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The Harder They Fall by victoria_anne
Chapter 3 : A New Day
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7

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Chapter image by the wonderful StarFeather

Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.

Mark Twain


Rough hands shook Finn’s shoulders and he jerked awake, blinking sleepily. He’d been dreaming, a whirlwind of runes and knights and fire that left him feeling more tired than when he had finally came out of the bathroom the night before. In bed, he had tossed and turned for what felt like hours before finally falling asleep.

“Rise and shine, Blishwick.” Ben’s face grinned down at him, almost nose to nose.

Finn closed his eyes again and swiped languidly at Ben’s face, but Ben had already pulled back, laughing. Rolling over and pulling the covers up to his chin, Finn cracked one eye open to watch the other boys get ready for class. Fletcher Nott’s curly blonde head was bent as he tied a shoelace. Radbourne carefully slid books into his bag. Ben walked around the dormitory, not bothering to make his footsteps quiet, mussing Radbourne’s neatly made bed to the other boy’s annoyed remarks. Tom was nowhere to be seen.

Finn sunk further under the warmth of the blanket, attempting to block out the noise of the other boys. He must have dozed off again, because he was roused once more by the sound of his name.

“Finn,” came Radbourne’s exasperated voice from the doorway, “at least wait until the second week before you start missing classes. Come on, carpe diem.”

“Yep,” Finn mumbled, rolling over again. He heard Radbourne tsk under his breath, before his footsteps retreated and silence fell over the dormitory. Closing his eyes, he fell back asleep within seconds.

He didn’t dream.


Finn’s feet sunk in the mud as he walked across the grounds, his shiny black shoes soon caked in it. The sun was warm on the back of his neck as the Forest came into view, the birds that whizzed past him sung an irritatingly cheerful song. The Slytherins and Hufflepuffs were already gathered in a circle around Professor Kettleburn - whose arm was bound in a thick sling once again - on the large grassy clearing before the Forest. Finn slipped in between Fletcher and Dalton Mulciber with a whispered greeting, clapping the latter on the back. Despite his attempts at stealth, Professor Kettleburn spotted him.

“Nice of you to finally join us, Mr Blishwick. Five points from Slytherin.”

Finn opened his mouth to persuade the man with what was sure to be a convincing argument when the sound of running footsteps cut him off. Brindley McCroy joined the class, panting, her cheeks high with colour and dark red hair wild around her face. She approached Kettleburn. “Sorry I’m late, sir,” she said, handing him a small folded piece of parchment. Kettleburn opened it, his small eyes a blur as he scanned it. He looked up to smile warmly at McCroy. “Not to worry, my dear,” he said.

“What?” cried Finn indignantly. “She’s late. Why don’t you take points from her?”

Kettleburn looked at him with reproach. “Because Miss McCroy has a legitimate medical reason,” he said, folding the note. “Until you can provide one for yourself, Mr Blishwick, I’m afraid your house points will suffer.”

“Limited brain cells isn’t a medical reason,” Finn said, “or all Hufflepuffs would be late.”

A few of the Slytherins snickered, hushed remarks came from the Hufflepuffs and McCroy narrowed her eyes at him.

“I hope for your sake that isn’t true about Hufflepuffs,” Kettleburn said coolly, “because Miss McCroy here is your partner for your next assignment.”

“What?!” Finn and McCroy exclaimed in unison.

“Now, now.” Kettleburn raised his uninjured hand like he was trying to calm a skittish animal. Merlin knew he’d had enough practice. “The both of you were late and I’m afraid partners were already chosen before you came down. The both of you worked… reasonably well together last year, I hope I can expect more of the same.”

Finn glanced at McCroy; her expression was the same as his. It said: Not bloody likely.

“Right, so!” Kettleburn clapped his hands in an awkward maneuver that made him wince as the movement jarred his bound arm. “Your assignment for the next few weeks is to complete this chart -” He held up one of the pieces of parchment from the pile on the table next to him. “- of insects around Hogwarts. Many of them are found only in particular places around the castle and grounds. The first pair to complete their chart will receive the opportunity to spend a day at the Ministry in a department of their choice.”

Finn yawned, already missing his bed back in the dungeons. McCroy straightened beside him, eyes fixed on Professor Kettleburn.

