Title: the rest of your nights with the light on
Pairing(s): Albus/Scorpius, but Albus-centric
Warnings: extreme language, implied sexual content
Word Count: ~11,330
Summary: Maybe I do hate my family, maybe I do hate my dad, but see, I’m not even fucking sure why anymore and that’s probably what hurts most of all.
Prompt: Post-Hogwarts - The Potter kids were raised at no. 12, Grimmauld Place in London. All through his youth, Albus hated the house that seems just as haunted by history as his own life. After all their children have finished their education at Hogwarts, Harry and Ginny divorce. They bequest Grimmauld Place to Albus, and he decides to have it torn down. Turns out that he needs the permission of all living Black heirs to do so. Draco and Narcissa couldn't care less, but Scorpius vetoes the demolition. Albus is furious and tries everything from a hearing before the Council of Magical Law to bribery to get around the veto. Then Scorpius shows up at Grimmauld Place one day. Take it from there. :) I'd love a happy ending where no. 12, Grimmauld Place remains standing and Albus and Scorpius are together. (submitted by vaysh
Background H/D, requited or unrequited, is a special love of mine, but it's entirely up to the writer whether to include it in this story or not.
Notes: Prompter: Jesus, I cannot even bring to terms any of this. It will take details and sane thought processes, so I won’t try. I will, however, tell you thank you for this prompt, because, oh, I love when my characters are emotionally-stunted and this Al definitely is. I couldn’t get everything in the prompt and it kind of... went out of hand? But I tried my absolute hardest and I hope you like it. Thanks to mods for fest and putting up with my suckiness and general fail. My heart belongs to N for looking over this and a being beautiful person and R for inexplicable reasons.
“Fucking hell, James, I said piss off!”
“That is absolutely no way to speak to your older brother, Albus Severus,” my brother chastises, sounding far too chipper for such an ungodly hour, walking over to another window and opening the blinds wide open. I groan and turn, pulling a pillow over my head. Bastard.
“You can get up yourself, or I can send Lily in here. She’s in your kitchen doing whatever women do in kitchens -- don’t tell her I said that, Merlin, fuck -- but,” and then James stops, but I can hear his footsteps, moving closer, and I shut my eyes tighter, because this just isn't funny. “If need be, I am prepared to call her in here. And what good would that do, Alby?”
James tries to pull the pillow away, but I dig my nails in, refusing to ease my grip and let go. It becomes somewhat of a tug-of-war, but James is undoubtedly the stronger one, and I get my protector snatched out of my hands.
I let out a yelp at the sudden brightness that even my closed lids cannot fully conceal, and my hands scrabble to find some sort of barrier against the sun -- the sun, Merlin, I hate the fucking sun so much -- but I only get the sheets. My hands pull in the wrong place, and then I fall, tangled on the floor, and am being suffocated by my own bedspread, staring up at my ceiling and wondering exactly how many people I fucking killed in my past life to deserve this.
James leans over me, completely in my bloody face, and says, “Good morning.”
I take my wand from where it has rolled under the bed, and have it in between his eyes, considering an Unforgivable, because there are things thicker than blood, I’m sure, and my head is fucking pounding and I hate him and everything so much right now.
“Alby! You’re awake!”
I quickly throw the wand back under the bed, because I’m not in the mood for lectures on how I really need to calm down and think things more reasonably, not be so rash.
I’m a fucking Potter. If my father and his father before hadn’t been rash, unreasonable shits, I wouldn’t have been born.
I push James away from me, ignoring his display of maturity as he sticks his tongue out at me, moaning at the beating of my head and narrowing my eyes toward the door where my little sister stands.
I grunt, stumbling toward the loo, rubbing my eyes and scratching my bare chest. I yawn.
“Don’t fucking call me Alby, James,” I say, not at all scared to direct it toward Lily.
I slam the door, just because I fucking can.
“Why -- why are you two here?” I ask. I’m done with my shower and rummaging through my closet, trying to find something decent to wear. My denims from last night look clean enough, though they smell somewhat like alcohol -- fuck it. I pull them on, making note to pass a Freshening Charm over them. I don’t bother with pants.
