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Chapter 17 : xvii. the implosion [or] when it all hits the fan
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“We’ve had a few issues coming up with an April Fools prank this year,” he informs me. “I’m sure you’ve noticed the staff like to do a little prank of our own – ”
“Yeah, there was the note thing last year?”
“That was inspired, yes. Not my idea, though I’d love to take credit for it – no, I think it was Dean’s…but anyway. We haven’t been able to come up with something yet, and I thought as our apparent resident pranking genius, you would be able to help us out.”
“You want my help in the staff prank?”
“Well, you are staff – more or less. You signed a contract.”
“Huh. Right. Did you have anything in mind? Theme? Particular groups of students to target?”
“Well, we prefer to target students who don’t actually pay attention or do their homework. Your polar opposites, in other words.”
“Well – I can’t believe I’m saying this – but just – coordinate all your deadlines with the other teachers. Make everything due on April 1st. That’s a Monday, so anyone who gets all their work done gets the rest of the week off. Anyone who doesn’t…”
Llodewick leans back in his chair. “I knew I made the right choice. So, bang on the deadline, any unfinished essay will start screaming its contents and self-destruct?”
“I’ll let the other staff know. I’m sure May can work out the charm for something like that. I appreciate your help.”
He sounds so formal, and I’m not sure what strikes me most – the fact that he’s talking to me like a colleague, or that we’re having a serious discussion about April Fools pranks – but either way, I grin as I take my leave and return to Ravenclaw Tower.
“I have intel.”
“Hello to you too,” Albus says.
It’s the start-of-term feast, the first time I’ve seen everyone since our meeting in the Three Broomsticks, but now is not the time for chit-chat. “I think we as a collective whole have moved past inane ‘how was your holiday’ greetings,” I tell him, and lower my voice. “I know what the staff are planning.”
“I know what the Burnseys are planning,” Albus says. “Which actually encompasses two groups – the Gryffindor seventh-year girls are joining forces, and a bunch of fifth-year Puffs are also planning something. Apparently Hugo’s in on that one.”
“That came at a high price,” Scorpius says. “We had to go into Muggle London with them for a day. I’ve never acted so camp in my life.”
“Fifth year Slytherins have a fair few ideas too,” Lester says. “I’m not sure which one they’ll go for, but Lily’s going to keep me updated.”
“Second year Puffs are sticking to some standard Wheezes products,” Holly reports. “They’re targeting Gryffindor.”
“Bless,” Scorpius says fondly.
“Good work, guys. We’ll start brainstorming counter attacks when we get back to the common room.”
When we get back to the common room, however, a brief distraction appears in the form of Lara Talbot, deep in conversation with Alfie. “You what?” I hear her yell suddenly, and she’s wheeling around to pin me to the spot with an accusatory finger.
“Rose. Nymphadora. Weasley.” She spins around again. “Alfred. William. Harrison. I have a bone to pick with you two.” Before I can so much as blink, let alone sidle away, she’s hauled Alfie by the robes to stand beside me, lined up in front of the couch like we’re facing a firing squad.
“Er,” Alfie says.
“I’m going to throw some words at you,” she says. “Words which we in this House have lived by since we were old enough to understand them, words which have been put in place and accepted by us all for the good of the community – ”
People are beginning to stare.
“Don’t. Screw. The. Crew.”
I cough politely. “Albus and Scorpius.”
“I turn my back for one minute – ”
“Two weeks,” Alfie coughs.
“And you two have broken one of the most fundamental rules of this class – ”
“Albus and Scorpius did first!”
“We’re exempt from your heterosexual rules,” Albus calls.
“I’m not heterosexual!”
The common room goes properly silent, and it slowly dawns on me that I’ve just outed myself to approximately four hundred peers.
“Jesus, is anyone in that group straight?” a fifth-year mutters to his friend.
Lester gives him a feeble wave. “Me?”
Lara waits for the idle chatter to resume again, before turning back to me. “Albus and Scorpius don’t count because they’ve been together since the dawn of time and their sexual tension has no risk of affecting us as a year group. You two are wild cards.”
“There’s no ‘us two,’” I tell her.
