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Pride & Pestilence by Violet Gryfindor
Chapter 5 : In Which History is to Blame
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 7

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Author's Note: There is an awful lot of history and background in this chapter, so be warned now that my love for the history of Revolutionary France explodes at one point. However, I did try to make it all relevant to the story.

Thank you very much for reading! I hope that you enjoy this new chapter.

Chapter Five
In Which History is to Blame

A moment of silence stretched across the ages as Rose struggled to calm her nerves. So rarely had she felt this level of emotion exploding within her that it seemed as though it would tear her in two, transforming into a vicious harpy that would swoop down on Scorpius Malfoy’s well-coiffed head and... It was hardly a lady-like thought, to say the least. Rose bit her lip to restrain herself.

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

The noble voice of Albus Severus Potter rang through the hall with surprising volume, startling the smile from Mr. Malfoy’s face. Parting the crowd of pausing guests as though he wore the armour of the ancient knights rather than the silks and lace of the fop, he emerged, shoulders thrown back, his chin high in the air, green eyes blazing. Something of the hero was painted upon him as though he had, at last, thrown back the superfluities of fashion to reveal the pride of his ancestors beneath.

“What was that you were saying about my cousin? You think her disagreeable?”

Rose wished to sink into the upholstery of her chair and become one with the brocade. Certainly the blush upon her face matched its shade of royal red. Glances of malevolence and sympathy alike were shot in her direction like cannonballs into the hull of a wrecked frigate, its sailors having long abandoned its splintered decks.

Few had heard Mr. Malfoy’s remark and therefore could not understand the true nature of the disturbance, instead ascribing it to that old feud betwixt the families. It did not matter that the elder Mr. Potter and Mr. Malfoy had forged business connexions and had assisted one another through those difficult political times. If there was a Potter or Weasley and a Malfoy in the same room, then everyone else in attendance would eagerly expect a resulting spectacle, and so at that moment, some clasped their hands in barely disguised delight while others cowered behind the nearest articles of furniture lest a stray curse fly in their direction.

Various Weasleys pushed forward to join their cousins-in-arms. Miss Molly and Miss Lucy crouched on either side of Rose’s chair to offer smelling salts and calming charms, but Rose shook them off, rising from the chair, glad for the skirts that disguised her shaking knees. Mr. Frederick and Miss Roxanne took up positions behind Albus, their scarlet coats and gold epaulettes distinguishing them as captains of the Minister’s Guard, whom no one outside of St. Mungo’s closed ward would dare oppose. Albus was, however, as stubborn and independent as Rose, minutely shaking his head so that they would recede once more into the gathered crowd and leave him to his business.

Mr. Malfoy held himself with ease, even bowing his head in polite greeting before he began to speak.

“I said I would not dance with her, Mr. Potter. Surely that is not reason enough to cause a scene such as this?” He gestured with his hand, taking in the eager silence of the room which was only interrupted by excited whispers from the spectators.

Albus, too, was calm, but for his eyes. Their glow had long cursed his adversary into the dreamless sleep of death.

“And what reason would you have to claim that to dance with my cousin would hurt your pride? Those were your words, Mr. Malfoy. My memory is not flawed in that respect.”

With a chorus of jingling earrings and headdresses, the heads of the spectators turned to await Mr. Malfoy’s response. There were Quidditch matches that failed to provoke this strong an interest in their proceedings, the viewers trickling away sometime before the mid-point of the match, perturbed at the lack of action from the Bludgers.

Mr. Malfoy revealed nothing in his silver-plated eyes. Even the dark twist to his lips bespoke of nothing more than his habit of looking down upon the rest of the world.

“Indeed, Mr. Potter, I would say that something more than your memory is flawed.”

These words could not help but be heard by the parents of the feuding wizards as they at last entered the ballroom from distant offices of state, sweeping through the gathered guests with a dignity that must be learned, but never bought. However, they approached unnoticed by Albus, whose face grew red at the insult to his character, his calm demeanour shattering beneath the strength of his temper. He began plucking at the kid glove on his right hand.

Knowing what was to come, Rose pushed through her crowding cousins, reaching out to prevent Albus from making a most fatal error.

The glove hit the ground at Mr. Malfoy’s feet.

The air filled with gasps and smothered curse words. Rose gripped Albus’s arm at the same time that his mother nearly struck him down with a stunning spell. Neither action silenced Albus’s challenge.

