From the window of Gryffindor tower a small black haired boy with knobby knees was just barely discernable as he ambled across the Hogwarts grounds toward the lake. It was a gray, cloudy winter day and most of the students had been driven inside to the warmth and comfort of their common room fires. For Albus Potter however, the angry wind and bitter cold was welcome and refreshing.
He shuffled slowly to the large beech tree by the lake and sat down, gazing unfocused into the rough, storm tossed water, ignoring the large stone monument striking up from the ground obtrusively beside him.
This spot under the tree was a favorite of his and he laid claim to it whenever he found it unoccupied. He liked to sit in the shade of its leaves on warm, sunny days and let his mind wander. Sometimes he thought about the countless students over the last thousand years who had called this castle home. He thought about all the scenes of happiness that had taken place beside this lake and all the scenes of sorrow. Sometimes he closed his eyes and imagined he could feel the emotions of students past. It was impossible, he thought, that a place with so much history, a place that had been witness to so much life, hadn't at least retained some of the energy for which it had been the setting.
The past was something Albus found followed him. It seemed that so much of who he was was connected to a history that he hadn't experienced. It was a part of him, but he had never really been a part of it. It was just some vague other time, as intangible to him as stories of the founding of Hogwarts, or the Goblin Rebellions.
Through the fog of the early morning air, Al could just make out the white marble tomb of his namesake across the lake: Albus Dumbledore.
He had been an incredible man—powerful, kind beyond comparison, full of love for life and or all things living, or so Al had been told. How could he really know? The man had been dead for nearly a decade before Al was born and stories--unreliable second or third hand accounts, likely skewed by fondness, respect for the dead, and the befuddling of intervening years—stories were all Al knew or would ever know of the man for whom he had been named.
Albus Severus Potter. Three names; each carrying with them a history, a heroic past, and a standard to which he knew he could never aspire.
He hadn't known during his childhood, not really anyway. His father kept for the most part out of the public eye. Of course Albus had heard many of the stories growing up—mostly from Uncle Ron when he had drank a bit too much Firewhiskey, but the scope of it had never really dawned on him. Not until he went to Hogwarts anyway.
He had been greeted on the train that unassuming autumn morning by stares and whispers for which he couldn't account. The morning had merely set the stage for what he would experience in the years that followed.
"That hair! Those eyes! Just like his father!" They would all exclaim. Those who knew his father, or had ever been in a room with him, or liked to pretend they had, would tell him over and over again how just like his father he was…In looks anyway.
His father: the famous Harry Potter. Sometimes Al felt as though there were two separate men who bore that name: The kind, gentle man who had raised him and the larger than life hero that the entire Wizarding world nearly worshipped. Everyone knew his name. His father could hardly leave the house without being accosted by grateful well-wishers and swooning women. There were posters, biographies, statues, and even a museum for Merlin's sake! How could the man that taught Al Quidditch, that read him bedtime stories, that sat up with him all night when he was sick and comforted him when he was frightened, how could that man be not only Al's hero, but everyone else's as well?
Al remembered the first time he had stumbled across the Hogwarts trophy room. He had just been looking for a place to get away, to be alone for a while, and had opened a door into a room that would forever change him.
His father's name jumped out at him from every shelf, from every wall. There was an award for special services to the school from his dad's second year. There was a Triwizard cup. Al shuddered when he looked at it, knowing from stories how inappropriate it was that the school had kept it. There was his dad grinning out at him from Quidditch photos. He had been seeker, sitting in the front center of the photographs. He had played in his first year, the only student to do so in over a century, and had later been captain and won the cup as well. He had almost never failed to catch the snitch.
There was a photo of his father battling a Hungarian Horntail; of him posing with Aunt Fleur, the famous Viktor Krum, and another boy Al assumed was Cedric Diggory. There he was hugging his teammates after winning the Quidditch cup; and there again, and again. There was a trophy case memorializing a group called the DA. His father had founded the rogue group right under the nose of the Ministry and had, judging by the stories Al had pieced together over the years, trained them and led them into battle against Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
But the fame of the Potter name didn't end there. His grandfather had been Quidditch captain and Head boy; his grandmother had been head girl. His mother had been Quidditch captain in her final year as well. She had even gone on to play professional Quidditch. There was Uncle Ron being hoisted in the air by his teammates after winning a game of Quidditch. Uncle Bill and Uncle Percy had been Head Boys; Uncle Charlie Quidditch captain.
There was even a small patch of swamp in the third floor corridor that had been dedicated to two of his Uncles and about which Al only believed half of the stories. "Pulling a Weasley" was a common expression in the school and Al had no idea why. Whenever he asked his parents about it, they just laughed and said they didn't want to give him ideas.
His parents, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles had all made their marks on the school, there was no doubt about it. Even before the war they had all been a class of people that couldn't be rivaled.
And here he was, the product of generations of remarkable people, he himself entirely unremarkable. The only exceptional thing he had ever done was look like his famous father.
Everyone expected so much from him, not because of who he was, but because of who has parents had been. Because of those who came before.
