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Curiosity Is Not a Sin by Beeezie
Chapter 6 : Trick Sweets and Blood Traitors
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 8


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Thanks to illumination. @ TDA for the beautiful CI!






Rose, James, and Albus opted to bring down butterbeers and sweets from Honeydukes to dinner rather than risk eating something that would turn them into babbling buffoons or birds or any number of other things. Roxanne, however, decided against taking these precautions, on the grounds that babbling incoherently could be highly entertaining.

Rose was not surprised when dinner turned out to be one of her most memorable meals thus far in her time at the school. As people served themselves and began to eat, they began to suddenly and inexplicably turn into large pelicans and then, several moments later, turn back into themselves. Others would suddenly and inexplicably start babbling nonsense. Students quickly began to realise that someone had tampered with the food, but avoiding the dangerous food proved to be a difficult task, as there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what exactly had been tampered with.

The food affected did not just vary between tables: it also varied between plates. Even plates of food that seemed perfectly safe because someone else had just eaten off of it and failed to turn into a pelican or begin to babble nonsense were not necessarily so, because it was possible that the person eating had simply missed the carefully hidden sweets.

Many people seemed to think that going hungry one night was preferable to the effects caused by the food, and wisely chose to stick to the drinks, assuming—fairly reasonably—that they were sure to notice sweets in there.

Technically, this was true. However, Hugo and Lily had evidently foreseen this response, and had therefore taken it upon themselves to add potions to the drinks. Those should have at least easier to spot, since a pitcher was either safe or it was not, but the trouble was that they had apparently made a variety of potions, and the effects of all were not apparent immediately.

Rose wasn’t sure if they had stockpiled them until such an opportunity presented itself, or had just quickly brewed some that morning. Either way, the potions that Hugo and Lily had the knowledge to brew in their third year were all fairly simple, but they were also quite effective.

She felt that more people should have seen it coming, once it was apparent that the food had been tampered with; she and James had bought butterbeer for precisely this possibility. As a result, more than a few people at this point were looking toward James and Roxanne suspiciously.

All around the Great Hall, people were slumping in their chairs, clearly half-asleep, or else looking around very confusedly as if they could not remember coming to the Great Hall to begin with. Both made it far more likely that people who had drunk them would not be lucid enough to be wary of desert.

On one hand, they did stop turning into pelicans, but on the other, they began to turn into large canaries, and the babbling gummies were clearly hidden in the deserts as well. Rose supposed that they could have used babbling beverages as well, but while Hugo and Lily were both fairly good at potions, she doubted they had the skill to make it.

She looked up at the high table, surprised that the teachers hadn’t said anything, and saw that they were all looking unexpectedly mellow.

Albus leaned over to her and whispered, “I think they’ve been given calming draughts.”

“Looks like,” she whispered back.

Professor McGonagall eventually seemed to come to her senses, and stood up. Rose was too busy giggling at Roxanne, who had found a babbling gummy in her desert and decided to eat it anyway, to really pay attention to what McGonagall was saying, but she heard enough to gather that once they found the people responsible for this, they would be put in detention. She also gathered that prefects were still supposed to patrol that night, assuming they still felt capable.

“C’mon, Rose,” James said as Roxanne continued to ramble on about Quidditch. “Just say you forgot, with this mayhem half the prefects who are supposed to patrol will.”

“I know,” she replied. “But I really should.” She swallowed the rest of her butterbeer and looked at the clock. “I’ve got another few minutes.”

She looked over at the Slytherin table to try to find Noah Nott, and received a surprise when she saw him walking toward her. She was about to point out the time on the clock when she realised that he wasn’t actually heading toward her at all; he was heading toward Albus. She nudged him, and he looked up.

“What’s up?” he called out. “Don’t you have to go patrol in a few minutes?”

“Yeah,” he said, stopping next to them. “Hi, Rose.”

“Hi, Noah,” she responded, feeling a little surprised at the greeting. Usually they just didn’t acknowledge each other at all.

“Yeah,” he repeated, looking back at Albus. “That’s why I’m over here. I don’t suppose you know what happened to the food?”

“Not precisely,” Al said. “It wasn’t me.”

