That Saturday, Rose took her breakfast to the office on the fifth floor. It was a bit drafty in there, but it was the official room for Hogwart’s student paper. Since the other editor of The Bulletin was ill with a dizzying head cold, Rose had a ton of work to do. The current issue had to be sent out to the copiers before three to be able to be distributed before Valentine’s Day. And there was a big Gryffindor vs. Slytherin Quidditch game that evening. It was difficult not to rush through everything, and Al storming in the room didn’t help.
“You wouldn’t happen to know where these came from?” Al shuffled nervously and brought out a pale seafoam green flyer with “ALBUS POTTER HAS A SMALL DICK” printed on it in bolded black text.
Rose fought the urge to laugh. It was totally something Al would have found hilarious had he not been the unfortunate victim. “Well, is it true?” she asked, looking back to the page at hand.
“No, it’s not!”
Rose dragged her wand across the front page, adjusting the text spacing one final time. She flipped through all twenty pages, making sure the style looked consistent throughout the publication.
Without taking her eyes away from the paper, she thought aloud. “I presume that was Emilie’s work. It has her touch of revenge on it.”
Al had a retort ready on his lips, but then he stopped still. “You...know?”
Rose turned her swivel chair to face him. She nodded. “I’m your cousin, not your mother, Al, so I’m allowed to tell you that you've fucked up big time.”
“I...I never meant for it to turn out like this.”
“What were you thinking? You’d just sleep with Violet and everything would be fine? You had to know that when Em found out, she’d ruin you.”
He coughed awkwardly. “About that. I mean, I get why you know. The only person I told was Scorp, and you two have been, well, chummy lately. But—how did she, uh, find out?”
Rose narrowed her eyes at his implication of chummy and then laughed humorlessly. “So you didn’t tell her. Good one, Al. Malfoy and I were arguing about it a bit when we were on patrols—I wanted to do something about your shitty decisions, like an intervention or something, and he wanted to leave it alone and let you deal with the repercussions when they came. So I guess he won. Emilie was out past curfew and heard our conversation. We didn’t even know she was sneaking around until a few days ago when she made it very clear to Malfoy and I that she overheard.”
“You couldn’t have warned me about the potential of waking up to a destroyed reputation?”
“You couldn’t have, like, not cheated on your girlfriend?”
“It was a mistake!” He groaned, rubbing his face like he did whenever he was frustrated.
“Don’t start this, Al! A one night stand with Violet would have been a mistake. How long has this been going on?”
“Since Boxing Day,” he whispered.
“So have you been living in a fantasy land for the past month and a half?”
His little laugh was shaky; his fingers wound themselves around each other. “Kinda. It happened and then it kept happening, and I knew it was wrong, but it seemed so insurmountable to fix. So I did nothing.”
Rose cleared her throat. “Al, I love you. But you have to own up to your mistakes. Even if the consequences are humiliating. Believe me, I don’t want to be thinking about the size of—”
Al cut Rose off, pleading,“Will you help me take them all down, then? They’re everywhere.”
“I’m sorry. Got too much editing to do.” Rose gestured to the page in front of her. “But you can have the rest of my breakfast, if that helps. I’m full.”
Al took her plate of American-style pancakes drenched in maple syrup. “Thanks, I guess. Good luck tonight in the match?”
After Albus left, Rose got right to work. Most of her corrections were insignificant, but she did catch a few cringe-worthy typos and design inconsistencies. Maybe having a perfectionist edit The Bulletin was the best thing that ever happened to the paper.
“Hey, Weasley.” Malfoy’s voice jarred Rose from her work. She looked up to see him standing in the doorway, wearing his trademark Malfoy smirk. Sure, he had woven grandiose stories over the years about how his dad had transformed from a Death Eater in training to the so-called “respectable, kind” man he was now, but Rose didn’t need a time machine to know that Scorpius Malfoy wore the same smirk his father had when he was in his Hogwarts days.
Rose scowled to show her disapproval. “May I help you?”
“I don’t want to seem like I’m fraternizing with the enemy, but Al asked me to come. Quidditch warm ups are in half an hour.”
