Chapter 21 : Chapter 21, Epilogue: Rose Weasley
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December 24, 2031
He could hear her approaching, the rhythmic clack-clacking of her heels as she made her way down the long corridor, stopping only once she’d reached the door to his holding cell. There was a pause, just long enough perhaps, to steel herself against whatever was waiting on the other side; then the door swung open, and Viktor Krum found himself staring up into the formidable face of Hermione Granger.
More than three decades had passed since he’d last laid eyes on the woman, but Krum would have recognized her anywhere. Those large brown eyes, always wide and alert. That look of practiced control, which never seemed to fully mask the current of emotion that lay just below the surface. For Krum, the resemblance between mother and daughter was haunting in its exactness. Could the rest of the world really not see what was so obvious to his eyes?
She crossed the empty room, saying nothing as she perched herself on the edge of the chair opposite his. He waited in silence as she crossed and uncrossed her legs before finally planting both feet firmly on the ground, knees locked, hands folded in her lap. For an instant, her gaze, which had been focused on him, strayed down to the book still clutched in Krum’s hand.
When she finally spoke, the words came soft and quick, like a well-rehearsed speech she’d been playing over and over in her mind for weeks. “I have something I’d like to say to you, and I think it would be best if you didn’t interrupt until I’ve finished.” She paused a moment, waiting to see if he’d offer up any objections. When he didn’t, she continued on. “You should know upfront that I’ve read your file. I know what it is you told the Aurors who questioned you – what it is you said happened that night. But you should also know that I don’t believe a single word of it. I think it’s nothing but a bunch of practiced lies from a man who’s become an expert at hiding the truth. I won’t deny that it makes for a compelling story, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t think you’d said one honest thing since they brought you here.”
She paused again, as if waiting for him to argue the point. But Krum said nothing, giving no indication either way as to the validity to her claims. He just remained in his chair, head bowed, eyes trained on the floor in front of him.
“That said, I’m not here to ask you what happened. Firstly, because I don’t think you’d tell me. And second, because anything you might say, I’d feel obligated to pass along. And while I may be prepared to confront the truth, I don’t think the same can be said for the rest of my family.”
She shifted in her seat, and Krum looked up just in time to see her eyes once again flicker to the book now resting in his lap. He realized it was probably the first time she’d seen a finished copy. He wanted to say something to her about it, but he didn’t dare. She’d asked not to be interrupted; granting her that request was the very least he could do.
“In light of all this,” she continued, “I expect you’ll be wondering what it is I’m doing here. Well the answer is simple. I came for Rose.”
The mere mention of her name was enough to make his breath catch in his throat. Though unlike with Hemsley, this time there was no rage or fury. The sound of it spoken aloud by the woman seated before him – spoken with more affection than even he was able to manage – Viktor felt only sadness.
“As I’m sure you saw for yourself, Rose was never much for confiding her feelings to others, but I’d like to think I understand what it was my daughter was going through these last few months. I was young once. As were you, I dare say.” Viktor couldn’t help but smile at that. How long ago that all seemed now. “Still, I believe Rose’s affection for you was genuine, and that the feelings were...mutual.”
She seemed to struggle with the word, and Viktor had to fight to hold his tongue. For once in her life, Hermione Granger was wrong. Viktor knew Rose cared for him, but there was no doubt in his mind that her ‘affection’ was nothing compared to what he felt for this woman’s daughter. The fires that burned in Rose weren’t just for him – they were for life, for everything that should have been hers for the taking. As for Viktor, Rose was his life, and without her there was no future for him.
“I’ve always prized myself,” Hermione continued, her tone matter-of-fact, “on being able to see what others couldn’t, and in this case, I think I’ve seen more than enough to understand. Of course, that puts me in difficult position. You see, I believe in justice, Viktor. That the rule of law applies to everyone. I’ve made a career out of it. A life. What would I be if I threw it all away now – even for her? Still,” she added, speaking more to herself now than to him, “emotion is a powerful thing. It makes us do things we’d otherwise never even consider. In the end, what aren’t we capable of doing for the ones we love?”
She let the words hang there, as if this time she really did want an answer. But Viktor had none to give.
“Very well,” she said, and she was back on her feet, looking down at him with an almost pitying expression etched into the soft lines of her face. “I don’t expect we shall be seeing each other again. I’m sure you can understand why.” And with that, she crossed to the door, stepped through, and disappeared from sight.
