Chapter 7 : Chapter Seven: Hugo Weasley
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By Rose Weasley
An Excerpt From Chapter Six
...And oblivion is where Krum remained for much of the next decade. Other than a brief stint in jail following a charge for public drunkenness, the man disappeared, withdrawing from the world and all its problems. And the world withdrew from Krum too. For the first time since childhood, Viktor wasn’t the center of a media circus; his face no longer plastered on the front of every tabloid; his every move no longer reported on in the gossip columns. There was a new sort of silence in his life, and Krum found he liked the quiet...
Chapter Seven: Hugo Weasley
There were at least a hundred different questions Rose could have asked Krum in that moment. Like how in the world did he know about the book? As far as she knew, only three people were privy to that information: herself, Brooks and Heart. She certainly hadn’t told anyone, and there was no way Heart would have let a thing like that slip out. He wouldn’t want anyone to know they were in talks with Krum until after everything was signed and in the bag, otherwise someone else – namely Penman & Ives – could swoop in and try to steal Krum out from under them. That only left Brooks. But he was the one who'd insisted Rose come to the pub – that she be the one tell Krum about the book. If Brooks had spilled the beans, what could have happened during the past few hours to make him change his mind?
Rose would have also liked to ask just what exactly had possessed Krum to attack a total stranger in the middle of a muggle bar? He could have killed someone. Or, if the man’s teammates had turned out to be the vengeful sort, could have landed himself in the hospital...or the morgue. Krum was lucky the men hadn’t dragged him outside and knocked him senseless. And Rose wasn’t half convinced he wouldn't have deserved it either. The other man had been a jerk, no question about it – beating up on that kid and running his mouth off at her. But had it really warranted such a brutal thrashing? Rose certainly didn’t think so.But Rose never got the chance to ask Krum any of this. The man was still too busy laughing to proffer a proper reply.
No, she realized. He's not laughing. He's choking.
It was a terrible sort of sound, a dry rattling deep in his chest that shook his entire body. He was still on his knees but was forced to bend over, placing his hands on the ground in front of him to keep from falling face-first onto the pavement. On and on it went, the rasping heaves so violent Rose started to worry Krum might pass out from lack of oxygen.
She stepped over to him, reaching out a hand and placing it on his shoulder. “Are you all right? Can you breathe?” Rose hadn’t seen the other man land any solid blows, but now she wondered if Krum might not have taken a punch to the chest, cracking a rib and puncturing a lung. That, she knew, would be way beyond her ability to mend.
But finally, the coughing began to ease, Krum’s body falling still once more.
“Are you all right?” she asked again.
Krum tried to respond but he was still too out of breath to speak.
Rose squatted down beside him, sitting back on her heels as she tried to get a proper look, checking for any visible signs of injury. “For a minute there, you sounded like you were about to cough up a lung. Guess that's what smoking will do to you, huh? Can you sit up?”
Krum tried again to speak. This time he was able to manage three stifled words. “Leave. Me. Alone.”
“Don’t be absurd. You’re hurt. Let me help –”
“I didn’t ask for your help. I don’t need your help.” The rage she’d glimpsed in the pub had returned, and it emanated from him like steam rising off of hot asphalt. The look on his face told her that any further objections on her part would be nothing but a waste of time.
Rose stood up, putting some distance between them.
So be it, she thought to herself. She hadn’t wanted to come to this stupid pub anyway. She hadn’t wanted to meet with Krum, and she certainly hadn’t wanted to be made a fool of. The man had known all along why she was there, so why hadn’t he just said so upfront instead of stringing her along? Not to mention the fact that she’d been forced to watch him beat a man to a bloody pulp, and was now being scolded for daring to try and get him back on his feet before those drunken idiots decided to come back and finish what Krum started. It was beyond prideful, no matter what Brooks said. Viktor Krum was insufferable, plain and simple, and Rose was more than ready to wash her hands of him. Book deal be damned.
“Fine,” she said, throwing up her arms. “Have it your way. You can crawl home, for all I care. Goodbye, Mr. Krum. Have a wonderful life.”
And with that, she turned around and stalked off into the night, refusing to so much as glance over her shoulder until she was home again, locked up safe inside her flat.
Rose slept poorly that night, her subconscious playing and replaying the day’s events, preventing her from drifting off into the deep sleep she so desperately needed. By the time seven o’clock rolled around, Rose was awake again, feeling anything but rested.
