Actions

Work Header

A Bed of Roses

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

TG: i CANT believe ur on a train about to leave to WIZARD SCHOOL

TG: this is so. DIRK NEVER TOLD ME EITHER

TG: he KNOWS how i feel abt wizards

TG: he KNOWS

TT: It never ceases to blow my mind that you just... genuinely enjoy wizards as a concept.

TT: There’s no hint of irony. No second layer.

TT: Just a singular, uncorrupted love for... wizards.

TT: Of all things.

TG: listen, sort-of daughtr of mine

TG: i would NEVER. NEver be careless or fuck around w my love of wizards

TG: it must remain pure

TG: pure like wizardy herbert, whose life im totally not basing off of yours in any way

TG: what was the school called again? hugwump?

TT: Hold on, someone’s at the door of my compartment. Also I might lose reception soon, so be aware of that. The Scottish Highlands aren’t exactly known for their support of cutting-edge technology.

Rose turned her head towards the door. “What is it?” she asked.

The compartment slid open, revealing a boy her age with wild red hair. He looked up at her.

“Er,” he said. “All of the other compartments are full, but you’re not sitting with anyone.”

“An astute observation,” said Rose.

“Er,” replied the redhead. “Can I join you?”

“Sure,” said Rose. “It’s a free country.” The kid stared at her after she said that. Was the phrase ‘it’s a free country’ too specific to American culture? Or was it just that this boy in front of her, who seemed like he was raised in wizarding culture, had never heard it before? What did it mean, for freedom to not be recognized so inherently as a cultural value that the phrase ‘it’s a free country’ wasn’t spoken as a general affirmation? Or perhaps it went the other way around? That American liberties slowly being stripped away led to people needing to constantly reaffirm their own freedom to themselves and others?

“You’re Rose Potter, aren’t you?” said the kid, and then Rose realized that she was definitely overthinking things and this kid was eleven and she had forgotten she was apparently a celebrity.

“Yes, I am,” said Rose. “What gave it away?”

“Your scar,” he said. “It’s famous. Everyone knows it.”

“Which one?” asked Rose.

“Uh,” said the redhead. “It’s the one on your forehead. The lightning bolt one. Everyone knows about it.”

Ah. Rose hadn’t given much thought to it since she became conscious of herself again. Since it was new, and distinctive, she thought it represented the crack in universes created by The Tumor, or something of the sort. Apparently it had cultural value in the Wizarding World.

Rose self-consciously adjusted her headband.

“That’s where... You-Know-Who did it, right?” asked the boy.

“I know what?” asked Rose. They both floundered for a moment before Rose said, “I’m sorry, I feel lost. I don’t even know your name.”

“Oh,” he said. “I’m Ron Weasley. Sorry, that was rude of me.”

“No, you’re fine. We somehow skipped introductions once you recognized my famous patch of skin.”

Ron opened his mouth, then closed it, then crossed his arms.

“Weasley, it looks like whatever you were about to say, you really wanted to say it. Just go ahead and ask.”

Ron took a deep breath, and started over. “I’m really sorry if this is rude, but why is your skin so white?

“I was born that way,” said Rose, having given this explanation over and over during primary school. “Medically speaking it’s not albinism or anything, if you’re wondering. This is my natural skin tone. Most of my friends when I was growing up have the same coloration.”

“Huh,” said Ron. He sat and pondered this new information.

“Do you know Dirk Strider?” he asked suddenly.

“Yes, actually,” asked Rose, caught off-guard. “Why, do you know him?”

“Through my brothers,” said Ron. “But he’s the only other person I’ve heard of who looks like you, and you said you knew people who look like you, so I--”

“Connected the dots. I get it,” said Rose. “I’m not going to comment about the implications of you assuming that everyone who looks the same knows each other, but as a matter of fact we are actually related.”

“Oh, huh,” said Ron. “Didn’t know he was related to the Potters.”

“He isn’t,” said Rose, and Ron seemed to shrink into himself. Rose looked at the boy. She vaguely remembered seeing him alongside a huge family of other redheads, which could, simply through logistics, lead to him having faced some parental neglect, manifesting itself now as awkward conversational skills.

That was something she, and pretty much every friend she’d ever had, could empathize dearly with, in both lives.

“Hey, Ron, I’m sorry,” began Rose. “You were just asking questions. Why don’t we start over? Hello, I’m Rose Lal...” she stopped. “Potter. I’m Rose Potter.”

Ron brightened a bit. “I’m Ron Weasley. Oh! I forgot!” Ron reached into his coat pocket, and pulled out a brown, haggard-looking rat.

“This is Scabbers,” said Ron. “Mum told me everyone loves pets, so I’m introducing you to him now. Say hello, Scabbers!”

The rat looked caught between half-asleep and half-dead and as such did not visibly react.

“If we end up in the same dorm, you should keep him away from me,” said Rose. “I just purchased a cat.”

“Ooh, good point,” said Ron. “He probably smells the cat on you, that’s why he’s pretending to be asleep. But you don’t need to be afraid of Rose Potter, do you, Scabbers?”

Scabbers seemed to crawl into himself as much as he could without waking up from his apparent nap.

“You can put him away,” said Rose. “But thank you for the introduction, Ron.”

Ron beamed at her. Rose purchased some whimsical snacks from the Trolley. After Ron had explained to her what, exactly, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans were, Rose became convinced Dirk had given an alchemiter to Bertie Bott, as well. That then led to counter-speculation on Ron’s end as to how, exactly Bertie Bott created his Every Flavor Beans (a randomizer spell hooked up to the Ancestral Bott Kitchen was his guess, which led Rose to ask why Bertie Bott would have a stock of boogers, where Ron replied that he reckoned that George was just having him on regarding the Booger Bean, which then led to Ron explaining his family dynamic in a little bit more detail, as Rose nodded along sadly. Eventually she had begun taking notes, drawing an elaborate tree, criss-crossed with emotional branches from each Weasley. One day, swore Rose, she would get to the bottom of Ron’s insecurities).

At one point a boy had come in, looking for his toad, but due to Rose and Ron both being unaware of the location of the animal, he left shortly after. The mention of the toad made Rose think of Jade, which saddened her, because after all they went through, she still never actually met the girl in person.

“Do you think we should have gone after him?” asked Rose.

