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The Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship by ad astra
Chapter 10 : x. the weasley christmas experience [or] scorpius and lester get festive jumpers
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 10

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What follows when we all finally make it back to the common room is the biggest celebration any of us have ever seen (and I’ve lived through Teddy and Victoire’s engagement and marriage, Mum’s promotion to Head of Magical Law Enforcement, James and Freddie winning the Daily Prophet’s Best New Business Award, so I have plenty of points of comparison). It starts out as just our group, then the Quidditch team joins us, then Holly’s told our other classmates about her job offer. The Butterbeer is abundant, the music terrible (Alfie owns a guitar, but he never actually learnt to play it, and is just sitting in the corner strumming occasionally and bellowing limericks.) Lily’s here as the sole non-Ravenclaw, a position I get the feeling she’s grown accustomed to over the last three weeks, and is waving her hands about as she discusses Quidditch tactics with Lester and Tom.

“It’s nice to see them in the spotlight,” Albus says quietly, nodding at Holly, who’s speculating loudly about the staffroom with Lara, and Lester, whose team has raised their Butterbeers to him yet again. “They deserve it. God, d’you ever – I’m really proud of her, you know? Arithmancy professor, handpicked by Vector…she’s not yet eighteen.”

“She’s phenomenal, though. We’ve always known that.”

“Yeah, but – I forget, sometimes. How remarkable everyone is, you know? We settle into complacency, almost – like, yeah, they’re awesome mates and Lester’s a great guy and Holly’s a gift from God – but then something like this happens and you just think – they’re going places. They weren’t just put on this earth to make our lives better. They’re going to change the world.”

“I know exactly what you mean.” We lapse into silence, smiling as we watch our friends bask in the glow of their achievements. “And I know I shouldn’t be saying this, I should be making the most of everything while it lasts…but God, I’m going to miss everyone.”

“We’ll stick together, though,” Albus says firmly. “I mean…we’re family. Us, literally. And I mean, Scorpius goes where I go, and we’ll both be at Mungo’s together, and you and Holly will be on the teaching course together and then you’ll be at Hogwarts, and judging by the way Lily and Raine are staring all besottedly at each other he’ll probably be family in five years so we’ll see everyone at Christmas every year…”

“You look at Scorpius like that, you know.”

“I know I do.” Albus hesitates. “Rose, you can keep a secret, right?”

“I think I’ve proven that I can.”

“From everyone. From Scorpius.”

I give him the side-eye. “If this is a bad – ”

“No. No. I just – I’m going to ask him to marry me.”

It takes me a few moments to process this, and then I don’t know how to react. “That’s – wow. Albus, that’s amazing.”

“I haven’t asked him yet,” he points out with a glimmer of a smile. “I don’t know when. Maybe when we’re finished Hogwarts, maybe in a couple years – how young’s too young?”

“I think if you’re attending History of Magic together as husbands that’s a bit young.”

He grins. “Can you imagine Binns’ face if we did though? Nah, I know. I’m thinking maybe Valentines Day, year after next. We’ll have been together five years.”

“You guys got together on Valentines Day?”

“Officially, yes. We were very forward-thinking as third years, you see – means we’re never going to forget anniversary or Valentines.”

“Scorpius told me about your first kiss.”

“Ah, that. I never got to thank you and Holly for that stupid truth or dare game.”

“You can at your wedding.”

“At our wedding, yeah,” Albus says, and a grin spreads across his face. “Rose, will you be my best woman?”

“If that’s a thing, I’d be honoured.”

He claps me on the shoulder and rejoins the party, leaving me to wonder when we all started growing up.

The festive season comes out of nowhere at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. One day everything’s normal, the next day you’re shuffling half-asleep down to the Great Hall for breakfast and there’s mistletoe trapping people in the corridors and wreaths on every classroom door and softly tinkling bells stuck with Permanent Sticking Charms to your shoes.

The bells were our idea. It’s festive, so nobody can hate us.