“And our sexual tension is resolved,” Alfie adds. “No risk of affecting anyone – hey, show of hands – does anyone actually care who we sleep with?”
There’s a general chorus of ‘no,’ interspersed with the occasional ‘as long as it’s not in public’ and ‘not unless you’re offering.’
“So,” Alfie concludes, “It’s really not a problem, Lara, I give you my word. I also give you my word that none of us are going to care if you do what you’ve wanted to do for the past three years with a certain Tom McLaggen.”
“Well,” she says, slightly huffily, “We could have reached that conclusion a long time ago.” She disappears to the dorms with Tom in tow, and we don’t see either of them for a long time.
Alfie looks a bit lost with his two best friends off doing – well, each other – and Holly waves him over to our table with a “what, he looks lonely,” and a promise to scheme for the prank later. I can’t help but notice that the boys seem to have lost the ability to look him in the eye.
“So, uh,” Lester says, addressing the table, “Good holiday, Alfie?”
“Yeah. Lots of study done. You?”
“On track for NEWTs?” Scorpius asks.
“Hope so,” Alfie replies.
“Well,” Holly says cheerfully, “Are we gonna shoot the elephant in the room or feed it?”
“I think feeding it sounds a bit nicer,” Albus offers.
“Maybe we could just address it,” I suggest. “Make it feel welcome. Part of the conversation.”
“That’ll encourage the elephant to stay.”
“Maybe the elephant wants to stay. What did the elephant ever do to you, Holly?”
“I regret my choice of metaphor,” Holly sighs. “But seriously, guys. We’ve known that Albus and Scorpius have been doing the nasty since fifth year – ”
“Spoken like a true asexual,” Albus interjects.
“We prefer to call it making love,” Scorpius adds.
“No, we don’t.”
“You’re right,” Scorpius concedes. “We prefer to call it hey look nobody’s around, take your clothes off.”
“Romantic,” Holly snorts.
“We would love nothing more than a candlelit, rose-petals-on-the-bed scenario, Holly, but we’re at Hogwarts.”
“Scorpius, if you put candles anywhere near us you’d set us both on fire – ”
“On fire with love,” Scorpius says, struggling to keep a straight face.
“No, on fire with fire.”
“You have a way with words, Albus Potter,” Holly tells him. “But you just proved my point – you can talk about it till the cows come home and nobody bats an eyelid – ”
“Nobody bats an eyelid because we talk about it,” Albus points out. “Rose and Alfie, though – all you’ve said is that it happened, and I’m not saying I want the details – I really, absolutely do not – but the sheepish silence is a breeding ground for awkward room elephants.”
“Sometimes I forget you’re smart,” Lester says.
“That was a compliment! A back-handed one, sure, but the insinuation was that I forget you’re smart and then you say something insightful like that and remind me.”
“That was insightful?” Albus frowns. “You’ve really set the bar low, Raine.”
“Shut up and take the compliment,” Scorpius says, though his smile seems slightly forced and I catch him frowning slightly at Lester.
“Fine!” I say loudly, interrupting them. “We had sex. It was great. Shall we move on?”
“Oh, it was great, was it?” Scorpius asks. “Dear me, Rose. You’re getting explicit.”
“Rip into her all you like,” Alfie says, leaning forward threateningly. “But just remember – I have all the explicit details, and I might just choose to share them. You’ve still got two months of sharing a dorm with me, Scorpius Hyperion. Call my bluff.”
“I would. Did you know that Rose likes – ”
“I believe you, I believe you,” Scorpius says hurriedly, holding up his hands in surrender. “Point taken.”
“What were you going to tell him?” I whisper to Alfie.
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” he whispers back. “Though I do have a veritable treasure trove of information regarding your preferences.”
“I hope you don’t have to use it.”
“In the context of threatening your friends, I hope not. In other contexts…”
“Don’t even go there,” I tell him firmly. “It’s term time. Eyes on the prize. The prize being NEWTs.”
“Damn academia,” he sighs. “Speaking of – hey Albus, how’d you end up finding that Muggle Studies essay?”
“I only got Exceeds Expectations,” Albus says, slightly morosely. “Hold on, let me grab it – what did you get? Outstanding, I assume?”
“Yeah. Want me to go through it with you?”
