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The Harder They Fall by victoria_anne
Chapter 1 : Left Behind
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 10


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Fate whispers to the warrior,
"You cannot withstand the storm."
And the warrior whispers back,
"I am the storm."


Author unknown

*


His name was Finlay Blishwick, and he didn’t want to go back to Hogwarts.

The train ticket felt stiff and heavy as it dangled from the tips of his fingers, ready for the following morning. He tapped it lightly against his leg, leaning against the cool upper story window, his breath misting the pane as he sighed. The Finn in the glass looked blurry and distorted, the rain that lashed against the window falling across his reflected face like tears. The night was too dark to see outside, but he could hear the wind howling through the trees and the occasional boom of thunder. He wondered what would happen if he hung the ticket outside the window and let it slip into the storm. His grip tightened on it involuntarily. He wouldn’t do that, of course. Sixth year was important, despite his indifference. Or so he’d been told.

A flash of lightning lit his bedroom. He looked away from the window as the room returned to darkness. His last candle was burning low; he had to squint as he glanced down at his watch. The battered gold heirloom told him it was five minutes until September first. The watch had first belonged to his great grandfather, passed down the Blishwick line from son to son until it found Finn’s wrist. Instead of numbers, the face used runes.

He sat on the bed and ran a thumb fondly across the cracked clock face. Ancient Runes was the only subject he actually enjoyed, and was the only one he received an Outstanding in last year (he even had a birthmark shaped like an uruz rune on his hip). He barely scraped through the rest of his subjects with an Acceptable, and for most of those, he had received help in the form of his father. Between exemption letters and a generous donation to the school from one Jameson Blishwick, Finn was able to return for his sixth year, weighed down with promises to study hard enough to make up for the time lost.

Finn leaned forward, gazing down at the ticket in his hands. The gold trim winked in the dim light as if it were treasure. He traced the words Hogwarts Express with his finger.

What was the point?

He didn’t need exceptional grades to prove his worth - his family name already did that. Besides, Hero had always been the smart one. Finn swallowed the lump in his throat at the thought of his twin sister, dead just nine months ago. A spider bite. An allergic reaction. Preventable. But Finn hadn’t been there, hadn’t been able to protect her as a brother should.

Now he wasn’t a brother at all.

It seemed a reasonable punishment.

He leaned back against the navy blue pillows and tossed the ticket carelessly on the floor, remembering that night in December. Some parts were clear, some blurry, the ache in his heart the only constant. He remembered Tom Riddle, his pale face a mask of shock, crossing the room to whisper urgently in Jameson’s ear before his father flew out of the room. He remembered how Hero looked as though she were sleeping, despite her swollen red mouth and throat. He remembered how Jameson had locked himself away for nearly a month, only to emerge again with a fervent, slightly demented, look in his Blishwick blue eyes.

Gellert Grindelwald and his supporters, the Besmurten, might have been sympathetic, but they were not patient. Less than two months after Hero died, they were back on the doorstep of Blishwick Manor, more determined than ever to bring Grindelwald’s cause to Britain. Jameson - and consequently Finn and his mother Halcyon - were to open their home for them to use as headquarters, an honor Jameson was all too pleased to accept. Finn was expected to assist the Besmurten in any way they required, but nothing had been asked of him yet. He didn’t know what he’d be able to do from Hogwarts, either.

The grandfather clock down the hall dully chimed midnight. By the time Finn passed the barrier onto the platform, his Blishwick smile would be in place. An inherited trait, the smile could hide even the most dangerous of lies, the most darkest of secrets, the most damaged of emotions. So when people asked him, “How was your summer?” his smile would say, “It was fine, thank you”.

His heart would say, “It was the worst I’ve ever had.”

Thunder rumbled distantly overhead. The candle flickered once and died, so that he was sitting in complete darkness. There would be only his trunk to take to King’s Cross tomorrow. Only him saying goodbye to their parents. Only him boarding the Hogwarts Express.

