Their hopes for a peaceful holiday had been shattered. The first month of summer before the Quidditch World Cup was supposed to have been a quiet respite before their last year at Hogwarts commenced, a time for Ro and Poppy to have the whole of London to themselves. What they ended up with was merely a few days of holiday before Poppy's itch to do something for Irma's situation had overtaken them both.
Which was how they found themselves in the British Library on a Monday morning. From the Pomfrey's house they had taken the Underground back to Kings Cross, Ro marvelling at how the station looked like when not crowded with poorly disguised magic folk, then took a short detour for breakfast on the way to the library. Ro was scratching down bullet-pointed notes in a Muggle notebook that seemed infinitely more convenient than the parchment sheets she was used to.
"We'll have to go somewhere else for wizard-specific books, but these should be a good place to start," Poppy said quietly, putting a stack of books down on their table. They had to keep their voices low to not attract the attention of any Muggle university students studying on the tables around them. "The only difference should be that the age of adulthood for us is 17 rather than 18."
Ro gave an affirming hum, sliding the top book off the stack. It was a law textbook with a large section on family law, which Ro assumed would be the best place to look up Irma's rights now she'd been disowned. "I can't believe the people on the Wizengamot have to know all this stuff," she said, pulling a face as she opened the book.
"Me neither. Mediwitch studies feel intimidating enough," Poppy chuckled for a moment before her expression sobered. "Come on then. What points have you got down?"
"A-ha," Ro started, taking her notebook and reading aloud. "We need to know where she stands in access to the Vector inheritance. Then there's if any Ministry help exists for young witches in terms of buying Hogwarts equipment for seventh year. Less important right now is if there's any help for housing after she graduates next year, but none of us are exactly gonna leave her homeless so I'm not worried about that."
Poppy shook her head. "Me neither, but you know how important personal space is to Irma. Actual housing might be something she prefers."
Noting Poppy's point down in brackets, Ro continued down her list. "There's also the matter of the name change, if her father really meant it when he said she couldn't use the Vector name anymore. That's probably the least magic-specific thing on the list," she realised in the moment.
"We should look up Muggle government benefits as well as Ministry ones. In fact, that might be an easier way to get help for her since she's still counted as underage."
Ro grinned as Poppy spoke, adding another bullet point to the list. "See, this is why we'd all fall apart without you," she said.
She blushed scarlet at the compliment just as Ro knew she would. "No, this is why wizards are too useless to function without Muggleborn input," Poppy corrected her. "I dread to imagine how all those devout pureblood families cope when they have real life problems."
"From knowledge of our dear Slytherin friends, probably through excessive use of the Obliviate charm on the unfortunate people they have to ask," Ro said, her voice dripping with sarcasm on the word 'friends'. The thought of never seeing Abraxas Malfoy, Druella Rosier, or Owle Bullock again after 11 more months was the only thing that she was looking forward to upon graduation.
"Excuse me?" said a nervous voice interrupted them. Ro looked up to see a girl slightly older than them standing awkwardly near their table, anxious eyes half-hidden by thick-rimmed glasses. "Are you going to be done with that textbook soon? I have my law finals next week."
Ro glanced at Poppy briefly before looking back at the Muggle girl. "Sure, if we can ask you some questions first? We're not really getting this stuff."
She brightened at that, her worried smile disappearing as she took a seat at their table. "Are you both students too? Which university do you go to?" she asked eagerly.
"Uhh," Ro stalled, suddenly regretting her invitation since she had no idea about Muggle education past age 11.
Thankfully, Poppy picked that moment to chime in. "We're taking our HSC next year, so not just yet," she explained; Ro made a mental note to ask her what that meant later.
The girl nodded. "I just assumed because it's normally just Uni of London students here, but you do look a bit young for that. I can still help out though if there's something specific you need?" she asked, then added "I'm Hester Richardson, by the way."
"Hello Hester, I'm Ro and this is Poppy," Ro said, pushing the textbook Hester's way. "If you could talk us through how family emancipation works then that would be perfect."
An hour later, Ro's notebook was filled with Hester's beautifully written notes on how Irma could go about securing her rights as an adult Muggle. Later they would need to work out how being an adult witch different from an adult Muggle, but Ro couldn't be happier with the new friend they'd made. After being told a heavily edited tale of Irma's disownment, Hester had written down her telephone number and address so that they could contact her later if needed.
Ro had tried very hard not to look too surprised at being handed a telephone number, aware it was one of the key differences between Magic and Muggle communication. But then she stuck her foot right in her mouth by saying "We'll send an Owl if her father makes things any more difficult."
"An Owl? Is that what you call letters where you go to school?" Hester asked, glasses slipping down her nose as she tilted her head.
