Chapter 2 : Him
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As I realized shortly afterwards, Rose Weasley was leaving out information. She wasn’t telling me how her parents died, where her brother was, why her family didn’t help her, the political climate of her setting. I was probably jumping ahead of myself so naturally I assumed these were pieces she was leaving out intentionally and would be explained in due time. Currently, there was a bigger query on the floor.
“So what was the deal with you and Albus?”
The old woman looked nostalgic for a moment.
“What do you know about Harry Potter, Mr. Walker?”
“Enough.” I knew about the prophecy, the Great War, the Dark Lord, the whole saving-the-world bit.
“You should know then that Albus was nothing like his father.”
There was a brief silence.
“Yes, that much has been very clear.”
“It wasn’t his fault though.”
“So it was your fault then.”
“It’s hard to pinpoint the blame on any one person for what happened with him, but yes, partly it may have been mine. There were others: his mother for instance, Scorpius, and then his brother, although Jamesy always tried his best, bless him. Most was his father’s though.”
“His father was dead at the time.”
“Where did it all go wrong then?”
“I wouldn’t know. There was no one simple instance. Though I’m sure it started far before we even realized it.”
“Did you love him?”
I could tell the abrupt query had come as a shock to her, but she quickly recovered and gave me a strained smile.
“Love is not an emotion easily associated with Albus.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“He was my family. I cared for his well-being.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“His own mother despised him.”
“You’re avoiding the question.”
“Then I have no broader explanation for you.” She replied coldly, “You may assume what you wish about us.”
I decided that I would. Then I asked my final question for the evening.
“Do you have any regrets about the way it ended with him?”
There was absolute silence.
“Good night, Mr. Walker.”
I tapped the edge of the wardrobe twice and turned the knob like a combination lock. It opened it to reveal a fountain-like structure—a pensive. More specifically, the pensive of Albus Potter. Legend states that in his old home, he had this particular pensive tailored to his needs. That it contained not only his memories, but memories of those around him. And that these memories would be more than just faint recollections, but very vivid and intimate accounts that read like journal entries. The observer would be able to sense the emotions of many. I pondered why Albus would make his recollections so…intimate. In all the rubble and chaos and disorder, precisely what was he trying to preserve?
Harry smiled at his four-year-old son. “Albus, will you come with me please?”
Ginny shot her husband a curious look but said nothing as Albus stood up and obediently walked over. Gingerly reaching down, Harry picked up his son and held him in his arms. The thin-faced boy bore an even more perplexing likeness to the striking young man in such close proximity. “Albus and I’ll be back in a bit, Gin.”
Apparation. Together, boy and man burned through space and countless dimensions, miles in milliseconds, their grips tightening and loosening as they clung on to each other. Still, a seamless journey, for it was one that the bright-eyed boy had grown used to. It was only Albus that Harry would apparate with on these ‘business’ trips, for it was only Albus, calm and level-headed and highly intelligent, who possessed the extraordinary aptitude for reading his father, to the extent that not a single facial expression, variation in tone, or behavioral tick of his went by unnoticed. Infant Lily was fussy and an avid screamer, and James, though brave and well-intentioned, didn’t have the head for it.
Thunder shook the heavens as they emerged from the midst of a dense, sight-blurring haze in the middle of nowhere. Albus watched his father point a wand toward a barren patch on the ground and mutter an incantation –with a swift, sudden rumble, from its place began suddenly rising a dilapidated shack-house with burnt panes and windows boarded from the inside.
Subtle folds had formed around Daddy’s eyes, depicting distress. The small boy shot him an inquisitive look but knew better than to ask why. Most families have secrets, but the Potters were particularly notorious for their thickly coated web of lies. Even one as young as Albus understood that discretion was vital for maintaining secrecy. He was expected to share in his father’s burden, whether or not he knew it, since one cannot tell what one does not fully understand.
What mattered most to Albus was that Daddy trusted him above all others. Years later he would see the fundamental error in his thinking.
Standing outside the household, Harry put Albus down and told him what he always did:
“Stand by the door and do not, under any circumstance, come inside.”