She’d initially been excited by the idea of spending the weekend with her family. Going home meant being treated to three square meals a day and, if she was lucky, a chance to lie out in her parents’ back garden. Rose spent most of her waking hours hidden away in her tiny office – arriving by six and sometimes not leaving again until after eight. There were times when she seemed to go days without seeing the sun, and the dreary London weather didn’t help matters. But her parents lived out in the country – or at least what felt like the country compared to her urban dwelling. If the clouds stayed away, she’d have two whole days to soak up as much sunlight and fresh air as she could stand. It would have made the perfect send-off for the summer, which was all too quickly drawing to a close.
Yes, Rose usually look forward to her trips home, but not today. She tried to tell herself it was just that she was tired, or because she had so much work catch up on. But the truth was, she couldn’t shake the lingering unpleasantness of the previous evening. As much as she wanted to pretend she didn’t give a damn about him – how she wasn’t responsible for the well-being of a man she'd ownly known for thirty minutes – Rose found her thoughts returning again and again to the infamous Viktor Krum.
Rose was inclined to blow off her family and spend the rest of the weekend in bed hiding under the covers. But she couldn’t do that to Hugo, or to her mum. Even though she’d never outright told them she was coming, Rose knew her mother would be expecting her and would have already gone to the extra trouble of fixing up her old room – the one Rose had slept in as a child – and making sure the cupboards were stuffed with all of Rose’s favorite foods. Considering the sorry state of her own cupboards, that was a particularly enticing prospect.
Accepting this visit as just another part of her daughterly duties, she dragged herself out of bed, and after a long soak in the bath and several cups of strong coffee, Rose started to feel almost human again, if not exactly cheerful. By noon she was standing at her parent’s door, a small overnight bag slung over one shoulder.
The Weasley house hadn’t changed much in the five years since she’d moved out. It was still too small, even with one less person living inside, but it never seemed to occur to either of her parents to sell the place and buy something bigger. Perhaps once they retired, or if they ever managed to get her brother out of the house.
The home itself was a modest, two-story brick structure with a small stone inlay that encircled the front door. On top was a slanted thatched roof that curved and bubbled out over the windows on the upper floor. The gardens in the front and running around the sides were overgrown but inviting, smelling of lavender and catmint, which despite its name, always reminded Rose of a cinnamon stick that had been left sitting on a warm stovetop.
Inside, the house was divided into two main living areas. There was the bottom floor, which included the living room, dining room, and kitchen, and was where the family spent the majority of their time. And there was the top floor, which housed the three bedrooms and the home’s only bath. Four people using a single loo hadn’t been Rose’s idea of a good time, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as being forced to share a bathroom with five teenage girls like she’d had to do at school. The flat she lived in now might be small but at least she didn’t have people banging on the door while she was bushing her teeth or leaving their dirty underpants lying on the floor.
“Hello,” Rose called out as she pushed open the front door. She hadn’t bothered knocking. It had once been her house too, after all. “Anyone home?”
There was no reply. In fact, there wasn’t any noise at all. No clanging of pots and pans in the kitchen, no one tromping up and down the creaky wooden stairs. There weren’t even any lights on. The whole place was totally still.
Rose wasn’t alarmed, but she did think it unusual to find the house so empty on a Saturday afternoon, especially when she’d been told to drop by.
“Hello?” she called again.
This time she got an answer, only not the one she’d been expecting. Archibald – the now-ancient gray tabby cat that had wondered into their garden when her brother was still in nappies and staunchly refused to leave again – appeared in the entryway, his bushy tail erect, his rounded belly so fat it scraped along the ground as he walked. He sauntered over to Rose, giving her a quick sniff before rubbing up against her leg.
“Hello, Archie,” she said, leaning over and giving the cat an affectionate pat on the head. “Where is everyone?”
As if in reply, the cat turned and headed off towards the kitchen. Rose dropped her bag and followed suit.
The kitchen was tucked into the back of the house, a large square window above the sink letting in the sunshine and bathing the space in a homey yellow glow. Through the window, Rose could see the outline of a man. He was several meters away, his back towards her, but even at that distance, there was no mistaking the mop of red curls and rangy silhouette of her brother Hugo.
Rose opened the back door and stepped out into the garden, following the stone path that wound down towards the shed where her father stored his collection of tools – none of which she could ever remember him using. Hugo was standing just beyond the end of the path, his back still turned towards the house. As she drew closer, Rose could hear him talking to someone.
