You are viewing a story from harrypotterfanfiction.com


The Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship by ad astra

Format: Novel
Chapters: 21
Word Count: 77,572
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Humor, LGBTQA, Young Adult
Characters: Albus, Rose, Scorpius, OC
Pairings: Other Pairing, Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione

First Published: 04/20/2014
Last Chapter: 07/09/2014
Last Updated: 12/10/2015

Summary:



Absolutely perfect banner by milominderbinder at TDA

Five thousand Galleons. Five formerly law-abiding, studious Ravenclaws. One year to leave a legacy like no other.

Ravenclaw Story of the Month: Best Written, August 2014 / 2014 Dobby Award: Best Novel / Slytherin Story of the Month, May 2015

 


Chapter 1: i. the plan [or] five nerds face a life of hedonism
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]










Dad tells me about the scholarship the night before the notice appears in the Daily Prophet.


“Rosie,” he says in the voice he uses for ideas that almost always turn out badly. “Come here a minute.”


“Yeah?”


“Have you given any thought to what you’re doing after Hogwarts?”


This isn’t what I was expecting from Dad. “Um, yeah. Teaching, I think. If a position ever opens up at Hogwarts.”


“What would you teach? Potions?”


“If I can. I could do DADA too…depends who retires first.”


Dad nods. “So you’ll be needing to do the teaching course run by the Ministry.”


“What are you getting at?”


“Well,” Dad begins, “There is actually a scholarship available to Hogwarts leavers, your uncle George – ”


“Ronald Weasley!” Mum yells from her office down the hallway. “Don’t you dare!”


I pull a chair forward and sit down. “Go on.”


“Rose, do not listen to your father!”


“It’s the Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship,” Dad says quickly. “Five thousand Galleons to go towards any internship or training course. There’s one awarded every June, at the end of the Hogwarts school year…I’ve said all I can,” he adds, cutting himself off as Mum appears in the doorway. “Hermione, darling,” he says weakly. “Good…I was just wanting to talk to you about the Higgins case…”


“The Higgins case, of course,” Mum says, raising an eyebrow. “You didn’t say anything about the you know what?”


“Voldemort?” I ask innocently.


“He’s You Know Who,” Dad says absently, and follows Mum out of the room. “Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship,” he mouths over his shoulder.








 

It takes approximately twenty minutes after the Prophet is delivered the next morning for my friends to arrive, brushing Floo soot onto the carpet and waving the paper frantically.


“Five thousand Galleons!” Scorpius Malfoy yells, first out of the Floo.


“Scorp. I’m pretty sure your house is literally made of money.”


“So?” Scorpius swipes a hand across his forehead, smearing soot into his messy blond hair. “Do you know what this means? Financial independence. Me ’n Al can get a place. Live like proper students, you know?”


“Malfoy, you better not be here about the scholarship,” Holly Holyoake says. She’s still in her pajamas, a fluffy onesie covered in sheep, and despite the fact that she’s obviously just woken up she manages to step daintily out of the Floo and not get ash everywhere.


“I am, as a matter of fact,” Scorpius says haughtily.


“Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose!” Albus Potter’s voice precedes him, and he launches headfirst into the room with the Classifieds from the Prophet crumpled in his hand.


“Morning,” Scorpius says, kicking him. “Scholarship? You need it about as much as I do, mate.”


“Yeah but – we can get a flat.”


“My thoughts precisely,” he says triumphantly, turning to me.


Last to arrive is Lester Raine, his normally perfect composure gone as he stumbles into my house and thrusts the paper at Holly. “Look at the – the – wait,” he says, frowning at her. “You’re not Rose.”


“Over here,” I say, steering him onto a couch. “I take it we’re all here about the scholarship.”


Four voices begin speaking at once, and I hold up my hands for quiet. Amazingly, it works. I’m going to be a kickass teacher.


“Does anyone actually know the application process?” Lester asks. “Or the criteria?”


“You didn’t read the fine print?” Holly asks.


Blank looks greet her.


None of you read the fine print?”


We shake our heads.


“‘The successful candidate should epitomise the spirit and character of the late Frederick Weasley,’” Holly reads.


“Oh no,” I whisper.


“Oh God,” Albus mutters.


“‘Candidates will demonstrate this throughout the course of their seventh year,’” Holly continues. “‘The student judged to have spent their final year in the manner most fitting to Fred’s memory will be awarded the full scholarship, valued at five thousand Galleons, to be used for fees and living costs for any internship or Ministry training course.’ What does that mean? The manner most fitting to Fred’s memory?”


“Nothing good,” Albus says grimly.


“There’s smaller print,” Lester announces. “Oh. Ah.” He clears his throat. “Direct quoting here, by the way. Excuse the language….Ahem. ‘Fuck shit up. Don’t get expelled.’”


The longest silence I’ve ever experienced meets his words.


“So we have to…prank?” Albus asks eventually.


“Seems that way.”


More silence.


It should be pointed out that we, five soon-to-be-seventh-year Ravenclaws, are the least disruptive students Hogwarts has ever seen. We don’t like confrontation, we certainly don’t like being told off by teachers or disappointing our parents. We live our lives bound by rules and regulations even stricter than the Hogwarts Code of Conduct. We get our kicks out of research, discovery, mastery of skills, and we all have massive superiority complexes because of it. We’re okay with the stuck up/elitist/goody-good reputations we have in the eyes of the rest of the school, because we’ve spent six years cultivating those reputations. Those hedonistic Gryffindors can laugh all they want, but at the end of the day we achieve things. Between the five of us we only got two Exceeds Expectations in OWL year – Lester for Herbology and Holly for Astronomy – with everything else Outstanding. Albus and Scorpius have already been contacted by St Mungo’s and have been offered a place in their intern programme next year. Put simply (and very, very modestly) we’re the highest achievers Hogwarts has ever seen.


The Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship runs so contrary to all our natures that I’m beginning to think it’s a cosmic sign.


“We could,” I begin slowly, watching the faces of my friends, “Team up.”


“Split the 5k, you mean?” Lester asks.


“Exactly.”


“We could,” Holly echoes. “They can’t expel all five of us.”


“This will take some careful planning,” I say, already warming to the idea. “So that we can still do well in NEWTs…”


Can we do well in NEWTs though?” Scorpius asks. “Or would that be going against the spirit of Fred Weasley or whatever it said?”


“It’s still a scholarship,” I point out. “It goes towards internships or training courses. You need NEWTs to get into them.”


“Maybe it’s time we…you know. Let go a little,” Holly says. “This could be good for us.”


“Character development?” Scorpius asks scornfully. “Life is not a coming-of-age novel.”


Anecdotes,” Albus says dreamily. “No longer will I live in the storied shadow of James Sirius Fucking Potter. We’ll be legends. We’ll eclipse him. We’ll eclipse his namesakes. We’ll come out of nowhere to take the prize of eternal shenanigan glory.”


“Eternal shenanigan glory,” Scorpius echoes.


“We need a team name,” Holly says. “We’re a team. A team of – ”


“Team Dragonstone,” Lester says.


“Stop reading Game of Thrones.”


“The Night’s Watch.”


“No Game of Thrones.”


“We are the sword in the darkness – ”


Stop.”


“Dumbledore’s Army,” Albus suggests.


“I think our intentions aren’t quite honourable enough to bear that name,” I point out.


“The Order of the Raven,” Scorpius suggests.


“It’s a tad pretentious,” Lester says. “Perfect.”


“So what do we do first?” I ask, summoning a bit of parchment and a quill. “We should start out small, build up from there – ”


“I know, I know,” Lester says eagerly. “First day, first period – we sleep in. We just…don’t go to class.”


We all stare at him.


“We’re not getting that five thousand,” Albus sighs.


“It could help,” Holly reasons. “Get us into the zone. Rebellion. Give no fucks. It’s a good start, Raine.”


I sigh and write it down.


“Who knows what Fred Weasley actually got up to in his seventh year?” Scorpius asks. “Al. You’d know.”


“He let off fireworks and flew out of the castle on his broom with Uncle George,” Albus replies. “But we actually have to complete the year, so…”


“Most of us can’t even fly, so that’s out of the question.”


“Most of Fred and George’s success came from targeting the most hated teacher in the school,” I point out. “Who’s our Dolores Umbridge?”


“The fuck is Dolores Umbridge?” Holly asks bluntly.


“A particularly nasty teacher when our parents were at Hogwarts,” I explain, waving my hand to encompass Albus and Scorpius. “I don’t think we have an equivalent…unless you count old Filch.”


“Filch is older than the castle itself,” Scorpius points out. “Picking on a doddering elderly man seems more cruel than funny.”


“Who are we advocating for here?” Albus asks, taking the parchment from me and leaning forward. “The average student? The everyday Hogwartian? Do we target his enemies? Do we target everyone but ourselves?”


“I think the average student is a good start,” Holly agrees. “Who does the average student want to see get their comeuppance?”


This time the silence is fraught with tension, and everyone exchanges glances to silently ascertain whether we’re all on the same page. We are.


“Us,” I say.




Disclaimer: Game of Thrones/ASOIAF belong to HBO/George RR Martin respectively. The line "I am the sword in the darkness" is taken from George RR Martin, A Game of Thrones, page 504. 

All graphics are mine unless stated otherwise (a full list of credits can be found in my TDA gallery - I'm Ravenclaw333 there too)


Chapter 2: ii. the initiation [or] five thousand galleons justifies everything
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]









“How are we supposed to be sabotaging ourselves?” Scorpius asks, pacing back and forth. “How does this work?”


“A prank war,” I decide. “With the…others.”


The others refer to the loud, obnoxious Gryffindor/Slytherin alliance who we’ve always had something of a rivalry with, because they’re a group of five and they have their token Weasley-Potters (Lucy and Louis) and for some reason we just don’t get along. Most of my cousins tend to clump together according to age – James was at school with Freddie and Dominique, and they were inseparable; Hugo and Lily have been best friends practically since birth; Roxanne and Molly finished last year and despite being polar opposites are now living together. Maybe it’s because there’s four of us, maybe it’s because Albus and I have existed as a pair forever (most of the time I think he’s my brother and Hugo’s my cousin) maybe it’s because Lucy and Louis are unsufferable – whatever way you look at it, there’s a rift. They make sense as the targets for an all-out year-long prank war – and I bet every Galleon in my parents’ vault that they’ll all be going for the scholarship too.


“If we engage the others, we’ll never be safe again,” Scorpius says.


“Five thousand Galleons,” Holly reminds us.


“We’re safe in the common room,” I say bracingly. “As long as we never…go to class. Or go outside. Or go to meals.”


“Our common room is protected by a bronze knocker that accepts the most ridiculous circular reasoning the world has ever seen,” Scorpius says flatly. “We will never be safe again.”


“No true struggle is easy,” Lester proclaims.


Albus gives him a look. “That sounded deeper in your head, didn’t it?”


“Considerably. But more to the point, five thousand Galleons.”


“Five thousand Galleons,” we echo.


“We should get things started on the Hogwarts Express,” Scorpius says decisively. “Maybe something small to start out…?”


“Go big or go home,” Holly counters.


“All right. The others. Are we just going to refer to them as the Others? – It’s a bit – ”


Game of Thrones,” Lester supplies.


“Raine, you have an obsession.”


“The enemy,” Albus says. “What? We’re going full on melodramatic here – ”


“The enemy works,” Scorpius says. “While we’re being all militaristic, can I be general?”


“General Malfoy sounds awful,” I object.


“General Weasley sounds no better.”


“General Holyoake has a ring to it,” Holly points out.


“Holyoake has a ring to it all the time. Except when paired with Holly.”


“Rich, coming from Albus Severus Potter,” Holly shoots back.


That’s another distinction we have – the five worst-named students in Hogwarts history. I’m not too bad (except that my middle name is Nymphadora, but you have to dig deep to find that out) but there’s Albus, and Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy, and Lester Dante Raine, and Holly Helen Holyoake. There’s no way the last one wasn’t deliberate.


“Godawful names aside,” Scorpius interrupts, “We have planning to do. We need the enemy’s weaknesses.” He scrawls The Enemy in big, spidery boy handwriting at the top of the parchment, makes an optimistic row of bullet points, and looks up expectantly.


“Well, there’s five of them,” Lester begins, ticking names off his fingers. “Lucy and Louis Weasley, Emily Huntington, Lucian Rosier and Sean Finnigan. Three Slytherins, two Gryffindors. Does anyone have friends in either of those houses?”


“Nobody in this room has any friends outside this room.”


“So we’re not getting into their common room,” Scorpius concludes. “Unless…”


“What?”


“I’m Head Boy,” he says with wonder.


“Wait, you are?”


“You never told me that,” Albus frowns.


“I forgot,” he says. “Got distracted by this five thousand Galleons.”


“Five thousand Galleons,” we echo. We sound like a cult.


“So yeah,” Scorpius continues. “I get everyone’s passwords. Rosie, Holly, neither of you got a badge?”


“I think I’d remember if I did,” I say pointedly.


“You’re the reason we didn’t,” Holly grumbles. “You can’t have two Head Prefects from the same house.”


“My grandparents were from the same house,” Albus says.


“Times have changed, Potter.”


“Oh no,” I say. “Oh no. What if the Head Girl is one of the enemy? What if it’s Lucy or Emily?”


“I hadn’t thought of that.” Scorpius looks stricken.


“They’ve got four prefects between them,” Holly says broodingly. “Lucy and Sean for Gryffindor, Emily and Louis for Slytherin. They’re doing better than us. Damn them to hell.”


“That’s only because they’re not all from the same house,” I point out. “We’d all be prefects if there wasn’t a limit of two per house. And you never know, the Head Girl could be a Puff.”


“Sophie Macmillan,” Scorpius says, nodding. “Honestly, she’s a better candidate than Lucy or Emily. And I can actually stand to be around her. They have to take that into consideration, right? We’ve had open hostility with the oth – the enemy for six years.”


“Stop whingeing or I’ll take the badge off you,” Albus says. “Nobody will even notice.”


“You don’t exactly look like me.”


“We spend enough time together that I’ve had more teachers call me Scorpius than Harry, which is saying something. But, we digress. Again.”


“We’re not getting anywhere,” Lester points out. “Aren’t the best pranks sort of…spontaneous anyway? Let’s wait until we’re on the train.”


“And wing it,” Holly says, nodding. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, right? Pranking is an art like any other. We can only improve as the year progresses.”


“Good idea,” I agree. “Though I might pay a visit to Wheezes before we go back. Just for inspiration.”


“Take Holly,” Albus suggests. “She’s the creative one.”






 

Three days before term starts, Mum takes Hugo and I on our standard Hogwarts shopping trip. Hugo, being fifteen and lanky, has outgrown his school robes again, and as Mum carts him off to Madam Malkin’s I take the opportunity to slip away and have a browse through my uncle’s shop.


“Rosie!” Uncle George booms cheerfully from across the shop. “Fancy seeing you in here!”


“Hi, Uncle George.”


“Looking for a birthday present?” George pauses, looking thoughtful. “Who has a September birthday? Your mum – not that she’d appreciate much here…”


“I’m actually shopping for me,” I say awkwardly, because I’ve never actually set foot in Wheezes with the intention of buying anything for myself and George knows it.


“Hasn’t got anything to do with a certain scholarship I’ve put up, does it?”


I try to look as innocent as possible.


George sighs. “Rosie, you’re a terrible liar even when you’re not talking.”


“Blame Dad. He didn’t raise me properly.”


This is my copout for everything when it comes to aunts and uncles. The Weasleys have a long and proud tradition of ripping on each other, and I’ve learned that throwing Dad under the bus for any of my (admittedly very few) failures works wonders.


“He certainly didn’t,” George says, shaking his head. “Straight Outstandings in your OWLs, too, wasn’t it? For shame.”


“Truly awful.”


“You put some effort into that scholarship,” George says sternly. “You could do very well on five thousand Galleons, and it’ll certainly be a year well spent.”


Out of context his words seem encouraging and responsible – until one considers that blowing up the school probably wouldn’t go amiss. I take my leave of George and wander around the shop, searching for inspiration. I’m about to give up and meet Holly for ice cream and further discussion when an idea seizes me. I try unsuccessfully to hide my maniacal grin from George as I buy the required items, stow them away in my bag and head to Flourish and Blott’s like nothing happened.






 

I don’t get to tell the others about my dastardly plan until after it’s happened, because Scorpius and I have to head for the Prefects Carriage. It’s almost a walk of shame, being a seventh-year without a Head Prefect badge gleaming on your chest, and I can’t help but feel a little (read: very) resentful of Scorpius as he does the Head Boy Strut beside me.


Things start looking up, however, when we arrive and find a sulky-looking Lucy and a sulkier-looking Emily trying to make polite conversation with Sophie Macmillan, who has the Head Girl badge. I greet her cheerfully, offering my congratulations, and she looks relieved that not everyone is going to glare passive-aggressively at her. As far as I’m concerned, I stopped being in the running the moment Scorpius got Head Boy (and he’s been a certainty for it since about fourth year) so it’s not so much that Sophie is better than me, rather that Scorpius is better than any of the other boys whose Heads of House had to give Prefect badges to out of necessity.


I target Louis. While I’m more or less ambivalent towards Lucy (we have little in common, she’s a bit loud and annoying, I’ve just never had anything to do with her) I hate Louis as much as it’s possible to hate your own blood. He’s rude, obnoxious and – for lack of a better word – a total dudebro. He’s Slytherin’s Quidditch captain, he yells ‘ratings’ between one and ten at girls in the Great Hall, and he thinks gay jokes are funny. He picks on Albus mercilessly, and even though he doesn’t know about him and Scorpius (they keep that very quiet, nobody outside our group knows) he’s still obviously picked up on the fact that it makes Albus uncomfortable. Long story short, he’s scum in Weasley clothing.


I feel like a pickpocket as I spy Louis and give him a massive hug. “Louis, cuz, it’s been ages!” I say, attaching my tiny secret weapon to the inside of his robes pocket and stepping back. “Good to see you.”


“Yeah,” Louis says awkwardly. “You too, Rosie.”


For appearance’s sake I have to do the same to Lucy, and just to antagonise them further I sling my arms over their shoulders. “I’m so proud of Sophie and Scorpius,” I say happily. “It’s nice to know they’re not just picking our family all the time, right? And they just deserve those badges so much.”


“Yeah,” Lucy says noncommittally. “Good on them.”


Louis doesn’t notice anything until the end of the meeting when we all disperse to do “rounds,” and I release the Pygmy Puffs.






 

“Rose,” Lester says thoughtfully, staring out into the corridor of the train, “Why is your cousin the Pied Piper of Pygmy Puffs?”


I lean curiously forward, peering through the glass. The Invisible Pygmy Puffnip hidden in Louis’ pockets has worked beautifully, and what looks like every Pygmy Puff on the train is waddling, bouncing or rolling behind him. I’ve never seen a more beautiful sight in my life, especially when Louis turns around, sees the train of Puffs, and yells, “What the fuck is with these fucking Pygmy Puffs?”


Scorpius is on his feet in a second, striding out of our compartment. “Louis, mate, sorry. But I’m going to have to dock five points from Slytherin for your language.”


“What the fuck, Malfoy? I’m a Prefect!”


“I know,” Scorpius says calmly. “And I’m the Head Boy, and it’s my job to make sure you’re setting a good example for the younger students. Yelling profanity so the whole train can hear you is not setting a good example.”


“Come on, man,” Louis wheedles. “I have Pygmy Puffs coming out of my arse here. Cut me some slack.”


“I’m sorry, but you know the rules.”


“Fucking homo,” Louis mutters, and disappears.


“Make that ten points for hateful language,” Scorpius yells after him. He looks troubled when he sits back down. “He’s never called me that before. You don’t think he knows…?” He looks anxiously at Albus, then me.


“Louis is the biggest dick known to man,” Albus growls.


“It’s his go-to insult for anyone,” I explain. “If he actually knew, he probably wouldn’t say a thing.”


“Well,” Scorpius says decisively, “At least I know to keep an ear out for it. He’s going to lose a hundred points from his house this year unless he learns some more creative ways to shit-talk.”


“My knight in shining badge,” Albus says.


“Wait a minute,” Lester says. “Rose, we have to claim responsibility for this prank. Otherwise they’re not going to retaliate.”


“I’m okay with them not retaliating,” Holly says. “Just my two Knuts.”


“No, Lester’s right.” I sigh. “We need to take the credit for this one. Hold on, I have an idea.”


I slip my wand up my sleeve and leave to find Louis. He’s not too difficult to track down, considering he has a tail of seventy chirruping Pygmy Puffs behind him. Crouching down behind a handy door, I use a Colour-Change Charm and a lot of concentration – this pranking thing is going to do wonders for our practical magic – to spell out “THE ORDER OF THE RAVEN” on the backs of eighteen Puffs. Before he can look up, I flee.


“The fuck is the “Order of the Raven”?” Louis bellows a few moments later.


“Five points from Slytherin,” Scorpius bellows back. I lean back contentedly, basking in a sense of achievement that eclipses anything I’ve gotten from school, and watch the Puffs chase Louis all the way into Hogsmeade Station.


Chapter 3: iii. the order of the raven [or] our reputation precedes us
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]








The name ‘Order of the Raven’ is on everyone’s lips as we arrive at Hogwarts and take our seats at the feast. Nobody seems to have made the connection between it and us, though everyone – and I mean everyone – appreciated the sight of Macho Manly Louis Weasley followed by tiny, fluffy round creatures for the better part of seven hours. With the help of old Hagrid and a very determined Puff owner by the name of Henrietta Mills, Louis finally managed to free himself from his curse and is now stalking through the Great Hall with the sleeves of his robes rolled up in case anyone forgot he has forearms.


It’s the best start of term feast I’ve had, until Professor Vector comes up to Scorpius and I at the end of Sprout’s speech. “A word,” she says stiffly.


Professor Vector reminds me of the stories Mum and Dad tell about their Head of House, Professor McGonagall. She’s a stern grey-haired woman who seldom smiles, tall and forbidding, and favours plain black or navy blue robes with the only embellishment being a small Ravenclaw pin – which does nothing to soften the effect but rather gives us all a very stern, very shiny reminder that we are not to disgrace the noble House of Rowena Ravenclaw in any way, shape or form.


I feel guilty just looking at her, and then I stop looking at her because I’m fairly sure she can see into my soul.


We follow her silently into her office, where she closes the door, takes a seat, and leans forward on the desk with her fingers steepled. “There was an incident on the Hogwarts Express today.”


“Is this something to do with the Pygmy Puffs following Louis around?” I ask. There’s no point pretending we didn’t see anything, the whole school had a Pygmy Puff train go past their compartment at some point this afternoon.


“Yes,” Vector says stiffly. “As you may be aware, the group claiming responsibility is calling themselves The Order of the Raven.”


“You think it’s someone in this house?”


“I do. That, or someone seeking to cast a taint on our House.”


“What do you want us to do?” Scorpius asks eventually.


“Find them. Stop them. You’re my Prefects. I’ll not have any members of this house embroiled in an escalating prank war.”


“You have our word,” Scorpius says, and bobs a little as we make our exit.


“Did you just bow to her?” I hiss once we’re out of earshot.


“She’s an intimidating woman,” Scorpius says defensively.


“She’s not a queen.”


“She might as well be. We’re committing treason, Rosie. High treason against Ravenclaw house.”


“For the love of God,” I mutter, and tow him upstairs to Ravenclaw Tower.


The chatter about the Order of the Raven is even more intense up here, with a bunch of fifth-years loudly discussing their theories about who was behind the prank. The primary suspect at the moment seems to be a sixth-year, Ellie Simmons, who I vaguely remember was dated, cheated on, and publicly dumped by my abominable cousin last year.


“Guys, I wish it were me, honestly,” Ellie’s saying as we come in. “But if I were to do anything to Louis Weasley, it wouldn’t be half as nice as getting a bunch of Pygmy Puffs to follow him around.”


Having realised the truth in that, the assembled masses return to the drawing board.


“Dramatic reveal?” I ask Scorpius.


He shrugs.


I wave the others over. “Dramatic reveal?”


Holly nods.


“Dramatic reveal?”


“Eternal glory,” Albus says longingly, and I take that for agreement.


“Dramatic reveal?”


“What’s the worst that can happen?” Lester asks.


“It was us!” I announce in a lull in the general conversation. “We are the Order of the Raven!”


I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.


“Cool,” says a fifth-year. “Who’s for Gobstones?”


“Seriously?” I ask, turning to the others. “That’s it?”


“To be fair, we only did one prank,” Lester reasons. “Well, you did one prank. Maybe if we had built up an elaborate pranking empire, and waited till the end-of-year feast to reveal our identities…”


“Well, what’s done is done. What’s next?”


“We wait,” Scorpius says firmly. “For the retaliation.”


“I’d rather make another pre-emptive strike, to be honest,” Holly says. “Get them while they’re down. D’you think there’s a way of making Lucian Rosier think he’s Muggleborn?”


“This is bringing out the worst in you,” I tell her.


You wouldn’t know it looking at her now, lit up from the inside out at the prospect of mildly fucking with people, but Holly Holyoake is the sweetest person to ever walk the earth. She’s cute as a button, a seventeen-year-old genius who would come to class in her sheep onesie if she could, who has pulled all-nighters to help other people with their essays, and who has been just as chipper and patient after those all-nighters as she is on a proper night’s sleep. She lives and breathes her subjects, particularly Arithmancy, and has been known to bounce around the room with an ear-to-ear grin when she understands a tricky concept or reads about some obscure discovery. As far as I’m concerned, she’s nothing short of superhuman.


I’m also afraid we’ve corrupted her down to her very soul for five thousand Galleons.






The retaliation isn’t long in coming. Word has filtered down from Ravenclaw Tower into the dungeons that we were responsible for the Pygmy Puff prank – or, namely, I was responsible for the Pygmy Puff prank. Ever since it became known that Louis knows it was me, we’ve been on red alert.


“Let’s talk about your weaknesses,” Albus begins once we’re gathered for a Preparedness Meeting.


“Let’s not.”


“This is a supportive and loving environment,” Holly tells me. “We need to arm you against whatever Louis and his cronies might be planning. You attacked Louis’ hypermasculinity, so you should expect something equally personal in retaliation.”


“They’re probably going to go for your voluptuous ego,” Lester says.


Holly gives him a strange look. “Did you just say voluptuous?”


“I couldn’t think of the right word,” Lester says defensively. “So I went for a synonym.”


“You missed.”


“Lester’s bad choice of words aside,” Scorpius says, firmly steering us back to the topic at hand, “He’s right. Or at least, I think he’s right, I can’t be too sure what was meant by voluptuous ego – but at any rate, they’re going to attack your pride. They’re going to attack all of our pride. That’s why we’re the number one targets, right? Because we’re arrogant little shits.”


“Bring it. My ego is not one to be dented by a bunch of Slytherindors.”


By third period the next day I’ve dropped my guard a bit – nothing terrible has happened so far, and third period is Potions – my time to shine. We all have our fields of expertise – Scorpius loves Ancient Runes; Holly is an Arithmancy queen; Albus is a social scientist at heart and favours Muggle Studies and History of Magic; Lester’s interested in the nuts and bolts of magic and particularly the wandwork of Transfiguration and Charms. My area is Potions, and this classroom is my kingdom.


Our potion to start off seventh year with a bang is Felix Felicis, and Professor Llodewick spends the first twenty minutes warning us about how volatile the ingredients are and how difficult the potion is to make, and the next twenty minutes telling us how Felix Felicis is a Class A Restricted Substance and therefore we all have to surrender our final result at the end of class. This elicits a groan from us all, but I have a personal apothecary hidden away in my trunk and once I’ve got the theory down in class I’ll be able to brew it up whenever I want. The actual use of Felix Felicis is only banned in certain circumstances such as Quidditch matches, and since I haven’t set my butt on a broom since I was eight years old I think I’m pretty safe.


I’m off my game today, though. I start out freestyling it – making innovations where I see fit, because I know most of these ingredients and how they react with each other – only following the instructions when it comes to unfamiliar ingredients – but I must have lost my touch over the summer holidays because ingredients are congealing which I know shouldn’t be congealing, and others are boiling when they shouldn’t be. I turn down the heat, scrap it, start again following the recipe to the letter, but it’s still not working. I check the ingredients again – none are expired or in any way damaged – and peer over Lester’s shoulder to see how he’s going. Arrogant as this may sound, he’s the only one in our group who comes close to me in Potions ability – we’re both scientifically minded, and Potions is as scientific a subject as they come. His potion looks nothing short of perfect.


“Everything okay?” he asks, frowning into my cauldron. “God, Rose – that smells awful. Are you brewing at the right temperature?”


“Yes,” I snap. “I know what I’m doing, we’re not third years.”


He holds his hands up in surrender and backs away. People are beginning to stare at me, and I feel my face redden. The cauldron is billowing green smoke now, and I Vanish the blackening gloop at the bottom of the cauldron and start again, knowing we’ve got less than fifteen minutes before the end of class.


Professor Llodewick comes round with five minutes to spare, when attempt number three has already turned a strange colour. He peers into my cauldron, Vanishes the offending substance, and turns to me. “Rose. If you’re going to use a dual-bottom cauldron, I expect you to use it properly. You need to be adjusting your temperatures accordingly. I didn’t think I’d have to tell you that.”


“It’s not a dual-bottom cauldron,” I say weakly. “It’s cast iron.”


“Really?” he asks. He takes my cauldron from the fire and tilts it so I can see the bottom. Sure enough, there’s a thin shiny layer of pewter underneath a scraping of black that looks concievably like burnt potion, but I know to be the remains of a false bottom.


“Brushing up on your theory wouldn’t go amiss,” Llodewick continues, oblivious to the fact that everyone is listening to him tell me off. “Temperature control aside, a dual-bottom cauldron is a poor choice for such a complex potion.”


He moves on to Lester’s before I can say anything, and Louis is smirking at me from across the room. “Lost your touch, have you?” he calls.


I didn’t realise how close I am to breaking point until he says that. “Fuck you!” I shout, my voice cracking. “I know it was you – you arsehole!”


Rose,” Holly hisses.


“Can’t handle a bad potion, Weasley?”


“You realise you’ve just said your own name in that disparaging tone as well?” Lester asks. “Come on, dude. Get your head in the game.”


“Five points from Ravenclaw,” Scorpius says in a small voice.


Holly steers me out of the classroom and into a deserted corridor. “Right,” she says, gently grasping my shoulders. “Breathe.”


I try, sucking in air with each great hiccuping sob. “Everyone was staring – ”


“Shhh,” Holly says soothingly.


“They’re all laughing – ”


“Shhh,” Holly repeats. “Just breathe. That’s it.”


“I can’t even take a joke – ”


“Shh. None of us can. We’re working on it.”


When I finally get myself under control, Holly lets me talk in full sentences. “Everyone’s back there laughing at me.”


“No, they’re not. They’re back there laughing at Louis, because we left him alone with Albus and Lester and their acerbic wit.”


“Oh.” That realisation makes me feel infinitely better. When the mood takes them, Albus and Lester can be ruthless. They’re pretty much the only reason we survived our angsty early teen years – five reclusive, nerdy Ravenclaws are theoretically sitting ducks for bullying, but anyone who tried realised they got far more than they bargained for with Albus and Lester. A few well-timed and perfectly thought-out comments later and the tables had turned in our favour, and nobody really bothered us again.


“Would you feel better if you went to Professor Llodewick and explained what happened?”


“No, he’ll just tell me I should have realised something was wrong with the cauldron. And he’s right, I’ve used dual-bottom cauldrons before, I should have recognised it.”


“If you’re sure. We’re still in this, right?”


“We’re still in this,” I confirm.


“Good,” Holly says. “Because I just had an idea.”
 


Chapter 4: iv. the secret weapon [or] well, i didn't see that coming
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]



Holly keeps the nature of her idea so quiet I’m beginning to think it was just a ploy to cheer me up, and the others are beginning to scheme.


“We could stick – ”


“No,” Holly says firmly, tossing a ball of parchment at Lester’s face. “I have a plan.”


“Maybe if we – ”


“Stop.” She swats Albus’s hand. “This is my time to shine. Trust me.”


“At least give us a clue?” Albus pleads.


“So we know you’ve actually got something,” Lester says.


“Excuse me, I have something. It was inspired by Louis’ idea, actually…you know what, Raine, I might need your help on this one. I require your scientific mind.”


“I have a scientific mind too,” I protest.


“Nobody appreciates your Potioneer brilliance more than me,” Holly assures me, “But this is Raine’s area of expertise.”


“Report back to us, Raine,” Albus says.


“He’ll do no such thing,” Holly says firmly. “It’ll be as much his prank as mine, really.”


“I get half the credit?” Lester asks, looking pleased. “Aw, thanks.”


“More like forty percent,” Holly replies. “Maybe thirty-five if I’m feeling generous.”


“You’re too kind. What would I do without you?”


“I dunno. We should get a flat next year.”


“I hope you’re including me in this,” I tell them.


“Of course,” Holly says. “We come as a unit. BFFs forever and all that. How ’bout it, Lester? Flatmates?”


“Sure,” Lester says, looking a bit stunned.


“Aw, you’re going to be living with Raine,” Albus says.


“He’s a character,” Scorpius adds. “Albus, they’ve never seen his morning routine.”


“Lester has a notable morning routine?” Holly asks.


“You could set your watch by him,” Albus says. “Bang on six am, he gets up – ”


“The hell are you awake at six am to hear him?” I interrupt.


“We’ve turned him into an alarm clock,” Scorpius explains. “See, because he does exactly the same thing every morning, it’s easy to train yourself to either ignore him and keep sleeping – which is what Tom and Alfie do – or to wake up.”


“Yeah, but why do you need to wake up at six?”


“One of them inevitably has to sneak back to his own bed before everyone else wakes up,” Lester explains, rolling his eyes.


“Ohhhhhh,” Holly contributes.


“We cuddle,” Albus says frostily.


“I’m sure.”


“What? You think we – Holly. We share that dorm with three other people.” Scorpius looks nothing short of offended.


“Yeah, Alfie’s snoring’s a bit of a mood-killer,” Albus agrees. “Seriously though, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve actually – ”


Albus I don’t think they want to hear that,” Scorpius hisses.


“I think that’s my cue,” Holly says. “Raine, we have planning to do.” She helps herself to the parchment in front of me – “You’re not using this are you, Rosie? Cool,” – and pulls Lester to his feet. “See you guys at dinner.”


It’s actually the first Hogsmeade weekend of the year, though none of us tend to take advantage of them anymore – there’s only so many times you can go to the Three Broomsticks before you get sick of it. The castle in its almost entirely empty state is far preferable to the thronging crowds in Hogsmeade, and we have the common room to ourselves because the first and second years don’t tend to leave their dorms (and if they do, they’re out running riot through the rest of the castle.)


“Rosie,” Scorpius begins with a beaming smile as he shuffles Albus closer to him. “I don’t suppose you have anything to be doing?”


Albus is more blunt. “Leave now if you know what’s good for you.”


I don’t need telling twice. Summoning my books from my room so I don’t have to come back through the common room, I flee for the library. Holly and Lester are at a table not far from me, and I give them a wave and promise not to eavesdrop on their plans.


“Where are the boys?” Holly asks.


“Alone.”


“Ah. Good call.”


After my debacle with Potions the other week I’ve been putting more time into studying for it than any other subject, and I like to think I’ve redeemed myself. Professor Llodewick seemed to accept the dual-bottomed cauldron as a one-off mistake, and my classmates are back to giving me resentful looks every time I produce a perfect potion, so no harm done. Now I have to make up for my neglect of everything else, and hunker down with my Ancient Runes textbook until Holly taps me on the shoulder and tells me it’s time for dinner.


Whenever Albus and Scorpius get time alone, they always take a while to readjust to being in the public eye. They spend an inordinate amount of time during dinner whispering and gazing into each others’ eyes , holding hands under the table (I wish I was kidding, but these boys are a walking cliché) until Holly clears her throat and whispers, “Guys. You’re being a bit obvious.”


“So what?” Albus asks.


“Yeah, so what?” Scorpius echoes. “We’ve been sneaking around for three years – ”


“And I’m sick of it,” Albus says decisively.


“They won’t,” Lester whispers.


“They will,” I whisper back, as Scorpius stands on his chair, then on the table, pulling Albus up with him and kissing him.


Nothing in my life has prepared me for the wall of noise that erupts a splitsecond later. Half the Great Hall is on their feet, craning their necks to see or just applauding wildly. People are cheering, and those who aren’t cheering are too stunned to say or do anything. Holly shrugs, getting to her feet and dragging me with her.


“Go you guys,” I call, unsure on the protocols here. “Congrats on your love that we totally didn’t know anything about.”


They kiss on the table long enough for a bunch of Hufflepuffs to figure out a spell to make confetti rain down on them, only breaking apart when teachers start moving in their direction. Stopping just as abruptly as they started, they plop back into their seats and turn their half stunned, half elated faces our way.


“Did we just – ”


“Yeah, you did.”


“You didn’t – ”


“Nobody roofied you.”


“Wow,” Scorpius manages.


“We…came out,” Albus says in wonder.


“You sure did,” Holly confirms, plucking confetti from Albus’s hair.


“You guys didn’t plan this in advance, then?” Lester asks. He looks more confused than the rest of us put together.


“Not at all.”


“It’s almost…hedonistic,” Scorpius says.


“It’s changing us,” Lester says in hushed, dramatic tones. “The scholarship. It’s changing us.”


“That’s not a bad thing,” Albus says.


“No,” Scorpius agrees, looking happier than any of us have ever seen him. “It’s really not.”










We finally see the fruits of Holly and Lester’s extensive labours two weeks later at the first Quidditch match of the season, Gryffindor vs Slytherin. We tag along at Holly’s insistence, sporting our usual Quidditch watching garb of shirts emblazoned with slogans such as “I support no one” and “I don’t care who wins.” Mine says “You both suck,” and I’ve charmed it to alternate between flashing red and gold and green and silver.


Every member of the Enemy plays Quidditch, and we see the genius of whatever Holly’s done the second the game begins, because all five of them seem to have forgotten how to fly.


“What did you do?” I whisper as Lucian Rosier veers out of bounds.


“Just reversed the steering charms on their brooms,” Holly replies matter-of-factly. “It shouldn’t take them too long to figure out what’s happened, but they’ll never remember to steer in the opposite direction during the heat of the game. And the best thing? It’s not unknown to happen to brooms over time, or changes in storage environment, or…anything, really. They can’t trace it back to me, but they’ll know.”


“How will they know it’s you?”


“This is how.” She smiles and winks at Sean Finnigan as he struggles past us. “The deed is done.”


“You’re brilliant.”


“I try.”


The game is a shambles. The Enemy realise what’s happened and steer accordingly just enough to throw off any suspicion of broom-tampering, but they’re still hopeless at flying. Slytherin’s lost its three Chasers, and Gryffindor its Keeper and Seeker. It’s the best possible situation, because Gryffindor has no defence but Slytherin has no way of taking advantage of it, and everyone on the pitch is steadily getting angrier and angrier until Slytherin’s Seeker finally catches the Snitch and they all stalk off the grounds with fury in their eyes.


I’m pleased to note we’re not the only ones laughing.










Retaliation is swift, targeted at Holly, and a complete failure. It takes the form of Sean Finnigan, who is notoriously good-looking and a total charmer, turning his attentions to Holly in the corridors outside Potions.


“I hope there hasn’t been some kind of…misunderstanding between us,” Sean says with a shy little smile. “The thing is…I’ve always been attracted to you, and…”


“Yeah, nice try buddy,” Holly says, cutting him off. “Next time you try to make a romantic gesture, do it without half of seventh year watching.”


“You can’t say you don’t feel the same way!” Sean calls after her.


“Yes I can, I’m asexual!” Holly waves cheerily as she walks into class.


“Damn,” I hear Sean mutter. “Louis, you dick, I told you it wouldn’t work.”


“I didn’t know she was asexual,” Louis hisses back. “Fuck.”


“I hope they try something else,” Holly says matter-of-factly as I join her in our usual seat. “That was just disappointing. I imagine if I’d said yes, there would have been some embarrassing public dumping or – ” She shakes her head and sighs. “We’re really not competing with the best here, Rosie.”


“More Galleons for us. Also, is everyone coming out now? Is this a thing?”


Holly shrugs. “To be honest, it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference whether people know I’m ace or not. It’s definitely not as big a deal as the boys.”


To say that Albus and Scorpius’s public display of affection caused a ripple in the Hogwarts community is an understatement. They have, instantly and entirely unintentionally, become gay icons and have to put up with choruses of well-meaning “awww’s” every time they walk into a room. “What do you want?” Albus had shouted when we walked into Potions last week. “We’re just two guys in lo – ”


Awww!


They’ve stopped holding hands in public because of that, which means that Holly, Lester and I get accosted by the well-meaning student body asking us if Albus and Scorpius are okay, because they seem to be having problems etc etc. I have to refrain from telling them that they seem to be better than ever judging by all the PDA we put up with in the common room. In fact, the only real negative reaction either of them have gotten was from Lily, who marched into our common room the night of Albus and Scorpius’s kiss and demanded to know why Albus had kept something like this from her, she was his sister, they were meant to be close


“Er,” Albus had said awkwardly. “I didn’t – you know – tell Mum or Dad either…so there’s that.”


Holly, Lester and I had all silently agreed to pretend we hadn’t known either.


There’s a buzz of conversation as the rest of the class filters into the room, mostly along the lines of “I wish Sean would ask me out,” and “I wouldn’t even care if it was a joke,” and my personal favourite, “What does asexual even mean?”


“It means I don’t look at anyone and think ‘God, I want to rip their clothes off,’” Holly explains, but she’s saved from having to teach Sexual Orientations 101 by the arrival of Professor Llodewick.


“Good morning,” he says quietly. “Now, I thought I made myself very clear to you all when I discussed the restriction of Felix Felicis and the legal ramifications for unauthorised use. If you were responsible for the theft of five vials of Felix Felicis from my stores last night – and I know it was someone in this class – come to me after class and return the vials untouched, and I’ll take no further action. Otherwise, the school will have to launch an investigation.”


“Oh, fuck,” Holly whispers.


With a vial of Felix Felicis each, the Enemy have become unstoppable.
 


Chapter 5: v. the tell-all [or] don't hold back now
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]







A/N: Please be advised that this chapter is slightly different in tone to previous chapters, and does include references to sensitive topics such as panic attacks and alcoholism.





Two days later it becomes clear that whatever Sean was doing was a decoy, when the second edition of the school magazine, Draco Dormiens, hits the house tables in the Great Hall during breakfast.


“Oh shit,” Albus mutters, spying the major headline. “Hogwarts’ Golden Couple: Forbidden Love?”


“That better not be about us.” Scorpius leans over his shoulder. “Page six. Turn, turn, turn –fuck.”


I peer over Albus’s shoulder. “Give us a look.”


“Get your own,” Albus replies, turning away.


I snatch a copy off a passing third-year – “Consider this confiscated,” and flick aggressively through the pages until I find the article.


Forbidden Love between Potter and Malfoy: Cousin Lucy Weasley Gives the Inside Scoop on the Family Feud!


Hogwarts’ golden couple, Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy of Ravenclaw, may have more than coming out as gay to contend with now their love is out in the open. Lucy Weasley, cousin and close friend of Albus Potter –


“Close friend my arse,” Albus growls.


has revealed in an exclusive interview to Draco Dormiens that the Potter and Malfoy families have nursed a bitter feud since the boys’ fathers, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, were classmates at Hogwarts. “They despised each other,” Weasley reveals. “There were incidents throughout their time at Hogwarts, including some instances of Dark magic and other violence. Frankly, I hate to see what their reaction is going to be when they find out about their sons’ relationship.” Louis Weasley, also a cousin of Albus’s, backs up Lucy’s story. “There’s some bad blood there, all right,” Weasley confirms. “We’ve all grown up with the stories, and of course it goes beyond a schoolboy rivalry. Malfoy joined the Death Eaters in his sixth year, so they were quite literally on opposing sides of the war.”


Draco Dormiens, after extensive research, has confirmed this. Head Boy Scorpius Malfoy may be a far cry from his Death Eater father, but the tension between the families will certainly put a strain on this fairytale romance. Can Albus and Scorpius survive this obstacle? Only time will tell!


“No,” Scorpius murmurs.


Albus snatches the magazine up, crumpling it in one clenched fist, and I feel my rage surge along with his. How dare Louis and Lucy spread their tabloid bullshit all over Hogwarts – and in such a public medium? I’m getting to my feet, ready to follow Albus to the Gryffindor table, when Scorpius wordlessly reaches out and tugs my sleeve. All the colour has drained from his face, and his grip on my sleeve tightens.


“Keep an eye on Albus,” I tell Holly, and usher Scorpius out of the Great Hall as quickly as I can.


There’s an abandoned storeroom on the ground floor, just off the Entrance Hall, and I steer Scorpius inside, locking the door behind us. The moment we’re alone, he falls into a crumpled heap on the floor. “Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit – ”


“Hey,” I say softly, kneeling on the cold stone beside him. “It’s going to be fine.”


He shakes his head violently, sucking in air between words. “It’s not, it’s not, my dad – oh shit, shit shit shit shit shit!” His voice cracks on the final word and he starts sobbing in earnest. I can do nothing but sit as he clings to my hand with a deathlike grip, rubbing his back as he buries his face in his knees.


“Breathe,” I remind him softly, because he’s hyperventilating now. “Hey, Scorp. You’re okay. Just breathe. Look at me. Breathe.”


“I can’t – Rose, I can’t – ”


“Yes you can. Look at me.”


He does, and I silently thank God that he hasn’t shut down completely. “Breathe with me. In…out. In…out. That’s it, you’re doing great. In…out.”


He’s still shaking violently, his stubby nails digging into my palm, but at least he’s breathing properly now. “Tell me about Albus,” I say, when I judge that it’s okay for him to talk. “Did you know, after all these years, none of us actually know how you two ended up together?”


“I don’t really know either,” he says eventually, and to my relief I see a small smile tug at his lips. “It’s just…always been him, you know? It’s always Albus. I had a crush on him before I even knew what a crush was.”


“What about your first kiss? How did that happen?”


“You’ll laugh,” he says, shaking his head.


“Promise I won’t.”


“Remember when you and Holly forced us to play truth or dare in second year?”


“There was no forcing involved,” I say haughtily.


“Yeah, well,” he continues, “And how we all asked each other whether we liked someone and we all said no?”


“We were the ultimate thirteen-year-olds.”


“Yeah,” he says. “That night, we were in the bathroom and Albus mumbles around his toothbrush that he was lying, and I mumble around mine that I was too, and we finish brushing our teeth and he’s staring at me, and I’m thinking something stupid like shit do I have toothpaste on my face, and then he just…kissed me.” He pauses, allowing a chuckle to escape. “It was terrible. We were thirteen and I hadn’t grown into my nose and neither of us knew what we were doing, but…I wouldn’t change it for the world, either.”


“You guys are adorable.”


“Don’t you start,” Scorpius says sternly. “You’re our last bastion of sanity.”


I straighten up, pulling out my wand and conjuring Scorpius a handkerchief. He accepts it gratefully, dabbing at his eyes, and exhales slowly – once, twice, three times, hands curled into fists. “Right. I’m all right. What do we have first?”


“Defence,” I reply, checking my watch. “In five. We – don’t need to go.”


It feels weird saying it, but I’m bolstered by the sight of Scorpius, still blotchy and deathly pale even if he is currently trying to force a smile. We don’t need to go to Defence Against the Dark Arts. We shouldn’t go to Defence Against the Dark Arts, not with Scorpius in this state and not with the course content being what it is (at this level, Professor Thomas pulls no punches when it comes to talking about the Second Wizarding War and the Death Eaters.)


“I don’t think I will go,” Scorpius says at length. “If it were anything else – what do we have second?”


“You have History of Magic.”


“Fuck’s sake.”


“Why, what are you studying?”


“The fucking war,” Scorpius says heavily. “God. And with the news fresh in everyone’s minds that I’m a – that Dad was – ”


“Scorp,” I say carefully, “It was twenty-five years ago. None of us were even born.”


“That doesn’t matter though, does it?” Scorpius asks. “Rose, can you look me in the eye and tell me that the war hasn’t affected you at all? That you don’t see the ghosts of it in your mum or dad’s eyes?”


“Well…” I falter.


“Exactly. But they’re all right though, aren’t they? They got the Order of Merlin, they can look back on what they did with pride, your parents. My dad can’t. He lied, grovelled, hid, crawled on his knees in the mud just so I could grow up without the label of Death Eater’s son, he buried those two years of his life under shame and Firewhiskey, and for what? For it all to be plastered across Hogwarts – because of me.”


“Don’t you dare blame yourself for anything those pieces of shit we call classmates did.”


He ignores that. “Did you know Dad’s two years sober this Christmas?”


“I didn’t know that he – ”


“Nobody did,” he says, cutting me off. “It was never my secret to tell, you know? He never hurt anyone, with the drinking. Except himself. I’d go downstairs and he’d be sitting there, a glass of Firewhiskey in his hand…just staring at the scars the Dark Mark left on his arm, and he’d stay there until he fell asleep or passed out, whichever came first.”


“I’m sorry.”


“Christmas of fifth year, he quit. Cold turkey. Nobody ever told me why, but whatever it was – it must have been bad…but I’m proud of him. I don’t get many opportunities to be proud of him. I don’t stand up any straighter when someone introduces me as Draco Malfoy’s son. You know how the highest praise our teachers give you is that you’re like your mum? Or that Albus is like his dad? The highest praise they give me is that I’m not.”


That stops me dead, because it’s true and because it’s never even crossed my mind to think about it. Ever since I started at Hogwarts, every member of staff who taught my mother, or was at school with her, or ever met her, has told me how much like her I am, how I got my abilities or my intelligence or my work ethic from her. Albus’s character is praised to high heaven because he’s so much like uncle Harry, but with Scorpius it’s always been the tone of surprise. “You’re a better student than your father, that’s for sure,” and “You’ll make an excellent Prefect, unlike your father,” and “I’d never have guessed you were a Malfoy.”


“You are like your dad though,” I say, not sure if this is the right approach to take, but already committed. “You’re the spitting image of him, for starters. Except – you know – younger and with more hair.”


