: please, please, note strong language for this chapter, as it appears in profusion. similarly, sensitive topic. as you were!
It’s Friday and I’m dreaming. I do not mediate. Scorpius and Albus sit in a room and discuss, first, what one must: the weather, the sports section of the Daily Prophet
. Then, smiles wavering, they broach the subject of what they have in common.
“You know all of this is only happening because she’s a fucking crybaby.” That is Albus, and I wince, hiding behind the doorway to the corridor. They are sitting in Uncle Harry’s sitting room and the timeline is wrong because this is a physical repeat of a scene I’ve seen before--Albus and Scorpius playing chess in Uncle Harry’s sitting room, on Aunt Ginny’s floral sofa, backs to me, muffled voices floating down the corridor; but they are discussing real-time things. The shit that you’re going through, Scorpius
, is what he wants to say, is all Rose’s fault. Rose’s fault, all of it, and why did you ever love her?
“Don’t be too hard on her,” Scorpius whispers. “It was her Mum and brother, I know you’re related to them, too, but this--”
“This is Rose ignoring her problems,” Albus interrupts. “How hard would it be for her to approach you directly and say, look, I was an idiot, I didn’t mean it, I didn’t know what I was doing and I did the first thing I thought of and it wasn’t that I didn’t love you, Scorpius, that I didn’t think I could get through it, it was just that I was afraid of how much it hurt. Only, since I was a dumb fuck, I thought that I could end my life without making yours hell, and, well, I was wrong and I’m sorry I shitting scared you, but that can be over now, we can start over--”
“Shut up, Albus,” Scorpius says quietly. Albus shuts up. I can hear my gentle breathing, in and out, even-tempered. I feel a tear roll down my cheek.
“It was hard on her, yeah,” Albus concedes after a moment of silence. The large clock on the other wall chimes four o’clock. “It was hard for everyone. There’s something she’s not telling us about it, though. You can tell--she gets prickly, she puts up a shield. It’s not normal and it’s fucking us up.”
“She saw it,” Scorpius says. He hesitates as Albus takes off his glasses and puts them back on quickly. Albus doesn’t ask what he means.
“That’s impossible,” Albus says, and turns towards Scorpius, speaking in earnest and in confusion. More tears are falling off my face. I can hear them hit the neck of my robes and I use my sleeve to wipe my nose. Half-hidden, I almost do not exist. I hear Albus move a piece on the marble chess board and Scorpius knock it over, claiming it as his.
“I know, but it happened anyway,” Scorpius says lightly. I curse him quietly. How can you retain your goodness, after everything I’ve done? How can you defend me to someone who knows what I truly deserve?
“I don’t understand,” Albus says. I can hear the edge in his voice, less mystery and more anger, and I shrink against the wall. I hear someone pacing behind me, and turn, but there are only closed doors. Molly coughs from somewhere above my head. Scorpius claims another piece.
“I don’t know details,” Scorpius says in conspiratorial tones. Albus is appeased and sighs deeply, thinking over his next move and rubbing his palms through his black hair. There are only five black pieces left on the board. Scorpius is playing black.
“But you’re going to tell me what you know?” Albus asks after a moment. It is an actual question, an invitation, and not a threat or demand. I am surprised. Albus is not usually so gracious.
I have always understood this about Scorpius, that he approaches life as though it’s something he can win. He is so competitive, he is so good, and I wonder at times how these qualities do not nullify each other, how they can exist in one body. I suppose that’s part of the reason I’ve always looked up to him, and why I think I could love him without qualm: the impossible boy, the angel descended.
“All I know is that Hermione wrote a letter to Rose. Hermione already knew her life was in danger because of the new law on non-human Magical creatures bearing wands, or something, I don’t know, exactly. Someone didn’t want it to happen; you know how political things are right now and how they were getting worse then. All I know is that Rose got the letter when Hermione took Hugo with her to Diagon Alley to withdraw a huge batch of gold. Rose told me once in a letter she thought that Hermione was running away and taking Hugo with her but she didn’t know if it was to stay safe or because she and Ron weren’t talking.”
