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Chapter 19 : xix. the calm before the storm [or] regroup; onward
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“Rose Weasley. What’s going on?”
“There’s been an incident – um – outside Babbling’s class – Louis and Lucian, impersonating MLE officers – Babbling asked me to get you.”
“Um, yeah, I was going to head over there now – ”
“Good, good. I’ll head to the Ancient Runes classroom right away, you fetch Herbert – ”
I take off back down the corridors, down endless flights of stairs, fingers crossed that said stairs don’t move unexpectedly, and burst into the Potions classroom gasping for breath.
“Rose?” Llodewick asks, startled, and all I can do is wave my hand in the vague direction of Babbling’s classroom.
“You’re needed,” I manage after a moment. “Louis and Lucian – April Fools – ”
“What have they done?”
“Polyjuice Potion. Impersonating MLE officers.”
Llodewick shakes his head. “Those stupid boys,” he murmurs. “Those stupid, stupid boys. Where are they?”
“With Babbling, I think.”
“Right. Watch my class, will you?”
“Uh – ”
“They’re second years,” he says, waving a hand in the direction of his students. “Claws and Puffs. They’re working on Swelling Solution. If I’m not back by the end of the lesson, there’s no homework and dole out points as you see fit.”
“Professor! I can’t teach your class – ”
“Yes you can,” he says briskly. “I have to deal with this, Rose. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t trust you.” He turns to the second years, calls out, “I’ve been called away on urgent business, but you’re in safe hands with Rose. She knows her potions, so don’t hesitate to ask her for help.”
Then he’s gone, and I’m left in the front of the classroom with forty second-years staring at me. I take a deep breath to steady my nerves, give them all a wave, and start circulating the cauldrons.
The moment the bell rings for lunch is the most welcome moment of my life. I’ve been nothing short of terrified for the last twenty minutes – what if something happens, what if one of the students blows up their cauldron or themselves, what if someone ends up in the hospital wing and it’s my fault because I didn’t keep a close enough eye on them – but nothing terrible happens and I’ve even helped a few struggling students understand basic concepts so that their whole faces light up and they go “Oh, I get it now!” I’m so caught up in the thrill of teaching – because there’s really no other word for it – that I forget about everything that brought me to this point until the bell rings, I dismiss the class, and Lester’s ashen face comes crashing back into my mind.
“Fuck,” I mutter, thankfully out of earshot of the second years, and bolt for the Great Hall. I detour past the Ancient Runes classroom – it seems unlikely that anyone would still be there, but I check anyway – and upon finding nobody there I continue hurrying to the Ravenclaw table. They’re not there either.
“Seen your brother?” I ask Lily.
“Yeah, he’s up in the hospital wing with the others. Told me to send you up if I saw you.”
I do a double take. “The hospital wing?”
“Yeah. He got into a fight, because he’s a fucking idiot.”
“Albus got into a fight? When? Is he okay?”
“He’s fine.” Lily chews on her nails, and I belatedly realise she’s shaking. “He just bit off more than he could chew, taking them both on at once. Figuratively speaking, I mean, he didn’t actually bite them.”
“What about Lester?”
“In the hospital wing too. Pomfrey poured so many potions down his throat I thought he was going to drown in them.”
“It was – bad, then?”
“So they tell me.” She runs a hand through her hair, looking like she’s trying to tear it out. “Come on, I can’t stand waiting around here.”
“Why are you down here?”
“Because they sent me to come get you,” she says bitterly. “Never mind the fact that I’m Albus’s sister and Lester’s girlfriend and I should be there more than the likes of Holly fucking Holyoake – ”
I have to jog to keep up with her. “Are you okay?”
“No, Rose, I am not okay. I’m stressed and I’m worried and I hate your fucking friends so much.”
I stare at her, stunned. “Who?”
“Scorpius and Holly.”
“Holly was the one who hurt Albus in the first place,” Lily says, ticking things off on her fingers, “And Scorpius – where do I even begin with Scorpius? And don’t give me that coping mechanism bullshit,” she says, holding up a hand, “He knew the best way to hurt Albus and God did he pull out all the stops doing it. And neither of them gave a rat’s about Lester even though he’s seventeen and he just left home and – ”
“They care. I know they do. And Scorpius was a mess, because Albus hurt him first.”
She’s silent for a long time, only speaking again as we’re about to enter the hospital wing. “I just don’t get how you can support them getting back together when you know what they’re capable of doing to each other.”
