Albus' last two weeks before Christmas break flew by and before he knew it, it was time to board the train home.
"Are you sure you won't stay at the castle?" Albus asked Rhyleigh. Scorpious, Tevya, and Albus had assumed that Rhyleigh would stay at the castle for the holidays but she had informed them that she would be leaving to go "home." They had tried to convince her to stay but she insisted on going saying "she needed to make some money and the holiday always brought in a lot." She explained that her violin playing was how she survived. People would give her money, like Albus did last Christmas, and she'd use that for food.
"I'm positive Albus. I'll be alright," Rhyleigh chuckled, "Is your family coming to Hogsmeade again this year?" Albus nodded and Scorpious said, "Hogsmeade?"
"Yeah, my family goes each year for last minute Christmas shopping but it's usually for my brother and dad since they're either too busy or wait too long," Albus explained.
"My family goes down to Hogsmeade each Christmas to visit with a family friend. I hate it," Scorpious said.
"Hey we could try and meet up and relieve our boredom," Albus suggested. Scorpious agreed eagerly. Apparently they visited a distant aunt and she always pinched Scopious' cheeks and he hated her small, loud dog. They discussed their Christmas plans and tried to find a way for Tevya to join them. The train ride was filled with laughter and jokes. It was over quickly and they got their luggage down.
"Well, see you guys around," Rhyleigh said. All she had was her backpack and a small suitcase. She waved to them and hopped off the train. The boys shuffled out of the train and stepped out onto the platform.
"Tevya? Is that you?" a woman asked. She was short but skinny and had long, brown, wavy hair.
"Hey mum," Tevya replied giving her a hug. Tevya's mum held on to him murmuring, "My sweet boy! Oh how I missed you!" Tevya mumbled something back and she smiled.
"So are these your friends?" she asked pulling away. Tevya introduced Scorpious and Albus and told her that he had another friend but she'd already left.
"Well, I'm so glad to meet you and know that my Tevya made some friends," Tevya rolled his eyes, "We'll have to have you boys over for a playdate or something."
"Mum! I'm eleven, I don't have playdates!" Tevya exclaimed blushing a bright red.
"Oh I'm sorry dear," she apoplogized, "Well, we'll have to have you over for a…a…"
"We'd be happy to hang out with Tevya, Mrs. Longhorn," Albus laughed. She smiled, relieved. Tevya waved goodbye and he and his mom disappeared into the crowd.
"Well, until Hogsmeade," Scorpious said, slapping Albus on the back.
"See ya," Albus waved. Scorpious joined his family and Albus got a glimpse of his sister, Azalea. She had her mother's hair and her father's eyes.
"Albus!" he heard his father call. He turned and was enveloped in a tiny hug.
"Hey Lily!" Albus said, hugging his sister.
"I missed you! It was no fun with you gone. I was super bored," Lily exclaimed dramatically. Albus laughed and joined the rest of his family. Albus hugged his father and mother.
"So, are you enjoying school?" Harry asked his youngest son.
"Yeah, but the classes are boring," Albus said with a shrug. Harry ruffled his son's hair and said, "We're going to have a talk about the train, Theodore, and not writing to us." Albus sighed and nodded.
"Oh here's James," Ginny said waving to her eldest son. James swung Lily around in a hug and then gave a hug to his parents. He completely ignored Albus.
"So, we going home or what?" James asked looking to his parents. Harry and Ginny shared a look, noticing their son's behavior. Harry sighed and knew it might be a long holiday. They all got into the car and headed home.
"James! Stop setting off dungbombs in your brother's room!" Ginny shouted at her eldest. James just laughed, grabbed a piece of toast, and ran out the door. Ginny sighed in exasperation. The boys had never acted this hostile to each other. Albus trudged down the stairs and his mother gave him a sympathetic expression.
"Eew, Albus! Did James do it again?" Lily asked pinching her nose. Albus grunted in reply and went back up the stairs.
"I'll get the smell out in a minute sweetie!" Ginny called after Albus, "Just like I did yesterday and they day before that." Ginny went back to flipping pancakes and served Lily some orange juice. Albus went into his room, found a clean shirt and pants, and went to take a shower. The shower felt nice and got rid of the awful dungbomb smell. As he was putting his shirt on, Albus looked in the mirror and stared in horror. Glaring him in the face was bright, bubblegum pink hair. Albus snatched the shampoo bottle and smelled a faint odor of hair-color-changing potion. Albus cursed and stormed out of the bathroom.
"Where's James?" Albus demanded. Ginny and Lily looked up to see a red faced Albus with bright pink hair.
"Oh sweetie," Ginny said, getting up from where she was sitting, "Potion in the shampoo bottle?" Albus could barely nod he was so angry. His fists were clenched, his fingernails digging painfully into his skin.
"I don't understand what happened between you two," Ginny mumbled, running her hand through Albus' hair. "I'll start working on a potion to fix this and then fix your room ok?" Albus shook his head and said, "I'll make the potion but can you please fix my room?"