“I’m glad you added that.”


“And – well, I’ve met your dad. And I’ve heard enough about him to know – well. That he’s standoffish and proud and a little bit intimidating – ”


“I’m hardly intimidating.”


“You haven’t seen yourself in Head Boy mode. But Dad’s always saying how your dad was a complete mummy’s boy at Hogwarts, and well – you know he loves you and your mum, anyone can see that – and whatever he did when he was a scared teenager in the middle of a war doesn’t count for much in my opinion – not when he cares so much about his family. And you’re exactly the same, you know. We’re not family, but we might as well be for the way you care about us, and I think that’s a Malfoy trait worth being proud of.”


He pulls me into a hug. “How cliched would it be if I cried into your hair?”


“Everyone’s cried into my hair. It’s the sole purpose of the Granger mane.”


He releases me after five minutes, fumbling behind himself for the handkerchief I conjured him earlier. “What am I going to do without you?”


“Train Albus,” I reply. “Get him to grow his hair.”


“You know what I mean.”


I do. Three of the five of us are prone to anxiety and panic attacks – Scorpius, Lester and me. Over the years we’ve learned how best to deal with them – and particularly who helps us through them the most. Holly is mine, Scorpius is Lester’s and I’m Scorpius’s. I don’t quite know how it worked out that way – though Holly’s my best friend and I’m closest to her out of everyone (except maybe Albus, but he’s useless in anything approaching a crisis) and Lester and Scorpius are very similar in temperament (we used to joke that they’re the Muggleborn and pureblood versions of each other) and Scorpius and I have accidentally become close over the last three years, mainly because I take his side whenever he and Albus have a fight (for one, he’s usually right, because Albus is infinitely more sensitive and temperamental than Scorpius, and very good at making drama where there shouldn’t be any – and secondly, I’m the only one who can make Albus see sense and apologise for it. Being family has its advantages)


“It’s October,” I say eventually. “None of us is going anywhere until June.”


“June isn’t that far away.” Scorpius pauses. “Don’t suppose you have any of that stuff that stops your face looking blotchy?”


I pass over the vial of potion. “Ready to face the world again?”


He glances at his watch. “Yeah. And you know what – I’m going to History of Magic.”


“You sure?”


He shrugs. “I’ve been a Death Eater’s son since the day I was born, nothing’s changed. And if anyone looks at me or thinks of Dad any differently – they can suck it, to be honest. Thanks for everything, Rosie.”


He slings his backpack over one shoulder and departs for class. I smile, Vanish the handkerchief he left behind and make my way back to Ravenclaw Tower.







“We have our revenge plan,” Albus informs me in the common room that afternoon. “Where are Holly and Lester?”


“Arithmancy,” I reply, reluctantly shifting my legs off the couch to allow Albus and Scorpius room. “What’s the idea?”


“It’s not so much revenge as just a response that should piss them off,” Albus says. “We’re going to give an exclusive interview to Draco Dormiens, explaining that our fathers are actually on perfectly civil terms and both Lucy and Louis are obviously trying to mooch off our newfound fame.”


“They attended a charity function the other week run by your mum, Rose,” Scorpius adds. “There’s even a picture of them chatting away quite happily.”


Happily is a term I would use loosely,” Albus interjects. “Civil. Let’s stick with civil.”


“Civil, then. Also, we’re coming out to our parents this weekend.”


“You what?”


“It’s all over the school,” Scorpius points out. “Well, it’s been all over school for a while, but now it’s actually in print, and we’d all rather that they heard from us, not a sensationalised student magazine run by a committee of sixth-year Hufflepuffs.”


“We want you to come with us,” Albus adds. “Moral support.”


“Aren’t you each other’s moral support?”


“Normally yes,” Scorpius replies. “But we’re both anticipating the worst here, and if he’s incapacitated by his father’s crushing disappointment, he can’t help me cower from my father’s cold fury. Both tasks will therefore fall to you.”


“You’re optimistic.”


“We’re just covering all our bases,” Albus explains. “They’ll all be arriving in Vector’s office at ten tomorrow morning –we explained the situation, she’s letting us borrow her Floo.”


“You want me up by ten on a Saturday morning?” I ask. “You’re both lucky I love you.”


“We know. Thanks, Rosie.”


“If it all goes balls-up I’m going to tell them you’re pregnant,” Scorpius informs me. “Mum and Dad have thought you’re my secret girlfriend for at least the last two years. We’ll see how quickly they realise they prefer me gay.”


“Fuck’s sake,” I mutter.







I meet the boys in the common room at quarter to ten the next morning.


“Ready?” Albus asks.


“Ready,” Scorpius confirms. “Rose, it means a lot that you’re joining us in these our last moments.”


“Remember us,” Albus adds. “Tell everyone I died bravely.”


I roll my eyes and pull them both through the door. “You’ll be fine. And if you’re not, you can both haunt me for the rest of my life, whispering ‘I told you so’ into the darkness.”


“What an eternity,” Albus says.


They keep up a steady stream of witticisms as we make our way to Professor Vector’s office – which I know they’re only doing to hide the fact that they’re both genuinely terrified. I wonder briefly if they would be better off doing this alone and actually processing their emotions – then remember that Scorpius at least has done enough emotion processing in the last twenty-four hours to last a lifetime, and the priority right now is to just get him through this in one piece.


“After you,” I say when we reach Professor Vector’s office.


“Ladies first,” Albus says graciously.


I sigh, knocking briefly and opening the door.


“Rose,” Professor Vector says with a frown. “What are you doing here? I thought – ”


“Moral support,” I explain, ushering the boys in. “Where are their parents?”


“Not far,” Vector replies, checking the Floo. “Scorpius, yours are on their way.”


He nods, swallowing hard, and runs both hands through his hair.


There’s an ominous silence until the Malfoys arrive.


“Professor,” Mr Malfoy greets Vector, shaking her hand.


“Draco. Astoria,” Vector adds, and embraces Scorpius’s mother.


“Mum was Vector’s star student once,” Scorpius whispers by way of explanation.


The Malfoys are halfway through their greetings – Albus and I get a brief nod and a good morning from Mr Malfoy – before the Potters step out of the Floo.


“Harry,” Mr Malfoy says.


“Draco,” Uncle Harry returns. They shake hands before turning to the three of us. “What’s this all about, then?”


Professor Vector silently slips out of her office. I’m almost certain I’m the only one who notices – everyone else is silent and staring at each other.


“Well,” Albus begins. “Mum, Dad…Mr and Mrs Malfoy...Scorpius and I are together.”


“Dating,” Scorpius clarifies, and stares at his shoes.


The parents all exchange glances.


“How long has this been going on, Al?” Uncle Harry asks eventually.


“Three years,” he replies, staring at his father’s shoes.


“Three years?” Aunt Ginny repeats. “Albus, why didn’t you tell us sooner?”


“I was going to ask my son the same thing.” Mrs Malfoy crosses her arms. “Scorpius, why would you keep something like this from us?”


Albus and Scorpius both turn to me desperately, but before I can explain to them that this is actually something they have to handle themselves, Aunt Ginny rescues me. “No, don’t go looking to Rose to bail you out. I asked you a question.”


“I don’t know,” Albus says eventually. “It was just…scary. I’m not a Gryffindor.”


“I’m certainly not a Gryffindor,” Scorpius offers.


“Did you see this coming?” Aunt Ginny asks Mrs Malfoy, almost as an aside.


“I had my suspicions,” Mrs Malfoy replies. “Though I always thought Scorp was more likely to be with Rose…heteronormativity makes fools of us all.”


“So you’re…” Mr Malfoy is saying to Scorpius, “A…homosexual, is that what you’re saying?”

 
“Gay has less syllables,” Scorpius says. “But no. Yes. I don’t know. I like Albus. I’ve never looked at anyone else. Take of that what you will.”


“What about you, Albus?” Harry asks.


“Same as him, actually, Dad.”


“You can’t fault their devotion to each other,” Mrs Malfoy whispers to Ginny.


“I never have,” Ginny whispers back.


I sidle over to join the conversation. “They’re so good together it’s actually gross.”


“How long have you known about this?” Ginny asks.


I sidle away again.


Rose Weasley,” Ginny hisses at me.


“A fair while,” I reply evasively. “But I’m sure there are more pressing issues for you to attend to.”


“I haven’t finished with you yet,” she tells me ominously, and steps forward to sweep an unsuspecting Albus into a bone-crushing hug.


The conversation between dads and boys has progressed far enough that Uncle Harry is now shaking Scorpius’s hand, while Mr Malfoy looks like he’s still struggling with something.


“You’re not going to have children, then?” he asks Scorpius eventually.


“It seems very unlikely, given the circumstances,” Scorpius replies.


“So that’s it,” Mr Malfoy says heavily. “Scorpius…son. I want what’s best for you, and if Albus Potter is what’s best…” He looks to his wife for support, then plunges on. “But you’re the last of the Malfoy line. The name dies with you.”


Scorpius reaches out, lacing his fingers with Albus’s. “Maybe it’s time for the name to die out,” he says quietly.


The silence that meets his words is deafening. Mr Malfoy looks around the room, then lets his gaze linger on his forearm and the sleeve which we all know conceals the remnants of his Dark Mark. “Maybe you’re right.”


Chapter 6: vi. the acceleration of chaos [or] holly & lester become inadvertent zookeepers
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]






When I return to the common room (the boys are still talking to their parents, but I figure my role as moral support has been fulfilled) Holly and Lester are waiting. Holly looks comfy – she’s still in her onesie and shrouded with an additional blanket, and is holding a steaming cup of tea.


“I love heating charms,” she says contentedly, leaning back on the arm of the couch. “I feel sorry for all those younger students who have to trek all the way to the Great Hall for a – oh, how’d it go with the boys?”


“I think it went okay,” I reply. “They’re still in Vector’s office, but there was hugging and handshaking going on when I left, so I think they’re fine.”


“It’s strange having them out,” Holly continues. “I mean, it’s good. It’s really good, I was beginning to think they’d take that to their graves, but it’s odd to think we’re not the sole keepers of their secret anymore.”


Holly has a point. Albus and Scorpius’s secret relationship was the first true test of our friendship, back in third year – it bound us together, the same way five accomplices to a murder are bound together forever. That was a terrible analogy, but the fact remains that there’s solidarity in secrecy and the five of us relished it back when we were overdramatic thirteen-year-olds. Of course, over the years we’ve found a lot more things to bind us together than clandestine romances, but Holly’s right. It is weird.


“We’ve been plotting,” Holly says, interrupting my reverie. “It’s all good for the boys to give that interview – it’s their prerogative, really, given that the last one was about them – but it’s not much of a prank. We need to go slapstick again. Visual humour. Louis followed by Pygymy Puffs was inspired, Rose. Them struggling to fly their brooms – I like to think that was a good one.”


“We’re going to put Transfiguring charms, controlled by a Protean Charm, on every roll of toilet paper in the castle,” Lester says proudly. “One minute you’re doing your business, next minute – doves.”


“Doves?” I repeat.


“Doves,” Holly confirms. “See?” She picks up a toilet paper roll from the floor, taps it with her wand, and turns it into three startled white doves.


“You guys are amazing, oh my God.”


“It’s going to be a bit tricky,” Holly says. “We’ll have to charm all the rolls well before we set them off – we’re thinking the gap between third and fourth period, everyone heads for the bathroom then – so we’d be doing it in third period – what day do we all have third free?”


“Wednesday’s our best bet,” I suggest. “That’s History of Magic, which takes out Albus and Scorpius – ”


“They don’t need to be involved in this one anyway,” Lester decides. “They’ve got their interview, though that won’t come out for a couple of weeks. But Wednesday works.”


“Wednesday,” Holly confirms, bouncing in her seat. “It’s exhilarating, isn’t it? I can feel the character development. We should write a novel.”


“Let’s not,” I counter. “Have you guys done the Transfiguration homework?”


“We’ve started,” Lester says, pulling out his wand and concentrating intently. A few seconds later three large rabbits burst forth and hop across the common room. “I can never get less than three,” he sighs. “What do you think I’m doing wrong?”


“I think you’re just doing it a bit too right, Raine.”


Lester scrutinises his wand briefly and tries again. This time, five rabbits join the other three in hopping around the room.


“Who wants some bunnies?” he asks the common room at large, and is greeted by a series of excited squeals from first and second years.


“I’ll have some bunnies, thanks,” Holly says.


“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Lester tells her, and conjures six bunnies onto her lap. Holly cooes delightedly at them.


“You can conjure yourself a bunny whenever you want,” I point out.


“Bunnies that other people have conjured are just better,” Holly replies. “It’s like stolen food. Besides, Raine’s the best of all of us at Transfiguration. Mine tend to have deformities.”


“Like what?”


“The last two were hairless.”


“Hypoallergenic.”


“See, that’s what I like about you, Weasley. Always a positive spin on things. Bun?” She offers me a rabbit.


I take the rabbit, shuffling closer to her on the couch and helping myself to half her blanket. It may be only October but it’s already freezing, and there’s a fine dusting of snow on the window ledges outside. Holly rearranges blanket and rabbits until I’m smooshed against her. “You’re warm,” I say approvingly.


“You’re cold,” she counters, wriggling slightly and wrapping her arms around me.


Holly is, for want of a better term, very handsy. Maybe it’s because, for her, touch is just touch – innocent, affectionate, practical. It never means anything more, never has hidden meaning or significance. She’s a prolific hand-holder, cheek-kisser and couch-snuggler, and in times like these when the fire on the far side of the common room is doing precious little to ward off the chill (and when, I realise only now, I’m feeling drained from being the boys’ pillar of strength over the last few days) there’s nothing better than a Holly cuddle. Lester looks jealous, surrounded by rabbits on the opposite couch.


“Come join us,” Holly says, tapping the couch with her wand to expand it. “You look cold and you always smell nice.”


“Uh, thanks?” Lester shrugs, loosening his tie (yes, he wears a tie in the weekends – that says pretty much all you ever need to know about him) and awkwardly lowering himself onto the couch on Holly’s other side.


“C’mere,” she says, draping the edge of a blanket over him. “Mmm, you do smell good. New aftershave?”


“Old one, actually. Lost it halfway through sixth year.”


“Yeah,” Holly says thoughtfully. “There it is. Smells like Apparition lessons.”


“Destination, determination, deliberation,” I recite. “Holly, did you ever pass your test?”


“I tried again over the holidays, if you must know.”


“And?”


“And I splinched myself in three different places,” she concludes. “I’m going to stick to the Floo Network, I think.”


“How do you splinch yourself in three places?” Lester asks. “I’m not even laughing, I’m genuinely impressed.”


“I left my foot behind – ”


“Easy to do,” Lester concedes.


“And the tip of my nose – ”


“That takes skill.”


“And my left boob.”


“Your what?” Lester asks, looking stunned.


Holly.”


“It’s bigger than the other one!” Holly says defensively.


I’m incapable of responding at this point, I’m laughing so hard. Holly’s offended face only makes it worse, until eventually she starts giggling too. “It sounds so much worse when I say it out loud.”


“How can it sound any better in your head?” I manage, and dissolve into laughter again.


“Somehow it does!”


We’re still in a hysterical, bunny-covered pile when Albus and Scorpius return to the common room.


“Well, that could have gone a lot worse than – what the fuck happened here?”


“Holly left her boob behind in her Apparition test!” I hoot.


“Holly did what?” Scorpius leans over and scoops a couple of rabbits off us. “Are you guys drunk?”


“I wish,” Lester says, wiping a tear from his eye. “We’d have some excuse for all…this.”


“Okay, okay, context,” I say, heaving myself into a sitting position. “Holly tried for her Apparition licence in the holidays, right – ”


“It’s better without context,” Holly decides.


“It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference, it’s still the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Lester says.


“I Splinched myself last time I went out for my licence,” Holly summarises. “In the boob. On the boob? I was minus one boob.”


“You were reunited with it though, I see.”


“Moving on from the topic of Holly’s boobs,” Albus says smoothly, “We’re on our way back out anyway. Our parents are taking us out to the Three Broomsticks tonight.”


“Things really did go well, then?” Lester asks.


“Surprisingly,” Scorpius says. “I never thought I’d see the day – but Dad and Mr Potter are talking.”


“Swapping Hogwarts stories, no less,” Albus adds. “Mainly ripping into the few teachers they had a mutual hatred for, but it’s a start.”


“While our mums are trying to work out the exact timeline of our relationship,” Scorpius says, rolling his eyes. “Instead of, you know, asking us.”


“To be fair, you did keep it from them for three years,” Holly says reasonably.


“Shush. They’ve moved on. We’ve moved on. It’s okay. See you guys later.”


“Have fun,” Holly calls after them.


“Well,” Lester says, raising his eyebrows. “They’ve certainly got plenty of evidence against Louis and Lucy’s travesty of an interview.”


Holly frowns suddenly. “Raine, how long have these rabbits been sitting on me?”


“About four hours.”


“Well, sitting on all of us.”


“Still four hours.”


“One of them’s a guinea pig.”


“What?”


“You conjured a fucking guinea pig along with five rabbits.”


“You took four hours to realise one of them was a guinea pig,” Lester counters.


I took four hours. You two wouldn’t have noticed at all.”


Lester peers at the animal in concern. “Huh. He is a guinea pig. How did I do that?”


“D’you think you could turn him into a Pygmy Puff?” Holly asks. “I’ve always wanted one.”


“Holly, you are a Pygmy Puff,” I tell her.


“N’aww, thanks.” Holly burrows into my shoulder.


“No, I’m serious. You should become an Animagus. I swear to God you will actually turn into a Pygmy Puff.”


“Or a puppy,” Lester suggests. “What would I be?”


“A cat?” Holly says thoughtfully. “Cats are prissy, and you’re prissy – and clean.”


“My Patronus is a cat,” Lester admits. “Though I like to think there’s more to that than personal hygiene.”


“You can cast a Patronus?” Holly asks. “Of course you can.”


“You can’t?”


“Wandwork’s not my strong point, you know that. Rose, can you?”


“Cast a Patronus? Yeah. Mine’s a fox. And if you make a single joke about foxy – ”


“Aw, foiled again,” Holly says, disappointed. “What’s the time, anyway?”


“Five forty-five,” Lester replies.


“We should go down for dinner,” she says reluctantly. “What are we going to do with five rabbits and a guinea pig?”


“Something stupid,” Lester says. “Be right back, I’m gonna steal Albus’s Invisibility Cloak.”






Something stupid turned out to be the rather tame move of numbering the rabbits and guinea pig from one to seven, skipping number three, and releasing them into the Gryffindor common room. Given we had five minutes to come up with and execute the plan, it’s not a bad effort – and Holly spends dinner chatting happily (and vaguely) about how much our skills and ability to think on our feet have improved since the beginning of the year. We take a detour past the library on our way back to the common room – we have research essays to write for Ancient Runes, and we issue the four copies of Linton & Smart belonging to the school before our classmates can lay their hands on them. Linton & Smart is a comprehensive dictionary first published in 1898, and includes every word and every notable or differing usage in surviving literature – it is to Runes what the Liddell & Scott is to Greek or the Lewis & Short is to Latin. (We only know that because Scorpius has his own copies of all three – man is a nutter when it comes to ancient languages, and absolutely swimming in his parents’ Galleons.) As we’re walking out the library doors with the Holy Grail of Runes piled in our arms, we overhear a couple of anxious-sounding Gryffindor Prefects.


“We can’t find number three anywhere – God knows what kind of damage a rabbit could do in the common room…”


“Well, we can’t quit till we find him. How far could a rabbit get anyway – ?”


We walk a bit faster, hurrying out of earshot to explode in laughter, and run into a suspicious-looking Emily Huntington on the south-west stairwell.


“What are you lot laughing at?” she asks with a frown.


Emily has never held our sense of humour in particularly high esteem. Bearing this in mind, I let out a particularly evil-sounding cackle and gesture to the books in our hands. “We took the last of these from the library. Our classmates are gonna be screwed for their translations!”


She raises one unimpressed eyebrow. “Wow. You guys are sad.”


You’re sad,” Lester says.


Deciding we’ve done enough damage to our reputation for now, I heft the dictionary into the crook of one elbow and use my free arm to steer Lester up the stairs and away from Emily. Holly follows suit, a pep in her step that absolutely should not be there given the relative sizes of girl and dictionary.


“Inspired,” Lester says once we’re out of earshot.


“Is that sarcasm I hear, Raine?”


“Potentially.” He hesitates, thinks about that for a moment. “Actually, no. It was inspired. As far as deflecting suspicion goes, spot on.”


“I don’t know why I didn’t turn these talents to a life of minor rule-breaking earlier.”


Same here,” Holly enthuses. “We make an unstoppable team, Rosie. The masterminding, the execution, the aftermath – ”


“The aftermath could use some work,” I concede. “We need to come up with a better way of reacting to retaliatory pranks that doesn’t involve using Scorpius as a point-taking deus ex machina.”


“We can work on that, though,” Holly says determinedly. “If only we could have our time at Hogwarts over – ” She cuts herself off suddenly, a look of horror dawning on her face as she gropes wildly at my arm. “Rose,” she whispers. “We’re going to be teachers.”


I catch on immediately. “Oh no.”


“We can’t be teachers,” Holly continues. “We’re – we’re terrible role models, Rosie!”


“It’s just for one year. One year, then we’ll be back to our model citizen ways.”


“It’s in my soul!” she wails.


“Lord, give me strength,” Lester mutters.


We make it back to the common room in time for Holly and I to have a hushed, frenzied meltdown about whether we’ve corrupted our characters too much to make good teachers and whether we can ever pull ourselves out of this tailspin of degrading morality, until Lester rolls his eyes heavenward, takes a deep breath, and stands.


Ladies!” he roars. Holly and I freeze mid-sentence, comically clutching each other’s elbows, and stare wide-eyed as he clears his throat, glances around the silent common room apologetically, and continues in a much calmer tone. “You’ll both make fine teachers. In fact, you’ll probably be even better now that you’ve had some…firsthand experience with misbehaviour.”


“Hey, you’re right,” Holly whispers in wonder. “Rose. This year is an investment. Not only for the scholarship, but for the future quality of our teaching. We can do this. We need to do this.”


“Are all these motivational speeches really necessary?” Lester asks after a brief pause. “I mean – personally, you all had me at five thousand Galleons.”


“Shut up, Raine, we’re having a moment.” Holly turns to me, grips my hand firmly. “For our future students.”


“For our future students,” I echo, and we shake on it.
 


Chapter 7: vii. the peace offering [or] we should've given them olive branches
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]






The Dove Plan, as we’ve imaginatively started calling it, is quite possibly the best thing I have ever seen or done.


Holly, Lester and I split up during third period on Wednesday, having divided up the castle between us, to charm all the toilet rolls. I’ve never appreciated quite how many bathrooms Hogwarts has, or how much toilet paper is stockpiled in each (we decide not to hit the storerooms, because while the actual moment of metamorphosis in the bathrooms is going to be hilarious, a complete schoolwide lack of toilet paper is likely to go very quickly from funny, to inconvenient, and finally to catastrophic, and we operate under a doctrine of thoughtful thoughtlessness.)


We run into a few problems that constitute the Hogwarts bathrooms during classtime – couples who have decided there’s no spot more romantic than the fourth-floor toilets, senior students with free periods looking for a private place to discuss the latest scandals, even the odd enterprising student conducting shady deals over Firewhiskey and restricted potions. By the time I’ve finished charming the toilet rolls, I’ve also taken sixty points from Hufflepuff, forty from Gryffindor, thirty from Ravenclaw and a staggering one hundred and eighty from Slytherin – they form the lion’s share of the black market in restricted substances, and I have to dock points far more heavily for that sort of thing than for sneaking out of class for a bit of a snog in the cubicles. My badge gives me a handy pretext for being in the bathrooms in the first place – not to mention most students tend to flee pretty quickly once they see me. Many a time I’ve heard the warning yell of “Prefect!” from further up a corridor, and seconds later a clump of students disperse, trying to look as innocent as possible.


I meet the others in the Entrance Hall. “All done?”


“And to an excellent standard, if I do say so myself,” Holly confirms. “Where’s our best vantage point, d’you think?”


“Foot of the main stairwell,” Lester says immediately. “Plenty of bathrooms around there on the ground floor, and a good view of first. Though we’re going to need a reason to be there.”


“Well, I’m on my way to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Don’t know about you guys.”


“We’re…meeting the boys outside History of Magic,” Holly decides. “Yeah, that’ll do. It’s ten to now, so everyone’s just getting out…okay. Let us dawdle.”


We set off at a relaxed pace for the main stairwell, watching as hoardes of students pack into the bathrooms. “Now.”


Holly turns gracefully, hand buried in the pocket of her robes, and ducks briefly behind a statue. Three miniaturised doves come flitting out of her pocket, from the miniaturised toilet roll that acts as the master key for our Protean Charm. Then pandemonium strikes.


The doors to the bathrooms fly open, discharging flocks of doves and shrieking students. From all directions they come, yelling and swearing and careering around the castle while the doves soar gracefully overhead, every now and then pooping on the extremely unlucky. Lester casts a Shield Charm for us to hide under and, deciding we’ve gawked long enough, they walk me to Defence Against the Dark Arts.


“We’re gonna go spectate some more,” Holly says as they depart. “And then disappear. See you at lunch.”


Everyone’s talking wildly about the doves in the bathrooms once I get to class, and I hear some amazing stories – “D’you hear about some Gryffindor who was wiping his arse when it turned into a dove?” I hope fervently that it was Sean Finnigan.


Scorpius looks utterly bewildered when he plops into the seat beside me. “Have you seen – doves?”


“I’ve seen the doves, yes.”


“They’re saying someone turned the toilet paper into them – I mean, fuck. That’s – That’ll win the scholarship for sure, do you think we have more competition? Nobody in the Enemy could have come up with such complex magic…you don’t think maybe the Scamanders – ?”


Scorpius,” I whisper. “It was us. It was Holly and Lester’s idea.”


“No,” Scorpius whispers back, breaking into a grin. “No way.”


“Yeah. We totally did.”


“Do we have a way of proving it?” Scorpius continues. “I imagine anyone going for the scholarship will try and claim it.”


“Holly has the master key. We used a Protean Charm.”


“Wow,” he says approvingly. “That’s phenomenal, guys.”


“You’re damn right it’s phenomenal.” I’m beyond modesty at this point. “The thing is, I don’t know how we’re going to top this. We’ve set the bar a bit high for ourselves.”


“Leave the next one to me and Albus,” Scorpius assures me. “We’ll set the bar even higher.”


“We’re going to have to blow up the castle by the time we leave at this rate.”


“One thousand one hundred years of magical history gone in the blink of an eye would be a hell of a prank,” Scorpius says. “No, I can’t even joke about that. That’s worse than the Library of Alexandria.”


“Don’t mention the Library of Alexandria,” I say automatically.


“Nothing’s worse than the Library of Alexandria!” Lara Talbot, another seventh-year Ravenclaw (it’s okay, I forget there are others too) twists in her seat to give Scorpius a reproachful stare.


This is one thing that sets Ravenclaw apart from other houses – our points of comparison. Ever since Alfie Harrison, the Muggleborn son of an ancient history lecturer, taught us about the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in second year, it’s been our go-to for determining how bad something is. Lara’s right, nothing is as bad as the Library of Alexandria.


“We’re talking about if someone blew up Hogwarts,” Scorpius explains.


Lara frowns. “Magically? We’re talking complete obliteration?”


“Yep.”


“Anything salvageable?”


“Maybe the students.”
 

Lara waves a dismissive hand. “Students don’t matter. Records, books, artifacts – ?”


“All gone.”


“Hmm.” Lara lapses into thoughtful silence. “Maybe on a par with Carthage?”


Carthago delenda est,” Scorpius says. “Yeah, good call.”


“I think the Carthiginians would disagree,” I point out.


“The Carthiginians are dead.”


“Troy?” Lara suggests.


“No way,” Scorpius says. “You know what happened at Troy, right? Have you read Aeneid II?”


“Not in Latin,” Lara replies.


“You should,” Scorpius tells her. “You lose so much of the pathos in translation.”


“We’re not comparing the human cost, though,” Lara argues. “So the pathos of Aeneid II doesn’t really come into it. We’re comparing cultural loss – and if we make the argument that the fall of Troy was a historical event, then it contributed to a wealth of Western literature. It wasn’t a cultural loss at all, it was a cultural gain.”


“So it’s not really comparable to Hogwarts at all,” I say. “You’ve just proved your own point wrong, because Hogwarts would be a massive cultural loss – ”


I slowly become aware that the classroom has fallen silent, and everyone’s staring at us.


“Don’t let me interrupt you,” Professor Thomas says. “No, really. This is fascinating stuff.” He crosses his arms, and I exchange awkward glances with Lara and Scorpius.


“Sorry, Professor,” Lara says. “We were just…discussing.”


“I could see that,” Professor Thomas says. “In future, please keep your discussions outside class time…or on topic.”


“It was on topic,” I say earnestly. “We were just discussing the war, and how close the castle came to being destroyed – ”


“Yes,” Professor Thomas says, and something shifts in his face. “It did. And while it may be easy enough for you to discuss such a possibility academically, I would ask that out of respect for those who nearly did see the castle fall, that you don’t.”


“That backfired,” Scorpius whispers. Out loud he adds, “No disrespect meant, Professor.”


“I know, Scorpius.” Professor Thomas turns back to the rest of the class. “Right. We’ve got a particularly difficult lesson today, so I hope you’ve all cleared your minds of any dove-related incidents. Can anyone tell me what a Patronus Charm is?”


I raise my hand with almost uncharacteristic eagerness, and apparently Professor Thomas agrees. “Yes, Hermi – Rose,” he corrects himself hastily. “Sorry, Rose, go on.”


“It’s a charm used to repel Dementors and Lethifolds. In their corporeal forms they take the shape of animals unique to the caster.”


“Five points to Ravenclaw, couldn’t have put it better myself. Now, I know the Patronus Charm does appear in the Standard Book of Spells, Grade 7 – though it has been moved from the Charms curriculum to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Bearing this in mind, how many of you have already attempted the Patronus Charm?”


I raise my hand, as does Lucy, Scorpius, Sophie Macmillan and Lorcan Scamander. Professor Thomas smiles a little, and I can tell he’s thinking that at least Sophie, Lorcan and I all learned the spell from our Dumbledore’s Army parents. We did.


“Well then,” Professor Thomas says. “Which one of you would like to give us a demonstration?”


Scorpius raises his hand, shuffling past me to the front of the room, and I lean back in my seat to watch.


Scorpius, far more than the rest of us, has a certain grace when it comes to magic, and seeing him give practical demonstrations is nothing short of a privilege – he uses his wand like an extension of his hand, which makes him formidable in duelling, and once he has mastery of a spell it becomes nothing short of instinct. He casts the spell even as he’s walking, flicking his wand in a manner that would seem absent-minded if it was anyone but Scorpius, and an immense silvery lion bursts forth from his wand. He allows a small smile to tug at his lips as our classmates gasp in awe, and I can’t help but grin. I always forget how impressive Scorpius’s Patronus is (impressive to the point that Albus and I were extremely jealous of him when we all mastered the spell in the summer before sixth year.)


“It’s a shame Albus doesn’t take this class,” Scorpius whispers as he sits back down. “He likes watching me do magic.”


“I feel like that was borderline too much information, Scorp.”


Borderline,” he repeats. “I’ll have to do better next time.”


“Please don’t.”


“Hey, that was a perfectly innocuous statement when you think about it,” Scorpius says. “You like watching me do magic. Everyone likes watching me do magic, let’s face it. I’m fucking majestic.”


Context, Malfoy.”


I’m spared further debate by Professor Thomas telling us to split into pairs and practice the charm, but Scorpius doesn’t move.


“Why are you wanting to practice?” he asks me. “We nailed this spell over a year ago.”


“Oh, yeah.”


Having conjured our Patroni to keep Professor Thomas at bay, we watch as our classmates struggle through the spell. There are plenty of fraying tempers and resentful glares in our direction as we lounge in the corner, hands clasped behind our heads, until Professor Thomas eventually comes our way.


“We mastered this spell a while ago, Professor,” Scorpius explains.


“I can see that. Rose, Professor Vector tells me you want to be a teacher.”


“That’s the plan.”


“Perhaps you’d like to put those aspirations to the test,” he suggests, gesturing to the room full of struggling peers. “It seems a better use of your time than sitting on the sidelines watching. Scorpius, you don’t have any educational tendencies?”


“I’m going to be a Healer,” Scorpius replies, getting to his feet, “But I’ll help this lot cast a Patronus if that’s what you’re getting at.”


“Good man,” Professor Thomas says approvingly, and wades back into the fray.


Scorpius and I split up, each finding a student to help with the spell. Somehow I end up paired with Emily Huntington, and Scorpius with Lucian Rosier.


“I don’t need your help, Malfoy,” Lucian says after Scorpius tells him to give the spell a go. “Look, no offence, but I’m straight, and – ”


“And I’m in a committed, monogamous relationship and have subzero interest in you anyway,” Scorpius says coolly, “But if you want to be a prick, I’m really okay with you failing your NEWT.”


“Yeah, fuck up, Rosier,” Emily calls. “If you can’t get a girl to look at you, you’re not gonna get hit on by the world’s most taken dude.”


I give her a surprised look, which she returns. “What? Rosier’s a dick. I can call him out on it. Are you going to help me with this spell or not?”


“Uh, right, yeah. The wand movement’s like this – ” I demonstrate, then repeat it again more slowly. “And the incantation is expecto patronum. Ex-pec-to pat-ro-num. When you cast it, you need to focus on something happy. The Patronus is a manifestation of happy thoughts.”


“That’s the most grossly sentimental thing I’ve ever heard,” Emily says, wrinkling her nose.


“It’s to give Dementors something else to feed on besides your mortal soul.”


“Slightly better,” she concedes. “So what sort of…happy thoughts?”


“Memories are usually the best ones. Think of your best memory and focus on that. Ready?”


Expecto patronum,” Emily says firmly. Nothing comes from her wand – not even the faintest wisp of silvery smoke.


“What memory did you use?” I ask.


“None of your business,” she snaps. “It’s not the memory. What else am I doing wrong?”


“Do you have much trouble with wandwork normally?”


“Not really. I mean, I take a while to master a spell like anyone else.”


“The main thing that separates the Patronus Charm from any other charm or spell is the emotion behind it,” I explain. “So if there’s something that usually trips you up with your spellwork, that might explain it. But as far as I can see, your wand movement and incantation is fine.”


“I was using my best memory.”


“How well do you remember it?” I ask. “If it’s from when you were a child, unless you’ve attached a lot of sentimental value to it, it won’t work as well. You need to have that happiness in mind, as it were. Not just the thing that made you happy.”


“Ugh,” Emily mutters.


“It doesn’t have to be happy, per se. It just has to be an overwhelmingly positive feeling or emotion. Most people just tend to go with happy because it’s conceptually easier – ”


“So…accomplishment would work as well? Success?”


“Definitely.” I want to ask what accomplishment or success Emily would use – being made Prefect? She’s not the top of any of our classes – but decide that would be pushing our newfound civility a bit far.


She tries the spell again, and this time a faint bit of silvery smoke drifts from the tip of her wand. Before I can work out what she’s doing wrong, however, the bell rings for lunch and the class empties almost immediately. Lucian’s in such a rush to get away from Scorpius that he doesn’t even wait for Emily, and she scowls briefly at his departing back before grabbing my arm.


“Listen,” she says quietly. “I have zero intention of failing this class because of a Patronus Charm. I need your help, and I need you to not breathe a word of it to anyone. Not to my group and certainly not yours.”


“I can try – ”


“Seven o’clock, tonight. Here. Good thing we’re both Prefects.” She releases my arm and I’m about to join Scorpius, who’s lingering in the doorway, when she steps closer, staring me in the eye. “Not. A. Word.”


She strides away, leaving me to wonder what just happened – and how.






A/N: Carthago delenda est - Carthage is to be destroyed - was a common sentiment in Republican Roman rhetoric during the Punic Wars against Carthage.


Chapter 8: viii. the spanner in the works [or] keep your enemies closer
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]






The Dove Plan enjoys notoriety for the rest of the day, and we bask in our plan being lauded or condemned by the entire school. Scorpius is ready to claim responsibility for it during lunch, until Albus points out that one public declaration made standing on the Ravenclaw table per year is quite enough, and maybe a toilet paper dove prank isn’t on the same level of importance as their relationship. Scorpius reluctantly agrees.


I almost forget about my agreement – though there wasn’t a lot of agreeing going on – with Emily, and I’m worrying about how to get away from the group without giving anything away – but it turns out far easier than I expect. Holly has a Care of Magical Creatures lesson (they have one night-time class a week to work with nocturnal animals) and Lester has Quidditch practice.


“I forgot you play,” I tell Lester as he heads out of the common room with his broom.


“Aw yeah,” Albus says. “You’re on the team, that’s right.”


Lester huffs. “I’m the Captain.”


“What position is it you play?” Scorpius asks curiously.


Lester swats him over the head with the bristles of his broom. “Seeker, as you know perfectly well.”


“I thought you were a Chaser. Have you ever been a Chaser?”


“I’ve played Seeker for five years, Scorpius.”


“Whoops.”


“What’s your broom?” Albus asks, climbing over the back of the couch to inspect it.


“It’s a Firebolt 5.”


“See, I should have remembered all that. It’s Dad’s Quidditch career in a nutshell. Seeker, Captain, Firebolt.”


“It’s the extent of your Quidditch knowledge in a nutshell, is what it is. I’ll see you guys later.”


“You know, I think my dad was a Seeker too,” Scorpius muses.


“He was,” I tell him. “Mine bitches about him all the time.”


“I must remember to compliment your dad on the longevity of his grudges. Anyway, Albus…Tom’s on the team and Alfie takes Magical Creatures, which means the dorm is empty for the next hour.”


“Bye, Rose,” Albus says immediately, and the boys launch themselves off the couch and thunder up the stairs.


Thanking the gods above for this series of events, I hurry down to Professor Thomas’s classroom to meet Emily.


“You’re late,” she says by way of greeting, pushing the classroom door open.


“I had to wait for everyone to leave. You’re the one who insisted on secrecy.”


“Oh.” She seems surprised that I went to such an effort. “Yeah. Thanks, I guess.” She closes the door firmly behind us. “Do you mind demonstrating it again?”


“Uh, sure.” I take out my wand, pause. “Verbal or non-verbal?”


“Doesn’t bother me.”


I cast my Patronus, watching the little fox streak through the classroom and disappear through the far wall. “I’m afraid I can’t deconstruct it much for you – I’ve never been able to separate each component of a spell and still make it work.”


“I don’t even know what half of that means, so.” She takes out her wand. “Expecto patronum.


This time the wisp of smoke is slightly thicker than before. “You’re doing well.”


She scowls. “I am not. I bet you got it on your first try.”


“It took me two days, actually.”


She stares at me, surprised. I shrug.


“I’m not powerful. I only get good grades for wandwork because I work my arse off for them, and I’m only good at Defence because my dad’s an Auror.”


She doesn’t say anything to that, just raises her wand again. “Expecto patronum.”


The same smoke comes out, and I have an idea about where she’s going wrong. “You need more force behind it. You know the difference you feel between a minor spell and a really powerful one? You need to make this one really powerful – same level as conjuring an animal, because you’re essentially bringing something to life – well, sort of life. It’s animate.”


Emily nods, tries the spell again. This time there’s much more smoke, which looks briefly like it’s going to take shape before it dissipates.


“Yeah, that’s it! Good work.”


She huffs exasperatedly. “This is exhausting.”


“I think that’s the point of the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests.”


“Yeah, shut up.” There seems to be a glimmer of a smile on her face, though, and when she tries the spell next there’s certainly a shape – an indistinct shape, yes, but a shape nevertheless – and a big one too. “What’s the deal with the animals?”


“You mean what shape the Patronus takes? It’s like a…manifestation of your character, in a sense? There’s a lot of research done about the significance of Patroni.”


“They don’t change, then? Like, the better you get at the spell, the more impressive your animal?”


“You don’t start out with an insect, if that’s what you mean, and Scorpius’s has always been a lion. It can only change if you do – trauma, emotional upheaval, that sort of thing.”


“That’s actually pretty interesting,” Emily concedes, and attempts the spell again.


By nine o’clock I’m ready to call it a night, but Emily insists on giving the spell one last try and this time, it works. A great silver wolf appears in the classroom, and Emily looks nothing short of thrilled as she basks in its glow. “Wow. Thanks, Rose.”


“Any time.” I perch on the edge of the desk. “Can I ask what your memory was?”


“If you really want to know, it was the first time I transformed.”


“Transformed?” I repeat. “You’re an Animagus?”


“Yeah. I’m registered and everything, don’t worry,” she adds quickly. “I mastered it last summer.”


“You turn into a wolf?”


“Makes me sound like a werewolf, right?” she laughs. “I just like wolves. They’re a lot of things that I am and even more that I’m not.”


“Was it difficult?”


“It was nearly impossible. But that just made the victory even better. You’re an overachiever, you’d know.”


“I’m not sure if that was an insult or a compliment.”


“It wasn’t really meant to be either. You guys are going for the Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship, aren’t you? It’s okay,” she adds when she sees my face. “We already know you are, there’s no other reason you lot would instigate a prank war.”


“Are you?”


“Louis and Lucy are. The rest of us – well, we go along with whatever they’re doing, if they need a group and if it sounds like it could be a laugh, but nah. We’re not in to win – and I had nothing to do with that stupid article in Draco Dormiens. We – Lucian and I – actually tried to talk them out of it – especially revealing that stuff about Scorpius’s father.”


“Why?”


“Common human decency? We Slytherins are capable of it too, you know. We know what it’s like to have to bury your heritage, and Lucy and Louis don’t. Maybe they got a wake-up call when Scorpius was so upset, but it’s far more likely they didn’t.”


“What heritage do you have to bury? The Huntington family wasn’t involved in the war at all.”


“Huntington’s my mother’s name.”


Feeling like I’m crossing into dangerous territory, I ask, “What’s your father’s name?”


“Yaxley. I’d rather you didn’t spread that around.”


“You think I would? After Scorpius?”


“I guess not. But you’re still a Weasley.”


Why are you friends with them?” I blurt. “Lucy and Louis?”


“Why is anyone friends with anyone else? They’re not bad people. Thoughtless, sometimes, and inappropriate – but they’re my mates, and they’re working on improving. Louis hasn’t used gay as an insult since Albus came out.”


“A small victory.”


“It’s a start,” she says firmly. “But we’re just as close as you lot, you know. Obviously we don’t share a common room with the Gryffindors and we mostly weren’t in the same classes till sixth year, but – ” she shrugs. “It’s good. Means you’re never alone, and I’m sure we’ve both seen our share of people going through this school in isolation.”


“I have.”


We lapse into silence again, me wondering why I haven’t yet returned to Ravenclaw Tower now that Emily’s mastered the Patronus, when she asks me a completely unexpected question.


“You asexual, Rose?”


“Huh? No, that’s Holly.”


“I just thought you both were. You’ve never dated anyone, have you?”


“I did last year,” I say hesitantly. “But we kept it quiet.”


“Your group’s not big on public relationships, are they?”


“Our group’s not big on public anything. Why?”


She shrugs. “I’m curious, that’s all. We’ve been classmates for six years and this is the first time we’ve ever spoken. You’re a bit enigmatic, you know. You all are.”


“Enigmatic?” I repeat. “We’re not enigmatic. We’re dorks. You saw us laughing over dictionaries.”


“I saw you laughing over releasing misnumbered rabbits in the Gryffindor common room. It wasn’t that difficult to put two and two together,” she adds, seeing the look on my face. “But we all have our roles to play in this ridiculous game known as the Hogwarts student hierarchy. Who was it you went out with last year?”


“What are you going to do with that information?”


“Satisfy my own curiousity. Nothing more, I promise.”


“Lorcan Scamander.”


“Lorcan?” Emily repeats. “She’s still going by Lorcan?”


“Most people don’t seem to know that it’s a masculine name, I mean, hardly anyone’s ever heard of it. She said she’s probably going to change it when she finishes Hogwarts, but she doesn’t know what to. Knowing her she’ll go off tramping in the wilderness for a year and come back with her true name having been whispered to her on the breeze or something.”


“Let me guess,” Emily says. “You guys didn’t work out because you were too different.”


“What gave it away?”


She just smiles. “You’re all right, Rose. For an eagle.”


“You’re all right for a snake.”


“I have a proposal for you.”


“What sort of proposal?” I ask, suddenly wary.


“An alliance.”


“An alliance?” I repeat. “Why would you – ”


“Because you guys deserve that scholarship,” she says. “I’m not saying you’re all…noble, or good people – hell, you’re the most arrogant bunch I’ve ever met – but the contenders are you lot, or your cousins. And d’you know what Louis and Lucy are planning on doing with their two and a half grand each? Nothing. They’ll get an internship, maybe, or enrol in some course to fulfil the requirements – Louis’s all set up to go straight into Gringotts thanks to his parents, but they’re just going to piss around for a year. Or three, or five, or however long it takes them to work out what the hell they want to do with their lives. And I’m okay with their parents bankrolling them for that, if they’re dumb enough to, but when it’s a scholarship actually intended to help school leavers get into careers?” Emily shrugs. “Part of this was a test, you know. I know you want to be a teacher.”


“You didn’t fake – ”


“Of course I didn’t fake it,” Emily says, cutting me off. “But there’s no way I would have asked you for help outside class hours unless I had some kind of other motive. And I’m not going to be caught dead saying this twice – but you’ll make a damn good teacher, and so will Holly.”


“Well, thank you – and I’m really not looking to start an argument here – but why do you care?”


“Ah,” Emily says. “Llodewick and Vector are – well, they’re brilliant, but they’re impatient. Harsh sometimes. Too quick to criticise and too slow to praise – and you wouldn’t know it, Rose, you’ve been on Llodewick’s good side – ”


“Not all the time,” I say, thinking of the cauldron incident.


“My baby sister’s going to be here in five years,” Emily continues. “She’s a brilliant kid, she’ll definitely take Arithmancy as an option – but she’s – you know. Doesn’t have tough skin. Gets bullied a bit. If I had a choice, I’d rather have you teaching her Potions than Llodewick, and I’d definitely rather have Holly teaching her Arithmancy. Because, you know. You care. So there you go, that’s my ulterior motive.”


I’m feeling far too touched by this speech to argue. “Yeah. Right. Brilliant. An alliance, then.”






 

“You did what?” Albus asks when I return to the common room that evening.


“I may or may not have agreed to an alliance with Emily Huntington.”


“She’s the enemy,” Albus hisses. “You’re fraternising with the enemy.”


“She wants me to be a teacher!” I protest. “Albus, she said she wants me teaching her little sister Potions!”


“She knows your weakness,” Scorpius says.


“Teaching is not my weakness – ”


“Not your singular weakness,” Albus concedes. “You have many. Including being too trusting of untrustworthy Slytherins.


“She’s nice,” I say feebly. “She said nice things.”


Rose.”


“Did she tell you anything about the nature of this alliance?” Scorpius asks.


“She’s going to tell us what the Enemy are planning and when, so we can retaliate.”


“That could be useful,” Scorpius points out to the others. “We could have her on probation. If she tips us off and it turns out to be legit, we can trust her. To the extent one can trust a Slytherin.”


“You keep talking about untrustworthy Slytherins,” Lester says. “But how many of us nearly got Sorted into Slytherin? Oh that’s right, all of us.”


“Holly didn’t.”


“Holly’s not here. The point is, just because she’s a Slytherin doesn’t mean she’s inherently bad – ”


“Oh no, Raine,” Scorpius says.


“You didn’t,” Albus says.


“Did I miss something here?” I ask, thoroughly confused.


“Raine’s snogged a Slytherin, haven’t you?”


“I don’t want to discuss this,” Lester says stiffly.


“Do we know her?”


“Yes.”


“How well?”


“Does anyone else not care who she is so much as why he hasn’t said anything?” I ask. “Raine. When did this happen?”


“Sunday,” Lester mumbles.


“I care about who she is,” Scorpius contributes. “Purely because I’m curious. It’s not Emily, is it?”


“No, no. She’s not our year.”


“What year is she?” Albus asks suspiciously.


Lester mumbles something that sounds like ‘fight.’


“Five,” Scorpius translates. “Fifth year. Slytherin. Hasn’t told us about it. Albus, I believe we’ve reached the same conclusion.”


You snogged my little sister?” Albus roars.


“Snog is a terrible word,” Lester says delicately. “I’m sure there are better ones…”


“Raine, have I ever told you how appropriate your middle name is?” Albus asks.


“What, Dante? Why – ?”


“Because you’re about to be dragged through the nine circles of hell.”


“Do I at least get a Latin poet as my guide – ”


Albus grabs Lester by the tie, jerking him forward so their noses are almost touching. “I am your Virgil,” he growls.


“This may be really inappropriate and a complete overshare,” Scorpius whispers to me, eyes glued to the scene, “But I am so turned on right now.”


I shove him away.


Albus releases Lester and the latter is cowering behind me in two short strides. “Mediate,” he says in a small voice. “For the love of God, mediate.”


“Okay, okay, guys.” I hold out my hands for silence. “Albus, stop threatening Lester with the Underworld. Lester, it’s considered good manners to talk to your friends about snogging their sisters, preferably not in passing three days later. Scorpius, that was an overshare.”


“He kissed my sister! I can threaten him with the Inferno if I want.”


“That was a bit sinister, all things considered,” Scorpius points out.


“I’ll show you sinister.”


“Please do.”


“Boys,” I snap. “Keep it in your pants.”


“Only if Raine does around my sister!”


“I never – it was a kiss.” Lester looks thoroughly affronted. “I’m not hiding behind tapestries with her – ”


“You better not be,” Albus growls.


Albus for God’s sake look at your parents,” I interrupt.


He looks startled. “What about them?”


“It’s the exact same situation, isn’t it? Our dads were best mates, your dad started dating my dad’s sister – ”


“How is that meant to make me feel better? They had children.”