“Please,” Albus says firmly, and the boys shuffle to the far side of the table with the offending essay.
Just like that, the topic at hand turns to schoolwork again – we’ve all spent most of the holiday either revising alone or ignoring NEWTs like they don’t exist, so there’s plenty of consultation and help to be done and sought.
“Lester,” I say with a wide, beaming smile, “Don’t suppose you’re keen to talk Charms theory with me?”
“I’m always keen to talk Charms theory,” Lester replies. “Unless – Holly, you didn’t want to go through Gamp’s Law?”
“No, I managed to nut that one out over the holidays,” Holly replies. “Besides, I need to borrow Scorpius for Runes.”
“As long as you’re not as bad as Rose,” Scorpius says agreeably.
“Hey. I’ve improved.”
“Glad to hear it.”
We settle into our studies for the rest of the evening. Tom and Lara come back down at about eleven, to a chorus of wolf-whistles and cheers from the rest of us, and we give them shit for a while before they depart with Alfie to catch up with Logan and Sophie in the Puff common room.
“Right,” Holly says, leaning forward eagerly. “Plotting. I went with Emma to Wheezes over the holidays – they’ve got enough Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder to black out the entire castle, but they’re going to localise it to Gryffindor Tower. They’re going to replace every wand they find in the common room with joke wands, and use a colour-change charm to turn everything red and gold into yellow and black.”
“Simple, classic,” Scorpius says, nodding. “How do we counter?”
“Well, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff might have a bit of rivalry, but we know the Gryffs hate us on principle more. Just change the Colour-Change charm from yellow and black to blue and bronze,” Albus says.
“That’s a smoking gun straight to us, though.”
“Green and silver, then.”
“Green and silver, right. But not like, a nice green and silver. I’m thinking a duck-shit green and raincloud grey.”
“If we have a bright, lime green it could conceivably be a yellow Colour-Change gone wrong,” I point out. “Especially coming from second years.”
“Flawless logic, Rose, flawless.”
“I do try. What about the joke wands? Are we going to do anything about those?”
“We replace them with sticks. Just plain sticks. Go for the anticlimactic. Even better if they start waving them around trying to cast spells.”
“Could be comical,” Lester agrees. “We’ll replace the joke wands with the sticks before the event – we could also put a charm on the Gryffindor common room that changes the colours to green and silver when any Colour-Change Charm is put on it. That’ll stump the Gryffindors for changing it back for a while as well – and that’s one less prank we need to be on site for. Albus, Scorpius – what are the Burnsey sisters planning?”
“The fifth-year Puffs are targeting Slytherin – I think we’ve got Hugo and Lily’s rivalry to blame for that.”
“Hugo and Lily are best friends,” Lester points out.
“Best friends they may be,” Albus says, “But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to prank each other. Let’s face it, if Rose and I were in different houses we would have been at war for seven years.”
“If we were in different houses I’d still be the Ravenclaw,” I say immediately.
“You would not. You were a rebellious little shit when you were eleven, you’d have gone straight into Slytherin just to piss off your dad.”
“I wasn’t rebellious. I was independent. And I didn’t go into Slytherin, so there.”
“So there,” Albus smirks. “Way to revert to your eleven-year-old self.”
“Better than being scared. Dad, what if the Sorting Hat puts me in Slytherin? Yeah, I heard you.”
“It was a legitimate concern! My dad’s Harry Potter!”
“So is Lily’s.”
“Yeah, well, hindsight is twenty-twenty,” Albus says. “Anyway, the Puffs have apparently worked out some brilliant squid charming techniques, so they’re going to lure the Giant Squid right up to that window that looks into the Slytherin common room and charm him to stay there. And stare at them. All day.”
Holly shudders. “Ugh. Squid.”
“That’s some serious dedication,” I say admiringly. “From a bunch of fifth-year Puffs?”
“Rachel was quick to give Hugo the credit,” Scorpius says with a roll of his eyes. “You know, I’ve heard way too much about your brother’s supposed genius.”
“My brother doesn’t have any genius to speak of,” I say dismissively. “I took it all.”
“That’s not how genes work,” Lester says.
I ignore him. “So how are we going to counter the squid attack?”
