Title: Generation Ship
Time/Setting: 2010 and beyond
Word Count: ~8800
Length of Composition: 3:59
Summary: The year's unknown but Orion has been flying among the stars for generations in search for a new homeworld, a new Earth. Everything is mired in bureaucracy, but Albus Severus doesn't care. It doesn't matter if his uncle Ron is a janitor, or his cousin Rose is a prostitute; he has his perfect job, his perfect life. But then, Scorpius Malfoy arrives and Albus's perfect life is turned upside down.
Author's Notes: This fic wouldn't have been the same without the awesomeness of my partner jordanneleigh who helped me through some of the more difficult aspects of this fic. I recommend listening to the song on repeat while reading the fic!
Songwriter's Notes: The making of my song went through many fits and spurts. What it was a month ago is unrecognizable to what it is now, but I don't think that I would be so proud of it without my partner's curia_regis support!
The wrench trembles in mid air
I wonder if I’m going crazy.
But he says "It must be magic!"
I can hear the pounding of my heart.
The proof of magic is in my hands
His eyes gleam, he pats me on the arm
I ignore the strange fluttering feeling
When he smiles my breath quickens
The computers have stopped working!
And if the engines have failed, we're going to crash
“I guess we should try to save the day”
Scorpius jumped into the captain's chair.
I placed my hands on his shoulders.
"You can do this," I say "You can."
“We did it," his lips touch down,
electricity slides through me,
I lean in for another kiss.
Ronald Weasley hummed happily to himself as he scrubbed the toilet. Leaning over, he gave it an extra scrub before standing up and admiring his work. It was sparkling now. Practically clean enough to eat off. The bright badge of a Cleaning Specialist glinted on his lapel as he moved onto his next task; he could almost smell the grime from the sinks.
Albus Severus was pleased with his assignment. It was quite fortunate that he actually liked numbers. Unlike some of the other people his age, he was going to enjoy his job. Albus knew for certain that a few of his old classmates were going into occupations they were distinctly displeased with. He could remember how much Rose's face had flamed when the teacher announced that she was going into Human Services. The politically correct term for prostitute.
Albus scanned down his assignment sheet. He was going to be working with the Captain's son, Scorpius Malfoy. He made a face. There were many rumours involving Scorpius. The most notable was that Scorpius had actually gone and asked for reassignment. Apparently, the notorious playboy didn't wish to marry and take over the captaincy of the Orion.
Albus's head snapped up. Before him stood a man who was most definitely not in regulation uniform. "Mr Malfoy, I presume," Albus said. He couldn't help but stare. The man was wearing a bright pink suit that should have clashed with his pale blond hair, but he somehow pulled it off. The look was finished by a tiny white flower stuck in his chest pocket.
"Scorpius," the man said. "Please, call me Scorpius. I presume you're Albus?"
Albus nodded. "I am your co-worker, however, for the first month, I shall also be your immediate supervisor while you learn the job. Your rank is that of Engineer, Third Class."
Scorpius made a face and smoothed down the lapel of his perfectly manicured suit. "I read the briefing pack," he said.
Albus clenched his teeth together and with an effort, made himself relax. He knew he was going to be booking himself into a relaxation booth later this evening. This Scorpius fellow was unbelievable. "Very well," he said, keeping his voice calm. "I trust you also read the section regarding regulation dress code. I expect you to report to me at 0700 tomorrow in proper uniform."
Scorpius looked like he was about to laugh. His mouth quirked at the corner and he raised an eyebrow as he looked Albus up and down. "That is quite an unfortunate uniform. Although, I have to admit, you make it look quite good."
Albus struggled with his surprise. It was true that the rumours had it that Scorpius was a playboy, but as far as he knew, it was always with women. It was frowned upon, but the mating regulations established when the Orion had left Earth hundreds of years ago had taken these things into account. There was a good reason why his cousin Rose had a job in Human Services. Of course, they always had choices within their chosen career paths. Rose had chosen to service older men because according to her, they were less virile and therefore easier to please. Albus preferred to work with the mechanics of the ship itself rather than going into the more glamorous software side of engineering. Albus watched as Scorpius spun on his heel and walked away with a click-click of his shiny shoes. It was unheard of for a man slated to become captain to throw it away to become an engineer. A mechanical engineer at that!
Albus couldn't help but wonder who thought that he would be an excellent partner for Scorpius. All engineers worked as pairs, generally with one senior engineer and one junior one. The senior engineer was supposed to guide the junior engineer until they managed to work as a smooth team. Somehow, Albus didn't think that he was the best partner for Scorpius.
They were just so different. Albus looked down at his perfectly pressed, neat but cheap regulation uniform of overalls with a belt. It was a far cry from Scorpius's outrageous outfit.
Still, Albus had faith in the ship's computers. They had never failed before in matching people up to their most suitable occupations.
Albus stared. He looked away for a brief second and then stared some more.
"I don't look that different," Scorpius said irritably. There were slight circles underneath his eyes and from where Albus was standing, it looked as though Scorpius's skin was slightly reddened and irritated.
Albus hesitated for a second before replying. "Regulation soap wasn't necessary."
Scorpius narrowed his eyes. "You could have told me that before my shower this morning."
Albus suppressed a grin. He opened his folder and extracted a couple of sheets of paper. "This outlines our tasks for the next few weeks. I presume you have been through basic engineering training?" He honestly didn't have much faith in even that much at the moment. It didn't look like Scorpius could do anything, much less be a competent engineer. He couldn't believe that Scorpius had washed with the ship's regulation soap. Nobody washed with regulation soap. It was well known that regulation soap made people break out in spots, pimples and hives and that was if you were lucky. There was a rumour that a couple of years ago, one unlucky fellow's skin had turned bright green for a month.
