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Albus Potter wasn't sure how long he sat in the grass of the Hogwarts Cemetery, hidden under the invisibility cloak, tears falling down his cheeks. It could have been only two minutes. Or two hours. Or even two days. He didn't care about anything anymore, least of all time.

So when Albus woke up, having fallen asleep on a patch of grass by the gate, he was surprised to sense something next to him. Albus didn’t dare move, his heart pumping rapidly. If anybody saw him in this state, he would die from embarrassment. Albus slowly turned his head.

It was a bird. And not just any bird, either. It was about a fourth of the size of himself.

The bird was a beautiful, flaming crimson color, with golden talons. Its feathers were the beautiful combination of yellow, red, and orange, closely resembling a sunset. Its eyes were a bright green, the same shade as his. The bird sat proudly, like it knew something he didn’t.

Albus cautiously removed his invisibility cloak. The bird didn't seem surprised at the reveal. Had the bird sensed him somehow, despite the fact that Albus had been under the cloak?

“Hello?” Albus said, carefully and quietly. His anguish from earlier was replaced with complete awe. Was this a phoenix? It was beautiful. No, beautiful couldn’t describe it. The phoenix was stunningly handsome.

The phoenix pierced Albus with its gaze, and it seemed to be trying to tell Albus something with its eyes. It stepped closer and closer to him, until the phoenix was an inch away from touching Albus. He cautiously put his hand forward until it touched one of its feathers. The phoenix seemed to relax slightly. Encouraged, Albus slowly stroked some of its feathers, like he was petting a cat. But this was so much more intelligent and rare than a cat.

Albus’s hand shook slightly when a noise pierced his ears. But it was pleasant and peaceful, not loud and abrasive. It sounded, to Albus, like a song of love and beauty. It made him feel so warm and satisfied with the world, not lonely at all.

The music slowly died down, and Albus wished it would continue. The phoenix ruffled its wings and flew away. Away and away it flew, until it was a tiny crimson speck above a mountain. Al stayed perfectly still, not moving, hoping to preserve the moment. But the moment was nearly over.

Albus looked briefly at the ground, where a tiny feather lay. Albus picked it up. He couldn’t identify its color, because it seemed to be golden and red and yellow and orange all at once. Albus softly held it in his hand, but was interrupted from a shower of sparks coming from his own wand. He eyed his wand curiously. It had a phoenix feather in its core, he knew. Was it recognizing its kin? Or was the feather lodged inside his wand from the very phoenix that had sat beside him? He supposed he would never know.

Albus tucked the phoenix feather into his pocket, like a lucky talisman that would protect him. Albus threw the invisibility cloak back over himself and promptly left the graveyard, feeling refreshed, even though he was crying not too long ago. The sun was beginning to set, turning a multitude of colors like orange and yellow, very much like the phoenix that had knelt next to him not even ten minutes ago. He crept back into the common room and the first person he saw was Rose. She was sitting on the chair, near the fire, and it looked like she had been crying.

The feeling of peaceful bliss that Albus had been feeling since the arrival of the phoenix evaporated on the spot. Rose looked so heartbroken. Cautiously, Albus removed the invisibility cloak and sat down next to her. He carefully watched as Rose's expression turned from fear and sadness to relief and finally, fury.

"Albus Severus Potter," she hissed, staring at him intently. Her eyes were narrowed, her forehead crinkled, and to Albus's great surprise, she pulled him into a tight hug. "Don't ever do that again."

"I-" Albus started, but before he could continue, Rose released him and broke him off with a look. She grabbed his shoulder and steered him up to the boys' dormitories which was thankfully, empty.

"Albus Severus Potter, you left for hours-hours! You run off to the grounds for practically the entire day, and I had no idea where you were, for all I know you could have been eaten in the Forbidden Forest. What the hell were you thinking?" Rose kept her fury to a low voice, which honestly was more terrifying that if she had shouted.

"I-" Albus began, but once more, Rose cut him off.

"And bloody hell Albus, what on Earth drew you to duel one of your best friends? I know he wasn't being honest with either of us, but that is no excuse. And then you just run away, leaving me next to a freaking crater, all alone! What the hell, Albus! And when the teachers finally came along, all they saw was me next to a giant crater. Obviously I had to tell them that I had done it by accident, because what else could I say? You and David and Art were gone! I'm lucky I only got two weeks of detention! As far as I'm considered, the three of you should have a year of detention."

"They gave you detention?" Albus said, horrified.

"Obviously," Rose hissed.

"Rose, I'm sorry-" Albus began, but she cut him off once more.

"I'm not accepting any apologies, Albus, until you apologize to both Art and David and are all friends again. Then feel free to come find me. Honestly, you and David are both acting like complete idiots right now."

