Rose should've known it was too good to be true.
"You didn't really think that getting rid of the wand and stone would stop you from being Master of Death, did you?"
She was in King's Cross purgatory again, only this time instead of meeting Dumbledore she'd found a man… thing… with dark hair and pure black eyes – no iris, no sclera, just black. It was supremely unnerving. She felt the weight of his regard despite that.
The thing shook its head, sitting on a nearby bench and patting the space next to it in a terrifyingly human way.
"Sit down," it said, and oh fuck it couldn't be –
Rose, filled with anger and frustration and confusion, screamed with everything she had. As her vision cleared, she saw her mother smiling down at her.
"She's got your lungs," a man said, voice tired but fond.
And oh fuck, she knew that voice, she'd summoned it with the Resurrection Stone that night she'd walked into the Forbidden Forest.
"She's got my hair too," Lily said proudly.
"Well I suppose it's only fair, Harry's got mine after all."
("Some things are fixed," Death told her. "You've got some leeway with Fate but there are some things that have to happen."
"Why?" She'd asked.
"Sweetheart, I'd explode your brain if I tried to explain."
"You're avoiding the question."
"Why yes, yes I am.")
"Let's hope he doesn't get anything else of yours."
"Excuse you, Evans, I'm an exemplary specimen of a man."
"If you insist, darling."
Her parents' death was probably fixed.
("How do I know what's fixed and what's not?"
"You don't. You aren't a seer, but you might be able to see the way Fate rearranges things to keep certain things the same. Some things are too important to change.")
But she'd be damned if she didn't try.
It was easier than she'd expected to be a baby.
("What would be the point of sending you to another universe if you spend the whole time locked up in Saint Mungo's?")
Her self-control was nonexistent. The combination of her adult mind, capable of complex emotions like worry, and infant instincts, which were only meant to handle base emotions like fear and happiness, meant that Rose existed in a perpetual state of screaming. She felt quite sorry for her parents, watching them grow increasingly sleep-deprived for the first few days. On the fourth day, Lily found a recipe for the Quieting Potion, a lesser-known method of calming infants. Calming Drafts and Dreamless Sleep were too potent, and the Quieting Potion couldn't be used too often anyway. Nonetheless, her twice-weekly doses gave her parents a much-needed reprieve, as did Sirius' babysitting.
In fact, Sirius proved to be a very effective babysitter. He'd been nervous and downright terrified in the beginning, and so defaulted to humor as entertainment. Lily was excellent at calming Rose and filling her with love, but Sirius was excellent at making Rose laugh. He made faces and tickled her, and a part of Rose wondered if he'd ever acted like this with Regulus. She tried not to think about that very much though, since that was an excellent way to send her into another screaming fit.
It was lucky that Harry turned out to be Rose's opposite. He was a gentle and well-behaved baby, only crying when they were separated. When he learned enough motor control to do more than flail his limbs, he took to holding her hand during her screaming fits. His happy gurgles and obvious affection never failed to make her heart ache with affection, pushing out the worry and fear and dread.
She'd always been envious of Ron, of his parents and siblings and loving home. Now, for the first time she could remember, she had all three. She could watch, cradled in James' arms, as her parents laughed and bantered and teased each other. She could feel the warmth of Harry's hand in hers when she woke from a nightmare, eyes wide and earnest and bright. She could hear Sirius' laughter as he held her aloft and raced through the manor, making flying noises and adding commentary, dodging James as he ran past him with Harry, doing an abrupt one-eighty when Lily emerged, looming like a vengeful goddess at her interrupted nap.
She tried to fix each moment in her memory, because if the death of her parents and the imprisonment of Sirius were fixed events were fixed then this would be all she had of them. She needed to remember for Harry, in case she was the only one left who could. (In case they ended up in the cupboard under the stairs with only each other and the spiders for company)
("Important to whom?"
"Well, Fate can go fuck itself.")
It was agonizing to watch as events unfolded. Although she was a baby, even she noticed when they moved from Potter Manor to the cottage in Godric's Hollow. She didn't remember how long it took between the move, the casting of the Fidelius, and Pettigrew's betrayal. It didn't help that she didn't have much of a sense of time – she knew when she and Harry had had their first birthday, but in the months between July 31st and Halloween (Samhain, she corrected, remembering) she lost track of the days.
She tried to show her aversion to Pettigrew, but she screamed so often anyways that it was unremarked upon. When she began to speak, finally having the motor control to move her lips and tongue, her cries of "ra' bad" and "no" were brushed off. She was a baby, after all. Anything else she tried to say – he betrays you, Death Eater, don't trust him – came out as nothing but childish babbles.
This is what Death meant, she thought, when he told me some things were fixed.
In her past life, Dumbledore had told her that it'd been her mother's love that had protected her. Now; watching Lily as she tore through the libraries of the Potters and Blacks and Hogwarts, stumbling into the nursery with shadows under her eyes and ink on her fingers, mumbling under her breath as she measured and cast and bled; she knew he'd been correct, but probably not in the way he'd expected.
The power he knows not, she thought ruefully. A mother's love.
And Lily Potter, she added, because just as not all mothers loved their children, not all mothers were forewarned of their deaths and capable and willing to delve into the Darkest, most obscure magicks to save them.
Rose watched as her mother – her ruthless, brilliant, muggleborn mother – covered their nursery in runes and sigils. She held bonfires in the center of the room, burning sage and mugwort and mint, casting the blood of herself and James into the fire until it sparked, blazing a blinding white for three days and three nights. She chanted, in Latin and Gaelic and Celtic, until the air was heavy and thrumming with her magic and she collapsed, spent.
"I hope I won't need this," she whispered, bending over their crib. She kissed first Harry, then Rose, her long red hair smelling of iron and smoke. "Daddy and I would die for you, darlings. We would gladly give up our lives, our futures, for yours. We love you both so, so much."
Tears dripped down her face. Lily straightened and stepped back, letting her tears mix with the runes drawn in blood on the floor.
Samhain night, when the veil between Life and Death was at its thinnest, the nursery looked deceptively innocent. The runes had vanished, the bonfires left no scorch marks, and only the faint smell of mint in the air indicated that anything had ever happened at all.
"Not my children! Take me, kill me instead –"
"Step aside, foolish girl."
"Not my children, not my children, please, I'll do anything –"
"No, take me instead – "
A flash of green light. A thud. And, unnoticed by Voldemort, a quiet hum of power in the air.
They grew up in Potter Manor. Sirius had to prick Harry's thumb to get through the blood wards Lily had erected before leaving, but it was a small price to pay to avoid the Dursleys. Dumbledore had suggested them but Sirius, with Rose clinging to his shirt and Harry cradled in his arms, had staunchly (explosively) refused. The wards on Potter Manor were strong, though they still spent the first few weeks at Hogwarts while Sirius and Remus combed through the Black Library to strengthen them. Dumbledore had disapproved, but Sirius and Remus had lost so much that they were willing to sacrifice anything to keep Harry and Rose safe.
(when they'd first moved in, the air had stank of blood)
(people forgot that Sirius had nearly fed a schoolyard rival to a werewolf and only regretted what it would have done to Remus)
(people forgot the attachment a werewolf had to their pack)
(people saw the kind eyes and gentle manner, the laughter and jokes, the Gryffindor, and forgot that it took bravery to be ruthless)
(there was nothing they would not do, no lines they would not cross to keep her and Harry safe)
They learned and grew, isolated, and Rose watched as Sirius and Remus pulled themselves together, begged help from the portraits of Fleamont and Euphemia Potter, went through parenting books and Firewhiskey bottles in equal measure (at least in the beginning). Every Samhain left them renewed, invigorated, the memory of James and Lily's love and thanks still crisp in their minds.
(sometimes the silencing charms would fail, and she'd hear them sobbing)
She and Harry got the childhood they were supposed to have (there was a glaring, empty hole in the shape of her parents that Sirius and Remus would never, could never fill). They didn't step foot outside the manor until they were five, and even then they left heavily glamoured and stuck exclusively to the muggle world. They weren't allowed in Diagon Alley until they were nine, and even that was after Aunt Andromeda had stuck Sirius' arse to his chair and angrily demanded how the hell he expected the two of them to take over the Potter Lordship one day when they'd been confined to homes and the muggle world.
("You can't wrap them in cotton forever, Sirius! They're the Black and Potter heirs, they need to be ready!")
It wasn't a true childhood, not for her (she wouldn't go near the cupboard in the kitchen), but Harry grew up happy and innocent and carefree. She'd been marked by the Dursleys in ways that hadn't yet (might not ever) heal, but Harry was not, and Rose vowed to do everything she could to keep him safe. He was clever and mischievous, a perfect mix of their parents. He knew there was something off about her (she could see it in the way he looked at her sometimes, considering, especially once they began muggle primary school and met kids their own age) but he loved her anyway.
She wasn't an idiot – even if she'd never heard the exact wording of the prophecy in this universe, Harry was the one with Sowilo on his brow. They'd both been hailed as heroes, but Harry was the one who'd been marked, Harry was the one Voldemort would come for.
(individually, they were the Boy-Who-Lived and his sister, but together they were the Survivors)
(Rose took it as a promise)
(according to the public, when Harry had been struck by the killing curse, their magic had merged and reflected it back at Voldemort. It was ridiculous but she was grateful to Dumbledore for not putting everything on Harry)
Rose loved this Remus. This Remus had a steel spine and a ruthless edge her Remus had not.
(he had been broken by the loss of his entire pack in one fell swoop)
(she hadn't even known he'd been her father's friend until it had been forced into the open. Even then, he had never visited, never written, just dropped a few stories and disappeared from her life as though he'd never been)
(and then – and then, when he'd had his own child, Remus had nearly abandoned Teddy too)
(Rose had never quite forgiven her Remus for that)
This Remus still had a pack – it was smaller and fragile but still there. He had something to fight for and it invigorated him.
(Rose wondered if werewolves had meant to be protectors. They were as loyal as dogs, fiercer than wolves, stronger and faster than humans. Their magic rose and fell with the moon, the gravitational pull that lifted tides strengthening water magic. Lycanthropy was a blood-based curse, after all)
She knew Remus had been forced to embrace his ruthless side, but she also knew he sometimes hated himself for it. He hadn't been afraid to pick up her and Harry before, but after the death of Lily and James he'd gone two weeks without going near them. She'd finally cornered him one day (literally, she had backed him into a corner) so when she ran at him and hugged his leg, he had nowhere to run.
Perhaps it had been a bit heavy-handed, but it had made Sirius laugh for the first time since Samhain. Harry, seeing this, scrambled down from the sofa and clung to Remus' other leg, giggling uncontrollably.
"Stay," she told the fabric of Remus' robes. "Stay!" Harry echoed.
She looked up. "Up, Moony!" Rose yelled. "Want up!"
"Want up!" Harry agreed.
Remus looked helplessly at Sirius, who grinned back.
"Don't look at me, I've got my hands full." Sirius sat in the spot Harry had vacated and scooped up Algernon, holding the cat like a baby. Algernon gave him an irritated look, but he was fat and sleepy and too good-natured to struggle.
"You – have you forgotten what I am?" Remus hissed. "I can't just – they're children!"
"Unc'l Moony!" Rose reminded him.
Sirius gave Remus a smug smile. "What you are is Uncle Moony, and if you don't give those children what they want, Rose will cry, and Harry will join her."
Remus made a helpless noise but was already reaching for her.
"How am I supposed to carry both of them?" He demanded.
"That sounds like not my problem," Sirius grinned. "Good luck." He stretched across the sofa, setting Algernon down on his chest. However, Harry had only copied her because he knew it would make her happy. The moment Remus picked her up and she laughed with joy, Harry let go of Remus' robes and ran back to Sirius, crawling onto his stomach and making him wheeze.
"Oof, Merlin, Harry," he grunted, depositing Algernon on the ground. "Give a man some warning next time, won't you? You're not as little as you used to be."
"Padfoot," Remus said. "I think we've been had." She giggled and pulled on his hair. Remus made a face at her but smiled back when she did.
"I quite agree, Moons," Sirius said. He ruffled Harry's hair affectionately. "Aren't you proud of them? A year old and already living up to their legacy."
"Of course." Remus agreed. "Hogwarts won't know what to do with the second generation of the Marauders."
(but then they remembered that they weren't just babysitting, that James and Lily were dead, that Peter had betrayed them, and called the house elves to take them back to their room so they could grieve in peace)
(on the nights of the full moon, she heard the werewolf howl for his missing pack)
In her old life, Rose hadn't known about Potter Manor until, seventeen and recovering from the Battle of Hogwarts, she'd gone to Gringotts to try and make reparations for the dragon incident (the only reason they let her leave alive was because they needed her to blow off the dust from the Potter and Black fortunes) (and because murdering the Defeater of Voldemort while she was still adored by the public might've actually begun another Goblin War).
The Potters were a historically Grey family. There was a reason why James Potter had never shied away from Sirius Black, why Sirius had been able to seek sanctuary with them after running away. James' history had been whitewashed after his death, but Sirius and Remus and his parents remembered him as he was.
(laughing and mischievous but with a vicious edge the war had only honed)
(the Potters had seen that same ruthlessness mirrored in Lily)
(leave him alone, Lily had hissed. James had looked at her burning green eyes and seen the unspoken threat. Lily was relentless. She had never broken a promise she'd truly meant)
(James had liked her before, but after that he loved her)
In both lives, Rose learned at the knee of Fleamont Potter's portrait. In this one, she had a brother beside her. Their grandfather taught them about the Potter's history, eyes warm and wistful. They'd been a great house once – Potters had invented Amortentia and helped implement the Statute of Secrecy. The Statute was actually a worldwide spell that altered muggle perception to make it seem like a myth, increasing skepticism and making magical creatures either extinct or invisible. The Potters had contributed greatly to its construction. They'd travelled from India as a branch of the family a thousand years ago, becoming the main family after a series of illnesses and scandal left the main branch broken.
Parseltongue had never been exclusive to the Slytherin line; although a rare and often hidden talent, it had been common in India and cropped up in the Potter line every now and then. Just as marriage to a muggleborn had brought out a Metamorphmagus in the Black line, it brought out a pair of Parselmouths in the Potter.
"What are you doing here?" Rose asked, seven years old and incredulous. She'd been wandering the forest near Potter Manor, dipping her feet into a babbling stream, when the personification of eldritch horror appeared next to her.
Death furrowed his brow (she didn't want to consider how the End of All Things even knew how to do that). "Can't a being visit their Master without an interrogation?"
"Not when it took twenty-one years for the first visit and seven for the second," Rose said flatly. She paused. "Anyway, shouldn't it be Mistress, not Master?"
Death looked disgusted. "Don't be such a muggle. Haven't you noticed that titles like Master and Lord are gender neutral?"
"I'm seven," Rose repeated.
"You've spent over a decade in the Wizarding World."
"Yes, most of it as a child."
Death gave an aggrieved sigh. "Nevertheless, it's shameful for you to retain such muggle sensibilities. Anyway, that's not why I'm here. Seven is an important age. I've brought you a gift."
A gift from Death sounded very much like something she did not want. It had ominous connotations that made her think of the cautionary tales that told of the decrepit, crumbling bodies of those who asked for eternal life but not youth.
"Don't look so wary," Death pouted. "You'll like it, I promise."
Rose eyed it skeptically.
"Every witch needs a familiar," it said, holding out its hand. A basket appeared in it, small, wicker, and entirely too innocent-looking. It gave her a pointed look and she reached out tentative hands to take it, wishing she had a wand to check for curses (although, would human magic even be able to detect such a thing if it came from Death?).
Then the basket moved, and she really should've paid more attention to its words because then she wouldn't have been so shocked when it gave a little chirp.
"What–" she began, only to realize that Death had already disappeared, the arse.
She removed the top of the basket, looking down. A pair of yellow eyes looked back. Its head tilted inquisitively.
It looked like a snake, with a bird-like beak and iridescent turquoise scales. It lifted its head out a little more and she caught a glimpse of what looked distinctly like purple feathers.
$Hello$, it hissed.
"That's an occamy," Sirius said in disbelief. "They're native to India and the Far East, how on earth did you find one in a basket?" He sat back in his chair, looking distinctly frazzled, and glanced at Remus for help.
Rose shrugged, widening her eyes innocently. "Can I keep her?"
"Rosie," Remus said in a strained tone of voice. "Occamies are very dangerous. They grow up to fifteen feet long. It's a quadruple-X creature. They're dangerous and require a trained wixen to handle."
"But she's all alone," Rose said in a small voice. She bit her lip, looking away and tilting her head so the light caught the glimmer of moisture in her eyes. She'd spent half an hour figuring out the best way to convince her Uncles, eventually giving up and hoping her cuteness and likeness to Lily would be enough. "She's scared."
At her glance, the occamy lowered its head, curling up even more tightly in its basket and looking entirely pathetic. Rose wondered if she should be wary of how good an actor it was.
She sniffled again and Sirius broke.
"… You'll have to take care of her," he said at last. Rose looked up, eyes shining hopefully.
Remus looked scandalized. "Sirius –"
"Look at them," Sirius said, sounding vaguely disgusted. "Can't you tell they've already bonded?"
Rose turned her big green eyes to Remus. The occamy relaxed and lifted its head, sensing her change in mood. They tilted their heads in unison.
Remus looked torn and then defeated. "Make sure she doesn't hurt anyone."
"I will! Thank you thank you thankyou!" Rose squealed, giving a little dance. She set the basket on the table and flung her arms around Sirius and Remus. "Love you!"
"Love you too, Rosie," Sirius sighed. "Come on, let's go tell Harry."
"Merlin, she better not end up like Hagrid," Remus grimaced. "I don't think I could take it."
(her story was terrible. She knew they suspected something, but she was so happy they couldn't bear to ruin it)
(they understood the necessity of secrets and she loved them for it)
If any of them were afraid that Harry might react badly, they were immediately assuaged by Harry's reverent "oh wow, she's so pretty, you're so lucky Rosie." He thought the occamy was the most brilliant thing ever; it helped that she was tiny and adorable.
$You're lovely, aren't you?$ Harry had cooed, running a finger down her spine. The occamy arched into his touch and gave a happy chirp. Sirius and Remus had screamed at the Parseltongue. She and Harry exchanged looks, realizing they'd forgotten to tell them. The things Fleamont had told them were Potter family secrets but they had forgotten they were allowed to share tidbits that applied to them.
(their brooms were confiscated for a week. They couldn't bear Harry's sad eyes any longer than that)
(they gave in on the little things and immovable on others – Harry hadn't had his height- and speed-limiting charms on his broom removed until he was ten)
(they seemed to breathe a bit easier after the Parseltongue reveal – familiars could not harm their bonded regardless, but it helped that Harry could also communicate with it)
"Potters used to breed occamies in India," Fleamont told them. "It fell out of practice when the new Head of the Family – a parselmouth – found it distasteful. She turned the breeding grounds into a sanctuary and took an occamy as her familiar."
("Chandramani's sanctuary is famous amongst magizoologists," Death had told her. "You won't be able to find much more information than that. She lived over a thousand years ago and was very careful with her image. Others might tell you that she was kind and gentle but how useful do you think kindness was in the defense of occamy eggs?")
$You were wonderful$, she told the occamy later. $You never seemed anything but docile$
$Of course I was$, it preened. $I am always wonderful$
$Yes, how silly of me to forget$, Rose agreed, lips twitching. $Do you have a name?$
The occamy looked at her. If a snake could look confused, she did. $I have no need of a name. Names are meant to distinguish. There are none like me$
Amusement bubbled in her stomach. There was something adorable about the little creature in its palm-sized basket, head no larger than her pinky. Something about the way it hissed bellied its youth.
$Of course$, she said, holding back a smile. $You are unique in your beauty and viciousness. But names can also be meant to honor. My brother is called Harold, who was once a king of England. May I call you Macha? She was worshipped as one of the Celtic goddesses of war and death$
She was also the goddess of birth and love, but she wasn't going to tell the occamy that.
$Acceptable$, Macha acquiesced. $I will allow you to worship me as the goddess of war and death. I name you Red One, so that you may spill the blood of your enemies in my honor$
$... Thanks$, Rose said. Were all snakes this… bloodthirsty? Was it only occamies? Or had she been specially chosen by Death to –
She sighed. She was going to hit him next time she saw him (she was also going to ask if masculine pronouns were acceptable because this was far too confusing in her head).
("It's a real occamy," Death had assured her. It looked amused. "I am Death, not Life. I simply… relocated it")
Sirius put down his fork, folding his hands and looking at her and Harry, considering. Feeling the weight of his gaze, they look up.
"So," Sirius said. "You're eight."
Harry grinned. "Congratulations, you've finally learned how to count! Rosie and I were getting worried –"
"Harry," Remus sighed, trying very hard to look stern. Sirius made a face. Rose stifled a giggle. "Sirius and I were wondering if the two of you would like to attend muggle primary school. It'd be good for you to meet other children your own age before Hogwarts. Lily always thought that wix ought to know the basics of the muggle world anyway."
Harry glanced at Rose, who shrugged. He turned back to Sirius. "It won't be dangerous? Where would we even find a muggle school?"
Sirius grinned. "My dear old mum never did manage to disinherit me. The Blacks have got an ancestral home in London with wards as strong as the ones we have here. Stronger, even, and far more cruel. Once we've brightened the place up a bit, you could floo from Potter Manor to Grimmauld and walk to school – or we could just move there, I suppose," he shrugged. "It won't be too much trouble to forge a few documents and we can get Remus in as a teacher."
She and Harry exchanged looks. Potter Manor was fun, but they'd never had another friend aside from each other. Wixen matured faster than muggles, but that difference only became remarkable at around the tenth or eleventh birthday. That was when their magical cores first came into their own – it began to settle at thirteen and was fully mature at seventeen.
"Could you keep us together?" Rose asked.
"Alright," they said in unison.
Sirius blinked. "Merlin, that's odd."
Remus flicked Sirius' nose. "They're twins. It's normal," he said.
Over the years, Rose had become a better actress. She'd learned how to lean on her childish instincts, let her adult mind shape her intent and then filter it through her young body. The night Hagrid had been meant to take them to the Dursleys' she'd refused to be separated from Sirius, screaming and crying and kicking with all her might. Harry joined her and the two of them prevented Sirius from going after Pettigrew. With Sirius free of Azkaban, Rose knew she only had to wait until Walburga's death to gain access to Grimmauld – and through Grimmauld, the locket.
It went like this:
When they moved into Grimmauld Place three months before the start of the school year, she wandered until she found the Black family tapestry. She squinted at Regulus' face, looked at the date of his death, and frowned. She made sure to flinch when she first saw Kreacher, made sure to watch him with enormous eyes whenever he was in the room. A week later Sirius found her in front of the tapestry again. She'd made sure to stomp around a little as she walked. It was early morning, a time only Sirius was up. He liked to watch the sun rise.
"All right, Rosie?" He asked. She blinked a little when she saw him, startled.
"I… can you tell me about him?" She asked. "Regulus?"
A shadow passed over his face, face twisting with concern and guilt.
"I'm sorry –" she blurted out, feeling guilty. She backed off at the pain in Sirius' eyes – she'd forgotten that he was human, that Regulus had been more than a way to get access to the locket and gain Kreacher's loyalty. She'd become like Dumbledore, become Slytherin in the worst possible way, seeing people as nothing more than chess pieces to be poked and prodded and moved where she liked. Overcome with horror, she fell silent but Sirius was already talking and –
She was already this far, wasn't she?
(For the Greater Good, her mind whispered, mocking)
"I suppose it's only natural for you to be curious," he said.
"I didn't know you had a brother," she whispered, remembering a moment in her fifth year when she'd said those same words (winter break, Arthur, snake, St Mungo's, blood warm in her mouth).
Sirius smiled a little, wistful. "He was my brother," he said. "Idiot swallowed everything our parents fed us about purebloods and mud –"
He coughed. "That is to say, he joined the Death Eaters as soon as he was old enough. Got himself killed a few years later."
His voice was light with forced levity. Merlin, she was awful.
"Do you have any photos?" She asked, arranging her face into one of trepidation and confusion. The corners of her eyes tightened with wariness, brows furrowed, jaw clenched in quiet, horrified denial. Sirius was out of sorts already, so she doubted he'd notice if she slipped up, but she'd have to face him and Remus later. She couldn't slip up.
"… In his room," Sirius said. He forced a smile. "Want to see?"
(she was a terrible person)
Sirius led her to Regulus' old room. She moved in front of him to push open the door.
The green and silver blankets were mussed, a journal lying open on a desk. A quill sat in an open bottle of ink. It looked like Regulus had hurried out of bed and would be back any minute. The only incongruity were the walls, covered in old newspaper clippings. They were yellow and curling with age but still stuck resolutely to the walls. Behind her, Sirius made a sound like he'd been punched. Rose pushed down her guilt, bundling it up tight and stuffing it in the cupboard under the stairs in her head. She locked the cupboard's door and shut it tight.
(if Sirius ever found out what she'd done, would he hate her?)
She walked over to the desk where a framed photograph still sat of the Slytherin Quidditch team. There he was, Seeker, sitting in the front like she'd used to (and then they'd both died).
"Oh," she whispered. She turned back to Sirius, grabbing his hand and tugging him down the kitchen. He followed, confused, head rapidly clearing.
"Rosie –" he began. She cut him off.
"Siri, please," she begged, looking back at him so he could see the tears gleaming in her eyes. "Please just – just watch? Please – I – I need to – please –"
Sirius subsided, worry written all over his face. She'd never been this scattered before and she knew it frightened him.
"Kreacher," she burst out. He was always in the kitchen during the early morning. "I need you to tell me something."
Thank goodness Sirius had ordered him to obey them as his masters.
"Kreacher will obey the filthy half-blood," the elf muttered, eyes narrowing. She spoke before Sirius could reprimand him.
"Kreacher, I'm going to tell you something and you're going to tell me if it's true. Nod if it is, that's an order." She took a deep breath, knowing she looked mad.
"Regulus took you to a cave," she began. She was crouching in front of Kreacher so she saw him still. "He took you to a cave and inside the cave there was a lake."
Nod. Kreacher trembled ever so slightly. Regulus had ordered him not to tell the family, but she was the one doing the telling.
"He took you across the lake in a boat."
Nod. His large eyes stared past her, filling with tears.
"He –" she made her voice crack, then hardened it as if determined. "He ordered you to have him drink a potion."
Nod. He began to cry.
"You switched the lockets," Rose whispered. "And you watched as Regulus was dragged –"
At this, Kreacher began to sob, great, heaving things that shook his entire body with the force of it.
"Kreacher failed!" He wailed, lunging to grab the poker next to the fireplace. "Kreacher failed Master Regulus, Kreacher could not destroy the locket, bad Kreacher, BAD KREACHER - !" He hit himself once with the poker before Rose wrestled it from him. He fought her, clawing at her face and neck, his sharp fingernails leaving streaks of heat until –
"ENOUGH!" Sirius roared. "Kreacher, stop! Rose – Rose, what - ?"
"Kreacher!" She gasped. "I order you – I order you to bring me the locket!"
She caught a glimpse of his wide-eyed stare before he disappeared with a crack, reappearing a second later.
"Give the locket to Sirius," she said. The fear trembling her voice was real. Memories darkened the edges of her vision (I have seen your heart, Ronald Weasley, and it is mine – the glint of a silver sword studded with rubies – diving and then cold, cold water, tendrils of seaweed grasping her ankles, fighting her, she couldn't breathe she couldn't breathe she-)
"-ose! Rose! Can you hear me?"
Sirius was shaking her. His face was ashen, horrified. As soon as her eyes focused on him, he turned and snarled at Kreacher, backhanding him so hard he flew through the air and crumpled against the wall.
"Sirius!" Remus cried. He moved between him and Kreacher's huddled body. With a start of fear, she saw Harry. As soon as their eyes met, he tackled her. She fell backwards, still gasping for air, Harry hugging her as hard as he could.
"It's okay –" he whispered into her shoulder. "It's okay, I'm here, you're okay, you're okay –"
"I'm okay," she whispered faintly. She stared at Sirius and Remus above Harry's head. Remus had physically restrained Sirius, who was still fighting. Both of them seemed to have forgotten about their wands.
"He did something to her," Sirius was snarling. For an instant she saw him as he would've been, starving and ragged and desperate for Pettigrew's blood. His face was twisted with rage. "Let me go, Moony, you don't understand –"
"Sirius," Rose cried. "No – don't – I'm sorry – let me explain –"
She sat up, untangling herself from Harry. He stayed close, pressing his shoulder against hers, holding her hand in his. She focused on that, the feel of his skin, grip of his hand, and tried to untangle her thoughts.
Regulus. Kreacher. The locket.
"Sirius," she said again, louder this time. "Don't, it's not his fault."
Sirius stopped. Remus kept hold of his arms warily. "What do you mean it's not his fault?" He asked hoarsely. "He got the locket and the moment you saw it you –"
"It was me," Rose blurted out. Harry squeezed her hand.
"Listen," Harry said. She'd never heard him speak like that before – quiet, authoritative, no question at all that they'd obey him. "Rosie was upset but she's fine now. Can we sit down so she can explain? Fighting isn't helping."
Remus cleared his throat. "Harry's right, Sirius," he said. "Let's sit."
They sat at the kitchen table. Remus summoned a pot of tea, filling it with water and tapping it with his wand to boil. Rose cupped her tea with both hands, Harry's knee pressing reassuringly against hers, and tried to remember why she was here.
Regulus. Kreacher. The locket. And then –
She squeezed her cup harder. The porcelain burned her hands, but it was a satisfying pain. She was in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. She was here. She was fine.
"I'm sorry," Rose whispered.
"Don't be," Harry said immediately. "It's not your fault."
"Could you tell us what happened, Rosie?" Remus asked gently.
She nodded, shame burning in her throat. This wasn't what she'd meant to happen. She hadn't wanted this, but she had to –
Stick with the plan, she told herself. This is salvageable. You'll be fine.
"I've been having dreams," she said quietly. "Ever since we moved in. I keep – I keep seeing –"
"What you told Kreacher," Sirius finished.
"The cave, the lake, the lockets. You thought it was a dream but when you saw Regulus' photograph –"
"I recognized him," Rose whispered. "So I asked Kreacher. I thought… I thought I was going mad." Her voice broke. She remembered the horror and confusion she'd felt at hearing the basilisk whisper in the walls and put that in her eyes. "I don't know how but I know that the locket's important – I think Regulus told Kreacher to destroy it. But when I saw it I remembered – "
"You remembered your dreams," Remus finished for her. She looked up and his eyes were very sad. She nodded.
"I figured I was either some kind of seer or going mad," she said, giving a strangled laugh. "I've never… I've never read about anything like this."
"You're not going mad." Sirius said firmly. He reached across the table and gripped her shoulders, staring at her intensely. "I'm a Black. I know madness."
"Yeah," Harry added. He gave her hand another squeeze. "I think I'd notice if my twin went mad." A teasing grin bellied by the worry in his eyes.
"We'll figure out what the locket is," Sirius said. "If it Regulus wanted Kreacher to destroy it…"
"I think he turned," Rose whispered. "At the end."
Sirius looked like he was trying not to cry. "Be that as it may," he said roughly. "Moony and I – we'll figure out what it is. You don't – it's not your job to take care of us, Rosie."
Remus cleared his throat slightly. "Perhaps Dumbledore –"
"No," Sirius and Rose said at the same time.
"He was the one who moved James and Lily to Godric's Hollow," Sirius said. "He came up with the Fidelius. They would've been fine in the Manor – "
(they were bait, Rose thought)
("I'm so, so sorry, my dear girl," Dumbledore's portrait had told her. "You need not forgive me - I have never forgiven myself. But we were losing, badly, and that prophecy was the only hope I had.")
(it was good for her to have these reminders that her parents had not been infallible. They had trusted the wrong person and they had died)
(she only cared about the world when she thought about how she could reshape it to keep her loved ones safe)
"I don't trust him," Rose whispered. She stared at the table.
(he left me on a doorstep in November, in the cupboard under the stairs, in the room with a cat flap on the door and too many locks on the outside and bars on the window)
(even after I saw Cedric die he left me there, had people watching me without my knowledge. Tonks, Shacklebolt, even Figg – surely they heard my screams when I had nightmares? Surely they had seen the hours spent gardening, the too-big clothes, the cries of 'freak' and 'girl.' Either none of them said a word or they were ignored)
(he let the Dursleys beat me down so that I didn't care whether I lived or not)
(so that I would walk to my death willingly)
(he was the closest thing I had to a grandfather and he set me up to die)
"Since Rosie's some kind of seer," Harry said quietly. "It'd probably be a good idea to listen."
(if they told Dumbledore, history would repeat itself)
(she still didn't know what to do about the horcrux in Harry, but she wasn't going to let him walk to his death)
(could they not trap Voldemort's wraith, destroy the inanimate horcruxes, then wait for Harry to die naturally?)
(Regulus had known the locket as a horcrux. Surely Sirius could do the same)
Remus looked defeated. "I – alright. But if something happens – "
"We can revisit it," Sirius finished. "But in the meantime," he glanced at Kreacher. "I want to know why Kreacher knows how my brother died."
(Kreacher tells them. Sirius cries)
A/N: Sorry for cramming like ten years into one chapter :') I'm very eager for Hogwarts
I'm not planning on doing any bashing in this fic - I think Dumbledore has good intentions, but he focuses so much on the bigger picture he forgets about the little people. As one of those little people, Rose has a lot of resentment for him. She respects and understands him but doesn't trust him to have her best interests at heart. But she's also starting to see a lot of the things she hated in Dumbledore (reluctance to share knowledge, believing they know best) in herself and that unnerves her.
(Also, I have a lot of feelings about Regulus Black)
There was a knock on the door and Rose tried very hard not to react as the nervous face of Neville Longbottom (dear Merlin, he was so small) peeped at them. She had spent the past two months strengthening her occlumency for moments like this.
"Excuse me, have either of you seen a toad at all?"
Harry and Rose shook their heads.
"Have you tried asking a prefect to do a summoning charm?" Harry asked. Neville (wait, she wasn't supposed to know his name yet) shook his head miserably.
"I think their carriage is up front," Harry said, smiling reassuringly. "Want me to come with? I've been wanting to explore the train anyway."
She could tell Neville was about to refuse – Hermione had been a bit of a bulldozer at this age and Neville still far too timid, Hermione wouldn't have taken no for an answer – so she piped up. "Please take him, I've been looking for an excuse to get rid of him all morning."
Harry rolled his eyes and turned back to Neville. "Really, you'd be doing me a favor if you let me come with you, you see what I'd have to deal with otherwise?"
"Love you too, Harry," she chirped.
"Er - ," Neville said, looking a bit overwhelmed. "Er - S-sure."
"Great!" Harry grinned. "See you later, Rosie!"
The compartment door slid closed, just in time for Rose to catch a glimpse of Neville's face as he put together Harry-Rose-green eyes and his eyes went wide. She felt a flicker of worry and quashed it, grateful it had been Neville and not Ron who'd found them first. Neville, at least, was less likely to make a big deal out of Harry's fame. He had far more tact than Ron at any age.
Rose settled back in her seat, returning to her book. When Harry and Neville returned, Neville clutching a disgruntled-looking Trevor, she hung around for a bit and then excused herself. Now that Harry had a maybe-friend, it was time to begin her Anti-Prejudice campaign. She needed to establish herself as her own entity amongst the Slytherins, so when she was friendly to them later she could retaliate with a but-I-met-them-on-the-train-they-were-one-of-my-first-friends-they-aren't-like-that, complete with a dose of puppy eyes. If her puppy dog eyes could break Remus Prefect Lupin, eleven-year-olds wouldn't stand a chance.
She had until fourth year to unify the houses. She needed to get the diary in second year so that when Voldemort resurrected himself at the end of fourth year, she could capture him (or kill him, depending on whether or not she'd found a solution for Harry yet. But really, if worst came to worst, she could just dose him with the Draught of Living Death and lock him up somewhere). If she failed, at least Hogwarts would be united against him – Rose was going to make friends with the Slytherins whether they liked it or not. She was going to do everything she could to keep her classmates from becoming Death Eaters, because one fewer Death Eater was one fewer enemy for Harry. She would not allow Harry's Hogwarts years to mirror hers – no confrontation with Quirrell, no Chamber of Secrets – and Rose was willing to reshape their society to keep Harry safe.
(Harry deserved a world without prejudice, and the downtrodden deserved to have someone fight for them)
(the girl in the cupboard had wished and wished for someone to save her. It was too late for her but there were countless others in cupboards, in rooms with too many locks on the door and bars on the window)
With conscious effort, she rearranged her face into one of curiosity, softening it with a shadow of nervousness. She peered discretely through the compartment doors as she passed until – finally – she found the one she'd been looking (hoping) for.
After all, Theodore Nott might have grown up around Malfoy, but from the stories she'd heard he'd always been more Ravenclaw than Slytherin (further proof that the Hat took choice into account). Even at Hogwarts she'd noticed he'd never really got on with Malfoy – Nott never stopped him, sure, but what she'd condemned him for before the war she'd understood after. He'd never even gotten a Dark Mark and had (from what she remembered) hung around with Daphne Greengrass and Blaise Zabini, both of whom were firmly neutral. He'd gone on to study Ancient Runes under Adaline Smith, who's mother had been a squib. They'd become not-quite friends in her eighth year and kept sporadically in touch until her death. She remembered Nott as a quiet, bookish character, who'd been surprisingly snarky once she'd pulled him out of his shell.
So when she happened upon a compartment empty except for Nott reading next to the window, she took a moment to thank whichever not-Death deity was looking out for her.
Hugging her book conspicuously against her chest, she knocked on the door, greeting him with a smile when he pulled it open.
"Apologies for interrupting. I'm Rose Potter. Would you mind terribly if I joined you? My compartment was getting too unruly for reading."
He blinked at her, a slight widening of the eyes the only sign of his shock.
"Theodore Nott," he said. "You're welcome to sit if you'd like."
His voice was quiet, but she could hear it in the way he spoke that he expected her to turn tail and run the moment she heard his last name.
"Well met," she smiled, holding out her hand, taking an unholy amount of pleasure in the way his mouth actually fell open for a moment before he remembered himself and shook hands.
"Well met," Nott said faintly. Rose resisted the urge to giggle as she sat down and slid the compartment door closed. They both returned to their books, Rose pretending not to notice Nott glancing at her every so often. This was going quite well, but she couldn't help but think that she'd forgotten something.
$I'm hungry$, Macha complained, poking her head out and staring up at Rose imploringly. $Feed me, Red One$.
"Dear Merlin!" Nott yelped, flinching back and almost dropping his book in shock. "Is that a snake?"
Oops, Rose thought guiltily, trying not to laugh. "An occamy," she said apologetically. "She's my familiar. I'm so sorry, she's usually asleep. What's wrong, sweetheart? Are you hungry?"
Macha looked as irritated as a snake could. After a few years with Remus and Sirius, made stronger and cleverer by the strengthening familiar bond, she understood English quite well. $Of course I am hungry. You were speaking with the toad boy and forgot to feed me$
"Oh, I forgot to feed you," Rose said as if in realization. "How cruel of me."
She glanced up at Nott and finally lost the battle against her laughter. His face went from shocked to scared to affronted as she gasped, trying to calm down.
"I'm sorry," she giggled. "I should've told you earlier but your face –"
Nott's expression turned rueful and he smiled a little. "Well, it was a bit of a shock," he said dryly. "I think you just took a few years off my life, Potter."
"Apologies," Rose replied, trying to keep a straight face. "It's just – my family knows about her already. I'm not exactly used to meeting new people." She smiled at him. The apology in her eyes was entirely real.
(they'd only ever been to Diagon Alley under glamours. Sirius and Remus gave the press snippets of news to keep them at bay but no photographs)
She saw the curiosity spark in his eyes as the shock wore off.
"Fair enough," he grinned. "She's beautiful."
"Isn't she?" Rose beamed.
"What's her name?" Nott asked, now eyeing Macha with poorly-disguised interest.
"… You named her after a goddess of death and war?"
"She's a goddess of love too," Rose said defensively.
"That's not as reassuring as you think it is, Potter."
"Would you like to feed her?" It was a bit of a leap, but he looked so cute, desperately trying to disguise his excitement. She still breathed a sigh of relief when he visibly lit up at her question.
Pulling out a box of Ice Mice, she held it out to him. He fed Macha carefully, almost reverently, staring at her in wonder as she uncurled from her wrist and rose, wings spreading slightly for balance. When he was done, Macha retreated back up her sleeve, leaving only her little blue head poking out at the top of Rose's hand.
"What else does she eat?" Nott asked quietly.
"She likes pixies," Rose said. "Cornish ones especially. She's really not picky, I don't think. I've seen her eat everything from doxies to rats before, but I can't exactly carry around a jar of rats."
"Well, technically you could," Nott pointed out, grinning ever so slightly. "It depends on how much mess you're willing to deal with."
She made a face at him outwardly, but on the inside, she was celebrating. She'd played up her excited-little-girl act, wrinkling her nose, making eye contact, smiling at him like they were sharing a joke. At muggle primary school, Rose had learned that the best way to befriend someone was to act like their friend already, and now, after a single conversation, Nott was already joking with her!
"My godfather might actually explode if he found rats in my bag," Rose giggled. "And that would be terribly messy. I couldn't possibly subject my house elves to such horror."
Nott straight-up grinned. "You're awfully morbid, Potter."
"Please," she said, trying not to cackle. "Call me Rose." Thank Merlin Nott hadn't reacted too badly to Macha – the show of trust she'd made in allowing him to feed her familiar had been a good move, but she couldn't afford to make a mistake like that again. Just because he was (will be) a Slytherin didn't mean he automatically liked snakes. But that was for later. In the meantime -
- she had a friend to make.
(she loses him in the crowd and ends up in a boat with Susan Bones, Hannah Abbott, and Morag MacDougal, but that was fine because by the end of the train ride they were already excitedly talking about Runes and bemoaning the wait until third year before they could take it as an elective)
(also, it would've been embarrassing to cry in front of her new friend)
Seeing the castle again, whole and unblemished and welcoming, had been like coming home. She'd felt the castle's magic sweep over them, a subtle tingling and sudden warmth somewhere around her heart. The wards were older than Grimmauld Place, magic more varied than Potter Manor, steeped in history and strengthened by the thousands of wixen who'd lived there and learned there and called it home.
You are safe here, Hogwarts seemed to whisper. You are safe and loved and welcome.
If she hadn't already been sitting, she would've been knocked to her knees.
Then the moment passed, and Rose tried to wipe her tears as discreetly as she could.
"It's beautiful," Susan whispered.
"I can't believe I'm finally here," Rose breathed.
Rose caught a glimpse of Professor McGonagall before memories slammed against her occlumency shields so hard she staggered.
("Are you alright?" Susan whispered.
"Fine," Rose replied)
(her heart pounded insistently against her ribs, an endless chorus of run run run look behind you so many people possible enemies run)
(it was good she'd remembered the ghosts - she didn't want to think about how she might've reacted otherwise)
The Sorting went as it did last time. She smiled at Harry as he headed to the Gryffindor table ("We got Potter!" the Weasley twins cheered. She made herself believe she did not hear them)
"Potter, Rose!" Professor McGonagall called. Rose fixed her gaze on the Sorting Hat -
(the glint of a ruby-red handle, fire, kill the snake)
walked up to the stool, ignoring the whispers -
("she doesn't look anything like her brother")
and sat as Professor McGonagall placed the Hat on her head.
Hufflepuff, please, Rose thought, clutching the edges of the stool.
Are you sure? It would be a travesty to put this kind of ambition anywhere other than Slytherin.
Maybe, but I'd like to actually achieve my ambition. Sister of the Boy-Who-Lived or not, it'll be harder to convince the other three houses that Slytherins aren't all evil if I'm a Slytherin myself. Besides, everyone trusts a Hufflepuff.
That's the most Slytherin reasoning for going to Hufflepuff I've ever heard. Are you sure? You could be great you know, it's all here in your head and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness.
I don't care about greatness. I just want to keep my brother safe.
I see. It's rare to find a soul as loyal as you, Miss Potter. I still think you'd do better in Slytherin, but if you insist –
"HUFFLEPUFF!" The Hat shouted, whispering one last sentence to her before Professor McGonagall plucked it from her head -
be gentle, you vicious girl
- and the Hufflepuff table exploded into cheers.
Rose walked there, beaming, almost bouncing, and shot a glance towards Harry. He was sitting next to Neville at the Gryffindor table, looking a little sad but clapping for her all the same. She felt a surge of affection for him and flashed him an apologetic smile as she sat next to Susan Bones.
(he wouldn't have cared if she'd been a Slytherin - Andromeda Black, who'd taken back her surname once she'd been reinstated to the family, and Euphemia Potter, both former Slytherins, had done all they could to combat the prejudice)
"Congratulations," Susan whispered, eyes shining.
"Thanks," she replied, feeling a bit light-headed. It was finally hitting her that this was happening, that she was at Hogwarts and had a chance to save her friends, give them a happier life, turn Hogwarts into the home it was always meant to be. She set her fingers on the edge of the table, gripping gently to stop their trembling, and turned her gaze back to the sorting.
Her thoughts lingered on the Hat's parting words. Was it a warning? They both knew she didn't quite belong, after all.
Rose's memories of this life began the day she was born. She remembered the way her mother had disregarded things like legality and morality in the defense of her children, the way she'd thrown herself into blood magic, the way she'd been willing to sacrifice her life to give them a chance. She'd admired and been grateful for it, had striven to be more like her mother in all the ways that mattered. Had the Hat called her vicious in her past life, Rose probably would've cried. She had been a shy, startled creature who'd wanted nothing more than to make friends. It bothered her that she'd taken it as a compliment in this one.
Later, she told herself. Later she would think about her own morality, right and wrong, good and evil. But right now, she was in the Great Hall, watching as Ron Weasley (so small) went to Gryffindor amid raucous cheering. Right now, she drew her occlumency tight around her and didn't let herself marvel at seeing the Hall so full. The dead lurked at every table and she didn't think she could look at them without breaking.
She didn't dare look at the Head Table, not even to see Snape's reaction to carbon copies of Lily and James Potter (look at me, the Snape of her memories rasped, pearly white memories gushing from his eyes). She didn't look at the Ravenclaw table, where she knew Anthony Goldstein would be sitting (MacNair had gotten him with the blood-boiling curse in the final battle; Rose remembered Terry Boot's scream as he beheaded MacNair with an overpowered diffindo). She didn't look at the Gryffindor table, which held Lavender Brown (mauled by a werewolf, died the next full moon, Parvati had never been the same), Alicia Spinnet (the floor had collapsed, she'd staggered backwards and fallen down, down, down, Rose remembered the sound her body had made when it broke upon the ground), and F –.
(she couldn't say his name, not even in her head)
Rose had underestimated how difficult it would be to surround herself with the younger ghosts of people she'd lost. The memories pressed and battered and pushed against her shields and when the feast began, she'd smiled and excused herself, locking herself in the stall of a nearby bathroom. She counted backwards from a hundred, focusing on her breathing.
Just a little longer, she told herself. Just a little longer and then you can scream.
$It is alright, Red One$, Macha hissed. $You are safe and warm and have plentiful food$
Snakes weren't very good at comfort, but Macha did the best she could, sending weak pulses of magic down their familiar link to calm her. She was still young and could only wrap herself twice around Rose's wrist, but the little magic she could spare slowed Roses' heartbeats and lessened some of the tension in her body.
(at least she had stayed conscious, unlike with the locket)
(in the evening, when they retired to the Hufflepuff dorms, she didn't forget to let Susan know about Macha. Susan had taken the news with an acceptable amount of wariness and minimal screaming, eventually being won over when Macha preened and stretched out her wings)
(Macha was going to be unbearably smug in the morning)
(but until then, her familiar curled herself around her wrist in the closest thing she could manage to a hug, hissing at her comfortingly as Rose silenced her curtains and sobbed)
(these people are different, she told herself. These people are alive and well and different, and you do a disservice to those who died by equating them to their younger counterparts)
(two nights later, she borrowed the Invisibility Cloak and went to the third floor)
(she unlocked the door with an alohamora)
(she hummed a lullaby Lily had once sung)
(she watched as Fluffy fell into a deep sleep)
(waited, still humming, under the cloak, watching for any signs of a professor)
(when her watch told her fifteen minutes had passed, she sighed, shifted Fluffy's paw off the trapdoor, and carved a basic motion-activated ward onto the edge)
(by the time she'd left, locking the door with a tap of her wand behind her, it had been half an hour and she'd not been disturbed)
A/N: Did I just skip over the iconic letter and Diagon Alley scene? Why yes, yes I did.
Anyway, I've got the vast majority of first year written, but I keep going back and rearranging and editing things so updates are going to be sporadic to say the least.
Please let me know if I'm being too sympathetic towards blood purists - it's a difficult balance to get right
Also: there will be no romance in this story for the foreseeable future, definitely no incest. I realize that Harry and Rose's relationship is very close, but that's just how they are. They love each other very much but only as siblings. Even if there is romance, I haven't decided on a pairing, and it will definitely be a background thing. This fic focuses first and foremost on friendship and family.
Also also: so turns out I'm impatient af, so I'll probably be updating this until it's at the same place as the AO3 version
Repeating first year, although monotonous, was nonetheless more interesting than she'd expected. She'd had access to the libraries at Potter Manor and Grimmauld Place, yes, but she'd forgotten that she had a far easier time learning something in-person instead of in a book. She still expected classes without a magic component, like Herbology and Astronomy, to be a complete bore, but she'd had fun in Transfiguration, integrating the basic concepts she was reviewing with her knowledge of higher-year theory.
(it hadn't hurt to have won Hufflepuff five points either, gradually adding more and more details to her needle until Professor McGonagall had actually smiled at her)
(she might've kept her memories, but she hadn't kept her magic. She'll have to regain that control, relearn to temper her power, and that had taken years last time)
(a child's mind and magic were dynamic. It had taken her a year each to organize her mind and construct a basic occlumency shield in her past life; it had taken six to do the same in this one, despite the tutoring Sirius had given her)
(after the almost-incident at the Welcoming Feast, she'd locked away the emotionally charged memories from her past life. That was why, when Professor McGonagall smiled at her, she didn't stare back with accusing eyes at the woman who'd known about her cupboard.
They'd spoken after Voldemort was gone; McGonagall had never been able to go against Albus Dumbledore, so she'd known and done nothing. Done nothing about leaving a witch with the 'worst sort of muggles,' done nothing when her letter had been addressed to the cupboard under the stairs, done nothing when she'd arrived too small and too skinny and flinching at loud noises)
(Rose liked McGonagall, but she'd never been able to trust her)
This time around, she put a great deal more effort into making friends. She sat with Susan and Hannah during lunch, chatted with Justin and Ernie between class, and spent evenings in the Hufflepuff common room (if Macha was nearing exhaustion and her occlumency shields were hanging on by a thread, that was no one's business but theirs). She kept herself visible, approachable, friendly, knowing Harry was doing the same in Gryffindor (the difference was that Harry was naturally social, now that he'd come out of his shell a bit. He wasn't manipulating anyone). It took a few days for her Housemates to stop stealing glances at her. Once she was one of them, she began branching out. Saturday morning, she left Susan and Hannah with a smile and made straight for the Gryffindor table.
