For the Next-Gen Challenge.
"I have a boyfriend," Roxane announces quietly. Around her, inevitably, shrieks and questions erupt, engulfing her in excited chatter.
"What's he like?" Victoire asks, propping her chin on her elbow from where she stands behind her and Teddy's kitchen counter.
"What's his name?" Rose inquires, ever practical. She leans against the doorframe, eyebrows raised.
"Is he sexy?" Lucy says mischievously. She hops up onto the table, pouts, and puts her hands on her well-developed hips.
"Have you slept with him yet?" Dominique asks, sounding too innocent. She examines her sharp, pointy red nails for lack of something else to do.
"Where'd you meet?" Molly asks eagerly, twisting around from where she stands by the counter. She's the only one who's started cooking, and the beginnings of cake batter lie abandoned behind her.
"Has he told you all his deepest, darkest secrets?" Lily queries from where she stands, elbows on the counter and ankles crossed neatly. She is the youngest girl allowed at this conference.
It's a tradition Victoire started a few years ago: every so often, usually a Sunday, she'll have everyone (all the cousins) over for the day, and the girls will make dinner and gossip while the guys lounge around talking about Quidditch and girls. Teddy, who is Victoire's husband of five years, Uncle Harry's godson, and father (so far) of Harry Arthur and Gabriella Nymphadora Lupin, is technically in charge of the guys, but typically, in practice, James handles that end of things. This always works out fairly well.
"Are you in love with him?" Altaira, James's wife of three years, asks shrewdly. She's standing near the food, or what will become the food, arms folded across her chest and eyes narrowed.
"I hope you're being careful," Lottie, Albus's steady girlfriend, comments drily. She's holding the milk in one hand and an egg in the other, obviously about to help with the cooking. Her blue eyes sparkle.
"How old is he?" Inga, Fred's steady girlfriend, asks casually, idly examining a few strands of her long black hair. She's leaning against the cupboards and looking perilously close to bored.
Roxane closes her eyes briefly. She has known this question will come up. It's why she hasn't said anything for so long. It figures, she thinks bitterly, that The Question has come from Inga, who isn't even family—not yet, not properly. If she marries Fred, Roxane knows she'll have to get over this prejudice. It's not that Inga was in Slytherin, because so was Altaira, so is Lily, and Roxane doesn't have a problem with them. Something about Inga just pushes Roxane's buttons.
"Well," Roxane says slowly, "He's smart and kind and wise and sexy and wonderful; I met him at work—he came up with this great new cure for post-traumatic stress, which, as you all know, is my area of expertise—preliminary testing has been very favorable, it could be an important breakthrough—and, you know, we talked about it, and then we went and got coffee, and, well, things kind of got going from there. His name is Newt Scamander."
Predictably, everyone in the room shrieks. Roxane winces, thinking, with her luck, Teddy and James will come rushing in, assuming Voldemort has returned, and start hexing the cake batter.
Luckily, her male relatives refrain from doing anything so ill-advised. The truth is, they're used to hearing screams when this many Weasley women get together.
"Newt Scamander?" Victoire says delicately. "Isn't he…?"
"Aunt Luna's brother-in-law?" finishes Dominique. She laughs cruelly. "You go, girl!"
Lily's eyes are wide. "Wow," she breathes. "Are you for real, Roxy? I mean, isn't Newt Scamander really…?"
"Old?" finishes Molly.
"And here I thought my family was screwed up," says Altaira drily.
"What are you going to do?" Lucy asks, looking worried. "Uncle George and Auntie Angel are going to flip!"
Rose, eyes narrowed and mouth set, has clearly been thinking. Now she speaks up. "I have an idea."
Roxane breathes a sigh of relief. If Rose has an idea, things can't be too bad. Rose is brilliant, after all.
"Do tell," Lottie encourages. She's looking much too amused for Roxane's taste.
"Invite him over for dinner," instructs Rose. "With the whole family. Don't tell them who he is first. That way, they won't have time to scold you until after he's charmed them, and maybe they won't be so mad."
"Yeah, right," Dominique says casually, examining her nails again. They look too sharp to touch. "You are going to be in so much trouble."
Roxane bites back the words—'I'm nineteen, I've got a job, helping people, my own apartment, and plenty of N.E.W.T.s—I can do what I please'—and shrugs, pretending not to care.
"Shall we?" Lottie asks, cracking the egg over the mixing bowl with professional grace.
Roxane sighs, and Summons her favorite cookbook.