I roll my eyes heavenward. “Lily’s sixteen. Let her kiss who she wants. Let Raine kiss who he wants. Now you two are going to sit down and sort this out, like men – ”


“Where’re you taking me?” Scorpius demands, because I’m marching him out the common room door with me.


“You’re a distraction.”


We run into Holly on our way to the library. “Good class?” I ask conversationally.


“Excellent class. Where are you taking Scorpius?”


“No idea. Away. Albus and Lester have things to sort out.”


“Ooh, what sort of things?”


“Lester kissed Lily the other day.”


“No way,” Holly breathes, eyes widening. “Lily Potter?”


“The very same.”


“Ooh.” She glances in the vague direction of Ravenclaw Tower, as if expecting to see Albus dangling Lester off a stairwell by the ankles. “It’s about time this group had a bit of scandal.”


“Speaking of scandal,” Scorpius says, “Rose here has decided to make an alliance with Emily Huntington.”


“I leave you guys for two hours – ”


“No, no, it makes sense,” I say hurriedly. “She doesn’t want Lucy and Louis getting the scholarship – they’re the only ones in that group going for it – so she’s helping us to win it. Holly, she said she wants us teaching her little sister.


“Did she really?” Holly looks touched, as I knew she would, and smiles. “That’s so sweet. We can trial an alliance with her.”


“That’s what I suggested,” Scorpius says.


“Good. Were you guys heading to the library for any reason? Because I could really go for a trip to the kitchens.”
 





A/N: The concept of the nine circles of hell originally comes from Dante Alighieri's poem Inferno, in which the poet is escorted through hell by Virgil. I take no responsibility for what my characters find witty.


Chapter 9: ix. the family we choose [or] all you need is love
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]








It’s mid-November by the time Lucy and Louis strike again, and thanks to the advance warning from Emily we’re fully prepared for the attack, which comes during Herbology. It is – and I have to admire them for this – an extraordinarily well-thought out prank, no doubt using the talents of Sean, who’s top of the class. They’ve managed to replace the venom in the Venemous Tentacula plants we’re working with, filling the aggressive plant instead with a Singer’s Elixir that will make anyone who comes into contact with it unable to speak without singing for twenty-four hours.


It’s a masterful prank, and we can’t let it go to waste. So we just switch the plants around.


Lucy, Louis and Sean are watching us all lesson, giggling and whispering, waiting for one of us to slip up and touch our plants (or turn our backs on them.) They’re so distracted by our impending misfortune, in fact, that they don’t notice until it’s too late that Louis’ plant has lovingly embraced him.


“Get it oooooooooffff,” he croons. “Oh God, get it ooooooooooooffff.”


Professor Longbottom looks startled and more than a little confused as he frees Louis from the plant. “Odd time to start singing,” he says.


“I wasn’t siiiiiinging, Professoooooor,” Louis sings. “Oh fuck oh fuuuuuck. I fucked uuuuuup!”


At this stage Albus, Scorpius and I promptly lose our shit, and once they realise that Louis can’t speak without singing, so does the rest of the class. Professor Longbottom looks hopelessly lost. “The Venemous Tentacula never has that effect, perhaps I should…”


Louis is now conversing with his friends in what appears to be some kind of rap battle, and once it’s clear we’re not going to get any more work done Longbottom dismisses us for the day.


“It’s a shame Emily doesn’t take Herbology,” I muse as we make our way back to the castle. “She should have seen the fruits of her handiwork.”


“She’ll be seeing it for the rest of the day.”


“How did the prank go?” Holly asks once we sit down for lunch.


“Beautifully,” Scorpius says, just as Louis walks past and we catch part of the power ballad that is his current conversation.


“I wonder if he has any control over the genre,” Albus muses, twisting to face the Slytherin table. “Add a bit of soul, Louis!”


“Fuck off, fuck fuck fuck off – ”


“Inspired,” Albus calls, and turns back to us. “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen.”


“Better than me naked?” Scorpius asks.


I choke on my pumpkin juice.


Anapneo,” Holly says, and gives the boys a stern look. “Lily’s joining us for lunch. No more talk about naked Scorpius, thanks.”


“She and Raine still together, then?” Albus asks.


“I think you would have heard about it if they weren’t.”


The relationship between Lester and Lily has made things weird over the last three weeks – mainly because Lily’s suddenly spending time with us, and it’s been – well, coming up seven years since we associated much with anyone besides each other. Albus and I see plenty of her during the holidays, but that’s when we actively acknowledge our family ties and hang out with her and Hugo. Having her as part of the group is weird, especially given that at some point, without us really noticing at all, she made the transition from wide-eyed little sister to one of us – intelligent, snarky, mature beyond her years, always ripping on Albus or Lester. Albus is particularly bewildered by this development.


Lily slides onto the bench beside me, tossing her bag on the floor and reaching for the bread rolls. “Afternoon,” she says cheerily, punching Albus on the arm. “You look like a cat’s arse, Al.”


Albus scowls back at her.


“Why do you go out with him?” Lily asks Scorpius. “He’s a sulky child.”


“He has a nice arse,” Scorpius replies matter-of-factly.


“Don’t objectify me,” Albus says. “And Lily, you’re adopted.”


“Of course I am,” Lily says, tossing her long red hair behind her shoulder and propping her feet up on the bench. “Because I look nothing like Mum at all. Seriously, have you seen pictures of her at my age? It’s uncanny.”


“No, you’re exactly like her,” Albus agrees. “Going out with your brother’s best mate – ”


“What else is a big brother for, if I can’t make out with his friends?” Lily shrugs. “Besides, Lester says you don’t actually mind. You’re just a drama king.”


“That was a paraphrase,” Lester says helpfully.


“Yeah, I added drama king,” Lily concedes. “Oh, Lester, you’re invited to family Christmas, by the way.”


“What?” Albus goggles. “I’ve been with Scorpius more than three years and this is the first time he’s coming to family Christmas – ”


“Yes,” Lily says smoothly, “But the difference is I actually tell Mum and Dad when I get into a relationship, not three years in.”


“When you say family Christmas – ” Lester begins.


“The whole shebang, yeah,” I tell him. “The entire Weasley-Potter clan. It may be cliched to warn against the insanity of one’s family, but – well. The warning’s still in place.”


Realising very quickly that this means our entire group minus one key member is coming to family Christmas, I turn to Holly. “Wanna come to Christmas? I’ll write Mum and Dad, make you my plus-one.”


“Aw, that’s lovely of you,” Holly beams. “But I’m staying at school over Christmas.”


“Why?” Lester asks.


“Emma’s best friend’s parents just got divorced,” Holly explains. “So she doesn’t want to go home, and Emma’s staying on to make sure she’s not alone. And I’m staying for Emma.”


Emma Holyoake is only thirteen, a wee second-year Puff who’s already well on her way to following in Holly’s overly compassionate footsteps. Holly dotes on her, Emma worships the ground Holly walks on, and Albus and I are left glaring at our detached and condescending younger siblings wondering what went wrong and whether we could ever pull off a quiet trade.


“What’s Christmas at Hogwarts like, anyway?” Holly asks.


“It depends,” Albus says.


“On what?”


“On whether you have two Weasleys and a Potter determined to wreak absolute havoc in the name of final-year hedonism and festive spirit. Which you won’t, so you should be fine.”


We’ve only spent one Christmas at Hogwarts – we being Albus, Scorpius and myself – in our fifth year. It was James, Freddie and Dominique’s seventh year, and they decided they wanted to take advantage of the last opportunity they would have for a Hogwarts Christmas. It was perfect timing as well – Victoire and Teddy Lupin were on their honeymoon, Roxanne and Molly were in Australia on their OE, and the big Weasley-Potter Christmas was downgraded to an old-fashioned Weasley Christmas with, as I hear it, nobody from our generation and an awful lot of Firewhiskey. The only notable things to happen that Christmas were James, Freddie and Dominique somehow doctoring the Christmas crackers at the feast, and Albus and Scorpius spending a lot of time in the dorm they had to themselves and avoiding eye contact with me.


“Speaking of Christmas,” Scorpius says, addressing Albus, “You’ve been invited to our Christmas too. We’re having it on Boxing Day, actually, because Mum and Dad are spending Christmas with the Greengrass clan, but…uh. It’ll be a bit…austere. And probably very uncomfortable. My grandparents will be there, you see.”


“Your paternal grandparents, you mean?”


“Yeah.” Scorpius grimaces. “The lord and lady Malfoy themselves. If you don’t want to come I’ll – ”


“No,” Albus says, briefly squeezing his hand. “I’ll be there.”


Scorpius looks relieved, and Lily looks at Albus in surprise. “I’ve never seen you openly care about another human being that much.”


“Hark who’s talking, Slytherin,” Albus shoots back, and as everyone else stares resignedly at their plates and awaits the inevitable Potter blowup, I decide enough is enough and frogmarch both my cousins out of the Great Hall.


“What the hell is wrong with you two?” I demand. “Albus, if you’re honestly still shitty that she’s going out with Lester – ”


“He’s my mate!”


“I’d think that would mean you’d be happy for him,” I say severely.


“Me and Lester are all right,” Albus protests.


“So you’re just having a go at me, then?” Lily asks belligerently.


“Yeah, actually, I am!”


“Why?”


“Because – ” Albus sputters. “You ignore me all year except the holidays, and even then you only talk to me if nobody else is around, and suddenly you’re going out with my mate and you think it’s okay to swan into my group and rip into me in front of my friends – ”


“Come off it, you rip into them right back.”


“Yeah, and they’ve earned the right to!” Albus yells. “You haven’t, not when you can’t even be bothered giving me the time of day – do you know a thing about me that you wouldn’t know if we didn’t grow up together?”


“You’re pissy because I don’t know you well enough? Well, Jesus, Albus, last time I checked I wasn’t the one who kept a huge secret from you for three years, was I?”


“I would’ve told you if you’d ever bothered to ask!”


“What was I meant to ask you?” Lily demands. “Oh, hey Albus, just wondering if you’re actually gay for your best friend.


“Not necessarily! ‘Hey Albus, how’s the love life,’ or ‘Met anyone’ or just – anything – I would have told you everything if I thought you actually cared!”


“You think I don’t care about you? You’re my brother – ”


“Nice of you to remember!”


“It’s not like you go out of your way to pay attention to me either!”


“Oh really?” Albus challenges. “You play Seeker for the Slytherin team. You prefer playing Chaser but being Seeker makes you feel closer to Dad. You won the last game for Slytherin but you couldn’t take any pride in it because the Gryffindor Seeker was incapacitated. You fly Mum’s old broom, the Comet 360, even though she’s offered to buy you a new one. You like Lester because he’s the first guy who’s interested in your mind more than your appearance, and you know you can trust him because I do, because…” he falters. “You trust me. And my opinion matters to you.”


“Because?” Lily prompts.


“Because I’m your brother,” he says eventually. “Lily…I’m sorry I never told you about Scorpius.”


“I’m sorry I never asked.”


They stand there stubbornly, and I’m on the verge of ordering them to hug it out when Albus hesitantly opens his arms and Lily flies into them. Brushing a tear from my eye that I didn’t realise was there, I slip away to find Hugo.









My brother’s still at the Hufflepuff table, shovelling food into his face like there’s no tomorrow. “Ey Roh,” he says around a mouthful of bread roll when I plunk down next to him.


“Sup, little bro.”


He chews, swallows and nods in the direction of our table. “Lily and Albus fighting again?”


“Not anymore.”


“Made them sort it out?”


“Something like that.”


“They come to some touching realisation?”


“Yep.”


“Came over here as a direct result of touching realisation?”


“Exactly.”


He gives me a brief hug. “Feel better?”


“Much, thank you.”


He turns back to his lunch, but pauses with his bread roll halfway to his mouth. “You don’t want to talk or anything, do you?”


“Nah.” I pat him on the shoulder. “You’re safe till Christmas.”


As I walk away I hear him explaining to one of his mates, “Me and Rose have streamlined sibling relations perfectly, you see. We even have code words.”


We do, actually – mainly so one of us can seek support from the other without letting on to anyone in the outside world that’s what we’re doing. So far we haven’t had to use them – mainly because Hugo’s emotionally constipated and I’ve got my friends – but the very fact that we have them makes me feel strangely better, especially after watching the Potters fight.


The tension at the Ravenclaw table has all but disappeared, with Albus and Lily back and chatting happily with everyone else.


“What did you do, Rose?” Scorpius asks. “It’s a miracle.”


“I just put them in a room and let them yell at each other, to be honest.”


“We’re…definitely all good, then?” Lester asks Albus cautiously, and Albus claps him on the back.


“Yeah, mate, we’re good. There’s no one in the school I’d trust more with my sister.” He pauses thoughtfully. “Except maybe Holly.”


“Thank God,” Scorpius says. “You’ve been a right prick lately, Albus.”


“Love you too,” Albus returns. “Oi, Lester, you’ve got a game tomorrow, yeah?”


“You remembered!” Lester looks genuinely touched. “You going to watch?”


“Might as well.” Albus glances around us. “I feel like we’ve been a bit low on the Ravenclaw pride recently. Who’s for an obnoxious display tomorrow?”


“There’s my cue,” Lily says, but before she can leave Lester catches her around the waist and steers her back to her seat.


“We’re playing the Puffs,” Lester says. “You can Ravenclaw it up.”


“Hugo will never forgive me,” she protests.


Precisely,” I tell her. “Besides, Slytherin’s our traditional ally in house rivalries anyway.”


“And you look awful in yellow,” Albus says bluntly.


“Fine,” Lily says. “But I’m doing this for Lester, not for any familial warm fuzzies.”









Obnoxious display turns out to be exactly that. We’re decked out head to toe in blue and bronze, holding a giant banner charmed to cycle through a range of pretentious Ravenclaw quotes (wit beyond measure is a man’s greatest treasure is the first, and they only get worse from there) while Holly has a giant replica eagle tucked under one arm which she’s charmed to give a piercing cry every time Ravenclaw scores. Lily shuffles alongside in a blue dress and tights, looking like she’d give anything in the world not to be associated with us – so naturally Albus and I sling our arms around her shoulders and Holly perches the eagle on her head.


It’s Lester’s first game as Captain, which is the main reason we’ve all bestirred ourselves to watch, and it becomes clear that, despite his nerves, he’s in his element. We can’t hear the directions he’s yelling to the team, and none of us are clued up enough about Quidditch to understand his tactics (except maybe Lily, who’s watching him with rapturous admiration) but he does look impressive up there, marshalling the team like some great commander, and Ravenclaw plays better than we’ve seen them play in years. Every movement is coordinated, everything Hufflepuff does is prepared for and responded to, and Ravenclaw is leading by ninety points and climbing before Lester pulls out of his active captaining duties to start looking for the Snitch. From then on it’s another fifteen minutes until he catches it, touches down and claps his team on the back, looking up at the stands towards us.


We swarm the pitch, offering our congratulations and praises, and Lily seizes Lester and kisses him. “That was an incredible game.”


“Thanks.” Lester looks blissfully happy, and we decide as one to leave him and Lily to it.


“Party in the common room when you get there, mate,” Scorpius says, and shepherds us back to the castle.


“I know I said I was okay with this Lester/Lily thing,” Albus says, “But I’ve heard too many stories of Mum and Dad dating to not see the parallels, and quite frankly, I need to intervene before they end up married with three children.”


“Unless Lester kills himself a Dark Lord by the end of this year, I think you’re safe.” Scorpius slips an arm around Albus’s waist. “We’re going to need to do a Hogsmeade run with the Cloak, by the way.”


“Ooh, can we go?” Holly asks, indicating me in her question. “I’ve never snuck out of the castle before, and you guys have multiple times – wait,” she says, cocking her head. “How the hell are you Head Boy anyway?”


“Because I don’t get caught,” Scorpius replies matter-of-factly. “Holly, Rose – I love you both, but you’re about as subtle as a slap in the face with a dead fish.”


“Yeah, and God forbid the Cloak fall into the hands of a teacher,” Albus says, shuddering. “That thing is priceless, it’s a deathly hallow.”


“We’d look after it,” I say indignantly.


“You would try.”


“We’re just…better at this stuff than you,” Albus explains patiently. “Having two people under the Cloak requires great, er, synergy, coordination and anticipation of movement – ”


“We’re co-ordinated,” Holly protests, gesturing wildly to our feet. “Look, we’re even walking in time – ”


“He means sex, Holly,” I interrupt. “That’s where their synergy comes from.”


“Well, it certainly doesn’t go amiss,” Scorpius says primly. “To have an intimate knowledge of – ”


“You’ll have an intimate knowledge of the receiving end of a Silencing Charm if you don’t stop there, Scorpius Malfoy.”


Scorpius Malfoy does, indeed, stop there – but mainly because he’s almost walked into Professor Vector. He throws us a panicked glance – one that clearly says how long has she been in earshot – and looks up weakly. “Good morning, Professor.”


“Afternoon, Mr Malfoy,” she corrects. “Just the three I was hoping to speak to.”


We exchange looks. “There are four of us, Professor.”


“Yes, I can count. Mr Malfoy, Miss Weasley, Miss Holyoake – my office. Mr Potter, on your way.”


Albus’s face is somewhere between offended and relieved that he hasn’t been summoned, before it eventually settles on relieved. With a final raised eyebrow at us, he trots off back to Ravenclaw Tower while Professor Vector leads the rest of us into her office.


“First things first,” she says briskly. “Miss Weasley, Mr Malfoy – I told you at the beginning of the year to investigate into the ‘Order of the Raven.’ I don’t suppose you have any leads – yesterday was the second time Louis Weasley seems to have been targeted.”


“I don’t know who it is,” I tell Professor Vector, “But honestly, I really want to know how they made him sing.”


She gives me a quelling look. “I hope that’s a purely academic desire.”


“Do I ever have any others?” I ask.


“None that I care about.” She glances around us again, and her gaze softens slightly. “Mr Malfoy. I trust your meeting with your parents went well?”


“It did, thank you, Professor.”


“Good. Miss Weasley, your classes going well?”


“Yes, Professor.”


“Good.” She nods. “I’m afraid I’ve been very busy of late, and I haven’t been fulfilling my Head of House duties as well as I should, particularly for my seventh-years, but of course, if you have any concerns you need only make an appointment. Now, I would normally dismiss you two – ” she indicates Scorpius and I – “Before having such a conversation, but I know how close you all are, and I thought you would like to celebrate with your friend here.” She nods to Holly.


“Celebrate?” Holly repeats, confused. “What do you mean?”


“Professor Sprout has announced her intention to retire,” Professor Vector explains. “Not immediate, of course, but she has started to make plans. Naturally, after she leaves, the post of Headmistress passes to myself – and I will be vacating the position of Arithmancy professor at this school.”


We look at Holly, but she seems to have lost all capacity for words.


“I have convinced Professor Sprout to stay her retirement until three years hence,” Professor Vector continues. “At which time, Miss Holyoake, you will have completed the Ministry education programme and be a suitable age to take up the post. It is my fervent wish that you be my successor.”


“Thank you, Professor,” Holly manages, before she bursts into tears. “This is – thank you – ”


I launch myself across the room, wrapping my arms around her and screaming. “You’re going to be a teacher, you’re going to be a teacher, you’re going to be a teacher!”


“Professor Holyoake does have a nice ring to it,” Scorpius says, beaming. “Congratulations, Holly.”


Holly eventually breaks free from my embrace to envelop Professor Vector in a bear hug. “You have no idea how much this means to me, Professor – ”


“Actually, I do,” Professor Vector says, gently detaching herself after a moment. “Which is why I chose you.”


Holly succumbs to a fresh flood of tears, half laughing, half crying, and Scorpius and I steer her out of Professor Vector’s office – her office, in three years’ time. I know I must be crushing her, I’m hugging her so tightly – but for some reason I’m convinced she won’t know how proud I am of her and how happy I am for her unless I come close to crushing her internal organs, and she’s squeezing Scorpius and I just as tightly, whispering “Professor Holyoake, Arithmancy,” to the flickering torches on the walls.




A/N: The title for this chapter comes from the Beatles song of the same name, All You Need is Love.
 


Chapter 10: x. the weasley christmas experience [or] scorpius and lester get festive jumpers
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]








What follows when we all finally make it back to the common room is the biggest celebration any of us have ever seen (and I’ve lived through Teddy and Victoire’s engagement and marriage, Mum’s promotion to Head of Magical Law Enforcement, James and Freddie winning the Daily Prophet’s Best New Business Award, so I have plenty of points of comparison). It starts out as just our group, then the Quidditch team joins us, then Holly’s told our other classmates about her job offer. The Butterbeer is abundant, the music terrible (Alfie owns a guitar, but he never actually learnt to play it, and is just sitting in the corner strumming occasionally and bellowing limericks.) Lily’s here as the sole non-Ravenclaw, a position I get the feeling she’s grown accustomed to over the last three weeks, and is waving her hands about as she discusses Quidditch tactics with Lester and Tom.


“It’s nice to see them in the spotlight,” Albus says quietly, nodding at Holly, who’s speculating loudly about the staffroom with Lara, and Lester, whose team has raised their Butterbeers to him yet again. “They deserve it. God, d’you ever – I’m really proud of her, you know? Arithmancy professor, handpicked by Vector…she’s not yet eighteen.”


“She’s phenomenal, though. We’ve always known that.”


“Yeah, but – I forget, sometimes. How remarkable everyone is, you know? We settle into complacency, almost – like, yeah, they’re awesome mates and Lester’s a great guy and Holly’s a gift from God – but then something like this happens and you just think – they’re going places. They weren’t just put on this earth to make our lives better. They’re going to change the world.”


“I know exactly what you mean.” We lapse into silence, smiling as we watch our friends bask in the glow of their achievements. “And I know I shouldn’t be saying this, I should be making the most of everything while it lasts…but God, I’m going to miss everyone.”

“We’ll stick together, though,” Albus says firmly. “I mean…we’re family. Us, literally. And I mean, Scorpius goes where I go, and we’ll both be at Mungo’s together, and you and Holly will be on the teaching course together and then you’ll be at Hogwarts, and judging by the way Lily and Raine are staring all besottedly at each other he’ll probably be family in five years so we’ll see everyone at Christmas every year…”


“You look at Scorpius like that, you know.”


“I know I do.” Albus hesitates. “Rose, you can keep a secret, right?”


“I think I’ve proven that I can.”


“From everyone. From Scorpius.”


I give him the side-eye. “If this is a bad – ”


“No. No. I just – I’m going to ask him to marry me.”


It takes me a few moments to process this, and then I don’t know how to react. “That’s – wow. Albus, that’s amazing.”


“I haven’t asked him yet,” he points out with a glimmer of a smile. “I don’t know when. Maybe when we’re finished Hogwarts, maybe in a couple years – how young’s too young?”


“I think if you’re attending History of Magic together as husbands that’s a bit young.”


He grins. “Can you imagine Binns’ face if we did though? Nah, I know. I’m thinking maybe Valentines Day, year after next. We’ll have been together five years.”


“You guys got together on Valentines Day?”


“Officially, yes. We were very forward-thinking as third years, you see – means we’re never going to forget anniversary or Valentines.”


“Scorpius told me about your first kiss.”


“Ah, that. I never got to thank you and Holly for that stupid truth or dare game.”


“You can at your wedding.”


“At our wedding, yeah,” Albus says, and a grin spreads across his face. “Rose, will you be my best woman?”


“If that’s a thing, I’d be honoured.”


He claps me on the shoulder and rejoins the party, leaving me to wonder when we all started growing up.








The festive season comes out of nowhere at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. One day everything’s normal, the next day you’re shuffling half-asleep down to the Great Hall for breakfast and there’s mistletoe trapping people in the corridors and wreaths on every classroom door and softly tinkling bells stuck with Permanent Sticking Charms to your shoes.


The bells were our idea. It’s festive, so nobody can hate us.


Hijinks and shenanigans are at an all-time high during December. Snowballs follow people around the castle, waiting for an opportune moment to attack; Cornish pixies are released into the Entrance Hall (I have no idea what’s Christmassy about Cornish pixies, but apparently the group of fourth-year Gryffindors responsible found something); people are unwrapping Secret Santa gifts of semi-frozen Hippogriff dung. It’s pandemonium, and while in previous years we were all inclined to stick our noses in the air and mutter disdainfully about our mentally deficient peers, this year we’re the biggest fans of the spectator sport that is Christmas. Students crowd around awkward pairs trapped by mistletoe, raising the cry, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” in the same way they would yell “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” at any other time of the year. We make a point of always travelling with the person we wouldn’t mind kissing – Albus and Scorpius, Lester and Lily (who we all swear actually seek out the mistletoe) and Holly and me. (“You’re not best friends till you’ve smooched under mistletoe,” Holly proclaimed back in fourth year, thus safeguarding us from any yuletide awkwardness for the next three years.)


There have been a few mistletoe incidents – the most unfortunate being when Albus and Lester get caught on the way to Charms. It takes them ten minutes and a sharp word from Professor May, who wants to actually start class, before they consent to the most awkward of pecks and spend the rest of the class whispering to me about how lucky I am to be single and pansexual and how I would therefore never be in such an awkward situation as either of them.


“No, no,” I whisper finally, deciding it’s time to set them straight. “It’s worse. I have the potential to have unresolved sexual tension with anyone.”


“Oh,” Lester says. “Wow.”


“Who do you have unresolved sexual tension with?” Albus asks.


“I was speaking generally. No doubt I’ll find out next time I’m stuck under mistletoe with someone not in our group.”


Luckily, though, within a few days we’ve worked out ways to disable or destroy the mistletoe infesting the castle. It takes a total of nineteen hours between the five of us, camped out in the library with a few sample specimens, but the student body is grateful.


“The Nerds triumph!” Dylan Hewitt, a Hufflepuff Prefect, thrusts a fist in the air as a sprig of mistletoe wilts under our spells.


“Happy to be of service,” Scorpius says, bowing.


Professor Longbottom is suitably impressed that we found a way of killing the mistletoe, though he also tells us we should have spent some of those nineteen hours actually doing classwork. Or sleeping.


“Sleep is Professor, overrated,” i inform him solemnly.


“Go to bed, you three.”


I’ve never been told that by a teacher at this school, but as we trudge back up to the castle Albus says helpfully, “Apparently by about May all the professors are setting sleep hours instead of homework. Otherwise you just don’t.”


“Who’d you hear this from?” Scorpius asks.


“James was telling me.”


“James was in Gryffindor.” Scorpius looks horrified. “Imagine us at NEWT time.”


“I’ve been preparing,” Albus says. “Started drinking coffee at the beginning of the year to get used to the taste. Gonna need it.”


“I should start doing that,” Scorpius muses.


Holly and Lester are the only ones in the common room when we arrive back, and they’re both fast asleep on the couches.


“See you at dinner maybe,” Scorpius says, and disappears up to his dorm.


“Not joining him?” I ask Albus.


He waves a hand. “He’s finished for the day. I still have Muggle Studies after lunch.”


“Skip it.”


“Nah. We’re studying Muggle history at the moment. Wouldn’t skip it for the world. I’ll just have a power nap, it’ll be fine.” He hunkers down on the last spare couch. “It’s another art I’ve been perfecting in preparation for NEWTs.”


“Well, good…afternoon.” I’ve finished classes for the day as well, so I return to my dorm and fall into bed without even bothering to remove my shoes.








The teachers seem to have a mentality of working us into the ground in the last week of term – maybe because we’re losing three weeks to break, maybe because they figure they won’t have to deal with the fallout of a school full of sleep-deprived seventeen year olds because we’re all going home on Saturday. Whatever the reason, we have more essays and translations and spell practice to do than we’ve had all year, and by Friday afternoon we’re ready for murder.


None more so than Holly and Lester.


“We. Have. Astronomy. Tonight,” Lester says at the end of the school day, when we’re all sprawled out in the common room wondering how we managed to survive the last week. “We have charts to finish before midnight.” He keels over, lying face down on the floor, and groans into the carpet.


“Fuck the charts,” Holly says, and we all stare at her. “No, I’m serious. Fuck the fucking charts.” She shoves the giant piece of parchment in front of her out the window.


“Holly…” I say tentatively.


“What? Fuck Astronomy. Nobody cares about Astronomy. I don’t care about Astronomy. I got a fucking Exceeds Expectations for it in fifth year, why am I even bothering? It’s a waste of time and why they think it’s okay to have classes at midnight three times a week when we start at eight forty-five every goddamn morning is beyond me.” She throws down her quill. “For fuck’s sake, someone take me outside.”


I do, barely taking the time to throw a cloak over my robes before steering her out into the grounds. It’s freezing and snow is drifting down in fat, lazy flakes, but if any version of Holly cared about that she’s long gone now. She breaks into a run, launching herself into a pile of snow, and lies there staring up at the grey sky.


“I’ve just had enough,” she tells the clouds.


I lie down in the snow beside her, reaching over to squeeze her hand. “You can do it.”


“We’ve still got months left…and exams…”


“It’s Christmas,” I tell her. “Skip Astronomy. Get an early night. Come down with us to the station tomorrow, I’ll buy you a Pygmy Puff from Wheezes.”


“I can’t skip class…”


“Yes, you can. You’re not going to get anything good out of that class in this state. Get an early night. Put yourself first.”


“I’ve never done that in my entire life,” she says in a small voice.


“You’re starting now. We’re going to get in our pajamas and laugh at Witch Weekly with twenty Galleons’ worth of Honeydukes.”


Holly lies in the snow for another five minutes in silence before getting to her feet, pulling me up with her. “Right. No Astronomy tonight.”


“Atta girl,” I say, and we tramp through the knee-deep snow back into the castle.








As promised, I buy Holly a Pygmy Puff on our way to Hogsmeade Station the next morning and send her back up to school with a hug and an order to take it easy over the break. The rest of us collapse in our usual carriage with comments of “Thank God it’s holidays” and “I’m so glad to be heading home,” and the Hogwarts Express has pulled out of the station and is passing through the outer boundary of the village before Scorpius sits bolt upright in his seat.


“Oh fuck!” he says in horror. “The Prefects’ Carriage!”


“Fuck!” I echo, and we launch ourselves out of the compartment and make a run for the Prefects’ Carriage, dodging first-years who inevitably think some terrible crisis is going on and we have to take care of it. It’s an image I don’t bother to shatter.


The other prefects give us a reproachful look when we burst in, a good fifteen minutes late.


“Er, sorry about that,” Scorpius says awkwardly. “Got tied up or…something.”


“It’s okay,” Sophie Macmillan assures him. “We’ve all had a rough week.” She looks about as dead as we feel, and a quick glance around the carriage tells me that all the seventh-years, at least, are united in exhaustion.


To make up for his being late, Scorpius takes over the meeting – checking up on how everyone’s rounds are going, sorting out any issues, answering any questions that have popped up over the last term, before dismissing everyone to do rounds of the train.


“And have a good Christmas, everyone,” he adds. “Sophie, Dylan, Lucy, Sean, Emily, Louis, Rose – sleep. For the love of God. Don’t open a book for the next three weeks.”


“I hear you, mate,” Sean says, and the Prefects disperse.


“It’s a shame we’re at war with half our Prefects,” he says once everyone’s left. “Think of all the seventh-year solidarity we’re missing out on.”


Our Prefects?” I repeat. “I’m not Head Girl.”


“Right, yeah, you’re not are you? I keep forgetting that.”


“Unfortunately that’s not something I can put on my CV,” I grumble. “Was not actually Head Girl, but Head Boy thought I was.


“Why are you worried about your CV?”


“Well – it’s hardly likely that I’m just going to walk into a job, is it? Positions at Hogwarts come up once in a blue moon as it is, and think of how many people will be applying – ”


“Does this have anything to do with Holly’s job offer?”


I sigh. “This has everything to do with Holly’s job offer. I just sort of thought we’d sort it out once we finished the teaching course, you know? And that everything would work out. But she’s secure in her prospects now, and it just makes me realise that I’m really, really not.”


“But that course qualifies you for any school in the Triwizard Union, right? And you have to have at least two teaching subjects?”


“Yeah,” I say dubiously. “So I have six possible options instead of one.”


“It’s more than Albus and I will have at the end of our training,” he points out. “Either St Mungo’s keeps us on or they don’t. Don’t compare yourself to Holly. She’s a magnesium flare and the rest of us are lanterns.”


“What does that make the people who aren’t us?”


“Maybe glow worms,” he suggests, and I laugh in spite of myself.








It becomes apparent as soon as I make it home that the trend of having bombshells dropped on me by my overachieving nearest and dearest is set to continue.


“Your mother has some news,” Dad tells Hugo and I once we’ve deposited our trunks in our rooms and drifted aimlessly into the kitchen in search of food.


“Do we…sit?” Hugo asks eventually.


Mum waves her hands. “No, no. It’s not that big a deal, really – Ron, there’s no need to treat it like a big announcement – ”


“What is it, if not a big announcement?”


“Cut to the chase, Mum," Hugo interrupts.


“I’m running for Minister in the next election.”


“Oh, wow.” I stare at her. “Mum. That’s – amazing. I’m definitely voting for you.”


“No, Rose, this is your first election and I don’t want you voting for me just because I’m your mother, you need to make these decisions based on policy – ”


“I’ve had nearly eighteen years to acquaint myself with your policies, Mum. I know what you stand for.”


“Oh, Rose, that’s very – kind of you – ” Mum looks thoroughly flustered, and after a few moments of nervous fidgeting wraps me in a bear hug.


“Ribs,” I gasp.


She releases me quickly.


“When’s the election?” Hugo asks.


“October. Of course, there’s so much to do before then – Ron, you don’t think I’ve left it too late to announce my candidacy…?"


October. Hugo will be back at Hogwarts by then – which means it’s particularly urgent that I find a flat with Holly and Lester over the summer. There’s no way I want to be at home during election time.


While Dad assures Mum that no, ten months is plenty of time to campaign, I turn to Hugo.


“Mum’s gonna be Minister,” he says, eyes wide.


“I know.”


“This family has too many high achievers.” He folds his arms. “How many Os did you get in your OWLs, Rose?”


“Uh. All of them.”


“Fuck. There’s no way I’m getting that.”


“You don’t have to. You shouldn’t. Academia is my thing, get off my turf.” I’m only half joking.


“Fine, I’ll be Quidditch Captain. And Head Boy.”


“I don’t even know if you can be both.”


“That settles it, then.”


Mum turns to us, having been sufficiently reassured, to ask the inevitable question.  “And how are your studies going?”


“All right,” Hugo says. I just groan in response.


“Rose? Everything okay?”


“It’s seventh year, nothing will be okay again.”


“If you put together a study timetable now, you’ll find it a lot easier to cope with the workload over the next few months,” she tells me, not batting an eyelid at my melodrama. “I know it’s tough, but you’ll just stress yourself out more unless you spread it out – ”


“She’ll be fine, Hermione,” Dad interrupts.


“How would you know, Ron? You didn’t even do your NEWTs!”


“On account of the war and all.” Dad turns to me. “Rose, if there’s a war in the next six months, you are not to sit your exams. Hugo, you too.”


“Thanks, Dad.”


“Don’t you undermine me, Ronald Weasley!”


“I’m not undermining you. I’m balancing you. You’ll both do fine in your exams. I believe in you.” He grins at us.


“I believe in you too,” Mum says huffily. “I also believe in the virtue of hard work!”


“That should be your campaign slogan,” Hugo says. “Might lose the pureblood vote though.”


“I was never going to chase the pureblood vote anyway,” Mum sniffs.








Christmas Day dawns bright and cold. Dawns being the notable word, because this is the first time this year (excluding all-nighters) that I’ve seen dawn. Hugo and I sneak down to the Christmas tree in the lounge at about 5am to watch the sun rise, shrouded in blankets and speculating about the presents.


“That one looks like a book,” Hugo says, pointing. “And so does that one…and that one…that one too…this fucking family,” he concludes. “I hope I get a broomstick.”


“You got one last year.”


“A man can dream.”


We lapse into silence again, basking in the light of the Christmas tree, until Mum comes down just before seven.


“I thought you two would be getting too old to be up this early,” she says, smiling.


“Nah,” Hugo says. “’S Christmas. When’s breakfast?”


“Whenever your father bestirs himself to make it,” Mum replies. “Which won’t be for a while, judging by the way he was snoring five minutes ago.”


She joins us on the carpet beside the tree, gazing at Hugo and I with the kind of sleepy thoughtfulness that warns we’re about to be snowed under by maternal sentiment.


“You’ve grown up so fast,” she says softly. “Look at you two, Hugo – you’re taller than Ron was at that age. And Rose – this is your last Christmas at home, isn’t it? I know you and Holly are getting a flat.”


“I’ll still come back for Christmas,” I assure her.


“But not sneaking down the stairs at six in the morning – ”


“Five,” I correct. “Five in the morning.”


“Five,” she echoes. “You’ll be Flooing in, Apparating even, if your cousins’ flats are anything to go by. Just in time for breakfast and presents.”


“That sounds like me.”


Without a word, Mum pulls me into a hug, clutching me like she never wants to let me go. And as it dawns on me that this really is my last Christmas morning at home, I don’t want her to let go either.








It’s midmorning by the time we assemble beside the Floo to go to Nana and Grandad’s for Christmas lunch, and Mum’s already anxious because she promised Nana she’d help with the turkey. She’s been hovering by the fireplace for the last twenty minutes, attempting to hurry Hugo along as he slouches through the house, and Dad shakes his head.


“Twenty-five years we’ve been together, and she’s still trying to impress Mum. I’ve told her not to bother – Mum’s loved her as long as I have, but – ” he waves his hand, “She’s Hermione, isn’t she? Telling her not to worry about something is like telling the sun to stop shining.”


“I know.”


“You’re a lot more like her than you think, Rosie.”


“I’ve literally been told that all my life, Dad.”


“I mean it.” Dad frowns. “You know why I told you about that scholarship, don’t you?”


“You don’t want to bankroll me through my training course?” I joke.


“I want you to let go a bit. Enjoy being young. Your mother didn’t get that opportunity, there was a war on and your uncle Harry and I would have died – several times, I might add – without her helping us, but that doesn’t mean I want you following in her footsteps. It’s a bloody great burden to carry all your life.”


“I’m going for the scholarship. We all are. Me, Albus, Scorpius, Holly and Lester. We’re splitting it five ways if we win.”


“Good,” Dad says. “I’m glad.”


Mum finds us then, shooing us in the direction of the Floo. “Come on, Ron, we’ll be late!”








It’s weird having Lester and Scorpius at family Christmas, especially with Lester in the context of Lily’s boyfriend rather than Albus and my best mate. It’s made even weirder – okay, more uncomfortable – when James and Freddie arrive from their flat in Diagon Alley and, after greeting their parents, make their way over to where we’re clustered.


“What’s all this?” James asks, giving Albus a cheery clap on the back and shaking hands with Scorpius. “Didn’t know Nana was letting us bring our mates to Christmas now, how’d you swing that?”


Judging by the looks Albus, Lily and I all exchange in that moment, we’ve all realised that nobody has actually told James. Lily looks torn between disbelief that Albus has royally fucked up twice on the sibling front, and a certain smugness that at least she knew before her eldest brother.


“Listen – James – there’s something I have to tell you.”


“Something you have to tell me?” James repeats, leaning an arm on Albus’s shoulder. “Sounds serious…no, no, I can get this. You two,” he says, encompassing Scorpius in his address, “How long have you been in each other’s pants?”


Albus reddens. “How did you – ”


“How did I know? Please. The question is, little brother, why didn’t you tell me earlier?”


“That’s what I asked him too,” Lily contributes.


“How did you find out?”


Lily shrugs. “They kinda made out in the Great Hall during dinner. It was difficult to miss.”


“Standing on the Ravenclaw table,” I add helpfully.


“Well, well, well,” James says, looking at Albus with something that looks strangely like respect. “I never would have picked you for a public declaration of anything, but maybe you should have been a Gryffindor after all.”


“That’s not as big a compliment as you think it is,” Albus informs him.


“Yeah it is. I’m happy for you, pipsqueak.”


“Thanks, dickwad.”


“No problem.” James points a stern finger at Scorpius. “Don’t hurt my little brother. And you,” he adds, spotting Lester skulking at the back of the group, “Don’t hurt my little sister. James out.” He swans off.


“Narcissus out, more like,” Albus mutters, before raising his voice and calling after his brother, “Oi – careful not to catch your reflection in any ponds!”


James turns, gives a theatrical bow in our direction, and calls, “Oh, marvellous boy, I loved you in vain!”


Scorpius just stares after him. “Was that – Metamorphoses 3?”


“One line of it,” Albus replies, looking slightly resentful.


“Don’t take this the wrong way – but you’re lucky that your brother’s straight.”


“How is there a right way to take that?” Albus turns to him. “If it’s Ovid you want – nos quoque per totum pariter cantabimur orbem, iunctaque semper erunt nomina nostra tuis.”


“You’ll have to excuse us for a moment,” Scorpius says, sounding slightly breathless, and drags Albus out of the room by the shirt front.


“Bye,” I call after them, and turn back to Lester and Lily. They’ve taken advantage of my inattention to steal a particularly passionate kiss, and break apart looking guilty.


“Fucking – couples everywhere.” I abandon them to their affections and circle the room in search of more cousins.


Cousins, fortunately, are in abundant supply. I catch up with Victoire and Teddy before being absorbed into James, Freddie and Dominique’s group.


“Been cast adrift, Rosie?” James says conversationally. “I never thought I’d see the day. Albus and Lily both with significant others at Christmas. Both with boyfriends.”


“Feeling lonely, James?” Freddie asks.


“Not with you by my side, Frederick.”


“How long have those two been together anyway?” Freddie asks me.


“Which two?”


“Albus and the Malfoy kid.”


“Scorpius,” I correct.


“Knew it was something pretentious.”


“They’ve been together nearly four years.”


“Fuck, four years?” James goggles. “They kept that pretty fucking quiet. I only noticed last year.”


“You didn’t say anything to him?” I ask.


“Why would I? If he’s happy, I’m happy – but I also wanted to see how long he’d take to tell me. Freddie and I were about ready to make bets.”


“Which you would have lost,” Freddie says. “Could have used that twenty Galleons.”


“You knew too?” I ask.


“Not till James pointed it out to me,” Freddie concedes. “But once he did, yeah, it was pretty obvious. Oh, Rose, what are you doing when you finish Hogwarts?”


“The teaching course at the Ministry.”


“Really? What’ll you teach?”


“Potions preferably, but I’m also going to get qualified for Defence.”


“Should have known you’d have your plans,” Freddie says.


“We were going to offer you a job, if you wanted one,” James explains. “The bar’s getting too big to run on our own, and at this stage we’d rather hire family members or people we know – people who can share our vision and all that.”


“Ask Lucy,” I suggest. “Apparently she doesn’t know what she’s doing yet, and she’d be good in a bar situation.”


“Yeah, she’s outgoing,” James agrees, turning to Freddie. “What do you think? Lucy? She’d do well in hospo, I reckon.”


“Yeah, all right,” Freddie agrees, craning his neck to look over the heads of various Weasleys. “Aha! Found her. C’mon.” They ditch, leaving me with Dominique.


I never know quite what to say to Dominique. Of all her siblings, she’s embraced her French heritage the most – spending last year with an elite wizardwear designer in Montpellier before returning to England to work for Twilfitt and Tattings. She works as both a designer and a model, and in the six months since she started there, Twilfitt and Tattings has made it into the top five wizardwear companies in Europe. She’s barely twenty, and her success intimidates me to no end.


She’s also best friends with James and Freddie and has joined them in all their pranks, drunken adventures and harebrained schemes. I don’t know what to make of her.


“Teaching, huh?” she asks. “You’d be good at that.” Her accent is a strange mix of English and French, made more obvious by the fact that she’s trying not to sound French at all, the way she always does when she’s around family.


“Thanks.”


“You could do so much more though,” she continues. “You’re so intelligent – your subject’s Potions, yes? Why not go into research?”


“Teaching’s more rewarding.”


“You think? You know what they say. ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’”


I bristle. “That’s the biggest load of shit ever. Hogwarts teachers are top of their fields.”


“Ah. They’re good, yes. Top of their fields? I doubt it. If Hogwarts employed teachers from the top of their fields, it would be our uncle Harry teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts. Maybe your father. Not Dean Thomas.”


“Professor Thomas is a fantastic teacher,” I say heatedly. “And you know, it’s not just about whether you’re the best person in the world at that subject. It’s whether you have the passion and the dedication to pass that ability on.”


“Well,” Dominique says dubiously, “If you’re sure. I just think you could do better.”


“Thanks for your input.”


I resume my circling of the assembled Weasleys, pausing to catch up with Molly (working at the Ministry, of course, and doing very well for herself) and Roxanne (junior reporter at the Daily Prophet, got a new boyfriend) before being accosted by Uncle George.


“I’ve had some reports,” he says, waggling his eyebrows. “From my contacts within Hogwarts.”


“Who are your contacts at Hogwarts?”


“That’s for me to know and you to never find out. I’ve heard good things, Rose. I’m not sure I condone the open warfare on your own blood, but – ”


“Louis deserves everything he’s gotten this year. And he’s going for the scholarship too, isn’t he?”


“Yes. I would say he gives as good as he gets – but my reports indicate not. He lacks a certain...flair for this sort of thing. Pranking is an art form, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. By the way – there was one incident that my contact has had issues with. Involved toilet paper and doves.”


“Ah. Yeah, that was ours.”


“Really, now? Because Louis has been trying to claim it as well. Unfortunately, he was unable to explain the magic behind it when I asked.”


“It was a simple object-to-bird Transfiguration charm controlled by a Protean,” I tell him. “Holly still has the master key, I can get it to you if you need it.”


“Have her owl it to me at the shop,” George says. “You’re working with a partner?”


“A group, actually. There’s me and Holly, and Albus, and Scorpius Malfoy – ”


“The blond kid with Albus?”


“That’s the one. And Lester Raine, the tall geeky one with Lily.”


“Five-way split? Interesting. I look forward to hearing more about your efforts, Rose.”


We’re interrupted by Nana announcing that lunch is ready, and we all crowd into the lounge where she’s set up a long row of tables. The feast is amazing, as always, and, figuring neither of the couples that comprise my friends will be doing anything too inappropriate at the table, I wedge myself between Albus and Lester and load my plate with roast potatoes.


We make pointless conversation and witty banter with James and Freddie, sitting opposite us, and when we’ve stuffed ourselves fit to burst of Nana’s cooking, we slouch into couches, armchairs and floor for presents.


Most of us have already done the main present exchanges with our immediate families, so this is restricted to the first generation Weasley siblings and the closer combinations of cousins. I give my presents to the boys – a book on the Muggle World War II for Albus, a copy of the De Rerum Natura of Lucretius for Scorpius, and a 1699 folio edition of On the Science of Sorcery by Gaius Gloucester for Lester (it was horrendously expensive, so Holly, Albus, Scorpius and I split the cost. It’s worth it to see the look on his face).


My present is another that comes from the whole group, and Albus admits they got the idea for it from Lester’s. It’s a collection of academic papers from the leading Potioneers of the last two centuries, both published and unpublished, and I recognise the names of at least three contributors: Horace Slughorn, Severus Snape (posthumously) and Herbert Llodewick.


“I only know about this because of Dad,” Albus says excitedly, in case the uniqueness of the book is somehow lost on me. “The Potioneers Guild approached him like, ten years ago asking for his copy of Advanced Potion Making, because it was the one annotated by Severus Snape, right, and Dad told them it had been destroyed in the war, but they went off and found a bunch of his papers in his old place and got Dad to authenticate them – because he can recognise Snape’s notes and all – and they’re all in there. Plus I think they thought he was way closer to Snape than he was, considering he named me after him.”


I stare with wonder at the book and open it to the contents page. “Phoebe Dellingsworth, Potions Mistress, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…Horace Slughorn, Potions Master, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Severus Snape, Potions Master, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Herbert Llodewick, Potions Master at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic; Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – more than half these contributors taught at Hogwarts.”


I’m tempted to shove the book in Dominique’s face just to prove her wrong, but it seems like too petty a use for such an incredible resource, so I content myself with staring at it and picturing the second edition with my name on the contents page as well.


“Like it, Rosie?” Scorpius asks.


“I love it.” I place it reverentially on the carpet beside me and hug him, before dragging Albus and Lester in as well.


“We’re doing this?” Lester asks, before shrugging and smooshing himself into the hug. “I love my book, too, guys – thank you so much.”


“No problem, Raine,” Albus says. “Merry Christmas, everyone.”


“Merry Christmas,” we echo, mumbled into each other’s hair or shirts or faces, before we decide we’ve invaded each other’s personal space enough and break apart.


A few minutes later, it’s time for Nana to distribute the Christmas jumpers. I swear she must start these in July, there are so many of us. Mine this year is dark green with little white cauldrons, and I put it on immediately.


Nana always hands the jumpers out in order – her children by birth order, then her grandchildren by birth order, then in-laws. This year, though, she’s added a new category, and she prefaces this with a speech.


“I don’t usually do this,” she begins. “Though that may be because none of you seem to bring your sweethearts to Christmas lunch – they’re always welcome, you know that, the more the merrier! But this year we have two lovely young men joining us. Scorpius, Lester – merry Christmas, boys, and I know you’ll continue to make my grandson and granddaughter very happy.”


Because they’ve already been friends with Albus and I for near seven years, Scorpius and Lester have met Nana on a few occasions, but you’d think they’d been Weasleys all their lives the way they hug her and pull on their jumpers, beaming. I can’t tell who looks happier – Lester, in the blue-and-bronze version of Lily’s Snitch-covered green-and-silver jumper, or Lily, laughing at something her parents said, or Albus and Scorpius, who are smiling so hard they look like they’re about to break their faces. Actually no – there’s no competition, because this is the first Christmas Albus and Scorpius have been able to spend properly together, surrounded by people who love Albus and welcome Scorpius into the family with open arms, and their joy is written across their faces for all the world to see.


I swipe a tear from my eyes and wrap my arms around their shoulders, attempting to tell them something profound. It ends up sounding like “’M so happy for you you’re so happy I love you both so much merry Christmas.”


“We love you too, Rose,” Scorpius says as Albus pats me awkwardly on the head.


“This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had,” Lester says, and I can’t help but agree.







