Chapter 3 : Rupture
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The only thing separating me from Prisoner 11—Rose, were the bars. I had moved my chair closer, and then closer again, until we had become nothing less than chatting acquaintances out for tea in the afternoon (though, admittedly, she could only move so far with the chains around her ankles). Her congenial manner may have drawn me in, but it was her voice—rich and crackling with emotion—that kept me firmly attached to my chair.
“Why did you change your mind?”
“Desperation, Mr. Walker, has been the source of most of my mistakes as you will see. Though certainly not all.” She turned toward me with the most blazing look in her eyes. “Tell me this— with your parents dead and brother dying, wouldn’t you feel the world had betrayed you? Wouldn’t you want to right the wrongs inflicted in your life?”
“I suppose I would.”
“There is no supposing here, Mr. Walker. You see it is all relative. Wrong and right. Good and evil. Dark magic and light magic and blue magic and purple magic—none of it makes any damn difference. Everything that happened, every precise death, every failure, every miscalculation up until the war, was inevitable from the beginning.” She spoke with conviction, “You’ll see, Mr. Walker, there was only one way any of this could’ve ended, and that is with me sitting here speaking with you.”
Rose and Albus had thrown themselves into research with a zeal unlike before, one that crossed from order into obsession, replacing principle with uncontrolled passion—all the while eager to outdo the other. These were strange moments of unity, however fleeting and unstable, that Rose would admit she enjoyed.
Recently washed cauldrons were placed upturned on work tables, alongside jars and bottles of miscellaneous items. Toadstools, nettles, Pig bladders, cow eyes, assorted herbs and enchanted waters. Reference books laid haphazardly open all over the floor. And in the midst of it was a boiling cauldron, flowing from the rim while the surrounding fluids were carelessly cleaned by charmed mops.
“Al…we need fewer asphodel leaves. The poison can be lethal in large doses—”
“There won’t be a large dose,” He said irritably, counting the remaining toadstools with decent spores to put into the cauldron. Dropping them in, he stirred clockwise twice, then counterclockwise until a vat of green had formed. “And besides, we’ll counteract it with the flobberworms—not those, dimwit, the minced ones by the wormwood.”
Rose gnashed her teeth, dropping the flobberworms into the cauldron.
“If you read ever Phyllid Spore like you were supposed to, you’d know it would take a wagonload of these damned things to counter the asphodel poison.” She snorted. “…pompous ass.”
“Spore was a fool who didn’t know his grundywood from his gillyweed,” He jeered, his mouth twisted into an acidic smile, “And knowing more than you doesn’t make me a pompous ass, dearest Rose. It simply makes me better.”
She met his smugness with a petulant look.
“If you’re so much better than me, then explain why you need my help?”
“In retrospect, I’d say you need my help.”
“When have I ever needed you asshole?”
“More juvenile name calling? My, my, it’s as if you’re trying to hurt my feelings, cousin.”
“You don’t have feelings, Al.”
At this, the boy turned his back at her to silently chop the geranium roots. Several moments later he spoke through the methodical swishing of the knife.
“You’re right, I don’t really need you. I guess it’s more of a preference.”
Rose stared at the back of him contemplatively. Her cousin had his peculiarities, but nothing was as strange as how he singled her out, like she was special or different. Albus didn’t care for company and he didn’t care for family, so it was peculiar how he refused to work in class with anyone but her (Scorpius had a habit of inadvertently blowing up every potion he made). Or that he refused to dance with anyone else at the Yule ball except her. Or that he somehow always managed to jeopardize every possible romantic relationship she had, either by blackmail, bribery, or fatal injury of the other party. At times, it felt as though he was trying to keep her as isolated as possible. There were rumors of course, the usual kind, those that misinterpreted this strange and possessive attachment he had with his cousin as inappropriate, but Rose knew the real reason was far more… childish.
Rose was the only one who could keep his pace. And Albus just didn’t like sharing.
He was a better, stronger, smarter wizard than her, and she knew that. She envied it. Natural ability oftentimes made him conceited and reckless, creating hostile tension between them. Still though, Albus couldn’t deny that she was pretty close behind him in every regard. Closest anyone ever got to him, especially in potion-making where even Slughorn proclaimed they were neck to neck.
