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Clash by shez
Chapter 5 : Rattle
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 25

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The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?

{Edgar Allan Poe}

What started out as a single minded move to save her brother had become drastically entangled in national politics. Upheaval characterized magical England, all entities (humans, goblins, giants, vampires, centaurs, etcetera) pissed that the tantalizing secret to resurrection was being kept from them. With rebellions already underway, anarchy threatened the Ministry at its front door. The name Weasley had become a taboo in the Wizarding world, and coupled with Rose—who was now a government commodity and under strict lockdown— capable of starting a riot.

Abandonment by family now made sense and even seemed well-deserved. Most had gone into hiding, leaving the country to protect themselves. Rose’s actions put them all in danger.

People wanted to bring back loved ones with the same method she had used. Others were terrified of the whole ordeal, who thought the essence of magic had been tainted now that the worlds of living and dead had been bridged. How long before someone tried to resurrect masters of horror Grindewald and Voldemort? Other nations stood outraged England had allowed such amoral practice and uncovered the solution to death [before them], thereby putting all bilateral negotiations in danger until the secret was shared. Researchers and reporters from Bulgaria, Russia, America, France, flew to the country in an attempt to make contact—though they were deterred as the least of the Head’s worries. Since the escapade in Diagon Alley, the ambiguity he had worked hard to maintain was blown.

Sure, the public was aggressive, but there were far worse groups out there.

Facing reality broke Rose, as it would anyone with a sizeable conscious.

It wasn’t the screaming, no—she could endure that. Or the painful stabs of death, painting the ground blood-red, nameless faces littered along her guilt stricken conscience like forgotten dreams. Mothers, fathers, children

It was the children, damn it. Why did they all sound like Hugo?

Her wand aimed, narrowed, at her throat, frustrated tears leaked out the end of her eyes. She beckoned herself to obliterate her memories, or take that dark and final step into much worse.

The Head observed her pitiful struggle from the doorway.

Take a moment to think of your brother before you kill yourself, girl.”

At his words, the wand slipped from her fingers and her face crumpled, no longer resembling the girl who had braved a death sentence and Auror training. She buried her head in her lap, and wretched sounds of strangled crying followed.

The Head had no patience dealing with children.

“You knew what you would cause the moment you chose to save him, Weasley. Truth is that you got what you wanted and didn’t give a damn about the rest—”

“I didn’t want this.” Her voice was faint to her own ears.

“No one did,” He said sternly. “But now the world has to live with it and so do you.”

Rose kept her gaze on the ground, brow furrowed, lips tightly pressed to contain the uncertainty building inside her. He could’ve thrown her to the dementors and still slept easy. He could’ve let her slip into the masses and crumble with despair. He could’ve let her take that dark and final step into much worse.

“Why keep me here?” she asked, in a scared voice, “Why not send me to Azkaban?”

“You would be dead within an hour, girl.”

“And why would you care?!”

“Because you don’t get to take the easy way out,” He snapped, and their eyes met.

For a long honest moment, man and child stared at each other.

Finally, a nod.

“The Potters were still in England.” I pointed out. “Ginny and her family didn’t leave until—“

“—after Hogwarts shut down.”

I squirmed in my chair, having been unaware of this new bit of information.

“Was that because of you as well?”

The old woman cocked her head, a bit taken aback.

“Sorry,” I said, feeling sheepish.

“History has often confused the affairs of Albus and me.” She replied evenly, “Diagon Alley might’ve been my doing, Mr. Walker. But trust me when I say that Hogwarts was all his.”


I strongly implore you to drop your ambitions concerning dark magic. You’ve heard what happened in Diagon Alley. Don’t send any more pets after me. I am in much greater trouble than you could imagine.

Love, Rose

Green-eyes hungrily scoured the contents of the letter, smug satisfaction dancing in the excited pupils. Content didn’t matter, it was the tone, the desperate insertion of the affectionate closing, the frantic way the ‘L’ looped into the ‘o’, that told him what he needed to know. The tongue pressed behind his closed mouth—which had curved into his first natural, handsome, and oh so unnerving smile in months.

