James awoke with a pounding in his head. He opened his eyes, but blinked them shut when the light was too piercing. His mouth felt as though it was full of foam and his tongue was glued to the roof of his mouth. “Merlin,” he muttered, but even that was too much for his poor head to take.
There was a sudden, loud explosion from outside. He groaned loudly and moved a hand to his head. A door creaked open and abnormally loud footsteps walked over to him. “Wake the hell up, James!” Said a loud, high pitched voice.
“Please, just a little quieter,” he said, begging with Roxanne. Her voice seemed too loud to be natural.
“Oh I’m sorry. Is this disturbing you? Wake the hell up!” James cringed and sat up, his hand still rubbing his painfully throbbing head.
“Where am I?” He asked, peeling back an eyelid ever so slowly to survey the room.
Roxy snorted. “The storage room of Weasley Wizard Wheezes where you passed out last night before we could take you home.” James groaned again. His back was sore enough to be painful when he tried to stand and he hadn’t even noticed it before because of his head.
Then he noticed the charred remains laying beside him. “What are those?” He asked, running his hands through the ashes.
“The Howlers your coach sent. There have been three. I suspect he’ll keep sending them until he gets a reply.” James groaned again. Drinking himself into a stupor had seemed like a splendid idea the night before, but he didn’t think he’d ever regretted anything quite so much.
“Do you have any potion?” He croaked softly, his dry mouth barely managing to get the words out.
“You mean hangover potion?” Roxy asked with a raised eyebrow. “Not for people who puke all over the latest shipment of the Jelly Jubilees. It took me ages to clean up because Freddie refused to get near it.”
“Please?” He begged. “I’ll do anything.” The pain in his head had nearly tripled since he woke up.
“No,” Roxy replied stubbornly. “And if you please excuse me I’m about to eat my lunch. Peanut butter and honey on rye, delicious.”
James felt the bile rise in his throat and sprinted to the bathroom. He could hear Roxy’s laughter following him all the way to the loo where he vomited up everything in his stomach.
He swayed when he pushed himself away from the toilet and back to where Roxy was eating her sandwich, and looking like she enjoyed every bite of it too. “That was unnecessary,” he muttered under his breath just loud enough for her to hear.
“Are you honestly complaining to the person who cleaned up your vomit last night?” She asked. James opened his mouth to retort, then shut it. He guessed Roxy was right- it probably wasn’t all that smart of an idea. “That’s what I thought. You’re working inventory.”
“What? I just woke up!”
“And it’s practically noon. I’d have you out front with the customers, but our sales can’t afford to dip no matter how miserable I want you to be,” she said with an eye roll. “Have fun!”
James grumbled and began unpacking the crates in the back. When people thought about working in joke shops this was the part no one mentioned. He would have done the work magically, but it appeared he had misplaced his wand sometime the night before in between leaving the Hogshead and passing out in the storage room.
It was only several minutes later that James felt a pair of eyes on him. Freddie was sitting on a stack of boxes in the corner. “Hey,” he said calmly.
“Hey,” James replied just as coolly. Freddie sat in silence for a few minutes more before James finally turned to him again. “Are you going to help or what?” He asked.
“Sure.” Freddie hopped down from his perch and with a wave of the wand the boxes were all stacked neatly against the wall. James pushed his red hair out of his sweaty face. He didn’t understand why Roxy didn’t just do the same thing thirty minutes earlier.
He voiced those thoughts to Freddie who only laughed. “You know how Roxy is. She’s worried about you and that translates into her becoming a control freak.” James laughed with his best friend, but Freddie continued. “She doesn’t know how to handle this whole thing with Lily. Said you’re liable to crack at any time.”
James smiled a bit, but it was forced as he wasn’t sure entirely of how to respond to Freddie’s words. He wasn’t in any danger of cracking any time soon. “Your wand’s up at the front desk by the way. Feel free to head on home. Roxy won’t miss you.”
James decided going back to their flat was probably preferable as his head was still pounding quite painfully. In fact, going back to sleep sounded like the best idea he’d had all week. He flashed a grateful smile at Freddie and apparated away after grabbing his wand.
Al was staring at his Defense essay, unable to make heads or tails of what it meant. It didn’t come as easily to him as it had the year before when everything about that class made perfect sense.