“Huh? No, I know Neville. He’ll be alright, his toad disappears all the time. I think magic pets might be better at not getting lost than normal animals.”

Rose nodded along. In her own observations, her new cat Jaspers II seemed remarkably loyal. Maybe this time he wouldn’t turn up mysteriously dead. And on the morbidly bright side, if he did, Rose had already worked through the associated trauma once before, so she could follow the same patterns of grief. She wasn’t sure how to get Roxy over from the States to attend the necessary cat funeral if that event did occur, but her pseudo-mother would find a way.

The boy, Neville, came back, accompanied now by a girl. “Has anyone seen a toad? Neville’s lost one,” she said.

“He’s been here already,” said Rose. “Despite the kind of relief I’m sure it would bring, merely for the end to the uncertainty, the toad has not mysteriously reappeared in our cabin, living or otherwise.”

“Oh, that’s a shame,” said Hermione. “I’d hoped to help Neville with his toad, he just looked like he really needed help, so I decided to brave the train and look for him, but I didn’t think about where he’d already been. I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?”

“Ron Weasley,” said Ron Weasley.

“Rose Potter,” said Rose Lalonde.

“You’re Rose Potter?” Hermione goggled. “I’ve read so much about you, of course--you’re in Modern Magical History and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century, but they didn’t have any pictures of you at all, all I knew about was the scar...”

“Am I going to get this a lot?” Rose asked Ron.

“I mean, you did save the world as a baby,” he replied, sheepishly.

“People keep saying that to me, but I still don’t have the full scope of it. Who, exactly, did I save the world from? Lrd English?”

“Uh, no, different Dark Lord,” said Neville, who Rose had honestly forgotten was there. “I mean, I don’t know who that is, but, yeah. You-Know-Who.”

This, thought Rose, was one of the moments where having her Seer powers back would be great. Because she did not, in fact, know who, and for whatever reason, she could not just simply know who. Her only option left was to either content herself with not knowing, or--

“This is rude of me, but I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said.

“Oh,” said Hermione. “I mean, I suppose that makes sense. I had heard you grew up around Muggles--that’s the term for people without magic--but I didn’t realize that you also were sheltered from the rest of the Wizarding World, too. Tell you what, I’ll lend you Modern Magical History once we get to school, since my bags are a bit too precariously packed away right now to access easily.”

“Thank you, Hermione,” said Rose, smiling at the girl. “I appreciate that.”

Hermione beamed, then grabbed Neville by the hand and left the compartment. Rose could hear her asking the next compartment over about Neville’s toad.

“Blimey,” said Ron, once they were alone again. “You’re not... I mean, they never told you about the war? Or anything?”

“I spent most of my days with my ‘Muggle’ relatives in my youth. As far as I know, they were as unaware of the war as I was.”

“Blimey,” repeated Ron. “I just met Rose Potter, and I feel like I know more about Rose Potter than Rose Potter does.”

“I like to think I have untold depths,” said Rose, mildly insulted.

The compartment opened again. This time, it was a blond boy, with skin that would be pale by anyone’s standards but Rose’s. He was flanked by two boys that Rose could only think of as ‘Imps 1 and 2.’

“Is it true?” said the boy. “I heard that Rose Potter herself is in this compartment.”

“I heard that too,” said Rose. “And I’m slowly starting to believe it.”

The boy looked directly at her for the first time, but Rose got the feeling he wasn’t making eye contact. Rather, looking slightly above her eyes, at that scar. Again.

“My lady Potter,” he said, and Rose raised an eyebrow. “On behalf of the Malfoy family, I would like to cordially invite you to join my fellows in our train compartment. I am sure we could discuss many things.”

“I’m sure,” said Rose. What the hell?

“If you could, um, follow me, oh, these are Crabbe and Goyle, by the way, forgot to mention, and leave the Weasley boy behind, we could have a discussion, about higher society, and, oh, blast. I got nervous,” said the boy, presumably Malfoy. He slumped, his expression becoming downcast. “My name is Draco Malfoy and I completely forgot to introduce myself first. I’m sorry. Mother always told me talking to unfamiliar girls would be hard but I didn’t expect it to be this hard.”

“Um,” said Rose. “Hello, Draco. Would you like to sit down, so we can emotionally process all of what you just said?”

Instantly, Draco popped into what seemed like a better rehearsed pose. “With a Weasley? Never. Potter, you’ll find that some families are better to associate with others. I’m willing to offer you support in navigating this very treacherous landscape. What do you say?” He held out his hand.

“I think I’m doing alright as-is,” said Rose. “I’ve got navigational support already. But the offer is appreciated.”

Draco sneered. “What, Weasley? Potter, I’m beginning to think you’re in desperate need of my assistance. Boys, let’s teach Potter who she should and should not choose as a cabin-mate.” Draco waved Crabbe and Goyle further into the cabin.

Rose, as point of fact, was referring mostly to Dirk when she said ‘navigational support,’ but she was standing up halfway through the word “Boys.” Her strife specibus was equipped by the word “Potter,” and her needlewands were out from her strife deck and into her hands by the word “choose.”

“I thought,” she said, “that I said I was doing alright with the navigational support I have. Don’t go making threats you can’t back up, Malfoy.”

“Two wands...” muttered Goyle.

“They look pointier than most I’ve seen, too,” whispered Crabbe.

“You’ll get yours, Potter,” said Malfoy. “And you better pray you don’t end up in Slytherin.”

They all walked out, and Crabbe slammed the door.

“Well, maybe I will end up in Slytherin, huh!” yelled Rose, to nobody in particular. “Maybe I’ll do whatever the hell a Slytherin is just to piss you off! Do you like that? Because I don’t think you do!”

“What are you on about now?” said Hermione Granger, who was passing the compartment. Again.

“Ugh,” said Rose. “Nothing important. Apparently I’m enough of a celebrity to warrant visits by assholes.”

“Do you have two wands in your hands?” asked Hermione.

“Ugh,” said Rose again, and she returned her needlewands to her strife deck. “That could have gone really bad if they decided to try and fight back.”

“What, for you?” asked Ron. “You have two bloody wands! You could probably duel Dumbledore with two wands!”

“No,” said Rose. “For them.”

“Oh.”

The compartment was quiet again.

