Author's Note: Wait. Didn't I swear off chaptered fics forever? Well, depending on how I feel, this will be either two or three, but no more than that. It's not all that big a story. Written originally for the Hogwarts Online forum's Prompt-of-the-day. For 18th April, that prompt was "Help". So, enjoy:

The Mercury Chronicles: Help

October, 2022

One would think that by sixth year the allure of these bloody Hogsmeade trips would have calmed somewhat. Alas, as they are the sole social event on the Hogwarts student's itinerary, for many, it is the highlight of their year. For Rose, Scorpius and I, however, they were obligations. Teen Witch Weekly needed their photos, we needed our publicity, etcetera, ad nauseum. So we went, pretended we were normal school-wizards having a lark about town, then got back to the Castle for revision and a few games of Drunken Snap before bed. For the others, though, Hogsmeade Weekends were a time for great social to-dos. Relationships started and ended around these trips. One's social standing could fall or rise greatly (assuming, of course, that one cared about such things). And if one were to accompany, say, the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain, one's status could be raised significantly.

Gryffindors are, by their very nature, rank amateurs at social climbing. Not as bad as Hufflepuffs, mind, but 'Puffs are far too communally minded to bother with such things. Gryffs, though, want to make a splash wherever they go. And Gryffindor witches make that splash in marrying well. So, to see a dashing seventh-year Quidditch captain wander completely unencumbered by female companionship this close to a Hogsmeade weekend turned several dozen Gryffindor (along with two Slytherin and perhaps one Ravenclaw) witches into contestants in the "Date James Potter" sweepstakes. Needless to say, for Rose, Scorpius and I, our October amusement quotient was reached early.

It started innocently enough. There were flowers sent to him via Owl post. First one bunch, which James seemed to enjoy, then five the next day (which he didn't enjoy at all), then thirty the day after that, which had Uncle Neville set up Mail Call in his quarters, rather than allowing James's suitors to disrupt the midday meal for his entire house. The following week started with sixth and seventh year (and, rather unfortunately, a couple of fourth and fifth year) students beginning to alter their uniforms. That only lasted a day or two before their own senses of decorum won out (Gryffindors, decorum – who knew?), and one could walk the halls without having to force oneself to stare at other students' foreheads. There were a couple more lavish displays (no doubt encouraged by Uncle George's thriving owl-post order business), but these were soundly ridiculed by most. James, bless what passes for a heart with him, sat through most of these displays quiet and red-faced, and even had the stones to thank the poor dears who put their dignity on the line for a chance at going to Hogsmeade with him. At one point I remarked to Scorpius that the next thing we were going to see was a love potion. Apparently, that's what James thought, too, because it was on the 17th that I received a note from him via lunchtime Owl.

"Albus, I know we've had our differences, but I'm really in a bit of a pickle here. If you could meet me tomorrow evening at 8 at the bottom of the Gryffindor staircase, I'd appreciate it. -James."

"Well, we're coming too, aren't we, love?" asked Scorpius, already knowing the answer.

"Of course. The poor dear's really stepped into it with this whole Hogsmeade thing. He'll need all our help to find his way out of it, won't he?" Rose answered for me. I just smiled. James had never come to me like this before. He'd always been the one to know things, to do things right. I was probably a little jealous, to be honest. I had style, grace, and I knew how to get around society. But James had a savoir faire that I never had.

My first instinct, of course, was to take him down a peg. If he wanted help, by Merlin, he was going to have to beg for it. My more charitable side reminded me that we were brothers, after all, and I was rather duty-bound to help him – at least if he were in real trouble. Which he was. So I told Rose and Scorpius that we were there just to collect facts, that we would decide exactly what (if anything) we could or would do to help afterwards. I asked Scorpius to hold Flitwick's classroom for us, to make sure no canoodling students found their way in there. Then Rose and I walked bravely where neither of us had ever walked before – Gryffindor Tower.

James was there promptly, which was good, because although there had been détente between Gryffindor and Everyone Else for a good couple of years, we weren't quite welcome enough in the Lions' den to spend any time there alone. James whipped out Dad's invisibility cloak from his schoolbag, bringing howls of laughter from Rose and I.

"Oh for fucks' sake, James," I snarked, "are we going off to see if Scorpius is the heir to the Heir of Slytherin while we're at it?" James sheepishly put the cloak back into his bag.

"You don't have to be such a prat about it, Al. I just – "

"Right. Never mind what you thought, James. You're on our turf, now. You need a way out from under these adoring fans of yours? You've come to the right people, let's go."

