Chapter 13 : Merry Christmas
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Alyssa stands over me, looking awkward, like she doesn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry,” she says at length. “About…you know…Hugo.”
“Thanks,” I mutter, picking at a thread on my duvet. There are no words left to say, yet at the same time the things unspoken are swirling around in my head, begging to escape. “Alyssa—”
And then the words come spilling out from both of us, emotions bubbling over as tears fall, slowly dissolving the walls built up between us.
“I’m sorry too—”
“I’ve been an idiot—”
“I can’t believe how trivial I was—”
“It’s only politics—”
“I’ve missed you—”
“You’re my best friend—”
“Will you ever forgive me?”
“Only if you forgive me.”
And now we’re laughing, and crying, clinging to each other like we never want to let go. It reminds me of a sunshower—a patch of light that warms you even as the rain pours down.
Two days later, Uncle Harry shows up through a Floo in McGonagall’s office, strides through the castle, bribes the gargoyle guarding the door to the dungeons, and waltzes into our common room in all his Gryffindor glory.
“Lovely,” he comments, rocking on his heels and watching a Grindylow glare at him through the skylight that looks up into the lake. “Haven’t been here since second year. Hasn’t changed much.”
“What were you doing here in second year?” I ask, getting off the couch to stand beside him.
He nods at Scorpius. “Spying on his dad, to be honest.”
“No wonder he hated you,” Scorpius comments matter-of-factly.
“Oh, I think we’ve buried the hatchet now,” Harry says comfortably. “Anyway, Rose, I was wanting to talk to you.”
“I gathered,” I say mildly. “Unless you just felt like going for a stroll through our common room.”
“Not that there would be anything wrong with that. How’s my favourite niece?”
“Flattered. What’s this about?”
“I’ll tell you in a moment. Scorpius, care to join us?”
“Sure, why not,” Scorpius shrugs. “As long as I’m not volunteering for anything unwittingly.”
“Unwittingly, no.” Harry takes a seat on the couch I just vacated, waving briefly at a group of awed first-year students playing Gobstones behind it, and beckons us to join him.
“Muffliato. Are you aware of something called the Honour Guard?”
“Haven’t heard anything.”
“Right. Well, the Honour Guard is the name for DOWIAH’s ‘elite’ army group. I’m not going to pretend to know more than I do, but Medea Avery has been named as spokesperson for the group, so she’s likely the leader as well. Heard of her?”
Scorpius and I shake our heads again.
“To put it simply, the Auror Office has been tracking Medea for years. We’re almost certain she’s Dark as Dark can be, but we’ve never been able to pin anything on her, she’s too smart to be caught. In short, a dangerous enemy. Unfortunately for us, the declaration of war means a lot of civil laws and procedures have had to be suspended. And that includes the cessation of prosecution of Dark wizards. If she’s got a group of Dark wizards under her command, all we can do now is fight back, and throw them in Azkaban without trial to be held as prisoners of war. If we can catch them, that is.”
“What does this have to do with me?”
“I was getting to that. We’re going to need an army ourselves. Would you be prepared to join the Unity army?”
I hesitate for a moment; a moment where I see the chaotic Great Hall, the flash of green light, the lifeless body of my sweet, shy little brother, the look on Mum’s face when she announced we were at war, and I nod.
“Good,” Harry says. “Because you’re going to be running the student branch of it.”
“I’ma what now?”
“The student branch of the Unity Army,” Harry repeats patiently. “You’re running it. Teddy’s told me you’re running Student Unity as it is, and you used to run a duelling club called Dragons Awakening, if I’m correct.”
“What do I do?”
“You train. You also come up with a better name than Unity Army, because that’s a bit dull.”
I remember Mum’s words the other night: “We stand as one. We fight as one. If we fall, we fall as one.”
“One,” I say simply. “Just One.”
