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invictus. by Aiedail
Chapter 2 : tuesday
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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author's note: the warning "sensitive topic/issue/theme" especially applies to this chapter, so please take note of this before reading :) similarly, strong language makes an appearance in this chapter. carry on!


tuesday



“I’m assuming because you didn’t sprout a new head in the night I’m not getting an apology,” Albus grumbles to me in the common room. It’s before breakfast and the fire is going, several first-years warming their hands and feet in its blue flames.

I don’t turn towards him. I arrange my profile for him instead, putting my nose before my face.

It’s nearly humorous: there’s a sound the eyes make when they roll in their sockets.

Molly hasn’t shown yet. It’s not often, but sometimes I find myself wondering if I’m sorry.

* * *


“Oy, Princess!”

Tuesdays, the entire congregation gathers for breakfast. I’m unsure why. Perhaps there’s something astronomically aligned about our schedules. Locating the voice takes a moment, though I’ve looked to the correct table first.

I take a moment, I blink, I pretend to know he isn’t addressing me. I smooth my brow, widen my eyes. I look around, my chin swivelling to rest in space over each shoulder, before looking back. He has a smooth, olive-toned face, and his scarlet-and-gold tie drapes around his tree-trunk of a neck, untied. I’ve spent my life being fearful that people are watching me, and equal time attempting to mask that oversensitivity with the blanket-appearance of a normal person, who doesn’t spend her free time wondering about how she’s received in the mind of her peers. I’ve mastered the surprised face. The trick is being subtle about it, and throwing in an added disgust as an afterthought has never hurt me.

“Honestly?” I say, tipping up my head so I’m staring down my nose. Albus snorts in his porridge. Molly is not here. It’s a pity: she doesn’t believe everything I say that happens to me.

“Heads up, Darling!” the boy yells, cupping his hands around his mouth as an amplifier, and he then pulls out a wad of paper from his pocket, pulls his arm back and slings it forward, propelling it toward me. I stand, reach out my right hand and catch it deftly, smashing it into a smaller ball before sitting down again and unrolling it. I hear Molly running into the Great Hall, nearly a quarter of an hour late, and come to hover behind me, breathing deeply.

Predictably, it’s a hand-written note, though I suspect it’s been magically altered to be nearly unreadable.

Hogsmeade, Saturday? Meet you at the Entrance Hall. -Addae

I look up quickly, an unpractised movement, my neck cracking loudly. I’m caught between outrage and extreme confusion. I spoke to him once--once!--and he has the nerve to ask me to step out with him? And on the other hand--what indication might I have given him that this was a good choice? I frown deeply, picking out Addae’s face from amongst the crowd. He’s not less guarded than me; he only chooses a different mask. I wonder at his agenda, and I hear Molly shouting “yes!” for me. I eventually nod. It’s not because I’m hot, nor because I’m friendly, and that’s a bit interesting to me. He throws me a thumbs-up and then dives nose-first towards something in his bag. I recognise the tactic. Objective: hide face.

At the very least, it will give me some insurance, an excuse. People will be looking for those. Probably, especially you, you who are at this moment staring at a point some seven degrees to the left of my face, which has been split open and sewn back together with the speed of a master tailor, a royal seamstress.

* * *


It’s divination after breakfast. I hate the climb up this ladder, always feeling I will get a splinter. I think the worst of it is it’s never happened, so it always could.

I’m not talking to Molly, still pretending to be bothered she volunteered me for a date when she thinks I’m cut up over something having to do with you. You once tripped over the entrance to the hole in the room and tore your robes, and I laughed. You dragged around a tattered robe like a wedding gown behind you and I considered marriage. I found no answers.

“Today,” rings the clear voice of Firenze. Even in age, his face is smooth of lines and his hair is redder than mine. “We dip into ovomancy.”

There is a shift and a murmur and I meet Molly’s eyes to see we are both channels of the same wincing power.

“‘I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul,’” I quote under my breath, and nobody understands.