So this working together business was mutually advantageous. They would bounce ideas off one another, practicing and planning, screwing up heedlessly and then reverting back to the idea board. At the same time competing and yet foolishly trying to impress one another. Rose read Secrets of the Darkest Art in an hour. Albus read all the works of Argo Pyrites. Albus woke up at four to resume working. Rose stayed up all night testing enchantments and potion combinations. Rose found all herbs possibly related to revitalization. Albus surprised her with a rare vial of phoenix blood.
“How did you find that?”
He merely shook his head, “Unnecessary details. But do you know what’s so fascinating about a phoenix?”
“Well, it regenerates almost instantly when it dies.”
“Aside from that Rose Pose, it is the only creature in existence to be able to do so.”
“Lot good that’s done it.” She snorted. The past thirty years had reduced the phoenix population to under a hundred. The more powerful its magical healing properties were discovered to be, the more people savagely sought it.
Albus held the vial between his thumb and forefinger, studying it circumspectly. “The only creature in the world with the power to immortality… on the verge of dying out. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?”
Following her parents’ deaths, Rose lived with the Potters—all of which, as it seemed, had begun to crumble within themselves. Ginny, long-faced and sallow skinned, had turned to whiskey while James, in order to cope with his missing father figure, developed a new-found love for authority. Lily erupted in fits of anger and ran away once a week—only to be found camped at a friend’s place and the occasional disgusting boyfriend’s. James and Lily argued. James and Ginny argued. The only person James didn’t yell at was Albus, who was careful never to get caught doing anything wrong.
Hugo remained at the hospital growing precariously feebler by the day. Rose would visit him often.
Having awoken from a nap, a grin flitted across his face as she stepped through the doorway.
“I brought you something.”
“You didn’t have to.”
She dropped a badly wrapped package into his lap and threw her arms around his neck, leaning in to kiss his cheek, “Happy Birthday."
The recently turned thirteen-year old rubbed the display of affection from his face, his cheeks heating up, (Rose always had to embarrass him. What if one of the healers saw? ) and then turned his attention to the present.
“Guess you didn’t have wrapping paper at the house, eh Rosie?”
“Or tape. Or scissors.”
“Or aesthetic talent.” He teased.
The ends of her lips curved as she playfully shoved him. “Open it already.”
Hugo took a deliberately long time contemplating the strange package. He held it close to his ear, rattled it, threw it in the air, and smelled it carefully. I bet it’s one of those pie-in-the-face machine thingies, right Rosie? Bet you’ve got a timer on it. You’d do that. Or, oh, oh! It’s a pygmy puff, isn’t it? It’s not a pygmy puff, Hugo. Better not be. It better not be underwear either. If it’s underwear I’m not opening it. Do I look like Nana Molly to you? I give up…is it edible? Yes, Hugo it’s an edible pygmy puff in a pair of bloomers ready to splatter you in the face with pie. Sweet Merlin, that’s brilliant—how did you know I wanted that?
He plowed through the bad wrapping and unraveled the Chudley Cannon’s hat he’d been wanting for a while, along with a box of chocolates. He faked a look of disappointment.
“I thought you were serious about the pygmy puff.”
She took the hat and yanked it on his head, brushing his hair out of his eyes. Her hand lingered for a moment on his face. Hugo was weak and scrawny-looking, with large blue eyes and soft babyish features. He had long lashes, wild muddy curls like their mother, and a permanent expression of bewilderment etched on his face. Despite all that, there was a weighing sadness in his character—the countless pain potions, the bedridden lifetime, the ticking clock—that became prominent when he stopped smiling. Though her brother was good at pretending, for her sake.
She would kiss his forehead and kiss his face countless times, and she would hold him tightly, and sometimes when she fell asleep next to him on the cot he could hear her wracking sobs, reliving their parents’ deaths. Her arm would circle around his waist tightly, squeezing him past the point of comfort, and she would make absurd promises about never letting anything happen to him.