“It’s Saturday,” Lily says, as if this is an explanation.
“And...?” I prompt, taking a white tank from my bedside drawer and slipping it on.
Lily sighs. “Mum and Dad, Albus. God, if you hadn’t been out getting wasted like some idiot then you would have remembered. They are divorced, okay, and they want to talk to us about it and if you would get your head out of your arse for one fucking--”
She looks away from me to James, who’d spoken, and they seem to share some type of message and it pisses me off something fierce, because I’m fucking here, right here, and they act as if --
Lily closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, before suddenly opening them and smiling. It looks forced. “Right. That was uncalled for. I have coffee out front. Are you planning on putting a shirt on?”
“I do have a shirt on.” I’m being purposely difficult, and find a probably unhealthy sense of satisfaction at the look of extreme annoyance of her face. I love my siblings, I really do, a fraction of the time. But it’d be appreciated if they could kindly fuck off and stop prying into my life.
Lily sighs, taking her wand from where it’d been tucked in her ear, and waves it from my closet to me. A shirt comes forward, and at her suggestion -- demand -- I shrug it on.
“Are you going to button it up?”
I shake my head, and she sighs again, as if wondering why the hell she even bothers. I do, too. It’s not as if I’m asking them. Lily walks out of the room.
“You should try a little harder, Al,” James tells me, brushing by my shoulder as he walks by and out.
I roll my eyes, bend down to to grab my wand under the bed -- willow, ten inches, dragon heartstring: mostly unyielding -- and perform the Freshening Charm, going to meet them in the kitchen.
The second I enter, Lily and James take hold of my wrists, and they Apparate.
When I’m back on solid ground, I pull my hands away, turning to face them.
“God -- what the fuck was that? You can’t just, you can’t just fucking bring me wherever you want me to fucking go, I could have gotten Splinched, fuck, I thought you two had more common sense than that!”
The last time someone unexpectedly Apparated with me, I lost a chunk of my thigh and caught my girlfriend with both legs on her shoulders, getting fucked by a Hufflepuff.
“Albus?” I hear a soft voice say, and I rub my hand over my face, resisting the urge to act as if I haven’t heard and leave.
Her arms are around me, and I resignedly embrace her back. Over my head, I see my father greeting Lily and James.
I pull away, ignoring the look on her face. I already know I’m disappointing her, thank you.
Looking around, I see that we are in front of Cheddar’s, a Muggle restaurant that we would always go to, before we reached Hogwarts age and during the summer and winter holidays after. And then Dad was putting more and more hours in at the Ministry and Mum was taking every chance to go away on games and everything slowly, but surely, went to shit.
I hadn’t noticed before.
“Albus,” Dad says, smiling and reaching his hand out for a shake. I look him dead in the eye, and keep my palm firmly against my thigh. He drops the hand. “Right, then.”
“How about we go inside?” James suggests, motioning toward the entrance. His eyes are stony when they lock on mine.
“Brilliant idea!” Lily replies, too enthusiastic, opening the door and allowing us to pass through. Dad has his arm around Mum’s waist as she leans into him, and I just don’t get it; they got a divorce clearly because they fucking hate each other, so why bother with the bullshit show?
We had a usual table, actually, in the front next to the tallest window, because Mum and James like to people watch and Dad prefers being near light. From my time at Hogwarts, I’ve become to used so the dungeons that I almost always flinch at the first sign of anything, well, bright, but there are exceptions, and this would definitely be one of them.
The table is taken. They look like fucking newlyweds, sitting right next to each rather than across, as if they can’t keep their hands off each other and honestly, what the hell do they need with a table that large? They look so disgustingly in love that I am half-tempted to hex them.
Dad scratches the back of his neck, looking away, but Mum is entranced, staring straight at them without shame.
“We should, er, find another table,” Dad says, pulling away from Mum and walking towards the back area.
We sit in a back corner at the farthest end of the room. There is no real light. There are no windows.
