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Chapter 3: Chapter Three: Albus Potter
Viktor Krum: Over The Edge
By Rose Weasley
An Excerpt From Chapter Two
...In the months that followed his injury, the pain of rehabilitation coupled with the realization that he would never again play professional sport, changed Viktor. He became dark and moody, resentful towards anyone who expressed even the mildest show of sympathy. But thanks to a loophole in his contract and several lucrative endorsements, the money, at least, kept rolling in. And with more free time – and more freedom – than he could ever remember having, Viktor was determined not to let his fortune – or what remained of his youth – go to waste...
Chapter Three: Albus Potter
Rose Weasley was exhausted. Not to mention desperate to get out of the high-heeled shoes some sales-witch had convinced her would be as comfortable as they were fashionable.
The meeting with Heart – if it could really be called such a thing - had continued on for another hour or so before the old man had finally collapsed at his desk, worn out and hoarse from all the shouting. Rose hadn’t been expected to add much to the conversation. It was her job to simply sit there and listen, throwing in the occasional nod or murmur of agreement just to prove she was paying attention. Heart didn’t have any children of his own – nor anyone that could really be considered a friend – so with his wife temporarily out of the picture and his secretary on vacation, the role of human sounding-board had once again fallen on her shoulders. And it was a role that always left her feeling drained and longing for a good night's sleep.
By the time she left Heart's office, it was nearing six o’clock and Rose was more than ready to pack up and head home for the day.
After a quick stop at her own office to collect the day’s post, and another at the corner market to grab some take away, she was all set to settle in for a quiet evening at home. That was until she spotted a familiar face waiting outside her front door.Albus Potter was perched on the top step of the narrow stoop that marked the entrance to the building where Rose had been living for the past six months. His elbows were resting on his boney knees, which were just visible beneath his oversized tan shorts. His dark hair was sticking out in all directions as though he had forgotten to comb it before he left the house. With his head bowed, it looked as if he was deep in thought, or else trying to figure out what had gotten stuck to the bottom of his trainers. Though only a few months younger than Rose, today her cousin looked more like a wayward teenager than a young man with a proper job and decent place to live.
“You ought to be more careful,” Rose said as she drew near, shifting the bag that held her supper from one hand to the other, her post still tucked up under her arm. “My muggle neighbors don’t take kindly to loitering. I wouldn’t put it past Mrs. Larson on the second floor to ring the police if she spots you out here – the old bat.”
Al looked up at her, a mournful expression spoiling his otherwise handsome face. In that instant, Rose knew any chance for a quiet evening alone had just flown out the window.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, already knowing the answer.
Al let out a pitiful sigh. “It’s Amelia. She’s gone and –”
Rose held up her hand, silencing him. “Come on,” she said, letting out a little sigh of her own as she nodded in the direction of the front door. “I’ve got a bottle of wine in the fridge. We can pop it open and you can tell me all about what she’s done this time.”
Al stood up and dutifully followed Rose up the three flights of stairs that lead to her small studio. The flat, which had once served as attic space for the tenants that lived below, was little more than a single room, with low-sloped ceilings, a bed that also served as a sofa tucked into one corner, and a kitchenette so tiny it could have been built for a doll’s house. Still, the space was clean, the neighborhood quiet, and – most important – the rent cheap. On her meager salary, it was the best Rose could hope to afford living that close to the center of London.
Rose set her things down on the narrow kitchen counter and removed two glasses from a nearby cupboard. Next, she crossed to the fridge and extracted a bottle of off-brand wine, pouring two generous glasses before handing one to Al.
“Thanks,” he said, taking the drink and plopping himself on the floor in front of the window that looked down onto the back garden.
The light from the sun, which was just starting to set – a sure indication that the last few days of summer were upon them – was filtering in behind him, casting shadow across his boyish features and bathing the small space in a warm yellow glow. Rose slipped the wine bottle back into the fridge before settling down beside him, pushing the window open to let in the faint breeze that had begun to stir. She stared at her cousin for a long moment, watching as Al raised the glass to his lips, downing half the contents in three large gulps.
“That bad a day?” she asked.
Al nodded, puckering his lips as the taste of the cheap wine hit his tongue. “The worst,” he said, using the sleeve of his t-shirt to wipe at his mouth. “She’s dumped me. Again.”
Rose said nothing. She just leaned back, quietly sipping her wine as Al launched into his latest tale of heartache and woe. It was nothing new. Rose had heard it all a million times before. Al and Amelia had been dating since their school days. She was a nice enough girl - from a good family, mild mannered and polite. She was supportive of Al, who was restless by nature, hopping from one job to the next – though he seemed to be settling nicely into his new position at the Ministry. Something his father had no doubt set up for him. The twosome did genuinely seem to enjoy each other’s company. But at least twice a year, they would get into a huge row – always over something completely trivial – and split up, vowing they would never, ever speak to one another again as long as they both lived. Their self-imposed exiles from each other’s lives would last for about a month before they would break down, make up, and go back to being a doting couple.
