Author's Note: And the climax begins! I'm so excited for it, and I hope you are too!
Just a small note - there will be about 4 chapters left after this. It's so sad to think that this story will be coming to an end soon!
Thank you so much to everyone who has always followed this story so faithfully.
I hope you enjoy this chapter and the rest to come! Be sure to leave your thoughts. :)
beautiful chapter graphic by .asperity @ TDA
I did as I promised. I steered clear of the Weasley house, despite Ron's persistent letters asking me to at least come by for dinner. He'd promise me things like I wouldn't even have to see Rose, that he just wanted to talk to me and see how I was doing. He would ask me to go out to lunch. Anything to get me to see him again, but I didn't back down from my promise. I couldn't handle it.
I knew I had gone about everything with the mindset that I could handle it. I had had the mindset that I could do anything to make Rose happy and free her. I thought that I could be selfless in the process, that my own happiness and sanity didn't matter. But I found that it did. I couldn't lose myself along the way. I had already lost myself long ago, and I had become a changed person since I left the summer house. I had only recently discovered who I am today; I realized that I couldn't give that all up again. I had to take care of myself; going to Paris had shown me that.
I could do both. I could free Rose and make her happy; I could just have to be careful and find the fine line between giving my entire sanity up in the process. This was the only way to do it. I could only be her friend. That way she had a shoulder to cry on, someone to turn to, someone to be there for her unconditionally and platonically, and that way I could get my wee bit of happiness by just being with her. It wouldn't matter in what way. At least we were together and happy. Being friends was the only way. But I couldn't see her again until she wished to see me without the intention of snogging me, despite how much I wanted to kiss her senseless as well.
This meant avoiding Ron as well. He was like mine and Rosie's personal match-maker. He was trying to push us together in a romantic way in any way possible, but of course, he didn't know of my new epiphany. So I had to avoid him.
I convinced myself this was the only way. And while I was doing nothing at home, I took that time to finish this for good. I could end this all. I could put Peakes in his rightful place and release Rose of all charges. I just had to find a way, and I took this precious time to do exactly that.
I came up with a plan. A weak one, one that could be easily flawed and one that had to have every detail go the exact way, but it was a start. I had time to tweak it.
At least I thought I had time.
One day I received an owl from Ron. I assumed it was just another desperate plea for me to come over for dinner, but I was dead wrong.
Word had spread to the Ministry about Rose's recovery. Ron had done a great job in keeping her recovery on the DL. He didn't want Rose to go back to that stand, and so he had done his best to hold it off as long as possible. Rose had been ready for that stand perhaps a week before her decision to see the real Scorpius Malfoy, and the Ministry became aware of this after her foolish actions. Of course Scorpius told his father about what had happened, who Draco then shared with one of his friends in the Auror Department. Then through the grapevine, word reached Geoffrey Sondheim, and court was once again resumed.
Rose's trial date was set, and Ron had owled to inform me of this.
Her trial is tomorrow. I had no time anymore. My rough sketch of a plan didn't have time to be perfected. Tomorrow would be the day it all comes down to. Tomorrow will determine everyone's future.
Sweaty. Clamy palms. Shaking. I was a mess, but I had to gather my composure. I knocked on the door to Peakes' office. I hadn't seen him since the day he had been called to the stand. He had been stranded at his home just like Ron and I had been, but on the day of the hearings, he was in his office probably taking care of a few things.
I heard him from somewhere inside, giving me entrance. The door swung open, and when Peakes saw me, he blanched. "Can I help you?" he asked. He seemed a little sour, but he wasn't full of hatred. He probably blamed me slightly for what had happened, but I don't think he suspected me to be the culprit behind it.
Oh no. I drew a blank. I had had my draft of a plan, but as soon as I stepped into his office, I blanked.
"H-How are you doing?" I asked. At least it would be a conversation starter.
"Going crazy," he answered in an undertone. "Sitting at home, doing nothing but dreading this day. I'm only in this position because I opened my stupid mouth."