Irony. I’ve always fucking hated it.
The food is good, the conversation awkward and stilted, and not even Lily and Dad can do anything about it. They talk about work and the Ministry and Victoire’s pregnancy, but nothing works.
“...was telling us, right, that her Mum is already buying things for the baby. Everything from France, even got Victoire’s old crib touched up by her grandmother so that there would strong Veela-magic influencing the baby.”
“She’s caught mother-Weasley-syndrome,” Dad says, glancing at Mum and laughing when she scowls him and smacks him on the head.
I look away.
The divorce is noticeably there, like a herd of angry centaurs. Foolish to mention, impossible to ignore.
There is this -- this absence of a connection between them. This slight magical essence that just -- just seemed to fucking flow, to show everyone that they were bonded, that they were together. That they were in love.
After talk of yet another fucking stupid Ministry scandal, Dad puts his fork down and clears his throat.
“Your mum and I, we --”
I interrupt, putting my hands up and shaking my head.
“Okay, I’m sorry, but I have to ask -- which one of you cheated? Because there has to be a reason. Did Mum fuck some stranger at the Cup, have you been having an affair ---”
Dad pushes his chair back, standing up and slamming his hands on the table. He looks livid. I feel oddly accomplished.
He glares at me, dark, angry eyes matching my own, and I stare back, because I have a fucking right to be angry, okay, and he doesn’t.
The plates on the table start to rattle; it could be either of us. I even inherited my father’s temper. A Potter, through and through.
Sometimes I can’t help resenting that, wishing I wasn’t.
“Harry,” Mum warns.
He exhales roughly, sitting down. Runs his hands through his hair. “Right. Sorry.”
“You have no reason to be, Daddy,” Lily says, leaning her head again his shoulder. I figure that it isn’t the right time to state my very strong disagreement, as she looks like she wants to castrate me. I wouldn’t put it past her.
“Not every marriage ends because of infidelity, Al,” says Mum.
"Not every marriage is meant to end at all,” I retort. “I’d like to think that it wasn’t because of some secret domestic --”
“Dammit, Albus! Stop!”
The elder Muggle couple a few tables away turn to stare at us, scandalised. James hisses. They look away.
“Sorry,” I say, resisting the urge to curl my lip down. I certainly don’t mean it.
“As we were trying to say before... before: your mother and I, we’ve decided to give you three each something, as a, er, as a sorry of sorts.” He looks uncomfortable, not quite able to meet our eyes. I’m amazed he brought up the divorce at all, really, in the first place.
James raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“Yeah. James, you’re getting the Cloak, for tradition’s sake, being first-born and all.”
Lily makes a noise in the back of her throat, clearly disapproving. She’s gotten attached to the Cloak in the two years that she’s had it.
“Sorry, Lils. It’s your Mum; you know how purebloods are with their traditions.” He grins suddenly, winking at Mum, seemingly over my earlier comments, though I know there’s no possible way he is. His eyes are still too dark, and it’s like looking in a mirror. A mirror that ages you more than twenty years, but a mirror nonetheless. “You’re getting the Map. You’re probably the most Marauder. I imagine the originals would have been proud.”
Lily smirks, a twinkle in her eyes. “Thank you. I imagine I’ve learned from the best. What about Al? What’s he getting?”
Dad hesitates, “Number 12. We figure it means more to him, seeing as how he was born there,” he says, smiling softly at me.
“I don’t want it.”
The smile falls. “Why not?”
“I don’t need a reason, Dad. I just don’t fucking want that house.”
“It’s already signed to you.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want that place and I’m not sure why you think that I would, okay, I hate it.”
“Albus Severus Potter,” Mum says, voice flat and steely, “I understand if this upsets you, I really do, but this is just ridiculous. We’re still your parents, regardless of any separation, and I expect better from you.”
“You shouldn’t,” I want to spit out, but I don’t, refraining myself with self-control I’m sure everyone doubts I have. Instead, I say nothing, taking a pointed bite out of my sandwich.
They can all just sod the fuck off for what I care.
“I don’t fucking hate them.”