"Morning, Hare-bear, Neville!" Rose chirped cheerfully, plopping down on his left. On his other side, Neville gave her a tentative smile. They got a few odd looks, but Harry had (somehow) already become well-liked in his house so they gave them a pass.
"Morning, Rosie," Harry grinned.
"Good morning," Neville greeted.
"It's absolutely brilliant," Harry gushed. "The common room's all red and gold and warm, it's exactly as Siri and Remi described it."
"Bit loud though," Neville grimaced. Harry gave him a sympathetic look. He'd told her the morning after the feast that Neville had asked him about silencing charms. Neville was a light sleeper; she vividly remembered her past Neville complaining about Ron's snores.
"It's weird without you," Harry told her in an undertone. Neville was very focused on his toast, politely pretending not to hear.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly, squeezing his hand. Harry's eyes were wistful but there was a sharp perceptiveness to them she often forgot about.
"You're sorry I'm upset," he corrected gently. "You're happy in Hufflepuff, aren't you?"
"Yes," she admitted. "It's very… cozy." She smiled mischievously. "Especially the axe above the main fireplace."
Neville's eyes widened. "What do you mean, 'axe'?"
Rose giggled. "Helga Hufflepuff's axe, of course! It's enormous, it's bigger than I am. The elves keep it well-sharpened."
Harry looked skeptical. "You're pulling my leg, aren't you?"
(Helga Hufflepuff had been known as Black Helga, the most terrifying mercenary sorceress of the century)
(she'd soaked the continent in blood and retired to Britain, only then learning the value of loyalty; even then, kindly Professor Hufflepuff had no qualms about defending Hogwarts with every bit of the ferocity and tenacity that had made thousands fear her name)
(the axe was a reminder – do your best, work hard, and play fairly, but if a time ever comes when none of that is enough, do whatever it takes to protect those you call yours)
("the other Houses dismiss us as duffers," Prefect Brianna Melton had told them. "Expect to be underestimated, but remember that more Ministers and Department Heads have come from Hufflepuff than any other House")
They chatted about classes, Harry getting adorably excited when he told her about Charms. His eyes lit up, smile splitting his face, and looked so adorable that she couldn't resist a giggle and hug. Harry endured her cuddles with dignity, not missing a beat. She'd been touch-starved in her past life and it had carried over to this one.
"Are you allowed to sit here?"
Rose looked up. Hermione (Granger, her mind whispered, this one doesn't know you yet) stared back at her, frowning. She'd forgotten how bushy Herm Granger's hair had been when they were younger – Merlin, the dark curls were a veritable halo around her head. She'd also forgotten how much of a stickler for rules the girl had been.
"There aren't any rules against it," Rose said mildly.
"Rose is my sister and I haven't spoken to her properly in days. Surely it's not against the rules for us to have breakfast together?" Harry asked. There was an edge to his voice that only Rose could hear, telling her that he was very much displeased at H- Granger's interruption.
Granger pursed her lips, either not noticing or uncaring of the warning. "According to Hogwarts: A History, students need to sit at their House tables."
"Only during feasts and special occasions," Rose said cheerfully, giving Harry's hand a warning squeeze. "It's kind of you to worry but there's no need, I've looked over the rules and Charter already. You're Hermione Granger, aren't you?"
Granger blushed and held out her hand. "Yes, and you're Rose Potter. It's nice to meet you."
Harry, Neville, and Rose all winced. Rose saw the hurt in the girls' eyes and rushed to explain. "Sorry, it's just – in our culture, it's considered rude for the person of lower social standing to offer their hand first. Magical and Muggle Britain have very different customs, they're practically different countries."
Hermione deflated a bit. "Oh. Sorry, I didn't know." Her voice was very small. "I thought the Wizarding World would be like the Muggle one – silly of me, in hindsight. I just assumed."
"Rose didn't mean it badly," Harry said kindly. "It's not your fault you didn't know. But for future reference, we usually say 'well met' at a first meeting and the social superior offers their hand first. Otherwise it's like you're saying that you think you're better than they are."
"I've never heard of that," Hermione ventured slightly. She sat down hesitantly, looking every inch the nervous little girl.
"We can t-teach you," Neville mumbled, retreating back into his shell. "If-if you'd like."
"I'll ask around too," Harry said. "You can't be the only muggleborn who doesn't know this stuff."
"There are some books in the library," Rose offered. She'd found them in her eighth year. "I forget the titles - ," (she hadn't but she wanted Hermione to make friends) "- but you can ask Justin Finch-Fletchley. He's in our year and muggleborn too. Maybe you could work together."
Granger looked overwhelmed. "I – alright. Thanks," she added, biting her lip.
Rose was overcome with a wave of sympathy. Glancing at Harry from the corner of her eye, she knew he felt the same.
"It's not your fault," Rose repeated firmly. "My uncle's on the Board of Governors, he's been pushing for a Wizarding Culture class for years."
"Why?" Granger frowned. "That sounds terribly useful."
Harry and Rose shared a look.
"It's complicated," Rose said, making a face. "Ask us again after you've gone through the books."
Granger looked disappointed but then her eyes hardened, and she straightened. Rose saw a flash of the girl who'd faced down Bellatrix Lestrange. "I will."
"Hagrid's invited me over for tea tomorrow," Harry said, frowning. "I've never met him before, why would he…?"
Rose hummed thoughtfully. She thought of Hagrid, the mysterious grubby little package they hadn't seen in this life, the article about the Gringotts break-in she'd found on Hagrid's table. She liked Hagrid – she really did – but he was undeniably Dumbledore's man through and through.
"He was friendly with the Marauders, wasn't he?" Rose suggested. "Maybe he just wants to meet you."
(she remembered Hagrid, tied to a tree, yelling her name, carrying her body back to Hogwarts)
(she remembered shaking with the force of his sobs)
"Maybe," Harry said, unconvinced. "Want to come with?"
"… I'm alright," Rose said awkwardly. Her feelings about Hagrid were… complicated, to say the least. She needed to sort them out before she could see him.
Rose had unleashed a monster.
"I got a book on how to properly use quills but why do we use them in the first place? We have pens and pencils in the muggle world, it's ever so much more convenient." Granger asked. She'd made straight for Justin when he'd arrived at the Great Hall yesterday morning and she'd seen them chatting with their heads bent together in the library that afternoon.
"I've read An Introduction to the Wizarding World and Modern Magical Customs but neither say anything about that at all," Granger continued. She and Rose were sitting at the Hufflepuff table. Rose had remembered her Hermione being an early riser, so she'd made sure to sit on an empty stretch of bench, keeping an eye on the doors and waving brightly at Granger when she arrived.
"It helps build the dexterity and strength needed to wield a wand. Also, it's easier to enchant things that've been altered as little as possible," Rose said, spearing a piece of fruit with her fork. She missed Kreacher's breakfasts – he liked to cut up her fruit in odd shapes. "Hydrangea Wayford tried to make pencil graphite unbreakable once and the poor pencil couldn't even hold that tiny bit of magic and burst into flames. Apparently, my mum tried to bring some pens once and they melted in a week from the ambient magic in the air."
Granger's eyes gleamed with interest. "Oh, that makes so much more sense! I thought…" She blushed a bit, dark skin darkening even further.
"You thought we were stuck in the Middle Ages?" Rose giggled. "Don't worry, I asked that too. It's usually not that bad, Harry and I could keep pencils at home and they lasted over a year, but my godfather tried to put our report cards on the wall with a sticking charm and they slowly disintegrated for a day before someone realized. Honestly, our home's warded to the gills, so if you were careful, you'd probably be fine in a normal wixen home. Really, I suppose it's a combination of anti-muggle prejudice, inertia, and the fact that we grow up at Hogwarts where muggle things don't last long."
"That's so cool," Granger breathed. She ducked her head, blushing again. "I mean – it's not cool that your report cards disintegrated but –"
"I know what you mean," Rose giggled. "But yeah, that's why. In third year, we get to take electives like Ancient Runes and those work a lot better if they're drawn with ink on parchment. More permanent. There are ways to enchant muggle things, of course, it's just really, really complicated. My godfather has a flying motorbike but it took him years to make and he was near top of his class."
"What's Ancient Runes?"
"Oh! They're –"
"Absolutely not!" Harry interrupted, plopping down across from them. He crossed his arms and frowned at her very seriously. Neville sat down beside him, looking uneasy at the Hufflepuff table. She felt a sudden flash of gratitude that she hadn't been put in Slytherin – neither Slytherin nor Neville would've been very comfortable in this situation but the Hufflepuffs only gave the occasional odd look and ignored them.
"You can't let Rose get started on runes, Hermione," Harry continued, buttering his toast. "She either goes into scholar mode or lecture mode and talks and talks and talks and you're just sitting there, unable to move, helpless in the face of Roses' excitement, until someone can stun her from behind and she finally shuts up."
Rose looked at him with big wet eyes. "You should've told me you don't like me talking about runes, Harry," she sniffed. Her lower lip trembled. "I'll just… find someone else, I suppose."
Harry held out until she dropped her gaze and wilted.
"No – I didn't mean it like that – you can talk to me about runes whenever you want, Rosie," Harry said desperately. He reached across the table to grab her hand.
Rose perked up immediately, beaming. "Thanks, Hare-bear! You're the best."
Harry wrinkled his nose but smiled back at her. "You're so terrible, Rose," he said fondly. "Poor Hufflepuff."
"… That was terrifying to watch," Granger said faintly. She looked simultaneously horrified and impressed.
"Funny though," Neville grinned quietly, averting his eyes. "I've never seen you so desperate, Harry."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'd like to see you try and say no to her when she looks at you like that," he shot back. "I've seen lords of the Wizengamot crumble like nothing."
Granger grimaced. "I can imagine."
"I can teach you if you like," Rose offered.
The bushy-haired girl perked up immediately. "Oh, would you? That would be love-"
"I never should've let you two meet," Harry sighed mournfully. "C'mon Nev, let's go before they start plotting world domination." Neville, a happy flush on his face from the nickname, nevertheless nodded a fervent agreement.
"Sometimes a tactical retreat is the best thing to do," Neville agreed solemnly. Harry pulled him to the Gryffindor table.
"Don't be silly," Granger called after them. "We've got to take over Hogwarts first." The two girls looked at each other and giggled.
"I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship," Rose beamed. She held out her hand and pretended not to notice the way the other girl's eyes filled with hope. "Rose Potter, but you can call me Rose."
"Hermione Granger. Call me Hermione," Hermione smiled back, eyes bright. They shook on it.
"I thought 'well met' was for a first meeting?"
"It's because you usually exchange names at a first meeting. We hadn't done it properly so I'm adding it on here. Clever of you to notice though."
"Thank you! Well met, then. Do you mind if I ask you a few more questions? I have a list."
She had a skip in her step for the rest of the day after befriending Hermione. She, Susan, and Hannah sat together at a table in the library to do their homework. When Rose saw Hermione out of the corner of her eye, she waved the girl over. Susan and Hannah smiled, accepting Hermione into their little group with no issue. Harry and Neville joined them later in the day and the six of them worked together in companionable silence. Rose felt like she could float – in her old life, she'd barely known Susan and Hannah existed until the Chamber debacle. In this one, she made sure Harry dropped by regularly. She was planning on stealing the diary from Ginny as soon as she could of course, but the locket incident had taught her the importance of backup plans. She was also just plain happy that she had so many friends – a part of her was still the girl in the cupboard under the stairs and her friends chased off the shadows of Dudley and Uncle Vernon quite effectively.
All of this vanished, of course, when she woke up the next day on Monday and remembered that she had double Potions with the Ravenclaws first thing in the morning. Having listened to Harry complain at her Saturday morning about Snape, she wondered if the man was meaner in this universe or if that was just Harry's similarity to Sirius that irked him (the boy dripped confidence and sass). In her past life she'd looked like a feminine version of James Potter (she wondered if Fate had decreed somewhere that the Chosen One had to look like James) but in this life she was a copy of Lily Evans. It was such a ridiculous coincidence that she and Harry looked exactly like their parents that she was still half-convinced someone was playing a trick on her. The yellow of her tie clashed something awful with her auburn hair and every time she looked in the mirror she longed for her old black hair, untameable mess or not. That vain part of her (she wanted to call it small but honestly it was larger than she would've liked) mourned her refusal of Slytherin. Just about the only colours that didn't clash with her colouring were green and black. Stupid Harry and his stupid versatile colouring, that boy looked good in everything.
She was so caught up in her grouching that she'd completely forgotten she even had Potions, snapping out of it when a sudden hush descended upon the class.
Snape swept into the room and she cheered slightly because she knew she hadn't been misremembering his similarity to a bat ("Honestly, Rose," her Hermione sighed). He gave the same speech she remembered from last time (and wasn't it funny that he had the thing memorized? She wondered if he practiced). Rose kept her straight face through sheer force of will.
It was an odd lesson. Snape wouldn't meet her eyes, didn't single her out like he'd once done to her and had done to Harry. Her potion was excellent (Remus truly was a wonderful teacher). Snape swooped past, criticized the way Hannah had crushed her snake fangs, gave her a nod, and moved on.
(it helped that Remus, who'd always been a natural teacher, provided no-cost tutoring to younger werewolves. It had made him even more patient, more empathetic – this Remus would never have asked thirteen-year-olds face their worst fears in front of their classmates)
As they were tidying up, Rose wondered if she dared ask Snape about her mother. Sirius and Remus had been James' friends first, after all. But then Snape sneered at Oliver Rivers so severely that the boy's face turned white and Rose remembered that while Snape had been her mother's friend, he was also a cruel bully who made children cry. Maybe in October, when he'd gotten used to them?
"That was awful," Hannah sighed. "I'm so glad I'm not in Gryffindor. Poor Neville."
"And Harry and Hermione," Susan added. Hannah's cheeks pinked a bit. "Oh yes, of course. Excited for Charms?" She asked hurriedly, changing the subject. Susan looked at her a bit suspiciously but acquiesced.
They had a few hours before dinner. Susan and Hannah went back to the common room and Rose headed for the library ("Are you sure you aren't a Ravenclaw?" "If Hermione can be a Gryffindor, why can't I be a Hufflepuff?"). She'd seen her prey at a table in the back a few times but never approached them until now. A grin spread across her face and it took more effort than it should've to change it from 'menacing' to 'happy.'
"Afternoon, Theodore!" She smiled cheerfully, dropping into the empty seat beside him like she did it every day. She turned to his companions.
"Good afternoon. I don't believe we've met. I'm Rose Potter."
Their brown eyes were wary. She wanted desperately to give them a hug (everyone was so small and cuddly) but that was just about the worst thing she could do so she held herself back.
"Well met," she greeted. They were too well-trained to look shocked but Zabini's eyes flicked to Theodore before he could stop them. Oooh, had Theodore talked about her? Her foot twitched, the only sign that she wanted to wriggle in her seat.
"Well met," they replied.
"Now we've got introductions out of the way," Rose chirped, letting her eagerness spill out, she looked at the three Slytherins and gave them her happiest beam.
"How have you been –"
"Why are you here?" Zabini blurted out, unable to hold it back any longer. He blushed and then paled in quick succession, reminding her yet again that they were children and she had no right to expect the self-control they'd developed as adults.
Faux pas or not, it broke the tension and she giggled. Zabini looked relieved he hadn't offended her.
"Well I got this letter, you see, and it told me I'd been accepted at –"
Theodore rolled his eyes. She'd been cheeky on purpose, hoping it would nudge them back into that easy banter they'd shared on the train. "Stop being obtuse, Potter, you know what he meant."
She frowned. "I thought I told you to call me Rose."
"I'll call you Rose when you stop making fun of my friends," he shot back. "You looked far too satisfied to be a Hufflepuff anyway."
Rose was surprised and pleased that he'd gotten the measure of her so quickly. Perhaps it'd been Macha?
"Everyone underestimates a Hufflepuff." Rose gave a shark-like grin her Daphne had taught her.
"Doesn't it lose some of its efficacy if you tell us?" Zabini asked.
"You're Slytherins," she said, rolling her eyes. "Don't tell me you don't respect that at least a little."
Zabini raised his eyebrows. Theodore looked smug. Told you, he mouthed. Rose pretended she hadn't seen but it gave her a warm glow of pride.
"Did Flitwick give us the same essay?" Rose asked. The conversation shifted easily and was soon replaced by the quiet scratching of quills on parchment.
A/N: okay this chapter is kind of choppy and wow it's weird editing it because I've written 80k words in like a week so this chapter was a distant memory. I'm nearly done year three and wow I have wayy too many subplots (the beginnings of which are going to show up in the next few chapters, I think). I'm SO EXCITED for it though, it's going to be great! I love writing snark so much
Thursday morning, she'd been taking a sip of water until she heard Neville exclaim over his Remembrall behind her. She turned in her seat, putting her back to the Hufflepuff table to face the Gryffindor one, and slid in next to Hermione just as Malfoy sauntered up. She'd forgotten about the flying incident – sure, it had gotten her on the Quidditch team, but Neville had broken his wrist. Maybe she could head that off. He was her friend and she didn't want him to be in pain if she could help it. Rose knew she was rationalizing. Deep down, she still harbored a dislike for Draco Malfoy, and she wanted to take him down a peg.
Malfoy snatched the Remembrall out of Neville's hand. Harry jumped to his feet and Rose got a strange sense of déjà vu. "Give that back," Harry said strongly.
Rose saw Professor McGonagall approach from the corner of her eye.
"Oh, leave him alone Harry, he's just jealous his parents don't care about him enough to give him one."
Malfoy flushed. "That's not true!"
"Then why did you take Neville's?" Rose asked reasonably. "I'm sure he would've let you look at it if you just asked, right Nev?"
Neville nodded uncertainly but Harry, bless his heart, caught on quickly.
"Of course," Harry said. "Neville's the nicest person I've ever met."
"What's going on?"
"Malfoy was admiring Neville's Remembrall, Professor," Rose said, smiling angelically at her. "He was a bit jealous, you see, but he'd never do something so silly as taking it in front of the entire school."
Sure enough, she saw Dean Thomas eyeing the confrontation with interest, Lavender Brown whispering away beside him. Between her and Hannah, it would be common knowledge by the end of the day. If anything happened to Neville's Remembrall, it wouldn't take long for students to suspect Draco Malfoy, who'd already expressed an interest in it.
"He was just about to give it back," Harry piped up, grinning at Malfoy. She was sure she wasn't the only one who saw the glint in his eye. "Weren't you?"
Professor McGonagall looked at them, bright and happy, and looked back at Malfoy, who had an embarrassed flush on his cheeks and was stammering incoherently. He shoved the Remembrall in Neville's direction and fled without so much as a by-your-leave.
"Five points to Hufflepuff," Professor McGonagall said. Her eyes glimmered with amusement. "For excellent de-escalation."
"I have no idea what you mean, Professor," Rose beamed. Professor McGonagall looked almost fond for a moment before she turned and went back to the staff table.
"Thanks, Harry, Rose," Neville said quietly. "You didn't need to do that."
Harry rolled his eyes. "What, were we supposed to just sit there while Malfoy put his poncy little fingers all over your things? That was brilliant, Rose," he added, sending her a grin. "Did you see his face?"
Rose gave a little bow before getting up. "Thanks all, I'll be here all week, leave your compliments with the waitress. I'll be back in a bit."
She walked out of the Great Hall and leaned against the wall casually, pulling a book from her bag and flipping through it. When she saw Malfoy pass at the head of a group of the rest of the Slytherin firsties, she called out to him.
"A word, Malfoy?"
His face flushed. "What do you want, Potter?" He spat, turning to face her.
She smirked at him; one her Daphne had taught her. It was mocking and disdainful, perfect for the situation.
"A bit of friendly advice, Malfoy," she said airily. She let her eyes go cold and was gratified to see him pale a little. "Next time you engage in a petty power play, leave my brother and his friends out of it."
Malfoy met her gaze head on. She was a little impressed.
"Yeah? Or what?"
… Never mind. That was such an obvious opening that Theodore would never speak to her again if she didn't take it.
"Or else I'll show you exactly what I've learned from the Black Library," she grinned.
"You – you wouldn't. You're a Potter."
"And I was raised by a Black." She said, voice low, letting the barest hint of Parseltongue creep into her words.
"My father –"
"Is a lord of the Wizengamot and would, I imagine, not appreciate being dragged into a spat between his son and the Potter and Longbottom heirs."
She was pleased to see an angry flush work its way onto his face. No answer. She beamed, all trace of coldness gone from her expression. "Have fun in flying class, Malfoy!"
Zabini laughed. Rose turned on her heel and practically skipped back into the Great Hall. She caught Theodore's eye as she did, and he raised his eyebrows at her. Her smile turned smug and she headed back to the Gryffindor table, just in time to catch the tail end of Neville's explanation.
"… it's not very useful though since it doesn't tell you what you've forgotten," he finished, staring mournfully at the red smoke.
"It turns black when you've been obliviated though," Rose piped up. "If you keep it on you long enough for it to get used to you."
Hermione's expression went from guiltily unimpressed to interested in an instant. "Obliviate is the memory charm, right?"
"Yes," Rose nodded. She turned back to Neville, who by his expression clearly hadn't known this bit of information. "It's not common knowledge since Remembralls are so expensive but nearly every heir has one. You've just got to smash the Remembrall to restore them."
"I never knew that," Neville said, looking at his Remembrall with new eyes. "Huh. Thanks, Rose."
"'Course," she grinned. Rose wanted it common knowledge by the time Lockhart got here.
Neville grinned back, a nervous edge to his expression. "Can't say I'm very excited for flying lessons though, especially not with the Slytherins."
"We had ours with Ravenclaw yesterday," she said. "It's not that bad, you just hover a bit in the first lesson.
Hermione frowned. "I still don't see why it's mandatory."
"Not everyone's got a Floo connection," Rose said. "You can't apparate somewhere you've never been before, and portkeys are regulated by the Ministry. If you haven't got the stomach for the Knight Bus, brooms are your only option ever since Britain outlawed magic carpets."
Dean Thomas leaned over and frowned. "So, they're sort of like cars, then?"
"I think so," Harry said thoughtfully. "The non-quidditch brooms have built-in invisibility and weather-repelling enchantments and the like. I think Cleansweep has been adding an auto-flying option but I'm not sure how that one works."
"Anyway," Rose cut in. "Since the Ministry doesn't allow floo connections to muggle homes, muggleborns are pretty much stuck with the Knight Bus and brooms. The newer models have enchantments and things to keep you on, but you can't rely on those all the time. It's really not that bad. I promise you'll be fine."
(and they were. Neville, having received reassurance and support from his friends, was less nervous and didn't fall of his broom. There was no Remembrall incident, no midnight duel, and so Harry and his friends remained blissfully unaware of the Cerberus on the third floor)
Rose and the other Hufflepuff first years had a check-in with Professor Sprout every week. Rose had quietly bemoaned the lack of inter-House common spaces, mentioning that she and her friends had gotten chased out of the library for being loud, how they'd relocated to the Great Hall but it'd been difficult to concentrate with all the noise, and that it was difficult to keep up her friendships with students in other Houses as a result.
"I only ever see my brother during meals now," Rose said sadly. "And sometimes my friends are given a hard time for hanging out with a Hufflepuff." She was exaggerating a bit (a lot) but she wasn't lying. Professor Sprout sniffed out lies like a niffler sniffed out gold but was less adept at detecting omissions or exaggerations.
She'd asked for advice on how to keep up her friendships and two weeks later Professor Sprout had slipped her an official-looking document, telling her that she'd gotten the Headmaster's permission to requisition an abandoned classroom near the library for her and Harry. It smacked of favoritism (Dumbledore couldn't mysteriously gift them the Cloak this time) but she wasn't about to turn it down just because of her principles.
"Just write their name at the bottom of the parchment and the wards will let them in," Professor Sprout beamed. "And let your friends know they can always come to me if anyone looks down on them for spending time with you." They shared a grin. Professor Sprout was the kind of person who raised man-eating plants for fun and it showed.
Rose dragged her friends aside after dinner and presented the parchment with a flourish. Hermione frowned at the special treatment, but Harry cajoled her until she gave in.
She could tell Dumbledore had had a hand in it – it bore an eery resemblance to the Gryffindor common room, a rectangular wooden table in the center of the room. There was even a plush red sofa in front of a merrily crackling fireplace.
Neville's eyes brightened when he saw the potted plants by the window.
"Told you, you were Sprout's favorite," Rose teased. "She knows you're my friend and those plants certainly aren't here for me."
Neville ducked his head, not quick enough to hide the pleased flush that spread across his face.
Harry laughed. "What're we standing around for, then? C'mon!"
They ended up calling it the Study Room. Unimaginative, but she and Hermione had resolutely vetoed Harry's suggestion of "Harry's Hideaway."
("It's not even yours!" Rose said indignantly.
"Harry's Hideaway?" Hermione exclaimed.)
Rose wrote home begging Remus to send her his tea (he made the blend himself and refused to tell anyone the recipe, the arse) and three days later Wally (Sirius had named him after his mother as a laugh but Wally refused to answer to anything else), the family owl, dropped a package in her lap. She opened it in the Study Room and Harry laughed out loud when he saw that Remus had enclosed a teapot and cups as well. The teapot had been charmed bright yellow, the painted so that if you looked at it the right way it looked like a badger face, the spout acting as the snout.
"He's such a mum sometimes," Harry said fondly. Rose spent a week using her ever-refilling water bottle before she learned aguamenti again. She tried teaching it to the others but only Harry had learned it in the end. Hermione looked disappointed before shrugging and saying that it was lucky they were so close to a bathroom.
"It's probably the occlumency," Rose sighed. "The two of you are plenty powerful."
Harry was explaining what occlumency was to Hermione when Rose grew concerned at the look on Neville's face.
"I'm not powerful at all," he said quietly. "I already know occlumency but I can't even get a drop." He looked at his wand miserably.
Rose couldn't believe she'd forgotten about Neville's wand. The only class they shared was Herbology, so she hadn't been party to his disappointment in this life. She frowned and wondered how she could bring this up.
"Maybe write to Ollivander?" She suggested. "There might be something wrong with the wand."
Neville looked even more miserable. "There's nothing wrong with it. It's my father's wand and worked fine for him."
Harry glanced over and frowned, breaking off his conversation with Hermione. "Did it choose you, then?"
Neville shook his head.
"Ollivander said that the wand chooses the wizard," Harry said. "I can't even get sparks with Rosie's wand. It doesn't mean you're less magical than your dad, it just means you're different. You're his son, not his clone. That's not anything to be ashamed of." Harry was using his Leader voice again. Rose felt a burst of pride and affection.
"Well said, Harry." Hermione smiled but there was something sad about it. "Just because you're different doesn't mean you're wrong."
Poor Neville looked a bit overwhelmed by this outpouring of support. He mumbled something about asking his gran and looked back at his Charms essay, writing very intently. They backed off but Rose saw Harry and Hermione exchange a look and smiled. They'd make sure Neville got his own wand.
"Good evening, sir! Would you happen to be Marcus Flint?" Rose said cheerfully. Marcus Flint glared at her from his seat in the courtyard, a sight that would've made her cold with fear in her past life but now only made her happier. He seemed confused when her only reaction was to broaden her smile. He was with some other members of the Slytherin Quidditch team, who quieted and turned to watch the show.
"… What d'you want?" Flint grunted.
"Well met, Mr. Flint! I'm Rose Potter and I want you to insult me," Rose said promptly. "You see, Malfoy has been trying to insult me all week but his are dreadfully boring. He re-uses the same ones every day, it's honestly a bit pitiful. All I hear now is 'Potty'-this or 'carrots'-that. I need you to help me regain my faith in the wit of the average Slytherin, Mr. Flint."
"You're bloody weird, Potter," Flint sighed. "Leave me alone."
Rose frowned at him. "Surely you can do better than that? At least say you're glad the Hat didn't put me in Slytherin since it'd bring the intelligence of the whole house down."
To her joy, Flint snorted. "No wonder you're in a different House than your brother, I don't think I could stand to live with you either."
Rose bounced on the balls of her feet and clapped a little. "That was wonderful!"
One of the other boys grinned at her. "Cassius Warrington, Potter. Well met. Mind if I chip in?"
"Of course! The more the merrier! I'm still scarred from the fifty-eight times I've been called 'Potty' in the past week."
Warrington sighed. "Apologies about Malfoy, Potter. I assure you, most Slytherins are far more creative than he is."
"That's very comforting. My grandmother was a Slytherin and she seemed very clever, so I needed to know if I had to feel sorry for her or not." At Warrington's raised eyebrow, she elaborated. "Euphemia Potter, you know. She was born a Wilkes."
"Really?" Someone else cut in. He grinned at her a little apologetically. "Forgive my manners, Potter. Lucian Bole; well met. But – a Potter married a Slytherin?!"
"Do stop talking, Bole, I think I get a bit stupider every time you open your mouth," a blond boy sighed. He glanced at her. "Peregrine Derrick; well met." Turning back to Bole, he said, "Honestly, read up on history a bit, would you? I'm embarrassed to be associated with you."
"If you don't mind me saying so, Derrick, that was a superb insult!" Rose said. She mimed tipping a hat.
"Thank you, but I'm afraid it's be wasted on the likes of you; you simply aren't intelligent enough to fully appreciate it."
"My condolences, Derrick, I had no idea you misunderstood reality so severely. It must be awful," Rose said sympathetically. Merlin, but she really had missed creative insults. The Slytherin Quidditch team was vicious and cutting and kept her at the edge of her seat. It was exhilarating; she couldn't stop grinning.
Flint burst out laughing, dropping the 'idiot troll' mask. Rose was ashamed she'd never seen through it before. "Can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish you'd been sorted into Slytherin, Potter. You're far more interesting than I think any of us expected."
"From you, that's a compliment of the highest order, Flint. I'm disappointed, I thought I asked for insults?"
"Ah, but what's more insulting than a request refused?" Derrick interjected. His eyes gleamed.
Rose laughed. "Fair enough, I suppose. For what it's worth, I'm rather pleased I'm in Hufflepuff, overabundant kindness notwithstanding. All I need to do is be cheerful to have people trust me. No offense, but if I want to change things, it'll be far easier if I'm trusted from the start."
"And what do you want to change, Potter?" Derrick asked, leaning forward.
Rose beamed at him. "I'm ever so pleased you asked, Derrick!"
"Fucking hell, does she ever turn off?" Someone muttered. Warrington hexed his skin purple. "Shut up, I want to listen."
"Well, at Hogwarts I want Binns to be exorcised slowly and painfully." She got grins at that and smirked. "I also want muggle-raised firsties to take a mandatory Wizarding Traditions class, I'm getting tired of pulling them aside and pointing them to the library." Several people raised eyebrows, which for a Slytherin was the equivalent of a dropped jaw. "I also want to dust off the ritual rooms, it's silly to make us practice the Old Ways in secret as if it's something to be ashamed about, plus it makes the muggle-raised even more likely to think of the wixen world as an extension of the muggle one." She paused and tilted her head thoughtfully. "Those are the biggest things at the moment, but I'm sure I can come up with more if you give me a day or two."
"… You follow the Old Ways?" The group had gone quiet. Rose was ecstatic.
"Of course I do, my godfather's the Head of the Black family. He might've been a Gryffindor, but he was still a Black and, like I said, my grandmother was a Wilkes. We're not exactly strangers to the practice."
"Lovely recruitment pitch, Potter," Derrick smirked. "From a Hufflepuff firstie and the sister of the Boy-Who-Lived, no less. I'm impressed."
Rose raised her hand to her forehead and swooned dramatically. "Oh, my life's ambition fulfilled! Whatever shall I do now, having at last impressed the Peregrine Derrick?" The blush was real, though. Rose was embarrassed he'd noticed so easily.
He rolled his eyes. "Shut up, Potter. My point is: let me know if you need any help, yeah? My parents have been pushing for those things for years."
Flint and Warrington were conspicuously silent, but they'd bantered with her and were looking at her appraisingly, so she counted it a success.
"Thank you, Derrick," she said, letting her blinding smile soften into something more genuine. "I really appreciate it."
"Oh – er – no problem, Potter," Derrick said, looking vaguely uncomfortable. She felt the change in mood and stood.
"I'll take my leave now, boys," she grinned. "Thank you kindly for your time!" She turned on her heel and skipped away, feeling the weight of their stares on her back as she went. That had gone far, far better than she'd hoped for. Flint and Derrick were politically Neutral families and Warrington was Traditionalist. It had been a stroke of luck, honestly, but she did her grandmother proud and took advantage of the situation. That was the most fun she'd had since she'd arrived at Hogwarts. Theodore, Zabini, and Greengrass were great, but their edges hadn't been honed the same way the boys' had been. Sometimes she really regretted not being sorted into Slytherin – imagine, she could've had that kind of conversation whenever she wanted!
But Dumbledore might've looked at you and seen the second coming of Tom Riddle, Rose reminded herself glumly. Especially once you openly practiced the Old Ways, once you'd started ingratiating yourself among the children of the Wizengamot.
She was grateful for the shield her House provided her and she genuinely liked Hufflepuff, but the students there didn't have the same viciousness that Slytherin brought out in some.
(the viciousness was there, obviously, it just took more to bring it out. Slytherins wielded it like a knife but Hufflepuffs kept it tucked away for when they needed it)
They were both lovely, just different. If only one wasn't overlooked for being a bunch of duffers, and the other wasn't side eyed as evil.
Oh, well. That's what she was here to change, after all.
A/N: anyone catch the reference to the Sum of Their Parts by holdmybeer? It's one of the best Dark Lord Harry + Trio stories I've ever read. It's on ao3, so if you haven't read it yet, go read it now! One more chapter before this version catches up to the one on ao3, and then you can expect updates once a week
Samhain snuck up on her. She and Harry made plans to sneak off to the Study Room for the ritual, Rose wondering if Quirrell would still let the troll in that night. If he did, Rose figured she could call Harry over their mirrors and they'd sneak out if they had to. It's not like it was illegal, after all.
"TROLL! TROLL IN THE DUNGEONS!" Quirrell cried, slamming through the doors of the Great Hall. "Thought you ought to know."
"For fuck's sake," Rose muttered under her breath. Thankfully, no one heard her over the screams.
Dumbledore set off several firecrackers from the end of his wand. Silence fell.
"PREFECTS," he boomed. "LEAD YOUR HOUSE BACK TO THEIR DORMITORY IMMEDIATELY."
"But the Slytherin and Hufflepuff dorms are in the dungeons!" Rose cried immediately. She'd started speaking as soon as Dumbledore said 'dormitory' so her voice carried. Snape looked distinctly irritated.
"Slytherin house will stay in the hall," he said.
"As will Hufflepuff," Sprout added.
"How do we know that the troll's still in the dungeons?" Hermione piped up. "It might've gone somewhere else!" In this life, Hermione had had Harry and Neville as friends for nearly two months. Harry had taken her aside and spoken to her about her overbearing tendencies, and the girl was more like the Hermione Rose had known. She had made sure Hermione was present when the feast began. Even if Ron had said something, Harry wasn't the type to let insults to his friends go unpunished.
"Gryffindor house will stay as well," McGonagall said, giving Hermione an approving look.
"Ravenclaw will also stay!" Flitwick cried.
"Very well," Dumbledore said. "Prefects, do a head count. Make sure no one is missing. Professor McGonagall will supervise. Madam Pomphrey, would you look after Professor Quirrell? I will lead the other professors to search and secure the troll."
They left, locking the doors of the Great Hall with a resounding boom after the prefects had assured McGonagall that everyone was present. People picked at their food uneasily, fear of the troll having ruined their appetites.
"Rose," Harry said, tapping her shoulder.
"I have an idea. C'mon."
She followed him as he stepped up to Professor McGonagall, Hermione and Neville hanging back.
"Professor," Harry began, using the same voice he'd used when he'd sweet-talked Remus into removing the height restriction charms on his broom. "I was wondering… Rose and I were planning on celebrating Samhain tonight. Only…" He trailed off.
McGonagall's eyes were sad. "Of course. Give me a moment, Mr Potter." She waved her wand and the staff table shrank itself to half its size, food and all. Another wave and it was moved to the far end of the platform, leaving a large open space.
"Thank you, Professor," Harry said quietly. Rose echoed him. He made his way to the platform, sitting cross-legged. She plucked a lit candle from the Hufflepuff table and made to walk over to him.
"May I join?" Susan asked quietly. Rose blinked at her and smiled slightly. "Of course."
She glanced at Justin, who was looking uncertainly between them and Ernie, who looked uncomfortable.
"It can't be that bad, Ern," Justin said at last. "Professor McGonagall let them, didn't she?"
Ernie's expression cleared. "Yes, of course, quite right. Might we join as well, Rose?"
She smiled at them. "Go on, then."
As she sat next to Harry, Susan settled beside her, clasping her hands in her lap. Justine and Ernie copied her. Everyone – even them – looked to Harry to lead. His green eyes were eerily bright, almost glowing, but glanced up as Dean Thomas neared their circle.
"Sorry," he said quietly. "Seamus explained what you were doing. Could I –"
Harry smiled at him. "'Course. Sit down."
In her peripheral vision, Rose saw the Slytherin first years make their own circle. She ached to have Theo here and promised herself that by next Samhain he would be. She saw others – Flint, Derrick, Warrington, other Slytherin upper-years she didn't know – giving their corner appraising looks.
"I'll give a bit of an explanation, since not all of us have done this before," Harry began. This was a side of Harry not many people had seen before. He was magnetic, speaking with a quiet confidence that you couldn't help but lean in. He didn't seem at all fazed by the many people watching him. He'd come a long way from the boy who'd clung to Remus' robes just because she'd done so first.
"We go around and speak the names of anyone we wish to remember. If we don't have any names, we spread our hands like this," he unclasped his hands and lay them palms up on his knees for a moment before settling them back in place. "And the next person will go."
Harry cleared his throat, fixing his eyes on the flickering candle. A hush fell upon the group. "James Potter," he said. "Lily Potter." He spread his hands, bowed his head briefly, and Rose spoke when his gaze was fixed on the flame once more.
"James Potter," she echoed. "Lily Potter." She bowed her head, spread her hands, and Susan spoke when Rose looked back at the flame. Its flickering had slowed. She could feel the magic building in the air, getting stronger.
"Ethan Bones," Susan whispered. "Amara Bones."
They went around in a circle. Finally, when Hermione spread her hands, Harry took a deep breath. Rose didn't worry that he'd forget the words – they'd been joining Sirius and Remus since they were old enough to understand what death was.
"We are here tonight to honour our dead," Harry said. Rose, eyes fixed on the candle, saw it grow brighter. The flame, previously yellow, began to turn white. "We are here tonight to welcome them home. We are here tonight to ease their passing, and to ask that they, in turn, ease our living. Let it so be said."
"Let it so be said," the circle echoed. They watched the candle for another minute. In the flame she saw the outline of Lily's face, heard the shadow of James' laugh. She felt the ghost of a kiss on her forehead. She smelled lavender and chamomile, Lily's favorite scent, and didn't stop the tears that streamed down her face. Then, in a rush, she felt them – she felt their love at seeing their children, their sadness at their separation, their joy at her and Harry's happiness.
Beside her, Susan's lower lip trembled. She gave a choked sob.
When the minute was up, Harry bowed his head and cleared his throat again. "Rise," he said hoarsely, ending the ritual. He moved to put the candle back on the Hufflepuff table. They followed him in silence, all of them sitting around him. Rose could feel the magic of the ritual still clinging to them – it felt disrespectful to break the silence.
Around them, more rituals were being conducted and finished. There was an intimacy to the ritual that she'd missed but sitting here, she felt connected and whole in a way she never had before. So many of them had been touched by death, but its inevitability was comforting. They would see their loved ones again eventually.
She wondered, in a moment of insanity, if Death would come if she called. Rose pushed the thought away in case that was all it took.
At the ends of the House tables there were clusters of students, mostly muggle-raised and those from Progressive families. She saw Hannah, read her lips, and realized she was explaining the ritual. Rose relaxed slightly when she saw no trace of judgement in her expression.
"That was beautiful," Hermione whispered, breaking the silence of her group. There were tear tracks on her cheeks. Beside her, Dean nodded, unable to speak. Seamus moved over from the Gryffindor table and sat down next to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. Dean gave him a weak smile.
"I… I didn't know magic could feel like that," Ernie whispered. He seemed, for the first time, at a loss for words.
"Yeah," Justin agreed quietly. "It was… incredible."
"What'd you do that for?"
(was it a fixed event, for Ronald Weasley to make someone cry on Samhain?)
She looked up, seeing Ron staring at Harry accusingly. He'd been loud and harsh. Rose saw several circles, still conducting their rituals, flinch. His words rang like a discordant note. She'd barely spoken to Ron in this life, having forgotten how much he looked down upon Hufflepuffs, how black and white his thinking had been.
("Everyone says Hufflepuffs are a bunch of duffers. I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn't be too bad but imagine if they put me in Slytherin")
(as if ambition were the most terrible condemnation he could think of)
(as if it was wrong to want to make yourself more than you were)
(as if it was wrong to look at the people who feared nothing and want that security for yourself)
Call him Ronald, her mind whispers. This isn't her Ron.
Harry stared back. "Why did I honour my parents, you mean?"
Rose wanted to groan as Ronald, obtuse as ever, didn't take the hint.
"But it's Dark," Ronald says stubbornly. "I thought you, of all people –" His voice rose in outrage. Around them, people stirred and looked over. Thank Merlin everyone's already finished their rituals, Rose thinks. Harry was always on edge around Samhain. His temper was like a bomb. Occlumency had lengthened the fuse, but if anything made it more explosive.
"You don't know anything about me," Harry snarled, jumping to his feet. "It's not Dark, you idiot! My parents were killed ten years ago and if it weren't for Samhain I wouldn't know what her laugh sounded like – and you have the gall to stand there with your happy family and criticize the way I choose to – You – You –"
Rose quickly moved beside Harry as he lunged, squeezing his hand.
"You don't need to explain yourself to him," she said quietly.
Ronald sputtered, face bright red and rapidly darkening. Almost the entire hall was watching them now. She spotted twin spots of colour approaching and held her breath.
"Ignore our brother," one of the twins said, clamping his hand over Ronald's mouth.
"He's a bit of an ignorant git," the other said apologetically, wrapping his arm around Ronald's shoulders.
"Sorry about him," they said in unison.
(she could not think their names, not even in her mind. Not now, not on this night)
Harry gave a curt nod of his head, too angry to speak. Rose loosened her hold on him slightly, giving the twins a quiet "thanks" as they led their brother away. Further down the Gryffindor table, she saw Percy glaring at Ronald.
They sat back at the Hufflepuff table in silence, the moment of gratitude and lightness gone. Harry burned beside her. She nestled her head into the crook of his neck and hugged him tightly. He hugged her back, trembling.
"How could he say that?" Hermione whispered. From the sound of her voice, she'd been crying again.
"I'll kill him if Harry and Rose don't," muttered Neville, of all people.
Rose shut out their hushed conversation. Her brother needed her. She tightened her hold on him and slowly he relaxed, the tension releasing from his body. He leaned back, giving her a small smile. They turned back to the table and Rose grabbed a handful of chocolate, depositing it on his plate.
"Eat," she told him.
Harry grinned, as she'd hoped he would. "You sound like Remus."
"I'll take that as a compliment," she grinned back. She saw Quirrell looking oddly at them, having been tended to by Madam Pomphrey (not that there'd been anything wrong with him anyway). He left soon after, stammering something to Professor McGonagall about joining the other teachers.
"We can ask Sirius and Remus for memories over Yule," Rose murmured. "I have some memories too."
Harry glanced at her. She saw a flicker of jealousy in his eyes before he resolutely squashed it.
"Yeah," he said quietly. "Thanks."
That night, Rose lay in her bed, unable to sleep. She glanced at her watch on the nightstand, grateful that tomorrow was a Saturday. Today, technically, she corrected herself. Rose had enough self-awareness to know that she wasn't going to be sleeping anytime soon. Whispering a silencing charm at Susan's curtained bed, grateful that Macha had stayed in her basket, she slipped on a pair of soft slippers and grabbed her dressing gown and a book. She padded down the hallway and up the stairs to the common room.
It was (predictably) empty. The fires were dull, flickering things, the light catching on the razor-sharp edges of Helga Hufflepuff's axe on the wall above the main hearth. The witchlights above glowed a warm yellow. The windows, charmed to look outside, looked out over the lake and the Forbidden Forest. She curled up in a window seat, leaning against the glass and relaxing against the soft cushions. An ivy tendril brushed against her ankle affectionately and make a questioning mrrh? sound like a startled cat when she petted it. The Prefects had told a story about a sixth year who'd ended up in the hospital wing after sitting on a piece and she still wasn't sure if that was true or not. Since she hadn't been able to find any mention of a plant resembling the ivy in the Hogwarts library, she wasn't willing to risk it.
She watched the moonlight glimmer off the surface of the lake. Something disturbed its surface; Rose wondered lazily if the giant squid slept. She raised her eyes to the sky, searching for constellations, but the night was cloudy. Sirius had spelled her room at Potter Manor to always look like a clear night sky and she used to find the constellations to help her sleep.
She tapped a brick behind her with her wand, identifying it by the small yellow sun etched in the corner. It began to glow, and she willed it steadily brighter until there was enough light to read without straining her eyes; the eyesight-correcting potion required complete isolation from magic for two weeks after taking it – the Potters even had a bloody muggle cottage in Australia for it. It said a lot about the hereditary Potter eyesight.
(she had felt so outraged when she'd learnt there was a potion. It cost more than a Nimbus 2000, but the Blacks were hideously rich and nothing pleased Sirius more than spending Black money on his half-blood godson)
(it had to be repeated whenever the vision deteriorated again but still)
(Harry's glasses were enchanted to the gills, as James' had been)
Rose looked at the book she'd grabbed for the first time. It was A History of Runes: Malaysian Edition, Volume I, a golden seal in the corner proclaiming it certified by the International Society of Runes. The other four volumes Remus had convinced her to leave at home, reasoning that the Hogwarts library was well-stocked and there was no need to lug all of Potter Manor's library along with her. The first volume, however, Rose couldn't bear to part with. It was newer-looking than the others – she'd bought her own copy after reading it in the Potter library so she could jot down questions and annotations in the margins. She smiled down at it fondly. She'd spent so much time with it, focused so much of her attention on it, that it had been imbued with a touch of her own magic and she felt its familiar warmth when she touched it. Magical sensitivity was always heighted in the days following a ritual. Just holding it brought her comfort, and she wondered if she'd been subconsciously drawn to it.
She wouldn't be surprised. Between both her lives, she'd spent over twenty years in the wizarding world, and yet magic continued to be a source of wonder. Rose pressed her hand flat against the brick, feeling the protective enchantments built into its very foundation, reveling in the magic flowing through Hogwarts like blood.
There was a scuffing sound behind her. Rose poked her head out and twisted to look.
Cedric Diggory met her gaze with an embarrassed smile. His brown hair was ruffled.
"Sorry, Potter," he whispered. "Didn't mean to disturb you."
She blinked at him, suddenly grateful that she'd come to terms with his… alive-ness before Hogwarts began. She'd spent over a week turning it over and over in her head, imagining seeing him again. This was the first time she'd felt the full force of his gaze in this life and even then it send prickles up her spine.
"You didn't," she whispered back. "I wasn't reading, anyway."
Ced – no, Diggory – grinned. "Couldn't sleep?"
She shook her head.
"Yeah, me neither. I was heading to the kitchens for some hot chocolate, if you wanted to come with?"
No, her mind screamed. Get away from him, don't you dare –
"Yes," she said.
The kitchens weren't very far from the common room. It took less than a minute to walk there, Diggory (not your Cedric, she reminded herself sternly) tickling the pear and pulling open the portrait with the ease of long practice. Rose smiled a bit when the house elves recognized him on sight, a silver tray already being topped with mugs and zooming towards the kitchens' replica of the Hufflepuff table.
"Thanks, Mimsy," he said easily. Mimsy beamed back at him happily before scurrying off.
Diggory grinned sheepishly at her look. "I've got insomnia," he said in explanation. "I come here a lot."
Rose gave him a sympathetic smile. (something inside her ached at the familiarity of his expression)
"I'm sorry," she said. "No Dreamless Sleep?"
He pulled a face. "Nah. Allergic to most nettles and can't take the allergy-correcting potion 'til I'm of age. Professor Snape needs to order a special essence of nettle from the Americas – probably why he looks so sour every time he looks at me."
Rose frowned. "I think that's just his face, actually."
Diggory grinned. He sipped at his hot chocolate, the whipped cream leaving a smudge of white on his upper lip. Rose couldn't bring herself to tell him.
(he looked so young)
She set her book on the table, her household spells shoddy enough that it wasn't worth the risk of a spill to leave it in her lap. Diggory glanced at it and raised his eyebrows at her.
"International runes are NEWT level," he said.
Rose rolled her eyes, disgusted. "Only because people get attached to Futhark and can't understand any other system. If Hogwarts diversified the runic schema earlier, no one would have that problem and we wouldn't have to wait until seventh year to start integration, and only simple integration at that."
"You feel very strongly about this," he noted. Rose glared at him, making him look even more amused.
"This isn't a laughing matter, Diggory," she said severely. "At Durmstrang runes are an elective in second year. When Hogwarts students are learning Elder Futhark for the first time, Durmstrang students are being introduced to Chinese script! We're an entire year behind!"
"You're right," Diggory agreed seriously. "That is absolutely deplorable."
"Thank you!" Rose exclaimed. "Everyone else just pats me on the head and says I'm cute, as if that even counts as a proper answer –"
She stopped as Diggory's shoulders started shaking and he burst out laughing. Offended, she glared at him, betrayed. "Funny," she said flatly.
"Sorry," he gasped, still giggling. "You make – make a good p – " he snickered.
Rose sighed, taking a sip of her hot chocolate. "Take your time, Diggory."
It took maybe thirty seconds before Diggory stopped laughing long enough to speak. Rose was very unimpressed.
"Sorry," he said again, the sincerity in his tone bellied by his grin. "You do make a good point but, in everyone else's defense, you're also unfairly adorable. So," he shrugged. "I can't really take anyone's side in this, I'm afraid."
"I don't want to be adorable when I'm angry," she huffed. "I want to be terrifying."
(if she had actually been eleven, she might've been blushing too hard to speak)
Diggory snickered again. "Good luck with that, Potter." He ruffled her hair, making her scowl at him. "You're about as terrifying as a kitten."
"And you're a prat, Diggory," she sighed, pleased when it drew another grin out of him. It was soothing to make him smile.
(she owed him that, at least)
A/N: Special thanks to DAZzle_10 from ao3 for letting me use their Samhain rites from Harry Potter and the Actually Decent Childhood as inspiration (btw, if you haven't read it yet, go do it! It's an excellent political HP fic with a lot of inter-house friendships and Salazar Slytherin redemption). Next update will be in a week!
"So I talked to Professor Babbling," Diggory began, sitting down across from her and plucking a grape from her plate without so much as a by-your-leave. "And apparently, she's been pushing to make the changes you mentioned but Professor Dumbledore insists on a firm grounding in Futhark before moving on to anything else, integration be damned. I'm still not entirely quite sure what that is, but from the way you two talked about it it sounds important."
Rose sighed. "I thought it was something like that. And integration is just figuring out how to work different runic languages together, it's a real pain since they all have different rules. Wards and enchantments made from integrated runes are far stronger though."
Diggory hummed, helping himself to another grape. "Interesting. I suppose I'll have to keep it on 'til NEWTs then. Pity."