Arrangements to get students home are complex, particularly for those of us classified as ‘high risk.’ Scorpius and I are classified as ‘Extreme Risk’ because my mum’s the Minister and Scorpius’s dad is leader of DOWIAH, and apparently there’s a high likelihood of assassination for both of us.
“Charming,” I comment when McGonagall fills us in on this.
“You, Rose, will Floo to the Atrium at the Ministry,” McGonagallexplains. “From there, you’ll be met by Auror Harry Potter, who will Apparate with you to an undisclosed location. At this undisclosed location you will take a Portkey to your house, which is protected by anti-Apparition jinxes and the Fidelius Charm. You will be asked security questions upon arrival at the Atrium and at your home to ensure nobody can steal your identity by Polyjuice Potion. Scorpius, you and your mother will travel by Floo to the office of the Voice of Reason, and from there will take a one-way Portkey to your home. Normally I wouldn’t give you these details in front of each other, however I have been assured you have considerable…affection for each other and have no desire to see the other killed.”
“One could argue that,” I agree.
“So, when is this war actually starting?” Scorpius asks. “After Christmas? Terribly British, isn’t it?”
McGonagall just glares at him and I stifle my urge to laugh.
“You would do well, Mr Malfoy, to remember the situation and the peril you are in,” she says sternly. “Especially if you are to join the student Unity army, as Harry Potter informs me you will be.”
“One,” I correct. “Not Unity Army, One. And this branch of it is One Hogwarts.”
“I stand corrected, Miss Weasley. Now, go and pack your trunks ready for departure, you will meet Professor Malfoy in the common room at ten o’clock tomorrow morning to use the Floo network in her office.”
The other students will be slowly fed through the Floo Network during the afternoon, but Scorpius and I are leaving early from Astoria’s fireplace, along with the Potters from Professor Longbottom’s.
“Nice knowing you,” Scorpius mutters as I stand beside the fireplace with a handful of Floo Powder. Something in his tone stops me; a hint of sincerity, a hint of worry that maybe, just maybe we won’t see each other again, and on an impulse I wheel around, throwing my arms around him and kissing him. I know Astoria’s standing behind us glaring daggers into my back, but I don’t care. I don’t want to let him go.
“Rose.” Astoria’s voice is cold. “Get off my son.”
Feeling stung, I pull away and hurl the Floo Powder into the fire with such force half of it billows back into my face in a green cloud. “The Atrium!” I choke, and a whooshing sound fills my ears as the flames engulf me.
Astoria hates me. All because of politics.
I stumble out of the Floo at the other end, brushing soot from my face and tears from my eyes, and am met by a barrage of cameras going off in my face.
“Rose!” someone shouts. “Rose Weasley! What do you think of your brother’s death?”
“Rose, how do you feel about your brother’s killer?”
“Fucking fantastic!” I snap. “Is your IQ even lower than your levels of journalistic integrity? Get the fuck out of my face.”
They scatter, apart from one determined reporter who runs alongside me as I stalk through the Atrium, shouting questions at me: “How are you coping with your brother’s death? What has the response been like at Hogwarts? Why, exactly, were you stood down as Head Girl? What do you make of the allegations of misconduct? Is it true you’re having an illicit affair with the son of Draco and Astoria Malfoy?”
Something inside me snaps, and before the reporter can react I whip out my wand and stun him.
“In answer to your questions,” I yell at the unconscious figure on the floor, “You can tell your douchebag colleagues this: I was stood down because little fuckers like yourself decided I was biased towards the Ministry, and in my place appointed a fanatical DOWIAH member named Antigone Islington who started the riot in the Great Hall! You can tell your readers their kid is in St Mungo’s because of her, and any credible witness will tell you I tried to stop it! So you can shove your allegations where the sun don’t shine, and furthermore, there is nothing illicit about my relationship with Scorpius Malfoy!”
Someone seizes my arm and tows me away.
“Just keep walking,” Uncle Harry says through gritted teeth. “And hopefully we’ll get you out of here before anything else happens.”