Viktor remained where he was, waiting for the sound of the lock as it clicked into place. But there was only silence. Then, after a time, more footsteps. Only these were heavier, the loud thump of rubber soles smacking against the marble floor.
Seconds later, Albus Potter entered the room, immediately closing the door behind him, sealing it shut with a quick flick of his wand. He was still dressed in the same green robes he’d been wearing earlier, when he’d arrived with a message for Hemsely, alerting the man to a matter requiring his attention on the sixth floor. Viktor had recognized him then, but said nothing, and now the boy was back, hovering just inside the door, as if too scared to draw any nearer to Krum. He was clearly nervous, a thin line of sweat visible above his lip, his dark hair standing on end as if he’d been running his hands though it over and over again. Even his arms seemed to shake, though that didn’t stop him from raising his wand and pointing it straight at Viktor’s chest.
Krum was the first to break the silence. “I vasn’t expecting you’d be the one to do it. I’ll admit, I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“What do you know about me?” Albus’s words were soft but defiant, even as the wand in his hand seemed to tremble.
“I know enough to know that pretty new wife of yours von’t be pleased if you don’t come home tonight.”
“Well, then I guess I better make sure I don’t get caught.” And with that, Albus raised his right arm until the tip of his wand was level with Viktor’s head. “For Rose,” he whispered.
There was a blinding flash of light, and it was done.
The sun was bright overhead, the December air cold and thick with the smell of brine as it blew in off the ocean.
He could feel the wind at his back as he slowly wound his way up the rocky path that ran parallel to the coast. The gravel slid beneath his feet, making the climb a treacherous one, the crashing waves beckoning him from far below. Eventually, the path began to narrow before finally disappearing into the brush; he’d reached a small plateau, the wide expansive of grass dotted with sea lavender and gorse.
She was waiting there for him just as he’d been told she would, her long hair whipping in the wind as she sat on the bench resting just feet from the edge of the cliff. The roar of the ocean masked his footsteps as he drew near, and it wasn’t until he took up the seat beside her that she seemed to realize he was there.
“You look terrible,” he said.
Rose Weasley turned to face him, taking in the sight of his hollowed cheeks and red-rimmed eyes. He seemed to have aged a decade in the weeks since she’d last seen him. “I had a knife thrust in my back. What’s your excuse?”
“Prison,” Viktor said flatly.
“So I hear.” Rose watched as Krum reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He studied it for a long moment before putting it away again unopened. “Smoking again, I see.”
He gave her a half-hearted smile. “In light of everything, I didn’t think you’d mind.” Rose said nothing, and Viktor asked, “What have they told you?”
Rose shrugged. “About what you’d expect. That Regina’s dead. That I’m lucky to be alive. And that you’re to spend the rest of your life in prison.”
“And what have you told them?”
“That’s just it, isn’t it? I can’t tell them anything. At least nothing that makes any sense.”
“You don’t remember then?”
“No thanks to you.”
She let the accusation hang there, waiting for him to deny it. Instead, he simply replied, “Good.”
Rose rounded him on him then. “Good? Are you serious? How is you being locked up in prison for a crime you didn’t commit in any way good? You’re innocent.”
“That not what the evidence says.”
“That’s only because you tampered with it. The same way you tampered with my memories. Only you didn’t do near a good enough job on the latter.”
Viktor looked genuinely startled. “So you do remember?”
“Some of it. But nothing that will help you, and nothing I can prove.”
“Then how can you be so sure I didn’t—”
“Kill someone?” Rose cut in. “Accidently stabbing me in the process when I tried to intervene? Isn’t that what you’ve confessed to?”
“Something like that.”
“But it’s not the truth.” There was the faintest trace of doubt in Rose’s words as her mind fought to reconcile everything she knew about the man beside her with the hazy memories of what really happened that terrible night.
“It might as well be the truth. It’s vhat would have happened if I’d arrived in time.”
“What are you saying? That you wanted Regina dead?” Rose hadn’t meant to say the woman’s name aloud, and it tasted like bile against her tongue.
“If it would have meant sparing you from all of this, then yes. I’d have killed her a thousand times over.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Actually, I do.”
There was a heavy pause, and when Rose finally spoke again, her words were small and hesitant. “But you didn’t kill her, did you?”
