Title: But I'm a Weasley!
Summary: Rose Weasley didn't mean to be different. She didn't intend to stand out in her family. She didn't expect to be Sorted... into Slytherin.
For the full disclaimer, see Chapter 1.
A/N: Soooo sorry for the massively long delay. I've had a really, really bad case of writer's block. The plot ideas just wouldn't come to me! I'm still not super sure about this chapter. It's definitely more about setting up plot arcs than anything else. Hopefully that's enjoyable too!
Chapter 7: Snakes in the Walls
"Thank Merlin Christmas hols are over," groaned Rose, as the train began to move. She fell, with a dramatic sigh of relief, into the seat beside Peony.
"You said it," Peony agreed fervently. "I'm so glad to be going back to Hogwarts."
"What did your family do?" Rose asked, in a tone more appropriate for returning prisoners of war than for first year schoolgirls.
"Ugh, just nonstop, I'm a disgrace to the family, I'm as good as a Muggle-lover, I have no pride in my bloodlines and I'll bring shame on them all if I don't change my ways, blah, blah, blah." Peony sighed. "How about yours?"
"They were just... I don't know... I don't want to talk about it right now," Rose said. Suddenly, 'Dad yelled at me then spent the rest of break apologizing, while my other family members were subtly uncomfortable with me and not very good at hiding it,' seemed like a rather silly reply.
"Both of you need to just come to my house next time."
That came from Liatris, who was sitting across the compartment from them.
Despite leaning on Al's support pretty heavily during the Christmas holidays, Rose still felt kind of torn regarding, well, everyone in her family. So when Asher had arrived to pull Al into one compartment, and Liatris leaned out to invite Rose into a different one, Rose had chosen to join Liatris with an awkward wave goodbye.
"I might just take you up on that." Rose sighed and blew a stray lock of hair out of her eye. "If my parents ever let me stay with a Slytherin."
"Hey, neither of my parents were Slytherins," Liatris pointed out.
"They might accept that," Rose said. "I'll ask sometime."
Scorpius peeked his head into their compartment. "Room in here for three?" he asked.
"Yep!" Liatris assured him happily. He came in and sat down, accompanied by Andrei and, to Rose's delight, Tony Zabini.
"Tony!" she greeted him, doing her best to push away her worries. "How was break?"
All the friends started chatting with each other, and Rose smiled widely and leaned back. She'd been right, that awful day in the woods. Thiswas where she belonged. She felt safe and happy and accepted; she was surrounded by her three best friends, and she had no problems with Scorpius or Andrei, either. The train ride just flew by, and as they made their way from the Hogsmeade station up to the castle, even Aurelia's poisonous looks couldn't dampen Rose's spirit.
Piles of delicious food appeared on the table in front of her, and as she and her friends began serving themselves, they continued filling each other in on their holiday activities. Rose's present caused quite a stir.
"A SilverBullet three-point-oh?" Liatris exclaimed.
"That's a really good broom." Even Andrei sounded impressed.
"So when do we get to see it?" Liatris demanded.
"When you come and visit me over break, or next year," Rose said ruefully.
"You mean you didn't bring it with you?" Tony stared at her like she was crazy.
"First years aren't allowed to have brooms," she pointed out.
Liatris rolled her eyes. "Who cares? That only matters if you're stupid enough to get caught."
Rose sighed. "Unfortunately, before I sneak it into Hogwarts, I first have to sneak it out of my house- or rather, past my Mum. I'll try again after Spring Break, I promise."
Her friends were still rather disgusted with her, or at least with the situation, but they let it go and moved onto new topics.
As she crawled into her bed that night, Peony's bed on one side, Liatris's on the other, and Tony just across the hall, Rose was startled to find she was overwhelmed with a sense of homecoming.
"I have to tell you, Tony, I'm a bit insulted."
Tony looked up, surprised by Peony's words. "What?" he asked, bewildered. "Why?"
Rose was equally mystified. The three friends were in the common room, finishing some last-minute homework (or, in Rose's case, reviewing the finished assignments for mistakes), when Peony had spoken out of the blue.
Peony smiled a little, to take the sting out. "You didn't visit me over the holidays."
"Uh... I didn't know I was supposed to," Tony answered, nervously.
"Well, not supposed to. I just thought that since your father came to our house, that you'd come along with him," she said.
Tony blinked. "When was my father at your house?"
It was Peony's turn to look confused. "The day before Christmas eve," she answered. "Didn't you know?"
He shook his head slowly. "He told us he had a business meeting that day."
"Why is that so weird?" Rose spoke up. "I mean, he might have had a business meeting with Peony's parents... right?"