“Erm,” said Hermione. “I was meaning to ask this anyhow, but do you want to come back to my compartment? It’s just me and my brother, and if you’re getting harassed by fans you might want to, well, basically hide with us.”

“You know what, fine,” said Rose. “You seem like you’ve got your head screwed on right enough. Ron, you coming with?”

“It’d end up being just me and Scabbers here, mate. I’m coming with.”

As Rose and Ron followed Hermione out of the compartment, Rose trailing just behind the duo, she took the opportunity to finish the conversation she’d started just hours earlier.

TT: So I talked to the wizards some more.

TG: DISH

TT: It turns out that they’ve got a word for people like you, who aren’t members of the wizarding world.

TT: You’re a muggle, Roxy.

TG: ...

TG: Im a WOT

TG: no seriously that sounds vaguely racially charged>????

TG: is there like. an alternative word that you didnt learn

TG: oh no rosie pls tell me you didnt fall in with magic discriminators :(

TG: ;_; plz

TT: No, as far as I can tell, I didn’t fall in with people who will discriminate based on magicality.

TT: Besides, you’re enough of a wizard fanatic to count as one of them in my eyes.

TG: ;o; you’re so kind rose. not even joking that means a lot to me

“We’re here,” said Hermione, and Rose briefly glanced up before typing out a quick goodbye message.

TT: Sorry, I have to go again. But on the bright side, we found out my phone still works.

TT: God bless Pesterchum netcode.

TG: MAY IT REIGN FOR ALL DAYS o77777

Hermione opened the door. “I’d like you to meet Ron Weasley and Rose Potter,” she told the kid inside, presumably her brother.

Rose pocketed her phone and actually looked inside the open door of the compartment.

Oh my gods.

“Ron, Rose, meet my brother, Dave!”

“I’m adopted,” said Dave motherfucking Strider. “So that’s the skin thing out of the way. Oh, hey Rose. Been a while.”

Chapter Text

“Excuse me for a minute,” said Rose, and she turned around, walked away from the compartment, and pulled out her phone. Her Pesterlog with Roxy was still active. Good.

TT: Roxy.

TG: yeah

TT: Um.

TT: I’m not really sure how to put this elegantly.

TG: *eyes you*

TG: ??

TT: Well, to be blunt,

TT: You have a son??????

TG: :OOOOOO

TT: I mean, we knew the son was coming, but, y’know. In a few years? From a meteor?

TG: wait

TG: are you saying

TT: Yeah.

TT: Somehow. I don’t know how the hell he pulled it off.

TT: But Dave Strider is alive, and the adopted brother of this British girl Hermione that I briefly met on the train???

TG: :OOO

TT: I think he’s my age, too.

TG: man

TG: you think he just

TG: never figured out how to get on pesterchum

TG: thats really tragic honestly

TG: when i get the chance imma tell jake we need to up our advertising in the great u kay

TG: ppl should know about our services!!!

TT: You do that.

TT: I’m going to go have the most awkward reunion in the recorded history of any universe, ever.

TT: God, it’s been eleven years. What the hell do I say?

TG: id start with “hello”

TG: good luck sorta-daughter < 3

TG: say hi for me ;wonk

--tipsyGnostalgic [TT] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 16:14 --

Rose closed her phone, pocketed it, and turned to face the compartment.

"Okay," said Rose. "How are we going to do this?"

"Do what?" asked Ron. "Wait, you know each other too?" Then, Ron, too smart for his own good, recalled the earlier conversation about assuming all people who look the same knowing each other, and said, "Not that I mean anything by that! I mean, I was right about the Dirk thing--"

"Dirk thing?" asked Dave. "What do you mean, Dirk thing?"

"I'm not-- I mean, I--"

“Ron,” said Rose, saving him the embarrassment. “Meet my genetic brother, Dave...”

“Granger,” offered Dave. “I’m Dave Granger.”

“Wait, Dave, you’re her brother?” asked Hermione.

"Well," said Dave. "Hermione, remember how a couple years ago I said I was doing some research on my bio-parents?"

"I remember," she said. "But I thought that it never bore fruit."

"It bore fruit," said Dave. "It bore a full ass fruit salad. Sis, meet my genetic sister, Rose--"

"Potter," said Rose. "Rose Potter. Hi."

“You met Rose Potter?” Hermione was stunned. “And you didn’t tell me? How? When? Dave, you know I’ve been obsessed with--” and suddenly, Hermione remembered who was in the cabin with her. Her eartips reddened.

“Yeah, well, we’re siblings. Didn’t find out until a couple years after we first met but that’s how life goes, y’know? Find out you have a secret sibling, every once in a while. Happens.” Dave shrugged. “I mean, I didn’t know at the time that she was the ‘savior of the wizarding world’ or whatever the fuck that bullshit is, but y’know. That also happens.”

“It happens,” said Hermione, in disbelief. “Ah, yes, all of the many secret siblings who saved the world that I have.”

“I mean, it did happen,” said Dave. “Proof and pudding or whatever. And I’m also insulted that you think I didn’t save the world, ‘Mione.”

“To be fair, I only recently found out about the ‘savior of the wizarding world’ thing myself,” said Rose.

“Which, hello there, by the way, my name’s Ron, I can’t believe you didn’t know! Merlin, what were those muggles telling you happened to the Potters?”

“Car accident or something. I never gave it much thought, if I really have to be honest,” said Rose. “Which, I know, sounds extremely callous now that I’m saying it out loud, but trust me there’s a better explanation.”

“I hope so,” sniffed Hermione. “On behalf of the Potters, war heroes who saved Wizarding Britain, their own daughter disrespecting them... truly a great shame.”

“In my own defense, I have no memories of them,” said Rose.

This was a lie. Rose had one memory that kept repeating over and over again as she slept, and it was mostly filled with green light. She blamed her broken Seer powers. Of course Paradox Space would somehow blend the death of the Potters with her failure to destroy the green sun.

Because in both lives, Rose had now failed to protect both sets of parents. Teen versions of them notwithstanding.

“Dave,” she said. “Can we talk?”

“We’re talking now,” said Dave.

“Without Ron or Hermione,” said Rose.

“Why not? She’s my sister,” said Dave.

“And so am I, genetically speaking,” said Rose. “And some things are not meant for the ears of people I have only just met.”

“Oi!” shouted Ron. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Ron, I like you a lot,” said Rose. “I really do, and I’m going to have to get to know Hermione better. But please, let me have some time to speak to my brother.”