“Right,” he was saying. “That’s what I told him. Fat lot of good that did.”
He shifted a bit and Rose could see that he was holding something small and rectangular up against his ear. She was surprised to realize it was a mobile telephone, like the sort muggles used.
Hugo seemed to catch sight of her then, flashing her a warm smile and holding up a finger to indicate he’d be done in a moment.
“I know,” he said to whoever was on the other end of the call. “He never listens. Look, I’ve got to run. Can I call you back later?” He paused. “Uh huh. Right.” Another pause. “Alright then, you too. Bye.”
Hugo lowered the phone, pressing a button on the front before turning his attention back to Rose. When he did, she could see that her brother was grinning from ear to ear.
He held the phone out for her to see “It’s a mobile."
“So I figured. I’m surprised you can get it to work.” Rose cast a quick glance over at the house. Muggle electronics were notoriously unreliable when used near magic, and these days, all wizarding homes were surrounded by any number of charms and spells. Some were for security, but most were just for convenience, like the chilling charms that keep food from spoiling, or spells on the windows that alerted parents if their children ever tried to sneak out after curfew.
“It won’t work inside. That’s why I’m out here. I’ve got to stay about fifty feet from the house or else all I can hear is this loud hissing noise.”
“Hmmm...” Rose said. She was eyeing the besotted look on her brother’s face with mounting suspicion. “And just where did you get this fancy new mobile?”
Hugo smiled sheepishly. “Billy sent it to me.”
Ahhh, Rose thought. The elusive 'blonde somebody' Hugo had been hoping to follow off to America.
“That was nice of him. It looks expensive.”
Hugo glanced down at the phone as if the idea that it might have actual monetary value had never occurred to him. “Maybe...” he said before giving it a squeeze and tucking it into the pocket of his trousers. "What are you doing here?"
"Dad invited me. Apparently there's to be a feast in your honor, or so I've been told."
"Oh, that," he said, waving away the idea. "That's just Mum being..."
Hugo laughed. "Yea, that about sums it up."
"Speaking of, where is everyone?”
“On a Saturday?”
Hugo shrugged. “You know how it is. Some emergency or another. Mum figures she’s the only one smart enough to sort it out, and Dad figures if he stays behind, Mum’s likely to show him up in front of all his buddies. So off they go...”
Rose nodded, thinking that sounded just about right. To this day, she couldn’t decide whether her parents were the worst couple she’d ever met or if they were actually a perfect match. They were always arguing about something, but whatever the problem, they never seemed to stay mad for long. A few hours later and it was like the whole thing never happened. Still, Rose couldn’t understand how two so very different people were able to make it work.
Maybe the best a person can hope for is to find someone to balance out the worst of their oddities...or else to find someone with so many of their own they don’t notice all of yours.
“You eaten lunch yet?” Hugo asked her.
Rose shook her head. Not only had she not eaten lunch, she’d skipped over breakfast too. “No. But I’m starving.”
“Good. Me too.”
So the two of them headed off back towards the house. After raiding the cupboards – which were full, just like Rose knew they would be – the pair took their plates, loaded down with dumplings, Cornish pasties, and pudding, and returned to the garden. They ate while perched at the small iron table set beneath one of the many maple trees that grew along the property.
There was silence for several minutes, each of them occupied with the task of eating. Between mouthfuls, Rose finally managed a muffled, “If I ate like this everyday, I’d be too big to fit through the front door.”
Hugo swallowed a heaping spoonful of pudding. “Don’t I know it. I’ve gained at least half a stone since I started at the hospital. Mum insists on making me lunch to take in, so now I’m eating this stuff pretty much morning, noon and night.”
Rose didn’t imagine their mother had to insist all that hard to get Hugo to take a packed lunch into work. He was just like their father: a bottomless pit when it came to food but way too lazy to fix it himself. And it didn’t hurt that their mother wasn’t half bad at cooking. She was no Granny Weasley, but she could hold her own in the kitchen.
When they had both finished cleaning their plates, Rose looked up at her brother. “So tell me about Billy.”