Mr. Malfoy’s eyes flickered down to the glove. A smile slowly spread across his features, as though amused by this turn in the dramatic proceedings. His hesitation was correct, not for its disdain, but for its consideration of the law. Wizard duels were not yet disallowed, but they were not highly regarded since the days of the war, when a wizard’s honour came second to the role he might play in the restoration of peace. Those dark days has passed and the nation once more revelled in leisure and comfort, but they were not yet forgotten. A poorly fought duel could destroy the body, the mind, or worse, the soul. Many languished in the depths of St. Mungo’s as a result.

It came as a surprise to the spectators that the young Mr. Potter’s father remained silent. With a word, even with just a nod, he could have put an end to the duel. The legendary scar was like a beacon against his forehead, a reminder of all he had suffered and overcome. And here, his own son threatened the new balance of society, challenging a Malfoy just as, years before, a young Malfoy had challenged him.

Some families were ever meant to be at war.

Rose whispered furiously into her cousin’s ear, all the while. “This is not wise. It is not worth your well-being to uphold any sort of honour against such a person. I do not even like to call him that. Detract your challenge. Look at him: he does not care either way.”

“It is too late,” Mrs. Potter said with a groan.

The glove was now in Mr. Malfoy’s hand, the smile now fixed upon his face as his voice rang out through the room.

“I think, Mr. Potter, it would be best to name our date in private. I do so hate a crowd.”

Albus clenched his bare fist, eyes flashing emerald sparks, but he managed a small, sharp bow of acquiescence.

“Of course, Mr. Malfoy. Let us retire to a private salon.”

Rose took two steps to follow, feeling her honour was equally at stake no matter how much she was against the principle of the duel, but her aunt’s grip had transferred from son to niece without lessening in strength.

“They must settle this themselves, Rose, whether we like it or not.”

“But, Aunt–”

“We cannot take part in duels.” Mrs. Potter scoffed at her own words, drawing Rose aside as she continued to speak. “There is no law, but no witch, be she gentle or common, need participate in such a crude spectacle. It would be best if you never came into contact with young Mr. Malfoy again. He will certainly not be invited into our home.”

It was only then that Lily descended upon her unfortunate (or so she claimed) relations with all the dramatics of a Drury Lane stage. Rose found it only too easy to make her escape from the high-pitched complaints of her younger cousin, who may have agreed with Rose that the duel was unnecessary, if not downright injurious, but it was the injured party in question that differed, and greatly. For there could only be one whose position could be injured by the duel and the events leading up to it: herself.

Even as she wove through the glances, both curious and disapproving, aimed toward her from the upper echelons of wizarding society, Rose could hear fragments of her cousin’s speech.

“...and to think that I danced with him and he’d refuse Rose! It wasn’t very polite of him, to be sure, but Rose brought it on herself, treating him so rudely this morning when there was no call for it. He has a strange way of saying things, and she just takes everything personally as though everything is an insult. I really must get away....”

Rose was only too glad not to hear the rest, half-pitying her aunt, who did.

There seemed to be no suitable place of seclusion from the staring eyes and gossiping mouths that surrounded her at every turn. She avoided all her relations, hating their pity and understanding even more than disapproval. Was there not somewhere in these vast assembly rooms where she could find respite? No place where she could once more partake in her old habit of being alone, if only to think a little while?

She soon encountered a line of salons that ran the length of the building and faced the overgrown garden at the front. The twisting vines and leaves offered no fine view, but Rose had not no need for finery, only peace, and it was here that she found it. Lighting the lamp to one side of the room, she paced the perimeter to examine the furniture and the pictures, all older things, moved here from rooms now reserved for fashionable items. There was a marked feel of the last century in this room with its portraits of old Ministry officials and dated country landscapes complete with grazing livestock and wistful country witches. She rather wished for the sight of a book, its printed words offering the comfort of other worlds, far removed from her own little troubles.

What was a silly duel between wizards, hardly more than schoolboys, in the aftermath of the greatest war the world had ever known? Napoleon still lingered on that distant isle, guarded by a hundred ships lest he try to escape a second time. How could Albus have forgotten? How could he have allowed his vanity to overwhelm his sense of duty? Rose knew very well what he really was beneath that mask of silk and scent, and she felt great disappointment that he would endanger himself unnecessarily when his kind was still so needed in this new and frightening world.

Rose had heard all her father’s stories, secretly recording them afterwards with the hope that, one day, she could compile a history and restore her parents’ name in their rightful places, alongside those of the Potters. She did not want to continue living in the shadow of their mistake, made nearly two decades before in the bitter aftermath of her mother’s suffering and her father’s thirst for revenge.

They had denounced the Malfoys before the Committee, from the prematurely-aged and crippled Lucius to his young grandson, Scorpius, still a babe in arms. The family had stood, huddled, their robes patched, their faces grimly expectant of death.

