Fate - Chapter 163 - TheTrueSpartan - Harry Potter (2024)

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Chapter Text Fate

Chapter Text

Fate

Chapter 163 – Wayward Sons

Ronald Weasley’s POV

Thursday 24th June, 1994 (Prosperity Farm – Late Night)

His eyes snapped open, air invading his lungs as his limbs violently jerked back to life. What the f*ck?! Am I back?! I’m back! Wheezing like a stuck pig, Ron sat up and studied his surroundings. It’s my room… Weird… I could’ve sworn that I fell asleep on the-… A rush of footsteps interrupted his thoughts, and Ron looked just in time to see Artyom burst through the door. Merlin, what’s got him so riled up? My poor door-…

“You’re back,” the Russian let out a sigh of relief, his rigid posture relaxing. “I was beginning to worry.”

“…Hello…” Ron rasped, his throat as dry as a desert. “…What happened?”

“You tell me,” Artyom stepped further in, sitting on the edge of the bed. “London found you on couch. Dead.”

“Dead?” Ron muttered, blinking. “No, I just… took a nap…” Practicing my new Spell took a lot out of me, I remember.

“Nap?” Artyom repeated, narrowing his dark eyes. “No pulse. No breath. Growing cold as corpse. No, you were dead. I checked myself. That was not ‘nap’.”

“I was…” Ron trailed off, realizing that only his ‘soul’ must’ve travelled to the edge of the Universe. I’ll need to unpack that later. “…You mentioned London found me?”

“She said you had dinner plans with her,” Artyom replied, still eyeing him with suspicion. “She came to collect you, but you were dead on couch-”

“Stop saying that,” Ron groaned, massaging his throat. “…Water…”

Artyom brandished his wand, and with a whispered incantation, he Conjured up a glass of water. “Drink.”

Ron chugged it down without delay, coughing roughly after he finished. “…Okay… That’s so much better…”

“What happened?” Artyom demanded, locking eyes with him.

“I um… Well, basically… Yeah, I don’t know how to explain it,” Ron chuckled tiredly, pinching his eyes. “…I saw something amazing, though… The Universe expanding, Artyom… Can you believe that? It was… awe-inspiring!” Was it the Star-Horse’s doing? Is that why it was there? At the edge of Creation itself? I have so many questions which will probably never be answered, but I’m still so glad I got to see something so wonderful. The Universe is f*cking wicked!

Artyom just stared at him, his brow furrowed. “You saw Universe expanding?”

“I know how it sounds, but it’s true.”

“…We are going to St. Mungo’s-”

“No, they would ask questions that even I don’t have the answers to,” Ron interrupted. “Look, this has happened before, right? After I did Fudge in, remember? That’s why you moved me in here away from prying eyes.” Artyom gave a curt nod. “Thank you, mate. That was smart thinking on your part. Is London the only one besides you who saw me?”

“Only her, yes.” I must’ve worried her terribly.

“Bring her to me, please.”

“You have not explained what happened yet,” Artyom pointed out. “Was this similar to you seeing future? That golden memory-”

“Something like that, yeah,” Ron cut in. “Sometimes, when I sleep, my soul travels beyond this world. It’s only happened a couple of times, really, but I need you to know that it’s bound to happen again. You must protect my body, Artyom. Don’t leave me vulnerable.” If I die, you all die.

The Russian drew in a sharp breath, stroking his thick, styled beard. I really do his head in, don’t I? Still, he’s a tough one, and he’s in too deep to leave, now. “I will protect you with my life. I swear it.”

Ron smiled softly, grateful. “Thank you.”

Artyom stood up, shaking his head to himself as he left the room. “…Soul travels beyond world… Of course, it does… Why wouldn’t it? This is my new normal, now…” Sorry.

Ron leaned back on the head of his bed, pondering about what he was going to say to London. What can I say, even? She found me dead, and now, she’s about to find me alive. Nothing short of the truth about my nature will help her understand what’s going on, but I don’t trust her enough to divulge my secrets just yet. f*ck it… I’ll just make something up when she gets here. If she doesn’t like it, then so be it. She’s not exactly a powerful Occlumens, and if she is ever captured, I don’t want my enemies to know just how vital I am in the war against them.

“…Holy f*ck…” came London’s voice, and Ron looked to see her standing in the doorway, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open in disbelief. “…The captain wasn’t lying… You’re… alive…”

“Hello,” Ron greeted with an apologetic tone. “I promise, I’m not an Inferius. Please, come inside so we can talk.”

London, however, remained rooted to her spot, there was fear behind her eyes that was never there before. Damn… Is this what I will always be? Someone who scares people because of how unnatural he is? …No, I won’t keep traveling down that road. I can’t. Inflicting the fear I’ve always known upon the undeserving is wrong. I see that, now. The closer you dance along the edge, the more likely you are to fall. The Headmaster won’t always be there to catch me. I need to be the one who understands when to step back, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to learn to step back whenever I near the edge, no matter how difficult that task may prove.

“London, please, just come and sit down,” Ron tried, again. “I can explain this.”

“Explain how you came back from the dead?” London murmured, stepping into the room but keeping her distance from him. “…How is this even possible? You were dead… Dead dead… Not pretending, not sleeping, not even unconscious… You were dead!”

“My soul wasn’t in my body, but I promise you, I was very much alive,” Ron said slowly, thinking of his little adventure, again. I hope I get to see more of the Universe soon. I really do. “I have this gift, you see? Sometimes, my soul travels when I sleep… I know it sounds barmy-”

“It does, yeah.”

“But it’s true,” Ron continued. “When my soul-… When I returned to my body, it came back to life.”

“You’re talking about Astral Projection here, right?” London asked, blinking. “Like a spiritual journey?” That’s way better than the horsesh*t I was trying to come up with. Let’s go with that.

“I suppose, you could call it that,” Ron gave a nod, smiling more fully. “I’m sorry I scared you. I swear, I was just going to take a nap before our dinner. I wanted to be fresh and alert for this ‘Rocky’ you wanted to show me. I don’t control this ability of mine… It just happens whenever it happens.”

London continued to gawk at him, though the fear in her eyes did abate ever-so-slightly. “This… is f*cking mental… You know it sounds mental, right? You sound mental…”

“I know.”

“What the f*ck?” London averted her gaze, wiping the cold sweat from her forehead. “…This… ability… still doesn’t explain your Magical Signature, though…”

“My Magical Signature?” Ron raised an eyebrow.

“You don’t know?” London looked back to him, shuddering. “…The captain didn’t tell you?”

“…Tell me what?”

“There was this horrible, rotten feel about you,” London started, her lips curling. “…I f*cking threw up when I first felt it… It was that wretched… That terrifying… And the captain? He almost fainted when he went to pick you up.” …What? Why didn’t he say anything? Fear? “What the f*ck was that about, then?” Could it have to do with me being part-Entity? Ugh… More questions that I have no answers to…

“I’ve never felt my own Signature during these journeys,” Ron admitted. “…It’s concerning, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Feel my Magical Signature, now, won’t you? Tell me if it’s still ‘rotten’?”

She straightened up, as if mentally preparing herself, before giving a short nod. Closing her eyes, London felt the Magic around her, and immediately, her eyes shot wide open. Uh-oh-…

“It’s changed!” the green-haired witch exclaimed, bewildered. “It’s… changed… That’s impossible! Magical Signatures can’t just change like that! Can they?”

“What’s it like, now?” Ron asked out of curiosity.

“…Warm… Like standing outside on a sunny day… It feels… comforting… And safe…” Really? That sounds too good for the likes of me. “…This is not normal…” Not normal, eh? They’ll carve that on my gravestone, I’m certain.

“Being normal doesn’t quite suit me, unfortunately,” Ron chuckled pathetically, scratching the back of his head. “But, as you can see, it’s really me. I know you probably have a thousand questions, but I’ve no answers to give. I don’t know why I go on these journeys… I just know that I always come back.”

Cautiously, London stepped up to the bed, tracing the back of her fingers along his cheek. “…Warm, again.”

“Not like a corpse, no.”

She nodded weakly, plopping down by his side with a jarred expression. “…You scare the f*ck out of me, boss. Something about you… isn’t right…”

“Oh, there is a great deal not right about me,” Ron said reassuringly. “Believe me, I know this better than anyone.” He then caught her gaze, his expression turning stern. “You will not speak of this, again. I will not have my enemies learn of this.” I could have her obliviated, but that would be… harsh. Her only mistake was inviting me to dinner, after all.

“Who else knows about this ability of yours?” London asked. “The captain? He was so quick to vanish you from sight, and-… Well, he was certain you’d return… He’s dealt with this before, hasn’t he?”

“He has, and now, you have too,” Ron replied. “As for who knows other than you two? No one… Not even my family.”

“What? Why not?”

“I do not trust them with such dangerous information,” Ron shrugged. “As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have trusted you, either, but you found me out, which is why you will promise me your silence. You, and Artyom, will never speak of this, not even to each other, and should I ‘travel’, again, you will protect me with your lives. If you don’t, I’ll haunt you until the end of time. Am I understood?”

“…Yeah, boss,” London muttered, swallowing thickly. “I’ll um-… The captain and I will look after you, don’t you worry about that.” Good. I refuse to die in my sleep like some helpless old man. “…Are you hungry?”

“Pardon?”

“Hungry?” London repeated, drawing in a long breath. “You haven’t had dinner, after all.”

“…I am hungry, yes.”

London gave a resolute nod, slapping her knees before standing up. “I’ll warm something up for you. Don’t go off on another journey in the meantime, yeah?”

“Aren’t you hungry yourself?” Ron had to ask, surprising her. “I doubt you took the time to eat after finding me.”

“…I’m fine-”

“Nonsense,” Ron interrupted, waving a dismissive hand. “Go fetch ‘the captain’, will you? Let’s eat together, us three. We’ll have the beef stew Tabatha and Bjorn dropped off earlier.” I’m going to have to start being careful from now on about where I sleep. I wonder what marvel I’ll get to witness next, though… I can’t wait!

Percy Weasley’s POV

Friday 25th June, 1994 (The Black Lake – Morning)

He looked back upon Hogwarts, upon the magnificent castle that had been his home for the last seven years, and he felt nothing. Unlike most of his year-mates, Percy had no tears to shed during, and after, the graduation ceremony. The Headmaster had given his address, the Heads of Houses had offered them gifts to help them in their next journey, and then Hagrid had led them to the very boats that had first brought them to Hogwarts. He understood the symbolism behind all of it, of course, but he simply didn’t care. He was glad to be done with the school, as a far greater adventure awaited him on the other side of the Black Lake. This is where my life truly begins. This is where I start making a name for myself, and unlike Hogwarts, people like me are actually valued in the real world. We’re not mocked and belittled, but rather, we rise to the top. And that’s where I’m heading… To the very top!

Percy turned his head forward, holding Professor McGonagall’s gift, the autobiography of Faris Spavin, close to his heart. Who knows? Maybe, one day, I’ll replace Faris Spavin as the most beloved, and longest serving, Minister in the history of Magical Britain? I wonder if Professor McGonagall thinks so as well? Why else would she give me this book? She’s always encouraged me to achieve my dreams, after all. She even made sure that I was elected as Head Boy by the Headmaster, understanding how important such a credential is to the Ministry and their hiring team. I guess, I will miss Hogwarts in a way… I’ll miss the Professors, especially Professor McGonagall, and my classes, and-…

His eyes darted towards Carey’s boat; she too was looking ahead with a resolute expression. We never talked about what happened in our office… The twins, and then, the N. E. W. T.s… We both became too busy to find the time, I suppose. Maybe, I should’ve found the time, though? Maybe, she was waiting for me to come find her? Or, maybe, she was just using me to relieve her own stress? I just don’t know… She’s always been too hard to read. Carey suddenly looked in his direction, having noticed that he was staring at her, and Percy promptly looked away. She saw me ogling her… Brilliant… I’m about as subtle as a brick to the face. After a minute of staring dead ahead, Percy looked back in her direction, only for the pair to lock eyes with each other. She smiled at him, though it was a sad sort of smile. Does she also regret us not talking about what happened? That’s a shame. I did honestly enjoy working alongside her, despite my reservations at the start of the year. She was a perfect choice for Head Girl, and, I reckon, we could’ve been good friends over the years if I weren’t always so absorbed in my studies. Percy returned her regretful smile, before turning his gaze away. …No point in lamenting what could’ve been, right? Right now, my focus should be on securing work at the Ministry. If not directly under the Minister herself, then perhaps under Pius Thicknesse? He’s a prominent figure these days, and he is in good standing with Minister Bones.

The shore came into view, eventually, and there awaited the families of the seventh-years, the final part of the graduation ceremony would be underway the moment they stepped off the boats. They would be greeted by their parents, and then, they would be given the choice to either go home directly, or to take the Hogwarts Express one last time. Everyone takes the Hogwarts Express, though. Well, not this time. I don’t want to be stuck in that train with the twins. Knowing them, they probably have something truly nasty planned for me as a graduation gift. I won’t give them the satisfaction of mocking me ever again. I’m done with that part of my life.

Professor Hagrid’s boat was the first to reach the shore, and once he was on dry land, the others began mooring themselves as well. The towering, shaggy-maned wizard helped the seventh-years disembark, often lifting them out of the boats as if they were toddlers. When it was finally Percy’s turn, the redhead opted to jump ashore without any help from the hulking Professor, sparing himself the indignity of being handled like a small child. This is it, then! My new life starts now!

“Goodbye, Professor Hagrid,” Percy said his final farewell for the day, offering the Keeper of Keys his hand as an equal.

“Goodbye, Percy,” Professor Hagrid laughed, his voice jolly even as he crushed the younger wizard’s hand. Merlin’s Beard… He’s crippled me… “Don’ go gettin’ in trouble out there, yeh ‘ear?”

“…I won’t,” Percy forced on a smile, pocketing his throbbing hand the moment it was freed.

With that, Percy made his way further up the shore, his eyes eagerly searching for his parents amidst the teary reunions. I never really thought about this before, but the Muggle-Borns… Their parents aren’t here. It makes sense, given that Hogwarts, and its grounds, are kept secret from them, but it does seem a tad bit unfair. Their graduations always end differently from the rest of ours-…

“Percy!” his mother’s voice cut through his thoughts, and he looked to see her running towards him with a proud smile. “Oh, it’s finally happening!”

“Good morning, moth-” Percy’s greeting was interrupted by her vice-like hug, making him groan in pain. “Mother, please!”

“My son’s finally a man, now!” Molly wept from joy, squeezing him harder. “I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since you were in diapers!”

“…Mother, please…” Percy complained, mortified. At least wait until we’re home, first.

“Let her have this, son,” his father chuckled, having caught up with his wife. “Congratulations. You must be proper relieved to be done with Hogwarts, huh?”

“How could he be?!” Molly asked before he could answer. “Don’t say such silly things, Arthur. Hogwarts is always home. I remember how much we both cried when we graduated.”

Percy shot his father a quizzical look, and the man laughed nervously. “…I might’ve shed a tear, or two…”

“I ended up consoling him, instead of him consoling me,” Molly told Percy, pulling back with a worried smile. “Oh, you’re even thinner than last time, Perce.”

“…The N. E. W. T.s were… stressful…” Percy admitted, shifting in his spot. “But, worry not, I’m certain I achieved the highest marks in my year. My spot in the Ministry is all but guaranteed.”

“Of course, it is, love,” Molly said reassuringly, her hands now holding his face hostage. “I’m so proud of you! So proud!”

He smiled a little at that, she was always so quick to commend him for his efforts. “…Thanks, mum.”

“Do you want to come home with us?” Arthur asked, moving closer and patting him on the back. “Or, do you want to take the Hogwarts Express with your siblings for the last time?” I know which answer he wants to hear.

“I want to go home with you,” Percy replied, and Arthur gave him a knowing smile. What? Why are you looking at me like that?

“I’ve already collected your trunk,” Arthur told him, surprising him. Really? “Don’t be so shocked, Perce. I know you better than you think. C’mon, let’s go home. I took the day off so we can talk about what’s next for you.”

“I’d like that, dad,” Percy smiled more fully, perking up. “And I’d love to hear more about your new role on the Wizengamot.”

“There’ll be plenty of time for that after I get some food in you,” Molly chimed in, taking him by the arm. “I swear, the food at Hogwarts isn’t as nutritious as it was in our-”

“There he is!” came Ron’s voice, catching them all off-guard.

They turned to see him approaching them, a large box covered in scarlet paper and golden ribbons floating behind him. What’s he doing here?! I figured he’d be waiting for me at home.

“Ron?” Percy stepped up, failing to notice that his parents had become uneasy.

“You didn’t think I’d miss this, did you?” Ron grinned, offering Percy his gloved hand. “Congratulations, Perce!”

The older brother beamed, shaking the younger brother’s hand excitedly. “Why are you here, Ron? I’m coming straight home, you know?”

Ron raised an eyebrow, shooting their parents a quick glance. “Percy, I’ve moved out of the Burrow. No one told you?”

“…Pardon?” he blinked, taken aback. “W-What do you mean by that? Mother? Father? What’s he talking about?”

“We haven’t gotten around to telling your siblings just yet, Ron,” Arthur sighed out, visibly vexed. Um… What’s going on here?

“Oh, well,” Ron shrugged, his grin growing wider. “Hate to break it to you, Perce, but I’ve got my own cottage, now.”

“Your own cottage?” Percy was left utterly baffled. “…Ron… You’re fourteen…”

“Don’t worry about it, I have good people looking after me,” Ron waved a dismissive hand. “And, you’re more than welcome to visit me. As a matter of fact, I’ve arranged an outing for us tomorrow. I want to show you-”

“We have a lunch planned for tomorrow, Ron,” Molly interjected, looking at her sons expectantly. “Everyone is going to be there, and we were hoping you’d join us too.”

“Can you move it to Sunday, instead?” Ron asked, keeping his eyes on Percy. “My plans can’t be changed, mum, as I’ve already given my word to some important people.” Important people? Does he mean Ministry Officials?

“Everything is already-” Arthur started.

“We’ll move it to Sunday,” Molly agreed, cutting off her husband. “But you have to come, then. No flaking on the last minute.”

“No flaking,” Ron promised, sending the floating box into Percy’s arms. Oh, it’s heavier than it looks! “Wear this, all right? I’ll come and grab you around midday.” He then checked his fancy watch, clicking his tongue. “Running late for my meeting with Gornuk… Make sure you wear the robes I got you. See you tomorrow, big brother.”

And just like that, Ron turned on his heel and ran off, leaving Percy and their parents behind with similar looks of incredulity. Well, that was a bizarre encounter, wasn’t it? At least, he looked healthy and happy… That’s what’s most important wherever he’s concerned, especially since his attempt to take his own life.

“When did he move out?” Percy turned to face his parents; his brow wrinkling. “And why didn’t you tell me?”

Arthur Weasley’s POV

Friday 25th June, 1994 (The Burrow – Late Morning)

“He’s still our son, Arthur!” Molly snapped, going about her work in a huff. “We can’t just abandon him!”

“Who said anything about that?” Arthur groaned; they were arguing in circles. “I’m just saying that you trying to appease him isn’t going to help us get him back. If anything, it’ll just prove to him that he can walk all over us.”

“He said his plans couldn’t be changed, and I believe him,” Molly rounded on her husband, scowling. “He wants to spend the day with his brother, and you and I both know how important family is. Percy needs this too, can’t you see that? He doesn’t get on with his other siblings. Him and Ron… They have a lot in common-”

“Percy is nothing like Ron,” Arthur cut in, feeling compelled to defend his most well-behaved son. “Nothing, and don’t you suggest otherwise.” Percy isn’t ashamed of this family, unlike his wayward brother-…

“I said they have a lot in common, not that they’re the same person,” Molly puffed up. “Honestly, Arthur! This needs to stop before it gets-!”

“He is a thief, Molly!” he interrupted, raising his voice. “And a compulsive liar! We didn’t raise him to turn out like this! He did it on his own! I can’t ignore it any longer! I thought you’d stand behind me on this!” We’ve been having this same argument for nearly two weeks, now! Enough is enough! “Are you behind me on this, or not? I need an answer.”

“…I am,” Molly muttered, deflating. “But I don’t want to lose our son… Our youngest son, Arthur… We already don’t have much time left with him.” So, what do we do? Let him continue on as he has been? Stealing? Threatening this family? Using his goons to hurt people he doesn’t like? Merlin’s Beard… Why did he have to turn out like this? Why couldn’t he be more like his brothers and sister? …A normal, decent child… Was that too much to ask for?

“I don’t want us to lose him, either, but we can’t ignore what he did, can we?” Arthur asked, deflating as well. “He wasn’t just content to rob Hogwarts, he decided to split his ill-gotten wealth amongst our other children. He’s turned them into his accomplices. And all for what? To be more like his friends? To be rich? …I’m sorry, but keeping this secret is already tearing me apart. He has to be stopped, before the Ministry gets involved.”

Molly nodded half-heartedly, but just as she went to speak, the sound of nearing footsteps from the stairs stopped her. Both husband and wife turned to see Percy step into the kitchen, adorned in the extravagant robes Ron had gifted him. They were Gryffindor scarlet, with intricate, gold embroidery along the neckline and sleeves, and to top it all off, the ‘buttons’ that held it all together were small, perfectly-cut rubies that sparkled brilliantly against the light. Merlin’s Beard… He looks wealthier than Sebastian himself!

“What do you think?” Percy smiled from ear-to-ear, whereas his parents could do little but gawk at him. “Mum? Dad? Do these suit me?”

Not only did the regalia suit Percy, it appeared to be tailor-made for him, as it fit his tall, thin frame seamlessly. …These robes must’ve cost Ron a fortune… A fortune that he bloody stole-…

“By the Gods, look at you!” Molly broke her silence, running to Percy with an awe-struck expression, whereas Arthur remained rooted to his spot. “Oh, Percy! You look like a king!”

“…Really?” Percy blushed, laughing nervously. “I thought they were a bit too much, at first, but now that I’m wearing them… I don’t know… I guess, I’ve always wanted to own clothes like this, and Ron must’ve known that. I feel… really good about myself in these. Confident and strong. Like a king, as you aptly put it.” They’re just clothes, son. They shouldn’t change how you feel about yourself. That is vanity speaking, no different from Ron and his silly suits.

Molly gushed over their son, using her fingers to style his hair as best she could. “A king, or a Minister for Magic.” What is she doing? She has to know that he can’t keep those, right? They were bought with stolen money, which puts Percy’s future in jeopardy if we let him keep them.

The comically pleased smile, which Arthur had rarely seen before, returned to Percy’s face, and the young wizard squared his shoulders and stood to his tallest height. “The clothes make the man, don’t they?” No, they don’t! Don’t ever think like that!

“The values and beliefs a man holds in his heart are what make him, Percy,” Arthur finally spoke, adorning a stern expression. “Not the clothes he wears, nor the jewels that hang off his neck. His character is what people will remember, in the end, and I want you to remember that for the rest of your life. You have to live by it, do you understand?”

Percy shifted in his spot, while Molly shot her husband an angry glance. “…Yes, father. I know that, already.”

“Good,” Arthur gave a short nod, before drawing in a sharp breath. “You will return this… gift… to your brother. You’ve no need for it.”

“…Arthur…” Molly muttered in disbelief.

“Return it?!” Percy was equally taken aback. “Why?!”

“I will explain, tonight,” Arthur answered, deciding to protect his other children from Ron’s foolish, criminal actions. “Please, son, you must trust me. I’m doing this for your own good. And, I promise you, you really don’t need such gaudy clothes to become Minister for Magic. Everything you need for that; you already have in abundance. Now, go take them off. I don’t want to see you wearing them, again.” Percy, however, remained stationary, looking to his mother for help. “Go, Percy.”

“What is going on between you two and Ron?” Percy demanded, much to Arthur’s chagrin. “I don’t understand! Did you have another disagreement?! Is that why he left?!”

“I told you that I’ll explain, tonight, when your brothers and sister join us. For now, you’ll do as I say, all right? Pack those up. I don’t want them in my home. Go.”

Percy glowered angrily, before storming off with a scathing scoff. Damn it… I don’t like taking that tone with my own children, but I have to stand firm on this. I can’t let Ron’s greed destroy this family.

“What was that?!” Molly hissed, now that Percy was out of earshot. “I haven’t seen him smile like that in years, Arthur! How could you?!”

“I am protecting him,” Arthur shot back swiftly. “Molly, if the Ministry ever learns where Ron got all his wealth from, they’ll use that against him. I don’t want our other children to go through that sort of scandal and humiliation, as well. Those robes… They were bought with stolen goods, same as all his other gifts. Even Ginny’s Firebolt… All of it has to be returned to him for their sake. And, I know they won’t be happy about it, but it has to be done. We Weasleys are not thieves, nor do we value gold above our honour and decency. Just because Ron’s forgotten that doesn’t mean I’ll let our other children do the same.” I’m not looking forward to tonight, anymore, but I’m not going to back down, either. This has to be done, no matter how much it hurts.

