Chapter 15 : Fear
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AN: This chapter possesses some scary, slightly questionable content. I changed it from the original version (which would not be appropriate to post on this site) but even so – proceed at your own discretion.
Whiskey goblet in hand, the Head watched the flickering wireless in his study. The blurry screen broadcasted a historic moment in wizardry - leaders from all over the globe conversing in a giant chamber, England’s own Kingsley Shacklebot in the hot seat about the attack on Camden.
"Magic fashioned in the way of muggle weapons…and used on muggles no less! Surely their authorities are suspicious, are they not?” asked the Italian minister.
“I’ve talked things over with their minister.” Kingsley responded. “He’ll do his best on his end to dispel the tension.”
There were other murmurs in the conference.
“…England is in a worse state than we thought…”
“…The Statue of Secrecy cannot be played with in this way…”
“…bombs made of magic…what kind of sorcery is this?”
“What if it spreads to my country?”
“What precautionary measures is England taking to contain this threat?” The Nepalese representative asked.
“And what does English Ministry of Magic intend to do about Resurrection magic?” The German chancellor demanded, amidst the rise of clamoring. “You must put an end to it.”
The Head watched Kingsley, as honorably as he knew the man to be, state that England was doing all it could. The man was a relic of the Great War and had once been in the very spot the Head was, but now it was clear that age had caught up to him. He was incapable, the Head thought, of defending his country anymore. He was too diplomatic, too compliant, and blind to the fact that England’s biggest problem may just have been its greatest weapon. It didn’t matter that Rose Weasley had brought back the dead, only that she and she alone could do it. Countries like Germany were beginning to see that.
The Chinese representative stood up, angrily:
“Rose Weasley possesses knowledge that disrupts the sanctity of life. She is a threat unto humanity itself. China will not allow this madness to escalade. Before things spread to our side of the hemisphere, the girl must be put to death.”
You’ll have to go through me first, the Head glared at the screen. His influence prevented the British Ministry from imprisoning Rose. His occupation made sure she was given proper training for her survival. Lastly, his guardianship ensured she belonged to him and him solely. Not his superiors. Certainly not Kingsley. No, there was no question of loyalty. He held her life in one hand and her brother’s in the other, and there was nothing she wouldn’t do for the precious little cripple.
Unlike his ward, the Head was not especially gifted in sorcery – but his experience and nerves of steel more than made up for it. He had worked hard to get where he was now. To think that a half-blood with his pathetic means could rise to second in command of the entire magical nation. He had learned to play the political game well and maybe lost his soul in the process. It was a necessary trade. It was still early. No game of chess was won without sacrifice, without strategy, and while old and world-weary men in the flashing screen bickered about the present, the Head would plan their future.
Rose Weasley. A prodigy without any special aspirations – she was different from him in a way that she held no experience, but the sheer magical aptitude to transcend it. She learned fast and held high tolerance for his brutality. The Head had broken many talented men before, but he had not quite seen someone – a girl no less – who conformed so effortlessly to what he wanted. Who bent without breaking. That she had not yet gone mad was testament of her fortitude, and a secret point of pride for her guardian.
She was his Pawn, his Knight, and finally his Queen – he would help her aim that wand in a specific direction, when the time came.
It was not yet his turn.
Somewhere in France, half-past two am, Ginny still had not returned home. Lily stayed upstairs, away from the noisy antics of her older brother and his most-recent girlfriend in the living room. After the end of said antics, she allowed herself to saunter downstairs and sneak a peek; James sat watching the telly intently, half-naked Marie sleeping in the crook of his arm. His expression held more shock than the day their mum had burst through the door, drunk, and collapsed on the floor.
Rather than exchanging words he gestured Lily in quietly, turning up the wireless.
