When Albus came downstairs on a late Sunday afternoon in the middle of July, he certainly had not expected to walk into the kitchen and find the cupboard doors under the sink wide open, a pair of legs protruding from them and the sound of muttered profanities.
He put his hands in his pockets and quirked a black eyebrow. "Dad? What're you doing?"
Sliding out from under the kitchen sink with a groan, Harry Potter looked up at his sixteen year old son and smiled. "Al! Hey mate. Oh, this? Yeah, just uh… fixing the leak, you know."
"You're trying to fix the sink? Manually?"
"Why not?' Harry smiled laid back down. 'I'm quite capable of fixing my own bloody sink without any magic."
Albus tried very hard not to laugh. "Sure, Dad. Whatever you say."
Harry quirked an eyebrow. "Did you come down here just to make wisecracks? Have you forgotten who is in charge of your pocket money?"
"Actually… I came down here to talk, but you're busy so I'll just…"
"No, don't be daft. Talk away!"
It wasn't exactly the scenario he had pictured, but Albus shrugged, sat down up on the bench and leant his elbows on his knees. He said nothing for a moment, listening with bemusement at the sound of metal clicking against metal, watching his father's torso twist, his feet tapping on the floor in frustration.
"So,' Harry's voice rang, 'what's on your mind?"
"Well… it's about NEWT's."
"Crikey. Bit early to be thinking about that, isn't it? You only just got your OWL's back last week."
"Yeah, I know. But better to be thinking about them now though, isn't it, rather than later?"
Harry groaned and shifted against the floor. "That's a mature look on it. So what about NEWT's? You don't know what subjects to choose?"
Albus ran his hands through his hair. "No, and I feel like there's this time bomb about to go off if I don't hurry up and decide. It's driving me insane."
"What's the rush? You only just finished exams, and hard exams at that. Your brain must be like some sort of moldy custard about now, am I right? You should be spending the next few months relaxing, recharging, not worrying about exams two years away."
"I tried! But it's like it's embedded in my custard-filled head permanently. It's all McGonagall's fault."
"How's that then?"
"Keeps going on about "how these subjects affect our future" and "you need to have a sense of direction" and "Mr. Potter, stop making parchment muggle flying contraptions in my class", doesn't she? It's any wonder any of us has any shred of self-esteem left."
Harry laughed, the tapping of metal keeping in time. "She can do your head in a bit. I think the trick is to close your eyes and imagine a happy place."
Albus scowled. "Dad, if I wanted to be laughed at I could have gone to Uncle Ron."
"I'm not laughing at you. I just haven't seen you this stressed since your first day of school, is all. Even during OWL's you were unnaturally fine."
"OWL's aren't as important."
"Don't let Hermione hear you say that. But, all right then…'
With another loud groan, Harry sat up from under the sink again and arched his back, stretching. Everyone always commented on how much the two looked alike; the same nose, the same hair down to the most out-of-place black strand, the same coloured eyes, the same facial features… only Albus didn't wear glasses, for which he would be forever grateful. He thought himself enough of a twat already without the addition glasses to only add to the dweeb façade. Not that he thought his Dad was a dweeb. Well, maybe he did sometimes, when Quidditch came on the wireless and he'd sit there in nothing but a Holyhead Harpies jersey and his boxer shorts and shout at the radio as if they could actually hear him, but what kid didn't think that about their parents really?
"What I think you need to do,' said Harry, dusting his hands together, 'is think about what you enjoy doing most; at school and at home."
"Well that's easy – sleeping."
"Something you can make a career out of, you silly twonk of a child. Think about what you're good at at school. What's your favorite subject?"
Albus thought for a moment, and then blushed.
Harry smiled. "It's okay to like Potions, you know."
"No it's bloody well not.' He grumbled. 'Do you know any cool people who could brew the Draught of the Living Dead when they were only twelve years old?"
"She doesn't count. She's some sort of freakish brainiac time traveling hybrid from the year four thousand and twenty seven."
Harry smiled. "Albus, some people are geniuses at chess or flying or charms or singing or baking or making hats – you're a genius at Potions. Don't ever be ashamed of that. It only takes one kid bent over
a steaming cauldron to change the world. Teddy's Dad, rest his soul, would have had a bugger of a life if it weren't for the Wolfsbane Potion. Without Skele-Gro I would still be without the use of my right arm, and your brother would be walking around with one good leg and one made out of jelly."
Albus tried not to laugh at the image.
"The point is that if you want to be a Potions master then go for it. And to hell what anyone else thinks. You've got the talent, that's for damn sure. I wish I was even a quarter as good as you at your age – certainly would have made school life easier."
