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The Harder They Fall by victoria_anne
Chapter 12 : Hollow
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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Three things you should never break: trust, promises and someone’s heart.
Author unknown

*


“Found you.”

His finger hovered over the little red dot on the map labeled Godric’s Hollow. Without moving his finger, he craned his neck to read back over Henry Potter’s last letter, where Potter mentioned a safe place called the Hollow.

It was easy for him to get hold of the old journal that used to belong to Brindley’s mother. Brindley carried it with her everywhere, and it was just a matter of slipping it from her bag into his while she was distracted. He'd been going through them again over the past few days, desperate for clues, hoping that what he planned to do was going to work.

Finn knew he was right, anyway, because as soon as he saw ‘the Hollow’ again it sparked a memory. He’d gone over newspapers from months ago, finding the one his aunt had written. It said Henry Potter was from Godric’s Hollow. What if he was still there? What if he wasn't? Maybe someone was who could help him.

Finn, cross legged on his bed, tapped his finger on the map. It hadn’t actually been hard to find; Godric’s Hollow was a large magical community.

He hoped he was right, and would find something useful, if not the Cloak itself. The pain of Grindelwald’s Cruciatus Curse was still fresh in both his mind and his muscles. He bought himself time with the Hills girl, and now he needed to use it.

But Grindelwald had to know about Henry Potter’s son; Fleamont bore the Potter name and was a legitimate child. Which meant he was protected somehow, if Grindelwald didn’t go after him. Or maybe he thought a child raised by Muggles made an easier target.

Finn took a deep breath as he hopped off his bed, tidying away the newspaper, maps, and letters into his trunk. He Disillusioned himself as he left the castle, the afternoon sun warm on his skin even though he was invisible. Once he reached Hogsmeade, he Apparated.

The village of Godric’s Hollow was small; a handful of shops, a church, and rows of small houses his mother would describe as quaint, to which his father would reply that quaint was another way of saying poor. Witches and wizards in various colors and styles of robes were walking leisurely up and down the street. He stopped in front of a house that looked abandoned. The windows were boarded up and the grass on the lawn overgrown. Somehow, Finn knew this was Henry’s Potter’s house. He hoped looks were deceiving, and that it wasn’t empty.

Finn stood on the doorstep. He took a deep breath, then raised his hand to knock.

A man opened it. He was middle aged, with messy brown hair and a long face. With a pang, Finn recognized something of Brindley in his face, especially in the colour and shape of his eyes behind his glasses. He wore a blue checkered shirt and trousers, his hand in one of the pockets.

“Hi. Er - I’m Finn Blishwick.” Too late, Finn realized he should have used a fake name, but there was no recognition in the man’s face. Instead, he looked confused, but took his hand out of his pocket to shake Finn’s.

“Fleamont Potter,” he said.

Finn let out a shaky breath of relief. He was at the right place. He glanced nervously over his shoulder. “Do you mind if we talk inside?”

“Er… sure, come on in.”

The house was inches deep in dust and smelled old, though not entirely unpleasantly. There were white sheets over most of the furniture, and cardboard boxes stacked neatly against a wall. A large grandfather clock ticked loud, each second an echoing thunk. Finn subtly glanced around for any place the Cloak might be hidden. Fleamont was watching him.

“Tea?” he said.

“No. Thanks,” Finn remembered to add, thinking of how Brindley would elbow him for being rude.

Fleamont sat opposite Finn at the small kitchen table, folding his hands together. “What is this about? Are you selling something?”

Finn exhaled slowly as he considered his words. “I know a lot of this is going to sound crazy, but you have to believe me. Your dad, he had a daughter.”

Fleamont’s face turned cold. “No, he didn’t.”

“He did,” Finn insisted. “On his travels abroad, he met a Muggle woman named Mara McCroy -”

“That’s ridiculous. Dad never cheated on Mum.”

“Please, this girl’s life is in danger. I just need the Invisibility Cloak -”

Fleamont laughed shortly. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. And even if I did, do you really think I would give something so powerful to someone like Gellert Grindelwald?”