“That’s absurd,” Albus whispers. He’s lost another few pieces while Scorpius has been talking; Scorpius can play and talk. Albus cannot listen and play. “Of course it was to stay safe.”
“I agree with you,” Scorpius says. Both he and Albus are down to three pieces. “Rose doesn’t know. She’s guilty. She got the letter and Apparated to London, just outside of Diagon Alley. She wasn’t too clear in her letters. I think she called to them, Hugo and Hermione, and when they looked over at her, the lorry came up from behind and--”
Albus draws in breath. This has been a quick game of chess. I am crying so much that I make a small sound. Neither Scorpius nor Albus look up from the board. Two Kings.
“She thinks they died because she called to them and they didn’t see the lorry coming?” Albus says, looking strange. His lips are twisted in a whirl. He believes it, too.
“But it’s not her fault,” Scorpius says, putting a hand on Albus’s shoulder. “You know that.”
“I know,” Albus says. He is not convinced. Scorpius removes his hand.
“Whoever killed her family, that’s whose fault it is.” Scorpius’s voice is mildly triumphant. He believes his logic to have run itself to completion. I am not so sure, standing in shadow. The feet pace behind closed doors behind me, Molly coughs from upstairs. The house is otherwise quiet.
“This doesn’t change how she’s treated you, you know. She didn’t have to do what she did. We could have helped her, or you could have.” Albus wants to find something wrong with me. I think they’re both right. I blow my nose softly into my sleeve, trying not to sigh too loudly.
“I don’t know what to say,” Scorpius says, and he bows his head.
* * *
“Rose,” Molly calls, her voice nasal with a residual cold. “You awake?”
“Hm?” I move my arms from their position under my face, my shoulders aching from not having moved in so long. “Yes,” I say. My elbows pulsate with blood-flow.
“You’re crying,” Molly observes after a moment of silence passes between us. I’m standing in the corridor I’d reposed earlier, where Addae confronted me about the Thestrals. I’m standing at the windowsill and looking out over the snow-frosted grounds. The lead veins in the stained glass shed scaly patterns across Molly’s face and the sheet of her bright hair as I turn and she approaches me with her palms up, a gesture for peace.
“I had a strange thought,” I say. “A weird daydream, that’s all.”
“I think you’re getting stressed out about the prank,” Molly says seriously. I turn away from her, showing her my profile. My nose points to the ceiling. I wipe a tear from my cheek with my bandaged hand. For the first time this week it does not pain me to move it.
“Do you ever consider, you know, postponing it? Just until the end of the year, I mean, this is sort of a stressful week for you, and--”
“Don’t listen to her, Rose,” Albus says, stepping out of the shadows. A strange expression is on his face but he’s covering it up with a small smirk. “The whole reason we’re doing it early, Molly
, is because other people immediately plan pranks for the end of the year. This is clever
“You are so insensitive,” Molly sighs. Albus comes to my side. Light hits his glasses at direct angles and I cannot see his eyes. Molly wants to say more to him, to both of us, but she looks over my face for a long moment, biting her bottom lip to stop it quivering, and her eyes begin to shine white. I know she’s beginning to cry, but I cannot tell if it’s for something inside of her or something on my face. She stares intently.
“What’ve I missed?” I ask, looking away from Molly’s face to the ground. “I mean, in class.”
you?” Albus says when Molly remains silent. Something has changed between us, even since I last hurt her. I curse knowledge--oh, she knows something, but everything she could know is impossible to know and so why, why is knowledge quiet? Why must I worry needlessly or not worry when there’s need to? Why can a person be entirely internal? And worse, when a person understands the difference between secret knowledge and projection, why must they make use of face to change what other people know? I do not know who I am talking to and I have wasted time. Albus has already turned away: a man hungry is a man to be feared, I think, and laugh slightly. This startles Molly, who appears now to be holding back something. I wonder how many times she’s looked at the same expression on my
face--overeager mouth and chin held back by squinting eyes, pursed lips, a chest heaving too heavy for its own breathing.