A/N: "Oh marvellous boy, I loved you in vain" is a line from Ovid's Metamorphoses (3.499, translated by David Raeburn)
nos quoque per totum pariter cantabimur orbem, iunctaque semper erunt nomina nostra tuis (Ovid's Amores I, 3.25-26) means "together we will be sung of through all the earth, my name always joined with yours" (translation mine)
 


Chapter 11: xi. the drawing board [or] my time to shine
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]






I spend the rest of the Christmas break in my pajamas, sleeping till noon and reading my new Potions book. Occasionally I come across a discovery so exciting I have to find people to flail my arms at – Mum’s the best for that, because she grasps the basic concepts of advanced Potioneering and is interested enough that she’ll just brew a cuppa and let me rant, asking the occasional question that means I can expand even more on what that particular innovation means for the Potions world. Then she’s back at the office straight after New Years, which means I’m bursting into Hugo’s room waving the book and going, “You’ll never guess what I just found out about the properties of asphodel!”


“I don’t care, Rose.”


“No, but – ”


“I’m a fifth-year, Rose.”


“Just listen for a moment, I’ll – ”


“I don’t even know what asphodel is, Rose.”


“How can you not – ”


“Go away, Rose.”


Bereft of family members who care about the most exciting discoveries in the field of potion-brewing, I scribble off the most salient points from each article in what Lester calls my ‘doctor’s handwriting’ along with a whole lot of interjections (“check this out oh my God” and “this explains literally everything about the reaction between salamander blood and lacewing flies”) and send it off to Lester.


He replies the next day, a single line in his elegant cursive script:


Must put theory into practice. Will be over presently with cauldron + ingredients.


Barely half an hour later Lester arrives, and we spend the afternoon brewing half the potions in the NEWT curriculum using the innovations I’ve found in the book (and discussing them at length, and experimenting to see whether the principles applicable to some potions can be applied to others which use similar combinations of ingredients. We get mixed results) and by the time Mum and Dad come home from work we’ve got a perfect Draught of Living Death, a batch of Amortentia and two tiny vials of Veritaserum.


Mum glares at the Draught of Living Death when she sees it. “It looks perfect. I suppose you crushed the Sopophorous Bean with a silver blade, rather than cutting it?”


“Yes.”


“And added one counter-clockwise stir for every seven clockwise stirs?”


“Sure did.”


“Naturally,” she says, and continues to stare darkly at the cauldron.


I don’t have the opportunity to ask her what grievous wrong the Draught of Living Death ever did her, because she’s moved on to the Veritaserum.


“This is a restricted substance, you two.”


“I wasn’t going to use it. We were studying for the NEWT exams.”


“Really?” Mum raises an eyebrow, glancing at the book on the table beside me. “Because I think you were experimenting.”


“There may have been an element of that.”


“You know how I feel about experiments in the house. Especially NEWT level potions, these ingredients are volatile – ”


“Why, mother dearest. Do you have no faith in my ability?”


“The insurance on this house does not cover the brewing of restricted substances, Rose Weasley. It’s not your laboratory.” She glances over at Lester, who’s looking slightly uncomfortable. “It’s good to see you again, Lester. I trust you enjoyed Christmas?”


“Uh – yes, it was good, Mrs – uh, Hermione.”


Lester has always struggled with calling any of our parents by their first names, despite their constant entreaties for him to do so. It took him only four years with Holly’s mum – mainly because Holly’s parents are divorced and he really couldn’t fall back on “Mrs Holyoake.” It was five years before he was calling my parents Hermione and Ron (maybe because they’re both a little bit intimidating) and he’s never managed with Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry – which I’m beginning to suspect is largely down to the fact that he’s been attracted to their daughter for quite some time now. I have noticed that since he started dating Lily, though, Aunt Ginny has mysteriously stopped correcting him when he calls her Mrs Potter. (Albus has noticed too, and finds it endlessly funny.)


Mum’s now chatting quite happily with Lester about our brewing innovations, and I shake my head at the parental double standard. Sure, when I do it it’s all Rose what are you doing you’ll blow up the house but with Lester it becomes I’m very impressed with your initiative and That’s the sort of thing you want to be doing with NEWTs. Granted, if she told Lester off he would probably never set foot here again, having melted into a puddle of mortification, but that’s beside the point.


Mum concludes our conversation by confiscating the Veritaserum (“I’m Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Rose, I cannot let you keep this,”) and warning us against unethical use of the Amortentia before heading into the kitchen. “You staying for dinner, Lester?”


“No, I’m heading to the Potters’ soon. Thank you, though.”


“Things going well with Lily then?” I ask as we start packing up the cauldrons and ingredients.


“Very well. Too well, almost.”


“Too well?” I repeat.


“Well, it’s all a bit fairytale, isn’t it? She’s beautiful and I’ve been with her barely two months and I’m already getting Christmas jumpers from her nana, and I don’t understand what she could possibly see in me.”


“Lester. What wouldn’t she see in you?”


“Let’s see,” he says sarcastically. “Fun. Passion. Charisma. Humour. General ability to function, let alone impress, outside the classroom. Because I don’t have any of that.”


“First of all, most of that is bullshit. Secondly, I can name plenty of things that she would see in you – ”


“I had a panic attack in front of her the other day.” He says this abruptly, staring at his box of potion ingredients, and starts packing up faster.


“What happened?”


“I was round at their place when it happened, and I’d never told Lily that I get them so she was panicking which made it worse, she kept asking me if I needed to go to St Mungo’s, she was almost in tears, and luckily Albus was around so he just told her to get Scorpius while he stayed with me – I know he’s not normally the best person to have around but at least he was calm, you know?”


“I know.”


“So Scorpius came over and helped me through it, and then he pulled Lily aside and I assume he told her everything, I don’t know, I didn’t ask, but the next time I saw her she didn’t even mention it, and I don’t know whether that’s a good sign or not.”


“So ask her. If there’s one thing I know about Lily, it’s that she needs people to be open with her. You shouldn’t just assume Scorpius has told her everything she needs to know – and even if he did, it would still mean a lot more to her if it came from you as well.”


“It’s just…not something I like having other people know about.”


I run a hand through my hair, trying not to think about the fact that our established support networks are probably going to fall apart next year – at a time when all of us are having to deal with new situations and a thousand unknowns. Maybe we should all just get a flat together – then again, making major decisions around anxiety (or rather, the fear of anxiety itself) is something I would rather avoid, and I get the feeling Scorpius and Lester would agree.


“She’s not other people,” I say at length. “She’s your girlfriend. And if you want her to be a big part of your life, you have to talk to her about this stuff.”


“I know,” he says heavily. “I’ve just forgotten how frightening it is, getting to know someone new. Especially in the context of romance. Fast-tracked emotional vulnerability.”


“Yeah, but – it’s Lily.”


“It’s Lily,” he echoes. “You’re right. Speaking of – I really ought to be heading over there. I’ll see you on the train. And thanks.”


“No problem.”







Two days after our return to Hogwarts, Emily comes up to me. “I have things to discuss with you. With all of you, preferably.”


“Uh – yeah, sure. Come to our common room – ”


“I don’t have your password,” she says impatiently.


“We don’t have a password. We have a bronze knocker that asks obnoxious questions, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.”


“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”


“It was genuine. See you at seven?”


“Yeah, all right.”







“Actually, that’s really good timing,” Holly says when I tell the others about my encounter with Emily. “We were going to have a planning meeting anyway. Back to the drawing board – I even got a drawing board. Well, it’s a blackboard, and I stole it from the old Charms classroom, but I don’t actually know what a drawing board is.”


“Do we really want Emily at our planning meeting though?” Albus objects. “I mean, it’s all well and good for her to pass intel to us, but we’d be sending her back to the Enemy with the details of every prank we’re going to be doing this term. And I don’t care how trustworthy she might be – that’s the kind of opportunity nobody would pass up.”


“We won’t plan anything while she’s here, then,” I say. “She doesn’t know anything about a planning meeting, she just has stuff to discuss with us. Hopefully whatever she tells us will add some direction to our plans. Where’s Raine, by the way?”


Scorpius shrugs. “Either Quidditch practice, or making out with Lily in the Slytherin common room. My money’s on the latter though – should have asked Emily to bring him with her when she comes.”


“Nah, he’s at practice,” Albus says. “I saw Tom heading down just before with his broomstick, grumbling about the new training regime.”


“What does he need a new training regime for?” Scorpius asks. “We won that last game by a huge margin.”


“Well, the next one is against Slytherin,” Albus points out. “I suspect there’s a bit of competition.”


“Oh, that explains it.”


Emily arrives at ten past seven. “I hate your fucking knocker,” she says by way of greeting.


“We do too,” Scorpius assures her. “What did it ask this time?”


“What is death? Tonight is not a philosophy sort of night.”


“What did you tell it?”


“That death is the cessation of all thought, consciousness or autonomous bodily function, without hope of restoration.”


“That’s the best answer I’ve heard in a while,” Scorpius muses. “Last time it asked me that, I said death was what it would be experiencing if it didn’t let me in.”


“Mine was ‘the opposite of life,’” Albus says. “I was tired. Anyway, Emily, Rose tells us you have things to discuss.”


“Yes. Update on the scholarship situation. Lucy’s out.”


“What?” I ask.


“Yeah, she’s out. Said she’s got a job at James’s – you know, the bar in Diagon – ”


“I know the name of my narcissistic brother’s business venture,” Albus interrupts.


“Yeah, well. Said she’s got a full-time job starting as soon as NEWTs are over, so she doesn’t want or need the scholarship. So now it’s just Louis going for the five grand himself. Which, as you can imagine, has caused a bit of dissent.”


“You were willing to help if Lucy and Louis split the money between themselves, but not now that it’s just Louis?” Albus asks dubiously.


“It sounds stupid when you put it that way, but it did make us realise that we’re not getting anything out of it – and really, anyone in the school deserves it more than Louis.”


“Aren’t you guys mates?” Scorpius asks, in a tone that suggests he’s torn between agreeing that Louis is a dick and being horrified that Emily would say such things about a friend.


“Yes, but he’s still a piece of shit,” Emily says matter-of-factly. “He’s a good friend to us, but I’d hardly call him an upstanding member of society otherwise. None of that is news to you. What is news to you is Louis is now on his own.”


“What about the Felix Felicis?” Holly asks at length.


“Of course you guys figured that out. Well, it’s got to brew for a while yet – ”


“Until March,” I interrupt. “Felix Felicis takes six months to brew.”
“Yeah,” Emily says. “But Louis only has his vial. The rest of us are keeping ours – NEWTs coming up and all.” She sees the look on our faces and adds hastily, “Not during the exams, of course! During the revision period. We’re going to take it on the day we’ve designated to study our best subjects, for maximum efficiency, you see. Availability of textbooks, lack of distractions, favourable study spaces, hopefully enhanced attention span.”


“That is brilliant,” Albus says.


“Pity you didn’t think of it,” she says unsympathetically. “I’ll try to give you a heads up when Louis uses his – but whatever he has planned for that day, you won’t be stopping it.”


“Better than having five of you to contend with,” Scorpius says bracingly. “Thanks for your help, Emily.”


“I’m not doing this for nothing. One of these days I’m going to need a favour, and having Hogwarts’ five resident geniuses indebted to me is a comfy position to be in.”


“What sort of favour?” Albus asks suspiciously.


“No idea. That’s the best part. I’ll see you lot in whatever class it is we have together.”


“Potions,” I supply.


“Potions, then. Night.”


“Right,” Holly says once she’s gone. “The drawing board.” As promised, she waves her wand and an old blackboard smeared with stubborn chalk dust comes trundling up to us.


“We should aim for thematic pranks,” I say. “We’ve got a few good ones coming up – Valentines Day, Easter, April Fools – ”


“April Fools,” Albus repeats. “Rose, there’s no way we can do April Fools. April Fools is huge. It’ll have to be our magnum opus, and it’s not close enough to the end of the school year – ”


“There’s a fine line between a series of pranks that the school can appreciate, and a series of pranks that seriously jeopardises students’ performance in OWL and NEWT exams,” Lester points out. “I would be hesitant to do anything much later than April first anyway.”


“Good point,” Holly says, and scrawls ‘Valentines Day, Easter, April Fools – Magnum Opus’ on the blackboard. “Right. Ideas.”


“Bunnies,” Lester says immediately. “Holly, we need to do something with bunnies.”


“I’ve never felt so connected to you,” Holly says. She writes BUNNIES next to Easter, circles it twice, and adds exclamation marks.


“Lester and I brewed up some Amortentia in the break,” I suggest. “I have no idea what we could do with it, but I’m sure there’s an ethical and funny way of using it on Valentines Day.”


“What were you two doing brewing Amortentia?” Scorpius asks.


“Experimenting,” I reply. “One of those papers talked about the properties of – ”


“We just ran through some standard NEWT level potions using some of the innovations the articles talked about,” Lester explains, cutting me off before I can get into a detailed discussion about powdered moonstone. “We’d be happy to explain it in more detail later.”


“We’ll see how we go with our other subjects,” Scorpius says. “If we have an advanced understanding of Potions, Albus, it’ll give us an edge during Healer training.”


Please let me teach you,” I say eagerly.


“Yeah, good point,” Albus says. “I mean, I want to go more into neurological and psychological Healing rather than general practice, so things like Amortentia which affect the mind more than the body – Rose, how much do you know about that side of things?”


I pull a face. “A little, maybe? I’m more concerned with the brewing and the reactions of the ingredients with each other – but I can probably run you through the basic mental effects of powdered moonstone, rose oil and pomegranate juice.”


“That would be great. Hey – do you think there’s a way of brewing an alternate Love Potion? One that makes people all mopey and sappy and do stupid things, but without physical attraction? That way you still get the humour, but there are no issues of consent.”


“On it,” I say immediately, and grin at Albus. “You know, that’s an excellent idea.”


“Rose’s time to shine,” Holly says. “And while you’re working on it, you can break down the Amortentia for us too. We’re going to nail our NEWT.”


“I’d be tempted to brew an alternative for the NEWT anyway, if I manage to make one. Outstandings for a perfect potion is all good, but I’d be contender for Top Scholar if I actually addressed the ethical issues behind Amortentia and circumvented them.”


“Credit me for the idea,” Albus says.


“Only if you cite my potion.”


“Deal.”


Neither of you are respected scholars,” Lester points out. “Rose, stop telling people to cite you. We all got big red lines through those parts of our essays in OWLs.”


“It was a legitimate citation,” I say, annoyed. “Just because I’ve never been published in a Potions journal – ”


“You can’t cite a lunchtime conversation in the Great Hall.”


“Stupid rule,” I grumble.


“Back to the topic at hand,” Holly interrupts, “We have vague ideas for Easter and Valentines Day. Any ideas for April Fools?”


“Something big,” Albus says.


“Thank you for that contribution, Albus. Care to expand on big?”


Hella big.”


“I think that’s enough creativity for the evening,” Lester decides.


“If anyone is struck with inspiration while studying tonight, let me know,” Holly says, staring critically at the blackboard before Vanishing our attempts at planning. “Now, Lester, I need to steal you for that Astronomy homework. I’m on the path to redemption.”


“Do we have anything to do for Herbology?” I ask the boys.


“Bleaurgh,” Albus responds. Both he and Scorpius hate Herbology, and only take it to complement Potions, a required subject for entering Healer training. I don’t despise it the way they do, but it’s always at the bottom of my academic priority list.


“We don’t,” Scorpius says. “I remember, because not even the dirt all over my face could ruin my happiness at the prospect of a plant-free Tuesday night. But we do have those forty lines of The Fountain of Fair Fortune to translate for Runes, and the grammar’s pretty tricky in places.”


“Have you already looked over it?”


“I read it in fifth year,” he replies matter-of-factly.


“Of course you did,” Albus sighs. “No, wait, I remember that. You translated it into Latin.”


“Not all of it,” Scorpius says. “Only the first hundred and fifty lines.”


“Only,” Albus repeats, sighing as he takes out his copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. “Well, let’s do this.”


Scorpius raises his wand, and there’s a series of loud thuds and one startled yell as his copy of Linton & Smart comes hurtling towards him from his dormitory.


Albus looks at him reproachfully. “You need to stop doing that. I think you hit Alfie.”


“This is Ravenclaw Tower,” Scorpius says loftily. “If Alfie’s not expecting to come across the odd flying tome, Alfie should have picked Slytherin.”


It’s a generally accepted fact that the only other house the Sorting Hat would consider for any of us is Slytherin, because love of knowledge and ambition tend to go hand in hand, and most of us are ridiculously pretentious. There are notable exceptions – Holly, of course, who is sweet and kind and lovely and not half as arrogant as the rest of us, who was a Hatstall for three uncomfortable minutes between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw; and burly Tom McLaggen, who plays Beater on the Quidditch team, wants to be an Auror, and was raised with the firm belief that he was more brawn than brains and would go straight into Gryffindor. When the Hat dithered briefly on Tom’s head, he seized upon the mention of ‘Ravenclaw’ and yelled it triumphantly a second before the Hat did. We were all pleased with our Sorting, but Tom was thrilled.


We settle into our studies for the next few hours, interrupted by the occasional retrieval of snacks from someone’s dormitory or the frequent “So what did you get for this line?” directed at Scorpius. He is, as always, in his element explaining Runic grammar and the implications inherent in different words, and Albus is hanging on his every word with an interest that is equal parts romantic and academic.


At quarter to twelve Lester and Holly reluctantly head off to Astronomy. We finish the translation shortly after twelve, and after the miraculous realisation that I’ve actually finished everything I need to have done for tomorrow, I pack up my stuff and make to leave.


“Have you finished?” Albus asks, staring at me. “It’s barely midnight!”


“I know.” I grin. “I’m off to get an early night.”


“Fuck that,” Scorpius mutters. “We’ve still got a History of Magic essay to write, Albus.”


“Hate you, Rose,” Albus says, and slumps onto the table in defeat.


Scorpius thwacks him over the head with his translation. “Oi. Get up.”


“Go on without me,” Albus mumbles into the table.


“It’s History of Magic,” Scorpius says. “It’s your best subject.”


“Mmmph.”


“I helped you with Runes.” He pokes Albus in the ribs.


“I’ll sneak up some food from the kitchens,” I offer, and Albus perks up immediately.


“Oh sure, you get up for food and not me – ”


You were beating me with moralistic folk tales. She was offering me food.” Albus gives me a winning smile. “Treacle tart if they’ve got any, Rosie.”


“Scorpius?” I prompt.


“No, I’m good. Grab something for Holly and Lester though, they’ve still got the translation to do after they come back from class.”


“Will do.”


I’m always the one sent on late-night missions to the kitchens – partly because I’m a Prefect, which allows me to be wandering the castle at night, but mostly because I, being Hermione Granger’s daughter and all, am on excellent terms with the house elves. Not only do they respect her name because of all the reforms she’s forced through the Ministry on elven welfare, but they genuinely like me because I genuinely like them. I made friends with them back in first year, and as a result they’re always very happy to see me, and to supply me and my friends with all the late-night study munchies we could possibly need. They pepper me with questions when I arrive (“How is your classes, Miss?” “We is not seeing you much, Miss,” “We is hearing of Masters Potter and Malfoy, we is knowing they are being friends of yours,”) and I marvel at a) how Albus and Scorpius have managed to become the subjects of even house elf gossip and b) the romantic streak of the aforementioned house elves, who are eager to know every detail about the boys.


“And Miss Potter and Master Raine!” one of the house-elves, Blinky, says excitedly when I mention them. “We is not hearing about them, miss!”


“Arry is seeing them around the castle, Miss!” one of the younger house elves announces, full of importance. “Arry is thinking there is no sweeter couple in all of Hogwarts!”


“Is Miss having a sweetheart herself?” Blinky continues. “We is thinking Miss is very kind and smart, and any boy or girl is being lucky to have Miss!”


On impulse I lean down to hug the elf. “You’re very kind to think that,” I tell her. “And very good to say boy or girl.”


“We house elves is not believing boys should always love girls and girls should always love boys, Miss.”


“The world could learn something from you house elves.” I take the feast they offer and depart with a promise to be back sooner rather than later.


I use a Disillusionment Charm on the food so it’s not immediately obvious to passing staff that I’ve just raided the kitchens – a precaution that proves its worth when Filch comes shuffling past me in the second floor corridor.


“Up to no good, Weasley?”


“I’m a Prefect, Mr Filch.”


“Aye,” he says, nodding. “Aye, you keep an eye on the rest of ‘em won’t you?”


“Will do, Mr Filch.” I speed up, lest he catch a whiff of the food I’m hiding, and as his steady wheezing fades into silence behind me, I hit upon the exact nature of our Valentines Day Amortentia prank.
 


Chapter 12: xii. the art of love [or] nothing is sacred anymore
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I don’t tell the others about my idea until I’ve managed a way of brewing what Holly has dubbed Hollyjuice Potion (“Get it, because I’m asexual and because Polyjuice Potion,”) which I manage in the early days of February.


“The trick was in the pomegranate juice,” I explain. “Pomegranate juice, because of its association with Hades and Persephone, is always going to have slightly sinister and nonconsensual connotations. The powdered moonstone and rose oil are fine – though I substituted the red rose for pink – but the pomegranate juice added a layer of compulsion. I’ve replaced it with essence of narcissus, which causes a less harmful form of infatuation – ”


“Less harmful?” Albus repeats. “Dude drowned himself in a pond.”


“It’s less harmful because it doesn’t actually involve acting upon those desires. Making eloquent speeches, maybe, general swooning – but there’s no desire for physical contact. Which means, in a nutshell – I’ve made the Hollyjuice Potion.”


“Have you tested it?” Lester asks.


“Er, no.”


“Test it,” he says firmly.


I sigh, filling a vial with the potion. “Fine. Who wants me to fall in love with them for…” I scrutinise the amount in the vial. “Ten minutes?”


“Ooh, ooh, pick me,” Holly says immediately.


“Hair.”


Scrunching up her face, Holly plucks a strand of hair from the top of her head and carefully lowers it into the vial. It fizzes slightly before settling into a smooth, pearly liquid.


“None of you are allowed to hold this against me,” I tell them, wondering briefly what my mother would say if I end up poisoning myself with a prototype love potion, before taking a deep breath and raising the vial. “For science!”


The good thing about love potions is they always taste amazing, and I take a moment to congratulate myself on getting this part right before the giddiness overtakes me.


It’s the weirdest ten minutes of my life, being under a love potion. I imagine it’s what being drunk is like (I have no experience with that, so it’s not really a point of comparison) I’m perfectly lucid, perfectly capable of rational thought – except those rational thoughts are inexplicably caught up in thoughts of Holly. I imagine myself as quite the romantic, making passionate speeches and declarations, and staring at her, always staring – has she always been this beautiful? How have I not noticed before? –


Then, just as abruptly as it started, the potion wears off and I’m left with almost no memory of the last ten minutes, except for the vague impression that I’ve made a massive dick of myself.


“Well,” Scorpius says, an odd look on his face, “At least we know it works.” The odd look turns out to be the face he pulls when he’s trying very hard not to laugh, and he gives up all pretence and guffaws, holding his sides and gasping for air.


I glance around the rest of my traitorous friends, who are all in similar states. Holly has tears of mirth in her eyes, and at my affronted look she hoots, “You – you said that – ” and dissolves into incoherent laughter again.


“We’re definitely using Hollyjuice for Valentines,” Albus concludes.


“I’m not sure I want it to be called that,” Holly says, having recovered enough to talk in full sentences. “Not after I’ve seen what it does.”


“Well, she was making all those spectacular sonnets about you, so I think it’s quite fitting,” Scorpius says.


“I composed sonnets?” I ask, stunned.


“You did. I mean, they were shit, but they were metrically correct and very, very funny.”


“Oh my God.”


“You don’t remember anything?” Holly asks.


“I remember staring at you for a while.”


“You did,” Holly says solemnly. “Almost the full ten minutes, actually.”


“I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Rose on her success,” Albus says, smirking. “And on the beautiful poet’s heart that lies within. May nobody ever awaken it again.”


“I hate you all,” I grumble, and set about decanting the Hollyjuice Potion into a set of vials.


“So what have you got planned for this stuff?” Lester asks.


“Well, I figured I’d put a bit of it in every box of Valentines chocolates – ”


“Didn’t your dad get dosed with love potion chocolates once?”


“Yeah, that’s where I got the idea. Anyway, we put a little in each chocolate – ”


“Targeting who?”


“I’m getting there, I’m getting there. I thought briefly about Louis, but he’d enjoy that too much, and half the school has a crush on him anyway so there’s nothing new there. So. Who’s the best possible target for this sort of thing?”


“Professor Sprout?” Scorpius suggests.


“Nah, nah, nah. Professor Vector,” Albus counters.


“I don’t think we’d see out the end of the year if we did that to Professor Vector. No, no. We don’t put any hair in the potion at all. That way it’ll target the first person the consumer sees. Which means we’ll get a large number of people following Argus Filch around, because he’s in charge of delivering the Valentines this year.”


“How do they even decide that anyway?” Albus asks.


“Whoever draws the shortest straw in the staffroom,” Holly replies matter-of-factly. “Professor Vector was complaining about it last year.”


“And then we’ll get equal numbers of people falling for random classmates, best friends – that is perfect, Rose.”


“I do try,” I say modestly.


Of course, there are still plenty of logistics to work out – namely, how we’re going to get the Hollyjuice into every single box of chocolates delivered to students on Valentines Day. Albus immediately volunteers himself and Scorpius for the task.


“No,” I tell him. “This is a time-sensitive operation, I can’t have you two making out or doing…other things in Filch’s office.”


Albus wrinkles his nose. “We would never.”


“Not in Filch’s office, anyway,” Scorpius says. “Besides, we can keep our hands off each other long enough to get things done. Look! I’m nowhere near him.”


“We have essential resources,” Albus says. “Resources crucial to the success of the operation.”


“If you mean the Cloak, you could pull your head out of your arse and lend it to me – ”


“Absolutely not,” Albus says immediately. “But it’s not just the Cloak. I have something else.”


“Care to share?”


Albus lowers his voice. “James bequeathed it to me.”


“James isn’t dead,” Scorpius says flatly. “So he didn’t bequeath it to you.”


“James gave to me, then. Rose, any idea what it might be?”


I think back to the endless conversations I’ve had with my parents as they reminisced about Hogwarts – or more to the point, all the times they fucked shit up at Hogwarts and how uncle Harry helped (according to Dad) or enabled (according to Mum) the fucking up of said shit.


“No,” I whisper. “He didn’t.”


“He did,” Albus confirms. “He always said he wouldn’t give it to me until I could say the words truthfully. So when I told him about the scholarship over Christmas, he said it was time I had it.”


“What the hell are you guys talking about?” Holly asks.


“This.” Albus reaches into his robes, drawing out a battered old bit of parchment and tapping it with his wand. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”


We crowd around in awe as the Marauders Map appears in all its glory, an ink-and-paper castle alive with little footprints and names.


“Look, there we are!” Holly says excitedly, jabbing her finger into the middle of what the Map identifies as the Ravenclaw common room.


“This is extraordinary magic,” Lester says reverentially.


“It is,” Scorpius agrees. “To think Albus shares genetic material with one of the men who made this.”


“Oi,” Albus says, affronted.


“Albus, you know he has the greatest respect for your magical ability – ”


“I do,” Scorpius says, “But, I mean – they were Animagi. You have failed to live up to the glory of your ancestors.”


“The glory of my ancestors?” Albus repeats. “Calm down, Caesar Augustus.”


“Don’t call me that, I like it too much.”


“Do you now – ”


“Guys,” I interrupt. “You have an audience. And we have a mission.”


They turn back to the Map, looking sheepish.


“Your best bet is to get into Filch’s office on the night of the 13th – any earlier and you’ll miss some, because everyone in this castle is a slave to procrastination. Don’t – and I shouldn’t have to say this, but better to be safe than sorry – don’t send each other chocolates. Lester, warn Lily.”


“Why?” Lester asks, confused. “I won’t be sending her any.”


“Oh, my sweet summer child,” Albus says, patting Lester on the shoulder.


“Lily is – popular,” I say delicately. “She gets a tonne of Valentines every year from boys convinced that they’ll win her heart with some overpriced confectionery and a bouquet of lilies – ”


“Poor girl,” Albus says, giving an exaggerated shudder.


“But she’s not single,” Lester says, still wearing his confused look. “Why would they – ”


“Because the vast majority of boys at this school don’t understand the word no. They don’t heed it when she’s not interested, they’re not likely to heed it just because she’s in a relationship. Except this time, all her cards will be full of ‘I love you more than he does,’ and ‘I’m twice the man that Lester is,’ and ‘You should be with a nice guy like me rather than an arrogant douchebag.’”


Lester seems to struggle with a response for a while, before eventually bursting out with, “They seem to be missing the fundamental point that – God knows why – she wants to be with me!”


“Exactly. God forbid they actually consider her in all of this. So anyway, tell her not to eat any chocolates she gets.”


Lester lapses into a troubled silence and I, deciding I’ve dropped enough uncomfortable truths for the evening, make my excuses and flee to my dorm. Unfortunately, no refuge can be found from the hell known as Other People’s Love Lives.


“Rose!” Lara wails when she spots me in the doorway.


“…Lara?”


“I did something really, really stupid!”


“Oh no.”


“I slept with Louis!”


I wrinkle my nose. “Why?”


“I don’t know! He’s fit! It was a crime of opportunity!”


“Do you like him?” I try not to sound too dubious, because it’s Lara and we’re friends and I should try to be supportive.


“Nope. Just his face. Didn’t even let him talk. Is that bad?”


“Er. I wouldn’t know.”


“What am I going to do?”


“Do you need to do anything?”


“Well – ” Lara flounders.


“Do you plan on doing it again?”


She pauses. “No. No, once was enough. He’s really not that good – ”


“Enough,” I interrupt, holding up a hand. “He’s still related to me, don’t need to hear it.”


“But he keeps trying to talk to me,” Lara continues. “He even asked me to Hogsmeade for Valentines weekend, and I can’t tell whether he’s setting something up for that ridiculous prank war you guys have going, or whether he’s actually gotten himself attached to me…”


I can’t help but grin at that prospect. Lara Talbot has, through tireless dedication to the cause, earned herself the universal title of ‘total bitch’ according to Hogwarts boys – a title she wears with some degree of pride and no small amount of irony. She is, in reality, anything but a bitch – she just declines boys when she wants to decline them, accepts when she wants to accept them, and holds declarations of love from horny teenage boys in the contempt they deserve. She’s a hero among women, and the idea that Louis, king of misogynistic douchebags, has somehow fallen for her makes me believe wholeheartedly in karmic retribution.


“I don’t see why he’d target you in the prank war,” I tell her.


“Ugh. So I have to get rid of him somehow?”


“You have extensive experience in getting rid of annoying dudes, Lara.”


“Most of them weren’t in our year though.” Lara sighs heavily. “It sucks being seventh year – there’s no one older than you, and I never go younger –I have classes with Louis.”


“Just ignore him,” I advise. “He’ll be after someone else soon enough.”


“Hope so.”




At 2.13am on Valentines Day, Albus and Scorpius return triumphantly to the common room.


“The deed is done,” Albus informs me, pulling the Cloak off. “A total of one hundred and seventy-six boxes of Hollyjuice-laced chocolates will be delivered to Hogwarts’ lovers, sweethearts and honeys in the morning.”


“Good work, guys,” I tell them. “Did a kitchen run earlier, help yourselves.”


“Ooh, don’t mind if I do.” Albus peers at the spread on the table in front of him. “What’s the occasion? All-nighter?”


“Naturally,” Lester says, yawning. “We’ve got eighty lines of the Fountain of Fair Fortune to get through tomorrow, and that essay on Veritaserum for Llodewick’s due first thing, and Rose says you’ve got a practical test for Defence, Scorpius, and Holly and I have just finished our Arithmancy – ”


“And my essay on World War II is due tomorrow as well,” Albus concludes with a groan. “I hate seventh year.”


We get started on the Runes first, though we’re all too impatient and too worried about everything else we need to get done that we just copy off Scorpius, who takes us through the grammar at lightning speed. We finish by 3am and get started on the Veritaserum essay, with me feeding everyone the answers, and by the time the world outside is beginning to lighten Albus has moved onto the final paragraphs of his Muggle Studies essay and Scorpius and I are duelling with every NEWT level Defence spell we know.


Lester disappears to shower, and after I’m satisfied that I can handle every spell that could possibly come up in the practical I do the same. There’s nothing like a long, hot shower at the end of an all-nighter, and I emerge feeling infinitely more human, proud of what I accomplished overnight and really, really keen to see the results of the Hollyjuice prank.


It doesn’t take long. Wednesday is Potions first for the seventh-years and Transfiguration for the sixth-years – both extremely popular NEWT subjects that guarantees most of the senior students will be out of bed for them. Even those who would otherwise be sleeping through their free period come down to the Great Hall in the vague hope of getting Valentines from secret admirers during breakfast – or laughing at those who obviously sent them to themselves.


Filch starts doling out the chocolates, and almost all the recipients, after reading the messages within and glancing around eagerly for the sender, abandon their breakfast in favour of their Valentines sugar fix. Trying to look as innocent and nonchalant as possible, we pile our plates with toast, eggs and sausages and start chatting about schoolwork as we wait for the inevitable chaos.


“It’s going to look suss,” Scorpius whispers, nudging Albus. “That we didn’t get each other chocolates.”


“Chocolates are for heteros,” Albus whispers back.


The first shouts of “Hey, what the fuck?” are ringing out from across the Great Hall now, as the suddenly lovestruck confess their feelings to the suddenly beloved. I count three people – two girls, one boy – get up and follow Filch out of the Great Hall, and seven more are staring rapturously across the Hall at random students they’ve never met but who happened to cross their line of vision at an unfortunate time. At least a dozen seem to be swooning over their best friends, and it takes another five minutes before someone – who turns out to be Logan Fenwick, a seventh-year Puff friends with Sophie – calls out, “I think someone’s spiked these things with love potion!”


To top it all off, Professor Llodewick stalks past muttering under his breath, “Oh, for fuck’s sake. It’s Beauxbatons all over again.”


“Wonder what happened at Beauxbatons,” Lester murmurs.


“I think we can hazard a guess.”




A/N: "Oh, my sweet summer child" is from A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin.

'The Art of Love' is the translation of the title of Ovid's poem, Ars Amatoria.
 


Chapter 13: xiii. the smoking gun [or] i flew too close to the sun
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I’m still congratulating myself for the Hollyjuice prank at morning break when I slowly become aware of the imposing figures of Professors Vector and Llodewick looming over me.


“Morning, Professors?”


“Rose Weasley,” Vector says stiffly. “A word.”


Fuck. I exchange mutual panicked glances with Holly and Scorpius, slowly picking up my bag and following the teachers into Professor Llodewick’s office.


“Do you have any idea what this is about?” Vector asks.


“I have the right to remain silent,” I say immediately.


“You do,” Professor Vector agrees. “Though I doubt that would be in your best interests. You are here, as I’m sure you already know, about the love potion incident earlier. Herbert, would you mind telling Rose what you told me?”


“Certainly, Septima.” The expression on Llodewick’s face is difficult to read, but if I didn’t know better I swear it would be bordering on impressed. “The potion these chocolates were spiked with was no ordinary love potion. Analysis of both the substance itself and the effects shows a potion that has never been on the market here or overseas. That level of brewing innovation and expertise is remarkably uncommon. As Potions master at this school, I can say beyond reasonable doubt that the only student capable of such a feat is you, Miss Weasley.”


“…Thank you?”


“That was not a compliment,” Professor Vector says sharply. “Rose, would you mind explaining yourself?”


I would mind very much. “Uh…what do you want me to explain?”


Everything would be preferable,” Vector says. “I’m sure you know Amortentia and its ilk is banned at Hogwarts – and for very good reason.”


“I know,” I say hurriedly. “And I took that into consideration when – well, when I made it. This – ” I pause, hurriedly trying to come up with a name for the potion that isn’t Hollyjuice – “Amor Stultorum is different – I deliberately brewed it without any element of physical attraction, eliminating the issues of coersion and consent. I’m sure you noticed, Professors, that the effects were strictly limited to verbal declarations of affection.”


“I did indeed,” Llodewick says, though Vector looks like she wanted to say something. “What on earth did you do?”


“Substituted the pomegranate juice for essence of narcissus.”


“Ah yes, and the reaction between narcissus and rose oil – not red, I assume?”


“Pink.”


“Pink, yes, pink rose and narcissus – ingenious, quite ingenious – ”


“That’s enough,” Vector says sharply. “Herbert, do not encourage her. Rose, what were you doing brewing this? Some kind of elaborate prank?”


“No, no, nothing like that. I was experimenting – I thought if I managed to brew a non-physical alternative to Amortentia in my NEWT, and explain both the method and the ethical reasons behind it, I’d be a contender for the top scholar award…and I sort of…wanted to test it.”


“On Valentines Day?” Vector asks skeptically.


“I thought it would be ironic.”


“Be that as it may – trialling potions on students?”


“I tested it on myself first. It’s perfectly safe.”


“You didn’t know it would be for everyone else. Rose, this was a very foolish thing to do.”


“I know.”


“You will have detention with Professor Llodewick for the next three Friday evenings. I’m sure he has a lot to teach you about the safe and ethical testing and development of potions.” She turns on her heel and walks out, leaving me with Llodewick.


“That was an exponentially dumb thing to do,” Llodewick says conversationally.


“I know, Professor.”


“Don’t take that contrite tone with me, I know you’re proud. Of the potion, at least. Not so much getting caught.”


I give him a strange look, unsure how to respond.


“You didn’t think about the implications, did you? Septima’s strict. Doesn’t forgive transgressions easily, especially not from her star students. And you know who’s going to be Headmistress when you’re looking for a job here, don’t you? She is.”


I haven’t thought about that, and I feel my heart sink to the bottom of my stomach and keep going. “Oh my God.”


“But you know whose opinion counts for most when it comes to hiring a new Potions teacher? Mine. I’ve taught damn near everyone who’s going to be applying when I retire, and the choice comes down to me. Septima could veto it if she really wanted, but at the end of the day, I’m picking my successor. Just something to think about.”






I have the dubious honour of being the first in our group, four months from the end of seventh year, to have gotten a detention – which means the word carries no small amount of weight when I give everyone the run-down of what happened this morning.


“Detention?” Scorpius repeats, in that strange tone people use when they’re saying a word for the first time. “Detention. What happens in detention?”


“I’ve heard stories,” Albus offers. “Dad had to sort Flobberworms once, for old Snape.”


“Which again begs the age-old question of why the hell he named you after him,” I interject.


“I’ve asked him many a time,” Albus says, sighing and adopting the deep, comical voice he uses to mimic his father. “Albus Severus Potter, you were named after two Headmasters of Hogwarts…That’s not a reason. Who looks at their wrinkly, blotchy newborn son and thinks, ‘Hey, you know who he looks like? Some dead headmasters I once knew.’”


“Your dad, obviously.”


“Didn’t your mum have any better ideas?” Lester asks.


Albus and I snort.


“My mother,” Albus explains carefully, “Is the worst namer of things you could possibly imagine. She named an owl Pigwidgeon. She went through a phase of wanting a Hippogriff so she could call it Hippogryffindor. Albus Severus might be a shitty name, but it’s better than Purplyface Ittybittytoes or whatever she would have come up with at the moment of my birth.”


“Can I call you that in bed?”


“I’m concerned about you, Scorpius.” Albus returns to the topic at hand. “So, Rose. Detention.”


“Detention,” I repeat, in the vague hope that if I repeat it enough in a safe environment surrounded by my nearest and dearest it won’t be able to terrify me as much as it has been. “How bad can it be?” I ask bracingly. “It’s just – ”


“The worst punishment Hogwarts offers outside suspension and expulsion,” Scorpius finishes. “Sorry.”


“You’re the worst, Malfoy.”


“Don’t hate me coz you ain’t me,” Scorpius replies.


“Don’t ever say that again,” I advise, and go back to my brooding.


“Well,” Holly says, ever the optimist, “At least she didn’t take your Prefect badge.”


“You sort of have to royally fuck up to lose your badge,” Scorpius points out. “My dad never lost his, and he tried to assassinate the Headmaster.”


“Maybe you only lose it if you succeed in assassinating the Headmaster,” Albus muses.


“Well, if we’re using Severus Snape as our precedent, if you succeed in assassinating the Headmaster, you become Headmaster.”


“And then you die,” Albus concludes. “And your name lives on forever in the resentful son of a student you tormented, because my dad is a fucking nutter. How did we get back on this topic?”


“By ignoring me in my hour of need.”


“Rose, it’s Wednesday. Your hour of need isn’t till Friday.”


“Friday,” I repeat, and slump unceremoniously onto the carpet.


My friends, with typically exemplary compassion, leave me there and start nattering about the boys’ History of Magic essay, which seems to be on the gnarly topic of the war and its effects on wizarding society. After about ten minutes of listening to them I decide I want in on the conversation and raise myself to a sitting position.


“Ah, she lives,” Scorpius says. “Rose. Should I focus on economic effects or military tactics? I figure those are the ones most likely to not require me to speak objectively about the sins of my forefathers.”


“Well, there wasn’t a lot of military tactics going on, so probably economics?”


“I don’t know a damn thing about economics, though.” He frowns at his open textbook. “What the fuck’s a stock market anyway?”


“Write about Gringotts,” Albus says around a mouthful of treacle tart that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. “You can say a lot about how the confidence in Gringotts security dropped exponentially after Dad, Ron and Hermione broke in and escaped on a dragon.”


“Yes, but – ”


“Ahh-hh,” Albus interrupts. “You said you didn’t want to write about your family. So write about mine. Or Rose’s.”


“You’re part of the same family, genius,” Scorpius points out.


Albus cocks his head at me. “D’you ever forget that we’re related?”


“Evidently you do.”


“Nah,” he says. Then, “Yeah. Nah. Yeah. I prefer to think that you’re my best mate and our parents just happen to have saved the world together.”


That is, actually, a surprisingly good summary of my relationship with Albus. It’s not like he’s inherited the trademark Weasley hair – or indeed any feature that makes him look remotely related to me. He’s the spitting image of Uncle Harry, except for a slight dusting of freckles on his nose that may have been from Aunt Ginny’s genes (or maybe just a few too many days out in the sun) and 20/20 vision. That and the fact that he, Lily and James are the only cousins who aren’t actually Weasleys by name means it’s remarkably easy for me to think of him as more of a childhood best friend than a cousin. Cousin doesn’t do our friendship justice – cousins are people like Dominique or Roxanne or Molly, people vaguely my age who I see at family get-togethers and who would give me friendly little waves in the corridors back when they were still attending Hogwarts. Albus is my bro.


“What’s the time?” Scorpius asks.


“Five thirty.”


“Time to ditch,” he says, glancing at Albus. “Got the Cloak and the map?”


“Where are you guys going?” Holly asks.


“London,” Albus replies matter-of-factly. “We know a guy with a Floo down in Hogsmeade, so we’re heading to Diagon Alley for dinner and drinks.”


“Aw yeah,” I realise. “It’s still Valentines Day. Happy anniversary, guys.”


“Four years, right?” Lester asks. “Congratulations.”


“Thanks,” Albus beams, taking Scorpius’s hand and shrugging into the Cloak.


“Don’t wait up,” Scorpius adds, and disappears under the Cloak as well.


“Have fun!” Holly calls after them. “Don’t drink and Apparate!”






Friday evening takes an excruciatingly long time to get to me, and when it finally does I realise very quickly that I don’t actually want it to get to me at all, and would have been perfectly happy in an eternal Thursday where I don’t have to spend several hours in detention with a teacher who knows I’m after his job.


Alas, Friday evening comes anyway, and at seven o’clock I steel my nerves, ignore the mocking well-wishes of my friends (who have, over the last two days, decided that me getting a detention is more grounds for ridicule than moral support) and head for Professor Llodewick’s office.


“Good evening,” he says, ushering me inside when I knock hesitantly on his open door. “Take a seat – I never thought I’d have to set detention for you, Rose, but we’ll see if we can’t work this to our advantage.”


I sit, awkwardly drumming my fingers against the desk as Llodewick rummages through his bookshelves and emerges with a huge stack of parchment. “Ah. Here we go.”


He dumps the stack beside me, which upon closer inspection proves to be a collection of old Potions journals, dating back to the 1980s.


“You’ll be writing a report for me over the next three Fridays,” Llodewick informs me. “The topic of your report will be the methods used in Potions research and experimentation, in particular those of testing. You will include in your report your own method in brewing and testing the – what did you call it – Amor Stultorum, and evaluate the effectiveness and ethics of your method in comparison with those of actual, qualified Potioneers. I think you’ll find it wanting.”


“I think that’s a safe assumption to make.”


“It’s about time you had an introduction to the world of scientific Potions research,” Llodewick continues. “It is, unfortunately, not a topic covered in NEWT exams, and no doubt you will only cover the fundamentals briefly in the subject-specific part of your teaching course. It will be sufficient for you to teach the curriculum of Potions to your students. However, a Potions master or mistress, at any given school, must be far more than a teacher.”


“What do you mean?”


“Consider the title, if you will. Why am I the Potions master, and yet my esteemed colleague Professor Vector is not Arithmancy mistress? Why is Professor Thomas not Defence Against the Dark Arts master? Potions is not just a teaching post, Rose. It encompasses teaching, research, brewing, filling all the Potions needs of a residential school of nearly fifteen hundred students and staff. Those can be academic, medicinal, psychological – the list, as I’m sure you will discover, is endless. That is the sole reason my predecessor Severus Snape ever held the post. Ah, yes, Albus Dumbledore wanted him close at hand – but more importantly, he was a brilliant Potioneer, an innovator – an asset to the school in times of war. Horace Slughorn lacked that innovation, the ability to think on his feet and solve complex problems. He had a vast knowledge, of course, and he was a thorough and engaging teacher – but he was only ever a teacher. Severus Snape, for all his shortcomings as an educator, was a master of Potions.”


I don’t know what to say to this – the sheer ambition of what I’m hoping to do has hit me like a fully-laden Hogwarts Express, but Llodewick doesn’t seem to expect an answer and plunges on, taking advantage of my silence.


“The Ministry training course will make you a teacher,” he continues. “I have no intention of naming a teacher as my successor. I will be naming someone who has a mastery of every aspect of Potions, an innovator, a problem-solver, with proven expertise in brewing and in scientific theory…and who happens to be qualified to teach. Do you understand the difference?”


“Thoroughly. How do I – well, how can I prove my expertise in brewing and theory and all the rest of it?”


“You can start with that report.” He taps the stack of journals and takes his coat from the hook on the door. “I’m sure you’re responsible enough to stay here until ten. If you need me – don’t. It’s Faculty Friday at the Three Broomsticks, and I want my half-price pint.”
 




A/N: The line "Albus Severus Potter, you were named after two Headmasters of Hogwarts" is taken from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling, page 607.


"Don't hate me coz you ain't me" is not mine. I don't know who first came up with it, but it's on a fridge magnet in my flat. Go figure.


Chapter 14: xiv. the easter buns [or] don't leave me to my own devices
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Easter is incredibly early this year, which works well in our favour because we can do our unspecified bunny-related Easter prank before our April Fools magnum opus, which we all agree is the right way of going about things. Unfortunately, as we head into March the teachers have begun to pile more homework on top of us, so we as a collective whole (we being the seventh-year Ravenclaws, not that there are all that many of us – the 2017 intake saw slim pickings for Ravenclaw, while Gryffindor has literally three times as many students in our year) manage a paltry four hours sleep (3-7am) on weeknights and are becoming rapidly more aware that there’s no way we can keep this up until NEWTs. Lester, who has the game against Slytherin coming up the week before Easter, is dragging himself, Tom and a bunch of comparatively cheerful youngsters onto the pitch three nights a week for practice, and we’re all torn between sympathy for the six hours of lost study time he has to make up in the weekend, and a vague envy that at least he has legit commitments that get him out of the castle and away from his books for the aforementioned six hours.


Which means that the Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship and the witty hedonism it requires has fallen by the wayside for several weeks. In fact, the only real thought we’ve given it is the fact that none of us are going to be here over Easter, because it’s holidays and because we want to get the fuck out.


The Easter holidays have always had a bit of a ‘take it or leave it’ quality to them. Firsties, being homesick and all, tend to go home every opportunity they get (mind you, I wasn’t particularly homesick in my first year at all; it was my mother who struggled more with my absence and bribed me with food and books if I came home for the holidays) Third and fourth years, in the midst of ‘my parents suck/don’t understand me’ angst, don’t tend to leave, while fifth years, en masse, stay at the castle – either ordered to by their parents because of OWLs, compelled to of their own volition by OWLs, or still in the throes of teenage angst but able to use OWLs as an excuse. Seventh years, by contrast, are outies the second term ends – sometimes quite literally. The mass exodus of seventh-year for the Easter holidays is such a well-known phenomenon that Professor Sprout finally caved a few years ago and allowed licenced seventh year students to Apparate home from Hogsmeade (we just have to catch the train back to school.) Deep in the seventh circle of hell known as March of seventh year (I figure the eighth is April-May, and the ninth is the actual exams themselves) I can’t wait to make good my escape for a week, which means the otherwise inconsequential letter I get from Mum two weeks from the break contains the worst possible news.


Dear Rosie,



How are you? How are your studies going? I know you were worried about NEWTs coming up, have you made yourself a revision timetable? Even if you’re still learning new material in class it’s always a great help to go over things you learned earlier – especially sixth year. It’s easy to forget material you covered last year, especially if its not spellwork, vocabulary or techniques you’ve started to use regularly since learning it.



I know Easter is coming up, and unfortunately you and Hugo won’t be able to come home, I’m afraid – not that you would want to, with exams coming up! We’re getting the house remodelled – we discussed turning your room into a spare room because you’re moving out, and your father refuses to let me throw out anything of yours that you won’t be taking with you, so we need some extra storage space. And with the campaign going on, my study is simply too small to accommodate everything, so the house is in total chaos. It’s hardly the right environment for study, and I think you’ll find it far more stressful than being at school. Your father and I are also working extremely long hours at work – he and Harry have been working on dismantling a Dark wizard ring up north for the last few months, and the judicial system is utterly swamped. I will try and come up to Hogsmeade during your next weekend, if you let me know when that is. Study hard, but don’t burn yourself out before exams!



