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Chapter 13 : Deeper Than Oceans
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- J.K. Rowling
When Finn stepped out of the fireplace and into his living room, he was met with silence. He poked his head into the kitchen and the entryway, but there was no sign of anyone, until he heard lowered voices coming from the library. The large double doors were open a crack. He didn’t even dare to breathe as he peered inside.
Grindelwald was there, his robes blacker than night. He was pacing, coming in and out of Finn’s vision. Tom was there as well, standing by a bookshelf, his white shirt neat. Finn inched around, trying to see in from a better angle.
His heart stopped.
Brindley was sitting on a chair, her hands clasped in front of her. She wasn’t physically bound, but by the way she was subtly shifting, it was obvious she was restrained by magic. His hands curled into fists at his side. What had they done to her? Her eyes were rimmed with red, and she was pale, her hair loose from the ponytail it had been in when he’d seen her last. It fell across her face as her chest heaved with the effort to breathe without coughing. She must have been coughing at some point though; there was a small bubble of the black substance that was in her lungs at the corner of her mouth. There was a similar black mark on her shoulder, as if she’d used it to wipe at her mouth. That was Brindley; refusing to let anyone see her pain.
Finn inched forward, but a hand on his arm stopped him, making him jump and nearly cry out.
His mother pressed a finger to his mouth. She looked as neat as always, but there were dark circles under her eyes, which were wide as she searched his face. “Do you know that girl in there?” she whispered.
Finn swallowed the lump in his throat. Hoarsely, all he could say was, “Yeah.”
She cupped his face. “Be careful, my baby.”
Finn nodded, and kissed her cheek. He went to open the door when his mother stopped him again.
“You know the red and white vase?” she said, her eyes darting to the library door. “The one with the owls on it?”
Finn nodded; he knew the one, it sat on the desk by the window. Without any further explanation, his mother squeezed his arm and left. Finn blinked after her, but he didn’t have time to wonder what his mother meant about the vase as he pushed on the doors.
Neither Grindelwald or Tom looked surprised to see him walk in. Finn couldn't look at Brindley, couldn't face the contempt he was sure to see in her face. His eyes flickered to Tom. There was no emotion in the other boy’s face at Finn’s appearance. He remained standing, looking at Finn as if he’d been in the room the whole time.
“Ah, Finn,” Grindelwald said. “Well done. Tom tells me it was you who found Miss Potter here in the first place. And took very good care of her, I hear.” His eyes glinted with amusement.
Finn clenched his jaw.
Grindelwald reached into his robes, and Finn took a step back, thinking Grindelwald was about to pull out his wand. But Grindelwald’s hand emerged with something small on a thin chain. He dropped it into Finn’s palm. It was a Hallow rune, just like the Besmurten wore.
“Well done, Finlay.”
Finn looked down at it. How could he ever have wanted something so small and insignificant? He’d dreamed of this, wanted it more than anything in the world, and now that it was in his hand, it looked pitiful. In fact, it was ugly. For a moment, he imagined himself closing his fist around it, accepting it. He imagined donning blood red robes. He imagined becoming a soldier, someone strong and tough and brave.
But he had already become that.
Finn snapped the rune in half, throwing both pieces on the floor. Grindelwald regarded him coldly.
“Put him in with Potter,” he said to Tom.
Tom didn't need restraints or magic to make him move. Finn knew what he could do, and he started walking without a word.
He finally looked at Brindley before he left the room. Her mouth was a tight line as she struggled in her seat. Finn realised she was trying to speak, but couldn't. The bastards had gagged her as well. He wished he could say something to her, but he was already gone.
Finn was led to the basement in his own home like a prisoner. Tom didn’t take his wand; he was probably that confident of his abilities outmatching Finn’s, and he’d be right. Finn’s hands were shaking with anger, and he curled them into fists. As they descended the stairs to the basement, Finn contented himself with shouting insults at Tom in his head, well aware of Tom’s Legilimency skills. Let him hear.
The basement was actually once a comfortable place; before Finn and Hero started at Hogwarts, they'd played down here. But that had been years ago, and now it was dark and dusty and cold. Old furniture and broomsticks were scattered among the shadows and memories.
