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Clash by shez

Format: Novel
Chapters: 22
Word Count: 144,633
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Horror/Dark, Mystery, Romance
Characters: Harry, Albus, Hugo, Lily (II), Rose, Scorpius
Pairings: OC/OC

First Published: 07/09/2013
Last Chapter: 11/10/2018
Last Updated: 11/10/2018

Summary:

Banner by Easterlies @ TDA || 2014 Dobby Winner: Most Original Fic || CH22 UP!




When Rose resurrects her brother, she pushes the world to the brink of another war. Meanwhile Albus, cold and brilliant, may just be the second coming of Tom Riddle. Forced to work together to unravel their parents' suspicious deaths, they must solve the past if they want to survive the future. And answer the question: Just why does history keep repeating itself?

 

(A/N I guess Clash is back on this site? Hooray! I had to censor chapters a while back that I'll be uncensoring shortly. Stay tuned~)



Chapter 1: Her
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Rose Weasley
image by easterlies@TDA
 

 


 

 


 


Meeting Prisoner 11.

I had dreamt of this moment.

The airlock on the sealed door opened with a hiss and I took a tentative step inside, my heart rattling against my ribcage. Up to this point: everything about the penitentiary had been grim, from the metallic, tar-black fenced exterior to the washed looking men in uniforms. Her Majesty’s Prison, what some called Monster Mansion, dominated the skyline of Wakefield, home to the largest number of war prisoners in all of England. While the number of prisons had exploded all over England following the war, Monster Mansion remained the oldest, the grandest, and esteemed for housing the craziest.

At one point in history it had been an all-male prison. Now they harbored the most dangerous woman in all of England.

After the overweight man in the chafed uniform verified my clearance status, I was escorted down a long flight of stairs, followed by a dim spindly hallway. Sweat broke at my hairline as we approached what I knew to be the largest cell in all of Monster Mansion. Her cell. I could almost feel the infamous ‘magic’ rising in the air.

Prisoner 11 had been more than an academic fixation of mine for months— more than papers and debates, she was the subject of dreams. The fabled witch, the relic. No I was not in love with her, but you could say I was obsessed. And the archives over at the Manchestor Magical Library were dreadfully empty.

I had spent hours practicing queries in front of the mirror for this moment. And yet, when I finally saw her, eyes trailing the red-but-graying scalp and heavily creased forehead—I was struck by an intensity that rendered me silent.

Here it was, the culminating point of a lifetime’s work.

In the flesh, behind the bars, she met my confusion with a courteous smile and gestured to the chair that had been placed across from her outside the cell. Her age was impossible to tell from her appearance alone, but what remained of records placed her at eighty. Her legs were crossed, her hands politely folded in her lap, a practiced smile on her face—her mannerisms resembled ones of a quaint grandmother.

This was not at all how I had pictured England’s most notorious criminal.

“Do sit down, Mr. Walker. I won’t bite.” The voice spoke, deep, and so raspy it ran shivers up my spine. We were now face to face, my hands restless as I removed pen and paper from my bag. I took a deep breath.

“Ms. Weasley, I’m going to state a series of facts that I will need you to validate—”

“Rose,” she interrupted, her eyes bright. “Call me Rose.”

I blinked twice, taking a moment to regain my composure. I opened my notebook and scribbled prefers to be called Rose.

“Your name is Rose Weasley.”

“True.”

“You are the last of your kind.”

“True.”

“There are no more wizards or witches in the world.”

“True.”

“Given the choice to live the remainder of your life in prison or death, you chose death.”

“True.”

“You have fifteen days to live.”

“Also true.”

“When you die, there will be no more magic in this world.”

No reply. I looked up to meet a pensive stare, directed at me.

“Tell me, how much do you know of magic, Mr. Walker?”

I pressed dry lips before reciting what I knew by heart: magic was an anomaly in the natural world, both a moral and biological abomination. A weapon, mechanized from the faulty genetics of a dangerous people. It had taken countless lives since and before the Inevitable War, destroyed entire areas of England from Camden to York, all the way north to the Scottish Highlands and—

“I did not ask for your professors’ opinions on the matter, Mr. Walker. Or the textbook definition. What do you know, truly know, about magic?”

The woman studied me with an unfathomable expression. I felt dumbfounded. “Ms. We...Rose, I suppose,” I stammered. “We aren’t allowed to…you see, the government doesn’t—”

“But that is why you’re here isn’t it?” she said, with a half-smile. “A historian. An Intellectual. You came looking for answers, didn’t you? You want to know what happened that blew the best kept secret of mankind—magic.”
Had she peered into my mind and read the secret of my soul? Could she look into my past and seen the years of painstaking work I had done to get to where I stood now? I had no friends, girlfriend, or social life—only a sharp mind and a curiosity too insatiable to be anything but a vice. I was obsessed with the world of dragons and broomsticks and unfathomable mystery, a world to which I did not and would not ever belong.

But this did not stop me from late night poring over texts ranging from the likes of Merlin to Rowena Ravenclaw, from Albus Dumbledore to the legendary Harry Potter himself. It was I, perhaps, that had discovered a startling gap in mankind’s collection of knowledge— a crack in the glass wall that could have been easily overlooked if you weren’t out looking for it.

The Inevitable War—which took place between the magical and muggle realms fifty years ago—had no recorded cause.
Tell me everything that happened, I said. The war—no, no the war was the end. I want to know everything that led to it. I want to know every instance, accident, revelation that caused the precise calculations of the downward spiral. I want to know your life, Ms. Weasley. I want to know you. All of you. Each and every broken piece of history that I can preserve is a step towards building a better future, and— no, that’s bullshit. That’s what I told the guys at the security clearance. The truth is that I have no noble reason for knowing. I’ll keep your secrets. I just want to know.

“How did you survive?”

“Survive? My— why, because I’m a parasite, Mr. Walker.” She gave a bark of laughter, but I could hear the strain at the end of it. “Isn’t that what they teach you in school, about us? Well no matter, I really don’t mind. But know this—surviving is a habit I’ve perfected only after years of practice. The more one faces, the more resilient they become. I have escaped death sentences before. If I liked, I could escape this cell, I could kill each and every one of the guards, I could kill you, and I would leave without too much trouble.”

“But where would you go?” I asked, undaunted.

“That’s the problem, isn’t it?” I could see the outline of every crack on her darkened face, hear the fatigue in her voice—the pain of a woman who had suffered countless indignities, who had become the monster she was through a series of hardships. “Freedom has a price, Mr. Walker. Nothing is without consequence. It took me a lifetime to understand that.”

 

 

 


 


The art of witchcraft and wizardry was founded, indisputably, on the principles of science. Magic is only energy, after all. Energy that wizards use manipulate to perform various functions.

Please let him live.

The inherent truth is that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

He’s all she had left. Didn’t anyone understand? Dammit it just wasn’t not fair!

Needless to say—there are some things outside the realm of possibility. The creation of something out of nothing. But reviving someone on the brink of death?

God. Merlin. Please. Both of you. Either of you. Anyone. Is anyone out there?

The two of them drenched by rain, she sat holding his little body. Slowing pulse. Dilating pupils. He was going under again, sickly little Hugo, only this time it was heartbreakingly worse. His sweet baby face, crumpled from the severe pain, had started to relax. The hand that had so tightly gripped hers, so many times, had begun to loosen—no. Hot tears sprang to her eyes.


At its core though, magic isn’t just a collection of spells. It’s not a compilation of potion ingredients. It’s not the stream of light that comes out the end of a First Year’s shaky wand. It is the essence of consciousness, a fixation, an algorithm, an amplified mixture of willpower and highly concentrated neural energy. Words are a superfluous attribution, uttered to increase focus. In its simplest form, magic is an idea. And a very good idea, mind you.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He had been a ticking clock from the day he had been born. Now he would die right in front of her. Except, he couldn’t—not like this! There had to be something, anything! Vital seconds of his lifespan trickled away as she wracked her brain for answers. Concentrating as hard as she could. Ideas whirred through her mind faster than tears slipped through her eyes. Tentatively gripping her wand, she began muttering incantations—nonsense, made-up syllables. With her head bent, her focus consisted on one thing only: the preservation of his life.

She had no idea what would happen.


Just as every algorithm has a heuristic, there are techniques in magic that are able to bypass… certain technicalities. Still, you can’t get nothing without something. There is always a price.

A bright vortex of light emerged from under her, consuming both her and Hugo’s limp body. She gripped him as hard as she could to avoid separation. Wind and flame swirled around them at an impossible pace. The force, spell, whatever the hell you want to call it, was out of control. It felt as though a surge of lightning had shot through her body. She screamed in pain. She screamed in anger.

Thunder boomed in response as the destructive and reparative force burned through her insides. Then for a split second, while it felt like her entire body would be ripped apart, everything stopped. Time stood still. The searing pain vanished instantaneously. Vision blurred, noises deafened, any semblance of reality disappeared for a few brief moments, until she fell limp on Hugo’s body. She couldn’t move her legs.

In that moment it didn’t matter. Both of them were breathing heavily.

Breathing.

 

 

 

 


 


Blinding lights struck her face as the emotionless voice pronounced her name.

“How do you plead, Miss Weasley, to the charges made against you?”

She licked her dry lips nervously. “And what would those be?”

Amidst the crowd of indistinguishable faces, Minister Kingsley, longtime friend of her parents, gave her an impassive stare.

“The use of untested dark magic.”

At this there were curious murmurs in the circular chamber of Wizengamot. Kingsley slammed his hammer, enforcing silence. “We don’t have all day, Ms. Weasley, how do you plead?”

She could feel her heart plunge. There weren’t words to describe the hopelessness she felt. The vestibule, hollow expanse of space, allowed for the entire scenario to play out in her head. From the confines of her wheelchair, she would try to lift herself up. If I could just explain —Answer the question, Ms. Weasley! How do you plead? How should I plead when you’ve already made your decision!? I’m going to Azkaban. You brought your dead brother back to life. He should have died! I saved him. Have you considered the magnitude of your actions, Ms. Weasley? Everything your parents fought, died, to protect —do you have any idea of precisely the damage you have caused in trying to play God? I saved him. The ripples of your actions? The Pandora’s box you have opened for every other wizard in the world? I saved him. I don’t give a damn.

“Guilty, then.”

There was silence in the room as people who had been watching her collectively let their gaze swivel toward the minister, awaiting his verdict, all except the man on the left. The man on the left was dressed fashionably in a double-breasted navy plaid suit, with four button cuffs and matching trousers, possessing the fastidious expression of someone who was rarely ever pleased. The man on the left was middle-aged and wrongfully ambitious for his position as Head Auror, and had a distinctively angular face marked with a single scar running over the left side to the pointed chin. The man on the left was not interested in what the Minister had to say—he didn’t like the sodding prick anyway. He was far too busy observing the fifteen-year-old girl, her tight jawline, the firmness of her brow, the occasional expression of fear that would flash in her eyes and falter the façade she held in the face of her verdict. She possessed an agile frame, nothing special but workable, and though her legs were limp and weak, with the right amount of training, he could see them become muscular. She was neither big nor small nor plain nor conventionally pretty (which was excellent, because prettiness would annoy him) but fine featured and lean. With the exception of that startlingly bright hair, she was a blank canvas. There was potential. He could morph her easily.

With a peculiar grace, the Head Auror stood up and cleared his throat.

“My dear Minister, allow me to offer a suggestion on behalf of the girl.”

Kingsley considered the Head with disdainful deliberation. “Very well, Vincent.”

“Grant me custody.”

The Minister blinked twice, quite unsure what he had heard was correct. Never would he have considered the Head the type of man with paternal instinct or a particular fondness of children. Rather the opposite. Rose had not yet recovered from the jaw-dropping statement.

“Precisely what do you intend to do with custody?”

“I meant professional custody, of course. Allow me to make Rose Weasley an asset to the Ministry. She is young, weak, injured—but I believe there is potential in her. She can reside under my surveillance where we may study the effects of dark magic on her. In the meantime, I shall train her personally.”

“Need I remind you, Vincent,” the minister stated, his nostrils flaring, “that being awarded the rank of Auror is a privilege—which not to mention requires complete schooling and outstanding OWLS, neither of which Ms. Weasley possesses—”

“Yet it cannot be denied she has displayed prodigious talent in witchcraft.”

The Minister sputtered. “Why—this is an utterly ridiculous proposition…I shall not hear another word of this nonsense! It’s settled! Rose Weasley is going to answer for her mistakes and nothing else!”

Just when Rose thought the nonsense had ended, the Head intervened again, on her behalf:

“My Dear Minister, you may feel comfortable with sentencing an under-aged orphan to Azkaban, but I assure you that many others in this room, much like myself, do not. Perhaps we shall put it to the jury to decide.”

Rose learned something about irony that day, as each hand slowly rose to commit her fate to a lifetime of servitude, the Minister’s nostrils flared, and the scary man in the suit eyed her like a champion prize horse (or perhaps a useless piece of shit. They had only just met. She was not so sure what a hawk-like glare meant yet). Within minutes she had gone from contemplating Azkaban to being adopted.

 

 

 

 


 


The Head lived by himself and two house elves—German, polar opposites by the names of Una and Gus who were always bickering and flinging strongly worded insults at each other. The Head enjoyed this clash of personalities in the same way one enjoys a glass of lemonade of a hot summer day. The house itself was nothing short of extravagant, with its larger than life décor and spiraling staircase, and a grand dining room with enough seating for an army yet held only a distraught girl and fashionably dressed man that particular evening.

Una and Gus had, as always, prepared a contrasting meal of Mediterranean and Japanese cuisine, though the Head wasn't as much interested in food as he was in his new ward. As he chewed on his tonkatsu slowly, he observed her from across the table—the hollow, darkened eyes, the hunched over demeanor, the mangled urchin I’m-not-hungry look.

So resolute. So… adolescent.

He would have crush that defiant spirit in due time, mold and shape it into submission. She would never grow if she didn’t eat, and if she starved to death, he would be prosecuted on charges of abuse…which would damage his prospective chances of becoming the Minister. Unacceptable.

“Not hungry?”

No response. He tapped the tip of his glass impatiently, waiting. Was this a form of defiance or was she just not much of a talker? Not that he minded the latter, having no interest in listening to girlish chatter about shoes and clothes and boys and whatnot. The last thing he wanted with his new ward was a relationship not wrought in fear and mutual resentment.

But respect, no, respect was different. She would learn to worship the ground he walked on.

For a few brief moments they sat there as the kitchen rattled with bickering between Una and Gus. There was a clattering of pans followed by violent threats made in German.

“Gus! Put down the knife or I deduct from your pay!” The Head called.

“Meister bezahlt mich nicht!” Master doesn’t pay me!

This was followed by the loud pattering of feet and shrill sobbing.

“Well now look what you’ve done, Gus.” The Head tsked, pouring himself a glass of wine. “Go make a healing potion and apologize to Una. This is not how families behave!”

Family. That word must’ve triggered something because the girl’s head shot up.

“I have aunts, uncles, cousins,” she spoke, her voice soft. “People who’ve known me since birth. And no one’s come. Why hasn’t anyone come?”

“Who knows, maybe they just don’t like you. Maybe no one’s ever liked you. Did you think of that?”

She stared at him, confounded. Inwardly, the Head reassessed his remark wondering if he’d been insensitive. Damn this child raising business. He put down his wine glass and pulled out a cigar.

“Look, Weasley,” he said as he lit it. “I know it’s hard to believe it, but no one really likes orphans. When and if you have kids, you’ll understand. In fact you’ve probably been a burden on everyone since your parents died, especially your Aunt…Germy?”

“Ginny.”

He puffed, coughing as he accidentally inhaled too deeply. “Right, right. Well, life is a cruel, tough place and it’s only when you’re in trouble you realize how alone you are. Not to mention you’ve broken rules that would scare the hell out of most people. They probably think you’re some reincarnation of Herpo or le Fay or, Merlin forbid, our most recent Tommy. ”

At this point there was so much smoke in the room, Gus had reentered to open windows. Una was holed up in the bathrooms crying her eyes out. Rose had not made a single movement. The Head paused for a moment of deliberation before continuing.

“However, I’m not most people, Weasley, so this misunderstood urchin thing won’t work with me. I can see you don’t feel a sliver of remorse for your actions, nor do I particularly care. But you’re ambitious and I like that. You will train and study under me, and, further on, serve as my right hand and secret vessel of power. I will make you stronger than you could ever imagine. In turn you will help me achieve my subversive goals until I become the Minister of Magic. Is that understood?”

He had intended —or maybe hoped— that this information would be a shock: outrageous, exciting, and scandalous. Or perhaps there would be outrage for the depravity of his request and self-serving agenda, but there was none of that either. Here he was, offering the brat ultimate power as temptation and she hardly seemed interested. The look in her eyes was hollow.

Irritably he continued: “But that doesn’t mean you can feel free to make yourself at home. I’m not your father and I have no interest in pretending to be so. Therefore, you will address me as Sir or Head or nothing at all. As long as you are my ward, you will live by my rules and restrictions, which means no boys, no drinking, no communication with boys, no junk food, no thoughts about boys, and no magic without permission. Also, there will be no talking to reporters and boys of any kind and curfew is when I say it is.”

“Will I get to see him?”

The Head stared at her for a moment, in dismay.

“My brother. If I do this for you, will I get to see him?”

“If that’s…all you want, I don’t see why not.”

“That’s all I want.”

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 



Chapter 2: Him
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

6/26 EDITS: character interactions.






Albus Potter
image by easterlies@tda




I realized quickly Rose Weasley was leaving out information. She wasn’t telling me how her parents died, where her brother was, why her family didn’t help her, the political climate of her setting. I was probably jumping ahead of myself so, naturally, I assumed these were pieces she was leaving out deliberately and would be explained in due time. Currently, there was a bigger query on the floor.

“So what was the deal with you and Albus?”

The old woman looked nostalgic for a moment.

“What do you know about Harry Potter, Mr. Walker?”

“Enough.” I knew about the prophecy, the Great War, the Dark Lord, the whole saving-the-world bit.

“You should know then that Albus was nothing like his father.”

There was a brief silence.

“Yes, that much has been very clear.”

“It wasn’t his fault though.”

“So it was your fault then.”

“It’s hard to pinpoint the blame on any one person for what happened with him, but yes, partly it may have been mine. There were others: his mother for instance, Scorpius, and then his brother, although Jamesy always tried his best, bless him. Most was his father’s though.”

“His father was dead at the time.”

“Exactly.”

“Where did it all go wrong then?”

“I wouldn’t know. There was no one simple instance. Though I’m sure it started far before we even realized it.”

“Did you love him?”

The abrupt query came as a shock to her, but she quickly recovered and gave me a strained smile.

“Love is not an emotion easily associated with Albus.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“He was my family. I cared for his well-being.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“His own mother despised him.”

“You’re avoiding the question.”

“Then I have no broader explanation for you,” she replied coldly. “You may assume what you wish about us.”

I decided that I would. Then I asked my final question for the evening.

“Do you have any regrets about the way it ended with him?”

There was absolute silence.

“Good night, Mr. Walker.”




I tapped the edge of the wardrobe twice and turned the knob like a combination lock. It opened it to reveal a fountain-like structure—a pensieve. More specifically, the pensieve of Albus Potter. Legend stated that in his old home, he had this particular pensieve tailored to his mind. That it contained not only his memories, but memories of those around him. And that these memories would be more than just faint recollections, but very vivid and intimate accounts that read like journal entries. The observer would be able to sense the emotions of many.

It would no doubt help with my research, but I had to wonder why Albus would make his recollections so…intimate.

In all the rubble and chaos and disorder, what could he have been trying to preserve?




Harry smiled at his four-year-old son. “Albus, will you come with me please?”

Ginny shot her husband a curious look but said nothing as Albus stood up and obediently walked over. Gingerly reaching down, Harry picked up his son and held him in his arms. The thin-faced boy bore an even more perplexing likeness to the striking young man in such close proximity. “Albus and I’ll be back in a bit, Gin.”

Apparation. Together, boy and man burned through space and countless dimensions, miles in milliseconds, their grips tightening and loosening as they clung on to each other. Still, a seamless journey, for it was one that the bright-eyed boy had grown used to. It was only Albus that Harry would apparate with on these ‘business’ trips, for it was only Albus, calm and level-headed and highly intelligent, who possessed the extraordinary aptitude for reading his father— to the extent that not a single facial expression, variation in tone, or behavioral tick of his went by unnoticed. Infant Lily was fussy and an avid screamer, and James, though brave and well-intentioned, didn’t have the head for it.

Thunder shook the heavens as they emerged from the midst of a dense, sight-blurring haze in the middle of nowhere. Albus watched his father point a wand toward a barren patch on the ground and mutter an incantation –with a swift, sudden rumble, from its place began rising a dilapidated shack-house with burnt panes and windows boarded from the inside.

Subtle folds formed around Daddy’s eyes, depicting distress. The small boy shot him an inquisitive look but knew better than to ask why. Most families have secrets, but the Potters were particularly notorious for their thickly coated web of lies. Even one as young as Albus understood that discretion was vital for maintaining secrecy. He was expected to share in his father’s burden, whether or not he knew it, since one cannot tell what one does not fully understand.

Loyalty

What mattered most to Albus was that Daddy trusted him above all others. Years later he would see the fundamental error in his thinking.

Standing outside the household, Harry put Albus down and told him what he always did:

“Stand by the door and do not, under any circumstance, come inside.”

As always, Albus gave a solemn nod and watched his father go through the doorway. Moments later, came the wretched sounds of screaming –long, guttural, pain-stricken shrieks. To drown out the awful noise, Albus clasped his hands over his ears, forcing every ounce of control he had over himself not to go inside. For it was his father’s screams that pounded against his eardrums.

Obedience

He’ll come back. He wouldn’t leave me like this. Silent tears streamed down his small face. Minutes felt like hours dragging by as the small boy, stood, with teary eyes clenched shut, miserable, waiting for the end of his cruel and unusual torture. It was in these moments that Albus felt he might’ve hated his father.

Resentment

Still, Albus knew why it was him Daddy brought. James was strong and brave, but he couldn’t harden his heart. Albus could. He could push emotions aside and do the rational thing. Talent. Curse. Trained instinct. He understood that in order to survive, he’d have to harden his heart. It would become part of a series of challenges his father put him through, indefinitely shaping the core of his personality.

Self-preservation

Years later, nightmares would haunt his sleep and he would spew venom at his father for making him so cold. A near-monster who relied on cunning and manipulation and detested any form of intimacy. Who was swayed by neither friendship nor love.

But moments later, when Harry emerged well and alive, all feelings of anything but relief would be forgotten, and Albus would cling to his leg until he was picked up again.

Most times Albus was compliant enough to accept his father’s following silence, but occasionally curiosity got the better of him.

“Did you kill him?”

Not an accusation but an inquiry. An innocent one.

“Do you really think your father is a murderer, Albus?”

The boy thought for a moment before answering in a small voice: “Sometimes.”

The ends of Harry’s mouth curved downward. “Well I’ll tell you. There’s only one time you could say Daddy’s taken a life and today wasn’t it.”

Albus looked equal parts scared and curious. Then, a hushed whisper: “I want to know when.”

“Of course you do. You’re my son, after all.” Harry shook his head, and then lowered his voice. An expression of pain flickered over his face.

“Know that there once was a Dark Lord. And that he was betrayed, cast aside, and destroyed by his own mantle of power. But know that there must always be a Dark Lord, one capable of unfathomable horrors. One who has been hurt in the heart and will hurt in return.”

Albus buried his face into Harry’s shoulder. “I fear, son, that history has a habit of repeating itself.”

Fear

“Who will stop the new dark lords, Daddy?”

“My dear Albus,” Harry sighed, running a hand over the frightened boy’s head. “I won’t be around forever.”





He readjusted himself on the wooden stool, feeling like cattle about to be butchered in front of the mass of anxious eyes trained on him, hungrily waiting. Here was the momentous Sorting of Harry Potter’s second son. Even at the age of eleven he knew exactly what was expected of him.

So he didn’t just plead with the Sorting Hat –he begged. But apparently, it was through making exceptions for his family.

“Trust me Potter, I can read your heart,” replied the snide voice. “In it, I see neither your father’s courage nor his well-intentioned character. I see…my, my, you’re a slippery one aren’t you? Deviant, lustfully aching to prove yourself and yet… let’s just say I’d do you a disservice Potter, if I didn’t put you in the right House.”

Uncle Ron’s words rang alarmingly in his head, pulsating in step with the frantic beating of his heart: There’s not a wizard that hadn’t gone wrong that wasn’t sorted in Slytherin.

“Put me in Ravenclaw and I’ll be the cleverest boy I can be, Hatty,” he murmured. “You know I have it in me.”

The Sorting Hat gave a disgusted snort. “You want more than just cleverness, Potter. That you attempt to bribe me with false promises proves you truly belong with the serpents.”

Please. Anything, anything but—

He winced as the Sorting Hat proclaimed, “SLYTHERIN!”




Albus knew from the very beginning that he wasn’t like the others. That he was smarter, better. He absorbed all that he read—his mind was an engine, racing at a speed impossible to match. He excelled with a fluidness that left other high-achieving students like Rose in dismay. She would ache over every word, every sentence, over the constant hum of sleepless nights and blistering of fingers to achieve a similar level of excellence, yet words came to him as if from an ethereal source. Line by line, with a flourish of the pen, he would gain momentum, his fingertips feverishly trying to capture the speed of his racing mind.

He and Rose had started their magical education together far before Hogwarts, poring through the same books since they could read, practicing spells in the pitch of night with their parents’ wands. They dabbled in potions, creating concoctions from the simplest ingredients they could find. It was more than just living up to their potential. It was desire to be more than they had been meant for. Children of the Golden Trio—in a sense they had their lives already defined for them. But this, this was rebellion at its finest. It was raw and unprecedented ambition, egging them to achieve and compete with each other, to see who could master the hardest charm, the most complex potions.

Nothing was off-limits.

Schooling tamed Rose, but it left Albus to wrestle with a problem he had never encountered before: boredom. Classes were juvenile at best and teachers easy to sway—he was clever in a way that it was almost a vice. For this reason he found himself at odds with the other students.

Arms pinned against the wall, his shirt was torn from clawing. Lip bled, torso ached from the countless kicks—meanwhile his bladder was bursting for release. The three insufferable Sixth Years had forced a liter of whiskey down his throat, holding his mouth open with their mangy hands. His feeble attempts to dismember their fingers resulted in a swift kick to the groin.

Then, after a painful three hours, it happened. The boys cackled viciously at his quivering chin, widening eyes, as a wet patch formed in the front of his pants.

The boys, sniggering, kicked him several more times for good measure and stalked away.

Unlike any other small boy, Albus did not cry. He was, perhaps, incapable of doing so. Instead he stayed on the ground, contemplating the weakness that had brought his to this point—his size? Is that what it was?

How pathetic.

“Are you ok?”

He shook himself into consciousness, glancing up to meet a blond mess of hair with startling grey eyes, mouth agape.

“Bloody hell, Potter, what happened to you? Don’t tell me you had a row with the Whomping Willow. Again.

A groan escaped his lips. It was the resident Slytherin nuisance. The other Second Years feared and despised Albus, but he was incessantly challenging his presence, being a smartass.

“Leave it Malfoy. I’m fine.”

“Well whoever it was, they did you up pretty good this time. I bet you can’t even stand.”

“I said it’s fine! Just go away!”

The brows drew up. “Prove it.”

Albus lifted his torso carefully, using the wall to steady himself, but his knees gave out from under him. He collapsed and swore loudly, then tried again. And again. At last, he looked up to find the curious extension of a hand. He studied it disdainfully.

“I didn’t ask for your help.”

“Shut up and take my hand….Potter. And hurry up before someone turns the corner and sees us.”

This was an imperative moment for Albus, for he knew taking the hand meant admitting vulnerability. True perfection was unattainable but the impression of it depended upon covertly hiding one’s weaknesses. Once he took this hand, he would leaving himself entirely open, at the mercy of something he couldn’t control.

In the end Albus took the hand and Scorpius’s face flickered with an uncontrolled smile that he quickly drew back into a sneer. He lifted Albus up and pulled the injured boy’s arm around his shoulder, helping him limp toward the Hospital Wing.

“Hey Potter, guess what…you smell like piss.”

“Shut up.”




They quickly went from Potter and Malfoy to Albus and Scorp. It was unexpected in the same way it was unnatural. How could the heir of the most notorious ex-Death Eater family in the Wizarding World, get on so well with the Chosen One’s youngest son?

Scorpius could not explain it—Albus Potter was demanding, selfish, and positively corrupt— yet his friendship enticed him all the same.

Perhaps it was because the Malfoy had grown bored with his life: only child, coddled at birth, born into a cradle of wealth. Anyone was liable to take advantage of his wealth and person. His good looks and skill were testament to his family name.

Then there was Albus, with every intention to kick his ass – an Ice Prince with even bigger shoes to fill, scary smart, and nothing to gain from something as superfluous and corny as friendship. Instead, he offered rebellion, intrigue, danger, and a hell of a good time. Exactly the sort of senseless distraction Scorpius had wanted.

They fell to each other out of sheer necessity.

The Post-War world was far from perfect. First and second years Scorpius walked around with cotton balls in ears to avoid hearing the jeers about his father while estranged Albus, too Slytherin and clever for his own good, sported daily taunts and beatings. These were days both remembered well but neither discussed in adulthood, not even with each other. Slytherin House was associated with the Losing Side and held with more disdain than ever---Albus heard most of the jeers over the table at the Burrow than anyone else, when key adults had turned necks. Meanwhile Scorpius, who had spent most of his glass-castle childhood in isolation, somehow felt even lonelier surrounded by reoccurring names like Zabini, Crabbe, Goyle, Higgs, etcetera. There was a noiselessness he couldn’t break through, one had to do with faded loyalties and outdated war and his father’s painful past hung out like dirty laundry for the Whole Damn Wizarding World To See.

Albus was not his father, just as Scorpius wasn’t his: both boys were conscious of this. Scorpius may have offered his hand first, out of genuine concern, but the fact their peers anticipated rivalry between them may have pushed Albus to take it. An alliance borne of pragmatism and spite... it seemed they held a shared goal in wanting to piss as many people off as possible.

Scorpius helped Albus clean up after fights, albeit with a cocky shit-eating grin—can’t go a day without trouble, eh Potter? Albus could whiff out the different potions laced in their morning pumpkin juice—drink that and your tongue’ll sprout hair—giving a cold smirk as the blond grimaced, pushing the goblet away. Scorpius snuck out food for them in late nights spent exploring the castle; at night they were adventurers, uncovering hidden corridors and locked rooms, retracing their fathers’ steps through history with a certain Marauder’s Map, in some vain attempt to preserve that part of them. At the same time, they wanted nothing more to leave their fathers’ pasts behind. They were renegades, both and curious, and bent on causing general mayhem.

Still, Albus made sure anyone who foul-mouthed Scorpius’ father got an earful of splattergloit. And Scorpius was always there to cover his best mate’s tracks.

The blond always joked it was necessary for people with names as horrible sounding as theirs to stick together, but there was more truth in it than he knew. Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. Over the next four years they would become Hogwarts most notorious duo. By the end of Second Year, Albus had scared their other dorm mates away and secured private space for their disposal, for planning. Third Year was when their reputations finally dawned. Scorpius became Slytherin keeper and a sodding good one at that— a personable boy, an athletic icon. Meanwhile Albus rose to the top in academics, solidifying his reputation as the cold brilliant mind he was. Teachers held expectations higher than mountains but their peers were the real problem: girls chased ruthlessly, and boys sported equal modes of envy and resentment. Potions-in-morning-pumpkin-juice was a very real threat. Exploding dungbombs—wandering strange corridors lent to embarrassingly horrifying accidents. Valentine’s day, with its array of Amortentia-filled candies and pastries, may have been the most dangerous day in the whole year for the two recently-pubescent males.

As if intelligence alone wasn’t enough for a power complex, over the years Albus became what some would call handsome. In an artistic sense Scorpius could admit he was aesthetically pleasing. Aside from the common features— dark hair, medium stature, pale green eyes— Albus had a distinct, and yet deliberate way of holding himself, with poised shoulders and a firm brow that furrowed when provoked —and a tilted smile that, in the rare instance he did smile, always bordered on the enigmatic.

By fourth Year, Albus had turned the school’s social structure on its head. It was not through magic, rather a series of carefully orchestrated words. Scorpius had the privilege of seeing it all from his bedside—the way Albus practiced in front of the mirror, lines, facial expressions, practicing the bullshit he would later use to sway classmates, prefects, professors. The influence started out small, subtle; Scorpius noticed social niceties did not come naturally to Albus. The boy was a prodigy at magic—he lived in the realm of potions and wandwork and cared for little else. Therefore, interactions had to be calculated. Words had to be planned, practiced, perfected.

Scorpius was amazed to see him in action, see his influence work another sort of magic on their peers.

Through clever maneuvering the Slytherin house became a thing once more to be revered rather than ridiculed: persecuted became persecutors. Together, they rose in reputation and threat .Scorpius may have been Slytherin’s Ice Prince, but Albus was the King and he ruled His Kingdom with an Iron Fist.

And of course, there were certain advantages to being friends with the cleverest boy in school.

For the most part, they used each other. One wanted thrill; the other, an accomplice. Albus even helped Scorpius study, if with his usual derision and scorn. Meanwhile Scorpius took part in dangerous schemes; Albus used him extensively, but he was obvious about it in way that could almost be considered honesty. For some reason, Scorpius was already too comfortable taking the same dangerous risks as him.

Sometimes when they were really bored, they even played chess.

Scorpius came to know the elusive dark-haired boy better than anyone, but the privilege came with a price. It became an unspoken truth—that Scorpius was to answer his every call, entertain every detention with him, transcend rule and reason in the pursuit of their joint endeavors. In front of classmates, Albus was able to degrade his social dignity with a few measly words:

“Come here, Malfoy.”

Scorpius would stop what he was doing and rush after him. No doubt Potter was infuriatingly pleased with this result. He had finally gained what he had wanted all along: a loyal pureblood dog. Within months, and the eventual transcendence of years, he came to know, judge, and critically presume every minor detail about Scorpius. From a single look Albus could deduce which girl he liked to the most recent fear he harbored (though the two usually coincided). He imposed his will on every decision Scorpius would make, tying his goals and aspirations inevitably with his agendas. A possessive egomaniac to whom nothing was off limits. Despite this level of disclosure, their duality remained skewed, for while one was an open book, the other controlled precisely what was known about him. The fact Albus could manipulate Scorpius’s observations, feelings, and deductions of him frightened the blond. In three years, Scorpius learned only three solid things about his friend:

1. Magic was his only obsession. No amount of girls or quidditch or academic success could compare.

2. Albus disliked his family and wasn’t clear on how he felt about his father. Most of his cousins openly taunted him for being snake. Rose was the sole exception.

3. Winning was everything to Albus. And he would go to great lengths to maintain his superiority.




Fourth Year. Hogwarts. Yule Ball.

A tall, brazen silhouette stood in proximity. Platinum Blond hair. Bored grey eyes. Dark protruding brows coupled with square shoulders gave him a rather broody demeanor, often attracting more girls than he could handle. Right now however, Scorpius Malfoy had no girls and that expression was slowly waning into an irritable grimace.

He hated dances, which seemed to be held only to humiliate Fourth Year boys such as himself. The night was already going poorly: he’d been shot in the eye by an ice cube (stupid house elf), sent his date crying back to her dorm, conned out of his entire allowance once more by Albus in chess, and was currently being approached by that annoying Rose Weasley.

“Hey Malfo—”

“I haven’t seen Albus. Go away.”

Over the years they had been at odds with each other. Scorpius could admit it was mostly his fault—he had an inexplicable tendency to say something revolting and offensive whenever he opened his mouth around her, but then again, she never did anything but inflame the issue.

She gave an annoyed huff. “That’s not what I was going to ask—”

“That’s what you usually ask,” he accused, pubescent voice cracking. “And I’m telling you that he didn’t do it this time. I was there!

It wasn’t his fault she had gotten unfairly better-looking over the years, or that he had the communication skills of a troll. It wasn’t his fault he pelleted her with gobstones every Valentine’s Day and inadvertently sent her to the hospital wing. He couldn’t control what his body did—damn it, he was fifteen!

“Calm down you git. I just came to tell that you were looking nice tonight, for a change.”

Scorpius could feel his body tighten at this unexpected compliment. Then he opened his mouth.

“Wish I could say the same about you.”

Damn it.

She flushed bright pink, and not the pretty one either. The angry one.

“You—you’re a sodding pig, Malfoy. And I don’t care what you think. It’s not like I was going to ask you to dance!”

“Well… good.” He quickly folded his arms. “I wouldn’t have said yes anyway.”

“Good! I wouldn’t want you to!”

“Fine!”

“Fine!”

Rose stormed away fuming, convinced that her father had always been right. Boys were morons and Malfoy—the cocky insulting snot-nosed brat—was their king. He couldn’t even take a compliment from her! He’d never see past their surnames, blah, blah, blah, he was just like his father, blah, blah, why, it was obvious that he hated her and—

“I leave you two alone for ten minutes and you’re at each other’s throats.”

An arm drew around her shoulder, startling her and pulling her close, and she nearly yelped.

“He started it, Al. He always starts it.”

“He can’t help it, Rose Pose,” came her cousin’s voice. “It’s those hormones of his, always fluctuating with you around. Especially tonight when you’re looking so extraordinarily pretty.”

She scoffed, ignoring the easy smile on his features. Albus was a charmer—he could run his fingers through the heart-strings of any being he wanted. Skillfully. Confidently. Dispassionately. And there was always a catch.

“Save the tricks, Al,” she said, dryly, “Just tell me what you want.”

The deferential smile flickered for a second. “You think I’m being insincere?”

Rose was certain he wouldn’t know sincerity if it hit him in the face.

“I don’t want to play games.”

“A dance, then?” He expounded, tilting in a humorous half bow. Pressing a kiss on the back of her fingers, green-eyes looked back at her. Earnest. “I wasn’t paying attention during instruction. You can teach me.”

The whole idea was ridiculous. It wasn’t as if Albus, sleek and unapologetically handsome, had any shortage of willing partners to resort to asking his cousin. And of course he didn’t care about the rumors. All that mattered was that Scorpius was shooting daggers into the back of his skull and Posey Rosey Posey was too preoccupied to drift away. Only Albus could put his hands on her waist, her own arms around his neck, and hold her so close.

He wasn’t just her cousin but her friend, her confidante, practically a brother: he was the only one who knew her despair. He knew this. Her small frail heart hung close to his chest as they danced. Resting her chin on his shoulder, she’d let her mind wander in a peace-less silence.

“Still oogling Malfoy over my shoulder, Rosie? How….predictable.

“Don’t presume you know what’s on my mind.”

“We both know what’s on your mind,” he said softly. There was only one thing on her mind, in the dead of night and the hum of class. What kept her in the library, away from the desire of friends and dating and parties every weekend. He had known her since birth, seen her at every turn of her life— and she was too damn predictable. As if Albus couldn’t see the only thing her fragile little world existed around.

“Hugo’s going to be fine at the hospital.”

“He’s dying, Al.” Rose was glad he couldn’t see the swelling of her eyes. “They admitted him yesterday. They said he’s dying and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“People die, Rose.”

“Shut up.”

“And if I told you we could change that, you wouldn’t listen to me.”

Rose halted mid-step. They had had this discussion before, over the boiling of illegal potions and practice duels in the Forbidden forest. Between heated arguments about the modern applications of alchemy and Flamelian philosophy and dark texts.

She pulled away, giving him a dirty look. “You’re screwing with me.”

“It’s not a joke. I’ve been—listen, I’ve been doing some research on the properties of the resurrection stone…I think I’m onto something.” His eyes grew bright. “I’ll have you look at my dad’s old texts on it later.”

Rose knew better to be swayed by his niceties: her cousin was a poison bomb, coated with sugar, ready to go off at any moment.

“Why are you doing this?”

His eyes narrowed, all semblance of affection lost. “Damn it Rose, you don’t think I’d be the slightest bit interested in the prospect of revitalization?

“I know you,” she hissed, lowering her voice so no one could hear her, “You’ve been practicing the Unforgivables on spiders since Second Year. You’ve invented a potion to burn the insides of animals without leaving a trace. You’re not interested in saving lives. I’m not an idiot. This is a purely Rose-centric plot. So I’ll ask you again, what’s the catch?

His expression stiffened. “Fame, mostly. Conquering death. It’s a nice starting point.”

“Don’t lie, asshole. You need a test subject,” she hissed.

“And you’re running out of options, missy,” he bit back derisively, “Your brother’s going to die one of these days and you’re going to wish you were ready. You need me.”

“Sounds like you need me more.”

“Well that’s always been the case, Rosie.”

If she faltered a bit at this, she did a good job not showing it. She was far too pissed to acknowledge the sudden tenderness in his tone. He had crossed a line. This time she wouldn’t forgive him. This time she actually meant it.




“The funeral of Harry J. Potter, Ronald B. Weasley, and Hermione J. Weasley took place the summer after your Fourth and last year of schooling.” I read off my notes, “It was a fire wasn’t it?”

“That was the official story,” Rose replied vaguely.

“So you and Albus didn’t believe it.”

She scoffed, “We knew our parents, Mr. Walker. Do you think the Golden Trio, who vanquished the Dark Lord, could just die in a simple fire? Something was obviously off, and of course the how didn’t matter as much as the why.




Albus let James manage their mum—the older boy had a soft sincerity that he couldn’t quite replicate. Instead, he held inconsolable Lily until she fell asleep and then carried her to bed.

Now as he sat quietly in the living room observing the crackling fire, a growing heaviness in his chest. He couldn’t explain what it was; only that it felt like his lungs had been punctured. He had lost an arm, an appendage, an extension of himself had been removed.

His father was dead.

People die.

But— this wasn’t anyone they were talking about. Harry Potter wasn’t people — sometimes Albus didn’t even think he was human. How could he drop at the simple turn of fate? It was too sudden, too chaotic, too unexpected. The laws of nature did not apply to his father.

Something was wrong.

James was crying. He knew he should’ve cried too — to keep up appearances if anything. But there was weakness in the tears, the running nose, the quivering lip. It felt….disgusting. Albus had not cried in a very, very long time, and could not find it in him to summon the energy to pretend. Surely, his father would be ashamed of such a useless reaction. The man had always told him to control his emotions.

So he wouldn’t cry when his father died.

This was also his father’s fault.

For the first time in a long time, he couldn’t understand himself. His hands were shaking, but how he felt did not match how he should’ve. What was the matter with him? Was he so far gone that he couldn’t even grieve for his father?

His fists began to coil. Anger—no, rage burned in his throat. He had done everything, hadn’t he? He had become exactly what his father had wanted him to. He had endured every lesson, every training, every hardship imposed upon him, as obediently as any son could. Hell, he had worshiped the man. He had repressed every doubt, every grievance, every primal urge and for what? What had been the point of it all?

With his father dead, how would he ever know what he was meant to do?

“Albus?”

The small feminine voice came from behind him. It was Rose, her eyes were swollen from crying. She sat down beside him and for a moment there were no words as she silently sobbed into his shoulder, and he squeezed her hand. But even Rose may have been able to see that there was something different in Albus that day; he had the same objective stare, but there was a tired, hollow quality in the eyes, one she'd easily be mistaken for grief. It would take her years to figure out its true manifest.

“We don’t have to talk about it, Al.”

“You clearly want to.”

There was silence.

“Only if you do too.”

He bit his lip, as if struggling against something. “You can sense what’s wrong here, can’t you?”

Rose wiped her eyes. “Yes but why does it matter? They’re dead—they left us, me, all alone.” The tremor in her voice emerged. “I don’t know what Hugo and I are going to do, Albus. I don’t know what I’ll do if he—”

“You’ll be fine, Rose. You’re brave, clever, and if you marry Malfoy, you’ll be loaded for life. You’ll survive.”

His sardonic remark only made more tears build in her eyes. She wasn’t worried about herself! Sure, her life was falling apart at the seams, but her mum and dad had told her, always told her, to look after her brother. “He’s counting on you,” Dad would say, but it always seemed as if she was the one that needed him more. It was an emotional dependency. Rose always needed others more than they needed her.

“What about you?” she said, at the strained tightening of his brow.

His mouth twisted oddly. “Can I ask you something, Rose?” he spoke in a strange murmur. “Do…do you think there’s hope for me?”

“I don’t understand.”

He grabbed her by the shoulders, tightly, painfully, a feverish look in his eyes. “If I told you I was happy my dad was dead, even relieved, would you think there was hope for me?”

She slapped him hard across the face, frightening both of them.

“How could you—you don’t mean that! This isn’t the time for jokes!” she seethed. “Damn you, Albus! Damn you! You loved your dad! We all did!”

“You don’t know what he did to me!” He hissed, clutching his injured face.

He watched in dismay as Rose took a step back, her shoulders quivering—perhaps she had at last seen him for what he was. The unhinging fault in the essence of his character. The growing speck of darkness in the pool of white. But then her hand was clasped over her widening mouth, and she uttered a shaky apology. Despite what he had said, she couldn’t believe she had hurt him.

Merlin … I’m s-so sorry, Al. I didn’t mean--”

“It’s fine.” His voice was cold, unforgiving, and so to compensate he stepped toward her and kissed her forehead as well. “Goodnight, Rose.”

As he walked away, Rose tried not to go after him. She wanted to tell him that no matter what they would be family, so she would always love him. She would even admit she considered him her brother. He was already her closest friend. But such endearing words weren’t easy to say to someone like Albus.

There was no guarantee he could return them.

Al…” Her voice was barely above a whisper. He turned around, regarding her with his characteristic coldness. Rose summoned the courage to speak her mind, to say what had been on there for a while.

“I’ve changed my mind. Show me those notes on the resurrection stone.”





Note 1: The whole point of Mr. Walker finding Al’s pensieve is to show that there are two accounts running side by side, between which everything is encompassed. The story isn’t limited to Rose’s perspective (or Albus’ for that matter). We’ll work with a third person omniscient that randomly decides to focus in whoever’s important at the time. It’s very chaotic, but people thus far have enjoyed it.

Note 2: You may find Harry Potter’s characterization in this chapter questionable and OOC. Good. Question it. Challenge it. Theorize. I assure you that this is intentional and integral to what’s going on; it will be explored further in the story. That’s all I can say without giving too much away right now, but yes, it is important.




Chapter 3: Rupture
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EDITED 6/26: character interactions




The only thing separating me from Prisoner 11—Rose, were the bars. I had moved my chair closer and closer until we’d become nothing less than chatting acquaintances out for tea in the afternoon (though, admittedly, she could only move so far with the chains around her ankles). Her congenial manner may have drawn me in but it was her voice, rich and crackling with emotion, that kept me firmly attached to my chair.

“Why did you change your mind?”

“Desperation, Mr. Walker, has been the source of most of my mistakes as you will see. Though certainly not all.” She turned toward me with the most blazing look in her eyes. “Tell me this— with your parents dead and brother dying, wouldn’t you feel the world had betrayed you? Wouldn’t you want to right the wrongs inflicted in your life?”

“I suppose I would.”

“There is no supposing here, Mr. Walker. You see it is all relative. Wrong and right. Good and evil. Dark magic and light magic and blue magic and purple magic—none of it makes any damn difference. Everything that happened, every precise death, every failure, every miscalculation up until the war, was inevitable from the beginning.” She spoke with conviction, “You’ll see, Mr. Walker, there was only one way any of this could’ve ended, and that is with me sitting here speaking with you.”




Rose and Albus had thrown themselves into research with a zeal unlike before, one that crossed from order into obsession, replacing principle with uncontrolled passion—all the while eager to outdo the other. These were strange moments of unity, however fleeting and unstable, that Rose would admit she enjoyed.

Recently washed cauldrons were placed upturned on work tables, alongside jars and bottles of miscellaneous items. Toadstools, nettles, Pig bladders, cow eyes, assorted herbs and enchanted waters. Reference books laid haphazardly open all over the floor. And in the midst of it was a boiling cauldron, flowing from the rim while the surrounding fluids were carelessly cleaned by charmed mops.

“Al…we need fewer asphodel leaves. The poison can be lethal in large doses—”

“There won’t be a large dose,” he said irritably, counting out all the toadstools with decent spores. Dropping them into the cauldron, he stirred clockwise twice, then counterclockwise until a vat of green formed. “And besides, we’ll counteract it with the flobberworms—not those, dimwit, the minced ones by the wormwood.”

Rose gnashed her teeth, dropping the flobberworms into the cauldron.

“If you read ever Phyllid Spore like you were supposed to, you’d know it would take a wagonload of these damned things to counter the asphodel poison.” She snorted. “…pompous ass.”

“Spore was a fool who didn’t know his grundywood from his gillyweed,” he jeered, his mouth twisted into an acidic smile. “And knowing more than you doesn’t make me a pompous ass, Rose Pose. It simply makes me better.”

She met his smugness with a petulant look.

“If you’re so much better than me, then explain why you need my help?”

“In retrospect, I’d say you need my help.”

“When have I ever needed you, asshole?”

“More juvenile name calling? My, my, it’s as if you’re trying to hurt my feelings, Rose Pose.”

“Maybe if you had feelings.”

At this, the boy turned his back at her to silently chop the geranium roots. Several moments later he spoke through the methodical swishing of the knife.

“You’re right, I don’t really need you. I guess it’s more of a preference.”

Rose stared at the back of him contemplatively. Her cousin had his peculiarities, but nothing was as strange as how he singled her out, like she was special or different. Albus didn’t care for company and he didn’t care for family, so it was peculiar how he refused to work in class with anyone but her (Scorpius had a habit of inadvertently blowing up every potion he made).

He was a better, stronger, smarter wizard than her, and she knew that. She envied it. Natural ability made him conceited and created hostile tension between them. Still though, Albus couldn’t deny that she was pretty close behind him in every regard. Closest anyone ever got to him, especially in potion-making where even Slughorn proclaimed they were neck to neck.

So this working together business was mutually advantageous. They would bounce ideas off one another, practicing and planning, screwing up heedlessly and then reverting back to the idea board. At the same time competing and yet foolishly trying to impress one another. Rose read Secrets of the Darkest Art in an hour. Albus read all the works of Argo Pyrites. Albus woke up at four to resume working. Rose stayed up all night testing enchantments and potion combinations. Rose found all herbs possibly related to revitalization. Albus surprised her with a rare vial of phoenix blood.

“How did you find that?”

He merely shook his head. “Unnecessary details. But do you know what’s so fascinating about a phoenix?”

“Well, it regenerates almost instantly when it dies.”

“Aside from that Rose Pose, it is the only creature in existence to be able to do so.”

“Lot good that’s done it.” She snorted. The past thirty years had reduced the phoenix population to under a hundred. The more powerful its magical healing properties were discovered to be, the more people savagely sought it.

Albus held the vial between his thumb and forefinger, studying it circumspectly. “The only creature in the world with the power to immortality… on the verge of dying out. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?”





Following her parents’ deaths, Rose lived with the Potters—all of which, as it seemed, had begun to crumble within themselves. Ginny, long-faced and sallow skinned, had turned to whiskey while James, in order to cope with his missing father figure, developed a new-found love for authority. Lily erupted in fits of anger and ran away once a week—only to be found camped at a friend’s place and the occasional disgusting boyfriend’s. James and Lily argued. James and Ginny argued. The only person James didn’t yell at was Albus, who was careful never to get caught doing anything wrong.

Hugo remained at the hospital growing precariously feebler by the day. Rose would visit him often.

Having awoken from a nap, a grin flitted across his face as she stepped through the doorway.

“I brought you something.”

“You didn’t have to.”

“Oh hush.”

She dropped a badly wrapped package into his lap and threw her arms around his neck, leaning in to kiss his cheek, “Happy Birthday."

The recently turned thirteen-year old rubbed the display of affection from his face (Rose was always out to embarrass him. What if one of the healers saw? ) and then turned his attention to the present.

“Guess you didn’t have wrapping paper at the house, eh Rosie?”

“Or tape. Or scissors.”

“Or aesthetic talent,” he teased.

The ends of her lips curved as she playfully shoved him. “Open it already.”

Hugo took a long time contemplating the strange package. He held it close to his ear, rattled it, threw it in the air, even smelled it. I bet it’s one of those pie-in-the-face machine thingies, right? Bet you’ve got a timer on it. You’d do that. Or, oh, oh! It’s a pygmy puff, isn’t it? It’s not a pygmy puff, Hugo. Better not be. It better not be underwear either. If it’s underwear I’m not opening it. Do I look like Nana Molly to you? I give up…is it edible? Yes, Hugo it’s an edible pygmy puff in a pair of bloomers ready to splatter you in the face with pie. Sweet Merlin, that’s brilliant—how did you know I wanted that?

He plowed through the bad wrapping and unraveled a box of chocolates, along with the Chudley Cannon’s hat he'd been wanting for a while. He faked a look of disappointment.

“I thought you were serious about the pygmy puff.”

She took the hat and yanked it on his head, brushing his hair out of his eyes. Her hand lingered for a moment on his face. Hugo was weak and scrawny-looking, with large blue eyes and soft babyish features. He had long lashes, brown unmanageable curls like their mother, and a permanent expression of bewilderment etched on his face. Despite all that, there was a weighing sadness in his character—the countless pain potions, the bedridden lifetime, the ticking clock—that became prominent when he stopped smiling. Though her brother was good at pretending for her sake.

She would kiss his forehead and kiss his face countless times, and she would hold him tightly, and sometimes when she fell asleep next to him on the cot he could hear her wracking sobs, reliving their parents’ deaths. Her arm would circle around his waist tightly, squeezing past the point of comfort, and she would make absurd promises about never letting anything happen to him.

Unlike his delusional sister, who had her head suspended in a daydream that he endearingly referred to as ‘Roseland’, Hugo was more rational, level-headed, accepting of reality—the simple truth was that he knew he wouldn’t live past his fourteenth birthday. He had known this all his life. What he didn’t know was the lengths his sister would go to keep him alive.




The problem with testing a concoction intended for revitalization was an obvious one: finding a dead test subject.

Rose stood tentatively holding her wand toward a mass of abnormally large spiders. Her face was pinched.

“I can’t, Al.”

“You can.” His voice said from behind. “Everyone’s killed spiders.”

She shook her head. “This is different. I’ve never….I can’t.”

“It’s easy.” His hand wrapped hers over her wand, more gripping than comfortable. “No blood, no pain...some might say it’s a more merciful death…now if you just relax and—”

“Let go,” she croaked. Dabbling in dark magic was one thing but using the Unforgivables was a step too far, even for her.

“They’re spiders, Rose. No one’s committing mass murder here,” he spoke with an air of impatience. “It will make potion testing much easier if you learn to do these things.”

“I don’t see why you can’t just do it.”

“Because it’s too damn easy.”

“Oh shut up.”

“You shut up. Now stop acting like a coward and do it.”

She yanked her arm away and spun toward him, wand pointed at his chin.

“You listen to me, now—I’m not scared. The difference is in choice. We’re not all born with shaky morals.”

“You presume I was born with any.”

“Be that as it may, I could use the spell if I wanted to.”

A rare smile seeped through his features. “And there’s nothing I can do to change your mind?”

“No tricks.” She glowered, “I’ve known you since you were in diapers, Potter.”

“Potter?”

“Albus. Whatever." Rose folded her arms. "Look, there’s no trick of yours I haven’t seen. There’s nothing you can do that I bloody well can’t counter.

“Quite the ego Rose Pose.”

“Shut up.”

“But are you certain of that?” he queried, stepping toward her until they were face to face, brow to brow. “I mean, do you really what I’m capable of?” His eyes flashed intently. He was mocking her, she knew it; in her peripheral Rose could see his hand was inching toward the wand in his back pocket. In every practice duel they had Albus threw an unexpected first hex, dirty trick, but if she kept eye contact, she could catch him.

He gave a lazy tilt of the head. “Assumptions are a dangerous thing to make, Rose. You assume you know everything about me. You assume I’m going to attack you the same way I always do. And you assume I’m as much scared of you as you are of me.”

“I’m not…I’m not scared of you.”

“And why not?” His eyes flickered dangerously, but the moment of anger was gone before Rose could see it. Suppressed. Discarded.

She had seen the way other kids had begun to act around Albus at school. How underclassmen would duck their heads when they walked past him. How his Slytherin posse trailed behind him, Can I get you a snack, Potter? Shall I serve your detentions? Oh, Potter, would you like me to make a complete fool of myself for your amusement? Malfoy was a more brazen being, but even he couldn’t keep her cousin in check. The worst of it were the girls who threw themselves at his feet, pining and becoming expectedly heartbroken when he didn’t turn around to remember their names.

There was no getting around it: Albus had an unnatural amount of control over others. He didn’t have friends. He had tools, grunts, and disposable napkins. A boy with a brilliant, amazing mind but an asshole, nonetheless.

“Don’t bother starting something,” she warned. “I beat you in the last duel.”

His face was a strange mix between humor and scorn. “I won’t always go that easy on you.”

“You weren’t—“

Expelliarmus.”

In a flash of light he had her disarmed, her wand sent flying. As she leapt sideways to catch it he blasted her backwards with a freezing enchantment.

Her body immovable, she lay in utter surprise at his reflexes. Albus had never attacked with such speed before. Had he always been holding back? She watched in dismay as he approached, blocking the last rays of the descending sun, standing so that his silhouette towered over hers.

“That wasn’t fair.”

He tilted his head at her, his green eyes glinting derisively.

“There you go assuming again. You see I never intend to fight fair, Rose. Fairness implies that we’re equal to begin with, which we're clearly not.” The ends of his lips curved. “So why would I limit myself? Why shouldn’t I use my intellect to outsmart you? Don’t you see how easy it is for me?”

“All I see is a boy with dirty tricks,” she said scathingly.

“And all I see is a girl with no tricks.”

With a contemptuous glare, he pointed his wand sideways at the line of spiders trailing across the ground, uttering the forbidden words without any trace of emotion.

Aveda Kedavra.

The following flash of green reflected in her horror-stricken eyes and instantaneously the spiders were as immoveable as her. Rose could feel the air deflate from her lungs.

The smug coldness from his gaze seemed to puncture her skin. “Now say it,” he ordered. “That I’m better than you.”

“You’re better than me,” she echoed.

Her voice was faint, lacking the conviction he had craved. Albus felt strangely dissatisfied. He wasn’t sure what had initially elicited such a reaction. He regressed a few steps, stone-face, as if to distance himself from her. His flesh and blood. Why was he doing this? What was the matter with him? Several times he blinked, watching her tremble as the freezing enchantment wore off, just watching, trying to sort it all out.

Upon the sight of her tears, he quickly reverted tactics.

“I’m sorry—” He moved towards her as she stood up, instinctively as predator to prey, aware of every vital discrepancy—her panicking heart-rate, her widening eyes, the doe-eyed expression of fear, yes, fear, that flitted across her impulse driven face. “I don’t know why I did that.” He pulled her in a hug. Like a child escaping out of a burning house, he would grab whatever he could.

“They’re just spiders Rose,” he said. “If it bothers you I won’t do it again.”

Stroked her hair.

“…You know I couldn’t even think of hurting you.”

Pulled away and frowned at her.

“…Progress takes risks. I had to show you what we have to do to save Hugo. We want the same things Rose. Don’t you see that?”

He could see the myriad of emotions flicker across her face, processing which one to settle on. Her voice came out as a plea. “How can I trust you when you’re always lying to me?”

“I won’t blame you if you hate me,” he said.

Now her expression would soften.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” She swatted his arm with a sisterly playfulness.

Of course not.

He hugged her again, feeling her pulse relax. Good. She was already caving in— her mind just didn’t know it. She had forgiven him as she always did and now they would revert to normalcy, at least what was normalcy for them. But this meant he would have to tread carefully in her good graces for a while, keeping himself firmly planted between trusted friend and adoring brother.

But this time was different for Rose, a seed had been planted in her head, sown and lain to fertilize—enrapturing her mind in a web of sorts. It was disturbing how easy it had been for him to commit such a destructive act. She told herself that webs could be cleaned, but it wasn’t about just the spiders. It was so much more than just spiders.

It had been easy to forgive him. Rose always forgave him.

But forgetting was dangerous.

A part of her held out, because until then she had considered them one of the same. Equals, with a shared and mutually tortured childhood. Albus knew of her pain, whether or not he truly understood it. And though Rose may not have known what had happened between him and his father, she still gave him an enormous amount of leeway for it. He was an arrogant and distrustful ass, but so tantalizingly close to a sibling she had not been able to see him as anything otherwise.

Until now.

When their potion didn’t work, Rose detached herself from Albus, unknowing to him, and resumed a private line of inquiry. She reverted towards the fundamentals of spell-making, Ancient Runes and Latin texts, the sort of things that were so engraved in the process that people hardly gave them a second thought.

The philosophy behind a spell was that it was based on the principle of something, for something. Every action, manipulation of condition, would affect universal sphere of energy. Some spells could be personalized. For instance, the Unforgivables—the Cruciatis curse, the torturing spell, required a significant amount of malicious energy and evil intent on the user’s part, without which the spell fell flat. The Imperius curse took the will of the person inflicted upon: a sacrifice, and in turn, gave control. And of course, the killing curse reflected the most fundamental principle of sacrifice—you took a life in exchange for the person’s death.

Following torturous weeks of research, she deduced a frightening yet plausible method to reverse the principle of death, but it was crass, risky, and not testable on spiders in the slightest. It would take a catalyst source of energy to jumpstart, lightning perhaps. She would wait for a thunderstorm, take her brother off the oxygen tanks and out to the woods, and of course, not give any indication to her dear cousin that she had figured it out.

She had figured out the secret of revitalization but at a price—and there was danger in such knowledge.








Prophet Headline: Fifteen-Year Old Prodigy Revives Dead Brother Using New Dark Magic

Bloodshot eyes glazed the headline, the corners of his mouth twitching. The handsome features were so etched so tightly that Albus looked unnatural. Anger radiated from his essence as his photographic memory scanned every instance for a hint, any hint, of such a cold betrayal.

No one was given the chance to betray Albus. He betrayed them first. He destroyed anyone who even gave him a whiff of duplicity. But Rose, who he been willing to share information with, work with—he had been lenient with her. He had allowed her close. He was soft-tempered, and patient, and brotherly. He did not know why this was so.

All he knew now was that it had been a mistake.

Suddenly, the silence was too much in the room and he slammed his fists on the side table, knocking over papers, breaking glass, and startling his owl, Dudley. He howled alongside the owl as the sharp edges penetrated the flesh of his hand. While he tended to them, the insolent, repulsive creature began making noise, ruffling its feathers and rattling against the cage. Albus violently grabbed the owl by the neck and shoved it out the window.

“Get out!” he snapped, slamming the window shut.

Rose,
What happened? Are you ok? How’s Hugo?
-Al

Rose,
How did it happen? What did you do?
-Al

Prophet Headline: Fifteen-year old Prodigy Facing Time in Azkaban

Rose,
I miss you. Talk to me.
-Al

Rose,
I’m worried about you.
-Al

Prophet Headline: Head Auror Adopts Fifteen-Year Old Prodigy, Refuses Interviews

Rose,
I want to talk. Let’s meet.
-Al

Rose,
Damn it. Don’t do this. Talk to me.
-Al

Rose,
We’re better than this.
-Al


“So, no reply huh?”

Albus scowled at Scorpius, who had been snooping over his shoulder a moment prior and now stood on the other side of the room, casually glancing through his other letters.

“Howler, howler, howler –Merlin, Potter, how many people did you piss off this week?”

Albus didn’t bat an eyelid. “Put all the letters from my mum in the bin.”

The shrieking red tapered letters were a bit more difficult to dispose of, requiring an extensive number of anti-opening jinxes, but Scorpius managed to get rid of them all. He shoved them into a metal container, kicking the lid shut, and then turned to his best mate. The unresolved curiosity in the room was stifling.

“So, speaking of your cousin—“

“I don’t believe we were.”

“—is she ok or not?”

Albus glanced up to meet a startlingly solemn expression on his friend’s face.

“You seem awfully concerned, Scorp.” His tone was one of amused suspicion. “Is something the matter?”

“I’m indifferently curious.”

“You can’t be both.”

Scorpius avoided his wry half-grin for a brief moment, studying the drapes.

“No way what she’s going through is easy. Aren’t you worried about her too?”

“I’m her cousin. I have to be.”

“Bullshit. You’re not sentimental about family, Potter,” came the usual sneer.

“And you’re not sentimental about Rose, Malfoy, but here we are now, having this roundabout discussion.”

They glared at each other, more out habit than anything. Color shaded the blond’s face that was, curiously, not from anger.

Albus subsided first, falling onto his bed with a loud yawn. He kept his tone casual and even.

“Rose Pose has frequent periods of intense Albus-hatred. It makes her all more emotional for when she forgives me,” he mused, then eyed the other boy. “She doesn’t want to see me, Scorp. She said nothing about you.”

“It’s usually in the subtext.” Scorpius looked uncomfortable. “And anyway, it would just be strange without you… She’ll kick me. She’ll throw things at me.”

A chuckle. “It’s not as if you deserve anything less.”

“Maybe my expectations have changed.”

There was a pause.

“Since when?” Albus inquired, brows raised.

“A year.”

“She’s been gone for a year.”

“Well maybe two years… Don’t look at me like that, Potter. I don’t have to explain myself to you.”

“You most certainly do not.”

“You’re mocking me.”

“I most certainly am not.” The corners of his mouth twitched. “I’m sure Rose has many attractive qualities underneath the mainly unattractive ones. So what is it? Can’t be her plain-jane eyes—is it the hair? Or the way she yells at you? Does it stroke your—“

Stop that.

“My, my, you’re blushing. I didn’t know Malfoys could do anything besides sneer.”

“You’re the worst person in humanity.”

Albus gave him a sly look. “You have my permission.”

“I wasn’t asking for your permission, Potter.

“Yes you were, why else would you bring it up?”

Another pause.

“So what do you think, then?” Scorpius was looking at him, a half-eaten, desperate look on his face. It was more than a question, it was demanding a prediction. No one in the world knew Rose better than Albus. Likewise, no one knew Scorpius better than Albus.

“I mean…I’m not exactly her favorite person.”

And the good thing about Scorpius was that he didn’t keep secrets.

“You could be.”




Rose lied in the vicinity of her new room, not sleeping but thinking, all the while ignoring the two house elves yelling outside the door. Adjusting to her new life had tumultuous and physically straining.

The Head stared callously down at her. “Get up Weasley. I didn’t order you to stop running.”

“I… can’t,” She gasped, lying with her cheek against the cold, hard cement as tears of exhaustion rolled down her face. He walked over and pressed down on her limp hand until she cried out in pain.

“Stop… Stop.”

Her pleas were weak and her eyes were beginning to close. Inconsiderate was the word that came to mind. The Head was entirely inconsiderate to her age, her gender, the fact it’d only been two months since she’d recovered the strength to walk again. He pinned her against men twice her age in battles. He made her run entire nights. He countered her complaining by taking away food, water, and sleep privileges. The worst thing after a long run was another long run.

“Just five minutes…”

“I told you that you’d have to go through the same training as the rest of my men, which means no special treatment.” He kicked her legs. “Don’t whimper like that—It only means I have to push you twice as hard from now on.”

Rose stood up, her knees wobbling dangerously.

“Run,” he instructed, shoving her so that she staggered a bit but maintained her balance. Using her hands to level herself, she narrowed her eyes on the shadowy silhouettes running ahead of her so her head would stop spinning and she could see straight. Then she began to move. He told her this training would build discipline, something she was apparently very much in need of. “Magic is entirely useless to a wizard who cannot even stand the test of endurance.” He informed her again. “This is a lesson you will carry with you the rest of your life. The willingness to move forward is the only thing that can save you now.”

After the physical training came the magical one. Sadly, it wasn’t much better.

“Bombarda… Confundo….Defodia…” The Head shot spell after spell at her from the tip of his wand, barely even flexing an inch. On Rose’s part, there was more physical movement involved—mostly running to avoid being pulverized.

“DAMN IT!” She cursed, as the hex hit her straight in the chest.

“Weasley! For the love of Merlin, use your wand!”

Despite frantic efforts to grip her wand, Rose watched in dismay as it slipped through her shaking hands. As she snapped to get it, the Head attacked. “No, no, no— Everte Statum!”

She was blasted full force into a tree, hitting the back of her head and sliding onto the ground.

“Focus! You mustn’t let your fear distract you!”

She groaned, rubbing her head, and stood up again.

“Fix your stance!”

She bent her knees, stretching her right leg out in front so that her torso would stay straight and level. “Protego!” Charm after charm shot out the tip of her wand to block her trainer’s hexes, yet they grew feebler with each try. Damn it—her hands felt slippery again. Her head was spinning; she felt slow, disoriented, easily distracted. All the confidence she’d had in her abilities began to wane. All those potions and dueling awards, her ass. It didn’t mean a thing in the real world.

“Expulso!”

The giant explosion blew her backwards and she fell rolling, eventually to land face down on the ground. A strange tingling sensation passed down the middle of her face. She lifted her head to touch her nose, and upon realizing it was broken, let out a loud moan. Hot fresh tears emerged in her eyes. She bit her cracked lips, hard until they bled, in order to stop the dry sobs rising up her throat.

“Bloody hell— are you crying, Weasley?” There was amusement in his tone, but only there to mask the utter surprise. He had grown accustomed to pushing her beyond her abilities without too much resistance (aside from the occasional swear word). He had meant to break her defiance. He just never knew it would be this hard to watch a small girl cry. She said something in a garbled voice which he didn’t catch.

“Pardon?”

She wept, her voice breaking. “I can’t…I shouldn’t have to—”

“Don’t give me that,” he grumbled, his face reddening. Guilt was not an emotion he would feed. Grabbing her roughly by the arm, he pulled her off the ground and held her by the shoulders. “You don’t have the luxury to wear the face of a victim, Weasley.” He said sternly, “Delicate flowers die in the cold—you have to be a weed. You don’t get to feel sorry for yourself and cry like this. Got it?”

No response.

He grabbed her by her small shoulders and looked her squarely in the eyes.

“There’s someone counting on you, Weasley.”

The statement reminded Rose so much of what her father had once said to her that she wanted to cry again, but she shook the notion away and lowered her gaze to the ground before it could grow into anything else. The Head would never be anything like her father. Not in a million years.

But he was right. She didn’t have the luxury to be a victim of circumstance. Not if she wanted to defy the odds.


Rose never wanted to be an auror, even in school. She was an academic, with a fondness for research and books. Dueling was something she excelled at to keep Albus at bay, not a career pathway.

The countless days and sleepless nights, filled with strenuous training. The running until her lungs caved in and her muscles broke down while the Head shouted at her to keep up with the men that were twice her age. The cruel survival techniques they drummed into her head, like what were the best spots to strike an enemy, how to knock an opponent out in less than thirty seconds, or which veins caused the most hemorrhaging.

Her wand was becoming her weapon, and slowly, ever so miserably she was becoming a thing she despised. A monster. At the mere age of 16.

Absolute hell

There’s someone counting on you Weasley

That thought stuck with her, kept her from throwing in the towel and running away. The magic she used to save Hugo’s life had even begun to reverse his condition—he was getting better. Which meant that it was up to her to pave his future, make sure he got precisely the life he deserved after a limited childhood.

“You should listen to the Head,” Hugo urged her. “I know he’s not Dad, but he’s looking out for you. Yeah I get he’s corrupt and using you for his own selfish schemes but really, what politician isn’t these days. And you can use him the way he’s using you.”

“Hugo, he’s a sociopath who wants to make me his super weapon.”

“Sociopath is a strong word, Rosie. Besides, he’s smart and he can make you smart too. Merlin knows you need it.”

“Are you calling me stupid?”

“I’m just saying—” She pulled his ear. “—ok ow, ow, that hurts! I’m just saying that he knows his way around the ministry and that’s not necessarily a bad place to end up. I mean Mum and Dad aren’t…around anymore. We have to think about our future.”

“Don’t you think I know that? Don’t you think I’m doing this for us?”


“And the Head honestly doesn’t sound that bad. Most of his rules make sense, especially the not seeing any boys thing. Dad had that rule too, remember?”

“Hugo—honestly, the last thing on my mind is boys!”

Yeah, yeah. He rolled his eyes at this. “Like Teddy wasn’t all you thought about Third Year-”

“Things are different now,” she dismissed.


Because she knew she was breathing—she was alive. Because there was nothing else in her life to look forward to, and there was nothing left to fall back on. Her parents were dead, her family had abandoned her, and she owed a debt for her ‘freedom’ to the ministry.

Because she knew that at the end of the day she wasn’t sitting waiting to die alone, and all that she felt was nothing.

Absolutely nothing compared to what he had been through.




Hugo told himself that if his sister could manage Auror training, then he could manage to walk. Slowly, tentatively, he lifted himself, his hands clenching the sides of his wheelchair. The muscles of his arms vibrated as pain shot through his right leg. He had been at this for weeks now. Each day he lifted himself more, little by little, pushing himself to the edge of his capacity. His progress wasn’t startling like Rose’s, but composed of small, humble steps.

In this way it was also more admirable.

He fell back into his wheelchair, gasping, as his sister entered the room.

“I’m getting better.” He informed her, face flushed.

“So am I.”

“We’re really doing this, aren’t we?”

She could see the tired, brilliant grin on his face and it made her beam back with pride. There was something about his genuine smile, the fact that they were both striving for a common goal, that warmed her. She didn’t have to worry about the aching burden of him dying anytime soon. Not before her, at least.

“All right. Once more.”

“Nah, Rose. I’m tired--”

“Oh, come now!” She put her hands under his bony armpits and pulled him up, as one did with a small child. It was clear from his sullen-eyed expression that Hugo disliked being manhandled.

“Put your arms around my neck.” She instructed. He stood an inch or two shorter than her. He made his whining face, lower lip protruding.

“This is embarrassing. I mean it looks like we’re dancing! What if someone sees—”

“Oh don’t be a ninny.”

“Shut up! I’m not a ninny.”

Reluctantly, he put his arms around her. Rose nodded approvingly. “Now, follow my steps.”

As a single functioning unit, they moved—Hugo slowly trudging forward in an infant-like way. He kept his attention on his wavering legs, making sure to mimic her steps.

“Hey Rosie, you ever…think of Mum and Dad? If they were still here?”

Rose didn’t answer for a moment. It had only been a year. The image of their bodies being carried away in caskets was still vivid in her mind.

“Not really.”

“Liar.” Hugo scowled and asked to be let off. Rose helped him toward his cot and sat beside him. On his bedside she could see an old photo album, open to a random page where the four of them stood smiling, dressed in the hideous reindeer sweaters Nana Molly had gifted. It was the Christmas they had gone to Munich—she was seven and Hugo was five, much before he had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.

“You miss them, huh.”

“All the time. Don’t you?”

“I can barely remember what it was like with them,” Rose admitted. Her life had shifted so drastically since then she couldn’t imagine it having ever been normal.

“So, I mean.” Hugo stretched his neck uncomfortably. “You know that spell you used to…resurrect me. Have you ever thought about—“

“Stop.”

There was a pause. His watery blue eyes searched hers in desperation.

“Why not?”

“Because. There’s a reason dark magic is strictly forbidden and they were going to send me to Azkaban—“

“But—“

“No, listen…I got lucky.” She looked at him intently, “The spell is dangerous dark magic. And dark magic always has a price. I can’t ever do it again, you understand? No one can.”

Why not? What aren’t you telling me?

Hugo decided to let the matter drop for the time being. They played a couple games of exploding snap that he won before ordering dinner, along with a chocolate-banana sundae that Hugo more or less devoured by himself, much to his sister’s annoyance. A couple more games followed, which Hugo also won, and Rose griped about him cheating and something-something. Hugo rolled his eyes and let her win once; family, after all, was about compromise. Rose talked about all the places she’d take him once he'd fully recovered. Beaches, parks, movies, arcades, swimming, quidditch matches—the list was endless. Maybe they’d go somewhere abroad, like Paris, when she'd made the money (their parents’ fortune had been confiscated by Gringotts since Rose was technically a convicted felon, and Hugo was technically supposed to be dead). After they finished, Rose was picking up her things when he surprised her with some abrupt news.

“So a boy came looking for you today.”

She had put on her jacket and was now pulling on her boots. “I don’t know any boys.”

“Tall, blond, good looking. Sure you don’t know a Scorpius Malfoy?”

Her brow tensed. “What’d you tell him, Hugo?”

“Oh come on, Rose. You should’ve seen his face—the way he begged—“

“I can’t believe you! You told him where I was staying, didn’t you?”

“He just wants to talk—“

“I know what he wants and it has Albus written all over it.” She ran an angry hand through her hair. “He just can’t stand that I'm ignoring him so he's using Malfoy. This is just another one of his tricks.”

Hugo met her gaze. “You don’t mean that. Albus is, well… he’s special. And he’s insanely brilliant too. And a little kooky. And he’s the only one that’s your—”

My what?” she bit back. “Go on, say it. My friend? Albus doesn’t have friends. He has people he uses and then discards. You know that. There’s only one thing he’s after and this time he doesn’t get it. I’m done with him.”

Hugo rolled his eyes as she kissed his cheek and disappeared into the hallways.

“You always say that, Rose.”





Chapter 4: Jolt
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]



by Eponine @ TDA






“...and today, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome another one among you.” The Head spoke, hands placed on her shoulders. “Ms. Weasley, here, has finally passed her physical and magical examinations and been awarded her ranking position of Auror. She has now become your equal.”

There was faint clapping in the room of marginally older men and women officers, coupled with fierce glares and scowling. She could see only the aged Whitaker smiling at her through his brown crinkled skin. Nonetheless, Rose had known she wouldn’t be well-liked. The Head had known that too, yet he felt inclined to punish her with unwanted praise. It was like rubbing salt on the wounds of hungry lions; she was a mere antelope in his twisted animal hierarchy.

When he called the meeting to end and dismissed everyone, he kept her there.

“You were late this morning, Weasley.”

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“Now, now, I don’t want excuses! I reminded you that this was an important day and yet you neglected to listen to me.”

Rose didn’t bother pointing out that he had never mentioned anything of the sort.

“Not only are you now a ranking officer, Weasley, but you must behave like one. This callous attitude of yours must cease, do you hear me? I will not tolerate any tomfoolery, and neither will your colleagues. Any whiff of disobedience and I will send you straight to Azkaban like you belong.”

She never got tired of hearing that.

“Of course, sir.”

“Now I should probably mention that your colleagues probably won’t be fond of you. You are, after all, younger and haven’t trained nearly as long as them. Therefore, you will tolerate any type of hazing, abuse, or harassment they inflict upon you, no matter how humiliating or painful.”

He paused for a moment to observe her reaction. When there wasn’t one, he continued, a bit more irritably:

“Your purpose here is different than theirs, Weasley. Despite your rank, you do not serve the ministry. Your missions will be different, separate, off-record. You will be alone. You will follow my orders without questioning, no matter how obscene, treacherous, or difficult they may be.”

“Of course, sir.”

“You will not consult the law. You will not consult your conscience. You will not consult human decency or reason. If this is too difficult for you to understand, speak your mind now.”

Her pause was as quick as a deafening heartbeat.

“No, sir. I completely understand.”





Rose paused speaking.

“You look as if you have a question, Mr. Walker.”

“Well, as interested as I am in hearing about your professional endeavors, I would like to know about the Scorpius character present in both yours and Mr. Potter’s memoirs.”

“I had meant to talk as little about him as possible.”

The pained expression on her face was difficult to ignore.

“You don’t have to,” I murmured. “But I would like to hear it.”

She gave a morose chuckle. “You don’t wish to leave a dying woman any shred of privacy. You wish to bleed me out completely.”

I didn’t see how she could talk about the emerging war without talking about Scorpius.

“There are some that believe that Mr. Malfoy was the war.”

“Scorpius was not the war.” She countered sharply. “Do not make the same mistake the rest of the world has. War is not a person—it cannot be confined to the actions of a single being. It is the careful accumulation of events, an ever growing hunger …and there are those in this world whose cruelty will never be sated.”

I pressed my mouth in a hard line, unbudgingly.

The woman gave a weary sigh.

“Very well, I shall tell you about Scorpius. I’ll have to start from the beginning— the very beginning, mind you. It will take a while. I won’t skip ahead to the parts you want.”

“I want all the parts.”





He thought, with a nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach, about how he had probably broken a dozen rules to create a port-key and sneak out from school. Scorpius was no stranger to trouble—rather, trouble loved every blond hair on his Slytherin head—but he knew getting caught would effect a punishment far beyond any other. Strange enough, he had felt no apprehension when he flooded the girl’s bathrooms last year to cause a distraction, helping Albus sneak into the Chamber of Secrets, or changed the Gryffindor colors to a revolting shade of pink for the hell of it. But this of course was far beyond any childish school prank. He stood outside the Head’s house, his mouth dry, his fist against the panel of the front door—risking expulsion for a girl.

No one would be able to understand why he was doing so, least of all Scorpius himself.

The door was promptly yanked open by a man he recognized from the papers—the Head. He towered over the blond in all his menacing, scar-faced glory.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m…was a classmate of We—Rose, um, sir. May I see…“

Scorpius could hear footsteps rustling and the familiar voice calling to ask what it was. She poked her head through the doorway, freezing, eyes widening, mouth unhinging at the sight of him. They stood face to face, and Scorpius couldn’t help but stare her in—a wave of relief washing over him. She was alive, in the flesh, no doubt the same girl he remembered from Fourth Year.

She was alive.

An entire year.

She was alive.

It was the same hair, same sparse freckles, same lips, same eyes, but somehow different. Less child-like. More feminine. It was the subtle things—the cinching of the waist, the softness of features, the more adult expression of rage in the eyes directed at him.

She was alive.

The Head observed them both disdainfully.

“You know this boy, Weasley?”

“Never seen him in my life.”

Scorpius blinked, bewildered for a moment, and then scowled. Her anger was so characteristically misplaced that he would’ve laughed if he wasn’t pissed. He wouldn’t admit that he had worried for her, spent nights contemplating what she was facing, but couldn’t she see it in his expression? Sure they weren’t friends, but were they such strangers that she couldn’t read how relieved he was to see her?

He observed as the Head interrogated his ward.

“Are you lying to me, Weasley?”

“Of course not, sir.”

“I’ve told you about seeing boys. I’ve told you to sever all ties with—”

“Rose petal, don’t you remember me?” Scorpius drawled, catching on. “One of your many, many boyfriends from school."

Rose gaped and the Head's eyes bulged dangerously. Scorpius continued with a smirk.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if the others start showing up at here soon too, with that reputation of yours. You always were a wild--”

“H-He’s a compulsive liar, sir." A stammer. "You can’t believe a single word that comes out his abnormally large mouth.”

“I thought you said you didn’t know him, girl.”

She began shrinking. “I don’t. I just mean—“

“How can you say that, flower petal? How can you call our love a lie?” Scorpius watched in amusement as she grew more pissed by the second. “Did I mean nothing to you? All those romantic nights we shared, under the moonlight, where I caressed your—”

“MALFOY, SHUT YOUR FAT MOUTH OR I WILL BEAT YOUR ASS TO A PULP!”

Ah ha. Scorpius grinned at her seething, red-faced confession. The Head looked absolutely irate.

“There will be no ass-beating today, Weasley! Now you get yours back upstairs and I will schedule a medical appointment for tomorrow.”

