Disclaimer: I don't own one hair on Harry Potter's head. Or any other character in the series. It all belongs to JK Rowling.
A/N: A big thank you to my SQ beta reader, Igenlode Wordsmith!
How exactly did Fawcett and Stebbins come to be snogging in the rosebushes at the Yule Ball? Why does there seem to be a Fawcett in both Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff? What is the meaning of life?
This tale of two houses, two sets of twins, a dictionary and lots of cheese will hopefully answer these questions.
Two of them, anyway.
Chapter One - Stilton
The season of joy. The season of giving.
The season when I would prefer locking myself up in the Slytherin dormitory - no, scratch that, in Professor Snape or some other ridiculously strict professor’s office - with an enormous tome on Algerian chandlers (who, incidentally, are only slightly less interesting than stale bread) than watch another smug male catch yet another swooning female under mistletoe. The season when I would prefer relinquishing all magic (including my Charms Club), moving to Nepal and becoming a goat than watch another assembly of carollers.
Screw Christmas. Seriously, bollocks to it. The entire season makes me sick. Deck the halls and all that. I mean, come on, who likes cheerfulness forced on them?
Wait. Let me rephrase that. I can think of many people that like cheerfulness forced on them. Males given to smugness, females with swooning tendencies and carollers, for a start.
What person with half a brain likes enforced cheerfulness? Happiness ought to be a genuine emotion, not something that gets forced on you (with 20% extra cheese) just because December 25 happens to be in the near future.
Merlin's toenails, I hate Christmas. I’ve never been one for cheesy holidays, and Christmas is the cheesiest of the lot. Commercialised (even in the Wizarding World) to the umpteenth degree. I swear, if I see another dancing Christmas tree, it’s going flying all the way to Swaziland. Shoved up a caroller’s backside, preferably. So much for the calm plodding Hufflepuff image, eh?
But, alas for me, Christmas is one thing that I just can’t escape. It tends to be that way, when you live in a dormitory with two other perfectly normal people with one abnormality - they morph into bloody Christmas elves the instant it starts to get cold. Not to mention when you have a twin sister who contracts some sort of psychosis when the calendar turns to December.
And hence, we find our heroine, Sylvia Fawcett, sitting at the Hufflepuff table on December 14, 1994, very, very annoyed.
“Gloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooria! Hosanna in excelsis!”
“Do us a favour and shut up, Juno,” I muttered, shoving another piece of toast into my mouth.
Shouldn’t have spoken. Bad idea, Sylvia, very bad idea.
Juno Dorny, one of my best friends, swooped on my displeasure like some bird of prey on a rotting carcass. “’Tis the season to be jolly, Sylvester!” Conjuring up a Santa hat from somewhere (a yellow one, of course, for Hufflepuff) she smacked it on my head. “You better watch out -”
“- you better not cry,” Nydia Hopkirk, my other best friend, chimed in.
“You better not pout, I’m telling you why!” they bawled together. “Santa Claus is coming to town!”
Honestly. Did they never shut up about bloody Christmas?
There is something about Christmas that provokes constant profanity and other sadistic verbal diarrhoea. For example, right now it seemed like a really good idea to pull out my wand, Stun both Juno and Nydia and dance round their beds in the Hospital Wing like a rabid gremlin.
“Why don’t you two go make yourself some nice Christmas mince pies?” I suggested. Look at me grin. That’s right, it’s an ear-to-ear genuine Christmas grin from Sylvia Fawcett. Oh no, I’m not grinning through my teeth at all - and was that blood my fingernails just drew from my palm? “And then perhaps eat them. And choke on them.”
“Ooooooh!” both of them chorused.
“Harsh!” Nydia exclaimed.
“Feisty!” Juno added.
I left. I couldn’t deal with the cheese.
The last thing I heard as I heard as I left the Great Hall was Nydia’s voice. “Aw, poor Sylvia. She has absolutely NO Christmas spirit!”
The world really was going to the dogs.
Is there no place anywhere in this school that I can escape from bloody Christmas?
Let us, for a moment, consider Charms class. A nice, sensible class with a nice, sensible teacher. An academic class where we learn things, as opposed to say, Divination, where we forge things. A place where one would think you could escape the insanity of the season.
