Chapter 1 : Owls
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On the landing, Albus paused outside James’s bedroom. Its door was shut tightly, as it had been for most of the month and a half of the summer holiday. Albus brought his hand up to knock, then thought better of it and slowly descended the stairs. James was either asleep or wallowing and every other time Albus had knocked, James had responded sharply. It was obvious he did not want company. Nor, Albus suspected, did he want to see his N.E.W.T. results.
Lily’s bedroom door, however, was wide open and Lily was no longer inside. The previous summer Lily had spent much of her time holed up in her bedroom, but this summer was much more cheerful and social. Albus wondered if perhaps he’d missed his chance to have a summer spent cooped up in his bedroom, but couldn’t imagine ever doing it.
In the living room the two owls sat on the open windowsill, letters still attached to both of them. Albus detached one letter addressed to James from the first owl and two letters, one addressed to Albus and the other to Lily, from the other. With satisfied clicks of their beaks, they both took off once more.
Albus continued to the kitchen, not bothering to open his own letter, where he found his mother serving Lily warm cinnamon buns.
“Morning, Al,” Mum said as she grabbed another empty plate and returned to the stove. “Cinnamon buns?”
“Yes, please,” Albus said as he sat down next to Lily. He set the letters on the table in front of him. “Post from Hogwarts.”
Lily picked up her own letter and ripped it open. “Nothing weird this year. Just the usual books.”
“Your aunt Hermione will get you a study planner,” Mum said as she brought Albus his plate. “And you, too, Al. O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. years. Bloody hell, you two make me feel old.”
Albus laughed as he picked up his letter. James’s was beneath his, with an official stamp from the Ministry Department of Education on it.
“Is that…?” Mum asked, her voice trailing off.
“I think so,” Albus said as he opened his letter. He scanned it briefly. Just like Lily’s, it contained nothing unusual.
Mum sighed and shook her head as she sat down across from Albus. “Was he still sleeping when you got up, Al?”
Albus shrugged and swallowed the bite of cinnamon bun he’d been chewing. “I think so, but I didn’t knock and find out.”
Mum nodded and picked up the envelope. Albus knew it was taking all her restraint to keep from opening it herself.
Toward the end of last term Albus had thought James was getting better in terms of his emotional state. He’d seemed to come to terms with the fact that he wouldn’t be playing professional Quidditch and his memory wouldn’t be back to normal anytime soon or ever. But all that progress had disappeared as soon as James returned home from Hogwarts. He spent his days in his room doing who knows what, wallowing in self-pity and being upset over his lack of Quidditch career. Albus knew his parents were very hesitant to force James out of his room because they didn’t want to make anything worse. Because of this, James hadn’t done a single chore since coming home and only occasionally joined the family for meals. Usually Mum brought him food two or three times a day.
Albus knew his parents stayed up late worrying about James. He’d heard them whispering. Mum wanted to start making James get up by a certain hour and give him small tasks around the house that didn’t require him to remember spells. Dad didn’t want to push him and said as long as James was going to his healer appointments (both the neurologist and the psychiatrist), he should be allowed to be alone. Mum then pointed out that Dad was rarely home and didn’t truly understand what was going on.
“Did Dad already leave?” Albus asked.
“Yes. He left a few hours ago,” Mum said quietly.
For someone who was no longer employed by the Ministry of Magic, Albus’s father had certainly been spending a lot of time there over the past month and a half. Apparently Johnson had brought him back as a “consultant” to the Paul Willinson case and this required a lot of time spent at Auror Headquarters. From what Dad let slip at the dinner table, the Auror Department and the Ministry in general was a bit of a mess at the moment.
It seemed that everyone and their brother were facing inquiries. Johnson was facing an inquiry for his shoddy detective techniques that had led to two people being wrongfully imprisoned. At the same time, Dawlish was facing an inquiry for disobeying Johnson’s orders and sharing information about an ongoing investigation with someone not employed by the Auror Department (Dad), despite the fact that his disobeying and sharing of information had led to the capture of the actual murderer. Balladanis was facing an inquiry for the same thing. Albus found it rather odd that the two of them could face inquiries for sharing information with Dad while Johnson could take Dad on as a “consultant” at the same time. And finally, the Minister herself was facing an inquiry for all of this happening right under her nose. Albus had a feeling someone was going to get sacked over it, but wasn’t sure who.