Rose couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t known that Hugo was gay. It wasn’t something he’d ever had to sit down and tell her. She just knew. It hadn’t been quite so obvious to her parents. To her mother’s credit, she’d taken the news in stride, reassuring Hugo that whatever made him happy was good enough for her. Their father, on the other hand, hadn’t handled things near as well. There had been a lot of sighing, a fair bit of eye-rolling, and several attempts to ascertain whether Hugo wasn’t sure this wasn’t just “some sort of phase.” Hugo had assured their father it was not, and after that, neither of them ever discussed the matter again. Hugo went right on living his life while their father remained in comfortable denial, referring to the boys his son brought home for dinner as nothing more than Hugo’s “special friends from school.”
It couldn’t always be easy for her brother, forced to tiptoe around his sexuality, even in his own home. But there were times when Rose envied Hugo. Not for being gay, but for being so comfortable with himself. Her brother had such an easy way about him, the kind of relaxed confidence that seemed to draw people in. He didn’t have to go looking for friends – or boyfriends – because they always seemed to come looking for him.
“Billy is...perfect,” Hugo said, that stupid smile once again plastered all over his face. Rose had seen her brother smitten before but this was different. He seemed to be glowing inside just thinking about the man. “He’s finishing up his first hospital rotation too. He’ll be done next week. He’s thinking of specializing in mental healing, which of course he’d be brilliant at. Billy’s so introspective, you know the type. Only he’s not flashy about it. He doesn’t try to analyze every little thing you say. He just sits there and listens. I mean really listens. And then he’ll say something so amazing you think, where in the hell does he come up with this stuff?”
Her brother was positively gushing, and Rose thought it was sweet, if a little over-the-top.
“He sounds great,” she said. “Really wonderful.”
“He is wonderful. I can’t wait for you to meet him. You’ll love him.”
“I’m sure I will.”
Hugo continued to fawn over ‘perfect Billy’ for the next hour, requiring little in the way of response from Rose. She imagined her brother would be more than content to keep discussing the man straight through till Monday if Rose didn't stop. It wasn’t that she begrudged her brother for finding someone who made him happy, but listening to other people talk about their love lives only served to remind her how she didn’t have one of her own. She wasn’t like her brother. She didn’t draw people in the same way he did, didn’t have a rotating door of admirers. It wasn’t like she hadn’t been in relationships before. She had, and a few of them had been serious, or so she’d thought at the time. Still, she just wasn’t as easily infatuated as Hugo – didn’t have that one person to always go back to like Al and Amelia. Being on her own wasn’t something Rose was ashamed of, but it wasn’t something she enjoyed dwelling on either.
“So, how’s work?” It seemed Hugo had detected her waning interest in the subject of all things Billy and was attempting to turn the conversation back around to Rose.
“Okay?” he repeated, sounding unconvinced. “Okay as in not particularly terrible? Or okay as in, if I don’t get out of that place soon I’m going to be 'okay' with throwing myself off a bridge?”
Rose smiled. “Maybe a bit of both.”
“Ahhh,” he said, giving her a knowing look. “You want to talk about it?”
Rose was inclined to say no. She didn’t want to dump her problems on her brother. Then again, that’s what siblings were for. So she told him, filling Hugo in on Heart’s idea about the book, her meeting with Brooks, and of course, last night’s encounter with Krum.
“He sounds like a real tosser to me,” Hugo said after she’d finished her story. Rose was glad to hear her own opinion of the man validated, even if it was by someone who’d never met him. Hugo was no more a fan of sport than she was, so Krum’s status as a former Quidditch hero held no sway with him. “What do you think your boss will say when you tell him you won’t be writing the book?”
Rose picked up a leaf that fallen onto the table, examining it with interest. “Well, there’s liable to be a lot of shouting. And cursing. But that’s nothing new.”
“Sounds like a bit of a tosser himself.”
“Heart has his moments. But then I guess that’s true of all of us.”
“See,” Hugo said, pointing a finger at her. “That's exactly the sort of thing Billy would say. Always looking at everything so rationally. If it were me, I’d tell them both to stuff it. Who needs the lot of ‘em?”
Rose smiled at her brother. She was starting to think this trip home might turn out to be just what she needed after all.
The two remained in the garden for the rest of the afternoon, taking turns filling each other in on the daily dramas that constituted everyday life. Hugo told her about all the bizarre injuries and illnesses he’d seen during his training – a few of which she was really glad he hadn’t mentioned during lunch. She, in turn, told him about the horrible manuscript she’d been sent last week – one that involved a love story between a man and his hippogriff. That had sent them both into a fit of giggles, and the pair would have likely gone right on laughing and gossiping like teenagers straight through suppertime if they hadn’t heard the telltale POP! that meant someone had just Apparated nearby.
