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Forever and Always

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Albie finds Scor sitting on a bench in the Astronomy Tower, gazing up at the stars and trying to hold back tears. He knows what Scor is trying to do because he’s seen it before: the look of intense concentration, the watery eyes and the hard press of his lips to hold back the tide of emotion that’s threatening to pull him under. Scor gets that from his father, Albie also knows. Not, though, that his father encourages Scor to keep his emotions inside, but rather that’s just how he operates usually so that’s how Scor learned to operate.

It’s somehow sadder to see Scor trying to keep it together than it is to see him crying.

“How come you’re hiding up here, then?” Albie asks, taking a seat at Scor’s side and bumping his shoulder softly with his own.

“Didn’t want to bother anyone,” Scor replies, sniffling a bit.

“I’m not anyone, thanks!” Albie responds.

“No, no, I know, I just...I don’t know,” Scor answers. He glances for a moment at Albie, and his eyes are red-rimmed, then turns his gaze back skyward. “I’m...my...I think I’m--” he cuts himself off, frustrated, and folds his arms over his chest. “You should just go. You’ll get in trouble if Totty catches you up here.”

“You’ll get in trouble too.” Albie just shifts closer and wraps an arm around his friend. “So we’ll get in trouble together then...like we always do,” he grins.

Scor fights it for only a moment, then melts, letting his head fall onto Albie’s shoulder. His glasses dig into Albie’s neck for just a moment before he shifts, and they fit together perfectly. They always fit together nicely, crowded together as they are. There’s a boy, another fourth year, but he’s in Ravenclaw, who always runs his mouth whenever he sees how close Scor and Albie are. Albie thinks he’s probably just jealous and laughs at him, but it always bothers Scor much more. In fact…

“Are you hiding ‘cause of that stupid joke of Harrington’s earlier today?”

Scor quickly sits up, and Albie knows what’s coming next.

“Harrington’s an arse! I don’t care about him,” Scor spits and folds his arms defensively over his chest. He blinks rapidly, though, and the fragile wall that he always tries so hard to keep up starts to come down.

Albie just shrugs and says, softly, “You really shouldn’t care about what he says. He doesn’t matter, and the stupid shit he says doesn’t matter either.” Because this isn’t really about Harrington at all.

“I know!” Scor cries out. “I know, but it just...it hurts because I-- because I’m, well, I’m-- and he just says these hurtful things, and I know he’s really just making jokes and he doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. He doesn’t know, he can’t know because I’ve never said--FUCK!” He’s pacing now, angry and sad, and it kills Albie a little. Because he does know. Albie knows and has done for at least a year now, but he also knows how important it is to let Scor say it for himself when he’s ready. “Albie, I…”

When Scor doesn’t continue after a moment, Albie gets up from the bench and pulls his best friend into a hug. “I love you, you know,” he whispers into Scor’s hair. “Forever.”

-- -- -- --

Albie thinks that Scor has no idea how lovely he is, which only makes him lovelier. When Scor gives him that half-shy, half-coy smile and bites down on his lower lip with perfect, even teeth, Albie can even see why Jamie wants him so much. But Jamie never says a word despite supposedly being the courageous Gryffindor, and Scor just waits, quiet and watchful, for the right moment to make a move.

They’re his two favorite people, and it would be really great if they’d get right the hell over their hang-ups and just be together.

“Are you ever going to just tell me?” Albie then says, stretching out his legs briefly and then pulling them up and wrapping his arms around them. The steps to the castle are unforgiving against his bum until Scor lazily waves his wand and casts a cushioning charm for them both.

“Tell you what?” Scor replies absently, his gaze fixed on Jamie across the courtyard, laughing with his friends. They’re four and a half days away from leaving Hogwarts forever. Jamie’s intent upon the professional Quidditch trials, which take place in Nottingham this year. He’ll get drafted no doubt, perhaps even to Team England since he really is that good, better even then Mum. And then he’ll be traveling the country or the world, and he’ll rarely come home, and he’ll certainly have very little reason to visit Hogwarts. Perhaps that’s why he keeps his feelings to himself. Perhaps that’s why Scor does too, knowing Jamie as well as he does.

Albie reaches up and adjusts his beanie. “That you’re in love with my brother,” he says calmly, before turning to his friend and grinning widely.

He sees it in Scor’s eyes for the briefest of seconds before his cool, Slytherin mask comes down. “I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he sniffs.

“C’mon, don’t be a prat. You don’t have to hide from me of all people. Just tell me,” Albie insists, reaching out a hand to swat playfully at Scor’s shoulder.

Scor looks wary, as if he thinks it’s a trick. He should know better by now, and Albie just waits. Scor sighs then, a small smile coming to his lips. He can’t help it, it seems, and Albie returns the smile. “I’m in love with your brother,” Scor says. “I am, I’m arse over bloody teakettle for him.” His expression rapidly becomes serious. “Don’t you dare tell him. I know all manner of creative hexes, which you very well know, and if you say a word, I’ll have your bits in a vice with barely a flick of my wand!”

“I won’t say anything...but I think you should. I think you’ll be surprised what’ll happen if you do,” Albie replies.

“You mean...you’re not angry or anything?”

Albie laughs and reaches out to poke Scor in the side. “Why the bloody hell would I be angry? I think it’s great!”

Scor laughs too, then pushes his glasses up his nose a bit. “How did you know?”

