Chapter 1 : (un)happy birthday
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The setting sun beat down gently. The breeze was cool, kissing the back of her neck and teasing loose pieces of her hair. It really was a glorious day, the way the light stretched across her grandmother’s garden and lit the faces of her family, assembled for her special day. Twenty five was a milestone, according to her grandmother; it was an age that spoke of promise, of truly leaving all the accolades of adolescence behind her. The air was laden with the scent of both flowers and her grandmother’s cooking; why her mother couldn’t cook like grandmother was something Rose did not understand. Not that her mother’s cooking was bad – it just wasn’t this good.
With a mouth full of pie, Rose was trying her best to ignore her brother. She was not speaking to Hugo – again – and this time, everyone agreed that it really was his fault. For once, he had done something out of the ordinary and took Rose out the day before her birthday, promising she would be entertained, excited and very possibly, enchanted. What was not out of the ordinary was Hugo making a mess of everything.
Hugo forgot birthdays, anniversaries, dinner, phone numbers. He ignored owls, texts, knocks on the door. Rose recalled school – he forgot homework, to get dressed properly, where his classes were and on one occasion, the Hogwarts Express. Their mother dismayed; their father assured her he would grow out of it, but at almost twenty-three, it appeared Hugo was not going to change.
So it didn’t really surprise Rose when it slipped her brother’s tiny mind that she hated quidditch. Detested it, really. She could not see the point in it and no matter how many times people (uncles, cousins, her father, brother) sat her down and tried to explain the benefits, she could not see it. It was nothing more than a supercilious waste of time; an excuse for people to show off, for guys to hit one another and for girls to act ridiculous trying to impress them. Rose knew girls played quidditch as well – Lucy was brilliant, much to her father’s dismay. Rose knew from snatches of adult conversation overhead in kitchens and hallways, that Uncle Percy wanted Lucy to choose something “more dignified” to do with her life, like follow him into the Ministry. She was intelligent, quick-witted and could have an illustrious career of her choosing, but Lucy just wanted to play quidditch.
Taking his sister to a quidditch match as a birthday present was the first thing Hugo got wrong. The second, was standing her up. He’d called her the night before, making sure she was still going to meet him in Diagon Alley, and then, once Rose had calmed down and gracefully accepted that her day would entail screaming, sweat and stupid girls, she had settled back in her seat, figuring she may as well try and enjoy (or at least tolerate) the game and trying not to think about her irritating brother. He was attempting to do something nice, thoughtful even, after all.
Hugo went to buy drinks – “I’ll be right back, Rosie; pay attention and tell me if anyone scores” – and, to her absolute mortification, he didn’t come back. Some masochistic part of Rose decided to stay and see the game out, becoming quickly aware of just how fanatical some of the fans could be. A fight broke out a few rows below her; people yelled insults and hurled abuse at both the players and each other. The noise was unbearable, the sweat that dripped down her spine cold on her skin and if one more person bumped her as they jumped out of their seats...
The emotions of the crowd rose and feel like a giant wave; sighs, screams, wails of disappointment; the thoughts of those around her seemed to rise like a living entity and settle around her shoulders, making her feel ill. It had never been this intense at school. Unsettled and sick of waiting, Rose stood up and pushed her way out of the stands using elbows and her fiercest expression and stalked home thinking blood-thirsty thoughts about her useless brother.
What Hugo did all day, and most of the night, was beyond any of them. His circle of friends was not the most auspicious of characters and Rose knew her mother was worried about the sort of influence “those boys” had on Hugo. Rose worried too; worried that one day she’d have to write his name in association with a crime spree, deal gone wrong, or mugging, or worse. Rose loved her brother, but she did not love what he had become lately: self-obsessed, obnoxious, even more unreliable and, there was no other word for it, lazy. She knew why, of course, but also knew there was nothing she could do about it. If Hugo wanted to be friends with...that, then it was his choice.
Now, Hugo sat across the table from her, wearing his best puppy-dog expression. It did not sit well with his bloodshot eyes and sallow skin. Rose had smothered a smirk that morning, when Hugo stumbled into the Burrow, walking straight into a tongue lashing from both mother and grandmother.
“How could you do that to your sister?”
“It was supposed to be for her birthday!”
“I am honestly getting tired of this behaviour, Hugo. You’re an adult now and how you choose to spend your time is up to you but I will not have you breaking promises to your family.”
“What about making a fool of himself in public?” That was James. Smiling broadly, Rose watched with delight as her cousin, his face a mask of fake concern, walked into the kitchen. “He got kicked out of The Hogs Head, him and Malfoy.”
