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What Albus enjoyed the most about summer was how easy it was to let his worries slip out of his mind and focus on having fun. When his days were filled with playing Quidditch with his cousins, arguing with James over England’s chances against Italy in the upcoming match, and eating his grandmother’s delicious cooking there wasn’t room in his head for thoughts of O.W.L. results, Stuart Boone’s incarceration in Azkaban, or who would replace Professor Young as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. But as the second week in July arrived with a heat wave the likes of which England hadn’t seen in years, worries of his O.W.L. results slowly crept back into Albus’s mind.

Rose wasn’t very helpful with this matter. Albus, James, and Lily Flooed to Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione’s countryside house nearly everyday since the country was slightly cooler than London. As he lay with Rose in the meadow behind their house, Albus wondered if it would’ve been better to stay in sweltering Grimmauld Place and blissfully ignore his impending exam results than enjoy the slight breeze at Rose’s house while listening to her incessant chatter about how she thought she missed a question on Charms and whether that would hurt her chances of an Outstanding.

“I mean, I realize I’ll get into the N.E.W.T. class regardless, but future employers will look at my O.W.L. results and what if they don’t want someone who’s gotten an Exceeds Expectations?” Rose said as she sat up in the grass.

“Rose,” Albus said for the fifth time, “I’m positive you got an Outstanding. And even if you got an Exceeds Expectations, no one is going to not hire you because of that. Can you give it a rest already?”

“I can’t!” Rose exclaimed. “How can you be so calm about it?”

“I’m not calm. I was, up until two days ago when you started going on about it, but before that I’d managed to forget about it. Worrying about it isn’t going to change a thing. We already took the exams.”

“I know,” Rose said ruefully.

“Can we talk about something else?” Albus asked as he watched a spider crawl over his trainer. “James had a huge row with my parents the other night.”

“What was it about this time?”

James rowing with their parents had become a weekly occurrence ever since he, Albus, and Lily had returned home from Hogwarts in June. The rows were always about similar topics- James’s marks, James’s future, and occasionally his maturity level when it came to his relationships with girls.

“Mum wants James to spend time at the Ministry this summer learning about different careers,” Albus explained. “She came up with the idea last week and Dad thinks its a good idea.”

“Let me guess, James said absolutely not?” Rose said.

Albus nodded. “Dad said it would be a waste of the resources available to him not to take advantage of the family connections. James then called him a hypocrite because of how much Dad disapproves of the Ministry. Mum then tried to keep the peace and told James there are plenty of departments in the Ministry that aren’t as political and that the Minister has nothing to do with. She suggested the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad or the Department of Magical Games and Sports.”

“He wouldn’t even go for that? But he loves Quidditch.”

“He loves to play Quidditch,” Albus corrected. “He couldn’t care less about everything else that has to do with it.”

“I kind of agree with your parents,” Rose said quietly. “He’s going to have nothing to do next year if he doesn’t get recruited by a team, and that’ll only happen if one of the teams needs a Seeker. He’s not good at the other positions. It’s going to be Georgia all over again, only worse because Georgia actually got recruited.”

“He doesn’t want to work for the Ministry,” Albus continued. “He said he’s not Dad’s mini-me and he doesn’t want to follow in the family footsteps and be the hero. Then he brought me into it by saying I’m the one who’s the hero and they need to accept that we’re two different people and that James isn’t the perfect kid and won’t ever be.”

“Wow,” Rose said, letting out a low whistle. “No wonder he looked so pissed off today.”

When Albus, James, and Lily had arrived early that afternoon, James took off for the woods and hadn’t been back since. He hadn’t said anything to Rose or Hugo.

“What did your parents say about the hero thing?” Rose asked.

“They told him not to bring me into it, that it wasn’t about me,” Albus said. At that point, Albus had seriously reconsidered whether he wanted to keep eavesdropping. He didn’t want James to bring him into the fight; it made him feel extremely awkward. He couldn’t help that he’d inherited his father’s “saving people thing” just like James couldn’t help that he hadn’t.

“Then they brought his O.W.L. results into it,” Albus continued. “And he started yelling about how he wasn’t the smart one and they needed to accept it. Then Mum said he was smart, if he’d only applied himself, and he could still do well on his N.E.W.T.s. Then James stormed out. To be honest, I think he’s only going back to Hogwarts because of the Quidditch scouts that will be there at the end of the year.”

“Wow,” Rose said. “Has he spoken to them since?”

“Since last night? No. They both leave for work before any of us get up. I doubt anything will happen tonight. Mum might bring it up again in a week, or bring up something else. I suppose if I fail any O.W.L.s my parents will be too distracted to yell at me for it.”

