Chapter 17 : Two Quarters And A Heart Down
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I'm two quarters and a heart down, And I don't want to forget how your voice sounds
These words are all I have so I'll write them, so you need them just to get by
--Dance Dance, by Fall Out Boy
Albus and Fern
Maybe one day we’ll stop fighting. Maybe one day we won’t find a reason to anymore. But that would mean that we have finally found a time-turner that brings us back to the beginning of the ages.
Because everyone fights for something. Something that happened some time ago, to you, to your family, to your ancestor… We all fight for something. What we have to figure out is if what we fight for is stronger, more driving than what our opponent’s reason is.
And in most wars, we can’t really do that. Because we cannot comprehend that our opponent might be fighting for more than evil, bloodthirst, or greed. And that is how we lose.
A middle-aged man, dressed in plain robes that seemed to have been put together with a lot of effort and tidiness, walked into the room after the arrival of the Weasley-Potter family. He looked around at the crowd, and made a move to go back in, to withdraw inside himself once more. A small hand squeezed his bigger one, and he looked to his side. Large blue eyes looked up at him, very like the ones he had lost months previously. His little girl smiled up at him, her eyes warm and encouraging.
“Come on, daddy.” She said softly, her flowing white dress airy around her small form. “You can do it. It’s just a ball.”
He lifted a hand to her face, stroking her cheek, and he looked at her and saw, once more, that she was her mother and yet not. She was his daughter, and he could never look at her and think that she was Hannah.
“You’re right, pumpkin. It’s just a ball.” He tightened his hand around hers and let her lead him in, without anyone noticing them. He was happy to let the others get all the attention, after all, he, Neville Longbottom, had never been cut out for much admiration. He had appreciated it at the end of the battle at Hogwarts, but he’d really rather have a normal life.
His normal life now relied only on his daughter, the last remnant of the sunny happiness that Hannah had given him.
He never knew why Hannah had wanted to name her Fern, but he figured it had something to do with Muggles. All he needed to know was that his Fern, to him at least and to all the world soon enough, was more beautiful than all the Violets, Lilies, and Roses in the world.
Fern was sipping a colourful drink, having led her father to a seat. She looked out on the dance floor, her eyes roaming on the couples with a small trace of hunger.
She watched Juliette and James, beautiful in their slightly blundering dance, Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy, regal and practiced, as if they had done this so many times, as if they wanted to do this so many more. Fern knew things, and one thing that could not escape her was the bond between the two. She watched and watched, and somehow did not notice when someone stepped in front of her with an extended hand.
“Care to dance?”
She looked up and there was Albus Potter, looking jittery but serious.
“You’re not joking?” She asked, her eyes wide. Neville looked on with a grin.
“Nope. I’d like to dance with you.”
She looked at her father for confirmation, and on his nod, she placed her hand in Albus’, and he lifted her to her feet. She glanced around her nervously, uncomfortable with all the eyes on them, sizing her up. She blushed and, for the first time, felt inadequate. Albus’s grip on her waist tightened, and she glanced up at him. He was glancing at her questioningly, and she realized she had been standing immobile in the middle of the dance floor.
Reassured by his gaze, she put her hand on his shoulder and followed him into a waltz. He smiled at her, and her heart did an involuntary flip. She felt her cheeks get hot once more, and she focused on what he had started to ask her.
“So, Fern, do you have a last name?”
She opened her mouth to answer, but a small, terrified voice cut in.
Lucy Weasley ran into the Hall, to the astonishment of the crowd. Her hair was wild and her eyes were large with fear, her freckles evident against her pale skin.
“Molly’s seen them! She’s trying to close the door!”
Audrey Wealsey ran to her daughter, grabbing her shoulders. “What do you mean? Who’s here? Where’s the security team?”
Lucy shook her head. “They’re all gone, I don’t know where they are, but it’s them! They’ve got cloaks, like the Dementors we saw at Akzaban!” She mispronounced.