Draco Malfoy’s POV

Friday 25th June, 1994 (Snape’s Office – Midday)

“Are you ready, Draco?” Snape asked, stepping out of his chambers with his trunk in tow. “What’s that in your hand?”

“An invitation,” Draco shrugged, pocketing it as he stood up. “Parkinson’s birthday is coming up.” Did she invite me because she wants me there? Or, because she doesn’t want to offend Ron?

“Yes, I heard that she was running around inviting all sorts this week,” Snape drawled, sounding bored. “You… should go.”

“I intend to,” Draco told him, walking over to his own trunk. “So… We’re just going to floo there?” It certainly beats having to take the Hogwarts Express.

“Before we do…” Snape started, his black eye studying Draco keenly. “…I know this is not what you want-”

“Godfather-”

“Do not interrupt me, boy,” Snape chastised, making the platinum-blonde go rigid. “As I was saying… I know this is not what you want, that you’d rather be returned to your mother’s care, but you must understand that such a thing is impossible.” Impossible? “Should the Order prevail in the war against the Dark Lord, your mother will be handed over to the Ministry for judgement, and they will most likely find her guilty in aiding You-Know-Who. She will be sent to Azkaban, at best, or Kissed by a Dementor, at worst.” Draco felt himself shrivel up at the thought, his stomach twisting painfully. “She has chosen this path, make no mistake about that, whereas you still have a chance to decide what your future will be.”

“…I understand,” Draco murmured weakly, wishing that he could go back in time just to spend one more day with his beloved mother. And father too. I miss them both so much.

“I am not a doting individual, nor do I have children of my own,” Snape continued, his dull tone making Draco feel queasy. “This is all new to me, is what I’m trying to tell you. I will make mistakes, I will lose my temper and patience, and I will make you feel alone at times.” …What a stellar sales-pitch… “However, I am willing to learn, and so, should I ever err, I want you to tell me.”

“…Tell you?” Draco blinked, somewhat taken aback.

“Yes,” Snape gave a curt nod. “I swear that I will never raise my hand to you, nor will I force you into anything you want no part in. You are your own person, as I am mine, but since we’ll be living together, there is no reason as to why we can’t come to coexist in harmony.” The Potions Master then drew in a deep breath, he was clearly trying his hardest for Draco’s sake, and for that alone, the younger wizard was grateful. “I took you from Andromeda Tonks because I… care for you. I want to protect you, to keep you close enough to shield you with my own body, if needs be. Do you understand?” Do I have any choice but to understand?

“I do, Sir,” Draco answered. “…Thank you.” What else am I supposed to say?

“Come, then,” Snape ordered, moving to the fireplace in order to prepare it.

Draco took a hold of his trunk and followed his Godfather, mentally preparing himself to live with Professor Snape, of all people, for an entire break. I’ll just keep my head down, for the most part, and if I’m ever addressed, I’ll be respectful and courteous. The days of me looking forward to any holidays are long gone, now. I just don’t want any more trouble to come my way, that’s all.

“Go on,” Snape broke the silence, gesturing towards the green flames.

Draco walked into the fireplace, and the Floo Network brought him into the tiny sitting room of Snape’s ‘home’, which had the feeling of a dark padded cell. The walls were completely covered in books, most of them bound in old black or brown leather; a pristine black leather sofa, a pair of new armchairs, and a freshly-polished table stood grouped together in a pool of dim light cast by a candle-filled lamp which hung from the ceiling. The place had an air of neglect, as though it was not usually inhabited, despite its cleanliness and new furnishings. Back here, again. Looks like Bapity bought more furniture to make this place seem somewhat homely.

“Welcome back, Master Draco!” a chipper voice called out from the adjoining kitchen, making him jump from fright. Damn it! He’s still so loud!

In the doorway stood a grinning, grey-eyed Elf, presenting him with a chocolate cake with his name written on it in Slytherin-green icing. He baked me a cake? Really? It does… look nice, but I don’t think godfather would approve. The man in question promptly stepped through the fireplace, dusting off his dark robes as he looked between his ward and the Elf.

“Draco, you remember Bapity, don’t you?” Snape drawled, co*cking an eyebrow at the cake. “He’s been preparing the house for your arrival, and from now on, he will personally see to all your needs.” Aren’t you supposed to do that? Whatever…

“…Bapity,” Draco greeted hesitantly, he hadn’t found the Elf to be particularly likeable the last time he was here. I only spent a couple of days with them, but that was more than enough.

“Greetings, young Master,” Bapity chuckled merrily, while Snape rolled his eye.

“He is still… overexcited, but he came highly recommended,” Snape said drearily, before snapping his fingers. “Take the boy to his room, then prepare his lunch. I will be in my lab. Do not disturb me.”

And just like that, Snape vanished through a hidden door set in the bookshelf wall by the fireplace, leaving his trunk behind to be tended to by Bapity. Right… Guess it’ll just be me and the Elf, then.

“Are there many hidden doors in this house?” Draco asked awkwardly, feeling entirely out of place.

“Bapity has only found three so far, young Master,” the Elf replied, sending Snape’s trunk away with a snap of his fingers. “Master Snape has forbidden Bapity from certain parts of the house, such as the lab. The same rules will apply to the young Master.” Draco nodded dumbly to himself, trying his hardest to not feel overwhelmed by his new ‘home’. “Young Master is anxious, yes? Perhaps, even scared? Young Master was like a little mouse last time Bapity saw-”

“…Don’t address me so casually… It’s not proper for an Elf…”

“If that is young Master’s wish, then Bapity will oblige,” Bapity beamed, turning around and heading into the kitchen. “Follow, young Master.”

Draco did as he was bid, passing through the small kitchen and into a thin passageway, feeling as though the black walls themselves were trying to smother his spirit and body. How can anyone live in a place like this? I can barely fit my trunk through this corridor. Are all Muggle houses built for discomfort? No, obviously not… Aunt Andromeda’s house was practically a mansion compared to this sh*thole. Why hasn’t Godfather altered it with the Extension Charm? I’m sure he can afford a permit from the Ministry to do so. Bapity led him up a steep flight of stairs, and then, through another thin passageway, at the end of which was a black door. Godfather’s childhood room. He wouldn’t let me anywhere near it last time.

“This will now be the young Master’s bedroom,” Bapity told him, opening the door and revealing a rather spacious room on the other side. “Bapity has enlarged it, of course, with Master Snape’s permission, as well as furnished it to please the young Master.”

Draco entered the room with a look of genuine awe, it was as though he had walked into a completely different dimension. The black walls were lined with hundreds of books, all of them recently purchased, serene balls of white light hovered in the corners, illuminating the entire room with their warm glow, Self-Boiling Cauldrons and other Magical curios filled the empty spaces, and beneath the large window overlooking co*keworth was a luxurious, queen-sized, black bed.

“…This… is all for me?” Draco heard himself whisper, his fingers carefully tracing the shiny brass telescope sitting in the centre of the room. Self-Boiling Cauldrons, a Sun-Gazer Telescope, Chinese Fortune Sticks, a Time-Keeper, maps of our solar system, a mannequin of my size adorned in professional Quidditch gear, even a bloody Alchemy Table… This room puts my room in Malfoy Manor to shame…

“The young Master is pleased, yes?” Bapity laughed joyfully. “Master Snape gave Bapity a rather vague description of the young Master’s interests, so Bapity had to take many liberties.”

“You did all this?” Draco looked to the Elf, speechless. “For me?”

“Master Snape spared no expenses, but yes, Bapity did this. Is the young Master pleased with Bapity’s work?”

“…Yes, I’m most… pleased…” Draco managed, eyeing the hundreds of books he now had access to. Not to mention the books in the sitting room, as well. Perhaps, I have something to look forward to, after all. I can’t believe Godfather had all of this done for me. This is so unlike him.

“Bapity will leave the young Master to explore,” the Elf snigg*red, heading for the door. “Lunch will be served within the hour, with cake. Should Bapity also draw the young Master a bath?”

“…Later,” Draco said dismissively, a thick red tome had already stolen his attention.

Excitedly, he pulled the book free from the shelf, examining its cover with a growing smile. The Chronicle of Vlad Drăculea: The Impaler Lord of Wallachia. Wicked! I’ve got to read this! A Vampire king of Muggle-Kind?! Sign me up! Draco rushed to his new bed, plopping down and opening up the biography, eager to once again escape his fears and anxieties with the help of a good book. This break might not be as terrible as I had first imagined, but I shouldn’t get my hopes up. Things can, and always do, go wrong. At least, in my experience. But, for now, I think I’ll be okay here.

Theodore Nott’s POV

Friday 25th June, 1994 (King’s Cross Station – Evening)

“Theo, we’re nearly there,” a soft whisper stirred him from his slumber. “It’s time to wake up, now.”

He yawned tiredly and rubbed his drowsy eyes, sitting up properly. “…Thanks, Pans.”

The raven-haired witch smiled at him like he was a puppy, and an adorable one at that. “You talk in your sleep, did you know that?”

“Really? What did I say?” Theo asked, looking around the semi-filled compartment. It feels kind of empty, doesn’t it? No Tracey, no Ron, no Millie… No Malfoy, even.

“Nonsense, mostly,” Blaise answered coolly, staring out of the window. Still nervous, is he?

“You mumbled something about the House Cup,” Daphne told him, looking up from her book with a fond smile. “Oh, and the party Ron organised for us.”

“Ah, right,” Theo nodded to himself, stretching his back. “It was a damn fine party.”

“It was so much fun, wasn’t it?!” Pansy beamed. “I don’t think I’ve ever danced for five hours straight before! I was a right mess at the end of it!” That was definitely a highlight of the night. She’s absolutely wild, she is.

“Oh, I noticed what a ‘mess’ you were,” Theo smirked teasingly, making her snigg*r. As did a lot of other boys, I’m sure.

“I definitely noticed you noticing,” Pansy winked, and he grinned mischievously. “Just because Tracey isn’t around doesn’t mean you get to perv on me. Shame on you, Theodore Nott.”

“If she was there, she’d be perving too,” Theo shrugged, shooting a subtle glance in Blaise’s direction. He only had a couple of drinks, and then he f*cked off to our room. Even Malfoy had himself a good time, but not Blaise. Something has to be done about his mother, honestly. She still has too much of a hold over his heart. “So, Pans… You and Blaise will be living together, now, right? Are you excited?” The dark-skinned wizard turned his gaze towards Theo, displeased. “What? You’re not excited, mate? Anything could happen, you know? Two teenagers spending all their time together with nothing to amuse you but-”

“This isn’t amusing,” Blaise cut in, rising out of his seat. Uh-oh! “Nothing about my situation is amusing.”

With that, Blaise left the compartment, leaving Theo behind with Daphne and Pansy. He’s bloody moodier than Ron these days. That’s an accomplishment no one should strive for.

“That was insensitive, Theo,” Daphne sighed out, closing her book. “He’s scared, and uncertain, about his future. Don’t poke him for a reaction right now. You’ll end up getting one, if you’re not careful.”

“Whatever shape that Boggart took really spooked him,” Pansy added, a sorry look on her face. “Daphne’s right, Theo. Don’t push your luck with him, please.”

“I’m just worried about him, that’s all,” Theo told them plainly. “But he won’t talk to me, not unless I ‘poke’ him. Make sure to keep an eye on him, won’t you, Pans? He shouldn’t be alone right now.”

“He won’t be,” Pansy promised, smiling again. “You’d better visit us, and you’d better bring your girlfriend with you.” He felt his cheeks flush, he still couldn’t believe he was dating Tracey, now. “Does your father know you’re dating a Half-Blood?” Where did that come from?!

Theo shifted in his seat, losing much of his mirth. “I haven’t told him yet, no… But he won’t mind, seeing as he gave me his blessing to do so. He’s come to understand just how much she means to me. He’ll accept her. He has to.”

“And her mother?” Daphne asked, raising an eyebrow. “Will he also accept her? Is he even capable of it?”

“…Why are we talking about this all of a sudden?” Theo asked, feeling cornered. “I’m dating Tracey, not her mother. What does she have to do with any of this?”

Daphne and Pansy exchanged knowing looks, deciding not to push the matter any further. As for Theo, the young wizard suddenly found himself feeling increasingly nervous about sharing the good news with his father. He wasn’t a complete idiot, he knew that his father despised Muggles, and Muggle-Borns, with a passion, which meant that the Nott patriarch would always look down his nose at Tracey, despite how happy she made his only son and heir. Eventually, I’m going to have to choose between my father and my own beliefs, aren’t I? It’s inevitable… I used to share his hatred for all things Muggle, because just like him, I blamed the Muggle World for stealing my mother from me, but I know better, now. I know her death was the result of one man’s actions, and to blame all Muggles for that bastard’s crime is nothing short of madness. Maybe, I can make him understand that? Maybe, I can make him realize that mother wouldn’t want either of us to live with hatred festering in our hearts?

Friday 25th June, 1994 (Nott Manor – Late Evening)

The moment he stepped out of the fireplace, he unceremoniously dropped his trunk. “All right, Nippy… Where is my father? Why didn’t he come to collect me himself?” What’s his excuse this time?

The overly-skinny Elf turned at once, bowing deeply. “Forgive Nippy for the secrecy, young Master-”

“What the bloody hell is going on in here?” Theo cut her off, having noticed that the entire greeting hall was being packed up by the other Elves. “Are we… moving to a different manor?” Why? This one is the largest we have! We’ve always lived here! My garden is here!

“Magical Britain is no longer safe for Pureblood wizards such as the young Master,” Nippy explained hurriedly, taking Theo by surprise. “Lord Nott has decided that, for now, the Nott family must move to a safer country.” Country?!

“What are you on about?” Theo muttered in disbelief. “Father sent me no letters mentioning any of this. We can’t just… pack up and leave? What? This is our home!” Is he here?! I need to speak with him! “Where is he? Is he in the cellar? His study? The lounge?”

“Lord Nott is in Magical Hungary,” Nippy replied. Magical f*cking Hungary?! Why there?! Why so far?! “The young Master’s belongings have already been taken to Lord Yaxley’s manor-”

“Stop, just-” Theo took a step back, scoffing to himself. “…Lord Yaxley? What’s he got to do with this?”

“Nippy is not permitted to say,” the Elf replied apologetically, bowing once again. “Nippy has been ordered to escort the young Master directly to Lord Nott without delay. Please, young Master, try to understand.” Theo wanted to argue, to outright refuse, but he could tell from the urgency of her voice that she had been threatened with a beating if she failed in her duty. Or, she’ll be starved, which is father’s preferred punishment for incompetence. “Young Master, Nippy-”

“…It’s okay,” Theo let out an exasperated sigh, before shaking his head to himself. “…I’ll go with you, Nippy. Don’t worry.” How am I supposed to stay in touch with my girlfriend from Magical Hungary?! I’ll have to take a bloody Portkey just to visit her! This is f*cking unbelievable!

“This will take the young Master, and Nippy, to Lord Yaxley’s manor,” the frail Elf spoke up, presenting him with a Galleon tucked away in a handkerchief.

“…Isn’t that lot coming with?” Theo asked, eyeing the busy Elves.

“The Nott Elves will tend to the manor in Lord Nott’s absence.”

“And my garden too?”

“Of course, young Master.” Damn it… I was really looking forward to growing something dangerous to show off to Tracey…

Wordlessly, Theo grabbed his trunk and took Nippy’s hand in his, gritting his teeth. “…Let’s go, then.” Father has a lot of explaining to do!

The world suddenly turned in on itself, bright lights flashing all around them, until, rather abruptly, their feet landed on solid ground. Ugh… That’s unpleasant. No wonder Ron gets sick whenever he Apparates, or, in this case, uses a Portkey. Before him stood a modest manor, smaller than his own, but large enough to play host to a sizable gathering. Large, looming trees surrounded the structure, hiding it from both Muggles and wizards alike, which only further proved that the ‘Pure’ of Magical Britain were now in hiding. The Carrow Massacre… I wonder if my own father took part in their ‘festivities’ over the years. Lord Yaxley definitely did. That bloke is a f*cking creep, truly. The way he approached Pansy right after she inherited her fortune, the way he tried to get her to ‘rely’ on him… f*cking gross!

“Theodore!” his father called out, having stepped out of the front door. “My son!”

The young Slytherin put on his best smile, making his way over to his beaming father. “Father! It is so good to see you, again!” You old fart! You f*cked up my plans for the holidays! You just wait until we’re alone! I’m going to bitch and moan right in your working ear!

Cornelius hugged his son tightly, before putting an arm around him. “Come! We’ve been waiting for you!” He then shot a dismissive look towards Nippy. “Get to work, slave. You know where his room is.”

“At once, Master,” Nippy ran over to them, taking Theo’s trunk from him.

“Thank you, Nippy,” Theo smiled at her, making sure to sound as sweet as possible.

Nippy bowed her head before cracking away, leaving father and son behind. “She’ll be tending to you while we’re here, son. Make sure you’re not too soft on her. Elves are like dogs… If you spoil them, they forget their training.” …What a foul thing to say so nonchalantly… “Now, come along! You remember Lord Yaxley, don’t you? And his wife? The Lady Anastasia?”

“She sent me many gifts after mother passed away,” Theo gave a nod, he’d thrown said toys in his cupboard and never played with them. I was one angsty little sh*t, wasn’t I? I wanted those gifts to be from mother, not some stranger who occasionally pinched my cheeks at parties and dinners.

They entered the manor side-by-side, where they were swiftly greeted by Lord Yaxley, Lord Rosier, and Lady Anastasia. Time to put on a show, Theo, like the trained little puppy you are.

“Greet our hosts with the respect they are due, Theodore,” Cornelius nudged his son forward, who promptly bowed his head in respect.

“I still don’t fully understand what is going on, but I am already looking forward to sharing my summer with you all,” Theo started, shooting Lady Anastasia a cheeky grin when he raised his head. “Especially with you, my Lady! Spending yet another summer with a withering old husk was weighing heavily on my mind!” Lord Rosier and Lady Anastasia laughed, whereas Cornelius playfully smacked his son on the back of the head. Too mean? Cheers. I need to be reminded of where the line is from time-to-time. “Lord Yaxley, thank you for hosting my father and I in your manor in these… tumultuous times. My father has always said that you are a stalwart friend of our family, and you have proved it once again.”

The Head of the Yaxley family smirked coldly at that, as if seeing right through Theo’s charming words. “You are too kind, young man. Far too kind.” He then looked to Cornelius, giving the older man a firm nod. “Tell him why he is here.”

“Perhaps, that conversation can wait until dinner?” Lady Anastasia spoke up, giving her husband a meaningful look.

“He is a man, now, isn’t he?” Lord Yaxley asked, looking right into Theo’s eyes. …He’s got a scary face… “I need him to understand the plight of our people.”

“He already does,” Cornelius said, sounding vexed all of a sudden.

“Do you?” Lord Yaxley asked Theo directly. “Go on, then. Tell us.” Your friends got themselves murdered while diddling, and murdering, innocent Muggles, so now you’re hiding here because Amelia Bones wants to spank all of you. How’s that, you grim twat?

“Amelia Bones is making a move against all Pureblood families, trying to undermine us and our power,” Theo put on a serious expression. “She blames us for the country’s numerous problems, all the while ignoring all the good that exists solely because of our efforts and generosity. And, after the very publicised mess at the Carrow Twins’ party, the Purebloods simply don’t have the numbers to push back against the outrage of the commoners. Oh, and then there’s Ronald Weasley…” Hmm, he’s shagging you lot good and proper, isn’t he? “He’s become far too powerful, far too loved by the people, to be challenged openly, so much so that even the Minister has to play by his rules. He put the Head Auror in St. Mungo’s, and she didn’t even slap him on the wrist. She couldn’t, because that’s just how good he is at the game.” Theo then shrugged, smirking. “We’re all here because there is strength in numbers, and right now, people like us can’t afford to be weak.”

He prepared himself for Lord Yaxley’s response, and yet, he was still surprised when the intimidating man smiled warmly. Um… What’s that thing he’s doing with his face? Is that a smile? “You do your father proud, young man. Anastasia, I leave him in your care.”

With that, Lord Yaxley and Lord Rosier walked away, continuing on with whatever discussion they were having prior to Theo’s arrival. I’m going to stay out of Yaxley’s way as much as possible. The less I see of him this summer, the better.

Cornelius suddenly gave Theo a strong pat on the back, followed by a loving smile. “We will talk more once you’ve settled in. Go on, follow Lady Anastasia to your room.” Oh, we’ll talk… I have a lot to say to you. I can’t believe you did this without even telling me. I’m supposed to be your son, not a piece of luggage you can drag around the world whenever it suits you.

“This way, Theodore,” she beckoned, leading the way.

Theo silently followed the woman towards an ebony staircase, his eyes scanning her from head-to-toe. She’s a bit plain, isn’t she? For a man like Corban Yaxley, I mean? A pleasing face attached to a skinny, almost-sickly body. He’s a well-known dog when it comes to women, always chasing after them wherever he can find them. Does it hurt her to know that her husband prefers sharing his bed with women that are not her? Why did he even marry her, then? Just to hurt her? To humiliate her? Adults are f*cking weird. If you don’t love someone, why force them to be your ‘life-partner’? Absurd!

As they reached the third floor, Lady Anastasia abruptly stopped and turned to face him. “You spoke well before my Lord Husband, Theodore. He was most impressed with you.”

“…Oh… Thank you, Lady Anastasia.”

“You can just call me Anastasia when we’re alone,” she smiled fondly, pinching his cheek. “You reminded me of your mother just now. She too had a way with words, a way of speaking both frankly and charismatically, a talent which you’ve clearly inherited.” Really? Do I really speak like her? I… don’t even remember the sound of her voice, anymore.

Theo was rather taken aback, but in a pleasant way. “Did you know my mother well?”

“She and I were friends, yes,” Lady Anastasia answered. “We shared Muggle novels with each other in secret, you see?” …Muggle novels…

He felt his stomach twist into a knot, a strange coldness washing over him. “…I see…”

She seemed to have realized her error swiftly enough, as her expression had changed to one of sympathy and regret in the blink of an eye. “…I am sorry. I shouldn’t have-”

“…It’s okay… It was a long time ago,” he said quickly, waving a dismissive hand and putting on a smile. “I’d like to hear some stories about her, if you have the time. Not now, but… Later?”

She stared at him, before giving a meek nod. “…Come. You’re in the room across from my daughter. She’s stayed here before, so she can show you around.”

“Who else is living here, my Lady?” Theo inquired, losing his false smile the moment her back was facing him.

“The young Lord Flint should be here by dinner.” f*ck! “Lord and Lady Bulstrode will return on Sunday with their daughter-”

“Millicent?” Theo blurted out. “She’s staying here during the summer?”

“Yes,” Lady Anastasia shot a smile back. “You two are friends, aren’t you?” Old friends.

“We are, but…” he trailed off.

“She was sent to Durmstrang by her Lord Father. I know. You two will have plenty of time to catch up, though.” At least, there’s some good to come out of this mess. “Oh, Vincent and Gregory are here too, with their poor, widowed mothers.” …Of course, they are… “You won’t be lacking for company, that’s for certain.” Deciding to keep his increasing displeasure to himself, Theo continued to follow after her until they arrived at what would be his room for the break. “It’s a simple guestroom, but if you need anything, you must come directly to me. I’m already planning a trip to Magical Budapest for all of us.”

“Thank you, Lady Anastasia,” Theo offered her the smile she was looking for, and she pinched his cheek, again.

“Have Lysandra show your around. The entire manor, and its grounds, are open to you children. However…” she suddenly became deadly serious. “…The dungeons are off-limits. I don’t want to see any of you anywhere near them. Are we clear?” …Okay, then… That’s not creepy at all. You’re not keeping Muggles down there, are you? “Theodore, are we clear?”

“Your house, your rules, my Lady.”

She smiled, pleased and assured by his answer. “I must return to Euphemia, she must be awake from her nap by now.” Euphemia? Wait, isn’t that Thorfinn Rowle’s bastard daughter? “Get settled in, okay? We will speak more soon.” …Lucky me…

William Weasley’s POV

Friday 25th June, 1994 (The Burrow – Late Evening)

“Bill, you’re here!” Ginny ran over and hugged him the moment he stepped into the house. “You have to tell us what’s going on! Where’s Ron?! And why are mum and dad being so-?!”

“Easy, easy,” he hushed her, patting her on the head. “Gin, let me step out of the fireplace, at least.”

She pulled back, glaring at him petulantly. “Is Ron really not living here, anymore? Is Percy telling the truth?” I guess it was too much to hope for that mum and dad would have this conversation before I returned.

Bill looked around the living room, the twins and Percy were also waiting for his answer. “Where are Daphne and Astoria? Are they with mum and dad?”

“Mum is helping them set up in Ron’s room,” Ginny hissed, never one to hide her displeasure. “In Ron’s room, Bill! What if he decides to come back?!” I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon. That room isn’t big enough to contain his ego.