"Of course," Scorpius said with a tight smile. "I may have been assigned to be ship's captain but I'm not a complete idiot."
"I wasn't implying that," Albus said, feeling stung. He had the feeling that behind Scorpius's polite exterior, the other man was angry. "Today we shall be ensuring the proper operation of the food dispenser units on level four."
Scorpius stared. "We're fixing the chicken soup vending machines?"
Albus nodded. He had wanted to make the work sound glamorous and interesting, but unfortunately, there were some downsides to being an engineer. He did have to do some menial tasks, but nowhere near as bad as his uncle Ron.
Albus was frustrated. Despite having the basics down well, Scorpius was rather bad at the job. It wasn't as though he was fussy about getting his uniform dirty, like some of the other engineers Albus had trained over the years. He had once trained a woman who refused to touch any of the tools unless she first disinfected them.
However, Scorpius didn't have anything against getting dirty. He seemed to enjoy it, actually, plunging right into the work without even waiting to put on the gloves. Of course, Albus had then told him off and made him wash his hands and then put on the gloves, but it was good to see that kind of enthusiasm.
But still, Scorpius was one of the worst Albus had ever had to train.
He was clumsy.
Not just ordinarily clumsy. He was ridiculously clumsy. Horrifyingly clumsy. In fact, he made most clumsy people seem poised.
It was only while he was around tools though. Normally, Scorpius didn't go around banging into walls or stubbing his toe on every door, but as soon as they were on duty, invariably, within the first five minutes, he would have tripped over something and fallen into whatever problem it was that they were supposed to be fixing.
Albus then had to fix the problem himself.
Generally, Albus liked to think of himself as a patient man, but after the sixth time Scorpius had dropped the wrench onto the floor, he snapped. "Be careful! One would think that you were doing it deliberately."
Scorpius narrowed his eyes at Albus and turned back towards the vending machine.
It was then that Albus saw something rather surprising.
The vision didn't go away.
Albus stared as the wrench began floating menacingly towards him. He lifted up his hands and rubbed his eyes. It had to be a mirage. Or some sort of hallucination. Perhaps he hadn't had enough water or sugar or coffee or the right level of vitamins. The wrench simply couldn't be floating in mid-air. It was scientifically impossible.
He looked over to where Scorpius was and the other man was still standing with his back turned to him staring at the faulty vending machine, his arms stubbornly folded across his chest. From the tense look of Scorpius's back, it was obvious that he was still mad at Albus.
"Scorpius?" Albus said, his voice shaking slightly.
The wrench trembled in mid air as Scorpius turned around. With a crashing sound, it fell to the ground with a clang. "What was that?" Scorpius burst out, staring at the ground.
"It was... floating," Albus managed to get out. "You saw it too?"
Scorpius nodded, looking as astounded as Albus felt.
"It must have been some sort of ..." Albus faltered, "mirage or hallucination."
Scorpius snorted. "I might have just seen it for a second, but it was definitely a wrench floating in mid-air." He put his hand out and drew it across the air. "No wires."
Albus stood there silently for a minute. He could see that Scorpius was staring at him with a quizzical expression, but he couldn't bring himself to move. He had heard rumours of strange happenings in other engineering units around the ship, however, Albus – forever practical – had dismissed them as being silly lies created through drinking far too much alcohol. Yet, now, he had seen one of them.
Briefly, Albus wondered if he was going crazy. But no, that was unlikely. Scorpius had seen it too and although Albus thought the other man was irresponsible and a horrible engineer, he didn't think Scorpius was actually insane.
"Well," Albus said finally, pleased with how even he managed to get his tone of voice, "we had better get back to work."
Ronald Weasley hummed cheerfully to himself as he scrubbed the sinks in the women's bathrooms until they shone sparkling silver. He was so engrossed in his task that he didn't even notice that he didn't need to change his scrubbing brush.
Usually the women's bathrooms were so filthy that they were at least a five scrubbing brush job. However, today, Ronald hadn't even gone through one.
If he had looked closely down at the scrubbing brush he held, Ronald would have realised that it was still clean.
But he didn't.
As they were washing themselves down in the showers after their shift, Scorpius turned to Albus with a bright smile. "I've figured it out."
Albus stared and then went back to rinsing out his shampoo. "Figured what out?" He ignored the way Scorpius seemed to bounce up and down on his toes, an action that made Scorpius's cock jiggle in an interesting fashion.
"Why the wrench was floating!" Scorpius said excitedly. "It must be magic!"
Albus let out a long-suffering sigh. "There is no such thing as magic."
Scorpius's face was suddenly serious. "Have you read the ship's logs? Back from its first days. Back from the days when we first launched off from Earth."
"Of course not," Albus said with a frown. "Why would I? It's not part of my job. I don't believe it was part of yours either, back when you were slated to be the captain."
Scorpius snorted. "Yes, it wasn't part of my job description. That's the problem nowadays, isn't it? None of us does anything that isn't directly related to our jobs. Where's the room for creative growth?"
He was beginning to sound like one of the political separatists. Albus was slightly worried. From what he had heard, the political separatist groups had been growing stronger and stronger, wanting everything from allowing people to choose their own jobs to the eradication of the Human Services sector. It was ridiculous. Every sane person on Orion knew it, but somehow these separatists spouted speech about freedom. Albus knew their current system was the best one possible. Everybody was assigned their perfect job. He shuddered to think of a system where people could choose their own occupations. What if they chose incorrectly? It would be chaos! Anarchy!