"I'm dating Newt Scamander," Roxane repeats patiently. Her brother, Fred, looks at her like she's crazy.
"He's old, and Aunt Luna's brother-in-law, which is a little awkward, don't you think—and really old!" Fred protests.
Roxane crosses her arms stubbornly, and leans against the counter. They're in her kitchen, waiting for Newt and their parents to arrive. Roxane has decided that she'll cook. Victoire is a motivational example.
She's been to Diagon Alley, shopping for ingredients, and she left work early, cutting off her last patient in mid-sentence when the appointment was over, just so she can fix this dinner. It's going to be the best dinner ever. The last thing she needs is to give her parents more ammunition.
Behind her, the soup boils cheerfully, and the potatoes skin themselves over the sink.
Fred glares at her. "This isn't part of some huge rebellion thing, is it?" he asks suspiciously. "You've always been so opinionated."
This is true: hence Roxane's career choice of counselor to those who've suffered. War veterans are her specialty (probably because of her parents). When she was three years old, she declared she was going to save the world. Her aspirations haven't changed appreciably since then.
She sighs now. "No, Fred," she explains. "I really like Newt. This isn't a rebellion. This is about me. I want them to be happy for me, but if they're not, that's their problem."
"Then why the big family dinner thing? I can't believe you didn't even invite Grandma Molly and Grandpa Arthur, or maybe Uncle Harry, to act as mediator."
"It's just time, you know?" Roxane tries to explain. "Time for Mum and Dad to finally start taking me seriously."
"What, you mean as an adult?" Fred asks, tone would-be casual.
"No," Roxane says. She takes a deep breath. "As a person, Fred."
He stares at her. "What do you mean?"
"You know exactly what I mean. You realize I invented the Inner Net? Adapted the Muggle version to suit our culture when I was fourteen? I got more N.E.W.T.s than anyone else in the entire family except Rose—or I will have once she actually takes them this spring. I even created my own career! Before the war, there weren't exactly a lot of psychoanalysts around, you know! Why do you think I became one? Honestly."
Roxane stares her big brother down, while he shifts uncomfortably. "Salary was good?" he suggests at last.
Roxane, ignoring for the moment the fact that the salary is good, actually, because she's always getting rich purebloods less proud than the Malfoys who, after seeing her confidentiality promise, inevitably open up to her about years of mental and physical abuse, unrealistic, ultimately impossible expectations, skeletons in the closet (sometimes literally), and living up to their Family Name, loses her temper.
She knows she shouldn't, knows that she and Fred have practiced a strict no-talking-about-this-EVER policy since they were old enough to know about it, knows that Fred may not be ready for the truth about their parents and that, behind her, the soup may explode if she makes one wrong move—but she's lived her whole life with this one big absolutely, one-hundred-percent taboo subject, and she's not sure she can take it anymore.
"BECAUSE OF MUM AND DAD!" she screams. "BECAUSE THEY ONLY GOT TOGETHER AFTER THE MAN MUM WAS IN LOVE WITH, DAD'S TWIN BROTHER, DIED! BECAUSE FOR YEARS, I WONDERED WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH ME, WHILE THEY WATCHED YOU AND DEMANDED THINGS OF YOU AND LOVED YOU—WHAT ABOUT ME?!?"
She stops to catch her breath. Fred stares at her in horror. "Roxy," he says gently, "I never knew you felt that way. Mum and Dad don't love me more than you!"
"Don't they?" she demands, no longer yelling, but now with an icy, bitter tone that sends shivers up Fred's spine.
"No, no, how can you even think—? Look," Fred says slowly, turning away from Roxane and staring unseeingly at the window. "It's not all it's cracked up to be, being named for the one person your parents loved more than anything else in the world."
Roxane doesn't say anything, afraid, if she does, she'll break the mood and Fred'll go back to his customary brave, unstoppable big brother attitude.
"It's just—I guess, from the outside, it looks like they're paying me all the attention," Fred says. "But the truth is, they don't even know the real me. You know I didn't do as well on my N.E.W.T.s as I could have—you don't know why. I've always felt like I have to be another Uncle Fred for them, you know? And he didn't even take any N.E.W.T.s. He got three O.W.L.s and dropped out of school. I stuck it out for N.E.W.T.s, but I tried to do how well Uncle Fred could've done, at his best. I make jokes all the time when I'm with Mum and Dad, and I hate it. I hate being the center of attention, and I can't think up anything funny on my own—James writes things down for me and then I try and tell them the way he would. When Mum and Dad look at me, all they see is Uncle Fred. At least with you, you get to be your own person."
