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Chapter 19: Chapter 19: The Intruder
Chapter 19: The Intruder
Rose awoke the next morning to two very unwelcome surprises.
The first was a pounding in her head, something akin to having a small elf trapped inside her skull, using her brain as a drum set. Her mouth was dry and tasted like wet socks and stale champagne, and the small sliver of sunlight sneaking in through the curtains might as well have been a torch pointed directly in her face. It had been a long time since Rose had woke up with a hangover. But as far as she was concerned, it hadn’t been nearly long enough.
She discovered the second surprise as soon as she’d managed to drag herself out of bed, shuffling off in the direction of the bath. The flat was empty. There was no sign of Viktor anywhere. Rose tried to think where he might have run off to, but thinking only made her head hurt more. So she settled instead for climbing into the tub, letting the hot water pour over her until the mirrors were fogged with steam and the water began to run cold.
By the time she finally dragged herself back out of the bathroom, Krum had returned. He was standing in the kitchen, an assortment of bags and take-away cartons spread out on the counter in front of him.
“What’s all this?” she asked.
“What does it look like? It’s breakfast.” He’d begun removing items from the bags, carefully lining them up one beside the other.
“And just how many people are you planning on feeding this morning?”
“That depends. How bad are you feeling?”
“Bad enough to know I’m better off sticking with wine from now on.”
“Have you taken anything yet?” Rose shook her head only to immediately regret it. She made a mental note to avoid any other sudden movements; she could actually feel her brain beating against her skull. “Here,” he said, filling a glass of water from the tap and handing it to her along with the small bottle of pills she kept beside the sink for just such emergencies. “Once you’ve got those down, ve’ll move on to food.”
Rose took a seat at the counter, watching as Viktor began removing lids and tossing them into the bin. Eggs, sausage, bacon, a carton of chips. On and on it went.
“Is all this really necessary?” she asked. Right now, Rose thought she’d be lucky to hold down a piece of toast and maybe some tea. This was turning into a veritable feast.
“Are you really going to question my expertise in this area?”
He had her with that one. She supposed if anyone would know how to treat a hangover, it would be Krum.
He grabbed a plate, spooning up a little bit of everything before passing it over to her. She stared down at it for a long time before taking a tentative bite. Not terrible, she decided. So she took another bite, and then another, and once she was sure that what she was eating wasn’t going to make any sudden return appearances, she dug in, finding that the food was actually helping to take the edge off the worst of her headache.
“See,” Krum said when she’d finished cleaning her plate. “I told you I knew vhat I was doing.”
“I suppose it was bound to happen eventually.”
“There is one more thing,” he said, reaching into one of the plastic bags and removing a folded newspaper, which he passed over to her. “I picked this up vhile I was out. There’s something in there I thought you might want to see.”
She looked down. The paper was already open to the Society Section, the headline at the top of the page reading:
Another Potter On The Way: Harry’s Son Marries Expectant Fiancée In Private Weekend Ceremony
Rose quickly scanned through the article.
Albus Severus Potter, youngest son of Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley-Potter, wed longtime girlfriend, Amelia Elizabeth Strong, yesterday in a private ceremony held just outside Otterfield, Devon. The couple, already expecting their first child, began dating...
Rose skipped a few lines, picking up the story again on the next page.
...The guest list included Fabius Whitmore, Head of the Goblin Liaison Office; Zachariah Crestor, acting Chairman for the Committee on Muggle Relations; and Euvegenia Lumpkin, Headmistress at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Also in attendance were several members of the Holyhead Harpies, as well as former Quidditch star Viktor Krum, who is rumored to be dating Rose Weasley – cousin to Albus and niece of Harry Potter...
Rumored to be dating? Rose rolled her eyes. Yeah, and who was it that started that rumor in the first place? Just because it happened to be true...