Noah looked over at James and Roxanne, the latter of whom had begun to giggle uncontrollably. It occurred to Rose that the effects of the babbling gummy seemed to be a little like being drunk, and she filed that observation away for future use.

“Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t us, either,” James told him.

Roxanne pointed across the table. “You’re Noah Nott.”

“Yeah. I know I am,” he said.

“You’re actually a pretty good seeker, you know,” Roxanne told him. “We all think so.”

He gave her a slightly bemused look. “Thanks, I guess. Look, Al,” he said, turning back to Albus again, “I do have to patrol in the next few minutes. That’s why I’m here. Scorpius… well, when we came down to dinner, he mentioned that he’d heard a rumor that the food would have some interesting effects when consumed, so neither of us actually ate anything until we thought we’d figured out what was safe.”

“Did you see that the purple granite tells about chips and cigars?” Roxanne asked no one in particular.

Rose exchanged a look with James and giggled.

Nott looked like he wanted to laugh, too, but managed to refrain. “Well, I guessed lucky, and he, well, didn’t. I think he got a babbling gummy, too. And he kept drinking, because he hadn’t heard anything about potions being put into pitchers, which you obviously did.”

Albus shook his head, and took another sup of his butterbeer. “No, we didn’t hear about it, either. We just thought we’d play it safe.”

“Ah. Anyway, I’m pretty sure there was a sleeping draught or something in whatever he drank, because he’s gone really loopy.”

Albus finished his drink. “Do you want me to help you?”

“Well, I do have to patrol,” Noah said, “and Parkinson and Flint offered to help him back to the common room, but I don’t particularly like or trust either one of them. I also don’t like the idea of them potentially leaving him alone with the likes of Vera Zabini. She’s… well, you know.”

Rose didn’t know, but Albus clearly did. “Yeah, I’ll help him to the library or something until curfew.”

“Thanks,” said Nott, and Rose sighed.

“Al, you might get tossed out of the library if he’s being anything like Roxanne,” she pointed out.

They looked over her. “Hovering hummingbirds eat baby alligator’s teeth off hatchets,” she told James and a few second-years, looking very somber.

Albus blew out a breath, his brow furrowed. “I’ll take him to Hagrid’s.”

Rose felt faintly surprised, but decided she’d table her confusion until later.

He made to get up, and she caught his sleeve. He looked at her, and she muttered, “Let me give you the map.” She opened her bag and quickly hid it in a book, which she handed to him. “Just in case you gave time to do that homework,” she said, lightly.

Albus put it in his bag. “Thanks.”

She followed the two of them away from the table. “We probably ought to start patrol,” she said.

Nott sighed. “Lucky us. I almost wish I had eaten something like Scorpius, then I wouldn’t have to deal with whatever pranks are planned for after dinner.”

Rose looked back at the Gryffindor table. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, they’re probably not going to be doing anything tonight, not with her like that.”

“Strangely enough, it does,” he said dryly. When they reached the entrance of the Great Hall, he asked, “Do you care where you go?”

“Not really. Do you?”

“No. Why don’t I circle around the top floors, and you can have the bottom?”

“Fine by me.” Rose raised her hand in a parting wave. “See you.”

They walked their separate ways, and it was Rose’s luck that brought her through the entry hall just as Albus was steering Malfoy toward the door.

She looked at them skeptically. “Wouldn’t the Room of Requirement be easier?”

Albus frowned. “I did consider that, but I really don’t want to deal with Flint or Zabini cornering us and getting insistent about taking him downstairs to their common room.”

“What’s the issue there, exactly?” she asked.

Malfoy looked over at her. “Flint and Parkinson hate people and, and blood traitors, and all of that,” he told her. “They also hate the sky in the place in the grindylow.”

She raised her eyebrows and looked at Albus. “Translation?”

“Noah and Scorpius think that Flint and Parkinson see them both as blood traitors.”

“Really?”

Albus rolled his eyes. “Yes, Rose, really. Anyway, they’re not really people you’d trust at your back at a time like this.”

“And,” Malfoy added, leaning in close, “that Zabini girl, Virus, she’s kind of a toad. Did you know that toads don’t fly in aeroplanes or fellytones?”