"Anyway," Scorpius continued, "I looked at those records and there were mentions of ... well... magic. At first I assumed that it was some sort of ancient code for something, but it makes sense."
Albus shook his head. "You're being ridiculous."
Albus stood outside the office of the ship's official Human Resources Officer. He was unreasonably nervous. Every five years, every member of the ship had to meet with Human Resources to ensure that they were still viable, productive members of the crew. Most people passed, however, every now and again, some members were sent off to Orion's sister ship for reprocessing.
Albus didn't want to go off and be reprocessed. He was sure that it was safe but he would have to leave his friends and family behind. Reprocessing reportedly could take years. In fact, Albus wasn't sure he had ever seen a reprocessed person back on Orion. He supposed that Aurora would also have jobs for them.
The door in front of him opened and a woman stepped out. She was impeccably dressed in a rather stern looking uniform; however, she had a smile on her face. "Albus Severus Potter," she said, while shaking his hand. "It is good to see you again."
"Mrs Potter," Albus managed to get out. He had to admit that his grandmother frightened him at times. Despite her age, Lily Potter was still beautiful and her hair was still red. He had never recalled a single instance where she had acted maternally towards him. He supposed that part of it was because of her job.
She smiled down at him. Albus couldn't help but think her smile was more predatory than maternal. "Please, Albus, I'm your grandmother. You don't need to be so polite."
"Yes, Mrs Potter," Albus said.
Lily held open the door and Albus stepped inside. Despite her reputation for a ruthlessness bordering on cruelty, her room reminded Albus of happy things. It was light and airy with glowing globes of light all around. She even had a computer simulated window on one of the walls showing a beautiful landscaped garden.
Albus sat down on one of the squishy armchairs while Lily sat behind her desk. As he watched, she pulled up his file on the computer.
"You have recently been assigned to work with Scorpius Malfoy," she said, sounding thoughtful.
"How are you enjoying that?"
Albus frowned. He could feel his heart beating faster. These bi-decade meetings made him more nervous than performance reviews. He could feel that Lily was analysing his personality, trying to decide whether he was a worthwhile citizen. "It is fine," he said, guardedly.
To his surprise, she laughed. "Relax, Albus. This is strictly routine, you know that. I remember you were this nervous last time as well. From what I can see on your record, you have nothing to worry about. You have an excellent performance record. You know, we don't enjoy having to reprocess people. It's an unpleasant necessity. But you are unlikely to ever be reprocessed. You are a very productive citizen, Albus."
Albus felt himself relax imperceptibly. "I believe Scorpius will improve once he has more time to adjust," he said. It wasn't quite a lie, but wasn't exactly the truth either, but Albus wanted to be generous.
Lily frowned slightly. "His performance is barely adequate. But as it is, he has only been on the job for two weeks." She made a small annotation on the screen. "He shall have monthly reviews until his performance is satisfactory. If it never reaches satisfactory, then we shall have to fast-track his next meeting with me."
Albus gulped. He didn't like Scorpius but he didn't think the other man should have to deal with this more than once every five years. Albus wasn't stupid enough to believe the rumours floating around about Human Resources. There was a particularly stupid one around a few months back about a new virus that Human Resources was supposed to have released in the name of eugenics. It was supposed to kill off people who were intellectually inferior. There had been a particularly bad strain of the flu going around during those months, and quite a few people had died. Albus supposed that was where the preposterous rumour had come from. Albus refused believe a word of it, but he still had a sinking feeling whenever he thought of Human Resources.
To Albus's relief, Lily only asked him a few more typical questions that he remembered from last time. He was then required to give blood, a normal requirement to test whether he was still healthy and fit enough to serve, and then he was allowed to go. The needle that jabbed into his arm was very sharp and sent a tingling feeling through him.
Lily tapped the vial of blood sharply with her fingernail and placed it away in a refrigerated compartment of her desk. "You may go now," she told him.
"Thank you," Albus said politely as he opened the door.
Lily smiled at him. "I'll see you in five years again."
Albus was feeling relieved as he walked down the corridors of the ship towards his quarters. He was so absorbed in his own thoughts that he failed to notice Scorpius barrelling down the corridors until the other man had almost bumped into him.
"Come with me," Scorpius insisted, grabbing onto Albus's arm. "I need to talk to you, privately." His eyes darted around making him look crazy.
Albus stared at him. Scorpius looked wild. His normally neat blond hair was sticking up in all angles and his eyes were slightly bloodshot. "I believe you might need to go to see a doctor," Albus said carefully. He had heard of a syndrome before. They called it claustrophobia. It was supposed to affect a very small percentage of the crew causing them to go insane. Perhaps that was what was affecting Scorpius right now.
Scorpius shook his head emphatically. "I swear, this'll only take a few minutes," he said.
Albus felt himself being forcibly led along until they came to a door a few corridors down labelled Scorpius Malfoy. "We're at your quarters," he said dubiously.
With a small push, Scorpius manoeuvred them both inside.
Albus couldn't help taking a step backwards. Scorpius was standing far too close and it was making him feel rather uncomfortable. Albus couldn't help thinking of all those rumours about Scorpius's playboy lifestyle. He was thankful when Scorpius took a step away from him.
"Look at this," Scorpius ordered and lifted up his hand.
Albus raised an eyebrow but stared obligingly at the hand. The sooner he co-operated, the sooner this would be over and he could get away to report Scorpius. "What am I supposed..." he started but stopped abruptly.
