A/N: Chapter title comes from the song 'I See Love' by Passenger. Thanks to everyone for the love for this story, and I forgot to say it last chapter, but that chapter marked over 100,000 words!

“How could you not know?” That was the first thing to break the terrifying silence, and despite Albus’s calm tone, his hands were shaking. It wasn’t out of anger, not really, but Al couldn’t process the idea that Nick had been so fucking close to meeting her brother without even knowing it.

“It makes sense, actually,” Owen answered, his face pale. “I remember when my mum and dad told him he was adopted, and offered to look into finding his real family, so he’d know-” Owen started to explain, but Piper cut him off.

“How could they not know who he was?” Piper interrupted, face creased. “I know the system is flawed-”

“Oh, it is that flawed,” Liam explained, his head still in his hands. “They didn’t tell Dad my last name, or anything about what happened, for fear he’d send me back. And when my parents did tell me I was adopted, I didn’t want to know. They’d always been my mum and dad, for as long as I could remember, and I didn’t want to uncover, well, something like what happened to my real parents.”

Silently, and without any preamble, Piper wrapped her thin arms around Liam, burying her head into her shoulder. It was such a sudden change from her previous coldness towards him, but Jane simply raised her eyebrows. For Piper, it was natural to be defensive, especially when regarding Nick, but all it took was something like what Liam said to snap her out of it.

“You should tell her,” Owen croaked, meeting his brother’s eyes. “She deserves to know that she’s got family that isn’t locked away.”

“That’s the problem. I can’t tell her anything, because she won’t hear it,” Liam responded, now glancing at Jane. “And I’ve got to talk to Harry and Hermione, because something like this could compromise the entire defense.”

“Well, Harry should be here in roughly seven hours,” Jane commented, glancing at her watch.

“Why?” Albus’s voice wasn’t cold, but it wasn’t warm, either. It was... guarded. “What’s he doing here?”

“Flynn. They found a Muggle home that’s going to adopt him, if he likes it there. He’s starting over tomorrow,” Liam explained. “Don’t worry, I did all of the background checks and talked to the couple about his situation, and they are exactly what he needs and deserves.”

“Will we even get to say goodbye?” Piper asks, now back next to Al, her fingers brushing lightly over his. “We never got to see him after... after it happened, and we haven’t gotten to talk to him. We need to talk to him.”

“I think I can slip the NEWT students in before Harry gets here tomorrow morning,” Jane offers, and Piper’s face broke into a wide smile.

“I’ve got to warn you, though, he’s not okay. I know you lot have seen more than you should, but Flynn is in a really fragile place. He’s not going to be the same, and you can’t act weird around him.” Liam’s voice was low, but it was obvious from the warning and slightly protective edge just how much he cared for the eleven-year-old.

“You act like we haven’t done the same thing before. I guess you weren’t around when Nick had given up, or like we wouldn’t understand. I’m pretty sure everyone here has thought about ending it all, in some way, at least once,” Al explained, and he didn’t notice the way Jane’s eyes narrowed ever-so-slightly.

“Yeah, I guess so. I’m sorry, I’m just-” Liam conceded, smiling just a bit.

“Worried about him,” Piper finished lightly, effectively diffusing the tension. “We’ve all been. Especially Rhys.”

“Well, you lot should get some sleep. Owen, can I walk with you back to your common room?” he asked, and Owen just nodded, swallowing roughly. Then they both stood up and began to leave.

“Wait!” Al called, standing up suddenly (and ignoring the resulting vertigo, which Jane definitely did notice). “If Nick had to have a brother, I’m glad it’s you.” At that sentence, Piper felt her eyes well up with tears just a bit.

“Thanks, Albus,” Liam said genuinely, giving the sixth year a smile. And then, they were gone. That was when Piper crumbled, both physically and metaphorically. She collapsed against Albus, switching straight from not-formed tears to sobbing; it was all Albus could do to maneuver them to a sofa before he collapsed. As soon as he made it, Piper curled into him.

“All this time,” she gasped out, but Albus just pulled her head into his chest, his eyes far away. Jane hadn’t left yet, and it was obvious by the way that she was watching the scene that it was worrying to her. Al just held Piper, his best friend, but he couldn’t feel anything. Flynn was leaving for good, Nick had a brother, and Piper was having a breakdown. He knew (and registered) what was happening, he just couldn’t react emotionally.

After Piper finally calmed down enough to sit up, Jane took the last remaining spot on the sofa.