Lots of love,



Mum



I stare at the parchment, reading the line over and over again – unfortunately you and Hugo won’t be able to come home – until it loses all meaning, before abruptly standing and hurrying over to the Hufflepuff table.


“Did you get a letter from Mum?” I ask Hugo, brandishing mine at him.


He taps at the parchment beside his cereal bowl. “Yeah.”


“Did you read it?”


“Yeah.”


“We can’t go home!” I wail.


Hugo shrugs. “What of it? I wasn’t anyway.”


“I’m seventh year! I’ve been sleeping four hours a night for the past fortnight, I need to get out of the castle, I need my big bed and Crookshanks – ”


“Why do you even like him?” Hugo asks, wrinkling his nose. “He’s huge and grumpy and he’s like, a hundred years old.”


“More like thirty.” I frown. “He’s part Kneazle, they live forever.”


“I hope not,” Hugo mutters darkly. “You can spend your holidays sleeping here like you would at home anyway. I don’t see what difference it makes.”


“Just you wait,” I say ominously, and flounce off back to the Ravenclaw table.




Lester and Holly, it turns out, have managed to organise the vague bunnycentric Easter prank idea into an actual plan and set the wheels in motion. Given that none of us have any spare time, I’m wondering whether they somehow managed to fuck with the fabric of reality to pull that off – until they explain it’s how they’ve been spending their Astronomy lessons.


“I give you…the bunny generator.” With a flourish, Lester pulls a large, box-like contraption out of his bag. It’s open on one side, but other than that it’s a pretty nondescript box with a couple dials on the side. I look at it blankly.


Holly taps it with her wand several times, the dials click round, and a confused bunny hops out of the open side of the box and into the common room.


“You can adjust the settings,” she explains, hunkering down to show me. “There’s daily, hourly and minutely – is that a word? – rates, and then this is for the number – for example, we’ve got it set on three buns a minute, so every twenty seconds – ” she pauses, and after the brief ensuing silence another bunny hops out of the box.


“Wait a minute,” I say. “This…conjures bunnies?”


“Yeah,” Lester says. “I was reading up about casting spells in perpetuity, and it’s complicated stuff, but the possibilities are endless. This just recreates the spell every twenty seconds, resulting in a new rabbit. We needed something that we could have working in absentia, you know, because we’re all off home for the holidays.”


“Except me,” I point out resentfully.


“Except you,” Lester agrees. “You can watch.”


“So you’re just going to set this thing up in the castle somewhere and leave it?” I ask. “Somebody’s going to find it. Unless you hide it, in which case nobody’s going to find the bunnies and it’s all a bit of a waste.”


“No, here’s the beauty of it,” Lester says. “It can only be deactivated by the wand which activated it. There’s no way round that bit of magic.”


“We’re thinking we might set it for a bun every fifteen minutes,” Holly says. “That’s four buns an hour, and over the course of a week…”


“Hogwarts will be awash with bunnies,” I conclude. “And there’s no way of turning this thing off without you guys?”


“None,” Lester says proudly.


“No way of destroying it?”


“Well, they can destroy the box, but the magic is still there.”


“What’s the spell bound to?”


Lester allows a grin to spread across his face. “A diamond.”


“You had a diamond just lying around?”


“It was an investment. Diamonds are invaluable when it comes to magical innovation, they’re virtually indestructable – so yes, I did have a diamond lying around,” he concedes. “Same as you had essence of narcissus lying around for the Hollyjuice.”


“Hollyjuice has a different name now. Amor Stultorum.”


“I suppose that’s a bit less niche,” Holly says, though she looks slightly disappointed. “Anyway, we’re thinking we’ll set up the Bunny Generator in that corner of the Entrance Hall near the main staircase.”


“Unless we wanted to put it in the Great Hall…” Lester muses. “Then again, if we have it in constant view of the staff they might start contemplating whose magic it’s likely to be, and considering I’d be top of that suspect list that might be a situation best avoided.” He nods to me. “You’re our cautionary tale, Rose.”


Before I can come up with a witty retort, however, I become aware of a rabbit nibbling at my hair. Holly promptly loses her shit.


“It thinks it’s a carrot!” she hoots. “Coz it’s orange – ”


“Carrot top,” Lester says, grinning. “I can’t believe I haven’t called you that before.”


“For fuck’s sake…”


I can’t stay straight-faced for long, mainly because another rabbit has come to investigate my carrot hair, and the door to the common room swings open.


“Seriously, guys,” the voice of Albus says somewhere above me. “This is the second time this year we’ve found you rolling on the floor with rabbits.”


“Let’s get bunnies in our flat,” Holly says, rolling over to turn her eager face in my direction. “Rose. Bunnies. Proper ones, that were born as little baby bunnies with their little noses and – ” She seems overcome by this prospect, and buries her face in a nearby rabbit.


“I want a cat,” Lester says.


“Why don’t you have a cat?” Lester is very much a cat person, not least because his Patronus is a cat. I’m a cat person as well, but Crookshanks sort of dominates the house and there’s never been any room for another pet.


“Mum’s allergic.”


“Let’s get a cat,” I say firmly.


“No bunnies?” Holly asks sadly, tapping the Bunny Generator with her wand to turn it off.


“Just cats.”


“I kind of want a dog,” Albus tells Scorpius.


“Hey, yeah.” Scorpius lights up. “A dog.”


We talk wistfully about the pets we want until Holly glances at her watch and yelps a bit. “It’s already nine thirty, we’ve wasted an hour…Lester, we have to get that Arithmancy done before we go to Astronomy…”


The sweet, sweet hour in which we forgot about NEWTs is over, and with a rising sense of panic that our careful time management has gone out the window, we leap to our feet and crowd around the table, snatching urgently at books and parchment and quills –


“Ow!” Scorpius yelps. “Papercut.”


“Parchmentcut,” Lester says without looking up.


“Pedantic,” Scorpius mutters.


“Pedantic’s my middle name.”


“Your middle name is Dante.”


“They’re both equally terrible.”


“Shhhh,” Holly interrupts. “Banter is not conducive to a good study environment.”


We lapse into silence, because Holly may be sweet and lovely 99% of the time, but she turns into a harpy if she’s in the zone and we’re being too noisy and distracting. We’ve been hearing plenty about the horrendously difficult equations she and Lester have been working on for Arithmancy recently, and she has that look of intense concentration that warns death to anyone who breaks it.


It’s probably for the best anyway, because I’m practicing unseen Runes translations and Albus and Scorpius are going through past exam papers for History of Magic – none of which require discussion (though, barely halfway through the first line of what I think might be Babbity Rabbity, I’m already missing Scorpius in his role as the group’s human dictionary.)


The next two and a bit hours drag by as I slowly become more despondent of my abysmal Runes knowledge, and the second Holly and Lester pack up their work and leave for Astronomy I’m thrusting my parchment at Scorpius. “Help me!”


He scans it, eyebrows disappearing into his floppy hair. “Wow. This is – uh. An…interesting interpretation. Therefore he ordered the first of his army to verb a noun of witches to hunt, and verbed to them – come on, Rose, what else could it be but gave? - many adjective night dogs.”


“Stop reading it out loud!”


“It gets better,” he notes. “In that place, every village and town verbed messages that to the king wanted a magical noun. A witch and wizard did not dare verb noun, for they were verbing to the noun of witches to hunt.”


“Outstanding,” Albus cackles.


“You need to work on your vocab,” Scorpius says, struggling to keep a straight face. “And your recognition of passive forms. And your cases. Sentence structure. Prepositions. Everything.”


“Thank you for that analysis.” I snatch the parchment back. “Can you tell me where I went wrong?”


“Everywhere,” Scorpius replies.


I scowl at him until he relents, leaning over the parchment. “First off, the first of his army should be something more colloquial – the leader, the head, the commander, though first is technically correct. The verb you’re missing here is to form, and the noun is band or brigade – even group could work well enough until you’ve got the sense of the rest of the sentence. This is hunters of witches…”


While I can make perfect sense of the passage once Scorpius has gone through it with me, that unfortunately won’t be an option in the actual exam.


“How do I get better at these?” I ask, and dig into my bag for a Chocolate Frog to thank him for his help so far/bribe him to continue.


“Well, brush up on your verb forms, cases and prepositions at the very least. You’re not going to make anything of the sentence without a good knowledge of them. When it comes to your vocab, try and use context as much as possible. There will be a few words you’ll get stuck on, but there are also plenty that you could have a decent guess at. Always remember – the Runes make sense. If your translation doesn’t, it’s your translation that’s wrong.”


As the evening wears on, we shift our attentions to comparatively easier stuff – a mindless essay for DADA, an even more mindless essay for Herbology. Lara, Alfie and Tom steal me at about 2am to help them with Potions, and before we know it it’s 4.30am and we’ve made an executive decision to pull an all-nighter.


“End of term anyway,” Tom says, when they’ve all shifted to our table (it’s closer to the fire, and there are only eight of us.) “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m heading down to Hogsmeade straight after Muggle Studies tomorrow afternoon and Apparating the fuck home.”


“Me too,” Albus says wistfully.


“I finish first,” Scorpius says, leaning back in his chair. “I’m out after Herbology. So’s Rosie, but she’s stuck here over the holidays.”


“Thanks for rubbing that in.”


“I’m stuck here too,” Alfie says. “Dad’s got a conference and a few lectures to give in Australia, so he and Mum are over there for a couple of weeks.”


“Sucks to be you guys,” Albus says. “Lara, when do you finish?”


She pulls a face. “After Arithmancy. Last period.”


“Us too,” Lester adds. “Luckily the term actually ends at three thirty, so Sinistra’s had to cancel tomorrow’s class. I didn’t fancy the idea of Apparating home at one in the morning.”


“You’re still good with giving me a Side-Along home, right?” Holly asks.


“You don’t have your licence, Holly?” Lara asks.


“Nope. My attempts were disastrous. Raine?”


“Huh? Oh, yeah, I can Side-Along you.”


We don’t get a lot more work done, because opportunities for post-midnight entire-class bonding don’t come along very often and we’re enjoying catching up and swapping banter with the others too much to focus. We’ve always gotten along – eight people in your entire year, with a mutual appreciation for learning, tends to demand that – but we are two very distinct groups, for no particular reason other than chance. In our earlier years, Lester was actually more in the other group – but his friendships with Holly and Scorpius saw him spend more time with us, and once he knew about Albus and Scorpius his status as the fifth member of our group was cemented. Of course, Lester and Tom are Quidditch teammates, and Holly and I share a dorm with Lara, and Alfie and Holly have been the only Ravenclaws in Care of Magical Creatures the whole way through, so our whole year is crisscrossed with friendships and connections that bind us more than the other houses in our year. I don’t have much to do with Tom or Alfie (unless you count laughing with Tom over the fact that his dad and my mum almost-dated once, or having a back-of-the-mind, mild but enduring attraction to Alfie for the past three years – the boy is pretty) but it’s nights like this that make me appreciate just how unique our Hogwarts experience has been.


As the sun peeks over the horizon we stand, stretching with exaggerated groans and exclamations of relief, and shuffle down to breakfast.




I’m eager for bed by the time I finish Herbology, my last class of the day, and say my (still slightly resentful) goodbyes to the others before crawling into bed and sleeping through until dinner. Holly and Lester must have set up the Bunny Generator at lunch, because there are quite a few bunnies hopping round the Entrance Hall. I make sure to combine my amusement with a look of confusion so nobody can possibly suspect me, and take my usual seat at the Ravenclaw table.


We account for such a small portion of our house population that the absence of the others can barely even be seen – unlike Gryffindor, which has a vast, conspicious empty space where its seventh-years usually sit. The Hogwarts Express doesn’t leave until tomorrow morning, so the majority of the student body is still here, but it’s amazing how much emptier it seems to me, not having Holly and the boys around.


Alfie slides into the seat opposite me. “How empty d’you think this place is going to be by tomorrow afternoon?”


“It’s usually about half-full in the Easter holidays,” I point out. “All the fifth years stay on.”


“Do they? I didn’t.”


“Have you ever stayed here during the holidays?”


“I don’t make a habit of it,” Alfie replies. “It’s hard enough maintaining a relationship with Muggle parents without abandoning them ten months of the year. I’ve heard too many stories of wizards who just…leave the Muggle world behind completely. Including their families.”


“My mum did that. Me and Hugo haven’t seen our maternal grandparents in like…seven years?”


“Your mum’s Muggleborn?” Alfie looks surprised. “Hermione Granger?”


“You didn’t know that?”


He shrugs. “There aren’t a lot of prominent Muggleborns around. Or at least, not ones I’ve heard of. I should know, I combed the history books when I was younger, looking for them all. Your mum’s going for Minister, right? She’s got my vote. Representation. Minorities. All that jazz.”


“Are Muggleborns a minority?”


“There are six of us in our whole year,” Alfie says, ticking them off on his fingers. “Me, Lester, Dylan Hewitt, Abigail Linworth, Sarah Potts, Aidan Richardson. I think that counts as a minority, there are less Muggleborns than there are LGBTQ people in our year.”


“How do you know how many LGBTQ people are in our year?”


“I know most people in our year. There’s Albus, Scorpius, Holly, you, me, Lorcan Scamander, Logan Fenwick, Abigail, Emily Huntington – ”


“Wait, what?” I ask, cutting him off. “Emily Huntington? And what are you?”


“I swing both ways,” he says with a wave of his hand. “And yeah, Emily’s gay. Didn’t you know that? She had a thing with Abigail a while back. They kept it quiet, the whole pureblood/Muggleborn thing apparently made things awkward – but yeah.”


“But she’s friends with Louis. King of homophobic douchebags.”


“Louis makes his exceptions. He’s a Slytherin.”


“Louis knows?”


“Course he does. You lot really don’t notice much outside yourselves, do you?”


I know Alfie didn’t mean it, but the comment still stings – mainly because it’s true. We do have a tendency towards self-centredness, and while I prefer to think of it in positive terms – overwhelming loyalty, a closeness no other group at Hogwarts can compete with – I know we’re exclusive, and we’ve never bothered to get to know our classmates as well as we should have.


“I didn’t mean it like – ” Alfie says awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. “It’s not a bad thing. Most people would kill to have a group like yours.”


“But you have Tom and Lara,” I point out, confused. “Lara and her boys. You guys are really close.”


“We are close,” Alfie concedes. “But I’m a total third wheel. Lara and Tom have been flirting up a storm since about fourth year. He’s her type to a tee, you know – all manly and – big.”


“I always wondered about that.”


“They like to pretend it’s platonic,” Alfie says, with a slight roll of his eyes. “But the only thing stopping them is Lara’s don’t screw the crew policy.”


Lara doesn’t have a lot of unwavering life philosophies, but don’t screw the crew is definitely one of them (and one that she's forced us all to adopt as well). She does sleep around, she admits that freely – but she’ll never sleep with a Ravenclaw in our year, because it’s too awkward/uncomfortable/complicated. I’ve long suspected that rule was put in place because of Tom and Tom alone – she’s straight, and of the boys in our year Albus and Scorpius are obviously off-limits, Lester and Alfie are profoundly not her type, and Tom is the personification of everything she likes in a man.


“I bet she’s counting down the days till graduation.”


“She is,” Alfie confirms. “So’s he. They’re going travelling together – the big OE, you know. They’re both fair Apparators, so as Tom put it – if it all goes tits up they can bail pretty easily and just go on separately.”


“I’d like to travel,” I say, slightly more wistfully than I’d intended. “But my plans don’t really have room for it.”


“Teaching, right? When does the course start?”


“September.”


“So go over summer,” he suggests. “You can see a lot of the world in six weeks. That’s what I’m planning – the Ministry starts its internships in September as well.”


“Oh, what department are you going into?”


“Muggle Liason,” he replies. “Cliché, I know – Muggleborn going into Muggle Liason, but there are so many problems with the system as it stands at the moment, and I want to be able to address them.”


“No, it’s not cliché. I think the majority of people in Muggle Liason are people who have never met a Muggle in real life, and all they know they got from NEWT Muggle Studies.”


“That explains so much. Remember what happened with Lester?”


“I do remember,” I say, slightly more abruptly than I should – Alfie is a friend of Lester’s, and is no doubt coming from a place of concern, but I saw firsthand how that whole incident affected Lester, and three years later I still hate thinking about it.


In the summer between fourth and fifth year, Lester’s autistic little brother went missing in London – it was a day trip run by the respite care programme, and Lester’s parents got a panicked call from the woman running it, saying that Maxwell had disappeared. Lester was barely fifteen at the time, but his parents, overcome with fear for Maxwell, pushed him into using magic to find his brother. He Apparated, Splinching himself in the middle of Muggle London, and went into shock. Then the Misuse of Magic officers converged upon him. They healed the Splinching, did nothing for the shock, and arrested him for underage magic, bringing him into the Ministry in the middle of the worst panic attack he’s ever had. I was there at the time – I used to accompany Mum to work quite often in the summer holidays – and I have never seen Mum so angry in my life. She hadn’t been long in the Head of Magical Law Enforcement position, but she fired every single employee who had anything to do with it, threw the case against Lester out of the courts, and forced half a dozen law reforms through the Wizengamot within a week – unopposed. It was the first time the papers called her ‘the most fearsome witch in Britain,’ but it certainly wasn’t the last.


“Right, of course you do. Your mum handled that whole thing, right?’


“Yeah, she did.”


He seems to get the message that I don’t want to talk about it, and glances around the Great Hall. “We’re the only ones here. Apart from all those rabbits.”


I look up, surprised. We’ve been talking for ages – the Great Hall has emptied around us, except for the aforementioned bunnies. I chuckle.


“Oh no,” Alfie says. “You’re somehow behind them, aren’t you? That prank thing.”


“Not me, specifically – ”


“Is it Lester? It looks like Lester’s magic. I assume they’re conjured?”


“Don’t tell anyone. And well spotted.”


“You guys have made this year a lot more interesting,” he says, grinning. “I hope you get the scholarship. The Amortentia thing was brilliant.”


“It wasn’t actually Amortentia. I brewed up an alternative. It’s called Amor Stultorum. Entirely non-physical. Lots of sonnets.”


“You’re a genius.”


Why that stops me, I don’t know. I’ve had a lot of people call me genius over the years, but it’s different coming from Alfie – who is very much a genius in his own right, rivalling Albus in the humanities and exceptionally well-read – and who is also – well. Pretty.


I never said I wasn’t shallow.


So, with typical suaveness, I turn a bit red, mutter a thank you and suggest we head back to the common room because we’ve sat around in the cavernous Hall too long and the common room has the advantage of being warm. Alfie, who didn’t bring his cloak because he didn’t anticipate being stuck in conversation with me for three hours, is quick to agree.




I don’t realise how tired I’ve been until I wake up the next afternoon, having slept for sixteen solid hours and having missed both breakfast and lunch. I get dressed, my stomach growling at me, and grope around in my trunk for hidden foodstuffs.


I’ve run out. Too many all-nighters.


Damn.


Resigning myself to raiding the kitchens, I head down to a mostly deserted common room and spot Alfie, cloaked and booted and scarved, just leaving.


“Afternoon,” he calls as I trot to catch up. “Just woke up?”


“Yep.”


“Me too. I’m going to grab lunch from the Three Broomsticks, if you want to come?’


“That sounds like the best idea I’ve ever heard.” I’d forgotten that, being of age and it being holidays, Alfie and I are actually allowed to leave the grounds on a whim, and getting out of the castle for the first time in weeks sounds really good to me right now.


The castle is almost entirely empty as we walk through it – either everyone’s holed up in their common rooms, or the past term has taken its toll on every year level, not just us, and the mass exodus extended itself to the whole school. The only other life forms we come across are bunnies.


“Are they breeding?” Alfie asks. “I swear there are more.”


“Er, no. They just keep getting conjured.”


“What did Lester do?”


“It’s best you don’t know.”


It’s been a while since I had something resembling a crush – my relationship with Lorcan last year went from friendship to full-blown love to heartbreak in an astonishingly short amount of time, and skipped anything else in between – but as the afternoon wears on it becomes increasingly apparent that I do, indeed, have one on Alfie, and with mounting excitement I remember that it’s just me and him here for the next couple of weeks. A lot can happen in two weeks.




As it turns out, it doesn’t take two weeks. It takes barely two days, a fit of hedonism and half a bottle of wine between us (we have the common room to ourselves, because the handful of younger students still here are weak and in bed by 11pm) and while I’m in the middle of having a good giggle at how sixth-year me would have reacted to illicit alcohol-drinking in the common room – even if it’s not actually enough to have any effect besides making me more red-faced than usual – Alfie grabs me by the shoulders, lifts up my face to his, and says, “I love it when you laugh.”


I don’t know who actually kisses who – I just know that it’s a very mutual thing, and Alfie has soft lips and tastes slightly of muscato, and it’s been too long – way too long – since I kissed anyone like this, since anyone kissed me like this. It’s intoxicating, the feel of his lips on mine and his hands on my waist, in my hair –


Considering we haven’t stopped talking since Friday evening, we say very little for the next few hours – just the occasional “Jesus, you’re attractive,” (Rose Weasley brand of suave, of course) and “I’ve wanted to do this since fifth year,” (Alfie Harrison brand of actual suave) and – quite a bit later – “Not in the common room.”


“It’s two in the morning,” Alfie points out, his hand still up my shirt and my fingers still tangled in his hair. “There’s nobody here.”


“It’s still a public place.” I hesitate – do I do this? Should I do this? I’m doing this – “I have a dorm.”


“Is that an invitation?” he asks, partly to be coy and partly because boys need explicit invitation from girls to be allowed into their dorms. I nod, and pull him up the stairs.


Inviting him into my dorm comes with certain – quite obvious, I would have thought – implications, but he asks me three more times whether I’m sure about it all.


“I appreciate you asking,” I tell him firmly, “But I’m sure. And if I wasn’t, I would tell you.”


“In that case,” he says, with a grin that can only be described as devilish (though a case could also be made for really, really attractive) “Let’s break Lara’s number one rule.”




A/N: Rose's disastrous attempts at translation are (liberally) paraphrased from J.K Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard, specifically Babbitty Rabbitty and the Cackling Stump (page 63-64)
The line "Always remember – the Runes make sense. If your translation doesn’t, it’s your translation that’s wrong”  is a paraphrase of the infinite wisdom of my Latin lecturer.



Chapter 15: xv. the game-changer [or] between a rock and a hard place
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

By all accounts, the moment when one wakes up in the morning with a scantily-clad boy in one’s bed and a suddenly-vivid memory of how he got there should be more worrying than it actually is.


Oh yeah, I realise, rolling over and coming face-to-face with a still snoring Alfie. That happened.


Albus and Scorpius were not kidding about his snoring. I’ll have to tell them that, and briefly entertain myself by imagining the looks on their faces when they work out why I know.


I lie there for a while, because it’s still early and it’s holidays and I’m hoping to sleep in a bit more, but Alfie’s earth-shattering snores put a swift end to that hope. I wriggle carefully out of his embrace and grope around for a pair of pajamas and the eye-wateringly bright Chudley Cannons hoodie that I let Dad buy me in a moment of weakness. Then, perched cross-legged on the edge of my bed, I allow myself a good long time to stare at him with a kind of semi-detached fascination – this is the boy I lost my virginity to, fair of face and loud of snore. I didn’t see that coming.


The snores abruptly stop, and a few moments later he’s squinting sleepily up at me. “Hi.”


“Morning.”


“That wasn’t a dream, then. Good to know. I’ve been disappointed before.”


“You – er.” I’ve gone bright red now. “You’ve dreamed about – ”


“You? Yeah.”


“Oh.” Not knowing what to do with this information, I promptly bury my face in my knees.


Smooth, Rose.


“Was that…too much information?” Alfie asks hesitantly.


I look up. “I think we’re past that stage. Given the – circumstances. You dreamt about me?”


“Is that so hard to believe? Rose, you’re stunning.”


“Oh,” I say again, and kiss him so I don’t have to actually respond.


After a thorough reprisal of last night’s activities, I fling the covers off.


“Ahhh,” Alfie protests.


“Get up. Breakfast runs for another half hour.”


Breakfast,” he repeats eagerly, and reaches for his clothes. “I think I might become a morning person.”


I’m halfway across the room when he grabs me by the wrist, looking awkward and a little bit terrified. “Rose – we didn’t use – ”


“I’m on the contraceptive potion,” I say, cutting him off. “Sorry, I should have told you earlier.”


“You’re on the potion?” he looks confused. “I mean, I’m relieved – but how come you’re already on it?”


“It helps with...other things,” I say delicately. “I’ve been brewing it since fifth year.”


“You brew your own – of course you do.”


“It’s cheaper that way.” I shrug. “I don’t like paying other people to brew potions if I can do them myself. And it has the advantage of not having any telltale packaging, because otherwise my dad would lose his shit and think I’m using it to sleep with half of Hogwarts.”


“Has your dad met you?” he asks skeptically.


“My dad is of the old-fashioned keep-your-hands-off-my-daughter-or-so-help-me variety that should only exist in fiction. I won’t be telling him about you.”


“I appreciate that.”


Hardly anyone is at breakfast , which doesn’t surprise me in the least. Dinner last night showed that there’s barely fifty people left in the castle – and of those fifty, forty-five are still in bed, three had breakfast before us – and the rest are staff. Professors Vector and Babbling are even sitting at the Ravenclaw table.


“Morning Miss Weasley, Mr Harrison,” Vector says crisply.


“Morning, Professor. Why aren’t you at the staff table?”


“We staff like to sit at our old house tables when there aren’t many students around,” Vector replies. I glance around the Great Hall – sure enough, Professors Thomas and Longbottom are chatting animately over at the Gryffindor table, Sinistra’s having a quiet cup of tea at the Hufflepuff table, and Llodewick and May are sharing different sections of the Prophet under the Slytherin banner.


“It’s like a different world,” Alfie says in wonder.


“Thank you for that assessment, Alfie,” Vector says wryly, evidently deciding that sharing a breakfast table warrants a first name basis. “I trust you two are enjoying the holidays? I’m surprised to see students up so early.”


“We thought we’d get a head start on revision, Professor,” Alfie says, obviously deciding that we were at it like rabbits first thing this morning is an inappropriate response. “We agreed we’d bully each other into getting up at a reasonable hour, otherwise we’d just sleep all day.”


“That’s very conscientious of you,” she says approvingly. “I expect good things from both of you for NEWTs – Cuthbert has nothing but good things to say about you, Alfie. And Rose – Herbert assures me you’ve learned your lesson regarding Potions experiments.”


“Yes, Professor.”


“I’m glad to hear it.”


“How are you finding the Tales of Beedle the Bard?” Babbling asks me. “You seem to be handling the Fountain of Fair Fortune quite well in class.”


“It’s an illusion, I’m afraid.” I tell her about my disastrous attempts at unseen.


“Well, you have the holidays to work on it, and our in-class readings will be wrapping up early next term, so that should give you a bit more time for revision. I’m pleased to hear Scorpius Malfoy has been helping you, he’s an exceptionally gifted student.”


“Scorpius helps us all,” I tell her. “Man’s a gift from God.”


“It’s a shame he’s not taking his Runes further,” Babbling says. “Though the career options are quite limited, I must say…anyway, if you find yourself struggling with translation at any point these holidays, feel free to come and knock on my door. I get bored easily.”


“I’ll probably take you up on that, thank you.”


After breakfast, Alfie and I decide to actually make good on what we told Vector. We start with Charms, both practical and theoretical – because I spend so little time on Charms I forget I even take it, and because it’s one of the few subjects we both take. We’re fine with wandwork, but I have to dig into the Standard Book of Spells to do a practice exam paper, and scrawl Charms – theory onto my list of topics I need to revise. By lunchtime, I’ve added Runes – unseens, grammar + vocab and Transfiguration – conjuring spells to that list, and feel like I’ve definitely deserved a break.


Midafternoon finds me knocking on Professor Babbling’s office door, and she spends an hour going through various passages from Beedle the Bard until I’m starting to get the hang of deciphering unseens and she’s keen for a cuppa in the staffroom. Taking my cue, I head for the door – but then she calls me back and tells me to accompany her. Feeling awed, I follow her into hallowed ground.


It’s amazing. There’s a fire blazing in the corner, and half a dozen armchairs turned towards it. A long table down one end is covered with kettle, various boxes and tins of tea, coffee and hot chocolate, a half dozen packets of biscuits, and a small collection of wine, mead and Firewhiskey in a crystal decanter. There are chandeliers on the ceiling, a bookcase, and a couple of ancient, stately tables littered with books, parchment and mugs. Professor May is muttering to himself at one, marking a pile of what seems to be third-year Charms essays, and Professor Longbottom is pootling around in the corner.


“Bathsheda,” Longbottom calls, not even turning around – does Babbling enter a room differently? – “Cuppa?”


“Thank you, Neville. And one for Rose here, too.”


“Rose Weasley?” Llodewick rises from one of the fire-facing armchairs. “Getting acquainted with your future refuge, si qua fata sinant?”


I silently thank God for Scorpius’s excited rants about the Aeneid. “I wasn’t aware you were the Fates, Professor.”


“Not at all. In fact, if it were entirely up to me, your future would be secure – I was very impressed with that report you gave me. Come, take a seat – I have a proposal for you.”


Intrigued, I glance at Babbling – it seems rude to ditch when she’s the one who brought me here – but she waves her hand in dismissal and I claim one of the armchairs beside the fire.


“Milk and sugar, Rose?” Longbottom calls.


“Both, thank you.”


“I’m going to offer you a job,” Llodewick says.


My jaw drops. “You what?”


“Provisionally, of course. You’ll need an Outstanding in your NEWT – or an Exceeds Expectations and a decent excuse – as well as excellent feedback from the Ministry and the Potioneers Guild throughout your course. And, once you’re qualified, you will start as my assistant.”


“Assistant?”


“Yes. I’ve spoken to Professor Vector and she has agreed that, given the increased demands on Potions professors, you will start out as an assistant teacher. We’re still in the middle of the post-war baby boom, and Hogwarts’ roll is ever expanding – and given that Potions is the most popular subject – ”


“Say that again, Llodewick!” Professor Corner, who teaches Transfiguration, challenges.


“Given that Potions is the most popular subject,” Llodewick repeats firmly, “It’s no longer realistic for one teacher to teach all classes. You will start out as an assistant, and after three to five years, I will retire and you will take on the role of Potions mistress. You will be expected to hire an assistant yourself – all the core subjects will be required to have two teachers in five years’ time.”


I open my mouth to thank him, to take the tea now hovering beside me, to sip it and ask questions about the job and whether he really thinks I’m up to it.


And then I panic, and every bald-faced lie I’ve told to him and to Professor Vector and every other member of staff who has unwaveringly believed the best of me comes bubbling up and I can’t, I can’t say anything I intended to and I can’t take the job and I can’t stop what I’m about to say –


“It was me,” I blurt. “All the pranks, all the stupid things – the Order of the Raven, it was me, I’m going for that stupid scholarship and that potion was part of it and I lied to you and I lied to Professor Vector and I lied to everyone and I can’t be a teacher, and I’ve broken so many rules and I’m sorry – ” I’m choking on my words and I’m crying, and the look on Llodewick’s face drives home what I’ve just done, I’ve thrown away my chance of being Potions mistress at Hogwarts, everything I’ve dreamed of for years and years, it’s over because I’m so stupid, why did I ever think this was a good idea –


I can hear Llodewick saying my name, calling for someone to get Septima, and an icy cold fear grips me – even worse than before – Professor Vector’s my head of house, she’s going to take my badge and expel me, and they’ll destroy my wand, I know they will, and I’ll never get my NEWTs and I’ll never get a job because nobody will hire me – I want to beg Llodewick not to tell Vector, maybe I do, but she’s here anyway and I’ve never seen her look so grave, and I try to explain – say something, anything, but I can’t breathe


“Someone Floo Hermione Granger,” Vector says tersely.


“No,” I manage. “No, no, no, no, please, don’t, don’t tell Mum – ”


“Rose,” Vector says, more softly now. “Rose, I need you to…” She’s saying more but I can’t hear her, I can only hear my own gasping breaths, can’t think past the fact I’m going to be expelled and Vector’s trying to be nice about it even though I lied to her face, and I can’t look at her anymore, just curl up into a ball – I’m safer that way, as if the world somehow can’t touch me, and I’m so dizzy but I don’t care –


Strong hands are pulling at me, tugging me by the shoulders, making me look up. I can see Vector shuffling furiously through a file – it has my name on it, oh God


“Holly Holyoake,” she says, and I feel sick – have I gotten her into trouble too? What if Vector doesn’t let her become a teacher? It’s all my fault, I’ve ruined her life too –


Vector disappears into the fire, and I want to disappear again but Llodewick and Longbottom are on either side of me, so all I can do is close my eyes tight –


“Rosie?” a familiar voice says softly, and I feel someone sit down beside me. “Rose, it’s Holly. Nod if you can hear me.”


I nod.


“Good. Good girl.” She reaches for my hand, squeezes it, and I hear Llodewick say something. “Rosie, I need you to breathe for me. Can you do that?”


I shake my head blindly.


“That’s okay, we’ll get there. Rosie, Llodewick says you’re not in trouble. He says you need to know that.”


I take a deep, shuddering breath and cling to Holly even tighter.


“Good girl,” she says, and her small, warm hands are rubbing my back. “Can you do that again? Just take a deep breath, that’s it. You’re doing great.”


I breathe.


In.


Out.


In.


Out.


“That’s it. Rosie, do you want to open your eyes?”


I shake my head, force myself to take another breath.


In.


Out.


“Okay. Rose, we’re in the Hogwarts staffroom. Would you feel better if the teachers left?”


I want to nod my head, but I can’t kick the teachers out, I’m in enough trouble as it is –


“It’s fine,” she says, as if she can read my mind. “They don’t mind leaving. They just want you to feel safe.”


I nod, and curl up tighter as I hear the scraping of chairs and the shuffling of footsteps.


“Okay, they’re gone. It’s just you and me. I want you to open your eyes, and keep breathing. Like you were before.”


I do. The bright light of the room hurts my eyes, and I blink furiously as Holly comes into focus. “Hi there,” she says softly. “Long time no see.”


“It’s been three days,” I manage.


“It has,” she agrees.


I want to smile, but it freezes when I remember. “Holly, I’m sorry, I told Llodewick about the scholarship and I said it was just me but Vector must have found something because your name was in my file and I’m sorry, I’m so sorry – ”


“Shhh,” she says softly. “You’re not in trouble and neither am I. I’m your emergency contact, silly goose. That’s why my name’s in your file. It’s just student records. See? I’ll show you.”


She takes the parchment from the table where Vector left it. “See? Under Medical History.”


I struggle to read the words on the page.


Ongoing medical conditions: Anxiety
In case of attack contact: Holly Holyoake



“That’s why Vector was there,” Holly says, closing the file and pulling me into her arms. “You’re not in trouble. Llodewick was just concerned.”


I take a while to process her words, clinging to them as I focus on my breathing – in, out, in, out – until I’m able to speak properly again. “So – so that’s why Vector wanted to call Mum – ”


“Yes, because you were having an attack. A real humdinger of one, too. No wonder you scared all the teachers. I’m glad Vector found your file though – can you imagine if your mum came? She’d be running around like a headless chook. She’s worse than Albus.”


I force a smile. “You said humdinger.”


“I did, and I’d say it again. It made you smile. What were you doing in the Holy of Holies anyway?”


“Babbling invited me in for a cuppa.”


“You’ve been getting cosy with the teachers, haven’t you?” she says. “Alfie not enough for you?”


I can feel my face growing flame-red. “No, he’s – uh, he’s definitely enough.”


“Rose Weasley! What would Lara say?”


“I didn’t even say anything!”


“You didn’t need to,” she says, ruffling my hair. “Well, congrats. He’s very – pretty.”


“Isn’t he?”


“Are you going to be okay?” Holly asks, straightening up. “Only you gave half a dozen professors quite a turn, and they probably want to know that you’re still conscious.”


“I’ll be okay. Just – don’t leave yet.”


“I won’t,” she assures me. “I could probably go for some Potions revision back in the common room, actually – if you want to help.”


“That would be good.”


She leads me out of the staffroom – I’m grateful for her hand in mine when we pass through the throng of teachers waiting outside.


“She’s fine, she’ll be fine,” Holly says, using her other arm to gently make a path between the assembled staff. “Thanks for that – we’re just heading back to Ravenclaw Tower – ”


“I’d like a word when you’re feeling up to it, Rose,” Llodewick says quietly once we’re out of earshot of the other teachers. I freeze.


“Perhaps another time, Professor,” Holly says firmly.


“You can come with her, Holly, but I promise you I’ll give her no cause to worry. I’ve offered Rose a job, and I’d like to discuss the specifics with her.”


“The offer still stands?” I ask, my voice barely above a whisper.


“Yes, Rose, it does. Come by my office when you’re feeling better, and I’ll fill you in.”


I must look a right mess, because when I return to the common room Alfie turns to me. “Where have you – oh,” he says abruptly, eyes flicking from me to Holly and back to me. “Everything okay?”


“It is now,” Holly says. “What are you working on? Transfiguration? We’re going to do a bit of Potions if you want to join us.”


“I’m never going to pass up the opportunity to mooch off Rose’s Potions knowledge.”


Holly stays for another hour or so – long enough for her to run through all the questions she’s come up with so far during her revision and to make sure that I’ll be all right without her.


“If you need me again, just Floo,” she says sternly. “Alfie, look after her for me.”


“Panic attack?” he asks once Holly’s gone.


“Yeah.”


He fiddles awkwardly with his quill, obviously not sure what else to say, and after his second concerned glance my way I give up. “Look – you don’t need to act all – weird about it.”


“I’m not acting weird – okay, maybe I am,” he concedes. “But it’s not that. It’s just – I’m not sure what I am to you at the moment, so I don’t really know…”


Oh boy. “Do you want to do this now?”


“No time like the present. Lay it on me.”


“I don’t want a relationship,” I say cautiously, watching his face. Despite the ill-disguised relief that flickers across his features, I plough on, strangely compelled to justify myself to him. “With anyone. I do like you – I mean, we have fun and everything, and you’re pretty – ”


He wrinkles his nose. “Why is that everyone’s go-to adjective for me? It’s emasculating.”


“Well, you are,” I reply matter-of-factly. “Would you prefer attractive?”


“Infinitely.”


“Yeah, so. You’re attractive and we get along – ”


“The feeling’s mutual.”


“I got that impression, funnily enough. But – I mean, we have NEWTs coming up, and we’re going our separate ways at the end of school anyway, so whatever – ” I wave my arms around – “This is, it’s not going to last, and I think we both know that.”


"So you’re suggesting – what? Friends with benefits, seedy as it sounds?”


“On the proviso that we come up with a better term than friends with benefits.”


“Screwing the crew,” he deadpans.


“Done.”


“Good, then. Glad that’s sorted.” He grins, awkwardness gone. “Does that mean I can come up to your dorm tonight, then?”


“You’re insatiable.”


“And you’re not?” he counters, raising an eyebrow. “Who would have thought, underneath that studious, law-abiding persona lies – ”


“Don’t say another word.” I point a stern finger at him.


“God forbid, an eighteen-year-old pansexual witch with a libido.”


“Libido is a gross word.”


“Feeling prudish?”


“Linguistically offended. You can come up to my dorm tonight. But if your snoring keeps me awake, I will be forcing potions down your throat until it doesn’t.”


“Was that a death threat?”


“It wasn’t…intended as one.”


“How many deadly poisons are you capable of brewing?”


“Off the top of my head?” I pause. “About thirty. I’d need a recipe for any others.”


“You’re a terrifying woman.”


“I get that from my mother.”


The mention of my mother has the universal, deliberate effect of putting an end to this vaguely sexual back-and-forth. Satisfied, I turn my attentions back to Advanced Potion Making in front of me – I know all the potions like the back of my hand, of course, but I’m looking for ways I can improve upon them for the exam – but I can feel Alfie’s eyes on me, and a quick glance in his direction tells me he’s still staring at me like he wants nothing more than to rip my clothes off and take me right here in the common room, in full view of the second-years playing Gobstones in the corner.


It’s a bit distracting.


He liked watching me study. My mother’s voice pops, unbidden, into my mind – that time she decided the best form of mother-daughter bonding was swapping boy stories, and gracing me with her tales of Bulgarian Quidditch star Viktor Krum (I was, at the time, dealing with my monstrous fourth-year crush on Sophie Macmillan, so I didn’t have a lot to contribute) who, by all accounts, liked to sit in the library and watch Mum ignore him for hours at a time. Much like what Alfie’s doing now.


This is too much. “I’m going to the Owlery. Maybe you can actually get some revision done in my absence.” It’s one of the most egotistical things I’ve ever said – I’m just going to head off so you’re not too distracted by my apparently smokin’ bod – but Alfie just nods and I make good my escape.


I am far too much like Mum, I decide as I climb the endless steps up the Owlery – and it’s a disconcerting realisation to have in the context of staring boys. I remember the conversation I had with Lily over Christmas – whether we really have become our mothers (Sorting discrepancies and battle experience aside) and I feel like I’m one step closer to becoming Hermione Granger Jr.


Then I realise that’s a pretty weird conclusion to make, because we – all of us, the collective whole, Alfie included – are Ravenclaws. We blur that weird-ass line between sexual and academic attraction all the time (I can trace my attraction to Alfie back to that time in fifth-year when he recited Iago’s ‘I am not what I am’ speech from Othello; apparently he’s been into me since the infamous lunchtime lecture which I made all my friends cite me for in the Potions OWL; the examples of Albus and Scorpius are beyond counting) We Claws do things differently, and I really shouldn’t be surprised if Alfie likes watching me study complex theoretical Potioneering the same way other blokes his age might enjoy a striptease in one of the seedy bars off Knockturn Alley. Especially since he has, in fact, already seen me naked.


It reminds me of the conversation we had late in fourth year – we being the boys, Holly and me, not the other Claws – over a pile of books on gender and sexuality in the Restricted section of the library one Hogsmeade weekend. (I still have a problem with that kind of subject matter classed as ‘restricted,’ but that’s something Holly and I will take up with the school when we’re actually staff.) We never did any of the agonising one normally expects from queer teenagers (“Am I gay? Am I bi? What will I tell my parents?”) just sat down with books and started trying on labels. Holly alighted on asexual with something akin to a cry of delight – “Look, it’s me! It’s a thing!” Albus and Scorpius tossed their books aside with matching statements of “Mine’s not in here – I’m Scorpius-sexual/Albus-sexual,” and we spent the better part of the afternoon trying to find mine – “You’re not gay, are you, I’ve seen you staring at some of those sixth-year boys,” and “How would you describe your attraction to Sophie?” and finally, “Let’s just go with pansexual, it covers everything.” Lester, as the token straight, spent the whole afternoon looking a bit left out.


My watch beeps – six o’clock, time for dinner and time to put an end to my reminiscing in the Owlery – especially because it’s freezing and the longer I spend up here, the more likely I am to get shat on.


The staff are back at the house tables this evening, and I swear there are even less students around than before.


“Good evening, Rose,” Vector says, waving me into the seat beside her. “I trust you’re feeling better?”


“Much better.” Vector, as my Head of House, has had to deal with the lion’s share of my panic attacks – I’ve gotten away with a few smaller ones with just Holly, but it’s school policy that she’s at least notified every time I have a bad one – so I don’t feel awkward around her anymore. Professor Babbling is another matter, and she has a look of abject fear about her that suggests she’s expecting me to fall to pieces again at the slightest provocation. She takes her cues from Vector, though, and after a few moments seems satisfied that if Vector isn’t worried, she shouldn’t be either.


“Holly left, then?” Vector continues.


“Yeah, she left around five.”


“And how’s your revision going?” she asks, encompassing Alfie in her question. “I recall you both had intentions of starting that today.”


“We got a fair bit done,” Alfie says. “Mainly pinpointing our weak spots, what we need to be paying more attention to as we go into NEWTs.”


“Good. I’m pleased to hear it – you’ll find that getting started early will help with stress leading up to the exams. Speaking of exams, Rose – I need to have a word with you after dinner, if you could stop by my office.”


I have no idea what Vector could possibly want to talk to me about – unless Llodewick told her, a voice whispers tauntingly in the back of my mind. I ignore it. “I will, Professor. I’m supposed to meet with Llodewick too – I don’t suppose you know what hours he keeps?”


“Late ones,” Vector replies. “He’ll be in his office at least until midnight – not that I’ll be keeping you anywhere near that late.”


“Okay, thanks.”


There are no sixth-year Ravenclaws left in the castle, nothing filling the gulf between us and the fifth-years, meaning Alfie and I have definitely been absorbed into the collection of Ravenclaw teachers – something which is proven when Professor Corner arrives, plunks down next to Alfie, and strikes up conversation.


“I heard about Llodewick’s offer,” he says to me. “I’m very pleased – very pleased indeed. Given our propensity for academia, there aren’t nearly enough Ravenclaw alumni on staff. The faculty is overwhelmingly red and gold, I’m afraid.”


I glance around the Great Hall. “Who? There’s Longbottom and Thomas – ”


“Demelza Robins,” Vector adds. “She teaches Muggle Studies – Sybil was a Gryffindor too, Sybil Trelawney. Rubeus Hagrid, of course…and Cuthbert, did you know that?”


“Professor Binns was a Gryffindor?” Alfie looks almost disappointed. “I could have sworn he’d have been Ravenclaw.”


“He lived quite the daring life before he came to teach,” Vector says. “You ought to ask him about it sometime, it’s fascinating.”


After dinner, I leave Alfie chatting to Professors Corner and Babbling and follow Vector back to her office. She closes the door behind me, looking serious, and I feel another lurch of fear.


“Sit down.”


I sit.


“Your attack earlier. I won’t ask what triggered it – ”


“Thank you.”


“But I’m concerned. I haven’t seen you that bad for a long time.”


The closed door is beginning to make me fidgety, trapped; I’m about ninety percent sure I don’t want to have this conversation. “It was a one-off.”


“You have anxiety, Rose. This was not a one-off. And Llodewick told me you came close to one earlier in the year.”


Close being the operative word. It didn’t happen.”


“I’m worried about you,” she says. “NEWTs are notoriously difficult, and I know that you place an extraordinary amount of pressure on yourself.”


“I’m fine. I did fine in OWLs.”


“You were brewing Calming Potion,” Vector says flatly. “You think I didn’t know? I know everything that goes on in Ravenclaw Tower, Rose. Especially when it concerns the well-being of my students. I didn’t say anything at the time, because you were in the middle of exams – but I’ll not have it happening again.”


I take a deep breath, knowing I’m on the edge, knowing that I can’t fall apart again but wanting nothing more than to run away. OWLs were two years ago; I’d almost forgotten about the Calming Potion thing, had almost managed to convince myself it was justified, responsible even, knowing my own stress limits and what I could and couldn’t cope with.


“I’ll be keeping a close eye on your mental and emotional well-being over the next few months. Scorpius and Lester’s, as well. And if you brew Calming Potion without permission from myself or Madame Pomfrey, I will intervene. I’m worried about – ”


“Don’t say it.” My words are forceful, far more than I intended, and Professor Vector looks momentarily taken aback by my vehemence. “Don’t.”


“Potion dependency,” she says firmly.


I rake my fingers through my hair, exhaling slowly. Focus on breathing. “I’m not – ” Breathe – “Jesus. Professor, I haven’t – “ Breathe – “I’m fine.”


“You’re not fine. Rose, I am not trying to scare you – ” she hovers, uncertain whether to come closer, and I hold up a hand to tell her I’ve got it under control.


“I know.”


“You need to find better methods of coping. I know the networks you and your friends have in place, and I understand that they have worked for you, but it’s a huge burden to place on yourselves and your friends.” She pulls files out of her desk. “You’re listed in Scorpius Malfoy’s file as his emergency contact. Scorpius is listed as Lester’s. You’re all of age, so you have the right to name each other, but I strongly advise against it.”


“We don’t – really have anyone else. Professor, I understand where you’re coming from – I do, but this system works for us. And we know each other’s limits – if it gets too much, we’ll tell you.”


“See that you do. And Rose – I will be monitoring your brewing from now on. You’re free to brew whatever you like in your spare time, but you must tell me first.”


I run my hand through my hair again. Fuck.


“Is there anything you’re currently brewing for personal use?”


“…Yes.”


“What is it?”


“Is there any way we can just leave it at personal use and I promise it’s not Calming Potion?”


Vector catches on pretty quickly. “As long as you’re being safe.”


Deciding this meeting is definitely at an end, I flee for the door. Vector doesn’t stop me.


I want nothing more than to go back to the common room – preferably a common room populated by Holly, Lester, Albus and Scorpius – but I’ve got another two weeks of just Alfie and staff for company, and I have another meeting with another member of the aforementioned staff. Using the walk to Llodewick’s office as a chance to combat the rising unsettled feeling in my gut, I knock on his door hoping that I’ve got my emotions under control.


“Come in,” Llodewick calls, and gestures for me to sit down. “Feeling better?”


“Somewhat.”


“I hope you don’t mind that I decided to keep your – confession – between you and me. I figured out a while ago that you were going for that godforsaken scholarship, and I didn’t say anything for a reason. Hogwarts gains nothing from expelling its brightest students, you gain nothing from sitting in pointless detentions, and I gain nothing from throwing my prodigy under the bus.”


The tension that has gripped me for the past several hours slowly fades at his words. “Your prodigy?”


“That better not be false modesty.”


“No, I – well, I know I’m good, but – ”


“Good, but you could be better. I take teaching seriously, Rose. You’ve probably noticed that I told you to a much higher standard than the other students in your class. You’re not just aiming for a top NEWT in this subject. If you want to take my place – and I’m yet to find anyone with your potential as a Potions professor – you need to be much better.”


“I know. But that’s still three years away – ”


“Three years isn’t as long as you think it is. But I’m mainly wanting to talk to you about the nature of the assistant teaching role. It’s a new one, so there are a few details to sort out.”


“Wouldn’t it make more sense to sort out the details – well, closer to the time?”