Meticulously folding the edges (Albus was careful not to smear the lovely script), he pocketed the letter. He planned to read it several times. Then, with a strange lightness in step, he began his preparations.

Unlike Albus, who found the event at Diagon Alley uninteresting and wholly irrelevant, Scorpius—avid follower of news and politics— was concerned: for England, for the Ministry, and on a personal level, for Rose and her little brother.

“Still moping about commoners?” Came an amused chuckle--Victor Zabani, fellow Slytherin breakfasted beside him. Scorpius grimaced and put down his utensils, his appetite waning.

“I feel nauseous.”

The brunette eyed him warily, “Well you better snap out of it. It’s unbecoming. And along with everything else you oppose him on, your dad won’t like this attitude.”

Well aware that his father loved him beyond measure, Scorpius stared stonily into the depths of his pumpkin juice.

“I’ve told you a thousand times that his preference doesn’t concern me.”

“His money should.” Zabani snorted, downing another piece of french toast, “Do you want to be disowned, Malfoy?”

“It’d be a novel experience.”

“You’re ridiculous.” The pureblood dismissed him haughtily as he got up to leave. Zabani was one of those who, like Scorpius, had been born behind such high class barriers of wealth that neither war nor suffering would ever affect him. Long gone were the days of Voldemort and dark allegiances, and pureblood aristocracy-for the most part- took great measures in sheltering their new generation children. Unlike Zabani though, Scorpius wasn’t content with living in his gold-plated bubble.


He snapped out of his thoughts to see none other than Albus, standing over him. He looked considerably more upbeat than Scorpius was used to seeing him. Their peers scooted, with instinctive obedience, to make room for the raven-haired boy across from him.


“Rose.” He raised his brows, “Do you intend to see her again?”

“Is that a problem?”

A smirk. “Certainly not.”

Scorpius angled an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Why what?”

Scorpius knew just how possessive Albus was of his cousin. Third Year he hit Barry Goldwin with a bludger just for eyeing her the wrong way.

“You don’t let anyone near her. Why give me permission?”

“You work with the presumption she’ll actually let you near her.”

“You seem confident she won’t.”

“I said you could be her favorite person.” He clarified, reverting to his characteristic coldness, “Given her lack of options at the moment, it won’t be much of a feat. That being said, she’s not sleeping with you.”

Scorpius tried not to flush.

“Get your head out of the gutters, Potter.” He muttered, taking a swig of pumpkin juice. “Honest to god, I’m just worried for her… and I know you are too.”

A dismissive scoff. “Rose works like a parasite. She feeds off her shitty luck. She doesn’t need my sympathy.”

“I never said she’s the one who needed you.”

A silence fell over the table where everyone keenly tuned in to hear what the response would be. With his sharp gaze resting solely on the blond across from him, Albus lazily flicked a hand, dismissing the riff-raff at the table. Slytherins of all ages, boys and girls, ceased nosily observing and scattered away.

“Listen to me, Malfoy.” Albus lowered his voice, “Diagon Alley was inevitable. At the first sign of crisis, people drop their morals and run violently thrashing into each other. I know you haven’t seen a lot of it, and it’s sickening, but it’s human nature. Stop with the pity party and grow a pair.”

“I don’t like being patronized, Potter.”

“And I don’t like being cornered on my cousin.” He interjected sharply, procuring a folded piece of parchment. Setting it on the table, he slid to the blond—marking a shift in conversation.

Scorpius regarded it lazily. “Instructions?”

“The Forbidden Forest awaits.”

“Pray tell, what fruitless expedition are you sending me on this time?”

Albus gave a poisonous smile.

Moonlit haze created an ethereal setting for the mansion standing overhead the hill, lavish and sinister in appearance. A figure flash-appeared into the surrounding bushes, at the carefully calculated distance just outside its protective anti-apparition shield. Mr. Rimbaud was a cautious man, and rightly so, considering his involvement in underground movements and fondness for dark artifacts. Aspiring thieves like Rose Weasley knew dozens of anti-jinxes that could result in the corrupt politician’s undoing.

