Chapter 2 : Chapter 1
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“Harry? Are you alright?”
He stopped at Ginny touch and allowed her to pull his arm down, away from his face. She smiled gently when he turned to look at her but the worry there was not so easily hidden behind a smile. Still, he returned the smile as best he could and glanced in the rear-view mirror. James had already left them, unsurprisingly. He had most likely hopped out the instance the car came to a halt and would not worry himself with turning back. Lilly watched him much like her mother did. Her big brown eyes probed his face with undisguised concern, her finger twisting, nervously, around a strand of red hair. Next to her, Albus gazed out the passenger window, his chin resting on a bunched up fist, his face filled with complete disinterest. Harry’s gaze lingered on his youngest son. With his black hair, not quite as messy as his brothers but long enough to be untamed, and striking green eyes he was so painstakingly similar to how Harry must have looked at his age. Yet his manner was entirely his own. Harry reflected that it had been a long, painful summer. The timid boy who had stepped on the Hogwarts Express a year ago had returned at the end of the school year a sullen, disagreeable teenager. The sorting had hit him hard, Harry new, and even he had been a little surprised to receive the owl from James a day into their school year. The joy their eldest son had felt in relaying the news that Albus Potter was to be a Slytherin was barely contained in the letter, emphasised by the fact this was the first owl they had received from James in his entire time at Hogwarts. Harry had written back in a futile attempt to encourage his unruly son to be supportive of his brother while writing a separate letter to Albus himself which never garnered a reply. The issue was not one that wanted raised and any mere mention of the infamous Hogwarts house was sure to raise hell at home…something James was keen to abuse when he felt particularly mischievous. Still, Harry worried about Albus in his silence. He spent most of the holidays in his bedroom doing goodness knows what and participated in any required family events with a stubborn, icy silence. He even rejected his sister Lilly who was so gentle and shy in her way that all she wanted was the attention of her big brother.
“Harry?” Ginny’s voice was firmer now, the smile gone. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” he assured her, squeezing her hand. “I’m alright. Just tired.”
She didn’t believe him. That was clear to see the look she gave him. Lilly unbuckled her belt in the back and slid in between the two front seats.
“Do you feel ill Dad?” she asked in her sweet voice.
“No, Lilly, I’m ok.”
“I feel ill,” she said and curled her mouth to demonstrate. “I hope I won’t be sick on the train.”
“You’ll love it,” Ginny assured, running her hand across the hair that was a perfect match of her own.
“I won’t make any friends,” Lilly fretted, ignoring her mothers reassurance. “People are going to be so annoying. They’ll all just want to ask question about dad. James said that’s what happened to him in first year.”
“I’m sure James has told enough stories to keep them occupied for now,” Harry unbuckled his own seatbelt. “Let’s not keep them waiting then.”
Lilly whimpered as she let herself out the car and stood close to her mother as they made their way into the station. Harry loaded the trunks onto the back of a trolley as he noticed Albus remained in the car. He tapped on the window and opened the door.
“You ready, son?”
Wordlessly, Albus unbuckled his belt and slid out of the car, slamming the door closed behind him. Harry followed him into the station, keeping a few paces behind as he knew his son would prefer before the pain of this act became too much for him. He waited until he saw Ginny lead Lilly through the barrier onto platform 9¾ before rushing to keep pace with Albus.
“Albus, wait a minute,” Harry brought the trolley round and into the boys path forcing him to stop.
“What is it?” Albus mumbled, irritably.
“I wanted to speak to you.”
Harry paused. He had known he wanted to do this only now that he was here he couldn’t think of what to say. He thought back to when he was a student at Hogwarts, about feeling let down and that no one understood what he went through. He cringed at the memories and managed a bit of a laugh.
“What are you doing?” Albus asked, looking definitively unimpressed.
“I was just remembering when I was your age,” Harry smiled. “About how I was then.”
