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Chapter 9 : ix. the family we choose [or] all you need is love
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It’s mid-November by the time Lucy and Louis strike again, and thanks to the advance warning from Emily we’re fully prepared for the attack, which comes during Herbology. It is – and I have to admire them for this – an extraordinarily well-thought out prank, no doubt using the talents of Sean, who’s top of the class. They’ve managed to replace the venom in the Venemous Tentacula plants we’re working with, filling the aggressive plant instead with a Singer’s Elixir that will make anyone who comes into contact with it unable to speak without singing for twenty-four hours.
It’s a masterful prank, and we can’t let it go to waste. So we just switch the plants around.
Lucy, Louis and Sean are watching us all lesson, giggling and whispering, waiting for one of us to slip up and touch our plants (or turn our backs on them.) They’re so distracted by our impending misfortune, in fact, that they don’t notice until it’s too late that Louis’ plant has lovingly embraced him.
“Get it oooooooooffff,” he croons. “Oh God, get it ooooooooooooffff.”
Professor Longbottom looks startled and more than a little confused as he frees Louis from the plant. “Odd time to start singing,” he says.
“I wasn’t siiiiiinging, Professoooooor,” Louis sings. “Oh fuck oh fuuuuuck. I fucked uuuuuup!”
At this stage Albus, Scorpius and I promptly lose our shit, and once they realise that Louis can’t speak without singing, so does the rest of the class. Professor Longbottom looks hopelessly lost. “The Venemous Tentacula never has that effect, perhaps I should…”
Louis is now conversing with his friends in what appears to be some kind of rap battle, and once it’s clear we’re not going to get any more work done Longbottom dismisses us for the day.
“It’s a shame Emily doesn’t take Herbology,” I muse as we make our way back to the castle. “She should have seen the fruits of her handiwork.”
“She’ll be seeing it for the rest of the day.”
“How did the prank go?” Holly asks once we sit down for lunch.
“Beautifully,” Scorpius says, just as Louis walks past and we catch part of the power ballad that is his current conversation.
“I wonder if he has any control over the genre,” Albus muses, twisting to face the Slytherin table. “Add a bit of soul, Louis!”
“Fuck off, fuck fuck fuck off – ”
“Inspired,” Albus calls, and turns back to us. “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Better than me naked?” Scorpius asks.
I choke on my pumpkin juice.
“Anapneo,” Holly says, and gives the boys a stern look. “Lily’s joining us for lunch. No more talk about naked Scorpius, thanks.”
“She and Raine still together, then?” Albus asks.
“I think you would have heard about it if they weren’t.”
The relationship between Lester and Lily has made things weird over the last three weeks – mainly because Lily’s suddenly spending time with us, and it’s been – well, coming up seven years since we associated much with anyone besides each other. Albus and I see plenty of her during the holidays, but that’s when we actively acknowledge our family ties and hang out with her and Hugo. Having her as part of the group is weird, especially given that at some point, without us really noticing at all, she made the transition from wide-eyed little sister to one of us – intelligent, snarky, mature beyond her years, always ripping on Albus or Lester. Albus is particularly bewildered by this development.
Lily slides onto the bench beside me, tossing her bag on the floor and reaching for the bread rolls. “Afternoon,” she says cheerily, punching Albus on the arm. “You look like a cat’s arse, Al.”
Albus scowls back at her.
“Why do you go out with him?” Lily asks Scorpius. “He’s a sulky child.”
“He has a nice arse,” Scorpius replies matter-of-factly.
“Don’t objectify me,” Albus says. “And Lily, you’re adopted.”
“Of course I am,” Lily says, tossing her long red hair behind her shoulder and propping her feet up on the bench. “Because I look nothing like Mum at all. Seriously, have you seen pictures of her at my age? It’s uncanny.”
“No, you’re exactly like her,” Albus agrees. “Going out with your brother’s best mate – ”
“What else is a big brother for, if I can’t make out with his friends?” Lily shrugs. “Besides, Lester says you don’t actually mind. You’re just a drama king.”
“That was a paraphrase,” Lester says helpfully.
“Yeah, I added drama king,” Lily concedes. “Oh, Lester, you’re invited to family Christmas, by the way.”
“What?” Albus goggles. “I’ve been with Scorpius more than three years and this is the first time he’s coming to family Christmas – ”
“Yes,” Lily says smoothly, “But the difference is I actually tell Mum and Dad when I get into a relationship, not three years in.”
“When you say family Christmas – ” Lester begins.
“The whole shebang, yeah,” I tell him. “The entire Weasley-Potter clan. It may be cliched to warn against the insanity of one’s family, but – well. The warning’s still in place.”