“…Ginny, don’t be like-” he stopped abruptly. “All of you, actually, don’t take this out on them. They’re staying with us, and that’s final. You two… I’m looking at you. Treat them with respect and kindness, or you’ll answer to me.”

“We didn’t even say anything,” Fred and George spoke in unison.

“After what you pulled just before your O. W. L.s, I don’t want to hear it,” Bill said firmly, giving them a warning look. “You’re lucky it’s me warning you, and not Charlie.” Hitting Ron, of all people, in the head? Giving him a concussion? I ought to smash your heads together right now! Happy reunion be damned!

“Can we please get back to the fact that Ron isn’t here?” Ginny huffed, frustrated. “Bill, what’s going on? Mum keeps saying that dad will explain everything at dinner, but I can’t wait that long.” Sounds like he’s trying to buy time.

“Where is dad?” Bill sighed out, putting his briefcase on the ground.

“The shed,” Percy scowled, shooting a bitter glance towards the window. “He’s fiddling with his useless little trinkets, again.” Okay, what’s his problem? Aside from Ron not being here.

Bill drew in a long breath, putting a hand on Ginny’s shoulder as he addressed all his younger siblings. “Ron made the decision to leave, not mum and dad, all right? He wasn’t happy here, and-… Well, he made sure that the rest of us knew it. And, I won’t lie, we all got fed up with his constant attitude and lack of respect-”

“What lack of respect?” Percy demanded, as if challenging the eldest directly. “You mean the fact that he wants better for this family than what we have? What? He can’t even voice his opinion without being-?”

“Voice his opinion?” Bill interrupted. “You weren’t here, yeah? The constant judgement, the angry looks, the huffing and puffing… He was taking every chance to wind us up, to criticize and humiliate us… Mum, especially! And dad couldn’t even try to discipline him without being threatened with a ‘beating he’d never recover from’. He was out of line, out of his damn mind, and he refused to explain what his actual problem was. He just refused to talk at all, and after what he did at those Ranked Tournaments… No, Percy, don’t even try to defend him. Being sick is not a reason to act like a monster, end of story.” He pulled his hand off of Ginny’s shoulder, letting out a tired breath. “He wasn’t kicked out, despite deserving it. He chose to leave. He decided that his ego, and his fame, were more important to him than listening to his own parents every once in a while. No one makes Ron do anything, that’s why he left.” Bill grabbed his briefcase, feeling particularly sorry for Ginny. “Mum and dad are hurting, you lot. They’re hurting so much that I can’t even describe it. Don’t add more to their plate. Just-… Try to understand, okay? They’re still trying to bring him home, but there’s only so much they can do. If Ron doesn’t want to be here, then he won’t come back, and that’s not their fault.” I need a shower. And a beer. A nice, cold beer. “We’ll talk more once I’ve freshened up. And remember… Treat the Greengrass sisters with respect. Welcome them and make them feel at home. It’s not their fault Ron isn’t here, either.”

Friday 25th June, 1994 (The Burrow – Dinner)

He found himself gawking at the younger Greengrass sister, same as his parents, the girl’s ravenous appetite was nothing short of disturbing. That’s her fourth plate. Where is all that food going? We’ve had her over for meals before, and she ate less than a rabbit then. Daphne, having noticed the stares, leaned in and whispered something in Astoria’s ear, before shooting Molly and Arthur an apologetic smile.

“My sister is trying to grow,” Daphne joked, making them chuckle.

“Upwards, or sideways?” Charlie asked earnestly, earning himself an elbow in the ribs from Kirsten.

“Did your mother teach you how to cook, Mrs. Weasley?” Astoria asked innocently. “My mother’s love for potion brewing never did her any favours in the kitchen. Could you, perhaps, teach me the basics? If that’s all right?”

Molly beamed at the very prospect, her eyes sparkling with delight. “That would be more than all right, dear! I could always use another hand!”

Ginny rolled her eyes, doing very little to heed Bill’s words. “You have their Elf, now, don’t you? It’s Spinny, right?”

“Yes, Lady Weasley,” the Elf bowed deeply, standing between Astoria and Daphne as to attend to their every need.

“…Just Ginny will do,” the youngest Weasley said blandly. “I’m no ‘Lady’, or whatever.”

“Ginevra,” Molly warned through a forced smile. “Manners, please.”

Bill silently poured himself another drink, exchanging a glance with his father. This is going well, isn’t it? What’s Ginny going to do when you ask her to hand over her Firebolt? She’s going to be apocalyptically cross with you. With all of us. Nursing his drink, Bill found himself thinking more on what his father had shared with him about Ron’s wealth. On the one hand, I can understand dad’s perspective, but on the other… I myself plunder treasures that no one is using, anymore, and, unlike Ron, I hand those treasures off to the Goblins, who help no one but themselves. The treasure that Ron stole from Hogwarts… It was in the Room of Hidden Things for a reason. Misplaced jewels from the House Hourglasses, old armours, even older paintings… I mean, the Hogwarts Elves tossed all of it away because they didn’t know what else to do with any of it. Ron, for all his faults, is still putting his wealth to good use. I just don’t fully understand why dad feels so personally slighted by all this. He says that he’s trying to protect us from the Ministry, but the Ministry can’t do anything about Ron’s wealth if Hogwarts doesn’t ask them to. And, even if Dumbledore, for some bizarre reason, does ask the Ministry to get involved, the Goblins will safeguard Ron’s interests because he pays them their ‘Protection Fee’. I really can’t see the Minister, with all her problems, taking on such a pointless fight, just so she can undermine her strongest ally. His Quibbler is the only reason people aren’t turning on her. The Daily Prophet is doing everything it can to-…

“We’ve waited long enough, father,” Percy suddenly spoke, and the table fell silent. “Bill said that Ron left because he doesn’t want to live here, but I’m not sure I quite believe that. I saw you with him, today. You weren’t exactly friendly towards him. Mum tried to be, but you kept your distance. Not to mention that you’re forcing me to return his gift to me for no apparent reason.”

As all the eyes turned towards Arthur, the Head of the Weasley family put away his unused cutlery. “Daphne, Astoria… I’m sorry to cut your dinner short, but I need to speak to my children. You can take your plates up to your room.”

“…Ron’s room…” Ginny muttered her breath, and Bill swiftly shot her a disapproving frown. Stop being a brat.

“We understand, Mr. Weasley,” Daphne was the first to get up, her hands clasped together just below her sternum. She’s far too prim and proper to survive a summer with us. Hopefully, she’ll relax a bit over the coming weeks.

“Thank you for looking after us, all of you,” Astoria got up as well, smiling sincerely. “And thank you for the delicious dinner, Mrs. Weasley. I’m really looking forward to learning a lot from you.”

“Oh, you’re welcome!” Molly couldn’t help but beam, again. “Such good manners, you two! Maybe, you’ll teach Ginny a thing, or two, over the summer?” Really, mum? Was that necessary? “I want you three to be like sisters!”

Ginny bristled in her seat, crossing her arms defiantly, whereas the twins snigg*red to each other. Daphne, Astoria, and Spinny left for upstairs, and after nearly a minute of silence, Arthur stood up to address his family. Here we go, then.

“Your brother is deeply unwell,” he started, clearly doing his best to be as gentle as possible. “Both in body and in mind… He’s always angry, quick to become cruel, and-” he paused, looking towards his wife. “And, he disrespects your mother and I with no regard for our feelings. Our dignities. And that hurts us… It hurts us so much… But, despite his increasingly hostile behaviour, we didn’t want him to leave. He’s our son. He’s a part of this family. We just want to help him, to be there for him while he’s still with us, but even that we can’t do because he can’t stand to hear anything he doesn’t like. If we ask him to rest, he accuses us of being ‘soft and weak’. If we ask him to eat properly and on time, he just locks himself away in his room. If we ask him to let us know where he disappears off to, he becomes defensive and starts ignoring us. You were all here when he returned from the States, weren’t you? Right after he suffered a seizure that nearly killed him? What was he like? Did he show even an ounce of understanding towards our concerns? Towards your concerns? No… He left without giving anyone a proper explanation-”

“He told us he was helping people,” Ginny interrupted.

“Ginevra, let your father-” Molly started.

“He did, though! He told us about his friend! The one who died! He’s not angry! He’s sad! And, now, he’s all alone!”

“He made that decision, Ginny,” Charlie pointed out. “He recently had another life-threatening seizure, and he didn’t even wait to let mum and dad see him once he was up. I was with him, and I’m telling you the truth… He didn’t care one bit about how worried and scared they were.” Yeah, that was cold, even for him. “I had to force him to stay in bed for the night, because if I didn’t, he would’ve run off the moment he woke up.”

Ginny looked like she wanted to argue, but clearly, even she couldn’t justify such callousness.

“There’s more…” Arthur continued, looking directly at Percy. “The reason why I asked you to return his gift was for your own good. Ron um… He told me how he got his fortune, the one that he’s shared with all of you in the form of gifts and your own personal vaults… He stole it from Hogwarts.”

Bill, Charlie, and Kirsten exchanged subtle looks, the three of the didn’t exactly agree with Arthur on this. Best to keep quiet, for now. Let him finish his piece.

“Stole it from Hogwarts?” Fred asked, pulling a shocked face. “Really? That’s… wicked!”

“Fred!” Molly grumbled, whereas Arthur gave him a stern look.

“What do you mean he stole it?” Percy asked, his brow furrowed. “You can’t really steal from Hogwarts, father. The Elves keep a track of everything through their Magic.”

“There’s a room in Hogwarts where all the unwanted, or missing, objects end up,” Arthur clarified. “The Room of Hidden Things, it’s called. You might’ve heard of it. Well, Ron found it and plundered it. That’s why he’s so rich. It’s not because of Sebastian Greengrass, as we all assumed, but because he’s willing to steal to get ahead.” I guess, I’m a burglar too, then. “Don’t you all understand? He’s a thief… And he’s made you all his accomplices by sharing his spoils with you. He’s put you all in danger, and knowing how clever he is, I can’t help but wonder if he did it on purpose.” …That’s going too far, isn’t it?

“Dad… He never forced anything on anyone,” Bill heard himself speak, looking to Charlie for support.

“Bill’s right about that,” Charlie nodded. “I mean, he gave us the keys to our vaults, but he never forced us to take them. Hell, I haven’t even touched mine since I got it.”

“Same.”

“And your brothers?” Arthur asked, frowning at the two eldest. “Fred and George, have you used the gold he gave you?”

The twins shrugged, before George spoke for them. “We needed it, so yes. We’ve used some of it to fund our more ‘explosive’ ideas.”

“And I’d hardly label what Ron did as ‘stealing’,” Fred added, much to Arthur’s dismay. “What? The Room of Hidden Things is a garbage dump! Nobody is going to care that Ron plundered it! I’m even jealous that I didn’t think of doing it myself!” Why am I not surprised by their reactions?

Arthur just stared at Fred in utter disbelief, before looking to his wife for help. “Do you believe this?”

“This isn’t funny, you two,” Molly tried, though she too wasn’t surprised. “What Ron did could get him, and you, into a lot of trouble with the Ministry.” Not really. Not unless Amelia Bones is stupid, which I don’t think she is.

“Trouble with the Ministry?” Percy didn’t like the sound of that. “…Are you sure?”

“We are,” Arthur said adamantly. “Percy, your career could be damaged before it even starts!”

Bill had to bite his tongue to stop himself from openly disagreeing with his father, but Charlie felt no such need. “No, Percy, that wouldn’t happen. In the end, if Hogwarts says that it doesn’t mind Ron’s actions, then the Ministry can’t do anything about it. They have far bigger problems to deal with, anyway.”

“…Charlie…”

“Dad, you’re taking this too far,” the Dragon-Tamer stood his ground. “I’ve had my issues with Ron’s attitude, but to suggest that he’s trying to entrap his own family? C’mon… That’s just daft, that is. He likes to help, that’s all. Merlin, he never even asks for a ‘thank you’, so to-”

“That’s enough!” Arthur cut in, furious. “What’s the matter with you lot?! Your brother is willing to break the law to get ahead, and you don’t care?! You don’t care that he’s a criminal, now?! You think that’s something to aspire to?!” Bill pinched his eyes, wondering if the Greengrass sisters could hear Arthur’s shouting. “I can’t believe this! This isn’t some joke, nor is it something to be taken lightly! I want every single ‘gift’, even your vault keys, brought to me! Right now! I don’t want anything incriminating inside this house!”

The younger Weasley siblings were now visibly distressed, especially Ginny. “…My broom too?”

“Yes, and your Quidditch gear! All of it!”

“NO!” Ginny shot out of her seat.

“We need our vaults to start our business, dad!” George urged.

“We’ve made investments!” Fred added. “How are we supposed to open our joke shop without-?!”

“Don’t start with that, again, you two,” Molly puffed up. “Joke shop? That’s just not happening!” She then looked to Ginny, who had already become teary-eyed. “None of that, Ginny. Do as your father says. He’s trying to protect you. There’s plenty of brooms for you to fly in the outhouse.”

“I don’t want to fly them! I want my Firebolt!” Ginny shouted, stomping her foot.

“This is not a discussion, Ginny!” Arthur shot her down, his face had turned a bright shade of red. “You’re all too young, or too immature, to fully appreciate how dire this situation is! I don’t want my children to be criminals! I don’t want them to spit in the face of Magical Law! To think that they’re above everyone else! Everything you need to succeed the right way, the proper way, has already been given to you! You don’t need your brother’s help to get ahead! All he will really teach you is how to be the worst sort of person! Because that’s what he really is! Deep down, in his soul, there’s something wrong with him!” Silence fell upon the Weasley family in the aftermath of Arthur’s outburst, with even Bill just staring at the man as if he were insane. He’s lost it! He’s utterly lost it! “I want everything he’s ever handed to you lot in the living room! Tonight! He can have it all back! Before it creates a problem that destroys your futures! Go! Now!”

Friday 25th June, 1994 (The Burrow – Late Night)

Bill studied the many gifts Ron had given to his siblings over the last year, most of them had come directly from Ginny’s room. This got out of hand, didn’t it? I can’t believe dad lost it so badly. How long has he been holding that in for?

“Bill, Charlie… I want you to deliver these to Ron in the morning,” Arthur finally broke his silence, looking ragged. “Tell him that he and I need to have a serious talk.”

“A serious talk?” Charlie asked, vexed. “You planning to tell him that his soul is rotten, are you? Right to his face, as opposed to his back?”

“Tone, Charlie,” Bill sighed out, feeling drained himself.

“I… didn’t mean to say those things,” Arthur muttered, massaging his forehead. “They just came out of me.” That’s a sh*t excuse, dad, and you know it.

“You mean, you regret revealing how you really feel,” Charlie scoffed. “In front of Ginny, dad? Honestly… Even I have more tact than that-”

“You don’t know him like I do,” Arthur frowned at Charlie. “I saw him order the brutalisation of a young man like it was nothing. I comforted your mother after he dragged her, and Pandora, through the streets. Look at all the things he’s done over the years… Attacking Harry Potter, attacking you, constantly threatening everyone, getting himself sorted into Slytherin, keeping a million secrets from us… How long are we supposed to ignore the signs? I’m not denying that he does good things, because he really does, but Merlin’s Beard… From the day he left for Hogwarts, he’s brought nothing but misery to this family. I’m just-” he paused, sinking into the sofa. “…I’m just fed up with him… Either he starts being a part of this family, or…” he trailed off.

“Or, what?” Bill asked, leaning forward.

“Or, he can go find himself another.” What the f*ck?

Bill shook his head, before rising out of his seat. “I’ll do as you say, dad, but I think you’re going too far. You’re letting your anger cloud your judgement. If you try to force Ron into choosing you, you’re going to regret it. You really bloody are.” I’m going to bed, but first, I’m going to go talk to Ginny. She was devastated. “Goodnight.” What a clusterf*ck this was.

Ronald Weasley’s POV

Saturday 26th June, 1994 (Prosperity Farm – Early Morning)

He came to a stop before the lonely headstone erected in Tabby’s memory by Dumbledore, panting for air. This is a good place to take a break, I reckon. This hill is steeper than it looks.

“How are you, today, mate?” Ron wheezed, noticing that the headstone had collected dust and leaves. “I’ll um… I’ll clean that up for you. Here.” Using his gloved hand, Ron wiped the top of the headstone clean. “That’s better, init? You don’t mind me taking a seat next to you, do you? Cheers.” Planting himself beside the headstone, Ron began his stretching routine. “Lovely morning, right? Not too cold, but not too hot, either. Perfect for running. I’m going to assume you were into running too, seeing as you tried to run away from Grueva. It didn’t work out for you, of course, but it’s the thought that counts, right?” He turned his attention towards the lengthy lavender fields and the shimmering lake, smiling contently. “I hope you’re enjoying the view, Tabby. I know it’s not what you wanted, but this is the best I could do for you. I hope it’s enough.” It certainly is for me. “…I wonder if you’re up there somewhere, amongst the stars. I don’t really know where we go after our time here ends, but I know it’s not the Void, so that must mean our souls are kept somewhere in Creation. Well, wherever you are, I want you to know that there’s one person down here who remembers you. We never shared words, but I still feel a bond between us. A sort of kinship, if you will.” Rising to his feet, Ron smiled down at the headstone. “We’ll talk more tomorrow, eh? Have a pleasant one, mate.”

With renewed vitality, Ron ran down in the direction of the shimmering lake. Along the way, he was greeted by all sorts, all of them heading towards the mess hall for breakfast. They smiled and waved at him, many even going out of their way to greet him. He, in turn, returned their kindness, finding their sense of community most endearing. They’ve become one big pack, now. One big family. And I’m lucky enough to be a part of it.

“Do you ever take a day off?” came Thaddeus’ voice from down the pathway, full of mirth.

Ron stopped in place, though his feet kept ‘running’. “This is my idea of taking a day off. You ought to join me, Sir.”

“I’d like to see that,” Bjorn grinned from behind Thaddeus. “The old man’s getting really lazy these days.” He’s looking quite well, as a result. He’s stressed enough for one lifetime, I’d say.

“I don’t think my knees would appreciate that, Bjorn,” the old wolf laughed. “Come along, Ronald. Have breakfast with us this morning.” Hmm… Why not? I wouldn’t mind learning more about this man. I enjoy his company, and he’s much, much wiser than me. I could absorb something worthwhile.

“Sure, I’d be delighted!” Ron made his way over to the man’s side, noticing that his agreement had pleased all those who had heard it. “Any idea what the Elves have in store for us?”

“I like to be surprised,” Thaddeus said, patting him on the back. “Let’s go find out, shall we?”

Saturday 26th June, 1994 (Ron’s Cottage – Late Morning)

“Will Dumbledore agree?” Artyom asked, tossing a piece of firewood onto the flames.

“I don’t see why he’d argue against it,” Ron shrugged, enjoying a slice of blackberry pie. “I mean, the Purebloods I want dead have run away to Magical Hungary, which means I’m paying for those extra mercenaries for no reason. Sending them to Magical Russia would not only help Yahontov, but it would also stop the Order members from being sent up there.”

“You want to protect Order members?”

“No, I want to stop them from f*cking things up,” Ron snigg*red. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re certainly a brave bunch, but they’re not soldiers. Plus, I really don’t think Bones will let the Order get involved in Magical Russia. It’s just too risky. Politically speaking.”

“Yahontov needs soldiers, not sycophants,” Artyom nodded, taking a seat beside him.

“Want some pie?” Ron offered, but the older wizard shook his head. More for me, then. “You, Emilia, Johan Abadie, and even Chloros… I’m going to send you with them, I think. With all of you together, you could do some serious damage to the Dark Lord’s operations there.”

“Travers and Abadie? Together?” Artyom didn’t sound impressed. “That is foolishness.”

“Emilia will tolerate him, but occasionally, you might have to remind her that the entire world is at stake.” Ron then put his plate away, looking deep into Artyom’s eyes. “You’re going to protect her as if she were me, understand? Always watch her back, and if needs be, give your life for hers. That’s an order.” I don’t want to lose her.

“I will.”

“How quickly can you mobilize the spares?” Ron asked.

“Many are operating outside London, now,” Artyom answered. “Give me two days.”

“Start finding them, then,” Ron agreed. “I’ll send a letter to Professor Snape. He’ll want to be involved in this.” Marty should be here by tonight. I’ll have him round up everyone and find neutral ground for us to meet. Artyom left the cottage to get on with his work, only to return within a few seconds. “Um… Did you want some pie, after all?”

“Stop with pie,” Artyom frowned. “Your brothers and sister are coming up path.”

“All of them?” Ron asked, a little surprised. “Not just Percy?”

“All of them.”

He let out a sigh, deflating a little. “…Time to hear a lot of whinging, I suppose.”

One Long Explanation Later

“…The worst sort of person, eh?” Ron whispered, nodding to himself. “…Right… That’s um… That’s pretty harsh, but not entirely unwarranted.” At least, he’s finally saying what he thinks, rather than being a coward. His siblings shifted in their spots, whereas Daphne just stared at him with the sorriest expression he’d ever seen. “…Look, I don’t want to ‘entrap’ anyone-”

“We know that, Ron!” Ginny interrupted, her tiny form full of fire and brimstone. “Dad’s being mental! I think, he’s just jealous that you gave us the things we always wanted, instead of it being him!” I didn’t think he’d lose it like this, not over something so minor. Imagine if he knew of my other crimes. Still, he’s not wrong to worry about my gifts bringing trouble with them. I just… never really gave it any thought. I was too focused on pleasing this lot, which, in hindsight, wasn’t so smart-…

“You need to go talk to him,” Charlie advised, scratching the back of his neck. “He’s pretty pissed off, Ronnie. I’ve never seen him this livid before.”

“You want me to bring him here?” London asked darkly, she had escorted his family to his cottage personally. “I can go and drag him here right now.” That would just escalate things.

“Drag him here?” Kirsten eyed the other witch. “What’s that supposed to mean, exactly?”

“Exactly what you think it does,” London replied, tilting her head slightly to show the scar across her throat. “What kind of father is he, huh? To say something so wretched about his own boy?” His boy is pretty wretched himself, so you can’t exactly blame the man. Plus, he’s been holding in his real feelings for a long time, and clearly, they’ve festered. I know what that’s like. I wanted to maim the twins over a stupid prank, and I was really going to do it if the Headmaster hadn’t intervened. You know what? The smart thing to do now would be to seek some advice, rather than act on my own. I have a tendency to regress whenever I’m dealing with my ‘family’.

Ron looked around the living room, his eyes lingering on Bill. He hasn’t said much, has he? Well, I know what he thinks of me, already. He then looked to Percy, who appeared to be preoccupied with his own thoughts. He’s wondering if I’m truly a liability to his career, I reckon. He doesn’t want anything to risk his future. That’s disappointing. The twins were whispering to each other, their eyes constantly darting towards their vault keys. Their business, their dream, is in danger. Ginny was utterly furious; he knew exactly what she wanted him to do. Like Charlie, she wants me to confront dad and have it out with him. But, mostly, she wants me to come home. This left Daphne and Astoria, the latter being far too immature to fully grasp the severity of the situation. Daphne, then. She always gives me decent advice, and it was her who made me promise to be a better son. It’s only fair that she helps me keep said promise.

“Daphne, what should I do next?” Ron asked, all eyes turning towards her.

“You’re asking her?” Ginny grumbled, whereas Daphne kept her focus solely on him. Sorry for putting you in the spotlight, but I need your help.

“She made me promise to be a better son, to try to heal my relationship with mum and dad,” Ron revealed, mostly to make things easier for the Greengrass sisters.

His plan swiftly yielded results, as even Ginny appeared to be taken aback.

“I think, you both need some time to cool down,” Daphne started, ignoring the stares. “You can talk tomorrow, during the lunch your mother has planned. If you go there right now, I think you’ll get into a fight, and that wouldn’t end well for either of you.” For him, you mean. She’s right. If I lose it, I’ll just straight up murder him. It’s not like he has any value to me, anymore, plus he annoys me with his delusional sense of ‘goodness’.

“…Okay,” Ron drew in a deep breath, nodding. “I’ll think about what I want to say to him.” He then reached forward and grabbed the vault keys, ignoring all his other gifts. “Bill, take these, please. Keep them with you.”

“What?” Bill broke his silence. “Ron, dad was very clear-”

“I want you to keep them, just in case,” he insisted, holding them out towards Bill. “Don’t be stupid, now, all right? There is a war coming. These might just save your lives, so bloody take them. Keep them hidden, until you lot have need of them.”

“And if dad finds out? Then, what?” Bill asked. “Why don’t you keep them? And move back-?”

Charlie reached forward and took the keys, pocketing them. “I’ll keep them with me, Ron.” Thank you. “Don’t give me that f*cking look, Bill. I’ll toss you through that window over there, you git.” …Um… What?

“Charlie, can you not?” Kirsten frowned deeply.