Poppy once again proved to be Ro's saviour. "We have euphemisms for everything," she giggled a little forcefully, "makes it a lot easier to get away with things if the Professors don't know what we're talking about."
Hester laughed. "Nothing changes in University, believe me. You'll have to tell me when you start medical school, Poppy, I can give you some study tips." As much as Ro doubted there would be a lot of common ground between a Muggle Law student and a Mediwitch student, the genuine smile on Poppy's face made Ro drop all her misgivings.
After thanking her profusely for her desperately needed assistance, they packed up their bags and left Hester to her studying. "What an actual saviour," Ro commented once they were out of earshot, running lightly down the stairs then waiting for Poppy to catch up.
"I cannot believe you told her you'd send an Owl though," Poppy whispered in Ro's ear as she reached the bottom of the stairs.
Ro groaned quietly, hitting her forehead on Poppy's upper arm. "I can't believe me either. You rescued us from having to use the Obliviate technique ourselves."
"Muggleborn knowledge saving the day once again," Poppy chuckled.
Once they'd left the library, Ro glanced down over as Poppy grabbed her hand. "I don't want to go home yet. We're going to visit the Ministry; I've had an idea." She offered no elaboration, just smiling in response to Ro's curious looks as she led her towards the closest Underground station.
They returned home to a flurry of activity in the Pomfrey household, the place full of people in the Muggle version of Healer uniforms all crowded in for what looked like a celebration. That was confirmed to her when Dr Pomfrey rushed up to grab Poppy into a hug the second they had come through the door, making Poppy squeak a little as she was pulled into her father's enthusiastic embrace. Ro tried as best she could to squash herself into the wall of the hallway, feeling a little out of place in the unexpected gathering.
"They've done it Pen!" Poppy's father said as he released her. "The National Health Service. They've only gone and made it work!"
Poppy squeaked again, in happiness rather than surprise that time, and she jumped up to hug her father again. Those words made the party make sense to Ro; both of Poppy's parents worked in nearby hospitals, and she'd been told by Poppy and her parents over mealtimes how the Muggle government had been establishing a way to fund medical care without magic. So it was no surprise to have all their hospital colleagues at the house to celebrate its establishment.
"Adrian? Is that Poppy there?" called a voice, and Ro looked over to see Poppy's mother walking towards them with a champagne flute in hand. "Ah, I thought I heard the girls home!" she said to her husband, then turned towards Ro and Poppy with a gleaming smile on her face. "Put your bags in your room and then come and join us loves, we have a cause worth celebrating tonight!"
Ro trailed after Poppy as she practically bounced up the stairs, throwing her satchel onto her bed before throwing her arms round Ro's shoulders. "Do you know what this means?" she asked rhetorically, "My parents will be able to look after people properly without them worrying about how they're going to pay for it. This is going to help so many people."
At the slight wobble in Poppy's voice, Ro hugged her harder for a moment and pressed a kiss to her cheek. "It's incredible news," she murmured. She couldn't pretend to know a lot about Muggle medicine but the happiness in Poppy's expression told her all she needed to know.
There must have been some hesitancy in her voice she wasn't entirely conscious of, as Poppy pulled back to look Ro intently in the eye. "Are you ok with having so many people here?" she asked, "I know you get a bit worried when we're with big groups of Muggles. I promise you'll be ok."
Ro sighed, more grateful than ever for her girlfriend's perceptiveness. "Yeah," she mumbled, "I just don't want to embarrass you, y'know? Don't want you to be worried you'll need to rescue me from being ignorant when you've got people here to celebrate with the family." It was half of the truth; she didn't add the fact that she never felt quite correct in a busy home anymore, was never sure how to act amongst the relatives of her friends. She'd fallen out of practise in the four years since she'd last been able to go 'home'.
"I know," Poppy said. She took Ro's hand, a lifeline from those bittersweet memories. "But I'm not here to be with my parent's work friends, I'm here to be with you. You could never be an embarrassment to me."
She smiled. Some things would never be better, like the gaping hole in her chest whenever she left Hogwarts for the holidays and was forced to face reality in her mother's absence. But sometimes things were ok enough. "Thank you," she said, leaning in to kiss her. "I didn't know I needed to hear that."
Poppy chuckled. "I could tell."
"You always can."
Linking their fingers together, Poppy led the way back downstairs to find her parents among the guests. Dr Pomfrey was talking excitedly to a group of men in the living room, waving Poppy over as soon as they were in his eyesight. Poppy hesitated, glancing uncertainly at Ro, until Mrs Pomfrey appeared from nowhere to tap Ro on the shoulder. You go and talk medicine with your father, me and Ro are going to have a chat," she said, giving her daughter a reassuring smile.
