I exchanged hugs with Lily and Gretchen as I got off the train. It was finally Christmas Holidays and we finally had a bit of a break from school. I searched the crowd for the Marauders, but they had apparently already disappeared. With one last wave, I went to find my father. He hugged me hello and took my bags. Through side-long apparition, we were both standing in the foyer of our house the next moment. I breathed a sigh of relief to be back home and away from the craziness.
"But, Darling, it's Christmas-"
"I know, Mum, but I have to get going. I'm sorry I'm sorry! Give my love to Lorelei," Farrah's voice came from the fireplace. I looked over curiously. The logs of the fireplace had been shaped mysteriously like Farrah's face. I started—I didn't think I had ever seen that before.
My mother was sort of upset. "Well, she's not coming for Christmas. Apparently she's got some new boyfriend and promised to spend the holidays with him and his family. I tell you, that girl has no priorities. Oh, hello Lorelei, welcome home. Your sister isn't coming home so I guess it's just the three Musketeers this year." She tried to smile but it ended up looking like a grimace.
"Don't worry Mum, it will be fine. One less dish to clean?" I offered as consolation. "Besides it will still be a big Christmas what with Dad's family coming over."
That may have consoled my mother, but I personally spent almost all of Christmas day in my room. I wasn't really a big fan of my father's family. My dad was the oldest of his siblings so I had aunts and uncles with children all around the age of 6. They would run around the house and I was usually employed to take care of them. I convinced myself that maybe if I hid, I wouldn't be forced to babysit.
No such luck. "Lorelei, come down here please," my mother called up the stairs.
However when I got down there, I wasn't immediately tackled by three 8 year olds, but instead hugged by an elderly relative who I wasn't sure I was really even related to. She smelled old.
"Oh Lorelei, the last time I saw you was when you had just grown in your front teeth. Let's see them," the old woman spoke in a baby-voice to me like I was still the same age I had been then.
Hesitantly, I smiled to show her. I felt vaguely like a show horse. It was then that I remembered her. She was my great aunt Lucy. Last time she had been over she had made me smile at her to see my teeth too. What was her weird fascination with teeth?
"Lovely," Lucy said approvingly.
I greeted about ten more elderly relatives that I didn't really remember and settled into my babysitting job. However, this time I got to hold a newborn in the next room while the 'adults' had a talk in the living room. I was able, however, to eavesdrop.
"It's inevitable, Tom."
"I don't believe that. We can rise above all the others. Maybe the other pureblood families have sold themselves out to this blood purity nonsen-"
"Sold themselves out? What is that supposed to mean? My late husba-"
"Someone was bound to eventually come along saying the same things he's saying. Purebloods are simply better tha-"
"He's not the first! Salazar Slyther-"
"Not at the expense of innocent lives-"
"You're being unre-"
We Whites tend to interrupt each other. But through the snippets of conversation, I realized they were talking about the man who called himself the Dark Lord. The name made me shiver. I hadn't know until now that some of my family members actually supported him. I had known that some of them were blood purists and only allowed their children to marry purebloods. But it was no secret that true pureblood families were hard to come by. Because of the small numbers there was quite a bit of intermarrying going on which was a very bad idea, I thought.
The dinner conversation was polite, as the adults had dropped the controversial subject. I was about to berate my cousin Shannon for flinging a pea at me with her spoon when the conversation suddenly turned to me.
"So, Lorelei, how's school?"
I calmly deposited the pea on the corner of my plate and turned my attention to my grandfather, who had asked me. "School is going wonderfully."
"Lorelei got top O.W.L.S. last year, Grandfather," my mother answered for me, knowing I didn't particularly like to brag about myself.
"I didn't ask you, Natalie. I asked your daughter. You aren't slacking off this year, are you, Girl?" he fixed me with his calculating stare and I practically shrunk away.
"N-no Grandfather," I replied softly.
"Stop scaring the poor girl, Horace," my grandmother chided her husband. She put a pleasant smile on her face. "What we really want to know is about your boyfriend," she winked at me.
"I don't have one," I shook my head.
"What?" my grandmother looked taken aback. "What's a pretty girl like you doing without a boyfriend? Oh we must change that."
"Indeed," another family member added.
"How about that charming Black boy?" suggested another.
My ears perked up and it felt like I had just swallowed something too large. I felt my face grow hot, but they weren't even paying attention to me anymore. Thank God.
"He's a bit younger than Lorelei, isn't he?"
"Oh, yes, I do believe he's a fifth year. What is his name again? Regulate?"
My face fell. Oh. They weren't talking about Sirius. Of course they weren't talking about Sirius. They meant the 'good' pureblood son of the Black family, Regulus. Just like Sirius had said. How funny would it have been, though, if I had been set up with Sirius through my family?
But I really didn't need to be fixed up by my family. I sent my dad a pleading look for him to save me, which he did. He cleared his throat. "I'm sure Lorelei can find her own husband if and when she's ready. Lorelei, why don't you start the dishes?" he gestured off to the kitchen. I loved my daddy.
Gratefully I dove into the kitchen and practically drowned myself in the sink. I took my time to carefully and thoroughly clean every single dish so I wouldn't have to go back out there. They continued to talk about my future husband for a few minutes until they bored of it.
Seriously, what else is family for other than to torture you? After the meal, most of my family members went home to sleep off their full stomachs, but a few had elected to stay and I was therefore unceremoniously usurped from my room. I wouldn't have cared either, if not for the fact that I would be sharing the living room with my great aunt Lucy, the one with the teeth fetish. And she snored.
At eleven o'clock, I couldn't take it anymore and got up to make some nice hot cocoa. It wasn't that late, anyway. In the kitchen, I hummed Christmas carols to myself and settled onto the bar stool to watch the world outside slowly becoming transformed with snow. This didn't exactly qualify as a good Christmas, but the snow was putting me in a better mood. I loved the snow.
Suddenly an urgent tapping at the window scared me so badly I spilled my cocoa all over the front of my pajamas. "Ow!" I cried as quietly as I could. It had been very hot. I lifted my stained shirt away from my skin and went over to the window where an owl I didn't recognize was shivering in the snow. I opened the window and it flew in and perched on the back of the bar stool I had been sitting on and shook the snow off. I managed to take the note from its mouth, despite numerous pecks from the displeased owl after it had released the note. I made a face at the owl and broke the Hogwarts seal.
Students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,
It is my unfortunate duty to inform you of the recent death of one of the most valued members of our school. Francis Almeter died yesterday at 6:37 PM, the reasons of which are not yet known. Francis was a sixth year Prefect and a wonderful boy to all who knew him. His memorial service will be held in the Almeter household two days from now. I urge you to keep the Almeter family in your thoughts in this difficult time for them.
Sincerely, Albus Dumbledore
My breath caught. Francis had been in Hufflepuff, but I had known him! This was awful news! I sat on my bed and offered a silent prayer for him. What a tragedy and how hard it must have been on his family. I hadn't been close with him, but I knew him well enough to agree with Dumbledore's assessment. He had been very nice.
My mind immediately fell to the cause of his death. Francis had been a slightly timid boy, never getting into trouble. It also made me curious that the letter had said they didn't know what the cause of his death was. That ruled out any obvious causes of death. I shuddered at the thought of possibly dark magic being the reason. I knew the Almeter family had been very outspoken for muggle protection, and what with the conversation I had overheard, it seemed like a possibility…
I tried to shake this from my mind. It was starting to scare me. If Francis had been killed, who was to say that we weren't also targets? Blood traitors and whatnot…Stop thinking about this, I instructed myself. It was probably just some unknown disease.
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