Hijinks and shenanigans are at an all-time high during December. Snowballs follow people around the castle, waiting for an opportune moment to attack; Cornish pixies are released into the Entrance Hall (I have no idea what’s Christmassy about Cornish pixies, but apparently the group of fourth-year Gryffindors responsible found something); people are unwrapping Secret Santa gifts of semi-frozen Hippogriff dung. It’s pandemonium, and while in previous years we were all inclined to stick our noses in the air and mutter disdainfully about our mentally deficient peers, this year we’re the biggest fans of the spectator sport that is Christmas. Students crowd around awkward pairs trapped by mistletoe, raising the cry, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” in the same way they would yell “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” at any other time of the year. We make a point of always travelling with the person we wouldn’t mind kissing – Albus and Scorpius, Lester and Lily (who we all swear actually seek out the mistletoe) and Holly and me. (“You’re not best friends till you’ve smooched under mistletoe,” Holly proclaimed back in fourth year, thus safeguarding us from any yuletide awkwardness for the next three years.)

There have been a few mistletoe incidents – the most unfortunate being when Albus and Lester get caught on the way to Charms. It takes them ten minutes and a sharp word from Professor May, who wants to actually start class, before they consent to the most awkward of pecks and spend the rest of the class whispering to me about how lucky I am to be single and pansexual and how I would therefore never be in such an awkward situation as either of them.

“No, no,” I whisper finally, deciding it’s time to set them straight. “It’s worse. I have the potential to have unresolved sexual tension with anyone.”

“Oh,” Lester says. “Wow.”

“Who do you have unresolved sexual tension with?” Albus asks.

“I was speaking generally. No doubt I’ll find out next time I’m stuck under mistletoe with someone not in our group.”

Luckily, though, within a few days we’ve worked out ways to disable or destroy the mistletoe infesting the castle. It takes a total of nineteen hours between the five of us, camped out in the library with a few sample specimens, but the student body is grateful.

“The Nerds triumph!” Dylan Hewitt, a Hufflepuff Prefect, thrusts a fist in the air as a sprig of mistletoe wilts under our spells.

“Happy to be of service,” Scorpius says, bowing.

Professor Longbottom is suitably impressed that we found a way of killing the mistletoe, though he also tells us we should have spent some of those nineteen hours actually doing classwork. Or sleeping.

“Sleep is Professor, overrated,” i inform him solemnly.

“Go to bed, you three.”

I’ve never been told that by a teacher at this school, but as we trudge back up to the castle Albus says helpfully, “Apparently by about May all the professors are setting sleep hours instead of homework. Otherwise you just don’t.”

“Who’d you hear this from?” Scorpius asks.

“James was telling me.”

“James was in Gryffindor.” Scorpius looks horrified. “Imagine us at NEWT time.”

“I’ve been preparing,” Albus says. “Started drinking coffee at the beginning of the year to get used to the taste. Gonna need it.”

“I should start doing that,” Scorpius muses.

Holly and Lester are the only ones in the common room when we arrive back, and they’re both fast asleep on the couches.

“See you at dinner maybe,” Scorpius says, and disappears up to his dorm.

“Not joining him?” I ask Albus.

He waves a hand. “He’s finished for the day. I still have Muggle Studies after lunch.”

“Skip it.”

“Nah. We’re studying Muggle history at the moment. Wouldn’t skip it for the world. I’ll just have a power nap, it’ll be fine.” He hunkers down on the last spare couch. “It’s another art I’ve been perfecting in preparation for NEWTs.”

“Well, good…afternoon.” I’ve finished classes for the day as well, so I return to my dorm and fall into bed without even bothering to remove my shoes.

The teachers seem to have a mentality of working us into the ground in the last week of term – maybe because we’re losing three weeks to break, maybe because they figure they won’t have to deal with the fallout of a school full of sleep-deprived seventeen year olds because we’re all going home on Saturday. Whatever the reason, we have more essays and translations and spell practice to do than we’ve had all year, and by Friday afternoon we’re ready for murder.