“Yes, thank you,” Rose told him. “Is she really? I didn’t think she was that awful-looking.”

Malfoy shook his head. “Toad. Her nose is squashed and her hair is ugly. Also she doesn’t have a chest. Also—”

“Thanks, Scorpius,” Albus said loudly. He looked at Rose. “None of us can figure out whether she thinks he’s a blood traitor or fancies him or both, but he really can’t stand her, and he’d kill us both if we let him go back to the common room and something happened with her.”

“You know,” Malfoy said, “I think it’s good for a girl to have a chest. Otherwise, you could see her lungs and her heart, and there would be blood, and I’m not a vampire or even a dragon.”

Rose giggled. Between the babbling and the flaming red hair, she was finding Malfoy to be quite entertaining.

He looked at her again, and seemed to remember who Al was talking to. “You know, Red,” he said, “you have red hair. Is that why you made mine red?” She had no idea how to answer that, but thankfully, she didn’t have to. “My hair looks better its real colour.”

“I’m sure it’ll fade soon,” she told him, though in truth, she wasn’t actually all that sure of it. James and Roxanne knew their jinxes well.

“Well, good, ‘cause I look like a Weasley cousin right now and I’m not a Weasley. I’m also not a stoat. Or a ferret. My father got turned into a ferret once, did you know?”

She giggled again. “I did, actually.”

“Well, if I was a stoat, that would be really inappropriate,” he said. “Because I don’t believe in incest. That whole family, all animals. Also, I think that’s creepy. I’m learning about muggle science over this last summer, and I learned about DNA. It’s interesting, isn’t it?”

Rose was struggling to follow his train of thought, and Albus was clearly trying to do the same thing. “Yes,” she said slowly. When her muggle grandparents had taken her to a science museum when she was younger, she’d found genetics quite interesting. She hoped that was what she was agreeing to.

“I think you’re some distant cousins of mine,” Malfoy decided. “Whales and squids are also kind of the same because they exist in water, though. We only have a squid here. Do you think it ever ate anyone?”

“I don’t think so,” Albus said, exchanging another look with Rose. “Come on, Scorpius. Let’s go down to see Hagrid.”

“Maybe he’ll give him some of his cooking and glue his mouth shut,” Rose said in an undertone to Albus, who laughed.

As he started to lead Scorpius toward the door, though, Scorpius stopped and looked at Rose again. “You do not look squashed and I cannot see your lungs or heart. And I am not a ferret.”

“Glad to hear it,” she replied.

“Also, I lied before,” he told her.

Albus winced, as though he didn’t know what was coming but knew it couldn’t be good. “Let’s go, Scorpius.”

“The giant squid is not preferable!” he called over his shoulder.

She felt her face flush as she realised what he’d been talking about.

Rose ran into Nott about forty-five minutes into their patrol, as she was going upstairs to the second floor and he was turning off the landing of the third.

“Hey,” she called, going a few steps above the second floor. “Bump into any trouble?”

“Surprisingly, no,” he responded, coming further down the stairs. “Other than the few firecrackers still flying around and some confused students. You?”

“Nope, other than the firecrackers.” She frowned, remembering what Albus had said. “Hey, can I ask you a personal question?”

He looked a little uneasy. “What kind of personal question?”

She bit her lip. “Look, I know that you probably don’t like me,” she said, and Nott shrugged.

“I don’t actually have much of an opinion about you. I know that you and Scorpius have…” he stopped for a moment, and then said, “had words, but for me, the fact that you’re pretty arrogant is mostly canceled by the fact that Al thinks very highly of you.”

She ran her hand through her hair, and said, after a moment, “There’s an interesting character recommendation. ‘You’re obnoxious, but my friend must like you for a reason.’”

“I just trust Al’s judgment enough to think that if he likes you so much, there must be a reason for it,” Nott said. “So, what’s your question?”

“Well, I bumped into them as they were going out to Hagrid’s,” she said, “and I was just curious, so I asked him why you guys don’t trust Flint and Parkinson. And, well, Malfoy started babbling something about blood traitors, and when I was confused, Albus said that you both think they see you as blood traitors. And I was just wondering…” she trailed off, not sure how to end it.

