I could honestly say that I was dreading the first Christmas back from Hogwarts. It would be the first time I would come face to face with my family. Albus, James and all of the other cousins, all of whom were Gryffindors, seemed to accept the fact I was in Slytherin. Occasionally I accompanied Albus to Hagrid's hut for tea; I received mischievous winks from James when I walked past him in the hallway and stunning smiles from Victoire.
Scorpius and I (unsurprisingly) became best friends, and a group of like minded first years seemed to fall together- Joyce, Dean and Tom. However, I had only ever voiced my concerns about Christmas to Scorpius. He begged me to stay at Hogwarts with him arguing that he would be lonely, since his parents were in Hungary. However, I insisted that I needed to go and face my family. I may not have been a Gryffindor, but nonetheless, I was not the kind of person to avoid because of potential conflict. Scorpius laughed sadly and asked me whether I really did belong with all of my cousins in Gryffindor, after all.
As I got of the train on the way home, I saw a large congregation of people, the majority with red hair, although some sporting black braids, and others, thick brown curly hair. Seeing this, I did feel a swooping sense of affection for each one of them. As my vision honed in on a particular subdivision of the large family, I saw my mother and Hugo. I also noticed the absence of my father. I ran over to my mother, and gave her a hug. She squeezed me tightly. “I’ve missed you!” She whispered. As she hugged me, I could smell her perfume- a mix of vanilla and flowers. As I stood back, she looked anxious. “Dad’s stuck in the auror office,” she said, quick to explain his absence. Somewhere in my mind, I found it hard to believe. Uncle Harry was present, greeting James and Albus, and since they worked in the same department, I doubted my mother was being completely honest.
The drive back was pleasant. Hugo, my mother and I spoke normally- talking about teachers and what lessons I liked the most. Hugo asked me questions about Hogwarts, like “how many lessons do you have in a day?” and “have you been to a school Quidditch match yet?” I found that I was finally smiling after weeks of mentally panicking about what going home would be like. I was happy and relaxed- until our house came into view. I could feel my breathing speeding up, and I could feel my heart pumping out of my chest. I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that my father could present a problem to me.
As I walked into the small house, I could hear a muffled thumping noise, acting in threes. After the third thump, the noise ceased temporarily, and then began once more. I was sure that the noise meant that my father was playing darts in the next room. I looked over at my mother, and she gave an encouraging smile. My stomach was flipping uncontrollably. I walked into the room. “Hello!” I said brightly.
My father looked at me. His eyes were bloodshot from the insomnia which clearly hadn’t left him, and his face was wearing a blank expression. “Hello.” He said as though addressing a wall. He returned to throwing his darts.
“Do I get a hug?” I asked him. He stopped throwing the darts and gave me a quick hug and a swift kiss on the cheek. His smell was totally different. It smelt of aftershave and firewhisky. It wasn’t the chocolately smell I remembered him having not so long ago. He returned to throwing his darts, without saying anything. “Well, I’ve got to go and get my trunk unpacked...” I said, backing out of the room. Hugo was stood on the other side of the door, waiting for me to exit the room.
“Do you want some help with your trunk?” He asked, helpfully. I smiled at my little brother. I felt a small rush of affection for him at that moment. Once he helped me haul the trunk up to the third floor, and into my room, then he sat on my bed, watching me pull dirty washing out of my trunk and flipping through one of my textbooks.
“Dad’s been like that for weeks.” Hugo said, sadly. I wanted to apologise, as though it was somehow my fault. I didn’t know what to say. Hugo smiled. “Mum said it’s his sleeping. He won’t take any potions for it... The potion makes you lose control of when you sleep and Dad said he doesn’t like that idea,” he paused looking at his shoelace dangling off of the side of my bed. “Its nice to have you back, though. It’s been so quiet.”
Dinner was uncomfortable that evening. We ate chiefly in silence. My mother tried to initiate conversation, but all my father would do is grunt if something was directed at him. He helped to clean up, and retired to his room, where the noise of darts being thrown resumed. I felt sorry for my mother and Hugo. It wasn’t their fault; it wasn’t even my fault really. I knew I had to step up and speak to my father. I missed him, frankly. I missed how he would call me Rosie and I missed how he would laugh and joke around.
I knocked on the door. He made a noise as if to say come in. I edged my way in, closing the door. “Dad,” I said “what’s the matter?”
“Well there obviously is.”
He sighed. “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it now. I’ve just got to deal with it.”
“Deal with what?” I wanted him to state it to me. I wanted him to tell me outright that he hated Slytherins. His face reddened slightly. He said nothing. I raised my eyebrows. “But, the hat said I shouldn’t be in Gryffindor, and put me there.”
“You do realise the world doesn’t revolve around you? Yeah, I don’t approve of you being mates with that Malfoy kid, but that’s not top of my list at the moment,” He snapped.
His face was red, and for the first time, he seemed angry. I didn’t know what to say. “It...It’s not my fault though.” I stammered. He looked at me blankly.
“I don’t care about that. I’m more worried about getting some sleep, in all honesty.” I looked at my father. I’d never seen him like that before. Suddenly, I realised what he was talking about- his insomnia. He wasn’t upset by me; he was upset with his lack of sleep.
“I...I’m sorry.” I said, my face going the same colour as my hair. I stood up and exited the study and went to my bedroom. Soon, my mother walked in.
“Oh, Rosie,” She sighed. She gave me a hug. She kissed the top of my head. “I’ll try and speak to him.” She said, standing up and leaving the room.