None more so than Holly and Lester.

“We. Have. Astronomy. Tonight,” Lester says at the end of the school day, when we’re all sprawled out in the common room wondering how we managed to survive the last week. “We have charts to finish before midnight.” He keels over, lying face down on the floor, and groans into the carpet.

“Fuck the charts,” Holly says, and we all stare at her. “No, I’m serious. Fuck the fucking charts.” She shoves the giant piece of parchment in front of her out the window.

“Holly…” I say tentatively.

“What? Fuck Astronomy. Nobody cares about Astronomy. I don’t care about Astronomy. I got a fucking Exceeds Expectations for it in fifth year, why am I even bothering? It’s a waste of time and why they think it’s okay to have classes at midnight three times a week when we start at eight forty-five every goddamn morning is beyond me.” She throws down her quill. “For fuck’s sake, someone take me outside.”

I do, barely taking the time to throw a cloak over my robes before steering her out into the grounds. It’s freezing and snow is drifting down in fat, lazy flakes, but if any version of Holly cared about that she’s long gone now. She breaks into a run, launching herself into a pile of snow, and lies there staring up at the grey sky.

“I’ve just had enough,” she tells the clouds.

I lie down in the snow beside her, reaching over to squeeze her hand. “You can do it.”

“We’ve still got months left…and exams…”

“It’s Christmas,” I tell her. “Skip Astronomy. Get an early night. Come down with us to the station tomorrow, I’ll buy you a Pygmy Puff from Wheezes.”

“I can’t skip class…”

“Yes, you can. You’re not going to get anything good out of that class in this state. Get an early night. Put yourself first.”

“I’ve never done that in my entire life,” she says in a small voice.

“You’re starting now. We’re going to get in our pajamas and laugh at Witch Weekly with twenty Galleons’ worth of Honeydukes.”

Holly lies in the snow for another five minutes in silence before getting to her feet, pulling me up with her. “Right. No Astronomy tonight.”

“Atta girl,” I say, and we tramp through the knee-deep snow back into the castle.

As promised, I buy Holly a Pygmy Puff on our way to Hogsmeade Station the next morning and send her back up to school with a hug and an order to take it easy over the break. The rest of us collapse in our usual carriage with comments of “Thank God it’s holidays” and “I’m so glad to be heading home,” and the Hogwarts Express has pulled out of the station and is passing through the outer boundary of the village before Scorpius sits bolt upright in his seat.

“Oh fuck!” he says in horror. “The Prefects’ Carriage!”

“Fuck!” I echo, and we launch ourselves out of the compartment and make a run for the Prefects’ Carriage, dodging first-years who inevitably think some terrible crisis is going on and we have to take care of it. It’s an image I don’t bother to shatter.

The other prefects give us a reproachful look when we burst in, a good fifteen minutes late.

“Er, sorry about that,” Scorpius says awkwardly. “Got tied up or…something.”

“It’s okay,” Sophie Macmillan assures him. “We’ve all had a rough week.” She looks about as dead as we feel, and a quick glance around the carriage tells me that all the seventh-years, at least, are united in exhaustion.

To make up for his being late, Scorpius takes over the meeting – checking up on how everyone’s rounds are going, sorting out any issues, answering any questions that have popped up over the last term, before dismissing everyone to do rounds of the train.

“And have a good Christmas, everyone,” he adds. “Sophie, Dylan, Lucy, Sean, Emily, Louis, Rose – sleep. For the love of God. Don’t open a book for the next three weeks.”

“I hear you, mate,” Sean says, and the Prefects disperse.

“It’s a shame we’re at war with half our Prefects,” he says once everyone’s left. “Think of all the seventh-year solidarity we’re missing out on.”

Our Prefects?” I repeat. “I’m not Head Girl.”

“Right, yeah, you’re not are you? I keep forgetting that.”

“Unfortunately that’s not something I can put on my CV,” I grumble. “Was not actually Head Girl, but Head Boy thought I was.

“Why are you worried about your CV?”