“Why?” he asked. When she’d nodded, he sighed. “That’s actually not all that personal. They’d probably tell you if you asked. Well,” he checked himself, “maybe not you, but most people.”

“So… why?” She was trying very hard not to say that this new information went counter to everything she knew about either of their families.

He seemed to know what she was thinking, anyway, and sighed again. “I know that you probably don’t see this, but not everyone in Slytherin house is the same.”

“Well, duh,” she said. “Al would never run off and be friends with that Parkinson creep.”

He shook his head, as though she were missing the point. “Rose—I’m not explaining this very well. I’d say ask Scorpius or Albus, but Scorpius would probably take the chance to either try to jinx you or insult you, and I don’t think Al would appreciate being a messenger owl.”

“Fair enough,” she said. “I’m trying to follow, I really am.”

“Yeah. I know.” He sat down on a step. “We should really be patrolling,” he said, half-heartedly.

She shrugged. “Five minutes won’t hurt anyone.”

“Yeah. Okay, look. You’re from this heroic, wholesome family. They were all fighting against Voldemort from the day he returned. Your parents and your uncle are about the biggest war heroes there are.”

“So?”

“So… well, maybe in your family, people haven’t changed so much. You know? I mean, they were always on the right side. They didn’t really need to change. People like Parkinson and Flint? They were on the wrong side then, and the only reason they’re not still on it is that there isn’t someone leading it.”

“And your family, and Malfoy’s family…” she prompted, when he paused.

“Scorpius can tell you about his family if he likes. I’m just going to say that his father was young when he supported Voldemort, really young, and people change. That’s what happened. He’s not that kind of person at all.”

“You know him well enough to say that?” Rose asked.

“Well, yeah,” Noah said, looking a little surprised. “He’s my uncle. Did you not know that?” She shook her head. “Well, he is. At any rate, Draco changed, it’s as simple as that. And his mother… well, it’s our mothers we’re related through, but I doubt it was our mothers giving you pause in the first place, huh?” She shook her head, and he smiled. “Yeah, I thought not. You’d probably actually like our cousins. They’re very poor Slytherins. They’re completely lacking in common sense.”

Rose smiled despite herself. “Probably.”

“Anyway. As far as my father goes… well, he was never a death eater to begin with. I’m not going to say he didn’t support Voldemort, because he did, to some extent, but… it’s just not quite as straightforward as that.”

“How so?” she asked.

“My dad… has never been very interested in being part of a big group. Mostly, he likes to do his own thing. My mum says he was always like that in school, too. On one hand, yeah, he did buy into some of the pureblood stuff. I’m not going to stand here—or, sit here, I guess—and tell you that anyone who supported Voldemort is pure as freshly fallen snow. But he wasn’t a death eater, and he didn’t like Voldemort’s society very much.”

She thought for a minute or so, and then said, “But I still don’t understand how that makes either of you blood traitors.”

“Well, it doesn’t, exactly,” Nott said, “but we weren’t exactly raised in households that were big on blood purity. It’s one thing to have abstract aspirations for a pureblood society, and another to watch your classmates—even classmates you don’t like very much—being tortured and killed over it. Some people had the stomach for it. Some people… didn’t. At any rate, when I say that my father changed, I don’t mean that he sat pent-up in his manor and just didn’t actively go after muggleborns. I mean that he changed as a person, and he deals with muggleborns on a regular basis, and he does it just fine. I don’t know how he’d react if I brought one home,” he acknowledged, “but it’s still a pretty radical change, no?”

“Yeah,” Rose said. “It is.”

“At any rate,” he said, shrugging, “I don’t care about blood status, either. I imagine that if I did, they’d welcome me in with open arms, whatever my father believes, but I don’t, and neither does my brother.” Then he grinned and added, “And, hey, Scorpius and I hang around with Al an awful lot, which would probably be enough to convict us all on its own.”

“Why?” she asked, curiously.

“Well,” he said, “the Weasleys are about the biggest blood traitor family there is, and most of you aren’t even pureblood anymore. And Al’s father hardly inspires fuzzy feelings in people who want a pureblood society.”