After a moment or two of mild protest, James followed Rose and me to the Charms classroom, where Scorpius was waiting. Rose closed the door behind us, set three different wards and privacy charms, and the game was afoot.

"All right, James," I began. "Anyone with eyes knows all about your problems with those seeking your affections. But I don't think you'd have asked us for help just for that, would you? No, there's something bigger going on here, else you wouldn't have come to Snark Lord Potter and his minions, would you?"

"Al, come on. That was years ago. Anyway, you're right. I'm in a spot of bother here, and reckoned as you three know social structure better than anyone really ought to, you'd be able to help. You see, I'm already sort of seeing someone, and I have to let these girls down without damaging my reputation."

Rose squealed, rather predictably. Scorpius and I rolled our eyes in abject disgust of her girlish display.

"Ooh, who is it?" she asked. "Let's see – who hasn't sent you any pressies? No, not her, taken, no, she has, no… James, are you seeing a fourth-year or younger?"

"Good lord no, Rosie- er, Rose. No. It's just- "

"Oh, an Old Girl, then. Let's see, you were awfully tight with Noonington, weren't you? Oh, no, I think she prefers the fairer sex, actually. Perhaps –"

James made a couple of wand gestures in the direction of the door, silencing Rose's train of thought.

"Solid wards," James remarked. Rose smiled and nodded her head. "It's Brown, actually. Jack Brown, our Seeker."

Well now. This was certainly a shock. But the three of us were old pros, even back then, so we just let this bombshell roll over us.

"Mum and Dad don't have a clue, do they?" I asked. "Suppose I don't even have to ask about Gran and Gramps, right?"

"No, none of them," James answered. "Not even Freddy and Roxie. I thought about talking to Aunt Audrey over the summer hols, but, well, you know…"

"Uncle Percy." Rose and I chorused. James chuckled.

"Right in one. I probably could have talked to Vicky, but it's always been more socially acceptable to be Lesbian, hasn't it? So I guess if I had to come out to family members, it ought to be the fashion mavens, what?"

It was a significant act of fraternal charity not to call James on his indelicate use of stereotypes. But my brother's uncharacteristic vulnerability put me in a charitable mood.

"Right, then. James, I think we've got an idea of what's going on. I need you and Brown to meet us here at 8pm tomorrow. Between now and then, think of how you'd like this to go – what you'd like to see happen. Make sure that Jack is on board, else it'll all go tits up, which we now know you wouldn't appreciate." James shot me a rather rude, if not entirely un-deserved hand gesture, which I ignored. "And James?" I continued. "Whatever you do, don't go to Lils with this. It'll be all over school by the time you get to bed and all over Britain by morning. Once we decide what we're going to do, we'll talk with Lily, Hugo and Uncle Percy's girls first."

James was silent and pensive, but he seemed to understand. I walked over to the desk he was sitting on, gave him a big hug and a kiss on his forehead, and told him it was all going to be just fine – he was in the best of hands. He wiped his eyes dry (allergies, we reckoned), and tried to tell me he was sorry for having been such a bastard growing up. I told him to save it, and to let us have our moment, which he did, and then he walked out of the classroom, assumedly towards Gryffindor Tower.

Not three seconds after the door closed behind him did Rose and Scorpius fall into hysterics.

"Oh, Albus," Rose gasped, putting the back of her hand on her forehead "tell me it's all going to be okay!"

"Oh, it will, my dear James," Scorpius said in a dramatically deep voice. "It will."

"Fuck off, both of you." I grumbled, tossing them the same rude hand gesture James had shown me earlier. "He's my brother, all right? I have to do this." Scorpius snickered, which put Rose into hysterics.

"Albus, that's – that's positively Gryffindor of you. Is that your father's 'Saving People Thing' finally showing up in you?" Scorpius remarked, in between laughs. Rose sobered up for a moment.

"Actually, Scorpius, isn't that more Hufflepuff loyalty?" Rose affected a grave demeanour. "Remember Albus Potter. Remember, if the time should come when you find out you have a gay brother, remember there was a boy who was – "

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Rose. The Diggory speech?" I whinged.

"Yes, really, Rose? I don't think Albus has the cheekbones at all to pull off Diggory. No, I think it's more Gryffindor saving-people behaviour. And Albus? We really are going to have to get you laid again, old boy. I think 'fuck' has become your new favourite word."