“I suppose that’s one way to look at it.”

Albus didn’t say anything in response, but instead stared up into the sky. The sun was out and there was very little cloud cover, which only added to the heat. Albus hadn’t mentioned it to Rose, but he felt very unsettled by the falling out between his parents and James. When it had happened between Uncle Percy and Georgia, Albus had been enough of an outsider that he’d been able to side solely with Georgia and just feel anger toward Uncle Percy. But Albus couldn’t pick between James and his parents. They’d always been such a close family, their biggest rows the result of someone not picking up their room or James and Albus playing a prank on Lily. And those never lasted more than a day. Albus didn’t like the tension, and he doubted it would lessen up anytime soon.

Lily, on the other hand, didn’t seem to be affected by the rowing. She never eavesdropped, and if she overheard the shouting from her room (where she spent most of her time), she never mentioned it. She was wrapped up in her own world and Albus was frankly jealous about how she managed to do it. As much as he wanted to forget the rowing, he couldn’t. He was also curious about what Lily did while cooped up her room. She only emerged to send owls and ask Mum if she could Floo Ashtyn, which she did on a near nightly basis. While at Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione’s, she went off with Hugo, leaving Albus and Rose to themselves. Albus was perfectly happy with that.

“I have something that will take your mind off James,” Rose said, suddenly looking excited. “Unless you already know. I’m not exactly sure when Teddy was planning on telling you…but anyway, he and Victoire have set a date for their wedding!”

Albus sat up. “No, he hasn’t mentioned anything. When?”

“Christmas,” Rose said, sighing happily. “Exactly a year after Teddy proposed. How romantic is that? Victoire Flooed this morning to tell us.”

“Teddy probably Flooed my house this morning, then. I slept until noon.”

“You’re as bad as Matt,” Rose said. “I don’t know how you can sleep that late. Speaking of Matt, have you heard from him at all?”

“He owled last week to tell me he was going to Australia for two weeks,” Albus said, “and that the full moon is on the 24th. But I invited him to come stay with me after that’s over. Hopefully James and my parents won’t be rowing still. The complete silence between them is better than that.”

“You can always come stay here instead,” Rose said, looking off into the distance. “Are John and Kaden-“

Albus turned to Rose, who had suddenly stopped talking. “Are John and Kaden what?”

Rose didn’t respond. She was staring at the sky, at a small dot drew closer, growing larger until it took the form of a bird. An owl. Rose stood up and pointed at it. “A-Albus?” she said, her voice shaking.

“Is that-“

“An owl,” Rose whispered. “It’s my results. It’s got to be!”

“It might not be-“

“It is! I owled Professor Kendrick and asked when they would arrive and he said today!”

“You what?” Albus exclaimed.

“I didn’t want to be caught off guard! And here they are. This is it, Albus. This is it.”

The owl landed on the ground in front of Rose and she untied the envelope from the owl’s leg. It flew off immediately. Rose slowly opened the envelope while Albus peered over her shoulder. Suddenly Rose stood up, holding the letter against her chest.

“What is it?” Albus asked, standing up as well.

“I- I don’t want you to look,” Rose said nervously. “In case they’re awful.”

Albus laughed. “You’re joking, right?”

Rose shook her head and hurried to the house. “I’ll be right back!” she shouted.

Albus stared at the house, even after Rose disappeared into it. If Rose failed any of her O.W.L.s the rest of them didn’t stand a chance. They might as well just drop out.

Rose returned minutes later, running with her bright red hair flying behind her and her letter clasped in her hand. Once she got within a few yards of Albus he noticed the huge grin on her face. He let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding and reached for Rose’s results.

“All Outstandings, right?” Albus asked as he unfolded the letter.

“Not all,” Rose said, her face falling just a little.

Albus read the letter.

Ordinary Wizarding Level Results - Rose E. Weasley

Ancient Runes - O
Arithmancy - E
Astronomy - E
Charms - O
Defense Against the Dark Arts - O
Herbology - O
History of Magic - O
Muggle Studies - O
Potions - O
Transfiguration - O

“That’s nearly all Outstandings!” Albus exclaimed, giving Rose back her results. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” Rose said, blushing. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, though. They also sent a letter asking us to pick our classes for next year and recommend taking no more than six, and we aren’t allowed to do more than seven. I don’t know what to pick.”

“Drop Muggle Studies and History of Magic,” Albus said. “History of Magic is dead boring and you can learn about Muggles from Grandpa or your mum.”