Rose opened and closed her mouth like a fish, bent on arguing but realized quickly resistance would prove futile. As she sulked away, The Head turned his attention toward the smirking blond.

“Damn this child raising business.”

“Indeed.”

“Now you better get lost before I call the authorities, boy.”

“I thought you were the authorities.”

“Yes I--”

The Head froze at the realization he had been outsmarted by a wry adolescent and so, finding himself at a rare lack of words, slammed the door.

But Scorpius was very wry indeed—in fact, from the moment he laid his eyes on Rose, he had assessed the situation and come to the conclusion that there was no chance of private conversation (or anything more) until he diverted the abysmal guardian.

Having changed tactics on the spot, Scorpius would now organize his next plan of attack.

At the very same moment, Rose was crumbling into her sheets, unsure which of her emotions was more prevalent: anger or gut-wrenching surprise. She and Scorpius had always waded amongst a fine line with each other, not-quite-amiable, not-quite-hateful, not-quite-anything —a no man’s land—where Albus created tornadoes of tension and spite consuming them both, and that accursed one other innuendo neither of them could wrap their pubescent heads around. Taunting and angry gobstone throwing followed that sort of thing, and yet all Rose could focus on was the abnormally long time she had spent trying to figure out whether the silly poems tied to the gobstones were sincere, or how Scorpius took that slag Wanda Jules to the Yule Ball when she made it so obvious she wanted him to ask her.

Unsure—that was the word Rose would associated with Scorpius.

Followed shortly by Albus’s pet.

Sudden rapping on the window made her pulse shoot, but she forced herself calm and climbed out of bed. A familiar head of hair stood on a ladder outside her pane, a smug expression resting on his face. She glared at him wordlessly before pulling up the glass.

“It’s four in the morning,” She said icily.

“You said I had an abnormally large mouth. I checked and I reckon it’s pretty normal sized.”

“Did you hear me? I said it’s four in the morning.”

“I’m glad you can read time, Weasel.”

“I’ll push you off.”

Scorpius grinned. “I’ll scream, break my leg, wake your hellish guardian, and everyone on the street will wonder why I’d been climbing through your window in the first place.”

The threat was vicious enough to make her reconsider hers.

Hesitantly, she allowed the blond to take hold of her arm and climb in.

Rose folded her arms as he scrounged around her rather unimpressive living quarters— the single white-sheeted bed, small chest for clothes, ‘HEAD AUROR for MINISTER crossed DICTATOR’ posters on the walls, and stack of old books in the corner.

“Nice cupboard. About as big as my bathroom at home.”

“Did Albus send you?”

Scorpius shoved his hands in his pockets, as he nosily inspected her propaganda adorned walls. He twirled around toward her. “Merlin, why does every conversation have to start like this? Why can’t you ever say ‘oh, hey Malfoy, how’s it been? Gee, you’re looking really handsome…did you do something different with your hair?’”

“Your hair looks nice…Did Albus send you?”

“No.”

“You’re lying.”

He paid no heed to her accusation, sprawling out on her bed with his shoes, breathing in as he closed his eyes contemplatively. Rose scratched the sensation to levitate him out the window and into the chrysanthemums. Definitely too much noise.

“I have to sleep there.”

“I know. I left space for you.”

Her cheeks glazed with red. “I want you to leave, Malfoy.”

Scorpius opened his eyes and glanced up at her. “Do you know how many rules I broke to get here in the first place?”

“Should I be flattered? Because I don’t remember asking you to come and disturb my life."

“I think you should be flattered regardless.”

She nearly lost her temper on the spot.

“So what was the deal with the whole charade you pulled out there?” She seethed, “Flower petal?! And in front of my boss, no less, who’s now going to have me tested for blasted STDs. As if I don’t have enough to—why the hell are you grinning?”

“Nothing, it’s just-” He bit back a grin. “-I’m glad you look well, considering…you know, everything.”

Her anger deflated a little.

“Thanks.”

Scorpius nodded, sitting up on her bed and fumbling with the ends of his jacket. “So how’s your new life?”

“It could be worse. It could be Azkaban.”

“As optimistic as ever, Weasel.”

Despite the sarcastic playfulness, he understood precisely what she meant. The idea had haunted him the same way it had haunted her.

He changed the subject.

“So you haven’t missed much at school, though I don’t reckon you’re coming back with the expulsion and…things. Anyway, Filch’s cat caught fire again this week. Slytherin beat Gryffindor at the last match, thanks to yours truly… Slughorn’s always complaining about you being gone, now that no one can answer any of his questions.”

“I’m sure Albus could.”

“Well, you know what he’s like. He’ll never give fatso the satisfaction…though he does miss you, err, Albus that is.” The last half of his comment was latched on with a sloppy grin.

“I bet he told you to say that.”

“That doesn’t mean he’s lying.”

Undisputed, unavoidable reality deemed Albus was always lying, but Rose didn’t want to pick the argument. Malfoy’s pseudo-passive, skirting-around-the-real-issue act was beginning to tire her.

“So what about you?” she asked, for the first time making contact with his grey eyes. “Are you here because he asked you to be or because you miss me?”

“Do I get a third choice?”

“Answer the question.”

“Officer Weasley.” The obligatory eye roll and glib smile. “I miss your obnoxious pencil biting, yelling-at-me, potion-dumping-in-my-lap ways. I turn myself over to the Ministry because apparently that’s a crime.”

“I never said it was!”

“Then why are you getting so worked up about it?”

“Because you’re being facetious!”

“I thought I was being flirtatious. Guess it wasn’t obvious enough.”

A coy smile rested on his features. It was so strange, so nerve-wracking, so direct that Rose turned her attention toward the window. Her insides felt queasy.

“I think you should leave.”

He got off her bed and lazily stretched out his arms. “Right.” He yawned. “There’s an awful Runes exam today I should probably get some notes copied for. Next time I’ll come earlier so that we have more time—”

“There’s not going to be a next time.”

The face flickered, startled, and the playfulness tired. The ends of his mouth curved downward.

“Give me a good reason why.” He stepped toward her, scowling. “Not that I don’t think you have one, or several. And they’re all probably justified in some annoying way.”

She observed his distance. “You wouldn’t understand.”

But Scorpius didn’t want to deal with excuses. The passing year had made his insides ache, and he wasn’t sure he could bring himself to care about the whole ‘I’ll get in trouble’ or ‘I don’t want to see you’ or ‘my life’s too complicated’ tirade. They were no longer school children with multiple opportunities at each other, the time for pretending otherwise had long started to fade. The world was tilting in an ugly direction—his window with Rose would soon close.

“Till next time, Weasel.” He leaned in to brush his lips against her cheek.

Within seconds he was back on the ladder outside the window, out of her sight.





Shadows reflected over the symmetrical rows of tombstones as the sun dunked into the horizon. His father’s was rectangular and cut from stone far larger and thicker than any of the others—a monument-like testament to his heroism. Albus observed the engraving on the front with indifference.

R.I.P
Harry J. Potter
1980-2021
Beloved Hero, Friend, Husband
Father


The last one had been carved in by James, latched on like an afterthought. Confronting the dead parent now did not give Albus the sort of resolution it had given his siblings—the moments they had shared were not quite so pleasant.

For the past couple years he had frantically scrambled to revive it from his otherwise photographic memory, every instance, every lesson with his father in order to justify his hatred. It came in fragments in the dead of night— the cold sweat on his forehead, the hardness of the ground, the pangs of pain shooting through his middle as the result of his father’s conditioning— but in the end, he couldn’t save it all.

“Crucio.”

The convulsions, the fatigue, the extraordinary amount of willpower his seven-year old self summoned to keep his mouth from screaming while his body felt as if it was tearing itself to pieces— but most importantly, mixed with soreness afterwards, it was the indescribable pleasure of meeting his father’s approval.

“Now, son, remember that this pain is nothing but a mind trick. The ultimate manipulation of this curse, you see, rests in the recipient. Rather than deflect, I want you to control your emotions, make your hardness your strength, never allow for doubt to invade the security of your mind, and you will be stronger, much stronger, than anyone else.”

Slowly he had learned to love it, the sadism, the torture, the taste of success, disguised in bitterness and blood, that marked his endurance. His mind repressed the worst of it, but all that he remembered he found to be indefinitely useful.

“And if you find someday that you cannot trust in me, trust in my teachings, and most importantly, trust in what you know…you know that I love you more than anything, Albus.”

“I know, Dad.” His voice would echo, like a broken recording.


Everything became so much easier once you stopped feeling.




Scorpius woke up at least twice a week, to watch the silhouette hunched over in the bed across from his, forehead covered in sweat, face contorted in fear, gasping as though he was being drowned. Sheets crumpled to the ground as nightmares plagued his friend.

Friend was a strange word to use for Potter, who dismissed any notion of such attachment as frivolous, superficial, and crippling. From day one, Potter had been upfront with Scorpius that he had no use for the word friend.

But Scorpius continued using it.

His night terrors worsened and the dark-haired boy slid off his bed, landing on the ground with a loud painful thud. Previous incidents would compel Scorpius to shoot out of his own bed and help, but such compassion was often resisted with a Piss off, Malfoy. I’m fine. Therefore, when Potter woke up from his frightful nightmares, gasping for air, wide-eyed, stone-faced, Scorpius would pretend to be asleep. Oftentimes, Potter would pretend to believe him.

This was not one of those times.

“I know you’re awake.”

Scorpius opened an eyelid, watching as his friend sauntered to the bathroom sink, a drowsy heaviness in his step. Acknowledgement meant it had been a particularly horrifying night. Of course Potter never told him what the nightmares were about, and the blond didn’t intrude by asking. His friend’s demons were his alone to battle, just as they had always been.

Potter made it clear that he didn’t need help. That he didn’t need anyone.

Scorpius stood by the door pane, watching as the dark-haired boy splashed cold water on his face, the cold porcelain features so distraught they looked fragile.

“Check the doors, Scorp.”

“I did... they’re locked.”

“And the windows?”

“I checked everything.”

“You promise?”

A childish query, but one that Scorpius would answer whole-heartedly, grinning.

“Always, Potter.”

“You won’t tell anyone about this.” Albus coughed violently into the bowl. “You hear me? You won’t speak a word—”

“Yes, yes, I know the drill. You’ll destroy me. You’ll ruin my life. You’ll murder my unborn child -- honestly Potter I keep your secrets for the asking. You don’t have to threaten me every time.” Scorpius often wondered whether Albus didn’t understand the concept of trust, or whether he just preferred aggressive bullying.

“We’re not friends, Malfoy. Get that through your thick head now.” He spat, glaring at him through the mirror.

“I never said we were.”

“Then don’t act as if…as if—” He subsided into a coughing fit more severe than earlier. Scorpius sighed, his eyes weary, his shoulders descending…it would be a long night indeed if his friend insisted on being so stubborn.

“You sound like shit, Potter. go lay down. I’ll get some tea from the elves.”

“I didn’t ask for—”

“Will you just shut up and do as I say?!” Scorpius glared at Potter, whose brows drew up. He had not been expecting such ferocious insolence.

“You don’t speak to me like that.”

“I apologize profusely, master. There, is that better?”

Potter tightened his jaw, surveying him coldly. “Earl Grey.”

“Yes, yes, I know.” Scorpius muttered, hands in his pockets as he stalked out the doorway.

Passing swiftly through the halls and avoiding the prefect routes, he arrived in the kitchens where various house elves were busy toiling away for the next day. He only had to say two words.

“Potter’s favorite.”

The house elves were fond of Potter, not because he was kind, nor caring to fake it, but because he had helped them arrange a strike for better wages the year prior (which had resulted, as deliberately planned, with the Gryffindor common room in shambles). Obviously Albus hadn’t done it out of some understanding of their plight, or Merlin forbid, because he actually had a heart underneath his shell of ice. It was more or less to test his powers of control against the Head Boy last year—a disdainful Gryffindor who often awarded him with detention. For some reason or other, Potter was always trying to see how far he could pit things.

Normally Scorpius enjoyed the intrusive thrill this created in his otherwise conventional life, but occasionally, he had to wonder what went through his friend’s head.

With Albus Potter, you could never be sure of anything.






“Anthony Rimbaud.” The Head stated, passing her over a file. “32. Widowed. Head of the International Magical office of Law. Pureblood aristocracy. Previous affiliation with renegade underground movements. Attends the Minister’s tea parties. A dangerous enemy that can be turned to a vital ally if you play your cards right.”

Rose glanced through the file.

“And you want me… to convince him?”

“No.”

“Kidnap him?”

“No.”

“Seduce him?” The very thought made her stomach turn.

“Heavens no, Weasley. My house-elves are more sophisticated in the art of seduction than you. Your task is much simpler. Rimbaud is in the possession of a rare, very valuable basilisk egg that I would like. Naturally, would I to end up with such a blackmail worthy possession, I could not only place his entire career in jeopardy, but the nature of his underground work.”

“So theft, then.”

“I expect it won’t be too difficult.” He said tonelessly, surveying his fingernails.

“Probably not, sir.”

“Excellent.” He stood up and walked over to his fireplace. “Now come along, I need to collect a delivery from my contact in the markets.”

Rose hadn’t been out in wizard streets since the incident with her brother. It was always through the use of floo powder that she traveled from the Head’s estate to the Ministry to the training ground and to the hospital to see her brother, where the staff had been instructed to keep her presence secret. The Head didn’t allow her to read newspapers or talk with reporters—he said the aftermath didn’t concern her, that she had caused enough trouble in the world without needing it relayed it back to her, and she didn’t argue.

Rose had been living in a bubble until she stepped ashen foot into what looked like Knockturn alley, with its leaky streets, dampened shadows, and promise of secrecy. Hoods draped over their faces, she followed the quick-footed Head as they cut seamlessly through the masses of people, shifting shoulders and avoiding eye-contact. Unexpectedly the Head side-stepped into a questionable looking shop to the left, and Rose followed suit.

“Close the door behind you, girl.” A raspy voice spoke, hunched, disturbingly deformed figure slinking out of the shadows, “Vincent, if it isn’t my favorite customer. What shall I get you today? Perhaps a jar of goblin eyes?”

“We’re on Ministry business, Toad.” The Head spoke curtly but the hunched man’s attention had been diverted toward Rose. He vanished into thin air and popped up unnervingly close in front of her, leering at her with abnormally large eyes. Rose struggled not to whimper as he traced his malformed hand across her face.

“What an interesting specimen you’ve collected, Vincent. So soft, so supple —”

“Observe your place, Toad.” The Head spoke sharply, “Rose Weasley is a ranking officer and you will treat her with respect. From this point on she will serve as my messenger in Diagon Alley.”

Her eyes shot open. Diagon Alley?

“My apologies, Rose Weasley” The man hissed, retracting his hand. Turning around he shot a steady glare at the Head. “You intend to bring her here and set her loose in a field of dogs, Vincent. I certainly hope power has not blinded you and made you stupid. You have seen the streets as they are, the world as it is.”

“I am every wary of my actions.” The Head eyes gleamed as he turned his attention toward Rose. “Wait outside until my business here is done, and do not speak with anyone. Do not make it known that you are here.”

She nodded, speechless, her mouth turning dry as she stepped outside. Her heart plummeted with the realization that the streets in which she stood, grey and solemn and bustling with fearsome faces—was Diagon alley.

Just what had happened in the past year?

Shops darkened from the inside, trash littered the streets; an unspoken presence of fear harbored every startled pair of eyes she accidentally came into contact with. People scoured past her in the alley, careful never to linger anywhere too long— Rose made herself blend instantaneously. It was the rare but self-preserving quality about her that even the Head often remarked on.

Disregarding the tell-all Weasley hair, there was absolutely nothing distinctive about Rose. Her eyes the unremarkable color of mud, her facial features not unappealing but easily forgettable— sparsely powdered with freckles—and her body standard and lean. Unlike Albus, with his striking good looks and always towering presence, who was able to turn heads simply upon entering a room—Rose faded into the background. She could morph through any group of people, shifting and passing seamlessly through conversations and facades and attitudes. Clothes changed, and she transformed from scared-shitless adolescent to respectable authority figure to blank face in the crowd.

Albus would fool the world with his charm and wit, but Rose was the true Impressionist.

Someday, she’d even fool herself.

But a fatal mistake would occur that day, shattering the essence of her disguise and causing the second most devastating accident of her life. It would occur in five steps. First, a distraction—Rose paused gazing at the barred shops. Second, the irrelevant man blindly pacing through from the right, late for an appointment at Gringotts to arrange for a loan for his house which – where his three children and wife lived but had no idea he’d been recently laid off – was behind payment.

Third, that moment where they bumped shoulders.

Fourth, her hood would slide inches, revealing strands of tell-all red that would instantaneously be adjusted with feverish hands. “S-Sorry.” A stammered response, followed by a queer look manifest of something so obscure it could easily have been overlooked. Perhaps he remembered a picture from the Daily Prophet or perhaps he had been on the trial the day her sentence had been proclaimed or perhaps he was part of Mungo’s staff and had once spotted her shifting through the hospital to see her brother. Or perhaps this man just had an impossibly sharp eye.

Fifth, the blasted look of recognition, followed by a hasty step back.

“R-R-Rose W-Weasley,” he sputtered, just loud enough for the person passing beside him to hear. A whisper, no, plural— whispers, mumblings, traveling, interrupting, shifting with the once dead but now invigorated monster of a crowd as people one-by-one began to halt and steely, perplexed eyes hungrily searched each other. Rose could feel her heart stop pounding, falling as deathly silent as the rest of her. Her eyes traveled upward—offering a silent prayer to whoever still listened.

Please no…

“She’s over there!”

The beast was alive. There were screams followed by a division of movement, away and toward. Fear and desperation. The latter composed everyone who had ever lost anyone ever, everyone so tormented and broken that they would do anything, anything to bring back a loved one. Her eyes widened in horror at the absolute madness unfolding. Screaming, tearing, pushing, pulling, shoving, falling, hurting, kicking, desperate to get to her, the beast was hungry and violent. They were trampling over each other to get to her. Women over children. Men over women. Giant waves of bodies crashing into the next, leaving tattered figures as remains. Every man for himself, killing for the secret to life, their voices overlapping. Rose please! my daughter! my son! my father! my uncle! my husband! please, no, me first! I need help! you’re the only one, please! you have to help! you have to help! you have to help!

You have to help.

Rose was petrified, unable to move.

A beam of light shot from the distance creating a shield between her and the masses of people plummeting toward her. A quick apparition occurred to her right, hands grabbing her by the shoulder, and the two of them were gone.

In the Head’s office, Rose ended up violently thrown to the floor.

“What the hell did I tell you?!” He roared at her, “Didn’t I tell you to remain inconspicuous?! Do you have any idea the mess you’ve caused?! Blast it!” He slammed his desk in anger, throwing off papers.

She trembled, her mouth unable to form a single coherent thought. Except one.

“A-Accid—“

“Accident?” The Head laughed spitefully. “No, Weasley, you don’t get to make any more accidents. The world out there has gone mad—people are killing people because of your accidents.










Chapter 5: Rattle
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

6/26 edits: character interactions




What started out as a single minded move to save her brother had become drastically entangled in national politics. Upheaval characterized magical England, all entities (humans, goblins, giants, vampires, centaurs, etcetera) pissed that the tantalizing secret to resurrection was being kept from them. With rebellions already underway, anarchy threatened the Ministry at its front door. The name Weasley had become a taboo in the Wizarding world, and coupled with Rose—who was now a government commodity and under strict lockdown— capable of starting a riot.

Abandonment by family now made sense and even seemed well-deserved. Most had gone into hiding, leaving the country to protect themselves. Rose’s actions put them all in danger.

People wanted to bring back loved ones with the same method she had used. Others were terrified of the whole ordeal, who thought the essence of magic had been tainted now that the worlds of living and dead had been bridged. How long before someone tried to resurrect masters of horror Grindewald and Voldemort? Other nations stood outraged England had allowed such amoral practice and uncovered the solution to death [before them], thereby putting all bilateral negotiations in danger until the secret was shared. Researchers and reporters from Bulgaria, Russia, America, France, flew to the country in an attempt to make contact—though they were deterred as the least of the Head’s worries. Since the escapade in Diagon Alley, the ambiguity he had worked hard to maintain was blown.

Sure, the public was aggressive, but there were far worse groups out there.




Facing reality broke Rose, as it would anyone with a sizeable conscious.

It wasn’t the screaming, no—she could endure that. Or the painful stabs of death, painting the ground blood-red, nameless faces littered along her guilt stricken conscience like forgotten dreams. Mothers, fathers, children

It was the children, damn it. Why did they all sound like Hugo?

Her wand aimed, narrowed, at her throat, frustrated tears leaked out the end of her eyes. She beckoned herself to obliterate her memories, or take that dark and final step into much worse.

The Head observed her pitiful struggle from the doorway.

Take a moment to think of your brother before you kill yourself, girl.”

At his words, the wand slipped from her fingers and her face crumpled, no longer resembling the girl who had braved a death sentence and Auror training. She buried her head in her lap, and wretched sounds of strangled crying followed.

The Head had no patience dealing with children.

“You knew what you would cause the moment you chose to save him, Weasley. Truth is that you got what you wanted and didn’t give a damn about the rest—”

“I didn’t want this.” Her voice was faint to her own ears.

“No one did,” He said sternly. “But now the world has to live with it and so do you.”

Rose kept her gaze on the ground, brow furrowed, lips tightly pressed to contain the uncertainty building inside her. He could’ve thrown her to the dementors and still slept easy. He could’ve let her slip into the masses and crumble with despair. He could’ve let her take that dark and final step into much worse.

“Why keep me here?” she asked, in a scared voice, “Why not send me to Azkaban?”

“You would be dead within an hour, girl.”

“And why would you care?!”

“Because you don’t get to take the easy way out,” He snapped, and their eyes met.

For a long honest moment, man and child stared at each other.

Finally, a nod.





“The Potters were still in England.” I pointed out. “Ginny and her family didn’t leave until—“

“—after Hogwarts shut down.”

I squirmed in my chair, having been unaware of this new bit of information.

“Was that because of you as well?”

The old woman cocked her head, a bit taken aback.

“Sorry,” I said, feeling sheepish.

“History has often confused the affairs of Albus and me,” she replied evenly. “Diagon Alley might’ve been my doing, Mr. Walker. But trust me when I say that Hogwarts was all his.”




Al,

I strongly implore you to drop your ambitions concerning dark magic. You’ve heard what happened in Diagon Alley. Don’t send any more pets after me. I am in much greater trouble than you could imagine.

Love, Rose


Green-eyes scoured the contents of the letter, smug satisfaction dancing in the excited pupils. Content didn’t matter, it was the tone, the desperate insertion of the affectionate closing, the frantic way the ‘L’ looped into the ‘o’, that told him what he needed to know. The tongue pressed behind his closed mouth—which had curved into his first natural, handsome, and oh so unnerving smile in months.

Meticulously folding the edges (Albus was careful not to smear the lovely script), he pocketed the letter. He planned to read it several times. Then, with a strange lightness in step, he began his preparations.





Unlike Albus, who found the event at Diagon Alley uninteresting and wholly irrelevant, Scorpius—avid follower of news and politics— was concerned: for England, for the Ministry, and on a personal level, for Rose and her little brother.

“Still moping about commoners?” Came an amused chuckle--Victor Zabani, fellow Slytherin ate breakfast beside him. Scorpius grimaced and put down his utensils, his appetite waning.

“I feel nauseous.”

The brunette eyed him warily. “Well you better snap out of it. It’s unbecoming. And along with everything else you oppose him on, your dad won’t like this attitude.”

Well aware that his father loved him beyond measure, Scorpius stared stonily into the depths of his pumpkin juice.

“I’ve told you a thousand times that his preference doesn’t concern me.”

“His money should.” Zabini snorted, downing another piece of french toast, “Do you want to be disowned, Malfoy?”

“It’d be a novel experience.”

“You’re ridiculous.” The pureblood dismissed him haughtily as he got up to leave. Zabani was one of those who, like Scorpius, had been born behind such high class barriers of wealth that neither war nor suffering would ever affect him. Long gone were the days of Voldemort and dark allegiances, and pureblood aristocracy-for the most part- took great measures in sheltering their new generation children. Unlike Zabani though, Scorpius wasn’t content with living in his gold-plated bubble.

“Busy?”

He snapped out of his thoughts to see none other than Albus, standing over him. He looked considerably more upbeat than Scorpius was used to seeing him. Their peers scooted, with instinctive obedience, to make room for the raven-haired boy across from him.

“What?”

“Rose.” He raised his brows, “Do you intend to see her again?”

“Is that a problem?”

A smirk. “Certainly not.”

Scorpius angled an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Why what?”

Scorpius knew just how possessive Albus was of his cousin. Third Year he hit Barry Goldwin with a bludger just for eyeing her the wrong way.

“You don’t let anyone near her. Why give me permission?”

“You work with the presumption she’ll actually let you near her.”

“You seem confident she won’t.”

“I said you could be her favorite person,” he clarified, reverting to his characteristic coldness, “Given her lack of options at the moment, it won’t be much of a feat. That being said, she’s not sleeping with you.”

Scorpius tried not to flush.

“Get your head out of the gutters, Potter,” he muttered, taking a swig of pumpkin juice. “Honest to god, I’m just worried for her… and I know you are too.”

A dismissive scoff. “Rose works like a parasite. She feeds off her shitty luck. She doesn’t need my sympathy.”

“I never said she’s the one who needed you.”

A silence fell over the table where everyone keenly tuned in to hear what the response would be. With his sharp gaze resting solely on the blond across from him, Albus lazily flicked a hand, dismissing the riff-raff at the table. Slytherins of all ages, boys and girls, ceased nosily observing and scattered away.

“Listen to me, Malfoy.” Albus lowered his voice, “Diagon Alley was inevitable. At the first sign of crisis, people drop their morals and run violently thrashing into each other. I know you haven’t seen a lot of it, and it’s sickening, but it’s human nature. Stop with the pity party and grow a pair.”

“I don’t like being patronized, Potter.”

“And I don’t like being cornered on my cousin,” he interjected sharply, procuring a folded piece of parchment. Setting it on the table, he slid to the blond—marking a shift in conversation.

Scorpius regarded it lazily. “Instructions?”

“The Forbidden Forest awaits.”

“Pray tell, what fruitless expedition are you sending me on this time?”

Albus gave a poisonous smile.






Moonlit haze created an ethereal setting for the mansion standing overhead the hill, lavish and sinister in appearance. A figure flash-appeared into the surrounding bushes, at the carefully calculated distance just outside its protective anti-apparition shield. Mr. Rimbaud was a cautious man, and rightly so, considering his involvement in underground movements and fondness for dark artifacts. Aspiring thieves like Rose Weasley knew dozens of anti-jinxes that could result in the corrupt politician’s undoing.

Rose didn’t waste time overthinking—it was Albus who hyperanalyzed every movement in advance, who organized his manner and speech according to exactly what he intended to gain. Rose preferred action to words. Words could be misconstrued, falsified, manipulated—actions, on the other hand, were direct and brilliantly simple. With her mind clear and focused, she commenced her break-in.

Five doors. Three security guards trailing the grounds. The moment Guard 1 and Guard 2 came into contact, Guard 3 was within jinxing distance. She took the opportunity and knocked him down with petrificus totalus. Side-stepping around the frozen body, she snuck through the garden—a darkened hooded figure running headlong down the trail of azalea bushes. It took thirty seconds to unlock the door that lead into the kitchen. Twenty more to stupefy the chef from behind (Rose allowed herself five extra to take a chunk out of the strawberry parfait in works). Then, her shadowed figure cut through to the empty dining area and stalked up the spiraling staircase. Second floor was darker than the first, and all the ancestral portraits—hexed silent—sent her lurking persona daggered stares. After rummaging through a couple rooms, the dark detector began whirring in her pocket—and Rose felt the surge of relief shoot through her.

The basilisk egg was close. She was almost done.

At the sound of nearby voices, Rose stopped mid- transition from room to room. The talking, amplified into yelling, came from the closed door down the hall. Letting curiosity get the best of her, she approached the door and peered through the edge.

A very strange sight beheld her. Green fumes encompassed the room but through the haze she could make out three figures standing over—a body? Dead body?

“I need more energy!” A harsh voice cackled—coming from the face of the man she’d been sent to rob. He was hunched over the body, in the midst of some ritualistic spell, “NOW!”

Energy shot out the wands of the other two figures, to Rimbaud making him contort and scream. Rose watched in horror as his twitchy fingers dropped their wand and his neck rolled around the base of his collar bone. His eyes turned over to the back of his skull. The process of power exchange had become too much. Rimbaud started yelling: “Stop! Stop!”

The figures lowered their wand and Rimbaud fell to the ground. There was sounds of moving toward the two bodies on the ground and clamoring. is he alive? is he dead? is she alive? did it work?

Solemn silence confirmed that it hadn’t.

Rose took a step backwards.




Scorpius dashed across the halls, his book slamming painfully against his side. The first class of the day—Advanced Potion’s— and he was running late.

“Mr. Malfoy, feel free to take your seat.” Slughorn advised the out-of-breath boy, as he made it in the nick of time. He fell into his normal chair beside fellow Slytherin Doblin Reed.

“Today, we shall be making Veritaserum.” Slughorn commanded the class. “Before we begin, who can tell me about the properties of that particular serum?”

The normal array of hands shot up and—


“A colorless, water-like fluid that inhibits your tongue from forming ideas contrary to the presumed truth,” Albus interrupted, a rare demonstration of his prowess. Heads curiously swiveled towards him, Scorpius included. “Lasts twenty-four hours. Undetectable in everything except citric drinks. It’s said that three drops will force the drinker to reveal their darkest secrets, but in reality, two are just as effective.”

“That is a very in-depth assessment, Potter,” Slughorn mumbled, perplexed. “I don’t believe the textbook elaborates to that extent.”

“Thank you, professor.”

Scorpius could see the smug smile lift on his lips.

Once the class disbanded into ingredient gathering and potion making, Reed turned toward the blond, smirking.

“You screwed up, didn’t you?”

“Not me. Balustrade.” Scorpius muttered, gaze resting on the moondew sprigs, “And who else knows about it?”

“Everyone.” The large-nosed boy chuckled. “Mishaps in the Forbidden Forest. Gossip of your expeditions has been traveling faster than usual.”

“Keep your mouth shut and stay out of trouble, Reed.”

“Potter’s going to kill Balustrade.”

“Potter’s bark is worse than his bite.” Scorpius grumbled.

Reed gave him a pitiful look. “You tell yourself that. Try not to think of what happened to Alphurt last year.”

Randolf Alphurt had made the mistake of revealing Albus’s role in all the lethal plants that had disappeared from the Herbology gardens. Needless to say, Albus gave the boy such a severe case of Spattergroit he was sent home shortly after.

For the first half of class, Scorpius maintained a safe distance.

In potion-making, Albus was a maestro at work—his fluid movements were immaculate in form, pristine in function. His hands were still as he deposited 3 meticulous drops of bat saliva, not four, watching the thick velvety broth turn a rich blue color. Thirty seconds followed in systematic stirring, counterclockwise. He could feel the stares of others following his actions, expecting him to finish first even partner-less (Rose had always been his partner). The Hufflepuffs on his right stood admiring his profile.

“Albus.” The long fingers slipped, mistakenly dropping more rat hairs into the thick stew than they ought’ve. He regarded Scorpius with a sour look.

“What?” he said, annoyed.

“Higgs and Pucey have disappeared from the safe spot. That’s why I was late.”

Albus gave him a pointed stare. “And the cargo?”

“Is all safe. Balustrade hid it well. You’ll be satisfied on that account. But we have to—“

“What have I told you about entrusting Higgs and Pucey?” He hissed. They were easily the most dimwitted two boys in Slytherin, if not the whole school. They had Hufflepuff to even that score out. “Now, not only will the Head Boy have his way with them, but we won’t hear the end of it from McGonagall.”

“Don’t pin this all on me, Potter.” The blond spat, a familiar sneer crossing his face.

His frown deepened. “Oh? Then who shall I blame for your serious lapse in judgment?”

“You know precisely who.”

There was a sullen silence.

James Potter

Not just a regular oaf, but an intrusive one. His intelligence level would’ve rendered him harmless, if not for his nasty habit of interfering in affairs where he was unwanted. This interference had increased tenfold when McGonagall appointed him Head Boy.

From unconscious First-Years found in hushed corridors to dangerous items from Slughorn’s cabinets going missing to escapades in the Forbidden Forest, not since Tom Riddle’s time had there been a network of crime in Hogwarts— mirror image to the world— so carefully orchestrated. Albus managed himself very well in the midst of it. Aside from deadend rumors and the minor involvement in skirmishes, there was never enough proof to pinpoint him as the root.

However, James had grown increasingly suspicious of his brother’s involvement ever since the House Elf rebellion of last year. The consequentially tighter regulations and increased surveillance ordained by him now were part of his ploy to siphon the supply of tools, grunts, and henchmen Albus had to choose from. It was basic strategy. You take the pawns, you beat the king. With fewer and fewer people were willing to work with the likes of him and Scorpius, Albus was expected to show face eventually.

Albus decided he would deal with him later.





She reported her findings to the Head, who appeared too enthralled with the basilisk egg to pay any attention. She watched him trail his spidery fingers across the pale shell in admiration.

“So you think you saw dark magic, Weasley?”

Rose was certain of it.

“Rimbaud was trying to bring someone back to life.”

“Does he know your method?”

“Well…no.”

“So was he successful?”

“Didn’t seem like it.”

“Then this is not something worth discussion.” The Head dismissed her with a careless hand wave, turning his full attention toward his prize. “I have… other things to tend to at the moment.”

Rose left the office, unsettled. That there were those trying to replicate her method frightened her. The price she’d had to pay to bring her brother back to life haunted her every action, and Rose intended to take the secret with her to the grave. To avoid further recognition, she’d dyed her tell-all Weasley hair brown. Hugo thought it looked ridiculous, that she was better off dyeing it blue—he couldn’t quite understand how badly the Diagon Alley incident had set her on edge. Her brother remained beautifully untainted in spite of the dark events unfolding around them, and for that she couldn’t be more thankful.

The Head had told her that there were groups out there who would pursue her and Hugo aggressively. His hospital security had been upped. He had advised Rose to keep to herself, which, in addition to the volatile nature of her job, was practically a given.

Rose was pulled unexpectedly into a closet by the waist. The other hand wrapped over her mouth as she made contact with startling grey eyes. Her eyes widened as he pressed his forehead against hers, arm still curved around her waist, his body inches from hers pinning her to the wall in the cramped storage closet.

“Don’t scream, Weasel. These nutters will have my head on a platter. I had to sneak past three goblins and an Unspeakable to get in here.”

She nodded apprehensively and Scorpius released her mouth.

However, he didn’t make any effort to resolve their close proximity.

“How’d you find me?” she gasped, her face flushed.

“A magician doesn’t reveal his secrets.”

“Hugo told you, didn’t he?”

He grinned. “You’ve got an awfully helpful brother. I reckon he’s taken a shine to me.”

“He’d be the only one,” she countered, anxiously combating his hold. “I told you to stay away.”

“When have I ever done what you’ve told me?”

Please. Her eyes were pleading now, distraught, and so Scorpius released his grip with an irritable sigh. He took a step away, grey eyes zipping over her dull locks.

“Dyed your hair cause of Diagon Alley?”

“Not talking about it.”

“We don’t have to,” he said, quickly. “Let’s talk about the weather. Nice night, isn’t it? Not too hot…not too cold…you busy?”

“Always.”

“I love it when you play hard to get,” he teased, watching her face turn a shade.

Rose folded her arms. “I’ll bite, Malfoy. What’s with the sudden interest in me?”

“Who said it was sudden?” He rolled his eyes. “Anyway, I’ll explain it over dinner. There’s a nice muggle Chinese down the block.”

“No.”

Scorpius quirked a brow. “No?”

“Get lost,” she said flatly.

“Is that a no to Chinese or the date?”

“You don’t know what I do.”

“Is that the only reason?” His mouth lifted a smudge. “Because I can fix that over dinner.”

“I’m serious, Malfoy.”

“So am I.” He gave her a brazen look. “Considerably more than Fourth Year.”

“You’ll have to find someone else to injure with gobstones,” she said, with some bitterness.

See, now, that’s the thing, Weasley. I don’t think I can.

He observed her with an indecipherable look, carefully placed between humor and sincerity— undoubtedly, one of the array of calculated facial expressions he’d adopted from Albus.

Rose hastily peered out the closet and glanced back at him.

“Follow me.”

She led him down the halls, a strong grip on his arm. After being ushered out a doorway that took him into the back alley behind the Ministry building—realization dawned on him.

“Weasel, what are you—”

The door slammed in his face.







Every Cain needed an Abel, and his brother was Gryffindor’s Golden Boy through and through. Whereas most people refrained from making contact with Albus passing him in the halls, he actively sought him out. Heroic, lovable, wholesome, and on top of that Head Boy and Quidditch captain—everything a Potter should’ve been.

The younger brother was lounging on his bed, engrossed in a fair bit of light reading— Methods to Legilimency: How to Invade Any Mind—when the older poked his similar dark head through the doorway.

Albus didn’t bother looking up.

“You’re in the wrong common room again, Potter.” He lazily flicked a page. ”Surely you wouldn’t want McGonagall to know you’re abusing your position.”

“You’d threaten your own brother, Potter?”

“It’s on my list of favorite things to do.”

“Right up there with locking house-elves into ovens, I presume,” James mused. “I’ll take this as a confession for last week’s disaster in the kitchens.”

Truth be told, Albus had found Malfoy’s ploy a bit…lacking, that particular instance.

“A First Year could pull off such a weak stunt.” He tsked, regarding his brother warily. “And besides, you’re not really here to discuss that, are you?”

The Seventh-Year warily glanced both ways before stepping through the passageway. “A Ravenclaw spotted two figures out of the Forest three nights ago… past curfew. There was fire.”

“And you thought of me? I’m flattered.”

“I know you’re always sending your mates out on expeditions.”

“I can barely tolerate my siblings, James,” he hissed. “Why would you think I have mates?”

The Gryffindor folded his arms. “Look, I don’t care what you call them. The simple fact is that you happen to be involved wherever there’s trouble for me.”

That was the problem with James; he always internalized matters, never thinking greater about things than the scope that encompassed him.

Sighing, Albus put his book down.

“So much bitterness,” he drawled. “And Mummy wonders why we can’t ever get along.”

“Maybe if you helped me instead of being an evasive prick.”

“Not really in the helping mood right now.” He gave a lazy flick of the wrist. “Do try again later.”

With that he picked up his book again. Moments passed and his idiot brother just stood there, despite the obvious dismissal, staring at him with his normal pathetic look.

“Look Al, if this is about Dad…what they say about you doesn’t—doesn’t mean that you have to—”

“What part of leaving do you not understand, James?” Albus snapped, his tolerance faded. “Leave. Me. The hell. Alone.”

With a disappointed sigh, James stalked away, slamming the door behind him as he went. He had hoped that the dark occurrings in the world would set his brother straight. That he would realize the consequences of his actions, repent, change; but as it seemed, their father’s death had only heightened his commitment to being an elusive bastard.

Albus had never been good, in a manner of speaking. As far as James knew, there was no moral compass that drove him—he was a loose cannon, with the sole intent to cause mass chaos. A loaded gun without any direction where to shoot. Sometimes his older brother felt he was purposely rebelling against their father’s expectations.

James couldn’t understand why. Needless to say, there was a lot he didn’t know.

He didn’t know was that Harry’s expectations had been different for Albus. He didn’t know that the word rebellion only scratched the surface of it. He didn’t that after he left, Albus reached into his pocket and pulled out a sparkling vial. He didn’t know that Balustrade had brought it to the boy that very evening before James’s interference, and Albus had been lusting for the opportune time to study its contents. He didn’t know that it had taken Albus weeks of careful planning to obtain the rare and untainted sample of unicorn blood—noted for extending life dramatically.

Every great mind had pondered it at the very least—immortality. The greatest conquest imaginable. Why would Albus be any different?

James didn’t know that after he left, Albus brought the vial to his lips, and waited. He waited. He waited for the craving to bathe his tongue in its rich, golden liquid. He waited desperately. He waited irritably. He waited with grand schemes in mind and the desire to placate his insatiable greed.

Shattering disappointment struck him when the craving did not occur.






Rose,

Miss you. I have acquired something you will be interested in seeing. It’s time to meet.

Love, Al


Curiosity, as it seemed, was all it took.

Albus let her decide when and where in a follow-up letter, knowing that she would never agree unless she thought it was on her terms. Which is precisely what he wanted her to think.

The pale, handsome figure in a long dark coat stepped into the low-key muggle eatery. He did a quick assessment: a couple in the corner immersed in themselves, two middle-aged men guffawing loudly (too drunk to make sense, not drunk enough to go home), three waitresses on duty—two of whom sent Albus a flirtatious look, which he ignored, as he made his way towards the back booth.

Thirteen and a half minutes of contemplatively drumming his fingers would pass until his cousin made headway past the door. Same face greeting him. Same body jumping him in an embrace. Same apprehension on how he, Albus, would respond. Same mingled confusion when he pulled her even tighter, and, afterwards, kissed her forehead in brotherly affection, smiling that brilliant, heart-stopping smile of his— because Legilimency only worked through close contact.

But what Albus hadn’t accounted for was Occulmency, as Rose had mastered mind-protection just as he had mastered mind-reading. Determined not to be thrown by this unexpected set-back, or the triumphed look his companion now held—Albus maintained ignorance to their cerebral battle. They sat across from each other. Drinks arrived via waitress.

“You ordered?” Rose inquired.

“I know what you like.”

“We’ll see.”

A pause.

“I upset you,” Albus began grimly— acknowledgement, reflection, apology. Girls usually ate the stuff up, but she didn’t even look at him. Slightly annoyed by this lack of reaction, he continued, voice basked in regret. “You were right to ignore me. I scared you, and hurt you, and took advantage of your trust. But I was just being selfish and immature. You’ve always been better than me. You’ve always been so much nobler. You don’t even know how happy I am to see you, to know you’re ok—”

“How many times did you practice this bullshit in the mirror?” she lashed.

The mournful expression slipped into an impassive one.

“Only once,” he replied. “Thought I’d give it a shot anyway.”

“Asshole.”

“What foul language, Rose Pose. I may be an asshole but I’m an asshole you’ve missed.”

She watched in disgust as the smug knowing smile settled across his face. This was precisely the Albus she had wanted to avoid: arrogant, insolent, and far too smart for his own good.

“No need to be embarrassed about it… I’ve missed you too.”

“You’re not capable of it.”

His mouth faltered, drawing to a sneer. This was precisely the Rose that grated his nerves: ignorant, headstrong, and far too critical for her own good.

“Who are you to decide what I am or not capable of?” He hissed. “You think you can ignore me for a year and I won’t come after you? Or that I won’t be pissed? We were partners, Rose, partners…until you betrayed me.”

She averted her eyes, avoiding his pinpoint glare.

“I’m not sorry. I did what I had to to save him.”

“And look where that’s gotten you.”

“You haven’t got an empathetic bone in your body, have you?” she hissed back, tears stinging at her eyes. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been through this past year? With the trial and the job and what happened in Diagon Alley. Tell me Al, did you ever once stop to worry for me?

He was bemused. “Why would I do something like that?”

“Because that’s what people do about family.”

“Boring people,” he dismissed.

Normal people, Al.”

He scowled. That struck a chord with him.

“I assure you that Malfoy is ever eager to fill the role of disposable napkin, Rose Pose. Feel free to exploit his affections any way you wish.”

The jibe was cold and unwarranted. Aware of her school-girl fancy for the blond, Albus had intentionally steered him in her way and they both knew it.

“You’re completely heartless, aren’t you?”

Albus was unsure why the hurt in her voice this made his skin prickle.

“Rose,” he sighed. He gave her an intent look. “I knew you’d be fine.”

“You presumptuous bas—“

“You moan and cry and bitch, but in the end you’re fine. You’re always fine.”

I could’ve died, and if not, I could’ve killed myself,” she snarled at him. “And then what would you do? You have no clue. You have no clue—”

"Stop, stop." He reached over to grab her hand, grasping it before she could yank it away. There was a whimper, a tug and pull, but at last Albus won.

“Don’t be daft.” He squeezed her hand. “As if I’d let you.”

There it was. The implicit understanding. That no matter how bad things got, how far they pushed each other, there was a limit. At some point, the reversion to brother and sister was not only necessary but expected—preferred. Anticipated.

“Stop groveling and show me what you came to show me, asshole.”

He grimaced, disgruntled by her unforgiving tone. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved the vial of golden liquid and placed it intently on the table in front of them.

“No tricks,” he said, observing her expression with care. “A proposition based on equal exchange. Will you listen?”

Rose said nothing, eyes glued to the dangerous liquid swirling in the vial. Unicorn blood wasn’t something you found in a potions lab. How Albus managed to get a hold of it—

“Unnecessary details,” he dismissed, almost as if he’d read her thoughts.

“Is it cursed?”

“Would I do that to you?”

“Doesn’t matter anyway.” She lifted her chin. “I don’t need it.”

Albus gave an irritable sigh. “Consider the possibility, Rose, that your spell isn’t permanent. Consider that Hugo may still very well die. Unicorn blood will prolong his life for years. I’m only trying to help you.”

“Why not keep it for yourself?” she probed, brow furrowed. Immortality seemed to fit in well with his power-complex.

“I don’t want it.”

“Then what do you want?

The query hung in the air like a bad smell.

“Right now I want to know how you did the spell,” he replied, stiffly. “Reasons shouldn’t matter. We embarked on the search together, so it’s only fair that you tell me.”

Rose snorted—as if fairness had ever been a priority to the boy.

“You’ll try to bring back your dad.”

“And what concern of yours is that?” he hissed, expression now lethal.

She narrowed her brow. “Dangerous. And there’s a price you’d have to pay for upturning his death.”

“What?”

“Can’t tell you.” She shook her head, “It’ll break your heart... you’ll hate me.”

“You know neither of those things are possible, Rose.”

She gave him a sad smile. A haunted one. The hollow one of a skeleton whose organs had been removed, whose marrow had been emptied, and who, without connective tissue, seemed only to be held together by chance. Luck. Fate. Curse. Whatever you want to call it. A permanent ticking seemed to resonate from her dulled eyes.

“This is different, Al. Death… is unlike anything we’ve encountered before.”




Of course, he couldn’t let that go.



Chapter 6: Sink
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6/26 edits: character interactions



Amazing image by ScareyKerri @ TDA



The flame by his tableside flickered, illuminating the dark circles etched under insomniatic green-eyes. His pale face wore the damage of countless nights spent poring over books—her books—yet remained unquestionably handsome, striking-yet-rigid features basked in candle’s glow. A radiance without warmth. Deciphering highlights and ink-stained pages, zealous notes made in the margins, he was able to retrace her steps through the Latin works of Flamel, Godelot, Antioch, etcetera. But Rose had been clever. Vital information was missing, still keeping him from piecing together the secret behind her coveted method.

In his private study—away from the masses of Hogwarts yet right under their very nose —Albus resumed her dark work. The moon outside the window reflected off the curve of his jaw-line, ethereal and angelic and almost convincing—until late night passed and the orb ascended, beams shifting onto the surrounding pools of lethal red.

Failed trials.

Rabbits and serpents and rodents and owls and deer and the borrowed pets of his peers…no, not borrowed—for Albus took without asking and did not return. The floor was damp and sullied, discolored by the trailing of their cadavers. The bottomless pile of corpses stacked high, high enough to cause a mere flicker of emotion in emotionless eyes—but the surge was quickly discarded as frivolous.

Inquiry, after all, was useless without experimentation. Research was objective. Research took risks.

Every pioneer in the field of magic knew that.

Life and death were lovers, locked in a perpetual tango. One could not exist without the other, and he would be the maestro in their match-making. The putrid smell of evisceration lingered on his agile fingertips, racing over dirtied blood-crusted paper with the fervent passion of a novelist as he made notes, crossed ideas, and pursued alternative methods, mind on the thin-slice edge between harm and harmony. Shrouds of blood and secrecy, a nauseating stench of enthralls— oh Death— encompassed the near-godly boy as he sought the means to Life.

What poetic horror.

Even in such a violent state of mania, her last words to him burned in his memory like acid.

“He’s made you sick, Al, ” She had said, referring to his father— looking at him with those eyes. Big, brown, and sorrowful; they was practically parasitic. Her heavy gaze seeped through his flawless skin, scrutinizing the diseased blood underneath. She stripped him down to the cold, hard bone and he hated her for it.

No…hate was a strong word. Albus could never really hate Rose.

She pushed him further than he would’ve liked, though. Further than he would’ve allowed anyone else. Her single-mindedness grated on his nerves, as well as that damned inability to acquiesce with his demands. No doubt, it was long-festering jealousy; he had always been better than her and she knew it.

“It’ll break your heart. You’ll hate me.”

This further infuriated Albus—and piqued his interest. What horrifying secret about the spell could induce such a reaction from him? What did Rose know that he didn’t?

What could possibly break the stone heart of a boy who didn’t, couldn’t, even cry at his father’s death?






Meanwhile, Hogwarts suffered from the aftermath of his expedition involving unicorns. The tip of the Astronomy Tower, with its dangling shadows held ideal for private discussion away from prying ears. Members from his own private cabinet of Slytherins clamored in heated debate from his left and right, about the latest developments.

“Well Pucey and Higgs reckon they overheard the Ravenclaw Prefects talk about seeing flames in the Forest as well.” Reported Adrienne Everett, her voice shrill and nasally.

“Bullshit.” Fired back Balustrade, “I was there with Malfoy that night. Your informers are lying, Potter.”

“Is that so?”

The informers- sheepish fourth Years- sank further down in their seats as Albus lifted an eyebrow at them.

“I was out there—I didn’t see anything either.” Rigel said earnestly.

There were mumblings of general consensus in the room.

“If no one heard or saw anything, then explain how the Head Boy found out?” said an enraged Everett.

“Obviously we have a double agent in the room.” Reed grumbled, looking toward the drowsy Slytherin Prefect, Roderick Halen, who had drool sticking out the side of his mouth.

Scorpius rolled his eyes at Reed. “Well spotted, he looks like a mastermind at deception.”

Albus cleared his throat, loudly.

The messy Prefect head shot up, alarmed (“P-Potter! S-Sorry, j-just resting my eyes a b-bit!”), and fell once more into a deep slumber. Albus let it go. Halen had been tasked with relaying information about James day in and pulled regular night shifts, and thus, earned the occasional benefit of the doubt.

“It was a clean getaway. No one should’ve seen us.” Scorpius confirmed, looking at Albus.

A solemn silence followed in which the only sound was the contemplative drumming of his fingers against the side of his chair.

Everyone waited.

After a moment of deliberation Albus finally spoke: “We’re aborting all further operations until we find out who’s tagging them.”

A loud raucous of displeasure followed his statement, and he had to verbally dismiss the meeting. Scorpius caught the back end of his arm as he started to leave, drawing a gaze toward a nervous looking Balustrade. Albus gave him a pointed look.

“Fancy a walk to Hagrid’s with us, Potter?”

Thick gusts of wind blew against their faces while the three boys trailed past the ends of the Herbology garden. Albus kept his neck erect and presumed not to be bothered. Scorpius strolled lazily beside him, hands tucked in his pockets. Balustrade walked behind them, keeping his gaze on his feet. Blatantly withdrawn. Hollow cheekbones. Dark patches under sunken eyes. The sheen of energy normally coating the arrogant Fifth Year seemed dull. After a few moments of silently walking, Albus spoke sharply:

“Out with it, Balustrade. What do you want?”

“I’m sorry.”

There was a slight hesitation in Albus' next step.

“It was you.” He muttered, quietly, watching the brunette’s face redden with shame.

“M-Malfoy and I split up when we were scouting for unicorns, and t-there was an accident.” He stammered.

Oh how Albus hated hearing these words. “What sort of accident?”

“I had to do s-something, P-Potter. It j-just came at me—”

“So you started a fire.” He interjected, seething, “Of all the things you could do to scare some stupid animal away you chose arson?”

“It’s my fault,” Scorpius intervened, “I should’ve kept a better eye on him—“

“Don’t defend him.” Albus turned his sharp gaze toward the whimpering Fifth Year.

“Balustrade can speak for himself.”

The boy swallowed, bottom lip trembling.

“Who was this Ravenclaw that saw you?” He demanded.

“Some g-girl. But that’s not even the worst part.” Balustrade looked near tears, “I may have k-killed a unicorn in the fiendfyre.”

Albus deadpanned. Killing a unicorn reduced the consumer of its blood to a miserable half-life (Voldemort, his father’s First Year. Albus had carefully reviewed all the mistakes of previous recipients). He had specifically given the boy a syringe to obtain a sample of blood, not butcher the whole damn thing.

Albus had nearly drunk it. Albus had nearly given it to Rose.

He took out the cursed vial and shoved it in Balustrade’s hands.

“Drink it.” He ordered, cold eyes narrowed on the whimpering boy.

Balustrade stood there, scared shitless. Albus procured his wand and aimed it towards him. “Drink it. ” He enunciated, “You had no problem handing it to me. So now you’ll drink it.”

Again, the boy refused.

"Deprimo."

He was shot down. The spell induced pressure on his ribcage until whimpering transformed to full-blown screaming.

Scorpius grimaced.

“Stop, Potter. He’s learned his lesson.”

Albus ignored this. His eyes flashed intently as he increased the power beyond the spell's intended capabilities. Slowly, until the shrieks subsided to air-stricken gasps. At that moment, he did not want to listen to reason. He did not want to listen to anything except the sounds of bone rupture--

“I said stop,”

His wand flew out of his hand and landed ten feet away, jinxed. Balustrade, seizing the opportune moment and scrambling to his feet, quickly staggered out of sight.

Albus turned toward Scorpius with a fierce look.

“What the hell was that?”

“Trying to save us the clean-up,” He replied mildly.

“You do not get to make that call.”

“He would’ve pissed himself…you remember what that’s like don’t you?”

His unabashed look made Albus visibly falter. The calculative fingers slipped in retrieving their wand. Scorpius pretended not to notice.

Following silence indicated the matter was dropped.

Now there was the bigger issue at hand. A unicorn carcass wouldn't go unnoticed.

“What’s the plan?”

Scorpius waited patiently as Albus paced back and forth, mulling it over.

They had to cover their tracks. Killing a unicorn was a serious offense and held the penalty of murder. Hiding the corpse was out of the question, as they couldn’t be seen anywhere near the Forest with James breathing down their backs. Naturally the Slytherins wouldn’t speak a word. Balustrade would go mute and stay out of sight until things died down. Then there was the matter of the Ravenclaw mentioned…

“It’s simple. There was only one witness. We eliminate the witness and we solve the problem.”

Scorpius paled. Albus raised his brows at the reaction.

“I’m not proposing we kill her. Planning a murder to cover up an unplanned murder is stupid, don’t you think?”

“I’m listening.”




Like many other girls, Daphne Williamson had fancied the younger Potter since her eyes fell on his polished features and silky locks. Sure the older one, James, was cute in his own right—but Albus could not be summed up in such a syllable.

He was elicit. He was tantalizing. He was positively Untouchable.

Sure enough, there was something quite suspicious about being asked to Slughorn’s party by the elusive boy—and not even directly but via letter. I’m taking you to Slughorn’s party. No need for reply. I’ll see you there. –Albus Potter. He was in her Defense class no doubt, but it was likely he didn’t even know her name. A Ravenclaw ought to have been intelligent enough to note this, but Daphne was too preoccupied with instant romantic notions to care.

Gold and emerald hangings draped from the walls. Brilliant specks of light flashed from the ornate lamp hanging from the ceiling as music throbbed in the background. House elves interspersed themselves around the knees of taller beings, managing large platters of food. Daphne could spot her date—how she loved saying this—off to the side, immersed in conversation with Slughorn. His gaze flickered toward her and he briefly excused himself.

Clad in well-fitted robes and groomed to a handsome finish, he may have resembled any other boy at the party, yet there was an easiness in his strides that made him stand out. It was the firm shoulders, the steady brow, the undisputed confidence that radiated from his mere presence. Without trying, he attracted the attention of every eye in the room.

Her breath left as his tall silhouette approached hers, a jovial smile easing over the stone-polished features. In a single fluid movement, he grabbed two glasses from a passing house-elf and handed one to her.

“Sorry about that. The professor kept me.”

“He was probably telling you about his contacts.” Daphne fought the urge to blush, “I mean you’re so brilliant at potions. Everything, really.”

His gaze drew to her and a curious brow quirked. Daphne instantaneously went red. Was she too transparent? Someone like Albus must’ve been used to girls fawning over him—though he didn’t give them a passing glance.

Nevertheless the boy smirked, drawing the cup from his lips.

“I assure you I’m not brilliant at everything.”

She had to admit she was curious. “Like what?”

“Dancing, for instance—never got the hang of it.” A small smile played on his mouth, “But you could show me, couldn’t you?”

Any girl would’ve been ecstatic to teach dance to Albus Potter, and Daphne was no different. He stumbled over her feet, mismatching her steps as he clung to her waist and ran shivers down her arm. Then his sheepish and endearing apologies, which she countered with assurances. You’re not that bad, she said and he laughed. Daphne decided she liked his laugh—tinkling and reverberatingly masculine.

Daphne truly, honestly thought she was seeing a side to the boy no-one had before.

Little did she know that Albus was an excellent dancer. And that every slip, stumble, mistake he made had been carefully planned, brandished with enough lingering eye-contact and playful smiling to keep her thoroughly immersed in him. Aesthetics. Just as perfection-or the façade of it- was vital for maintaining dominance, Albus knew all too well the importance of feigning imperfection. Flaws broke barriers between people. Allowed for disclosure.

Still, on some latent level he couldn’t help but feel irritated. She was quite stupid—steadfast on laughing at all his jokes, blushing at all his superficial compliments, and not having enough sense to recall the mostly-true rumors about him. And all the small-talk of school and weather and friends—how the idle chatter grated on his nerves.

This had always been his problem, tolerating people beyond their worth to him, feigning interest in mundane low-intelligence subjects when all he wanted was to remain inside his head.

“I had a question.”

Damn girl, interrupting his thoughts. Albus glazed his annoyance over with a smile.

“What is it?”

“I just mean that,” She mumbled bashfully, eyes downward, “No, never mind, you’ll think it’s stupid.”

“Tell me,” He urged. Though he could sense all her surface thoughts through Legilimency, there was the matter of putting stray ideas together—which he found to be of great nuisance.

“You know, people say things about you,” She stammered, “Some of it is quite unsettling…not that I believe them, Albus. I mean my friends say that—but I don’t think you’re a…vampire or anything. Never mind, the rumors are just silly.”

“I assure you some of them are quite true.” He winked at her.

Daphne giggled, unsure why she was doing so. Then her mouth slipped. “What about the one with you and your cousin?”

Albus fought the urge to roll his eyes. Of all the malicious things said him, girls grew fixated with that one. Over the years his consistent lack of interest in girls had heightened focus on his friendship with Rose. Scandalous insinuations followed that sort of thing and annoyed his cousin –who knew better— to no end, but Albus had cared very little.

“That one’s not true.” He muttered.

Daphne relaxed, now that the main cause of her tension had been dispelled. Her affection for Albus was only heightened of course. Obviously, her friends had been wrong. How could a boy so kind and intelligent, not to mention mind-bogglingly handsome, be anything but misunderstood? True there was a …strangeness about him, but maybe he just needed a brave girl like Daphne to get through the shroud of mystery to the soft interior. Yes, that’s what Albus required. A love interest.

Albus was a performer at his finest.

"I'm glad you came." He beamed at her. "I don't ask girls out often. And it’s not very often I find someone so special."

"Oh?" She flushed with pleasure. With a few chosen words, he'd heightened her importance and boosted her own admiration of him. Pleased with the result, Albus continued, silver tongue spinning gold.

He leaned over, lazily stroking a tendril of her hair. "So pretty," he admired, sending excited shivers through her body, "Different from your friends. They're all average aren't they? You're talented, exotic, unique."

“You’re so sweet, Albus” She giggled nervously, eyes on the ground, “But I didn’t think you knew my name.”

“Of course I do.” With a delicate finger, he pulled her gaze into his. She stared, transfixed by his smolder-heavy eyes. He had her. Any moment now she would melt to his feet.

Albus pulled away at the opportune time moment she leaned in to kiss him.

No. Too early.

Embarrassment flitted across her face, but she said nothing as he politely excused himself to the bathrooms. When he returned he asked her to dance as if nothing had happened. She did not attempt to kiss him again.

The night dragged on, filled with dancing and surface-level flirting.

Despite his growing impatience with the charade, Albus continued with his performance, playing the coy date and dispelling the belief that, in reality, he found her as interesting as flobberworms and slightly more useless (flobberworms could be a key ingredient in the right potion). Finally he’d had enough.

“It’s too loud here, Daphne,” he murmured, with a lazy bat of the eyes.

“Are you getting tired?” she said.

“Let’s go somewhere…more private.”

Her heartbeat picked up. With a sly finger to his lips, he pulled her out of the door, away from the masses of people, down the corridor, down the halls, down the stairs, and still down. Like a moth to cold flame—for how could she be anything but?—she followed him. Rebellion danced in her excited thoughts, and he was able to sense every one of her desires as he pulled her into an empty classroom.

A smile flitted across his face as he turned toward her, though it was far from good-natured. Cold and enigmatic, it ran an odd chill through Daphne, “Are you scared?”

Daphne shook his head. Albus smiled and leaned toward the girl, running his thumb gently down her soft cheek—a cold touch leaving a trail of numbness on her skin. Daphne wasn’t whether to feel excited or repulsed by this action, her attention held by the strange fascination in his green irises, shimmering without warmth. He leaned forward, “I answered your questions tonight, didn’t I?” he purred into her ear. “Now you answer mine.”

He must’ve been flirting, but it made her nervous that they were alone.

Nonetheless, she gave a hesitant smile, batting her eyelids. “W-What do you want to know about me?”

“Not about you.” His lips quirked up, smile widening and reflecting the manic look in his eyes. He circled her closely, fierce predator toying with prey. “What you saw. What you’re hiding. It presses against your conscious. It haunts your every nightmare. Even tonight when you were so foolishly immersed in me, I saw the flicker of guilt trace across your face. I note these things, Daphne. In a matter of hours, I have noted everything about you.”

He stopped, glancing intently at her, “Secrecy is a disease. Tell me, what secrets are you harboring?”

The sudden shift in conversation left her mouth too dry to speak. With a lazy tilt of the head, the boy continued, “Now, now. Humor me. We’re just talking here, like friends yes?”

Friends. Scorn laced every syllable as he pronounced the word.

“I-I really shouldn’t, Albus.”

“Don’t be silly. Friends share secrets don’t they?” In seconds he had her against the wall, wry grin snaking across features. Honey dripped from his poisoned lips, “Secrets are bad things to keep, Daphne. You can trust me. You want to trust me.”

She did.

“I saw s-something in the Forest.” She gasped.

His eyes flashed as he tilted his brow. “What?”

No response.

“What did you see, Daphne?” He insisted, jaw clenching. It took all his willpower to keep his temper in check.

“I-I can’t tell you—“

“Who did you see?” He demanded, “What did he look like? What did he do? Who was with him? What precisely did you see?”

“I…I—“

Without warning he pressed his Veritaserum-coated lips (only two drops) against hers, rendering her incapable of speech for a few good seconds before pulling away. “Two boys.” She gasped, pink faced, “Brunette and blond. I saw…I think I saw a unicorn. It was dying. There was fire. I ran. I don’t know. I fancy you. Why am I saying this? Please don’t hurt me.”

Albus gave a rigid scowl, “Who have you told about the unicorn?”

“N-No one, I swear.”

He pressed his mouth against hers again, palms digging into the wall behind her. She let out a soft moan, heart pounding against her chest. Her hands gripped at his collar, ever-eager lips enveloping his with impossible expectations.

Albus could easily sense her multitude of conflicting emotions through Legilimency. The mental invasion made it easy for him to comprehend her relative level of delusion. Apprehension, excitement, intrigue, lust—he could taste it in the air between them. Snippets, mind you. Albus could not grasp it all. He did not want to. Nevertheless he delved further into her cerebral cortex, on the basis of academic inquiry.

It was revolting. There was no intelligent thought, no substance, no greater scope of understanding. Barren landscape lain to waste by drunkenness and disease. Carnal. The most primal of human emotions had consumed her pathetic little world and Albus could not be more disappointed.

Disgusted by both himself and the girl, he pulled away.

“Who have you told about the unicorn?”

“No one.”

“Good.”

He turned around and spat on the ground, wiping his foul mouth. With his wand pulled out, he turned toward her, and in five heartless seconds erased a week’s worth of her memory.






In the upcoming days the investigation was expected to die out without witnesses or proof. Daphne would carry on with life, oblivious to everything she had seen. Balustrade would –as Albus ordered—keep his mouth and head out of trouble. Things would go back to normal.

Except they didn’t.

Hogwarts—the iceberg, on the brink of tilting. Since the uproar that Rose’s spell had caused in England and following near-anarchy, even the safest of havens for aspiring wizards stood shaky. Often in times of great distress, all it takes is One Little Push to sink even the unsinkable.

In this case, it was the centaurs.

They discovered the unicorn carcass first. Outrage struck, against the foolish and cruel wizards, but more than that, it was fear. The ancient pact between their clans and long-gone Dumbledore crumpled. Threats were received by Headmistress McGonagall who, in all honesty, tried her absolute best to placate the tension. But the centaurs would hear none of it. Enough was enough. Filthy humans. Did their depravity know no bounds? First revival of the dead and now this –not since Voldemort’s time had the dead body of a unicorn been found in the Forbidden Forest, and everyone knew the dark chain of events that set off.

And so, the centaurs declared history was not allowed to repeat itself.

Hogwarts strengthened curfews, reinstated dementors at security positions, and prepared itself for battle. But students are not warriors. Expecting parents to willingly send their children against war bred half-breeds was outrageous. First-through-Third Years were pulled out instantaneously. Then the raids started. Hogwarts adopted an alarm to warn of break-ins. The Di-ding—Di-ding! and teachers would go scouring the premises. Prefects made the headcounts but it didn’t matter because students disappeared and reappeared regularly, beaten and bruised.

The iceberg sank.

The centaur search for the perpetrator would continue for three months until Headmistress McGonagall put a stop to it---in the bitterest way. She addressed the Great Hall, her tone foreboding:

“These are very dark times for us all at Hogwarts. We cannot sacrifice the security of our students for their education. Therefore, I stand today addressing the school with heavy heart and great regret”—pause, nostrils flare, continue— “I must declare that unless the culprit confesses, Hogwarts will shut down…”

Albus stopped listening.

He could feel the heavy stares of his classmates at the back of his head. Balustrade watched him with a fearful expression, sinking in his seat—the pathetic coward. Scorpius gave him a desperate, half-eaten look, silent plea in his eyes resonating with the same message as James’ judgmental glare.

Confess, Albus.

McGonagall’s eyes flickered over his impassive expression but didn’t linger.

Confess. Repent. Redeem.

Following the end of her speech, Albus made his way out of the Great Hall.

You can change, Albus. You can fix this. All it takes is one confession.

He knew no one would betray him. Fear induced powerful loyalty.

Turn yourself in. Redemption waits. It’s what you want.

Without proof, no one could touch him.

Redeem. Redeem. Redeeeeeeeeee—

Albus slammed his fist against the wall, hard. Feeling his bones break, pain reverberated through his arm. Blood grazed the tops of his knuckles; he ran his fingers over the bruises. No tears built in his eyes but there was pain—stinging, poignant, and well-deserved.

And pain was better than nothing.






“Let me take the blame.”

At last, Scorpius found him in the astronomy tower. With his back towards the blond, he stood near the edge staring down at the grounds, watching their peers scatter through the courtyard like specks of sand. He did not reply.

“I’ll say I did it.” Scorpius pleaded again, “I might as well have. I was there.”

Albus did not turn around, nor did he flex a muscle.

“Don’t be daft, Scorp. This was Balustrade’s fault.”

“Does it matter?”

“Don’t try to play hero,” Albus muttered, “One James is more than enough.”

“Someone needs to take the blame here.”

Albus pulled his wand out and turned to him with a headlong glare—the threat hanging between them unspoken. But Scorpius did not meet his anger with his own.

“I won’t tell them it was your fault.”

And this was the truth, as close to the truth Scorpius would ever get with the boy. Even in the face of expulsion and possible imprisonment, never would he even consider betraying Albus.

“I’ve always covered your ass, Potter.” He looked at him, “I’m just asking this once, please— as a friend— please don’t let Hogwarts shut down.”

“I don’t have friends, Scorp.”

The cold dismissal angered the blond, for it was now more inexcusable than ever. This was the boy who carried Potter to the hospital following his brutal beating their Second Year. This was the boy who stayed up nights after his horrific nightmares, checking the damn windows. This was the boy who gave Potter the benefit of the doubt and threw himself into harm’s way again and again for him—and for what? What sort of boy ran and got tea at blasted 4AM for his non-best mate?

Scorpius would always defend Potter—against classmates, the school, Rose, and the whole damn world if asked. It was the nature of their duality. Prison didn’t ever register when he would go to the depths of hell for the boy.

“I don’t give two shits what you think about it all, Potter,” He snapped, “As far as I’m concerned, we’re friends.”

At these words, a flicker of something passed over Albus’ face and his shoulders descended.

“They’ll connect the dots,” He said, voice weary, “Your confession will sink us both.”

“Then let’s sink together, Potter. For the good of the school.”

He stood on the verge of tears but spoke with a conviction Albus had never heard before, using superfluous words like good and friend. For once the Impressionist wasn’t sure how to respond.

In a milder world, perhaps, Albus would’ve shown the moral consideration and taken the bitter pill of his punishment. Confess. Repent. Redeem. But not in their world of chaos and uncertainty, horror and intrigue. It did not make sense to pursue some outdated code of ethics when the Wizarding world hung on the brink of rebellion. Truth held no guarantee of justice and he could not stomach the thought of going to prison.

Not when there was so much to do.

Braver generations had tried to save the world. Albus was concerned only with surviving it.

“I won’t be a martyr, Malfoy,” He replied coldly, pointing his wand at his chest.

From all sides, Slytherins emerged so that there was not one but twelve wands pointed at Scorpius. Cowards would undergo their conscience at the prospect of fear, and Albus was excellent at playing everyone’s worst nightmare.

Playing. He didn’t know when to stop. Scorpius sent him a wretched look of disappointment.

“This isn’t you.”

A jeer flitted his face. “You haven’t a clue what I’m capable of—“

“I know very well what you’re capable of, Potter.” The blond spat harshly, “But I also know where the limit stands between that and what you’re willing to do.”

“I don’t have limits.”

Bullshit.” He scowled, “The wit and the wand tricks, you might have these idiots fooled, but in the end you’re human—”

“Stand down, Malfoy.” Albus gritted his teeth.

“No.” His brow narrowed, “In the end you bleed and hurt just like the rest of us, Potter. And you’re damned if you think I can’t see it.”

Expulso.”

The sudden flash of light hit Scorpius square in the chest, knocking him to the ground. Everyone dodged out the room, Pretense had been dropped. The confrontation between Caesar and Brutus had floundered off the edge.

Albus approached the boy on the ground, eyes stone-green with anger. He had never lifted a wand against Scorpius before. Never had to until now.

They were now the only two in the room. Albus leant on his knees near him. “If you want to see blood, I will gladly show you your own,” He hissed, “Don’t make people into heroes, Malfoy, and do not underestimate me.”

“Then wipe my memory and be done with it.” The boy croaked. If Potter was that heartless of a bastard, then he could prove it. “It’s your quick-fix solution to everything isn’t it?”

Albus did not answer immediately. “I want you to remember this moment.” He said at last, standing up. “I want you to remember that heroes don’t exist. There are two kinds of people in this world—those that survive and those that don’t.”

Scorpius grimaced as if he had been kicked, while the boy stalked away.

He reveled in his crushing disappointment. There would be no hand to help him up; he had long stopped expecting it. The battle was lost and now the guilt would set in about bringing the end to their school-days. As Potter chose to ignore it, Scorpius would carry the weight for both of them. It wasn’t meant to be like this. No, Scorpius didn’t want to feel like this— the lingering delusion, sadistic optimism, that in their five years of pseudo-friendship, he had made an impact on the stone-cold boy just as he had on him.

Potter would do great things someday. Everyone knew this.

Scorpius had hoped some of those things would be good too.





“And so Hogwarts shut down,” I blinked. “Then what, Rose? How do we get to the war?”

The old woman looked at me. As it seemed, the more I learned the more confused I grew about it all. I asked her if this was normal.

“All in due time, Mr. Walker.” She nodded, understanding my frustration. “We are still years away from the war. True, war served an absolute end…. but there were other ends along the way—tragic, bitter, miserable ends, and with every one of those ends there was a beginning. For Albus, as you very well know….the end of Hogwarts was only the beginning.”

I braced myself for the darker part of the story.


Chapter 7: Freeze
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6/26 edits: character interactions




There was something I didn’t understand about wizards.

“You people can do anything, right?” I queried. “I mean guns and bombs shouldn’t really be a big deal.

“I suggest you refer back to your textbooks for the concise details of the war,” she said, with a polite smile.

“I’m sorry, Rose. I don’t mean—“

“It’s quite all right, Mr. Walker. We are friends now, aren’t we? Feel free to ask what you like.”

I nodded. “You were in the war.”

“I was.”

“How did your side lose?”

She blinked, amazed by the question. “We were not gods, Mr. Walker.”

“Yes, but—”

“You misunderstand.” She shook her head. “Take the greatest wizard, strip away his magic and what remains? They use it as a crutch, rely on it more than they know. Without, they are nothing more than men or women. Children. Those subjected to the muggle realms near the end died…such frailty was never meant to thrive.”

I knew I was prying into delicate workings beyond my realm of concern but I didn’t care. Secrets that hid behind Rose Weasley’s hardened mind would be lost with her soon-approaching death; I had to find out what I could.

“Do you believe your loss was inevitable from the very beginning?” I asked, very quietly.

She smiled at me through her crinkled skin, a silent yes, yet without need for elaboration, I could tell she hadn’t always. Time had worn her down, shading all that she knew and loved with harsh cynicism. The turn of the world had broken her resolve, and the only way she could survive was by changing her philosophy.

“Failure was in our design, Mr. Walker. Albus and I are testament of that.”




On his last night home, he attempted sleep but to no avail. Muffled sobbing resonated from the room across, amplified to extremes in the recesses of his mind. Eventually, forced to climb out of bed, he crept into the room across from his.

Lily. Buried beneath mounds of blankets and pillows, bare calf sticking out the end.

He watched her shaking body from the doorway. Wordlessly walking over, he slipped in beside her. The fourteen-year old quickly wiped her face, startled. Al. What are you---he shushed her. Wrapped his arms around her. Pulled her small body close. Murmuring soft words, he stroked her hair with a strange tenderness. This made her cry harder, because the last time her brother had shown such affection was when their father died.

Now he was saying good-bye.

“Did you do it?” She almost choked.

He pulled her closer, mouth grazing her forehead. “My little Lily…” His warm breath tingled her skin. “Do you think your brother is a murderer?”

“James said…well he said—”

“Oh hush, Lily.” He kissed her forehead. “James is always saying things. The question is do you believe him?”

“James doesn’t lie,” she said bleakly, watching his gaze harden over.

Wrong answer.

Abruptly, he began detangling himself from her. She grabbed his arm with fervent urgency as he climbed out of the bed. In their burning, crippling sham of a family, she would grab onto anything, anything at all from him.

He scowled. “Do you still love me?”

“You’re my brother. You’ll always be my brother.”

“That wasn’t my question,” he snapped. “Do you love me?”

Silence

Albus didn’’t wait too long for an answer that wasn’t going to come.

A quick palm grazed the side of her cheek -- the closest to an apology he could muster -- but before she could make sense of it, he was gone.

James would take care of her




With solid snow beneath his feet, her son stood, pink-faced and shivering, glaring wordlessly at her. He had no bags in his hand. She had confiscated his wand, most prized possession, and snapped it in half, so now he would take nothing at all.

Red mane wild around her face, Ginny regarded him with bloodshot eyes, anger drawn over her fading features. She was growing old. She may have been beautiful once, but her husband’s death had sent her into a downward spiral of depression and alcoholism. She was not as strong as she used to be. Still, it would be foolhardy to ignore what took place at Hogwarts; James had told her everything. So, in spite of all her shortcomings, the one thing Ginny Potter was not was an idiot.

Blood ties grow thin stretched over too long a distance.

He was no son of hers.

“This is your fault,” he spoke abruptly, puncturing the silence between them.

“What happened between you and your father has nothing to do with me.”

“You should’ve protected me. That’s what mothers do, you know.”

She winced at the edge in his voice.

Albus continued, teeth-chattering. “So maybe he snapped after the war. Maybe he grew paranoid. Reasons don’t matter. The point is that you knew what he was doing to me, and you did nothing.”

Her eyes traveled upwards and she gave a weary sigh. “Remember that your father saved the world. He’d seen things we couldn’t understand.”

“He was a saint, wasn’t he?” He laughed spitefully.

She closed her eyes for a moment but speaking: “Merlin knows I tried, Albus. I’m sorry—“

“No, you’re not,” he interjected, coldly. Turning a heel he took down the street, the unspoken but you will be lingering in the frozen abyss between them.

He would not glance back at her. He would never
glance back. His actions were testament to her lifelong negligence. She’d focused on her first-born –Mini-Harry— and left Albus to fend for himself all these years.

She exercised perfect apathy, that woman.

And she would not get the satisfaction of seeing him hurt.




Christmas lights flickered from inside the house and the pale, tattered figure on the street paused long enough to glance the window. The image it beheld was akin to a holiday card; happy family adorned in holly and ornaments, children laughing, parents exchanging gifts. Perturbed by this superficial cheer, he drew up his collar and stalked away.

Albus did not like holidays, or the misplaced sense of belonging they stirred; it was deceitful and largely impractical. No, he had no need for such fleeting, abstract notions. His current life required the upmost vigilance. How long had it been since he had last eaten? He remembered everything, yet could not recall this vital fact dammit. Somehow the freezing weather had dulled his perception of time.

Shoppers and businessmen and mothers and children and people from all walks of life passed him on the streets, ignorant that they were in the presence of the brightest wizard of his age. Still, brilliance alone would not convince them to help any more than it would convince muggle shop-owners to hire a boy without credentials and any history of schooling. People were not imbeciles, and Albus needed much more than his raw wit to fool them.

He sat on the curb studying them, the muggles, scrutinizing and dissecting everything in sight. They had a strength he could not decipher—maybe it came from a lifetime of looking down on the non-magical world and then being forced into it. It was their autonomy, their resilience, their contentment that threw him.

While Albus could not imagine a world without magic, these people celebrated it.

But the faceless crowd would give him no sympathy.

Sunlight waned, casting long shadows over black and blue and dried patches covered of what had once been perfect alabaster skin—wandering streets Albus deftly resembled roadkill.

Still, his base looks managed to attract unsavory attention in the seedier part of town. A scantily-clad woman winked at him.

As Albus trudged past her through the snow, she trailed after him.

“No money for a date, handsome? How about I take you out?”

“Try that shit on someone else,” he grumbled, flakes nipping at his cheeks.

Offended, the woman shot him a glower and stalked away. Albus realized he could’ve easily conned her out of a meal and a warm place to stay had he feigned a little charm. But fatigue etched his patience for such things and all he could focus on were the vicious pangs of hunger shooting down his middle. Burying his hands deep in pockets for any quantity of warmth, he continued aimlessly down his path.

In his desperation he would later scour trashcans looking for sustenance. Finding nothing, survival would drive him to seek that woman out and temporarily suspend his disgust at the prospect of a meal. Sighs and grunts and intertwined limbs and touches— the excess stimulus would overwhelm his senses, and the seventeen-year old would clench his jaw to tolerate it. This was an instance Albus would never speak of. His own exploitation. Utterly humiliated, he would embezzle money out of her purse when she fell asleep and slip through the window.

The streets of Stratford, hungry and littered with other homeless, were brutal at night, and a penniless wizard had no way of coping without his long-relied-upon magic. There were brutal beatings by those as hungry as him, as wretched as him, but with the added advantage of guns and knives.

Blood. He could taste it on his torn lips. Feel it trickle down the length of his neck as gruff hands later held him by the shoulder blades against brick-and-cement. The sour smell of alcohol wafted from his captor’s breath. He was broad built with a crude face, akin to a bulldog’s.

“Why don’t you empty out those pockets?” The words came out like fumes inches from his face.

“Piss off.” Albus snapped.

The mistake was followed swiftly by a corrective kick in the groin. The hands dropped and he fell onto pavement, curling from the pain. The accomplice gave a caustic cackle, beady eyes polished with glee. His greasy hair matted over his forehead like it had been painted on. “Pretty boy’s got a mouth on him, innit?”

“I reckon he needs a lesson in manners.” Bulldog fingered a shiny piece of silver tucked in the corner of his pocket.

Abruptly, they jumped him. He was pinned to the ground, held by a blade to the neck as they rummaged his pockets. Kicked his face. Thieves cutting down thieves. His money was taken, along with his shoes.

Merry Christmas

His teeth chattered as he propped himself against the wall, wrapping his tattered jacket around the new wounds—without healing potions, it was all he could do to prevent infection. Still, Albus would not cry. He was too weak even to make audible noise.

Albus conserved his mental energy to think, think of a way out.

“Now, son, remember that this pain is nothing but a mind trick.”

Out of all his acquaintances from school, there was no one he could trust to see him in such a state. And Scorpius—no—Albus would not think of him. They were no longer on speaking terms.

Night descended and as he slowly drifted off to sleep in the abandoned alley, his last thoughts lingered on Rose.




Prophet Headline: Hogwarts Shuts Down over Dispute with Centaurs

Rose tried not to dwell too long on it, for the affairs of Hogwarts no longer concerned her. She was a world away and, as she often told herself, glad for it.

The sun lingered over the horizon, almost afraid to set on the two figures out in the open field. As Hugo had been making formidable strides in his recovery, Rose had to give in to his demands about learning quidditch.

Nevertheless, losing control of his broom, he plunged headlong into the ground.

Moments later— “It was the wind.” He flinched as she tended to the bruise on his cheek.

“Right. And last time it was the sun. And before that it was a bug.”

“Can’t help it you’re a crap teacher.”

“Find another one then.”

“Would if I could. You’re abysmal.”

Done for the day, they limped off the fields together, her arm gripping his side (his legs still had trouble supporting his weight). She managed to peck his cheek before he swatted her away. Gross! He shoved her aside, and tried to balance on his flimsy limbs. She snuck a grin. “Wanna race, Hugo?”

“Oi, shut it…wait hold on! Get back here!”

Staggering forward, he lunged to grab her arm but ended up swooping to the ground. Laughing, he pulled her down by the ankle as she tried to edge away. But her attempts to punish him with merciless tickling were interrupted by the nearby crack of apparition.

The pointy-eared creature stood dressed in an abominable picnic rag.

“Meister will fräulein zu sehen.”

In the past year and half, Rose had gone from wertlos Kind—worthless child— to a slightly less degrading fräulein.

“I thought there were two.” Hugo hissed. “Where’s the one that wears the dishtowel?”

“Una schläft.

“Does that mean sleeping or unconscious?” Rose frowned at the elf. In the past year and half she’d learned a fair bit of German, “Because if the Head finds out you’ve thrown her down the stairs again he’ll—”

“Meister will fräulein zu sehen!”