She doesn’t give me an opportunity to reply, just beelines for Lester’s bed and takes his hand in hers.
“Rose, thank God,” Scorpius greets me, and I try not to think of Lily’s words as I glance between him and Holly. “Where’ve you been?”
“I had to watch Llodewick’s class. What happened?”
“Well,” Scorpius says, “I didn’t see the fight, I was with Lester, but – ”
“I threw the first punch,” Albus says from his bed. “And then they threw the next twenty-seven. They’re big guys, especially Lucian. Burly fucker.”
He’s got an impressive black eye and a bruise on his nose – “They broke it,” he tells me, waving vaguely at his face, “And Pomfrey fixed it,” – but is otherwise mostly fine, thanks to a hastily cast Shield Charm from Holly.
I look up in surprise, where Holly has curled herself into a ball at Albus’s bedside. “I didn’t know I could even do Shield Charms properly,” she says in a small voice. “What if it didn’t work, Albus, you could have been beaten – ”
“I think they would have stopped before they pulverised me,” Albus says, sitting up with a grimace. “Louis is still family. Perish the thought. How’s Les?”
“I’m on a lot of drugs,” Lester calls from the next bed over.
“He’s a bit out of it,” Lily answers.
“You,” I hear Lester say, “Are so pretty. I want to kiss your face.”
“When you’re feeling better,” Lily says firmly.
“What did they give him?” Albus asks in an undertone.
“A fair bit of Calming Potion,” Scorpius says, “And a mild Cheering Charm, a bit of Draught of Peace, finished off with Invigoration Draught.”
“That’s a potent mix,” I say quietly.
“Yeah, well, he was in a bad way. Do you know what’s going to happen to Louis and Lucian?”
“Nothing good,” I say. “I’ve never seen Llodewick look so serious.”
“Fingers crossed for expulsion,” Scorpius says. “If not, I’ll make their lives a living hell.”
“How?” Albus asks.
“Diplomatic immunity,” he says, tapping the badge on his robes, “Ravenclaw ingenuity,” he points to his head, “and Malfoy wizardry.” He twirls his wand.
“I love you.”
Scorpius glances around in surprise. “Is that the painkillers talking, or – ”
“No, you dipshit.” Albus leans forward, grabbing Scorpius by the sleeve and pulling him closer. I decide to give them some privacy, and turn my attention to Lester.
“Rose!” Lester proclaims. “Rose. You’re like – family - to me, you know? Like. Who cares about my parents? Fuck them. I have you guys, you know? And your dad,” he adds suddenly, turning earnestly back to Lily, “He did all right, didn’t he? He found a family. I don’t need them. I don’t need them.”
Scorpius looks up. “You don’t need them, mate.”
“You don’t need them,” Albus echoes.
“You don’t need them and they don’t deserve you,” Holly says.
“We’re your family for as long as you’ll have us,” I conclude.
I catch Lily’s eye a few minutes later, when Lester has slumped back against his pillows and finally succumbed to sleep.
“You were right,” she says quietly, eventually. “About Lester, anyway.”
“And Albus and Scorpius?” I murmur.
She glances over to where Scorpius sits hand in hand with Albus. “I don’t know. I don’t want him hurt again.”
“I don’t want either of them hurt again, and they’re a lot happier together than they are apart.”
“I’m reserving judgement.”
She shrugs, and doesn’t say any more.
The first inkling I get of how serious things are is when I see my mother at the staff table during dinner, wedged between Professors Thomas and Longbottom.
“Fuck, is that Hermione Granger?” a sixth-year a few seats down whispers to her friend.
“She’s not here to be my knight in plum robes again, is she?” Lester asks.
I crane my neck over the heads of my classmates. “No plum robes. She’s not here as part of the Wizengamot.”
“Which means she’s here either as your mum,” Scorpius muses, “Which is unlikely, or as Head of Magical Law Enforcement, which is more likely and infinitely worse for Louis and Lucian.”
“I bet they’re pissing themselves right now,” Albus says with relish, rubbing his hands together. “Aunt Hermione scares the shit out of me, and the worst thing I’ve ever done is The Great Food Fight of Christmas ’14.”
I finish dinner quickly to go say hi to Mum, but she refuses to say anything about why she’s here.
“It’s a professional matter, Rose, I can’t tell you.”
“Is it about Louis and Lucian?”
“What did I just say, Rose?”
“I hope you prosecute the fuck out of them.”
She looks up sharply, an admonition about my language forming on her lips, but hesitates. “How’s Lester?”