“I can’t imagine why,” she said, airily.

“Neither can I,” Nott agreed. He got up. “Does that answer your question?”

“Yes,” she said. “Thank you. Is… are most people in Slytherin still into that blood purity thing, or is it just them?”

He sighed and grimaced. “Well, no. Not really. There are other qualities important to Slytherin house, you know—resourcefulness, for one,” he said, glancing at her, and she knew he was thinking about Malfoy’s reaction to his red hair. “There’s a pretty sizable splinter in our year that’s really into blood purity, but our year is one of the worst. They mostly leave us alone, probably because we’re better at magic than them and the prefects are on our side. But I wouldn’t trust them for a moment if they had the opportunity to do something.”

“Thanks,” Rose said, feeling like it was a little inadequate as a response.

He shrugged. “Really, it’s not a huge secret. They probably wouldn’t tell you anything, but they’d tell almost anyone else. They’re not shy about it.”

“Yeah, well, still. Thanks.”

“No problem. Back to patrol, then.” He started to head back up the stairs.

“Hopefully it’ll keep being uneventful.”

He held up crossed fingers and grinned, and she did the same as he disappeared into the corridor.

Rose found what he’d told her to be very interesting. She hadn’t really thought that Nott or Malfoy was big on blood purity; as Nott had said, they probably wouldn’t have want to run around with Albus if they were, and Albus certainly wouldn’t want to run around with them. However, she hadn’t known that their sentiments were such that they’d be seen as blood traitors by the radical splinter Nott had mentioned, and she certainly hadn’t thought that just associating with Albus would be enough to label them as such—though, now that she thought of it, it wasn’t really surprising.

She walked along the corridors, occasionally peering into classrooms, absorbed in her own thoughts. She hadn’t even realised her time was up until she caught sight of a clock on the first floor that read 8:45. Surprised that she hadn’t encountered any rule-breakers, she made for the stairs at the end of the hallway that she could take to a shortcut on the second floor.

“Hey, Red,” she heard only a few feet behind her, and jumped.

When she turned, Malfoy was standing there, smirking, clearly back to himself. “Scare you?”

She ignored her racing heart. “No.” She didn’t know why she’d been so startled; it wasn’t as though there weren’t ghosts that could pop up at random, after all, and it wasn’t so uncommon for one to float through a wall and greet a passing student. She’d just been so absorbed in her own thoughts, and fairly sure the corridor had been empty.

“Thanks for giving Al the map,” he said. “We didn’t actually end up needing it, but it was still decent of you.”

Something clicked. “You knew where I was, and you snuck up on me on purpose!” she cried.

He grinned. “Well, yeah, but I promised I wouldn’t do anything but scare you a little. He said I’m not allowed to use it to look for you if I’m planning any kind of retaliation for this stupid hair.” He shifted his weight and leaned against a wall. “Not that I know what he’s talking about.”

“I didn’t turn your hair that colour,” she said, for what she felt was the hundredth time. “I was with Al the whole time.”

“Yeah, well, maybe you’ve got a time turner, or maybe you just passed it off to your adoring cousins, or, hell, maybe one of them took polyjuice potion and covered for you. I don’t care. I know it was you.” He raised his eyebrows at her, and she looked away.

“Why’d Albus take you to Hagrid’s?” she asked, suddenly. “You said you didn’t like him.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Nice change of subject there. And, no, I didn’t say I didn’t like Hagrid, I said he was a bad teacher. He’s also a bad cook. Doesn’t mean I don’t like him.”

“Oh.” Rose felt that she’d spent a lot of time this evening not knowing what to say.

“Yeah. Oh.” He ran a hand through his hair, and she giggled. He scowled and said, sarcastically, “I know, it’s so hilarious, isn’t it?”

“Well, what do you want?” she asked. “You didn’t just come here to scare me, and I know for a fact that this isn’t the fastest way to your common room from the entrance hall.”

He took in a deep breath, and exhaled loudly. He was clearly steeling himself to say something. “I don’t really remember everything I said when I was under the influence of that clever prank by Lily and your brother—”

“Oh, come on,” she interrupted. “It was funny.”