“Attention please!” Professor Flitwick squeaked when our Charms class (made up of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff fifth-years) had settled down. “I have some very exciting news for you all!”
Really? Surprise me.
“Our lessons until the end of term are going to take on a very festive feel,” Professor Flitwick continued, “as we decorate Hogwarts for the Yuletide season!”
Joking. He had to be joking. He had to be.
I couldn’t help myself. My hand shot up. “Professor Flitwick?”
Professor Flitwick beamed. “Yes, Miss Fawcett?”
“Is it possible for the arrangements to be rearranged so that a year group that isn’t studying for VERY IMPORTANT EXAMS does the Yuletide preparations? As we are studying for VERY IMPORTANT EXAMS, perhaps it would be expedient if we studied something more practical. Something that will help us in our VERY IMPORTANT EXAMS?”
Fawcett Rule #1 For Weaselling Out Of Things You Do Not Want To Do: Play the exam card. Sound intelligent while you do it.
“I had considered that, Miss Fawcett,” Professor Flitwick replied, “but on closer consideration, I realised that several of the charms we will be learning and practicing this week are examinable for your OWL practical Charms exam. Therefore, this week will be invaluable practical experience!”
Bugger. Time for a change of tack.
Fawcett Rule #2 For Weaselling Out Of Things You Do Not Want To Do: Play the religion card. Sound sincere while you do it.
“But Professor Flitwick,” I protested, “I’m from a family of extremely zealous Tibetan Buddhists! Christmas is against my religion! I think it would be impossible for me to participate in this week's lessons due to deep moral opposition.”
My sister Sabina snorted from across the room. "Tibetan Buddhists? Yeah, right!"
I caught her eye and gave her a Look, but it was too late. Professor Flitwick was on to that one as well. "If your sister doesn't have a problem with it, Miss Fawcett, I don't see why you should," he said, raising an eyebrow.
Note to self: think up better religious excuse. And kill stupid twin sister. Last time I help her fool around with Potions and try to cross Age Lines! Aren't Ravenclaws supposed to be smart?
Fawcett Rule #3 For Weaselling Out Of Things You Do Not Want To Do: Play the illness card. Sound sick while you do it.
I coughed violently. Then coughed violently some more. “Professor Flitwick, I think I’ve contracted Fwooping cough! Perhaps I’d better go to the hospital wing. For the rest of the week.”
Professor Flitwick raised his other eyebrow. “I’m sure you remember, Miss Fawcett, when your entire grade was immunised against Fwooping cough in 1990 after that epidemic?”
Fawcett Rule #4 For Weaselling Out Of Things You Do Not Want To Do: If you haven’t weaselled out of it yet, you’re not going to be able to weasel out of it.
“The truth, if you please, Miss Fawcett,” Professor Flitwick said somewhat sternly. “Why don’t you want to participate in this week’s classes?”
I groaned inwardly. I guessed I’d just have to tell the truth.
“It's just... well, I don't like Christmas, Professor,” I replied.
“That’s rather sad,” Professor Flitwick remarked offhandedly. “But, unfortunately, I cannot excuse you from class on that basis. You will have to bear with us, I’m afraid.” He beamed at me. “Perhaps this week will allow you to begin liking the festive season!”
This coming from the professor of my favourite subject. What on earth was the world coming to?
“Today, we shall be learning Merry-Holly-Berry-Oh Charms,” Professor Flitwick announced, “and then using them to deck the halls with boughs of holly!”
The world isn't just going to the dogs. At this rate, it's going to the pink fluffy poodles with mushroom topknots.
Just what I need.
After a day in which I had immense amounts of fun conjuring holly in Charms, potting Christmas trees in Herbology and transfiguring stones into Christmas lights in Transfiguration - in a day where even Snape had got all Christmassy and made us mix eggnog in Potions - the last thing I bloody well needed was a dinner of roast turkey off a plate with little holly berries on it.
"Pass us the mulled mead, Sylvia!" Archie Stebbins bellowed from a few places away.
Therein lies my point.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I can take Christmas. I could live with one, very small and low-key Christmas once every decade. What I cannot take is forced immersion in fa-la-la-ing.