She glanced up at the sudden silence and realized she'd never told her friends about her and Diggory's trip to the kitchens.
"Er, this is Cedric Diggory, everyone," she said. "Diggory, this is everyone." Refusing to introduce someone would usually be quite rude, but the bland sarcasm in her tone softened it into more of a flick than a slap.
He squinted at her. "This is payback for the kitten thing, isn't it?"
"It is absolutely payback for the kitten thing."
"I rue the day I insulted you, Potter."
(Merlin, she'd forgotten how unapologetically weird he was. She hadn't felt this instantly comfortable around someone in a long time)
Rose watched, satisfied, as they went through the lengthy introduction process.
"So what exactly were you talking about?" Hermione wanted to know. "Professor Babbling teaches Ancient Runes, doesn't she?"
"Yes," Diggory said at the same time Harry cut in with a firm "no." Diggory gave him an odd look.
"Hermione and Rose can't talk about runes together," Harry said sternly. "Or else we'll either be here till the end of term or Hermione'll help Rose with one of her experiments and they'll blow up the castle. One of you is fine. Both of you is dangerous."
Rose sighed. "Et tu, Brute?"
Hermione giggled, Harry rolled his eyes, and everyone else looked confused.
"It's a muggle thing."
"Why is it such a big deal that I celebrate Samhain?" Hermione demanded, slamming her book bag onto the bench. "I've been getting odd looks all morning, bloody Cormac McLaggen asked if I was turning into a Dark Witch, as if there's something wrong about honoring the dead!"
Hermione's voice, loud with righteous anger and indignation, practically echoed off the ceiling of the Great Hall. If anyone hadn't known, they certainly did now. Rose had been worried that the Survivors practicing a 'Dark' ritual would turn the school against them, but she and Harry had been busy – instead of turning students against them, they'd been getting students to reconsider their beliefs. It helped that it was the Boy-Who-Lived and his sister; orphans; the Survivors, defeaters of Voldemort, honoring the parents who'd sacrificed their lives for them. Rose was perfectly willing to take advantage of their hero status if it got her what she wanted.
"You're asking the wrong person, Hermione," Rose said. She pitched her voice low, so it carried without making her intentions obvious. "If it weren't for that ritual, I'd have forgotten the way my dad looked at my mum. He practically worshiped her."
Beautiful, she thought, pretending to be unaware of the suddenly stricken faces of those within earshot. Hermione put her hand on hers worriedly. Rose smiled back. She'd reminded everyone that her pureblood father had been hopelessly in love with her muggleborn mother – Rose was not above milking those stereotypes to the fullest before she discarded them.
Later that day, Harry found her in the library. It wouldn't have been a problem if she hadn't been sitting with Theodore at the time, at a table so far back someone would've had to actively search to find them. She saw Theodore grow still and looked up to see what had caught his attention. Her twin stared back, arms crossed in front of his chest, looking distinctly unimpressed. Theodore made to pack up, but Harry stared him down.
"I was going to ask when exactly you'd gotten to know Diggory so well as to have inside jokes, but I see there are bigger things I ought to worry about."
Theodore's eyes narrowed and he bristled. "We're friends, Potter, surely you know the term?"
She could practically see Harry's hackles raise and shifted, drawing their attention. "Theodore was unnecessarily rude but he's right. We met on the train. I trust him."
Her brother frowned at her. It wasn't one of the mock-upset frowns she was used to – this one was real. "And you're usually such a good judge of character too. How disappointing."
Rose flinched at the disdain in his tone. She wilted. "Harry – "
"Don't patronize her like that," Theodore snapped. She looked at him, surprised. "She's not an infant. You're her brother, not her keeper."
At that, Harry's face split into a wide smile. "Well said, Nott! I agree completely. I'm Harry Potter; well met."
They both stared at him. Had he just…?
"Theodore Nott," Theodore said faintly. "Well met."
Harry grinned mischievously.
"Oh my Merlin, you did," Rose breathed. "You tricked us! You set us up!"
"Did I?" Her brother grinned. She got up and tackled him into a hug. "You absolute prat, I actually thought – "
Harry snickered. "Like I said, you're a good judge of character." He pulled back and grinned at her. "I just had to be sure it was the same on his side, you know?"
"I can't believe it," Theodore said weakly. "You're a Gryffindor."
Harry looked at him derisively. "I also grew up with Rose. You think I don't know she avoided Slytherin by the skin of her teeth?"
To her shock and dismay, Theodore laughed. It had taken her hours of private conversation to get him to do that! And Harry waltzed in and did it in what, ten seconds? How completely unfair.
(she thought of Felix Felices and how she had charmed Slughorn. She looked at Harry and thought, this is what I could have been)
(in her mind, under the stairs, the locks on the cupboard rattled)
"How are you so bloody likeable?" Rose cried, throwing up her hands in frustration. "I'm a Hufflepuff, I'm supposed to be better at this!"
"Careful, Rosie, you're falling on House stereotypes again," Harry teased, ruffling her hair. By Circe, she was. What a fucking mess, honestly.
(still, she was glad Harry called her out on it)
The next time she sat with Theodore, it was in the Study Room ("that's such a boring name, I vote for Badger Hole." "There's less than one badger here, Nott, that doesn't make any sense." "Less than one?! Harry, how could you?!").
(it wasn't perfect – Theodore had been willing to accept Hermione herself, who'd thrown herself into learning wixen culture and was a powerful witch in her own right, but he was unwilling to accept muggleborns as a whole unless they, too, made an effort to integrate and disliked them until proven otherwise)
(if she was being really, completely, wholly honest with herself… she agreed with him. Just a bit. The Progressives on the Wizengamot had never touched Samhain, but Mabon had been outlawed for promoting 'the Dark' and therefore 'Evil.' Its ritual had been one of reflection, a time to recognize the end of summer and coming of winter, of Dark over Light, but Dark was not Evil)
(Dark magic was born of sacrifice. That was why blood magic was so powerful – you sacrificed your blood, your history, your magic itself. The Patronus was fed happiness and turned it into a weapon)
(it was funny – Dark-aligned wixen often ended up in either Slytherin or Gryffindor. Slytherins hid their passion behind sharp smiles and cold eyes; Gryffindors let it run wild)
In the days following Samhain, Ernie had become quieter and contemplative. It was a subtle change, but she'd been on high alert. She pulled him aside one evening as they were heading to dinner, gesturing for the others to keep going.
"Listen, there's no polite way to say this, so I'm just going to ask: are you uncomfortable around me because I'm not Christian?"
Ernie had a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look before his training took over and his expression smoothed.
"No," he said carefully. He still wouldn't meet her eyes though, and she felt her stomach drop. It was one thing to know that people would see her differently after performing the rites so openly, and entirely another to actually encounter it, especially in one whom she considered a friend.
"But you are uncomfortable around me?" she pressed.
Ernie didn't say anything, which was answer enough.
"Oh," she said. She couldn't keep the note of disappointment out of her voice as she wilted. Ernie's eyes widened in panic.
"No, Rose – wait, listen – I'm just – having a bit of a hard time," he grimaced. "I know you're not evil or anything, and neither's Susan, it's just difficult to…" he trailed off, giving her a helpless look.
Rose bit her lip. "Well, you know you can always ask me if you have any questions. About the practices and so on."
Ernie looked relieved she wasn't pressing him on it. "Yeah, thanks, Rose."
She smiled back at him. If her smile strained around the edges, Ernie was polite enough not to mention it.
A/N: Surprise! Finished editing first year and decided what the heck, I have a few days before school starts and this is a short boi anyways :) thank you so much to everyone who reads/comments/follows/favs!
Rose was happy. She studied with her friends in the Study Room, giggled with Susan late into the night, and threw her quill at Diggory when he presented her with a ginger kitten
"Her name is Futhark! Isn't she adorable?" Diggory cooed. Futhark tried to catch the quill but missed.
"Where did you even get a kitten?" Rose asked.
Diggory looked abashed. "Mimsy's cat had kittens and she didn't have anyone else to give them to."
"… She's cute," Rose admitted grudgingly. Algernon had passed away a few years ago, and she did have a soft spot for cats.
Futhark blinked big amber eyes up at her. Diggory held her up and the kitten carefully put her paw on Rose's nose. Diggory looked absolutely delighted. "See, she likes you!" he said happily, cuddling Futhark close again. The kitten made an unhappy sound and struggled to free herself.
"Diggory, have you ever taken care of a kitten before?"
"No, but it can't be that difficult, can it? People do it all the time!" He patted Futhark affectionately. The kitten hissed at him. Diggory looked devastated.
"No, Diggory, here, watch – "
She held out a hand for Futhark to sniff. Once the cat had accepted her, she stroked Futhark's back gently and the kitten pressed up against her hand, tilting her head to let Rose scratch her neck. Rose withdrew her hand and Diggory copied her movements hesitantly. Soon Futhark was stretched out on the carpet between them, eyes closed, purring happily. Diggory looked at the cat like he'd never seen anything more magnificent. Unwillingly, Rose found herself agreeing.
"Don't you wish you had a camera?" She heard Susan whisper.
"Dear Merlin, yes," Hannah said emphatically.
Greetings! 'Tis I, thy favorite goddaughter again! I would be in your debt if you would be so kind as to send me Algernon's old cat things, like his wastebox and water bowl. Apparently some house elves at Hogwarts have pets and there was an extra kitten my friend offered to take in. He wanted to feed a month-old cat a conjured rat, so please send along whatever you can find as soon as you can. Lives depend on it. (well technically it's only one life, but she's cute enough to count as multiple)
This is urgent. When did Rosie start making friends with boys? Do you know who this boy with the kitten is? How old is he? What're his grades like? Do I need to ask Andy to forward some blackmail material? Please reply ASAP
Can't tell you that, Siri, sorry. Rosie would eviscerate me if she knew, she's annoyed enough as it is. I know the bloke though, and I can guarantee you that if he hurts Rosie, I'll take care of whatever she leaves behind once she's through with him. He's nice enough though and just a friend anyway. Lay off before she figures out how to send a Howler.
She should've known it wouldn't last.
She was in Potions class, carefully stowing away her cauldron at the end of the lesson, when it happened.
It cut off abruptly. When she came back to herself she was screaming, sprinting as fast as she could, following that tug on her magic until –
"Harry!" The word tore itself from her throat before she even realized what she was looking at. A huddled lump of black fabric, slowly soaking through with –
"Out of the way!" Snape snarled, shoving her aside. She fell to the ground, staring numbly. There was an ache on her foot that made her think she'd knocked her cauldron onto it in her haste.
That wasn't Harry. It couldn't possibly be Harry. Harry was supposed to be safe. Harry was –
Harry was lying on the ground in a slowly spreading pool of blood on the edge of the fifth floor landing. There was an empty pedestal nearby and the pieces of a suit of armor on the ground. The blood was –
The blood was from –
The blood was from the sword in Harry's stomach.
She wanted to scream. She wanted to cry. She wanted to laugh (this was absurd). She crawled towards him on her hands and knees, stopping as she nearly slipped. Rose stared at the red on her fingers. Her head snapped up as Snape shifted. She watched him, not daring to even breathe, as he murmured under his breath and she felt his magic swirling around Harry's body. The pool of red stopped growing quite so rapidly. The tug on her magic became a fraction less urgent. She felt the threads connecting her to her twin strengthen the tiniest bit, and only then did she realize how weak it had grown.
(how weak it still was)
The ground gave the faintest of tremors. Rose looked behind her to see the entirety of the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw year bunched together at the other end of the hall. She realized Susan was hurrying towards her (the only one who dared; it had been Susan's footsteps Rose had felt). Rose didn't know what she looked like, but it must've been bad, since Susan flinched a little when she saw her.
Susan slowed to a walk as she neared, eyes flicking between Rose and – (Harry). She knelt on the ground beside her, uncaring of the blood (Harry's blood) staining her robes and put her arms around her. Rose stared straight ahead as Susan hugged her. Distantly, she realized she was in shock.
There was so much blood. It splattered the walls and soaked her shoes, dripping off her hands as –
No. The blood was on the floor. Only her fingertips and knees were stained. She was thinking of –
(Anthony Goldstein, skin bubbling, writhing on the ground; Terry Boot's scream; MacNair's head falling at her feet)
(a red, red lump; a glimpse of red-soaked curls; the horrified realization of oh dear Merlin was that Lav-)
(she'd only known Alicia by the blood-soaked necklace she'd fished out of her remains – the acromantula had gotten there before Rose had)
She was thinking of something else.
(all of them in the DA. All of them there [dead] because of her)
A tug. Susan was standing in front of her (when had she let go?). Rose blinked at her slowly. She got up.
(she was covered in blood)
(she was covered in blood)
Snape levitated Harry on a conjured stretcher to the Hospital Wing. Susan pulled Rose along behind him.
Harry was her second chance. Harry was so weak she kept a hold of the thread between them, terrified it would disappear. How? How had this happened? Harry was quick and graceful, had spent his childhood running after her or chasing Sirius or sliding down banisters. Harry would never slip on a staircase. Even if he had, he shouldn't have been that hurt. Bruises, fractures, maybe a concussion? All of that could be healed in an instant, warranting an overnight stay at worst.
Madam Pomphrey at first tried to shoo her away when she realized she was there ("he's been very seriously injured, Miss Potter, Professor Snape's stabilized him for now but there's still work to be done"), but Rose had protested, saying their twin bond made it unbearable for her to leave. It was partially true – Rose wasn't sure she could stay upright if she couldn't see Harry, if she couldn't count his breaths and feel his heartbeat. There was an urgent need to see he was alive until he no longer felt so weak.
Twin magic was poorly understood – the magical world mostly went off case studies, which were few in number as not many liked to be researched and experimented on. There had been cases where each twin had a separate magical core, like any other siblings. There were other cases, like that of the Weasley twins, where the connection was more rooted in mental magic and thought process. Rose and Harry, however, had a deeper connection.
(soul deep, something inside her whispered)
Harry knew when she was upset, like that time with the locket and Kreacher – his magic had pulled him towards her. Her own magic had responded, calming at his touch.
(Rose remembered the screaming fits she'd had when she was little, how baby Harry had held her hand)
"Please, Madam Pomphrey," Rose had begged. "I won't get in the way, I promise, just please don't make me leave him."
The matron had softened, looking pained. "Very well, but don't disturb him."
"I won't," Rose vowed. This was her fault, after all. She wasn't going to make it worse.
It had been an accident, they said. Harry had tripped on the stairs and fallen, bashing his head against the edge of a landing and crashing into a suit of armor. It had simply been bad luck. Rose didn't believe a word of it, and from the looks on their faces, neither did Sirius and Remus.
("He's not safe at Hogwarts," Sirius had hissed. "Neither of them are – I was thinking we'd move them to Beauxbatons-"
"Dumbledore said they'd be safe here," Remus had murmured. "And I don't want to uproot them like that – they have friends here, Sirius, wixen friends their own age."
Sirius had crumpled. "Fine," he'd said. "Fine.")
Harry looked so small in his bed, solemn and still. She kept her fingers on his pulse, counting the beats. Averting the incident in flying class hadn't bothered her that much – it had been a small thing, and though Harry hadn't made the Quidditch team in first year, she reasoned to herself that the absence of that blatant stroke of favoritism might help his image in the eyes of the school. During the game where she'd once nearly fallen off her broom, she had reaffirmed the rightness of her decision – after all, what if Harry had fallen this time around? But now, sitting at his bedside, Rose realized how foolish she'd been.
Everything she changed had consequences. She couldn't just rely on her future knowledge and float through life – she wasn't really a Seer, after all. The people she cared about were still in very real danger. Dodging one incident had sent her straight into the path of another – she had no proof, but it made sense. Quirrell hadn't had the chance to kill Harry during his Quidditch game because he wasn't on the team. Harry was more popular and cleverer than she'd been in her past life – perhaps he'd been seen as more of a threat. So, when Quirrell found Harry alone and unprotected, he took his chance. If their twin magic had been just a fraction of a second slower, Harry would've died.
And for what? Because she'd wanted to taunt Draco Malfoy? She'd almost lost her brother because she'd wanted to humiliate an eleven-year-old version of her old school rival?
She had to be more careful. She needed to go through her memories of her Hogwarts years, analyze each and every moment –
No. That was impossible. People weren't chess pieces. There was always an unknown factor – hadn't she hated Dumbledore for thinking he knew best? Neither of them was all-knowing. She couldn't always predict the consequences of every action, every change, and besides she'd changed so much already that for all she knew her knowledge was null already.
Hadn't she learned from the incident with the locket? No matter how carefully she planned, no matter how many contingencies and back-ups she prepared, there would always be something that surprised her.
(her memories lurked at the edges of her vision and would strike in an instant if she let them)
(she shoved them away with a growl and added another lock)
What she needed to do was learn. She needed to prepare – if she'd been better at healing, Harry might not've been so close to death. She'd reached him a second before Snape, but she'd been out of shape and he'd had to follow her. If she'd been faster, if she'd known more healing…
Rose nodded to herself. Something within her settled. She wasn't helpless. She might not be able to prepare for every eventuality, but she could do something. She would learn all she could about healing, refamiliarize herself with Hogwarts' secret passages, maybe start practicing her dueling. She would work on her physical fitness, both speed and endurance. She'd been so complacent so far, thinking in her arrogance that she knew what was coming. It had taken Harry's near-death to snap her out of it. She would not, could not, make that mistake again.
Rose stayed by Harry's side, unwilling and unable to leave even to sleep in her dorms. She slept on the bed next to Harry, head turned so he was the first thing she saw when she opened his eyes. Rose spent her time awake trying to read, a few fingers always on Harry's pulse and a part of her always reaching out to their connection. She could tell their friends were frightened – Hermione had fussed and tried to bodily drag her away until Susan pulled her aside and told her about the oddities of twin magic.
"Sometimes one twin literally can't survive without the other. There've been cases of people dropping dead because of something that happened to their twin. There's a theory that the bond was so strong that the magical backlash from severing it killed them."
"So, if Harry or Rose died, they might both end up…?"
"It's really rare, but I suppose…"
"That's magic, Hermione. It can be wonderful and horrible," Rose said quietly. She glanced up from her book and gave Hermione a small smile.
"Oh, Rose, I'm sorry – that was tactless of me – "
"It's all right," Rose said quietly. "But it's not all bad. Madam Pomphrey says that the strength of the connection between Harry and I helped keep him alive. He was able to draw on a bit of my magic, and without it he would almost definitely be dead. He'd surely be dead if the bond had been weaker, otherwise I might not've known where he was."
Instinctively, she reached out again to check on it. Her grip on Harry's wrist tightened.
"Oh," Hermione said. Her voice quivered. "This is so awful, Rose. I wish he'd wake up."
Susan put an arm around her, and Hermione leaned into it gratefully.
"Where's Neville?" Rose asked.
"Greenhouse two," Susan said with a sad little smile. "He said he had to keep busy."
Rose nodded. "I can understand that." She suspected Harry was still drawing on her magic – Madam Pomphrey had commented on the surprising rate at which he was healing, and she felt fatigued the way she used to after casting too many spells in quick succession. She ran her fingers over A History of Runes: Malaysian Edition again, taking comfort from it.
She heard the roar of flames as the Floo in Madam Pomphrey's office activated. Rose looked up as Sirius entered, pushing the privacy curtains aside, looking haggard. At least he'd put on shoes this time, she noted. The first time, he'd arrived barefoot with a half-done-up dressing gown.
He smiled at her, then glanced at Hermione and Susan. "Hello. You must be Harry and Rose's friends. I'm Sirius Black, their godfather."
The girls had stood. Susan dipped into a bow. "Well met, Lord Black." Hermione echoed her as she dipped her own bow, deeper than Susan's.
"Well met, Heir Bones, Miss Granger," Sirius said tiredly. "No need for formalities though, I think we're all exhausted enough as it is." He sank into a chair and rubbed a hand over his face.
"Merlin. No change?"
"No," Rose answered.
"Rose," Dean greeted. He glanced uneasily at Harry, frowning. "Still no change?"
Rose shook her head. "None," she said. "Thanks for visiting, though. I'm sure he'd appreciate it."
"Yeah, well," Dean shrugged. "We're all worried about him, aren't we? I'm just the one who volunteered to come."
"The only one brave enough to brave the hysterical sister?" Rose teased. Her smile felt thin as parchment on her face.
Dean blushed. "It's not – I didn't mean – "
"I know," she said, expression easing. "I'm glad Harry has such good friends. I worried about him, being in separate houses."
He coughed. "You shouldn't. I mean, he's very well-liked. Got lots of friends and things." He looked embarrassed as he pulled a basket from his schoolbag. "We, er, brought him a card and some sweets."
Rose's smile widened into something more genuine. "Oh, chocolate frogs! His favorite!"
"Yeah," he said, grinning sheepishly. "Well, I suppose I'll just…" he set the basket down hesitantly on the nightstand. She caught a glimpse of the card and saw the signatures of all the first year Gryffindors in it – even Ronald Weasley, for all that he'd been an insensitive prat.
"Thanks, Dean," Rose smiled.
"Rose?" Susan poked her head into the hospital wing. "We brought you some food," she said shyly, pushing open the door. She held it open as Justin, Ernie, and Hannah streamed inside, each carrying a tray. Hannah's tray was heaped with chocolate-covered strawberries. Rose felt a wave of affection for her friends. They knew she would've refused to leave Harry's side, so instead they'd brought food to her.
"Thanks, everyone," she murmured. "This is… It's really kind of you all to do this."
"Least we could do," Justin said easily. Susan pulled an expandable hovering table from her pocket and positioned it next to Harry's bed like a table, rounding up chairs.
"We figured if we couldn't take you to the food, we'd take the food to you," Susan grinned.
Ernie gave an uncertain nod. "It would be silly to spend all your time at his bedside, then be too weak to actually greet him when he wakes up."
"Ernie!" Hannah scolded.
"It's alright, Hannah," Rose giggled. "He sounds just like Madam Pomphrey."
Ernie looked like he didn't know whether to be pleased or offended.
"One cannot survive on sandwiches alone, though," Susan decreed. "And you're far too nice to take any of Harry's sweets, no matter how absurdly many he has."
They all took a moment to look at Harry's bedside table
Rose had known, intellectually and peripherally, that Harry was popular. He was good-looking, confident, top of his class, and humble (that last trait Remus had taken great care to impart). But it wasn't until Madam Pomphrey had had to magically expand the surface of Harry's nightstand twice that she really understood. People kept coming, bringing with them cards, candies, and flowers.
Harry had close friends in Hermione and Neville, but he was friendly with most people in first through third year. Mostly Gryffindors, but many Hufflepuffs and a not insignificant number of Ravenclaws as well.
(it warmed her, to see people hoping Harry would get well, not the Boy-Who-Lived.)
"He'll be set for life when he wakes up," Rose agreed. They grinned at each other. Her friends set down their trays on the table and started distributing the plates. Rose was warmed when she noticed her favorite foods – vegetable lasagna, apple slices, and a cup of tea that smelled remarkably like –
"Susan said it's your uncle's special blend," Hannah said, noticing her look.
"It is," Rose said, trying very hard not to cry. In her past life, Ron and Hermione had been bulwarks of support, but they'd never done little things like this. They'd never brought her her favorite foods, gone to the trouble of searching out a special tea blend, thought about her preferences in this much detail. She loved them and they'd loved her, but they'd shown it in different ways. She'd gotten used to one kind of support, and to receive another was…
The tears fell anyway. She sniffed and dabbed at her eyes with her handkerchief, giving a wet laugh when she saw their horrified faces.
"No, don't – I just – I really appreciate this," she whispered. "You're all so kind, I - "
Susan leaned over to give her a hug, Hannah following shortly after. Justin and Ernie stayed awkwardly out of reach until Hannah shot them a look and they joined the pile with only a tiny bit of reluctance.
"We're your friends," Susan said firmly.
Ernie hung back as the others left.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "For thinking you were…"
"It's alright," Rose smiled. "It's not your fault what you believed."
"I'll be better now," he promised.
"You're better already."
Rose was curled up in her seat, head in her arms, when she heard the door open.
"Diggory?" she said, squinting. It was nearly curfew.
"Hello," he said quietly. He was cupping something in his hands. He held it out to her and amber eyes peered up at her. Futhark mewed and struggled in Diggory's hands.
"Sorry," he said. "I just thought – if you wanted, er, non-human company – "
"Thanks, Diggory," Rose smiled. It was genuine – she couldn't help but smile at the sight of Futhark's tiny face. She held out her hands for the kitten, who promptly climbed into one of Rose's robe pockets and fell asleep.
"She's very clever," Diggory said awkwardly. "Well, er, that's all. Hope your brother gets better soon."
"Thanks," she smiled. In her pocket, she felt the rumble of tiny purrs.
It took two days for Harry to wake up.
"'lo, Rosie," he murmured groggily. "'ou al'righ'?" Green eyes blinked blearily up at her. They weren't the same as hers – Harry's practically glowed, brilliant spots of colour on his brown face. Even with his eyes half-closed with tiredness, they took her breath away.
Rose tightened her grip on Harry's hand, choking on a sob.
"You nearly died, Hare-bear," she whispered. She sniffled. The tears she'd been unable to cry began falling at the sheer overwhelming relief that suffused her – Harry was alive, Harry was awake, Harry's pulse was beating steadily against her fingers.
"'Dun cry," Harry slurred. His arm twitched as if he wanted to wipe the tears from her face. With great effort, Harry peered at her, brow furrowing unhappily.
"Go back to sleep, Harry," she whispered. "I'll be here when you wake up." Idiot boy, she thought. He'd nearly died, had just woken up for the first time in forty-eight hours, and the very first thing he did was check on her. Silly, wonderful, thoughtful boy.
"M'kay," Harry mumbled. "Luv 'ou, 'osie." His eyes slid shut. Rose stared down at him.
"Love you too, Harry," she whispered.
A/N: fuck this, I want to get through year one. time to post THE ENTIRE YEAR haha
(also it occurred to me that I'd be kind of impatient if an author kept dangling over two completed books in front of me and told me I could only get one chapter a week, oops)
(worry not! I'm not going to abandon this - I'm almost done writing year 3)
Harry was let out of the hospital wing just in time to go home for Yule. They were lucky that Hogwarts ended in time for them to celebrate Yule – it was on the 21st this year. They met Sirius with a tackle on the platform, apparating directly to the Manor.
Rose gasped at the sight. She'd never gotten used to the look of Potter Manor over Yule and hoped she never did. It looked incredible – its delicate, gliding stones sheltered with a blanket of snow, icicles gleaming in the sun. As they walked up to the front doors, an evergreen wreath hung from the door, a small bell at its center. It gave a soft, clear chime as they opened the door, the bells specially made to synergize with the energy of Yule and bring the area's magic into harmony. The witchlights illuminating the hallways had strings of ice and snowflakes hanging from them. In the corner of the living room, an enormous pine tree stood, fairies sitting and twittering upon its branches. At the top of the tree was another witchlight, this one charmed to look like the sun.
On the night of the 21st, they burned the Yule log at sunset. Andromeda, Ted Tonks, and Dora (who'd lost a bet with Rose when the latter was eight, and thereafter had allowed Rose to call her Dora) had flooed over. The Yule log was oak this year, for strength and wisdom. Last year, with Dora applying to the aurors, it had been pine for prosperity. They stood outside in the frigid winter air, a gentle falling of snow dusting their hair, making a circle around the Yule log. Sirius set it alight with a silent incendio, and together they prayed to the sunset as the Yule log burned.
"The longest night has come once more,
the sun is set, and darkness fallen.
The trees are bare, the earth asleep,
and the skies are cold and black.
Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,
embracing the darkness that enfolds us.
We welcome the night and all that it holds,
as the light of the stars shines down."
Then, Rose as youngest, began the first line of the second prayer:
"I am grateful for that which I have."
"I am not sorrowful for that which I do not."
"I have more than others, less than some, but regardless,"
"I am blessed with what is mine," everyone finished. Dora laughed and turned her hair a blinding white. The fire of the log had flared when they'd begun to speak. Now, as their prayers ended and the sun descended beneath the horizon, the log had burnt down to a stump already. As it smoldered, Sirius carefully levitated it into a box for next Yule, where the last bit would be burned.
They went back to the manor, talking and laughing. There was also the issue of –
"What do you mean you haven't played any pranks?"
"I think Snape would have me in detention for the rest of my life if I did," Harry said idly.
"Not if you don't get caught," Sirius argued.
"He'd assume it was me anyway," Harry had sighed.
"No, he'd assume it was the Weasley twins," Rose corrected, grinning. "Harry's just lazy."
"Oi! I don't see you playing any pranks."
"Au contraire, I'm in the middle of the best one. I am, after all, a snake in badger's clothes."
That had gotten a round of laughs. Sirius had resumed hounding Harry on the subject of pranks until the elves brought in the feast, and then they all fell silent for a bit while they ate.
When she got back to school, she trained. She was devouring books on healing, rousing herself before dawn to run around the Quidditch pitch. She found that core of iron the Dursleys had forged and Voldemort refined and did not break. She started missing meals in the Great Hall, but that was fine – the kitchens were less than a minute away from her dorms, after all. She brewed Invigoration Draft for energy in the Room of Requirement and drank as often as she dared, toeing the line of addiction. She noticed the pallor of her skin and spent three hours forcing her magic to re-learn how to cast a glamour.
$You are suffering, Red One$, Macha had hissed.
$Harry was hurt$, she whispered. $He nearly died and all I could do was watch$
$So you kill yourself in his place?$
$I'm not dying$
$Your body is not dying but your soul is withering. He would not want this for you if he knew$
$Don't tell him$, Rose had ordered immediately. She felt the magic of the familiar bond tighten; Macha could not disobey a direct order.
(she hoped Macha would forgive her)
It didn't matter anyway. It took Harry a week to notice, and then another week to do more than hound her. He dragged her to the hospital wing and demanded Madam Pomphrey look at her.
(she had fooled everyone, even Sprout, but she'd never been able to fool Harry)
"Foolish girl," Madam Pomphrey had whispered. "How can you protect your brother when you can barely take care of yourself?"
Rose wondered if Madam Pomphrey had been a Slytherin. She'd homed in awfully quickly on the reason for her exhaustion, although maybe it had been obvious.
"I'm not ill," Rose said stubbornly. "I've been checking myself every day with an enuntio and I'm fine."
Madam Pomphrey's eyes narrowed. "You're learning healing?"
"I don't want to be helpless again," Rose said. "I'm not a fighter."
(she had been, once, but she'd seen too much blood spilled, seen too many of her friends die)
(she wasn't afraid to kill but knew that every life she took was someone's child, someone's friend. No one went through life untouched)
(she was tired)
"Which books have you been reading?"
Rose told her. Madam Pomphrey pursed her lips. "Adderworth's book isn't worth the parchment it's written on. Zheng's better. Wait a moment-" she hurried back to her office, ignoring Harry's question, and came back a moment later holding a book. Rose made to grab it, but Madam Pomphrey held it out of her reach.
"I have conditions, Miss Potter. You will see me every Friday after your last class. You will miss no more than two meals in the Great Hall each week, spend at least one hour a day relaxing, and if I tell you to rest, you will rest. Adhere to these conditions and not only will I recommend you books, I will consider further tuition."
It wasn't even a decision. Poppy Pomphrey was one of the most celebrated healers of the modern world.
"So mote," Rose said.
"So mote," Madam Pomphrey smiled. It was a predator's smile.
Sensing her vow, her magic thrummed.
"Finally going to show me where you've been hiding?" Harry teased. There was still a tension between them – Rose hoped that this would help lessen it. They were on the seventh floor, in front of the tapestry depicting Barnabas the Barmy trying to teach trolls ballet.
She smiled and walked three times in front of the blank stretch of wall across the tapestry.
I need a place to practice dueling.
I need a place to practice dueling.
I need a place to practice dueling.
A door melted into existence. Rose took great joy in Harry's awed expression.
"Sirius and Remus never said anything about this!"
"That's because they didn't know," Rose said smugly. "I asked one of the house elves – they call it the Come and Go Room."
(it had taken her six tries to be able to open the door without being overwhelmed by the roar of fiendfyre, the memory of screams, the feeling of a broomstick gripped in her sweaty hands - )
(Crabbe had died here, she thought. Had died, will die, might die)
They stepped into the room. It was wide, with a tall ceiling, well-lit with witchlights floating above them. There were a series of mirrors floating around on the far end. Their size and speed were variable, as was their curvature. The goal was to aim for the mirrors, which would reflect your spell back at you. She wasn't sure how it worked – they seemed to get more difficult the more she improved.
Harry's mouth was hanging open. "This is incredible," he breathed.
"Isn't it? I've been practicing my dueling here."
"You better be showing me this to invite me to join."
"But of course, big brother! Come, let us duel!"
"… You're ridiculous, Rosie."
(she held back, but still wiped the floor with him)
(Harry had eyed her and said next time, don't go easy on me)
The look on Rose's face when she saw Filch scrubbing at the wall outside the library was nothing short of evil.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Filch," she said shyly, fiddling with the strap of her bag.
Filch looked up and glared at her. "Potter," he grunted.
"Sorry to bother you," she said, biting on the inside of her cheek. "But I was wondering if you got my present? And I wanted to ask what you celebrated over the holidays, since I wasn't sure."
His voice didn't soften but his eyes did. "I did. Yule."
Rose lit up and wasn't even faking it this time. "Oh, that's wonderful! I hope you enjoy it, Mr. Filch, and happy late Yule!"
He grunted but Rose beamed at him anyways as she practically skipped to the library. She hadn't thought to get Filch on her side in her past life. Silly of her – she knew how the downtrodden latched onto any bit of kindness, after all. She hoped he wouldn't find out about her arrangement with Peeves – perhaps she could play it off as the innocent little girl who'd been tricked by the mean old poltergeist, but it'd damage her in his eyes anyways and she wasn't willing to risk it. Just because she had a backup plan didn't mean she wanted to use it, after all.
She found Theodore and Greengrass at their usual table and slid in across from them, pulling out a roll of parchment for her History of Magic essay.
A shadow fell over her. Rose studiously ignored it, until a hand reached over her head and made to grab her essay. She twisted in her seat and scowled at Zabini. He ignored her, face twisting into a sneer.
"You can't possibly think that Alfred of Wessex's ascension to the throne contributed to the famine of 892."
Rose narrowed her eyes at him. "Oh? Whyever not? Have you looked at his tax policies?"
"Dragons burned down half the country, I really don't think tax policies – "
Across from them, Theodore and Greengrass were trying to hush them.
"Well the policies made things worse, didn't they – "
"If they did, the effect was so small as to be negligible – "
"And how did you figure that – "
"This is the last time I'm throwing you out before I get you all banned for good!" Madam Pince hissed, descending upon them like the dragon that'd once burnt half the country. Rose glared at Zabini, packing her things in a huff.
"Told you," Theodore muttered.
"Don't pout at me, Potter, I was kicked out too – "
"Only because you insisted on having an argument with me!"
"It takes two to argue."
They glared at each other for a moment before Rose started giggling. She sent Filch a "Goodbye Mr. Filch!" as they left.
"That's the most ridiculous way I've ever gotten myself kicked out before," she confessed.
Greengrass' eyebrows raised in interest. "Perfect Potter has gotten kicked out of the library before?"
Rose made a face. "Don't call me that, but yes, my friends and I trend towards gossip as inevitably as the universe trends towards chaos."
Zabini squinted. "Isn't that a muggle theory?"
"Well, seeing as I learned it at a muggle school, I'm not surprised. And how would you know about that anyway?"
"I read, Potter, not every Slytherin thinks muggles are beasts."
"I know," Rose said, biting her lip guiltily. "I didn't mean to imply – it came out wrong. Sorry," she added apologetically.
There was an awkward pause, before Zabini said, "Well, don't do it again."
"Yes, sir!" Rose said, giving him a salute. She liked Zabini – he was funny and arguing with him was some of the best fun she'd had all year. "Er – where are we going?"
"I wanted to ask you about Charms, Rose," Theodore said. "I've got a study space in the dungeons, if you want to join."
Greengrass and Zabini gave him wide eyed looks. Theodore rolled his eyes dismissively.
"Don't look at me like that, you know she's trustworthy."
Rose sent them a questioning glance as they headed towards the dungeons. Greengrass took it upon herself to explain.
"Every Slytherin is expected to find and personalize their own study space in the dungeons," she said primly. "It's a great honor to be shown another's space, and an even greater honor for non-Slytherins."
"It's really rare," Zabini emphasized. "Not even siblings always know the other's spaces."
"Oh," Rose said softly. "Thank you, Theodore. You won't regret this, I promise."
Theodore grinned. "You should know, though, that if you and Blaise get into another argument, I'm kicking both of you out for good."
"Absolutely no history discussions," Rose vowed. Zabini looked down his nose at her snobbily.
"It will be difficult to endure your ignorance, but if I must."
"Shut up, Zabini."
The path Theodore took twisted and wound its way through the dungeons. They passed the student potions labs, abandoned classrooms, something that looked suspiciously like cells, before finally –
"Here we are!" Theodore said with a sarcastic flourish. He pulled aside a tapestry of Wendelin the Weird and pushed on a brick behind it. The brick sank into the wall, and a whole section of it rippled and vanished, revealing a medium-sized alcove with a window, desk, and several chairs.
"How on earth did you find this place?" Rose said, eyebrows raised. She realized in retrospect that she probably could've found something like this for her friends, instead of going through Professor Sprout.
"My father told me," Theodore said shortly. There was an edge to his voice that told her to change the subject.
"It's interesting," she said. "Want to see if I can find you a sofa?"
Greengrass frowned. "We've looked through most of the abandoned classrooms. Any sofas that might've been there were either too old or already taken by the upper years."
"You sure about that?" she grinned. "Mimsy!"
At her name, the house elf appeared with a crack. "Miss Rosie is calling for Mimsy?"
"Yes," Rose smiled. "You see, my friends have got this alcove, but they couldn't find any sofas or cushions for it. I was wondering if you would be so kind as to – "
Mimsy beamed. "Absolutely, Miss Rosie!" She snapped her fingers and a plush green sofa and loveseat appeared, along with a low table.
"Thank you ever so much, Mimsy," Rose gushed. "How's Mittens?"
"Mittens is doing well, Miss Rosie!" Mimsey beamed. "She is catching many mouses again!"
"Brilliant," she grinned. "Well, I let you go back to your work now – "
The elf disappeared with another crack, leaving only the stunned faces of three Slytherins before her.
"… I thought the house elves didn't obey students," Theodore said at last, eyes wide.
"Mimsy's a friend," Rose grinned. "And friends help each other out."
"You're friends with a house elf?" Greengrass asked skeptically.
"Her cat had kittens and a friend and I took one in," she explained.
"Of course," Zabini said dryly. "A house elf friend. Why didn't we think of that?"
Rose pulled a face. "Don't get snappy with me just because you never thought of it."
"No arguments," Theodore said firmly. "Rose, thank you for the sofa, and send my compliments to… "
"Mimsy," she said helpfully.
"… Mimsy," he said. "Daphne, Blaise, stop interrogating her and enjoy it."
Rose giggled. Greengrass rolled her eyes.
"Yes, mum," Greengrass sighed.
"And," Theodore added, casting a stern look over them. "I think it's time you lot are on a first-name basis, don't you?"
"Yes, mum," Rose sighed in the exact same tone. She and Greengrass looked at each other and giggled.
"Hello, Blaise" Blaise mimicked in a falsetto. "Ow!"
Daphne, tucking her wand away, sent Rose a smirk that she returned.
After that, Blaise and Daphne began openly greeting her in the corridors and before class, ignoring the looks they got from everyone else. Rose greeted them back four times as enthusiastically to compensate, often eliciting an eye-roll or two. This open association came in handy one day in late January, when she was heading towards the library for her study group.
A squeal – high-pitched, feminine, young. Rose was running before she knew what was happening.
Wait, a voice told her just before she rounded the corner. Wait and see what the situation is.
You can't afford to be reckless.
Fine, Rose thought. She peered around the corner and saw a first year Slytherin – Pansy Parkinson? – getting hexed by Cameron Ogden, a fifth-year Hufflepuff.
"Ogden," she called. "What's going on?"
Ogden turned, grinning. "Potter. Want to help me teach this snake a lesson?"
"A lesson in what?" she frowned in apparent confusion.
A flicker of incomprehension. Ogden frowned at her.
"Well, her father's a Death Eater," he said, as if speaking to a particularly stupid child.
"But – but Parkinson herself – she can't be that bad, surely? I – I'm friends with Blaise Zabini, and he's – well, if Blaise is alright, then I don't see why Parkinson - " she admitted shamefully, calling a flush to her face and biting her lip.
Ogden looked exasperated and a little uncomfortable. "Listen, Potter, you know she's probably been raised the same way – "
"She's in my year, though," Rose said. "I don't – she seems alright. It just… it feels wrong." She looked up at Ogden with big, imploring green eyes, and he crumbled.
"Ugh – alright – fine, Potter, you – " he sighed exasperatedly. "Just let me know if one of them annoys you, yeah?"
"I will," she said shyly. "Thanks, Ogden."
He shook his head and stowed his wand away, brushing her as he passed. She knew he thought she was a naïve little girl who'd one day come to her senses, but that was fine. She couldn't afford to make enemies right now – once she'd built up her reputation, she'd be able to take a more heavy-handed approach.
She dispelled the jinxes on Parkinson and held out a hand. The other girl glared at her.
"I don't need your pity, Potter," she spat, getting up herself.
Rose shrugged, dropping her naïve-little-girl mask, her perfect-Hufflepuff one sliding seamlessly in place. "Not pity, just a sense of fairness," she said, flashing a smile. "See you around, Parkinson."
Time passed. She met Madam Pomphrey every week; she and Harry kept her frenzy quiet. Rose had fooled everyone else and both were wary of showing the world how well she could lie. (Rose thought Harry was reassured by her inability to lie to him; he knew what she was, though, and loved her for it)
(not the reincarnation. No one knew about the reincarnation)
(but Harry knew that for all she acted happy and friendly and sociable, she would smile just as widely at an enemy writhing in pain at her feet)
(she might be tired of death but everything else was fair game)
(she wondered if Harry was ever afraid of her)
(he wasn't. He hid it better, didn't embrace it as she did, but they had once been the same)
(she would figure it out one day)
(but not yet)
Of course, no matter how much she'd hoped, Harry wouldn't just let go of the fact that Rose had been ready and willing to run herself into the ground to try and protect him. He dragged her into the Room of Requirement one day in February, made to look like her bedroom at Potter Manor. It was large and airy, sunlight streaming in through the windows. Above them, stars glittered on the ceiling, motes of light occasionally breaking off and drifting lazily to the ground. In a corner next to the windows, the wooden floor turned abruptly to rock. They had converted a corner of her room into a rocky outcrop over a small pond. Macha loved sunning herself on the rocks, stretching out her wings, and was (surprisingly, given the wings) a graceful swimmer. The Room couldn't create life, but in the real Potter Manor that pond held little fish. Sometimes Sirius snuck in a frog and they'd all wake up to her screams when it inevitably made its way onto her face.
It felt too cheerful a place for this conversation, but both of them felt safe here. When they were younger (and even now sometimes), Harry would sneak into her room at night when he couldn't sleep.
Harry sat beside her on the bed, staring down at his hands. He looked lost and confused and hurt, and Rose looked away; she couldn't bear to see his face.
"Why would you do something like that?" Harry asked quietly.
"You almost died," she whispered. "You almost died, and I couldn't do anything but watch."
"It was an accident," Harry said. "I'm fine now, aren't I?"
(No, it wasn't, she wanted to say. It was Quirrell, she wanted to say)
(but this Harry had never been challenged to a midnight duel. He didn't know about Fluffy. Hagrid had not taken him to Gringotts to pick up a grubby little package. He had not hovered over the forbidden forest on his broom, overhearing a conversation. He told her about the pains in his scar but rolled his eyes when she tried to warn him about Quirrell)
("He's pathetic," Harry had said.
"He only seems pathetic. Harry, please."
"I still think you're being paranoid, Rosie, but I'll be careful around him, how about that?")
"You're fine this time. What about the next time? I need to be ready to –" She spoke quickly, words tripping over each other in her haste to get them out, wanting him to understand -
"To what? Save me? That's not your job, Rose. Sirius and Remus –"
"Weren't here this time. What if next time this happens, I'm all alone? What if I run for help and you die in the meantime?"
(it was her job, though)
(Harry was her, she was Harry – they were twins, two parts of a single soul, one and the same)
"… You still shouldn't have pushed yourself so hard."
"I won't anymore. Madam Pomphrey and I made a deal."
Harry raised his head and stared at her. "I meant that I don't ever want you to put your life at risk for someone else again. Not even me."
"I wasn't about to die, Harry. I'm fine."
"You're fine this time," Harry echoed. "If you die for me, I'll never forgive you."
She met his gaze with equal resolve.
"Then I'll die happy, because at least you'll be alive to resent me."
(is what she wanted to say)
But Rose remembered that, no matter how old he acted, her brother was still a child. He was eleven. He didn't need that kind of weight on his shoulders, not when he had an unknown prophecy hanging over his head already.
(how like Dumbledore, her mind sneered, to keep things from him for the Greater Good)
(shut up, she told it fiercely)
She leaned forward and hugged him tightly. Harry hugged her back just as hard, his fingers digging into her back.
"Don't die for me," he said quietly. "Promise."
Rose closed her eyes. "I promise," she said.
(she hoped she could keep that promise)
"Good," Harry said. "Now tell me what I can do to help."
"The incantation for the Locking Spell is colloportus," Professor Flitwick squeaked. "The wand movement, as you can see in your books on page 231, is the swish and jab we've been practicing. Please practice on the locks in front of you."
"Colloportus," Rose said, swishing and jabbing. The lock in front of her closed with a click.
"One point to Hufflepuff," Professor Flitwick smiled. "Well done, Miss Potter. Perhaps you could unlock it as well?"
They hadn't covered the Unlocking Charm yet. At this point, Rose thought the professor just wanted to give her an opportunity to show off.
"Alohomora," Rose said, pointing her wand at the lock. It clicked open, and Flitwick awarded Hufflepuff another point.
"Teacher's pet," Justin coughed beside her. Rose pulled a face at him but didn't deny it.
"Jealousy is unbecoming," she teased. She ran through Justin's most recent attempt in her mind. "Try pronouncing the 'p' more."
"Coll-o-PORT-us," Justin said. His lock clicked closed and he beamed. "I take it back, you're brilliant."
"Thanks, Justin," she laughed. On her other side, Susan gave an audible sigh of exasperation.
By the time class had ended, Rose had won Hufflepuff an additional five points for helping her classmates. Roger Malone and Sally-Anne Perks grinned at her in thanks as they streamed out of the class and headed down the stairs towards the Great Hall. Rose allowed herself to be drawn into a discussion on the Locking Spell with Padma Patil, who'd gotten it soon after she had, and pretended not to notice she'd been heading towards the Ravenclaw table until Susan called her name tentatively.
Rose glanced up as if in surprise, then looked back at Padma.
"There's no rule about sitting with other Houses," she ventured. Padma, bless her soul, sent Susan a reassuring grin.
"You can't be asking a Ravenclaw to cut off an intellectual discussion," she gasped dramatically. Susan laughed.
"Never. I suppose we'll see you in Potions, then?"
"Yes. Thanks, Susan!" Rose beamed. On the inside, she was cackling. She turned back to Padma.
"Anyway, I really don't think muggle lockpicks would work on a lock locked with the spell. Colligo means 'to bind' in Latin, not cincinno, which is 'to lock,' which implies that it's a binding spell, not just a locking one."
"And you think that 'to bind' implies some sort of continuity?"
"That's exactly what I think. You know, we could just ask around to see if anyone knows a muggle lockpicking technique," Rose laughed. Padma pouted.
"But this debate is so interesting!"
"Maybe later, then," Rose acquiesced. Padma laughed.
Madam Pomphrey had been one of the few adults Rose had been able to trust. When she'd returned to Hogwarts for her seventh (eighth? No one was ever quite sure) year, they'd learned about supplement potions. She'd recognized the potion as one of the more common ones Madam Pomphrey had given her during her many stays – its bright pink was very distinctive. Next time she'd landed herself in the hospital wing (someone had pushed Draco Malfoy down the stairs. He would've broken his neck had she not broken his fall), Madam Pomphrey had tried to give her another supplement potion.
"I don't think I need it anymore," she'd told her. "I'm never going back there."
Madam Pomphrey had frowned at her. "I hadn't been aware you'd gotten your Healing license, Miss Potter."
Rose had relented. Later she'd learned about the long-lasting effects of malnutrition, which the supplement potion worked to mitigate, and cried in Hermione's arms for fifteen minutes.
Ron, bless his tactless heart, had been far more concerned with the reason she had ended up there in the first place.
"The ferret?" He'd said in disbelief. "You hurt yourself to save the ferret?"
Rose had shrugged. "I couldn't just watch him die."
Ron and Hermione had exchanged a look. Hermione had sighed about her 'saving people thing'. Ron had made her swear to never do it again.
("… You haven't got a crush on him or anything, do you?"
"What?! It's a valid question! Are we sure she hasn't been dosed with a love potion? She's never given a rat's arse about Malfoy before and now she's breaking his falls with her own body."
"I don't have a crush on Draco Malfoy, Ron."
"… That's exactly what you'd say if you did.")
(he'd been a prejudiced git, but he'd abandoned her twice and both times he'd come back. He'd never left her again after that, had defended her ferociously against anyone who would criticize her)
(he had just proposed to Hermione before Rose had been ki-)
(no, her mind whispered. Don't go there. Not yet)
The day after her and Harry's talk, they gathered their friends in the Study Room. Rose had finally decided to come clean.
(as well as she could, anyway; some things she couldn't tell anyone about)
"Does this mean you're finally going to tell us what you've been up to?" Hermione asked.
Rose stared. "What."
"We know you better than that, Rose," Hermione said disapprovingly. Behind her, Harry smirked.
"Neville and I convinced her not to push," Theodore said. He sipped his tea, looking the epitome of the lounging, snobbish pureblood. "We figured we'd wait 'til Harry got out of the hospital wing to knock some sense back into your head."
"… and if he hadn't been able to?"
"I'm afraid we can't tell you that, Rose," Hermione said primly. She tucked a stray curl behind her ear. "There's no guarantee this won't happen again, although I must say I'm glad it didn't come to that."
That sounded… horrifyingly ominous. She glanced at Harry, who evidently hadn't known by the look on his face: a mixture of awe and fear. Rose could relate.
"… I thought I was being subtle," Rose said weakly. Did these eleven-year-old versions of her friends really know her that well? That's unfair, Rose reprimanded herself. Hermione, Neville, and Theodore were people in their own right; they weren't just undeveloped copies. They were different people too, having been through different experiences.
(she seemed to forget that all too often)
"No one apart from us and Susan noticed," Hermione reassured her.
"Susan noticed?" Rose said in disbelief. Had everything she'd thought been a lie?
"Of course she noticed, you share a room with her!"
"You're being awfully slow today," Theodore noted idly. "Are you feeling alright?"
"No. My entire image of myself has been shaken!" Everything she'd thought had been a lie. She was definitely not alright, her brain was a half-sentence away from leaking out her ears!
Harry sighed. "She's being dramatic. She's just shocked she's not the cleverest, sneakiest person in the world. Give her a moment."