“Well, I suppose we can take a trip to Diagon Alley this weekend,” Mum said, forcing a smile. “If either of you want to invite any friends to come over and spend a few days after, feel free. I’m sure Mrs. Brickston would appreciate sending a few of her children here for a few days.”
Albus smirked as he continued to eat his breakfast. His friend John Brickston had three younger sisters and a host of younger cousins whom his mother often watched during the week. Their house was chaotic at best and downright insane at worst. And if Albus was remembering right, John’s youngest sister would be starting Hogwarts this year.
“Well,” Mum said as she stood up. “I suppose I’ll go give James his results.”
“Good luck,” Lily muttered.
Mum lingered at the bottom of the stairs for a minute or so before sighing and walking up to James’s room. After she left, Albus and Lily finished their breakfasts in silence.
“I keep thinking about last summer,” Lily said as she put her dirty plate in the sink. “When James ran off to Teddy’s place.”
Albus nodded. He’d been thinking a lot about that, too. Things had changed so much in just a year. “No one saw this coming. Even if James had come up with a second option if Quidditch didn’t work out, that second option would be useless with his memory problems.”
“I guess the only thing he can do is work in Uncle George’s shop,” Lily said.
Uncle George had come over a week into the holiday to offer James a job at the Hogsmeade branch (which, with the exception of Hogsmeade visit days, was the quieter of the two shops). James had said he’d think about it, but hadn’t mentioned it since.
“I’m pretty sure Mum would settle for him coming out of his room more than just to use the loo,” Albus pointed out.
Lily nodded. “Well, I’ve got to send an owl to Gemma.” She drank the remainder of her pumpkin juice, put the glass in the sink, then hurried upstairs.
Albus cleared his dishes and followed Lily. He had a few owls of his own to send.
Albus left his door open as he composed letters to Matt and John so that he’d know when Mum was done talking to James about his results. On his way up the stairs Albus had heard mumbling coming from James’s room but hadn’t been able to make anything out. He felt odd about using an Extendable Ear on such a terrible situation, so he decided wait until after Mum left and go ask James about it instead.
After checking to see when August’s full moon was, Albus invited both Matt and John to come over Saturday after the Diagon Alley trip and stay into the following week. He’d heard from both Matt and John a few times so far and knew that Matt would just be returning from a trip to Australia and John’s family had a holiday in France scheduled for late August.
Albus felt a slight thrill as he sealed the envelope with magic. He’d only been seventeen for a month and a half and the excitement of doing magic outside of school had not yet worn off. His friends (with the exception of Rose, whose birthday was at the end of August) had all been of age for months now.
Just as Albus sent the letters off with Pollux, James’s bedroom door opened. Albus climbed onto his bed and put his head as close to his door as he could without revealing that he was there. But it was pointless because Mum didn’t say anything. She just shut James’s door and went back downstairs.
Albus waited a few minutes before going across the hall and knocking on James’s door. There was no answer for a full two minutes and Albus wondered if James had gone to sleep, but just as Albus was turning around to go back to his own room, the door opened. James stood in the doorway, still dressed in pajamas, his wrist brace on his right arm, glasses askew, and his expression unreadable. He met Albus’s gaze, then turned around and went back into the room.
The door remained open, so Albus took that as a sign he was welcome to enter. He shut the door afterward and sat down in James’s desk chair, letting his eyes adjust to the dimness. The only light in the room emanated from a small lamp on the bedside table. The room itself was shockingly neat, which was a clear sign James wasn’t himself. Mum had been tidying the room all summer. If the task had been left to James, the room would’ve been disheveled, with clothes and other paraphernalia scattered everywhere.
James was sitting against the wall on his bed, squeezing some sort of therapeutic play dough in his right hand. Albus noticed a partially folded up letter on the bedside table, which was most likely James’s N.E.W.T. results.
“Well?” Albus began, deciding to be blunt.
“See for yourself,” James mumbled, gesturing to the letter with his foot.
Albus picked the letter up off the table, unfolded it, and read it.
Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests Results
James Sirius Potter
Charms - P
Defense Against the Dark Arts - P
Herbology - A
Transfiguration - D
Albus folded up the paper once more, but held it in his lap rather than return it to the bedside table. He looked at James, who was focused on the therapy play dough and not meeting Albus’s gaze.