“No, he’s so concerned about being the ‘perfect son’ that he’s just ignoring how far dad is going,” Charlie fumed, glaring at his older brother. “Grow a spine, will you? Just once in your life, do what you think is right.” Are they about to have a spat in my cottage? That’s annoying.

“Don’t start with me, Charlie,” Bill warned, pointing a finger at Ron. “All of this is happening because of him. Dad is going too far, I’ve already said that to him, but it’s still Ron’s fault. Everyone has their limit, even dad, and Ron’s pushed him too far for far too long.” Merlin, can you not do this here? This is my home. Don’t ruin this place for me.

Ignoring their rising voices, Ron got up and walked to the kitchen, deciding to have himself another slice of pie. I know I should be more upset about what dad said, and what he’s doing, but I really couldn’t care less. I mean, my ‘family’ are such a small, insignificant part of my life, now. I literally saw the Universe expand! I’m plotting the course of the war alongside Albus bloody Dumbledore! I’m the Champion of Fate! Why should I care about such petty drama? All it’s going to do is wind me up, make me lash out and hurt others. It’s beneath me. Oh, and I just know what dad wants from me… He wants me to return what I stole. Pfft… Like that would make this world a better place. No, all that will do is f*ck with my power, my reach, which will result in innocent people losing their lives. Sure, I have a lot of money coming in from the Quibbler, but right now, the majority of my wealth comes from those treasures I nicked. And, even if I return everything, dad will just have another ultimatum ready for me. ‘Come home, and be just like your siblings’. That’s what he really wants… Obedience.

“Hey…” came Daphne’s voice, soft and consoling. “You okay?”

“Eh,” Ron shrugged, turning to face her. “This is annoying, isn’t it?” And a waste of time to boot.

“That’s one word for it,” Daphne walked over, leaning against the countertop. “If you needed money so badly, Ron, why didn’t you just ask me?” Kill me. Someone, please, kill me.

“Because I don’t want your money,” Ron told her plainly. “I don’t want to be dependent on you, or anyone. I want to help people, and I get to do exactly that when I don’t have to answer to anyone. That’s what this is really about, Daphne. Arthur Weasley can’t stand the fact that I’m not like his other children… Like Bill… So, he’s throwing a fit about it. Well, I’m not going to give in. If he gets in my way, I’ll go right through him.” He’s just one human. His loss won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

“Don’t say that, Ron. If you get angry, you’ll give them exactly what they want. Right now, you have your siblings in your corner. Most of them, at least. Use that to your advantage, instead.” Ron co*cked an eyebrow, looking her up and down. “Don’t look so surprised, you dolt. Of course, I’m going to stand with you. Isn’t that what a dutiful wife is supposed to do?” You want to play that game, again? Now?

He smiled in an amused manner, offering her his plate. “Pie, wife?”

“No, thanks, husband.”

“So, what should I do?” Ron moved over to her side, bumping her shoulder with his. “Should I turn their anger towards dad? Disturb the peace in his home? Like he’s disturbed the peace in mine?”

“That would be petty, and it would solve nothing,” Daphne started. I like petty, though. “No, what you need to do is to outnumber your father. If he’s the only one with the problem, then he’s impotent. Keep doing what you do best, Ron… Help people. Your actions will speak louder than his words.” That’s very passive… Too passive… But, why not? My way is clearly not working in my favour, anymore.

“You’re very soft for a Greengrass,” Ron smirked.

“You’re very vindictive for a Weasley,” she returned, moving some errant hair behind his ear. “Do you need a hug?”

“Not really. I just want everyone but Percy out of my house. I planned an entire day for us, and now, he’s just… ignoring me…” That one hurts, actually. I owe him so much, and I just want him to see things the way I see them. He can be so much more than a job-hungry bootlicker, another cog in the rotting machine.

“Well, London and I need to get to Hafren Forest. Maybe, I should take your siblings with me? Let them see what you do with your money?”

“If they agree, go for it.”

“Stay here while I talk to them,” Daphne rubbed his arm supportively, before leaving the kitchen.

Ron took a bite out of the pie on his plate, frowning when he realized that the taste had been ruined by all the arguing and shouting coming from the living room. …f*cking Arthur Weasley… A waste of a man… If he makes my life any harder than it already is, I’ll put a f*cking bounty on his head… See how long he lasts before one of Artyom’s boys guts-! No… No… Don’t think that way… Just eat your pie… Don’t get pulled into another family squabble. Just do your work, because that’s all that really matters. You’re meant for so much more than anyone realizes, and you can’t let one human distract you from your purpose. Not even Arthur Weasley.

Saturday 26th June, 1994 (The Camps – Midday)

“Excuse me, but what’s going on here?” Ron asked, approaching a group of wizards and witches at the edge of the camps.

“Oi, it’s Ronald Weasley!” one the wizard’s grinned.

“Don’t look so surprised, Hubert, he’s always here,” a tall witch rolled her eyes, before stepping forward. “Are you asking about the materials being brought in? Or, the baby Aurors patrolling the camps?”

“Both, and the parameter the Ministry Officials are setting up,” Ron elaborated.

“Neat, huh? Guess the Minister finally remembered that people are living, and dying, on her streets,” the witch snorted. “Some pompous oaf came here a couple of days ago, offering people jobs in the ‘reconstruction project’. We all signed up. A decent bit of money, and it guarantees you a home. All paid for by the Ministry.”

“Really?!” Ron was visibly surprised, his lips twitching upwards. She’s doing it! She’s actually f*cking doing it! Oh, Amelia Bones! I could kiss you!

“We’re all sceptical, but not like we have many options, right?” the witch shrugged. “…Wonder where she found the gold, though? Probably took it from those Pureblood pricks.” If only.

“So, she’s putting people to work and fixing up Knockturn Alley at the same time,” Ron muttered to himself. “Two birds with one Spell. Clever.”

“…Better late than never, right?” the witch said, sounding a little frustrated. “We won’t forget who really got us through this f*cked up ordeal, though.” Huh? “You’re a good kid.” She ruffled his hair and smiled, before returning to her mates. “Take care, lad. And don’t stay out too late. There’s a maniac on the loose.”

Ron gave her a parting nod, before returning to Percy’s side. “Looks like the Ministry’s finally doing its job. Bones is putting-”

“Minister Bones, Ron,” Percy corrected, still staring at the hundreds of homeless people. “How many of them are just criminals pretending to be victims?”

Ron blinked, losing his mirth. “…Some of them, but most are just people who found themselves with little choice but to live in Knockturn Alley.”

“You can’t seriously believe that, can you?” Percy looked to him. “Ron, they chose to live there because they wanted to live lawless lives.”

“Have you spoken to any of them?” Ron countered. “Or, are you just writing them off because they’ve lived a different life from yourself? Don’t be so quick to judge those you know nothing about, Percy. There were children in Knockturn Alley when the Ministry turned it into a battlefield, and many of those children have since died. So, yes, some of these people are nefarious in nature, but some of them are also grieving parents and orphaned children.”

“…Why hasn’t the Ministry sorted out the bad apples from the good, then?” Percy asked, adorning a thoughtful expression. “Seems like a terrible oversight to me.”

“A terrible oversight ought to be their motto,” Ron smirked, but Percy didn’t find his jab very amusing. “Look, I know you’ve always had a stiffy for the Ministry, but after today, I hope you’ll come to realize, just a little, that the Ministry is not only fallible, but that it’s made a lot of mistakes over the years. Mistakes that ordinary, decent people have paid for.”

“What exactly are we doing, today?” Percy asked. “You’ve been very quiet about it. Are we meeting some Officials? Maybe, even the Minister?” Is that why he agreed to join me? Because he thinks it’ll help him start his career?

Ron cleared his throat, looking forward. “I said that we’re meeting important people, brother. I never said anything about Ministry Officials.”

Percy raised an eyebrow, not looking pleased. “What important people are we meeting, exactly?”

“Them,” Ron grinned, pointing ahead. “Every single one of them is important.”

Percy’s shoulders sagged, now he looked downright vexed. “…I’m not going in there, Ron. This place is filthy.”

“The greatest wisdom is always found in the filthiest of places.”

“…You can’t be serious…? …You’re serious…”

“Come along! Let’s introduce you to some ‘criminals’!”

Ginevra Weasley’s POV

Saturday 26th June, 1994 (Hafren Forest – Midday)

“Why did we agree to this, Fred?” George whined, almost tripping.

“Because this still beats mum’s mood with us,” Fred answered, taking George by the hand. “Watch your step there. It’s slippery.”

“We’re almost there,” London shot a sneer back. “Stop your whining.” I don’t like her. She’s clearly a psychopath.

“Why didn’t the Portkey take us directly to this camp?” Charlie asked, he and Kirsten seemed to be managing just fine with the wet terrain.

“How would you like it if I had a Portkey that brought me right to your living room?” London asked in response.

“…That’s fair.”

“Yeah. Just keep walking. It’s only a few minutes away.”

“Ginny, give me your hand,” Bill hopped to her side, holding out his own. I don’t want to hold your hand, you prat!

“Hmph,” Ginny sped up, putting some distance between herself and him. Why don’t you go hold dad’s hand, huh? I can’t believe you’re being so cruel to Ron! You’re supposed to be nicest brother, not the meanest!

“This is fun!” Astoria called out from ahead of the group, she’d been running around like a complete maniac, despite her older sister’s begging. “I never get to do stuff like this! It’s so wet and cold! I’ve fallen over like four times, now!”

“…Tori, please…” Daphne sighed out. “Come back here.”

“No!”

“Take my cloak, at least.”

“I have my own!”

“…Gods above…” Daphne muttered under her breath, clenching her jaw. “…She really shouldn’t be here…” She’s very overprotective, isn’t she? And what was that about her making Ron promise to be a better son? I know she’s a lot sweeter than she appears, I personally have no ill feelings towards her, anymore, but I didn’t realise that Ron takes her advice above all others. I mean, we were all there, even Percy, and Ron asked her about what he should do. No one else.

Ginny knew that she hadn’t exactly been welcoming towards the Greengrass sisters, she’d actually been quite petty, but that was more to do with Ron’s absence than their presence. She didn’t much like Astoria, but Daphne was often very sweet to her during their morning runs around the Black Lake. I really ought to say something… Apologize, even… She’s only at the Burrow because her parents are traveling, and she’s probably staying in Ron’s room so I can have my privacy. She’s not taking his place, or anything. She’s just doing as she’s told.

Speeding up a little, Ginny positioned herself to Daphne’s right, and the blonde girl was quick to notice. “Is everything okay? Are you cold?” Stop being so nice! I’ll tackle you!

“…I’m sorry for being a bell-end,” Ginny mumbled, keeping her gaze fixed ahead. “I want Ron to come home, that’s all.”

Daphne nodded in understanding. “I know that, already. You have no reason to be sorry.”

Ginny turned her head slightly, subtly eyeing the older witch. Even here, in the middle of a dark, damp forest, she was walking with a perfect posture, her long, silky, golden hair draped over her silver cloak. Why does she walk around like she has a stick up her arse? Isn’t it uncomfortable? Mum would love it if I walked around like that, though. She’s always telling me that I have horrible posture for a girl.

“Is something bothering you, Ginevra?” Daphne asked, shooting her a pleasant smile.

Ginny narrowed her eyes. “…You’re too pretty for my brother, honestly.”

Daphne stifled a laugh, before shaking her head. “Your brother and I are no longer dating, remember?”

“Still, my point stands.”

“Your brother is quite handsome, though.”

“No, he isn’t,” Ginny pulled a face. “Ew.”

“There’s not a girl in Hogwarts who would reject him.”

“Yeah, but only because he’s famous.”

“And rich. And well-dressed. And kind. And powerful.”

“But not handsome.”

“He is handsome to me,” Daphne conceded, chuckling. “More than that, actually. He is beautiful.”

Ginny co*cked an alarmed eyebrow, was Daphne Greengrass deranged? “…Beautiful? He’s a boy.”

“Boys can be beautiful too.”

“Um… No…”

“Aren’t there any beautiful boys in Gryffindor?” Daphne asked in a teasing tone, and Ginny’s brain swiftly painted a picture of a certain green-eyed Seeker at the front of her mind. Don’t answer that! It’s a trap! “I thought as much.”

“…You’re weird.”

“I will take that as a compliment.”

Ginny smirked a little, studying Daphne more brazenly. “Are all the girls in Slytherin so prim and proper?”

“You’ve met Pansy, haven’t you?” Daphne asked in response, making the redhead snort. “Slytherin is filled with all sorts. I imagine, you would say the same of Gryffindor.”

“I guess, but I don’t really take the time to notice,” Ginny shrugged. “What I mean is… I sort of move from group to group.” I do that a lot, actually.

“A social butterfly, are you?” Daphne asked. Oh! I like that!

“There’s just a lot of people to get through,” Ginny explained. “I spend time with Colin and the others, but then Luna shows up and wants me to spend time with her and her Ravenclaw friends. And then, Hermione wants to spend time together, so I go with her to Neville and Harry.”

“You don’t have a fixed group of friends,” Daphne summarised, and Ginny quickly nodded. “Do you want one?”

“…I don’t know,” she admitted. “When I started second year, I was… pretty much friendless.” Being possessed will do that to your social life. “Now, I’m being dragged from group to group. I’m not complaining, because it is nice, but… I don’t know…”

“You have friends, but none of them are close to your heart?”

“Luna and Hermione are, but yeah,” Ginny nodded, again. “So, I can’t really comment on the other Gryffindors. Most of them are nice, I’d say, but I know that some of them are prats.”

“Then, Gryffindor and Slytherin aren’t so different, after all.”

Ginny smiled widely, feeling a lot more at ease. “Are we good, then? No hard feelings?” I don’t want another Duel against her, that’s for certain. She’s tougher than she looks.

“No hard feelings, Ginevra,” Daphne gave a polite nod, and a soft smile.

“Ginny. I like to be called Ginny.”

“Why? Ginevra is such a lovely name.”

“It’s an old woman’s name,” Ginny moaned, shuddering. “Ginevra Molly Weasley! I might as well have been born with wrinkles!”

“I almost forgot that your middle name was-”

“Please, don’t ever mention it,” Ginny mumbled, feeling her ears turn red. “It’s still better than Bilius, but only by a tiny little bit.” The twins are always saying that mum wanted a girl so badly, that she named me after herself. So weird. “Do you have a middle name?”

“No, my parents were very particular in naming Astoria and I,” Daphne replied, shooting Ginny’s wrist a glance. “You should pull your sweater down a bit. The bracelet Ron gifted to you is showing.”

Panicked by the idea that Bill might see it, Ginny quickly yanked her sleeve down. “…Thanks…” There’s no f*cking way I’m giving this up. No way.

Daphne merely smiled, looking back ahead. “Everything will be well, Ginny. I promise.”

“…You didn’t hear my dad last night…” Ginny whispered under her breath.

“We did.”

“…He’s being stupid.”

“Frightened people do stupid things.”

“Frightened?”

“His youngest son, who is terminally ill, has left the house. He’s just scared, and hurt, and confused. Of course, he’s entirely wrong about Ron’s character, but sometimes, people find reasons to justify their outrage, even if those reasons are false.”

“He’s a grown-up,” Ginny grumbled. “He should be more mature than that.”

“I used to think that way too, until your brother showed me that grown-ups are the reason why the Wizarding World is in such a sorry state. Fear and ignorance, Ginny, are a terrifying mixture. More dangerous than even Fiendfyre. And everyone is capable of brewing it, be they young or old.”

The redhead nodded to herself, noting that the blonde had a very eloquent manner of speech. “You talk really weird, you know? I thought it was just Ron trying to be pretentious, but I guess it’s a Slytherin thing.”

“Your brother is many things, but he is not pretentious,” Daphne’s smile grew wider. “I’ve never met someone as vulgar as him, in fact.”

“Doesn’t that bother you? Being a proper Lady and all?”

“It used to, but I’ve grown more accustomed to it,” Daphne answered, before chuckling at some memory. “As a matter of fact, he often makes me laugh so much that my stomach begins to hurts. So, no, his vulgarity doesn’t bother me. I even miss it when he’s not around.”

“He was always funny, my brother,” Ginny smiled, feeling a strange sort of pride. “Though, he doesn’t really joke around with us, anymore. Our family, I mean. No… I get the feeling that he doesn’t like us very much.”

Daphne lost her mirth, but just as she went to speak, she was cut off by London. “All right, we’re here! Stay out of the way, and let my boys do their work! Ponytail, I’m leaving the little ones in your care! Princess, you can go find Jonathan! He’s already here, I’m sure!”

“We’ll talk more later,” Daphne whispered, before moving on ahead. I hope so. That was nice. She’s very easy to open up to.

“C’mon, Ginny,” Bill called out to her. “Astoria! Over here! Now!”

The younger Greengrass skipped over to them, taking Bill by the arm. “Have you ever seen Centaurs up close? I’m so excited!”

“Remember to be respectful,” Bill smiled down at her, making Ginny want to gag. “Centaurs can be dangerous when riled up.”

“You’ll protect me, I’m sure!”

“I will.”

“Or, you could just be respectful,” Ginny said bluntly. “This isn’t a zoo, Greengrass.”

“I know that, seeing as your cage isn’t here,” Astoria smirked, and Ginny nearly pounced her. I’ll show you a cage!

“Ginny, stop it!” Bill scolded, frowning, now. “Behave, both of you!”

Glowering, Ginny entered the Centaur camp alongside Bill and Astoria, and immediately, her expectations were shattered. This was not the camp of a proud, star-gazing species, as her books had described, but rather, it was glaringly clear that something was deeply wrong with these Centaurs. There was a sense of overwhelming misery everywhere she looked, from the sickly, four-legged bodies trotting about aimlessly to the scared, wary looks on their faces.

Ginny, instinctively, moved closer to Bill, who took her by the hand. “Don’t leave my sight, either of you.”

“…f*cking hell…” Charlie muttered as the trio joined him and Kirsten.

“I didn’t think it would be this bad,” the Romanian witch added. “Are all of them sick?”

“Ah, finally!” came Fred’s voice, and the entire group turned to see the twins limp into view. “That was not a fun hik-!”

“Quiet,” Bill hushed them, his brow creased. “None of your antics, understand? Charlie, keep them within smacking distance.”

As Charlie colourfully, and quite vividly, explained the horrors he’d unleash on the twins if they stepped out of line, Ginny took the time to study the camp more closely. Ron’s mercenaries were already organising large crates full of medicine, food, bedding, and other essentials, with London supervising them, while the Centaurs who’d noticed the Weasleys were either glaring at them, or moving their young out of sight. There are kids here too?! And they’re also sick?! What happened to them?! London barely told us anything, save for warning us to keep our distance!

“She’s gone,” Ginny whispered, pulling at Bill’s hand.

“Who?”

“Daphne,” Ginny clarified, and Astoria’s ears perked up. “I don’t see her anywhere.”

“Where is my sister?” the small blonde asked, there wasn’t a hint of excitement in her voice, now. “I want to be where she is.”

“Um… Let’s go ask London,” Bill decided, pulling the girls with him. “Remember what she said, okay? Don’t touch anything.” Daphne said that she wanted to show us what Ron spends his money on, but I wasn’t expecting this! This is horrible! She was talking about boys being beautiful, but never felt the need to mention this?!

“…the f*ck are you talking about?” London was having a back-and-forth with another mercenary. “How do we have food left over from last week? Are they rationing it? I’m tracking the portions myself! Why are they not eating properly?”

“Some of them have probably croaked, hence the leftovers.” What? Some of them died?

“…sh*t…” London hissed, waving the man away when she noticed Bill and the girls. “What? What is it? I’m kind of busy here, ponytail.”

“Where is Daphne?” Astoria demanded, clinging to Bill for dear life.

“Your sister is with the Healer,” London answered without delay. “And, no, you’re not going there. The princess will have my guts if I let you near that tent. The disease is at its worst there.” Then, why the hell is she there?! Is she mental?!

“What is this disease?” Bill promptly asked. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

London’s eyes darted towards Astoria, before she let out a sigh. “It’s from poison. A Nundu’s toxin, to be exact. A wizard stole their land and poisoned their crop. Destroyed their Tribe and left these poor sods to die. The boss found out about it, and he’s trying to save as many of them as he can.” …Woah… “But, as you can see, we’re losing the battle.”

“Shouldn’t the Ministry be here?” Bill asked, and London laughed in his face. Why is she laughing?! That’s a good question! “…Sorry… That was stupid of me…” It was? Why? “Who is the wizard responsible for this? Do you know?”

“Just some Pureblood bastard,” London shrugged. “So, pretty much, it could be any of them. My job isn’t to speculate, it’s to follow the boss’ orders. Now, can I get back to my job?”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Bill asked hurriedly. “I’m a Curse-Breaker, and a damn good one at that. And I learn fast, too.” What about us?

London eyed him critically, before giving a reluctant nod. “Leave the little ones with your brother and his girlfriend. Then, come back here. Jonathan might be able to use you.”

“I want to be with my sister!” Astoria told the green-haired mercenary. “You have to do as I say!”

“I’m not your servant, you brat,” London rolled her eyes. “…f*cking Purebloods…”

With that, the ebony witch went back to counting crates and jotting down numbers, while Bill dragged Ginny and Astoria towards the Weasleys. Is it just me? Or, is Bill in a rush all of a sudden?

“Kirsten, take them, will you?” Bill handed the girls off. “I’m going to go make myself useful.”

“Oi, wait a minute!” Charlie grabbed Bill by the arm. “Are you mental? You can’t go in there! And what the hell are we supposed to do? Just stand here?”

“Keep everyone together, and away from anyone who’s sick,” Bill ordered, pulling away. “Fred, George… No f*cking about, all right? Not today.”

“You don’t have to tell us,” George swallowed thickly, Ginny had never seen either of the twins so shaken before.

“…This isn’t funny,” Fred whispered gravely. “Not one bit.”

“Girls, hold hands and stay with me,” Kirsten instructed, and before Ginny could protest, she felt Astoria’s fingers entwine with hers. OI! Get off me!

She puffed up immediately, ready to rip her hand away, but when she saw how timid Astoria had become, gawking wide-eyed in every direction like a startled Mooncalf, Ginny deflated. …Ugh… She looks more out of place than all of us put together…

“…C’mon…” Ginny pulled at Astoria’s hand. “Stay close, all right?”

“…All right…”

Ronald Weasley’s POV

Saturday 26th June, 1994 (The Pond – Afternoon)

“Not hungry?” Ron asked, smiling innocently. “Oh, go on, Perce! The food here is the best in Diagon Alley!”

Ravenclaw Ron snigg*red impishly, floating above their table. “Always wanted to wipe the smug look off his face! Well done, boyo!” It is satisfying, isn’t it?

“…All those people blame the Ministry for everything wrong in their lives,” Percy finally broke his long silence, blankly staring at his soup. “…What was the point in all of this, Ron? Did you just want to mock me? Is that it?” Mock you? f*cking hell, why are you so sensitive? Is there a twat between your legs that I don’t know about?

“If I wanted to mock you, Percy, I’d just mock you outright,” Ron laughed, much to his brother’s chagrin. “I’m trying to open your eyes, brother! I’m trying to show you that your idea of the Ministry is a fantasy! I’m trying to show you that this country is in the sh*tter! That the Wizarding World is in the sh*tter! And, no, it’s not just the Ministries that are responsible for it… We all are! All of us!”

“You’ve become cynical, Ron.”

“Perhaps,” he couldn’t quite argue against that. “But, in some ways, I’ve become wise too. Ignorance, whether wilful or not, is dangerous, and I want you to proceed with open eyes. I’m not trying to destroy your fantasy; I want you to make it a reality.” Percy looked at him, curious. “Your mind is nothing short of brilliant, far greater than my own. Hogwarts hasn’t seen a more studious, and dedicated, student since the Dark Lord himself-”

“Don’t mention him in public,” Percy hissed, shooting panicked looks in every direction. “What’s wrong with you?”

“If you apply yourself, and I mean really apply yourself, you could change this entire country,” Ron continued, ignoring his brother’s outburst. “But all the dedication in the world won’t mean a damn thing if you don’t understand your own weaknesses. In this case, the Ministry’s weaknesses. You can’t improve something if you don’t know what’s wrong with it, right?”

“…Right…”

“Well, tell me what’s wrong,” Ron gestured, slicing up his steak. “You were out there, shadowing my every step, for a couple of hours. What did you see?”

Percy leaned back in his seat, adorning a grim expression. “…There’s a money problem.”

“Yeah, definitely.”

“And a trust problem,” Percy went on, his tone monotonous. “Being so dependent on Purebloods for so long has forced the Ministry to put the elite first, which has cost them the common people.”

“Not just the common people, but also the other species. Elves, Goblins, Centaurs, Merpeople… The Ministry has made their lives exceptionally difficult.”