Viktor sighed, his whole body seeming to collapse in on itself. “No, I didn’t.”
“Of course not. How could you have? Not when I’d already done it first.”
The memories were nothing more than fractured pieces of light and sound. It was like trying to view the world through a broken mirror, smashed into a million tiny pieces until the images were no longer recognizable. Only there was one thing Viktor hadn’t been able to completely obliterate from her mind: the feeling of warm blood dripping through her fingers.
“Why?” she asked him. “Why say you did it when you know it was really me?”
The look he gave her was bittersweet. “After everything that’s happened, do you really have to ask?” In truth, Rose could have probably guessed what his answer would be, but she needed to hear it all the same. Maybe having him say it aloud would force Viktor to realize what a terrible idea this all was. “I did it to keep you safe.”
It’s what she’d thought he’d say, only it still didn’t make sense. “Safe from what? It was self-defense, Viktor. They don’t send people to Azkaban for defending themselves.”
“They do if they don’t believe you.”
“Why wouldn’t they believe me? It’s the truth, isn’t it?”
“You have no proof.”
“And whose fault is that? And besides, even if they don’t believe me – if there are consequences for what I did – then they’re mine to deal with, not yours.”
“I von’t let you go to prison, Rose. Not even for a single day. It would crush you. Kill you.”
“And it won’t do the same to you?”
“There’s a lot less of me left to kill.”
“All the more reason to tell the truth then.”
“Dammit, Rose,” he said, pounding his fist against his thigh. “I just vant you to be free to live your life. Can’t you at least let me give you that?”
“But who says I won’t be free? If you just let me tell the truth, this whole thing could be behind us once and for all. Isn’t that what you want? For it all to just be over with?”
But Krum was already shaking his head. “It won’t ever be over, Rose. You don’t ever break free of her. If you admit to this, everything you do, every step you take, vill be tainted with her death. She’ll be the black cloud that follows you for the rest of your life. She was my problem. It was me she hated. I vasn’t there to stop her, but I won’t let her hurt you anymore.”
“Can’t you see this is what she wanted?” Rose was practically shouting now, desperate to make him understand. “It’s what she planned all along. For you to end up in prison. You’re playing right into her hand.”
“I’m only trying to do vhat’s right, Rose.”
“And what’s right about me spending the rest of my life without you?” She should have been crying by now, only she wasn’t. She’d cried too much over the past few weeks to shed anymore tears now. But she could still feel the squeezing pain in her chest that threatened to steal her breath away. “You told me once that there were worse things in life than Azkaban, and that someday I’d understand that. Well, guess what? I understand now.”
“Rose,” he whispered, his face heavy with sadness. “I’m not going back to prison.”
She turned away from him then, her eyes gazing out over the ocean, stretching on to the horizon, which shone like gold in the distance. For a moment, the only sound that filled the space between them was the steady crashing of the waves below.
“You plan to run then,” she said, sounding more resigned than surprised. “Does Albus know?”
“It was his idea. This all was, though I don’t think he planned it alone.”
“And I suppose he just forgot to mention it to me when he arranged this little meeting?”
“We both agreed you had enough to focus on without being an accessory after the fact.”
“He could lose his job over this. Maybe worse.”
“He knew the risks. He did it for you. We all did.”
“That’s not fair.”
Viktor shrugged. “Maybe not. But it’s the truth.”
“And that makes it all right?”
“Risking something for someone you love?” he asked. “Yes, I’d say that makes it more than all right.”
There was another long silence as a strong gust of wind rolled across the grassy knoll. Rose shivered, drawing her coat tighter around her shoulders.
“It was her, you know,” Rose said at last, her voice so soft it was nearly lost on the wind. “She’s the one who drugged you. I remember her telling me as much before she... Before it happened.” Krum said nothing, and Rose looked over at him. “That doesn’t surprise you?”
Viktor shook his head. “No, it doesn’t.”
“You mean you suspected her all along?”
“Not exactly, no. But I did wonder. If anyone would have known how to do it, it would have been her – all those years vatching me do it to myself.”
“But why didn’t you say anything? You let me accuse you of—”
But he stopped her. “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t have any proof. And even if she did have a hand in it, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that she was only able to get away with it because of vhat I’d already done to myself. You can’t frame an entirely innocent man, Rose. There’s always some truth, even in the best of lies.”