“Fine, fine! I’m going.” She conceded, “But do me a favor and apparate Hugo back to St. Mungos.”

Ja. ” The waifish elf scampered over and grabbed the irritable boy’s hand. Hugo fought his grip, all the while moaning: “Rose. C’mon, let me try on my own. How am I supposed to learn if you never—“

In a snap they were gone, and Rose headed to see her boss.
For months she’d been investigating corrupt high-profilers along the lines of Rimbaud and helping the Head acquire a mass following via bribery and blackmail. Still it was mutual –he looked after her so long as she ran his missions and acquired his trinkets.

Granted her duties weren’t safe or normal or even pleasant, but she’d fallen into rhythm with the lifestyle. The pay was decent. Hugo was recovering. Her magic was stronger than ever. She had power and authority over men and women twice her age (all of whom resented her for it). She thought less of her parents and more about the ever-uncertain future.

And the missions were intriguing. Rose had uncovered various threads leading to the underground renegade movement. Remnants of the Great War, anarchists, half-breeds, dark wizards, and other outcasts who, in the widespread chaos, had banded together to upturn Ministry rule. What they wanted after that was anyone’s guess.

Still, Rose wasn’t proud to be uprooting criminals or anyone. The girl with no allegiances cared little for patriotism or politics or laws made by those in power to suit themselves. The Ministry struggled to maintain control against different movements fueled by different agendas. Mobs, protestors, anarchists, magical creatures attacking wizards— death and violence were common outcomes, and in the end, people were only as good as the world allowed them to be.

Profuse amounts of smoke swept her face as she entered the Head’s office.

“Weasley!” He jabbed his cigar at her, “I called for you hours ago! Where the hell have you been?”

“With my brother, sir. You see it’s my day off—”

“If you intend to abuse the rare privilege I give you, I shall take it away.” He said angrily, “Is that what you want?”

“No sir.”

“Then sit down. We have much to discuss about your next mission.” He threw her a file and relit his cigar. “Have you heard of a man named Draco Malfoy?”

“No sir.” She lied.

“Pureblood. Ex-death Eater. Part of the Minister’s inner social circle. High-powered attorney who works for many ministry officials here. Mr. Malfoy holds a remarkable amount of influence with his clients, which makes him a threat to my chances of holding office. In which case, I want you to invade the Malfoy Manor and find me something incriminating. Can you manage that?”

Her mouth was too dry to speak.




Rose found out Albus had been missing for a month.

Rose,
Hope you’re doing well. Thought you should know Mum kicked Albus out. I’m sure you can guess why. Anyway, we’ve moved to France to avoid the fallout, so I want you to look after my brother. We both know he’ll find you sooner or later. Please keep him out of trouble.

-James



All other priorities fell apart.




Outside school, there was very little to interest Scorpius. The life of a young-rich-attractive pureblood revolved around balls and banquets and canoodling with other young-rich-attractive purebloods, and Scorpius was yet again reminded of why he’d chosen to pursue friendship with Albus in school.

Albus was a thinker, a dreamer, an inventor. The pulsating brilliance in a field of ordinary. He offered a different world to Scorpius, outside the adolescent scope. A truly exciting one.

But also dangerous, given...recent events.

Still, Scorpius would be lying if he said he didn’t miss the asshole.

Most days Scorpius wanted to crawl into a hole and not come out—be it from boredom or a still-poignant guilt. His parents hadn’t questioned him about Hogwarts shutting down, and were incredibly understanding of his lilting moods and isolated walks, which made him feel all the more guilty. The mudanity of the evening made Rose Weasley’s intrusion even more startling.

He spotted her, waiting for him at the corner during his regular walks. Cheeks tinged pink from cold, she waved over at him, “Hair’s looking nice, Malfoy. Get new shampoo?”

He watched as she walked over. “How’d you find me?” He asked, brows raised in astonishment.

“I have access to the location of every magical entity with the Trace.”

“Meaning you know where I am every second of the day?”

“Intimately.”

There was a pause.

“Think you’re hot stuff, don’t you?” He sneered, shoving his hands in his pockets, “Well, just cause you’re a fancy shmancy auror now doesn’t mean I’m going to fawn.”

Rose caught up, walking alongside him. “Admit it, Malfoy. You’re a teensy bit impressed with my stalking skills.”

Please. ” -- Snow crunched under their feet as they crossed the street -- “Who snuck through whose window in the middle of the night, Weasel?”

“That’s breaking and entering.” She dismissed, “Takes hardly any skill.”

“Setting up a port-key takes more skill than opening up a file.” He countered.

“Now you’re just showing off.”

His mouth curved. “And you’re flirting.”

“I don’t flirt, Malfoy.”

“You’re a god-awful flirt.” He gave a forlorn head shake, “But commenting on my hair means you’re definitely trying to chat me up. Question is, of course, why?”

Rose took in a long draught of cold air, rubbing her hands together.

“So I heard about Hogwarts—” She began.

“Not talking about it.” He murmured.

“We don’t have to,” She quickly tossed the subject, “Let’s talk about the weather. Definitely too cold…wanna get a coffee?”

“Now you’re definitely flirting.”

Moments later -- they sat in a muggle restaurant, out, as it seemed, for the proverbial cup of coffee. Any onlooker would see it as a date, but Scorpius wasn’t interested in pretending and neither was Rose. She cut to the chase.

“He’s gone.”

Scorpius jolted, spilling hot liquid down his shirt. Rose quickly scoured for napkins.

“What…” He winced at her touch. “…the hell? What do you mean he’s gone?”

She told him about the letter. “I was hoping you’d know where he went.”

“Haven’t a clue,” He muttered faintly, and looked up at her. “Can’t you access his files and track him down?”

“He’s seventeen now. He hasn’t got the Trace anymore.”

“Shit, shit shit…This is all my fault.” Scorpius ran a feverish hand through his hair. “I’m supposed to be his best friend. I know he would’ve contact me if he wasn’t mad. If I hadn’t—“

“Ma—“

“He’s Albus you know? He treats everyone like shit. Still, that’s not—“

“Malf—“

“I left him alone. I never should’ve done that. God I’m such an idiot—“

“Malfoy shut up.

Anxious grey met stern brown and held contact until Scorpius finally averted his gaze.

“Our last conversation didn’t go too well,” He admitted.

“You called him a heartless bastard too, huh,” She said stonily.

There was a painful pause.

“So how do we find him?”

“We can’t.”

“So he’ll have to turn up on his own then.”

“I’m sure he’s fine.” She affirmed. Scorpius gave her a strained smile.

“Bet he’s laughing at us right now, the insufferable git he is,” He chuckled, “He’s sitting on his throne. His henchmen are running around doing his errands. Women are feeding him grapes.”

Rose snorted. “He has a horrid personality. Merlin knows what girls see in him.”

“To hell with girls I say.”

“I mean he’s not even that good-looking,” Rose persisted. “Yeah he’s smart but besides that what’s he got, anyways? Besides that silky hair—“

”--and those green eyes—“

“—granted his smile is nice—“

“—yeah, whenever he does smile---“

“—and those cheekbones—“

“Damn those cheekbones.” Scorpius slammed his cup on the table, “I’ve always hated those cheekbones.”

They laughed, diffusing some of the surrounding tension. In truth neither of them wanted to consider the worst case scenario of something happening to Albus. And he sure as hell didn’t deserve it, the manipulative bastard. How they hated that they couldn’t hate him.

“Never thought we’d share an understatement about something, Weasel.” Scorpius said quietly.

Rose averted her gaze. “I actually didn’t come here to talk about Albus.”

He leaned forward. “Go on.”

Starting awkwardly, she wasn’t sure how she intended to go about it. Listen Malfoy, There’s something I need to tell you. I’m not like other aurors. See I run…special operations. He listened carefully as she explained the nature of her occupation. The theft, blackmail, gigantic political conspiracy -- his eyes widened in all the right places. She half-expected him to stand up and leave, but his gaze was steady, not faltering a moment from hers. Why was he taking it so well?

“I get it. I do,” He said quietly.

“No you don’t.” She scowled at him, “You’re silently judging me, and if you’re not, then you’re as twisted as I am.”

“Weasley“

“I’m not looking for approval, Malfoy.” She glowered.

Then shut up already. ” He snapped, “Don’t believe me if you don’t want to, all right? But I get it. I really do… you’re doing what you have to. Someone told me there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that survive and those that don’t.”

Rose frowned. “That’s the single most depressing thing I’ve heard.”

“Sorry, I’ll go for something more romantic next time.”

She ignored the playful grin slipping over his features. He tugged at her arm to show he was kidding. “Lighten up.

Rose didn’t smile. “Next Friday I’ll be investigating your dad. I need you make sure I can’t find anything that might be incriminating.”

“My dad’s clean. He’s been for a while.”

“You’re not listening to me.” She hissed irritably. “I didn’t ask you if your father’s involved in anything. I’m asking you to make sure I can’t find anything.”
It took Scorpius a few moments to make sense of it.

“You’re helping me.” He watched as she stood, “Why?”

“I know what it’s like to lose parents,” She said, drawing on her coat, “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

“I—thank you.”

She nodded. On the way to the door, Scorpius called after her.

“So I can tell my mum you’re staying for dinner, right?”




Turned out that Scorpius had not been kidding. In retrospect Rose should’ve seen it coming, given the casual way he approached the revelation about her job or that he had willingly been friends with Albus in the past. Or the ridiculous affections he harbored for her. Signs of a twisted mind. Nonetheless, infiltrating the large manor had not been a difficulty, nor flitting room to room (keeping dark detector settings on low. Rose didn’t want to find anything). But a hand grabbed her from behind as she trailed through the antechamber and somehow, by the end of it, Rose found herself in the most unrealistic predicament of her life.

Having dinner with the Malfoys.

Silence held over the table. She kept glancing toward the exit, with apprehension that at any moment her superior would come barging and drag her to Azkaban with an I knew you would screw up. What did I tell you about trusting boys?

There was the fear she’d lose her job, almost certainty this was all a big trick (or dream), confusion at whether the hand grazing her arm was mocking or reassuring, and self-control summoned not to jump the boy attached to it and beat him senseless in front of his parents.

Astoria smiled at her from across the table. “You haven’t touched your food, dear. Don’t you like duck?”

“Not hungry.” She murmured, ignoring Scorpius’ intent gaze. He kicked her under the table. She returned his kick with more force.

“We’ve heard a lot about you Rose dear. Haven’t we, Draco?”

Painfully summoned by his wife, the platinum-haired man looked up and locked eyes with Rose. His expression looked as awkward as how Rose felt. “Indeed we have.”

“Our son talks a great deal about you.” Astoria gushed.

“No I don’t.” Scorpius grumbled, “She means from the papers.”

“Oh hush, Scorpy. You’ve been on about her since Fourth year—“

“Mum, shut up—”

“Did you find anything in our house, Rose?” Draco interrupted his wife and son.

Silence fell over the table again.

“I didn’t intend to, sir,” she replied.

“And what will you say in your report? Will they believe you?”

Dad,” Scorpius warned.

“Quiet.” Draco shot his son a glare, “I won’t go to Azkaban just because you fancy the girl.”

“That’s not—“

“None of this goes on report,” Rose assured him, “What I do remains off-record. If I say nothing was found, then nothing was found.”

“Good,” He nodded, cleaning his silverware. On his wrist Rose could see the waning shadow of the dark mark. “I hoped my past would leave my family alone. I didn’t want any part in the last war… I don’t want any in the next.”

Rose could hear the remorse in his voice and instantly felt sympathetic. She had heard stories of his role in the war from her parents, but -- at least the way her mother described it -- it appeared that Draco Malfoy had simply been with the wrong side of things. Victim of circumstance. Wary perpetrator. Brave coward. Misinterpreted by all. He was as she was.

“I’m sorry, sir.” She said quietly.

He looked over at her, surprised by the sincerity of this remark. No doubt he was questioning her fiery Weasley roots. But if there was anything Rose had learned in service to her tyrannical boss, it was self-control. Oftentimes subsiding your tongue in the face of disdain took more courage than mouthing off.

The Malfoys had tolerated her -- a person of taboo reputation -- at their dinner table and she could not overlook that. Rose counted her blessings carefully.

“I’m sorry for disturbing your evening, Mr. Malfoy,” She stood up, swatting away Scorpius’ arm. “I don’t mean to get anyone in trouble. I can leave if you want.”

Silent urgent exchange passed between the Malfoys.

“Don’t be silly, darling.” Astoria said kindly.

“Stay.” Scorpius persisted.

“Sit down, sit down.” Draco Malfoy waved an irritable hand. “I can’t kick out someone who’s helped us. Even if you are a Weasley.”

“I’m a Granger too, sir,” she admitted sheepishly. He groaned. The whole table chuckled. Scorpius tugged at her arm with a soft smile, but Rose wasn’t ready to forgive him yet. Nonetheless, she sat down and the rest of dinner passed in a more pleasant – if surreal – manner.

Trust was a privilege she hadn’t indulged in a while and so Rose took a chance.

Draco and Astoria asked her about her brother, living arrangements, and the riskier topic of her occupation. They marveled at her passing the auror exams. They sympathized; they were parents after all. It had been a while that Rose had been around normal adults, those not seeking to take advantage of her. It made her hopelessly reminiscent of her parents, saddening her greatly. Having learned to revel in solitude, company unsettled her.

Neither Malfoy brought up her resurrection magic—Scorpius has schooled them well.

Conversation drifted and Draco began to talking about his past.

“ -- and my parents were just awful,” he nodded toward his wife, pouring himself wine. “Like I always tell Astoria, we can’t help who our parents are. You needn’t worry about it, Rose.”

Dad,” Scorpius warned, but Rose had already heard.
“What do you mean?”

“You never wondered how yours died?” The man rose his brows, “Here I thought you knew. Not as sharp as your mum are you?”

“Know what?”

A combination of subdued anger and confusion laced her tone.

“Your parents never died in the fire; the ministry fabricated that lie. Truth is that their bodies were never found at all.” Draco Malfoy gave her a strange look. “I’m surprised you don’t know this, Rose.”

So was she.








A/N:

People were only as good as the world allowed them to be.—this line is paraphrased from The Dark Knight.

Meister will fräulein zu sehen— Master wants to see miss.

Schläft—sleeping.








Chapter 8: Reverse
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Their bodies were carried away in caskets—she had seen them!—so how could it have been fake?

--a lie, because faces can be falsified can’t they? Polyjuice is a prime example—

--if only she’d looked closer, if only she hadn’t been so taken by grief, she would’ve spotted the irregularities. Albus commented on them—

--Rose, no one’s mentioned how the fire happened. Rose, there are burn marks all over the bodies but not the faces. Rose, your father wasn’t wearing that shirt when he left. Rose, doesn’t your mum’s hair color seem a bit dark? Stop it, Al, it’s probably just the light—


Sounds of a clanging shovel reverberated through the dead winter air. Tilled soil, wilting plants, mildew of stone—these were the scents that surrounded her, urging, pushing her further into the earth. Specks of dirt shot at her with every heaving blow, thousands of little bullets. Her eyes burned from the fatal combination of cold and decay.

Cold sweat crept onto her skin—she stripped down to her essentials to continue digging. Hours passed but time had lost its meaning; only inches and feet mattered now. Dirt found its way everywhere, ears, mouth, hair, armpits, and underwear. Despite their brutal conditioning, her muscles screamed of exhaustion. She didn’t stop. She couldn’t even if she wanted to.

Her shovel fell as she hit something solid. Now she was on her knees, clawing and tearing through the dirt with her hands. Bloody knuckles. Snapped fingernails. Every particle of dirt was like a speck of her sanity tossed away.

She pulled out their caskets and pried them open.

Mum.

Empty.

Dad.

Empty.

Her throat burst—only explanation for the wracking sobs that tore out of her mouth. But she quickly wiped her face, telling herself this was neither the time nor place to plunge into hysterics. It was dark now, very dark and she had to finish the dirty deed. Yes— complete the triumvirate.

Shovel clenched in convulsing hand, she approached Uncle Harry’s resting ground.

Now she would defile the grave of the most revered man in the Wizarding World.

There was a special spot in hell reserved for her.

She dug. Frozen mud flew everywhere.

There was a clang at shovel meeting metal.

Flies exploded from the casket as soon as the lid buckled and her shoulders fell, in dismay.

Because there was no body there either.

Nothing but an eleven-inch piece of holly.






Rose and I had become more than simple acquaintances. On day 2, I had enough perspective into her life to feel as if I’d known her for years. I felt as if our meeting was predestined, and that perhaps in a separate dimension, we might’ve been soul mates.

Not of the hearts, exactly, but the mind.

We were two halves concerned with a similar truth. Which made me brave enough to prompt discussion on her parents.

“They were heroes Mr. Walker, what is there to say?” She gave me a gravelly smile. No doubt it was a deeply personal topic. “Their lives were riddled with admirers. Their funeral had thousands of mourners. ”

“But there’s more,” I implored. “Unspoken truths.”

“Every family has its closet of skeletons,” she replied.

“Yours quite literally.”

Silence.

“It came with the territory, Mr. Walker.”

“Did you and Albus know then?”

“About the secrets?”

“About the magic.”

The old woman pressed her lips together. “If you mean to ask, Mr. Walker, whether at seventeen we knew what our parents had set in motion, I’m afraid not.”

“But things would’ve been different if you had?”

“Very much so.”

“Would you even have gone looking for them?” I asked,
finally.

It was an unfair question, and Rose turned the cheek to me, rather coldly.

“The what ifs and would haves…there is no solace in such thoughts, Mr. Walker. The past cannot be changed any more than the future can be predicted. It was clever execution, I think, that made us think for the time that we were masters of our own fate. We were not. You must understand. It is perhaps the most pivotal lesson I learned. You must understand that history will always repeat itself.”

I’d heard that somewhere before.







“Are you listening Rose?”

The seven-year old girl sitting on her dad’s shoulders stopped playing with his red curls.

“Sure Mum,” She giggled.

“Then what did I just say?”

Something about Herbert.”

Hermione’s forehead creased.

“Herpo the foul, love. The earliest known dark wizard? I was talking about his contributions to basilisk breeding.”

“That’s what I meant.”

“Wakey wakey and pay attention to Mum, Rosie,” Ron said, spinning her around. Rose shrieked with laughter. “Put me down, I have to pee!”

Grinning, Ron put the girl down and allowed her to prance away. He then went to sit next to his exhausted wife. He put an arm around her, chuckling.

“It’s not working,” Hermione sighed, rubbing her temples. “She doesn’t pay attention.”

“Cut her some slack, ‘mione. She’s seven and, honestly, history is a pretty boring subject,”

“History is not boring.”

“Course not. And Percy isn’t the biggest twat in the world.”

“This isn’t funny, Ronald.” She pursed her lips, “Mind you, this is exactly the sort of attitude that’s discouraging her development.”

Discouraging her development? Hermione, do you hear yourself? This is our daughter we’re talking about!”

“She’s gifted,” Hermione whispered fiercely, “Just last week she used your wand to transfigure Crookshanks into a teapot. If we don’t cultivate her talents now--

“I think it just shows that no one likes your ruddy cat.” Ron snorted. “And you’re not cultivating anything by boring her to bits.”

Hermione folded her arms, annoyed. “How’s Harry teaching Albus then?”

“He skipped theory. Only makes him do practicals.”

A pause.

“You’re joking.”

“Apparently the boy’s a natural.” Ron shrugged, “You’ve seen him haven’t you?”

Another pause.

“I have.”







Prophet Headlines:

Anarchists raid the Minister’s house

Fifteen aurors die in rally

Giants break peace treaty, join with centaurs.

Total count: seventeen Azkaban escapees

Quidditch cup canceled this year: Dark Wizard threats keep people from going.


The Head had assigned her to the main task force to compensate for the severe scarcity of aurors. It had plenty to do with recent deaths and little with how much he trusted her. Sitting in her cubicle, Rose rubbed the back of her neck. Her uniform skirt felt too short and she pulled at its hem to try to lengthen it. She felt uncomfortable being in broad view of others. Important people passed by, immersed in important conversations but their gazes lingered on her. Bold. Inquiring. Judgmental. It seemed the deaths she’d caused at Diagon Alley were permanently etched on her face.

Working in the shadows was more preferable to this public damnation.

Strange looks greeted her as she passed through the halls of her new department to deliver some papers to her squad superior, an anal retentive woman named Patricia Hummel.

The woman regarded the papers disdainfully.

“What the hell are these, Weasley?”

“Arrest orders for the men who attacked Officer Highmore, ma’am.”

“I do believe I asked for these yesterday.”

“I do believe the approval notices required signatures from fourteen officials, most of whom didn’t get here until this morning,” Rose said sourly, “As severely understaffed as we are, I do the best with what I have. Ma’am.”

“I don’t appreciate that tone, Weasley. Unless you would like to be reported—”

“Then report me,” Rose snapped. As the Hummel’s mouth fell open, she turned and stormed back to her desk. She knew she’d regret her words when they reached the Head, but she didn’t care. Lately, it had gotten increasingly harder to feign civility against unwarranted abuse. She had to tread carefully around the Head, but lower bosses like Hummel, no, she didn’t care what they thought. Her emotions had been on edge lately, with the recent discovery about her parents.

There were no bodies in their graves.

This meant the bodies at their funeral hadn’t been real. Which meant her parents never perished in a fire. Which meant that for some reason or other the Ministry faked the whole ordeal…Hugo thought she was being mental when she told him what she thought.

“C’mon, Rose. Be logical,” He had implored, “If they were alive, don’t you think they would have contacted us?”

“Look, I know how it sounds—”

“It’s asking for trouble,” He sighed. She could tell he wished she’d never told him. “Let’s just drop it, Rose. You focus on your job and I’ll focus on getting better.”

The small sadness from him drew out to Rose. He was such a delicate boy. She was a teenage girl, and it was embarrassing how much she loved him, how beautiful he was to her in his frailty. He was as scrawny as he’d been since at twelve and there was a distinguishable lack of masculine growth. She wanted to wrap her arms around his smallness and shelter him from all the problems they were having to face. He didn’t belong there, with her, in this cruel wicked world. He was too good, too pure.

And right. It was foolish to risk their happiness on such a faint possibility. He didn’t want to face the crushing disappointment with finding that their parents were truly dead. Hugo was right to look to the future, where they actually had a shot at surviving. Rose needed to stop living in the past.

They dropped the matter, but it still festered in the back of her mind.

Rose plowed through the rest of the paperwork in disciplined silence.

She thought about asking the Head about her parents but decided against it. Though in some twisted way he had ultimately helped her out, their alliance wasn’t unbreakable, and Rose feared his reaction. She wasn’t brave enough for confrontation—she wouldn’t risk her job. She wouldn’t risk Hugo.

Not to mention she had another plan.

An accented voice interrupted her thinking.

“Don’t mind Hummel. She has an inferiority-complex when it comes to pretty girls.”

She looked up. A young man with thick eyebrows stood over her cubicle with two cups of coffee and a crooked grin.

“Yaakov Gachevska, from the Bulgarian division.” He passed her one of the cups and held out his hand, “Friends call me Kovy.”

She regarded the gesture with suspicion but shook the hand. “Rose Weasley. Not interested in making friends.”

“Heard you were transferred to this hellish job like me.” He shrugged, “Thought we could bond over our horrible luck, at least for the next six months that I’m stuck here.”

Rose had no interest in bonding. She raised a brow at him, “Do you know who I am?”

“Guess you’re kind of famous right?” He grinned, “The Bulgarian papers call you Кралицата на смъртта. Queen of death… it’s kind of sexy. My brother thinks anyway.”

Rose wasn't impressed. “So why were you transferred to England?” She asked, a little testily.

“Same reason all us transfers were.” He lounged against her desk, drinking his coffee, “Countries like Bulgaria with a vested interest in England are concerned about its safety, given all the riots.”

“Vested interest?”

“Sure,” He nodded at her. He seemed eager to divulge in chatter and put off his paperwork, “England’s the hub of the magical world. What happens here will inevitably spread to Bulgaria. So, really, I’m just here to make sure you people don’t screw it up for everyone. World peace and all that bullshit.”

Rose bit her lip. “What, you think there’ll be war?”

“I think it all depends on whether—“

The ministry break-in alarm sounded, interrupting all activity on the floor. Aurors shot up and rushed towards the elevators. Yaakov shot her a grim look. “C’mon.”

They jammed themselves into the elevator along with the aurors. Pushed into the very back with various elbows wedged into her ribs, Rose listened to her heart slam repeatedly against her chest, her breathing ragged and heavy like all the air around her was diffusing. She squeezed her wand in an effort to calm herself.

Dueling in school was something she excelled at because of Albus. He pushed her to become better than him, and in doing so, tapped into a frenzy neither of them could truly explain. Provoked with malicious words, she held nothing back. In turn he threw her against walls with the very same destructive energy. It was all under the guise of practice, but for the most part, they bloodied and bruised each other because they could. It was fueled by a raw emotional energy, teetering on the edge of feral. It had little to do with technique and everything with the glimmer of knives behind his crooked smile—he would eat her whole unless she stopped him.

But Rose wasn’t a violent person by nature. Plus all her missions for the Head had required stealth and trickery up till now so she had never faced an actual opponent head-on.

Aurors fled out of the elevator as soon as the doors burst open, edging and elbowing past each other to jump into the battle. Wand gripped in hand, Rose stood watching the fight unravel.

The long and very splendid hall was tarnished. Blood smattered against walls, creating bullet-like striations. Curses were being shot spanning the distance between the gilded fireplaces. Expulso!! Bombarda! Impedimental! The once-peacock blue ceiling had stopped relaying notices and was now blank. Magical waters from the grand atrium in the center of the hall had stilled as the intruders shot out from behind.

It happened in waves-- aurors she was familiar and unfamiliar with threw themselves fully into battle while others held defensive positions. She saw Hummel dodge deprimo just as incarcerous hit her from behind, roping her feet together and lifting her into the air. Yaakov was engaged in duel with a dark-haired woman and, for a moment, Rose just stood watching him cast a powerful shield charm.

“WEASLEY!”

The Head hurtled out of nowhere and rammed her to ground with his shoulder as a curse flew over them. She staggered backwards, unable to voice a coherent thank you. “Get moving!” He snarled at her, then lifted himself up and disappeared back into the battle.

Rose sat stunned until the movements around her jolted her awake and she leapt to her feet. Bodies fell around her as she ran, dodging any stray hexes. Some woman lunged at her feet, and Rose, not sure whether she was an attacker or fatally injured, kicked her away. She ran as great a distance as she could, and dodged around a nearby pillar. Away from sight. She pressed her body against it and closed her eyes, her heart pounding against her chest.

Now out of sight, she listened to the nearby sounds of fighting, the slashing movements of wands, bodily thuds against pavement, and loud ear-splitting shrieks. She could hear the Head bellow out orders, in a surprising display of heroism. Rose closed her eyes and tried to picture the litter of corpses afterwards, piercing the so-long-suppressed memory of what had taken place at Diagon Alley. She couldn’t deny herself of it much longer---this was her fault. On the most fundamental level, all violence was her fault. She knew she should jump into battle but her feet were rigid, frozen like blocks of pavement. She was scared. She was really scared. She felt guilt for her fear and an obliterating amount of shame for lacking her parent’s courage. Ron and Hermione Weasley had vanquished the dark lord while their cowardly daughter couldn’t even clean up her own mess.

Still, Auror was a title she held out of desperation, not some misguided call to duty. She didn’t want to risk her life for the same people who nearly sentenced her to azkaban. She didn’t want to protect the institution responsible for her parent’s disappearances. She didn’t know who to believe, what to protect, which side to take, who she even was in the large scope of this conflict between government and dissenters. It wasn’t her fight. Not yet.

For now Rose would do nothing.









It was three years before she’d even step foot in Hogwarts and her mum was having her read about the 1938 uprising in Europe that predated the rise of Voldemort. It was very boring.

An eight-year-old Rose looked up from her book.

“Do you think Hugo will ever get better?”

“Have you finished the passage on Grindewald yet?” Hermione tapped the page in the book with a pencil.

“Yes Mum.”

“Tell me about it”

“It’s about why he thinks wizards are superior to muggles. He reads Darwin’s theory of natural selection and makes connections to eugene’s socks”

“It’s eugenics, love. With the way Grindewald employed the concept, it means—Rose stop picking your nose—it means eliminating people with undesired traits. For Grindewald, basically those without magical capabilities. He used it justify his plan of committing mass genocide”

“That’s what I said.”

“Very well.” Hermione gave her daughter a gentle smile, “But do you understand why it’s wrong?”

“Hurting people is bad.”

“Yes love, but why is it wrong to hate people based on biological differences?”

Rose was momentarily distracted by a fly in the room.

“Umm...Grandmum and Grandpa are muggles and they’re really nice. They always send Hugo those tin biscuits he likes so much.”

“Besides Grandmum and Grandpa, dear. They’re family. You have to love family.”

“I don’t have to love family. I don’t love Al.”

Rose.”

“It’s true!” Came an indignant cry, “He’s wicked when he thinks no one’s watching him. He’s the one who stole Uncle Percy’s wand—“

“Just yesterday you two were playing together. What happened to that?”

The small girl shook her head, her pigtails wagging.

“He’s evil, Mum.”

“No eight-year old is evil.”

“Albus is.”

“I don’t want to hear this,” Hermione said sternly, “Albus has his reasons and I don’t want you to treat him the way your cousins do.”

Albus wasn’t well-liked in the family, due to his aloof and distant nature. If Fred wasn’t hiding dungbombs with his toys and under his clothes then Dominique and Lucy were knocking over his food at the famous Weasley dinners, then, proceeding to snicker about it under the tablecloth. Not that he didn’t return the treatment, and often more violently. The more their cousins treated him like an outsider, the worse he grew—it was only around choice adults that he exhibited restraint.

“Albus acts out because he has a lot of pressure on him.” Hermione explained gently, “He’s very smart, just like you. And the two of you will make great friends when you’re older.”

Do I have to?

Her mother didn’t reply, turning a page in their textbook as they moved on to another topic.







Following the disastrous events of the self-imposed dinner with Rose and his parents, Scorpius felt like an idiot. The vivid recollection of his father’s words, Rose’s following reaction, the painful clench of her brow struggling to contain her distress. Despite her abrupt, near-hostile dismissal of him, he had followed and tried to talk with her. Outside the confinement of the Malfoy Manor her inhibitions had dropped, and she was able to cry freely.

He recalled sitting beside her, speaking softly, consolingly, but his words had no lasting effect. His coat was gone, thrown over her shoulders—she didn’t noticed. It was cold. So cold his hands had blistered and he rubbed them together for warmth. She rebuffed him when he reached for her hands. In that instance she didn’t want to be comforted and he didn’t know what to say.

Then there was the recent Ministry break-in that had set the vast majority of government workers – along with his father – on edge. His healer mother, who was having work double shifts to compensate for the recent influx of patients, talked about them moving. We can go to France, Draco. My sister won’t mind us staying with her. And Scorpy can finish his Seventh Year at their boy’s academy. But his dad would hear none of it. We’ll be fine, Tori. Malfoy Manor’s the safest place in all of England. Like Scorpius, he didn’t want to leave his home.

Though Scorpius also had other reasons.

He stood outside the Head’s house, desperate to make amends with Rose. He loitered for a few moments under the street lamp rehearsing sensible things he might say to her. Weasel I’m sorry about what happened at dinner. Truth is that I didn’t know about your parents either. I would have told you, I swear. I know it must be hard to take in—no no, too formal. She would rebuff him again. I want to talk to you. I want to comfort you. I heard about the ministry attack. You must be miserable –idiot! That’s not what you say to a girl when she’s miserable! I know it’s stupid and inappropriate but I think about you all the time. At night I fantasize about us—it was hopeless. She might very well throw him out the window.

He climbed up to her window and tapped as he had done before. There was no shuffling of footsteps in response and his heartbeat accelerated. Was she not home? Did he make a huge mistake coming there? Then, hearing the distant sounds of running water, he relaxed. Using his wand he unlocked the window and carefully pulled himself into her room. Her living quarters were as diminutive and pathetic as he had last seen them. The bed, tousled and still-warm to the touch; she’d just woken from a night of restless sleep. He could picture her body twisting and turning in it all night long, the smallness of her trapped beneath blankets. Sounds of running water continued from the bathroom and while impatiently waiting, Scorpius was compelled to lay in her bed. He positioned her head exactly where he pictured hers—it was silly—perhaps imagining where her legs grazed the bedsheets or she pressed her mouth onto the pillow.

His hand struck something papery; he reached under her pillow and pulled out the wad of documents, scattering them on her bed. Notes. Handwritten potion ingredients and instructions. It wasn’t her handwriting but he recognized the perfect cursive script. He had copied many homework assignments from it—

Abruptly, there was a click-clack and the bathroom door opened. Scorpius looked up to see Rose staring at him, her hair damp, body wrapped in a towel.

“How did you—“

He sprang off her bed. “The window.”

“Right.”

They stared at each other for a moment. Scorpius could feel his face burn. It was actually ironic. He’d caught her in a private moment and he was the one embarrassed. He tried to tear his gaze away from her half-concealed body. He had known her since they were First Years transfiguring frogs into goblets, but he had never really looked at her like this. Rose had a strange but enduring quality that allowed her to take form with whatever she wore. Clothes wore her. She’d look frustrating pretty in a gown, plain-yet-endearing in her school outfit, cold and prominent in her auror robes, unapparent in her street clothes. She was familiar to him but also impersonal. He knew her but he didn’t really know her at all until now.

Dyed-brown hair matted over her scalp. Now that she stood clothes less, expressionless (or shocked. He couldn’t be sure), white sheet covering only the absolute essentials and hugging all the dips and valleys, Scorpius felt in the presence of something forbidden. Like he had just tip-toed past a delicate membrane. Past the coy liners and snippiness and facetiousness and everything imagined but never duly expressed. It wasn’t sensual—well not all of it—but a broach into a more intimate sphere of consciousness. It was reckless.

But it wasn’t what Scorpius had come to discuss right then.

“I wanted to talk to you.” He gasped.

“Yes.”

“It couldn’t wait.”

“I see that.”

He blushed visibly, looking at the floor, the ceiling, the window, everywhere but her as she raised an eyebrow at him. She then walked over to her closet.

“You came to see how I’m doing after the Ministry attack,” She muttered, rummaging through her clothes, “Well I assure you I’m perfectly fine” --undergarments first –“can handle myself” –buttoned up her pants-- “just another damn” --pulled on her jumper-- “occupational hazard.”

Then quit. He scowled into the floor. “We both know you’re a bit accident-prone Weasel. Can’t blame my mum for worrying.”

You’re really using your mum?

“For some reason you made an impression with her.” He rolled his eyes, “I personally thought you were a bit rude at dinner. Stiff and arrogant. Not to mention you’re a right mess when you’re crying, all puffy-eyed and incoherent. It’d be cute if it wasn’t so obnoxious.”

“You should be arrested for being such an awful flirt.”

He saw the edge of her mouth lift and was secretly pleased she wasn’t pissed with him.

“Still not as bad as you, Weasel.” He sneered, “Prancing around me in a towel. My, my, what would ickle Hugo think?”

“You’re the one who doesn’t know where to look.” She shot back.

“Stop flirting Weasel. I’m going to get the wrong idea.” He grinned, and looked back at the documents he’d scattered over bed, “And never mind that, tell me about these potions instructions you’ve nicked off Albus.”

Her brow tersed. “They’re borrowed.”

“Right.” He gave an impatient eye-roll and lounged back on her bed, “So go on, what do they have to do with, well, whatever you’re up to?

Rose pulled out a wand. At first Scorpius thought she was going to hex him, but when she sat down next to him, he realized it wasn’t even hers.

“It’s his, you know. My uncle’s….it’s the only thing I found in Godric’s Hollow.”

It took him a moment to make sense of this. “You—you dug up his grave?”

“I dug up all three, Malfoy.”

Bleeding hell,” He cursed and glared at her. “Are you mental? Have you completely lost it?”

“Yes, I think so.”

His surge of anger suddenly expunged.

“Sorry. Stupid thing to say.” He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. “So there were no bodies at all?”

“I’ve checked their files in the Missing Wizards department as well and they aren’t marked dead.”

“So what does that mean?”

People don’t just disappear into thin air,” she grumbled. “Wherever they are, dead or alive, the Ministry’s behind it. I need to figure out what happened. I need to retrace their steps. I can use Uncle Harry’s wand to do that, and the potion—well it doesn’t exist yet but theoretically--”

“You plan on using a potion that doesn’t exist?”

“Well obviously I have to make it exist first,” she said impatiently.

Scorpius raised his brows. “So is this potion, erm, dangerous?”

“Yes and no but that’s not the point,” she said irritably, “It’s difficult but not impossible to make. The instructions are easy enough to follow. Ingredients...the major thing I need is time turner dust. And Albus.”

“What?”

“I need to find Albus. It’s his potion.”








“Mum, I’m going out.” A fourteen-year old Rose called, “I’ll be home before midnight.”

Ron looked up from his chess match with Hugo. “Is there a boy involved in this?”

“No boys, dad.” she chuckled, “Just Al.”

“Albus is a boy,” Hugo pointed out as his father sneakily reached across the board and stole his bishop. Turning back to the match, Hugo vocalized his outrage.

As father and son bantered, Hermione emerged from the kitchen. “So what are you and Albus up to tonight?”

“Just going to see a movie.”

“Can I assume that cauldron is for popcorn?”

In retrospect, Rose had known attempting to carry a giant shopping bag out the front door would be suspicious. Nothing got past her mum.

“I don’t like it when you lie to us, Rose.”

“I’m sorry, Mum.”

“If you’re making potions, you tell me that.”

“It’s all academic, Mum. It’s practically studying. You told me to study with Albus.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow, “Is this one illegal?”

An owlish blink. “Not explicitly.”

“Take your wand, Rosie,” Ron called, holding Hugo over his shoulder and spinning him around (The boy whined about being manhandled), “Streets are dangerous at night. I don’t want some mugger tailing you.”

“Don’t be silly, dad,” Rose rolled her eyes. “Albus would break his jaw.”

Ron and Hermione exchanged a startled look at this, a look that went relatively unnoticed by their children. But just as Ron was about to say something Hermione stopped him.

“Your father’s right. Take your wand, dear.”

Later that night after Ron had carried Hugo up the stairs (he wasn’t able to climb stairs at this point) and Hermione had tucked him in bed, the parents sat together and discussed a private matter.

“She’s spends far too much time with that boy doing things she shouldn’t be—“

“This is what you wanted, ‘Mione. You told her to befriend him, remember? And this is a normal part of growing up—didn’t we get up to a couple of illegal things when we were kids?”

“It’s not the same, Ron. Harry and—well we were trying to save people. Do good things.”

“Don’t you think she’s trying to save someone as well?” Ron glanced toward their son’s room. It was no secret that Hugo’s dystrophy would continue worsening until his almost inevitable death. Soon he would be in a wheelchair, and then after, in a cot at St. Mungo’s.

“But that’s not her responsibility, that’s ours.”

“We won’t be around forever, Hermione.”

Silence.

“You raised her clever,” Ron stroked his wife’s hair, “It’s only natural she’s not interested in the normal things. It’s only natural she wants to save her brother. It’s only natural she’s more fascinated by potions and magic than she is by boys. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.”

“She’ll be alone, Ron. She won’t have many friends.”

“She’ll have the one she needs.”

If all goes well. Hermione rested her head against his shoulder. “They won’t be anything like us,” She murmured, “They may grow to hate us someday. Can you live with that?”

“We don’t have a choice.”

Meanwhile a fourteen-year old boy waited in a barren field atop a motorcycle he’d nicked off family friend Teddy Lupin— not that the dolt would’ve noticed. Albus knew the older boy would be too preoccupied with his veela girlfriend that particular evening to notice him flying away with it (though as a precaution Albus had jinxed their doors and windows shut from the outside and cast muffliato so no one would hear their incessant banging until the morning. A problem for another day).

Albus wore a thick woolen jacket over his usual cotton shirt and trouser combo. Fifteen impatient minutes passed before his red-haired cousin finally showed up.

“You’re late.” He gave her a dull stare, “And underdressed. I told you it’s cold where we’re going.”

“I thought we weren’t apparating.”

He’d calculated the distance and increased the motorcycle’s maximum speed to accommodate it.

“Don’t have to. We’ll easily make it by dawn. Granted no bathroom breaks.”

“I told Mum I’d be back by midnight.”

“Why’d you lie to your mum, Rosie?”

She glowered at his smirking, but allowed him to pull her aboard the motorcycle. They flew over small collections of lights, then mountains and valleys and villages, and finally long murky spans of water. Twilight fell; the sky turned to a burnt hazel littered with spots of silver and she could hear Albus murmur an appreciative beautiful. She buried her face into his shoulder and clung to him for dear life, her fingers digging into his ribs.

“Still afraid of flying, Rosie?” She could hear him chuckling.

“Shut up,” She muttered into his shoulder. “I hate you I hate you...And I should probably mention my mum hates you too.”

“Been telling mumsie wicked things about me, have you?”

“Don’t have to. She’s smarter than you think.”

“Thinks I’m corrupting her daughter?”

“You couldn’t corrupt me if you tried, you bastard.”

She could picture the self-satisfied smirk flit across his face.

“Good thing I’m not trying.”

They swerved violently to the right, a move Rose was certain he only pulled to make her cling tighter. He was absolutely sadistic, relishing any sort of occasion he got make her helpless and exploit that dependence on him. And he enjoyed the fact that there was one else she’d spend her free time with.

That was the thing about Albus. He was magnetic. Time and time again Rose failed to make friends simply because no one measured up to him, in his absurdity, in his absolute genius. Normal people with their boring lives and hobbies and conversations – Rose needed someone with whom she could brainstorm and discuss theories and chase after dreams and feel brilliant and special. It was fascinating to be in his company. His pace was fast, his conversation sparse, he didn’t linger on people and events—only concepts and ideas. He enraptured her mind as fast as he ignited her anger.

“So this potion you’ve outlined will have healing properties?” she queried.

“I did not say that. If you were listening I said that a possible use for penguin genitilia may very well be neural hypertrophy. Read about it in Anticoch’s notes. But no, my potion isn’t for your brother.”

“But we should make a potion for him, Al.” She insisted. “What’s the point of all this research of you can’t make some profound impact with it huh? The greater good?”

“Patience Rose, patience,” he cooed, like one would with one's annoying little sister. “Now I never told you what my potion’s about did I?”

Rose wanted to know why it required penguin genitilia. “I’m not killing any penguins for your potion, Al.”

He shrugged carelessly. “You can watch.”

They flew over mounds of silken ice, glittering under the moon’s mournful gaze. Rose stared beneath her in rapturous awe. Meanwhile Albus rambled on about his potion.

“First thing, it has the elemental structure of a pensive. But I’ll substitute floo powder for memory dust, and the reaction will require a magical catalyst—an item personal to the subject of interest.”

“Socks?”

“Socks aren’t magical, Rose.” He said impatiently.

“I know. I’m just trying to piss you off.”

“You’re remarkably proficient at it.”

Rose readjusted her arms around his waist, resting her chin on his shoulder.

“Sorry, go on. So what’s the rationale for the floo powder?”

“The potion will allow you to visit past locations rather than memories. More specifically the locations at which the item was last used. Floo powder takes care of transportation. Reversing the object’s locational memory is done through—“

“—time turner dust.”

“So you’re been paying attention.” He murmured, giving her a quick glance. “Impressive.”

Rose beamed at this rare compliment. In truth she was always paying attention to Albus.

Chapter 9: Kill
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

6/26:character edits.


A/N: Just so you're not confused: first scene is in the past and all the other scenes are in the present. No future Mr. Walker scenes in this one 




“Now, son, remember that this pain is nothing but a mind trick. The ultimate manipulation of this curse, you see, rests in the recipient. Rather than deflect, I want you to control your emotions, make your hardness your strength, never allow for doubt to invade the security of your mind, and you will be stronger, much stronger, than anyone else.”

“And if you find someday that you cannot trust in me, trust in my teachings, and most importantly, trust in what you know…you know that I love you more than anything, Albus.”


Harry to Albus; CH 4




6/26 edits: character interactions

Half past midnight and the castle was asleep. Under the full moon’s glare, a fourteen-year old boy and girl traipsed through the Forbidden depths of the Forest, latter chasing behind the former. She called for him in the childish way she often did— C’mon Al, wait up!—but he paid her no heed. Puberty gave him a significant physical advantage; he moved at a pace impossible for her to match. He wasn’t sure what compelled him to throw over his invisibility cloak and disappear into the darkness. An unfair trick, and she would call him a cheater for it, but Albus didn’t care what his cousin thought.

He watched her from a distance as she grasped at thin air, violently, angrily, trying to extract him from their surroundings, yelling obscenities. Her jaw was clenched, her eyes dark and fierce. He could imagine her throat constricting from his painful abandonment—how pathetic— and suppressed the sharp elation that her fear stirred in him. He wanted to punish her. He had been ignoring her all day in an effort to mask his irrational fury. And now, in the midst of treacherous trees, they would finally have their confrontation.

A spell disarmed her and she frantically swung around for the source.

Of course, it was not all her fault. Barry Goldwin had played a significant hand in her foreseeable demise. The older boy had sandy hair, the sort of smile that made girls blush, and a rather unfortunate penchant for tall tales---to which Rose had fallen easy prey. His cousin was naïve. Albus was not. She had spent too much time in potions and spells, or otherwise, fixated with her brother’s welfare to understand the implications of an adolescent boy’s smile, especially one that promised late-night adventures of a filthy sort. Spinning outrageous accounts about witnessing a werewolf transformation, Goldwin had both enchanted his cousin and taken advantage of her hapless youth. He had used her fascination with him as an incentive to ask her out. She had said yes.

Another spell threw her against a tree.

She stood up, steadied herself, and in her focused anger lunged at Albus before he could dissipate into nothingness. She tackled him to the ground and pinned his arms, using the sheer weight of her to keep him from escaping. He was stronger than her, but not bulky, and she had gravity to her advantage. She pried his wand from his ironclad grip and kicked it aside.

“Hey!”

She thumped his forehead.

“You can’t use invisibility in a duel, asshole.” She scowled at him. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“You know what!”

“Keep your voice dow—“

“Shut up.” She grabbed him by his hair and pinned his head to the ground. “Tell me why we’re here.”

“Rose Pose,” He looked at her with amused suspicion. “You do know what night it is, don’t you?”

She was silent for a moment. Albus continued:

“Now, what was the storybook description he gave you? Large arms and yellow eyes?’ Are you ready to see for real?”

“Let it go, Al. Goldwin was just—”

“Trying to impress you?”

“And what’s wrong with that?” There was a note of vulnerability in her voice.

He looked away for a moment. Very much the fourteen-year old boy, he’d wanted to settle matters by dueling, not conversation.

“You’re such a dimwit,” he murmured, ‘Large hands, meaty thighs, loud moans, long nights’ –what did you think it all meant? Merlin, did you really think he was on about werewolves?”

Color bloomed dangerously on her cheeks. She didn’t need to ask how Albus knew—of course he knew. He analyzed. He deduced. He was rarely, if ever, wrong. He read people the way he read books: quickly, thoroughly, and dispassionately. And he tore her girlish fancies to shreds with a few simple words.

She stood up abruptly and walked over to the side. He took the opportunity to seize his wand.

“You’re an as—hey!”

Rose skid against the ground, painfully. She leapt to her feet in outrage. “I wasn’t looking, you assho—”

Another hex and Rose fell into a pile of mud.

“Would you stop—“

And again. Rose landed face flat into the ground.

When she finally managed to lift herself, he was towering over her, green-eyes set in impatience.

“See now, it’s almost too easy for me to kick your ass.” He tapped the edge of his wand against her forehead, “Only shows lazy and stupid you’re getting. You’ll lose your edge if you continue acting like such a little girl.”

“I am a little girl.”

“If you intend to act like one, then I’ll treat you like one,” he snapped and shoved past her, stalking further into the Forest. She strode fast to keep up.

“I refuse for this to end the way it usually does.”

He chortled cruelly. “Oh do you? You refuse do you? I wasn’t under the impression I had to listen to you.”

She grabbed his arm and threw him off pace. “You may be a genius but you do a lousy job at getting your point across.”

He rounded onto her, his wand leaping instinctively to her throat. He could sense her take a tentative step backwards. They both knew she’d overstepped a boundary: instigating physical contact when he had so clearly dismissed her for her best interest. He trailed the wand across her neck, up to her chin. How easy it would be to tear away at her inside the Forest’s solitude, with no one to hear her screaming. He could to nip her boldness back into place with masterful wand strokes. He would apologize afterwards of course, but just once in the irrationality of the moment were he allowed to indulge the pangs of violence. He couldn’t remember what had triggered his fury this time, only that she had with girlish and insensible actions (or thoughts) betrayed an arrangement that had been implicit between them for quite some time, and betrayal was the worst sort of crime to commit.

But she didn’t falter in his threatening disposition, instead reaching and placing careful hands around the one that held the wand. She made him lower it slowly.

“I think if you keep muddling your point like this, you’ll only end up confusing yourself.”

“You think I’m trying to prove something?” There was a childish twinge in his voice.

“Aren’t you always?”

Green eyes hardened. “Stop talking.”

She ruffled. “You stupid twat—”

“I said shut up,” he snarled, his neck snapping impulsively to the side. “I heard something just now—”

His usually pale features went shockingly white. She turned and followed his gaze directly into eyes. Distinctly yellow. Large.

It stood in front of them, snout etched in a murderous snarl. Low growls resonated from the curled snout as its leg territorially scuffed the ground, about to embark on a killing rampage. Her legs nearly gave way under her and an arm grasped at her arm, making her hoist herself up. It pulled her hair to snap her awake.

“When I say run. Run.”

She turned her head questioningly at him. He gave her a long, all-pervading stare that told her she wasn’t to argue. A furious growl startled her attention back towards the wolf. She could hear his sharp preparatory inhale from behind, blowing against the floating wisps of her hair. She found herself holding her own breath:

“Al, when I said you were trying to prove something—“

“I’m a better shot than you. It only makes sense,” he murmured. “On my signal.”

Rose dashed as soon as sparks emitted from his wand, hitting the wolf as it lunged forward at him. She didn’t look back, running, tears already gathering at the ends of her eyes. He’s dead he’s dead he’s dead he’s de—

No. Approaching footsteps resonated from behind.

“Move it, Rose!” her cousin growled, taking hold of her again and practically throwing forward. His long strides quickly surpassed hers. She stumbled, grinning, her feet and limbs unsteady as she tried to keep up, her boots kicking up dirt.

They sprinted through the Forest, past Hagrid’s hut and the grounds, and didn’t stop until they reached the castle.

She took in long draughts of air, struggling to regain breath, “What? It worked?”

“Why wouldn’t it?” he gasped, collapsing against the wall.

She turned to him in incredulous amazement, unsure whether to be grateful or angry. It took her a while to swallow the set of nerves that came with this new Albus-behavior. Behaving like a possessive violent jerk: normal. Getting them into sticky life-threatening situations: normal. Pitting himself against a werewolf in order to save their lives—this was new.

He had closed his eyes and tilted his head back, breathing thickly. She slid on the ground beside him. For a moment they sat recollecting their breath.

“What you did out there….that was almost heroic.”

No response.

“I mean, why?”

A scowl crossed his face.

“It's a stupid thing to die. I know how to calculate risks and make rational decisions. Nothing else.”

Her mouth twitched. “Definitely not part of your plan to impress me.”

He opened an eye and glanced at her.

“Do you think I plan near-death experiences?”

“You know how to calculate the risks.”

He closed his eyes again and turned away again as if irritated by her perceptive pandering, but his hand groped the space between them until it found hers. Fingers grazed her wrist for a pulse.

“So how does it feel to see a werewolf, hmm Rosie?”

“Traumatizing.” After a moment she added: “But it blows Goldwin’s description out of the water.”

A chuckle.

“Albus.”

“Hmm.” His voice was distant, vague.

“What you did was brave.” She faltered. “I don’t mean—I just think…Look, I know you’re not James and you’re not your dad. You’re not some Gryffindor Golden boy. I know that. If I’m completely honest, you’re a big time asshole. But that’s not all you are.”

He didn’t respond, just sat there with eyes closed. Clenching and unclenching his fist around her fingers.

Moments of prolonged silence passed and he could feel her hand squirm inside his: she'd had a thought. Shyly, and with a noted moment of childish hesitance, he felt her draw closer. Her voice rang in his ear, both soft and firm, curiously devoid of her usual anger. It was haunting.

“You’re Albus Severus Potter,” she whispered. “I just hope you figure out what that means.”




The wandmaker was older than most—he had been around for many turns of the world, both muggle and magical, and drifted through just fine. Now, he was an old and wizened, retired from being a wandmaker, enjoying the last comfort of his days in a sleepy unnamed town by the sea. Hermit, they called him.

One strange afternoon, there was a knock on hermit-wandmaker’s door.

It was a boy, bloodied and dirtied and underfed. He was young—not quite yet a man—and even in his tattered demeanor there was a strange regal beauty about him. Refined cheekbones, firm steady gaze, the sort of old-age mannerism to which Mr. Ollivander was unaccustomed from today’s youth. And of course, he was familiar looking. A Potter, although Mr. Ollivander couldn’t be sure which one.

Merlin’s beard, why…you look just like him…come in. Come in.”

He led the boy to a small sitting area. The wandmaker quickly ushered out his elves with tea and biscuits, but the boy did not take any—not immediately anyway. It was only once the wandmaker started eating that he did as well, albeit hesitantly. How odd. While the boy looked as if he was starving, he did not behave so.

“Tell me, are you James or the other?”

“The other.”

“Beg pardon.” The wandmaker flushed. “My memory is not what it used to be, and I haven’t seen Harry for, well nearly two decades now.”

“It’s quite all right.”

“What can I do for you?”

“I need a wand, Mr. Ollivander.” He put down his teacup, leaning forward. “I was hoping you could help me.”

The wandmaker paled. “Oh no no, I’m not in that business anymore, dear boy. Terribly, terribly sorry. You must try Diagon alley.”

“Diagon Alley isn’t what it used to be.” The boy had a tone of agitated calmness. “My father saved your life, Mr. Ollivander. You owe me.”

“How is Harry?”

“Dead.”

“Dear me.” The wandmaker said faintly. “My condolences to your family.”

The boy did not reply for a moment, instead chose to wipe dirt off his shoulder.

“He came to see me some twenty years ago,” The wandmaker continued, “Your father. He wanted to know about wandlore. Pestered me about all sorts of books. I suppose I thought it strange—no one really cares for the sort technical details wandmakers use when constructing, but your father was very zealous.”

Dull-green sparked with interest. “What exactly did he want to know?”

“The manifest of magic, Mr. Potter.”

The boy was silent for a moment.

“And did you tell him?”

“Who am I to refuse the hero of the Wizarding world?”

Another contemplative pause.

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Ollivander.”

The wandmaker stood up as the boy reached the door, perhaps compelled to give one last piece of information, which, really, was all he had. He felt the slightest pity for the boy.

“Magic is not in the wand, Mr. Potter. It is in the wizard. It is a penetration of thought, the essence of an idea…and ideas may manifest themselves in many forms. The greatest wizards are able to perform magic wandless, wordless. Although such a power may take decades to master.”

“I don’t have decades.” The boy snapped. “I need a wand.”

“Bear in mind what I tell you, Mr. Potter. Your father was a man of ideas.”

The boy considered this for a moment. “I’m beginning to see that. Good day, Mr. Ollivander.”




Hugo limped after his sister down the street excitedly; it was the first time in two years they would be seeing their home again. Today was Rose’s seventeenth birthday, and she finally came to inherit their parents’ house.

They stood outside the door, and she turned to him, brow scrunched.

“It hasn’t been cleaned in two years.”

“It’s fine, Rose.”

“I don’t want you getting sick.”

He rolled his eyes and urged her to open it. Dust slammed into their faces as they stepped into familiar air—everything was as they’d left, down to the arrangement of utensils. Mum’s books sat proudly in her bookcase in alphabetical order, covered in a thick layer of dust. Hugo’s old wheelchair was in front of the television, a cup of dried water resting on the tabletop beside. It was like stepping back in time to an ordinary family day.

Cleaning would take many hours even with magic. Because their trip had been physically exhausting, Rose had Hugo nap first—he was becoming more able-bodied but walking, even with crutches, fatigued him. When he woke up, he found his sister in the kitchen battling giant rats. Her sleeves were rolled and hair pulled into a disheveled bun.

“Rosie, this is going to take forever.”

“Stop whining,” She huffed. “It’s just the rats. I can’t catch them with magic without killing them.”

“So?” He snorted, “They’re parasites.”

She disappeared into the pantry for a moment, reappearing with more mousetraps. “You know how Mum was about hurting animals.”

“I guess.” Hugo opened the windows. “I just wish you would’ve gotten help. What was Scorp doing today?”

“You’re calling him Scorp now? How often does he come see you?”

“Often…what? He said he’d take me to a Cannon’s game!”

“Out of the question.” Rose threw him a wet rag. “Start polishing silverware.”

They spot-shined the kitchen, because Rose thought it was a damn shame to let things go bad just because they were alone now. Mum had always been a neat freak, and Dad would yell he had raised them better. And parents or no parents, it was still their house. One of the few possessions no one could take from them. They moved into the sitting room and Rose enchanted the carpet clean while Hugo dusted tabletops. There were pictures too, but he turned them down as he went. They were distracting.

“Scorp’s a nice bloke, Rose. And who cares if he’s a Malfoy. It’s more important that he’s rich.”

“What are you on about?”

“My point is that he’s way out of your league.”

A wet rag was thrown in response and Hugo dodged it. “I’m just messing! But seriously, why not?”

Rose led the enchanted mops into the other room. Hugo trailed behind her.

“Is it Albus?”

“No.”

Hugo didn’t look convinced. “Are you sure?

“Yes I’m sure,” Rose said sourly. “It’s not always Albus.”

“You two have always been—“

“Would you stop? He’s my cousin for Merlin’s sake!”

“And I’m your brother. But you’ve been using me as an excuse for years.”

“You’re a valid excuse.”

“What happens when I’m not?”

“You’re not better yet.” She coughed, fanning the air with a newspaper. “Don’t get ahead of yourself.”

As Hugo moved to open another window, he felt Rose watching him, her gaze heavy and perplexed. It made him self-conscious; she did this often, as if his mobility was all just part of a dream and she couldn’t really believe it, choking up when she found out he could dress himself now. She averted her gaze when he turned around.

“Blast it, I should’ve brought the elves. We’ll be at this for hours.”

“I don’t understand why we’re cleaning,” He said, “Can’t really live here can we? You have to stay with the Head and I won’t be discharged for months still.”

“A shame,” Rose yawned loudly, “that this place isn’t being used for anything. I’m thinking it needs more cauldrons, don’t you?”

His brow raised in startling suspicion.

Rose.

She gave a coy smile, tapping her wand against her lips.

Hugo regarded his sister warily. Though he’d wanted her to forget it, this no doubt had to do with her recent discovery about their parents. That she wanted to turn their home into a potions lab was no surprise, but Hugo didn’t see how anything good could come from it.

“How illegal is this potion?”

“Very.”

“Going behind your superior’s back—do you know that counts as treason? You could get seven years for that!”

“You’ve been reading the law.” She said fondly. Hugo could be so much like Mum sometimes.

He flushed. “I have a lot of free time. It’s either that or healer Augusta’s lovey-dove novels."

“Explains the quip about Malfoy.” She rolled her eyes, “And the Head won’t find out about this. I promise.”

“Things are going well. You said so yourself he was starting to despise you less!”

In the recent Ministry escapade, The Head had saved Rose from taking a lethal spell to the face. Rose was mesmerized— it was the closest to amiability they’d ever gotten.

Still—“It doesn’t mean I trust him, Hugo.”

“Everything’s sorting itself out.” He said earnestly, “You’ve made Auror. I’m being discharged in a few months. My point is we’ve come so far. Why was you trying to muck things up?”

Rose didn’t answer him. Since finding about her parent’s mysterious disappearances, everything seemed to sharp, too bright, as if some covering had been lifted from her eyes. She wasn’t sure why her priorities had shifted so suddenly—maybe she was just itching to dabble in magic again. Maybe Hugo was right and they were dead. Maybe she was wanting the wrong things.

But then, Rose had always wanted the wrong things.




Little Norton—Albus only heard of it over whispers. It was godless. Without rules. A place for the scum of the Wizarding world, hidden in the ugliest crevice of England. The square was littered with people. Lawless rebels, Azkaban escapees, and barely educated thugs congregated here. Dark hooded men and women stood, conversing in low tones. The pavement, damp, was slippery with grime and ash. Filth festered in the gratings between the stone slabs—cracked and jagged. There was no sun, no dawn, just the perpetual gloom of night as he made his way through the crowds.

His senses fell into sharp scrutiny, surveying the surroundings— people walking, talking, whispering, whispers, a faint scream from somewhere, a body being dragged elsewhere, the shifty potions merchant glaring straight at him across the street. He had only one eye. Brown, with specks of green. Without his wand, Albus had only his perceptive powers to rely on.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette.

A wholly muggle contraption, but one the seventeen-year old weaned himself on. During sleepless winter nights with barking dogs and monsters of men that hid in shadows with blades and guns, the taste of fire kept his mind alert.

Albus finished the cigarette, crushed it under his shoe, and continued moving.

A woman caught his eye. She was beautiful, outrageously, devastatingly so, with hair and hips and legs that went on for miles. But Albus wasn’t interested at her legs. It was the wand in her back pocket, hanging in broad sight. Within stealing distance—

“What the ell do you think yer doing?!” A large hand grabbed him by the collar and swung him backwards. Albus steadied himself and scowled at the man.

“Little thief,” The man lunged at him, grabbing him by the collar and lifted him in the air. Drunk, obviously. “Tryin’ to steal meh girlfriend’s wand? I’ll kick yer—“

“Put me down right now.” Albus snapped. “What are you, a muggle? Attack me properly with your wand.”

Movement in the square stilled. The drunk man blinked twice. He put the Albus down and procured his wand.

“Good.” Albus took a few moments to readjust his coat. He could have run, but after months of muggle confinement, he was also aching to see some proper magic.

“Alo—“

“Too mild. Something more aggressive.”

The man stared at him, a bit perplexed. “Per—“

“No, no. That’s not good either.” Albus shook his head. “Come now! Aren’t you capable of thinking up a single decent enchantment?”

The crowd that had formed around them chuckled at this, and even Albus cracked a smirk. This threw the man back into his drunken fit of anger. The girlfriend shrieked as the man lunged at Albus with his bare hands, intent on strangling—

Albus side-stepped, dodging his blow easily enough but was unable to keep himself from feeling a little disappointed. Was this the best the wizard underworld had to offer him? He’d spent weeks dodging more danger from muggle thugs.

The man collapsed after slamming into a wall, allowing Albus to remove his wand and bind him with incarcerous.

“It’s a bit cruel to take advantage of a drunk man.”

Albus didn’t turn around immediately. He could hear footsteps approach behind him, several, heavy. He tucked the wand into his jacket and stood up. The crowd had moved over to make room for a group of men dressed in black robes; their leader stood facing Albus. He was a tall spindly wizard with a long, scarred face. He gave the impression of someone who thought himself important.

“Friend of yours?” Albus nodded toward the struggling drunkard.

“Something like that.” The man said, “Just got out of an Azkaban sentence for murder. He’s also one of my best men.”

“If you say so.”

“What’s your name, boy? And what are you doing in Little Norton?”

“Just passing through.”

Albus turned around and started through the crowd. There was danger in a name as notorious as his, and he had no interest in divulging a group of dark-robed idiots.

A spell shot from behind him, hitting a fruits trolley across the street and blowing it into flames. People ran ducking and shrieking. Albus stared at it, annoyed.

“You have something of ours, boy.”

Albus stood still, listening to the number of footsteps. Fourteen—no –Fifteen large men. They were circling like vultures now, their leader standing directly behind. His front was blocked by fire.

“Hand over the wand.”

“No.”

No?” The man laughed spitefully, “Trying to pick a fight, are you?”

Albus inhaled sharply at these words. Tried to calm himself. Swallow his excitement. Bite down that erratic grin.

His fingers twitched at his side.




Sparks shot out the end of his wand shattering street lamps, immersing the field in darkness. Outraged clamor rose.

“I can’t see nothing’”

“Wha’ the hell?”

“Keep your head!” Their leader growled. “Don’t let him get away!”

Thundering footsteps sounded as he turned a corner, readying himself. A man came running out of nowhere and he felt split-second pain as a spell tore past the flesh of his cheek. He responded with Bombarda, splattering said attacker against wall, and narrowly dodged a beam of red sent at from the right. Another man came hurtling out of nowhere, murderous glare on his face, and blasted him across pavement.

Disregarding his injuries, Albus jolted to his feet and dashed after him. He chased him into the narrow opening of an abandoned building, traversing down stairs two at a time.

A trick.

Another attacker lunged at him from overhead, poison on his lips: “Crucio.”

Albus plummeted down the stairs and fell to the floor, writhing. Cackling men appeared around him— Look at em twitch— but Albus could not make out the rest of their jeers. The searing pain was as unbearable as it had been with his father, stretching his tendons, pulling at his nerves, pulling at his hairs. He felt as if he was suffering from a full-body burn. Still he did not scream. Flashbacks engulfed him—head lolling against grass, fingers clenching into dirt, jaw clenched tongue bloodied from restraint. Sweet agony stretched down the length of his spine to his toes.

Now, son, remember that this pain is nothing but a mind trick.

Albus felt something take hold of him. A pressed, squashed feeling letting loose inside his chest.

The ultimate manipulation of this curse, you see, rests in the recipient.

He found himself rising effortlessly to his feet, dimly aware that the man was pointing a wand at him but nothing was happening.

Rather than deflect, I want you to control your emotions...

The man tried again but Albus felt only a strange tickling behind his eyes. A low throaty sound escaped him— he started chuckling, laughing hysterically.

…make your hardness your strength…

Had he always enjoyed this, the feeling of knives tearing at his flesh? Had he always fed off his own misery? He couldn’t remember anything except pain.

… never allow for doubt to invade the security of your mind…

There a malignant sweetness in that kind of self-suffering, a notion of fulfillment that had gone unexperienced up till now. Who was Albus to refuse his own primal ecstasy, so tightly bound it would take tearing of flesh to set him free? No, he could not refuse himself. He was perfection incarnated. He had finally been born.

…. You will be stronger, much stronger, than anyone else.

AVADA KEDAVRA! ” He screamed, watching as a body tumbled to the ground.

The rest stared at him in scared silence.

Then fourteen curses shot simultaneously, engulfing the area in colored smoke. Albus felt the searing pain of an enchanted dagger in the flesh of his stomach and ducked behind a barrel as men continued shooting through the haze. Shallow breaths and his vision shook. He dug his nails into his palm and swallowed thickly.

Now, remember son this pain is nothing---

“Avada Kedavra!”


The beam from his wand hit another man straight in the chest, and he fell to the ground, lifeless. The others ran toward their fallen compadre, and Albus stood breathing heavily. His fingers twitched.

Now, remember son—

“Avada Kedavra!”
He bellowed, throwing another man to the floor.

This pain is nothing—

Green eyes shone with a fury no longer repressed. “Avada Kedavra”

But a mind trick—

“Avada Kedavra”
And another. “Avada Kedavra” And another “Avada Kedavra”

A mind trick.


An erratic grin drew over his face. “Avada Kedavra.”

Had it always been this easy?


Albus stared at the lifeless bodies decorating the blood stained pavement, as the grin slowly drew itself in. It was as dusk finally met dawn. Thunder snapped inside his head, and green-eyes tore wide, flummoxed, horrified. The pain of the dagger bit into his abdomen and he hunched over. He staggered backwards, clutching his side, and then ran.

Had it always been this easy?

Water sloshed under his feet as he ran, blindly, as fast as he could. Away from Little Norton. Away from the bodies. Dead bodies. Fifteen dead bodies. Finally the burning in his abdomen was too much to handle and he collapsed in an alley, gasping for breath. Blood trickled down his nose. Intense pain shot through his head alongside an ugly slew of memories. His hand reached and tenderly gripped the dagger imbedded in his flesh. He bit down on his lip, eyes clenched shut.

This pain is nothing—

“Arghhh!” He pulled the dagger out and dropped to his knees, breathing shallowly. He felt an extreme pressure in his head and retched.

And if you find someday that you cannot trust in me, trust in my teachings, and most importantly, trust in what you know….

He hunched down a spot in the alley and drew out a cigarette, lighting it with shaky, slippery fingers. Breath, he told himself. Just breathe. In. Out. In. Stop and breathe and breathe and don’t stop breathing don’t you fucking stop.

…you know that I love you more than anything, Albus.


“Bastard.” He laughed spitefully. “You sick bastard.”

The memory shifted from his father’s face to a different one. A softer one.

Shyly, and with a noted moment of childish hesitance, he felt her draw closer. Her voice rang in his ear, both soft and firm, and curiously devoid of her usual anger. It was haunting.

“You’re Albus Severus Potter.” She whispered. “I just hope you figure out what that means.”


Why couldn’t he hear her words? What was so difficult about her softness, her sisterly affection that he hadn't been able to grasp? I love you Albus---had she said that to him or was it meant to be understood? He wasn't sure. Would it remain as unspoken as the rest of their conversations? He wasn’t sure what he wanted to believe.

Sweet darling Rose with her fighting words and crumpled expressions and unconditional forgiveness and fragile little wrists that fit into his hands perfectly small enough to snap. He had thought about snapping them often, the sound they would make, her stupid childish cries as she struggled away. It was a sickeningly improbable notion, impossible even-- for Rose was not mere weakness. The difference between Rose In Real Life and Rose In His Quickly Fading Mind was astounding. Rose In Real Life was not a damsel; she was a force.

She’d drive him out of his depth and push him under.

He apparated to several locations not quite sure where he was going, but in case someone was following his apparition stream. Or maybe he did know where was going. He couldn’t remember. Hunger burned from somewhere but could not compete with the numerous other pains. He was losing too much blood to think clearly.

There was light in the distance—death?

A door opened and a vague shadow stepped forward.

“Albus? Holy hell… what happened to you?”

He must’ve known where he was going, all along. That was the only explanation. And thus, he staggered forward and collapsed into her arms, finally allowing himself to pass out.



Chapter 10: Hold
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He woke up with a gasp.


Green-eyes darted taking in Hugo's old room, bloodied blankets in vicinity, gauze wrapping his waist, her face, medicinal herbs sitting aside. She watched his breathing slow. Her brow set in on his expression.


"Don't try to get up. Potions won't work unless you lie absolutely still." She pressed a hand against his chest, lolling him back down. "How are you feeling?"


He was staring at her.


"Are you hungry?" It was an unnecessary question. She had seen how frail he'd gotten when she was cleaning him up. "Hold on, I'll get some—"


His hand caught her sleeve. "Stay, Rose."


She turned at him, frowning. "You're safe here."


"I know."


"I have enchantments around the whol—"


"Sit next to me," came the murmur. "For a few minutes. Please."


Fingers traveled up her sleeve, grasping at her hand with insistence. "It's difficult for me to…" He broke off and green-eyes screwed shut. For a split second Rose thought she had an idea of what he meant.


"Al," she said, her voice quiet. "It's alright."


"Is it?”


She could hear the knot in his words, stretching from his fingertips to hers. He was squeezing the hell out of her hand.


A nod.


He let out a sharp breath, his grip on her loosening by a little, as she stepped closer to him. Her movements were small and careful, made entirely of nerves, and he stared back with a look that was both helpless and impatient. It was a moment of struggle, of uncertainty, of painful anticipation. They had between them years of mutual animosity and now, to break past, would take something more than words.


Rose took a leap of faith, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulled his head to her chest. He startled, freezing for a few moments, and struggled to adjust his thoughts. Then, slowly, cautious hands wrapped around her back and a disheveled head lifted itself onto her shoulder, allowing her to hold him properly. She cradled the back of his head like a child's, tears gathering in the ends of her eyes, and he closed his, burying himself in her warmth. He exhaled into her shirt as she bit back a sob, neither wanting to alter the silence for fear that something so delicately established would slip from them. They sat this way for a while, not speaking.


There would be other moments for conversation.






"There were very few moments that Albus would allow himself to beg for human contact, and even fewer where he would display emotion. It was only in his dying breaths that he—"


"How did he know where to find you?" I interrupted. I wasn't ready to hear about the end. "He can't have known you were at your parent's house."


"He didn't. He could barely walk and had little awareness of his surroundings." Rose gave a vague smile. "But old habits die hard, Mr. Walker."


"I don't understand."


"When Albus and I were young—even younger I mean—there were days his father took him on special trips. On these days, he didn't sleep. He came looking for me at night and lied at the edge of my bed, not talking, turned away, very quiet. Very snippy if I bumped into him, said he didn't want to be touched—I didn't understand it then. But now I see he was trying to hide from something." Her face wrinkled in thought. "Yes— yes I think that Albus was so caught up playing the monster, he forgot that he was also the running little boy… he did a lot of running, Mr. Walker. Up until the end he was running."


"He dies young doesn't he?" I mumbled. There was surprising weight in my voice.


History books marked Albus Potter's death at age twenty-six. Nine years away on Rose's timeline.


And it was nine years until the War officially began.






"More papers, coming through!"


The office was crowded Friday mornings; field investigations put on halt for weekend and filing damned paperwork. Chatters across the board over office rumors, bleeding though mouths—who was seeing who, who was getting canned, who was mauled by a troll last field case, etcetera.


Rose was just trying to clock out early. Weeks had passed since her being assigned to the floor, and aside from the sheer mundanity of filling out forms all day (and still-painful staring by some, though most on the floor had gotten used to her), she was adjusting—or trying to. She knew why the Head had assigned to her a group, even one that was suspiciously mostly similar-aged transfers; he'd judged her weaknesses accordingly.


Rose Weasley: proficient dueler, proficient potioneer, lacks team skills.


A stack of papers slammed on her desk. Strands of brown fell loose out of the pretty Spanish Auror's ponytail, and she gave Rose, her newly assigned teammate, a tired grin.


"Looks like another night in, eh chica?"


Rose rubbed her sore eyes. Hummel was always assigning her unit more work. She’d have sworn the ranking woman had a vendetta against her.


"There goes my hot date for the evening." Cynthia Mendoza snorted. "Did I tell you that pale curse breaker from unit three asked me for drinks? He's so British."


"Vampire. Feeds on the new transfer girls." Rose flicked through files with a sinking feeling— there went her chances of leaving early.


"What?"


"Fresh blood," snickered Auror Gachevska –-Kovy— at the livid girl, passing and handing Rose her usual cup of coffee, who took it without comment. Their initial acquaintance had been a little cold and hostile—Rose, as a general rule, didn't lend much trust to unnecessarily friendly boys—but he'd warmed up to her via small favors and the occasional compliment. Regular coffee helped too.


"It'll take a couple of weeks before you learn who's who, printsesa."


"Why are the good men either taken or dead?" Cynthia moaned.


"Undead," Florian Dubois corrected without looking up. The bespectacled French Auror was the fourth member of their unit and also the magical creature expert. Rose knew very little about his transfer except that it wasn't voluntary—he'd let loose a horde of overly inflammatory cornish pixies at his last department.


"Vampires are classified as undead."


"Dead. Undead. Doesn't change that I'm still single," Cynthia fumed. "I made this transfer because I was promised adventure, romance—"


"I'm available, printsesa." Kovy wriggled his eyebrows at the Spanish auror, who wrinkled her nose.


"No gracias. I think I'll take my chances with the undead—"


"Has anyone seen Mr. Hashimoto?" Rose interrupted. The fifth—and oldest— member of their unit had been missing all morning. Mr. Hashimoto was middle-aged and so reserved no one knew anything about him, not even his first name.


"I have some briefs I need him to look at."


"I'll do them." Florian and Kovy chimed together and turned to stare dubiously at each other.


"No thanks. I need to leave early and Mr. Hashimoto is the fastest."


"What's the rush, chica?" Cynthia frowned at her, as the other two dissolved into argument over who was faster. "Have you got a hot date?"


Rose shifted in her seat.


"Hugo wasn't feeling well this morning," she lied. She didn't need to. She wasn't doing anything wrong but the last thing she needed was the Head somehow finding out she was skimping work to go look after a family member that wasn't Hugo.


Cynthia rolled her eyes. "Fine. Leave me by myself with the idiots."


Kovy and Florian were still too busy arguing to hear the jibe.


"I'll come in early tomorrow."


"I said I'll take of it, chica."


It was a gesture of amity, one to which Rose could respond with a feeble 'thanks'. Back in school she'd never had many friends, and she couldn't muster charisma the way Albus could. It was her own fault for never trying enough, because she'd told herself she'd focus more on those aspects of her life after Hugo was better. One thing led to another.


"You owe me drinks one of these days, chica," Cynthia said, smiling a little. "We'll complain about our shitty jobs and love-lives together."


Rose returned the cheery smile. It was only when she was halfway across the room did it fade off, returning her face to its original scowl.


Friendship wasn't in the job description.






The door creaked open behind and he came out with wet hair, dressed in trousers and a long-sleeve cotton shirt.


"Tea and toast?" She tried to keep her voice casual.


He walked over and pressed a kiss to her temple. "Anything you have. Thanks."


"There's not much your stomach will be able to digest for a while,” she informed him. "Earl Grey then?"


"If you have it."


After the previous night, they were on their best manners with each other.


Rose held the thousand questions she had until he'd eaten. She mixed his healing dose in with the tea and handed it to him. He took it without a word, too busy observing the jacket hanging off a chair on the other end of the kitchen table. It was the jacket Scorpius left when he came over a week prior; he'd pestered her until she let him check out her old home, having promised to help but instead just lounged around making snide comments and snooping through her old things.


"He comes around, does he?"


A banal comment, but it didn't settle on her nerves quite so easily.


"Not recently. But you know, sometimes." She kept her tone level, "Want some oranges?"


"Are you sleeping with him?"


The knife nearly slipped from her hand, scraping against the flesh of her forefinger.


"I don't sleep here." She fumbled for a bandage through drawers. "I still have to stay with the Head."


"Doesn't answer my question."


"It's a stupid question."


"Then answer it."


A sharp inhale. "No, Albus, I'm not sleeping with your best mate."


"But you want to."


She fought the color rising up her neck. Feeling his sharp gaze on her back, she held her breath. He was checking her nerves. Reading her movements for some sort of confirmation.


A few moments later he turned back to his food and her body eased up. "Because you do know what it means when a bloke leaves his jacket, don't you? Means he intends to come over again. Whisk you into the sunset." He sipped his tea. "Or bedroom."


"Malfoy is idiot enough to genuinely forget his jacket."


"Or idiot enough to think he has a shot."


"An idea that you planted," she lashed before she could stop herself.


A scoff. "Give yourself more credit. Not everything is my fault." He leaned forward, touching the ends of his fingers together. "Sometimes I just enjoying spectating."


"That's all you'll ever be able to do," she said icily.


"That's because, Rose Pose, I have bigger things on my mind."


"So do I."


He quirked a brow at that. The condescending bastard. And immature as ever, attacking her school-aged feelings for Scorpius when he knew, they both did, that chances of anything remotely romantic happening for her had died long ago, along with much else. Not wanting to give him the opportunity to rub more salt on such tender wounds—wands would be pulled—she changed the topic.


"I visited their graves."






Only after she finished did he ask, in a quiet voice: "So who else knows?"


"The Malfoys, maybe people in the Ministry." She frowned a little. "I don't really know. I haven't really asked—I'm sorry."


It was the room's dim light that managed to soften his harsh features, and Rose wondered if they had actually been sullen, maybe even pained. The fingers on his right hand flinched.


He jerked them away when she tried reaching for them. "Don't." He wheezed at her. He sounded breathless. "Why should I…" His throat caught and he swallowed, turning away. "Why would I believe you?"


"You think I'd lie about our parents?" She was wounded.


No response.


"Albus. Albus please just look at me."


He didn't.


Just as he stood up she stepped in front of him. "I'm sorry." She followed his movements as he recoiled from her. "I get it… just know you're not the only—" She paused and placed hands on his face. A grimace. A risky move. "Stop. Stop." She sighed. "Albus, look. Don't you see I'm trying to—"


"Well I don't want you to," he snapped. Removing her hands, he shoved past her out the door. "I'm not your fucking Hugo."






Albus didn't return for several hours, and it started raining. The gash in his side wouldn't let him apparate or get very far on foot—he had to take his second dose soon—so Rose went after him, albeit begrudgingly. It didn't take her long to find him underneath a giant oak tree, on his what was presumably his fourth cigarette. His expression soured at the sight of her.


She tossed a purple vial to him. "Twice a day for two weeks. Don't make me pour it down your throat."


There was no reply, only bloodshot eyes and cold silence. As she walked through the haze of smoke towards him, he pulled his wand and cast a barrier between them.


"I need to organize my thoughts. Leave me be."


Her brow etched. "I can't."


"Yes you can." He said, voice hard, "Turn around and walk back the way you came. You don't find me. I find you…and I'll find you later."


"Do you promise?"


He held an annoyed look. "What are we, twelve?"


"Promise first." She persisted, hair soaked wet. Rain pitter-pattered all around them. "I won't leave until I have your word. That you'll come back to the house. You'll take your potions. And we'll talk without you being a complete asshole."


He took a long drag, exhaling strands of grey that floated over his head before dissipating. A dragon resting just after it sets a village aflame. Or before.


"You have my word. Just know it means very little."


Her mouth felt as dry as rubble. He was right. But she couldn't let him disappear all over again, to do god-knows-what in some deserted corner of England. He thought his intelligence made him invincible, unmatchable, but he was as human as her—she'd spent hours the previous night cleaning his blood.


He'd catch a cold if he stayed in the rain by himself too long.


Especially now that it was pouring harder.






He did return, shivering and soaked to-the-bone. Rose threw a cloak over his shoulders.


"He kept secrets from me. He kept me in the dark my whole life."


Thunder boomed in the distance.


"They. Us," she corrected him. "Come inside."


She tried to hand him a cup of tea that was waved away as his drenched figure trudged past her. He collapsed on one side of the sofa, and Rose the other. She awkwardly nudged the cup closer to him sidelong the table. And waited. Instead of acknowledging her goodwill gesture, Albus busied himself in kicking off his shoes and stretched out his legs. She watched as he then pulled out a cigarette and lit it.


"What if," she murmured.


He blew a stream of smoke into the room’s dimness. "What if?"


"What if they're alive?"


Fire crackled in the silence between them.


"I've considered that."


"Don't you want to see them?" she asked, in a fragile voice. "If we found them maybe they could help us."


"With what?"


"You know."


Of course he knew. He’d be a fool not to.


"Isn't that what it's always been about, Al? Getting answers?" she whispered. "The fight over the resurrection spell?"


 Albus didn’t look up but the corner of his mouth lifted. It was terrifying. "Is that what you think?"


"If your father's alive then you won't need to resurrect him," she tried. "We'll all get what we want."


"You’re so simple," he said hoarsely. “C’mhere.” With one finger, he gestured her over as one would a small child, a stupid younger sister. Never mind that she was four months older and had been taking care of him for the past couple of days. No, that didn’t matter at all. In the back of her mind, she knew it was part of some eternal game with him— both friend and enemy, her brother—he played his parts well when he had to but always made sure to keep the upper hand. The Master Impressionist.