“Put a squid in the Puff common room?” Holly shrugs. “Conjure a squid in their common room. Lester, can you conjure a squid?”
“I can try.”
“Then stick an Engorgio on it and leave it in the middle of the floor.”
“That’ll do,” Scorpius says agreeably. “We can’t do anything too elaborate for these, there’s too much going on. The seventh-year Gryffindors are targeting us, by the way.”
“They told you that?”
“Katherine did,” Albus says. “She’s teamed up with Lucy and Sean – of course – and a few others. It was a gesture of good faith, I think, giving us the heads up – she really wants a gay best friend.”
“So what are they planning?”
“Er. Colour-Change Charms. Lots of Colour-Change Charms. Rainbow everything. Uh. Apparently Ravenclaw is gay pride central.”
“What?” Scorpius says, confused. “There’s only us and Holly and Rose – ”
“And Alfie,” Albus adds. “Don’t forget the token bisexual.”
“See, I forgot about that, because he’s screwing Rose.”
“Oi,” I say huffily, poking him in the shoulder. “Erasure.”
“That’s five-eighths of the house,” Albus says. “Though how the likes of Katherine Burnsey know that, I have no idea. Alfie’s so deep in the closet he’s eating Turkish Delight with the White Witch of Narnia, and Rose isn’t much better.”
“Forgive me for not having a girlfriend to make out with on the tables during dinner,” I shoot back.
“You could probably hook up with Emily,” Scorpius muses. “I think she’s into you.”
“You’re confusing sexual tension with stone cold hatred again,” Albus tells him.
“I wouldn’t say hatred,” I say. “More stone cold neutrality.”
“I don’t even think Alfie would mind,” Scorpius continues.
“Well, we’re not exactly together. Except sometimes. In the biblical sense.”
“I regret encouraging you to be open,” Albus sighs. “Anyway. I’m not sure what we can do to counteract their plans – so I say we just own it. ‘We’re here, we’re queer’ – how does the rest of it go?”
“They’re targeting the whole house,” Scorpius says. “So we should give Lara and her boys the heads up too.”
“Can we still call them that?” Holly asks. “Only Alfie’s sort of Rose’s – ”
“Alfie is not Rose’s,” I say firmly. “There is no ownership here. Lester, do you know what the fifth-year Slytherins are planning?”
“Not as yet. They have ideas, but they haven’t settled on one yet. But they’re targeting the Puffs.”
“You said you know what the staff are planning, Rose?”
“Howler essays. Any assignment that isn’t handed in on April 1st – they’re co-ordinating deadlines – will turn into a Howler and shriek the contents of the essay for all to hear.”
“Hey, that’s good.”
“I thought so too. How do we counter it?”
“I’m almost tempted to not,” Scorpius says. “I mean, we always get stuff done by the deadline, so we could just sit back and watch the world burn.”
“How did you not end up in Slytherin?” Lester asks.
“Chose Ravenclaw,” Scorpius says matter-of-factly. “Had to do a bit of bullying, to be honest. The moment it landed on my head it said, ‘Oh, a Malfoy, I know where to put you,’ and I was like ‘Just you fuckin try me buddy.’”
“I had to do the same thing,” I say. “‘Weasley, I know just what to do with you.’ No you don’t, try again.”
“Is anyone else having trouble envisaging eleven-year-old Scorpius saying just you fuckin try me buddy to the Sorting Hat?” Albus asks. “Nobody? Because that really strains my suspension of disbelief.”
“Okay, fine, it was a paraphrase.”
“On an entirely unrelated topic,” Holly interjects, “You know how we find out random connections between our families sometimes that makes it seem like we’re all cosmically linked or something?”
“Go on.” We have made a few interesting discoveries, like the fact that Holly’s mum dated me and Albus’s uncle Percy back in their Hogwarts days, or that Aunt Ginny and Scorpius’s mum worked together at the Prophet for about ten years – but the most notable one was Teddy. It took us all four years to work out that Scorpius’s anecdotes about his cousin Ted and Albus’s anecdotes about his godbrother Teddy were in fact about the same Theodore John Lupin, and the look on the boys’ faces when they realised they had hero-worshipped the same kid throughout their otherwise completely unrelated childhoods was amazing to behold.
