Christmas 1974, Cokeworth

Severus hid a smirk as William glared at the adult table. William was supposed to have sat there this year: at sixteen he was too old for the children's card table. However, Edna Kemble had invited her boyfriend to Christmas dinner. The adult table was already overcrowded. Aunt Agatha had said that Edna and her young man could sit at the dining room table. William had to endure another year with the younger cousins, even though Edna was three months younger than he was.

"You still wasting your time at school, Sev'rus?" William asked in a condescending tone.

His mouth full, Severus just nodded. Not that he considered it a waste ... other than the time spent with Kevin Prince-Graystone and his protegees, James Potter, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin. At least Brian had decided that other people were less likely to learn they were first cousins if he avoided Severus as much as possible.

"Not me. Dropped out the minute I turned sixteen. Got me a job at the factory, getting some real money," William bragged.

"I'm going to do the same," Rupert said. "Only a few more months."

"Lucky." Gwen was envious. "I can't wait until I can get out of school." She stuck out her tongue at Leona. "Not like Lee. She likes school."

Lee just shrugged. Like Severus, she'd learned to keep her mouth shut around her brothers and cousins.

"That's because Lee won a scholarship to St. Hilda's Girls' High School. Thinks she's better than us 'cause she's going to grammar school instead of comprehensive like the rest of us peasants," Rupert sneered.

"Is that what you two always get up to in the attic?" Gwen asked. "You busy comparing how grand your fancy boarding schools are instead of snogging?"

"Very fancy," Severus said dryly. "Oh, yes, I live in a castle in Scotland. My dorm room is down in the dungeon."

The cousins laughed at the idea of him living in a castle. As he'd intended, they didn't take him seriously. The best way to lie, Severus knew, was to tell the truth, but in such a way it wouldn't be believed.

Lee waited until after they'd eaten, until they were safely ensconced in the attic, she with Jane Austen, he with Robert Louis Stevenson, before she asked the questions she dared not ask in front of her brothers and cousins. "What classes do you like best at your school up north?"

Severus hesitated. He couldn't tell her he liked Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts best. "Science. Chemistry, especially. And you?"

"Literature and history. Maybe I'll write historical fiction when I grow up."

Severus wanted to be a potions master when he finished school, or perhaps an apothecary. He turned a page as he thought of how to phrase it in Muggle terms. "I might be a chemist. Perhaps go into research. Scientific research."

Lee nodded and returned her attention to the Bennet sisters. It wasn't until she finished the chapter that she asked her next question. "Who is it you'd rather be snogging?"

"Is that any of your business?"

"No." Lee grinned up at him. "But I'm curious."

"Her name is Lily."

"Pretty name. Is she pretty?"