* * *


“Bloody excuse for a proper lesson,” Albus grumbles. I have still not forgiven him and he has never had the energy to hold a grudge against me, which places us at something like a ceasefire. I have better targets, more pressing matters.

“I don’t think my hair will ever be clean again,” Molly whinges, pulling up a piece of the fiery red, shining with pieces of near-blond and almost-gold, covered over in egg yolk and the whites, which have started to dry and to peel off, looking almost like scales. I consider this colour of her hair, and my instinct to label it as fire. I don’t think fire has ever done me any good--my hair is a murky auburn, a hybrid of my parents’ most noticeable traits, and wildly determined not to be straight and not to curl--but it isn’t this.

When I wrote to you, I felt myself touched by flame, and considered it a blessing, a fierce and determined sort of recompense for what had happened to me, and never questioned what it might burn, what it might curl and blow into ashes: and there is a gentle, almost sloping irony about the idea that I had never considered it ill, to be a harbinger of fire, which purified me of every tempering agent, which cleansed me and had so much power as to bring everything back without remorse, and which has resulted in my inability ever not to think of it now, now to weigh myself in comparison to the rest of the world as a touch heavier and lighter, that I have been burdened, that I have been gifted, with clarity of purpose, that there are no qualms--because it is true, I am not sorry--in my doing what I will do, and in my deceiving of all those I have deceived.

Why should anyone in the first place have wished to compare anything lovely to fire? Who should have been that unfortunate slip of a person to have believed himself better by swallowing that flame? He shouldn’t have been someone who had ever put a hair up to it, or skin, or his heart.

I catch my sleeve on the edge of a stairway as we round a corner and lift my mouth into a smile, because though Molly and Albus chatter on, and do not notice, but somehow my flesh and spirit are becoming each other, at least in state. The castle on my side, nudging this body on to some kind of harmony with whatever darkness is inside coming out, rapidly, easily. It is not a splinter: it is a tear.

* * *


A letter is in my pocket. I fumble with the parchment without drawing it out. We are walking out of the castle, toting our protective gear in our reinforced knapsacks, towards the ancient Professor Hagrid’s hut. We have heard rumours about today: about giant shellfish he used to keep, which would blast you apart without qualm. About the looming, proud, sleek and strong Hippogriffs whose claws could unzip your middle.

I tilt my head back and blow out of a puff of air, seeming to stain it with a cloudy, milky belt of steam.

This letter I have folded up into the smallest square, and rolled this into a small, fat tube. It is unobtrusive but I feel its hot weight like a Defence textbook.

I know what it says without taking it out, or touching it, or thinking about it.

Dear Rose,

The tour is not well in this wet and cold. M is gaining on us and in every direction. Your father has been unhelpful with the ministry. You know and I have told you that he will not last there long, now, though he has already been half a year longer than I had expected previously. You know how G has offered him a job and I am sure that you have suspected as I have that he will take up the offer sooner or later. But let us dwell on other matters, more urgent. I cannot imagine how it is that this department has lost its loyalty to me, though that is not entirely true. We both know well that the past haunts us at these times and the black sheep transform wildly to scapegoats. We are both of that capacity. I wish you luck and you best keep me updated. Though do not let it come down to luck if you are wise.

Your Uncle,
Percy

P.S. send love to Molly.


I have told Percy things that only you know, things that then ruined us and things that now threaten to spread outside of our small, petty, irreversible bond. It’s only a matter of time before you realise what you’re sitting on.

I watch you walk past us with your other Gryffindors. Your not looking at me is as deliberate as your glances in my direction. Perhaps petty is not a word I should choose, but I do, to make it seem if only in my head something that can fit inside one body, perhaps two.