She read over the remainder of the article, but there were no further mentions of either herself or of Krum. Beside the article was a collection of small black and white photographs, the first a shot of Albus and Amelia as they stood over their wedding cake, the second a picture of her Uncle Harry shaking hands with someone Rose didn’t recognize. The last was a shot of the dance floor, several couples waltzing in and out of the frame. She was just about to look away when she caught sight of it; it only lasted a couple of seconds, but there was no mistaking them. One moment the frame was empty, the next moment it wasn’t, the vacant space suddenly filled with the image of her and Krum. They were dancing, her head resting against his chest, his arms around her waist. The camera stayed on them just long enough to see Viktor smile down at her, and then the pair were gone.
Rose watched the scene play out several more times, as if waiting for something else to happen. But there was nothing. Just this tiny glimpse of them, another couple in the crowd, looking – dare she even say it – normal.
Rose refolded the paper before passing it back to Krum. “Hardly more than a mention this time. It looks like you and I are old news.”
“A travesty, I’m sure.”
Rose smiled. “However will we survive?”
The rest of the weekend passed without incident, and before Rose knew it, Monday morning had rolled around and it was time to get back to work.
She arrived at her office promptly at eight, only to find Heart already waiting there for her. Her boss, it seemed, had spent at least part of his weekend catching up on a little light reading.
“Rumored to be dating?” he asked, pacing around the small room. “And a grainy black and white photo? Is that really the best you two could muster?”
“We weren’t trying to muster anything,” Rose said.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you aren’t even trying anymore.”
“We aren’t trying. We were never trying. Believe it or not, some people actually enjoy a little privacy. Besides, it was Al’s wedding, not ours.”
Heart sighed. “Don’t I know it. Still, I suppose it’s better than nothing. With you two, I guess I just have to take what I can get.”
Heart’s disappointment over the complete lack of scandal the pair had caused quickly faded as Rose began filling him on the status of the book, which was really starting to come together. In the days that followed, her writing took on an almost frenzied pace, the words coming fast now that the end was in sight. At times, it was all Rose could do to get them down on paper before they flittered from her brain and were lost forever.
By the time mid-November rolled around, the bulk of the writing was done, and the focus shifted from getting the words out to getting them ready for print. Meetings with her editor became an almost daily occurrence. The man, despite his timid appearance and an unusual affinity for sweater vests, proved to be excellent at his job, plowing through Rose’s chapters with lightning speed. Rose quickly realized that not only did he have a great eye for detail, but he also possessed an uncanny ability for recognizing what it took to make a bad story better, and a good story great, and Rose was thankful for all the help she could get.
There were other meetings too, with the woman in charge of designing the book jacket, and the team who would be handling all the publicity once the book was finally released. On one occasion, Rose even found herself taking a meeting with Bernard Haverdash, the anxious young lawyer she’d meet in Heart’s office all those months ago. She was glad to see he’d survived that first encounter, though she was feeling a lot less affection for him once she saw the stack of legal documents he had for her to sign.
Her presence at most of these meetings was more of a courtesy than anything. Her opinion wasn’t really required, or even wanted, when it came to hammering out the remaining details. She’d been hired to write; the rest was to be handled by those whose job it was to take her story and turn it into a product that could be sold to the masses. Despite this fact, Rose was enjoying the chance to observe the process from the inside. Her first novel hadn’t been expected to earn the publishers a lot of money, so the task of taking it to print had been kept to the bare minimum. But this time, with millions at stake, no detail was to be overlooked, no expenses spared. This was no longer just her book, Rose was realizing. Sink or swim, it belonged to all of them now.
Viktor, it turned out, was the only one of them not swept up in the rush of last minute preparations.
The deal Peter had arranged with Heart, one decided on long before her work on the project began, had included a clause that prevented Krum from having any obligations regarding the promotion or advertisement of the book. Rose couldn’t even being to fathom how Brooks had pulled off such an arrangement. Knowing how hard her boss was squeezing her for every last ounce of free publicity he could get, Rose couldn’t imagine what Brooks must have said to get Heart to go along with such an agreement.
“How did you manage it?” she asked Peter when he’d stopped by her office the following day, curious to see how things were coming along now that the deadline was less than a week away.
