It was three weeks in to their second semester of 6th year, and the whole Slythindor gang was sitting on their favourite cluster of couches in the Gryffindor Common Room talking their Friday night away.
“So take me through this whole ‘Muslim’ thing again Bee… I mean I understand that Easter in the Wizarding World is just some pagan-Christian-muggle-appropriation but how is Islam anything like that?” Adam asked, looking totally bewildered.
“Merlin Adam, you’d think that after getting an OWL in Muggle Studies you’d understand that there is more than just one kind of muggle religion! You didn’t honestly think the one we stole Easter and Christmas from, was the only religion in Britain, did you?” Jen exclaimed.
“Look,” Adam replied laughing, “Just because I’m black doesn’t mean I know anything about what happens outside of Wizarding Britain – think of me as totally encapsulated in a British Wizarding bubble.”
Slapping her forehead with her palm Jen groaned.
Bee waved her hands, “All right, all right, let me try to explain one more time. My parents are from Bangladesh, and even though I was born in Britain, I still grew up a Muslim: in religious and cultural terms. Of course once I found out I was a witch, religion didn’t really seem like a feasible part of my life anymore – but for eleven years I practiced Islam, which is a ‘religion,’ a set of spritual beliefs. Do you get it Adam?”
“Ummm, religion is a set of rules and beliefs, yours was called ‘Islam’ and your parents brought you up a Muslim? Is that about right?”
“YES!” Everybody chorused as Adam looked very pleased that he finally understood this bizarre muggle concept.
Adam then turned to Jen, “What about you Jen? Your Dad was muggle-born and from an Asian country, right? Was he Muslim?”
Jen sighed exasperatedly, “No, but my grandparents were Buddhists, just like a lot of Laotians. From Laos. In South-East Asia. Quite far away from Bangladesh… Not every country in Asia has the same religion, you numbskull. You’re honestly not just in a Wizarding bubble, you’re in a British bubble.”
Jen rolled her eyes as Adam continued to ask her questions, when Al suddenly blurted out, “I want to play Quidditch!”
Confused, Rose responded, “Right now? It’s kind of late Al.”
Ever since the beginning of second term, Al had been spending much more time with Rose than Sam, which felt strange, like only using one arm to do everything instead of two.
He hung out in the Gryffindor Common Room just as much as usual, but Sam never seemed to come by anymore, what with Isobel keeping Sam (and his face) quite busy.
Isobel’s adamant refusal to set foot in Gryffindor Tower might have something to do with it too.
Now that everyone was finally together, and Sam and Rose were both here, Al’s thoughts for the future, which had been brewing for a while, but which he hadn’t really told anyone about yet, made their debut in a flurry of extremely fast-spoken disconnected sentences.
“Professionally. I want to play Quidditch for a living. Do you guys think I’d have any chance of playing Quidditch for a living? Because I want to play Quidditch. Like a lot. What do you think? It’s stupid right?”
Al quickly tried to backtrack, speaking even more quickly, but before he could go too far the whole group instantly responded with positive encouragement.
Corey grinned, “Of course you have a chance, mate! You’re the best seeker at Hogwarts.”
“Yeah,” Adam chimed, “You’re so good it won’t be long before we’re all watching you at the World Cup in the Top Box seats you’ll have rustled up for us – man I love being your friend Al.”
Jen snorted loudly, “Adam stop being such a Slytherin. Top Box seats are irrelevant, we’re just happy you’ve got some direction Al.”
She added more darkly, “Some of us aren’t so lucky.”
Corey rolled his eyes, “Don’t make us all throw a pity party for you Jenny, you know it won’t be fun.”
Jen just stuck out her tongue, and they all laughed.
As the fire died down and their conversation began to slow, one by one, the group headed off to bed until it was just Al and Rose chatting together.
Riding off the buzz and confidence from finally sharing his dreams with his friends, and taking advantage of having Rose completely alone, Al decided to bring up a few things that had been bothering him for the last few months.
“Can I ask you about some stuff Rose?”