Fleamont was there, sitting against a lounge. One of the lens of his glasses was cracked. His feet were tied together, as were his hands behind his back. Much like Finn had been earlier and much like Finn was now. If this was going to become a habit, Finn was going to have to ask for silk ties to save his skin. He glared at Tom all the while, and when he was gone, Finn rested his head on his knees. The basement was silent for a long time.
“What is she like?” Fleamont finally asked, so quiet Finn almost missed it.
Finn lifted his head. “Brindley?”
Fleamont nodded. “I saw her up there. She looks just like my grandmother did at her age. I think I believe you now.”
“She’s… beautiful. And kind, funny, and smart. She loves animals, you know. Wants to work with them in the f-future.” His voice caught on the word.
No. Brindley would have a future, one that went beyond being tied up in this house. Finn struggled against his bonds, using the very tips of his fingers to inch his wand from his pocket, one painful centimeter at a time, until it finally clattered to the floor.
“How do you have that?” Fleamont’s eyes were wide.
Finn shrugged. “No one took it from me.”
Finn wracked his brains for a spell that might help. He tried spells that severed and burned, but without his hand around it, his wand was unresponsive. Finn concentrated so hard sweat began sliding down his temple. “Come on, wand,” he muttered. “I never ask you for anything. Just do this one thing for me.”
He stared hard at his wand, lying just out of reach of his fingertips. He imagined it shooting a spell to cut through his ties. He thought of Brindley, and how much he wanted to run up to the library and take her away. To his astonishment, his wand started to wiggle, as if the floor were shaking beneath it. Finn watched, open-mouthed, as his wand swiveled to the ties around his ankles as if it were metal attracted by a magnet, and shot a thin stream of light that sliced through the ties. Finn let out a triumphant cry. The wand turned and freed his hands. Fleamont look impressed as Finn rose to his feet and undid his own bonds.
The door to the basement above them opened, sending a beam of light down over the stairs.
“Make him regret it,” Fleamont said.
Finn nodded, gripping his wand in his sweating hand.
Tom descended the stairs to find Finn and Fleamont on their feet, but he didn’t look surprised. He chuckled without humor as he looked at Finn’s wand, which was pointed at his chest. “You know you can’t win against me with that.”
“You’re right,” Finn said. He transferred his wand into his left hand, and with his right, punched Tom in the nose.
Tom stumbled backward, finally taken by surprise. When he straightened, blood was trickling from his nose. Finn didn't think he’d ever seen Tom bleed before. He'd almost wondered if he was capable. Tom wiped at his nose with his sleeve, staining his white shirt with red, his eyes so intense Finn could almost see flames in them.
Pain shot through Finn. He fell to the ground, wand rolling away from him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so intense that Finn couldn’t hear everything Tom was saying.
“Pathetic,” Tom said, smoothing his hair back. “Just like your sister.”
Finn growled and tried to stand, but without even lifting a finger, Tom had him curling up with spasms again.
“Actually,” Tom said, raising his voice to be heard over Finn’s yelling, “you're more pathetic. At least she put up more of a fight.”
“W-what?” Finn croaked as the pain stopped again, his forehead on the cool stone of the ground.
“She was smarter than you, too,” Tom continued. “At least, smarter than you thought she was. Did you really think Hero was stupid enough to get herself bitten by a spider she was deathly allergic to?”
Finn’s stomach rolled with nausea, but it had nothing to do with the pain of the curse. “What are you saying?”
“What do you think I’m saying?” Tom said. “You and I, Blishwick, we possessed the same goals. You served my desires. But Hero? She threatened me. She would have spoiled everything. I wouldn’t risk that, so I didn’t.”
Finn didn’t want to make sense of what Tom was saying. He didn’t want to believe him. But Hero’s words floated back to him, and Finn thought he finally knew what Hero had been trying to tell him.
“Fuck you.” Finn tried to stand, wanting to charge at Tom, magic or no magic. A fresh wave of pain sent him rolling on the floor again, wanting to peel his own skin off.
As quickly as it started, it stopped, and Finn raised his head. Tom was on the ground again, Fleamont standing over him, massaging his knuckles. Tom’s eyes were closed, but his chest was rising and falling.
