A/N: I am SO SO SO sorry it took me this long to update. That really wasn't fair of me. Life was  crazy, school was crazy, my next door neighbor's cat died, yadda yadda yadda... Only the first two are true actually... Anyway, there's really no excuse I can give you other than life got in the way. What is really horrible is that this chapter was already written... I was just waging a mental war (resembling WWI, scarily enough. Complete with trences, Germans, and U-boats) over the direction of this story.  The good news is that I think I've figured it out. Meaning, the rest of the updates should happen as soon as they get written. Hope you weren't discouraged by the length of this note, and that you enjoy this chapter. Keep reviewing! 

Disclaimer: Let's think about this now... If I had written Harry Potter, would I be writing fanfiction about it right now? Right. Didn't think so. Authors don't write fanfiction for their own books (unless they are Stephanie Meyer), therefore, I am not the author. Now that is settled, I'm going to hide from the Twilight fans who are now out for my blood. Enjoy.




                                        Chapter 5: What Secrets Can You Tell Me?

Lily heard a series of rather familiar pops out in the garden followed by James’ less-than-melodious voice singing at the top of his lungs.

“I’m done with Hogwarts!’

“Hoggy, warty Hogwarts!’

“No more Hogwarts for me!”

“James, please, that wasn’t clever the first time, and it’s not clever the 53rd, either.” Al’s exasperated voice floated in through her window.

James, however, seemed undaunted.

“No more Hogwarts!’

“I’m done, I’m FREE!’

“No more hoggy, warty –“

Apparently someone had finally had enough and cast a silencing charm on a rambunctious James.

Lily felt slightly less guilty about skipping James’ graduation ceremony, if this was the way he was going to act. Besides, she wouldn’t be able to get away with pulling the same stunt next year; not with both Al and Rose graduating. She was just preparing herself for next year, she told herself, ignoring the snide voice in her head which informed her that she wouldn’t be ready next year either. A light knock on her door had her flopping back on her bed and trying her best to look pathetically sad and ill.

“Come in” she said weakly.

The door opened and Al stuck his messy head of black hair in. When he saw her on her bed, he smiled slightly and shook his head. “You’re not going to fool me, Lils” he said, carefully picking his way through stacks of clothes (clean, of course—well, mostly), magazines, books, and cds to perch on the side of her bed.

She groaned pitifully, but it was no use. She couldn’t fool Al. Al wasn’t fooled by anything (he was uncannily like Rose sometimes). He merely lifted an eyebrow and laughed.

“I do have to wonder how you managed to convince Mum and Dad” he said offhandedly.

Lily gave up all pretences and sat up, folding her long legs underneath her and turning so that she was facing Al. “Uncle George’s Puking Pastilles are quite useful to have around at times, I find” she observed sagely.

Al let out a loud guffaw, throwing his head back as he did so. “And it worked? Merlin’s pants I can’t believe Mum was fooled by something from her own brother’s store!” He was incredulous.

Lily found herself giggling too, Al’s laugh was infectious. “Well, Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes does promise quality products” she noted, grinning at her brother.

Al’s grin turned rueful. “I wish I’d thought of that.”

Lily, this time, was the one to raise an eyebrow. “You? Mr. Prefect and Future Head Boy would have skipped out on something as important as James’ graduation?”

“Oi, you wouldn’t believe how boring the whole ceremony was. And James has been bloody unbearable!” Al defended himself, playfully pushing his sister.

“More so than usual?”

Lily turned her head so fast she swore she heard her neck pop and Al nearly fell off her bed. Lounging in the doorway to her room, looking distinctly amused, was an older version of Al, from the wild and unruly black (edging toward grey, although he refused to admit it) hair to the brilliant green eyes behind wire frame glasses.

“I’m glad you were able to get the other half down. I’d hate for you to have to miss James and Al’s party tomorrow” Harry Potter told his daughter, green eyes twinkling. “But I’d skip dinner tonight, Lils, and have Al bring you up a plate later—you wouldn’t want your mother getting suspicious about your miraculous recovery”

Lily and Al waited until they heard their father head back downstairs before erupting into laughter.

“So, reckon Dad figured it out?” Al asked Lily once he had sufficiently been able to catch his breath.

Lily shrugged and wiped at her eyes. “I reckon so, Al, I reckon so” she said mock-seriously, before collapsing into giggles again.

Like a fly drawn to honey, James appeared at her door, demanding to know what was so funny, anyway. He was obviously still a bit sore about being the victim of a very powerful ‘Silencio’ (from his own MOTHER, for Merlin’s sake!). Suddenly, realization dawned on him and James narrowed his eyes at his little sister. “Oi, why weren’t you at my graduation?”

Lily and Al exchanged a brief look. “Sorry, I was feeling a bit ill this morning,” Lily started, a little startled that James both noticed and cared. It was generally understood that if something had to do with Hogwarts, Lily would do her best to avoid it.