Percy blinked, before shifting in his seat and clearing his throat. “…Well, they get to live in the Wizarding World, so-”

“I wouldn’t call what they do ‘living’,” Ron interrupted, his eye twitching. “Did you know that some within the Ministry tried to pass a legislation which would’ve ended with all Merpeople being ‘tagged’?” f*cking Umbridge… I can’t wait to get my hands on her, now that I know where she is.

“Tagged?”

“Like cattle… Yeah… The only reason the legislation was rejected was because it would’ve been too expensive, too impractical, to put into practice.”

“…I mean, logistically, it would be impossible-”

“Forget the logistics, think about how inhumane that is.” He’s irritating me. “Imagine if tomorrow the Ministry decides to tag all Muggleborns? Or all Blood-Traitors? How would that make you feel?”

“…Unsafe…”

“That’s the reality of millions of people living under Wizarding rule, Percy. And they are people, regardless of their appearances. Merpeople have their own culture, each one different depending on the colony. Centaurs have their own culture too, as do Goblins. They are very much people, but the Ministry has never acknowledged them as such. And right out there, in the streets, there are witches and wizards who aren’t seen as people, either. And why? Because they lived in Knockturn Alley. Because they’re an unknown. Because they’ve lived different lives from the rest of us.” Percy averted his gaze, no doubt rethinking his earlier comments. “When a government starts deciding who’s worthy of respect, of basic decency, based solely on appearances, then none of us are safe. The Ministries have total control of the Wizarding World, and everyone in it, and who controls these Ministries? Not the Ministers, absolutely not! People like Lucius Malfoy do! Those who despise all others they see as ‘unclean’! Those who want to carve out a ‘Pure’ world for themselves, and rule over us as tyrants!” Volume, old boy. You’re getting too riled up. Take a breather. Ease up on him, or you’ll lose him. “You might very well sit at the top someday, but don’t think for a second that you’ll be sitting up there alone. Power attracts the ambitious, like yourself, but the ones who manage to keep said power are the ones who learn to never stop learning.” And you have a lot to learn, evidently. “Now is your time to learn, Percy. Hogwarts is a school, and it is far removed from the injustices of this world. Everything you know, everything you’ve learned… It won’t serve you out here as well as you think it will. You have to start from the bottom, again, and climb your way up. Just, once you’re finally up there, don’t forget about the sorry sods still at the bottom.” Time to give him some time to think. “Now, let’s eat, eh? Our food is getting cold.”

Daphne Greengrass’ POV

Saturday 26th June, 1994 (Hafren Forest – Late Afternoon)

“Are the bandages prepared?” Director Reid asked, tending to a snarling Centaur.

“Yes, Sir,” Daphne quickly rushed to his side, holding out a basin of soaked bandages. “I followed all your instructions.”

“That’s good,” the Healer said distractedly, his focus fixed solely on his patient. “I am sorry, Anvilk, but this will be quite painful.”

“Can’t we numb his leg?” Bill asked, his wand at the ready. “I can do it-”

“…No… wizard Magic…” Anvilk, the strongest hunter of the Tribe, grit out. These bandages are wizard Magic too, in case you failed to notice that. They’re soaked in a poultice of our making. “I will… take the pain! Let it… make me stronger!”

Daphne drew in a sharp breath, deciding to keep her opinion to herself. This is madness! He’s shaking from agony! We ought to numb him, regardless of his wishes!

“Then, prepare to become Hercules himself,” Director Reid sighed out, reaching for the bloody bandage wrapped around Anvilk’s infected leg. “William, give him something to bite down on. The last thing we need is him biting through his tongue.”

Bill promptly undid his leather belt, holding it out for the Centaur. “Take it.”

Anvilk ripped it out of Bill’s hand, biting down on it hard and giving a resolute nod. Director Reid wasted no time in unwrapping the bloody bandage, and much to Daphne’s horror, the blackened skin on the Centaur’s leg began to peel off alongside the bandage. Anvilk let out a muffled wail, pus oozing out of his foul, rotting leg, his body becoming rigid in a pathetic attempt to remain in control. If the sight wasn’t horrific enough, the smell definitely was, making Daphne gag loudly. Oh, Gods! I’m going to vomit! A bit of pus shot forward as Director Reid reached the midway point, splattering across his cheek and mouth, which left Daphne no choice but to put the bowl down and rush out of the tent. No, no, no, no-!

Her breakfast rushed out of her stomach, and onto the grass, leaving her hunched over and trembling. Her throat, eyes, and nostrils burned from the sudden expulsion, leaving her teary-eyed and desperate for air. That was the most wretched thing I’ve ever seen! Circe’s Breath, I’m going to-! She gagged violently, her stomach heaving and forcing more bitter liquid to stain the ground before her feet. …Ugh…

“Merlin’s Beard, princess,” came London’s voice, followed by a rush of footsteps. “What happened in there?”

Daphne gagged, once again, clutching at her stomach. Please, not again! She heaved, and heaved, but fortunately, she was spared the indignity of embarrassing herself in front of the green-haired mercenary. …Is it over? Please, be over…

“Come here,” London took her by the shoulders, guiding her away from her sick. “Sit down, all right? I’ll get you some water.”

Feeling exhausted, Daphne didn’t argue, plopping down on a nearby crate and letting London hold her upright. Damn… I’m a terrible assistant, aren’t I? I just… ran away… Director Reid needed my help, and I fled…

“I… have to go back…” Daphne mumbled, though she couldn’t bring herself to move.

“You need to get yourself together, first,” London said, Non-Verbally producing a stream of water from her wand. “Go on. Rinse. Get rid of the taste before it makes you sick, again.”

Cupping her hands, Daphne collected the water and brought it to her stained lips, cleaning herself up as best she could. After rinsing her mouth out a dozen times, she finally felt comfortable enough to take a drink, letting it sooth her aching throat. …Okay… I’m okay… I’ll just catch my breath, and then, I’ll go back-

“What happened? What did you see?” London asked, her voice uncharacteristically tender.

“…The skin on his leg… came right off…” Daphne rasped, soaking her face with her wet hands. Oh, that’s nice and cold. “And there was-” she stopped abruptly, the image of blackened flesh and gooey pus making her stomach churn.

“Stay here,” London instructed, giving her a pat on the back. “I’ll go and help Jonathan.”

“I should-”

“Don’t argue, just stay put,” London ordered, leaving before Daphne could say another word.

Taking in ragged breaths, her eyes travelled aimlessly from yurt to yurt, from one sick Centaur to another, and a gut-wrenching realization dawned on her. This is pointless, isn’t it? What am I doing here? These people are dead, already. And the ones Director Reid believes can be saved are also dead, because no one is going to take them in. I’m just a witness, aren’t I? I’m a witness to my father’s crimes. The Gods are punishing me by making me watch this Tribe’s end. And I-… I brought Astoria here… Why can’t she just listen to me? Why didn’t I force her to go back to Mrs. Weasley? Because of me, she’s now a part of the Gods’ punishment. What kind of sister am I? The worst sort… The absolute worst-…

“You okay?” Bill’s voice ripped her from her thoughts, causing her to look up. “You’re as pale as a ghost. Here, take my jacket-”

“…I’m fine,” Daphne managed, trying her hardest to maintain what was left of her dignity. I don’t want anything from you. The way you’ve been treating Ron… I was utterly wrong about you.

“You’re not fine, you’re in shock,” Bill sighed out.

“No, I’m-”

“I’ve been there before, so I know,” he told her. You’ve been in shock? When? “Curse-Breakers die, which is why we work in teams.” …Oh… “I’ve seen a lot of f*cked up things in my time, but this place… This is something else, entirely.” He moved over to her side, taking a seat and staring ahead blankly. “How did Ron find this Tribe? Why has he never mentioned them to any of us? How long has he been sending them aid? When did my little brother become the only hope for all the sorry souls in Magical Britain?” Daphne said nothing, studying the man’s hollow expression, instead. “…Being here, it’s hard to blame him for the way he acts. The way he… lashes out at all of us.”

“He does more than-”

“I don’t hate him, you know? You probably think I do, but I don’t. I miss him… I miss who he was, and I resent that I don’t know who he is now.” Bill then shook his head to himself, pinching his eyes. “He’s going to die a stranger, and there’s nothing I can do about it, because I see just how much disdain he has for us. For mum, for dad, for me… We can’t get close to him, because he doesn’t want to be close to us. Does he blame us for this, Daphne? Does he blame us for all the terrible things he’s seen? Is everything that’s wrong in this world our fault?”

“…He hates that you-… He hates that we can all ignore it, and just go on with our lives in deliberate ignorance,” Daphne answered, slouching. “He can’t ignore it, William. It hurts him too much, I think. When he first approached this Tribe, he wept because of their suffering. He was utterly besides himself, and Chief Zotair… Well, he saw that Ron loved this Tribe, even if he’d never met them before. The fact that we’re even here, the fact that these Centaurs haven’t attacked us, or sent us away, is a miracle. And that miracle is your brother.” This isn’t pointless. What was I thinking? This is important. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done. Get up, Daphne! Stop feeling sorry for yourself! Stop being pathetic! Get up, and be better! Be like Ron! She mustered all of her strength, rising to her feet and patting her cheeks to get some colour back in them. “Who Ron was doesn’t matter, anymore, but who he is now does. Do with that what you will.” Anvilk needs me! This Tribe needs me! And I’m not going to ignore them!

Saturday 26th June, 1994 (Hafren Forest – Evening)

She’d thrown herself into her work with more determination than ever, helping out wherever she could, as well as absorbing every bit of knowledge Director Reid was kind enough to share with her. All her doubts, all her anxieties, had been pushed into the far recesses of her mind, because the only thing that matter right now was her duty. Her father had condemned these people to death, her mother had thrown gold at them and then forgotten about them, but Daphne was going to be better than them. She had to be, for the sake of the Greengrass family’s honour. My sister’s honour. My honour. It’s up to me, now, and I won’t fail.

“Is there anything else I can help with, Director Reid?” Daphne asked, eager despite her empty stomach.

“No, my dear, it’s time for you to tend to yourself,” the Vampire smiled fondly. “Rest. Have something to eat and drink. London should be checking the parameter-”

“We have a f*cking problem!” the witch in question burst into the tent, her eyes locking onto Director Reid’s. “Jonathan, take the princess to the edge of the camp! Go, now! The others are waiting for you two! GO!

Alarmed, Daphne stepped forward. “What’s going on? You’re in a right state-”

“Do as I say!” London hissed, before turning on her heel and rushing out.

Daphne looked to the Director, but before she could even open her mouth to speak, he took her by the hand and dragged her out. “This way! Quickly!”

“What’s happening?! I don’t understand!” Daphne protested, going wide-eyed as soon as they stepped foot outside.

There was an uproar amongst the Centaurs, they had encircled Chief Zotair’s yurt and were howling like lunatics. What’s going on?! What’s wrong?! The Vampire yanked at her hand, pulling her along in the opposite direction. OW! He’s going to tear my arm off!

“What is this?! What are they doing?!” Daphne shouted over the howls, watching helplessly as Ron’s mercenaries rushed past them with their wands drawn. “Director Reid?! Answer me, please!”

“Those are battle cries,” the man obliged, shocking her. Battle cries? Are we under attack? “Our time here is at an end, it seems. We’ve overstayed our welcome.” No! They’ll all die without our help!

“What about Chief Zotair?!” Daphne cried, looking back. “We have to help him!”

“He’s about to get strung up, child! Do you want to join him?!” Director Reid snapped, shooting a dark look back at her, looking downright unrecognisable. “Come! You must leave this place! Before it’s too late!”

Daphne tried to pull her hand free, but the Vampire was simply too powerful, and before long, he had ‘escorted’ her to the far end of the camp, where Ron’s siblings, Astoria, and a middle-aged mercenary were waiting for her.

“Daphne!” Tori ran over, wrapping herself around her big sister. “I’m scared!” Me too! Everything was fine just a few minutes ago! What the f*ck happened?!

“Why are the Centaurs screaming like that?!” Ginny demanded, clinging to Kirsten’s arm. “It’s dreadful!”

“They’ve gone barmy, that’s why!” George yelled, covering his ears.

“All of you join hands, now!” the mercenary ordered. “Quickly now, for f*ck’s sake! Hurry!”

Charlie rushed forward, grabbing the Greengrass sisters and carrying them to the group. “Bill! Take Astoria’s hand! Fred, give me yours! Now!”

Within seconds, they were standing in a circle, all their hands joined together. Wait! Where’s the Director?! He’s not coming with us?!

“Director Reid?!” Daphne called out to the Vampire, who was already rushing away towards the camp’s centre. “Where are you going?! Director?!”

“Is everyone here?” the mercenary asked, counting them. “Get ready, you lot! We’re getting the f*ck out of here!”

Ronald Weasley’s POV

Saturday 26th June, 1994 (Squib Orphanage – Late Evening)

As Priscilla shared the details of her time in Knockturn Alley with Percy, Ron took the time to study the Squib children from the head of the table. They were all incredibly loud, shouting over one another and laughing like drunkards at the Leaky Cauldron, and even though he didn’t enjoy noisy environments, he made an exception for them. Seeing them happy, and healthy, brought a peaceful smile to his face, contentment coursing through his veins. I could sit here and watch them all day, the rascals. Packy, Tacky, and Racky have done wonders for them, truly. Just look at them… One big happy family. Their futures full of possibilities, again.

He closed his eyes and pictured the Star-Horse, life was such a magnificent thing, wasn’t it? And to think that this world is just a speck in the Universe. So much life. So many wonders. I can’t believe I was ready to throw it all away just a few months ago. I’ve spent too much time in the darkness. I need to step into the light more often. These past couple of weeks have been… therapeutic. I really needed a break, didn’t I?

“Are you okay?” Tammy asked, she was one of the youngest girls in the orphanage. “Are you sleepy? You can’t sleep here. We eat here.” You don’t say! I had no idea how dinner tables work!

“I’m not sleepy at all,” Ron beamed at her. “I like your hair. Nice and red, just like mine.”

Tammy grinned, shaking her twin-ponytails. “Priscilla says that red hair means you’re really brave!”

“Oh? Are you brave?”

“I am! I’m the bravest girl here! Yesterday, there was a toad on the porch, and I picked it up! Everyone else was scared! But I wasn’t!”

“Wow! That’s brilliant!” Ron chuckled, and Tammy turned her nose up smugly. “I’ve always been scared of toads myself, so you’re even braver than me.”

“They’re not scary, silly,” Tammy snorted. “They’re cute! They hop everywhere! I like hopping too! Tiberius says that hopping is ‘stupid’, but he’s a prick!” Woah!

“Tammy, language!” Priscilla turned her attention to the girl mid-conversation. “Tsk… Mind your manners, please! Especially in front of Ron!” Why? I don’t have any manners.

“Prick isn’t really a bad-” Ron started, but when Priscilla turned her glare in his direction, he decided to backtrack. “It’s the worst! Utterly shameful! Tammy, we don’t cuss, okay? It’s bad manners, and it’s very rude.” Flee! Flee the scene! “I’m going to go put my dishes in the sink. I’ll take yours too, Tammy.”

“Thank you, Ron,” the little girl smiled innocently, not having learned her lesson whatsoever. This one is going to be trouble, isn’t she? Nice! Must be the red hair!

Ron stacked their dishes atop each other, before carrying them to the sink. I should clean my own dish, at the very least. I pay the Elves to clean up after the Squibs, not me. He turned on the tap, soaking his dish in hot water as he hummed Pandora’s tune to himself. Percy is just asking question after question, isn’t he? When I brought Sirius and Daphne here, they left shaken and upset, but Percy’s trying to figure out why these children had to grow up in Knockturn Alley in the first place. I hope I’m not pushing him too hard, but if he is to join the Ministry, then I really want him to know what kind of government he is serving. More than that… I don’t want him to turn out like our father. He has to be better than that, otherwise I’ll have to put an end to his career.

“Do you have a minute?” came a familiar voice, and Ron looked to his left and spotted Tiberius lurking closer and closer. “Um… I just wanted to talk, if that’s all right with you?” How strange. I don’t hear any contempt in his voice, for once.

“About what, mate?” Ron asked. “Do you need something?” Still gelling your hair back, eh? Looks horrible.

“No, I um… I wanted to…” he trailed off, shooting a sudden look towards Priscilla. What is this? “…I didn’t know you were sick, okay?” Oh, f*ck no! Not this conversation! Quick! Hit him across the face with the plate! “I really thought that you were using us… Using her… Like everyone else… I was worried, and I was stupid, and-”

“You wanted to protect her,” Ron cut in, adorning a stern expression. “Don’t apologize for that, mate, not to me. I never held your anger against you. I couldn’t, given that I share it.”

“…You do?” Tiberius whispered, searching Ron’s eyes.

“I do… Which is why I know that, no matter what happens to me, you’ll always look out for everyone here. It’s why I’m leaving this place to Priscilla and you in my will.” And Daphne too, but he doesn’t need to hear that right now. The shorter boy just stared at him, completely lost for words. “You keep studying, you hear me? Become successful. Become powerful. Protect everyone you love.”

“…I will.”

“Then, we’re good,” Ron smiled, before returning to his work. That damn trial was certainly useful in making me seem like a victim, eh? Well, we play with the pieces we have, not the ones we want.

“…Thank you for everything you’re doing for us,” Tiberius said, sincere enough to warm even Ron’s cold heart. “I hope I can be like you, someday.” NO!

“Be better,” Ron blurted out, taking Tiberius by surprise. “I mean, be a better version of me, all right? You’ve got to aim higher, and all that.” Nice one, idiot.

Tiberius, however, nodded, seemingly motivated. “I will! I promise!”

“All right, then,” Ron said, giving an approving nod. “Is there anything else?”

“No, just that,” Tiberius replied. “Thanks for listening.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Tiberius left without another word, and Ron smiled to himself. He really does remind me of Percy. Pompous, sure, but his heart seems to be in the right place.

“What was that about?” Priscilla suddenly appeared by his side, her brow furrowed. “He wasn’t rude to you, again, was he?” Why is she so concerned about everyone being nice to me? Does she think I’ll take this place away from her? “Tell me the truth, Ron. He’s been very difficult lately.” He has?

“He apologized for being ‘rude’, actually,” Ron told her plainly. “What do you mean by ‘he’s been very difficult’? Is he fighting with you?”

Priscilla lost her strict demeanour, growing a little red in the face. “…No, not exactly… Sorry, I just assumed that he was-… Never mind…” Something’s happened, hasn’t it? Something she’s embarrassed about. Quick, make a joke to alleviate the tension!

“Did he confess his love for you?” Ron snigg*red, but when she turned into a blushing statue, he quickly lost his mirth. You’ve got to be sh*tting me. “…Oh… Well… That’s a bit awkward, init?” Is that why he was always so hostile towards me? Because he thought I was making a move on her? What the f*ck? My moves are only reserved for one girl, thanks, and if she ever found out that I was making moves on others, she’d break my f*cking legs. She really would.

“Come with me,” Priscilla muttered, leaving the dining room post-haste.

Ron let out a tired breath, leaving his plate in the sink and following after her. Along the way, he saw Percy animatedly talking to the Squib children, and they all looked like they’d been kissed by a Dementor. He’s drilling them for answers, isn’t he? Or, he’s lecturing them. Either way, they’d rather talk to a wall than him. I don’t blame them.

He entered the living room, noticing that the front door was ajar. “Priscilla?”

“I’m out here.” Right.

He stepped out into the sunset, closing the door behind himself. “He really went and confessed to you, did he?”

Priscilla’s form drooped, she was sitting on the steps leading onto the porch. “…I’m not sure…”

“Not sure? What did he say, exactly?” Ron asked, taking a seat beside her.

“Things have been… strange, lately,” she started, looking dead ahead. “…Ever since your trial, I’ve been… thinking about you… Talking about you… I can’t help it… What you did for us, Ron, it means everything to me.” What do I do if she starts confessing to me? Just be calm, okay? And be respectful. “…And, now, there’s this other boy… He started working at the apothecary shop a month ago, and we’ve been… flirting…” Oh, thank Merlin. “Life wasn’t this complicated in Knockturn Alley, to be honest.”

“Well, in Knockturn Alley, your only goal was to survive,” Ron reminded her.

“And everything was simple because of that…” she muttered pathetically. “…I let myself get defiled for coin, and life just went on…”

Ron drew in a sharp breath, shifting in his spot. “…Don’t say that.”

“But that was my life, though, until you showed up in your suit and shiny shoes,” she looked at him, her eyes trapping his. “I don’t miss those days, Ron, that’s not what I’m saying. I just… don’t know who I’m supposed to be in my new life. I feel more alone than ever, and Tiberius isn’t helping… He tried to kiss me a couple of weeks ago…” Forward little bastard, isn’t he? “He’s like my brother, Ron! Ugh… I threw myself away from him, and that really hurt his feelings… I feel so terrible, but what else was I supposed to do?” Ron just stared at her, feeling utterly lost for words. Talk, damnit! She’s clearly struggling here! Say something! “…I’m sorry… You’ve got your own share of problems… You don’t need to hear mine-”

“He’s thirteen, right?” Ron asked, gathering his wits.

“Fourteen, now.”

“Right… Look, I don’t know him that well, but, and this is just my opinion, he might be just as confused and scared as you are.”

“…What?”

“Life is a mess, Priscilla,” Ron turned his attention towards the setting sun. “It’s pure chaos, is what it is. f*cking horses exploding and expanding our Universe… It’s all f*cked up! None of it makes any sense!” She blinked at him, visibly perplexed. “He’s spent so long following you around, idolizing you, and now, he wants to protect you just as you protected him. Maybe, he confused the love you two share? Instead of it being a familial sort of love, the sort shared between siblings, he thought it was something else? Has he tried to kiss you, again?” When did I become a Mind-Healer, exactly? f*ck it… She needs help, and it’s obvious that she has no one to talk to. Why else would she unload on me?

“…No… Actually, he’s been very distant… He almost looks guilty whenever we run into each other… And whenever I talk about you, or Alfred-”

“Who?”

“The boy from the apothecary.”

“Ah.”

“…Tiberius just leaves the room…”

“Well, I won’t pretend like I know what’s going on inside his head, but I will say this… The life you had in Knockturn Alley, that was going to end with all of you dead. There was no other possibility, not with those Vampires running rampant. But, now, there’s possibilities all around, and that’s something you all need to come to terms with.”

“…How? I can’t exactly forget the past, Ron… Whenever Alfred and I are chatting, I can’t help but wonder what he might think of my life before the shop… What would he say if I told him that I was a whor*? That I was used daily by the most disgusting sort of men? That I’ve had to spend entire days in St. Mungo’s getting checked for diseases? And even more days getting rid of them just so I could start working at the shop?” Merlin’s Beard… “And Tiberius? He deserves better than someone like me… He’s still pure-”

“…What?” Ron cut in, feeling his temper spike. “I’m not going to act like I know you better than you know yourself, but you’re the sole reason why he even made it. All of them are here because of you, Priscilla, so stop talking about yourself as if you’re worthless. And as for this Alfred bloke… You’re going to have to make a choice, no matter how scared you are. That’s life, isn’t it? Making choices? If you’re just existing, like it’s a habit you can’t break, then you’re not really alive. Your past doesn’t have to determine your future. That’s up to you.”

Priscilla nodded weakly, still looking unconvinced. I’m not equipped to deal with issues like this. Fight an Old God? Sure, I’ll do that. Wage war against the Dark Lord? That’s my favourite hobby. Kill those who piss me off? I look forward to it. But sit here and talk about life with someone who’s been through hell since she was a little girl? I’m sorry, but I just don’t know what to say.

Ron drew in a long breath, rubbing his face harshly. Try, old boy. For her sake, just try. “You’ve endured a life that most people can’t even begin to imagine, including me. You’ve suffered humiliation, and loss, and loneliness, every step of the f*cking way. My heart breaks for you, Priscilla.”

“Ron-”

“And yet, despite all of it, you protected others from the wretched life that was forced upon you. Even with the world sh*tting down your throat, you chose to be kind. Not because it was easy, or convenient, or even to make yourself feel better… You are kind because you understand what cruelty is. In my eyes, that makes you a hero, Priscilla. A proper hero, the sort that inspires others.” Others like me, who can only mimic your strength and compassion.

The brunette averted her gaze, staring at her knees with a pained expression. “…I’m not a hero…”

“Yes, you absolutely are,” Ron put his arm around her shoulders, smiling earnestly. “The past is the past, understand? You didn’t survive it just to keel over now. You have to live, Priscilla, and living is not easy. It’s messy, complicated, and above all, it’s bloody terrifying… Trust me, I know that fear quite well, and I even surrendered to it not too long ago.”

“…What they said at your trial…” she croaked, sniffling.

“…Yeah…” Ron nodded, feeling ashamed of himself. “…Don’t be like me, please? Don’t give in just because you’re scared, not after everything you’ve been through. Live, instead. Find your happiness, take some risks, and realise that you aren’t just your past… You are also the choices you make going forward.”