Unlike his delusional sister, who had her head suspended in a daydream that he endearingly referred to as ‘Roseland’, Hugo was more rational, level-headed, accepting of reality—the simple truth was that he knew he wouldn’t live past his fourteenth birthday. He had known this all his life. What he didn’t know was the lengths his sister would go to keep him alive.
The problem with testing a concoction intended for revitalization was an obvious one: finding a dead test subject. Rose stood tentatively holding her wand toward a mass of abnormally large spiders, her face pinched.
“I can’t, Al.”
“You can.” The silky voice murmured from behind. “Everyone’s killed spiders.”
She shook her head. “This is different. I’ve never….I can’t.”
“It’s easy.” His hand wrapped hers over her wand, more gripping than comfortable. “No blood, no pain...some might say it’s a more merciful death…now if you just relax and—”
“Let go.” She croaked. Dabbling in dark magic was one thing but using the Unforgivables was a step too far, even for her.
“They’re spiders, Rose. No one’s committing mass murder here.” He spoke with an air of impatience. “It will make potion testing much easier if you learn to do these things.”
“I don’t see why you can’t just do it.”
“Because it’s too damn easy.”
“Oh shut up.”
“You shut up. Now stop acting like a coward and do it.”
She yanked her arm away and spun toward him, wand pointed at his chin.
“You listen to me, now—I’m not scared. The difference is in choice. We’re not all born with shaky morals.”
“You presume I was born with any.”
“Be that as it may, I could use the spell if I wanted to.”
A rare smile seeped through his features. “And there’s nothing I can do to change your mind?”
“No tricks.” She glowered, “I’ve known you since you were in diapers, Potter.”
“Albus. Whatever." Rose folded her arms. "Look, there’s no trick of yours I haven’t seen. There’s nothing you can do that I bloody well can’t counter.”
“Quite the ego Rose Pose.”
“But are you certain of that?” He queried, stepping toward her until they were face to face, brow to brow. “I mean, are you truly aware of what I’m capable of?” His eyes flashed intently. He was mocking her, she knew it, for in her peripheral Rose could see his hand was inching toward the wand in his back pocket. In every practice duel they had Albus threw an unexpected first hex, dirty trick, but if she kept eye contact, she could catch him.
He gave a lazy tilt of the head. “Assumptions are a dangerous thing to make, Rose. You assume you know everything about me. You assume I’m going to attack you the same way I always do. And you assume I’m as much scared of you as you are of me.”
“I’m not…I’m not scared of you.”
“And why not?” His eyes flickered dangerously, but the moment of anger was gone before Rose could see it. Suppressed. Discarded.
She had seen the way other kids had begun to act around Albus at school. How underclassmen would duck their heads when they walked past him. How his Slytherin posse trailed behind him, Can I get you a snack, Potter? Shall I serve your detentions? Oh, Potter, would you like me to make a complete fool of myself for your amusement? Malfoy was a more brazen being, but even he couldn’t keep her cousin in check. The worst of it were the girls who threw themselves at his feet, pining and becoming expectedly heartbroken when he didn’t turn around to remember their names.
There was no getting around it: Albus had an unnatural amount of control over others. He didn’t have friends. He had tools, grunts, and disposable napkins. A boy with a brilliant, beautiful, amazing mind but an asshole, nonetheless.
“Don’t bother starting something.” She warned. “I beat you in the last duel.”
His face was a strange mix between humor and scorn, “I won’t always go that easy on you.”
In a flash of light he had her disarmed, her wand sent flying. As she leapt sideways to catch it he blasted her backwards with a freezing enchantment.
With her body rendered immovable, she lied in utter surprise at his reflexes. Albus had never attacked with such speed before. Had he always been holding back? She watched in dismay as he approached, blocking the last rays of the descending sun, standing so that his silhouette towered over hers.
“That wasn’t fair.”
He tilted his head at her, his green eyes glinting derisively.
“There you go assuming again. You see I never intend to fight fair, Rose. Fairness implies that we’re equal to begin with, which we're clearly not.” The ends of his lips curved, “So why would I limit myself? Why shouldn’t I use my intellect to outsmart you? Don’t you see how easy it is for me?”