"Oh… all right, yeah, I'll admit it – I like Potions. I reckon it's wicked. And I'm good at it, I suppose…"
"… but I don't know if I'd want to do it for the rest of my life. This is my problem. I mean, sure, I can choose to do that now, but what if in ten years I end up hating it and I want to change careers but I can't do anything else because I chose the wrong subjects when I was sixteen and now I'm stuck in this job forever and I can't get out and…"
"Whoa, son, calm down!' laughed Harry, getting to his feet.
Normally he wasn't one to get so panicked and carried away, but this was something he couldn't stop thinking about, and obsessively at that. As he tried to calm down, he felt his father squeeze his shoulder. He clenched his jaw, but his shoulders softened and his breathing eased.
He looked at Harry. "How did you know you wanted to be an Auror?"
Harry folded his arms over his chest and leant against the bench, his arm just touching Albus's. He exhaled slowly through his nose. "I was only ever really any good at two things… Quidditch and fighting evil. And even though I love Quidditch, it still didn't seem to be the right thing for me. Sometimes I think you just know what you're supposed to do with your life, and being an Auror was what was I was meant for. Besides,' he added with a smile, 'being the best Quidditch player in the world would have taken the limelight away from your beautiful and very talented mother."
"But you didn't have to do NEWT's to get into the Auror program."
"No, I missed that year."
Harry's eyes narrowed. "Don't you ever say that again."
Albus flinched, realizing what he had said. He couldn't think of anything to say to even begin to make up for it, so he simply nodded, silently promising to do as his father requested.
The tense moment was broken by someone running down the stairs and entering the kitchen with a happy, high-pitched sigh.
"Please tell me there's chocolate cake left."
Harry's eyes lingered on Albus for only a moment before he blinked and the haunted look that only Albus's mother could soothe was gone. "In the fridge."
Lily grinned and rushed past, playfully punching Albus in the arm en route. Albus half grunted, half laughed as Harry crawled back under the sink. He watched his sister as she opened the fridge and pulled out the plate she was looking for, her long red hair again falling over her face. The only thing about Lily that resembled Harry was the fact that they were both visually impaired, but where Harry wore round frames, Lily wore square, horn-rimmed. Albus remembered when they were younger, when they first discovered she'd need glasses, and her saying it was bad enough she had to wear them, let alone going through the shame of wearing round frames like some sort of nineteenth century jungle explorer. James and Albus had enjoyed teasing her about it for months.
"Hey, Lils?' he asked, feeling curious. 'Do you know what you want to do once you've finished school?"
Lily snorted. "Duh!"
Albus threw his hands up in the hair. "Well, that's just peachy, isn't it? Even my fourteen year old little berk of a sister knows!"
"I'm not a berk.' Lily stuck her fork into the massive slice of chocolate cake she had retrieved from the fridge and took a large bite. 'Sh'not mry fawt rue haff the direshion of a redarded boowfrog."
"I am not…"
"Oi!' Harry sat up and gave them both a frown. 'Don't start. Lily, this isn't something to be making jokes over."
"Go on then,' said Albus irritably, 'what's your career of choice?"
Lily smiled and waved her fork around daintily. "I'm going to be a Restoration Expert."
Albus frowned. "A what?"
She sighed and looked at him as if he's just dribbled down his front. "A Restoration Expert. Like with antiques and stuff. You get old paintings and statues and fix them up and make them look like less of a shambles."
"Makes sense.' said Harry. 'You're a whiz at Transfiguration."
Lily smirked and flipped her hair over her shoulder. "I know."
"And that's what you wanna do for the rest of your life, is it?' asked Albus. 'Just go around fixing up old things? Aren't antiques meant to be old and rusty and faded anyway? Isn't that the whole point of them? If they looked new they wouldn't be "antique", they'd be "modern"."
"It's one option.' Lily growled. 'Maybe an architect, or even an interior designer. I don't know, just something to do with art."
Albus frowned, put-out by his sisters sense of direction and embarrassed by a lack of his own. She was only fourteen for Merlin's sake! He'd made a mental note to write to Hugo and see if he possessed the same direction and drive. Probably, he thought irritably. Hugo always knew what he was going to do. Nothing she'd said really surprised him though, now that he thought about it. She was very good at art. She had notebooks filled with sketches, her parchment at school always had little doodles in the corner; even her bag had drawings on them. She was very talented, and Albus wished he could think of what to do so easily.
