"Where did you get that thing anyway?" Rose asks, peering over Albus' shoulder, chin leaning into him.
Scorpius' napkin-note owl bristles its wings once. Then shaking its head, it looks as though it might be sleeping. (Or is attempting to, anyway.)
"No where," Albus replies off-handedly. He returns to reading his really, very engaging chapter on the Revolt of Gurgash the Gross in 1479, pretending to ignore his best friend and -
"It can't just be no where."
- his brother.
James jabs at the little owl with the tip of his wand, forcing it to bristle its wings again. It suddenly looks as though it might take flight. "It's an impressive piece of magic, in any case."
With an internal sigh of annoyance, Albus reaches out to cup the owl between both hands, sliding it toward him and out of harm's way.
"Leave it alone, James," he says.
James leans forward, grinning. He bumps Albus' shoulder playfully. "Come on, Al. You can tell us. Is it from a secret admirer, then?"
"No." He will forever hate his face for the fact that it always fails to conceal his emotions. He turns red.
A second passes as Albus waits for the inevitable.
"Merlin's beard - d'you have a secret admirer, really?" James' grin widens. "Well done, Al. Who is it?"
Does his brother really have absolutely no tact at all?
(He doesn't even want to admit the answer.)
"It's - just -" Albus lets out a huff. "Just leave me alone," he finishes weakly. "We're in a library. We should be doing work. I've got a History of Magic exam in two days, and ..."
Rose ignores that. She narrows her blue eyes in his direction, looking so very much like his aunt Hermione when she's trying to stare into your soul to extract secrets.
(Albus is convinced she can do it. She's nearly always right about things.)
Albus averts his gaze away from his staring family. The owl's wings beat lightly against the insides of his palms.
"I'll tell Lily, and she'll investigate if you don't spill now," Rose says.
"And you know she'll get to the bottom of it," James says. "She's a regular - what was that character you talked about once? 'Homes'?"
"'Sherlock Holmes'," Albus answers reluctantly, "and why can't you just let it go? No one gave it to me. I - I made it myself."
James rolls his eyes. "If you made it yourself, you would've just admitted it in the first place."
"And your face wouldn't have turned funny colours."
"Yours'll turn funny colours if you don't let it alone," Albus threatens.
"It's about time you got yourself a girlfriend, Al," James says sagely.
"Why?" Albus asks. He does not ask why it's got to be a 'girlfriend.'
James says plainly, "Rite of passage."
"Or," Rose says, snorting, "it's just that you're completely fanciable, if you stopped being so twitchy and shy. In fact, I heard Sara McLaggen and Matilda Bennett talking about you the other day in the girl's lavatory."
"What?" James asks.
Albus looks surprised too. No one ever talks about him, not unless they're talking about how strange he is, or how much he takes after his dad, or how much he and his family ruined their families lives, or worse ...
Rose nods. "That's right. I thought I heard wrong, to be honest - no offence, Al - but yeah. They were definitely talking about Albus Severus Potter. They said you had -" She glances up as though trying to recall the exact words "- 'really cute green eyes and a lovely smile'. You know, when you actually smile."
James grins. "Thatta boy, Al."
"I smile," Albus protests.
He stares back at the text before him, watching the words come together in a blurry mess of black ink on paper as he thinks about what Rose said and not about Gurgash the Gross.
If it's true - if what Rose says is true -
But why would it be? And what would that change? He doesn't know either of them, not really. And that little sinking feeling in his stomach has nothing to do with them, not Sara, not Matilda, not any other girl. Not even Alexis Castle. It's -
Merlin's beard, it's Scorpius.
And try as he might to stop it, that sinking feeling turns into something entirely different (not unlike what he used to feel about Alexis) when he thinks about the pale blond-haired boy.
"U-um." Albus shuts his book, and in a flurry of slightly shaky movements, gathers the rest of his parchment notes and quills together to stuff into his book-bag. He scoops the owl into one hand and places it into his robes pocket. "I should probably get back to the common room now. It's getting late."
Rose frowns. "What? But what about -"
"Sorry, Rose. Um. I could help you with your potions revision later? Er - tomorrow, maybe?"
"... yeah, all right, Al."
As Albus hurriedly exits the library with his bag slung haphazardly over his shoulder, he can just hear James ask, "What the bloody hell was that all about?"