“All I see is a boy with dirty tricks,” She said scathingly.
“And all I see is a girl with no tricks.”
With a contemptuous glare, he pointed his wand sideways at the line of spiders trailing across the ground, uttering the forbidden words without any trace of emotion.
The following flash of green reflected in her horror-stricken eyes and instantaneously the spiders were as immoveable as her. Rose could feel the air deflate from her lungs.
The smug coldness from his gaze seemed to puncture her skin. “Now say it.” He ordered, “That I’m better than you.”
“You’re better than me.” She echoed.
Her voice was faint, lacking the conviction he had craved. Albus felt strangely dissatisfied. He wasn’t sure what had initially elicited such a reaction. He regressed a few steps, stone-face, as if to distance himself from her. His flesh and blood. Why was he doing this? What was the matter with him? Several times he blinked, watching her tremble as the freezing enchantment wore off, just watching, trying to sort it all out.
Upon the sight of her tears, he quickly reverted tactics.
“I’m sorry—” He moved towards her as she stood up, instinctively as predator to prey, aware of every vital discrepancy—her panicking heart-rate, her widening eyes, the doe-eyed expression of fear, yes, fear, that flitted across her impulse driven face. “I don’t know why I did that.” He wrapped his arms around her flinching body, pulling her close. Like a child escaping out of a burning house, he would grab whatever he could.
“They’re just spiders Rose,” he said. “If it bothers you I won’t do it again.”
His fingers stroked her hair.
“…You know I couldn’t even think of hurting you.”
His mouth grazed her forehead, lingering a hair’s breadth away.
“…Progress takes risks. I had to show you what we have to do to save Hugo.”
As his hands cupped her face, he held an expression of ironclad earnestness.
“…We want the same things Rose. Don’t you see that?”
He could see the myriad of emotions flicker across her face, processing which one to settle on. Her voice came out as a plea. “How can I trust you when you’re always lying to me?”
“I won’t blame you if you hate me.” He said, frowning.
Now her expression would soften.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” She mumbled, swatting his arm as if embarrassed. “I don’t hate you, Al.”
Of course not.
He hugged her, feeling her pulse slow, her body voluntarily relax in his arms. Good. She was already caving in— her mind just didn’t know it. She had forgiven him as she always did and now they would revert to normalcy, at least what was normalcy for them. But this meant he would have to tread carefully in her good graces for a while, keeping himself firmly planted between trusted friend and adoring brother.
But this time was different for Rose, a seed had been planted in her head, sown and lain to fertilize—enrapturing her mind in a web of sorts. It was disturbing how easy it had been for him to commit such a destructive act. She told herself that webs could be cleaned, but it wasn’t about just the spiders. It was so much more than just spiders.
It had been easy to forgive him. Rose always forgave him.
But forgetting was dangerous.
A part of her held out, because until then she had considered them one of the same. Equals, with a shared and mutually tortured childhood. Albus knew of her pain, whether or not he truly understood it. And though Rose may not have known what had happened between him and his father, she still gave him an enormous amount of leeway for it. He was an arrogant and distrustful ass, but so tantalizingly close to a sibling she had not been able to see him as anything otherwise.
When their potion didn’t work, Rose detached herself from Albus, unknowing to him, and resumed a private line of inquiry. She reverted towards the fundamentals of spell-making, Ancient Runes and Latin texts, the sort of things that were so engraved in the process that people hardly gave them a second thought.
The philosophy behind a spell was that it was based on the principle of something, for something. Every action, manipulation of condition, would affect universal sphere of energy. Some spells could be personalized. For instance, the Unforgivables—the Cruciatus curse, the torturing spell, required a significant amount of malicious energy and evil intent on the user’s part, without which the spell fell flat. The Imperious curse took the will of the person inflicted upon: a sacrifice, and in turn, gave control. And of course, the killing curse reflected the most fundamental principle of sacrifice—you took a life in exchange for the person’s death.
