I’d never been into any of my neighbour’s houses. This hadn’t ever bothered me before, but now, following Jack Pinton into the strange house across the street, I regretted it. We weren’t the sort of family to socialise with our neighbours – mainly because they were Muggles, I suppose. We would have seemed like an odd rabble to them.
The house was dark, the curtains closed. If I’d had to guess, I’d say the family was away on vacation. That was either a lucky chance on Pinton’s part, or he’d planned this. I was inclined towards the latter. The man was, after all, behind a dark magic trading ring, being cold and calculating was certainly possible.
I still had no further ideas as to why he’d called me out after him, however. I couldn’t think of a single thing that I had that he’d want. I could only hope that I’d managed to hold him off enough so that the Aurors could arrive. My father would flip at me, I was sure, yet I was positive this was the only way we’d get Pinton. With him in my clutches, there was no way I was letting go.
My boots echoed against the polished wooden floor (rather wealthy, these neighbours), as I peered into room after room. He was here, I just had to find him.
Four rooms later, I gnashed my teeth together and stopped, frustrated, in the middle of the hallway. I still had both our wands in my fist, my knuckles clenched white around them.
“Ah, Miss Weasley.”
There it was. With those words, my entire body became a live wire. I was on edge, and I whirled around on my heeled boots, staring him in the eye. He was smiling, the git.
There was a moment of silence. I should have stunned him, or something, but I was frozen, my eyes locked to his. All I could think about was that this was the man behind it – the man who’d sat in a classroom not far from the one I’d been in, all freaking year. He’d been behind everything, he’d been behind Sophia.
I wanted to punch him, I wanted to…I wanted him to be punished. He deserved it.
I was too lost in my thoughts to see the signs. He must have tensed up in preparation, but I missed it. Before I could blink, he was in front of me, then I was sprawled on the floor, clutching my stomach. Both the wands were gone from my hand.
I could still see him, his shoes in my direction line of sight, caked in dirt. He was pacing back and forth, and my eyes slowly moved upward to watch him. He had both wands, twirling his in his right hand, mine limp in his left. I eyed the piece of wood – I needed that back.
“I watched you all year, Rose, did you know that?” He was speaking to me, and I tried to not pay attention. I didn’t want to hear this. “You thought you were so clever, you and your boyfriend, poking around in things that didn’t concern you,” he paused, and I saw him turn to face me.
“I do have to give you credit, however,” he said, tapping his chin in a way I’d find almost comical if this was any other situation, “you got us in the end.” He kneeled down, squatting on the floor. I wasn’t entirely sure why I hadn’t moved. Part of me worried he’d hex me if he tried, but surely he would have already done that if he’d wanted to.
Perhaps I was listening to him after all, instead of moving.
“I couldn’t resist getting one last chance to talk to you,” he continued on, standing up straight again. Now, I did move, scuttling back slightly so I could see him properly. I took inventory of my aches and pains – nothing serious, which was a blessing.
“You see, Rose, without you none of this would be possible. You’ve got quite a lot of spirit.” He continued on, but I stopped listening. I took in my surroundings. Long corridor, a window behind me, not letting in much light. A window just behind him as well, letting in some light. Carpeted floor. Doors, but from memory nothing in the room was particularly helpful. The only exit I knew of was behind me, but it was completely at the other end of the house. While he still held two wands, I had no chance.
“I know I’m a wanted man,” my eyes roamed around as he spoke, his voice washing over me, “and I’m not naïve enough to think that they won’t catch me. They will, sooner or later.”
That statement got my attention. Not many criminals would willingly admit they’d be captured. I looked up at him in time to see a flash of determination in his eyes. It was then that my stomach started to sink, and I scrambled to my feet, his eyes following me.
“I do want to go out with a bang, as they say,” he said, twiddling his wand with an almost thoughtful expression, “and what better way that engaging you in a duel, Rose Weasley?”
I was frozen, again.
“Don’t you get it, Rose? It’s a game now. I wanted to see if you’d come. Now, I want to see what you’re really made of – you’re not all nice and proper, are you Rose? You’re more like me than you might think. You’ve hurt people before, friends, family. You didn’t care then.”
How the fuck did he know that. I was stuck to the ground, watching him. We were both still once more, and it was a moment before he moved again.
“Time to play.”
With that, he tossed my wand at my feet, and cackled. After a moment’s surprise, I dove for my wand. As I did so, I shook my head slightly, incredulous. Jack Pinton was most definitely a mad man.
He’d shot out the jet of red light as I’d been straightening up, and I only missed it out of sheer luck. I threw up a shield charm after that, and we were off. I ran down the corridor, focusing, for some odd reason, on my breathing. My heart was pounding in my chest, my hair was sticking to my cheek, and I could tell he was following. He was cackling, and more than a few curses came flying my way, hitting objects and scarring the walls.
We were destroying this poor family’s house.
Groaning, I rounded the corner, pushing all irrelevant thoughts out of my mind. The Aurors would arrive soon, I was sure. They had to.
They had to.
“Not going to fight back, Rose? I thought you had more in you than that.”
He was taunting me now. I knew how to duel, I did. I didn’t want to fight him, however, that was exactly what he wanted, and I couldn’t give him the satisfaction.