“Well – it’s hardly likely that I’m just going to walk into a job, is it? Positions at Hogwarts come up once in a blue moon as it is, and think of how many people will be applying – ”

“Does this have anything to do with Holly’s job offer?”

I sigh. “This has everything to do with Holly’s job offer. I just sort of thought we’d sort it out once we finished the teaching course, you know? And that everything would work out. But she’s secure in her prospects now, and it just makes me realise that I’m really, really not.”

“But that course qualifies you for any school in the Triwizard Union, right? And you have to have at least two teaching subjects?”

“Yeah,” I say dubiously. “So I have six possible options instead of one.”

“It’s more than Albus and I will have at the end of our training,” he points out. “Either St Mungo’s keeps us on or they don’t. Don’t compare yourself to Holly. She’s a magnesium flare and the rest of us are lanterns.”

“What does that make the people who aren’t us?”

“Maybe glow worms,” he suggests, and I laugh in spite of myself.

It becomes apparent as soon as I make it home that the trend of having bombshells dropped on me by my overachieving nearest and dearest is set to continue.

“Your mother has some news,” Dad tells Hugo and I once we’ve deposited our trunks in our rooms and drifted aimlessly into the kitchen in search of food.

“Do we…sit?” Hugo asks eventually.

Mum waves her hands. “No, no. It’s not that big a deal, really – Ron, there’s no need to treat it like a big announcement – ”

“What is it, if not a big announcement?”

“Cut to the chase, Mum," Hugo interrupts.

“I’m running for Minister in the next election.”

“Oh, wow.” I stare at her. “Mum. That’s – amazing. I’m definitely voting for you.”

“No, Rose, this is your first election and I don’t want you voting for me just because I’m your mother, you need to make these decisions based on policy – ”

“I’ve had nearly eighteen years to acquaint myself with your policies, Mum. I know what you stand for.”

“Oh, Rose, that’s very – kind of you – ” Mum looks thoroughly flustered, and after a few moments of nervous fidgeting wraps me in a bear hug.

“Ribs,” I gasp.

She releases me quickly.

“When’s the election?” Hugo asks.

“October. Of course, there’s so much to do before then – Ron, you don’t think I’ve left it too late to announce my candidacy…?"

October. Hugo will be back at Hogwarts by then – which means it’s particularly urgent that I find a flat with Holly and Lester over the summer. There’s no way I want to be at home during election time.

While Dad assures Mum that no, ten months is plenty of time to campaign, I turn to Hugo.

“Mum’s gonna be Minister,” he says, eyes wide.

“I know.”

“This family has too many high achievers.” He folds his arms. “How many Os did you get in your OWLs, Rose?”

“Uh. All of them.”

“Fuck. There’s no way I’m getting that.”

“You don’t have to. You shouldn’t. Academia is my thing, get off my turf.” I’m only half joking.

“Fine, I’ll be Quidditch Captain. And Head Boy.”

“I don’t even know if you can be both.”

“That settles it, then.”

Mum turns to us, having been sufficiently reassured, to ask the inevitable question.  “And how are your studies going?”

“All right,” Hugo says. I just groan in response.

“Rose? Everything okay?”

“It’s seventh year, nothing will be okay again.”

“If you put together a study timetable now, you’ll find it a lot easier to cope with the workload over the next few months,” she tells me, not batting an eyelid at my melodrama. “I know it’s tough, but you’ll just stress yourself out more unless you spread it out – ”

“She’ll be fine, Hermione,” Dad interrupts.

“How would you know, Ron? You didn’t even do your NEWTs!”

“On account of the war and all.” Dad turns to me. “Rose, if there’s a war in the next six months, you are not to sit your exams. Hugo, you too.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Don’t you undermine me, Ronald Weasley!”

“I’m not undermining you. I’m balancing you. You’ll both do fine in your exams. I believe in you.” He grins at us.

“I believe in you too,” Mum says huffily. “I also believe in the virtue of hard work!”