“And what about Tommy? Is there any truth in what she said about him? Are you responsible for that too?” It had taken a while for her conversation with Regina to return to her, but everything that had happened prior to her lunging for the woman’s wand had slowly started breaking through the fog of her altered memories. There were parts she wished hadn’t come back: the look in Regina’s eyes, so cold and calculating, the way she’d seemed to enjoy toying with Rose, like a cat eyeing a mouse just before the pounce. And of course, the accusations she’d made against Viktor.
“Probably,” he admitted. “Though to vhat extent, I doubt we’ll ever really know.”
“But you blame yourself?”
“I don’t know,” Rose said, and it was the truth. “Should he have been blamed for what happened to you? Am I to blame for what happened to Regina?”
Krum sighed. “I guess ve all have a little blood on our hands.”
Rose turned in her seat to face him full on. “What did you say?” His words had been muffled, said more to himself than to her, but they’d triggered something in her brain. Another memory.
“It’s just a figure of speech, Rose.”
“Yes, only it’s exactly what Regina said. I remember it now. She said Tommy’s wasn’t the only blood on your hands. Do you know what she was talking about?”
“The woman was out of her mind—”
“I know that. But I also know that it meant something to her. Whose blood was she talking about?”
“I don’t know—” he began, and Rose immediately made to jump in, to force him to try and think harder about what she could have meant. But he put up a hand, stopping her, the tortured look on his face warning her to hold her tongue. “I don’t know for sure, but I think I have a pretty good idea.”
He seemed reluctant to say more, and it took all of her restraint to keep from shouting at him to tell her what she wanted to know. She couldn’t understand her own desperation. Viktor was right; Regina had been out of her mind. Rose was trying to rationalize something that wasn’t rational. But knowing that still wasn’t enough to quell the desperate need to make sense out of what had happened – to identify what it was that could drive a person to do what she’d done.
“You have to understand,” Viktor said, and he seemed lost in his own memories then. “It was all a very long time ago. I was already so far gone by then. Ve’d argued in circles about it for months, but she wouldn’t listen. I should have known she’d find a way to get what she wanted, but I guess I didn’t vant to believe she was capable... I swear to God, if I had known, I never would have—”
“Never would have what?” she pressed, unable to help herself. “What happened?”
“She was pregnant.”
Rose heard herself let out an involuntary gasp as what Viktor was telling her began to sink in. “You didn’t—”
But Krum was already shaking his head. “I never touched her. Ever. But I tortured her all the same. I made it clear I wanted no part in what she’d done. And when she lost... When it ended, a part of me was actually glad. She knew it. Blamed me for it. As if somehow I’d made it happen just to spite her. As if my not wanting the child was enough to cause its death. She never forgave me for it. So there,” he said, turning to face her. “Is that enough motivation for you?”
Rose didn’t know what to say. The story was at once both horrifying and oddly...relieving. It didn’t change the fact that Regina was insane, and there was no justification for what she’d tried to do to Rose – or to Viktor. Yet, in some small way, it humanized her again. It turned Regina from the monster she’d become in Rose’s imagination back into a mere human – albeit one who’d been twisted by years of dwelling in her own hate and grief. But a human nonetheless.
“But you know that’s not true, don’t you?” Rose asked. “You know you’re not to blame for what happened.” There was that word again. Blame. They couldn’t seem to get away from it. Was that what happens when tragedy strikes, she wondered. The world unable to move on until there’s someone there to take the blame?
“Sometimes I don’t know what to think anymore.”
It wasn’t the answer she’d been hoping for, but she didn’t press. There was nothing she could say to him to ease whatever guilt he might have been feeling – for the chain of events that had been set in motion all those years ago. Rose had always been taught to believe that time healed all wounds, but now she wasn’t so sure anymore.
Maybe time just finds new ways to make you bleed.
“I had a visitor while I was in hospital,” Rose said.
“Is that so?” Viktor asked, though he still seemed to be lost in his own thoughts, as if fighting against his own distorted memories.
“Two, actually. Peter came to see me.”
“Did he now?”
“He said there was something he thought I should have.” Rose had begun pulling at the fingers of her glove, peeling it off, exposing first her hand and then the tiny gold bracelet hanging from her wrist. “He said you had it on you when they took you in. That you’d given it to him for safe-keeping.”
