it would be something he’d want to do literally all the time. It had always seemed like something one did simply because it was expected. If you were dating someone, you were expected to want to make out with them. Of course, it wasn’t as if it had been unpleasant, but Scorpius had never known what it felt like to be desperate to kiss someone, to think about it at random points throughout the day, to look forward to it, to even dream of it. Kissing Albus made him feel more drunk than alcohol ever could.

The situation in his pants was rather painful, begging for acknowledgment or attention, and Scorpius realized that if they didn’t slow down soon, it would become extremely difficult to. Albus seemed to have a similar thought, as their kisses became less desperate, less fierce. Albus pressed a long kiss to Scorpius’s lips, then pulled back.

Slowly, Scorpius opened his eyes. Albus’s eyes were so dilated they looked almost black and Scorpius was certain that his looked the same. They were quiet for a moment and Scorpius realized they were both panting. Albus grinned, then leaned forward to rest his forehead on Scorpius’s shoulder. Their fingers twined together and Scorpius smiled down at their joined hands.

“I wish we could stay like this forever,” Albus murmured, turning his head slightly to follow Scorpius’s line of vision.

“Me too,” Scorpius whispered.

“I wish you didn’t have to get out of the car.” Albus shifted his head to look over Scorpius’s shoulder toward his house. “Your dad would probably kill me if he saw us, huh?”

Scorpius shook his head. “He knows I’m gay and he trusts me to make my own decisions. He’d probably just glare at you. Granted, it would be the most intimidating glare you’ve ever encountered, though. You might cry.”

Albus laughed and pressed a kiss to the side of Scorpius’s neck before sitting up. Scorpius fought to suppress the shiver that shot through his body. Cheeks flushed and lips swollen, bathed in moonlight, Albus was captivating.

“I’ll see you at your game tomorrow,” Scorpius said.

“I’ll be the one racking up points,” Albus said jokingly.

“See, that’s not even funny because it’s true,” Scorpius smirked, tapping his finger against Albus’s chest.

Before Albus could protest, Scorpius pressed a fierce kiss to his mouth, feeling his chest warm when Albus melted into it.

Scorpius could definitely get used to that.

 


 

Lakeview’s game was against Franklin, an out-of-state school. Scorpius arrived with his team early to get seats and saw the other team filing off their bus. Lakeview’s record was one of the best nationally, a few spots higher than Southview’s. Though Blaze and Tim were thrilled about their high spot, no one on the team got to enjoy it, as the two captains were fixated upon Lakeview’s higher score. Scorpius was confident that they would be in the semi-finals, but knew that Lakeview would be too.

“Franklin’s good,” Blaze was saying as they all walked up the bleachers, “not as good as Lakeview, but if they can rack up enough points or keep Albus from scoring as much as he usually does, they might be able to lower Lakeview’s spot on the board.”

“Does that mean we’re rooting for Franklin, then?” Karl asked.

“I’m rooting for Lakeview,” Scorpius asserted.

“There’s a shocker,” Tim said dryly, ruffling Scorpius’s hair. “How’s it going with loverboy?”

Scorpius groaned. “Why are you all calling him that now?”

“Don’t avoid the question,” Eve ordered.

“It’s going really well.”

They sat five in one row and six in the one behind, near the top of the bleachers so that they could see the entire game play out. Blaze had his phone out and was already preparing to take notes on the teams’ technique and players.

“Have you guys had sex yet?” Cece asked.

Scorpius whipped his head around to gape at her, appalled. “We’ve only been going out for a couple of weeks.”

“Still haven’t answered my question.”

No.”

“Have you seen your boyfriend?” Becca asked. “I don’t know how you have the self-control.”

“I hate you all,” Scorpius announced, turning resolutely toward the field. His teammates were all chuckling and deep down, he was amused. “We are not having this discussion.”

“How long did you and Gordon wait?” Cece asked Vic.

“I will shave your eyebrows off,” Gordon deadpanned, leaning around Adam and Vic to stare her down.

Scorpius grinned and tuned out his teammates in favor of watching the field. Franklin’s team was running laps around the perimeter while Lakeview went through drills. He felt a smile slip onto his face upon seeing Albus, energetic and beaming, passing the ball back and forth with Lucy.

Tensions were high from the very start of the game when Franklin’s captain challenged James’s victory during the coin toss. Scorpius’s brows had raised upon watching the captain square his shoulders and step into James’s space, chin high, glaring at him. Though the refs had broken it up quickly, Scorpius was amazed that James had managed to look so calm and collected, even amused.

Albus and Rose only managed to score twice each in the first half, but Franklin played dirty. Scorpius grew worried upon watching the constant bodychecks and tackles and could tell that it was difficult for Lakeview not to fight back. Near the end of the first half, Albus had ran the ball down the field and was prepared to shoot, when out of nowhere a defender pretended to slip beside him, tripping him and kicking the ball out of the box. The whistle was immediately blown and Scorpius shot up, craning his neck to make sure Albus was all right.

Both boys were instantly up and in each other’s faces, noses almost touching, shouting. The defender was sneering and Albus had a thundering expression upon his face. The refs and their teammates jogged over to try to break it up, but not before the defender shoved Albus, causing him to stagger backwards.

“You’re out of here, Jones,” the ref ordered the defender, pointing to the sidelines.

Everyone was watching the commotion and it took the refs a few minutes to separate the players, who had begun to argue amongst themselves.

“This isn’t good,” Scorpius murmured.

Blaze disagreed. “This is perfect.”

During halftime, Scorpius texted Albus, asking if he was all right. He watched as Albus wiped his forehead off on the sleeve of his jersey, then pulled his phone out of his bag. James tossed him a water bottle, which he caught with one hand as he checked his phone. He instantly glanced up toward the stands, then smiled when he saw Scorpius, shooting him a thumbs-up.

Despite Albus’s reassurance, Scorpius wasn’t blind to the hostility gently simmering beneath the surface of the game. As their coaches and captains went through plays, the players of both teams were shooting dirty looks toward the opposite team—Lakeview in defense of Albus and Franklin in defense of Jones.

“Five bucks says we’re in for a classic post-game brawl,” Adam murmured, leaning in so they could all hear.

“Ten says one of the Weasleys starts it,” Tim said. “You see those daggers Lucy and Fred are shooting at Franklin’s defenders? I’m surprised they’re not bleeding yet.”

“I say it’ll be a Potter,” Becca interjected. “Look at Lily—she’s ready to break some skulls.”

“Shut up,” Blaze hissed. “Halftime’s about to end. Pay attention.”

Sure enough, Scorpius watched as the teams switched sides and the second half began. The playing was brutal and both teams barely toed the line between aggression and foul play. Mids ran shoulder-to-shoulder down the field and the strikers and defenders consistently bodychecked each other. Scorpius winced as Rose slammed her shoulder against a defender’s. The refs didn’t call it and she passed the ball to Albus, who scored.

Lakeview was in the lead, but this didn’t mean they were any less angry. Franklin was getting frustrated and Scorpius could already tell that something bad was likely to happen. Franklin’s mids and defenders were targeting Albus now, realizing he was the one with the most goals as well as the one who had gotten Jones a red card. Albus seemed to be quick and agile enough to dodge them and Louis and Lily did everything they could to keep him clear.

Albus was sprinting down the field, trying to get open for Lucy to pass the ball up to him, when a Franklin mid bodychecked him, sending him down. The mid lost his balance and fell on top of Albus, who let out a strangled groan that Scorpius heard from the bleachers.

Instantly, Scorpius’s heart was in his throat and his attention focused in upon Albus, who was sprawled on the field. Most of the players immediately took a knee, but a couple of Franklin players, as well as James, Lily, and Rose, ran up to Albus and the mid. They huddled around the two of them, blocking Scorpius’s view, and only backed up a few inches upon the refs and coaches arriving.

The field was silent, the quiet only broken when the Franklin mid stood. There were a few claps as he limped over to the bench and sat down. His eyes remained on the huddle on the field.

After what felt like hours, everyone in the huddle backed up and Scorpius could see the top of Albus’s head. Everyone began clapping, but Scorpius’s heart pounded in his ears. Albus had his arms over Rose and James’s shoulders and wasn’t able to put any weight on his left foot. His coach and one of the refs were in a heated argument, but Scorpius wasn’t watching them—he was watching Albus.

He didn’t realize he had stood up until he was halfway down the bleachers, ignoring Blaze shouting his name. He ran around the perimeter of the field, to Lakeview’s bench, and met Albus’s eyes. Albus tried to shoot him a comforting smile, but Scorpius ignored it, turning to Rose.

“Is he okay?” He asked, running his fingers through his hair, his heart pounding wildly.

Rose’s brows were furrowed and she shot a worried glance toward Albus. “He can’t walk on his left foot. He insists it’s just a sprain, but it’s starting to swell up pretty badly. One of the refs is getting ice now.”

“I’m fine,” Albus insisted, leaning forward so he could meet Scorpius’s gaze around Rose. “I just need a minute.”

Scorpius shook his head and sat next to him on the bench, looking down at his foot. His cleats, socks, and shinguard were still on, but he could definitely see that it was beginning to swell.

“Is he all right?”

Jogging toward James was a man and a woman who were obviously Albus’s parents—they looked just like their children. Albus’s mom had sleek red hair and bright brown eyes that were wide with worry. His dad looked exactly like him—it was a bit shocking—with vivid green eyes, messy black hair, and a straight nose. He wore round-rimmed glasses and had a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead.

They walked over with James and Scorpius stood, suddenly feeling a bit awkward. This wasn’t how he had envisioned meeting Albus’s parents.

“Mom, Dad, this is Scor,” Albus introduced.

“We’re finally meeting the famous Scor,” his mom said, pulling him into a hug. She smelled flowery and was astoundingly muscular.

Albus’s dad shook his hand and gave him a warm smile. “Nice to meet you, Scor. Call us Harry and Ginny.”

Scorpius was about to respond when a ref blew their whistle. Albus attempted to stand, which was a mistake. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped as the blood drained from his face. He inhaled sharply and Scorpius quickly reached forward to grab him, keeping him from falling. He gently lowered Albus down to the bench.

“There is no way you’re playing,” Scorpius declared. “You’re injured, Al.”

James and Rose shot worried looks toward Albus, but jogged back onto the field when the refs blew their whistles again—it was either play or forfeit the game to Franklin.

Ginny knelt down to look at Albus’s ankle and took the ice pack from the ref when he arrived with it. “This doesn’t look good, Honey.”

“It’ll be fine,” he insisted. “It just needs some ice and rest.”

“I think we should go to the hospital to be safe,” Harry said. “If there’s something wrong with it and you don’t get it treated, you could seriously mess up your ankle, Al.”

Albus was quiet for a long time and Scorpius sat back down on the bench, pressing their arms together. He kept it subtle—he wasn’t sure if Albus’s parents knew about the two of them yet. Finally, Albus nodded.

Ginny jogged ahead to get the car so Albus wouldn’t have to walk as far. Scorpius and Harry each slung one of Albus’s arms over their shoulders and the three of them slowly made their way over to the parking lot. Scorpius knew that Lakeview would win the game for Albus—Rose was a formidable striker and James a daunting goalie and they were both furious. The entire team was furious.

Blaze confirmed the win while Scorpius sat in the backseat with Albus on the way to the emergency room. Lakeview had won by a landslide.

Chapter Text

In Calculus on Monday, Scorpius wasn’t surprised to find that Eve, Adam, and Tim were all looking at him expectantly—he hadn’t responded to any of their texts since the game on Saturday. Blaze was sure to grill him during Economics, provided Tim didn’t fill him in before Scorpius had a chance to.

“How’s Albus?” Eve asked anxiously. “We haven’t heard anything since the game.”

Scorpius sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “We thought it was a sprain at first, but it turns out he fractured his ankle.”

Eve’s hand instantly went up toward her mouth, her eyes wide. Tim’s face was solemn. It was Adam who asked the question that the three of them were wondering:

“Can he play?”

Scorpius looked down at his hands. “He’s out for at least a couple of months. Maybe longer, depending on how it heals and if he actually stays off his foot.”

He knew that his teammates would be thrilled about this—if he hadn’t known Albus personally, he probably would have been too. The look on Albus’s face when the doctor had told him he couldn’t play for at least six weeks was ingrained in Scorpius’s mind. He’d never seen Albus look so lost or distant. Soccer was what he did, it was what gave him a sense of purpose. Scorpius could only imagine what Albus was going through and what he would be going through over the next couple of months.

“How’d he take it?” Eve wondered.

“He hates the splint almost as much as he hates the crutches, but he’s doing okay. He’s been resting and scouring the internet for any home remedies to cure a fractured ankle more quickly.” Scorpius smiled wryly. “He’s still trying to convince someone to practice heading drills with him since he can’t use his feet. The doctors say they can switch him to a boot soon so that he doesn’t have to use the crutches anymore.”

“This might make me a horrible person,” Adam said, “and I’m sorry this happened, but I’m also not because this could be the advantage we need to win nationals and beat out Lakeview. I think this might be our only shot.”

Scorpius was quiet for a while, but he saw Tim and Eve nod in agreement. They were sad for Albus, but hopeful for their chances at nationals, which had just improved exponentially.

“The Wildcard is out of the game for a couple of months,” Tim said finally. “Let’s not waste it.”

 


 

During practice, news of Albus’s injury spread and his teammates did their best not to celebrate too much. Blaze ran his drills with a renewed vigor and the scrimmage at the end of practice was one of the best ones they’d had in a while. With Albus temporarily out of the picture, his teammates finally felt like they had a true shot at pulling ahead. Lakeview would obviously still be at the top of the board, but the odds seemed more even now.

Vic and Gordon approached him in the locker room after practice as he was pulling on his hoodie.

“We’re sorry to hear about Potter,” Vic said sincerely. “He must be pretty bummed about being benched, huh?”

Scorpius nodded. “I don’t know how he’s going to function without really being able to exercise every day like he’s used to.”

This seemed to resonate with both boys, as their faces pulled into one of condolence—they were each built like an ox and Scorpius knew that they tended to hit the gym together before school and after practice.

“Seriously, let us know if you need anything,” Gordon said.

Vic nodded in agreement. “While it’s awesome that he’s not racking up points for a bit, it would’ve been nice to win on our own. Besides, he’s gonna need you and you’re gonna need friends at your back. We’ve got you.”

Scorpius smiled and felt something unfurl within his chest. “Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.”

Vic clapped him on the back and Gordon nodded meaningfully as they headed back to their lockers. Scorpius stood motionless for a moment, marveling at how lucky he was to have such loyal teammates. He was startled back to reality upon hearing Karl squeal Cece’s name.

“Potter’s here for you,” she called out to Scorpius, hovering at the doorway with her hand shielding her eyes—for Karl’s sake more than her own.

Brows furrowed, he glanced up at her. “Al isn’t driving yet—he’s on too many pain meds.”

“Not Albus,” she clarified. “James.”

Scorpius’s brows shot up. He wondered what James was doing at Southview and why both brothers seemed to be so fond of sending his teammates to fetch him. A simple text would have easily sufficed.

“Damn, Scorpius,” Adam said, grinning, “Albus isn’t out for three days and you’re already moving on to the other brother. Cold-blooded.”

“Shut up,” Scorpius grumbled, tossing his towel at Adam.

Curiosity sufficiently piqued, Scorpius slung his bag over his shoulder and left the locker room to find James. He saw a familiar red Lexus in the parking lot. His memory wandered to the first time he had seen Albus, when his boyfriend had leaned against the hood and winked at him. Though it hadn’t been too long ago, Scorpius now couldn’t fathom a life without Albus in some degree.

James’s window was rolled down and he waved at Scorpius as he approached, starting the engine and unlocking the car. Fred was sitting in the passenger seat and he grinned at Scorpius. Realizing that James meant for him to get in the car, he slid into the backseat.

“Al said he was sorry he wasn’t able to pick you up today and he insisted that we grab takeout from Lola’s on the way to our house,” James informed him, meeting his eyes through the rearview mirror. “Is that cool with you?”

Scorpius smiled, unable to help it. “Yeah, that sounds great.” Of course Albus would find a way to carry on their tradition. “Thanks for picking me up.”

“No worries,” James said easily, shooting him a breezy smile.

Fred turned around in his seat to look at Scorpius, resting his arm on the center console. “If you had to decide, would it be better to do lots of little pranks throughout the day or one big one?”

Scorpius mulled it over for a moment. “It would have to depend on the pranks. What would the little ones be?”

James shrugged. “Small stuff like high-fiving everyone with Vaseline on our hands or coating the doorknobs with Vaseline, putting bubble bath in the toilets, putting condoms on the doorknobs, have a water gun war, putting blowup dolls in the teachers’ chairs, you know, just casual pranks.”

It took a lot for Scorpius not to laugh at the mental images that arose. Even so, Fred caught his eye and grinned when he saw Scorpius suppressing his amusement.

“And what would a big prank be?”

James sighed, as if already envisioning it, but an expression of utter glee was on his face. “We’d have to secretly work on it for weeks, but we’d put glow-in-the-dark paint and stickers everywhere, hide some colored lights, then get control of the speakers. That morning, we could pass out glow sticks without telling anyone why, then during third period or something, we’d switch all the lights off, switch the colored lights on, then play music over the speakers. The entire school would turn into a rave.”

Scorpius laughed. “How do you guys come up with these things? And how have you not been expelled yet?”

Fred shrugged, looking smug. “Suspension is as far as they’re willing to go since we’re on the soccer team and we keep our grades pretty high.”