“…on June 25th, the nation of England will be forcibly placed under quarantine. No wizards will be allowed to enter or leave by means of floo, intercontinental portkey …”
Lily’s eyes widened and she finally understood her brother’s distressed look. England was their broken home but the only home they knew, and they thought about it more than they should’ve. And that their dinner table was always set for four people had nothing to do with James’s girlfriend.
June 25th…..three months before the world cut England off. For God knew how long.
“Should I Owl Teddy?” Lily asked her brother, who was coaxing Marie off his arm and buttoning up his shirt.
“No,” He said, frowning. “I’m going alone.”
“James, don’t. Teddy’s an auror – he could go through the ministry and get information about where-“
“Oh please.” James ruffled his hair, crossly. He wasn’t an auror like the older boy or his deceased father, but he liked to think he was more than capable of finding his bratty little brother. He had a decent job in the French Department of Magical Foreign Affairs and decent experience in navigating political protocol, sweet-talking important figures. He worked hard, all the while lapping up the attention and reputation that came with being The Chosen One's son. He thought about Albus too often to admit, even if they'd never acted like brothers. There was literally an ocean's worth of differences between them.
But James figured he had time to cross it.
Warping through space, her knees landed on hard grassy earth. She was not as disoriented this time. Two weeks had passed since their last transportation – a precautionary interval for her period to cease. Albus refused to take her along if she was going to jeopardize their mission again with her female problems, never mind that it been his fault for not telling her of the side-effects.
“Where are we?” She panted, leaning on wobbly legs.
Albus sat on his knees, head tilted, lips twitching, eyes zipping past each surrounding detail so intently that it was a wonder he even noticed her in the first place.
“So you know.”
For a split second, his green irises flitted upwards toward her.
“Yes.” And then, not leaving room for further questions, he grabbed her by the wrist and began dragging her. “Don’t slow me down today.”
Albus was difficult to keep to keep up with; he navigated through vines and trees and growths with effortless fluency, not caring how many times she staggered and tripped in his path. He didn’t answer her questions, claimed it would all make sense when it did. Several hours later, she pulled her arm from his grip and stopped, complaining for a break. He shot her an impatient scowl, but waited nonetheless, hands shoved into pockets.
Since the night she’d stopped him from leaving, Albus had become to a degree, complacent. He was still Albus – strong-willed, temperamental, and rude - but it seemed like he was trying to get along. Rose had decided to meet him halfway.
Ignoring the exasperation in his voice, she nodded and gripped his hand again, interlacing their fingers. As they moved, she waited for him to finally start explaining – it was clear he was scouting the area. All she knew was that the potion took them to locations of her uncle’s past, but in reverse order. So, this was the second-to-last place Harry had used his wand – what was the significance of that?
Eyes spanned dead grass lined with symmetrical rows of slabs of stone, some as large as them. They went as far as eyes could see, distorting into a haze of grey as horizon approached.
“It looks like a graveyard.” She murmured.
“It does, doesn’t it?”
“But it’s not.”
He turned towards her, the corners of his mouth twitching.
“What?” She demanded.
“Nothing, go on.”
“Well,” She began, thinking. “It doesn’t have the chemical and fetid rotting smell and the tombstones don’t look nearly as old as the dates listed on them. So I think someone went to a great deal of trouble to make this place look like a graveyard.”
“Someone certainly did.”
She threw him a skeptical look. “Your turn.”
“I’m only admiring your deductions Rose Pose.”
“So I’m wrong?”
“I didn’t say that. Thought it, maybe.”
“Twat.” She muttered. Admiring, bah.
“This place is a graveyard.” Albus said, dryly. “It’s a place for the dead. It’s a place designed specifically for the death of fears. My father-” He paused, reconsidering his next choice of words “- let’s say he brought me here many times. You are familiar with what a boggart is, aren’t you?”
Rose wasn’t following. “Why would Uncle Harry bring you here?”
He cast her an exasperated look. “It’s a training ground, Rose.”
“Wait - your dad trained you in graveyards?” This was new information for her.
But Albus didn’t answer, his attention taken by something in the distance.
