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Chapter 16 : xvi. the way ahead [or] i reminisce too much and scorpius has a plan
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But then there’s Alfie sitting by the fire, absorbed in a giant tome with a little smile on his face, his skinny-jeaned knees drawn up in front of him – and the common room is empty. All thoughts of my friends forgotten, I cross the room with impressive haste.
“Evening,” I say, and kiss him without further preamble.
He returns the kiss, reaching up to tangle one hand in my hair and pulling me into his lap, shoving the book to the floor.
“What were you reading?”
“Paradise Lost. You’re much more interesting.”
“You looked like you were enjoying it.”
“It’s one of my favourites. You’re still more interesting.”
“High praise.” I kiss him again, and the world shrinks down to his touch, the warmth of his breath on my neck, the way his hands feel skimming across my skin –
I keep meaning to bring him upstairs, I do. But every time I pull away, a “maybe we should take this elsewhere,” ready on my lips, he reels me back in with a word or a touch or a kiss that makes me realise there are more important things to worry about, which might go some way towards explaining how we both end up on the floor, all frantic fumbles and hushed whispers and bursts of laughter because we’re on the floor, we have two empty dorms to choose from with beds and lockable doors but in our infinite wisdom we’re screwing in the common room.
“Wit beyond measure,” Alfie proclaims later, when we’ve regained some element of decorum (and clothing.)
“Wise old Ravenclaw,” I agree, nodding sagely. “Where those of wit and learning may always find their kind.”
“And then fuck in the common room at one o’clock on a Tuesday morning.”
“In the holidays. Important distinction.”
“A very important distinction,” he agrees. “You don’t think anyone heard us? The wee second years are directly above – ”
I clap a hand over my mouth at the thought, before common sense gets the better of me. “No, no. This’ll be soundproofed, there’s no way anyone could sleep up there during term time otherwise. Besides, we were quiet.”
“Quiet enough. Do you still want to spend the night in my dorm, or – ”
“Of course.” He grins. “We can wake each other up for study tomorrow. I thought it was effective this morning – ”
“For academia!” I throw a dramatic fist in the air and lead him upstairs.
Despite the last twenty-four hours definitely being a contender for the most full-on of my life (four hours sleep, three shags, one panic attack, one job offer) and despite the fact that Alfie has, by some miracle (or maybe the weird angle that he’s curled himself into) fallen asleep without snoring at all, I give up on the hope of actually sleeping by the time the clock strikes three and I’m still wide awake. I edge out of bed, careful not to wake Alfie, and take a moment to find my conspicious Chudley Cannons hoodie and a pair of obnoxiously fluffy slippers to ward off the chill of the castle’s stone floors. I don’t know where I’m going, just that I need somewhere to think that isn’t freezing cold – and my feet set me on the path to the Prefects’ Bathroom.
I don’t use it very often. I don’t like anything that resembles communal bathing, and while I was happy to give it a go in fifth year because of novelty value, it became quickly and awkwardly apparent that I wasn’t quite over my thing for Sophie when she joined me, and I had to attempt casual conversation about schoolwork while the girl I’d daydreamed about kissing far too often lounged across the tub from me in her birthday suit. She remained oblivious, of course, but I went through a stage of being interested in Occlumency for a while after that, and stopped frequenting the Prefects’ Bathroom.
The lock on the door clicks behind me, the ever-present cloud of steam hitting my face, and I climb into the tub while the taps are still running. It’s warm – even the brief walk through the castle has made me lose most of the feeling in my feet. I chuck an Impervius Charm on my hair – it’s easier than trying to dry a mane like mine – and wallow for a bit.
Truth be told, I never quite understand why other people find baths so relaxing. There are elements of comfort, of course – warmth, seclusion, et cetera – but I’m plagued with too many thoughts too often anyway, and giving myself nothing else to focus on ends up more stressful than relaxing.
My mind turns to Alfie, though more out of a sense of obligation than neccessity. I’m an eighteen year old girl and I lost my virginity last night, and a combination of society, media and overheard conversations in the hallways tell me it should be a bigger deal to me than it is. I suppose there’s an image – a stereotype people expect me to conform to, because I’m a high-achieving, law-abiding Prefect and I like spending my time studying. I can almost hear the whispers now – “Rose Weasley, sleeping with a guy she’s not even going out with – but she’s a good girl.” Hypothetical as they are, they make my skin crawl – that instinctive correlation drawn between virginity and goodness.