Wow. Roxane never knew Fred felt that way. The detached, professional part of her mind isn't surprised, though. Still—"are you saying you've never rebelled?" she challenges. "What about Inga? The Slytherin girlfriend?"
"That's different," Fred says at once, and now he's retreating into himself again. "Inga and I are private."
"Is it like, when she's with you, you can't believe there's anyone else in the world but the two of you? Like she's the sky to your earth, the candle-flame to your shadow? Does she make you want to be a better person, just to deserve all this happiness? Even when you're arguing with her and she's driving you crazy, do you still know you want the rest of your life to be with her?"
"Yeah," Fred says, softly. "Yeah, it's exactly like that." He sounds awed.
"Then," Roxane grins at him through the tears she didn't even notice. "I guess I'll have to learn to like her."
"You love Newt," Fred doesn't ask.
So Roxane doesn't answer—just brushes impatiently at her cheeks with a corner of her apron, tucks a strand of bright red hair behind her ear, and turns to check on the soup. She grabs a mixing bowl, thinking she'll make some cake; she and Fred deserve a treat after all that raw emotion.
"Mind if I bring Inga tonight?" Fred asks. "Family should stick together."
"Sure," Roxane agrees, bowing to the inevitable.
Although it's Roxane's place, somehow her parents end up at either end of the table. That she might have believed was a coincidence, except that they arrange it so she's sitting next to Fred and across from Inga, who is next to Newt.
"So," her father says, after an awkward silence. "What do you do, Newt?"
"I'm a psychoanalyst, like Roxane," Next says casually. Roxane wonders how he can seem so completely at his ease. "I work with people who've suffered."
"We've all suffered," drawls Inga. "Celestina Warbeck's new song alone—"
"And what are your intentions toward my daughter?" Roxane's mother says, completely derailing any sort of normal conversation. Inga shuts up and looks down at her plate, clearly wishing to be somewhere else.
Roxane can't quite believe her ears. Since when does her mother call her 'my daughter'? Is this the affection she's been looking for?
Newt doesn't even blink, bless him. He's got more sangfroid than anyone else Roxane has ever met.
"I'm in love with Roxane, Mrs. Weasley," Newt says. "I don't know where that's going to take us—maybe we'll even get married someday. But that's between Roxane and me."
There's a long pause. Roxane's mind is whirling. Married? She's nineteen! Which, technically, is only about three years younger than her parents were when they got married, and about the same age as Uncle Harry when he and Auntie Ginny were married. But still! She knows why that was—wars always make people want to get married. She's studied the phenomenon.
This is different.
"So," Fred says, voice full of false cheer. "Heard the one about the hag, the wizard, and the frog?"
"That was intense," Roxane breathes, leaning against Newt's shoulder. He smells of old smoke and soap. She winds her arms around his waist and breathes him in. "Thanks," she says softly, "for putting up with them."
"No problem," Newt answers, stroking her Weasley red hair soothingly.
They're silent for a moment.
"Did you mean what you said?" Roxane asks, before she can chicken out. "About us getting married?"
"I'm not trying to rush you, if that's what you mean," Newt replies. His fingers tighten in her hair, though, and Roxane has a wry smile for that. "I'm older than you—you're just starting out in life."
"That's just silly," Roxane says.
Newt laughs. "Well—I did mean it, for what it's worth. I love you, Roxane."
Roxane leans up and kisses him, putting into it all the passion she still can't quite bring herself to voice. Newt seems to understand, though.
"Roxy!" calls Fred, and Roxane breaks away reluctantly.
"What?" she calls back. Her parents have departed, but Fred and Inga very thoughtfully volunteered to clean up.
Fred appears, holding a dirty dishcloth and a plate, and says, leaning against the doorframe, "Mum told me she thought Newt here was going to be really good for you. Kind of anti-climactic, don't you think?"
Roxane shrugs. "I don't care."
Fred frowns at her, but doesn't comment. "And—get this!—Dad actually said my joke was funny! Made it up on the spot and everything."
"It was funny!" calls Inga from the kitchen. "You just need to have faith in yourself!"
"That's good," says Roxane, smiling and punching Fred lightly on the shoulder. "See? You're a funny guy."
"Yeah, ha-ha," Fred grins. "Hey, Roxy?" he says, just before turning to go back into the kitchen.
"If you ever figure our parents out—you let me know."