Albus looks at Molly but he does not notice what I notice, and is probably raging with something himself--stress for my sudden inability to stick to protocol? He turns to me and sighs loudly, staring at me challengingly by the side of his spectacles, flashes of brilliant green piercing through the space between us.
“You two need some chow,” I say definitively, and walk slowly, with a straight back and perfectly angled shoulders, toward the staircase that will take us down to the Great Hall, to the Holiday Feast.
* * *
Christmas, because of the lights, the sound of Hagrid’s snow boots across the flagstones as he dragged small pines into the Great Hall from the Forest, used to be my favorite time of year. This December, I’m much more attuned to the smell of meat, parsnips, a far-off Christmas pudding. Trees at the edges of the Great Hall shine with white light and flutter with fairies, ghosts mill about the outskirts whinging and laughing, toasting imaginary goblets, false snow glitters at the edges of my vision, even between our plates and the tureens of food on the table. This is the annual N.E.W.T.-level holiday feast; last year, you stole all our crackers and raked in a haul of ice mice and tree ornaments, as well as a tall, pointed Wizard’s Hat that came out of the cracker meant for Albus. Mine, a small spike of an ornament, a piece of rose quartz wrapped in golden twine and hanging from a shock of holly berries and leaves. You wore it as a lapel pin, fastened with a careful spell, for Christmas dinner at the Burrow, and again for Christmas Tea at Malfoy Manor.
I stab a carrot balefully, my right hand smarting. Somehow I busted open the middle knuckle’s wound walking from the third-floor window; I wonder if it wants to heal, or wants to stay open. It doesn’t bleed. It weeps around the edges and sullies my wrappings, but it is a bloodless wound.
“You missed our holiday assignments,” Molly says though a mouthful of goose, a bit of fat dribbling to her chin. She wipes it away with her sleeve. Albus, across from her, watches her critically. I know he’s waiting for an opportunity to swipe something from her plate, and turn away, feeling odd.
“Hm,” I say, finding it doesn’t matter to me whether or not I ever find out what I’ve missed besides what’s important to you. I’d like to follow in your footsteps--I’d like to leave Hogwarts, but I’d like to be close to you.
“We’ve got a Defence essay, and a fair bit of research to do. She didn’t talk about it in class at all, the subject. I won’t mention it now, while you’re daydreaming.”
“Mm?” I turn, hair falling into my eyes, toward Molly’s freckled face. She’s eating ravenously, looking ill, fingers shining with goose fat and butter. I look up at Albus, who looks at me, his glasses glittering, throwing back a reflection of false snow. His mouth hardens--I know he’s mad at me for botching protocol for the break-in tomorrow, but the truth is that this has gotten beyond me now, isn’t it, that people’d go on with it without me. Ariadne’s a good woman, she’d let them in whether I was there to supervise or not. I’m deciding this, nodding, feeling aware of eyes on my face, but not yours. Yours is a perfervid, aching heat, and you’re sitting at the other end of the table with the Slytherins, lobbing a brussels sprout at Florence Harper’s paper crown. I wince, my heart shooting a strange pain through my chest and knees.
“Miss Weasley.” A voice at my shoulder and a hand on my arm. Molly and I both look up, Molly’s lower face glistening oilily, to Professor Longbottom’s concerned face. There are lines between his eyebrows that look as though they’re the product of a day full of frowning.
“Rose, I mean,” he amends, looking at Molly kindly for a moment. My stomach drops. I wish he’d look at me that way--the way that says you’re alright. But I harden my face and smile determinedly into his face when he turns to look at me. He is concerned and that hurts but somehow doesn’t bother me as it might have a few days ago and I wonder, what’s happening, what’s happening to my little world--
“Rose, would you step over to--to the Yellow tree for a moment, I want to brief you on what you’ve missed today.”
“Yes, Professor,” I say in a quiet voice, keeping my head down as I wipe my hands on a serviette and get up from the bench, walking to the corner of the room, near the tree with yellow fairies. From the corner of my eye I see Addae watching me carefully. I hunch my shoulders, so my face will be hidden from him, pushing a strand of hair in front of my eyes.