He sat up as she scooted closer to him, and reached over to tuck a tendril behind her ear. His fingertips remained at her temple, and Rose felt torn between capturing him in a hug or fleeing the premises. She wasn’t repulsed. He was family after all, but somehow his tenderness was more frightening than his stone-cold anger. He was too close for comfort, always had been, and despite all the years they had behind them she still had no clue how to handle him.


“Rose Pose.” She closed her eyes as he pressed their foreheads together. "There's only reason I would want my father back from the dead," came the hiss, words blowing smoke. "And it's so I can send him back myself."






There was a man in the world who was not a man. He was without name, without family, without identity. He had neither beginning nor end to be remembered— he simply was.


He was a man that watched centuries turn amidst the shadows, not really caring. A war or two might make him blink an eye, but in the end he had no business with them. Dark Lords came and went, but the world continued turning without a care. History was on a cyclic repeat and it was all dreadfully boring.


The man lived in a boarded-up, dilapidated shack miles under the ground, a shack that could only be summoned by a secret enchantment. But secrets were only as good as the people who kept them, and with all the people he knew to be dead, it grew harder still for anyone to come looking for him. When no one knows you exist, do you stop existing altogether?


The man wanted to be found.


The previous several years had proved to be fascinating. The invention of a spell that brought the dead back to life-by a child no less. Wait. Daughter of famed heroes.


But the boy was more delicious, more fresh. Word traveled about the massacre in Little Norton—how he proved himself immune to the Cruciatus curse, second deadliest of all. Then sent Avada Kedavra to everyone in the room.


And that wasn't all. He was behind Hogwarts as well.


Yum.


Counterparts. He and her. She and him. For selfish reasons, both had tainted magic and altered the course of history irrevocably. They had created unnatural uses for magic. They were unnatural in and of themselves, diseased. Freaks. Or special?


One held the secret to Life while the other brought Death wherever he went. They were worth watching.


This decade would prove interesting.






He trailed his fingers over all the creases and dents in the holly wood—admiring the texture, the tangibility of his father's wand. In the distance Rose was explaining some sort of plan she had, but Albus wasn't really listening to details. A potion that involved traveling to past locations. Juvenile idea she had no doubt stolen it from him.


He had to admit she had nerve, digging up their parents' graves. But he wasn't sure what to think about it all —he had always seen his father's wand as an extension of his father. Detachment of wand from wizard felt unnatural and painful [he would know], and he couldn't really fathom the man's chances without it.


If he was alive, he wouldn't be for long.


Magic isn't in the wand, Mr. Potter. It is in the wizard. It is a penetration of thought, the essence of an idea…and ideas may manifest themselves in many forms.


Your father was a man of ideas.


At any rate, Ollivander was onto something.






Rose left the potion designs in the refrigerator. Behind the milk carton.


The next day, when scouring for food, Albus found them. He read them over lunch. He spent all over afternoon thinking about them. By dinner he had finished making the appropriate edits to them and was setting up cauldrons.


Well played, Rose Pose.






The next day Rose rushed through paperwork and clocked off early, accidentally-but-also-intentionally blowing off drinks with Cynthia. She hoped the Head would be too occupied with pressing new cases to notice (or care for) her apparating so often to her house- which was technically her property.


Upon entering, thick greenish fumes bombarded her face. With watery vision, she tiptoed over piles of books, papers, cigarette butts, and various small and unidentifiable things. A difficult feat, and no doubt infuriating since she'd spent the last week scrubbing every inch of the place.


Finally making it to the kitchen—source of the ghastly fumes—Rose found her cousin surrounded by at least thirty beakers of different colored liquids. He was inspecting a fuming colored-colored vial with magnifying spectacles, not seeming to notice her come in.


"So," she began, embarrassed she had no idea what he was doing.


"We're still missing quite a few ingredients but I'm working on the first layer."


"I'm sorry, what?"


He looked up at her. "I decided I liked your idea. Using my potion. With his wand."


Rose stared, distraught. Three days ago he'd been bedridden.


Albus quickly wiped sweat from his brow with his apron and stepped to the right side of kitchen—a space he'd apparently designated as his personal library. Spellbooks stacked high along the wall. A row of a dozen of them lay open on the countertop. Albus walked by, flipping pages, looking as though he was reading them simultaneously when she asked, "Erm, how long have you been working?"


"Last night," he said, eyes skimming across text. "So about fi-fifteen hours?"


"Albus."


He ignored the warning in her tone. With an aggrieved sigh, Rose trudged over to the stove and set some tea for herself. It had been too damn long a day for this. Albus could screw around with his potion if he liked as long as he cleaned up afterwards. Out of the corner of her eye, she made sure to watch him though. She heard a silent damn it after the accidental addition of some powder. The brew was ruined—you could see it on his face. The bags under his eyes darkened in sheer disappointment and he ran fingers though his already messy hair. He caught her watching.


"I miscalculated the moondew dosage," he explained wearily.


"It's a difficult potion, Al."


"I know that." He rubbed his temples. "I wrote the fucking design."


"Theory's always different than the real thing," she tried, watching as he kicked over a stack of papers. "Progress doesn't happen in a day."


"It does for me."


He threw a table over in his rage, and Rose flinched but didn’t say anything. The problem wasn't the potion and they both knew it—it was him. He was malfunctioning, making the sort of mistakes he normally wouldn’t. Rose felt personally accountable for his failure. Here he was, barely well, and she'd thrown him into work.


"Albus—"


Not hearing her, he leant against the back of a chair, his breathing irregular and heavy. He removed a cigarette from his pocket and lit it, breathing in deeply. He ran another hand through his hair and took a deep breath which he released slowly, and for a moment Rose thought he'd have another fit of anger.


But he didn't. His neck snapped up, blood-shot eyes devoid of their earlier rage or anything else. "You said something?"


"I was going to ask if you're hungry." A lame finish. He looked thrown for an entire minute.


"Yes," he said at last.


"Yes?"


"Yes."


"So," she said awkwardly. "Order in? Or we could go out—"


"Let's go out," he decided.


He strode over and donned on his coat and ran three fingers to fix his hair. He stood in front of the mirror and pulled at the edges of his mouth, trying to stretch them out of their rigid bounds. Then, once convinced he (still) looked unreservedly handsome, he grabbed her hand and led her out the door.


They went to a place that smelled of stale grease and sat outside because Albus wanted to smoke. Not as hungry herself, she watched him eat in a half-starved sort of way, wondering exactly what sort of hell he’d been through the past several weeks.


He had really changed since she'd last seen him. His eyes were the same pale green but in the corners were faint hints of crows feet. His forehead had a crinkle or two from strain. His face was thinner than she remembered and the cheeks had sunk in. He was still good-looking but gone was the unblemished picture-perfectionism. It had been replaced with a hard-lived fatigue.


"You're staring again."


She blinked twice. "Am I?"


"You do it a lot," he muttered, downing his milk. "You're not as subtle as you like to think."


"Hmm…must be those famed looks then."


He gave a humorless laugh. "Flattery doesn't suit you Rose Pose. Sing a different tune."


"You still haven't told me what you've been up to all this time."


"Shouldn't have to," he said, "You've been observing me for three days now. More than enough time to gather the anomalies. So… put them together."


She thought for a moment.


"You've got a nasty smoking habit. Wizards don't smoke cigarettes. Muggle world? "


"Easy," he dismissed. "Tell me something less obvious."


"You've been in a couple of fights—" He cleared his throat. "—sorry. More than a couple probably, given your temperament. And the creative number of bruises you've managed in such a short time."


"Keep going."


"Let's see…what else, what else, oh." She turned to him, slyly. "No longer a virgin."


He nearly dropped his glass.


"In the muggle world without a wand or money, you'd fall back on your looks and elicit favors. And you're, well you. It's not as if you'd have trouble finding willing participants. Plus there are some very telling marks on your—what? It totally counts!"


"No, it doesn't."


"It counts," she muttered under her breath.


He ignored her. "You mentioned my wand. Tell me about that."


"The wand you're carrying is some clumsy oakwood model. Not yours. Since wands aren't easy to come by present time and day, at some point you had to steal it." She paused. "So what happened to yours?"


He lit a cigarette and looked away for a moment.


"She happened," he said coldly. "Bitch snapped it in half when she kicked me out."


Hearing him call his mother that made Rose flinch. It was like beating a dead horse down, for she no longer saw Ginny as someone living, simply breathing.


Rose knew the stories like everyone knew the stories: of crumbling castles and fire-lit skies and silent heroes who became martyrs in a fight beyond their means. Lover, brother, best friend—losing each, and together, was not the beginning for Ginny. No, the woman had been slipping for many years; war is brutal on the psyche, a shadow that looms and tears into the conscious and never leaves. There were faces she could no longer see, Fred, there was a childhood lain to waste by fear, there was a happiness long-sought-after and, now, lost to fire. Time forgets to heal. Grief lends itself to survivor's guilt. The intangible becomes scarier than the tangible. And after it's all said and done, what doesn't kill you ends up breaking you.


Rose knew what it was like to be so severely beaten down you lost the will to go on. She had lost more than she could ever really fathom. It was more than her past; she had lost her future when she tampered with the bounds of death. She had set herself for a difficult life. She knew this but had somehow buried the fact deep inside her.


And that was the difference, wasn't it—between her and Ginny?


In spite of all the gloomy uncertainties, Rose knew the certainty of one thing: the simple decision to wallow in regret would be the end of her and her brother. The Head had forced her to stretch beyond her capabilities—to push through. In the end she could only go on.


Albus looked so tired to her now, leaning against the table with his arms. It was strange to see him so unkempt, hair tangled and messy and overgrown, falling over his forehead. It was almost humorous. She stroked his hair back, deciding to give him a haircut later whether or not he allowed her. He closed his eyes at her touch and Rose wondered for a moment if he'd fallen asleep.


"I'll need a few days." His voice was vague, floating. "Just a few days to adjust. The potion, I mean."


She quickly paid the check and lifted his arm to pull him up. He put it over her shoulder as they headed out the door. He stumbled a little as they stepped outside and she wrapped an arm around his waist for support. He was drowsy enough to keel over, so instead of apparating they rode an empty tram back to the Weasley house. Sitting beside, he could barely keep his eyes open; within minutes his head was flopped on her shoulder.


"I guess I should thank you," came a faint voice. "That's what people do, don't they? In these situations."


"You don't have to." After a moment she added. "You'd do the same for me."


"You don't really believe that."


"I like to pretend."


A dry chuckle followed by an abrupt pause.


"Rose."


"Hmm?"


"I think…" He spoke uncertainly at first and stopped. Then she heard a soft sound, the kind made when the tongue unglues from the roof of one's mouth after a long time.


"I think I'd like to pretend that too."






Translations:


Chica—Spanish for girl.
Gracias—Spanish for thank you.
Printsesa—Bulgarian for Princess.



 





Chapter 11: Plan
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


Scorpius and Albus







That Annoying Author’s Note:

Dear Reader, I’m going to take a moment to talk about the story and characters. This isn’t something I normally do because it ruins your immersion into the story and sort of defeats the point of a mystery

Anyway.

So, Harry Potter. Up till now, we’ve gotten very little information about him. I’m sure he seems shady and very OOC.

This is intentional.

Clash has been planned for a long time. It’s not AU. I’m not reinventing Harry Potter and his entire legacy; it’s next-gen, albeit a very dark interpretation of it— but that’s what you signed up for, right? I’ve been hint-dropping since the beginning, and I have this crazy plan to tie all the plotlines together at some point so it makes sense and feels like a masterful ending.

Just wanted to say that.

Anyway, thanks for reading and sorry for the (SUPER MEGA) late update.

Carry on.






There was a man in this world who was not a man. He was lean cut and of ivory skin; one would describe him as beautiful if there wasn’t something thoroughly discomforting about his appearance. His face held a waif smile disaffected by time, serene, a child’s smile. He had no distinct features. His eyes were unreachable. And yet, something of him screamed of deformity though one could not specify the point.

Now look closer.

There was something in that stare that must have been calculated, practiced, perfected over near a millennia. It was glassy like a doll’s. Practically dead. It had been sculpted by generations of war; for war was one absolute bound to time, which circled interminably callous in regard to fates of men.

A man that has seen so much death can know nothing else.

He did have a name, but it would matter little even were he able to recall it. Names are superficial, given solely to those who will be remembered, and this man had been forgotten by all Including Time Itself. Still, he never forgot any of his own encounters: those precocious Caricatures Four as children, the Hallowed Brothers Three who met Death on a lonely road, that charming Hungarian fellow after the Greater Good, and, yes, even the Cheshire-smile boy whose name spelled Riddle.

All darling, all dead.

And the pendulum continued to swing full motion.

There was a new one now, who came from the same mold. He was beautiful, though there was nothing organic about his beauty. He was a byproduct of the crudest teachings of magic; a malformation. He had turned the Cruciatis Curse on its head. He was on everyone’s lips. He had terror and crime cells on his scent (low-life scum intent on learning his power for their own agendas). He had reached a high enough level of infamy to warrant a look from authorities. He was the hottest commodity on the magical market and he did not yet know it.

The bidding had begun.

And somehow, he was the same cautionary tale told yet again.

Would there be something that marked him different from his predecessors?

Time would tell.






I’d missed something.

“Forgive me, Rose,” I spoke out of turn, “but I don’t see what this has to do with the war. In our three days together, you’ve said very little about it.”

“In due time, Mr. Walker.”

“No. You’re derailing me. I’d like to know why.”

Her practiced smile slipped.

“This is the problem with historians,” She muttered, “You are taught to study battles and names and facts and deaths —but you cannot understand lives as they stand, untouched, independent from the chaos that surrounds them. You have eyes but you do not see. You are blinded by your profession.”

I protested but she held up her hand.

“Until you lift the curtain of your ancestors, until you learn to see past the fundamental laws that sever you and I, you will not understand what truly happened. And what happened was never really about the war.”

I was silent for a moment. We had come at crossways.

“Everything was the war.”

“If that is what you think then I’ve failed.” She said sharply. “I have failed to make you understand the threat we faced. Everything that I have said. Every finer detail I have given you adds up to something larger than you have imagined. You know this. You can sense it, but much like your ancestors, you choose ignorance. You, the historian, have been taught to study war, but you will never learn the truth if that is all you wish to see.” Her voice dropped to a grave whisper, “The true battle, Mr. Walker, was never visible in the public. It happened in the privacy of shadows; silent chess, a game of kings where the pawns moved on their own accord.”

That was when I knew I had missed something very important.





From the top of somewhere nearby, yellow-eyes followed him.

Today, he dressed muggle-casual; old khakis, crumpled button-down shirt under long dark coat, hair ruffled like a million hands had been running through them. It was not accidental; even this scruffiness was somehow deliberate. The work he put into making himself unapparent was very apparent, and somehow this fact was also apparent, for Albus Potter was many things but oblivious was not one of them. Circumstantially, neither was prey.

1. He knew he was being watched.
2. Now his watcher did too.
3. Which was what he wanted.

He had had his suspicions for quite some time now, but it had only set in after his reunion with his cousin. From his lapse in Little Norton to Rosie’s little revelation about their parents to now—especially now. The shadows he kept confined in his head had leaked into reality and now sat perched on branches, stalking him. Whispers mingled with the wind, overlapping, but he could make out one:

Ordine Corvis

Flapping turned to footsteps very quickly, drawing swiftly nearer. They swelled out, suddenly, louder, as he turned the end of the street. Street after street—and there were no people—he passed street after street of dusky lamp light till at long last he stopped outside a narrow passageway no wizard save him could find; what had once been a WW2 bomb shelter was now his private smoking chamber. Albus slipped through and, irritably fishing though pants pockets for a carton of cigarettes, angled himself against the wall. He kicked the door shut. He lit the end of the Lucky Strike with his wand and inhaled, green-eyes-pinched-red fluttering. Smoke spilled into the small compartment, rolling over him like salty-sea waves drowning out all footsteps, flapping, whispers.

He was safe only for a moment.






“Rose help,” Kovy moaned, peeking into the cubicle next to his, “I’m drowning. You can bring the dead back to life— invent a spell that does paperwork for me pleeeease--

“No thanks.” Came a dry reply. “I don’t need them to revoke my sentence.”

“For a spell that completes paperwork? Is the British government that assholer-ish?”

“It’s not Bulgaria, Yaakav.” Came a voice from the cubicle on his left. Florian poked his head over the top, veela-silver strands falling over his dark-rimmed glasses. “People take the law seriously here.”

“Shut up, French.”

“It’s true. Kingsley is not a lenient man when it comes to the unlawful practice of magic, and given the state of things he’s right not to be. Fifteen more people were found dead in Little Norton this morning. The Killing Curse. I overhead the Monsieur speaking with his colleagues. It’s the headline for tomorrow’s Prophet. ”

Kovy was confused. “Sorry, who?”

“He means the Head.” Rose explained.

“What? Why not just use his name?”

“Because no one uses the Head’s name.”

“Does anyone even know his full name?”

There was a pause.

“It’s probably something embarrassing.” Florian snorted.

“Though you have to admit it’s scarier not knowing.” Kovy muttered.

Another pause.

“So the murders,” Rose attempted, “Do they have any leads yet?”

“Investigation hasn’t started. Monsieur’s assigning people today.”

“I hope to Merlin he doesn’t pick me,” Kovy said miserably, head on desk. “I’m already behind.”

“It’s because you never do anything.” Florian rolled his eyes at him, before walking over to Rose’s cubicle, “So do you want in? I could talk to Monsieur about putting you on the case. Might be a nice break from the office.” He grinned, “I’ve requested it myself.”

“He won’t put me on it.”

“Eh, why not?”

“We have a weird history.”

“He hates you?”

Rose frowned, wishing it was that simple.

“I don’t really want a homicide case.” She said, as if embarrassed of the fact. Aurors lived for these sort of cases, whereas she was fine with safe boring days at the office, doing paperwork, drinking coffee, and listening to the complaints of her charming if annoying Bulgarian colleague.

But Florian was insistent anyway. He passed her his copy of the case files. “Look through them. In case you change your mind.”






Wizard. Between the ages of 16 and 20. Spotted leaving the area. Medium build. Classically handsome. Dark hair. Witnesses claim he was injured. He was also seen earlier stealing a wand — Rose stopped reading. A painful knot had formed in her stomach.

Next were autopsy reports of each victim in excruciating medical detail. There were fifteen. She flipped through them fast, her hands shaking, her eyes wishing for the damned words to disappear off the page.

The pictures were worse.

Next, she was in the bathrooms, blasting water out of the faucet. She gasped—it was freezing and every muscle in her body clenched when her face made contact. For a shocking moment she was one of the corpses and this was rain and she could see his face, his expression looking back at her, green eyes emotionless. Then she blinked and watched the puddle in the basin turn pink: proof of life. Her lip, red from gnawing, was bleeding. Her head felt light, like bone had been carved out of it. She left work early and took direct floo transport to St. Mungo’s.

“Rose, what are you doing here?” Hugo was sitting in his bed in pajamas watching quidditch. “You’re never off this early.”

“Mhhmm.”

“What is it? What’s the matter?”

She shook her head and crawled into the bed with him, burying her face into his bony shoulder. His arms came around her body, holding her while she held him. Finally, the burning behind her eyes found relief. Her whole body shook as she drenched his shoulder, and Hugo, being Hugo and knowing nothing more than his sister was upset, held her and let her. He asked her a million questions, but the great thing about Hugo was that he didn’t require an answer. Finally Rose was able to choke out a certain half-truth which became a whole-truth when she felt truly small:

“I miss Mum and Dad.”






There had been dull nights, back in Third Year for Scorpius and Albus, in that lulling time after Christmas and before exam cramming. With the help of a certain Marauder’s Map, the highly precocious Slytherins had thoroughly spanned every hall and corridor in Hogswarts, at which point it was necessary to branch out of their…academic confines. It was Potter’s idea, originally, but Scorpius was the one who found a way to hide the portkey in the dungeons, serving as a direct route to the heart of London. This was big, for there was no way to apparate in and out of Hogwarts and students leaving premises by any other means was strictly forbidden. But then, the two boys had such a long record of illegal or otherwise disruptive activities that this paled in comparison.

There was something pleasing about having access to the rest of England on a whim, particularly for blue-blooded Scorpius who had never before stepped outside magical realms without doting parents or servants, who had never even seen the Tower of London. Pureblood children were generally very sheltered. Albus took care of this—a few months in, they were flying high across the Thames.

In their adventures, there was a spot they always stopped for tea and sandwiches. Down the alley from a rundown pub, two streets over from a curry shop, across from a fishery—the smell of dead fish lingered in the whole street.

Malfoy,

Tea. Our usual spot. Seven?

-Potter


Seven words, Scorpius realized. All it took Albus was seven words to reset their fight, reset all of what had happened at Hogwarts. He had ordered for Scorpius, the usual assorted sandwiches and a cuppa. Two sugars. Two creams. He might’ve been apologizing, but he’d never admit it, and even as they sat across from each other the rift so prominent between them was overshadowed, for a moment, by the sheer relief Scorpius felt because the cocky son-of-a-bitch was alive.
They drank tea and ate sandwiches, conversing between bites.

“You didn’t write.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to hear from me.”

“That’s beside the point. If anything you should’ve written to piss me off.”

Albus didn’t make eye-contact, never did when he was cornered. Scorpius took a bracing gulp of his tea. It was cold and bitter.

“I guess I have to ask how you’ve been, eh Potter?”

He gave an unconcerned shrug. “A pointless social convention if you ask me. But if you want to waste time—”

“Shut up.”

Scorpius would’ve said more if his throat hadn’t closed right then. He was shaking. The idiot’s mum kicks him out and he doesn’t have the sense to tell Scorpius? In their time at Hogwarts together the blond might have guessed things were shaky in the Potter household—Scorpius was no stranger to family strife—and that the boy was uncomfortable speaking of it. But Scorpius told him everything. He’d always been there for him, hadn’t he? Surely Potter knew this.

“You could’ve come stay with me.” He said—more like admitted. “All you had to do was write, Potter. All you had to do was tell me.”

An amused smirk. “Sure your parents would want you sleeping with the enemy?”

“Sod off, Potter, we’ve shared a dormitory for six years,” Scorpius muttered. The boy had a special way of making innocent things sound dirty. “And anyway, my parents aren’t like that. They know we’re-” He almost said the word ‘friends’. “—acquainted. They’ve always been fine with it.”

“It’s because you’ve never told them about the fun things.”

Scorpius shifted in his seat.

“Speaking of doing fun things,” he continued, a bit more coldly, “I see you’ve been making very regular visits to Rose in my absence.”

“Maybe. Why, are you jealous?”

“No,” He said, eyes hard. “Have you told her about Hogwarts?”

“I haven’t told anyone.”

“Good.”

Silence. After a moment Albus spoke:

“I recall you wanting to turn us in.”

“I changed my mind.”

A sneer crossed over his face. “Knew you’d come around.”

Truth be told Scorpius hadn’t come around to anything, but looking back, now that he was less emotional, he saw that his decision may not exactly have been in their best interest. And that Albus, despite having injured him, may have ultimately saved them both. Scorpius disliked it but he wouldn’t deny he hated the idea of wasting away behind bars even more. He was the only son of the most famous pureblood family in all of England; more importantly, though, his dad would kill him. And his mum was scarier than any dementor.

It also didn’t help that both parents loved him immensely.

Scorpius felt wretched. He truly did. The distinction between right and wrong had been so facile in the past, and now he couldn’t tell what direction his life was headed. Or maybe, Scorpius decided, the stakes had just always been lower. And maybe he’d been directionless his whole life.

Scorpius looked over that boy who was staring back, green-eyes scanning his face.

“The past can’t be altered, Malfoy,” He spoke a bit more quietly, “Memories can. And if it’s too much, I can erase—“

“Don’t do that.” Scorpius wheezed. He had kept it inside him for so long that to talk about it now make him dizzy. “I mean…it was an accident, wasn’t it?”

“It’s what you choose to believe it is.”

He gave a bitter laugh. “Is that how you deal with things, Potter? Choose what matters and what doesn’t, what’s real and what’s not? Do you choose what gets to haunt you?”

“It’s just a school.” The boy muttered, “Ties with the centaurs were already strained; they would have attacked anyway. In the end we only sped up the inevitable.”

“You’re unbelievable.”

He gave a cold look. “You’re right. Maybe I do choose what gets to haunt me.”

There was a key moment here, where Scorpius sensed there was more to their out-of-the-blue reunion than Albus was telling him.

“So what’s this really about, Potter? Just wanted to have tea and chat?”

Silence.

“Have you ever heard of the Novo Corvis?”

“As much as anyone else who reads the papers. They’re a crime cell. Animagi. Disguise themselves as crows. Why?”

“They recruit from the upper crust,” Albus said, unfolding and passing over a piece of parchment, “They spin themselves as revolutionaries. You’ll find their laggies at any one of Mummy and Daddy’s parties. It should be really easy.”

Scorpius knew what he was asking, and also that it held a danger level far beyond any other task Albus had asked him to complete. But then if Scorpius was to be risking his neck, he wanted to know it was for a legitimate reason.

“You’re looking for a name.” Albus continued. “I don’t need to know what they want, what they do, what they’re after. I don’t care. I just want the name of whoever sent them after me. Then I’ll handle it.”

Scorpius paled. “Bleeding hell Potter. Just how much trouble have you gotten yourself in?”

Albus didn’t answer him; the corners of his mouth were terse.






One vital ingredient was still missing from the successful completion of Albus Potter’s potion.

Time turner dust.

While all the time turners had at one point been destroyed, it was well-known that the Department of Mysteries had saved and now held several hundred kilograms of dust.

A missing cupful wouldn’t be noticed unless given reason.

People passed through the large atrium, wave after wave, no one paying special attention to them. “Walk at a distance.” She warned him. “No one should think we’re related.”

“Tell them I’m your boyfriend Rose Pose. No one will make that mistake.”

“Behave,” She hissed, as he threw an overly suggestive arm around her. The problem wasn’t their resemblance; they had hardly any similar features. The bigger problem was that he looked exactly like his father, her uncle, the previous Head Auror, which would attract instant attention. And given what Rose knew, it was necessary for Albus to avoid attention at all costs.

“Big place.” He whispered to her, eyes traveling across the span of the building, “I think I could get wonderfully lost here.”

“I should hope not, since I’ve already given you the building schematics.”

“I wasn’t being literal, Rose…you don’t have to be such a joykill.”

She ruffled. “And anyway, haven’t you been here before? I know Uncle Harry used to bring you and James on the slow days.” She paused, contemplating something. “Or maybe it was just James.”

“I don’t remember.”

“You have a photographic memory.”

“I don’t remember,” he repeated, with a slight edge, “There are things I don’t remember.”

“Fine.”

She dropped the matter. They passed through strings of crate carrying goblins, elves, Unspeakables, powerful looking ministry officials, and other assorted creatures. Despite the Ministry’s emphasis on unity, congregations were organized by race. Humans stood conversing in a corner entirely secluded from the others.

“So that’s my father’s successor,” Albus mused, his gaze on a large scarred-face man, the Head, as he yelled at one of the young, apparently very clumsy intern. There was a large coffee stain on the front of his robes. “Is he competent?”

“He’s malevolent.”

“Introduce me?”

Rose couldn’t imagine a match worse than her amoral egotistical cousin and her amoral egotistical boss.

“When I want the world to end, sure.”

Green-eyes flit away from the Head, narrowing on her instead. “You live with him, don’t you?”

“The bylaws of our agreement say …what?

The corners of his mouth twitched.

“You’re disgusting,” She accused. “Stop.”

“Stop what?”

Thinking it.”

“An accomplished Legilimist, are you?”

“One, he’s my boss. Two, he’s my legal guardian--”

“But not biologically related.”

Her eyes widened at him. “Shit, Albus--”

“You’ve always gone for the dark, handsome, unattainable sort anyway. Remember Teddy? And Teddy was practically family too. Naughty, naughty,” He gave a low chuckle. “Maybe it’s your type.”

She gave him a scathing look. “That’s a disturbing presumption even for you.”

“But not wholly untrue,” He pressed a feather kiss to her temple. “So tell me. Your legal guardian ever ask to you to do something, hmm, not entirely legal?”

That implication: he was teasing but her ears reddened anyway.

“Focus,” she spoke tersely. “Do you know where you’re going?”

“I always do my homework Rose Pose.”

“You have one hour.”

He turned to walk away, but not before she grabbed his arm. “You take longer than an hour, alarms go off and they catch you. “ She hissed at him, “And we both know if you ever get caught, theft is at the bottom of your long list of fuck-ups. They’ll find everything on you. Everything.

He was silent.

“They have enough to convict you for life, with or without whatever the hell happened at Hogwarts. And I don’t want to know, all right? I just don’t. All I’m asking is for you to not screw this up.” She gave him a fierce look. “Can you manage that?”

She knew, she knew about Little Norton, and while she was pissed at him, she was also protecting him. He wanted to say something, a lie, the truth, something, but somehow found himself incapable of mustering conviction for anything. For the first time, despite his intellect, Albus felt strangely inadequate.

He pushed the unnecessary notion away.

--

Rose had to attend a meeting that particular afternoon, but she’d given him all the passcodes she’d thought he’d need, which he didn’t really need—he’d spent the majority of his youth with Scorpius Malfoy fine-tuning such essential skills and, compared to the locked passages at Hogwarts, a few ministry doors were child’s play.

No one noticed the young man hidden in plain sight, too charming to be anything but earnest. He was the intern. He was the rising ministry star. He was the handsome Cursebreaker all the receptionists wanted to get off with. He could impress anyone and everyone with a few carefully chosen words. He was able to make elevator small–talk about matters of which he knew next to nothing. Who the hell really cared what Gifford Tugwood intended to about the struggling economy but Albus certainly had an opinion about it. And the situation at Gringotts? Hopefully goblins and humans could put aside their differences and sort it out.

Passing past the Minister’s office, Albus did stop for a few moments. There was something fascinating about being less ten feet away from the most powerful man in the country; If Albus had the slightest interest in politics, he might’ve gone a few more feet.

He moved on.

Here’s something you didn’t learn at Hogwarts---the magic of costumes. You could learn everything about a certain trade and never get past the front door. Rose Pose was testament of this, unable to integrate despite having equal skill and training as her comrades. And while Unspeakables were an even more tight-knit group, no one would doubt a young man claiming to the ill-mannered recently appointed trainee if he was wearing the right robes. Bradley Shahavasar. It didn’t take more than a few minutes to find (on his lunch break), hex (lure him to the bathrooms first), and Obliviate his short-term memory so that he would wake up thinking he’d fallen asleep avoiding the second part of his shift.. Admittedly Albus did take a few extra seconds to adjust the long-hooded dark robes. Unspeakables covered their faces at all times.

Then—“Who goes?”

“It’s Brad, you dolt.”

“Identification?”

He cursed under his hood. “Merlin, I stepped out for a few seconds. Is this necessary every fucking time?”

“In a rush Brad?”

“I have a shitload of work to do, Jimmy.”

“Maybe if you didn’t take so many breaks you’d finish,” the larger-robed man snorted, opening the entrance to the Department of Mysteries for Albus Potter.

--

Meanwhile, Rose was stuck in a meeting about recent werewolf riot formally led by her guardian, her boss, the Head. The oval room seemed duller and warmer today, and while aurors clamored about, there was a noticeable lull in noise. Every second loudly ticking by made her chest feel tighter.

Any moment now he’d get caught.

“Rose?” It was Cynthia, the women sitting beside her. “You feeling ok?”

“Fine.”

She’d rigged the alarms, she’d stolen the passcodes, hell, she’d be going to prison alongside him. With her luck they’d end up sharing a cell.

What had she been thinking?

“You don’t look well-”

“I said I’m fine,” she snapped. “Look, can you leave me alone?”

Cynthia looked hurt but Rose wasn’t in the mood to apologize. She pulled up her sleeves to keep herself from sweating profusely. The potion had to be finished at all costs. She was committing treason, but there was no going back now. Her parents. Her life. Her whole life hung on Albus right now.

It’d be the longest hour of her life.

--

At that moment Albus had wafted past the Hall of Prophecies and was halfway to the Room of Time. He had memorized the floor’s schematics prior in order to save time.

And yet.

And yet there was a stop he really had to make.

In the large echoing Death Chamber, dimly lit and rectangular, it stood: the Veil, atop a stone dais raised from a twenty-feet sunken stone pit. He’d heard enough about it to know it was the most fascinating thing in the entire building; an actual physical manifestation of the barrier between the living and dead. Like Rose, it served as a bridge between the two worlds.

His father’s godfather had fallen through it.

Curiosity compelled Albus down the steep steps, close enough to see the curtain gently rippling, make out all the ancient archway’s cracks. It was amazing that it stood as it did. The tattered black curtain rippled back and forth as though it had just been touched, and as Albus drew closer still, he felt a rush of cold air and then complete stillness.

He shivered.

It was a wholly ethereal feeling, pungent and dark and inviting. Preventing clarity of purpose, it took Albus completely and like lovelorn lover he scrambled up the dais to be even closer. It was longing, lust, a feeling he had never duly explored; it was a craving that had too long not been satisfied. It was already in his head; the whispers called out for him oh so sweetly. The pull was especially strong on him, for Albus was one wizard already too-infatuated with magic.

Dying was a tragedy. Death, however, was a science.

Then, there passed a moment where his consciousness slipped. He couldn’t remember what he was doing there, who he was, only that he wanted nothing more at the moment than to walk through—

The alarm woke him.

--

Back on the Second Floor, aurors scrambled to their feet at the sudden bell, Rose included. The Head bellowed out orders: What do you mean someone got past security? Let’s go, let’s go! Aurors headed for the Department of Mysteries. I turn my back for a second and the place goes to hell. Get your ass in gear, Weasley!

Rose squeezed her eyes.

Dammit Albus.

--

“A barrel? ” The Head screeched at the troupe of dejected-looking aurors. “How the hell did you let him make off with a whole barrel of time-turner dust?

“We scoured the floor high and low sir, honest.” stammered a skittish looking man. “We can’t seem to piece together how he-”

“Figure it out,” The Head’s nostrils flared. “I’ve trained you lot better than this. Till then, pay cuts for everyone.”

This was followed by a clamor of groans.






“Must be killing you, not knowing how I did it.”

Her head snapped toward at him.

“The barrel?” He specified.

Her arms folded. “Don’t care.”

“Not possible.”

“I’m not speaking to you.” She turned the cheek to him. She was delirious, exhausted, and unabashedly angry with him for the excessive stunt he’d pulled, among other things. Needless to say, the moment of relief had passed. “Leave me alone.”

An eye-roll; he ambled up the stairs and over, so they were standing side-by-side against the rail, their shoulders touching.

“Didn’t expect me to pull through, hmm?”

“You’re a filthy show-off,” She said disdainfully.

“That may very well be true.” He turned to her, resting his chin on top of her shoulder. “And yet you can’t stop trying to figure it out. Go on. How did I do it then? What’s my secret? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”

“I’m not playing this game.”

“All games are played in pairs Rose Pose.”

“Tell me, did you enjoy killing those men?” She asked abruptly, her voice an octave higher than it was earlier. “Because in the reports it certainly looked like you had a lot of fun with it.”

He was silent for a moment.

“How long have you known?”

“Long enough.”

“Why ask a question like that?”

“Stand at a distance.”

“No,” His brow narrowed: her moods were atrocious. “Why protect me?”

“Shut up, asshole. You think I want to lose any more family? We’re all we’ve got in this hellish world.” She moved and turned to glare at him, “Make me understand it. Why you did it.”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because you don’t want to understand. You want something to help you sleep.”

“Then tell me it was an accident. Tell me you regret it. Make me think I’m doing the right thing---convince me, dammit.” She kicked a bin, hard, turning to him. “You’ve never had a problem lying before. You’ve never had a problem lying ever.”

“You say it like it’s a bad thing.”

She laughed cruelly: this whole conversation was brilliant. “We’ve always had very different ideas of what’s good and bad, Albus.”

“Yet we make the same type of decisions.” He stepped closer, gaze unyielding. “Have you ever noticed that? I have. It’s because we have the same strategy. Fate deals us a bad hand and we play the hell out of it. We've always gambled our lives to get what we want. It's not sin, Rose, it's habit.”

“I'm not like you.”

“Aren't you?” His voice was lithe and humorous, though murky-green belied the joke. His stare was intent. “You're right. You’re nothing like me. You put the nation on crisis awareness watch. You caused a massacre in Diagon Alley. You’ve aided a man that’s ultimately out to overthrow the Minister. Then, you’re knowingly committing treason on your own.” The corners of his mouth lifted, “And you knew what would happen when you saved Hugo, didn’t you? And you did it anyway. You make the same choices and again thinking the outcome will be different. You're either a hypocrite or just a very large fool.”

“Stop talking.” She hissed.

“You could end this, you know.” He strolled over to her, “Incriminate your boss, hand yourself in, take Azkaban. Take the red label off your chest. Make the moral choices and see what they get you.” He gave a barking laugh, and Rose could hear the strain at the end of it. “The world beats you down, bloodies you within an inch of your life if you let it. Don’t you see, Rose? There is no justice.

“It won’t always be like this. Things will change once we find our parents.”

It sounded hollow when she said it, like a truth too old to have any substance left. It was the draining of marrow in her bones; and she could hear the rest of her ticking away with it. The imagination for a silver lining was quickly fading. On some level she must known he was right, like he was always right, even if she couldn’t admit it.

But if fighting for her life had clouded her judgment then so be it. She could live with being a hypocrite. What she couldn’t live with was a dead brother—the very thought made her nauseous. She had never meant to cause so much trouble, but why was the alternative sitting by and watching everyone she held dear slip away?

“There’s no justice, Rose.” He murmured. “Call me a murderer, but I’ll take the red label before I ever take death.” He was breathing his words, now; the only thing softer than his voice were his footfalls. His silent exhalations as they swept over wisps of her hair, startling the ones on the back of her neck. And when she cringed, she pretended it was because of the cold and not the possessive arms that wrapped much-too-suddenly around her, pulling her to an embrace.

“You will too.”





A/N: Reviews are awesome :)

Dying was a tragedy. Death, however, was a science –line is paraphrased from Rotters by Daniel Kraus.


Chapter 12: Hunt
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


Rose and Albus.
Image by Schultz@tda






AN: This chapter is three-in-one, because I can’t seem to make regular updates. Part 1 of 4-part memory arc.

Read in segments. Bless your eyes. Enjoy 






Healers rubbed elbows as they clamored around him. They stripped him naked—his smallness even more glaring when brought under scrutiny—taking measurements of arms, legs, waist, groin… how Hugo wished his not-that-much-older sister would have the sense to look away. Fluorescent lights highlighted every mole on his hairless chest and hid no secret between his legs.

His ears burned with humiliation.

No deepening voice, hair in weird places, gawkiness, or muscles forming over spaghetti-string limbs-- what he would’ve given for a pimple.

He was fifteen and hadn’t hit puberty.

Magic had brought him back to life but stunted his physical growth interminably. Her miserable stare told him she knew but had no answers for him. This didn’t make him mad. It left him feeling guilty. It should have been enough for her to challenge Death and come out alive—but to want more?

How could he be so greedy?

Since his miraculous resurrection, the literal Boy-Who-Lived had sent ripples through the world of magic, or more specifically, the world of magical medicine. Healers from all over England ached to St. Mungo’s to take a gander at Boy Wonder and try their hand at solving his case. Rose wasn’t allowed to talk about the spell for obvious reasons; the ministry forbade any replication for her magic. It was a blatant political decision, not only because the public was divided on the matter, but other countries threatened to forcibly intervene if England pursued further experimentation. They said it was a miracle Rose wasn’t in prison and Hugo wasn’t in a lab somewhere, for which he knew they had the Head to thank—the cruel, hellish man was their inadvertent guardian angel.

And Rose didn’t want to face this. She didn’t realize how well things had worked out for them in the scheme of things. Just like she didn’t realize she was only two years older than him. A girl-albeit an annoying stubborn one who couldn’t keep her head out of trouble –but a teenager that needed just as much looking after as he did.

Today, dark circles rimmed her vague brown eyes. Wrinkled clothes, hair unkempt, fingertips tinged- yellow from tireless potion making—she’d gotten into the very thing he’d warned her against. He could see obsessive potion making and late nights with Albus written all over her face. She was falling back into the haze of self-inflicted loneliness that had plagued her in their shared childhood, hunched over cauldrons and potion protocols. No friends. No mention of a potential boyfriend—Sure you’re scary Rosie, but you’re not ugly. You could snag a bloke if you wanted. Instead, the one person she had once again latched onto was the one who heightened her mania.

Both friend and boy but never both — cruel addiction was magic and Albus was magic, or maybe magic was Albus? It didn’t matter which came first. It was the same. He was an ally, a rival, a partner, a brother … and still managed to pull her heart in a way no one else could. He could be everyone without needing to be anyone at all—and this was the scary part.

He was no one to her, to them. He was the lingering shadow of past mistakes. Of lost childhoods. Of wasted hope.

Of missing parents and other ideas too cruel to exist.










“Weasel!” The blond boy gasped, his blood staining the floor. “Quick, get Albus!”

Rose froze. Moments before the crackling sound of apparition she had been in the middle of making a sandwich, taking a break from the all-important potion while Albus tinkered away.

Now strawberry-jam knife clattered to the ground as Scorpius moaned, and her footsteps disappeared to the other room. They reappeared in seconds with the aforementioned cousin; clad in potion’s apron, he stood looking bored, annoyed by the intrusion of it all.

Rose stated the obvious: “He’s splinched himself!”

“Clumsy git.”

Pulling a wand, Albus stooped and turned the writhing boy over to his back. Blood ceased draining. A whimper escaped his tightly-pressed grimace at such a bold inspection of his wound.

Albus turned to Rose—“It’s deep. You’ll need to run to the apothecary and get essence of dittany.”

She threw Scorpius an anxious look and disapparated.

With a resigned sigh, Albus removed his working apron and rolled up his sleeves. Throwing Scorpius a towel--put pressure on it, Malfoy — he walked over to a cabinet and returned with a bottle of dittany, water, and a spoon. Outraged by this deception, Scorpius attempted a scowl but managed nothing more than a grimace.

“You’re shit at apparating under pressure - so I had a feeling.”

“Bastard.” He wheezed.

A spoonful of yellow substance pressed against his mouth, forcefully. “You made sure you weren’t followed?”

“Yes.” The putrid-tasting powder made him shudder, but the pain dulled in seconds; though afraid to look down, he could feel the ends of his severed flesh rejoin. He swallowed water like his throat was on fire. “They caught my bluff. It was going well ‘til they figured out I wasn’t interested in their ruddy bird club. Pissed ‘em off…chased me eight straight blocks—“

“And how long did it take for them to figure it out?”

“What does it matter? They branded me, Potter. Branded me.” Irritably shifting to an upright position, Scorpius rolled up his right sleeve and extended his pale arm out to the boy. A black crow enigma scaled across the bicep.

“Sexy.” Came the lofty chuckle.

“Don’t you start,” Scorpius muttered, running agitated fingers through his hair. “Mum’ll kill me if she gets an eyeful of it. Probably think I’ve joined one of those cults for vampires.”

“Looks like the Dark Mark doesn’t it? You and your father might have one thing in common now.”

A pained groan. “Just make it go away, Potter.”

With the simple utterance of a charm, the inky mark began to blotch away. Then said arm retracted and Scorpius, face still crumpled, stoked the still-tender spot with his thumb.

Ordine Corvis. Latin. Means Order of Crows. I guess that’s pretty apparent since their animagi are—”

“Yes. Next.”

“So impatient—mhmm!” His drawl cut short by more powder in mouth, Scorpius spat the excess out and glared at the boy. “Graham Paisley. Only heard the name so don’t sodding ask me what he looks, sounds, or smells like. After the tattoo…well I didn’t exactly stay for the meet-and-greet part of the ceremony.”

“Pity.”

Scorpius ignored this. “Have any ideas what he might want with you?”

“Many.” Albus spoke colorlessly, dusting excess powder off himself and standing. “It’s not a priority right now.”

“Oh right, I forgot you send me on life-threatening scavenger hunts for fun.”

“I’ve never given you a task you couldn’t handle.”

“I should learn to say no.”

“You’ve always been free to walk away.”

A pause. A challenge.

“No?” A smirk lolled over the boy’s mouth. “Must be really dull in Daddy’s castle if you’re wanting to waste time with me. S’pose it gets tiring: spending money, having parties, screwing girls all the time—“

“It’s not the same when you’ve seen more.”

This was followed by a silence that almost marked agreement. The reverence attached to such a simple gesture was more than any ridiculous apology Scorpius may have wanted, or Albus was been willing to give. Both boys knew this. They had always shared a distaste for the commonplace, the mundane; it was what held them together in school.

It was what held them together now.

“Come along Malfoy—I think Rose made a sandwich. Then, I want to show you something.”

--

Rose apparated back to the house clutching a dozen bottles of dittany to her chest—but the boys were missing along both halves of her sandwich. Curious green smoke wafted from somewhere; perplexed, she followed it upstairs to her old bedroom. She heard intellectual chatter:

“--time turner dust will unfold the memories of where it was last used--”

“—so what’s with the floo powder—”

“—transports us to these locations--”

The two boys sat on her old Gilderory-Lockhart-face-sheeted bed behind a fuming cauldron, with halves of her sandwich in their hands. At the sight of her, they stopped talking. Scorpius politely put down his half, turning red. Albus finished his just to spite her.

All the bottles fell at once.

“You’re ok?”

“...yeah. Erm, sorry about that.” The blond stammered, watched as color returned to her livid face.

“So making me think you were hurt, making me run to the apothecary- that was a prank?”

“What— of course not! ” the boy insisted at the same time the other said: “yes.”

They shot each other a glare.

“You should at least agree on your cover story.” She said icily, “That’s how lying usually works.”

“Afraid we didn’t have the time Rose Pose--”

“Weasel, I swear I really was—“

“-and if you’re trying to decide between anger and relief, I recommend the latter.” Albus continued, now looking bored. “It’ll save the time I normally reserve for your yelling and we can skip this pointless interlude.”

And you ate my sandwich —“

It was just before she could finish that her insufferable cousin Silenced her.

--

Scorpius was coming with them; he insisted.

Can't you see how dangerous this is? Rose tried yelling. We have no idea where we'll end up. Reasoning. And we're breaking the law! More yelling. If we get caught—

Weasel. ” came the lazy drawl. “This might be news to you, but Potter and I’ve been not getting caught since First Year.”

“Your dad’s a lawyer.”

“See? I have a get-out-of-azkaban-free card.”

He countered her scowl with a cheeky grin.

Rose folded her arms. “You can’t duel Malfoy. You always got your ass whupped in the inter-House duels – til Albus or one of the older Slytherins stepped in for you.”

“It was Fourth Year, Weasel. And just because I’m crap at apparating doesn’t mean I’m crap at everything.” He lifted his chin a little. “I’ll have you know– no one makes a portkey like I do.”

Rose had no intention of letting the former Slytherins team up against her. But as she readied for further argument, her cousin sent her a stare so severe she promptly forgot what she meant to say.

“Scorpius makes excellent portkeys.” Was all he said.

_

Scorpius was coming whether she liked it or not.

_

It was necessary to discuss logistics before they took the very literal plunge. The potion had reached a state of critical reactivity, its fumes filling the house with green smoke. Rose made frantic last minute adjustments to it— hair flying wildly out of her ponytail— while Albus paced as he did when he was deep in thought. Scorpius, bored, balanced on the back legs of his chair.

“Hold it, Potter. Explain it all again… from the beginning.

The boy turned and glared at him. “Pay attention.”

I was. Then you went on that tangent in Latin… just go through it again, alright? I’ll take notes this time.”

“I’ve read through the schematics for weeks now and I still don’t think I understand it all.” Rose admitted.

“Do you two require pictures?” Albus snapped, icily.

“Yes.” They responded in kind.

Conjuring up a smoky series of images to complement his words, he continued his impatient pacing: “It’s simple. The potion is set up to have the properties of a pensive. Except it uses the memories of objects-my father’s wand.”

“So I’ve got a question—” Scorpius tried to quip before a silencing charm hit his mouth.


I wasn’t done. Now, through a combination of properties too complex for you to wrap your mind around, we’ll be able to access locations from these memories—locations where the wand was used. Mind, all this happens in a matter of seconds. The wand serves as a catalyst for the whole transfer of energy.”

Still-mute Scorpius glared and sent him the bird. Rose took enough pity to remove the hex, but didn’t return the grateful smile he shot her way, no doubt still peeved from the earlier incident. She turned to Albus:

“We won’t get to choose the order it takes us in.”

“Correct. It will go from the last place the wand was used, to the second last, and so forth….what Malfoy?

“I had a question.”

“Make it quick.” Albus spoke tersely.

“Well, in that case I guess I have two questions.”

He fell out of his chair but dodged the silencing charm in time.

“Don’t get your apron in a knot, Potter.” He sniggered, clutching his shoulder. “One, where did you get time-turner dust? My dad says the ministry-”

“Stole it. Next question.”

Scorpius cast Rose an inquiring look, but she didn’t meet his gaze, busy transferring green frothy liquid from the cauldron to cups. A strange form of jealousy burned inside him; it appeared the cousins were keeping secrets—and getting into a fair amount of trouble without him.

“Fine then.” He murmured, standing and taking a cup from her. “Well, I guess I don’t see what the point of all this is.”

“We’re trying to find our parents, Malfoy.”

“Well I know that.” He angled an eyebrow at her. “But you just assume your parents are in the same place as Potter’s dad. And that his wand will lead you straight to them. Don’t you see how improbable that sounds?”

“Yes.” She said—admitted: “But it’s all we’ve got right now.”

Bringing the cup to his lips, Scorpius didn’t ask any more questions.








For a moment, there was nothing but darkness—and wind. A vortex, tearing through her feet and swallowing her whole; fingers, legs, arms stretched at ends as she hurtled through blackness. It was more brutal than apparation. When she landed, face and knees onto dirt, there was no sound. Then deafness reversed itself and her skull shook with an ascension of noise so great it blew tears from her eyes.

“—took a detour, eh Weasel—“

“—didn’t drink all the potion—”

She clasped hands over her ears; the cacophony of familiar voices boomed in her skull. Thousands of frenzied sensations returned at once: touches, sounds, voices. Her mouth fell open to let out a cry of pain, her skin burning in sharp agony from something-someone -touching her. Neck straining, eyes spinning, fingers splayed digging up dirt as she was pulled off the ground. She turned around twisting, trying to break free; legs pedaled and her body jerked, her waist ripping free from the grip— Shit Rose! — landing her shins to ground.

“She’s hurt!”

“No she isn’t.”

“She’s bleeding!”


She’s not hurt, Malfoy. ” The voice said sharply and a hand smacked hard across her face, triggering a thousand small pains—her eyes snapped open.

The first thing she saw were the pale faces of Albus and Scorpius. Behind was a large expanse of trees and nothing else. Branches protruded from ashen tusks in a canopy of broken limbs. The air felt cold and clammy, punctured with a smoky residue that made her chest constrict. There was dead stillness all around them.

“Where are we?” She said hoarsely. “What’s going-”

“Weasel.” Scorpius stared at her. “You’re… bleeding.”

“I’m not cut.”

“We know.”

Eyes wandered over perishing plain, smoky air, her own damaged body---her pants. Stained red. Shit. A spark of embarrassment flared inside her, and the two boys looked equal parts mortified and perplexed.

“Turn around you perverts,” She ordered sharply.

Scorpius spun around at brilliant velocity, cheeks tinged red. Albus looked mildly affronted.

“You drank all the potion.”

“I drank all the potion.”

His mouth pursed. “You’re not supposed to take it during your menstruation period. It induces hypersensitivity to physical stimuli and makes it really dangerous to travel-”

Why didn’t you tell me this earlier you bastard??

Scorpius began to slowly shuffle away.

Albus looked like he was in discomfort. “I didn’t think you were—“

“You didn’t think? You didn’t think? ” She wanted to strangle him right then. “I’m a girl you bastard, so there’s always a chance I’m —you know what? It doesn’t matter. Just leave me alone.”

She stood with rickety limbs, nearly slipping—both boys lunged to catch her but Albus was closer. He grabbed her arm, pulling it over his shoulder, and steadied her. Then they were moving. Pressure had built behind her eyes, blurring shapes and faces and making her flinch at the slightest movements. Her hand gripped his in painful anxiety, nails digging into his palm.

Many shaky steps later, the support dropped, landing her legs on something soft.

“She’ll be out for a few hours. Scorp… you’ll have to stay with her.”

“Sure thing.”

“Wait, where are you going?” Her hand instinctively groped the air for his arm, but he had pulled it out of her reach. “Wait Albus, Albus!

The following silence, in addition to her near blindness, terrified her.

Another arm wrapped her shivering figure. “Hey, hey, Weasel.” Scorpius’ voice was warm and reassuring, lulling her nerves. “He’ll be back. You need to lie down.” He angled her body to the ground and draped a cloak over her, staying near as her anxious hands clasped at his arm. Rose just wanted to keep him talking, filling the gaps where her vision had deserted her. Terror and curiosity struck in black fragments. This was the last place Uncle Harry had used his wand—what did that mean? What would they find here? Bodies?

No doubt, Albus had begun the search without her.


--


The sky was a grey-blue looking more like a continuation of the previous night when she awoke buried in a mesh of mismatched blankets, her sight returned. The boys had scavenged to make some sort of camp—the area covered from all angles by a visible shield charm. Scorpius was huddled in his jacket a few feet away. Albus was still missing, though she noticed crushed cigarette butts in the space very close beside her.

Throbbing pain struck her stomach and she considered breakfast – they had brought generic foodstuff (bread, jam, tea), but not enough to last them several days. She re-lit the fire with an enchantment, then tried to wake Scorpius.

“Aggh,” The boy moaned, turning away, “Fucking hell Weasel.”

“It’s morning. We’re have to get moving.”

Grey-eyes shot open. “Potter told me to stay put until he sorts this out.”

“Do you always do what he tells you?”

He rubbed his messy hair and yawned: “Course not. But on the premise that I don’t know a single fucking thing about this place, I’d rather stay where I don’t get eaten.”

“What, you’re afraid of a few deer and antelope?”

“That’s not what I heard last night.”

The air between them vibrated at these words.

But since last night, Rose’s confidence had returned and she refused to give way to fear again. It would be humiliating if, given her brutal auror training, she couldn't hold her own with the two hardened Slytherin boys— she wasn’t some little girl. All she needed was her wand and a plan.

Swinging her bag over her shoulder, she began walking. Scorpius staggered to his feet and threw himself in her way. Rose noticed he stood a whole foot taller than her.

“Move Malfoy.” She muttered, having to stare up at him.

“Potter said—“

“I don’t care what he said.” She snapped. “He doesn’t always know what’s best. He doesn’t always do what’s best. Don’t you see he’s ditched us?”

Stating this fact brought on the searing feeling of betrayal. Rose burned knowing Albus probably thought they’d get in the way.

“You don’t have a lot of faith in him, do you?” Scorpius harrumphed.

She didn’t answer, her pony-tail swinging as she walked past him. “You coming?”

--

“Can’t believe it’s getting dark already.”

“Afraid of the dark Malfoy?”

“Sure I am.” He flashed her a grin. “Hold my hand?”

An eye-roll: they made their way through the endless haze of trees, circumventing holes and fallen logs. Orange-tint leaves shuffled way with the wind, blowing against their faces. Twigs and other shrubberies rustled under their shoes—these were the only noises they heard. The forest was dead silent.

After several moments, Scorpius nudged her. “Any idea what we’re looking for?”

“Not yet.”

“So we’re just traveling aimlessly. Nice. As far as shoddy plans go, Weasel….”

“It’s better than waiting around for Albus.” She said bitingly, turning to him. “What, you don’t think he planned this? Ditching us here and exploring on his own?”

“He probably has a reason.”

“Stop giving him the benefit of the doubt, it’s annoying.” She huffed, “And anyway, aren’t you a little angry too? He brought you along to stick you with Rose-duty.”

“I don’t mind Rose-duty.” He said loftily.

Her cheeks tingled with heat. “He’s not your friend, Malfoy! All he does is take advantage of you!”

“Sure he does.” A pause. “That doesn’t mean we’re not friends.” Another pause as he tucked his hands into pockets. “Potter’s in denial.”

Disbelief crossed her face. “You’re in denial. Good Lord. And I thought this only happened with girls and him.”

Scorpius was disaffected by her comment, instead leisurely strolling beside her.

“Well you know what they say about Slytherin boys.” He nudged her. “Thicker than blood, slicker than oil.”

“Slipperier too.”

“You think it’s sexy.”

“I have better things to think about, Malfoy.”

“Spoken like a Ravenclaw.”

Scorpius noticed how pink her skin had gone and felt compelled to continue. “You know, I was almost a Ravenclaw too,” He nudged her, again. “It was close. In the end, the Sorting Hat let me choose. Went with what I thought would piss my father off the least. But sometimes I wonder.”

A snort. “Thought you loved pissing off your dad.”

“Fair point, Weasel. But even I wouldn’t go that far.”

“You sure? Isn’t that why you do the wrong things, make the wrong friends, chase the wrong girls?”

“Girls? I’m chasing…girls? What girls am I chasing Weasel? You’ll have to be more specific.”

Her skin grew shades deeper. “Oh please.”

“Girls? Like plural?”

In that instance something scurried past them so fast it nearly threw Scorpius off his feet. Its movements, quick and shifting, made it impossible for Rose to shoot it down with a hex. With wands out, they lurked toward the shrub behind which it had disappeared.

“Seriously Weasel, what girls?”

She shushed him, edging closer to pull the shrub apart.

It was a pale, slimy deformed-looking slug, sans shell, that had holes sticking out every which way. It had no eyes, but sported several sets of sharp teeth. Green pus trickled down the grey flesh of its belly. Scorpius clasped a hand over his nose to evade the smell of rotten fish, and began to edge back.

“Wait,” she grabbed his sleeve. “Look, I think it’s hurt.”

“Oh sure, let’s help the thing with fangs.”

In that instant sparks shot out of the slug’s openings, propelling it forward. They leapt backwards. It was, then, the previous Care of Magical Creatures students realized exactly what it was.

“Blast-“

“-Ended-Skrewt.” Scorpius finished, yanking them backwards. “Shit, shit!

There were things every previous Care of Magical Creature student remembered, even after the horrible lessons with Hagrid dissecting flobberworms. Blast Ended Skrewts, for instance, are not to be taken lightly. Even the sans shell larvaes are lethal. The adults, on the other hand, stand ten feet tall and wear jagged, impenetrable shells, their bodies manifest of fire. They travel in packs.

They scrambled to their feet too late. More had begun to emerge from all angles, larger, compact in thick rugged shells brimming with flames. Then there was the sound of torrents—a dozen unanimous volcanoes—ready to fire.

“Wand out Malfoy,” Rose whispered tersely, her hand clutching his sleeve. “Stick close to me.”


**

There was something vaguely familiar about this particular forest to Albus, about how the sun never seemed to shine, the haze never seemed to dissipate, the only creatures were magical and deadly. It was all too-suspicious, and held far too much nostalgia.

Even the dementors were familiar.

His lungs deflated as the cloaked horrors swooped forward, magical wind swirling around them. Feet gave way under him as one brought its hood to eye-level, his knees landing on hard dirt. Pain reverberated through bones, but Albus could not feel it. He was growing more empty, senseless, as life was suctioned through his mouth. Mental functions waned. Wand hung loose between his fingers as his body lifted in the air, his hair floating around his limp head. There were no thoughts, only hollow memories as his soul was vacuumed through his shell of a body.

Dementors prey on the emotions of their victims. Give them nothing to find.

There it was, the memory he had been looking for.

Every muscle in his body clenched at once, fingers tightening around wand.




He was back.

-

Albus didn’t hate his father—no, that explanation was too convenient.

Sons worshiped their fathers in whatever form they could.

Harry Potter was a contradiction of expression, all benign smiles and vague words and familiar-eyes that crinkled of not malice but kindness, both a man called dad and a complete stranger. He was cleverer than Albus in a way only few people were, and even as a young age he had been wary of this fact. Mum and James and Lily and other family did not truly see him—sure they knew he was cunning—but they did not see him. They did not understand him at the implicit level his father did, they could not fathom the magnitude of his mind--he held limitless potential for knowledge, for understanding. He was intrinsically curious. He was intellectually bored. Very little about the social world appealed to him. He absorbed all that his father taught him, wrapping lessons into the latent folds of his brain, and between the father and son formed a bond that was unmatchable.

People didn't understand; sure they knew the stories like everyone knew the stories, of how the Chosen One had bested a dementor at fourteen—but Albus was not his father.

He had done it at ten.


“Are you ready, Albus?” His father’s voice called from somewhere.

The small boy nodded, swallowing his fear. His wand shook between sweaty fingers. Deep breaths followed, along with a mantra so private it could almost have been a prayer:

Dementors prey on the emotions of their victims. Give them nothing to find.

His father waited as patiently as he always did.

Finally, the boy gave a confident nod and the vaults opened. His eyes peered frantically through the darkness for his opponent.

There it came: the black cloaked wisp hurtling towards him like tornado wind.

It grabbed him by the small neck and slammed him to a tree.

Absorbed in panic, he choked out the enchantment.

Weak—but it granted temporary relief and landed him to his knees. He shifted backwards, lifting to his feet, and began to run. Wisps of darkness shot forward circling his small waist, dragging backwards, and he gasped from their freezing touch. He tore through and kept running. He had always been a runner. There was an impulse to keep running, keep running and never look back.

He dodged behind a tree, breathing hoarse, a heart attack waiting inside his skin. His nerves were on fire. He could not remember ever feeling so scared. He cursed his dad, who was strange, who was cruel, who had trapped him in his own private hell.

No.

His father never gave him a task he couldn’t handle; the certainty of this notion implied the man cared for him. Loved him, even. And not in the useless way his mum did, all hugs and kisses and empty ‘I love you’s, but the sort of way that did not have to be shown. The sort of way that would make him stronger, braver, better for it.

Rounding the tree, he pointed his wand and stood his ground against the quickly propelling dementor. Green-eyes shone bright, mouth etched in a fierce snarl—he had no happy memory, only the sheer balls to face it head on. And hate. He had so much hate he must’ve been made of it.

A surge of light shot out the end of his wand, so bright it was blinding, not a stag but a serpent with a mouth broad enough to swallow it in one go.

His father’s applause rang from somewhere.



--

He could see attacks in his mind before they happened. Visualize moves. Deduce mistakes.

Dementors cornered from all angles, lunging in turns— twenty, thirty, fifty at least. Their jibes as sharp and cold as the wind.


A golden arc flashed as he swung his arm, propelling them backwards. They sprung back in waves.

Feet shuffled on instinct. Mouth spun spells by seconds. His body was a machine, hardwired with hundreds of hexes, jinxes, shields, knock-backs. He was on his toes sprinting as beams of light shot out the tip of his wand hitting back hoods.

Red, blue, silver, green, colors torpedoed meshing in the space between him and his prey. Bullets hit targets with paper-thin precision. Sprightly dodging one Kiss, he threw another over by a flash of blinding light. Undead swerved in all at once consuming him and again he was floating. There went gravity, feet lifting into the air.

He swung a silver arc of light slashing a dozen Not-Living in half. Dozen shrill shrieks rang out. Specks of darkness wafted in air like frozen raindrops before dissipating completely, and the rest retreated from such a boy that could Chill the Bones of a Dementor.

Dropped back to reality, he tucked away his wand. He wiped the taste of death from his mouth, smirk reigning. Shadows of nightmares sulked behind every corner, hissing and growling and whimpering: they weren’t threat. They were prey and he was Predator.

No wait.

It wasn’t him they feared.

His mind wracked his memories for answers---there was something he’d missed. He couldn’t remember what the real threat was, only that once the sun set and light left completely, he’d be-

“Albus!” Came a call not far off.

His head swerved, finding the girl come hurtling towards him, wand erect, ends of her hair fire-tinged.

“Rose-”

“Repulso!”

His body blew back slamming against ground with bone-shattering force. He opened his eyes to find a wand at his throat. She stood over him, eyes fierce.

“I told you-“

“Save the spiel,” She snapped, “You don’t get to leave me behind. You do not get to leave me behind for any reason!”

“Put your wand down Rose.” He growled silkily.

Her hex had caught him off-guard—she’d never hit with such brutality before. She’d never hit him, period. He moved too smart, too quick for her. This improvement both impressed him and made him burn with anger.

The look on her face bordered conceit: she was far too pleased with herself.

He’d show her.

In split-second motion he caught her ankle, throwing her down, and reversed their positions. Positioning himself on top, he trapped her and yanked her head back by her hair.

“What do you think you’re doing attacking me like that?!” He roared at her.

“None of this splitting up shit!”

“I’ll do what I like!”

“I want answers as badly as you do!”

There passed a moment of intensity so great between them that Rose was actually frightened. You could see in the way her mouth quivered. He had pinned her by the arms so violently that bruises had begun to form. Green-eyes bore into hers, smug and cold and empty —it was more than the glare of victory; no, there was something in his manner and Rose knew, she simply knew picking this fight had been a mistake.

“Al,” She spoke quietly. “Get off.”

He did not budge.

A whimper escaped her. “You’re hurting me.”

A smirk. It pressed against the base of her neck, pleased and predatory.

He drew closer to such a point that Rose turned her neck away and squeezed her eyes, trembling. She was actually trembling. “Please,” She pleaded, unsure what she was pleading for, knowing only that he was capable of anything in that moment and she didn’t want to fathom what that anything meant. She had triggered something quite dangerous, and whatever direction he chose to take his anger would spell great pain for her.

But he did not hurt her.

“Rosie Posie” He murmured, pressing a kiss to her flinching eyelids. “Always thinking wicked thoughts about me. What happens when I stop being the scariest thing in your head hmm?”

Then, Rose felt the pressure from her arms lighten. Her eyes opened and he was off and away, tucking his wand away into his pocket. She sat up.

“Al-”

“Choose your battles more carefully next time.”

-

He may have forgiven her, but that didn’t mean they were cordial.

-

Moments later Scorpius came running, trying to shake a baby Blast-Ended Skrewt off his leg. He stopped and shot hex after hex at it until it fell off—die, die, die! — kicking it until it finally stopped moving. With a sigh of relief, he looked up at the two of them.

“So what’d I miss?”










“Oi Potter, your shirt’s torn---toss it here.”

The boy did not hear him at first, immersed in his cigarette and thoughts until Scorpius shouted about they could practically see his nipples. Then he just looked perplexed. Absently tracing fingers through his disheveled hair, he tried to decide whether his shirt did in fact hold enough tears to warrant being taken off. Yes— he removed it and tossed it over to the blond, before hunching back to his thoughts.

“What a good wife you are.” Rose muttered.

“You sound jealous Weasel-bee.” Scorpius fluttered his lashes at her, “I can mend your shirt too if you like.”

“I can mend my own clothes, Malfoy.”

“I know. I was making an innuendo.”

“You’re unbelievably transparent.”

Scorpius plopped down beside her with a half-grin. Fire crackled in the small camp-space. Surprisingly enough, it had been Albus’ idea to make stop until morning. Whatever he had encountered had set him on edge, moreso than Scorpius had ever seen him. He wouldn’t eat. He wouldn’t sleep. He didn’t even bother making conversation, instead secluding away in his thoughts, puffing smoke.

The cousins were also avoiding each other, in the same way Scorpius remembered they used to do back in Hogwarts when they were in a tiff. It was like the Cold War —everyone knew about it. They’d glare at each other in classes, hex each other out in the halls. Then Albus would offer some shitty (cleverly crafted) apology that Rose would refuse for a few days, making him mope around the dungeons.

“ ..and he used to mope Weasel.”

“Not sure if I believe that.” She said wryly.

“Well, it wasn’t the normal sort of moping. You know when Potter’s upset, he gets more sadistic than usual. Well there were days every First Year was given specific instructions to avoid him.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

Scorpius shrugged, kicking pebbles and not meeting her gaze: he’d never liked seeing siblings-or near siblings- fight, especially as viciously as Rose and Albus did. There was really no excuse for it.

“If I had a sister or a brother, I’d do anything for them too. Hell, I’d probably try to resurrect them like you. I s’pose it’s human nature, to want to protect the people we’re close to. People we love.”

“Hugo’s my only brother.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Albus doesn’t love me—I don’t think he even can.” She continued, bitterly. Saying it, now, gave it the sort of finality that made her eyes burn. She wiped them on her sleeve. Scorpius was tactful enough to change the subject altogether; they chattered about what the plan for tomorrow was. About where he had set the portkey in case they had to leave. Then Scorpius bid her goodnight.

Hand holding her chin, he placed a kiss on her face—but in a way that was quick and did not overstep the emotional distance she always placed between them.

Still her face remained red long after he had disappeared into the tent.

She caught Albus glaring at her from the other side.

They did not speak.

It grew darker and Scorpius was the only one asleep, his snores resonating though the camp in an oddly comforting way. Rose worked through her fourth cup of tea. Albus finished another packet of cigarettes. Neither consented to sleep—it was like a competition between them.

“Go to sleep Rose. You’ll be drifting off tomorrow.”

She scowled, knowing he’d use the excuse to disappear again. “You go to sleep.”

“Someone has to keep watch.”

“Then I’ll do it.”

“Go cuddle with Malfoy.” He spoke acidly. “Sure he’d love you in his bed.”

She sighed: it would be a long night indeed if Albus insisted on being so stubborn.

He glowered at her. “You don’t attack me. Not when my back is turned.”

“You’ve attacked me countless times with my back turned.”

“It’s different here. You don’t attack me here… and I won’t attack you.”

“What’s so special about here?”

He threw a dark look toward the trees, and Rose knew they had finally gotten to the gist of it. She wasn’t as clever as Albus, but she knew how to keep three steps behind him. How to notice the anomalies in the anomalies. The forest was always still, always dead. The magical life in it -- from the blast-ended skrewts to the dementors-- was hungry, aggravated, desperate. They were not predators. They were prey, wounded, because there was still something else out there. It was the reason Albus did not want to travel at night. It was also the reason he did not want Rose and Scorpius coming with him when he went last night.

“Something happened to them, didn’t it?” She spoke quietly, “Here. And you knew before me. You knew something was wrong.”

When he looked up again, she only saw the glimmer of white in his eyes.

“It’s been there for months—or years. I don’t remember. But today, all day it’s been so strange, I mean, as if it’s the first time I’m seeing it all again. Everything seems too sharp, too real. It’s like being close up to something so large you don’t even see it. But you know it’s there.” He swallowed, as if seized by an unpleasant thought. Looking at her he asked: “You do know what I’m talking about don’t you? Tell me you do.”

Rose could tell he was afraid that his assumption was wrong, and that she had failed to grasp his meaning, and that with his words he had only further isolated himself.

“I think so.” She didn’t, but she moved toward him with the intention of finding out. Because something was still wrong. There was something he wasn’t telling her. “Al…what’s special about this place?”

His mouth twisted, into what Rose could only describe as a pained parody of a smile.

“He brought me here before. This is where it all started.”


Chapter 13: Burn
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He’d missed something.

The boy who held such an extraordinary keenness for detail, who deduced thoughts, emotions, events from simple observation—Albus didn’t miss things. He didn’t even need Legilimency to see how connivingly close Scorpius had grown to Rose in his weeks of absence. The girl in question didn’t see it but, then, Rose saw very little anyway. She was too single minded to understand the subconscious, near-futile intent of a serpent boy’s smile, especially one as impulsive as Malfoy.

The fact of the matter was Albus had seen it— and he had seen it coming for years. Rose and Scorpius had tip-toed around each other since First Year in the way history (their parents’ history) would bid them. Pretense for surnames may have dropped around adolescence, when hormones and tension intermingled creating awkward confrontations between the two. You could say Albus was the reason behind it; he aggravated the matter in the same way a bored child goes around poking sleeping animals—

To see what would happen, of course.

Now it must’ve bothered him, because he kept glancing over at them. He did not want to focus on it, but he couldn’t not notice the maddening proximity at which they chose to stand, the hush-hush glances, the color that crept over her neck when he made a line…

The fact that when they traveled, she chose to walk beside Scorpius instead of him.

Sunlight waned, trees casting spindly shadows over the terrain and the wandering trio.

The Forest was peculiar. It was as if something came awake in it moment you looked away. Albus could not explain it but felt it as prominently as a shift in air; wind picked and chilled running across the contours of their faces. Minutes earlier it had been still as death. His gaze steadfast, his feet led by means of memory—it was perplexing. While he could not recall exact details from his memories, his body somehow knew exactly where to go, as if some invisible force was guiding him by the finger.

“Potter,” Scorpius spoke from behind him. “Sun’s setting.”

“We keep moving.”

A dangerous decision, but he ignored Rose’s look with the same apathy she had been ignoring him all afternoon [what she thought mattered little anyway]. They were getting closer—to what? He did not know and this vexed him [Patience had never been Albus Potter’s finest attribute]. He knew he had missed something vital, but it made little sense to give predilection to fear of the unknown. Albus trusted his father much as he distrusted him--and his father was very, very clever. Even in possible Death, Harry had not given up on his son: the childhood tests resumed with the same fervor.

[The thickening fog. The rustling of not-quite-trees in the distance. The hurricane howl of the wind as the carnivore mouth of something nocturnal swooped towards them with intensifying pace.]

They watched as the sun set, locking them in darkness.




“Al-“

“Shhh!”

The boy ignored her apprehensive look, gesturing for her and Scorpius to draw out their wands and keep their mouths shut. Sighs tinged the air like baby's breath, trees rustling with frenzied movements all around them. Then, abruptly, wind heightened like the whistling of a kettle. They clasped their ears as it rose to a pitch not-quite-human. Rose was almost glad they couldn’t see anything through the dark.

Suddenly, the wind came to a standstill. So did her heart. Snarls manifested themselves through the silence and the wail of a dying animal rang out—first kill of the night. The scent of fresh blood mingled with the growing air. A horrible revelation struck Rose: if what attracted whatever was out there was blood then—

Shit, Shit.

A flash of light bounced from the tip of her wand, illuminating the crowd of transclucent creatures surrounding them, all of assorted shapes and builds, hissing and snarling. They had malformed faces edged with sharp teeth and limbs that stretched out like snakes.

“What the hell are those?” Scorpius piped beside her, “Naked dementors?”

No. They were—the word caught in her throat— “Apparitions.

“They’re worse than dementors.” Albus spoke though a clenched jaw. “They don’t know when to give up.”

Ghosts stuck in perpetual earth-life—same as hell. Mindless spirits that haunted remote isolated corners of the world and preyed on all living creatures alike, often competing with other Undead like dementors for sustenance. Darkness may have woken them, but blood summoned them. That was why they didn’t go after Albus when he traveled alone the previous night.

But thanks to Rose, they would.

She shifted into back to back position with the boys, their wands out and bodies keenly attuned to dozens of translucent movements surrounding them. Strands of mist wafted around them—appendages—like dancing snakes.

Albus made the first move.

“Al!”

He threw a lethal spark of green cutting through a row of apparitions and knocking over a tree—“Run!” he growled at them.

They took off sprinting. The boys were significantly faster and when Rose began to fall behind, each grabbed an arm and carried her forward. Suddenly a tentacle lunged and wrapped Rose’s ankle—she yelped. It tore her from the boys’ grasps and dragged her backwards like carpet. She yanked out her wand and twisted her torso, shooting the apparition back with Reducto! Then she was up and locked in a duel with the furious wisps, lashing through their jellyfish-like bodies only to observe, in horror, as they regenerated before her eyes.

At the same time a larger, sharp-teethed apparition coiled at Scorpius who fell onto his behind, anxiously shuffling backwards; he attempted a shield charm but failed miserably, and instead threw hexes every which way on the off chance some of them would hit the apparitions. Unlike Rose’s methodical dueling, Scorpius had no patience for proper technique. Sure he looked as if he were dancing the irish jig, but he was spontaneous and this made him unpredictable—he had a solid hit rate.

Albus was very different from either than them.

He attacked in short erratic bursts of energy, his movements quick and deliberate as if he could see all the opposing strikes in advance. He was elegance where Rose was brute strength, speed where she was technique. Accuracy. Form. Power. He moved with a swiftness she’d never seen in anyone else—he looked good doing it. His profile was cold and flawless. He could’ve been a dancer, fluid, beautiful, and at complete ease with himself. It made Rose burn with envy; she was the one with brutal auror training, she was the one who ought’ve been a superior duelist, and yet, it all came so easily to him.

She had struggled her whole life to keep his pace and now, after all this time, it stung to know she was still out of his league.

A spell flew near her face, jolting her out of her reverie, and then Albus stood in front of her. He gave her a shove backwards, glaring.

“Less staring and more fighting.”

Her small body staggered before steadying herself. “I wasn’t—“

“Move!”

She shot him a petulant look, but didn’t argue, moving to help Scorpius escape from a horde of apparitions. His legs were completely wrapped in tentacles. “How do you kill something that can’t die?” He grunted as Rose blasted them off one by one. A translucent appendage, snake-like, swung out and grabbed her by the neck pulling into its carnivore-tooth mouth. As she used her arms to hold it away, Scorpius cast a frantic immobilus freezing the tentacle. Her breath came back as it fell to the ground, limp and severed. “It worked!” Scorpius was unabashedly relieved. “Hell yeah! Point one for humans!”

“Thanks,” she said rubbing her neck, and he beamed at her. Together they began freezing the single apparitions.

Time passed like labored breaths and it grew unnaturally cold—the density of nonliving bodies had absorbed all the surrounding heat. Ice-tinged air wove in and out of their lungs. Apparitions swerved all around them, but Albus began moving further and further away from the others. Scorpius was preoccupied, knee-deep in tentacles again, but Albus felt Rose’s perplexed gaze on him. She was pink-faced and shivering.

“I remember where I need to go,” He threw her his jacket and she caught it. “The woods span out for two more kilometers. Beyond there’s a pond. Meet me there with Malfoy.”

“Please.”

He gave her a quiet look. “You know what you’re doing.”

“I don’t,” her voice wobbled. “Please, I don’t know how-“

“You’ll be fine.”

He was gone.

Words caught in the back of her throat. She could taste bile in her mouth, feel the pinprick of rising tears.

There it was: the inescapable sinking feeling only Albus could leave her with.

Realization set and set in fast: this was the day she would die. She would die in the vain attempt to kill Undead souls. She would die outnumbered. She would die out-skilled. She would die together with Scorpius, and alone still. Theirs would be a cruel death. She would die because that's what delicate flowers did in the cold- the temperature had hit an all-time low.

She felt the pulsing of veins in her arms. Her body was freezing. Her heart was racing a thousand miles a minutes. Her muscles convulsed with fatigue, verging on collapse.

To come so far and give up now?

No.

A spark of light torpedoed cutting through the wisps of silver wrapping Scorpius' neck. The boy fell to dirt in a swoop, desperately suctioning air.

She was not a flower, not really, or maybe the petals masked the lethal array of thorns covertly waiting underneath. A weed through and through, like the Head had told her. A guileless parasite. She would survive through this battle and many more to come. Survival was a art she'd learn, a habit she'd perfect, a skill with which she'd outlive her entire race.

Tonight, she did not know this. Tonight, nothing else mattered except the lives of her and the blond-haired boy beside her, clutching at her fingers in unspoken fear.

Frozen apparitions had begun to break from their bounds, and slowly narrowed in on them.

It would be a long night indeed.











Sunlight shone through her drooping eyelids after what must've been hours. She wrapped Albus’ jacket tighter around herself, willing his familiar scent of musk and smoke not to lull her to sleep. Two kilometers was a lot to cover with bruised limbs, and they couldn’t risk nightfall again. Scorpius was splayed over the ground resting, his face raw and bleeding. She helped him up and they began moving—there was no time to waste.

“Weasel-”

“Don’t defend him this time Malfoy.”

Seeing the anger in her eyes, Scorpius didn’t say anything further. The thousand aches in their bodies had merged a single consuming heaviness. They traveled in silence for a while, too tired for conversation.

At last the span of trees ended, stretching into a large expanse of dead grass. A body of water sparkled in the distance.

They spotted him.

Albus sat on the ground, calm, hand to brow in contemplation—his eyes were closed. He held very statuesque posture.

Rose wasted no time in drawing her wand: “Reducto!”

Her hex boomeranged and hit her square in the jaw, throwing her backwards.

Rebound shield charm: the scumbag knew her well.

No matter, Rose decided as she wiped blood from her mouth. Scorpius tried to hold her back, but she fought out of the blonde’s grip, marching up to the heartless deserter. She didn’t need magic to make him pay. She grabbed him by the shirt—his eyes tore open in surprise—and shoved him to the ground, collapsing on top of him in a violent fit of punching and kicking.

He grabbed her wrists, pausing her attempts to claw his eyes out.

“Fuck, Rose!”

“You left us with those...those things! We didn’t even know how to fight them! We could’ve die—“

“Get your hands off of me!”

“I’ll beat the shit out of you--“

“What’s the matter with you?” He growled in response. “I knew you’d be fine. Didn’t I tell you that?”

“YOU BASTARD,” She howled, coming at him with clenched fists. He, in turn, caught them and suffered a knee to the groin. Retaliating, he grabbed her long hair and pulled. Let go! She bit his arm. He flipped and slammed her to the ground. She squirmed, kicking his shins repeatedly. He didn’t budge.

Scorpius stared: two of the most brilliant young wizards he knew had resorted to fighting like children.

He grabbed Rose by the arm, pulling her away from the furious boy.

“All right, Potter, explanation time.” He said, brow furrowed, “Why’d you ditch us?”

The boy stopped seething for a moment and sat up, adjusting back to his meditative position. “I remembered something.” He closed his eyes, turning away from the two of them. “I was trying to remember more before I was interrupted.”

Holding a snarling Rose back, Scorpius looked around. There was nothing there.

“Is there, erm, something special about this spot Potter?”

“Maybe,” He sounded irritable. “Go away and let me think.”

Shooed away—Scorpius and Rose sat at a distance, tending to their wounds and nibbling on sandwiches. Meanwhile Albus struggled to recall memories: he knew what he was looking for now.

There was something in the ground.

A house-no-shack his father used to bring him to. Burnt panes. Windows boarded from the inside. Albus must’ve been four. Harry never let him go inside it. He made Albus wait outside and listen to-what was it? Wailing? Screaming?

I fear, son, that history has a habit of repeating itself.

His eyes tore wide— the enchantment! Harry said an enchantment to summon the shack from the ground; he never said it out loud, but Albus had seen his mouth movements several times. He was observant of details such as these.

Who will stop the new dark lords, Daddy?

He closed his eyes and scanned his mind for the right words. It was in his head—he knew it. Everything he needed was already in his head!

“My dear Albus,” Harry sighed, running a hand over the frightened boy’s head, “I won’t be around forever.”

What was his father hiding in the ground?

--

“You’ve told me about this before.” I said excitedly. It was the very first memory of Albus and Harry she had described, and I remembered how confused I had been about it all. The fact we were touching on roots intrigued me but I couldn’t imagine how it would come together in the scheme of things.

Rose gave me her practiced smile and told me what she always did:

“In due time, Mr. Walker.”

The pen itched in my hand.

--

Scorpius tried to appease Rose, but the girl would hear none of it. Don’t defend him, Aren’t you angry too? You should be angry!

