Albus nodded his head eagerly. His eyes danced in anticipation as he clutched his broom tightly in his small hands.
“Okay. Now, make sure you don’t kick off too hard. I don’t want you to get too high again,” Harry told him.
Albus took a deep breath, bracing himself before he kicked off from the ground. A look of panic flashed over his face as he shot up into the air. Time froze for a moment, and then he came crashing back down.
He lay sprawled on the ground, struggling to catch his breath. He opened his eyes to see Harry peering over him anxiously, his green eyes scanning Al’s body quickly for any injuries.
“Are you okay?” Harry reached out a hand to pull Albus up gently. “Maybe we should call it a day.”
Al shook his head stubbornly. “One more try. I’ll get it this time, I promise.”
Harry eyed his son, taking in the grass stains covering his clothes, his dirt-smudged cheeks, the small scrape on his elbow, his dark hair matted to his forehead. But his face was lined with determination, so much so that Harry couldn’t find the strength to deny him. “Fine. But just once more and then we’re going in,” Harry said, giving him a stern look. “Mum will kill me if you’re not cleaned up before dinner.”
Al closed his eyes for a second, sending a small plea of help to the Quidditch gods before flying a few feet off the ground. He hovered for a moment, swerved, and then toppled off the broom, hitting the ground hard.
He gasped for breath, wheezing as he tried to get up. Harry rushed to his side. “Come on, trooper. Let’s get you fixed up.” Albus said nothing, a frustrated look on his face as Harry helped him up.
“You know,” Harry commented as they walked to the house. “Quidditch isn’t for everyone. Aunt Hermione is one of the most brilliant people I know, but if there’s one thing she doesn’t get, it’s Quidditch.” Catching the stricken look on Al’s face, he hastily added, “But if you want to keep trying, we will.”
I glanced behind me to see James striding towards me. I scrunched my face, knowing where this was going to go.
“Hey,” he said as he reached me. “How are you? I heard your cauldron exploded during Potions class.” His face was concerned but I couldn’t help but wonder if he was fighting back any amusement. My potions class certainly found it humorous.
“It was Thomas. He ‘accidently’ bumped into me,” I muttered. My cheeks flushed in humiliation as I remembered what happened. It hadn’t helped that Chloe was in that class. Granted, she was one of the only ones who hadn’t laughed but still, having to be escorted out of class with my arms covered in boils wasn’t exactly what I had planned to catch her attention. My pride was wounded, needless to say.
James’s face twisted with sympathy. “He’s a git. Just say the word and I’ll get him to leave you alone.”
I shook my head as a flash of panic rushed through me. “No!” Having my big brother bail me out was not something I wanted. “I’ll think of something. Its fine, James,” I assured him, giving him a strained smile.
He looked at me for a moment before sighing. “If you say so. Anyway, listen. I wanted to tell you I signed you up for the Quidditch trials.”
My smile froze. “What?”
James beamed at me. “Come on, it’ll be great.” Seeing the look on my face, he added, “You were going to sign up, weren’t you? I mean, I know you couldn’t first year, and then last year you twisted your ankle the day before. This year’s perfect!” He frowned as a thought occurred to him. “Unless Madame Pomfrey said you have to rest your arms, or something ridiculous.”
“No, no, my arms are all healed. I just—I hadn’t expected the trials to come up so soon. I need to practice,” I explained hastily.
The smile was back on his face. “Great! We’ll be legends, Al! Both Potter boys on the team.” He grinned down at me before waving me off, heading towards the Great Hall for dinner.
I trudged back to the common room, feeling miserable. This day couldn’t have gone any worse, I thought as I rooted around my trunk, finding my broom at the very bottom. I glared at it, those old feelings of frustration towards the broom—or if I was being honest, towards myself—rising again.
James had no idea that I’d twisted my ankle last year while trying to learn how to fly in time for the tryouts. And I hadn’t attempted to fly since then. I was sick of failing, of feeling as if there was something wrong with me. My whole family—my dad, my mother, my brother, my uncles were all Quidditch stars. Merlin, even my little sister could fly better than I could. And here I was, barely able to stay in the air for more than five seconds.
I didn’t even know if I liked flying. I just felt like I had something to prove to James, to my parents, to the school to show that I was a part of the Potter-Weasley family. So I waited till it was growing dark before sneaking out of the common room, my broom clutched in my hand.