A pen had suddenly flown across the room and landed straight in Scorpius's upturned hand. Scorpius turned to Albus, his eyes shining with excitement. "Do you know how long I tried before I could do that?" he demanded. "I was up all night." He suddenly looked down at himself. "I'm sure I must look frightful but I was right. This is some form of magic!"
"Preposterous," Albus snapped, but he wasn't so sure any more."
Scorpius rolled his eyes. "Look at this." He held out his hand and as Albus watched, a glass of water came whizzing across the room. Scorpius took a sip from the glass. "This is fantastic!" Scorpius's eyes gleamed.
"This is probably some sort of trick," Albus said decisively. "There are probably wires or something." He waved his hands around in the air but came across nothing.
"You try it," Scorpius said, tilting his head and regarding Albus through lidded eyes.
"You try it," Scorpius repeated. "If it's what I'm thinking of. If it's magic returning to us, then we should all be able to harness it. You try something. Look, just look at an object that's out of reach, say, that pen over there." He pointed to a pen that was across the room. "Focus on it. Concentrate and visualise the pen in your mind. Then imagine it's going to come across the room and land in your hand."
Albus stared. "You're crazy," he said flatly. "I don't know what's going on here, but I don't want anything to do with it."
Scorpius sighed with exasperation. "Just try it, will you?"
Doubtfully, Albus closed his eyes and held out his hand. If he did this, then he could prove Scorpius wrong. He concentrated on the pen, imagining that it had suddenly developed wings and could fly across the room. Albus felt ridiculous. When he had been a child, he had always wished he had telekinesis. It would have been wonderful to be able to move things with his mind, but no matter how long Albus had tried, he had never miraculously developed the power. It seemed ridiculous that he could have it now. When he felt like enough time had passed, Albus opened his eyes. "See? Nothing," he snapped.
"Look down at your hand," Scorpius suggested, a smile playing about his lips.
Albus looked down and almost fainted. He dropped the pen. "You put it there," he accused.
"Then do it with your eyes open," Scorpius said. "It's the same thing. We both have the power to do stuff, to do magic and I bet this is only the tip of the iceberg. Everybody on this ship probably has this power."
Albus could hear the pounding of his heart. It sounded like it was right in his ears, louder than it had ever been before. "How," Albus heard himself asking. "How could something like this have happened?"
Albus found himself in a daze for the next few days. It was unbelievable that somehow the idea of magic was real and that he could perform it. Scorpius, however, seemed to be thriving on the idea. Whenever Albus saw him, the other man would give him a bright smile.
Albus couldn't help talking to Scorpius during work hours, but he tried his best to steer the conversation back towards work whenever they spoke. After work, Albus ensured that he disappeared before Scorpius could corner him. As such, Albus discovered that he tended to spend most of his nights in heretofore unknown corners of the ship that were rather dark and dingy.
One of these places was the Waterfall Bar. The name had sounded quite good to Albus when he was standing outside, however, once he had walked inside, he regretted ever having heard of the place. It was one of the few places aboard the ship that still allowed old-style liquors. Most of the ship's original bars had been replaced by relaxation chambers, light chambers and clinics that injected you with chemicals. It was very rare for people aboard the ship to ever imbue liquor.
Or least this was what Albus had thought.
He surveyed the patrons of the Waterfall Bar with a resigned expression. Most of them were still in their work clothes so Albus could tell that they came from all walks of life aboard the ship. And almost all were drunk.
Not just mildly drunk.
Very, very, very drunk.
"Why hello there?" A hand brushed across Albus's lower back, hovering around his ass.
Albus slid off his bar stool and stood up, with his back to the bar. "I'm not interested," he said firmly.
The blonde woman pouted and he could see from her badge that she was a Technician First Class. "Why not, handsome?" she whispered breathily.
"Because I'm not interested," Albus repeated.
She looked incensed. "Why not?" she demanded.
Albus sighed and wondered how many times he had to repeat himself. "I am not interested," he said very slowly, hoping that this would help it get through her drunken mind. "Not interested. No."
She rolled her eyes. "Your loss."
Albus watched as her tight ass wriggled away. With a sigh, he gathered his belongings from where he had stashed them on top of the bar. This had been his third proposition of the night and he was getting rather sick of it. As much as he wanted to avoid Scorpius and avoid the fact his world had just been turned upside down and inside out, Albus suspected that he could no longer do so. Not unless he wanted to say no to the entire female population of Waterfall Bar anyway.
"Okay," Albus said flatly as he entered Scorpius's quarters. "You're right. Magic exists."
A small smile played around Scorpius's mouth. "Of course it does," he said mildly, looking up from where he was looking at his computer. "Come over here, look at this," he said, pointing at his desk.
Albus walked over and stared at the display. "You're trying to tell me that people used to use words and wooden sticks to channel their magic?"
"Those wooden sticks were called wands," Scorpius said helpfully.
"Okay, words and wands." Albus reached over Scorpius and scrolled down the display. "There isn't much information here."
"Unfortunately," Scorpius agreed. "I've been trawling through the network for weeks now but there's only small tantalizing scraps of information back from the first days of Orion. And then, for the last few hundred years, it seems that magic has disappeared completely."
Albus peered at the screen, but it all looked rather confusing. "Have you found any particular spells? Such as to make objects move?"
Scorpius shook his head. "All I've found so far is that a summoning spell, something to make an object fly through the air towards us, seems to begin with Acc or Ack. None of the records were complete. I've been trying to reconstruct the records. It seems that somebody tried to delete every single mention of magic from our databases."