Hermione hummed sympathetically. "Well, it had to happen sometime."
Neville snorted softly. "You're one to talk. Didn't you have an identity crisis when Rose beat you in Transfiguration?"
"… I got over it, didn't I?"
"You didn't speak to her for three days."
"Shut up, Harry."
Theodore looked delighted. "Oh? Why haven't I heard about this? What a delightful piece of gossip."
"… You're a prat, Nott."
(she spent four days in a horrified daze, reconfiguring her self-image)
(they waited for her patiently and she loved them for it)
She didn't forget about Susan, of course.
("Does this mean I can finally know where you're sneaking off to all the time?"
"... I didn't realize you'd noticed."
"Hermione's right, you really are thick sometimes. I live with you, Rose. What kind of idiot would I be if I hadn't noticed my roommate regularly disappearing for hours?")
(she asked her friends if she could invite Susan into their group.
"Finally," Hermione exclaimed.
"Maybe now she'll stop bothering us for information all the time," Neville sighed.
"As long as she doesn't curse me on sight," Theodore said.
Harry, the little shit, cackled)
She got them back when she showed them the secret passageways though. Hearing their yelps as they were doused in a green goop was immensely satisfying. It stained, but only in places usually covered by robes. Something about the goop reacted oddly to the enchantments woven into robes (she wasn't entirely sure). Remus had modified an existing potion and sent it to her when she'd promised photos.
She sent them.
Remus charmed his letter to echo his laughs and she set it off when they were all in the Badger Hole.
(Theodore had won over Harry and Susan had immediately taken to the name. With Neville as neutral mediator, she and Hermione hadn't stood a chance)
Neville had gotten a new wand over Yule. His spells were ridiculously overpowered, as he'd been shoving his magic through a glorified stick this whole time, so they all agreed he ought to learn control before practicing dueling and learning spells with the rest of them. He'd grinned sheepishly, but there was a pleased flush on his cheeks. His confidence had improved dramatically with evidence of his magic and the support of his friends.
Of course, there were still accidents.
"Sorry, sorry, I didn't think it'd be that explosive – "
"It's the exploding spell, Longbottom, what do you mean 'you didn't think it'd be explosive'?!")
(or, Rose thought, examining the pleased glint in Neville's eye, they weren't really accidents at all)
(which… well, fair enough. Theodore didn't exactly hold back with his snark)
Her lessons with Madam Pomphrey were going well. As Ostara passed, Rose had finally gone beyond theory and basic diagnostic charms and had begun medical and healing spells. Of course, just because she'd begun medical spells didn't mean she was good at them. It was a novelty to not get a spell perfectly correct within the first five attempts – for all that it was disheartening, there was a small part of Rose that kind of liked it.
"Show me your bandaging charm," Madam Pomphrey ordered. They were in the hospital wing, which was empty, surprisingly enough.
"Ferula," Rose cast. Bandages appeared out of thin air and wrapped around the leg of the dummy in front of her.
Madam Pomphrey cast a silent aguamenti. The bandages shed the water at first but soon soaked through.
"Better," Madam Pomphrey smiled.
Rose wilted. "They're soaked."
"But still in place." She tapped the tip of Rose's nose. "Don't look so glum, Miss Potter. You've made astounding improvement."
Rose sighed but she was slightly cheered. She had had no idea ferula could be so complex. A simple one conjured plain cotton bandages and eased the pain slightly. Madam Pomphrey's ferula were water-, fire-, and dirt-resistant, eased pain moderately, and absorbed a small fraction of any residual damaging magic.
"Ferula can be used for more than broken bones," Madam Pomphrey had told her. "Cast it on a snake bite to draw out a bit of the venom. Cast it on a wound from diffindo that episkey won't heal and it'll keep the wound stabilized and slow blood loss. Depending on the relative power of the diffindo and ferula, it might even heal the wound a bit."
"Thank you, Madam Pomphrey," Rose said earnestly. "I really appreciate this."
There was an amused glint in Madam Pomphrey's eye. "Don't thank me just yet, Miss Potter. We've only spoken about a few simple charms for physical ailments. There's still spell damage and countercurses, magical creatures, and potions accidents. There's plenty more to learn."
"I look forward to it," she beamed.
The matron gave her a small smile. "Read chapter 5 of Everyday Healing for next week, Miss Potter. Run along now."
Rose grinned and left with a spring in her step.
Harry and Rose stayed at school over the Easter break. With exams coming up in just over a month, they'd been inundated with enough study schedules from Hermione that that fact had been ingrained into their brains. Studying, however, was a cruel and unusual form of torture for Rose. This was first year material, after all, and she'd already re-learned the theory in far more detail than she had the first time around just by paying attention during class and doing her homework. It was shocking how much that did to further her comprehension – studying now felt like a monotonous review, and she often had to go to the Room of Requirement and blow up a few stone columns just to let off some steam. She tried to keep her boredom discreet though – many of her friends in the study group were legitimately studying, and it'd be rude to showcase her knowledge so openly. Exams themselves were just as easy – Rose would be incredibly ashamed of herself if she scored anything less than Outstanding.
In all honesty… she'd forgotten about the dragon.
"Guys," Harry said, slamming his hands down onto the table. "You would not believe what Hagrid just did."
"Oh, no," Neville sighed. Hermione patted him on the back sympathetically.
"He's got a dragon," Harry said emphatically. "An actual dragon egg. It's sitting in his bloody fireplace right now."
Susan stared. "… but it's illegal to keep a dragon in Britain," she said weakly.
Theodore rolled his eyes. "Honestly, I'm more concerned with the fact that soon there'll be a baby dragon on the grounds."
"He lives in a wooden house," Hermione said miserably.
"Believe me, I know," Harry sighed. "But he won't be moved. Which is why I need your help."
"I'm not helping you smuggle a dragon out of Hogwarts," Rose said firmly. She couldn't believe she'd forgotten about Norbert, but in her defence she'd lived through twenty years since it'd happened. The Norbert thing had been a catastrophe all-round though, especially since –
"No one saw you, did they?" She asked worriedly.
"I'm not that stupid," Harry scoffed. "I have ways of staying hidden." Hermione and Neville grinned slightly, and Rose slumped with relief. Harry was far cleverer than she'd been; she doubted he'd ever leave the Invisibility Cloak lying in the Astronomy Tower.
"Anyway, I need you to help me come up with the plan to get the dragon out and keep Hagrid out of trouble."
Susan bit her lip. "Are you sure that Hagrid should get out of trouble though?" At the outraged looks coming from the Gryffindors, she hurriedly continued. "I mean, if he doesn't see anything wrong with having a dragon egg, what's stopping him from doing something like this again?"
Rose thought of the acromantula colony in the forest. She liked Hagrid, but…
"He means well," Harry said stubbornly.
"She's got a point, though," Theodore said mildly.
"I agree with Theodore," Rose put in. "Look, you know I like Hagrid as much as you do, Harry, Hermione, Neville. But you must admit that he's the kind of person who'd do something like this again if he could. I don't want him thrown in Azkaban, but I also don't want to look over my shoulder for dragons or acromantula or whatever for the next seven years."
"I think we should go to the Headmaster," Hermione said decisively. "He let Hagrid stay on after he was expelled, didn't he? He'll know what to do."
Everyone hesitated. They all disliked the Headmaster's politics but…
"I think it's a good idea," Neville said hesitantly. "I'm not his biggest fan, but I'm pretty sure he does care about Hagrid. He's also Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot; he won't let Hagrid get thrown in Azkaban."
Susan made a face. "No offense, but I'd like to stay out of it if that's alright. I'm not that close to Hagrid and my Aunty doesn't want me near the Headmaster too much anyway."
"What? Why?" Hermione said, then blushed at the looks she got.
Later, Susan mouthed at her.
"My dad would flay me if he found out," Theodore sighed. "Sorry." He didn't sound very apologetic at all.
"Fine," Hermione said. "Harry, Rose…?"
"I'm the witness, aren't I?" Harry said.
"I suppose we don't have a choice," Rose sighed.
"Make sure Hagrid understands he can't do this again, alright?" Susan asked. "I'll have to tell my Auntie otherwise."
Hermione grimaced. "Don't worry, Susan. We'll make that very clear."
In the end, Norbert was smuggled to Romania. Rose wasn't sure how, but she supposed Dumbledore must've had a lot of connections. He said he would speak to Hagrid about raising dangerous creatures near schoolchildren, after they'd delivered Susan's warning. No points were lost, and so no one became pariahs. The whole thing made her wonder about how Charlie Weasley had explained the sudden appearance of a baby dragon – and exactly what sort of friends he had that he could ask them to smuggle a dragon out of another country and they'd happily drop their things and help.
During her first week, Rose had set up a simple motion-detecting ward configuration and carved it onto an edge of the trapdoor. It had never activated, meaning that either the Mirror of Erised was already in place, or Dumbledore had another way of accessing that last chamber. Personally, Rose suspected the latter. Though the trials were simple enough that a trio of first years had bypassed them, they still ate valuable time. Rose supposed that was what he'd been going for in her past life – maybe he'd planned on trapping Voldemort in that final chamber to get proof of his continued existence. With the lure of both prophecy child and Philosopher's Stone at Hogwarts, it was an undeniably clever plan that she'd admire if it hadn't put hundreds of children in danger. And if the prophecy child hadn't been her brother.
The night after her last exam, she felt it activate. She sent a silencing charm at Susan's bed curtains in a well-practiced motion, put on her shoes and robes, and ran.
"I wondered whether I'd be seeing you here, Miss Potter," Quirrell said pleasantly. "Though I must confess I expected your brother."
Rose swallowed. This was quite possibly the stupidest thing she'd ever done. It was stupid and reckless, and Sirius was going to kill her if Harry didn't get there first but –
She had to know.
"No offense, Professor," Rose said, keeping her voice steady as her heart pumped adrenaline through her veins. Every instinct she had screamed at her to run; it took everything she had to refuse. "But I'm not really here for you."
At that, he turned. His eyes had gone cold. They glowed a familiar red and she felt a spike of horror rip through her. There was no face on the back of Quirrell's turban. She didn't know if there was a Quirrell at all. She stared at the patch of skin between his eyes.
"I'd appreciate if you would explain that, Miss Potter."
She straightened. What difference did it make? She was here, she was facing Voldemort. Albeit differently than she had last time, but she'd still seen her mother craft her protection. She put her faith in Lily Potter and soldiered on. "Harry tells me everything, you know. He told me his scar hurt during the Welcoming Feast and he felt something knocking against his shields. He thought it was Snape. I disagreed."
"Yes. Snape is a Slytherin. He was so openly antagonistic to Harry that I couldn't believe he'd do a thing against him. Harry thought Snape had saved him because there were witnesses."
Terrifyingly, Quirrell – no, Voldemort – smiled. "Yes, Severus does seem the type, doesn't he? Next to him, who would suspect p-p-poor, st-stuttering, P-Professor Quirrell?" His eyes sharpened. "Only you and Severus, it would seem. I must confess I'm rather surprised you weren't in Slytherin, Miss Potter. You seem far more Slytherin than Hufflepuff."
"The Hat would agree."
"And you don't?"
"No. Everyone trusts a Hufflepuff, Professor." Rose was horrified to find herself enjoying the conversation. This man had killed her parents. He'd killed dozens, hundreds, countless innocents. But he was clever and witty and was the consummate Slytherin.
(she had always liked Slytherins)
Voldemort laughed. "Are you here to stop me, Miss Potter? I find myself reluctant to kill you; you're unexpectedly amusing."
Rose licked her lips. "I actually wanted to ask you some questions."
His eyes gleamed and grew brighter. She could feel his magic now, seductive and familiar, heavy in the air, but this Voldemort was holding a civil conversation with her. Her Voldemort had screamed and snarled and taunted, but this one watched and waited and smiled. There were no monologues. She suspected that this Voldemort would not have given her back her wand in the graveyard. "Go on, then. Ask away."
(or perhaps not? Why was he reluctant to kill her? When had reluctance ever stopped him before?)
(how well did he know her? How much had he seen?)
"Why do you let your followers kill muggleborns?"
His smiled widened. She knew he'd noticed the way she'd phrased her question. "I suspect you know the answer to that already."
"Because you need power. In our world, most of that is held by purebloods. I don't think you believe in pureblood supremacy, but you let them think you did so you had their support."
"Very good, Miss Potter," Voldemort said, giving her a slow, sarcastic clap. "Yes, the killing of muggleborns was a necessary evil."
"'There is no good or evil. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it.'"
Voldemort laughed. "I see you've found my old articles.
"Yes, they were… interesting, to say the least. But there's still one thing I don't understand: What about my brother's fall? Was that you as well?"
Voldemort tilts his head, considering. "Why do you ask?" From him, they both knew it was practically a confession.
"I want to know why," Rose whispered. She met his eyes. "You saw him lead the ritual on Samhain. You know he might be swayed to your side."
"He's a threat," Voldemort said simply. "You understand, don't you? The best way to neutralize a threat is to kill it before it kills you."
My brother is not an it.
(Voldemort had forgotten that just because she belonged in Slytherin did not mean she didn't belong in Hufflepuff)
His eyes narrowed and she went cold. The thought had drifted through her mind but – how did he – ?
"Your shields are impressive for your age," he said. "But I've been a master of legilimency for longer than you've been alive." He brought his wand down in a sudden slash and Rose dropped into a crouch, but she was too slow and was bounded by his incarcerous anyways. With another flick of his wand, she was levitated upright until she stood in front of the mirror.
"Tell me, Potter," he snarled. "What do you see?"
Now he reminded her of the Voldemort she'd known. It was almost reassuring to see his face twisted in obvious anger and impatience. Had he been acting that whole time, then? Or was this the act?
Focus, she reprimanded herself. She stared into the Mirror of Erised, and saw herself. She looked older – in her thirties, maybe. Harry stood beside her, grinning, Sirius and Remus waving over her shoulder. Her parents were there too, and Hermione, Theodore, Susan, Padma, her friends getting along regardless of House or politics or blood status. The crowd behind them stretched onwards, and she spotted Parvati, Fay Dunbar, Mandy Brocklehurst – her yearmates.
Herself, older. Her family, alive and happy. Hogwarts, united and prejudice-free.
"I see… I see my family," she whispered. She was half-expecting to get the Stone, but no – she didn't want the Stone at all, did she? She knew that if she got it, she wouldn't be able to stop Voldemort from getting it. She twisted her wrist and breathed out a diffindo, cutting her bonds as she fell to the ground. The four feet between them made all the difference – he hadn't expected a firstie to have either the skill or power to break his bonds, the Severing Charm had only just been taught, after all, and the man had gotten complacent and underestimated her.
She sprang to her feet, ducked to the side, yelled a diffindo that he dodged easily but that was fine – she was small and fast and she zigzagged the short distance between them in a burst of speed and lunged, one hand grabbing his wrist to aim it away from her and the other grabbing his face. She'd wanted to block his vision so he couldn't aim at her without risking hitting himself but –
(he had made Harry bleed)
she felt something squishy at the tip of her fingers –
(the Hat would've never put me in a House I didn't belong. I might be more Slytherin, but I choose Hufflepuff)
(because that was what it comes down to: choice)
(what kind of person do I want to be?)
Voldemort screamed. He dropped his wand and tried to push her away, but she dug her fingers in deeper and latched onto the inside of his eye socket. She felt his bones scratch at her arms. She could feel his skin burn at her touch, blackening and cracking open to the flesh beneath. She revelled in his screams.
(he had made Harry bleed)
They burned. Her entire world was pain. She forgot why she was here, who she was fighting, who she was. All she knew was that she couldn't let go.
(she had a core of pure loyalty)
(in both her lives, that had never changed)
She woke up in the study at Potter Manor, Fleamont and Euphemia's empty portrait in front of her. She was sitting in one of the armchairs, a cup of tea steaming in front of her on the desk. Across, in a chair that had once been Fleamont's and then James', Death watched her with those unfathomable eyes.
"This isn't King's Cross," she said dumbly.
"No, it isn't," he agreed. "In your past life, that platform represented change. But you've led a different life here." He tilted his head at the tea. "Drink."
She sipped at it obediently. It was Remus' special blend.
"Am I dead?"
"Almost," Death said. His voice was toneless; he could've been discussing the weather. "But not quite."
Rose stared at her cup. "Oh. Why am I here, then?"
Death tilted his head. "I wanted to see you. Of all my Masters, you're by far the most interesting."
"There are others?"
"Of course. You know there are an infinite number of worlds. It follows that there are an infinite number of people with Peverell blood who have fulfilled the requirements."
"How – ?"
"Hush," Death said absently. He was still studying her over the tips of his fingers. "You know there are easier and less painful ways to die, don't you? If you had wanted to die, all you had to do was ask."
She bristled at the condescending note in his voice. "I'm not suicidal."
"No? Then why in the name of Morrigan would you seek out Voldemort for a conversation? Did you think he'd just let you skip on your merry way afterwards?"
"I had to know if he might be persuaded to spare Harry."
"Oh, you had to, did you?" Death snarled. He was gripping his armrests tightly. The shadows darkened and quivered. "You had to – "
There was a glint of gold above her. It was the Snitch! Rose tried to lift her hand to catch it, but she blinked and –
Albus Dumbledore peered down at her. On her other side sat Harry, who looked like he hadn't slept in days.
"Pro – "she coughed, her throat dry. Wordlessly, Harry handed over a glass of water and put a straw to her lips. She drank thirstily.
"Thanks, 'arry," she mumbled. Harry said nothing. His face was eerily blank. Worried, Rose gave his hand a hesitant squeeze. "'Re you alright?"
"No," Harry said, very quietly. "I'm not at all alright. I woke up screaming in the middle of the night, feeling like I was being burned alive, and was halfway to the third floor before I crashed into Professor Dumbledore. We went to the forbidden third floor corridor, where he pulled your body off of what appeared to once be our defence professor. I couldn't tell him a thing about anything – I didn't know why you were there or what you'd been trying to do. I'm supposed to be –"
Harry's face crumpled. "I'm supposed to be your brother. You're my twin, my best friend – I thought you were dead and I had no idea how or why – " his voice broke and he curled in on himself, shaking. Rose tried to pull herself up to hug him, but realized she was covered in bandages and could barely move. She and Dumbledore watched as Harry pulled out a handkerchief and blew his nose, never letting go of her hand.
He stared at her with miserable green eyes. "Why were you even there in the first place? Were you going after – Dumbledore told me about the Philosopher's Stone - "
"Quirrell was after it," Rose said. "I didn't – I don't want eternal life -"
(Merlin, the irony)
"I don't want riches, not that we need it, you've seen how Sirius goes on – "
"Then why were you there?!" Harry cried. "Why did you try to stop him? Why not someone – anyone – else?"
I wanted to talk to Voldemort, she couldn't say. I wanted to ask him if he could spare you.
"I had to," she said weakly, knowing it wasn't good enough. Harry knew she was lying – she could see it in his eyes. He looked like she'd slapped him.
"That was a very brave thing you did, Miss Potter," Dumbledore said, speaking for the first time.
Rose met his eyes, thinking of nothing but the feel of Quirrell's skin crumbling beneath her fingers. "It was stupid. I thought – "
An idea occurred to her. A terrible, awful, wonderful idea. She'd had a plan for this, of course, but this was so much better -
"I knew he was after the Stone," she whispered, glancing away and staring at her hands. "But I wondered if – I go into the Forbidden Forest sometimes, to feed the Thestrals, and one time I overheard him and Snape talking – it sounded like Snape was threatening him. I started watching both of them after that, but then Snape saved Harry when he could've easily let him die – I saw him afterwards, he looked exhausted – so I figured he was probably fine. I – I went down the corridor the first week of school. I'd read a myth about Orpheus and how he'd gotten past the Cerberus in the underworld with music, so I sang a bit and it went straight to sleep. I'd gotten past the door with an alohamora and saw the trapdoor – I wasn't really interested in whatever it was guarding but figured it had to be important if there was a Cerberus guarding it. I added a ward to the trapdoor to let me know if anyone opened it – I figured I could run and tell a professor, since I'd been in the room for nearly twenty minutes and no one had come."
"But why didn't you?" Harry asked quietly.
She swallowed. "Because – because I remember the night our parents died," she whispered. "You know I'm sensitive to magic – one day I hung back after Defence to ask Quirrell and question and – " Rose swallowed and squeezed her eyes shut. "He felt like You-Know-Who," she whispered. She heard Harry gasp.
When she opened her eyes, Dumbledore looked grave. "As I suspected," he said. "Call him Voldemort, Miss Potter. Fear of the name increases fear of the thing itself."
"But Voldemort isn't his given name," Rose argued. "You-Know-Who makes him sound like a storybook villain."
(and I once got us captured because I forgot about the Taboo)
"Fair enough, I suppose. To each their own," Dumbledore said, looking amused. "So, you confronted him?"
"I wanted to ask him why he killed our parents," Rose whispered. "I – he came for us that night." She looked at Harry. "Us, not our parents. Mum tried – she tried to shield us – he told her to step out of the way but she wouldn't – and I never told you because I knew you'd blame yourself but I wanted to know why – " her voice broke. "Why us? We're not – we're not prodigies or geniuses or – and we were one, I didn't understand why – "
"And so, you asked," Dumbledore finished quietly. Rose nodded. She was crying. "He didn't say," she whispered. She looked up at Dumbledore.
"Sir," she said. "Do you know – do you know why – "
"Why Voldemort tried to kill you?" Dumbledore said gently. "My dear, the truth is a terrible and powerful thing. I fear at the moment you are far too young – "
"She's too young for the truth, but she's not too young to die," Harry said angrily. He glared at Dumbledore. "Rose nearly died for the truth – don't you think she deserves something?"
Dumbledore looked very sad. "You are a child – both of you. It is a heavy burden to bear –"
"I'd rather bear a heavy burden than have my sister dead," Harry said.
The Headmaster looked pained. "I must – I'm so sorry, my dear boy, but I cannot."
"No," Harry said. "You could, but you won't."
"Professor," Rose said quietly. "What happened to the stone?"
"Destroyed," Dumbledore said. "Nicolas and Perenell have enough elixir to put their affairs in order and then, they will go on to the next great adventure."
When the Headmaster left, he turned back to her. Her brother pinned her in place with his gaze.
"You're going to tell me why you lied, later," he said. His tone brooked no discussion. Rose nodded.
Harry's lips thinned. He leaned forward and hugged her gently, not allowing any of his weight to fall. He buried his face in her hair for a moment, breathing deeply. When he pulled back, his eyes gleamed with unshed tears.
"No matter why you did it," he said. "Don't do anything like that again. Not without me." His eyes narrowed at her face – she didn't know what she looked like, but from Harry's expression he didn't like it.
"I'm not a child. I might not be as good at magic as you are, but I can help you plan, at least. I…" he faltered. "I know you have secrets. I'm not asking you to tell me everything, just… tell me enough to let me help you. If you say you can't tell me something, I'll respect that, I swear." Harry's eyes were earnest, pleading. She looked at them and saw the shadow of the past few days, where he'd stayed at her side. She felt the press of his fingers against her wrist, realizing with a start that he was feeling her pulse.
Rose had always been aware of her near-fanatical loyalty towards Harry, that voice inside her that whispered to her to protect him always, at any cost. He was hers, they had once been the same soul, and the remnants of that soul-deep connection lingered in the strength of their twin bond.
She'd never once considered that it might be reciprocated.
(stupid – just because he was a Gryffindor didn't mean he was a two-dimensional cutout of bravery and recklessness)
(she didn't have the monopoly on loyalty just because she was a Hufflepuff)
"I will," she said quietly.
Harry's fingers tightened around her own. She saw something in him settle, like an exhale after holding a breath for far too long.
Rose was late to the end-of-year feast that night. She was hit, again, with a strong feeling of déjà vu. The Hall was full. An enormous green banner hung behind the High Table, the silver Slytherin serpent looking around. With a jolt, Rose realized she could hear very faint, oddly accented Parseltongue.
$Seven years in a row$, it hissed. $Salazar would be proud$
He really would, wouldn't he? Rose thought faintly. She ignored the hush that fell upon the students, sitting down between Susan and Hannah. The Hufflepuffs crowded around them, glaring at anyone who tried to stand up to get a look at her.
Rose thought about Slytherin. She thought about the way the other three houses looked at them in the hallways; how the way they grouped together had once been intimidating but now seemed defensive. There were bigots in that house, she knew, but the rest were just children. Children who'd been unfortunate enough to want to make something more of themselves, children like Tom Riddle who'd looked at themselves and thought I want to be more than this, children like Marcus Flint who'd played Quidditch the first time and thought this is what I want to do forever.
Even in her first life, Rose had nearly been a Slytherin. She'd grown up watching the people around her, picking her words carefully, a series of calculations running through her mind at all times. Was Uncle Vernon angry? How was he holding himself? Which words did he use, and which did he not use? She'd carefully manipulated herself to be in situations where Dudley couldn't attack her without looking bad – she'd looked at what other children had that got them the affection of adults and she'd practiced until she'd charmed the school librarian into letting her stay inside during recess – Dudley could get her before and after school, but during recess she was safe. Safety had been hiding in the quiet and shadows, waiting for the monsters to pass. Safety had been knowing when to strike and when to back down. Safety had been intertwined with cunning, and she'd developed the latter as she sought the former.
Then she'd learnt her parents' murderer had come from Slytherin. It was the very first thing she'd heard about the house, and when her first friend backed that up, she'd locked away Rose-of-the-Cupboard and become the Girl-Who-Lived. She'd bowed to the expectations of others, because she'd been alone so long that she clung to the first person who'd offered their hand.
("There's not a single witch or wizard who went bad, who wasn't in Slytherin," Hagrid had told her)
(Hagrid, who had taken her from the arms of Sirius Black)
(Hagrid, who had given her her first birthday gift, rescued her from the Dursleys, introduced her to her birthright)
("imagine if they put me in Slytherin," Ron had said disgustedly)
(Ron, who had left)
(Ron, who had come back)
She wondered how many other Slytherins were like her. She wondered how many would-be Slytherins had gone instead to Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Gryffindor, children who'd been warned away from the house of snakes because they were evil.
(as if snakes attacked unprovoked)
She looked at Dumbledore as he recited the points tally. The last-minute points had seemed a great gift in her past life. It was only later that she'd recognized the manipulation for what it had been: a reward for recklessly putting herself and others in danger. A slap in the face to the Slytherins who'd worked against the mistrust to claw their way up the leaderboard. A cruel, cruel thing to do, to offer something and snatch it away at the last possible moment, especially to people who defined themselves by the strength of their want.
"… and in first place, Slytherin, with four hundred and seventy-two."
The Slytherins cheered. She saw Malfoy banging his goblet on the table. Once she had been sickened by it. Now she looked past Malfoy and saw Theodore cheering, Blaise laughing, and Daphne smiling.
(Theodore, who could see the Thestrals; Blaise, who joked and flirted but dreamed of histories untold and treasures unknown; Daphne, with a mask like ice but who loved with all the heat and passion of fiendfyre)
"Yes, yes, well done, Slytherin," said Dumbledore. "However, recent events – "
"Congratulations, Slytherin!" Rose yelled, interrupting Dumbledore unapologetically. She wasn't going to let him take this from them – she couldn't. "You beat us this time, but Hufflepuff'll show you next year!"
There was a moment of brief, shocked, affronted silence before -
"You wish, Potter!" Blaise retorted. She felt a rush of gratitude for him – he could afford to be seen with her now; she was top of their year, well-connected, and took part in the Old Ways. She saw a flash of Derrick's grin from halfway down the table.
Rose stuck her tongue out at him. "You're just jealous I did better than you in History of Magic!"
"Ahem," Dumbledore said politely. He was still smiling but it looked a little strained. "Thank you, Miss Potter." Rose made a show of sitting down and smiling sheepishly.
"I suppose all that's left to say is… tuck in!"
The tables groaned with food. Rose was laughing deliriously. She ignored the snickers and looks sent her way and cheerfully helped herself to some roasted vegetables.
"You're so embarrassing sometimes, Rose," Justin sighed. Rose grinned at him.
"Thanks, Justin! You say the sweetest things."
"Weirdo," he said, but he was smiling.
Rose wanted to cheer. She wanted to jump on the table and dance. She settled for racing over to the Slytherin table as soon as she'd finished her food, hearing Susan's fond sigh as she left. She headed straight for the Slytherin table, ignoring the looks sent her way, and stopped behind Blaise.
He turned and smirked at her. "Come to grovel on bended knee, Potter?"
"As if you could be so lucky to have me on my knees," she scoffed. Several people choked, Rose smirked, and Blaise looked delighted. The smile he gave her was positively wicked.
"Why, that almost sounds like a challenge – "
"Don't even think about it, we're eleven. Now move over, I just finished that book you lent me and let me tell you – "
"You finally admit that the Giant War of 1382 had a direct hand in the dragon pox epidemic three years later?"
"Absolutely not, Zabini, don't give me that drivel, I'm here to prove you wrong. Look – "
"Merlin save me," Theodore sighed. "Daph, kill me now while there's still time."
Daphne sniffed imperiously. "Don't be silly, Theo, then who will put me out of my misery? Besides, you called me a silly blonde two weeks ago."
"- how on earth does muggle religion factor into this at all?!"
"The behavior changes, Zabini, do keep up –"
"Oh, wonderful Daphne, best of us all, we are unworthy to be in your presence, please forgive this lowly servant –"
Theodore squawked as Daphne smacked his shoulder. Rose and Blaise met each other's eyes and burst out laughing.
"Right, Harry, Rose, have you been practicing your French? German?"
"Sirius, there's no need – "
"Both of them almost died this year, Remus. Both. At eleven. Dumbledore's clearly incapable – "
"Harry was an accident and Rose sought that out – "
"Actually, Harry was nearly murdered by Voldemort," Rose muttered under her breath. Harry elbowed her but he needn't have bothered. The moment they'd flooed home, the argument had begun, and the two men were far too engrossed in each other to pay attention to anything else. Rose saw Penny nervously wringing her hands in the corner, eyeing their trunks, and gave her a smile and nodded. The house elf perked up, snapped her fingers, and apparated away, presumably to unpack her and Harry's things.
They stood there for another thirty seconds before it was clear that Remus and Sirius were either going to yell themselves hoarse or make out. Harry and Rose exchanged a look and scurried away before their guardians could notice.
Potter Manor was just as beautiful as she remembered – all marble floors and gold-filigreed banisters, it became less gaudy the further you went. They ran to Rose's room, marble giving way to oak, Macha flying ahead hissing $Freedom!$
They collapsed on the pastel blue carpet side by side, staring at the star-littered ceiling.
"They're not really going to transfer us to Beauxbatons, are they?"
"I hope not," Rose sighed. "I've done far too much networking to let it go to waste like that."
Harry snickered. "Slytherin," he teased.
"And proud," Rose agreed.
"I wish everyone else felt the same," Harry sighed. "I nearly hexed Cormac bloody McLaggen for picking on Lily Moon."
"Ernie watches Slytherins like they're going to kill him when his back's turned," Rose said. "I'm working on it, though."
"We're working on it," Harry said firmly. "Don't think I haven't noticed the way some people look at Theodore."
Rose found Harry's hand and squeezed. He squeezed back and they lay there for a while, gazing at the stars, listening to the low, contented hiss Macha made as she stretched out in the sunlight.
That night, as Rose relaxed into the familiarity of her bed, she heard a knock on the door. It was a very distinct series of knocks, which meant –
"Harry?" She murmured.
The door creaked a little as Harry came in, closing it gently behind him.
"Couldn't sleep," he said quietly. "Can I…?"
"Get in, idiot," Rose huffed fondly, shifting over. Harry threw himself onto the bed with a thump, letting out a muffled "oof".
"'fanks," he mumbled.
"Mm," Rose hummed, rolling over and curling up on her side. She heard the rustling of cloth as Harry wriggled under the blankets.
"Rose?" Harry whispered. "Are you still awake?"
An exasperated sigh. "Well, I am now."
"… Can we talk?"
Rose gave an incoherent mumble. "Yeah, alrigh', give me a mo'." She rolled onto her stomach with difficulty, groping blindly for the headboard. Her fingers felt the familiar sun carved into the wood and she pressed it, whispering "Fairy lights, yellow, soft." There was a quiet hum of magic as the sun glowed beneath her fingers, the tips of its rays emitting dim motes of light. They streamed into the air above the bed, moving gently as though stirred by an invisible breeze. She heard Harry give a contented sigh next to her. She rolled onto her back and stared up at the fairy lights, drifting between them and the star-scattered ceiling.
"I missed this," he admitted quietly. "The beds in Gryffindor have only got the witchlight feature."
"Same in Hufflepuff," Rose replied.
They lay on their backs for a while, watching the spots drift above them. They reminded her of fireflies, the ones shown in the muggle movies Dudley used to watch on the telly.
"… Why did you go after Quirrell?"
Rose swallowed. She'd known this question was coming, but she'd hoped… Well. Harry had never been one to let things go.
"Please," he whispered. His hand sought hers and he clutched it tightly.
"I wanted to ask him if he would spare you," Rose whispered. She heard Harry choke on his breath.
"What? Why - "
"I remember that night," she said. Harry fell silent. "I remember… after he killed mum, he looked at us. He looked back and forth, like he was deciding something, like he was choosing, and then he settled on you. He tried to kill you, not me. I was just… there.
"In Grimmauld, I found some of his old propaganda. He tried to pass laws through the Wizengamot first, and… there were some laws I agreed with." She'd never, ever, told anyone this before. She took a breath.
"He was pushing for national holidays on dates like Samhain and Yule. For a redefining of Dark magic, legalization of blood magic. For mandatory wizarding traditions classes.
"None of it passed, of course, and then he started becoming more extreme and spouting pureblood supremacy and turned to killing, but the beginning… I asked him if he really believed in it. If he didn't – he knew we followed the Old Ways – he saw us perform the ritual on Samhain. I wanted to ask him if he'd spare you because if he did, we could… we could help him try again. In the Wizengamot. And then no one else would have to die.
"But he said you were a threat. He said you had to die. So I couldn't – I had to – " Rose rolled over and hugged Harry tightly. He was stiff and unmoving in her arms, and she began to cry.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "He killed our parents and I – "
"You turned him down for me," Harry said quietly. "I don't… Thank you." He sounded bewildered. She ached.
"Harry, you're my brother," she emphasized. "I would never, ever, ever even consider helping someone who wanted you dead – you're more important than anything – he said he had to kill you and I didn't even think, I just – Harry, I shoved my fingers in his eyes," she said, giving a shaky laugh. "I'd never give you up like that, Harry."
Slowly, carefully, he hugged her back.
"Thanks," he said again, but his voice was soft and heavy with meaning.
"No one's allowed to hurt you," she said fiercely. "No one. I'll kill anyone who tries."
Harry huffed a laugh, a little choked with tears. "Ditto, Rosie."
"Besides," Rose whispered after a while. "I'd never would've been able to work with him anyways. I thought I could, but… he still killed our parents. I would be willing to work with him if he swore to spare you, but otherwise…"
"Yeah," Harry said quietly. "I… I think I understand. Thanks for telling me, Rosie."
In response, she hugged him harder.
(telling Harry had been… incredible)
(she felt so much lighter the morning after, like she was walking on air)
(maybe… maybe she could loosen her grip on her secrets)
(maybe she could take a risk)
(maybe she could embrace her Gryffindor side, just once more)
Now that she thought about it, Rose wasn't entirely sure why she'd kept her reincarnation a secret. Hadn't Sirius and Remus made their love for her clear? They hadn't pressed her on her 'Seer' abilities, hadn't questioned the appearance of Macha, hadn't shown even a hint of prejudice when she and Harry were revealed as Parselmouths.
Objectively, Rose knew it was a good idea. Even in the nigh-impossible event that they reacted badly, she knew that they'd die before throwing her out or cutting her off from her vaults, so her physical safety and livelihood was ensured.
She didn't know why -
No. She was lying to herself; she did know why. It was because, for all that they'd raised her, she'd spent her formative years first at the Dursleys, then at Hogwarts. For all that the distinction between her two lives was beginning to grow, for all that Rose was starting to settle into her body and feel her physical age, she still remembered her old life. There, information had been a commodity, secrets even more so. Keeping secrets, trusting only herself, Ron, and Hermione, seeing adults as barriers instead of potential sources of help – those lessons had been learned and reinforced countless times in her first life. The mere thought of giving them up voluntarily, of her own accord, sent her into a cold sweat.
But just because she didn't want to didn't mean she shouldn't, did it? It was a weakness now – she had no way of accessing the other horcruxes, save the diadem, without the presence of an adult wixen. The Trace would pick her up if she tried to break into Gringotts or the Gaunt shack, since house elves didn't register as adult wixen. Even Gringotts – Bellatrix Lestrange had been Bellatrix Black, hadn't she? Could Sirius find some way to reclaim her vault? Could one of them learn to cast Fiendfyre, so they wouldn't need basilisk venom? Couldn't they act as contingencies, in case she died?
(because she'd nearly died this year, hadn't she? Burning Quirrellmort alive – it had nearly killed her, and what would've happened then?)
(she knew – the Chamber reopened; Voldemort resurrected; Harry walking to his death)
(maybe not, considering how she'd changed things, but was she willing to take that chance?)
They could help her. Of all the adults she'd known – hadn't these people proven themselves enough?
(she still didn't want to do it)
(she was nauseous at the very idea)
(but she'd faced down Voldemort. She'd walked to her death. She'd died – twice)
(she could do this)
"Harry, Sirius, Remus," Rose said hesitantly. "Could we… could we go to the sitting room? I need to tell you something."
She told them everything:
("What do you mean, Death told you?"
"You know, the End of All Things, Destroyer of Worlds. That Death.")
Her first life.
("Dumbledore left you with Petunia?"
"Hang on – is that why you don't trust him?"
"Wait, you're not actually a seer, are you? That was just to cover up your knowledge – ")
("Why did Hagrid deliver your letter?"
"Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia didn't want to send me to Hogwarts. He had to chase me down.")
("Wait, why weren't you put with me and Remus?")
Her time at Hogwarts.
("You went after – "
"Why didn't you tell a professor?!"
"Professor McGonagall didn't believe us, what else were we supposed to –"
"Tell another one‼")
("A basilisk in the basement, there is absolutely no way either of you are going back to that place – ")
("I broke out of Azkaban?! Merlin, I'm so cool.")
("They let you compete? You were fourteen – ")
("Are we not going to talk about You-Know-Who –")
And then, finally, her death.
("You walked to your –")
("Dumbledore told you to –")
… Both of them.
("Death told me I could try again. He sent me here")
(she hadn't meant to, but once she started, she couldn't stop)
At last, silence.
"So, I have to die," Harry said softly.
Rose flinched and glared fiercely at him. "Absolutely not," she hissed. Had she not just gone over this? Across her, Sirius and Remus were adding their fervent agreements.
Not Harry, they all thought. Not Harry.
"We'll find a way," she told him. "And if not, we'll just destroy the other horcruxes, dose You-Know-Who with Draught of Living Death, and lock him up somewhere until you die naturally of old age."
Harry frowned. "But you came back, didn't you? Wouldn't I come back too?"
"Not necessarily," Rose said. "I've talked to Death about this – " (there was a distressed noise from Remus at the reminder that she'd spoken to Death) "and even he doesn't know why I came back, if it was the horcrux or Hallows or both. I'm not willing to risk it."
"Rose is right," Sirius rasped. "We're not going to take the chance of you dying, Harry. Never."
Self-sacrificing idiot, Rose thought at her brother fondly. You should've known better than to suggest that to a dog animagus and a werewolf.
"Not that I want to die," Harry said carefully. "But if your plan doesn't work, then You-Know-Who would come back." He looked at Sirius and Remus. "You've never talked about how bad the first war was, but I can guess. Am I really worth – "
"Yes," Remus said emphatically. He stared at Harry hard, his normally gentle amber eyes ringed with gold. "I would rather a hundred others die than risk you." That, coming from Remus, was enough to shut Harry up. He looked down at his hands, blushing.
"… Alright," Harry mumbled.
"Besides," Remus added, eyes sharpening on Rose. "Just because you might come back doesn't mean Rosie would too."
Sirius and Harry, evidently not having thought of this, paled dramatically.
"You're right," Harry said firmly. "Absolutely no dying."
"Now that's out of the way," Sirius said abruptly. "Can we talk about how Death gave Rose a familiar and she named it after a bloody goddess of war?"
The tension cleared and they laughed.
"It certainly explains a lot," Remus sighed. Rose flushed guiltily.
"It fits, though," Harry said, grinning slightly. "Macha's very bloodthirsty. You ought to hear her sometimes – she's always whining that Rose won't let her eat anyone."
Remus stared. "Occamies don't eat people."
Harry shrugged. "Macha wants to."
Remus turned his gaze on her, eyes accusing. Rose looked back innocently. "She hasn't eaten anyone yet, has she?"
Sirius, his face in his hands, gave a muffled mumble that sounded like because she's a foot long.
"Even if she does, she wouldn't get caught," Harry reassured them. Oddly enough, they relaxed a little.
"At least there's that," Remus sighed.
There was an odd feeling in Rose's chest. She felt warm, like she'd just had a cup of hot chocolate, and wanted to crush Remus and Sirius into a hug. So, she did just that, jumping over the coffee table and tackling both of them into the sofa.
"Fucking hell," Sirius grunted, hugging her back. "Warn us next time, won't you?"
"Language," Remus chided, his voice slightly muffled. He cursed as Harry tackled all three of them, making Sirius snicker.
"Thank you," Rose whispered.
Thank you for believing me.
Thank you for helping me.
Thank you for loving me even after everything I've done.
Harry, catching the tail end of her meaning, hugged her tighter. "Stupid," he sighed fondly. "You should've told us earlier."
"Sorry," Rose mumbled. "'was scared."
Sirius made an irritated noise. He untangled himself, putting one hand on Harry's shoulder and the other on Rose's.
"Let me make this very, very clear," he said forcefully. "Harry, Rose, the two of you could burn down the country, take over the Ministry, and blow up Muggles for shits and giggles, and all Remus and I would do is ask you how we can help. We don't give a single flying fuck what you do or tell us as long as you're safe and happy. I thought we'd made that clear before, but you're both thicker than I thought."
"Don't call them thick, Sirius," Remus said exasperatedly. He didn't disagree with anything else Sirius had said, though.
Rose could feel an echo of Harry's shock. It was terrifying to learn exactly how unconditionally they would be loved. They could do whatever they wanted, and still Remus and Sirius would be on their side no matter what.
"Your parents would agree," Sirius said quietly. "You know they were working to get out of the country? They were going to go to Australia or the Americas and leave Britain to You-Know-Who to keep you safe."
"Oh." Harry said.
Remus smiled affectionately and ruffled Harry's hair, who ducked away half-heartedly. "Yes, oh. So, if you're worried about what your parents would think of you – Sirius and I can assure you that they wouldn't give a single fuck."
"You cursed!" Rose blurted out. Harry and Sirius snickered as Remus rolled his eyes.
"Yes, well, sometimes the situation requires it. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Professor Lupin," she and Harry chorused obediently, grinning at him mischievously before they scrambled out of the room.
"Good night!" Harry yelled.
"We've got murders to plan!" Rose added.
"Countries to take over!"
"Worlds to dominate!"
They giggled when they heard Remus' exasperated exclamation behind them. Holding hands, they ran to her room. Tomorrow, the four of them would talk and plan. For now, though, Rose felt lighter than she ever had, and she and Harry whispered late into the night before they fell asleep.
(she was so, so lucky to have them)
(she didn't deserve them, not at all, but she would work every day of her life to be worthy)
Miss Rose Potter and Company are cordially invited to attend a 12th birthday celebration in honor of Blaise Zabini
Sunday, July 5th at 2 o'clock in the afternoon
"Rosie," Sirius said in a too-calm voice. "Why exactly are you friends with the son of the Black Widow?"
Rose pulled out the puppy dog eyes. "I met him on the train, Sirius," she said earnestly. "He's not like that, I promise."
(she knew her practice would come in handy)
Sirius sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Remus, go over poisons with them, won't you?"
"Yes, dear," Remus sighed, stirring a lump of sugar into his tea.
"And hex Zabini to pieces if he ever does anything you don't like, Rosie."
"You shouldn't be encouraging her to go to violence as the first resort, Padfoot."
Rose sighed. "I wouldn't do that anyway. I want him on my side."
Sirius groaned and put his head in his arms. "Oh Merlin, she's collecting minions."
"We did tell her we didn't care what she did," Remus said mildly.
"Blaise isn't a minion!"
"I'm not going to tell her to stop, Moony, Rosie can do what she wants, I just never expected I'd be raising a bloody Dark Lord when James asked me to be godfather."
"I'm not going to be a Dark Lord!"
"No, you're going to be a Grey Lord," Harry muttered. Then, "Ow! Elbows!"
Rose had fallen in love. Lord Aida Zabini was beautiful, composed, and deadly; she had long, dark curls that flowed loosely down her back, heavy-lidded soulful brown eyes, and a perpetual smile that whispered I know something you don't.
Rose didn't know if she wanted to kiss her or become her. Maybe both.
Beside her, Blaise gave an irritated sigh. Daphne patted him on the back sympathetically.
"Don't pout, Blaise, it's unbecoming. It's not your mother's fault she's more beautiful, charming, and interesting than you."
"You're too young for her anyway," Blaise muttered mulishly. "And you're supposed to be my friend."
Theodore flung a handful of grass at him. Blaise dodged, still scowling.
"Leave her alone, Blaise, it took Daphne and I a few hours too."
"It's just so annoying," Blaise complained.
"Oh, I agree," Daphne sighed airily. "You're not the only one who has to be in Rose's lovestruck presence, you know. I think I might be sick."
"You're too well-bred to be sick, Daph."
"Well, I'm certainly being put to the test. Look at her, it's nauseating."
The other three looked at her. Rose, splayed out on the grass, paid them no mind. They were sitting under a tree, shaded by its thick green leaves, the rest of their peers having opted for Quidditch. Rose gazed at the branch above her head and thought it a perfect match to Aida Zabini's eyes. She let out another dreamy sigh. Aida Zabini looked at people like they were prey.
"Well, Potter did say he'd never seen her like that before." Theodore said at last. "Perhaps she's never had a crush before and her brain's melting."
"Her brain can't melt, she still thinks that bloody corks of all things were one of the contributing factors to the Goblin War of 1187 – "
"Why in Circe's name is that your main concern?!"
"It's important, I don't see any way how – "
"It's because a plague killed of a bunch of cork trees a few years earlier which directly led to a shortage of alcohol – "
"Jigger exaggerated that shortage, you know that alcohol imports were at a peak and more than made up for it – "
"Then how do you explain – "
"Fucking hell," Theodore said, burying his face in his hands. "This whole time – all it took – "
"We should've guessed," Daphne sighed.
"You really should've," Rose agreed, cutting off her argument with Blaise before they came to blows. "When have I ever agreed with Blaise on – wait."
Rose whipped around and saw that the crowd of adults, who'd previously been chatting in front of the glass doors to the manor, had all but disappeared inside a nearby tent. She turned back to Blaise, eyes wide, to see him already looking at her with an exasperated expression.
"Finally noticed, have you?" He asked dryly.
"They're finally gone – "
"They've been gone for half an hour – "
"And you let me lie there – "
"You hexed us whenever we tried to disturb you‼"
"And you're so weak that you can't take a few Stinging Hexes, I'm aware – "
"You gave me welts in places no welts ought to be – "
"Poor baby, now can we go to the – "
"For Merlin's sake!" Daphne cried. She flicked Rose and Blaise's foreheads. "Stop flirting and let's go already."
"We're not flirting!" Rose and Blaise squawked in unison, but they scrambled up nonetheless and made their way back into the manor.
"Five galleons they're together by Yule," Theodore muttered, trailing after them.
"Of fifth year, maybe," Daphne sighed. "Oblivious idiots."
"I'm not flirting with you," Rose told Blaise firmly. He gave her a flat look.
"Of course you're not, you're in love with my mum."
"Your mum is amazing," Rose said vehemently. "Besides, we're far too young to be thinking of any of that silliness, we're only twelve."
That got her looks from all three Slytherins.
"You're joking, right?"
Rose looked back confusedly.
"Oh Merlin, she's not." Theodore breathed in horror. "Don't you know that – "
"Shut up, Theo," Daphne sighed. "You'll just break her again; she's clearly not built for this. We should just enjoy the show, I think it's going to be a very exciting few years."
"Care to explain what you're talking about?" Rose asked irritably.
"It's probably best that we don't," Theodore said.
"Live in blissful ignorance," Blaise added.
Daphne just gave her a smile.
"You're all prats," Rose sulked.
"Yeah, but we're prats who've got a dueling chamber."
Potter Manor's dueling chamber was undeniably crude when compared to the Zabini's. It had never been a priority of Sirius and Remus to keep it up to date, so while it had stayed in adequate shape thanks to the elves, it would take three months, a team of goblins, and a truly absurd number of galleons to renew the enchantments, check the runic configurations, and take into account the more recent developments in the dueling and warding sphere. In the meantime, they taught her and Harry to hone their reflexes with barrages of Stinging Hexes, and increase their accuracy with increasingly smaller, faster, and more agile targets.
For all family names and legacies were important to wixen, magical power and ability trumped it all. Albus Dumbledore, a half-blood from a minor pureblood family, had fingers in near every political pie. Tom Riddle, no-name half-blood, had nearly brought Wizarding Britain to its knees. If Rose wanted to form a third side, she needed to train.
She didn't expect to match them – she was still a second year, reincarnation or not – but she needed to be powerful enough that people thought twice about siding with one or the other. Andromeda, in her time as the Black and Potter proxies, had turned the Neutral faction into one that could compete with the Progressives and Traditionalists, but she had no power in Hogwarts. Dueling with Blaise, Daphne, and Theodore served dual purposes: it allowed her to measure herself against her peers, and it allowed her to start building a foundation of respect in Slytherin.
(no one but Sirius and Remus knew about the Parseltongue. Rose was looking forward to that reveal)
"Aguamenti!" Rose cried. Her overpowered Water-Summoning Spell covered the floor. Theodore dodged, but he seemed a little puzzled. It was only water, after all.
She twisted out of the way of a tarantallegra and froze the water with a glacius. Theodore, who hadn't paid the water much mind due to the water-repellant enchantments woven into his clothing, slipped. Agility gone, it was easy to get him with a stupefy.
The moment the wards sensed Theodore's unconsciousness, the spell was undone. A Nullifier ward reversed all spells cast since it'd been raised, activated by a formal surrender, unconsciousness, or a third party. It wouldn't do anything against the more powerful spells, of course, and did very little for injuries, but for basic conjurations, transfigurations, and the like, it was wonderful.
Theodore groaned good-naturedly as she hefted him to his feet. "Stupefy's a fifth year charm," he complained. "At this point, I think you're just showing off."
"No, she's having fun," Daphne corrected. "When did you learn all those spells, anyway? Aguamenti's sixth year." She and Blaise were adequate duelers for their age, but they were more suited to verbal battles and manipulation. Rose and Theodore were the ones who were truly training.
"She learned the Water-Summoning Charm to make tea," Theodore grumbled.
"And I learned the Freezing Charm over Yule so Harry and I could go ice-skating," Rose chirped. It was second year material.
"You're unbelievable," Blaise sighed. "If you're quite finished, however, it's nearly time for cake."