The pitch was empty when I reached it, which I was thankful for. But then, I felt incredibly small and alone, standing in the vast field—the reminder of my failure hanging over me, surrounding me and weighing me down.
I almost considered chucking my broom into the Great Lake and being done with it, admitting defeat. But then I scowled. I didn’t want to let myself down. I didn’t want to feel this way, always having that horrible, sinking feeling in my stomach at the thought of falling to the ground over and over again.
“Here goes nothing,” I muttered as I stepped between the broom before kicking off. But as soon I was in the air, that same feeling of terror filled me. I couldn’t figure out what to do, which way to lean and then before I knew it, I was back on the ground, slamming into the dirt.
By the time I decided to call it quits, I was sprawled on the ground, the wind knocked out of me, my whole body aching. I scowled as I stared up at the night sky. It was as if even the stars were laughing at me, blinking merrily down at me.
And then I realized I had to do the one thing I had been dreading. I had to tell my brother. Each step back to the common room was heavy, as if I was walking to my execution. A small part of me knew that I was being completely irrational. But I was afraid to disappoint James or worse, to have him laugh at me.
I found him by the fireplace, playing chess with one of his friends. He glanced up, a curious look on his face. We didn’t usually interact this much. Frankly, I’d been surprised that he had actually come to check on me earlier today.
“James, can I talk to you?” I asked before I could chicken out. “Alone?”
He nodded, getting up to lead me out of the common room. I followed him silently as we walked down several corridors before he finally came down to a stop.
“What is it, Al?” He asked as he leaned against the wall, crossing his arms.
I took a deep breath. “Okay. There’s something I have to tell you. And please, don’t be mad.” I swallowed. “I can’t fly,” I admitted quietly, my heart pounding hard. I braced myself for a smirk on his face, a loud pitiless laugh.
Instead, he looked at me blankly. “What?”
“I can’t fly,” I repeated, raising my voice. “I can’t freaking fly! The Quidditch fairy must have decided I didn’t need any of those genes.”
I watched warily as disbelief, confusion and then realization dawned on his face. “I’ve never actually seen you fly,” James said slowly. “Damn.”
“I didn’t want you to find out,” I muttered, unable to look him in the eye. “I was embarrassed.”
James sighed, running a hand over his face. “Okay. So why didn't you tell me? Why are you trying out?”
I looked at him bleakly. “I mean, you were always talking about how great it would be to have both of us on the team. I felt like…. everyone was pressuring me or something. And you—everyone here loves you. One of my only redeeming qualities is that I’m your brother. I didn’t want to disappoint you.” My voice was raw, filled with all the emotions that had finally bubbled over—frustration towards myself, confusion as to why I couldn't be as good as James, longing to find that one thing that people would admire me for.
His mouth was wide open. “Merlin, I am the worst brother ever.” He shook his head, his eyes shadowed with regret. “I had no idea, Al.”
“It’s fine,” I mumbled. “I mean, I didn’t exactly want you to find out…,” I trailed off, giving him a weak smile.
The look on his face softened. “I’m sorry if I was pressuring you. I shouldn’t have just assumed you wanted to.” James looked at me for a moment. “You’re wrong, you know.”
I blinked in surprise. “About what?”
“Being my brother isn’t your only redeeming quality,” James replied, rolling his eyes. “Don’t be daft. If you must know, people are somewhat intimidated by you. That’s why Thomas messes with you all the time.”
It was my turn to stare at him in shock as I processed his words. “Really?” I asked, trying to keep my voice casual.
James grinned. “You and your friends, you have the whole mysterious thing going for you guys. Girls love that.” He threw me a wink.
I raised my eyebrows, my lips twitching at his description. We both lapsed into silence, lost in our own thoughts for a moment.
Come on, I told myself. Eschew your pride. He’s your brother, for Merlin’s sake. Finally plucking up the courage, I asked hesitantly, “I know I probably won’t make the team. But, will you teach me?”
James nodded. “Sure. It’s the least I could do.” He fixed me with a stern eye that was so like the looks I've received from Dad that I had to smile. “But I want you to know that you don’t have to be on the team. You have four more years to find what you’re good at. Its okay if it’s not Quidditch. We’re not going to disown you,” He teased, a smile tugging his lips.
