October 1, 2021
Opposites: such a meaningless term. Rose didn’t dare believe those existed, especially now. Especially after so much had happened. In such a short time, they had all been pushed to the edge of existence. They were huddled into a small camp in the middle of the dense woods, the middle of nowhere. Out there, somewhere, a force of powerful proportions was crouching, waiting to strike them, their prey.
Though they felt far from safe, the inhabitants of the camp trusted each other enough to not only stick together and work together but to fight together as well, if it ever came to that. It was an unspoken agreement they shared; loyalty was what they needed now more than ever before.
All of the tents were tightly packed into as good of a circle as they could manage. In the center, an empty fire pit had been built. Rose knew as well as everyone else that the night would become much colder, which was why Mrs. Pearson and a few of the other adults were currently scrounging up as much firewood as they could manage. Others were searching for food or watching over the children. Tabitha, Rose’s roommate, she suspected, was lounging in their tent as per usual.
In the distance, mountain shadows outlined the sky. Snow was likely to fall soon. Some unfortunate souls would not make it through the winter. There were those whose coats were worn to the point where they would not be of much help. Others had none at all. The only help they would get would be from those selfless enough to share their warmth.
They couldn’t conjure anything up with a tiny wave of the wand. It wasn’t that simple anymore. Was this some kind of practical joke? Rose often wondered if the Muggles were trying to prove something to the Wizarding World. They must have thought that without magic they would never survive. Maybe they were right. Maybe they had begun to rely so much on magic that without it…without it they were nothing.
Rose shook her head, trying to banish these thoughts from it, at least for a moment. It wouldn’t do to cry in front of everyone again; the first time was embarrassing enough.
“Hey, Rose!” A voice called from across the camp ground. Her head whipped up. Mitchell marched toward her purposefully while taking care not to run into anyone that crossed his path. He had a small smile gracing his face but his eyes revealed a sense of urgency, and his dark eyebrows were furrowed intensely.
Rose made room for him on the fallen log. It had become her favorite sitting spot over the last couple of weeks. Anybody that knew her was aware of where she would be most days. And if she wasn’t there, she was more than likely cooped up in her tent reading some sort of textbook or looking through old family photos.
Mitchell sighed but said nothing. He sat beside her, leaning over his legs with his head bent. Rose stared at the back of his head, choosing to let him tell her whatever he needed to say when he was ready. She was well aware that something was wrong, but she had a feeling that now was not the time to push it. So she waited patiently in the long stretching silence between them.
Not far from where Rose and Mitchell sat, a small group of children romped in between the tents and some nearby trees, giggling mischievously. Rose hadn’t heard true laughter for a long time. The corners of her lips lifted with a small smile as the sound reached her ears. It was strangely quiet, if one wasn’t to count the children or the faint crunching of feet on leaves.
“You remember that letter I was telling you about, the one from the other camp?” Mitchell finally asked her, turning his head to make sure they wouldn’t be overheard. Rose nodded slowly, confusion building in her eyes. “Well, they finally sent one back-you know, after months of not hearing from them- and they…well they lost a lot of people.”
He let the news sink in for a few moments, the tension in the atmosphere growing thicker by the second. “What exactly does this mean? For them? For us? I mean…what actually happened?” Rose babbled, her eyes stricken with fear. She already guessed, perhaps knew why the other camp lost so many, but she hoped that she was wrong. If the Elite found them, then it surely meant trouble for their own camp.
Mitchell looked around the campsite, delaying what he knew had to be said. Both Mitchell and Rose watched as Mrs. Pearson dropped kindle into the pit, and lit the fire with a match- one out of the several boxes they had left. Still, they only started fires on nights where it was sure to be cold and only in areas where the smoke and the light would be well concealed. Rose hated those nights. She scrunched up her nose every time. She hated the smell of wood burning. It brought forth too many horrible memories she’d rather not recount.
“It means we are not as safe as we thought we were.” He spoke the words slowly as if he could not bear to think it, let alone say it. And, in all honesty, he couldn’t. None of them could. Mitchell felt useless. No matter what he did, he would always be unable to protect these people; he was supposed to be their leader. But he was just as blind as the rest of them.
Rose wished there were more that she could do for him, besides supporting him. It was a burden he shouldn’t have been given alone. If someone died because he led them along the wrong path, the guilt would consume him.
“So do we have to leave?” Rose already knew the answer, but she asked anyway, wanting to hear it for herself.
Mitchell shook his head. “What else can we do? We can’t stay here like a heard of sheep. Otherwise…” The words caught in his throat, and Mitchell coughed as though to clear it yet conceal his slip up in the same action.
“The wolves will hunt us down,” Rose finished solemnly for him. “I know. A-and I trust you Mitchell…”
“But?” Mitchell prompted her.
Rose shook her head. “But nothing,” she murmured. Mitchell stared at her for a moment and turned his gaze away. Rose fidgeted, twisting her hands around each other. She opened her mouth, hesitating for a moment. “When are we leaving?”
Mitchell rose slowly to his feet and shrugged nonchalantly, shoving his hands into his woolen coat. He peered up at where the sky should be, somewhere past the entanglements of branches and leaves up above their heads. “Tonight would be as good a time as any, I suppose.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot, anxious to get out of there, out of the situation these people had placed them in. Well, Mitchell wasn’t the only one.
“Yeah,” Rose murmured. “I suppose.” But in the back of her mind, she couldn’t help thinking that, if they kept this up, they would spend their entire lives running away from what they feared the most.