Following torturous weeks of research, she deduced a frightening yet plausible method to reverse the principle of death, but it was crass, risky, and not testable on spiders in the slightest. It would take a catalyst source of energy to jumpstart, lightning perhaps. She would wait for a thunderstorm, take her brother off the oxygen tanks and out to the woods, and of course, not give any indication to her dear cousin that she had figured it out.
She had figured out the secret of revitalization but at a price—and there was danger in such knowledge.
Prophet Headline: Fifteen-Year Old Prodigy Revives Dead Brother Using New Dark Magic
Bloodshot eyes glazed the headline, the corners of his mouth twitching. The handsome features were so etched so tightly that Albus looked unnatural. Anger radiated from his essence as his photographic memory scanned every instance for a hint, any hint, of such a cold betrayal.
No one got the chance to betray Albus. He betrayed them first. He destroyed anyone who even gave him a whiff of duplicity. But Rose, who he been willing to share information with, work with—he had been lenient with her. He had allowed her close. He was soft-tempered, and patient, and brotherly. He did not know why this was so.
All he knew now was that it had been a mistake.
Suddenly, the silence was too much in the room and he slammed his fists on the side table, knocking over papers, breaking glass, and startling his owl, Dudley. He howled alongside the owl as the sharp edges penetrated the flesh of his hand. While he tended to them, the insolent, repulsive creature began making noise, ruffling its feathers and rattling against the cage. Albus violently grabbed the owl by the neck and shoved it out the window.
“Get out!” he snapped, slamming the window shut.
What happened? Are you ok? How’s Hugo?
How did it happen? What did you do?
Prophet Headline: Fifteen-year old Prodigy Facing Time in Azkaban
I miss you. Talk to me.
I’m worried about you.
Prophet Headline: Head Auror Adopts Fifteen-Year Old Prodigy, Refuses Interviews
I want to talk. Let’s meet.
Damn it. Don’t do this. Talk to me.
We’re better than this.
“So, no reply huh?”
Albus scowled at Scorpius, who had been snooping over his shoulder a moment prior and now stood on the other side of the room, casually glancing through his other letters.
“Howler, howler, howler –Merlin, Potter, how many people did you piss off this week?”
Albus didn’t bat an eyelid. “Put all the letters from my mum in the bin.”
The shrieking red tapered letters were a bit more difficult to dispose of, requiring an extensive number of anti-opening jinxes, but Scorpius managed to get rid of them all. He shoved them into a metal container, kicking the lid shut, and then turned to his best mate. The unresolved curiosity in the room was stifling.
“So, speaking of your cousin—“
“I don’t believe we were.”
“—is she ok or not?”
Albus glanced up to meet a startlingly solemn expression on his friend’s face.
“You seem awfully concerned, Scorp.” His tone was one of amused suspicion. “Is something the matter?”
“I’m indifferently curious.”
“You can’t be both.”
Scorpius avoided his wry half-grin for a brief moment, studying the drapes.
“No way what she’s going through is easy. Aren’t you worried about her too?”
“I’m her cousin. I have to be.”
“Bullshit. You’re not sentimental about family, Potter.” Came the usual sneer.
“And you’re not sentimental about Rose, Malfoy, but here we are now, having this roundabout discussion.”
They glared at each other, more out habit than anything. A faint blush shaded the blond’s face which was not from anger.
Albus subsided first, falling onto his bed with a loud yawn. He kept his tone casual and even.
“Rose Pose has frequent periods of intense Albus-hatred. It makes her all more emotional for when she forgives me,” he mused, then eyed the other boy. “She doesn’t want to see me, Scorp. She said nothing about you.”
“It’s usually in the subtext.” The blond looked uncomfortable. “And anyway, it would just be strange without you… She’ll kick me. She’ll throw things at me.”
A chuckle. “It’s not as if you deserve anything less.”
“Maybe my expectations have changed.”
There was a pause.
“Since when?” Albus inquired, brows raised.
“She’s been gone for a year.”
“Well maybe two years… Don’t look at me like that, Potter. I don’t have to explain myself to you.”
“You most certainly do not.”
“You’re mocking me.”