Rose shot up. “Time flies,” she muttered. As she gathered together her things, she asked, “How is he doing?”
“He’s been mortified and betrayed by a girl he once loved. I don’t imagine it’s very fun. But I think that the Quidditch game will raise his spirits some. Maybe if Slytherin wins he’ll feel more dignified.”
Rose grinned. “We’ll see.”
Malfoy handed over a sandwich wrapped in wax paper. “Snagged this from the House Elves. Figured you would need the protein, seeing as you’re an undeniable workaholic. I knew you would skip lunch.”
As if on cue, Rose’s stomach grumbled. “Fine, fine. You get the satisfaction of being right just this once. Now, this better not be ham.”
Rose tore into the wrapping. Inspecting the sandwich, Rose was delighted to see that it didn’t contain any of the offending meat. She couldn’t stand the stuff.
“Roast beef, swiss cheese, and sweet barbeque sauce, sans mayo, all on a whole-wheat bun.”
“How’d you know I don’t like mayo?”
“Same reason I know you hate ham.” Malfoy chuckled. “It’s because you never stop talking about it!”
Rose couldn’t argue that. She shrugged and bit into the sandwich. “Very good. Thanks.”
"You won't be saying that when Slytherin wins tonight." There it was again, that Malfoy smirk. Rose had seen pictures of Lucius, Scorpius' grandfather, in her History of Magic textbook, and she tried to imagine him smirking. It was an odd thought and didn't quite work in her head.
All thoughts of dead Malfoys aside, Rose never could resist a challenge. "That's not going to happen. Al will be too distracted to play a good game, and he'll be showing off to compensate his ego, so he'll get careless."
"Maybe so, but he's only one chaser. We've still got two others."
"He's your best scorer."
Scorpius rolled his eyes. "Well, then, why don't you go give him a big pep talk? You're the one who's good with words."
"And risk him playing well tonight? Not a chance, Malfoy. I talked with him earlier; words of encouragement can wait."
Malfoy considered this. "Race you to the changing rooms?"
"You're on." Rose took off, clutching her sandwich tightly in her hand.
By the time Rose and Scorpius made it to the pitch, they were neck and neck. Rose touched the stone wall of the changing rooms first, Scorpius following just a second later.
“I win!” Rose proclaimed proudly, grinning wildly.
“That's only because you go a head start. I lost, say, maybe fifteen seconds, which would have made all the difference in the world.”
"You say that now, but you know how notorious Slytherin is for playing dirty. I can't join in on the fun?"
Malfoy raised his eyebrows. “Why, Weasley, you would have made a decent Slytherin.”
Rose shrugged. Because she knew her Slytherin-like traits were her worst, she always tried to downplay her connection to the house. “Uncle Harry was almost a Slytherin, you know. He told the Sorting Hat he didn't want to be in Slytherin because he'd been told they all turn dark. It must've been really bad back then, if that's what Harry thought. Oh! Did you know—your dad was the first classmate he met. They were in Madame Malkan's, as the story goes, buying school robes for first year.”
“Ok, chatty. I've heard the story. Go on, go change. I’ve got to warm up.”
“Code for meeting up with Blake Scott before the match? I hear he’s a good kisser.”
“You think you’re funny, huh?” He gave her the middle finger, but there was a twinkle in his eye. “I guess I’ll have to find out myself.”
“Alright, alright, Malfoy. Spare me the details.”
His laughter faded, leaving the two of them in a silence marked by their own awkwardness. “Well,” Rose exclaimed, “I guess I’ll see you on the pitch. Good luck tonight!”
“You too, Weasley, though I’m so going to kick your arse.”
“Albus Potter fumbles, but he gets possession of the Quaffle!” Raine Tyler was attempting to curtail her enthusiasm, but her house pride was clearly getting in the way. She tugged on her green scarf in apprehension. All Slytherins had been on edge since that morning’s incident with the unfortunate flyers; the first game of the term was always a big one, so there was a lot riding on Potter’s performance. As Emilie’s best friend, Raine didn’t want to start a conflict of interest, but right now her role was the Quidditch commentator, not Emilie’s croonie.