“That's not going to hold him for long,” Finn said, still on all fours. It was taking a lot of effort to rise to his feet again.
“It doesn't have to,” Fleamont panted. “Grab Brindley and get out of here.”
“What about the Cloak?” Finn said. “Is it up there?”
Fleamont smiled grimly. “Don’t worry about that,” he said. “The one you took from my fireplace? It’s a fake.”
“What?” Finn croaked.
“The real one is my vault at Gringott’s. I couldn’t risk someone else finding it. The one Grindelwald has right now has a powerful Disillusionment Charm on it, but that will fade with time.”
Finn nodded once as he shakily got to his feet, picking up his wand. Relief and satisfaction made his knees wobble. Grindelwald hadn’t won. Finn looked down at Tom, anger boiling and bubbling in his gut like an overheating potion. He raised his wand.
Fleamont stopped him with a gentle but firm hand on his arm. “You don’t have time right now. He’ll pay for whatever he did to your sister.”
A sob shook Finn’s chest, so unexpected it even took him by surprise. “He killed her!” he choked out.
Fleamont’s mouth tightened, but he forced Finn’s hand to lower. “You can still save Brindley.”
Finn took a shaky breath, forcing his grief back down. He stepped over Tom, kicking him slightly, and ran up the stairs.
Grindelwald was still in the library, but now he was joined by both Finn’s parents, and Andor Bence, who was holding Brindley’s arms behind her back by the window. Brindley may have been taller than Bence, but he was twice her width. Her eyes widened as Finn came in, but he couldn't read her expression. This time, everyone was surprised to see Finn crash in.
“Stop this,” he said. “She doesn't know anything. Henry Potter is dead, and you have the Cloak. Brindley isn’t any use to you.”
Grindelwald twirled his wand between his fingers, looking much like a cat whose tail twitched as it watched a bird from the window. “What do you make of this, Blishwick?” Grindelwald said, referring to Jameson.
Finn’s eyes flickered to his father. He looked truly terrible; his face hollow, eyes sunken as if he hadn’t slept in days. His voice was hoarse as he said, “I am very disappointed in my son. In fact, I don’t believe he is my son anymore.”
Finn faltered. He bit down on his bottom lip and raised his chin. His mother’s eyes were wide and filled with tears, but they didn’t fall. Finn looked away from his father and back at Grindelwald. “Please,” he said.
“I remember this girl’s mother,” Grindelwald said casually.
Brindley’s eyes widened as she looked at him.
“She loved history, did Mara. So passionate. So strong, for a time. Running from me despite her pregnancy. You must be strong as well,” he said to Brindley, “to have survived my curse for so long.” He was pacing in front of her in little half-circles. “Your mother didn’t die instantly, did you know that? It’s probably how they managed to get you out alive.” Brindley looked like she was about to spit in his face. Bence’s hands tightened around her arms, and Finn felt a small surge of pride that she was facing Grindelwald with so little fear. “I can still hear her screams, you know,” Grindelwald continued. “It was the first time I’d used this curse. I invented it myself; I’m glad it worked so well, so slowly. On her, at least. I doubt you’ll survive it a second time.”
“Please,” Finn said again. “Let Brindley go.”
Grindelwald stopped his pacing and came to stand beside Finn. Finn tried to stare at him with the same ferocity that Brindley had, but it was hard not to look away, not to anger him. Grindelwald regarded Finn for a long time. “You love her, don’t you?” he finally said in a flat voice.
“Yeah,” Finn said. “I do.”
Brindley made a noise like a sob, and he dared a glance over at her. Tears were running down her face, but at least she didn’t look angry or scared anymore.
Grindelwald nodded once. Finn foolishly dared to believe Grindelwald was going to say he understood, that Finn and Brindley would be free to go. But that was a dream, an empty wish. Life didn’t work like that. Out of the corner of his vision, Finn saw Bence step away from Brindley. Without taking his eyes from Finn’s face, Grindelwald raised his wand and aimed it at Brindley. A spell shot from its tip, but not in the regular flash of light. It looked like a ball of smoke, like something dark and evil and alive, and hit Brindley directly in the chest. Brindley didn’t even have the time to look surprised as her head tilted back, her eyes closed, and she crumpled to the floor.
