As a rule, Rose Weasley had very little to do with Slytherin House.
She didn't avoid Slytherin House because of its old reputation. She avoided it because she simply didn't like the qualities that defined Slytherins very much. Whatever Albus and her mother said – and they had quite a bit to say on the subject – their calculating tendencies were downright unnatural.
Gryffindors, on the other hand, were much more sensible. They did things because they wanted to, not because they thought it would get them something later. They had courage. They had nerve.
Which was why they were going to stomp the rest of the school in Quidditch again this year.
That is, assuming her teammates didn't kill her first.
Rose had been working with her friend Natalia Jordan on their Herbology assignment in the library when Natalia had asked whether Quidditch practice had been canceled.
Rose, who had not been paying very close attention to the time and consequently thought it was significantly earlier than it actually was, had cursed, stuffed her books, parchment, and quill into her bag, and beat a hasty retreat to Gryffindor Tower.
She was almost fifteen minutes late by the time she burst into the changing room. James was sitting backwards in the chair he and their cousin Roxanne had charmed two years before in honour of his being made captain. The lions that had at one point been stationary decorations were prowling up across the back of the seat; they seemed to have picked up James's impatience.
"Sorry," Rose panted, slumping against the wall next to the door and trying to catch her breath.
"Thank you for finally joining us." James's voice was flat. Rose rarely saw him without a grin on his face, but he took Quidditch very seriously.
"You're welcome." She dropped onto the wooden bench closest to the door and waited for him to start.
One of the lions had settled onto the back of James's chair. It watched them as he started talking, flicking its tail around and occasionally craning its neck to look up at the dark-haired captain.
James ran a hand through his dark hair. It was already very messy; if he'd been messing it up that much, he must have been even more irritated with Rose's tardiness than he'd showed. "We've got a great team. A winning team. I don't need to tell you that."
"But we love to hear it," their cousin Roxanne said. She was leaning forward intently, the braids she'd been toying with when Rose walked in gathered into a loose bun and completely forgotten. Rose was still not sure whether James had appointed Roxanne as his unofficial co-captain or whether Roxanne had appointed herself, but either way, they made a very good team. They had been Beaters on the team since their second year, and Rose personally thought that they were brilliant.
James smirked. "And I love to say it. At any rate, since we're obviously shoe-ins to win this year as well, I just want to put you all on notice: I want us to set records that no one will ever beat. I want us to be remembered as the best team this school has ever seen." He pounded his fist into his palm. "Now, I know that on most teams, I wouldn't need to say this, but please, let's avoid serious transgressions for the week or so preceding the match. I really don't need anyone in detention for a game."
"What if we're absolutely sure that we won't get caught?" Roxanne asked. Her dark brown eyes were shining in anticipation, and Rose wondered what plans she and James had already hatched; they'd only gotten back to school a few weeks before, but her cousins never did like to wait.
"Then I have to wonder why I'm not there with you," James shot back, and she laughed. He swung one leg over the back of the chair and stood. "Come on, we've lost enough daylight as it is, thanks to Rose."
"I really am sorry," Rose told him as they grabbed their broomsticks and followed the rest of the team out the door. "I was trying to finish an essay and lost track of time."
He reached out and ruffled her hair. "Just don't let it happen again." He kicked off.
She laughed and did the same. James really was one of her favorite cousins.
When they trooped into the dining hall several hours later, Roxanne and James were both covered in dirt. They had taken a break halfway through practice to imitate some of the less talented and more slow-witted Beaters they'd known in their time at Hogwarts. They'd each landed in the dirt at least twice. Neither of them seemed to care.
The rest of the team peeled off to sit with friends toward quickly, but Rose continued up the table until she found her cousin Albus with some of their friends.
She poked him. "Hey, squeeze over." He inched closer to Colleen Macmillan, and she sat down between him and Alex Finnigan.
Albus handed her a plate. "Here, I saved you some food."
The steam of the potatoes and carrots wafted up as she took the plate, and she inhaled deeply. "Thanks, Al."