Ro didn't feel particularly reassured as she was lead into the much quieter kitchen. They hadn't been too worried about not showing their relationship in front of Poppy's parents, as it wasn't the first time Ro had stayed with them for an extended period. But Eloise Pomfrey was just as perceptive as her daughter, filling Ro with unexpected nerves for the second time that evening.
"Here," she said, sitting at the kitchen table and patting the space opposite her. "Come and talk, my love. Nothing's wrong at all, I just wanted to sit and chat with you before you both go away in a few weeks."
"Ok," Ro said, taking the offered seat.
Mrs Pomfrey took a sip of her champagne before meeting Ro's gaze. "This is the second year you've spent the summer with us," she started, and Ro nodded. "Poppy told me that you lost your mother during the war. I wanted to ask, and forgive me for bringing up a hard topic, but have you simply been rotating round all of your friends' houses every summer?"
It wasn't quite the awful discussion she'd be worried about, but it wasn't a great deal better either. "Uh," Ro stalled, "Yeah, pretty much. I stayed with Minerva after third year, then we all went back to what used to be my house after fourth year 'cause we wanted to have summer together. Then you know I was here last year and this year." She counted out the years on her fingers as she spoke, realising it meant she and Poppy hadn't spent a holiday apart since fourth year. Her mouth twitched with the resemblance of a smile.
"Are you not able to go home at all?"
Ro shook her head, then shrugged as she thought about it, then shook her head again. "I could. My oldest brother inherited the house I grew up in and my uncle owns a farm nearby. But it was hard enough being there with Poppy and the others a couple years ago, I don't want to go back by myself."
Mrs Pomfrey nodded as she spoke. "I completely understand. I've seen too many bereaved children on my wards and many of them say the same. But that means you've been simply living out of your travel chest for the last four years?" she clarified, one eyebrow raised in concern.
Ro's expression flattened into a thin smile. "It's a magic one. Bigger on the inside," she offered weakly, well aware it wasn't storage space that concerned Poppy's mother.
"I suspected as much," Mrs Pomfrey hummed thoughtfully.
There was quiet for a minute or so. Ro tried not to fidget too much while waiting for Mrs Pomfrey to continue the conversation. "And your father?" she asked eventually.
Ro didn't look up. "Died when I was five," she said, her voice entirely monotone.
"Well then, I suppose that settles it."
She met Mrs Pomfrey's eyes then, frowning ever so slightly in confusion. "My dear, I can tell that Poppy likes you very very much. And for the record, so do her father and I. She was so isolated as a child being so unwell that we worried if she would ever find herself a true friend, and you make her eyes sparkle whenever you're together. So, I would like you to consider this your second home both now and once you leave school. If there is anything you need then you can send an Owl to Adrian and I. Consider it our thanks for making our daughter the happiest we've ever seen her."
Ro covered her mouth as happy tears fell. Mrs Pomfrey opened her arms and Ro stood swiftly to hug her, relishing what it felt to be hugged like a child for the first time in four years.
The rest of July was a countdown not only until Poppy came of age, but until everyone reunited for the Quidditch World Cup. Poppy's actual birthday was being spent just the four of them in London, herself and her parents plus Ro, with Minerva and Irma coming down the day after. Millicent had found herself a Muggle job for the holiday so was only coming up to London a couple of days before they left for France. Septima had been entirely unreachable for the first two weeks, until one of the Hogwarts Owls arrived one afternoon with a letter addressed to Poppy and Ro.
"It's from Professor Merrythought," Poppy said, eyes darting across the parchment as she skim-read the letters contents. They widened suddenly as she added "It's about Septima!"
Ro immediately abandoned the washing up, drying her hands on her trousers before taking the letter from Poppy and reading aloud. "Dear girls. I'm acting as the middleman in communication with Septima and you, as her father is monitoring her mail to prevent her communicating with Irma. She spoke to me via Floo yesterday to say she will be arriving in Kings Cross on July 24th to accompany you all to the Quidditch World Cup finals. Please send an Owl to me once she is with you; she has assured me she is perfectly safe at home, but I would still like to know just in case. Regards, Galatea Merrythought."
"She's a smart cookie, isn't she? Couldn't get an Owl to us and can't Floo here so gets the Prof involved," Ro said with a sigh.
"I wish she didn't have to though," Poppy shook her head. "I hope she was being honest when she said she's safe. I can't bear to think she's going through what Irma did."
Ro could see Poppy's hands shaking as she spoke, so she put the letter down to take her hands in her own. "I'm worried too but Septima trusts the Professor. They both watched Irma's memories in the Pensieve so its not like the Professor doesn't know what to look out for. I really think she's ok." Poppy gave a nod, exhaling softly as Ro brushed her thumb over the back of Poppy's hand.