“Rose,” Neville says, and I turn to him without feeling. “I’ll just--well, I’ll just say it. I’m concerned.”
I’ve rehearsed; I know what to say. “I’m sorry for skiving, Professor.” I bow my head lower and shuffle a foot over the floor. “It’s just--the timing--things that have happened--and I don’t know what to do, I’ve got a lot I’ve got to do before I even go home and people are counting on me and I just felt like--like standing at windows--”
But this isn’t what I’m meant to say and it isn’t what I, ever, have said, and even Neville reels at honesty from these lips, though with a professor’s tact recovers face and sighs deeply, for both of us.
“Well, Rose, I can’t say I understand--but, yes, I do, in a way.” Neville smiles at me kindly, and he’s the holiday family friend again, with the kind light eyes and soft voice and healing touch and stories that get stranger every time he tells them, but which always end in a moral, and which, if you pay attention, always give you answers.
“I won’t skive again,” I say, and in this moment, it’s a promise. I send it to the air by willpower. And I want you to hear it.
The Ice Queen has cracked, and nothing is spilling out. This is a moment I have been afraid of. But I close my eyes and brave the crowd, turning back to the table and taking my seat between Molly and Adeline. Adeline bumps shoulders with me as if to disapprove. I arrange my profile to your face but this does not stop me from seeing you as you lurch out of your seat and out of the Hall, three minutes to ten. I look around me, feeling off, my heart pounding too hard, and see that nobody else has noticed your exit, busy with toys and pudding.
I close my eyes tightly. I count the shots of pain to my right hand as I squeeze my fist around the bandages. When I open my eyes, Albus is watching me with a hint of pity. I close my eyes again. Can he tell? What I want? To go to you, to ask--forgiveness? No. That is too much. To ask, deign to see me, to look upon my face, to hear my grovelling. The apology made to you in the dark after hexing Addae was not enough, it was for hurting you then but what about the hurt I’ve done to you now, and every small worry now threatens that you will go away and be gone from me in a permanent way. I see a light heading toward me through my closed eyelids and open them to see that it’s just that Albus has moved his face closer to mine, the light off his glasses creating a glare like flame.
I’m feeling like things have come to a head. This is a preternatural thing and it takes hold of me quickly, my stomach clenching and heaving. I rest my head on Molly’s shoulder without meaning to, and hear myself whisper your name. This seems a breach of sacredness, and I clamp a hand over my mouth, and as Headmaster Flitwick bids the congregation stand for his Christmas blessing, I hear Molly bid Albus go after you into the snow, and tell me to go up to the tower, to get some rest, and things can be better in the morning.
* * *
But I don’t go to sleep. In the cool, damp corridors, I run the fingers of my left hand along tapestries and bid them help me understand, they are the house of ancient magic, powerful enough to heal what I have rent. I turn as I reach the staircase to Ravenclaw tower. Peeves has tooted out a small tune to me, and I retaliate with a wordless screech, pulling on my hair. I hear him cackle and float the other way, rapping on the shoulders and heads of suits of armour as he passes them. I breathe heavily. Things are coming undone. It is all happening.
I will not get sleep tonight until after it has been set in motion.
I storm up to the Eagle, alive with buzzing, nervous energy. I feel angry, and submissive, and I am scared. My heart pounds rapidly, hard, and I can feel it in the tender places: temples, insides of my arms, cheeks, right hand.
“The more you take away, the larger I become. What am I?”
“A hole,” I say, without thinking. The door unlocks and swings inward. I walk into the Common Room and listen as the door locks quietly behind me, pacing in front of the fire, which the fifth years have allowed to smoulder down to rest in a pile of ashes. I turn to glare at Rowena’s statue, cold, aloof, beautiful. Her white eyes wink in the blue firelight.
“How do you know what you know? How did you do what you did? And--did you die a happy woman?” My whispers cut through the mild air and out of the corner of my eye, in the nearest window, I see a shadow moving down by the greenhouses, bent over and shaking. I move to the window, wrapping an arm in the velvet hangings. I recognize the back of your head and my stomach drops, suddenly heavy. I move close to the glass, opening the window. My eyes strain to see you in the darkness. The stars painted into the ceiling in the common room provide too much light, and the fire. I cannot see you.