“Mum and Dad must be back,” Hugo said, turning towards the house.
He stood up and Rose followed, the two of them making their way back inside. Rose was expecting at any moment to hear her parents’ voices calling out to them. Instead, the pair were greeted by a loud knock at the door.
Rose looked over at her brother. “You expecting someone?”
Hugo shook his head. Together they moved through the kitchen, Rose hanging back while Hugo went on into the hall. She heard the front door open, followed by the sound of muffled conversation, but it was too quiet for her to make out what was being said.
A minute later, Hugo returned.
“Who was it—?” she started to ask but stopped once she realized someone was following close on Hugo’s heels.
“This guy says he knows you. Claims it’s real important that he speaks with you.”
Peter Brooks stepped into the kitchen. The man did not look well. He was dressed in the same suit she’d seen him wearing yesterday, his eyes blood-shot and puffy from lack of sleep. Rose got the distinct impression that he hadn’t been home since the last time they spoke.
Brooks made as if to shake her hand but seemed to think better of it. “I’m so sorry to intrude on you like this. But as your brother said, I really do need to speak with you.”
Rose didn't know what to say. She couldn’t for the life of her imagine what Books was doing there, standing in her parent’s kitchen, looking so disheveled. She didn’t make a habit of covering her tracks whenever she left the house, but she certainly hadn’t told anyone where she’d be spending the weekend.
“How did you know I was here?" Rose asked him.
“Heart told me. Or rather, when I couldn’t reach you at home, he suggested I try here.”
“Ever heard of sending a letter first?” Hugo muttered under his breath.
Brooks ignored him, though Rose was sure the man had heard him. “I understand how this must look, but as I said, it’s important. Is there somewhere we might talk...in private?”
Brooks tossed a glance over at Hugo, who in turn looked over at Rose. Rose gave her brother a reassuring nod, which he seemed to understand meant he was free to leave.
“I’ll be upstairs,” he said, turning to go but not before shooting Brooks the kind of look their mother was so fond of using on their father.
Once they were alone, Brooks got straight down to business. “I heard about what happened last night. I’m so sorry. I would never have suggested you meet with Krum there if I thought things might get so out of hand.”
“Out of hand? That’s a bit of an understatement, don’t you think? Your father tried to smash a man’s head in.”
“Step-father,” he corrected. “And you don’t know the half of it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well...” Brooks lowered his voice as if about to confide a secret to her. “It turns out this wasn’t his first run-in with a muggle.”
Rose wasn’t sure whether or not this news surprised her so she said nothing, letting Brooks continue on.
“In fact, there have been more than a few incidents over the years, or so I’ve been told. Honestly, this is all news to me. I had no idea he’d been out there picking fights. I hadn’t realized things had gotten quite this bad. I thought he was just short on cash. It seems the others were relatively minor. His old friend down at the pub – the owner, I can’t think of his name... Anyway, apparently he’d been keeping an eye on him before I came back into the picture a few months back. Only I guess he beat this muggle bloke up something terrible. Ended up going to hospital. Well, the Ministry can’t just let that sort of thing slide. From what I’m being told, there were a lot of witnesses. That many memory modifications...”
His voice trailed off, but Rose knew that wasn’t the end of it. If it were just a matter of Brooks wanting to apologize for Krum’s behavior, he could have sent her a letter or else stopped by her office Monday morning.
Was he there to check on her, to make sure she hadn’t gotten hurt during the scuffle? Or was he, perhaps, about to scold her for leaving his father behind in such a state?
“What exactly do you want from me, Mr. Brooks?”
“I'm getting to that," he said, a hint of impatience coloring his tone. "Krum... Well, he’s been arrested. They’re holding him at the Ministry right now.” Before Rose had a chance to reply, Brooks went on, “And that’s not all of it. He’s refusing to talk to anyone. Not even to me, and I’m his bloody lawyer. So,” he paused, seeming to steal himself for what he was about to say next. “So the reason I’m here is because if Krum doesn’t explain himself soon, he’s looking at an extended trip to Azkaban..."
"And..." Rose promited.
"And here’s the real kicker. The only one he’ll agree to speak with is you."
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