He paused, and then allowed a smile. “All right, yes, it was, and I was stupid for trusting the drinks. Anyway,” he said, clearing his throat, “I do think I remember starting to go on about blood traitors, and I wanted to make sure you knew that I wasn’t calling you one.”

She blinked, taken aback. “Oh, no, that’s not what you were saying at all, and I knew it,” she told him. “But thanks.”

“Yeah.” He paused again, and then said, “I might not like you, but it’s got nothing to do with who your parents are. It’s just that you’re a bitch.”

“Thanks,” she said, dryly.

“Anytime.” He frowned. “Well, then, what was I talking about? I’m pretty sure I remember saying something about blood traitors.”

She looked down the hall, and saw no one. After a moment, she said, “Both Albus and your friend Noah Nott seemed to feel very strongly that you shouldn’t be alone with some of the other people you share a dormitory with, and I was wondering why. You started babbling about how they hated blood traitors, and Al translated that as they saw you as a blood traitor.”

“Oh.” He appeared to be processing that information. “That makes sense.” He gave her a sharp look. “What’s the matter, Red? Shocked that anyone in Slytherin could possibly be considered a blood traitor?”

“Not particularly,” she said coldly. “I didn’t think that either of you were big on blood purity, you know.”

“You didn’t think we were actually considered blood traitors, though, huh?”

“No,” she admitted. “I didn’t.”

“Well, we are,” he said. “Look, Red, I know that you don’t really understand it, probably because you don’t even try, but there actually are good people in houses that aren’t Gryffindor.” She opened her mouth, and he added, “Or Hufflepuff. Or your cousins.”

“I know that,” she said. “I just think that the other houses are more self-centred and less brave.”

He rubbed his forehead. “Okay, bravery isn’t the only thing that makes a good person. Nor is it as important as you seem to think that it is.”

“My mother—”

He rolled his eyes and cut her off. “Look, your mother is a war hero. We all know that, and that’s just great.” She glowered, and he held up his hands. “No, really, I mean it. She’s a hero, and she’s a good person, and yeah, she’s incredibly brave. My father always talks about her with a lot of respect.”

“Really?”

He closed his eyes for a minute. She was clearly trying his patience. “Yes, Red, really. And she deserves all of the recognition and honor and respect. But you know what? Not everyone was in a position to act the way she did. What about my father? You think he should have just died? You think he liked seeing his classmates tortured and killed?”

She didn’t say anything. She wasn’t sure what to say.

“Look, Red, I’m sorry, but whatever you may think of them, I love my family. My father did what he had to do to survive. I’m sorry if that doesn’t live up to your Gryffindor standards, but it’s true. And, by the way, in case you forgot, my grandmother lied for your uncle in that last battle.”

Rose had, indeed, forgotten that.

“They did what they had to. They wanted to survive. They wanted my father to survive. And when she saw a way out, she took it.”

“But—”

“Look,” he said, “I’m not saying that my father’s parents are exactly spearheading muggle rights campaigns or anything. Yeah, they’re still a little prejudiced. My grandfather was a death eater. I’m not denying that. But that’s a small part of who they are, and they care about their family a hell of a lot more than they care about stupid blood purity. And you know what? If I brought home some muggleborn girl, my parents wouldn’t care, my mother’s parents wouldn’t care, and my father’s parents would bite their tongues because they want me to be happy.” He stopped, breathing hard.

“Sorry,” Rose said, in a very small voice. It felt as inadequate here as it had when she’d thanked Nott earlier in the evening.

He seemed to relax a little, and rubbed his forehead. “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t come down here to get into an argument with you about Slytherin house and my family.”

“Would you rather get into an argument about looking down my shirt and whether or not you’d rather kiss the giant squid?” she asked. “We could go with that, it’s less awkward.”

He made a face. “How on earth do you find that to be less awkward?”

“Well, for one thing, it’s not a matter of life or death,” she pointed out.

“I don’t know,” he muttered. “I think I’d have to kill myself if I kissed the giant squid.” She giggled, and he looked at her. “Is it the hair again, or what I said?”

“What you said, mostly.”