“You can use today to get started. There are at least two species of beetle and one of butterfly in this clearing alone. Grab a sheet and don’t forget to use your textbooks! Off you go!”

The students collected the worksheet before shuffling off in their pairs. Finn scanned the parchment in his hand, wrinkling his nose. If it had more than two legs, he didn’t like it. A low wolf whistle made him look up. Across the clearing, Dalton was looking at him while trying to stick his tongue in Fletcher’s ear, despite the other boy’s best efforts to push him off with a grimace. Even Radbourne looked amused, grinning pointedly between Finn and McCroy. Finn turned away with a scowl.

McCroy was kneeling on the grass, rifling through her satchel, which sported one or two military patches - Finn remembered vaguely her grandfather died in the Muggle war last year - and an assortment of mismatched buttons that were sewn along the strap.

Finn looked down at her. “Take your cough syrup today, McCroy?”

“As a matter of fact, I did,” she replied, pulling out a copy of Insects with Wings and Other Things with a triumphant flourish. “Not that it’s any of your concern, Blishwick.”

“It is if it’s going to stop me from concentrating.”

He caught her eye roll as she stood. She muttered, “God forbid.”

They headed to a cluster of bright red, blue and purple flowers along the fence line of the clearing, around which three of four large butterflies fluttered. Finn sat beside a clump and stretched his legs out before him on the grass, enjoying the warmth of the sun. He could hear the beat of the butterflies’ wings as they hit the flowers. It made him feel uneasy. McCroy opened her textbook and was looking between it and the butterflies, slowly turning pages. “A verastina,” he thought he heard her say.

A butterfly landed on one of the flowers by his knee. It was about five or six inches long, which was one or two inches too long for a flying bug. It was white in the body with grey wings, a thick orange stripe across each one. Finn leaned forward to poke at it with his wand, and it left the flower to hover around his face. He batted it away with an exclamation.

“Hey!” McCroy said indignantly. She knelt beside him and cupped her hands protectively around it.

“Get that away from me. I hate them.”

“What?” she exclaimed. She peered through her closed hands. “But they’re so pretty.”

“It’s the pretty things that are dangerous,” he muttered under his breath.

She heard him. McCroy raised her eyes slowly, and they locked with his own. Something sparked in her eyes for a second, like the sun glinting off the water of the lake. There were flecks of gold in the brown of her eyes. The butterfly crawled out of her hands and flitted across her wrist. She let out a loud giggle, snorting as she did so.

Finn blinked, then looked at her with distaste. “That’s disgusting,” he said. “Ladies shouldn’t snort.”

McCroy stopped laughing, but the amusement lingered on her face. “Good thing I’m not a lady then,” she retorted.

Too right. He eyed the evil insect - which she was now crooning to - gave a final shudder and turned to the book, which McCroy had carelessly set down before hastily reaching for the butterfly. He froze at the picture it was open on.

It was there, on the page. Staring up at him with eight black eyes, a stark white stripe down its back.

The mastilio spider.

Finn shut the book with a snap, breathing rapidly through his nose.

“What’s the matter?” McCroy asked, leaning to peer at the book. Her hair, plaited in a long braid, fell forward over her shoulder and tickled his arm. She’d released the butterfly from her hands.

Finn swallowed and shoved the book across the grass, rubbing at the scar on his wrist, where a Doxy had bitten him years ago. “Nothing.”

McCroy snatched at the book. He made a grab for it at the same time but missed, his hand grasping empty air.

She thumbed through the thick pages, past headings of ‘common’, ‘uncommon’ and ‘invisible’ until the book fell open to the middle, coming to a stop on ‘rare’, where the mastilio spider was listed first.

Finn felt the weight of her gaze and refused to meet it, tearing grass out savagely from the ground instead. McCroy laid a hand gently on his arm. “I’m sorry,” she said softly.

He jerked his hand away, mortified to think she thought he needed sympathy. He set his jaw, still refusing to look at her. No one could know how much his heart was damaged, that his twin had taken half with her when she died. Broken hearts were weak.

Blishwicks were not weak.

The bell rang loud and clear across the grounds and the both of them jumped. McCroy rose and brushed bits of grass and dirt from her stockings. “So how should we do this?”