Realising very quickly that this means our entire group minus one key member is coming to family Christmas, I turn to Holly. “Wanna come to Christmas? I’ll write Mum and Dad, make you my plus-one.”
“Aw, that’s lovely of you,” Holly beams. “But I’m staying at school over Christmas.”
“Why?” Lester asks.
“Emma’s best friend’s parents just got divorced,” Holly explains. “So she doesn’t want to go home, and Emma’s staying on to make sure she’s not alone. And I’m staying for Emma.”
Emma Holyoake is only thirteen, a wee second-year Puff who’s already well on her way to following in Holly’s overly compassionate footsteps. Holly dotes on her, Emma worships the ground Holly walks on, and Albus and I are left glaring at our detached and condescending younger siblings wondering what went wrong and whether we could ever pull off a quiet trade.
“What’s Christmas at Hogwarts like, anyway?” Holly asks.
“It depends,” Albus says.
“On whether you have two Weasleys and a Potter determined to wreak absolute havoc in the name of final-year hedonism and festive spirit. Which you won’t, so you should be fine.”
We’ve only spent one Christmas at Hogwarts – we being Albus, Scorpius and myself – in our fifth year. It was James, Freddie and Dominique’s seventh year, and they decided they wanted to take advantage of the last opportunity they would have for a Hogwarts Christmas. It was perfect timing as well – Victoire and Teddy Lupin were on their honeymoon, Roxanne and Molly were in Australia on their OE, and the big Weasley-Potter Christmas was downgraded to an old-fashioned Weasley Christmas with, as I hear it, nobody from our generation and an awful lot of Firewhiskey. The only notable things to happen that Christmas were James, Freddie and Dominique somehow doctoring the Christmas crackers at the feast, and Albus and Scorpius spending a lot of time in the dorm they had to themselves and avoiding eye contact with me.
“Speaking of Christmas,” Scorpius says, addressing Albus, “You’ve been invited to our Christmas too. We’re having it on Boxing Day, actually, because Mum and Dad are spending Christmas with the Greengrass clan, but…uh. It’ll be a bit…austere. And probably very uncomfortable. My grandparents will be there, you see.”
“Your paternal grandparents, you mean?”
“Yeah.” Scorpius grimaces. “The lord and lady Malfoy themselves. If you don’t want to come I’ll – ”
“No,” Albus says, briefly squeezing his hand. “I’ll be there.”
Scorpius looks relieved, and Lily looks at Albus in surprise. “I’ve never seen you openly care about another human being that much.”
“Hark who’s talking, Slytherin,” Albus shoots back, and as everyone else stares resignedly at their plates and awaits the inevitable Potter blowup, I decide enough is enough and frogmarch both my cousins out of the Great Hall.
“What the hell is wrong with you two?” I demand. “Albus, if you’re honestly still shitty that she’s going out with Lester – ”
“He’s my mate!”
“I’d think that would mean you’d be happy for him,” I say severely.
“Me and Lester are all right,” Albus protests.
“So you’re just having a go at me, then?” Lily asks belligerently.
“Yeah, actually, I am!”
“Because – ” Albus sputters. “You ignore me all year except the holidays, and even then you only talk to me if nobody else is around, and suddenly you’re going out with my mate and you think it’s okay to swan into my group and rip into me in front of my friends – ”
“Come off it, you rip into them right back.”
“Yeah, and they’ve earned the right to!” Albus yells. “You haven’t, not when you can’t even be bothered giving me the time of day – do you know a thing about me that you wouldn’t know if we didn’t grow up together?”
“You’re pissy because I don’t know you well enough? Well, Jesus, Albus, last time I checked I wasn’t the one who kept a huge secret from you for three years, was I?”
“I would’ve told you if you’d ever bothered to ask!”
“What was I meant to ask you?” Lily demands. “Oh, hey Albus, just wondering if you’re actually gay for your best friend.”
“Not necessarily! ‘Hey Albus, how’s the love life,’ or ‘Met anyone’ or just – anything – I would have told you everything if I thought you actually cared!”
“You think I don’t care about you? You’re my brother – ”
“Nice of you to remember!”
“It’s not like you go out of your way to pay attention to me either!”
“Oh really?” Albus challenges. “You play Seeker for the Slytherin team. You prefer playing Chaser but being Seeker makes you feel closer to Dad. You won the last game for Slytherin but you couldn’t take any pride in it because the Gryffindor Seeker was incapacitated. You fly Mum’s old broom, the Comet 360, even though she’s offered to buy you a new one. You like Lester because he’s the first guy who’s interested in your mind more than your appearance, and you know you can trust him because I do, because…” he falters. “You trust me. And my opinion matters to you.”
“Because?” Lily prompts.
“Because I’m your brother,” he says eventually. “Lily…I’m sorry I never told you about Scorpius.”
