A/N: Hi everyone. This was my submission for the AS/S Fest on livejournal. I hope you enjoy. It had been beta-read by Schermionie. You did a great job to put up with what I did, thanks a lot.
His office was a mess. There were files everywhere, and none of them were placed in any known classification. Albus Potter had never been the cleanest person in the world, but this disorder was messy, even for him. Somehow, however, he could always find what he was looking for. "It's disorderedly arranged," he would say to his mother whenever she had asked him to clean his room as a kid.
In the doorway, Harry Potter was looking at his son with sadness in his eyes. Albus had his head on his desk, drool connecting the corner of his mouth to one of his precious files. Albus was so exhausted that it kind of broke his father's heart.
Harry used his wand to carefully levitate his son across the room and Apparated them to Godric's Hollow. Albus would probably be more comfortable in his own apartment, but the protective charms in place didn't allow Harry to Apparate there.
As a child of the Second War and as a trained head of the Aurors, that he wasn't able to get through the protection spells made Harry's heart swell with pride. As a father, he wished he could come and go through Albus' apartment as he wanted, but Albus needed his independence. Harry could understand that.
"Honey? Are you home?" Ginny asked from downstairs.
"I'm in Al's room."
Harry pushed the emerald green bedspread out and slowly put his son to bed. He undressed him with a quick spell and used the silver blanket to wipe away the drool still on his face.
When he stood up, Ginny had joined him. "He fell asleep on the job again?"
"He works too hard." There were no reproaches in her voice, but Harry felt guilty anyway.
He wished he knew what to say, what to do to ease Albus' job. It was his own damn fault for teaching his children to be so stubborn.
"There must be something we can do." His voice was only a whisper, and Ginny placed her hand on his shoulder and squeezed. He understood what she was saying by that simple gesture.
They stayed awhile in the room, in silence, looking at their son sleeping, the way they did when he was still a boy.
When Albus woke up, it was about three in the morning, and at first, he had no idea where he was. He was only in his boxers, with no sign of his wand, but by the time he'd realised that, light had begun to filter in through the windows. The first things he recognised were the stuffed animals on the wall. He had collected them as a kid and he remembered the day he'd asked his mother to get rid of them.
It was the day before he entered Hogwarts. He'd been packing alone — because he was a grown up now, he had said — when James had passed by the open door of his room. Of course, James had begun to call him a crybaby because he had been putting his favourite lion, Godric, among his clothes. Worked up by the teasing, Albus had gone to his mother and asked her to throw out all of his stuffed animals while he was away. He had never really understood why she had kept them all these years.
In his bed, Albus smiled with melancholy. What wouldn't he do to go back to that period of time where everything was so simple, when he still believed that life was fair and that magic resolved everything.
"What if I'm in Slytherin?"
"Albus Severus, you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."
"But just say —"
"— then Slytherin house will have gained an excellent student, won't it? It doesn't matter to us, Al. But if it matters to you, you'll be able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin. The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account."
"It did for me."
Much later, in the train, the conversation would turn over and over in his head. The next time James tried to bother him about being a snake, he would shrug and walk away. He was going to be a Gryffindor! It didn't matter where the hat wanted to send him: he was going to be a Gryffindor.
Albus found a free compartment with Rose, and eventually, another of his cousins, Roxanne, came in. The girls talked together, but the conversation bored Albus pretty fast. He didn't particularly care about what they thought of the latest robes' fashion.
"Hey? Where are you going?" Rose asked when Albus stood up.
"I'm just taking a walk."
"Don't go too far: we'll arrive at Hogwarts in less than two hours and you still haven't put your uniform on."
In answer, Rose stuck her tongue out at him. Albus laughed it off and left.
It was then that he saw him: Scorpius Malfoy.
The boy was getting in a nearby carriage, but their eyes had locked and neither of them were willing to look away. Albus didn't even realise that the door had closed behind him and that the girls had continued their discussion about how old-fashioned Hogwarts' uniforms were.
After a moment, Scorpius smiled shyly — the most beautiful smile — and entered the carriage. The charm broken, Albus shook himself and went back to the girls.
He groaned in answer and sat the whole two hours' ride in silence, lost in his thoughts.
Later that year, Rose would say that Scorpius had the most boring grey eyes ever, but to Albus, they were the most attractive silver in the world.
