Chapter 17 : Explore
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Pretend its two chapters. Hydrate between segments. And please, PLEASE review.
Clouds hung oppressively low in the faded sky, over rolling hills and patches of dried lake. Bleakness surrounded the marshy land, a pollution that had not been there at Christmas gatherings that seemed a lifetime away. Some muggle factory had taken form a few miles from the Burrow after Molly and Arthur Weasley had passed away, and both areas were now long abandoned.
Two figures wafted by, clad in long dark coats and warm scarfs around their necks, their shadows stretching out ahead of them. The girl stuffed her gloved hands into her pockets, looking a bit forlorn. Her companion walked ahead of her, eyeing their surroundings with obvious disdain.
“Suffocating isn’t it? How familiar everything looks.”
“I could do without this trip,” she admitted, breath visible in the cold air.
Albus drew a cigarette from the recesses of his pocket and lit it as they passed empty pig pens and the long abandoned chicken coop. Rose glanced over at the overgrown garden that she’d helped her grandmother prune, pluck, and spruce in hot afternoons of childhood summers. Now, rotten vegetable carcasses littered the frozen dirt patch.
Lush vines, overgrown from years of negligence, twisted across the crooked stories of the Burrow. The five chimneys dotting the roof were chipped and crumbling. In their youth the house had always been vibrant and bright. Now it was nothing more than testament to a faded childhood.
Albus stared, his expression as dull and vacant as the windows.
Old wellington boots and rusty cauldrons littered the space behind the door she blasted open. The living room looked as jumbled and cluttered by trappings as it always had, and while it was less chilly than outside, the familial presence of warmth had long dissipated.
Albus cut her notions of nostalgia short, deciding they begin their search immediately. He had more than a few theories about what his father had been up to, the answer resting in his research, which he claimed the man had hidden at the Burrow following the deaths of their grandparents—after which the place had been abandoned. They combed high and low through the house.
They searched the house for several hours, slowly trailing their way from floor to floor. She tossed through piles of Weasley Wizard Wheezes wrappings, finding nothing, then turned and watched while Albus rummage through a shelf of old muggle knickknacks. Their grandpa, avid collector of such novelties, had passed away the summer before they started school— only weeks after grandma. She trailed past the wall of their photos, weddings, vacations, etcetera; the couple in them, considerably younger, smiled and waved back at her.
“It’s romantic, I s’pose,” she muttered, smiling to herself a little. “The way they practically died together.”
She heard Albus snort, though he didn’t look up from surveying a particularly large muggle battery.
“Your perception of love has grown very… distorted,” he said idly, turning the metallic trinket over in his hand and transfiguring it to a ball. “I can’t imagine many people think of death as romantic.”
She watched him toss the ball high in the air and catch it.
“I remember a small girl that liked to pretend she was a princess trapped in a tower and dream about prince charmings.” He glanced over, eyes silently laughing at her. “What happened to that girl?”
“She made friends with the dragon.”
“Did she now?”
She could hear the underling smirk in his words.
“Dragons are dangerous, volatile animals,” he said, his voice sly. “Can she trust such a creature?”
“She tamed it.”
“Maybe the dragon tamed her.”
Rose kicked a pair of moth eaten socks across the dusty floor, avoiding his gaze. Taking her silence as defeat, Albus returned to casting Summoning charms over every piece of furniture in the room. When he cast it on the wardrobe, it opened itself and clothes magically spun out of the way. In the very back there stood a shelf of old grimy books. Albus walked in without hesitation.
He stepped out holding a stack of heavy looking books, a triumph look on his face.
“The books my dad took from Ollivander.” His eyes held a manic excitement. “I think they’ll tell us exactly what he’s been up to all this time.”
Rose stared at them, skeptical. “They’re in runic.”
“Well, do you know how long they’ll take to translate? Weeks, Albus, weeks.”
The triumph expression wobbled to a sneer.
They spread the books over the long breakfast table and began their tiresome translating. They worked well through the night. Rose made cups of coffee at regular intervals. By morning she was too exhausted to continue and lied down with the intention of a quick nap. When she woke, an unexpected and devastating four hours later, Albus was still translating away, his sleeves rolled to his elbows as the quill in hand moved furiously across parchment. Aside from the top two buttons undone on his starched white shirt, he was precisely as she’d left him.
“Machine.” She grumbled, rubbing a weary eye.
“I said, fancy some tea?”
“Oh.” The quill paused for a split-second. “Earl Grey, then.”
“Don’t think Nana Molly ever used that. I think she just has the regular sort.”
“Then make coffee.”
“So picky.” She muttered as she crossed the kitchen, pinching his cheek as she trailed by him. As expected he didn’t react, working with the razor-sharp focus she knew him to have.
Minutes later, she placed a steaming mug in front of him and sat down across with her own, watching as his long pale fingers trailed across paper with an effortless articulacy. He didn’t even have to pause to think.
It was moments like these Rose fathomed how truly talented her cousin was, in both skill and intellect. She was deemed a prodigy by the world for her resurrection magic, and yet, at times like these, she felt inferior to him. It was intimidating to be in his presence, to work beside him. His mind was made of different material-and while this made her secretly, very intensely jealous-she couldn’t help but be entranced by a wizard so breathtakingly brilliant.
The things Albus Potter could’ve done if he wanted.
Green-eyes flickered, breaking focus from his dark elegant script.
“You do it a lot.” He took his steaming cup and brought it to his mouth. “Thinking, that is.” There was a hint of smugness in the curve of his lips. “Do you plan to tell me about what, or shall I start making deductions?”
“Why don’t you just use Legilimency?” She countered.
“Because you’re very skilled at repelling it.” He said, simply. “Why waste my talents where they’re ineffective?”
“That almost sounds like a compliment.”
“More an…acknowledgement. I appreciate talent when I see it Rose Pose.”
Now that was a compliment, underhanded, but genuine enough to make her blink twice. Niceties from Albus were usually like holiday decorations: planned, obvious, and purely aesthetic.
“So what, now you’re just going to ask me what I’m thinking? Isn’t that a little direct for you? Normally I expect a bit more deceptive, bastard-like behavior.”