“Bollocks” said James, waving her off. “You skived off my graduation.” He paused for a minute before grinning much like Al had earlier and added, “Not that I really blame you. It was bloody boring. If I hadn’t been one of the poor sods graduating, I probably would have skipped it myself. But you best have bought me a damn good graduation present to make up for it, though.”

He ruffled Lily’s long red mane and then, for good measure, Al’s rat’s nest, eliciting a rather disgruntled “Hey!” from the latter and a rather more inflamed “Prat!” from the former before sailing out of the room, humming a tune that sounded suspiciously like his “I’m Done With Hogwarts” ditty.

 James stopped to look back at Lily, as if sizing her up. “Incidentally, how’d you manage it, Lilikins?”

Lily scowled at the nickname, but Al answered for her. “Puking Pastilles” he said.

James nodded in comprehension and started off again, before turning around one last time. “Fever Fudges are much better, not quite so messy.”

Lily grinned cheekily back at him. “But not nearly as dramatic.”

James gave her another appraising look before grinning proudly. “I’ve taught you well.” Then he was gone.

Al shook his head, bemused. “I’ll never understand him” he said.

“Strange duck” Lily murmured, agreeing with him.

After a few minutes of companionable silence Lily flipped over onto her stomach and eyed Albus curiously. He continued playing absent-mindedly with a loose string on her duvet and stared off into space. It was obvious he had something on his mind, which had probably been the motivation to seek her out as soon as he arrived home as much as the fact that he hadn’t seen her since the Easter holidays. It wouldn’t do to try and prompt him, though. Al could clam up faster than anyone else she knew, and he was hard to read at the best of times.

Sometimes it was easy for Lily to see the real reasons Al had been sorted into Slytherin instead of Gryffindor like the rest of the family. He wasn’t open and daring like a good Gryffindor, and could manipulate people so deftly that he rarely realized he was doing it. Which was why Lily was surprised to find, on closer inspection, that Al looked almost vulnerable. His eyes were distant and his brow was furrowed in fierce contemplation, as if he were waging some kind of internal war with himself.

Lily hummed softly to herself as she waited for Al to make his decision. It didn’t matter, even if he decided not to say anything now, he would tell her eventually. Lily may have not been able to do magic, but she could keep secrets better than the most heavily protected secret-keeper. And not just Al’s, either. Rose, Hugo, Victiore, Dom, Louis, Teddy, hell, even James came to her when they needed to talk. It wasn’t that she gave stellar advice, that was Rose’s forte, but she was a fantastic listener. Maybe it was because she herself was so conscious of getting lost in the bustle of the extended Potter/Weasley clan that she made such a good one.

Whatever the reason, it had been Lily Teddy had told about how badly he had screwed up with Victoire, why he felt he would never be able to make things up to her. Lily secretly agreed with her god-brother, but she couldn’t help feeling a little bad for him when Victoire eloped with a Romanian named Luca the next year. Lily was the one Hugo came to when he could no longer stand his parent’s frequent fights at home. Dom, despite the fact that the two had never been close (a fact that had a large amount to do with Dominique’s overbearing personality and treatment of Victoire), had admitted to Lily that she couldn’t control her eating habits anymore -- that always having to do better than her disappointment of a sister had finally taken its toll. Rose had confided in Lily her fear that she might crack under the immense pressure she felt to meet her parent’s exceedingly high expectations, or worse; fail. Louis had told Lily that he had never felt as alone as he did when he was at school and had to make up stories about his great times with friends because he did not want to admit that he, Louis Weasley, had not a single friend to his name at Hogwarts.

Some secrets were silly, like Freddy telling her about his embarrassing crush on his Transfiguration teacher. Others left Lily feeling empty and helpless, like Roxanne’s tearful confession of how hard it was to see her dad on a bad day, when he fingered his missing ear and mourned the loss of his other half; a hole that neither she, nor her brother, nor even her mother would ever be able to fill, no matter how much they wanted to or how hard they tried. Even James had admitted to Lily that he didn’t like the attention and fame associated with being one of Harry Potter’s children nearly as much as he pretended to. Lily was sure that he had never told anyone else this particular secret, because it would have ruined the image as the carefree limelight-loving eldest son of Harry Potter that James had so carefully cultivated to protect himself from the constant scrutiny. And Al, well, Al had told her everything. At least, she thought he had. If not, he was even better at keeping secrets than she was.

 Sometimes it made Lily laugh when she read an article about one member of her family or another in the Prophet, the portrayal of the Potter/Weasley clan was so far from the truth. Despite appearances, all was not good on the home front.