“Do you remember the officers they were impersonating?”
“Yeah, Boot and Kirke.”
“Must have been. I eliminated the potion from their systems – ”
“Invented a charm,” I say, waving my hand dismissively. “Works on most kinds of potions, if it wasn’t Polyjuice it was something very similar. But yeah, they went back to normal immediately.”
“How did you know it wasn’t the officers?”
“They didn’t have ID.”
A funny look crosses Mum’s face. “You do listen to me.”
“Always the tone of surprise. Of course I do.”
She leans over to give me a brief hug, but when she pulls away her stern Mum-face is back. “Don’t you have study to do? Your NEWTs aren’t far away.”
“Thank you for reminding me.” I take my leave of her and head back to Ravenclaw Tower, fingers crossed for a normal evening of study with my friends like we haven’t had since before the holidays.
There’s no sign of Albus and Scorpius, and Holly and Lester are busy working on Arithmancy in intense, concentrated silence.
“Where’re the boys?” I ask.
“Shhh,” Holly says immediately.
“Sorting things out,” Lester says.
“Hush,” Holly whispers. Without looking up from her books, she claps a hand over Lester’s mouth and keeps furiously scribbling. Lester raises his eyebrows at me and says nothing.
“Sorting what out?”
“Rose I swear to God,” Holly warns, “I will go banshee.”
I hold up my hands in surrender and dig out The Standard Book of Spells, resigning myself to silent study until such time as Holly’s finished her homework.
“Sorting out their relationship,” Lester says once Holly’s laid down her quill, as if forty-five minutes of silence haven’t gone past since we last spoke. “Or, more to the point, Albus is going to yell until he’s blue in the face about all the guys Scorpius has slept with recently, Scorpius is going to do that calm quiet thing that’s infinitely more terrifying, and then they’ll have angry sex and apparently that fixes everything.”
“You seem to know a lot about this,” Holly says with an air of definite sympathy.
“Their Silencing Charms leave a lot to be desired when they’re distracted.” Lester closes his Arithmancy textbook with a thud. “What was your mum doing here?”
“Official business. I think it’s something to do with Louis and Lucian. It’s a criminal offence, impersonating an MLE officer.”
“We won’t have to – testify or anything, will we?”
“I can do that,” I say firmly. “I saw them, I hexed them, I’ll take one for the team.”
We’re saved from endless speculation about the fate that awaits Louis and Lucian by the arrival of Albus and Scorpius.
“Evening,” I greet them.
“Hey, guys.” Albus perches awkwardly on the edge of his usual chair. “Listen, we – well, I mainly, but Scorpius too – well, we wanna thank you for putting up with us over the past week, and Lester – mate. I’m sorry. You shoudn’t have had to go through all that alone.”
“It’s all right,” Lester assures him.
“No, it’s not. I didn’t even think to ask – Lily only told me what was going on this afternoon, I had no idea – ”
“I only told Rose.” Lester shrugs. “And Lily, of course. But it’s okay, you had your own shit to work out.”
“You know you’re always welcome at ours – ”
“It’s all right,” Lester repeats. “I’m going straight into a flat after NEWTs. Besides, I think your mum’d have a heart attack.”
“We have news as well,” Scorpius says, lowering his voice. “We overheard a very interesting conversation between Professors Llodewick and Sprout.”
“And how did you overhear that?” Holly asks.
“Cloak,” Albus replies matter-of-factly. “Point is, they’ve been expelled. Effective immediately. They’re on the train tomorrow morning, and they’re not allowed to sit their NEWTs.”
“They’ve been expelled?” I repeat.
“Out on their arses,” Scorpius says darkly. “Serves them fucking right. No job prospects – well, none to speak of anyway – ”
“Aunt Fleur will send Louis to Beauxbatons to get his qualifications, of course,” Albus interjects. “But it’s a big fucking blot on his CV, isn’t it? And he can kiss goodbye to the job Uncle Bill lined up for him at Gringotts – not that he would have taken it anyway.”
“Because of me?” Lester asks, looking quite pale.
“No,” Scorpius assures him. “No, they’d have been thrown out with that list of offences anyway. Impersonating an MLE officer can carry an Azkaban sentence depending on the severity – they’re fucking lucky to escape conviction.”
“Add to that the theft of the Felix Felicis,” Albus adds.
“Fuck, I’d forgotten about that,” I say.
“Llodewick hadn’t. Though – and I’ll never say this again and I’ll deny it if you ever quote me – they do protect their own, those Slytherins. Louis and Lucian took the fall for all five of them on that front. I’d almost say that redeems them, if they hadn’t tried to beat me to a pulp earlier today.”