The morning of Poppy's 17th birthday arrived, finding Ro awake unusually early and sneaking out of their bedroom to the kitchen downstairs. After casting a silencing charm around the kitchen she tucked her wand behind her ear, cracking her knuckles before washing her hands under the tap.
She didn't know what had brought about the memory, but she'd woken up with a vision of her younger self and siblings helping their father in the kitchen one time. It had been her mother's birthday and he'd woken them all up with the sunrise, bringing all five children down to the kitchen. Without any magic they'd made breakfast from scratch, each of her older siblings assigned a specific task while Ro supervised them all from atop her father's shoulders. It was one of the few memories she had of her father, being so young when he died, and it left the shadow of a smile on her face as she set about preparing her own breakfast. She wished her parents could know how happy she was then, hoped that they would be just as happy on her behalf.
Once she was done, she balanced everything carefully on a tray and carried it a little precariously upstairs. Entering Poppy's room in reverse, she put the tray down on the dressing table and crawled over the bed to gently shake her awake. "Happy birthday," she said softly.
"Morning," Poppy whispered, smiling as Ro looked down at her. "What are you doing up already?"
Ro spoke with actions instead of words, putting the tray of breakfast down beside Poppy as she sat up in bed. "I, uh, made it. For you. For your birthday," she said, feeling an awkward blush creep across her cheeks.
Her sudden anxiousness disappeared as Poppy leaned up to kiss her rosy face. "You're the best. Come eat it with me?"
"One sec," Ro stalled. She used Poppy's request as an excuse to steal a piece of toast, then turned to rummage around in her trunk for the two gifts she knew she'd left in there somewhere. She let out a quiet 'a-ha' in triumph when she found them wrapped up in her Gryffindor scarf, running a quick hand through her hair to neaten it out as she rejoined Poppy back under the duvet.
Poppy smiled around her mug of tea when Ro presented her with the gifts. Compared to Ro on her own birthday she was meticulously careful opening the wrapping, prying off all the tape to reveal a box underneath. Her eyes lit up when she lifted the lid to reveal a fob watch, brass with a poppy flower carved behind the clock face. "It's absolutely beautiful," she gasped, running her fingers across the delicate metal.
"Wizard tradition is to get given a watch when you come of age, but I figured you'd find one like that more useful when you start at St. Mungos," Ro grinned. She'd known that the gift was ideal for Poppy but the shocked reaction still brought an involuntary smile to her face. "The second one's a bit more sappy," she warned as Poppy turned to the second gift, twisting her hands together in a second sudden bout of nervousness.
A hand atop hers made her stop, looking up into Poppy's softly exasperated expression. "Whatever it is, I will love it. You don't need to worry," she insisted.
Ro quirked a lopsided smile as she watched Poppy unwrap the second gift. There was no initial gasp that time as she studied the star map that Ro had drawn up by hand, only speechless silence as she took in the whole thing. The project had started as a way for Ro to procrastinate her Astronomy work during the exam season, but turned into a revision exercise once she got the hang of calculating the exact positions of the constellations. After a minute her nerves got the better of her again, and she pointed to the text beneath the map at the bottom of the parchment.
"Northern Hemisphere; 1st September 1942," Poppy read aloud. She looked at Ro with wide eyes. "Isn't that…"
"The first day we met," Ro finished for her.
Ever the careful one, Poppy rolled the map back up before throwing her arms around Ro's shoulders. Ro instantly encircled her hands around Poppy's waist to hold her close. "It's the most beautiful and special thing you could have given me," she choked out, voice muffled by the collar of Ro's pyjama shirt.
Ro felt her own eyes welling up as she whispered "I'm glad."
That was their last day just the two of them in the house; the morning after found them preparing for Irma, Minerva, and Septima's arrivals throughout the day. Poppy revelled in using her magic at home at long last as she enchanted the bed in the spare room to make itself – as far as Ro was concerned, putting a fitted sheet on a bed was one of the worst household chores to do without the help of magic. They were setting up the pull-out bed in Poppy's room when Ro heard two sharp cracks coming from the garden and all chores were forgotten instantly.
"They're here!" Ro screeched, all but flying down the stairs in her haste to reach the garden.
Minerva and Irma were both standing with their trunks, looking flushed from the long-distance Apparition they'd just undertaken. Minerva was smoothing creases from her jacket when Ro flung herself at her, grinning at Minerva's laugh of surprise. "Hello to you too," Minerva said as Ro continued to squeeze her tightly, only stepping back when she heard Poppy clear her throat loudly behind them.