Hermione grimaced, then glanced at Dave. After a moment, Dave nodded at her, and Hermione filed out of the cabin, Ron following after.

They shut the door and Rose sat down across from her brother.

“My mother says hello,” said Rose.

“Nice to hear that she cares,” said Dave. Then he paused.

“Wait. You’re talking to Mom Lalonde?” asked Dave. “How the hell is that even possible? Also, we’re on a train, and last I checked, cellphones aren’t invented yet.”

“Her name is Roxy,” said Rose. “And also,” and now she pulled out her phone, “you should know that Skaiatech is always ahead of its time.” She tossed it to Dave, who flipped it open. Dave scrolled through the phone, open to a list of Rose’s recent pesterlogs.

“No trolls?” he asked.

“Seems like trolling hasn’t been invented yet,” said Rose, lips thin. “Although I feel distinctly as if I was trolled on a cosmic level. Mostly because you haven’t explained how the hell you’re here.”

“I got a letter, same as everyone else,” said Dave.

“Funny,” said Rose.

Dave sighed. “What’s the last thing you remember? From before.”

“The Tumor going off,” said Rose. “Then it’s a vague, fragmented childhood with the Dursleys, before I started to remember who I was.”

Dave sighed. “Yeah, seems about right for me, too,” he said. “We were both there, so it stands that we both get a cosmic 1-up or whatever.”

They sat in silence.

“Do you think that’s what we were supposed to do?” asked Dave. “Like, there are a lot of game abstractions in our lives, is the green meant to represent, like, a green fuckin’ Mario mushroom, and the explosion forced us to eat it before we respawned?”

“No, it wasn’t,” said Rose. “I’m not entirely sure how it happened. And I’ve looked for changes between this universe and ours, and aside from this whole,” and here, she waved vaguely around the train, “secret magic thing, the only divergence that occurred before we were reborn is that Lil’ Cal seems a hell of a lot less... possessed, somehow?”

“...and how do you know what has and has not happened to Lil’ Cal?” asked Dave, suspicious. “I’m not going to like this answer, am I? Fuck, I knew it when I saw the username on your phone.”

“I’ve talked to your Bro,” said Rose. Dave groaned, his head in his hands. “And my mother. You can see our Pesterlogs if you’re desperately curious, but right now, they’re only a few years older than we are currently. Hell, technically speaking, both of us are older than them if you count both lives’ experience.”

“I’m older than all of you combined, thanks to the stupid-ass amount of time travelling I did to crash the econony,” said Dave. “So we’re not going to talk about that anymore because why the fuck are you talking to my older brother?”

“Why aren’t you?” Rose shot back. “He’s one of my only connections to my past life. And besides, you might be curious what the younger version of your guardian is like. Roxy is nothing like I expected the teenage version of my mother to be. For one, she leads a mostly non-ironic lifestyle.”

“I don’t give a shit about irony right now,” said Dave. “Did you tell him anything about me?”

“He knew a surprising amount already,” said Rose. “So did Roxy. I’m chalking that up to First Guardian power bullshit.”

“Ugh,” said Dave. “Well, fuck. Whatever. So long as I never have to talk to him, I’m good with it.”

“Um,” said Rose. “He goes to this school, did you know that?”

Dave let out an impressive string of curses that made Rose think of Karkat. She wondered how he was faring. Probably better than she was, since he probably never had to have a weird reunion with a family member in an alternate reality.

“Fucking. Fuck. Okay. Rose. Did you tell him I’m here.”

“No,” said Rose. “I learned you were here about, oh, the start of this conversation ago. He’s under the impression that he gets to meet you in 1995, when you’re born.”

“Good. Shit! Fuck. Okay. Okay. Do you think,” said Dave.

“No,” said Rose.

“That it’s maybe possible,” said Dave.

“It’s not,” said Rose.

“To avoid him well why the fuck is it not possible?” asked Dave.

“Because he’s a prefect,” said Rose. “Fifth year students at Hogwarts are in charge of--”

“Yeah, yeah, introducing shit to the first years, I know, my sister learned this position existed and became obsessed with getting it. Five year plan. Itemized and everything. Honestly I respect it.”

“You’re deflecting,” said Rose. “What the hell happened between you and Dirk Strider when I was looking away?”

“Nothing happened while you were looking away,” said Dave. “It’s all the shit he did in full view of everyone, the shit that literally fucked me up so bad I don’t think I would have ever known it was not normal if not for the Grangers being the best goddamn people on the entire planet, that happened between me and ‘Dirk Strider.’ Nice first name basis, there, by the way. I don’t think I ever even called him that. Y’know why? Because he’s so fucking--”

There was a knock on the door. Through the window, the siblings could see Hermione gesturing frantically.

“You can’t put this off forever,” said Rose.

“I can damn well try,” said Dave. “As best I can without time travel.”

Hermione flung open the door. “Okay, I’m sorry to interrupt, but we all need to get our robes on, we’ve almost arrived! I sent Ron back to his compartment to change, and you need to do that too, Rose!”

“Go,” said Dave. “We can talk again another time.”

Rose stood up, and turned to face her brother, his face seemingly impassive behind his shades.

“Dave,” said Rose. “It’s good to see you. I’m glad you’re here.”

“Rose,” said Dave. “I’m glad I’m here too.”

Then he grinned, stood up, and hugged his sister for the first time in either life.

“That’s new,” said Rose, smiling. “I suppose I have the Grangers to thank for that as well?”

“You better fucking believe it,” said Dave. “I’m like a hug master right now. I’m the hug equivalent of a sous chef. Practiced this shit for eleven years.”

“It paid off,” murmured Rose. “This is nice.”

“Get changed!” shrieked Hermione.

Rose did.

---

The train pulled into Hogsmeade.

“I can’t believe you’re keeping your shades on in the school robes,” said Rose.

“Hey, it’s a free country,” said Dave.

Ron shared a glance with Hermione. “It’s easier to believe they’re related once you hear them talk,” he said.

The four of them stepped off the train, and into the light of a lamp, held by an extremely tall man. “Firs’ years over here!”

“That’s our stop,” said Rose.

“I’m pretty sure that’s Hagrid, the groundskeeper,” whispered Hermione. “He was hired back in--”

“Follow me!” shouted the man who was maybe Hagrid, the groundskeeper.