As always, Albus gave a solemn nod and watched his father go through the doorway. Moments later, came the wretched sounds of screaming –long, guttural, pain-stricken shrieks. To drown out the awful noise, Albus clasped his hands over his ears, forcing every ounce of control he had over himself not to go inside. For it was his father whose screams rang alarmingly against his eardrums.
He’ll come back. He wouldn’t leave me like this. Silent tears streamed down his small face. Minutes felt like hours dragging by as the dark-haired boy, with his eyes clenched shut, stood miserably, waiting for the end of his cruel and unusual torture. It was in these moments that Albus felt he truly hated his father.
Still, Albus knew why it was him Daddy brought. James was strong and brave, but he couldn’t harden his heart. Albus could. He could push his emotions aside and do the rational thing. Call it a talent. Call it a curse. Call it a trained instinct. He understood that in order to survive, he had to harden his heart. It would become part of a series of challenges his father put him through, indefinitely shaping the core of his personality.
Years later, nightmares would haunt his sleep and he would curse his father for making him so cold. Making him into a monster who thrived through cunning and manipulation, detesting intimacy. Who harbored malicious secrets. Who was swayed by neither friendship nor love.
But moments later, when Harry emerged well and alive, all feelings of anything but relief would be forgotten, and Albus would cling to his leg until he was picked up again.
Usually Albus was compliant enough to accept his father’s following silence, but occasionally curiosity for the better of him.
“Did you kill him?”
Not an accusation but an inquiry. An innocent one.
“Do you really think your father could be a murderer, Albus?”
The boy thought for a moment before answering in a small voice, “Sometimes.”
The ends of Harry’s mouth curved downward. “Well I’ll tell you. There’s only one time you could say Daddy’s taken a life and today wasn’t it.”
Albus looked equal parts scared and curious. Then, a hushed whisper: “I want to know when.”
“Of course you do. You are my son after all.” Harry shook his head, and then lowered his voice. Albus observed a pained expression flicker over his face.
“Know that there once was a Dark Lord. And that he was betrayed, cast aside, and destroyed by his own mantle of power. But know that there must always be a Dark Lord, one capable of unfathomable horrors. One who has been hurt in the heart and will hurt in return.”
Albus buried his face into Harry’s shoulder. “I fear, son, that history has a habit of repeating itself.”
“Who will stop the new dark lords, Daddy?”
“My dear Albus,” Harry sighed, running a hand over the frightened boy’s head, “I won’t be around forever.”
He readjusted himself on the wooden stool, feeling like cattle about to be butchered in front of the mass of anxious eyes trained on him, hungrily waiting. Here was the momentous Sorting of Harry Potter’s second son. Even at the age of eleven he knew exactly what was expected of him.
So he didn’t just plead with the Sorting Hat –he begged. But apparently, it was through making exceptions for his family.
“Trust me Potter, I can read your heart.” Replied the snide voice, repugnant with glee, “In it, I see neither your father’s courage nor his well-intentioned character. I see…my, my, you’re a slippery one aren’t you? Deviant, lustfully aching to prove yourself and yet… let’s just say I’d do you a disservice Potter, if I didn’t put you in the right House.”
Uncle Ron’s words rang alarmingly in his head, pulsating in step with the frantic beating of his heart: There’s not a wizard that hadn’t gone wrong that wasn’t sorted in Slytherin.
“Put me in Ravenclaw and I’ll be the cleverest boy I can be, Hatty.” He murmured, in a silky voice. “You know I have it in me.”
The Sorting Hat gave a disgusted snort. “You want more than just cleverness, Potter. That you attempt to bribe me with false promises proves you truly belong with the serpents.”
Please. Anything, anything but—
He winced as the Sorting Hat proclaimed, “SLYTHERIN!”
Albus knew from the very beginning that he wasn’t like the others. That he was smarter, better. He absorbed all that he read—his mind was an engine, racing at a speed impossible to match. He excelled with a fluidness that left other high-achieving students like Rose in dismay. She would ache over every word, every sentence, over the constant hum of sleepless nights and blistering of fingers to achieve a similar level of excellence, yet words came to him as if from an ethereal source. Line by line, with a flourish of the pen, he would gain momentum, his fingertips feverishly trying to capture the speed of his racing mind.