“If you two want to see Flynn tomorrow, you’ll need to be up by six. And I expect at least five hours of sleep, so I’d ration your time.” Her voice was soft, but it was obvious that Jane had a way of knowing whether or not Albus would hold up his end of the deal. “I mean it.”

“Of course you do,” Al shot back easily, but he was terrified. He’d already slept today, and he wasn’t tired at all right now.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Jane sang, nudging Albus’s shoulder slightly. “I’ve known you two since you were too young to hide what you were feeling, and trust me, the ‘sleeping’ you did today was your body recovering from the panic attack, and you need at least ten hours more. However, it’s you, so I’m not going to push it.”

“It’ll be fine. I’ll be down here, too, and we can wake each other up from the nightmares.” Piper’s words were comforting, but it was her light smile that released the tension in Albus’s shoulders.

“Good boy,” Jane said, before ruffling his hair. “Now get ready for bed. And if I hear more about you and Creevey and your pissing match, god do I hate that man-”

“Jane, you’re acting like my mum,” Al cut her off, and in response she merely gaped. Until she shoved him off of the sofa.

“It’s part of my job description, I guess.” And then she left, but not before giving them both a look that invoked more fear into Albus than Grandma Molly’s glare.

“Hey, Al, you’ve got to wake up.” Wincing a bit at the light, Albus managed to pull himself from sleep at Rhys’s words.

“Shit. How long was I out?” Al said blearily, before bolting upright. It was only after he blinked approximately fifty times that the world stopped spinning. “Where’s Piper?”

“She’s getting dressed. Jane just wanted to let you sleep a bit more, and told me to smack you because there’s no way that three hours is five hours,” he explained, before smacking Albus upside the head.

“Is she not letting me see Flynn?” he responded immediately, almost panicking, but the calm look on Rhys’s face let him know that Jane wasn’t going to make good on her threat.

“No, but she said she better see you at breakfast or she’ll make you go to your detention with Creevey instead of, and I quote, ‘having a fun talk with her’,” Rhys explained, and Albus groaned.

“She’s evil, that one. Reminds me how she kept us all in line.” The barking laugh from Rhys made Al smile just a bit, but he knew he needed to get his arse in gear.

“Well, Al, she is Zabini’s daughter,” he explained. “Now get some real clothes on, and please, for the love of Merlin, jump in the shower.”

“Fine. Hey, have you seen Flynn yet?” Al asked. Rhys had been much closer to Flynn that anyone else (except maybe Nick), and Albus knew he wasn’t above sneaking in just to talk to him.

“Not officially. Now get your ass in gear.”

“I’m going to floo with you, and I’ll probably hang around for an hour or so,” Liam explained, just as Alyssa, Rhys, Albus, and Piper entered the hospital wing. Harry Potter was standing off to the side with Professor Zabini, and he tried to catch his son’s gaze, but Albus was only looking at Flynn. Flynn, who looked so much thinner and paler than before, but at the same time looked just a little bit happier. “And I think there are some people who want to say goodbye.” Hesitantly, Flynn stepped forward, but he didn’t have to move much before Alyssa caught him in a hug.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered into her ear, but Alyssa wasn’t having it.

“You did what you had to do. And you’re going to be so much happier there, so don’t worry about us.” But then, she let go and stepped aside, knowing she was going to start crying. Al knew why; in Alyssa’s mind, she had failed him. It was her job to look out for him, for all the first years, and she hadn’t done that.

“I’m not abandoning her. I’ll still testify,” Flynn immediately said, looking down. And, much like Alyssa, she enveloped him in a hug, whispering something in his ear.

“Remember to write us, okay? Even if it’s only once in a while. You’re still a Slytherin, and you’re still family.” The smile Flynn gave Piper made her blink back tears.

“Come over here,” Al said quietly, and took his turn giving the first year a hug. “I’m sorry we failed you.” Flynn opened his mouth to protest, but the downright parental look Albus gave him was enough to shut him up. “You shouldn’t be the one apologizing. We should, everyone who either didn’t help you or did terrible things to you should.” Now, it was Flynn’s turn to crush Albus in a hug.

“Just make sure you’re okay, too,” he said, before voluntarily walking over to Rhys. At first, all he did was ruffle the first year’s hair, but the gruff seventh year soon abandoned the idea and embraced the kid. He couldn’t find the words to say what the others had--that he was so sorry, that this wasn’t Flynn’s fault, and that he would still give his tormentors hell.