Startled, he asked, “Do what?”

“The assignment,” she said with a hint of exasperation in her voice.

“Oh.” The sun shone directly behind her; he had to squint as he looked up. The rays highlighted the flyaway strands of hair around her head. He picked up the assignment. "You do this side -" He gestured to butterflies, dragonflies, moths. "- and I'll do this side." Beetles, ants, spiders. He glanced at it again. "Actually, you better do spiders too."

“Fine.” She tucked her own sheet into her tattered bag. “We’ll combine them on one sheet at the end. But how do I know you’re actually going to do the work?”

Finn stood. Through his Blishwick smile, he replied, “You’re just going to have to trust me.”

McCroy put her hands on her hips. “You are such a brat.”

Finn dropped the smile. He searched her face, but there was no hint of the usual captivation that girls responded to his charm with.

Well, that was a first.

He squared his shoulders instead. “Oh, and I suppose you’re just such an angel?”

Her expression turned smug and she batted her eyelashes. “Well, now that you mention it…”

Radbourne called out to him from the path to the castle, Dalton and Fletcher already heading up. Finn sidestepped McCroy, her glare fixed on his face. “Look,” he said. “I’ll do the beetles and ants. Alright?”

She narrowed her eyes. “Fine. But stay out of my way.”

He started jogging over to Radbourne. “Gladly,” he called to her over his shoulder.


After lunch was a free period, and Finn was glad he wouldn’t be spending it in the castle. He descended the stairs of the dormitory, pulling a black sweater over his head without bothering to smooth down his hair, and met Tom in the common room. Together they headed for Hogsmeade, where Jameson had asked to meet them. The permission slip Finn presented to the caretaker from his father was triple checked for evidence of forgery before they were finally granted leave. You’d think forging a permission slip for unscheduled visits was something he and Tom did all the time (when really, it was only eight or nine times last year; Fletcher was an excellent writer).

Finn’s skin prickled with anticipation the whole way to Hogsmeade, as if the wind that blew his hair back from his forehead was made of tiny needles. His heart pumped the words through his veins: This is it, this is it, this is it. Finally, the chance to associate with the Besmurten, to make a difference - for surely this was why Jameson wanted to meet with them. Tom, beside him, was cool as ever as they passed through the bustling street toward The Hog’s Head.

The pub smelt of beer, smoke and metal, Finn wrinkled his nose against it as he stepped inside. There were a couple of wizards in dirty robes hunched over the bar that looked up as they entered. Finn’s gaze wandered over their heads, quickly finding his father in a booth in the corner.

“Hello boys,” Jameson said, standing up and grinning. His light hair and royal blue robes looked out of place in the dimness of the pub, like a will o’ the wisp in a troll cave. He shook Tom’s hand in greeting, and Finn was dismayed to find they were nearly the same height, a couple of inches taller than him.

Jameson ordered butterbeers for them, and they exchanged pleasantries until their drinks arrived. Once the barman had left their table, Jameson lowered his voice. “He has a special task for the two of you,” he said, leaning forward on his arms, not needing to explain who he was. “He requires something that is currently in the possession of Henry Potter - have you heard of him?” When both boys shook their heads, he continued, “No matter. Potter has an illegitimate child. Your age, give or take a year, and most likely a student at Hogwarts. Grindelwald wants this child.”

“I don’t know of any Potters at Hogwarts,” Finn said, taking a sip of his butterbeer. He turned to Tom and added thoughtfully, “Was there one that graduated a year or two ago?”

“They won’t be a Potter if they’re illegitimate,” Tom said, as if it were obvious.

Jameson gave Finn a look which meant it was, and the back of Finn's neck grew hot. “Tom is right; they’ll have a different surname. I know it’s vague, but all I can tell you is that they’re half-blood and were raised by Muggles, because that’s all we know. But find them - school records, ask around, whatever - then contact me.”

“Yes, Father. But… what does he want them for?”

Jameson looked at Finn sternly. For a moment, Finn thought he was going to be scolded for asking questions, and bit his lip as he remembered how often Hero was chided for the same thing. But Jameson only tapped his fingers lightly on the wooden tabletop and said, “Grindelwald believes the child is the key to Potter handing over what he desires. A linchpin, if you will.”