Scorpius knew that sort of strong emotional response would matter little to Potter today.

He hadn’t moved from his spot in hours.

Potter had never been open with him, not really. He kept things on a need-to-know basis. Even so, intuition developed from six years of companionship told Scorpius something was bothering the boy. The blatant disregard for others had to be attributed to something.

Rose pulled at strands of grass like they were the boy’s hair, fuming. “Oh he’s absolutely cold.

“Sure he is.”

“He doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself. We could’ve died! You don’t abandon your friends when they’re in danger.

“I thought you said Potter didn’t have friends.”

The anger sulked and a wave of embarrassment flooded her face. “I don’t know,” she admitted quietly. “It’s just-”

“-wishful thinking?” He prompted.

Her face pinched and she looked away from him. She was still wearing Potter’s jacket, even though it wasn’t cold anymore. Maybe it was force of habit. His mind flit to the questionable rumors that had plagued Hogwarts about them, the ones he’d always known better than to believe.

The fact of the matter was Albus was closer to Rose than he was; Scorpius hadn’t thought much of it before. It’s not something he should’ve been thinking about right then, but he was thinking about it. He knew Rose had trust issues; all this time he'd attributed her emotional distance to the missing parents, the sick brother, the dangerous career, to bringing back the dead and putting the nation of Magical Crisis Watch. All were reasons he hated, but nonetheless understood.

Who knew he’d have to break through Albus’ jacket to get to her?

He bit the inside of his cheek, studying her: the powdered freckles on her face, the curve of her jaw, the tilt in her small sensuous mouth, the halo of light circling her dyed-brown scalp--he preferred her old hair style, red and flowing. Then her eyes: Albus had once joked about them being the unappealing color of mud, but Scorpius liked their earthy contemplative look. He wouldn't admit that he thought about them (amongst other things) late at night, stretched out over his bed, facedown in a pillow. The fact he had once, by accident, nearly seen her naked taunted him in these private moments: what he claimed was funny was also agonizing.

She'd had no problem holding his hand the night before. But that it was day now, and they were no longer running danger, she had lost reason to.

Scorpius hoped they'd have more opportunities to be in danger together.

-

“Oi asshole!”

Scowling, Albus opened an eyelid and found the pair walking to him.

“Get us up to speed,” Scorpius plopped down beside him, grinning. “Let’s see if we can refresh that memory of yours.”

“Summoning enchantment.” Was all he mumbled.

It was all Rose and Scorpius needed: they began listing.

“Erecto.” Him.

“Finite Incantatem” Her.

“Defodio.”

“Domicilium Revelio.”

“Accio??”


Rose blinked at his First-Year worthy guess. “Shit, Malfoy.”

Shit is an expletive, not an enchantment.” Albus said, still annoyed with her. “And you’re both wrong.”

“How about Herbivicus?” Scorpius offered.

Rose arched an eyebrow at the blonde. “Did you sleep through all of Charms?”

“Maybe.” A sheepish grin. “Flitwick has a ridiculously soothing voice.”

Hours must’ve passed. Rose paced back and forth throwing out every spell that came to her mind. Albus sat with chin propped on knit fingers, hunched over in thought. Scorpius lied in the grass, blowing dandelions and yawning.

“Does it start with a c?”

Aparecium. ” Rose was yawning now too.

“What about a t?”

Vocare aedificium.

“I’m feeling a w, Potter,” He stretched his arms out lazily. “Going once, going twice-”

“W,” Albus agreed and the blonde grinned.

His father must’ve concocted the spell, Albus decided, so there was no point in trying to guess something premade. They started throwing out letters and syllables, until, as it seemed, he had it put together.

He stood and walked over to the barren patch of dirt, casting the spell. A rumbling sounded and they all stepped away. Out of the ground came rising the dilapidated shack-house Albus had witnessed many years ago. Colors had faded further, resembling burnt shades of brown and washed grey.

It looked smaller now.

Almost simultaneously they started toward it. Rose watched the boys moved closer, and then stopped. “Do you hear that?” Scorpius asked the other boy who gave a terse nod. Then they turned towards Rose awaiting confirmation.

“Hear what?”

There was a sound, faint like howling of the wind.

Suddenly, both boys threw hands over their ears, dropping to the ground. Their bodies twisted and squirmed, eyes screwed shut. Fists clenched into dirt with painful fervor, knuckles turning paste-white. Rose watched in horror as their faces went blue, as if all the oxygen had dissipated from their bodies.

They could not hear her yell.

Shack. ” Albus managed to choke out, his lips blue.

Rose grabbed her wand and shoved into the house. She heard a faint hum when she entered, almost like the mechanical whirring of a toy helicopter. Anxiously looking around, she found the shack barren.

“Hello?”

No response.

There’s a door in the back from the sound grew stronger—locked. Approaching, the first sound softened and she heard another noise, one almost sounded like a wounded animal. When she pressed her ear to the door, she could’ve sworn she heard human voices. She tried calling out. She tried every spell can think of. It was hopeless; the charm was unlike she’d ever seen before. She tried kicking and yanking and slamming against the door.

Nothing.

She ran back outside and found, to her silent horror, that Scorpius had gone completely limp. Blood made streams from his ears onto grass. Albus was only barely conscious.

“Kill it whatever it is,” His brow was strained, face livid. “Rose please.”

She bent down, voice fragmenting as she tried to explain what she had encountered: Barren shack. Door locked. The voices she’d heard. Her parents. Their parents?

Brow screwed in pain, he rattled his head. “Burn everything.” He said miserably.

“What? I can’t-”

“BURN IT.” He snarled at her, and she winced, his fingernails digging into the soft flesh of her forearm. “BURN IT OR WE DIE.”

There was a blur of motion as she ran back towards the shack. She lifted her wand, hot tears springing to her eyes. There was no time to think. There was no time to consider the voices in the locked room, or the possibility that they belonged to actual people. Guilt knifed her gut: what had happened at Diagon Alley would take place again. History would repeat itself. She’d commit an unfathomable horror to save two lives. Rose would not understand the magnitude of her actions that day until many, many years later.

Fire was everywhere, flames licking the air like twisting serpents.

She bit back a hysterical sob and, with shaky hands, pulled out the vial of potion that would return them home. She enchanted the unconscious boys to her, and together, they vanished away.

All their answers had gone up in flames.


Chapter 14: (I won't let you) Run
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The sound….it felt so alive, but with a desperation about it. It was like an echo, reverberating violently through every bone in his body. It was the torrent of fire, the eye of the storm, the hunger of a ferocious animal. A wound…it felt like a wound in the center of his being that had now been stabbed raw. It was a gap. Nothingness. Hell. It was like staring at the face of Death.

And it was a wonder he and Scorpius had not died at the very spot.

They made their arduous journey back to the Weasley household in various stages of fatigue, collapsing wherever they manifested (Albus limp on the kitchen table, Rose sprawled on the stairs, Scorpius drooling on the cold hard floor) and not waking until—well Albus was the only one up. A pain potion and five cigarettes later, he puffed on his sixth cigarette, breaking apart the strange phenomena that had occurred a few hours earlier:

Why hadn’t Rose heard it?

He remembered screaming from his earlier memory of the place, when his father went in and told Albus to wait outside—he had always thought it was his father screaming—but the screams had never been so grueling. The limited perspective of his four-year old self was faulty at best, riddled with emotions and fears and latent desires. Maybe he just wanted his father to suffer. Maybe his four-year old self had imagined the connection, as part of some Oedipal revenge scheme. But Albus was seventeen now, not four, and his motives had evolved from their hopeless origins. His seventeen-year old self dreamt of confrontations between father and son, in a barren graveyard somewhere, where son would finally show father what he had learned after a lifetime of being dragged through hell. The prospect of a duel was inevitable in his mind. Student turning on teacher. Thoughts of such a dramatic end struck him in equal parts anxiety and excitement; the sensation was overwhelming. All those lessons in facing your fears came down to vanquishing the one man who had always played his fear. The final obstacle: The ultimate villain was Harry Potter himself.

It…could not be the answer. The fact he could think it meant his father had considered his arrival at the very same conclusion ages ago— it was too simple. His father was cleverer than that, surely, and surely he thought Albus cleverer than that too. For him to devise a scheme that Albus could solve so quickly was nigh on impossible.

No, it was too convenient.

-

“Al.”

She stood in the doorway, watching him fumble around in his head. She must’ve been up for a while—he’d must’ve heard her downstairs earlier, helping Scorpius. Potion stains on sleeves told him she’d already probably tended to his wounds.

“How are you feeling?”

A strange query: he stared at her, mulling over a suitable response.

“Alive.” He said, finally.

“That’s good.”

“It is.”

‘Scorpius is too.”

A dull blink. “I would expect that.”

-

Then she was silent, and they were done with conversation for a while. He lounged on the sofa with eyes closed, cigarette hanging from the edge of his mouth, head splayed back deep in thoughts graveyards, duels, and probabilities.

-


“Did I kill someone yesterday?”

Rings of smoke wafted in the air.

“Think you saved two lives Rose Pose.” He responded with his usual brand of apathy, and she ruffled: there wasn’t a smidge of gratitude in his voice.

“Yes, but did I kill someone? Did someone die in that fire because of me?”

“It’s possible.” He made another ring of smoke with his mouth. “But not because of you.”

“I’m the one that burned it down.”

“You overthink everything.”

His annoyed mess of hair lifted. “It wasn’t our parents.” He told her, plainly.

She looked away for a moment, not wanting him to see how uncomfortable she was that he’d guessed exactly what she’d been thinking.

“We can’t be sure.”

He sat up with a derisive snort. “Do you really think you’re capable of killing the three greatest wizards of their age? Please, you’re skill at Fiendfyre is novice at best.”

Her face flinched: Albus would hedgehorn an insult in wherever possible.

“You’re a complete ass.”

“I’m precisely what you need me to be,” He said, with a cold stare. “What did you expect – a kiss and cuddle after every bump in the road? Did you think finding our parents would be easy?” An eye-roll. “I have better things to do than hold your hand all day. That’s what Malfoy is for.

Her cheeks colored. “Why bring him into this?”

He stretched languidly and stood as if he hadn’t heard her question. “See, let’s pretend for a moment that I was Malfoy.” Lazy strides made their way over to her. “I understand it takes a stretch of imagination but pretend. I'd be the wet blanket for you to cry your heart out on, and in turn, we'd get nothing done. And would we get along nearly as well as we do?”

“We don’t get along.” She said, annoyed.

“That’s beside the point.”

“Then what is the point?”

“Point is you get lazy if I don’t give you a little-” he flicked her forehead with the wand, jolting her backwards and making her eyelids flutter. “-push now and then.”

“You call leaving me and Malfoy in a field of apparitions a little push? Exactly how does getting your friends nearly massacred fall into fortitude training?”

“You didn’t die.”

“I could have died.”

He took another long drag. “You’re focusing on the wrong things.”

-

He stood directly in front of her now, eyes glazed with their usual condescension.

“Find the anomaly in what happened yesterday. Show me you’re not so smitten by Malfoy that you’ve forgotten how to think.”

What he meant was: impress me.

“I don’t want to play this game today.” She spoke wearily.

“Too bad. You’re already losing.”

-

A haze of smoke had formed around her.

“Me. You two heard that awful noise and I didn’t. What makes me different?”

“Good. Shamefully slow. Almost pathetic, really, but good.”

She ignored the jibe. “So you already know why.”

“I have my theories, as always.”

“Go on then.”

“Rosie,” He gave a disparaging eye-roll. “That’s not how we do things. It’s still your turn.”

“I’ll arrive at the same conclusions you did.” She said miserably.

“You have a unique perspective of the event. A perspective neither Malfoy nor I can replicate.”

“And why’s that important?”

A muscle in his jaw twitched, as if he was trying to contain his anger at such a stupid question. She swallowed as he drew closer, the ends of his shoes scraping against hers, “Why it's important,” he said, his voice a lethal whisper. “Is that what you want to know? Why is it important that I learn precisely what was seen and heard in that shack?”

She gave an almost imperceptible nod, and he sneered in response, drawing the cigarette from his mouth. “Rose…” Specks of smoke flecked across her face and cheekbones, making her eyes water. “…I’ve waited my whole life to see what was in that shack.”

-

He felt, perhaps, that she had taken an experience that belonged solely to him, that he alone was entitled to because of his father. Never mind that she’d also saved his life. No, that part didn’t matter.

At such a proximity, fear would transcend magic—manifesting itself into something more masculine.

She scanned his features as he towered over her, the tight jaw-line, broad shoulders, curvature of lean muscles. He was utter perfection in form, no longer the petite boy she had spent a childhood running around with, one she could race and pin and physically counter. More than a dangerous wizard. The young man staring back at her could as easily strangle her with his hands as he could with magic.

No sudden movements were made.

The fingers on her wand-hand twitched.

-

Green irises zipped across her form, scrutinizing this display of boldness. “You remember what I told you in the Forest, don’t you?” He said, icily. “About choosing your battles carefully.”

“I’m not scared of you.”

“Are you sure?”

-

Just like that he drew closer, his arms wrapping her form, his forehead pressing against hers in a way that could easily be mistaken for something that it was not. She held her breath hearing him breathe, wondering if he was using this proximity to scan her mind for that experience she'd presumably stolen from him— how pragmatic. They had started learning Legilimency and Occulmency around the same time, and were equally versed in their respective skills (Rose had had to learn Occulmency as part of the Head’s instructions; her mind hid the Resurrection Spell, now deemed the most dangerous spell in the Wizarding world. Albus had learned Legilimency for the sheer pleasure of screwing with people).

The Wizard waged intellectual warfare, but the Young Man meant to disgust, startle, torment, challenge, provoke her by any means necessary. He was always looking for ways to get under her skin.

There were a million ways this could end, but she’d be damned if she let him win.

-

“You were wrong, you know.” She said softly, but also firmly. “In the Forest. You’re not the scariest thing in my head. You’re not.”

“Oh, but I am in your head.”

She stared downwards in steely determination, refusing to meet the taunt in his dark stare. Don’t reach for your wand, don’t falter, don’t let him think he’d gotten to you, don’t-

“I can handle anything you throw at me.”

“Anything.” He scoffed, then grew silent for a moment, as if actually toying with the idea. “Anything.” He repeated after a while, more softly, more to himself than her. “That’s an obscenely broad category… almost invitingly broad…what nerve…brilliant...”

At first she couldn’t tell if he was mocking or genuinely complimenting her - his arms dropped from her like dead weight, and then he wasn't looking at her anymore. Swiftly he turned, walking over to his stack of spellbooks in the kitchen and immersing himself - hopefully he wasn't looking for a spell to test her statement.


Either way, relief flooded her skin - for today, it seemed that a brutal fight had been avoided.





Scorpius paced home, cold air shifting in and out his lungs. Hands tucked into the flap of his jumper, he let the sounds of the city wash over him—blaring horns, shifting cars, clamoring people. Anything, anything to drown out the unholy noise stuck in his head:

It was like a…current of pain passing through every cell in his body. The sound of a thousand dying screams; it was as if every living being in the area-from the trees to his best mate to the blades of grass clenched between whitening knuckles-was screaming out in pain.

His last conversation with Rose streamed across his mind. She had taken the fact he had nearly died very seriously and told him he wouldn’t be coming with them again—she didn’t want him risking his life for Potter—to which he very daringly replied You think I’m doing it for that twat? This did not have the desired effect; her eyes narrowed and she told him very firmly that he shouldn’t be risking his life for anyone. It’s not a game, she said. I don’t want to see you get hurt, she said. He spent most of the conversation counting how many times she could passively refuse his advances.

Contrary to Rose’s opinion of him, Scorpius was not an idiot. He was well aware that his two friends were breaking Azkaban-worthy rules in their dangerous quest to find their parents. But did he care? Not especially.

Near-death was a common hazard Scorpius would face in his lifelong partnership with Albus Potter. If anything, and with the exception of the Hogwarts incident, it was testament of his brilliant friend’s ability to calculate risks (if not his ability to be a decent human being). Still, they were in it together. Surely that meant something in the scheme of their –could he keep calling it a friendship? He decided he would.

His own parents knew little about Potter, but held very strong opinions on Rose after their disastrous dinner with her. His mum was gentler about it: you know I like her Scorpy, honest. Well I guess I pity her more. She’s in a lot of trouble for someone her age. She’s not the one for you, darling, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. You’ll find someone else. His father very bluntly told him he was love-struck fool and to bleeding get over it.

He had a point.

The fact of the matter was Scorpius knew he had a miniscule chance with Rose. In an ideal world, their biggest obstacle would be their feuding families, but, here, that was a source of levity. That their parents once hated each other was something bond over. No, here, the problem was the Resurrection Magic that put England on Crisis Awareness Watch, the Ministry breathing down her back, the weight of dead parents on her shoulders, a brother too sick to be left alone, and a cousin that had always been a little too close for comfort.

Truth was Scorpius did not know how to help her. She was an auror, practically an adult now and here he was, some scruffy, impulsive kid who had never grown out his school-boy fancy for her.

The world was tilting in an improbable direction.

Going home, Scorpius knew he’d find the Healer training pamphlets sprawled over his bed by his not-so-subtle mother. In an ideal world the son of the wealthiest wizarding family in England would never have to work for a living—but the ministry had ordained that all able-bodied citizens lend themselves to aiding the nation. Deaths stacked high everyday in the papers in skirmishes between wizards. His mum pushed him towards Healing—A safe career if anything. And you have the OWLs for it, Scorpy---and neither parent was willing to entertain the notion of him becoming an auror.

Rose had her own twisted brand of family loyalty, but Scorpius was his father’s son through and through. He freely rebelled against the man but equally dreaded the thought of letting him down. Or the thought of making his mother cry, and certainly not at a funeral for him. Scorpius did not want to die.

In the end all they had was family.






Contrary to popular opinion, the Head of the Department of Law Enforcement was a fair man, did not bear a secret agenda, and was only slightly egotistical – or so he told anyone that would listen. Example one, he had adopted the world’s most dangerous criminal in the hopes of redeeming her and certainly not to exploit her talents for his own benefit. Example two, he allowed her reasonable working hours that certainly did not involve seventeen hour shifts and off-the-books investigations as part of some secret agenda – what more could she want? Especially as it had now come to his attention that she was skimping work.

In all fairness, he allowed her permission to explain – in which for precisely ten minutes she stood around blithering about how she was seventeen and had inherited her parents’ home, and been spending an extraordinary amount of time there for sentimental reasons. Ignoring the fact that he had inexplicably missed not one but two of his ward’s birthdays, he pointed out that the elves had been helping her sneak back into the house on certain late nights, which was, of course, another violation of their agreement.

“The law bears witness that I become owner of property when I turn seventeen-“

“Yes, Weasley, but you are my property, and I’ve been seventeen for a while.”

“I’m your ward, sir.”

“Yes, yes,” He muttered, pulling out a cigar and lighting it. “But my rules supersede any legal technicalities you may feel you deserve with your age. You still do what I want whenever I want. It was the terms of our agreement for me saving your sorry ass.”

“Of course, sir.”

At this point she grew dead silent – she had not anticipated this turn of events – and hung her head in the manner of defeat. It was extracting this expression of complete submission that the Head had intended to do. One may even be so bold as to call it effective parenting.

“However”, He continued, with a thoughtful (or perhaps guilty) expression, “It has to my attention that two of your birthdays have passed and I have not acquired a present that is suitable in the context of our, well, what one may consider guardian-child relationship…”

Her eyes grew large.

“…in which case, I grant you permission to have your parent’s house for your perusual, so long as you remain in the bounds of my rules. That means you still report to me when I say. And you will not skimp work.”

The girt stared at him, dumbfounded by this otherworldly gesture of kindness. But it was not as strange as it was intuitive. She was no longer the urchin he had scraped off the walls of Wizengamot. Having absorbed his teachings and training, she had become a capable auror and an excellent witch – a point he did not wish to make aware to her.

Now having the means, she had more often than not thought about taking her brother and running away. He also presumed she was hiding a boyfriend at that sentimental house of hers and sleeping with at least two of her coworkers (the Bulgarian struck him as shady). Even so, the Head did not care as much about her adolescent fantasies as he did in keeping her within his influence. She was an asset, and he did not plan to do away with the girl any more than he did his agenda to one day become Minister.

“Do you understand what I have said to you, Weasley?”

“I-yes, sir.”

“Excellent.” Deftly ignoring the almost-smile on her face, the Head opened a drawer and removed a file. “Now onto another matter. I have chosen you to lead your squad’s next run.”

“Me?” Her face plunged and the Head asked very edgily if he had stuttered.

“No, sir. But, I mean-shouldn’t it be left up to some of the older aurors?”

“Age is a number. Do you think yourself incapable, Weasley?”

“Yes, sir-I mean no I don’t. Thanks to y-you, sir.”

He studied the girl sitting across from him more closely for a moment. This, this was the girl of whom half the Wizarding World was scared shitless. She was not much to look at, with dirt-colored eyes and small size and predictable features; a waif of something he’d scraped from the bottom of his shoe. She had no sense of responsibility—much less anything else to recommend her for a position of leadership. She was unpatriotic, under involved, and deceitful. Magic may have been her only redeeming quality and would be her saving grace. He did not tell her that China and Germany had issued bounties on her head, deeming her too dangerous to live—unnecessary worry would distract her from the task at hand. She was good but she had to be better if she intended to survive the emerging dark world and become the weapon England needed her to be—when he became Minister.




A shattering bright light—spell—knocked her out of the tree and she fell to the boy’s feet with a painful thud, morphing from crow to human. A painful transformation for any animagi, especially when it was involuntary. She gaped at him.

“How you-“

“How’d I know?” He prompted, mouth lolling with a smirk. “The distinction between a real crow and an animagi is facile. First, irregular flight patterns. Second, lack of bird call. Third, and maybe your biggest mistake was tailing me eight straight blocks thinking I wouldn’t notice. Did you really think I would be such an idiot?

She stared at him, absolutely stunned for a moment, by his sheer nerve, by his manner of speaking, by everything. He was not perturbed that she’d been following him, no, he was amused. Her eyes traveled across the scope of his tall, arrogant demeanor – tight jawline, handsome face, flashing green eyes. She had never quite seen anything like him.

“My, my. They said you were ruthless, but they didn’t tell me you were so sexy.”

He lifted his chin a little.

“Who are you?”

“An enthusiast, darling, of your….talents.” She purred, cheek against pavement. “You’ve raised the eyebrows of a certain type of people.”

“Graham Paisley.” He said, unblinkingly.

“Ahh, you know the name, do you? Well he’s aching to learn yours.” She gave him a sly look. “Come to think of it, so am I.”

Not taking the hint, he returned a dull look.

“Your reputation precedes you, darling. That little trick you do with the Cruciatis – he wants to know how it works. You’ve impressed him. And what’s more, you’ve smitten him.”

“Not interested.”

“He’s not the type that takes rejection well.”

“Not. Interested.” His eyes flashed with anger – but the surge was quickly discarded. In place a vague sneer formed on those perfect lips, and when he looked at her, she could only marvel at the defined cheekbones, the jet-black hair, the perfectly dull look in the eyes only to be offset by their electrifying green color.

“Tell your boss I’m not the sort of enemy he wants to make.”

The statement made a jolt in her stomach.

There, there was a pause in which the sound that could be heard was of his approaching footsteps, shoes click-clacking against pavement towards her. When he stood directly in front of her, she felt a little breathless.

“Where do I find him?” He said impatiently.

“I’ll tell you for a kiss.”

She was not quite sure what had compelled her to blurt such a thing; she was usually more tactful when it came to flirting, especially with her boss’s targets. But there was something about him…for a moment she thought he would consider the trade, but then one foot lifted and landed on the soft form of her arm…and pressed. She drew a sharp breath, pain sending excited tingles through her body.

“You’ll tell me because I ask you, darling,” A chuckle. “If you know so much about me, then you know what I’m capable of. Now—“He twisted his ankle further down, and feeling loosened from her fingers. “-where do I find him?”

“You… can’t find him, not unless… he wants you to.”

Contempt crossed his face. “So you don’t actually know.”

“…no…”

He could sense it was not a lie, and so he offed her- a flood of sensation returned to her arm - pacing away, hands irritably stuffed in pockets.

He was done.

“Hey, wait.”

He stopped and turned around, looking bored. In a single sudden moment, she morphed into a crow and fluttered off the ground. She reappeared in front of him as the beautiful woman she was, eyes glittering with excitement. Her former fear was gone, discarded, and she slinked toward him in as seductive a manner as possible. “I can see why he’s smitten for you, you know,” She murmured, “I think I’d like to wear you tonight.”

The dark brows rose, not having expected such a bold remark. She began tracing a thumb down his temple and down to his rigid jawline, and the expression in his eyes morphed into something unreadable. And then, suddenly, there was a flicker of something on his face, a realization of sorts. Her breath caught when he began leaning in as well, moonlight reflecting off the curve of his jawline; he was so handsome, so very tantalizing. His gaze was scorching. And those eyes – they tore through your flesh and bone and swallowed your soul.

He stopped inches from her face; the lips curved to a sly smile, indulging in an inside joke.

“How very quaint - he’s having me courted.”

The expression once more gleaned into something cold.

“Tell your boss-” A lazy flick of the wand sent her staggering backwards “-just because I’ve impressed him doesn’t mean he’s impressed me.”





The mission was simple—or it should have been.

Scout the near part of Camden for a terror cell: another attack on the ministry was in the works, but the meeting was buried in the midst of muggles.

They flew to Camden, she and her unit: Aurors Mendoza (Cynthia), Gachevska (Kovy), Dubois (Florian), and Hashimoto. Rose tried to concentrate on her own formation rather than the unit leaders around her. Auror Bernard, to her right, large, broad-shoulder, black hair slicked, and unabashedly cocky, tried to coax her into something of a race, but she followed in league with the older aurors and kept control on her formation. She was the youngest unit leader, yes, and that won her many funny looks. Looks of resentment, expectation, and the ever-prominent fear; some still thought she belonged in prison.

“Doing ok, Rose?” Kovy had gotten out of formation and flown up beside her. He smiled at her his handsome Bulgarian smile. His eyes followed hers to the staring, and the thick eyebrows set. “Ignore them. They’re judgmental tools with heads up their assholes.”

She only nodded.

“Just remember you outrank them now. No one messes with a unit leader, especially one that makes badass spells in her spare time. We call you Queen of Death in my country for a reason. If you were ever to visit, they’d throw flowers at your feet.”

She flinched but nodded all the same.

“You’re going to do fine.”

She made herself smile.

“And you look very nice today.”

She actually chuckled.

“Inappropriate conduct, Gachevska. Back into formation.”

“See, that’s more like it.” He grinned and leaned in conspiratorially. “Now if you want to yell to prove a point in front of the others, I’m your guy. I can fake tears too, you know.”

“Back into formation, Gachevska.”

“Alright I can take a hint.” Another grin as he flew away.

Rose knew why the Head had assigned her to a unit with all transfers: she had acquired a certain level of infamy among her British colleagues, one that predisposed her to all sorts of backlash. So maybe this was a way of starting over. Being assigned to a unit required her to socialize—atleast be able communicate on a level more than awkward mumbling and yes sirs. Being assigned to lead a unit meant she was responsible for four more lives than she wanted to be.

“Pan right!” She called to her unit, “Clouds in the distance!”

Qui, Capitaine.” Florian bellowed, blond veela hair flowing in the wind.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Cynthia puffed beside him. “I hate flying.”

“Oi, Mendoza, that bloke from unit five was smiling at you.” Kovy teased.

“Really?”

“Nah.”

Everything laughed at this except Mr. Hashimoto, who Rose knew preferred action to socializing. Once, during a late shift when it was just the two of them, Rose had attempted conversation:

“Mr. Hashimoto, why did you come to England?”

When he spoke, it was in the most eloquent english Rose had ever heard:

“I do what my country requires of me, Ms. Weasley.”

“What does Japan want with England?” She blanched. “I didn’t even know Japan and England were that great of allies.”

“You mistake the affairs of the muggle world with the magical ones.” He explained. “True, we were on opposite ends of the last world war, but the International Confederation of Wizards binds us irrevocably to your cause. What’s more, England is the intermediary of Japan’s endeavors into the rest of the western magical world. So you see, Ms. Weasley, our interests are intertwined with yours. Our wands are in line with yours, for our fates are as one.”

Rose remembered Kovy once saying that England was the magical hub of the world.

-

That the world was set in a chain of dominos made the travesty about to occur in England even more devastating.

-

After landing, near a hundred Aurors stood in a large semi-circle around the Head. He spoke in his normal no-nonsense nonsensical tone, riddled with threats and inanities, horrifying the new recruits and amusing the old ones:

“I presume you’ve all read the files so I won’t insult your intelligence going over safety protocol, but I will mention two things. First, we’ll be in the presence of muggles, so I don’t want the Department of Maintaining Wizarding Secrecy on my ass about improper conduct. Do not make it known that you are there. Understood?”

There were several nods.

“Second, I want to keep the death toll number zero today. Make swift arrests and avoid fighting. If you do fight, avoid failing, because Ms. Weasley won’t be bringing you back to life. She’s busy today.”

There were a few nervous chuckles at this and the girl tried not to meet anyone’s gaze.

Then, wizards discarded their robes and immersed into civilian streets, rubbing shoulders with muggles left and right. After the incident in Diagon Alley, any sort of crowd made Rose nervous – so her unit trailed back alleys, remote areas, etc.

Rose remembered precisely the date, time, and place when it all went wrong – when they glanced into the skies and saw balls of light manifesting in thin air.

“Wha- what’s that?”

Magic - unlike anything they’d ever seen before.

-

It had been a ruse, and in the end they could do nothing to stop it. How it happened – no one could really explain it. Sure the terror cell was using invisibility magic, but the scope of it, how magic seemed to manifest itself into the size of tires and storm into the city like hail, burning tops of shops and buildings. Shield charms were out of the question. Doing anything was out of the question.

Aurors stood in lines outside the area, watching – fire-like bombs setting streets aflame. Gripping their wands. Holding each other back by the robes. Tears stained the cheeks of every human being there – even the Head wiped his brow on his sleeve. Allergies, he claimed.

“GET OUT OF THE WAY!” Screeched an auror with copper hair, one who was crying harder than the others, and two surrounding aurors gripped him by the arms. “Lemme go – I have family in there!”

“You can’t save them.” The Head said sternly, and Rose felt her stomach plummet. “It’s a violation of the International Stat-“

“Damn the Statute of Secrecy!” Shouted someone from the back.

There were cries of agreement.

One of the older female aurors looked at the Head: “Listen to your men, Vincent. Muggles are dying in there-”

“We cannot Obliviate an entire city.” The Head snapped, though even he looked troubled by his decision. “We’ll be noticed no matter what we do.”

“What if we tell them it’s government technology?” Florian suggested, quietly.

Outraged clamoring rose in response:

“-like they’d ever believe that-”

“-merlin, this is going to be in the news everywhere-”

“-I read about nanotechnology-“

“-where the hell is the British military!?”

“-and what are they going to do? You can’t stop magic with muggle weapons-“

“-thousands of people-“

“Stop panicking,” Mr. Hashimoto said, calmly, “The Ministers are conversing as we speak. They’ll have a decision within an hour about the best course of action.”

Cynthia paled. “Now I’m really going to be sick.”

Kovy, who was standing beside Rose, swallowed: “So we just wait - isn’t there something we can do?”

The Head nodded. “We find the wizards responsible for this.”

A chill went through the air.

Someone piped up: “Who in their right mind attacks muggles? They’re after the ministry – why not go straight there?”

The Head stood in front of his men, his long scarred face illuminated in the sinking sun.

“Do you see what is happening?” He roared at them. “This is a intimidation tactic. Our enemies are showing us what they’re capable of. And it will only get worse from here. No one thought we’d see the day dark wizards would use muggles to break the Ministry. To break England. These….monsters won’t stop until they’ve destroyed the fragile peace between our world and the theirs. But it only works if we give in.”

“In the upcoming years, you will encounter the worst of sorcery you could imagine. You will have the most grueling, toughest job of your peers. You will have to choose.” His steely gaze passed over their perplexed faces, lingering on Rose. “You can choose to fight with the Ministry or you can be a coward. It's not about the politics of it. It’s about you – is this the world you want to live in? Is this the world you want your children to see? An animalistic world where wizards kill muggles in order to destroy other wizards, and for what? For control?”

There was a resounding no.

-

The decision came an hour later:

The Ministers refused to risk the Statute of Secrecy.

Sixty thousand deaths. One hundred thousand casualties.

All muggle.

-

“It is a day I have never stopped thinking about, Mr. Walker. It is a day that I can never forget.”

“One of many.” I presumed. The 2023 Bombing of Camden was not even listed in most history books. We were still years away from the beginning of the real war, one that would claim the lives of millions.

“Was secrecy worth letting your fellow men die?”

Her wrinkled mouth twitched. “I could never justify the inhumanity of it, Mr. Walker, but it was never my decision.”

“You don’t feel responsible for setting history on its course? The unrest you created in society with your Resurrection Spell?” I pried. “Or do you feel war was always inevitable?”

“The name came from somewhere.”

“Indeed it did.”

The old woman gave me a strange look. “Do you hold me personally accountable for the Inevitable War? Is your perception of history really so narrow?”

I was bewildered by her rudeness for a second. “Erm…no.” I said, not sure which question I was answering. “I don’t, Rose.”

“And why is that?”

“I don’t know the whole story.”

“You don’t.” She nodded. “But the bombings marked the beginning of a new era, Mr. Walker. An era where we began to see ourselves as wizards first and human beings second. You see the war was never about wands and weapons; it was the clash of two ideologies struggling to coexist. Man has always struggled to coexist. It’s the acceptance of this conflict, the embracing of it perhaps, that allows us to prosper and grow. So you see, Mr. Walker, war is not the problem; it is merely the solution.”

“Then what was the problem?”

Rose gave me her enigmatic smile.

-


Albus Potter stared at the swirling fire in the bruised sky, his breath catching in his chest. Bombs fell in eyes glazed in equal parts fascination and horror.

A paper floated way with the wind in his direction, landing in-a-far-too-unlikely-coincidence beside his feet, carrying the emblem of a crow.

Have we impressed you yet?











Specks of light grew brighter in the burnt indigo sky as the last remnant of light bled out of the horizon.The air was heavy tonight punctured by the sounds of bombs and screams, and somehow, it was all anyone could think about.

She watched him stare out to the expanse of street lights, wand gripped tightly in his hand. The very sight made her nervous.

“Come inside, Al.”

He didn’t turn around, or make any indication that he had heard her.

“Come inside,” She insisted, again, grabbing his hand from behind. “I’ll make tea – do you want tea?”

“Let go, Rose.”

“I can’t.”

“Yes you can,” He said, voice monotonous. “I chose now so I could slip away without this pointless interlude. Go inside and pretend to be asleep again.”

“Where will you go?”

“That’s of no concern to you.”

Her grip hardened as he tried to yank his hand away. “Tell me something,” She began, quietly. “When Ginny made you leave, did you try to stop her? Did you even try?”

His entire body stiffened from behind.

“What does that have-“

“Answer the question.”

Then he was silent again, a moment passing in thought.

“No. I didn’t.” Came the quiet, restrained voice. “She’s always been blind to me.”

“Then you should’ve made her see.”

Albus moved so quickly she almost didn’t see him. His wand lashed through the air, and she slammed into the front door, her head hitting the handle. He stormed up the porch steps to her as she leapt to her feet.

Their voices overlapped as they rose.

“You have no right to speak about –“

“You should’ve wept! You should’ve begged for her to forgive you. She would have - she’s your mum for god’s sake.

“She’s never been anything of the sort-“

“You should’ve shown her that you love her!” Rose snapped, her fists balled. Her head throbbed from hitting the door so hard, but she was too angry to feel disoriented.

He gave her a bitter grimace. “I don’t remember bringing love into this.”

“Stop it.”

You stop it.”

“She hurt you, didn’t she?” She said, as his wand found its way to her throat, poking against the hollow. “That’s what this is about. And you can’t even face it—that’s why you ran away. That’s why you keep running.”

Silence.

“You didn’t fight, Al.” She said finally, frustrated. “You have to fight for the people you care about. Even if all they do is give you pain.”

“You know nothing about pain.”

“Come inside.”

His eyes flashed. “No.”

She flinched, her chin in the air as he trailed the wand up her neck – like it was a knife and he was fantasizing about tearing her in half. He wanted to punish her, she knew that. Teach her a lesson for bringing up the painful image of his mother. Maybe she was the closest thing the he saw to the woman – but the similarities ended at the hair and freckles. Rose was not Ginny. She would not let him walk away from her so easily.

“I won’t let you run away because you’re scared, just so you don’t have to face the fact that, yes Albus, there are people in the world that you-“

“That I what?” He demanded, a childish twinge seeping through his harsh voice. Aiming a hex at her, he threw it at the window instead, shattering glass everywhere around them. Then he threw his hands in his hair, spinning around in a very-human frustration. “God, you’re the most impossible-“ He stopped short and kicked the wall in muted rage, perhaps wishing it was her. He held more anger than he knew what to do with.

Almost as abruptly as the breakdown, sense returned and his head snapped back toward her. His eyes were burning.

“Don’t. Push. Me.” He hissed, mouth curling to form each word slowly.

Rose met his vicious glare and held it.

“I told you I can handle you.”

And the shoulders descended - almost like her words had crushed something inside him. Like he had just given up. Trailing away from her, he collapsed onto the bench on the porch, head folded in his hands.

Rose watched him with a confused curiosity, too afraid, for a moment, to move from the spot he'd left her in. Afraid that anything sudden or drastic might jolt him back into rage. But then quietly, she began moving towards him. She never could stay away for so long. He paid her no heed as she plopped down beside him, until atlast she spoke his name:

“Al.”

He glanced at her, looking almost-endearingly exhausted.

That was when Rose made the first move - trapping him in a hug. He didn’t push her away, instead squirmed uncomfortably in her arms, and for a moment it was like he was seven, not seventeen. Taking advantage of this rare form of defeat, she dragged him inside and made him tea and sandwiches. He ate in stubborn silence, refusing to make eye-contact. She held him again and this time felt him sink into her – finally he was too drained to fight - his messy head of hair falling limp against her neck. She rubbed his back hoping to lull him to sleep, or at least get him to relax. He was always so tense, so furious - such a rigid boy to hold. To show affection to. But Rose had to try, didn’t she?

They needed each other more than ever as England fell around them. And where would he go anyway? He was a complete fucking kid. All he knew was how to hurt and get hurt.

In the end all they had was family.

-

Listening to the mechanical swishing of the fan, his chest rose and fell restlessly. Cigarette smoke floated up to the ceiling and he rubbed his bleary eyes with his free arm. Rose was resting on his other arm, legs curled, face buried into his side, clinging to him with the fervor of a child - worried he’d try to leave again if she left him alone.

“Al.”

He didn’t reply but his breathing sharpened, answer enough that he was awake.

“I’ve been thinking about what you said – the noise. I think I know why I couldn’t hear it.” she whispered to him. “You said it sounded like Death, or dying, didn’t it?”

His body stiffened. “Yeah, that’s what it felt like.”

“Well I’ve seen Death, when I - you know – when I brought Hugo back. So maybe that did something to me? Maybe I’m desensitized to it, or something.”

“Maybe.” A pause as he blew puffs of smoke. “We don’t know what the noise means.”

“The fact it can kill you just by hearing it – it can’t mean anything good. It’s almost like a weapon.”

“Weapon.” His voice softened, mulling it over. A yawn. “I’ll tell you what I think tomorrow.”

Disappointment stung Rose - she wanted to keep talking to him. She liked the sound of his voice in the rare moments he wasn't taunting her or working some subversive powerplay. Like they were friends. And it hurt. It hurt knowing that only such grand-scale destruction of England could bring them together. When nightmares ranged from burning children to dead parents to carnivorous apparitions, it was impossible to get any decent sleep, alone.

She buried her face into his shirt. “It’s been a while since we’ve napped together.” She breathed. “Twelve years I think…god you’re soft.”

“Go to sleep, Rose.” He said, his tone turning snappish.

“And warm.”

“I’m pushing you off.”

“Sorry, sorry!”

The ends of her mouth curved up against his shirt’s fabric, and she heard him blow out his cigarette and toss it in the bin. He charmed off the lamp behind her. Then, kicking his shoes off, he shifted uneasily in the bed. She knew that he was calculating what to do about her.

Expecting a cold shove away, she was startled when another arm came to wrap around her. A kiss pressed onto her forehead, and he closed her in a strange but silent embrace; it was forceful, almost grumpy, but attached. He held her the way one holds a stubborn child, or a little sister that simply would not go away. Even the go to sleep, Rose held a twinge of brotherly authority, along with his usual insolence. For once, they were as they should’ve been. She listened to his breathing slow, and heard the beating of his chest fade against her eardrum.

She hoped for a heart underneath it all.





A/N: Reviews are like sunshine and happiness. Please sprinkle some sunshine and happiness on this terribly dreary story.


Chapter 15: Fear
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6/30 edits: reduced violence and basically all of the scariness




With whiskey goblet in hand, the Head watched the flickering wireless in his study. The blurry screen broadcasted a historic moment in wizardry - leaders from all over the globe conversing in a giant chamber, England’s own Kingsley Shacklebot in the hot seat about the attack on Camden.


"Magic fashioned in the way of muggle weapons…and used on muggles no less! Surely their authorities are suspicious, are they not?” asked the Italian minister.


“I’ve talked things over with their minister,” Kingsley responded. “He’ll do his best on his end to dispel the tension.”


There were other murmurs in the conference.


“…England is in a worse state than we thought…”


“…The Statue of Secrecy cannot be played with in this way…”


“…bombs made of magic…what kind of sorcery is this?”


“What if it spreads to my country?”


“What precautionary measures is England taking to contain this threat?” the Nepalese representative asked.


“And what does English Ministry of Magic intend to do about Resurrection magic?” the German chancellor demanded, amidst the rise of clamoring. “You must put an end to it.”


The Head watched Kingsley, as honorably as he knew the man to be, state that England was doing all it could. The man was a relic of the Great War and had once been in the very spot the Head was, but now it was clear that age had caught up to him. He was incapable, the Head thought, of defending his country anymore. He was too diplomatic, too compliant, and blind to the fact that England’s biggest problem may just have been its greatest weapon. It didn’t matter that Rose Weasley had brought back the dead, only that she and she alone could do it. Countries like Germany were beginning to see that.


The Chinese representative stood up, angrily:


“Rose Weasley possesses knowledge that disrupts the sanctity of life. She is a threat unto humanity itself. China will not allow this madness to escalate. Before things spread to our side of the hemisphere, the girl must be put to death.”


You’ll have to go through me first, the Head glared at the screen. His influence prevented the British Ministry from imprisoning Rose. His occupation made sure she was given proper training for her survival. Lastly, his guardianship ensured she belonged to him and him solely. Not his superiors. Certainly not Kingsley. No, there was no question of loyalty. He held her life in one hand and her brother’s in the other, and there was nothing she wouldn’t do for the precious little cripple.


Unlike his ward, the Head was not especially gifted in sorcery – but his experience and nerves of steel more than made up for it. He had worked hard to get where he was now. To think that a half-blood with his pathetic means could rise to second in command of the entire magical nation. He had learned to play the political game well and maybe lost his soul in the process. It was a necessary trade. It was still early. No game of chess was won without sacrifice, without strategy, and while old and world-weary men in the flashing screen bickered about the present, the Head would plan their future.


Rose Weasley. A prodigy without any special aspirations – she was different from him in a way that she held no experience, but the sheer magical aptitude to transcend it. She learned fast and held high tolerance for his brutality. The Head had broken many talented men before, but he had not quite seen someone – a girl no less – who conformed so effortlessly to what he wanted. Who bent without breaking. That she had not yet gone mad was testament of her fortitude, and a secret point of pride for her guardian.


She was his Pawn, his Knight, and finally his Queen – he would help her aim that wand in a specific direction, when the time came.


It was not yet his turn.





Somewhere in France, half-past two am, Ginny still had not returned home. Lily stayed upstairs, away from the noisy antics of her older brother and his most-recent girlfriend in the living room. After the end of said antics, she allowed herself to saunter downstairs and sneak a peek; James sat watching the telly intently, half-naked Marie sleeping in the crook of his arm. His expression held more shock than the day their mum had burst through the door, drunk, and collapsed on the floor.



Rather than exchanging words he gestured Lily in quietly, turning up the wireless.


“…on December sixteenth, the nation of England will be forcibly placed under quarantine. No wizards will be allowed to enter or leave by means of floo, intercontinental portkey …”


Lily’s eyes widened and she finally understood her brother’s distressed look. England was their broken home but the only home they knew, and they thought about it more than they should’ve. And that their dinner table was always set for four people had nothing to do with James’s girlfriend.


December sixteenth…..three months before the world cut England off. For God knew how long.


“Should I Owl Teddy?” Lily asked her brother, who was coaxing Marie off his arm and buttoning up his shirt.


“No,” he said, frowning. “I’m going alone.”


“James, don’t. Teddy’s an auror – he could go through the ministry and get information about where-“


“Oh please.” James ruffled his hair, crossly. He wasn’t an auror like the older boy or his deceased father, but he liked to think he was more than capable of finding his bratty little brother. He had a decent job in the French Department of Magical Foreign Affairs and decent experience in navigating political protocol, sweet-talking important figures. He worked hard, all the while lapping up the attention and reputation that came with being The Chosen One's son. He thought about Albus too often to admit, even if they'd never acted like brothers. There was literally an ocean's worth of differences between them.


But James figured he had time to cross it.




Warping through space, her knees landed on hard grassy earth. She was not as disoriented this time. Two weeks had passed since their last transportation – a precautionary interval for her period to cease. Albus refused to take her along if she was going to jeopardize their mission again with her female problems, never mind that it been his fault for not telling her of the side-effects.


“Where are we?” she panted, leaning on wobbly legs.


“Good question.”


Albus sat on his knees, head tilted, eyes zipping past each surrounding detail so intently that it was a wonder he even noticed her in the first place.


“So you know.”


For a split second, his green irises flitted upwards toward her.


“Yes.” And then, not leaving room for further questions, he grabbed her by the wrist and began dragging her. “Don’t slow me down today.”


Albus was difficult to keep to keep up with; he navigated through vines and trees and growths with effortless fluency, not caring how many times she staggered and tripped in his path. He didn’t answer her questions, claimed it would all make sense when it did. Several hours later, she pulled her arm from his grip and stopped, complaining for a break. He shot her an impatient scowl, but waited nonetheless, hands shoved into pockets.


Since the night she’d stopped him from leaving, her cousin had become to a degree, complacent. He was still Albus – strong-willed, temperamental, and rude - but it seemed like he was trying to get along. Rose had decided to meet him halfway.


“Ready now?”


Ignoring the exasperation in his voice, she nodded and gripped his hand again, interlacing their fingers. As they moved, she waited for him to finally start explaining – it was clear he was scouting the area. All she knew was that the potion took them to locations of her uncle’s past, but in reverse order. So, this was the second-to-last place Harry had used his wand – what was the significance of that?


Eyes spanned dead grass lined with symmetrical rows of slabs of stone, some as large as them. They went as far as eyes could see, distorting into a haze of grey as horizon approached.


“It looks like a graveyard,” she murmured.


“It does, doesn’t it?”


“But it’s not.”


He turned towards her, the corners of his mouth twitching.


“What?” she demanded.


“Nothing, go on.”


“Well,” she began, thinking. “It doesn’t have the chemical and fetid rotting smell and the tombstones don’t look nearly as old as the dates listed on them. So I think someone went to a great deal of trouble to make this place look like a graveyard.”


“Someone certainly did.”


She threw him a skeptical look. “Your turn.”


“I’m only admiring your deductions Rose Pose.”


“So I’m wrong?”


“I didn’t say that. Thought it, perhaps.”


“Twat,” she muttered. Admiring, bah.


“This place is a graveyard,” Albus said, dryly. “It’s a place for the dead. It’s a place designed specifically for the death of fears. My father-” He paused, reconsidering his next choice of words “- let’s say he brought me here many times. You are familiar with what a boggart is, aren’t you?”


Rose wasn’t following. “Why would Uncle Harry bring you here?”


He cast her an exasperated look. “It’s a training ground, Rose.”


“Wait - your dad trained you in graveyards?” This was new information for her.


But Albus didn’t answer, his attention taken by something in the distance.


“No more questions. Wand out. Now.”


Her face contorted. “If it’s just a boggart-“


“Of course it’s not just a boggart. That would be child’s play,” he hissed, his attention still away. They were moving again, more carefully than quickly. From somewhere Rose heard the echo of a familiar strangled voice. Her eyes widened, feet coming to a halt. Albus turned around, ready to look annoyed with her.


“I just heard Hugo,” she said, her voice shaking.


His expression flared. “Not possible.”


“I know what I-“


“No.” He shook his head, thinking something over. “I mean you shouldn’t be hearing – this place isn’t attuned for your – No, I mean, it’s only for—“ He stopped mid-sentence, a realization hitting him.


“Not possible,” he breathed.


“What, what?”


She wanted to shake him; he wasn’t making any sense.


“We need to move fast,” he said tersely. “We need to leave.”


He began dragging her again.


“Albus, if Hugo’s somehow-“


He turned and grabbed her shoulders, a mad look on his face. “Rose, what you heard was not your brother. It’s a-” He paused. “I’m not sure what to call it. It’s like a boggart, except more tangible, more dangerous, more alive.” Another pause. “There are….techniques in magic that allow wizards to create physical manifestations of one’s fears.”


“I don’t understand.”


“Rose, think. If you just heard Hugo, what could your biggest fear be?”


Her biggest- oh dear.




 


“Rosie?” Rang a childish voice from behind.


There stood her little brother in his hospital robe, looking as sickly and skinny as ever. His watery blue eyes looked up at her, and the mouth curved to a relieved smile. “Did you come to save me?”


Her chest panged. She started towards him, but Albus yanked her backwards. “That’s not your brother,” he growled, jaw clenched. “Look at him, more closely.”


And when he stepped forward, Rose saw him –it- in a different slant of light. The eyes were not blue but void of all color. He looked like something out a distorted black-and-white picture.


“Rosie.” A small smile played on it’s lips--lips that weren’t her brother’s but sounded like her brother’s. “What’s the matter? Did I do something wrong?”


Rose watched in dismay as the image staggered forward, collapsing on its knees. Her heart began to throb, drawing on a similar childhood memory of Hugo: the emergence of his condition. “I can’t walk, Rosie. Why can’t I walk?” It began crawling towards her, eyes drawing out to her, turning watery blue again. “It hurts, Rosie. It’s hurts so much.” She trembled at the pain in his voice, because it had happened before. Tears sprung to her eyes: she started towards the suffering boy. Albus jolted her backwards, forcefully.


“What did I say?” He hissed. “That’s not your brother.


She felt dizzy from tears. “I--”


The image gave her a desperate look and opened its mouth to speak.


Blood came pouring out like a fountain.


No no no no…


Albus was nearly wrestling her back now. He flung her back on her bum. “Close your eyes.” He ordered, not looking back at her. He rolled up his sleeves. Her heart sank as he drew his wand, moving towards the bleeding image with a caution reserved for tricky prey. Hugo’s sweet face crumpled, eyes looking at her with equal parts fear and expectation.


“Rosie, what’s going on?”


“Please,” she heard herself croak, tears falling from her jaw. “Please don’t-“


“Are your eyes closed?” Albus demanded, not listening to her. “Close them now.”


Fighting every cell in her body, she squeezed her eyelids shut: it was necessary. Her only solace was knowing her real brother was alive elsewhere, not having to see what she was having to see.


An sharp sound cracked through the air and something broke inside her; she did not open her eyes. She heard footsteps retracted. A hand gripped her arm, startling her as it pulled her up.


“Keep your eyes closed and follow me.”


She was too scared to ask what he had done.





This place, like the last, was an unnatural manifestation of magic – a training ground. A graveyard in which fears came alive and had to be put down. It was more difficult than a riddikulus charm – the fears turned to real entities and had to be dealt with accordingly. His father had brought him here repeatedly, for fears changed with age – it was training to become, in theory, completely fearless. Fear was an illusion, after all, a psychological impediment to mastering new and daring forms of magic. To progress.



Still, there were mishaps, more when he was younger. The times he could not face his demons, Harry would step in and rescue him. There was never a situation where Albus was without his father in the graveyard.


Except now.


It took Rose several hours to calm herself down; conversation was not necessary. They both knew precisely what her fear was, and Albus had never been the consoling sort. They kept moving. She figured he was using the action to trace his memory, figure out their path as he done in the Forest.


From the corner of her eyes, Rose saw a figure following them, and wandered how long it had been going on. It was unlike Albus to miss such an obvious thing. It darted between tombstones, slowly narrowing towards them, and almost abruptly Albus switched to an opposite direction - he was dragging her so hard she was sure he’d rip her arm out of its socket. Rose deciphered this: if she’d already faced her fear, that meant-


The figure flashed past them disappearing into rows of tombstones, and Rose could only discern a flash of red.


“Al.”


He didn’t answer, instead steered them backwards.


“If I faced mine, then maybe you could-


“You didn’t face your fear, I faced your fear,” he hissed at her. “Trust me when I say you don't want to face mine."


“Why not?”


He gave her an absurd look.


She tried to reason: “Maybe it’s better to get it over with. You said they’re not real-“


“That doesn’t mean they can’t kill us.”


Rose was taken aback: her cousin was never rattled enough to acknowledge his own mortality. What, or rather, who could possibly be his fear to elicit such a reaction – was it his father?


“Oh Albie?


A whimsical voice rang from behind them. It sounded nothing like Harry, but it did sound like someone she knew.


“I’m talking to you, Albie.”


She watched his shoulders tensed, his grip tightening around her hand as they kept walking. It was now clear who it was, though she couldn’t believe it. She snuck a look behind them:


The older, taller, handsomer version of Albus stood smirking at them, wand in hand, black eyes dead.





A flash of light shot over their heads, and a wall of fire erupted in front of them, blockading the way.



“Playing hide-and-seek?”


Wands drawn, they spun around.


It was like staring at Albus' future self - the Other was taller, broader, and if possible, more defined in features. And worse, there was something unrestrained in his Cheshire-cat smile, the kind that brought an ugly feeling in her stomach


The doppelganger strolled over to them in an Albus-like way, fire shadowing all the right spaces on his handsome face. The effect was horrific. He lazily twirled his wand as he approached, shooting sparks to the ground.


“If I didn’t know better, Albie. I’d say you were avoiding me.”


“I don’t need to.” Her cousin sneered in response.


The Other's dead black eyes lit up. Glazing over Rose, he stopped directly in front of the daring boy. Albus didn’t step back, jaw clenched. It was the strangest sight – the two Albuses staring each other down, their postures in perfect symmetry.


The doppelganger grew bored first and broke the trance. His fierce attention snapped to Rose.


“And look, ickle Albie brought our favorite plaything with him.”


She recoiled as he stepped toward her, capturing her wrists into smooth palms. He shot Albus a sly look.


“Hmm, I suppose they really are quite small… guess you were right Albie. Want to see how long they take to snap?”


“We don’t have time for games.”


“Oh Albie, that doesn’t sound like you at all.”


Albus squeezed between them like a wall, severing her wrists from the Other’s grip with his wand. Rose could see something strange occurring between the counterparts, their wands held in identical places, gazes transfixed on each other – neither was making the first move. Maybe they knew they were too evenly matched?


Albus didn’t play games he couldn’t win.


The doppelganger once again grew bored, shoving past Albus to her with unnatural strength – the boy nearly staggered. Maybe they weren’t so evenly matched at all. But why was Albus’ fear coming after her?


“Albie can be so boring,” the doppelganger sighed, pinching the rigid boy’s cheek endearingly. “He’s fun when he’s mad, don’t get me wrong. But I slap him, poke him, tickle him…Nothing. See? It’s so hard to get under his skin. Now you, Rosie Posie…”


Icy fingers brushed her face and she flinched on instinct.


He threw a nasty smirk at Albus, whose fists had curled into balls.


“I suppose that’s one way to do it.”


Shit.





Rose made a wild dash, her knees rattling, caught in a game of cat-and-mouse with something not-human.



She knew her cousin’s angry, violent side well – preferred it to this. They were always wildly bouncing between two extremes, but she knew she could exhaust him into stopping and pull him out of the mania. But that applied only to the real Albus, the Albus that grew frustrated and tired and took anger out on her because she was the only one around. Who squirmed like a petulant child in her arms.


His nightmarish counterpart did not bear even a semblance of humanity.


A laugh resonated from somewhere and Rose spun in frantic circles for the source. Her wand, it was hexed out of her hand before she could even make sense of what was happening. Her body flew through the air hitting the back of an enlarged tombstone. As skull throbbed and vision erupted in stars, the Other made his way to her, Cheshire-leer stretching across his face. He held her to the tombstone with magic until he was close enough to use his hands.


Then freezing hands pinned her by the sides, jumping up to her hair – she very nearly gasped from the unbearable cold of his fingers in her scalp. It was inhuman. She tried to squirm and kick and push and ram, her nails clawing, her head spinning, mouth sprouting venomous insults and near-pleas to don't kill me don't kill me don't kill me please…


The Other cast a spell, which gripped her throat and squeezed.


She tried to yank her head away but was caught between him and the tombstone. Her arms were pinned as well, gripped by freezing nonhuman hands. Struggling proved futile. The only thing she could do was wait it out, the strange sadistic punishment.


She heard the rustle of feet and opened her eyes – staring over the doppelganger’s shoulder at the real thing. Green-eyes stared back in blank astonishment. Albus stood, silently, wand gripped in hand for mass-murder and yet frozen in his spot. Could he not see the silent terror she was in?


Unable to scream, she pleaded with her eyes, willing her cousin to understand.


Make this stop.


The stunned expression drew back to impassivity, and he gave an almost-indiscernible nod. Pressing a finger to his lips, he returned a look she knew all too well.


On my signal.


Seconds passed like hours and finally, finally…


A spark of light erupted from his wand, striking the doppelganger – she slipped out of the spell's grip, gasping for air.


The Other turned and shot towards Albus, who blasted him back against the tombstone. Rose lunged for her wand, ducking as sparks erupted slicing the stone in half and dropping it on the Other.


And she and Albus ran, howls of pain echoing behind them.





Albus inspected the bruises in her throat and cast a healing charm, then quickly drew away.



“Thanks,” she muttered, not looking at him, and they began moving yet again.


He walked ahead, placing deliberate distance between them. When she tried reaching for his hand, he snapped it away almost violently and made it so he was only ruffling his hair. In the wake of such horror and depravity, there was awkwardness, and guilt, and a notion that Rose felt did not need to be duly expressed. He could not even bear to look at her.


There was an explanation building in the air, tensing, straining, aching to be chimed but held back by an entirely different fear. It was stuck, broken. Maybe they were broken, now. Maybe misconceptions had severed them from each other completely.


“Look-”


“He’s not you, Al. I know that.”


They had never needed so many words, so many explanations.


“Fears are fears,” she said, quietly. “Not fantasies.”


Her words, they took from him a sigh of relief: the lungs deflated, and shoulders relaxed, and the pained terse look in green-eyes cleared. He gave the smallest, briefest nod in her direction.


“Let’s find what we’re looking for and get out of here.”



The second-to-last place his dad had used his wand had turned out to be another place familiar to Albus’. As they traced his father’s past they were tracing his own, even the parts he wished to forget. Still he anticipated some type of solution. His father, in spite of all his contradictions, had method to his madness. Purpose to his schemes. A chamber glowing of moonlight resurfaced in his thoughts.



Storm-water pounded against stone as they made their way down rows of graves. In the torrent of wind, rocks and branches assailed their bodies. Sunlight was fading. Danger grew more palpable. A churning swamp had formed, crashing smaller headstones together.


They stepped, slipped, and then fell. She splashed down in flowing water up to her ankles.


Rain beat upon his open eyes as he gestured toward something ahead of them, yelling that they were close. He could feel it. The look on his face was fatigued but excited. Hands joined, albeit reluctantly, they plunged through the screaming whirlwind storm forward. Maybe their parents were waiting at the end of it.


The silhouette of a building surfaced in the horizon – a large dome-like structure. Albus sped up. Rose tried to keep his pace, rain pounding against her shoulders like endless fists. Vision blurred to three; it was hard to see clearly, but they could make out a figure standing in the very entrance of the dome.


The doppelganger had beaten them there.


Albus quickly ushered them under a thick canopy of trees, away from sight. Moderately protected from the storm, they collapsed on the ground in exhaustion.


Fuck ” Albus slicked back his wet hair, burying his face in his hands. “That thing is still alive. I knew I should’ve burned the body.”


“How did it know where we’d go-“


“Rose, he’s me.” He snapped. “He knows what I’m thinking. He knows every move I’m going to make.” A pause. “I can’t beat him.”


Rain pitter-pattered around them, drowning out this rare confession of defeat.


“I can distract him for you.”


He gave her an angry look. “You don’t need to encounter him again.”


“I’ll be ready this time.”


“He’ll be expecting it. If I can predict what you’re thinking, so can he.”


She frowned. “He’s not you.”


“He could be me.”


“He’s your fear, Al,” she said. “He won’t disappear until you face him. Sure, he’s the older version of you. So maybe he’s stronger and faster – hell, I don’t give up just because you’re …” She stopped short when he looked up at her, curiously. Then he looked away again.


“I’m not scared,” he told her, stiffly. “Odds are we won’t win this fight.”


Her brow narrowed: Albus was always calculating risks.


“Coward.”


He squeezed his eyes, ignoring her.


“Are you a wizard or not?”


“If you think I’ll-“


“Did you think finding our parents would be easy?” She repeated his jeer back to him. “What would your dad think, Albus, if he saw you right now? You think he’d be proud of you? I guess I can see why James was always the favorite.”


He immediately flared up. “You don’t know-“


“Don’t know what?” She scoffed, in a very deliberate way, aware that she was getting to him. But if she had to rile him up to get them out of this mess… “All I know is that James wouldn’t be a coward right now. Come to think, neither would Malfoy. Maybe that’s why I prefer him to you-”


A Silencing Charm slapped her mouth.


“Fine.” He was already moving.





It was a risky ploy – they had never quite dueled on the same side before – so they’d be playing it by ear. Albus hated the uncertainty of it all. He hated not being in control.



Before they parted, he pulled Rose back and told her to watch for unexpected knock-backs, a dueling specialty of his. She smiled and told him she knew, pointing to the scar on her knee he’d given her Third Year. She then squeezed his arm and told him something he had certainly not been expecting.


It stunned him, made him freeze up in a way he didn’t think he could. Was she purposely trying to rattle him at such a critical moment? But then, without further explanation, she left out into the open plain, and Albus descending into nearby shrubbery, waiting for his cue.


The storm surge kicked up stones blocking her path. She cut a direct path through the sludge with her wand, approaching the doppelganger.


“Couldn’t stay away could you?” He chuckled, dark eyes glittering. ”Where’s ickle Albie?”


“It’s just me.”


Lightning flashed overhead.


“I don’t believe you.”


“He got scared and left me behind. You know what he’s like. Not exactly Gryffindor material.”


Albus scowled into soaking shrubbery.


“Pity,” the Other tsked. “I was hoping he’d rise to the challenge. I get so bored here by my lonesome. But-” He gave her a poisonous smile. “- I suppose I could torment you for a while.”


She threw a jinx that he dodged easily enough.


Their eyes locked and then they were circling each other. He shot a hex— absorbed in her shield. Albus noticed that while she was not up to par with him, or the Other, her reflexes had improved. Her offense lacked fluidity but her shields were excellent. Albus rarely used shields in battle – he normally did not opponents a chance to attack.


This battle also gave Albus the chance to study the Other, identify strengths, pinpoint weaknesses that he could take advantage of. As expected, he was flawless. He was another Albus after all, only somewhat stronger. More ruthless. He aimed for all her sensitive regions; face, chest and lowers.


Rose would not be winning this battle.


Albus watched her skid across mud, knees red, breathing hoarse. The Other approached her, yet she lay there, limp like a doll. He spun a spell and then Albus heard a noise, a strange cracking like that of a bone, and then he heard Rose scream, actually scream, like he had never heard before. It was not a planned scream –


He had imagined the sound many times, of her bones breaking. What it would be like to snap those fragile little wrists that fit perfectly In His Hands, but he did not anticipate it being so ugly. How the sound was Ugly and it was In His Head and what she had said to him Before It All and now it was ruined, all ruined-


Before he knew it he was moving, wand out, lunging at the Other full force, splattering him back against the ground, not able to think about anything but the Sound, the damned sound how it was in his head Like A Fucking Chip or something like her screaming but she was silent now too silent Was She Dead?


Too busy waiting for her to move, he barely noticed as an impish smile flit over the Other’s face.


“Knew you’d come out.”


When she didn’t move, his attention flitted back to his second-rate copy. Albus gave him no time to stand up, lifting his body and ramming it against the ground hard. And again. A yo-yo: going Up and Down and Up and Down and Down Dead Was She Dead-


A hex shot missing by an inch and singeing his fingers.


A muscle in his jaw pulsed. In a single fluid movement, he drew his wand and hoisted the Other violently into the air by the neck.


“What are you going to do Albie? Kill me?”


“Soon.”


With a lazy tilt of the head, he watched the Other squirm and whimper as the spell applied pressure to his neck. It was a fascinating psychological experiment, for his rate of bullshit would decrease the closer he drew to death. Submission was directly proportional to oxygen depletion— and while Albus had no intention of killing him so easily— he was curious to see how his theory would pan out.


She was sitting up now, alive. She looked like shit.


Leaving his suffocating doppelganger hoisted in the air, he walked over to her. He leant on his knee to her.


“What’s broken?” he asked, softly.


“I-my leg, I think…did our plan work?”


“No.”


“Oh.”


“But it’s fine. I know how to handle it.”


“You do?”


He ignored the question. “How much does it hurt? Your leg.”


“It hurts a lot,” she admitted.


“Oh.” He thought something over, then spoke quietly. “I need you to close your eyes and cover your ears.” He grabbed her palms and thrust them over her ears. “Like this. Can you do that? For a few minutes.”


She nodded, slowly, not really understanding.


Albus left and Rose sat on the ground, eyes squeezed, ears covered. Waiting.





There were spells Albus had never had the privilege to use, until now.



Hominis Tractum: stretched limbs until they tore out of their sockets. Screams, his voice but not his screams rang out. It was not enough. He made sure not to kill the Other too easily - what would be the fun in that? His first fifteen murders had been messy and confusing and too close together and too quick … he intended to stretch this one out, in the very literal sense.


Killing someone that did not exist – did that even count? It didn’t matter. There was so much rage inside him, so much hatred consuming every fibre of his being that fear no longer mattered. It was that noise. That damn cracking noise ringing inside his head ringing, ringing, ring around the Rosie Posie Rose Pose what had Rose said to him before it all that he had not bothered to understand?


I love you Albus.


The words fumbled around in his head distorting and confusing – maybe he had imagined them? It was possible but not probable; he was not schizophrenic. But they made even less sense if he wasn’t.


Blood exploded everywhere – he hadn’t noticed the bones finally tearing away. At least the screaming came to a halt.


An eye for an eye. A bone for a bone. Or twenty.


The arms had disappeared off the limp body. Unsatisfied, Albus tore the legs off too. There. Now there was a certain uniformity to his work of art. He admired his craftsmanship for a minute. Then he strolled over to the future nightmarish version of himself, a mere carcass now. He kicked in its handsome face, no longer smirking, until it looked as disgusting as he may have felt.


It happened like this: you faced your fears. Then you faced them again. And again. And you kept facing them until you became the one thing worse than your fears. Until your fears feared you.


That was what his father understood. That was why the tests continued from his childhood into forever, so that the boy with One Too Many fears could become the young man with no fears. It all made sense, surely. Surely. Now that he had faced the worst of himself, what else could possibly be out there?




“Rose, open your eyes.”


Lashes fluttered and brown collided with a molten green stare.


For a moment she could only stare, drinking the familiarity of his features: face pale, jaw tense, mouth unsmiling, forehead splattered with not-his-blood….sense returned and abruptly she lurched backwards, hands splattering in mud. Albus deciphered the look on her face: it was disgust.


She had heard. She had heard everything.


“Rose, wait-”


“Don’t touch me,” she wheezed, looking stricken. “Please.


“Rose-”


“No, no, leave me alone,” she said miserably, head in her hands. “Oh my god, you’re sick. I can’t believe that you – oh my god.


“Rose-”


“Don’t touch me!” she shrieked, tears flooding her eyes. “Please…please…leave me alone. I want to go home. I want my real brother. I want him to hold me and not you.”


“You said something to me, earlier. Do you remember what it was?”


She furiously shook her head, eyes squeezed shut. Water poured over her head and down her face.


“Rose.” He gave her an imploring look, his own hair drenched. “You said you love me.”


She was still sobbing like a pathetic child. “I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to go home. I want Hugo and I want Mum and Dad…”


Sighing, he clapped a hand over her mouth. They would deal with what triggered her PTSD later.


“Rose,” he tried again. “Did you mean it, do you love me?”


The hysteria dropped, for a moment, and she looked at him with large brown eyes, rain drops hanging on the lashes.


A sheepish nod.


And that was that.


“Put your arms around my neck,” he instructed, and she did as she was told. He lifted her up by the legs, holding her like a child, and began to walk.


“Where are we going?” she asked in a small voice.


“We need to see what’s in the dome. That’s why we came here, remember?”


“I want to go home.”


“We’ll go home soon, Rose.”


“Ok.”


Rain calmed to a faint shower, washing away their fears.


Inside the dome stood rows of giant pillars, parallel to a breathtaking staircase illuminated by moonlight. It was an observatory: Albus remembered his father bringing him in here, as a treat for after Albus had faced his fears. It was a place for ancient astronomers, or like his father used to tell him, wizards interested in learning tales of the stars. The place, as dead as it was, held the very strong, almost unshakeable presence of his father. It was pure energy, magical energy. There was almost something holy about it.


At the very top stood an altar.


On top of it were bodies. The decaying bodies of Ron and Hermione Weasley.


They had died in the middle of a graveyard.


 





Chapter 16: Descend
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Newspaper in hand, Draco sat at the luxurious Malfoy breakfast table, enjoying breakfast, combing through the grim headlines, and patently ignoring the sounds of wife and son bantering on sides of him—apparently, some healer practice potion of Scorp’s had gone awry and left the entire sitting room in shambles. The house-elves stood at a safe distance, observing the pair in mix of fear (their Mistress’s yelling) and disgruntlement (Scorp left the worst messes). The father rolled his eyes, flipping a page. Daft kid.

On any other given day, Draco would’ve joined his wife in taking the mickey out of their hapless son, but today, he simply couldn’t muster the enthusiasm.  Tori was well enough into her rant without his help, and disheveled Scorp now stood flush in terror with the elves.  Draco dipped a biscuit in his morning tea and chewed slowly, contemplating more serious matters.

His family knew little about what he did, what he knew—how his occupation granted him insight into rather startling political machinations.  He’d been a long term attorney for many big names out there, and the ‘unofficial’ legal adviser for many more; he was acquainted with the likes of Mockridge and Hopkirk, as the famous Bones family, and had had dinner with the Minister on more than one occasion. Through these influential ties, he was granted a look into the subversive underbelly of Wizarding politics: the schemes, the powerplays, the subordination.

Rumors to upend the Minister floated between mouths of prominent officials.

Now, Draco wasn’t a big fan of Shacklebot, but he knew the aging, complacent wizard was still better than his younger, more ambitious second-in-command. Deception was practically a prerequisite for the job, making goodness relative and not the criteria; instead, what it really came down was reputation. Following all the recent muggle bombings and threat of quarantine, the Minister had become a rather unpopular figure. By public perception, Shacklebot was allowing England to crumble, while the Head of Magical Law Enforcement--a man of less diplomatic means – was trying to hold it together. Riots and protests had begun at the exterior level, demanding a change in power, and now the interior was slowly following suit.

The Head of Law Enforcement had gained considerable standing.

Still— Shacklebot was the man Potter wanted in office. While Draco and the ruddy Chosen One had never been friends in life (school boy grudges apparently last forever), the post-war restoration process had built an unspoken level of respect between them. And not just between them, it was their whole filthy Potter-loving generation: united for a common cause. The ten years following the Great War…were sickening and glorious all at the same time. Peace treatises between wizards and all magical creatures (even those centaur half-breeds), mudblood equality campaigns, that fucking S.P.E.W nonsense Granger was always on about—

Somewhere down the line, something must’ve happened because the restoration stopped. Stagnated. The relics of the Great War—people that had been the catalysts for change—passed away.  The Order of the Phoenix disbanded. Kingsley’s hair greyed. Some of it was natural causation, some of it was due to Potter’s inexplicable drifting away.

People’s theories and speculations as to why, in Draco’s opinion, were utterly ridiculous. He figured the man had simply gotten sick of constantly being in the public eye. After a childhood spent being exploited by choice adults, torn by expectations, ravaged by fear—

Draco too craved a life of quiet and privacy.

Contrary to what people thought, he did not hate Potter. Sure he didn’t like the Gryffindor either, but that was to be expected. Not like Potter especially cared for him either. 

Still, when their sons in school somehow became…mates, Draco didn’t throw a fit as large one would expect him to throw.

The day little Scorpie wrote home about his new friend, large crooked handwriting sprawling excitedly off the page—He’s bloody terrifying but sharp as a whistle and loaaads better than sodding Zabani—Draco recalled turning to his wife, mouth twisted oddly, and saying well, befriending a Potter is still better than dating a Weasley.

Draco would later learn his son was full of surprises.

The boy was bizarre in his choice of company (inherited from his mother), too bold for a Slytherin, and more than a little rebellious—though his rebellion held a homemade quality the father could only find endearing. Draco had never held the nerve to rebel against his father and felt maybe he had missed some adolescent rite of passage. Though it wasn’t just him. Childhood spent in the wake of a monster had forced his entire generation to grow up too fast. They were the generation who had seen it all.

Or so Draco thought.

Things were clearly not so much better now. Upheaval coated every corner of magical England. It came in the form of mindless violence but woke something darker in the hearts of witches and wizards—something that could not simply be the work of a dark lord. There was a sort of uncertainty behind the  unfolding events. An ambiguity. A…confusion he knew no one could really rationalize.

Why?

At least his generation had always known the threat they faced.

Shaking away these solemn thoughts, Draco looked up at his anything-but-solemn family: a group of characters that he loved in spite —or perhaps because— of their absurdities. For whom he’d do anything. His wife and son (and by some extension, the elves) were utterly ridiculous. At the current moment, the elves were busy exchanging high fives. The Mistress had ordained a manor wide ban on all Scorp’s potion-making endeavors, which, obviously, meant less cleaning-up for them. The boy cast them a betrayed look, before to turning back to his parents.

“You can’t punish me for studying,” He protested. “I have my exams in a week. Where am I supposed to practice now? What sort of parents do this to their kid?”

“The Slytherin sort,” Draco answered dryly, sipping his tea. “Go practice in the yard.”

“Oh no, he’s not going anywhere near my chrysanthemums. He can find a hovel to practice in if he wants, as long as it’s not here.”

Scorp looked perplexed. He shot a pointed look at his father, but the man had no intention of getting caught in the crossfire.  No one won against Angry Wife.

“Do what your mother says, Scorp. Find a hovel.”

“You lot don’t love me.” He grumbled. Slinging his bag of potion things over his shoulder, he stuck a finger out at the elves (who responded with equal enthusiasm) and, with an exaggerated sigh, stalked toward the door. Sodding soppy kid.

Tori called for him to be back by dinner. Draco gave his usual stern remainder to stay off empty streets.

“Stay where there are people, but not too many people. Susan Bones’ daughter got caught up in the middle of some riot last week. The nutters beat her till she couldn’t see straight. If you see any fighting, stay away. Let the aurors handle it.”

Sure, dad.”

“I’m serious,” Draco gave a grim look, and the boy’s expression immediately sobered up. He nodded.

-

Scorpius stood knocking at the Weasley residence.

Later he stood, apron clad, face in dense concentration as he sliced mandrake roots. His movements were overly-attentive, cautious, as if he expected he expected the slightest mistake to cause an explosion. Dropping them into the cauldron, his face found relief when the liquid simmered to a pleasant blue shade. Then he haphazardly scoured through Potter’s cabinet for a bottle of horklump juice. 

“Three drops only.” Came the mumble behind him. The boy sat reclining in his chair, puffing smoke.

“Three drops. More and it’ll-“

“-overpower the boomslang and turn the potion poisonous.” Scorpius finished dutifully.

Potter hmmed in agreement, a faint sound not all there. Scorpius peeked a glance at him: just the very way he sat was offensive, with his legs spread wide open, head splayed back. His shirt was unbuttoned completely and his hair was unkempt. Dark circles rimmed closed eyes. While it was impossible for his best mate to look anything but attractive, even at the heights of his magical mania, he was scruffier than Scorpius had ever seen him.

His wand was not at his side but tossed idly on the table beside him, and Scorpius couldn’t help but find this strange. Potter normally clung to the instrument with the fervor of a lover.

Potter alternated between smoking and injecting his arm with some muggle potion that made his fingers curl and his closed eyelids flicker. Then, a sharp, shaky exhale, the stretching of his limbs. Heroin. Scorpius had learned a bit of muggle pharmacology as part of Healing training – apparently, chemistry held the same process of rearranging properties as their potions.

No wonder Potter seemed so enthralled.

“Muggles have proven themselves to be…unexpectedly brilliant,” he murmured, breathing deeply. Sweat coated his forehead.

“Cigarettes and opiates.” Scorpius snorted. “Bloody genius lot. Congratulations. You’ll never need to brew a poison again, Potter.”

“On the subject of brewing poisons, your potion--”

“Don’t you start. I haven’t messed it up yet.”

Potter’s eyes fluttered open, vaguely amused and far too keen, Scorpius thought, for someone with so much chemistry in their system. “Muggles take opiates as a pastime, Malfoy. They have more… effective ways of killing people.”

The topic of casual discussion had grown quietly unnerving, and more than rhetorical, but Scorpius summoned his Muggle Studies knowledge and approached it with the nonchalance and sarcasm the other boy had grown to expect from him.

“Oooh, guns and small knives. So scary,” he jeered. “I reckon we’ve got the upper hand with our wands, Potter.”

“Don’t underestimate muggles. They can do more without magic than we ever could. And as for our wands…” Potter gave a lazy bat of the eyelids. “They’re twigs. Hardly the most reliable sort of weapon.”

It was a strange response from the boy who all but infatuated with his wand, yet there it sat on the table, untouched.

“On the subject of undeserved violence,” Scorpius interjected—prelude to a conversation he felt was quite overdue. A question had plagued his mind since that day the cousins had been sparring.

“Why’d you attack me?”

Undoubtedly his best mate was a bastard, but Scorpius liked to think he was reasonable enough not to pick fights simply for the sake of it. Albus Potter made intelligent, rational decisions. Save for the Hogwarts incident (where the alternative would’ve put both their lives were at stake) he had never attacked Scorpius. He had never been inclined to, and now Scorpius couldn’t help but feel confused and distraught and the slightest bit hurt, though he knew that sort of emotional response would get him very little from the boy.

“Fishing for an apology, Malfoy?”

“An explanation would be nice."
 
“I don’t normally attack you, do I?” Potter tilted his head, as if contemplating the weather. “I suppose that makes my behavior a bit…inconsistent.”

“I’ll say.”

They were in brave new territory now- territory Scorpius wasn’t sure he wanted to be in with Potter. The boy had grown strangely quiet and pensive then, and Scorpius didn’t know what to do except return to concocting his potion. Anger simmered inside him.

“You know, I rely on you to be a consistent bastard.” He said, squeezing his mandrake roots too tightly.  “You can’t just change your mind. You gave me permission years ago-”

“And why can’t I change my mind? Isn’t that what people do?” Potter didn’t snap, but the soft timbre in his voice was lethal enough.

People, yes. Not you, Scorpius thought but didn’t say, for the boy was watching him with a curious sort of suspicion. The look on his face was decently calm, almost like he was in a drug-induced trance, but something in his eyes seemed to promise murder.

Then he lit another cigarette, earlier tension cast away so quickly Scorpius wondered if he’d imagined it.

“You’ll have to reconsider, Malfoy,” He said, releasing the smoke in a single, wispy stream. “I understand that some sensations can be difficult to curb. So if you like I shall help you find someone else to,” —a smirk—, “inflict with these uncontrollable urges.”

Scorpius blinked.

“That’s not what I—”

“An heiress perhaps. Someone of your caliber: smart, pretty, charming—”

“I like Rose.” His stomach was jittering like mad, but he kept his voice light, steady. “I really, really like her. She’s an incredibly smart, incredibly pretty, incredibly charming person—and I reckon that’s not too much a stretch of the imagination for you either—”

“Irrelevant.”

“It’s not irrelevant to me.”

“Your feelings are based on an exaggerated perception of reality,” an eyeroll, “Rose is clearly average looking at best.”

“You have to say that.”

“I don’t have to say anything.”

“Is that right?”

A pause.

For many reasons— the topic was awkward and difficult to navigate. First, they were hardened Slytherin blokes who had spent their boyhood testing every possible way to, as Scorpius thought of it, fuck shit up. They lived in the realm of danger and rebellion and secrets and exciting elaborate magical schemes. Girls and girlfriends weren’t even worth noting—not that Scorpius had had many during his lifelong acquaintance with the demanding asshole. Unsurprisingly, Potter himself had held female attention since he turned fourteen, and so much that it had simply become background noise. Dull. Lost in the peripheral.

Then, of course, Potter disliked any bloke who pursued his female cousin. Within this context, Scorpius figured he became just some bloke. Touch her and I’ll hex off your filthy hands did not have to be verbally communicated; it was heard loud and clear between the firing of ‘stray’ spells.

“I’m only trying to help you, Scorp.” He said, stiffly. “Anything you think you feel is due to heightened hormones.”

“At least I have hormones. Say, Potter, when’s the last time you had a good snog?”

Green eyes flashed, making no effort to conceal their outrage at this.

“If you intend to have Rose for a good snog then-”

Fucking hell, that’s not what I meant! I just meant-”

“You can find a million girls to snog. Prettier and more accessible girls.” Potter snapped, very blunt now.

“That’s not what I—”

“Rose has more to offer the world than kissing abilities.”

Scorpius froze and grew uncomfortably silent, for the stone-cold boy was displaying a side not often seen; something he, perhaps, worked well to keep buried beneath his usual anger and scorn. Unsure of how to respond, Scorpius mixed his concoction in quick agitated circles. He waited until Potter had smoked a few and cooled down considerably before attempting conversation again.

“So why the heroin anyway?” he said, prompting a new subject. “Aren’t muggle potions supposed to – I dunno- make you thick and dim?”

“It’s true that a large dose of heroin can impair concentration, coordination, etcetera. Some say it distorts the mind. However,” Potter paused, his tone taking a dulcet quality. “I’ve made… special amendments to the recipe.”

He turned to Scorpius, with a sly half-smile. “Want to see something?”

The blond could only nod.

Potter  drew to full height, strolling over the table with his wand. He picked it up and spun in it between careless fingers. Grew bored. Set it down.

“A large dose can also yield a state of intense relaxation that is impossible even with hours of meditation. A state needed for the mastery of magic that would, otherwise, take me decades to even attempt. See, Malfoy, I simply do not have that kind of time.”