“It’s okay. It’s not your fault; you’re the best Dad the house could have,” Flynn said honestly in his Flynn-like way. It made Rhys almost lose it, but he knew he had to say something to this amazing kid.

“Don’t look back,” was what came out, and Flynn just ruffled Rhys’s hair.

“It’s time to go,” Liam said gently, putting a hand on Flynn’s shoulder. Immediately, all four of them surrounded Flynn in one last hug.

“Tell Nick I’m sorry,” was the last thing Flynn said before leaving to start his new life. As soon as he was out the door, Alyssa hugged her brother as tight as she could, and he finally let himself cry.

“Albus,” Harry Potter said gently, moving closer to his son. “May I have a word? James needs to be there as well, but I sent him a note, and he should be just outside.” Immediately, Albus was on guard, but he wasn’t going to fight this. From what he could read, Harry’s position wasn’t rigid or aggressive, so it was obvious he wasn’t picking a fight. And neither would Al.

“All right,” he said quietly, moving with his father to the hallway outside of the hospital wing. Harry made no motions to touch Al, remembering everything from his early morning conversation with Jane and Liam, and just walked out. Of course, James was waiting.

“Okay,” Harry started, observing his two sons. James, who was already standing defensively, and Albus, who was looking down. They looked more united than they had been since they were kids, though, but Harry was dawdling. He needed to say what he needed to.

“Erm, I’ve had a talk with Jane and Liam this morning, and I need to talk to you both,” he said, running his hand through his hair. This was going to be difficult... how does one bring up the fact that they’ve basically ignored one of their sons for five years?

“About what?” James asked quietly, standing by Albus. Surprisingly, Al didn’t shrug him off.

“First, I know about Liam being Nick’s brother, and Hermione said it’s a simple problem to fix. He can still help with the research and stuff, but he won’t be speaking at Nick’s trial,” Harry said, and Albus nodded. As soon as they were done here, he’d tell Piper, who would pass it around to Owen and the rest of them.

“Is that all?” Al asked nervously, fidgeting. He didn’t want to get into a fight with his dad right now, and if he’d been talking to Jane...

“The rest is about Al. I was talking to Jane, and she explained to me exactly what was going on, and told me where I could purchase more tablets. We also, er, we also had a rather lengthy chat about how to help you, because what she described was some serious stuff, and she told me the part I had in causing it.” Immediately, Albus’s head snapped up, and the fear was evident in his eyes. Jane had told him? “Al, she didn’t tell me whatever you said to her, but-”

“Are you seriously going to apologize?” Albus asked, anger frothing in the pits of his stomach. Shit, he said he wouldn’t get angry at his dad today.

“That’s not going to fix anything,” Harry said, swallowing all of his pride. He’d spent an entire hour being told exactly what he didn’t want to hear; that his son wasn’t lying, that all of these things were happening to him, and it wasn’t getting better. Despite everything, Harry did love Albus, he was just doing a shit job of showing it, and yeah, he’d fucked up, he’d fucked up so badly, and this was the only way he could hope to salvage anything. The realization had been coming on for a while, but it didn’t really start until Albus’s last confrontation in the hospital wing.

“Damn right it’s not,” Albus replied, but forced the anger down.

“I listened to everything Jane had to tell me, and I know I fucked up. It just seemed so unrealistic that it could be happening again, and I just got stuck thinking that it was a lie, and it ended up blowing up in my face. I’ve never hated Slytherin--hell, I almost was one-- but I haven’t tried at all to listen to you, Albus. I should have asked questions earlier, and I should have listened to you at Christmas. And I am sorry,” Harry explained, but it was difficult. It hadn’t felt like he was wrong, it always felt like Albus was wrong, until that morning in the hospital wing, and ever since then Harry started realizing just how horrible of a parent he had been. Jane had been the final straw; she had a way of making people see the facts, and it was what Harry had needed.

“I don’t forgive you,” Albus said simply, but it wasn’t angry. It was just tired. “And I don’t trust you.”

“That’s okay,” Harry said quickly. He’d gotten lectured about how this was merely the first step of hundreds, if he ever wanted to know Albus again.

“Okay,” Albus said quietly. “I’ve got to go to lessons now. Bye, Dad.” And with that, he left. It still wasn’t okay. Merlin, how could his father do that? That man was not the one he’d been fighting with for five years, and did he really think that he could just apologize and that it all would be forgiven?

But he was trying, the voice at the back of Al’s head reminded him, and that’s more than he had expected. Shit. This confusion was the last thing he needed right now.