“That should be your campaign slogan,” Hugo says. “Might lose the pureblood vote though.”

“I was never going to chase the pureblood vote anyway,” Mum sniffs.

Christmas Day dawns bright and cold. Dawns being the notable word, because this is the first time this year (excluding all-nighters) that I’ve seen dawn. Hugo and I sneak down to the Christmas tree in the lounge at about 5am to watch the sun rise, shrouded in blankets and speculating about the presents.

“That one looks like a book,” Hugo says, pointing. “And so does that one…and that one…that one too…this fucking family,” he concludes. “I hope I get a broomstick.”

“You got one last year.”

“A man can dream.”

We lapse into silence again, basking in the light of the Christmas tree, until Mum comes down just before seven.

“I thought you two would be getting too old to be up this early,” she says, smiling.

“Nah,” Hugo says. “’S Christmas. When’s breakfast?”

“Whenever your father bestirs himself to make it,” Mum replies. “Which won’t be for a while, judging by the way he was snoring five minutes ago.”

She joins us on the carpet beside the tree, gazing at Hugo and I with the kind of sleepy thoughtfulness that warns we’re about to be snowed under by maternal sentiment.

“You’ve grown up so fast,” she says softly. “Look at you two, Hugo – you’re taller than Ron was at that age. And Rose – this is your last Christmas at home, isn’t it? I know you and Holly are getting a flat.”

“I’ll still come back for Christmas,” I assure her.

“But not sneaking down the stairs at six in the morning – ”

“Five,” I correct. “Five in the morning.”

“Five,” she echoes. “You’ll be Flooing in, Apparating even, if your cousins’ flats are anything to go by. Just in time for breakfast and presents.”

“That sounds like me.”

Without a word, Mum pulls me into a hug, clutching me like she never wants to let me go. And as it dawns on me that this really is my last Christmas morning at home, I don’t want her to let go either.

It’s midmorning by the time we assemble beside the Floo to go to Nana and Grandad’s for Christmas lunch, and Mum’s already anxious because she promised Nana she’d help with the turkey. She’s been hovering by the fireplace for the last twenty minutes, attempting to hurry Hugo along as he slouches through the house, and Dad shakes his head.

“Twenty-five years we’ve been together, and she’s still trying to impress Mum. I’ve told her not to bother – Mum’s loved her as long as I have, but – ” he waves his hand, “She’s Hermione, isn’t she? Telling her not to worry about something is like telling the sun to stop shining.”

“I know.”

“You’re a lot more like her than you think, Rosie.”

“I’ve literally been told that all my life, Dad.”

“I mean it.” Dad frowns. “You know why I told you about that scholarship, don’t you?”

“You don’t want to bankroll me through my training course?” I joke.

“I want you to let go a bit. Enjoy being young. Your mother didn’t get that opportunity, there was a war on and your uncle Harry and I would have died – several times, I might add – without her helping us, but that doesn’t mean I want you following in her footsteps. It’s a bloody great burden to carry all your life.”

“I’m going for the scholarship. We all are. Me, Albus, Scorpius, Holly and Lester. We’re splitting it five ways if we win.”

“Good,” Dad says. “I’m glad.”

Mum finds us then, shooing us in the direction of the Floo. “Come on, Ron, we’ll be late!”

It’s weird having Lester and Scorpius at family Christmas, especially with Lester in the context of Lily’s boyfriend rather than Albus and my best mate. It’s made even weirder – okay, more uncomfortable – when James and Freddie arrive from their flat in Diagon Alley and, after greeting their parents, make their way over to where we’re clustered.

“What’s all this?” James asks, giving Albus a cheery clap on the back and shaking hands with Scorpius. “Didn’t know Nana was letting us bring our mates to Christmas now, how’d you swing that?”

Judging by the looks Albus, Lily and I all exchange in that moment, we’ve all realised that nobody has actually told James. Lily looks torn between disbelief that Albus has royally fucked up twice on the sibling front, and a certain smugness that at least she knew before her eldest brother.