Finn opened his mouth to ask what it was that Grindelwald wanted when Tom said, “We’ll find them.” His tone sure.

“I knew I was right in suggesting you,” Jameson said proudly, looking between the two of them. “Now,” he continued, all business once more, “Garson connected the fireplace in the Head of Slytherin’s office to Blishwick Manor. He’s taken the monitoring off, you can use it at will. If you find out the times Slughorn will be away from his office, we can organize for you to come home, to fill us in on your progress.”

Finn nodded. Garson Blishwick was one of Finn’s uncles, and worked for the Floo Network. But last Finn had heard, he was an assistant, not a Regulator. Jameson stood up. The boys followed suit, Finn draining the last of his butterbeer as he did so. Tom’s drink remained untouched on the table.

“Finn, a word before you go?” Jameson stepped out of the booth and came around the table.

Finn looked at Tom, who nodded. After shaking hands once more with Jameson, he crossed the pub, lifting the collar of his coat before he stepped outside. Finn turned to Jameson once the door closed behind Tom. “Yeah?”

“How are your classes so far?”

Finn raised one shoulder in a shrug. “Alright. Had Care of Magical Creatures this morning. We’ve got an assignment that gets you into the Ministry if you do it first, but -”

Jameson interrupted him, his eyes brightening with excitement. “Gets you in for what?” he asked.

“Er, a day in whatever department you want, I think. Like a careers thing.”

Jameson was slowly nodding without looking at him, comprehension dawning on his face. Finn could almost see his brain turning with whatever idea was forming. “Be the one to complete that assignment first, Finn.”

Finn couldn’t keep the whine out of his voice. “But I don’t like my partner. Or the assignment.”

But Jameson didn’t seem to have heard him. “You’re just kids,” he breathed, almost to himself. “They’ll tell you anything without suspicion. Yes, yes this is perfect.”

“I’m not a kid,” Finn said indignantly, drawing himself up straighter.

Jameson blinked and finally met Finn’s eyes. “Of course not. But Finlay, I need you to win that day in the Ministry. I think we can use it to our advantage.”

Finn pressed his lips together against further argument and nodded. The only thing allowing him to push back the feeling of bitterness over school work was interest in what Jameson wanted with the Ministry, and no small amount of entitlement. Tom hadn’t been chosen for this.

Never mind that he wasn’t actually in the class.

His father’s face softened. “I know you won’t let me down, son.”

“’Course not.”

“And you know I’ll keep you safe, no matter what happens?”

Finn’s stomach did a back flip. “Safe from what?”

“We’re doing this as a family,” Jameson said, placing a hand on Finn’s shoulder. “We need to work together, especially since - well, your sister -” He broke off, mouth tight.

Finn swallowed. “I understand.”

He clapped Finn on the back. “I will do whatever it takes to make our family great. The Blishwicks will rise, starting with you. My son and heir.”

“Yes, Father.”

They stepped outside, blinking against the sunlight, which was dazzling after the dimness of the pub. Finn watched Jameson Apparate before heading over to Tom, who was leaning casually against a tree, fingers softly running up and down his wand. As they headed back through the main street of Hogwarts, Tom had a slight frown between his brows.

“What is it?” Finn asked.

Tom blinked quickly a few times, as if Finn had brought him out of a trance. “It’s nothing. Only, I rather thought your father was going to tell us about something else.”

Finn shouldered his way through a group of women, brown wrapped parcels tucked under their arms. “Like what?”

Tom’s voice was quiet, but Finn still caught every word over the shouts of shop owners selling their wares. “We know Grindelwald plans to attack the British Ministry; I hoped Jameson would be telling us about that, consenting us to join when the time comes.”

As the shops thinned and trees took their place, Finn thought of whatever his father planned to have him do in the Ministry, and his stomach twisted. If he went to the Ministry, was he supposed to retrieve information? Help Grindelwald take over? It was what the Blishwicks wanted, of course, but Finn never thought he would have such an individual responsibility so soon. Twirling his watch around his wrist, he was torn between feelings of privilege and guilt. Did people get injured in coups? He didn’t want the lives of others on his shoulders, not when he would fail to protect them.

Like he’d failed Hero.