Rather than taking offense, he smiled flatly at her.
“You’re evading the question.”
She ignored his quiet, perceptive tone. “I was just…you said your dad met with Ollivander to learn about wand making. That he wanted to know about the manifest of magic.” A pause. “So how does that work?”
He took a gulp of coffee and set it aside, turning back to his work. “What do you mean?”
“I mean I thought magic manifested from wands.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Rose,” he muttered, flipping a page. “Wands are convenient but not necessary. Think about all the underage occurrences of magic that happen without wands.” A snort. “All those kids that blow up their aunts...”
Rose rolled her eyes. “Well, magic is hereditary, Al. I’m sure your dad knew that.”
“Yes, but it’s more complex than that. Genes give you the ability to use magic, to control it—they don’t create magic inside you. The creation of energy out of nothing is impossible.”
“Magic involves the transfer of energy.” Rose said. “Isn’t that what we do, as wizards I mean? We take energy and convert it, mold it into whatever spell we want to cast.”
“Yes, yes but…”
He trailed off.
“When you brought Hugo back, you had to harness the energy somehow. It’s no easy feat to physically cross the boundaries of Death.”
“What makes you think I physically crossed over?” she said, suddenly very defensive.
“You mentioned it to me once.”
“Maybe I was being figurative.”
Her following silence was affirmation of the fact.
“Anyway, it doesn’t matter.” He dismissed, “I had my suspicions long before you mentioned it to me.”
He’d studied her notes on resurrection in excruciatingly close detail.
“You used an enormous amount of energy to cross the barrier and find Hugo’s soul. Of course, the larger matter is pulling him back across the barrier. I doubt the actual process of resurrection takes a simple energy exchange.”
She grew palpably tense. “So what if it doesn’t? What does that have to do with anything?”
He stared at her long and hard and cold, as though he could read all her secrets on her face.
“It doesn’t.” he said, stiffly. “Not at the moment, anyway. But somehow summoning energy for the entire experiment-”
“It was not an experiment, Albus,” she growled. “It was my brother’s life.”
He didn’t bat an eyelid.
“Summoning energy for crossing over…well it has to be an insurmountable sum. It’s curious and not different from other displays of magic.” A contemplative pause. “I admit the whole idea has puzzled me for quite some time now.”
They were at the point in conversation where Rose had become a bit lost, and Albus had simply started thinking out loud.
His head was propped on his knuckles, eyes squeezed hard in thought. “Magic… where does it come from? Does anyone know where magic actually comes from?”
She shrugged. “Magic just… is.”
“But what if it isn’t?” He glanced at her and the intensity in his green eyes rendered her speechless. “Rose, think. All that energy has to come from somewhere doesn’t it? Maybe it comes from a place, or a source….and maybe, maybe that’s what my father was trying to find.”
The manifest of magic.
A trill of fear started up her limbs and spread to her stomach at the thought of Uncle Harry being involved in something that sounded so…terrifying.
And her cousin’s obvious fascination with it.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions.” She said levelly. “We don’t even know if something like this exists. We need to thoroughly comb through your dad’s research first.”
“Yes- yes of course you’re right.” He replied, his voice vague like he was floating in some daydream.
Rose tried to ignore the strange, intent gleam in his eyes.
A set of heavy folders dropped onto Rose Weasley’s already-cluttered desk. It was the Head. The man never left his office to make deliveries, so more than a single pair of perplexed eyes bobbed up.
He gave a perfunctory smile that curled at the ends. Coupled with the facial scar running across his face, it gave him the impression of a sadist. “Your first official investigation, Weasley, will be the Novo Ordis case.”
Whispers erupted in the office as the girl’s face plunged.
Florian piped up amidst the mainly jealous stares.
“You mean she’s leading it? I requested that case weeks ago.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Dubois. We’re dealing with one of the most dangerous groups out there, and she has no experience of which to speak—” All the experience she had was of the type not to speak. “—No. I’m leading it. I want her on the team.” The Head observed the pissed reactions at his words. He paused to savor them. “And did I mention there are three more openings?”
As aurors hurtled towards the Head, Florian in the very lead, Rose glanced at the motionless rest of her unit.
“You lot not interested?”
Mr. Hashimoto, diligently immersed in paperwork, ignored her as usual. Kovy mouthed a fuck no as Cynthia yawned into her coffee.
Rose felt her nerves prickle. She wasn’t ready for a case so high profile and the Head knew this, surely. The Ordine Corvis were a group of highly dangerous animagi, responsible for many high-scale crimes of the past decade, and suspected of being behind the Camden bombings. According to reports, they were radicals bent on infiltrating the Ministry. Terrorists, with apparently a very lethal style of magic. Just last week Officer Humphrey and his unit arrested one of their men—reports claimed that the criminal, identified to be ex-Flourish and Blotts employee Geoffrey Croaker, was hysterical. That he had willingly surrendered at the sight of aurors, even offered up his wrists on his knees. It was the most talked-about event in the office and shaping up to be a very curious mystery.
Florian flew back looking overly excited to have a position on the case, and spent all afternoon chatting about it with Rose. Cynthia wrinkled her nose at their chatter. Mr. Hashimoto worked with his usual efficiency. Kovy fell asleep midway to noon, forehead pressed to desk. Florian hit the back of his head with a rolled file, snapping him awake.
By lunch Rose was starving, but Florian coerced her into skipping to break the case in. Cynthia and Kovy ended up dragging the two of them to lunch anyway, and Mr. Hashimoto simply sauntered along. They sat at a table, sandwiches unfolded in front of them.
“Are you lot going to the pub tonight?” Cynthia chattered. “Some guy in Humphrey’s unit is treating the whole floor to drinks. Said he wanted to celebrate their progress.”
Kovy gave an incredulous snort. “What progress? The guy willingly surrendered.”
“Oh who cares…it’s free drinks. And our department could use some cheer after the hellish last month. We’re all starting to look like dementors.” She paused for their resident Magical Creature expert’s jibe about dementors not actually having faces, but then noticed Florian was off talking passionately about the case with Officer Humphrey.