Audrey looked up in alarm at Hermione and Harry, who had abruptly stopped dancing. Both of them, as well as most of the Order pulled out their wands and backed away from the doors, just as little Molly scurried through them and into her mother’s arms.
Ginny started looking around for her children as people started panicking. James and Juliette had found Violet, Ellie, and most of the group; Albus pulled Fern closer to him and started looking for Lily as the doors banged open, revealing a group of silent, black cloaked figures.
For a minute, there was silence as the two groups faced off. And then, a jet of light flew from Ron Weasley’s wand, and all hell broke loose.
Hermione, Harry, and Neville huddled together shooting blind curses to the flashes of black that moved through the crowd. Hermione was frantically glancing over her shoulder, trying to spot Rose and Hugo, or anyone else for that matter. Hugo had been pulled behind Ron, Audrey, Fleur and Bill, along with most of the younger Weasley clan. Rose was nowhere she could see, but she spotted Draco, running towards a side door to the hall. Hermione glanced at Harry, motioning for him to cover her back while she tried to get her daughter.
She caught up with Draco in time to see Scorpius pulling a feeble Rose inside a small room that must have once been used as a broom cupboard, but was now devoid of any characteristc element. Albus and Fern rushed in after them, both gasping for breath as they looked to Rose.
“What’s going on with her?” Albus said, alarmed. Scorpius laid her on the floor, from which she was struggling to get up, trying to look into her eyes.
“Nothing, actually, she had no reaction to the proximity of the group.” Said the blonde concernedly.
Hermione pried Rose away from Scorpius, the younger girl gripping onto her mother.
“What’s going on?” She whispered, her eyes large with fear.
“You are under the influence of the Darkness. They got you during your coma, since you woke up on your own terms…” Said Albus quickly, checking back at the battle, itching to go back out there.
Hermione glanced at him disbelievingly. “We woke her up, Al! I figured the spell out from the restricted section, and we reversed it in time! I thought you knew that!”
Albus’s mouth now formed a perfect ‘o’ as Scorpius started cursing himself. “What are they bloody here for then? Who are they trying to kill?”
Draco bit his lip. “That’s what’s been bothering me. They don’t attack in the open usually, and not this massively.” He looked to Hermione, who turned to the kids. “Stay here.” She said, “Lock the door. Don’t open it unless someone can answer a personal question about themselves. Do NOT move.”
She and Draco departed, leaving the four behind. Scorpius looked incredulous. “Fuck this. I’m going to help.” He reached for the doorknob, but could not wrap his hand around it. There was no way to open the door.
“Seems like your brilliant mum thinks of everything.” He spat at Rose, kicking the door.
Fern looked at Albus, whose fists were tightening with rage at his own unusefulness, then at Rose, who was muttering to herself, trying to figure out which way to blast the door open, to Scorpius, who was still kicking the door, wincing every time.
“I think I know what they’re after.” She said calmly.
All three of her companions looked up at her, waiting for her explanation.
“I was at the library, at night, because I had lost track of time, and I noticed two people who were exactly at the same place that I met Albus a couple of weeks ago. They were fighting and using horrible language, so I went to go and tell them that this was a library, and that even without that context, they really shouldn’t—”
Scorpius interrupted her with a cough, as he saw that Rose was getting increasingly frustrated. She looked up from the book, realized that she was getting away from her point, and went back to it.
“Anyhow. They wanted the book that I had taken from there when Albus and I had met. Of course, Madame Pince has no record of me having it, she trusts me with the books. But when I heard that’s what they wanted, I figured it had some significance. And they mentioned a ‘Master’, so since I thought it was nothing Light, I went off to look at the book myself, rather than show them I had heard”
“What’s in the book?” Asked Rose, her interest piqued. She sat up and her eyes sparkled with something that had been missing. After all, she had been kept in the dark and avoided since she woke up. Now that she realized that there was nothing the matter with her, she took a renewed interest in what she had almost fallen for.