Finn opened his mouth to reply when an irritatingly familiar snort made him shut it again. Just off the winding path that led back up to the castle, McCroy and Ben’s brother Patrick stood talking under a tree. As Finn and Tom drew even with them, Patrick - after a murmured word to McCroy - crossed the path at a jog.

“Riddle, I need a word.”

It was an infinitesimal movement, but Finn saw Tom stiffen at being spoken to in this way. Commands were something Tom gave, not received. But he was nothing but courteous as he inclined his head toward Patrick. “Of course.”

As they disappeared further down the path and out of ear shot, Finn leaned against a tree on the other side of the path and pulled a cigarette from his pocket. The Muggles got one thing right, at least. He lit it with the tip of his wand while he waited, inhaling deeply.

McCroy glared at him. “Can you not do that?”

Finn flicked his eyes lazily over her, remembering the day before in the library. “What are you, asthmatic or something?”

McCroy coughed, reaching for a handkerchief in her pocket. “No. I mean, yes.”

Finn raised an eyebrow. “Well, until you make up your mind…” He blew smoke in her direction.

She coughed again and drew out her wand. The cigarette turned to ashes that fell into his mouth and down his chin. It was his turn to cough as he inhaled them in surprise.
“You bitch!” he spluttered, eyes watering. “And that was my last one!”

“Good,” she said. “Have some respect.”

Finn brushed ash from his clothes and raised his own wand. She couldn’t insult a Blishwick and get away with it.
Patrick came into view, looking between McCroy and Finn. “What’s going on?”

Tom stepped out from behind him, his thin frame still managed to look imposing beside Patrick’s burly one. “Finn, put your wand away.”

“But she -”

“Stop behaving like a child,” Tom said shortly.

Finn felt heat rise from the back of his neck to his cheeks. He lowered his wand, refusing to look at McCroy, though he could sense her amused expression like a light that was shining directly into his eyes. He stared determinedly at the ground as he and Tom headed back toward the castle until McCroy and Patrick were behind them, then he glanced at Tom out of the corner of his eye.

“What did Patrick want?”

A faint frown crossed Tom’s face. “He doesn’t want Benedict associating with me.”

Finn snorted. “What a prick. He couldn’t say it to Ben’s face?” Not that it would have made a difference. It was no secret that the Avery brothers did not get along, and Finn couldn’t say he blamed Ben. Patrick was actively against the Dark Arts, and since their parents were always away for their work - whatever it was that they did, sometimes Finn thought even Ben wasn’t sure - Patrick had assumed a suffocating father-like role.

When Tom didn’t reply, Finn asked, “Did you ask him what happened with Ben over the summer?”

They reached the front steps of the castle and began to climb them. Tom's eyebrows furrowed. “Why should I?”

Finn shrugged. In truth, it could have been anything; it didn’t take much from Patrick to get that kind of response out of Ben as he had done in the library. Finn doubted Tom would let Ben leave the group, even if Ben wanted to. Tom made those decisions, not Patrick, not anyone.

Finn recognized brotherly concern, but he also recognized a wasted effort.


For someone who didn’t like libraries, Finn sure seemed to spend a lot of time in one.

There was too many people, it was too quiet, he got into trouble for breaking things.

He arrived before Tom, and chose a table in the corner, one half concealed by a bookcase. He threw himself into a chair, dropping his bag to the floor. Propping his feet on the table, he looked around the library. His younger cousin Sebastian sat on his own by the floor-to-ceiling window, his little dark head inches from the page of his book. At Finn’s whistle, he looked up returned his grin with a small smile. Finn sighed heavily as Sebastian turned back to his book. Last year, the poor boy had been accidentally attacked by the basilisk. His parents had then been forced to reveal the truth about his parentage: Sebastian was an adopted Muggleborn.

And then he’d been disowned by Finn’s father.

Finn reached for the copy of The Daily Prophet that was lying on the desk and flipped through the pages while he waited for Tom. Second page was a report of Grindelwald’s most recent attack on the German Ministry of Magic as he continued his revolution across Europe. Further down the page, a name caught his eye. The Prophet welcomed Finn’s aunt, Megan Blishwick, as the new editor. First Garson, now Megan.

So it had begun.