“You passed Herbology,” Albus pointed out. “And you know these results have got nothing to do with how smart you are. It’s only because of your brain injury that you failed three.”
“That’s what Mum said,” James muttered. “But I’ve got to live with this brain injury. It doesn’t matter whether I would’ve passed without it because I’ve got it. Nothing can change that.”
“No,” Albus agreed. “Nothing can. But you can change what you do with it.”
“Now you sound like my psychiatrist,” James said.
“Look,” Albus said, leaning forward, “you don’t need N.E.W.T.s. The professors all tell you you do and before your accident Mum and Dad would’ve told you you do, but you honestly don’t. Look at Uncle George. He didn’t even take his N.E.W.T.s. So you’ve got one more than he does.”
“But Uncle George has got a working memory and right hand,” James pointed out.
“You’ve got two ears,” Albus countered.
James laughed. It was quick- practically over before it even started, but it was a laugh. “Good one. But you still can’t compare me to Uncle George.”
“Okay, fine,” Albus said, sighing. “But only if you stop beating yourself up over your N.E.W.T.s.”
“To be honest, Al, I’m not,” James said quietly. “I really don’t care about them.”
Albus was inclined to believe him. James didn’t seem anymore upset than he normally was. “What did Mum say?”
“That it’s not the end of the world, there’s plenty you can do with only one N.E.W.T., I can retake them, they don’t show how smart I really am, blah, blah, blah,” James answered.
“Why haven’t you given Uncle George an answer?” Albus asked.
James gave the dough one more squeeze, then tossed it onto the bedside table, where it landed on the edge and then fell off onto the floor.
“You shouldn’t feel weird about it,” Albus went on. “Half our cousins and Teddy worked there for a bit.”
“It wouldn’t just be for a bit,” James muttered. “Teddy worked there while he was figuring out what he wanted to do.”
“Maybe you’ll do that, too. Maybe you’ll just work there until your memory gets better,” Albus suggested.
“It’s been over six months, Al. You and I both know chances are it won’t come back. Not like normal, anyway,” James said quietly.
“Stranger things have happened,” Albus said. “You know, like Dad surviving the killing curse. Twice.”
“Dad’s Dad,” James said. “I’m not him.”
“But you’re his son,” Albus said. “I’m not saying you should be unrealistic, but it’s good to have hope.”
“I guess…” James began as he smoothed a few wrinkles on his comforter, “I guess it just feels like Uncle George is only offering for me to work in his shop because I’ve got no other options. I mean, no other shop would hire me.”
“That’s probably true,” Albus agreed. Mum probably would’ve argued that and said other shops would hire James, but Albus wasn’t in the business of sugarcoating things. “But so what? At least you know Uncle George will understand what you’re going through. He’ll get it if you have to miss work because you’ve got a migraine or something.”
“You sound like my psychiatrist again,” James muttered.
“Just think about it,” Albus said.
“Fine. But I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Mum said you and Lily got your book lists?”
Albus nodded. “Yeah. We’re going to Diagon Alley on Saturday. You should come.”
“Maybe,” James said. “It’ll be weird going and not getting stuff for Hogwarts.”
“It’s weird that this is my last year,” Albus said.
“Yeah, next year you’ll be going to the Auror Academy. Continuing the Potter Legacy,” James said with a smirk.
“I haven’t gotten in yet,” Albus pointed out. “I haven’t even applied.”
“They’d be stupid not to take you. Plus, you’re a Potter. I mean, I’m a Potter and they’d never take me, but you’re a Potter with two working hands. They’ve pretty much got to take you.”
Albus laughed. Rationally, he knew he had a pretty good shot at getting into the Auror Academy, but every time he thought about it a little bit of doubt crept in and made his stomach churn.
Friday evening Albus finally decided to start the homework he’d been neglecting since the start of the summer. He figured there wasn’t a chance he’d do it while Matt and John were visiting (both said they would come) and after they left there would only be a few weeks left. The summer, which was Albus’s last real summer off, was flying by.