Albus stared. "That's impossible!" he exclaimed. "All records must be kept."
Scorpius gave a wry smile and patted Albus on the arm. "That's what they say."
Albus narrowed his eyes, ignoring the strange fluttering feeling in his stomach where Scorpius's hand touched his arm.
"Anyway," Scorpius said, "we seem to be able to do simple spells without those wand things, with no real problems. I did try to make a book fly across the room towards me, but it ended up hitting the wall instead. I suspect those wands made magic more manageable."
"Are you going to try to find those magical words?" Albus asked.
Scorpius shook his head. "I've tried. I'm also unsure whether those words were tuned specifically for the wands or not. However, given that everything I've read has mentioned that magic was supposed to be within us. I suspect we don't need these words, or wands, even for bigger magic. Besides, it means we won't have to go around muttering strange words to ourselves."
Albus raised an eyebrow. "Then how are we supposed to control this magic?"
Scorpius's eyes gleamed. "There seems to have been a branch of magic that dealt with math. That information has been relatively intact. I have been able to piece together the fact that all spells can be written in mathematical formula form."
"So," Albus said slowly, "all we would need to do is hold the equation in our minds as we focus on what we want to happen?"
Scorpius smiled happily and Albus felt his breath quicken slightly. He was beginning to like the enthusiasm of Scorpius, the way the other man's eyes brightened and the Scorpius's never-ending optimism. "We could create more spells. Our own spells even. We could use the spells every day. They could make our lives so much easier!"
"It could be dangerous," Albus said, but he couldn't help a grin appearing on his face as well. "Things could go wrong."
Scorpius laughed. "It won't."
It was surprisingly easy to piece together fragments of mathematical formula to create equations that worked. Each aspect of magic could be translated into numbers and operators. It only took Albus a few days to realise that most of the basic concepts behind the equations were fairly similar to that of string theory. It seemed that part of magic was based on superstrings. The more Albus read, the more he suspected that magic worked through one of the extra curled up dimensions.
"What does an engineer need to do with string theory?" Scorpius asked, looking amused.
Albus blushed. "I was interested in it, so I read up on it."
Scorpius laughed. "And here I was thinking you knew nothing but your assigned job," he teased.
Albus ignored him. He peered over Scorpius's shoulder. "That bit's wrong," he said. "There is a duality between non-perturbative string theory and gauge theory."
Scorpius stared. "What?"
"Never mind," Albus said. He sat down beside Scorpius and began scribbling. "I should have some workable equations for us by morning. These should be able to help us at work."
"That's fantastic," Scorpius said, beaming.
"Hopefully, it won't be a disaster," Albus said.
To Albus's surprise, using magic in everyday life didn't turn out to be a disaster. In fact, Scorpius seemed to become far less clumsy whenever he used magic. Vending machines got fixed much faster now that Scorpius wasn't dropping hammers and chisels on the floor every five minutes. In fact, Albus began to found himself getting along with Scorpius quite well.
"Why has magic reappeared now?" Scorpius asked as they worked side by side on a particularly tricky project.
Albus shrugged. "Coincidence," he suggested doubtfully. He didn't quite believe in coincidence but there didn't seem to be a sensible explanation as to why they were suddenly able to access magic.
"Perhaps it's always been there," Scorpius mused. "Maybe we were the only people to stumble across it?"
Albus could feel himself warming slightly when Scorpius included him. To be truthful, Scorpius had done most of it himself. He had trawled through ship archives until he had found records of magic. He had taken the first step in testing magic. He was the one who had gone to Albus about it, risking ridicule. "It's possible," Albus said, with a frown. "But I find it improbable that children wouldn’t have accidentally accessed it."
Scorpius nodded and looked at Albus with a warm smile. "You're right."
Albus almost found himself dropping his spanner. He leaned forward and concentrated on the job at hand. "We'll just have to keep on searching."
Scorpius was almost bouncing on his toes when he came to Albus's room one evening. "I can read people's minds!" he announced.
Albus stared. He took a step backwards and ended up bumping into his bed. While this was certainly an interesting development, one they had discussed tangentially a few days before, Albus wasn't sure he felt comfortable with Scorpius reading his mind. For one thing, these days, Albus found himself thinking rather unusual thoughts regarding Scorpius. There was something about the sparkle in Scorpius's eyes whenever they managed to create a new workable equation. Scorpius always wanted to be the first to try these new spells and Albus let him. He felt a warm feeling in his stomach whenever he watched Scorpius attempt to memorise one of his equations. For the more complex equations, Albus found that he was better at the spells. Apparently understanding the equations helped channel the magic.
"You don't look happy," Scorpius said, taking a step towards Albus, looking worried. "Are you feeling alright?" He lifted his arm and placed a hand on Albus's forehead. "You're feeling quite hot."
Albus waved off the arm, ignoring the pleasurable shiver that flowed through him at the touch. "I'm fine," he muttered.
Scorpius didn't look convinced. "We've been working flat out lately," he pointed out. "Both at our actual jobs and going through the records. We still haven't found out why magic disappeared in the first place or why it's coming back. We've both tested a good dozen spells in the past two days alone."
"I'm fine," Albus said, not able to stop the note of irritation that entered his voice. "So, the mind-reading spell, it worked?"
Scorpius nodded. "It wasn't as pronounced as the records promised. I tried it during lunch on the serving staff in the cafeteria. It was as if I was suddenly flooded with their ... I wouldn't say thoughts, but their emotions, definitely." He shivered. "It was strange."