He smiled. "You're welcome. How was practice?"
"Good," she said, beginning to shovel food into her mouth.
"Do you think we might have a chance of winning this year?" She glanced at Alex, who'd asked the question; he had a smile on his face.
Rose swallowed before responding. "Oh, I think we've got half a shot. I'm going to be busy, though - maybe I'll just give up sleeping. Why did they make me a prefect, again?"
He squeezed her arm gently. The show of sympathy didn't last very long; he quickly added, "Better you than me!"
After a few more minutes of idle conversation, the empty platters were replaced with cakes, pies, and biscuits.
Their fellow fifth years finished dessert before she was even finished with dinner and headed back up to Gryffindor tower, but Albus kept her company until she'd had her fill. By that time, the Great Hall was nearly deserted, and she sighed. "I should probably finish my Herbology essay, huh?"
"Probably," said Albus. "Do you want to join me in the library?"
She looked at him suspiciously. "Who will you be with?" She, James, and Roxanne might be discriminating about their company, but you could never tell what kind of people Albus would be working with.
He rolled his eyes at her. "You know, if you just gave people half a chance—"
That meant Slytherins. "See, this is why I ask."
"Your mother would be very disappointed in you." The expression on his face said that her mother was not the only one.
She groaned. She hated it when he tried to guilt her. It usually worked. "Just tell me who."
Of course it was. Of all of Albus's Slytherin friends, Scorpius Malfoy was by far her least favorite. He always seemed to manage to find a way to get under her skin. At this point, she was pretty sure he did it on purpose. "Al, I'm really not in the mood to—"
"Rose, you can be such a bigot. You know, not everyone in Slytherin—"
She put her fingers in her ears. "I can't hear you." She swung her legs over the bench and walked away. "Bye!"
When she glanced back, he'd turned his attention back to his plate. His red hair drooped down and hid some of his expression, but his body language as he pushed a slice of pie across his plate was clear. She felt a stab of guilt.
The guilt only intensified as she took a much-needed bath to wash the sweat and dirt off. By the time she'd finished and gathered up the schoolwork she needed to get done, she was seriously considering going to meet him, however much she disliked his friend.
She sighed and went back down the steps to the common room. James and Roxanne were sitting near the fire; when they saw her, they waved her over, and she collapsed into one of the armchairs.
"Albus off with his other friends?" James asked.
Rose wrinkled her nose as she tried to braid her wet hair. It wasn't working very well; she would forever be envious of Roxanne, who - when she wasn't wearing her hair in dozens of small braids, anyway - could always manage to reach back and braid her kinky curls neatly and quickly. "Yeah… I just don't get it. I feel bad, but I just don't get it."
Roxanne watched her struggle for a minute and then rolled her eyes. "Come here," she said, patting the couch. James scooted over to give her room, and Rose said down with her back to Roxanne, who took hold of her hair and began to separate it into three parts.
"I guess he's just a better person than some of us," Roxanne said as she began to twist the parts together. James made a face, and she added, "Oh, come on, James, you know it's true." She wound a hair tie around the end of what was probably a perfect braid. "Feel okay?" Rose shook her head experimentally nodded. "You're done, then."
Rose fell back into the couch. The guilt was becoming overwhelming. "I should probably go meet him. He looked really hurt at dinner when I basically blew him off."
James sighed, his distaste for Slytherins warring with brotherly instincts. "Maybe you'd better, then. Who's he with, do you know?"
"Yeah." Rose wrinkled her nose. "Scorpius Malfoy."
James and Roxanne both winced. "Well, on your own head be it," Roxanne said.
"Yeah, thanks for taking one for the team," called James after her as she left.
She climbed out of the portrait hole and set off toward the library. Why did Albus have to be such an open-minded person? It must have been his father's influence, which had flown right over James' head—just as her mother's had flown right over hers.
When she got to the library, she spotted Albus over in a corner with Scorpius Malfoy. Thankfully, there wasn't anyone else there—Al had several Slytherin friends, and she knew that some of them really didn't like her. Something to do with beating them at Quidditch, probably.