He spins in place, and with a resounding crack I’m pulled into nothingness alongside him, feeling the horrible sensation of pressure threatening to squeeze me to death.
The moment we arrive at our destination, Harry’s pulling me up a flight of stairs and I trip and stumble up them, wondering why the hell we have to move so damn fast.
As Harry shoves me into a room at the top of the stairs, I begin to recognise where I am; one of the boarding rooms in the Leaky Cauldron. Hannah Longbottom smiles at me in greeting, a smile that quickly changes to one of concern.
“Rose, are you okay?”
“She had a go at a Prophet reporter,” Harry reports tiredly. “Going to be all over the headlines tomorrow, Rose, if they don’t edit it, it’s going to make for some interesting reading.”
“Don’t give a shit,” I mumble.
“Rose, what’s gotten into you?”
“I’m a troubled teenager, leave me alone. Want me to pull out the angst? Because I can.”
“Save it for when you get home,” Harry says. “Then Ron can deal with you.”
“Gee, thanks,” I mutter. “So, Portkey.”
“Here it is,” Hannah says, sliding a small lamp across the bedside table to me. “It leaves in thirty seconds.”
“You lot don’t believe in margins of error, do you?”
Harry shoves the lamp into my hands. “Go home.”
“Lily, sweetheart!” Mum engulfs me a hug the moment I step out of the Floo, before stepping back and shaking her head as if to rid herself of sentimentality. “How’s the school year going?” she asks briskly, moving my trunk aside to clear the way for Al, who’ll be following soon.
“Pretty good,” I reply. “Exceeds Expectations level for most of my subjects.”
“And the Quidditch?”
“Haven’t had our first game yet.”
“They’re starting the season late,” Mum observes.
“Yeah, we’re playing Slytherin in January.”
“That’s always a good match.”
“Yeah, Niall’s got us on a pretty strict training schedule though.”
“Well, he would, he’s a seventh-year. Albus!” She hurries forward again.
“How are you, love?”
“I’m all right.” Al kicks his trunk out of the way, leaning casually against a wall. “When’s James getting here?”
“When he’s finished his shift, which should be in a few hours or so. He’s rostered off for the next three days.”
“Good on him,” Al observes. “Go put our stuff away, eh Lily?”
“Sure,” I agree, somewhat nervously. Al wants to talk to me alone. I really hope he’s not going to start asking questions.
“You’re not Unity, are you?” Al asks in a low voice as we climb the stairs.
“More or less.”
“More or less?”
“I’m not heavily involved, but it’s where my loyalties lie, yes.”
“And James is as well,” Al says heavily. “From what I heard he’s planning to spring that on Mum and Dad sometime tonight. Best do it at the same time.”
“They can’t hold it against us,” I say defensively. “We’re allowed to have our own opinions.”
“Yes, I know,” Al says impatiently, “But look at the divide it causes. I just don’t want that happening to our family.”
I feel a brief pang of guilt, but quash it immediately. I’m doing the right thing, by fighting. I’m being a true Gryffindor. I may be on a different side to my parents, but it’s not like the first and second wizarding wars. There is no right or wrong side.
“Evening, family!” James calls jovially, coming through the fireplace just before dinner.
“James!” Mum says happily.
“Mum,” James greets, bestowing a hug on her; “Al,” he acknowledges, clapping him hard on the back; “Lil sis,” he says, squishing me into a bear hug; “Dad,” he concludes, seizing Dad’s hand and pumping it vigorously.
“Good to see you, James,” Dad says, taking his place at the table. “Good shift?”
“Not bad,” he replies, piling food onto his plate. “Over student food though. So how’re you guys? How’s Gryffindor going in the Quidditch?”
“We haven’t started the season yet,” Al replies, mouth full. “Playing Slytherin in January. They beat Ravenclaw two weeks ago.”
“Slytherin!” James says with relish, rubbing his hands together. “Always a good game, if you lose I disown both of you.”