Against his will, Al's eyes slid from the lake to the large stone memorial beside him. The statue was of four young students, one from each of the Hogwarts houses. Etched around the base were the words, "something worth fighting for," beneath which all of the names were carved of those who had fallen in each of the wars.
Al ran his fingers lightly over the cold hard stone, tracing the names that had been etched in his mind the way they had been etched in the stone. It was entirely meaningless.
He traced the names of the people who would have been his family, but were now nothing more than vague ideas; characters in stories.
There were the Lupins, Teddy's parents. There was Fred Weasley, Uncle George's twin. There were his grandparents, Sirius Black, his father's godfather, Alastor Moody the half mad Auror, Severus Snape and so man others he would never meet.
He supposed he should feel some emotion, some connection to these people who had supposedly left such a mark on the world, but he didn't. They were a part of his father's past, not his.
So many names. Each one of them representing a person who had given his or her life for a cause Al could hardly imagine. Each of them representing a person who had believed in something, fought for it, and died a hero. Each of them representing a standard Al was expected to live up to.
But Al had no war to fight, no evil to keep at bay. There was no room for heroes in this new, peaceful world his father had helped create. Al was just a kid—just a normal fifteen year old kid with nothing but O.W.L.s and girls to worry about. He supposed that was what his parents he fought for, and what the memorial full of intangible names stood for, but how could he ever live up to the deeds of the heroes who came before him without a battle of his own to fight?
And could he?
The voice came unbidden into his mind whenever his thoughts strayed down this path. If he had been born in a different time, if he had been given a battle to fight, if he had been forced to face the countless terrors and trials his father overcame, would he stand and fight? Did he have it in him, like his father had, and his grandfather, to look death in the eye, wand raised, and fight?
Or would he shy away and flee back into the comfort and safety of his parents and his home? Would he, could he ever possibly live up to the standards of those who came before?
"Al, it's freezing out here. What are you doing?"
Al turned his face to see the heavily cloaked form of his younger sister approaching him, shivering despite the red and gold scarf she wore wrapped around her neck.
Al didn't answer but turned back toward the memorial. Lily joined him, sitting beside him and gazing at the smooth stone.
"It's odd, isn't it?" she said after a moment. "This is supposed to represent life, but it's nothing more than a dead, cold bit of rock."
Albus said nothing. He could feel Lily's gaze on him. She was younger than him but he sometimes felt like she was much older. She had a way of knowing what he was thinking and she seemed to always know if something was bothering him. She knew he would speak eventually.
After a long pause, he finally did. "Do you ever feel like it's too much to live up to? Like we can never be as great as they were?"
"Sometimes, I suppose," she said quietly. "But then, I don't think anyone really expects us to."
"Maybe not you," he answered trying to keep the resentment out of his voice, "but you're not a carbon copy of the famous Harry Potter. Everyone thinks that just because I look like Dad, I'm just like him."
"You're a lot more like him than you think, Al," Lily answered somewhat sternly. Al just snorted.
"You are. What about in your second year when you defended Rose from those awful seventh year boys?"
"Yeah, and ended up in the hospital wing for a week."
"That's not the point, Al. You stood up for her."
"Well, I had to. She's my family. And those boys were using awful curses. She could have been seriously hurt."
"And why do you think Dad did the things he did?"
"Dad wasn't just protecting his cousin from a couple of older kids. He saved the whole Wizarding world from the most evil Dark wizard who ever lived."
"Dad saw that the people he loved were in danger and he did everything he could to help them. He put himself in danger to keep them safe. It sounds to me like the exact same thing."
Al hesitated before speaking. "But I was scared, Lil," he said quietly. "I didn't want to do it. I wanted to just walk away, but I knew I'd never forgive myself if I did. I'm sure Dad was never scared like that."
"Have you ever asked him?" Lily asked quietly.
"No, Lil, but you've heard the stories too. You know how brave Dad was."
"I don't think bravery means you're never scared. I think bravery means doing something even though it scares you."
"Maybe," Al answered, "but that doesn't matter. I'm not like him, Lily. I never could do what he's done."
"Hopefully you'll never have to do what he's done, Al, but I know you could if you had to. I see Dad in you. Not just your hair, and your eyes, but your heart. You both have a way of making everyone around you feel loved. You both make us all feel as though you'd do anything for us."
Al's eyes slid again to the stone memorial beside him. A witch at the Three Broomsticks had once told him that hundreds of people had died for his father. She had meant it as a compliment, and at the time, Al had taken it as just another thing to admire. But now, as he looked at all of the carved names, it suddenly became real to him in a way he had never understood. All of these people, every one of them, had been people who loved, and were loved in return. They had all meant something to someone and had sacrificed everything they had for that love. His father had been willing to sacrifice himself, but so had everyone who fought. Al came from a line of heroes, but he wasn't the only one. His entire generation was the first born to a class of people who had faced the unthinkable and had done so without complaint. In the end, it really wasn't about Quidditch prowess or magical power, it was about love. It was about doing anything you could to protect those you loved, and knowing they would do the same for you.
Al stood up suddenly. "You coming?" he asked his sister, and she stood, joining him. As they walked together toward the old stone castle, Al felt a bursting sense of pride rise up in him—pride for where he came from, and pride for those who came before.