“Really, because all evidence seems to be pointing to the contrary. I am definitely not standing up for your family, they’re an entire fucking pack of lions, and you know how I feel about felines, Albus, but you, my friend, are a complete shit. My parents -- that’s a fucking lie, actually, no, okay, my mum’s parents would have fucking disowned me by now. It’s because your dad is all kind to you and shit and forever wanting his children to feel loved and appreciated, yeah.”
I grab the cigarette from Charles’ mouth, ignoring his protests, and put it in my own. “My dad’s a prick.”
“What, because he gave you a house that everyone I know would give half their fortune for? Oh, yes, of course. A complete fucking bastard -- don’t stub my fag out, you shit.”
I shrug. “It was so burnt out that it was practically gone, anyway. Light me another.” He does, and I take a deep inhale, ever fucking grateful for the way it calms me down, and blow the wispy smoke into the air in front of me. “And I don’t want that house. It’s shit.”
“It’s beautiful, Christ, Albus. You’re just prejudiced about it, just like you’re prejudiced about everything.”
“Am fucking not.”
“Are fucking too.”
I flick two fingers at him, holding the cigarette between them. We’re on the balcony of my flat, watching the sun dip down and away, and I wish that I could disappear, just as it does.
“Not having this argument with you, Charles.”
“You already are, Albus Severus.”
I make an annoyed noise in the back of my throat. “Stop calling me by my full name, you shit.” I don’t expect him to actually listen; I’ve been telling him the same thing for almost a fucking decade.
“How are we even best friends? Nine years, I have dealt with you. Nine. Can you count to nine, Albus?”
“Of course not, Charlie.”
He grunts, sputtering in complete offence, and I allow myself a small smile, blowing smoke into his face. Charles yelps, falling back on his chair and barely missing hitting the ledge and dying a most painful death.
“You are such a fucking prat,” he grumbles, arse-up in the air as he scrambles for his wand. “If my wand fell down to it’s certain death, I will murder you in your sleep.”
“Accio Charles’ wand,” I mutter, flicking mine. It flies up from the ground four stories below and lands perfectly in the palm of my hand. “What would you know,” I say, more than a little amused.
“One eye,” he warns, snatching it from me and tucking it back into its holster.
“Mhmm. And honestly, Charles, are you still on about that holster bullshit? You just scream pureblood bastard.”
“Just because my parents weren’t married when they fucked, Albus, you don’t need to judge --”
“Cunt,” I say, but there’s no bite in the curse. I call him a cunt when I’m in a good mood, really.
“Oh, how’d you know? I thought I was hiding my gay well enough.”
“You tried to attack me that one time in the showers. Tipped me off.”
I roll my eyes, because he tries his hardest to bring it up every other conversation, and it tends to get bothersome. I don’t feel too upset, though, nowhere near how I’d felt earlier. Charles is good for that. About all he’s good for, really, the sod.
“I was drunk and pissed off.”
“You’re always drunk and pissed off,” he replies, standing up and heading to the inside. “If that’s your actual excuse,” he calls out to me, “then why have you not convinced me to fuck you yet again?”
I follow him. He’s in the kitchen, slamming and digging through my cupboards and fridge. “You’re so fucking straight it’s disgusting, that’s why.” The outside had been too-bright, with the fake lights and complete bustle of evening London, and it takes me a second to adjust back to the darkness.
“Last I heard, you still like cunt, too.”
“Well,” I say, shutting my eyes for a second or two, “a set of tits every once and a while is nice, obviously, but so is cock. You should try it.”
He raises as eyebrow at me, raising my only remaining bottle of vodka to his lips, taking a large swig and wincing at the burn. Serves him right. “I have. I’m sure you’ll remember. It’s just not for me. Done. And Christ, what fucking -- this shit is strong, oh my god.”
“Serves you right,” I repeat aloud, smirking and snatching the pint from his loose grip. I ignore the middle finger he sends my way, jabbing me in the shoulder so I fully understand, and chuckle.