His mouth hissed words—Wingardium Leviosa—and Scorpius watched in dismay at his cauldron lifted into the air, as if on its own. The large and magnificent pot stood mid-air, trembling, its blue contents sloshing over the sides. Wandless.

“Merlin’s pants.”

Potter smirked. “Muggles are clever, aren’t they?”




Chaos. Everywhere.

What had once been deemed civil disobedience had descended to violence. Rioters now blasted down doors to shops, Gringotts, and other large Wizarding establishments.

Why? To prove a point.

Thankfully the Ministry was underground, safe for the moment.  Meanwhile, Aurors scoured magical England with the goal of upending any other violence. The protesters were a mix of various anarchist groups, as well as the really pissed off, having united for the simple objective of raising hell.

Rose didn’t like mobs and mobs didn’t like her, a lesson she’d learned very well from the Diagon Alley massacre. Luckily her comrades were more than comfortable handling the dirty, elbow-rubbing work. More a liability than anything in large crowds, she stayed afloat on broomstick, casting shields and hexes when and where needed: damage control. This kept her out of the frenzied mania and gave her a bird’s-eye view of all that was happening.

Twenty Aurors lined the area around Gringotts, compressing the mob and keeping the violence contained. Kovy had had his eye punched in twice. Cynthia had her robes torn by two hysterical women. Meanwhile Florian, along with two burly aurors, shoved and pushed their way to the center of the crowd.

Protesters had nearly dismantled the doors to Gringotts. Rose continued shooting protective shields at the passageway, but it was futile. Every shield she threw was instantaneously countered with six penetration hexes. She was miserably outnumbered. She’d been at this for hours and now her arm was beginning to ache.

A rioter stood atop the front steps, ranting into the mobs of zealous people.

“The Ministry is responsible for the obstruction of safety and justice! Enough is enough! We won’t leave until Shacklebot and his administration agree to step down. They’ve done nothing but ruin England in the face of the world. They are incapable of defending us any longer! They’ve endangered our friends and families—“

The man fell. Stunned.

Rose stared in awe as people ran shrieking from the spot.

“What the hell?” She snapped into her magical comlink. “We’re under orders not to attack civilians unless first provoked.”

“He was being annoying. It provoked me.” An accented voice muttered—Florian, “All that obstruction of safety and justice nonsense – just look at the hypocrisy there…what? All right, je suis désolé Capitaine. I’m sorrrryy-”

“Sorry won’t mean much when the press catches wind of aurors heedlessly attacking protesters.” A feminine voice—Cynthia—retaliated fiercely.

“Calm down, Mendoza. I didn’t stun him that hard.”

Kovy’s voice joined: “Way to get everyone in trouble, French.”

Well, so sorry for doing my job!

It’s not your job to-

“Stop arguing you lot.” Rose muttered, feeling a headache from it all. “Mr. Hashimoto, will you contact the Head and inform him of what’s happened.”

She cast a wary look down at the flourishing mob.

Tell him we’ll need reinforcements.”

-

The Ministry had no reinforcements to send anywhere. Protests all over England had heightened to a startling level of violence. 

The Head’s orders, which Mr. Hashimoto quoted exactly, were to ‘tell Weasley to bloody handle it’.

Rose groaned, throwing another shield to the grand doors of Gringotts.

“Did you hear that, Capitaine?”

“Shut up, Dubois.”

Do something, then.” Florian grunted, and Rose watched him hex through a band of irate witches. “The next woman that pulls my hair, I’m pulling hers back.”

“Maybe we should try to talk to them?” Cynthia offered. “Hear them out.”

“Are you kidding?” Kovy laughed. These people don’t want to talk. They want to set shit on fire.”

“Capitaine,” Florian called. “Try to talk to them.”

That’ll bloody get her killed!” Kovy argued. “No Rose, don’t listen to these idiots. Stay in the air.”

“I’m coming down.” Rose said.

Rose wait-“

“You’re needed in the air Rose.” Mr. Hashimoto said, sternly. “It will be impossible to manage the mob once they break through the gates. The situation is progressively worsening all over England. As you know, the largest rioting this morning was outside St. Mungos… I’ve just received message that they’ve broken through.”

The comlink crackled in prolonged silence.

Everyone stared up, watching as Rose Weasley’s broom shifted directions.

Objectives.

“Rose what are you—“

She flew away.

-

Somebody had decided to take advantage the chaos. Healers and nurses, stunned, littered sides of the dimmed hallways by magic much darker than that of ordinary protesters. Everything was too still, too quiet, as Rose made her way to Hugo’s room. She pushed through his door, heart slamming against her chest.

Bedsheets. Empty.

On the wall was an enigma, large, flame-ravaged into the shape of a crow: prominent like the banner of victory.

Her stomach collapsed.




Prophet Headlines:

St. Mungo’s Security Compromised: the Literal Boy-Who-Lived Abducted.

Were the Protests Part of a Ploy to Kidnap the Resurrectionist’s Brother?

How are the Camden Bombings linked to the Hugo Weasley Kidnapping?

The Ordine Corvis: a Closer Look at the Most Dangerous Crime Cell of the Decade.

Rose Weasley Refuses All Interviews, Hides from Public Eye.

Daughter of Famed Heroes to the Most Wanted Witch in the World: What is The Resurrectionist Hiding from us?




Rose Weasley had abandoned her post and compromised Gringotts security for her own selfish needs, something the Head intended to make very aware to her.  She flinched but held her ground at the harsh yelling—public humiliation. Once it was over, she picked up her wounded ego and slipped away. Her unit mates came after her, but their attempts to console her proved futile.

The search for her brother after two mere weeks had hit a wall. With no leads, the department was ready to put it on the backseat and move onto more pressing cases.

Bidding goodbye to the others, Rose headed towards her desk to pack up for the evening. Kovy accompanied her without needing to be asked, not that she ever would. Still, it was the mark of a good friend.

“Don’t get disheartened.”

“Of course.”

“We’re going to find him.”

“Right.”

“You’re not alone in this. Everyone’s behind you. You know that, don’t you?”

“Uh-huh.”

It was, by now, clear that Rose wasn’t listening to her friend, and all the reassurances and support in the world didn’t mean a thing to her.

“Rose,” he said, observing her expression with caution. “You’ve worked so hard to get here. Don’t ruin it by doing something…rash.”

This was the girl who'd clawed her brother from the cold fingers of Death. Who had committed an irrevocable taboo, and struck fear into the hearts of millions. Who'd altered the foundation of Magic Itself.

She returned a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. A practiced smile.

A Resurrectionist’s smile.




“We need to do something about this.”

“I’m busy.” Today, Potter was tearing apples from trees and levitating them onto metal rods he’d stuck into the earth; precision practice; for he had to learn to mentally visualize his targets without the direction of his wand.

Scorpius stared at him.

“Potter,” he lowered his voice. “The Ordine Corvis were after you at one point, weren’t they? Then out of nowhere they kidnap Hugo, your cousin. You don’t think that’s curious and the slightest bit suspicious?”

“Of course it is.” He said, simply, and returned to practicing his wandless enchantments.

“You have theories?”

Of course, Malfoy.”

Scorpius drew an annoyed breath. “Then, why not? Why aren’t we looking for him? Why aren’t we doing anything?

“I’m busy.”

“This is your cousin, Potter! Your family – doesn’t that mean anything?”

The boy didn’t answer, taking his time to spin an apple around in the air and transfigure it to- well Scorpius never found out what, for the fruit combusted into mush and slopped to the ground. Potter’s jaw twitched, frustration; fingers curled as though craving the feel of his wand. A habit, Scorpius knew, that he was clearly trying to break.

So he fished his pocket for a different addiction. Lit it, and closed his eyes, exhaling strands of smoke.

“Think long and hard about what’s happening, Malfoy,” He breathed. “Hugo’s been kidnapped by one of the most dangerous terrorist cells out there. The most valuable being in the entire country has been taken. The case gains immediate press attention. The obvious deduction to make is that-“

“-they’re baiting Weasley-”

“-yes, but doesn’t it strike you odd that they would choose to go after Rose only when she’s been allotted to the case, when they’ve never shown any interest in her before? The resurrection spell is valuable but not valuable enough to risk their entire organization. Not to mention, they left their enigma in broad sight at the hospital - there are more ultimately more subtle ways to bait someone. No, these people have higher ambitions than resurrection. They’re following in league with the Camden bombings. They’re ruthless. They’re unafraid. They want the world to know what they can do.” 

“So what, it’s some twisted powerplay with the Ministry?”

Potter pressed his lips, eyes still closed.  “They’re advertising.”

-

What Albus didn’t reveal to Scorpius:

The Ordine Corvis were advertising, but it was very targeted advertising. As they had done with the Camden bombings, these people were again demonstrating their prowess to the world. But while the bombings had been impersonal---the attack on his family was intimate. If they were baiting Rose they may as well have been baiting him.

Confrontation between him and the man called Graham Paisley was unavoidable; it was only a matter of time. Still, he’d only just cracked wandless magic, and he was nowhere near the skill level he’d like to be. It would take some time before he could do something besides levitate objects. Yet here they were, forcing his attendance. The gauntlet had been cast and cast too early—the risks were too high and unfavorable. Albus was, first and foremost, a young man of calculation. He knew consequences would be dire if he decided to play into this very obvious trap.

And still. 




They left at night, passing from the familiar into the unfamiliar.

Little Norton—only the brave dared to speak its name.

The pavement was damp where all three tread, slippery with slime and filth and the devil-only-knows, for God had long abandoned it. Hollow and vaguely hostile faces watched them from shadows—grey members of a congregation of Death. Tongues hissed obscenities. Bony fingers slipped into stranger pockets. Figures were crooked and angular, starved limbs bustling beneath concealing dark robes. Murderous men. Weeping women. Beaten boys. Grimy girls. All wizards and witches, yet unable to find sanctity and sustenance in the Art.

Only fear.

Rose kept her hood cast low over her face and remained close to the boys. Her eyes were trained ahead. Her practiced hand waited at her wand.

Albus didn’t speak with her except to give orders, and for the most part she was simply meant to follow him without questions. He still hadn’t explained to her about how and why he knew so much about the Ordine Corvis, but that was to be expected. Unlike her he had a plan, and she’d have to play along until he decided to indulge her.

Still, he managed to engage Scorpius in discussion, which was strange and unexpected given what had happened between them. The Slytherins walked ahead of her in conversation, discussing plans and ideas to which she was not privy. Abruptly the boys stopped outside a battered building, its outside a faded color of brown.

“Rose will wait out here. Scorpius will accompany me inside.”

“Why?” she demanded.

“Do you want to find your brother or not?” Albus countered.

She looked slightly helpless for a moment, but nodded.

For a while the boys conversed amongst themselves, and Rose sat watching her surroundings. England’s wizarding community had always bore an older feel to its muggle counterpart, but this—this felt like stepping back in time.

She’d never been in a place so far outside government influence. What little she knew of Little Norton she’d heard over hush-hush conversations between drunken colleagues: it was a place law did not reign. Theft and street violence were staples of everyday life, and murder was mere dinnertime conversation. Most youth did not attend school, instead joined into the various gangs and groups that dominated the dark underbelly of the wizarding world. Werewolves and half-breeds walked freely through streets, bearing the brunt of stigmas. Intermingling between different dominions created reason for further violence. And people favored it, people favored being left to their own devices.

The night was cold and ran an involuntary shiver through Rose, leaving her nose pink. She wrapped her cloak tighter and closed her tired, aching eyes. It was sickening to think that this was the disorder England would fall to without the Ministry. Without order. That in spite of his questionable methods to power, maybe the Head had the right idea in mind. Maybe Kingsley had outlived his purpose. And maybe, just maybe, what England needed now was a firmer hand. A fist.

“Rose.”

Opening her eyelids, she found two jackets extended out to her. Scorpius and Albus stood at equal heights, equal lengths, one smiling and the other scowling. Both stared at her expectedly.

She glanced between the jackets, sheepish and confused.

“Not really that cold,” a murmur, “Just hurry the hell up.”

“Aye Officer Weasley.” Scorpius grinned, giving a playful salute. “We’ll be quick, won’t be Potter?”

“Of course.”

Albus waited until Scorpius was deftly out of sight before tossing his to hers. She caught it and nodded. He smirked, copying the blond’s gesture with a sarcastic air. She rolled her eyes. With a single word, he turned and stalked behind Scorpius into the building.

-

Upon entering, Potter latched the door and turned to him.

“Remove your shirt.”

Scorpius blinked at the casualness of this demand.

“Really Potter, not even going to buy me dinner first?”

“Remove your shirt.” The boy repeated, more irritable than before. He drew his wand and pointed it at the blond. “We’re wasting time.”

Before Scorpius could demand an explanation—or really just yell—Potter hexed the shirt off. It was a bloody nice shirt too. The blond squeezed his eyes, sensing that he had involuntarily become a subject of one of his friend’s strange experiments.

But, instead of the anticipated pain, he felt only a faint burning sensation around his bicep. Opening his eyes, he glanced at his tingling flesh.

It was back. That sodding bird tattoo Potter had once supposedly removed for him was back.

Scorpius stared at it, stupefied.

“You said you made it go away.” He said, voice drawing in anger. “Oi! You lied!”

A snort. “How perceptive.”

“What the fuck Potter?”

“I hid it to make you feel better at the time. I wasn’t going to get rid of it.”  Potter gave a cold laugh that made the blond’s heart sink. “Oh no. It’s too valuable. You worked too hard to get it for me.” He strolled over and placed a hand around the bicep. “Relax, Malfoy. Did you think I would hurt you? When you’ve proven so useful to me? Certainly not.”

“I’m not doing this for you.” Scorpius sneered, yanking his arm away from him. Hurt stung his insides. The fact that his best mate had been harvesting him all this time for some secret plan was almost too much to bear. “I’m doing this for Hugo.”

“That’s nice Malfoy—now, do you know how the dark mark was used to summon Voldemort?” Potter tilted his head, observing the tattoo keenly. “Did your father ever tell you? Mine did—in great detail as a matter of fact.”

The blond squirmed. “They’d touch it with their wands.”

Green eyes glinted with unmasked fascination. “Care to demonstrate?”

“Now?”

“Yes.”

This was the moment in which it all began to make sense, why Potter had brought them to this lawless place. It was the sort of place anyone could away with anything. Coercion and torture included. Scorpius swallowed, bare shoulders hunched, and pulled out his wand. He looked at his best mate, a cold, ruthless boy he’d never knew how much to trust.

“We’re doing this for Hugo. To get him back.”

A smirk. “Of course.”

“You mean it?”

“You have my word.”

Scorpius was still skeptical. “But can you handle these people? I mean...if you summon them, do you know how to fight them?”

“Do you doubt me?”

“No.”

“Well then.”

Silence.

“But what’s in it for you?” He asked quietly.

“Hugo will be fine. Rose will be fine. That’s all you need to concern yourself with.”

“And what about me? Will I be ok?”

“Have you been anything but?”

The answer was no.

Scorpius considered all these responses, and tried to muster the last shred of faith he had left in Potter. Did he have a plan? Like always- yes. Did he have a secret agenda? Like always-yes. But would he let Scorpius and co. be collateral damage? 

Hopefully not.

Scorpius closed his eyes and touched the tattoo with his wand.

It happened in a daze of seconds. The swirl of wind, the apparition lightning, the collision of bodies to floor, ropes shooting from Potter’s bag—when the turmoil-haze dissipated all that was left were two men, bound, roped by the feet like cattle. One was rotund with a large hairy arms and a menacing unshaven face. His companion was smaller, younger looking and thrashed anxiously on the ground.

Scorpius quickly drew on his shirt.

“And who the fucking hell are you two?” The hairy man snarled, struggling against the ropes.

Potter’s expression dulled.

“Neither of you are Graham Paisley,” he muttered, as if disappointed.

“Wha—‘course not!” The man gave a vicious chortle. “You think a pair of school boys can summon him as they please? No, you get to deal with us.”

A spell tightened around the bonds around their ankles. The smaller man yelped as Potter hoisted them both into the air.

“Enough.” He said, irritably, staring up at them. “You two still have the opportunity to prove useful yourselves to us and I suggest you take advantage of it.“

When the men began yelling obscenities, Potter threw their bodies to the ground in a startling display of violence. He now looked decently annoyed.

“We’re looking for the boy named Hugo Weasley. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. He’s a bit famous.”

“Po-” Scorpius started but the boy sent him a glare so severe he promptly shut up. Of course. They needed aliases. “Green-eyes.” Potter raised a slightly humored brow but nonetheless nodded. “Ask them where he’s being kept. And how many men are around.”

Abiding, Potter lifted their lolling, disorientated heads up. “Wasn’t that fun?” He threw them a wicked smile. “Would you like to go again?”

The men furiously shook their heads.

“Then where do we find Hugo Weasley?” Scorpius asked, brow terse.

“A manor. On the other side of town. You can’t fucking miss it.”

“How many men?”

When the hairy man grew tightlipped, the younger spoke. “Too many.” He said, his pinched face fearful, “You’d never get through…it’s a sodding army.”

“Army,” Potter mused, his jaw twitching with contained laughter. “How charming.”

“You little brat.” The hairy man snarled, “Once Paisley gets ahold of you, we’ll see who’s laughing—

“Oh I look forward to it.”

“Green-eyes.” Scorpius gave Potter a wary look, and gestured towards the door.

Potter rolled his eyes, lazily flicking his wand. A deafening blow landed on both men’s heads and they flopped to the ground, unconscious. Potter levitated their lolling bodies and then, almost as if he’d been doing it all his life, used the spare bits of rope to tie their bodies to two separate polls. It was with equal systematic efficiency that he placed coverings over their mouth, ears, and eyes, and bound their wrists together, leaving absolutely no chance for escape. At last, he performed his trademark memory charm.

Scorpius stared—Potter was nothing if not thorough.

“So, going after Paisley. That’s been your plan all along.”

“He’s been pursuing me for months. It’s time I return the favor.”

“Do you even know what you’re going to do?”

A pause.

The corners of his mouth twitched in not-quite humor. “I’ll think of something won’t I?”

This was the moment in which Scorpius figured out something shattering.

“Let’s move.” Potter said tersely, sensing this but not looking at the boy, thereby closing the topic.

-

A third body awaited the Slytherins when they stepped outside: a large gruff looking man lay face flat on the ground.

Rose sat on the top step, guilty head buried in her hands.

“I told him that I wasn’t interested,” a sigh, “Politely, of course. Then he made a grab for my bum and I made a grab for my wand and this sort of…happened.”

Scorpius stared.

Sodding hell Weasel, how hard did you stun him?”

“Hard,” Albus murmured, lolling the head over with his shoe. He sounded vaguely impressed. 

-

They began traveling, for the boys now knew where to go. Rose didn’t like being kept in the dark about their methods, but she wouldn’t press the issue if her brother waited at the end of all the confusion. That he’d gotten caught up in all this only made her angry at herself. Her reputation had undoubtedly endangered him, and these…these vultures sought to take advantage of that. Her sweet, innocent baby brother. It had been two weeks. What if they weren’t feeding him? Hugo had never lived outside the comfort of other people. He was a soft boy who had always been the center of parents’ or healers’ attention and the constant object of his sister’s affections.

They traversed broken streets and grassy plains, and the pounding in her chest grew. Little lights flickered at distance, and the smell of warm bodies—sticky perfumes and pungent sweat—bombarded them. They made a few quick turns through the bustling market, people shoving past them in a whirlwind of grey robes and darkened hoods. In the midst of it a hand gripped hers. Scorpius. He gave her a soft smile that she didn’t know how to return. Albus had taken the leading role, as always, and strolled ahead of them both.

The clouds began to pour. Keeping his pace down twisting leaky alleys of the underbelly of the Wizarding world, they saw the ugliest of humanity. The broken and lost and hungry…drowning in their own filth. Sin occurred in the gap of shadows; men and women indulging each other. Famished slavering jaws, lolling tongues, wet skin sliding skin, violent and infectious and feral in so many ways. Rain couldn’t absolve them. The moans of the perpetual night were enough to run a chill through any passer-by.

Amidst the lust-haze a hand, skeletal and sticky, wrapped the skin of her wrist and she twisted herself away, sloshing into a nearby puddle. The crazed man lunged at her but instead froze. A flash of lightning, and Albus was illuminated behind her: glaring, and nightmarish. When he pulled his wand, the other man hissed and slinked back into the darkness. Rose staggered to her feet. Albus wrapped an arm around her and pulled her along.

Turning a sharp corner, they disappeared into another spindly alleyway, their movements cloaked by the blackness of the autumn night. Scorpius caught sight of the manor first—it was easily the largest thing in the whole damn place, though, he claimed, not quite as large as the Malfoy manor.

-

Light returned as rain subsided, dawn breaking, as they drew closer.

They’d tried to ignore the growing scent of fetid, rotting decay too long—human decay—and could now see everything. Buzzards circled the surrounding piles of bodies….gaunt and bloodied and fresh.  Men and women. Children.

It was worse than murder. It was animalistic slaughter.

What were the Ordine Corvis up to?

Scorpius stared at the corpses, eyes watering from the rancid smell.

How—how the hell? Doesn’t the ministry know about this?”

Rose shook her head, something ugly making its way up her throat and escaping her in a whimper. That her brother was buried somewhere underneath it all was too sick and painful to even fathom. Albus held a hand over his mouth and nose.

“Let’s keep moving,” was all he said.

-

They moved, more anxiously than before, the stench of Death readily growing as they neared the manor. Crows collected on passing trees and benches, their leafy wings brandished. The stalkers rattled their dark awny petals at the trio, squawking and squeaking and screeching

Stop.

The warning mattered little to Rose, who was ready to plow through a million of the like or die trying. Whatever it took to save her brother.

They discussed the plan for infiltration beneath green-canopied cover, during which Rose threw up into bushes, and Scorpius ran fidgety fingers through his hair, and Albus smoked fervently. No one discussed the bodies they’d seen, or the further carnage they might yet encounter. It was too much too fast. Albus cast a shield over their location, allowing them to rest for a bit. Though no one slept. Rose forced herself to eat something. Later, it was decided that Scorpius would remain outside and devise the port-key for a quick escape. Meanwhile, she and Albus would slash their way in and procure Hugo. That they were dealing with an armada was no great shock to either wizard; they were brutally conditioned for it. With all her fears already laid out in front of her, Rose felt empty. The only thing left on her mind was Hugo.

They waited until the next night to give them cover, and drew closer to the manor. Then, they were sprinting across the yard. Heads peeked way and spell met spell. Rose stunned one guard, then watched as Albus delivered a vicious green blow to another. Avada Kedavra.

He caught the stricken look on her face.

“Any problems?” He said icily. He blasted open the front gate and moved inside. Rose followed close behind, her mouth dry and her head spinning.

Of course. There was no point in playing by preconceived rules. Their lives were on the line—and not only theirs, judging from the litter of bodies they’d seen.

Countless bodies bobbed in the corridor and Albus threw a wave of red, immersing them in smoke-camouflage. A hex torpedoed through the haze, throwing Rose backwards. She quickly sprang to her feet and advanced, moving more slowly this time. She cast Incarcerous binding one man while another threw a spell over her head flecking her hair. Rebounded with a lethal stream of silver.

Another spell zipped by her face. Her cheek drew blood.

Albus stood in the exact same position as before, cutting through hexes with leisure and ease. For the first time, Rose was glad her cousin was so good. She took advantage of his position—decoy—and fired Bombarda Maxima. Men scattered back like flies. They moved through the hallway and up the stairs.

The second floor—darkened, grimy, their narrow path twisted like serpents. Rose was glad she couldn’t see the faces of her attackers; it dehumanized them, made them easier to attack. She didn’t know what was worse, how easily she was able to drop her morals or how little she cared for them. Now. Instead there were moments of relief at dodging quick blows, and moments of thrill at delivering them. Adrenaline surged through her veins as she and her cousin dueled together: as a single-functioning system. For mere magical seconds, Rose almost felt how Albus must’ve always felt.

The prowess of magic was truly unfathomable.

They heard faint alarms go off in the distance. Her heart hammered in her chest when six men emerged in the darkness. They kept coming in waves.  She slid past Albus in the narrow corridor, squatted, and aimed a spell that ruptured their Achilles tendons. Injured, they fell simultaneously. A desperate move for desperate circumstances, the Head called it.

Albus complemented her magic by unleashing rays of daggers on the next wave, piercing through their chests. Dead. Within seconds.

She ignored the bile rising in her throat, the pinprick of tears, and tried to focus on finding Hugo. Yes. Hugo.

“Hugo!” she called.

Squinting eyes met darkness. Shadows contorted in a kaleidoscope of shapes; it was a maze of clownish horror. Her neck kept snapping backwards as if to check for stalkers. Sensing this paranoia, Albus placed a firm and steadying hand on the small of her back. She walked beside him as close as possible, unable to keep herself from shaking.

“Hugo!” she called again.

At last.

A response.

Her heart racing, she tore through the hallway. Albus followed close behind, wand gripped in hand.

Tearing through door after door in the hellish manor, she followed the sound of his voice. Then, the door. She blasted it open to find bars. Behind was her brother, frail and bruised. He was curled up on the frozen floor, skinny arms coiled around his bare, freshly-scarred torso. Skeletal.

“Rose,” His voice was a rasp—vocal cords frayed too thin from screaming. “Rose.”

Albus helped her burn through the metal bars—she dashed inside. Lifting his skinny body into her arms, she sobbed happily as she planted kisses over his grimy, filthy face. “It’s me, Hugo. I’m here. You’re safe.”

“Hi,” he croaked, trying to smile at her; his voice was so faint it broke her heart. A fresh, bloodied gash ran across his left eye. 

They had done worse than starve him. They had beaten him.




 

A/N: Just wanted thank all the people that voted for Clash in the Dobbys. It’s an honor to even be in the running. Really, I’d shake all your hands if I could.

A shoutout to midnight sparks, Roisin, HeyMrsPotter, Veritaserum27, Dracosgirl12, and Alexfan for the preliminary nominating/seconding. Then a second shout-out to my awesome beta Roisin, who made this chapter marginally better. Check out her stuff; she’s a brilliant writer and a dobby nominee too!

And last, but certainly not least, I wanted to give a special thank you to a new friend. Pia, readers like you are why I keep writing!

Translations:

je suis désolé—I am sorry (French)


Chapter 17: Grieve
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The sky wept.

Churning bursts of thunder rolled through the bleakness, the haze-tainted air. Trees trembled. Leaves scattered wayward. Soil became sludge. Sludge became oily slick. Light tore the black sky apart. Rain beat against the hulking dome, its outside ravaged by centuries of damage.

Inside—vast emptiness illuminated by moonlight. Dust mingled in closed air. Wind and turmoil remained muted, yet peace could not be found. Tall and cracked and festering with grime, pillars stood at sides in silent reverence for the Deceased.

In the gloom of night stood two weatherworn figures, bruised, bleeding, on the verge of collapse yet standing, breathing, staring in disbelief at the altar in front.

Atop it: dead bodies.

-

Albus was no expert in forensics, but the bodies of his aunt and uncle couldn’t have been more than three years old, fitting perfectly in timeline with the disappearances [So that part was real, just not the bit about the fire]. No spell wounds or bodily disfigurations –it was like they had one day fallen asleep and forgotten to wake up.

What a flawless death.

Trailing absent fingers through his blood-crusted hair, he paced back and forth, contemplating his father’s path as he now it. Something didn’t add up, no. His father was deliberate but not blatant, deviant but not criminal [he wasn’t a murderer]. That meant something had gone very wrong [Which made no sense because his father wasn’t the type to make mistakes on such a large scale]. Presumptions and theories bombarded his head. He squeezed his eyes and ruffled his hair, forcing himself to stay calm [Breath, Albus. Focus]. Then, he began making a mental list of simple deductions. [Yes, Albus, start with the simple things. Find the anomaly, find the anomaly-]

1. Rose’s parents had accompanied his dad for some part of his journey.
2. They had died before him.
3. Their deaths were very clean and convenient. They almost did not seem like deaths.
4. Someone had placed them on the altar, in perhaps reverence [his father?]
5. His father was not the sort of man who let others die, especially his two best friends in the whole world. [He was very self-sacrificing. Like James, a Gryffindor through and through—]

-

For as long as Rose could remember, she had been chasing something.

Dying brother.

Missing parents.

Truth and Revelations and Solutions to problems other people thought were unsolvable—this didn’t matter to her. She had a family to reconcile and a vision to achieve, a vision of something more. There was no time for doubt or reason. She had pinned all her hopes and dreams on this, allowed this quest to consume her– and for what? A couple of corpses? What had she been thinking, raising her hopes when even Hugo knew better? She should’ve seen it coming.

They were dead. Dead. Dead.

The more her cracked, bruised lips formed the word, the harder it stung. Her chest felt heavy. She felt as if she had been physically impaled.

Her parents were gone, and they were gone forever. She would not be saving them. They would not be saving her. No one would be saving her. She was as alone as she’d always been, orphaned, abandoned, trapped in a nightmare from there was no relief, but now, for the first time it truly hit her - the feeling could no longer be buried beneath delusion.

It all came crashing down.

-

In his mania the wizard realized he had nearly forgotten about his companion. She was a mere shadow against a pillar, folded into herself. Tears squeezed from her swollen eyes. "Rose-" He started and she just shook her head, burying it into her knees

Don’t talk.

The air between them was terse and her emotions too unpredictable.

The day’s horrors were still painfully vivid in their minds.

James had always been better at this sort of thing. Scorpius too. James had his Sincere Words and Scorpius had his Earnest Expressions. All Albus had was Cold Objectivity, and his bag of tricks layered from a lifetime of observing others. Yet, for him even to feign understanding of grief was a challenge. All he remembered from his father’s news of death was a twisted, overwhelming surge of betrayal. He had never felt grief. He simply did not know.

He hated not knowing things.

He knew he could not reach her the way she needed. Had someone more befitting of the task been present, he would have forced himself aside, but there was not, and they were all they had in the moment. Stuck. In the same Purgatory they’d always been, with frigid silence and perplexed stares and Three Hopeless Words that were lost amidst all the other Delusional Thoughts silently eating away at him.

No-man’s land.

-

Several moments later she spoke, for verbal acceptance was necessary—“They’re dead.”

“People die, Rose.”

“They do, don’t they?” A humorless laugh amidst the sobs, and her voice broke further. “And I thought learning the truth would bring me peace… I’m a fucking idiot.”

Her voice, shaking, rang in echoes through the empty vestibule.

He drew closer with caution…until at last she grabbed his arm and yanked him to her abruptly, coiling arms around his neck. She called him a cruel bastard but with like a sigh of relief. It was strange that she could cling to him with such desperation when she could barely stand his presence a few minutes before. Her small body trembled against his, wheezing and sobs wracking from her throat, drenching his shirt. He allowed her the moment to grieve: it was the least he could do. Since he could not understand…

She was so small, torn shirt hanging loosely off her damaged frame. A -A child. All teeny wrists and wispy hair and soft skin and crumpled expressions and large brown eyes, expressive, sullen. She was a doll, no, worse, for dolls had at least some sort of foundation. How little it took to bruise or break her, to squeeze Life from those thin, fragile bones.

And she had just soldiered through hell alongside him.

-

“I don’t want to die.” She confided in her cousin, tears staining their cheeks pressed together. “I’m so scared, I’m terrified. People are trying to kill you, and they’re going to kill me, and I don’t want us to die. I’m so scared. I’m so scared for us all the time-”

“No one is dying.”

He stroked a curled wisp of hair off her jaw, but there was pressure behind the brush of his fingertips, like he was silently outraged by her words and fighting to contain it. As if the mere notion of dying struck him irritating and repulsive.

“Don’t be stupid.” He said fiercely. “Why would you die? You’re with me, aren’t you?”




“Dad, dad.”

Six-year old Albus tugged at his father’s leg until the bespectacled man looked up. Then he balanced on the balls of his bare feet, dirtied from playing outside, hands clasped behind his back like an angel.

“Something happened.”

The ends of Harry’s eyes crinkled in amusement. James typically jumped straight into cries of I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry, but his younger son was far more tactful. Something happened was usually the opening line to some very interesting confessions.

“What did you do, Albus?”

“Nothing!” The boy said defensively, and then drew back. “I mean…I was just practicing magic, then Rose wanted to try. I told her no coz you said I’m not s’pposed to share. She kept following me around and being annoying.” He flushed. “Then she ended up in a tree and Idon’tknowhowtogetherdown.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “We’ve talked about this, Albus. You’re not supposed to use my wand without permission.”

“That’s why I used Mum’s.”

Clever boy.

Sighing, Harry offered out his hand and Albus meekly gave up the wand.

“Well then. Let’s go rescue our little kitten from the tree.”

Sunlight mangled with vibrant leaves, shooting down in beams across the grassy pathway. As they walked, Albus held his father’s hand and boasted about how much progress he was making on the Levitating charm the man had taught him. He could almost do it for an entire minute now.

“Albus, hold on.” Harry interrupted. “So you were practicing on your cousin? On your human cousin?”

“It was an accident!”

Harry didn’t buy it. “Just how long has Rose Pose been up in this tree?”

The boy calculated his response for a moment, then realized there was no way around the truth. He answered in a small guilty voice: “Erm, since seven.”

“Four hours! Albus, why didn’t you tell me sooner?!”

The boy scowled into the ground, not answering.

Albus.” Harry said warningly.

“I forgot.”

“The truth, please, Albus.”

Albus thought he was clever, but his father was always cleverer.

“She was being a pain, Dad. I had to punish her so she wouldn’t do it again.”

Staring at his small fuming son, Harry’s eyes crinkled behind his glasses.

“What on earth did she do that made you so mad?”

“I told you! She kept following me around.”

“Yes, but you enjoy that…so what did she really do?”

The small boy flushed under his father’s perceptive gaze. His mum believed his lie in a heartbeat, but the man really was too clever. It was a nuisance, especially since he was Albus’ own private instructor and the greatest wizard of all time.

“She said I’d wasn’t enough like you.” The boy muttered, green-eyes beating into the ground. “And that I’d never be you.”

Harry looked amused. “And why would you want to be me, Albus?”

A pause.

“James wants to be you too.”

“And do you have to want the same things your brother wants?”

Normally when his father asked these sort of leading questions, the answer wasn’t simple. The small boy struggled for a suitable response.

Correct response: No. James was an idiot.

Only Albus knew better than say this out loud.

“Albus,” His father spoke quietly, “I’ve told you about your namesakes, haven’t I?” A nod. “One was the wisest man I know. The other…he was the bravest man I know. And neither of them were anything like me.” Harry paused. “I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that there are different kinds of people in the world, and none of them are wrong.” He placed hands on his son’s small shoulders. “The world needs different kinds of people. Maybe you won’t be anything like me. Maybe you’ll be better than me. How does that sound?”

Albus gave a soft nod.

“All righty. Let’s go finish our rescue mission. I think you’ll have to do some explaining to Aunt Hermione. And you have to apologize to your cousin properly.”

“But—!”

Albus.”

“She had it coming.” The boy gave a petulant look. “She gets on my nerves. She always needs her hand held if we decide to explore. And she cries all the time. She’s worse than Lily.”

“She wants to be your friend, Albus.”

“Well I don’t want to be her friend.” He huffed under his breath.




For many weeks Albus would replay his fears in his head, getting stuck in the same place. It was that damn snapping noise, snap, snap, snap, and three Impossible words that grew more painful with every passing silence. They confused him, distressed him much more than he could admit. They were always in the corner of his thoughts. Why was a notion that came so freely, so implicitly to everyone else impossible for him to comprehend?

And yet.

Yet he wanted her to say those words. He wanted to bottle them up and preserve them in his mind, to savor them. To call them up the way he called up his father’s words, and to indulge in them when he felt entitled. He did not need her repeating them. He had now heard them from her lips once, and once was more than enough.

Other days all he thought about was murder; it horrified him but it had unlocked something inside him, something new yet familiar, something brilliant. A secret power of sorts. To use this power, again and again, filled his insides with longing and revulsion.

Bloodlust.

He had never been a savage – he was a scientist: distant, objective, in control—and now this obsession was consuming his reality. And becoming harder to ignore by day. He needed his father. He needed the man who taught him to master his emotions to instruct him yet again. Was this supposed to happen? What was going wrong with him?

He made brews too, for that sort of thing, stronger than Calming potions. When they weren’t enough, he resorted to muggle…devices. Cocaine, marijuana, crystal meth, whatever it took. Albus Potter had always been fond of exploration, of experimentation. He didn’t drink though, had too much pride for it. Aside from dulling the senses and making a blithering idiot of the most intelligent of wizards, alcohol carried the burning memory of his mother.

The days he wasn’t doing recreational drugs, he was completely clean (with the exception of smoking) and thoroughly immersed in improving his skills: research, potions, wandlore, spellwork, philosophy, dueling. Anything and everything to occupy his thoughts, sedate his temper. He recited spells at night when sleep was impossible. Then he thought of Ollivander’s words to him, about how wandless magic was an art so rare, it was exclusive only to the finest of wizards. So he’d sit around for hours and meditate and wait – Rose usually dragged him to bed once he fell over – but patience had never been his finest attribute, and thus, the endeavor was futile. Albus did not have decades to waste on such an objective. He had answers to find now. He had theories about his father and webs of things he knew and did not know. He lived in his head, and on those days, the slightest thing was capable of setting his temper off.

It was strange for Rose to watch him as he fought his temper; pulsing jaw, shallow breaths, flashing eyes, fingers twitching for their wand...sometimes he’d shut himself in a room or go out and smoke himself into oblivion. Sometimes he threw hexes into trees until his arm hurt. Other times the frustration came out meshed with a strange form of affection. On more than one occasion when he grew angry with her, he’d simply grab her, slam a kiss to her forehead, and storm away. He could not stand to be around her too long, for what had happened at the graveyard still haunted his thoughts.

Like grief, fear never completely went away.

Rose returned to work, attributing her injuries to a household accident ("You say you broke your leg falling down stairs, eh Weasley?" Conditioned at lying by now, she gave a firm nod). She found she could bury herself in paperwork the same way her cousin buried himself in his magic. She worked overtime. She made some extra money this way. She visited Hugo more often, who noticed something off about her but said nothing. And she didn't have the heart to tell him what she now knew.

She found out Scorpius stopped by the hospital often too, to see Hugo. Which was shocking because her brother's visiting privileges weren’t granted to anyone save her, for obvious security reasons. According to Hugo, the blonde held hilarious ways of sneaking in and nearly-almost-not-quite getting caught. According to Hugo, he said he had heaps of practice in the art form. According to Hugo, he did not attempt to shower him with kisses like Rose--that would be creepy--but instead brought him large quantities of food that was marginally better than the hospital’s. According to Hugo, he was actually pretty funny, had good taste in shoes, and promised to take the younger boy to a Cannons match someday.

According to Hugo, they had a bit of a bromance.

Occasionally their visits coincided. Scorpius didn't inquire about Albus or her parents or their search, which relieved her. He also didn't hit on her, which she didn't know how to feel about. He was still Scorpius, the cocky energetic boy she knew, but some part of him had changed since she'd last seen him; it felt like he had matured. He told her about the Healer training he was starting, much to his parents’ badgering, and how it was literally the most soul crushing thing ever. You can practice me on me, Hugo would joke, but neither of them really laughed at that.

At any rate it seemed like Scorpius was growing up.

Rose wished she could do that too.

They talked about the quarantine, amongst other things.

“My dad reckons things’ll calm down in a year or two," Scorpius said. "But I think it’s mostly since he doesn’t want to leave England.”

“Well Rose and I can’t, obviously.” Hugo gave a stony shrug.

"And where'd we go anyway?" She rolled her eyes at her brother. "We leave England, I'll be a criminal and you'll end up in a lab. China's got a bounty on me. Germany's got a bounty on me-"

"Russia too. Just this morning."

"Thanks Malfoy."

"Always happy to help." He quipped humorously. Then, seeing her expression, he said: "It means they're terrified of you, Weasel. That can be a good thing, if you think about it."

"How's that a good thing?"

Scorpius looked straight at her. "For one thing, it means they're going to take you seriously. You speak and they're going to listen."

Rose didn't want her fearsome international reputation but the blonde had a point. Infamy and fame were the same thing. She was a public figure and could probably become a political one with enough time, like the Head, learn to influence important people. But she didn't want that life. She was only eighteen.

And she was terrified.

Nightmares grew worse with each passing day, and Sleeping draught simply wasn't enough. She took long walks and pondered everything and everyone, her parents, Hugo, Scorpius, Albus, the Head, her job, her life -where it was heading. She hadn't had time to think like this before, and now she did. She knew she had to improve her dueling. Her job required it; as did her life. She wanted to ask Albus for help but he seemed hellbent on avoiding her.

Some nights he did not return to the house.

Rose wondered if he’d been spending them with girls, but found it strange and potentially awkward to inquire about. Back at Hogwarts, he’d never shown any interest in girls, rather held a monk-like dedication to the Arts. It was easy to forget that the inhumanly brilliant wizard that had been her lifelong companion was also a boy—a young man. And like any young man, he had anatomical proclivities. It was almost laughable, in a way. She knew he wasn't a virgin but little aside from that, and it annoyed her that she knew so little when he knew the names of every boy she'd ever kissed.

What she didn’t know, perhaps, was that Harry Potter’s genius son had always held an extraordinary measure of control over all emotional, physical, and anatomical interests - to the point some might've been nonexistent. That the monk-like behavior came implicitly with a lifetime's obsession with magic. That his father had helped him carefully construct a persona able to handle that obsession in a controlled manner. So that the bitter boy genius transitioned effortlessly to a young man that bore no special weakness. A young man who could handle the world.

With his father's guidance gone, that control was slowly, miserably crumbling, and between the cracks hid a murderous hunger impossible to sate with distractions alone.




Control, Albus.” Harry paced beside the eleven-year old boy as he threw hexes at targets. “Go for accuracy, not speed.”

“You told me to get faster.” The boy gasped, sweating profusely.

“Your wand work needs more attention.”

Swallowing this criticism in silence, though every word had stung his insides, Albus kept his gaze steely and shot a target to the ground. In the back of his mind, an ugly thought rose—the Question. There was always the Question: why didn’t James have to do this? Why only him?

In some way he might’ve known the answer: He was cleverer than James. His father had chosen him with purpose, some higher purpose, and he was expected to revel in the privilege granted only to him. To revel and endure and conquer and not speak of it ever.

“Clear your mind of doubts, son. Eliminate fears, emotions, anything else inhibiting you from focusing on the present. Focus.”

A hex shot past Albus’ hand, singeing his fingers. He winced at the pinprick of pain.

“Your wand. You use it like a weapon, a sword—that’s not what it is. It’s an extension of your mind, Albus. Stretch out with your mind. Control it.”

He slashed an arc of silver blocking his father’s spell, a surge of adrenaline running through him. Duels with his father always made him nervous. Just then the man disappeared from sight, and a hex hit the back of his leg before he could process it. Damn. Too slow. Albus fought the pain and nerves, and focused on his backswing – he’d been struggling with the move for weeks now. Harry always attacked his weaknesses, forcing on-the-spot improvement. He was standing right behind him now.

Albus moved and the spell missed his father by an inch. The man smiled.

“Decent shot. That’ll be enough for today.”

At these words, he collapsed on the ground, leg throbbing, sweat streaking down his thin developing frame.

Eyes closed, he felt the pressure of his father’s hand on his head. Grazing his hair in a rare form of affection.

“Get some sleep, Albus. You don’t know how well you’re doing.”

The boy savored these words, his chest racing from excitement. Praise was kept to a minimum between father and son, for it led to a false sense of accomplishment. It was necessary for him to focus all thoughts on improvement and never be satisfied with mediocrity.

When bones broke and muscles ached, the memory of pain, not praise, was what drove him forward, to the edge of his physical being. Made him improve. Without the pain, there was stagnation, and there was nothing Albus despised more than lack of progress.

Because of the bruise forming on his leg, he would spend the next three nights perfecting that backswing.




Thunder cracked outside waking her, and the shadow looming over her bedside made her gasp. She peered through the darkness, her heartbeat racing, and made out the figure.

It was Albus, his hair askew and coat soaked in rainwater.

“Rose, Rosie.” He gripped her arm and shook her. “C’mon. Sit up. I need to show you something.”

After weeks of painful silence, he chose now to finally to acknowledge her?

“Can it wait until the morning?” She groaned, turning over.

“No.”

“It’s late-“

Now.” He hissed. “I have to do it now.”

She turned back and studied him for a moment, how bright his green eyes were, and felt her body grow tense. He looked like he was on one of his muggle drugs. Opposing him would anger him, and there was no knowing what he’d do this state.

She sat up. “Fine.”

He whipped out his wand, an action that always made her nervous. “Empty your mind.” He instructed and began muttering an enchantment that made her eyelids grow heavy. She felt a dizzying sinking feeling in her stomach, akin to that of Occulmency training but deeper, tenser, more gnawing. Light flashed across her closed eyelids and she saw a young Albus with his father, walking between ivory crusted walls, a ruin of some sort.

The memory shifted and Albus lay on the ground writhing in pain, and Harry lifted his wand at him and uttered the word Crucio—

The memory shifted and little Albus was battling dementors—Shift—He was running from acromantulas—Shift— Eating lunch with his father in ruins—Shift—they were sparring in some field—Shift— little Albus was navigating a deadly forest alone. She could sense his fear, almost hear the sound of his heart slamming against that scrawny chest.

At last she saw a very young Albus standing outside the shack they had visited, tears, actual tears flowing down his small pale face—


The tape of memories halted and Rose felt an invisible force yank her out.

-

Green eyes stared back in caution.

Now it made sense, why he was high. He had to be, to let anyone so stupidly inside his mind, to go against his own reason so severely. He had shown her his past. He had entrusted her with the rare permission; he had acted impulsively, without calculation, and without knowing what would happen next.

-

“Oh Albus…“ She began quietly.

“I’ve thought about it for a while.” He cut her off. “Our parents. They were up to something. My dad, he showed me things, taught me things-” He broke off, green-eyes contemplating the floor. “I have pieces in my head. Memories I can call up when I need to, but I don’t know how they fit together. I haven’t figured out how your parents factor in yet but they do and maybe you know, maybe you have memories-”

“Albus.” She interrupted, brown eyes watching him softly. “Your dad…that’s not normal. Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

Silence.

“So when I went to Ollivanders—“

“Al, parents aren’t supposed to do things like that to their kids.”

They were in two completely different conversations.

“Albus…” He looked startled when tears sprung to her eyes. He didn't understand. He didn't understand at all, but how was she supposed to explain when so many emotions simply engulfed her? He was her brother, her friend, he was hers, and she now felt that she had in some way neglected him. “Oh my god.” She buried her face in his neck, feeling his muscles tense at the contact. “Oh Albus.” She kissed his bruised cheek and tried to pull him close. He resisted, shivering. His hair and jacket were soaking, and the cold wetness seeped onto her bedsheets. She tried to coax the jacket off him, to simply help him stop shivering, but he pulled and jerked backwards. He looked visibly distressed. He was high—and uncomfortably aware of it.

“Stop, stop.”

“I’m just trying to-“

“Not right now. I’m not good when I’m- I don’t know how-”

She touched his arm again and he jolted away like he had been stung by electricity. He slipped back into the dark.

“Tomorrow.” He said.

“It’s ok, Al. It’s all ok. I promise… I’m just going to hold you.”

“Tomorrow.”

“You’re my brother.”

“I’ll be your brother tomorrow.”

“I need my brother today.”

The thunderous roar of the storm followed up with a flash of lightning, illuminating his features for a split second, which had instantly grown cold.

“Don't overstep yourself." He said, glaring. "You don't tell me what to do, and if you had an ounce of intelligence you'd leave me alone. You don’t know-”

“I know, Albus. Look, I know. I saw you lose it at the graveyard, and you know what? Your little lapse saved us.”

He squeezed his eyes, and she didn’t know if he was trying to shut her out or shut himself in.

"Sit down, please." She tried. "Let's talk. Can we do that? Is that ok? I know you don't want to be alone right now either."

A pause.

"It's because I hate storms." He conceded, stiffly.

"I know, Al."

He simply glowered back. He was higher than high— or they’d never even have this conversation. Their exchanges relied more by implicit understanding than spoken word, and their cold silences often left a lot to be desired.

She sat up, pushing her legs over the edge and planning to take full advantage of his drug-addled state. “I think I’m losing it too, sometimes.” She told him. “Maybe it’s the post-traumatic stress—I don’t know. Everything terrifies me. With the shack and what happened at the graveyard-" She grimaced at the memory. "-I don't know. I thought I'd be done. I thought I'd have what I wanted by now."

"And what is it that you want?" He asked, staring unblinkingly.

"My family."

"And you don't have that."

"No."

He was silent then, eyes beating into the wall as he mulled over her words.

"So what do you intend to do next?"

She looked shy for a moment. "I-I don't know," she admitted. "I thought when I learned the truth I'd be-" Happy? Complete? "-satisfied. That it'd be enough, and it's not."

He glanced at her. "It's because you don't know everything."

And maybe I never will.

"It’s like we’re running down a track with no end. But I don’t know how to stop. I don’t think I can stop. And I’ve got no shot at normal life, so why bother trying? And with everything getting worse-" With everyone trying to kill me, I don't know how long I'll live "-I don't want to waste my time not knowing. I need to know certain things. I know you do too." She gave him a determined stare. “So maybe we can be crazy together. You and me. We can keep each other alive, keep looking-”

With a quick flick of a network of joints her wrist had twisted his way—small, fragile, and trembling.

“You and me then”

She tensed. “Wait-”

“You—” He brought it to his mouth for a chaste kiss. “—and me.” Green eyes stared back at her, the corner of his mouth curled in a barely-there tease. The gesture hadn’t been of malice or derision, but akin to a pinkie-promise contract between two childhood friends. He gave her hand a light squeeze and let it go.

Then he did the strangest thing; he gave her a half-smile that actually looked…kind. She was a little stunned.

And just like that it was over.

“Get some sleep." He said in a business-like voice, standing up. "We’ll talk tomorrow. We won't be taking the potion again, I'm afraid we can't risk it, but I have plans about where to start looking next.”

"That's...good."

"It is.”

And that was that.

“Good night, Albus." She whispered, loud enough so she knew he had heard her on his way to the door.

“Yes, good night.”

A pause.

“I love you.”

Footsteps came to a halt at these words, and she closed her eyes, not wanting to see how he looked when he turned around. There was a pause in all the breathing in the room. She waited, with a usual mix of dread and anticipation he was capable of inspiring, and perhaps, now, just the smallest flicker of hope.

Then the door closed shut.




A/N: Juat wanted to say, it's officially been one year since I started Clash. Of course, there’s still a long way before the end, the war hasn’t come into play yet, and the characters are still minor players on the global scale. There’s a lot of story to go, all the big surprises and horrors are still waiting, and thank you so much for sticking with me. I couldn't have gotten this far without your reviews and support.


Chapter 18: Explore
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Clouds hung oppressively low in the faded sky, over rolling hills and patches of dried lake. Bleakness surrounded the marshy land, a pollution that had not been there at Christmas gatherings that seemed a lifetime away. Some muggle factory had taken form a few miles from the Burrow after Molly and Arthur Weasley had passed away, and both areas were now long abandoned.

Two figures wafted by, clad in long dark coats and warm scarfs around their necks, their shadows stretching out ahead of them. The girl stuffed her gloved hands into her pockets, looking a bit forlorn. Her companion walked ahead of her, eyeing their surroundings with obvious disdain.

“Suffocating isn’t it? How familiar everything looks.”

“I could do without this trip,” she admitted, breath visible in the cold air.

Albus drew a cigarette from the recesses of his pocket and lit it as they passed empty pig pens and the long abandoned chicken coop. Rose glanced over at the overgrown garden that she’d helped her grandmother prune, pluck, and spruce in hot afternoons of childhood summers. Now, rotten vegetable carcasses littered the frozen dirt patch.

Lush vines, overgrown from years of negligence, twisted across the crooked stories of the Burrow. The five chimneys dotting the roof were chipped and crumbling. In their youth the house had always been vibrant and bright. Now it was nothing more than testament to a faded childhood.

Albus stared, his expression as dull and vacant as the windows.

Old wellington boots and rusty cauldrons littered the space behind the door she blasted open. The living room looked as jumbled and cluttered by trappings as it always had, and while it was less chilly than outside, the familial presence of warmth had long dissipated.

Albus cut her notions of nostalgia short, deciding they begin their search immediately. He had more than a few theories about what his father had been up to, the answer resting in his research, which he claimed the man had hidden at the Burrow following the deaths of their grandparents—after which the place had been abandoned. They combed high and low through the house.

They searched the house for several hours, slowly trailing their way from floor to floor. She tossed through piles of Weasley Wizard Wheezes wrappings, finding nothing, then turned and watched while Albus rummage through a shelf of old muggle knickknacks. Their grandpa, avid collector of such novelties, had passed away the summer before they started school— only weeks after grandma. She trailed past the wall of their photos, weddings, vacations, etcetera; the couple in them, considerably younger, smiled and waved back at her.

“It’s romantic, I s’pose,” she muttered, smiling to herself a little. “The way they practically died together.”

She heard Albus snort, though he didn’t look up from surveying a particularly large muggle battery.

“What?”

“Your perception of love has grown very… distorted,” he said idly, turning the metallic trinket over in his hand and transfiguring it to a ball. “I can’t imagine many people think of death as romantic.”

She watched him toss the ball high in the air and catch it.

“I remember a small girl that liked to pretend she was a princess trapped in a tower and dream about prince charmings.” He glanced over, eyes silently laughing at her. “What happened to that girl?”

“She made friends with the dragon.”

“Did she now?”

She could hear the underling smirk in his words.

“Dragons are dangerous, volatile animals,” he said, his voice sly. “Can she trust such a creature?”

“She tamed it.”

“Maybe the dragon tamed her.”

Rose kicked a pair of moth eaten socks across the dusty floor, avoiding his gaze. Taking her silence as defeat, Albus returned to casting Summoning charms over every piece of furniture in the room. When he cast it on the wardrobe, it opened itself and clothes magically spun out of the way. In the very back there stood a shelf of old grimy books. Albus walked in without hesitation.

-

He stepped out holding a stack of heavy looking books, a triumph look on his face.

“The books my dad took from Ollivander.” His eyes held a manic excitement. “I think they’ll tell us exactly what he’s been up to all this time.”

Rose stared at them, skeptical. “They’re in runic.”

“So?”

“Well, do you know how long they’ll take to translate? Weeks, Albus, weeks.

The triumph expression wobbled to a sneer.

“Five days.”

-


They spread the books over the long breakfast table and began their tiresome translating. They worked well through the night. Rose made cups of coffee at regular intervals. By morning she was too exhausted to continue and lied down with the intention of a quick nap. When she woke, an unexpected and devastating four hours later, Albus was still translating away, his sleeves rolled to his elbows as the quill in hand moved furiously across parchment. Aside from the top two buttons undone on his starched white shirt, he was precisely as she’d left him.

“Machine.” She grumbled, rubbing a weary eye.

“Pardon?”

“I said, fancy some tea?”


“Oh.” The quill paused for a split-second. “Earl Grey, then.”

“Don’t think Nana Molly ever used that. I think she just has the regular sort.”

“Then make coffee.”

“So picky.” She muttered as she crossed the kitchen, pinching his cheek as she trailed by him. As expected he didn’t react, working with the razor-sharp focus she knew him to have.

Minutes later, she placed a steaming mug in front of him and sat down across with her own, watching as his long pale fingers trailed across paper with an effortless articulacy. He didn’t even have to pause to think.

It was moments like these Rose fathomed how truly talented her cousin was, in both skill and intellect. She was deemed a prodigy by the world for her resurrection magic, and yet, at times like these, she felt inferior to him. It was intimidating to be in his presence, to work beside him. His mind was made of different material-and while this made her secretly, very intensely jealous-she couldn’t help but be entranced by a wizard so breathtakingly brilliant.

The things Albus Potter could’ve done if he wanted.

-

Green-eyes flickered, breaking focus from his dark elegant script.

“You’re staring.”

“I’m just...thinking.”

“You do it a lot.” He took his steaming cup and brought it to his mouth. “Thinking, that is.” There was a hint of smugness in the curve of his lips. “Do you plan to tell me about what, or shall I start making deductions?”

“Why don’t you just use Legilimency?” She countered.

“Because you’re very skilled at repelling it.” He said, simply. “Why waste my talents where they’re ineffective?”

“That almost sounds like a compliment.”

“More an…acknowledgement. I appreciate talent when I see it Rose Pose.”

Now that was a compliment, underhanded, but genuine enough to make her blink twice. Niceties from Albus were usually like holiday decorations: planned, obvious, and purely aesthetic.

“So what, now you’re just going to ask me what I’m thinking? Isn’t that a little direct for you? Normally I expect a bit more deceptive, bastard-like behavior.”

Rather than taking offense, he smiled flatly at her.

“You’re evading the question.”

-

She ignored his quiet, perceptive tone. “I was just…you said your dad met with Ollivander to learn about wand making. That he wanted to know about the manifest of magic.” A pause. “So how does that work?”

He took a gulp of coffee and set it aside, turning back to his work. “What do you mean?”

“I mean I thought magic manifested from wands.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Rose,” he muttered, flipping a page. “Wands are convenient but not necessary. Think about all the underage occurrences of magic that happen without wands.” A snort. “All those kids that blow up their aunts...”

Rose rolled her eyes. “Well, magic is hereditary, Al. I’m sure your dad knew that.”

“Yes, but it’s more complex than that. Genes give you the ability to use magic, to control it—they don’t create magic inside you. The creation of energy out of nothing is impossible.”

“Magic involves the transfer of energy.” Rose said. “Isn’t that what we do, as wizards I mean? We take energy and convert it, mold it into whatever spell we want to cast.”

“Yes, yes but…”

He trailed off.

“What?”

“When you brought Hugo back, you had to harness the energy somehow. It’s no easy feat to physically cross the boundaries of Death.”

“What makes you think I physically crossed over?” she said, suddenly very defensive.

“You mentioned it to me once.”

“Maybe I was being figurative.”

“You weren’t.”

Her following silence was affirmation of the fact.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter.” He dismissed, “I had my suspicions long before you mentioned it to me.”

He’d studied her notes on resurrection in excruciatingly close detail.

“You used an enormous amount of energy to cross the barrier and find Hugo’s soul. Of course, the larger matter is pulling him back across the barrier. I doubt the actual process of resurrection takes a simple energy exchange.”

She grew palpably tense. “So what if it doesn’t? What does that have to do with anything?”

He stared at her long and hard and cold, as though he could read all her secrets on her face.

-

“It doesn’t.” he said, stiffly. “Not at the moment, anyway. But somehow summoning energy for the entire experiment-”

“It was not an experiment, Albus,” she growled. “It was my brother’s life.”

He didn’t bat an eyelid.

“Summoning energy for crossing over…well it has to be an insurmountable sum. It’s curious and not different from other displays of magic.” A contemplative pause. “I admit the whole idea has puzzled me for quite some time now.”

They were at the point in conversation where Rose had become a bit lost, and Albus had simply started thinking out loud.

His head was propped on his knuckles, eyes squeezed hard in thought. “Magic… where does it come from? Does anyone know where magic actually comes from?”

She shrugged. “Magic just… is.”

“But what if it isn’t?” He glanced at her and the intensity in his green eyes rendered her speechless. “Rose, think. All that energy has to come from somewhere doesn’t it? Maybe it comes from a place, or a source….and maybe, maybe that’s what my father was trying to find.”

-

The manifest of magic.

A trill of fear started up her limbs and spread to her stomach at the thought of Uncle Harry being involved in something that sounded so…terrifying.

And her cousin’s obvious fascination with it.

-

“Let’s not jump to conclusions.” She said levelly. “We don’t even know if something like this exists. We need to thoroughly comb through your dad’s research first.”

“Yes- yes of course you’re right.” He replied, his voice vague like he was floating in some daydream.

-

Rose tried to ignore the strange, intent gleam in his eyes.






A set of heavy folders dropped onto Rose Weasley’s already-cluttered desk. It was the Head. The man never left his office to make deliveries, so more than a single pair of perplexed eyes bobbed up.

“Sir?”

He gave a perfunctory smile that curled at the ends. Coupled with the facial scar running across his face, it gave him the impression of a sadist. “Your first official investigation, Weasley, will be the Novo Ordis case.”

Whispers erupted in the office as the girl’s face plunged.

Florian piped up amidst the mainly jealous stares.

“You mean she’s leading it? I requested that case weeks ago.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Dubois. We’re dealing with one of the most dangerous groups out there, and she has no experience of which to speak—” All the experience she had was of the type not to speak. “—No. I’m leading it. I want her on the team.” The Head observed the pissed reactions at his words. He paused to savor them. “And did I mention there are three more openings?”

As aurors hurtled towards the Head, Florian in the very lead, Rose glanced at the motionless rest of her unit.

“You lot not interested?”

Mr. Hashimoto, diligently immersed in paperwork, ignored her as usual. Kovy mouthed a fuck no as Cynthia yawned into her coffee.

Rose felt her nerves prickle. She wasn’t ready for a case so high profile and the Head knew this, surely. The Ordine Corvis were a group of highly dangerous animagi, responsible for many high-scale crimes of the past decade, and suspected of being behind the Camden bombings. According to reports, they were radicals bent on infiltrating the Ministry. Terrorists, with apparently a very lethal style of magic. Just last week Officer Humphrey and his unit arrested one of their men—reports claimed that the criminal, identified to be ex-Flourish and Blotts employee Geoffrey Croaker, was hysterical. That he had willingly surrendered at the sight of aurors, even offered up his wrists on his knees. It was the most talked-about event in the office and shaping up to be a very curious mystery.

Florian flew back looking overly excited to have a position on the case, and spent all afternoon chatting about it with Rose. Cynthia wrinkled her nose at their chatter. Mr. Hashimoto worked with his usual efficiency. Kovy fell asleep midway to noon, forehead pressed to desk. Florian hit the back of his head with a rolled file, snapping him awake.

By lunch Rose was starving, but Florian coerced her into skipping to break the case in. Cynthia and Kovy ended up dragging the two of them to lunch anyway, and Mr. Hashimoto simply sauntered along. They sat at a table, sandwiches unfolded in front of them.

“Are you lot going to the pub tonight?” Cynthia chattered. “Some guy in Humphrey’s unit is treating the whole floor to drinks. Said he wanted to celebrate their progress.”

Kovy gave an incredulous snort. “What progress? The guy willingly surrendered.”

“Oh who cares…it’s free drinks. And our department could use some cheer after the hellish last month. We’re all starting to look like dementors.” She paused for their resident Magical Creature expert’s jibe about dementors not actually having faces, but then noticed Florian was off talking passionately about the case with Officer Humphrey.

“He isn’t complaining,” Rose noted.

“Oh please, Dubois lives at the office. The rest of us have lives you know.”

“I don’t really have a life,” Kovy admitted, and Mr. Hashimoto as usual didn’t comment, though Rose interpreted it as an agreement nonresponse. She got the sense very few people in their occupation had lives outside of work, since there was so much of it. And with the upcoming quarantine, allied countries had stopped sending aid to England and those not entirely committed or too scared to stay were transferring out—thus individual duties had grown. By the British Ministry’s current standing, those remaining in Law Enforcement could be put into four categories: there were the patriots (Mr. Hashimoto), the trigger-happy die hards (Florian), the lazy ones who floated on natural talent (Kovy), or those simply not aware what they’d gotten into…like Cynthia.

Rose often wondered if she belonged in the latter category. Then she remembered she had no choice.

The quarantine-which frankly felt like collective imprisonment-frightened her more than she’d ever admit to her unit mates or her brother…or Scorpius. The blond had told her not to worry, that it was out of her hands, but at the same time it felt like he was egging her towards else. That conversation about her having international power was firmly planted in her head, but she had no clue where to go with it. Her future felt vague and murky. Meanwhile Scorpius had begun taking his seriously; they saw each other briefly during visits to Hugo—but he could never stay long because of his Healer training. Rose was happy for him. She decided she would be.

At least he knew what he wanted.

-

Kovy stopped by her cubicle with the customary two cups of coffee. He sat on the edge of her desk, chipping black paint off the corner in the way that annoyed her though she was too busy with paperwork to reprimand him. She was, by now, as accustomed to her colleague’s bad habits as he was to hers.

“You seem… different,” he commented vaguely, picking specks of black from underneath his nails.

Her quill came to a halt. “Do I?”

“Calmer I think…you seem less distracted. More comfortable. I remember when we met –you were always in a pretty pissy mood.” A snort. “Wouldn’t even respond to my pick-up lines.”

“I… was going through some issues.”

“I can imagine.” She blinked and looked up at him. “I mean- sorry! I don’t mean like I know, I just mean with you being…you know…you. Queen of Death and all.” He finished sheepishly. “It makes sense, Rose. We all get it, you know, why you brought back your brother. I think it’s heroic. They won’t say it, but a lot of people on the task force do too, and they’d do the same thing in your shoes.”

You don’t know the sort of stares I got on my first day. She wanted to say this, then realizing how bitter that sounded, settled for “thanks.”

They sat there, sipping coffee.

“It’s hard, isn’t it?” He lamented, after a moment’s pause. “Growing up.”

She stared down at her lap; the statement was, perhaps, too biting, too intimate, too parent.

Lifeless bodies surfaced her thoughts before she could stop them.

-

Following shortly after, the Head’s voice called from across the room—“WEASLEY, GET BACK TO WORK OR I’LL SEND YOUR LAZY ASS TO AZKABAN LIKE YOU DESERVE!”

-

“Then there’s him.” She fumed, picking up her quill again, and Kovy laughed. “Look on the bright side, atleast we all have to share him. So the abuse is distributed. Last week, I heard him yell at Mendoza for wearing bright nail polish on a mission. Said it upset the integrity of their investigation.”

“Bet he didn’t threaten her with Azkaban.”

“Well…no. I guess that’s where you’re special.”

Rose was just glad she don’t have to live with him anymore. When she told Kovy that, he grinned.

“That’s the spirit. See, there is a silver lining to growing up.”

A pause.

“For example,” he continued. “If you do end up going to that awful boring sweaty pub thing tonight, you might run into me, and who doesn’t want that? And...” He gave a dramatic pause. “I might buy you a drink. Maybe. Possibly.”

“I thought drinks were free.”

“Read between the lines, Rose. You’re smart.”

She studied the length of her quill, her cheeks heating. “I already have a lot of reading to do tonight. The Head’s going to grill me hard on the case tomorrow and I don’t think I’m smart enough for both.”

“Fair. Some other time then?”

“Whenever that happens in the busy life of aurors.” She tried to joke.

Rather than taking offense, Kovy grinned.

“What?”

“It’s the first time I’ve heard you say it, that you’re an auror.”

It was the first time Rose had heard herself say it too.






Her house was by now a mausoleum to Harry Potter, thanks to her cousin. But, of course, Albus was unapologetic about it, just as he was unapologetic about the fact he’d littered rune-papers across the floor trailing from the front to the back door. Or the ‘mental notes’ he’d tacked to all the walls and strings running across connecting ideas and entangling those passing by. It was impossible to walk through any room without tripping or bumping into something. The house had morphed from a potions lab to an investigation den, or rather, the mental fortress of Albus Potter. Unfortunately, he’d taken the liberty to move all cauldrons and potion-making supplies to her room (his was crowded with books) which made mornings terrible. She’d wake up coughing to haphazard fumes and find her cousin crouched by her vanity table—cleared of her vanity supplies in favor of potion ingredients.

Albus,” she groaned, twisting back into bed and wrapping her blanket over her head. “Albus. Get. Out.”

Today, he had on his magnifying spectacles, and was carefully depositing dark powder into a cauldron that was producing was some unfortunate sour odor.

He paid her no attention.

“Albus. I need privacy in the mornings.” She seethed. “Are you even listening?”

A pillow was thrown, narrowly missing the boy in question. He didn’t look up, but the corner of his mouth curved.

Rose sighed, sitting up. “I should be able to get out of bed without tripping over iguana tails or jars of flobberworms. I should be able to shower without getting the soles of my feet burned because you dumped some reject potion in the tub the night before. I should actually be able to see myself in the mirror without clouds of purple smoke everywhere! I know it’s hard for you but if for one moment you could even pretend to have the human decency to...”

A silencing charm slapped her mouth.

He tucked his wand away, calmly, then turned back to his potion.

“Go bathe and get dressed, Rose.” He spoke curtly. “I’ve set the tea. We have much to discuss today and I’m afraid there’s little time for your girlish antics.”

Rose floundered out of bed and carefully navigated her way to the bathroom, inwardly cursing.

-

While she ate breakfast, he placed a vial of small molten gold in front of her.

“What is it?”

A smirk. “Guess.”

“Dunno.”

He gave a derisive eye-roll. “Now, now. This is an easy one, Rose Pose.”

Rose studied the potion for a brief minute.

“Looks kind of like Felix felicis, I suppose. But it’s darker.”

“I made…adjustments to the original recipe. It won’t instill the feeling of overconfidence the regular does. It’s safer for prolonged use.”

“So this is what you’ve been polluting my room with?” She tried to narrow her eyes in anger but failed miserably. “I mean it’s…it’s… really impressive Albus.”

He smiled coolly, pushing it towards her. “Well, now it’s yours.”

She stared.

“You’re birthday was last month. This is what people do, don’t they?”

She stared more.

Reinvent famous potions. Yes. Something people do.

His expression turned vaguely cold at her prolonged silence.

“You don’t like it?” he spoke, with an edge.

“No, I do. It’s amazing… really, Albus. Thank you.”

He eyed her doubtfully but said nothing, instead nodded. Looked away. Sipped his tea.

And that was that.

-

“I’d like to show you something,” he spoke once she had finished eating. “Have you given much thought to our earlier discussion about magic?”

In truth she had thought of little else.

“Something about it didn’t sit well with me.” she admitted.

His brows raised.

“Well, all energy comes from the sun – in the simplest sense of course.” She explained. “Light energy, before it’s converted into other forms. And magic is just another form. By that understanding, I mean there’s really no manifest of magic.”

The corners of his mouth twitched.

“All right, look.” She traced letters in the air with her wand.

Light energy-->plants harness light-->animal eats plants--->wizard eats animal--->wizard makes magic.

He gave a condescending half-smile. “I appreciate the admittedly very simplistic diagram Rose, but you’re still wrong. Magic is different. It’s larger than your breakfast.” He procured one of the large volumes of his father he’d spent the night reading, flipping to a marked page. “Do you know that wandlore’s a dying art? There are maybe a handful of wandmakers that take the time to understand the origins of magic.”

“There’s no origin except the sun, Al. Then energy’s recycled. It goes in a circle.”

“And I’m telling you that magic is different.” A snort. “Look at this.”

He’d circled the sketch of a stone—listed to be fluorspar, vaguely green and partially translucent. It had been molded into a large ring-like shape, its center filled with a thick layer of what the caption said was magic. It was palm sized. A harness for magic from surrounding energy. And instantly Rose knew what he was getting at.

She stared at it, her insides crawling. It was far beyond the level of any magic either of them had ever studied.

“No. Look, we know that the resurrection stone from the Deathly Hallows exists. We know that the philosopher’s stone exists, because Flamel made it.” She shook her head. “But this-this isn’t even a myth, Al. It’s just an idea.”

“Magic is made of ideas, Rose. Magic is an idea. It must’ve been, before the very first wizard made it reality- don’t you see?”

Frustration gnawed at her. It felt like one of their arguments from their school days- the sort that were all theory and philosophy and never went anywhere useful.

“I don’t understand why you care so much about this,” she said irritably. “How does this help us find your father? How does this fake idea stone tie into anything?”

A pause.

“I have a feeling.”

She gave him an incredulous look. “Since when do you place feelings over facts?

He glowered. “Since they’ve had a tendency to be right.”

-

He couldn’t explain why or how; intuition was those curious things without any rational basis, like fear or grief or love. The places they’d visited with the potion he simply known where to go in spite of having no clear memory. He could predict outcomes of seemingly impossible situations. Certain truths were simply buried inside him- and he had so much to explore, to uncover… to conquer.

Somehow it all came back to his father.

-

“It seems so…wrong,” she said quietly.

The words evoke three seconds of pure anger that were quickly contained. Instead, he shot her an annoyed look. “What’s wrong about it? When exactly did seeking knowledge become a taboo?”

“When another brilliant wizard decided he wanted to split his soul in seven pieces.”

It was reinvigoration of the cautionary tale that’d plagued the ears of their entire generation, and the son of Harry Potter grew silent… pensive almost.

-

In abrupt fashion he slammed his book shut and crossed the kitchen away from her, staring fixedly out the window. His fingers curled at his side.

“Albus-”

“Whatever’s on your mind, speak it plainly,” he said, voice sharp as he drew a cigarette.

Her shoulders tensed. “I’m only saying we’d be fools to ignore the past. Your father…” A pause as she gathered her nerve. “Maybe I don’t know what he wanted for you, Albus, but I do know he wouldn’t want you to be some mindless caricature of Tom Riddle. I-”

“Is that what you think I am?” He interrupted, turning to her.

“No I-look, Albus. That isn’t who you are, who we are…our parents didn’t raise us to be like that!”

Her outburst caught him off guard, but his look of surprise was quickly replaced by a calm and searching one.

“You seem to forget we had two very different sets of parents, Rose,” he said, his voice quiet. “And by result, two very different childhoods.”

-

“I know, Albus. I understand.”

“Do you?”

Then she looked at him in a strange, soft way. “Yes…I’m sorry.”

-

He scowled, as if these words were offensive to him. Albus Potter knew who he was, mind and body, and he was not sorry for it. And if Rose she thought he was some Hugo —some damaged little boy in need of saving—then she was regretfully wrong. He was very well the greatest wizard of his age, perhaps of all time.

Here she was, inflicting him with the same self-righteous platitudes as James: the single-minded belief that they were meant to be exactly like their parents [who had been extolled to the level of deities by the rest of the insufferable world]. That they were meant to follow in their crater-sized steps and uphold their ideals. Why? Because Once Upon a Fucking Time, those ideals had worked.

The world was now different from as it had been for their parents. Darker. More complex, and such a mindset was bred of fear and lack of imagination… and led to absolutely nothing. Stagnation. Albus despised it. Progress, true progress, was borne of risk-taking, innovation, not cowering in shadows and preachy platitudes. Instead, true progress was borne of someone willing to tread the great boundaries of magic [as long as he stayed in control]. Someone willing to go where no wizard has dared to go before [as long as he stayed in control].

Albus didn’t know why Rose couldn’t understand, given the steps she’d taken to bring her brother back. Maybe she was too terrified of magic now. No matter. Then he would help her understand. He would show her that he-and he alone- was right. He didn’t know why he was so compelled to prove this to her, only that in spite of not being his real sibling she had compromised his thoughts and actions in a way that made him…frustrated. He could not understand why he was so irrationally affected [Albus hated not understanding things]. Further investigation was necessary.

All he had to do was stay in control.






It wasn’t as much an interrogation as it was a public spectacle. Aurors, even ones not on the case, crowded excitedly behind the one-way observation glass as their boss entered the white-walled room, looking as arrogant and fastidious in manner as he always did.

“Evening, Mr. Croaker.”

“E-Evenin’,” the pudgy man stammered, eyes darting across the tall scar-faced man. “H-how do yer do, sir?”

The Head smiled pleasantly in return. “I take it you slept well last night in your cell.”

He’s pretty fucking scary when he’s being nice, Florian whispered to Rose, who snorted in response. It occurred to her that their tyrannical boss was in fact, capable of being cordial when opportunity presented. This was also how he maintained amiable ties with the Minister and other strategically important officials, while it was only Rose who knew the true extent of his duplicity and ambition.

Sneaky politician.

Rose had much to learn from him.

“Y-yes, I did. M-much better than I’ve slept in months.” The captive swallowed, and waited until he was further prompted. “I…I c-couldn’t take it yer see, they’re mad, they’re all mad. I couldn’t take it no more-”

“Who’s they?” The Head’s voice interrupted.

“All them…them ruddy crows!” he sputtered, his fleshy face turning pink. “Vultures, more like! Savage animals!”

“Aren’t you one of them?”

He flared up instantly, almost like a ruffled hen. “I’m done with them filthy vermin forever! After…after what they done did to them muggles.”

“Is that why you turned yourself in?”

All the aurors behind the glass stared as Croaker broke into tears. The Head watched in mild amusement.

“I-I’m sorry! I didn’t think anyone was going to get hurt!”

Like we’ve never heard that one before, Florian muttered. Rose shushed him, straining to listen.

“Mr. Croaker, you must understand that I care very little for your emotional state,” The Head spoke callously, but not without a hint of satisfaction. “My job is pure and simple, to investigate and apprehend criminal activity. Now, if you do not reveal all you know about the Camden bombings, there’s very little chance you’ll see daylight ever again.”

“Send me to prison then,” the man cried. “I’d be safer there.”

Well, he’s obviously never been to Azkaban, Florian said cheerfully.

Rose quirked an eyebrow. Have you?

Well…no. But I recall you were almost sent there once, Capitaine.

Thank you for the remainder.

“You don’t know what they’re capable of. The kinds of magic they got, kinds I never seen before and I reckon you haven’t either. You don’t know…” An audible swallow. “They’re going to kill you all.”

“I assure you every member of my team is accustomed to death threats.”

But the man was inconsolable: he rattled his head miserably, over and over again.

“You don’t know.” He kept repeating.




 




 






/intermission/

CHAPTER 17.5




 




 






Albus had been engrossed in a piece of paper all morning, not eating and dodging all her attempts to engage him in conversation. He was in one of those moods where he couldn’t spare her time because there was something more pressing in his head.

She peeked over his shoulder to catch a glimpse of what he was writing. But he wasn’t writing; he was drawing.

“It’s good,” she commented.

He abruptly shifted the paper away and shot her a hostile look.

“What is it supposed to be?”

“None of your business.”

“But you’re drawing.” She said, smiling a little. “You haven’t done that since we were kids.”

He drew an annoyed breath and held it, ignoring her. But she hung over his shoulder until he had to give in.

“I’m trying to reconstruct one of my memories.” He told her, stiffly. “I’ve been thinking about that stone we discussed the other day- I was trying to figure out why it stood out to me, why it was relevant like you said-” He broke off. “That’s just it. Things don’t stand out to me unless they matter. So it had to mean I’d seen it somewhere before.”

“With your father?” She asked, hoping her voice didn’t convey her fear. It had been maybe too much to hope that he’d forget all about the stone.

“He took me…many places. It’s difficult to remember every single detail.”

Rose stared at the picture.

“It looks like some sort of cave.”

“Does it?” He turned it over. “Interesting.”

“Albus.”

He didn’t respond but the quill stopped, indication enough that he was listening.

“Let me try…try to see if I can find your memory. I could go inside your head, like I did that other night. What was it, some weird way to do reverse Legilimency?”

“More like a lack of Occulmency.” He said, eyes narrowing. “And you didn’t go in, I let you in. Within reason, of course. I’d never give you free reign in my head.”

“But could you do it again?”

He glared at her.

“Just that one memory,” she said carefully. “I promise I won’t…wander.”

He surveyed her quietly and cruelly, as if expecting some ulterior motive. Rose felt a little wounded but tried not take it personally; habits were hard to break and Albus just wouldn’t be Albus without the hostility and the scrutinizing behavior and the overly suspicious edge.

Then finally, a small nod.

Given that he wasn’t high, it had be a miracle.

“Wait, how close do I need to sit for this to work?”

He ignored what he probably thought was a stupid question, instead tapped the table in front of him. She climbed into her designated seat and he enchanted the table lower so they were face to face.

He had his wand ready and aimed at her. “First thing, you’ll need to empty your mind, which I’m sure won’t be very difficult for you. Then-”

“But shouldn’t I cast the-”

“I’m afraid not. I don’t trust you to cast it properly. Now sit still.”

-

This time was different than before; there was no reel of preselected memories flashing across her eyes. Instead she was standing in the darkest darkness she’d ever seen. The momentary lack of anything frightened her, and he must’ve realized this, because his subconscious readily built itself up to resemble the hazy inside of a building. Something ordinary. Something familiar to tread.

A passageway in the Burrow.

She tried walking but her feet hovered over the ground. It was dream-like, surreal. Her surroundings flickered like a broadcast on the wireless.

Wafting through Albus Potter’s head was like swimming in ice-water—how fitting.

Something on her right caught her eye. A glint of bronze, metal, circular like a knob. Doorknob. As she reached for it, something jerked her body back. A whooshing sound flew over her head—metal lattices shot through the faux-air and twisted across the doorway.

His voice thundered through his entire subconscious, angry, booming against her skull.

What are you doing? Did I tell you to go there?

She felt dizzy. “Sorry. I thought-sorry-”

Something cold grasped hold over her body and pulled her forward —apparently he wasn’t taking any more chances with her.

Rose had been violently reminded just how private Albus Potter was about his thoughts.

-

Much sooner than expected, she found herself picked up like a doll and dropped in the memory.

It was off-color, grainy like he was barely able to hold it together. It must’ve been old. On her sides were ivory crusted walls of a rocky structure, like a hollow in a large wall. She watched two figures float by her to the right, Uncle Harry carrying young-boy Albus in his arms. Her uncle looked as distinctly Harry-like as she remembered, and there was no other way for Rose to describe him. Albus had his usual scowl, but it was refreshingly childlike— closer to the pout of a boy who was made to do something he didn’t particularly want to.

Their mouths moved but their conversation was inaudible; so either Albus couldn’t remember it or he had muted it. Maybe he didn’t want her to hear what he considered was a private exchange.

Retracting her gaze from the admittedly very adorable little boy (she decided against mentioning this observation to the older counterpart; it would only piss him off), she followed their paths down the cave. There was more grainy turbulence, entire pieces of the rocky structure missing from memory. Then Harry stopped and his mouth was moving again; he was pointing to something indecipherable in the distance. Rose followed it, trying to move as far as the memory would allow her. The indecipherable became something vaguely decipherable.

She stared in disbelief.

The stone, its center brimming with magic.

It was real and it was somewhere out there.






There was a man in the world who was not a man.

He was barely a living thing, a void, an echo that could neither be heard nor understood. He was a constant in the fabric of Time, stretching out with no beginning or end to be remembered. A contradiction of Nature itself.

He had passed through the world like a shadow for centuries now. Watching as Dark Lords rose around him…and fell. For they would always fall, as leaves fell to the slightest change in wind. It was Nature’s manner of recycling. Time was on a perpetual cycle of darkness and the man alone stood as it’s one and only source of enlightenment.

Once he had been a real man, perhaps. He did not like to recall these days of ignorance and obscurity, nor incite details of an anguish that was no long relevant. He had been deafened so that he could now hear. He had been broken so that he was now whole. And only when he had been pinned by the arms, tortured and mutilated, physically and forcibly blinded, it was then at last that he learned to see.

He had transcended his human form completely and utterly.

He was creature borne of war, of suffering, of oppression, and of power. But it did not end there; if it did, then perhaps the threat they faced would be more…manageable.






Healer training had completed so all that was left were examinations which Scorpius was under grueling preparation for. He’d come over to get brewing pointers from Potter, who’d been as dismissive and haughty about the matter as one would expect Potter to be but hadn’t said no. Because- and Scorpius knew this- his best mate reveled in proving his intelligence to others. The blonde, who was reasonably bright but not exactly brilliant, had taken advantage of this many times in school- especially before his OWLs which had incidentally turned out spectacular and thrilled his parents and opened his future to the likes of Healing. On some level Scorpius may have owed his academic success to Potter. He was never going to admit it though.