Albus settled himself in the living room with his Defense book and a roll of parchment. His father had assigned one essay for the summer and Albus figured it’d be the easiest of all his assignments. Lily, who’d also been neglecting her homework, was settled in the chair opposite Albus’s and was working diligently on a Potions essay. James, who had begun spending a bit more time out of his room ever since his results came back, was sprawled out on the couch, falling asleep while studying Rose’s binder of spells. Albus figured this was a good sign, even if studying the binder of spells wouldn’t help James’s memory at all.
Suddenly the fireplace lit up green and Rose slid out of it, crashing into the ottoman that was sitting too close to it, which caused Albus to spill his newly opened bottle of ink all over his Defense book. Lily shrieked and dropped her book on the floor, while James jolted awake and let out a string of expletives that would’ve resulted in a long telling-off from Mum if she’d heard it.
“Was that really necessary, Rose?” Lily asked icily as she picked up her book.
“Seriously,” James muttered. “Look, you freaked me out so much my arm is shaking.”
Albus snorted and looked at James, who was trying hard to suppress a grin as he held up his right arm.
“That’s right up there with Uncle George’s ear jokes,” Lily said.
“Sorry,” Rose said, although the smile on her face told them she was anything but. “Here, Al, let me do that.” She pulled her wand out of her sleeve and began siphoning ink off Albus’s book. “I’ve just been practicing Apparition with Mum. She’s sure I’ll pass the test. I got them all spot on and didn’t splinch anything.”
Albus glared at her. Even though he’d known for months Rose was far better at Apparition than he was and that she’d pass her test on the first go around, it still bothered him that there was a chance she’d pass her test first. Albus had failed his test, which had taken place on his own 17th birthday. He had another one scheduled for the week before they left for Hogwarts, the same day as Rose’s.
“You’ll pass next time,” Rose assured him. She finished cleaning Albus’s book and sat down at the end of James’s couch. “Nice to see you’re out of your room.”
James groaned. “I’m tempted to go back up there now.”
“Mum was ready to physically drag him out,” Lily said, not looking up from her Potions book. “But Dad said he needed time and space. They argued about it every night.”
“Could you not talk about me like I’m not even here?” James muttered. “Mum and Dad do enough of that already.”
“Yeah, it’s really taking the pressure off me,” Lily said. “Thanks for that. I haven’t had one question about what I’m going to do after Hogwarts and that usually starts summer before fifth year.”
“You’re welcome,” James said, closing his eyes. “Now if you’re all done, I’m trying to sleep here.”
“You coming to Diagon Alley tomorrow?” Albus asked Rose.
“Yeah. Amanda is coming, too.”
“Good. Both Matt and John are meeting us there. And Mum said Kaden and Bethany are getting dropped off here in the morning,” Albus said.
“Kaden owled me the other day,” Rose said. “Wanted to brag about his O.W.L. results.”
Albus grinned. “He sent me the same letter. All Exceeds Expectations and one Outstanding in Potions. And an Acceptable in Divination. Very impressive.”
“He doesn’t give himself enough credit,” Rose said.
“His aunt Marge must be so proud,” Albus said, laughing.
Lily snorted into her Potions book. “I just hope Mum and Dad don’t expect me to get that many O.W.L.s.”
“Any amount will look good compared to my N.E.W.T.s,” James mumbled.
“Thought you were trying to sleep,” Rose said.
“Can’t. Not with you lot being so loud. I thought you were doing homework,” James said.
“They’ll do their homework,” Rose said. “Not much time left to do it.”
“I suppose you’ve done yours?” Albus asked.
“Yes, of course,” Rose said as she picked her wand up off the table where she’d set it. She pointed it at the bookcase across the room and a mystery novel came floating toward her. Plucking it out of the air, Rose settled back into her spot on the couch.
“Show off,” Albus muttered. “And you’re not supposed to do magic outside school yet.”
Rose grinned. “No one will know.”
“Still,” Albus said. “It’s the principle of the thing.”
A/N: I know it's been a while. But it's fitting I'm posting this now, because ten years ago Deathly Hallows was published which means ten years ago I started this series. At the time I had no idea where it would go, no idea it would ever make it to seven stories, and hadn't even heard of HPFF. Albus, Rose, and their friends have come a long way since then. Thank you to those who have stuck with them over the past ten years, and I hope you enjoy the final installment of their adventures.
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