Rose didn’t waste time overthinking—it was Albus who hyperanalyzed every movement in advance, who organized his manner and speech according to exactly what he intended to gain. Rose preferred action to words. Words could be misconstrued, falsified, manipulated—actions, on the other hand, were direct and brilliantly simple. With her mind clear and focused, she commenced her break-in.

Five doors. Three security guards trailing the grounds. The moment Guard 1 and Guard 2 came into contact, Guard 3 was within jinxing distance. She took the opportunity and knocked him down with petrificus totalus. Side-stepping around the frozen body, she snuck through the garden—a darkened hooded figure running headlong down the trail of azalea bushes. It took thirty seconds to unlock the door that lead into the kitchen. Twenty more to stupefy the chef from behind (Rose allowed herself five extra to take a chunk out of the strawberry parfait in works). Then, her shadowed figure cut through to the empty dining area and stalked up the spiraling staircase. Second floor was darker than the first, and all the ancestral portraits—hexed silent—sent her lurking persona daggered stares. After rummaging through a couple rooms, the dark detector began whirring in her pocket—and Rose felt the surge of relief shoot through her.

The basilisk egg was close. She was almost done.

At the sound of nearby voices, Rose stopped mid- transition from room to room. The talking, amplified into yelling, came from the closed door down the hall. Letting curiosity get the best of her, she approached the door and peered through the edge.

A very strange sight beheld her. Green fumes encompassed the room but through the haze she could make out three figures standing over—a body? Dead body?

“I need more energy!” A harsh voice cackled—coming from the face of the man she’d been sent to rob. He was hunched over the body, in the midst of some ritualistic spell, “NOW!”

Energy shot out the wands of the other two figures, to Rimbaud making him contort and scream. Rose watched in horror as his twitchy fingers dropped their wand and his neck rolled around the base of his collar bone. His eyes turned over to the back of his skull. The process of power exchange had become too much. Rimbaud started yelling: “Stop! Stop!”

The figures lowered their wand and Rimbaud fell to the ground. There was sounds of moving toward the two bodies on the ground and clamoring. is he alive? is he dead? is she alive? did it work?

Solemn silence confirmed that it hadn’t.

Rose took a step backwards.

Scorpius dashed across the halls, his book slamming painfully against his side. The first class of the day—Advanced Potion’s— and he was running late.

“Mr. Malfoy, feel free to take your seat.” Slughorn advised the out-of-breath boy, as he made it in the nick of time. He fell into his normal chair beside fellow Slytherin Doblin Reed.

“Today, we shall be making Veritaserum.” Slughorn commanded the class. “Before we begin, who can tell me about the properties of that particular serum?”

The normal array of hands shot up and—

“It’s the only truth serum that cannot be prevented with Occulmency.” Albus interrupted, a rare demonstration of his prowess. Heads curiously swiveled towards him, Scorpius included. “A colorless, water-like fluid that inhibits your tongue from forming ideas contrary to the presumed truth. Lasts twenty-four hours. Undetectable in everything except citric drinks. It’s said that three drops will force the drinker to reveal their darkest secrets, but in reality, two are just as effective.”

“That is a very in-depth assessment, Potter.” Slughorn mumbled, perplexed. “I don’t believe the textbook elaborates to that extent.”

“Thank you, professor.”

Scorpius could see the smug smile lift on his lips.

Once the class disbanded into ingredient gathering and potion making, Reed turned toward the blond, smirking.

“You screwed up, didn’t you?”

“Not me. Balustrade.” Scorpius muttered, gaze resting on the moondew sprigs, “And who else knows about it?”

“Everyone.” The large-nosed boy chuckled. “Mishaps in the Forbidden Forest. Gossip of your expeditions has been traveling faster than usual.”

“Keep your mouth shut and stay out of trouble, Reed.”

“Potter’s going to kill Balustrade.”

“Potter’s bark is worse than his bite.” Scorpius grumbled.

Reed gave him a pitiful look. “You tell yourself that. Try not to think of what happened to Alphurt last year.”

Randolf Alphurt had made the mistake of revealing Albus’s role in all the lethal plants that had disappeared from the Herbology gardens. Needless to say, Albus gave the boy such a severe case of Spattergroit he was sent home shortly after.

