Rose looked up to face an indignant Azalea. “So?” she asked with her mouth still half full of food. Swallowing, she said, “I don’t see the big deal.”
“That’s because you’ve been to these kind of things more than I have,” continued Azalea, brandishing a piece of parchment under Rose’s nose. “I mean, I didn’t even know that the Lovegoods had enough relatives to declare a ‘Family Reunion’. Mom never talks about anybody except her father once in a while.”
“Try to look at this as a great opportunity to meet some wonderful cousins,” said Scorpius.
Azalea gave him her best impersonation of the ancient librarian, Madame Pince. “I don’t recall your being so accepting when you heard your father was hosting the reunion your third year.”
Scorpius went pale under his slight blush, keeping his eyes glued to his plate. That had been utterly disastrous. Other than the fact that everyone constantly asked him which House he was in, they kept shooting him glares or piteous looks toward his father. It wasn’t like their children hadn’t come home to them over holidays and told mum and dad how Draco Malfoy’s boy was housed with Potter, Weasley and Longbottom. What made it worse was that he was friends with them. Complete blasphemy.
“That was three years ago,” he growled. “I don’t think Dad is going to do that to himself again.”
“Ugh,” exclaimed Azalea, ripping up the letter she had gotten from her mother. She had recently gone home to give birth to Azalea’s second younger sibling, Alumina Catherine Longbottom. Her younger sister, Rhiannon Jocelle had been ecstatic to find out that she wouldn’t be youngest anymore. Azalea was a bit peeved, since it meant that family would be filtering in and out of the house, come Christmas.
“It’s disgusting,” she said, her nose wrinkling. “The last time they came was when Rhiannon was born.”
“Try coming to a Weasley family reunion,” said Albus, pointing his spoon in a threatening way towards his seething friend. “Now that is disgusting.”
Rose wrinkled her nose, and turned back to picking at her food.
“Why did mom send it on the day we have our last Quidditch match before the end of fall term? She knows how I play when I get worked up.”
“Pretty bloody well, if you ask me,” cut in Albus. “When you get mad, you hit the bludger a hell of a lot harder.”
“Language, Potter,” sniffed Anika Matthews as she stalked by.
“What, is my cursing too harsh for your delicate ears?” Albus said without looking up from his plate. “Or haven’t they caught up with your sailor’s mouth?”
Anika turned a blotchy shade of red, and stalked off, closely followed by her two housemates, Kerry and Janet. For all her beauty, Anika didn’t pull of angry well.
She muttered angrily as she walked away, “Lofty, stuck-up, snooty…”
“You do know they all mean the same thing, right?” said Rose, tilting her head off to the side. “There are a lot more words you could use to describe us; take ‘haughty’ for one, or obnoxious as another.”
“How about rude?” chimed in Albus.
“Ornery,” volunteered Azalea.
“Bloody vulgar!” laughed Rose.
“Are we describing you miscreants?” said a smiling Trisha MacMillan as she turned around from her seat at the Hufflepuff table. “Would ragamuffins count?”
“I think loud can suffice,” called Jessica Finnegan, their only other seventh year on the Quidditch team, playing the other half of Azalea’s Beating team. She was currently dating James, and had almost beaten him out for the Captain’s position that year for Gryffindor, but she declined because of Head Girl duties.
“Eloquent,” said Scorpius in his quiet voice.
At this point, Anika could have had an egg fried on her face. All traces of blotchiness were gone, but replaced with a solid brick color that no one could wear well.
“You see, Anika,” said Albus, “No language is better than ours.”
“Stuck up bastards,” mumbled Anika as she power-walked out the Great Hall doors.
High-fives were exchanged between the groups; it wasn’t often that they got that great of a reaction out of Anika Matthews, so they savored it when they did. All thoughts of reunions, the looming game, and past troubles were suddenly lifted from their hearts as they congratulated each other on an annoyance well done.
Scorpius was in a daze as he ate next to his friends in the Great Hall that morning. The night before he had sat in front of the Gryffindor Common Room fire long after the last fifth year had gone to bed, bogged down with OWL prep, watching the flames licking the wood hungrily. Despite the fact he had a game the next day, he had waited until it had gone down to mere embers before he actually looked away.
The room was extremely dark, the only light coming from the embers in the fireplace as they cast a warm glow over the room. Feeling much safer in the completely empty common room, he pulled his knees up to his chin and continued to watch the dying flames.
For the last six years Scorpius had been a Gryffindor; he had worn their colors on his robes, gone to classes with his Housemates and slept in a dorm with the same. Understandably, his trip so far had not been the best. Slytherins still held grudges against him for not joining their House but it was easier to pass it off as childish now, and some Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws and Gryffindors still didn’t completely trust him. He had come to accept the Slytherins’ glares, but it still stung to see them come from his Housemates.