“And we don’t do anything dangerous,” James added. “We think about all the possible outcomes before setting the prank in motion.”

“I think you’re the most responsible pranksters I’ve ever met,” Scorpius mused.

Fred looked appalled. “How dare you call me responsible.”

Lola’s wasn’t too crowded, thankfully, and Dot had their takeout order ready in no time. She made Scorpius promise to tell Albus to get better soon, then patted him on the back and sent him on his way. The drive to the Potters’ house was quick and Scorpius convinced James and Fred that they should go with both ideas on different days. The small pranks first, to lull everyone into a false sense of security once they were over—as well as to give them time to set up the rave—then the big one, as a final bang.

“Maybe Al will help us with the set-up,” James said. “He’ll probably be thrilled to have something to do.”

“How has he been?” Scorpius asked.

Fred shot him a teasing grin. “He’s utterly wrecked, close to death since the last time you saw him. Yesterday. That easily-cured hairline fracture is most definitely threatening his life. You might want to say good-bye while you still can.”

“Drama queen,” James snickered.

Scorpius rolled his eyes, chuckling despite himself. They pulled into the driveway and Scorpius carried the bags of food inside the house while James and Fred grabbed the drinks.

He greeted Lily, Ginny, and Harry, then snagged he and Albus’s food and drinks before heading upstairs, balancing everything precariously in his arms. Prodding Albus’s door open gently with his foot, he couldn’t help but smile upon seeing Albus. He was laying on the bed, foot propped up on a couple of pillows, wrapped up in a soft blanket. One of his arms was thrown over his head, palm up, and the other was fisted in the blanket at his chest. Asleep, with his eyes closed and mouth slightly parted, he looked utterly peaceful.

Scorpius was as quiet as possible, carefully nudging the door closed behind him. He put the food down on Albus’s desk as slowly as he could, cautious not to crinkle the bags too much. Finally, he wiped the condensation from the drinks off on his jeans, then padded over to the bed.

Gently, he sat at the edge of the bed, then brushed Albus’s hair from his forehead, marveling at how young he looked asleep. It smoothed the lines of his face and he exuded an air of innocence. Scorpius brushed his thumb across Albus’s cheek and Albus shifted, his eyes fluttering open slightly. His mouth curved at the corners and he turned his head to the side to press a kiss against Scorpius’s palm.

“You look like an angel,” Albus murmured, his voice coated with sleep. “The light from the streetlights outside the window’s shining ‘round your head.”

Scorpius leaned down to kiss Albus, then helped him sit up in bed, carefully repositioning his left foot. “You’re cute when you sleep.”

Albus scoffed, scooting over to make room for Scorpius. “You say everything I do is cute.”

“Everything you do is cute.”

Their fingers instinctively slotted together over the covers and Albus rested his head against Scorpius, pressing a kiss to his shoulder. Scorpius hadn’t felt so content all day.

“Pass the Lola’s,” Albus said. “I’m hungry.” To emphasize his hunger, he playfully dug his teeth into Scorpius’s shoulder. Laughing, Scorpius shoved at him.

“Menace.”

Albus grinned as Scorpius leaned over to grab the food from the desk. “Sorry I couldn’t pick you up today, by the way. I’m hoping that in a week or so, I’ll be able to switch to over-the-counter meds and I’ll be able to drive again.”

“Lucky it was your left foot,” Scorpius said.

Albus nodded in agreement, digging through the bags and passing Scorpius his food before getting his own. “I realized that I can probably still find a way to practice with my right foot. Or I can practice heading, throws, or maybe even right foot passes.”

Scorpius raised a brow, but didn’t say anything. “As long as you stay off your foot. You don’t want to make it worse.”

“I know, I know.” Albus sighed. “I just feel so useless.”

“You’re not useless,” Scorpius said, snuggling into his side, resting his hand on Albus’s abdomen. “You’re my personal heater.”

Albus smirked at him. “Finally, I’ve found my new purpose in life.”

“A valiant one, at that.”

Laughing, Albus pressed a kiss to Scorpius’s lips, one that made his toes curl and his head swim.

“At least I’m yours.”

Chapter Text

As they couldn’t spend their weekend at the park practicing as they usually did, Scorpius and Al decided to go to the library and study. The previous day, Al got his splint off and switched over to a boot, which allowed him to get rid of his loathed crutches. He was off his pain meds and driving again, which seemed to put him in a better mood.

They claimed a table near a window and though the air outside was frosty, the sun seemed to warm them. Scorpius had just finished an essay for Economics and was working on some practice problems for Calculus. Across from him, Al was slouched in his chair, his face buried in 1984.

Scorpius managed to get through about half the problems on the page before he let out a long sigh, sliding his sheet of paper into the textbook, then letting it slam shut. Al lowered his book, a brow cocked.

With a drawn-out groan, Scorpius leaned his head back and rubbed his hands down his face. “Have I ever mentioned that I hate math?”

Tilting his head to the side, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, Al chuckled. “Maybe once or twice.”

Closing his eyes, Scorpius wished he could will himself into focusing. They had been doing so well at staying on task until his brain had seemingly turned to mush. With his long practices and evenings at Lola’s, he truly did need to concentrate—he hardly had enough time to get his work done as it was.

When he opened his eyes, Al was still watching him. “How’s the book?” He wondered.

Al shrugged, turning the book over to peer at the cover. “Not bad. A bit slow, but it could be worse. He’s got an interesting writing style, which is a plus. The theme seems pretty relevant to today.” He shrugged again, dog-eared the page, then tossed the book onto the table. He leaned forward, grinning, crossing his arms and resting his elbows on the table. “Not as interesting as talking to you, though.”

Scorpius smiled. “Sorry, I don’t mean to distract you.”

“Nevertheless, do continue. I love it when you distract me.”

Raising a brow, he asked, “When have I ever distracted you before?”

“When are you not a distraction should be the real question here.”

Laughing, Scorpius gently knocked his foot against Al’s right one, careful not to touch the boot. “I’m innocent in all this—distraction is never my intention.”

“Too bad,” Al said, wiggling his eyebrows. “I can only imagine the ruin you’d wreak if it were.”

Scorpius realized that at some point he had leaned forward also and that their faces were now only about a foot apart. Wondering when that had occurred, he leaned back again, ignoring Al’s knowing gaze.

“I would’ve pegged you for a math guy,” Al mentioned, gesturing towards Scorpius’s textbook. “You usually like those kinds of things, you know? With a simple, correct, logical answer.”

“I did,” he admitted. “Algebra was kind of fun, I guess. After that, though, it just got way too complicated.” He nudged the book away from him, a look of distaste twisting his features. “None of this is applicable to the real world.”

Al was about to reply, but was interrupted.

“Yo, Cowboy, is that you?” A loud, rough voice called out. They both turned toward the sound, looking up at the boy who approached them.

He had wavy hair bleached white, brown at the roots, and a wide, wild smile. A cigarette was tucked behind his ear and he was wearing a baggy hoodie with burn holes all over. The cuffs were all chewed up and on his fingers were an assortment of clunky rings.

A self-assured, almost lazy grin overtook Al’s features—his entire body language changed to one of utmost confidence, like a predator at ease. It made Scorpius’s heart stutter in a way that couldn’t be described as comfortable.

“Kestrel,” Al greeted him, standing and bumping his offered fist. “I haven’t seen you in a minute.”

“Surprised your little bodyguards aren’t here with you—you ditch ‘em?”

“Rose, Lucy, and James are busy at the moment,” Al said evenly.

Kestrel turned to Scorpius and offered his fist. “Alexei Kestrel,” he introduced.

Scorpius awkwardly knocked his knuckles against Kestrel’s. “Scorpius Malfoy. Nice to meet you.”

“You taking care of our Cowboy here?” Kestrel asked, grinning and patting Al on the back.

“Cowboy?” Scorpius asked dumbly.

Kestrel laughed, a harsh sound that seemed to draw everyone’s attention. “Al here used to smoke a pack of Marlboro Reds a day—cowboy stoges. He earned that one.”

Scorpius raised his brows—he didn’t know that Al used to smoke. Surely it would have made it more difficult to keep up during games. Al didn’t notice his questioning look.

“You lost?” He asked Kestrel. “You do realize this is a library, right?”

“I could be asking the same of you. My excuse is some kid’s looking for Adderall and wants to meet here. What’s yours?”

“I’m studying with my boyfriend,” Al said smoothly, as if he were proud to show Scorpius off.

Kestrel took a step back and raised his brows, fixating his attention upon Scorpius. “Well goddamn, you’ve got him whipped, huh? Never thought I’d see Al here wilingly.” Kestrel laughed. “Never thought I’d see Al settling down willingly either.”

Scorpius forced a polite smile upon his face. Though he knew of Al’s previous exploits, it wasn’t something he enjoyed dwelling upon. For all he knew, Kestrel was one of Al’s previous exploits.

Kestrel pulled his phone out and glanced at the screen for a moment before sliding it back into his pocket. “Look, I’ve gotta go find this kid. Hit me up, let’s cruise sometime, Cowboy. Like the old days.” He looked over at Scorpius, scanning him from head to toe, assessing him. “You too, Scorpius. Nice meeting you.”

He patted Al on the back again, then shot them both a wild smile before striding away, toward the stacks. Scorpius watched him for a moment, then turned back to Al, who had sat back down.

“He…seems nice,” Scorpius offered, not quite sure what to say.

Al shrugged, a thoughtful expression on his face. “I don’t know if nice is the word. He’s fun, though.”

Scorpius felt uneasy. “How do you know him?”

“We used to race together,” he explained, still looking a bit distant. “His older brother taught me how.” He shook his head and the far-off look was gone. “That was years ago, though.”

He nodded in comprehension. “I didn’t know you used to smoke.”

Al averted his gaze, looking out the window. “Yeah, I quit once I started focusing more on soccer. Cigarettes and soccer don’t really go hand-in-hand.”

Scorpius shot him an understanding smile. “At least you quit—that couldn’t have been easy.”

“It definitely sucked,” Al agreed.

Though the rest of their time studying went smoothly and they didn’t see Kestrel again, Scorpius couldn’t help but feel unnerved. It had never been so clear to him that there was a whole side of Al that he was unaware of. Sure, Al was different now, but it was still a part of him.

The next day, Scorpius and Al were hanging out at the Potters’ house with Rose and Lucy. Rose was currently beating them all at Mario Kart—though Scorpius was convinced that no one could be so good without cheating, he had no clue how she would even go about cheating. After a few rounds of losing, Al stood.

“This is killing me. Snack break?”

They all nodded and Lucy got up to help him carry back the food. As soon as the left the room, Scorpius leaned toward Rose, glancing at the doorway to make sure that they were alone. She leaned in too, catching on.

“Do you know who Alexei Kestrel is?” He whispered.

Rose’s brows furrowed. “Why?”

“Al and I ran into him at the library yesterday. He seems to know Al from a couple of years ago, so I was just wondering…” He trailed off, not quite sure what he was asking.

Rose rolled her eyes, looking slightly annoyed. “Alexei Kestrel is trouble. He and Al were best friends for a while—they used to party together and go racing. When Al cleaned up his act they just naturally drifted apart.” Rose allowed Scorpius to process this for a moment. “You don’t think Al’s planning on hanging out with him again, do you?”

Scorpius shrugged. “I honestly don’t know. I hope not.”

Sighing, Rose shook her head. “Well, let me know if he does. Our best bet would be nipping it in the bud.”

A frown settled upon Scorpius’s face. “I don’t want to tell Al what he can and can’t do,” he said hesitantly. “Kestrel sounds sketchy, but Al makes his own choices—I don’t ever want him to feel like I’m trying to control him.”

“I know,” Rose said softly, “but you haven’t seen Al when he’s with his old friends. It’s like he’s a different person. You probably wouldn’t recognize him.”

Scorpius gulped, then leaned back as Al and Lucy walked back into the room with a bag of chips and some cans of soda. Al was laughing at something she had said and his smile widened when his eyes met Scorpius’s.

“Ready to get your ass kicked, Rosie?” Al asked, handing out the sodas and opening the bag of chips.

Rose scoffed. “Big words for someone who’s come in third almost every race.”

That night, as Scorpius slept, he dreamt of Al’s face as it switched from his earnest smile to that cocky smirk. Smoke drifted from between Al’s parted lips, clouding his face and concealing it. When the smoke dissipated, it wasn’t Al’s eyes looking into his, but Kestrel’s pitch black ones. He let out a manic laugh, then flashed his teeth like an animal.

Scorpius woke with a gasp, his sheets clinging to him with sweat.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks seemed to hurtle by, very nearly leaving Scorpius in the dust. He finished his first quarter exams, strategized with Blaze and Tim in the mornings, went to one of his father’s fundraisers, attended practice every weeknight, and won every game he and his team played. During Lakeview’s games, Scorpius would sit with Al on the bench, providing support. It was easy to see that not playing was killing Al—his yearning to run and to compete and to score shone through his eyes.

Hopefully the boot would be off in three weeks—Al had been keeping count. He had a doctor’s appointment that day and Scorpius had insisted upon going with him, for support. Al was currently in the doctor’s office and Scorpius was sitting in the waiting room, scrolling through his phone.

He opened and responded to Snapchats from his teammates, grinning at their goofy expressions. In addition to individual conversations, his team also had a group chat. It was populated by pictures Cece wanted them to approve for Instagram, wholesome memes Karl came across, Blaze and Tim’s gym selfies (often in competition with Vic and Gordon’s), and Eve’s dad jokes.

Adam sent a selfie from the side of the road, kneeling next to one of his tires, which had assumably gone flat. He was frowning and, behind him, Cece was sticking her tongue out. His message read: [ We’ve been driving around all day and only when we’re about to go relax does it decide to pop ): ] Eve responded almost immediately.

[ that sucks so much. u guys must be so tired. ]

Scorpius couldn’t help but chuckle. That one was way too easy. Cece replied almost as quickly as Eve had.

[ S T O P ]

He was thinking of a pun he could reply with when Al stepped out of the office, his jaw clenched and his face worryingly stoic. Scorpius instantly clicked his phone off and slid it into his pocket, standing and walking toward Al, who sighed and attempted a small smile upon seeing Scorpius.

“What happened?” He asked quietly, his eyes roaming over Al’s face, as if searching for clues.

Al shook his head and led the way out. “The doc thinks I’ll have to keep the boot on for an extra week if I want to jump straight into playing again. It’ll be four more weeks instead of three.”

Scorpius took Al’s hand, squeezing it. “That’s not so bad. You’re almost halfway there.”

Al continued to frown. “That only leaves me three weeks to practice before nationals,” he said quietly. “Assuming everything heals properly.”

“Hey,” Scorpius said gently, tugging Al to a stop. He brought his hands up to cup Al’s face, forcing him to meet his gaze. “It’ll be okay. You’re Albus Potter. You’ve got this, okay?”

Green eyes searched his and, at last, Al attempted a smile. “Thanks, Scor.” He leaned forward and kissed him firmly, then pulled back and tugged his keys out of his pocket. “I don’t know what to do until I get this fucking ball and chain off my foot, though.”

Their hands instinctively twined together as they walked back to the car. “You could help James and Fred with their pranks,” he suggested. “I know they were planning some.”

Al shrugged. “I guess so.”

They got into the car and Al sighed, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the headrest. He stayed like that for a few moments, then opened his eyes and tilted his head to look at Scorpius.

“I’m sorry I’m such a downer.” His eyes were wide and he looked so vulnerable that Scorpius wanted to scoop him up into his arms and never let him go. “I think that not being able to exercise combined with not playing is really getting to me.” He shook his head and sighed again. Scorpius reached out to hold his hand and Al squeezed his. “It’s just, I feel so useless when I’m sitting on that bench, watching my teammates take us to nationals, you know? I feel like I should’ve been more careful when we were playing Franklin. They all depend on me to score and instead I’m warming up the bench for them. It’s Jamie’s last year and if we don’t get to nationals…”

“No one blames you,” Scorpius said, brushing Al’s hair out of his eyes. “It’ll be okay. You’ve only got a month of this left, then you’ll be racking up points again, making every goalie rue the day they were born.” Al laughed and Scorpius couldn’t help his responding grin. “It’s one month in the span of a lifetime—it’s nothing. And I’ll be right here next to you, okay?”

Al nodded, bringing Scorpius’s hand up to kiss his knuckles.

 


 

Friday night, Scorpius was still feeling proud of Southview’s victory against a team from Florida. His parents had come to every one of his games and that evening was no different. They brought signs upon which they had painted Scorpius’s name and number on in blue and which they proudly raised when he scored or made a good play. For dinner, the three of them cooked together in the kitchen. His father barked out orders while his mother made the salad and he snuck a couple of bites whenever his father would turn away. Upon being caught, his father merely sighed at him, then smirked and took a bite of his own.

The three of them watched a movie together, then Scorpius went upstairs early, exhausted by the long day. His phone was curiously absent of any messages and he tossed it on his bed before taking a long, hot shower.

He leaned his head against the cool, steaming tile, letting the water massage his sore muscles. When it was so steamy that it became difficult to breathe, he switched the faucet off. As he was getting ready for bed, his phone buzzed with a message.

Assuming it was Al, he instinctively smiled and grabbed it, absentmindedly towel-drying his hair. It was from James.

[ are you with al? ]

Scorpius frowned, worry seeping into his chest. He quickly replied.