Rose perked up immediately, as did Theodore, though he was still massaging the back of his head. Guilty, Rose shot him a low-powered numbing spell. Theodore grinned at her in thanks.
They headed back to the grounds, Blaise and Daphne taking the lead as they chatted. The two were close, pushed together as the heirs of two prominent Neutral families. Rose and Theodore trailed behind them in comfortable silence.
"You'll tell me what you're training for one day, won't you?" Theodore murmured. Rose found she wasn't entirely surprised that he'd picked up on her urgency – he was unnervingly perceptive.
"It's not that I don't trust you…" she began, but Theodore cut her off.
"You don't need to explain – I'm a Slytherin. We understand the importance of secrets," he grinned. "But eventually – "
"I'll tell you one day," she said firmly. "Thank you, Theodore."
A small smile, something soft in his expression. "You can call me Theo, you know. We're friends, aren't we?" At that, there was a flicker of vulnerability, of uncertainty.
"Yes," Rose said forcefully. She hated the hesitancy on his face. She wanted it gone. "You're one of my very best friends, Theo."
Resisting the urge to crush him into a hug, she settled for grabbing his hand and swinging merrily. "Skip with me?"
She could see the refusal forming on his face, so she turned her best pair of puppy dog eyes on him. He crumbled.
"… As long as no one sees," he sighed.
Rose beamed, linking arms with him and skipping. She grabbed Daphne's arm as they passed, dragging her along with them.
"What the fu-"
"Careful, Daph!" Blaise called, grabbing Daphne's other arm. "What would your mother say?"
"She would say that the heir to the Ancient and Noble House of Greengrass does not skip – "
"Not even to please the Zabini heir?" he asked cheekily. "And the Nott heir? And the potential Black heir?"
"You know you want to," Rose teased.
"I want no such thing," Daphne sighed, acquiescing nonetheless. Despite her outward reluctance, Rose could see the smile pulling at the edge of her lips. They slowed down once they got to the stairs though, fixing their hair and straightening her robes.
Stepping outside, Blaise and Rose started arguing about history again, as if they'd stepped inside to check something from a book. Daphne and Theo bore practiced looks of long-suffering on their faces, although they might not've been entirely feigned.
They met up with the others – nearly the entirety of the first and second year Slytherins, quite a few upper year Slytherins, a great many Ravenclaws, and Harry. They were flushed and windblown from Quidditch, Harry and Malfoy having called a temporary truce.
"Finally stopped trailing after Lord Zabini?" Malfoy sneered at her. "You were looking even more pathetic than usual."
She smiled sweetly back at him. "Jealousy doesn't suit you, Malfoy. At least she wanted to speak with me."
Aida Zabini's greeting had been perfunctory to Malfoy, who'd only been invited because he was in Blaise's year in Slytherin and because of his father's position. Meanwhile, she had positively cooed over Rose. Rose wanted to smile just thinking about it.
("Oh Merlin, you must let me do your hair one day, it's absolutely gorgeous – oh, and those eyes – you have the most beautiful colouring I've ever seen – ")
Blaise grinned, baring his teeth. "One day, Malfoy, you'll have to admit that Rose is better than you in every possible way, and when that day comes, I will laugh in your face."
There were a number of wide eyes and shocked looks at that – Blaise had been openly friendly with Rose, but this was practically a declaration of support.
"Go easy on him, Zabini," Derrick chided. "It's not his fault he can't see past the end of his nose."
Rose beamed. "Hello, Derrick!"
He grinned at her. "Hello, Potter. I hadn't realized there'd been so many advancements in animal-to-human transfiguration recently, you haven't even got whiskers."
Harry looked appalled but relaxed confusedly when Rose burst out laughing.
"I've missed you," she giggled. "It's just not the same without your caustic commentary."
"Four syllables, Potter, my word! How remarkable."
She knew she'd have a good deal of explaining to do later, judging by Harry and Theo's looks, but for now she revelled in the open support Blaise and Derrick had given her and the look on Malfoy's face. Merlin, verbal sparring was fun.
Sirius was trickier than a barrel of hinkypunks when he wanted to be. He'd taken to hanging out in his Grim form to try and smell which of her male friends owned the kitten he'd scented on her clothes, so Rose had hurriedly written Diggory and told him to only send letters to her at odd hours.
No offense, Potter, but isn't that a bit excessive? He'd written skeptically.
Absolutely, she'd agreed. But it's the principle of the thing, you understand. If he finds out, he wins.
Fair enough, he'd replied, and hadn't questioned her again. You're a very competitive person, aren't you?
Rose had laughed out loud. You have no idea.
(hadn't she turned down the afterlife to try and live her life better? If life was a game, she was going to play until she won)
Dear Miss Potter,
I have spoken to Professor Babbling about your request and have enclosed a series of worksheets. I would be much obliged if you would fill them out to the best of your ability.
The sheer number of anti-cheating spells that had been embedded into the parchment was mind-boggling. They functioned similarly to a Sneakoscope, detecting deceit and lies. Rose recognized the content of the first few scrolls as belonging to the third year Ancient Runes curriculum – she'd begged Diggory for his quizzes and worksheets and devoured them eagerly – and flew through it easily.
In her past life, she'd attached herself to Ron like a limpet and taken Divination and Care of Magical Creatures. In this life, she still intended to take Care, but also planned on taking Runes and Arithmancy. Before muggle primary, she had practically lived in the Potter family library. She'd gone through the theory of the first few years, then turned big eyes on Remus and asked him to teach her Runes. She'd been interested in the subject since she'd seen Lily craft her ritual, and immediately regretted not being more curious in school.
Rose was good at Runes – she had a talent for them that mirrored Harry's talent for flying. She knew things, intuitively, that had Remus gaping at her and flipping through reference books to verify what she'd instinctively known. She had been bored to pieces last year, diverting herself with dueling in the Room of Requirement or cultivating her allies in Slytherin.
(somewhere along the way, some allies had turned into friends)
(she'd always cared too easily)
There were five sets of worksheets, each one corresponding to a year. Rose finished it all that day and owled it to Dumbledore with Wally, who nipped at her fingers affectionately before leaving.
(Harry had Hedwig. Rose couldn't look at her; most of the time, she pretended Hedwig didn't exist)
(when she caught a flash of that snowy white plumage, she saw a flash of green light and heard Hedwig screech)
A week later, she'd been sent an owl requesting her to write her Ancient Runes OWL with an attached list of dates and times. There had been a letter from Dumbledore reassuring her as well:
I have the utmost confidence in you, Miss Potter. I myself have never delved too deeply into Ancient Runes, but Professor Babbling assures me you are nothing short of a prodigy and that she has no doubt you will score an 'Outstanding.' Having examined that ward you carved into the trapdoor, I find myself in firm agreement.
Rose had signed up to take her OWL the day before her birthday, much to her family's dismay.
("Rose, you have a week to study – "
"I don't want to study on my birthday, and I know it all already! You know I do, Remus, you're the one who taught me!"
"But you're still twelve!"
"Well technically I'm twelve and twenty-one."
"Eight days, Rose!")
Finally, Rose had pointed out that she'd already owled her acceptance so there was no point in arguing and really, wouldn't it be better for Remus to channel his stress into helping her study?
He'd been absolutely brutal in his review, which she appreciated. Now that she knew how highly Dumbledore and Professor Babbling expected her to score, anything less would be a disappointment. It was an odd feeling, knowing that she had external expectations. It was different from the way she'd driven herself in Hogwarts last year – she'd known that she could bring home a list of T's and Remus and Sirius would be disappointed but still love her. But this – she needed to make a good impression on Professor Babbling. She was one of the foremost experts in the subject worldwide, she sat on the board of the International Society of Runes. She held Masteries in over twenty different runic languages, from ancient Egyptian to ancient Mandarin. She was, by all accounts, a genius, and a recommendation from her would go a long way in whichever Runes-adjacent career she chose.
(she didn't know what she wanted to do yet – she'd been an Auror for a year before she'd died, but she was tired of destruction)
(she needed to get rid of Voldemort first. Only then would Rose allow herself to think about her future)
In the end, the OWL was easy. There had been no practical aspect – the most difficult thing she'd had to do was a series of translations, and Rose had been doing those for fun since she was seven and in languages far more complex than Elder Futhark.
(so far, the most difficult text she'd translated had been Cleopatra VII's treatise on Latin-Egyptian integration. Hieroglyphs were a pain in the arse)
She hadn't recognized any of the other exam-takers from Hogwarts, but it had been an enlightening experience, nonetheless. Rose had never realized how sheltered and privileged she'd been in both lives – Hogwarts was one of the top three European schools of magic for a reason, after all, for all that it'd fallen. The vast, vast majority of wixen weren't powerful enough to merit an acceptance letter, and instead went to one of the scattered hedgeschools to learn the branches of magic they were capable of. Hogwarts graduates, even the likes of Crabbe and Goyle, were practically guaranteed jobs in the Ministry (although muggleborns rarely made it to the higher levels). Even non-noble families got an enormous leg up at Hogwarts just by virtue of their attendance – there were fifteen non-noble seats on the Wizengamot, elected by the general populace, but even just campaigning for a seat required a letter of recommendation from a Noble family, so virtually everyone on the Wizengamot was a Hogwarts graduate. She'd existed in a bubble – everyone she knew either had gone or was going to Hogwarts. She hadn't even known other schools of magic existed in Britain until she'd thought to ask Remus why other students would be writing their Runes OWL with her.
"Surely there can't be that many people who failed the first time around?" she'd asked, confused at why the Ministry was holding the exam on so many different dates. There were only six, but still.
Remus had given her an amused look. "Not every school has enough students to offer OWL exams on-campus, Rose, nor do they follow Hogwarts' schedule. For many, this will be their first Runes OWL."
"There are other schools?!"
"Of course there are – even squibs can make the simplest potions, but a great deal of wixen can't manage even a hedgehog-to-pincushion transfiguration. Mostly the other hedgeschools are more general – household cleaning charms, common potions, that sort of thing, depending on how much magic the child has. Haven't you ever wondered why there were so many Herbologists? All the other subjects, even Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, often require some degree of high-level wandwork in the upper echelons. Hogwarts is one of three schools in the country that offers schooling beyond OWLs. Most wixen just don't have enough magic for things like that."
Rose had arrived at the Ministry in wearing semi-formal robes, Sirius' hand on her shoulder. She'd walked into a waiting chamber on the seventh floor with thirty other wixen and their guardians and realized immediately how terribly she stuck out. Her shoes alone had probably cost twice as much as some of the other wixen's entire outfits. The robes she'd thought were semi-formal were far, far more expensive than anything else in the room.
She'd seen the resentment in their eyes, the judgement. She looked like a spoiled little rich girl who'd been drilled by a series of private tutors until she could take her Ancient Runes OWL three years early. She'd had every advantage, every privilege, and was rubbing it in with her very presence.
Rose didn't blame them. She remembered that feeling, that bitter resentment, that thought of you have no idea what I've sacrificed to get here.
Rose had been trained well, however, so a stranger would've seen none of this on her face. However, Sirius was no stranger – she was sure he saw the shock and guilt she couldn't quite disguise. He knelt to her level, tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear. He was wearing his formal Wizengamot robes – he had a meeting to get to and had to leave soon to meet Andromeda.
"Your mother would be so proud of you," he said quietly. Rose saw several people eavesdropping. "She was well on her way to a Mastery in Runes before she died. I know she hoped you'd have the same talent, and she'd be overjoyed to learn that your talent didn't just match hers but outstripped it by a mile. She would be so, so proud of how hard you've worked to get to where you are now. She would've stood here with a quiet sort of pride, her hand on your shoulder. James, on the other hand, would probably have been hysterical with joy. Lily would've had to stun him and leave him at home. We're all very proud of you, Rose. You've worked hard to get to where you are now."
Rose smiled slightly, which had been Sirius' intention. He might not have been a Slytherin, but he'd been raised as a Black. He knew exactly how to play to an audience and proved it now in how he'd expertly turned the opinion of the room in her favor. His casual naming of herself and her parents would've had some wixen realizing that she was the sister of the Boy-Who-Lived, an orphan. She hated pity, but she hated resentment more. She didn't begrudge them the sentiment, but she did begrudge their lack of subtlety.
"Thank you, Sirius," she said quietly. She didn't think Sirius was lying when he told her how proud her parents would be of her, either – he wasn't the type to lie to someone just to make them feel better or even to serve a greater purpose.
"They'd be proud of you too," she told him. "For raising Harry and I so well." She sent him an earnest smile that had several wixen sigh.
Sirius' smile turned fond. "Away with you, you little devil. I look forward to rubbing your accomplishments in Lucius Malfoy's face. But no pressure, of course."
Rose rolled her eyes. "Of course," she echoed dryly.
Sirius grinned and ruffled her hair in farewell. "Good luck, Rosie."
"Thanks, Siri," she chirped.
Rose turned back to the group of wixen. Without Sirius by her shoulder, she felt very exposed. She looked around the room hesitantly, making sure to paint her shyness all over her face. She caught the eye of one particularly sympathetic-looking witch, who smiled at her encouragingly.
"Hello," Rose said shyly. She looked at the girl standing beside the witch. "I was going to ask whether you were here for your Runes OWL, but that seemed painfully obvious."
The girl giggled. "It's alright, I wouldn't know what to say either. I'm Samantha Page, and that's my mum Eleanor Page."
"Rose Potter," Rose said, sticking out her hand. "Well met, Miss Page, Madam Page."
Several eyebrows rose. Several mouths fell open in shock. 'Well met' was the informal greeting used to recognize someone who was a superior or an equal.
"Er – well met," Samantha said, eyes wide, shaking her hand hesitantly. Her mother did the same.
"Which school do you go to?" Rose asked, before a thought occurred to her. "Or are you homeschooled?"
"No, I'm going into my seventh year at Alexandra's Hedgewitch Academy. It's very small, I don't expect you to have heard of it."
"I'm afraid I haven't. Would you tell me about it later? I've been very sheltered, growing up, and don't know much about the outside world." Rose looked up at Samantha Page with big, earnest green eyes. She saw the other girl practically coo.
"Of course, I'd be delighted," she smiled.
"Brilliant!" Rose chirped, beaming. "Thanks so much, Miss Page!"
Page gave a nervous-sounding laugh. "Please, call me Samantha, none of that formality."
"Only if you'll call me Rose," Rose said, smiling up at her.
"Er – alright, Rose," Samantha said faintly. Rose bounced on the balls of her feet and Samantha's shock vanished.
"Uncle Sirius will be picking me up after the exam," she informed her brightly. "We could take you out to dinner if you're available, Sirius is always encouraging me to make new friends."
Samantha glanced at her mother a bit helplessly. Rose turned her big eyes onto Eleanor Page, who looked frazzled.
"Well – if you're sure your uncle would be fine with it – "
"Oh, absolutely! Besides," and here Rose smiled a little mischievously. "Uncle Sirius put a frog in my bed last week, so he at least owes me dinner with a friend."
"A frog! Really?!" Eleanor Page seemed astonished that a Lord on the Wizengamot would do such a thing.
"Oh yes," Rose assured her. "He something like that once every few months so you'd think I'd be more vigilant. He put toads in my wardrobe over Yule, says it keeps me on my toes." She giggled.
"How… interesting," Madam Page said weakly.
"You can laugh," Rose assured her. She glanced at Samantha and grinned self-deprecatingly. "I'm well aware my uncle's absurd. When I was five, he turned my skin bright pink and kept it that way for days. It clashed something awful with my hair."
Madam Page and Samantha giggled.
The OWL was painfully, painfully easy. Madam Marchbanks' eyebrows had gone up when Rose had handed in her exam an hour before the exam had ended. She hadn't wanted to draw even more attention to herself, but she had limits – after looking over her work eight times, she could practically recite the thing verbatim. She'd memorized the translations, the explanations, even the essay she'd written for the bonus question on the hypothetical origins of Eihwaz. She just… couldn't look over it again. She might keel over.
"Sirius!" Rose cried, tackling him into a hug the moment he came in. "Where's Auntie Andy?"
"Oof," he said. "Hello to you too, Rosie. Andy had to run, something about Ted and doxies. How was the exam?"
"It was alright," she said. She wasn't worried about Ted – doxies were venomous, yes, but Andromeda was a Healer.
Behind her, she heard Samantha scoff.
"Rose is being modest," Samantha said. "She was the first one of all of us to finish."
Sirius grinned at her. "Well, considering she's been studying since she could read, I'm not surprised." He looked down at Rose. "Aren't you going to introduce us, Rosie?"
Rose perked up. "Oh! Sirius, this is Miss Samantha Page. She said she'd be my friend! Samantha, this is my guardian Sirius Black."
"Well met, Miss Page," Sirius said, offering her his hand.
"Well met, Lord Black," Samantha said.
Sirius rolled his eyes. "None of that, now. Any friend of Rose's is a friend of mine. Call me Sirius."
Rose cheered inwardly, then noticed a few other students lingering nearby.
"Do you want to join us?" Rose asked them. "They're Samantha's friends," she added to Sirius, still clinging to his sleeve. He'd changed out of his Wizengamot attire.
Sirius grinned at them easily. "Please do," he said. "The more the merrier, after all!"
"Er – if it's not too much trouble," one of them, Michael Brown, said.
Rose wanted to cackle.
It was a wonderful evening. Sirius took them to the Leaky Cauldron, taking a moment to send a Patronus to Remus to tell him of the change of plans. Samantha and her friends goggled at the Grim-like dog (she wondered if any of them had ever seen a Patronus before – she suspected not. Only half the Aurors could produce a shield, let alone a corporeal one). He'd glanced at the group for a moment before asking if they'd minded adding two more.
And so it was that Harry and Remus flooed in, Harry ducking his head to hide his scar. Sirius had gotten them a private room, so the only people who stared at him were Samantha and her friends. They were still in shock from meeting her and Sirius though, so their reactions were far milder than they would've been.
Rose had had ulterior motives for inviting Samantha and her friends, of course, but she genuinely wanted to expand her horizons. She begged them to tell her everything about their Academy, listening eagerly to their stories. Harry drew Michael Brown into a conversation, asking if he was related to Lavender Brown.
(Rose pushed away the memory of blood-soaked curls before they could overwhelm her)
"She's my cousin," Brown grinned. "You should see the stuff she writes about you in her letters home."
Harry scrunched up his nose. "There's not much to write about though; doesn't it get boring?"
She was grateful for her brother. He was charming and humble, and by the time Samantha and her friends had flooed home, he'd extracted promises to write from all of them.
Really, Rose thought. If Harry truly wanted to rule the world, all he'd have to do is talk to people. They'd be calling for his rule in a week.
The most absurd part was that Harry was just a genuinely likable person. He was mild-mannered, cheerful, and didn't have to fake an interest in the lives of others. Rose wielded her earnestness like a weapon, but for Harry it was so ingrained he didn't even notice.
(she envied that part of him)
The rest of the summer passed in a blur. Rose had gotten an Outstanding on her Runes OWL and would be joining the sixth years come September. Her ears still rang from Hermione's shriek when she'd found out.
("What do you mean you wrote your Runes OWL?! We won't even be taking Runes 'til third year!")
(Harry, popular boy that he was, had invited a frankly terrifying number of people – Rose had a sneaking suspicion it had been to give her an easier inroad to them)
(but he had also invited the Weasley twins)
(she hoped they hadn't noticed her avoidance – it had been easy last year, two years, a House, and a castle between them, but at the party there had been nothing but some trees and grass)
(Rose had introduced Macha then – had come with the occamy on her shoulder, warming herself in the sun. It was the perfect setting – she'd played the happy, naïve little girl all day, giggling apologetically that sorry, Macha's not allowed to go outside on her own, she's very small you see, and we're worried about her. With Potter Manor behind her and the Boy-Who-Lived beside her, the wixen who'd known Harry well enough to be invited had accepted Macha's presence with surprising ease)
(there had, of course, been more than a few protests, but all it took was a conversation with Harry to ease them into hesitant smiles)
(Rose played the innocent little sister and Harry played the self-deprecating, doting older brother)
Theo had written her a letter positively dripping in jealousy. They had to write each other via Blaise – he couldn't exactly afford to be seen corresponding with the sister of the Boy-Who-Lived, after all.
Can you imagine the look on Malfoy's face when he finds out? He'd written gleefully. It's going to be glorious.
(she had apologized profusely for not inviting him but he understood – it had been less a birthday party and more a chance for Harry's acquaintances to familiarize themselves with her, after all, and with Macha's reveal already straining their welcome, Theo understood that more snakes would've been pushing it)
Of course, Theo had added, that's assuming he hasn't already died of shock and jealousy from the knowledge that you have an occamy familiar.
(a ridiculous number of people at her and Harry's party had connections to the Wizengamot; a piece of gossip this juicy would've made the rounds in days)
It'd be a shame if he died, Rose had written back. I've barely begun.
(it was a good thing she lived in Potter Manor and not at Privet Drive this time – the elves of Potter Manor would block the entry of a non-Potter elf unless explicitly allowed)
(Dobby had cornered them in Diagon Alley. Having been forewarned, Harry and Rose had lied earnestly that we won't be going to Hogwarts but shouldn't we get our books and things so no one gets suspicious?)
When Rose had ranted about Lockhart, Sirius had gotten a dangerous look on his face.
("You mean a man with a proclivity for memory charms is going to have access to a school full of teenage wixen?")
(Remus' eyes had gone gold with anger)
Sirius had then scribbled off a furious letter to Andromeda, asking if she knew any investigators who could look into this because Hogwarts was a school, goddammit, not everyone had remembralls.
She and her family had figured out what to do about the diary too – assuming things hadn't changed, Harry would sneak Rose in under the Invisibility Cloak so she could steal it. They'd wrap it in layers of silk, which had magic-resistant properties, and call Penny, Potter Manors head house elf. Penny would hand it off to Sirius, who was used to handling dark artifacts, and lock it in a hidden room at Grimmauld who's express purpose had been to conceal dark artifacts. There were actually multiple such rooms; the locket was stashed in another. Then, when they came home for Yule, they'd watch Remus burn the horcruxes with fiendfyre. After all, though it was summoned with emotion, it was wild and required someone with a great deal of self-control to end. Remus, a werewolf who'd once fought against his very nature, was perfect for the job.
(Hufflepuff's cup, unfortunately, was out of their reach. Bellatrix was still alive, her betrothal contract still active, and goblins cared not a whit about wixen prisons)
Remus first had to learn the spell, though, and wanted them safe at Hogwarts before he began. It was a very neat plan, and Rose had next to zero confidence that it would work. Her life was never that simple.
It was nice to have people to plot with, though. She hadn't realized how alone she'd felt last year, keeping an eye on Quirrellmort and running around.
(it was odd – the memories of her past life were fading more quickly than ever. Even the emotionally charged ones, the ones that pressed on her occlumency barriers at every opportunity, seemed… muted)
Rose hadn't told them everything, though. They knew the important, You-Know-Who relevant bits, but the details of her personal life she'd kept quiet. In her past life, the only person she'd ever told about her cupboard was Hermione. After Ron had left, they'd talked about anything and everything to keep themselves occupied. Rose had confessed it in the familiar comfort of darkness, and she had made Hermione promise not to treat her any differently.
(Fred and George must've known – they'd gotten her things from the cupboard the summer before second year. Once they'd taken out her trunk, they would've seen the old, thin mattress; the little green plastic soldiers; the words, written in white crayon, proclaiming it 'Rose's Room.')
(they hadn't tried to talk to her about it, but they'd sent her foods and prank products over the summer, had told her after they'd bought the shop that she could visit any time she wanted)
(she'd never taken them up on it, but she had remembered)
(she could think their names now – it still hurt, but less so)
(maybe she'd even be able to talk to them this year)
(or Lavender Brown)
(or Anthony Goldstein)
(or Alicia Spinnet)
(or any of the other students who'd fought and died at her request)
When Rose walked into Gilderoy Lockhart's Defence classroom, she couldn't stop herself from letting out a faint whimper.
"What are the odds that the Headmaster would let me skip Defence classes and self-study instead?"
Susan had given her a pitying look. "Rose, the Headmaster hired Lockhart. Self-studying's probably a good idea though," she'd sighed, eyeing the many Lockharts winking and grinning at them with undisguised disgust. Apparently, Amelia Bones had been so appalled with the DADA course books that she'd set several on fire and had to buy new ones. Susan's copy of Travelling with Trolls was still a bit singed around the edges.
"Are you going to self-study?" Justin asked curiously as they settled in the back, as far away as possible. "It's a brilliant idea – we could have a study group."
Rose stared at Justin. She hadn't even thought about starting the DA early. Merlin, she was an idiot sometimes.
"Justin, you're a genius!" Susan beamed.
"Excellent idea, old man," Ernie agreed. He leaned over to whisper to Michael Corner. Rose saw the message pass like a wave through the students – even if a number of love-struck boys and girls looked affronted at the idea that they would need anything more than Lockhart. She figured many would change their minds in a few weeks.
"We can talk to Professor Flitwick," Terry Boot said. "He'll know a place, surely."
"Maybe during his Saturday office hours?" Anthony Goldstein suggested. Rose fixed his image in her mind – young, innocent, and alive. This Anthony wasn't screaming, didn't have smoke pouring from his eyes and mouth as he burned from the inside out.
(stop, Rose told herself firmly. No details. This Anthony is alive and that's the only difference you should pay attention to)
Lockhart entered the classroom with a flourish of turquoise robes. He cleared his throat loudly and silence fell. He reached forward, picked up Hannah Abbot's copy of Year with a Yeti, and held it up to show his portrait on the front.
"Me," he said, pointing to it and winking. "Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Forces Defence League, and five time winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award – but I don't talk about that. I didn't get rid of the Bandon Banshee by smiling at her!"
No, Rose thought furiously. You didn't get rid of her at all, you memory-stealing thief.
Lockhart handed out his quiz. Rose, behind a barrier of Lockhart's books she'd constructed specifically for this purpose, whispered a geminio and tucked the duplicated copy into her bag. She waited, nearly buzzing with anticipation, for Lockhart to release the pixies.
When Rose had first learned of Macha's predilection for the creatures, her mind had immediately jumped to Lockhart's very memorable first class. The memories were blurry, but the emotionally charged memories tended to linger as the rest faded, and the pandemonium that class had erupted into was very memorable.
Lockhart whipped off the fabric over the cage. "Yes," he cried. "Freshly caught Cornish pixies."
On her wrist, Macha wriggled. Rose sent a short burst of calm towards her. Wait.
"Let's see what you make of them!" Lockhart said. He opened the cage.
It was as she'd remembered – the pixies shot in every direction, breaking ink bottles, shredding books, upending waste baskets. As she, Susan, Justin, and Ernie huddled under their desks, Rose turned to them.
"Sorry about this!" she called and pulled back her sleeve. Their eyes widened as Macha was revealed.
"Please eat them," Rose begged her familiar. Macha, hissing out a happy $finally! Come here, my tasties!$ uncurled herself and flew into the air.
"She loves Cornish Pixies," Rose grinned apologetically. "And I doubt Lockhart's going to do anything about them." His wand, after all, had already been snatched from him. Her friends, even Ernie, who'd eyed Macha with wariness and horror, grinned back. They all appreciated a saviour.
And, Rose thought admiringly, Macha was every inch the saviour. Her deep blue scales shimmered and caught the light, the occamy herself a blur as she snatched pixie after pixie with unearthly grace. She twisted and dove and flew like she'd been born to it (and she had). Soon, the pixies had managed to smash a window and escape. Macha made to follow them, but Rose tugged on the familiar bond and the occamy returned.
"Sorry," Rose said apologetically. "But you're still not allowed outside on your own, you know." She looked up to meet the eyes of the shocked, grinning, and (in Lockhart's case) terrified class. The man himself was hiding behind his desk, only a shred of turquoise underneath giving him away. He'd poked his head out when the pixies had escaped and was now looking at the occamy around her wrist with wide, horrified eyes.
Everyone else had been invited to her and Harry's birthday – they'd known about Macha beforehand. For Lockhart, however… For Lockhart, it looked as though an XXXX creature had manifested in its classroom and obeyed the orders of a little girl. Occamy familiars – magical creature familiars – were nearly unheard of. Even Fawkes wasn't Dumbledore's familiar, only his friend.
"My familiar," Rose said calmly, meeting Lockhart's eyes as she ran a finger down Macha's back. "She loves Cornish Pixies, you see, and was upset at my distress." She smiled a little wider at Lockhart, letting something cold creep into her eyes.
"Sorry about the pixies."
Before Lockhart could reply, the bell rang. Rose stood, turned on her heel and left, her classmates trailing behind her.
"That was brilliant," Justin burst out. "Did you see the look on his face when he saw Macha?"
Sue Li giggled. "Macha was brilliant," she corrected.
"Do you carry her around with you everywhere?" Oliver Rivers asked. He looked a little concerned.
"Only the first few days at Hogwarts," Rose said, not even lying. "It's difficult for her to adjust to the change in ambient magic here. It helps if she's close."
"Is she alright?" Lisa Turpin asked worriedly. Rose smiled back reassuringly.
"Yes, I think she's very pleased. Cornish Pixies really are her favorite food." Macha arched her back and stretched a little, preening.
Rose pretended not to notice as her peers slowly drew back in wariness. Roger Malone had gone white as a sheet when Macha had first appeared and was as far away from her as he could manage. Sally-Anne Perks hadn't spoken to her since her birthday, giving only a strained smile when Rose had tried to greet her. There seemed to be an invisible bubble around her that only Susan breached. She'd gotten too used to being well-liked – this subtle exclusion hurt more than it should've, even though she'd purposefully brought it on. Sirius had told her, grimacing, that a number of parents had written to complain about Rose being allowed an occamy familiar. There was a pang in her heart when Leanne Frobisher refused to meet her eyes.
She saw Padma Patil trying to catch her eye and fell back surreptitiously. The group continued without her, chatting as they headed to the Great Hall for dinner. Rose was pleased that even the love-struck students were able to admit Lockhart's uselessness – they excused it as him having a bad day, but all of them were at least not overly upset by Macha's intervention.
"Where did you find her?" Padma Patil asked hesitantly. They weren't that close, for all she'd been at Harry and Rose's birthday party.
"She was a gift," Rose said, smiling. "My grandfather's portrait said that the Potters have a sanctuary for them back in India – Chandramani's Sanctuary, or something?"
"Oh, yes," Patil said, eyes rapidly clearing. "That makes sense – I didn't know Chandramani was a Potter?"
"She was a Parselmouth too," Rose said impulsively. "Which was why she stopped the harvesting."
"Really?" Patil breathed. "I had no idea – I think I have a great-uncle who's a Parselmouth, but – that makes sense."
"Yeah," Rose agreed. She could tell Padma wanted to ask her if she was a Parselmouth or not but held herself back. Rose wouldn't have answered anyway – she wanted Hogwarts to get used to Macha first. Occamies weren't inherently dark, just snake-like and dangerous. Parseltongue, on the other hand, was a trait explicitly associated with Slytherin and Voldemort. They were two very different animals, but Padma's reaction was encouraging. She'd known, intellectually, that there were other Parselmouths, but to hear of one so close to home (metaphorically, of course) was jarring.
"The prejudice against Parselmouths is silly," Padma said decisively as they neared the Great Hall. "In my opinion, anyway," she added, giving Rose a meaningful glance. Rose smiled back.
During dinner, Rose waved Harry over. She caught the eyes of the people lingering behind him – Parvati Patil, Lavender Brown, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnegan – and grinned encouragingly. Soon most of the second year Gryffindors were sitting at the Hufflepuff table with their yearmates, being treated to a dramatic retelling of their Defence class. Justin's pantomiming of Lockhart's face when he saw Macha caught the attention of Terry Boot over at the Ravenclaw table and they were pulled in as well. When Rose saw Blaise enter the Hall, she waved him over, looking apologetically at Daphne and Theo. Blaise was Neutral (unlike Theo) and friendly (unlike Daphne) and she needed to move carefully. He got a lot of side-eyes at first, but he was funny and witty and Rose made a point of welcoming him.
She still felt awful at the deliberate exclusion, though, but was hesitant to invite any other Slytherins over. Rose glanced at Harry, who cut off his conversation with Stephen Cornfoot and looked back.
"You want to go over there?" He asked knowingly.
"Macha will protect me," Rose grinned. "And the Slytherins aren't all bad – they don't like Lockhart either, do they?"
Blaise grinned and shook his head emphatically. "Absolutely not," he confirmed. "We've got a betting pool on how long it'll be until Dumbledore starts getting complaints."
Anthony Goldstein grinned reluctantly. "Ravenclaw has something similar. He's so obviously a fraud it's almost painful."
"Excellent," Rose grinned. "Shall we, then?"
She stood and turned to Blaise, holding out her hand.
"Certainly," Blaise grinned. They made their way over to the Slytherin table. Rose had made her disregard for House divisions very obvious, but she'd still never dared to sit with the Slytherins. But now, with Blaise at her side, an occamy around her wrist, and allies looking over, she felt that old recklessness of hers rear its head.
"Hello, all," Blaise greeted, sitting down next to Daphne.
"Hello," Rose echoed, sliding in next to him. Beside her, Millicent Bulstrode made a point of moving away.
"I come bearing a warning," she declared dramatically, tossing her hair. "On the morrow, beware the man with the golden hair."
"That's not cryptic at all," Blaise said, rolling his eyes.
Rose grinned back. "You're Slytherins – you ought to be clever enough to work it out on your own."
She saw a ripple of raised eyebrows and looks at her compliment – a little condescending, but Slytherins appreciated this sort of thing. Rose tried very hard to prevent her grin from turning malicious and reached across Blaise to pluck a strawberry from a bowl of them on the table. As she did, her sleeve fell back and revealed Macha in a flash of brilliantly blue scales.
Theo's eyes lit up at the sight, even as everyone else flinched back.
"Did Lockhart release Cornish pixies?" He blurted out.
Rose stared. "How in the name of Circe did you figure that out?"
Theo grinned. She saw the discomfort in his eyes and felt a rush of affection – he didn't want to do this, but he was going to anyway because he wanted to be her friend in the open. She hadn't missed the hurt in his and Daphne's eyes when she'd warned them away earlier.
"You said her favorite food was Cornish pixies, you just came back from Defence which we have tomorrow morning, and you've got a wing in your hair."
"I do?" Rose squealed in disgust. She patted her head frantically and plucked it out. It was silvery and translucent, crinkling in her hand.
Gross. She flicked it onto the floor behind her and vanished it with a quick evanesco. It was an OWL-level spell, and she hid a grin when she heard someone choke and break into coughing fits.
Rose turned back in her seat and gave Blaise a betrayed look. "Was that there the entire time?"
He smirked back. "Your brother wanted to see how long it would take you to figure it out."
"That arse. And no one else told me on the way here?!"
"You've got an occamy on your wrist, Rose," Daphne interjected. No one missed her use of Rose's first name. "Even pretty girls are scary with a quadruple-X creature as a familiar."
"Aww, Daphne, you think I'm pretty?" Rose cooed, batting her eyelashes.
"Not nearly as pretty as you think Lord Zabini is," Daphne smirked back.
Rose rolled her eyes. "No one's as pretty as Lord Zabini."
She yelped as Blaise flicked her nose.
"If you absolutely must moon over my mother, at least do it when I can't hear you."
"What are you doing here?!" Malfoy, unable to take it any longer, burst out. Rose, trying not to look too gleeful, gave him a disdainful look.
"Eating, Malfoy," she said, holding up her strawberry. "It's dinnertime." She took a great deal of pleasure in his sputter.
"You – you know that's not what I meant!"
"Did I?" Rose said airily. "You must think very highly of me, Malfoy, I'm flattered. Unfortunately, I'm just a silly Hufflepuff, so I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific." She gave him a sharp, daring grin, dropping her twelve-year-old-girl mask and pulling on one Andromeda had taught her, snobbish and condescending. She saw nearby upper-years take note of the switch and held back a smirk.
He gaped at her for a moment before pulling himself together.
"What are you doing here," he stressed. "At the Slytherin table?"
"It's not against the rules," Rose said mildly, finishing off her strawberry. She ran a finger down Macha's head, causing the occamy to stretch out in pleasure. "Do you take issue with my presence, Malfoy, or are you just afraid of my familiar?"
"… You're a half-blood," he said weakly. She felt a bit sorry for him, but he was still a spoiled, bigoted prat, so she ignored it.
"Insulting my blood status? How disappointing, I would've thought that after two months you'd have come up with something more interesting."
"I'm surprised you're not in Gryffindor with your idiot brother, Potter, it's very brave of you to flaunt your familiar in front of the professors. Are you so arrogant that you think you won't be punished for smuggling an occamy into the school?"
(he'd resumed taunting her a month after the remembrall incident and she, too wary of actually doing anything to him, had allowed it)
(it had been a mistake – here he was now, insulting her brother, knowing – believing – that she would do nothing, because she hadn't done anything before)
Rose, for her part, simply stared at Malfoy. She needed to nudge Blaise's foot with her own under the table – Slytherins needed to stand united against the other Houses, and the boy was as reckless as a Gryffindor sometimes. He was protected by virtue of his status and personality, but she didn't want to test how far that extended – Malfoy's name carried a far heavier weight than his, after all. It had been different at Blaise's birthday over the summer – here they were in front of the entirety of the House, within earshot of the Ravenclaw table, had their yearmates peeking over at them from Hufflepuff. Rose needed to prove she could hold her own against Malfoy. She needed to be respected by the Slytherins in her own right, not by extension because of her friends.
(she'd let this go on for far too long)
"I'm not sure whether to be impressed that you think I, a twelve year old girl, am capable of smuggling a dangerous creature into Hogwarts, or disappointed that you also believe that, after that, I would be so idiotic as to literally wave it around under Dumbledore's too-long nose."
(she needed to act)
To rub salt in the wound, she turned very obviously to the High Table and gave a little wave at Dumbledore, trying not to jostle Macha on her wrist too much. He'd understand the power play, she was sure, and still wanted her on his good side, so she was almost certain he'd respond positively.
(but what to do?)
She was right. After a beat, Dumbledore, eyes twinkling, waved back. She was positive he knew what she was doing and thought it funny, which – well. She'd think on the implications of that later.
(prank? Curse? Obscure spell?)
Malfoy's eyes narrowed, face flushed in both embarrassment and anger at how she'd shot him down. "You don't belong here, Potter, you with your filthy mudblood of a mother – "
(filthy mudblood, he'd called her mother, as if she wasn't more powerful and brilliant than he could ever hope to be)
The word echoed in her mind. She was upset from Sally-Anne and Wayne's rejection, from her classmates' fear, exhausted from the thousand and one schemes she was running, she'd been in such a good mood and –
Malfoy had ruined it with a word. That word. He'd used that word and he'd used it to insult her mother. She hated that word, she hated that word, she hated -
"You're going to regret saying that, Malfoy," Rose said calmly. Her friends had gone very still – she'd never told them her thoughts about that word, but she knew they could see the anger in every line of her body. Rose wanted him to suffer – she wanted to make him scream – he had insulted her mother, her mother, who had given her life to protect her and come up with a way to counter the Killing Curse – but she was in the Great Hall. She needed her revenge to be private – more private than this, at least.
(that word, that word, the root of all her - )
(she would make him hurt)
Rose stood. "I'll see you after dinner, Malfoy," she said, and left. She heard him scoff behind her and nearly trembled with rage. How dare he, he thought furiously, how dare –
(daddy and I would die for you, darlings, her mother had whispered. We would gladly give up our lives, our futures, for yours)
In insulting her, Malfoy had spit on her sacrifice, laughed at everything she'd accomplished –
(Rose watched as her mother – her ruthless, brilliant, muggleborn mother – covered their nursery in runes and sigils. She held bonfires in the center of the room, burning sage and mugwort and mint, casting the blood of herself and James into the fire until it sparked, blazing a blinding white for three days and three nights. She chanted, in Latin and Gaelic and Celtic, until the air was heavy and thrumming with her magic and she collapsed, spent)
Malfoy had called her filthy, had all but called her stupid and worthless and Lily Potter was better than he could ever dream of being, how dare he –
And to use that word -
(she would see him bleed)
She gave Harry a strained smile and waved him over. She had a plan, but she needed -
(mudblood, Hermione's arm read, blood still beading over the fresh blood)
He seemed to have gotten the gist – she saw him get up and follow her out of the hall.
(I don't need help from filthy little mudbloods like her)
"Malfoy did something," she said, after throwing up simple privacy wards. "I need to borrow the cloak."
Harry studied her. "Be careful," he said.
"I will," she replied.
(she hated that word)
Rose was cold with rage. Harry had inherited Lily's fiery, crackling temper, but James had gotten cold and cruel when he was angry. He'd humiliated Severus Snape in front of dozens of people, he'd put students in the hospital wing and never gotten caught, he'd ruined reputations and made people cry. He'd been a vicious, vicious bully, and she'd inherited his streak of cold ruthlessness and propensity for violence just as surely as she'd inherited Lily's pragmatism and disregard for laws in the defence of those she held dear.
When her parents had gotten word that Marlene McKinnon and her family had been killed, James had trembled with anger. They'd been friends since childhood; he saw Marlene as a sister. He'd come staggering back hours later, robes tattered and singed with spellfire, dripping blood on the white marble floors of Potter Manor. When Lily had made to look over him, he'd given her a vicious grin. "None of it's mine," he'd said. Lily had smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
"I hope you made them pay."
"Oh, I did."
That night, when Malfoy got up and left the Great Hall, Rose followed him. She could tell from his carelessness that he wasn't really afraid of her – for all she'd been raised by a Black, she was still a twelve-year-old girl and a Hufflepuff besides. She had no way of getting at him in the Slytherin common room, so Malfoy surrounded himself with friends and allies and walked with confidence.
(she was really, really looking forward to this)
(good thing she'd had so much practice sneaking into the Slytherin dorms in her eighth year; she hoped her Daphne would be proud)
She'd borrowed the Invisibility Cloak from Harry and ducked into an alcove to put it on. She trailed him through the dungeons until they reached the Slytherin common room.
Rose stood to the side, waiting. She saw her friends pass, having followed Malfoy once he'd left. She hadn't seen Flint or Derrick in the Great Hall and hoped they had waited in the common room, but honestly, it didn't much matter. They'd hear about this either way – she'd make sure of it.
She didn't hear the password, but she didn't need it. She tucked the cloak away in her bag once the corridor was clear.
$Open$, she hissed. The wall slid open.
She stood on the threshold, eyes fixed on Malfoy. He'd just sat down, surrounded by his little cronies. Disgust curled her stomach. How dare he sit there, without a care in the world? How dare he dismiss her as a threat?
Theodore, Blaise, and Daphne were at a table in the corner. She ignored them. Tonight, she only had eyes for Malfoy.
"Good evening, Malfoy," Rose said pleasantly. She stepped into the common room, wall sliding closed behind her.
Most Slytherins were at dinner. The few that were present fell silent. Rose felt a rush of pleasure when she noticed Flint, Derrick, and most of the Slytherin Quidditch team. The ones she'd spoken to last year, the ones she'd shown her edges to, looked interested. They wanted to see what she could do.
Good. She wanted to show them.
$Bind him$, she hissed. Several people screamed. She saw her friends openly gape at her in shock. A sixth year fell out of their chair. $Let no one leave. Let no one enter$
Crabbe, Goyle, and Parkinson scrambled away from Malfoy as he cried out, the snakes decorating the common room coming alive. They wrapped around his wrists and legs, holding him in place. She hadn't needed to specify a name – the Parselmagic of the common room read her intentions, clear as crystal. Slytherins moved away from her as she approached, leaning back, looking down, too afraid to meet her eyes. The sight sent a thrill up her spine and she reveled in it.
$Guard me$, she ordered. The carpet shivered, flexing around her feet. An enormous serpent that'd once been painted on the chandelier fell to the floor and curled in a wide circle around her, hissing. It was more for effect than anything else, what with the stench of fear upon the air.
She sat down primly on the coffee table in front of Malfoy. They were nearly at eye level.
"I told you I'd see you after dinner," she said pleasantly. "Did you doubt me? After calling my mother a filthy mudblood?" she asked, voice ending in a snarl.
Malfoy said nothing. He was grey with fear and trembling. He flinched when she spoke.
"Well?" She demanded, voice hardening. "Did you? Tell the truth." She flared her magic, a trick she'd learned over the summer. It rippled outwards from her in a wave of pressure. Malfoy's head dipped automatically in submission and her very skin thrummed with satisfaction.
"Yes," he whispered. The room was so silent it carried.
"That was very foolish of you, Malfoy." she crooned. "You understand that now, don't you?" With a flick of her wrist her wand shot from her holster into her hand. She twirled it around her fingers. Macha unwound herself and curled around her shoulders, wings flared.
$May I eat him for you, Red One?$
$Not yet, darling$, Rose murmured. $I want to make him bleed first$
Malfoy nodded, shaking. His eyes flicked from her face to her wand to Macha and back again. Poor baby doesn't know where to look, she thought gleefully.
She smelled the stench of urine – he'd pissed himself.
Her smiled sharpened. "Use your words, Draco."
"I understand," he said. "I won't doubt you again." There was a barely noticeable quiver in his voice. She hoped the room heard it.
"Good." She said. Rose leaned forwards and pulled up the sleeve of his left arm. The room, if possible, tensed even more.
"I want you to remember this, Draco," she said. Her voice carried. "The next time you even think about insulting my friends and family, remember this. Remember how helpless you felt, watching me and knowing there was absolutely nothing," she snarled, "you could do to stop me."
$Diffindo$, she hissed. Spells cast in Parseltongue gave their caster more control and more power in exchange for a large chunk of magic. Rose didn't care. She held up her wand for a moment, so everyone could see the red light she was holding at the tip. She lowered it and slowly drew her wand down the length of Malfoy's forearm, opening up a gash. Malfoy started to sob, gasping in great, heaving breaths. Blood, thick and red as her mother's hair (her filthy mudblood hair), welled up and spilled over, staining his robes. She murmured a spell to slow its passage – she didn't want him to bleed out.
(when Madam Pomphrey had given her the book Rose had found the spell in, the mediwitch had had no idea of how Rose would use it)
(the entrails-expelling curse had once been used by farmers, after all)
$Is this for me, Red One?$ Macha asked.
Rose smiled slowly and relished Malfoy's obvious fear (this boy had called her mother a filthy mudblood). $Yes, sweetheart. Did I not offer you the blood of my enemies?$
Macha gave a wordless hiss of pleasure and slithered down Rose's arm. She heard people whimper at the sight of the little occamy delightedly drinking Malfoy's blood. Macha nudged the exposed flesh a little in her eagerness and Malfoy stifled a scream. Her previously blue scales were now painted red.
(occamies weren't known to enjoy human blood, but this was a creature selected by Death)
(everyone heard Macha's delighted little chirps)
"Remember how it felt to have your blood run down your arm and your own piss soaking your trousers," she whispered, giving him a vicious smile. "Remember that your dormitory is covered in snakes, and they answer to me."
Macha withdrew, leaving smears of blood in her wake. She hissed an $episkey$ and watched as the gash closed. One $scourgify$ later (and she hoped everyone had noticed her usage of upper-year spells) and all that remained of her visit was the stench of blood and urine in the air.
She pulled Malfoy's sleeve back down and patted it, relishing in his flinch. It was spotless.
$Release him$, she hissed. There were no screams, but she saw several flinches in her peripheral vision. Malfoy's hands shook when the snakes retreated back into the upholstery and stilled. He didn't dare look at her.
"I won't be so gentle next time," she said quietly.
She stood up and glanced around the room. Only Theo met her eyes. Her heart gave a little pang at the sight of Blaise and Daphne, who'd both gone very pale.
"That goes for all of you," she said. She pitched her voice low, so it carried. She'd learned it from Snape. "Leave my friends and family alone. Don't curse them. Don't insult them. My familiar doesn't have many chances to drink human blood, though she's told me she quite likes it." Rose gave a sharp, cruel smile.
I dare you, her eyes whispered. I dare you to test me again.
Flint was brave enough to meet her eyes. He looked shaken, face white, but when he spoke his voice was steady and hard. "Message received, Potter. Your friends and family won't be touched, not by us."
"Good. Let the others know, won't you?
"And," she added, "since there's no evidence that anybody got hurt, I don't feel any need to tell the professors about this little disagreement, do you?"
"Excellent," Rose beamed, switching back into her cheerful-Hufflepuff mask. The sudden switch was disorienting; she practically heard people flinch. "I'll see you later, everyone!" She paused and giggled. "Or not, if you're good." Her smile turned teasing. She paused just before the door and tilted her head. "Oh, I almost forgot – "
$Let them leave and enter as they please$
"Wouldn't want you all to be trapped in here, would I? I can't imagine a more terrible death," Rose said, sighing theatrically. "Goodbye, now." She waggled her fingers.
She felt the change as the magic of the Slytherin common room obeyed. It caressed her in farewell. She stepped out, still smiling, ignoring the Slytherins waiting outside. Rose swept past before they could question her.
She'd told Harry about it over their mirrors last night. She had expected disapproval or disappointment, and Harry had shocked her with his vicious grin. He'd laughed when she told him what she wanted to do tomorrow morning.
(serves him right, he'd said. Calling mum a filthy mudblood in front of you. Idiot)
Rose couldn't help but smile as she and Susan walked into the Great Hall for breakfast. She lit up further upon seeing Theo, Blaise, and Daphne already there. The two Hufflepuffs made a beeline for them and sat down.
The only looks they got were from the other three Houses – she'd terrified Slytherin well and good last night. Even now they eyed her with poorly-concealed fear – well, poorly concealed by their standards, at least. Rose didn't think any of the other Houses or professors, save Snape, would notice. They seemed much more put-together than last night, though that might've been because of the current presence of witnesses.
"Morning, friends!" Rose chirped. Theo passed her a bowl of strawberries and she beamed at him in thanks. He hadn't known about her Parseltongue before, but she'd explicitly named him a friend at Blaise's birthday party, and the quick smile she'd given him in the Slytherin common room last night had washed away any doubt that might've been present.
Despite her very best attempts to draw them out of their shells, Blaise and Daphne's smiles never quite reached their eyes. Fear curled in her stomach – she would need to talk to them later, she knew. The only person who'd ever seen her sadistic side was…
Well, it was Voldemort.
(and wasn't that an odd thought?)
(she felt something squishy beneath her fingers and pushed,but beneath the horror and disgust and determination there was satisfaction)
"Good morning," Harry grinned, sliding in on her other side. Neville and Hermione followed suite, both looking nervous.
"Mind if I borrow Macha for first period?" Harry asked casually. "In case Lockhart's still got some pixies, you know."
Rose grinned at him. "Of course." She passed her familiar to him and she could practically see the cogs in the Slytherin's heads turning – Parseltongue was inherited, after all.
Malfoy, sitting a way down the table, went grey and looked resolutely at his toast. For once, he wasn't sitting with Parkinson – the girl was sitting instead with Emma Vane and Tracey Davis.
… Emma Vane, muggleborn, and Tracey Davis, half-blood. If she'd been a cat, her ears would've perked up. Now that was interesting. She'd need to keep an eye on Parkinson.
She needed to hurry off to class before she saw Flint or Derrick. Rose made a mental note to talk to them later – if Blaise and Daphne, whom she considered friends, were uneasy around her, she didn't want to think about how Flint and Derrick had reacted. They'd seen it firsthand, after all. Had she gone too far?