“Ah. Not really. Because here’s the twist, Rose – if you accept the offer now, Hogwarts will fund your teaching course at the Ministry and your subject-specific work with the Potioneers Guild. Horace Slughorn bequeathed a large sum to the school to aid in the training and professional development of Potions professors at Hogwarts – more than enough to cover the costs of your tertiary education. It’s called – imaginatively I may add – the Horace Slughorn Potions Fellowship.”


“How much is the fellowship for?”


Professor Llodewick leans back in his chair, linking his hands behind his head, and delivers his trump card. “Six thousand Galleons.”




A/N: Othello belongs to William Shakespeare.
Si qua fata sinant - if the Fates allow - is from Virgil's Aeneid, 1.18.

 


Chapter 16: xvi. the way ahead [or] i reminisce too much and scorpius has a plan
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Unable to wait for the others to return to the castle, I head straight to the Owlery after my meeting with Llodewick and fire off four letters asking them to meet me in Hogsmeade on Wednesday at noon. Even the prospect of seeing them makes me feel better, and I’m trying not to think of words like ‘codependency’ as I make my way back to the common room.


But then there’s Alfie sitting by the fire, absorbed in a giant tome with a little smile on his face, his skinny-jeaned knees drawn up in front of him – and the common room is empty. All thoughts of my friends forgotten, I cross the room with impressive haste.


“Evening,” I say, and kiss him without further preamble.


He returns the kiss, reaching up to tangle one hand in my hair and pulling me into his lap, shoving the book to the floor.


“What were you reading?”


Paradise Lost. You’re much more interesting.”


“You looked like you were enjoying it.”


“It’s one of my favourites. You’re still more interesting.”


“High praise.” I kiss him again, and the world shrinks down to his touch, the warmth of his breath on my neck, the way his hands feel skimming across my skin –


I keep meaning to bring him upstairs, I do. But every time I pull away, a “maybe we should take this elsewhere,” ready on my lips, he reels me back in with a word or a touch or a kiss that makes me realise there are more important things to worry about, which might go some way towards explaining how we both end up on the floor, all frantic fumbles and hushed whispers and bursts of laughter because we’re on the floor, we have two empty dorms to choose from with beds and lockable doors but in our infinite wisdom we’re screwing in the common room.


“Wit beyond measure,” Alfie proclaims later, when we’ve regained some element of decorum (and clothing.)


“Wise old Ravenclaw,” I agree, nodding sagely. “Where those of wit and learning may always find their kind.”


“And then fuck in the common room at one o’clock on a Tuesday morning.”


“In the holidays. Important distinction.”


“A very important distinction,” he agrees. “You don’t think anyone heard us? The wee second years are directly above – ”


I clap a hand over my mouth at the thought, before common sense gets the better of me. “No, no. This’ll be soundproofed, there’s no way anyone could sleep up there during term time otherwise. Besides, we were quiet.”


“Ish.”


“Quiet enough. Do you still want to spend the night in my dorm, or – ”


“Of course.” He grins. “We can wake each other up for study tomorrow. I thought it was effective this morning – ”


“For academia!” I throw a dramatic fist in the air and lead him upstairs.




Despite the last twenty-four hours definitely being a contender for the most full-on of my life (four hours sleep, three shags, one panic attack, one job offer) and despite the fact that Alfie has, by some miracle (or maybe the weird angle that he’s curled himself into) fallen asleep without snoring at all, I give up on the hope of actually sleeping by the time the clock strikes three and I’m still wide awake. I edge out of bed, careful not to wake Alfie, and take a moment to find my conspicious Chudley Cannons hoodie and a pair of obnoxiously fluffy slippers to ward off the chill of the castle’s stone floors. I don’t know where I’m going, just that I need somewhere to think that isn’t freezing cold – and my feet set me on the path to the Prefects’ Bathroom.


I don’t use it very often. I don’t like anything that resembles communal bathing, and while I was happy to give it a go in fifth year because of novelty value, it became quickly and awkwardly apparent that I wasn’t quite over my thing for Sophie when she joined me, and I had to attempt casual conversation about schoolwork while the girl I’d daydreamed about kissing far too often lounged across the tub from me in her birthday suit. She remained oblivious, of course, but I went through a stage of being interested in Occlumency for a while after that, and stopped frequenting the Prefects’ Bathroom.


The lock on the door clicks behind me, the ever-present cloud of steam hitting my face, and I climb into the tub while the taps are still running. It’s warm – even the brief walk through the castle has made me lose most of the feeling in my feet. I chuck an Impervius Charm on my hair – it’s easier than trying to dry a mane like mine – and wallow for a bit.


Truth be told, I never quite understand why other people find baths so relaxing. There are elements of comfort, of course – warmth, seclusion, et cetera – but I’m plagued with too many thoughts too often anyway, and giving myself nothing else to focus on ends up more stressful than relaxing.


My mind turns to Alfie, though more out of a sense of obligation than neccessity. I’m an eighteen year old girl and I lost my virginity last night, and a combination of society, media and overheard conversations in the hallways tell me it should be a bigger deal to me than it is. I suppose there’s an image – a stereotype people expect me to conform to, because I’m a high-achieving, law-abiding Prefect and I like spending my time studying. I can almost hear the whispers now – “Rose Weasley, sleeping with a guy she’s not even going out with – but she’s a good girl.” Hypothetical as they are, they make my skin crawl – that instinctive correlation drawn between virginity and goodness.


It dawns upon me that we’ve never been particularly good. Albus and Scorpius, sneaking out of the castle for years simply because they had the means to. Me, brewing potions without the permission or knowledge of staff – not just the Calming Potion in fifth year, but the contraceptive potion for myself, Holly and Lara for the past three years (Holly because, like me, she gets godawful cramps without it; Lara because she’s a self-confessed harlot) Holly going through a phase in fourth year of nocturnal exploration of the Forbidden Forest. Lester, who, despite the clusterfuck of problems surrounding the incident, was arrested once. We are laws unto ourselves, and just because our own laws often line up with Hogwarts’ or because we know how to hide it when they don’t, we’ve earned at least one reputation which is entirely false.


I’ve always been a lot more concerned with reputation than I like other people to think I am. At the end of the day I’m a walking ego, a handful of academic successes piled onto a crumbling foundation of self-doubt and tied up with a big anxiety ribbon. Anything that makes me forget that – be it theoretical Potions or common room banter or a night of mild debauchery with Alfie – I’m going to cling to. It’s a dispassionate way of looking at it all, especially because my subject and my friends are my reasons for getting out of bed in the morning – and they certainly mean more to me than a simple coping method – but Alfie? He’s a means to an end. A primal loss of the self, and therein lies its appeal – not escapism, per se, but an intoxicating freedom from reason and rational thought; from analysis and logic and the continual weighing of ideas and options. It is simple, in a way few things ever are. There’s an element of quasi-rebellion, of course – that unique brand of self-satisfaction that comes from going against all that’s expected of you.


I think he knows it. I think I’m the same thing to him, and it’s that mutuality that makes me feel better. Not everyone can have an Albus-and-Scorpius fairytale love story, especially not at Hogwarts.


The water has turned my fingers and toes wrinkly, and the watch I tossed aside earlier shows 4.30am. Deciding that’s plenty enough introspection for one night, I climb out of the tub, shivering in the chilly air, and make a beeline for my dorm.




Alfie, to my infinite relief, does not wake me up in time for breakfast. Or lunch, for that matter. He only stirs sometime after noon, poking me sleepily in the side.


“Rose. You awake?”


I flop, groan and flail my way to consciousness. “I am now.”


“We missed lunch.”


“Three Broomsticks again?”


“You read my mind.”


We both decide one thirty in the afternoon isn’t the time for what a straight-faced Alfie calls “a roll in the hay” (he’s on a mission, he informs me, to use every possible euphemism over the next two weeks – I’m beginning to regret my choice in sexual partner) and make our way down to the Three Broomsticks. The barmaid recognises us – “Back again, you two?” – and I wonder if I’ll be on first name basis with her in about four years’ time. Probably, given what Llodewick said about Faculty Fridays. The thought fills me with some kind of indeterminate glee – the entire Hogwarts staff heading off for Friday night drinkies. Llodewick and May in a darts tournament. Sprout and Vector trying to drink each other under the table. Longbottom calling for shots.


“What are you laughing at?” Alfie asks.


“Can you imagine drunk teachers?”


“I can imagine Llodewick slowly getting tanked in his office grading fourth-year Potions essays, but that’s probably because I’ve seen him slowly getting tanked in his office grading essays.”


“How did you manage that?”


“I had to ask him a question about something, I think it was before OWLs. Knocked on his door and he’s just muttering to himself, ‘no, no, you absolute fucking Flobberworm,’ over some kid’s essay and drinking neat Firewhiskey.”


You absolute fucking Flobberworm,” I repeat admiringly. “Inspirational.”


“Vector probably let loose a bit in her youth,” Alfie continues. “You don’t get a sixth sense for troublemaking students without being one yourself.”


“That’s kinda one of the angles Holly and I are using to justify this scholarship thing.”


“Wait till you’re seventy years old and the Head of Ravenclaw, then tell everyone about the time you Transfigured toilet paper into doves.”


“Heady days.” I sigh reminiscently. “But Holly and I have discussed this. She’ll be Head of Ravenclaw, not me. She’s far more nurturing.”


“Vector’s hardly nurturing. You discussed who’s going to be Head of House with Holly? You’re like an old married couple.”


“That’s actually the perfect summary of our relationship, yes. Except with less bickering, because who could ever bicker with her?”


“There’s nothing going on between you two, is there?”


“No?” I’m not uncertain about the answer, just the question. “I mean – you’re not the first person to wonder and you’re probably not going to be the last, but – why?”


“I made a bet with Tom,” he says matter-of-factly. “We sort of thought there was a secret couple in your midst. He thought it was you two, I said it was Albus and Scorpius. He still hasn’t paid up because, and I quote, ‘There’s no proof Rose and Holly aren’t a thing.’”


I roll my eyes. “Well, to be fair, we have technically made out in public before thanks to mistletoe, so I can understand where he’s coming from. But he’s also wrong and should cough up, because Holly and I are the dictionary definition of platonic. Tell him that, then buy me a Butterbeer.”


“Are you actually the dictionary definition of platonic?”


“In a few dictionaries, yes. We got bored in the library one night.”


“How do you get bored in the library?”


“Well, we were writing Charms essays. Meant to be writing Charms essays. Anything’s better than Charms essays.”


He nods. “Shame it’s a required NEWT for pretty much everything. I wanted to keep going with Runes, but Charms is apparently more important.


“You dropped Runes, but kept Magical Creatures?”


Alfie shrugs. “It’s a…well, it’s a backup. If I fail at everything else. I wanted to be a vet when I was younger, before I got my letter – I was your token primary school nerd, books and animals were my only friends et cetera…so yeah, I kept the Magical Creatures. A nod to my younger self, almost.” He drains his Butterbeer, frowns. “I never thought I’d find people like me, back then. It’s – Ravenclaw House is amazing, when you think about it. You get a bunch of misfits and throw them together, and there’s always that common ground. And I’m sure the other houses probably feel the same, but – I like to think Ravenclaw is special like that. In a way you can’t really put into words. And I’m going to miss it.”


“I’m going to miss it too. It’s scary how close we are to the end of all this, and we’ve only just started talking. I mean, I’ve had classes with you for seven years and we’re mates, but all this – ” I wave a vague hand to encompass the pub and the Butterbeers and the table and us – “It just makes me wonder how many friendships I’ve missed out on – those kindred spirit, clicking immediately kind of friendships – just because I haven’t looked outside my group, you know?” There’s no stopping this tidal wave of emotions, so I just wave my arms around a bit and plough on. “Like, us. We get along like a house on fire and it’s only by chance that we even discovered it – chance being my mum remodelling the house and your dad going off to Australia – and maybe if we’d been thrown together a bit earlier, we would have ended up best mates or dating or something – ”


“Or broken up, awkwardly trying to avoid each other. ‘This common room isn’t big enough for the both of us,’ sort of thing, like what you get in other houses. I think you’re right, we probably would have dated, if we’d been thrown together a bit earlier – but only because we would have been too young to realise what we really wanted. Banter and easily-resolved sexual tension aren’t the best foundations for a relationship. Besides,” he adds, with a slight roll of his eyes, “We would have to spend the entire time explaining how just because we were in a heterosexual relationship doesn’t mean either of us are heterosexual. Down with bi/pan erasure 2024.”


“Not that either of us are really contributing to its visibility.”


“The closet may be small and dark, but I’m not claustrophobic.”


“Poetic.”


“My parents know, that’s all that matters. Funnily enough, once their world has been turned upside down by earth-shattering revelations like ‘Your son’s a wizard and he’s been accepted to magic school’ they don’t really bat an eyelid at much else.” He glances at his watch. “We should probably be heading back. Dinner’s in half an hour and we haven’t seen the teachers all day. They probably think we’re dead.”




It’s strange to think how something as alien as having dinner with a bunch of staff has become normal for us. The Ravenclaw table, perhaps through the presence of Professors Corner and Vector – who between them seem to be friends with all the staff – has become a bit of a hub for teachers, with Llodewick and May abandoning the Slytherins to join us. My job offer seems to have become common knowledge, and even though I haven’t technically accepted it yet, that doesn’t stop Llodewick pouring some mysterious liquid from a flask hidden in his robes and passing it to me.


“To the future,” he says.


Herbert!” Vector scolds.


“What? She’s of age,” he protests. “And she has permission from a teacher.”


“I’m her Head of House, I’ll be the judge of that.” Vector glares a bit longer at Llodewick, before rolling her eyes and turning to me. “It’s just Firewhiskey. I’ll let it slide this once.”


“Thanks, Professors.” I clink my glass with Llodewick’s and don’t bother hiding my grin.


I head up to the Owlery after dinner – the owls don’t do the morning deliveries in the holidays – and find three letters waiting for me.


Ooh, what’s this about? I’m super curious now – see you tomorrow at noon! (p.s I’ll be Flooing in via the Three Broomsticks, I assume we’re meeting there? That’s where you’ll find me anyway) – Holly :)



This message was a godsend, Rose, thank you. Have to get out of the house. I’ll be in Hogsmeade by eleven if you want to meet early. Lester.


Rosie, you nutter. We haven’t even been gone a week. What did you do?
(What Albus means to say is yes, we’ll be there. Also – seriously, what did you do? Is it the rabbits?)
Nah, she probably just misses us too much.
(Not everyone is as codependent as you)
Shut up. You couldn’t live without me either.
(I regret ever telling you that)
Anyway, we’ll see you tomorrow. -Albus
(and Scorpius)





I meet Lester at the Three Broomsticks at eleven, slouched over a cup of tea and looking like he wishes it were something stronger.


“Tough week?” I ask, perching on a stool beside him.


“You could say that,” he says, rubbing a hand across his face. “Apparently, my only function when I come home is to look after Maxwell.” It’s impossible to miss the bitterness in his voice. “I mean – I know it’s hard on them and everything, but would it kill them to ask how I’m doing before they walk out the door? And he’s had a tough week, too. Max. It always unsettles him when I come home. He’s not used to me being around anymore…I told Mum and Dad I’m moving straight from Hogwarts into a flat. I’ve got a bit saved up – I’m going to start looking this week. I was meaning to ask you – any preferences in location? Price range?”


“Stop talking flats for a moment,” I say firmly. “You’re upset.”


“I am,” he agrees. “But I need to focus on the practicalities of moving out. Humour me.”


“Oh. Well…I’d prefer London if we can find a place. A Floo, because Holly can’t Apparate…I’m not too worried about price range, but Holly’s a bit restricted in that area. I’d say maybe fifty Galleons a week between the three of us would be the upper limit. We’re all fair with practical magic, so we can fix leaks and do heating charms – don’t worry too much about whether it’s shit or not.”


Lester nods. “Good, that’s basically what I was going on too. When would you be moving in? I’ll be going in straight after NEWTs, but if you guys are staying at home until your course starts – ”


“No, I’ll be moving in pretty early. Two weeks after the end of term? Enough time for me to pack up my stuff, basically.”


“Good, so I’ll look for places that renew the lease in June.” He reaches across the table for a Daily Prophet abandoned by some earlier customer, flicking through to the classifieds. “If we went for something like this, maybe…” He points to an ad for a three bedroom flat in Diagon Alley. “Oh, it’s seventy Galleons a week…maybe not…Something like this? It’s off Knockturn, bit shady, but it’s only forty Galleons a week.”


“Hell would freeze over before my dad would let me live anywhere near Knockturn Alley.”


“At least I don’t have to worry about that.”


I close the paper. “Are you sure you don’t want to talk about this?”


“Positive. So what have you been doing these holidays?”


“Alfie Harrison.”


“What?” He looks up, startled, and chokes on his tea. “Doing – in the colloquial sense..?”


“Yes, in the colloquial sense.”


“Right.” He looks profoundly awkward, which I suppose is a step up from profoundly miserable. “I didn’t know you…er…”


“Yep.” I finish off my Butterbeer. “Lots of sex.”


“Well. Er.”


I toss a serviette at him. “God you’re a prude, Raine.”


If possible, he goes even redder. “I’m not…really…at all.”


“That’s news to me.”


“It’s not to Lily.” Then he claps both hands over his mouth, looking horrified, and backpedals like mad. “I mean – I didn’t mean – we haven’t – done that, she’s not even of age yet, we’re definitely not going to until – oh my God.” He sinks into his chair, his face a colour that can only be described as beetroot. “Please don’t tell Albus,” he pleads in a small voice.


“What exactly am I going to tell him? ‘Hey Albus, guess what Raine’s giving your sister for her seventeenth? His dick.’”


“That was unneccessarily crude.”


“You’re not denying it!”


“Can we – wait, how am I on the defence for all this? I’m not the one screwing the crew – ”


“Why does everyone bring that up?”


“It’s a good rule! And you – ” he points a stern finger at me, “Are the first ones to break it.”


I cough. “Albus and Scorpius.”


“That’s different, they’re – ”


“Gay?”


“I was going to say soulmates.”


At that moment, the aforementioned soulmates burst into the Three Broomsticks, Albus flapping the ragged edge of his shirt in Scorpius’s face. “This is brand new and you Splinched it, I told you I should be the one Apparating – ”


I raise my eyebrows. “Here come our chosen poster boys for True Love.”


“What’d you do to Raine?” Albus asks, plopping into the seat beside the aforementioned Lester and peering critically at his face. “He’s a bit…pinker than usual.”


Lester swats him away.


“No, no, Albus, we know that face,” Scorpius says. “That’s his embarrassed people-are-talking-about-sex face.”


“Can’t be,” Albus says. “It was just him and Rose – unless – Raine, tell me you haven’t…”


“Rose is sleeping with Alfie!” Lester blurts in a panic, and I shoot him a death glare.


Albus looks scandalised. “Rose would never.”


“Rose would and Rose has. Rose is also going to slap you if you don’t stop looking so horrified, and – you know what, I’m done talking about myself in the third person.”


Albus opens his mouth, closes it again, and looks like he’s going through half a dozen responses in his head before arriving at, “But…Lara’s rule.”


Hark. Who’s. Talking.”


“She’s got a point,” Scorpius reasons.


Albus looks stunned. “We…broke Lara’s rule,” he says in a small voice.


Scorpius claps him on the shoulder. “A long time ago, mate.”


“What have I missed?” a voice calls from the fireplace, and Holly pulls up a stool to join us.


“Nothing much,” Albus says. “Just tales of Rose’s holiday debauchery. For shame, Rose. The Easter bunny died for your sins!”


“That’s…” Lester sighs. “That’s not what Easter’s about.”


“I thought Rose would empathise more with dead bunnies than dead religious figures,” Albus explains.


“Ooh, are we shaming women for choosing to have safe, consensual sex?” Holly asks eagerly. “I just want to know where you guys got the Time Turners, because apparently we’re back in the Dark Ages. Let’s burn some witches while we’re at it! Oh, and don’t forget the gays. I hope there’s enough hellfire for all of us!”


There’s a long, uncomfortable silence. I mouth a thank you at Holly.


“Er.” Albus rubs the back of his neck. “Righto. Yeah. Fair point.”


“So.” There’s still a trace of passive-aggression in Holly’s voice, making it somewhat terrifying when she leans forward. “What’s this all about?”


“Llodewick offered me a job.”


She squeals, attempting to launch herself across the table at me and toppling over as her stool clatters to the ground. Unfazed, she picks herself up and wraps her arms around me. “I’m so excited oh my god we’re both going to be teachers Rose!”


Strange as it seems, it doesn’t actually hit me until I’ve got Holly clinging to me by the waist, and I hop off my stool so we can bounce around the pub. “We’re going to be teachers!” I cry, giddy with excitement.


“Professor Holyoake and Professor Weasley!”


“I got a job!”


“I’m so happy for you I’m crying!”


“I cried for you too so we’re even!”


We’re the only ones in the pub, and we cause enough of a scene – “You’re looking at Hogwarts’ next Potions professor!” Holly announces to the barmaid, waving my arms for me, and I retaliate by pulling her forward and adding, “And the next Arithmancy professor!” – that the aforementioned barmaid pours us two Butterbeers. “On the house,” she explains, smiling. “Congratulations.”


After we’ve clinked glasses – “To the future! To our students! To the staffroom!” – we remember the abandoned boys and sheepishly return to our table.


“Now that you’ve gotten that out of your system,” Scorpius says, “Congratulations.”


“That’s amazing, Rose,” Albus says earnestly. “You’re amazing. I’m sorry I was a prick earlier.”


“It’s fine. Everything’s fine. I’m going to be a teacher.”


“And a fantastic one at that,” Lester adds. “I couldn’t imagine a better Potions professor in the world.”


“You guys.” Overcome with emotion, I sling my arms around their shoulders and pull them close. “Thank you. But there’s a problem.”


“What kind of problem?” Lester asks, as we all resume our seats.


“Well, it’s not so much a problem as a – well, a bit of a game-changer regarding the scholarship. I’ve been offered a fellowship by Llodewick. It’s six thousand Galleons.”


“Holy mother of Merlin,” Scorpius says, awed. “That’ll pay all your fees and living costs the whole way through.”


“I know.”


“So you don’t need the scholarship,” Lester summarises. “At all. In any way, shape or form.”


“…Yeah.”


Everyone exchanges glances. “So you’re out?”


“Yes. No. Kind of? I’ll still help, we’ve still got the magnum opus to go – but I won’t take any of the money. That’s twelve hundred and fifty each for you guys, instead of just a grand.”


“I’m sensing a but clause here,” Lester says.


“Haha, butt clause,” Albus contributes.


“Can we all pretend that an eighteen year old wizard with an IQ of one hundred and fifty-eight didn’t just say haha, butt clause?” Lester asks.


“When did I tell you my IQ?”


“In a moment of weakness.”


“So, what is the but clause?” Scorpius asks, and sniggers.


“The but clause is Llodewick knows that I’m – I was going for the scholarship.”


“Why’d you tell him that?” Albus asks.


“In a moment of weakness. That’s not important. What’s important is that he thinks I was behind all the pranks we’ve pulled so far – and now he knows I won’t be needing the scholarship anymore. So he’s going to start wondering who else is behind it when we do the magnum opus. You lot are immediately guilty by association.”


“It’s not just association that we’re guilty by,” Holly says.


“What’s the problem with Llodewick finding out it was us, though?” Lester asks. “Rose, you obviously didn’t get into trouble over it if he offered you a job.”


“Well,” I say awkwardly, “He said something about how he didn’t stand to gain anything by ‘throwing his prodigy under the bus.’ So.”


“Llodewick’s a Slytherin,” Albus points out. “He plays favourites. He does things that benefit himself. Obviously he wants Rose to take over his job, but none of us have that security. He’s not going to expel Rose because he needs her. Man’s what, sixty? Ish? He’s keen to retire.”


“So we need to do something subtle,” Scorpius says. “Luckily, Albus and I have been scheming.”


“We have?” Albus asks.


“Correction: I’ve been scheming and Albus has been ignoring me.”


“Let’s hear your scheme, then,” Lester says.


“Well, the main reason we have to do something big for April Fools is because everybody does something for April Fools, right? And we have to stand out from the run-of-the-mill exploding cauldrons, swearing quills, joke wands, etc.”


“Go on,” Lester says.


“So we do some espionage,” Scorpius says. “Find out what the school is planning. Reverse engineer every prank. Make it backfire spectacularly on the prankers.”


“How?” I ask eventually.


“Haven’t thought that far ahead,” Scorpius says blithely. “We’ve got about a week to pull it all off once school goes back. I imagine Louis will be doing whatever his prank is on April First, so hopefully Emily can let us in on that – ”


“Louis will have the Felix Felicis,” I point out.


“Ah, fuck, that’s right. Well, we can target everyone but Louis, then. Rose, I’m going to put you in charge of the staff prank – ”


“The what?”


“The staff always do a prank on April Fools,” Scorpius says. “Haven’t you noticed? Last year was that charm they did that read every note people passed out loud – ”


“Oh yeah, I remember that. So I have to find out what it is?”


“If you can. You’re on good terms with Llodewick, he tends to spearhead the staff pranks as far as I can tell – him and May, really.”


“Oh. Well, that shouldn’t be too hard – I’ve been spending a lot of time with the teachers lately.”


“They sound like they’d be a bit of fun outside the classroom,” Albus says. “Better than the company I’ve been keeping, anyway.”


“Oi.” Scorpius looks affronted.


“Not you, egghead. I meant the Burnsey sisters down the road.”


The Potters live in Godric’s Hollow, which means there are plenty of kids from Hogwarts around. The Burnsey sisters, along with a few others, have been making regular, halfhearted attempts at friendship with Albus and Lily for the past three summers. Katherine, the older one, is a Gryffindor in our year, and her sister Rachel is a fifth-year Puff who I’m ninety percent sure has a massive crush on Hugo.


“What’s wrong with the Burnseys?” Holly asks.


“They’ve attempted to claim me,” Albus says distastefully, “As their gay best friend.”


“Ew.”


“They asked me to go shopping with them.” He flaps his Christmas-jumpered arms about. “Have they seen me? Do they really think I have anything resembling fashion sense? I wear my nana’s hand-knitted festive jumpers six months of the year!”


“More like eight months of the year,” Scorpius says. “Maybe nine.”


“They tried talking to me about boys,” he continues. “‘Ooh, Albus, who do you think is cute at Hogwarts?’ Could it be Scorpius fucking Malfoy?”


“Hyperion. My middle name is Hyperion, not fucking. Also, I resent cute.”


“That’s what I told them. You’re the polar opposite of cute. You’re a dashingly handsome man, an Adonis, if you will – ”


“Did you actually?”


“Of course not. You’re a fucking beanstalk.”


“You love my beanstalk physique.”


“Someone has to. Besides,” he says, moving swiftly back to his original point, “When have I ever said that I’m gay? God himself doesn’t know my sexuality, just that Scorpius is involved.”


“Involved? I am the axis upon which your sexuality turns.”


“And so modest about it too.”


“So that’s it?” I ask, interrupting them. “The only plan we’ve got going is ‘find out what everyone’s doing for April Fools’? There’s no way we can get the whole school’s plans.”


“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” Scorpius proclaims. “I still have the passwords for all the common rooms. Albus still has an Invisibility Cloak. Holly still has powers of passive-aggressive persuasion. Once we’ve got everyone’s plans, circumventing them shouldn’t be too difficult. I mean, we are the best students in the school.”


“Your ego is on top form today,” Lester observes.


“When is it not?”


“Fair point. We should start doing a bit of research on circumventing some basic pranks over the holidays, then – pop into Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, find out their top-selling products…Speaking of, Albus – any way I could come and stay for a few days? Might be easier to work on product development if we’re all together.”


“As long as you’re not using that as an excuse to do untoward things with my sister,” Albus replies, frowning. “Oh – Rose, while we’re here, I have some family shit to discuss with you.” He slides off his stool, waving me over to the bar, and asks for a round of Butterbeers.


“So what’s this about?”


“Not family shit,” he replies bluntly. “Well, not our family anyway. Raine. He’s not asking to stay because of some prank, is he?”


“Not exactly, no.”


“Is it bad?”


“I don’t think he should be spending any more time at home than he absolutely has to.”


“I’ll have a talk to Dad,” Albus decides. “Mum’ll just think he wants an excuse to spend the night with Lily – she’s gotten really weird about him lately. I mean, it was funny to begin with, but he’s always had a place at ours, you know? And I don’t think she realises she’s doing it, but – he still needs us as much as he used to.”


“Harry’ll understand. He’s been in Lester’s position himself.”


“I know. Jesus, history repeats, doesn’t it?” Albus takes a Butterbeer, watching the group. “I can’t believe we’re nearly finished with Hogwarts.”


“Don’t. I’ve already had this conversation once in the last twenty-four hours.”


“With Alfie? He’s going into Muggle Liason, right?”


“Yeah.”


“He’s a good bloke. I wasn’t trying to be judgemental, earlier. It’s just – we’re family. It’s my job to rip into you a bit.”


“As long as that’s all it is.”


“Course. Free shot, by the way.”


“You have awful fashion sense and your hair is ridiculous.”


He spreads his arms. “Bring it in.”


I hug him, not realising until his arms are wrapped around me how tightly wound I’ve been over the last few days. “Thank you,” I mumble into his woolly shoulder.


“No problem.”
 




A/N: So in a fit of end-of-semester productivity, I've made a new set of chapter images for this story - including a bunch of new characters! If you haven't already seen them, feel free to go back and have a look at chapters 6-11, which feature the faces of Emily, Louis, Alfie, Lara and more!


Chapter 17: xvii. the implosion [or] when it all hits the fan
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

It doesn’t take long for me to unearth the teachers’ April Fools prank. In fact, once I officially accept Llodewick’s offer, he pours me a drink in his office – “Academia and alcohol go hand in hand, Rose, may as well get used to it – ” and spills the beans entirely.


“We’ve had a few issues coming up with an April Fools prank this year,” he informs me. “I’m sure you’ve noticed the staff like to do a little prank of our own – ”


“Yeah, there was the note thing last year?”


“That was inspired, yes. Not my idea, though I’d love to take credit for it – no, I think it was Dean’s…but anyway. We haven’t been able to come up with something yet, and I thought as our apparent resident pranking genius, you would be able to help us out.”


“You want my help in the staff prank?”


“Well, you are staff – more or less. You signed a contract.”


“Huh. Right. Did you have anything in mind? Theme? Particular groups of students to target?”


“Well, we prefer to target students who don’t actually pay attention or do their homework. Your polar opposites, in other words.”


“Well – I can’t believe I’m saying this – but just – coordinate all your deadlines with the other teachers. Make everything due on April 1st. That’s a Monday, so anyone who gets all their work done gets the rest of the week off. Anyone who doesn’t…”


“Go on.”


“Howler essays.”


Llodewick leans back in his chair. “I knew I made the right choice. So, bang on the deadline, any unfinished essay will start screaming its contents and self-destruct?”


“Yes.”


“I’ll let the other staff know. I’m sure May can work out the charm for something like that. I appreciate your help.”


He sounds so formal, and I’m not sure what strikes me most – the fact that he’s talking to me like a colleague, or that we’re having a serious discussion about April Fools pranks – but either way, I grin as I take my leave and return to Ravenclaw Tower.




“I have intel.”


“Hello to you too,” Albus says.


It’s the start-of-term feast, the first time I’ve seen everyone since our meeting in the Three Broomsticks, but now is not the time for chit-chat. “I think we as a collective whole have moved past inane ‘how was your holiday’ greetings,” I tell him, and lower my voice. “I know what the staff are planning.”


“I know what the Burnseys are planning,” Albus says. “Which actually encompasses two groups – the Gryffindor seventh-year girls are joining forces, and a bunch of fifth-year Puffs are also planning something. Apparently Hugo’s in on that one.”


“That came at a high price,” Scorpius says. “We had to go into Muggle London with them for a day. I’ve never acted so camp in my life.”


“Fifth year Slytherins have a fair few ideas too,” Lester says. “I’m not sure which one they’ll go for, but Lily’s going to keep me updated.”


“Second year Puffs are sticking to some standard Wheezes products,” Holly reports. “They’re targeting Gryffindor.”


“Bless,” Scorpius says fondly.


“Good work, guys. We’ll start brainstorming counter attacks when we get back to the common room.”


When we get back to the common room, however, a brief distraction appears in the form of Lara Talbot, deep in conversation with Alfie. “You what?” I hear her yell suddenly, and she’s wheeling around to pin me to the spot with an accusatory finger.
Rose. Nymphadora. Weasley.” She spins around again. “Alfred. William. Harrison. I have a bone to pick with you two.” Before I can so much as blink, let alone sidle away, she’s hauled Alfie by the robes to stand beside me, lined up in front of the couch like we’re facing a firing squad.


“Er,” Alfie says.


“I’m going to throw some words at you,” she says. “Words which we in this House have lived by since we were old enough to understand them, words which have been put in place and accepted by us all for the good of the community – ”


People are beginning to stare.


“Don’t. Screw. The. Crew.


I cough politely. “Albus and Scorpius.”


“I turn my back for one minute – ”


“Two weeks,” Alfie coughs.


“And you two have broken one of the most fundamental rules of this class – ”


“Albus and Scorpius did first!”


“We’re exempt from your heterosexual rules,” Albus calls.


“I’m not heterosexual!”


The common room goes properly silent, and it slowly dawns on me that I’ve just outed myself to approximately four hundred peers.


“Jesus, is anyone in that group straight?” a fifth-year mutters to his friend.


Lester gives him a feeble wave. “Me?”


Lara waits for the idle chatter to resume again, before turning back to me. “Albus and Scorpius don’t count because they’ve been together since the dawn of time and their sexual tension has no risk of affecting us as a year group. You two are wild cards.”


“There’s no ‘us two,’” I tell her.


“And our sexual tension is resolved,” Alfie adds. “No risk of affecting anyone – hey, show of hands – does anyone actually care who we sleep with?”


There’s a general chorus of ‘no,’ interspersed with the occasional ‘as long as it’s not in public’ and ‘not unless you’re offering.’


“So,” Alfie concludes, “It’s really not a problem, Lara, I give you my word. I also give you my word that none of us are going to care if you do what you’ve wanted to do for the past three years with a certain Tom McLaggen.”


“Well,” she says, slightly huffily, “We could have reached that conclusion a long time ago.” She disappears to the dorms with Tom in tow, and we don’t see either of them for a long time.


Alfie looks a bit lost with his two best friends off doing – well, each other – and Holly waves him over to our table with a “what, he looks lonely,” and a promise to scheme for the prank later. I can’t help but notice that the boys seem to have lost the ability to look him in the eye.


“So, uh,” Lester says, addressing the table, “Good holiday, Alfie?”


“Yeah. Lots of study done. You?”


“Yeah, good.”


“On track for NEWTs?” Scorpius asks.


“Hope so,” Alfie replies.


“Well,” Holly says cheerfully, “Are we gonna shoot the elephant in the room or feed it?”


“I think feeding it sounds a bit nicer,” Albus offers.


“Maybe we could just address it,” I suggest. “Make it feel welcome. Part of the conversation.”


“That’ll encourage the elephant to stay.”


“Maybe the elephant wants to stay. What did the elephant ever do to you, Holly?”


“I regret my choice of metaphor,” Holly sighs. “But seriously, guys. We’ve known that Albus and Scorpius have been doing the nasty since fifth year – ”


“Spoken like a true asexual,” Albus interjects.


“We prefer to call it making love,” Scorpius adds.


“No, we don’t.”


“You’re right,” Scorpius concedes. “We prefer to call it hey look nobody’s around, take your clothes off.


“Romantic,” Holly snorts.


“We would love nothing more than a candlelit, rose-petals-on-the-bed scenario, Holly, but we’re at Hogwarts.”


“Scorpius, if you put candles anywhere near us you’d set us both on fire – ”


“On fire with love,” Scorpius says, struggling to keep a straight face.


“No, on fire with fire.”


“You have a way with words, Albus Potter,” Holly tells him. “But you just proved my point – you can talk about it till the cows come home and nobody bats an eyelid – ”


“Nobody bats an eyelid because we talk about it,” Albus points out. “Rose and Alfie, though – all you’ve said is that it happened, and I’m not saying I want the details – I really, absolutely do not – but the sheepish silence is a breeding ground for awkward room elephants.”


“Sometimes I forget you’re smart,” Lester says.


Hey.”


“That was a compliment! A back-handed one, sure, but the insinuation was that I forget you’re smart and then you say something insightful like that and remind me.”


“That was insightful?” Albus frowns. “You’ve really set the bar low, Raine.”


“Shut up and take the compliment,” Scorpius says, though his smile seems slightly forced and I catch him frowning slightly at Lester.


“Fine!” I say loudly, interrupting them. “We had sex. It was great. Shall we move on?”


“Oh, it was great, was it?” Scorpius asks. “Dear me, Rose. You’re getting explicit.”


“Rip into her all you like,” Alfie says, leaning forward threateningly. “But just remember – I have all the explicit details, and I might just choose to share them. You’ve still got two months of sharing a dorm with me, Scorpius Hyperion. Call my bluff.”


“You wouldn’t.”


“I would. Did you know that Rose likes – ”


“I believe you, I believe you,” Scorpius says hurriedly, holding up his hands in surrender. “Point taken.”


“What were you going to tell him?” I whisper to Alfie.


“I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” he whispers back. “Though I do have a veritable treasure trove of information regarding your preferences.”


“I hope you don’t have to use it.”


“In the context of threatening your friends, I hope not. In other contexts…”


“Don’t even go there,” I tell him firmly. “It’s term time. Eyes on the prize. The prize being NEWTs.”


“Damn academia,” he sighs. “Speaking of – hey Albus, how’d you end up finding that Muggle Studies essay?”


“I only got Exceeds Expectations,” Albus says, slightly morosely. “Hold on, let me grab it – what did you get? Outstanding, I assume?”


“Yeah. Want me to go through it with you?”


Please,” Albus says firmly, and the boys shuffle to the far side of the table with the offending essay.


Just like that, the topic at hand turns to schoolwork again – we’ve all spent most of the holiday either revising alone or ignoring NEWTs like they don’t exist, so there’s plenty of consultation and help to be done and sought.


“Lester,” I say with a wide, beaming smile, “Don’t suppose you’re keen to talk Charms theory with me?”


“I’m always keen to talk Charms theory,” Lester replies. “Unless – Holly, you didn’t want to go through Gamp’s Law?”


“No, I managed to nut that one out over the holidays,” Holly replies. “Besides, I need to borrow Scorpius for Runes.”


“As long as you’re not as bad as Rose,” Scorpius says agreeably.


“Hey. I’ve improved.”


“Glad to hear it.”


We settle into our studies for the rest of the evening. Tom and Lara come back down at about eleven, to a chorus of wolf-whistles and cheers from the rest of us, and we give them shit for a while before they depart with Alfie to catch up with Logan and Sophie in the Puff common room.


“Right,” Holly says, leaning forward eagerly. “Plotting. I went with Emma to Wheezes over the holidays – they’ve got enough Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder to black out the entire castle, but they’re going to localise it to Gryffindor Tower. They’re going to replace every wand they find in the common room with joke wands, and use a colour-change charm to turn everything red and gold into yellow and black.”


“Simple, classic,” Scorpius says, nodding. “How do we counter?”


“Well, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff might have a bit of rivalry, but we know the Gryffs hate us on principle more. Just change the Colour-Change charm from yellow and black to blue and bronze,” Albus says.


“That’s a smoking gun straight to us, though.”


“Green and silver, then.”


“Green and silver, right. But not like, a nice green and silver. I’m thinking a duck-shit green and raincloud grey.”


“If we have a bright, lime green it could conceivably be a yellow Colour-Change gone wrong,” I point out. “Especially coming from second years.”


“Flawless logic, Rose, flawless.”


“I do try. What about the joke wands? Are we going to do anything about those?”


“We replace them with sticks. Just plain sticks. Go for the anticlimactic. Even better if they start waving them around trying to cast spells.”


“Could be comical,” Lester agrees. “We’ll replace the joke wands with the sticks before the event – we could also put a charm on the Gryffindor common room that changes the colours to green and silver when any Colour-Change Charm is put on it. That’ll stump the Gryffindors for changing it back for a while as well – and that’s one less prank we need to be on site for. Albus, Scorpius – what are the Burnsey sisters planning?”


“The fifth-year Puffs are targeting Slytherin – I think we’ve got Hugo and Lily’s rivalry to blame for that.”


“Hugo and Lily are best friends,” Lester points out.


“Best friends they may be,” Albus says, “But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to prank each other. Let’s face it, if Rose and I were in different houses we would have been at war for seven years.”


“If we were in different houses I’d still be the Ravenclaw,” I say immediately.


“You would not. You were a rebellious little shit when you were eleven, you’d have gone straight into Slytherin just to piss off your dad.”


“I wasn’t rebellious. I was independent. And I didn’t go into Slytherin, so there.”


“So there,” Albus smirks. “Way to revert to your eleven-year-old self.”


“Better than being scared. Dad, what if the Sorting Hat puts me in Slytherin? Yeah, I heard you.”


“It was a legitimate concern! My dad’s Harry Potter!”


“So is Lily’s.”


“Yeah, well, hindsight is twenty-twenty,” Albus says. “Anyway, the Puffs have apparently worked out some brilliant squid charming techniques, so they’re going to lure the Giant Squid right up to that window that looks into the Slytherin common room and charm him to stay there. And stare at them. All day.”


Holly shudders. “Ugh. Squid.”


“That’s some serious dedication,” I say admiringly. “From a bunch of fifth-year Puffs?”


“Rachel was quick to give Hugo the credit,” Scorpius says with a roll of his eyes. “You know, I’ve heard way too much about your brother’s supposed genius.”


“My brother doesn’t have any genius to speak of,” I say dismissively. “I took it all.”


“That’s not how genes work,” Lester says.


I ignore him. “So how are we going to counter the squid attack?”


“Put a squid in the Puff common room?” Holly shrugs. “Conjure a squid in their common room. Lester, can you conjure a squid?”


“I can try.”


“Then stick an Engorgio on it and leave it in the middle of the floor.”


“That’ll do,” Scorpius says agreeably. “We can’t do anything too elaborate for these, there’s too much going on. The seventh-year Gryffindors are targeting us, by the way.”


“They told you that?”


“Katherine did,” Albus says. “She’s teamed up with Lucy and Sean – of course – and a few others. It was a gesture of good faith, I think, giving us the heads up – she really wants a gay best friend.”


“So what are they planning?”


“Er. Colour-Change Charms. Lots of Colour-Change Charms. Rainbow everything. Uh. Apparently Ravenclaw is gay pride central.”


“What?” Scorpius says, confused. “There’s only us and Holly and Rose – ”


“And Alfie,” Albus adds. “Don’t forget the token bisexual.”


“See, I forgot about that, because he’s screwing Rose.”


“Oi,” I say huffily, poking him in the shoulder. “Erasure.”


“That’s five-eighths of the house,” Albus says. “Though how the likes of Katherine Burnsey know that, I have no idea. Alfie’s so deep in the closet he’s eating Turkish Delight with the White Witch of Narnia, and Rose isn’t much better.”


“Forgive me for not having a girlfriend to make out with on the tables during dinner,” I shoot back.


“You could probably hook up with Emily,” Scorpius muses. “I think she’s into you.”


“You’re confusing sexual tension with stone cold hatred again,” Albus tells him.


“I wouldn’t say hatred,” I say. “More stone cold neutrality.”


“I don’t even think Alfie would mind,” Scorpius continues.


“Well, we’re not exactly together. Except sometimes. In the biblical sense.”


“I regret encouraging you to be open,” Albus sighs. “Anyway. I’m not sure what we can do to counteract their plans – so I say we just own it. ‘We’re here, we’re queer’ – how does the rest of it go?”


“They’re targeting the whole house,” Scorpius says. “So we should give Lara and her boys the heads up too.”


“Can we still call them that?” Holly asks. “Only Alfie’s sort of Rose’s – ”


“Alfie is not Rose’s,” I say firmly. “There is no ownership here. Lester, do you know what the fifth-year Slytherins are planning?”


“Not as yet. They have ideas, but they haven’t settled on one yet. But they’re targeting the Puffs.”


“You said you know what the staff are planning, Rose?”


“Howler essays. Any assignment that isn’t handed in on April 1st – they’re co-ordinating deadlines – will turn into a Howler and shriek the contents of the essay for all to hear.”


“Hey, that’s good.”


“I thought so too. How do we counter it?”


“I’m almost tempted to not,” Scorpius says. “I mean, we always get stuff done by the deadline, so we could just sit back and watch the world burn.”


“How did you not end up in Slytherin?” Lester asks.


“Chose Ravenclaw,” Scorpius says matter-of-factly. “Had to do a bit of bullying, to be honest. The moment it landed on my head it said, ‘Oh, a Malfoy, I know where to put you,’ and I was like ‘Just you fuckin try me buddy.’”


“I had to do the same thing,” I say. “‘Weasley, I know just what to do with you.’ No you don’t, try again.”


“Is anyone else having trouble envisaging eleven-year-old Scorpius saying just you fuckin try me buddy to the Sorting Hat?” Albus asks. “Nobody? Because that really strains my suspension of disbelief.”


“Okay, fine, it was a paraphrase.”


“On an entirely unrelated topic,” Holly interjects, “You know how we find out random connections between our families sometimes that makes it seem like we’re all cosmically linked or something?”


“Go on.” We have made a few interesting discoveries, like the fact that Holly’s mum dated me and Albus’s uncle Percy back in their Hogwarts days, or that Aunt Ginny and Scorpius’s mum worked together at the Prophet for about ten years – but the most notable one was Teddy. It took us all four years to work out that Scorpius’s anecdotes about his cousin Ted and Albus’s anecdotes about his godbrother Teddy were in fact about the same Theodore John Lupin, and the look on the boys’ faces when they realised they had hero-worshipped the same kid throughout their otherwise completely unrelated childhoods was amazing to behold.


“Our dads were mates at university, Lester.”


“Wait, what?” Lester asks, startled. “Your dad went to Oxford?”


“Yep. Apparently they were in the same college, I met up with Dad over the holidays and for some reason we got to talking about Muggleborns and I mentioned you, and Dad asked me if you were any relation to Simon Raine and I said he’s your dad.”


Lester pauses. “Wait, what’s your dad’s first name again?”


“Matthew.”


“Yeah, I think I remember Dad telling a story about some chemistry student called Matt who nearly blew up his bedroom – ”


“Yeah, that was him!”


“Small world,” Lester says, looking a bit awed. “Were they mates, do you know?”


“Dad said they never had classes together, but they were in the same group of friends. He remembers when your parents started dating, said they were really gross. All over each other. Real saps.”


Lester wrinkles his nose. “Can’t imagine that now.”


“Yeah, well,” Holly says, “Fun fact of the day. Is that everything we’ve got for the pranks so far?”


“Think so. Got somewhere to be?”


Bed,” she says emphatically. “I got used to actually sleeping during the holidays, and I am loath to give that up.”


“It’s barely midnight.”


“And we have class at eight forty-five tomorrow morning.”


“I don’t,” Albus says triumphantly.


“Not taking NEWT Transfiguration just because you wanted a sleep-in on Monday mornings is not something to be proud of, Albus Potter.”


“Hey,” Albus protests. “I genuinely had a full timetable.”


“You take Charms and Muggle Studies, but not Transfiguration.”


“Charms is useful for Healing,” Albus says firmly. “You need either Charms or Transfiguration, and seeing as I’m going into psychological and neuroscientific Healing, Transfiguration is less important – and I take Muggle Studies for the same reason we all take Runes. It’s useless, but I like it. Get off your academic high horse, Holly, you take Care of Magical Creatures.”


“Yes,” she says. “I also take a few subjects that are actually intellectually stimulating.” The moment the words leave her mouth she seems to realise she’s crossed a line, and backtracks quickly. “I didn’t mean – Albus, I’m sorry – ”


“Where do you get off ripping into my subjects?” Albus asks, rising from his seat. “So what I don’t take fucking Transfiguration, does that make you all better than me? You can shove your goddamn elitism up your arses, I’m sick of it.” He snatches up his books and stalks upstairs without another word, leaving a ringing silence behind him.


“Fuck’s sake,” Scorpius mutters, running his hands through his hair. “Holly, I know you didn’t mean it, but was all that really necessary? He’s having a shit time of it as it is, convinced he’s not smart enough to be a Healer – ”


“He knows I don’t mean it,” Holly says in a small voice. “He’s a genius, he knows that – ”


“Does he?” Scorpius challenges. “Not from you, he doesn’t. And Lester – sometimes I forget you’re smart, what was that about? Nobody needs to hear that.”


Lester seems to shrink into his seat under the weight of Scorpius’s glare.


“Scorpius, go upstairs.”


“You can’t just send me to bed like a naughty child – ”


“No,” I interrupt. “But your boyfriend just stormed out of here and I think he’d rather you were with him, not staying behind to terrorise Holly and Lester. Go. Upstairs.”


“I’m not terrorising anyone,” he says bitterly, but stands and walks out anyway. He pauses in the doorway, summoning his stuff with an impatient wave of his wand, and disappears.


Holly’s curled up on her chair, hugging her knees. “I didn’t mean it,” she says quietly, bottom lip trembling. “That was so mean of me, I don’t know why – ”


“Hey. You weren’t to know he would react like that.”


“It was horrible anyway, I don’t know what came over me, I’ve never been elitist about my subjects before…”


“No, you haven’t,” I agree, shuffling closer to her and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “Everything okay?”


“Maybe not. I didn’t think it was such a big deal at the time – it shouldn’t be a big deal, I’m being silly – ”


“What happened?”


“I met up with Dad in the holidays – I mentioned that, I visited him on campus and I sat in on one of his first year classes and then we got coffee, and it was an introductory course, one of those basic chemistry papers they make all the science students take, and I didn’t understand a word of it, and when Dad tried to explain it to me I still couldn’t understand a word of it – ”


“You’re upset because you didn’t understand a university level Muggle chemistry course? Holly, we’ve been going to a school of magic for seven years.”