“Hugo! Of all the things...and with Scorpius?”
Hugo spread his fingers in a gesture of defeat. “It wasn’t our fault. There were these trolls, or ogres, or whatever, and they-”
“I don’t care. The Malfoy’s may be able to afford the best possible lawyer but I tell you, we can’t.”
“Lawyer? Who needs a lawyer?” Hugo asked.
“You will, one day,” Rose chimed in, leaning against the bench; her mother shot her an exasperated glance and Rose shrugged.
“You look like shit,” James added.
Hugo scowled and stalked away, snatching up yesterday’s copy of The Prophet on the way.
“Didn’t realise you could read,” James called, and Rose giggled. They were both told off by Grandma Weasley, for ‘teasing’, and ordered out into the garden to wait for lunch. Rose didn’t mind. There was nothing she could do to help in the kitchen, not that she would be allowed to anyway, especially not today. Her birthday. So far, not counting Hugo, it had been a pleasant day. Roxanne and Lucy had come by her flat, bearing gifts. Neither could make lunch, much to the consternation of the rest of the family. Victoire and Teddy would not be there either, off enjoying married life. Rose didn’t mind; there would be enough family there to make it a special event, or give her a headache, or a bit of both.
By the time everyone had arrived, it was later than expected and lunch had become an early dinner. Lanterns floated around the trees, bobbing up and down gracefully, and the long, wooden table was overflowing with food. After the fight, Hugo had spoken to no one except Albus, and now, Rose and her cousins were gathered at one end of the large table and her parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents at the other. Hugo was telling Al, in a loud and important voice, that Scorpius had invited him to the Manor, for “something special.” Rose snorted, having a fair idea of what that might be – more drinking, gambling and acts she would rather not think of her brother engaging in.
Scorpius Malfoy’s reputation was nothing short of embarrassing, if only by association. Rose felt herself blush whenever she overheard stories in a cafe, or at work, and wondered constantly what his parents thought. He wasn’t that terrible a person; he was just supremely confident in himself, a trait Rose found rather pathetic. She’d ignored him at school, done what her father asked and beaten him in nearly every test but she could not, despite her mother’s gentle suggestions that the boy was probably lonely, befriend him.
That task, later in life, fell to Hugo. Rose wasn’t even sure why, or how, they were friends. Knowing he liked to irritate her, she considered the possibility that Scorpius had chosen Hugo as his new chum simply to annoy her. After several years though, she had to admit the friendship between the two men was not going away. The unfortunate thing about it was that Hugo was slowly morphing into Scorpius.
Rose sat watching her brother, wondering what was going on his head. Hugo glanced up, caught her watching and suddenly smiled a sly smile before slinking away to whisper in their mother’s ear. Rose watched him, suspicious and suddenly very apprehensive when Hermione smiled.
“What an excellent idea,” she said, her eyes swinging to Rose, who stopped breathing. “Rose, dear,” she said excitedly. Rose watched as her mother approached, slipping into the chair James vacated and held out for her. “Thank you, James; such a gentleman.”
Lily scoffed into her wine.
Hermione was practically gushing. “Hugo has had a wonderful idea.”
“Really?” Rose asked warily.
“I do have them sometimes,” her brother said indifferently, pulling a now very crumbled Daily Prophet from his back pocket. How Hugo managed to destroy anything made from paper in such a short period of time was beyond Rose’s comprehension. He tossed the paper at her; it landed in her lap, narrowly missing spilling her wine and she scowled. “Go to page three,” Hugo said, smirking again. Rose narrowed her eyes, but did as she was asked. Scanning the page, she frowned, and then burst out laughing.
“Oh you’ve got to be kidding!”
Scorpius Malfoy wants a wife.
Rose snorted. Beyond the first sentence, she did not bother reading the rest of the half page advertisement. There was an extremely large photograph of Scorpius, smiling and preening like a prized beast, and Rose shook her head, shutting the pages on his face, enjoying hearing him squeak with indignation. She couldn’t believe her mother had printed it.
Just one year ago, her mother had decided she was tired of sitting at home and needed a job. Good on her, Rose thought at the time, getting back into the workforce. What she did not anticipate was that her mother would become her new boss. Rose had to admit that The Daily Prophet ran much smoother under Hermione’s leadership; circulation was up, the content of the articles had improved. “If you want to write gossip, go and work at Witch Weekly,” Hermione had told several budding female journalists. “This is a serious paper covering serious topics.”
Rose turned to her mother. “I didn’t think you were going to print…rubbish.”
Hermione had the grace to blush. “Yes, well. We were given a rather…large donation.”