“He isn’t complaining,” Rose noted.
“Oh please, Dubois lives at the office. The rest of us have lives you know.”
“I don’t really have a life,” Kovy admitted, and Mr. Hashimoto as usual didn’t comment, though Rose interpreted it as an agreement nonresponse. She got the sense very few people in their occupation had lives outside of work, since there was so much of it. And with the upcoming quarantine, allied countries had stopped sending aid to England and those not entirely committed or too scared to stay were transferring out—thus individual duties had grown. By the British Ministry’s current standing, those remaining in Law Enforcement could be put into four categories: there were the patriots (Mr. Hashimoto), the trigger-happy die hards (Florian), the lazy ones who floated on natural talent (Kovy), or those simply not aware what they’d gotten into…like Cynthia.
Rose often wondered if she belonged in the latter category. Then she remembered she had no choice.
The quarantine-which frankly felt like collective imprisonment-frightened her more than she’d ever admit to her unit mates or her brother…or Scorpius. The blond had told her not to worry, that it was out of her hands, but at the same time it felt like he was egging her towards else. That conversation about her having international power was firmly planted in her head, but she had no clue where to go with it. Her future felt vague and murky. Meanwhile Scorpius had begun taking his seriously; they saw each other briefly during visits to Hugo—but he could never stay long because of his Healer training. Rose was happy for him. She decided she would be.
At least he knew what he wanted.
Kovy stopped by her cubicle with the customary two cups of coffee. He sat on the edge of her desk, chipping black paint off the corner in the way that annoyed her though she was too busy with paperwork to reprimand him. She was, by now, as accustomed to her colleague’s bad habits as he was to hers.
“You seem… different,” he commented vaguely, picking specks of black from underneath his nails.
Her quill came to a halt. “Do I?”
“Calmer I think…you seem less distracted. More comfortable. I remember when we met –you were always in a pretty pissy mood.” A snort. “Wouldn’t even respond to my pick-up lines.”
“I… was going through some issues.”
“I can imagine.” She blinked and looked up at him. “I mean- sorry! I don’t mean like I know, I just mean with you being…you know…you. Queen of Death and all.” He finished sheepishly. “It makes sense, Rose. We all get it, you know, why you brought back your brother. I think it’s heroic. They won’t say it, but a lot of people on the task force do too, and they’d do the same thing in your shoes.”
You don’t know the sort of stares I got on my first day. She wanted to say this, then realizing how bitter that sounded, settled for “thanks.”
They sat there, sipping coffee.
“It’s hard, isn’t it?” He lamented, after a moment’s pause. “Growing up.”
She stared down at her lap; the statement was, perhaps, too biting, too intimate, too parent.
Lifeless bodies surfaced her thoughts before she could stop them.
Following shortly after, the Head’s voice called from across the room—“WEASLEY, GET BACK TO WORK OR I’LL SEND YOUR LAZY ASS TO AZKABAN LIKE YOU DESERVE!”
“Then there’s him.” She fumed, picking up her quill again, and Kovy laughed. “Look on the bright side, atleast we all have to share him. So the abuse is distributed. Last week, I heard him yell at Mendoza for wearing bright nail polish on a mission. Said it upset the integrity of their investigation.”
“Bet he didn’t threaten her with Azkaban.”
“Well…no. I guess that’s where you’re special.”
Rose was just glad she don’t have to live with him anymore. When she told Kovy that, he grinned.
“That’s the spirit. See, there is a silver lining to growing up.”
“For example,” he continued. “If you do end up going to that awful boring sweaty pub thing tonight, you might run into me, and who doesn’t want that? And...” He gave a dramatic pause. “I might buy you a drink. Maybe. Possibly.”
“I thought drinks were free.”
“Read between the lines, Rose. You’re smart.”
She studied the length of her quill, her cheeks heating. “I already have a lot of reading to do tonight. The Head’s going to grill me hard on the case tomorrow and I don’t think I’m smart enough for both.”
“Fair. Some other time then?”
“Whenever that happens in the busy life of aurors.” She tried to joke.
Rather than taking offense, Kovy grinned.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard you say it, that you’re an auror.”
It was the first time Rose had heard herself say it too.
Her house was by now a mausoleum to Harry Potter, thanks to her cousin. But, of course, Albus was unapologetic about it, just as he was unapologetic about the fact he’d littered rune-papers across the floor trailing from the front to the back door. Or the ‘mental notes’ he’d tacked to all the walls and strings running across connecting ideas and entangling those passing by. It was impossible to walk through any room without tripping or bumping into something. The house had morphed from a potions lab to an investigation den, or rather, the mental fortress of Albus Potter. Unfortunately, he’d taken the liberty to move all cauldrons and potion-making supplies to her room (his was crowded with books) which made mornings terrible. She’d wake up coughing to haphazard fumes and find her cousin crouched by her vanity table—cleared of her vanity supplies in favor of potion ingredients.
“Albus,” she groaned, twisting back into bed and wrapping her blanket over her head. “Albus. Get. Out.”
Today, he had on his magnifying spectacles, and was carefully depositing dark powder into a cauldron that was producing was some unfortunate sour odor.
He paid her no attention.
“Albus. I need privacy in the mornings.” She seethed. “Are you even listening?”
A pillow was thrown, narrowly missing the boy in question. He didn’t look up, but the corner of his mouth curved.
Rose sighed, sitting up. “I should be able to get out of bed without tripping over iguana tails or jars of flobberworms. I should be able to shower without getting the soles of my feet burned because you dumped some reject potion in the tub the night before. I should actually be able to see myself in the mirror without clouds of purple smoke everywhere! I know it’s hard for you but if for one moment you could even pretend to have the human decency to...”
A silencing charm slapped her mouth.
He tucked his wand away, calmly, then turned back to his potion.
“Go bathe and get dressed, Rose.” He spoke curtly. “I’ve set the tea. We have much to discuss today and I’m afraid there’s little time for your girlish antics.”