“The thing about all of it is,” he says a while later, laying his head in my lap, “is that you have no fucking idea what you want to do. You can’t -- guck, I meant fuck, fuck, you can’t just stay in your home and get pissed for the rest of your life, you know.”
I hiccup, resting the back of my head against the sofa, adjusting myself on the floor. “Sure I could. I mean -- tons of people do it.” I hiccup again. “Like. I dunno. Like Michael. Michael’s just doing whatever the fuck he feels like.”
“He’s doing something. And anyway, Michael is in a coma.”
“Is he really? Oh, you are such a bossy drunk. Except -- say the other, the other first, yeah? I think -- yes. Yes.”
“Well. Well, you -- it’s like, it’s not like... not like you’re actually paying attention to anybody else. I mean. Your family... they wanna help, I think, but you’re like --”
“Shh,” I whisper, putting a finger against his mouth. He bites me. “Ow! You fucker. That hurt.”
“Serves you right,” he says vindictively, repeating my own words back at me.
He’s always been a horrible shit.
When I wake up, we are no longer in my flat, but at Charles’ estate, hopefully in his wing, and there is a naked redhead between our equally nude forms on the floor.
“Oh my -- holy fucking shit!”
I jump up, and shit, my fucking head.
Charles springs awake -- curls an absolute horror -- and has his wand out with impressive speed, flailing it around himself. “Wha - what, why, why are you making so much noise, it is nighttime.”
I very much want to comment on his hair or close my eyes against the burning sunlight -- I really fucking hate sunlight, motherfuck -- coming in through his window, but there is a fucking -- a fucking redhead naked on the floor and orange hair generally means Weasley and that means incest, and oh, fuck.
“Charles, who is she, and why is she here?”
He blinks rapidly, yawning, scratching his balls. “How am I to know? It’s really early in here, shit. Can’t expect me to be functioning or anything.” He squints his eyes down at her and lets out a hum. “Looks a lot like your cousin Molly, though. Somebody grew up well.”
“Charles, Charles, my cousin, you said so yourself. Oh, God, I know I’ve done some really terrible things--”
“Fucked-up shit. I’d send you to hell myself, you monster. Oh, it’s too early for good wit, fuck it. Regardless -- her being your cousin can’t possibly be too bad. I mean, we’re all pureblood here -- you’re ¾; majority rules -- so there should be no harm in it.”
“What is wrong with you?”
Throughout all this, the girl had slept, but she suddenly gets up, her stretching so much like a feline’s that I’m slightly uncomfortable, because this could be my cousin, and that shit just isn’t right.
“Oh, good morning, boys. Are we going another round?”
“Oh, yes, give me tw --”
“No. Fucking hell, no, Charles. Are you -- okay, I’m going to be blunt with this. Are you a fucking Weasley? In any way, shape, or form? Fifth cousin removed, I don’t care, just...”
“Well,” Charles cuts in, “if we’re talking that far, than we’re all being incestuous and such, so honestly.”
She giggles, bats her lashes coquettishly at Charles, and I had to have been just completely wasted.
“Charles, would you stop?”
He sighs, opens his mouth to no-doubt make some snark-comment, but then the tramp -- distant cousin or not -- pulls at her nipple and he gets distracted and makes a sound at the back of his throat that I’m not entirely comfortable with.
“I asked you a question, could you answer?”
She looks at me, rolls her eyes, but replies so I couldn’t care less. I’ve had people aim Unforgivables at me, poison potions -- her annoyance is nothing. “God, no. My hair is dyed; the colour is naturally black. And my name is not you, in case you were wondering.”
I curl my lip, using my slight disgust of her to mask my relief. “Yes, but see -- I wasn’t.”
She scoffs, turns back to Charles, who’s stretching, flexing his brown limbs with absolutely no shame. “Would you like to conti --”
Charles laughs, shaking his head. “Oh, no, I’m actually awake now, thank you, my standards are actually back. And trust me, they’re very high. You don’t seem to fit any of them, really. Mustn’t make you see yourself out, my grandmother raised me a gentleman...”