It dawns upon me that we’ve never been particularly good. Albus and Scorpius, sneaking out of the castle for years simply because they had the means to. Me, brewing potions without the permission or knowledge of staff – not just the Calming Potion in fifth year, but the contraceptive potion for myself, Holly and Lara for the past three years (Holly because, like me, she gets godawful cramps without it; Lara because she’s a self-confessed harlot) Holly going through a phase in fourth year of nocturnal exploration of the Forbidden Forest. Lester, who, despite the clusterfuck of problems surrounding the incident, was arrested once. We are laws unto ourselves, and just because our own laws often line up with Hogwarts’ or because we know how to hide it when they don’t, we’ve earned at least one reputation which is entirely false.
I’ve always been a lot more concerned with reputation than I like other people to think I am. At the end of the day I’m a walking ego, a handful of academic successes piled onto a crumbling foundation of self-doubt and tied up with a big anxiety ribbon. Anything that makes me forget that – be it theoretical Potions or common room banter or a night of mild debauchery with Alfie – I’m going to cling to. It’s a dispassionate way of looking at it all, especially because my subject and my friends are my reasons for getting out of bed in the morning – and they certainly mean more to me than a simple coping method – but Alfie? He’s a means to an end. A primal loss of the self, and therein lies its appeal – not escapism, per se, but an intoxicating freedom from reason and rational thought; from analysis and logic and the continual weighing of ideas and options. It is simple, in a way few things ever are. There’s an element of quasi-rebellion, of course – that unique brand of self-satisfaction that comes from going against all that’s expected of you.
I think he knows it. I think I’m the same thing to him, and it’s that mutuality that makes me feel better. Not everyone can have an Albus-and-Scorpius fairytale love story, especially not at Hogwarts.
The water has turned my fingers and toes wrinkly, and the watch I tossed aside earlier shows 4.30am. Deciding that’s plenty enough introspection for one night, I climb out of the tub, shivering in the chilly air, and make a beeline for my dorm.
Alfie, to my infinite relief, does not wake me up in time for breakfast. Or lunch, for that matter. He only stirs sometime after noon, poking me sleepily in the side.
“Rose. You awake?”
I flop, groan and flail my way to consciousness. “I am now.”
“We missed lunch.”
“Three Broomsticks again?”
“You read my mind.”
We both decide one thirty in the afternoon isn’t the time for what a straight-faced Alfie calls “a roll in the hay” (he’s on a mission, he informs me, to use every possible euphemism over the next two weeks – I’m beginning to regret my choice in sexual partner) and make our way down to the Three Broomsticks. The barmaid recognises us – “Back again, you two?” – and I wonder if I’ll be on first name basis with her in about four years’ time. Probably, given what Llodewick said about Faculty Fridays. The thought fills me with some kind of indeterminate glee – the entire Hogwarts staff heading off for Friday night drinkies. Llodewick and May in a darts tournament. Sprout and Vector trying to drink each other under the table. Longbottom calling for shots.
“What are you laughing at?” Alfie asks.
“Can you imagine drunk teachers?”
“I can imagine Llodewick slowly getting tanked in his office grading fourth-year Potions essays, but that’s probably because I’ve seen him slowly getting tanked in his office grading essays.”
“How did you manage that?”
“I had to ask him a question about something, I think it was before OWLs. Knocked on his door and he’s just muttering to himself, ‘no, no, you absolute fucking Flobberworm,’ over some kid’s essay and drinking neat Firewhiskey.”
“You absolute fucking Flobberworm,” I repeat admiringly. “Inspirational.”
“Vector probably let loose a bit in her youth,” Alfie continues. “You don’t get a sixth sense for troublemaking students without being one yourself.”
“That’s kinda one of the angles Holly and I are using to justify this scholarship thing.”
“Wait till you’re seventy years old and the Head of Ravenclaw, then tell everyone about the time you Transfigured toilet paper into doves.”
