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A Bed of Roses

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TT: Sorry, I’m going to have to leave you on read for a while.

TT: I’m fine with that. It’s been nice to talk.

TT: I know. I do enjoy our chats, but the younger Dursley can’t handle it when I use the computer for whatever he deems “too long” for him to handle being away from.

TT: Mmh. Whenever Dave gets around to being born I’ll try hard to stop him from abusing the computer too much.

TT: Oh, don’t do that. It’s good for him to gain a strong grasp of meta-irony from overexposure to the internet.

TT: I don’t think that’s how you’re supposed to raise a kid, Lalonde.

TT: Don’t you have a webcomic to be working on?

-- timaeusTestified [TT] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 12:48 --

Rose closed her instance of Pesterchum, returning it to its unlisted directory, and stepped aside so her "cousin" Dudley could use the computer. “Finally!” he grumbled. “You were on it so long!”

“It was only a few minutes, Dudders,” Rose replied.

“Nuh-uh! I counted! It was a whole half a hour!”

Rose rolled her eyes. Getting Pesterchum working on the Commodore 64 back in 1988 was a master of her own ingenuity, memory, and a touch of whatever magic she had left from her old life. Incredibly, she was able to recover(?) her account, despite the only active friend on it being Dirk "Bro" Strider, mostly due to the majority of her friends not being born until 1995. Luckily for her, regardless of the universe, he still kept the same username.

As she watched Dudley blast his way through another row of a terrible Space Invaders port he had gotten last Christmas, she started to sort through her memories again.

Before her memories had returned, she knew she wasn’t “normal.” Despite her name following the Evans tradition of every girl being named after a flower, Rose never felt like a part of that family, even at a very young age. Petunia had evidently shared that opinion, calling her a freak, disgusting, and not her niece, which Rose was surprisingly okay with. At least it wasn’t the constant cruel irony her first mother had subjected her to. This was just normal cruelty, which Rose felt she could handle slightly better.

She walked away from Dudley groaning about his game over to catch a glance of herself in the reflection from a picture frame. Rose, from what she could tell, looked nearly exactly the same as she did back in her first life at age 11, aside from some assorted scars she had picked up in this life. Short, pale white, and with hair that ended around her ears when she tucked it back with a headband. Of course, it was only once her memories returned that she realized “pale white” didn’t mean the same to her as it meant to everyone else. To the Dursleys, it was a confirmation of every bias they had that her skin was literally whiter than the paper they filed their taxes on.

They called her freak. That was fine with Rose, if she was being honest. It meant that she didn’t really have anything to lose, the first time she found a pair of knitting needles in Petunia’s closet.

Life with the Dursleys really was easier from that point on. Especially once she got Pesterchum working.

Rose headed downstairs towards the kitchen, where Petunia Evans was sitting. Petunia glared up at Rose from the magazine she was reading.

“There’s eggs in the fridge, girl,” spat Petunia.

“You sound more angry than usual, Auntie,” said Rose. “Mind going a little bit into why you feel that way?”

Petunia broke eye contact with Rose and began flipping through the magazine again, not even looking at the pages, moreso flipping for the sake of being busy.

“Is this about Lily?” asked Rose, her voice softening. She could never truly nail down what it was about Petunia’s relationship to her “mother” that caused her to reject Rose so thoroughly during her first few years with the Dursleys. (After a few years, after Rose remembered how to fight back, Rose became very aware of the new reasons why Petunia had chosen to reject her.)

Petunia slammed the magazine closed, staring at the table, taking deep breaths. Then she got up and walked away, taking the magazine with her.

Underneath where the magazine had been, on the table, lay an envelope. It was addressed as such:

Ms. Rose Potter

The Second Bedroom

4 Privet Drive

Little Whinging

Surrey

With a flick of a needle, Rose undid the seal and pulled out the letter.

Ah.

Now, Rose understood Petunia Dursley just a little bit more.

---

Finding the Leaky Cauldron wasn’t a challenge. Despite the vagueness of the letter, her source (read: Dirk) disclosed the existence of an alley where she could buy some magical school supplies. No, it was entering the Alley unaccosted that was the real difficulty.

Among the normal humans Rose received the usual stares she got whenever she was outside. Her skin tone, of course, always raised a few eyebrows, but she tended to be able to cover up most of it by just wearing long sleeves and a skirt.

Once she was inside the pub, however, the stares intensified tenfold.

“Is that her?” “The Girl Who Lived?” “Rose Potter, in the flesh? Could it be?”

Every wizard in the pub approached her, some grabbing her hand to try and kiss it, others to weep at her feet, but she shoved past them. She could see, in the back of the alley, a teenager only a few years older than her, leaning cooly near a doorway.

Rose finally pushed her way to Dirk and shuddered. “What the hell is their problem?” she asked. “It’s like I’m the second coming or something.”