“You mean aside from the fact that you’re totally obvious?” Albie glances out over the courtyard and finds Jamie amongst his friends. Jamie looks up and gives him a wave, then smiles a bright smile at Scor that he quickly covers up with his hand and turns back to his friends. Albie turns back to Scor, who saw the entire thing. “Because I know you.”

-- -- -- --

Scor fidgets with his tie, utterly fails to charm it into place and throws his wand across the tent in a fit of pique. “I look ridiculous. I look ridiculous and pompous and old-fashioned, and it’s all Father’s fault that he insisted on this ridiculous, traditional, godawful set of robes! I hate everything about this, and I’m going home!” He stomps away from the mirror and throws himself onto the cot along the wall.

Albie swallows the laughter that threatens to erupt and schools his expression to one of appropriate concern. “It’s really not that bad,” he says, which is probably the wrong thing to say, he realizes, as soon as it leaves his mouth.

Scor gives him a withering look. “At least you look like you, for fuck’s sake. I look like a pompous little git!”

“You really don’t, I promise,” Albie replies. He glances down at himself, dressed as he is in a pair of black skinny trousers, a ratty old pair of dragonhide boots, a green button-down and a black bow-tie. “Although I suppose compared to me, you rather do…”

“See I knew it!” He lets out a frustrated groan and scrubs his hands over his face, knocking his glasses aside. “This is a terrible idea. It’s never going to work actually. So why don’t we all just go home? Everyone will be much happier if we all just go home!”

Albie rolls his eyes and then walks over to the cot, nudges at Scor’s legs until he shoves over and sits down. “Everyone will be much happier? Really? Everyone is going to be so much happier that you fucked off for home because your robes look poncey?”

Scor remains silent, until Albie shoves him over a bit more and lies down next to him. “This cot isn’t big enough for both of us,” he mutters, but he’s smiling at least a bit now.

“It’s going to be great, you know. You could go out there totally starkers, and it wouldn’t matter. Not to the people who count,” Albie says softly.

“What if I fuck it all up?” Scor whispers.

Albie knows he’s not just talking about his outfit anymore. “You won’t...and if you somehow do, you can blame it all on me.”

Scor snickers. “It was rather all your fault in the first place, wasn’t it?”

“A bit, yeah,” Albie replies, before wrapping his arms, however awkwardly, around Scor. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?”

“No way.”

They lay together for a few moments more, quiet and contemplative, until Scor finally nudges him. Albie climbs off the cot and straightens his shirt once again. “I should probably pop over and give the same pep talk to the other groom,” he says, as he heads for the tent’s opening.

“Tell him I love him,” Scor replies absently, as he takes his place in front of the mirror again. Albie watches, grinning, as he slices the fancy robes off, leaving himself in a skinny white suit. He looks an absolute vision, and as Albie ducks out of the tent to find his brother, he knows that everything’s going to be just fine.

-- -- -- --

Dad likes to say it was inevitable that they two should be best friends. He gets a funny sort of faraway look in his eyes, but he smiles nonetheless and says, “There’s just something about those Malfoy boys. They get under your skin.”

Albie knows the truth of it, though. He’s a smart lad, a would-do-well-in-Ravenclaw lad, and it was not inevitable that he and Scor should be best friends. Because the connotation of inevitability is negative: a chance pushing together by the stars or by some controlling deity, yes, but one that smacks of oh, it can’t be helped, so better we make the most of it. No, the truth of it is that he and Scor are best friends because it’s fated, a far more romantic and adventurous word for inevitable. He’d known it from the moment Scor’d shyly held out his hand for a shake, and he’d clasped it firmly and shook it vigorously, just like Dad had taught him. They’ve been inseparable ever since, like it was written in a script long ago, just waiting to be acted out.

They lie together on Albie’s bed, the curtains drawn closed against the sleepy noises of their fellow Slytherin first years. They’re close enough together that Scor doesn’t need his glasses to see, and Albie thinks that Scor looks much softer without the thick, black frames.

“Will you come visit me this summer?” Scor whispers, his warm breath puffing over Albie’s face.

Albie thinks back to Dad and Mum’s faces over the Christmas hols when he’d first told them about Scor, and then again over Easter when his friendship with Scor had only been stronger, and he grins. “Sure enough will,” he agrees. “Mum’ll lay an egg, but Dad’ll talk her into it.” He doesn’t really know why Mum doesn’t like Scor’s father, except that it has something to do with the war, but he’s sure that she’ll relent. She loves him, after all, and just wants what’s best for him. She says that a lot.

Scor’s grin lights up his face. “I can’t wait to show you the Manor. We’ve got a pool and everything!”

“Totally brill,” Albie replies, grinning back.

They spend most of the rest of the night making plans. Albie will go to Malfoy Manor to swim in their massive outdoor pool, and together, they’ll chase peacocks and tease old portraits of dusty relatives. Then later, Scor will come to Grimmauld Place, and they’ll have games of Quidditch with Jamie and Dad will tell them all sorts of stories from when he was young--the real stories, not the official ones from their History of Magic books.

And in the wee hours of the morning, when Scor has finally fallen asleep, Albie carefully gets off the bed and goes back to his own. He crawls under the covers, closes his eyes and smiles softly to himself as he drifts off to sleep.

He’s not exactly certain what it means, but somehow he knows that wherever Scor wants to lead him, he’ll follow for as long as Scor will let him. Always.