She trailed off uncertainly as she saw her friends shaking their heads, looking very confident that was impossible.
"My father works for the Ministry, in International Magical Cooperation," Tony explained. "He has no reason to do business with store owners."
"Why wouldn't he tell you?" Peony wondered. "He knows we're friends. And it's not like with you, Rose. Tony and me being friends is considered entirely appropriate." She smiled apologetically.
Rose waved a hand. Peony didn't say anything she didn't already know, after all, and this mystery was starting to sound interesting.
"Was he the only one who came to your house?" Rose asked.
Peony shook her head. "No, there was... I mean, I guess it was a holiday party? But now that I think about it, things were a little... odd."
"Odd how?" Tony finally prodded her.
Peony shook her head and looked around. Nobody seemed to be listening, but this was Slytherin house. It wouldn't do to discuss such things in the open.
"I've heard about a new hidden room," Rose murmured, catching on immediately. "Someone showed it to Marion over Christmas, and she told me about it."
This one wasn't connected to the Common Room, but instead let in through a trap door towards the far end of the corridor towards the fifth year girls' dormitory. Rose lifted her foot and brought it down four times upon one stone towards the side of the floor, once light one, twice hard, then once light again- stomp STOMP STOMP stomp- and a smallish, square hole appeared in the floor.
"How many of these rooms are there?" Tony wondered, as they climbed down the stone ladder.
"No idea," said Peony. "A lot, I think. I heard that some of these secret rooms have other secret rooms attached to them."
"Only in Slytherin," Rose said, shaking her head and laughing, as she got to the bottom of the ladder and jumped down to the floor.
"So what couldn't you tell us in the Common Room?" Tony asked, settling into a chair. The room was dark, as there were no windows, and the only light came from torches lining the walls.
"Oh, ah. Just the people who came to the Christmas party. They weren't Mum's usual friends," she said slowly. "They were all purebloods, of course, but a lot of them weren't up to her usual standards. Families who lost their fortune in the war, or were poor before that, or whose family names just aren't impressive enough. You know the people I mean," she said to Tony. "Most of them had never been in my house before, except your father and a few others."
"Huh." Tony's forehead wrinkled in thought. "That is really odd."
"What do you think it means?" Rose asked.
Her two friends looked at each other and shrugged.
"Haven't the faintest idea," said Peony.
Rose attended the first couple of History of Magic classes of the new term, just in case she missed something important. As she'd expected, the very idea was silly. As she sat at the back of the classroom she couldn't quite tune out Binns's monotone, the sound of which somehow made studying for other classes seem boring as well. Finally she leaned back and looked around at the other students.
Scorpius and Tony were right in front of her, and they were fairly earnestly whispering and scribbling out notes to each other. For lack of anyplace else to direct her attention, Rose leaned across the aisle to catch a glimpse of what Tony was writing about.
To her surprise, the moment she tried peering over, Tony slammed his book down over the note and looked back at her sharply. Rose gave him a weird look, especially since his ink had been wet and covering it like that would smear the whole thing.
"What's your problem?" Rose whispered with an eye roll. "Do you really think I care if you're passing notes? I don't usually even attend this class."
"That was a private note from me to Scorpius," Tony hissed back at her. "Just mind your own business."
Rose sat back, hurt. Tony saw her expression and looked apologetic, and then like he just didn't know what to say or do. Finally he settled on a little shrug and a quiet, "I'm sorry," before he turned back around to face the front.
As that was the only interesting thing to happen in all of History of Magic, Rose subsequently resumed her usual habit of cutting that class. This time, however, she revealed her stash of copied notes to Peony, and asked if her best friend wanted to join her in the unsanctioned free period.
"Absolutely!" Peony said enthusiastically. She grinned. "That class is so boring."
So it was decided. The next Monday, as Rose ducked away from the rest of her class on their way from Defense Against the Dark Arts to History of Magic, she grabbed Peony's hand so they could escape together.
"A break after Defense is exactly what I need," Peony whispered happily.
"Oh, I know, right?" Rose sighed. "I'm always so annoyed after Defense. Bradley is such a prat."
"You're not kidding," Peony agreed. "So, what are we going to do during our free period?"
The redhead shrugged. "I usually do whatever I do during my free time," she answered. "Reading, homework, whatever."
"What?" Peony shook her head. "You shouldn't cut class to read, let alonedo homework! You should do something interesting when you cut class."
She considered. "Like exploring the hidden rooms of Slytherin," she suggested. "Minta gave me some hints on where to find some of the secret-rooms-inside-secret-rooms."
Actually, that sounded quite interesting to Rose.