“Heady days.” I sigh reminiscently. “But Holly and I have discussed this. She’ll be Head of Ravenclaw, not me. She’s far more nurturing.”
“Vector’s hardly nurturing. You discussed who’s going to be Head of House with Holly? You’re like an old married couple.”
“That’s actually the perfect summary of our relationship, yes. Except with less bickering, because who could ever bicker with her?”
“There’s nothing going on between you two, is there?”
“No?” I’m not uncertain about the answer, just the question. “I mean – you’re not the first person to wonder and you’re probably not going to be the last, but – why?”
“I made a bet with Tom,” he says matter-of-factly. “We sort of thought there was a secret couple in your midst. He thought it was you two, I said it was Albus and Scorpius. He still hasn’t paid up because, and I quote, ‘There’s no proof Rose and Holly aren’t a thing.’”
I roll my eyes. “Well, to be fair, we have technically made out in public before thanks to mistletoe, so I can understand where he’s coming from. But he’s also wrong and should cough up, because Holly and I are the dictionary definition of platonic. Tell him that, then buy me a Butterbeer.”
“Are you actually the dictionary definition of platonic?”
“In a few dictionaries, yes. We got bored in the library one night.”
“How do you get bored in the library?”
“Well, we were writing Charms essays. Meant to be writing Charms essays. Anything’s better than Charms essays.”
He nods. “Shame it’s a required NEWT for pretty much everything. I wanted to keep going with Runes, but Charms is apparently more important.”
“You dropped Runes, but kept Magical Creatures?”
Alfie shrugs. “It’s a…well, it’s a backup. If I fail at everything else. I wanted to be a vet when I was younger, before I got my letter – I was your token primary school nerd, books and animals were my only friends et cetera…so yeah, I kept the Magical Creatures. A nod to my younger self, almost.” He drains his Butterbeer, frowns. “I never thought I’d find people like me, back then. It’s – Ravenclaw House is amazing, when you think about it. You get a bunch of misfits and throw them together, and there’s always that common ground. And I’m sure the other houses probably feel the same, but – I like to think Ravenclaw is special like that. In a way you can’t really put into words. And I’m going to miss it.”
“I’m going to miss it too. It’s scary how close we are to the end of all this, and we’ve only just started talking. I mean, I’ve had classes with you for seven years and we’re mates, but all this – ” I wave a vague hand to encompass the pub and the Butterbeers and the table and us – “It just makes me wonder how many friendships I’ve missed out on – those kindred spirit, clicking immediately kind of friendships – just because I haven’t looked outside my group, you know?” There’s no stopping this tidal wave of emotions, so I just wave my arms around a bit and plough on. “Like, us. We get along like a house on fire and it’s only by chance that we even discovered it – chance being my mum remodelling the house and your dad going off to Australia – and maybe if we’d been thrown together a bit earlier, we would have ended up best mates or dating or something – ”
“Or broken up, awkwardly trying to avoid each other. ‘This common room isn’t big enough for the both of us,’ sort of thing, like what you get in other houses. I think you’re right, we probably would have dated, if we’d been thrown together a bit earlier – but only because we would have been too young to realise what we really wanted. Banter and easily-resolved sexual tension aren’t the best foundations for a relationship. Besides,” he adds, with a slight roll of his eyes, “We would have to spend the entire time explaining how just because we were in a heterosexual relationship doesn’t mean either of us are heterosexual. Down with bi/pan erasure 2024.”
“Not that either of us are really contributing to its visibility.”
“The closet may be small and dark, but I’m not claustrophobic.”
“My parents know, that’s all that matters. Funnily enough, once their world has been turned upside down by earth-shattering revelations like ‘Your son’s a wizard and he’s been accepted to magic school’ they don’t really bat an eyelid at much else.” He glances at his watch. “We should probably be heading back. Dinner’s in half an hour and we haven’t seen the teachers all day. They probably think we’re dead.”
It’s strange to think how something as alien as having dinner with a bunch of staff has become normal for us. The Ravenclaw table, perhaps through the presence of Professors Corner and Vector – who between them seem to be friends with all the staff – has become a bit of a hub for teachers, with Llodewick and May abandoning the Slytherins to join us. My job offer seems to have become common knowledge, and even though I haven’t technically accepted it yet, that doesn’t stop Llodewick pouring some mysterious liquid from a flask hidden in his robes and passing it to me.