“Listen – James – there’s something I have to tell you.”

“Something you have to tell me?” James repeats, leaning an arm on Albus’s shoulder. “Sounds serious…no, no, I can get this. You two,” he says, encompassing Scorpius in his address, “How long have you been in each other’s pants?”

Albus reddens. “How did you – ”

“How did I know? Please. The question is, little brother, why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

“That’s what I asked him too,” Lily contributes.

“How did you find out?”

Lily shrugs. “They kinda made out in the Great Hall during dinner. It was difficult to miss.”

“Standing on the Ravenclaw table,” I add helpfully.

“Well, well, well,” James says, looking at Albus with something that looks strangely like respect. “I never would have picked you for a public declaration of anything, but maybe you should have been a Gryffindor after all.”

“That’s not as big a compliment as you think it is,” Albus informs him.

“Yeah it is. I’m happy for you, pipsqueak.”

“Thanks, dickwad.”

“No problem.” James points a stern finger at Scorpius. “Don’t hurt my little brother. And you,” he adds, spotting Lester skulking at the back of the group, “Don’t hurt my little sister. James out.” He swans off.

“Narcissus out, more like,” Albus mutters, before raising his voice and calling after his brother, “Oi – careful not to catch your reflection in any ponds!”

James turns, gives a theatrical bow in our direction, and calls, “Oh, marvellous boy, I loved you in vain!”

Scorpius just stares after him. “Was that – Metamorphoses 3?”

“One line of it,” Albus replies, looking slightly resentful.

“Don’t take this the wrong way – but you’re lucky that your brother’s straight.”

“How is there a right way to take that?” Albus turns to him. “If it’s Ovid you want – nos quoque per totum pariter cantabimur orbem, iunctaque semper erunt nomina nostra tuis.”

“You’ll have to excuse us for a moment,” Scorpius says, sounding slightly breathless, and drags Albus out of the room by the shirt front.

“Bye,” I call after them, and turn back to Lester and Lily. They’ve taken advantage of my inattention to steal a particularly passionate kiss, and break apart looking guilty.

“Fucking – couples everywhere.” I abandon them to their affections and circle the room in search of more cousins.

Cousins, fortunately, are in abundant supply. I catch up with Victoire and Teddy before being absorbed into James, Freddie and Dominique’s group.

“Been cast adrift, Rosie?” James says conversationally. “I never thought I’d see the day. Albus and Lily both with significant others at Christmas. Both with boyfriends.”

“Feeling lonely, James?” Freddie asks.

“Not with you by my side, Frederick.”

“How long have those two been together anyway?” Freddie asks me.

“Which two?”

“Albus and the Malfoy kid.”

“Scorpius,” I correct.

“Knew it was something pretentious.”

“They’ve been together nearly four years.”

“Fuck, four years?” James goggles. “They kept that pretty fucking quiet. I only noticed last year.”

“You didn’t say anything to him?” I ask.

“Why would I? If he’s happy, I’m happy – but I also wanted to see how long he’d take to tell me. Freddie and I were about ready to make bets.”

“Which you would have lost,” Freddie says. “Could have used that twenty Galleons.”

“You knew too?” I ask.

“Not till James pointed it out to me,” Freddie concedes. “But once he did, yeah, it was pretty obvious. Oh, Rose, what are you doing when you finish Hogwarts?”

“The teaching course at the Ministry.”

“Really? What’ll you teach?”

“Potions preferably, but I’m also going to get qualified for Defence.”

“Should have known you’d have your plans,” Freddie says.

“We were going to offer you a job, if you wanted one,” James explains. “The bar’s getting too big to run on our own, and at this stage we’d rather hire family members or people we know – people who can share our vision and all that.”

“Ask Lucy,” I suggest. “Apparently she doesn’t know what she’s doing yet, and she’d be good in a bar situation.”

“Yeah, she’s outgoing,” James agrees, turning to Freddie. “What do you think? Lucy? She’d do well in hospo, I reckon.”