Not that she thought Scorpius liked her. Every interaction they'd had indicated that he didn't. But at least it was only one person to put up with for her cousin's sake.
She dropped her books next to Albus and slid into the chair. He and Scorpius both started. When they saw her, their reactions were polar opposites: Albus's face lit up, where Scorpius looked like he was trying to keep a sneer off his face and not having much luck.
"Yeah, well, I thought I'd get out of the common room for a bit. James and Roxanne will probably be causing some kind of commotion at some point anyway." She looked at Albus and smiled sheepishly.
He smiled back. "Thanks."
Rose looked across the table at Scorpius, who by that time had managed to force his expression into something verging on vaguely polite. "Hello."
He continued to stare for a minute before forcing a smile onto his face, his gaze lingering on her hair. Rose resisted the urge to check it - she knew he was just being unpleasant. "Hey," he finally said.
Rose pulled out her Herbology homework. She always got her work done, even if it meant not sleeping, but on the rare occasions she did a half-assed job on any of it, she made sure it wasn't Herbology. It was one of her favorite subjects, and Neville was definitely her favorite professor. She refused to let him down.
"Oh, is that Herbology?" asked Albus. "I was having trouble on that, actually. I feel like I missed something about Fanged Geraniums last class, because I have no idea what it has in common with Devil's Snare. Other than that they're both plants and they both attack people, I mean."
Scorpius sighed and rested his head in his hand. His blond hair framed his grey eyes perfectly, making them stand out even more than usual. Not for the first time, Rose wished he wasn't so damn nice to look at - it was utterly wasted on him. "I hate Herbology. I wish I wasn't looking at another three years of it."
Rose bristled. "Professor Longbottom is an excellent teacher," she snapped. "And if you hate it so much, why don't you drop it after this year?"
"He's a fine professor," Scorpius said, looking a little taken aback. "It's just a dumb subject." He ignored her question, and she didn't push it - she wasn't really that interested in the answer. "And I'm never going to forgive you for convincing me to take Care of Magical Creatures," he said to Albus.
Albus grinned. "Being outside is good for you." Rose knew that it had been a point of friendly contention between the two for most of their friendship; even in the winter, Albus usually sported at least a slight tan, where she didn't think she'd ever seen Scorpius with any tan at all - from what she'd seen, he remained fair-skinned even at the height of summer.
"Great," Scorpius shot back. "So find me a girlfriend and I'll take long, romantic walks outside with her." Rose bit her lip to hold back a giggle, and he added, "Or hey, we could cut even out the middleman - why don't you take long, romantic walks with me if you think I need to spend more outside, Al?"
Rose couldn't hold back that snort of laughter. Scorpius glanced at her, but before she could even start to decipher his expression, her cousin said, "Sorry, Scorpius - I just don't really see you that way."
Scorpius sighed dramatically. "Figures. What if they're bromantic walks?"
Rose tried to fight back another laugh - it was bad enough that she was sitting here grinning at something Scorpius Malfoy was saying. She didn't want him to think that she found him genuinely funny. Both boys laughed, and she realized that she'd missed her cousin's response.
Shaking her head to clear it, she helped Albus with the Herbology question before returning to her own work. After another half hour, Albus got up. "I'm going to go get something from the kitchens. Do either of you want anything?"
Rose glared at her cousin, hoping that he'd read her mind and not leave her alone with his exceedingly annoying friend.
Either he didn't get the message or he chose to ignore it, because when neither she nor Scorpius made any requests, he turned and left. Rose looked resolutely back down at her schoolwork, steeling herself for the unpleasantness she knew had to be coming.
"You can admit it," Scorpius said. "You think I'm funny."
She kept her eyes on her parchment. "No," she said through clenched teeth. "I don't."
He laughed at her. "Whatever you say, Red."
She snapped her head up, furious. "My name is Rose."
"Whatever you say, Rose." He pretended to consider it for a minute. "I think I'm going to call you Red, though."