[ No, I haven’t seen him since the game ended. Why? ]

As he waited for James to reply, he sank down onto his bed, his phone in his hands. He bounced his leg nervously, anxiety settling into the pit of his stomach. His phone buzzed and he turned it over so quickly he almost dropped it.

[ he’s not at home but his car’s still in the driveway. ]

Scorpius ignored the worry flooding his mind and replied.

[ I’ll text him. ]

He texted Al, asking where he was, and sighed, tossing his phone onto his bed. He hadn’t finished getting dressed yet so he pulled on a t-shirt and finished drying his hair. It was a few minutes before Al replied.

[ im w somw firends. y? r u ok! ]

[ ? ]

Scorpius groaned at the texts—Al was obviously drunk. He didn’t have to guess to figure out who Al was likely with. He relayed the information to James, who thanked him then said he was going to go look for him. Scorpius asked if he wanted help and James told him he’d pick him up in five minutes.

He quickly pulled on his socks and shoes, slipped his phone into the pocket of his sweatpants, then went downstairs to wait for James. Though his parents likely heard him leaving, they trusted him, for which he was grateful. Walking down his driveway, he looked up at the Granger-Weasleys’ house and wondered if Rose knew that Al was missing. He guessed not, as she likely would have been standing outside with him if she had.

Belatedly, he remembered to respond to Al’s text.

[ I’m ok, just a little worried. Where are you? ]

James pulled up to the house a couple of minutes later and Scorpius climbed into the passenger seat. It was odd seeing him without Fred. James’s typically warm face was pinched and his jaw was tight.

“Do you know who he could be with? Did he tell you anything?” James asked. He then glanced at Scorpius, his brows drawn together. “Sorry, I know this is putting you in an awkward place since he’s your boyfriend, but I’m worried about him.”

Scorpius did feel torn. He felt as if he were betraying Al, but he wanted to keep him safe and away from people who didn’t care about his wellbeing. At the same time, however, Al made his own decisions and Scorpius didn’t want to control him. He tried to think of what Al would do if their situations were reversed and decided that Al’s safety was most important.

“We ran into Alexei Kestrel a few weeks ago at the library, so it might be him.”

Fuck,” James muttered, gripping the steering wheel tighter. “That kid is like a fucking parasite. He won’t leave Al alone.”

Scorpius was quiet, not knowing what to say. He had only met Kestrel once and already was unnerved by him. After Rose had explained Al and Kestrel’s history, he had disliked the other boy even more. Strange as it was, he got the sense that even Al wasn’t fond of Kestrel.

[ tell james im at thw lot ]

He sighed. He should’ve known Al would guess that he was with James—even drunk, Al retained his cleverness. Scorpius voiced the information to James, who made a sharp right turn.

“At least he’s not driving,” James said quietly. “If he’s at the lot, that means they’re not planning on moving. It’s if he’s mobile…that’s when we worry.”

“He wouldn’t drive drunk,” Scorpius offered.

“No,” James agreed, “but he would and has driven on other things.”

Scorpius gulped and looked out the window. This new information about Al didn’t alter how he felt about him. Rather, it was just filed away. All of this, reckless and dangerous as it was, made up Al and Scorpius would worship it just the same. He couldn’t imagine ever rejecting a fragment of Al.

Looking out the window, he and James had reached the outskirts of town. As James slowed down and turned on his indicator, Scorpius could hear peals of laughter, shouting, and the sound of glass shattering. A heavy bass poured out of someone’s car and as James turned into the lot, his headlights illuminated the group of people there.

James flicked off the headlights and parked smoothly before switching the car off. Scorpius’s eyes scanned the lot, taking it in. There were about fifteen people there, all looking to be teenagers, and some were dancing, some were drinking, some were slap-boxing. Amongst them all, leaning back against the hood of the car playing music, a bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other, was Al.

He was propped up on his elbows and his eyes were fixed on Scorpius through the window. He didn’t blink as he took a long drag of his cigarette. Smoke shot out through his nostrils as his mouth curled into a smirk. This was the Al that Scorpius had seen a glimpse of when Kestrel had found them at the library. This was the Al that Scorpius didn’t know.

“You should talk to him,” James suggested. “He’s more likely to listen to you than to me.”

Scorpius took a deep breath, then got out of the car. He squared his shoulders and walked straight up to Al, ignoring the questioning looks being sent his way. Al slid off the hood, took a long gulp from the bottle, then took another drag of his cigarette. He was grinning at Scorpius, as if he were daring him to say something about it.

“I’m hurt,” Scorpius said, pushing on when Al opened his mouth to reply, “that I wasn’t invited.”

Al’s brows shot up and Scorpius leaned against the hood, next to him, observing the people around them. He wouldn’t chide Al or tell him to stop, he had decided. He wasn’t Al’s keeper: he was his boyfriend.

“This isn’t your scene, Scor,” Al finally replied. Scorpius could feel Al’s eyes on his profile, but didn’t turn to look at him.

“It’s not yours either,” Scorpius said. “I can see the draw, though. It’s very hedonistic.”

“Next time I’ll invite you,” Al drawled.

“How many ‘next times’ are there going to be?” Scorpius wondered, merely curious. He wasn’t judgmental or accusing, he kept his voice nonchalant.

Al shrugged and took one last drag of his cigarette before dropping it and stomping his shoe down on it. “As many ‘next times’ as it takes.”

At that, Scorpius turned to look at him. “For what?”

Bleary as they were, Al’s bright green eyes bore into his. They scanned Scorpius’s face, then settled back on his eyes with a reverence that made his chest tight. Al was about to respond, but was interrupted by Kestrel coming over.

Kestrel slung an arm over Scorpius’s shoulder, grinning. “‘Bout time you joined the party, Scorpius. I wanna get to know you.” Like Al, he smelled of smoke and alcohol.

“We were just leaving, actually,” Al said. He grabbed a pack of cigarettes from the hood of the car, shoved them into his pocket, then took Scorpius’s hand.

Kestrel let his arm drop, then lit a cigarette, blowing the smoke into Scorpius’s face. Scorpius refused to react, but couldn’t help his eyes watering. Al fixed Kestrel with a hard glare.

“I’ll see you on the streets, Cowboy. Don’t forget you’ve got a rep to uphold.” His smile was wide as he saluted Al and Scorpius, then swaggered off to another group of people.

Al led Scorpius to James’s car, holding his hand so tightly it almost hurt. Instead of claiming the passenger seat, Al slid into the back, pulling Scorpius in after him. James looked at Al in the rearview mirror, then met Scorpius’s eyes before he put the car into drive.

Scorpius put on he and Al’s seatbelts, as it appeared Al wasn’t going to. None of them spoke, but Al scooted closer to Scorpius and leaned his head on Scorpius’s shoulder. Scorpius brushed Al’s hair out of his eyes and absentmindedly played with it, curling it around his fingers and carding through it. Al’s hands still held one of his and Al traced patterns on it lightly.

There wasn’t anything to say. At least, not that night.

Chapter Text

During drills that entire week, Scorpius pushed himself harder than usual, wanting—no, needing a distraction. While he felt utterly helpless and couldn’t control anything that Al was doing or going through, couldn’t control that Al had hung out with Kestrel every night that week, he could control his feet. He could dart around cones, maneuver the ball around obstacles, and he could score. He could chase the satisfying sound of the ball swishing into the back net of the goal.

His teammates didn’t ask him about Al and he didn’t offer any information. He knew that they noticed his renewed vigor, but they didn’t acknowledge it except for watching him for a moment too long or patting him on the back. Eve and Tim seemed a little worried, Vic and Gordon were inscrutable, and Blaze was pleased—he didn’t care what was motivating Scorpius, just that something was.

When practice was over, he cranked the water on as hot as it would go and stood beneath it, his hands against the tiles, his head down and eyes closed. The steaming water hit the back of his neck and sluiced down his shoulders and spine. It relaxed his muscles and let him breathe for a moment.

“Hey, can I borrow your shampoo? Mine ran out.”

Scorpius glanced up, pulled from his thoughts. He handed the tube to Tim. As Tim used it, Scorpius rinsed the remaining shampoo from his hair and began washing his body off.

“Look, I know things are probably tough right now and I know that you’re in a weird place because all your friends kind of have a stake in what’s happening with Al. It might seem like you can’t talk to anyone because no one’s neutral about it, but I want you to know that’s not the case.” Tim rinsed out his hair and met Scorpius’s eyes. “Yeah, I want to win nationals—we all do—but that doesn’t mean I hate Lakeview or Albus. And you’re my friend. I just want you to know that I’m always here if you need to talk or if you just wanna go for a run or think out some plays.”

Scorpius smiled. He wasn’t sure he’d ever heard so many words come out of Tim’s mouth at once before—he certainly hadn’t expected to hear so many whilst they were both naked and dripping wet.

“Thanks, Tim. I really appreciate that.”

Tim patted him on the back, then switched off his shower. “Don’t sweat it, Scorpius.”

Scorpius rinsed off his body, then switched his own off, grabbing his towel. He dried off as he walked to his locker, his chest feeling warm at Tim’s words. He had just pulled on his underwear when he heard Karl yelp and shout.

Without bothering to turn around, he called out, “Tell him I’ll be right out, Cece.”

“Got it!” She chirped, then added, “Karl, you’re fully dressed, chill.”

Once Scorpius changed out and left the locker room, he saw Eve, Cece, and Becca clustered together outside. They shot him worried glances, which he returned with what he hoped was a reassuring smile. Al had his window rolled down and was smoking a cigarette, that heavy bass audible from where Scorpius stood.

As he walked toward the BMW, he watched Al take one last drag, then flick the cigarette out. He caught sight of Scorpius and smiled—it didn’t quite reach his eyes. A dull pain shot through Scorpius’s chest and he wished he knew how to help.

He tossed his backpack in the backseat, then climbed into the front. The car smelled of smoke now, but he didn’t mind. As long as he was with Al, he didn’t care.

“You know, I initially gave you my phone number so that you’d stop sending Cece in to fetch me,” he said wryly, fastening his seatbelt.

Albus rolled up the windows and put the car into reverse. “But then I’d miss hearing Karl shriek.”

Scorpius grinned, casting Albus a look of disbelief. “You’re horrible.”

Albus chuckled. “It’s the little things in life, Scor.”

As they drove toward Lola’s, Scorpius couldn’t help but laugh. “Can you really hear him all the way from the parking lot?”

“I’m pretty sure they can hear him all the way from Lakeview.” He had a small smile on his face. “Besides, it’s not all me. Cece’s in on it too—she waits by the entrance of the girls’ locker room and gets that devious look on her face as soon as she sees my car pull up.”

Scorpius snickered. “Why am I not surprised?”

Al turned down the music, switching it to the indie playlist he knew Scorpius favored. They held hands as Al drove, humming along to the songs and talking about the day. Apparently, James and Fred had made posters proclaiming to be testing out a new germ-fighting initiative, then put condoms on all the doorknobs “for the students’ protection.” Al chuckled as he recounted it to Scorpius, saying that he, Rose, and Lorcan had woken up at an ungodly hour to help them.

“Shockingly,” Al said, “they got off with only detention. I’m pretty sure the principal’s secretly fond of them.”

They walked into Lola’s hand-in-hand and Dot ushered them to their usual booth. After ordering and giving their menus to Dot, Al ran his fingers through his hair and fiddled with a straw wrapper. Realizing Al wanted to say something but was thinking of how to word it, Scorpius leaned back and waited patiently. Eventually, Al spoke.

“So, you know how there’s a Lakeview game tonight?” Scorpius nodded and Al continued. “I don’t think we’re going.”

Scorpius raised his brows. “We’re not?”

Al shook his head. “I…I can’t—” his face looked pained as he attempted to articulate, “I can’t stand it, Scor.” Scorpius reached across the table to hold Al’s hands in his own. “I can’t watch them play. It’s just a relentless reminder of the fact that I can’t do anything to help them, you know? I mean, I can watch and I can take notes and hand out water bottles and help strategize, but coach can do that too. I just dampen their spirits.”

“Al, I’m sure you don’t—” Scorpius began, but Al interrupted him.

“I know I do. I know that they’re frustrated that I can’t play because none of them but Rose are used to playing striker and they’re all having to pick up the slack.” Al sighed heavily and interlaced his fingers with Scorpius’s. “I just can’t do that tonight,” he murmured.

“I understand,” Scorpius said. “What do you want to do instead, then?”

Al averted his gaze, then flickered it back up to Scorpius, looking at him through his lashes. Scorpius recognized this as the look Al usually gave him when he was trying to be persuasive—unfortunately, it usually worked.

“There’s a race tonight.”

Scorpius’s chest clenched and he rubbed the back of his neck, pulling back from Al. “I don’t know…”

“Come on, Scor,” Al coaxed, “it’ll be fun. Besides, you haven’t seen me race before.”

“Al, it’s so dangerous.”

“I’m a good driver, I promise. I wouldn’t race if I thought you’d be in any danger, you know that. We’ve all got a system worked out.”

Dot brought their food and Scorpius thanked her and attempted a smile. As soon as she left, Al leaned forward again, moving his head around until Scorpius met his eyes. He raised his brows and gave Scorpius a small smile.

“Please? If you hate it, we’ll leave immediately. I won’t make you stay.”

Scorpius regarded him for a few moments. His heart hurt, but he knew that Al didn’t need to persuade him—he would have agreed anyway. He would do anything for Al, whether Al knew it or not. It terrified him, but he also couldn’t imagine it being any different. He couldn’t picture a world in which he wouldn’t give anything for Al, wouldn’t raze the earth and arrest the stars for him.

“All right,” he said quietly, “but I have a condition.”

“Okay,” Al accepted.

“No drugs,” Scorpius said. “Cigarettes are fine, but no drugs or alcohol tonight, okay? You’re driving.”

Al gulped and smiled ruefully. “That’s fair.”

Scorpius began eating, but he could feel Al’s eyes on him. Al was watching him with an enigmatic look on his face, his viridescent eyes unblinking and his jaw slack. Scorpius wiped his mouth off on his napkin and checked his reflection in his phone screen, wondering if he had something on his face. He raised his brows questioningly, but Al just shook his head, blinked, then slowly began to eat his food.

They didn’t speak until they got back in the car. Al started the engine, but didn’t put the car in reverse—he just sat there for a few minutes, staring at the steering wheel, looking stunned and a bit unnerved. Slightly worried, Scorpius reached over and took his hand.

“You okay?” He asked.

Al opened his mouth, closed it, then looked at Scorpius. His eyes were wide and he looked…scared. Scorpius frowned, unsure of what to make of it.

“What is it?” Worry seeped into his tone.

Quietly, Al said, his voice shaky, “I love you.”

Shocked, Scorpius could only stare at him. Inside, his chest was blooming with warmth and delight and he felt almost giddy. He felt as if he would overflow with joy and wasn’t sure how his body was managing to contain it.

“I mean, I don’t know how I didn’t realize it sooner, but I’ve never been in love with someone before and I thought it would feel more like I was sick, but with you it just feels natural, like my brain is saying obviously, as if it were even possible for me not to love you, and I know this is a really weird time to be saying it, but I’ve just realized it and I guess I wanted you to know.” His cheeks were flushed and he looked surprised at his own words. “Sorry, I know I’m usually more coherent.” When Scorpius couldn’t find the words, could only bask in Al’s, it was Al’s turn to look worried. “Say something, Scor.”

“I love you too,” Scorpius said.

Al’s face lit up with a genuine happiness that Scorpius hadn’t seen in at least a month. His hands came up to cup Scorpius’s jaw and their lips met in a kiss that made Scorpius’s skin hot and his toes curl. Their teeth clacked, as they were both grinning, and Scorpius wanted to embrace Al and never let go. Al was warm and practically vibrating with happiness and he kept pulling back from the kiss to look at Scorpius, as if he couldn’t believe he was real.

“Say it again,” Al murmured into his mouth, his kisses hot and feverish.

Scorpius nipped gently at his lower lip before soothing it with his tongue. “I love you,” he breathed.

Al beamed, whispering, “I love you too.”

 


 

They drove to the outskirts of town, where the roads were wide and empty, the buildings quiet and secretive. Al pulled over and texted a few people, then looked up at Scorpius and grinned.

“We’re in business,” he announced.

Scorpius had no clue what to expect—all he knew about street racing was from television. Al rolled down his windows, cranked the music to that heavy bass he favored, then glanced at his phone once more before putting the car back into drive. He had a wicked smirk on his face.

“What do you race for?” Scorpius wondered. “Like, is there money involved?”

“There can be,” Al said. “Usually, it’s just for fun, though.”

He stopped at a green light and Scorpius glanced at him. Al shot him a grin. The light turned yellow and a car pulled up to the right of them. A few moments later, a car screeched to a halt to the left. The light turned red.

The car to the right of them rolled down its windows and Kestrel’s feral smile appeared. “Cowboy finally brought his boyfriend out to play, huh?” His laugh was too loud and too savage. “Keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle and hold on tight, Scorpius.”

“Ready?” Al murmured.

Scorpius nodded.

The light turned green.

The car launched forward, the engine working to keep up with Al. Scorpius clung to his seat, shoved completely back into it. Buildings outside the car shot past in a blur and Scorpius realized that Al was ahead of the other two cars. Edging closer and closer on the right of Scorpius, he could see Kestrel’s car catching up. Biting wind whipped at Scorpius’s face and when he moved to roll the window up, Al stopped him.

“Close your eyes,” Al said, raising his voice so Scorpius could hear him over the wind and the music. “You’ll fly.”