“Whatever,” Albus rolled his eyes and made to move around the trolley.
“Wait! I still want to talk to you,” Harry raised an arm to block his way and received a look of defiance.
“You want me to miss the train or something?” Albus demanded, angrily.
“Do you?” Harry countered.
Albus had no reply for that. He set his mouth in an irritable line and simply stared. Harry sighed.
“Albus, it’s no secret that you didn’t exactly have a great time last year. I know-“
“You don’t,” Albus interrupted. “You just think you know everything cause you’re the Harry Potter.”
“I didn’t always have a great time at Hogwarts,” Harry went on, ignoring the slur. “I don’t reckon there’s anyone that doesn’t have bad times at school now and then. I just want to make sure that you can talk to me if there’s anything serious going on.”
“Well I can’t,” Albus stated, crossing his arms. “I can’t and I won’t cause there’s no point. I’m awful. I barely do well in class, I can’t fly a broom, I don’t have any friends. I’m not you. It’s not the same.”
“What can I do?” Harry asked, desperately. He was aware of people turning to look now as Albus’s voice rose in anger.
“Unless you can make it so I was never born a Potter you can’t do anything,” Albus threw his father a look of pure hatred before rushing around the trolley and vanishing through the barrier, leaving Harry alone with his hurt.
Ginny was still wearing that expression of concern when Harry found her on the other side. Lilly was at her side, staring up at the great steam engine with a look of reverence. James and Albus were nowhere to be seen.
“Albus?” Ginny asked Harry as he wheeled the trolley round.
“Don’t ask,” he muttered. The crowds of witches and wizards on the platform were too busy with hyper children and screeching pets to pay him much notice but still Harry could feel the stares of a few on the back of his head and once or twice someone would approach and offer a “Hi, Harry.” More often than not it was complete strangers but Harry did recognise a few of his old schoolmates.
“How’s it going, Potter?” Seamus Finnigan approached eagerly to shake Harry’s hand.
“Fine, Seamus. Have you lost your ones as well?”
“Mines is on the train already,” Seamus beamed, every part a proud dad. “Jamie is showing Colin down the compartments. He’s raring to go, you know. Haven’t heard him shut up since he got his letter.”
“Great,” Harry unloaded the trunks, barely listening.
“I was meaning to ask you the other day,” Seamus leaned in closer. “I heard a few things down my end about Dark items being located in a muggle home down Kent way. Some are saying-“
“People have a lot to say,” Harry cut in, heaving the last trunk onto the platform. “But as for me, I can’t confirm nor deny. It’s not my department, Seamus. Anything like that would go through Improper use of Magic most like. You know that.”
“I suppose…it doesn’t interest you much then?” Seamus’s smile was friendly but Harry could begin to feel his blood boiling.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s not my department. I have to go Seamus. I’ve got kids to wrangle.”
“Oh sure, sure. We’ll talk later…”
“Mmm,” Harry turned away and found that James had finally returned to them and had done something to incur his mothers wrath.
“Honestly, sometimes I don’t know what to do with you,” Ginny was ranting as Lilly watched, eagerly. “I know there has to be a brain in there somewhere. I just hope this year you learn how to use it!”
“My brain works fine, mum!” James countered with a charming smile. “We wouldn’t have done it. Not really.”
“Oh as if I cant trust that,” Ginny spotted Harry and pulled him into the fray. “Your son here was planning on flying all the way to Hogwarts this year. Can you believe it? On a broom no less!”
Harry had only to look at James to tell that the thought had most definitely been appealing, despite his protests that it was just a joke.
“Really, dad, me and Patrick were only messing around. As if we really would. I’m not the problem child in this family, y’know?”
“Enough of that,” Ginny scolded. “And enough talk of flying, joking or otherwise. You let Patrick know that too before I track his mother down and get her to pass the message!”
James sulked away just as Lilly began bouncing up and down and gesturing at the smartly dressed woman and child coming towards them.