“I most certainly am not.” The corners of his mouth twitched. “I’m sure Rose has many attractive qualities underneath the mainly unattractive ones. So what is it? Can’t be her plain-jane eyes—is it the hair? Or the way she yells at you? Does it stroke your—“
“Stop that. ”
“My, my, you’re blushing. I didn’t know Malfoys could do anything besides sneer.”
“You’re the worst person in humanity.”
Albus gave him a sly look. “You have my permission.”
“I wasn’t asking for your permission, Potter. ”
“Yes you were, why else would you bring it up?”
“So what do you think, then?” Scorpius was looking at him, a half-eaten, desperate look on his face. It was more than a question, it was demanding a prediction. No one in the world knew Rose better than Albus. Likewise, no one knew Scorpius better than Albus.
“I mean…I’m not exactly her favorite person.”
And the good thing about Scorpius was that he didn’t keep secrets.
“You could be.”
Rose lied in the vicinity of her new room, not sleeping but thinking, all the while ignoring the two house elves yelling outside the door. Adjusting to her new life had tumultuous and physically straining.
The Head stared callously down at her. “Get up Weasley. I didn’t order you to stop running.”
“I… can’t,” She gasped, lying with her cheek against the cold, hard cement as tears of exhaustion rolled down her face. He walked over and pressed down on her limp hand until she cried out in pain.
Her pleas were weak and her eyes were beginning to close. Inconsiderate was the word that came to mind. The Head was entirely inconsiderate to her age, her gender, the fact it’d only been two months since she’d recovered the strength to walk again. He pinned her against men twice her age in battles. He made her run entire nights. He countered her complaining by taking away food, water, and sleep privileges. The worst thing after a long run was another long run.
“Just five minutes…”
“I told you that you’d have to go through the same training as the rest of my men, which means no special treatment.” He kicked her legs, “Don’t whimper like that—It only means I have to push you twice as hard from now on.”
Rose stood up, her knees wobbling dangerously.
“Run,” He instructed, shoving her so that she staggered a bit but maintained her balance. Using her hands to level herself, she narrowed her eyes on the shadowy silhouettes running ahead of her so her head would stop spinning and she could see straight. Then she began to move. He told her this training would build discipline, something she was apparently very much in need of. “Magic is entirely useless to a wizard who cannot even stand the test of endurance.” He informed her again. “This is a lesson you will carry with you the rest of your life. The willingness to move forward is the only thing that can save you now.”
After the physical training came the magical one. Sadly, it wasn’t much better.
“Bombarda… Confundo….Defodia…” The Head shot spell after spell at her from the tip of his wand, barely even flexing an inch. On Rose’s part, there was more physical movement involved—mostly running to avoid being pulverized. Her arms flailed around her.
“DAMN IT!” She cursed, as the hex hit her straight in the chest.
“Weasley! For the love of Merlin, use your wand!”
Despite frantic efforts to grip her wand, Rose watched in dismay as it slipped through her shaking hands. As she snapped to get it, the Head attacked. “No, no, no— Everte Statum!”
She was blasted full force into a tree, hitting the back of her head and sliding onto the ground.
“Focus! You mustn’t let your fear distract you!”
She groaned, rubbing her head, and stood up again.
“Fix your stance!”
She bent her knees, stretching her right leg out in front so that her torso would stay straight and level. “Protego!” Charm after charm shot out the tip of her wand to block her trainer’s hexes, yet they grew feebler with each try. Damn it—her hands felt slippery again. Her head was spinning; she felt slow, disoriented, easily distracted. All the confidence she’d had in her abilities began to wane. All those potions and dueling awards, her ass. It didn’t mean a thing in the real world.
The giant explosion blew her backwards and she fell rolling, eventually to land face down on the ground. A strange tingling sensation passed down the middle of her face. She lifted her head to touch her nose, and upon realizing it was broken, let out a loud moan. Hot fresh tears emerged in her eyes. She bit her cracked lips, hard until they bled, in order to stop the dry sobs rising up her throat.