Krum allowed himself a half-smile. “I see it wasn’t so safe, after all.”
“It seems not. But as you promised me a present...”
“I just figured it was time you replaced that old one of yours.”
“I couldn’t agree more.”
He said nothing to this, though she was sure he understood her meaning. For a moment, they both stared down at the delicate band, which shimmed slightly in the waning light of the sun, which had begun its slow descent toward the horizon.
Finally, Viktor looked up. “You said you had two visitors while you were in hospital. Who was the second?”
“Oh, right,” she said as if just remembering. She reached into her coat pocket, pulling out a thick white envelope, which she passed over to him. She watched as Viktor opened it, exposing several large bundles of cash, each neatly stacked and wrapped with an official-looking seal. “It’s your share of the proceeds from the book. Heart stopped by with it a few days ago. Said pre-orders are through the roof. I asked him what he expected you to do with all that money, especially with you being locked away. And in muggle currency, no less. But he seemed to think you’d come up with something.”
Krum was still staring down at the envelope, his expression unreadable.
“If you ask me,” she went on, “there’s enough here for a man to rebuild his life. Disappear somewhere and never come back. Only question is, where will you go? Back to Bulgaria?”
Krum shook his head. “Too obvious. It will have to be somewhere new. America, maybe. Or perhaps a little shack on the beach, tucked away on some deserted island where no one’s ever heard of me. A man could get used to a view like this.” His eyes traced the skyline, the endless expanse of blue and white, so vast it seemed to stretch on forever.
“Sounds nice,” Rose said. “Only, do they make shacks big enough for two?” Krum looked over at her just in time to see her remove a second envelope from inside her pocket.
“No,” Viktor said at once. “I can’t let you do that.”
“And why not? It’s my money. If I want to use it while away the hours on a beach somewhere, I think I’ve earned the right, don’t you?”
“That’s not what I mean, and you know it. Be serious, Rose. Think about vhat you’re saying.”
“I am. I’ve never been more serious about anything in my whole life.”
“But it won’t be safe. They’ll be looking for us, always. You can’t think Hemsley will ever let this go – not vhen he had me so close in his grasp.”
“All the more reason to take me with you. You’ll need someone to watch your back.”
“And what about your family. There’s no coming back here. If you leave, you may never see them again.”
Rose would be lying is she said the thought of never seeing her family again wasn’t almost enough to make her change her mind. She loved her family – her parents, her brother, Albus, all of them – and living without them would be almost unbearable. Not to mention what losing her would mean to all of them. Still, she couldn’t help but think back on what her brother had once said to her:
You’re an adult now, Rose, and sometimes you’re going to do things your family doesn’t like. But in the end, you’ve just got to follow your heart and learn to live with the consequences.
“I know all that,” she said. “And I’ve made my choice. Unless, that is, you don’t want me...”
“You know there is nothing I want more than to have you by my side. Always. I love you, Rose, but I didn’t go through all this just so you could throw your life away. I vant you to have a future. To be happy. Don’t you understand that?”
“I do understand. You’re the one who doesn’t get it. If you think for one second that any future you’re not a part of will make me happy, then you don’t know me at all.” She grabbed his hand, clenching it tightly in hers. “So what do you say? Are we in this together?”
Viktor looked at her for a long time, seeming to study every inch of her face before squeezing her hand in return. “Together,” he agreed.
Rose smiled. “Good. And besides, living life on the lam – it sounds kind of exciting. In fact,” she added, her smile widening, “I’d say it sounds like a great idea for a book.”
Author’s Note – I’ve tired to keep these to a minimum, but I hope you’ll allow me a little leeway here, seeing as this is the first novel I’ve ever (EVER!) completed. I know it’s far from perfect, and there are parts of the plot I’d definitely change if I had it to do it all over again, but I really put my heart into making this the best story I could, and I’m honestly and sincerely thankful to each and every person who read (and particularly reviewed) it along the way. And I have to offer a special thanks to Jchrissy, who even in the throes of terrible writer’s block or general self-loathing for my own writing, reminded me why I wanted to write this story in the first place. I’d like to think I learned a lot throughout the process, even though I know I still have a lot left to learn, and if you have any departing critiques or comments, please don’t hesitate to leave them. Thank you again for indulging me by reading my story. It really, truly was a pleasure to share :)
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