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`"'Our dearest Aurelia'," Grimalkin read out at the breakfast table the next day, completely deadpan. "'Unfortunately, when we went to get the dress robes you asked us to buy for you, we found there was a problem with them. They were hussy robes. Since we know you are not a hussy, we are sure there has been some terrible misunderstanding. We are also sure you will love the set we decided to get you instead. All our love, Mummy and Daddy.'"

Lia put her head down on the table and let out a heartfelt groan.

"And then they've drawn a little smiley face and some kisses," Grimalkin added. Since the First Task was over, everyone in fourth year and above had moved on to talking about the Yule Ball.

"They can’t be that bad,” Kitty volunteered, twisting the hem of her own almost-shin-length skirt between her fingers. "My dad says girls who don't wear enough clothes don't get to go to university and have careers because they end up having five babies before they're twenty and they have to live on food stamps. ...I think that's when you're really poor and you can't buy food so the government has to post it to you."

The Slytherins as a whole looked at her a little weirdly.

"Which is bad, because food probably doesn't taste very nice after it's been through the post," Kitty explained.

"...that would make sense," Grimalkin said.

"Oh Kitty, you're so special," Lia said to the table.

"Which robes did you ask for before?" Faith asked.

Lia sat up, took a deep breath and raised her hands. "All right, so I did technically ask for the tartiest robes I could find in the catalogue-"

"That's probably why your parents thought they were a bit tarty, then," Score said.

"I assumed they would negotiate!" Lia snapped. "I was going to work up to a set that was only a bit past what they'd like! Why wouldn't they negotiate?" She pulled the robes out of their wrapping and stood up to hold them against her and twirl experimentally. Al didn't think they looked too bad - some sort of floaty blue material, with a high stiff collar - and he couldn't really see what Lia was getting so upset over.

“I swear to God they do this to annoy me,” Lia said sourly.

"I think it looks nice," he volunteered.

"Yes, Potter, but you're an eleven year old boy so your opinion on clothes isn't really valid, is it?" Lia said, tugging irritably at the high collar. "No-one'll be able to see my tattoo! What was the point of faking all that identification and bribing the tattooist if no-one'll be able to see it?"

"Send it back to your parents and ask them to get you some robes that'll show the tattoo, then?" Faith suggested, squinting at Lia like she was trying to figure out where it was.

"They'd ask awkward questions," Lia said grumpily, flinging the robes on the floor and flopping back onto the bench next to Grimalkin. "Questions like 'So, Aurelia, when did you get a tattoo? Was it before or after you became a prostitute and started worshipping Satan?" She flicked her hair back irritably and added "'Drat it all, we tried so hard to raise her a good girl and now she's a Satanist. Oh, well, let's stone her to death and try again with another one.'"

"I don't think your parents would say that about you," Kitty said, forehead creasing up anxiously.

"No, that's basically exactly what they'd say and how they'd say it," Grimalkin said, pouring himself out a bowl of cornflakes. "They threaten to stone Lia to death a whole lot. It's fine, though, they've never actually done it."

"What are you wearing, then?" Lia asked him.

"Bear costume," Grimalkin said.

"What? That was my back-up plan! You thieving git!" Lia said, and briefly tried to choke him with a bread roll. Al wondered when Avery's Daily Prophet would show up.

"What are you wearing, Avery?" Lia asked. By that point Grimalkin had pretended to be dead to get her off him.

"I'm not," Avery said.

Lia and Grimalkin exchanged confused, alarmed, and then concerned glances, in that order.

"Avery," Grimalkin said, in a hushed voice, the sort of voice you use to not startle a mental patient, "you can't go to the Yule Ball naked. It's very specifically against the rules, and Professor McGonagall would have a heart-"

"We've changed our minds!" Lia cut in happily. "You can, and you should! I'll bring the camera."

"I'm not going to the Yule Ball. I have more important things to do."

"Important things like studying, right? It's got to be studying. Grim, Avery isn't awesome sometimes, remind me why we minion for him again?"

"Because he is our god," Grimalkin said firmly, through a mouthful of cornflakes.

"...oh yeah, that is a good reason," Lia said.

Then the Daily Prophet fell almost onto Avery's head. Almost, because he caught it.

"What does it say about the First Task?" Al asked, heart thumping.

Avery quickly scanned the article - it looked pretty long. What was normal length for an article like that? - and frowned. “You aren’t mentioned, Potter.”

Al sagged back onto the bench with a sigh of relief as Avery flicked through the pages.

“No, my mistake. There you are,” Avery said, and handed over the paper.

Oh. Great.

LORD ALDEMORT'S ASSOCIATES

Albus Potter, the younger son of the Head of the Department of Aurors, is clearly not aware that a man's character can be judged by the company he chooses to keep. Albus, who was recently and in a shocking twist Sorted into Slytherin, has no qualms about mingling freely with his new housemates - many of them relatives of He Who Must Not Be Named's most diabolical and barbaric servants. He was even seen watching his cousin’s attempt in the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament seated between a prefect who cheered and a rat-faced girl who squealed excitedly whenever a champion came perilously close to death.  Indeed, it must be asked why Professor McGonagall, now midway through her twentieth year as Headmistress, has not yet expunged Slytherin House from her otherwise fine establishment.