I allowed as how he was right, and we set down to business. Obviously, no matter how we did things, we were going to have to work through Madam Norma. We thought about getting James a beard, and listed a couple of potential candidates for that job, settling on Verity's niece, Martha. On the other hand, if James and Brown wanted to go public, we settled on a couple of outfits that would work for them, and an itinerary that would say "cute couple" without making the less enlightened feel uncomfortable. We thought about how to tell the family – seeing as there were so bloody many of us. Obviously a big announcement at Weasley Sunday Dinner would be tacky, so we thought it would be best to tell Mum and Dad, have them tell Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione, and so on. Once Grandmum got wind of it, of course, it would make the rounds more quickly than if we gave the Prophet an exclusive. Lily certainly didn't get her propensity for gossip from a stick nor a stone.

The following day, James showed up precisely at 8 with Jack Brown; a sensible enough looking fellow (for a Gryff, I suppose), dressed appropriately preppy as one's Modern Day Pouf ought to. Much like James, Jack spoke without noticeable affectation (that said, who were Scorpius and I to judge?), and carried himself about as mainstream-Hogwarts as one could. He was, after all, his house team's Seeker. James and Jack sat on desks, while Rose, Scorpius and I stood, facing them. Introductions were made, pleasantries were exchanged.

"Gentlemen, have you talked about what you want to get out of this? What would be the ideal outcome – best case scenario – from any possible plan?" I asked. They looked at each other before speaking (which elicited a squeak from Rose as she tried to stifle a coo). James answered for them.

"Well, first of all, we've decided it'd be just fine to go public. Now, just how public that is depends upon your counsel. You probably don't know this, but I'm being scouted rather heavily by a number of teams, including Puddlemere United. If we could tell the world and still sign with Puddlemere, that would be optimal. Jack's family already knows, but then again, they're muggles, so it's nowhere near as big a deal. Bigger deal for them, of course, is that I'm a wizard. They're cute, though. They have so many questions, it's rather like Gramps, except in reverse, you see."

"So all those times you were in Muggle London over the summer, you were – "

"Right, Al. Seeing Jack. Mum and Dad know that much, they just don't know what kind of relationship we have."

We sat there in silence for a moment, all five of us deep in thought. Scorpius broke the silence for us.

"Obviously you want to let the world know about this; else we wouldn't be here strategizing. What's holding you back?"

"Puddlemere," James answered. "There's never been an openly gay male Quidditch player in the professional ranks in Britain. Ever. And Puddlemere are so terribly old-fashioned – I'm really not sure they'll feel they want to be the first ones."

"So why not play for another team?" Scorpius asked. Rose and I nodded in agreement. James and Jack just chuckled.

"Because if you have the chance to play for Puddlemere, you take it." Jack said. They've been the class of British Quidditch since before the Statutes of Secrecy. Merlin's beard, Jamie. You weren't kidding when you said they didn't know a Quaffle from a Hippogriff's bollocks!"

"Jamie?" I asked, and the three of us started to snicker. James was not amused.

"Right. If you're just going to be asses about the whole thing, then – " I stopped him mid-rant.

"Sit down, James. We were kidding. Believe me, I get it much worse from them than you ever will – it's what we do. Now, you're taking on the entire Quidditch establishment, which is a bit above our paygrade." James got up again in frustration, grabbing Jack's wrist as he did so.

"Come on, Jack. I knew this would be –" I stopped him again, motioning for him to re-take his seat.

"But, I have friends in positions to do something for you. Scorpius, tell me if this makes sense to you: We'll contact Madam Norma - the chief editor of Teen Witch Monthly - this evening, telling her we have the scoop of the century for her, if she'll run it to our specifications. Then tomorrow we'll gather Lils, Hugo and the girls and James will tell them. Tomorrow night, we'll write Mum and Dad, asking them to come up to the castle. We'll let James come out to them in person, and tell them that they'll have to let the rest of the family know, if they don't want to find out from the paps. Hogsmeade Weekend rolls around, and TWM has an exclusive with the Great Gay Hero of Quidditch – James Sirius Potter. All right then, Scorpius?"

"Sounds good to me. Rose?" Scorpius asked.

"Perfect. I think we have a plan then, boys," she said, and we linked arms, making our way for the door.

"Wait – what's that now? Don't I get a say in this?" asked James, feeling terribly overlooked. I smirked in Rose's direction before answering.

"Yes, of course. James? Did you find anything wrong with that plan?"

"No. Well, I mean –"

"Very well, then. We'll send the letter off to TWM. If you could talk to our cousins, and arrange to meet here tomorrow night, that would be helpful. 'Till then, ta!"