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The Harder They Fall by victoria_anne
Chapter 10 : No Rest for the Wicked
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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We were together. I forget the rest.

- Walt Whitman

*


Finn deliberated for days.

His life wasn’t made for hard decisions. Never before had he faced a choice like this one. He feasibly had a case of life or death on his hands; he very much doubted Grindelwald would let Alenya Hills go back about her business once he realized she wasn’t the daughter he was looking for.

Brindley was.

The longer he put off telling Tom and Malfoy about the Hills girl, the more he increased the risk of them finding Brindley, but could he leave an innocent girl to Grindelwald? Would he just let her go with a Memory Charm once he found out the truth? Would he know Finn was behind it?

It was enough for him to rub his scalp raw.

He spent most nights now sitting by himself in the common room. The first night, students gave him a wide berth, especially the young ones. But this was nothing new. A few more nights passed and the older students ignored him too. Soon enough, it was like he was just another piece of furniture. His friends, Ben and Fletcher especially, would sometimes make to come over, but if Tom was in the room, they didn’t. Finn was spending a lot of time on his own. Usually he enjoyed his own company - and really, who wouldn’t - but when the sky darkened and the moon rose, its cold light filtered into the lake as he sat by the window, leaving him feeling very much alone.

On one such night, he was in the arm chair that now had a Finn-shaped hollow in it. He was idly picking at a thread on his sleeve when he became slowly aware of the noise in the common room, which grew as the minutes passed. He shook himself into the present. The common room had indeed filled with students while he’d been lost in his own thoughts, chattering excitedly in one big group. It didn’t take him long to find the source; it was standing on a chair in the middle of the room.

Tom.

“… need your help, no matter how small,” he was saying.

Finn’s arm prickled painfully just looking at him. Malfoy was on the ground beside Tom, looking nowhere near as confident, holding a small pouch that some students were now dropping coins into. Raising funds for Grindelwald, Finn thought bitterly. He pushed himself up out of the armchair and headed up to the dormitory, hoping to be asleep before Tom came up. The room wasn’t empty as he’d expected; Ben was lying on his bed with his shoes still on, reading a book. Finn did a double take at this new academic version of Ben, then he noticed the book was upside down. Just as well, Finn needed normalcy right now.

“Hey, man,” Ben said.

“Hey.” Finn pulled off his robes and cardigan so that he was left in his white shirt and tie, which he loosened. He settled himself on his own bed opposite with a sigh, staring up at the canopy.

Ben shut the book he had been pretending to read with a snap. “Look, Finn, I’m sorry about -”

Finn held up a hand, careful to make sure it was the one without the fading red mark. “It’s fine, man. Don’t worry about it.”

“No, I…”

There was something so unsure in Ben’s voice that Finn sat up so he could see him. His head was bent, staring at the book in his hands. “I hate that we’ve been forced to choose sides. But I’m not doing it for Tom. I’m doing it for Radbourne.”

“Radbourne?”

“I… I worry about him. You know, with Tom.”

Finn started undoing the laces of his shoes. “Why? What’s been happening?”

“It’s just, er… Well, I-I like him.”

“We all like him.”

“No, I -” Ben rubbed his head, frustrated. “Never mind.”

“Wait. Do you mean…?”

Ben finally met his eyes. He may have been on the other side of the room, but Finn could still see the longing for understanding in them. “You know that thing Patrick’s been an asshole over? About my dad getting angry about the Muggle I saw over the summer?”

“Yeah,” Finn said slowly.

“It wasn’t the fact they were a Muggle. It was the fact he was a boy.”

“Oh.” Finn stared at Ben, realization dawning. “Oh.”

Ben looked away, savagely ripping at the pages of the book. His shoulder were tense, like he was waiting for judgment. Judgment that Finn wasn’t going to give him.

He lay back down on the bed. “Your dad’s the asshole for getting angry over it. It doesn’t matter to anyone else who you love, Avery. ”

There was a pause.

“It’s that Hufflepuff girl, isn’t it?”

Finn turned his head sharply.

Ben held up his hands in mock surrender. “Doesn’t matter to anyone else who you love, Blishwick.”

Finn rubbed his face with his hands. He didn’t want to think about Brindley, so he kept the conversation about Ben. “What are you going to do about Rad, then? Does he know?”

“Kind of. We… well, we’ve talked about. He’s a bit unsure. It’s just Tom, you know?”

Finn nodded.

It was always Tom.

***

Finn’s first class the next morning was Transfiguration with the Hufflepuffs. The students were crowded around the entrance to the classroom, showing themselves in even though Professor Dumbledore hadn’t arrived yet. Brindley was squeezing her way through the students toward him. He watched her; his eyes were always managing to find her these days. Without a word, she pushed a small piece of parchment into his hand, and continued into the classroom. Finn was about to follow her in when -

“Blishwick.”