“Only fair,” I agree. “I mean, I’ve disowned you multiple times.”
“If you’re referring to what I think you’re referring to, I was protecting your honour.”
“I get asked out in third year, ten minutes later the guy’s got a whole lot of boils on his—”
“All right, Lily,” Dad interrupts quickly.
“Which reminds me,” James begins, “How’s that Scamander treating you? I forget which one.”
“Very well, don’t hex him.”
“How long have you two been going out?”
“Six months, must we discuss my love life?”
“No,” Mum says.
“Yes,” James replies.
“Just coz you don’t have one,” Al says dismissively.
“Yeah, who’d want to go out with you?”
“I’ll have you know I’m very popular amongst the ladies,” James replies.
“…In your dreams,” Al finishes.
“In real life,” James replies earnestly. “Especially among the members of DOWIAH.”
There is a very long silence.
“DOWIAH?” Dad repeats at length.
“DOWIAH,” James confirms.
“You joined DOWIAH?”
“When?” Dad asks, a resigned tone in his voice.
“A few weeks ago.”
“You didn’t tell us?” Mum asks, voice rising. “You just throw it casually into conversation, that you’re betraying the family—”
“Ginny,” Dad says sharply.
Mum glares at him.
“He’s not betraying anyone,” Dad says carefully. “He’s entitled to his own opinions, he’s a grown man, and none of us are to take it personally. However, James, your mother’s right, you should have told us.”
“I didn’t want to turn it into some big confession,” James replies. “I’m not betraying anyone, it’s not like I’ve joined the Honour Guard—”
“Lily, you okay?” Mum asks, suddenly turning her attention from James.
I look up, meet James’s eyes, and turn back to her. “I’m part of DOWIAH too.”
“Lily!” Mum rocks backwards, eyes wide. “No! You can’t!”
“And why not?” I ask, anger flaring.
“Because you’re my daughter!” she cries, pushing her chair backwards and getting to her feet.
“And James is your son!” I argue, standing as well. “But you’re not telling him what he can and can’t do—”
“You’re sixteen years old, you’re still at school, you’re not even of age yet—”
“How old were you when you fought Death Eaters at the Ministry again?”
“This is different!”
“How old were you when you fought at the Battle of Hogwarts?”
“This is different! Harry, help me out here—”
Dad seems at a loss for what to do. “Lily, listen to your mother.”
“Do you agree with her?” I ask, turning to him. “I’m entitled to my own opinions, aren’t I?”
“We’re not discussing this now. Sit down, both of you.”
“Don’t tell me what to do, Harry Potter!” Mum yells. “Lily, you are my daughter and while you’re living under this roof you will not go against us—”
“I’M NOT YOU!” I scream.
Mum stares at me in shocked silence.
“And if I can’t be part of DOWIAH when I’m living under this roof, I guess I’m leaving!”
I wheel around, running through the house and out into the street.
“Lily!” Mum screams after me, but I ignore her, picturing Lorcan’s house with all my might and spinning on the spot. James taught me to illegally Apparate last summer, and the crack resounds in my ears, the squeezing sensation threatening to suffocate me.
Heart still pounding, I arrive outside the Scamanders’ house, making my way up the path leading to the front door.
“Oh, hello Lily,” Luna greets me, looking at me with a puzzled expression on her face. “Shouldn’t you be at home?”
“Left,” I reply briefly.
“Joined DOWIAH. Mum took objection.”
“That’s odd,” Luna muses, ushering me inside. “She’s usually quite reasonable. Lorcan told me he joined, too. It’s good he can think for himself.”
I follow Luna through into the kitchen, where the rest of the Scamanders are sitting around the dinner table.
“Lily,” Lorcan says, getting up from his chair. “Why are you here?”
“She had a fight with Ginny,” Luna answers for me, seating herself down. “How long will you be staying?”
I love Luna. She’s so laid back and accepting.
“I have no idea,” I reply honestly, returning the hug that Lorcan bestows on me.
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