“And, you know. Put Lester in the hospital wing,” Scorpius adds.
“Technically – ” Lester begins.
“Technically,” Scorpius says, cutting him off, “They orchestrated a prank that they knew would trigger traumatic flashbacks in a student already prone to anxiety. They fucking knew what they were doing, Lester. They deserve everything they get. Plus they broke two separate wizarding laws and beat up my boyfriend.”
“I’m fine now,” Albus says.
“Yeah, thanks to Holly and Madam Pomfrey.” Scorpius quits his hovering and takes his usual seat at the table. “Rose, Albus – Herbology time?”
“Bleaurgh,” Albus mutters, and, taking that as agreement, we dig out our textbooks.
Holly and Lester have Astronomy to work on, and in the moments between setting up our work for the evening and actually getting down to it, I lean back in my chair, toss a bag of Honeydukes sweets on the table and say with no small amount of relief, “Thank fuck everything’s back to normal.”
The honeymoon period doesn’t last long, however – on any front. As we head towards NEWTs, the teachers begin to panic that we haven’t covered as much material as we should have by now, and in most of our subjects we’re powering through the curriculum at a blistering pace, covering topics that should take us a week or two of class time in two lessons and one overnight essay. Mum’s in the middle of her campaign now and being slammed by the opposition for her handling of the Louis and Lucian case – the other strongest candidate, Justin Finch-Fletchley, has been making countless speeches about how these poor boys’ prospects have been ruined, and how voting Hermione Granger into office would be a win for totalitarianism. Mum’s been in a fluster (she’s unflappable according to the media, which I find strangely hopeful because she’s a complete mess of a woman really, but if she can fake having everything together then so can I) and meets me in Hogsmeade over the weekend (it’s not an official Hogsmeade weekend, but I’m of age and have enough staff who like me to get away with it) so she can buy me hot chocolate and second-guess herself.
“And I wonder if I was too harsh on them, Rose, I mean, expelling them just before NEWTS…”
“They would have failed anyway.”
“It’s hypocritical, isn’t it, I’m campaigning on a policy of equality and fair opportunities for all, and I’ve just denied these boys the opportunity to – ”
“Mum, they brought it upon themselves, and it was the professors’ call anyway, you just recommended it, and if you’d followed the letter of the law they’d have a string of convictions following their names as well, so if anything you weren’t harsh enough.”
Mum sighs heavily. “I suppose, and Fleur’s sending Louis to Beauxbatons next year anyway – she’s been at a loss for what to do with him for a long time, i think, she and Bill both – she’s hoping this is the wake-up call he needs…”
“Alls well that ends well,” I say firmly. “Loved your debate last night.”
“You heard it?”
“On the wireless, yeah. I loved your ‘Boys will be held accountable for their actions like everyone else’ response to Finch-Fletchley saying boys will be boys.”
“Yes, well. Especially boys who are of age and who endanger the safety of their fellow students and compromise the integrity of the Ministry.” Mum frowns at me over her coffee. “You look tired, love.”
“It’s six weeks till NEWTs.”
“Are you getting enough sleep?”
“Seven to eight hours a night.”
“Then no. I average about five.”
“You can’t keep that up, Rose.”
“It’s only another two months.”
“Mum. Really. I don’t have time to sleep. We have overnight assignments every night because we apparently got behind on the curriculum during the year without anybody noticing and now we have to speed through everything, so we can’t miss an assignment or a class because we’ll miss an entire topic that could come up in the exam – ”
“Are you taking naps in your free periods?”
“I’m studying in those free periods. I’d love to sleep more, Mum, but I won’t be able to until after exams are over.”
“You sound like me,” Mum sighs. “Rose, promise me you’ll at least prioritise. You need to put your mental health first, and prioritise your subjects as well – you need top marks in Potions, but the others don’t matter so much for your career – you should aim to do well in the core subjects, of course, but maybe Ancient Runes…?”
“I’m not bombing Runes.”
“I’m not saying to bomb it, Rose, but if you have to choose between a Runes translation for class and going to bed at a reasonable hour, I want you to choose bed.”
“Runes isn’t too bad, we mostly do our translations together, and they only take a couple hours with Scorpius helping us…”
“Rose.” Mum reaches across the table and takes my hands in hers. “You do know that – well, that you’re not defined by your grades, don’t you? I’m proud of everything you’ve achieved, sweetheart, I really am, and that’s not going to change, regardless of how you do in NEWTs. You have nothing to prove.”