“I know, but I’ve always been able to understand when Dad talks chemistry before – obviously he explained everything, and it was always at a level suitable for my age – but now I can’t. And I tried, because Dad and I have always been able to talk science but now I don’t get what he’s talking about and I just feel really stupid – ” She cuts herself, swipes a tear from the corner of her eye. “I’m being silly, and it’s worse because I took it out on Albus and he’s my friend, and poor Scorpius was so upset too…”


“Scorpius is a big boy, he can handle it. Let’s just – not rip into Albus too much, yeah? At least, nothing to do with his intelligence or subjects or academic anything. The hair and the jumpers are still fair game. Lester?”


“Yeah, of course,” Lester says quickly. “I just – didn’t realise it was an issue for him, you know? He’s brilliant.”


“It’s the age-old subject war though, isn’t it?” I point out. “Subjects like Arithmancy, Potions, Transfiguration – they’re the difficult ones, the scientific ones that are always valued above the others academically. Albus focuses on the humanities, so he gets shit for it. Never mind the fact that we were all pants at History of Magic.”


“How did we even pass our OWL?” Lester asks.


“Albus,” Holly and I say simultaneously, and Holly sighs. “I was so unfair to him. I’m going to go apologise.”


“Hold up,” Lester says quickly. “I’ll go up there, send him down if he feels like talking. It’s just him and Scorpius up there, and I don’t want anything questionable imprinted on your young mind – ”


“You’re the youngest of all of us,” Holly points out.


“Still. It’s too late for me, but I’ll save you if I can.” He ruffles Holly’s hair and trots up the stairs.


“I really don’t think they’re going to be making out given the state they were both in,” Holly says, and stares at the carpet. “I feel so bad.”


“Don’t,” I tell her firmly. “Albus has been in a tiff with everyone else in this group at least twice a year.”


“It’s not him being in a tiff. It’s me being insensitive and hurtful.”


“You weren’t that bad.”


“I’ll let Albus be the judge of that.”


There’s nothing much more I can say, especially because I know the standard go-to platitudes – you weren’t mean at all, he just took it the wrong way – don’t ring true and we both know it. I’m still slightly taken aback – though not as much as I would have been if Holly wasn’t looking like she’d accidentally kicked a puppy – so all I can do is squeeze her shoulder and hope Albus actually comes back down.


He doesn’t. Lester returns alone, perching himself on the table beside Holly. “First things first, he’s not angry at you. He knows you didn’t mean anything by it – but as Scorpius said, he’s got a few things he’s dealing with at the moment, and he’d rather just be alone while he works through them.”


“I need to apologise to him – ”


“He knows, Holly. Trust me. And just leave it at that.”


“Right.” She still looks crestfallen, and after a few moments of silence slides her books off the table and trudges for the door. “Well…I’m going to bed.”


I know I should follow her – she’s obviously upset, and she doesn’t have any other confidantes in our group – but Lester’s throwing himself into other people’s problems like he only does when he’s avoiding his own. “I’ll be up in a bit,” I tell her, and grasp Lester by the shoulders, spinning him around to face me. “Talk.”


“Are you a Legilimens?”


“If I was, I wouldn’t need you to tell me what’s wrong.”


“Touche.”


“Are you going to tell me, or do I actually need to learn Legilimency?”


“Please don’t.”


“You’re not making this easy.”


“I moved out.” His voice is quiet, barely above a whisper, and he doesn’t look at me. “My parents…I’d say we had a row, except that would require them to actually engage with me on some level, and…” He shrugs. “All my worldly possessions are in my trunk. I put an extension charm on it. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone.”


“Who would I tell?”


“Albus? Lily? Mr Potter? Scorpius? Holly?”


“You know they’d want to help – ”


“I know,” he says, cutting me off. “And I appreciate it, I really do, Rose – but I don’t want anyone’s sympathy.”


“You don’t want sympathy, fine. What about practical help? Are you all right financially?”


“Yeah – I’m fine. They gave me a fair bit before I left.” He huffs, a sound that gets halfway to a bitter laugh before giving up. “I’m trying not to think of it as severance pay.


“Enough to live on? I can always help you out next year if you need it – and this isn’t me being self-sacrificing,” I add quickly, before he can say anything. “My parents are rolling in it, they’ve already told me they’re going to give me an allowance, and I have the fellowship from school as well. I don’t need it all.”


“Maybe just a few Galleons,” he says at length. “Just until I find my feet and all – I’ll get a part time job…”


“Don’t worry about it,” I tell him firmly. “Really, don’t worry.”


“If you’re sure.” He lapses into silence again, staring at the fireplace, and absently pulls his Arithmancy textbook across the table. “I should…still haven’t quite got the theories down.”


“You going to be okay?”


“Just leave me to my Babylonian numbers.” He waves a bit of parchment covered in equations and attempts a smile. “Besides, she needs you.” He jerks a head in the direction of the dorms.


“You both need me.”


“I’m fine. Really.”


Something tells me I’ve gotten all I’m going to get out of Lester, so I leave him to his work with some reluctance and head up to my dorm.


“Everything okay with Lester?” Holly asks immediately.


“Yeah, he’s fine. Just giving Albus and Scorpius some space, you know.”


“How bad was what I said to Albus?” Holly blurts.


“How bad? Not very. He’s had worse from all of us, to be honest. It was just bad timing, I think. And uncharacteristic on your part.”


“I’m worried about NEWTs.”


“We’re all worried about NEWTs.”


“No, not the exams themselves – I mean, I’m worried about those, of course I am, I’ve worried about them since the moment we finished OWLs, but I was meaning…I don’t handle stress very well. You remember what I was like during OWLs.”


“It’s hard to forget.”


“I got so bitchy.”


“We forgave you.”


“You shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t take it out on you guys. And we’ve only been back for a night and I’m already doing it again – ”


“Stop worrying about it,” I say firmly. “We all get weird around exam time. Insufferable, really. The main thing is we’re all insufferable together.”


“I just feel like we’re a powder keg sometimes. Especially me.”


“We’ll get through it. It’s fine. We balance each other out, right? All five of us. There’s always at least one person keeping a level head at any one time.”


“Maybe,” Holly says, unconvinced. There’s nothing more to be said, though, and a few moments later Lara returns, all smiles, and bounds across the room to sit cross-legged on her bed and lean forward eagerly.


“So, ladies,” she says in her customary start-of-term-gossip-session voice, “What’s new?”




I don’t know what wakes me up shortly after five that morning – maybe it’s Holly tossing and turning in her sleep (the girl thrashes around like nobody’s business – half the time she wakes up in the morning with half her blankets on the floor and the other half coccooned around her body – she once needed my help to escape them) or Lara mumbling something, or maybe it’s a kind of sixth sense for when my friends need me. Whatever it is, I realise pretty quickly that I’m not going to get to sleep again, and reach for my slippers and hoodie.


The common room, at first glance, appears to be deserted – lit by a faint reddish glow from the remaining embers of the fire and the predawn gloom outside the windows. Then I see the top of a scruffy blond head on one of the couches, and quickly cross the room to investigate.


Scorpius is curled up in the corner, a book open in his lap and a quill clutched in his hand.


“Morning,” I say, picking up the book. “What are you doing up so early reading – “ I peer at the open page, “indecipherable Greek poetry?”


“Pindar’s Odes,” Scorpius explains. There’s something odd in his voice, and when I crouch down to his level I can see his eyes are reddened, like he hasn’t slept at all.


“Jesus, Scorpius, what happened?”


He shakes his head, takes the book back wordlessly, before throwing it and his quill to the floor.


Trying not to think the worst, I take a seat next to him, wrapping my arms around him. “Are you okay?”


He shakes his head again, and his face crumples. Reaching out blindly, he pulls me closer and buries his face in my shoulder, succumbing to endless, silent sobs, and I can do nothing but hold him, rub his back through the robes he never bothered to change out of, and wait for him to speak.


The sun is peeking over the horizon, filling the common room with weak orange light, by the time he speaks.


“He broke up with me.”
 




Disclaimer: Narnia and the White Witch belong to the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis.
A/N: I'm so sorry

 


Chapter 18: xviii. the hour of reckoning [or] april fool's
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Albus doesn’t go to a single class that day. The other boys leave him without a second thought first thing in the morning – he doesn’t have anything until ten o’clock, after all, but he doesn’t show up to Charms – nor Potions or Runes.


I intend to head up to Ravenclaw Tower after lunch – I have fifth period free – but stop myself after realising I have no idea what I’d say to Albus. I’m too angry at him to pursue any kind of rational conversation, I know that – and even though Holly and Lester are both infinitely calmer about the whole thing than me (they’re not related to the insufferable drama queen known as Albus Potter; they weren’t up at half five in the morning to see Scorpius struggling with a heartbreak so painful I had tears in my eyes just being with him) neither of them are particularly close to Albus. But, by the time we’re all in the common room after dinner, books out to do the evening’s homework, and none of us have seen hide nor hair of him, I start to get worried.


Not bothering to make an excuse, I head upstairs to the boys’ dormitory and knock. There’s no response, so I quickly peer inside. No Albus.


Seized with inspiration, I hurry through the castle to the girls’ bathroom that’s been abandoned for about a hundred years. Faced with the ornate snakes carved into the sink, I try to remember the Parseltongue Dad learned from Uncle Harry – he taught me it several years ago while regaling me with stories about his Hogwarts days. “Ssaiyan hasssieth,” I attempt, feeling ridiculous, but it works and seconds later the sinks shift to reveal a dark corridor. Casting lumos and holding my wand aloft, I venture inside.


“Albus Severus Potter!” I yell into the darkness.


“Rose?” A hesitant voice calls back, and I break into a run towards it (I may be a tiny, tiny bit afraid of the dark) and sigh in relief when I emerge into a cavernous hall filled with the shimmering light of Albus’s lumos maxima.


“How did you get in here?” Albus asks incredulously. “You don’t know Parseltongue.”


“My dad does.”


“Your dad’s not a Parselmouth.”


“He learnt it from yours.”


“Oh.” Pause. “Are you here to go off at me?”


“I was planning on it.” I sit down next to him, hugging my knees. “But I wasn’t sure that would accomplish anything.”


“Well. Thanks.”


“That doesn’t mean I won’t. Why did you do it?”


“He didn’t tell you, then.”


“He told me jack shit except that you broke up with him. You better have a good reason.”


“I don’t have a good reason. I have a fucking stupid reason and I know it, so I don’t need you telling me that it’s fucking stupid.”


“Then tell me your fucking stupid reason.”


“I’m not good enough for him.”


There are a thousand things I want to shout at Albus, but he’s been hiding all day in the Chamber of Secrets and I know that’s probably the worst thing I could do right now. “Shouldn’t you let him be the judge of that?” I ask instead.


“He’s better off without me, but he can’t see that – ”


“He’s in love with you.”


“Yeah. Yeah, he is. And he shouldn’t be. That’s the problem. And he’ll wake up one day and realise that – whether it’s six months from now or a year or five years or ten, I don’t know, but one day it’ll happen and he’ll leave, and I can’t – ” he trails off and shakes his head.


I run my hand through my hair, wanting to tear it out. “Jesus. Albus.”


“Are you going to yell at me now?”


“Yell at you? No, I’m – fuck, what ever made you think you’re not good enough? For anyone?”


“Have you seen him? He’s – beautiful, Rose. I don’t have a better word than that, but it’s true, and he’s brilliant, you know? He turns magic into an art form and he knows eight languages and he could have anyone in the world, he doesn’t deserve to be stuck with me. I’m the least of the five of us, I’m the least of my family – ”


“Stop,” I interrupt. “Just stop. Right now. You’re not the least of anyone, you’re the most. You’re my favourite person in the world and there’s no one I love more, no one I trust more, no one I’d rather be stuck on a desert island with, so just stop because you’re too important and too amazing and too brilliant to think you’re not.”


He’s silent for a long time, staring at the giant skeleton of the basilisk at the other end of the hall – a giant, hulking monument to his father’s heroism, before saying quietly, “I wish I could believe that.”


I shuffle closer, resting my head on his shoulder. “Fine. I’ll stay here until you do.”


“You’ll starve,” he says, but I can’t tell if it’s bitterness or black humour behind the words.


“Look,” I say, quietly. “I get that you’re having a shit time of it, I do, and I understand why – but don’t you think you’re making it worse by pushing Scorpius away? He loves you and he makes you happy, and whether or not you think you deserve him – I think you need him around. I know you need him around. So just – take some time, take all the time you need – but then talk to him. Sort things out.”


He laughs, loud and carrying and the most horribly despondent thing I’ve ever heard, and the only life in his eyes are the unshed tears that fill them. He looks so dead inside it’s frightening.


“You have no idea, do you? I burned that bridge, Rose. I burned it to ashes.”


“What do you mean? What have you done?”


“I’m a fuck up. I fucked up. That’s what I do.”


“Albus – ”


“Just, don’t.”


“Well, if you don’t want to talk,” I begin reluctantly, “At least let me take you for a food run. You haven’t been to a single meal today.”


“Not hungry,” Albus mumbles.


“You’re not starving yourself on my watch.” I struggle to my feet – I’ve been sitting longer than I realised, and my knees are stiff – and haul Albus up with me. “This is no longer a negotiation. You’re coming with me.”


We’re halfway to the kitchens, me filling Albus in on what he missed in class today while he nods and tries to look like he’s listening, when I spot a couple tucked away in a small alcove, making out like there’s no tomorrow.


My first thought is to stop Albus seeing them, because the last thing he needs is to be faced with a happy couple snogging given everything that’s happened. My second thought is that it’s well after curfew and I’m a Prefect, and I’ll have to march up to them anyway and tell them to get back to their houses.


My third thought is that they both look horribly familiar.


I throw out an arm to stop Albus, but I’m just groping at thin air – he’s already turned on his heel and is hurrying back in the direction of the Chamber of Secrets. At that moment, the couple break apart and look up, seeing me in the middle of the corridor and Albus’s rapidly disappearing back.


“Oh, fuck,” is all Scorpius says.


Deciding I can go after Albus later, I charge at him, barely even registering that I’ve drawn my wand before I have it pointed directly at his chest. “What the fuck are you doing?”


“I’d have thought that was obvious,” Scorpius says coldly, seizing my wand firmly and lowering it. “And considering you made it perfectly obvious you’re not together – ”


“What?” I ask, momentarily lost. “You think I give a fuck about him?”


“Good to know,” Alfie huffs.


“You really want to argue the point?” I snap, turning on him. “You don’t exactly have the moral high ground here, get the fuck back to the common room.”


“You can’t just send him away like that.”


“Yes I fucking can, Malfoy, I’m a fucking Prefect.”


I don’t have to argue, because Alfie has quietly sidled away from both of us and is now legging it back to Ravenclaw Tower.


Malfoy?” Scorpius repeats quietly. “Wow. Guess I know how things are.”


I grit my teeth, still holding my wand in a vicelike grip. “Maybe if you don’t see anything wrong with snogging your dormmate not twenty-four hours after Albus broke up with you – ”


“As a matter of fact, I don’t. Because he broke up with me and you have no fucking right to get upset on his behalf about how I choose to deal with it.”


“You don’t think it’s a better idea to try and fix things with him rather than make out with the first queer guy you find?”


“Fix things?” Scorpius repeats incredulously. “Fucking fix things? Do you have any idea what he said to me? Do you have any idea why – ” His anger gives way abruptly, and he has to choke out the rest of his words. “Why he dumped me? Did he tell you?”


I burned that bridge, Rose. I burned it to ashes.



“No,” I say eventually.


“He doesn’t love me anymore.”


“He said that?”


“Said it. Explained it. Apologised for it. I don’t – ”


“That’s not fucking true.”


“Oh, you were there, were you?”


“No, I – he still does, I know he does, Jesus, Scorpius, just talk to him – ”


“Don’t,” he interrupts. “Don’t you dare. You’re my best friend, Rose, but if you give me false hope I will never forgive you. I mean it.”


“But – ”


“No,” he says, cutting me off. “Unless he said the exact words ‘I lied to Scorpius and I’m still in love with him,’ I don’t want to hear a damn thing.”


“He didn’t,” I say in a small voice.


“Thanks,” he says quietly, and every trace of anger or even desperation in his face is gone, leaving only a sadness so complete it makes my heart ache. “That’s all I needed to know.”


He walks away, not bothering to look back, leaving me alone in the flickering torchlight. Without even knowing why, I lean against the cold stone wall and cry.




To say that Albus and Scorpius’s breakup tears our entire year group apart sounds like an exaggeration, but in a house of eight that’s not a difficult thing to do. Albus stops talking to everyone except Lester. Lara accosted both Scorpius and I when we got back to the common room that night, asking us where we got off using Alfie and chucking him aside without a second thought (her actual words were far angrier and cut deep enough that even days later, the memory of them still sting) and silence reigns in our dorm. Our group shrinks to Scorpius, Holly and I – Albus has sought refuge with Lily and spends his time with the fifth-year Slytherins; Lester goes with him.


I’m the only one in our fractured group who’s doing remotely okay, and I can’t even be there for Albus and Lester because I hardly ever see them, and because some inexplicable distance has grown between us since we fell on either side of the great divide. At a loss for what else to do, I pull Lily aside and ask her to look after them for me.


“It’s okay,” she says firmly. “They’re my boys. I’ve got them.”


I feel terrible, because she’s only sixteen and she’s got OWLs coming up and it’s a hell of a burden to bear, but she rises to it with her unique brand of Weasley passion and Potter compassion, and keeps me updated on how they’re going.


Scorpius attempts to deal with his heartbreak in a myriad of ways, some more destructive than others. He has two more trysts with Alfie, aided by Firewhiskey he obtained from some sixth year Slytherins, before moving on to a bunch of other guys in different houses. Scorpius is a good-looking bloke, and the news that he’s single and on the rebound apparently has every queer guy from fifth to seventh year crawling out of the closet to find him.


“’S one good thing to come out of all this,” he tells me, looking slightly more rumpled than usual and smelling of alcohol, “Least I know I’m gay now. ’S not just Albus. Am I slurring, Rose? Like, can you tell?”


“If it was anyone but you, I wouldn’t be able to tell.”


“Whatchyou mean?”


“You’re a toff, Scorp. It’s really obvious with your accent.”


“Damn,” he says. “Got a meeting with Vector. Not looking good.”


“Did she say what it’s about?”


“Nup.” He reaches into his robes, pulling out a bit of parchment as rumpled as himself. “Just Mister Malfoy, please meet me in my office at ten o’clock this evening. Please be advised you may bring a support person.” He frowns. “Yeah, that bit confused me. Does it mean she’s got really bad news or – ”


“It’s school policy,” I say cautiously. “For students who have anxiety and stuff. It’s not going to be good. How much have you had?”


“Not a lot,” he says immediately. “Like, a couple. I slur easy. You know that.”


“I didn’t a week ago.”


“You got any of that instant sobering stuff around?”


“I can’t brew anymore.”


“’S right. You got banned.”


“Thanks for reminding me.”


“Can you come with me to see Vector?”


“I was going to anyway.”


We walk through the castle in silence, and just before we get to Vector’s office I force him to make himself slightly more presentable – do up his tie properly, tuck his shirt in, straighten his robes – before knocking on Vector’s door.


“Come in,” she calls.


She barely even registers my presence – obviously expecting me to come – and zeros in on Scorpius. “Have you been drinking?” she asks sharply.


“Little bit,” Scorpius says, not even trying to look guilty.


“A little bit?” she repeats. “Define a little bit.”


“Like, two standards maybe?”


“These two standards. On school property?”


“Yes.”


“Need I remind you that you are the Head Boy of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – ”


“I don’t need reminding.”


She stares at him for a long moment, her expression unreadable, and gestures to a seat. “What’s going on, Scorpius?”


He shrugs, drumming his foot on the floor. It’s one of his nervous tics, but it has the unfortunate effect of making him look bored and restless. Vector’s frown deepens.


“I’m concerned about your behaviour recently,” she continues. “Skipping classes. Breaking curfew to do…well, I need hardly tell you that’s inappropriate. Drinking on school property. If it were any other student and any other time of the year, I’d have them suspended. Because it’s you, I’m concerned.”


“Suspend me,” he says. “Can’t have a double standard.”


“It’s too close to NEWTs. School policy.”


For the first time, Scorpius looks a bit stunned – the fact that only school policy on timing is keeping him from being suspended, and I cross my fingers behind my back and pray to every benevolent deity that something Vector says will get through to him.


“You’re not going to tell me why you’ve done a complete one-eighty on every aspect of your character?” Vector prompts.


“It’s not a Head of House matter.”


“Does this involve Albus Potter?” Vector asks eventually.


“Nothing involves Albus Potter anymore.”


“I see,” she says. “You know there’s a school counsellor available – ”


“I don’t need a fucking counsellor,” Scorpius interrupts.


“Watch your language in my office,” Vector says sharply, and at least he cares enough to look ashamed. “Scorpius, if this continues, I’ll have to take your badge.”


“Take it, then.”


There’s a tense silence as I stare at Scorpius in shock and Scorpius stares at Vector in defiance.


Without a word, Vector holds out her hand, and calls his bluff.


“I’ll sort it out,” Scorpius says tersely, shrinking back as if afraid Vector will reach across her desk and yank the badge right off his robes. “I just – I’ll sort it.”


“See that you do.”


Scorpius makes for the door and I follow close behind.


“Rose?” Vector calls, just as I’m leaving. “Keep an eye on him.”


“I have for seven years, Professor,” I reply, and close the door firmly behind me.


I have to chase Scorpius down, and his hands are balled into fists by his side when I reach him. “You all right?”


“Fantastic,” he mutters.


I grab him by the shoulder, spinning him round. “Did you mean it?”


“Mean what?”


“What you said to Vector. About sorting your shit out.”


“Maybe. It’s that or I smash a window, fly out of here, and move to New Zealand.”


“Why New Zealand?” I ask.


He shrugs. “It’s pretty. And on the other side of the world.”


“Don’t move to New Zealand.”


He sighs. “But then I’d have to deal with my problems.”


“You can’t even fly.”


“I could try it,” he muses. “I must have some natural talent somewhere. Dad was a Seeker.”


“Your dad didn’t have an iota of natural talent,” I say bluntly.


“You are truly Ronald Weasley’s daughter.”


“Are we still going for the scholarship?” I blurt, because it’s March 31 and April Fools is tomorrow and we haven’t done a single bit of planning since Albus broke up with Scorpius.


“Dunno,” he says dully. “It’s not like Albus and I are going to be living together. You know, I might go travelling next year. See the world. All that jazz. Come with me.”


“I’m doing the teaching course.”


“Postpone it.”


“I’m under contract.”


“Break it.”


“Since when have you wanted to go travelling?”


“Oh, you know. Since the love of my life dumped me, stopped talking to me, and whose vitriolic rants against me can occasionally be overheard at the Slytherin table.”


“Vitriolic rants?” I repeat.


He’s whoring himself out to anyone who’ll have him,” Scorpius recites. “A particularly nice one I heard over dinner this evening. Hence, the drinking.”


“There’s no way Lester and Lily would let him get away with saying that.”


“Lester and Lily have adopted a policy of appeasement,” Scorpius says disdainfully. “It didn’t work for Neville Chamberlain, it won’t work for them.”


“How do you know about that? You’re as pureblood as they come.”


“You’d be surprised what Albus defines as pillow talk.” He catches himself. “Defined. I was thinking about that the other night, actually. The adjustment to past tense. Somehow it’s the hardest part. All your presents and futures – imperfects. Overnight.”


“Were you composing Latin poetry?”


“Don’t interrupt my soulful reflection on tenses. Yes, I was.”


“Can I read it?”


“It’s in Latin.” He’s silent for a while. “You know what? Fuck it. We’re doing the prank. Pranks.”


“It’s past curfew – ”


“Luckily, we’re both Prefects. We’ll go get Holly, steal the Cloak from Albus’s trunk, and wreak some havoc. You in?”


“There’s no way we can pull that off – ”


“Yes there is. We don’t have that many to do anyway. The Gryffindor common room, the squid in the Puff common room, Katherine Burnsey’s retracted the rainbow flag thing because it’d be “in poor taste given what’s happened,” – her words, not mine – and I overheard a group of Puffs saying they’re going to stick toilet paper to their Prefects’ shoes – which is not only a shamefully basic prank, but targets Dylan and Sophie and we like Dylan and Sophie. And,” he concludes, “I’ve come up with a brilliant way of turning the tables on the teachers.”


“Oh?”


“Instead of writing essays, we write out the entire text of – I dunno, throw some ideas at me. The Iliad.”


Paradise Lost.


He glances at me, and a strange look crosses his face. “Fuck, Rose, we shagged the same bloke.”


There’s a long, awkward pause.


“It was bound to happen eventually,” I say at length.


“You really don’t care?”


“Do you?”


“Not in the slightest.”


“Good. Now that’s settled – War and Peace.”


“In Russian,” Scorpius adds. “Can you imagine angry Russian Howlers?”


“I can now. But have translations of all the others.”


“I don’t want a Howler attempting Greek dactylic hexameter anyway,” Scorpius says. “What else is there? Romeo and Juliet.


Pride and Prejudice.”


“The Tales of Beedle the Bard.”


Hogwarts: A History.”


We continue throwing titles at each other after fetching Holly and the Cloak, and Holly, daughter of a Muggleborn mother and a Muggle father, has a wealth of Muggle literature to suggest.


“We’ll have to tell Lester, of course,” she says. “He’ll want to use Game of Thrones.”
“Of course he will.”


“And Albus…?”


“Albus can go fuck himself,” Scorpius says matter-of-factly. “Aha. Serendipity.”


I’m momentarily lost, until I realise we’ve arrived at the Gryffindor portrait hole and Scorpius – of course, Head Boy and all – knows the password. We pause to huddle slightly closer together – having three people under the Cloak is nearly impossible, even though Holly’s tiny and Scorpius is a beanstalk – and creep into the Gryffindor common room.


It’s mostly empty apart from a handful of seventh-years, including Sean, Lucy and Katherine Burnsey. We find ourselves a sofa to hide behind – we have no intention of taking the Cloak off, but it’s inevitable that a limb or two will fall out – and turn expectantly to Scorpius, who’s the best at wandwork out of the three of us.


“Oh, come on Rose,” he whispers. “You can do the gold-to-grey change, it’s one of the easiest.”


“Fine,” I whisper back, because deep in enemy territory and smooshed against Scorpius isn’t the place to argue, finding every bit of gold trim on the banners, flags and skirting boards and carefully adding a dormant Colour-Change Charm to them. I have no idea whether the shitty grey I’ve gone for will actually work, given that it won’t be activated until someone else tries to change it, but I’ve given it my best shot.


Work done, we stand up and edge towards the door, until Scorpius freezes and jerks his head in the direction of the Gryffindors, who are discussing him.


“I heard that Scorpius cheated on him,” Katherine is saying in a hushed voice. “That’s why they broke up. I can’t believe it. They seemed so happy in the holidays.”


“I know that Scorpius got with Alfie Harrison,” Lucy says. “You know, the cute Ravenclaw? Didn’t even know he was gay.”


“Alfie Harrison’s not gay,” Sean says. “He’s with Rose. Or, he was with Rose. Tom was telling me, they got together in the holidays.”


“Wait so,” Katherine interrupts, “Alfie cheated on Rose with Scorpius who was cheating on Albus? Wow. Does Draco Dormiens know?”


“We’re not going to go down that road again,” Lucy interrupts. “It crossed a line. I don’t care how much of a dick Scorpius Malfoy is, he doesn’t deserve another panic attack.”


Katherine seems to acquiesce, though reluctantly, and adds, “He is a dick though. D’you hear how many guys he’s gotten with this week alone? Alfie Harrison and Logan Fenwick from our year – ”


“Me,” Sean says.


I’m glad Katherine and Lucy whip round to face him in that moment, all loud gasps and exclamations of What? You? because it means Holly and I can do the same to Scorpius without them noticing.


“I’m in a bad place,” Scorpius whispers defensively.


“Well, he’s fit,” Sean says defensively.


“Thanks,” Scorpius whispers.


“I didn’t know you were gay!” Katherine says.


“He’s bisexual, you twat,” Scorpius whispers.


“I’m half gay?” Sean says, and Scorpius shakes his head.


Gryffindors.”


“I can’t believe you never told me,” Katherine says huffily.


“Can’t imagine why,” Lucy says, so quietly Katherine doesn’t seem to hear. Holly snickers, then claps a hand over her mouth.


“I can’t believe you slept with Scorpius,” Katherine continues. “He’s awful.”


“He’s not awful,” Sean says. “At least, not in bed. Quite the opposite, in fact.”


“This is getting weird,” Holly decides. “Let’s go.”


“No, shush.” Scorpius pulls her back. “My ego needs refuelling.”


We miss Katherine’s reaction, but Sean continues, defensively, “What? He knows what he’s doing…”


“Well, one of us had to,” Scorpius whispers.


“We’re done here,” Holly says firmly. “Let’s go. We still have Hufflepuff to do, and those essays to fix.”


She hauls Scorpius away by the sleeve, and he has to follow because she’s taking the Cloak with her. We duck out of the portrait hole and shed the Cloak, taking appreciative gulps of the crisp air outside our bubble of invisibility.


Despite his constant stream of witticisms, Scorpius looks pale and shaken under the flickering torchlight, and I pull him into a hug before he can pretend he’s all right.


“We know what happened,” I tell him. “That’s all that matters.”


“They think I would cheat?” he asks, breaking free from me and dragging both hands through his hair. “On Albus? With Alfie? They think that’s what happened? They think I’d – ” he cuts himself off, exhaling slowly. “They think I’d do that, don’t they? They think that’s who I am.”


“Well…the thing is,” Holly says, looking extremely uncomfortable, “They don’t know you, and they don’t know Albus, so all they see is Albus sitting with the Slytherins and you…” she trails off.


“Me what?” Scorpius prompts.


“Well, you have been sleeping around a lot.” She throws up her hands in surrender before Scorpius can respond, saying, “I’m not being judgemental, you know that, he broke up with you and you have the right to respond however you want and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise – ”


“Holly, you’re a pipsqueak and you can’t even duel,” Scorpius points out, though he looks somewhat touched.


“It’s the thought that counts,” she says dismissively. “But I know you and I know how much you value your reputation and even without that, to be honest I don’t think it’s a particularlyhealthywayofdealingwiththings.” She finishes in a rush, eyes focused firmly on the floor.


“You’re worried about me?” Scorpius asks eventually.


“Of course I am.”


“And not in any way trying to be moralistic?”


She looks offended. “Have you met me? I don’t have a moral issue with you drinking and sleeping with half of Hogwarts. I have a personal issue with you using alcohol and sex to avoid your problems instead of facing them because you’re my friend and I care about you and you’re in the middle of a very dramatic downward spiral and I refuse to let you become a cautionary tale.”


“Cautionary tale?” he repeats.


“Yeah. Scorpius Malfoy, former Head Boy of Hogwarts, started doing stupid things six weeks before his exams, lost his badge, failed NEWTs, got kicked out of the Healer programme he’d gotten early acceptance into, lives with his parents in their cavernous soulless house wishing he’d have listened to his friend Holly when she yelled at him outside Gryffindor Tower.”


“Don’t worry,” Scorpius says at length. “He listened.”




We make a pitstop by the kitchens on our way out of the Hufflepuff common room (Repelling Charms on Dylan and Sophie’s shoes to prevent anything being stuck to them) to stock up on snacks for our “essay writing” (technically it’s sort of true) and the well-meaning house elves crowd around Scorpius offering their sympathies (“we is hearing about you and Master Potter, we is being very upset to hear it,”) before we make our excuses and return to the common room.


Lester’s sitting up at our usual table, chatting to Tom and Alfie – there’s no sign of Albus, which is unsurprising given Alfie’s presence – and calls us over with a jovial wave that says he’s either completely oblivious to the discomfort that exists between Scorpius, Alfie and me or pointedly refusing to acknowledge it. Lester’s a smart guy, so I can only assume the latter.


“Lester, mate,” Scorpius says, pulling up a chair. “We need you for Operation Squid tomorrow.”


“Operation – oh, right,” he says. “That’s still going ahead, then?”


“Yep. And I had a brilliant idea for that Howler prank the teachers are planning – ”


“I guess that’s our cue,” Tom says, and he and Alfie pack up to leave.


“Night,” Lester calls after them, but Alfie hesitates in the doorway before blurting, “Rose, Scorpius – can I talk to you for a sec?”


“Jesus,” Scorpius mutters under his breath as we head over. “Have I not had enough uncomfortable conversations today?”


“It’s past midnight, so no. What’s up?” I ask, because we’ve reached Alfie and he’s leaning against the doorway biting his lip and I shouldn’t find him attractive but I do, damn him.


“I wanted to clear the air,” he says.


“It’d help if you made eye contact,” Scorpius suggests.


“There are two of you. Wouldn’t be fair. Listen, about what Lara said the other day – I don’t know where she got it from, but it wasn’t from me.”


“It seems a strange conclusion for her to reach on her own,” I say eventually. “Considering she’s the most sex-positive person Hogwarts has ever seen.”


“Sex-positive yes, but she’s also pretty…protective. I’ve had a bit of history with that sort of thing, you see, and she – well. She didn’t want it happening again. I explained everything to her, though – I thought she’d apologise to you.”


“She was right though,” Scorpius says bluntly. “About me, anyway. You were a rebound, Alf. It was a dick move, but I’m not going to deny it.”


“Strangely enough, I was aware of that,” Alfie says wryly. “If I minded being your rebound, I wouldn’t have shagged you two days after you broke up with Albus.”


“God bless the amorality of Hogwarts boys.”


“Exhibit A,” Alfie says, and throws jazz hands in Scorpius’s direction.


“Exhibit B,” Scorpius counters, gesturing to Alfie. “Now that’s settled and we can hopefully go back to sharing a dorm in comfortable silence – you should probably have a word with my best friend here.” He claps me on the shoulder. “Good luck.”


There’s a strained silence, and it slowly dawns on me that things wouldn’t be this awkward, this uncomfortable, if there were absolutely no residual feelings hanging between us, and I can’t figure out what those residual feelings are –


“So,” Alfie says finally. “I guess I should apologise. If I’ve – ”


“If you say hurt me I swear to God I will hex you.”


He wrinkles his nose. “God, no. I know you don’t have feelings for me. I was going to say if I’ve offended you.”


“Wow. Fuck. There it is.”


“It’s not…” he pauses awkwardly, scrubbing the back of his neck. “It’s not like I threw myself at the first guy to come along after being with you – I’m not making much sense, am I? – but I don’t want you to think that – ”


“What, that I turned you gay? Alfie, I’m queer too. I know how sexuality works.”


“Right, yeah.”


“I just – I wouldn’t have cared if it was a girl or a guy you hooked up with, I just thought – that I’d have left a bigger impression on you.”


“You did.”


“What?”


“You left an impression on me.”


“I did?”


“Don’t sound so surprised.” And he steps forward and kisses me, and I kiss him back because God I’ve missed this without even realising, and it’s so fucked up and everything’s such a mess but that doesn’t seem to matter until suddenly it does and I pull away.


“You slept with my best friend,” is all I can say, even though technically Scorpius isn’t my best friend, Holly is, and that line sounds so much more petty and juvenile and dramatic than it should be, and Scorpius himself is wolf-whistling and yelling “Get some!” across the common room –


“I don’t think he minds.”


I mind.”


“Do you really?”


“Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s too weird.”


“I’m not attracted to Scorpius, you know.”


“Then why did you – ”


“He was there,” Alfie shrugs. “He was there, and he wanted a distraction, and I have no morality to speak of. I am attracted to you. Take from that what you will.”


“I’ll take you from that.”


Apparently my suavest lines must always accompany the worst of my bad ideas, because three seconds later he’s pinning me against the wall, lips on mine, and I’m threading my fingers through his hair and pulling him closer, even if there’s already no space between us –


“Get a fucking room!” Lester yells, and it’s only the shock of hearing him swear that makes it register properly that we’re still in the common room and it’s not empty this time.


“Lara’s with the Puffs,” Alfie murmurs in my ear. “Your dorm’s free.”


I drag him up the stairs without a second thought.




“Have fun?” Scorpius asks, waggling his eyebrows when I return to the common room some time later.


“Shut up.” I flop into my seat, face burning. “You don’t find it weird?” I blurt, waving my arms. “We slept with the same person. And then I did it again.”


“You did him again,” Scorpius deadpans. “I can’t fault your taste, he’s very good at what he does.”


“Do you guys mind?” Lester asks eventually.


“Focus,” Holly says sternly. “Lester’s taught us his Copy Paste spell, so we don’t have to write everything out by hand – just copy the words over onto the parchment so we can trick it into thinking we wrote it.”


“What are our texts?”


“Well, we figured it’s best to just do it for one essay – that’ll be Potions, it’s due at the beginning of class. Lester’s doing A Dance With Dragons – the longest Game of Thrones book, isn’t it, Lester, and full of spoilers – ”


“It’s been out for like, fifteen years,” Lester says, “But yes.”


“I’m doing Hogwarts: A History,” Holly continues, “And Scorpius is doing the Iliad. Which leaves you textless.”


“War and Peace,” I decide, and rummage around in the common room library for a copy.


With our chosen texts copied onto the parchment – Lester realises a flaw in the plan when he runs out of parchment barely a chapter through, and I spend the next half hour working out an alternative Undetective Extension Charm that will allow us to put entire novels and epic poems on the same bit of parchment (Mum taught me the basic Undetectable Extension Charm before I even went to Hogwarts, so I could fit all my stuff in a trunk I was actually capable of carrying – I was a small kid – so messing around with it has become my only real claim to charmwork innovation) and, with that finished, we scrawl our names, assigned essay topic and the due date at the top of the parchment to activate Professor May’s Howler charm.


Then, congratulating ourselves on a prank well played and feeling, for the first time in a week, like things are returning to normal despite the conspicious absence of one Albus Potter, we head off to bed.




The first few hours are pretty uneventful. We’ve put Repelling Charms on ourselves just in case anyone tries to stick things to us, but the majority of the pranks this year are inter-house and we are both detached enough from and friendly enough with the other houses to not warrant all-out war. Slytherin, I note, avoid their common room and dorms like the plague all morning, and Gryffindor are muttering about “stupid Slytherins” defacing their common room. Lester darts out during morning break to plant the squid in Hufflepuff’s common room, and from then on there are hundreds of Hufflepuffs wandering aimlessly around the castle who no longer have any desire to use their house area.


Then all hell breaks loose in Potions, because Llodewick, with a very distinctive smirk on his face, asks us to hand in our essays. A couple of people – Dylan Hewitt and Sean Finnigan – start making some excuse before a loud shriek comes from within their bags. Neither of them seem to have gotten further than “The properties of dragon’s blood in advanced Potioneering,” before the parchment bursts into flames.


Then ours go off – and one other.


Alongside the screeching opening lines of War and Peace, A Dance with Dragons and Hogwarts: A History come two perfectly timed, synchronised bits of ancient epic poetry.


Sing, goddess, the rage of Achilles son of Peleus – ”


Of arms and a man I sing – ”


Albus stares at Scorpius.


Scorpius stares at Albus.


Holly, Lester and I cross our fingers behind our backs and hope for the best.


“Did you – ” Scorpius gestures awkwardly at the parchment on Albus’s desk, which is still shrieking Aeneid 1.


“And you – ”


“The Iliad is Albus’s favourite text,” I whisper, transfixed by the scene unfolding in front of us. “Fuck, I didn’t realise what he was doing.”


“And the Aeneid is Scorpius’s,” Lester finishes. “God, those two.”


“So you still – ” Scorpius begins.


Muse, remind me of the causes – ” Albus’s Howler bellows.


“I lied,” Albus says. “I lied, and I fucked everything up and I hurt you and – ”


“I don’t care,” Scorpius interrupts, taking a step closer. “Right now, I do not fucking care about anything except whether you still love me – ”


“I do, Scorpius, I love you and I always have and I always will – ”


“That’s all that matters.”


“I thought I’d lost you,” Albus mumbles.


“You’ll never lose me,” Scorpius says softly. “Not as long as you’ll still have me.”


“Now KISS!” Sophie yells from the back of the classroom, reminding them both that they’re still in Potions surrounded by half of seventh year, but neither of them seem to care because they’re going for it anyway to tumultuous applause.


Professor Llodewick interrupts to tell us, with amplified voice to be heard over the Howlers, that there’s no point in trying to have class today so we may as well just finish there, and would a certain Potter and Malfoy please have their reconciliation elsewhere?


As we file out of the classroom, Llodewick catches my eye. I realise suddenly that I couldn’t have made my involvement more obvious if I tried, but he merely smiles and says, “Well played, Rose,” before poking Lester’s Howler experimentally with his wand. If anything, it’s yelling even louder as I leave.




Albus and Scorpius disappear to talk until Runes, leaving Holly, Lester and I to sprawl on the couches in the common room and discuss things.


“I always thought there’d be a lot more yelling,” Lester says. “I was waiting for an inevitable screaming match in the common room which would only end when they accidentally revealed they still loved each other.”


“Well, to be fair, there was an awful lot of yelling,” Holly says.


“Yeah, five Howlers worth.”


“Not quite what I imagined. Do you think Scorpius planned it? The whole thing?”


“Well, he definitely had the Iliad in mind from the beginning. What about Albus, though? Was he planning it when he was around you, Lester?”


“Didn’t say a word. God knows he’s been moping around about getting Scorpius back though.”


“He has?” I ask, surprised. “From what I’ve heard he’s been saying horrible things.”


“Horrible things,” Lester concedes, “Followed almost immediately by god what have I done and this is all my fault – which it blatantly is, and I told him that – and Lester what do I do I need him back please help, closely followed by but I don’t deserve him he’s better off without me – he’s been all over the place, I never realised how much Scorpius stabilises him.”


“It goes both ways. Scorpius has been a mess without him.”


“I thought he had. On a completely unrelated note, has anyone heard anything about Louis’ prank?”


“Not a word. Maybe he’s not doing it today.”


We head across the castle to Runes ten minutes later, and we’re barely five minutes into the lesson when there’s a knock on the door.


“Come in,” Babbling calls.


Two men I recognise as Magical Law Enforcement officers from the times I went to the Ministry with Mum enter the classroom, looking sombre. “We’re looking for, ah – ” The first man consults a piece of parchment. “Rose Weasley, Albus Potter, Scorpius Malfoy, Lester Raine and Holly Holyoake.”


A jolt of fear runs through me – what have we done? What could the Ministry want with us? – before something far more important hits me.


Lester.


I whip around in my seat to see Lester, face already drained of colour, staring with horror at the MLE officers. “No,” he whispers. “No, God, please, no.”


I reach across the aisle to tug at Scorpius’s sleeve, and he’s out of his chair in an instant to sit beside Lester. “Deal with them,” he says tersely, glancing at the officers.


I nod, standing, fists clenched by my side – it’s okay, we’ll be fine – and approach them, bringing everything Mum ever taught me about wizarding law to the front of my mind.


“Do you have identification?” I ask the first one.


The pause is the first indication that something’s wrong. Then –


“Fuck.”


I draw my wand without realising, and the two men turn tail and run. I chase them, deaf to Babbling’s shouts of “Rose Weasley!” and fell the first man with a Stunning spell. It’s weak and it almost misses, but it’s enough to bring him to the ground and I pin him there, pointing my wand at his throat. “Potionem retexo.”


The man convulses, then shrinks. His shoulder-length brown hair shoots back into his head, leaving him with messy strawberry-blond, and the face contorted with discomfort and fear becomes horribly familiar.


Louis,” I snarl, and the aggression in my voice takes me aback. Without taking my eyes off him, I fire the spell at his companion, and the cursing voice to my left becomes Lucian Rosier’s.


Babbling catches up to us, takes in the scene for a moment, and says tersely, “Rose. Fetch Professors Sprout and Llodewick.”
 




A/N: Neville Chamberlain was British Prime Minister from 1937-1940, famous for his policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany in the lead up to the Second World War.

Sing, goddess, the rage of Achilles son of Peleus is from Homer's Iliad, 1.1.
Of arms and a man I sing (1.1) and Muse, remind me of the causes (1.8) are from Virgil's Aeneid.
All translation mine.



Chapter 19: xix. the calm before the storm [or] regroup; onward
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I go to Sprout first, simply because her office is closer, and have almost calmed down enough to speak coherently when I hammer on her office door. “Professor!” I yell, and a few moments later Sprout is opening the door looking alarmed.


“Rose Weasley. What’s going on?”


“There’s been an incident – um – outside Babbling’s class – Louis and Lucian, impersonating MLE officers – Babbling asked me to get you.”


“Herbert too?”


“Um, yeah, I was going to head over there now – ”


“Good, good. I’ll head to the Ancient Runes classroom right away, you fetch Herbert – ”


I take off back down the corridors, down endless flights of stairs, fingers crossed that said stairs don’t move unexpectedly, and burst into the Potions classroom gasping for breath.


“Rose?” Llodewick asks, startled, and all I can do is wave my hand in the vague direction of Babbling’s classroom.


“You’re needed,” I manage after a moment. “Louis and Lucian – April Fools – ”


“What have they done?”


“Polyjuice Potion. Impersonating MLE officers.”


Llodewick shakes his head. “Those stupid boys,” he murmurs. “Those stupid, stupid boys. Where are they?”


“With Babbling, I think.”


“Right. Watch my class, will you?”


“Uh – ”


“They’re second years,” he says, waving a hand in the direction of his students. “Claws and Puffs. They’re working on Swelling Solution. If I’m not back by the end of the lesson, there’s no homework and dole out points as you see fit.”


“Professor! I can’t teach your class – ”


“Yes you can,” he says briskly. “I have to deal with this, Rose. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t trust you.” He turns to the second years, calls out, “I’ve been called away on urgent business, but you’re in safe hands with Rose. She knows her potions, so don’t hesitate to ask her for help.”


Then he’s gone, and I’m left in the front of the classroom with forty second-years staring at me. I take a deep breath to steady my nerves, give them all a wave, and start circulating the cauldrons.




The moment the bell rings for lunch is the most welcome moment of my life. I’ve been nothing short of terrified for the last twenty minutes – what if something happens, what if one of the students blows up their cauldron or themselves, what if someone ends up in the hospital wing and it’s my fault because I didn’t keep a close enough eye on them – but nothing terrible happens and I’ve even helped a few struggling students understand basic concepts so that their whole faces light up and they go “Oh, I get it now!” I’m so caught up in the thrill of teaching – because there’s really no other word for it – that I forget about everything that brought me to this point until the bell rings, I dismiss the class, and Lester’s ashen face comes crashing back into my mind.


“Fuck,” I mutter, thankfully out of earshot of the second years, and bolt for the Great Hall. I detour past the Ancient Runes classroom – it seems unlikely that anyone would still be there, but I check anyway – and upon finding nobody there I continue hurrying to the Ravenclaw table. They’re not there either.


“Seen your brother?” I ask Lily.


“Yeah, he’s up in the hospital wing with the others. Told me to send you up if I saw you.”


I do a double take. “The hospital wing?”


“Yeah. He got into a fight, because he’s a fucking idiot.”


“Albus got into a fight? When? Is he okay?”


“He’s fine.” Lily chews on her nails, and I belatedly realise she’s shaking. “He just bit off more than he could chew, taking them both on at once. Figuratively speaking, I mean, he didn’t actually bite them.”


“What about Lester?”


“In the hospital wing too. Pomfrey poured so many potions down his throat I thought he was going to drown in them.”


“It was – bad, then?”


“So they tell me.” She runs a hand through her hair, looking like she’s trying to tear it out. “Come on, I can’t stand waiting around here.”


“Why are you down here?”


“Because they sent me to come get you,” she says bitterly. “Never mind the fact that I’m Albus’s sister and Lester’s girlfriend and I should be there more than the likes of Holly fucking Holyoake – ”


I have to jog to keep up with her. “Are you okay?”


“No, Rose, I am not okay. I’m stressed and I’m worried and I hate your fucking friends so much.”


I stare at her, stunned. “Who?”


“Scorpius and Holly.”


“Why?”


“Holly was the one who hurt Albus in the first place,” Lily says, ticking things off on her fingers, “And Scorpius – where do I even begin with Scorpius? And don’t give me that coping mechanism bullshit,” she says, holding up a hand, “He knew the best way to hurt Albus and God did he pull out all the stops doing it. And neither of them gave a rat’s about Lester even though he’s seventeen and he just left home and – ”


“They care. I know they do. And Scorpius was a mess, because Albus hurt him first.”


She’s silent for a long time, only speaking again as we’re about to enter the hospital wing. “I just don’t get how you can support them getting back together when you know what they’re capable of doing to each other.”


She doesn’t give me an opportunity to reply, just beelines for Lester’s bed and takes his hand in hers.


“Rose, thank God,” Scorpius greets me, and I try not to think of Lily’s words as I glance between him and Holly. “Where’ve you been?”


“I had to watch Llodewick’s class. What happened?”


“Well,” Scorpius says, “I didn’t see the fight, I was with Lester, but – ”


“I threw the first punch,” Albus says from his bed. “And then they threw the next twenty-seven. They’re big guys, especially Lucian. Burly fucker.”


He’s got an impressive black eye and a bruise on his nose – “They broke it,” he tells me, waving vaguely at his face, “And Pomfrey fixed it,” – but is otherwise mostly fine, thanks to a hastily cast Shield Charm from Holly.


I look up in surprise, where Holly has curled herself into a ball at Albus’s bedside. “I didn’t know I could even do Shield Charms properly,” she says in a small voice. “What if it didn’t work, Albus, you could have been beaten – ”


“I think they would have stopped before they pulverised me,” Albus says, sitting up with a grimace. “Louis is still family. Perish the thought. How’s Les?”


“I’m on a lot of drugs,” Lester calls from the next bed over.


“He’s a bit out of it,” Lily answers.


You,” I hear Lester say, “Are so pretty. I want to kiss your face.”


“When you’re feeling better,” Lily says firmly.


“What did they give him?” Albus asks in an undertone.


“A fair bit of Calming Potion,” Scorpius says, “And a mild Cheering Charm, a bit of Draught of Peace, finished off with Invigoration Draught.”


“That’s a potent mix,” I say quietly.