Dirk looked down at her through his shades. “Lalonde, be honest with yourself. You’re better than the second coming.”

“Thanks.”

“For real, though,” said Dirk, as they turned around, leaving the crowd behind them. “If I had a choice between Jesus II and you, at least I’d be able to talk to you. Jesus II probably speaks some weird-ass dead language. I don’t wanna have to learn that.”

The pair walked through the door, and came face to face with a brick wall. “Seriously, Strider. What’s with all the bootlicking?”

“Well,” he said, tapping what looked to Rose like a magic wand in a pattern on the wall, “you probably don’t remember this, but as a baby you stopped their equivalent to Hitler. Which, first of all, nice job on that.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah. Long story that I’ve mostly been keeping from you because I hoped you wouldn’t actually end up getting involved.”

The pair strolled down Diagon, Rose keeping an eye out to glance at the shops. “I don’t not get involved in things, Strider. You might not remember this, but last time around I did almost save the world.”

“And how’d it work out for you?”

Rose thought back. So much had happened over the course of their game of SBURB. Towards the end, she had internalized that The Tumor would probably kill her and Dave once it went off. She didn’t, however, expect to be reborn in 1980 with an entirely new family, in the United Kingdom of all places.

“I think it went okay,” she concluded. “We’re still here, right?”

“I mean, from the perspective of everyone else, it hasn’t actually happened yet,” said Dirk. “For all we know the universe ends in 2011.”

Rose didn’t respond to that. Instead she finally let herself really take in her first glance at the Wizarding World.

It... wasn’t what she expected. There was a lot of what she could only describe as “whimsy.” The shop windows were filled with all sorts of moving parts, even the more serious-looking shops like the tailor’s, as if wizards couldn’t handle seeing something just be still for a moment. Dirk, however, only had eyes for the big-ass building with marble pillars at the end of the street.

“The bank, I assume?” asked Rose.

“I’m under the assumption that they gave you some sort of bounty or bonus for killing Wizard Hitler,” said Dirk. “Otherwise I’m gonna have to pay for your school supplies out of pocket and let me tell you, I’m not liquid enough to do that.”

Rose frowned. “You’re unemployed?”

“Not unemployed. Just not liquid enough to cover first year supplies in addition to the rest of my expenditures.”

“What are you even spending money on?” asked Rose.

“Do you know how much it costs to get a real, authentic, quality katana shipped overseas, Lalonde?” replied Dirk, as they entered Gringotts.

“So you’re spending your money on weaboo memorabilia. That’s all you needed to say.”

“Have I introduced you to my good friend Griphook yet?” asked Dirk, completely ignoring Rose’s accusation.

The goblin in question peered down at them from the top of the desk. “Strider,” he said. “What brings you to my lobby. And how can I get you out.”

“My friend Rose here wants to check if she has any money in her vault. We don’t have the vault key, but I’m sure you could perform some identity verification or another.”

“Alright,” said Griphook, and he disappeared behind the desk, only to walk out from behind it a moment later. He waved Rose and Dirk over, and the two of them followed him down into the bank.

---

Rose walked out of Gringotts, several Galleons weighing down in her pockets.

“I feel like Boonbucks were a more efficient currency,” said Rose. “At least they came with a Ceramic Porkhollow to store it all in. Having it all waste away in a vault seems... brutally terrible for the economy.”

Dirk sighed. “Yeah,” he said, and that was that.

They walked in silence to the shop labelled “Ollivanders’.”

Upon opening the door, they were greeted with an old man staring at the both of them.

“Strider,” said Ollivander, eyes wide. “You’re back.”

“Why does everyone refer to you by your last name?” muttered Rose. “Did you piss off the entire magical world or something?”

“Just helping out a friend,” said Dirk, in response to Ollivander. “She needs a wand for school.”

“It doesn’t even need to be a very good wand,” chimed Rose. “I specialize in needlekind anyhow. This is just a purchase for the school supplies.”

“A wand is integral to the casting of magic, young Potter,” said Ollivander. “It’s simply not a good idea to go without.”

Rose sighed. “Let’s get this over with.”

It was not quite so simple. Rose was paired with many, many wands, over many hours, before Ollivander finally called it quits.

“I thought you were supposed to be the best wandmaker in the country, or something,” said Rose. “This whole excursion has honestly been a little disappointing.”

“I think I should have believed you when you said you specialize in needles, Ms. Potter,” he said. “Give me that wand and that wand.”

Rose picked up the two wands he referred to, which happened to be the two wands that got the biggest response from her, though not big enough to have really “clicked.”

“Let me make a quick modification, and I’ll be right back,” he said, ducking behind a curtain.

Out of curiosity, Rose followed him, sticking an eye into a gap in the curtain, and saw, to her shock, the old wandmaker taking the two wands out from their boxes, turning the two wands into punchcards with a very familiar machine, before taking them away, further back into the store, where she could no longer watch the process. Rose turned around to face Dirk, who was leaning on a wall, dozing lightly.