A knock sounded on his door and it creaked open. Hugo entered and Al lifted a finger to his lips to quiet his younger cousin. He was a chubby boy, a red head who took after his father in almost every regard. Rose was still asleep on his bed and Al didn’t want to disturb her so he set aside his essay and moved out in the hallway to speak with Hugo.
The younger boy had been sleeping in James’s old room as their grandmother was in the guest bedroom and only the Aurors and hit wizards had been in Lily’s in the previous days. Al had nearly forgotten his cousin was staying with them. He had such a quiet presence without Lily by his side.
“She’s still asleep?” Hugo asked, peeking around Al to where his sister was sleeping on Al’s bed. Al nodded. He had spent the night at his desk so as not to bother her since she had passed out hours before he managed to get any sleep.
“Like a rock,” Al said in a monotone. “You need something?”
Hugo glanced back to his face and shook his head vehemently. “No I just- never mind. I think breakfast is about ready, if you’re hungry. Or- yeah.”
Al nodded. He’d hardly eaten anything in the last three days and it wouldn’t go over well if he didn’t show up downstairs at some point. “I’ll wake her up.” Hugo nodded and stared at him for a moment longer before racing up to James’s room on the third floor.
Al stared at Rose one the bed, regretting having to wake her up. She looked so peaceful asleep, more than she ever did awake. Well, at least more than she had the last few days.
“Rosie,” he said, softly shaking her shoulder. “Wake up.”
Rose opened her eyes and blinked up at him in surprise. “Oh Merlin, I fell asleep on your bed, didn’t I?” It always amazed Al how quickly she became conscious and aware of her surroundings. By the time breakfast began most days she was as alert as though she’d already had coffee.
“It’s alright,” he said. “I didn’t sleep much anyway.”
“But you need your bed! I swear, tonight I’ll sleep on the sofa. You’ll have your room to yourself.” Al smiled at her as she fretted over the bed situation. Even if she hadn’t been in his room he wouldn’t have slept much more than he did. Sleep seemed to elude him lately.
Hermione was down in the kitchen and, like the last few days, Ginny and Molly were nowhere to be seen. At first it seemed odd to Al that his mother was never around, but he’d grown used to her absence.
“Morning, Mum,” Rose said as she entered the kitchen. Her frizzy red hair was tied back as it always was when she didn’t feel like fighting it into some sort of style, which was most of the time.
Hermione slid two plates full of food in front of them and Al almost gagged. His appetite had never been as strong as his brother’s or his uncle’s, but ever since Lily was gone he couldn’t stomach the thought of eating much at all.
Rose devoured the food on her plate. Unlike Al, she had always had a hearty appetite, although she took after her father in that the weight never showed. Her legs were as stick thin as they were when she was thirteen.
“Aren’t you hungry, Al?” Hermione asked in what Al recognized as her concerned voice. He shrugged and picked at his food, playing with it on his plate rather than actually eating it. “I could make something else if you would prefer.”
“No, thank you,” he said, always the polite teenager. He lifted a forkful of sausage to his mouth and smiled at her. Apparently it was enough to satisfy her as she turned her attention to other things.
“Rose, Al, you know what tomorrow is, right?” Al and Rose looked at each other. Ever since Al had said he was returning to Hogwarts they hadn’t spoken about it at all. Since the next day was September first, Al knew his parents- or more likely his Aunt Hermione- would have questions. And concerns.
“Mum-” Rose began, trying to cut her off before anything happened, but Hermione shook her head.
“I know this is going to be hard for you two to hear, but we think it’s best if you returned to school tomorrow.” Hermione held her breath, hoping they wouldn’t be too argumentative, but nothing came. Al and Rose looked at each other and went back to their food.
“Hugo too?” Rose asked, her mouth full of sausage.
“I wouldn’t dream of splitting you up,” Hermione said, somewhat surprised at how little reaction they had. “Are you sure you don’t want to talk about this? We’re not trying to send you away. We just think it’s best if we try to stay normal as much as possible.”
Al scowled at this. Going back to Hogwarts was the lesser of two evils, but not because it was normal. Nothing was normal and he hated it when they acted that way. At least he could admit everything was in ruins, even if he just kept that to himself.