I pursed my lips. He was right about that. It was his fault he was in this position. I had only taken a chance that he would say all the right things. But how did I go about this now? How was I to carry out my plan? Luckily, Peakes carried out the conversation, giving me a few minutes to gather my bearings.
"And yourself?" asked Peakes.
"The same. Going a little crazy."
"Well, we knew you were going crazy a long time ago. So that's not news to me. You going to do your damnedest to get Weasley acquitted again today?" he asked. At first it seemed like supple conversation, and while his tone hadn't grown harsh, I could tell he was giving me a hard time.
Oh, you have no idea,
But I just shook my head. "Rose and I have...had disagreements lately," I said. I didn't know how else to phrase it.
"I heard. Heard she went to Malfoy," commented Peakes as he shuffled through some paperwork.
"She did. She doesn't want me," I added. The words that would leave my mouth next would be the biggest lies I had ever spoken. I dreaded speaking them; I dreaded feeling pain when I said them, but I had to perform flawlessly. I had to convince Peakes that I didn't really care. I had to get him to talk. "She won't ever love me. Besides, she's stupid for thinking Malfoy could ever love her. She's shot me down over and over, and she refuses to speak to me. She...no longer has...any hold over me. I'm only here because I have to be. She can...go back to Azkaban for all I care."
Peakes didn't even look at me as I said this, but he grinned. "Sounds like you've finally come to your senses."
My breath caught, and I tried to hold my ground. "Guess I have," I muttered.
"So you really don't give a fuck, do you?" asked Peakes. He was appraising me now, my stance, my voice, my composure. He was trying to determine if I was lying, and I assumed now I needed to look weak and hopeless.
So I dropped my shoulders and sulked, and I tried to look as careless as possible. I rolled my shoulders.
"Not really," I sighed.
Peakes nodded after a minute. I don't know why, but I hoped it was a good nod. When he seemed to not care as well, I took my leap of faith.
"So how'd you do it?" I asked quietly, my brow furrowing in true curiosity.
He looked at me uneasily, and after a minute, somehow I gained his trust. He began to speak to me openly, and I only hoped he was speaking the truth.
"Quite easily," he said as he dropped into his desk chair. "You might have figured it out. I wanted the job I now have. Head Auror. I wanted it. Badly, and Geoffrey wanted Minister. We knew we could tackle both. Together. Take down Jarvis, and with Sondheim's brilliant background, we knew he would be appointed as Acting Minister. Selecting our candidate for murder was just as easy. Rose Weasley had such a great tie to both Harry Potter and Ron and Hermione Weasley. I knew it had to be a Potter or Weasley child. Rose was simply the easiest to get a hold of. Then getting her to do it. That was the tricky part. I gave her a deal. The deal was: she kill Jarvis and she gets away with it, free of charge. It would be easy to frame Scorpius Malfoy. Sure, Death Eater families are on good terms with the world now, but it is so easy to change that. I simply plucked Scorpius Malfoy out of the herd. I had got a hold of a few of his hairs, told Weasley to plant them at the scene of the crime, do the killing, and we would take care of the rest. Weasley wasn't supposed to get a conviction if she did the job well. Malfoy was supposed to be the one to go to Azkaban. But even with the assurance that she would get away with it, I started off with blackmailing her and threatening her. She is a strong woman when it comes to the ones she loves. I thought I could break her, but it took a more real
approach to convince Rose I wasn't joking. I told her I'd rid of any of her family members who stood in our way. Ask Ron Weasley about the scars on his ribs next time you see him."
"What?" I breathed. I tried to hide my shock, my hate, and my frustration.
I couldn't believe how real Peakes was being with me. He had just opened his mouth and started pouring out everything. So Ron had been right about everything. Both Sondheim and Peakes wanted high Ministry positions, and Rose was just the luck of the draw. But had he tortured Ron to get Rose to do it? Had he threatened the life of all the Weasleys to make her do it?
"You tortured Ron?"