Finn’s heart stopped. “I didn’t -”

“Please,” Fleamont said shortly. “You need a powerful object to save a girl’s life. Who else would lower themselves to using blackmail like that to get their way? Besides, Grindelwald’s been after the Cloak for years. I’ve heard of his movements in Britain, he must be staying somewhere, and for you to know this… Well, you’ve got rich written all over you.”

Finn huffed. “Why doesn't he come after you, then?”

“He and his followers wouldn’t dare. I’m under the protection of the Ministry, who I would alert straight away if Grindelwald was here. In fact, I’m more than a little surprised you found me.”

“I had letters,” Finn said, “that your dad and Mara exchanged while they were abroad.”

Fleamont’s face went smooth and blank again. This mask unnerved Finn; not only because he couldn’t see what Fleamont was thinking, but because Brindley did the same thing.

“What about Henry Potter?” Finn said. “Is he here? If I could just speak to him -”

“Dad’s dead,” Fleamont said flatly.

The words hit Finn like a punch in the gut. “What?”

Fleamont nodded. “Last year. Left this place to me, but I'm just here in between work.”

Finn thought instantly of Brindley, who never knew her mother and would now never have the chance to know her father. He swallowed.

“Do you know where the Cloak is? Do you have it? Because -” The faded mark on Finn’s arm that Tom had left suddenly flared in a surge of pain. He let out a yell, clutching at his arm, when a sudden explosion turned the front door in a shower of splinters. There were three identical pops in quick succession behind him. Tom, Dalton, and Radbourne appeared.

Fleamont was on his feet, his mouth open in astonishment. “What is going on -?”

Dalton and Radbourne had their wands on Fleamont. Radbourne was as wide-eyed as Fleamont. The corner of Dalton’s mouth was turned up as if something he’d been looking forward to was about to happen.

Tom had his eyes on Finn. “Well done, Blishwick.”

Fleamont turned to Finn. “You -?”

He didn't have time to finish his sentence before Tom cried, “Stupefy!”

Fleamont went limp. Radbourne caught him before he hit the ground, staggering under his weight.

“Did you find it?” Tom asked Finn.

Finn shook his head, mouth dry as he said, “Not here. Potter’s dead.”

Tom’s nostrils flared. “I see. Who is this?” He nodded at Fleamont’s stunned body.

“His son.”

Tom turned to Radbourne and Dalton. “Bring him. Let's go, Blishwick.”

Finn gestured vaguely to the kitchen. “I'll just grab my bag.”

As soon as the boys and Fleamont were gone, Finn sprang into action. He skidded in front of the fireplace, remembering just in time to take his jumper off before he shoved his arm up the chimney, sending a shower of ash down on himself.

Because just before Fleamont was hit with the stunning spell, Finn watched the older man’s face, and saw his eyes dart to this fireplace before they closed into unconsciousness. Finn felt around frantically for a hole, a button, anything, then got out his wand and started poking randomly. Something came loose under his fingers, and fell to the floor with a soft whump, sending up a fresh puff of ash.

The Invisibility Cloak.

He found it. It didn't look like much. It felt much like a regular cloak; rough and worn, covered in a layer of ash and dirt so thick it was impossible to tell its real colour. Finn pulled out his wand and tapped the cloak. “Reducio,” he whispered, even though there was no one around the hear.

He shoved the now tiny cloak into his pocket and pulled his jumper back over his head, covering the majority of his ash covered clothes.

He Apparated back to Hogsmeade, and made the walk back to Hogwarts as the sun set behind the mountains.

***

Finn had the dormitory to himself once he returned to the castle. The last period of the day would finish in a few minutes, and Radbourne, Dalton and Tom weren't back from wherever they'd taken Fleamont. Presumably to Blishwick Manor. Finn wondered what his father would make of his absence.

Finn ran the shower, taking a moment to hide his ash covered clothes before Tom had a chance to ask why he had been playing in Fleamont’s fireplace. The hot water burned his arm. He hid the Cloak at the bottom of his trunk, the spell already worn off and back to its normal size.