Rose had long ago stopped trying to rationalize the pair's volatile relationship. As best as she could figure, the two of them must actually enjoy the ongoing drama – thrive on it even. Why else would they subject themselves to all that misery? Without it, maybe they were afraid their lives would just be...ordinary.
Still, Rose and Al had always been close growing up and she felt it was her duty as his cousin and friend to at least pretend to offer a sympathetic ear. It wasn’t like he came to her looking for advice. Rose was not exactly in a position to counsel anyone on the subject of love. Her romantic life was, for all intents and purposes, pretty much non-existent. Working all hours of the day for a boss who considered taking time off to be the eighth deadly sin didn’t accord her much opportunity to cultivate a social life. Not that she didn't want one.
“And so she dumped me,” Al was saying, his shoulders slumping at he recalled the tragedy of it all. “Right there in the middle of the party, in front of her entire family. Can you believe that?”
“Hmmm...” was about all the reply Rose could muster. She realized belatedly that she hadn’t been paying all that much attention to what Al was saying. “Sounds like a quite a fight.”
“It wasn’t just a fight. It was a goddamn assault!" Al was on his feet again, crossing back into the kitchen, and was now in the process of helping himself to some more wine. “It’s over this time, I mean it," he said as he refilled his empty glass. "There’s no way I could take her back after what she said. She humiliated me. And for what? Just to prove her parents right? That I'm not good enough for her?”
"You know she doesn't think that –" Rose tried to interject, but Al wasn't looking to be consoled.
"Well, it just proves how much she knows. I happen to be up for a promotion at work, did you know that? Haven't even been there two months yet. I guess they – unlike some people – appreciate what I can do.” Al took another long pull on his drink, emptying the glass for a second time. When he finally came up for air, he looked over at Rose and asked, “You got anything to eat? I’m starving.”
And so for the next two hours, Rose found herself playing host to a not-entirely-welcomed dinner guest. She had gathered up some plates and silverware, and the two had dined picnic-style on the floor. Rose served them each half of the sandwich she'd picked up on her way home, along with a half-eaten packet of crisps she kept stashed in the pantry for emergencies. Al had refused the complimentary apple that had been tucked in alongside the sandwich but did manage to finish off the remainder of the wine – not bothering to ask Rose if she wanted any more for herself. Rose didn’t mind sharing, but at that moment, she was glad that she didn’t keep anything stronger in the house. With only the sofa-bed to sleep on, Rose really didn’t want Al to have to spend the night because he was too drunk to find his way home.
“We should go out,” Al announced once their plates had been washed and put away again.
“What, now?” Rose glanced over at the clock that hung on the far wall. “It’s getting kind of late...”
Al let out a loud bark of laughter, the wine having dampened his ability to control the volume of his voice. “It’s only half-past eight. Since when is that late? You’re such an old ninny sometimes, Rose, you know that?”
“I am not! Some of us had to work all day, in case you forgot. Then I got to come home and listen to your problems all evening. And I’ve got to get up early tomorrow. And I’ve got this stack of papers to sort. And –”
Al threw up his hands in mock surrender. “Relax, will you? I didn’t mean anything by it. I just thought it might be nice to get out. Have a laugh. You know, a bit of fun? You remember fun, don’t you, Rose? That thing we used to do before you got this job of yours...”
“And what’s that supposed to mean? What’s wrong with my job?”
Al was leaning against the small sink, the dishrag he’d been using now slug over one shoulder. Rose was eyeing him from the other side of the table, and he seemed to shrink under the intensity of her stare. “Oh, come on,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Let’s not do this...”
“No, if you’ve got something to say, say it.”
Rose watched as Al’s cheeks began to take on a pinkish glow, though whether from embarrassment or the alcohol, she couldn’t be sure. Either way, he seemed to sense this wasn’t shaping up to be a fair fight. His inhibitions were lowered thanks to all the wine he'd ingested, and she was overtired and stressed from a long day at work. But that didn't stop him from plunging onward.
“It’s rubbish!” he shouted. “Your job is rubbish. Your boss is a complete prat, the hours are ridiculous, and the whole thing has turned you into a...I don’t even know anymore. We used to have a good time, you and me. We’d go out. Have fun. Back when you were still —”
“Still what?” she demanded. “Back when I was still what?”
“Dammit, Rosie!” Al wadded up the damp rag and threw it down on the counter. "Why do you always have to be like this? So –" But he stopped there, his brain seeming to finally catch up with his mouth. He ran an exasperated hand through his thick hair, making it stand up on end, as if he’d just stuck one of her dinner forks into an electrical outlet. He exhaled slowly and his expression softened.
“I didn’t come here to fight with you. I’m sorry. I’m being an arse. I’ve had too much to drink. You know how stupid it makes me. Your job is fine. It’s great, in fact. You’re great.” Rose pulled a face, refusing to be so easily mollified. “Come on. Don’t look at me like that. What do I know about jobs anyway? I’ve never kept one for more than a few months.”
