Al spent the full first week of school avoiding anybody and everybody. Most students kept their distance because he’d learned that people had an instinct to keep them away from everyone else catastrophes, as though it was catching, but other students, some he’d never even spoken to before, came up to talk to him about it like they were old friends.
But the worst were the ones who talked about him when he was present. Some didn’t even bother to keep their voices down. Ever since the Prophet’s lead story had been his father punching Scorpius Malfoy’s father they’d taken to carrying it around with them and pulling it out at opportune moments. Like during Potions class when they sat directly behind him.
“Just ignore them,” Rose muttered under her breath as two Hufflepuffs whispered away. “You know they’re clueless anyway. While we have high ranking positions in the Ministry, they’re going to be waitresses at Madam Puddifoot’s.”
Al snorted. The Hufflepuff girls were in a NEWT level Potions class, he didn’t think they were going to be waitresses, but it was nice of Rose to say that to make him feel better.
“Do you think-?” He heard one of the girls whisper, but the rest of her sentence was too muffled for him to make out.
“You ask him!” There were more giggles and Al chopped the ginger root so finely it became a powder.
Rose spun around in her seat and glared at the two giggling girls. “If either of you asks him anything I will give you both detention for disrupting another student during class.” They silenced instantly and Rose turned back around. “No, don’t,” she said, stopping Al from adding the ginger roots to the potion. “We have to redo those, they’re too small.”
He smiled at Rose. Even in her most protective mode she wouldn’t let him ruin their potion. It was so typical her. “Thanks for that,” he said quietly when she returned from getting the new ingredients. The girls hadn’t said a word since Rose threatened them with detention.
“It was nothing. They were annoying me too.” She shot him a quick smile and began to chop the roots, neater than Al had managed in his frustration.
A part of him wondered what the girls wanted to ask him, though. Rose had stopped sharing her Prophet with him in the morning and instead read it in the girls’ dormitory. She would give him updates on his family from what she read, but he knew she was leaving things out because none of the information was headline news.
Being kept in the dark was sometimes annoying, but mostly Al just appreciated it. He didn’t want to know all that was going on at home. If Lily was found he’d know in an instant, but until then all the news was going to be bad.
He hadn’t quite realized this until his father punched Draco Malfoy, but after that he removed all the eavesdropping spells from his belongings. If people were keeping things from him they must have a good reason.
As the class ended, he and Rose began gathering their bags to leave when the two Hufflepuffs came over to them. Al recognized them as Paula and Charlene, two nice but somewhat dim girls. “So Al,” Charlene said with another giggle.
Rose glared at her. “There aren’t rules about talking to people after class is over,” Paula protested. “You can’t give us detention.”
Rose looked like she was about to respond rather heatedly, so Al put a hand on her arm to stop her. “Anyway,” Charlene said, flipping her hair. “What’s it like? I mean, is your sister ever going to come back?”
“Come on,” Rose muttered, grabbing Al by the shoulders and leading him out with her. “Ignore them.” It was hypocritical to say the least because Al could practically see the steam coming out of her ears, but he nodded.
He almost always agreed with Rose these days because he knew it made her feel better. “Those girls,” she said, shaking her head. “They must be missing half their brains. What the hell is a Hufflepuff, anyway? At least the Slytherins have brains for the most part.”
“Hannah was a Hufflepuff,” Al said as they walked down the long corridor toward the Great Hall.
“And she works at the Leaky Cauldron,” Rose replied. “Thus proving my point.”
“I like Hannah. She’s always been nice to us. Remember when we were little and both of our dads got called away on that big Auror mission and Gran couldn’t watch us? We spent the whole day at the Leaky Cauldron with her.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “I never said she wasn’t a perfectly lovely person. I was merely commenting on her intelligence which never seemed to be that high. Remember when some of the firewhiskey always seemed to be missing a few years back and she thought the owls were slipping in overnight, opening the containers, and drinking it all up when it actually turned out to be James, Roxy, Freddie?”
Al did remember that. The boys had offered him some of their loot, but he’d declined. He and Rose had tried firewhiskey once and both sworn it would never happen again. As far as Al knew they had both kept that promise.
Hannah was always prone to strange theories on anything odd that happened, whether in the Daily Prophet or the Leaky Cauldron. She was one of the sweetest people Al knew, but bright was not a term he’d use to describe her. He’d always been a bit dumbfounded that she married a professor.
“You up for dinner today?” Rose asked, pausing just outside the Great Hall. Sometimes they took their meals in the kitchens to avoid anyone who had questions like Charlene and Paula, but he shook his head.