Finn threw on clean trousers and a deep green jumper. With his hair still damp, he made his way down to the Great Hall, throwing his bag over his shoulder because he was meeting Brindley in the library afterward. He felt oddly calm, a sense of triumph washing over him. He’d done it; he had the Cloak. He could end this. Though he worried for Fleamont, Brindley’s half brother, Finn hoped he was right in thinking Grindelwald wouldn't hurt him. Not straight away at least, and Finn would have the Cloak to him before then.

Only Fletcher and Ben were at the Slytherin table when he walked in. As Finn made his way over, he scanned the Ravenclaw table like he’d been doing almost every day, looking for Alenya Hills even though he wasn’t entirely sure what she looked like. His eyes fell on the next table over, where Brindley was sitting, her thick hair pulled back into a ponytail. She smiled at him, and he returned it.

Finn slid into the seat beside Fletcher, pinching one of the sausages from his plate. Ben was deep in conversation with Clarence Trosper. Finn inched closer to Fletcher.

“I need your help, Fletch,” he murmured.

Fletcher raised a blonde eyebrow warily. “This isn't like the incident on Halloween two years ago, is it? Because it took me weeks to - ”

“It’s nothing like that,” Finn said hastily.

“What is it then?”

“I need you write something for me. It needs to be anonymous, and you’d make it sound so much better.”

Fletcher still looked doubtful, but he agreed. They left dinner early and headed for the library. Fletcher chatted happily about the new story he was writing, but Finn was listening with half an ear; he was deciding what to put in the letter.

Fletcher’s writing was neat; no one would ever suspect it was Finn’s. Finn decided long ago he wanted to be anonymous. The thought of being praised for this made him feel sick. He just wanted the Cloak handed over, Grindelwald to be content, to not have to go after Alenya Hills - or Brindley, for that matter - and to leave Finn alone. Fleamont would be saying he didn’t have it, and once that proved true, he could go. Finn hoped.

Fletcher wrote down everything Finn told him; Henry Potter’s death, that the Cloak could be sent to wherever Grindelwald desired it, that the illegitimate child was useless to him now. With each word, Fletcher’s mouth tightened, but he said nothing. When it was finished, Fletcher folded the letter and handed it to Finn.

“Thanks, Fletch. I owe you.” He ruffled his hair. Fletcher pushed him off with a small smile, gathering his things and returning them to his bag. He bid Finn farewell just as Brindley came into the library.

Finn shoved the note into the bottom of his bag; he’d send it by owl later that night.

***

The library was warm. Too warm for Finn’s jumper, but he didn't dare take it off. Since the mark on Finn’s arm flared up at Godric’s Hollow it hadn’t yet faded back to red; instead it remained an ugly black mark. Finn shifted in his seat, pulling at the neck of his jumper with his left hand as he continued writing his essay with his right.

Brindley looked up from her own parchment. “Aren’t you hot?” she asked.

“You haven’t noticed yet?”

She gave him an exasperated look. “I mean in your robes.”

Finn shook his head. Brindley shrugged and rolled up the sleeves of her own robes to her elbows, her arms thin and bony underneath.

They worked in silence for a few minutes until there was a snapping sound, and Brindley let out a frustrated exclamation. “My quill just broke. Can I borrow one of yours?”

Finn didn’t look up from his parchment as he said, “Sure. In my bag.”

Brindley bent to rifle through his satchel. After a few moments the rifling went silent. She was so still for so long that Finn finally looked up. When he saw what was in her hands he felt as though he might throw up.

“What is this?” Her voice was deadly quiet.

She was holding the letter he intended to give to Grindelwald. It was open. He swallowed, focusing on her face and hoped the room would stop spinning. “I don’t know.” His voice sounded hoarse.

“Don’t lie to me Finlay Blishwick!” she shouted. Tears welled in her eyes.

“I -”

She shook the letter in his face, her own slowly turning red. “Tell me this is a joke.”

The pain in her voice broke his heart. He opened his mouth, but she spoke across him, even though her voice was barely more than a whisper. “Tell me this isn’t real.”

Tears were building behind his own eyes. “Brindley…”

“You promised you would never hurt me,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks in earnest. “You promised.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” A tear leaked out from the corner of his eye. “I meant it - I still do - If you’ll just let me explain -”

“You don’t deserve that chance.” Brindley stood up, yanking her bag out from under the table.