* * *


In the cold, packed snow, there are shards of ice that shoot up out of footprints near the hedges which are iridescent with frozen water and animal wastes. There are orange splatters over the trunks of the evergreens that we all know are from an accident with the giant pumpkins in 2013 but none of us has ever had the courage to ask Professor Hagrid about it. We have had the feeling that it was unpleasant for all parties involved, especially the pumpkins, considering the baleful look he often shoots the trees when he believes himself to be in solitude.

I won’t tell you how I know what he does when he believes himself to be in solitude, only that the view from our common room is wide and I have spent much time at the windows.

Molly cracks over the ice shards and I can tell, moving my legs carefully between the prints, taking a full step in others of Hagrid’s, that we both understand what today will mean to us, and all the things this lesson may tell to us. We feel them there before they are announced, before the others do, looming and invisible.

Many people think them morbid, but I have often thought of them as friends, as a reminder that in having seen what I have seen and felt what I have felt that I am not alone: a trite feeling, perhaps, but somehow one that spans my bones, all those long, twisted, cable-like nerve cells, and cuts to that vital seed. I fall still, pressing my face clean: relax muscles around the mouth, eyes, and forehead, squint both eyes. In the cold a spasm stars in my left eyebrow, and I nearly laugh, and I feel wild, and like I might at anytime burst into the air and fly.

“Now, take a look at these’eer chunks o’ ham and tell me what yeh think might be on our curriculu’ today.” Professor Hagrid is all business, his large hands folded behind his back, swinging forwards and back on the balls of his feet. He asks because, and I look through eyelids almost closed as a ray of sunlight hits my face, I remember how it looked when the hamhocks would have been slowly, nearly methodically disappearing into thin air.

I trace my eyes over the wing joints of a Thestral standing alone at the edge of the trees. It lifts a hoof, puts it down through a layer of ice. I pull my scarf up over my mouth without looking away, wondering idly if skin and bones alone feel the cold.

Addae Jordan raises his hand. I see this out of the corner of my eye and bring my shoulders closer to my ears, as if it is as easy as shrugging off the impression that he is doing this for my benefit.

“Jordan,” Hagrid calls, unsurprised. My eyes flicker towards his face. He appears not to know me, and is looking instead attentively at Addae, who has not only answered this question but is explaining to a class full of people who already know why to some the creatures are invisible.

I know the lucky number, and you are amongst it. I turn discreetly, Molly and Albus huddled around me, and I am hidden by Molly’s hair, but I see you, and you are staring at the air around the disappearing flesh as if you have almost seen an outline, or suppose you might.

* * *


“Peeves,” I say, as Molly raises her wand to shoot hot torrents of air at him as one shoots from a pistol. “Bugger off.”

“The Weaslette is loosing her cool!” Peeves cackles, sounding joyous. Albus sends him a baleful look in my own fashion, and I nearly smirk.

“The Ice Queen is melting!”

“Shove off, Polterfuck,” Albus growls. It is lunch hour, we have been outside, and he is hungry. Peeves is particularly attentive to me, but his favorite victims have always been the offspring of notorious war personae.

“Ah, ah ah!” Peeves whistles, wagging a finger in Al’s direction. “Language, young warlock!”

“I’ll--”

“Yes?”

We nearly tremble at the sight of Professor Stuart, who teaches Arithmancy. Of all us present I am her only student and I tilt down my chin stare at the ground hoping that it will pass for a sign of respect, and not for an evasive manoeuvre. I have built up this shell well and am never determined not to be it, though sometimes only wish the beating flesh on the inside were calcified as much, were so predictable.

“Nothing,” Albus mutters, and when Molly elbows him in the gut, a piece of dried eggwhite flaking off her hair from the effort, he adds, deigning to look sheepish, “Professor.”

Her back is never more straight and narrow than after near discipline.

* * *


In the Great Hall the air is hot and oppressive. The air surprisingly, satisfyingly slips easily in and out of my lungs. I feel clear. I slump my shoulders, place my elbows deftly on the table, I stare into a golden plate with ease.