"Stop hogging her," Poppy rebuked teasingly, jumping up to pull Minerva into a hug just as enthusiastic.
Irma's voice was bright as she joked wryly "That was a lot easier than getting here last year."
It was hard for Ro's smile not to falter with the reminder of the last time Irma had arrived at the Pomfrey house. Her mind was swirling with images of how they'd parted in Kings Cross as she looked at her friend, when Ro had shattered her father's monocle in anger over her treatment. "How's you?" she asked, an awkward bail-out from everything she really wanted to ask.
Irma smiled while shrugging one shoulder. "As good as I can be, considering everything. I've had a nice time," she said, turning to acknowledge Minerva with a nod. "We're safely through the first full moon so I'd say I can't complain too much."
Scoffing, Ro tried not to make her tone too harsh as she said "You can complain as much as you want, Merlin knows we've been doing just that."
If Irma was uncomfortable by Ro's statement then she didn't know it visibly. Instead she simply changed the subject by turning back to Minerva with "Where did you stop en route? I went to Hogsmeade first and then I think I was somewhere near York." Ro was confused for a moment but then realised they must have planned stops for their Apparition, as Scotland to London was a little too far for someone who'd only had their license for four months.
"I went to Hogsmeade too, we must have been on the opposite side," Minerva laughed. "Then I went to Blackpool and then some random field which I only knew was in the right direction thanks to a helpful road sign."
The cheerful atmosphere was broken when Irma asked her and Poppy "Is Septima here already?"
Ro shook her head, then lifted a hand quickly as Irma's expression warped into one of sudden fear. "No, it's not all bad news. She got in contact with us, we're expecting her later today."
Irma looked placated but still not content with her answer. Her worried expression lasted the next three hours that they all spent getting Minerva and Irma settled in the bedrooms and making lunch for them. It was only when the doorbell rung and Poppy went to answer it that there was finally an end to their weeks-long fears.
"Oh, thank God," Ro heard Poppy cry out. Ro barely had time to respond before Irma was out of her seat and rushing towards the front door. She arrived to find the twins holding each other in a fiercely tight embrace, both their faces hidden in each other's shoulders. Poppy's hand found hers and Ro gripped it tightly, staying quiet as she watched the two sisters reunite at last.
Ro didn't know what she expected to see when Septima finally looked up. A replica of Irma's injuries from the last time one of them had fled the Vector household. Her knees nearly collapsed in relief when she saw there was nothing; no bruises on her skin, just grey circles under her eyes from what Ro presumed were a lot of sleepless nights. "You're ok," Ro breathed, squeezing Poppy's hand again.
Septima nodded, twisting the end of one of her plaits. "I was alright, I promise. Nothing bad happened. I absolutely promise." She was practically begging them all, eyes welling up with desperation.
"I believe you," Irma hushed her, hands hovering over Septima's as if she was going to take hold of them but not bridging the final gap. "You don't have to convince us. It's ok."
Once again, Ro was struck by how strange the dynamic between Irma and Septima and their father was. Irma was obviously a survivor of emotional abuse for far longer than she'd endured his physical abuse, but with Septima it was far less clear cut. She'd spoken wonders about him in their earlier years, but since everything had come out about him and Irma the previous year she'd been stuck in an odd place of supporting her sister alongside an obligation to prove that he was different with her. That he would never hurt her in the same way he hurt her sister.
"Let's get inside," Minerva encouraged, taking one handle of Septima's trunk. Ro pushed gently forwards to take the other side, shooing Septima away when she went to take it from Ro so she could walk in with her sister.
After they finished the lunch they'd been halfway through and got Septima settled, the five of them ventured back into London on a mission. A short while on the Metropolitan then Bakerloo lines of the Underground landed them at Charing Cross, where the Leaky Cauldron was nestled between a pair of Muggle shops close to Trafalgar Square. Ro's excitement picked up as she lead their group through the pub and out into the back garden, resisting the urge to take off through the crowd as soon as Diagon Alley appeared in front of them.
It wasn't hard to spot that Irma was nervous as they stood in the queue for Ollivanders. Her wand had been one of the casualties during the werewolf attack and it was the first day since then that she'd been able to get a new one. Ro couldn't imagine how she'd lasted the month without any guaranteed connection to her magic, especially now she was of age and could use it freely, but then she remembered the magic policy at the McGonagall house and supposed it hadn't made that much difference.
"We've already done this once," Septima reminded her as they neared the front of the queue. "You're going to be absolutely fine."