He stood up and reached for her, but she pulled back savagely. “Don’t touch me.” Her breathing had become ragged again, and when moments ago she’d been red in the face, she was now as white as a sheet.

“You knew my father was dead, and you didn’t tell me. You’ve been working for Grindelwald all this time, even though you knew what he did to me and my mother. Was this all hilarious for you?”

“God no, of course not -”

“You’re disgusting. Don’t ever talk to me again. I never want to see you again.”

His bottom lip trembled against his will. His voice cracked as he said, “I did it to protect you.”

Brindley just shook her head and left. Finn sat back down since his shaking legs weren’t going to hold him up for much longer. Oh God, what had he done? He’d lost Brindley. Brindley, who all he wanted was to keep safe and from pain, and now he was the cause of it. Always he was the cause of someone’s pain.

Running footsteps made Finn sit up and quickly wipe his face. It was Radbourne, glasses askew, panting.

“What is it?” Finn asked.

“I came to find you. We’ve been called to our common rooms.”

Finn wiped his nose on the back of his sleeve. “What for?”

“I don’t know.” Radbourne’s expression was pained. “But it’s nothing good.”

***

The castle was unusually quiet as Finn and Radbourne made their way to the Slytherin common room. Even the Great Hall, where students should still have been eating dessert, was dark and empty. Finn didn’t have enough room in his mind to wonder about it. All he could see was Brindley’s heartbroken face. He’d hurt her. How Hero would hate him. How Brindley did hate him. How he hated himself. He felt like some vile creature in a cage he couldn't escape from.

The common room was packed; students took up every available surface as they made a circle around Slughorn, who was standing in the center of the room. Finn and Radbourne squeezed in just as Slughorn began talking.

“Alenya Hills from Ravenclaw went missing last night,” he said, “and was found dead this morning. Aurors are addressing it now. In the meantime, classes are canceled for tomorrow, and anyone who needs counseling, we have professionals coming in…”

Finn didn’t hear the rest. Blood rushed to his ears in a roar that drowned out all other sounds. Slowly, sluggishly, silently, he made his way to the dormitory. It was empty and dark. Finn stepped into the bathroom, locking the door. He knelt by the toilet and vomited, and even when his stomach was empty he still felt sick. So, so sick. He leaned back against the wall, turning his flushed cheek onto the cool tile.

Then he cried.

Chest heaving, shoulder shaking sobs.

He’d never let himself believe any of this could be real. How easy it was to just say a name from the safety of the castle and then go back to Brindley’s arms.

That girl - Finn had killed her. He was a murderer. This was all his fault. He banged the back of his head violently against the wall.

It could have been Brindley, he told himself. It could have been Brindley.

It still could be Brindley, since Grindelwald didn’t have the Cloak. Finn did. And Finn hadn’t sent the letter; Grindelwald didn’t know Henry Potter was dead. Did Tom have anything to do with Hills?

Thinking of Tom made Finn realize he hadn’t seen him since earlier that afternoon in Godric’s Hollow. For once, Tom’s absence, not his presence, made Finn nervous. He pulled the sleeve of his jumper back; the black, indecipherable mark was stark against his skin. Somehow, Tom must have used the mark to find him. That fucking bastard.

Finn pulled his sleeve down again and allowed himself a few more minutes on the floor. He allowed one more tear to slide down his cheek. Then he raised his head, got to his feet, and straightened his clothes. He splashed cold water on his face before going back down to the common room.

It had mostly emptied. Ben and Radbourne were sharing a lounge, heads bent as they spoke in low voices. Finn didn’t have enough emotion left in him to be pleased at the closeness between his two friends.

“Have you seen Tom?” he asked without preamble.

Ben and Radbourne grimly shook their heads. Their eyes were wide and identical in their concern, but Finn didn't explain before he left without another word. The library, then. Finn couldn’t find Tom anywhere; maybe he never returned to the castle after all.

Finn had to find Brindley instead. He had to explain. She would have gone to her common room like everyone else, and now she knew about Hills. He would tell her it was his fault. She was going to hate him even more, but at least she would know the truth.

