Author's Notes: Written for "Cycling – Road" (Participants are to write a story of no more than 2000 words using characters and pairings of their choice from the Next-Gen era) in the 2012 Hogwarts Games on the HPFC forum.
Rose, James, Albus and Harry were sitting at the breakfast table, not speaking but sitting in companionable silence with Ginny scraping a few final, slightly burned pieces of bacon onto their plates, when Lily came downstairs.
Rose – who had come over first thing in the morning, as she so often did, and hadn't seen her cousin yet – was the first to look up, with a bright and cheerful little smile on her face at first, but it faded instantly when she saw Lily standing in the doorway to the kitchen with what could only be described as a defiant look on her face. Or, more specifically, when she saw her hair.
"Dear God, Lily!" Rose said before she could stop herself.
Lush, deep red curls so like Ginny's cascaded around Lily's head and shoulders, perfect and shining and glossy, Weasley hair the way that it was meant to be, but painted jarringly into it, extending from the tips up to the roots in some places and just colouring the bottom inch and a half in others, were bright emerald streaks.
"What?" Lily asked, again defiantly, but looking a bit triumphant at the expressions of her family members. Ginny's hand had tightened around the handle of the frying pan and Albus snickered, hiding his mouth behind his hand.
"Why's your hair green?" he asked with obvious derision.
Rose glared at him and kicked him under the table, but a kick from Rose was nothing in comparison to the look that Lily was giving him. Her lip actually curled back from her teeth like a dog snarling.
"Because I like it," she said. "I wanted green hair. I'm a Slytherin, after all, remember?"
"You don't have to dye your hair to let us know that you're in Slytherin–" Harry began, clearly trying very hard to sound reasonable (something Rose had privately never thought that he was good at), but Ginny interrupted him.
"Why would you do this to yourself, Lily?" she demanded, slamming down the frying pan and grabbing onto a lock of Lily's hair to examine the rather shoddy dye job. "You had gorgeous hair…"
"Oh, please." Lily slapped her mother's hand away impatiently. "It's not like my hair was special. Everyone in this family has the same kind as me. You can go fawn over Rose's, if you want. Besides," she added, "this isn't really about my hair, is it? You'd be perfectly fine if I put blonde streaks into it!" And now her voice was rising in pitch and she sounded almost hysterical in anger and Rose winced. "Your problem is the fact that no one in this whole bloody family can deal with the fact that I'm in Slytherin!"
The table fell silent, Harry and Ginny glancing at each other with looks that very clearly read we should have known that this would happen. Lily looked like she didn't dare to say another word.
"It's not about you being in Slytherin, Lily," Ginny said at last. "Of course it's not. We don't mind what house you're in. Dominique's in Slytherin and–"
"And when was the last time Dominique was invited over for dinner?" Lily challenged. "Rose and Hugo practically live here and Louis is over every bloody weekend, but never Dominique!"
"It's not as though we don't invite her," Harry cut in, "but she just doesn't–"
"Maybe it's because she doesn't feel welcome here," snapped Lily. She lifted her chin challengingly. "Have you ever thought of that? Maybe it's not very much fun to be a Slytherin and sit here with all these Gryffindor Quidditch posters glaring down at us…"
"Dad says there's nothing wrong with being a Slytherin," Albus recited as though he'd memorized the speech. "That's what he told me when I was leaving for Hogwarts. He said that I was named after two headmasters and one of them was a Slytherin–"
"Yeah, I know that, Albus!" shouted Lily. She was clenching her fists so tightly that her skin must have been tearing on her fingernails. "But you're Dad's favourite and he'd be proud of you no matter what!"
"I don't play favourites," Harry began, but Lily barked out a tearful laugh.
"Yes, you do! You never even talk to me except to tell me off –"
"Lily…" Rose began tentatively, half-standing to lay a hand on her cousin's shoulder, but Lily slapped her away violently.
"Don't touch me!"
"That's enough, Lily," Harry said, very firmly. He stood up and grabbed his daughter's wrist, then pulled her out of the dining room. Lily let out an earth-shattering shriek that almost instantly dissolved into sobbing, but Harry didn't even flinch, and the rest of the family watched in almost frightened silence as Lily was dragged upstairs. A few minutes later, there was the bang of a door being forcefully shut, and Lily's tears were muffled.
Harry came down a few minutes later with a very sad look on his face, then turned to Ginny, Albus, James and Rose.
"I don't know what to do about her," he said quietly.
Albus was barely containing a smile – he made little secret of how he resented his sister and enjoyed seeing her get in trouble. Rose and James were both wearing expressions of mixed fear and solemnity, and Ginny looked nothing short of furious.
"Mum never would have let us act that way!" she fumed.
"Grandma never would have had to," Rose put in tentatively. "You were all in Gryffindor."
"That's not the point!"
Rose didn't say anything else, but she looked at Albus, in his Gryffindor scarf, and James, with his scarlet, lion-adorned sweater, and then down at herself, still wearing her red and gold striped tie, and thought of what happened to Lily if she even dared to wear green – or, in this case, colour her hair green – and no, the fact that Ginny hadn't ever known what it was like to be the only person in a different house was precisely the point.