He snaps his fingers, once, twice, and Binky, his personal house-elf, Apparates in, looking at us with the air of one that has seen too much to be affected. She snaps her own fingers and clothing appears on the girl, before her arm is grabbed and she’s gone.
“Toodles,” Charles says, waving at the empty air.
Rubbing my hands over my face, I head to find his bathroom, because I really need to take a piss. He leans against the door, half-in and half-out, and speaks to me casually as if it’s not strange at all. And to us, really, it’s not. There’s a certain level of comfort that you reach where there is nothing that can’t be one-upped by something else, something better, something more totally wrong.
“So, what are you planning on doing with the house?”
I shrug, flushing and stepping into the shower, opening water to almost scalding hot. “No idea. Maybe knock it down. Yeah, probably.”
His voice is slightly muffled as he replies, “That’s just horrible. I could find you someone willing to buy it, I could. For more than it’s probably worth even, but don’t knock it down.”
“Already decided,” I say, almost solely for the reason to piss him off, “sorry.”
“You,” he sighs, “are a prick.”
Leaning my head back against the wall and letting the water hit my skin, I smile. It’s not happy.
“Oh, I know.”
I actually don’t remember until two weeks later, when I get an owl from my Dad -- and it’s at five fucking o’clock in the nighttime, which is complete bullshit -- and I almost don’t open it.
Okay, I don’t open it at all; when I flick it toward the rubbish bin, rather than just fucking staying there like a normal letter, it just flies right back toward me, pecking my face with the edges like a bloody owl and I wonder, just for a split second, if my father wants me to hate him, because I swear to Merlin, I gladly will.
I press my index to the bottom left, and the parchment unseals. Other kids in my House had fancy stationary and signature-filling quills, and, well, I didn’t. But my letters were never touched, so I couldn’t seem to find it in myself to give a shit.
Al, Hugo’s birthday party, tonight at seven. You should probably remember to buy his gift sometime before that. Love you, Dad.
I should probably be insulted that he automatically assumed that I’d forget.
Thank fuck he did.
Later that day, when the sun is actually up in the sky and I’ve taken like three hangover potions, I head out to Diagon Alley. I have no fucking idea what to get Hugo and having Lily or Rose here would be help quite a bit, but Lily probably hates me and Rose... Rose, fuck, I miss her.
I stand out somewhat in my casual Muggle clothing in this long street of brightly-coloured robes and flamboyant fashioning, and I think there was a point where I may have actually cared. I’m pretty sure I look just as pretentious as them just by my posture and looks, chin high up, shoulders back.
(Potter good looks and the faintest hint of pureblood cheekbones -- I’ve even got the arrogance straight down, Rose would tell me, and I’m not even a fullbreed. Walburga always liked me, anyway.
But my eyes are Muggle, and I will never, ever be ashamed of them.)
Flourish & Blotts has never been my favourite store, and only a few minutes after I enter it, I’m right back out. I’m not Aunt Hermione; Hugo’s probably going to get three or four from her already.
I’m inside Magical Menagerie-- honestly, what do I even expect to gain from that -- when I spot Fiona. She’s looking at snakes -- typical, I think, and I’m only a little fond -- and I send a mild Stinging Hex at her, only because I know that’s always one way to get her to notice things.
Except that... except that I miss, and not in the way of hitting a cage and causing pandemonium, no. I accidentally hex someone else, with white-blond hair. Scorpius Malfoy turns around, eyes looking around.
I hastily shove my wand in my back pocket, raising my brows in a silent What? when his eyes meet mine. Deny, deny, deny, but I doubt he believes me.
Slytherin in his blood, after all, regardless of how completely he fucked up. Some -- most -- say I went haywire, too, but I can’t seem to give a fuck. I know I did and I am very fucking much glad for it. There is only so much Gryffindor that I can be around and if I couldn’t get free from them during school months, there’s no saying what would’ve happened.
“Did you just attack a Malfoy?” I hear a familiar voice say, and can’t help smiling, just a small one, when I see Fiona.