I nodded, feeling a sense of relief at his words. But then I realized I did want to try out, for myself. It wasn’t just James, or the expectations of my family. I was pressuring myself too, to prove to myself that I could do it. But I think I was okay with that.
“Okay, I see the problem,” James commented the next night after I’d come falling down to the ground yet. “You’re over-thinking it. I can see it in your face. You’re concentrating too much on what to do next.” He reached out a steady hand to pull me up. “Just relax. Move with the broom.”
I took a deep breath as I stared at the broom. You will not beat me, I informed the broom silently.
A few seconds later I was lying face down on the ground, my broom lying a few feet away from me. I groaned. So much for my bravado, I thought. Someone up there must be laughing at me.
James hoisted me up, a small trace of amusement glinting in his eyes as I spit grass out of my mouth. “Just shake it out and try again,” he told me.
I ran a hand through my hair in frustration. I took several slow breaths, trying to relax myself. My face set with determination, I kicked off the ground and then slowly guided the broom up, astonishment coursing through me when I realized I had stayed in the air. And then I veered a little too sharply to the right and the broom immediately curved its way to the ground.
The wind was knocked out of me again, but adrenaline was pumping through my veins and I barely noticed the pain on my elbow. “Did you see that? That’s the longest I’ve stayed upright!” I exclaimed.
James laughed, the deep sound echoing through the pitch. “It was better,” James commented, looking pleased. “Come on, it’s getting late. We’ll try again tomorrow.”
James continued to give me tips as we walked back to the common room. “Thanks, James,” I said quietly when we reached the portrait, affection suddenly rushing through me as I looked at him. “I…..thank you.”
James nodded as an understanding look crossed his face. “What are brothers for?” He reached over to ruffle my hair. “But you do know I’ll have to inform Fred, and Hugo and Lily and Dom and everyone about this,” he teased.
I scowled at him, hiding my smile as I shoved him in the chest. But as I followed him into the common room, I couldn’t help the grin that spread on my face.
I was flying slowly around the pitch, lost in my thoughts when someone flew up next to me. I glanced over to see James on his broom, grinning at me.
“That wasn’t too bad, little brother,” he winked. “You had some pretty close shots. And I mean, at least you made it up into the air without falling.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Shut it.”
James’s eyes twinkled. “I saw you talking to that girl after the tryouts. What did she want?”
I couldn’t stop the smile that filled my face, remembering our conversation.
"I didn't know you played Quidditch, Al," she commented as we walked away from the pitch.
"I'm still learning," I admitted. "I'm clearly not very good."
She smiled up at me. "You're certainly better than me." I shook my head, rolling my eyes. And then I was too nervous to say anything else.
She spoke up again. "Hey Al...I've been having some trouble in Potions. And I noticed you got an A on our last one," she added.
I laughed. "Yeah, but that's only when my cauldron's not exploding." For some reason, I didn't really care about what had happened in class with Thomas anymore. It felt good--to be able to let it go.
She laughed, the sound sending a rush of butterflies through my stomach. "Well, I was wondering if maybe you wanted to be my partner for the next potion. I could really use some help," she said shyly.
I couldn't find my voice so I nodded instead, a wide grin on my lips.
“Her name’s Chloe. And I have a feeling Thomas won't be bothering me anymore,” I said with a grin.
I nodded, still feeling elated as I stared up at the sky. It was funny how before, the stars had seemed to mock me. But now they twinkled down at me, as if sharing my joy.
“Come on,” I told James. “I bet I can make it to the other side faster than you.”
James raised his eyebrows. “Oh, I see. You’re on, little bro.”
I didn’t make the team. But I wasn’t too bothered. There was always next year. And in that moment as I raced through the sky, the night air rushing past me, James close at my side, I felt invincible.
A/N: So I really enjoyed writing this because I based it on the relationship I have with my sister. I'm the younger one, she's the older one who had already made a name for herself in the choir and drama department by the time I reached highschool. Because of that, a lot of people expected me to go down the same path and this was one of the reasons I made Al so determined not to fail at this. My sister has given me really good advice over the years and I like to think that for all his faults--being oblivious, sometimes immature, etc, James is still a good brother to both Albus and Lily and that he would have supported Albus rather than making fun of him or being angry, like Albus feared.
Anyway, I'll stop here before I write an essay. I hope you liked it and let me know what you think! And thanks for reading!