That much, at least, was true, though if he really was up for a promotion, maybe her cousin was at last starting to grow up. And as much as Rose wanted to be angry with Al – scold him for showing up at her place unannounced, dumping his problems all over her and then insulting her in her own kitchen – she couldn’t muster the energy to stay mad at him. She was just too tired. And maybe just the tiniest bit afraid that there might be some truth behind his accusations.
“Anyway...” Al said after a long pause. “I should get going. Let you...get on with things. Thanks for dinner.”
“Yeah. It’s been an absolute pip of a night.”
Al crossed over to her and put an arm around her shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. “And I mean it, you know. You really are great.”
“Liar,” Rose said, elbowing him in the ribs. “You just like the free drinks.”
“Yeah, well, they're not bad either.”
When she was alone again at last, Rose kicked off her shoes and collapsed onto the bed. She sighed as her head hit the pillow, her red hair fanning out around her. She could hear the manuscripts that had come in the day’s post calling out to her from the kitchen where she'd left them. But she just couldn’t be bothered. Even if it meant more work for tomorrow.
As much as she loved Al, spending time with him was staring to resemble her time spent with Heart. In other words: exhausting. It hadn’t always been that way. Al had been right about one thing. They did have fun together, once upon a time. They’d go out almost every night: to the shops, to the pubs. They shared a similar circle of friends, which included some of the other members of their extended family, along with some old classmates from their days at Hogwarts. For a while there, it seemed like she spent more time with Al than with just about anyone else. Now, however, looking back, she couldn't help but wonder how much of that was because of actual shared interests, and how much of it was out of convenience. A person didn't have to spend a lot of time making friends when you had as many siblings and cousins as she did.
This was all, of course, back before she’d started her new job. Back when she had the free time to spend with anyone. Back when she was still trying to be a writer.
There was a sudden knock at the door.
Rose let out a groan. “Go away, Al! I haven’t got any more wine.”
A second knock, this one even louder than the first.
Rose swung her feet over the edge of the bed before crossing back into the kitchen.
“What?” she barked as she yanked open the door.
But instead of Al, Rose found herself face-to-face with her downstairs neighbor.
“I won’t have it!” Mrs. Larson cried, her wrinkled face pinched with agitation. “I won’t bloody take it, you understand, girl?”
Mrs. Larson was very old, though just how old, Rose couldn’t be sure. That evening, the woman was dressed in a housecoat and slippers, the yellowing lace of her faded nighty visible just below her knees. The whole ensemble looked to be about two sizes too big and thirty years past its prime. Her thinning grey hair had been recently set and clung to her pink scalp in tight ringlets. When she spoke, her voice was low, her Scottish accent thick.
“I won’t take no more of your bloody birds outside my window. Hooting at all ‘ours of the day and night. It ain’t right, I tell you. It just ain’t right.”
“Mrs. Larson, I told you –”
“I know what you bloody told me!” As the woman spoke, the loose skin that hung like jowls around her mouth quivered. “You say they aren’t yours, but you’re a liar. I can see it in your eyes.” The woman shoved a crooked finger into Rose’s face.
“Mrs. Larson—” Rose tired again, taking a step backwards, but the woman wasn’t having it.
“And I’ve got proof this time, girl.” She stuck her hand into one of the oversized pockets sewn into the front of her dress and pulled out a crumpled envelope. She waved it in front of Rose’s nose, having to stand up on tiptoes to reach. “If the bird ain’t yours, why has it got a letter addressed to you hanging out its beak? Answer me that one, if you’re so smart. I have a right mind to open it. It came through my window, after all.”
“You haven’t any right!”
Rose was starting to lose patience. It was bad enough she had the woman banging on her door at all hours of the day and night, claiming Rose was making a racket when she hadn’t been doing anything of the sort. But snooping through her post? That was over the line. If the old hag started sticking her nose where it didn’t belong, Rose could find herself out on the street. When wizards elect to live in muggle neighborhoods, they have to be discrete. If Mrs. Larson figured out that her upstairs neighbor was a witch, the Ministry could step in and force Rose out of her flat. It wasn’t a common practice, but it wasn’t impossible either.
“If it comes in my window again, you bet your britches I’ll open 'em. I’ll open 'em all. There's something unnatural about you, girl!” And with that, she flung the letter at Rose before turning around and shuffling off back downstairs, the belt on her robe trailing behind her.
Rose bent over and scooped up the letter, which had fallen to the floor. There was nothing besides her name written across the front. No other clues as to who had sent it. Curious, she quickly stepped back inside, shut the door, and tore open the envelope.
The note inside was short – the colorful language leaving no doubt about the identity of its author.
I’ve found you the book you're going to write for me and it will make those bastards at Penman & Ives weep like the little bitches they are. Now, tell me, what exactly do you know about Viktor Krum?