“...Potter drops the Quaffle, and Fred Weasley catches it. Weasley heads for the goals—and scores for Gryffindor! Gryffindor is defending their lead, now seventy to fifty. Malfoy and Wood continue to search for the Snitch.” Raine had to remind herself not to let her disappointment seep into her words, but she had faith in Malfoy. He was a damn good seeker and had led Slytherin to a House Cup victory last year. However, because Potter was in the middle of an emotional crisis and because Gryffindor had as many natural-born players as Slytherin, she didn't know what to expect.
Rule number one: never underestimate the opposition.
Rule number two: overconfidence will always be one's downfall.
Meanwhile, Rose tore her attention away from the words reverberating around the perimeter of the stadium. Fred had just scored, but Slytherin had the Quaffle now. She had to keep her guard up. Narrowly missing a Bludger, Rose kept her eyes trained on the Quaffle like it was worth a million bucks. Her whole body was on edge, humming from the adrenaline, and her muscles clenched in anticipation of the next ball to fly her way. She gripped the sanded, smooth wood of her broomstick tighter still.
The two other Slytherin chasers, McNair and Huff, passed the Quaffle back and forth, evading their Gryffindor pursuers. A high-speed Bludger zoomed on past Rose, courtesy of her teammate Elliot, and knocked Huff out and away. He was alright, Rose presumed, but she had more important things to focus on in that moment. Duty called.
Now, Al stepped up to the challenge. Without missing a beat, he continued the charade with McNair until the Quaffle got close enough to score. McNair sent the ball Rose's way with a powerful underhanded throw. Rose shot to her left, stretching her long Weasley limbs as far as they would go. Her fingers brushed the hot leather, and the muscles in her fingers contracted as if to grab on tight, but the Quaffle's acceleration was simply too great. It tore out of her hands and through the leftmost goal post.
"McNair scores for Slytherin! It's sixty to seventy, folks."
Al caught Rose's eye, and she nodded, a silent conversation passing between the two of them.
Rose glanced at Wood, who was vertically halfway between her and the ground. Malfoy was on the other side of the pitch. Wood rotated his head, searching; halfway through the motion, he stopped and shot up diagonally in the direction opposite Malfoy.
Malfoy was good at what he did, his lithe, lean body enabling him to cut the wind like butter. He was fierce competition, but the fact was he was just too far away.
It was solid Seeker technique to stay as close to the middle of the pitch at all times, both along the length and upwards. The middle, however, was also where one was most likely to be tangled up in Chaser debacles or get pummeled by a speeding Bludger. Being a skilled Seeker depended on speed and focus, yes, but many times it all came down to distance and luck.
So while the Slytherins momentarily let their guard down in celebration, Wood's bony fingers wrapped around the glinting Golden Snitch, ending the game.
"With Malfoy on his tail, Wood catches the snitch! The game goes to Gryffindor, seventy to sixty!"
As was tradition between the cousins, Rose, Fred, and Al all met up at the front of the pitch, high up in the air. Al's expression was slightly sour, but Rose and Fred were grinning ear to ear.
“Good game, Al,” Rose shouted above the roar of wind. “That sequence with McNair was a fantastic play!”
Al looked down at the stadium, watching the Gryffindor side cheer in excitement. “I fucked up a few plays early on in the game. Maybe if I hadn’t, Slytherin would’ve won.”
“You should give yourself more credit. The game’s been a lot harder since they threw out the 150 point curve for the Snitch.” Fred’s blue eyes gazed worriedly at his cousin.
“Al, don’t let Emilie decide jack squat what you do. If she’s hell-bent on revenge, that’s her shit, not yours. Now, come on, we have a party in the Gryffindor commons to attend.”
“Wait a second,” Al said, not following Rose as she flew down to the cold grass. Rose shot back up to his level. “Why is James here?”
“James?” Fred spoke the name like it was in a foreign tongue.
Rose followed Al’s eyes to the Gryffindor side of the stadium, where several ginger heads and one black one were grouped together off to the side from everywhere else.