They, alongside the rest of the children, followed Hagrid down, off the platform, through the woods, and onto an open beach lined with boats, where they got their first glance of Hogwarts.

“Oooooh!” gasped Hermione. “It’s even more gorgeous than the photographs...”

Ron, Rose, and Dave were awestruck. The castle really was gorgeous, mostly because the architectural standards of Rose and Dave tended to begin and end at “stairs to get to the next gate” and “JPEG” respectively.

“No more’n four to a boat!” shouted the man who really probably was Hagrid.

Ron, Rose, Dave, and Hermione all piled in. The water was almost entirely unmoved by their presence as they approached the castle.

“Hell of a first impression,” said Dave.

“Roxy would have loved this,” whispered Rose.

“Heads down!” yelled Hagrid. They all ducked as the boats took them into a cave opening hidden by ivy, through an underground tunnel, and into the dock beneath the castle.

As they filed out and began to head to the stairs at the end of the dock, Hagrid shouted, “Oy, you there! Is this your toad?”

“Trevor!” cried Neville.

“I told you, Rose,” said Ron. “Magical pets don’t get lost as easily.”

Rose and Hermione both mentally tucked that information away, though for different reasons.

They followed Hagrid up the stairs, and he knocked three times on the castle’s giant oak door. It opened to reveal a witch in green robes, who ushered the children inside.

“Welcome to Hogwarts,” she said. The woman, Professor McGonagall, explained the basics of Sorting to them.

“Less confusing than Classpects,” whispered Dave, once she had walked away.

“Hey, they were very straightforward,” said Rose. “I should know, I wrote the GameFAQs article about them.”

Even as she was talking, Rose’s mind was whirring. So this is what the Malfoy boy was talking about. Slytherin was one of the four dormitory divisions. It was probably a mostly cosmetic decision, which house to join, but the part of her that installed a beta for a video game really wanted to know more about the House points system.

Mostly, if it could be broken.

“What do you think you’ll go for?” she asked the group.

Ron spoke up first. “Gryffindor, if I can,” he said. “Family tradition. Assuming I survive the test, obviously. Fred said it hurts a lot.”

“I think Fred might be a bit of a dick,” said Rose.

“Oh,” said Ron. “Yeah. I mean. Duh, they wouldn’t put us in danger.”

“Ron,” said Rose, exasperated. “It’s fine. We’ll find out how they sort us when we find out how they sort us. And if it’s a test, we’ll survive together.”

“Thanks, Rose,” said Ron, beaming.

That was when the ghosts appeared.

---

After Professor McGonagall shooed the ghosts off, she ushered the children through the Great Hall. Candles floated in the air, and Rose noted the ceiling seemed like an accurate representation of the stars outside.

“It’s a spell,” said Hermione. “I read about it in Hogwarts: A History.”

“I was frankly under the impression that this dining hall in the middle of a castle was open-air,” said Rose.

“Hide me,” said Dave.

“What?”

“I see him. He’s right fucking there.”

Rose followed Dave’s eyeline. Sitting at the leftmost table, wearing his stupid fucking anime shades even over his robes, was Dirk Strider, idly chatting with some other teenagers.

“Rose, hide me.”

“They’re probably going to call you by name, and then he’ll know that you’re here,” she said.

“Rose!”

“This is pointless,” she groaned, but she stood right in the line of sight between Dirk and Dave. At that very moment, Dirk’s eyes roved right to where Rose was standing. He waved cooly. She waved cooly back. God damn.

The hat in the front of the room began to sing, and Dirk’s attention moved towards that.

“You’re going to be fine,” said Rose.

“I still don’t know who either of you are talking about,” said Hermione. “Now shush, I’m trying to listen.”

The hat wrapped up its song. Everyone clapped.

Professor McGonagall stepped forward, holding a long scroll.

“When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted. Abbot, Hannah!”

“Here we go,” said Rose, and she took a deep breath.

Chapter Text

--tipsyGnostalgic [TG] started pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--

TG: hey rose, just wonderin how it went

"Bones, Susan!"

TG: ynow how all that first day stuff went

"Boot, Terry!"

TG: and the dave stuff

"Brocklehurst, Mandy!"

TG: did you tell him i said hi :o

"Brown, Lavender!"

TG: heloooo

"Bulstrode, Millicent!"

TG: oh duh it's the first day they probably have like some

"Corner, Michael!"

TG: bomb ass first day activities

"Cornfoot, Stephen!"

TG: like full on cool orientation

"Crabbe, Vincent!"

TG: so you probably won't see this

"Davis, Tracey!"

TG: for however long that takes

"Entwhistle, Kevin!"

TG: oh yeah before I go!!!

"Finch-Fletchley, Justin!"

TG: i talked to jake

"Finnigan, Seamus!"

TG: and he said that it was a jolly good spankin idea to go to england

"Goldstein, Anthony!"

TG: wot wot and all that

"Goyle, Gregory!"

TG: spiify good idea :D

"Granger, Dave!"

TG: nice to be validated by my boss is all im sayin

Dave stepped forward, and moved towards the stool at the front of the room.

TG: ESPECIALLY becous now ya girl is on an ALL EXPENSES PAID BUSINESS TRIP

The hat was placed atop Dave’s head, and scrunched itself in consternation.

TG: to see you!!!! and dirk and dave and also to sell some skaiatech to wizards

"HUFFLEPUFF!" shouted the hat. Dave got up and joined his new housemates, carefully avoiding looking at the Gryffindor table.

TG: this whole plan does revolve around me being allowed to sell to the wizards of course. idk how wizard import laws work lol

Dirk stared, his eyes not leaving Dave.

TG: skaianet has like. one lawyer

"Granger, Hermione!"

TG: whoop

Hermione tried her best to calmly walk to the stool, but she kept shooting glances at Dave the whole time she was walking. She sat down on the stool.

TG: N E ways omg how did Dirk and Dave's meeting up go???

The hat, once on Hermione’s head, only took a moment to yell "HUFFLEPUFF!"

TG: im sure it went great ;o:

Hermione ran over to her brother, and they embraced. Dirk stared harder.

TG: i know i was super happy to meet you, at least

"D’ya have any idea where you’re going yet?" asked Ron.