“To the future,” he says.
“Herbert!” Vector scolds.
“What? She’s of age,” he protests. “And she has permission from a teacher.”
“I’m her Head of House, I’ll be the judge of that.” Vector glares a bit longer at Llodewick, before rolling her eyes and turning to me. “It’s just Firewhiskey. I’ll let it slide this once.”
“Thanks, Professors.” I clink my glass with Llodewick’s and don’t bother hiding my grin.
I head up to the Owlery after dinner – the owls don’t do the morning deliveries in the holidays – and find three letters waiting for me.
Ooh, what’s this about? I’m super curious now – see you tomorrow at noon! (p.s I’ll be Flooing in via the Three Broomsticks, I assume we’re meeting there? That’s where you’ll find me anyway) – Holly :)
This message was a godsend, Rose, thank you. Have to get out of the house. I’ll be in Hogsmeade by eleven if you want to meet early. Lester.
Rosie, you nutter. We haven’t even been gone a week. What did you do?
(What Albus means to say is yes, we’ll be there. Also – seriously, what did you do? Is it the rabbits?)
Nah, she probably just misses us too much.
(Not everyone is as codependent as you)
Shut up. You couldn’t live without me either.
(I regret ever telling you that)
Anyway, we’ll see you tomorrow. -Albus
I meet Lester at the Three Broomsticks at eleven, slouched over a cup of tea and looking like he wishes it were something stronger.
“Tough week?” I ask, perching on a stool beside him.
“You could say that,” he says, rubbing a hand across his face. “Apparently, my only function when I come home is to look after Maxwell.” It’s impossible to miss the bitterness in his voice. “I mean – I know it’s hard on them and everything, but would it kill them to ask how I’m doing before they walk out the door? And he’s had a tough week, too. Max. It always unsettles him when I come home. He’s not used to me being around anymore…I told Mum and Dad I’m moving straight from Hogwarts into a flat. I’ve got a bit saved up – I’m going to start looking this week. I was meaning to ask you – any preferences in location? Price range?”
“Stop talking flats for a moment,” I say firmly. “You’re upset.”
“I am,” he agrees. “But I need to focus on the practicalities of moving out. Humour me.”
“Oh. Well…I’d prefer London if we can find a place. A Floo, because Holly can’t Apparate…I’m not too worried about price range, but Holly’s a bit restricted in that area. I’d say maybe fifty Galleons a week between the three of us would be the upper limit. We’re all fair with practical magic, so we can fix leaks and do heating charms – don’t worry too much about whether it’s shit or not.”
Lester nods. “Good, that’s basically what I was going on too. When would you be moving in? I’ll be going in straight after NEWTs, but if you guys are staying at home until your course starts – ”
“No, I’ll be moving in pretty early. Two weeks after the end of term? Enough time for me to pack up my stuff, basically.”
“Good, so I’ll look for places that renew the lease in June.” He reaches across the table for a Daily Prophet abandoned by some earlier customer, flicking through to the classifieds. “If we went for something like this, maybe…” He points to an ad for a three bedroom flat in Diagon Alley. “Oh, it’s seventy Galleons a week…maybe not…Something like this? It’s off Knockturn, bit shady, but it’s only forty Galleons a week.”
“Hell would freeze over before my dad would let me live anywhere near Knockturn Alley.”
“At least I don’t have to worry about that.”
I close the paper. “Are you sure you don’t want to talk about this?”
“Positive. So what have you been doing these holidays?”
“What?” He looks up, startled, and chokes on his tea. “Doing – in the colloquial sense..?”
“Yes, in the colloquial sense.”
“Right.” He looks profoundly awkward, which I suppose is a step up from profoundly miserable. “I didn’t know you…er…”
“Yep.” I finish off my Butterbeer. “Lots of sex.”
I toss a serviette at him. “God you’re a prude, Raine.”
If possible, he goes even redder. “I’m not…really…at all.”
“That’s news to me.”
“It’s not to Lily.” Then he claps both hands over his mouth, looking horrified, and backpedals like mad. “I mean – I didn’t mean – we haven’t – done that, she’s not even of age yet, we’re definitely not going to until – oh my God.” He sinks into his chair, his face a colour that can only be described as beetroot. “Please don’t tell Albus,” he pleads in a small voice.