No, Rose reassured herself. I needed them to respect me.
You could've done that with a duel. Any respect they have for you is born out of fear, and fear fades. Fear fades, injuries heal - it's humiliation that lasts.
… oh. She hadn't even thought about that.
What does it say about you, that your first instinct is violence?
What does it say about you, that you enjoyed it?
Next time, she told herself. Next time, she would start with a duel. She wouldn't let herself get carried away again. She thought she'd been so clever, using the cloak and sealing the common room, when all along it'd been the same reckless temper that'd led her to crucio a Death Eater in front of Professor McGonagall.
She'd do better next time, she promised herself. She'd destroy Malfoy in a duel, show off her magical prowess, insult him and humiliate him and make him pay -
(in a way that didn't remind her of Voldemort)
Rose remembered the heady rush of power she'd felt and shivered.
(she and Harry had been blood-adopted by Sirius. They had thought themselves free of the Black Madness)
(were they wrong? Or had all that just been… her?)
Rose had an odd relationship with attention. She didn't mind it – welcomed it, even – when she drew it purposefully (she'd never felt that powerful before, that night in the Slytherin common room, seeing every one of them still and silent and hanging on her every word). When she was caught off-guard, however, it was far more irritating.
She held back a grimace as she stepped into the sixth year Ancient Runes class. The only people she recognized was Percy Weasley (the lone Gryffindor) and Brianna Melton, who was a Hufflepuff Prefect. Melton was already sitting next to someone though, a boy with yellow lining his robes. They were the only Hufflepuffs – apart from them, there were three Ravenclaws and three Slytherins. It was the smallest class she'd ever seen, and she knew for a fact that there had only been one Runes NEWT class for decades – Professor Babbling required an "O" to continue, and even then it was one of the most difficult of the subjects offered at Hogwarts.
All of them were staring. Rose wanted to crawl under a desk. Stupid of her, to think that just because she'd spent a year being approachable and friendly that that would cancel out her, a second year, in a NEWT-level course.
"Hello, Miss Potter!" Professor Babbling said, looking up from her desk. She was a short, innocuous-looking woman, with straight brown hair cut in a bob and intelligent brown eyes. "Do sit down, won't you?"
The only available seat (unless she wanted to sit on her own) was beside a gentle-looking Slytherin boy. She slid in beside him, trying not to read too much into the gasps and wide-eyed looks she was getting – especially from Prefect Melton.
Slytherin prejudice exists, she reminded herself.
"Miss Potter," Professor Babbling said, gracing her with a small smile, "is something of a prodigy. She took her OWL over the summer, and I won't have any of you giving her a hard time, do I make myself clear?"
At the severe look she shot them, everyone nodded. Rose looked down, blushing furiously. She looked back up when Professor Babbling began her lecture, readying her quill.
"Over the past three years, you have learned the meanings and uses of Elder and Younger Futhark. You have gone from translating single runes, to pairs, to passages. You have demonstrated a firm understanding of how to use Elder and Younger Futhark to create the most basic of wards. Now, we will begin exploring international runic systems, comparing them to Futhark. You will be learning an additional five of the seven main runic languages, so you have been provided with academic-grade Memory Potions to help you memorize the different meanings. Next year, you will learn how to integrate these systems. Wards and enchantments anchored with integrated runes are considerably more powerful and longer lasting than those done with a single language. Any questions?"
A Ravenclaw raised her hand.
"Yes, Miss Gallagher?"
"Why would combining languages strengthen the wards? Would the different rules not clash and weaken them instead?"
Professor Babbling smiled. "Two points to Ravenclaw for an insightful question. I'm afraid the answer isn't yet known – there's a great deal of empirical evidence that proves it, but the theory behind it is still being discussed. If you're interested, I can recommend a few issues of Runes Monthly with noteworthy hypotheses. Anyone else? Miss Garrison?"
The Slytherin girl straightened. "Professor, why didn't we receive Memory Potions when learning Elder and Younger Futhark?"
Professor Babbling frowned at the wave of snickers that passed through the room. "I get that question every year, it's nothing to be ashamed of. Memory Potions work best for languages when one has already learned a language the traditional way. Remember that it only boosts memory, not comprehension, so your brain operates better when similar pathways are already in place. Does that make sense?"
"Excellent. If that's all, let's begin:
"The Ancient Chinese equivalent of Futhark were mentioned briefly last year, but only used as a comparison. Today we will be learning the Chinese system in its own right."
It was fascinating. Professor Babbling was an excellent teacher, taking the time to point out references in their textbook, reiterating her points, and going at a steady enough pace that Rose's hand wasn't cramping nearly as badly as she'd expected it to by the end of the lesson. She jotted down the homework in her planner and tucked it back into her bag. Giving a shy, "See you next class," to her deskmate, she was waylaid by Prefect Melton almost immediately afterwards.
"Hello," she said curiously. Prefect Melton looked equal parts concerned and exasperated.
"Potter," she said, blue eyes deadly serious. "I know you're friendly with some Slytherins – hell, the whole school knows by now – but that's one Slytherin you ought to stay away from. That was Felix Rookwood, Augustus Rookwood's son." She pressed her lips together. "Ex-Unspeakable Augustus Rookwood."
They both knew she meant ex-Death Eater.
"That doesn't mean he's like his father," Rose said quietly. Theo isn't. Pansy… might not be.
"I've known him far longer than you have, Potter. He's dangerous."
"He won't do anything to me in class though," Rose pointed out. "It'd be far too obvious."
Melton sighed. "Fine, just – try not to antagonize him, alright? And stay away from him outside of class?"
Offended, Rose objected, "I've never antagonized anyone."
The boy next to Melton snorted. "Pull the other one, Potter."
Melton rolled her eyes. "Apologies, Potter. This idiot is Liam Willis."
"Well met, Willis," Rose said. Willis waved her off.
"No need for formality, Potter. We're not Slytherins." Rose wanted very badly to object to that blatant stereotyping ('well met' wasn't even that formal! She hadn't bowed or anything), but kept her mouth shut. This wasn't the time or place.
"I'll stay away from Rookwood outside class," Rose pretended to give in. She had no such intention of doing so – she wasn't going to form her opinion of him based on hearsay, no matter how well-meaning.
(he might stay away from you, though, her mind whispered. After your show last night)
Fuck. She really hadn't thought that one through, had she?
She found her three Slytherin friends at their usual table in the library, tucked away in a corner at the very back. They were sitting with Tracey Davis and Emma Vane, which Rose carefully did not look shocked at. She saw Pansy Parkinson lurking behind a bookshelf nearby and pretended not to notice. She also pretended not to notice the way Blaise and Daphne had gone still. Davis and Vane had looked petrified (hah) since she'd shown up.
(like prey, Rose's mind whispered)
"Could I have a word with you, Blaise? Daphne?"
"Of course," Blaise said, trying for a smile. He was still unnaturally stiff. Daphne said nothing at all; she simply stood and turned, looking at her with her chin raised in a gesture of defiance. It hurt, to see her friends looking at her like –
(like they were prey)
Rose shook off her thoughts. "Shall we go somewhere more private? It won't take long, I hope." She'd tried to make the words unthreatening, but her soft, pleasant tone seemed to unnerve them just by itself. The fear in her belly worsened – what if… what if they didn't forgive her? She was sure they'd expected her to rip Malfoy apart verbally, mock and insult him until he cried, maybe. Instead, she'd had her familiar drink his blood. From his left arm, too. Rose didn't think anyone missed the significance of that.
She led them into an abandoned classroom and set up a few privacy spells. She looked from Blaise's well-concealed nervousness to Daphne's stone face.
"I'm not going to be a Dark Lord," she said bluntly.
"Really?" Blaise blurted out.
"A Grey Lord, then?" Daphne asked calmly. There was a tremble in her index finger she couldn't quite hide. "We haven't had one of those in a while."
"What – no, why does everyone keep thinking –" she cut herself off, breathing deeply.
"I don't want to rule over anyone," Rose said emphatically. She stared at her friends, willing them to believe her. "I just want to protect my friends and family. For the record," she added. "I consider both of you my friends. I'd never hurt you on purpose."
"Spoken like a true Hufflepuff," Daphne murmured. Blaise gave the girl a panicked look.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck thiswasbad -
"I'm not lying or acting or trying to trick you," Rose said, a note of desperation creeping into her voice. "Please – you really are my friends – I love arguing over history with you, Blaise, and Daphne, I think you're one of the funniest people I've ever known – I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was a Parselmouth earlier but even Theo didn't know and – I'm sorry," she whispered miserably. "I didn't mean to scare you – please tell me I haven't messed everything up," Rose begged. She was almost crying now – she'd had no idea of the effect she would have, and what did that say about her that she knew her friends so poorly?
"Please," Rose repeated. "What do I have to do to make you believe me?"
Blaise shifted uncertainly. She saw cracks in Daphne's mask, and had to hold herself back from pushing. She'd said her piece – it was up to them, now.
"An oath," Daphne said quietly. "An oath on your magic."
Blaise gaped at his Housemate, turning his shocked gaze onto Rose when she pulled out her wand. An oath was a serious thing – breaking it would turn her into a squib and would take an enormous chunk of her core regardless. She'd be weakened for days. It was extremely rude of Daphne to even ask, an enormous faux-pas, but if it would let her keep her friends...
"I, Rose Lyra Potter, do swear – "
"Wait," Daphne said. "That's enough – I just wanted to see if you would."
Rose blinked at her. "Oh. Alright." She looked at the Slytherins cautiously. "Does this mean we're friends again?"
(she hated herself for the vulnerability she couldn't quite hide – Rose-of-the-Cupboard had never been fully locked away, it seemed)
Blaise softened. "We never stopped being your friends, Rose." He pulled her into an awkward hug, relaxing as Rose all but melted into it.
"We were just worried you preferred us as minions," Daphne said dryly. She made an affronted noise as Rose reached out and pulled her into the hug.
"Minions are boring," Rose mumbled. "Friends are much better."
"This is humiliating," came Daphne's muffled voice.
"It's alright, Daph," Blaise said cheerfully. "We're never speaking of this conversation again, after all."
Rose couldn't hold back a giggle. "I've missed you both," she whispered, voice thick with emotion.
"Dear Merlin," Daphne said, dripping disgust. "You really are a Hufflepuff. I hope it's not catching."
When they went back to the library, Theo took one look at them and said "Finally."
"Shut up, Theo," Rose said affably, sitting down and pulling out her Ancient Runes notes. She trawled the library for reference books, returning with a stack half her height and letting it drop onto the table with a loud thump, grinning at the irritated looks Theo and Daphne shot her.
("I'm not sure you understand how terrifying you can be," Theo had told her quietly. "That night… none of us had even considered that you'd be capable of that. If you fooled them that easily, they wondered what else you might've slipped past them."
"And you don't?"
"You said so yourself – we're friends. And if you proved anything that night, it was that you defended people you cared about.")
That night, Susan pulled her aside in their dorm room.
"Everything alright?" Rose asked, worried.
Susan bit her lip. "You know I'm not one to gossip, but… well. I thought you should know that Sally-Anne Perks, Leanne Frobisher, and Wayne Hopkins were talking about you earlier, about how occamies were always the familiars of Dark witches and such. I'm not sure if anyone else believed them, but…"
Rose sighed. "It's alright. I've known that not everyone would be alright with Macha," she said, smiling weakly. She couldn't quash that little pang of disappointment though – all three were part of her study group. She knew them, and they knew her. It was one thing to be wary of her when she'd been a Gryffindor and barely interacted with them like in her past life, but in this one… She'd logically known she couldn't expect everyone to be on her side, but being shown proof of it hit differently.
"Hannah, Justin, Ernie, and I shut them down," Susan told her firmly. There was a hint of worry in her eyes, making Rose wonder what her face looked like.
"Thanks," she said quietly, a little heartened. At least she had more defenders this time around and, with luck, there wouldn't be a situation where she was a suspected Heir of Slytherin.
"I'm sorry," Susan said softly, reaching out tentatively. Rose stepsided it and pulled the other girl into a hug.
"Sorry," she mumbled. "I knew this was coming – I'm not sure why – "
"You thought they were your friends," Susan said quietly. "Don't be ashamed of being upset."
Perks, Frobisher, and Hopkins were one thing – their avoidance was borne out of prejudice, declaring her Dark because of her familiar (and like there was something wrong with being Dark, but Rose wasn't there yet). Everyone else, she believed, avoided her out of a combination of fear and prejudice.
In an effort to drag her Housemates into accepting her familiar, Rose had taken to wearing Macha curled up on top of her head like a crown while she did her homework in the common room. She'd explained it as Macha having tired of her tank, which was true, but not the primary reason. As it was, Hufflepuffs who'd been friendly towards her last year were already giving her wary looks. Even Brianna Melton and Liam Willis were eyeing her with new caution, which hurt.
(but she'd chosen this, she reminded herself. She'd wanted to combat prejudice, to remake the world into one Harry – and she – deserved)
(if this was the price, she would pay it gladly)
Ernie, remembering his reaction to her after the Samhain ritual, and after seeing Susan make a point of cooing over Macha, stood staunchly by her. Hannah, after Rose let her feed Macha some ice mice, was delighted by their new study companion. The familiar bond allowed Rose and Macha to share emotions and understand each other, which was why she was allowed at all.
Rose, bent over an Astronomy worksheet, felt Macha slither her way down her head and curl up around her upper arm. She glanced down at the occamy, who flicked a tongue out in greeting.
"Hello," she told her fondly, brushing the tip of Macha's nose with the end of her quill. Across from her, she heard Hannah aww'h.
$Hello$ Macha replied impishly. She peered at Rose's worksheet with her sleek little head. Rose felt a pulse of curiosity from her.
"It's a review of the stuff we learned last year," she told the occamy, who looked for all the world like she was listening intently. "Mainly basic maths and trigonometry, but also a review of the phases of the moon and constellations."
Macha tilted her head in a very human expression of confusion. She heard Justin muffle a squeal of delight and smiled. Macha really was adorable.
"It's important to know for harvesting things like potions ingredients," Rose explained, trying not to smile. "Water-based magic is stronger on the full moon, and shrivelfigs ought to be picked at the new moon, because the gravity of the moon creates the tides. The power of the moon is weakest at midday on the new moon, which means that shrivelfigs picked at that time will be less reactive and prone to explosions."
Macha gave a little chirp and nudged Rose's cheek affectionately, before curling back up and tucking her head in her coils. Rose finally allowed herself to smile fondly at the occamy. Really, for all that she had a taste for human blood, Macha was unfairly cute.
"Is she very interested in Astronomy?" Diggory asked curiously. Rose looked up to find him leaning over her chair. She shifted aside a little.
"I think she just likes hearing me talk," she admitted bashfully.
Diggory grinned. "That's adorable."
"Isn't it?" Hannah sighed dreamily. "I wish I had an occamy."
Diggory mock-frowned at her. "Don't you have a kneazle familiar?"
Hannah blushed. "Yes, Mistletoe can't exactly hang around my shoulder like that – well, you know what I mean."
He grinned. Hannah ducked her head and turned pink. Ernie gave a very subtle scowl.
"I have a proposal to make," Rose began. Immediately, Theo snickered.
"Blaise is going to be disappointed."
"What does Zabini have to with this?" Harry asked curiously. Susan giggled.
"Shut up, Theo. I want to invite Blaise and Daphne to join us," Rose said.
"Now that she's reassured them she won't induct them into her evil army," Theo muttered. Rose threw a book at him, which he caught easily.
"What?" Hermione wanted to know.
Rose pressed her lips together and glared at Theo. "Ignore him, Hermione, Theo thinks he's funny. I've gotten closer to Blaise and Daphne since the incident with Malfoy – " not that any of them, save Harry and Theo, knew entirely what that was, only that she'd scared Malfoy a bit " – and I trust them. They're not blood purists."
"And they hate Malfoy," Theo added.
Everyone looked at Harry, the unofficial leader of the group. He sighed, looking tired and something else. "Don't make me regret this, Rosie."
She beamed at him.
(as it turned out, she did, but not in the way they'd expected)
"Forgive me for my bluntness, Miss Granger," Daphne said delicately. "But may I ask what products you use on your hair? I've noticed that it seems to bother you."
Hermione frowned, unsure whether to be offended or not.
"I mean no offense," Daphne reassured her. "I only want to help, I promise. My aunt has similar hair."
(and that was the beginning of the unholy, entirely unexpected friendship between Hermione and Daphne – between Hermione's brains and Daphne's political maneuvering, they brought down the wrath of the gods upon any student unfortunate enough to be seen attacking another)
(Hermione preferred obvious, showy retaliation – she'd cursed Amanda Ackerley to have the word 'bully' spelled out in bright, painful-looking pustules that Madam Pomphrey hadn't been able to heal. The spell only worsened, more and more pustules appearing, until Ackerley got the hint and stopped jinxing Slytherin first-years in the halls)
(Daphne favoured more subtle methods – Malcom Rosier hadn't dared look at either her nor Hermione after he'd called Penelope Clearwater a stupid mudblood)
(Rose still didn't know what they'd done)
(but there was a part of her that hummed with pleasure at seeing her own anti-bullying stance carried on by her friends)
On Saturday, Rose, Susan, Harry, and Anthony Goldstein accosted Professor Flitwick during his office hours and asked if he could supervise their study group. They intended to practice defence spells, after all, and Flitwick had been a duelling champion in his youth. Flitwick had agreed happily, telling them he'd ask the Headmaster to reopen one of the disused Defence classrooms.
(the wars with Grindelwald and Voldemort had killed many of all blood, and those who'd lived through that were reluctant to bring children into the midst of a war)
(the incoming first-year class was the smallest Hogwarts had seen in decades; even now the House tables looked sparse)
Rose happily handed off leadership of the group to Harry, Susan, and Anthony. Between them, Harry and Susan had a great number of resources they could draw upon, and Anthony was even more organized and on top of things than Hermione was.
Reincarnation or not, Rose had a number of schemes she was in the middle of, as well as more she'd yet to begin. Her spellwork might have been excellent, but theory and essays had always been Hermione's forte, and her homework still took an embarrassingly long time to complete. She had a NEWT next year – she didn't have the time or brainpower to spare for the group.
"Wait," Anthony blurted out. "Are you really taking sixth year Runes?"
"Oh," Rose said, ducking her head. "Yes, I am."
"She got an Outstanding on her OWL," Harry said proudly.
"Wow," Anthony said. "I mean, I heard rumors but… you know…"
"Primary sources are important," Rose grinned. "I understand."
Anthony grinned back. For the first time, Rose looked at him and didn't feel any guilt.
Early Sunday morning, just as the sun was rising over the horizon, Harry met her at a secret passage that let out near the Gryffindor common room. He pulled the Invisibility Cloak out of his bag and she draped it over herself, whispering Softening Charms on the soles of her shoes. She followed him on silent feet as he led her to Gryffindor Tower, slipping in behind him before the portrait of the Fat Lady swung closed. The common room was, as expected, deserted. She tapped Harry's shoulder once to let him know she was going to the girl's dormitory and he pulled out a book, settling down near a window.
(there were so many memories in this room)
(that couch in the corner was where she, Ron, and Hermione had spent so many nights)
(that table over there was the one Fred and George had jumped on when advertising their products)
(she needed to do this quickly)
Rose crept up the stairs and into the room housing the first-year girls. She froze as the door creaked when she pushed it open – stupid, stupid mistake – and relaxed when she didn't hear any signs of movement.
Ginny hadn't pulled her curtains shut – it made it easy to find her trunk. She cast a number of detecting spells and found no wards or enchantments to prevent her from opening it, so she did and rummaged as quietly as she could but found no trace of the Diary.
Slowly, dread pooling in her stomach, she pulled back a corner of Ginny's pillow, dropping it quickly when that revealed nothing as well. She stared down at Ginny, trying not to feel like a creeper. The way her arms were curved, it was like …
Oh, fuck, Rose thought numbly. She lifted Ginny's blanket just enough to see the corner of a slim, black book.
She wrapped two pieces of acromantula silk around her hand in a makeshift mitten, making a mental note to ask Penny to sew it into gloves, and gave a gentle tug on the book.
Immediately, Ginny's grip tightened, and she shifted in her sleep.
… in her sleep.
Rose abruptly felt very, very stupid. Was she a witch or not?
Three whispered sleeping charms later, Rose pulled the Diary out of Ginny's grasp and dropped it into a bag, encasing it in ten layers of acromantula silk. She closed the door behind her, descending the spiraling staircase, and hurried to her brother. She tapped Harry twice on the shoulder. He got up, closing his book, and left the Gryffindor common room.
When they were safely tucked away in the Room of Requirement, Rose pulled off the Cloak.
"Did you get it?" Harry asked eagerly.
In response, Rose held up the bag and grinned. Harry beamed back.
"Brilliant! Now we just need – Penny!"
In front of them, the head house elf of Potter Manor appeared before them with an earsplitting crack. Private elves were allowed through the wards if called by their master, though were not permitted to remove living things, nor use magic beyond apparition.
(free elves, of course, had no such restrictions – Rose had a vague memory of Dobby blasting Lucius Malfoy down a corridor)
(of course, free elves also usually died in a year or two without a house's ambient magic to sustain it)
"Penny, take this to Sirius when he's alone or with Remus. Don't open it or touch anything inside." Rose told her. Penny nodded and disappeared. She reappeared a moment later, empty-handed.
"Master Sirius is saying that the snake is in the hole, sirs and madams!"
"Thank you, Penny," Harry said. "You may go."
"'The snake is in the hole'?" Rose burst out. "He's been watching too many muggle movies."
Harry grinned. "I thought it was clever."
"Of course, you would." She ruffled Harry's hair affectionately, ignoring his indignant yelp.
(she didn't relax, though – this had been far too easy)
They played around a bit with the Room of Requirement, Rose briefly bemoaning the fact that they only had one acromantula silk bag – one was needed for each horcrux, and the sheer amount of silk each bag required made it astronomically expensive. They'd planned to collect the diadem after Yule, but it still rankled to have a horcrux so close and unable to do anything about it.
She and Harry made a game of seeing what interesting things they could find in the Room of Hidden Things. They giggled at the odd socks and old-fashioned clothes before Harry found a copy of Magick Moste Evile. They stared at it for a moment, before sharing a look and calling for Penny. After the book had been given to Sirius with their request to please add it to the library, Harry and Rose began finding all the books they could.
The Room had, presumably, existed since the founding of Hogwarts a thousand years ago. Who knew what kind of knowledge lay here, books that'd been outlawed or forgotten? It was a heady thought.
So it was that they emerged from the Room several hours later, having gone through a small fraction of the things within. Rose vanished the dust on their robes with a quick evanesco. As they walked into the Great Hall, Rose caught sight of a head of dirty blonde hair and nearly staggered from shock.
(she'd forgotten Luna)
She switched directions immediately, Harry giving her an exasperated smile as she left. Rose was planning to set up a schedule – dinner Friday with the Slytherins, breakfast Saturday with the Gryffindors, and breakfast Sunday with the Ravenclaws.
(it had been just her in the beginning last year, but Harry had begun to join her and with him their friends)
(she was looking forward to the day their Slytherin friends joined them at the Gryffindor table. It was going to be explosive)
Rose waved a hello to her yearmates and sat down resolutely next to Luna.
The younger girl turned to her, fixing her with surprisingly focused grey eyes.
"I'm glad you're not alone, Rose Potter," she said dreamily. "You've been alone for so long."
"I'm glad I'm not alone too," Rose smiled back. "But one can never have too many friends. I'd be much obliged if you would be my friend, Miss Lovegood."
"Oh," Luna said softly. "That would be nice." The blonde gave her a small, uncertain smile. "I've never had friends before."
"I intend to be a lifelong friend, Luna," Rose said firmly. "You're not going to get rid of me even if you want to."
"You've surprisingly few wrackspurts."
"Is that a good thing?"
"It is, they make your brain go all fuzzy. You must be very clear-headed."
"Thank you, Luna. Do warn me if they ever start multiplying, would you?"
A thought occurring to her, she glanced under the table.
"… Luna, where are your shoes?"
"The nargles took them, but it's alright. They'll come back eventually."
"Nothing wrong with hurrying them along though, is there? Could you point out what those nargles looked like for me?"
Under the Invisibility Cloak, Rose walked into Ravenclaw Tower. She found the beds of Marietta Edgecomb, Patricia Stimpson, and Cho Chang (and didn't that hurt, knowing her old crush was a bully?), spelling every bit of parchment she could fine to be replaced with the words Leave Luna alone, or I won't stick to your homework next time.
As it was, she cursed their pillows to burn the sixth time they lay down – she wanted to create a subtle link between the two events.
The enormous library table Rose had claimed last year now boasted the vast majority of their non-Slytherin yearmates. There wasn't really a regular schedule – one of them would sit at the table as an implicit invitation, and anyone who passed by was welcome to join. She'd yet to add a Slytherin, but the Badger Holers' (eventually) warm reception to Blaise and Daphne had encouraged her. Rose had proposed the idea last Friday evening and asked everyone to please speak up in their defence if things got nasty – she'd clued them in to her Anti-Prejudice campaign, but since she was still working on ingratiating herself with the Slytherins, she could only work from the other end at the moment.
So, Saturday morning, when Blaise, Theo, and Daphne walked by their table, Rose made a point of waving to them and calling them over. Hermione seemed to genuinely perk up at the sight of Daphne, pulling her bag off the chair next to her and telling her she'd saved her a seat. Blaise feigned offense, caught the quill Rose tossed at him, and grinned as she patted the seat next to her.
Everyone else was… less welcoming. Ernie kept giving them suspicious glances, though Justin relaxed when he noticed Daphne and Hermione's friendly conversation. Lisa Turpin gave Rose a wide-eyed look, to which Rose responded with pleading eyes. Lisa wrinkled her nose and seemed to say ugh, fine, but I don't like it. That seemed to be the general consensus, though after a week had passed, Rose noticed Sophie Roper chatting with Daphne and Oliver Rivers leaning over to ask Blaise a question about history. Unfortunately, Rose had been near enough to hear both the question and Blaise's answer, and had been appalled. They'd gotten into another of their (now infamous) arguments and had gotten their group kicked out of the library for the nth time. Rose smiled guiltily at the looks everyone gave her.
"I'll talk with Professor Sprout at our next meeting to see if she can find us a better place," she promised.
"What meeting?" Lavender Brown asked.
(Rose very carefully did not look at her)
"Apparently," Hermione huffed. "Every House but Gryffindor gets regular check-in meetings with their Head."
Michael Corner looked appalled. "You mean Gryffindor doesn't?"
Terry snickered. "That explains a lot, actually."
"Oi!" Dean said, grinning. "Not our fault."
"McGonagall does have three jobs," Neville sighed. "I suppose she just doesn't have time for it."
"Well, maybe she shouldn't if she can't do them properly," Hermione frowned, before promptly looking horrified at her own audacity.
"Questioning figures of authority?" Daphne tsked. "We've been a bad influence on you, Granger."
Next Sunday morning, she sat down with the Ravenclaws again. She'd introduced Luna to her friends a few days ago – she and Hermione had got on like oil and water, but Hermione was at least less abrasive about it under Neville's disapproving eye. Neville and Luna had struck up a shy friendship, and the other boy would often invite her over to the Gryffindor table during meals. It warmed her, to say the least, to see that Luna would have friends and protectors in their own right. Neville was deceptively quiet, but she'd still seen the satisfied look on his face when Cho Chang, Marietta Edgecomb, and Patricia Stimpson came in one morning with vomit-colored puffs of hair. The look he'd shared with the Weasley twins made her wonder if she'd underestimated him. Even Diggory, who usually sat with his own friends and rarely interacted with her outside of the common room, waved a friendly hello to Luna whenever Rose had dragged her over to the Hufflepuff table.
She noticed, to her pleasure, that Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown had all joined Padma at the Ravenclaw table. She didn't remember if they'd done so in her past life, but this was the first time she'd noticed it since first year now that she was specifically searching for inter-House friendships. Very likely it had nothing to do with her at all, but it still gave her a pleased little hum to see.
"Morning, Luna," she greeted, smiling at the blonde as she pushed over a bowl of strawberries.
"What do you mean?" Luna asked. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?"
"All of them at once, I suppose," Rose said, then giggled. "Luna! I never knew you'd read The Hobbit!"
"Oh, yes," Luna said agreeably. "It's a very detailed history, isn't it?"
"I always thought it was a mite inaccurate with its descriptions of goblins and trolls."
"Well, not everything can be perfect. That would be a very boring world to live in, wouldn't it?"
"That's true, although I'd prefer for books to minimize their inaccuracies as much as possible."
"You must not like the new Defence professor very much, then."
Rose burst out laughing. She didn't remember Luna being this funny, but honestly she wasn't going to question it.
"No, not at all."
"Did you really set a Water Gimbert on him?"
"A Water… oh, you mean occamy? Yes, I did, Macha loves Cornish Pixies."
"Does she also love death and bloodshed?"
Rose's lips twitched. "So she says."
"She must be a very interesting Gimbert."
"She certainly thinks so."
Luna giggled. "I think I'd like to meet her one day."
"You will, Luna. I think she'd like to meet you too."
They ate in companionable silence, chatter only resuming once Harry and Neville sat down across from them. Rose snuck a careful glance sideways and saw the wondering light in Luna's eyes. She recognized it – it was the look of someone who couldn't believe they were surrounded by friends. Rose couldn't resist bumping Luna's shoulder with her own. At the other girl's questioning look, she grinned.
"I think this is certainly a good morning to feel good on, don't you?"
"Yes," Luna giggled shyly. "It certainly is."
"The first official meeting of the defence club is going to be in December," Harry told her. His green eyes were bright with excitement. Beside him, Susan practically vibrated. She could barely see Anthony behind all the books.
They were in the library, tucked away at the very back in an effort to hide from Madam Pince. As usual, the Muggle Studies section was completely deserted.
"Suze and I are making lesson plans," Harry grinned. It was adorable how excited he was; Rose had to stop herself from pinching his cheeks and cooing.
Susan nodded vigorously. "I've written to Aunty Amelia – she's ever so pleased to help; she's sent over a list of spells and book titles she thinks might be useful. Harry and I are going through them and coming up with lesson plans."
Rose arched an eyebrow. "You do know this isn't actually an official class, don't you? I'm fairly sure you don't need lesson plans."
Harry shrugged. "They won't be able to get the classroom set up 'til November, anyway," he said. "Got to update the enchantments and things. Might as well, yeah?"
She smiled fondly at them. "Well, it's your prerogative, I suppose. Let me know if you need any help, won't you?" Harry knew she had some experience in the matter, after all, and she could tell he'd caught her meaning by his grin.
Harry and Susan exchanged glances. "We're definitely going to take you up on that," Susan promises. "You're by far the best in our year at spellwork."
Rose blushed, because reincarnation was kind of cheating. She already knew what it felt like to have her magic cast those spells – it was like finding her way through a recently-overgrown path. Difficult, but at least a path had once existed. Harry gave her a look that said don't even think about denying it.
"What's Anthony doing, then?" Rose asked. The boy peered at her from behind his books. They were piled around him like a shield. Rose was tempted to topple the precarious pile.
"I'm working with Professor Flitwick to make sure Harry and Susan don't get us all killed," he grumbled. "They've got absolutely no respect for basic safety measures."
"Basic safety measures?" Susan echoed disbelievingly. "You're worse than my aunt!"
Harry nodded in agreement. "Far worse than my Uncle Remus."
"Because, of the three of us, I'm the only sane one here," Anthony moaned in despair. He shot her a look with narrowed blue eyes when Rose giggled.
"Shut up, Potter, this is all your fault."
"You can leave anytime you want," Rose replied innocently.
He scowled. "No, I can't just leave a project like this unfinished and you know that, you prat."
(there was a flicker of hope inside her – here, Anthony started learning Defence earlier. It added another layer of protection to him in case it all went to hell)
Rose was disappointed by the muted reactions to Blaise, Daphne, and Theo's presence at the Gryffindor table one Saturday morning, near the end of September. Theo seemed to pick up on her mood and rolled his eyes at her.
"You can't spend your Hogwarts career pushing for more inter-House friendships and be surprised when it actually happens, you know."
A few seats away, Dean nodded. "Honestly, we've been expecting them for weeks." He passed the saltshaker to Blaise at his request.
Rose stared. "And you're not… bothered? At all?"
Beside him, Seamus shrugged. "They're alright, for Slytherins. Besides, Ron hasn't woken up yet."
Dean winced. "Yeah… better be careful when he shows up, mate."
Blaise grinned, baring his teeth. "I look forwards to it."
(Ronald had needed to be frog-marched from the hall by the Weasley twins. Percy had shot them a contrite look. Ginny had purposefully sat down near their group with a huff and apology)
(it would've been funny if it didn't hurt so much)
Rose looked up from her essay at the sound of Diggory's voice. "Yes?"
"Could I have a word? Outside?"
"Alright," Rose said. He sounded uncharacteristically curt. She frantically wracked her brain for something she might've done to offend him but came up blank. Smiling apologetically at her friends, she made her way across the common room.
"I've got a… friend," Diggory said hesitantly, "who says that you did something to her."
Rose furrowed her brows. "That's awfully nonspecific."
"She wants to talk to you," Diggory blurted out. "And she knows we're friendly, so I said – "
"Alright," Rose said again. She couldn't keep the confused look off her face.
Diggory looked immensely relieved. "Oh, good, she should be waiting just through here – "
They went into an abandoned classroom and saw Cho Chang standing hesitantly near the center of the room.
"Oh," Rose said, with understanding. She saw the burn very clearly on Chang's cheek and couldn't help the satisfied twist of her stomach. Healing spells and potions wouldn't work – she'd need to wait for it to heal naturally.
"Potter," Chang greeted nervously. "Well met."
"Chang," she replied neutrally. She didn't return the greeting and saw the girl flinch.
"That was incredibly rude," Diggory began, but he was cut off.
"No," Chang said. "She… I deserve it." The girl met Rose's eyes and straightened. "I asked Cedric to bring you here because I wanted to explain myself."
Beside her, Diggory seemed incredibly confused. "Cho – "
"Just let me speak, alright?" Chang asked. Diggory nodded. She took a breath.
"I'm sorry I never stopped them," she told Rose. "Marietta and I – we've been friends since we were children, and Heidi's her second cousin. When I saw them – I knew what we did was wrong, but I was too afraid to speak up."
Against her will, Rose felt sympathy. Was peer pressure not the pitfall so many Slytherins had stumbled upon? If she gave them a second chance, if she actively worked to redeem them… could she really condemn Chang?
(no, she couldn't)
"You hurt her," Rose said quietly. "Did you know, when I offered to be her friend, she said she'd never had any friends before?" Involuntarily, her voice caught in her throat. Rose-of-the-Cupboard was screaming, hammering her fists against the door. Rose, Master of Death, refused to let her out.
(she was confusing her Lunas, wasn't she?)
Chang cringed. "I… I'm sorry," she whispered.
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to," Rose said. "I'm not the one you bullied."
It had only been two weeks in this timeline, but when it came to bullying it was never only anything.
"I'll apologize to Loo - Lovegood," Chang said, voice hardening with determination. "I'm not talking with Marietta and Heidi anymore. They might come after you, though," she said, worry creeping into her voice. "Try to pull you away from Loon - Lovegood. I think… if they haven't figured it out by now, it won't take them long. It's a bit obvious," she added apologetically.
Rose felt her eyes harden. "If they want to come after me, they can go ahead and try," she said quietly. "Luna's my friend now, and I'm not abandoning her for anything, let alone two little girls who think it's funny to steal a firstie's shoes."
With effort, she unclenched her fists, flexing her fingers.
"I appreciate the warning though," Rose said, because she wanted to give credit where it was due.
Chang gave her a weak smile. "It was the least I could do."
Rose bit her lip, hearing the dismissal but lingering anyway. "I want to be there when you apologize," she said. "Luna shouldn't have to be alone with you."
"That's fair," Chang whispered. Rose nodded at her, turning to Diggory.
"I'm going back to the common room," she told him. In all honesty, she'd forgotten he was there. He was glancing between Rose and Chang, a horrified realization dawning in his eyes. He didn't answer.
Rose left anyway. Unbearably nosy as she was, she whispered a supersensory charm just outside the doorway, listening in on their conversation as she walked down the corridor.
"You were bullying Luna?" Diggory said quietly.
"I… not directly."
"I grew up with her, you know. We live near each other."
"That burn on your cheek – Potter did that?"
"She cursed our pillows; Loon – Lovegood must've pointed us out to her."
"What did you almost call her? Loon-something?"
"… Looney. Looney Lovegood."
"I'm glad Potter cursed you."
"Cedric… I'm sorry - "
"That's not good enough, Cho. I thought you were better than that."
Rose dispelled the charm, hurrying further down the corridor. She… she'd forgotten Diggory had taken Chang to the Yule Ball. Had they been together even now, two years earlier? Rose pushed down a prickle of guilt.
Chang was a bully. It didn't matter that she'd repented, that she was a child – Rose would never be her friend, if only for Luna's sake. She wouldn't set out to make her life miserable, like she would do to Edgecomb and Stimpson if they attacked her, but she wouldn't be nice to her. Chang had hurt her friend, and that was unforgiveable.
(she'd never been as alone as Luna had been. Chang might apologize but she wouldn't understand)
"Potter – wait!"
She turned and looked at Diggory.
"I didn't know," he said hurriedly. "I swear I didn't know – "
"I believe you."
Diggory relaxed, falling into step alongside her.
"I'm sorry," Rose said quietly. "I didn't know you two were close."
He looked away, a blush on his cheeks. "We weren't – I thought maybe…" he stammered.
"It doesn't matter," he said at last, firmly. "I've never been close to Luna, but we're practically neighbours, you know? I can't just…" he trailed off miserably.
She bit her lip, uncertain. She'd never been good at comforting people.
(it was telling that apologies and threats came to her so much more readily than comfort)
"I like Luna," Diggory said. "I know she's a bit odd, but she's still – well. She's a good person."
"Yeah," Rose agreed. She glanced at him sidelong. "You know, I thought you'd tell me off for the curse."
If there was one thing she was certain about regarding Diggory, it was that he was principled. He had a strong sense of right and wrong. He'd offered to replay that Quidditch match in third year, even though he'd won. He'd given her a clue about the egg because she'd helped him with the dragons. He'd refused to take the Triwizard Cup, insisting she take it. That he wasn't frowning at her disapprovingly for her very painful curse… it was puzzling.
"I wouldn't've done it myself," he said at last. "It's too… cruel, for my taste. I'd have gone more for humiliation. But I understand why you did." He grinned a little at the surprise she couldn't quite hide. "What, you thought that because I was so cheerful and even-tempered, I'd disapprove of a little bit of revenge?"
Rose stared at him. "Yes, actually."
The boy actually tutted at her. "You of all people ought to know that we aren't always what we seem to be," he grinned.
"… What do you mean, 'me of all people'?" A thrum of fear coursed through her.
Diggory gave her a derisive look. They'd come, almost unconsciously, to the kitchens. He didn't answer until they were sitting across from each other, hands wrapped around cups of hot chocolate.
"You're not the only one with friends in Slytherin," he said at last. "We keep it quiet, obviously, but – well. I'm not sure exactly what you did; all I know is that one day Slytherins who'd sneered at me and called me blood-traitor abruptly stopped. It was like I didn't exist; some were even nice to me. I asked a few of my Slytherin friends, and while they didn't say anything, I picked up enough clues to know you had something to do with it." Here, he gave her a very hard look.
"Everyone thinks you're a bubbly, naïve little girl, Potter. But if you're the kind of person who can talk seventh years into leaving your friends alone, you can't possibly be everything you seem. And you confirmed it today – you were bloody scary, all 'if they want to come after me, they can go ahead and try,'" he mimicked, deepening his voice.
"I did not sound like that," Rose squawked, offended.
Diggory grinned. "Oh, but you did," he assured her. "I was there, Potter, I would know."
"… Rose." She said.
"Call me Rose."
(call me Rose, she'd said, once upon a time, a year later and forever ago)
(call me Rose, she'd said, before grinning and grabbing the Cup alongside him)
(call me Rose, she'd said, moments before he'd died at her feet)
"Quid pro quo?"
"… You're ridiculous, Diggory. Alright, Cedric."
"Thank you, Rose. That's what I like to hear."
"You really don't mind?"
"Don't mind what?"
"Me. That I threaten people. Hurt them, sometimes."
"No. I'd do it too, if I were forced to, I think. And I understand why you did. Besides, at least I know to never piss you off."
"Thanks, Diggory," she laughed, feeling warm with affection.
"Cedric," he corrected, frowning in mock-disapproval.
"I'm sorry! It's a habit!" she said defensively, holding up her hands. Then she smirked.
"You sure you want to upset me, Diggory?" she asked, snickering as he made a show of begging her forgiveness.
When Rose sat down at her and Professor Sprout's biweekly meeting in the beginning of October, she was taken off guard by the woman's beaming smile.
"I've got very good news for you, Miss Potter," she said. "The Headmaster has found a place suitable for students of all Houses to study without needing to keep their voices down. It may take a bit of time to explain - would you like to bring your brother and your friends? We can meet back at my office in an hour or so, once I've seen the other students."
Rose perked up immediately. "Oh, yes, absolutely! Thank you so much professor, I'll see you in an hour!"
Professor Sprout gave her a fond smile as Rose nearly tripped in her hurry to scramble out of her office. That was fast. She hadn't expected Dumbledore to do anything about the situation – she'd been planning on using it to give Professor Sprout a reason to lessen her respect for him. Had she misread – no, not now, she told herself. She tucked that train of thought to follow later – right now, she needed to find her friends.
They were in the library, surrounded by a number of their yearmates. She saw several look up in fear and relax when they realized it was her and not Madam Pince, who'd been glaring at them fiercely for weeks.
"Professor Sprout found a place for us to move to," Rose whispered. "So we can study and practice magic and talk as much as we want." Immediately, people looked up. Hermione practically slammed her quill back into her bottle of ink before leaning forwards and staring at her eagerly.
Rose grinned. "She'll be showing Harry and I in an hour, if anyone wants to come."
A chorus of yeses, nods, and eager grins was her answer. She exchanged an excited glance with Harry before forcibly calming herself down, setting her wand to buzz in an hour. In the meantime, she needed to work on her Charms essay. Why exactly did tarantallegra work on inanimate objects, anyway? Perhaps it was because the charm's magic depended on perception? And whatever she perceived as the target's legs would therefore spasm?
Hmm. That brought up the question of, if she were Confunded into thinking that a person's arms were their legs, would casting tarantallegra make their arms dance instead? Rose jotted a note in her planner to ask Professor Flitwick.
When Professor Sprout saw the crowd of second years waiting outside her office, she burst out laughing.
"Well, come along, I suppose," she chuckled. They trailed after her like a gaggle of ducklings. Rose had begun their study groups as a ploy to familiarize Harry with people outside his House and vice versa, but she'd come to genuinely enjoy them. She loved the feeling of companionship, of togetherness, she got when she surrounded herself with her friends and acquaintances, working together to keep each other focused, distracting each other with an interesting snippet or eventually dissolving into gossip. She had a core group of friends, but she considered everyone in the study group part of her outer ring as well.
(she told herself it didn't matter that it'd shrunk, ever since Macha's reveal)
Sprout led them down to the Great Hall, the rest of them exchanging confused glances behind her. There wasn't anything on this floor save for a few abandoned classrooms and the Entrance Hall – were they going outside?
To everyone's shock, Sprout stopped in front of a pair of double doors next to the Great Hall that definitely hadn't been there before. They were enormous – not as large as that of the Great Hall, but nearly twice Rose's height. They were carved elaborately with the Hogwarts coat of arms: a lion, eagle, badger, and snake, all curling around an ornate letter 'H'.
"Hogwarts is a very special castle," she said, smiling fondly at their expressions. "There are a number of rooms that have fallen into disuse over the centuries – I myself hadn't known of this one until the Headmaster told me. Some, like this room, the Ritual Rooms, and the Ballroom, require a great deal of magic to maintain, and when people stopped using them, they were absorbed back into the magic of the castle. The Headmaster has chosen to bring back one of those rooms: the Hogwarts Common Room."
A hushed silence fell as Professor Sprout pushed open the door and, one by one, they filed into the room.
It was beautiful.
There was an enormous fireplace crackling merrily on their right. Several more dotted the walls. In front of each were a number of old-fashioned couches and armchairs atop plush burgundy rugs that Rose realized with a start she recognized from the Room of Hidden Things. She exchanged a shocked glance with Harry, but really – she shouldn't have been surprised. The things there must've come from somewhere, after all.
The Common Room was the size of the Great Hall. The wall on the right was covered in plant life – the same ivy that, Rose realized with a start, covered Hufflepuff's common room. Enormous glass windows filled the wall directly opposite them, looking out over the lake. Light streamed through them, illuminating the same tables and chairs that Rose recognized from all four House common rooms. The tables were all sorts of different sizes – some seated two, others four, some stretched all the way out to accommodate twenty. They were oddly spread out, though. The resemblance to the Great Hall was in more than size – the enchanted sky, floating candles, torches along the wall – were all the same.
There was something about this room, something odd, that made her think of the Room of Requirement. It was that same faint, nearly indiscernible question in the air, a feeling that made her think the Common Room was waiting for something.
"There are a number of enchantments," Professor Sprout said, breaking the silence abruptly enough to make several of them jump, "that have been added to this room. Away from the preservation spells and delicate books of the library, and from the protection and alarm spells of the dormitories, the Founders were able to add a number of interesting features." There's a sly glint to her eye that sets Rose alight with excitement.
"For example," she says, leading them over to the nearest table, "you may manipulate the tables and chairs as you wish." She drew her wand and traced a line down the center of the table. Rose suddenly noticed the markings etched onto the sides of the tables – little symbols, 'X''s and circles, a plus and minus sign. Sprout's wand went from one 'X' to another directly across from it. A line appeared, glowing, following the path of her wand but perfectly straight, and with a little pop, the table split cleanly in two. Additional legs grew from the edges of the split, and soon there were two tables where once there was one.
Hermione gave a small squeal and Professor Sprout smiles at her. "Indeed, Miss Granger. You may put the tables back together," she tapped the top of each table with her wand, then tapped one circle on each. There's a shlick sound as they glue themselves back together.
"Add more tables," she tapped the plus sign. A copy appeared in an empty space to the side of them that made her realize the reason for all the empty space. She thought she might faint. This was an incredible piece of magic – why had she never heard of such a thing before?
"Or remove them," she tapped the minus sign. The table disappeared.
"Unfortunately," Professor Sprout says, "you can only add or remove chairs. The enchantments had to be layered on each tree as it grew, but the exact process was lost with Rowena Ravenclaw and no one has been able to unravel them – in 1254, a mistake made on one table caused all but four to crumble into ash, and the Headmistress at the time forbade any further study. They can't be removed from the room either; something about it must sustain them. I'm afraid the sofas and things you see here are all you have."
All you have, Professor Sprout said, like this wasn't the most amazing, incredible, mind-blowing room she'd found since the Room of Requirement – maybe even more so, because this room was permanent, would retain the changes made to it even if there was no one inside. These tables and chairs were accessible permanent conjuration, something that only a select few Charms Masters were capable of, and Rowena Ravenclaw had –
Rose's brain fizzed out. She couldn't wrap her head around the enormity, the implications, of this room – first of all, the Founders had intended for Hogwarts to be united, else they wouldn't have made it. Second of all, Hogwarts wasn't always as divided as it was now – Rose wasn't reaching for some pipe dream, what she was doing was bringing back what had once been. Finally, she needed to dig into Hogwarts' and Britain's history more – the room had fallen into disuse, after all, and she couldn't get sidetracked by the realization that Hogwarts could apparently absorb unused, highly magical rooms, no wonder she'd never found the ritual rooms – which meant that at one point, the Houses had begun to separate. Rose needed to figure out when and why this had happened to ensure she wouldn't make the same mistakes.
Rose looked at the Common Room again. Holy fucking fuck, this was so much more than she'd even imagined would be possible, Rose was going to lose her mind –
She sat down heavily on the floor and buried her face in her hands.
"I think my brain's going to explode," she moaned. "Harry, will you get me my journal?"
Because she couldn't move from this spot, not even to get her bag, until she jotted down all the thoughts running rampant in her brain right now.
"I think I'm going to pass out," Hermione said weakly. Someone really did pass out – Rose heard a thump and a yelp of "Lisa!" so it had presumably been Lisa Turpin.
"I suppose I'll leave you to it, then," Professor Sprout said cheerfully and oh, that woman was evil, she was clearly enjoying watching their brains melt, and left. She popped her head back in a moment later.
"Better get started now, children," she said. "Professor Dumbledore will be telling the Prefects about the room tonight and they'll be spreading it through their Houses tomorrow."
Rose heard several people whimper.
Eventually, they pulled themselves back together. Susan hit Lisa with an ennervate, Neville ran to the kitchens and came back laden with a tray of water, and Anthony Goldstein convinced Terry Boot to stop running his hands over the chairs lovingly.
("I know it's cool, Terry, trust me, I know, but you look like a massive creeper and I refuse to associate with – ")
They wandered the room, gazed out the windows, marvelled at its similarity to the Great Hall. Sue Li peeked through a door on the right and said, "It's the Great Hall! Wait a moment - "
It seemed that the appearance (or re-appearance?) of the Hogwarts Common Room had also triggered a change in the Great Hall. The tables, formerly clear between meals, were now dotted with bowls of fruit, pastries, and jugs of water and pumpkin juice. There were even a few tea trays. Neville made an irritated noise at having run all the way to the kitchens when water had been there the whole time.
They all gaped at it. None of them were quite sure why it had happened, but there was now a readily available supply of food and drink right there, so there were certainly no complaints. Michael Corner actually cheered.
"Now I don't have to worry about missing breakfast!" He said gleefully.
Mandy Brocklehurst laughed in realization. "I don't have to worry about missing dinner to study!"
"I can get snacks!"
Rose was delirious with happiness. This was everything she'd ever wanted, everything she hadn't known she'd wanted.
They staked their claim of the largest table, right next to the windows. It took them a few minutes to size it properly – the plus and minus signs added and removed three feet or so of table, but the minus sign only worked if that end of the table had an additional foot of empty space with nothing on it and no one sitting there. Rose supposed it was sensible – it would've been an awful way to prank someone, disappearing their table as they tried to write an essay.
It was like learning about magic all over again – she was suffused with that same awe and wonder and, looking at the faces of her peers, they were feeling the same way. Even those who'd grown up in the Wizarding World gazed around the room reverently. Everyone said the Founders had been geniuses, but Rose hadn't truly understood it until she'd been shown this room. Something deep inside her ached at the thought of all that knowledge, lost.
"Are you alright?" Susan asked. Rose blinked at her.
"I'm fine. Why?"
"… You're crying," Susan said, worried. Almost unconsciously, Rose reached up and felt the wetness on her cheeks.
"Oh," she whispered. She summoned up a wavering smile. "I'm just… really happy."
That night, Rose lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. It was a boring, dull blankness that made her long for the stars of her bedroom in Potter Manor. She slipped on a dressing gown and a pair of slippers, not bothering to silence Susan's curtains – they'd been roommates for months now, and Rose knew how deeply the other girl slept.