“Dirk!” she hissed. “Ollivander has an alchemiter!”

“Huh? Oh. Yeah, I gave it to him.”

Rose stared. “Why would you do that?”

“To get my first wand for free? As a young orphan, abandoned by my nonexistent parents because I’m a clone of myself, I was kind of strapped for cash. Especially because the internet wasn’t really a thing a few years ago, let alone in easy access for an eleven-year-old.”

“So you gave a crazy old man the ability to make anything?”

“The man seems to be pretty focused on wands. Hey, did you know that if you replace the d in the word wands with the letter g, pretty much everything about this store becomes infinitely more hilarious?”

Ollivander returned at that moment, carrying the same two boxes, which he handed to Rose. Rose glanced at him, and then popped off the tops of the two boxes.

Inside were a beautiful pair of needlewands.

Rose had used needlewands before, of course. She had alchemitized them from a wizard statue and her old knitting needles. But something about these seemed... different. Powerful. They didn’t look gaudy, like her last pair, but expertly handcrafted, wood blending with steel in a perfect match. Rose picked one up, gently, leaving it to rest in her left hand.

“Elderwood with a core of condensed giant squid ink,” said Ollivander. “I created this one long ago, back before I began to stray away from creating elderwood wands.”

Rose picked up the other one. Once it sat in her right hand, everything just felt... right. A warmth spread up from both her arms, and when it reached her head, she could finally, finally hear the keening wails of the horrorterrors again. Finally.

“Holly with a core of phoenix feather,” said Ollivander. “This one, of course, is quite unique, considering the only other feather said phoenix ever donated rests in the wand of the Dark Lord.”

Rose felt a chill in her spine, but it wasn’t enough to quell the completeness she felt wielding her new set of needlewands.

“How much?” she asked. Ollivander only smiled.

---

About a week or so later, Rose found herself in King’s Cross Station, pushing a luggage cart filled with suitcases and supplies, with a newly-purchased black cat (Jaspers II) resting in a carrier on the top. Dirk awaited her, leaning cooly against a pillar marked “Platform 9.”

“You ready to go, Lalonde?” he asked.

“Ready as I’ll be, I think,” she said. “I can’t get over the fact that you never told me you went to magic school.”

“I mean,” he said. “It’s a wizard school, not a magic school. I’m pretty sure Criss Angel hosts magic school.”

“Is Criss Angel even relevant yet?” asked Rose. “You’re just repeating references I’ve made in hopes that it makes you sound like you have a cultural understanding that goes beyond 1991.”

“You caught me,” said Dirk, smiling. “I have no fucking clue who Criss Angel is. Let’s get to the train.”

Rose sighed, and followed Dirk past a family of redheads, who all ran straight into a solid brick wall before disappearing completely.

Ah, thought Rose, and followed their example.

Suddenly, she was in an equally crowded platform, with the big difference being that most people were wearing silly robes. Dirk waved her over before using his wang to levitate her suitcases into the luggage compartment.

“You know, I tried that letter replacement thing you suggested,” said Rose. Dirk only grunted, most of his attention still on his wang, ensuring his wangwork was in good enough shape. “You’re absolutely right, it is hilarious.”

“That’s great,” said Dirk. “Please stop. It’s only funny when it’s applied to people other than me.”

Rose frowned, but did as he asked. Finally, Dirk holstered his wand and turned to look at her.

“Welcome to the Hogwarts Express, Lalonde,” he said. “Hop on board whenever you’re ready, but I can’t join you. Prefects have their own compartment.”

“They gave you a prefecture?” Rose goggled. How did anyone decide that Bro Strider was a good person to be in charge of kids?

“Hey, I think I’m a good example. Plus, if you get sorted into my House I get to boss you around.”

“You’re not inspiring my confidence in this institution as a place of learning,” said Rose. “Before I go on this train, I just need to find out. Is there going to be anyone I recognize?”

“Short answer is no,” said Dirk. “Long answer is Roxy is in the states, part-time babysitting the Claires, part-time employed at Skaianet. Jake, as previously stated, is running said company. Jane is running a joke shop in fucktown, U.S.A., and John and Jade and Dave and you aren’t born yet.”

Rose took a second to ponder. “Are you sure I’m going to be born again?” she asked.

Dirk shrugged. “I don’t see why not. If ecto-whatever, Skaia, decided to create literally everyone else, I don’t see why it wouldn’t also make You Prime. You said Dave constantly ran into versions of himself.”

“Yeah, but that was... Time travel was his element,” said Rose. “I’m not too comfortable with running into alternate versions of myself.”

“We all have to do it, Lalonde,” he said. “It’s part of growing up.”

Rose sighed, knowing from years of experience that she wasn’t going to get anything more from this conversation, and turned to board the train.