“You took a bribe,” Rose stated, shaking her head. “Unbelievable.”
“It was not a bribe. It was a donation, worth much more than any advertising space. Money is money, and the paper needs it,” Hermione said, sitting up straight.
Rose watched as her cousins gathered descended on the paper like vultures over a carcass, fighting over who would read the advertisement first. “The prize is a thousand galleons!” breathed Dominique, the victor. She held the paper close to her chest, blue eyes gleaming in the semi-darkness. She looked too enthusiastic.
“By all means, enter,” Fred was saying. “You scrub up alright. Even Malfoy would be impressed.”
Dominique shook her head importantly. “Dad would kill me and anyway, I’m not that desperate.”
“No, of course not,” Louis muttered. “You didn’t come out of your room for a week after the wedding.”
“You’re not tempted, Rosie?” Al asked, a wicked grin on his face.
“Tempted? You have got to be kidding. Tempted to take part in a…what is it called? Oh yes,” Rose exclaimed, snatching the paper from Dominique and scanning the advertisement, “’competition to win the heart of the proverbial bachelor, Scorpius Malfoy.’ Ha!”
“Apparently, Roxanne and Lucy are going,” Hugo stated. The silence that followed was deep, stretching into the night, until Molly starting coughing.
“They what? Oh dad will kill her.” She was grinning; Molly had always complained that Lucy was the favourite.
Hugo shrugged. “According to Scorpius anyway. You know he still likes Roxanne? He never really got over her.”
“Yeah, because she was the first girl with enough sense to dump him before he ruined her life,” Rose bit back scathingly. She had not forgiven Roxanne for being stupid enough to get involved with the arrogant blonde in the first place. It was a short lived romance, over before it really got going. He was too clingy, Roxanne complained.
“Mum’s going to send you in, get an exclusive. I bet you’d sell more copies if you included a running commentary on the whole thing,” Hugo said, picking up a napkin. He tapped it with his wand, and a small white boat floated on the hair, picking up speed until it almost crashed into Rose’s nose. She swatted it away indifferently. She was used to such things.
“I really don’t think people are that interested in Malfoy’s love life.”
Hermione cleared her throat. “Actually, Rose, darling, that is-”
Rose felt the blood drain from her face. “Oh no. No way. You cannot be serious?”
“Well you always claimed you wanted to be the sort of reporter who got right in there,” Hermione stated, not looking the least bit sorry, or concerned. She had switched into editor mode and Rose blinked at her, shocked and beginning to grow very, very angry.
Slowly, she turned to her brother. Hugo was sitting back in his chair, smiling, while all around him, their cousins wore mixed expressions; Lily was chewing her nails, looking worried: Fred was laughing, Molly was trying not to laugh, Dominique and Louis were bickering between themselves, Albus was grinning and James was frowning.
“I hate you,” Rose hissed at her brother, who yawned.
“You’d better buy a new bikini,” Hugo commented.
“A new what?” Rose screeched, rising to her feet, wand in hand. Her mother stood also, worry starting to creep onto her face.
“Yeah, for the Bikini Contest.” Hugo’s grin was so wide it seemed his face had stretched. Rose wanted to scream; she was thinking violent thoughts again and every single one of them ended with her brother on the ground, bleeding and unconscious.
“You won’t be going in any contests,” her mother was saying, giving Hugo a stern glare. “You will be there as a reporter, not a contestant. And,” Hermione went on, before Rose could protest, “If Roxanne and Lucy are going to be there, it might be a good idea to have you there as well, in case things get…messy. You know how they can be.”
“It’ll be fun, Rosie,” Hugo was saying.
“Who says I’m even going? You need to grow up, Hugo.”
Hugo sighed and rolled his eyes. “Give it a rest. Scorpius is okay.”
“Naturally,” Rose snapped, “If you like vipers, or worms, or other creepy crawly things.”
“Relax,” Hugo said so casually it made Rose suspicious. She narrowed her eyes, fingers clenched tightly into fists as her brother stood up and stretched. “I’m heading home.”
“Remember to thank your grandmother for dinner,” Hermione said. “Rose, we can talk about this more at work tomorrow.”
Rose slowly sank down into her chair. No one said anything. Al went with Hugo, and slowly, people drifted off until it was just Rose and James sitting in the sweltering darkness.
James cleared his throat. “Happy birthday?”
Rose drained a glass of wine and let her head fall into her hands.
Rose Weasley - Lily Cole
Scorpius Malfoy - Alex Pettyfer
Hugo Weasley - Nicolas Bemberg