I turn to run past Rowena’s statue and charm open the door to the dormitories with my wand, running up the stairs to our dorm. I fling the doors of the cupboard open and rifle through the drawers at the bottom. Somewhere, here, a gift from Uncle Harry--here--I pull them out of socks and knickers. Omnioculars. I raise them to my lips and puff them off, dust rising into the air. I sneeze deeply, wiping my nose on my arm. The Omnioculars glint in the starlight filtering into the high windows from the outside air, and my pain lessens for a moment, remembering that we, once, dreamed of attending the next Quidditch World cup in Europe and taking turns with them. A novelty of the past is coming to my aid tonight.
I run back through the room, my shoes too loud on the wooden floor, and slip on one of Adeline’s night shifts near the door. I grab the curtains on her four-poster, hear a rip, but scramble up and sling the door closed behind me as I stamp down the stairs. I know I am waking the others, but they will fall back asleep, return to good dreams.
I throw my body against the door to the common room, my shoulder smarting, and launch myself onto the ledge at the windowsill. My face encounters cold air and I shrink back, drawing my robes up to my chin. I catch a shadow of my hair against the stone wall and whip my wand out to cast a spell that will make the windowsill dark, so that my silhouette will not be visible, and the flame will not alight my back, nor the painted stars.
I jump as the door to the dormitories snaps closed, and push the Omnioculars to my eyes eagerly, twisting knobs until your profile lights up, moonlight touching down to your back. My stomach flops because you are still bent over. I can tell that you have been ill. Your hands rest on your knees and you tremble, as though crying. I see Albus moving toward you from the Black Lake. He must have gone to look there first. Goosebumps raise on my arms and I press the Omnioculars closer to my eyes. I reach to twist a knob to zoom in on your face. You’re saying something. I push a button, and subtitles flash at the bottom of the picture, inappropriately comic against a scene that I perceive subconsciously, which makes my hair raise on end, my brow sweat, my heart beat rapidly.
“What are you doing?” You ask, and I wish I could hear your voice. I can’t tell, not really, but Albus looks mad when I pan into his face.
“Were you sick?”
“I can see it in the snow,” Albus says, pointing rudely to a puddle near your feet.
“It’s just--ate too much--”
“Right,” Albus says, his tone suggesting that this is not the first time you have talked recently. I feel ill. When could you have talked? But I have missed so much life lately, hanging onto windowsills, looking out windows. You are quiet, and you stand up after a moment. Albus steps to you and helps you away from your puddle of sick, which steams in the cold. I feel tears prickling at my eyelids.
“This is bullshit,” Albus says, once he’s dragged you to safety, his face contorting oddly, “and you know it. You know that she knows what to do, how to love a person, how to be decent, and that she’s just too lazy or self-absorbed to do anything about it! You know
this and you still are trying. Doesn’t it hurt you? That she doesn’t care enough about you--”
“It’s all she can do right now,” you interrupt. “I’ve already told you. She’s hurt
. She’s had an easy life, she’s had things handed to her. She doesn’t know how to be an adult. I’m not blaming her past,” you say, as Albus puffs up to retaliate. He has also had an easy life--none of the hardships of our parents have been passed down to us. “I know that she has the potential to be good; I think sometimes, she even wants to be. And I’m realising now that when we were together she tried, she did make an effort. So, what, maybe it’s not the perfect relationship. Maybe she’s not an angel, and maybe sometimes, yeah, maybe it’s hard to love her sometimes, to look past what she does, and maybe I get angry and hopeless. That’s why I broke it off with her, because I thought, no, I can find someone who really cares,
who isn’t a--”
“You are not
making sense, Scorpius,” Albus says, his voice raising. I can hear it beyond the subtitles now, and turn these off, feeling sheepish, and shrinking back, further into shadows. I feel ill. My forehead is covered in cold sweat. I tremble, unseen, high in the air. “You broke up with her and you still like her, but I’m telling you, there are
other people. You’re not duty-bound to be with my cousin because you think that being around you makes her want to be good. Bullshit! Fuck that! She can be good without you, she just doesn’t see what good it does her if she hasn’t got a boyfriend to make her feel good about herself after she’s made an effort.” He stops short, and I can tell he could go on. There’s a look on his face and I can’t read what it is. Your back to me, I can’t read you either. Albus’s breathing is audible even from my vantage at the window. I can see his chest heaving up and down.