“Yeah, all right,” Freddie agrees, craning his neck to look over the heads of various Weasleys. “Aha! Found her. C’mon.” They ditch, leaving me with Dominique.

I never know quite what to say to Dominique. Of all her siblings, she’s embraced her French heritage the most – spending last year with an elite wizardwear designer in Montpellier before returning to England to work for Twilfitt and Tattings. She works as both a designer and a model, and in the six months since she started there, Twilfitt and Tattings has made it into the top five wizardwear companies in Europe. She’s barely twenty, and her success intimidates me to no end.

She’s also best friends with James and Freddie and has joined them in all their pranks, drunken adventures and harebrained schemes. I don’t know what to make of her.

“Teaching, huh?” she asks. “You’d be good at that.” Her accent is a strange mix of English and French, made more obvious by the fact that she’s trying not to sound French at all, the way she always does when she’s around family.


“You could do so much more though,” she continues. “You’re so intelligent – your subject’s Potions, yes? Why not go into research?”

“Teaching’s more rewarding.”

“You think? You know what they say. ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.’”

I bristle. “That’s the biggest load of shit ever. Hogwarts teachers are top of their fields.”

“Ah. They’re good, yes. Top of their fields? I doubt it. If Hogwarts employed teachers from the top of their fields, it would be our uncle Harry teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts. Maybe your father. Not Dean Thomas.”

“Professor Thomas is a fantastic teacher,” I say heatedly. “And you know, it’s not just about whether you’re the best person in the world at that subject. It’s whether you have the passion and the dedication to pass that ability on.”

“Well,” Dominique says dubiously, “If you’re sure. I just think you could do better.”

“Thanks for your input.”

I resume my circling of the assembled Weasleys, pausing to catch up with Molly (working at the Ministry, of course, and doing very well for herself) and Roxanne (junior reporter at the Daily Prophet, got a new boyfriend) before being accosted by Uncle George.

“I’ve had some reports,” he says, waggling his eyebrows. “From my contacts within Hogwarts.”

“Who are your contacts at Hogwarts?”

“That’s for me to know and you to never find out. I’ve heard good things, Rose. I’m not sure I condone the open warfare on your own blood, but – ”

“Louis deserves everything he’s gotten this year. And he’s going for the scholarship too, isn’t he?”

“Yes. I would say he gives as good as he gets – but my reports indicate not. He lacks a certain...flair for this sort of thing. Pranking is an art form, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. By the way – there was one incident that my contact has had issues with. Involved toilet paper and doves.”

“Ah. Yeah, that was ours.”

“Really, now? Because Louis has been trying to claim it as well. Unfortunately, he was unable to explain the magic behind it when I asked.”

“It was a simple object-to-bird Transfiguration charm controlled by a Protean,” I tell him. “Holly still has the master key, I can get it to you if you need it.”

“Have her owl it to me at the shop,” George says. “You’re working with a partner?”

“A group, actually. There’s me and Holly, and Albus, and Scorpius Malfoy – ”

“The blond kid with Albus?”

“That’s the one. And Lester Raine, the tall geeky one with Lily.”

“Five-way split? Interesting. I look forward to hearing more about your efforts, Rose.”

We’re interrupted by Nana announcing that lunch is ready, and we all crowd into the lounge where she’s set up a long row of tables. The feast is amazing, as always, and, figuring neither of the couples that comprise my friends will be doing anything too inappropriate at the table, I wedge myself between Albus and Lester and load my plate with roast potatoes.

We make pointless conversation and witty banter with James and Freddie, sitting opposite us, and when we’ve stuffed ourselves fit to burst of Nana’s cooking, we slouch into couches, armchairs and floor for presents.

Most of us have already done the main present exchanges with our immediate families, so this is restricted to the first generation Weasley siblings and the closer combinations of cousins. I give my presents to the boys – a book on the Muggle World War II for Albus, a copy of the De Rerum Natura of Lucretius for Scorpius, and a 1699 folio edition of On the Science of Sorcery by Gaius Gloucester for Lester (it was horrendously expensive, so Holly, Albus, Scorpius and I split the cost. It’s worth it to see the look on his face).