Irma gave a shallow nod. "I know. It's less the thought of bonding with a new wand but more what this means." She paused for a moment, her hands fluttering nervously around the top of her scar which peered over the top of her high-collared shirt. "I've spent the last month without a wand or a last name. I'm not Irma Vector the witch with an ebony-unicorn wand anymore. I'm just Irma."
"But we're hopefully getting both of those things fixed today," said Poppy.
She and Ro exchanged glances as everyone else looked confused. "Me 'n' Pops have spent our time wisely this summer," Ro started in a lordly tone, refusing to give up their golden goose too quickly. "Been doing lots of research. Which means that after we're done here, we're going to the Ministry and filing this paperwork to get your surname officially removed." Her words were punctuated by Poppy pulling the name change documents they'd fetched from the Ministry two weeks earlier from her satchel.
Silence followed their words. Ro was wondering for a second whether they'd massively overstepped their places, but then Irma's face broke into the brightest smile Ro might have ever seen from her. "I can't say what this means to me. Thank you, both of you," she said in a choked up voice.
The door opened up behind them as their conversation dropped, Irma taking a steadying breath before she walked into the shop alone.
It was a while before she emerged again – Poppy and Septima had done a run to Fortescue's for ice cream, while Ro and Minerva window-shopped in the front of Quality Quidditch Supplies which was opposite Ollivanders. They were all within eyeshot when Irma emerged with a telltale wand box held gingerly in her arms.
"Go on then," Ro encouraged her, all thoughts of the Quidditch goggles she'd been eyeing up forgotten in an instant.
Irma gave a nervous smile. Then she took off the lid of the box and pulled out a beautiful dark wood wand. It was slightly warmer in tone than the obsidian colour of her previous one and a little longer too, just one continuous length instead of having an obvious handle.
Septima pulled her own wand out of her pocket to compare; it was obvious who's was new since Septima's had procured a few scuffs and scrapes during its six years in service. Irma's was still darker than Septima's redwood wand which Ro thought suited the twins nicely. But there were more differences between their two current wands than there had been before Irma's broke. "It's beautiful," Septima said, still staring down at them both.
"Acacia wood, with unicorn hair again," Irma said, her voice full of shy pride. It was a combination rarely heard from her; Ro wondered if this was who Irma might have been as a tiny first year if she weren't bearing the weight of Slytherin House expectancies back then.
Suddenly Irma motioned for them all to stand back. "Avis," she spoke as she flicked her wand upwards. Poppy and Septima both gasped in surprise as a small flock of ravens burst out from Irma's new wand, circling each other above their heads for a moment before disappearing over the roof of Ollivanders. Ro clapped enthusiastically, and Irma could scarcely keep the smile off her face as she dipped into a curtsey.
With the issue of Irma's wand solved, they finished up their jobs in Diagon Alley by purchasing a tent for the Quidditch World Cup before heading back into Muggle London. Ro took the lead as they headed back into Muggle London, turning down a few streets until they reached the telephone box on a Whitehall back road. Piling all five of them into the box was a tight fit but after a few awkward minutes they were descending down into the Ministry Atrium. Thankfully Ro and Poppy both knew where they were headed, a reward for their confusion when they'd come earlier in the month, so it wasn't long before they were all sat in a waiting room at the Wizengamot Administrative Services within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
Madame Tuft called them into her office not long later. Ro mumbled a greeting when the Department Head said hello to her personally; Wilhelmina Tuft had been a close friend of her mother's and had barely survived the Ministry attack that had killed her, which brought about some odd feelings. But it was widely known that she was also favoured to win the upcoming election for Minister for Magic, so it was a surprise to see her mandating something as seemingly trivial as a name change.
By the time all the paperwork was filed, however, Ro was incredibly grateful for the advanced knowledge she'd been able to grant them. Firstly there was the paperwork to ensure Irma was considered legally emancipated from her family, which couldn't be officially completed without a signature from both Irma's parents and a nominee to be her new 'next of kin'. Apparently it couldn't be Septima since she wasn't considered an adult in the Muggle world; Minerva had offered to ask her mother and Ro one of her siblings. Then Madame Tuft talked them through the process of setting Irma up with a new Gringotts vault.
Finally came the name change, with Ro and the rest of them signing as witnesses since they were all of age, and Irma left the office as purely Irma Elladora.
"Miss Elladora," Ro said with a silly bow as she rushed ahead to open the office door for Irma. Even Madame Tuft chuckled at that, waving them off with a friendly smile.
When she arrived from Croydon a few days later, Millicent was ecstatic to hear of the new start Irma had made. She commented quietly to Ro late that night that she seemed like an entirely new person, finally free from everything her parents had ever granted her. Ro agreed wholeheartedly, her only silent misgiving being a worry that the other Slytherins in their year would only use it as more ammunition to hurl Irma's way. But that was a bridge they were yet to cross, and she hoped that with Irma's newfound steadiness in herself she would be able to cope with it.