I’m pressing my eyes closed and feeling strangely numb, floating around a bit in invisible space. It scares me that it doesn’t hurt more, to hear it said out loud, things I’ve known about myself and been unable to face up to.
“Albus!” This is Molly, storming across the snow with her fists balled and pressed against her hips. I wouldn’t be surprised if she began to steam and melt the snow around her, parting a sea. “Albus Potter, you shut your mouth right now.”
Albus, stunned, remains silent.
“Scorpius, just--I’m sorry, I was going to tell you to leave, but, we’re just going now, I’m sorry.”
“I think I will leave,” you say, and I am startled but almost glad to hear a hint of irritation in your voice. You are all still speaking loud enough for me to hear you from several stories up. As you turn suddenly to face the tower I reel back from the window, back-pedaling into a chair by the fire. I sit here and contemplate the numbness of my skin. I cannot tell if it is because I sat at the open window and listened through snow, or if my body is doing what it does best: refusing pain. It should hurt--it hurts to others, doesn’t it? And I think it hurts me. My heart twinges at strange intervals but still I find no motivation to move, to cry.
I hear muffled voices, but cannot make out words. Slowly, I get up from my chair at the fire and walk back to the window, my shoes scraping over carpet, and lean out, pressing the Omnioculars to my face again. I resist turning on the subtitles. In a way, I smile, this is real, person to person.
Albus makes a strange movement towards you and my heart leaps, makes a solid bid for freedom through my breastbone. I back down, realising that I’d mistaken for a fist what was only an open hand laid upon your shoulder. I cannot hear what you’re saying now, talking in quieter tones, but I can read Albus’s lips to say “look, come up to the common room for a butterbeer and toast--” before his mouth is obscured by the back of your head and I can no longer guess at what he’s saying. Molly looks strangely complicit. Nobody seems to have noticed that the light is out in Ravenclaw Tower.
I stick my head out the window fully, careful not to work beyond the boundaries of the darkness, and breathe in a slew of cold winter air. It will snow soon. New powder will fill in the footsteps you all have left out on the grounds. I feel alive, my face pulsating weakly in the biting cold, and my hair swarms around my face, obscuring the stars. I lean back into the room and close the window behind me. It snaps closed with a small sound, like the beak of an owl closing over parchment.
Minutes pass. I feel frozen, in the darkness. I consider movement. Quiet, thoughts, down to my soul! Footsteps on the stairs. They pause, they grapple with answers. It’s you who says: human. The Eagle, without prejudice, unlocks the door. I feel warm, and nervous. I would not have judged you to be able to guess the riddle on your own, before tonight. Something cosmic moves. I have misjudged you. This moves me.
They are already arguing again; and then, I realise, you are a part of this, as you step into the light of the painted stars and the remains of the blue fire with your face contorted, at the end of a sentence. Albus faces you seriously and Molly trails behind, closing the door softly behind you all. My heart twinges. She believes I’m asleep. Do they think I’m asleep?
“It’s a nice idea, yeah, that everyone’s got their own way of living, and I know I can’t change your mind on whether or not it’s right to judge how someone lives, but Rose is creating a problem for everyone
and it’s all preventable. She mopes, she’s angry, she flares up, and she’s not treating anyone fairly. You can tell just to look at her that it’s a job to be social. No matter what kind of background you have, if you have the option to be nice to people, that’s just the right thing to do. It’s not negotiable, or arguable. There’s a reason the world is fucked up and it’s because we’re all just out for ourselves and we know what the good thing to do is and we don’t do it anyway. There is such a thing as right and wrong. Rose has crossed the line. She crossed it a long time ago, only nobody would tell her because she was a famous woman’s daughter. It’s time, Scorpius. Someone’s got to stand up to her. She’s being a monster.”