“Is there something you’re not telling us?”
“I think this is a conversation best left for when we have Lily and Hugo and the rest with us.” She wasn’t sure if it was the altitude, but Rose began to feel lightheaded.
James had mentioned he would visit a game. She should have expected this.
They didn’t find James again until they entered the Gryffindor common room. As they stepped through the portrait hole, clear plastic cups of butterbeer spiked with stolen firewhiskey were shoved at them. Rose gulped half of hers down like a shot, anticipating the shitstorm that was soon to follow.
Ignoring the cheers and pats on the back she received, Rose said to Al and Fred, “He's gotta be here. Somewhere.”
Rose didn't think it was too inaccurate to say that James was hanging out in the Gryffindor commons, but then again, so were two thirds of the student population. If the room had had a safety limit to the amount of people allowed in, they had certainly surpassed it.
She wound herself throughout the room but couldn’t find James, any redheads, or even Violet. The only other person who could possibly be of any help was making out in the common room corner, a pair of dark fingers entangled in hair as pale as the summer sky is blue. Rose regretted having to tear Malfoy away from the lips of one Blake Scott, but she was desperate. Maybe the situation wasn’t as dire as the nerves in her brain made it out to be, but she had always had a flair for the sensational, and it was her family on the line.
“Have you seen my cousins?”
Oh, if looks could kill, Rose would have had a hot date with the guillotine at that moment. Malfoy didn't look too happy with Rose, but he answered her anyway.
“As you can see I've been a bit occupied, but last I know they went up to the boys’ dorms to have a conversation with James that didn’t involve humiliating party games or alcohol. I assume you never got around to breaking the news, huh?”
Rose bit back a retort at Malfoy’s biting tone. “Thanks, I owe you one. Have fun!”
Not particularly in the mood to watch her academic rival and sometimes-friend snog another bloke, Rose hightailed it to the center of the room. She gestured to Fred and Al, both of whom wordlessly followed her down the corridor to the boys’ dormitories.
“If Hugo’s with them, they’re likely to be in the fourth year dorms.”
Al opened the wooden door, a creak slow as molasses emitting from the hinges. They peered in to see a mop of black hair appearing blue in the light’s reflection.
James turned towards the sound and the others followed suit.
James went for a sloppy grin, but not many were having it. Lily looked like she was about to faint, poor girl, and Al hadn't moved from the doorway. The rest of the family—cousins upon cousins upon cousins—looked mildly enthused, but they all knew what was coming.
"Well, Rose? Don't you have anything to say for yourself? You always were the most adamant that James be kept as far away as possible, as if his problems made him vermin within the family, and now?" Lily crossed her arms.
"Please, Lily. I just—I didn't know the whole story." Rose glanced back at Al, who had stepped forward a few paces but overall didn't seem too responsive. She swallowed back a knot of guilt. Other relatives had had power within the family to push James out or welcome him in, yes, but Rose had been the biggest crusader in keeping him out of the loop. She kept her best friend from his brother. That blood was on her hands.
"I thought James was being selfish. I wanted him to learn his lesson. But what I thought was wrong, and I'm so sorry. I know an apology won't fix this, but I want you to understand—"
“Save it, Rose. Just...don’t.” Lily stormed out, her silver stilettos punctuating every sniffle.
Lily tended to be even more dramatic than Rose (which was saying something), so once she was gone, the dim room sighed in relief. Maybe Lily resented her, but Lily was prone to holding a grudge. The worst was over.
James stepped towards Al with his arms outstretched and a hopeful expression lighting his eyes. He hugged his little brother, and reluctantly, Al squeezed him back.
Rose stood next to her own brother. “I’m sorry,” she told him as sincerely as she could muster.
He nodded and took her hand. She hadn’t even realized she’d been clenching her fingers tight against her palm.
“I know you. I get it.”
“I appreciate that.” Rose rested her chin atop Hugo’s golden brown curls. “I really screwed this up, huh?”
Hugo shrugged as if to show indifference, but Rose knew he just didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
“It’s okay. I know.”