“No more questions. Wand out. Now.”
Her face contorted. “If it’s just a boggart-“
“Of course it’s not just a boggart. That would be child’s play.” He hissed, his attention still away. They were moving again, more carefully than quickly. From somewhere Rose heard the echo of a familiar strangled voice. Her eyes widened, feet coming to a halt. Albus turned around, ready to look annoyed with her.
“I just heard Hugo.” She said shakily.
His expression flared. “Not possible.”
“I know what I-“
“No.” He shook his head, thinking something over. “I mean you shouldn’t be hearing – this place isn’t attuned for your – No, I mean, it’s only for—“ He stopped mid-sentence, a realization hitting him.
“Not possible.” He breathed.
She wanted to shake him; he wasn’t making any sense.
“We need to move fast.” He said tersely. “We need to leave.”
He was dragging her again.
“Albus, if Hugo’s somehow-“
He turned and grabbed her shoulders, a mad look on his face. “Rose, what you heard was not your brother. It’s a-” He paused. “I’m not sure what to call it. It’s like a boggart, except more tangible, more dangerous, more alive.” Another pause. “There are….techniques in magic that allow wizards to create physical manifestations of one’s fears.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Rose, think. If you just heard Hugo, what could your biggest fear be?”
Her biggest- oh dear.
“Rosie?” Rang a childish voice from behind.
There stood her little brother in his hospital robe, looking as sickly and skinny as ever. His watery blue eyes looked up at her, and the mouth curved to a relieved smile. “Did you come save me?”
Instinctively she started towards him, but Albus yanked her backwards. “That’s not your brother,” He growled, jaw clenched. “Look at him, more closely.”
And when he stepped forward, Rose saw him –it- in a different slant of light. The eyes were not blue but empty, hollow. Lacking any color, he looked like something out a black-and-white picture, blurry, distorted.
“Rosie,” A small smile played on it’s lips, lips that weren’t her brother’s but sounded like her brother’s. “What’s the matter? Did I do something wrong?”
Rose watched in dismay as the image staggered forward, collapsing on its knees. Her heart began to throb, drawing on a similar childhood memory of Hugo: the emergence of his condition. “I can’t walk, Rosie. Why can’t I walk?” It began crawling towards her, eyes drawing out to her, turning watery blue again. “It hurts, Rosie. It’s hurts so much.” She trembled at the pain in his voice, because it had happened before. Tears sprung to her eyes: she started towards the suffering boy. Albus jolted her backwards, forcefully. “What did I say?” He hissed. “That’s not your brother. ”
She felt dizzy from tears. “I--”
The image gave her a desperate look and opened its mouth to speak.
Blood came pouring out like a fountain.
No no no no…
Albus was nearly wrestling her back now. He flung her back on her bum. “Close your eyes.” He ordered, not looking back at her. He rolled up his sleeves. Her heart sank as he drew his wand, moving towards the bleeding image with a caution reserved for tricky prey. Hugo’s sweet face crumpled, eyes looking at her with equal parts fear and expectation.
“Rosie, what’s going on?”
“Please,” she heard herself croak, tears falling from her jaw. “Please don’t-“
“Are your eyes closed?” Albus demanded, not listening to her. “Close them now.”
Fighting every cell in her body, she squeezed her eyelids shut: it was necessary. Her only solace was knowing her real brother was alive elsewhere, not having to see what she was having to see.
An sharp sound cracked through the air and something broke inside her; she did not open her eyes. She heard footsteps retracted. A hand gripped her arm, startling her as it pulled her up.
“Keep your eyes closed and follow me.”
She was too scared to ask what he had done.
This place, like the last, was an unnatural manifestation of magic – a training ground. A graveyard in which fears came alive and had to be put down. It was more difficult than a riddikulus charm – the fears turned to real entities and had to be dealt with accordingly. His father had brought him here repeatedly, for fears changed with age – it was training to become, in theory, completely fearless. Fear was an illusion, after all, a psychological impediment to mastering new and daring forms of magic. To progress.