“Well. The book itself is about Legendary Objects of the Realm of Albion, which as you all know, is England. It mentions in passing the Deathly Hallows, and there’s a slight allusion to a counterpart of these. And then, there’s the book that was lodged inside the book.” She said, the air growing tense around her as the sounds of the battle seem to dim. “The tales of Beedle the Bard. The original one owned by Professor Albus Dumbledore and passed on to your mother, Rose.”
“What does that tell us?” Asked Albus, frustrated.
“That the Darkness is lookin for something that will make them invincible. And whatever those objects are, Beedle knew about them, just like he knew about the Hallows.”
Rose glanced at the door, and then at the book. There was a decision to make here, either they could try to break down the enchantment on the door and join the fight, or they could sit in the room and try to figure out what the Darkness was looking for.
Albus pulled out his glasses and polished them on his dress robes. He sat himself next to Fern and oustretched his hand for one of the two books. Rose looked at him disbelievingly.
“Albus! Our friends are out there! We have to get out of here and help them!” She tried to stand, holding herself upright thanks to a shelf. Scorpius went immediately to her aid. “And where the frick is Othello? I thought he was going to worm his way in…”
Scorpius shook his head at Rose. “You can’t go fight, you can barely stand! And for some reason they want you more than any other one of us.” He did not mention Othello.
Albus looked at her. “Rose, there’s nothing we can do. If we can make an advance on the big picture while we’re at it, instead of standing here uselessly, that might be a good idea.”
Scorpius nodded and he glanced at Fern, who was already in the middle of “Babbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump”. “Come on Rosie, if your mum hid us here, she probably managed to hide a few of the others as well.”
Rose looked at them incredulously. It just didn’t feel right to not spring in action, there was no accomplishment, no glory in reading fairy tales during a 8battle. But then she saw Fern, her placid face seeming resolute to achieving something with the book. And a calm overtook Rose, she slumped back to the floor, and leaned her head on Scorpius’s shoulder.
“I loved Babbity. She was my favourite of them all. She was so clever, really, and historically the first recording of an animagus.” She seemed to recite from memory. “Do you think the objects come from that tale?”
“No.” Said Fern, shaking her head. “Too few objects. I mean there is the wand, and the stump, but not anything else really.”
They kept recalling the tales, and the objects within them, when Fern seemed to have an epiphany.
“It’s not actual objects! Don’t you see—”
But before anyone of them could understand what she meant, there was an enormous blast and they were thrown backwards into the wall of the cupboard, the door and most of the stone in front having been blown away by an unknown and deadly force.
James held Juliette close to him, looking at her in that awed way men look at the women they love. He couldn’t believe he was with her, close enough to discern the freckles that usually blended into her milky skin, close enough to see that her right eyebrow was higher than her left, close enough to see that she was imperfect, and that much more wonderful for it.
He danced, completely lost in the moment, but he couldn’t help but shoot glances at the group of people looking at the both of them, most of them in admiration. The place he glanced the most at, however, was the corner of the bar where stood most of the Ravenclaws he was now friends with, the fight against evil having, like a horrible but welcomed and now accepted cliché, brought them closer than he even was with his quidditch team. They laughed at him, Violet and Ellie huddled close together as Louis and John sniggered.
He realized, though, that they had lost attention in his and Jules’s dancing, but were now pointing at where Albus was asking a strange girl to dance, one that was seated right next to their beloved Head of House and Professor, Mr. Longbottom. James recalled with a small smile his own reluctance to give him his parent’s “love” at the beginnings of his first school years.
Juliette tapped him on the nose, laughingly bringing him back to attention. “You did it again,” She said with a giggle, “It’s right front, left front, right goes to left, and then reverse.”
He sighed and shook his head. “Give it up, Jules, I’m never going to figure this out, and you know it.”
She rolled her eyes and reached up on the tips of her toes to kiss him. He smiled cheekily at her and went to respond, when he heard the doors bang open. He was too far away from the commotion in the middle of the dancefloor, but he gathered, and as he felt Juliette tense beside him, knew that she had as well, that the Darkness was on its way.