Rose and Albus had started their magical education together far before Hogwarts. They had pored through the same books since they could read, practicing spells in the pitch of night with their parents’ wands. They dabbled in potions, creating concoctions from the simplest ingredients they could find. It was more than just living up to their potential. It was desire to be more than they had been meant for. Children of the Golden Trio—in a sense they had their lives already defined for them. But this, this was rebellion at its finest. It was raw and unprecedented ambition, egging them to achieve and compete with each other, to see who could master the hardest charm, the most complex potions.
Nothing was off-limits.
Schooling tamed Rose, but it left Albus to wrestle with a problem he had never encountered before: boredom. Classes were juvenile at best and teachers easy to manipulate—as he had both charm and intelligence on his side. Nevertheless he found himself at odds with the other students.
Three insufferable Sixth Years pinned him to the ground in a humiliating manner. His shirt torn from clawing, lip bleeding, torso aching from the countless kicks---meanwhile his bladder was bursting for release. They had forced a liter of fluid down his throat, holding his mouth open with their mangy hands. His feeble attempts to dismember their fingers resulted in a swift kick to the groin.
Then, after a painful three hours, it happened. The boys cackled viciously at his quivering chin, widening eyes, as a wet patch formed in the front of his pants.
The boys, sniggering, kicked him several more times for good measure and stalked away.
Albus did not scream. He did not cry. Instead, he remained on the ground, contemplating his weakness. How disgusting. His primal urges had betrayed him in front of those—those imbeciles. No, it was worse than that. His body had committed anarchy, left him without any defense. His vision blurred. He couldn’t even raise himself. He was entirely and indefinitely alone.
But not for long.
“Are you ok?”
He shook himself into consciousness, glancing up to meet a blond mess of hair with startling grey eyes, mouth agape.
“Bloody hell, Potter, what happened to you? Don’t tell me you had a row with the Whomping Willow. Again. ”
A groan escaped his lips. It was the resident Slytherin nuisance. The other Second Years feared and despised Albus, but he was incessantly challenging his presence, being a smartass.
“Leave it Malfoy. It’s fine.”
“Well whoever it was, they did you up pretty good this time. I bet you can’t even stand.”
“I said I’m fine! Just go away!”
The brows drew up. “Prove it.”
Albus lifted his torso carefully, trying to use the wall to steady himself, but his knees gave out from under him and he collapsed. After several failed attempts and falling pitifully on his butt, he looked up to find the curious extension of a hand. He studied it disdainfully.
“I didn’t ask for your help, Malfoy.”
“Shut up and take my hand….Potter. And hurry up before someone turns the corner and sees us.”
This was an imperative moment for Albus, for he knew taking the hand meant admitting vulnerability. True perfection was unattainable but the impression of it depended upon covertly hiding one’s weaknesses. Once he took this hand, he would leaving himself entirely open, at the mercy of something he couldn’t control.
In the end Albus took the hand and Scorpius’s face flickered with an uncontrolled smile that he quickly drew back into a sneer. He lifted Albus up and pulled the injured boy’s arm around his shoulder, helping him limp toward the Hospital Wing.
“Hey Potter, guess what…you smell like piss.”
“Shut up, Malfoy.”
They quickly went from Potter and Malfoy to Albus and Scorp. It was unexpected in the same way it was unnatural. How could the heir of the most notorious ex-Death Eater family in the Wizarding World, get on so well with the Chosen One’s youngest son?
Scorpius could not explain it—Albus Potter was demanding, selfish, and positively corrupt— yet his friendship enticed him all the same.
Perhaps it was because Scorpius had grown bored with his life: only child, coddled at birth, born into a cradle of wealth. Anyone was liable to take advantage of his wealth and person. His good looks and skill were testament to his family name, and yet, nothing in his life had ever truly been his. And then there was Albus, with every intention to kick his arse –an Ice Prince with even bigger shoes to fill, brilliant as hell, and nothing to gain from something as superfluous as friendship. Excitement. Rebellion. Intrigue. Danger. And of course, precisely what Scorpius had wanted—a break from the expectedness of his life.
They fell to each other like magnets.
As if intelligence alone wasn’t enough for a power complex, over the years Albus became what some would call handsome. In an artistic sense Scorpius could admit he was aesthetically pleasing. Aside from the common features— dark hair, medium stature, pale green eyes— Albus had a distinct, and yet deliberate way of holding himself, with poised shoulders and a firm brow that furrowed when provoked —and a tilted smile that, in the rare instance he did smile, always bordered on the enigmatic.