There is the sound of newspaper rustling near my left ear where Molly has propped her Daily Prophet up against a jug of pumpkin juice. Today she is more interested, I suppose with a wry smile into my bleary-eyed reflection, in her father’s political career than in stealing her cousin’s food. It is strange how things all are in this family and are so outside of it. I almost wonder at this moment if I am true. If any of us are. It seems too easy, an inside and outside world inhabited by the same people.

Molly gasps lightly and draws the newspaper closer to her face, and reads aloud, only to me, and to Albus: “The ministry is moving out of the past and taking an active part in the creation of a new, hopeful era. It is well-known that M.f.M. candidate Draco Malfoy has come to the podium attached to a shady, agonizing past, but as someone who has lived through the worst of the Second Wizarding War and has experienced the damage first-hand, there is little question amongst public opinion about his desire to ensure that history never takes a turn towards such narrow-minded elitism and blood-prejudice again, or, at least for the duration of his appointment.

Shall we compare Malfoy’s past with that of M.f.M. candidate Percival Weasley? He, too, is riddled with a dark and well-known story, as the black sheep of the modern Weasley clan. But when we look at the facts, he seems, in this humble writer’s opinion, much less acquainted with the realities of the hardship of war, as, and I need hardly to point this out, Weasley himself took part in the administration which sought to cover up the fact that the Dark Lord had returned to power at all, and which refused to allow the press its freedom of speech.

When we consider the crime rates rising rapidly in London--


“That’s enough,” Albus says, and Molly falls quiet, her face nearly as red as her hair.

“That’s utter tosh!” she cries, attracting the attention of several Hufflepuffs, to whom she shows her fingers. When she turns back to me, she is nearly heaving. I wonder at the irony that I am so much more important to her father’s success or failure and I will never care as she cares.

“The press will be the press,” Albus quips, and I roll my eyes, sighing deeply, the air in and out and lingering everywhere around us.

“What are you, a catch-phrase generator?” I mumble, picking up a fork with my left hand and dragging it through a puddle left on the table runner by a recently-vacated jug of pumpkin juice.

“Shut up, Weasley,” Albus hisses at me. I raise my eyebrows, nearly smirking.

“It’s not even as if the crime rates have anything to do with the campaign, or who’s the better candidate! Nor did the papers report anything about the possibility of another outbreak of dark magic until any of this started--”

I vacate the conversation, listening idly as Albus offers continued support and Molly refuses it each time.

“They’re always this way, remember when Dad was appointed Head Auror?--”

“But your father’s always been well-received besides! Dad isn’t--”

“Hardly anyone knew about him other than a senior officer at the Ministry before the press leaked a source, most people won’t believe what the papers say anyway--”

At this moment I feel fully in this space. I inhabit myself. I perhaps am even my skin. I lift my left hand to run my fingertips along the middle knuckle of my right hand, still swollen, still tender, still horrid, ugly, gaping like a mouth, or a seam. I wonder idly how it is that I still am receiving more attention from the student body than is Molly, or than are you.

* * *


Arithmancy is a dastardly small class and I find myself alone and too close to Addae Jordan. I can tell, the slope of his shoulders towards me though there’s no reason to speak says that he wants to talk to me. I am still puzzled and unhappy that he has interest in me at all. How did this happen? I sigh, I nearly smile. A girl can only try so hard.

There is a lone curl sticking out at the back of his head. His stack of hair is otherwise neat and trimmed and I pull my shoulders towards me, flexing my fingers, to distract myself from laughter. A moment passes and I am decidedly disappointed with myself. This feels like a ball expands and detracts in my chest, pushing other things out of the way.

“Pst!”

I hide my face in my wide cloud of hair. I am aware of the side of my face. I am aware that the five other students in this room have long ago abandoned their equations. Fingers prod the parchment pages of our textbook, shift across the grain halfheartedly. Professor Stuart is oblivious at her office.

“Pst! Hey, Weasel!”

I turn so quickly I put a cramp in my neck. I lift my left hand up gingerly, pressing and kneading my fingers into that string of muscle, running from my right shoulder to the nape of my neck.