She nodded more assuredly, wiping at her eyes. “…You’re right…”

“Everything will be okay,” he squeezed her shoulders. “Tiberius will figure out his path, they all will, so you have to do the same.”

“…I will.” Good. That makes me happy.

“Then, shall we go back inside?” Ron asked, letting go of her.

“In a bit,” she sniffled, again. “I don’t want them to see me upset.”

“Fair enough,” Ron looked ahead, smiling at the setting sun. So beautiful. I should buy one of those maps of our solar system, the same ones Blaise likes to study in his spare time. “…I’m on holidays right now, so I’ll be dropping by more often. Is that okay with you?”

“More than okay,” she shot him a feeble smile, clearing her throat. “…Thanks, Ron. What you said… I really needed to hear it…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Ron’s smile widened. “Though, fair warning, the next session will cost you five Galleons. It’s a fair price, I reck-” She shoved him playfully, making him snort. “…Fine, fine… I’ll make an exception for you.”

“I’ll pay you in bottles of co*ke.” Ohhh! “Deal?”

“Deal!”

One Hour Later

“This is where we part ways, Perce,” Ron said, the pair of them standing by the fireplace. “You go first, all right?”

“…I can’t convince you to come home, can I?” Percy sighed out.

“I am going home,” Ron said simply, shrugging. “Goodnight, brother.”

“Wait… Before I go, I just wanted to say that…” he paused, shooting a look towards Priscilla and the children. “…Today was an education, Ron. Thank you.” So formal! “…All those years of me going on and on about the Ministry, and father never once showed me the Ministry’s failings… He never even mentioned them… I just can’t believe that children are thrown into Knockturn Alley simply because they’re born as Squibs… That’s so… cold… And barbaric… And spiteful…”

“Our father is more concerned with his toys than he is with the state of the Wizarding World. Twenty years he’s served in the Ministry, and what has he really done for the Muggles? Passed a couple of legislations? While the Carrow twins were throwing murder orgies every year? You’re not going to turn out like him, Percy. You’re going to be better than him in every regard, and why? Because you won’t bury your head in the sand.” I won’t let you, believe me.

Percy nodded to himself, before giving Ron an awkward hug. “…I love you.” Right.

“I love you too,” Ron returned, mostly out of habit. “See you tomorrow, eh?”

“See you tomorrow.”

Percy promptly prepared the floo, vanishing through the green flames without delay. Finally. Spending an entire day with him was even more exhausting than I thought it would be. Now, I can go home and practice Umbra Cordis. Maybe, even go for a swim come midnight.

“Here you are!” Priscilla called, walking over with two bottles of co*ke.

“Yes!” Ron grinned, happily accepting the sugary drinks. “I’m going to drink them both, tonight.”

“Don’t do that,” Priscilla clicked her tongue, displeased. “These drinks are not good for your teeth, Ron. A couple of glasses at most, okay?”

“I understand,” Ron put on his most innocent smile. “Just a couple of glasses, I promise.”

Priscilla rolled her eyes, before smiling fondly. “Visit us soon, please.”

“I will,” Ron promised. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight. And, again… Thank you for what you-”

“It’s really no trouble,” Ron reassured her. “I know that Elves aren’t exactly easy to open up to, sometimes, so if you ever need to talk, you can talk to me.”

“Thanks,” she seemed rather relieved to hear that. “And you can talk to me too, of course!” You don’t want to hear about my problems, trust me. You’ll go as barmy as me.

“Cheers,” Ron said, heading over to the fireplace. I wonder how Daphne got on today. She’s probably at the Burrow by now, exhausted and sore all over.

With the fire ready, Ron hugged the co*ke bottles to his chest and marched forward, entering the mess hall of Prosperity Farm. That name… I really ought to ask Lord Fawley to change it. Lady Fawley will help me, I’m sure, she doesn’t like-…

“Boss! You’re here!” London rushed over, spooking him. “There’s been-!”

“Merlin’s Beard, London… Were you waiting to ambush me, or something?” Ron frowned, why did she have to yell? “What is it? Wait…” Panic shot through him like a viper’s venom, turning his blood cold. “Is it Daphne?! Is she hurt?! What happened?!” If something happened to her on your watch, I’ll tear your f*cking legs off!

“The princess is safe,” London told him, much to his relief. “Your siblings too, don’t worry. I got them all out of there when the sh*tstorm started.”

“What sh*tstorm?” Ron demanded, putting down the bottles.

“Long story short, the Centaurs had themselves an uprising,” London started. A f*cking what? “We’re still collecting information, but it sounds like one of the Centaur kids choked on their own vomit… They didn’t make it.” Bloody hell… “The parents didn’t take it well, and they started hollering for blood. Wizard blood-”

“…My blood, you mean…”

London gave a reluctant nod. Of course. They want me to f*ck off, they’ve made that clear from the start. “They riled up those who are just as angry as they are, and everything just went to sh*t within minutes. They trapped Zotair in his yurt, demanding that he turn himself over so they could trample him to death-”

“You stopped them?” Ron cut in.

“Just barely, but yeah.”

“…Thank Merlin for that,” Ron sighed out. “We need him.”

“We had to use force, boss, there was no other option.”

“You didn’t kill any of them, did you?”

“…No, but they did get hurt, and in their condition…” she trailed off. “They didn’t leave us any choice.”

“Get the bleeding Portkey,” Ron grit out. “I need to go speak with Zotair.” He can’t control his own people? Useless f*cking c*nt!

He marched through the upturned camp, soaking wet from the heavy rainfall. Look at this place! Who the f*ck is going to pay for all this damage?! Me, obviously! Unbelievable!

“Where the f*ck is everyone?!” Ron barked at London, who was struggling to keep up.

“We rounded them up near Zotair’s-”

“Rounded them up?” Ron stopped, turning on his heel. “All of them? Even the ones who had nothing to do with the riot?”

“I… figured you wouldn’t want to take the risk-”

“These people already hate us! And you drag them out of their homes and hold them prisoner?! In this f*cking weather?! Are you a f*cking moron?! Answer me!” London stammered, her words failing her. “After this, I’m going to f*cking drown you! Do you understand me?!”

Resuming his march, he hurried to the centre of the camp, where he found all the Centaurs kneeling, and shivering, in the rain, his mercenaries menacingly standing guard with their wands brandished. f*ck me! What the f*ck is this?! They’re freezing to death out here!

“OI!” Ron roared, catching everyone’s attention. “Can’t you see that they’re cold?! Undo these f*cking binds! Set them free! And get some f*cking blankets!” He couldn’t tell who was more surprised, the mercenaries or the Centaurs. “If I have to repeat myself, I’ll kill everyone here! The Star of Madness itself will mourn for you lot when I’m done with you!”

“You heard him!” London added, rushing into action. “Irving! Undo your binds! Sarah, help me over here! Get to work, all of you!”

While the mercenaries shot into action, Ron decided to address the Centaurs directly. “What happened here today was your fault, just as much as it was ours! I’m trying to help you! I had nothing to do with what happened to your people, so I won’t tolerate any more of this childish sh*t! You throw another tantrum like this, and I’ll take my people and leave you all to die! Even the ones Reid has worked so hard to save! Go to the homes my people have fixed up, warm yourselves up with the firewood I’ve purchased, eat the food that I’m providing, and shut the f*ck up!” Ungrateful f*cks!

He then stormed into Zotair’s yurt, spotting the Chief of the Tribe lying on his side in the corner, wheezing for air. Reid was applying bandages to the Centaur’s lower ribs, his entire body was covered in cuts, torn scabs, and large welts. f*cking hell… They really did a number on him, didn’t they? Their own bloody leader? Do they blame him for Greengrass’ crimes? Or, do they just hate wizards so much that they can’t stand being helped by one?

“What are you doing?” Ron walked over to Reid, sneering down at the man. “Why are you applying poultices on him? Use your Magic and fix him up.”

“I offered Healing Magic, but he refused,” Reid answered, concentrating on his work. “It’s not their way.”

“I don’t care,” Ron hissed. “He dies, and everything we’ve done here goes to sh*t. Fix him right now.”

“I don’t take orders from you, boy,” Reid frowned up at him. “I honour my patients’-” Cutis Terra!

The Champion grabbed the Director by his nape, squeezing hard enough to force Reid’s tongue out past his lips. “You do take orders from Us, you f*cking leech! Fix! Him! Now!” He shoved Reid forward, nearly snapping the Vampire’s neck in the process. “And get that damn mask off his face! He can’t breathe!”

“…No…” Zotair groaned, his voice barely audible. “…My mask… must not be removed… I took a vow…”

“A vow? Really?” Ron’s lips curled in disgust. “You think I give a sh*t about your vow? I need you alive for a little while longer, so f*ck your vow.”

“…Use your Magic, if you must… but the mask must remain…” Zotair managed, before his form went completely limp. Oh, f*ck! You can’t be serious!

“Did he just f*cking die?!” Ron looked to Reid, who was already checking for a heartbeat. “Don’t tell me that he’s dead!”

“…No… He is still alive…” Reid coughed out, his left hand massaging his aching neck. “…I can bring him back, but I must focus…”

Ron gnashed his teeth, taking a few steps back. “He has to live, Reid, until I can find a place for those who can still be saved.”

Two Hours Later

“I’m sorry,” Ron apologized, still pacing. “I shouldn’t have… manhandled you like that. You were just being a good Healer. I was pissed, and-… No… That’s no excuse… I’m sorry. It will never happen, again.”

Reid looked towards him, barely hiding his ire. “…What are you, exactly? You’re not human, of that I’m now certain.” This again? f*ck me…

“Care to inform him?” Ravenclaw Ron snigg*red. “You nearly ripped his bloody head off, after all.” Shut up. I don’t need your colourful commentary, tonight.

“…Not human?” London muttered, looking between the two. …Here we go.

“You’re working for a demon, London,” Reid said icily. And there it is. “Or, something very close to it.”

“Ron?”

“…I’m no demon,” Ron responded in a deadpan voice. “I shouldn’t have put my hands on you, but don’t push me, Vampire. Just accept my apology, and move on.” Before I insert you head-first into your girlfriend.

Reid clenched his jaw, not satisfied. “I’ve walked this Earth for over one hundred and fifty years, and in all that time, I’ve only ever feared one man, until I smelled you.” One man? Who? “Whatever he is, London, he’s not human.”

London fixed her gaze on Ron, fear lurking behind her eyes once again. “…Does this have something to do with the other night?”

“…Yes,” Ron replied, relieved that she was still loyal enough to protect his secrets. “Why the f*ck did you persecute the innocent? Why did you do that? Only a couple dozen of them were guilty! But you decided to punish all of them? What the f*ck, London? You put children out into the freezing cold? Made them kneel at the end of a wand? How could you? They’ll never forgive us for that.” Artyom would have controlled the situation far better. I shouldn’t have sent him to go searching for those extra mercenaries. He understands me, and I needed him by my side, tonight.

“I was protecting your interests,” London argued stubbornly. Horsesh*t! You were abusing the authority I bestowed upon you! And don’t talk back to me!

“No, you were doing what you do best,” Reid cut in, shaking his head in disappointment. “You’ve served the Purebloods for too long, become too reliant on intimidation and-”

“Oh, so you’re on his side all of a sudden?”

“No, but I warned you against taking them prisoner, and you still went ahead with it,” Reid scolded, his voice was eerily calm despite his anger. “You’ve become their weapon-”

“We’re not doing this now, Jon,” London growled, narrowing her eyes. “Not in this f*cking tent, and certainly not in front of my employer.”

“Oh, I sense something juicy,” Ravenclaw Ron laughed maniacally. “Push their buttons, will you? I want to see Reid tear this uppity bitch apart! I’m sick of her strutting about like she’s so special!” How about you f*ck off if you’re not going to be helpful? How’s that?

Ron drew in a sharp breath, taking a hold of his hair and pulling at it with enough force to cause himself considerable pain. “…Enough. I want silence, now. Reid, I’m sorry for my mistreatment of you. And, London, don’t you ever presume that I will command you to hurt innocent people for my ‘interests’, again. I will never ask that of you, do you understand? Don’t answer that… Just stay quiet.” And you! You ghostly, psychotic f*ck! Sod off! If you’re not going to be helpful, be somewhere else!

One Hour Later

Zotair stirred from his slumber, and Reid leaped into action. “Chief Zotair? Thank the Gods… You’re still with us!” Merlin’s Beard, he actually saved the bastard! Reid has certainly earned his title!

Zotair didn’t respond, his hands shakily checking to see if his iron mask was still in place. “…Healer Reid… Thank you…”

Ron rose up to his feet, turning his back to the fire. “Welcome back to the land of the living. You gave us quite the scare there.”

“…My people?” Zotair mumbled, not moving a muscle. “What has become of them?” They almost sent him to the next life, and he’s still concerned with their fate? …Admirable…

“They are in their homes, warm and safe,” Ron replied, making his way over. “I’ve pardoned them, even those who attacked you. I hope I didn’t overstep with my decision.”

Zotair let out a relieved sigh, his entire form going lax. “…They were afraid, that is all.” I know. They’re terrified, and alone, and in so much pain. “Thank you, Phantom.” That name, again… I wonder how many of them have looked to the stars to see my future, only to see nothing at all. That alone must scare them witless. This entire mess… I cannot ignore my own part in it. I’m a freak, especially to these people. They cannot understand my very existence, and the unknown always breeds fear and hatred. “Fire-Hair… Come to me… I must warn you…”

“Warn me?” Ron kneeled before the enfeebled chief. “Of what?”

“…Khandra… Son of Anvilk and Lazras…” Zotair grit out. “…I saw him flee from the camp when I was dragged out… His mother has poisoned his heart… You must find him…” There’s a child missing?!

“Reid!” Ron looked to the Healer, who had already jumped to his feet.

“London keeps a count of everyone here!” Reid rushed towards the exit. “She’ll know if one has gone missing!”

“…Not missing,” Zotair wheezed to Ron. “He has been taught hatred all his life… Hatred for Wizarding-Kind… Argenope… He will find her…” Argenope?! The Centaur who usurped Chief Oreron?

“I don’t understand,” Ron shuffled closer. “She could be anywhere, right? Aren’t Centaurs nomads? Most of them, at least?”

“Nomads… don’t wander without direction…” Zotair moaned pathetically. “Summer is almost upon us… Argenope must already be leading her people towards this forest, for shelter and for hunting…” Is that why this Tribe is here? Deep in this cold, wretched forest? She abandoned them nearby years ago? “…If she learns that we’ve allowed wizards to become our allies, our saviours, she will march against my people… And she will purge us…”

Zotair coughed violently, going still once again. What a f*cking disaster this is turning into. If she comes here, there’ll be a battle. There’s no way I’m letting her massacre these people.

“f*ck!” Ron hissed, shooting up to his feet. Should I get the Ministry involved? Before this situation escalates out of my control? No… No, bringing them here would doom these people. They hate my guts, so I can’t even imagine what they must feel for the Ministry. If I warn Bones, she’ll be forced to intervene, which will result in this Tribe choosing death over further shame. Even those who can still be saved will perish. Fate give me strength… Involving the Ministry will end with everyone dead, and not involving the Ministry will end in a battle, which will end with me in Azkaban.

Ron rubbed his eyes harshly, his head hanging low. I’m so f*cked.

“Boss, the Chief was right,” came London’s voice, and he turned to face her slowly. “This Khandra lad is indeed missing.”

“Where are his parents? Take me to their yurt.” Did they send him on this mission? Zotair mentioned something about the boy’s mother poisoning his heart.

London led the way outside, and Ron followed in silence, ignoring the persistent downpour as his mind struggled to form a strategy. The only way to stop bloodshed is to heed Zotair’s words. Khandra must be stopped. He has to be found before he can reach her.

“Gather a search party,” Ron ordered. “We’re going to find this little sh*t before he f*cks everything up.”

“…Boss, he’s one of the ones that Jonathan managed to heal,” London started, shooting a doubtful look back. “Not only is he faster than us, but he’s also had hours to get lost out there. He knows this forest better than any of us, his father is the greatest hunter here. And with this rain and darkness covering his tracks… I’m sorry, but I doubt we’ll find him. There’s just too much ground to cover, and-”

“I get it,” Ron clicked his tongue. “You had them all bound together, and you didn’t notice that one of them was missing?”

“…I should’ve counted them… I’m sorry…” Shove your apology up your arse! It does me no good! “His parents are in here. They might tell us which path he’s taking.” I doubt they will, but I’ll try nonetheless.

Ron sped up, moving ahead of London and barging into the yurt. Anvilk and Lazras were resting in the centre of their home, huddled close to a flickering fire. Upon seeing him, they grew tense and resentful, glaring daggers at him.

“…Leave my home, boy,” Anvilk warned from his side, pain lacing his harsh voice. “I have had my fill of wizards, today.”

“Where is your son?” Ron demanded, keeping his voice calm but strong.

Anvilk looked back to the fire, ignoring the question, but his wife continued eyeballing Ron. This bitch… This is her doing.

“He could die out there,” London tried. “In this weather, he’ll freeze-”

“My son knows how to shield himself from the cold,” Lazras interrupted, smirking in a twisted manner. “He is more cunning than the fox, more agile than the serpent, and you… You’ve made him strong, again.”

“And this is how you repay me?” Ron asked, stepping forward. “I save your son’s life, and you send him to Argenope so she can come here and take my head? Zotair’s head? Is that it?” f*ck you. All you’ve really done is sign your own people’s death-warrants. “Why do this? Surely, you must understand that she will kill him, right? He was saved by the grace of a wizard-”

“No, she will kill us, and you, but not him,” Lazras spat out. “She will see the honour in his brave act, and she will see that he is healthy… She will make him a hunter, just like his father.”

“And what of the other healthy ones?” Ron asked promptly. “Will she spare them too?”

“I don’t care about them,” Lazras sneered, spitting in his direction. “They were meant to die-”

“As was your son,” Ron grit out. Selfish loon! “Tell me which path he’s taking. I swear, no harm will come to him-”

“We will not betray our son’s only chance at survival to you, wizard. You can torture us, use your foul Magic-”

“Torture you? Is that what you think I came here to do? To make you suffer even more than you already have? No… You have misjudged me, woman. I swore to protect this Tribe, to save those who could still be saved. I will not torture either of you, even if I think you’re f*cking idiots.” Hateful, vile, stupid c*nts, the pair of you.

“We can still use Legilimency,” London whispered in his ear. They will resist, which will only put a greater strain on their bodies.

“You find me someone here who can use Legilimency without harming them, and I’ll allow it,” Ron whispered back. “No? That’s what I figured.”

“I’ll bring Jonathan. He might have the skill required.”

“Chief Argenope will cleanse the rot festering within these woods, as she should’ve done years ago,” Lazras hissed at the fire, trembling with anticipation. “She will set us free from our torment, from Zotair’s foolishness-”

“Zotair protected you, kept you all together,” Ron reminded her, before looking to Anvilk. “Have you nothing to say? Or, are you just as mad as she is?”

“…He robbed us of our vengeance,” Anvilk broke his silence, clutching at his bandaged leg. “He spared the monster who murdered our kin, our children, and for what? He had no right… And, if that wasn’t enough, as if he hadn’t already bathed himself in shame, he turned to you for aid. An ape. A two-legged abomination. He is no Chief of mine, not anymore. He has dishonoured us all.”

“This ape’s aid saved your son, which was only possible because Zotair saw the wisdom in not letting hatred cloud his judgement.” Damn, I can’t believe I’m defending him. The fact that he spared Greengrass still stings me to this day.

Ron studied the pair before him, and, in their eyes, he saw the very same hatred that lived within his own heart. An insatiable abyss that constantly demanded to be fed, even at the cost of what little remained of his soul. …I saw Zotair as weak too, just like these two, but he wasn’t weak, was he? He battled his hatred and won, something that I constantly endeavour to do, but fail in accomplishing more often than not. Realizing that these two could not be reasoned with, Ron turned on his heel and departed the yurt. I have to figure out a plan that doesn’t end with more death. Perhaps, Argenope herself is who I should speak to? How, though? I doubt she’ll allow me to set foot in her camp. I doubt she’ll even grant me an audience, given what wizards have put her people through. She might even see me as weak for trying to negotiate peace, which will only embolden her to attack.

As Ron mulled over his limited options, he was approached by London and Reid.

“I tried to pick up his scent, but failed,” Reid reported, frustrated. “He must’ve covered himself in mud, flowers, or-”

Ron raised his hand, stopping the man. “…Can you use Legilimency on those two without hurting them?”

“I can try, but I’ve never delved into that particular art,” Reid replied. “Too invasive, it goes against everything I believe in.” Brilliant. “And, in their condition, especially Anvilk’s, I don’t recommend it. I cannot stress how weak they both are. They only have a few weeks left in them.”

“If they’re that close to death’s door…” London started, trailing off when Ron frowned at her.

“Just because they’ve got little time left doesn’t mean that they’re expendable,” Ron said sternly. “If one life holds no value, then none of them do. They are who they are because of the suffering inflicted upon them by our people. We have a responsibility to do better by them.” Is that really so hard to understand? London nodded resignedly, whereas Reid appeared to be pleasantly surprised. “I need to go home. There are books in my cottage about Centaurs, about their culture and history, I saw them. I’m going to go through them to see if I can’t find a solution.” Argenope, and her people, will be more receptive to me if I respect their traditions.

“I have texts of my own that might help you,” Reid told him. “Old books scattered about my house. I’ll bring them to you. We’ll go through them together.” Marty should be at the cottage by now. I’ll ask him to help me, as well.

“Boss, it’s getting late… You’ve been up since dawn, and you’ve already taken one Portkey to get here,” London pointed out. “Taking another could send you packing to St. Mungo’s, again.” …I know that. “Why not spend the night in the camp?”

“Do you honestly think I’ll get any rest here?” Ron asked in response. “Set up a larger perimeter, you lot are staying here to keep an eye on things. Oh, and place Alarm Wards throughout the forest. If Argenope does decide to ‘cleanse’ these people, I want to know where she’ll be coming from. She cannot reach this camp. I won’t allow it.”

“Chief Zotair will also need to be guarded,” Reid added.

“That too. Get to it, London, and for the sake of your knees, don’t f*ck things up any further. I know we’ve been getting along really well, lately, but that won’t stop me from punishing your failures. Understand?”

Sunday 27th June, 1994 (Ron’s Cottage – Dead of Night)

“This is it,” Reid placed his book atop Ron’s, his finger tapping a singular word. “This is how we stop Chief Argenope and her people.”

“…Bar… kashtra…” Ron read the word slowly, raising an eyebrow. “Barkashtra. Did I say that right?”

“Close enough.”

“What is it?” Ron asked, even Marty was now interested.

“Single combat, essentially,” Reid started, picking up the book and reading from it. “In times of war, one Chief may invoke the Barkashtra, which is the sacred act of challenging the opposing Chief to a Duel-”

“A Duel? I’ve never heard of Centaurs believing in Duels.” That’s a Wizarding thing, init?

“A witch wrote this book, Ronald, think nothing of it. The Barkashtra is an ancient method of resolving conflict between warring Tribes that limits the bloodshed. The Chief who claims victory is offered spoils of war by the loser, such as slaves, meat, furs, strong children, and so on, whereas the defeated Chief is either killed, or banished to live alone until called to the Eternal Woods.” Centaurs truly are a harsh people, aren’t they? Firenze was right. They live hard lives, and they have no room for sentimentality. “Ah, there it is! Chiefs can choose to name a champion to represent them, and their Tribe, in the Barkashtra!” Oh, I see where he’s going with this! “This is what we need to do, Ronald. We must convince Chief Zotair to issue a challenge to Chief Argenope before any fighting breaks out.” Ooooh!

Ron grinned, the gears in his head turning with renewed fervour. “Reid, you’re a genius! The Ministry won’t be able to act against us because consensual Duels are very much legal! We could avoid a battle, and keep the Department of Magical Law Enforcement off our backs, in one fell swoop!”

“Does Chief Argenope have the right to refuse such a challenge?” Marty piped up. …Right… There is that… “Would that not ruin this plan?”

“She does have that right, sadly, but exercising it would be seen as shameful, given Chief Zotair’s poor health,” Reid explained. “Think about it… What would her people say if they saw her cower before a sickly, dying Centaur? If she defeats Chief Zotair, then her people don’t have to fight. But if she refuses the Barkashtra, then she’ll be putting their lives in danger, and for what? To keep herself safe?”

“Plus, I don’t think she got to where she is by refusing Duels,” Ron added, nodding along. “From what I’ve been told, she’s a warrior of renown. She would never back down from a fight, especially against a weaker foe. Her pride won’t allow it.”

“Then, you agree that this is our only hope?” Reid asked.

“I do agree, and I will be Zotair’s champion,” Ron answered. It’s fitting, isn’t it? I don’t think I want to see anyone else wear my title in front of me.