Peter shrugged. “He’s my uncle. I guess I’m harder to say no to than most. That,” he said, “or I’m just really good at my job.”
Considering the fact that he’d managed to keep Krum out of prison, Rose guessed there was more than a small chance it was the latter.
“Speaking of,” she said. “Any news on Viktor’s probation?”
“We’ve got a hearing set up for next week. They’ll go over the specifics with him then. You know, like how often he’ll be required to check in, what he has to do if he wants to leave the country – that sort of thing. I’m not expecting any surprises.”
“Good. I could do without any more surprises for a while.”
Peter nodded. “You and me both.”
He turned to leave but Rose stopped him. “Can I ask you something else?”
“Why didn’t you tell me Heart was your uncle the first time we met?”
He considered that for a moment. “Would it have helped my case?”
“Well, there you go then. Besides, I’d say things worked out all right, wouldn’t you?”
Now it was Rose’s turn to consider. Yes, she decided. She supposed things had worked out just fine.
The day they had all been waiting for had arrived at last.
It was 1 December, and the final draft of Rose’s book was due in to Heart by close of business that afternoon. Of course, it would still be a few more weeks before the book was released to the public, but for Rose, this was it. Once she handed over that manuscript, her part of the bargain was done.
There was only one thing left for her to do.
“How long do you have to decide?” Krum asked her.
It was nearing two o’clock, Rose having managed to slip away just long enough to meet Viktor for a late lunch. When they’d finished at the restaurant, he’d insisted on walking her back to the office. It was cold outside, the temperature hovering just above freezing, and there was already talk of an early snowstorm headed their way. But Rose was happy for the excuse to be out in the fresh air, having spent the better part of the last month locked up inside, huddled behind her desk for hours on end. Krum, as usual, seemed obvious to the cold.
“About three hours,” she said, looking down at her watch. “If I don’t decide on a title by then, Heart says he’ll be forced to go with one of the editors’ suggestions.”
“Are they any good?”
“The suggestions?” She shook her head. “No, not really. I mean they aren’t terrible, but none of them feels quite right.”
“Then I guess you’d better come up with something quick.” Rose said nothing to this, which Krum seemed to take as a bad sign. “Vhat, don’t tell me you’ve given up already? That’s not like you. You’ve still got a few hours left.”
“No, it’s not that,” she said as they rounded the corner and onto another side street, the wind whipping at her hair, sending it flying in all directions.
“Then what is it?”
“I don’t know. I guess it’s just really hitting me now. That this is it. After today, it will all be over.”
“Not all of it.”
“No,” Rose agreed. “There’s still the release to think about. Heart’s already planning this huge party. Apparently he’s sent out invitations to anyone even remotely connected to publishing. I hear he even sent a few over to Penman & Ives, just to rub it in. I’ve never seen the man looking so giddy.”
“Good for him,” Krum said. “But that’s not exactly what I meant.”
They’d slowed their pace, Rose taking the opportunity to look over at Viktor, but he was staring straight ahead, eyes focused on the sidewalk in front of him.
“Oh,” Rose said, keeping a close watch on his face. “You meant about us.” He nodded. “Well, you have to admit, it will be different from now on. They’ll be nothing forcing us together anymore. It’ll just be...”
“You and me,” he finished.
She nodded. “Yeah. Just you and me.”
“Does that scare you?”
They walked the remaining blocks in silence, arriving outside Rose’s building just as the first snowflakes began to fall. It felt like a sign, the universe trying to tell her something, only she didn’t have a clue what that might be.
“I have something for you,” Krum said. He was looking at her now, watching her as she watched the snow falling down around them.
“What, like a present, you mean?”
He nodded. “Yes, like a present.”
“But it’s not my birthday.”
Krum smiled. “I know.”
“Then what’s the occasion?”
But he ignored the question. “Do you want it now? Or would you prefer to vait until later?”
Rose gave him a quizzical look, but his face remained impassive. “If I say I want it later, do I at least get a hint about what it is?”
