"Abe, wake up."

Aberforth muttered to himself and turned away from the hand that was prodding him. Albus was really being annoying with waking him this morning— loud, too.

"Abe! Wake up. Silly goose."

In his half-awake state, Aberforth frowned. Only Ari called him and Al 'silly goose.' (He honestly had no idea where she'd picked up that expression, but she shouted it with abandon when they would not listen to her.) "Ariana?"

"Yes, Abe. Wake up. Silly, silly goose."

Sufficiently roused from his bed, Aberforth sat up and rubbed at his bleary eyes. He could make out Ariana's form at the side of his bed, and gave a shuddering yawn. "Would you like breakfast, Ari?"

"Please, please," she answered, her shape coming into sharper focus as he stood up and ran a hand through his hair, scruffy from his long sleep. He purposely kept it short, unlike Al's (rather girly, in his opinion) long mane of hair—easier to manage, definitely, and it irritated Albus, which was always a plus.

"Come on, then." He pushed Ari's back slightly, urging her forward and out the door of his bedroom. "Is Albus awake yet?"

"No." Ariana shook her head, looking almost comically disappointed. "Sleepyhead. Al's a silly goose, Abe."

"Don't I know it," he said cheerfully, pushing open the kitchen door and allowing his sister to enter. She did so gracefully, and Aberforth saw that her long locks (not unlike Albus' in appearance, actually) were somewhat damp against the back of her dressing gown.

"Ari, did you take a bath this morning?" he asked curiously, not reprimanding her when she hopped onto the countertop to sit. He moved over to open the large window above the sink, letting in the cool morning air.

"Yes."

"All by yourself?"

Ariana looked slightly irritated. "Yes, Abe."

"Whatever for?" Aberforth inquired, thinking longingly of his wand (and Albus', which he had taken back after the debacle the week before), which he was still too young to use outside of school, as he began heating a pot of water on the stove.

"Viv." He paused in his actions and turned to Ariana, who was still sitting on the countertop, twining her hair though her fingers.

"Excuse me?"

"Viv," she repeated, wrinkling her nose as a strand came off into her fingers. She sent it fluttering to the floor, and Aberforth sighed.

"Do you mean Viv is coming to visit?"

Ariana seemed proud of his deductive skills when she answered, "Yes, yes, Abe."

"And you couldn't tell me? Or Albus?" he demanded, crossing his arms over his chest. She shrank back slightly, looking guilty, and Aberforth felt a momentary stab in his gut. He let his features soften and went on, "It's okay. When will she be here?" To his dismay, Ariana shrugged, slipping off of the countertop and pulling her dressing gown (well, technically, it was one she'd stolen from Albus) tighter around her.

"Soon, Abe. Soon."

"Well, that does a lot of good," he murmured quietly. "Ari, go wake up Al, please." Ariana nodded and paused in the doorway, watching him.

"What?" he asked, slightly uncomfortable. Her head was cocked to one side, and she seemed to be staring at something inside of him. It was off-putting.

Ariana shook her head, not answering his question. "Al's a silly goose." And with that, she disappeared down the hall.

--

Viv, it turned out, didn't arrive until noon, just as Albus was putting together sandwiches for their lunch. Aberforth, though grudging, did have to admit that Al made bloody great sandwiches. Something about the way he layered the bread and spread the butter— it was one of the few points that he still admired about his brother.

"Ari, would you like cheese?" Albus asked patiently. He seemed in a rather good mood; usually he would have snapped that question at his younger sister. That German boy had come over the day before—maybe that had something to do with it.

"Yes, yes," she said sweetly, bobbing her head up and down.

"Abe?"

"Hmm?"

"Cheese?"

"You know I don't like cheese on my sandwiches," Aberforth grumbled, but only halfheartedly. He was not in the mood to be awful to Albus, especially when Al was being so oddly genial. You didn't bite the hand that fed you, after all.

(He had said that to Ari once, but she had got confused and said that she never bit Al's hand. He gave up after a half hour's worth of explanation and called it a night.)

There was a knock on the door very suddenly, sharp and quick. Ariana jumped up and smacked Albus' hand away when he attempted to move to answer it. Ignoring his scandalized face, Ari carefully undid the lock, her fingers nimble and quick.