“You’re up late little Mudblood,” a voice drawled.

Finn looked up from the newspaper. Alden Walker, a fat, sandy haired boy in Sebastian’s year, stood in front of Sebastian’s desk, leaning so far forward they were nearly nose to nose. Finn wrapped his fingers around his wand as he watched Walker make a grab for the rectangular black case beside Sebastian’s bag. He waved it tauntingly above his head. Sebastian’s flute.

“Embracing your Muggle heritage, are we?” Walker said, the flute case nearly slipping from his grasp.

Sebastian’s eyes widened and he stood up, holding out his hand. “Give it back.”

“What are you going to do if I don’t? Whistle, instead?” Walker shook the case, Finn could hear the flute rattle from where he sat. “Come on, Blishwick. Or do you just go by Mudblood now?”


Walker flew backwards and hit the wall with a nasty thump. He fell forward, his chin colliding with the back of a chair. Rolling over on all fours, he groaned and looked up to see Finn standing nearby, wand still raised.

“Bloody hell, Blishwick,” Walker said, holding his jaw, which was beginning to swell and turn purple.

“Just what is going on?” came the shrill voice of Madam Chambers from the direction of her office around the corner.

Before she came into view, Finn pointed his wand threateningly at Walker, and saw his throat bob as he swallowed. By the time Madam Chambers saw them, Finn was looking up at the scene from his desk with mild curiosity, quill posed over his parchment, Walker looked guilty - as he should - and Sebastian was back in his seat, studiously turning the pages of his textbook. Finn could see his eyes dart between him and Walker.

“Sorry Madam Chambers,” Walker said, his chest visibly rising and falling, still clutching his cheek. “I tripped over a chair.”

Sebastian was now looking wide eyed between them, but quickly ducked his head again as Madam Chambers rounded on him. Her gaze went from Sebastian, to Walker, to the upturned chair then back to Walker. Her nostrils flared. “You have ten minutes before I close this library.” She disappeared back into her office. After one last glare at Finn, Walker left too.

Finn approached Sebastian and leaned against the desk, grinning down at him. “You’re welcome.”

“I don’t need your help,” Sebastian said, standing up. “I don’t need anything from you.”

“Hey,” Finn said angrily. “Where is all this coming from? I’m on your side, remember?”

A muscle twitched in Sebastian’s jaw. He began to pack away his things into his bag, not meeting Finn’s eye. “No you’re not,” he said. “None of you are anymore.”

“We’re still family, Bash.”

Sebastian threw his bag over his shoulder and held his flute case close to his chest. “Are we?” he asked quietly.

Finn didn’t know what to say, but it didn’t matter; Sebastian was already walking away. At the library doors, he almost ran into Tom, who was coming in. Tom glanced down at Sebastian, his face expressionless.

“Bash -” Finn began to call out, but Sebastian had already disappeared.

Finn sighed and ran a hand through his hair as Tom came to sit opposite him. “What are we gonna do about this kid, then?”

Tom’s dark eyes were narrowed and tapped a finger thoughtfully against his mouth. “The school’s student records will list the parents and guardians of everyone. They’re our first move.”

“How are we going to get them? They’re in the Headmaster’s office.”

“You will take them from the Headmaster’s office,” Tom said, enunciating each word as if he were talking to a child.

Finn licked his lips. Before he could reply, Madam Chambers came back into view, her shoes clicking on the wooden floor. “Out now, boys. The library is closed now.”

Tom leaned forward. “Please, Madam Chambers,” he said. “Sixth year is just so much pressure and we’re both trying to do well. It’s so important to us. Please, may we stay just ten more minutes?” He flashed her a smile.

Madam Chambers looked at him and her mouth softened. “Well… alright. Just ten minutes, mind.” She disappeared again.

Finn rubbed his face. Great. He stole often, but from other students, not the Headmaster. How was he going to do it without getting caught? When he voiced this thought aloud, Tom looked exasperated. “There are spells to make you invisible.”

“Like what?”

Tom flicked his eyes to the nearest bookcase, and three large books flew out to land in front of Finn. “Find one. You have nine minutes.”

Finn exhaled as he flipped the book open. He hated libraries.


A/N: Carpe diem means Seize the day in Latin.

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