For the first half of class, Scorpius maintained a safe distance.

In potion-making, Albus was a maestro at work—his fluid movements were immaculate in form, pristine in function. His hands were still as he deposited 3 meticulous drops of bat saliva, not four, watching the thick velvety broth turn a rich blue color. Thirty seconds followed in systematic stirring, counterclockwise. He could feel the stares of others following his actions, expecting him to finish first even partner-less (Rose had always been his partner). The Hufflepuffs on his right stood admiring his profile.

“Albus.” The long fingers slipped, mistakenly dropping more rat hairs into the thick stew than they ought’ve. He regarded Scorpius with a sour look.

“What?” he said, annoyed.

“Higgs and Pucey have disappeared from the safe spot. That’s why I was late.”

Albus gave him a pointed stare. “And the cargo?”

“Is all safe. Balustrade hid it well. You’ll be satisfied on that account. But we have to—“

“What have I told you about entrusting Higgs and Pucey?” He hissed. They were easily the most dimwitted two boys in Slytherin, if not the whole school. They had Hufflepuff to even that score out. “Now, not only will the Head Boy have his way with them, but we won’t hear the end of it from McGonagall.”

“Don’t pin this all on me, Potter.” The blond spat, a familiar sneer crossing his face.

His frown deepened. “Oh? Then who shall I blame for your serious lapse in judgment?”

“You know precisely who.”

There was a sullen silence.

James Potter

Not just a regular oaf, but an intrusive one. His intelligence level would’ve rendered him harmless, if not for his nasty habit of interfering in affairs where he was unwanted. This interference had increased tenfold when McGonagall appointed him Head Boy.

From unconscious First-Years found in hushed corridors to dangerous items from Slughorn’s cabinets going missing to escapades in the Forbidden Forest, not since Tom Riddle’s time had there been a network of crime in Hogwarts— mirror image to the world— so carefully orchestrated. Albus managed himself very well in the midst of it. Aside from deadend rumors and the minor involvement in skirmishes, there was never enough proof to pinpoint him as the root.

However, James had grown increasingly suspicious of his brother’s involvement ever since the House Elf rebellion of last year. The consequentially tighter regulations and increased surveillance ordained by him now were part of his ploy to siphon the supply of tools, grunts, and henchmen Albus had to choose from. It was basic strategy. You take the pawns, you beat the king. With fewer and fewer people were willing to work with the likes of him and Scorpius, Albus was expected to show face eventually.

Albus decided he would deal with him later.

She reported her findings to the Head, who appeared too enthralled with the basilisk egg to pay any attention. Smartly dressed in lavender robes, he trailed his spidery fingers across the pale shell in admiration.

“So you think you saw dark magic, Weasley?”

Rose was certain of it.

“Rimbaud was trying to bring someone back to life.”

“Does he know your method?”


“So was he successful?”

“Didn’t seem like it.”

“Then this is not something worth discussion.” The Head dismissed her carelessly, and turned his full attention toward his prize. “I have… other things to tend to at the moment.”

Rose left the office, unsettled. That there were those trying to replicate her method frightened her. The price she’d had to pay to bring her brother back to life haunted her every action, and Rose intended to take the secret with her to the grave. To avoid further recognition, she’d dyed her tell-all Weasley hair brown. Hugo thought it looked ridiculous, that she was better off dyeing it blue—he couldn’t quite understand how badly the Diagon Alley incident had set her on edge. Her brother remained beautifully untainted in spite of the dark events unfolding around them, and for that she couldn’t be more thankful.

The Head had told her that there were groups out there who would pursue her and Hugo aggressively. His hospital security had been upped. He had advised Rose to keep to herself, which, in addition to the volatile nature of her job, was practically a given.

Rose was pulled unexpectedly into a closet by the waist. The other hand wrapped over her mouth as she made contact with startling grey eyes. Her eyes widened as he pressed his forehead against hers, arm still curved around her waist, his body inches from hers pinning her to the wall in the cramped storage closet.

“Don’t scream, Weasel. These nutters will have my head on a platter. I had to sneak past three goblins and an Unspeakable to get in here.”