A weary sigh brought Lily back to the present. Al had finished his internal debate, though he still looked rather conflicted—no, that wasn’t quite right; he looked unsure. But of what? For the second time, Lily found herself thinking of her reliable, strong, sarcastic, thoughtful, and impervious older brother as vulnerable. That worried Lily quite a bit. It really wasn’t like Al, and it made her think that perhaps he had been keeping some secrets after all.

Al sighed again and sat up, leaning against the headboard, knees drawn up to his chest almost defensively. Lily, perturbed, followed his cue and mimicked his position, sitting so that she had her chin resting on her knees, clutching a pillow, her left arm just touching the one Al had carelessly slung around his own knees, his other still playing with the duvet.

“What…” Al started, then sighed another heavy sigh, this one almost frustrated, ran his hand furiously, almost tearing at it, through his hair, making it stand up on end. Lily had to fight the urge to smooth it down for him.

He pushed his glasses back up his nose and resolutely tried again.

“What would you think if I told you I wanted to bring someone home to meet you, and maybe the rest of the family?”

Lily had a distinct feeling that this was only the tip of the iceberg, so she tried to keep her tone light. “You mean, you’ve finally got a girlfriend? Well, I guess James owes me 5 knuts.”

Al ran his hand through his hair again, tension radiating off him like heat. “Not exactly.” He sounded unhappy.

Lily looked at him from the corner of her eye. He smiled weakly and tried to play at being offended. “Hang on, you two had a bet on me going?”

Lily laughed a little. “We had to have something to entertain ourselves with over the Easter hols when we were rained in for days and you and Rosie were holed up revising for exams. You were so obviously bothered by something that I put my money on you admitting it by the time term ended, but James was convinced you’d make us wait to find out till next Christmas, at least.”

Al was shifting uncomfortably and Lily decided it was probably best just to barrel on.

“So, you’ve got a girlfriend, or someone you’re interested in, then?” she asked innocently.

Al rested his head against the headboard with a thud. “Not exactly.”

“You said that before, Albus. What do you mean, ‘Not Exactly’?”

Al’s fingers were tapping in agitation against his knees. Lily had never seen him this tightly wound up. She found herself tensing in anticipation of some sudden and deadly spring, like a jack-in-the-box.

“Just… not exactly.”

Lily couldn’t tell if the frustration in his voice was aimed at her or his own inability to communicate what he wanted so desperately to tell her. Time to diffuse the situation, then, Lily thought.

“You’re not engaged, are you?” she asked in mock-horror.

Al raised an eyebrow and shot her a look over the rims of his glasses that let her know humor was not the right ticket just at the moment.

“Right then,” she said, “shutting up.” At least that got a wry smile out of her brother.

“I said not exactly because it’s not a girlfriend, Lily” Al sounded suddenly very weary and world-worn.

She opened her mouth to make a guess, but Al silently admonished her and continued. “It’s not a girlfriend, and it’s not a girl.”

Al let his sentence hang in the air and a heavy silence followed while Lily tried desperately to keep up while forestalling her mind from jumping to conclusions at the implications of his statement.

“Al—“

“Lily, I think I’m gay.” Al’s eyes were closed and his shoulders tensed, as if waiting for a blow. Or wishing not to be here, Lily thought with a pang.

“You mean we’re going to have to rely on James to carry on the Potter name?” Lily felt stupid the moment the words came out of her mouth, but the look of intense and absolute relief on her brother’s face kept her from apologizing.

Al’s old, wise eyes spoke of such gratitude that Lily gave into her impulse and hugged him tightly. Surprisingly, he didn’t shrug her off, instead he clung to her and Lily could have sworn those were tears he was hastily wiping away when they finally broke apart.

“You know, if it’s up to James, I’m afraid the Potter name is doomed” Al mused. The attempt at humor fell flat, but Lily was relieved that Al was feeling good enough to even try to crack a joke.

“BOYS! HARRY! IT’S TIME FOR DINNER!”

Al tensed a little as their mother’s  magically amplified voice floated (well, thundered, really) upstairs.

“Lil,” he said softly,” I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t say anything. To anyone. At least, not just yet.”

Lily nodded her understanding and watched Al slip back into his quiet, invulnerable façade as he headed down for dinner. Only once he was gone did she realize that he’d left out the particulars. But that would have to be another conversation. She slid down until she was lying on her back, staring mindlessly at the designs she had painstakingly painted on her ceiling years ago.

Al was gay? Lily had heard some big secrets in her day, but this was by far the biggest of them all. She wondered if Rose knew. It was awfully hard to fool Rose. Although, Lily thought, if anyone in the world could fool Rose Weasley, it would be Albus Severus Potter.




A/N: Well, what did you think? Wait, don't tell me now... just review!
I will ask your indulgence where my grammatical errors may be concerned. I am beta-less, so I'm relying upon my own proof reading skills.
                                        Please Review!

 

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