Summary: Addendum to No Difference, Severus takes his younger brother to meet his favorite author.
Author's Note: I hope this answers some of the questions I left after No Difference. I said I'd answer them.
"Then Dad said ‘James Sirius Potter, why is there shrapnel in my kitchen?' so James told him, and Dad asked why he put a firework in the toaster, and James smiled and said ‘It sounded like a good idea at the time.'" Albus said his brother's full name as one word.
"So he is not coming with you because he is in trouble?"
"Yeah, Dad took away his broom for the summer and threw away all of his fireworks." Albus frowned, "Not that he'd come with me anyway. He says that Draco Malfoy's kid is so much of a git that he's got to be just as bad.
Severus raised his eyebrow at his much younger half brother, "And you?"
"I don't care if he's a git!" He clutched the coin purse in his pocket, "He can write. I just want to buy his newest book and maybe, you know, get it signed." Albus looked up at his brother apprehensively.
Severus met his eyes, deciding that if Malfoy were likely to be a git to anyone, it would be to the boy walking beside him. "Why could your parents not take you?"
"Dad said that if he hexed a famous author, it would be all over the papers, and Mom said that if she murdered the prat, she'd be arrested."
Severus made a note not to say much around his younger brother. "Don't be ridiculous. She's the captain of the Harpies; it's in her contract that she has to be arrested once a year."
"That's Mom's joke. Did you hear her reserve seeker's in Azkaban again for assaulting a reporter?"
"No one could fail to hear about that." The queues meandered through Flourish and Blots, and Albus picked one of the glossy newly printed hard cover books from the table in the front and pressed it to his chest, joining the queue for the cash register. He shifted his messenger bag higher up on his shoulder as Severus caught up with him and glared at the people behind him until they moved back to let him through.
They wound through the stacks of books, and when they shuffled through the history section, Albus poked Severus' shoulder and pointed at a book with a picture of a tall brown haired man speaking at a symposium, titled Stolen Potions: The Belby Arrest, Trial, and Scandal. "He stole the Wolfsbane Potion recipe from you, didn't he?"
Severus remembered bitterly the battle with the Ministry to get the rights to his potion and the proceeds from Belby's theft and the way everyone's names had been splashed across the front pages. "He assaulted more than a hundred people."
"Yeah, I know. Mom said he built a mansion, a vacation cottage, and three townhouses with the money he made. They sold them off, right?"
Severus nodded. "We got the money in the end." When they passed by a set of potions books written by him, neither mentioned it.
Albus paid for the book while Severus scanned the magazines and newspapers displayed near the register. The front pictures were all of either the blond, muscular reserve seeker of the Holyhead Harpies, a fan favorite for her good looks and bad temper, or of Potter, who had announced his retirement from the Aurors.
As they walked to the book signing queue, Albus gently placed the book into his messenger bag. "Try to hurry up," Severus grunted irritated.
"Yeah, I know, you hate crowds. The queue doesn't go faster just because I tell it to, you know."
It was almost closing by the time it was Albus' turn, and he pulled his messenger bag around in front of him and laid all six books on the table. Draco Malfoy's eyes widened as he glanced at each in turn. Every book he'd ever published from The Sphinx's Rage to Mirror Rat sat in front of him, scuffed and cracked, waiting to be signed. He looked up, and his eyes narrowed again, his face twisting at the sight of green eyes and a head covered in tousled black hair. He almost asked Potter where he'd left his glasses. "I can only sign one book at a time," he snarled.
Albus' smile faltered. "Oh, alright," he said, gathering all of the books except the most recent back into his bag. Draco Malfoy grabbed it and scrawled his signature so hard on the inside cover that his quill snapped under the force.
A shadow fell over the table, and Draco Malfoy raised his eyes to Severus'. "Your brother here," he growled, "jinxed my son last month and he spent two nights in the hospital wing."
"No," Albus snapped, "That was James, and Malfoy had pinned me to the wall and hit me with a dancing jinx and a burning hex first. I was in the hospital wing too."
"And what did you do to get him to do that?" Draco Malfoy hissed.
"Nothing, he just attacked me in the hall."
"Do you expect me to sit here and listen to you call my son a bully?"
"If the shoe fits..."
"Excuse me," barked Severus.
Albus clutched his wand in his hand, trying to restrain himself from getting himself expelled. "Ask your son about the time he stole my cousin's knickers and hung them over the head table!"
"Please," a store clerk came running, "could you please calm down? You're disturbing the other customers. "
"Are you insinuating that my son's a deviant as well?"
Severus stepped between them. "You have your book signed?" Albus nodded. "Then let's go."
Albus let his brother drag him out of the book store before he stuffed the signed book roughly into his messenger bag. "That didn't go well."
"No, it did not."
"I'm amazed nobody's killed him yet."
"He was my favorite student."
Albus pulled a face, "Your taste is really-"
"Why is Scorpius Malfoy targeting a Ravenclaw?"
"I turned him into an ostrich after he stole Roxanne's knickers."
"You're the one that did that?"