She nodded apprehensively and Scorpius released her mouth.

However, he didn’t make any effort to resolve their close proximity.

“How’d you find me?” She gasped, her face flushed.

“A magician doesn’t reveal his secrets.”

“Hugo told you, didn’t he?”

His eyes twinkled. “You’ve got an awfully helpful brother. I reckon he’s taken a shine to me.”

“He’d be the only one.” She countered, anxiously combating his hold. “I told you to stay away.”

“When have I ever done what you’ve told me?”

Please. Her eyes were pleading now, distraught, and so Scorpius released his grip with an irritable sigh. He took a step away, grey eyes zipping over her dull locks.

“Dyed your hair cause of Diagon Alley?”

“Not talking about it.”

“We don’t have to.” He said, quickly. “Let’s talk about the weather. Nice night, isn’t it? Not too hot…not too cold…you busy?”


“I love it when you play hard to get.” He teased, watching her face turn a shade.

Rose folded her arms. “I’ll bite, Malfoy. What’s with the sudden interest in me?”

“Who said it was sudden?” He rolled his eyes. “Anyway, I’ll explain it over dinner. There’s a nice muggle Chinese down the block.”


Scorpius quirked a brow. “No?”

“Get lost.” She said flatly.

“Is that a no to Chinese or the date?”

“You don’t know what I do.”

“Is that the only reason?” His mouth lifted a smudge. “Because I can fix that over dinner.”

“I’m serious, Malfoy.”

“So am I.” He gave her a brazen look. “Considerably more than Fourth Year.”

“You’ll have to find someone else to injure with gobstones.” She said, with some bitterness.

See, now, that’s the thing, Weasley. I don’t think I can.

He observed her with an indecipherable look, carefully placed between humor and sincerity— undoubtedly, one of the array of calculated facial expressions he’d adopted from Albus.

Rose hastily peered out the closet and glanced back at him.

“Follow me.”

She led him down the halls, a strong grip on his arm. After being ushered out a doorway that took him into the back alley behind the Ministry building—realization dawned on him.

“Weasel, what are you—”

The door slammed in his face.

Every Cain needed an Abel, and his brother was Gryffindor’s Golden Boy through and through. Whereas most people refrained from making contact with Albus passing him in the halls, he actively sought him out. Heroic, lovable, wholesome, and on top of that Head Boy and Quidditch captain—everything a Potter should’ve been.

The younger brother was lounging on his bed, engrossed in a fair bit of light reading— Methods to Legilimency: How to Invade Any Mind—when the older poked his similar dark head through the doorway.

Albus didn’t bother looking up.

“You’re in the wrong common room again, Potter.” He lazily flicked a page. ”Surely you wouldn’t want McGonagall to know you’re abusing your position.”

“You’d threaten your own brother, Potter?”

“It’s on my list of favorite things to do.”

“Right up there with locking house-elves into ovens, I presume,” James mused. “I’ll take this as a confession for last week’s disaster in the kitchens.”

Truth be told, Albus had found Malfoy’s ploy a bit…lacking, that particular instance.

“A First Year could pull off such a weak stunt.” He tsked, regarding his brother warily. “And besides, you’re not really here to discuss that, are you?”

The Seventh-Year warily glanced both ways before stepping through the passageway. “A Ravenclaw spotted two figures out of the Forest three nights ago… past curfew. There was fire.”

“And you thought of me? I’m flattered.”

“I know you’re always sending your mates out on expeditions.”

“I can barely tolerate my siblings, James.” He hissed. “Why would you think I have mates?”

The Gryffindor folded his arms. “Look, I don’t care what you call them. The simple fact is that you happen to be involved wherever there’s trouble for me.”

That was the problem with James; he always internalized matters, never thinking greater about things than the scope that encompassed him.

Sighing, Albus put his book down.

“So much bitterness,” he drawled. “And Mummy wonders why we can’t ever get along.”

“Maybe if you helped me instead of being an evasive prick.”

“Not really in the helping mood right now.” He gave a lazy flick of the wrist. “Do try again later.”