"Why?" She could feel her ears starting to burn, and she wasn't at all sure that the braid hid them adequately, though it was fairly loose.
He leaned back in his chair and stretched. "Because you always call me 'Malfoy,' but it's not like I can call you 'Weasley' - there are too many of you. Besides, it's fun to tease you. You walk around like you own this school - it's good for you to remember that not everyone worships you. Your ears are red, by the way."
"I try not to call you anything, actually - I try to pretend that you don't exist, you know."
"Sure, and I'm attentive in History of Magic."
She glared at him. "If I wasn't afraid of hurting Al's feelings, I'd get up and leave right now."
"Aren't Gryffindors supposed to be brave? And yet here you are, letting fear take over."
"It's not the same thing, and you know it." She was now imagining dumping his ink well all over his stupid blond hair. "At least my house doesn't pride itself on being heartless and scheming."
"It's actually ruthless," he corrected, a glint in his grey eyes. Rose had always rather liked grey eyes in particular, and his were utterly ruined on him. "And we're just ruthless to get what we want."
Something about that delivery made her squirm uncomfortably in her chair, though she couldn't imagine what Scorpius Malfoy could want that would seriously affect her.
When she didn't respond, he flashed another smile at her and went back to his work. After staring at him for another second or two, wondering how on earth anyone could be so unpleasant, she did the same. When Albus returned, they were both completely absorbed in work, and neither of them spoke to him when he sat down. Rose could see Albus looking from her to Malfoy for a moment before pulling out his Transfiguration homework.
When they left the library at closing, Rose felt that she'd at least been fairly productive, even if dealing with Scorpius had gotten her blood boiling.
When they parted with him at the stairs, Albus called, "See you in Divination, Scorpius!"
"Can't wait," came the dry answer, several steps below. "Later, Al. I'll see you around, Red."
Albus looked at her. "Red?"
She shook her head and said through gritted teeth, "Ask him."
"Oh, did you get nasty at each other when I went to the kitchens? I was hoping you wouldn't." Rose loved her cousin dearly, but sometimes he really was optimistic to the point of foolishness.
"He started it. Why is he your friend again?"
Albus shrugged. "I dunno. I like him. He's funny."
Scorpius's mention of long, bromantic walks came back to her, and she had to fight the urge to laugh again. She supposed he was funny, once in awhile… though he was also an enormous git all the time, so funny once in awhile didn't really make up for that.
"Whatever you say."
"Thanks for coming and making the effort, anyway."
"Was it really that important to you?"
"Well, yeah."" He sighed. "Look, Rosie, you're a terrific person. It's just nice when you make an effort to get to know my friends who aren't already your friends. Or at least don't actively avoid me just because I'm with them."
She bit her lip. There was altogether too much sense in this for her to argue with. "If it means that much to you, I'll make more of an effort. Even if it just means sitting there ignoring them."
"That's all I'm asking," he said. He put his arm around her shoulder and ruffled her hair. She wrinkled her nose - the Potter boys shared that particularly annoying habit. "Thank you."
"It's only because you're my favourite cousin," she told him.
"I'm telling James."
"Oh, shut up."
New readers: Welcome to CINAS! I hope you liked this first chapter, and I'd love to hear what you think if you have the chance to leave me a review. :)
Old readers: Hey, guys! As you may have noticed, I've recast the actors for CINAS (hence the new banner) and edited it pretty extensively. It's still fundamentally the same story, but I've cut down some scenes that I thought were a little clunky, added some new ones, cut the chapters up so they were all around the same length, and reorganized the chain of events a little. If you would like to reread it, I'd love to know what you think about the changes, which start in earnest around the third or fourth chapter! (Oh, but a quick note - the new content and edits are really spread throughout the chapters, so just clicking the new chapters might leave you very confused.) You also may have noticed that the status is changed to "in-progress" - there won't be too much else added, but I will be adding a couple more chapters in the next week, including one in which their father's do some uncomfortable prying into their lives.
Both of you: thank you so much for reading.
- Branwen (March 27, 2015)