Forgive me. I am a simple cynic, who wishes to find her eternal home in some faraway, peaceful nirvana. (Ah, that sweet nirvana: the ultimate extinction of the individual soul; a transcendent state sought by Hindus and Buddhists through right living, although it may be attained more easily by working for the Ministry of Magic. I love The Cynic‘s Dictionary very, very much. Not a particularly Hufflepuff trait, but then, I'm not your everyday Hufflepuff.)
Back to the point. Forgive me. I am a simple cynic who cannot stand constant immersion in commercialisation. Has anyone else noticed how disgusting it is that we get Christmas catalogues in APRIL? That society requires that parents buy ugly, insanely popular, hard-to-obtain toys (not to mention hundreds of Galleons worth of accessories) to appease their children? That children need to be appeased?
So, once more, forgive me. Forgive me if I did not dance for bloody joy when, later that night in the Hufflepuff common room, Professor Sprout announced we were going to have a Yule Ball.
Just what I need. To be surrounded by more Christmas.
The Fawcett Definition Of Christmas: sadomasochism.
I turned. It was the end of the day, and the halls were emptying fast, so I dropped my bag and waited for Kevin Quindle, a rather dumpy boy who was in fifth-year Hufflepuff like me, to catch up. “What’s up, Kevin?”
Observe: Sylvia is being a nice person. Sylvia will not snap at dumpy little Kevin. Sylvia likes little Kevin lots. Aw, little Kevin.
I think you get the point. The parents that created Kevin Quindle should not have been allowed in the gene pool. Even at the shallow end.
But I’m being a nice person today, so I will wait for him and perhaps I will even let him walk back up to the common room with me. Nice Sylvia. Good Sylvia.
“Um, hi, Sylvia,” Kevin said breathlessly, coming up beside me.
“Hi,” I replied.
I hate awkward silences. Whenever they happen, I get this bizarre urge to make sarcastic comments. They’re hardly ever related to anything - although, of course, the fact that the economy of the entire wizarding world is in the hands of gamblers is, arguably, related to everything. So Professor Vector claims, anyway.
“Um… Can - can I walk up to the common room with you?”
I shrugged. “Who’s stopping you?”
I started walking. If he wanted to walk with me so bad, he could bloody well catch up.
Sorry. Christmas is making me swear. I’d censor it, but I’m anticensorship. Just like I’m antidisestablishmentarian.
Kevin had caught up while I was pondering censorship. I guess that got censored instead of my foul language. “What?”
“Um, can I ask you a question?”
Have I ever mentioned how much the word ‘um’ irritates me? It’s completely superfluous. It’s a cop-out for people who have nothing better to say but like the sound of their own voices too much to simply shut up. But I digress.
“You just did.” Give me some credit here, people. The sarcasm there could have been far, far more biting.
Now, most normal people would have prompted him along with a kindly, “Yes…?” at this point.
Not me. “What?”
“Um… will you go to the Yule Ball with me?”
I stopped. I looked at Kevin. I stared.
Insert some silence here. Not stunned silence, because that wasn’t what it was. It was more of an incredulous silence, a ‘what the...?’ kind of silence.
Kevin seemed to take my non-answer as some kind of positive response, because he pointed at something above my head. “Look! Mistletoe!”
Merlin in a purple leotard. Kevin had caught me under mistletoe.
Time to break the silence, Sylvia.
I probably would have hit him if a convenient group of sixth-years hadn’t walked between us, obscuring my view of him for a moment or two.
“Bugger off, Kevin.”
I slammed my dormitory door behind me and locked it with a charm. If no one could get in, perhaps Christmas couldn’t get in either, and I could do my homework in peace. And then perhaps think of various ways to mutilate Kevin Quindle.
Introducing Sylvia Fawcett, one of the most dedicated students in the fifth year at Hogwarts. However, she is clearly not bright enough to not lock herself in a dormitory with two bloody Christmas elves!
No wonder Sabina is the Ravenclaw twin.
“Call me Sylvester again, Juno, and I’ll have your guts for garters.”
“Ooooooh!” both of them chorused.
“Harsh!” Nydia exclaimed.
“Feisty!” Juno added.