He stopped outside their common room. He knew how to get it in; Brindley sneaked him many times, but she’d gone in to check the room was empty first. He’d never been in by himself before. What if their common room was full? But Brindley was more important than how he looked to others, so he steeled himself and went inside.

There weren’t many people in the room, and those that were there didn’t look up as he stuck his head inside. They were staring at the ground, looking mostly in shock, but some had tears running down their faces. Finn’s chest grew too tight to breathe.

His fault, his fault, his fault.

Thankfully, Saffron Worley was one of the students among them, and she noticed him. Her eyes widened. She sprang to her feet, coming over to meet him.

“Have you seen Brindley?” he asked her in a low voice.

“No,” Saffron whispered uncertainly, folding her arms over her robes. “I was going to ask you the same thing.”

“What?”

“I haven’t seen her since she said she was going to study with you.”

“Oh. Okay, thanks.” Finn withdrew his head again.

Shit. Where could she be? In a bathroom? His heart contracted at the thought of her crying as much as he had, and knowing he was the cause.

He sat on the steps in the Entrance Hall, running his hands through his hair. It was silent except for the occasional squeaking of the suits of armor down the corridor. Finn laughed without humor as he thought of how the boys once called their group knights. Thinking of Tom again, he was struck with a sudden, horrible revelation.

What if Tom knew the truth about Brindley?

Finn rubbed his face. He didn’t know how Tom would know, but now that the thought crossed his mind, he knew without a doubt - though he wished he had one - that Tom had taken her. Finn hadn’t protected her after all. How could he have been so utterly stupid to think that he could? He couldn't protect anyone.

A suit of armor creaked again, echoing through the hall.

But Finn had what Grindelwald wanted. Finn had the Cloak, the thing that started this whole fucking thing in the first place. He stood up. He still had a chance to be a hero.

He went to get the Cloak.

***

The first thing Finn saw as he stepped into the corridor of the dungeons was Sebastian’s large brown eyes peering out from the antechamber.

Finn stopped. “Sebastian? What are you doing in there?”

“Can you come in here, please?”

Finn followed him in. The room was empty, and dark and cold without the fire lit; only one lantern by the corner. Sebastian locked the door; Finn heard it click. Sebastian whipped out his wand so quickly Finn didn’t have time to react.

Incarcerous!”

Ropes shot out from Sebastian’s wand and wrapped themselves around Finn’s arms and legs. With a startled yell, Finn fell backwards. He hit the wall, sliding down it until he was sitting on the floor, pain shooting up his spine where he landed on his tail bone. He couldn’t reach his wand; he couldn’t move at all.

Finn looked up at Sebastian. “Bash, what the fuck?”

Sebastian still had his own wand pointed at Finn, but his hand trembled. “Shut up! I’m the one with the wand.”

Finn took in Sebastian’s appearance; he looked terrible, even in the dim room. His brown hair was disheveled and there were bags under his eyes. A tiny part of Finn felt sad that his little cousin looked like hell, but the larger part of him - the part that was tied up by said little cousin - was angry. Then Finn noticed the mark on Sebastian’s arm, the exact size and position of his own, black and indecipherable. “Did Tom tell you to do this?”

Sebastian followed his gaze and hesitated. “No.”

“You can’t trust him, Bash. He’s done awful things, he -”

“This has nothing to do with Tom,” Sebastian said. “I’m capable of doing things, too, you know. No one ever seems to notice.”

Finn briefly closed his eyes. Of course.

The wave of realization hit Finn so hard it made him dizzy, and he was glad he was already sitting down. Sebastian had access to Finn’s dormitory, he knew about the coup; Finn himself let it slip over Christmas. Somehow he must have gotten word to a Dumbledore. And as a Muggleborn himself, Sebastian would know about the Muggleborn activities, and know Finn went to the movie. The person who had been trying to sabotage Finn this year was his own cousin.

“It was you. Why, Sebastian?”

Sebastian’s eyes flashed in a way Finn had never seen before. “Are you really asking me that?” he said.

Finn swallowed, past events flashing before him one by one. The disinheritance, the bullying, the withdrawing…

“Your perfect little family isn’t so perfect, you know,” Sebastian said.