Still, there were mishaps, more when he was younger. The times he could not face his demons, Harry would step in and rescue him. There was never a situation where Albus was without his father in the graveyard.
It took Rose several hours to calm herself down; conversation was not necessary. They both knew precisely what her fear was, and Albus had never been the consoling sort. They kept moving. She figured he was using the action to trace his memory, figure out their path as he done in the Forest.
From the corner of her eyes, Rose saw a figure following them, and wandered how long it had been going on. It was unlike Albus to miss such an obvious thing. It darted between tombstones, slowly narrowing towards them, and almost abruptly Albus switched to an opposite direction - he was dragging her so hard she was sure he’d rip her arm out of its socket. Rose deciphered this: if she’d already faced her fear, that meant-
The figure flashed past them disappearing into rows of tombstones, and Rose could only discern a flash of red.
He didn’t answer, instead steered them backwards.
“If I faced mine, then maybe you could-
“You didn’t face your fear, I faced your fear.” He hissed at her. “Trust me when I say you don't want to face mine."
He gave her an absurd look.
She tried to reason: “Maybe it’s better to get it over with. You said they’re not real-“
“That doesn’t mean they can’t kill us.”
Rose was taken aback: her cousin was never rattled enough to acknowledge his own mortality. What, or rather, who could possibly be his fear to elicit such a reaction – was it his father?
“Oh Albie? ”
A whimsical voice rang from behind them. It sounded nothing like Harry, but it did sound like someone she knew.
“I’m talking to you, Albie.”
She watched his shoulders tensed, his grip tightening around her hand as they kept walking. It was now clear who it was, though she couldn’t believe it. She snuck a look behind them:
The older, taller, handsomer version of Albus stood smirking at them, wand in hand, black eyes dead.
A flash of light shot over their heads –wall of fire manifested in front of them— blockading their way.
Wands drawn, they spun around.
It was like staring at Albus' future self - the Other was taller, broader, and if possible, more defined in features. And worse, there was something unrestrained in his Cheshire-cat smile, the kind that brought an ugly feeling in her stomach
The doppelganger strolled over to them in an Albus-like way, fire shadowing all the right spaces on his handsome face. The effect was horrific.He lazily twirled his wand as he approached, shooting sparks to the ground.
“If I didn’t know better, Albie. I’d say you were avoiding me.”
“I don’t need to.” Her cousin sneered in response.
The Other's dead black eyes lit up. Glazing over Rose, he stopped directly in front of the daring boy. Albus didn’t step back, jaw clenched. It was the strangest sight – the two Albuses staring each other down, their postures in perfect symmetry.
The doppelganger grew bored first and broke the trance. His fierce attention snapped to Rose.
“And look, ickle Albie brought our favorite plaything with him.”
She recoiled as he stepped toward her, capturing her wrists into smooth palms. He shot Albus a sly look.
“Hmm, I suppose they really are quite small… guess you were right Albie. Want to see how long they take to snap?”
“We don’t have time for games.”
“Oh Albie, that doesn’t sound like you at all.”
Albus squeezed between them like a wall, severing her wrists from the Other’s grip with his wand. Rose could see something strange occurring between the counterparts, their wands held in identical places, gazes transfixed on each other – neither was making the first move. Maybe they knew they were too evenly matched?
Albus didn’t play games he couldn’t win.
The doppelganger once again grew bored, shoving past Albus to her with unnatural strength – the boy nearly staggered. Maybe they weren’t so evenly matched at all. But why was Albus’ fear coming after her?
“Albie can be so boring,” the doppelganger sighed, pinching the rigid boy’s cheek endearingly. “He’s fun when he’s mad, don’t get me wrong. But I slap him, poke him, tickle him…Nothing. See? It’s so hard to get under his skin. Now you, Rosie Posie…”
Icy fingers brushed her face and she flinched on instinct.