“He doesn’t even fucking count,” I retort, kissing her cheek. “What’s he going to do? Study me to my death?”
Someone hurriedly brushes by me, body angrily brushing mine. The door jingle sounds as Malfoy exits.
Fiona laughs. “You are such a hypocrite, you realise that, right? You’re a Potter and you’re supposed to be in Gryffindor, just like he’s a Malfoy that should be in Slytherin.”
“My father was supposed to be in Slytherin, also, so your point is moot.” I grin at her; we walk out of the shop, with its rancid smell of bird shit and dead mice and croaking toads.
She perks up a little at the mention of him. “How is my dear Mr Potter? Drive him to heart attack yet?”
I roll my eyes, looking around for possible shops. Something has to work for him, fucking hell. “The Dark Lord couldn’t fucking kill him,” I say. “Who’s saying natural causes could?”
I tend to use Dark Lord more often. It’s not so much that I mind, it’s simply habit and regardless, well -- we were only the second generation of Slytherins from the war, really. My Housemates used it and when I call him by his real name, they’d freak the fuck out. It got me some fear, some dislike, some respect.
Doesn’t make a different to me either way; I don’t like upsetting Fiona and Charles, though (in those terms, anyway) and that’d be one surefire way. So I think Voldemort, say Dark Lord.
“You still hating them?”
“I don’t fucking hate them, why won’t you and Charles believe me?”
“I’ve no idea, love. None at all. Speaking of,” she says, hands pressing down the creases of her dress, “word around the castle is that you’re knocking down Grimmauld Place. Is this true? Please tell me it is not true.”
“Could you tell Charles to just not breathe anymore,” I say. It’s not so much a question. “But, yes. I am. Can we please not talk about it in Diagon Alley, Fi; that elder couple in the crazy-traditional robes just stood and stared at us.”
It’ll be in the society pages by tomorrow: Black Sheep Potter to Knock Down Home of Ancient and Most Noble Blacks, even though they hate the Blacks every other fucking day of the year.
“I cannot believe... Albus, seriously? Do you even realise the worth of that house, you could, you could sell it or something, I can convince someone to buy it but fucking... you know what. I’m not going to bother lecturing you over this because you already know that you’re wrong.”
Fiona pushes open the door to Quality Quidditch, standing stock-still for a second. Sighs, “Who’re you shopping for?” I can practically hear her think, You’re a fucking idiot, Albus Severus Potter. But she doesn’t say it aloud and neither do I.
“Hugo,” I respond. “How did yo --”
“Honestly,” she says, exasperated. “How long has it even been.”
I -- we -- end up with new dragon-skin gloves for him, with a permanent heating charm, and I don’t know how they did it, but the price suggests that it wasn’t easy.
“So, have you heard from Rosaline lately?”
I shrink the box and the wrapping paper.
“You know you can’t just ignore everything.”
Watch me, I think, waving goodbye and Apparating away. She’ll know where to find me if she needs me.
Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione live in this picturesque little cottage, surrounded by other little cozy homes with wood roofs and burning fireplaces, and in the wintertime, it is straight out of a storybook. Mum tells me she never expected it of them. Dad says it makes perfect sense.
Regardless of anything, I love it. It’s always been such a different atmosphere compared to No. 12, and it’s actually a Wizarding neighborhood, so there’s never been any hiding for Rose and Hugo; they never had to explain magical accidents to other goers of the little park in the centre of the village, no.
It’s perfect and if this was given to me, I definitely wouldn’t fucking knock it down.
But it wasn’t.
“Al!” Aunt Hermione rushes toward me, arms extended and smile in place. I accept her hug, one eye searching the backyard for Rose. I don’t see her, only a quick flash of red that dashes back inside, but really, this is a Weasley gathering.
My aunt pushes me back at arms’ length, her face bright, and I put it down to it being Hugo’s birthday before: “Guess what?”
“What?” I ask, raising an eyebrow and if my lip twitches, it’s nothing. I already know.
“DMLE is hiring, and I may have put in a bit of a word for you --”
I groan, loud and obnoxious, because we go through the same thing every single time; I think it’s a game for her, I really do. “Aunt ‘Mione, I am not working for the Ministry.”