“Bloody hell— are you crying, Weasley?” There was amusement in his tone, but only there to mask the utter surprise. He had grown accustomed to pushing her beyond her abilities without too much resistance (aside from the occasional swear word). He had meant to break her defiance. He just never knew it would be this hard to watch a small girl cry. She said something in a garbled voice which he didn’t catch.
She wept, her voice breaking. “I can’t…I shouldn’t have to—”
“Don’t give me that.” He grumbled, his face reddening. Guilt was not an emotion he would feed. Grabbing her roughly by the arm, he pulled her off the ground and held her by the shoulders. “You don’t have the luxury to wear the face of a victim, Weasley.” He said sternly, “Delicate flowers die in the cold—you have to be a weed. You don’t get to feel sorry for yourself and cry like this. Got it?”
He grabbed her by her small shoulders and looked her squarely in the eyes.
“There’s someone counting on you, Weasley.”
The statement reminded Rose so much of what her father had once said to her that she wanted to cry again, but she shook the notion away and lowered her gaze to the ground before it could grow into anything else. The Head would never be anything like her father. Not in a million years.
But he was right. She didn’t have the luxury to be a victim of circumstance. Not if she wanted to defy the odds.
Rose never wanted to be an auror, even in school. She was an academic, with a fondness for research and books. Dueling was something she excelled at to keep Albus at bay, not a career pathway.
The countless days and sleepless nights, filled with strenuous training. The running until her lungs caved in and her muscles broke down while the Head shouted at her to keep up with the men that were twice her age. The cruel survival techniques they drummed into her head, like what were the best spots to strike an enemy, how to knock an opponent out in less than thirty seconds, or which veins caused the most hemorrhaging.
Her wand was becoming her weapon, and slowly, ever so miserably she was becoming a thing she despised. A monster. At the mere age of 16.
There’s someone counting on you Weasley
That thought stuck with her, kept her from throwing in the towel and running away. The magic she used to save Hugo’s life had even begun to reverse his condition—he was getting better. Which meant that it was up to her to pave his future, make sure he got precisely the life he deserved after a limited childhood.
“You should listen to the Head,” Hugo urged her. “I know he’s not Dad, but he’s looking out for you. Yeah I get he’s corrupt and using you for his own selfish schemes but really, what politician isn’t these days. And you can use him the way he’s using you.”
“Hugo, he’s a sociopath who wants to make me his super weapon.”
“Sociopath is a strong word, Rosie. Besides, he’s smart and he can make you smart too. Merlin knows you need it.”
“Are you calling me stupid?”
“I’m just saying—“ She pulled his ear. “—ok ow, ow, that hurts! I’m just saying that he knows his way around the ministry and that’s not necessarily a bad place to end up. I mean Mum and Dad aren’t…around anymore. We have to think about our future.”
“Don’t you think I know that? Don’t you think I’m doing this for us?”
“And the Head honestly doesn’t sound that bad. Most of his rules make sense, especially the not seeing any boys thing. Dad had that rule too, remember?”
“Hugo—honestly, the last thing on my mind is boys!”
Yeah, yeah. He rolled his eyes at this. “Like Teddy wasn’t all you thought about Third Year--”
“Things are different now.” She said dismissively.
Because she knew she was breathing—she was alive. Because there was nothing else in her life to look forward to, and there was nothing left to fall back on. Her parents were dead, her family had abandoned her, and she owed a debt for her ‘freedom’ to the ministry.
Because she knew that at the end of the day she wasn’t sitting waiting to die alone, and all that she felt was nothing.
Absolutely nothing compared to what he had been through.
Hugo told himself that if his sister could manage Auror training, then he could manage to walk. Slowly, tentatively, he lifted himself, his hands clenching the sides of his wheelchair. The muscles of his arms vibrated as pain shot through his right leg. He had been at this for weeks now. Each day he lifted himself more, little by little, pushing himself to the edge of his capacity. His progress wasn’t startling like Rose’s, but composed of small, humble steps.
In this way it was also more admirable.
He fell back into his wheelchair, gasping, as his sister entered the room.
“I’m getting better.” He informed her, face flushed.
“So am I.”