His first instinct was to back away from the doors, and he was ashamed of the coward in him that reacted thus. Juliette looked at him, and he tried with all of his strength to look back at her steadily, calming her like he had done the Quidditch team before the storm.
He saw that Ellie, Violet and the others had rejoined him and Juliette, wands out and aiming at the doors. He mimicked them, drawing out his wand, and tried to get his head around the fact that they were about to get attacked. The group watched in horror as the cloaked figures entered the Ballroom, their darkness blending into the Ball’s theme. There were a couple of seconds of silence, and then, though James could not see where it came from, a spell shot out from the Order’s side, and the battle began.
His group panicked for a few seconds, not knowing where to throw their curses, who to aim at, what to do. James looked at John, who was holding Ellie behind him as she tried to get by, Violet, screaming on the floor while Juliette was ducking next to her, whispering words of comfort that she knew were of no use.
Through the pandemonium, the younger Weasley twins appeared next to James, having escaped their mother. They both looked scared, but seemed to underestimate the danger as Molly elbowed him.
“Wotcher, Jamesie boy. Care to get your lads up in formation?” She said, in imitation to uncle George’s voice.
Lucy nodded. “Ts’all fine and good me coz, but we’d rather not get killed, so if you could pull a knocker out o’ that ole arsenal of yours…” She added in that uncharacteristic speech. They executed a perfectly synchronized swish and flick motion, and with Wingardium Leviosa, dismantled the great chandelier and dropped it on a group of Darkness members, who scattered, some dropping wands that the two girls accioed easily.
Molly smiled triumphantly, before being knocked backwards by Lily as a spell zoomed an inch over their sprawled bodies.
“Merlin, Molls, watch what else is happening around you before doing that.” She said with a sigh, as Lucy seemed stricken by the shock of having her twin sister almost killed before her eyes. The danger they were in seemed to register to everyone. Everyone, that is, except for Lily, whose jaw was set and eyes determined. She seemed like she had been ready for the possibility of death a long time ago.
James shoved Molly and Lucy to Juliette and Violet, ordering them to get out of the way. The twins complained, but Violet in sobs and Juliette resigned drove them away from harm’s way as James started shooting hexes like his father had taught him. With Lily next to him, he felt like he was back in their summer home of Godric’s Hollow, playing pretend dueling with his father and brother.
This thought made his head shoot up. “Lily, have you seen Albus?” He asked, concerned.
The redhead shook her head, beads of sweat running down her forehead as she ducked another half-flying figure while aiming a curse at a random cloaked figure. “Haven’t seen him in ages. I’m sure he’s alright though, don’t worry yourself.”
But she seemed worried. She was nervously looking around at the cloaked people, as if looking for someone. James presumed that she was looking for Albus as well, and he glanced around for the rest of his cousins. Louis was back with John, Ellie, and David, edging their way towards a less messy corner of the battle; Roxanne, Dominique, and Fred fighting in the middle, protected by an active Kingsley Shackbolt and a deadly Hestia Jones. Rose, however, he did not see. He figured she must be with Albus, but, where, he had no idea.
As the battle raged on, he seemed to tire, as did the rest of the Order. He could see some bodies on the floor, but as none of the Darkness had truly aimed to kill, he figured they were just stunned. His reflexes were less sharp, his spells, less powerful, and he saw some previously active and moving duels become stationary.
He grabbed Lily and decided to find a safe spot to rest for a minute. He rushed to one side of the ballroom, but as they ran, he spotted a dark figure beside a coat of armor, and skidded to a halt in front of it.
“Not fighting, scum?” He sneered, holding Lily behind him. The man lowered his hood, and James saw that the cloak he was wearing was not one that resembled the Darkness’s in more than colour.
“Actually, I’m looking for Rose Weasley.” Said Leo Black impassively, staring straight at Lily. Before any of them could say anything, there was a sharp scream on their side of the ballroom, and a mass of rock exploded, sending coats of armor rolling in pieces on the floor, tripping and cutting the defendants.
James and Lily turned to the commotion, and saw Hermione Weasley’s face pale suddenly.
“Rose.” She whispered.