Finn ran to her, falling to his knees beside her. As he slid his arm under her head, his watch, the old, golden Blishwick heirloom, caught on an uneven floorboard and the band snapped. He threw it angrily away where he dimly heard it smash against the wall. Brindley was still, her head lolling against his arm. Finn pushed her hair back from her face, hardly aware of how much his hand was shaking as it fluttered around her head.
She looked so tiny and felt so frail in his arms, but still he clutched her tightly, shaking her. She would wake up. She had to wake up. Something warm and salty was running into his mouth, his vision blurred as he looked up at his parents. Why were they just standing there? Why weren’t they helping her? He blinked his tears back just in time to his mother’s eyes dart to the desk beside him.
Finn glanced up at the red and white vase she mentioned earlier. Was it his imagination or was it glowing blue?
Grindelwald took a step toward him, just as Tom burst through the door, blood running from a cut on his forehead. Finn kept a hold on Brindley as he reached for the vase. His fingers closed around the neck just as Grindelwald raised his wand a second time.
Finn could smell salt.
He’d squeezed his eyes shut when he touched the vase, and now he slowly opened them. He was on a beach, sitting in the wet sand, Brindley’s limp body across his lap. The waves of the ocean were grey as they crashed against the shore, coming close to him, but not quite reaching.
He looked over his shoulder, suspicions confirmed. He was at his family’s holiday home in Cornwall. A Portkey. His mother created a Portkey. The object in question now lay in pieces beside him, shards of red and white in the grey sand.
Finn pulled Brindley closer, hooking his arm under her knees and resting her head in the crook of his other elbow, like he was holding a child. He didn’t know any healing spells. Why hadn’t he listened to Radbourne? What difference would it make, anyway? Brindley was past healing. Her heart wasn’t beating.
She was gone.
Finn wasn’t crying anymore; he didn’t think there were any tears left. Instead, Finn simply looked out over the ocean, watching the waves, the body of the girl he loved in his arms. The beach was drained of all colour, the sun hidden behind a thick layer of clouds so it was impossible to tell the time. Late afternoon, perhaps. The swell was strong, as if a storm was blowing in, the waves loud as they crashed against the rocks of the nearby cliff. Finn didn’t hear them. He didn’t hear anything. Why was everything around him still moving when Brindley wasn’t?
He felt empty.
He felt nothing.
Was that the same thing?
What was he supposed to do now? Could he stay on the beach with Brindley forever? Surely he had to; he didn’t have the energy to do anything else. Finn looked back down at her. Gently, he kissed her nose, her cheek, her chin, her eyelids. She was still so warm, and her skin flushed. He lowered his forehead onto hers. It turned out he hadn’t run out of tears after all, and they fell silently down his cheeks and onto her face.
Maybe if he closed his eyes, he could pretend she was alive, just for a moment longer. A moment to say he was sorry. A moment to say goodbye. A moment to tell her he loved her, like he should have done earlier. If he closed his eyes, he could almost feel her heart beating against him, her chest rising and falling, her -
He froze. She was breathing.
Finn pulled back, his own heart hammering in his chest. She was definitely breathing. He touched her cheek. “Brindley?”
Brindley’s eyelids fluttered, then they opened, squinting up at the sky before they focused on Finn’s face. “Finn?”
Finn made a choked noise. “Oh, my God.”
Brindley turned her head, still in the crook of his elbow. “What happened?” She sounded drowsy, as if she’d just woken up from sleep, not death.
Finn crushed her to his chest, holding her tightly. “Oh, my God, Brindley. You died. You -”
She pushed against his shoulder. “Finn, I can’t breathe.”
“Sorry.” He quickly let her go.
With his help, she sat upright. Her movements were sluggish. She looked down at her hands, as if she’d never seen them before. She raised her head, looking around the beach, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Her thick hair blew over her face, messy from where he’d been running his hands through it, and grains of sand were dotted through the red strands. Her eyes were on him again, and the sight of them open was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen in his life.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Actually, I feel… better than okay.” She took in a couple of deep breaths. “Finn, my chest -”
“What is it?” His hands were fluttering helplessly around her again. “Does it hurt? Should I -”
“No,” Brindley said, and a smile crept onto her face. “It’s gone. The pain is gone.”