"I've actually found some spells that might help," she said. "I wonder if there are any accounts of the magic Slytherins used when they created all the secret places?"
"There certainly wouldn't be in the Hogwarts library," Peony answered. "No self-respecting Slytherin would ever put our House business somewhere anyone could find it."
"Is there a special Slytherin library?"
"Not that I know of," said Peony. "But I mean, this is Slytherin we're talking about. Anything's possible. And of course, most of the old families have their own private library."
"So if anyone did write about creating these rooms, it'd be in a Slytherin family's library?" Rose asked thoughtfully.
"It's the best place I can think of, anyway," Peony answered. "So is that the book you were talking about?"
Rose, who had been rummaging around in her trunk for the books she hadn't yet unpacked onto her shelf, had just pulled out one of them with a satisfied expression.
"Yes," she said. "Where do you want to try first?"
"Why not right here?" Peony suggested. "If there's a secret room right in our dormitory, I want to know about it!"
This was a solid point, so Rose opened up the book and leafed through until she found the page she was looking for.
"Revelio!" she intoned, flicking her wrist.
Peony looked disappointed with nothing happened, but Rose just laughed.
"Did you think it would be that easy?" she asked. "Don't worry, there are plenty more spells to try... and plenty more places to look."
Even Rose's spirits flagged a bit as several months passed without any major breakthrough, but she wasn't going to give up. At least along the way they'd found assorted hidden compartments here and there; nothing particularly exciting once they got past the thrill of discovery, but just cool enough to keep them going.
By then, Peony and Tony had mostly forgotten about the mystery of the Greengrass family's stranger holiday visitors. Without any new riddles to pour over, they seemed content to let it go, or at least stop thinking about it until they had reason.
Rose, on the other hand, found herself obsessing over it. Obviously something strange was going on, and if Peony's parents felt the need to keep it a secret, it could be pretty bad. It wasn't as though like they tried to censor themselves when it came to things generally considered "horrible" by decent people.
But how to figure out what they were doing? It's not like it was something she could look up in the library. How had her parents and Uncle Harry learned enough about what was going on to foil plots, anyway?
"Do you think Professor Bole knows anything?" Rose asked one morning, as she and Peony were inspecting the Fourth Year boys' dorm rooms in their mission to find Secret Things That Are Cool.
"I've told you, I don't know." Peony sounded frustrated. Rose kept asking questions like this, even though it never really did any good. She just couldn't accept there was no way to learn what she wanted to know. "Yes, Aunt Daphne came to our house, but she always does for Christmas, that's not strange. And Aurelia's parents were there too, but again, that's normal."
"But the people who visited that were out of place," Rose persisted. "Some of them must have children. Did you know who any of them were? Do you know any that have children at Hogwarts?"
Peony sighed and looked up from her inspection of the boys' wardrobes. She looked frustrated. "Probably, but I'm not sure. I mean, if I know someone's kids, then that's because it's normal for them to come to my house. So if I know who their children are, then they aren't the people who are suspicious."
"I thought purebloods were all into knowing family lines and stuff like that?" Rose asked, as she readied her wand for the next revealing spell.
Her friend shrugged. "Not if they consider those families beneath them. Then it's not really worth knowing, now is it?"
"That's a stupid way to do it," Rose said crossly. "You never know when that knowledge is going to be useful."
"Go tell it to the Ravenclaws," Peony smirked.
Besides her clandestine quest with Peony, Rose's life that winter was fairly uneventful, or at least as uneventful as is possible when living someplace like Hogwarts. She was doing well in all of her classes, of course. Professor Bole kept being nasty to Al and the other Gryffindors, and Professor Bradley kept pretending that Rose and the rest of the Slytherins didn't exist.
Tony and Scorpius seemed to be scheming something together, but that was only to be expected in Slytherin.
She went to almost all the Weasley teas with Neville, and supposed she was getting on fairly well with the rest of her family. Molly didn't say any more really nasty things to Rose, but then again she wasn't really talking to Rose at all anymore. She seemed to get more and more agitated around her Slytherin cousin as time went by, rather than less, but with what was probably Herculean effort she kept her mouth shut.
Never in Rose's life, however, had she spent as little time with Albus as she did that winter. They found time to hang out now and then, but with different common rooms, a different class schedule, and a different circle of friends, it was something of an uphill battle.
It was a little sad; Albus had been her best friend since they'd been in diapers, after all. So one evening she decided that her place in Slytherin was secure enough that she could sit with her cousin at the Gryffindor table during dinner.
Peony and Liatris just shrugged when Rose told them that she'd be sitting with the Gryffindors that evening, but for some reason Tony and, bizarrely, Scorpius insisted on flanking her.