With that he picked up his book again. Moments passed and his idiot brother just stood there, despite the obvious dismissal, staring at him with his normal pathetic look.

“Look Al, if this is about Dad…what they say about you doesn’t—doesn’t mean that you have to—”

“What part of leaving do you not understand, James?” Albus snapped, his tolerance faded. “Leave. Me. The hell. Alone.”

With a disappointed sigh, James stalked away, slamming the door behind him as he went. He had hoped that the dark occurrings in the world would set his brother straight. That he would realize the consequences of his actions, repent, change; but as it seemed, their father’s death had only heightened his commitment to being an elusive bastard.

Albus had never been good, in a manner of speaking. As far as James knew, there was no moral compass that drove him—he was a loose cannon, with the sole intent to cause mass chaos. A loaded gun without any direction where to shoot. Sometimes his older brother felt he was purposely rebelling against their father’s expectations.

James couldn’t understand why. Needless to say, there was a lot he didn’t know.

He didn’t know was that Harry’s expectations had been different for Albus. He didn’t know that the word rebellion only scratched the surface of it. He didn’t that after he left, Albus reached into his pocket and pulled out a sparkling vial. He didn’t know that Balustrade had brought it to the boy that very evening before James’s interference, and Albus had been lusting for the opportune time to study its contents. He didn’t know that it had taken Albus weeks of careful planning to obtain the rare and untainted sample of unicorn blood—noted for extending life dramatically.

Every great mind had pondered it at the very least—immortality. The greatest conquest imaginable. Why would Albus be any different?

James didn’t know that after he left, Albus brought the vial to his lips, and waited. He waited. He waited for the craving to bathe his tongue in its rich, golden liquid. He waited desperately. He waited irritably. He waited with grand schemes in mind and the desire to placate his insatiable greed.

Shattering disappointment struck him when the craving did not occur.


Miss you. I have acquired something you will be interested in seeing. It’s time to meet.

Love, Al

Curiosity, as it seemed, was all it took.

Albus let her decide when and where in a follow-up letter, knowing that she would never agree unless she thought it was on her terms. Which is precisely what he wanted her to think.

The pale, handsome figure in a long dark coat stepped into the low-key muggle eatery. He did a quick assessment: a couple in the corner immersed in themselves, two middle-aged men guffawing loudly (too drunk to make sense, not drunk enough to go home), three waitresses on duty—two of whom sent Albus a flirtatious look, which he ignored, as he made his way towards the back booth.

Thirteen and a half minutes of contemplatively drumming his fingers would pass until his cousin made headway past the door. Same face greeting him. Same body jumping him in an embrace. Same apprehension on how he, Albus, would respond. Same mingled confusion when he pulled her even tighter, and, afterwards, kissed her forehead, holding her face in his hands, smiling that brilliant, heart-stopping smile of his— because Legilimency only worked through close contact.

But what Albus hadn’t accounted for was Occulmency, as Rose had mastered mind-protection just as he had mastered mind-reading. Determined not to be thrown by this unexpected set-back, or the triumphed look his companion now held—Albus maintained ignorance to their cerebral battle. They sat across from each other. Drinks arrived via waitress.

“You ordered?” Rose inquired.

“I know what you like.”

“We’ll see.”

A pause.

“I upset you,” Albus began grimly— acknowledgement, reflection, apology. Girls usually ate the stuff up, but she didn’t even look at him. Slightly annoyed by this lack of reaction, he continued, voice basked in regret. “You were right to ignore me. I scared you, and hurt you, and took advantage of your trust. But I was just being selfish and immature. You’ve always been better than me. You’ve always been so much nobler. You don’t even know how happy I am to see you, to know you’re ok—”

“How many times did you practice this bullshit in the mirror?” She lashed.

The mournful expression slipped into an impassive one.

“Only once,” he replied. “Thought I’d give it a shot anyway.”


“What foul language, Rose Pose. I may be an asshole but I’m an asshole you’ve missed.”

She watched in disgust as the smug knowing smile settled across his face. This was precisely the Albus she had wanted to avoid: arrogant, insolent, and far too smart for his own good.

“No need to be embarrassed about it… I’ve missed you too.”