“I’m sorry I never asked.”
They stand there stubbornly, and I’m on the verge of ordering them to hug it out when Albus hesitantly opens his arms and Lily flies into them. Brushing a tear from my eye that I didn’t realise was there, I slip away to find Hugo.
My brother’s still at the Hufflepuff table, shovelling food into his face like there’s no tomorrow. “Ey Roh,” he says around a mouthful of bread roll when I plunk down next to him.
“Sup, little bro.”
He chews, swallows and nods in the direction of our table. “Lily and Albus fighting again?”
“Made them sort it out?”
“Something like that.”
“They come to some touching realisation?”
“Came over here as a direct result of touching realisation?”
He gives me a brief hug. “Feel better?”
“Much, thank you.”
He turns back to his lunch, but pauses with his bread roll halfway to his mouth. “You don’t want to talk or anything, do you?”
“Nah.” I pat him on the shoulder. “You’re safe till Christmas.”
As I walk away I hear him explaining to one of his mates, “Me and Rose have streamlined sibling relations perfectly, you see. We even have code words.”
We do, actually – mainly so one of us can seek support from the other without letting on to anyone in the outside world that’s what we’re doing. So far we haven’t had to use them – mainly because Hugo’s emotionally constipated and I’ve got my friends – but the very fact that we have them makes me feel strangely better, especially after watching the Potters fight.
The tension at the Ravenclaw table has all but disappeared, with Albus and Lily back and chatting happily with everyone else.
“What did you do, Rose?” Scorpius asks. “It’s a miracle.”
“I just put them in a room and let them yell at each other, to be honest.”
“We’re…definitely all good, then?” Lester asks Albus cautiously, and Albus claps him on the back.
“Yeah, mate, we’re good. There’s no one in the school I’d trust more with my sister.” He pauses thoughtfully. “Except maybe Holly.”
“Thank God,” Scorpius says. “You’ve been a right prick lately, Albus.”
“Love you too,” Albus returns. “Oi, Lester, you’ve got a game tomorrow, yeah?”
“You remembered!” Lester looks genuinely touched. “You going to watch?”
“Might as well.” Albus glances around us. “I feel like we’ve been a bit low on the Ravenclaw pride recently. Who’s for an obnoxious display tomorrow?”
“There’s my cue,” Lily says, but before she can leave Lester catches her around the waist and steers her back to her seat.
“We’re playing the Puffs,” Lester says. “You can Ravenclaw it up.”
“Hugo will never forgive me,” she protests.
“Precisely,” I tell her. “Besides, Slytherin’s our traditional ally in house rivalries anyway.”
“And you look awful in yellow,” Albus says bluntly.
“Fine,” Lily says. “But I’m doing this for Lester, not for any familial warm fuzzies.”
Obnoxious display turns out to be exactly that. We’re decked out head to toe in blue and bronze, holding a giant banner charmed to cycle through a range of pretentious Ravenclaw quotes (wit beyond measure is a man’s greatest treasure is the first, and they only get worse from there) while Holly has a giant replica eagle tucked under one arm which she’s charmed to give a piercing cry every time Ravenclaw scores. Lily shuffles alongside in a blue dress and tights, looking like she’d give anything in the world not to be associated with us – so naturally Albus and I sling our arms around her shoulders and Holly perches the eagle on her head.
It’s Lester’s first game as Captain, which is the main reason we’ve all bestirred ourselves to watch, and it becomes clear that, despite his nerves, he’s in his element. We can’t hear the directions he’s yelling to the team, and none of us are clued up enough about Quidditch to understand his tactics (except maybe Lily, who’s watching him with rapturous admiration) but he does look impressive up there, marshalling the team like some great commander, and Ravenclaw plays better than we’ve seen them play in years. Every movement is coordinated, everything Hufflepuff does is prepared for and responded to, and Ravenclaw is leading by ninety points and climbing before Lester pulls out of his active captaining duties to start looking for the Snitch. From then on it’s another fifteen minutes until he catches it, touches down and claps his team on the back, looking up at the stands towards us.
We swarm the pitch, offering our congratulations and praises, and Lily seizes Lester and kisses him. “That was an incredible game.”
“Thanks.” Lester looks blissfully happy, and we decide as one to leave him and Lily to it.
“Party in the common room when you get there, mate,” Scorpius says, and shepherds us back to the castle.
“I know I said I was okay with this Lester/Lily thing,” Albus says, “But I’ve heard too many stories of Mum and Dad dating to not see the parallels, and quite frankly, I need to intervene before they end up married with three children.”
“Unless Lester kills himself a Dark Lord by the end of this year, I think you’re safe.” Scorpius slips an arm around Albus’s waist. “We’re going to need to do a Hogsmeade run with the Cloak, by the way.”