“What exactly am I going to tell him? ‘Hey Albus, guess what Raine’s giving your sister for her seventeenth? His dick.’”
“That was unneccessarily crude.”
“You’re not denying it!”
“Can we – wait, how am I on the defence for all this? I’m not the one screwing the crew – ”
“Why does everyone bring that up?”
“It’s a good rule! And you – ” he points a stern finger at me, “Are the first ones to break it.”
I cough. “Albus and Scorpius.”
“That’s different, they’re – ”
“I was going to say soulmates.”
At that moment, the aforementioned soulmates burst into the Three Broomsticks, Albus flapping the ragged edge of his shirt in Scorpius’s face. “This is brand new and you Splinched it, I told you I should be the one Apparating – ”
I raise my eyebrows. “Here come our chosen poster boys for True Love.”
“What’d you do to Raine?” Albus asks, plopping into the seat beside the aforementioned Lester and peering critically at his face. “He’s a bit…pinker than usual.”
Lester swats him away.
“No, no, Albus, we know that face,” Scorpius says. “That’s his embarrassed people-are-talking-about-sex face.”
“Can’t be,” Albus says. “It was just him and Rose – unless – Raine, tell me you haven’t…”
“Rose is sleeping with Alfie!” Lester blurts in a panic, and I shoot him a death glare.
Albus looks scandalised. “Rose would never.”
“Rose would and Rose has. Rose is also going to slap you if you don’t stop looking so horrified, and – you know what, I’m done talking about myself in the third person.”
Albus opens his mouth, closes it again, and looks like he’s going through half a dozen responses in his head before arriving at, “But…Lara’s rule.”
“Hark. Who’s. Talking.”
“She’s got a point,” Scorpius reasons.
Albus looks stunned. “We…broke Lara’s rule,” he says in a small voice.
Scorpius claps him on the shoulder. “A long time ago, mate.”
“What have I missed?” a voice calls from the fireplace, and Holly pulls up a stool to join us.
“Nothing much,” Albus says. “Just tales of Rose’s holiday debauchery. For shame, Rose. The Easter bunny died for your sins!”
“That’s…” Lester sighs. “That’s not what Easter’s about.”
“I thought Rose would empathise more with dead bunnies than dead religious figures,” Albus explains.
“Ooh, are we shaming women for choosing to have safe, consensual sex?” Holly asks eagerly. “I just want to know where you guys got the Time Turners, because apparently we’re back in the Dark Ages. Let’s burn some witches while we’re at it! Oh, and don’t forget the gays. I hope there’s enough hellfire for all of us!”
There’s a long, uncomfortable silence. I mouth a thank you at Holly.
“Er.” Albus rubs the back of his neck. “Righto. Yeah. Fair point.”
“So.” There’s still a trace of passive-aggression in Holly’s voice, making it somewhat terrifying when she leans forward. “What’s this all about?”
“Llodewick offered me a job.”
She squeals, attempting to launch herself across the table at me and toppling over as her stool clatters to the ground. Unfazed, she picks herself up and wraps her arms around me. “I’m so excited oh my god we’re both going to be teachers Rose!”
Strange as it seems, it doesn’t actually hit me until I’ve got Holly clinging to me by the waist, and I hop off my stool so we can bounce around the pub. “We’re going to be teachers!” I cry, giddy with excitement.
“Professor Holyoake and Professor Weasley!”
“I got a job!”
“I’m so happy for you I’m crying!”
“I cried for you too so we’re even!”
We’re the only ones in the pub, and we cause enough of a scene – “You’re looking at Hogwarts’ next Potions professor!” Holly announces to the barmaid, waving my arms for me, and I retaliate by pulling her forward and adding, “And the next Arithmancy professor!” – that the aforementioned barmaid pours us two Butterbeers. “On the house,” she explains, smiling. “Congratulations.”
After we’ve clinked glasses – “To the future! To our students! To the staffroom!” – we remember the abandoned boys and sheepishly return to our table.
“Now that you’ve gotten that out of your system,” Scorpius says, “Congratulations.”