The next morning found the whole household, Dr and Mrs Pomfrey included, up bright and early to prepare for their departure to the Quidditch World Cup. Poppy and Septima didn't have their Apparition licenses yet so Apparating to France was out of the question. Instead, on the advice of her brother Tavin who was helping to organise the games, they had decided to fly out on their broomsticks.
"Are you sure you've got everything you'll need?" Mrs Pomfrey fussed, staring concernedly at Poppy's satchel. They'd all used an internal expanding charm on their bags in order to minimise the luggage they'd be carrying during the broomstick rides – Ro could appreciate that to a Muggle it probably looked like they were going to a different country with only the clothes on their backs.
Poppy sighed dramatically, leaning into her father's embrace. "I promise, if there's anything important we've forgotten we'll be able to loan it from someone. We're only going for a week," she said. It was safe enough to assume plenty of current and previous Hogwarts students would be also attending the games considering they were rarely held so close to home.
While Poppy said her goodbyes to her parents and Godric the Puffskein who was staying in London, Ro turned attention to the three broomsticks they'd be riding. Her Rocket was for her and Poppy, Irma would be joining Minerva on her Comet 180, while Septima and Millicent would be flying on Septima's Cleansweep Three. Ro had cast an enhanced Cushioning Charm on all of them to accommodate the extra riders, as well as Disillusionment Charms to ensure they would be out of sight of any nosy Muggles who happened to be looking up.
"All looking good here," she announced as Minerva approached, handing her back the Comet.
Minerva gave a satisfied nod. "Then we fly."
Poppy's hands were squeezing the life out of Ro by the time they'd risen above the rooftop; Ro had forgotten that of course she and their other non-Quidditch players would be nervous, having not touched a broomstick for years. Millicent was the first of them to look marginally more relaxed, pointing out London landmarks as they flew over the city. Ro managed to curb the urge to dodge between all the buildings until she couldn't resist turning a tight corned around Big Ben, Poppy letting out a frightened squeak as she somehow clung onto Ro's waist even tighter. Irma looked to be dozing off on Minerva's shoulder by the time they were sailing over the English Channel; Ro somehow persuaded Poppy to fish the polaroid out of her bag to snap a blurry photograph.
They were directed downwards by a wizard on a broomstick waving a green-lit wand at them. Ro gave a hand signal in affirmation, turning gently downwards for Poppy's benefit to touch down at the edge of a field. It appeared that the boundary had been set aside for arrivals, while the main field functioned as a campsite. There were tents crammed in as far as the eye could see, a patchwork of colours which had been easy to spot from up above.
"Tickets and tent pass please," asked a gruff sounding Frenchman.
Ro rooted around in her bag for the paper tickets that Tavin had sent her. "Here for all six of us. Tent should be registered under Ro Hooch."
The charmed quill and parchment levitating next to him flipped through a dozen pages before writing a big loopy tick. "Row D, pitch 384," the man read off, motioning hastily for them all to keep walking so he could address the queue of people behind them.
Pitching the tent took an embarrassingly long time considering they were six reasonably capable witches. Irma and Septima both got surprisingly stuck in – Ro found it hard to connect their childhood with camping of any form – while Minerva proved useful for reaching the highest ties and both Poppy and Millicent were charged with passing round the parts. Eventually they had their temporary home erected in time to get dinner from a nearby food vendor, lighting a bluebell fire in the mouth of the tent for warmth and light as the sun came down.
The first match the next day was the first semi-final between Wales and Nigeria. Ro had seen a few of the Welsh players before when her dad had taken her to see the Holyhead Harpies play a very long time ago when Theodosia Crickerley had still Captained the team, not that she could really remember that far back. The Harpies were the team she most wanted to play for after leaving Hogwarts so she watched the players eagerly, theorising how the tactics she'd build up over the years might be able to fit in with their team strategy.
It was after the match finished with a victory to Wales that she was surprised by a familiar face. "Captain Hooch!" shouted a voice behind Ro as she and the others left the stadium; Ro turned expecting to see one of her Quidditch Players, but to her shock it was Madame Crickerley herself.
"Uh- hi Madame Crickerley!" Ro called a little falteringly, never really sure how to react whenever her childhood hero casually called out her name.
Ro could see a few people in the crowd giving her jealous looks as she was approached by the formed England Quidditch Star, but Madame Crickerley appeared not to notice. "Please, we're out of Hogwarts now and just two adults having a chat. Call me Theodosia," she said, the corner of her eyes crinkling as she smiled.