"So," Albus said, trying to sound casual, "could you read my mind?"
Scorpius laughed. "It's not quite so simple, Albus. You saw the spell too. You could try it."
Albus shook his head. He wasn't sure he wanted to read somebody else's mind or their emotions or anything else. For one thing, he rather wanted to know what Scorpius was thinking most of the time and that would be a violation of their newfound friendship.
"We should tell other people about this," Scorpius said one night as they were both bent over Albus's computer trying to piece together how exactly magic had disappeared. Albus had theorized that if they figured that out, then they could figure out exactly why magic seemed to be coming back.
Nowadays, all over the ship there seemed to be bizarre happenings such as things being thrown around whenever people were angry. Several days ago, there was a cloying sweet smell that hung around Human Services, so much so that Rose and several of the other workers had refused to work until it was cleared up. So far, nobody else seemed to have pieced it together except them, but Albus wasn't sure that it would stay the case for long. "Why?" he said and immediately regretted the harsh tone.
"This is one of the greatest breakthroughs of all time," Scorpius said passionately. "Just look at how much more productive we've been over the last month. Imagine what it could do for the entire ship."
Albus could feel his stomach churn. He had no idea why the idea repelled him so much. A part of him enjoyed that only he and Scorpius knew about magic. It felt good that it was their secret, that they were mastering the magic together. The idea of telling the authorities, especially telling his grandmother Lily, made Albus uncomfortable. "But we haven't figured out much yet," Albus argued. "Shouldn't we come up with more concrete proof?"
Scorpius stared at him in bewilderment. "I think summoning something from across the room is proof enough," he said flatly. "We can't keep this a secret. Not when we know that strong emotions are causing all these shipboard commotions. It's dangerous."
"I still think we should wait," Albus insisted. He wasn't surprise when Scorpius glared at him and stormed out of the door.
The next day, Albus didn't see Scorpius before breakfast. He wasn't very surprised though as he presumed that Scorpius would still be rather furious with him. He just hoped Scorpius hadn't gone to do something rash such as a public demonstration of his powers.
After breakfast, Albus automatically headed towards the maintenance bay that they were supposed to re-wire today. He expected to see Scorpius there waiting for him. There was nobody there. Albus got out his tools, knelt down and started working.
He began to feel a twinge of worry when Scorpius didn't show up after an hour. This was very unlike him. Reaching down, Albus pressed a button on his radio. "Joshua?" he said.
The radio crackled and then the voice of Joshua Winston, Engineer First Class came through loud and clear. "Yes?"
"This is Albus. I was wondering if you had reassigned my partner elsewhere."
There was a brief silence and then Joshua replied, "I'm sorry, Albus, I thought you had heard. Apparently it was on the broadcasts this morning. Scorpius Malfoy has been accused of high treason."
Albus froze. "Who accused him," he finally managed to get out in a very small voice.
The answer, when it came, didn't surprise him. "Lily Potter."
Albus stood outside the office of Lily Potter, feeling as though he had just volunteered on a suicide mission. It was unimaginable for anybody to visit her office twice in such a short period unless they were in terrible trouble. Still, Albus knew he had to find out why Scorpius had been put in detention. He had a bad feeling in his stomach, almost like he had swallowed several lemons.
Certain ideas were connecting in his mind and when Albus thought about them, they made an unpleasant picture.
Taking a deep breath, Albus knocked on the door.
"Come in," Lily called.
When he walked in, Lily gave him a brief surprised look. "Albus, I'm surprised to see you," she said.
Albus closed his eyes briefly and walked up to her desk. "I understand that I no longer have a partner," he began.
Lily nodded. "I am aware that protocol insists that you should have been informed, however, this all happened very quickly. I promise that by tomorrow, you will be assigned another partner."
Albus swallowed and stopped himself from insisting that he didn't want another partner. He enjoyed Scorpius's company. "Thank you," he said softly.
Lily stared at him. "Was there anything else that you wanted?" she asked.
A thousand questions flitted through Albus's mind but he didn't want to ask any of them. He was too frightened by the look in Lily's eyes and the way she was twirling the pen in her fingers very slowly. "No," he said. "Thank you again."
Albus stared at his computer screen. This was a very bad idea. He knew it. This was possibly the worst out of all of his very bad ideas. This was even worse than when he had been ten and had decided that he didn't want to dress in the regulation uniform for children and had gone running in the corridors of the ship naked. That had earned him a hard spanking from his parents and it was the first time he had ever met his grandmother. She had terrified him back then and the years hadn't made her less scary.
Albus had heard from his parents that apparently Lily Potter had been a kind-hearted young woman until she had been assigned her current job position.
With a sudden thought, Albus realised that perhaps the current job assignment system wasn't a good thing. Especially if it was capable from turning a kind-hearted young woman into the current Lily Potter.
"I can do this," Albus said aloud to himself and clenched his hands into fists. He looked down at his screen again at the equations that he would have to hold in his mind in order to turn himself invisible. He had found some of the necessary operators stuck in some of the more useless garbage files in the system. "I will do it," Albus said.
It was very strange being invisible. Albus felt the very strong urge to head into the female bathrooms to take a look; however, he suppressed that urge. He had to talk to Scorpius and perhaps rescue him. That was the important thing. He needed to confirm whether that feeing he had, the terrible sinking feeling, was accurate.
After twenty minutes, Albus realised that simply being invisible didn't help him much. He didn't know exactly where Scorpius was held and it wasn't as though normal people aboard Orion went to the detention cells. He had heard before that they were in the belly of the ship so Albus decided to squeeze into one of the lifts that was going down to the sub-basement.