I expected more of them. I really did. For starters, I thought their vocabulary was a hell of a lot bigger.
“Shut up,” I moaned, flopping on my bed and burying my face in my pillow. Please, let it be a dream, let it be a nightmare…
But no. No such luck.
“We just heard some very interesting news, Sylvester!” Nydia announced, flopping next to me.
“Some very, very interesting news!” Juno added, flopping on the other side, effectively trapping me between them.
“We just heard -”
“- that Kevin Quindle asked you to the ball -”
“- while you were under mistletoe -”
“- and you told him to bugger off -”
“- and didn’t kiss him -”
“- even though you were under mistletoe!”
I looked at both of them incredulously. “That happened about three minutes ago, and I came straight up here. How the hell did you find out before I got here?!”
“Kevin,” they chorused.
“He’s crying in the common room,” Juno told me.
“You must have walked right past him,” Nydia added. “Harsh.”
“Well, what the hell would you have done in that situation?” I snarled.
Both Nydia and Juno looked taken aback. “Well… I wouldn’t have gone with him, of course,” Juno said thoughtfully.
“Neither would I,” Nydia agreed. “But I wouldn’t have been so harsh.”
“And you were under mistletoe.”
“Customs are customs, Sylvester.”
“I would have kissed him.”
“So would I. Mistletoe is mistletoe.”
“Look,” I told them firmly. “I was under the mistletoe. I will give you that. I, Sylvia Fawcett, was under mistletoe. However, I was under said mistletoe alone.”
Nydia raised a quizzical eyebrow. “How does that work?”
“Kevin was about three feet away! I wasn‘t standing that close to him!”
Juno waggled her finger in my face. “Tsk, tsk, Sylvia, you know that you have to kiss the nearest man, even if you’re under the mistletoe all on your lonesome!”
“Then I probably should have kissed one of the sixth-years that walked between us!” I retorted.
“Ooh! Sixth years!” Juno exclaimed.
“No-one told us about the sixth years!”
“Who were they?”
I wracked my brains. They had been wearing red... “Gryffindor,” I said slowly. Then it clicked. “Twins! Red hair! Funny! Big family! Play Quidditch! Wear jumpers with their initials on them! Bugger it, what are they called?!”
“Fred and George Weasley?” Nydia breathed, looking like she was about to pass out at the mere thought of them.
“That's them,” I replied. “And that friend of theirs - the Quidditch commentator, what's his face? Lee Jordan. And that Towler fellow - you know, Bulbadox Boy. The one with the bad hair.”
“You really do have a terrible memory for names, Sylvia,” Juno told me, laughing, “if you can forget the infamous Weasley twins!”
Yes, that is true. While my memory for definitions for The Cynic’s Dictionary is perfect, my memory for names is terrible. Sabina has never let me forget the memorable occasion that I accidentally called Professor Snape Professor Trelawney.
Worst detentions of my life, let me tell you.
Nydia got up. “Well, I’m off to see if I can find me a date,” she announced. “Coming?”
“I’m coming!” Juno jumped up.
“Remember what I said about the guts for garters, Nydia? Don’t call me Sylvester. And no, I’m not coming. I am going to stay here in peace and quiet where Kevin Quindle cannot find me.”
Juno shrugged. “Suit yourself. Alohamora!” Breaking the charm I had put on the door, the unholy duo left, leaving me to my ruminations.
I've always been slightly jealous of the Weasley twins - even if I can forget their names. I wonder what they'd think if they knew that - probably that weren't doing their job properly, I suppose. When Sabina and I were younger, we always got fussed over for being identical twins, and it was kind of nice, being thought of as special. But then when we got here... there was the Weasley twins and the Stebbins twins in the year above us, and so twins were old hat. Bit irrational, I suppose, but there you have it.
I always have felt a bit sorry for Fred and George, though, what with that stuffy brother of theirs - the one that was Head Boy last year, Peter or Patrick or Poncy or whatever his name was. He seemed like a bit of a prig. I know I wouldn't like to live with him.
But right now, the troubles of the Weasley twins are nothing compared to mine. They didn’t get asked to the Yule Ball by Kevin Quindle!
Merlin's toenails, I hate Christmas!