Only him, only him, only him.

***

“There’s no ‘o’ in Imperius, Mr Blishwick,” said Professor Merrythought from behind him.

Finn paused mid-sentence, grip tightening on his quill for a second, before nodding shortly and crossing the letter out. He heard giggling, and glared across the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom at two Ravenclaw girls, who were looking at him with identical amused expressions. Finn showed them his middle finger from under the desk, and they turned away with looks of offense.

As she continued patrolling the classroom with her lesson, Professor Merrythought’s voice became no more than a nasal hum. Finn poked Radbourne Lestrange, who was sitting beside him, in the ribs.

“What?” Radbourne hissed without looking up, rubbing his side.

“Did you see how much weight Chelsey Jackson gained over the summer?”

Radbourne wrote a note on his parchment. “I am trying to listen,” he replied out of the corner of his mouth.

“Listening is for fat-heads,” Finn muttered, but he picked up his quill. He wrote a sentence on the wand movement of the Imperius Curse before looking behind his shoulder at where Benedict Avery and Tom Riddle were sitting. Tom’s dark head was bent as he wrote, his hand moving fluently across his book. Beside him was Benedict, chewing on something with his mouth open. When Finn caught his eye, he lolled his clipped head comically to one side and feigned drooping eyelids. Finn snickered and turned back to the front.

Weak sunlight streamed through the dark clouds outside and into the classroom, lighting the blackboard on which the three Unforgivable Curses were written. Finn was above the theory; he’d had first hand practice for two of them. Well, he’d once Imperiused a first year to upturn a goblet of pumpkin juice over the head of a Prefect, and tortured a rat for a second before it squeaked once and ran off. It was nothing like what Tom could do.

He absentmindedly drew the symbol of the Besmurten - the triangular rune of the Deathly Hallows - in the corner of his book. He wouldn’t be surprised to know if Tom was doing it all for Grindelwald. Finn knew the closing of the Chamber of Secrets had upset Tom, even though the other boy would never let it show. He hadn’t even shown emotion when Hero died. Tom needed something to keep him busy now that he had to leave the Basilisk in the Chamber, and The Greater Good was it.

Finn had caught a glimpse of Grindelwald once, at Blishwick manor. A tall, fair man, he had winked one bright eye at Finn as he passed him in the hall, flanked on either side by wizards in black and red robes with Grindelwald’s symbol gleaming on their chests. Finn had wanted to follow them into Jameson’s office, feeling as excited as a child at Christmas, but Halcyon had come up behind him and slipped her hand into his. Until he could follow, Finn would learn all he could with (and from) Tom, so that when he was asked, he was ready.

There was no ‘o’ in Imperius, but there was one in power.

***

Finn didn’t understand why they were called free periods if they weren’t going to be free.

He was in the library with Benedict and Tom, and already the place was full of sixth years. Some, like Ben, poured over parchment, their hands a blur of fingers, feather and ink. Some, like Finn, were slumped in their seats, reading the same sentence ten times. Some, like Tom, were looking at unrelated books altogether.

Finn rubbed his nose wearily and gazed around the library. A few tables down sat a group of four Slytherin girls, who all cast admiring glances in his direction. This was nothing new to him. However - and he hated to admit it - the appreciative glances and whispers among girls had increased since Tom caught the “Heir of Slytherin” a few months ago, when the Mudblood girl had died. That oaf Rubeus Hagrid was expelled, the school returned to a place of safety, and Finn stopped catching sympathetic looks and hushed whispers that followed him around the castle. He’d been glad the other students found something else to be sad about - he was beginning to appear approachable and weak after the death of his sister. Finn recognized the regal face of Lucretia Black among the girls at the table, her dark eyes catching his. His hand went automatically to his hair, well aware of how the movement tightened his robes over the muscle of his bicep. The girls giggled and turned back, faces pink. Lucretia was the last to look away, so his wink was just for her.