He came to know the elusive raven-haired boy better than anyone, but the privilege came with a price. It became an unspoken truth—that Scorpius was to answer his every call, entertain every detention with him, transcend rule and reason in the pursuit of their joint endeavors. In front of classmates, Albus was able to degrade his social dignity with a few measly words:
“Come here, Malfoy.”
Scorpius would stop what he was doing and rush after him. No doubt Potter was infuriatingly pleased with this result. He had finally gained what he had wanted all along: a loyal pureblood dog. Within months, and the eventual transcendence of years, he came to know, judge, and critically presume every minor detail about Scorpius. From a single look Albus could deduce which girl he liked to the most recent fear he harbored (though the two usually coincided). He imposed his will on every decision Scorpius would make, tying his goals and aspirations inevitably with his agendas. A possessive egomaniac to whom nothing was off limits. Despite this level of disclosure, their duality remained skewed, for while one was an open book, the other controlled precisely what was known about him. The fact Albus could manipulate Scorpius’s observations, feelings, and deductions of him frightened the blond. In three years, Scorpius learned only three solid things about his friend:
1. Magic was his only obsession. No amount of girls or quidditch or academic success could compare, though he easily exceled amongst all three.
2. Albus disliked his family and wasn’t clear on how he felt about his father. Most of his cousins openly taunted him for being snake. Rose was the sole exception.
3. Winning was everything to Albus. And he would go to great lengths to maintain his superiority.
Fourth Year. Hogwarts. Yule Ball.
A tall, brazen silhouette stood in proximity. Platinum Blond hair. Cold grey eyes. Dark protruding brows coupled with square shoulders gave him a tight, masculine expression of confidence, often attracting more admirers than he could handle. Right now however, Scorpius Malfoy had no admirers and that expression was slowly waning into an irritable grimace.
He abhorred arbitrary events such as dances, which, as it seemed, were only held to humiliate Fourth Year boys such as himself. He had been shot in the eye by an ice cube (stupid house elf), sent his date crying back to her dorm, conned out of his entire allowance by Albus in poker, and was currently being approached by that annoying Rose Weasley.
“I haven’t seen Albus. Go away.”
Over the years they had been at odds with each other. Scorpius could admit it was mostly his fault—he had an inexplicable tendency to say something revolting and offensive whenever he opened his mouth around her, but then again, she never did anything but inflame the issue.
The ginger crossed her arms and gave an aggravated groan.
“Merlin, that’s not what I was going to ask—”
“That’s what you usually ask,” he said accusingly. “And I’m telling you that he didn’t do it this time. I was there! ”
It wasn’t his fault she had gotten unfairly better-looking over the years, or that he had the communication skills of a troll. It wasn’t his fault he pelleted her with gobstones every Valentine’s Day and inadvertently sent her to the hospital wing. He couldn’t control what his body did—damn it, he was fifteen!
“Calm down you prick. I just came to tell that you were looking nice tonight, for a change.”
Scorpius could sense the shift in her tone with this unexpected compliment and his body tightened. Then he opened his mouth.
“Wish I could say the same about you.”
She flushed bright pink, and not the pretty one either. The angry one.
“You—you’re a sodding pig, Malfoy. And I don’t care what you think. It’s not like I was going to ask you to dance!”
“Well… good,” He quickly folded his arms, “I wouldn’t have said yes anyway.”
“Good! I wouldn’t want you to!”
Rose stormed away in a huff, convinced that her father had always been right. Boys were stupid and Malfoy was a mentally repressed, snot-nosed brat with sociopathic tendencies. He couldn’t even take a compliment from her! No wonder she ended up in the hospital wing every Valentine’s day. It was obvious that he hated her and---
“I leave you two for ten minutes and you’re at each other’s throats.” A vindictive voice chuckled, startling and drawing an arm around her shoulder.
“He started it, Al. He always starts it.”
“You know he can’t help it, Rosie. It’s those hormones of his, always fluctuating with you around. Especially tonight when you’re looking so extraordinarily pretty.”