“What?” Finn breathed.
Brindley looked as though she hardly believed it herself. She pulled her shirt down slightly, and where there had been dark splotches over her lungs just hours before, there was only healthy pink - if rather freckled - skin. She looked back up at him, her face split into a huge, dazed grin. He matched it, feeling giddy with happiness.
“Grindelwald’s curse,” Finn said. “It must have been the same one he used on your mum, and had a reverse effect on you. Like snake venom.”
Brindley reached up a hand to run a thumb over his cheek, rough where it was covered in sand. He didn’t realize he was crying again. He cupped her own face, pushing her hair back with one hand, making sure she actually was alive and healthy and this wasn’t some cruel trick. Brindley laughed shakily and sniffed back her own tears, leaning forward to kiss him. He kissed her back as if he were a drowning man desperate for air. It was a clash of lips and tongue and teeth, nails digging into necks and shoulders as if they couldn’t be close enough to one another. It was the best kiss he'd ever had.
After a while she pulled back to look at him sternly. “You owe me an explanation.”
Finn winced. He gestured to the house above them. “Let’s go inside.”
The house was much as Finn remembered it. Simply furnished with old furniture from the Manor, pictures of his family sitting in frames in the dark. He passed one of him and Hero, and he stopped, heart cracking again. His twin… murdered. Finn swallowed the lump in his throat. Tom would pay, but Finn would think about it later.
While Brindley went upstairs in search of clean clothes, Finn lit the fire by hand, not wanting to risk detection by using his wand in case Grindelwald or his father were searching for him. It only took him five attempts. He supposed Brindley could use hers, if it hadn't been taken from her. As far as anyone knew, she was dead.
His parents’ room was downstairs, and he threw on one of his dad’s old shirts and a pair of cotton shorts. There was still sand in his hair; he brushed it out with his fingers as best he could. He made tea while he waited for Brindley. It was stale from being years old, but at least it was hot. As he carried the cups into the living room, Brindley returned. Her hair was wet, presumably sand-free, falling past her breasts. She was in a plain blue shirt that belonged to Finn years ago, and fell to her mid-thigh. Her legs were bare underneath, glowing in the light of the fire, but he forced himself not to look as he handed her a cup of tea. Not until she’d heard him speak, and decided how she felt about him.
A storm had indeed rolled in off the coast. Rain lashed at the windows and thunder rumbled over the house, occasionally making the walls rattle. Though the sun was long gone, they didn’t bother lighting any more candles; the fire was enough. They dragged every blanket and cushion they could find onto the floor in front of the hearth. Neither of them spoke.
Brindley pulled two dining chairs together and draped a blanket over them like a tent. Like a fort. It was so reminiscent of their first kiss that Finn dared to take this as a good sign. They sat opposite one another under the blanket, holding but not drinking their tea. Finn rather thought the both of them were just grateful for something warm to hold. He could smell the shampoo she’d used; one of Hero’s old ones, like vanilla. The nostalgia was so strong he had to breathe through his mouth.
Finally, she said, “Tell me.”
With a deep breath, Finn told her everything: his mission given by Grindelwald and his father at the beginning of the year; how he wanted the Ministry opportunity because they told him to; how he knew almost instantly from her mother’s letters who Brindley was, and what Grindelwald had done to Mara; finding Fleamont. He even told her about Sebastian, and showed her the mark on his arm. Brindley was silent the whole time, twirling the mug in her hands, until Finn told her about what he had done to Alenya Hills, and Brindley’s bottom lip wobbled, a tear sliding down her cheek.
When Finn was done with his story, leaning back against the pillows, suddenly exhausted, Brindley was quiet for a long time. His stomach was twisting itself into a tight coil. Every second was agony. He was so sure she was about to stand up and walk both out of the house and out of his life. Just when he was about to say something, like ask whether she hated him, Brindley put down her mug and crawled into his lap. He exhaled in relief, wrapping his arms around her, resting his chin on the top of her head.
They spent a long time entwined like that, listening to the storm howl outside, Finn planting tiny kisses on her temple, and Brindley curling the hair at the base of his neck around her fingers.
“I love you,” he whispered.