Though he was anxious to look away from the road, as the car was going faster than any car Scorpius had ever been in, he obeyed. Still clutching the seat, he closed his eyes and tilted his head near the window. Icy wind hit his face, ruffling through his hair and billowing out the neckline of his hoodie. He could hear Al laughing, felt the heavy bass in his veins, like a heartbeat, and he understood.

He understood why Al loved to race. Going at that speed, the risk of danger flitting near his conscience, nothing but wind and adrenaline and the pure laugh of the boy he loved, Scorpius could see why Al did it.

Al’s phone buzzed with a text and he asked Scorpius to read it to him, his eyes fixed on the road, his focus narrowed to the wheel.

“Someone named Pax says blue lights were spotted by Greenwood Street,” Scorpius said. “He says the finish is the same, but to take back routes.”

Al grinned, “It's this kid named Patrick, we call him Pax. Text back ‘roger’.”

Scorpius did as he was told, yelping and clinging to the seat once more as Al whipped around a turn, the tires screeching. His heart was pounding and had somehow ended up in his throat and Al was laughing and howling at the streetlamps.

Kestrel’s car was edging closer, gaining on them, and up ahead, Scorpius could see headlights. He shouted at Al, telling him to slow down, but Al merely shook his head, saying that was the finish line. As they approached, Scorpius could see that the cars were those of Al’s friends—they were waiting to see who won. Kestrel was still gaining on them and he was so close that Scorpius could see in through his window, but Al slammed the pedal to the floor.

They won by less than half a second. Al let out a cry of victory and Scorpius couldn’t help but laugh, breathlessly, and gaze at his boyfriend. Al was slowly braking, slowing down, and Scorpius could hear Kestrel swearing profusely.

“Not so bad, huh?” Al asked, sliding his gaze to Scorpius.

Scorpius chuckled. “No, that was…that was pretty fun, actually.”

Al shot him a huge smile, his eyes crinkling, and took Scorpius’s hand, kissing his knuckles. They coasted through the streets, driving as a pack, and Al pulled into the parking lot that he’d been in when Scorpius and James had found him. They got out of the car and Al accepted pats on the back, high-fives, and all manners of praise. Kestrel grudgingly congratulated him, lighting a cigarette.

Feeling a bit shaky, likely from adrenaline, Scorpius leaned against the door, sagging a bit. It felt odd standing still—it still felt like he was moving. Eventually, when everyone went to do their own thing, lighting blunts, opening bottles, and snorting lines, Al came around to Scorpius’s side of the car.

He grinned and put his hands on the car on either side of Scorpius, effectively trapping him without even touching him. Scorpius’s pulse quickened as he looked at Al, high on victory, his hair windblown and his smile unfaltering.

“You know,” Al said, “as amazing as it felt to race again, with the music loud, the windows down, and the pedal hitting the floor…” he trailed off, his eyes tracing Scorpius’s face, as if he were memorizing it, “…that’s only a fraction of how happy I felt when you told me you loved me earlier—it doesn’t even seem fair to compare the two.”

Scorpius grinned, unable to help himself. He hooked his finger in the collar of Al’s shirt and tugged him forward, kissing him for all he was worth. Al had him pressed against the car, every line of their bodies slotted together, and he was radiating heat.

“This,” Al said quietly, pulling back slightly to look Scorpius in the eye, “this is enough. This is all I need.”

If Scorpius was flying before, now he was soaring.

Chapter Text

With only three weeks until nationals, Scorpius spent nearly every free moment preparing. In the mornings, he had begun waking up at dawn to go for runs with Tim and Eve. In the evenings, when Al was busy or running late, he would go to the gym and work out with Vic and Gordon. Before bed, Scorpius would watch games of the other teams who were predicted to play in the semifinals, strategizing and already figuring out how Southview would approach a match against them. Between classes and before Economics, he and Blaze would huddle together and lean over his notebook, going over plays and exchanging notes on the other teams and players.

Their next game required them to take the bus a few hours north to play. Al assured him that he was going to hang out with Rose and Lucy and said he’d keep tabs on the game through Twitter. Though Scorpius was a bit nervous, he knew that he needed to trust Al—besides, he wasn’t Al’s keeper.

He hiked his duffel bag higher onto his shoulder as he waited beside the bus. Inside the bag were his equipment, uniform, and some schoolwork he needed to finish. He was the first one to the bus, arriving before even Coach Hooch, and he pulled his hood up, leaning against the side and closing his eyes. He loved soccer and he loved the game, but a part of him was thankful that soon nationals would be over—he was barely able to juggle school, soccer, Al, and his friends. It would be a relief after nationals, and during winter break, when half those priorities faded.

“Hey,” Eve said, playfully kicking his shoe. “You look exhausted.”

Scorpius cracked an eye open, smiling. “Really? What gave it away?”

She stood beside him, mimicking his position against the bus, shoving her hands in the pockets of her hoodie to shelter them from the chill. “How are things with Albus?” She asked carefully.

“I think we’re going to be okay,” Scorpius said, his eyes sweeping over the school. “Al’s going through a tough time, but I think we’ll be okay.” He grinned, then glanced down at Eve. “Last Friday, he told me he loved me.”

Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped as a wide smile split her face. “Oh, I’m so happy for you, Scorpius!” She grabbed his arm, hugging it, and leaned her head on his shoulder. “I hope you said it back, Malfoy.”

“Of course I did.” He laughed. “I do. Love him, that is.”

“I know,” she said smugly. “I knew it from the moment you got into his car that first time he showed up after practice.”

He blinked at her. “How? I didn’t even know it then.”

She rolled her eyes. “You were both so obviously infatuated. First off, who shows up after someone’s practice and offers to buy them dinner? And secondly, what kind of besotted idiot do you have to be to actually get into their car?” She shook her head. “I can’t believe I ever thought you were into Rose Granger-Weasley.”

Scorpius chuckled, knocking his shoulder against hers playfully. “Me neither. I guess you’re even now—they cancel each other out.” They were quiet for a few moments, then Scorpius spoke. “I feel bad, I haven’t asked how your love life is going.”

Eve shrugged, too nonchalantly for Scorpius to ignore. Pushing himself off the bus, he stood in front of her until she made eye contact with him.

“What?” She asked, blushing.

“Who is it?” He wondered. “Come on, I told you about Al, so you have to tell me about him.”

“Scorpius—”

“Eve.”

She attempted to keep a straight face but couldn’t manage it. Eventually, she grinned, then shook her head. “Fine, but you can’t tell anyone, okay? You have to swear.”

“I swear,” he promised, putting out his pinky finger. She wrapped hers around his, then sighed.

“I think I have a crush on someone on the team,” she said carefully, her cheeks reddening.

Scorpius’s eyes widened. “Who?”

Eve glanced around, as if making sure no one was approaching the bus. Quietly, she said, “Becca.”

What?”  Scorpius gasped.

She quickly shushed him. “Shut up,” she ordered, blushing profusely. “You promised not to tell.”

“I won’t,” he reassured her. He processed it for a moment. “Wait, I didn’t know you were gay.”

“Neither did I,” she admitted. “I always thought I saw her as a best friend, especially since we were both on the team last year, but then at Cece’s party—that one we had like a month and a half ago or whatever—she, um…she might have kissed me.”

“She might have or she did?” Scorpius asked.

“She did.”

He grinned, delighted by the prospect of Eve and Becca getting together. Now that Eve mentioned it, he wasn’t sure how he had never considered it. When Eve wasn’t with him or Tim, she was with Becca. They had grown up together, as their houses were on the same street, and he’d often caught them gazing fondly at one another—he’d just always assumed it was platonically.

“Wait,” he said, backing up, “if she kissed you at Cece’s party…what happened?”

Eve shrugged, hugging her arms as a particularly brisk wind blew past. “We’ve just been pretending it didn’t happen.”

Scorpius frowned. “Why?”

She sighed and shivered again and Scorpius stood against the wind, using his body to shield her. She smiled gratefully. “I go to college next year and long distance never seems to work out well,” Eve explained. “It just seems doomed to end in heartbreak, you know?”

Scorpius nodded, watching as their teammates approached from the locker rooms. They were all the way across the field, too far away to hear what he and Eve were saying.

“I think you should give it a shot anyway,” he said. “You’ll always wonder if you don’t and, besides, you shouldn’t deny yourself happiness out of the fear of pain—what kind of a way to live is that?” He slung his arm over Eve’s shoulder and she wrapped hers around his waist. “You deserve to be happy and if Becca makes you happy, you’re a fucking moron not to pursue her.”

“Obscenities from Scorpius Malfoy?” Eve teased. “You’re right, though. Maybe I’ll talk to her after the game.”

“Let me know how it goes.”

“I will,” she promised.

Their teammates arrived with Coach Hooch and they all filed onto the bus, each claiming their own seat, except for Cece and Adam, who sat together—mainly so Cece could use him as a pillow. As soon as the bus started to move and Scorpius had settled in, he pulled out his notebook and got to work on his Calculus homework.

The ride passed by quickly and he got most of his work done by the time they neared the school. Stifling a yawn, Scorpius put away his notebook and sat sideways on the seat, pulling his knees up to his chest and leaning his head back against the window. He closed his eyes and sighed, listening to his teammates talking amongst themselves.

Someone shoved his feet down to the floor and his eyes flew open, prepared to protest indignantly, but Blaze and Tim were already sliding into his seat, squishing him against the window. He didn’t bother objecting, knowing it would fall on deaf ears.

“Okay, here’s the play, guys,” Blaze said, flipping his notebook open and rifling through the sheets. “Scorpius, this is a version of the one we were working on in Economics—Tim and I changed it up a bit so that you guys could practice it in a game setting, but none of the other teams would know about it. That way, we can still use it in nationals and they’ll have no way to prepare for it.”

Scorpius leaned forward and listened as Blaze ran him through the play, nodding along and asking for clarification when it was necessary. Tim would interject with information on the defenders they were playing that day, letting Scorpius know which way he should feint or whether he should take the ball up the side or risk going down the center.

“If we beat them, we get to the semifinals,” Blaze said sternly, as if Scorpius weren’t already extremely aware of that. Though his face was stoic, his eyes were alight with excitement. “We’ve really got a shot at this, guys.”

Scorpius grinned. “I told you, didn’t I? From the very beginning. We’re getting to nationals.”

“We might even win,” Tim added. “It all depends on Lakeview.”

Though he was looking down toward Blaze’s notebook, he could feel both Blaze and Tim’s gazes upon him. He knew that they were worried about his conflict of interest, but no matter what was going on with Al or with their relationship, Scorpius knew he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize the game. He would play hard and do his absolute best, for his team. They had all worked so hard and were so passionate about the game that he owed them nothing less.

The game itself was a blur. Scorpius poured his all into it and he could barely recall the faces of the other players—all he thought about were the plays, was working with Tim and getting the ball in the goal. It felt less like playing against another team than playing against himself. He didn’t focus on the defenders, he focused on pushing himself to run faster, to be more agile, to concentrate on his footwork and on not getting stuck or losing control of the ball while dribbling.

During halftime, he stood with his hands behind his head, panting, chugging down water and listening to Blaze and Coach Hooch as they went over the plays. The air was cold compared to his overheating body and he half expected to see his sweat steaming on his skin. As they filed back onto the field, he bumped fists with Karl and Vic and Adam patted him on the back.

Near the end of the second half of the game, he and Tim pulled out their new play. Blaze punted the ball up to them and Scorpius shot forward, running at a diagonal, onto Tim’s side of the field, catching the attention of the defenders. Eve intercepted the ball and ran it down the field, weaving around the other mids before passing it off to Tim. He sprinted with it down the side of the field, narrowly avoiding losing it to a defender, running past Scorpius, who then shot to his side of the field. Tim passed the ball back to Adam, who immediately shot it up to Scorpius. Right after he drew the attention of the defenders, he kicked the ball right in front of the goal, parallel to it, and Tim ran out of seemingly nowhere, intercepting the ball and knocking it into the goal, right past the goalie.

As the netting swished, Scorpius ran to high-five Tim. He could hear Blaze shouting victoriously from the goal—their play had worked. Though the one they would use during nationals was different, it was close enough that they knew it would work. This goalie was almost as good as James and even his attention had been diverted. They could do this.

Once the game ended, they all sprinted to the goal, howling in victory, jumping Blaze and forming a group huddle. Despite Karl’s complaining that they were squishing him and Daisy’s insistence that they reeked, they held onto one another, shouting victoriously and jumping up and down.

“We’re going to semifinals, bitches!” Eve cried out, to responses of screams and shouts and howls.

Scorpius laughed, loud and liberated, and allowed himself to be jostled by his teammates, ten of his favorite people. His cheeks hurt and his legs felt numb from overexertion, but he hadn’t felt so victorious in ages.

 


 

Tim gave Scorpius a ride home once they got back to campus. On the way, they dropped off Eve, Daisy, and Karl, then sang along to some old 80s songs on Tim’s playlist. It was late, almost two in the morning. Scorpius was laughing as Tim turned down his street, but it quickly died down.

James and Al’s cars were parked in front of Rose’s house. There were four people standing near them and Scorpius could see the silhouettes of their heads turn as Tim pulled up to Scorpius’s house. The headlights of the car shone upon Rose, Lucy, James, and Al.

“I wonder what’s going on,” he murmured, worry seeping into his chest.

Tim was frowning and peering out his window. “Make sure your boy’s all right. I’ll see you on Monday, let me know if you need anything, okay?”

Scorpius nodded. “Thanks, I appreciate that.”

He slung his duffel bag over his shoulder as he got out of the car, crossing the street as Tim drove away. Al was leaning against the side of his car, chewing on the cuff of his jacket and tapping his foot rapidly, his hood up. James had his arms crossed over his chest, his jaw clenched, Rose had her hands on her hips and a stern expression upon her face, and Lucy’s face was drawn, her eyes watching Al. They all glanced up as Scorpius approached.

“Good game, Scor,” Rose said, her voice sounding far too cheery. “I heard you guys are going to the semifinals.”

“We are,” he said, stopping near Lucy. “What’s going on?”

He looked to Al, who was smirking, the sound of his foot tapping against the sidewalk impossible to ignore. Then he looked at Al. He saw the wild eyes, heard the grinding of his teeth, smelled the cigarettes and gasoline.

“What are you on?” He asked quietly. He didn’t want to know the answer. Some invisible thing reached behind his ribcage and ensnared his heart, squeezing it.

“I’m on my way, actually,” Al said, pushing off the car. “Care to join me? We can celebrate your win.” He wiggled his brows and grinned, persuasive as ever.

James stepped forward and pushed Al back against the car firmly. Al was pliant and only grinned, leaning his head back against the top.

“You’re not driving anywhere, you fucking dumbass,” James muttered.

“I drove here, didn’t I? I’m good.”

“No one’s answered my question,” Scorpius interrupted.

“Actually, I did,” Al started, but Rose cut him off.

“He’s on coke,” she said, her voice scarily even. “He was racing with Kestrel again.”

Scorpius slowly closed his eyes, as if trying to close himself off from the betrayal he felt at that knowledge. He gulped, running his fingers through his hair before opening his eyes again. Al was watching him carefully, the smirk finally gone.

James must have seen something in Scorpius’s face because he took his keys out of his pocket and headed toward his car. “Rosie, Lucy, I’ve got to show you something.”

It was a weak excuse, but Scorpius was thankful that James realized that he and Al needed to talk alone. Once the three of them were in the car, Scorpius looked up at Al, who was still watching him, his expression inscrutable.

“You promised you wouldn’t drive under the influence,” Scorpius said quietly, not stepping any closer to Al. “You promised me.”

Al rubbed the back of his neck. “It was only tonight, Scor, okay? You weren’t in the car and I figured a few lines wouldn’t hurt. If anything, my reflexes are faster because of that, so…”

His throat felt tight and he suddenly felt hot with emotion, his chest seizing and his eyes watering. He blinked back tears, refusing to allow himself to lose control. He attempted to label the emotions he was feeling: hurt, betrayal, sadness—none of those seemed to fit.

It wasn’t necessarily the fact that Al was on coke that was overwhelming, it was an amalgamation of everything. The drinking, the drugs, the racing, Kestrel, and the lie was the cherry on top.

His heart hurt for this boy, the boy he loved, this boy who had lost himself. Scorpius’s cheek felt wet and he quickly swiped at the tear with the back of his hand.

“Scor, why are you crying?” Al asked gently, stepping toward him. Another tear fell down Scorpius’s other cheek and Al reached up to wipe it away with his thumb. His hands were shaking and his pupils were blown, black conquering green. “Come on, don’t cry. I’m sorry.”

Scorpius didn’t say anything, just pushed Al’s hand away and wiped his cheek off on his sleeve. Al’s face fell, but he didn’t step back. When Scorpius still didn’t say anything, still didn’t look into his eyes, Al spoke again.

“This isn’t a big deal, Scor. It was just one night, okay?” He was still grinding his teeth whenever his mouth was closed. “It won’t happen again, I’m sorry I lied.” Al sounded slightly panicked now by Scorpius’s lack of response. He cupped Scorpius’s face and kissed him, then attempted to make eye contact with Scorpius when he didn’t respond to that either. “Say something, please.”

“I love you—” Scorpius said quietly. Al’s face immediately lit up and relief flooded his eyes. “—but I think we should take a break.”

Al’s eyes widened and he immediately shook his head. “Scor, no.”