Rose floundered out of bed and carefully navigated her way to the bathroom, inwardly cursing.
While she ate breakfast, he placed a vial of small molten gold in front of her.
“What is it?”
A smirk. “Guess.”
He gave a derisive eye-roll. “Now, now. This is an easy one, Rose Pose.”
Rose studied the potion for a brief minute.
“Looks kind of like Felix felicis, I suppose. But it’s darker.”
“I made…adjustments to the original recipe. It won’t instill the feeling of overconfidence the regular does. It’s safer for prolonged use.”
“So this is what you’ve been polluting my room with?” She tried to narrow her eyes in anger but failed miserably. “I mean it’s…it’s… really impressive Albus.”
He smiled coolly, pushing it towards her. “Well, now it’s yours.”
“You’re birthday was last month. This is what people do, don’t they?”
She stared more.
Reinvent famous potions. Yes. Something people do.
His expression turned vaguely cold at her prolonged silence.
“You don’t like it?” he spoke, with an edge.
“No, I do. It’s amazing… really, Albus. Thank you.”
He eyed her doubtfully but said nothing, instead nodded. Looked away. Sipped his tea.
And that was that.
“I’d like to show you something,” he spoke once she had finished eating. “Have you given much thought to our earlier discussion about magic?”
In truth she had thought of little else.
“Something about it didn’t sit well with me.” she admitted.
His brows raised.
“Well, all energy comes from the sun – in the simplest sense of course.” She explained. “Light energy, before it’s converted into other forms. And magic is just another form. By that understanding, I mean there’s really no manifest of magic.”
The corners of his mouth twitched.
“All right, look.” She traced letters in the air with her wand.
Light energy-->plants harness light-->animal eats plants--->wizard eats animal--->wizard makes magic.
He gave a condescending half-smile. “I appreciate the admittedly very simplistic diagram Rose, but you’re still wrong. Magic is different. It’s larger than your breakfast.” He procured one of the large volumes of his father he’d spent the night reading, flipping to a marked page. “Do you know that wandlore’s a dying art? There are maybe a handful of wandmakers that take the time to understand the origins of magic.”
“There’s no origin except the sun, Al. Then energy’s recycled. It goes in a circle.”
“And I’m telling you that magic is different.” A snort. “Look at this.”
He’d circled the sketch of a stone—listed to be fluorspar, vaguely green and partially translucent. It had been molded into a large ring-like shape, its center filled with a thick layer of what the caption said was magic. It was palm sized. A harness for magic from surrounding energy. And instantly Rose knew what he was getting at.
She stared at it, her insides crawling. It was far beyond the level of any magic either of them had ever studied.
“No. Look, we know that the resurrection stone from the Deathly Hallows exists. We know that the philosopher’s stone exists, because Flamel made it.” She shook her head. “But this-this isn’t even a myth, Al. It’s just an idea.”
“Magic is made of ideas, Rose. Magic is an idea. It must’ve been, before the very first wizard made it reality- don’t you see?”
Frustration gnawed at her. It felt like one of their arguments from their school days- the sort that were all theory and philosophy and never went anywhere useful.
“I don’t understand why you care so much about this,” she said irritably. “How does this help us find your father? How does this fake idea stone tie into anything?”
“I have a feeling.”
She gave him an incredulous look. “Since when do you place feelings over facts? ”
He glowered. “Since they’ve had a tendency to be right.”
He couldn’t explain why or how; intuition was those curious things without any rational basis, like fear or grief or love. The places they’d visited with the potion he simply known where to go in spite of having no clear memory. He could predict outcomes of seemingly impossible situations. Certain truths were simply buried inside him- and he had so much to explore, to uncover… to conquer.
Somehow it all came back to his father.
“It seems so…wrong,” she said quietly.
The words evoke three seconds of pure anger that were quickly contained. Instead, he shot her an annoyed look. “What’s wrong about it? When exactly did seeking knowledge become a taboo?”
“When another brilliant wizard decided he wanted to split his soul in seven pieces.”
It was reinvigoration of the cautionary tale that’d plagued the ears of their entire generation, and the son of Harry Potter grew silent… pensive almost.
In abrupt fashion he slammed his book shut and crossed the kitchen away from her, staring fixedly out the window. His fingers curled at his side.
“Whatever’s on your mind, speak it plainly,” he said, voice sharp as he drew a cigarette.
Her shoulders tensed. “I’m only saying we’d be fools to ignore the past. Your father…” A pause as she gathered her nerve. “Maybe I don’t know what he wanted for you, Albus, but I do know he wouldn’t want you to be some mindless caricature of Tom Riddle. I-”
“Is that what you think I am?” He interrupted, turning to her.
“No I-look, Albus. That isn’t who you are, who we are…our parents didn’t raise us to be like that!”
Her outburst caught him off guard, but his look of surprise was quickly replaced by a calm and searching one.
“You seem to forget we had two very different sets of parents, Rose,” he said, his voice quiet. “And by result, two very different childhoods.”
“I know, Albus. I understand.”
Then she looked at him in a strange, soft way. “Yes…I’m sorry.”
He scowled, as if these words were offensive to him. Albus Potter knew who he was, mind and body, and he was not sorry for it. And if Rose she thought he was some Hugo —some damaged little boy in need of saving—then she was regretfully wrong. He was very well the greatest wizard of his age, perhaps of all time.
Here she was, inflicting him with the same self-righteous platitudes as James: the single-minded belief that they were meant to be exactly like their parents [who had been extolled to the level of deities by the rest of the insufferable world]. That they were meant to follow in their crater-sized steps and uphold their ideals. Why? Because Once Upon a Fucking Time, those ideals had worked.
The world was now different from as it had been for their parents. Darker. More complex, and such a mindset was bred of fear and lack of imagination… and led to absolutely nothing. Stagnation. Albus despised it. Progress, true progress, was borne of risk-taking, innovation, not cowering in shadows and preachy platitudes. Instead, true progress was borne of someone willing to tread the great boundaries of magic [as long as he stayed in control]. Someone willing to go where no wizard has dared to go before [as long as he stayed in control].