“She’s not being a monster,” you say, your voice edging up on something angry, something large and beyond the world that I’ve come to understand, the one in which you fit in easily. “She has so many talents and they’re just stifled and I think it’s this cycle where she can’t get out of it--”
“There’s a reason not everybody in this world is a writer,” Albus mutters, interrupting you. “They might have beautiful things to say but they’re not doing shit for most of us out here below.”
“That’s an unfair generalisation,” Molly hisses.
“Fine! You want me to say it? It’s a good thing the world isn’t inhabited by all Rose Weasleys, Ice Queen, above the sorry people, who expects what she doesn’t deign to give--”
“Stop it, Albus. I know she’s been a shitty friend lately. I’ve felt it too. But I think the goal is now to get her out of it. Don’t dwell in this.”
And maybe, I think to myself, that’s why writing is such a dangerous hobby. It’s a one-way conversation.
“Look, I’m sorry, Molly, but you’re missing the point. It’s not to get her ‘out of it,’ it’s to get her to realise it’s a problem that she’s in it at all--”
“Hey, I think I can help her, just let me talk to her--”
“This is a job for her family,” Albus shouts, turning to you, walking up to you, standing too close. I begin to cry. “It’s not your lot. It’s ours. It’s a family matter; it starts and ends with us.”
“Listen,” you say, getting very close to Albus’s face. “I’ve been civil to you, even friendly, till now. But I was Rose’s family once, and I quit being it, but you’ve got no right to decide whether or not I can be family to her again. You’re the one out here harping on about her without confronting her directly--you might have good intentions, Albus, but you’re just being a git about it. I’ve been trying to talk to Rose--”
“Have you, though? Last I saw you were making up her work in Herbology and avoiding her the next minute. I’m not dense!”
“Aren’t you? If you’ve felt this way for as long as you say you have--”
“I never said anything about how long I’ve been--”
“Fine! One of us needs to talk to her.”
“I don’t think either of you should talk to her,” Molly whispers, sitting down on a chair, looking into the fire.
“What, are you
“I know something that neither of you do,” Molly says quietly, holding up a letter. Shit
. Even from across the room, I can tell it’s Percy’s response to my latest--can’t I just burn them?
, verbose and elegantly scrawled. “Part of this is my fault not for seeing it. I knew something was wrong that Rose wasn’t telling me, there was something more than feeling sorry for herself and not knowing how to act like a decent--”
“Molly,” Albus says, his expression clearing suddenly, stepping toward her. Scorpius falls back slightly, inching into the shadows of the Common Room.
“It’s--I can’t believe it, but it’s Dad,” Molly whispers. She folds the parchment and sticks it into her pocket, her hand sinking into the thick black fabric. My heart begins to beat rapidly. It’s all happening. Everything is falling apart. Again. It’s happening again, and this time it really is
my fault. I slip down from the windowsill. My feet begin to move me out of the shadows and soon I’ve stepped into the light, I can feel it bouncing off my shoulders and cheeks, I can feel a slow pulse through the knuckles on my right hand. Is it healing, or ripping open again? I can’t tell. The bandages are silent, clueless.
“Rose--?” This is Albus, and I am surprised by the softness of his tone, but I am not watching him, I am looking at you, and you are looking at me as though I have grown out of the wall, nearly through my head, your dark grey eyes wide and honest. Your mouth closes roughly, your lips pressing into a straight line and your cheeks redden deeply before you spin on your heel and stalk back toward the door, which you blast open with your wand. You run down the spiral staircase. The door closes slowly, and I can hear your footsteps over the wood, down, until the door closes without a sound.
All of Albus’s rage seems to have dissipated and it’s worse for me, because now he’s looking sad, and Molly looks to be crying into her hands, and I have no idea how to fix anything I have broken, how to stand up to myself. I need help and I do not have my parents, I have a dead mother and an unravelling father, the ghost image of a brother when I care to think of him; I have two broken cousins and a whole host of deadened Weasleys, a Hogwarts population polarized by the election, a small faction of Gryffindors waiting to take down their own house’s honour at my beck and call.