Albus' stomach roared. He snapped back into reality and went downstairs where the kitchen was. There was no one around of course, and he didn't want to disturb their only house-elf, Pinky. Besides, it was way over the legal working hour; he would have to pay extra for her services. He took some leftover rosemary and pumpkin chicken with mashed potatoes and cast a reheating charm on them. It had been his favourite meal since he could eat solid food. He had tried to make it himself, using different recipes, but nothing could beat his mother's chicken.
"You could never get enough of this stuff."
"What are you doing up at four, Mum?"
Albus let his mother kiss his forehead. "You know I've always been a light sleeper."
She sat in front of him, a fork in her hand, and took a little piece of chicken from his plate.
"HEY! That's mine!"
Ginny laughed it off and took another bite. "So, why don't you tell me what's wrong. It's the third time this week you've fallen asleep at the office."
"I'm just working on some case. You know the drill: I can't really talk to you about it." Albus couldn't look his mother in the eyes because he knew that she knew it wasn't entirely true. "Dad had a case like that. Remember that serial rapist case in 2023 — he almost didn't come home the entire summer."
"You kids probably don't remember, but we almost divorced that year."
"Oh, we do remember."
"Al? Al? Are you there?"
Albus jumped out of his bed, where he had been trying to read his Advanced potions book for next year. He picked up his two-way mirror, which was lying on his desk.
"Great, you're here! I have good news! I talked to my dad and he said you can come for a couple of days if your parents are able to trust him."
"Anything to get out of here. They fought again this morning. Something stupid like some dirt my father didn't clean up."
"That sucks babe."
"Yeah… You… you think they're going to… you know."
"I don't know. Their marriage is stronger than my parents' was. They married for love: there's a good chance they're just going through a rough patch."
"I just wish you were here. Things would be easier."
"And I wish I was at the Hollow too. And I can't wait for you to be here."
The ambiance had changed from angsty to playful. "Yeah, and what are your plans for the week-end?"
"Hmm, it wouldn't be a surprise if I told you."
Albus bit his lip now, feeling the tension rising. "You could at least give me a little clue."
"Well, let's just say that the manor is three times as big as your house and it's only my father and me. That's a lot of alone time."
Groaning a little, Albus shifted around on his bed, because he was beginning to feel uncomfortable. "I love the sound of that."
"Yeah, I can see that…" Scorpius' eyes were glimmering and shiny. "Hard much?"
There was the sound of zippers going down. Their hands slid into their pants and…
And Albus went back to reality. This wasn't something he wanted to think about whilst eating with his mother. He couldn't help blushing under Ginny's gaze. She was looking at him as if she knew what he was thinking.
Suddenly, he felt just like the little kid he used to be. He blushed and dug into his chicken.
In the morning, Albus went back to his apartment in Diagon Alley, his arms full of prepared meals. He hadn't wanted to take them at first, but his mother had insisted.
There was no one waiting for him at home. Most of the time, he didn't mind. He was a trained Auror and an adult: he didn't need anyone. However, there were days where he missed being with someone. September was the worst time for that.
When he was younger, he loved autumn. He would play with his cousins at the Burrow for hours, making huge piles of leaves and jumping into them. Happy and innocent.
Of course, there had been the autumn that he and Scorpius had played there...
"You're crazy. I am so not doing that."
"Oh come on! Are you a Gryffindor or not!"
"I'm still not doing that. We're not six anymore, we're fourteen. We're too old for things like that."
"Rubbish. We're never too old for anything. Come on, it's fun!"
Albus began to throw leaf after leaf at his friend. Scorpius avoided them one by one, getting angrier by the second.
"Stop it, mate."
Of course, Albus didn't stop. He smirked at his friend, the same smirk that always made Scorpius doubt his sorting. Scorpius tried to back down, but soon his back was against a tree and he couldn't escape. Not that he wanted to anyway.
Albus was so close to him, they could feel each other's warm breath despite the cold October weather. Their eyes locked together, and Al couldn't look away.
Al could feel Scorpius' hard chest against his and he thought that if he was going to die right now, he would die happy. His eyes slipped to Scorpius' pink lips before going back to the grey of his eyes.
He hesitated half a second before brushing his lips against Scorp's.
Scorpius didn't pull away. Confidence growing by the second, Al pressed harder. His hands lightly brushed against his friend's back, and he gripped his hair as a flurry of leaves fell down around them.
Yeah, that had been a good time. Back when he'd had it all. That first kiss was one of his best souvenirs of his days at Hogwarts. Now autumn had a whole different meaning.
He put the meals away and headed for the bathroom. A bath would be most welcome. Using a warming charm to get the water to the perfect temperature, he threw his robes in a corner and plunged into the water.