Albus didn’t know why Rose couldn’t understand, given the steps she’d taken to bring her brother back. Maybe she was too terrified of magic now. No matter. Then he would help her understand. He would show her that he-and he alone- was right. He didn’t know why he was so compelled to prove this to her, only that in spite of not being his real sibling she had compromised his thoughts and actions in a way that made him…frustrated. He could not understand why he was so irrationally affected [Albus hated not understanding things]. Further investigation was necessary.
All he had to do was stay in control.
It wasn’t as much an interrogation as it was a public spectacle. Aurors, even ones not on the case, crowded excitedly behind the one-way observation glass as their boss entered the white-walled room, looking as arrogant and fastidious in manner as he always did.
“Evening, Mr. Croaker.”
“E-Evenin’,” the pudgy man stammered, eyes darting across the tall scar-faced man. “H-how do yer do, sir?”
The Head smiled pleasantly in return. “I take it you slept well last night in your cell.”
He’s pretty fucking scary when he’s being nice, Florian whispered to Rose, who snorted in response. It occurred to her that their tyrannical boss was in fact, capable of being cordial when opportunity presented. This was also how he maintained amiable ties with the Minister and other strategically important officials, while it was only Rose who knew the true extent of his duplicity and ambition.
Rose had much to learn from him.
“Y-yes, I did. M-much better than I’ve slept in months.” The captive swallowed, and waited until he was further prompted. “I…I c-couldn’t take it yer see, they’re mad, they’re all mad. I couldn’t take it no more-”
“Who’s they?” The Head’s voice interrupted.
“All them…them ruddy crows!” he sputtered, his fleshy face turning pink. “Vultures, more like! Savage animals!”
“Aren’t you one of them?”
He flared up instantly, almost like a ruffled hen. “I’m done with them filthy vermin forever! After…after what they done did to them muggles.”
“Is that why you turned yourself in?”
All the aurors behind the glass stared as Croaker broke into tears. The Head watched in mild amusement.
“I-I’m sorry! I didn’t think anyone was going to get hurt!”
Like we’ve never heard that one before, Florian muttered. Rose shushed him, straining to listen.
“Mr. Croaker, you must understand that I care very little for your emotional state,” The Head spoke callously, but not without a hint of satisfaction. “My job is pure and simple, to investigate and apprehend criminal activity. Now, if you do not reveal all you know about the Camden bombings, there’s very little chance you’ll see daylight ever again.”
“Send me to prison then,” the man cried. “I’d be safer there.”
Well, he’s obviously never been to Azkaban, Florian said cheerfully.
Rose quirked an eyebrow. Have you?
Well…no. But I recall you were almost sent there once, Capitaine.
Thank you for the remainder.
“You don’t know what they’re capable of. The kinds of magic they got, kinds I never seen before and I reckon you haven’t either. You don’t know…” An audible swallow. “They’re going to kill you all.”
“I assure you every member of my team is accustomed to death threats.”
But the man was inconsolable: he rattled his head miserably, over and over again.
“You don’t know.” He kept repeating.
Albus had been engrossed in a piece of paper all morning, not eating and dodging all her attempts to engage him in conversation. He was in one of those moods where he couldn’t spare her time because there was something more pressing in his head.
She peeked over his shoulder to catch a glimpse of what he was writing. But he wasn’t writing; he was drawing.
“It’s good,” she commented.
He abruptly shifted the paper away and shot her a hostile look.
“What is it supposed to be?”
“None of your business.”
“But you’re drawing.” She said, smiling a little. “You haven’t done that since we were kids.”
He drew an annoyed breath and held it, ignoring her. But she hung over his shoulder until he had to give in.
“I’m trying to reconstruct one of my memories.” He told her, stiffly. “I’ve been thinking about that stone we discussed the other day- I was trying to figure out why it stood out to me, why it was relevant like you said-” He broke off. “That’s just it. Things don’t stand out to me unless they matter. So it had to mean I’d seen it somewhere before.”
“With your father?” She asked, hoping her voice didn’t convey her fear. It had been maybe too much to hope that he’d forget all about the stone.
“He took me…many places. It’s difficult to remember every single detail.”
Rose stared at the picture.
“It looks like some sort of cave.”
“Does it?” He turned it over. “Interesting.”
He didn’t respond but the quill stopped, indication enough that he was listening.
“Let me try…try to see if I can find your memory. I could go inside your head, like I did that other night. What was it, some weird way to do reverse Legilimency?”
“More like a lack of Occulmency.” He said, eyes narrowing. “And you didn’t go in, I let you in. Within reason, of course. I’d never give you free reign in my head.”
“But could you do it again?”
He glared at her.
“Just that one memory,” she said carefully. “I promise I won’t…wander.”
He surveyed her quietly and cruelly, as if expecting some ulterior motive. Rose felt a little wounded but tried not take it personally; habits were hard to break and Albus just wouldn’t be Albus without the hostility and the scrutinizing behavior and the overly suspicious edge.
Then finally, a small nod.
Given that he wasn’t high, it had be a miracle.
“Wait, how close do I need to sit for this to work?”
He ignored what he probably thought was a stupid question, instead tapped the table in front of him. She climbed into her designated seat and he enchanted the table lower so they were face to face.
“Eww, you’re not going to try to kiss me or something right?” she teased, trying to lighten the mood and inwardly wondering whether it was in bad taste to make that joke. They had a mutual, near-subconscious pact to never mention the doppleganger ever.
But if Albus was bothered, it didn’t register on his face.
He had his wand ready and aimed at her. “First thing, you’ll need to empty your mind, which I’m sure won’t be very difficult for you. Then-”
“But shouldn’t I cast the-”
“I’m afraid not. I don’t trust you to cast it properly. Now sit still.”
This time was different than before; there was no reel of preselected memories flashing across her eyes. Instead she was standing in the darkest darkness she’d ever seen. The momentary lack of anything frightened her, and he must’ve realized this, because his subconscious readily built itself up to resemble the hazy inside of a building. Something ordinary. Something familiar to tread.
A passageway in the Burrow.