Lily held out a large piece of cake skewered on the end of her fork to Albus, and his opened his mouth and let her feed it to him. "Where's Jamie?"
"At work.' called Harry.
"He's bringing' home some more of that Wonder Witch stuff for you, he said." Albus added, wiping crumbs from the corner of his mouth.
"Is George still selling that stuff?' asked Harry.
Albus shrugged. "It's one of their best sellers."
"Oh, thank Merlin for that! I have a date this weekend…'
"OW! Bollocks… bloody hell… what did you just say, young lady!"
"… and I don't want to show up looking like someone threw a pizza at my face.' Lily finished, rolling her eyes at Harry, who was sitting up again, shaking his sore hand and looking at her with horror. 'Dad, don't be silly, I told you this last week, then two days ago, not to mention last night at dinner…"
"Oh… right. Right. So, er… who is he again?"
Albus let out a girly sigh. "Oh, Nigel!"
Lily threw cake at him. "Shut it, Al!"
"Both of you shut it.' smiled Harry. 'Lily, can you go to your room please?"
"Cause I'm going on a date? Dad that's so unfair!"
"No, because I happen to be talking to your brother right now about something important and private."
"Oh.' Lily grinned. 'Albus I thought James told you all about those dreams you were having…"
Albus flushed deep red. "It's not that sort of conversation, you nitwit!"
Lily laughed, hurriedly ate another bit of cake, then shoved it into her brother's hands with a pat on the back. "Trust me, chocolate fixes everything."
And in a whirl of red hair, she left.
Albus sighed and had another bite of cake, chewing moodily. "I hate her and her stupid life direction. Why am I the deformed reject of this family?"
Harry chuckled, got to his feet and broke off a piece of Albus's cake. "You're not the reject; you're just indecisive – very common for your age."
"Rose knows.' said Albus airly.
"Rosie is her mother's daughter."
"She knows exactly what she wants to do. James is working at Uncle George's shop now and I doubt he's ever going to leave there. Lily knows, I bet Hugo knows and even stupid Malfoy knows! Everybody knows exactly what they want. Everyone… except me."
"Like I said, just think about what you enjoy. Now I know you grumble about Potions but I also know that you love it. You like making things, creating out of nothing. I've seen you in the kitchen with your Grandma too."
Albus grimaced. "Are you about to tell me I should be some sort of chef? Dad, just because I like cooking doesn't mean I want a job at The Leaky Cauldron or something."
"Nothing wrong with The Leaky Cauldron. Neville's wife Hanna works there, you know."
"So I'm gonna be a barman with Neville's wife?"
Harry fixed Albus with another look. "Albus…"
"Yeah, I know, I'm sorry. There's just so many options."
"And that's a good thing.' Harry considered him for a moment. 'What about music?"
"What about it?"
"Why don't you be a musician?"
Albus looked up from his shoes. "You think I'm that good?"
"I can say with all honesty that I haven't heard anyone play guitar quite as well as you."
"Yeah, but to make a career out of it?"
"Why not? I think it'd be rather cool to have someone famous in the family."
Albus laughed. He hadn't considered this. He certainly loved guitar, that was for sure. He'd been playing for nearly eight years now. Ever since the day he'd gone into London with his mother and walked past that busker on the street playing with such precision, making such amazing sounds, he'd been hooked. He'd demanded lessons immediately, and had continued to do so for a further three months until his parent's had finally given in. For his seventh birthday he had received a shiny new acoustic guitar, and he had no more treasured possession. He loved playing. He loved making music. He loved the feet of the strings beneath his fingertips, the cool wood of the neck wrapped in the palm of his hand. It was one of the few things he knew he was actually good at. Could he see himself playing it for the rest of his life?
He smiled. "So I should be a Potions Master by day, holed up in some dungeons concocting a cure to acne of the receding hairline or big ears, go home afterward and cook up a storm then head down to the pub and play a few gigs at night?"
Harry laughed. "Sounds good to me! How about you?"
"Yeah. It sounds pretty fantastic, to be honest."
"So do it. And if you get sick of it, do something else. NEWT's aren't some sort of contract that locks you into one job for the rest of your life. You can be anything you want to be, Albus."
Albus smiled. "Thanks, Dad.' He looked at the sink then back at his father. 'Do you want me to be a Plumber for you now?"
"Ah, you're a good boy! Here, see what you can make of it. I've been under there for two hours and I don't have a clue!"
A/N – I'm really into drabbles at the moment, and even more than that I'm really into Next Gen! They're just so fascinating. I hope you like this. I try and keep it as canon as I can, but we really don't have much to go on!