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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.”
“You are the last of your kind.”
“There are no more wizards or witches in the world.”
“Given the choice to live the remainder of your life in prison or death, you chose death.”
“You have fifteen days to live.”
“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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.”
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