“But I do though.”
“Rose – ”
“No, I’ve – I did so well in OWLs and I know that, but I just set the bar so high for myself and I don’t think I can do it again but all my teachers expect me to get Outstandings in their subject and I can’t let them down – ”
“I will duel any teacher who thinks you’d let them down.”
“I’d like to see that.”
“I’m sure you would.” Mum smiles. “It probably wouldn’t do wonders for my campaign though. How’s Hugo?”
I shrug. “Seems to be all right. No major crises. Has an admirer in the form of Rachel Burnsey.”
“Burnsey, Burnsey…Live in Godric’s Hollow? Down from Harry and Ginny?”
“Oh. Does Hugo like her?”
“No idea, but she definitely likes him.”
“Intriguing.” Mum leans forward. “What about you? Anyone in your life?”
Deciding I may as well take advantage of this mother-daughter bonding thing, I say, “Yeah, kinda. I mean, there’s a dude. It’s pretty casual though.”
“Does he have a name?”
“Are you going to tell me his name?”
“Yeah, he’s good.”
“And are Albus and Scorpius back on track?”
I marvel briefly at the gossip network that exists between the Weasley women. “Yeah, they’re fine. Had a bit of a rocky start – well, restart – but they seem to be going all right now.”
“Good. Glad to hear it. And – because I haven’t asked about her – how’s Holly?”
“Holly’s – stressed.”
“More than you?”
“Like, ten times worse.”
Mum frowns. “She’s always been a bit highly-strung.”
“She has,” I agree, before laughing. “This coming from us.”
“The irony is not lost on me.” Mum drains her coffee and stands. “Come on, I’ll walk you back up to school.”
“Holly’s having a meltdown,” Scorpius greets me when I return to Ravenclaw Tower.
“I’m not having a meltdown,” comes Holly’s muffled voice. “I’m having a perfectly rational response to the fact we’ve got NEWTs in six weeks.”
I find her lying face down on the floor, a pile of parchment and textbooks shoved unceremoniously from the table beside her.
“You all right?” I ask tentatively.
“Star charts,” she mumbles into the carpet.
“That’s a no,” Albus says helpfully. “She’s been mumbling that for about ten minutes.”
“I’m gonna fail.”
“Also that. She has a couple of set phrases.”
“You are not helping.”
“Oh, that one’s new.” Albus squats beside her, fishing around in his robes, and places Holly’s chirruping Pygmy Puff on her shoulder.
“Pythagoras,” Holly cooes, rolling over slightly to pat him. She has an imprint from the carpet on her forehead and she’s obviously been crying. I lie down beside her in a show of solidarity, and soon the boys have joined us in staring aimlessly at the ceiling.
“It’s relaxing,” Lester says. “Lying on the floor.”
“We should stay here forever,” Albus decides.
“Yeah, fuck NEWTs,” Scorpius agrees.
The mention of NEWTs elicits a low wail from Holly and an answering chirrup from Pythagoras. I feel momentarily jealous that she has such a sympathetic (and fluffy, and adorable) companion.
“Let’s get a cat,” I tell Holly and Lester.
“We discussed this.”
“I’m confirming it.”
“As long as it doesn’t try to eat Pythagoras,” Holly says, now scratching the Pygmy Puff’s head with one crooked finger.
“I just thought of something,” Scorpius says. “Louis got expelled. He’s out of the running for the scholarship.”
“So he is,” Holly says, a grin slowly spreading across her face. “Does that make us winners by default?”
“Nah,” Albus says. “George’s withheld the scholarship before. It doesn’t just go to anyone, you really have to earn it – James didn’t even win it, but that’s probably because he was working with Fred and Dominique and that’s just too much nepotism to even think about.”
“We’ve done enough though, haven’t we?” Lester asks. “I mean, I’m pretty sure I heard the funeral games of Patroclus being shrieked when I went past Llodewick’s office on the way to breakfast on the 2nd…”
“You did,” I tell him. “It stopped soon after lunch.”
“Nah but,” Albus says, interrupting, “We’re missing something. Something vitally important. Something essential to the spirit of Fred Weasley. What we’ve done so far isn’t enough.”
“What do you mean?” Scorpius asks dubiously.
“We need to go out with a bang.”
A/N: Kudos to Rose (toomanycurls) for the spectacularly dorky and appropriate naming of Pythagoras. Holly thanks you. So do I.
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