“No. No hints. You can have it now, or you can have it later. Those are your only options.”
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll take it now. No, wait!” she cried, throwing up her hands. “I’ve changed my mind. Give it to me later. Tonight. Over dinner. I’ll cook us something special. It will be like our own little party, to celebrate being done with the book.”
Krum seemed to consider her proposal. “Fine. Tonight then. Shall we say six o’clock, at your place?”
It was already after three, but that still left her with more than enough time to make sure everything was in order before she handed her manuscript over to Heart for what would be the very last time.
“Six it is,” she said, and she leaned forward, planting a quick kiss on his cheek.
“And what about your title?” he asked as she turned around, prepared to head inside and out of the cold.
“Oh, that,” she said, as if it were nothing. “It turns out, you’ve just given me the perfect idea.”
Krum raised an eyebrow, looking suddenly suspicious. “Have I now? I don’t suppose you’d care to share with me vhat that idea is.”
Rose leaned in again, but this time, instead of kissing him, she whispered something in his ear. When she done, she turned around and bounded for the door. She was nearly out of earshot when she heard him call out to her.
“Over the edge of what?”
But Rose just smiled, tossing him a little wave over her shoulder. And with that, she was gone.
The manuscript was waiting for her when she returned to her office a few minutes later – still sitting on her desk, just where she’d left it before heading out for lunch. It certainly didn’t look like anything special. It could have easily passed for any one of the dozens of manuscripts that arrived in the post everyday. Just another pile of papers, another collection of words strung together to tell a story. And yet, this one was all hers. It was the very embodiment of everything she’d been working for over the last few months, maybe even the last few years. The girl that had started this story – the girl who’d spent all those years scribbling away at her desk – was not the same girl who was standing there now. Her life had changed. She had changed. And in most ways, Rose was sure it was all for the better.
A big part of that was Viktor, of course. Having him in her life was like nothing she’d ever experienced before – the highest peaks always followed by that inevitable plunge back down to earth. It was like living her life on a rollercoaster. Though Rose had to admit, she wasn’t hating the ride. But it was more than that. More than him. The act of writing, of putting words on paper again, had reawakened a passion inside her she’d thought she’d lost. It left her with a sense of purpose and fulfillment, something that reading a thousand, or even a million manuscripts, could never provide. For the first time in a very long while, perhaps even for the first time ever, Rose felt hopeful about the future, for the thousands of doors just waiting to be opened.
Rose grabbed a quill from off her desk, scribbling something on the front page of her manuscript before picking it up and heading off towards Heart’s office. It was empty when she arrived, so she placed the stack of papers carefully on his desk where he was sure not to miss it.
Rose looked down, allowing herself one last glance at what she’d done. The ink from her note was still wet, and it glistened softly in the light.
At the top, she’d written out the title. Over the Edge.
And beneath that, a single word, meant just for Heart.
Rose had promised to fix dinner for her and Viktor – a nice idea, in theory. The only problem was that Rose’s culinary skills were pretty much non-existent. And even if she did know how to cook something special, it was unlikely she’d find any of the necessary ingredients waiting for her in her kitchen.
The latter, at least, was an easy problem to fix. Rose made a quick stop at the market, gathering up an array of foods she hoped could be combined into something edible. Bags in hand, she arrived outside her flat just as the watch on her wrist ticked out five-thirty. She had a half-hour before Krum was set to arrive.
Rose slipped her wand into her purse, fumbling in her coat pocket for her keys, surprised not to hear the familiar click! as the hammer slide out of place. For a half-second, Rose figured she’d just been in such a hurry to get to work that morning that she’d simply forgotten to lock the door.
If she’d had more time, she might have realized that wasn’t the case. She had locked the door; it just wasn’t locked anymore.
There wasn’t time, however. The door was already swinging open, and all other thoughts quickly fell away as her brain was consumed by one simple fact.
There was someone in her flat, and they were pointing a wand straight at her chest.