“They don’t offer a N.E.W.T. in Muggle Studies,” Rose explained. “But that still leaves me with two I have to drop. I don’t really want to drop History of Magic, but I don’t know if they’ll hold the class. They haven’t had it in years because no one ever wants to take it.”

Albus laughed. “Can’t imagine why.”

“Never mind that now. We have to Floo your house and get your results.”

Albus felt his eyes grow large. He’d gotten so wrapped up in Rose’s results he’d nearly forgotten about his own. “But-“ he began, grappling for any reason why they should stay at Rose’s, and forget Albus’s results.

“No excuses,” Rose said, grabbing Albus’s arm and pulling him toward the house. “Let’s go.”

After locating Lily and Hugo and telling them where they were going, Albus and Rose Flooed to Grimmauld Place, Albus more reluctantly than Rose.

The house was completely silent, since both of Albus’s parents were at work, and stiflingly hot. It felt at least ten degrees hotter in London than it did at Rose’s house. One of the windows in the drawing room had been left open in an unsuccessful attempt at keeping the place a little cooler, although it had allowed an owl to drop Albus’s O.W.L. results directly into the house. The letter sat on an armchair beneath the window, the owl long gone.

Albus stared at the envelope for nearly five minutes before picking it up, and Rose made no attempt to rush him, her academic obsessiveness for once a welcomed relief. She understood completely, without Albus ever having to say a word. When he felt ready, Albus picked up the envelope, carefully broke its seal, and slid out the parchment. There were three sheets. The first explained what the results meant (what each letter meant, what marks allowed you to continue in the class, and instructions to pick classes for next year), the second was the form to fill out to pick classes for September, and the third was the results. Albus only briefly glanced at the first two, before moving onto his results.

Ordinary Wizarding Level Results - Albus S. Potter

Ancient Runes - A
Astronomy - A
Care of Magical Creatures - O
Charms - E
Defense Against the Dark Arts - O
Herbology - E
History of Magic - P
Potions - E
Transfiguration - E

Albus breathed a sigh of relief and handed the results sheet to Rose. “Only failed History of Magic.”

Rose frowned and handed Albus back the results. “Are you happy?”

Albus nodded, and it was the truth. He didn’t care about History of Magic and he would be able to move on in all the classes in which he needed a N.E.W.T. And he got two Outstandings! That was two more than he had been expecting.

“I’ll take Defense, Transfiguration, Potions, Charms, Herbology, and maybe Care of Magical Creatures. That’ll be plenty. I don’t need Astronomy or Ancient Runes.”

“Good,” Rose said. “I wish Matt was home. I hope he did all right on his exams. Last year was so stressful.”

“He probably won’t get his results until he’s back from Australia. Unless Kendrick knew he was going and sent them there.”

“This year ought to be better for him. No life changing exams,” Rose said.

“We could Floo John,” Albus suggested. “See how he did.”

Rose groaned. “I’m not sure I want to know. But yes, let’s.”

***


John’s house was in an utter state of chaos when Albus and Rose arrived a few minutes later. The living room was filled with kids running all over the place, tripping over toys they’d neglected to clean up. At least two of them were screaming. John’s mother had a crying baby in her arms and another woman, who must’ve been one of John’s aunts, swore loudly as she stubbed her toe on a My Little Hippogriff stable. Neither of them seemed to notice Albus and Rose’s entrance.

Albus exchanged a look with Rose and the two of them edged along the wall until they reached the kitchen, which was only a few decibels quieter. Gemma and Amelia sat at the kitchen table, seemingly oblivious to the chaos in the next room. Gemma had a wand sitting in front of her and the table was smoking slightly.

“Want to see the spell I learned?” Gemma asked, picking up the wand. “I just got my wand yesterday.”

Albus eyed the table. “No. We’re just here to see John.”

“And you’re not supposed to use magic outside school,” Rose added as she walked over to the sink and retrieved a glass of water. She took it to the table and doused the smoke.

“Hey!” Gemma exclaimed. “That was my fire!”

“Clean up the water,” Rose added, tossing a towel onto the table. “Where’s John.”

“His room,” Amelia said. “He got his O.W.L. results and hasn’t emerged since. I bet he did really awful.”

Albus and Rose descended the stairs into John’s basement bedroom and Albus knocked on the door.

“Go away, Gemma!” John shouted.

“It’s not Gemma,” Albus said.

The door opened, revealing John, who seemed to have shot up another inch or two in the past month. If he was surprised to see Albus and Rose, he didn’t show it. Instead, he stood aside and then shut the door after they entered.

“You know your sister’s upstairs trying to set fire to the kitchen table,” Rose said.

“I know. She’s done it twice already. Mum’s going to take away her wand if she does it again.”