Finn froze at the voice. He quickly shoved Brindley’s note into his pocket as Tom came around to stand in front of him. He, too, pushed something into Finn’s hands, like it was a day for gift giving. But Finn didn’t think he’d like whatever Tom had to give him nearly as much as Brindley’s.

“What’s this?” Finn said blankly.

“Your orders,” Tom said as if it were obvious. “For Dumbledore. They’re laced with the venom from my snake.”

Finn looked down at the box of poisoned chocolates and then back up at Tom. “Why are you helping me?”

“This isn’t about you,” Tom snapped. “Having Dumbledore gone benefits me as well as Grindelwald.” Through clenched teeth he added, “I can scarcely move about the castle without the old fool breathing down my neck. Imperiuse someone else to give them to him.”

“But it’s been ages since I last used the Imperius Curse,” Finn said weakly. “I don’t think I -”

With an impatient scoff, Tom snatched the box back from Finn and glanced left and right, but the students had already gone inside the classroom. Radbourne appeared from around the corner, walking briskly, unusually late for class. He was too busy adjusting the sleeve of his robes to notice Finn and Tom in the middle of the corridor at first, but when he did, he faltered for a second before continuing over.

“Hey,” he said, taking his glasses out of his pocket and placing them on his nose. “What’s going on?”

Tom thrust the box in his direction. “You will give these to Dumbledore.”

Radbourne slowly, hesitantly, took the box. He opened his mouth, obviously thought better of whatever he was going to say, and shut it again.

“Good morning, gentlemen.”

The three of them whirled around at Dumbledore’s voice. The aging professor regarded them curiously, his hands clasped in front of his emerald green robes.

Tom cleared his throat, and Radbourne stumbled forward. He may not have known exactly what he was holding in his hands, but he knew Tom, and that was enough to drain the colour from Radbourne’s face.

“I - I just wanted to give these to you, Professor.”

It pained Finn to see his friend like this. Maybe it would have been better if Radbourne was Imperiused after all.

“Whatever for?”

“Er, to thank you for all your help this term.”

“Ah, Mr Lestrange! That is so very kind of you. But I’m afraid I am allergic to this particular brand of chocolate.”

“What?” Tom said sharply.

Dumbledore nodded gravely. “Nasty reaction, involves a lot of itching and swelling. I won’t bore you with the details. Now do come in. Mr Blishwick, Mr Riddle, you too, please.”

Tom snatched the box from Radbourne and placed it into his own bag. Finn made a mental note not to accept anything edible from Tom before he took his usual seat at the back of the classroom. Brindley was in hers beside Worley up the front; she turned around to catch his eye briefly before Dumbledore began his lesson. They were starting human transfiguration, but Finn was behind on the theory. He was behind on the homework, too. He was behind in every class. Finn sank down in his seat, ignoring Tom beside him. Well, being ignored. He reached into his pocket and felt the note from Brindley.

“We’ll be starting small,” Dumbledore said from the front of the classroom. “Creating webs between fingers and gradually working up to transfiguring your hand to resemble a frog’s. Human transfiguration is powerful magic, but, of course, not the most powerful.” He winked at two girls up the front.

“What is, sir?” Tom asked eagerly.

Dumbledore gave him a small smile. “Love, Tom.”

“Oh,” Tom said flatly, then he scoffed. “That’s not true, sir. Love doesn’t have the power to harm, to kill, to start or end wars.”

“Ah,” said Dumbledore. “I think you will find that it does, Tom.”

Finn tuned the argument out and pulled the note from his pocket. Hiding it under the desk, he unfolded it. All it said was:

Greenhouse 2, before lunch.

***

A few weeks ago, if someone told Finn that a Muggle-born Hufflepuff girl would be his only company when the rest of friends didn’t spend time with him, he would have cursed that someone into next week for being so ridiculous.

But a few weeks ago he was the old Finn, and he wasn’t the old Finn anymore.

So he walked under a cloudy sky to the greenhouse to meet Brindley, despite the cold, despite his complaining stomach over a missing lunch, despite the pounding of his heart.

She was there when he pushed open the door and peered in, crouched beside something on the other side. It was comfortably warm inside the greenhouse, and he loosened his scarf as he crossed the room to crouch beside her. There was a large pot in front of them holding only one plant. At first glance it looked like a Venus Flytrap; two leaves, each about the size of his hand, pressed together like lips on a mouth. But when he looked again he noticed the absence of the teeth-like spikes and that the edges of the leaves were curling slightly.

“What’s this?” he said.

She pressed a finger to her lips, and with her other hand softly stroked the top of the leaf. It shuddered and opened, much like a Venus Flytrap, but inside lay a small, sleeping creature. It looked like a mouse, but instead of hair, its body was the same green as the leaf it was lying on, and with a small jolt, Finn realized that leaf was its tail, fanned out to create a cocoon. As they watched, the creature opened its tiny mouth in a yawn.