"Me? Yeah, sure, I understand why running away pissed you off, but David's been hiding something from us! This whole time! Doesn't that bother you?" Albus said, some of his own anger seeping out once more.

"Do I look like I care?" Rose asked. She sighed. "Look, David's entitled to his secrets. Am I curious? Sure. But does that mean I need to know? No. David has the right to keep from me whatever the damn well he pleases. That doesn't change who he is. He's still the same guy, our friend. I'm confident that he'll tell us when he's ready, whether that be tomorrow or ten years from now. And honestly, Albus, do you really think that dueling him is the way to get information out of him?"

Rose sighed, spared one last glare for Albus, and left down the stairs. Leaving him with only feelings of shame. She was right, of course. Rose was always right. The fight over David's secrets wasn't worth sacrificing their friendship. And Art… poor Art. Albus had barely spared Art a thought. Poor Art hadn't wanted to see his two best friends fighting, and it obviously upset him so much that he blasted the floor using accidental magic. At the time, Albus had just been thinking of him and David. He didn't contemplate how his decisions would affect Art and Rose. Now Art felt terrible for destroying school property, and Rose was stuck with two weeks worth of detention. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right.

Albus pulled the curtains around his bed shut when he heard people entering, so he could feign sleep. He heard David and Art enter, and Marc and Rob. Albus contemplated what to do. Rose didn't want to be friends with him until he made up with everyone else. And after what had just happened, it was clear that Art or David wouldn't want to be friends with him either. With this last, depressing thought, Albus drifted off to a dreamless sleep.

In the morning, Albus’s still felt confused over what he should do. As a result, he left the dormitory for breakfast without bothering to wake up Art or David.

Albus started eating breakfast alone. He never ate breakfast alone. It was extremely early in the morning, so the only other person at the breakfast table was Marc.

"Hello," Albus said, trying to sound cheerful.

"Oh, hello Albus," Marc said, crunching his mouth on some bread. Crumbs lined his face, making him look like a slob. They spent the next few minutes in silence, as they both ate. "Why are you up early?" Marc asked. Albus looked up, slightly startled and alarmed to see Marc staring right at him. Marc was always absorbed in some book, and rarely spoke. Albus hadn't spoke to him much at all since the first night of September. That was a month and a half ago.

"Oh, um I suppose I had a little bit of a fight with my friends yesterday," Albus explained.

"Why?" Marc asked.

"David dueled Scorpius Malfoy, but he refused to tell me why. He's hiding something from me, I think."

"Okay," Marc said, and went back to eating. Albus stared at him for a moment. Just "okay"? Nothing else? How unusual.

He studied Marc for a few more minutes. He seemed so… content. Despite not talking to anyone, he seemed to take pride in his solitude. As someone who had friends and family around him for his entire life, this befuddled Albus.

"Do you normally eat breakfast alone?" Albus asked.

"Yes," Marc replied, looking back at his plate.

"Why?" Albus asked. "You could eat with the rest of us."

Marc looked up at Albus and smiled. "Thank you, Albus, but I'm used to being alone." He sounded more mature than his twelve years. When Albus didn't prompt further, but continued to look at Marc, he sighed and continued. "Back in primary school, I was always the strange one. Here, I am a little less strange, so I'm happy."

"It must have been difficult growing up in the muggle world, being the only wizard," Albus remarked. "I always wondered what it would be like to be muggle-born."

"I can tell you what it's like to grow up in the muggle world. But muggle-born? I'm not sure I can."

Albus frowned. "What do you mean? You've told me numerous times that you're muggle-born."

Marc sighed. "I'm not so sure. I thought I was muggle-born. But I might never know the truth. I was adopted. My parents found me on their steps when I was a baby, and they took me in. I might've had muggle parents or wizard parents."

"You were abandoned?" Albus said, surprised.

"Yes," Marc said. He paused for a moment. "Hold your family close, Albus. You have no idea how lucky you are. And for that matter, hold your friends close as well. Make up with them." With that last statement, having finished his food, Marc got up from the table.

"Thanks Marc," Albus said. "For both the company and the advice." Marc waved him away, as if to say ‘no problem’ and left. Shortly after, Albus got up as well.

He was unsure what to do with himself. The first class of the day was Herbology, and Albus knew that Art spent lots of free time down there. There was the possibility that Art would show up there a while before class started, and Albus wanted to apologize to him first. Art hadn't done anything wrong. He had just been trying to stop his two friends from fighting.

When he opened the door to the greenhouse, Al was surprised to find he wasn’t the first person there. Longbottom was helping Lindsay Jones, the girl who made the speech about the environment at the opening feast, pot some blue-leafed plant.