In the end, it was pure luck that Albus had spotted a steward carrying a plate that contained a slice of plain bread and a cup of water. He was headed into a dark corner of the sub-sub-basement and Albus decided to follow.
It was there that Albus saw a series of cages, most of which were empty except for one near the very end. Scorpius sat in there, still in his engineer's uniform. The steward walked over to that cage, slid the food and water through a small opening in the bottom and then left.
Albus watched as Scorpius took one disdainful look at the food and then pushed it aside. "I'm not eating that," Scorpius muttered.
"Typical," Albus blurted out before he could stop himself.
Scorpius jumped up and looked around. "Who's there?" he said, with a quiver in his voice.
"It's me," Albus said softly. "Albus."
"Finally," Scorpius said. "You'd never guess who put me in here."
"I know," Albus said grimly. "My grandmother, Lily Potter."
Scorpius looked surprised. "Where are you anyway?" he demanded. "Why can't I see you?"
"I created an invisibility spell."
Scorpius looked intrigued. "So did you use it ..."
"No," Albus interrupted. "And we have far more important things to worry about. Do you know why you're in here?"
"Because I went to her," Scorpius said. "Talk about walking into a trap. I went to Lily Potter and explained how I could do magic. She paled. I was really surprised how horrified she looked and then the next thing I knew, I was bundled into this cage and told I was being charged with high treason. It's ridiculous!"
Albus could feel his heart sink. He had always been told that he was good at putting things together, not just machines but also ideas. "I think I know why she put you here." His voice sounded flat even to himself.
"Why?" Scorpius's eyes were overly bright. "Why? Tell me!"
"You know those rumours that were going around a few months ago about the flu?" Albus began, not knowing how to explain what was in his mind. The idea that had only been a vague picture a few minutes ago was now solidifying.
Scorpius nodded. "What's that got to do with anything?"
"Imagine if the flu wasn't a flu," Albus said slowly. "Imagine if it was an engineered virus that was created to eradicate certain traits in us, the ship's population. Imagine if it was released among the general population. Imagine if it killed certain undesirables such as the disabled, the intellectually challenged and the radicals. Imagine if everybody was exposed to this virus. Imagine if it..." He took a deep breath. "Imagine if it mutated and released long-dormant parts of our DNA."
Scorpius stared. "You're trying to say that a virus caused us to be able to do magic again? That's ridiculous." He didn't sound convinced though.
"It all makes sense," Albus insisted. "It ... explains everything. Why a lot of the people who died weren't just physically weak but mentally weak as well. It explains why magic works now and not before."
Scorpius pursed his lips. "It can't be," he said. "It's terrifying. We could have all died."
Albus nodded, forgetting that Scorpius couldn't see him. "We need to get out of there!" he said. "I created another spell..."
"Well, what are you waiting for?"
Albus pointed to the lock and focused in his mind. Five seconds later, with a click, the lock fell open and Scorpius quickly removed it. He stepped outside of the cage.
"Thanks," Scorpius said. Albus was amused that Scorpius was addressing his left where Albus was actually standing on his right. "Now, how can I be invisible too?"
When they both ended up on the main corridors of the ship again, Albus couldn't help but notice that everybody seemed to be running around.
"What's going on?" Scorpius asked quietly as they attempted to stay out of the way of the stampeding crowd.
"The computers!" Albus could hear somebody shouting. "They've stopped working! The Captain's had a heart attack! We're doomed!"
Albus could feel himself pale. "We're going to crash," he muttered. "Last I checked, we were near a planet, barely habitable by our standards, but if the engines have failed, we're going to go crashing down."
Albus pulled Scorpius into a small dark alcove and muttered the counter-invisibility spell. Almost immediately, Scorpius shimmered into view. "What did you do that for?" Scorpius asked.
"I don't think anybody's going to be concerned with your charges," Albus said. "Didn't you hear the woman?"
Scorpius nodded. "Well," he said, trying to look cheerful, "I guess we should try to save the day then."
Albus stared. He was going to suggest that they find themselves a life pod, escape and land on the planet. There they could try to eke out an existence. However, he found himself liking Scorpius's plan better, except for one minor thing. "How do you plan on doing that?"
They ran along the corridors towards the bridge. All around them, everybody else was panicking. Albus wanted to stop and tell them that the panicking was making things worse. Things were exploding overhead and Albus had to duck once in a while as objects whizzed past his head. However, Scorpius dragged him along inexorably.
They neared Lily Potter's office and to Albus's surprise, Scorpius skidded to a stop. He put a finger up to his mouth and then crept up to the doorway. Inside, Lily was punching things furiously into her computer.
"Who is that?" she snapped, obviously sensing somebody at the doorway. Looking up, her eyebrows shot up when she realised that it was Albus and Scorpius.
Scorpius pointed his finger at her, his brow furrowed. Lily's body slumped to the ground.
Albus stared. "What was that?"
"Apparently a freezing spell of sorts," Scorpius said, conversationally. "You're not the only person who can do math." He stepped backwards, closed the door to Lily's office and muttered something. "There, she's locked in there."
Albus couldn't help but feel a surge of admiration that was quickly pushed back as they continued running.
When they got to the bridge, Albus saw that everything had gone crazy. There were small fires all over the consoles and everywhere he looked, people were panicking. Well, Albus had to admit, there was one or two calm people who were punching things into the consoles furiously but they seemed to be doing no good.