It was within the Malfoi estate near Blois that Rose’s mother had been held captive and tortured by Madame Lestrange, the monstrous mother of the revolution. A pureblood of fallen fortunes, like so many others, Madame Lestrange had blamed the Muggleborns. They were unnatural, she and her compatriots had claimed, no more than the bastard children of filth and corruption, taking all the wealth and power for themselves, so the Purebloods had wrested it back, their hunger so great that they did not care how much blood stained the hems of their robes.

Rose paced the room as quickly as the cursed stays would allow, her mind lost within the past, that terrible history she would do anything in her power to change.

Her mother had mercifully forgotten much of her ordeal, but that mercy had come at a dear cost. The famous clever mind had changed, no longer caring for spells and problems of logic, now focused wholly on the plight of house elves across the wizarding nations. That was the only mother Rose Weasley had known. The witch once known as Hermione Granger, that heroine of the Revolution, was long lost in the dungeons beneath the Château de Malfois.

A small knock at the door shook Rose from her reflections.

“May I come in?”

Rose blinked at the sight of her uncle framed by the door, so much like the portrait that hung, much to his chagrin, within the Ministry. She nodded, unwilling to trust her voice.

He seemed neither bothered nor surprised to find her so far from the others, where not even the distant strains of the dance were audible. With one glance, he surveyed the room in his old habit of vigilance.

“I had not expected such a thing to happen here. It is more than unfortunate, it is–”

“Idiotic.” Rose said the word with a small sigh.

Mr. Potter acknowledged the word with a tilt of his head. “Perhaps not the word I sought, but it’s accurate, nonetheless.”

Rose stepped forward, hands clenched, unable to restrain her vehemence any longer. “Is there not a way to stop them? Those things cannot happen again, Uncle. History can’t be allowed to repeat. My father–”

“He did what he thought was right.” Mr. Potter looked out into the darkness beyond the windows. “It is all we can ever do.”

“But he was wrong!” Tears glittered in the corners of her eyes. “Uncle Harry, we’re meant to be at peace, not fighting the same battles over and over again merely to satisfy the whims of young gentlemen with better things to do.”

When she struggled to wipe her eyes, she caught sight of the handkerchief he offered. Only when she returned it did she take note of the extraordinary expression upon his face. It was as though he was seeing her for the first time, his habitually reserved and soldierly bearing revealing itself to be a mask, if only for the briefest moment.

“There are many similarities. I had not thought of that.” He placed a reassuring hand on Rose’s shoulder. “But the ending will differ, I can assure you of that, Rose. Albus is not your father, and nor is young Malfoy equal to his.”

Rose’s lips still trembled. “I will still worry for them both.”

Mr. Potter raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Even Rose experienced some nominal surprise at her own words and the genuine concern that accompanied them.

It was the single story her father refused to tell: the duel between himself and Mr. Draco Malfoy. There were many who claimed that it had never taken place, that Mr. Potter had put an end to it before it had the chance to begin, but still others swore that Mr. Malfoy had been the victor, leading to his rise through the ranks of wizarding society while the star of Ronald Weasley fell sharply to earth.

While Rose stared off into the unknown past, her uncle observed her with greater interest than before. It is not for this author to conjecture the reason why, but all the same, I will venture to remind readers that Mr. Potter remained the closest ally of his exiled friends, his life bound to theirs. To now see their daughter before him, their old fire burning in her eyes, returned him to those days of old. This young witch was neither like his own children nor like many of her elder cousins. She had not come to adulthood in an age of peace and plenty, a silver spoon hanging from her lips. Her hands were stained in ink, her ears ringing with tales of bloodshed and betrayal, the terrible guillotine rising before her eyes each night before she slept.

Twenty-five years before, the blood in her veins would have led her straight into its embrace. Rose Weasley, the half-blood. No different from himself.

“If you should wish to take part in the proceedings, then I would suggest you speak to Fred and Roxanne.” Mr. Potter turned away as he spoke, already anticipating with a grimace how his wife would react if she should learn of these plans, and it was inevitable that she would. “Fred will be Albus’s second, but they are allowed to bring a witness.”

“But, Uncle, Aunt Ginny said that witches–”

Mr. Potter held up a hand. “That is why you require Roxanne’s assistance. She will be able to make the necessary arrangements.”

It did not take long for Rose to understand his meaning. Her eyes widened, not in lady-like shock, but in a glorious wonderment that only altered once he had made his exit. In that moment of renewed solitude, Rose devised a plan worthy of the revolution itself, a plan that would forever change her fate.

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