Obviously, he knew me. He’d planned this, I realised, most likely after he’d given up hope of getting out of this whole business easily. He wanted a game, one last chance to show he was better than everyone. If he injured me, it was a plus in his book.
Well, that was my best guess, anyway. I’d probably never know the real reason.
“Come on Rose!” He sounded excited now, and I looked around frantically. Somehow, I’d ended up in a part of the house I hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t a particularly large house, but with the curtains closed, and my sense of direction a little haywire under stress, I was hopeless.
I tore off in another direction, getting more and more frustrated. His taunts only grew louder, and he hit me with some sort of curse or another, creating a gash in my arm. I flinched at that. Running really wasn’t an option.
For God’s sake, I was a Gryffindor, not a Slytherin.
Growling, I spun around, facing him. He’d just rounded a corner, and I could see him panting at the end of the corridor. This one was short, and quite well lit. A few non-descript paintings on the walls, that was about it.
“Stupefy!” That was the most standard duelling spell, I knew, and I directed it at him. He dodged, not surprisingly, and I could see the glee on his face at my engaging in the battle. He didn’t hold back, and I flicked my wrist, sending another jet of light at him. At one point, he shot something at me that ricocheted off my shield charm at up at the roof – dust was everywhere after that, which didn’t help matters at all. I couldn’t help but worry how we’d end up concealing all this.
I knew the Aurors were on their way, and that was partly what spurred me on, but always what held me back. I stuck to safe, predictable spells that wouldn’t really damage anything. He wasn’t like that. He was all in.
I gasped, and the room spun. He’d hit me with that one, on my leg. I fell, my hands flying to the wound and the blood, clutching it. I cradled my leg, crouched on the floor. I could feel his breath on the back of my neck as he came closer.
“That too much for you, Rose?” His voice was low, soft, and completely and utterly threatening. I closed my eyes, clutching my wand tightly. The pain in my leg was severe, and I couldn’t cast a spell over my shoulder cleanly enough with it on my mind.
“Thank you ever so much for getting us into the Ministry, by the way. That was a big help.” He’d moved around now, to stand in front of me. Watch the pain, I surmised. He wanted me to think this was all my fault - that was why he was taunting me. He wanted to hurt me, now, as his one last act. I was above that. I might not have been once, but I was now.
I glared up at him, now a clean shot. I raised my wand, grateful for one of the things I’d bothered to learn in school – non-verbal charms. The jet of red line shot out of my wand, and I cried out in pain, having jolted slightly with the spell. He crumpled in a heap in the corridor, and suddenly, there were pops of apparition around us.
I watched through blurry eyes as they swarmed around him. Finally, we’d caught him.
I wasn’t sure who healed my leg, or who took Pinton into custody. I vaguely recalled speaking to my father, and being Side-Along Apparated home. Scorpius appeared at some point, and slipped his hand into mind. I do distinctly remember my mother picking up on that one, she’d pulled me aside later and hugged me.
Apparently, I’d made her proud, though I wasn't sure if that was the Pinton business, or Scorpius.
My father certainly didn’t feel the same way. I’d received a stern lecture about ‘pulling stunts’.
“You can’t do things like that when you’re an Auror, Rosie,” he’d said. My heart had leapt at that sentence – me, an Auror. It still sounded odd and far off in the future. In reality, the tests were closer than ever and I should have been spending my time studying.
“You’ll have a protocol to follow, you’ll have to call things in-“ he’d continued on ranting, but Scorpius, who’d been seated next to me on the couch, had whispered in my ear, thoroughly distracting me.
“I think you’ll make a fantastic Auror,” he’d said, his breath tickling my ear, making me shiver.
I was still rather giddy about that whole relationship. I’d left Hogwarts with no plans, no boyfriend, and no maturity whatsoever. Now, I liked to think I had that, and more. I had a house, for one, though I was pretty much positive I wouldn’t keep it. I had no reason to live out there anymore, after all.
I had Scorpius. That, well, I wasn’t sure what exactly that meant, but it made me feel warm and a little bit drunk, so I decided I liked it.
The traders were gone. That had hardly been a blip on my radar when I’d left school, and it was strange to think how much they’d ended up impacting my life. Without that experience, I’d probably still be floundering around wondering what I’d do with the rest of my life.
Life’s odd like that. I found my passion in life in the oddest of ways, and I wouldn’t have changed a second of it. Well, maybe I wouldn’t have dyed my hair black in fifth year, actually.
Regardless, I was here now, with all the ups and downs of life as an Auror waiting for me. I’d come at the problems that presented running at full speed, black heeled boots and all.
A/N: Wow. Just wow. As I've said before, I started writing this for NaNoWriMo last year. I was at just over 50,000 words at the end of November...and it's taken me till NOW to finish that. Gah. Hopefully, the waiting was worth it! Thank you all for sticking with me and Rose through this slightly crazy journey of a story. I might bring her back some time in the future, there's definitely potential once she's an Auror.
Anyway, once again, thank you to every single person who's favourited or reviewed, I'm pretty sure just about every review brought a smile to my face. Thank you, so so much.