Scorpius’s throat felt tight and he struggled to speak, attempting to rein in his emotions. He gulped. “I will always love you and I’ll be here when you figure this out, but you need to figure this out, Al.” He angrily swiped away another tear, stepping back when Al reached out to cup his face, to hold him by the front of his jacket. “You’re more than just a soccer player or a delinquent and you need to realize that, but I can’t be in a relationship with someone I can’t trust. Especially if it’s putting your safety in jeopardy, I can’t do that, Al.”

“If you love me, then don’t fucking leave me,” Al gritted, his hands tight fists in Scorpius’s jacket. Shiny tear tracks shone on his face, glinting from the corners of his eyes to the edges of his mouth. “I’ll quit it, I promise, just as soon as this boot is off, I won’t see Kestrel again and I’ll sober up, okay?”

Scorpius shook his head, his heart shattering at the desperation in Al’s eyes. All he wanted to do was wrap Al up in his arms and kiss him, to hold him so tightly that all his broken pieces were welded back together. But it didn’t work like that and life wasn’t so simple as that. He loved Al, he truly did. If he were to wake up without knowledge of his name or his life, he was certain that his one unceasing truth, the one he would know with every fiber of his being, would be that he loved Al. He loved his too-wide smile and too-vibrant eyes, loved the way he flirted shamelessly with old women and the sound of his laugh when his ribs were tickled, loved the way he looked to Scorpius when he was happy, as if making sure that Scorpius were happy too.

“Scorpius.” That was only the second time Al had ever used his full name. That caught his attention.

“That’s exactly my point, though,” Scorpius said, allowing himself to cup Al’s jaw, to look into his eyes and to curl his hand around the back of his neck. “Once the boot is off and you’re playing again, you’ll just switch back into soccer mode. You can’t live with two modes, what will you do if you ever stop playing? You don’t know who you are without drugs or soccer.”

“That’s why I have you,” Al persisted. “You bring out that part of me, you show me that I can be someone without either of those. With you, I can just be me. I can be Al. I’m not Cowboy or a striker, I’m just Al.”

Scorpius kissed him fiercely, pouring all that he felt into the kiss. It was so forceful that it almost hurt, but Al kissed him back just as hard. When they broke away, Scorpius leaned his forehead against Al’s.

“I love you—” he whispered.

“I love you too,” Al interrupted.

Scorpius continued, “—but I can’t be that for you. You have to figure that out yourself, you can’t just depend on me to do that. We have to take a break, Al.”

“Scor,” Al’s voice cracked and he sniffed, his hands shaking on Scorpius’s chest. “Don’t break up with me. If we love each other, we can get through this.”

“It’s not a breakup,” Scorpius promised, stepping back and wiping his cheeks dry. “It’s just a break. I think we both just need some time to figure things out.”

He stepped out of Al’s grasp, then hiked his duffel bag higher onto his shoulder. He was panting now with the restraint it took to keep himself relatively in check, and he didn’t look back as he crossed the street and headed toward his house. He heard Al let out a dry sob, then heard James’s car door open, but he didn’t turn around. He forced himself to keep walking, speeding up as he felt sobs beginning to wrack his body. Fumbling with his keys, as soon as he got the door unlocked, he slipped inside then fell back against it.

He began bawling, loud, uncontrollable sobs that shuddered in his chest. Sliding down to the floor, he pulled his knees up to his chest and crossed his arms, burying his face in them. Though he tried to be quiet, he couldn’t control his heartbreak. It felt as if it would consume him and he had never experienced so much pain in his entire life.

A light flickered on and his father walked down the stairs, worry lining his face. Scorpius looked up and quickly attempted to wipe his tears away, but he couldn’t stop crying.

“Scorpius?” His father asked, astonished.

All he could do was close his eyes and bawl and he buried his head once more, not wanting his father to see him so upset. What he didn’t expect was to feel something brush against his arm. He looked up, his vision blurry with tears, and saw that his father had sat down next to him, assuming the same position. A warm, strong arm wrapped around him and pulled him into a hug.

“It’s going to be okay,” his father murmured, holding Scorpius close, not caring that his silk robe was being soaked with tears and snot. “I’ve got you. You’re going to be okay.”

Circled in his father’s arms, curled up like a child, Scorpius almost believed it.

Chapter Text

Most of the weekend was a blur. Scorpius took to his room, laying in bed and looking up at his ceiling. He listened to music, tossing his soccer ball up in the air and catching it, over and over again. It was like clockwork: throw, catch, throw, catch. When his mind would inevitably wander to Al, he’d turn his music up and sing along. Anything to distract himself. It felt like circling a whirlpool, slowly being sucked in before leaping out and beginning the cycle once more.

He knew that he had done the right thing, both for himself and for Al. Though it felt horrible, he knew that he couldn’t be what Al needed him to be—there were some things that Al needed to do on his own. Scorpius couldn’t be Al’s tether to the world, he was just one person. He certainly couldn’t be with Al while he was doing drugs—distrust and suspicion would grow and he knew that over time they would grow to resent one other, poisoning the love they felt. He couldn’t stand the thought of a world in which he resented Al or vice versa.

Though Scorpius hadn’t told his father about them, he suspected that Draco knew. That he had always known. He wasn’t sure how long they’d spent on the floor together, Draco holding him tightly, willing his fragmented pieces to hold fast, keeping him from shattering and scattering across the floor.

Releasing a soft growl of frustration, Scorpius turned his music up higher. He didn’t want to think about that night. He couldn’t. It would consume him and distract him if he did.

His ringtone immediately filled his ears, causing him to jolt upright and rip his earbuds out—he hadn’t realized how loudly he’d been playing his music. Rubbing his temple, Scorpius lowered the volume, put his earbuds back in, then looked at the caller ID. It was Eve.

“Guess what?” She cried, as soon as he answered. She didn’t wait for him to respond before saying, “Me and Becca are dating! She’s my girlfriend! I have a fucking girlfriend!”

He had never heard Eve sound so ecstatic and he found himself smiling. “Finally,” he said. “Did you guys talk after the game?”

“Mhm.” He heard Eve take a sip of something. “I went over to her house afterward and we sat on the porch and talked about things and decided to give it a shot. You were completely right, I was just scared, but I’m so happy now!”

“I’m happy for you,” Scorpius said, still unable to stop smiling. “You guys are the cutest.”

“You and Al finally have some competition,” Eve teased.

Scorpius’s heart somersaulted and he searched for the right words. “Actually, um, we’re on a break.”

She was quiet for a moment. “Oh, Scorpius,” Eve started, her voice soft.

He interrupted her, not wanting to think about his emotions regarding the matter at the moment. “It’s okay, it’s just a break,” he quickly said. He searched to change the subject. “Vic and Gordon ought to be worried, though. Cece and Adam, too.”

“Yeah,” Eve said, sounding reluctant, but following Scorpius’s lead. “Becca and I are probably going to tell everyone at practice tomorrow. Unless they see us holding hands in the hallway first.”

“I’m sure you’re looking forward to Blaze’s inevitable speech about not letting your relationship ruin your game,” Scorpius said wryly.

“Ah, yes,” Eve agreed sarcastically. “I’ve always wanted to receive that speech.”

They talked for a while longer before hanging up, saying they’d see each other the next morning in Calculus. For a few moments, Scorpius just laid in bed, his eyes on the ceiling.

 


 

Scorpius threw himself into his schoolwork and into soccer. Eve must have told the rest of the team what had happened because no one asked him about it, but he knew that they noticed something was off. He was quiet during classes and during lunch—quieter than usual—and his focus during practices was unequaled.

When practice was over on Monday and he was changing out in the locker room, Al’s absence echoed in his chest. Cece didn’t come to fetch him and instead of going to Lola’s, he trudged home, feeling heavy and alone.

The first day was the hardest, but Scorpius persevered and it gradually became easier. He did his work in utter silence during class, looking at the fallen leaves out the window rather than at Tim or Eve. He ate quickly and efficiently during lunch, only saying a few words to Cece, Adam, and Becca, before leaving early for his next class. He ran extra laps during practice and volunteered to clean up the gear afterward.

Though his teammates were concerned, he was grateful for the distraction that Eve and Becca’s relationship served as. Rather than focusing upon him, they turned their attentions toward the couple—Karl was convinced that they had been in a secret relationship all along and had merely deigned to let the rest of the team know. Eve and Becca were blissfully happy and seeing them together made Scorpius’s chest a little lighter, his brow a bit smoother.

On Friday night, after practice, he hung back to pick up the cones and collapse the goals. Rather than following everyone to the locker rooms, Vic and Gordon stayed back to help him. They cleaned everything up in silence and only when Scorpius turned to go shower did Vic speak up.

“There’s a party at Cece’s friend’s place tonight.”

“I know,” Scorpius said. “I saw her message in the group chat.”

“Are you coming?” Gordon asked.

Scorpius shrugged. “Probably not. I have an essay due and I don’t want to be hungover tomorrow. I might just stay at home.”

Vic scoffed. “Fuck that, dude. Come to the party.”

“I’m not really in a partying kind of mood.”

He attempted to keep walking, but Gordon blocked his path, forcing Scorpius to look up at him. Though his face was relatively expressionless, concern danced in his eyes.

“We’re friends,” Gordon stated. “Friends are there for each other when they need it and right now, you definitely need it.” Ignoring Scorpius’s protests, he continued. “Sitting at home and writing some bullshit essay, trying not to think about Potter, it’s not gonna help. I know you just wanna isolate yourself and wait for the pain to go away, but you’re not alone. Don’t do that to yourself.”

Scorpius took several moments to absorb Gordon’s words, fairly certain that he had never heard him speak so much. Gordon was right—Scorpius was isolating himself, whether he meant to or not. Eventually Gordon patted him on the shoulder.

“Vic’s driving. We’ll meet you in the parking lot in twenty.”

Vic clapped him on the back as he and his boyfriend headed to the locker rooms together and Scorpius watched them for a moment before shaking his head. Despite himself, he cracked a smile.

The party was in full swing when they arrived and Scorpius led the way into the house, flanked by Vic and Gordon—he felt as if they were his bodyguards, massive and hulking as they were. He made a beeline to the kitchen, nodding and greeting people he knew, and was relieved to find most of the team pouring themselves drinks. Blaze leaned against the counter, cradling a can of beer, a disapproving look on his face.

“Remember we’re watching an important game tomorrow,” he said. “We find out if Lakeview’s going to the semi-finals.”

Becca rolled her eyes, pouring a significant amount of vodka into her Solo cup. “We all know they are,” she raised her drink to Blaze. “At least we’re not playing. Cheers, everyone!”

Similar sentiments echoed throughout the room and Scorpius sidled up to the island, pouring a drink for himself. He caught himself smiling upon watching Eve and Becca—Becca whispered something to Eve, causing her to snort into her drink, throw her head back with laughter, then press a kiss to Becca’s temple.

“Pace yourself, Bec,” was all Blaze said before taking another sip of his beer, not looking pleased. “I expect every one of you at the game tomorrow.”

“We’ll be there, Dad,” Cece promised, necking a shot. “For now, live a little.”

After a bit of coaxing, Scorpius agreed to take a few shots with Cece and Adam—Vic promised that he would get him home safely. The vodka burned its way down his throat, helping him to loosen up a bit. He figured that after the week he’d been through, he deserved to let loose.

“Let’s dance,” Daisy exclaimed, grabbing his arm and Tim’s and pulling them into the room with the speaker.

There were already at least twenty people dancing and though he normally would have felt self-conscious, Scorpius began nodding his head along to the beat. It was the same music Al would listen to, with a heavy bass and a catchy rhythm, and he began swaying his hips to the beat, raising his arms, holding his drink carefully. Tim grinned and danced with him, slinging his arm over his shoulder and singing along to the few lyrics in the song.

As he danced, Scorpius sipped on his drink, feeling his limbs get looser and his smile come easier. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, grinning when the rest of the team joined them, Eve twirling Becca around and Karl jumping up and down.

After finishing his drink, Scorpius decided that he was probably, almost definitely, undeniably drunk. He felt warm and relaxed and was laughing with his teammates. He looked back at Gordon and grinned, a thank-you for forcing him to come. Gordon smiled and raised his cup to Scorpius.

For the first time that week, Scorpius felt happy. Surrounded by his friends, he truly felt that things would be okay. Maybe not that day, or even the next, but eventually they would be. And even if they weren’t, he had people on his side, rooting for him, who would be there to keep him from falling.

He wasn’t sure how long they had been dancing before he heard commotion from the other room. Someone had entered the house, and it sounded like they weren’t welcome.

Curious, Scorpius stopped dancing, following Vic and Tim to see what was going on. His blood ran cold when he saw Kestrel, flanked by a couple of people that Scorpius had seen before at the races.

“This is Southview only,” someone was saying to Kestrel, pushing him toward the door.

“Aw, c’mon, don’t be like that,” Kestrel drawled, black eyes glinting. “I’ve got some party favors for your trouble.”

“Look, unless you go to Southview or are friends with someone here—”

Right then, Kestrel’s eyes met Scorpius’s and he smiled, wide and wild. “There’s my friend,” he said, nodding at Scorpius.

Everyone parted, leaving a wide space between the two of them. Scorpius stepped forward, shaking his head. “We’re not friends,” he said quietly.

“You’re breakin’ my heart,” Kestrel said. He must have seen something in Scorpius's face because his eyes hardened. “Haven’t seen Cowboy in a while. Where is he? Did he get bored? Find a better fuck?” Scorpius clenched his jaw, Kestrel’s words piercing his chest. “I knew it was only a matter of time before he ditched you.”

As Kestrel approached him, he felt Vic and Gordon step up beside him.

“Al always crawls back to what he knows,” Kestrel said, stopping a foot away from Scorpius, “and he knows how to have fun.” His eyes scanned Scorpius, watching the effect his words were having, then his smile widened. “You should see him high off his mind and on his knees, the slut.”

Fury flooded Scorpius’s senses and before he could fully process anything, he reeled his arm back and slammed his fist into Kestrel’s face. Kestrel staggered back, his hand flying to his nose, shock and delight painting his features.

Though he was aware that Daisy and Eve were shouting at him to stop and that Vic and Gordon were holding back Kestrel’s friends, Scorpius didn’t care. All he could hear and see was Kestrel, blood dripping down the front of his shirt, his teeth red and gleaming.

Then Kestrel’s fist was knocking into Scorpius’s temple and they were off, rolling on the floor, punching and jabbing and attempting to get the upper hand. Scorpius managed to get on top of him and he knocked his fist against Kestrel’s jaw, his knuckles burning.

“Don’t you dare fucking talk about him like that,” Scorpius growled, tasting blood in his mouth, adrenaline coursing through his veins.

He had been waiting for this for what felt like centuries, this inevitable clash between he and Kestrel. As he rained blows down upon the other boy, he released all his anger toward him, toward Al, toward Al’s injury, toward himself, a bomb finally set off. Strong arms were pulling he and Kestrel away from one another and he kicked and attempted to throw himself back at the other boy, fighting whoever was keeping him back.

Kestrel wasn’t laughing anymore, he was swearing at Scorpius and at his friends, who were trying to push him out the door, cursing at anyone who would listen. His eyes burned.

“YOU FUCKING WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT,” he shouted at Scorpius.

He wrangled his way out of the grasp of his friends and launched himself at Scorpius. Tensing for the blow, Scorpius was surprised when instead of feeling pain, he merely heard a loud thud followed by another. Standing in front of him, his hand still clenched into a fist, was Vic, a stern expression on his face.

Kestrel groaned, his hand on his cheek, obviously dazed, and Vic knelt down, holding his fist in Kestrel’s face.

“Stay the fuck away from him and Potter,” Vic ordered quietly. “If I see you anywhere near them, I’ll beat the shit out of you.”

Kestrel muttered something, allowing his friends to pick him up and help him out the door once Vic had stood and backed away. Only when the screech of their car echoed down the street did Scorpius slump into whoever was holding him. Though everyone in the party was buzzing or uploading videos of the fight to their Snapchat stories, Scorpius ignored it all, his mind fuzzy.

“…pius, hey.”

His eyes met Tim’s and he shook his head, as if it would clear away the blurriness. He blinked.

“You got hit pretty hard, come on, sit down,” Tim said.

Scorpius allowed his friends to lead him into what looked to be a guest bedroom. As they led him to the bed, he realized that Gordon had been holding him back, keeping him upright and from Kestrel. He quietly thanked him, then sat heavily on the bed, almost falling over.

Karl was the first one to break the silence. “I didn’t know you could fight,” he said, his tone light.

“You’re an idiot,” Cece informed him, entering the room with a damp washcloth and some ice.

Eve took the washcloth from her and began dabbing at Scorpius’s face. “Who was that?” She asked.

“Alexei Kestrel.”

Though a few of them pushed for more answers, Tim shut them up. “Look, lay off him, okay? It’s obvious this guy’s got something to do with he and Al. It’s the drugs and racing, right?”

Scorpius nodded.

They were quiet for a bit. Eve broke the silence. “You’ll probably have a few bruises,” she said.

It was quiet again, everyone watching Scorpius. Eventually, he looked up, looked back down at his bloody knuckles, looked up again, then grinned.

“I punched him, didn’t I?” He asked, his eyes alight.

Vic grinned. “Yeah, you got him pretty good.”

“I can’t believe I punched him.”

Scorpius began laughing, ignoring the fact that his friends were casting one another worried looks. After a few moments, Vic chuckled, followed by Gordon, then Blaze, and soon enough they were all laughing. Laughing because Scorpius had punched somebody, laughing at the drama of it, laughing because the only other option was to cry, laughing because they were all together and they were all okay.