“Your dad said the same thing--”
“I’m not my father.”
She frowns at me, eyes narrowed and knowing. “Yes, but you are your father’s son.”
She sighs, squeezes me tight one more time before taking my arm and leading me in through the back; we get stopped give or take fifty times, but by the time we reach the kitchen where Hugo is half-hiding and getting himself a glass of firewhiskey, I still haven’t run into Rose or my parents and siblings. They’re in the living room, then.
There’s the pleasantries with Hugo, the “happy birthday,” and handing him his gift, smiling when Hugo awkwardly hugs me and raves about the gloves.
I start to edge away when Aunt 'Mione finally notices the whiskey in Hugo's hand, and I'm so distracted by the chastising that I run into someone headfirst. They fall back, short bronze hair fussing up, and -- fuck.
“Rose. Ah, shit, I’m sorry about that,” I ramble, putting my hand out to help her get up. She accepts it, surprisingly, but lets go the second she’s back on her feet.
“It’s fine.” We stand there awkwardly, me staring at her staring at me. She looks... good. Cut her hair into a bob, just as Lily’d told me, lone blue highlight in the front just like she’s been threatening my aunt with since we were fourteen years old.
“How... how are you?”
“Good. I’m good.” She flashes a smile at me and I can’t possibly be imagining how fucking uncomfortable this is, I can’t.
“James said you’re still working at that Muggle restaurant?” My tone is questioning because it’s not safe to assume anymore. Not with her.
“Yeah, I am. Got promoted to assistant chef, which is apparently a big deal considering my age. I’ve -- I’ve got to go see my mum about something. Nice seeing you.” She walks around me, leaves.
It’s really something when you can’t manage anything above small talk with someone who was at one point your only best friend. I feel like this is some romance gone tragically wrong. And it’s all ironic, because the reason why this all happened is because of my relationship gone totally fucking wrong.
The second I enter the living room, I spot my parents, sitting with my Uncle Ron. My dad’s black hair is usually hard to miss in a crowd of Weasleys.
I start to turn walk away, wanting to get away from the area before they notice me, but shit: the hair.
“Al! Oi, c’mere. Got something to tell you.”
I consider ignoring it -- Merlin, don’t I fucking always -- but it’s Ron that’s called and I actually like him most of the time, and more importantly, now.
“So your mum and I were talking. Auror offi --”
“I don’t want to,” I begin, but he cuts me off, just as I did to him.
“Just let me finish, yeah? I’m telling you, kid, you’d do brilliantly. Some of the blokes are wondering why not one Granger-Weasley or Potter have signed up and, I mean.”
“It’s not like there’s any really serious crime; you lot already put the fear of God in the Wizarding world years and years ago.”
It’s really fascinating how Aurors are always accepting. But I just don’t want to spend the next three years of my life under inspection by those two, Uncle Ron and Dad. They’re infamous for being able to go from relaxed to cane-bearing, back-breaking dictators with the trainees. And what if they don’t treat me the same as the others? What if they’re worse, better? Clearly, I’m always in favour of being favoured, but I’m not dealing with that shit with them from dawn to almost-dusk.
(“And think of the morals, the justice and fairness and equality, can you even imagine the horror of such a thing, Albus?”)
“And I’m not going to join something just because I’m a bloody Potter, Uncle Ron.”
Aunt ‘Mione walks by with a tray of drink floating in front of her. Says, “Four generations of Potter before you have, darling.”
I shut my eyes, sigh. This is my being patient. It’s not going to last long.
“You got an O on your NEWTS, Al,” my mother pipes in, ever by Dad’s side. I seriously have no idea what is fucking wrong with them.
“Got an E for CoMC, Mum, but I’m not going to become a mermaid specialist, am I?”
Sitting in the middle, Dad’s lips twitch.
“Nasty buggers, merpeople,” he’d told me when I’d asked for one at five. “Funny talking, too.”
Unwillingly, I smile.
I don’t respond.