"Viv!" she cried in delight; Aberforth caught a slight glimpse of Viv's face before his sister flung her arms around her.

"Good afternoon," Viv said cheerily, stepping into the kitchen. He saw Albus subtly vanish his wand to Merlin-knew-where, and Aberforth cast his eyes around for any moving photographs. Finding the room perfectly magic free, he went over to the counter and busied himself slicing up the cheese for sandwiches. He had been at it for barely a second before Albus nudged his side.

"What?" he asked, aiming the knife with careful precision. He was not used to doing this without magic, after all.

"Go greet Viv."

"Why should I do that?"

He could see Al rolling his eyes. "Because, it's polite."

"But I already know she's here," Aberforth pointed out. "She knows I'm here, I know she's here, and we've both mutually agreed that we are in the same room and that no greeting is needed. Besides, she's annoying."

"She's Ari's friend."

"Point being?"

"Go and say hello," Albus ordered, and before Aberforth could stop him he had taken his arm and yanked him around, shoving him towards the girls.

"I hate you," he mouthed violently at his brother. Al shrugged and went back to the sandwiches. Aberforth, feeling neglected by Albus and not wanting to be forced into conversation with Viv, seated himself beside Ariana at the kitchen table.

"Anyway," Viv continued, not acknowledging his presence, which both contented and displeased him, although he wasn't sure why. "My mother's having a baby sometime soon, so she's an absolute horror to be around most of the time. What about your mother?"

Ariana's face was a sweet blank. "Mama?" Her mouth turned down at the corners, and before Aberforth had a chance to intervene—with some words to their guest that probably would have made the prim and proper Albus freeze in shock—Viv had begun chatting once more just as amiably as she had been before the mention of their mother.

"But that's besides the point, I mean, really. So, do you—or Albus, maybe, he does all the cooking, eh?—know how to make apple pie? My auntie taught me how, it's delicious, especially in the wintertime; I could teach you sometime, you know. Apples grow on nearly every tree around here—"

It took Aberforth almost a full minute of listening to this before he realised that Viv was actively trying to change the subject, instead of just blabbering on and not comprehending the effect her last words had had on Ariana. It took him another moment to place the feeling that had latched on to him, unrecognizable due to its rareness—relief. He was glad he hadn't had to listen to Ari's innocent questions on when Mama was coming home, glad that he and Albus didn't have to promise that she would see Mama again soon, and most of all glad that for once it was not up to him to distract her from her woes.

This made him feel mildly guilty, though he was unsure exactly why. It had always been him who comforted and pleased his sister, and it was a job he enjoyed. After all, Aberforth had always preferred Ariana's company to Albus'. She didn't make him feel like an idiot every time he spoke.

"…you're hair's quite pretty. Why don't you wear ribbons?" Viv's voice interrupted his train of thoughts, but Aberforth was becoming oddly used to this, and took the liberty of saying, "We don't have ribbons."

"Why ever not?"

"Well," he said, casting around for a particular reason why, "well, they aren't necessities, are they?" Unable to contain himself, he glanced at Al, who had turned slightly at the mention of the word necessities; Aberforth couldn't help but feel awfully prideful when Albus' mouthed quirked upwards—his elder brother was forever going on about finances and Gringotts and how some things were necessities. He himself, being fifteen and on vacation from school, had no interest in these matters whatsoever, and it was one of the only things he was forced to trust Albus completely on.

Viv smiled widely. "I've got tons extra. They're really quite cheap. What say, Ariana? Can I do up your hair?"

As a reflex, Ariana looked up at Aberforth for confirmation. After only a moment's hesitation, he nodded and said encouragingly, "Go ahead, Ari." A sweet smile adorning her face, she kissed his cheek and went round the kitchen door, to the hallway. Mockingly, before following Ari, Viv blew him a kiss from the opposite side of the table, sashaying away a moment later.

--

Author's Notes: Yeeeah, I have no excuse for not updating this for so long. But this is as far as I've had written, so there might be a little time before the next update too. Damn that hope I have of not failing math class…