"Can we help?" Albus asked, but his voice was drowned out in the noise.
He looked over at Scorpius who seemed to be suppressing a smile. "Now do you agree that we should have told everybody?" Scorpius said as he turned to the crowd. "Everybody!" he shouted. "Get out!"
To Albus's surprise, the panicked crowd ran out of the door behind them. "How?" he whispered to Scorpius.
"Spell," Scorpius muttered and then turned to the three people who were left. "How can we help?"
One of them, a junior flight officer by the looks of it, came over, looking relieved. "I don't know how you did it, but thank you for getting them out. They were making things worse."
"It's a bit late though," somebody else said, slapping their hand on one of the tables in frustration. "I don't know what happened. The captain had a heart attack. One of the younger technicians ended up having hysterics and the next thing I knew, half the console had gone up in flames. Then people I've known for most of my life, people I've trusted, ended up screaming and shouting and, well, you saw the insanity in here."
"It's like that in the rest of the ship too," Albus said flatly.
"Well shit," the junior flight officer said.
"We can fix this," Scorpius said calmly. As far as Albus could tell, Scorpius didn't look flustered at all. In fact, he looked like he was enjoying the situation, thriving in it, in fact. For the first time, Albus realised why Scorpius had been assigned to be captain. He realised that Scorpius would have been a damn good one.
"Doesn't look like it. We'd need an army of engineers."
Scorpius turned to Albus. "Do you think..." he started.
Albus shrugged. "It's possible."
"What's possible?" the junior flight officer demanded.
"We're engineers," Scorpius said cheerfully, turning to him with a bright smile. "And we're bloody good at our jobs."
The junior flight officer looked doubtful. "There's only two of you."
Albus felt himself grinning. Scorpius's mood was infectious. "Two will have to do."
When Albus took a look at the circuit boards, he realised that they hadn't been joking. They were all fried to bits. Scorpius scooted in beside him. "This looks bad," Albus said.
"You know some of the more advanced spells we created a few nights ago?" Scorpius said. "I think I might be able to do it, with your help."
Albus shivered. Scorpius's head was only a few inches from his own. "Good luck," he said softly.
Scorpius turned and flashed him a grin. "We're a brilliant team. Malfoy and Potter. We don't need luck!"
Thirty minutes later, Albus pushed himself out from under the console board, with Scorpius following close behind. "Done," Scorpius said happily. "And we haven't crashed into the planet yet."
"We're about to," the junior flight officer pointed out. He seemed to have taken over the role of speaker for everybody up here on the bridge. Everybody else was staring, almost mesmerised at the planet outside their viewport that was growing every second. It was a terrifying and beautiful sight.
"Not if I have anything to do with it!" Scorpius exclaimed and jumped into the captain's chair.
"He was assigned to be captain, but he refused it," Albus explained to several astonished expressions.
As Albus looked outside the window, he could see them coming closer and closer to the planet. He could see the friction burn outside the ship and as he looked over at Scorpius, he could see a trickle of sweat slide down the other man's nose. Walking over, Albus placed his hands on Scorpius's shoulders.
"You can do this," he said softly. "You can."
Then, suddenly, centimetre by painful centimetre, the ship began to come out of its deadly nosedive. Scorpius grabbed the controls and punched in a course that would take them out of the planet's atmosphere into the safety of space.
Cheers erupted all around the bridge. "You did it!" Albus shouted.
Scorpius jumped up off the captain's chair and grabbed Albus's hands. "I did, didn't I?" he said excitedly. "I actually flew the ship!"
"You were brilliant," Albus said. All around them, people were hugging each other and jumping up and down in celebration. The mood around them was infectious and for the first time in a while, Albus felt that perhaps everything could work out. People could learn to control their magic. Perhaps they could end up being able to get to a habitable planet with magic.
Albus turned back to where Scorpius was and smiled. Scorpius had a strange look on his face.
Then suddenly, abruptly, Scorpius turned around and walked away from the bridge.
Albus followed him. The corridor leading to the bridge was curiously deserted. Scorpius had a pensive look on his face. Albus suddenly felt the strange urge to put his hand on Scorpius's back, to comfort the other man somehow.
"I guess everybody's gone to their quarters," Albus said slowly. "Why don't we go back to the celebration?" He looked up at Scorpius.
"I suppose," Scorpius said. Albus was about to take a step backwards, when suddenly Scorpius grabbed his arm and pulled him closer. Albus found his face inches away from Scorpius's. He could smell the other man's toothpaste, shampoo and a smell that was uniquely Scorpius. He tried to pull back, but Scorpius's grip was almost like iron. "We did it," Scorpius said, his voice sounding strangely breathless.
"We did," Albus agreed, not knowing what he was saying. "They'll have to believe us. There'll be proof of what Lily did. We'll get you acquitted."
Scorpius smiled. And then, to Albus's utmost surprise, he leaned in.
Albus's first reaction was to pull away but as Scorpius's lips touched his own, he felt a shiver of electricity slide through his body. Scorpius was pressed up against him and he could taste mint and something vaguely peppery. He heard Scorpius moan slightly before he pulled back.
As Albus looked into Scorpius's eyes, they seemed a darker grey than normal. There was heat in his gaze. "We did it," Scorpius said again.
Albus nodded and leaned in for another kiss.
Ronald Weasley was quite pleased with this new-fangled magic stuff. The Captain had recently managed to come up with these sticks for people to use in order to channel the magic more easily without having to focus on complex equations.
Ronald waved his shiny new stick and watched as the toilets scrubbed themselves. He then settled back and started reading his new book.