Yeah, things were going to be okay. 

 


 

The game was on Lakeview’s campus and despite his headache and the cuts and bruises on his face, torso, and knuckles, Scorpius went. His team met up in the parking lot and they stayed close to him as they headed up to the stands, a show of support. Scorpius didn’t allow himself to look over at the field, knowing where his eyes would instinctively wander.

Only when they had settled down on the bleachers and there was nowhere else to look did his eyes fall upon the Lakeview team. They were running drills, James in the goal, their footwork as precise as always. Knowing that it was inevitable and that he just needed to get it over with, he allowed himself to look over at the bench.

Looking at him hurt. In joggers and a Lakeview hoodie, hair as messy as ever, was Al. His boot was finally off—Scorpius remembered that it had been scheduled to be removed the previous day. Al’s eyes met his own and widened, his brows flying up upon seeing him—he watched as Al catalogued Scorpius’s injuries, getting up to his feet. Scorpius shook his head and Al frowned, then slowly sat back down. It was Scorpius who looked away first.

The game was clean and fair and James only let one goal through, Rose racking up four points. No one was surprised when Lakeview won and his teammates were sobered by the score.

“Chances are we’re going up against them in the finals, huh?” Karl asked.

Becca nodded. “We’ve always known it would be us against them in the end.”

Before heading back to the cars, Scorpius used the bathroom, promising to meet them in the parking lot. As he was leaving the bathroom, he was grabbed by the front of his hoodie and dragged around to the side of the building. Recognizing the familiar scent of soap and cologne, noticeably absent of smoke and gasoline, Scorpius allowed himself to be manhandled.

“What happened?” Al demanded, green eyes wide and worried. His fingertips hovered above the cut on Scorpius’s temple and his eyes scanned the bruise on his cheekbone and his split lip.

“I got into a fight,” Scorpius said quietly. “I’m surprised you didn’t see it on someone’s story.”

“I’m taking a break from social media,” Al explained. He was frowning, his eyes on Scorpius’s wounds. “Who’d you fight?”

Scorpius smiled humorlessly. “Guess.”

“Come on, Scor.”

“Kestrel.”

Al inhaled sharply. “What?” Scorpius gulped, but didn’t say anything. “Why the fuck would you fight Kestrel?”

“Why do you think?” Scorpius murmured, his eyes boring into Al’s.

Al looked at him in disbelief. He searched for something to say, then settled on a soft, exhaled, “Scor.”

“I didn’t like the way he was talking about you,” Scorpius whispered, “and I’ve never liked the way he treated you.”

Al’s thumb brushed across Scorpius’s cheekbone, ghosting over the bruise. “I’m not worth all this,” he said. “You don’t have to defend me. I don’t give a fuck what Kestrel thinks of me—I’m done with him, anyway.” He shook his head. “Why would you get into a fight over something so stupid?”

Scorpius’s fingers wound around Al’s wrist. He could feel Al’s pulse fluttering beneath his fingertips and he felt dizzy looking into Al’s eyes.

“You are worth it,” he insisted. “I don’t regret it.”

They were quiet for a few moments, then Al smiled ruefully, shaking his head. “You know, I’m supposed to be the impulsive, unpredictable one. You’re taking my title.”

Despite himself, the corner of Scorpius’s mouth tugged upward. “I learned from the best.”

Al held onto the front of Scorpius’s hoodie, his gaze darting between Scorpius’s eyes. “Are you okay?”

Scorpius nodded.

“I miss you,” Al said quietly.

“I miss you too.”

Chapter Text

For the semi-finals, Southview was playing against Bayside, a team notorious for playing dirty and playing to win, no matter the cost. They had been preparing all week, their practices often running late, and Scorpius would trudge home in the dark with sore muscles and determination kindled within his heart. Blaze was ruthless, demanding perfection, and they each strove to give it to him, to do their part for the team. Scorpius and Tim worked as a well-oiled machine, two halves of the same whole, memorizing plays and signals so they knew what the other was about to do before they did it.

It was the most unified they had been all year.

Scorpius suspected that the fight had brought them all together and couldn’t find a shred of regret within himself. He wasn’t a violent person—he never had been—but punching Kestrel had done wonders for his own simmering anger as well as for the team’s loyalty. Obviously, he wasn’t proud of his actions, but he wouldn’t take them back and he refused to apologize for them.

He thought about this on the bus, on the way to Bayside’s campus, his temple to the chilled window. The team was quiet, save for Eve and Becca murmuring to one another and Blaze flipping the pages of his notebook, going over plays that Scorpius knew were already memorized.

Upon arriving, they filed off the bus and walked silently to the field, already in their gear. Coach Hooch and Blaze were at the front of the line and they both branched off to go talk to Bayside’s coach while everyone deposited their things at the bench. Scorpius stretched and shivered—it was cold, but nothing a bit of running wouldn’t solve. As he stretched, he observed the field, looking for dips in the grass or puddles that would slow him down. Looking at the dew-drenched grass, he realized that he would have to wait and pay attention while he was running laps—it was too difficult to tell otherwise.

“Nervous?” Adam asked, joining Scorpius.

“A little.” He reached down to stretch his hamstrings. “We’ll be fine. I think we all know we’re facing Lakeview at the finals.”

Adam snorted. “I wish everyone had your confidence, man.”

“We’re good,” Scorpius said, grinning. “We haven’t come this far for nothing.”

Blaze strode over to them and clapped Tim on the back. “Let’s go, guys.”

He and Tim took off at a jog and everyone filed into place, running in pairs, following them around the field. Scorpius jogged beside Daisy, feeling himself shift into balance as his feet thudded against the soft ground. He focused on his breaths and with each exhale, a puff of worry left his chest.

“Bayside is really good,” Daisy mentioned, panting.

Scorpius hummed in agreement. “We are too.”

She grinned up at him and they stayed quiet for the remainder of the laps, both lost in their own thoughts. Upon completing the final lap and arriving back at the bench for their water, Scorpius glanced up at the stands. His eyes instantly locked upon his parents, sitting together near the middle of the bleachers. He grinned at them, chuckling at their matching Southview caps, then his gaze roved over to the Lakeview team, all huddled near the top of the bleachers. They waved at him and he waved back, his chest feeling tight.

Al was sitting between Rose and James, his feet up on the backs of the seats in front of him. It was odd seeing him without the boot and Scorpius wondered how he was readjusting. He knew for a fact that Al would have started practicing again—especially if he was staying away from Kestrel. Al was watching him and they didn’t smile or wave at one another, they just looked.

Scorpius understood what it was to be homesick.

The refs did their inspections, then Blaze did the coin flip. Bayside would have the ball first. Scorpius and Tim exchanged a look, then followed Blaze out onto the field. As everyone got into their positions, Tim walked beside Scorpius and knocked their knuckles together.

“Let’s do this,” Tim said quietly, his eyes blazing.

The whistle blew and Bayside was off. Though Scorpius had seen them play, had studied their games and the players in preparation, actually being on the field with them was a completely different story. Each player was aggressive, not beyond shoulder-checking and tackling aggressively for the ball. They did it so subtly, however, that Scorpius had to learn quickly that the only way to counter them was to throw it right back.

Eve intercepted the ball from one of the strikers, then kicked it up to Scorpius, who easily got control of it and raced it down the field. He was weaving between players, looking for someone to pass to—Bayside was circling him like vultures. As he feinted right, to get in the clear to pass it over to Tim, one of the defenders body-checked him, knocking the breath out of him and sending him down.

The whistle blew and Scorpius shook his head, a dull ache echoing through his chest and arm. He could hear shouting, could hear Al’s voice in the distance, and he pushed himself up with a groan, massaging his shoulder. The defender got a yellow card for his trouble.

“You good?” Becca asked, her eyes wide.

He nodded. Adrenaline coursed through him and he smiled. He glanced up at the stands and saw Rose leaned forward, her face pinched, and Al on his feet, a thundering expression clouding his features. They made eye contact and Scorpius nodded, throwing him a thumbs-up—he was fine. He was more than fine.

As he massaged his shoulder, he looked over to his parents and shot them a reassuring smile. His mother looked worried and his father, though stoic, was sitting straight up, obviously tense.

The first half was brutal and Scorpius had to quickly get back in the zone and focus. Not only did he have to worry about the ball and about scoring, but he had to keep track of where each of his teammates were on the field, who was open, where the Bayside players were, and which ones were most aggressive. Out of necessity, he simply stopped thinking and relied upon instinct, using his peripheral vision and running faster than he had in any of their other games.

All that existed was him, the ball, and the goal.

He manipulated the ball with quick, habitual toe-touches, spinning around and rolling it away from the Bayside players, ricocheting it off Tim and the mids, and counting on Cece, Vic, and Gordon to keep the ball on Bayside’s half of the field.

Scorpius and Tim each scored once and as they jogged back to mid-field, they knocked knuckles. He looked over to their goal and saw Blaze grinning like a shark, his hands on his knees, ready to tear apart and devour any Bayside striker that had the nerve to try him.

After Tim’s goal, no one scored again for the rest of that half. As Scorpius trudged over to the benches and gulped down his water, he put his hands behind his head, catching his breath. His legs were numb from exertion and the cold, but he felt alive.

“Good first half, guys,” Coach Hooch said, clipboard in hand. “How you doing, Scorpius? Still okay?”

Scorpius nodded. “I’m golden.”

“That’s what I like to hear.”

They went over plays and Scorpius listened intently, nothing running through his mind but soccer. He shifted from foot to foot, ready to go. He was amped up, a weapon waiting to be fired.

“Vic, Gordon, and Cece, keep the ball on Bayside’s half, I don’t want it on our side. Eve, Adam, Bec, Karl, and Daisy, keep doing what you’re doing, help out the strikers, make the job easier for the defenders. Scorpius and Tim, rack up those points.” Coach Hooch’s smile was vicious. “And Blaze, lock down that goal.”

Bayside played rougher in the second half than in the first, out of desperation. Regardless, Southview kept up. Near the end of the third quarter, Karl shot the ball down the field, then passed it to Tim when defenders swarmed him. Scorpius ran alongside the ball, getting in the clear, and when Tim couldn’t take it any further, he booted it up to Scorpius, who intercepted it. Scorpius dodged a defender, then lined it up and feinted, then shot it into the open goal.

He let out a shout and threw his fist into the air when the ball went through, grinning as Tim ran at him and grabbed him, ruffling his hair, cheering. It was three to nothing and Scorpius felt like he was flying.

Near the end of the second half, a Bayside striker shot the ball toward the goal and Blaze dove to throw it out. It was intercepted by another striker, who shot it right back. Scorpius watched, helpless, as the ball soared back to the goal. Before it could cross the line, Blaze threw himself at it, curling himself around the ball. It was safe.

When the game was over, Scorpius put his hands behind his head, inhaling deeply, closing his eyes as his teammates cheered. Slowly, he felt himself smile, then he began to laugh, free and happy and relieved.

They were going to the finals.

 


 

The grass lay pillowed beneath Scorpius as he gazed up at the stars. He was huddled in his Southview hoodie as well as a puffy jacket and he kept his hands clenched in his pockets to ward away the cold. He was at the park near his house, for once there to simply be rather than to practice. Blaze would have given him hell if he’d known.

Triumph coursed through him as he thought about all the work he and his teammates had put into the game. Finals was no longer a ship on the horizon—it was there, right before them, and it hardly felt real. Scorpius suspected it wouldn’t feel real until the day. Maybe not even until the game had begun.

He was shaken by the reality that they would be facing Lakeview, that they would be on the same field as James, Al, and Rose, but he had always known that it would be so. As long as he didn’t allow it to affect his game, he would be fine. He knew that he could keep up with them, especially since Al was out of practice, he just wasn’t sure for how long.

As always, his thoughts wandered back to Al. His chest physically hurt when he thought about him and he felt rather like an addict. Sobriety was obviously not suiting him and he hated the thought of never being with Al again. He felt as if they had barely had any time together, though he couldn’t see any way around what he had done. Scorpius still stood by his decision, though he wished desperately that he hadn’t had to make it. Being without Al felt like being deprived of the sun.

Footsteps padded across the grass and he looked up, propping himself up on his elbow. Though he could only see a silhouette walking toward him, he’d recognize him anywhere. His heart fluttered and his nerves buzzed.

“Can’t seem to escape you,” Al confessed, a wry smile on his face. “I came here for a jog so I’d stop thinking about you and look who I find myself with.”

Scorpius’s heart blossomed. “In my defense, you approached me.”

Al shook his head, still smiling. “I couldn’t help myself.” He stopped at Scorpius’s feet, the moon haloed behind him. “Do you mind?”

In response, Scorpius nodded toward the space beside him. Al sat down next to him, then leaned back on his elbows too. He was wearing sweatpants and a Lakeview sweatshirt and tendrils of his messy hair were plastered to his temples. Scorpius wondered how long he had been jogging for him to have worked up such a sweat in the cold.

“If it helps,” Scorpius admitted, “I was thinking about you too.” He looked down at the grass, picking at it. “I can’t seem to stop.”

Al’s crooked grin made Scorpius’s pulse stutter. “I do feel a bit less pathetic now.”

They were quiet for a little while and though Scorpius would have expected it to be awkward, it really wasn’t. He had always felt comfortable with Al and he doubted that would ever change. It was difficult keeping himself from leaning over and kissing Al, or holding his hand, or throwing his arm and leg over Al and cuddling into his side, inhaling the scent of him. He curled his fingers into fists and put them back in his pockets to keep himself in check.

“How have you been?” Scorpius asked, looking up at him.

Al’s eyelashes cast long shadows across his sharp cheekbones. Scorpius followed them, his eyes tracing the angled line of his jaw to his wide mouth, gliding up his nose, settling back on his eyes, vibrant even in the dark.

“Better,” Al said. “I’ve been trying to get my shit together. I’m seeing a therapist now, she’s pretty great. We make these triangles about thoughts, feelings, and behaviors or whatever, and those kind of help. They keep me from doing impulsive shit.” Al chewed on the inside of his cheek, looking down at his hands. “She’s been helping me stay sober and she’s helping me find hobbies. You know, besides soccer and drugs.”

“That’s really good,” Scorpius said softly, truly happy for Al. “What kinds of hobbies?”

Al shrugged. “I tried painting, but I was pretty shit at it. Tried writing too, but it’s just not my thing.” He gulped. “I’ve been reading a lot, though, I remembered that I loved doing that as a kid. I thought I hated it because I hate reading books for school, but it’s different when you choose the book yourself.” He hummed quietly while he thought to himself. “Oh, I’ve also been knitting.” He shot a sideways glance toward Scorpius, a sheepish smile on his face.

Scorpius laughed, sitting up slightly to look directly at Al. “Knitting?”

Al chuckled, nodding. “It helped me quit smoking since it gave me something to do with my hands. I made Rosie a scarf and made a blanket for Jamie to take to college with him. It all looks pretty shit and I feel bad giving them such crappy things, but at least it’s something to do.”

“I’m sure they love it,” Scorpius said, unable to stop smiling. He could picture Al knitting, his brow furrowed, slouched in his bed with a ball of yarn.

Al shook his head. “Doubt it.” He was grinning. “It’s good for me, though. It’s something that I can look at and say, Hey, I accomplished something today. I like tangible stuff like that.” He ran his hands through his hair. “I’m gonna try making hats next. I’ve even got a tutorial open on a tab on my laptop.”

Scorpius wanted to wrap up Al in his arms and kiss him. It took an astronomical amount of effort to remain where he was.

“Don’t tell anyone, though,” Al said. “I’ve got to keep my rep. This is me swearing you to secrecy.”

“I’m a vault,” Scorpius promised, still grinning. “Do you have pictures?”

Al pulled out his phone, then scrolled for a little bit. After a moment, he groaned, wiping a hand down his face. “Keep in mind that I already mentioned they look like shit, okay?”

Scorpius took his phone, completely charmed by Al’s shy expression. He rarely saw Al looking less than confident. On the screen was a picture of a lumpy, garishly red scarf. It was uneven and far, far longer than a scarf should be—it wrapped around Rose’s neck over five times and completely obscured her face from the eyes down. Nonetheless, Scorpius’s heart warmed.

“It doesn’t look like shit,” Scorpius insisted, handing the phone back to Al.

“I know when you’re lying, you know,” Al said, nudging Scorpius’s shoulder with his own. “You always bite your lip and make that guilty expression and your eyes get all big and sad.”

“I’m not lying,” Scorpius laughed. “It’s not the best scarf I’ve ever seen, but it’s not horrible. It’s really great for a first try, honestly!”

Al smirked. “That was my fourth try, actually. I kept having to redo it and that version came out the best.”

“Oh.”

Al dissolved into laughter at the expression on Scorpius’s face and Scorpius couldn’t help but join in, leaning forward to clutch his sides. Their laughs echoed throughout the park and Scorpius hadn’t felt so content in ages.

Eventually, they sobered up, gradually shifting into soft chuckles.

“Anyways,” Al said, looking up at Scorpius, “what about you? How have you been?”

Scorpius shrugged. “I’ve been all right. Things aren’t easy, but it’ll all be okay eventually. I just wish finals were sooner so I wouldn’t have to keep thinking about it.”

Al nodded. “I know what you mean.”