“Our dads were mates at university, Lester.”
“Wait, what?” Lester asks, startled. “Your dad went to Oxford?”
“Yep. Apparently they were in the same college, I met up with Dad over the holidays and for some reason we got to talking about Muggleborns and I mentioned you, and Dad asked me if you were any relation to Simon Raine and I said he’s your dad.”
Lester pauses. “Wait, what’s your dad’s first name again?”
“Yeah, I think I remember Dad telling a story about some chemistry student called Matt who nearly blew up his bedroom – ”
“Yeah, that was him!”
“Small world,” Lester says, looking a bit awed. “Were they mates, do you know?”
“Dad said they never had classes together, but they were in the same group of friends. He remembers when your parents started dating, said they were really gross. All over each other. Real saps.”
Lester wrinkles his nose. “Can’t imagine that now.”
“Yeah, well,” Holly says, “Fun fact of the day. Is that everything we’ve got for the pranks so far?”
“Think so. Got somewhere to be?”
“Bed,” she says emphatically. “I got used to actually sleeping during the holidays, and I am loath to give that up.”
“It’s barely midnight.”
“And we have class at eight forty-five tomorrow morning.”
“I don’t,” Albus says triumphantly.
“Not taking NEWT Transfiguration just because you wanted a sleep-in on Monday mornings is not something to be proud of, Albus Potter.”
“Hey,” Albus protests. “I genuinely had a full timetable.”
“You take Charms and Muggle Studies, but not Transfiguration.”
“Charms is useful for Healing,” Albus says firmly. “You need either Charms or Transfiguration, and seeing as I’m going into psychological and neuroscientific Healing, Transfiguration is less important – and I take Muggle Studies for the same reason we all take Runes. It’s useless, but I like it. Get off your academic high horse, Holly, you take Care of Magical Creatures.”
“Yes,” she says. “I also take a few subjects that are actually intellectually stimulating.” The moment the words leave her mouth she seems to realise she’s crossed a line, and backtracks quickly. “I didn’t mean – Albus, I’m sorry – ”
“Where do you get off ripping into my subjects?” Albus asks, rising from his seat. “So what I don’t take fucking Transfiguration, does that make you all better than me? You can shove your goddamn elitism up your arses, I’m sick of it.” He snatches up his books and stalks upstairs without another word, leaving a ringing silence behind him.
“Fuck’s sake,” Scorpius mutters, running his hands through his hair. “Holly, I know you didn’t mean it, but was all that really necessary? He’s having a shit time of it as it is, convinced he’s not smart enough to be a Healer – ”
“He knows I don’t mean it,” Holly says in a small voice. “He’s a genius, he knows that – ”
“Does he?” Scorpius challenges. “Not from you, he doesn’t. And Lester – sometimes I forget you’re smart, what was that about? Nobody needs to hear that.”
Lester seems to shrink into his seat under the weight of Scorpius’s glare.
“Scorpius, go upstairs.”
“You can’t just send me to bed like a naughty child – ”
“No,” I interrupt. “But your boyfriend just stormed out of here and I think he’d rather you were with him, not staying behind to terrorise Holly and Lester. Go. Upstairs.”
“I’m not terrorising anyone,” he says bitterly, but stands and walks out anyway. He pauses in the doorway, summoning his stuff with an impatient wave of his wand, and disappears.
Holly’s curled up on her chair, hugging her knees. “I didn’t mean it,” she says quietly, bottom lip trembling. “That was so mean of me, I don’t know why – ”
“Hey. You weren’t to know he would react like that.”
“It was horrible anyway, I don’t know what came over me, I’ve never been elitist about my subjects before…”
“No, you haven’t,” I agree, shuffling closer to her and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “Everything okay?”
“Maybe not. I didn’t think it was such a big deal at the time – it shouldn’t be a big deal, I’m being silly – ”
“I met up with Dad in the holidays – I mentioned that, I visited him on campus and I sat in on one of his first year classes and then we got coffee, and it was an introductory course, one of those basic chemistry papers they make all the science students take, and I didn’t understand a word of it, and when Dad tried to explain it to me I still couldn’t understand a word of it – ”
“You’re upset because you didn’t understand a university level Muggle chemistry course? Holly, we’ve been going to a school of magic for seven years.”