He threw a nasty smirk at Albus, whose fists had curled into balls.
“I suppose that’s one way to do it.”
Rose made a wild dash, her knees rattling, caught in a game of cat-and-mouse with something not-human.
She knew her cousin’s angry, violent side well – preferred it to this. They were always wildly bouncing between two extremes, but she knew she could exhaust him into stopping and pull him out of the mania. But that applied only to the real Albus, the Albus that grew frustrated and tired and took anger out on her because she was the only one around. Who squirmed like a petulant child in her arms.
His nightmarish counterpart did not bear even a semblance of humanity.
A laugh resonated from somewhere and Rose spun in frantic circles for the source. Her wand, it was hexed out of her hand before she could even make sense of what was happening. Her body flew through the air hitting the back of an enlarged tombstone. As skull throbbed and vision erupted in stars, the Other made his way to her, Cheshire-leer stretching across his face. He held her to the tombstone with magic until he was close enough to use…other means.
Then hands pinned her by the sides, trailing up to her hair – she very nearly gasped from the unbearable cold of his fingers in her scalp. It was inhuman. She tried to squirm and kick and push and ram, her nails clawing, her head spinning, mouth sprouting venomous insults and near-pleas to stop and stop and stop please…
An acidic kiss tingled the flesh of her eyelid, fizzling as she flinched.
His lips curved to a serpentine smile against her skin; she was too scared to move. They trailed down her face until at last they caught her mouth.
Pressure built in her throat; she wanted to die right then. She wanted fold inside herself and wither away.
The kiss. It was just like him, powerful, searching, forceful – filling her insides with unimaginable cold. She tried to yank her head away but was caught between him and the tombstone. Her arms were pinned as well, gripped by freezing nonhuman hands. Struggling proved futile. The only thing she could do was wait it out, the strange sadistic punishment. She tried to endure it, as he coaxed her mouth open with his, serpent tongue sliding between her lips. A sharp pain ran down her throat. This was new to her. She closed her eyes and tried not to whimper, tried to pretend it was Malfoy’s tongue inside her and not some strange imaginary Albus-like nightmare. He was bruising her, biting her, sucking oxygen from her lungs. Asphyxiation. Boys and girls were not supposed to kiss like this, in graveyards and with so much darkness.
She heard the rustle of feet and opened her eyes – staring over the doppelganger’s shoulder at the real thing. Green-eyes stared back in blank astonishment. Albus stood, silently, wand gripped in hand for mass-murder and yet frozen in his spot. Perhaps he had interpreted her compliance for something it was not. Could he not see the silent terror she was in? Could he not sense the shame unraveling within her?
Unable to scream, she pleaded with her eyes, willing her cousin to understand.
Make this stop.
The stunned expression drew back to impassivity, and he gave an almost-indiscernible nod. Pressing a finger to his lips, he returned a look she knew all too well.
On my signal.
Seconds passed like hours and finally, finally…
A spark of light erupted from his wand, striking the doppelganger – lips tore off hers and she slipped out of his grip, gasping for air.
The Other turned and shot towards Albus, who blasted him back against the tombstone. Rose lunged for her wand, ducking as sparks erupted slicing the stone in half and dropping it on the Other.
And she and Albus ran, howls of pain echoing behind them.
Albus inspected the bloody sores in her mouth and cast a healing charm, then quickly drew away.
“Thanks,” She muttered, not looking at him, and they began moving yet again.
He walked ahead, placing deliberate distance between them. When she tried reaching for his hand, he snapped it away almost violently and made it so he was only ruffling his hair. In the wake of such horror and depravity, there was awkwardness, and guilt, and a notion that Rose felt did not need to be duly expressed. He could not even bear to look at her.
There was an explanation building in the air, tensing, straining, aching to be chimed but held back by an entirely different fear. It was stuck, broken. Maybe they were broken, now. Maybe misconceptions had severed them from each other completely.