Albus was getting ready to brew a potion when the door opened. Harry Potter stood in the doorway, imposing in his Auror robes. Albus stiffened almost imperceptibly. Scorpius had just proposed to him a couple of nights ago, and Albus was too happy to argue yet again with his father.
"Dad, if you're here to ask me once again if I want to become an Auror, the answer is still no. I'm really happy with my decision to open an apothecary with Scorp."
Albus was already going back to his potion.
"I'm not here to fight, Sevy."
It had been years since his father called him by that little nickname of theirs.
There was also something in his tone of voice which scared him. "Dad? What's wrong?"
"Maybe you should sit."
"Oh Merlin! Who's dead?"
With so many Aurors in the family, death was the ultimate fear.
"No one's dead, but there was an incident. We don't know what happened yet, it's probably nothing really, but…"
"Dad. Just say it."
"The Malfoys have disappeared."
"What do you mean, disappeared?"
Albus suddenly felt dizzy, as if the world was fading in front of him. "Oh Merlin!" He needed to sit or he was going to faint. "Please tell be that Scorp is okay?"
"We don't know yet, but we think he was there when it happened. We are still trying to make sense of the event." Harry came closer to his son and attempted to touch him.
Albus dodged his hand. He couldn't bear being touched at the moment. He tried to control his respiration, but he felt as if he couldn't breathe. His heart was beating hard in his chest, and Albus was close to hyperventilating. He shook his head left and right, in full denial mode.
"No!" Albus thought. "Everything is fine. Scorp must be on his way now. He just doesn't know about the disappearance. That's it."
Albus plunged into the water, enjoying the pressure over his body. It helped him relax his tense muscles. It was like a safe place where he couldn't hear or see anything. The world disappeared, and the hurt was appeased, even if it was just for a couple of seconds.
The calendar on the left corner of his desk had today's date circled in red. The fifteenth of September. Ten years. It had been ten years since the last time he saw Scorpius. To be honest, Albus was highly sentimental on this day of the year, and he was ready to snap at anyone who bothered him.
Albus called in sick that day. He didn't really feel like working.
His head was full of memories of moments with Scorpius. The long snogging sessions in the dungeons, the time their potion had exploded because they were too busy being lost in each other's eyes, that detention they'd had after they pulled a prank on James in second year, or the time when Scorpius had been attacked by Goyle and the entire Weasley clan had avenged him, making Scorpius an official member of the family.
He closed the curtains in his study and cancelled the protections on the third drawer of the left side of his desk. He got a metal box he had bought long ago in a Muggle shop out of it. The salesperson had said it was the top-notch of security for this kind of home safe. Of course, he had also added his own protection spells, just to make sure.
He left the safe on his desk and went to the library, which contained his old Defence Against the Dark Arts textbooks, some old books from his Auror formation, Dark magic books and other books useful in his line of work. There was nothing special about this library.
Among all the books, Albus took the one named The 20 most used poisons and their antidotes, by Timothy Fletcher. When he opened this book he had read a million times before, there was a hole in which a Muggle key was placed. He put the key in the pocket of his robes and put the book back in its place.
Albus got back to his desk and entered the code to open the safe. Inside the safe, there were pictures of the Malfoy's manor, inside and out, ten scrolls, and a small, brownish, old wooden box hidden underneath. There was something weird about the pictures of the manor. The meal was still on the table, half eaten but still steaming. Where there used to be the portrait of Lady Delilah Malfoy and her family, there was only a black, empty frame. It was like that for all the portraits. Nothing. Nada. They were all gone. Portraits, house-elves — everyone was gone. And that included the Malfoys themselves.
Albus moved the picture aside in order to take out the box. Playing with its key in one hand, he slowly felt the curly engraving in its wood with the other. Some grooves were very delicate; others, larger.
He was about to finally open the box when the door of his office opened with a big boom. It was Teddy Remus Lupin, one of the few Aurors who didn't give a damn if he was the chief and Harry Potter's son, and the only one who wasn't scared of his wrath. Not only was Teddy part of the family, he was also his partner on the job and his best friend.
Teddy just sat in the chair in front of the desk. Albus sighed: he could see the disappointment in his eyes. "What? Don't look at me like that. You know what day it is."
"Exactly. Which is why you're going to lock that bloody box away, and we're going to have a nice, memory-free day. Understood?"
Albus mimicked the soldiers he saw in Muggle films by saluting. "Yes, sir."
"You get two minutes."
Teddy stood up and waited for him, tapping his foot on the floor and watching his pocket watch. They didn't have all day.