“That’s amazing, Rose,” Albus says earnestly. “You’re amazing. I’m sorry I was a prick earlier.”
“It’s fine. Everything’s fine. I’m going to be a teacher.”
“And a fantastic one at that,” Lester adds. “I couldn’t imagine a better Potions professor in the world.”
“You guys.” Overcome with emotion, I sling my arms around their shoulders and pull them close. “Thank you. But there’s a problem.”
“What kind of problem?” Lester asks, as we all resume our seats.
“Well, it’s not so much a problem as a – well, a bit of a game-changer regarding the scholarship. I’ve been offered a fellowship by Llodewick. It’s six thousand Galleons.”
“Holy mother of Merlin,” Scorpius says, awed. “That’ll pay all your fees and living costs the whole way through.”
“So you don’t need the scholarship,” Lester summarises. “At all. In any way, shape or form.”
Everyone exchanges glances. “So you’re out?”
“Yes. No. Kind of? I’ll still help, we’ve still got the magnum opus to go – but I won’t take any of the money. That’s twelve hundred and fifty each for you guys, instead of just a grand.”
“I’m sensing a but clause here,” Lester says.
“Haha, butt clause,” Albus contributes.
“Can we all pretend that an eighteen year old wizard with an IQ of one hundred and fifty-eight didn’t just say haha, butt clause?” Lester asks.
“When did I tell you my IQ?”
“In a moment of weakness.”
“So, what is the but clause?” Scorpius asks, and sniggers.
“The but clause is Llodewick knows that I’m – I was going for the scholarship.”
“Why’d you tell him that?” Albus asks.
“In a moment of weakness. That’s not important. What’s important is that he thinks I was behind all the pranks we’ve pulled so far – and now he knows I won’t be needing the scholarship anymore. So he’s going to start wondering who else is behind it when we do the magnum opus. You lot are immediately guilty by association.”
“It’s not just association that we’re guilty by,” Holly says.
“What’s the problem with Llodewick finding out it was us, though?” Lester asks. “Rose, you obviously didn’t get into trouble over it if he offered you a job.”
“Well,” I say awkwardly, “He said something about how he didn’t stand to gain anything by ‘throwing his prodigy under the bus.’ So.”
“Llodewick’s a Slytherin,” Albus points out. “He plays favourites. He does things that benefit himself. Obviously he wants Rose to take over his job, but none of us have that security. He’s not going to expel Rose because he needs her. Man’s what, sixty? Ish? He’s keen to retire.”
“So we need to do something subtle,” Scorpius says. “Luckily, Albus and I have been scheming.”
“We have?” Albus asks.
“Correction: I’ve been scheming and Albus has been ignoring me.”
“Let’s hear your scheme, then,” Lester says.
“Well, the main reason we have to do something big for April Fools is because everybody does something for April Fools, right? And we have to stand out from the run-of-the-mill exploding cauldrons, swearing quills, joke wands, etc.”
“Go on,” Lester says.
“So we do some espionage,” Scorpius says. “Find out what the school is planning. Reverse engineer every prank. Make it backfire spectacularly on the prankers.”
“How?” I ask eventually.
“Haven’t thought that far ahead,” Scorpius says blithely. “We’ve got about a week to pull it all off once school goes back. I imagine Louis will be doing whatever his prank is on April First, so hopefully Emily can let us in on that – ”
“Louis will have the Felix Felicis,” I point out.
“Ah, fuck, that’s right. Well, we can target everyone but Louis, then. Rose, I’m going to put you in charge of the staff prank – ”
“The staff always do a prank on April Fools,” Scorpius says. “Haven’t you noticed? Last year was that charm they did that read every note people passed out loud – ”
“Oh yeah, I remember that. So I have to find out what it is?”
“If you can. You’re on good terms with Llodewick, he tends to spearhead the staff pranks as far as I can tell – him and May, really.”
“Oh. Well, that shouldn’t be too hard – I’ve been spending a lot of time with the teachers lately.”
“They sound like they’d be a bit of fun outside the classroom,” Albus says. “Better than the company I’ve been keeping, anyway.”
“Oi.” Scorpius looks affronted.
“Not you, egghead. I meant the Burnsey sisters down the road.”