“I know, but I’ve always been able to understand when Dad talks chemistry before – obviously he explained everything, and it was always at a level suitable for my age – but now I can’t. And I tried, because Dad and I have always been able to talk science but now I don’t get what he’s talking about and I just feel really stupid – ” She cuts herself, swipes a tear from the corner of her eye. “I’m being silly, and it’s worse because I took it out on Albus and he’s my friend, and poor Scorpius was so upset too…”
“Scorpius is a big boy, he can handle it. Let’s just – not rip into Albus too much, yeah? At least, nothing to do with his intelligence or subjects or academic anything. The hair and the jumpers are still fair game. Lester?”
“Yeah, of course,” Lester says quickly. “I just – didn’t realise it was an issue for him, you know? He’s brilliant.”
“It’s the age-old subject war though, isn’t it?” I point out. “Subjects like Arithmancy, Potions, Transfiguration – they’re the difficult ones, the scientific ones that are always valued above the others academically. Albus focuses on the humanities, so he gets shit for it. Never mind the fact that we were all pants at History of Magic.”
“How did we even pass our OWL?” Lester asks.
“Albus,” Holly and I say simultaneously, and Holly sighs. “I was so unfair to him. I’m going to go apologise.”
“Hold up,” Lester says quickly. “I’ll go up there, send him down if he feels like talking. It’s just him and Scorpius up there, and I don’t want anything questionable imprinted on your young mind – ”
“You’re the youngest of all of us,” Holly points out.
“Still. It’s too late for me, but I’ll save you if I can.” He ruffles Holly’s hair and trots up the stairs.
“I really don’t think they’re going to be making out given the state they were both in,” Holly says, and stares at the carpet. “I feel so bad.”
“Don’t,” I tell her firmly. “Albus has been in a tiff with everyone else in this group at least twice a year.”
“It’s not him being in a tiff. It’s me being insensitive and hurtful.”
“You weren’t that bad.”
“I’ll let Albus be the judge of that.”
There’s nothing much more I can say, especially because I know the standard go-to platitudes – you weren’t mean at all, he just took it the wrong way – don’t ring true and we both know it. I’m still slightly taken aback – though not as much as I would have been if Holly wasn’t looking like she’d accidentally kicked a puppy – so all I can do is squeeze her shoulder and hope Albus actually comes back down.
He doesn’t. Lester returns alone, perching himself on the table beside Holly. “First things first, he’s not angry at you. He knows you didn’t mean anything by it – but as Scorpius said, he’s got a few things he’s dealing with at the moment, and he’d rather just be alone while he works through them.”
“I need to apologise to him – ”
“He knows, Holly. Trust me. And just leave it at that.”
“Right.” She still looks crestfallen, and after a few moments of silence slides her books off the table and trudges for the door. “Well…I’m going to bed.”
I know I should follow her – she’s obviously upset, and she doesn’t have any other confidantes in our group – but Lester’s throwing himself into other people’s problems like he only does when he’s avoiding his own. “I’ll be up in a bit,” I tell her, and grasp Lester by the shoulders, spinning him around to face me. “Talk.”
“Are you a Legilimens?”
“If I was, I wouldn’t need you to tell me what’s wrong.”
“Are you going to tell me, or do I actually need to learn Legilimency?”
“You’re not making this easy.”
“I moved out.” His voice is quiet, barely above a whisper, and he doesn’t look at me. “My parents…I’d say we had a row, except that would require them to actually engage with me on some level, and…” He shrugs. “All my worldly possessions are in my trunk. I put an extension charm on it. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone.”
“Who would I tell?”
“Albus? Lily? Mr Potter? Scorpius? Holly?”
“You know they’d want to help – ”
“I know,” he says, cutting me off. “And I appreciate it, I really do, Rose – but I don’t want anyone’s sympathy.”
“You don’t want sympathy, fine. What about practical help? Are you all right financially?”
“Yeah – I’m fine. They gave me a fair bit before I left.” He huffs, a sound that gets halfway to a bitter laugh before giving up. “I’m trying not to think of it as severance pay.”