She tried walking but her feet hovered over the ground. It was dream-like, surreal. Her surroundings flickered like a broadcast on the wireless.
Wafting through Albus Potter’s head was like swimming in ice-water—how fitting.
Something on her right caught her eye. A glint of bronze, metal, circular like a knob. Doorknob. As she reached for it, something jerked her body back. A whooshing sound flew over her head—metal lattices shot through the faux-air and twisted across the doorway.
His voice thundered through his entire subconscious, angry, booming against her skull.
What are you doing? Did I tell you to go there?
She felt dizzy. “Sorry. I thought-sorry-”
Something cold grasped hold over her body and pulled her forward —apparently he wasn’t taking any more chances with her.
Rose had been violently reminded just how private Albus Potter was about his thoughts.
Much sooner than expected, she found herself picked up like a doll and dropped in the memory.
It was off-color, grainy like he was barely able to hold it together. It must’ve been old. On her sides were ivory crusted walls of a rocky structure, like a hollow in a large wall. She watched two figures float by her to the right, Uncle Harry carrying young-boy Albus in his arms. Her uncle looked as distinctly Harry-like as she remembered, and there was no other way for Rose to describe him. Albus had his usual scowl, but it was refreshingly childlike— closer to the pout of a boy who was made to do something he didn’t particularly want to.
Their mouths moved but their conversation was inaudible; so either Albus couldn’t remember it or he had muted it. Maybe he didn’t want her to hear what he considered was a private exchange.
Retracting her gaze from the admittedly very adorable little boy (she decided against mentioning this observation to the older counterpart; it would only piss him off), she followed their paths down the cave. There was more grainy turbulence, entire pieces of the rocky structure missing from memory. Then Harry stopped and his mouth was moving again; he was pointing to something indecipherable in the distance. Rose followed it, trying to move as far as the memory would allow her. The indecipherable became something vaguely decipherable.
She stared in disbelief.
The stone, its center brimming with magic.
It was real and it was somewhere out there.
There was a man in the world who was not a man.
He was barely a living thing, a void, an echo that could neither be heard nor understood. He was a constant in the fabric of Time, stretching out with no beginning or end to be remembered. A contradiction of Nature itself.
He had passed through the world like a shadow for centuries now. Watching as Dark Lords rose around him…and fell. For they would always fall, as leaves fell to the slightest change in wind. It was Nature’s manner of recycling. Time was on a perpetual cycle of darkness and the man alone stood as it’s one and only source of enlightenment.
Once he had been a real man, perhaps. He did not like to recall these days of ignorance and obscurity, nor incite details of an anguish that was no long relevant. He had been deafened so that he could now hear. He had been broken so that he was now whole. And only when he had been pinned by the arms, tortured and mutilated, physically and forcibly blinded, it was then at last that he learned to see.
He had transcended his human form completely and utterly.
He was creature borne of war, of suffering, of oppression, and of power. But it did not end there; if it did, then perhaps the threat they faced would be more…manageable.
Healer training had completed so all that was left were examinations which Scorpius was under grueling preparation for. He’d come over to get brewing pointers from Potter, who’d been as dismissive and haughty about the matter as one would expect Potter to be but hadn’t said no. Because- and Scorpius knew this- his best mate reveled in proving his intelligence to others. The blonde, who was reasonably bright but not exactly brilliant, had taken advantage of this many times in school- especially before his OWLs which had incidentally turned out spectacular and thrilled his parents and opened his future to the likes of Healing. On some level Scorpius may have owed his academic success to Potter. He was never going to admit it though.
Potter had used Scorpius all through school, but Scorpius had used him too.
Slytherins, the pair of them.
Scorpius sat under a canopy of autumn-colored leaves in the large Weasley yard, studying; there was a cool breeze, sporadic, chilling his hands and blowing his hair askew. He ruffled it out of habit. He kept glancing over at Rose, also out of habit, eyes trailing over her form. The smooth neck. The slender arms. The long…legs. He tried not to let her catch him, though occasionally his eyes caught Potter’s, whose expression would darken as if he knew exactly what Scorpius was thinking. Then his ears would redden and he’d go back to staring at his book.
Rose was too busy dodging spells to notice.
The cousins were sparring, in the way they used to do back at school. And often these sparring sessions had the potential to go very, very badly…for Rose.
Torrents of crackling light sped past her—narrow miss—leaves rattled from trees in nearby vicinity—he tilted his head—she outran another wild hex—slapped her leg—she was rolling—face swallowed dirt—lifted herself back on her feet—he smirked at her anger—blocked her Incarcerus and tossed it back—she threw up a shield—torpedoes of red were fired—shield cracking—her feet skid backwards—light burst through—she flew back.
In the past fifteen minutes Rose had had herself thrown all over the yard, while Albus had barely moved.
“You call that a hex?” she panted, standing up. “My gran could do better.”
“Don’t you two share the same gran?” Scorpius piped from his so-called-studying. “I admire the energy, Weasel, but really, that insult doesn’t even make sense.”
“Rose Pose has a spotty record for trying to make sense.” Albus muttered. The boys exchanged a very Slytherin smirk.
“You’re spotty.” She snapped back with a jinx. He leisurely side-stepped it, and threw a streak of silver her way.
It hit her hard but not as hard one would expect Albus to hit. Something about his manner of dueling was subdued, like he was playing with her than fighting decently. This boiled her blood. She’d wanted to spar, to improve, and she couldn’t do that if her opponent was being coy. She’d seen him. She’d experienced him. He could do better.
And so could she.
She refocused herself and aimed a hex. It flew over his head into trees. Leaves exploded everywhere.
He brushed a stray leaf from his shoulder in a careless sort of way. A small smile played on his lips.
Now she was pissed. She torpedoed hexes, each one harder and faster than the last.
Albus stood there, slashing through each with ease. He felt no urgency to dodge, to even conjure a shield. Colors collided in the space between them. Arcs clashed in an explosion of light.
The bullets stopped.
Rose panted, leaning on her calves. Sweat dripped down her elbows.
He tilted his head derisively. “I’ve exhausted you.”