“Albus!” Professor Longbottom said in surprise. “What are you doing here so early?”

“I was bored,” Albus replied, which was the truth. He was just leaving out some essential parts.

“Have the two of you been introduced?” Longbottom asked, looking between Albus and Lindsay.

“Not formally, but I know who she is,” Albus said.

“Same. You’re Albus Potter, right?” Lindsay said.

“Yes. And you’re Lindsay Jones. I really liked your speech at the opening feast.”

“Really?” Lindsay said, beaming. Albus smiled at her, since her grin was contagious. “So do you like try to protect the environment and stuff too?” Lindsay said.

“Well, I haven’t done anything. I just thought that many of the points you brought up in your speech, like our natural thinking that we don’t affect muggles, were true.” Albus shifted his feet under her intense gaze.

“Oh, yes. My parents are muggles, and they still remember the fear in the years of 1996 to 1998, even though at the time they had no idea what made those years so depressing and chaotic.” Professor Longbottom left the greenhouse briefly, muttering about getting something.

“So you’re muggle-born? Come to think of it, I seem to remember you mentioning that in your speech…”

“Yeah, I am,” Lindsay said, humming to herself as she ruffled the blue leaves of the plant. It squirted something into her eye and she shrieked, dropping the plant. “Oh, come on! Holy cannoli, that hurts!” Albus could hold back a laugh, but not his grin. “And it’s not funny!”

“Holy cannoli?” Albus said, finally letting out his laugh.

“Hey, would you rather I cursed?” Lindsay said. “And cannolis are pretty good.”

“They are,” Albus said in agreement.

“Professor Longbottom, sorry I’m a little later than usual, I had trouble sleeping la-” Art cut short as he spotted Albus. They both stared at each other. Art clearly wasn't expecting to see him here. Lindsay was looking at Al and Art curiously.

"Can I…?” Art motioned towards the door.

"Yes," Albus replied, hearing the unspoken question. Art wanted to talk outside, alone, about everything that had happened yesterday.

Once they were outside the greenhouse. Albus opened his mouth to speak, but Art spoke first.

"Listen, Albus, I know that you feel betrayed by David. I get it. But avoiding him isn't going to work, since we all share the same dormitory and we have all our classes together. You have to make up with him. Please. I’m not going to say you were stupid, because you had every right to be angry. But being friends doesn’t always mean knowing everything about the other person. You can trust David. His actions are not a lie. You are friends, and you’re good ones. He’s just scared, even though he doesn’t admit it. He’s scared that if he tells you his secret, you won’t like him anymore. And your recent reaction hasn’t exactly helped that fear. And he misses you. I know that because he was extremely crabby yesterday and this morning. That means he’s sulking. So please, please just forgive him. We’re all unhappy like this, even Rose." Art was wringing his hands, clearly nervous about this confrontation, and he looked worriedly into Albus's eyes.

Albus responded by hugging his friend. With their arms wrapped around each other, Albus said, "I forgive him. But first, I owe an apology to you. I'm sorry I put you into a position where you had to use accidental magic to break up David and I.”

Art waved the apology away. "That whole crater thing was my own fault. And I already apologized to Rose. Come on, we’re going to be late for class.”

“Right,” Albus whispered, as they let go and he took the invisibility cloak off. They wearily walked back to the Herbology greenhouse, and class began.

Albus was distracted all class, planning what he was going to say to David. He cut himself with the shears by mistake as he was pruning the shrivelfig. It was a very long class, and he couldn’t concentrate. He was thinking about everything that Rose, Marc, and Art had told him over the past day. He knew what he had to do. Finally, after class, he was able to pull David aside outside the greenhouse. Everyone else quickly left, leaving the two of them alone.

David took a deep breath. “Look, Albus. I’m sorry, I should have told you about me, I should have told you from the day I met you. I-“

“-No.” Albus interrupted. “No, David, don’t tell me. Look, I-I realized today that honestly, it doesn’t really matter what your secrets are to me. You’re my friend, and that trust between the two of us are all I need. I’d feel honored if you’d tell me, but… you don’t need to. And I shouldn’t have made you. I know that you were going to tell me just to get us to be friends again. You shouldn’t have to. You should tell me on your own time, when you genuinely want to. And that certainly is not today.” Albus looked into his friends’s eyes, and found surprise staring right back at him.

“I-yeah-okay, I suppose,” David stammered out, still looking bewildered. “I-I’m sorry for dueling you yesterday.”

Albus gave his friend a small smile. “I’m the one who started it.”

David smiled back. “I’m sorry anyway.”

“I’m sorry too.” Albus and David walked back up to the castle together, each with a small bounce in their step. They were friends again, and their bond was stronger than ever before.

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