“…What? Ronald, you are-”

“A child?” Ron cut in. “You and I both know that isn’t true, but guess who doesn’t? Argenope! I know you planned on volunteering, but with you as Zotair’s champion, she is more likely to refuse. A hundred and fifty year old Vampire… Her people will understand why she wouldn’t want to face you, because doing so would risk their lives too. It would be much wiser to overwhelm our smaller numbers than risk losing everything over a single brawl. But with me as Zotair’s champion? They’d laugh at her, and spit on her, if she refused to face me, a young boy of fourteen.” I doubt my reputation is known to a Tribe that has cut itself off from the Wizarding World. I can use that, and her Centaur pride, to my advantage.

“Do you believe you can defeat her?” Reid asked plainly.

“Master is powerful beyond words, Healer Reid,” Marty proclaimed, puffing out his bony chest. Aw! Cheers, mate!

“I will defeat her,” Ron promised, rising to his feet. “But I won’t kill her, nor will I banish her. By respecting their traditions, I will ask her to respect mine. For sparing her life, she will owe me a Life Debt, which I will use to give the Centaurs you saved a new home.” This is a golden opportunity, and I must seize it!

“You’ll make her take in the children?” Reid blinked.

“Firenze, a Centaur friend of mine, told me that ‘no Chief will weaken their Tribe for the children of another’… Well, these children come from Argenope’s Tribe, the Tribe she usurped… If anyone will accept them, it’s her.”

“You sound awfully certain of yourself,” Reid sighed out. “Why would she even entertain the idea of respecting your traditions?”

“Honour,” Ron shrugged with a smirk. “Those who have it are very, very easy to manipulate. A humbling defeat, a taste of mercy, a powerful speech… These are powerful tools, Reid, all of which I’ll put to use on her.”

“…Who are you?” Reid muttered, his lips twitching upwards. “And where did they find you?”

Ron stretched his back and groaned, before turning his head and cracking his neck. “Thank you for your help, you two. It would’ve taken me all night to scour through these books alone. We have a plan, now, and I’ll be putting it into action first thing in the morning.” Right now, I need to rest. I have to make sure that I stay fit for duty at all times.

“One of these days, you’re going to have to tell me your story,” Reid said, studying him keenly. “You’re just too peculiar to ignore, I’m afraid.” Peculiar? Oh, you haven’t got the faintest idea of how peculiar I am.

“One day, perhaps, but for now, f*ck off.”

Albus Dumbledore’s POV

Sunday 27th June, 1994 (The Headmaster’s Office – Morning)

Dear Albus,

The Horned-Serpents have hatched. They’ve imprinted on Tina, but not me. She’s very happy to play mother, again. We will raise them with all our love.

Your friend,

Newton Scamander

P.S: Come for dinner. Tina asked me to ask you. Thank you.

Albus chuckled as he put the letter away, his old friend still struggled with putting his words to paper. And he won’t let Porpentina help him with his letters, either. Perhaps, I will take them up on their offer. It’s been too long since I reminisced with them.

The fireplace roared to life, surprising Albus. Who could that be? I had no meetings planned for today. Arthur Weasley stepped into the office, an anxious look on his face. Not the Weasley I was expecting. It’s usually Ronald who drops by most unexpectedly.

“Arthur,” Albus greeted pleasantly. “What brings you to me on this fine Sunday morning?”

“Um… You’re not busy, are you?” Arthur asked, loitering by the fireplace.

“I was just opening some letters,” Albus answered. “I get a lot of fan-mail, you see? I can hardly keep up!”

Arthur nodded dumbly, making his way over. “Do you have some time to talk? I-… I have a confession to make…” A confession? “May I sit?”

“By all means,” Albus gestured towards a seat, his eyes scanning the man. This has something to do with Ronald, doesn’t it? If so, then why is he so… scared? What has happened? “Well? Don’t keep me in suspense, Arthur!”

The younger man shifted in his seat, nervously licking his lips. “Um… I don’t know how to say this politely, exactly, so I’m just going to say it like it is… My son-… My youngest son… Ron… He’s done something very stupid… Something reprehensible…” Good lord, he’s killed someone else, hasn’t he? “He has stolen from Hogwarts… He’s stolen from you…” Stolen from me? He’s not referring to the junk Ronald pilfered, is he? From the Room of Hidden Things?

“What has he stolen, Arthur?” Albus asked, leaning forward. “Please, be precise.”

“Have you heard of the Room of Hidden Things?” Arthur asked, and Albus let out a relieved sigh, much to the man’s surprise. I thought the twins had pushed their luck once again, and this time, I wasn’t around to stop Ronald from feeding them their own fingers.

“I already know about that, Arthur,” Albus revealed, leaning back.

“You do?”

“The Hogwarts Elves are meticulous in their work, even when it comes to keeping track of unusable goods.” Marty helped him, from what I’ve gathered. Ronald’s extremely capable shadow.

“Then… Why haven’t you said anything?” Arthur looked dumbfounded. “Why haven’t you asked him to return what he’s stolen?!”

“Because Hogwarts has no use for it, but Ronald does. The things he took, they were older than even myself. Covered in cobwebs and grime. They were thrown away for a reason, but Ronald gave them purpose, again.”

“Purpose? Cobwebs and grime? He stole from this school!”

“His methods are unorthodox, but the results speak for themselves.”

Arthur looked as though he’d been kicked by a Hippogriff, sinking back into his seat. “…You can’t be serious…”

“I wish that he had come to me and asked for it, but he chose a different path,” Albus stated calmly. “However, regardless of how he went about it, I know that his intentions are good. He is doing what he always does… He is helping people less fortunate than himself.”

“With stolen goods!” Arthur argued, gripping the handles of the seat hard enough to turn his knuckles white. “I cannot believe this, Dumbledore! You knew that my son turned to burglary, and you didn’t even slap him on the wrist?! What sort of Headmaster are you, exactly?!”

“The kind who’s learned better than to hover over my students’ shoulders,” Albus replied instantly. “Such a style of teaching, or parenting, doesn’t always yield the results we want, wouldn’t you agree?” Your constant meddling in Ronald’s affairs, without ever acknowledging his growth, does nothing but push him away from you. “I will remind you that your other sons are just as wilful and reckless as your youngest. Charlie regularly brought alcohol, and other contraband, into the school, and sold it at a steep price to fill his own pockets. The twins would be in Azkaban if the Ministry ever found out that they test their unregulated products on the first years.” Arthur shrunk; he’d never been addressed so bluntly by the older wizard. “You raised seven children, yes? Now imagine raising hundreds. Ronald isn’t even the first to raid the Room of Hidden Things, he’s just the most ambitious.”

Arthur rubbed his face, aging a decade. “…I didn’t raise a thief, Dumbledore.”

“No, you raised an extraordinary, but flawed, young man. You should be proud of him, rather than ashamed.”

“I’m not-” Arthur started, but Albus saw right through him. Do not lie to me. “…You won’t press charges against him?” I don’t want another broken nose, or worse.

“No, I will not, and neither will anyone else. Not even the Board of Governors. We all, frankly, have more important matters to attend to. Now, was that all? I really must get back to answering my mail.” Arthur stood up in a daze, shuffling over to the fireplace. “He might not be the son you want, but he is the son you have. Searching for reasons to turn yourself against him does nothing but harm you both.” And it is foolish to corner a viper, especially one as venomous as Ronald.

Ronald Weasley’s POV

Sunday 27th June, 1994 (Prosperity Farm – Early Afternoon)

“Reid will pull it off?” Ron asked, massaging his sore eyes.

“The Chief respects Jonathan, boss,” London replied reassuringly. “It’ll work.” I was supposed to bring the plan to Zotair, but I barely got any sleep. f*cking nightmares. I need to figure out a way to get rid of them. “Are you sure you want to go alone? I can come with you.”

“No, you’re needed at the camp,” Ron shook his head. “Plus, I’m attending a lunch, not a battle. Bringing you along will only agitate my parents.” I don’t need to hear mum’s bellyaching, today.

“Don’t let your dad push you around, all right?” London offered him a sympathetic smile. “And take a nap, if you can.” Trying to get back into my good books, are you?

“Don’t let your guard down,” Ron bid her farewell, turning to face the fireplace. Right, let’s get this over and done with.

Ron prepared the floo, reluctantly stepping through and entering his childhood home. Cosy as ever. The living room was empty, as was the rest of the house judging by the lack of shouting and guffawing. They must be out in the yard, then. How many people are here, exactly? Let’s go find out, eh? Fixing his tie into place, Ron exited the Burrow from the front entrance, swiftly spotting the other attendees sitting around an enlarged table. Bloody hell, who isn’t here? Apart from the Weasleys and the Lovegoods, as well as Daphne and Astoria, his mother had invited Sirius, Remus, Harry, a skinny young man, and the Tonks family. That thin bloke… That’s Kurt Varga, isn’t it? Professor Snape told me he was part of Greyback’s pack before Emilia captured him, and now, he’s in the Order.

Drawing in a deep breath, Ron began making his way over. “Hello, everyone. Sorry that I’m late.” Ginny shot out of her seat, rushing over and hugging him tightly. Ugh… Get off me! I’m too tired to put up with your neediness! “Nice to see you too, little sister.”

“I was worried that you wouldn’t come,” Ginny pulled back, a relieved smile on her face. “I saved you a seat!” Of course, you did.

Ron put on a friendly smile, following Ginny towards the further end of the table, where all the children were sitting. Subtly, he made sure to get a good look at Daphne, just to make sure that she wasn’t harmed, or still shaken by yesterday’s events. She seems all right to me, though I’m sure she’s curious to know what happened after she was escorted away. Taking a seat between Ginny and Astoria, and across from Harry and Luna, Ron turned his attention towards his father, who was glaring at him from the other end of the table. Yep, he’s pissed. Genuinely pissed, I mean. If he wasn’t angry before, he must be livid now that I sent my siblings to the Centaur camp. It’s just my luck that those pricks started a riot on the one day-…

“You look awfully tired, Ron,” Luna observed, breaking him out of his thoughts. “More nightmares?” …Merlin help me… Of all the people to sit across from…

“…Yes,” Ron answered, noticing that other people were now also staring at him. You know what? I’ll just ignore them. I’ll eat some food, make up an excuse, and go back home in a couple of hours. I’m not wasting any more time than that.

“What sort of nightmares do you have?” Astoria asked curiously. Being forced to waste an afternoon on useless, boring people.

“Astoria,” Daphne whispered, giving her sister a warning look. “Don’t be so rude.”

“What? I had nightmares too last night,” Astoria confessed. “About what we all saw, you know?”

Again, Ron could feel the stares burning a hole through his head. …I’m a river… I’m a river… I’m… already regretting coming here…

One Dreadfully Boring Hour Later

“He’s the youngest Seeker in any National Quidditch Team!” Ginny harped on excitedly about some twat named ‘Victor Krum’, talking mostly to Harry but also holding Ron hostage. “And he’s coming to Magical Britain for the finals! Isn’t that so exciting?!”

“He mastered the Wronski Feint when he was just fourteen!” Harry added, matching Ginny’s enthusiasm. “I’d love to watch him play! Even the people supporting the other team end up supporting him by the end of the match!” Is this what death feels like? They’re shrinking my brain with each word. My only solace is that Luna hasn’t brought up the f*cking Nargles yet.

“He’s almost as famous as you, Ron!” Ginny grinned, trying to pull him into the conversation. I highly doubt that.

“Is he? How exciting,” Ron drawled, ignoring Ginny’s faltering expression. How long has it been, now? Can I f*ck off? Or, would that be rude? Do I even care? “I need to go to the loo. Pardon me.”

He stood up, fixing up his jacket before heading towards the house. I don’t actually need to use the loo, but if I have to talk about Quidditch for another minute, I’m going to lose it.

He managed to get halfway to the house before he heard rushing footsteps catching up to him. I’ll take a guess and say that it’s Daphne. She’s been taking every chance to stare at me.

“Ron, do you have a second?” Daphne asked, stepping between him and the Burrow. “Are you okay? You seem… agitated.”

“I’m tired and bored,” Ron confessed. “Honestly, I had more fun getting brain-raped by the Veela. Now… What can I do for you?”

“You already know the answer to that. What happened at the camp?”

“One of the children died, the parents couldn’t handle the grief, and that started a riot,” Ron listed as Daphne’s expression turned crestfallen.

“That’s awful.”

“Oh, and the rioters beat the piss out of Zotair, but don’t worry, Reid managed to save him,” Ron added quickly.

“They attacked Chief Zotair?! Why?! All he’s ever done is protect them!”

“A lot of them don’t see it that way,” Ron shrugged, yawning. f*ck me. I really do need a nap. “…I’m bloody spent, I am. I need some sleep, especially after all that food.” Mum made Shepard’s Pie just for me. That’s been the only good thing about this lunch so far. “You look lovely, by the way. Yellow suits you.”

Daphne smiled half-heartedly, straightening her sun-dress. “If you’re tired, you should go home and get some rest. You’re not obligated to stay longer than you want to.”

“I can leave before talking to my father, can I?” Ron asked, snorting. “Have you seen the looks he’s been giving me?”

“…Everyone’s seen them.”

“Self-righteous, fat oaf,” Ron sneered. “People who value their sight don’t eyeball me like that.” Bastard has no idea what I can do to him in just a few seconds.

Daphne went a little rigid because of his icy tone, forcing herself to maintain her smile. “…You made me a promise-”

“Yes, yes,” Ron waved a dismissive hand, yawning, again. “…I’ve been polite, haven’t I? I’ve smiled, I’ve answered people’s stupid questions, and I’ve even gone as far to put up with Ginny for an hour.” He shook his head to himself, blowing raspberries. “…I don’t fit in this scene, Daph. This place… These people… It’s just not me, not anymore.” I want to have Sunday Lunch with the Star-Horse! Now, that would be wicked, wouldn’t it?! I want to spend my spare time having adventures! I… want to be around people I actually enjoy spending time with, people who support me and my goals. People like the Headmaster, or Professor Snape, or Marty, or Emilia, or Artyom-…

“William is approaching us,” Daphne warned him, her eyes darting towards the man. “Be nice.”

Ron turned around with a practised smile, glad to see that Bill was alone. Maybe, I’m safe yet-…

“Dad wants to talk to you in his shed,” Bill passed on the message, looking quite bothered. Fingered by the Universe, again. “He’s really angry with you, Ron. Try to be respectful, okay? Keep your snark in check.”

“My snark is always in check,” Ron lied, before looking back to Daphne. “Can you do me a favour, please?”

“Sure, Ron, whatever you need,” Daphne agreed instantly.

He looked down at her pale, flawless calves, smirking. “Use those plump thighs of yours to crush my skull, please. I’d rather die right here than get stuck with dad in his creepy, Muggle shrine.”

Daphne’s mouth dropped open, a blush creeping onto her face. “…Ron… Your brother is right there…” Wait, that’s her issue with what I just said? She’s such a closeted pervert, I swear

“You want a show?” Ron asked Bill, who frowned deeply. “Don’t let her polite demeanour fool you, mate, she’s actually quite fit and an absolute freak-”

“Stop it. Just-… Stop being so difficult for once,” Bill bit out. “I spent all night telling dad about the Centaurs you’re helping, trying to stop him from escalating this fight into something worse, but if you keep acting-”

“Bill, I have a feeling that he’s already made up his mind about me,” Ron cut in. “This is what will happen, so pay attention. I’ll go in there, we’ll make a bit of awkward conversation, he’ll start lecturing me about this or that, and then, he’ll give me an ultimatum… ‘Be who I want you to be, or leave and never return’.”

Bill let out a tired sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose. “…You don’t know that, all right?”

“I do, though, because I know him.” He then looked to Daphne, shrugging. “I know you want me to play nice, but if I’m forced to choose between my work and this family, I’m choosing my work.” I will not abandon my duty, not even for those who share my blood. “If that bothers you, then… Well, too bad, really. I don’t need to put up with this constant bickering. It’s beneath me.” I’m the f*cking Champion of Fate, right? I literally alter destiny itself every time I take a sh*t. Probably. “Right… Time to go, eh? Wish me luck.”

Pocketing his hands, Ron made a beeline for the shed, eager to get this pointless conversation over with. The sooner I deal with dad, the sooner I can go home and sleep. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to travel across the stars, again. I’d love to see an extra-terrestrial lifeform! Not like the Star-Horse, I mean. Something made of flesh and blood, instead. What would they look like? What would their cities and towns look like? And, most importantly, how much would they sh*t themselves upon seeing me? To them, I’d be the extra-terrestrial! And that’s just awesome, it is!

He entered the shed and closed the door behind him, his father was waiting for him by the engine of the Ford Anglia. He passed a legislation to ban Magical Enchantments being cast on Muggle items, but keeps a flying car in his shed. I’m sure, however, that this doesn’t strike him as wrong, or even hypocritical, because he’s just ‘having a bit of fun’.

“It smells a little musty in here,” Ron broke the silence, his eyes darting towards the table covered in Muggle garbage. What a child, playing with toys even at his age.

“Some of the wood has rot and needs replacing, but I’ve been too busy to do it,” Arthur said, gesturing Ron over. Play along. No need to drag this out.

Ron walked over, stopping only a few feet away. “It would only take an hour at most to sort out the wood, wouldn’t it? Probably even less. Why not fix the problem? Why let it linger?” This is just like the Garden Gnomes. He’ll never get around to fixing it, because he’s just too damn lazy.

“I have more pressing problems to take care of,” Arthur replied in a stern tone, his flushed complexion told Ron that he’d had a few drinks over the last hour.

“I’m a problem, now, am I?” Ron asked, matching his father’s gaze.

“Your mother and I have worked so hard to teach you lot the difference between right and wrong,” Arthur started, leaning against the Anglia’s bonnet. “And your brothers and sister took to our teachings, but you-… You were never a difficult child, Ron… In fact, you were the easiest, but then you went to Hogwarts… You got sorted into that damn House, and now, you’re someone I can’t even recognize.” f*cking hell… This sh*t, again? “I’ve spent a long time wondering where I went wrong with you, but now I know that it’s not my fault. I raised seven children, and only one of them is a rebellious thug, so I’ve got to ask… What’s the difference between you and your siblings?” Burn the Slytherin! He’s a Death-Eater in waiting! Ugh… This is f*cking stupid, and yet, I’m forced to stand here and listen to this? Why? Because this man is my ‘father’? I don’t even like him, truth be told. Or, any of them, really, apart from Percy, but even he bores me to death. I mean, when was the last time I enjoyed interacting with any of them? Truly enjoyed it? I can’t remember-… “Are you listening to me? I’m speaking with you, Ronald.”

“No, you’re not speaking with me, you’re just insulting me,” Ron countered, walking over to the man’s Muggle toys. “What a mess this table is. You could, at the very least, keep it clean and organised-”

“Forget all of that!” Arthur snapped, and Ron drew in a calming breath. I am a river. I am calm and peaceful. “I can forgive a lot of things, but what I can’t forgive is you putting your brothers and sister in danger! First, you turn them into your accomplices, and then, you send them to some disease-ridden encampment?! Have you lost your mind entirely?!”

“I wanted them to see what the Wizarding World is really like-”

“NO! You have no right to rob my daughter of her innocence, damn you!” Arthur punched the bonnet, going completely red in the face. “How could you do that to her?! She was horrified! Molly spent the entire night consoling her and Astoria!” Is that so?

“Really? Because she spent an hour droning on and on about Quidditch just now, and not even once did she mention what she saw yesterday. None of them have brought it up, actually.”

“Because I asked them not to! A family gathering is no place to discuss such matters!”

“Ah… Better to sweep the uncomfortable truths under the rug, eh? Spoken like a true Ministry Official.”

“This is amazing,” came Ravenclaw Ron’s bitter voice, he was lurking in the corner with a childish grin. Of course, he’s here. “f*ck this prick… When my Ginny died, he wasted no time in absolving Dumbledore of his negligence. He’s a bootlicker, and that’s what he’ll always be!”

“Is that your problem with me?! That I work for the Ministry?!” Arthur demanded, raising his voice even higher. “I’m sorry, Ronald, but not all of us were born with your mind! With your talents! What else was I supposed to do?! Open up a shop?! With what money?! How else was I supposed to support my family?!”

“Support your family? You were going to send me to Hogwarts with someone else’s used-up wand… All the talent in the world wouldn’t have helped me if Pandora hadn’t done your job for you.” Arthur shot forward, looking ready to smack his youngest son in the face, but Ron’s disturbingly calm expression stopped him in the nick of time. “Go on, try it. It won’t be like the time mum hit me, back in second year, that much I can promise you right now.” I’ve been waiting for you to give me a reason, so go ahead. After I’m done beating you, I’ll go beat your whale of a wife. Deep down, I’ve always wanted to settle the score with her.

Arthur grit his teeth so hard that his face turned as white as snow, before he eventually stumbled backwards. “…I’m done with this, do you understand me?! I am done! Enough is enough! You will return what you have stolen, and you will come back and start being a part of this family! You will stop this madness of running around trying to solve all of the world’s problems! You will start putting your health first! You will act your age! You will-”

“Be like my siblings?” Ron finished for the man, his expression blank. “That’s what you said to me when I was at my lowest… When I just needed some love and understanding, some kindness and compassion.” Arthur flinched, breathing heavily. “Well, I’m not like them, and I don’t want to be like them. I am Ronald Weasley. If you can’t accept that, then I don’t want you in my life. What do you do for me besides constantly nag me? Every time I start finding some semblance of peace, of happiness, you lot show up and vomit your angst all over me. I’m tired of it. I don’t love you, not enough to put up with this sh*t.”

“…What?” Arthur muttered, having the gall to be surprised. I saw the Universe expand! And, now, I’m expected to stand here and be lectured by a worthless speck of dust like you? f*ck off.

“I don’t love you,” Ron confessed. “At first, I thought I simply didn’t respect you, but no… It’s deeper than that. The mere idea of spending an afternoon with you lot irritates me. You’re pathetic, all of you. Pathetic and small. None of you will make any significant change to this world, apart from Percy. You’re not worthy of my time, and more importantly, you’re not worthy of my love. I don’t want to keep diverting my focus by protecting you, anymore, not when so many others need me. Not when they actually appreciate me, respect me, whereas you just try to control me or tear me down.” He shrugged nonchalantly, feeling like a mountain had been lifted from his shoulders. “I’m done too, Arthur. I’m done with you.” Take your ultimatum, and go f*ck yourself with it. I don’t bow to anyone, least of all a Flobberworm like you.

Ravenclaw Ron laughed maniacally, his gleaming eyes fixed on Arthur’s thunderstruck expression. “Well done, you glorious bastard! Well done! We have a war to fight! Damsels to save! Death-Eaters to slay! And a Dark Lord to molest! f*ck this clown!”

“If you get in my way, I will destroy you,” Ron vowed, walking forward until he forced the other wizard into a corner. “I will spend every spare moment I can find to torment you, and believe me, no one can stop me. Nobody. I can do whatever the f*ck I want.” He then leaned in, whispering directly into Arthur’s ear. “You should be grateful that what I want is to help people, but if you take that away from me, you will see a side of me that very few have seen, and you don’t want that, because you won’t survive it.” He pulled back, shaking his head with a disappointed expression. “I have been working so hard to maintain control, to find reasons to be a better person, but you don’t care about that, do you? You’ll just push, and push, and push, until I inevitably lose my sh*t, after which you’ll convince yourself that I’m the problem, not you. Well, I won’t take part in that game, anymore. I’m just going to walk away.” This is just like the situation with the twins and Peeves, isn’t it? Well, I’m not going to disappoint the Headmaster a second time, nor myself.

With his decision made, Ron left Arthur behind and exited the shed, feeling indisputably relieved at the idea of never coming back to the Burrow, again. I have my own life, now, and I want to make the most of it. I have friends who love me for who I am, and I have comrades who’d give their lives for mine. What more can someone like me ask for? I have so much to be thankful for, and I want to focus on that from now on. I’m going to go home, and I’m going to give Marty a hug. Yeah… That sounds nice and comforting to me. I’ll go and do just that. And, then, I’m going to take a nap. When I wake up, I’ll have myself a hearty snack, and then I’ll train for a few hours. Hopefully, by the time I finish, Reid will have news for me regarding our plan.

As he made his way towards the house, he noticed that Sirius and Remus had left the table and were following after him. He ignored them, taking the chance to shoot Daphne an apologetic smile while he still could. Sorry, I can’t keep my promise to you. I will not surrender my mission to play the role of the youngest Weasley son. I’m so much more than that, now, and I can’t go back. I don’t want to. They will never accept who I am, because the choices I must make are unacceptable to people like them. Honestly, they’re better off without me, and I’m better off without them.

“Kid, slow down!” Sirius called out as Ron reached the house.

“Why don’t you speed up?” Ron shot a smirk back. Before I go, there’s one last thing I need to do.