“Ooh, can we go?” Holly asks, indicating me in her question. “I’ve never snuck out of the castle before, and you guys have multiple times – wait,” she says, cocking her head. “How the hell are you Head Boy anyway?”
“Because I don’t get caught,” Scorpius replies matter-of-factly. “Holly, Rose – I love you both, but you’re about as subtle as a slap in the face with a dead fish.”
“Yeah, and God forbid the Cloak fall into the hands of a teacher,” Albus says, shuddering. “That thing is priceless, it’s a deathly hallow.”
“We’d look after it,” I say indignantly.
“You would try.”
“We’re just…better at this stuff than you,” Albus explains patiently. “Having two people under the Cloak requires great, er, synergy, coordination and anticipation of movement – ”
“We’re co-ordinated,” Holly protests, gesturing wildly to our feet. “Look, we’re even walking in time – ”
“He means sex, Holly,” I interrupt. “That’s where their synergy comes from.”
“Well, it certainly doesn’t go amiss,” Scorpius says primly. “To have an intimate knowledge of – ”
“You’ll have an intimate knowledge of the receiving end of a Silencing Charm if you don’t stop there, Scorpius Malfoy.”
Scorpius Malfoy does, indeed, stop there – but mainly because he’s almost walked into Professor Vector. He throws us a panicked glance – one that clearly says how long has she been in earshot – and looks up weakly. “Good morning, Professor.”
“Afternoon, Mr Malfoy,” she corrects. “Just the three I was hoping to speak to.”
We exchange looks. “There are four of us, Professor.”
“Yes, I can count. Mr Malfoy, Miss Weasley, Miss Holyoake – my office. Mr Potter, on your way.”
Albus’s face is somewhere between offended and relieved that he hasn’t been summoned, before it eventually settles on relieved. With a final raised eyebrow at us, he trots off back to Ravenclaw Tower while Professor Vector leads the rest of us into her office.
“First things first,” she says briskly. “Miss Weasley, Mr Malfoy – I told you at the beginning of the year to investigate into the ‘Order of the Raven.’ I don’t suppose you have any leads – yesterday was the second time Louis Weasley seems to have been targeted.”
“I don’t know who it is,” I tell Professor Vector, “But honestly, I really want to know how they made him sing.”
She gives me a quelling look. “I hope that’s a purely academic desire.”
“Do I ever have any others?” I ask.
“None that I care about.” She glances around us again, and her gaze softens slightly. “Mr Malfoy. I trust your meeting with your parents went well?”
“It did, thank you, Professor.”
“Good. Miss Weasley, your classes going well?”
“Good.” She nods. “I’m afraid I’ve been very busy of late, and I haven’t been fulfilling my Head of House duties as well as I should, particularly for my seventh-years, but of course, if you have any concerns you need only make an appointment. Now, I would normally dismiss you two – ” she indicates Scorpius and I – “Before having such a conversation, but I know how close you all are, and I thought you would like to celebrate with your friend here.” She nods to Holly.
“Celebrate?” Holly repeats, confused. “What do you mean?”
“Professor Sprout has announced her intention to retire,” Professor Vector explains. “Not immediate, of course, but she has started to make plans. Naturally, after she leaves, the post of Headmistress passes to myself – and I will be vacating the position of Arithmancy professor at this school.”
We look at Holly, but she seems to have lost all capacity for words.
“I have convinced Professor Sprout to stay her retirement until three years hence,” Professor Vector continues. “At which time, Miss Holyoake, you will have completed the Ministry education programme and be a suitable age to take up the post. It is my fervent wish that you be my successor.”
“Thank you, Professor,” Holly manages, before she bursts into tears. “This is – thank you – ”
I launch myself across the room, wrapping my arms around her and screaming. “You’re going to be a teacher, you’re going to be a teacher, you’re going to be a teacher!”
“Professor Holyoake does have a nice ring to it,” Scorpius says, beaming. “Congratulations, Holly.”
Holly eventually breaks free from my embrace to envelop Professor Vector in a bear hug. “You have no idea how much this means to me, Professor – ”
“Actually, I do,” Professor Vector says, gently detaching herself after a moment. “Which is why I chose you.”
Holly succumbs to a fresh flood of tears, half laughing, half crying, and Scorpius and I steer her out of Professor Vector’s office – her office, in three years’ time. I know I must be crushing her, I’m hugging her so tightly – but for some reason I’m convinced she won’t know how proud I am of her and how happy I am for her unless I come close to crushing her internal organs, and she’s squeezing Scorpius and I just as tightly, whispering “Professor Holyoake, Arithmancy,” to the flickering torches on the walls.
A/N: The title for this chapter comes from the Beatles song of the same name, All You Need is Love.
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