Yes, Finn did know that.

“I tried to tell you,” Sebastian continued. “I was right. About Scout going to Ilvermorny? It's b-bullshit. She's a Squib. She goes to a Muggle school.”

Finn stopped struggling.

Sebastian looked grimly satisfied. “I bet your dad doesn't know that. After all, Scout hasn't been disowned.”

No, Finn didn’t think Jameson did know that.

“You're all so ashamed to be anything you're not. Even all your stuff with Grindelwald. He’s anti-Muggle and Muggleborn, and you still follow him, support him? Don’t you know how that makes me feel?”

“It’s not like that anymore -”

“I know,” Sebastian said. “It’s changing now. Tom’s helping me get my family back.”

“You never lost us, Sebastian,” Finn said, rising with difficulty to his knees. “And you know Tom supports Grindelwald, too?”

Sebastian faltered. Tom must have conveniently forgotten to mention that to him. “Oh…” he said faintly. “I gave him…” He trailed off.

“You gave him what, Sebastian?”

Sebastian looked at the floor. “The Hufflepuff girl.”

Finn thought he had been about to say the Cloak, but this was so much worse.

You told Tom about Brindley?!” Finn growled. “Sebastian, what have you done? Grindelwald will kill her!”

“N-no,” Sebastian said, and his hand trembled again. “I have the Cloak, too.”

Finn clenched his jaw. “How did you get that?”

“It was in your room.”

Finn struggled against the ropes, but they wouldn't loosen. “You've been through my things before, haven't you, Sebastian? What were you looking for the first time?”

“Anything,” said Sebastian. “You've always been the golden child, the chosen one. I knew you were up to something. I found a list of times in your dormitory but I didn’t know what they meant, so I followed you…”

Bloody hell, Sebastian.

“… and I know you’ve been using Professor Slughorn’s fireplace. You and Tom.” He hesitated. “Is he really working for Grindelwald?”

“Yes. He’s been using you. That’s what he does.”

“But… will they stop now? Grindelwald has what he wants.”

“It won’t stop him,” Finn said. “He’s dangerous. Please, just let me go.”

“I can’t,” Sebastian said. Finn saw the doubt behind his eyes. “This is about proving myself. I'm more than just Muggleborn.”

“I know that, Sebastian…”

Sebastian shook his head. “No, you don't. No one does. Or if they do, they quickly forget.”

“Sebastian, please. Brindley knows nothing about this. Any of this. She didn’t even know Henry Potter was her father until recently. Grindelwald hates Potter. He’ll kill her out of spite because that’s what he does. Let me go!”

“I can't.” Sebastian’s voice wobbled.

Finn was really starting to panic. Each second that ticked away was a second further Finn spent away from Brindley. Brindley, who was in the hands of both Tom and Grindelwald. Grindelwald had already killed one innocent girl, it was only a matter of time before he did it again.

“Sebastian.” The desperation in Finn’s voice was evident to his own ears. “Please. I’ve seen you duel, you’re even better than me. No one thinks you’re useless. Those other kids are just bullies.” Finn’s chest ached at the fact that he was one of those people. “And you’re so good on your flute. Don’t be like Tom, Bash. You’re a good person.”

Sebastian’s bottom lip wobbled. Then he lowered his wand, and the ropes around Finn’s wrists and ankles slackened enough for him to pull them off. Finn jumped to his feet and shoved Sebastian against the wall. Not hard enough to hurt him, but enough to scare him at least. But Finn found his anger disappeared as quickly as it had flared up. He let Sebastian go. “We’ll talk about this later, okay?”

Sebastian nodded, still looking like he was about to cry. Finn grabbed him and pulled him into a tight hug. He kissed the top of his head. Sebastian’s shoulders started shaking.

“I’m sorry,” Finn said. “I’m sorry you feel like this. But you’ve done a really shitty thing, Bash, and I have to go and fix it.”

Sebastian nodded against Finn’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, too,” he whispered.

Completely empty handed, Finn traveled home.

***

A/N: Thanks to Julie for looking over this (second to last!) chapter for me!


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