“He’s not you, Al. I know that.”
They had never needed so many words, so many explanations.
“Fears are fears.” She said, quietly. “Not fantasies.”
Her words, they took from him a sigh of relief: the lungs deflated, and shoulders relaxed, and the pained terse look in green-eyes cleared. He gave the smallest, briefest nod in her direction.
“Let’s find what we’re looking for and get out of here.”
The second-to-last place his dad had used his wand had turned out to be another place familiar to Albus’. As they traced his father’s past they were tracing his own, even the parts he wished to forget. Still he anticipated some type of solution. His father, in spite of all his contradictions, had method to his madness. Purpose to his schemes. A chamber glowing of moonlight resurfaced in his thoughts.
Storm-water pounded against stone as they made their way down rows of graves. In the torrent of wind, rocks and branches assailed our bodies. Sunlight was fading. Danger grew more palpable. A churning swamp had formed, crashing smaller headstones together.
They stepped, slipped, and then fell. She splashed down in flowing water up to her ankles.
Rain beat upon his open eyes as he gestured toward something ahead of them, yelling that they were close. He could feel it. The look on his face was fatigued but excited. Hands joined, albeit reluctantly, they plunged through the screaming whirlwind storm forward. Maybe their parents were waiting at the end of it.
The silhouette of a building surfaced in the horizon – a large dome-like structure. Albus sped up. Rose tried to keep his pace, rain pounding against her shoulders like endless fists. Vision blurred to three; it was hard to see clearly, but they could make out a figure standing in the very entrance of the dome.
The doppelganger had beaten them there.
Albus quickly ushered them under a thick canopy of trees, away from sight. Moderately protected from the storm, they collapsed on the ground in exhaustion.
“Fuck. ” Albus slicked back his wet hair, burying his face in his hands. “That thing is still alive. I knew I should’ve burned the body.”
“How did it know where we’d go-“
“Rose, he’s me.” He snapped. “He knows what I’m thinking. He knows every move I’m going to make.” A pause. “I can’t beat him.”
Rain pitter-pattered around them, drowning out this rare confession of defeat.
“I can distract him for you.”
He gave her an angry look. “You don’t need to encounter him again.”
“I’ll be ready this time.”
“He’ll be expecting it. If I can predict what you’re thinking, so can he.”
She frowned. “He’s not you.”
“He could be me.”
“He’s your fear, Al.” She said. “He won’t disappear until you face him. Sure, he’s the older version of you. So maybe he’s stronger and faster – hell, I don’t give up just because you’re …” She stopped short when he looked up at her, curiously. Then he looked away again.
“I’m not scared.” He told her, stiffly. “Odds are we won’t win this fight.”
Her brow narrowed: Albus was always calculating risks.
He squeezed his eyes, ignoring her.
“Are you a wizard or not?”
“If you think I’ll-“
“Did you think finding our parents would be easy?” She repeated his jeer back to him. “What would your dad think, Albus, if he saw you right now? You think he’d be proud of you? I guess I can see why James was always the favorite.”
He immediately flared up. “You don’t know-“
“Don’t know what?” She scoffed, in a very deliberate way, aware that she was getting to him. But if she had to rile him up to get them out of this mess… “All I know is that James wouldn’t be a coward right now. Come to think, neither would Malfoy. Maybe that’s why I prefer him to you-”
A Silencing charm slapped her mouth.
“Fine.” He was already moving.
It was a risky ploy – they had never quite dueled on the same side before – so they’d be playing it by ear. Albus hated the uncertainty of it all. He hated not being in control.
Before they parted, he pulled Rose back and told her to watch for unexpected knock-backs, a dueling specialty of his. She smiled and told him she knew, pointing to the scar on her knee he’d given her Third Year. She then squeezed his arm and told him something he had certainly not been expecting.