“Don’t call me that,” I hiss. He knows nothing about me and everything I have done regarding him or thought about in idle time has been incorrect. I seek to fix this error; I see his face, and am reminded of our one similarity, that there is somehow discord between exterior and interior. He is clever and good at arranging his face. I press my thumb into my collarbone. I see that he has taken on a new cast, his glow has shrunk in the light and I manage to convince myself that this is a guarded sheepish face.

Despite myself, and cringing, I acknowledge him fully.

“Look,” I say, pushing the word up from my chest. It is a dense, hot stone, a terrible blossom! I consider each word, and speak to let him know. “I do not know you. I do not know why you consider it a good idea to know me. There is nothing about me that is any of your business. And I am a little bit sorry,” I add, feeling a small twinge at his openly taciturn face, “to have to say this to you, but I can say with some confidence that you know little about me.”

I escape from him then in my hair. I press my fingers into my quill. I grip the edge of my desk tightly, bursting the sore on my right hand. I am free until the end of period, when he stops me at the door going out. We are the last at this threshold.

“I know less about you than the average reporter, perhaps,” he says, raising his permanent eyebrows, and I know immediately that he has rehearsed this speech, perhaps even all hour. “But I know enough. More than others. And you’re going to meet me for Hogsmeade on Saturday.”

I have cursed knowledge a hundred times for its silent capacities: how is it that knowing lives in the secret place and does not speak? I should ask, if I were indulging in this moment in metaphors, but I am not, and I am hardening my face (squint eyes, pucker brow, loosen lips) because I do not know what he knows and knowledge being silent could do what I am afraid for.

I manage a threatening face. His own softens slightly; I wonder if he meant to scare me, if he knows he has.

For a moment I feel lines of me blurring outside of myself. I see us from far away.

“Your skin,” he says, “looks as hard as bone.”

I raise a hand and push his away from me, using a great deal of force. He had lifted a finger to touch my temple. I have surprised him. I gather myself and walk out the door and this all happens quickly, perhaps in a second or two, and it’s too late to say this but I do anyway, pausing in the middle of the corridor, turning back to where he stands motionless in the doorway.

“Get away from me.”

The middle knuckle of my right hand pulses rudely, aching.

* * *


Molly and Albus stand, their shadows touching heads on the flagstone spreading toward me. The torches do not keep the lack of heat at bay and it is cold. With my left hand I lift my robes and pull them closer around my neck, and lower face. I feel a distinct unhappiness that I have not brought my scarf or mittens out of the dormitory.

“Aren’t you a--”

“Shut up,” I snap, anticipating his quip. “I am nothing like the sun.”

Everything is lost. But it makes Albus quiet and I praise Shakespeare’s verse for its magical properties. I feel at the back of my neck a spreading cold, and then a heat. It slicks my forehead with a film of sweat.

“You look ill,” Molly says. I cannot tell by her face, her sparkling hazel eyes and the white skin I can see through her red fringe, if she says this because she is concerned or because there is in it for her some vague pleasure in making me aware of my feeble appearance. I sigh deeply.

“Just warding off the tourists,” I say, and then correct myself at the same time Albus does.

“Papparazi.” We glare at each other. There is something mildly comforting about it.

“Hey, Weasley!”

Molly and I both turn as the voice echoes between the walls. We can both tell this girl is talking to me, but Molly has nearly as much pride as I, and she pretends not to know.

“What?” I ask, unbothered by my abrasive voice.

“I need a button,” she says, over-pronouncing the last word, so that her tongue yields no hop between syllables.

“And why should we give one to you?” This is Molly. She has unconsciously adopted a self-defensive posture. I am devastatingly hunched in comparison. But I feel ill, and am not at the moment proud enough to deny this. The air is buzzing around me. I reach my left hand into my bag and pull out a bright, gold button with the flashing message VOTE WEASLEY in scarlet letters. Uncle Percy does not have a catchphrase. He doesn’t need one.