The last letter he had gotten from home hadn’t lifted his spirits much either.
How has school been? Your NEWT classes sound great, from the way you described them. I’ll hopefully go to one of your Quidditch games this year, I’m sorry I haven’t been around much.
Here, his father had furiously scribbled out what he had written, no doubt remembering that the school checked letters at random still for security reasons. The words that Draco Malfoy had chosen weren’t the most acceptable, from what Scorpius could make out.
Draco Malfoy had a bit of a temper, but he tried to make his letters sound encouraging, even though the subtext was mostly profanities still directed after staying in Gryffindor.
He sighed, and flopped backwards onto the bed. After a long day of classes, all he wanted to do was loosen his school tie and kick off his shoes; a farce of a letter from home barely met those wants.
“Hey, Hamlet,” called a familiar voice from the bed next door. With only he and Albus in their room that night, because of their other two housemates still off with prospective girls, there was no mistaking who it was.
“Shut up, Albus,” he tried to growl back, but it came back as more of a pained moan. Muttering under his breath, he continued, “We really need to think of better nicknames.”
As always, with his hawk like hearing and unashamed trait of using it always, Albus’ head popped into the curtained bed. A huge goofy grin was plastered on his face, which Scorpius should’ve heard in his best friend’s voice right away. It meant he had a plan. Once glance over at him was all he needed to take in Albus’ excitement.
“What is it, RSM?” mumbled Scorpius, not moving from his extremely comfortable position.
Not even the degrading nickname, which was sadly very true, could bring down Albus’ high.
“You’ll never guess,” he said, nearly doing a potty dance from his excitement.
One eyebrow jaunted up. “Oh, won’t I? Is that a challenge?”
He could almost hear the sparkling in Albus’ eyes as he baited him on. A small smile of his own on his lips, Scorpius opened his eyes and looked over to Albus.
“It could be,” Albus said vaguely.
“Did you put a wet-start firework in the Greenhouse?”
“No, not yet.”
“How about an open screaming book in Madame Pince’s desk drawer?”
“That wouldn’t even faze her.”
“You’re right. Well, let’s see, how about a Vanishing Mouse in the Owlery?”
“All wonderful suggestions for future pranks, but no, that’s not even close. It has nothing to do with spicing up the lives of Hogwart’s inhabitants.”
“That’s a first,” said Scorpius, the eyebrow poised again. “You didn’t snog anyone, did you?”
For a moment, Albus’ smile faltered, a look of terrified longing replacing the mischief before it returned in full force.
“No. Rose did.”
“Hufflepuff versus Gryffindor,” said a second year on their way outside into the crisp November air. “Going to be a massacre, if you ask me.”
“No way, it’ll be a close game,” disagreed his friend. “Hufflepuff has a good lineup this year, better than the last one hands down. Sure, they won’t win, but it’ll be close the whole time.”
“I don’t think so. Are you willing to bet on that?”
“One galleon says that the point gap never goes above fifty points,” said the second, spitting on his hand.
The first boy spit in his own hand, and said, “Forty points and it’s a deal.”
“Two Sickles says neither of you have a Galleon until you write home to mum and dad,” said Albus, brushing past one of them on his way to the locker rooms. Smiling widely, he jauntily tipped an invisible hat to the younger students on his way in. “And the fact that you won’t wash your hands until after the inter-common room party adds a few Knuts to the deal.”
“Ugh,” moaned Rose. “I won’t eat a bite now.”
“Same here,” called Azalea as she suited up in the girl’s side of the locker room that Rose had just walked in. “Disgusting kids.”
“This coming from a girl who took a Sickle to lick the floor of the boy’s locker room,” shuddered Rose.
Azalea shrugged. “Every girl has her limits.”
Rose didn’t answer, too immersed in the delicate art of deciding which boot went on which foot. A small crease appeared between Azalea’s eyes as she observed her friend.
“What’s eating you?”
“It’s this whole you-know-who thing,” she said, picking at the number sewn onto the back of her jersey.
“Oh,” said Azalea, biting her lower lip. “That.”
“I think it’s going nowhere fast,” Rose said. “I feel like its making matters worse.”
“These things take time,” Azalea said in her most consoling tone. “You know that better than anyone. It’s not some homework assignment or test you can ace.” She patted Rose just above her heart. “It’s all this.”
Rose smiled, hugging Azalea tightly. “Thanks for telling me what I needed to hear.”
“Right,” said Azalea. “Now, let’s go kick some Badger Butt!”
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