TG: *sniff* family is like. one of the best blessings we have

"I think so," said Rose. "We’ll see if it gets me anywhere."

TG: i know i said all this before but im so incredibly sorry that i was a shit mom the first go around

"Jones, Megan!"

TG: really. it’s on me for getting lost in the void in my head, trying to live up to that image of ‘cool scientist lady’ that i dont really even vibe with

"Li, Sue!"

TG: tryna live up to my daughters expectations of what a mom should be while utterly failing at both that and just being myself

"Longbottom, Neville!"

TG: fuck it. imma be roxy lalonde

"MacDougal, Morag!"

TG: grade-a badass bitch and guardian

"Macmillan, Ernest!"

TG: i mean this is all speculation abt what your mom was like but she was me so i feel entitled to speculate lol

"Malfoy, Draco!"

TG: le sigh

"Moon, Lily!"

TG: when you see this

"Nott, Theodore!"

TG: just, like. idk what im even saying

"Parkinson, Pansy!"

TG: please know that i love you? i mean i hope you know that already lol

"Patil, Padma!"

TG: ugh im bad at words

"Patil, Parvati!"

TG: anyway. have a wonderful first day of school sweaty ;0

"Perks, Sally-Anne!"

TG: you’ll do great!!!

"Potter, Rose!"

--tipsyGnostalgic [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--

Rose stepped forward, ignoring the whispers of the crowd. The hat was waiting for her, and she placed it delicately on her head.

"Ms. Lalonde," said a small voice in Rose’s ear. "I was under the impression I would be sorting a Potter today."

You are, thought Rose. Legally speaking.

"You were never much for the legality of things, were you?" said the hat. "The destruction of two universes at once involved the vandalism of an uncountable amount of private property. That’s illegal, you know."

Hilarious, thought Rose. Just give me a House and be done with it.

"Well, you’ve certainly got the brains for Ravenclaw, if your too-brief stint with magic in your last life is any indication. And the heroics for Gryffindor -- to try and save the multiverse on your own? Very brave."

It didn’t work, said Rose.

"You don’t know that," said the hat. "Anyhow, you’re quite loyal -- your brother was just here, was he not? Sorted into Hufflepuff?"

I would have thought he’d be a shoo-in for Gryffindor.

"Ah, confidentiality, I’m afraid," said the hat. "If you want to know about that, you’d have to ask him. Yes, you are loyal, but you’ve got more of something else in you. You’re willing to tear down anything to achieve your goals. You played the Game, not for entertainment, but to defy the boundaries of life and death within its rules. After the Game cost the life of your mother, you decided to tear it down with raw power and reshape the universe as you would. Ambition, that’s who you are. Aut viam inveniam aut faciam, hmm?"

I think, if we’re being honest, both of us knew where this was going from the moment Malfoy opened his stupid mouth on the train.

"I’m so glad you agree that you truly belong in SLYTHERIN!"

Silence. Utter silence from across the room, churning and boiling like waves of nothing at all.

Then someone from the Hufflepuff table clapped. Dave. Then Hermione joined in, and then the entire Hufflepuff table was clapping, to the point where some very confused onlookers from other houses joined in. Dirk, Rose was pleased to note, was one of them.

Ron was clapping too, but he seemed... confused. Something in his expression, his eyebrows, maybe, held a look of uncertainty within it.

Rose took the hat off, set it back on the stool, and flashed Ron a thumbs up before moving to sit as obnoxiously close to Malfoy as possible.

"What," gritted Malfoy, "do you think you’re doing, Potter?"

"Calling your bluff," said Rose.

"Thomas, Dean!" shouted Professor McGonagall, and once the boy was sorted, she followed it with "Turpin, Lisa!" before finally ending on "Weasley, Ronald!"

Ron walked nervously to the hat.

The whole room sat in silence as the hat conversed with Weasley. What, thought most students, was taking him so long? Everyone knew, of course, that the Weasleys were nearly entirely Gryffindors. The delay seemed to genuinely worry Professor McGonagall. She stepped closer, and opened her mouth, forming the word "Ronald" before the hat yelled "SLYTHERIN!"

If the room had been shocked and confused before, the atmosphere seemed almost oppressive now.

Ron took off the hat, looked around the room with an expression of pure shock, and began to stumble his way over to where Rose sat at the Slytherin table.

Someone, from the other side of the room, stood up. "Bullshit!" yelled a boy with red hair. Presumably this was one of Ron’s many brothers.

"This is bullshit!" he yelled. "No! This cannot be how he was sorted!"

"Percy Weasley, please, calm down--" tried McGonagall.

"Ron!" shouted Percy. "Ron, there’s been a mistake, hasn’t there been?" He seemed almost desperate.

Ron tried to avoid eye contact with the Gryffindor boy, his head down, grimacing.

"Ron!" The boy looked, not angry, but frightened. "Ron, please!"

Dirk, who had been sitting next to Percy, stood up, put a hand on his shoulder, and Percy seemed to slump. Then Dirk looked over to where Rose was sitting. He nodded, and whispered something to Percy, who shook his head, and then the two sat down.

Ron finally sat down next to Rose just in time for the sorting of "Zabini, Blaise!"

"Oh, Merlin, what have I done?" whispered Ron. "I didn’t expect Percy... oh no, what’s Mum going to think... oh God..."

"Hey," said Rose. "You’re fine. The hat put you here because it’s going to be the best place for you." Rose had no idea if this was true. She was, in fact, talking mostly out of her ass, but it seemed like the right thing to say.

"Typical Weasleys," sneered Malfoy from across the table. "The moment one of their own breaks from the pattern they seemed dogged to drag them right back down to their level."

Ron flushed bright red.

"Malfoy, I’m trying to remember how our last conversation ended," said Rose. "Did I ever end up describing to you how good I am at poking holes in things?"

Outwardly, Malfoy rolled his eyes, but he stopped talking at that point.

A man with a long, white beard, who Rose mentally dubbed "Wizardy Herbert" for the sake of looking nearly identical to Roxy’s shitty wizard JPEGs, albeit at a higher resolution, stood up from the head of the table.

"Welcome!" said Herbert. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Ágnoia! Syngení̱s! Kakorrhaphía! Echthrós! Thank you!"