When Ro gave a nod, she threw her arms out and looked around them both while adding "Isn't it good to be back! First World Cup for you I presume, considering the last two couldn't run during the War?"
"Actually, I saw Germany win the 1936 cup in Switzerland," Ro corrected her, "Must have been only five years old or something! My dad was an Auror stationed in Europe so he got a week of leave and came to surprise us there." She resolutely refused to ponder over that memory being the last time she'd ever seen him.
"Starting em' young, what I like to see," chuckled Madame Crickerley.
Ro grinned, giving a wave to Poppy and the others as they headed back to the tent ahead of her. "We were always a Quidditch-heavy family, two of my siblings played at Hogwarts too. I'm the only one hoping to go professional though."
Madame Crickerley gave her a hearty clap on the shoulder. "Good to hear it! I really oughtn't be biased considering I'm head of the Games Department but you should try out for the Harpies, I would certainly be happy to put in a good word for you," she offered.
For the second time that conversation, Ro was nearly speechless. "It's, uh, actually the Harpies I'm most hoping to get accepted by next year," she said, then added awkwardly "I hope this isn't weird but I've got a poster you signed for me at a Harpies game years ago."
To her relief, Madame Crickerley didn't seem put off by Ro's admission. "I am truly honoured to be the inspiration for an up and coming Quidditch star," she laughed, and Ro felt starstruck all over again.
They spoke for a little while longer about the match they'd just watched, as well as Ro's plans for her seventh year at Hogwarts and beyond. Then Madame Crickerley's face suddenly lit up as if she'd had an idea; she quickly said "Be back in a minute!" to Ro before she hurried back into the stadium without any further questions.
Ro was left scuffing her feet outside the stadium entrance for about five minutes while she waited, having no idea in the slightest what Madame Crickerley had run off for. Eventually she came back into view, clearly obscuring something in her hand and looking very pleased with herself.
"This is for you," she said, grabbing Ro's hand and dropping a Golden Snitch into her palm.
Not only was there '1948 Quidditch Cup' engraved onto the front of the Snitch, but all the Welsh players she'd just watched win their semi-final had signed their names in the metal. "This is the best thing I've ever been given," she fawned over it, turning the Snitch in her hands to look at all the names. "How?"
Madame Crickerley chuckled at the shocked expression on Ro's face. "It's not the one they just played with, but there were so many made for the tournament I sincerely doubt they're going to notice one missing. The players all signed with an engravement charm so the names won't rub off or anything. Just think of it as a very exclusive bit of merchandise."
"It's the best thing ever. Thank you, seriously thank you so much!"
"No thanks required, but if you were to sign one for me once you're the next Captain of the Harpies I would very much enjoy having it with my collection," Madame Crickerley said with a wink.
The request and the thought of her Captaining an official league team someday after she graduated Hogwarts almost made Ro's cheeks ache from smiling. Hands closing around the Snitch in a brilliantly familiar feeling, she looked up at Madame Crickerley and held out a hand for her to shake.
"I'll make that a promise."
And we're back! Viva la end of sixth year! Final ten chapters to go!
I really enjoy this chapter for what it is; potentially could be considered filler from plot related stuff, but is actually a really important time for the characters to recover both emotionally and physically from everything they went through. It's so utterly wonderful to write Irma's new start; her breaking her wand was a bit of an impulse decision on my part last chapter but I'm so glad I went through with it as it's given us this wonderful scene of her being granted a physical reminder of her new start. With all the meanings we've been given from canon about wand woods it's always fantastic fun to pick them, and I thought the move from acacia to ebony was very symbolic in the changes between Irma at 11 vs at 17. Everything at the Ministry is modelled on when I changed my own surname a few years back - its a bloody complicated system indeed and I thank my lucky stars for good solicitors.
Other than that, this chapter is really my personal love letter to Ro. She and Poppy are such a fantastic pair, they're so easy to write together because they just fit so perfectly. I think this is also the most Ro has thought about her parents, particularly her dad, in a very long time. This wasn't planned previously by me but those feelings seemed to crop up very regularly and I think it's important to her character arc that her parents are still a really big part of her. Having lost a parental figure at 15, only a year or so after Ro lost her mother, you really never stop thinking about them and it's so important to me that I get that right in my portrayal of Ro. Her interactions with Poppy's parents are also fantastic, I loved establishing that dynamic between Ro and her sort-of-inlaws. And the return of Madame Crickerley, Ro's sporting hero and celebrity crush, just rounds it out perfectly.
I started a tumblr sideblog for this fic and chapter updates and fun related things! Come find us at 'alwaysyouthreefic . tumblr . com'
Next chapter we finish up the Quidditch World Cup, and onwards to seventh year! Until next time :)