Chapter 14 : xiv. the easter buns [or] don't leave me to my own devices
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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.
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,
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?”
“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.
“Let’s get a cat,” I say firmly.
“No bunnies?” Holly asks sadly, tapping the Bunny Generator with her wand to turn it off.
“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.”
“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?”
“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.
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?”
“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.
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