It stunned him, made him freeze up in a way he didn’t think he could. Was she purposely trying to rattle him at such a critical moment? But then, without further explanation, she left out into the open plain, and Albus descending into nearby shrubbery, waiting for his cue.
The storm surge kicked up stones blocking her path. She cut a direct path through the sludge with her wand, approaching the doppelganger.
“Couldn’t stay away could you?” He chuckled, dark eyes glittering. ”Where’s ickle Albie?”
“It’s just me.”
Lightning flashed overhead.
“I don’t believe you.”
“He got scared and left me behind. You know what he’s like. Not exactly Gryffindor material.”
Albus scowled into soaking shrubbery.
“Pity,” The Other tsked, “I was hoping he’d rise to the challenge. I get so bored here by my lonesome. But-” He gave her a poisonous smile. “- I suppose I could torment you for a while.”
She threw a jinx that he dodged easily enough.
Their eyes locked and then they were circling each other. He shot a hex— absorbed in her shield. Albus noticed that while she was not up to par with him, or the Other, her reflexes had improved. Her offense lacked fluidity but her shields were excellent. Albus rarely used shields in battle – he normally did not opponents a chance to attack.
This battle also gave Albus the chance to study the Other, identify strengths, pinpoint weaknesses that he could take advantage of. As expected, he was flawless. He was another Albus after all, only somewhat stronger. More ruthless. He aimed for all her sensitive regions; face, chest and lowers.
Rose would not be winning this battle.
Albus watched her skid across mud, knees red, breathing hoarse. The Other approached her, yet she lay there, limp like a doll. He spun a spell and then Albus heard a noise, a strange cracking like that of a bone, and then he heard Rose scream, actually scream, like he had never heard before. It was not a planned scream –
He had imagined the sound many times, of her bones breaking. What it would be like to snap those fragile little wrists that fit perfectly In His Hands, but he did not anticipate it being so ugly. How the sound was Ugly and it was In His Head and what she had said to him Before It All and now it was ruined, all ruined-
Before he knew it he was moving, wand out, lunging at the Other full force, splattering him back against the ground, not able to think about anything but the Sound, the damned sound how it was in his head Like A Fucking Chip or something like her screaming but she was silent now too silent Was She Dead?
Too busy waiting for her to move, he barely noticed as an impish smile flit over the Other’s face.
“Knew you’d come out.”
When she didn’t move, his attention flitted back to his second-rate copy. Albus gave him no time to stand up, lifting his body and ramming it against the ground hard. And again. A yo-yo: going Up and Down and Up and Down and Down Deep Down Dead Was She Dead-
A hex shot missing by an inch and singeing his fingers.
A muscle in his jaw pulsed. In a single fluid movement, he drew his wand and hoisted the Other violently into the air by the neck.
“What are you going to do Albie? Kill me?”
With a lazy tilt of the head, he watched the Other squirm and whimper as the spell applied pressure to his neck. It was a fascinating psychological experiment, for his rate of bullshit would decrease the closer he drew to death. Submission was directly proportional to oxygen depletion— and while Albus had no intention of killing him so easily— he was curious to see how his theory would pan out.
She was up again, alive, sitting. She looked like shit.
Leaving his suffocating doppelganger hoisted in the air, he walked over to her. He leant on his knee to her.
“What’s broken?” He asked, very softly.
“I-my leg, I think…did our plan work?”
“But it’s fine. I know how to handle it.”
He ignored the question. “How much does it hurt? Your leg.”
“It hurts a lot.” She admitted.
“Oh,” He thought something over, then spoke quietly, “I need you to close your eyes and cover your ears.” He grabbed her palms and thrust them over her ears. “Like this. Can you do that? For a few minutes.”
She nodded, slowly, not really understanding.
Albus left and Rose sat on the ground, eyes squeezed, ears covered. Waiting.
There were spells Albus had never had the privilege to use, until now.