She didn't want to encounter Cedric right now – she needed to think, but she hadn't thought of practising her Disillusionment or Notice-Me-Not spells. Rose made a mental note to do just that, then walked over to the now-familiar window seat. If she angled herself just right, and if Cedric didn't look around on his way out, then she ought to be fine.
Really, she just needed to look at something. Giving her eyes something to focus on freed up the part of her brain that chose what to look at. Rose fixed her gaze on the shadows of the Forbidden Forest and considered Albus Dumbledore.
She knew the man was anti-Slytherin – the end-of-year points he'd award to snatch the House Cup away from them had made it obvious – unless… he'd been trying to get in her good books? No, he'd given Sirius a slap on the wrist for nearly killing Snape – unless he'd deemed Sirius more valuable than Snape and chosen to go easy on him?
An ivy tendril tapped her shoulder. She glanced over at it and it nuzzled her cheek. Really, it was worryingly perceptive, though seeing as it'd been living in the heart of Hogwarts for untold years, it wasn't all that surprising. Rose scratched gently at its stem and the ivy made a pleased sound. Her thoughts returned to Dumbledore, though her heartbeat had slowed.
He hadn't treated her any differently for all that she was friends with Slytherins. She'd thought she'd have gotten some looks at Theodore Nott, at least, and yet…
Unless he was less anti-Slytherin and more pro-Gryffindor? Favoring one house, ignoring the rest? He did have a bit of a thing about redemption, after all. Hadn't the man tried to redeem Draco Malfoy as the boy was trying to kill him? Perhaps he had fewer prejudices than she'd thought. Was she therefore being unfair for disliking him? Rose was self-aware enough to know that she herself was prejudiced in favor of Gryffindor and Slytherin, if only a little. Who was she to condemn Dumbledore for his own prejudices?
But no. He was far more prejudiced than she, and didn't take the same steps to mitigate its effects. She would've never awarded those end-of-term points, snatching victory from the hands of the Slytherins. So perhaps the man was pro-Gryffindor and anti-Slytherin, unless the Slytherin in question had given him reason to believe they could be redeemed?
Fine. Still, was it fair of her to dislike Dumbledore so much, then? Was it fair of her to hold such intense levels of distrust?
Yes, her mind whispered. You're only human – you're irrational.
That's not good enough, she argued back fiercely. I might be irrational, but I want to at least be aware of it. My dislike goes deeper than prejudice – it's personal.
Dumbledore had left her at the Dursleys. Something in Rose settled at the thought – there was no possible way he didn't know how they'd treated her, it wasn't like they'd been particularly subtle
(oversized, hand-me-down clothes; messy haircuts; too-solemn eyes on a too-thin face)
(no, they hadn't been subtle at all)
and Figg had babysat her for literal years. He'd known, had left her there, denied her sanctuary at Hogwarts over the summer.
(it was telling that, for all that she'd managed to separate the past and current versions of everyone else, Dumbledore alone remained)
Why? Was it just because of the blood wards? Or was there more?
… didn't Dumbledore advocate for wixen-muggle integration? He'd looked very kindly upon muggles, that she knew, but exactly how far Progressive was he? Did he see muggles as harmless?
(he was an old man, set in his ways)
(others could change, but he could not)
(and she'd barely interacted with him in this life – what reason would he have to change?)
… ah, bollocks. He did, didn't he? He thought muggles were human but not human enough to do actual harm to a wix. That made a terrifying amount of sense – when he'd first met Tom Riddle at the orphanage, Dumbledore had seen thief, sociopath, Dark. Rose, on the other hand, had seen desperation, fear, ambition. Oh, there had been so much fear – when his wardrobe had burst into flames, Riddle had gone blank, just for a moment, before angering. But Rose had recognized that blankness, that defeat – it was the look of someone who'd fought and scratched and clawed for what little they had, only to see the fruits of their labour gone in an instant, the look of someone who'd had that happen all too many times, the look of someone berating themselves for hoping it'd be different this time.
(they said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result)
Even in her sixth year, Dumbledore had put most of the blame on Riddle. But if the muggles hadn't bullied him, if they'd just left him alone, he wouldn't have been as possessive, would he? He wouldn't have been so cynical, so bitter. He might've still become a Dark Lord, but he'd been set on that path a long time ago.
Dumbledore had never learned that last lesson – he'd gone as far in the opposite direction as he could when he and Grindelwald split, hadn't he? Grindelwald had advocated for the domination of muggles, so Dumbledore had advocated the opposite: integration. He saw muggles as gentle, harmless creatures and thought he knew best.
So perhaps Dumbledore wasn't anti-every-Slytherin. Perhaps he was just wilfully naïve and generalized. But he held three positions of power in their world, so that wilful naivety could have terrible consequences.
Rose-of-the-Cupboard at last tore free of her restraints.
She thought of her younger self, a tiny black-haired girl, hunched over a stovetop at five years old, balancing precariously on a chair and getting locked in her cupboard when Dudley pushed her over.
She thought of Snape, cowering from his father.
She thought of Hermione, who hadn't once gone home for the holidays after third year. Hermione had Obliviated her existence from her parents' minds later, when she could've easily sent them overseas to keep them safe. She'd never reversed those memory charms either.
She thought of Dennis and Colin Creevey, who'd become something like Oliver Wood's adopted younger brothers. The older boy had taken the muggleborns under his wing, bringing them into his home for the holidays and summers.
Not every muggle-raised child was abused, but a few months before she died an analysis had been published showing that five out of every ten muggleborn either died or became an Obscurus before they turned eleven. McGonagall had allowed a historian access to the Hogwarts Book of Admission, which recorded the names of every magical child born or living in Great Britain. In his decades-long reign as Headmaster, Dumbledore had never allowed anyone but himself to see it.
Rose curled up in her seat and pressed her face into her knees. When Voldemort was taken care of, she promised herself, she would advocate for the rights of muggle-raised wixen. When she was no longer at Hogwarts, when Dumbledore no longer had such easy eyes and access to her, she would stand against him. Until then, however…
Rose curled up tighter. A tendril of ivy wound itself around her wrist, gently squeezing in a way that reminded her of Macha.
Until then, she needed to wait. Lie low, avoid doing anything too drastic to attract his attention, and practice her but-I-just-want-everyone-to-be-friends look.
(it didn't work)
Despite the unending incredibleness of the Hogwarts Common Room, alas, it wasn't perfect. Library books set off a screeching alarm whenever students attempted to bring them in, which complicated studying quite a bit. They all got very good at the geminio charm – the copy eventually vanished in anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, no one had quite managed to figure out how to add in diagrams, nor did the enchantments the book had been spelled with replicate so a lot of moving images ended up muggle-like, but all in all they agreed that the reappearance of the Hogwarts Common Room was a net positive.
(the look on Terry Boot's face when he tried to cheat and create copies of copies had been hilarious when all copies vanished at the same time as the first one)
It was still unutterably odd, however, to walk in and see students from all four Houses (mostly half-bloods and muggleborns from Slytherin, though – and hadn't it been a shock to realize that there were muggleborns in Slytherin?) sitting around a table playing exploding snap, or arguing over some bit of magical theory, or gossiping away happily in front of a fireplace. Rose still got a mild feeling of unreality every time she saw it.
In the beginning, students had stuck with those from their own Houses, only using the Hogwarts Common Room for easy access to food – and Rose now had a creeping suspicion as to why that had happened – but eventually they began reaching out across House borders. It had been small at first – asking a Ravenclaw a question, a Hufflepuff to demonstrate a spell – but bonds were still being formed. It made things easier for students with siblings in other Houses too – Harry and Rose had the Badger Hole, but Padma and Parvati Patil barely left the room to go to class.
The first years took to it far more easily. They were less set in their ways – still with ingrained prejudice, but they were still settling into the routine of Hogwarts. She saw Ginny Weasley and Colin Creevey doing homework with Meredith Hopkirk and Fraser Wilkerson of Hufflepuff. Wilkerson, in turn, was friends with half-blood Kelly Carpenter in Slytherin. After Harry had gently pulled Colin aside and told him that, as in the Muggle world, it was rude to take photos of others constantly and without consent, the excitable boy had gotten a lot more contentious about his photographs. Rose had heard rumors of a yearbook.
Rose had never felt so blissful as she had been the past few days. Things were progressing, her plans had gone better than she'd even imagined, Hogwarts was unifying…
Which was why, as she skipped into the library, pointedly ignoring Madam Pince's glare (it had been weeks ago! She wished the librarian would get over it already) and caught sight of one Felix Rookwood at a nearby table, sitting alone and surrounded by books, she didn't hesitate before veering towards him.
(she, unfortunately, couldn't just 'geminio and go,' as her peers had dubbed it – geminio didn't work at all on the older, rarer books that'd been marinating in the thick magic of Hogwarts for hundreds of years, and Ancient Runes was called Ancient for a reason)
Rookwood studiously ignored her. Rose stood in front of him for over a minute before he sighed and glared at her.
"What do you want?" He growled.
Rose beamed as if she'd never heard a kinder welcome. To his credit, the only change in Rookwood's expression was a slight twitch in the corner of his left eye.
"I don't think we've officially met, for all that we've been deskmates for weeks! I'm Rose Potter; well met." Rose inclined her head to indicate Rookwood as her superior. His eye twitched again.
"Felix Rookwood," he ground out as though in pain, holding out a hand. "Well met."
She hadn't given him much thought until Prefect Melton had warned her away and – well. Melton should've known better; everyone knew the best way to get a child to do something was to tell them not to. And Rose was definitely still a child, reincarnation or not.
(he hadn't told her to go away, nor had he insulted her yet)
(you're just like your father, but with your mother's eyes)
(Rookwood's been raised just like his father)
"It's a pleasure," Rose chirped, plopping down into the seat next to him. She glanced at his work, widening her eyes in feigned shock. "Oh, are you working on the translation Professor Babbling assigned?"
(they were not their parents)
Rookwood seemed to have decided to ignore her. Perhaps he'd used up every ounce of his manners and self-control for the formal greeting and now didn't trust himself to speak. Or maybe he thought she'd go away if he stayed silent. He didn't reply, not once, in the four hours she spent next to him, not even when she asked him classwork-related questions. He didn't move away either, though, so Rose counted it as a point in her favor.
"See you in class, Rookwood!" Rose said cheerfully. Her good mood hadn't dimmed and was in fact renewed when she returned to the Hogwarts Common Room and found Blaise and Terry in a heated argument. Rose sided with Terry on principle and was soon engrossed in explaining why tea was a superior beverage to coffee, until Daphne hit them all with Stinging Hexes to shut them up.
When the attack came, it had been a shock. It really shouldn't have been – Chang had warned her, after all, but in the rush of discovering the Hogwarts Common Room, Rose had forgotten.
(every time things were going well, something like this happened)
"Kano emeto!" Rose heard. She flinched by reflex. A spell shot by her, missing her by inches.
Rose turned, flicking her wrist to send her wand shooting from her holster into her hand. The girls in front of her looked vaguely familiar – where had she seen them before? She dodged a petrificus totalus and sent a stupefy and incarcerous back in quick secession. Her aim, honed over the summer, was dead on, and the girls hadn't spent months dodging Stinging Hexes either, so she hit them easily. One fell to the ground, unconscious, while the other collapsed next to her fellow, bound in ropes.
"How dare – !"
"Stupefy," Rose said. Silence.
She stared at them, flicked out another pair of stupefy's to make sure both were unconscious, then levitated them into a nearby abandoned classroom (the castle was littered with the things, it was honestly a little sad). She lay them on the floor and studied their faces, trying to grasp that feeling of recognition…
Oh. Marietta Edgecomb and Patricia Stimpson. She'd forgotten what they'd looked like, Edgecomb especially without the 'SNEAK' cursed onto her forehead. This was about Luna, then?
She gazed at their unconscious bodies, wondering what she ought to do. The one time they'd tried to pick on Luna again, she'd spelled their nightgowns with the same burning curse and rearranged their homework so it just read 'leave Luna alone.' They hadn't been stupid enough to try again, so it seemed they'd finally decided to go to the source. If she turned them in, she doubted they'd get much more than a couple detentions. The bullying hadn't lasted years, nor did she have any evidence beyond Luna's word. Chang might back her up, but still…
There was something cruel in her eyes as she looked at them. If she really wanted to, she could probably get them in trouble. Luna was several years younger than them; Rose was the sister of the Boy-Who-Lived, model student, kind and helpful and always with a smile on her face, reaching out across House lines. She could probably get them for this, and it would only cost a moderate amount of social credit.
The problem, however, was that she just didn't want to.
She wanted them to feel as alone and helpless as Luna had. She wanted them to suffer, first for daring to pick on her friend, then for attacking her. She needed – no, she corrected herself, she ought to be honest – she wanted to teach them a lesson.
Rose reached into her robes and withdrew her mirror.
"Harry Potter," she told it. The surface rippled, and soon she was looking at her brother's face. From the background, he was in the Badger Hole.
"Rose? What's wrong?" He looked alarmed – she'd never called him during the day before, after all.
"Nothing, I just wanted to know if you knew where Hermione and Daphne were."
He didn't look at all convinced by her nonchalance. On the contrary, his face turned uneasy. The Badger Holers knew enough to be appropriately wary of the duo.
"… What for?" He asked cautiously.
Rose sent him a winning smile. "Nothing you wouldn't agree with!"
He eyed her for another moment before he sighed. "They're here. Where do you want them to go?"
"Eighth floor, west wing, fourth classroom on the left. Thanks, Harry, love you!"
That night, while they were having dinner, a sudden hush fell. Rose looked up, very carefully Not Looking at either Daphne or Hermione.
Two figures appeared in the middle of the Great Hall, halfway down the center aisle. One, whose hair had been turned into seaweed, was sopping wet. Her shoes had been transfigured into diving flippers. The other, whose hair had turned vomit-coloured, was be oozing a yellow, sticky-looking fluid. Her shoes had been transfigured into enormous clown shoes.
They'd been put in a full-body bind and stuck to the floor. When Professor Dumbledore reversed it with a wave of his wand, looking furious, there was a sound like a firecracker. Bright blue words appeared over the heads of the two girls: Bullying Cowards.
Dumbledore levitated them to the Hospital Wing. Rose wasn't worried – they'd been knocked out for hours and the last thing they'd remember was attacking her. Even if Dumbledore tried legilimency, Hermione was excellent at Charms, and had recently learned the Confundus Charm. There was no evidence, and Rose had even had Daphne hit her with the Vomiting Jinx and gone to Madam Pomphrey. After all, how could Rose Potter have had anything to do with it when she was vomiting uncontrollably, and the last thing Marietta Edgecomb's wand had cast had been that exact jinx?
Between the reputations of herself and Hermione, who'd back her up, they were safe.
(she'd forgotten how vicious Hermione could be in defence of her friends – this was the girl who'd kept Rita Skeeter in a jar for months)
(Daphne was terrifyingly creative)
(Rose had grown up on stories of the Marauder's pranks)
(together, the three of them had been unstoppable)
Rose took a sip of water to hide her smile.
(later, Rose and Hermione had thanked the house elves so vigorously that several broke into tears. Daphne even smiled)
After the attack, Rose threw herself back into her studies. Rookwood was still ignoring her, but she'd gotten an acknowledging nod out of him last time, so Rose was still hopeful. Their study group had somehow grown a life of its own – she wasn't entirely sure what was happening during it now. There were first and third years cropping up, siblings dropping by, subgroups forming and splitting off and being reabsorbed. There had been no permanent injuries or explosive arguments yet though, so Rose happily pushed it out of her mind.
Suddenly, in the middle of October, Harry and Hermione began advocating for the reopening of the Ritual Rooms. This was a shock, even to the Badger Holers – the two had kept it entirely under wraps. It had started and ended with a single speech at dinner. Once Harry had started speaking, no one seemed willing or able to stop him. There was something so fluid about him, in the way he spoke and gestured.
"If I could have your attention please," Harry had said, walking forwards towards the High Table before turning to face them. At his side stood Hermione.
"Hello," he said, grinning bashfully. "I know I'm a relatively obscure figure" – a ripple of laughter – "so for those who don't know me, I'm Harry Potter.
"Some of you may remember that, after the little incident with the troll last year, Professor McGonagall was kind enough – " and here he dipped his head politely in her direction " – to let me, my sister Rose, and our friends participate in the traditional Samhain ritual to honour our dead."
Harry paused, allowing everyone to remember that he was the Boy-Who-Lived only because our parents had died.
"That evening, a number of wixen joined our circle, and even more made their own."
At this, Hermione stepped forwards. "My name is Hermione Granger," she said strongly and wow, she had definitely practiced this because her voice was sure and strong and emblazoned with her confidence. "I'm a muggleborn and proud of it. However, I made the mistake of thinking of the Wizarding World as an extension of the Muggle one. On the contrary, this world – our world – has its own customs and traditions, much like a foreign country.
"I was a member of Harry's ritual circle last Samhain, and I can say with complete conviction that it was one of the most beautiful, wonderful, incredible things I've ever experienced. You can imagine my disappointment, therefore, when I learned that such practices were hidden, even discouraged, at Hogwarts. I thought that because wixen had no problem with wizards marrying wizards and saw witch and wizard as equals, there was no prejudice in the magical world.
"I was wrong. There is prejudice, blatant prejudice, even here at Hogwarts. Wix should be allowed to practice their religion without fear. We should not have to hide in the shadows, sneaking out after curfew to abandoned classroom, to take part in what we believe in."
Tears had welled up in Hermione's eyes. There could be no doubt of the sincerity behind her words. Harry put his hand on the other girl's shoulder in a show of comfort and support.
"That's why we're here," Harry said. He gazed at the students, meeting their eyes. "In the same way the Hogwarts Common Room was reformed from the magic of the castle, the Hogwarts Ritual Rooms can also be reformed. I refuse to be ashamed of the way I choose to honor my parents, who sacrificed their lives to give my sister and I a chance at life. Samhain is the only reason I can remember anything of them at all – I see them smile in the candlelight, I hear the echo of their laugh in the quiet, and I feel a shadow of a kiss press itself on my brow. I will not be ashamed.
"I therefore ask the students of Hogwarts to support me in fixing this mistake. Help me bring back the Ritual Rooms. Please."
Harry's voice, so strong throughout, broke on his last word. He swallowed, visibly nervous, staring at a sea of friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike.
Rose, beaming and crying, leaped to her feet, cheering and applauding. It was like she'd broken a spell – all around her, others were standing up, others still sat, but all were applauding. Even those who didn't practice the Old Ways seemed to support him – the muggle-raised, especially, had not missed Hermione's allusions. Even those who thought of them as Dark – well, this was the Boy-Who-Lived, or Harry, as his friends called him. He was obviously the most anti-Dark person to ever exist. And his best friend, a muggleborn. Both Gryffindors. Surely, they thought, it couldn't be that bad.
Harry, smiling wide enough to crack his face, turned to the Headmaster.
"What do you say, Headmaster Dumbledore?" He yelled. The school's cheers grew louder. Someone (she suspected the Weasley twins) started up a chant: "DUM-BLE-DORE, DUM-BLE-DORE, DUM-BLE-DORE."
Dumbledore raised a hand, and silence fell. He smiled at them all; Rose fancied she could see the hidden anger in his eyes.
"Thank you for a wonderful, moving speech, Mr Potter, Miss Granger. If you may be seated," and here his eyes twinkled. The two hurried back to Gryffindor table where they were met with grins and pats on the back. Hermione was blushing so hard her normally dark skin had taken on a red tint.
"I must admit, it had not occurred to me that the closing of the Ritual Rooms would force practitioners into hiding," he said. Liar, Rose thought. What else would it have done?
"I had not been aware my students felt so strongly about this, but in the face of such overwhelming support, how could I possibly refuse?"
Everyone cheered, even Rose, though there was a hard spot of anger lurking near her heart. Clever of him, really, to play the kind and benevolent Headmaster, slightly dotty and out of touch. She knew there was a reason Harry had been so public – the Board of Governors had been putting pressure on him for literal decades to reopen the Ritual Rooms, which he'd closed soon after becoming Headmaster. This way, Dumbledore kept the next generation seeing him in a positive light. It gave him more credit in Neutral circles, and if anyone from the Progressives questioned his decision, well, the entire school had been begging for it! What choice did he have?
But honestly, Rose admitted to herself that she couldn't bring herself to care. Dumbledore wasn't her priority – at least she trusted him to be well-meaning, unlike Voldemort. Once Voldemort was out of the picture, she might focus on Dumbledore. Maybe nudge Rita Skeeter towards publishing that biography before his death. That was all in the future, however – now, the Ritual Rooms were being reopened for the first time in decades. She looked over at the Slytherin table and saw that, for once, not many of them bothered to hide their smiles. The cheers from that direction were deafening. She caught Derrick's eye and he angled his goblet subtly towards her.
This might not have been her scheme, but she'd been the ones to set the wheels in motion. She'd been the one who'd forced Hermione headfirst into cultural integration, no matter that she'd been entirely willing. She'd been the one who'd befriended first Theo, then Blaise and Daphne, then dragged them into the Badger Hole. Even though she hadn't had a direct hand in this, she was positive Derrick was shrewd enough to see the shadow of her movements.
Because although Daphne hadn't stood up there with them, her brand of writing had been all over Harry and Hermione's words. She had a gift at smoothing things over, phrasing things in the best way possible. She didn't often use it, obviously, but the point was that she could. Blaise had a similar gift, though he wore it more openly. She wondered if they'd collaborated.
(Rose had dragged them to the Badger Hole, their friends trailing, sat them down, and demanded an explanation)
("Did you really expect anything else, after your show last Samhain?" Theo had asked rhetorically, grinning)
(she'd tackled them all into a hug afterwards. Between her and Harry, none of them could escape)
(she laughed along with the others as Ronald and Cormac McLaggen ran from the Great Hall, letting out fart sounds every few seconds, pretending not to notice the smug looks on the faces of Harry, Neville, and the Weasley twins)
Rose began wearing Macha to the Hogwarts Common Room. The Hufflepuffs in the study group, already used to this, ignored her, but she garnered considerably more wariness from the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws. She supposed that, had their group had more Slytherins than Blaise, Daphne, and Theo, the Slytherins would've been wary too, but as it was, all the Slytherins present were her friends and used to Macha.
(as it was, the Slytherins who were present in the room gave her wide berths alongside their peers)
She was avoided the first time, empty space three feet in every direction, which her friends staunchly ignored. Hannah even scolded Terry Boot for shying away from her.
"I haven't got anything against occamies!" he'd said defensively. "I'm just afraid of snakes!"
"Oh," Hannah had blushed.
"Want to try some exposure therapy?" Rose had grinned. Terry had paled, but plucked up his courage. Everyone else was looking confused – 'exposure therapy' was a muggle term, after all.
By Samhain, Terry could sit beside her without flinching, though he was still very tense.
The Ritual Rooms were magnificent. There were many, large and small, some made of stone, some mimicking the grounds outside, complete with grass and trees. After all, some rituals preferred a natural environment, a connection to the earth, though Samhain wasn't one of them.
Their ritual circle was larger than she'd ever seen it. There were twenty-seven, an auspicious number and the absolute maximum, and the large room was filled with other groups of twenty-seven or less. Rose could feel the magic emanating from the walls, could feel the subtle vibrations in the magic that told her others were conducting their own rituals all around them.
Harry led again. He was unequivocally the leader of their year.
(there was a distant stirring at the end of the ritual, like something had awoken from a long sleep)
The Ritual Rooms were near the Hogwarts Common Room, so afterwards they decided in silent agreement to head there. Rose was thinking dreamily of curling up in front of the enormous, blazing fire, when she noticed at everyone had come to a stop. She heard gasps, a muffled scream.
Dread building in her stomach, Rose pushed her way forward, and saw –
The Chamber of Secrets has been opened.
Enemies of the Heir, beware.
And, beneath the message, little Colin Creevey, holding a camera to his face, petrified.
It made sense that Colin had been petrified instead of Mrs Norris – she'd changed things, after all. But she had changed things. Why in the name of Merlin was the Chamber being opened?! They'd checked with Sirius, who'd confirmed that yes, he very much still had the diary. So, unless Ginny had slept with a replica for some reason, this was not the diary's doing.
It couldn't be horcrux in Harry – he'd reassured her that he wasn't missing time.
It couldn't be the diadem – they'd gone back to the Room to check.
It technically could be the wraith – but why the hell would he do that? He wasn't even corporeal! Did he even have a mouth to speak Parseltongue with? And why?
Since Rose was absolutely positive it was neither her nor Harry, who had opened the Chamber? And was it a coincidence that the message was exactly the same, or did someone somehow know? Only she and her brother knew the exact words, so unless a Voldemort-caliber legilimens had somehow slipped by their shields while they were thinking of those words, it was a coincidence. Nothing made any sense.
Rose had been half-convincing herself to go to the damn Chamber and set proximity wards before Harry had talked her out of it.
"No one's died," he'd reasoned. "And what if they already set up wards? You'd tip them off. Better to wait and see what they do next, and maybe watch everyone else for signs of possession."
"Fine," she'd agreed, biting her lip. She did have a tendency to overthink and overplan, after all. It was good that Harry was there to reign her in, keep her from going too far.
The same sudden tension that existed between herself and Harry seemed to have carried over to the rest of the school. On the bright side, no one suspected them of opening the Chamber. There were about thirty witnesses who'd been with them for hours, after all, despite the fact that they could very well have done it all in advance and simply thrown up a timed glamour to cover it. On the downside, some seemed to take the reopening of the Ritual Rooms as a bad omen, and there was a sudden clamor of people who pushed for it to be closed. That the Slytherins were one of the greatest opponents to this was… unhelpful, to say the least. Harry had to give another speech berating the school before the shouts died down. There was just something intoxicating about the way he spoke that was so utterly convincing.
Unfortunately, the resurgence in Slytherin prejudice was a much more difficult beast to battle. Never quite welcome in the Hogwarts Common Room to begin with, they began getting glared at and shifted away from. The Slytherins, subtle that they were, noticed and responded in kind. Rose watched this happen for two days before she figured out what to do about it.
"Hello," Blaise greeted bemusedly.
"Hello!" Hermione waved. She smiled at him from her seat at the Slytherin table, and Rose held back a giggle.
"Morning," Justin greeted sleepily.
"… Good morning," Daphne said slowly. "Have you perhaps gotten lost?"
Rose beamed at her.
"I don't think so," she said thoughtfully, turning to Neville. "Nev? Are you lost?"
"Nope," he said cheerfully. "I'm exactly where I want to be."
Blaise pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Sorry," he gritted out. "But why are all of you here?"
"Eating breakfast!" Rose chirped.
"We might also be protesting our House's treatment of Slytherins," Padma said mildly. "But if we were, I'm sure that'd be incidental."
The Ravenclaws had been unexpected but welcome surprises. When Harry, Rose, and their friends marched into the Great Hall and sat down at the Slytherin table, Anthony had cocked his head in question.
"Not that I'm complaining, since it's so much easier to talk like this," he'd said. "But what exactly are you all doing at the Slytherin table?"
"We're upset about how our Houses have been treating Slytherins like lepers," Hermione had sniffed, serving herself a bowl of oatmeal. "So, we're not sitting with them until they stop."
Rose had scowled at her strawberries. "Did you know that ten Slytherins have been sent to the hospital wing in the past two days? Ten!"
"That's awful," Padma'd said, looking appalled. Then her eyes had hardened. "Move over, I'm going to join you."
"Padma – "
"Either shut up or come with me, Anthony, it's not right and you know it."
In the present, Blaise and Daphne stared at her in disbelief, even as Theo shrugged and sat down with a slight grin.
"What?" he said. "We've got classes in forty-five minutes, and you can't say this isn't entertaining."
"Glad to be of service," Harry said dryly. Rose giggled and shuffled to the side, pulling Blaise into the seat she'd created.
"Sit down and let me tell you why the Goblin Rebellion of 1134 was completely unjustified," she ordered. Blaise looked at her in outrage but sat, allowing her to drag him into an argument.
"It was too justified – "
The Slytherins weren't the only ones confused by this sudden change in seating plans. They were all used to Rose sitting wherever she liked, but her friends were a different story. There were muggleborns sitting at the Slytherin table, the rest of the school hissed, conveniently forgetting the muggleborns that already existed in Slytherin. No one was willing to confront them about it though, so the side eyeing remained, as did the prejudice.
"Is this going to be a permanent invasion?" Derrick asked them bemusedly a week later. The group had grown to include most of Rose's yearmates, through a combination of Hermione and Padma's impassioned speeches and implicit peer pressure. Cedric joined them more often than not, though he hadn't arrived for breakfast yet.
"It will be until the school pulls their collective heads out of their arses," Rose grinned. "Look on the bright side, Derrick."
"I can't," he deadpanned. "Your big head's blocking it."
She laughed, even as Hermione shook her head in exasperation.
"You two are so weird."
(idly, she wondered how long it would take for someone to snap)
(her money was on either Ronald or McLaggen)
The Friday before the Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch game, Rose sent a merry wave towards the team from her spot at the Slytherin table.
"I'd wish you luck, Flint, but my brother's Gryffindor's seeker so I think I'm obligated to threaten you instead!"
Flint gave her a deadpan look. "That's not nearly as reassuring as you seem to think it is, Potter."
She flashed him a cheeky smile. In her peripheral vision, she saw Derrick snicker. They'd been wary of her after the Malfoy incident, but had slowly warmed back up to her once she'd made it clear that nothing had changed, and especially after the Ritual Rooms had reopened. They'd become far more willing to associate with her in public, anyways.
"Going to have your familiar drink his blood if he hurts your brother?" Blaise muttered.
Rose threw a piece of carrot at him, which he dodged easily.
"It's Quidditch," she said, as if that explained everything. Which, really, it kind of did – Quidditch was Quidditch. One did whatever one could to win; it wasn't personal.
Next to her, Theo sighed.
"Can't believe you're a Quidditch nut," he said disappointedly.
"I had no idea!" Daphne enthused. "What's your Quidditch team?"
Rose eyed her suspiciously. "Holyhead Harpies. You?"
Daphne positively lit up. It was the most emotion Rose had ever seen from her. "Me too! Isn't Gwenog Jones incredible?"
Rose nodded vigorously. "If Blaise's mum won't have me, I want to marry her."
"Shut up about my mum, Potter," Blaise groaned.
She looked up at him through her eyelashes and pouted. "But she's so much prettier than you, Blaise, I can't help it."
Blaise resolutely refused to look at her, stabbing a piece of broccoli violently with his fork. Theo cackled.
She pulled Harry aside after dinner.
"This is probably the rogue bludger game," she told him. "So… be careful, yeah?"
Her memories had been getting increasingly blurry – she was quite sure that the bludger happened in this game, since she remembered being in the Hospital Wing when Creevey was brought in, but her changes had been multiplying. Creevey, after all, was already petrified, so who would be petrified this time? Would there even be a petrification?
There was a part of Rose that wanted to steal a rooster from somewhere, march into the Chamber of Secrets, and be done with it before anyone else got hurt – the reckless part with a 'saving people thing.' Then there was the other, more calculating part she'd been letting out more and more often, that told her that at least this way she knew where the threat was. The problem was that she didn't know who or what it was – was it another horcrux? Was Voldemort possessing someone else? Rose didn't have enough information to justify action. Harry agreed.
She dearly hoped they weren't making a mistake.
(when Harry ended up in the hospital wing having to regrow all the bones in his right arm, Rose brought him a plate of treacle tart. He'd gotten awfully attached to Dobby, and Rose felt a prickle of sympathy. She would've liked the elf as well had he not added additional complications to her mess of a year)
(Sirius, fury in his eyes, scribbled off another letter to his lawyer about Lockhart)
It all came to a head the day Harry was released from the hospital wing. He walked in beside Rose and they headed for the Slytherin table, as normal, when she heard a disgusted sound from the other side of the Hall. Harry rounded on its maker, and only Rose saw the satisfaction gleaming in his eyes.
(they'd been waiting for someone to break)
"Something to say, McLaggen?" he asked. McLaggen stared back incredulously.
"Yeah," he said. "I want to know why you've abandoned your own House to sit with the people who landed you in the hospital wing."
Up at the High Table, she saw McGonagall watch impassively, and felt a surge of fury. She never stepped in, did she? Not when it was the Slytherins being attacked.
"Maybe," Rose cut in icily, "he thinks that a group of people known for their subtlety wouldn't do anything so obvious as write messages in blood on the walls or curse a bludger at a game attended by the entire school."
"Just because they're meant to be subtle doesn't mean they are," McLaggen argued.
"We're all children, McLaggen!" Harry exclaimed. "You really think even a seventh-year would be able to do magic so powerful even Dumbledore can't reverse it?" His voice dripped with disdain, and Rose saw several of McLaggen's yearmates cast him dubious glances.
"They're Slytherins," McLaggen said mutinously, though it was clear he hadn't thought of that. "Wouldn't put it past them."
"Really," Harry said flatly. He turned to her in a clear gesture of dismissal. "C'mon, Rosie, let's go."
Rose looked around, hiding her pleasure that the confrontation had been witnessed by so many. Percy Weasley was looking guilty, Jasmine Gallagher thoughtful, and Beatrice Haywood was eyeing her fellow Hufflepuffs at the Slytherin table in a contemplative way that made Rose want to cackle. Perhaps this would help the Hogwarts population think for themselves.
"Didn't know you spent time with stupid half-blood sluts, Rookwood."
Rose glanced up surreptitiously. The boy, an upper year Slytherin, was sneering at Rookwood. He was tall, with brown hair and eyes, and would've been handsome if he hadn't looked so disgusted by her presence. They were in the library, Rose sitting in flagrant disregard of Prefect Melton's most recent warning.
("He wants to be an Unspeakable, Potter," Melton hissed through gritted teeth. "I've seen you two in the library, what exactly do you think you're doing?"
"So he wants to do research, that's hardly evil – "
"Don't be purposefully obtuse, Potter, haven't you considered that he might be the one opening the Chamber?"
"He's sixteen, I highly doubt – ")
"We're both in Ancient Runes, Rosier, not that you'd know." Rookwood's voice was cold, colder than he'd ever been even to her.
Hmm… Rosier? He must be Malcom Rosier, sixth year, hardcore blood purist if she was reading him correctly. How to handle this…
("I'm not going to abandon him, Melton.")
Naïve little girl it is, Rose decided.
"What's a slut?"
Both boys stared at her. Rosier looked taken aback. She looked up at him, tilting her head in a way that made her green eyes glimmer. For all the Rosier was a prejudiced blood purist, she could still silence him with a flash of her best innocent-little-girl pose.
"It's alright if you don't know," Rose assured him. She beamed. "I'll ask Professor Sprout and she can tell us! She's very nice, you know, she won't mind!"
Rosier seemed to pull himself together. "Listen, Potter, I don't know who you think you are – "
"I think you know exactly who I am," she said coldly, dropping her mask. It clearly wasn't working. "All of Slytherin ought to know who I am, unlesss they've forgotten."
At the creep of Parseltongue, Rosier paled.
("He hasn't known his father since he was five.")
"Don't call me a sslut again, Rosier." Her voice, high, cold, with a hiss of Parseltongue, was how she remembered Voldemort speaking to his Death Eaters. From the look on Rosier's face, he'd understood the implication.
Rose switched back to the innocent-little-girl and positively beamed at him. "Nice talk, Rosier! Goodbye!"
"I think you made him piss himself," Rookwood observed idly, watching him go.
"Oh?" Rose said airily. "I did think his stench had improved."
Rookwood grinned at her. "What'd you say was the reason for the stroke order of 'feng'?"
(they were not their parents)
Rose had just barely been able to stop herself from swearing when she saw the new piece of parchment stuck to the notice board in the entrance hall. Susan picked up on her dread.
"Don't like dueling?"
"Afraid Lockhart'll be there," Rose said gloomily.
Justin shot her a look. "Don't say that, you'll jinx it."
"Jinx what?" Ernie asked, looking confused. His expression had barely cleared after she and Justin had finished their explanation of the muggle saying.
"Muggles are weird," he'd muttered.
"Like magicals are any better," Justin shot back. "'Merlin's baggy Y-fronts', really?"
(the look on Justin's face when he saw Lockhart had been absolutely murderous)
The Hufflepuffs' feelings toward Professor Snape were… negative, to say the least. They disapproved of his sink-or-swim style of teaching, and frequently complained to Professor Sprout about the strain the dim light put on their eyes. It had been a Hufflepuff who'd gotten the vents updated a few years ago, installing a series of new air purifiers enchanted to last twice as long and work twice as quickly as the older model. Prefect Melton was even now campaigning for larger writing.
Nonetheless, they applauded with the others when Snape smashed Lockhart into the wall with an expelliarmus. Rose heard several upper years muffle noises of disappointment when Lockhart stood back up.
"What a tragedy it would be," Justin sighed. "If a spell were to accidentally hit him and put him in Saint Mungo's."
Stephen Cornfoot grinned. "I sure hope you haven't jinxed it, Justin."
Justin shot Rose a pointed look, which she wrinkled her nose at. "Rose seems to be the best at jinxing, if you ask me."
"I'll show you just how good at jinxing I am, Finch-Fletchley," Rose growled in mock-anger.
"Oooh," several people chorused.
Rose only smiled.
(she gave Justin the same smile ten minutes later as he doubled over from a rictusempra)
(her memory of the event was fuzzy at best, but she thought her friends had come out of it significantly better – she had a vague impression of Hermione and Millicent brawling, but in this life Hermione only shot Bulstrode a triumphant smirk over the other girl's boil-covered body. Neville grinned at Harry, who grinned back. Susan and Hannah were giggling over Hannah's new brilliantly blue hair)
"Dear, dear," Lockhart said, skittering through the crowd. "Careful there, Miss Fawcett… Off to the hospital wing with you, Mr. Carpenter… Up you go, Wilkerson…"
"I think I'd better teach you how to block unfriendly spells," Lockhart said. He made to call over Justin and Neville, but –
"A bad idea, Professor Lockhart," Snape said. Rose got a sudden feeling of foreboding – hadn't she been revealed as a Parselmouth here? Her heart sank further when Harry and Malfoy were called up to duel. She pushed her way in front of Justin – that she remembered. Harry knew he was a Parselmouth in this life, but Fate had an odd idea of what constituted fixed events, she'd learned. Or maybe it was just fucking with her; Rose didn't particularly care. At least Harry was more prepared than she'd been.
Snape whispered something into Malfoy's ear. Rose wished she'd thought to bring Macha.
"Three – two – one – go!"
"Serpensortia!" Malfoy yelled. But he wasn't pointing his wand at Harry –
Rose screamed and threw up an instinctive protego just before an enormous black snake, seven feet long, slammed into it and fell to the ground. People backed away from her, running, stumbling, the air was filled with screams –
The snake slammed into her shield again – she couldn't drop the shield or it'd get to her, but the shield was going to drop soon anyway, it was a fifth year spell, and the snake was so heavy –
$Stop!$ Harry yelled. $Get away from her!$
The snake slumped to the floor. The hall had gone silent. Rose, cursing herself, knew she needed to –
"Thanks, Hare-bear!" she called, giggling. "Silly of me to forget, but this means I can talk to Macha in the open now, doesn't it?"
Harry gave her an exasperated look, but it couldn't conceal the relief in his face. "You're an idiot, Rosie. Who forgets they can speak to snakes?"
"Don't be mean," she pouted. She glanced at the silent, frozen crowd as if just realizing they were there.
"Is it really a surprise?" she asked curiously, tilting her head. "The Potters are from India, you know, that place is littered with Parselmouths."
She heard a slight laugh, and Padma Patil spoke up. "That's true enough! Our great-uncle's a Parselmouth, isn't he, Parvati?"
Parvati gave a nervous smile, playing along. "I think so! Got a pet snake too, nothing as cool as an occamy though."
Slowly, the tone of the crowd changed from scared to wary.
"Ignore them," Susan told her firmly, putting an arm around her. "It's just a language."
"Yeah," Justin added. He was pale but determined. "Like – like talking to toads or something."
"I'd like to talk to toads," Neville sighed wistfully. "Must be dead useful to talk with Macha, Rose."
Rose laughed, giddy with relief. "It is! It's funny you mention Trevor, you know she calls you 'toad boy'?"
Neville looked like he didn't know whether to be offended or amused.
"Does she call me anything?" Justin asked eagerly.
"'Loud boy'," she grinned. Justin made a face.
"I'm not that loud, am I?"
He looked with increasing desperation at them as they stayed silent.
They did what they could to mitigate the damage, but Harry was furious.
"He aimed for you," Harry snarled. "And got three detentions for it, I'm going to kill him – "
"Duel him," Rose suggested quietly. "Humiliate him."
"Make him pay," Harry said, giving a truly terrifying grin.
$Open$, Harry hissed. They stepped into the common room. Rose hung back, letting Harry take the lead.
$Bring me Draco Malfoy$, Harry ordered. They weren't sure how the magic of the common room worked, but maybe –
A startled shriek and a series of thumps cut off her train of thought. An enormous stone snake slithered into the common room from one of the doors. It held Draco Malfoy in its jaws. He was struggling, but it was obviously futile. He couldn't even reach the ground.
The Slytherins watched – Rose supposed the smarter ones had known something like this would happen, considering how Rose had reacted to her mother being called a mudblood, and the stupider ones were staying silent to avoid getting dragged into this. The snake deposited Malfoy at Harry's feet. Malfoy scrambled upright, but it was clear he was trembling.
"I challenge you to a duel, Draco Malfoy," Harry said coldly. It was odd – Harry normally raised his voice when he was angry. She was the one who went icy and still. "Here and now. As a son of the Noble and Ancient House of Potter and blood-adopted son of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, I challenge you to a pugna vindictae."
A revenge duel; it had fallen into disuse centuries ago, but –
The Bloody Baron rose from the center of the room. There was a clear space around Harry and Malfoy.
"A revenge duel?" He murmured. "I haven't seen one of these in a long time."
"He set a Lotharian viper on my sister," Harry said, voice hard with anger. "Their poison kills in less than two seconds."
"Your sister…?" The Baron seemed to finally recognize Harry. When he caught sight of Rose, standing behind him, his already translucent face lightened.
"You can't say he doesn't deserve it," Rose said. She hadn't interacted with ghosts at all in this life, and wasn't that a little odd? Had they been avoiding her?
"I suppose not," The Baron said, his voice a fraction weaker than it had been. Oh, he was absolutely scared of her, and judging by the horrified awe being sent her way, she wasn't the only one who'd noticed.
Harry grinned at Malfoy. "Well? What do you say, Malfoy? How about we have a proper duel?"
Malfoy, to his credit, straightened. He attempted a sneer. "Fine."
There was a shimmer around them as The Baron, presumably, somehow activated the dueling wards. Rose was going to give Grandmother Euphemia whatever she wanted – let the Slytherins wonder how they'd gotten around the secrecy wards, all Granny Euphie had had to do was be Confunded into believing they were fellow Slytherins.
"It'll throw everyone else off-guard," Euphemia had said gleefully after the confundo had worn off. "It was rare even in my time, and they'll be too busy wondering how you knew that you can strike while they're distracted."
"Twelve paces," The Baron intoned. "Ready your wands and bow."
They did, albeit mockingly.
"Ossio conminuo," Harry snarled out immediately. It hit before Malfoy had time to dodge, and everyone heard Malfoy's scream as his ulnar shattered. Harry watched coldly as Malfoy struggled to stay standing from the pain.
"Pitiful," he said boredly. "Merlin. Here. Brackium emendo." He gave a sharp twirl of his wand, ending in a jab. Malfoy's sobs ebbed as Harry healed him.
"Cast a spell, Malfoy," Harry sneered. "I thought you were better than this."
That taunt seemed to reach him. Malfoy flung a series of spells at Harry, all of which her brother avoided neatly. Rose was impressed to the point of unease. She didn't know where Harry had learned the bone-shattering curse, or the bone-repairing spell, and the dexterity with which he dodged was one she hadn't seen before. Had Harry been training for this kind of thing? At Hogwarts? Because he was far better than he'd been over the summer.
They all watched, wide-eyed, as Harry began a barrage of spells in Malfoy's direction. The other boy threw up the strongest shield he knew – and it was an impressive shield, at that, a protego duro – but Harry overwhelmed it with sheer power. She'd never seen anyone cast so quickly – Harry's wand was nothing more than a blur.
Malfoy's shield broke and an expelliarmus sent his wand spinning out of his hand. An additional flipendo and he was thrown into the air, falling a dozen feet away with a crack.
"Oops," Harry said, not sounding sorry at all. "I haven't killed him, have I?"
He was facing away from her, though the way people flinched away from him told her enough. The Baron floated over.
"No," he said curtly. "Only unconscious. Victory goes to Potter."
"Pity," Harry said dispassionately. The wards shimmered as they fell, doing their best to repair the damage Harry had done. The Baron disappeared. The scorch marks on the carpets healed, and Malfoy gave a low groan.
"Don't attack my sister again, Malfoy," Harry said quietly. He turned to her; with the fireplace behind him, his eyes practically glowed. Or perhaps that was just residual power; she wasn't sure. "Ready to go?"
Rose tilted her head. "One moment." Several people flinched when she raised her wand, and she gave a little smirk as she changed Malfoy's hair into a lurid pink.
"How uncreative," Harry said dryly.
Rose shrugged and sent him a beaming smile. "I enjoy the simple things in life." She fell into step beside him as he passed. "That was fun!"
"I'm glad I entertained you."
"You ought to be, you – " Rose stopped talking as soon as the wall slid closed beside her. Harry sent her a warning look, so Rose waited until he'd pulled her into an abandoned classroom and sent several locking and privacy spells towards the door.
"Where did you learn that?" She blurted out. "And how - ?"
"I've been training in the Room of Requirement," Harry said.
He gave her a derisive look. "For something like this, obviously."
She stared at him. "That's not like you."
A sneer. "And when did you become an expert on what I do?"
Rose faltered. That hurt. "I just… you were acting strangely. You're not usually so cold." Or cruel, she added silently. Or agile.
"Maybe you don't know me as well as you think you do," Harry said. She flinched, hurt because it was true. Harry had always been so affable, so cheerful, but today he'd shattered Malfoy's bones with a smile on his face. She'd seen hints of his ruthlessness before – his lack of reaction to her… handling… of Malfoy had spoken volumes – but she'd never seen it in person before, and it scared her how little she knew her own brother. She'd be a hypocrite if she was afraid of what he'd actually done – on the contrary, she quite approved. Had she not thought a duel preferable to what she'd done? But she'd need to pay closer attention to her brother after this. After all, how well did she know him, really?
"You don't need to worry," Harry said, voice softening. "I know it must be scary, but just trust me, alright? I promise I'm fine."
"I… okay," Rose said reluctantly.
Thanks to a prospective Healer among the Slytherin upper years, Malfoy never had to go to the Hospital Wing. He didn't bother anyone anymore either, which she supposed was an improvement.
The fallout from the Parseltongue reveal was much more dramatic. Most of the students in the lower three years had spoken to Harry on some level and knew better than to believe the rumours that he was the heir of Slytherin. Sure, he was a Parselmouth and brought back the Ritual Rooms, but so had his muggleborn friend! Those who were part of the study group closed ranks around him, glaring fiercely at anyone who looked at him the wrong way.
Rose's situation was similar. She suspected many Slytherins, who'd seen her and Harry's darker sides, had their suspicions, but they were clever enough to keep them quiet. Everyone else took one look at her perpetually beaming face and Hufflepuff tie, sometimes glancing at the crowd of Hufflepuffs looming menacingly behind her, and kept their mouths shut.
(it was the first time Hufflepuff House had ever rallied around her. It made her feel… warm)
(what would it have been like, to be a Hufflepuff the first time around?)
Things weren't nearly as bad as they had been in her past life – here, she and Harry had loyal groups of friends. They were well-liked amongst their yearmates and hadn't isolated themselves with two friends like she'd done before. There was no anger from Hufflepuff House – Ernie, whom she'd overheard warning others away from her in her past life, stood resolutely beside her in this one. She was his friend, she was a good person, and he was ready and willing to fight people off with force. The prejudice wasn't gone, but she and Harry were exceptions.
(he'd doubted her once before, after all. He wasn't going to doubt her again)
It was nice, having people on her side.
(it was also nice to finally be able to tell people what an absolute narcissist Macha was – none of her friends were able to say the word 'magnificent' without giggling)
Professor Sprout had even stood up during dinner and declared that anyone who thought either she or Harry were the Heirs of Slytherin needed to get their heads looked at, because clearly, they didn't know them at all.
"I know both Mr and Miss Potter personally," she said. "And I'll have all of you know that I am a very good judge of character."
Her little speech had driven Flitwick into doing the same – he was overseeing the formation of the defence club, after all, and had worked with Harry quite closely. McGonagall had done the same, after that, and though Snape conspicuously did not, his dislike of Harry was well-known at this point, so those students with two brain cells to rub together didn't put any weight on that.
(but it stung to know that even the Professors had doubted her in her last life)
(things weren't perfect - of course not. Ronald and McLaggen and a great deal of others still cast them sideways, suspicious glances, and there'd been murmurings of getting them suspended 'for the good of the school,' but Hannah had snarled and Ernie had glared and Hermione had pulled out the rulebook and the murmurings had faded into the shadows)
(they were still there, but with her friends at her side, it was easy to pretend that they weren't)
"They're kind of beautiful, aren't they?" Luna said absently.
"They are," Rose agreed quietly. She reached out and the thestral allowed her to run her hand along its bony side. Snow crunched beneath her boots, but the leather was spelled to the gills and so her feet stayed warm. The same could not be said for her hands – the warming charm was wearing off, but one hand was holding out a dripping hunk of meat and the other was petting a thestral.
She hadn't been particularly fond of them in her last life – they'd been a reminder of Cedric's death, and she'd resented them for it. In this one, they simply were. They seemed to sense her closeness with Death, as the ghosts had, and Rose was no longer surprised by the feeling of a cold, bony nose nudging affectionately at her back or neck.
(their teeth were still awfully sharp though, so she always moved her neck out of their reach)
They had a quiet peacefulness to them that she envied. Their large, dark eyes looked at her like they knew her and accepted her despite everything she'd done.
(Quirrell crumbling at her touch)
(kill the spare)
(I KILLED SIRIUS BLACK)
Rose was grateful Luna hadn't commented on her odd affinity for the thestrals. It was calming, to simply spend time with another person in companionable silence. No schemes, no attacks, nothing to worry about but whether or not she'd have enough meat to satisfy the thestrals.
It was snowing again. Rose paused in her petting to pull up the hood of her cloak. Her dark red hair, spilling out in a sheet, was a lost cause, already getting dusted with tiny snowflakes. In a sudden fit of whimsy, she stuck out her tongue and caught a few. She heard Luna giggle before copying her.
The thestral she'd been petting nudged mournfully at her hand. Rose smiled and resumed, watching tenderly as the animal leaned into her touch. It wasn't their fault they were associated with death; they were shy and gentle, and she loved them.
Rose had always loved Hogwarts in winter. The Potions classroom was freezing, but only because the heavy enchantments blanketing the rest of the castle would interfere with the brewing process. The rest of the castle was pleasantly warm. It wasn't surprising to see students practically hugging the walls afterwards – the temperature-activated enchantments had the stone radiating heat.