Brindley kissed his jaw. He lowered his head to meet her lips in a lingering, tender kiss. She murmured against his mouth, “I love you, too.”
Two weeks later.
“It’s so pretty,” Brindley said.
“Not as pretty as me though, right?” Finn said.
Brindley snorted. “Talk to me when your flower boxes are blooming like those ones.”
They were standing outside Fleamont’s house in Godric’s Hollow. The door had been repaired after Tom blew it up, and Fleamont had cleaned the house from top to bottom and inside out.
“It’s not much,” Fleamont said apologetically, rubbing the back of his neck as he stood beside Finn and Brindley. “But it’ll do until you find something more permanent.”
“It’s beautiful,” Brindley said. “Thank you so much.”
They smiled shyly at each other. Once Fleamont escaped Blishwick Manor, he’d told them, he went through his father’s old things, and found the separate account Henry had set up for Brindley. He even found a baby picture, and it wasn't of Fleamont. Now, the half siblings endeavored to be in each others’ lives more, and Fleamont had even given them the house.
Finn was grateful. After spending the last two weeks with Brindley’s grumpy Muggle aunt, Finn rather thought he would have been happier staying in the Owlery than spend one more day with her. Aunt Maia, Mara’s sister, wouldn’t allow them to be within ten inches of each other at any time, and was always muttering under her breath about Finn. Something about, “a face like that only means trouble,” and Finn would just give her a lazy Blishwick smile.
But Finn turned seventeen during those weeks, and when Aunt Maia had toddled off to bed with a glass of red wine, Brindley would sneak into his room. The door had no lock, but Finn locked it magically, casting Muffliato for good measure. And so they could be as loud as they liked.
Brindley linked her fingers with his, and he looked away from the house and at her. She’d put on weight since her curse had been lifted; she was no longer the pale skeleton she’d once been. The Healers at St Mungo’s had been astonished at her sudden turn; they confirmed her lungs were completely healthy. They said it was nothing short of a miracle.
Fleamont bid them farewell, and they went inside. Fleamont had cleared away the boxes and dust, and even stocked the pantry. The curtains were thrown open, the breeze from outside making them flutter as they brought in the scent of the flowers in the boxes.
It wasn't Blishwick Manor, but it felt like home. It had to.
Finn was disowned. He wasn't surprised by it, not after what his father had said in the library or how he looked at Finn, but Finn didn't think it would hurt so much. His mother still sent him letters, still wanting to see him. He hadn't yet; he wasn't ready. Because the next time he saw his mother, the woman who had saved him and Brindley, he was going to tell her the truth about Hero’s death.
Brindley set about making tea, looking so at home as she bustled around the kitchen. “Are you okay?” she asked.
He smiled at her. “I will be.”
She looked down at the spoons as they made lazy circles in the cups on their own. “It doesn't seem fair that I should gain family and you lose it.”
“You’re my family now,” Finn said. “I’ve learned blood only gets you so far. And who knows, maybe I could turn my Blishwick name into something new. We could be a family of dragon tamers, or detectives, or…”
Brindley handed him his cup. “Ooh, we could be insect keepers. Fill the backyard with butterflies and moths.”
Finn shuddered. “That's not funny.”
The corner of Brindley’s mouth turned up as she took a sip of her own tea. Brindley had been offered a scholarship to train at the Wizarding Wildlife Park in England, after receiving such good grades from Hogwarts. She didn't have to go back for her seventh year, and Finn made the choice not to go back himself. Fleamont worked with historical artifacts like Henry, and found Finn a job translating runes and cracking any runic codes they came across.
It was perfect.
Finn reached over and took Brindley’s hand in his own. For a brief moment, looking at the girl in front of him who was very much alive, he felt like a hero. It wasn't only him anymore.
He would find Tom. They would remember Alenya Hills. But for now, all of that could wait.
Today was for the living.
A/N: There aren't enough words in the world to express the gratitude that I feel to everyone who helped with this story. I didn't want to expect people to read a whole other story before they read this one, so it was sort of written for me and anyone who read Hero and took a liking to Finn. I've been blown away by the amount of support and awards it has received (which I'm still in shock about) and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.
And Julie, who has been an amazing beta and an even more amazing friend, myself, this story, and my writing in general would be nowhere without you.
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