“You just had a weird look on your face for a moment there.” Al nodded. He was realizing that he did that more and more lately. His professors sometimes asked him if he was alright and he would realize that he needed to blink and at least pretend to stare at his notes.
Rose nodded. He said that a lot and she was beginning to accept that he didn’t like to open up. “Alright.” Al followed her to the table where they sat in almost the direct center, a surprisingly sparse area. Most people flocked towards the ends which were nearly always overcrowded.
They were eating their meal in peace when a burly sixth year stood on his seat and yelled, “Oi, Gryfindors!” at the top of his lungs. Al knew the boy from James’s long rants as Akron, the keeper and Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team since James left. “Try outs are Monday after classes. Come out if you can fly!”
He sat back down in his seat and the younger years began talking excitedly about the possibility of making the team and being stars.
Rose smiled at Al. “Going to go out for the team this year?” She asked, just as she had every other year when the announcement was made.
“Thinking about it,” he replied just as he had every year in the past. Only this year he wasn’t thinking about the team at all. He was thinking about Lily’s broom, the one he kept in his trunk. The one he hadn’t even told Rose about.
A person dropped into the seat across from Al and he stared at Akron. He’d never had anything to do with him as it was his siblings who were the Quidditch stars. He’d never had any kind of talent in the air. He liked to keep both feet planted firmly on the ground.
“I’m sorry about Lily,” Akron said in a serious tone. “She was one of the best seekers Gryffindor’s seen since your father.”
“She only played for a year,” Al said. He didn’t like it when people exaggerated what Lily accomplished. They acted like she was better than she was just because she wasn’t around anymore. Al wished they still act like she was normal.
Akron shrugged. “She would’ve played longer if James hadn’t been so deadest against having her on the team.” Al remembered that. James and Lily had a huge row about her playing on the team and finally their mum had to step in and demand that James give her a chance. “He just got lucky that we had a decent seeker in Davis all those years. Lily was better though.”
“Thanks, I guess,” Al said. A sudden memory of Lily streaking through the sky after the snitch popped into his head and he shook it away.
“Anyway, we’ve got a few spots opening up this year if you’re interested. I figure with siblings like James and Lily you’ve got to have some natural talent running through your blood.” Akron smiled. “If you want come on out.”
“Maybe I will,” Al said, knowing he wouldn’t. He never understood his family’s desire to ride on broomsticks in the air. He wasn’t scared of heights, but fifty feet high with only a flimsy broom keeping you from crashing to the ground should have been enough to terrify anyone.
“Your family’s got some serious Quidditch blood running through your veins. I’ll be looking for you.” He walked off and Al looked down at his dinner feeling slightly sick.
“You still okay?” Rose asked. She’d been very quiet when Akron came over and Al assumed she still fancied him as she had the year before. “He wasn’t trying to make you feel worse-”
“I feel fine,” Al insisted, knowing it was at least in part a lie. “I’m going back to Gryffindor Tower.”
“I’ll come with.” He shook his head. They’d barely had a chance to touch their dinner yet and Rose liked her food.
“No. I want to be alone.” Al left the Great Hall, aware that people were staring at him. He ducked his head hoping that Neville, who was sitting up at the staff table, wouldn’t notice he was skipping and tell his parents. He didn’t want them to worry about him. They already had too much on their plates.
Once in his dormitory, Al decided to pull out Lily’s broomstick. It was a Starfire 260, the latest racing broom as of just a few months prior. Lily had ecstatic to get it. He didn’t think he’d ever seen her happier.
Everyone else was down at dinner, so Al went into his trunk and pulled out the broom. He charmed it back to its normal size and set it down on his lap. He didn’t know much about brooms, but this one sure was a beauty.
It wasn’t meant to be left in someone’s trunk all the time, Al knew that much for certain. It was meant to be ridden by someone like Lily, someone who flew for the joy of it. He had, albeit briefly, considered riding around the pitch a few times when no one was there, but he’d changed his mind about that instantly.
He wouldn’t be able to control a broom like this and even if he could it wouldn’t feel right. Only Lily could ride this broom. It was hers. Al was just keeping it safe for her until she came back.
A/N: Let me preface this by saying that I live in the States so technically it's still Monday for me! Although I do try to post earlier in the day for you UK people usually. Got held up with schoolwork and soccer practice, which is why I haven't actually written anything on this story in over a month. But enough about my busy/procrastination problems (because honestly it's probably more the latter). I hope you liked it! And I will try to be better next Monday!