“Rose! Rose! Rose!” Lilly squealed as she threw herself into her cousins arms. Rose had the same flaming her as her younger cousin but where Lilly’s hair was long and silky, Rose’s was wild and bushy. She had tamed it back, slightly, with some clips which seemed to serve. She returned the hug, warmly as her mother came up behind her.
“We’ve been looking for you,” Hermione said as got her own hug from Lilly.
“We were a little delayed,” Ginny explained with a glance at Harry. “Hugo’s not with you?”
“No, mum and dad were happy to take him for the morning,” Hermione explained. “I’m so grateful. It’s difficult keeping track of them in this crowd.”
“Tell me about it,” Harry mumbled, looking for Albus’s mop of hair in the horde of families.
“Is Ron coming?” Ginny asked, unmoved by the blush that crept up Hermione’s cheeks.
“Uh…no, I don’t think so. He had to work I think.”
“Did you ask him?”
“Of course I did,” Hermione flushed completely. “I sent him an owl last week.”
“It’s a busy time in the department,” Harry intervened feeling the tension rise between the two women. “He would have been here if he could.”
Ginny shrugged, caught the eye of a friend and moved off to speak to them as Rose encouraged Lilly to join her in finding a compartment.
“Sorry,” Harry mumbled, awkwardly. “He’s her brother, you understand?”
“I suppose,” Hermione retained the redness in her cheeks. “I didn’t want this to happen, you know? Everything is all just so complicated and…I don’t want Ginny to hate me as well.”
“She doesn’t,” Harry said, quickly and confidently. “She’s just…well…”
“I know,” Hermione sighed. “How is Ron?”
Harry didn’t know what to say to that. He knew a lie would be preferable but he wasn’t sure he could bring himself to it. He was beginning to feel like he couldn’t bare another painful conversation this morning.
“Why don’t you ask him yourself?” he suggested, not unkindly.
“I’ve sent enough owls,” Hermione insisted. “He’s perfectly able of sending some of his own.”
“Yeah…here, help me with one of these would you?” Harry shoved the trunk between the two of them in a desperate attempt to change the topic. It seemed to work as Hermione lifted one end of the trunk and Harry the other. Between the two of them they were able to manoeuvre the cumbersome thing down the corridor to a compartment were Rose was talking in avid detail about the different classes Lilly could expect this year. Lilly looked just as terrified as she had all morning but there was also a look of adoration in the young girls eyes. As they returned to the platform they found that James had retrieved his trunk and moved it onto the train with the help of his friend Patrick. Harry heaved the final trunk and made his way down the train in search of his son.
Albus had a compartment to himself, as Harry suspected he would. He was sitting in the same position he had held in the car and barely glanced round as Harry pulled the door open.
“There you are,” he said, with as much cheer as he could. “I brought your case on.”
Albus said nothing.
“Rose and Lilly are sharing a compartment just a few down. You could sit with them-?”
The silence that followed was deafening and Harry feared it would go for the rest of their lives if he could not break it now.
“Will you write to us?” he finally managed, already anticipating the answers.
“James will tell you everything that’s going on,” Albus said, moodily.
Harry nodded. He wanted nothing more than to go to him, hug him and feel some of the warmth his son had used to provide. Instead he ran his fingers through his own mess of black hair.
“Take care of yourself, son,” he said, softly. “I’ll be thinking about you.”
With no answer to wait for, Harry turned and made his way, hurriedly, from the train.
As the Hogwarts Express made its way from the station, slowly at first but gaining momentum as it went, Harry felt Ginny put her arm around his waist and pull him against her.
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” she asked, gently.
Harry forced himself to put his own arm over her shoulders and pulled her into a hug.
“I hope he’ll be ok,” he said, softly. There was no need to specify who.
“He’ll get there,” Ginny sighed. “He’s his father’s son.”
The train pulled clear from the station and disappeared out into the countryside
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