“Finn,” Tom said warningly without looking up from his book.

Finn swiveled back in his seat and picked up his book again. As he flipped idly through the pages the sound of high, loud laughter, followed by a snort, made him look up. Brindley McCroy, a Hufflepuff in his year, was seated at the desk beside them with that weird wide-eyed friend of hers, Saffron Worley. McCroy’s thick, dark red hair was pulled back from her freckled face with a wide yellow headband that made his eyes hurt from where he sat. Benedict’s brother, Patrick Avery, was leaning casually against the desk as he spoke to her, looking amused, his blue Head Boy badge on full display.

Benedict noticed him too. “Hey Rick,” he said loudly, and both Patrick and McCroy looked over at them. “I thought Ravenclaws were meant to be smart,” he drawled. “Or is it that the girls are too smart to date you and that’s why you gotta lower yourself to Hufflepuffs now?”

Patrick drew himself up straight and glared at his younger brother. They shared the same broad shoulders and square jaw.

“Why don’t you go shine your badge some more?” Finn added. “I think you missed a spot.”

“Grow up, you two,” Patrick said, a red flush beginning to creep up his neck.

“Yeah, don’t be so rude,” McCroy said.

Finn blinked in surprise. How dare a Hufflepuff girl talk back to him?

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you too much sun is bad for you?” Benedict sneered at her.

McCroy’s eyes darted to him and she raised an eyebrow. “Oh, a freckle joke? How utterly brilliant of you.”

“Don’t mind my brother,” Patrick said darkly. “He’s just bitter because our father finally noticed him over the summer, only it was something he didn’t want to be noticed for.”

Benedict was still for a long while. Finn didn’t know what Patrick was referring to - and by the crease in his brow, neither did Tom - but he could feel the tension from Benedict, saw veins standing out on his arm. Finn risked a cautious glance at him; Ben’s hazel eyes were locked with Patrick’s brown ones. After a strained moment, Ben stood up, sending his chair flying back with a crash, and swept all of his belongings from the desk into his bag in a singular violent movement. Finn stood up as well, but Benedict stormed out of the library amid a mixture of astonished and irritated stares. Patrick looked guilty, and raised his eyes to the ceiling before following his brother out.

Finn lowered himself back into his seat, thinking better of following. Tom’s head was back in his book. At the next table, McCroy started coughing. At first, Finn thought she was laughing, and he looked over at her irritably. Her cheeks were so flushed under the hand covering her mouth that her freckles almost disappeared. As her body began to shake with the effort, he snapped, “If you’re going to die, can you do it quietly?”

Her eyes watered and leaked out of the corners. She quickly shoved her belongings into her tattered bag and dashed from the library. Worley glared at him with her huge green eyes. “How can you be so cruel?” she asked in her childish voice. “She can’t help it.”

“What do I care? It’s annoying.” Finn was beyond irritated. McCroy and Worley were two Hufflepuffs too many for one day.

Worley stood up and waved her hands at him in a bizarre movement that made the numerous leather and beaded bracelets around her wrists clack together. Finn blinked in surprise and drew back, but quickly regained his composure. “You putting some weird voodoo curse on me?”

Worley turned away to pick up her bag, her frizzy hair falling over her face. “Maybe.” She left without another word, hurrying to catch up with McCroy.

The library was finally quiet, and Finn slumped back in his seat. As Tom closed one old black book and opened another, Finn fiddled with his watch. He couldn’t concentrate. With a murmured assurance to Tom that he’d see him later, Finn left the library, which had considerably less sixth years than before.