"This really isn't necessary," Rose said. "Tony, you like Al, you know I don't need your protection."
"I do like Al," Tony agreed. "Maybe I'm joining you because I'd like to hang out with him tonight, too."
"Well then, what's your excuse?" she asked Scorpius. "You're not friends with any of the Gryffindors."
"Exactly. I don't trust them not to try something."
"Why do you even careif they try something?" Rose asked. She and Scorpius got along just fine, but she really didn't think they weren't close enough to engender this kind of protectiveness from him.
"I won't let them mess with Slytherin, and messing with you is messing with all of us," Scorpius said expansively. "I will defend the honor of our House."
She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Why are you pretending to be a Gryffindor?" she asked.
Scorpius looked affronted. "I'm doing no such thing!"
Rose rolled her eyes and gave up. She let them follow her to the Gryffindor table.
"Hi, Rose," Al greeted her, looking a little confused. She hadn't told him about her plans for this evening. He looked even more puzzled as he saw her companions. "Hey, Tony, and, uh, Scorpius. Uh, what's up?"
"Tony and I decided we'd like to eat with you at the Gryffindor table, if that's okay," Rose said.
"Of course it is!" exclaimed Al, scooting over to make room. He hesitated slightly as he added, "And, uh, Scorpius too?"
The blond boy grinned evilly as he took a seat and said, in an oddly pointed kind of way, "We Slytherins are a package. If you have Rose around, you get the rest of us, too."
Rose followed his gaze, and saw that he was smirking at Molly, an eyebrow raised in smug challenge.
Molly turned red and pointed looked away from him. Rose could see a vein throbbing on her head, as usually happened to a furious Weasley.
"Scorpius," she said, with a frown.
"What?" he asked, the picture of innocence.
She just sighed.
She meant to talk to him later, and tell him that it wasn't funny to bait Molly like that. But she kept feeling awkward about scolding him about that- because he was the leader of the boys, because actually it wasrather funny, and especially because he had every right to be hurt by what she'd said.
So Rose just let it go.
"I can't believe how cold it is!" Peony exclaimed, shivering as they entered the empty common room. She pulled her cloak tighter around herself.
"They really need to heat the dungeons better," Rose agreed. "But at least the fireplace is open!"
The friends scrambled to situate themselves as close to the roaring fire as possible.
Rose looked over the fireplace with absent-minded interest as they chatted. She didn't often get the chance to sit by it for very long, since in the wintertime the dungeons got quite chilly, and the chairs near the hot fireplace were a precious commodity. Even if a first year like Rose found a vacant seat, an upperclassman would kick them out within a few minutes. In Slytherin, seniority mattered.
The mantelpiece was everything one would expect for the Slytherin rooms, large, ornate, and carved both expansively and intricately. Underneath it, the fire crackled and popped. It seemed to Rose that it rather gave off more heat than a regular fire; she wouldn't be at all surprised if it had been magically enhanced. If only it had been charmed to spread the warmth throughout the entire dungeon!
A flash of silver caught her eye.
"Hey, what's that?" she said, pointing as she tried to lean closer without getting burnt.
"What's what?" Peony asked, peering into the fireplace as well.
"That little silver mark, towards the back of the fireplace."
Peony followed where her friend was pointing. "Huh," she said. "That's strange. It's hard to tell from back here, but it almost looks like a little snake."
"Only one way to find out," Rose said, pulling out her wand and pointing it at the fire. "AGUAMENTI!"
A stream of water exploded from the end of her wand, extinguishing the fire.
"Did you have to do that?" Peony said, annoyed, as she pulled her cloak tighter around herself. "It's way too freezing to put out the fire!"
"Sorry," Rose mumbled, as she got to her knees and crawled into the fireplace, searching for the silver mark that had gotten their attention. "That's weird."
"It's not here," Rose said. "That silver snake thing."
"Let me look," Peony said. Her friend pulled herself out of the fireplace, and Peony stuck her head in. It was gone.
"I wonder why?" Rose said, contemplatively.
Peony wrinkled her nose at her hands and knees, now cold and dirty from the wet charcoal. "I don't know," she said, pulling out her wand and performing a quick cleaning charm, "but let's get the fire going again. It's way too cold in here."
"Uh oh," Rose said, and looked sheepish.
Peony raised her eyebrow. "'Uh-oh'?"
"I'm not sure how to start a real fire if the wood is wet," she explained, accidentally.
Peony sighed and pointed her wand at the fireplace. "Incendio!" she cried.