"A few times, actually," he answered carelessly. "Then obliviated him afterwards. So of course, Mr. Weasley won't know why he has scars on his ribs now. But seeing her father bleeding, crying, and screaming in front of her had the more radical effect I had been looking for. The second time I did it was when Rose agreed. She went to Branstone's home with the intention of going through with it, but when I saw Jarvis at work the next day, clearly Rose hadn't gone through with it. It took a third torture session to make Rose finally do it."
"So she did do it?" I gasped. A part of me had the sinking, gut-wrenching feeling that she did, but hearing it from Peakes was a whole different level. I couldn't believe it. Rose. A killer.
The photographs of Jarvis Branstone's body with the four gaping stab holes flashed across my mind.
"She did it." Peakes' voice was cool, eerie, and domineering. I dropped down into the arm chair in the corner of my god-father's old office as I was struck painfully with the horrible truth.
Now I was stuck. Rose had done the killing, so would Peakes' confession about blackmailing and threatening her be enough to keep Rose out of Azkaban?
I held onto my head as I tried to grasp what Peakes was telling me. He looked at me, that cool smirk on his face, and he actually chuckled cruelly. "Hard time believing it, huh?"
"I just...How could she? She's so...She really killed him?" I asked.
"All right, so I couldn't get her to fully do it. In the end, I Imperiurised her."
Oh my god.
The truth in its entirety. It had finally come out. After months of waiting, of trying, prying, and desperation. The truth had come out, and it wasn't a pretty one. Ron and I had some things figured out, but I couldn't believe what all we had missed.
Ron had been tortured. Three times and he didn't even know it; only Rose and Peakes had known. Rose had been given everything in the book from blackmailing, to threatening, to an ultimatum, and still in the end she had been Imperiurised.
This was it. This was enough. I could get Peakes convicted with this.
I quickly rose to my feet and headed for the door, but Peakes gave his wand a flourish, and the door bolted shut. I turned to face him. What did he have in mind?
"Not so fast. Where do you think you're going?" he questioned.
"I've heard enough. I may not care about Rose's fate anymore, but I'm still human," I snarled. "What you did was horrible. I just want to have some time to myself before the trial begins."
"Bull shit," said Peakes. His voice, which had seemed so calm, collected, and at peace, suddenly grew intense and cold. His ulterior motive was suddenly beginning to show. "You think I would just tell you everything free of charge? I'm not letting you go anywhere."
"I won't tell anyone," I said, the exact opposite of my intentions, growing stiff.
I watched Peakes move from behind his desk and approach me. The short man who still intimidated me to the core moved in front of me, a snicker forming on his face.
"Don't play me for a fool, Lupin," he sneered.
What was I to do? He was coming on to me forcefully. I had the sudden feeling that he wouldn't be letting me leave this room with this information. How did I go about this?
I stood my ground, keeping my head held high and my shoulders back. I towered over Peakes, and I didn't let him see my fear. If he knew I was afraid, my composure would rapidly vanish.
"Why not?" I choked out. I tried to keep my voice from cracking. "Why not play you for a fool? You were fool enough to fall for my trick that day in the observation room. Just like you were fool enough now to confess to me what you did. Now everyone will now."
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the handheld wizarding radio I had enchanted to now record conversations. My entire conversation with Peakes was now recorded on this radio. I shook it in my grasp with a proud snicker. I slipped it back into my pocket as Peakes' face grew red.
"You fucker!" he shouted.
Then he was lunging at me. His hands were outstretched, no wand in his grasp. I put up my hands in defense, trying to ready myself for the hand-to-hand combat I knew Peakes would instigate. His long, thick fingers found my neck where he took purchase. I let out a choked, gurgling sound as gravity pulled his body and my neck towards the ground.
My left hand swung up and into his stomach as I bent forward with his hold around my neck. His grip tightened, twisting, trying to choke me or break my neck, one of the two. I punched him repeatedly in the stomach, blow after blow, but his grip wouldn't loosen. I could feel the oxygen leaving my lungs. I could feel myself growing short of breath, my vision beginning to blacken around the edges. He was keeping his hold even as I delivered punch after punch to his stomach. Knowing it wouldn't be enough, I swiftly raised my knee, and with his flailing body, it rammed into his stomach.