“You fuckers,” was the first thing Albus and Piper heard when they entered the common room after lessons.

“Hello, Kenzie,” Piper greeted dryly. Albus just gave him a look, but Kenzie wasn’t fazed.

“You knew you were going to see Flynn and you didn’t tell us,” he said darkly, shaking his head. “Well, spit it out. How is he?” Any background conversation stopped, but thankfully Rhys stepped in.

“He’s going to live with a Muggle family, one that knows about our world, and what he’s been through. He’s excited, and nervous, but he told me to tell you that he’s sorry. Flynn said he didn’t want to leave the family, but he couldn’t handle it anymore,” he explained, and the piercing look he gave each and every person in the room implied that ‘if you have a problem with that, you’re going to have to deal with me’.

“He’s going to write us, though,” Alyssa cut in. “But we’re not going to interfere with anything that happens.”

“And this family, are they going to treat him right?” Thomas asked, and there were murmurs of agreement.

“This family isn’t like the ones you know. They’re good people, who want to help him,” Piper said, her voice shaking. “And he’s still going to testify for Nick.”

“Why does he need to?” Jasper asked, his deep voice quiet. “He’s been through enough, mate.”

“Flynn’s the only other one who’s been in that home, as well as most of the other ones that Nick has been in. We wish there was another way, but it’s a crucial testimony,” Jane piped in from where she was having her hair plaited by a first year.

“If we’re going to delve into this subject, someone explain to me why everything is happening,” Lottie said, not looking up from where she was fiddling with what looked like a radio. “Like why you need both Piper and Albus to testify, and what the prosecution is doing.”

“Albus found her, so his testimony is stating what happened the night that terrible man died,” Jane responded easily, not noticing that the first year was weaving flowers into her long, dark hair. “Piper’s is just about her general personality, and why she wouldn’t be likely to commit a murder, especially against him.”

“But what about the prosecution?” Kenzie asked, while watching with amusement as more and more flowers found their way into Jane’s hair.

“We don’t know what they’re doing, but we can take a pretty good guess. Nick has been causing trouble for the Ministry for years, and they’re going to use every time she’s ever lashed out to paint her out to be some psychotic killer,” Jane explained gravely, before conjuring a flower of her own and sticking it in the first year’s hair as she tied a band around the complicated plait. “Thanks, Jamie.”

“This is going to be fun,” Al muttered, putting his head in his hands.

“All right. Time to get to the Great Hall,” Jane said, ending the conversation. Everyone pretty much bolted for the door, but Albus just sat there. He didn’t feel like eating, and he knew he wasn’t going to sleep tonight. There was too much; Liam was Nick’s brother, Flynn was gone, and Nick’s trial was basically screwed. Even Piper left, though he expected it was because Jane gave her a look.

“Albus,” Jane said quietly, sitting down next to him. “Will you go to dinner?”

“Not today,” he said, unable to meet her eyes. He wanted to do this, to prove to her that he wasn’t such a fuckup, but he couldn’t. “I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to apologize for,” she replied honestly. “It’s going to be really hard for a while, I’m not going to lie to you.”

“Will it get easier?” Al asked, feeling childish.

“I’m not going to lie to you, Al. It’s never going to be easy, and you’re going to have to do the opposite of what you want to do for a long time if you want to get better. And I’m going to push you, and you’re going to hate me a lot,” she said. “I’ll bring back food for you. Does that sound easier?” Albus only nodded, and she gave him a quick, one-armed hug, and stood up to leave.

“I talked to my dad today,” he found himself saying. Albus didn’t know why he was telling her, but by her smile Jane already knew. “He, er, he apologized, and stuff.”

“That’s good. What did you do?” she asked quietly.

“I didn’t forgive him. I can’t.” Albus’s voice was quiet, and Jane knew that this wouldn’t be one of the times she could push him.

“Okay. We’ll talk about it later.” And then she was gone, and Albus was alone in the common room. It was times like these he truly missed Nick, for his own selfish reasons. He needed her to be there to remind him that everyone’s fucked up and that it’s perfectly okay, and that his shit wasn’t the worst in the world to deal with. He needed her to do what she always did; distract him so well that he forgot what the problem was. She’d done that a lot with her own problems.

Sighing, he put his head in his hands. There were a lot of things he was going to do differently with Nick if--when--she was back.

A/N: Reviews would be lovely. I genuinely want to hear what you think, especially as we approach the end of Nick, Al, and Piper's story.

Thank you, as always, for reading.


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