"You're not going to give me detention, are you?"
Severus handed his brother the pot of floo powder and Albus tossed the powder into the flames. "Number Twelve Grimmauld Place," he shouted, and stepped into the flames.
His mother ran forward to greet him, but he brushed past her on his way upstairs, not even seeming to notice her. Ash trailed behind him in grey filmy footprints as Severus popped out of the fireplace a moment later and brushed himself off. Halfway up the stairs, an arm at knee level stopped Albus and almost sent him face first into the steps. "Hey, Al," his sister said with a pleading grin, "can I read Mirror Rat when you're done with it?"
He dug it out of his bag and handed it to her. "Take your time."
She gave him an odd look, but that didn't stop her from taking the book and punching the air, yelling "Yes!" She tilted her head. "You're alright, aren't you?"
"Yeah, Lily, I'm fine." She wrinkled her nose and squinted at him, but she didn't call him back as he thundered up the stairs and disappeared into his room. Lily followed at a more sedate pace, her prize clutched in both hands.
When she heard the second door close, Ginny whirled on Severus. "What did you do to him?"
"I did nothing," he hissed back. "The boy drew his wand on Draco Malfoy."
Ginny raised her eyebrows in comprehension. "Al always had good taste in people." Vaguely horrified, Severus found himself inexplicably unable to look away from her faded jeans and white "Quidditch: a nine letter word for fast" shirt as she grinned at Harry and apparated away.
"Ginny goes out for drinks with the team on Fridays," Harry said by way of explanation, not even glancing up from his letter. "She wants to retire next year, says she isn't as fast as she used to be, and they're offering to hire her as team manager."
"Ah," he replied, sliding bonelessly into the chair facing him. "What do you have there?"
Harry folded the letter. "Since I'm retiring, the Wizengamot decided to offer me membership again." Severus grabbed for it, but Harry snatched it back. "They're more creative this time, though. They ‘earnestly beseech me to attend a meeting' to that I can see for myself that they are ‘a benign governing body with the best interests of the Wizarding World at heart.'"
"Your well publicized criticism stings then." Harry grimaced and shrugged. "Tell them no again."
"I'm not an idiot," Harry visibly stopped himself from bristling. "I already did, but I wrote that it was bad form not to invite the headmaster of Hogwarts to join their number, and would they please tender my invitation to you instead."
"You miserable cretin! Are you-"
Harry chuckled, "I thought you'd say that. I just got the letter this afternoon; I haven't sent anything yet." Severus scowled. "Are you still seeing, what's her name, Abigale?" He set the folded Wizengamot letter down on the side table, took a sip of lemonade, and put his glass down on top of it.
"Yes," he said grudgingly. Harry smiled.
"You should invite her over sometime."
His scowl deepened. "I haven't told her that I'm a wizard yet."
The lemonade went down wrong and Harry choked and sputtered, "Tell me you've at least told her you teach."
"She keeps badgering me to show her my school."
Harry laughed and started coughing. "You better tell her soon then." He took another sip of lemonade. "Thank you," he murmured, "for taking Albus today."
James opened his bedroom door, and tiptoed across the hallway, his socks muffling the sound. He crept into his brother's room, a box tucked underneath his arm and slipped inside. "Did it go that badly?"
Albus opened his eyes and flicked on the light. "What're you doing in here? You're not supposed to be out of your room."
"So?" James asked, dropping the box on the bed next to his brother and standing over him.
"You're right he is a git," Albus snapped. "Happy?"
"Told you he had to be."
"I thought the first Wizarding novelist would be more..." he couldn't think of what he wanted to say, and James shifted awkwardly.
"Less of a prat?"
"That too." He pushed the box closer to his brother, and Albus opened it. "I thought Dad confiscated all of your fireworks."
"He didn't find the box Uncle George gave me for my birthday," James' lips quirked into a smile. "Want to go up to the roof and set them off with me?"
"You've finally gone round the twist, haven't you?" but Albus had already stood up and pulled on his coat. James grinned and led the way into the attic and through the hatch out onto the roof. Albus scrambled after him, and pulled his coat off irritably in the warm summer night air. Setting the fireworks out in a row, James brought the fuses over to Albus, gathered into a bundle and handed him the match book with a flourish.
Albus struggled with the matches, spoiling one after another while James rolled his eyes and snickered until there were only a few matches left. Finally, he took one of the matches, lit it, and handed it back to his brother. "Here."
Gingerly, Albus held the match by the bottom and lit all of the fuses at once. As the sparks neared his hand, he quickly dropped the fuses and watched, biting his lip as they burned closer to the fireworks. A dozen small booms and pops reverberated off of the roofs and houses as the fireworks took flight.
They exploded in a cascade of multicolored flames and white sparks. The light from them caught on James' face, turning his red hair black with shadow and washing out his freckles as he grinned like a madman. He danced around, trying to catch the sparks, and when he finally caught one, he stuffed his burned fingers in his mouth and sucked on them. Albus laughed at him, sitting down and curling his knees to his chest, watching as the shapes and the smoke drifted around for hours.