It collided with a horrendous smack, and Peakes let out a shout of pain. He stumbled back, losing his hold on my neck so he could grab his stomach in pain, trying to ignore the urge to retch, but he recovered before I could even strike him again. He raised his fist, prepared to punch, but I held mine high at the ready, and our forearms collided as we blocked the others blow. Again and again, we sent fists flying, knees reeling up into the others stomach or sometimes forehead.
We were a mess of grunting, groaning, and bleeding men. He had kicked me in the stomach twice, and my nose was oozing blood from one of his punches.
My hands reached out and found his thick neck. I grabbed on and whipped my body around, using his neck for support. He bent and shouted under the pressure, and with my body in its new location, I slammed Peakes forcefully into the wall of his office. Pictures were disturbed and fell to the floor with violent shatters, sending glass everywhere. It crunched under our feet as we stumbled, my hands tightening about Peakes' throat as I attempted to strangle him.
I had never had a physical fight with anyone before. This was entirely new territory to me, but when a fist was coming at me or someone's hands were around my throat, instinct kicked in. I felt like I knew what to do; I knew what I had to do to get myself out of this. Peakes wasn't fighting me just to fight me; he was fighting me to get rid of me. To eliminate me from his path. To kill me. And I would have to retaliate just the same. I had to protect myself, even if it meant killing Peakes along the way. I had the proof in my pocket; Rose could still be acquitted even if Peakes was dead.
He was growing purple in the face when he sent his right hook flying towards my jaw. It collided with a terrible impact, and I knew he had dislocated my jaw. I fell back, stumbling into his desk. He leaped towards me with new vigor, his hands outstretched and fingers determined to twist my neck.
"You bastard! I'll kill you for ruining my plan!" he screamed. I kicked and thrashed, trying to throw him off. For such a short man, he was surprisingly muscular and heavy. His knees jabbed into my stomach as he landed on top of me, and I dry-heaved at the impact as he began to strike me in the face. "It was flawless! No one would have known! We would have done it if it weren’t for you, you crazy son of a bitch!"
I said nothing to him in reply, only grunted as I squirmed, trying to fight him off of me. As one of his hands jabbed into my neck, cutting off my windpipe and pinning me down, his other dove into my pocket and pulled out the radio.
"No!" I gurgled out as he dangled the radio above me like the threat it was. I couldn't let him destroy the radio. It was evidence. It was the proof.
I thought of Rose going back to Azkaban. Of Ron with scars on his ribs, unknowing of where they had come from. Of my own life as everything seemed to go dark. So much relied on this one moment. I had to do this.
Adrenaline. It shot through me, coursing through my veins, and with a heavy scream I reached over my head and snatched a few of his quills from his desk. I bunched them together in my hands, and with no remorse, I drove the quills into his stomach. His blood spread across my fingers, pooling onto my t-shirt with the pull of gravity. He grunted, and I knew it wouldn't be enough to kill him. Not now. I had only wounded him. But I took his moment of shock as an opportunity. I pulled the three quills out of his body and forcefully rammed them back in. This time I left them there and then kicked him directly where the quills were embedded into his stomach, forcing them deeper in.
He howled in pain, and I shoved him off of me. His body collapsed to the ground, and I fell on top of him, my hands reaching for the radio still clasped between his desperate fingers. He held a firm grip, but in his weakened state, I succeeded. I held the radio in my hands.
Victory. Success. I held it all in my hands, and I felt proud. Proud that I had finally done it.
Now I just had to apparate myself the hell out of there. I was just beginning to feel that pull in my stomach when Peakes let out a scream, and he jumped on me with full force.
"NO, YOU DON'T!"
We were sucked in together, and together we were a mess of fighting limbs, tearing flesh and clawing. Splinched.