It didn't produce a fire, but the air felt steamier, and the wet logs were somewhat warmer and drier. She cast 'Incendio' two more times, and each time the wood was drier and drier. On her fourth try, she finally managed to set them alight, and in a few minutes the fire was burning merrily.
"Good thinking," Rose said. "I really need to learn the extinguishing spell. Hey, the snake is back!"
She pointed, and sure enough, there it was.
"I swear, it wasn't there when the fire was out," Peony said.
"No, it definitely wasn't," Rose agreed.
"Don't cast aguamenti again!" Peony said quickly.
Rose laughed. "I won't." She looked thoughtful, then her eyes lit up.
"You have an idea?" Peony asked.
Rose nodded, and cast the flame-freezing charm on the fire.
"Couldn't you have done that in the first place?"
The redhead shrugged sheepishly. "Didn't think of it," she admitted. She leaned into the fireplace, and started giggling.
"It tickles!" Rose squirmed uncomfortably as she forced herself to look at the back of the fireplace.
"Well, is the snake there?"
"It is!" She reached out to touch it, and as she did, the back wall of the fireplace made a groaning sound. It pushed back, slowly, until there was enough room for Rose to crawl through the space where the corners used to be.
"Peony!" she called. "We found something! Come in after me!"
Rose scrambled to her feet and performed a cleaning charm on herself as she waited for her friend to follow her. After Peony emerged into the new room, the brick square that was the other side of the fireplace slid back into place, leaving a plain brick wall behind them.
They looked around the room. It was fairly normal looking, but there was one feature that clearly overpowered everything else.
"That's really disturbing," Rose said, staring at a painting upon the wall.
It was a huge painting, dominating an entire wall of the room. On it was another room, not so different from this one, with a gigantic snake slithering about it.
Slithering and hissing.
"Are paintings of snakes supposed to hiss?" Peony asked. "Only there's this painting in my sitting room at home, my great great grandmother sitting on a horse. And shecan talk, of course, but the horse has never made any noise. Come to think of it, there are portraits with dogs, and it's the same thing. I've never heard them bark."
Rose studied the painting intently. It was a good thing she wasn't scared of snakes, because if she were, the way this one kept twisting about, sometimes glancing right at her as though it knew she was there, would have sent her screaming from the room instantly.
"Well," Rose said. "I've never heard any animals in a painting make noise, either. But then again, I have tons of photographs of family and friends, and even though they're people they can't talk. Same with pictures in books."
"Ugh, can you imagine if those wizards in our History of Magic books were droning on and on as we tried to read about them? It would be so annoying."
Rose shrugged. "Or cool. They were actually there, after all, they'd probably have a fascinating perspective."
Up on the wall, the snake slithered. It flickered its tongue and looked straight at Rose, and again hissed eerily.
"True, but how often have you found a portrait that actually has interesting things to say?" Peony pointed out. "All the ones I know are more like echoes. They only have the very surface."
Rose nodded. "That's true. Though my Uncle Harry still likes to go and talk to that portrait of Dumbledore up in the Headmaster's office sometimes. So maybe some of them are special."
"Okay, so this one is special," Peony said. "But why? Why have a secret room with a huge painting of a hissing snake?"
"Well, this is Slytherin."
Peony rolled her eyes. "Yes, it is, but fond as we are of snakes, why make it actually hiss when animals in paintings usually don't? There's got to be some reason."
"And we'll figure it out," Rose said, confidently. She leaned back against the wall and crossed her arms, studying the picture thoughtfully.
Easter holidays arrived.
This time, Rose got down from Hogwarts Express with her friends. Their families probably weren't any more comfortable with the situation, but Rose had been in Slytherin for over half a year now, and a lot of the novelty had worn off for her and her fellow students.
It wasn't hard to spot the Weasleys at Platform 9 ¾. The Weasleys might not be quite so monochromatic as they once were—none of the aunts or uncles who married into the family had red hair, except for Uncle Percy's wife—but in a group, they still looked like one great mass of redheads.
Rose was turning to her friends, about to say goodbye, when Peony grabbed her arm so tightly that Rose let out a yelp.
"Ow!" she exclaimed. "What-"
"Him!" Peony hissed, pointing urgently across the platform.
Rose was confused. "Who?" she asked, following her friend's finger. "What, Pierce?"
Pierce Wilkes was a second-year Slytherin, kind of a bully but usually civil enough to Rose and her friends.
"No," Peony whispered. "His father. He was one of the people over at my house over Christmas. Whatever my parents are doing, he's a part of it."
Rose's eyes widened as she looked from her friend to the tall, weedy-looking man that was Mr. Wilkes.
They had a clue.