Potter had used Scorpius all through school, but Scorpius had used him too.

Slytherins, the pair of them.

Scorpius sat under a canopy of autumn-colored leaves in the large Weasley yard, studying; there was a cool breeze, sporadic, chilling his hands and blowing his hair askew. He ruffled it out of habit. He kept glancing over at Rose, also out of habit, eyes trailing over her form. The smooth neck. The slender arms. The long…legs. He tried not to let her catch him, though occasionally his eyes caught Potter’s, whose expression would darken as if he knew exactly what Scorpius was thinking. Then his ears would redden and he’d go back to staring at his book.

Rose was too busy dodging spells to notice.

The cousins were sparring, in the way they used to do back at school. And often these sparring sessions had the potential to go very, very badly…for Rose.

-

Torrents of crackling light sped past her—narrow miss—leaves rattled from trees in nearby vicinity—he tilted his head—she outran another wild hex—slapped her leg—she was rolling—face swallowed dirt—lifted herself back on her feet—he smirked at her anger—blocked her Incarcerus and tossed it back—she threw up a shield—torpedoes of red were fired—shield cracking—her feet skid backwards—light burst through—she flew back.

In the past fifteen minutes Rose had had herself thrown all over the yard, while Albus had barely moved.

“You call that a hex?” she panted, standing up. “My gran could do better.”

“Don’t you two share the same gran?” Scorpius piped from his so-called-studying. “I admire the energy, Weasel, but really, that insult doesn’t even make sense.”

“Rose Pose has a spotty record for trying to make sense.” Albus muttered. The boys exchanged a very Slytherin smirk.

You’re spotty.” She snapped back with a jinx. He leisurely side-stepped it, and threw a streak of silver her way.

It hit her hard but not as hard one would expect Albus to hit. Something about his manner of dueling was subdued, like he was playing with her than fighting decently. This boiled her blood. She’d wanted to spar, to improve, and she couldn’t do that if her opponent was being coy. She’d seen him. She’d experienced him. He could do better.

And so could she.

She refocused herself and aimed a hex. It flew over his head into trees. Leaves exploded everywhere.

He brushed a stray leaf from his shoulder in a careless sort of way. A small smile played on his lips.

Now she was pissed. She torpedoed hexes, each one harder and faster than the last.

Albus stood there, slashing through each with ease. He felt no urgency to dodge, to even conjure a shield. Colors collided in the space between them. Arcs clashed in an explosion of light.

The bullets stopped.

Rose panted, leaning on her calves. Sweat dripped down her elbows.

He tilted his head derisively. “I’ve exhausted you.”

“Five minutes.” she growled.

-

Potter had stalked inside to check on some pet potion of his, inadvertently leaving Scorpius alone in the yard with Rose. She poured water over herself and Scorpius found himself struggling not to stare. He stared fixedly at his book. Minutes passed. Then she was leaning beside him, inquiringly, his concentration waned further.

“How’s the supposed studying going?”

“Funny,” he muttered, then rested the book on his head. He gave a hefty groan. “Weasel. I’m going to fail. Here. Quiz me on the properties of Skele-grow.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine.” She encouraged.

“I always hated potions in school. Don’t know how the hell I got an Exceeds Expectations.” He said heatedly. “Honestly, can you think of one potion I didn’t blow up?”

“Don’t remember. I wasn’t in every class with you, Malfoy.”

“Wish you were.”

It was a strategic line, placed cleverly and thrown casually, but when she didn’t take it Scorpius opted to move on.

He collapsed backwards with an exaggerated sigh. “I don’t have the aptitude to be a Healer. I’m good at organizing heists, picking locks, and sneaking into places I shouldn’t be sneaking into. Not potions.”

“Sounds like you have the aptitude of a thief.”

“Well, yes. Unfortunately I can’t really make a living off my natural Slytherin abilities… I blame Potter entirely. He’s claimed the market.”

A chuckle that showed she understood only too well, followed by a pause.

“Hey Malfoy.”

“Yeah.”

“Why Healer, then?”

He looked at her, uncomfortable. “It’s cheesy. You don’t want to hear it.”

“Go on.”

“No it’s really bad.”

Malfoy.”

“I’m not going after what I want, Weasel. I’m going after what I should be. I…” He stopped a bit timidly, until Rose shot him a curious look. “After the great war, you know what my family’s reputation was like. The opposite of yours. Many people didn’t-and still don’t think my dad should’ve been pardoned even though he’s changed. I know the way people look at us, Weasel, I know what they think. They think we’re a bunch of villains, or a bunch of useless rich snobs. And I…” He trailed off, sounding a little bit sheepish and a little bit angry and for a moment Rose looked like she understood precisely what he was feeling.

“Yeah I get it, Malfoy.”

“Yeah?”

She nodded, catching his nervous gaze for a moment before looking away. “You think if you try hard enough at it, you’ll change how the world thinks. That if you do something good with your future, people will forget where you come from.”

“Thanks for summing it up.” He muttered. “I told you it’s cheesy.”

“It’s beautiful.”

He put his book over his face and tried to be casual about it, and certainly not to hide his reddening ears.

“So that’s why, huh,” Her voice mused. “The whole stubborn friendship with Al. He doesn’t give a shit about your past.”

It was half-true. Potter didn’t give a shit about his family history and that was nice. And the fact their peers had, once, anticipated rivalry between them may very well have hammered in the nails of their alliance. Typecast outcasts. Partners in crime. They had horrible-sounding first names and unforgettable surnames and chips on their shoulders for it they’d probably never outgrow. It was more than enough common ground. But if Scorpius was Slytherin’s Ice Prince it was by reputation only, for Albus was King and he ruled his Kingdom with an Iron Fist. He was the coldest human being alive and selfish about the territory that came with it. Where it came to Rose was where the territorial lines may have...grown murky.

“Nah, Weasel. I’m just a sucker for bad attitude and cheekbones.” He said dryly. “Those sparkling green eyes make my heart swoon.”

They snickered together.

Scorpius nodded his head toward the approaching figure, whose eyes were certainly not sparkling and whose wand was fully equipped in hand. “You should probably get back to sparring. Kick his ass for me, would you?”

She grinned, pulling to her feet. “You’re team Rose then.”

“Always.” He smirked lazily “He’s my best mate but someone needs to cut his ego down to size. That thing is suffocating.”

“You’re telling me. Do you know how hard he is to live with? Do you know what my mornings are like?”

“Weasel.” He gave her an incredulous look. “I’ve shared a dorm with him for six years.”

-

Round two was even worse.

Rose, with muscles heartlessly conditioned, relied on brute strength behind spells more than anything. Maybe it was compensation for her lack of casting abilities. She fought as one would expect a young soldier to fight, with a desperate sort of dedication. Meanwhile Albus was a ballerina. Practiced. Cat-like. His movements were elegant and languid as he attacked, lacking her urgency. His figure was lean but not too lean; he’d never been one of the muscley type of boys. And there was a strange smoothness between movement and action, a sort Rose found herself envying. She had taken solace in Auror training, thinking that would make her better than Albus. It hadn’t.

It wasn’t just that. She was distracted now, her thoughts preoccupied by things not strictly magic—the break had not helped. Her eyes kept trailing over to that blond head, immersed in his so-called-studying—well he was studying now. He was so comical when he tried to be serious. Once she left school Rose thought it was the end of their something-of-an-acquaintance. But Scorpius wasn’t lying about being good at sneaking into places he shouldn’t have been sneaking into. It was strange to see someone like him in her world; he didn’t belong but he wouldn’t leave. The Slytherin by reputation may very well have been a Gryffindor in disguise; still, it was his Hufflepuff side that seemed to somehow stand out the most. The persistence for friendship. The downplayed good nature. She blamed Hugo for warming up to him so quickly… it was silly. And she felt silly even thinking about it.

A hex flew past her shoulder snapping her back to reality, and she rounded with a beam of blue.

Missed. Damn.

When her gaze trailed yet again, she caught Albus staring at the same spot. He always seemed to catch on too quickly. It took her a moment to decipher the look on his face- eyes narrowed and steely, jaw tight. His wand gripped tighter and Rose somehow knew-and readily dreaded- his next move.

She shot him a lethal glare.

Don’t you dare.

His lips twitched upwards in a defiant smirk.

The day was about to be ruined in five ill-fated seconds. It would take Albus two seconds to aim his wand. It would take Rose all four to bolt across the yard, sprinting and leaping and hoping it’s not too far, it’s not too far, it’s not—

The fifth second—she’d lunged across grass shielding Scorpius’ oblivious body with hers completely, her mouth in a fierce snarl, her wand stretched in front of her. A bright burst of light erupted from her wand and slashed through his hex.

She had done it.

Her body shook with terrified breaths and she lowered her wand, hands clasping into grass. She could feel Scorpius’ hand steadying her back, his own breath hoarse and rapid against her neck.

Albus returned a dull look.

“Malfoy,” she panted, glaring at her cousin. “Maybe you should study inside. With all the stray spells out there.”

Scorpius pulled to his feet, looking from the angry disheveled Rose to the composed Albus and back to Rose again, gaze lingering on her. She offered no explanation. He was confused but not quite so oblivious as to think what had just happened was some stray spell.

“I’ll…just go inside then.”

But first he pulled her up, clasping her hand and holding it longer than he needed to. Then, with one last strange look between the cousins, he departed.

-

“What the fuck was that?” she snarled, watching him light a cigarette. “Why on earth would you—you wanna have a go at someone? Have it at me. Attack me. What’s the matter? You’ve never held back before-”

“I don’t need your permission.” He snapped. “Stop talking.”

She drew an enraged breath.

“Scorpius Malfoy’s the sort of friend people dream about having—do you know that? Do you even know how much he thinks of you? And you just nearly attacked him!”

He blew smoke in the air like an impatient dragon.

“You’re the only one dreaming about Scorpius Malfoy,” he muttered, acidly, and rounded onto her. “Is that it, do you plan to die with him too? Because I’m sure there are plenty of people out there willing to acquiesce that request,” a sneer, “You’re perception of love is more distorted than I thought. It’s almost too pathetic.”

She flared instantly: his allegations were ridiculous and immature.

“Why don’t you grow up?”

“Why don’t you go to hell?”

She drew back at these words that were too harsh, too cruel, even for him.

“I think if I did, Albus,” she said, her throat tight. “I think you’d miss me.”

A pause.

“You overestimate your importance then.”

“I just obliterated your hex. Maybe you’re the one who’s underestimating me.”

“You’d never survive a real duel with me,” he spoke in a quiet, lethal voice. “I’d have you on your knees. I’d have you begging for mercy.”

These words chilled her bones, for there was a quiet presence of truth to them. She knew Albus was merciless when he was angry, and just how far his anger went when he was pushed. She wanted to think she was the exception to this. She wanted to think there was something past the animosity. But past the layers of brilliance and ambition and hardness and cruelty was…more hardness, and bitterness, and hatred, and an agony you might miss if you blinked. And there was the fear of misplaced hope, that when she got to the center of him she’d find nothing but hollow empty space. A hollow boy. A boy with not enough soul left in him.

Maybe the dragon tamed her.

No.

I’d have you on your knees. I’d have you begging for mercy.—she’d use these words to fuel her determination to work harder, get better, to match him wand for wand. They’d tick in her head and heart for years to come as she built herself up. Rose was not a quitter.

“You’re wrong you know,” she called after him. “You think it’s my feelings…it’s not. I’d take a hex for Malfoy the same way I’d take a hex for anyone. The same way I’d take for Hugo….even for you.”

He turned, scowling at her. “I’d never ask you to.”

“You’d never need to”

“There’s a reason there are no more heroes in the world, Rose. They all died. They died because they were stupid.” He tucked his wand away, stalking away. “I think we’re done for today.”






There was something very strange going on with Rose’s memoir.

The shaky international Wizarding relations and the looming threat of England being put under quarantine; both of these were pertinent catastrophic things, and yet she approached them with all the nonchalance of a weather report, treating them as mere subplot to the early adventures of her and Mr. Potter.

Instead, the memories she shared were very carefully chosen, even if I couldn’t determine rhyme or reason yet. With ten days remaining it would have been impossible for her to tell me everything – so she had focused the scope of her memoir onto she felt was most vital for me know in context of the war. Not simply know. Understand.

She’d spent a disproportionate time spent describing the young Albus Potter and their shaky alliance – I may be so bold as to call it a friendship. It was strange. History would remember them as lifelong rivals, but this - no, there was something off with what she chose to remember about their younger counterparts. Something she could not or was unable to explain. Something too complex for labels. There was a desperation about it, the almost -moments she chose to share with me; it was like she was beckoning, aching for me to reconsider the boy history universally condemned as a monster.

But that was not all.

Sometimes, it wasn’t what she chose to tell me but what she didn’t choose to tell me.

Rose was evading something; she was purposely diverting my attention towards smaller mysteries, hoping to preserve my opinion of…what? Of Albus? Or herself? Had she forgotten that I was a historian, albeit nonmagical, but one who’d studied her (and Mr. Potter’s comparatively shorter) life story in rather shocking detail. I knew where history was headed-I knew that things would get ugly. I knew the order in which deaths would begin occurring. I had the body counts of every battle memorized—battles where Rose and my people were on fundamentally opposite ends. It was challenging but necessary to look past the curtain of blood that severed our worlds. I had a professional obligation to understand the war. I had a personal obligation to understand Rose’s life as it stood, independent from the surrounding chaos, not yet marked by war.

We had become, to some extent, a form of friends.

“What are we going to discuss next, Rose?” I queried. “You’re the story-teller.”

The old woman framed me one of her smiles that, while polite, would never reach her eyes. It was a practiced courtesy-I had wonder when and where she’d picked the habit.

“You’re the historian, Mr. Walker.”

There was so much on my mind. Harry Potter, the Ordine Corvis, the manifest of magic, the mysterious nonhuman man, Scorpius Malfoy… would she ever tell me why Scorpius Malfoy was deemed the war?

I bit my tongue, holding back frustration over not being able to piece it all together.

I was getting ahead of myself.

Instead, I flipped through my notes. “In my timeline of events the next thing should be…Hugo’s abduction.”






A/N: Please bear with me if updates are a sporadic in the upcoming months. I’m making the transition to college life and things are crazy. Of course, keep pestering me regularly for updates because I’ll need all the motivation I can get :)


Chapter 19: Fall (part 1)
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For several months following the war, when her boyfriend chose to disappear, a part of Ginny doubted that he would ever return. Still she let him go. Why? Because he was Harry Goddamn Potter, the boy who always ever fought his demons alone, and she was the girl who always understood – or at least tried to.

Pain dulled but the scar would never fade, a lifelong memento. So now there was numbness, and insomniac nights spent trailing over it with absent fingers. He said there were things he still didn’t understand. She didn’t know why he wanted to cling to what had practically been the bane of his seventeen years of existence.

When Harry returned, and he did return, he was different though it was difficult to pinpoint exactly how…it would be too easy to say that the Chosen One had been driven mad by the atrocities of evil. Or that he had learned to embrace his own cynicism in isolation. No, that was not it. Or maybe it was. But it was not all. It was the brutal conversion of boy to man in the way only war can manage. For him, the desperate gush of relief had been short-lived. Instead, the newfound appreciation for life came with a heavy dose of survivor’s guilt. And the fear…

Beside her, a gasp, as Harry jolted awake with a full-body shiver.

It frightened her, sometimes, when his eyes snapped open like this and stared up at the ceiling – as vacant and murky as the sky stretching out beyond their closed room. She curled up beside him, her fingers wrapping his wrist, and he could breathe once more.

“It’s just the storm, Harry.”


The fear that any moment everything would be ripped from him was not gone. Would never be gone, she supposed. But it had evolved.

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

He said it was the part always removed in exaggerated retellings of Voldemort’s defeat, the moment before at King’s Cross. But he knew now what was real and what was not. The Chosen One’s victory. What victory? He said all he’d done was dodge a bullet. As if a scrawny seventeen-year old could match a near-immortal dark lord in prowess. No, it was not his victory. It was his dead mother’s, and dead Dumbledore’s, and everyone else, dead or alive, who had always been there to cover his ass. It had been a joint effort.

A very close joint effort.

Life went on. Two careers and three children later, the world had calmed down, though Harry predicted serenity was – is always – short lived. Peace was a mask, he said, in a world where war is constant. You just couldn’t see it. His wife could not see it, and did not know what to make of it.

(It would’ve helped, perhaps, had he made her understand before he left.)

Harry loved all his children equally, but Albus had a special place in his heart from the very beginning. The resemblance between them was uncanny, though the boy held an added potential to be truly brilliant. And terrifying.

Father and son stood in a barren field, out in the middle of nowhere.

The boy lifted his wand, pointing it at the mass of abnormally large spiders. Without a trace of emotion, he uttered the forbidden words.

Avada Kedavra

The crackle of green and the spiders were dead. Within seconds.

A smug expression flitted his face. He turned around, only to find his father had tears streaming down his face.

For a moment Albus stared, alarmed by this reaction.

“Did I do it wrong?” he asked.

Harry shook his head. “Oh no, Albus. You did it perfectly….I’m just a little surprised by how easily… easily you managed it.”

Taking this as praise, the boy returned a faint smile.


The resemblance was not only to him.

Albus was stone-cold, wise beyond his years, and yet so painfully childlike one might forget just who else he mirrored. The boy had a natural drive, a gift, far from the mechanical product of some prophecy.

The open carcass of a very large rodent, pinned down to plastic with Lily’s hairclips.

His mother stood outside his bedroom, mortified, watching the boy draw feverishly in his notebook. The rat in front, crumpled papers littered the space around him. His father’s wand was tossed haphazardly to his side.

“Albus, what are you doing!?”


Ginny thought him disturbed. Others children called him freak. Having spent enough time in cupboards to know better, Harry sought to love his son against all odds. Curiosity, after all, was a marker for brilliance. All he needed was attention, guidance.

Albus was far, far cleverer than any other boy of his age and even most adults, and the older he got, the more difficult he became to fully grasp. Gone was the age of curious questions and excited chatter, where sons thought their fathers were gods with answers to everything. Albus was becoming more and more independent, more adolescent.

He returned from his first year at Hogwarts with a harsher exterior. Schooling had bored him, but from peers he’d learned valuable social lessons. Beatings yielded frustration. Frustration yielded hatred, resentment, furthering his precocious arrogance; the coping mechanisms of a boy who simply did not understand. He became sly, furtive. He could be downright charming when he wanted—but only superficially—and never with his father. Surely, the man that had raised him, that had fed him and changed him would see right through some bag of school boy tricks.

Albus was clever, but his father was always cleverer.

Hitting adolescence, their conversations became shorter, clipped. Once, being gone on some six month ‘business’ trip, his father had floo-ed him at school:

“So how is everyone? How’s your mum?”

“Fine. Good.” Albus answered, looking elsewhere.

“And Hogwarts?”

“The same.”

“How are your studies?”

“Dull.”

“Getting along with everyone?”

“Yes.”


Perfunctory questions. Perfunctory responses. They were making small talk. Playing their assumed father-and-son roles. And ignoring the fact that Albus most certainly did not get along with everyone.

And once he returned…

“Dad.” The boy framed him a polite smile. “How was your trip?”

“Same as usual, Albus.” Harry waved it away, setting his bags down. “Now what about you? Good term?”

“Yes.”

“How were exams?”

“Nothing.”

“I expect you’ve had a girlfriend or two by now.” He chuckled.

The thirteen-year-old looked disgruntled at the idea. He shook his head.

“No?”

His brow set. “No.”

“It’s natural to be curious, Albus. About women.”

“It’s not like that.”

Harry held a soft smile. “I think you are curious, Albus. You’re the most curious boy I know.”

A flicker of boyish distaste passed over his face. Clearly he thought himself better than James, with no interest in indulging the idiotic, squealing girls that clamored around the two of them.

“I have better things to be curious about.”

“Is that so?”


There—they’d been treading too close to don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Albus had quickly steered the conversation elsewhere, having no intention of revealing his more dangerous Hogwarts misdemeanors to his father. Harry was much smarter and saw right through him. It was necessary to tread with caution, and at the same time it was pointless.

His father swallowed his lies as readily as Albus swallowed his. Not for a second did Albus actually believe he’d been on a business trip; nor did, he knew, the man expect him to. This was simply the way they played off each other. Turning blind eye for blind eye. They were equals in this way, guarding each other, trusting and distrusting in equal modes. For the illusion of normalcy they would ask dull and often ridiculous questions, calculating each other’s responses. It was a game of wit and words and something Albus couldn’t really pin down. They were playing house, but it was not about family or love; it was about forbidden knowledge, and the burden that came with it. In many ways, they were only killing time.

He knew someday his father would tell him everything.

Or hoped.

Because the lessons never ended. His father always found something to challenge him. It was gruesome and dreadful, and in some sick twisted way left him wanting more. Training would continue during breaks, summers.

“Put your wand down, Albus. I want to talk first.”

A touch disappointed, the fourteen year old boy slumped, ready for what he figured would be a very dull sermon on wand mechanics.

Sitting down beside him, Harry continued. “Now, we’re going to try something very different with the Cruciatus today. And I want you to be mentally prepared.”

“I’m prepared,” he said, impatience seeping into his tone. He didn’t mention he’d been practicing it on spiders on his own. He wanted his father to think it was purely natural talent.

“Albus, I want you to practice on me.”

Stunned silent, green stared at green in alarm.

Harry reached to touch his arm, and the response came in a violent jerk away.

“I can’t have you practice on spiders forever,” Harry insisted. “This really is the safest way.”

An anxious headshake.

“Albus,” he said, in a quiet voice.


Albus would remember his last lesson with father well, an unfinished lesson. The tables turned, his father was on the ground this time. It was not difficult to draw the rage, the fuel. It was shockingly easy.

“Crucio.”

Hatred pulsed in his veins, pouring out the length of his wand. The crackle of fiery magic made contact with chest and sparked pain. Like something that was screaming for release. And the screams. Not his. Not this time, no. The man, hands clenched at hair, lay convulsing. It was sickening. His father. Twisted permission. Himself. Some perverse fantasy. But it was no fantasy, no, it was real. And happening.

Wand slipped from shocked fingers.

The small boy fell over, insides shuddering, and retched into grass. He wiped his mouth and stifled something like a gasp.

Legs trembling, he stood up and began to run. Away, as far as he could get.

The man called after him.


Albus was many things – childish, needy, stubborn – but above all he was a runner, and this fact would not change even later in life. Intuition told Harry there was only one place he could have fled.

Harry stood outside, coat drenched, hair askew, when his young niece opened the door.

“Uncle Harry,” Rose said, startled. “It’s late. What are you doing here? Is everything ok?”

“Yes, I’m just looking for Albus. I—” A pause. “Where are your parents?”

Rose squirmed at the door. “Some emergency at the office.”

The adult’s brow creased. “They left you alone?”

“They said they’d be back quickly. Plus, Hugo’s already asleep.” A shrug. “It’s not a big deal.”

“Right.” Harry nodded. “Well, will you tell them I stopped by? Tell them to see me in the morning. There’s something we need to discuss before I leave tomorrow.”

“Sure thing.”

As the girl moved to close the door, Harry stopped her.

“Also, is Albus in there by chance?”

Rose flushed.

“He came and sort of fell asleep,” she said sheepishly.. “I’ll send him back tomorrow. My parents won’t mind. Honest.”

“I need to talk to him.” He moved toward the door. Rose blocked his way.

“He’s not well.”

“This is important, Rose.”

“He doesn’t want to talk.”

“How would you know that? You said he was asleep.”

Rose avoided his gaze. “Sorry, Uncle Harry,” she murmured. “But I can’t let you see him right now.”

With that, she closed the door. She locked it twice before making her way into the sitting room.

Beside the fireplace Albus stood, fingers curled around a mug of herbal tea, eyes focused into the burning embers with the intensity of a glare.

“He’s gone,” she said, though it was clear he’d been listening in. “Do you want to talk?”

His expression was even more frightening mutilated in hearth half-light, but she held his glower, watching him soften to a point. He shook his head unfeelingly and looked away.

Rose didn’t know why she thought it’d be otherwise. Nights like these, when Albus came crawling through her window looking stricken-pale, a ghost, he hardly ever spoke, let alone about what happened.

Being too old to nap together at fourteen, these visits were less frequent, but on the rare instance they happened, he was so shaken that Rose didn’t have the heart to say no. They were too big to share anymore – or Rose figured she’d end up pushed off – so one took the couch and the other the bed. Albus let her choose. He was rarely ever nice, but it was only time one might say he was cooperative. Maybe even considerate. Rose wished he would talk to her. What was the point of a secret sleepover if you didn’t talk?

Without knowing what was going on, Rose felt compelled to take his side even though Uncle Harry was nicer. Fights and feuds aside, Albus was her constant playmate. And besides, Uncle Harry had loads of adults to take his side. It was a matter of loyalty. Or friendship. Or something like that.

And also, Rose hoped that someday Albus would return the favor.




 




 






The Michelangelo of mankind chiseled away at marble, smoothing edges and carving details that stretched out against the fabric of Time, until alabaster stone stood finished, glowing in eternal perfection. It was the work of hard labor and stunning calculation… paved in the blood and sacrifice of human men.

In three days, the wizarding world would change once more.

His hands paid the price. They were scarred, cracked, worn, aching from obsessive toil; the only parts of him any longer to bear human qualities. Nails, black and sharp as talons, attached to long fingers blossoming out from a palm marked by bulging blood-blue veins. They were both blessing and abomination.

In three days, the wizarding world would change once more.

It would begin in the wizarding town called Little Norton, the magical disaster planned by that human Graham Paisley; his excitement was akin to a child given a brand new toy. How he had begged and pleaded for a chance – just one chance – to stand out, become one with history, immortalize himself in books. He wanted to be the one to usher in the British Ministry of Magic’s first memorable failure.

All this work to become a mere footnote… what a meager form of immortality

How predictable villains so often were.

But no – Graham Paisley was not a villain. He was a petty criminal with a stroke of luck and his fifteen minutes of fame were quickly diminishing. Rather the human deserving of a footnote was Samuel H. Bargeworthy, who’d long ago concocted the idea of an experimental society where law did not reign. He claimed Magic was not religion, nor country, nor any other institution that could continue to be governed… abused by flawed men like Fudge and Scrimgeour, both of whom were partly responsible for the rise of so-called-terror named Tom Riddle.

Everyone knew Little Norton was destined for failure from its very origins.

To abolish the structure that had for so long defined human morality…proof a free man’s world was as dangerous as the contrary. Bargeworthy did not understand the larger purpose of government. He did not realize that the moment wizards lost organization they’d lose all sense of self. Become lambs out for slaughter. Still, where the human lacked in logic he made up for with followers; pessimists and extremists for whom there was no end to their hatred for the Ministry of Magic.

Surely, a town which found its roots in isolation and anarchy—the word was synonymous with apathy—could never become truly self-sufficient.

It came as no surprise to anyone that crime was the most prosperous business in town.

It came as no surprise to anyone that crime was the only business in town

And that crime itself was owned by the likes of the Ordine Corvis.

Little did they know that in three days, the wizarding world would change once more. The town that gone large unnoticed till now would finally win the fame it deserved. No longer would its filthy (lack of) conduct pass undiscussed save for hush-hush utterances among drunken aurors. No longer would beggars and stray dogs litter its cobblestoned pathways, vocal out in the hungry mornings. The marketplace would no longer bustle with dark robes and rancid smells. And the long line of prostitutes standing outside the apothecary, fanning themselves invitingly? They would be memorialized. Immortalized.

Through their obliteration they would become one with history.






A purple-haired prostitute noticed them and gestured at Scorpius, who turned a faint color.

“Bet you feel special,” Rose teased from beside him.

He gave a chuckle but didn’t make eye contact, pacing ahead of her. Dubious brows raised, but she said nothing, instead trailing after him down the thin, twisting alleyway.

All morning Scorpius had been acting moody, aloof. If Rose was honest with herself then she already knew why. He was brooding over last night, when she rejected him for trying it on with her in the middle of a crisis. But Rose wasn’t honest with herself – or maybe she was bitter on her end too – and the matter was overshadowed by the larger, more pressing issue at hand.

With no portkey, and the floo network apparently down, the two had been floating in and out of shops all morning speaking with people, trying to gauge the situation but getting nowhere. There was rising tension in the air; shopkeepers closed up early while stroller-wielding ladies hurriedly shuffled home. No one stuck around long enough to answer their questions.

They spent many hours exploring the town from its fringes, walking alley after cobblestoned alley to dead end. Strange enough, even the smaller passageways into the muggle world were blocked.

“Fuck.” Scorpius burst. He put his hands on the thick concrete barrier, pushing against it. “Where the fuck are we anyway?”

She tried several spells but it wouldn’t budge. He kicked against it twice and cursed several times, running a frustrated hand through his hair.

“Let’s keep looking,” she said.

“Maybe Potter’s—”

“He’s not right.”

Albus was back at the campsite with Hugo, resting, recovering from a suspiciously believable fever he’d contracted in absolutely no time. He had predicted that all the magical entrances would be closed off. He knew more about this place than they did. Little Norton, like Diagon Alley, was not somewhere one could find on a map. Hidden behind the walls of various run-of-the-mill muggle diners, accessible only by magical means that were now faltering, Little Norton was a closed nonsensical loop.

Scorpius sighed, his head sinking a little as he brought it to rest against the wall.

“So how was Potter anyways? Sick or faking it like we figured.”

“You’re wasting your time.” Albus had coughed into his arm. “Your search will be pointless.”

“Well we can’t just sit around and wait—”

“I’m not asking you to do that. I’m asking you to be a little patient.”

“Patient for what?” Her voice rose an octave. “For you to face off against the most terrifying man in the country right now? Let me put things into perspective for you—you look like shit. You can’t even get out of bed.”

“That’s not--”

Albus stopped short and cupped a hand over his mouth. She watched him erupt in another coughing fit. He buried his face into his pillow, wheezing, fists clenched around sheets.

“And what would you have me do?” His voice came out muffled. “Run away?”

She stared at him, her anger dissolving. A pang of emotion shot through her.

“No,” she murmured, reaching to palm his burning cheek. “Just stay with me.”

He turned away from the gesture with a scoff. “You don’t even know what you’re saying.”

“Once we get out of here, I’ll get the Ministry on this. I’ll make sure Paisley stops hunting you.”

“No, no.” He shook his head in his pillow. “It won’t work.”

“I’ll protect you,” she insisted. “Just let me handle it, Albus.”

“No, Rose.”

She watched him pull the covers over his head.

“You should leave.” His voice had lost that human quality that allowed one to guess what he was thinking. “I’m… not well right now. I’d like to be alone.”


“Evasive. Unresponsive,” she replied, her voice a bitter murmur. “Pissed at me. As usual.”

“He couldn’t have been that pissed if he gave you his jacket.” Scorpius turned around, cocking his head at her. “Speaking of which, you know you wear his jacket a lot.”

“So?”

“So nothing, Weasel. It’s weird.”

She rolled her eyes and stared overhead. The clouds had shifted for once, and with the inclusion of sun, things looked less bleak but certainly felt more. They began moving once more, trailing past small wizarding edifices, which had been nothing but dark mounds the other night, but now resembled actual bricked homes. People’s homes.

“You two always wear each other’s clothes?” Scorpius probed again. He absently dropped more than a few galleons into a beggar’s tin cup as they stalked by. The beggar looked aghast by the generosity but the rich Malfoy didn’t notice.

“Well?” he prompted.

Yes, Malfoy. Al’s always borrowing my skirts. He wears them to all the parties. Didn’t you know that?”

“Now there’s an image I’ll never unsee.”

Rose snorted dryly.

Market lights flickered in the distance, and curiosity compelled them forward. Their hands sat trained at wand. They walked inches of each other, careful not to lock eyes with the silently menacing figures inhabiting shrouded corners.

The filthy, overwhelming stench of a thousand bodily odors assaulted them as they heard clamoring overhead and the whizzing of surrounding gnats dulled…slowly faded away—men and women jostled past them. They followed the runners into open air, a range of broad daylight and dangerous visibility: the market square. She drew on her hood and made Scorpius do the same. There the clamoring rose and swelled and turned to voices, overlapping in a raucous uproar.

Crowds of people.

Rose stopped in her tracks.

The beast of Diagon Alley rose in memory: the screaming, tearing, pushing, pulling, shoving, falling, hurting, kicking, desperate to get to her and—

Scorpius had gripped her arm and was giving her a reassuring look. She forced her fear down her throat, burying it deep inside her, and nodded. Together they navigated their way through the throngs of outraged wizards.

At the end was an open slit in a brick wall, the main passage way from Little Norton to the muggle world. It was glazed over with some sort of magic. A charm Rose didn’t recognize.

Sparks erupted as dozens of spells hit against the slit, simultaneously, and rebounded back towards the casters.

"Agh!"

Shrieks rang out amidst the crowd, people shielding their loved ones. Other wizards tried to shove through with brute force and were repelled—violently thrown—backwards.

“Oi, what’s the deal there?” Scorpius asked a thin old man standing nearby, arms folded, spectating.

“Been closed all morning. People been trying to fly and apparate too, but no good. Keep coming back, saying something won’t bloody let them.”

Scorpius blinked. “What does that mean? There’s some containment charm over this place?”

“Have the authorities been contacted about this?” Rose asked.

The man gave a whooping cackle. “You joking? No one wants any ruddy aurors here. To hell with the Ministry.”

She contained a breath, and turned her attention back to the slit. More spells—shot, spluttered. Watching charm after charm fizzle against the barrier, the air seemed to deflate from her lungs. No portkey. No floo. And now all the magical entrances had been closed off too.

Hopelessness began to set in.

Looking just as distraught, Scorpius tugged at her arm and gestured for them leave. They made their way out of the bustling crowd and slipped back into the alleys.

Far enough away, she snapped— “Idiots.”

“Idiots.” he agreed, scowling. “All freedom and what have they got to show for it? Kids sitting on sidewalks. Lowlives standing ready to pound your head in. Absolutely no clue what the hell is happening in their own town. Sure I don’t like the ministry as much as anyone else—mostly because they do shit—but this is just ridiculous.”

“The Ministry does the best it can.” Rose found herself arguing, to her own surprise.

Scorpius quirked a brow at her. “See that’s the thing, Weasel. Maybe a few years ago that was ok, but their best isn’t good enough anymore.” He shook his head. “And besides, everyone knows Shacklebolt’s a fucking doormat. He lets other countries walk all over him—don’t you remember that conference?”

“He’s trying to prevent war,” Rose retorted. “What do you expect him to do? Tell them to shove off, no you can’t put England under containment? Do you see that going over well?”

A shrug. “All I’m saying is he needed to look strong and all he did was look old and worn.”

“You sound like a mouthpiece for your dad.”

“We don’t see eye to eye on everything but the man’s got perspective, Weasel. I’m not gonna deny that. And anyway, my dad’s a bit more forgiving. He thinks Shacklebolt’s the better of two evils. Me, I’m not so sure.” A thought occurred; he stopped walking and turned to her. “But hey, look,” he said, nudging her arm gently. “Here’s what I’m not doing— I’m not blaming you.”

The wind had picked up and blew in thick gusts. Folding her arms over her chest to keep from shivering, she gave a baseless shrug. His words were soft, almost mocking to her ears. Because whether or not he said it, she knew— and everyone knew— that all the backlash the ministry was getting, all the rioting, all the violence… all of it was because she had resurrected Hugo. She deserved blame.

Scorpius read her silence.

“No, Weasel. That’s not the point. You’re not the point. Don’t you see? We both know the Ministry’s excellent at covering shit up. They covered up your parents’ deaths after all. And they should’ve covered your resurrection up before it got out to the masses.”

She considered this. “They were careless then.”

“Well, yeah, but the press was ruthless too. Look at the panic they caused. It’s the anarchy they stir up with their articles—slowly mucking the ministry’s reputation up—though I reckon Shacklebolt does enough of that himself, too.”

“The press has total freedom, Malfoy. They do whatever they want.”

Malfoy looked at her. “Well you see the problem with that don’t you?”

They walked silently for a while, Rose at a complete lack of words.

“Think about the rioters during your brother’s kidnapping, Weasel. How come you lot couldn’t get them under control?”

“Aurors can’t attack civilians unless provoked,” she answered mechanically. “The most we can do is keep them contained.”

“They caused a pretty big mess though, didn’t they? Reckon they had freedom to do that?”

A pause.

“What are you trying to say, Malfoy?”

“You know.”

Her stomach dropped. What Scorpius had said was hard to digest, but impossible to ignore… surely he knew she could never agree with him. Yes, all the press had done was make life hard for her, but rights were still rights, weren’t they? Wasn’t that what her mum would say? The founder of S.P.E.W? The fiercest advocate of muggleborn rights in their post war world?

(And dead, as memory hideously served her.)

And yes, Kingsley was too lenient, too diplomatic, even to such a point as to allow a town like Little Norton to exist in the first place… maybe that was the problem. And it stung. In a time when unity was vital, Kingsley Shacklebolt, a man who once held the same ideals as her parents, was allowing wizarding England to fragment, grow weak. Maybe that was what stung most of all.

Rose didn’t really know how to feel about it. She couldn’t think. There was just so much noise in her head.






Dad,

I know you’re going to get really pissed by what you’re about to be told, but I’ve haven’t got a choice.

I’m in Little Norton right now, with Potter and Weasley and her little brother who we just rescued from the Ordine Corvis. Anyway, it’s not surprising that we pissed them off in the process and now we’re sort of in a …tiff.

Ok, this is the part where you yell. I’m a horrible kid. I’m a right pain in the ass. How you managed to raise a son so idiotic, you’ll never know.

I won’t go into details about the trouble we’re in since I don’t have that much time, but the Ordine Corvis have been hunting my friends for a while. They’ve closed off the floo channels. Our portkey isn’t working. I’m not even sure if this letter will get to you. Something really bad is about to happen, and I reckon we don’t want to be here when it does.

We’re going to need help, dad. I know you’re really, really mad, but if you could come pick us up, that’d be fantastic.

-Scorp

(Also, please don’t tell mum. She’ll go bonkers.)

-

Kovy,

I told you I was going to get Hugo back and I have. Yes, I disobeyed the Head. I went behind the Ministry. I’ll face the consequences for it later.

I’m in Little Norton right now. Something strange is happening here. I know the town isn’t exactly on our list of priorities, but this may very well be why the Ordine Corvis chose to hide here. They’ve blocked all transportation past the threshold into the muggle world. I’m not sure how it is from the outside in, so you need to move fast. Something’s about to happen. I’ve already seen a lot of panic and I expect I’m about to see a lot more.

Bring everyone.

-Rose







Albus had missed something.

He realized this now, having spent half the night recovering from Hugo’s deathly memory and the other half trying to make sense of it. It was the damning noise; a heightened more vibrant version of what he and Scorpius had heard at the shack. More alive, more desperate. There was almost an emotion to it, a frustration—no, anger—no, hunger.

Sensations had flooded his body, white-hot and freezing and everything in between. They tore at his nerves, gnawed at his innards— his body sang in confused agony all night. Invisible fingers trailed pain down the length of his neck, chest, torso, and down still… a shudder. He turned over burying his face in a pillow, and gave a low groan.

[Was this how it felt to die?]

And Hugo; the boy had helped Albus. Yes, pulled him over his small shoulder, and dragged him from the lakeside [their unsteady steps scuffing dirt, fumbling over each other]. Changed Albus into dry clothing somehow. Helped him into bed.

Unable to move for the longest time, Albus had lied thinking, just thinking of what it all meant:

Inside his cousin’s mind he’d seen….well, nothing actually. A surge of blinding light, and he’d fallen backwards. He’d been repelled but by what? Hugo was not trained in Occulmency.

But there was something inside his young mind that drew sharp teeth the moment it sensed Albus. Sure enough the intrusion had been aberrant, unlawful; no living being had ever been allotted knowledge of what happened after. That was the whole point, wasn’t it? That was why Hugo, despite dying, could recall nothing. That was why wizards everywhere had gone mad for Rose’s resurrection magic. The line between the Living and Dead had been crossed once now, and the force that governed both realms was looking to prevent it from happening ever again.

[Had to be more careful in the future]

Then—just like Rose, Hugo had not sensed the noise. He was oblivious. It couldn’t kill him because…well because he had already died? Once? He’d been desensitized in some way. Maybe.

[Shack]

[Underground]

[Same noise]

[Burned]

Had his father been experimenting with the bounds of Death as well? Was it a spell? Had he created a spell, or perhaps uncovered a different sort of magic? But for what purpose? What had gone wrong?

[Almost like a weapon]

Was the sound what had killed him?

[Even dead?]

At this Albus felt a futility he could not understand, a despair that sent him sinking further into his sheets. Dead or alive, his father was gone, and all his conjectures were nothing more than hopeful guesses.

And it frustrated him. That the only thing he felt in response was a twisted, overwhelming surge of betrayal frustrated him. He had so much hate. He had so much hate he must’ve been made of it. Hatred at being chewed up, spit out…forgotten… tossed aside like trash… and for what?

Perhaps this whole quest had been a hallucination, a twisted fantasy he’d concocted all on his own. If, somehow, the Master of Theatrical Deception had gone too far and deceived himself….then there had never been any hope for him to begin with. He’d been handed an impossible algorithm by an insane man, and no Perfect Solution awaited beneath fabricated truths that would’ve been too painful for any other psyche to handle. Except that he was Albus Potter…and his psyche had been altered years and years ago.

[Like father, like son]

There was no solace in these thoughts, and his fingers ached for his wand, his spellbooks, things he knew would give him comfort. He wanted to bury himself in magic, read until his eyes bled out of his skull. Yet every inch of his body resisted the desire to get up; head throbbed, muscles ached, legs were heavy. And there was so much work to do; a health potion to finish for a very deserving boy and a plan to devise for potential murder.

Graham Paisley: the man was a nuisance, and this whole Ordine Corvis interlude had been nothing but frustrating and vague. Albus was slowly losing patience for it…along with everything else.

Rose did not help things.

Burning forehead met the pressure of small feminine fingers, jolting him from his hazy thoughts.

“Not faking then.” A chuckle. “Hugo said you had fever. Says you caught it from him.”


He’d turned his head and buried it away, not wanting her to the state of him. Hugo’s excuse was satisfactory, but Rose would’ve suspected otherwise if she’d had a clearer look. His body was in painful knots all over, something fever didn’t do.

Her fingers stroked his hair, and he’d resisted the urge to lean into their touch. It was an apology for yesterday’s fight, he knew. But he didn’t want it. She was there to coax him, numb him with miserable affection that was sisterly or motherly. It didn’t matter, because he didn’t want it. He did not want her hands touching him then. He did not want her near him, and he did not want her fingers grazing his hair [no she could save all that for fucking Scorpius Fucking Malfoy].

A hand gripped his arm. “Look-” He wrung it away, but she grabbed him again. “I’m just saying that you don’t have to prove anything,” she said fiercely. “You’re not your father, and Graham Paisley is not Voldemort. There’s no prophecy. There’s no Elder Wand, no technicality that’s going to save your ass. There’s absolutely no reason for you to—hey are you even listening to me?!”

He kept his eyes shut.

“For Merlin’s sake! For once in your life, Albus, just once, admit that you have no clue what you’re up against!”


Obviously she was wrong.

And anyway, the concern was useless. Graham Paisley had no intentions of letting him escape and would do everything in his power to keep them all trapped there. So even if Albus was not as prepared as he’d like to be, there was no need to admit it to her.

Rosie Posie Rosie, with her fighting words and crumpled expressions and teeny wrists that [snap] fit [snap] perfectly [snap] in his hands. She didn’t care for the threat he posed, both as powerful wizard and unstable young man. No, she’d bridge their distance without reservation, desperate to make herself known to him. Snarl, kick, throw little punches, yell, sob, cling, in that precise order. Shove him then grab him, curl into his arms and bury herself against his chest. Overwhelm him with her incessant crying.

[And he was]

Lovely sister, that Rose.

[fucking pathetic]

She’d stay even if he told her to go away.

She’d just sit on his bed even if he wouldn’t talk to her, just so she could be near him.

[all so hopeless]

She loved him.

She loved him.

She loved him.

[too far gone to say anything in return]

She was pure threat.







AN: Bit of a transition chapter with several strands of plot running together. Maybe not the most exciting, but I hope you enjoyed the Harry Potter tease. Second part is much more climatic and I’ll have it up within a week or so. So please review. Reviews keep me writing Clash at the busiest intervals of life. :)

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real? --was said by Dumbledore in DH. Cheeky old man.


Chapter 20: Rescue
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There was a man in the world who was not a man, who’d grown restless waiting for history to repeat itself. He was an Observer, and while it wasn’t often he left that role and intervened with the fates of lowlifes...

Today would be an exception.

the blackness of a cloak flickered past the doorway, the grand and hollow chambers, and the human neck twisted up from its reading. Paranoid eyes scoured candlelit quarters. One hand sat at hip, trained for its wand—

Graham Paisley. A name England feared, for a reason as simple and stupid as fearing the shadows. Characterized by the crimes of his animagi society; indeed, there was no man in this generation closer both to blowing the Statute of Secrecy, and dooming the wizarding world to unprecedented chaos. Both sadist and sociopath, and renowned for it; the human enjoyed the infamy his power wrought him Too Much.

Sharp click-clacks sounded across the lacquered floor; a staccato all too familiar. It was trapped in the recesses of his Off-key mind, from their last encounter. The manifest of fantastical magic, of dreams and toys and wishes fulfilled, of the unspoken, of the Unseen…. of fury, of fear; it was the Nightmare of nightmares

The stories about the Ordine Corvis were half-true, and half the maneuvering of cleverly propagated rumors. To the untrained eye, they were nothing more than some anarchist cell bent on upending government rule. Straggler Death Eaters from That Last War, who’d banded together and formed some copycat society au lieu of the deceased Dark Lord, continuing his quest for power.

This was not the case.

Tom’s quest for power had been a solitary one, and loyalty rarely lasts Beyond One’s Passing. The clever half-blood; he’d seduced the world with his words and charm, with his promise of magical purification, which was hardly a new one, and had never been his true goal. What he had truly desired was domination, and utter annihilation, and with that an ascension of his human form into the god-like. The quest for immortality had been made by many Great and Terrible Wizards time and time again… and he had nearly achieved it.

Until Harry came along. As the way things went.

Several moments passed in silence, in dreadful anticipation for what came next

So who were the Ordine Corvis? Certainly not Tom-worshippers. No, they were masqueraders, illusionists. They thrived off media attention, the wary newspaper headlines; the ministry response to their bloodthirsty crimes fed their ever-growing reputation as a dangerous enigma …and therein lied the secret to their success. Power wrought from smoke and mirrors.

After all, the world needed its villains.

Yet they were resourceful, fully functional. A microgasm of steadily growing criminals, structured by hierarchy, in which those most accomplished in magic became crow animagi and served that human Graham Paisley directly. Below them came the everyman, the common criminal who took the hits and the filled Azkaban slots. He served his function; kept the aurors busy, made them feel like what they were doing mattered. When really all it took was a bombing or two, some thousand muggle casualties, to reduce them to the infants they really were.

In this way, Graham Paisley was a better politician than the Minister of Magic had ever been. With a well-timed magical disaster, he could sway public perception, alter the entire political landscape.

Move toward a New World Order.

Long waxwork fingers trailed across his skull, pawing the yellow hair as it would an infant’s, leaving lingering traces of cold. He—the human--- raised its head, painfully summoned. Eyes, black and dead gazed back, piercing though his still-living soul to the depth of a wound. A hollow.

“Cygnus,” He breathed in reverence, rising to his feet.

At the sound of the false name, a licentious smile curved across the creature’s lips—


So who was Graham Paisley, and what did he want really? No-one, and nothing. He was an idea, picked up in the anguished rubble of That Last War. The common cliché of a Good Man who did Bad Things for a cause, and found later he rather liked doing them. A man with a backstory no one cared for and didn’t matter; when it came to it.

At his core, Graham Paisley was a man; human and easily frightened. Short blond hair, greying at sides, and stocky figure. Whiskers edged his malformed upper lip, framing the cleft smile that evoke dark mental instability and a feverish Something Else. His face beheld the mark of Cain, which could not be vindicated by the blood he had spilled. And how much blood he had spilled.

“Hello, Graham.” The voice intonated. Low and hypnotic, it was like the chiming of funeral bells.

Graham feigned a glib smile, in some effort to mask his growing tension. “I wasn’t expecting a visit from you today. Is something the matter, old friend?”

“Yes.”

He grunted, wanting to look anywhere but at the dead, black eyes boring into his.

“The boy you seek, the one you wish to collect. You will not kill him will you? Like the others.”

“Beg pardon,” Graham smoothed his shirt prim and proper, with quivering hands. “I am good but also very messy.” He continued, speaking in tones of deceptive airiness which hid a tremor of Something Else. “Sometimes murder cannot be helped, Cygnus. If he refuses to cooperate, my temper may very well get the best of me. I cannot guarantee that blood will not be spilled by the end of this.”

Long spidery fingers blossomed out as if a budding carnation. And the petite human knew they demanded word of a Vow.

His mouth became sawdust. “Do you think I kill in jest? Oh no, no, no, no.” Panic edged his tone. “Oh no, I mean only to keep him, Cygnus. I’ll keep him with the living ones. Promise. He’ll be a pet. My little monkey. You see, there is no need for the Unbreakable-”

The creature unfurled, rising to full height, its ivory flesh glowing in the sickle-moon that rose beyond the window. A looming leer, as the silhouette swooped near; consuming. And there was no screaming. Not really. But swallowed noise, swallowed resolve. A quiet suffocation.


(Graham Paisley was a man; human and disposable.)

In the clinging doom, the human fell to his knees.

“My apologies.” A gasp. “I will do as you ask.”









Hugo was gaunt, sallow skinned, and freezing.

She removed her sweater and yanked it over his head, covering his torso, the morbid remainder of the lacerations he’s suffered in her absence.

“We need to leave.” Albus spoke from behind.

“A few minutes.”

“We don’t have —”

“Look, he’s barely conscious.” She snapped. “Let me just give him something for energy.”

Her defiance was met with an annoyed pause. “Quickly then.” Albus conceded, tossing his bag to her. Rose worked fast. She had the potion out and a spoon shoved into Hugo’s mouth before he could react. The boy swallowed as if by instinct, grimacing at the god-awful taste, and Rose was glad to see color flit his features. “Eurgghh.”

“Don't you dare spit,” She ordered.

“Rose it tastes like shi —”

She cut him off by pressing his body to hers, until he stopped shivering, and until the anxious pounding of her heart calmed. She kissed the top of his greasy head. Twice. Thrice. When her fingertips encountered the sharp grooves of his vertebrae, she nearly gasped: he was skeletal. She could only imagine the abuse he'd endured these past few weeks. Because of her. Her insides squirmed with anger. Fucking crows. Monsters.

“Time to go.” Albus' voice tore through her thoughts. Before she knew it, Hugo was being lifted away from her—she fought the compulsion to cling—and into his less loving, much stronger arms.

“Oi!”

“Easy.” She heard herself croak. “He’s fragile.”

He tilted his head toward the boy, who was, now, angrily thrashing and squirming in his hold. “Is that true? Are you fragile?”

Sunken blue eyes glared back. “Put me down, you tosser.

“Can’t. Unfortunately you’re a bit useless and crippled right now. Maybe once you’re better, I’ll start listening to you.”

“Rose!”

“It’s all right, Hugo. You can’t walk right now. Once we’re out—“

“I can too walk!”

“Hugo.”

Hugo closed his eyes, head falling against the cousin’s shoulder in exhaustion. Too weak for rebuttal.

-

Head reverberated with pain. Vision was fuzzy, sounds distant and faint. Body was a mound of tender flesh and organs, insides jostling with every hurried step his carrier took, stupidly sensitive to every bump. Spaghetti arms hung to Albus’ neck, though Hugo likely would’ve slipped through had the older boy not been holding him in place. A sharp stop made his disoriented head yank up, and before he knew it, he was being put down. Are we out?

The surrounding darkness told him no.

Blood suddenly rushing away from his head, Hugo stumbled a little before his sister’s hands grabbed his shoulders and held him in place. She stood behind him. He felt Albus’ tall presence at his side, hand extending over his scrawny chest as if to halt. Both figures were curiously silent.

Hugo squinted, doubled vision slowly focusing on the bodies standing ahead of them. Two of the men he recognized immediately: Igor and Astrex. Igor was a skinny man with a crow tattoo on his bald head, who compensated for his small size by being exceptionally cruel in his punishments; taking away food and bathroom privileges. Astrex, his larger, much uglier tool, had liked to throw stinging hexes at Hugo whenever he showed cheek.

The next person that caught Hugo’s eye was a woman. He had seen her come by the manor many times to check up on him, presumably, for some higher power. Full lips, curvy body, tattoos covering the length of her arms; his initial opinion of her was that she was attractive—very attractive —but the boyish fancy had faded upon her treating him with the same mocking cruelty as the others. Hugo felt himself take an uneven step back, into his sister, whose grip on his shoulder tightened as if she could sense his fear.

“Get out of our way,” Rose ordered, and Hugo was surprised by her sudden surge of nerve.

“Get out of our way,” the woman mimicked. The others laughed harshly.

This riled Rose. She reached for her wand as per instinct—hexed out of her hands. She lunged forward.

“Oh no you don’t.”

Shot down.

“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Ressurectionist.”

More harsh laughter. Hugo moved with the intention to go after his fallen sister, but Albus had gripped his arm. “Let her handle it,” he murmured.

Rose moved quickly. On her rear, she elbowed her way backwards, narrowly dodging the woman's hexes until she was able to stand. On her feet, she lunged forward bent on stealing the woman’s wand, who grabbed her by the arm and hurtled her backwards. “You bitch!”

His sister steadied herself, and lunged in with her right hook. To the jaw, hard.

Hugo winced.

Rose was efficient, snatching the wand from shocked fingers and stepping backwards. She aimed it at the woman.

“Stay the fuck away from my brother.” She hissed, breathing hard. “I saw what you lot did to him.” With a fierceness, her eyes scoured the others in the room. “If any of you ever come near him again I’ll—“

“You’ll what?” Igor prompted, stepping forward with a lofty grin. “You think we’re intimidated by a little thing like you? No, love.”

The woman wiped blood off her jaw, breathing hard. She eyed Rose indelicately. “You know you’re not nearly as impressive as they make you out to be. Not nearly as impressive as him.”

A pause.

What does that …the thought trailed off, for Rose noticed the attention was no longer on her. Heads had swiveled towards Albus who’d been a bit too reserved up till now.

“Hello,” The woman purred, slinking toward the boys. Hugo looked like he wanted to run away, but Albus held him in place. “It seems we meet again, green eyes. Remember me?”

Albus did not blink.

“No.”

“Oh sure you do, darling. We had a nice lovely chat some few weeks ago. You blasted me out of a tree, ignored me when I asked your name, stepped on my arm… left a rather nasty bruise, you know?” She stood very close, close enough to touch him; his brows raised slightly at her hand lifting to palm his cheek.

“He said he doesn’t remember you,” Rose snapped, before she could stop herself. “Leave him alone.”

The woman glanced carelessly back at her. “This hasn’t anything to do with you, little girl.” She turned back to Albus. “A bit possessive, isn’t she? I guess you must like that sort of thing.”

At the insinuation, Rose felt a burning inside her skin. She opened her mouth in outraged fashion, but before she could get a word out, Albus sent her one of his halting stares.

He turned back to the woman. “So Paisley thinks we’re…” The corners of his mouth twitched. “Why?”

“The living together gave it away, darling.”

Rose blinked: the Ordine Corvis had been spying on them?

Albus didn't look surprised by the revelation. “Is that why he chose to bait me with her brother?”

“You certainly were quick to come to the rescue.” The woman pointed out, grinning.

His eyes flashed in silent laughter. "Brilliant."

“What do you mean, bait him?” Rose demanded, feeling incredibly out of the loop. “What would Graham Paisley want with him? What’s going on here?”

Once more the woman ignored her, not taking her eyes off Albus. “Paisley figured you’d come running when you found out what we had. If we impressed you. He figured you were after the secret to resurrection. Hmm… guess you managed to get close to the little lady without our help.”

“Yes, we’re… very close.”

Rose shot him the filthiest glare imaginable.

“So then Paisley figured he might as well bait two lovebirds with the same worm.” One of the other men chortled, unaware of the irony now that Albus was playing along. He paused to cast Hugo a steely look and elicit a whimper, before focusing back on the older boy. “See, green-eyes, unlike you the boss thinks his plans through. Course, if you surrender now …”

Albus smirked coldly, hand traveling to the back of the small boy’s head and fingers drumming against his scalp at an angle only visible to Rose. A finger moved across the scalp, spelling out letters that her brother would feel.

O…n…m…y…s…i—

Both siblings watched his eyes gesture upwards before returning to the woman in front of them. “Look…”

“It’s Rachel.” She said, with a broad grin.

Albus didn’t bat an eyelid.

“I’ve already declined Paisley’s offer once,” he replied, hand now gripping Hugo at the collar and making hairs raise on the terrified boy’s neck. “His methods of convincing me so far have been very insufficient… it seems a bit pointless to keep trying. Also, if he pursues my companions again I will kill him”

“Oh I’m sure he’ll be delighted to hear that!” Rachel said excitedly. “He’s been aching to see your magic for quite a while. Wants to exchange trade secrets see.”

A pause.

“Ahh, see I’ve got your attention now haven’t I?”

“Go on,” Albus said, brow narrowing.

“Afraid you’ll have to come with me for the rest of the story, darling. It’s for private ears.”

Albus eyed the woman up and down, jaw twitching with annoyance. She was testing his patience, being vague about all the important relevant things. It was, of course, no surprise that they had been spying on him for quite some time. And while it was mildly amusing to find that Paisley thought he and Rose intimate—rather than people who incidentally or, in Rose’s case, begrudgingly shared living space—Albus couldn’t discern what he might possibly want from him. From the looks of it, they did not know he was her cousin; or that he was Harry Potter’s son. So why the interest in him? What trade secrets did he possess? And what was the purpose of these insufferable bait tactics? Albus felt neither enthralled nor seduced by all the morbid aesthetics presented to him. In fact, he wanted nothing more than to kill everyone in the room.

Knuckles tightened around wand.

“Leave it.” Rose warned, as if sensing these thoughts.

Momentary annoyance flickered over his features, but he glanced at the small shivering boy beside him, then at the slender fingers suddenly grasping his wrist, pressing against his erratic pulse.

Their eyes met and held for the fraction of a second; the message was exchanged.

“Fine.”

“Now!”

It happened too quickly for Hugo to process. Rose shot a beam of red upwards, while Albus grabbed hold of him and ducked. Hexes shot over their heads. Debris rained down in large tufts and there was a clamor of frenzied movements. Astrex lunged for Hugo, only to be stunned in his tracks by his cousin. Hugo didn’t have time to gloat properly, as they were moving then; Albus gripped him by the torso and made a mad dash. The small boy hung on for dear life as they flew down the hallway. Then Albus stopped, ducking them behind the staircase. “Where’s—” The older boy pressed a hand over his mouth, shaking his head, and pulled a wand. He peeked over the crumbling stairway before ducking down again. “Shit,” he hissed. “At least a dozen. We won’t get out in time.”

In time.

Realization hit. Rose had collapsed the ceiling.

“What!?”

This was followed by the loud crashing sound of the chandelier—glass shards flew everywhere. Shrieks rang out in the chaos.

There was no time for running. Albus threw him to the ground, covering his body with his own, and conjured a shield over them both.

The manor crumbled around them.




Rose slowed from her sprint, gasping, a hideous realization washing over her.

She hadn’t seen them leave.

Shit. Shit. They were still inside!

“Weasel!” Scorpius came running up to her. “What happened?”




First and foremost, Albus was a young man of calculation.

He knew full well just how skewed the odds were for him.

He wasn’t ready for it, not even remotely, but this didn’t mean he was afraid. But neither was he courageous. James was courageous; as was Rose. Likewise, both were foolhardy with sentiment and prone to excessive heroic fits. Albus, on the hand, was intrinsically wired for his own preservation and simply refused to fear. Such a needless emotion would not help him, now.

He knew far less about Graham Paisley than he would’ve liked, and it was beginning to irk him.

1. Certainly, the man was persistent.

2. And he was in the possession of unfathomable magic—the Camden Bombings, magic fashioned in the way of muggle weapons and made to rain from the sky like hail [Albus distantly wondered how much energy that would have taken].

3. Furthermore, he was unbelievably arrogant: kidnapping the Ressurectionist’s brother and donning a giant banner to show the world what he could do.

And it was no threat. It was an invitation.

Sure enough, a dangerous game to play. Paisley was either a complete genius or a total idiot, goading the dark underbelly of England to his very doorsteps with the false promise of resurrection [For the true method he would need Rose, not Hugo. The boy had just been an easier target]. Crime cells, anarchist groups, curious young wizards, the authorities—everyone would come. Albus refused to believe he was the only one in England who sought powerful magic.

But if Paisley did not care for resurrection, if the kidnapping was indeed a ploy as Albus had initially assumed, then he had to wonder…what was the man after?




Hugo had never been close to any of his cousins, least of all the one that was carrying him at the moment.

He’d been sickly and homeschooled all his life and only ever seen extended family on holidays—even that from a bedridden distance. Therefore, everything he knew about the middle Potter was hearsay: a loner, a recluse, a freak. He was a bully. He was a rather scary bloke. And he was constantly winding Rose up.

Hugo couldn’t understand at all why his sister was trusting him.

But then, Hugo didn’t understand much of what was happening at the moment, or why people were chasing him and Albus through the depth of trees behind the now-demolished manor.

“Putmedownputmedowwwn.”

A hex flew by his left cheek, and he yelped, quickly burying his face into the cousin's shoulder. “Just kidding...”

“Hold up your head.” Albus spoke through quick breaths, staggering as he slowed to grip the trunk of a tree. “Tell me everything you see. I’ll tell you what to do. Wand’s in my back pocket.”

“But—”

“Do as I say!”

Startled by his carrier’s harshness, Hugo lifted his head, trying to make out the figure approaching in the distance.

“I see…two blokes. They’re fast…and huge. They could bloody eat us.”

“Fantastic,” Albus said, breathing thickly. “You know your essential hexes, don’t you? Petrify them.”

Hugo swallowed a whimper. “I don’t know how to do that.”

“Fine. Stun them.”

“Don’t know that either.”

“Disarm them. You know how to disarm, don’t you?”

Silence.

He heard the older boy give an annoyed groan.

A spell shot over their heads and Hugo heard himself give an embarrassing squeak. Albus ducked. He slipped behind a tree, dropped Hugo to the ground like dead weight, and whipped around with his wand, glaring. Then he was gone.

Hugo didn’t see it happen, instead heard the crackle-whoosh of a spell. Two bodily thuds. His insides filled with alarm. Goosebumps erupted on his flesh in terror.

Albus returned a mere seconds later, breathing heavily, and Hugo was shaking.

“You killed them?”

Not an accusation, but an inquiry. An innocent one.

He shied away when Albus attempted to lift him again.

“They would have killed us.”

“I want Rose.”

Hugo couldn’t help the tears leaking from his eyes. He was scared; he was upset. And it was really embarrassing for a bloke to cry in front of another bloke too. The only person he ever cried in front of was Rose, and that was only because she was his ruddy sister.

-

Meanwhile Albus stared blankly, pondering the conundrum: he had no clue where the boy could summon energy to cry at such an inconvenient time. It was childish and annoying, though, he supposed, not entirely inexcusable. Undoubtedly, the result of sudden exposure to fresh air after weeks spent in a dark, locked room.

The boy was easily the most pathetic thing he’d ever seen.

More than his smallness, his features were to blame. The soft childlike face, coupled with a weak chin and permanently startled looking eyes, Hugo looked twelve—more like ten— when he should’ve looked fifteen. He was a fragment of a real boy, a waif, paper-thin.

A mind trapped in a body.

Hugo had been weak and scrawny for as long as Albus could remember, but the fact he still resembled a prepubescent… had the resurrection stunted his growth? It seemed that he’d hadn’t had any noticeable growth at all in the past three years. Perhaps, a consequence of the dark magic. Had Rose known about this going in?

Albus supposed he must’ve looked just as pathetic when he was ten. For a split second he saw the strange resemblance, not to her but to himself¬—they were cousins after all—his miniature self huddled away in the corner of his room after a particularly gruesome training session. He saw it all in the boys' eyes, the blues and greens meshing together. Then, he saw his father come into the room—what’s the matter, Albus? —and sit beside him. Oftentimes Harry would talk of techniques for improvement, soothing him with the magical jargon. Other times, he would say nothing, simply place a hand on his head and sit beside him for very long time.

And so Albus felt compelled to do the same; he sat down beside the small boy. It was awkward at first, but a relief for his own aching legs, and Hugo didn’t scoot away though the desire was clearly there. They were stuck in each other’s company for the time being.

Reluctantly, Albus placed a hand on his head.




Rose and Scorpius hid ducked behind a naked goblin statue, as Paisley’s men scoured the yard. They whispered fiercely at each other.

“Did you know about this?”

“Weasel—“

“I asked you a question,” she hissed at him. “Did you know they were after Albus? And did you go along with his ploy to keep me in the dark about it? Yes or no?”

“Yes. I mean, sort of,” he stammered. “But not really.”

“What does that even mean?”

“I mean I figured they were after him but I didn’t…I wasn’t sure. I don’t know why they are. You know Potter never tells anyone the whole story.” he said lamely, his eyes on the torn sleeve of her jacket. Potter’s jacket. “Is your arm ok?”

“It’s fine.” She said, not meeting his eyes. "I look much better than the other woman, trust me."

"Yeah? Why’s that?"

"I punched her."

Scorpius deadpanned. "Damn." He chortled. "Wish I'd been there to see it. Weasel the barbarian."

"Piss off."

"Oi, just cause you're pissed at Potter, don't get snippy at me."

They grew silent for a moment as the clamoring of figures approaching grew.

“Sorry,” she sighed, once they had passed. “I just don’t understand why he told you about all this and not me.”

“Maybe he didn’t want to worry you.”

“Or he thought it was none of my business,” she said bitterly.

Scorpius sighed. “Look, Weasel. There’s no point getting pissy about it now. Just calm down—”

“Don’t tell me to calm down.” She snapped, standing a little in their small cramped space. “I had a right to know, Malfoy. It’s my life. It’s my brother’s life. I don’t know what Albus is up to, but if anything happens to Hugo—”

“Weasel—”

“He always lying! He’s always keeping secrets—”

“Weasel—”

“I’m the only sodding family he’s got and he doesn’t even trust me to—”

“Rose Weasley, get down,” he hissed urgently.

“Don’t tell me to—”

Groaning, Scorpius grabbed her and pulled her down beside him as figures passed overhead. He cupped his hand over her mouth, straining to listen in to the conversation happening overhead.




Hugo was drowning. Sinking. Slowly, slowly down. Somewhere in the blackness beyond his bleary sight, he heard voices—his mum and dad. He liked to think he had some telepathic connection to the dead, that he could hear them whenever he was alone. For whenever Hugo envisioned his own death, he imagined them waiting for him with open arms

He woke up to the haze of smoke and a familiar throbbing in his stomach. Fire crackled nearby, and trees blurred out around him in all directions. He found himself clad in Rose’s sweater, and, now, a pullover that smelled faintly of cigarettes. Bundled so thickly, he felt like a fluffed hen…or a pygmy puff.

“Hungry?” said a voice. He turned to find Albus sitting beside him, small cauldron in his lap, bowl of something steaming extended out to him.

Too stunned for words, he could only take the bowl.

It was oatmeal, bland and boring and nutritious …and the most delicious thing Hugo felt he’d ever had. He anxiously stuffed bites into his mouth, his eyes watering with relief.

“Slowly, or you’ll throw up.”

Hugo swallowed, and groaned, trying to obey. It was difficult, when all he’d had for weeks was watery soup. Any eating etiquette his mother had drilled into him had been gladly cast away in favor of stuffing himself with glorious food.

Several rabid mouthfuls later, he noticed the cousin watching him curiously.

“What?” He said, wiping his chin with his sleeve.

Albus turned back to his potion. “You’re….very small. Smaller than I expected.”

“Err, thanks.” He swallowed hard. The oatmeal burned going down his throat, and he coughed. “So where are—”

“The spot Rose, Scorpius, and I designated to meet in case things didn’t go exactly according as planned. I considered apparation, but it’s unlikely your injuries would sustain the trip. I anticipate they’re making their way here as we speak. You will be reunited with your sister very soon so there’s no point in whining about it. In the meantime I recommend you focus on recovering your health.” Albus said in one breath, staring into the depths of his cauldron.

“Oh.” was all Hugo could say. “Well ok.”

It became apparent that the older boy didn’t really know what to do with him, for there wasn’t much conversation after that. Hugo tried to eat slowly, watching as Albus conjured up tents and set up camp around them with a few lazy flicks. After that, he resumed work on some curious potion; Hugo was a bit confounded by how he managed to have potion equipment —a cauldron much less—on him at such a time. He resisted the urge to ask for fear of sounding annoying. The frightening cousin had not done anything exceptionally cruel or painful to him thus far, and Hugo wanted to keep it that way.

“You don’t know your essential hexes.”

Hugo looked up, summoned from his thoughts.

Albus cleared his throat sharply. Hugo watched him remove his working apron. “I’m inclined to believe that either you’re stupid or no one’s ever bothered to teach you.”

“I’m not stupid.”

“Very well.” Albus tossed his wand to him. Hugo caught it and stared.

“Hex me.”

“What?”

“Show me what you can do,” the older boy said irritably, pacing over to him. “While Rose appears to have spoiled and coddled you, she’s neglected to teach you the very essentials of being a wizard.”

“Oi, lay off with the insults.” Hugo piped up, despite the growing dizzying pain in his stomach. “She’s done a lot for me. You don’t even know how much she’s done.”

Albus’ eyes flicked over him as if scrutinizing every inch of his demeanor. “A wizard that chooses to live like a squib, that chooses to rely solely on others for protection is pathetic.”

“I’m not a squib.”

Whether his face flushed from anger or embarrassment, Hugo didn’t know. He levelled the wand and squinted, trying to focus his vision ahead. His sides ached. He still felt dizzy but the burning need to save his pride overcame the physical discomfort. Then, an enchantment: sparks flew across the field lighting grass onto flame.

A smug smile curved on his face at the accomplishment, as he turned back to Albus.

The older boy watched with raised brows. “Good,” he murmured. “Now show me more.”




Walking side by side, Rose and Scorpius cut through the forest, a fragment of the conversation they’d overhead playing in their minds.

“I'm copping the fuck out of 'ere tomorrow. What about you?” One voice had said.

“You lucky bastard.” The other had chortled. “I'm bloody well stuck till it's all done with.”

“Oh yea, why?”

“Well Paisley's gonna need men on the inside too. Crowd control. Wouldn't work otherwise.”


They'd stared at each other, wide-eyed. What wouldn’t work otherwise?

As they walked, Scorpius banged away at their port key, which was an ordinary goblet he’d nicked from home – those sodding elves wouldn’t miss it – and enchanted to transport them back to London when needed. It had been functional earlier but now wouldn’t light properly, which was making him anxious.

Rose cast over a nervous look.

“We can always apparate, if it comes to it.” He assured her.

The crinkle in her brow remained. “Won’t be the best choice with Hugo. And it’s much easier to track someone’s apparation stream.”

Scorpius sighed, continuing to fumble around with the port key. The sooner he got it working, the quicker he figured they could get out of there.

“Potter doesn’t have a plan,” he murmured, then paused to take in her stunned expression. “I was surprised too when he told me.” I’ll think of something won’t I? “I think he’s expecting himself to figure one out before Paisley gets to him.”

Rose deadpanned, and Scorpius didn’t blame her. Potter didn’t take blind risks, or leave things up to chance, or pick fights where victory wasn’t assured….this didn’t sound like him at all. Why would he even come if he wasn’t ready?

She stood silent, alarmed, for several moments. Then she looked at him. “Just get that port key working, Malfoy.”

“Of course Officer.

She bristled a little. “I’m your friend, Malfoy. Not your boss.”

“Bossy,” he teased. He nudged her in jest, but Rose quickly paced ahead, ignoring him.

Clearly, she wasn’t in the mood for jokes.




The Ordine Corvis had been stalking his activities since his lapse in little Norton but not because they thought he was Albus Potter. No, as far as the world was concerned, The Chosen One was dead and the rest of the Potters had moved to France. And as for the middle Potter… he must’ve disappeared right after Hogwarts. He ran away, and died in the back of some alley starved and wandless and pathetic. Albus wouldn’t put it past James to tell the people that, and no doubt little Lily would believe him. And maybe that was the fate his mother wanted for him when she snapped his fucking wand, reducing him to nothing. [But there was no point in thinking about it now. About them. It didn’t matter. He would be emancipated from the crutch of his wand soon enough].

Right now, all that mattered now was figuring out what to do. It just so happened that--

4. Graham Paisley had not yet met him face to face, avoided it, consciously perhaps, implying a lack of confidence.

Just how well would he fare in a duel? Albus intended to find out.

Paisley hid in the midst of his organization, in the shadow of his Crows. He was too comfortable playing ring leader and underestimated Albus—who he thought to be just another young wizard. But then why….

He’s been aching to see your magic for quite a while. Wants to exchange trade secrets see.

They’d been stalking his activities since his.... actions in little Norton. So could that mean… the fact they’d lured him right back here…could that mean

Of course… it made perfect sense.




Hugo had fever. Hugo had pains. Hugo was puking; puking.

It was no surprise that his health had regressed in captivity, but he wanted to cry at how much of his progress from the past two years had been lost. He could hardly stand up by himself without getting dizzy, let alone walk, and it shamed him so much that all he wanted to do was curl up in his warm bed and sleep it away. In addition, he wanted to eat his favorite treacle tart and watch a good match on the wireless.

These things were impossible at the current moment.

After he ended up puking all over himself, Albus had to strip him and wipe his body down with a wet rag—bathe him— and Hugo cringed the whole time. It would’ve been ok if it was Rose; they were siblings and had been through thick and thin, but he barely knew Albus. Not to mention the whole thing had the potential to seem alarmingly homoerotic (for which the teenage boy was grateful no one was around). His face burned as he stared down at his spindly, hairless legs. He wasn’t some child, even if he looked it, and he didn’t want the older boy to think even less of him than he already probably did.

“I’m not very practiced at healing potions,” Albus commented, holding up his skinny arm and cleaning it with the rag. “But I’ll see what I can do about the fever. Give me a few hours.”

Hugo was too sheepish to meet the older boy’s gaze. A croak. “Hurts.”

“Hurts? What hurts?”

“My…lowers,” the small boy said finally, shamefully, cheeks bright. “Pissing…blood. Dunno why.”

He looked up to find Albus staring at him in blank astonishment.

“Very well,” The boy replied, with a careful tone. “I’ll have to consult…a few reference books for that. Your health is…exceptionally poor.”

For the second time, Hugo felt tears prick his eyes. He wiped his eyes on his other arm, trying very ineffectively to keep the older boy from seeing.

“So am I dying or something then?” He asked thickly. “Don’t dress it up. Tell me the truth.”

A moment passed.

“It’s possible,” Albus replied.

“Will it hurt?”

“I would expect so.”

“Can you give me something for the pain…when it happens?”

Albus didn’t respond. He had already dropped Hugo’s arm and was walking away. Hugo felt a sinking in his heart. The lack of answer conveyed a lack of interest, and he felt it had been maybe too much to hope that the cold cousin cared – even a little – for him.

Many hours passed in silence, and in dreadful anticipation of his death. Hugo lied on the ground, groggily, staring at the bleak sky. He hated feeling as if he was standing on some edge, though, in a very honest sort of way, he’d always known he would die young. And when he had been twelve he’d nearly accepted this fate. Rose had been the one to console him, with the insane promise to keep him alive, an insane promise she ended up carrying out.




Several hours later Hugo woke with one question on his mind.

“Where’s Ro-”

“Not here yet, though she’s found Malfoy.” Albus replied, without looking up from his potion. “He sent a patronus earlier letting me know they’re on their way. They’re together.”

“That’s good,” Hugo sighed, slumping back on the ground, and looking around at the campsite. It was dark, much colder now, and he shivered. ‘Though I wish they’d actually get together too.”

Albus said nothing for several moments, focusing on stirring his potion though focus wasn’t needed for such a menial task. The fire crackled softly. Then, he fished a small vial out of his pocket and tossed it to Hugo.

“Felix felicis,” he explained. “I made two vials a while back. I think luck might bide you over until I can devise the proper healing draught.”

Hugo met his eyes and for a moment, it was almost heart rendering. At last, Hugo murmured. “Thanks.”

Albus returned to his careful stirring. “I’ve never had to make a potion like this before. It will be good practice.”

Hugo took a few sips of the liquid luck, his body buzzing in a pleasant way. “So is the second vial for yourself?” he asked, suddenly feeling brave enough to be nosy.

Albus ignored the question. “How does it feel?”

“Better. Though I may need to take a piss before I make the final verdict.”

Albus gave a soft smirk and while it wasn’t good natured, it wasn’t downright derisive either. There was the glow of some shared joke between them.

Hugo fought the obnoxious urge to smirk back.

Instead he wriggled his legs and lifted himself up. His feet felt unsteady supporting his weight as he took the first few steps, very nearly falling over. Nearly. The luck had kicked in now.

Unlike Rose, Albus had not rushed to catch him.

Hugo was glad for this.

“Can we not tell Rose about any of this?” He found himself murmuring. “Don’t want her to worry.”

Albus gave a mocking little bow.

Hugo beamed in reply, then took to limping back and forth. He wanted to give his legs some practice while his insides were still buzzing. While he knew the potion was making him behave this way, he felt excited by the achievement nonetheless. It made him feel powerful.

“So you want your sister to be with Malfoy?”

The question was casual in nature, but thrown deliberately; the older boy’s demeanor had tensed a little at it. Hugo found himself watching him for something.

Well," He answered, with inflection. "She’s only fancied him since forever. I reckon he’d make her happy.”

Albus grew pensive, seeming to consider these words.

“I mean, since everything that happened, she sort of gave up on the idea of it all. But Scorp’s persistent. Plus he’s rich and got cool shoes. So I hope she’ll come around sooner or later.”

There was a strong silence in which he looked at Hugo, his eyes very careful. “And you don’t think seeing her brother alive would make her happy?”

Sure Rose loved Hugo more than anything, and he her, but that type of love came from duty; obligation. Family. Hugo knew that if something ever happened to him, she’d need someone like Scorpius to move on with her life.

“I don’t think Rosie’s been happy in a long time.” He acknowledged, in a somewhat morose tone.

He looked over at Albus, but the dark haired boy was no longer looking at him. He was staring into the depths of his cauldron, with a tiredness Hugo couldn’t place.








When Rose arrived, the first thing she did was her arms around Hugo who, to her absolute joy, was well. And mobile. Severe separation anxiety had taken its toll; as they hugged she started crying. Hugo, being Hugo, assured her he was ok, honest, and to stop snotting up his shirt.

“I’m done crying.” She wiped her eyes. “See?”

“Good. Now apologize to my shirt, you madwoman.”

She laughed, and gave him an embarrassingly sloppy kiss on the cheek. He rubbed the spot, airing the usual grievances.

And for a few blissful moments, everything was well.

Then they remembered where they were.

The night was vague, smoky, and the forest held nothing but faint chittering noises. Sitting beside the sizzle of fire, they ate and rested, and Rose felt tension sear through her skin. The Ordine Corvis were up to something, something she knew they didn’t want to be around for. But they couldn’t leave; Scorpius’ port key was unfixable.

“Curious,” Albus said, fidgeting around with the goblet. “But unsurprising, I think.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“I’m not referring to your obvious incompetence, Malfoy. I mean it’s no coincidence that our only mode of transportation’s stopped working.” A grim smile. “They won’t let us leave that easily.”

“We should to go into town in the morning and look for another route.” Scorpius spoke through a mouthful of biscuits. “Floo maybe?”

“How would we access a fireplace?” Rose sighed, thinking with her head buried in hands. “Legally, that is.”

“Legal, shmegal.” A snort. “In case you haven’t noticed, Weasel, but the people living here aren’t exactly friendly. Ergo, they probably won’t be offering to let us use their house floo. No, we have to do this the proper Slytherin way.”

She glanced up, brow furrowing. “I don’t want to pull any risky stunts with my brother.”

“You never let me have fun.” Hugo whined.

Merlin Weasel, let your brother have some fun. I mean look at the poor kid- look at his face.”

As if on cue, Hugo started with bawling whale noises. Rose used the opportunity to replace the candy bar in his hand with a granola bar. He stuffed half into his mouth and pretended to gag.

Annoyed by the loud noises, Albus shot a look at Hugo, who immediately straightened up to an effect. “Breaking and entering will be difficult with a cripple on our hands.”

"Oi!" Came a cry of outrage. "I’m mobile now, you tosser.” The remaining bar was tossed at the offender and deflected via shield charm. An overly flashy one. Hugo gaped at the colors.

“Cool,” he awed, making Rose roll her eyes. Albus smiled blackly, tucking his wand away.

“I’ll carry the sodding cripple if I have to. C’mhere.” Scorpius walked over and lifted him, piggy back. “Hugo, mate. If you were my brother, I’d let you eat all the candy and pull all the risky stunts you wanted.”

Hugo pretended to consider this. "Depends. How much candy can you afford?”

“I’m filthy rich, mate. Dunno…a lot?”

“Relax Malfoy, there will be no need for risky action.” Albus muttered, lighting a fag. “It’s possible that this is nothing more than a false threat. Since we’ve now retrieved Hugo, they’ll be looking everywhere for us. And what better way than to draw us out in public? They want us to panic… we’re better off hiding for the time.”

Scorpius let Hugo slide to his feet. “Potter, we can’t just sit around waiting to get slaughtered. I mean you’ve seen what these people are capable of-”

“So what’s the real reason you don’t want to leave just yet?” Rose interjected, eyes narrowing on Albus. “Because that’s what this is about isn’t it? Your own plans.”

He looked between them, calmly. “They want me alive.”

“And how do I know they won’t kill the rest of us?

“They won’t. You have my word.”

“Not sure how good that is anymore.”

Albus gave an annoyed blink. “Is there a problem?” He said, regarding her a bit icily.

Sensing things were about to take a turn for the worse, Scorpius opened his mouth to intervene, but Rose cut him off. “Yes, Albus,” she said, glaring back, “it becomes a problem when my brother gets hurt in the midst of your schemes. They were after you all this time, and Hugo’s the one who got hurt…and that’s not ok.”

“I’m not a Seer.” His voice held a twinge. “I didn’t think-”

“You should’ve told me you had powerful enemies. You should’ve warned me.” Her own came out wobbly. “Is that too much to ask? A warning?”

He gave her a cold, penetrating look to nip her resentment back into place. But she didn’t back off.

“It’s all just a game to you, isn’t it? Do the rest of us matter so little to you that you can’t even be bothered to let us in on what’s going on? Why do you have to lie so much?”

“Rose, don’t.” Hugo tried, seeing her pull her wand.

She threw a hex, which Albus very nearly didn’t dodge out of surprise. His brows raised slightly. “What are you-”

And another. And another. He drew his wand and deftly blocked them, but didn’t retaliate. With a steady glare, she fired hexes backing him into a tree.