***

Instead of heading to the common room after dinner, Finn veered right down the corridor toward a portrait depicting Dana Burke - an ancestor on his mother’s side - holding iron chains wrapped around the throats of giants. She winked at him as he approached. Finn pushed her portrait aside, revealing the small wooden door to the antechamber he, Tom, Radbourne and Benedict had claimed as their own. A small fire in the grate was burning, as were all the lanterns; he wasn’t the first to arrive. Sure enough, Tom was seated on one of the large grey chairs, his dark head visible over the back of it. He looked relaxed, hands rested on either arm, but one or two of his fingers were tapping restlessly against the leather. Finn sat down beside him. There was no acknowledgment from Tom, but this wasn’t unusual; Tom was often lost in thought. There was a ring on his right middle finger; a large black stone set into a gold band, winking in the firelight.

“That new?” Finn asked with a nod at Tom’s hand.

Something stirred behind Tom’s eyes as he twirled the ring around his finger. “Yes,” he said. “I acquired it over the summer, after the previous owner no longer had need of it. I am the owner now.”

Finn looked at it again, and thought it rather an ugly thing. But by the way Tom ran a finger over it lovingly, like he would do the head of a snake, you would think it was the most precious of treasure.

The door to the antechamber swung inward, and Benedict and Radbourne entered, the latter laughing loudly at something the former was saying. They were followed - to Finn’s surprise - by Abraxas Malfoy, a blonde haired, haughty faced boy from the year below them. He tugged at the sleeve of his neatly pressed green robes as he cast his grey eyes around the room with interest.

Finn lowered his voice, “Er, what is he doing here?” It was no secret that the Malfoys were a powerful and respected family. Jameson, at the dinner table brandishing his fork as if it were his wand, would say the Malfoys may have a lot of Galleons, but each one had two faces and was dipped in poison. Watching Abraxas, Finn was inclined to disagree. This little Malfoy didn’t look like much.

Tom ignored Finn, watching the boys as they settled themselves around him by the fire. Benedict and Radbourne were still talking as they took their seats. Malfoy looked irritatingly at ease as he sat opposite Finn; not at all like the others looked when Tom requested an audience.

Once the boys had settled into silence, Tom inclined his head politely towards Malfoy. “Welcome, Abraxas. I’m pleased to have you join us this evening.”

Malfoy was equally polite. “It’s an honor to be here.”

Finn held back a snort. What a git.

“There are several things,” Tom began, speaking to all of them now, “that I require from each of you this year. Finn and Benedict, I want you to place yourselves in Slughorn’s good graces, have him notice you. I believe it will be in our favor to have him close to us. You will become a part of his meetings with Radbourne and myself.”

Benedict tilted his head back and groaned. “What’s old Sluggy got to do with anything? His class is too hard, I only just got an O.W.L. for Potions in the first place.”

“You will do it.” Tom’s voice left no room for further argument.

“There’s food,” Radbourne said helpfully.

Benedict’s face brightened at this, though he remained slouched in his seat with his arms crossed. Tom looked to Finn, who nodded his agreement; he knew better than to ask questions.

Tom twirled the ring around his finger again. “Hogwarts is continuing its duelling club this year,” he said mildly.

“What’s the point in that?” Finn said, pulling at a patch of torn leather and exposing the softer fabric underneath. “It was only on last year ‘cause of the Basilisk, and that obviously won’t be around anymore.”

Immediately Finn knew he’d said the wrong thing, and he bit down on his lip as if he could take back his words. He thought he even heard Radbourne suck in a breath. Tom’s face hardened and his dark eyes flashed dangerously. His fingers twitched in the direction of the pocket of his robes where he kept his wand, and Finn shrunk back into the chair, bracing himself.

But nothing came. Finn thought he saw Radbourne and Ben exchange glances, but Tom’s long fingers relaxed and he continued as if Finn hadn’t said anything. “This time,” he said. “I want us all to be a part of it. Finn,” - Finn glanced hesitantly at him out of the corner of his eye - “this is particularly in your interest.”

He sat up a little straighter. “Why?”

Tom turned away. “The five of us will sign up as a group.”

Radbourne looked excited. “What should we call ourselves?”