Everyone clapped enthusiastically. Perhaps, in various scattered parts of the room, students in Ancient Runes recognized those Greek words to be roughly translatable as "ignorance, relatives, failure, and the enemy" in that order, but if they did, they thought nothing of it. Dumbledore had pulled weirder shit than this, after all. According to rumor, one year his words of wisdom were delivered to every student by a flock of carrier pigeons, rather than spoken aloud. Carrier pigeons and not owls, mind you, because owls would be too much sense for Albus Dumbledore.

In any case, Rose only spoke English, enough German to read Freud and Jung, and (when uninfected) tiny bits of the ancient calls of the Horrorterrors of the Furthest Ring, and thus did not know what the hell Dumbledore was saying.

"Who was that guy?" asked Rose, helping herself to a leg of chicken that had appeared on the table.

Ron and Malfoy both looked at her, stunned. "You don’t know who Dumbledore is?" asked Ron.

"Why, should I?" asked Rose, after taking a bite. Damn. Compliments to the chef.

"You must know who he is," said Malfoy, exasperated. "His name was on your Hogwarts letter."

Now she remembered. "He's the headmaster, but he has a bunch of other silly-sounding titles, right? What is it with wizards and made-up words like "mugwump"?"

Ron and Malfoy both looked at her askance. "Rose," said Ron. "Mugwump is a real word; the Muggles use it too."

"What? No."

"It's slang," said Malfoy. "It means someone who's not involved in party politics. The Supreme Mugwump is the position you're thinking of, Potter, and the holder of said seat is meant to be the impartial leader of the ICW, but, of course, everyone knows of Dumbledore's notorious slant towards helping The Light. I learned this from my father, of course."

"That’s not a thing," stated Ron. "That’s not a group, The Light. You made that up."

"No, I didn’t."

"Yes, you did."

Rose, as a (former?) Seer of Light, was feeling deeply embarrassed, not that she'd let the bickering Ron or Malfoy know that. The Seer of Light is meant to know the best method to success, the most important knowledge, and what to tell people so that victory would be granted to the most people possible. Rose's powers, of course, hadn't functioned very well in over eleven years, and now she was sitting at a table with two eleven-year-olds who knew the definition of a North American English slang word that she had genuinely thought was some more made up wizard bullshit, like "galleon" as a currency.

"Well," she said, finally, stopping the two boys’ escalating argument, "it's interesting that he's able to balance politics with being the headmaster of a school."

Draco snorted. "Dumbledore barely does any politics nowadays," he said. "Which is good for my father, of course."

"Keep talking about your father, Malfoy, and we'll see how much good your politics gets you," said Ron, his face red.

"Settle down," said Rose. "Ron, you've barely eaten. Your blood sugar is low from all the sweets we got on the train, you're crashing and getting too angry. Let's just--eat, and continue this conversation later."

"Oh, I bet you will, Potter," said Malfoy. "I bet you're all about conversations."

"You eat too," said Rose.

Malfoy ate.

---

The rest of dinner, aside from a brief, uneventful meeting with a fairly brusque ghost covered in blood and Rose experiencing an inexplicable headache upon making eye contact with a teacher in a turban, was delicious and fulfilling.

Finally, desert vanished itself, and Mr. Mugwump (fuck that word) himself stood up.

"Ahem -- just a few more words now that we are all fed and watered. I have a few start-of-term notices to give you. First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils. And a few of our older students would do well to remember that as well."

Dumbledore seemed to glance in the direction of Dirk.

"I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you all that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors. Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of the term. Anyone interested in playing for their House teams should contact Madam Hooch."

"What’s Quidditch?" Rose whispered in Ron’s ear. He looked affronted.

"And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death."

"Huh," muttered Malfoy.

"Huh?" asked Rose. "Is that normal for magic schools?"

"No," said Ron. "I mean, I think it’s not. Fred n’ George always tell me about all their death-defying this-and-thats but they probably made most of it up, in hindsight."

"Huh," concluded Rose.

"And now, before we go to bed, let us sing the school song!" cried Mugwump.

They did.

---

As the chattering crowds of students began to make their way to their dormitories, Rose noticed Dirk hanging back at his table.

"I’ll catch up later, Ron," said Rose. Ron looked uncertain, but Malfoy rolled his eyes and took him along towards the Slytherin dormitories.

"Aren’t you supposed to be leading the Gryffindors to bed?" asked Rose.

"There are two Prefects for a reason," said Dirk. "Besides, Percy Weasley begged me to let him lead the kids, and I kinda took the Prefect slot he’d been gunning for, so I let him do it for me. And also, we need to talk."

"Dirk," said Rose.

"Did you know?" asked Dirk.

"No," said Rose. "I found out on the train, only minutes before we arrived. There wasn’t any time to talk to you."

"Okay," said Dirk.

"Dirk," said Rose.

"I’m not upset at you," said Dirk.

"Don’t be upset at Dave, either," said Rose.

"Why shouldn’t I be?"

"Roxy said he might just literally have not figured out how to use Pesterchum," said Rose. Both of them knew it was a lie.

"You really didn’t know at all?" asked Dirk.

"I really, really didn’t know," said Rose. "But Dirk--"

"Save it."

"Dirk!"

"Sorry, I’m," he sighed. "I’m not in a good place right now."

"There was no way you could have known," said Rose. "You didn’t abandon him or anything. And besides, the Grangers, from the brief interaction I had with one of them, seem like very nice people."

Behind Dirk’s stupid anime shades, Rose thought she could detect a deep, tragic-irony-laden sadness. Because of course a Strider would somehow get irony involved in the tragic misplacement of a relative. Of course.

"Listen," said Rose. "If he wants to talk to you, he will."

"I’m just... taken aback at the fact that I’ve somehow fucked up my relationship with my biological son so much that he refuses to speak to me, to the point of hiding behind you to avoid me seeing him (which, by the way, I did see you two do, I just couldn’t tell who you were hiding until his name got called), before I’ve even had a chance to meet him. Nice job, there, Strider. Fucking class act you are."

Rose didn’t say anything.

Dirk sighed deeply.

"Slytherin dorms are in the dungeons," he finally said. "If you turn around now and make a left from the Great Hall you should be able to catch up with them."

"Dirk," said Rose.

"Go," said Dirk. "Go find your friends."

Rose went.