“Enough to live on? I can always help you out next year if you need it – and this isn’t me being self-sacrificing,” I add quickly, before he can say anything. “My parents are rolling in it, they’ve already told me they’re going to give me an allowance, and I have the fellowship from school as well. I don’t need it all.”
“Maybe just a few Galleons,” he says at length. “Just until I find my feet and all – I’ll get a part time job…”
“Don’t worry about it,” I tell him firmly. “Really, don’t worry.”
“If you’re sure.” He lapses into silence again, staring at the fireplace, and absently pulls his Arithmancy textbook across the table. “I should…still haven’t quite got the theories down.”
“You going to be okay?”
“Just leave me to my Babylonian numbers.” He waves a bit of parchment covered in equations and attempts a smile. “Besides, she needs you.” He jerks a head in the direction of the dorms.
“You both need me.”
“I’m fine. Really.”
Something tells me I’ve gotten all I’m going to get out of Lester, so I leave him to his work with some reluctance and head up to my dorm.
“Everything okay with Lester?” Holly asks immediately.
“Yeah, he’s fine. Just giving Albus and Scorpius some space, you know.”
“How bad was what I said to Albus?” Holly blurts.
“How bad? Not very. He’s had worse from all of us, to be honest. It was just bad timing, I think. And uncharacteristic on your part.”
“I’m worried about NEWTs.”
“We’re all worried about NEWTs.”
“No, not the exams themselves – I mean, I’m worried about those, of course I am, I’ve worried about them since the moment we finished OWLs, but I was meaning…I don’t handle stress very well. You remember what I was like during OWLs.”
“It’s hard to forget.”
“I got so bitchy.”
“We forgave you.”
“You shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t take it out on you guys. And we’ve only been back for a night and I’m already doing it again – ”
“Stop worrying about it,” I say firmly. “We all get weird around exam time. Insufferable, really. The main thing is we’re all insufferable together.”
“I just feel like we’re a powder keg sometimes. Especially me.”
“We’ll get through it. It’s fine. We balance each other out, right? All five of us. There’s always at least one person keeping a level head at any one time.”
“Maybe,” Holly says, unconvinced. There’s nothing more to be said, though, and a few moments later Lara returns, all smiles, and bounds across the room to sit cross-legged on her bed and lean forward eagerly.
“So, ladies,” she says in her customary start-of-term-gossip-session voice, “What’s new?”
I don’t know what wakes me up shortly after five that morning – maybe it’s Holly tossing and turning in her sleep (the girl thrashes around like nobody’s business – half the time she wakes up in the morning with half her blankets on the floor and the other half coccooned around her body – she once needed my help to escape them) or Lara mumbling something, or maybe it’s a kind of sixth sense for when my friends need me. Whatever it is, I realise pretty quickly that I’m not going to get to sleep again, and reach for my slippers and hoodie.
The common room, at first glance, appears to be deserted – lit by a faint reddish glow from the remaining embers of the fire and the predawn gloom outside the windows. Then I see the top of a scruffy blond head on one of the couches, and quickly cross the room to investigate.
Scorpius is curled up in the corner, a book open in his lap and a quill clutched in his hand.
“Morning,” I say, picking up the book. “What are you doing up so early reading – “ I peer at the open page, “indecipherable Greek poetry?”
“Pindar’s Odes,” Scorpius explains. There’s something odd in his voice, and when I crouch down to his level I can see his eyes are reddened, like he hasn’t slept at all.
“Jesus, Scorpius, what happened?”
He shakes his head, takes the book back wordlessly, before throwing it and his quill to the floor.
Trying not to think the worst, I take a seat next to him, wrapping my arms around him. “Are you okay?”
He shakes his head again, and his face crumples. Reaching out blindly, he pulls me closer and buries his face in my shoulder, succumbing to endless, silent sobs, and I can do nothing but hold him, rub his back through the robes he never bothered to change out of, and wait for him to speak.
The sun is peeking over the horizon, filling the common room with weak orange light, by the time he speaks.
“He broke up with me.”
Disclaimer: Narnia and the White Witch belong to the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis.
A/N: I'm so sorry
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