“Here,” I say, jostling Albus to the side as I push my way toward the girl. I recognize her immediately, a Hufflepuff sixth year. She’s only doing three N.E.W.T. courses and works at Honeydukes weekends. I nearly regret the pin, now, but see that Albus is pleased: the torch light bounces off his pallid face and I cannot see through the reflection in his glasses, but there is a tightness around his mouth that suggests he is hiding a smile.

“Thanks,” she says, taking it from me and pinning it to her robes. She does know protocol. For a moment, Molly looks confused, and I feel a vague, illuminating guilt at not having included her more, before I stand up straight and push off the feeling.

“You gave her a gold,” Molly mutters in my ear after the Hufflepuff has gone.

“Well of course she did,” Albus says. It’s a half-baked scoff, as he realises, half-way through, that she doesn’t understand as well as us.

“I thought they were red,” she says.

“They are,” I say, nodding. “We have to plant decoys.”

We begin to walk toward the Great Hall, towards the middle of the castle and downwards.

“I don’t understand,” Molly says, and then shakes her head. “Don’t tell me.”

I glance at Al over my left shoulder. He’s only an inch or two taller than me, and we’re nearly eye level. I can see through his glasses as we hit a corner and pass out of light momentarily. I know he knows that she wants to understand. We are both unsure of how to tell her. I clear my throat.

“You two are more serious about this than I thought,” she says, after a while. We’ve reached the second floor, about to go down another staircase. “I mean, I know you’re using a Protean on the red ones--and you must be on the gold ones, too--but wouldn’t they all say the same thing, then?”

“How could you even tell there was a reason in the first place?” This is Albus. He means for the difference. It’s strange, the question hadn’t occurred to me at all.

“I know how Rose moves,” she says with a laugh. I roll my eyes and Albus scoffs.

“You two better end up bloody married or I don’t know anything about life,” he says.

“You already don’t,” I say, and then turn to Molly, feeling warmer. I feel my awareness of others around us dwindling as I become engrossed in an explanation, but for the moment, I feel safe. There is no reason for it.

“I’ve got two master buttons,” I say, feeling I should rush to tell her what I can before we’re seated at the tables. “With the red ones, I’ll send out information that’s actually going to lead them to the Gryffindor common room, and with the gold ones, I’ll give them the incorrect date. It’s mainly,” I add, seeing that Molly looks as though she doesn’t understand, “so that I can weed out people who are more interested in--well--doing something I’ve planned than breaking in.”

“Why does it matter?” Molly says as we sit down. I am aware of hundreds of well-trained eyes drilling into our circle. I wonder if they wish they could hear us, or what they imagine we could ever be discussing. I’m nearly positive they’d be surprised to hear us, now.

“Well--” I say. I cannot say much to either of them. Albus is leaning towards me now from the other side of the table, his hands resting on either side of a vat of mashed potatoes. “You know me,” I say after a hesistation. “It’s got to be complicated or there’s no point.”

Molly seems to believe me. She shrugs, her left eyebrow shooting off into her hairline. The other I can’t see behind her fringe. “Well, isn’t that true,” she mutters, before stabbing a fork into a drumstick.

For the moment, my joints release, and I am floating over the bench, disappearing into thin air, where nobody looks hard enough to really see anything.

* * *


“I’ve got to talk to you,” I hiss, when the others are breathing deeply and slow.

“Mmph,” Molly groans. She’s woken at least one of them. I eye my wand speculatively, considering a Sleeping charm, but those are notoriously difficult to wake up from. I sit up in bed and push my feet into my slippers without grace, pulling back my curtains and launching myself face-first through a gap in Molly’s curtains. I land sprawled on top of her and she scrambles to sit up.

“Merlin’s beard,” she yells, and I punch her on the shoulder. It was a taut movement, and my hand snaps back, the wound reopened. Wincing, I lift the wand in my left hand and cast a silent Muffliato in three directions. It is a bit much, but I am staring through tears.