“Our lives don’t matter. No, nothing matters except you getting what you want,” she lashed. “God, you’re such a bastard.”

Albus blocked the jinx aimed for his face. His back made impact with tree-truck as a wand held him in place by the throat. He stared coldly at his attacker, but didn’t falter, didn’t lash back. It was strange, how the tables had turned with who was exhibiting restraint for whom. Who was bending over for whom. Who was being complacent, who was trying to please. And the shift was not sudden; it was the slow accumulation of something, over the months or maybe even years, he didn’t know, bundled between thick layers of spite and frigidness. For a split second he thought that she might punch him, not that he was afraid of her little fists.

“Rose,” he said, eyes flashing “Put your wand down. Put it away or-”

“Or what?”

“Or I’ll hurt you.”

She wiped wetness from her eyes defiantly… and laughed.

“Well, that’s nothing new is it?”

Albus reacted slightly to this. He opened his mouth to speak but no words came out.

“Weasel.”

Instead it was Scorpius. He put his arms around the girl, wrapping her in a tight hug. “Relax,” he said softly. She wrestled his grip at first but he continued to hold her, murmuring things in her ear. At last she relaxed into the embrace, but her anger didn't fade. She continued glaring over his shoulder at Albus. And of course Albus glared back.

Hugo watched from his spot, stunned by all the interactions. Scorpius then put a comforting arm around his sister and walked her into one of the tents. While Albus remained in the same spot, fuming, swallowing hard several times as though fighting off something he did not want witnessed. Hugo was torn between going after his sister or helping to calm the boy down somehow.

“Al-”

Albus did not seem to hear him, his breathing irregular and heavy. His shoulders heaved in silent fury. He ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath which he released slowly, and for a moment Hugo thought he’d have another fit of anger.

But he didn’t. He sat down, against the tree, exhausted.

Hugo watched him bury his head in his hands.








That night, violence colored all of her thoughts and sleep was impossible. Horrid images floated back and forth inside her mind, her brother being kicked, yelled at, beaten, brutally mutilated...

He wouldn’t talk about it. In spite of his whining and resistance, she’d made him undress so she could study the slashes on his back. He claimed he was fine, honest, but Rose knew better than to believe him. Hugo was always trying to spare her feelings, just as she was always trying to protect him, until they was unsure who was coddling who.

Strange, and a little upsetting too, that her brother tried to coddle her back. She was the older one, after all. It was her job.

Guilt knifed her stomach.

She had wanted to stay with him, but Hugo insisted on having the whole bed to himself to sprawl out on. He complained about her being a restless sleeper. This was sadly true, but did not prevent her from making several trips all night to check up on him.

She never wanted to leave his side again.

A blond head poked into her tent. “You still up?"

Swallowing all her morbid thoughts, Rose gave a nod.

Scorpius grinned, taking this as invitation to come inside. "Well, just wanted to tell you I spent fifteen solid minutes staring at your sleeping brother. I was trying to decide who’s the cuter Weasley and I mean...just…he wins.”

A snort. “I’ll be sure to tell him that when he wakes up.”

“No need. I already did. Threw a pillow at me and told me to bugger off which, of course, means he was super flattered.”

“I’m glad someone responds to your flattery.”

“Never underestimate a bromance, Weasel. Your brother and I are going places you know.” He strolled over, collapsing across the base of her bed with a yawn. “And anyway, I’ve already promised to take him for a flying lesson once this is all over."

“Glad you two have your priorities sorted."

“Reckon he could use a good time after all this. Doesn’t hurt to have something to look forward to, you know,” he murmured, poking at her toes. “And who knows, maybe I’ll take you on a flying lesson too. Miss Auror.”

“I know how to fly, Malfoy.”

Merlin, Weasel. Read between the lines, won’t you?”

She sat up, staring at him in disbelief.

“I’m not sure you understand what’s going on here, Malfoy.” She spoke slowly. “But our port-key’s stopped working. Hugo’s barely well. People are trying to kill us. And on top of it, Albus has chosen now to be his bastard self and not give a damn about anything.” An edge seeped into her voice. “So I’m not sure that now’s the best time for you to ask me out.”

“I doubt there’s ever going to be a best time, Weasel.”

“Well that’s not my fault.” She seethed, his comment rubbing her the wrong way. She plopped her face onto her pillow and closed her eyes, ignoring him. Her head hurt; her insides felt queasy. Either Scorpius had foot-in-mouth syndrome or she was being overly sensitive, but she couldn’t help it. Her nerves felt frayed, broken. And she didn’t have the capacity to think about going on dates in some imaginary future, not when barely scraping by had always been hard enough.

But the blond didn’t leave. He stood with hands stuffed in his pockets, managing to look endearing in spite of the pain he was being.

“Weasel,” he said, his voice soft. “Is it something else?”

Scorpius thought he was about to encounter an impossible obstacle and by something he, of course, meant someone, but Rose didn’t catch on. She just turned to him, perplexed, and Scorpius felt broaching the subject itself had been a stupid move.

She turned over in her sheets, shaking her head. “Look I’m just tired. It’s been a long day.” She breathed.

He bit the inside of his cheek, trying not to look too put off. “It’s fine. Want me to leave you alone?”

A pause.

“You can stay if you want. Just talk about something else.”




Much like his sister, Hugo laid in bed unable to sleep, but for an entirely different reason. There was twisting and turning, and restless wondering just how much of his life he’d spent lying in a bed.

Disgusted with where that query led him, he got up.

He grabbed the crutches Rose had conjured for him and slipped out. The campsite was silent, the fire out, and he heard a voice from his sister’s tent that sounded suspiciously like Scorpius. Making the obvious perverted assumption, he snickered and decided not to intrude on them…however funny it might've been.

Funny, and probably pretty gross.

Instead, he limped over to Albus’ tent.

For a split second Hugo thought that the boy would be sulking from his rough spat with Rose earlier. Entering, he found this was not the case.

Albus was sprawled out on a chair, eyes closed, head splayed back, and Hugo would’ve thought he was asleep if there wasn’t a hefty spellbook levitating in front of him. But he wasn’t holding his wand. And Hugo couldn’t for the life of him figure out how it was happening.

The cousin opened his eyes and caught sight of him, his face falling into a casual smirk. “Can’t sleep either?”

Hugo nodded, turning to the book. “How are you doing that?”

“That?” As he reached to touch, the book teasingly lifted out of his reach. “It’s nothing more than a simple levitating charm, Hugo. A…trick I’ve been practicing for a while.”

He snorted.

“Well it’s cool. Could you teach me?”

“Not yet.” Green eyes watched him with reserved amusement. “But I can teach you other things.”

Hugo felt his insides swell, and tried to keep from sounding too excited. “Like those essential hexes?”

“If you want.”

“Right now?” Hugo asked, only half-joking.

Albus’ stare lingered on him for a moment, before turning. “Not right now.”

Just then the book came crashing down in front of him, and he gripped his crutches to keep from falling over. Its pages fluttered open on their own.

“You’ll have to read and learn on your own, if you decide to at all. I’ll only offer guidance when you need it.”

Hugo reached to touch the book, tracing his fingers along the edge. He nodded intently.

He spent many hours that night in Albus’ company, combing through spellbooks and feeling a general buzz of excitement from it. Though it may have been the felix felicis; the older boy had told him to take a few sips every couple hours to keep his symptoms at bay, until he devised a proper solution. Albus even explained to him the recipe he was using for it, and showed him his working cauldron, and allowed him to chop and add some bay leaves. Though Hugo learned very quickly he wasn’t good at chopping things. Albus taught him the healing charm for the small scrapes and told him to practice until he got it right. He said it was one of the most useful spells there was.

Meanwhile Albus continued practicing what he learned later was wandless magic. He moved from books to bags, and finally, to his small cot, on which Hugo lay sprawled practicing his incantation; Albus oscillated it up and down, testing the limits of his mental hold. It was a game, of risk and trust. The higher the cot, the greater the risk of injury….and the more he had to trust Albus not to let him fall.

Hugo could picture the horror on his sister’s face upon seeing them.

“You won’t tell Rose about this will you?”

The older boy blew puffs of cigarette smoke. “There is no need for your sister to know everything,” he scoffed.

Hugo relaxed. “Thanks.”

“Of course.” A vague chuckle, and the bed lifted higher, higher. “Where would we be without our secrets? Hmm? Boys like us.”

Hugo gripped the covers in his fists. “Boys like us?”

“Boys who can’t sleep at night.”

Boys like us. Hugo liked the way it sounded.

“Speaking of secrets…”

Hugo looked up to find Albus sitting up, green-eyes scouring him with interest.

“Tell me what it was like, dying.”

There was a shift in the air. Hugo took a small breath.

“Not sure if I’m supposed to talk about it,” he murmured.

“Rose isn’t here, Hugo.” The boy stood up, his gaze never breaking from Hugo. “There is no one telling what to do or how to think…and you do want to talk about it, don’t you? You’re the only human being ever to cross the threshold and return…your experience is invaluable.” He cocked his head to one side. “It would be a shame not to share it.”

A pause.

“You don’t trust me.”

“It’s not that,” Hugo stammered. He licked his lips. “I…I don’t remember. I remember falling asleep and waking up, n-not the in between… I swear, Albus.”

His face was almost passive. “I see.”

Hugo felt a small jolt in his stomach. “You do?”

Albus paced over, his movements slow but assured. “I understand your reason for concern, Hugo. I understand you are incredibly loyal to your sister, and you wouldn’t indulge something she has explicitly told you never to indulge to someone she has probably warned you not to trust. But of course, this puts you in a very uncompromising situation right now.”

The cot was a good ten feet high. Hugo stared warily over the edge.

“Can you put me down?”

“Let me finish, Hugo. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I also understand Rose has never actually told you how the spell is done? You’ve never been trained in Occulmency either—otherwise I would have sensed it. This leads me to believe that you know as little about her method as I do…which leads me to believe that you and I are in the same predicament.” Albus’ eyes remained concentrated on his face. A smirk. “Two sides of the same coin, we are.”

Boys like us.

Hugo scrunched his brow. “So what do you want from me then?”

“Nothing you should be unwilling to give… nothing that harms you.”

“Which is?”

“Your memory of dying. I want to see it.”

“Why?”

“I…” Albus faltered. He looked away, breaking eye contact with Hugo for the first time. “I suppose I want to know what it’s like. To cross over. I want to know what happens after.”

A pause.

“I told you I don’t remember.”

“That doesn’t mean you don’t have the memory buried somewhere away. If you let me, I can find it…we can watch it together.”

Hugo took a moment to consider the offer. He did not possess his sister’s sought after spell, and so he supposed there was little danger in letting Albus inside his mind. It was a personal decision. Hugo could admit he’d grown to like the boy, and wanted to trust him. After all Albus had saved him, had fed and bathed and given him felix felicis, and was intent on keeping all this from Rose (by his asking). He was even making him a healing draught. Whether these were genuine acts of kindness, Hugo didn’t know.

But, if he refused he figured Albus would just take the memory anyway. The fact he hadn’t done so already told Hugo he was at least trying not to upset him. Maybe he felt the same sense of camaraderie. Boys like us. Albus didn’t care to treat him a like sick boy, instead allowed him a streak of independence he had never had before. There was no coddling, arm holding, piggy back rides. Instead there was expectation, and challenge, and magic.

Hugo found it enthralling.

“Fine, you can see the memory. But only if you show me something in exchange.”

The older boy looked bemused. “Well, what do you want?”

“I want to know what it’s like to do… you know… with a girl.” He flushed, shaking his head. “I don’t want to see the physical bit. That’d be awkward. Just the…emotions.”

Albus gave this a serious moment’s thought.

“I expect Scorpius has a few we can borrow.”

“Why can’t you show me one of yours?”

“Only because I think you would be disappointed.”

When Albus didn’t elaborate, Hugo left it alone.

“Well, as long as it’s nothing something weird with him and my sister. They were in the tent earlier together too.” Distaste crossed his face. “I don’t want a mental image of that.”

Neither did Albus, apparently. His concentration snapped. Hugo gave a yelp as the levitating cot faltered, and the wizard had to grab his wand to catch it in time.

After a prolonged moment of silence, he turned to Hugo as if nothing had happened. “Are we ready then?”

-

Flipping through Hugo's memories, through dull days spent in the hospital, dull days with Healer clamoring over him, dull days spent doing nothing, dull after dull, he searched for the right one.

There it was.

Out in a field, Rose was holding his frail body. Her eyes pooled with tears, she pointed her wand at him and—yes, yes. Albus couldn’t believe his luck. Finally. After all this time. He’d finally learn how—


-

Albus fell back, gasping.

There it was the noise. Like Before. Hands grasped at his hair and Albus found they were His Own. Knuckles burned with exertion, white hot pain spreading searing down Body Parts like molten lava. Hands. Face. Fingertips. Groin. Shooting through his core crawling consuming his thoughts. Hellfire? Thirsty thirsty thirsty why was he so thirsty?

A quick scramble. He was racing out of the tent. There was the iced lake and with no second thoughts he made a mad leap.

Water flooded his lungs and relief consumed his bones. Thirst expunged, his thoughts calmed. Then, at once, then he was freezing.

He swam to land, pulled himself over, and collapsed. His body ached everywhere.

“Albus!”

Hugo had limped after him with a towel. He threw it around his shoulders.

“Are you ok?”

Albus shook so hard he was unable to form words. Hugo leant down to hear him better, but was forcibly pulled into an embrace by the wet, freezing boy. A yelp.

It was only in times of great duress or severe pain Albus yielded to human contact, but this was more than a surrender, it was a need. He clung to Hugo so desperately he did not even know he was doing it; the boy looked startled but did not pull away. He held him back, and Albus could not stop shivering in his small arms. The boy consoled him with murmurs of it’s ok, it’s ok, patting his back. Albus wanted to speak, cry, something, but found he did not know how. His thoughts were vague, fragmented. His body was not his own, instead now a vessel that held extreme pain. He thought he knew how to control pain, to stomach horror; he thought that his father had prepared him for all that was brutal in the world.

But he had never truly seen anything until now.

All his youth he had felt drawn to the very same things all Great and Terrible Wizards were. He walked the same unsteady line between genius and madness, fascination and compulsion. It was a careful balancing act. His father must’ve known this, hence the emphasis on control. But slips could not be prevented. It was the price to pay for getting to tread the great boundaries of magic, for progress, for uncovering the Unknown.

Death was a riddle, endlessly intriguing, waiting to be unraveled. Just waiting for a wizard of his aptitude to come along.

So Albus had always thought.

It took a sliver, the mere taste of dying to make him realize just how out of his depth he was.





A/N: This is arguably the ‘nicest’ we’ve seen Albus so far (albeit in his usual conniving way). But still. Thoughts?

Also, where do you think I’m planning to go with the Hugo+Al dynamic? Why do the Ordine Corvis want Albus? What’s the ‘secret’ behind Hugo’s resurrection, that no one but Rose knows? Why does the theme of Death/Immortality/Crossing the Threshold keep popping up everywhere? Who’s the man that’s not really a man? How does it all tie in with what Harry was up to?

And probably the most pressing question of them all, is Scorp ever going to get that date?

(I jest, I jest.)

Regardless, please share your thoughts! There is LOADS coming up. We’re going to get a massive Harry-related development very, very soon. So enjoy the ride, and please review if you can! It means a lot!

Chapter 21: Fall (part 2)
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The night was thick and opaque, the wizarding underworld teeming with ghastly creatures. Half-breeds and gypsies and wanderers and dark-robed silhouettes gathered, languid bodies twisting their way through the maze of curved trees, toward the Paisley estate out in the middle of fucking nowhere. Hundreds came to watch, braving dangerous terrain to answer the call of the Crow; one mass shadow beneath his balcony.

Ants.

Hands clasped behind as if he were royalty, the cleft smile reigned as Graham Paisley watched his grey congregation assemble. Sharp eyes assessed every stony face they came into contact with. Anger, greed, desperation—good.

He stretched his arms out benevolently.

“Why, hello.

Pin-drop silence amidst the mob of hundreds.

“We’re running experiments on Hugo Weasley and making very good progress on recovering the secret to his resurrection. Rest assured, my friends, I intend to share the truth with everyone."

Lie. Although no one would be able to tell save one man in the crowd. The man who was not a man knew that while Graham Paisley flaunted resurrection flat in the world’s face, it was not a secret he possessed. With a much grander plan in motion, he had long fled Little Norton, leaving his henchmen to sort out the rest. The kidnapping was a plot that had gone wrong, but it didn’t matter, because Paisley was an opportunist.

It was all very simple: Chaos was in demand. The human promised a supply.

More than that, Hugo Weasley’s momentary abduction had been a ploy to see who would come after him. The desperate faces, dark and light wizards alike, that had assembled in the crowd would swallow his every word, and further on, go to do his bidding, because what choice did they have? When he promised them life.

Shouts broke: Are you mad? Where is he being kept? The Ministry’s on your heels! You have no right to—

He held up a silencing hand.

“A decade of change approaches, my friends,” he began, grandly. “In this vital period I seek your aid—those who for too long have had their needs ignored by the Ministry of Magic. I ask you, what right do the lawmakers of the world have to stake a claim to magic itself? What right does one petty girl have to possess the secret of life? Why does her brother get to live, when so many others suffer in silence? When so many of us have lost so much?

To the desperate commoner these were endearing words, but a sharp ear knew it was the same rhetoric used by every politician in every rallying speech ever given. Graham Paisley would take their fear – and the hatred it spun – and project it onto the physical entity of his choice. In this case, it was the Ministry.

A trick as old as time itself.

“My lip…hideous, isn’t it?” He paused with theatrical sorrow. “I was a child of war. My face was carved in by a Death Eater after both my parents perished in the noble fight against the Dark Lord. And my friends, I…would like to see my mother again.”

More lies—he’d been born with that lip and had long stopped caring for his dead mother. The only thing he may have lost in that noble fight was any semblance of humanity. He could fabricate any past he wanted and none would be the wiser. Except, of course, the faceless man in the crowd.

“But you see, my friends, I do not seek vengeance for my ill fate. To the contrary, I have done everything to avoid the spilling of blood. But I would forget my conscience if I were to do nothing in spite of the realization that a conflict had become unavoidable: you must see that Camden was necessary. I regard the Ministry of Magic as the gravest danger not only for wizards today but for the example they set for our future. My friends, we cannot allow them to hoard what is in part ours. Knowledge must always be shared.”

It had never been about resurrection, not really, rather the allure of it. Without allegiances, without morality, Graham Paisley was a void; blank slate. He’d say anything to get what he wanted, reach out to the upper crust of society just as he’d recruit from the desperate fringes. Purebloods, half-bloods, mudbloods—all were the same: bodies to pile under his throne.

So what did that leave, power (stolen from the ministry)? Control (in a world spiraling out of control)?

"Every generation faces its challenges. Every generation leaves a legacy. Let this be ours, my brothers and sisters. Together, we will be the ones to usher in a new world. A world that finally suits us.”

There was complete silence, followed by hushed whispers. The crowd seemed entranced by the ostentatious performer, all except one hooded man, who took in the spectacle in the way one watches what it has seen a dozen times before. There was an acuity in his dead-black gaze that lingered, not settled, never settled, an imperceptible intelligence behind a mask of perfected apathy.

He turned and left, cloak billowing behind him.

Then— a flicker of amusement, cracking the visage. A rough chuckle escaped his mouth.

The king wore a borrowed crown.








Somewhere during the resurrection his cousin must have cheated. It was the only solution. Of course—there had to be a reason why Albus couldn’t make sense of it.

What was missing: the proverbial pound of flesh.

Dark magic always had a price. All magic did, in a way, even if the energy exchange wasn’t readily obvious. Lily Potter had committed the ultimate sacrifice, exchanging her life for her son’s [Authors of his father’s many, many biographies called this the Power of Love—mind fodder for the whimsical].

Therefore— if magic rested on this principle of equivalency, then the price for resurrecting a life was mathematically simple: another life.

By any sort of calculation, Rose should have died.

Having unfairly stolen her brother from the clutches of Death, she’d spun the principle of sacrifice that came with dark magic on its head. She would’ve had to negotiate Hugo’s life with hers. Right? Unless… [breathe, Albus]… unless... [think, think].

Alright, alternate scenario:

Her brother’s life precariously ticked away. Rose was emotional, more prone to rash behavior than usual. She dove headfirst without any clue of what would happen, of what she might encounter. The probability of failure, of death didn’t deter her… she must’ve been half-suicidal. And then—and then—

It was a fluke; sheer dumb luck.

[no]

Rose Pose was the brightest witch of her age. Reckless, yes. Impulsive to a fault, obviously, but not stupid. She had thought it all through. She must’ve found a glitch in the threshold between the planes that allowed her to cross back with both souls. Some sort of bypass.

[maybe]

But something must’ve happened along the way, collateral damage to the souls, because Hugo wasn’t growing—aging properly. Physical deformity spurred by unlawful magic. And Albus hadn’t been able to access that memory … Hugo’s mind had resisted infiltration; it had attacked back.

Why?




Potion fumes wafted inside his older cousin’s tent.

Hugo snapped the vial open, draining the last drops of liquid luck into his mouth.

Within one day his body had reverted to its previous configuration of pain and dysfunction. Energy drained from him at a disturbing, dizzying pace. Knees wobbled. Clinging to tabletop, he felt the humiliating expansion of wetness around his crotch. Piss. Blood.

Pinpoints of tears jabbed the corner of his eyes.

“Hurts, hurts. Alb—shit, that h—”

“Almost done.” The cousin poured him a cup of frothy-blue liquid. “Here.”

Hugo drank, the dozen pains consuming his body combining into a familiar dull ache. Legs buckled in relief. Albus turned allowing him to check to see if everything below was functioning correctly. After several moments of awkward fidgeting, the younger boy decided that yeah, his balls were ok, and hoped that it meant he was going to live. This was enough cause for celebration; Albus lit a cigarette and took a long drag.

“Good potion practice for me,” he said.

They listened to the early cawing of birds, the day dawning. Hugo lifted himself onto the tabletop, now seated eye level with his cousin, who passed him the rest of his cigarette to finish off. Outside they heard Rose, having just woken, drowsily fumble around the campsite recasting the protective charms. Hugo took quick anxious puffs, aware that at any moment she could walk in and put an end to their male solidarity.

Albus stared back at him, amused.

“Tickle your fancy?”

He coughed: “Yeah.”

“Shitty liar, just like your sister.” The mouth lolled into a smirk. “And besides, it’s an acquired taste.”

“I could acquire it,” Hugo shot, the hoarseness of his voice giving him away. A brow raised—the cousin held out his palm and without further objection, an embarrassed Hugo, still-wheezing, surrendered it over.

Albus put the same end back into his mouth. Sharing cigarettes— an action that was alarmingly intimate for two boys when one of them was Albus Potter. Boys like us. He closed his eyes, exhaling then, looking like he was floating somewhere afar.

“So how are you feeling from yesterday?” Hugo queried.

“Better.” His words were vague, syrupy with smoke. “Alive.”

Hugo nodded, hit with a sudden pang of understanding.

Albus looked drained, his face paler than usual. He’d slept all through yesterday while Hugo had impatiently waited for him to wake up, relishing a chorus of verbal thank yous for how he’d dragged him from the lakeside and covered for him with Rose. Sadly, there had been no such reception. With two cigarettes and minimal self-grooming, the older wizard had thrown himself into work, acting as if nothing had happened.

He now sat, open books of various magical titles splayed out in front of him. Focused eyes trailed information line-by-line, page-by-page, as his left hand tirelessly jotted notes. Every so often he’d stop to cough into his sleeve, lending Hugo false raised hope that he’d actually become human, before plunging right back into work.

“Albus. Could I tell you something…erm…personal?”

The boy flipped a page, and paused. “Go on.”

“First you have to promise not to tell my sister.”

Albus looked up at him. His mouth twisted oddly. “Promise.”

“When you invaded my mind the other night, something weird happened to me. It’s hard to explain. I felt…angry, except maybe it wasn’t me…” Hugo trailed off, before swallowing his nerves. “I wanted to see the memory too, but something pulled it away from me.”

Albus leaned in, listening closely. He looked like he’d been told more than what was said.

“The Healers say the spell Rose used to bring me back stunted my growth, but I’m not sure that’s all there is to it. I know there are things she’s not telling me. I know she thinks it’s for my own good. But I need to know…” The small boy cast a nervous glance toward the tent opening. He lowered his voice. “I know you’re looking for answers and I hope you find them. So you can tell me too.”

Albus’ eyes scoured every movement on his face.

“Thank you for sharing this with me, Hugo,” he said. “Of course I will.”

Hugo nodded, sliding off the bench to land on wobbly knees. Then, a thought occurred; his face flushed. “Also-thanks-for-not-letting-me-die,” he spoke quickly, and engulfed the older boy in a hug.

There was a palpable moment of confusion, before a careful hand pawed his hair back.




Strange, and very curious.

Hugo seemed to think he’d saved his life, which Albus hadn’t. For all his talent at magic, healing was still a largely uncharted branch—in fact he’d given Hugo nothing more than what he could manage in such short time, a potion to relieve his physical symptoms. Somehow this had worked, much like the felix felicis. It had shown how unusually resilient the small boy was, as if he were running natural luck of his own. First, by surviving with little or no food in weeks of captivity; and then, by managing to stay alive with the most extreme physical injuries. Hugo Weasley was malfunctioning but not dying. Albus was the slightest bit relieved but perplexed by this assessment.

Further investigation was necessary.

It’s hard to explain. I felt…angry, except maybe it wasn’t me…

[and this]

I wanted to see the memory too, but something pulled it away from me.

[this was new]

I know there are things she’s not telling me.

What was Rose Pose hiding from her brother?




Days passed for her like labored breaths: one became two, achingly became three. It was beyond her how Mum, Dad, and Uncle Harry survived months camping together like this in random forests. More than the cold, mosquitos, complete and utter lack of privacy that came from three young adults (and one Hugo) cohabiting the same few square-meters of space, it was the constant pressure of being found – the fever of dread met with mundanity.

It was dark and Hugo was fast asleep inside his tent. She sat near the burning logs, blanket draped over herself which did nothing to stop the cold, spooning soggy cereal into her mouth. Food storage low: little puffed flakes were breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

“Just sent a patronus to my dad.” Scorpius came to sit beside her. The fire cast shadows, exaggerating the bags under his eyes. “In case the owls don’t …anyway, thought you should probably send one too.”

“Good idea.” With a mechanical nod, she pulled her wand and stared at it. She blinked several times, her gaze unsteady. Sensing something was wrong, Scorpius reached over and wrapped her hand.

“Or y’know, I could just do it.”

Rose shot a tight smile. Words of gratitude choked, in the back of her throat, when a voice interrupted them:

“Since when do you need your hand held?”

Albus, who had been sitting on the other end of the campsite, reading by wand light, had fixed a look in her direction. “You can bring back the dead.” His book snapped shut. “Surely a witch with that sort of talent can cast her own patronus.”

It was a compliment, quietly indignant and much too observant—her cousin’s fondness could be downright vicious at times.

Fire crackled in the tense space between them.

“Maybe she’s tired. Ease up, Potter.”

The sharp gaze darted away from her, sizing the blond quickly before dismissing. “Thank you. I think my cousin can speak for herself.”

Rose stared at dancing flames, maintaining impartial silence.

“Your cousin, is that it? Leaning a bit heavily on kinship today, aren’t we?”

“Is that a problem Malfoy?”

“Just think it’s a bit ironically sappy for you.”

“Wouldn’t that be the prerogative of family?” Albus shot back, to her surprise. “Of two people who are close enough to be,” a sneer, “siblings.”

Biting sarcasm laced every syllable as he pronounced the word.

Rose squirmed, perturbed by the stupid stupid male posturing—knowing it was all part of his ploy to get under her skin. Damn. “Stop.” Expectant gazes swiveled towards her. “It’s just…” She swallowed. “I never really learned how to conjure a, erm, patronus.”

A pause followed this ego-sinking confession.

“No kidding?” Scorpius said, bemused. “What about auror training?”

“It’s not like I passed with flying colors.”

Truth was—she told them—it had been frustrating, harder than anything else she’d had to learn. Happy memories had slipped from her focus like sand through fingers.

“And yet you can bring back the dead?”

She squeezed her eyes, put off by her cousin—no, sibling’s annoying perceptiveness.

“Don’t be an ass.”

“Seeing through shoddy deflection doesn’t make me an ass, Rose Pose. We don’t all fall in love with your lies, you know.”

It was a loaded thing to say. While nearly impossible to detect in the night, Scorpius turned a shade darker. She covered her own flustered embarrassment by leveling her cousin a hard glare. “What would you know of love anyway?” she said quietly.

A muscle in his jaw twitched. “Absolutely nothing.”

“Figured,” she sneered.

Now enraged, green eyes flickered downward, to that jacket of his which she’d worn for five days straight now, silently demanding that she remove it at once. A cruel and bitter move even by Albus’ standards.

She turned back to the fire, hurt panging through her chest. He doesn’t love you. Why do you keep trying? An arm came around her, and when she glanced up, Scorpius gave a soft and consoling sort of smile. His fingers brushed hair off her shoulder. The knowledge that her cousin was watching stirred a form of resistance inside her.

She pulled Scorpius by the collar and crashed her lips against his, pouring every ounce of her frustration into the kiss.

Dazed for several seconds—the blond clearly hadn’t expected such a bold reaction. Then, heat swarmed her stomach as he tugged her closer, winding an arm around her waist. It was an eager, senseless meshing of mouths. Her head buzzed. Her heart ached.

From behind, green eyes stared in stunned surprise.

Albus looked confused at first, and she saw the flicker of outrage in his expression—but the surge was quickly beaten down. His face readjusted itself, turning cold as ice. He turned back to his book.

He flipped pages, muttering to himself as if he were alone.

And that was that.




Of course.

It struck him later that night when he was angry with Rose and couldn’t sleep. On some level he knew his feelings of betrayal were unjustified. And that his behavior was erratic and his intentions obscure and then his thoughts… and he thought that he truly had gone insane. But he did not know how to reconcile himself. He felt lost and unlike himself. In a violent sort of mania, he paced back and forth, focusing only on the resurrection.

Of course, of course, of course.

She had forgotten that he’d read all the same books as her. Heard all the same bedtime stories. And that it was only a matter of time before he figured it out—although he supposed he had Malfoy to thank for that.

[not the time]

[focus, Albus]

[breathe]

He lit a cigarette and assessed the anomaly his cousin has dropped: she couldn’t cast a patronus. Many people couldn’t, so why was this out of the ordinary? Because Rose was more clever than she was lovestruck for any hapless blond boy and his father had told him—he couldn’t remember when or where but sometime meshed in between all the other haunting parables of childhood—about that particular condition of dark magic. Horcrux magic. It had always been strange to his ears, hearing his father speak of magic as if it had essence. A human soul that could be tainted, corrupted. Severed. Maybe it was because Albus had always seen magic as a weapon, a tool by which to achieve an end rather than an entity. Magic was spurred by aptitude, mental prowess. But feeling?

Certainly, Rose had managed something extraordinary and rather enviable, upturning one the most fundamental laws of magic for her brother.

[What was it again? Oh yes.]

Tamper with the deepest mysteries — the source of life, the essence of self — only if prepared for consequences of the most extreme and dangerous kind.

But her accomplishment was not unprecedented.

Voldemort couldn’t cast a patronus either

So what had happened? What had Rose done that had evaded him so long?

[breathe, Albus.]

Only the unthinkable.

[think, think]

Alright, again. From the beginning:

In those last few hours she snuck Hugo out of the hospital, took him off the oxygen tanks. By speeding up his already-inevitable death, she had killed her own brother.

The price for making a horcrux was murder.

Making him a horcrux would explain the stunted growth. It explained why his mind shut Albus out—horcruxes react violently when threatened. It would also explain why he couldn’t remember dying—certain memories must’ve been lost with the part of his soul that got severed and never crossed over. Half-dead, half-alive, Hugo had one foot planted in both realms.

There it was, the bypass.

She severed Hugo’s soul bringing him back and used horcrux magic to bind it to his body. She’d killed him—which allowed her to satisfy the conditions for both the resurrection and the horcrux. She’d used the paradox of his death to save his life. It was…genius.

And there was more too. Something else happened when she crossed the thres—








Somewhere in Stratford, half-past two AM, several muggles had stopped to watch the skies. Boys on bicycles halted, staring in confusion. There was a blaze of color—lightning?

They saw movement, streaks of light falling in the distance. But they vanished.

Or did they?

“What was that?” One of them awed.

Thunder rolled.

“Storm’s coming!” some taxi driver, leaning from his window, hollered out to them. “Best be heading home boys!”




Somewhere in Little Norton near the outskirts, half-past two AM, a group of dozen boys had stopped. They heard the alarming cawing of crows and looked up, drawing their wands. No, not Ordine Corvis—these were the normal ones. Birds flew in patterned groupings past the magical boundary, beyond the lake over the large ridge crest.

They watched the birds vanish from their sight, the sky a mix of blazing orange with growing splashes of purple. Except it wasn’t time for dawn. It was pitch black night. So if it wasn’t the sun then—

Not toward. Away. The birds were flying away.

From what?

Their heads turned and they stared at the spreading light in the sky.

Movement followed, something falling, growing closer and closer—the whistling acceleration of a missile. The shrillness grew until it was painful to the point of deafening, and they clasped hands over their ears—

The outlet of a dozen unanimous screams as a flash of white light struck nearby earth.




Her eyes snapped open, heart pounding against her ribcage.

A haze of smoke.

She coughed, lungs desperately suctioning air. Blood pulsed at her temples. Thighs were aching, charred from fire –the blast, but she forced her damaged body up. Her vision blurred from moving too quickly, and she swerved, staggering to grip the skeletal remains of the tent. Clutching at a white-hot pole with both hands, gaze steadied, wandering over broken trees. There was dead stillness all around her.

She trailed flame-ravaged grass until something caught her eye. Something sticking out from the ashen tusks of fallen trees.

Brown. Muddy. Curls.

Her legs moved on their own accord, feet fumbling over one another.

She bent down, fingers splayed, digging into scorched dirt. She stood up, and pulled at tree-truck, attempting to break him loose; legs pedaled and her body jerked backwards.

Hugo wasn’t moving. She lifted his small body onto her lap, wound her fingers around the bony wrist and pressed for a pulse. She buried her face against his filthy scalp, and swallowed a sob, and kissed him again and again.

Please. God, please—

“Unconscious. Not dead.” A hoarse voice spoke.

She turned to find Albus, eyes bloodshot, damaged frame leaning awkwardly against a tree, clothes stained and torn in a thousand places. His left arm hung limp to his side, battered.

“Hugo’s not dead because he can’t die. Am I correct?”

For a moment, she just stared.

Her shoulders tensed. “This isn’t the time fo—”

“As long as his body’s intact,” he cut her off. “The only thing that destroys a living horcrux is irreparable damage to the physical container… I’m sure you knew that.”

Her heart throbbed in her chest. She pulled her brother’s limp body closer to hers. One pulse, two… “Right,” she said, breathing relief. “Where’s Scorpius?”

“I’m—oh fuck.” A voice came from somewhere, followed by the snapping sound of twigs. He’d tripped. Noises of rustling movement followed, before the blond head appeared from behind them. His eyes fell to unconscious Hugo splayed in her lap and widened.

“He’s fine,” she said. “You ok?”

Scorpius nodded his weary head. He wasn’t as badly injured as her or Albus, looking like he’d dodged most of the blast. Her hand reached to touch the bruise on his face, but instead slipped around his neck, pulling him into a desperate hug.

Albus watched them from behind.

He looked away when they pulled apart.

“So what the hell was that – some sort of crater?” Scorpius coughed, taking in the tarnished campsite. Rose glanced up at the flashing sky, her insides swelling with an anguish that she did not understand and that frightened her. It took several blinks for her vision to focus, and then the realization hit her.

The bombings at Camden.

“No.” The moan escaped her mouth. “It’s happening all over again.”

Something in the sky flickered and the three of them leapt to their feet. They watched as a ball of flame manifested midair, growing larger and brighter as though drawing power from the troubled heavens, a vengeful god. Flames reflected in stricken eyes as it dropped, hurtling down at near distance, growing faster and faster until –they heard the falling roar and crash. The ground vibrated beneath their feet, sending tremors of fear up her spine. A thick smoky gust of wind blew consuming their lungs, their vision; a yawn from the dark universe.

Light returned after mere moments and Rose found her heart pounding against her ribcage. Were the Ordine Corvis on broomsticks casting individual spells, or was this the work of something grander? Anxiety kept a hard grip on her insides. The scope and magnitude of this magic was unlike anything she’d ever read about.

“Do we have any potions for Hugo?” she asked, voice urgent.

“No, everything’s gone,” Albus muttered.

Scorpius looked at him too. “What about your arm. Is it bad?”

“It’s fine.”

“Roll up your sleeve then.”

“I don’t need your help, Malfoy,” came the acidic reply.

Eyes determined, Scorpius trudged at him. “Just—” grabbed his arm. “—let me—” forcibly yanked up his sleeve. “—look.” A begrudging glare as the young healer traced fingers over his wounds. Rose could see the arm was black from being so badly burned, but her cousin didn’t even flinch at the physical contact.

Just then Scorpius turned to her, expression grim.

“Is there a spell? Can we fix it?” she said.

His forehead etched. “Not without an immediate grafting potion.”

“I feel fine,” Albus interrupted.

Scorpius turned back to him. “That’s because your nerves are fried. You don’t feel a fucking thing,” he muttered. “Not that that’s anything new.”

Albus lifted his chin. “I can hold my wand.”

“Well yes, but—“

The roaring started again, ferocious like that of a storm, only somewhere closer. They clasped hands over their ears.

“We can’t stay here!” Rose shouted over the noise. “We’ll head for town, try to find shelter!”

Scorpius nodded, and Albus cast one last dark look at their ravaged campsite.

An alarming bright orange swelled in the skies, unlike anything she’d ever seen before, as they moved. She led in alert silence, navigating their path through the maze of broken trees. Scorpius held limp Hugo over his shoulder while Albus trailed behind, a permanent hand on his wand. Both shot glances her way every so often. Either there had been several blasts or one had had a colossal impact, enough to destroy the entire right wing expanse of woodlands behind the town. Animal carcasses lay splayed, littering the ashen plain: splattered blood, burnt hides, roasted appendages.

Then—an ailing, whimpering deer, back two legs bent outwards; broken.

Her insides squirmed. Albus lifted his wand and delivered a beam of green, putting it out of its misery.

The sight was unbearable for Scorpius, who immediately bent over and began hacking. Puke and saliva dribbled down his chin, and he quickly wiped it before staggering back up. He rubbed his swollen eyes as if trying to unsee the dead deer; but Rose didn’t flinch, didn’t even blink. Her cousin’s penchant for murder was old news now, paling in extremity to the thousands of deaths already undertow.

Because in that moment, the enemy was clear: Graham Paisley.

His whole plot had gone over their heads, and now they would suffer the consequence.

They didn’t linger, traveling faster now, feet hammering against dirt. Fear pounded at her. They weren’t able to fly or apparate or leave the magical confines of Little Norton any other way, which left them with no other option but to head to town and see if someone had figured a way out. It was a futile hope but the only hope they had.

Another explosion nearby. The earth quaked and their bodies rolled, staggering—she yelped—and crashed. Landing on her knees, clenched jaw sliced tongue; the taste of copper flooded her mouth. She swallowed blood and sobbed and held her breath as smoke swept by in sharp, burning gusts. Albus and Scorpius fought the violent fit of coughing that followed.

A sphere of light floated right over their heads now, blurring her vision with its sheer intensity. It was as if the sun had risen out of nowhere. For a moment, she just stared, a strange, ethereal feeling taking hold of her.

Her heart panicked when it dropped.

“RUN,” Scorpius hollered.

There was nowhere to go. Nowhere to dodge. On impulse, seconds from being burned alive, she pointed her wand above and cast a bright spark—erupting into a shield. Light exploded from the crater’s sheer impact, white sparks splashing over its edges. Scorching heat infiltrated the air. Hot, hot, too hot. They screamed. Her arm felt seconds from snapping—pain gave way. As she fell back, Albus quickly pointed his wand and held the shield.

He was able to manage it three seconds longer, enough for all the sparks to die down, before falling backwards from exhaustion. Sweat plastered dark strands of hair to his forehead, and he held his arm close to him as though pained. The tendon deep burns had weakened his abilities. They lay, all four side-by-side, on the sole patch of dirt unlit by fire. They gasped for air.

“I’ve never seen anything like this.” She gulped, tears she wasn’t even aware she’d been crying streaming down her cheeks. She turned over, her sides aching with fatigue, to look at the ash-covered mound that was her brother. Two fingers pressed against the hollow space besides his adam’s apple. The beating of his pulse managed to steady hers.

“Wonder how they’re doing it,” Albus coughed from somewhere behind, slowly crawling back to his feet.

Her vision shook as the ground trembled every few seconds, as through the interval between drops was diminishing. She lied with forehead pressed to dirt, as though willing the rocking to calm down. When, at last, the world came to a halt, she stood up.

Turning, she saw Scorpius still laying there, face buried in burnt leaves. Her insides flared.

“Hey,” she croaked. Her heart broke when she heard strangled crying.

“Malfoy, get up,” Albus snapped. “We don’t have time for this.”

“Fuck you Potter,” came the muffled sob. “Burn in hell.”

(It was the deer, she knew.)

“No one’s going to burn.” She wiped her own wet cheeks. “And we’re not going anywhere without you, Scorpius. So please stand up.”

He didn’t move.

Her stomach knotted as another streak of light cleaved from the sky.

“Please. Think of your mum and—” Her voice was swallowed in the roar of a nearby crash. With an exasperated sound, Albus pulled his wand and cast a stinging hex at his ass; Scorpius shot to his feet with a yelp.

“The fuck?” he barked, his voice hoarse against the surging wind. “Are you even human?”

Albus tucked his wand away, lifting Hugo over his own shoulders. He moved past them, his footsteps swift against the rattling earth.

“Don’t slow me down,” he roared behind him.

-

Flames twisted in the air, pitch-fork tails of a thousand devils. The chillness of the town air was devoured by scorching blazes of the vicious element.

Their footsteps pounded against pavement.

Debris exploded as the hall building came tumbling down to their right, half-melted metal crashing against wreckage. Survivors, stragglers shrieked. Rose ducked, dodging the unhinged door that came shooting at her. Lunging forward, knees skid against stone; her heart pounded so hard she worried it would burst out of her chest. She heard a shout of fucking move it, Malfoy! as Albus, still carrying her brother, went swerving after the fallen blond.

Another blast from behind— light exploded and she lost sight of all three boys. Her insides panicked. Something hard slammed against her head and her vision tripled. She lost balance and blindly scoured ground. Blur-bright flames erupted in front.

Her arm, pulled over a shoulder—a woman being a hero. Rose croaked a ‘thank you’ that was lost in the roar of nearby crash. The woman staggered them through the haze of smoke. Rose slipped in and out of darkness, thoughts drifting between Hugo and the others.

Please be okay.

Her body came to an abrupt stop, hitting something hard and cold. Her aching head lifted and eyes made contact with eyes, white and hollow; the sallow features of a lolling head.

“Eurgg! ” A jolt backwards; legs pedaled and her body landed in black slick. Stricken eyes wandered, taking in the scattered piles of human refuse. The naked or tattered, burned, blackened beyond recognition. Skulls with eyeballs hanging from the sockets.

Living hands hoisted her up by the armpits.She looked around at several sooty faces that were still - thank Merlin - attached to their bodies. They greeted Rose with the same apprehensive look she wore.

They were in the base of what looked like someone’s half-destroyed house; a small cramped space. Streams of stunned people kept shuffling in, ghost-like figures like that of an old time photograph. Sobs sounded from every corner, prayers uttered under breaths. She looked around and saw filthy bodies huddled against the walls, wrapped in blankets, knees shaking. Strips of scorched skin hung from bones like ribbons. Several people crouched around a dead body. Couples clung to each other. A freckled boy of Hugo’s waif-like size stared stonily into the ground (her gut clenched). Two young dark-skinned girls held their grandmother’s injured arm. The aged man and woman beside her comforted their wailing kids. A blonde woman to her left gave a pained groan, large shrapnel protruding from the mangled wound in her thigh.

Those not injured ran out to help stragglers while others held protective shields over the half-eaten building. And still others…. she moved closer to see; wizards shooting charms at the slit barrier in the stone-wall: The passageway out of Little Norton. Her heart sank. It didn’t look like their efforts were making a difference.

“Move back!”

Just then—wizards swept in from all sides knocking her backwards, blinding her to what was happening. She heard the shrieks and loud fall; Blinding light infiltrated the small cramped space, followed quickly by smoke. Then, she heard cheering.

One of those craters had hit the barrier.

And the passageway was open –open.

“It won’t hold for long! Go, go now!” A maternal-looking woman shoved her forward—Rose raced blindly, her knees rattling. Her heart screamed in relief when she caught sight of the boys in front: Scorpius was already there, holding her brother, and Albus was making his way.

Desperate energy flooded her veins. She swerved, feet slamming against dirt. She staggered over wreckage, circumvented a burning crater-sized bulge. Some runners sped past her, while others stayed back to help the elderly and children. Rose caught sight of several parents slowly dragging their children and her insides squirmed – they wouldn’t make it. A badly-injured young man limped along to her right.

Rose grasped his arm and put it around her own neck.

He thanked her, swallowing relieved tears. She gave a nod and propelled them faster.

Survivors at the barrier stood cheering, pulling people through as they came. Several hands reached out to grab the young man; then her.

Then—

“Help!”

Her neck twisted in horror.

It was the boy from earlier, the freckled waif, stuck back in wreckage. His leg was caught in the jaw-like broken glass window crawling out of the battered edifice.

Somewhere deep inside: an impulsive tick-tick-tick.

She made a blind dash backwards, blood-stained tears streaming her face.

Merlin help me.

Sounds pounded against her eardrums but paled to the painful banging inside her chest. Sheets of fire outlined her shaky vision. She slowed to half-point with a gasp, her thighs burning from exhaustion, when two hands grabbed her arms from behind; Albus flipped and slammed her against the wall of a crumbling bookshop.

“Have you completely lost it?” he roared, eyes burning. “You were almost out, and you turned. I saw you. Why would you…”

His gaze followed hers towards the stuck boy, and his mouth curled. “What did I tell you about heroes, Rose? Heroes are stupid. Heroes get themselves killed—”

“I don’t care what you think! Stop telling me what I can and can’t do!” She twisted against his grip, half-yelling, half-crying now. “Stop trying to be the boss of me!”

The brows raised. He opened his mouth to respond, when somewhere behind—a crash. Time must’ve slowed as orange sparks hovered in the air. Breath suctioned out of her lungs as she stared at flame warring metal, hissing smoke. Much too quickly, the large building began to cave in. The young boy opened his mouth to cry out in anguish as wreckage collapsed over him. She fought against her cousin’s iron hold. Too late. The words choked in the back of her throat.

No, no, no…

Her legs gave out; Albus kept her hoisted up, arms gripped at waist. He pressed a dizzying kiss to her temple. She could feel blood pulse inside her head; vision blurred by smoke; she coughed. He buried his head in crook of her neck, his breath warm and fierce against her skin. She gasped his name, and this alarmed him enough to pull away.

“Get away of me.” She fought him between fits of angry sobs. “All the world’s ever done is piss on me! And you’ve never given a damn about it! Why now?!”

He stepped back, perplexed. He opened his mouth, then closed it. His eyes flared.

Then came the wand, pointed at her throat. The silent threat hung between—come willingly or be dragged. He wasn’t about to leave without her.

They glowered in a dead heat stand-off.

Thunderous shaking from overhead broke the façade. Albus grabbed her wrist and pulled her through the crumbling doorway of the shop, ducking them down beneath the panes. Recollecting their breaths, they sat and watched from the cracks in the barred windows as flame devoured hulking metal outside. The wreckage had begun to smoke vigorously. She followed her cousin’s grim gaze toward the slit at distance—the barrier had re-formed around it.

Their way out was gone.

“We’ll wait until another blast hits and breaks the barrier.” He spoke through pants.

Her mouth turned dry. Running a long unprotected stretch like that—it was sheer suicide.

Albus fixed her a stern glare. “No heroics this time.”

“You’re the one that came chasing after me.”

“Well Malfoy didn’t look particularly inclined,” he shot back.

“I wouldn’t want him to.” Her voice came out hoarse. “It’s madness.”

Somewhere nearby the earth was struck in a vibrant collapse, impact rippling through the broken down shop. Light short-circuited as smoke consumed the air. Scattered points of light shone through the cracks in the windows.

In the darkness, she felt his body scoot closer.

“What’s it like then, death?”

Closing her eyes, she tried to breathe. “Not right now—”

“If this is it, then I need to know—”

“No, you don’t. You have no fucking clue what you need,” she lashed back, jaw clenched. His response: a blink. She swallowed exasperation. “Fine. Death. Crossing over. It messes with you. It makes you hollow. It…sterilizes you.”

Albus took a moment to process this.

“Children are a nuisance. Hardly a loss.”

Insensitive prick. She delivered a hard shoulder shove. “I knew the price,” she continued, bitterly. “What I was giving up when I chose Hugo. When you mess with the bounds of death, you lose your shot at a normal life. I figured… it’s better to hold on to family you have than...you know… hope for a new one.”

His mouth twitched. “All for family.”

“What else is there?”

“The quest for higher knowledge. The mysteries of time and space. Magic. ”

Laughter choked out of her mouth, reverberated through every cell in her body. She couldn’t help but relish the absurdity. Here they were: in a burning city, inches from their deaths, and Albus wanted to spend these potentially last few moments talking about higher knowledge.

Fine, then.

“When I was…on the other side…I saw something. Someone.”

“God?”

A blink; she doubted her cousin believed in anything, but maybe it had to be asked.

“No, there was a man. I thought he was a dream. He was beautiful but in a sinister way. Like he wasn’t human. And his hands….” she trailed off, unsettled. “He was just floating there, looked like he was sleeping, and I think when I broke through…”

Silence stretched in the meager light.

“And what?” he asked, impatient.

“It’s a blur, I don’t know…” She shot a nervous look out a crack in the barred windows. The barrier was still closed.

When she turned, Albus was staring at her, green eyes wide. “Rose…what did you wake?”

“I—” The words died in her throat as incandescent flames erupted from the windows, scattering fragmented glass and debris. Eyes clenched, head ducked, she heard a pained groan beside her: Albus, sleeve rolled, a sizable fragment of glass was imbedded in his burnt arm. Alarmed, she pulled him to her and guided his head down against her shoulder.

“The next adventure.” A sharp exhale as she held him still, pulling out the shard. “One of my namesakes said… something…can’t remember which one right now.”

She cast a quick healing charm, watching blood trickle down his blackened flesh in bright rings. “Albus.”

“Hm.”

“Albus Dumbledore. He said it,” she whispered. “‘To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.’”

“Right.” The wounded hand snatched at the air. She grabbed it and his fingers intertwined with hers. “You should’ve told me. About Hugo. I could’ve assisted you.”

“You would’ve helped me break every law of magic and turn my brother into a horcrux in order to narrowly save his life?”

“Yes.”

Her voice broke: “You realize that’s barking mad.”

“Rose Pose.” A chuckle against her collarbone. “Has it occurred to you that I am barking mad?”

Her insides throbbed: It wasn’t a joke, nor was it meant to be endearing. His voice, low and hoarse: the confession of a sinner. In truth she’d probably always known her cousin was deranged; however, that had never been the point of it.

Mad enough to die with you.

Just as mad as you.


Rose felt something tighten in her stomach. Normal people didn’t chase each other into death zones, or upturn the dead. No one pulled suicidal shit like that, not even out of love. Except maybe, the truly fucked up.

Fears, not fantasies.

If fear was the thing keeping them apart…

“Albus,” she tried, through a held breath. She cupped his face in her hands, tracing a thumb over his bruised cheek. His expression flared. A risky move. “Don’t, don’t.” She sighed. “It’s me, Al. I—” He dodged as she leaned in, as if suddenly struck by the absurdity of being so close to a familiar face, and staggered to his feet. She stood up too.

Moments passed in palpable tension.

“Albus listen—”

“No.”

“At least just let me—”

No.”

Tears crystallized at the ends of her eyes. “Can we talk about it later then?” she asked, a little desperately. “Once we’re out of here? Please?”

He didn’t respond, stepped away so his face was masked by the passing smoke, and somehow looked smaller for it, less imposing. It left in her a dull ache.

They turned just as wind and smoke blew in, heat assaulting her face. Terror struck in black fragments as the ground shook. When the smoke cleared they saw—the barrier was open.

“Move!” he roared.

They ran into the open, adrenaline coursing through her veins. Another crash in the distance and her whole body flinched. Quickly swerving—Albus clasped hands on her shoulders and made her duck. She shrieked as sparks of light exploded overheard. Not a bomb, hexes. Albus grabbed her arms, wheeling her around so she was safeguarded by his body. He pulled his wand, mouth curled, and cast a shield engulfing them both. The light dulled and she saw men—Crows. The dark robed wizards swept in and there was a frenzy of spells and movements.

One lunged at Rose, who gave a shriek as he pulled her down by the hair. They rolled on the ground, jabbing elbows and legs. Hands wrapped her neck, bent on strangling, but she kneed him in the ribcage. She pulled away and pointed her wand, hands shaking.

Petrificus totalus.

The body fell, swallowed up by the growing wreckage.

She swallowed a breath and quickly assessed the area. Another lay dead, face half mutilated by fire; Albus had killed him quickly. Over her shoulder, her cousin was latched in combat with the last member.

“Crucio.”

Rose watched the menacing beam hit Albus square in the chest and….nothing? He didn’t even flinch. To her surprise, the attacker gave a wide grin.

“It is him.”

Albus didn’t react. He aimed his wand, the flash of green reflecting in his eyes.

That was that.

Swallowing her shock, she met his quick nod. They ran, her legs ached, desperate to outrun the spreading infernos. Albus lingered behind her to cast a shield to block a swerve of flame. In their peripheral she saw more black-robed wizards. Dammit. Albus pushed her forward and she turned in confusion.

“Go! I’m right behind you!”

She nodded and with dizzy limbs raced to the nearest cover, her insides warring between fear and relief. Ducking through the doorway, she turned and her mouth fell.

Albus was locked in duel with three other wizards.

“Run!” she cried.

“Stay right there,” he ordered, not turning around.

He’d known she wouldn’t listen to him; just as she made a move to run back, a shield erupted blockading the way. Rose hexed and kicked at it. Bastard, she thought angrily. Don’t try to be a hero, he’d said. Fucking hypocrite. The fuck if she was going to leave without him.

Albus threw a silver hex at the wizard that absorbed into his shield. He was handling himself okay but Rose knew he wouldn’t last long with that arm. It was only a matter of time… his next defensive counter-hex slipped, giving the wizards ample time to ambush him. A stream of blue hit his chest, and he flew backwards into rubble.

“Albus!” she screamed, but he didn’t stir.

The roofing crumbled overhead, large blocks of cemented brick falling. Smoke thickened the air. Spots scattered across her vision. Then she heard the snap of something, a bone. Next thing she knew, she was on the ground squirming in pain. Her mouth opened to let out a strangled sob.

Then the ceiling exploded.








Her eyes fluttered open to meet a dozen unfamiliar faces.

Heartbeat panicked as lights began snapping. Voices overlapped:

Rose Weasley! Ressurectionist! Survived the bombing? Your brother! Did you uncover the Ordine Corvis? Can you look here? On your own! For the paper—

“Get out!” bellowed a voice from behind.

It was the Head, in all his towering, scar-faced glory. Reporters begrudgingly collected their things and shuffled out at his command. Vultures! He slammed the door, grumbling to himself, before turning to her with a slightly menacing geniality.

How did I—

The words caught in her throat. Hands moved to grip her throat –bandaged. Frantic eyes darted around taking in the bland hospital room, the various potion drips hooked to parts of her body. Her stomach sank.

The Head pulled up a chair beside her. “You took quite a beating, Weasley,” he said. “Since you’re of age, I don’t qualify anymore as your legal guardian …of course being the Head of Law Enforcement has many undeniable perks. St. Mungo’s staff may argue it but as it stands, I am the closest thing you have to family.”

Fear bolted through her legs.

“Hugo,” she wheezed.

“Right. Your brother.” To her horror, the Head gave a reassuring smile. “I forgot. No, he’s fine, Weasley. Looks a hell of a lot better than you.” He eyed her with something like pity. “And the blond one that kept trying to sneak in here was discharged a few hours ago. Dragged out by the ear by his father –Draco Malfoy, of all people. What peculiar taste you have in men’s sons. I know romance holds a certain charm in adolescence, but that’s a fling you can permanently kiss good bye.

“Now, your world is about to drastically change. You’re about to become a woman, so the time for childish shenanigans is over. Womanhood, all metaphorically speaking, since I have no clue how badly your body was damaged in the fire. But no need to think about that now, no. The good news is that I haven’t fired you for going behind my back.”

He stopped to look oddly pleased with his joke, before turning back to her.

“Why do you think that is?”

As she started to form syllables, he cut her off.

“Well as it turns out, your stunt really benefits us in the end, girl. Kingsley’s taking the heat for what happened at Little Norton. Who knew a couple hundred deaths were all it took to rile people up? Rebellion is all very exciting you know. I watch it from my window because I don’t have to do a damn thing.” He paused for effect.

Rose visibly flinched, as he gave another reassuring smile.

“Nothing for you to worry about, Weasley. Governments flip themselves up and down all the time but nothing really changes. What’s important is that when the dust settles, you and I will have job security. Even more importantly, the press will make us look good. Everyone loves a survivor story, even better when we can squeeze in a few mentions of heroism. We’ll play up the traumatized orphan angle of course. Dark lords are lacking these days so this really is the next best thing.” He paused, and leant in. “On a more personal note, I’m proud to see you following in my footsteps… you really held your own out there.”

He stood, giving her shoulder an awkward clap. “So rest up, you’ve earned it. We’ll rehearse before the interview.”

As he turned to leave, her hand grabbed his sleeve.

“Another one,” she croaked. His brows raised.

“There was someone else with you? Shame…no, Weasley. You were the only survivor they found. You really should consider yourself lucky.”








“I think that’ll be it for today, Mr. Walker.”

I blinked. It was early – normally I stayed well past the hours of decency, probing questions and making absurd speculations – but today I made no argument. It was her will, and after all, it was only day eight. We had plenty of time to get through everything.

Tucking my notebook and pens into my bag, I stood up to bid her farewell.

“Until tomorrow?”

Rose didn’t shake my hand. They had turned prison lights out long ago so I couldn’t exactly see her face. Instead, I saw a shadow of a nod, and a strange silence stretched between us.

I wondered if she was crying.

“Good night, Rose.”

For the very first time, I decided not to pry.








There was a man in this world who was not a man.

He tread the ashen remains of hollow souls, vestiges. He, the Observer, who watched history unfold from the skies as gods do, watched as men screamed and burned for nothing. For no simple reason other than the ignorance ingrained in their species.

Humanity was stuck in a loop, as ephemeral entities battled endlessly, vying for power. War. Peace. War. Peace. War. Peace. War— it was maddening. Maybe it was in their programming to be so obnoxious. Luckily Cygnus, or so the mortals called him, had managed to shed the false skin eons ago.

First, the world would witness Graham Paisley’s rise. Then, his destruction – when it happened, for it would happen… such is the course of history. Villains had only one end: combustion. Not death. Combustion. Erratic tendencies made them unsustainable long-term, incapable of moving past their own mental fixations. Tom’s weakness had always been his inability to look past his meager form of immortality.

But this fall would not be brought on by a prophetic hero. That fairy tale had died long ago.

Or maybe, it was subdued, hiding somewhere from the cold harsh realities of this world, and most likely, the next.

Either way, it meant that this time, change would have to come from elsewhere. Paisley’s defeat would not be at the hands of good, but a refined evil.

Fascinating creature, the new boy.

Human anomaly: Violent, brilliant, armored, sexually frozen.

Just like Tom

How clever Harry had been, to remodel his sick son after his grandest foe.

…yet so young, so supple, so… fresh

How clever and yet how so very foolish.

…to come so far and learn so little.

For Tom’s weakness had always been plain.

…to ignore the lesson of history

And his weakness was that he was human.

History would always repeat itself

What was Harry thinking?

Indeed, what was Harry thinking?

The long fingers curled broken skin, warm flesh. Live flesh.

A small thrumming pulse. Then, the flicker of a heartbeat.

“Awaken, Albus Potter.”

The abyss gazed back.




AN: A big thank you to all the people who’ve left me reviews these past couple of weeks. You’ll all get responses soon, promise. RL’s been a weird mix of hectic and uninspiring but now that it’s summer, I’m ready to buckle down and finish a massive chunk of Clash. Another big thank you to my beta, Roisin, for her super mad skills and ability to catch all my language fumbles. Without her, this fic would have a lot more phallic/wand innuendos.

Anyway, this chapter…ahem. Thoughts?




Chapter 22: Wake
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

"Awaken."

 

Green eyes jolted opened to meet an empty sky: no stars, no clouds, no light. The heavens were appallingly blank. Neck in extreme pain, he lifted his head a fraction to stare into darkness so empty of details, it was almost suffocating. The only thing he could make out was the vague, silvery outline of road. A pathway in a static ocean of black, that his body was being slowly lugged across by—

 

[a very large, cold hand]

 

[sharp, talon-like fingers gripping his naked torso]

 

[something not-human]

 

Somewhere inside his bleary mind echoed the voice of who had saved him. Not a hallucination, something tangible. And it was not Rose either, with her soft words and desperate eyes and nimble fingers cupping at his [stop it]. No…the face of his savior had no distinct features. It was a man, and also not a man. It was like staring into a void. Indecipherable.

 

His bare back was quickly hauled over jagged rock, a groan releasing from his mouth. For the span of a second, the force dragging him halted. Then continued.

 

"Rest, now, Albus Potter," intoned a gravelly voice, "you are almost there."

 

"Am I—" The words caught in his throat. "Am I dead?"

 

The creature echoed with a damning sort of laughter. High and erratic, it was like the cawing of hungry ravens.

 

"You've been chasing Death for many years now. But did you know I was also chasing you?"

 

"No." His voice, a rasp. "No I—"

 

Uncontrolled laughter rang out, shrill, screeching; the road trembled, distorting into an image with violent dips and curves, a mindscape of clownish horror. Gripping rocky terrain with one hand to steady himself, breath clenched in his chest; his mind raced to remember what had occurred before. His neck lolled exhaustedly to the side, and just as his head turned— eyes widened.

In the midst of panic he almost hadn't noticed: his entire left arm was gone. A bandaged mound protruded from his shoulder in its place, and he could spot charred flesh between the beige, dirtied layers.

 

An unusual dizziness seized him; he stifled the urge to vomit. Fingers— the five remaining— twitched for a cigarette, and only then did it hit him: He remembered being dug half-screaming from a hearth of fire. Water being poured down his bare back. Bandages twining around his forehead. There was more to the memory, an amputation epilogue even more macabre in some respects, but he couldn't dwell on it right then. His mind felt as if it was in pieces, hastily reconstructed.

 

"Where are you taking me?" he said faintly.

 

"Somewhere," replied the creature, claws tight around his body, "where we may finally have some common ground."

 

 


Reds and greens twinkled inside the Potters' quaint little house.

 

Ginny, cradling her newborn daughter with one arm, spooning mush into James' mouth with the other, observed worriedly as her brother threw charms at the giant, malformed pumpkin that sat at the center of their living room. Seconds ago, it had been a Christmas tree.

 

"Let it be, George" she sighed. "Just don't do it again."

 

"No need to worry, dear sister, I'll fix it in a jiff."

 

Blue spellfire hit its orange veneer. Ginny groaned as the heaving vegetable inflated.

 

"Bollocks," George muttered, squinting at his wand just as a gaggle of little children chased Ron through the area; baby Hugo sat atop his father's shoulders, squealing gleefully.

 

"Let me go, you little monsters!" Ron cried, drawing giggles from the pack. "Away, away, see, now none of you are getting your presents."

 

"Unca Ron, noooo."

 

Laughter rang out as he, with little nieces and nephews gripping at his legs, stumbled into the kitchen. There the other adults stood in the warmth of cooking food; animated conversation carried over the sounds of plates and utensils clattering.

 

"—dessert looks great, Molly—"

 

"—did you hear about what happened in the department—"

 

"—oh, thank you dearie, it was all Charlie's idea—"

 

"—Angelina, what do you think—"

 

"—I think Kingsley's got the right approach with all the new regulations—"

 

"—pleased to hear about the promotion, Perce—"

 

"—Oh I love what you've done with ze place—"

 

Molly tended to the roasting pork, chatting at Hermione, who idly nodded along as she mended her three-year old daughter's dress for the second time that evening; legs swinging, Rose waited impatiently for permission to go play again. In a moment of child-like observation, she noticed one family member quietly slipping away from the rest; footsteps heavy, silhouette treading down the darkened hall, he drew on his winter coat.

 

"Unca Har—"

 

Snow pounded against the rooftop outside as the door slammed, and the man paced across his patio, sighing as he ran his hands over his face. Friends and family were beginning to comment on his appearance; thin and pale and ragged, eyes splotched purple, the effects of a decade's worth of magical siphoning had started to show. He had so little time.

 

He had to do it now.

 

rap-rap-rap from above; his head turned.

 

In the foggy second-story window, there stood Albus, scowling and with eyes narrowed in suspicion. Unlike his father, he couldn't even bother to feign interest in the seasonal festivities.

 

I'll be back soon, Harry mouthed. Fear flickered over the small boy's face, but he nodded, understanding as intuitively as any three-year-old that Daddy was not leaving on a mere 'business trip', even if that's what they would call it later. He yanked the curtains close.

Harry stared at the window for several moments after, pressure pinching at his eyes. Sighing, he drew off his glasses and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. He pulled on his hood and vanished into thin air.

 

With a crack of apparition, he landed in the midst of a barren field. Where he turned up was unknown to all but a few; a place he had uncovered in his early days, shortly after the Battle of Hogwarts, in the span of time when nothing made sense and no one had answers. Even Dumbledore's portrait had no way to account for the improbability of Expelliarmus being enough to vanquish the Dark Lord, priori incantatem be damned. It was a fluke, a spell uttered in split-second panic.

 

He could have just as easily failed.

 

He hadn't failed.

 

It had taken many months of quiet contemplation, of searching, to understand the magnitude of the power he'd gained in those vital moments; and also that coincidences do not exist. There were those in the world who swayed the tides of war with mere finger—talon flicks.

 

Harry drew his wand and uttered an incantation, watching as the ground responded to his words with heavy shaking. A shack, all dirtied boards and shingles, held with rough sawed timbers, rose from the earth to startling height in front of him. It was ordinary looking, and seemed on the verge of collapse, as it had seemed for many years. Appearances are often deceiving.

 

"You are late tonight, my friend," intoned a loud gravelly voice. "Very, very late."

 

His mouth went dry. "I can't just slip away whenever I want, Cygnus," he said, removing his hood. "I have a family now… I'm not seventeen anymore."

 

"You have aged so much in such a small time… how pitiful, the lives of mortals are so frail."

 

The shack remained unmoving, and the creature did not show himself. Icy wind blew as a weary Harry rummaged through his vast pockets. He held up the finding— a green sphere carved of feldspar stone, the center brimming with bright light.

 

"Is that it?"

 

An exhausted sigh. "Yes. Go on."

 

Without moment's pause, an invisible force greedily took hold of it, rotating the stone in blowing air as though mapping out its dips and curves.

 

"I'm… flattered…you took the time to make me such a convincing copy."

 

Air swerved in an icy whiplash throwing him backwards.

 

"But it works," Harry insisted, quickly scrambling to his feet. He dug the thrown stone from snow with jittery fingers, holding it out once more. "I searched for years…No one knows where the real thing is, if it even exists. But this, Cygnus, I promise, this will satiate you for a long time."

 

"Do I strike you as a fool, Harry? Do you think I cannot tell when I am being deceived?"

 

A shrill noise rang and Harry collapsed into the snow once more, hands clasping his eyes. The noise tore at his mind, his conscience; it was the wailing of thousands of lost souls, something Cygnus unleashed from the Other Side in a demonstration—of what was coming if he failed.

 

Magic clasped him at his throat, forcibly yanking him into the air.

 

"Perhaps it is Tom I should have chosen…he certainly had more potential."

 

"You said so yourself he was too selfish," Harry choked, face bluing, ears bleeding. "Impossible to work with…please….Cygnus."

"Alas, villains are oft too unreliable, too self-centered….on the other hand, you heroes are noble to the point of being a nuisance. I think a combination of the two personas would have served me best. I suppose I could always – ah, hold that thought."

 

The sound cut off. Harry dropped to his knees, breathing heavily.

 

"I suppose I could always bring Tom back. But I wonder, would it be worth the risk? It is no easy feat to resurrect the dead, Harry, even for one such as myself. It is excruciatingly painful to Cross altogether…with every journey made, one becomes less present in this realm. A portion of myself already lingers in Death…I am bound by it…I cannot take any further risk."

 

"I understand," Harry said, keeping his voice steady. "I want to help you, Cygnus. I really do."

 

"Your words sound sincere… I have always liked that about you, Harry. It is not a quality the others possessed."

 

"Let me in then," he persisted, "Let me in, and I'll show you how to use the stone. Trust me."

 

With a creaking groan, the wooden door to the shack slowly open. Harry took a deep breath, gathering his nerve, fingers clasping at the wand burrowed inside his coat.

 

Without any second thoughts, he disappeared inside.


 

The son was more like his father than Cygnus had imagined.

 

Strip the aesthetics. Strip the details. And what remained? A childhood passed in waiting and confusion, a looming dark lord, a red-haired girl one simply could not do without, and a…thirst, more than anything, to prove oneself.

 

Their pressure points were…formulaic.

 

Silvery wisps wrapped the severed flesh, molding out an appendage as white as alabaster. The boy stared at the magical prosthetic in awe, curling and uncurling his pale fingers, marveling at his mobility.

 

"Do you like it, Albus?"

 

The eyes shot up, green like Harry's but also duller; the face was thinner, features sharper, handsomer, colder looking. The hair was bloodied and disheveled. Burns ran along his bare ribcage. He was a boy naturally—not yet a man—but held the sort of confidence that aged him, gave him weight and presence.

 

"How did you do it?" he said, his voice quiet.

 

Cygnus smiled. "Most humans would say thank you."

 

The boy flexed the magical prosthetic, silently assessing. "It feels real...the skin's lifelike. I didn't think magic could reconstruct body parts so lucidly."

 

"There is much you do not know about magic yet."

 

The boy looked up and took in Cygnus' face, the faux-human appearance, lean cut and pale skin and no distinct features, as if searching for any betrayal of emotion. Finding nothing – naturally – he gave up.

 

"Am I dead?" he said.

 

"Ha! Would you like to be dead?"

 

"Life wasn't grand," he said with a touch of surliness, looking around and taking in the span of greenery that surrounded them, a grove of cypress trees flanking them on one side, with the towering backside of a blurry mansion on the other. Up above: a clear blue sky. The boy eyed the lush veranda they were on, flowers and growth coating the ends of floorboards. The umbrellaed table at the center, heavily adorned, with dainty, porcelain cups set out on top.

 

"This isn't as terrible as I imagined. Is this what Death does all day, fix arms and have garden parties?"

 

The tongue lolled behind Cygnus' closed mouth.

 

"Rest assured, Albus, I have…other hobbies." He cast a glance at the table, which instantaneously stacked with jams, spreads and various pastries. "Join me for breakfast?"

 

At the sight, the boy's eyes widened. Cygnus knew the devastating effects of starvation on mortals, and while he entertained a very different sort of hunger, he'd been able to sustain several lifetimes of patience. Humans had no conception of the word.

 

Sitting across the table, he watched as the boy piled his plate and attacked it ravenously.

 

"I still haven't heard that thank you, Albus Potter."

 

The boy snorted. "FankYew," he articulated through a full mouth.

 

"Manners, manners. Didn't Harry teach you anything?"

 

The ears quirked but he didn't reply, too focused on stuffing everything edible into his mouth. Cygnus drummed his fingers; his young friend knew when to play dumb and was clearly disinterested in idle banter; rather, he seemed to be taking the time to work out his next mode of inquiry. Very Tom-like, indeed.

 

Chairs shuffled out of their way just as a piping kettle floated out to the veranda, elegantly tilting over and pouring tea into their cups. Albus' elbow knocked his over the edge—not accidentally— and a tray flew in to catch the hot liquid. A rag scoured the floorboards industriously mopping up stray droplets. The kettle refilled his cup.

 

The boy swallowed and looked up.

 

"How are you casting multiple wandless spells like that?"

 

"Guess."

 

"A legion of invisible house elves," came the immediate assessment.

 

Cygnus chortled.

 

"So then how?" the boy asked, brows raised as if impressed. "How long does it—"

 

"Eons, my young friend, eons." Cygnus gave a mirthless smile. "Wandless magic can take a human lifetime to learn to fully control. To master so that you are able to multitask without any effort, any words, any movement – and on such a scale – may take many more."

 

"How many?"

 

"Patience, Albus. You are not even twenty-years-old yet."

 

Almost shockingly, the boy's ears reddened.

 

"I've never known anyone who could do magic like that," he said, his stare drumming into the table cloth. "But unsurprising, if you are who you claim to be. I just never imagined Death would be sentient—I wonder—"

 

"You're wondering why I look so different than what you saw before, aren't you? This, Albus, is my human form. As you may predict, the other is not very appropriate for breakfast."

 

"I see."

 

"Do you like what you see?"

 

The boy choked on his tea.

 

Cygnus only smiled. "The wrong question to ask, I presume?"

 

"I'm afraid so."

 

A polite deflection, exactly like his father's. Tom, at the very same age, had responded offensively.

 

"Pardon my manners, then. Sometimes when I'm unsure about a human's…proclivities, I like to probe. It's a horrible habit, but I learn the most interesting details from it. Can you believe how different the preferences of humans for other humans are? Well, maybe you do. But, for the longest time, I thought you were all as homogenized as cattle."

 

The boy blinked, as if taking this all in, and asked, "Is this your only other form?"

 

"Oh no, my young friend, I can take on any form. Watch how easily I become… you."


Death as a sentient being was perplexing, to say the least.

 

It was hard to discern any rationale for it. Albus had always imagined Death as a process, a transformation, not an ambivalent creature who abducted humans to have tea parties with. It was all very nonsensical and he idly wondered if the only truth that existed in the universe was that all logic was moot, a false pretension of security to cope with a meandering human existence; that, possibly, there were forces that existed outside human capacity that operated without rhyme, rule, reason.

 

[no]

 

[fuck no]

 

There was nothing outside his capacity, nothing he could not reason and resolve. Which was why this entire situation was incorrect and offensive, like something out of a madcap children's novel [to be precise—Beedle and the Bard]. Still, it was not impossible. Albus decided he merely lacked the context to understand this ancient, unchecked creature who lorded [supposed] eons of experience over him. Further investigation was necessary.

 

Even more so, Albus was not entirely convinced of so-called-Death's identity. Rose had disclosed something vital in their last encounter [more accurately, she had disclosed many things] and while he wished to forget the second half of said encounter for strictly brotherly reasons, there was something beforehand—that stood out—

 

"When I was…on the other side…I saw something. Someone."

 

"God?"

 

"No, there was a man. I thought he was a dream. He was beautiful but in a sinister way. Like he wasn't human. And his hands…." she trailed off, unsettled. "He was just floating there, looked like he was sleeping, and I think when I broke through…"

Something had gone horribly wrong when Rose committed the resurrection. She had woken someone. Unleashed something.

 

How?

 

[build on what you know]

 

When she bypassed the life-for-life principle by killing her brother, immensely cheating death and returning with both their souls…Hugo's soul had been severed, hadn't it? Albus could only assume that was the mistake. Hugo hadn't crossed properly, entirely. That meant a portion of his soul lingered in death. And in place the portion of another soul had—snuck—

 

"Are you paying attention, Albus?"

 

He blinked, emerging from his thoughts. Across the table sat the older, broader, more refined version of himself, eyes pitch black. Hand folded politely in front, head tilted, the doppelganger smirked.

 

[vaguely reminiscent]

 

[graveyard]

 

[Rose Pose]

 

"Nice trick," Albus said, setting his cup down. His appetite was lost.

 

"You have more questions," Death observed, casually morphing back to his other form. "I will answer in the order I detect them in your mind – one: Yes, your cousin is well and alive. She is in far better condition than you. Two: No, this is not the afterlife. It is a place designed for those who belong neither here nor there. For some time, that has been just me. Three: I'm here entirely at my own volition. Spending too much time with the living is mundane and this is a nice, temperate location, don't you think? I consider it my summer home."

 

Albus opened his mouth to speak, then closed it. Then opened it again.

 

"What about the other realm?"

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"I—what's that like? What happens when you cross over into the realm of the dead?"

 

Somewhere in the distance, sounds of plates smashing.

 

Death's perfect smile faltered. "Why would you ask something like that?"

 

"Just curious." Albus quickly maneuvered a new topic: "Do you keep a record of souls that have passed?"

 

"Ah, you are wondering about your father, aren't you? I'm afraid I cannot tell you what you want— I do not know if he is truly dead."

 

[Death was a fraud]

 

"Why not?"

 

"Because, my young friend, your father is a very tricky man."

 

Albus remained silent. He busied himself in carving out a slice of cake.

 

Death leaned in. "Why, what do you think?"

 

"I don't know."

 

"But you must."

 

"You can search my head if you want – which, I suspect, you've been doing this whole time anyway." Albus wiped his hands on the napkin on his lap. "But your guess is as good as mine. I don't know where my father is."

 

Death's head cocked, eyes morphing into something colder. He extended a hand out in front of Albus' forehead, the palm becoming cracked and worn and bulging with blood-blue veins; the fingers contorting and blackening, the human veneer chipping away. The nails became longer, sharper; bird-like talons stopped growing a centimeter from his nose.

 

"Very well. I'll go ahead and take… a closer look."

 

Suddenly, claws gripped his face and he jerked back with the force of sudden wind—magic.

 

memories warped across his mind like blazes of light

 

hundreds of moments with his father, training, studying, traveling, talking

 

none held the answer Death sought

 

a wave of relief washed over—

 

Albus snapped awake, eyes wide.

 

"Beg pardon," Death gave a husky laugh, smoothly retracting his talons. "I often forget how low the comfort levels of a human are."

 

Perturbed, Albus rose to his feet.

 

Death did as well.

 

"I'm sorry," Death said, not sounding the least bit apologetic. "I…wanted to get to know you better. And it seems that I have."

 

As he stepped backwards, Death followed in his wake, the androgynous body contorting once more, adopting soft, feminine curves. The indistinctive face morphed into something familiar and red strands of hair fell from the scalp, until Albus was staring at an impossibly beautiful version of Rose.

 

The doppelganger sauntered over, hips swinging in an exaggerated way.

 

"Do you like what you see now?" Her voice was soft, but with a more sultry quality to it.

 

His feet shuffled backwards, nearly stumbling over each other. "No." Albus pulled his wand, eyes narrowing, and pointed it directly at the image. "That's sick. That's my family."

 

The doppelganger didn't bat an eyelid, slinking forward.

 

"What are so threatened by?"

 

"Not my cousin, if that's your meaning."

 

Death smirked, as he morphed back to his former self.

 

"Humans have the strangest fears," he chuckled, stepping forward. "A word of advice, my young friend, this attachment you feel…this shame…it is useless. All it will bring you is misery."

 

"I haven't a clue what you're—" Albus gritted his teeth but was forcefully silenced.

 

He felt a spell jerk through his body, his mind fading…he yanked his eyes open to stare as the garden began unfurling: the veranda vanished as plants rose to startling length all around him, flower wilting, stems contorting into black wires that curled together at the top to form a cage-like structure. The seamless sky began to fragment, and inky black bled into the portrait of serene blue.

Death began enlarging as well, unfurling to monstrous size, body as black as the darkness seeping around them, as the arms became larger, talons more grotesque. He sprouted several spindly legs, adopting a solid black torso that twisted into an indescribable figure of inhuman abnormality. A physical chill swept through Albus as he drank in the sight. Void of clothing, the creature writhed as it expanded, smoky wisps curling around his sinister edges until it was ubiquitous. The multiple tentacle-like wisps – appendages – danced menacingly around Albus, looming nearer and nearer, until at last they enveloped him in a total and palpable darkness.

 

"My young friend…" The voice hissed, wisps caressing his face. "Why cling to that which pains you?" They choked his throat, crawling across his torso and wrapping his thighs. "I see extraordinary potential in you. Do not let it be thwarted by these parasitic thoughts - love is nothing more than a human idiosyncrasy. Your path is of solitude, as it has always been, and what you need – you need the darkness, the anger, the hate."

 

White-hot pain seared through his body as a long talon bit into his leg. Another gripped at his chest. Pressing his lips, Albus managed an excruciatingly painful neck turn. His fingers, buried against his side, grasped at the edge of his wand.

 

"Reducto!"

 

With split second thinking, Albus broke through the wisps and staggered backward, breathing shaky and erratic. Sweat ran down his bloodied face. His legs ached. Steadying himself, he gripped the weapon tight in the fingers of his magical prosthetic, expression lethal.

 

"Stay out of my head!" he snapped.

 

From all corners, the dark appendages shot at him like angered serpents. He threw a hex just as one swerved at his leg, slicing it through the center. Another quickly gripped his arm; Albus shoved it off and hurled another hex, straight into the eye of the storm, into the swaying talons of Death. The heavens rumbled as the creature gave a pained, thunderous moan, the large body writhing in anguish.

 

He watched as the creature coursed toward him with blazing speed, arms brandished, claws unfurled in fury. Albus aimed a spark of blue—exploding into a shield. Sparks sputtered off the edges as Death collided against it. A pained hiss released into the air.

 

Eyes fierce, jaw clenched, Albus held his ground; wand gripped with both hands maintaining the safeguard.

 

From the other side of the magical barrier, Death's expressionless stare bore into his.

 

"I do not wish to kill you, Albus. Such a waste of talent it would be."

 

Pitch black eyes assessed his seething form, silently calculating.

 

"I want to help you. In ways your father never could."

 

The creature's licentious lips curved.

 

"Graham Paisley…you want to kill him, don't you?"

 

A powerful feeling gripped his insides, yanking him forcibly to his knees, bowing his head. His magical prosthetic fell limp to his side; Other muscles shut down with such an intense critical exhaustion, he felt nearly paralyzed. His body, in a state of total submission, relinquished all control to the creature's Imperius Curse.

 

"He is a fool to think he can make you his little pet. He underestimates your skill, thinks you are a child that he can easily defeat. It will not be easy to kill him, but not so impossible either. I will… assist you."

 

Light faded as the shield waned overhead. Nearer, nearer the clatter of footsteps drew.

 

"I will hold your hand…like a father…yes. And in turn, you will do something for me."

 

Albus squeezed his eyes, as his mind was flooded with images of flame warring metal, tattered bodies, wandfire, screaming cousins and—and—

 

"What?" he whispered, too afraid to meet the looming creature's stare.

 

Footsteps clattered to a stop. The Imperius Curse was lifted, relinquishing its grip on his body.

 

Talons clenched around his shaking hands.

 

"You will keep what you kill."

 



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