Hominis Tractum: stretched limbs until they tore out of their sockets. Screams, his voice but not his screams rang out. It was not enough. He made sure not to kill the Other too easily - what would be the fun in that? His first fifteen murders had been messy and confusing and too close together and too quick … he intended to stretch this one out, in the very literal sense.
Killing someone that did not exist – did that even count? It didn’t matter. There was so much rage inside him, so much hatred consuming every fibre of his being that fear no longer mattered. It was that noise. That damn cracking noise ringing inside his head ringing, ringing, ring around the Rosie Posie Rose Pose what had Rose said to him before it all that he had not bothered to understand?
I love you Albus.
The words fumbled around in his head distorting and confusing – maybe he had imagined them? It was possible but not probable; he was not schizophrenic. But they made even less sense if he wasn’t.
Blood exploded everywhere – he hadn’t noticed the bones finally tearing away. At least the screaming came to a halt.
An eye for an eye. A bone for a bone. Or twenty.
The arms had disappeared off the limp body. Unsatisfied, Albus tore the legs off too. There. Now there was a certain uniformity to his work of art. He admired his craftsmanship for a minute. Then he strolled over to the future nightmarish version of himself, a mere carcass now. He kicked in its handsome face, no longer smirking or smooching cousins, until it looked as disgusting as he may have felt very deep inside.
It happened like this: you faced your fears. Then you faced them again. And again. And you kept facing them until you became the one thing worse than your fears. Until your fears feared you.
That was what his father understood. That was why the tests continued from his childhood into forever, so that the boy with One Too Many fears could become the young man with no fears. It all made sense, surely. Surely. Now that he had faced the worst of himself, what else could possibly be out there?
“Rose, open your eyes.”
Lashes fluttered and brown collided with a molten green stare.
For a moment she could only stare, drinking the familiarity of his features – face pale, jaw tense, mouth unsmiling, forehead splattered with not-his-blood….sense returned and abruptly she lurched backwards, hands splattering in mud. Albus deciphered the look on her face: it was disgust.
She had heard. She had heard everything.
“Don’t touch me.” She wheezed, looking stricken. “Please. ”
“No, no, leave me alone.” She said miserably, head in her hands. “Oh my god, you’re sick. I can’t believe that you – oh my god. ”
“Don’t touch me!” she shrieked, tears flooding her eyes. “Please…please…leave me alone. I want to go home. I want my real brother. I want him to hold me and not you.”
“You said something to me, earlier. Do you remember what it was?”
She furiously shook her head, eyes squeezed shut. Water poured over her head and down her face.
“Rose,” He gave her an imploring look, his own hair drenched. “You said you love me.”
“I don’t want to be here anymore. Oh I want to go home. I want my brother and my parents…” She was still sobbing like a pathetic child.
Sighing, he clapped a hand over her mouth. They would deal with what triggered her PTSD later.
“Rose,” He tried again. “Did you mean it, do you love me?”
The hysteria dropped, for a moment, and she looked at him with large brown eyes, rain drops hanging on the lashes.
A sheepish nod.
That was that.
“Put your arms around my neck.” He instructed, and she did as she was told. He lifted her up by the legs, holding her like a child, and began to walk.
“Where are we going?” She asked in a small voice.
“We need to see what’s in the dome. That’s why we came here, remember?”
“I want to go home.”
“We’ll go home soon, Rose.”
Rain calmed to a faint shower, washing away their fears.
Inside the dome stood rows of giant pillars, parallel to a breathtaking staircase illuminated by moonlight. It was an observatory; Albus remembered his father bringing him in here, as a treat for after Albus had faced his fears. It was a place for ancient astronomers, or like his father used to tell him, wizards interested in learning tales of the stars. The place, as dead as it was, held the very strong, almost unshakeable presence of his father. It was pure energy, magical energy. There was almost something holy about it.
At the very top stood an altar.
On top of it were bodies. Decaying bodies. The decaying bodies of Ron and Hermione Weasley.
They had died in the middle of a graveyard.
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