“We’re really doing this, aren’t we?”
She could see the tired, brilliant grin on his face and it made her positively beam with pride. There was something about his genuine smile, the fact that they were both striving for a common goal, that warmed her. She didn’t have to worry about the aching burden of him dying anytime soon. Not before her, at least.
“All right. Once more.”
“Nah, Rosie. I’m tired--”
“Oh, come now!” She put her hands under his bony armpits and pulled him up, as one did with a small child. It was clear from his sullen-eyed expression that Hugo disliked being manhandled.
“Put your arms around my neck.” She instructed. He stood an inch of two shorter than her. He made his whining face, lower lip protruding.
“This is embarrassing. I mean it looks like we’re dancing! What if someone sees—”
“Oh don’t be a ninny.”
“Shut up! I’m not a ninny.”
Reluctantly, he put his arms around her. Rose nodded approvingly. “Now, follow my steps.”
As a single functioning unit, they moved—Hugo slowly trudging forward in an infant-like way. He kept his attention on his wavering legs, making sure to mimic her steps.
“Hey Rosie, you ever…think of Mum and Dad? If they were still here?”
Rose didn’t answer for a moment. It had only been a year. The image of their bodies being carried away in caskets was still vivid in her mind.
“Liar.” Hugo scowled and asked to be let off. Rose helped him toward his cot and sat beside him. On his bedside she could see an old photo album, open to a random page where the four of them stood smiling, dressed in the hideous reindeer sweaters Nana Molly had gifted. It was the Christmas they had gone to Munich—she was seven and Hugo was five, much before he had been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.
“You miss them, huh.”
“All the time. Don’t you?”
“I can barely remember what it was like with them.” Rose admitted. Her life had shifted so drastically since then she couldn’t imagine it having ever been normal.
“So, I mean,” Hugo stretched his neck uncomfortably, “You know that spell you used to…resurrect me. Have you ever thought about—“
There was a pause. His watery blue eyes searched hers in desperation.
“Because. There’s a reason dark magic is strictly forbidden and they were going to send me to Azkaban—“
“No, listen…I got lucky.” She looked at him intently, “The spell is dangerous dark magic. And dark magic always has a price. I can’t ever do it again, you understand? No one can.”
What aren’t you telling me? Nonetheless Hugo decided to let the matter drop for the time being. They played a couple games of exploding snap (he won) before ordering dinner, along with a chocolate-banana sundae that Hugo more or less devoured by himself, much to his sister’s annoyance. A couple more games followed, which Hugo also won, and Rose found herself thinking of all the places she’d be able to take him once he fully recovered. Beaches, parks, movies, arcades, swimming, quidditch matches—the list was endless. Maybe they’d go somewhere abroad, like Paris, when she made the money (their parents’ fortune had been confiscated by Gringotts since Rose was technically a convicted felon, and Hugo was technically supposed to be dead). After they finished, Rose was picking up her things when he surprised her with some abrupt news.
“So a boy came looking for you today.”
She had put on her jacket and was now pulling on her boots. “I don’t know any boys.”
“Tall, blond, good looking. Sure you don’t know a Scorpius Malfoy?”
Her brow tensed. “What’d you tell him, Hugo?”
“Oh come on, Rose. You should’ve seen his face—the way he begged—“
“I can’t believe you! You told him where I was staying, didn’t you?”
“He just wants to talk—“
“I know what he wants, Hugo, and it has Albus written all over it.” She ran an angry hand through her hair, “He just can’t stand that I'm ignoring him so he's using Malfoy. This is just another one of his tricks.”
Hugo met her gaze. “You don’t mean that. Albus is, well… he’s special. And he’s insanely brilliant too. And a little kooky. And he’s the only one that’s your—”
My what?” She said bitingly, “Go on, say it. My friend? Albus doesn’t have friends. He has people he uses and then discards. You know that. There’s only one thing he’s after and this time he doesn’t get it. I’m done with him.”
Hugo rolled his eyes as she kissed his cheek and disappeared into the hallways.
“You always say that, Rose.”
A/N Lots of backstory. Leave your thoughts!
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