“You’re not capable of it.”

His mouth faltered, drawing to a sneer. This was precisely the Rose that grated his nerves: ignorant, headstrong, and far too critical for her own good.

“Who are you to decide what I am or not capable of?” He hissed. “You think you can ignore me for a year and I won’t come after you? Or that I won’t be pissed? We were partners, Rose, partners…until you betrayed me.”

She averted her eyes, avoiding his pinpoint glare.

“I’m not sorry. I did what I had to to save him.”

“And look where that’s gotten you.”

“You haven’t got an empathetic bone in your body, have you?” she hissed back, tears stinging at her eyes. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been through this past year? With the trial and the job and what happened in Diagon Alley. Tell me Al, did you ever once stop to worry for me?

He was bemused. “Why would I do something like that?”

“Because that’s what people do when they care about someone.”

“Boring people.” He dismissed.

Normal people, Al.”

He scowled. That struck a chord with him.

“I assure you that Malfoy is ever eager to fill the role of disposable napkin, Rose Pose. Feel free to exploit his affections any way you wish.”

The jibe was cold and unwarranted. Aware of her school-girl fancy for the blond, Albus had intentionally steered him in her way and they both knew it.

“You’re completely heartless, aren’t you?”

Albus was unsure why the hurt in her voice this made his skin prickle.

“Rose,” he sighed. He gave her an intent look. “I knew you’d be fine.”

“You presumptuous bas—“

“You moan and cry and bitch, but in the end you’re fine. You’re always fine.”

I could’ve died, and if not, I could’ve killed myself,” she snarled at him. “And then what would you do? You have no clue. You have no clue—”

"Stop, stop." He reached over to grab her hand, grasping it before she could yank it away. There was a whimper, a tug and pull, but at last Albus won.

“Don’t be daft.” he brought her knuckles to his mouth for a chaste kiss. “As if I’d let you.”

There it was. The implicit understanding. That no matter how bad things got, how far they pushed each other, there was a limit. At some point, the reversion to long withstanding allies was not only necessary but expected—preferred. Anticipated.

“Stop groveling and show me what you came to show me, asshole.”

He grimaced, disgruntled by her unforgiving tone. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved the vial of golden liquid and placed it intently on the table in front of them.

“No tricks,” he said, observing her expression with care, “A proposition based on equal exchange. Will you listen?”

Rose said nothing, eyes glued to the dangerous liquid swirling in the vial. Unicorn blood wasn’t something you found in a potions lab. How Albus managed to get a hold of it—

“Unnecessary details,” he dismissed, almost as if he’d read her thoughts.

“Is it cursed?”

“Would I do that to you?”

“Doesn’t matter anyway.” She lifted her chin, “I don’t need it.”

Albus gave an irritable sigh. “Consider the possibility, Rose, that your spell isn’t permanent. Consider that Hugo may still very well die. Unicorn blood will prolong his life for years. I’m only trying to help you.”

“Why not keep it for yourself?” She probed, brow furrowed. Immortality seemed to fit in well with his power-complex.

“I don’t want it.”

“Then what do you want?

The query hung in the air like a bad smell.

“Right now I want to know how you did the spell.” He replied, stiffly, “Reasons shouldn’t matter. We embarked on the search together, so it’s only fair that you tell me.”

Rose snorted—as if fairness had ever been a priority to the boy.

“You’ll try to bring back your dad.”

“And what concern of yours is that?” He hissed, expression now lethal.

She narrowed her brow, “Dangerous. And there’s a price you’d have to pay for upturning his death.”


“Can’t tell you.” She shook her head, “It’ll break your heart... you’ll hate me.”

“You know neither of those things are possible, Rose.”

She gave him a sad smile. A haunted one. The hollow one of a skeleton whose organs had been removed, whose marrow had been emptied, and who, without connective tissue, seemed only to be held together by chance. Luck. Fate. Curse. Whatever you want to call it. A permanent ticking seemed to resonate from her dulled eyes.

This time, she grabbed his hand and squeezed it in reassurance.

“This is different, Al. Death… is unlike anything we’ve encountered before.”

Of course, he couldn’t let that go.

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