He sighed. “I said something about the giant squid earlier, didn’t I.” It wasn’t really a question.

“Yeah. You said that the giant squid wasn’t preferable. I think you also told me that I was better looking than that Zabini girl, but that bit was much harder to follow.”

Malfoy leaned against the wall. “Of course I did,” he said ruefully.

“Is she really that bad looking?” Rose asked. She didn’t really understand why Malfoy was so disgusted by Zabini; she was no Dominique, but she’d never struck Rose as especially ugly.

“Well, for starter’s, she’s flat-chested, her nose looks like she stole it from a toad, and her hair looks like straw.”

“Flat-chested girls can’t be pretty?” Rose challenged, and he rolled his eyes.

“No, I didn’t say that. I mean, look at Lily. She’s pretty.” Rose raised her eyebrows at Malfoy. He looked absolutely appalled. “God, don’t look at me like that. You know that’s not what I meant. She’s thirteen.”

Rose crossed her arms. “Oh, come on, tell the truth,” she teased. “I bet you found me attractive when I was thirteen.”

She was expecting him to deny it, and was therefore quite surprised when he said, “That was different, because I was also thirteen.” Rose blinked a few times; she had no idea how to respond to that. He grinned. “If I’d known that it was this easy to shut you up, I’d have started telling you that before now.”

“I’ll get used to it,” she said after a moment.

He acknowledged that with a nod. “Probably.” The thought didn’t seem to bother him very much. “Anyway, Zabini’s just… creepy. Toward the end of last year, she apparently decided that she could seduce me into embracing my pureblood roots.”

Rose frowned. “Really?”

Malfoy grimaced. “Yeah. Really. I was hoping she’d forget about it over the summer, but…”

“Why you and not Nott?”

He considered this. “Probably because she think Noah’s more oblivious than me because he’s a much better actor.” He shrugged. “Or maybe she just likes blond hair better than brown hair, I don’t know.”

“Don’t worry,” Rose assured him. “I won’t let it swell my head. It’s not much to be told that you’d prefer me to a large nautical creature and a creepy girl with a squashed nose.”

He looked at her for a moment, and then said, “You know, you’re occasionally almost tolerable.”

“Gee, thanks. That’s two great character recommendations tonight,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“What was the first?” he asked interestedly.

“Nott told me that he didn’t hate me because while I was arrogant, Albus did like me.”

He sniggered. “Yeah, that’s about what he thinks.” He looked at his watch. “I should get back to the common room. I don’t need a detention.”

“Yeah, so should I,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do for tomorrow.” She groaned. “Double history of magic tomorrow.”

“You had to remind me?” he asked.

“Maybe I’ll use a snackbox,” she said, thoughtfully.

“Aren’t you a prefect?” he asked.

She shrugged. “It’s an awful class, you know it is. Anyway, as long as I don’t ask too often, I can usually convince Lucy to give me her notes from fifth year.”

Malfoy looked surprised. “Your cousin still has her notes from fifth year?” When Rose nodded, he shook his head. “No wonder Andrew thinks that she’s so terrific.”

Rose was still deliberating about whether to skip the class. “Maybe it’s not even worth a snackbox. You think he’d notice me missing?”

Malfoy shrugged. “Probably not, but if you’re skiving off, Albus will, and I’m not sitting through an hour and a half without him. I can’t play hangman by myself, and Noah is too busy paying attention. And Binns might notice if three of us are gone.”

Rose sighed. “Waste of a snackbox.”

“Oh, please, you can get more.”

“True.” She headed for the stairs. “Night.”

“Hey, Red?” he called. She looked back. “I’m still going to get you back for this ridiculous hair, even if you are occasionally almost tolerable.”

She shrugged. “Good luck,” she said, touching her necklace.

He paused, and then said, “You know, I’d prefer you to a lot of girls. Shame about the personality, though. Otherwise, I’d quite fancy you.” The lights were dim, but she could swear his face was a little flushed.

She rolled her eyes. “And there’s my third character recommendation of the night. ‘No, no, it’s not your looks, those are fine, your personality is just too awful to bear.’”

His laughter followed her up the stairs.


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