“Al, your mother just wants what’s best for you. Sending you to Hogwarts isn’t shipping you off, she wants you to be in the best situation possible.” Al nodded. He didn’t know if his mother actually had anything to do with the decision. She’d barely spoken to him since Lily went missing.
Part of Al wondered if she blamed him for Lily’s disappearance. He usually went out with her to the movies or whenever she went into muggle towns, but he hadn’t felt like going the night she went out. It hadn’t seemed like a big deal at the time because he skipped out on her a fair amount, but Al wished he had gone. He wished like nothing else.
“Al?” Hermione repeated, eyeing him.
He blinked and severed his eye contact with the wall, realizing that he’d been drifting off. He did that often lately with the limited sleep. “It’s fine. I want to be at Hogwarts.”
Hermione nodded briskly. “And you’ve already been to Diagon Alley? You have your supplies?”
Al thought back what felt like years. He’d gotten his letter at the end of July and they’d all gone to Diagon Alley. He thought he’d gotten everything, but he couldn’t remember. It didn’t feel like it had only been a few weeks. He nodded in affirmation.
“Good. You’ll need to pack tonight. Rose, we’ll stop by home and you and Hugo can pack in the morning.”
A sudden wave of nausea greeted Al as he thought of the unused supplies in Lily’s room. There were her new quills and parchment and the brand new books whose spines hadn’t even been cracked yet. And most of all there was her new broom.
She’d convinced her father to buy her a new broom when she made the Quidditch team the previous year. She wasn’t a star like James, but she was a good Seeker. Tiny and light on her broom she could out fly almost anyone except Harry himself.
Al had a strong desire to run into her room and take her broom with him, but he knew it wouldn’t be right. A broom like Lily’s deserved a star flyer, and he was mediocre at best.
He pushed his plate away from him, still hardly picked at, and stood up from the table. Rose, who was still swallowing her food stood as well. She clearly wasn’t done, but Al was more than grateful she would stay by his side.
They went back up to his room to begin gathering his school supplies to pack in his trunk. He kept his wand in his back pocket as Rose checked and double checked the list. “You’re missing your cauldron,” she said, glancing around the room.
Al started as he realized where his cauldron was. “Lily borrowed it,” he muttered quietly. He could hardly bring himself to say her name.
“Oh.” Rose’s voice was quiet and sad. “I might have an extra at home,” she said.
Al shook his head. He didn’t want to borrow her cauldron, if she even had an extra one. He needed his own, wanted the one he’d had since first year. It was top of line and Lily had always preferred it to her own, which was why she had borrowed it nearly a month before.
“I’ll go get it,” he said. Rose looked concerned, but Al shook it off. None of them had been in Lily’s room yet. It wasn’t strange for him to just barge in and take back things she had borrowed.
He paused outside Lily’s door. It was stupid, but he couldn’t bring himself to put his hand on the lock and twist it. Instead he prodded the door open with his wand and entered cautiously.
It looked just the same as it had before.
Al didn’t know what he was expecting. Nothing looked different or even felt different. It was maybe a little spooky to be in there without Lily, but that was it. Al spotted his cauldron right away. It was placed precariously on the corner of her desk and there was still a pink goo smeared on the cauldron. Al almost didn’t want to know what she’d been brewing. The Aurors would have mentioned it if it had any relevance to her disappearance.
But he didn’t clean it off. A part of him wanted to know that one tiny detail. He wanted to know what Lily had been doing in the past month. So he left the pink goo in the bottom and headed out of the room.
He was almost out the door when he noticed her broom leaning against her closet door. It was new and shiny, the twigs perfectly sleek. It was a thing of beauty, even Al could tell that and he didn’t know much about brooms.
Almost against his will he found himself walking towards it. He touched it carefully with his fingertip, caressing the smooth handle. He jerked his hand away as he realized what he was doing. If Lily had seen him do that she would have cursed him then and there, age restrictions be damned.
It may have been because of that that Al shrunk the broom and tucked it into his pocket. No one else would ever have to know that he had taken. He may never ride it, but he needed a piece of Lily to bring with him.
A/N: A little more Al and James in this chapter for your reading pleasure. And I'm too tired to have anything else today so I hope you guys are liking it. :)