Unable to help himself, Scorpius leaned his arm against Al’s. He was a warm, comfortable weight against him and though he wouldn’t allow himself to do anything more, he was a junkie at heart. That small touch made things easier to bear. Al returned the weight and they sat like that for a moment. Scorpius was hyperaware of where their arms touched and gulped around the lump in his throat.

“I love you,” Scorpius whispered. It felt easier to say at night, with only the stars and Al to bear witness. “I’ll wait for you, you know.”

It was painful, but Scorpius didn’t want anyone but Al. He didn’t care how long it took for Al to be happy with himself, whether it took days, months, years. As long as Al was happy, he would be content.

“I love you too.” Al leaned his head on Scorpius for a moment, then shifted to press a soft kiss to his shoulder. “I’m still yours. I’ll always be yours.” Al sighed. “I don’t know how to prove to you that I’m ready. I’m doing my best.”

“I know,” Scorpius murmured. “I really am proud of you. I hope you know that.” Al nodded. “Maybe when all this is over—finals and everything. Whenever you’re comfortable.”

Al chuckled. “Scor, when it comes to you, I’m comfortable with anything, okay? I get why you’re hesitating and I don’t blame you for it. But when it comes to us, I’m waiting for you. I’m doing what I can and I’m going to keep doing it. When you’re ready and you think it’s time…like I said, I’m all yours.”

Scorpius wished Al would stop saying that, as it made his skin hot and his jeans tight. He shifted, rearranging his hoodie to drape over the front of his jeans, and closed his eyes. They were silent for a long time.

“I still remember the first time I realized I could fall in love with you,” Al confessed. “It was at this park, that time you and Rosie came when I was with Lucy. We were sitting right over there,” he pointed beneath a tree, “and I asked you why you’d never thought about quitting soccer. You said it was because it made you quiet.”

“It does,” Scorpius said.

Al smiled. “I loved that. Couldn’t stop thinking about you after that. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to find things that make me quiet.”

“Have you found anything?”

Al just nodded and looked at him. Scorpius didn’t look away. They sat in silence beneath the stars. It felt like the last quiet moment they would have for a while. Scorpius basked in it.

Chapter Text

Scorpius was practicing outside, on his lawn, juggling the ball while running plays through his mind, examining and evaluating them. Practice had been cancelled, due to the seniors being required to attend a meeting regarding graduation, but Scorpius couldn’t allow himself to remain idle. With nationals approaching rapidly, he knew that any wasted time gave Lakeview an advantage.

“Hey!”

Startled and pulled from his thoughts, Scorpius missed the ball. It rolled down the lawn and toward the street, where Rose jogged and scooped it up. He shot her an easy smile and caught the ball when she tossed it to him.

“Hey,” he greeted, tucking the ball beneath his arm. “How have you been?”

Rose shrugged, returning his smile. “Pretty good, I’ve got no complaints. What about you?”

He tilted his head to the side. “I’ve been all right. I’ll be better after the game on Saturday.”

Rose grinned. “Ready to get your ass handed to you?”

Scorpius laughed, thankful that whatever was happening with he and Al, nothing had affected his friendship with Rose. “If we lose, we’ll lose gracefully, but I wouldn’t celebrate yet.”

Rose chuckled, knocking her shoulder against his. “Nah, I know. You guys have really come together this year. Our team is just as nervous as yours probably is—you play really well.”

“Thanks.” Scorpius couldn’t contain a smile upon noticing Rose’s scarf. “Did Al knit that for you?”

She glanced down at it and tugged at the end. “How’d you guess?” Smiling up at him, she said, “I take it you’ve talked to him recently if you know about his new hobby.”

He nodded. “We ran into each other at the park a couple of nights ago. He seems to be doing a lot better—Al said he was seeing a therapist now, which is really good.”

Rose hummed in agreement. “Jamie says he seems a lot lighter and Lily texted me this morning saying that he made her a beanie. Apparently he’s moved onto what’s supposed to be a sweater.” She shot him a wry look. “She said it looks more like a straitjacket, but it’s cute.”

Scorpius couldn’t help but smile. “I wonder what possessed him to take up knitting.”

She rolled her eyes fondly. “It’s Al. You never know with him.”

“How’s his foot?” Scorpius asked.

Rose glanced down at her own feet. “It’s getting better with practice. Still a little weak, but he’s determined to play on Saturday.” She sighed and shook her head. “We all tried talking him out of it, but you can guess how well that went.”

He chuckled. “There’s no dissuading Al.”

“Exactly.”

An old, gray BMW pulled up between Scorpius and Rose’s houses, right in the middle of the street. Scorpius was hit with a powerful sense of déjà vu. Al rolled down the window and rock music echoed through the street. Lucy was in the passenger seat and she waved at Scorpius.

“Hey, Scor,” Al called out, grinning.

Scorpius smiled and waved at both of them.

“I’d invite you to come with us, but we’re gonna practice and we can’t have you stealing all our secrets,” she teased, giving him a quick hug.

“I’ll see you on Saturday,” Scorpius said.

Al was watching Scorpius with a vaguely wistful look on his face and Scorpius knew for a fact that his expression was likely similar. He cleared his throat and waved again as Rose got into the backseat.

As they drove off, Scorpius sighed, shaking his head. “Enough,” he murmured to himself. “Enough, for now.”

Scorpius continued practicing outside until his father returned home from work. They went inside together, then helped his mother make dinner.

“Nationals are this weekend,” Draco remarked as they were setting the table. “Are you nervous?”

“A bit,” Scorpius said. “A lot, actually,” he quickly corrected. “Lakeview hasn’t lost in three years—I know we’re a good team, but the way Lakeview plays…” he trailed off.

“They may be good,” Draco said, resting a gentle hand on Scorpius’s shoulder, “but you haven’t seen your team play. You’re pretty incredible too, you know.”

Scorpius grinned. “Thanks, Dad.”

Draco smiled softly, then smoothed Scorpius’s hair. “I’m very proud of you, Scorpius. Whether you win or not, you’re a brilliant player. You’ve really come out of your shell this year and you have a lot to be proud of. You’ve done so well, son.”

Warmth spread throughout Scorpius and he couldn’t help but beam up at his father. He wrapped his arms around Draco and hugged him tightly, grounded and safe in his father’s embrace. Draco kissed the top of his head, then squeezed him tightly before letting go.

“I love you, Dad.”

Draco’s smile was radiant. “I love you too.”

 


 

The final game was being held on Southview’s campus. This game, Scorpius told himself, determined whether or not they were national champions. More than that, it would prove that all their hard work and their commitment had been worth it. Scorpius couldn’t imagine a better way for the seniors to end their last season at Southview.

As Scorpius geared up in the locker room, he realized that it was the last game he would play with Blaze, Tim, Eve, Vic, and Gordon—they would be gone the next year, off to whichever colleges they decided upon. The thought prompted a wave of melancholy to wash over him. He would make the game count.

He laced up his cleats and rested his elbows on his knees, listening to the sounds of his team getting ready. Tim was chasing Karl around, swatting at him with his jersey, Vic and Gordon were laughing quietly near their lockers, fingers interlaced, and Blaze was lecturing Adam on a play. Fondness threatened to overwhelm Scorpius and he realized that whether they won or lost, they had accomplished something nonetheless—they had made it thus far. No matter how the game went, they would fight together and play to make one another proud.

“Ready?” Blaze asked, clasping his shoulder.

Scorpius straightened up and let out a long breath. “Ready.”

The girls were already waiting for them outside the locker room and, as a team, they walked to the field. The stands were full of students and families, a clear color divide between the Lakeview and Southview supporters. The blue and white area of the bleachers exploded in cheers when they approached the field and Scorpius grinned up at the stands.

They settled down at their bench, depositing their water and beginning to stretch. Scorpius chatted with Daisy and Cece as he stretched, only glancing up when the stands erupted once more.

Filing from the parking lot, already geared up, was the Lakeview team. At the head of the pack was James, grinning and radiant, his arm around Al’s shoulders. Al had a smirk on his face, amused by something James had said, and he ran his fingers through his hair. Scorpius’s pulse stuttered as the reality of the game suddenly overcame him.

They were about to face Lakeview. They would be on the same field as the Heart and the Wildcard, as his teammates had dubbed the Potter brothers. It hadn’t felt real until that moment and Scorpius had to dig his nails into the palms of his hands to calm himself down and ground himself. For once, his confidence wavered and he wasn’t able to regain it. Throughout the season, he had always been the one assuring everyone that they would win, that they were good. Though he still knew it to be true, he wondered if they were as good as Lakeview.

Scorpius’s thoughts were still in the clouds when they began running their laps. The easy, familiar motion of running did help ease his anxiety, however, and as his feet pounded against the grass, he attempted to even out his breaths.

He had done all he could. Regardless of the game turned out, he would be proud of himself and of his team. They had the advantage, as the game was being held at Southview, and due to all the long evenings spent practicing, he knew the field intimately, knew where all the dips and cracks and dense bits of grass were.

They went through a few drills before the game and Scorpius concentrated, refusing to allow himself to overthink things. He was a good player and had good instincts. It wasn’t fair to himself or to his team to be dwelling on Lakeview. Soccer was a game between him, the ball, and the goal. He could do it.

Before the game started, the Lakeview team came over to their bench. James shook hands with each of them, winking at Scorpius and clapping him on the shoulder. As James and his coach spoke with Blaze and Coach Hooch, Al pulled Scorpius aside. He was aware of both teams’ attention on the two of them, despite the fact that everyone was attempting to be subtle.

“We’re finally on the same field,” Al said, a corner of his mouth tugging upward.

“It’ll be a good game,” Scorpius promised. He glanced down at Al’s foot. “Are you ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be.” Their shoulders brushed together. “Good luck, Scor.”

“You too.” He wanted to kiss Al. His chest hurt from the effort it took to keep himself in check.

“I, uh,” Al cleared his throat and looked down at his hands, “I really do…” he shook his head, then sighed. “Never mind. Listen, I’ll talk to you after the game, okay?”

Perplexed, Scorpius couldn’t do anything but nod. “Okay.”

The refs did their inspections and they huddled up and went over plays, but it was all a blur to Scorpius. He felt as if he were reverting to some sort of primal muscle memory, shutting down his racing thoughts. Before he knew it, Blaze and James had done the coin toss and he and Tim were at the halfway line, granted kick-off. Al and Rose were outside the center circle and everyone was in their positions.

Scorpius’s pulse was a steady rhythm in his ears and he curled and uncurled his fingers, switching his weight between his feet. Adrenaline coursed through his veins and he glanced back at his teammates. Their eyes were set and Blaze was standing in the middle of the goal, his gaze like marble.

He glanced up at Tim, who inclined his head. His eyes were gleaming and, at the same time, they looked down at Lakeview’s side of the field.

James was crouched in the goal, his brow furrowed in concentration, a wicked smile on his face. Scorpius scanned Lorcan, Lucy, Fred, Rose, his eyes roaming over each player before landing upon Al. Al, whose cheeks were rosy from the cold, who was poised to run, who was unreadable and intimidating, eyes narrowed and lips curled.

The head ref blew the whistle and Tim nudged the ball to Scorpius.

The game had begun.

Instantly, just as he had practiced, he raced the ball down the field, moving too quickly for Al or Rose to stop him. As strikers, they wouldn’t pursue him—they would leave that to one of the mids.

The teams crashed together, a mighty wave battering a rocky cliff, and Scorpius knew that the game would be played on instinct. The players were too good and too fast for him to have the time to think and reevaluate. Lucy tackled him for the ball and he just barely maneuvered it around her. As he neared the penalty box, shocked at his luck, Fred tackled him for the ball, moving so quickly that Scorpius didn’t have the time to gain it back. He booted it up to Lily, who passed it up to Al.

He swore beneath his breath, then jogged back to get clear. Al was speeding down the field, the ball a blur, and he passed it back and forth with Rose, narrowly dodging Eve. As Rose aimed to pass it back to Al, Vic intercepted it, kicking it up to Becca, who relayed it to Tim.

Scorpius was aware of the noise from the stands, but he tuned it out, too focused upon the game. He had never played so hard in his life and when the first quarter passed without either team scoring, he threw his hands behind his head, gulping in air. His legs were burning and his eyes were stinging with sweat. Nonetheless, he and Rose exchanged wicked grins, full of respect and frustration.

At the bench, he chugged his water, listening as Coach Hooch went over plays, giving them tips and bits of information she noticed about each player. He noted that Fred’s left foot was weaker than his right and that though Louis was fast, he had a difficult time switching directions mid-sprint. When the whistle blew again, he was determined to at least attempt to score. He hadn’t even gotten past the penalty box in the last quarter.

Lakeview was just as intent on scoring as they were and though they played a clean game, the frustration was evident. Near the end of the second quarter, Al tackled Karl for the ball, then took it down the side of the field. Scorpius’s stomach was in his throat as he watched Al spin and duck through the defenders, line up the ball, lean into the shot—then knock the ball the other way, with the outside of his foot. Unable to anticipate the direction of the ball, Blaze was a split second too late.

The goal went through.

Cheers erupted in the stands and Al leapt in the air, hand in a victorious fist. He and Rose high-fived as they jogged to mid-field and though Scorpius was proud of Al for scoring, his resolve hardened. He wouldn’t allow Lakeview to win. He had to give more.

In the second half of the game, Scorpius felt barely human. All he was aware of was the ball and his feet, of his teammates around him and where the goal was. He and Tim broke out their new play.

Tim and Eve raced down the field, quick passes back and forth to keep the ball from the Lakeview mids. As they kept their attention, Scorpius jogged parallel to them, on the other side of the field. As soon as he was in the clear, Eve shot the ball over to him and he ran with it, running right up until James was coming toward him, ready to grab the ball. Before James could lunge for it, Scorpius spun around, maneuvering the ball with him, then kicked the ball toward the goal with all his might, sliding down into the grass with the momentum of it.

Though James dove for the ball, he caught it right after it passed the goal line. Scorpius let out a shout, leaping up from the ground, and jumped on Tim, high-fiving Eve as they all jogged back to their side of the field. Pride swelled behind his ribs and he laughed as he heard the cheering from the stands.

Blaze howled from the goal, both fists in the air. They could do this.

As the game flew by, desperation was thick in the air. Neither team was used to having to fight so hard to score and each time James blocked Scorpius or Tim’s shots, punting it or throwing it back down the field to Al and Rose, he grew more persistent. Blaze and James were covered in dirt and grass stains from having to dive for the ball so often and Scorpius could tell that everyone was becoming frantic.

By the fourth quarter, it became clear that the next team to score would likely be the winners. Scorpius yearned for it so acutely that he felt nearly delirious.

With ten minutes left in the game, his legs were numb, his chest was burning, and his skin was covered in sweat and dirt. James had just thrown the ball down the field to Al and Scorpius released a long sigh, taking a moment to catch his breath. Almost instantly, however, Gordon had intercepted the ball and passed it back to Blaze, who punted it up the field, directly toward Scorpius.

He leapt into action, stopping the ball with his chest, then running it toward the goal. His focus was intent and he swiftly maneuvered the ball around Fred. James was coming at him and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Tim, sprinting at full speed toward the goal. Right as James approached him, Scorpius passed the ball to Tim. It ricocheted off Tim’s foot, flying straight into the netting of the goal.

Southview went wild and Scorpius could barely process what had just occurred. He knocked knuckles with Tim as they jogged back to their side of the field, but he couldn’t allow himself to celebrate yet.

The remaining ten minutes of the game were simultaneously the longest and shortest ten minutes of his life. When the whistle finally blew, announcing the end of the game, Scorpius collapsed down to his knees, hands curling into fists around the grass, and he panted, laughing with joy and exhaustion and pride.

Blinking droplets of sweat from his eyes, he looked up at the scoreboard to ensure that he wasn’t dreaming. Southview had won by one point.

Behind him, he could hear Blaze shouting, screaming with excitement, and could hear Eve and Tim howling that they were national champions. He laughed, unable to help himself, and let out a long sigh. They had done it.

Someone stretched a hand out to him and he looked up into Al’s eyes, green as grass. He was smiling, despite the fact that he had lost, and when he pulled Scorpius up, he engulfed him in a hug. They were both hot and sweaty and covered in dirt and their skin and jerseys stuck together, but it didn’t matter. Scorpius buried his face in Al’s shoulder and held him tightly, not caring that they were in the middle of the field.

“Excellent game, Scor,” Al murmured. “You guys earned that win.”

Then before Scorpius could reply, he was being dragged away by his team, Blaze had a gleaming, golden trophy in his hands, and crowds from the stands were flooding the field.

They were national champions.

Chapter Text

Sunday evening found Scorpius outside Al’s house. His hands were in his pockets and he stood on the porch, watching as twilight fell upon the neighborhood. He rang the doorbell, then waited, perfectly content to look up at the sky. Purple and gray collided and bled into red and orange.

The door swung open to reveal Al, whose brows shot upward upon seeing Scorpius. He was wearing a thin band t-shirt, soft from overuse, and light gray joggers.

“Scor, hey.” He ran a hand through his messy hair, then glanced down at his clothes sheepishly. “Sorry, I, uh, I didn’t know you were coming. I would’ve dressed better—”

Scorpius quickly waved him off. “No, no, don’t apologize, I probably should’ve texted.” He gulped, looking down at his hands. “I was just walking through the neighborhood and thinking about things and I…” he shook his head, then looked back up at Al, “…I just wanted to see you. Talk to you.”

Al bit his lip in a vain attempt to stifle his grin. “All right. Come on in.”