She scoffed as the distinct smell of his cologne wafted past her nose. Albus was a charmer—he could run his fingers through the heart-strings of any being he wanted: skillfully, confidently, and as always, dispassionately. And there was always a catch.
“All right, save the tricks and tell me what you want this time.”
The deferential smile flickered for a second. “You think I’m being insincere?”
Rose was certain he wouldn’t know sincerity if it hit him in the face.
“I don’t want to play games, Albus.”
“A dance, then? I wasn’t paying attention during instruction. You can teach me.”
The whole idea was ridiculous. It wasn’t as if Albus had any shortage of willing partners to resort to asking his cousin. And of course he didn’t care about the rumors. All that mattered was that Scorpius was shooting daggers into the back of his skull and Rose was too preoccupied to drift away. Only Albus could dance with his own cousin and no one would think it strange. Only Rose would bother to entertain such eccentric mannerisms.
Because, in the end, he wasn’t just her cousin but her friend. He was the only one who knew her despair, and he knew it. Resting her chin on his shoulder, she let her mind wander in a peace-less silence.
“Still oogling Malfoy over my shoulder, Rosie? How….predictable. ”
“Don’t presume you know what’s on my mind.”
“We both know what’s on your mind,” He murmured. What was always on her mind, in the dead of night and the hum of class. What kept her in the library, away from the desire of friends and dating and parties every weekend. He had known her since birth, seen her at every turn of her life— and she was too damn predictable. As if Albus couldn’t see the only thing her fragile little world existed around.
“Hugo’s going to be fine at the hospital.”
“He’s dying, Al.” Rose was glad he couldn’t see the swelling of her eyes. “They admitted him yesterday. They said he’s dying and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“People die, Rose.”
“And if I told you we could change that, you wouldn’t listen to me.”
Rose halted mid-step. They had had this discussion before, over the boiling of illegal potions and practice duels in the Forbidden forest. Between heated arguments about the modern applications of alchemy and Flamelian philosophy and dark texts.
She pulled away, studying him closely. “Don’t screw with me, Albus.”
“It’s not a joke. I’ve been—listen, I’ve been doing some research on the properties of the resurrection stone…I think I’m onto something. I’ll have you look at my dad’s old texts on it later.”
Rose knew better to be swayed by his niceties. Albus was like a sugar-coated poison bomb, ready to go off at any moment.
“Why are you doing this?”
His eyes narrowed, all semblance of affection lost. “Damn it Rose, you don’t think I’d be the slightest bit interested in the prospect of revitalization?
“I know you Albus,” She hissed, lowering her voice so no one could hear her, “You’ve been practicing the Unforgivables on spiders since Second Year. You’ve invented a potion to burn the insides of animals without leaving a trace. You’re not interested in saving lives. This is a purely Rose-centric plot. So I’ll ask you again, what’s the catch? ”
His expression stiffened, “Fame, mostly. Conquering death. It’s a nice starting point.”
“Don’t lie, asshole. You need a test subject.” She snarled.
“And you’re running out of options, missy.” He bit back derisively, “Your brother’s going to die one of these days and you’re going to wish you were ready. You need me.”
“Sounds like you need me more.”
“Well that’s always been the case, Rosie.”
She was far too pissed to acknowledge the sudden tenderness in his tone. He had crossed a line. This time she wouldn’t forgive him. This time she actually meant it.
“The funeral of Harry J. Potter, Ronald B. Weasley, and Hermione J. Weasley took place the summer after your Fourth and last year of schooling.” I read off my notes, “It was a fire wasn’t it?”
“That was the official story.” Rose replied vaguely.
“So you and Albus didn’t believe it.”
She scoffed, “We knew our parents, Mr. Walker. Do you think the Golden Trio, who vanquished the Dark Lord, could just die in a simple fire? Something was obviously off, and of course the how didn’t matter as much as the why. ”
James had managed their mum—he had a soft sincerity that Albus couldn’t quite replicate. Albus had held inconsolable Lily until she fell asleep and carried her to bed.
Now he sat quietly in his living room observing the crackling fire. The throbbing heaviness in the pit of his stomach had grown. He could not explain what it was—only that it felt like his lung had been punctured. He had lost an arm, a leg, an extension of himself had been removed.