I sit down on a pouf without pretense. Molly and Albus sit down on a couch opposite the fire. I feel in this moment that none of us know what to do or how to act or what to do with feelings; for all of Albus’s anger, all his outburst and opinions, he, too, is a child, foundering on inexperience.
“You heard?” Albus asks quietly, turning his burnt toast over in his fingers as though idly. I know he concentrates on the movement, on the seeming-naturalness of it.
I nod, hair scratching the back of my neck and brushing up against Molly’s arm. I see her twinge to move it off, but refrain. I reposition myself so that my shoulders are diagonal between them, and I touch no one.
“All of it,” I say. He knows I mean earlier, too. “I had a strange daydream today. I think I might be a Seer.”
Molly laughs, despite everything. “Just when you think you’ve heard it all,” she mutters, and moves her chin to rest on her arms, crossed over her knees. She stares into the fire, the blue light playing across her face lightly, casting strange shadows.
“Listen,” I say, “I’m sorry for not telling you about Percy and--”
“That’s between him and me,” she says, her face hardening. “Though I still don’t know why he would have enlisted your silence. It’s not as though you’d done anything wrong. It seems horrible of him--and, no, I don’t understand what you could have said to ruin his career. Unless you’d done something and we didn’t know about it, but--there couldn’t be anything--besides what made Scorpius...” Molly trails off and looks over at me, trying to be discreet, but I could count the peachfuzz hairs across her cheek caught in firelight. I am seeing everything. I am absolutely on edge.
My palms begin to sweat. I tremble, feel faint. I could tell them both. I could tell them everything. But it seems so cruel, to be so close to everything I have planned and not to do it just because I could finally do something right and in its own way, selfish, at the moment. I’ve ached to tell them. I’ve pined for the fantasies in which I’ve let them all know and they’ve protected me, from the media, from myself, from those who would like to know but have no place to. No. I shake my head.
“Albus,” I say lightly, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning after breakfast by the secret entrance to Hogsmeade at the bust of Paracelcus.”
He hesitates, and there’s an angry tremor to his silence, but this fades and is replaced by a small eagerness. He clears his throat lightly. “See you tomorrow,” he says. Molly’s forehead sinks to her forearms and I make my exit, clean and quick.
I know I’ve done wrong, and as I pull the hangings and launch myself between the sheets, I can’t help but think of your anger, your right to it, the face that you made before you walked out of the common room, and how much I cannot feel the pain of it at all right now, but only approaching sleep, and a lightly-pulsing right hand.
the line "quiet, thoughts, down to my soul!" is from Richard III's first soliloquy in the Shakespeare play of the same name. It's an excellent play and if you've read it before you should really read it again and enjoy it this time, without deciding that it means you have to question your own morality. I hate that reading of it.
OK. so, shocker, I updated twice in an illegally short amount of time, but that's just to make up for the four months I went by in silence on this fic. Secondly it's because I have a fever for this fic, suddenly. I know what happened here might seem really out of the blue but I can look back on the lifetime of this story and see that it was all leading here. This might require that I go back and edit the older chapters a little to flow better, but this is what I want, I think. I know of only a few of you who read the story with regularity, who all knew it was headed this way because I freaked out the other night about it. I hope to those of you I didn't consult personally, you don't feel this is a betrayal, or that the story promised something that I haven't delivered.
the plan, if anyone is wondering, from here on out is for another three chapters. I'm also planning out a sequel and I have, sigh, already written a scene for it. That'll be a bit lighter. Ahem.
thank you as always to peppersweet and GubraithianFire. You guys are literally two of my favorite people and I know for a fact I would not
still be writing this if it weren't for you guys. And other favorite people and mentors include, especially, justonemorefic, Toujours Padfoot, and TenthWeasley. Also this round I owe hdawg a shout out for being a moral support.
Thank you for reading! I appreciate reviews, and I apologise for this insanely long author's note. Amongst other things.