A/N: Hoo boy. Brotherhood won an Honourable Mention in the 2008 MEFA's (Middle Earth Fanfiction Awards), which is pretty much awesome. Of course, I wrote a quick celebratory piece for the Harry Potter fandom, because I make sense like that. :)
This piece is one of the simplest I've ever written. Hope you enjoy anyhow!
Harry Potter was very good under stress. He had, after all, escaped from an abandoned graveyard surrounded by a good number of Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort to boot; at the tender age of eleven had miraculously obtained the Philosopher's Stone from underneath two very talented wizards' noses; and of course, finally defeated Voldemort with a charm so inconceivably simple, it made history. In fact, you could very well say that Harry Potter was one of the people who best worked under stress.
The few nerve-wracking, hurried, final few minutes before leaving the house for King's Cross, however, was an entirely different matter.
"Harry!" Ginny hollered.
He ran down, taking the steps two at a time, cursing as he tripped over a spellbook lying on the floor. He picked it up and continued on, to find Ginny rummaging in a trunk, her vivid red hair disheveled and standing on end.
"Oh, good, you found James' A History of Magic," she said, the look drawn on her face distinctly harried. She snatched it from him and firmly planted it into the mess of belongings that proclaimed themselves to be his eldest son's. Albus was meticulous with his possessions—Lily, only nine years old, hadn't bought a trunk yet.
"Mu-um!" bellowed a voice from outside. "We're going to be late!"
"You'd better come and make sure you've got all your things, then!" Ginny instantly retorted, matching her son's tone of voice. "And help me load these trunks into the car! Harry"—she shot a pleading look at her husband even as she spun on the spot and snatched up a lone sock from the floor—"call Albus, I think he's in his room, we really are going to be late. James!" she yelled again, "if I have to call you one more time"—
Harry didn't wait for her to finish her sentence, taking the steps two at a time once more. He stopped at the very last room, his hand raised to hammer on the pale, wooden door, when he heard Albus' voice and halted. Who could Albus possibly be talking to at this time?
Guiltily, furtively, feeling like the thirteen year old he had once been, listening to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley shouting in the Leaky Cauldron, he glanced around and then leaned in to listen.
"… and I know James thinks it's nothing, but I'm scared."
It took Harry a few moments for the murmuring muffled by the door to become intelligible, but when he could finally understand the words, he noticed that Albus sounded as though he had a head cold.
"If I'm actually… if it really… I really don't know what I'd do."
Who on earth was the boy talking to? Lily? Harry hadn't seen her downstairs and concluded it must be her, leaning even closer to distinguish the words.
"I'm so scared," Albus continued, in a quieter voice, and Harry heard Lily give a sympathetic snuffle. "Snape was in Slytherin and I've got his name. What if it rubbed off on me?"
Harry suddenly felt guilt rush through him. Of course it was difficult for Albus, saddled with two such weighty names—but he had to understand everything those two great men had sacrificed, and why he was named for them. Harry was interrupted in resolving to talk to Albus about it by a sudden flood of words.
"What if they don't like me there? What if they expect me to be really good and everything because Harry Potter's my dad, and it turns out I'm not? Or what if people only make friends with me 'cause of the same reason? And what if I fail all my classes? And… and what if people expect me to be a Seeker, too, 'cause I look so much like Dad? I'm really bad at Quidditch, you know that."
Lily, apparently, could think of no words of comfort and simply sat with him in sympathetic silence.
Harry was extremely tempted to barge into the room at that point and soothe each and every one of Albus' insecurities, but he restrained himself as the childish, quiet voice floated through the wood of the door once more.
"I'm sorry. I know it's the last time we'll be seeing each other for a while, and I really hate to be so gloomy and all. It's just that I'm really scared." Albus hesitated, then added, "I'll miss you, you know that."
Lily didn't answer, perhaps deigning to bestow a comforting hug instead—
"Dad? Why are you sitting outside Albus' room?"
Harry spun comically on his backside, confronted—astonishingly—with Lily, her brown eyes twinklingly questioning.
"Lily?" Harry was hopelessly confused. "What—but I thought you—I thought you were—"
Raising a lofty eyebrow at her amusing father, the little girl said, "Mum told me to call you and Albus, we're leaving." With a lenient shake of the head, she beckoned to a bemused Harry and skipped down the steps, her red curls bouncing.
Harry turned back to the door. If it hadn't been Lily in there, then who…?
He knocked, then turned the handle quietly. "Albus?"
He almost laughed when he saw Albus' companion. Of course—
"We're going, Al," Harry said gently. "Your mum's just about ready to kill us for taking so long. Say goodbye, now."
Albus, who had looked up in some surprise at the entrance of his father, surreptitiously scrubbed at his shining green eyes and said, thickly, "Bye, Padfoot."
The black dog wagged its tail and barked a farewell. Harry smiled.