“Yeah, well, he was in a bad way. Do you know what’s going to happen to Louis and Lucian?”


“Nothing good,” I say. “I’ve never seen Llodewick look so serious.”


“Fingers crossed for expulsion,” Scorpius says. “If not, I’ll make their lives a living hell.”


“How?” Albus asks.


“Diplomatic immunity,” he says, tapping the badge on his robes, “Ravenclaw ingenuity,” he points to his head, “and Malfoy wizardry.” He twirls his wand.


“I love you.”


Scorpius glances around in surprise. “Is that the painkillers talking, or – ”


“No, you dipshit.” Albus leans forward, grabbing Scorpius by the sleeve and pulling him closer. I decide to give them some privacy, and turn my attention to Lester.


“Rose!” Lester proclaims. “Rose. You’re like – family - to me, you know? Like. Who cares about my parents? Fuck them. I have you guys, you know? And your dad,” he adds suddenly, turning earnestly back to Lily, “He did all right, didn’t he? He found a family. I don’t need them. I don’t need them.”


Scorpius looks up. “You don’t need them, mate.”


“You don’t need them,” Albus echoes.


“You don’t need them and they don’t deserve you,” Holly says.


“We’re your family for as long as you’ll have us,” I conclude.


I catch Lily’s eye a few minutes later, when Lester has slumped back against his pillows and finally succumbed to sleep.


“You were right,” she says quietly, eventually. “About Lester, anyway.”


“And Albus and Scorpius?” I murmur.


She glances over to where Scorpius sits hand in hand with Albus. “I don’t know. I don’t want him hurt again.”


“I don’t want either of them hurt again, and they’re a lot happier together than they are apart.”


“I’m reserving judgement.”


“Until when?”


She shrugs, and doesn’t say any more.




The first inkling I get of how serious things are is when I see my mother at the staff table during dinner, wedged between Professors Thomas and Longbottom.


“Fuck, is that Hermione Granger?” a sixth-year a few seats down whispers to her friend.


“She’s not here to be my knight in plum robes again, is she?” Lester asks.


I crane my neck over the heads of my classmates. “No plum robes. She’s not here as part of the Wizengamot.”


“Which means she’s here either as your mum,” Scorpius muses, “Which is unlikely, or as Head of Magical Law Enforcement, which is more likely and infinitely worse for Louis and Lucian.”


“I bet they’re pissing themselves right now,” Albus says with relish, rubbing his hands together. “Aunt Hermione scares the shit out of me, and the worst thing I’ve ever done is The Great Food Fight of Christmas ’14.”


I finish dinner quickly to go say hi to Mum, but she refuses to say anything about why she’s here.


“It’s a professional matter, Rose, I can’t tell you.”


“Is it about Louis and Lucian?”


“What did I just say, Rose?”


“I hope you prosecute the fuck out of them.”


She looks up sharply, an admonition about my language forming on her lips, but hesitates. “How’s Lester?”


“Better, now.”


“Do you remember the officers they were impersonating?”


“Yeah, Boot and Kirke.”


“Polyjuice Potion?”


“Must have been. I eliminated the potion from their systems – ”


“How?”


“Invented a charm,” I say, waving my hand dismissively. “Works on most kinds of potions, if it wasn’t Polyjuice it was something very similar. But yeah, they went back to normal immediately.”


“How did you know it wasn’t the officers?”


“They didn’t have ID.”


A funny look crosses Mum’s face. “You do listen to me.”


“Always the tone of surprise. Of course I do.”


She leans over to give me a brief hug, but when she pulls away her stern Mum-face is back. “Don’t you have study to do? Your NEWTs aren’t far away.”


“Thank you for reminding me.” I take my leave of her and head back to Ravenclaw Tower, fingers crossed for a normal evening of study with my friends like we haven’t had since before the holidays.


There’s no sign of Albus and Scorpius, and Holly and Lester are busy working on Arithmancy in intense, concentrated silence.


“Where’re the boys?” I ask.


“Shhh,” Holly says immediately.


“Sorting things out,” Lester says.


“Hush,” Holly whispers. Without looking up from her books, she claps a hand over Lester’s mouth and keeps furiously scribbling. Lester raises his eyebrows at me and says nothing.


“Sorting what out?”


“Rose I swear to God,” Holly warns, “I will go banshee.”


I hold up my hands in surrender and dig out The Standard Book of Spells, resigning myself to silent study until such time as Holly’s finished her homework.


“Sorting out their relationship,” Lester says once Holly’s laid down her quill, as if forty-five minutes of silence haven’t gone past since we last spoke. “Or, more to the point, Albus is going to yell until he’s blue in the face about all the guys Scorpius has slept with recently, Scorpius is going to do that calm quiet thing that’s infinitely more terrifying, and then they’ll have angry sex and apparently that fixes everything.”


“You seem to know a lot about this,” Holly says with an air of definite sympathy.


“Their Silencing Charms leave a lot to be desired when they’re distracted.” Lester closes his Arithmancy textbook with a thud. “What was your mum doing here?”


“Official business. I think it’s something to do with Louis and Lucian. It’s a criminal offence, impersonating an MLE officer.”


“We won’t have to – testify or anything, will we?”


“I can do that,” I say firmly. “I saw them, I hexed them, I’ll take one for the team.”


“Thanks, Rosie.”


We’re saved from endless speculation about the fate that awaits Louis and Lucian by the arrival of Albus and Scorpius.


“Evening,” I greet them.


“Hey, guys.” Albus perches awkwardly on the edge of his usual chair. “Listen, we – well, I mainly, but Scorpius too – well, we wanna thank you for putting up with us over the past week, and Lester – mate. I’m sorry. You shoudn’t have had to go through all that alone.”


“It’s all right,” Lester assures him.


“No, it’s not. I didn’t even think to ask – Lily only told me what was going on this afternoon, I had no idea – ”


“I only told Rose.” Lester shrugs. “And Lily, of course. But it’s okay, you had your own shit to work out.”


“You know you’re always welcome at ours – ”


“It’s all right,” Lester repeats. “I’m going straight into a flat after NEWTs. Besides, I think your mum’d have a heart attack.”


“We have news as well,” Scorpius says, lowering his voice. “We overheard a very interesting conversation between Professors Llodewick and Sprout.”


“And how did you overhear that?” Holly asks.


“Cloak,” Albus replies matter-of-factly. “Point is, they’ve been expelled. Effective immediately. They’re on the train tomorrow morning, and they’re not allowed to sit their NEWTs.”


Silence.


“They’ve been expelled?” I repeat.


“Out on their arses,” Scorpius says darkly. “Serves them fucking right. No job prospects – well, none to speak of anyway – ”


“Aunt Fleur will send Louis to Beauxbatons to get his qualifications, of course,” Albus interjects. “But it’s a big fucking blot on his CV, isn’t it? And he can kiss goodbye to the job Uncle Bill lined up for him at Gringotts – not that he would have taken it anyway.”


“Because of me?” Lester asks, looking quite pale.


“No,” Scorpius assures him. “No, they’d have been thrown out with that list of offences anyway. Impersonating an MLE officer can carry an Azkaban sentence depending on the severity – they’re fucking lucky to escape conviction.”


“Add to that the theft of the Felix Felicis,” Albus adds.


“Fuck, I’d forgotten about that,” I say.


“Llodewick hadn’t. Though – and I’ll never say this again and I’ll deny it if you ever quote me – they do protect their own, those Slytherins. Louis and Lucian took the fall for all five of them on that front. I’d almost say that redeems them, if they hadn’t tried to beat me to a pulp earlier today.”


“And, you know. Put Lester in the hospital wing,” Scorpius adds.


“Technically – ” Lester begins.


“Technically,” Scorpius says, cutting him off, “They orchestrated a prank that they knew would trigger traumatic flashbacks in a student already prone to anxiety. They fucking knew what they were doing, Lester. They deserve everything they get. Plus they broke two separate wizarding laws and beat up my boyfriend.”


“I’m fine now,” Albus says.


“Yeah, thanks to Holly and Madam Pomfrey.” Scorpius quits his hovering and takes his usual seat at the table. “Rose, Albus – Herbology time?”


“Bleaurgh,” Albus mutters, and, taking that as agreement, we dig out our textbooks.

Holly and Lester have Astronomy to work on, and in the moments between setting up our work for the evening and actually getting down to it, I lean back in my chair, toss a bag of Honeydukes sweets on the table and say with no small amount of relief, “Thank fuck everything’s back to normal.”




The honeymoon period doesn’t last long, however – on any front. As we head towards NEWTs, the teachers begin to panic that we haven’t covered as much material as we should have by now, and in most of our subjects we’re powering through the curriculum at a blistering pace, covering topics that should take us a week or two of class time in two lessons and one overnight essay. Mum’s in the middle of her campaign now and being slammed by the opposition for her handling of the Louis and Lucian case – the other strongest candidate, Justin Finch-Fletchley, has been making countless speeches about how these poor boys’ prospects have been ruined, and how voting Hermione Granger into office would be a win for totalitarianism. Mum’s been in a fluster (she’s unflappable according to the media, which I find strangely hopeful because she’s a complete mess of a woman really, but if she can fake having everything together then so can I) and meets me in Hogsmeade over the weekend (it’s not an official Hogsmeade weekend, but I’m of age and have enough staff who like me to get away with it) so she can buy me hot chocolate and second-guess herself.


“And I wonder if I was too harsh on them, Rose, I mean, expelling them just before NEWTS…”


“They would have failed anyway.”


“It’s hypocritical, isn’t it, I’m campaigning on a policy of equality and fair opportunities for all, and I’ve just denied these boys the opportunity to – ”


“Mum, they brought it upon themselves, and it was the professors’ call anyway, you just recommended it, and if you’d followed the letter of the law they’d have a string of convictions following their names as well, so if anything you weren’t harsh enough.”


Mum sighs heavily. “I suppose, and Fleur’s sending Louis to Beauxbatons next year anyway – she’s been at a loss for what to do with him for a long time, i think, she and Bill both – she’s hoping this is the wake-up call he needs…”


“Alls well that ends well,” I say firmly. “Loved your debate last night.”


“You heard it?”


“On the wireless, yeah. I loved your ‘Boys will be held accountable for their actions like everyone else’ response to Finch-Fletchley saying boys will be boys.”


“Yes, well. Especially boys who are of age and who endanger the safety of their fellow students and compromise the integrity of the Ministry.” Mum frowns at me over her coffee. “You look tired, love.”


“It’s six weeks till NEWTs.”


“Are you getting enough sleep?”


“Define ‘enough.’”


“Seven to eight hours a night.”


“Then no. I average about five.”


“You can’t keep that up, Rose.”


“It’s only another two months.”


Rose.”


“Mum. Really. I don’t have time to sleep. We have overnight assignments every night because we apparently got behind on the curriculum during the year without anybody noticing and now we have to speed through everything, so we can’t miss an assignment or a class because we’ll miss an entire topic that could come up in the exam – ”


“Are you taking naps in your free periods?”


“I’m studying in those free periods. I’d love to sleep more, Mum, but I won’t be able to until after exams are over.”


“You sound like me,” Mum sighs. “Rose, promise me you’ll at least prioritise. You need to put your mental health first, and prioritise your subjects as well – you need top marks in Potions, but the others don’t matter so much for your career – you should aim to do well in the core subjects, of course, but maybe Ancient Runes…?”


“I’m not bombing Runes.”


“I’m not saying to bomb it, Rose, but if you have to choose between a Runes translation for class and going to bed at a reasonable hour, I want you to choose bed.”


“Runes isn’t too bad, we mostly do our translations together, and they only take a couple hours with Scorpius helping us…”


“Rose.” Mum reaches across the table and takes my hands in hers. “You do know that – well, that you’re not defined by your grades, don’t you? I’m proud of everything you’ve achieved, sweetheart, I really am, and that’s not going to change, regardless of how you do in NEWTs. You have nothing to prove.”


“But I do though.”


“Rose – ”


“No, I’ve – I did so well in OWLs and I know that, but I just set the bar so high for myself and I don’t think I can do it again but all my teachers expect me to get Outstandings in their subject and I can’t let them down – ”


“I will duel any teacher who thinks you’d let them down.”


“I’d like to see that.”


“I’m sure you would.” Mum smiles. “It probably wouldn’t do wonders for my campaign though. How’s Hugo?”


I shrug. “Seems to be all right. No major crises. Has an admirer in the form of Rachel Burnsey.”


“Burnsey, Burnsey…Live in Godric’s Hollow? Down from Harry and Ginny?”


“That’s them.”


“Oh. Does Hugo like her?”


“No idea, but she definitely likes him.”


“Intriguing.” Mum leans forward. “What about you? Anyone in your life?”


Deciding I may as well take advantage of this mother-daughter bonding thing, I say, “Yeah, kinda. I mean, there’s a dude. It’s pretty casual though.”


“Does he have a name?”


“Yep.”


“Are you going to tell me his name?”


“Alfie.”


“Nice boy?”


“Yeah, he’s good.”


“And are Albus and Scorpius back on track?”


I marvel briefly at the gossip network that exists between the Weasley women. “Yeah, they’re fine. Had a bit of a rocky start – well, restart – but they seem to be going all right now.”


“Good. Glad to hear it. And – because I haven’t asked about her – how’s Holly?”


“Holly’s – stressed.”


“More than you?”


“Like, ten times worse.”


Mum frowns. “She’s always been a bit highly-strung.”


“She has,” I agree, before laughing. “This coming from us.”


“The irony is not lost on me.” Mum drains her coffee and stands. “Come on, I’ll walk you back up to school.”




“Holly’s having a meltdown,” Scorpius greets me when I return to Ravenclaw Tower.


“I’m not having a meltdown,” comes Holly’s muffled voice. “I’m having a perfectly rational response to the fact we’ve got NEWTs in six weeks.


I find her lying face down on the floor, a pile of parchment and textbooks shoved unceremoniously from the table beside her.


“You all right?” I ask tentatively.


“Star charts,” she mumbles into the carpet.


“That’s a no,” Albus says helpfully. “She’s been mumbling that for about ten minutes.”


“I’m gonna fail.”


“Also that. She has a couple of set phrases.”


“You are not helping.”


“Oh, that one’s new.” Albus squats beside her, fishing around in his robes, and places Holly’s chirruping Pygmy Puff on her shoulder.


“Pythagoras,” Holly cooes, rolling over slightly to pat him. She has an imprint from the carpet on her forehead and she’s obviously been crying. I lie down beside her in a show of solidarity, and soon the boys have joined us in staring aimlessly at the ceiling.


“It’s relaxing,” Lester says. “Lying on the floor.”


“We should stay here forever,” Albus decides.


“Yeah, fuck NEWTs,” Scorpius agrees.


The mention of NEWTs elicits a low wail from Holly and an answering chirrup from Pythagoras. I feel momentarily jealous that she has such a sympathetic (and fluffy, and adorable) companion.


“Let’s get a cat,” I tell Holly and Lester.


“We discussed this.”


“I’m confirming it.”


“As long as it doesn’t try to eat Pythagoras,” Holly says, now scratching the Pygmy Puff’s head with one crooked finger.


“I just thought of something,” Scorpius says. “Louis got expelled. He’s out of the running for the scholarship.”


“So he is,” Holly says, a grin slowly spreading across her face. “Does that make us winners by default?”


“Nah,” Albus says. “George’s withheld the scholarship before. It doesn’t just go to anyone, you really have to earn it – James didn’t even win it, but that’s probably because he was working with Fred and Dominique and that’s just too much nepotism to even think about.”


“We’ve done enough though, haven’t we?” Lester asks. “I mean, I’m pretty sure I heard the funeral games of Patroclus being shrieked when I went past Llodewick’s office on the way to breakfast on the 2nd…”


“You did,” I tell him. “It stopped soon after lunch.”


“Nah but,” Albus says, interrupting, “We’re missing something. Something vitally important. Something essential to the spirit of Fred Weasley. What we’ve done so far isn’t enough.”


“What do you mean?” Scorpius asks dubiously.


“We need to go out with a bang.”
 




A/N: Kudos to Rose (toomanycurls) for the spectacularly dorky and appropriate naming of Pythagoras. Holly thanks you. So do I.


Chapter 20: the spirit of fred weasley [or] exit, pursued by a bear
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

As April fades into May, the castle grounds brighten and flourish under increasing hours of bright spring sunlight, and blossoms bloom on the branches of trees for as far as the eye can see.


Apparently, anyway. We haven’t left the castle in about three weeks except for Herbology (Albus, Scorpius and I) and Quidditch practice (Lester, though he takes the team out in the dead of night because who needs sleep anyway.)


Holly hasn’t had any of those opportunities. When she’s not in class she’s up in Ravenclaw Tower or in the library, putting in daily blocks of study that are four to six hours long in addition to the work we’re doing for class. She’s also taken to skipping meals, refusing to leave the library during dinner and going straight there at lunchtime, so the boys and I are taking it in turns to filch sandwiches from the kitchens and bring them to her. She’s determined to get straight Outstandings – she didn’t get Astronomy in OWLs so she’s got more to prove than any of us, and she’s going for Top Scholar in Arithmancy as well. We’re all going for Top Scholar, actually, in our chosen fields – Potions for me, History of Magic for Albus, Runes for Scorpius, and Transfiguration for Lester, which means we have a couple of extra lessons a week with our respective professors. Everything – and I mean everything – in our world revolves around NEWTs, and I’ve learned quickly that the only way I can possibly get through the next few weeks is to plan, plan, plan – everything I’m going to do, every minute of every day, allocating more than enough study hours for each subject and getting them done because the moment I fall behind I start to panic. We’re all on edge, a powder keg of stress and emotion and unbearable tension, and at this point I can’t tell whether we’re supporting each other or driving each other insane.


Lester, I’m pleased to discover, is actually coping better than the rest of us – wandlore is an open entry field and he’s got an apprenticeship lined up with Ollivander regardless of how well he does, so he doesn’t have the same career pressures as us, and Lily – God. Lily’s the best thing for him, she really is, and she comes up to Ravenclaw Tower every now and then, usually in the evenings, to take him for a fly around the grounds – and justifies it by pointing out he’s Captain and Seeker for the Ravenclaw team, so any bit of extra flying he gets in can only be good for him. Given that he’s physically incapable of taking time off, I admire her approach and how well she knows him already.


The final Quidditch game of the season, scheduled for the week after exams finish, is between Slytherin and Ravenclaw, who are virtually tied for first place, but Lester seems to thrive on the pressure.


“Quidditch is his safe place,” Lily shrugs when I talk to her about it. “He has to work so hard for everything else, but he’s a natural flier and a natural leader – it’s something he’s good at without even trying. He’s never put pressure on himself for it, and it’s worked for him so far. I mean – look at him, he’s the best Seeker Hogwarts has seen since Victoire, and that’s coming from me.”


“And you’re competitive as fuck,” I say, nodding. “Well – thanks for looking after him. It’s so good to see him so happy – especially when everyone else is falling apart.”


“I’m not looking after him,” Lily says. “Or at least, not consciously. I just – I dunno. I’m in love with him. Whatever.”


“You’re in love with him?” I repeat, a grin spreading across my face.


Lily frowns. “Course I am.”


“Have you told him?”


“I think I’ll save that bombshell for after he’s finished NEWTs.”


“That’s probably best. Oh – you don’t need any help with Potions study, do you?”


Lily pauses for a moment. “Rose, you have NEWTs coming up.”


“It counts as study,” I say dismissively. “Especially if you let me natter about ingredients and reactions and innovative brewing techniques while I run you through the standard OWL potions.”


“In that case, I’ll round up a few other Slytherins if you’re cool with teaching us as a group.”


“Sounds perfect. We’ll figure out a time once study leave starts.”




 

It’s not till I get back to the common room that I realise (terrible as it sounds) how good it’s been to talk to someone who isn’t part of the group. Albus and Scorpius are at loggerheads again (they were fine for about two weeks, but now exam stress has hit them and magnified every grievance they had against each other, and they’re stuck in an endless cycle of fighting and making up) and Holly is either studying in vehemently enforced silence or crying.


She’s curled into a ball on her chair, hugging her knees and sniffling, when I come in.
“I don’t…understand…these concepts,” she says in a strangled voice, staring at the book in front of her. I pick it up.


Applied Sequence Theory in Advanced Numerology,” I read. “This isn’t NEWT level, is it?”


“It’s a standard text in Year Three Arithmancy studies at the Department of Mysteries,” Holly mumbles.


“Year Three in the Department of Mysteries?” I repeat. “Holly, this shit is four years beyond your level. And classified.”


“Mum pulled a few strings.”


I close the book firmly. “Stop reading this. You don’t need this. This is insane. Here’s what you’re going to do – Holly, are you listening?”


“Yeah.”


“You’re going to leave this book with me. I’m confiscating it.”


“But – ”


“I’m not finished. You’re going to go down to the kitchens and get a lot of dessert from the house elves. You’re going to take that dessert to the Hufflepuff common room, and you’re going to share it with your sister and catch up on family gossip and listen to her natter about Pygmy Puffs and Quidditch and who in her year likes who. And you’re not coming back here till you send her off to bed because she’s thirteen and has classes in the morning and needs her sleep, and then you’re going to take your own advice and go to bed. Okay?”


“But – ”


“No buts. Get going.”


“Rose – ”


Get.”


She gets going, and I take a deep, fortifying breath before delving into the stack of books Llodewick lent me. At least three of the titles have the word theory in them, two have components, and five have magical reactions. The Holy Grail of these is apparently Applied Theory of Potion Brewing: Components and Magical Reactions.


I’m beginning to understand why Llodewick said academia and alcohol go hand in hand.




Finally reaching study leave towards the end of May is an absolute blessing. We’re already feeling burnt out from relentlessly powering through the last of the curriculum, so we take the Saturday morning after classes finish to sleep, and Saturday afternoon to brainstorm how we’re going to go out with a bang.


“I put together a timetable of OWL and NEWT exams,” I begin. “Exams finish on Friday morning of week two – that’s the fifteenth – the official exam period extends to Friday afternoon, but that was set when Alchemy and Xylomancy were still exam subjects.”


“So that’s when the anti-disruption spell ceases?” Albus asks.


The anti-disruption spell is a recent development – put in place after one Teddy Lupin (incidentally, the last recipient of the Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship) having sat the two exams he had any intention of passing (Transfiguration and DADA) set off a magnificent array of pranks in the Great Hall during the OWL History of Magic and NEWT Potions Theory exam that included but were not limited to a lot of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, two dozen geese, and a John Deere tractor he had charmed to fly. (This was the anecdote that made Albus and Scorpius realise they’d been telling stories about the same boy for four years.)


“Yeah, should be,” I say. “Given that afternoon exams are from two till five pm, that means the spell lifts at five on Friday June fifteenth. Friday morning is Divination, which none of us take, so that gives us the whole day to set everything up.”


“Do we have any ideas for what the everything will entail?”


“A lot of alcohol,” Albus suggests.


“I’m thinking, if we want to avoid negative repercussions from this,” Scorpius begins, “We should involve all of seventh year. You know how pretty much every year there’s a big-arse party somewhere in the castle for all the seventh years straight after exams, and the teachers turn a blind eye to it? We need to do something on that scale.”


“Something that involves leading one hundred and fourteen seventh-years into an alcohol establishment,” Albus says.


“Hey, yeah,” I say, my eyes lighting up. “There’s a weird kind of symmetry to that, you know – we made Louis the Pied Piper of Pygmy Puffs at the beginning of the year, and we can be the Pied Pipers of…seventh year? Doesn’t have the same ring to it, but – ”


“We can get James in on this,” Albus decides. “Hire out the bar for that evening – we won’t have to pay to do that, I don’t think – they’re going to make a fortune off vodka and pumpkin fizz. If we can organise a Portkey from somewhere – ”


“We can rig the Portkey as a trigger,” Lester says eagerly, looking up. “Put a delaying charm on it, similar to the one we did in the Gryffindor common room, maybe pressure-based so the moment the Portkey leaves, we can set off – something. I’m open to ideas.”


“We can’t do fireworks,” Albus muses, “Because that’s what Fred and George did, and we have to be original. Same goes with Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder and…geese.”


Holly opens her mouth to say something, pauses, tries again, screws up her face, giggles, and finally manages in a hushed whisper, “Teddy bears.


“Teddy…bears?” Lester repeats.


Animate teddy bears.”


“What the fuck are you on?” Scorpius asks bluntly.


“Fatigue, mostly,” Holly replies matter-of-factly. “But we can…” she pauses, consumed with giggles again, and holds up a hand while she attempts to get herself under control. “Exit, pursued by a bear.”


“Is that…?”


“Shakespeare, yes.” Scorpius takes control of the conversation, because Holly’s incapacitated herself. “Stage direction from The Winter’s Tale.”


“So we have to set this animate bear loose on the grounds,” Lester summarises, “And somehow get it to…chase us to a Portkey.”


“You can rig up a deactivation charm for the bear that’s attached to the Portkey,” Scorpius suggests. “Or just leave him for the teachers to deal with. Either way.”


“Since when did we assign the bear a gender?” Albus asks.


“Since when do teddy bears fit into the gender binary?” Holly asks.


“The gender binary is a social construct,” I add.


Scorpius holds up his hands. “Okay, we’ll leave quod for the teachers to deal with.”


“Did you just – ”


“What? English doesn’t have any gender-neutral accusative singular pronouns, so I borrowed one. What should we leave behind?”


“Bunnies,” Lester says immediately.


“Pygmy Puffs,” Holly says.


“Howlers,” Albus says.


“Doves,” I add.


“Hollyjuice?” Scorpius asks.


“In a fountain.”


Albus leans back in his chair. “This. This is our magnum opus. Our piece de resistance. Our…thing.”


“Right,” Lester says in a businesslike tone. “We’re going to need a lot of conjuring spells rigged to this thing, then – I think the Portkey could just Transfigure into the Hollyjuice fountain, Rose – wait. You’re not allowed to brew – ”


“I’m a Potioneer, Lester. I keep backups of my brews. Especially ones that I invent and probably should patent.”


“Right, good. We can use simple conjuring charms for the animals, the Howlers might be a bit trickier because they’ll have to be prepared in advance – ”


“We could just carry the Howlers in our pockets,” Albus points out. “I know it’s not quite as elegant, but if we just pull them out, rip them open, and drop them on the floor just as everyone reaches for the Portkey – ”


“How are we going to get one hundred and fourteen students to touch the same Portkey at the same time?” I interrupt.


“Protean Charm,” Holly says immediately. “We’ll make the Master Key something relatively inocuous – something that can be left in the Entrance Hall, say – we’ll make that Ground Zero – like – ”


“A Ravenclaw tie,” Lester suggests.


“A Ravenclaw tie,” Holly confirms, nodding. “And we’ll add Protean Charms to everyone’s ties – everyone in seventh year anyway. That way they’ll be Portkey’d – ”


“That won’t work,” Albus interrupts. “You have to let go of a Portkey, and you can’t let go of your tie if it’s round your neck and you’re flying through nothing. Plus, it’s probably a choking hazard.”


“The seventh-year timetable,” I say.


Albus’s eyes widen. “Hey, yeah – that works perfectly – everyone will have one, and it won’t be suspicious to be carrying that round in your pocket – mine’s been in mine all year – nor will it look weird all crumpled on the floor of the Entrance Hall. Filch tends to do his cleaning later in the evening, it’s heavy traffic around 5pm so nobody bothers to pick up rubbish – plus, it’s symbolic. For all of seventh year, you know? It’s not just relevant to us. We’re all getting the fuck out of here.”


“Right, so,” Lester says, scribbling furiously, “We need the timetable as a plain Portkey with a Protean Charm. We’ll need to gather all of seventh year together so we can put the charm on everyone’s timetables and fill them in on the plan – Scorpius?”


“On it. Meet me in the Room of Requirement at five.”


“The fountain…Rose, you could fill one of the little fountains in the quadrangle with the potion, and put a delayed relocation spell on it so it appears in the middle of the Entrance Hall after we leave. We can tweak the Bunny Generator to make it a bunny, dove and Pygmy Puff generator – put it in the corner of the Entrance Hall again, but with a Disillusionment Charm on it otherwise anyone who was at school over Easter will know exactly what we’re doing. The Howlers – ”


“Put them inside the fountain,” I say immediately. “Just in a hollow bit inside the stonework. Delayed Diffindo on the envelopes.”


“You’re a genius,” Lester says, and keeps scribbling.


“We all are. What are we going to make the Howlers yell?”


“We,” Albus says, “Are going to make a compendium of every essay written by a seventh-year student this academic year. And the Howlers are going to yell it.”


“I changed my mind, you’re the genius.”


“It runs in the family,” Albus says graciously. “Now, we’ve got ninety minutes till we meet Scorpius in the Room of Requirement – who’s up for some Charms study?”




NEWTs are just as hellish as we all anticipated. Straight after dinner on Saturday (the meeting with the rest of seventh-year went well, with unanimous agreement for a night of drinking in London, and Albus sent an owl to James immediately) we’re back in the common room to put in a solid six hours of study. The library’s extended hours begin that Monday (the official start of study leave) and we’re in there from 9am to 1am every day. Lara, Alfie and Tom have joined us (there was a lot of tension between Alfie and Albus, understandably so, but being true Ravenclaws they decided that the Scorpius issue was far less important than having someone to work with for Muggle Studies, and once that happened there was reconciliation all round) and we make house trips to the kitchens on our way back to Ravenclaw Tower to grab food before settling in for another few hours of study in the common room. We have forced breaks – an hour for breakfast, an hour for lunch, an hour for dinner, as well as pitstops at 10pm and 1am – and get to bed around three every morning. Holly pulls one all nighter, can’t concentrate due to tiredness for the rest of the day, and never tries it again.


Our first exam is Charms Theory on Monday morning – except for Scorpius and Holly, who don’t take Charms and therefore don’t start till Tuesday. My carefully structured study goes out the window, and I spend Sunday reading The Standard Book of Spells cover-to-cover, twice, before deciding that if I don’t know my Charms theory after that it’s Miranda Goshawk’s fault, not mine, and retire to my dorm with my usual stack of Potions journals and advanced theory books – Potions Theory is on Tuesday morning, and my Top Scholar chances ride on it.


“I’m gonna be sick,” Albus says bluntly the next morning, pushing away his toast and closing his eyes.


“I’d rather you didn’t,” Lester says.


“’Sup Claws,” Lily greets, plopping down on the seat beside Lester. “You look a bit green, bro.”


“You don’t look green enough,” Albus retorts.


“What are you sitting today?” I ask.


“Transfiguration Theory this morning, Defence Practical this afternoon.” She wriggles around a bit, reaching for the rack of toast and the marmalade. “Gonna kick some butt this afternoon. What’ve you guys got? Charms, right?”


“Yeah,” Albus says glumly. “Aka my Wandwork requirement for being a Healer. I need an Outstanding for both Theory and Practical.”


“You’re good at Charms though,” Lily says around a mouthful of toast. “Better’n me.”


“You’re a fifth year.”


“You’re rude when you’re nervous.”


“And you’re a pain in the arse when you exist.”


“Aw, Albutt,” Lily says. “That wasn’t very nice. Well, I’m gonna go bug Hugo. Good luck for Charms!”


“Good luck to you too!” I yell after her, before turning to the others. “How is she so calm?”


“She’s got nothing to prove,” Albus shrugs.


“Lucky her,” I mutter.




I hate exams.


I hate every aspect of them – slowly filing into the Great Hall, which looks foreign and eerie with its rows and rows of single desks, the staff table filled with grumpy Scottish crones who are paid a pittance from the Ministry to supervise our exams, and the great blackboard behind them which reads “DEPARTMENT OF MAGICAL EDUCATION EXAMINATIONS – 3 JUNE 2024” and the parchment waiting at our desks, blank but for the “Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test: Charms Theory,” stamped across the top, and that queasy feeling in my gut and the certainty that I won’t be able to answer a single question once the words on the question booklet appear –


“Good morning,” one of the Scottish crones begins. “This morning’s exams are the Ordinary Wizarding Level, Transfiguration Theory, and the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test, Charms Theory…”


I glance around, hoping to catch someone’s eye and find some solidarity in shared suffering, but Lester and Albus are both looking pale and sickly, staring resolutely at their exam papers.


Across the Hall, Lily throws me a thumbs up and mouths, You’ll be great, Rose and I feel a bit better.


“You may begin,” the crone concludes, and the questions appear.


The first essay’s on the ‘notable features’ of the Patronus Charm and how it differs from other defensive or conjuring spells. Thanking the gods above for this piece of luck, I launch straight in, quill flying across the page, deaf to the scratches and rustles and shuffles of nearly three hundred students. Introduction, done – surprisingly eloquent, as well. I take a moment to scrawl a vague outline on the back of the question sheet, progression of ideas and salient points, before powering through my first body paragraph.


There are three aspects to this exam – two essays and a short answer section regarding spell use and effects. The second essay is on the mechanics of Aguamenti, and I take a moment to swear under my breath, try and remember Lester’s lectures on elemental conjuring, and wing it.


By the time I’ve gone through the short answer section a handful of students have already left – Tom, Sophie, Lucy and Dylan – and I catch the latter two on my way out.


“Well,” Dylan says bracingly once we’re clear of the Great Hall and have collapsed on the grass in the quad, “That could have been worse.”


“That Aguamenti question though,” Lucy groans, rolling over onto her stomach. “I saw that and I was like oh, fuck.”


“God, me too. The moment I saw the word mechanics I knew it was all over.”


“Good for some people though,” Dylan says, his Hufflepuffian nature shining through. “Lester and Emily’d be kicking arse in there.”


We’re joined, as the morning wears on, by a growing cluster of seventh-years eager for a post mortem on the exam, and by the time we all troop inside for lunch I’m heartily sick of talking about it or thinking about it – which is bad news for Lester who, having finished at exactly 12.30, hasn’t had the chance to go over it with anyone.


“What’d you guys make of the Aguamenti – ”


“No.”


“I ended up writing six feet of parchment, I think, with diagrams – ”


No.”


“Albus – ”


“Shhh,” he says, already buried in one of his textbooks for Muggle Studies, which he has this afternoon.


“I’m gonna go debrief with Emily,” Lester decides, and takes himself off to the Slytherin table.




The Potions Theory exam on Tuesday morning is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.


Question One: Compare and contrast the effects of the Calming Concoction or Calming Potion and the Draught of Peace.



Question Two: Choose a potion from the following list and discuss the ethical issues behind its use:
-Amortentia
-Felix Felicis
-Veritaserum



Question Three: Using the principles of Golpalott’s Third Law, describe the components and method of brewing an antidote to the Draught of Living Death.



Fighting the urge to whoop with glee at the sight of it, I just grin like a maniac, flex my fingers, and start writing.




“That was the best exam I’ve ever sat I’m so happy.”


“That whole time I was just thinking to myself, “Rose must be having fun,” Holly says, stretching out luxuriantly on the grass.


“Rose was having fun,” Scorpius says. “I looked over at her around the midway point and she was grinning.”


“I was grinning the whole time. My face hurts.”


“And it’s just practicals tomorrow,” Lester says. “Charms and Potions. I could do that shit in my sleep.”


“Did you guys do Amortentia for question two?”


“I did,” Albus says. “I didn’t mention anything about Hollyjuice though, I figured that’s your domain.”


“I did Felix Felicis,” Lester says. “Talked a lot about exams and Quidditch matches. Not particularly innovative, I know, but my technical knowledge is sound enough to make up for it.”


“I did Veritaserum,” Scorpius says. “Mainly with regard to its use in the courts.”


“I did Felix Felicis too,” Holly says. “And the butterfly effect, you know, how the fortune of one can be at the expense of another and how Felix Felicis alters fate to support the drinker.”


“Reckon you’ve probably got Top Scholar in the bag,” Albus says, turning to me. “As long as you don’t blow anything up in the practical tomorrow.”




I don’t blow anything up in the practical – nor do I do terribly in the Charms practical that morning. In fact, I’m feeling pretty good about exams by the time I shuffle into Herbology Theory on Thursday morning with Albus and Scorpius – it’s not a brilliant exam, but only Sean Finnigan really enjoys the subject, and the rest of us leave him writing in the Great Hall right up to 12.30.


So far, I’m the only one to have completed my star subject, which means I’m much more laid back during the weekend than Scorpius (Runes, Monday afternoon) Albus (History of Magic, Tuesday morning) Lester (Transfiguration theory, Wednesday morning; Transfiguration practical, Thursday morning) and Holly (Arithmancy, Thursday afternoon). I take advantage of this by fetching food for the others and letting Scorpius talk at me for a while about elements of Runic grammar, before I decide that given my second teaching subject (and one I’ll be studying for the next three years) is DADA, I should probably get some theory down for the exam on Monday morning.


Albus, much to our chagrin, is done and dusted with exams after History of Magic.


This is why you don’t take NEWT Transfiguration,” he says with glee. “Monday morning classes and some of the last exams on the timetable. Sucks to be you lot.”


“Albus I swear to God I will turn you into a fucking tea cosy if you don’t stop gloating.”


“I’d turn him into a baboon. Albutt indeed.”


Scorpius and I finish on Thursday morning after the Transfiguration practical, while Holly and Lester have a killer day that involves Arithmancy in the afternoon and then their 11pm Astronomy exam. Given that they’re holed up in the castle for the next few hours, Scorpius and I take our smug-officially-finished faces outside with Albus and reflect on how anticlimactic it all is.


“Yeah,” Albus says. “I mean, it hasn’t really sunk in, yet, has it? We’ve finished NEWTs. They’re over. We’re done. And it’s still an ordinary, not-quite-warm-enough-for-skinny-dipping-in-the-Great-Lake Thursday afternoon.”


“It’ll sink in when we’re getting shit-faced tomorrow night,” I say confidently.


“Oh yeah,” Albus says. “Got an owl back from James, by the way. He’s set things up with the Three Broomsticks so we can Floo there on our way back to school – on the proviso that we all grab one for the road on our way through.”


“I don’t think that’ll be a problem.”


We stay up till nearly the arsecrack of dawn that night – firstly to celebrate with Holly and Lester when they finish their Astronomy exam at 2am (Albus went down to Hogsmeade on Wednesday and picked up some Butterbeer, then we swing by the kitchens to get some dessert and chat with the house elves about how our exams went) and doing the various charms required for the prank. I take a couple bottles of Hollyjuice (Amor Stultorum, I remind myself, but it doesn’t quite stick the same way) down to the fountain in the quad – Albus has, for once, entrusted me with both the Cloak and the Map, and I feel so gloriously rebellious sneaking around.


Holly and Scorpius are working on the essay compendium using Lester’s Copy Paste charm, while Lester’s tweaking the Bunny Generator. We’ve all pitched in on the giant teddy bear – he’s about eight feet tall, with eyes that Lester describes as “mildly satanic,” and we’ve charmed him to chase us – well, Lester specifically.


“FrankenRaine’s Monster,” Albus says admiringly. “You haven’t seen the best part though.”


“And what’s that?”


“You’ll see,” is all Albus will say, tapping the side of his nose.




We’ve timed the Portkeys to go off at exactly 5pm, the fountain to arrive at 5.01pm and the Howler activated, and the Bunny/Puff/Dove generator to start at 5.02. At 4.30 we release the bear, and Lester bolts.


Albus’s stroke of genius is apparent the moment the bear follows us out of Ravenclaw Tower, because the strains of “Hoggy Hoggy Hogwarts” to an upbeat reggae-style tune are blasting from his tummy. It’s loud enough to bring everyone into the corridors, and somehow, we end up with a conga line.


One hundred and fourteen seventh-year students snake their way through the castle’s ancient, hallowed halls, chased by a giant teddy bear who’s becoming more and more demonic by the second as the tune of “Hoggy Hoggy Hogwarts” slows down incrementally, transitioning to a haunting Gregorian chant. The timing is beyond perfect; we arrive at the Entrance Hall just as the bear is bearing (heh) down on us, the teachers are converging with their wands raised, and the timetables clutched in all our hands suddenly glow.


We arrive in a heap in the middle of James’s.


“Ah!” the eponymous James says brightly from behind the bar. “Hogwarts! Who wants a drink?”


There’s an answering roar from the crowd as we get to our feet and surge towards the bar. James has what looks like his whole staff on tonight, and for fifteen minutes there’s a horrendous din as the entire year group orders drinks, yells that they’ve got this round for their mates (Scorpius buys for the Noble House of Ravenclaw) and then there’s an eerie, momentary silence after the last vodka and pumpkin fizz has been poured.


Scorpius, taking advantage of opportunity, climbs onto a nearby table and is immediately swamped by yells of “Speech! Speech!”


“Head Boy!” someone bellows.


He raises his glass. “To the rest of our lives!”


“To the rest of our lives!” we cry in unison, raising our glasses.


“Now,” Scorpius yells, “Let’s fucking drink!”




A/N: So, this is the penultimate chapter of this story - just one more to go. Credit to William Shakespeare for "Exit, pursued by a bear," and Mary Shelley for Frankenstein's Monster (which I shamelessly ripped off with 'FrankenRaine's Monster.') Particular thanks to Beth (Veritaserum27) and Emma (emmacweasley) for your incredible string of reviews on this story over the last 24 hours - you're phenomenal!
 


Chapter 21: xxi. the rest of our lives [or] an epilogue of sorts
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Rose!” a loud shriek wakes me from my (very peaceful, thank you very much) slumber, and seconds later a small brunette blur has hurled herself onto my bed. “Roseroseroseroseroserose!”


“Holly,” I grunt. “It is the arsecrack of dawn.”


“It’s nine thirty, and the owls are here.”


My eyes fly open of their own accord. “The owls?”


“The owls,” she repeats solemnly, before bounding back off my bed and hurrying into the kitchen. Tiny and barefooted as she is, her enthusiastic bolting from one room to another shakes the entire flat.


Heart pounding, I clamber out of bed, entangle myself in my sheets, swear a lot, manage to free myself and hurtle into the kitchen, running smack bang into Lester.


“Morning,” he says mildly.


“Owls!”


There’s a loud crack outside the front door, and I open it to find Albus and Scorpius teetering on the edge of the stairs that lead up to our flat.


You are never allowed to Apparate us here again,” Scorpius is telling Albus. “Oh, morning, Rose.”


They have envelopes clutched in their hands which bear the twin seals of Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, and my stomach flip-flops horribly.


“Your future,” Holly says once I’ve brought the boys inside, handing me an envelope.


Rose Weasley
The Kitchen
Flat 7, The New Quarter
106-112 Diagon Alley
London



“I can’t do this!” I wail.


“Yes, you can. I believe in you,” Holly says serenely.


“How can you be so calm?”


“It’s a façade.” She glances around us, and I’m suddenly reminded of the moment nearly a year ago when they all burst through the Floo at my parents’ place yelling about the scholarship. “On three?”


“Hold up!” I yell, because I’m not ready to open the envelope, even though I’ve been waiting for this day for weeks on end – we all have, and virtually every conversation we’ve had for the past three weeks has begun with “So has anyone heard anything about results?”


“Come on, Rose,” Albus says impatiently. “If I’ve failed, I need plenty of time to reconsider my career options.”


“Don’t talk about failing!” Scorpius cries.


“On three!” Lester says loudly. “One – two – three!”


I screw my eyes shut, rip open the envelope, and very, very carefully peer at the contents.


NASTILY EXHAUSTING WIZARDING TESTS



Pass grades:
Top Scholar (S)
Outstanding (O)
Exceeds Expectations (E)
Acceptable (A)
Fail grades:
Poor (P)
Dreadful (D)
Troll (T)



ROSE NYMPHADORA WEASLEY HAS RECEIVED:



Ancient Runes: E
Charms: O
Defence Against the Dark Arts: O
Herbology: O
Potions: S
Transfiguration: O



A shellshocked silence fills the room.


“Well?” Scorpius asks tentatively.


“I got Top Scholar!” Holly shrieks. “For Arithmancy, I got it! I got it!”


“And I got Potions!” I scream, and it’s only just beginning to sink in. “Top Scholar in Potions, I can’t believe it!”


“I can,” Albus says. “On a related note – guess who’s officially Hogwarts’ best emeritus magical historian?”


“Oh my God, Albus, that’s amazing!”


“And I got Runes!” Scorpius says happily.


We pause in our screaming and hugging and congratulating and turn slowly to Lester.


“Do all right, mate?” Albus asks hesitantly.


Lester wordlessly hands his results letter to Albus, and we all crowd around him.


LESTER DANTE RAINE HAS RECEIVED



Ancient Runes: O
Arithmancy: O
Astronomy: S
Charms: S
Potions: O
Transfiguration: S



“You got three fucking Top Scholars!” Albus roars, clapping Lester so hard on the back I’m briefly afraid he may have caused permanent damage. “You legend, mate!”


“I don’t even know how – ”


“Don’t be so modest,” Scorpius tells him. “You’ve earned every one of those. And hey – three Top Scholars, isn’t that a reward from the Ministry as well?”


Lester nods. “Five hundred Galleons.”


Another owl comes sailing through the window before we can say anything more.


“Your Prophet’s late,” Scorpius says. “We got ours at like, eight. Not that we were up.”


“Yeah, the owls tend to get lost around here,” Lester says, edging past us to take the Prophet from the owl. “I’m glad the Hogwarts ones made it on time.”


He flicks through the paper as he shuffles around. “Anyone for tea?”


“Please,” Scorpius says.


“Love some,” Holly says.


“Yeah, all right.”


He’s just put the kettle on when he stops dead for the second time this morning, his eyes slowly widening. “Scorp, mate – have you read the Prophet today?”


“Glanced at the headlines, but I haven’t gone through it properly, no. Why?”


He holds the paper aloft, beaming, and there are tears glistening in his eyes. “We fucking won, guys. We won the Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship.”


Albus launches across the kitchen with a holler, snatching the paper from Lester. “The Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship for 2024 is hereby awarded to Holly Holyoake, Scorpius Malfoy, Albus Potter, Lester Raine and Rose Weasley. The recipients are invited to come into Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes’ London premises to claim the award.”


“Oh my God,” I scream. “We did it, we did it – ”


“Rose, Holly, go get dressed,” Lester says, a huge grin on his face. “We need to head down to Wheezes.”


“And go visit our families,” Albus says. “Mum’ll know results are out – Lester, we gotta show her these. And Lily too – ew, she’s gonna be all over you.”


“Brainy’s the new sexy,” Scorpius deadpans.


“C’mon,” Holly says. “Let’s shed the jammies and go get our scholarship.”






Fifteen minutes later we’re standing in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes (our flat is barely ten minutes’ walk from central Diagon Alley) while George counts out 1,250 Galleons to Lester, Holly, Albus and Scorpius.


“You sure you don’t want in on this, Rose?” Scorpius asks.


“Nah. I have the Fellowship confirmed now.”


I’ll need to send an owl to Professor Llodewick – I’m sure he’s heard my results anyway, but there are a few arrangements to be made and papers to sign now I’ve officially gotten the required grades, and my full acceptance into the teaching programme should be on its way as well – I should open a vault at Gringott’s, now that I’ll be getting my own income from the Fellowship…


“So George,” Albus is saying, “Who was your contact at Hogwarts?”


“I’m half convinced it was Professor Llodewick,” Holly says.


“Professor who?” George asks. “No, no – it was a student. Emily Huntington.”


Emily was your contact?”


“Of course she was.” George looks confused. “She works for me, has done for about three years now. Market research, a bit of invention sometimes – it’s a shame I’m losing her to the Department of Mysteries, actually.”


“Oh,” I say. “That’s why she wanted to know why we were going for the scholarship, and why she thought Louis and Lucy were so undeserving.”


“The spirit of Fred Weasley,” Albus says. “It’s not just fucking shit up at Hogwarts. It’s also not being a dick to your family.”


“Precisely,” George says, nodding. “She made it clear to me quite early on that Louis in particular was not acting in the spirit of harmless fun – ”


“They were mates, though.”


“They were,” George agrees. “Emphasis on the past tense. The scholarship grew to represent a lot more to Emily than anyone else - she understands what it means to lose a twin, and this was as much in her sister’s name as it was in Fred’s.”


“Does she have other siblings?” I ask slowly. “A younger sister?”


“Just Laura, she was the younger twin. She died when they were six.”


My baby sister’s going to be here in five years.


“Oh,” is all I can say.


George shakes his head a bit, as if trying to clear unpleasant thoughts from his mind, and passes four bags of gold over to Holly and the boys. “There’s a security charm on those,” he adds, “So you’re safe walking down the street with them. Take it straight to Gringott’s, mind.”


“Thanks, Uncle George.”


“Thank you, Mr Weasley.”


“Yeah, thanks so much, Mr Weasley.”


“Not at all.” With a final smile, he waves us out of the shop and we emerge, blinking, into the bright August sunlight.


Diagon Alley is glorious in summer, filled with kids and teenagers and Hogwarts leavers, wandering and roaming and taking in the sights and sounds of the city, and I feel so incredibly privileged to be living here, right in the heart of wizarding London – the New Quarter, where we live, has sprung up in the last twenty-five years and my generation – the post-war baby boom – are the ones bringing it to life. There’s a sort of renaissance going on here, in the new cafes and old pubs where students, interns and apprentices gather by night to share art and literature and performance magic. Albus and Scorpius are right into the poetry scene – Scorpius especially – and Holly’s getting into photography after making some friends at the laundromat across the street in the wee hours of the morning.


As we amble in the direction of Gringott’s, Lester turns to Holly and I with a grin, and I notice he’s stopped outside Magical Menagerie.


“So how about that cat?”





A/N: So this is the end, folks. I've been absolutely blown away by the reception this story has gotten, and how much these five dorky Claws have resonated with you all. I couldn't be more grateful for everyone who has taken the time to read and review this story, especially those who have been there without fail for every chapter.

Thank you again and from the bottom of my heart for reading!

Edit 10/12/15 - The Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship universe has grown exponentially since I posted this final chapter, and now comprises some eight works and several chapters on the last House Cup sitewide collab. The immediate sequel to TFWMS is Pending Further Investigation, which was completed at 21 chapters earlier this year, and I recommend you start with PFI before checking out any one-shots to avoid spoilers. A full list of stories (with links) can be found on my profile on the forums, or just go onto my author page and look for anything labelled "part of the tfwms-verse" in the summary. 
 


http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com