The Potters live in Godric’s Hollow, which means there are plenty of kids from Hogwarts around. The Burnsey sisters, along with a few others, have been making regular, halfhearted attempts at friendship with Albus and Lily for the past three summers. Katherine, the older one, is a Gryffindor in our year, and her sister Rachel is a fifth-year Puff who I’m ninety percent sure has a massive crush on Hugo.
“What’s wrong with the Burnseys?” Holly asks.
“They’ve attempted to claim me,” Albus says distastefully, “As their gay best friend.”
“They asked me to go shopping with them.” He flaps his Christmas-jumpered arms about. “Have they seen me? Do they really think I have anything resembling fashion sense? I wear my nana’s hand-knitted festive jumpers six months of the year!”
“More like eight months of the year,” Scorpius says. “Maybe nine.”
“They tried talking to me about boys,” he continues. “‘Ooh, Albus, who do you think is cute at Hogwarts?’ Could it be Scorpius fucking Malfoy?”
“Hyperion. My middle name is Hyperion, not fucking. Also, I resent cute.”
“That’s what I told them. You’re the polar opposite of cute. You’re a dashingly handsome man, an Adonis, if you will – ”
“Did you actually?”
“Of course not. You’re a fucking beanstalk.”
“You love my beanstalk physique.”
“Someone has to. Besides,” he says, moving swiftly back to his original point, “When have I ever said that I’m gay? God himself doesn’t know my sexuality, just that Scorpius is involved.”
“Involved? I am the axis upon which your sexuality turns.”
“And so modest about it too.”
“So that’s it?” I ask, interrupting them. “The only plan we’ve got going is ‘find out what everyone’s doing for April Fools’? There’s no way we can get the whole school’s plans.”
“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” Scorpius proclaims. “I still have the passwords for all the common rooms. Albus still has an Invisibility Cloak. Holly still has powers of passive-aggressive persuasion. Once we’ve got everyone’s plans, circumventing them shouldn’t be too difficult. I mean, we are the best students in the school.”
“Your ego is on top form today,” Lester observes.
“When is it not?”
“Fair point. We should start doing a bit of research on circumventing some basic pranks over the holidays, then – pop into Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, find out their top-selling products…Speaking of, Albus – any way I could come and stay for a few days? Might be easier to work on product development if we’re all together.”
“As long as you’re not using that as an excuse to do untoward things with my sister,” Albus replies, frowning. “Oh – Rose, while we’re here, I have some family shit to discuss with you.” He slides off his stool, waving me over to the bar, and asks for a round of Butterbeers.
“So what’s this about?”
“Not family shit,” he replies bluntly. “Well, not our family anyway. Raine. He’s not asking to stay because of some prank, is he?”
“Not exactly, no.”
“Is it bad?”
“I don’t think he should be spending any more time at home than he absolutely has to.”
“I’ll have a talk to Dad,” Albus decides. “Mum’ll just think he wants an excuse to spend the night with Lily – she’s gotten really weird about him lately. I mean, it was funny to begin with, but he’s always had a place at ours, you know? And I don’t think she realises she’s doing it, but – he still needs us as much as he used to.”
“Harry’ll understand. He’s been in Lester’s position himself.”
“I know. Jesus, history repeats, doesn’t it?” Albus takes a Butterbeer, watching the group. “I can’t believe we’re nearly finished with Hogwarts.”
“Don’t. I’ve already had this conversation once in the last twenty-four hours.”
“With Alfie? He’s going into Muggle Liason, right?”
“He’s a good bloke. I wasn’t trying to be judgemental, earlier. It’s just – we’re family. It’s my job to rip into you a bit.”
“As long as that’s all it is.”
“Course. Free shot, by the way.”
“You have awful fashion sense and your hair is ridiculous.”
He spreads his arms. “Bring it in.”
I hug him, not realising until his arms are wrapped around me how tightly wound I’ve been over the last few days. “Thank you,” I mumble into his woolly shoulder.
A/N: So in a fit of end-of-semester productivity, I've made a new set of chapter images for this story - including a bunch of new characters! If you haven't already seen them, feel free to go back and have a look at chapters 6-11, which feature the faces of Emily, Louis, Alfie, Lara and more!
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