"Albus that's probably a third year potion," his mum said.
"Mum, I can do it," Albus said. Ginny sighed and nodded. Albus sat down at the table and angrily ate five pancakes.
"In case it helps, you look good in pink," Lily commented. Albus scoffed and wolfed down some orange juice.
"I'm going upstairs to the attic to start the potion," Albus announced. He climbed the stairs grabbing the family potions book from the bookshelf on his way up. As he was climbing he passed Sirius' room and Regulus' room. The Potter family had debated between Godric's Hollow and Grimmauld Place to settle down and live due to their importance to Harry. Ultimately, they decided on Grimmauld Place because it held so many fond memories for Harry of the ones he'd loved and lost. Albus climbed two more flights of stairs and then lifted the trap door to the attic. Although Grimmauld Place looked ordinary it was magically bigger on the inside. Molly and Arthur Weasley had helped expand when Harry and Ginny had more than one kid. Albus lifted himself into the attic and sighed. This was his favorite place. A round circular window shined light into the dusty, unused room. There was a blanket and pillow there that Albus had put there to make it more comfortable. Albus loved the dusty, old smell the attic held. That might be weird to most but to Albus, it just seemed like the attic held so much history it was beguiling. Albus placed the potions book on the blanket and went searching for a cauldron. He found an old rusty one under some old clothes and set it on the blanket as well. He scanned the potions book for the right potion and then memorized the ingredients he needed.
"Kreacher!" Albus called. A moment later, Kreacher, their old family house elf, popped next to Albus.
"What can Kreacher get you young master Albus?" Kreacher croaked. Albus listed off the ingredients and Kreacher apparated out with a pop. While Kreacher was looking for the ingredients Albus explored the attic. Distracting himself was the best way to keep his mind off the anger that was building towards James. He had set off dungbombs in Albus' room for the past three days, snuck a puking pasty in his mashed potatoes, and a tongue lengthener in his soup. His parents had tried to talk to them about what had happened but James just said that Albus was being a prick at school and needed to be taught a lesson. Albus wanted to mention how prejudiced James was being but didn't want attract anymore of James' wrath. To top it all off, Albus hadn't received one letter from his friends. Albus had sent a letter each day to his friends but had gotten no response. He'd sent a letter to Rhyleigh but hadn't really expected a letter back, but he was really hurt by Scorpious and Tevya's silence. Albus sighed at the thought and rifled through some boxes. He found some old heavily bound books covered with dust and a few spiders crawling around in the box. Albus lifted the top one off and blew the dust off. The title read "Healing Spells." There was no date so Albus had no idea how old it was. Intrigued, he opened the book and was lost in its context. There were pictures of ligaments, muscles, and bones. A little farther on there were depictions of certain diseases; ones with pussing sores or blistering fingers. Even farther in the book were ways on how to amputate or reattach limbs. Albus was fascinated and stayed engrossed in the book even after Kreacher apparated back with the supplies.
"Young master Albus? Young Master Albus!" Kreacher cried. Albus jumped in surprise.
"Kreacher! Oh you got the ingredients? Thank you!" Albus said. Kreacher nodded happily and apparated out of the attic. Albus put down the book and began working on the potion. In no time, it was finished and Albus double checked the color and smell before drinking it. It tasted like conditioner and Albus gagged. He felt a tingling sensation in his hair. He looked around the room for a mirror and upon finding one looked to see if the potion had worked. His hair was slowly turning back to black from the roots first. Albus sighed and realized he'd probably have to have this hair color for the rest of the day and probably most of tomorrow. He put away the potions stuff, grabbed the healing book, and sat by the window. He read the book for hours and didn't hear his father call up for him.
"Albus?" Harry asked, poking his head into the attic. He saw his son sitting by the window reading a thick book. He sighed when he saw his son's pink hair. Harry lifted himself into the attic and made his way over to his son.
"Al?" Harry asked again. This time his son looked up in surprise and said, "Oh hi dad! I didn't hear you come home."
"I was calling for you," Harry choked. Albus blushed and said, "Sorry." Harry ruffled his son's hair and said, "I'm sorry about this. I'm going to scold James when he gets back. He was never like this before, what happened?" Albus looked at his dad, on the verge of telling him everything, but sighed. Albus knew his father was disappointed in both him and James because of the way they were acting. Albus didn't want to make it worse for James unless absolutely necessary. A part of Albus was hoping James would get over it and stop bullying him, but the other part knew that wasn't really going to happen.
"I don't know dad. I guess we just grew apart," Albus mumbled. Harry sighed at his son and knew that wasn't the real reason. Albus was most likely feeling guilty about something he'd said to James and felt entitled to protect his older brother.
"Alright, you know eventually the truth is going to come out," Harry said trying to prompt his son to give him the truth. Albus stayed silent. Harry sighed and said, "Let's go get some dinner." Albus nodded and set his book down in his place. Harry waved his wand and the cold potion was vanished into thin air. Father and son went down to dinner, not knowing what the next night would bring.