If any more evidence of Albus Potter's malignant intentions were required, one would have to look no further than his own first cousin, Rose Granger-Weasley. The daughter of the two famed war heroes, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, has been strangely reluctant to associate with her cousin since their arrival at Hogwarts, and it must be wondered if she is aware of something that the rest of the wizarding world is not.



"Hey, I'm starting to think Rita Skeeter doesn't like us," Lia said, and laughed.

Al wondered if Rita Skeeter had somehow figured out what he was doing.

She couldn't possibly know. All the stuff about how awful Slytherin was might even just be a cover for the comments about Rosie. That bit was definitely worrying, though. That was how she'd started on him, wasn't it? A few comments at the bottom of an article on something completely different, just testing the water, and then a longer one if she thought the readers would like it.

Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione were going to be furious. Actually, Rosie was going to be furious, because she was a little bit crazy about having her parents' approval.

"What's with you, Potter?" Faith asked him.

"It's... I'm sorry?" Al guessed. "I didn't know she was going to start insulting our whole house!"

"Eh," Faith said, with a shrug. "Who cares?"

Al looked up and down the table. Avery was eating a chip butty with a faintly blissful expression on his face, Grimalkin was making another copy of the Prophet into a paper Fwooper and Lia was flicking cornflakes at people to cheer herself up. It was probably a relief she didn't have any rocks with her. Professor McGonagall, at the staff table, was reading a copy of the Prophet, but as Al watched she flung it down and made a dryly-humorous-looking comment to Professor Flitwick. Basically, nobody looked very concerned.

"Well, I care," Al said, a bit defensively.

"If you start having a cry everytime someone takes the mick out of Slytherin you're going to run out of water and dry up like a mummy," Faith pointed out. “And it looks like she's going to start in on your useless cousin now instead of just banging on about you all the time - guess there's not much more she can say about you torching Mudbloods for kicks or anything - so cheer up."

That would be much more convenient, Al thought, and was immediately very ashamed of himself.

"I don't want her to start on Rosie!" he said, at just the second that there was a high-pitched shriek from the Ravenclaw table. Rosie must have just read the article, then.

Faith squinted at him for a bit, and then said “Okay, I give up. Why not?”

"Because she's my cousin!"

"Your cousin who dropped you as soon as total strangers told her to," Faith pointed out. "Good riddance. Family’s important, but not if they ditch you first." How could she be so calm about this?

"That doesn't mean I want her to be getting insulted in the-"

"What've you done!" Rosie screamed at him and whacked him over the head with the newspaper.

"Ow!" Al said.

"Did you see the newspaper?" Rosie demanded. "Did you see what she said about me?"

"What, the truth?" Faith demanded, leaping to her feet, and Rosie was very lucky she was on the other side he table.

"My parents are going to know I haven't been talking to you!" Rosie snapped, and made to hit Al with the newspaper again. Grimalkin caught her wrist. "Get off me!"

"You know, probably the best way to stop your parents from figuring out you haven't been talking to Al would have been to not stop talking to him in the first place," Grimalkin told her. "It's your own fault, so either stop attacking Potter or suffer the hilarious consequences. Your table is over that way if you’d like to go back to it." He let go of her.

Rosie rubbed her wrist and glared ferociously at Al.

“He… sort of has a point,” Al said.

“What?” Rosie exploded. “How is it my fault that you made a spectacle of yourself and dragged me into-”

Avery put down his chip butty, half-turned in his seat and frowned at Rosie. She blanched, stared at Al like he was a complete traitor, whirled round and stomped back to the Ravenclaw table.

“Yeah! Run, wuss!” Faith hollered after her.

"You probably shouldn't worry about Rita Skeeter, Potter. She's quite old, so she'll probably be dead soon," Grimalkin said. "From natural causes, specifically, because Lia and I have our OWLs this year and we haven’t got the  time to murder anyone." He shrugged apologetically and ambled back to his seat.

Al turned back to his half-empty bowl of cornflakes and rested his elbows on the table and his head in his hands. Rosie couldn't have made it any more obvious that she only cared what the papers were saying about him when it made her look bad, could she?

It would almost be a relief, if Rita Skeeter started attacking her instead of him and Slytherin... that wasn't a very cousinly thing to think, though. Rosie was his favourite cousin, and he was her favourite cousin, and they'd been best friends all through primary school.

Yeah. At least as long as he had pretended to be a useless idiot who would make Rosie look better in comparison. Rosie didn't like anyone to do anything better than she could.

That didn't matter, Al reminded himself. She was his cousin and that was more important than whether they were getting on just then.

"Has anyone got any parchment?"

A fourth-year ripped him off a piece from a scroll in their bag and Simon Townsend in third year lent him a Self-Inking Quill. Al settled down to write a letter.

Dear Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione

What Rita Skeeter said in the paper isn't true. Rosie hasn't stopped talking to me, it's just that she has different lessons to me and she has friends in Ravenclaw to talk to, so we haven‘t been spending as much time together. I've made lots of friends in Slytherin, so it isn't a problem.

Love Al



That was the right thing to do, Al decided, and the excuses he'd given should be close enough to the ones Rosie would that there wouldn't be any obvious holes. (He very carefully didn't think about how all he would have to do to reverse it and still come out looking like a nice kid would be to make a tearful confession about not wanting Rosie's mum and dad to be mad at her, because it was wrong to blackmail people.)

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