All common rooms became littered with self-heating blankets, cushions, and rugs; mugs of hot chocolate had become a permanent fixture in the Great Hall. She'd nearly cried when her Slytherin friends, who had a free period, met her outside the Potions classroom with an armful of blankets and a few mugs of hot chocolate floating behind them. She hadn't believed Blaise's muttered we want to help combat Slytherin prejudice too, you know, but pretended she had. Rose had noticed the concerned looks they'd given her, curling up in front of the fire in the Hogwarts Common Room and clutching a warm cushion after stumbling back, shivering, from Potions.
(Blaise could mother hen as well as Mrs. Weasley when he wanted to)
In Charms, Professor Flitwick taught them how to charm everlasting snow. Rose had squealed when she'd crawled into bed only to find handfuls of snow and had hexed Harry purple the next morning.
"Right," Harry said. He stood on a raised dais at the front of the room, Susan and Neville flanking him. Defence club was being held on Saturday mornings to make sure that the people who went were truly committed. As a result, about half the year group and a smattering of first and third years filled the large defence classroom Professor Flitwick had repurposed. The professor himself was standing off to the side to supervise.
"I'd like to thank everyone for coming – I know there's a great many other things you could be doing this morning, and you chose to come here. We're here because, for all that Hogwarts is one of the best schools of magic in the world, the defence instruction is inconsistent at best and nonexistent at worst."
Several people nodded fervently in agreement. Lockhart had been 'teaching' long enough for even his most fervent supporters to admit that he wasn't cut out for the profession.
"Professor Flitwick, three-time champion of the International Advanced Dueler's League, and Amelia Bones, Susan's aunt and head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, have recommended that we use the book A Beginner's Guide to Defence Against the Dark Arts by Atonia MacMillan as a reference. All the spells we'll be covering can be found there, if you wanted to do some extra reading."
Harry grinned and caught the eyes of Hermione, Mandy Brocklehurst, and Lisa Turpin.
"How this is going to work is that one of us," Harry gestured to the three of them, "is going to demonstrate a spell and explain how to use it. Then, we'll all practice on the dummies on your right. Professor Flitwick dug them out of storage for us – they're pretty cool! They glow to show you where you've hit and recognize a few basic spells. It's fairly straightforward, I think. Any questions?" Harry cocked his head and paused for a beat before continuing.
"No? Alright. At the first and only meeting of the Dueling Club," there were several laughs at this, "Professor Snape demonstrated the disarming spell. Its incantation is ex-PELL-i-AR-mus, and its wand movement like so." He gave a forward jab. "If you cast it correctly, the dummy will turn green. They've already been calibrated for the spell."
"Expelliarmus," Harry said. A jet of red light struck the dummy on the platform. A green circle of light glowed in the center of the dummy's chest.
"With the disarming spell, the closer to the heart you get, the more effective it'll be. I could clip the dummy on its arm like this," Harry said, doing so. A yellow oval glowed on the dummy's arm. "The yellow means the spell was less effective, and if you get red or no colour at all, the spell didn't work. Susan, Neville, and I will walk around helping people."
Rose had learned (or re-learned) the spell over a year ago, so instead she worked on her aim. There was a function to have the dummies move and dodge within a three- by three-foot square, so she levitated it off to the side. Her aim was getting better – the first time she'd tried this a week ago, her spells had always landed on the arms or missed. Now, she could reliably hit the dummy on the chest.
There were giggles and yelps as some students missed and hit someone else's dummy. There was a general air of light-heartedness, which she far preferred to the grim atmosphere the DA had had more often than not. Here, they weren't training for anything, just learning.
It was nice.
Cedric raised an eyebrow when a crowd of Hufflepuff second years returned to the common room an hour later, sweaty but smiling.
"Everything alright?" he asked, looking up from his essay.
"Absolutely spiffing, old chap," Ernie assured him. Rose still wasn't sure if he spoke like that on purpose or not. "Potter – Harry Potter, that is – started up a defence study club."
"He's a really good teacher," Hannah said earnestly. "He and Neville and Susan."
Susan blushed. "We'll, we've been preparing for months, haven't we? Us and Professor Flitwick. Be a bit embarrassing if we weren't."
"Defence club?" Cedric asked. "Was it useful?"
"We learned expelliarmus properly," Justin grinned.
Beside Cedric, Joshua Wilkerson and Heidi Marks looked up in interest.
"Really?" Marks said. "Our defence professors have been awful recently – our OWLs are next year and it looks like it'll have to all be self study."
"D'you know if Potter's allowing new members?" Wilkerson asked.
Everyone looked at Susan.
"Oh – I think so? I mean, it's a club, isn't it? It's not invitation-only or anything."
"It's every Saturday morning," Rose added. "If we meet in the common room at 7:45, we can go together."
"Brilliant," Cedric grinned. "See you then, I suppose."
Justin glanced at Susan. "I hope you, Potter, and Longbottom have plans for when there are more people than dummies."
"We do," Susan said, chewing on her lip. "We just didn't expect to need them. Do you think there'll be many more people at the next meeting?"
"News travels fast in Hogwarts," Rose said diplomatically. "And you three are good teachers."
"You'll help if there're too many people, won't you?" Susan asked nervously. "I know you said you were busy, but – "
"Of course I'll help," Rose said firmly.
"Explain to me your understanding of the Pepperup Potion."
"The Pepperup Potion treats the common cold, a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. It raises the internal body temperature to a point where the viral proteins can no longer survive and denature, causing steam to come out of the nose, ears, and mouth as a result. It's also used to treat patients with mild hypothermia, though is not recommended for anything more severe than that as the sudden change in body temperature causes adverse reactions in a hypothermic body," Rose said, reciting all she could remember. Her meetings with Madam Pomphrey had continued this year – she felt the matron rather enjoyed them.
"Adequate, Miss Potter," Madam Pomphrey said. "Next week, I want you to bring me a cauldronful of Pepperup. You're top of your class in Potions, it oughtn't be difficult."
Rose scrunched up her nose a little in confusion. "I thought Professor Snape – "
"Every Healer worth their license ought to be able to whip up a Pepperup Potion," Madam Pomphrey said sternly. "The thing has a shelf life of three days, I know for a fact that all of Saint Mungo's branch clinics have a perpetual shortage, especially during this time of year."
Rose quailed under Madam Pomphrey's look, though a part of her gazed up in admiration and hoped that she, too, could one day be so terrifying.
"Yes, Madam Pomphrey. Thank you so much for teaching me – I'll see you next week!"
Rose didn't know if she wanted to be a Healer, but she couldn't deny that healing was fascinating. Even casual conversations with Madam Pomphrey revealed loads of information – for example, the knowledge that there existed clinics where wixen could go to to get physical ailments treated. She'd wondered ever since fifth year in her past life, since Saint Mungo's seemed to specialize in magical problems like spell damage or potions accidents. Before, she'd assumed that wixen just fixed themselves up, but now she knew better. Not every wix was able to cast charms like ferula or episkey, so Saint Mungos set up branch clinics. Like Muggle Britian, care was free of charge, paid for through taxes and donations.
Madam Pomphrey telling her to brew Pepperup gave her an idea – something she really ought to have thought of before. Rose hurried to the dungeons where the student practice labs were, digging through her bag for her Potions textbook. She walked quickly down the cold hallway, shoes nearly silent on the stone floor, before finding an empty lab. Rose wrote her name on the sign-up sheet neatly, booking it for the next three hours, before closing the door. She pulled her cauldron out of an expanded pocket of her satchel and set out her potions kit. If there were any ingredients she didn't have, she could sign out a number of common and moderately rare ingredients as long as she wrote which potion she needed it for.
She set her textbook on the counter, looking through her bag for – yes! She pulled out what appeared to be coarse Muggle sticky notes. She'd found them in a stationary shop called Quills & Waterstones in Horizont Alley, which was filled with all sorts of magic-adapted muggle things. Rose flipped through the book, adding a sticky note whenever she came across a useful potion.
People had begun to outnumber the dummies at the most recent defence club meeting, so they'd had to switch from stupefy to flipendo. There'd still been quite a few bruises from overpowered spells though, so Rose stuck a note on the page with a recipe for Bruise Balm. Perhaps some Wiggenweld as well – it was a sixth year potion but only due to its complexity. She'd brewed it over the summer with Remus, so she ought to be fine here on her own. Besides, there was sure to be loads of odd cuts and aches from the Defence club. She'd just ask Madam Pomphrey to look over them along with her Pepperup.
There were a number of potions it'd be useful to have on-hand though – if she'd had Blood Replenisher with her when Quirrellmort had tried to kill Harry, he might not've been so close to death. Wound Cleaning Potion too – it didn't make sense to have one without the other, unless the bleeding was internal. Perhaps Invigoration Draft? She never had it on hand when she needed it. It took three hours to brew and was OWL level though, however, and she'd only signed up for three hours…
Rose stepped outside to put her name down for an additional five hours, satisfaction thrumming through her veins. She was doing something, creating something tangible, that would help her in the future. It was heady, and though Rose wasn't a Seer, she foresaw a lot of brewing in her future. Perhaps she'd rope Hermione and Harry to help her. Hermione had brewed a NEWT-level potion at twelve in a bathroom – surely she could handle OWL-level potions in a lab.
Then, a week before Yule break, Parvati Patil and Nearly-Headless Nick were petrified.
In the wake of the double petrification, Padma was a mess. She'd been sent home after having a breakdown in the Hogwarts Common Room, the place reminding her too much of her sister. Their twin bond, Rose had observed, was more physical – Padma would freeze at odd moments and her movements were jerky. Several near-fatal Potions accidents had immediately preceded her being sent home.
Prefects had begun escorting them to and from class, allowing only a few hours in the Hogwarts Common Room and library. She and Harry had been forced to plot via mirror and hadn't been able to sneak out at all. Their House prefects were always on the alert for students sneaking off, so Notice-Me-Nots were off the table, and her magic wasn't yet refined enough to manage as Disillusionment.
Of course, that was nothing compared to the change in the school's atmosphere. Padma was a pureblood, and now that she'd been petrified, it meant that Slytherin's monster was no longer discriminating. It did a great deal to absolve the Slytherins of suspicion, though. For once, their reputation of being blood supremacists worked in their favor.
As for Malfoy, he'd been looking awfully pale since the duel, Rose noticed. He hadn't gone back to his taunts at all, and Parkinson seemed to have abandoned him completely, integrating herself instead with Tracey Davis and Emma Vane. He wasn't even going home for the winter holidays, Theo told her. Usually, he begged every year to be allowed to attend the annual Malfoy Gala over Yule, and every year was rebuffed. Rose didn't know why he'd ever bothered – like the Wizengamot, wixen weren't allowed to attend anything formal until they'd turned thirteen. It was a concession to the family magicks, who only accepted or rejected a wix on their thirteenth birthday. It usually wasn't spoken of or acknowledged in polite society, but the accompanying appearance change meant that photographing those under thirteen was illegal.
Harry and Rose convinced Sirius and Remus to let them stay at Hogwarts for Yule so they could look for the culprit and search the rooms of the ones who'd stayed. Sirius and Remus had agreed reluctantly; Remus would destroy the two horcruxes they had over a mirror call, so they could watch. As the only second year Hufflepuff who'd be staying at school, Rose had managed to convince the professors to allow her to move temporarily into Gryffindor tower.
"They'd rather us stay at Hogwarts with the professors," Rose had lied. "In case something happens on the train or platform. But I don't… I don't want to be alone," she'd said quietly, as if admitting to something shameful, looking up through her eyelashes. Professor Sprout had softened instantly.
"Of course you don't, Miss Potter. I'll speak with Professor McGonagall, to see if you might stay in Gryffindor Tower."
And so it was that Rose's things ended up transported temporarily into the first year Gryffindor girl's dorm. Hermione had gone home so the second year's dorm was empty, but this way Ginny wouldn't have to be alone either.
The first-year girls' dorm was considerably smaller than the second-year one. When she thought about it, Rose wasn't surprised – they'd been born during the height of the war, after all. The year below hers was apparently one of the smallest Hogwarts had seen in decades. It hadn't even gotten that bad during the war with Grindelwald, who'd mostly stayed on the continent.
As it was, there were only three Gryffindor girls, including Ginny, so Rose's Hufflepuff bed was fitted easily in a space next to the window. Rose pushed down the part of herself that always sought to be closest to exits – she hadn't even lived with the Dursleys in this life, why on earth had these instincts followed her? – and set about chatting with Ginny. Rose hadn't talked with the first years much outside of Luna, not even in Hufflepuff. She made a mental note to remedy that – she didn't want to confine her influence to her year alone. Harry, the sociable git, hadn't had a problem, of course.
In her first life, Rose had never really gotten on with the girls in her dorm. She'd looked down at Lavender, Parvati, and Fay as they'd gossiped about beauty charms and who liked whom, thinking herself better than them. As they'd grown older and more mature, the other three had remembered Rose's initial slight, and relations between them had been slightly chilly ever since.
Now, though, after spending hours with Andromeda teaching her beauty charms, giving her advice on how to wear her hair, choosing robes with colours that'd flatter her, Rose empathized with them. Gossiping was fun. Beauty charms, braiding each other's hair – that was also fun. She and Ginny had a grand old time fulfilling muggle stereotypes as they brushed and braided and gossiped and Rose taught her the charms Andromeda had once taught her. The morning after break had begun, they yawned and giggled their way through breakfast. Rose loved Susan, but she was as no-nonsense as her Aunt Amelia, and Hannah had always been more Susan's friend than hers and lived in a different dorm. With Ginny, Rose could embrace that girlish side of herself, and she reveled in it.
("Merlin, I wish I had your hair colour, auburn's so much prettier than ginger."
"Are you joking? Ginny, you practically glow in the sun, why would you want to give that up?"
"… Do I really?"
"Yes, of course! It's absolutely gorgeous, Ginny, I love your hair.")
The night before Yule, Harry and Rose asked Hagrid for an oak log. It burned in the sunset, fire flaring as she and Harry spoke their prayers. They exchanged holly necklaces afterwards – it was an old tradition they hadn't followed before, but they felt they needed the protection this year. Besides, they both missed the holly bushes and witchlight sun. Hogwarts celebrated Christmas, so the evergreen trees and fairies were there, but their presence sat differently knowing that they weren't for them. They were Christmas trees, not Yule trees, and that tiny distinction made all the difference.
Ginny had asked to watch the ceremony, ignoring Ronald's glares and muttered accusations of her turning Dark. She watched as Rose braided bells into her hair and charmed a crown of snowflakes unmeltable, listened as Harry and Rose said their sunset prayer and counted their blessings. She was especially interested in the magic of it.
"Something like this couldn't possibly be Dark," Ginny had murmured, eyes soft with awe as she gazed at the smoldering log. "That was beautiful."
They walked back to the castle together as the sun descended the horizon, whereupon they were scolded by Percy for leaving the castle alone.
"We would've told you," Ginny had said blandly. "But we didn't fancy getting called 'Dark' again."
Percy had flushed. "Well – I – Ron was out of line," he said at last. "Don't listen to a word he says."
"I never do, anyways," Ginny said breezily as they swept by, Harry and Rose stifling their giggles.
"That was brilliant, Ginny," Rose had said whole-heartedly. The other girl had tossed her hair and winked.
"Of course it was," she'd said. "I'm brilliant."
She'd sounded so much like Macha that Harry and Rose had burst out laughing. Then they'd had to bring out Macha herself, who'd preened at the likeness and over Ginny's awed fawning. They'd sat in the Gryffindor common room, which after everything still felt like (had been the first place she'd ever called) home, when Fred and George had bounded down the stairs.
"Behold, Fred, the Potters!"
"Indeed, George, they of the snakery shenanigans!"
"With their outrageous occamy!"
"For whoever heard of a pair of Potter Parselmouths?" They finished together.
"Oh, shut up," Ginny said irritably. "You're going to irritate Macha."
"Macha," George mused.
"Could this be the infamous occamy?"
"Goddess of war and death?"
"Love, too," Rose complained, put out. Why did everyone insist on ignoring that part? It was important! The look the twins gave her were copies of Theo's unimpressed expression when she'd said the same thing on the train.
"You're not fooling anyone, 'Puffy Potter," Fred said sternly.
"We know you desire the blood of your enemies," George agreed.
"And yet you still antagonize me?" Rose said, affecting shock. "My, Gryffindors really are brave."
"That's us," George said cheerfully, swinging himself over and flopping down on the couch adjacent to her. He gave an 'oof' as Fred did the same.
"Bravest lions that ever stepped foot inside this glorious tower."
Harry rolled his eyes and hissed at Macha.
$Scare them a bit, oh beautiful one?$
Macha gave a pleased hiss and lunged forward playfully, drawing back in satisfaction when both twins yelped and flinched.
"Very brave," Rose agreed serenely, holding out an arm for Macha to wrap around.
"Bloody hell," Fred said, eyes round. "That was brilliant."
"Flattery will get you everywhere," Harry grinned. Ginny laughed and Rose ran an affectionate finger down Macha's head. The occamy nipped at her ear affectionately.
$I like them, Red One$ she hissed. $They give me the respect I am due as their superior$
When Rose translated, Fred and George promptly fell to her knees before her.
"O great Macha!"
"We are not worthy to be in your presence!"
Then Percy walked in to see his brothers worshipping an occamy, and it was only after a great deal of laughter before anyone could explain. The boy had even grudgingly cracked a smile, which softened when Rose drew him into a conversation about the different runes the Ancient Chinese used when compared to Elder Futhark. From behind his back, the twins gave her a thumbs up.
The boys had always been more Slytherin than most.
On Christmas morning, she and Harry snuck off to the Room of Requirement. At 5 o'clock, Sirius' face appeared in the mirror. It shone with anticipation.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Ready," Rose and Harry answered in unison.
"Right," he said, turning the mirror around. They were in the middle of a deserted field. They didn't know and didn't ask – better that way. The mirror showed them Remus, standing several meters away from the diary and locket, laying on the ground. He was swathed in acromantula silk.
"Fiendfyre," Remus hissed, barely audible from the distance. Immediately, the mirror filled with the roar of the cursed fire. It billowed from the end of Remus' wand like a waterfall, but Remus kept it at a tightly controlled stream. It formed shapes, wolves and stags and dogs, bounding towards the horcruxes and leaving nothing but scorched grass in its wake. They saw the horcruxes go up in flames, heard the dual unearthly screams, saw the metal and paper burn.
Remus banished the Fiendfyre with a twist of his wand, dissipating instantly. There were beads of sweat on his face as he pulled down the hood of his robe, but he looked several years lighter as he grinned at them through the mirror.
They ended the call, grinning with exhilaration. It wasn't as satisfying as it would've been to see it in person, but Sirius and Remus had been stingy about letting them that close to the cursed fire anyways. She still missed the Yule rites, but seeing the horcruxes burn had settled something inside her. Until now, all their plans to fight Voldemort had been just that: plans. Now, however, they'd actually done something about it.
(but she'd seen the diary scream, so what was opening the Chamber? Who was opening the Chamber?)
"Wait," Harry said as Rose made to leave. The Room, previously plain, reshaped itself into Rose's bedroom. "Can we talk? I feel like we haven't spoken properly in ages."
She blinked. "Alright."
They lay down side by side on the carpet, as they usually did. Rose stretched out languidly. She could relax for now – she and Harry were set to search the dorms of every single student over the holidays. Of course, it was possible that whatever object it was wasn't in the castle, but both of them thought it unlikely. Why, after all, would it risk discovery by going home with whomever it was using? No, she and Harry were sure they'd find the object somewhere in the dorms, but that was later. For now, Rose felt like a cat, sprawled lazily on the ground, content with the stars overhead and her brother by her side.
"Were you friends with the twins, in your past life?" Harry asked.
She blinked, not seeing where he was going with this.
"I just want to know more about you," he said exasperatedly, but with a depth of feeling that told her he'd been bottling it up for a while. "You look at Gryffindor tower like you belong there."
She stared at the ceiling. She'd never told anybody this, especially not in this life, but the Dursleys had never hurt her in this life. She wasn't twenty-one-year-old Rose Potter, Savior, Defeater of Voldemort. She was twelve-year-old Rosie, Harry Potter's twin sister. She might've been a Hufflepuff, but that didn't mean she couldn't be brave.
"… It was my first home," she said at last. "The Hat wanted to put me into Slytherin, but Ron was my first friend."
"Ron Weasley?" Harry's voice was thick with disbelief, exaggerated in an effort to cover up the vague distress she could nonetheless hear. He was upset. Of course he was – she'd just implied she hadn't seen her previous living arrangement as a home.
"Yeah," she smiled crookedly. "Met on the train, shared sweets, and told me all this rot about how Slytherin was the place Dark witches and wizards went."
"Merlin," Harry snorted.
"I believed him," Rose said quietly. "I believed him for… my entire time at Hogwarts, really. But I'm not sorry I was sorted into Gryffindor. Ron and Hermione were my best friends. He wrote to his mum and told her I'd never had a Christmas present before, so she sent me a Weasley sweater."
"… You'd never had a Christmas present?" Harry's voice was very small. Rose froze, then made a conscious effort to relax, focusing on her breathing. Inhale for four seconds. Hold for four. Exhale for five.
She wasn't that person anymore. It was further from her. Harry was mature enough.
(she could do this)
Slowly, her heartbeat slowed, and levelled out. She stared at the stars overhead.
(she was safe)
(they couldn't hurt her anymore)
"I think I got an old coathanger once," she whispered. "A pair of socks. When Hagrid burst in through the door and gave me a chocolate cake with my Hogwarts letter, it was the first cake I'd ever had."
She remembered the letter, addressed to The Floor, Hut on the Rock, The Sea, an address no one had ever questioned. Hogwarts knew when she was being ignored, Rose had learned later – the addresses of The Cupboard Under the Stairs and The Smallest Bedroom had never been subtle and had an affronted undercurrent that'd made her smile.
"They kept me in the cupboard under the stairs," she said softly. "They only moved me into Dudley's second bedroom once my letter came, since it had my cupboard on it. Summer before second year, Dobby stole my post and did a hover charm to get me in trouble for accidental magic, so they put locks on the door and bars on the window and fed me cans of soup through a cat flap. Ron and the twins came to rescue me in a flying car." She gave a wry smile at the ceiling. Somehow, Harry's hand had found its way into hers, and she gave it a reassuring squeeze.
"The twins picked the lock on my cupboard to get my things," she recalled. "I've always been grateful to them for never talking to me about it – I'm sure they must've seen my old mattress and toy soldiers, and they always made sure to send me food over the summer after that. They all did."
(opening a package from a half-dead Errol, smiling at the meat pies and pasties Mrs. Weasley had made, a pinprick of hope during her desolate summers)
(the undercurrent of worry in the letters each time, Ron's unsubtle questions of hope the muggles are feeding you enough)
(the darkness of her room as she studied magic in the dead of night, torch between her teeth and blanket over her head, stomach gnawing)
She gazed at the white stars on her ceiling. It was the furthest thing from the darkness of the cupboard under the stairs and the yellow streetlamps of Privet Drive.
"That's why I like the ceiling so much," she whispered. "It reminds me that I'm not there anymore." The ceiling, and a million other things – the feel of the soft carpet cocooning her body, the laughter of water as it bubbled in the corner, the gentle pulse of the witchlights overhead. A million things to ground her in the here and now.
"You're not," Harry said quietly. "You're never going back there. Ever."
"I've never even been there, in this life," she reminded him gently. There was an edge, a firmness to his voice that she'd rarely heard before; it warmed her. "I'm getting better at telling the difference, now. Talking helps."
"Talk all you want," Harry said vehemently. His hand gripped hers like a lifeline. "I'll listen."
She squeezed him. "I know. Love you, Hare-bear."
"Love you too, Rosie."
They lay there beside each other, staring up at the stars, lost in thought.
They returned to the Tower in the dim light of dawn, creeping into the empty common room and settling down in front of the fire in contented, easy silence. Harry went back to bed, but Rose moved to a table (not her old table, never her old table) and pulled out her Ancient Runes clay block and a few reference books, grimacing in remembered distaste at the memory of the many Memory Potions she'd drunk to learn Ancient Sumerian. Above her, the human-sensitive witchlights brightened. She set the block on the table, grabbing the end of a reed she'd tucked in her bag, and began practicing the wedge-shaped impressions that made up cuneiform. It was, as always, a pain – the clay block had to be just the perfect amount of wet – too little, and the impressions would be too shallow; too much, and they'd smudge. Not that the impressions didn't smudge to begin with. Rose cursed and wiped the edge of her hand on a handkerchief – any spells and the clay tablet would be contaminated – and heard someone tut from behind.
"Language," Percy muttered, sliding in next to her. Rose scowled at him
"I hate cuneiform," she said, with feeling. "Only curse words can convey the depth of my hatred."
To her pleased shock, Percy hid a smile.
"I know the feeling," he said. "But we must set a good example."
Rose eyed him skeptically.
"'We'?" she echoed. "You're the prefect."
"Yes," Percy said patiently, very older-brother-esque. "But people look up to you too, you know, Miss Potter."
"Call me Rose," she said. "Miss Potter makes me feel like I'm in trouble."
"Rose, then," Percy allowed, setting up his workstation. "Surely you've noticed the way the first-years admire you?"
"I suppose," Rose admitted, because she had. Percy had a point. He was also up terribly early. She squinted at him.
"What're you doing up so early, anyway?" she asked, glancing at her watch. According to the gold watch (none of them wore anything silver, for Remus), it was the new moon, Venus was rising, and just past 7 o'clock on December 25th.
"I should be asking you that," Percy returned easily. It was the most relaxed she'd ever seen him – gone was the pompous prefect, and in its place the comfortable teenage boy. "I get up this early every day. It's a bit difficult to get any work done otherwise."
Rose grinned, remembering the warmth and company and laughter that coloured her memories of Gryffindor Tower (pushing away the memory of those who'd never laugh again). "I can imagine. And to answer your question, I realized I've been neglecting my schoolwork."
Percy sniffed approvingly, the prefect returning at the mention of school. "Well, I think it's admirable of you to be such a diligent student. I wish my brothers would take a page out of your book. They'll never get anywhere in life if they don't focus."
"They just have different priorities," Rose said, trying to defend her pseudo-(once-)friends. "Fred and George are brilliant. They just choose to channel that into pranking."
Percy made a frustrated sound. His ears were reddening, which had been a sure sign of frustration in Ron.
(they were all so similar, and yet so different. She needed to focus on those differences, because otherwise she'd spiral into a flashback and she could not afford a flashback right now)
(it still hurt to look at them, sometimes – they'd been the closest thing she'd had to a family)
"I know that, and you know that, but their future employers won't," he said, running a hand through his hair. He sighed and deflated.
"Sorry, Rose," Percy said apologetically. "I don't – I shouldn't have said all that to you, it's none of your concern."
Rose bit her lip, watching him. This boy was a far cry from the pompous boy of her memories. Had she misjudged Percy this badly? This… this harping on his brothers to do better in school… had it come from a place of worry, of love, all this time?
"For what it's worth," she said quietly, "I think they'll be fine. They're clever enough to make something of themselves no matter what job they choose."
Percy gave her a strained smile, but there was something warm in his expression.
"Thanks, Rose," he said. "Now – let's work on our cuneiform, shall we?"
The next week was spent in a haze of sleepless nights as they searched for something, anything that might offer a clue as to whom was opening the Chamber. They went through schoolbags and broke through the simpler wards, making note of the more complex schemes and sending them to Remus and Sirius for them to figure out. They worked slowly, methodically, working their way up and focusing on the dorms of those who'd stayed behind. Thankfully, there were barely twenty students who'd done so, everyone else having been eager to go home. They went through Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and finally, Gryffindor.
They found adult mags, illegal books, and an absurd number of pranking products, especially in the twins' dormitories, but nothing else. Nothing too illegal or sinister. Nothing more dangerous than a copy of Magick Moste Evile in a Gryffindor upperclassman's trunk.
(Rose tried not to think about the enormous breach of privacy)
(it was for the greater good)
The day before students were due to return to Hogwarts, she overheard the twins on her way back from the Great Hall.
"… can't do much more without funding," George was saying.
"Need funding for something?" Rose asked, pushing the door open. She smirked at them as they drew their wands.
"No need for those, I'm just here to talk. Ought to be more careful; at least put a privacy charm on the door."
"Well there're only about twenty people in the castle so we didn't see the point," Fred grumbled. He moved past her to close the door and lock it with a charm. "Well?"
She looked at both twins. "Will fifty galleons be enough for now? I assume you're developing your own pranking products."
George's eyes narrowed, and he hushed Fred with a jerk of his hand. "What do you want in return?"
Rose smirked. "Monthly updates. Advance warning for generalized pranks. Leave my friends and I alone for targeted ones, but Cedric's still fair game for quidditch rival pranks. Once you start making profit, we'll talk more then, but I won't ask for more than 10%."
(she would see them succeed. For Percy, for their family, for everyone who looked at them and dismissed them as 'just another pair of pranksters')
(for herself, because she was reveling in the look of shock on Fred's face right now)
"Ten percent?" George goggled. "That's… absurdly low."
"And you're willing to sacrifice pretty-boy Diggory?"
She answered the unasked question. "I like you. You make sure your pranks don't go too far into bullying, you use spells and potions I've never heard of, and I'm getting the idea that 10% will be a good deal of money in a few years." She also had the gift of foresight, in a sense, but that was no one's business but her own. "Besides, it's quidditch. Cedric'll understand."
The twins looked at each other. "Deal."
"Pleasure doing business with you, George," she said, nodding. She turned to the other. "Fred."
George raised an eyebrow. "Magical sensitivity?"
She winked. "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies."
Fred snorted. "How on earth did you get out of Slytherin?"
"How on earth did you get out of Slytherin?" Rose shot back. She dispelled the charm on the door and left with a flourish.
She'd been able to tell Fred and George apart since her fifth year. It had developed as a sort of sixth sense at first, and only in her current life had she realized she'd been picking up on the differences in their magical auras. She'd always been more magically sensitive than most, and the rituals of the Old Ways only augmented that. She still couldn't describe it, but they just felt different. Besides, Fred was always a tiny bit more vicious, more ruthless, than George. George was the one who'd had to reel him in from the crueler pranks. Rose had always appreciated that – the only people they'd ever singled out were the bullies, the blood purists, the ones who thought hexing first years in corridors was a grand old time. They could be vicious and cruel, but so could she.
Rose awoke to Harry calling her name in the mirror. It was still dark out. She fumbled for the mirror under her pillow and grumbled Harry's name into it.
"What?" she said groggily.
"I need to talk to you," Harry said urgently. "Right now. I'm in the common room."
Rose, awakening by the second, was already pulling on her dressing gown. She paused to shoot a Silencing Spell at Ginny's curtains, before grabbing her wand and hurrying downstairs.
"Not here," Harry said, grabbing her hand. He was already wearing the invisibility cloak and pulled her under it. She realized he was leading her to the Room of Requirement, and he started speaking the moment they arrived.
"I just woke up in the dungeons, under the invisibility cloak, with no memory of how I got there," Harry said. His eyes were wide and panicked. "Do you – do you think the horcrux in my scar -?"
"No," Rose said firmly. "It never affected me when I had it, and you haven't touched the diadem so you should be fine. Were you obliviated? Where's your remembrall?"
Harry looked through the bag at his side, and she could feel his panic when he couldn't find it.
"It's not here," he whispered. "How – I always keep it on me - ?"
"When's the last time you remember seeing it?" she asked.
"I don't know – few months ago, maybe?"
"We'll call Remus and Sirius through the mirror and ask them to send you another one."
She wished she could give him hers, but the thing was already locked onto her magical signature and would only tell others what they'd forgotten, not reverse the obliviate.
"You think Lockhart – " Harry looked nauseous.
"I don't know," she said quietly. "I – it might've been someone else. We shouldn't make assumptions."
"If he – "
Harry vomited. Rose, feeling helpless, only patted his back in what she hoped was a soothing manner.
"Maybe it was a prank," she offered. "Some kind of memory-loss potion the twins were testing? And you got caught by accident?"
It was a weak explanation, but there were very few non-threatening ones. Harry gave her a wane smile and she pulled him into a fierce hug.
"We'll get your memories back," she promised.
Remus and Sirius sent the remembrall the next day. It turned the faintest hint of black after a week, meaning that Harry had been memory charmed. They needed to wait until it was ready to break it, though, so in the meantime there was nothing they could do but search for suspects.
A/N: thanks so much to everyone who's favorited/followed/commented! I can't figure out how to reply, but I read every one, and they fuel my muse!
When Valentine's Day came, Rose was caught utterly off-guard, which was unfortunate, because otherwise she might not have given such a shrill scream when she first walked through the doors of the Great Hall. It was amid commiserating laughter that she reluctantly stepped through again.
"Sweet Morgana," Rose whimpered.
Beside her, Justin swore colourfully. None of them, not even Ernie, reprimanded him.
Ernie took a deep breath. "Chin up, chaps! It's only a day!"
"A lot can happen in a day," Susan muttered.
"Oh, no," Hannah groaned. "Su, you jinxed it."
None of them could summon the energy to laugh. They trudged over to the equally miserable-looking Hufflepuff table. Rose stared in nauseating horror at the heart-shaped confetti polluting her strawberries. She refused to look at the walls – she'd taken one look at those neon pink flowers and fled, after all. One more look and she'd be exiting the Great Hall at a sprint.
"Happy Valentine's Day!" Lockhart shouted. Rose wanted to jinx him, maybe curse off his hair, blacken his teeth -
"And may I thank the forty-six people who have so far sent me cards! Yes, I have taken the liberty of arranging this little surprise for you all – "
"It's a surprise, all right," Justin said glumly.
"And it doesn't end here!" Lockhart clapped his hands. Rose felt her stomach fall somewhere around the Chamber of Secrets as a dozen grouchy looking dwarves marched in. A few late students scrambled out of their way, looking confused and horrified. The dwarves were wearing golden wings and carrying harps.
"I object to this cruel and unusual punishment." Rose said.
"My friendly, card carrying cupids!" beamed Lockhart. "They will be roving around the school today delivering your valentines!"
"I hope Finnegan sets one of them on fire," Zacharias Smith muttered.
"I'm sure my colleagues will want to enter into the spirit of the occasion! Why not ask Professor Snape to show you how to whip up a Love Potion!"
"Those are illegal," Susan hissed.
"And while you're at it, Professor Flitwick knows more about Entrancing Enchantments than any wizard I've ever met, the sly old dog!"
Hannah whimpered. "Poor Professor Flitwick." He'd buried his face in his hands. Professor Snape looked murderous. Rose glanced at the Slytherin table and caught Blaise's eye. He looked as miserable as she felt. Blaise was the prettiest boy in the year, after all – he was probably going over his Will.
It was worse than horrible. All day long, the dwarves burst into classrooms, disrupting lectures and delivering valentines. After the fifth interruption in Transfiguration, Rose had pulled the sixth aside and bribed them with fifteen galleons if they stopped and went home. Professor McGonagall looked like she didn't know whether to take points or thank her. When Rose did the same thing in Herbology, Professor Sprout cheerfully awarded Hufflepuff five points for 'minimizing classroom disruptions.' Several students had taken to stunning the dwarves whenever they saw one.
Rose felt a bit bad – it was really Lockhart's fault, after all, not the dwarves – but she was too busy being appalled at the sheer number of valentines she received to do much about it. It was lucky she had Herbology that day, else the curses on some of them wouldn't have been repelled by her dragonhide gloves. She'd given the explanation so often that by lunch she was wondering whether she ought to just stick a sign to her forehead.
"D'you think anyone would mind if I just burned them?" Rose sighed, laying her head in her arms. She'd cast an Umbrella Charm over herself and her food to keep them confetti-free.
"If I sent someone a valentine and they burned it, I think I'd mind very much," Justin said, amused. She shot him a glare through her hair.
"Do you have any idea how many thank-you letters I'm going to have to write?" she groaned.
"Oh, no," he said flatly. "Popularity, what a curse."
She threw a handful of confetti at him half-heartedly. "Just let me complain, Finch-Fletchley."
Justin snickered. His face did an about-turn when a dwarf trotted up to him.
That night, she abandoned Hufflepuff for the Slytherin table.
"This isn't Friday," Blaise said, grinning.
"Congratulations," Rose said flatly. "So you've finally learned the days of the week. And I'm not speaking to my Housemates right now." She sent a glare over her shoulder. "They've been terribly unkind."
"Have they now?" Daphne asked, a smile curling at the edges of her lips.
"Yes. They said it would be rude to burn my valentines."
Theo snickered. "They're not wrong."
Rose gave an incoherent groan. "Shut up and let me complain, you thick-headed imbecile."
"You get caustic when you're annoyed," Daphne observed, sounding vaguely fascinated.
"I think my insults are fairly basic, actually."
"Basic? As in bases? And caustic? As in – "
"Merlin, Potter, that's awful."
"Be gentle, I've had an awful day."
For all that it was traumatizing, the events of Valentines day did unite the students in their misery, and there was an air of relief and camaraderie in the days afterwards. Of course, it didn't last - when Terry Boot and Cassius Warrington were petrified three days later, everyone withdrew from everyone else, retreating into huddles of their closest friends and eyeing everyone else with a vague suspicion. Students were no longer allowed on their own, not even prefects. The Hogwarts Common Room was abandoned. Students were walked from their dorms, to the Great Hall, to classrooms, and escorted to bathrooms. They spent their free time either in the library or Great Hall under supervision.
(on the bright side, the petrification of a Slytherin pureblood did volumes to absolve Slytherin House of the suspicious glances and hissed insults it'd been receiving recently, despite Rose's efforts)
(on the downside, Dumbledore's removal of the school came earlier than she remembered. Rose hoped it didn't mean everything else would be earlier as well)
The mood of the school was gloomy. Rose could feel it in the air, the low mood of so many magicals turning the skies grey and cloudy. The singing daisies in the greenhouses began to wilt, but the nightmare roses flourished. Fawkes had taken to appearing around the castle, crooning softly and bringing hope into people's hearts. Hot chocolate was a staple at every meal, and the prefects made sure everyone had at least a cup a day. Rose and Cedric had Futhark out in the common room more often than ever, the little cat finding an excellent friend in the likely sentient ivy. More than a few people were amused at the sight of Futhark wrestling the ivy (and, most of the time, losing). A few students brought down guitars and flutes to play, and Rose owled home for her violin. The Hufflepuffs held impromptu concerts sometimes, the muggle-raised students introducing the concept of karoke and sing-alongs, and they had a grand time warbling off-tune around the main fireplace, the witchlights above them bouncing to the beat. It didn't get rid of the clouds, but it did lighten them.
Rose had never loved her House more.
This was what she was fighting for. Family, friendship, comradery – half-bloods Brianna Melton and Beatrice Haywood teaching Marcus Carpenter the words to "Barbie Girl," eliciting laughter and muddled explanations of what a Barbie was; Hannah Abbott teaching Leanne Frobisher the guitar; Jeffrey Powell starting up a miniature toad choir that failed miserably but was hilarious while it lasted. This was what she was fighting to protect. This was what she wanted for all the other children who'd been hidden away in cupboards, for her friends, for those she loved.
This was hers.
While Harry and Rose waited for the remembrall, they decided to finally risk it and go into the Chamber. Enough time had passed that they could plausibly have found the entrance, especially as both were known Parselmouths. Besides, Dumbledore was gone – they could get away with a lot more, but so could whomever was opening the Chamber.
Rose drew a motion-activated warding scheme on the side of the sink. She'd used her best ink, but it was still weak and flaky. It would have to do, though.
$Open$ she hissed. The sink sank into the ground, an enormous hole opening up. Rose took a moment to cast Impervious Charms on herself and Harry – it was visibly grimy – before jumping down the pipe in a leap of faith.
The fall took longer than she'd remembered – just as she was wondering if she'd been mistaken and they'd end up falling forever, the pipe leveled out and she fell, bouncing, onto the ground. She got to her feet and dispelled the charm, flinching as bones crunched beneath her feet. After Harry had landed and dispelled his charm as well, they looked around.
They were in a tunnel, wet and dark and slimy. Rose whispered a lumos for light and they made their way down the tunnel.
Harry grabbed her hand as something large loomed ahead.
"Just a snakeskin," Rose murmured, squeezing back, but the light trembled.
Soon, they came to a solid wall, carved with two entwined serpents. As she and Harry approached, they turned to look at them.
$Open$ Harry said, in a low, faint hiss.
The wall split cleanly down the middle and slid open. They were at the end of a very long, dimly lit chamber. The sight of the stone pillars, the enormous statue of Salazar Slytherin, sent memories crashing straight through her occlumency shields, and her knees buckled.
(kill her, Riddle hissed – a silver sword falling out of a hat – a searing pain just above her elbow, sending white-hot pain through her body, she was going to die, she knew, but if she was going to die she was going to take him with her - )
"Rose! Rose, it's alright," Harry soothed. She clutched him, the warmth of him staving off the damp chill of the Chamber, and sobbed. It was so much – the memories pressed down on her with the full weight of the Chamber, Tom Riddle's laugh echoing in her ears. Any moment now would come the scrape of scale on stone, any moment now would come the burning pain in her arm, the warm wetness of her blood soaking her robes -
"Sorry," she whispered. "I'm so sorry – "
"You don't have anything to be sorry for," he said quietly. "There's no rush. Take as long as you need."
She laughed wetly. "Isn't there, though? What if the heir comes down?"
"Then we fight them," Harry said, reckless Gryffindor that he was.
"We'd die, stupid," she mumbled. She held on to him anyway, hugging for dear life. Harry was light and warm and alive. She breathed in the scent of home, of Remus' tea blend clinging to the collar of his robes. He was her brother, and she was safe with him. She wasn't alone, not this time.
Her heartbeat slowed. Tension melted from her body. Harry was sending calming pulses through their twin bond and she clutched at it for dear life.
She took a breath. "C'mon, let's go."
She met Harry's worried look with a reassuring one of her own. They stood and began to explore.
"We're looking for a study," Rose murmured. "Anything that might tell us more about the Chamber – it can't just be the basilisk, surely?"
"Maybe in Parseltongue," Harry suggested. "Er…" $Study. Room. Library - $
At 'library,' a door shimmered into existence next to Salazar's feet.
"Oh," Rose said faintly. "That was…"
"Worryingly easy," Harry finished. They looked at the door. It looked very innocent – or, at least, as innocent as a secret door in a secret chamber with a basilisk could look. They cast all the revealing spells they knew, which wasn't many, but the door seemed to be just that: a door.
Cautiously, Harry reached out and pushed it open. It gave way with a low rumble, needing only the faintest of pressures. As they walked in, torches lit themselves all around the room. In unison, they gasped.
It looked like the Slytherin common room, but with more books. Green and silver upholstery, elegant dark wood furniture. The walls were themselves covered in bookshelves, scrolls and books alike. She could feel the preservation magic tingling in the air – it felt like the library, the same sense of fragile and ancient and I have been here longer than you can understand. Rose wondered if it, too, would scream if someone dared eat in the presence of a book. In the center of the room, there was an old, wooden desk. They approached it warily, but all it held was –
$What is that?$ Harry hissed, slipping into Parseltongue. It was automatic – the symbols carved into a stone tablet on the desk were… it looked like English, which was impossible. She stared at it, and it seemed to waver before her eyes, going from English to squiggles and back again.
$A written form of Parseltongue?$ Rose guessed. $The language here, it's almost modern$
$And Riddle would never do anything like this$
$I don't know if he even knew about it$ Rose said quietly. $Wouldn't he have taken the books, if he knew?$
They exchanged looks, then read the tablet, looking for answers.
$To my heir,
If you are reading this message, then the magic of the room has deemed you worthy of it. I leave these instructions to you in the event that Hogwarts is besieged and her students must retreat to this last place of refuge.
The Chamber is connected to the rooms of all four founders. You may stay here as Selena cleanses the castle of its intruders. Rowena's room, Selena, and Fawkes should be able to supply you with all that you require. As you wait to reclaim the castle, you may read the materials I leave here. I had quite an argument with Rowena over hoarding knowledge, but knowledge can be dangerous in the wrong hands. I leave it to you, my heir, to decide for yourself. Protect the students of Hogwarts and defend our castle, for it is your birthright.
Long after they finished reading, they stared at the tablet.
"Selena…" Rose murmured. "Harry, you don't think – "
"A basilisk seems like it'd be good at 'cleansing the castle of its intruders,'" Harry said quietly.
"But it sounds like he meant it as a defence against something outside. Wouldn't muggleborns be inside?"
"Maybe he's assuming he's already driven them out?"
"But then why would Fawkes – "
At that, the phoenix himself appeared in a burst of golden flame, shimmering into existence atop the tablet. Harry and Rose jumped back, startled, Rose whipping out her wand with a spell on her lips before her brain caught up with her instincts.
"Fawkes," Rose said faintly. "What – "
Fawkes chirruped and dipped his head, drawing their attention to –
"The Sorting Hat?" Harry asked incredulously.
Flitwick was covering the theory for obliviate in Charms, ironically. Rose didn't know if it was supposed to be in the second-year curriculum or not, but she had to hold back a snort when he announced it.
"Mnemone Radford first developed the Memory Charm in 1634, becoming the first Ministry of Magic Obliviator. It is an immensely complex spell, one taught only to Obliviators and Unspeakables, who have to swear an oath not to teach it to anyone else. If done incorrectly, it can cause permanent, irreversible memory loss and brain damage, which is why usage of the Memory Charm without a license is a 5-year stay in Azkaban. If done correctly, however, it is possible to restore the lost memory using a rememberall, or with the aide of a skilled Mind Healer, within a year of the charm being cast."
Rose took notes diligently, grateful that the Hufflepuffs had Charms with the Slytherins and not the Gryffindors. She'd need to warn Harry about the lesson – he had it next week, and she didn't want him to be caught off-guard. Malfoy, oddly enough, was silent. He usually asked at least a few questions during class – he was quite good at Charms – but he said nothing. She wondered, absently, if he was still afraid of her and Harry – Macha and the duel had been several months ago, after all.
(she pushed down a prickle of guilt when she noticed how very alone he was, Pansy Parkinson having abandoned him to sit with Tracey Davis and Emma Vane)
By the end of February, the remembrall had turned pure black and begun emitting a faint warmth. Harry and Rose communicated via mirrors. They met at the Room of Requirement at midnight, him under the cloak, herself disillusioned, and watched with bated breath as Harry smashed the remembrall on the ground.
The glass, enchantment-free as it was, shattered instantly. The smoke exploded outwards, swirling around Harry's feet and rising around him like a tornado, encasing him in a column of black. She heard him scream but dared not interfere. It went on for what felt like hours, but what was in reality likely only seconds. When the smoke dissipated, Harry was on his knees, clutching his head, eyes screwed shut with pain. Rose reached out for their twin bond and sent pulses of calming magic down the link. When Harry relaxed, she was brave enough to hug him.
"The – the diadem," Harry choked.
"What?" Rose said in disbelief. She'd been ready for Lockhart, but – the diadem?
"I – I found an acromantula silk cloak in the Room," Harry gasped. "I wrapped it around my hand and tried to grab the diadem, but when I touched it my – my scar hurt – it was like a compulsion, I couldn't stop myself – and then I just kept it with me, I would take it out sometimes and wear it with the curtains drawn around my bed, I couldn't – I couldn't tell you, and I was loosing time and – Rosie," Harry said, clutching her arms. His eyes were wild with panic and guilt and shame.
"I was the one opening the Chamber," he said. "It was me, this whole time, it had to be, but I still can't remember what happened before I woke up in the dungeons, which means – "
"You were possessed," she whispered. "Merlin, it possessed you, but there's been another attack - Terry and Warrington - how - ?"
"That one wasn't me," Harry said. "But I think – the last time I ever lost my memories was over break. I think the diadem obliviated me while possessing me and made me give it to someone else. Rose, it – I can't describe it, it was like it wanted me to pick it up, I'm so sorry – "
"It's not your fault," she told him firmly. "It's not – I never actually touched the diadem in my past life, I don't know what kind of enchantments were on it – Dumbledore was compelled to put on the ring, wasn't he? It's not your fault, Harry."
"But now it's probably with a Slytherin," he said, horrified. "I was too deep in the dungeons for it to be Hufflepuff."
"Then at least we've excluded three quarters of the school," she told him firmly. "And at least it wasn't Lockhart."
Harry gave a shaky laugh. She could feel him calming, reaching out for the bulwark of stability she tried to provide. "Yeah," he said quietly. "'least it wasn't Lockhart."
They sat on the ground for a while, hugging, before finally deciding to go back to their dorms. Rose vanished the glass with a quiet evanesco as they stood.
"Wait," Rose said, frowning. "Didn't we already check the diadem though? After Creevey?"
"It didn't feel like the real diadem," Harry mused. "Maybe – we should check – "
"And if it is the real diadem?" Rose asked nervously. They looked at each other.
"Can't be," Harry said. "I never would've given it up of my own will, so only the diadem could've put itself back there and it wouldn't do that – I could feel it."
Rose bit her lip. "I suppose we do have to check."
"Together, then?" Harry said. "We'll keep an eye on each other."
"This is so reckless," Rose sighed. "If we tell Sirius and Remus, they'll slaughter us."
They stepped outside, closed the door, and summoned the Room of Hidden Things. Harry led them to where he'd found the diadem, but the only thing on the wardrobe was a dusty old top hat.
"Transfigured, do you think?" Rose said quietly. Neither of them touched it.
"Probably," Harry said. "Merlin, it's so clever."
"It's You-Know-Who," Rose said glumly. "He was a genius."
(but he was also insane, an insidious voice inside her whispered. He might've made a mistake like this)
"… I think we should tell the others. Our other friends, I mean – Neville, Susan, you know."
"What? Why?" Rose asked.
"Not the reincarnation thing – maybe we could say you're some kind of Seer? It worked perfectly on us," Harry said, grinningly wryly. "You can't deny it'd be helpful to have more people looking out for it – plus Blaise, Theodore, and Daphne actually are Slytherins. Wait - "
There was a pause as they looked at each other, stricken.
"You don't think – "
"We would've noticed, wouldn't we?"
"I didn't notice you," Rose objected.
"Yeah, because you were obsessing over the Chamber and you thought it couldn't be me. But otherwise – I got cleverer, didn't I? I kept wanting to give it to you, so it taught me tricks, made me better – "
"The Ritual Rooms," Rose breathed. "I wondered how you learned to speak like that – "
"It was magic," Harry said. "Sort of – weaving magic into my voice, I don't know how to describe it – I didn't like it, it reminded me of the Imperius Curse, but it worked, didn't it?"
"Occlumency shields – "
"Need to be strong as hell," Harry said. "Don't ask me how I know that, I just do. Maybe Snape or Dumbledore noticed, but I'm not very good at it yet, I could only add a little, so I was just persuasive, not… it could've been passed off as accidental magic, is what I'm saying."
"Are you sure?" Rose asked.
"Positive – they would've done something if they were worried. Anyway – we've gotten off-track. If I gave the diadem to any of our Slytherin friends, they would've definitely changed, like I did."
"So I suppose the question is," she said. "How well do we know our friends?"
Harry held her gaze, a flicker of uncertainty in his eyes that melted as he spoke. "We'll keep an eye on them," he said firmly. "The diadem tried to isolate me, I think – I remember thinking I ought to stop hanging out with you lot, it tried to turn me against you, but – "
"But you fought," Rose finished. "You fought, which is probably why it had you give it to someone else."
"We'll have to look for loners," Harry said. "And if our friends seem the same, if they don't seem to be pulling away or – "
"We tell them," she said. "As much as we can."