“Wow,” Finn whispered. “Weird.”

Brindley gave a small smile. She stood up, and he did the same. She wore no scarf, and her neck looked thin and vulnerable. He lifted a hand to tuck the wavy hair behind her ear but she took a step back. “No, please -”

He dropped his hand. “What’s wrong?”

She took a deep breath, eyes to the ground. “I won’t do this to you,” she said quietly. “There’s just no point to… you know, us. You don’t owe me anything, there’s no reason for you to hang around and - and wait -” Her voice wavered and she stopped, swallowing.

She was pushing him away? After everything they’d shared? After everything he was going through? Lately, Finn felt as though he had no control over his life, but at least in this, he was allowed to have a say.

He took the necessary step to close the gap between them. With a finger under her chin, he lifted her face, her eyes glistening with tears as she finally looked at him. “There’s every reason,” he whispered, and bent his head to kiss her. He was gentle, slow, cautious.

After a moment, she pulled away to whisper against his mouth, “Please, Finn.”

He cupped her face and kissed her again. It was already warm in the greenhouse, but now there was fire bursting through his veins, so fierce he thought it was a wonder steam wasn’t rising from him.

Too soon, she broke the kiss again. “No. We can’t. It’s not fair on you.”

“Brindley.”

She looked up reluctantly.

“I’d rather spend a few days with you,” he said quietly, “than years with anyone else.”

The tears in her eyes welled until they spilled over, wetting his own cheeks as he bent his head to kiss her again. This time, her arms wrapped themselves around him, and he leaned into her, his chin fitting perfectly onto her shoulder.

They stayed like that for a long time, only pulling apart for Finn to ask, “What the hell is that?”

A growling coming from the little leafy mouse creature was slowly increasing in volume, and it was now steadily turning from green to red.

“Ah,” said Brindley. “It doesn’t like company too much. We’d better go, or it’ll whip us with its roots soon.”

Finn turned back to raise an eyebrow at her. “Didn’t I say pretty things were dangerous?”

She touched his cheek. “Pretty things aren’t dangerous,” she said softly, “they’re just misunderstood.”

He followed her out of the greenhouse. As they walked back up to the castle, so close their hands almost touched, the sun came out from behind the clouds for the first time that day.

***

Brindley’s note wasn’t the only note Finn received that day.

Never before had he been dreading going home; taking a last longing glance around Slughorn’s office, seeing past it and into the rest of the castle before he stepped into the fireplace. Never before had Finn truly appreciated the safety of Hogwarts. He had always liked it that little bit better than home; where he could do what he wanted without his parents knowing, where he could be with his friends, and bully the younger students. He ruled Slytherin House, if not the entire school.

But that was the old Finn.

Grindelwald was there, sitting in the armchair by the empty fire grate as if Blishwick Manor was his house; if Finn hadn’t been feeling sick before, he definitely was now. Only a few Besmurten were with him; the blood red robes now made the bile rise in Finn’s throat. How could he have ever wanted to be one? To be part of a group that scared him, part of a group who wanted the girl he cared about? To harm her family?

Finn’s parents weren’t there; they were presumably in the next room. Finn stood on his own in front of Grindelwald, twirling the watch around his wrist, the gold heirloom ticking feebly beneath his hand.

Grindelwald leaned forward. “You were at the Ministry.”

It didn’t sound like a question, so Finn didn’t answer. He continued twirling his watch, the runes on the face winking with each revolution as they caught the surrounding candlelight.

“You were not supposed to be at the Ministry,” Grindelwald continued, “and Dumbledore should not have known a thing about it. Yet, as soon as soon as two of his students arrive, so does he.”

Finn swallowed.

Grindelwald stood up, and Finn took a step back. “Were you followed? Did he see you leave?”

“N-no, sir -”

“Have you no idea of his capabilities? His ability to ruin everything for me? You, Blishwick, could have ruined everything for me.”

“I’m sorry -”

Grindelwald raised his wand. “Crucio.”

It was worse than the pain Tom had caused him outside Dippet’s office. Worse than any pain he’d received in his life. The room disappeared around him. It was just him, and the cold, hard floor, and the millions of tiny knives stabbing and slicing under his skin. He thought, I’m going to die, I’m going to die right here on the floor, like Hero, this is it, when the pain stopped as quickly as it had started. He rolled over onto all fours, his body continued to shake, muscles twitching. Sweat rolled from his hairline and down his cheeks like tears, or maybe they were tears.

Grindelwald was standing over him. “Have you nothing to say for yourself?”

Finn, panting, wiped his bleeding nose with the back of his sleeve. “I do, sir,” he said. He tried to raise his head but it hurt too much. “I found Henry Potter’s illegitimate child.”

***

A/N: Thank you, Julie ♥


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