His father was dead.
But still, this wasn’t anyone they were talking about. Harry Potter wasn’t people — sometimes Albus didn’t even believe he was human. So how could he drop at the simple turn of fate? No, it was too sudden, too chaotic, too unexpected. The laws of nature didn’t apply to Dad!
Something was wrong.
James was crying. Maybe he should’ve cried too. Except that he couldn’t. There was a weakness in all the tears, the pitiful nose running, lip quivering, the uncontrolled emotion, that disgusted him. It was a defeat he would not admit. Albus didn’t cry when he broke his leg. Albus didn’t cry when he was bullied mercilessly in school.
Albus wouldn’t cry when his father died.
This was indefinitely also his father’s fault.
For the first time in a long time, he could not understand himself. His hands were shaking, but how he felt did not match how he should’ve. What was the matter with him? Was he so far gone that he couldn’t even grieve for his father?
His fists coiled. Anger—no, rage burned inside him. He had done everything, hadn’t he? He had become precisely what his father had wanted him to. He had endured every lesson, every training, every hardship imposed upon him, as obediently as any son could. Hell, he had worshiped the man. He had repressed every doubt, every grievance, every primal urge and for what? What had been the point of it all?
With his father dead, how would he ever know what he was meant to do?
It was Rose, eyes puffy from crying. Albus ushered her beside him and for a moment there were no words as he squeezed her hand, or she silently sobbed on his shoulder. But even Rose could see there was something different in Albus that day—he had the same objective stare, but there was a tired, hollow quality in his eyes, one Rose would mistake for grief. It would take her years to figure out its true manifest.
“We don’t have to talk about it, Al.”
“You clearly want to.”
There was silence.
“Only if you do too.”
He bit the top of his lip, staring into the fire. “You can sense what’s wrong here, can’t you?”
Rose wiped her eyes. “Yes but why does it matter? They’re dead—they left us, me, all alone.” A tremor in her voice emerged, “I don’t know what Hugo and I are going to do, Albus. I don’t know what I’ll do if he—”
“You’ll be fine, Rose. You’re brave, clever, and if you marry Malfoy, you’ll be loaded for life. You’ll survive.”
His sardonic remark only made more tears build in her eyes. She wasn’t worried about herself! Sure, her life was falling apart at the seams, but her mum and dad had told her, always told her, to look after her brother. “He’s counting on you,” Dad would say, but it always seemed as if she was the one that needed him more. It was an emotional dependency. Rose always needed others more than they needed her.
“What about you, Al?” She murmured, at the strained tightening of his brow.
His bottom lip trembled uncharacteristically and he spoke in a strange murmur.
“Can I ask you something, Rose? Do…do you think there’s hope for me?”
“I don’t understand.”
He grabbed her by the shoulders, tightly, painfully, a feverish look in his eyes, “If I told you I was happy my dad was dead, even relieved, would you think there was hope for me?”
She slapped him hard across the face, frightening both of them.
“How could you---you don’t mean that! This isn’t the time for jokes!” She seethed, “Damn you, Albus! Damn you! You loved your dad! We all did!”
“You don’t know what he did to me!” He hissed, clutching his injured face.
He watched in dismay as Rose took a step back, her shoulders quivering—perhaps she had at last seen him for what he was. The unhinging fault in the essence of his character. The growing speck of darkness in the pool of white. But then her hand was clasped over her widening mouth, and she uttered a shaky apology. Despite what he had said, she couldn’t believe she had hurt him.
“Merlin … I’m s-so sorry, Al. I didn’t mean--”
“It’s fine.” His voice was cold, so to compensate he stepped toward her and kissed her forehead as well. “Goodnight, Rosie.”
As he walked away, Rose tried not to go after him. She wanted to tell him that no matter what they would be family, so she would always love him. She would even admit she considered him her brother. He was already her closest friend. But such endearing words weren’t easy to say to someone like Albus.
There was no guarantee he would return them.
“Al…” Her voice was barely above a whisper. He turned around, regarding her with his characteristic coldness. Rose summoned the courage to speak her mind, to say what had been on there for a while.
“I’ve changed my mind. Show me those notes on the resurrection stone.”
A/N And so it begins :) Please leave your thoughts!
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