Benedict put a hand in his lap and made a hand movement. “The Wand Polishers?”

Finn burst out laughing, the corner of Abraxas’ mouth twitched and Radbourne grinned. “Longer than Your Boyfriend’s Wand?” the latter suggested.

Raising a fair eyebrow, Benedict said, “Don’t you have the shortest wand out of all of us?”

“Now, Ben,” Radbourne said mock-stern, “it’s not about the length, it’s the technique that matters.”

“The name isn’t important,” Tom snapped over their laughter. The room fell silent. Even the fire seemed to cease popping and crackling. “Be sure you sign up. I’ll be choosing the name. You may all go.”

The boys rose, still sniggering under their breath, when Tom said, “Abraxas, stay a moment?”

Malfoy nodded and lowered himself back in the chair. Behind Tom’s back, he threw a smug look at Finn. Finn glared back, his hands balling into fists at his sides.

Maybe his father was right.

A hand - probably Radbourne’s by the genialness of it - squeezed his shoulder in warning. Finn glanced once more at Tom, who nodded, before he left the room.

The three boys lingered in the corridor, the flickering lanterns throwing their shadows across the stone wall, the dark shapes of Radbourne and Ben much longer than Finn. Dana Burke’s open portrait muttered to herself. Finn stared at the closed wooden door. “What were you doing with him, anyway?” he asked the other two.

Radbourne shrugged. “Tom asked us to bring him.”

“He didn’t tell you why?”

“Does he ever?” said Ben. He yawned, stretching his arms above his head. “Right, well I’m turning in early if I’m to actually study for Potions now.”

Labor omnia vincit,” Radbourne said, taking his gold spectacles out of his pocket and pushing them up his nose, “and it’s not that hard; we have plenty of free study periods this year.”

“Yeah, but that wasn’t what I wanted to use them for,” Ben grumbled under his breath.

***

Finn couldn’t sleep that night.

As he lay listening to the regular breathing of the other boys, he had to admit it was good to be back in his bed in the dungeons. It was especially nice to not have his mother poking her head in the door every hour to check on him, as she did over the summer.

Fletcher Nott muttered in his sleep and Finn sighed; that was one thing he hadn’t missed. Quietly, he pushed the covers back and padded to the bathroom. He closed the door and leaned back against it, closing his eyes. The snoring of the other boys could still be heard, but they were muffled. Finn opened his eyes and was met directly with his own reflection. In the soft blue glow of the constantly burning oil lamp, he was two dark eyes in a pale face underneath a shock of black hair. Finn approached the mirror and gripped the sink with both hands as he stared at himself.

Even in the poor light, Finn recognized his own eyes as Hero’s. So was his nose. So was his chin. But for all it looked like his twin, Finn hated his reflection. You have to live for the both of you now, he’d been told on more than one occasion. But he couldn’t do that, not when they’d been so different. He touched the glass.

She was everything he wanted to be.

He was everything she feared to become.

Finn turned on the tap and ran his fingers under the cool water. Not for the first time, he wondered what, if anything, he could have done differently that night. What would have happened if, after she’d poked her head into the ballroom looking distressed, he had followed her? What if he’d searched the house beforehand for any trace of the spider, or kept an antidote to the venom on him at all times? What if he’d been nicer to her that year - especially after the car accident with that Muggle - would it have made any difference?

But he didn’t do any of those things, and now she was gone.

It was only him.

And he was no hero.

***

Author Note

Hello and welcome to a brand new shiny story! Thank you for reading, it's very much appreciated. I have the usual suspects to thank for not just this chapter, but the story as a whole. Jill (dreamgazer220), Renee (MuggleMaybe) (who I have to thank for the wand jokes), Chiara (Felpata Lupin), Ysh (princesslily_36) and Julie (banshee) (who also beta'd this chapter for me) ♥

Hope to see you back soon, dear reader!

Labor omnia vincit means Work conquers all in Latin.


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