Molly lights her wand and points it into my face.

“Jordan threatened me,” I say, feeling neutral. I should have delivered the line with more force, but the words are effective. I cannot see anything with the light in my eyes, but I hear her breathe in sharply, and I feel the bed shift beneath her as she sits up straighter.

“About what? Was it Dad? I’d think people--”

“I don’t think it was Uncle Percy,” I say. “I don’t know what it was, actually.”

“But you said threatened,” she says, and I realise how close I’ve come in this moment of weakness to ruining everything I’ve worked very hard to keep quiet. She is in this moment at an advantage: I cannot allow her to see that I have reconsidered. I force a smile, shrugging my shoulders and relaxing my temples. I know that this will pass as relief. I am unsure of whether or not Molly will believe me, or if she will press me if she does not.

“You’re right,” I say, though she hasn’t said anything. “He didn’t have actual information. It’s probably nothing.”

I grasp my wand tightly and slide off the bed. A yellow set of soft rectangles floats in front of me as I reach forward and attempt to part the curtains.

“I know what you’re doing,” Molly says, her voice low. I freeze. It is a silly fear: she cannot know, because it defies logic and undermines the efficacy of my ability to hide. But it is fear nonetheless, a ripple through my stomach, up my spine, which makes my thighs tremble and my knees weak.

“You’re trying to blame me,” she says, her voice mild and hurt. “But Addae is damn hot and nobody asks you out anymore, and I think--” she says, and I turn around, my eyes wide, my jaw nearly popping open. “And I think you would have said yes anyway!”

“No,” I breathe, pointing my wand at her chest. She is up on her knees on the bed in an instant and  mimics the movement. She is right-handed, and our wand tips are touching. Hers jostles mine and my hand tightens. After a moment, she looks down at my right hand, and for a flickering second I imagine that her hand drops, but it is steady, and she meets my eyes again without sympathy.

“You’re right,” she says, her voice hard. “You’d never voluntarily do anything with anyone else. The whole world is out to get you, and you can’t show it what’s inside.”

“Shut up, Molly,” I growl. I think with a hint of self-pity and amusement that I have said this so often that it hardly means anything anymore.

It seems as if thirty seconds might have passed before Molly smiles ironically and her gaze again grazes my right hand before dropping to the bed sheets beneath her. I put my hand behind my back but keep my wand pointed at the puddle of shadow between her collarbones, exposed in her night shift.

“You know,” she says after a moment. Something is wrong, and has been wrong, and I am feeling the weight of it now but am unable to break down the way I could before; I have been so practiced at putting on that I have forgotten how to take off and I feel a desperate energy push up at my skin from inside. I am helpless, and stare at the top of her head, feeling decidedly sorry. I am in awe at it.

“You know,” she says again. “I don’t think we’re friends anymore.”

“At least,” I say, matching her smile. I know that to her my eyes will look harder, like ice. That is what they say. “The family bond is forever.”

I turn around and push my way out of the curtains, feeling angry. I stamp my foot on the ground as whispers between two beds fall silent. I point my wand toward the four-poster closest to the doorway and Levicorpus. There is a shrill cry. I walk quietly back to my bed, put my wand under my pillow, shove off my slippers and put myself between the sheets.

I wonder, vaguely, falling asleep, when my eyes are cracked, how you have gotten on this evening.



a/n: the line "i thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul" is from "Invictus" by William Henley, SURPRISE. Similarly, Rose's statement that she is "nothing like the sun," while quite true, is not her own, and comes from Shakespeare's "Sonnet 130." Again, the term "terrible blossom" is not mine but belongs to rising poet Olga Moskvina, whose work is excellent and changed me as a person after I heard her read.

*thank you, Missy (forsakenphoenix), for pointing out typos in HaRgrid's name ;A; and others, though I've only corrected Hagrid at this moment.*


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