He held the door open, closing it behind Scorpius. The house was quiet and Scorpius followed Al up the stairs to his bedroom.

“Where is everyone?” Scorpius wondered.

“My parents and James are touring colleges—they left last night after the game—and Lily’s with Rose and Hugo at my Uncle Ron and Aunt ‘Mione’s.”

Al led the way to his room, flopping down on the bed. Scorpius carefully sat on the edge of the mattress, looking around the room for something to say. It was just as it had been the last time he was there, though a lumpy, knitted blanket was on the bed and there were knitting needles and yarn on his desk. Following Scorpius’s gaze, Al let out a soft noise, getting up.

“I almost forgot,” Al said, rummaging through his closet. “I made you something.”

Scorpius grinned, butterflies taking flight within his stomach. “Really?”

“Uh-huh.” Al pulled out a light blue sweater, a sheepish smile on his face. He tossed it to Scorpius, then resumed his seat on the bed, legs crossed, suddenly looking a bit shy. “It’s not anything impressive, but I figured it would be warm.”

The stitches were definitely more even than those on Al’s previous projects and the sweater looked cozy. The yarn was soft and warm and Scorpius’s heart threatened to burst.

“Thank you,” he said, bringing the sweater up to his face. He pressed his cheek up against it and inhaled quietly—it smelled like Al. “This is the best gift anyone has ever given me,” he admitted.

Al looked exceedingly pleased and he rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m glad you like it. I figured I ought to make you something after all my talk about knitting last weekend. You don’t have to wear it, I know it’s not super nice or anything. I just figured it’s the thought that counts, you know?”

Scorpius grinned at Al, charmed by his rambling. “I love it.”

Al smiled, then ran his fingers through his hair. “So, what did you wanna talk about?”

“Right.”

Scorpius had thought about it all night and for most of that day, trying to make up his mind. Eventually, it felt as if he were running in circles, chasing his own tail, searching for the answer to a question that he already knew. Deciding whether or not to be with Al wasn’t a difficult decision because he knew what he wanted. He had always known what he wanted.

“You said I make you quiet,” Scorpius started.

Al raised a brow. “Technically, I implied it, but continue.”

Scorpius grinned, shoving him playfully. “I’m trying to be serious here.”

“Okay, okay.” He raised his hands in surrender. “I’m shutting up now.”

“Normally, I seek out things that make me quiet because I tend to be very anxious. That’s why I like running and why I like playing soccer—they let me shut off my racing thoughts and stop overthinking everything. Usually, I like that kind of thing.” He searched for his next words, having difficulty articulating his thoughts. “But you don’t make me quiet.”

Al’s face fell. “Oh.”

“Wait, no,” Scorpius quickly continued. “That’s not what I meant. I mean, it is, but I like that you don’t make me quiet. When I’m with you, things aren’t quiet, but they’re not how they usually are. It’s not that typical rambling that’s usually in my head, it’s like I’m singing when I’m with you. Everything is so natural and so easy and I feel like I don’t need to be quiet to be content. When I’m with you, everything is loud and vibrant and I feel like a live wire and I don’t know what to do with myself sometimes. It’s amazing and it sometimes feels like too much to bear because I’m not used to having so much emotion about something. If that makes sense.”

Al’s expression was inscrutable. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

“That’s what I was trying to figure out,” Scorpius confessed.

“And what did you decide upon?” Al wondered.

His eyes were wide, his lashes casting shadows across his cheeks. Al had always been the most beautiful person Scorpius had ever seen and since the first time he saw him, in Lakeview’s parking lot, he had never wanted to look away. He wanted to memorize the gentle slope of Al’s cheekbones, the faint freckles across his nose, the golden fireworks in his irises.

Summoning courage from some well deep within his chest, Scorpius cupped Al’s jaw, then leaned forward and pressed a fierce kiss to his lips. Al froze for a moment, apparently stunned, then one hand was curling around the back of Scorpius’s neck and the other was sliding around to grip his waist. Al made a delighted sound in the back of his throat, the tips of his fingers carding through Scorpius’s hair.

Kissing Al made Scorpius feel as if each one of his nerves were on fire, made him feel like a junkie getting his fix, like a sinner bathing in holy water, begging for absolution. Al’s breath was hot against his lips and Scorpius reached up to tangle his fingers in Al’s soft, messy hair. God, he had missed this. Al was sturdy and solid beneath his touch and he felt like melting.

“I love you,” Scorpius murmured. “Staying away from you now is twisted and masochistic and I can’t do it.”

“Thank fucking god,” Al mumbled between kisses. “I love you too.”

Al pressed open-mouthed kisses across Scorpius’s jaw and down his neck and Scorpius felt a shiver shoot down his spine. Goosebumps washed over his arms and his fingers ducked beneath Al’s t-shirt, running along his smooth, hot skin. Wanting to feel more of it, he tugged at the hem of Al’s shirt, pulling it up. Getting the hint, Al lifted his arms and allowed Scorpius to take the shirt off and toss it somewhere on the floor.

Scorpius used that brief moment of separation to his advantage. His eyes roamed over Al’s shoulders, defined biceps, and the hard lines of his abdomen. Al grinned, realizing that Scorpius was checking him out, and wiggled his eyebrows playfully, flexing his muscles.

“This doesn’t seem fair,” Al remarked, reaching for Scorpius’s shirt, “that my shirt’s off and yours isn’t.”

Scorpius chuckled, allowing Al to remove his hoodie and t-shirt. Al did so quickly, discarding them both on the ground, then his eyes were devouring Scorpius, darkening slightly.

“I never want to see you with a shirt on again,” Al murmured, dragging him into another kiss. “I feel like I’ve been deprived.”

Scorpius leaned into Al and they shifted so that they were laying on the bed, legs tangled together, chests flush, arms wrapped around one another and tangled in each other’s hair. He let out a soft groan as Al’s teeth gently tugged at his bottom lip and his dick strained against his jeans, searching for some sort of friction. Al seemed to be on the same page, as he hooked his thumb through one of the belt loops on Scorpius’s jeans, then pulled their hips together. At the same time, Al rolled his hips against Scorpius’s and Scorpius let out a low moan as he felt Al’s erection against his own.

“Is this okay?” Al whispered, his breaths erratic.

In response, Scorpius rolled his hips against Al’s. They groaned at the same time, their kisses gradually becoming sloppier and more desperate. Scorpius had never done anything sexual before, but he wasn’t nervous or hesitant—it was Al.

“Fuck, wait,” Al panted, pulling back for a moment to fumble with the button on Scorpius’s jeans.

Catching on quickly, Scorpius pulled down the waistband of Al’s sweatpants and boxers in one motion, tugging them down below the swell of his ass. Al did the same for him, then spit in his hand and wrapped his now-slick fingers around both their cocks.

Scorpius inhaled, a deep, shuddering breath, and squeezed his eyes shut. Al’s hand moved quickly and at the same time, he thrusted his hips shallowly. As Al groaned, Scorpius leaned forward and swallowed it, kissing Al with an urgency that seemed to be mutual. As Al jacked them off, Scorpius reached down and squeezed Al’s ass, feeling the muscles in his thighs. Al made a strangled sound in the back of his throat.

Aware that his orgasm was approaching, Scorpius began thrusting into Al’s fist, his eyes rolling back into his head at the feeling of Al’s cock against his own. Al tightened his grip, either catching on or close himself, then Scorpius let out a choked sort of groan as he came, Al’s name on his tongue. A moment later, Al followed suit, his eyes locked with Scorpius’s.

They laid there together for a moment, catching their breath, then Scorpius leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to Al’s mouth. He couldn’t help the dopey smile on his face as he tucked his head beneath Al’s chin. Al held him close, not caring that they were both covered in come. His fingers traced little patterns on Scorpius’s skin and he pressed a kiss into Scorpius’s hair. Scorpius had a strong urge to purr.

“That was unexpected,” Al murmured after a few moments, amusement lacing his voice. “Amazing, though.”

Scorpius hummed in agreement. He smoothed his thumb across Al’s back, tracing the lines of his muscles. It had been ages since he’d felt so content and he knew that he had made the right decision. No matter what had happened, or what would, it was obvious that he and Al belonged together. What they had gone through had been necessary, but they had come out the other end more whole than before.

“So,” Al mumbled, his voice low and lazy, “do I have to ask you to be my boyfriend again?”

Grinning, Scorpius pressed a kiss to Al’s collarbone. “It doesn’t seem necessary. You’ve given me a handmade sweater and an orgasm—how could I possibly say no?”

Al’s laugh rumbled in his chest and Scorpius nestled closer to him, his cheeks aching from smiling so much. “Works for me,” Al said.

After several minutes laying there, Scorpius reached for the tissue box on Al’s desk and cleaned them off, pulling his jeans back up. Though he tried reaching for his shirt, Al swatted at his hand and circled his fingers around Scorpius’s wrist, pulling his hand to his chest. Scorpius snorted softly and pressed a kiss to the tip of Al’s nose.

“Now that I’ve got you shirtless and in my bed, I won’t relinquish you so easily,” Al informed him, a roguish smile dancing across his lips.

In a swift motion, Al’s fingers were curled around Scorpius’s wrists and Al had flipped him onto his back. He loomed above Scorpius, his messy hair brushing across Scorpius’s forehead, and grinned down at him with a sure, mischievous smile. His hands were pinned above his head and though his heart threatened to flee his ribcage, he had never felt more grounded. Scorpius’s heart stuttered as he gazed up at Al and his eyes fluttered shut as Al ran his nose along Scorpius’s, pressing a slow, gentle kiss to his lips.

That feeling of homesickness had dissolved, leaving only bliss in its wake.

Al ducked his head down to kiss Scorpius again and right at that moment, his stomach growled. Grinning, Al pulled back and cocked a brow at him.

“Hungry?”

Scorpius smiled sheepishly. “Maybe a bit.”

Al chuckled, pressed one last kiss firmly to his lips, then pushed himself up and off Scorpius. “Let’s go to Lola’s and see Dot about some burgers and shakes. I’m sure she’s wondering where we’ve gone by now.”

He caught the t-shirt Al tossed to him and pulled it on, watching as Al tugged on his own. It would be a lie to say he wasn’t reluctant to see Al fully clothed again.

“No doubt she assumes you got into some trouble,” Scorpius teased.

Al scoffed. “Dot knows I’m a golden boy. Don’t you dare tarnish my name.”

Scorpius slid on his hoodie. “You do that well enough yourself.”

Laughing, Al cupped Scorpius’s face and leaned down to kiss him once more. Scorpius couldn’t help his seemingly permanent smile. For once, everything felt as it should.

“You’re a menace,” Al murmured, kissing his bottom lip. “Don’t know why I abide you.”

“You’d be miserable without me,” Scorpius shot back, teasing.

Al nodded slowly, his eyes crinkled at the corners, his mouth tugged into a half-smile. “Yeah,” he agreed.

Scorpius reached up and pulled Al down by the front of his shirt, pressing a fierce kiss to his lips. It shot straight through his veins and made his head fuzzy. When he broke the kiss, Al rested his forehead against Scorpius’s for a moment, his thumb stroking Scorpius’s cheekbone.

“You make me so happy,” he whispered.

Within him, his heart sang. Not wanting to say something too sappy, he leaned back and reached up to card his fingers through Al’s hair.

“Come on,” he said softly, “let’s go to Lola’s.”

Hand-in-hand, fingers interlocked, they did just that.

Chapter Text

Dusk descended upon Southview, gossamer clouds painted across the blue and lavender sky. Clipboard in hand, Scorpius crossed his arms over his chest as he watched the group of tryouts trudge back to the locker rooms. Beside him, Becca looked thoughtful.

“Despite what you said, Adam, Karl, Daisy, and Cece are obviously all making the cut,” she said.

Scorpius chewed on the inside of his cheek, hiding a smile. “Don’t tell them that. We can’t let them get too complacent.”

“Come on, we’ve had them practicing with us every week during the summer. They’ve earned it and they’re good.” Becca playfully knocked her shoulder against his. “Do you have an idea of who you want in the goal and as a striker? Those are our two biggest positions to fill.”

“No one’s going to be as good as Tim or Blaze.”

“Well, duh.”

Scorpius cocked his head to the side. “Don’t know about the defense yet, but Elena Longbottom blocked every shot.”

Becca nodded. “I was thinking of her too.”

After Blaze and Theo graduated, the team had voted Scorpius and Becca as their co-captains. Though Scorpius was initially hesitant, Blaze had pulled him aside and told him in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t accept the position, he would personally ensure that Scorpius could never play soccer again. The decision had been easy after that.

He looked down at his clipboard. Beneath the words ‘Southview’s 2024-2025 Soccer Team’ were his and Becca’s names. With a small smile, he added Cece, Adam, Karl, and Daisy—Becca was right, they had earned it. Besides, he couldn’t imagine playing on a field without them. They were his family.

Becca peered over his shoulder, then tapped her finger against the sheet. “Add Will Finnigan-Thomas as the striker. He’s a nightmare on the field.”

Scorpius did as he was told. Difficult as it was to replace his old teammates, he knew that he must. As he was debating who should replace Vic and Gordon, his phone buzzed. Becca’s did too and he glanced at her screen. It was a picture from Eve, sent to their group chat. She was wearing her Southview Swans hoodie, mimicking the mascot caught mid-honk. Becca snickered and took a quick selfie, sticking her tongue out. Scorpius protested as she sent it into the chat, as his eyes were half-closed in the background and his nostrils were flared.

“You’re awful,” he announced.

“Look how cute she is,” Becca gushed, grinning down at the picture of Eve. “Look at her little scrunched-up nose.”

Scorpius chuckled. “Very dignified,” he said dryly. “When are you gonna see her next?”

“I’m driving up in a couple of weeks to spend the long weekend with her.” She shot him a sheepish look. “I’ll have to miss Friday’s practice.”

He shrugged. “That’s fine. I might end up just cancelling that practice anyway.”

Becca raised her brows. “Really?”

Nodding, Scorpius slowly began walking toward the locker rooms. “Al and I are thinking of touring some colleges that weekend. He wanted to visit Fred and James anyway.”

Smirking, Becca shot him a suggestive look. “And how are things with you and your boy?”

Scorpius was about to respond when he noticed Becca’s attention was on something behind him. Grinning, she jerked her chin toward the parking lot. Following her gaze, Scorpius’s mouth curled into a smile. A familiar figure leaned against the hood of a BMW.

“Some things never change,” Becca said, taking the clipboard from Scorpius and waving at Al. As she began walking toward the locker room, she called back, “Have fun! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“Yes, Mom.”

He grabbed his bag from the bleachers, then headed over to Al, unable to keep himself from smiling. As Scorpius neared him, Al pushed himself off the hood and intercepted him, grinning as he slung his arms around Scorpius’s neck.

“How’d you know when tryouts would be over?” Scorpius asked.

“I texted Becca. Figured I’d surprise you.”

Scorpius’s heart bloomed and he kissed Al, wrapping his arms tightly around his boyfriend. His skin buzzed and he laughed as Al rained playful kisses upon face. Unwilling to let Al out of his embrace just yet, he buried his face into Al’s shoulder, inhaling the scent of Al’s cologne.

“How was therapy?”

“Pretty good.” Al played with the hair at the nape of Scorpius’s neck. “I talked about you.”

He pulled back slightly to look at Al, raising his brows. “All good things?”

Al’s smile was wicked. “I told her all about how you’ve thoroughly debauched me, seduced me over to the light side.” Scorpius tickled his ribs and Al laughed, holding him tighter to block his range of movement. “All good things, I promise,” he chuckled. “She wants you to come to my session next week if you’re free.”

“I’ll be there,” Scorpius promised, kissing Al one last time.

They both climbed into the car and Scorpius grinned at the Polaroid picture propped up on Al’s dashboard. It was of the two of them curled up on a dock, a shimmering blue lake stretched out behind them, Al clutching Scorpius and doubled over with laughter as Scorpius kissed his temple.

Before everyone left for college, the Southview and Lakeview teams had a joint get-together at the lake on the outskirts of town. They spent the whole day by the lake, carefree and enjoying their last few days together before the seniors left. Vic and Gordon brought a soccer ball and had a four-on-four scrimmage with Tim and Blaze against James, Rose, Lorcan, and Fred while Eve braided flowers into Becca’s hair and Al chased Scorpius around the dock, threatening to throw him in. It had ended with Scorpius grabbing Al around the waist and launching them both into the water. After they’d pushed themselves back up out of the water, laughing uncontrollably and collapsing onto the dock, Lily had taken the picture of them.

Beside the picture of he and Al was a picture of the Lakeview team, all grinning and dripping wet. Scorpius had one of he and his teammates propped up beside his bed, right next to another of he and Al—in the picture, Scorpius was making a face at the camera, sticking his tongue out, and Al was kissing his cheek.

Lily had given him other pictures too, which were now hung on his walls: Blaze, Tim, Karl, Adam, and Daisy caught in midair, cannonballing into the lake; Cece and Eve sitting on Tim and Vic’s shoulders; Becca on Blaze’s back, Karl on Adam’s, racing toward the water; Scorpius and Rose smiling with their arms around each other, James, Fred, and Al in the background making silly faces; Scorpius and Eve standing at the end of the dock, arms flapping like swans, smiling like sunshine, not a care in the world.

As Al pulled out of the parking lot, Scorpius looked out toward the soccer field, toward the sun setting upon it, then at the sunset reflected in Al’s eyes, and felt warmth sing through his veins.

He had never felt so golden.