Minutes passed without any noise coming from the direction of the study that my parents were in. I couldn’t help but wondering what was going on in there. Even more minutes passed until finally my father strolled into my room, looking sheepish.
“Sorry... I know I shouldn’t have snapped at you,” he said “I hope you’ll still be my little princess, though?”
I looked at him. Something inside of me was screaming to say no, and to tell him to never speak to me, but my heart was telling me to smile and accept the apology. I stood up and walked over to him, and he pulled me into a hug. I smiled back at him, “I’ll take the draught” he said, breathing into my hair. I felt selfish. He was only unable to sleep because he cared. A Death-Eater at a trial last year threatened to kill either me or Hugo and since then, he’d been plagued with nightmares. As I felt his embrace, I forgave him.
As soon as Christmas finally arrived, I found that my father was acting much more naturally relaxed. His sleeping patterns were extremely random, but he was eating more food, and he began to smile again. Over the passing days, Hugo had asked me repeatedly about the Slytherin common room- tactfully, only when our parents were out of the room. It was definitely something that I admired him for. He was so smart for such a young person.
On Christmas day, I woke up to Hugo enthusiastically jumping on my bed, as though he was a tiny child. I then reminded myself that he practically still was. He was also the first person to notice the owl outside of my window. It had a small brown package attached to its leg along with a card. Hugo begged me to open it, sensing it was something I wouldn’t want to mention to my parents, just in case. The card had a snowman on the front, surrounded by chubby, ruddy faced, carol singing children. On the inside of the card, it simply said:
Happy Christmas, Rose! (Sorry about the card, it was the only one I could find in the entire Slytherin common room) Hope you like your present! Looking forward to seeing you back at Hogwarts- don’t turn into a Gryffindor! From Scorpius.
Hugo wasn’t interested in what the card said and begged me to open the present, which I duly did. Inside the wrapper contained a simple silver necklace, with a tiny silver snake as a pendant. It did not look expensive, but it was perfect. It was so much like him to choose something that would represent my Slytherin side. I wondered whether I should wear it, but Hugo obviously read what I was thinking by the look on my face, when he said, “I think you shouldn’t wear that until you go back to Hogwarts. Especially since we’re seeing everyone today...” I nodded in agreement, putting the necklace under my pillowcase, and as I did so, I wondered whether Hugo really should have been the older child. He was much more mature than me, regardless of the two year age gap.
As a family, we spent a happy morning opening presents and snacking on Christmas treats, still in our night clothes. I was just about to open up the packet of Christmas themed Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, when a head popped into view on the fireplace. It was my aunt Ginny. Her hair was cut short, and her face was chubby. She smiled into the room, wishing everyone a happy Christmas, and then asked if we realised what the time was. Suddenly, in the form of a squeak, my mother remembered that we were due at the Burrow- where my Grandparents lived- for Christmas lunch, in a mere 10 minutes.
As I was shooed away to get dressed by my mother, I wondered whether anyone in the family would mention school. Surely, they would? Once I was dressed, we all flooed into the living room of the Burrow. I was immediately greeted with the smell of a turkey roasting, and a faint smell of alcohol. A smell which was either coming from stewing Christmas pudding, or Uncle Charlie.
The house was extremely cramped. The entire extended Weasley clan was present- Including Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny with James Albus and Lily, Uncle George and Aunt Angelina with Roxanne and Fred, Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur with Dominique, Victoire and Louis and also Teddy Lupin. Also present was Uncle Percy and Aunt Audrey along with their children Lucy and Molly. I often found it difficult to keep up with everything going on in the family, so all of these people milling around, along with a half-cut Uncle Charlie- back from Romania for the month- was havoc.
Lucy was the first to give me a hug, almost strangling me in the process. She was the oldest of Uncle Percy’s children. I loved Uncle Percy. He was the quietest of the uncles, but he was also the most understanding. He was often the butt of jokes, because of his allegiance in the beginning of the war... A topic that even he knew would be inescapable from jokes- something that he accepted graciously. Therefore, he was someone I openly admired. Lucy was also the cousin that I was probably closest to in the family. Although she was two years younger than me, we were similar in personality. When we were younger, we once got hold of Aunt Audrey’s hair colouring potion, which we decided to use, meaning that we both ended up with poorly died hair, in an extremely dark black colour thus, making us look like twins. I don’t think my mother ever truly forgave Aunt Audrey for having potions in full reach of a five and seven year old.
Luckily, although I was dreading the impending school discussion, I was lost in the crowd- something that, although I would usually hate, worked to my benefit. Until Uncle Percy asked me about school over the table. Everyone sat at the long, outdoor table went silent, waiting for an answer. “Good,” I said, stabbing a Brussels sprout “I...um...Transfiguration is really interesting...” I said.
“Well,” Granddad said, “I loved Muggle studies!”
Conversation then broke out among pairs of people about their favourite lessons. I surreptitiously looked over at Granddad and gave him a grateful smile, which he acknowledged with a solemn nod.
That evening, as I lay on the floor of the Burrow, wedged in between Lucy and Molly, I wondered whether it was actually me with the prejudice. I had been expecting conflict. I was expecting the family to act as if I had betrayed them, when in fact they couldn’t have been any more different. Suddenly, my musing was disturbed by Molly’s mumble of “no Gran, no more mince pies”.
A/N: This is turning out to be very enjoyable to write! This chapter is a little fluffier than I planned it to be, but I think it works... After all, she is only about 11 in this chapter! I just wanted to say thank you to both BrightStar and Ariellem who really have inspired me so much to write this. I’m eternally grateful to both of you!