My present is another that comes from the whole group, and Albus admits they got the idea for it from Lester’s. It’s a collection of academic papers from the leading Potioneers of the last two centuries, both published and unpublished, and I recognise the names of at least three contributors: Horace Slughorn, Severus Snape (posthumously) and Herbert Llodewick.

“I only know about this because of Dad,” Albus says excitedly, in case the uniqueness of the book is somehow lost on me. “The Potioneers Guild approached him like, ten years ago asking for his copy of Advanced Potion Making, because it was the one annotated by Severus Snape, right, and Dad told them it had been destroyed in the war, but they went off and found a bunch of his papers in his old place and got Dad to authenticate them – because he can recognise Snape’s notes and all – and they’re all in there. Plus I think they thought he was way closer to Snape than he was, considering he named me after him.”

I stare with wonder at the book and open it to the contents page. “Phoebe Dellingsworth, Potions Mistress, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…Horace Slughorn, Potions Master, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Severus Snape, Potions Master, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Herbert Llodewick, Potions Master at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic; Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – more than half these contributors taught at Hogwarts.”

I’m tempted to shove the book in Dominique’s face just to prove her wrong, but it seems like too petty a use for such an incredible resource, so I content myself with staring at it and picturing the second edition with my name on the contents page as well.

“Like it, Rosie?” Scorpius asks.

“I love it.” I place it reverentially on the carpet beside me and hug him, before dragging Albus and Lester in as well.

“We’re doing this?” Lester asks, before shrugging and smooshing himself into the hug. “I love my book, too, guys – thank you so much.”

“No problem, Raine,” Albus says. “Merry Christmas, everyone.”

“Merry Christmas,” we echo, mumbled into each other’s hair or shirts or faces, before we decide we’ve invaded each other’s personal space enough and break apart.

A few minutes later, it’s time for Nana to distribute the Christmas jumpers. I swear she must start these in July, there are so many of us. Mine this year is dark green with little white cauldrons, and I put it on immediately.

Nana always hands the jumpers out in order – her children by birth order, then her grandchildren by birth order, then in-laws. This year, though, she’s added a new category, and she prefaces this with a speech.

“I don’t usually do this,” she begins. “Though that may be because none of you seem to bring your sweethearts to Christmas lunch – they’re always welcome, you know that, the more the merrier! But this year we have two lovely young men joining us. Scorpius, Lester – merry Christmas, boys, and I know you’ll continue to make my grandson and granddaughter very happy.”

Because they’ve already been friends with Albus and I for near seven years, Scorpius and Lester have met Nana on a few occasions, but you’d think they’d been Weasleys all their lives the way they hug her and pull on their jumpers, beaming. I can’t tell who looks happier – Lester, in the blue-and-bronze version of Lily’s Snitch-covered green-and-silver jumper, or Lily, laughing at something her parents said, or Albus and Scorpius, who are smiling so hard they look like they’re about to break their faces. Actually no – there’s no competition, because this is the first Christmas Albus and Scorpius have been able to spend properly together, surrounded by people who love Albus and welcome Scorpius into the family with open arms, and their joy is written across their faces for all the world to see.

I swipe a tear from my eyes and wrap my arms around their shoulders, attempting to tell them something profound. It ends up sounding like “’M so happy for you you’re so happy I love you both so much merry Christmas.”

“We love you too, Rose,” Scorpius says as Albus pats me awkwardly on the head.

“This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had,” Lester says, and I can’t help but agree.

A/N: "Oh marvellous boy, I loved you in vain" is a line from Ovid's Metamorphoses (3.499, translated by David Raeburn)
nos quoque per totum pariter cantabimur orbem, iunctaque semper erunt nomina nostra tuis (Ovid's Amores I, 3.25-26) means "together we will be sung of through all the earth, my name always joined with yours" (translation mine)

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