He entered the living room, focusing his attention towards the ‘Weasley Clock’. Cutis Terra. With his enhanced strength, he gripped the golden hand dedicated to himself, and he pried it off. There’s your mortal peril. Pocketing the broken hand, he stared at the eight still attached to the clock. They’re going to be pissy with me, but I don’t care. I don’t deserve to put up with their sh*t. I have too many problems as it is. Right now, my focus has to be on the Centaur camp and Magical Russia.

“What happened in there?” came Remus’ voice, the pair had finally caught up with him. “We heard Arthur shouting.”

“You okay, pup?” Sirius added, worried. Pup? That’s not so endearing, anymore.

“He made an ultimatum, but it backfired,” Ron shrugged. “It’s for the best, I think. I don’t like coming here, and now, I never have to, again.”

“What?” Remus blinked.

“Hold on just a minute there…” Sirius stepped forward, placing his hand on Ron’s shoulder. “Emotions can run high in a family, but that’s no reason to piss off forever. Why don’t you both just take some time to-?”

“This is none of your business, Sirius,” Ron removed the man’s hand, eyeing him critically. “As far as I’m concerned, you can sod out of my life too. You’ve disappointed me too many times, and I’m tired of waiting for you to change. And you, Remus? After everything I’ve done for the Werewolf community, after I accepted you wholeheartedly, you’ve let others sway your opinion of me time and time again. You can sod off, as well.” He began preparing the floo, using his Occlumency to silence their voices. “Follow me at your own peril.”

He stepped through the fireplace, and was swiftly met by a pair of his mercenaries standing guard. “Afternoon, Sir. You’re back sooner than expected.”

“Afternoon,” Ron greeted the larger one. “If anyone follows me through here, send them back to wherever they’ve come from. You’re allowed to use force, if necessary, even on the women.”

The mercenaries exchanged looks, before nodding. “Understood.”

“Oh, but if it’s Daphne Greengrass, you can let her through,” Ron added quickly. “The rest, however…”

“We’ll send them packing.”

“Brilliant. As you were, then.” Now, where is Marty? I have a hug that’s got his name on it.

Three Hours Later

His final set of push-ups were starting to get the better of him, but with sheer force of will, he persisted and finished his daily regimen. That’s another fifty… f*ck me… Groaning, he dropped onto his chest, resting his face against the cool floorboard. Five sets of sit-ups, squats, mountain-climbers, lunges, tricep dips, bicycle crunches, calf raises, and lastly, push-ups… London is killing me. Even Madam Roberts didn’t give me such a brutal regimen. I need water… And a shower… But I can’t feel my f*cking legs… Help me, someone… I’m dying…

A knock at the door distracted him from his aching muscles, but Ron found that he didn’t quite have the strength to stand up just yet. “…Come in. It’s open.” Is it Reid? I hope so. I need his services right now.

The door opened, followed by a gasp. “Ron?!” Ah, Daphne… Was wondering when you’d be sent down here to do mum’s bidding… “Ron! Are you okay?!” She ran over and kneeled beside him, taking a hold of his bare shoulders. “Wait, you’re all wet…?”

“It’s sweat,” Ron groaned, and she immediately pulled her hands away.

“Ugh! Ew!”

“You love it.”

“Circe’s Breath, at least open a window when you exercise, will you?” Daphne shuffled over to the nearest one, unlatching it. “It smells like Satan’s armpit in here!”

“…It smells like power… Like manhood…”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Daphne said sarcastically. “Do you need help? Or, are you happy being on the floor?”

“The floor is nice and cool,” Ron grunted, unable to bring himself to care about the fact that he was wearing nothing but his boxers. “Don’t take this chance to be a creep, all right? I’m in pain here.” There was no response, and he knew exactly why. “…Fine… Enjoy yourself, but no comments…” I’ll get up in a bit. I just need to catch my breath. “Daphne? Are you still there?”

“Yeah, I’m here,” Daphne replied absentmindedly, and he used what little strength he still had to turn his head in her direction. Merlin! What the f*ck is that look?!

She was damn near salivating, ogling him like he was a piece of prized meat. “…Did you plan this, by any chance? I feel like you did.”

“Your mother sent me,” Daphne told him, clearing her throat.

“…I figured.”

“Ron, what happened with your father? He’s really upset… And your mother… She’s probably still shouting at him. Even Lord Black had a go at him. What happened?”

“I’ve decided to put some distance between myself and the Weasley family,” Ron answered casually. “The bickering never ceases with them, and I’m tired of it. I’m actually content for once, you know? I’m happy here, and I’m finally realizing how good my life really is. There’s so many people who care for me, like you, and I want to focus on them.”

“Your family cares for you, as well.”

“It’s different with them. They care, sure, but they’re under the assumption that they have a say in who I should be. No one has a say in that, Daphne, no one but me. Imagine if your mother and father returned tomorrow, and demanded that you come home and be the daughter they raised you to be. How would you feel?”

Daphne hesitated, averting her gaze. “…I’d be angry.”

“Well, I don’t want to be angry, not unless there’s a good reason for it,” Ron whispered, closing his eyes. “Now, please, can you go to my room and fetch me some trousers.”

“You’ll just get them sweaty-”

“Daphne.”

“…Fine,” she pouted, leaving with an indignant huff. Goddamn pervert. Still, I won’t deny that I like it. It makes me feel good. Really good.

After a few seconds, she returned with his running trousers. “Are these okay?” No shirt? Eh, that’s my own fault. Should’ve specified.

“Throw them on me,” Ron ordered, and she did as she was bid. “I’ll put these on in a second.”

“What about Ginev-? Ginny… What about Ginny, Ron? She doesn’t deserve to pay for your parents’ mistakes.”

“Why are you so eager to play the fixer?” Ron asked in response.

“I don’t want you to be sad,” she answered honestly. “Friends are supposed to help each other, right? You look out for me, so I want to look out for you.” Damn… She’s trying to tug at my heartstrings, and it’s working. “I’m not trying to guilt you, Ron, I just know that you have a propensity to be extreme.”

“Fair enough,” Ron said, rolling over onto his back. “…Ow…”

Daphne went wide-eyed for some reason, before she swiftly turned her gaze towards the door. Um… What? He peered down at his body, feeling his ears burn when he noticed that his boxers were sticking to him enough to show a clear outline of his prick. f*ck! Quick, put the trousers on! He wiggled in place like an eel, making himself halfway decent in record time. I’m so f*cking stupid! What the f*ck was I thinking rolling over?!

“Sorry about that-”

“I-It’s fine… These things h-happen…” she stammered, flushed. “Where’s Marty?” What? Marty?

“He’s um… I sent him to run an errand for me,” Ron muttered, staring up at the ceiling. I hope she doesn’t think I did that on purpose. I would never! It was an honest mistake! “…I’m really sorry-”

“It’s fine, honestly,” Daphne said more clearly, her lips curling upwards in a delighted manner. “Your overabundance of confidence makes sense, now.” What the f*ck?! PERVERT!

“Why would you say something like that?!” Ron shot up, making her snigg*r. “What’s wrong with you?! I’m putting on a shirt too!”

“What? No! It’s fine, really!”

“Oh, I know how fine it is for you! I’m doing this for my own comfort!”

“Ron!”

“Stay here, you f*cking animal!”

“Don’t be such a prude! Ron! Come back!”

One Shameful Shower Later

Ron tiptoed into the living room, fully clothed, spotting Daphne relaxing on the sofa and sipping some tea. I’m never working out in my boxers, again. This cottage is making me far too comfortable.

“Did you make me some?” Ron asked, skulking into view. Did she mean what she said? Or, was she just trying to ease the tension with a joke?

“I did,” she smirked at him, her eyes shimmering with mirth. “It’ll cost you an item of clothing, though. My choice of clothing, of course, seeing as I made the tea.”

Ron drew in a long breath, shaking his head to himself. “…I bet everyone at the Burrow thinks you’re an honest, well-mannered Lady.”

“They do. Your mother, especially.”

“Yeah, I’m sure she’s fawning all over you. Ginny isn’t my mother’s ideal version of a girl, you see. She’s too rough and too demanding.”

“I can be rough and demanding,” Daphne giggled, taking another sip. “But you know that, already.”

“Stop teasing me,” Ron sighed out, planting himself beside her. “…I’m a bit embarrassed. I really wasn’t trying to flash you-”

“I know, Ron,” Daphne interrupted, pouring him a cup. “Here, drink this. It’ll help you swallow your shame.”

“…Cheers…”

As Ron took a sip, Daphne shifted in her seat in order to face him. “So, you won’t be coming to the Burrow for a while?” Never, just to teach the fat oaf a lesson. “…Shame, I was really looking forward to your visits.”

“You can come here, instead,” Ron said reassuringly. “I mean, it’s more beautiful here, and there’s loads to do. We can play hide-and-seek in the lavender fields, or we can go for a swim in the lake, or we can fly together on Ginny’s Firebolt. I’d actually love to introduce you to the people here! They are so kind, and they’ve got some really interesting stories to share!”

“I can drop by whenever it suits me?” Daphne hummed, sounding pleased.

“If I’m here, sure!” Ron beamed, feeling a little less embarrassed. “Oh, and there’s a wedding happening soon, between Bjorn and Tabatha. Maybe, if you’re free… Um… You can attend with me… as my… dancing partner…” Smooth, mate, really smooth.

“Your dancing partner?” Daphne repeated, looking thoroughly amused. “Just as your dancing partner?” sh*t, what do I say, now? I don’t want her to think I’m making a move on her, but I sort of am, aren’t I? Even though I really shouldn’t… I mean, my world is a very dangerous place, and I don’t want to expose her to those dangers. Plus, if the truth about me was ever revealed, that I’m a f*cking monster, what would become of her? I’d ruin her reputation… I’d ruin her whole bloody life! Not to mention that I’ve already broken her heart-… “Ron, what’s wrong? You’ve gone awfully pale.”

“…It’s nothing…” he whispered, deflating. “I’d like it if you joined me. I’m not making a move on you, I’m just-… I don’t know… I don’t know what I’m doing…”

Daphne studied him for a few moments, before leaning forward and kissing his cheek. “I’d love to be your dancing partner.” Ron felt his face burn, and all he could do was nod meekly. “It’ll give me a good chance to fondle that gorgeous arse of yours.”

“…the f*ck?” Ron mouthed, shooting her a horrified look.

“You’re an idiot!” Daphne laughed, punching him in the arm. OW! I’m holding a hot cup of tea here! “We still have feelings for each other, Ron, we both know it. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, nor is it something to hide from. We ought to be mature about-”

“Mature? You just threatened to molest me.”

“It wasn’t a threat; it was a promise.” She’s not lying, is she?!

“…Merlin’s Beard…”

“Now, as I was saying…” she adorned a more serious expression. “We should just be honest about how we both feel. No bond can survive miscommunication for long, not even the most powerful ones. Look at what happened with Pansy and Longbottom? Look at what’s happened with us and our parents?”

“Right.”

“I love that we’re seeing eye-to-eye, again, but I don’t think either of us is ready to open up completely just yet. You’re still healing, and I-… I’m trying to figure out who I want to be. That’s what I want to focus on right now. I want to find my own path, though I really hope it’s a path I can share with you.”

“…Right.”

“Is that all you have to say? ‘Right’?” Daphne asked, poking his side. “Share with me, please. I want us to talk this out.”

“…I’m scared,” Ron admitted, putting his cup away. “I’m just really scared.”

“Of what?”

“Hurting you, again,” Ron answered, as if it were obvious. “I still dream about you screaming your heart out at me, Daphne… You were in so much pain, and it was all because of me… I can’t forget that… I don’t want to do that to you ever again.”

“Then, don’t,” Daphne said strongly. “And I’m not proud of that moment, either. I really regret how I made it about myself, about how hurt I would be if you had died without saying goodbye. I let myself become overwhelmed, and it ended with the both of us getting hurt. If I’d just been a little stronger, a little wiser, I would’ve been there for you when you needed me most.”

“But that’s not your job! It shouldn’t be! With me, you’ll always end up-!”

“Oh, and it’s your job to always be there for others?” she countered, silencing him. “You can put yourself last even when it comes to strangers, but Merlin forbid if someone who loves you does the same for you? That’s not fair, Ron. You can’t decide how I express my feelings, that’s up to me.” He lowered his gaze, scratching the back of his neck. “If I was the one in your shoes that night, I know you would’ve been there for me. You would’ve held me, consoled me, and told me that you love me. You would’ve brought me back, no matter how difficult the task proved.”

“…I don’t know about that-”

“I know it.”

Silence fell over the pair, and as Daphne shifted to look ahead, Ron subtly stared at her from the corner of his vision. She’s braver than I am when it comes to this sort of stuff. I mean, she just put all her cards on the table, and she didn’t even hesitate. She really is brilliant, and far too good for the likes of me.

Mustering up his own courage, Ron shifted closer to her, planting a chaste kiss on her cheek. “…I want you to attend the wedding with me as my date.”

Daphne smiled victoriously, leaning against his shoulder. “I’ll be counting the days.”

One Hour Later

A knock at the door stirred Ron and Daphne from their daze, they’d gone from leaning against each other to cuddling at some point. All good things must come to an end, eh?

“I was just about to make my move,” Daphne joked, turning her head up to smirk at him.

“Yeah? Well, I already made mine, and you didn’t even notice.”

“What?” Daphne snorted. “That sounds awfully suspicious, Ron, and really gross.”

“It was,” Ron smirked, unwrapping his arm from her abdomen so they could both sit up properly. “Come in! The door is open!” Reid and London stepped into the cottage, looking wet and miserable. “Finally! I was starting to wonder if you’d run off and eloped!”

“Daphne? Why are you here?” Reid asked, ignoring the redhead’s comment.

“Ron is my best friend, and I enjoy spending time with him,” Daphne answered with a pleasant smile, already sitting up with immaculate posture. Also, I give good cuddles.

“How did things go with Zotair? Is he on board?” Ron asked, leaning forward.

Reid and London took a seat across from them, the latter eyeing Ron and Daphne with an amused, knowing smile. Give me a break, will you? It just happened… I didn’t plan on it.

“It took a lot of convincing, but he agreed,” Reid started, his eyes darting towards Daphne. “Perhaps, we should come back later?”

Ron looked between Daphne and Reid, making a decision. “She is a part of this, and she’s proven that she can handle herself. I trust her completely.” With my life, and my heart. “Argenope, the Centaur who usurped Oreron, Zotair’s father, might be marching on the Tribe soon-”

“What? Why?” Daphne blinked, visibly alarmed.

“Because we’ve been helping them, and in her eyes, accepting help from wizards is punishable by death,” Ron answered, reaching forward and taking her hand in his. “Together, we won’t let anyone hurt the Tribe. Isn’t that right?”

Daphne stared into his eyes, but eventually, she gathered her composure and gave a resolute nod. “We won’t.” That’s my witch!

Ron smiled in a smitten manner, before looking to Reid. “See? Talk to me about Zotair, now. What did he say?”

“He explained that he has to be the one to issue the Barkashtra, not his champion,” Reid started. “He will need to travel with us, and he will need to openly declare war on Argenope’s Tribe. Otherwise, it won’t be recogni-”

“Sorry, but what’s this Barkashtra?” Daphne asked. How did she pronounce that perfectly?

“It’s a Duel to the death between Chiefs,” Ron answered, further alarming her. “Don’t worry, he won’t be the one doing the fighting. That’s my job.”

“What?!” Daphne exclaimed, looking to London. “You’re okay with that?!”

“The boss makes the decisions, not me,” London shrugged. “And I have a feeling that you know just how dangerous he is.”

“Don’t doubt me,” Ron added, squeezing her hand. “I will make Argenope regret her foolishness.”

Daphne tensed, giving him a wary look. “…Isn’t there another way, Ron? A peaceful one?” Don’t be naïve. What do you think buys peace? Violence.

“Centaurs only respect strength, my dear,” Reid told her. “The powerful make the rules, while the weak are culled without mercy. Argenope will fight, she knows no other way. If we don’t play by her rules, we will lose.”

“And I don’t f*cking lose,” Ron reminded her. “Zotair will issue the challenge, and I will fight on his behalf.”

“But she’s a Chief,” Daphne said. “She didn’t get to where she is by luck, Ron. Are you sure about this?”

“I am.”

“You better be,” Reid said, his eyes fixed on Ron. “Because if you lose, you’ll be joining Zotair and his people in the afterlife.”

Ron stood up and walked over to the fireplace, using his gloved hand to put a fresh log on the pile. “No one will die, not from either side. I won’t accept that. There’s been enough death, already. We will fight, and then, we will make peace. Those you’ve worked so hard to save will survive, Reid, and Zotair will stride across the Eternal Woods safe in the knowledge that his suffering wasn’t for naught. I will honour everyone caught up in this horrible mess. I will save what can be saved. It’s time to put an end to the cycle of hatred between our people, and that noble mission starts right here.”

Theodore Nott’s POV

Sunday 27th June, 1994 (Yaxley’s Secret Manor – Late Evening)

“We’d make loads of money, my Lords,” Flint spoke through a mouthful, his appalling table manners making everyone else lose their appetite. “I’m telling you, there’s no better investment than Quidditch.”

“I will look into it,” Yaxley said from the head of the table, staring through the younger wizard. “I do not like to speak of business during dinner.”

“Oh, we’ll talk after, then,” Flint nodded, before tearing into some chicken with his hands. I doubt he’s the sort of bloke who washes his hands after taking a piss.

“…Yes… After…” Yaxley drawled, exchanging a glance with Rosier. Oh, are the next generation of the Pure not up to your standard? “Lysandra, your report arrives tomorrow. Should I prepare myself to be disappointed?” Wow…

“…Husband,” Lady Anastasia shot him a look of disapproval.

“Perhaps, father dearest,” Lysandra smirked knowingly, earning herself a raised eyebrow. “Or, perhaps, I might please you for a change.”

“Don’t start, you two,” Lady Anastasia warned. “Lysandra, don’t give your father cheek. It’s unbecoming.” She then looked to Theo, putting on a friendly smile. “Millicent should be arriving any moment, now. Are you excited?”

Several eyes turned towards him, and Theo internally cursed the woman for putting him under the spotlight. “Of course, my Lady. I have not seen her for months, now.”

“For good reason,” Lady Goyle whispered, making sure to be just loud enough for him to hear. Yeah? Well, you’re a widow for a good reason. f*ck you.

“She’s upset her poor parents terribly,” Lady Crabbe said, tutting. “Vincent has told me all about her and the Blood-Traitor.” Really? What has he told you? Theo eyed Crabbe and Goyle indifferently, they were too busy stuffing their faces to even notice that their mothers were speaking. “He’s also told me about you, Theodore, and your fondness for the tyrant.” Tyrant?! Wait, no, that actually checks out, but he makes it look sexy, so it’s all right.

“Ron’s no tyrant,” Lysandra snigg*red, and all eyes turned towards her. “Your sons are just ingrates, so he treats them as such. He’s fair like that-”

“Lysandra!” Lady Anastasia hissed, whereas Yaxley smirked ever-so-slightly. “Forgive her, my friends, but her tongue has always been faster than her common sense.”

“Ron tells me I’m smart whenever he tutors me,” Lysandra said proudly, clearly enjoying the chaos she was creating.

“The Blood-Traitor tutors you?” Cornelius asked, and Theo had to fight to keep his irritation to himself. He’s been avoiding me, because he knows I’m not happy with this arrangement. Why does he always do this? Why does he run away from any conversation that might turn sour? Bloody coward…

“He ‘tutors’ them all,” Flint frowned distastefully. “They all follow him around like stray dogs.” Did you just call Lord Yaxley’s daughter a dog at his own dinner table? Are you really that f*cking stupid? This idiot is going to get himself vanished in the night.

“Does he mistreat you?” Rosier asked Lysandra, though his cold gaze remained fixed on Flint. Yep, he’s dead. “Weasley, I mean. Is he unfair to you in any way?”

“No, quite the opposite,” Lysandra replied with a bright smile. “We’re probably the first first-years to ever be treated with respect within Slytherin. Under Ron, I had a higher standing in the House than ‘Lord’ Flint himself.”

“He rewards sycophants, nothing more,” Flint growled, shooting a glare in Theo’s direction. Please, stop talking. For the love of Merlin, just eat your food.

“My son is no sycophant, boy, and you’d do well to remember that,” Cornelius warned in an eerily calm tone. “Be mindful of making such accusations.”

“Does he tutor you in Magic, as well?” Yaxley asked, silencing the table.

“He does,” Lysandra answered gladly. “We’ve already started learning second-year Magic under him, and he says that I’m brilliant at Charms.”

Yaxley nodded to himself, somewhat perplexed. “Continue learning from him, daughter. He is a powerful, and cunning, wizard, by all accounts.” My, my… Is that begrudging respect I hear in your voice, my Lord Yaxley?

“Powerful is an understatement, father,” Lysandra giggled, basking in the boiling anger radiating from Ladies Crabbe and Goyle. “Ron has no equal in Hogwarts, save for the Headmaster and Professor Snape.” Now, she’s just going overboard for the sake of stirring the pot.

“He certainly made short work of his opponents during the A-Ranked Tournaments,” Cornelius muttered, scowling. “Theodore, he trusts you, does he not?”

“…I suppose,” Theo answered slowly, already not liking wherever this was going.

“Good, good… Keep it that way.” Why? I’m not spying on him for you lot, if that’s what you’re after.

“Can we discuss anything other than that piece of filth?” Lady Goyle asked. “My stomach can tolerate no more of this conversation.”

“Hear, hear,” Flint grumbled, taking a swig from his goblet.

Theo suddenly felt Euphemia tug at his sleeve, staring up at him with a pinched face. “What’s a Blood-Traitor?”

He felt his stomach tighten for some reason, and all he could do was stare into the tiny girl’s wide, curious eyes. What do I tell her? Do I tell her the truth? That it’s some stupid label made to demonize people who aren’t thirsty for Muggle blood? Or, do I tell her what her father inevitably will? That Blood-Traitors are those who have betrayed Magic, and their heritage, just to appease Muggleborns? That they deserve to die for their heinous crimes against the Pure?

“Tee-tee?” Euphemia tugged at his sleeve, again, growing impatient. What do I-?

“Blood-Traitors are thieves and murderers, dear,” Lady Goyle answered for him, eyeing him with suspicion. “They are our enemies, just like the Mud-Bloods. They want to destroy us, destroy everything we’ve built, but we won’t let them. Your father will speak to you more about these matters when you’re older.”

“I’m already old!” Euphemia retaliated, pouting. “I’m six!”

The adults chuckled delightedly, but Theo found himself feeling sick to his stomach. This isn’t something new, is it? This is how I grew up too. I never questioned what I saw, what I was taught, because why would my father, and all his friends, trick me? This is-…

The door swung open, and Theo looked to see Robert and Anne Bulstrode stride in. Millie?! He shot up to his feet, not caring about anything besides seeing his lost friend. She’s… not with them? Why?! Where is she?!

“Millicent,” her father stopped and looked back. “Come along, now.”

Theo held his breath, and when Millie finally stepped into the room, his jaw dropped from sheer shock. …Mills? Is that really you? She was utterly unrecognizable; gaunt cheeked, baggy eyed, with a discoloured scar that stretched from her left ear all the way to her nose, her Durmstrang robes hanging loosely off her skinny frame, and her hair cut to resemble a boy’s. What the f*ck did they do to you?

“You all remember my daughter, yes?” Robert Bulstrode addressed the room. …No… Who the f*ck is this? “Corban, forgive my tardiness, but the Flying Dutchman was delayed.”

“Think nothing of it,” Yaxley said, sounding genuinely relieved. “Come, join us.”

Theo just stood there with his mouth hanging open, staring at the shadow of Millicent Bulstrode, who’s gaze was so unfocused that she didn’t even register his presence. What’s wrong with her?! What have you people done?!

“Millicent, please,” Anne whispered gently, placing a comforting hand on her daughter’s shoulder.

Millie jerked away from her, walking over to an unoccupied seat in an agitated manner. That’s when she finally saw him, staring at her with abject horror. She seemed surprised for a moment, perhaps even excited, before she averted her hollow gaze and sat down without uttering a single word. …It’s me, Mills… It’s Theo…

He looked towards Lady Anastasia for answers, but saw that she too was just staring at Millie, and so, Theo looked towards Robert Bulstrode himself. You! You did this! Just look at the state of her! What the f*ck?!

“Theodore, it’s nice to see you, again,” the evil bastard greeted casually, as if nothing was wrong in the world. “Theodore? Is something the matter?” Is something the matter? You f*cking monster! What have you done to her?!

“…No,” Theo whispered darkly, taking a seat. “Nothing at all.” You’re a dead man. I don’t care how I do it, but I’m going to make you pay for this.

He looked back to Millie, watching silently as she piled scraps of food onto her plate. …I’m in hell… I want to go home… I want to take her, and run away to Hogwarts… We don’t belong here with these hateful, psychotic pieces of sh*t…

Fate - Chapter 163 - TheTrueSpartan - Harry Potter (2024)
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