“Five minutes.” she growled.
Potter had stalked inside to check on some pet potion of his, inadvertently leaving Scorpius alone in the yard with Rose. She poured water over herself and Scorpius found himself struggling not to stare. He stared fixedly at his book. Minutes passed. Then she was leaning beside him, inquiringly, his concentration waned further.
“How’s the supposed studying going?”
“Funny,” he muttered, then rested the book on his head. He gave a hefty groan. “Weasel. I’m going to fail. Here. Quiz me on the properties of Skele-grow.”
“I’m sure you’ll be fine.” She encouraged.
“I always hated potions in school. Don’t know how the hell I got an Exceeds Expectations.” He said heatedly. “Honestly, can you think of one potion I didn’t blow up?”
“Don’t remember. I wasn’t in every class with you, Malfoy.”
“Wish you were.”
It was a strategic line, placed cleverly and thrown casually, but when she didn’t take it Scorpius opted to move on.
He collapsed backwards with an exaggerated sigh. “I don’t have the aptitude to be a Healer. I’m good at organizing heists, picking locks, and sneaking into places I shouldn’t be sneaking into. Not potions.”
“Sounds like you have the aptitude of a thief.”
“Well, yes. Unfortunately I can’t really make a living off my natural Slytherin abilities… I blame Potter entirely. He’s claimed the market.”
A chuckle that showed she understood only too well, followed by a pause.
“Why Healer, then?”
He looked at her, uncomfortable. “It’s cheesy. You don’t want to hear it.”
“No it’s really bad.”
“I’m not going after what I want, Weasel. I’m going after what I should be. I…” He stopped a bit timidly, until Rose shot him a curious look. “After the great war, you know what my family’s reputation was like. The opposite of yours. Many people didn’t-and still don’t think my dad should’ve been pardoned even though he’s changed. I know the way people look at us, Weasel, I know what they think. They think we’re a bunch of villains, or a bunch of useless rich snobs. And I…” He trailed off, sounding a little bit sheepish and a little bit angry and for a moment Rose looked like she understood precisely what he was feeling.
“Yeah I get it, Malfoy.”
She nodded, catching his nervous gaze for a moment before looking away. “You think if you try hard enough at it, you’ll change how the world thinks. That if you do something good with your future, people will forget where you come from.”
“Thanks for summing it up.” He muttered. “I told you it’s cheesy.”
He put his book over his face and tried to be casual about it, and certainly not to hide his reddening ears.
“So that’s why, huh,” Her voice mused. “The whole stubborn friendship with Al. He doesn’t give a shit about your past.”
It was half-true. Potter didn’t give a shit about his family history and that was nice. And the fact their peers had, once, anticipated rivalry between them may very well have hammered in the nails of their alliance. Typecast outcasts. Partners in crime. They had horrible-sounding first names and unforgettable surnames and chips on their shoulders for it they’d probably never outgrow. It was more than enough common ground. But if Scorpius was Slytherin’s Ice Prince it was by reputation only, for Albus was King and he ruled his Kingdom with an Iron Fist. He was the coldest human being alive and selfish about the territory that came with it. Where it came to Rose was where the territorial lines may have...grown murky.
“Nah, Weasel. I’m just a sucker for bad attitude and cheekbones.” He said dryly. “Those sparkling green eyes make my heart swoon.”
They snickered together.
Scorpius nodded his head toward the approaching figure, whose eyes were certainly not sparkling and whose wand was fully equipped in hand. “You should probably get back to sparring. Kick his ass for me, would you?”
She grinned, pulling to her feet. “You’re team Rose then.”
“Always.” He smirked lazily “He’s my best mate but someone needs to cut his ego down to size. That thing is suffocating.”
“You’re telling me. Do you know how hard he is to live with? Do you know what my mornings are like?”
“Weasel.” He gave her an incredulous look. “I’ve shared a dorm with him for six years.”
Round two was even worse.
Rose, with muscles heartlessly conditioned, relied on brute strength behind spells more than anything. Maybe it was compensation for her lack of casting abilities. She fought as one would expect a young soldier to fight, with a desperate sort of dedication. Meanwhile Albus was a ballerina. Practiced. Cat-like. His movements were elegant and languid as he attacked, lacking her urgency. His figure was lean but not too lean; he’d never been one of the muscley type of boys. And there was a strange smoothness between movement and action, a sort Rose found herself envying. She had taken solace in Auror training, thinking that would make her better than Albus. It hadn’t.
It wasn’t just that. She was distracted now, her thoughts preoccupied by things not strictly magic—the break had not helped. Her eyes kept trailing over to that blond head, immersed in his so-called-studying—well he was studying now. He was so comical when he tried to be serious. Once she left school Rose thought it was the end of their something-of-an-acquaintance. But Scorpius wasn’t lying about being good at sneaking into places he shouldn’t have been sneaking into. It was strange to see someone like him in her world; he didn’t belong but he wouldn’t leave. The Slytherin by reputation may very well have been a Gryffindor in disguise; still, it was his Hufflepuff side that seemed to somehow stand out the most. The persistence for friendship. The downplayed good nature. She blamed Hugo for warming up to him so quickly… it was silly. And she felt silly even thinking about it.
A hex flew past her shoulder snapping her back to reality, and she rounded with a beam of blue.
When her gaze trailed yet again, she caught Albus staring at the same spot. He always seemed to catch on too quickly. It took her a moment to decipher the look on his face- eyes narrowed and steely, jaw tight. His wand gripped tighter and Rose somehow knew-and readily dreaded- his next move.
She shot him a lethal glare.
Don’t you dare.
His lips twitched upwards in a defiant smirk.
The day was about to be ruined in five ill-fated seconds. It would take Albus two seconds to aim his wand. It would take Rose all four to bolt across the yard, sprinting and leaping and hoping it’s not too far, it’s not too far, it’s not—
The fifth second—she’d lunged across grass shielding Scorpius’ oblivious body with hers completely, her mouth in a fierce snarl, her wand stretched in front of her. A bright burst of light erupted from her wand and slashed through his hex.
She had done it.