Rose furrowed her eyebrows in confusion, “Okaaay,” she replied slowly, “What’s up?”
“Sam told me.”
Rose’s stomach dropped, but she tried to remain calm, not even bothering to play dumb or deny anything.
“What did he say?”
Hypothetical scenarios of all the horrible reactions Al could possibly have, started running through her mind.
Her hands started prickling with sweat and the fire suddenly seemed much too warm as horrifying images of Al telling her parents, and everyone in the family disowning her flashed through her mind.
Al looked at her concernedly, “That you kissed after the Polyjuice Party. That he told you he was in love with you. That you didn’t feel the same way. That he-” Al stopped abruptly.
But Rose could finish the sentence for him, “Hates me. I guessed as much.”
Even though Rose already knew this, she felt like she’d been winded.
Al’s mouth twisted uncomfortably, he could see that his slip up had hurt her.
“I wouldn’t bring it up Rose, but… You cut all your hair off, and you never do your homework anymore... which is totally fine, I know you’ll catch up in time to get an O in every subject. I just want to know that you’re okay.”
Rose felt a great rush of love for her cousin, he never judged her or criticised her, and he cared enough to check in on her and let her know that he cared.
She smiled gently, “I’m fine Al, great actually.”
Rose looked around the room and took a calming breath, “I just felt like this was the year. My year. Do you know what I mean? The year to find out who I am, I mean who I really am. Not just another year where I stay on autopilot and accept that as me. I felt like experimenting – with short hair, with not doing homework, with being more honest; I just told the girls about Sam and me last week, and I was planning to tell you this weekend.”
Rose giggled and rolled her eyes, “And you know me too well. I totally have a catch-up regime planned for next term to make up for slacking off. I aim to keep my O average this year.”
Al grinned, “Good. I’m glad.”
“Speaking of straight O averages, now that you’ve decided to play Quidditch you don’t have to worry about your NEWT grades! I’m ridiculously jealous.”
“Well I think it’s a matter of sibling rivalry that I attempt to beat James. He managed four, so I’m thinking six should be an even win.”
The comfortable atmosphere and talk of the future made Rose remember a thought that had been in the back of her mind for a while.
“Well actually, speaking of our big life questions; have you ever thought of designing and creating brooms?”
Al seemed a little stumped, he clearly hadn’t.
His lack of response prompted Rose to explain herself a little more, “Well I always hear you talking about how some brooms could be improved, and how cushioning charms wear off, or that thing where you get pulled to the left at higher speeds. With your charms knowledge, I just thought it might be something to consider.”
Al wrinkled his forehead in concentration as all his thoughts on brooms rushed to the surface of his mind, could he create solutions to all his observations?
He sunk back deep into the couch in contemplation, then turned back to Rose.
“I really don’t know… I guess I could think about it.”
“You’ll be a great seeker with a long career, there’s no doubt about that. This is just something I thought of once, and seeing as we were getting all futuristic…”
“Yeah, no, totally. Thanks Rose, I really appreciate it.”
Rose was about to say ‘you’re welcome’ when she was cut off by a huge yawn that she attempted to suppress – which only brought her hand conspicuously to her mouth, and made her eyes water.
Not anywhere near dumb enough to fall for it, Al jerked his thumb towards the staircases.
“You’d better get to bed Rosie. Don’t even try to deny that you’re tired.”
Letting out a puff of air from her suppressed yawn, Rose stood up and stretched her arms out, more content than she’d been in a long time.
“Good night Al.”
“Good night Rose. And hey, I’m always looking out for you. So if you ever need anything-”
“I’ll come talk to you. You’re my best friend Al.”
“And your favourite cousin?”
Rose snorted loudly, “And my favourite cousin.”
Al fist-pumped the air, “Yes! Just wait until I tell James,”
Rose threw her hands up in exaggerated exasperation, “What am I going to do with you two?”
Al just snickered as she made her way up the girls’ staircase to bed.
But when he turned back to the fire, he shifted into a deep almost meditative state, seeing nothing but problems brooms, branches, charms and possible solutions.
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