“Your mum is a little distracted,” Albus said. “I think your cousins are plotting mutiny in the living room.”

John smirked. “Mum and Aunt Jodie are watching all the cousins today. All of them except Isabelle and Alyssa, that is. Aunt Pam took Isabelle and Alyssa to Diagon Alley. So that leaves the other eight. Plus Gemma and Amelia, who are old enough to help, but they don’t.”

“You could help, too,” Rose pointed out.

“I was,” John muttered, his face stony. “Until this arrived.” He grabbed a piece of parchment off his desk and gave it to Albus. “Which is probably why you’re here.”

Albus nodded and took the letter. He reached into his pocket and handed John his own results. Rose did the same.

Ordinary Wizarding Level Results - John M. Brickston

Astronomy - A
Care of Magical Creatures - E
Charms - E
Defense Against the Dark Arts - E
Divination - D
Herbology - E
History of Magic - D
Potions - A
Transfiguration - E

“Hey, these aren’t bad!” Albus said.

John grinned. “I know. I got you, didn’t I?”

“That isn’t funny, John,” Rose said, glaring at him. “But I’m glad you did well. Really, I am.”

“Mum’s happy,” John said. “I think Dad will be, too. I can keep five classes.”

“Rose doesn’t know which classes to drop,” Albus commented.

John laughed. “Of course.”

“Shut up,” Rose muttered.

“John Brickston, get up here now!” Mrs. Brickston shouted.

“I’d better go. It’s never good when Mum shouts like that,” John said.

John took the stairs two at a time while Albus and Rose tentatively followed. When they got to the kitchen they found Gemma and Amelia, but instead of sitting around a table, they were sitting around a pile of ash. John’s mother, who stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, looked as angry as a nesting dragon who’s just had her eggs disturbed. She wordlessly handed John the screaming baby and turned to Albus and Rose.

“I didn’t know you two were here. Very nice to see you again, but you’ll need to get going. I’m about to yell at my daughter and I’m sure you’d rather not witness it.”

Albus and Rose didn’t need to be told twice.

***


“Oh, Albus, these marks are wonderful!” Mum exclaimed at dinner that night. “Eight O.W.L.s!”

“She’s right, Al,” Dad said in between bites. “We couldn’t be prouder.”

“Thanks,” Albus said, feeling his cheeks redden. He didn’t want to admit it, but he liked being the center of his parents’ attention, when it was for a good reason.

“The Department of Mysteries will have to take you,” Mum continued. “Won’t they, Harry?”

“It’s not a guarantee, but this will certainly help,” Dad said. “You’ll be into the Auror Department easily if you keep this up, though.”

Albus grinned. He knew his admittance to the Department of Mysteries depended on a lot more than his O.W.L.s, but his dream never felt as close as it did now.

“It’s not as many as Rose,” Lily commented. “She got ten.”

“Eight is still pretty damn good,” Dad said.

“Watch your mouth, Harry,” Mum said, but she was grinning. “Al wasn’t even taking ten classes. He couldn’t have gotten ten.”

“Well, I’m going to get nine,” Lily said haughtily. “And I’ll certainly beat James because he-“

Lily cut herself off upon seeing the stern gaze on Dad’s face. The table grew quiet, the only noise the clinking of silverware. It was amazing how quickly the mood could turn with just the mere mention of James. Albus could kill Lily for bringing him up and ruining his celebratory dinner. But then again, the celebration had seemed forced, almost fake, from the start. James’s empty place at the table a constant reminder of the tension from the past month.

James hadn’t returned from the forest behind Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione’s house. Albus and Lily had waited an hour for him before returning home before dinner, but he never showed. When they arrived home they found their parents in the drawing room, their mother silently crying. Their father held a letter, hastily scrawled on a ripped piece of parchment. It was from James, a note informing their parents he’d be staying with Teddy for a while. It offered no explanation, but Albus had a feeling James wandered the forest all day, before Apparating to Teddy’s Diagon Alley flat above Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and asking Teddy if he could stay. Teddy, of course, let him.

Albus successfully ended his mother’s tears when he presented his O.W.L. results and Dad announced they’d cook Albus’s favorite dinner (roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and broccoli), but the underlying tension remained. No one knew when James would return, and Albus had a feeling their parents were kicking themselves, wondering if perhaps they’d pushed James too far the previous night.


A/N: Here it is! I hope everyone enjoyed the first chapter. Updates will come on Fridays, like with the last one. I'm still undecided about the title, so if it randomly changes, don't be surprised. I put my Neville/Hannah on hold because I came up with a plot for this one, so I won't be posting that one anytime soon.

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