Her body shook with terrified breaths and she lowered her wand, hands clasping into grass. She could feel Scorpius’ hand steadying her back, his own breath hoarse and rapid against her neck.
Albus returned a dull look.
“Malfoy,” she panted, glaring at her cousin. “Maybe you should study inside. With all the stray spells out there.”
Scorpius pulled to his feet, looking from the angry disheveled Rose to the composed Albus and back to Rose again, gaze lingering on her. She offered no explanation. He was confused but not quite so oblivious as to think what had just happened was some stray spell.
“I’ll…just go inside then.”
But first he pulled her up, clasping her hand and holding it longer than he needed to. Then, with one last strange look between the cousins, he departed.
“What the fuck was that?” she snarled, watching him light a cigarette. “Why on earth would you—you wanna have a go at someone? Have it at me. Attack me. What’s the matter? You’ve never held back before-”
“I don’t need your permission.” He snapped. “Stop talking.”
She drew an enraged breath.
“Scorpius Malfoy’s the sort of friend people dream about having—do you know that? Do you even know how much he thinks of you? And you just nearly attacked him!”
He blew smoke in the air like an impatient dragon.
“You’re the only one dreaming about Scorpius Malfoy,” he muttered, acidly, and rounded onto her. “Is that it, do you plan to die with him too? Because I’m sure there are plenty of people out there willing to acquiesce that request,” a sneer, “You’re perception of love is more distorted than I thought. It’s almost too pathetic.”
She flared instantly: his allegations were ridiculous and immature.
“Why don’t you grow up?”
“Why don’t you go to hell?”
She drew back at these words that were too harsh, too cruel, even for him.
“I think if I did, Albus,” she said, her throat tight. “I think you’d miss me.”
“You overestimate your importance then.”
“I just obliterated your hex. Maybe you’re the one who’s underestimating me.”
“You’d never survive a real duel with me,” he spoke in a quiet, lethal voice. “I’d have you on your knees. I’d have you begging for mercy.”
These words chilled her bones, for there was a quiet presence of truth to them. She knew Albus was merciless when he was angry, and just how far his anger went when he was pushed. She wanted to think she was the exception to this. She wanted to think there was something past the animosity. But past the layers of brilliance and ambition and hardness and cruelty was…more hardness, and bitterness, and hatred, and an agony you might miss if you blinked. And there was the fear of misplaced hope, that when she got to the center of him she’d find nothing but hollow empty space. A hollow boy. A boy with not enough soul left in him.
Maybe the dragon tamed her.
I’d have you on your knees. I’d have you begging for mercy.—she’d use these words to fuel her determination to work harder, get better, to match him wand for wand. They’d tick in her head and heart for years to come as she built herself up. Rose was not a quitter.
“You’re wrong you know,” she called after him. “You think it’s my feelings…it’s not. I’d take a hex for Malfoy the same way I’d take a hex for anyone. The same way I’d take for Hugo….even for you.”
He turned, scowling at her. “I’d never ask you to.”
“You’d never need to”
“There’s a reason there are no more heroes in the world, Rose. They all died. They died because they were stupid.” He tucked his wand away, stalking away. “I think we’re done for today.”
There was something very strange going on with Rose’s memoir.
The shaky international Wizarding relations and the looming threat of England being put under quarantine; both of these were pertinent catastrophic things, and yet she approached them with all the nonchalance of a weather report, treating them as mere subplot to the early adventures of her and Mr. Potter.
Instead, the memories she shared were very carefully chosen, even if I couldn’t determine rhyme or reason yet. With ten days remaining it would have been impossible for her to tell me everything – so she had focused the scope of her memoir onto she felt was most vital for me know in context of the war. Not simply know. Understand.
She’d spent a disproportionate time spent describing the young Albus Potter and their shaky alliance – I may be so bold as to call it a friendship. It was strange. History would remember them as lifelong rivals, but this - no, there was something off with what she chose to remember about their younger counterparts. Something she could not or was unable to explain. Something too complex for labels. There was a desperation about it, the almost -moments she chose to share with me; it was like she was beckoning, aching for me to reconsider the boy history universally condemned as a monster.
But that was not all.
Sometimes, it wasn’t what she chose to tell me but what she didn’t choose to tell me.
Rose was evading something; she was purposely diverting my attention towards smaller mysteries, hoping to preserve my opinion of…what? Of Albus? Or herself? Had she forgotten that I was a historian, albeit nonmagical, but one who’d studied her (and Mr. Potter’s comparatively shorter) life story in rather shocking detail. I knew where history was headed-I knew that things would get ugly. I knew the order in which deaths would begin occurring. I had the body counts of every battle memorized—battles where Rose and my people were on fundamentally opposite ends. It was challenging but necessary to look past the curtain of blood that severed our worlds. I had a professional obligation to understand the war. I had a personal obligation to understand Rose’s life as it stood, independent from the surrounding chaos, not yet marked by war.
We had become, to some extent, a form of friends.
“What are we going to discuss next, Rose?” I queried. “You’re the story-teller.”
The old woman framed me one of her smiles that, while polite, would never reach her eyes. It was a practiced courtesy-I had wonder when and where she’d picked the habit.
“You’re the historian, Mr. Walker.”
There was so much on my mind. Harry Potter, the Ordine Corvis, the manifest of magic, the mysterious nonhuman man, Scorpius Malfoy… would she ever tell me why Scorpius Malfoy was deemed the war?
I bit my tongue, holding back frustration over not being able to piece it all together.
I was getting ahead of myself.
Instead, I flipped through my notes. “In my timeline of events the next thing should be…Hugo’s abduction.”
A/N: Dun dun dun!
Believe it or not, this is the ‘calm’ before the storm. Things are going to get intense very fast.
Note: Please bear with me if updates are a sporadic in the upcoming months. I’m making the transition to college life and things are crazy. Of course, keep pestering me regularly for updates because I’ll need all the motivation I can get^^
So leave your thoughts. This is a super long chapter and was a pain to write but it all had to be said and now I’m super exhausted. Your reviews GIVE ME LIFE.
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