 

Chapter Text

Only after they had crawled through the barrel into the Hufflepuff common room, gotten set up, and returned back downstairs for some leisure time before bed, did Hermione corner her brother about all that happened.

"Dave," she hissed. "Get over here. We have to talk."

"Aw, man," said Dave. "I thought I was like, done with talking for today. Like I had hit my talking quota or something with Rose and I was free."

"Rose is precisely what we need to talk about, Dave," said Hermione. "You're related to her?"

"I think I mentioned the fruit salad a while back, yeah," said Dave.

"How did you find this out?"

“So,” said Dave. “Before Rose and I were reborn, it was around the time when John had informed us that the four of us were all altered Paradox Clones of our guardians. Rose and I were cloned based on her Mom and my Bro, respectively, which makes us genetic siblings. It was all kinda weird, and then John went on a tangent about bunnies and Nic Cage which I only caught half of, but--”

"Dave, stop," said Hermione.

He did.

"Just... Dave, I love you. You don't need to tell me made-up nonsense; I thought we were closer than that. Please, Dave. Just tell me the truth."

"I..."

"Dave, please, I can see on your face that you're struggling. Tell me what's going on so we can work through it together."

“Okay,” sighed Dave. “So, let’s just. Pretend for a moment, this is true, but pretend I had a past life. In this past life, whatever, I know you don’t believe me, but my dad was... fuck, this is complicated.”

“It’s okay,” said Hermione.

“Yeah, I know, but there are a lot of really fucking weird details, like how I thought he was my older brother for most of my life before I found out he was actually my dad genetically.”

“Okay,” said Hermione.

“It took me an entire second childhood to realize something,” said Dave. “Something really fucking important.”

“What did you realize?” asked Hermione.

“My older brother--dad--whateverthefuck, was, and it took me a really long time to realize this, and I was mostly able to because being your brother showed me what a normal family looks like, a massive fucking abusive asshole.”

It took Hermione a second more than it did before for her to respond with “Okay.”

“Like. Fucking. I don’t even know how to describe it.”

“You don’t need to describe it,” said Hermione.

“Okay,” said Dave, relieved.

“Okay,” said Hermione. “But why are you worried about your... past life father?”

“Because in this life, time travel, don’t ask, I’m not born yet, and he’s still a teenager right now,” said Dave.

“I think I see where you’re going with this,” said Hermione.

“So yeah,” said Dave. “That’s why I’m avoiding Dirk Strider.”

“Oh,” said Hermione. “I didn’t actually know where you were going with this.”

“Wait, where did you think I was going with this?”

“Well, I didn’t expect it to be the Gryffindor Prefect, of all people.”

“Hermione, did you get a good look at him?” asked Dave.

“No,” she said. “But I know his name from the administrative booklet that I requested before term started.”

“Well, see, there’s your problem,” said Dave. “He looks like me, but pointier.”

“Huh,” said Hermione.

“Like, his shades are pointer, his hair is spikier, it. Ugh. I really fucking don’t like thinking about how much of the on-brand Dave look comes from him.”

“Okay,” said Hermione. “What does this have to do with Rose, though?”

“Oh, she’s his daughter too. I thought I said that.”

“Okay,” said Hermione. “Dave, I need to say that I definitely believe you on this.”

“What happened to not having made-up nonsense between each other?” snarked Dave.

“Fine,” snapped Hermione. “This is a lot to process and if I need to be honest I’m really having trouble with it! You never told me that -- none of the books I read said anything about reincarnation!”

“I mean, it’s not exactly reincarnation,” said Dave. “Not like I got reborn as a beetle or some shit. I got reborn as me. And aside from the whole magic school and getting reborn years earlier and the whole being adopted into the best fucking family I could have ever asked for things, it all is pretty much identical to my first go-around. Down to being friends with Rose.”

“You didn’t grow up together?” asked Hermione.

“Nah, we met over the internet.”

Now Hermione was really interested. “Internet? What’s that?

“Oh my god,” said Dave. “You’re going to fucking love it.”

---

Dave: Be Dirk.

---

No.

---

Dirk: Be Roxy.

---

Roxy Lalonde, self-described Grade-A badass bitch and Guardian, right as Dave attempted to explain the joys and wonders of the internet in the mid-to-late 2000’s, was doing a very shitty job of packing everything she needed for a potentially months-long trip into a suitcase.

“Fuck,” said Roxy.

It was around this time that Roxy Lalonde realized she didn’t own very much outside of cat t-shirts. Pretty much everything else was actually gifted to her on behalf of Skaianet, a job that she genuinely did love working for (on behalf of the flexible hours, good pay and benefits, and, of course, weird-ass game shit being produced decades ahead of its time). However, it did get a little stressful at times, especially when old Jake made demands such as “watch the meteor that looks like its gonna wipe out half of texas in a few years” because after a while there’s not much more to do than agree that yeah, that city in Texas with that awesome record store is probably going to get a shit-ton of meteors raining down on it fairly soon and there isn’t all that much anyone can do about it.

If it wasn’t for her newfound relationship with Rose, her genetic daughter only a few years younger than her, such realizations could have (and did, in the past) led her to take solace in a bottle.

As of right now, however, the only things Roxy used bottles for was to captchalogue things. Like her suitcase, filled mostly with identical cat t-shirts and some other assorted knicknacks, which she placed into her Message in a Bottle fetch modus.

“I think that’s everything!” she said aloud to nobody.

Roxy grabbed her passport and used the transportalizer in her room to head to the lab. Inside, hunched in front of a Fenestrated Wall and doing something with a console that Roxy could barely follow, was old man Jake Harley.

“You're just in time,” said Jake. “I've set you up with a jet that’s going to be flown by an old partner of mine. Guaranteed to be free of Batterwitch interfetterence.”

“Great,” said Roxy. “Where’s it at?”

“Should be arriving in... a couple seconds, give or take.”

Just then, Roxy heard a nearly deafening booming sound. She glanced towards the door, which Jake nodded at. What a cool dude. It really was a shame that he planned to retire to his private island soon, but alas.

Roxy left the lab, instantly spotting the fuckhuge military-looking jet now parked right next to the lab’s front door.

A stairwell slowly extended out from a door in the side of the jet. Roxy climbed aboard.

“Hello?” she asked, poking her head into the very spacious, and mostly empty cargo bay.

The intercom crackled to life. “Hoo hoo!” hoo’d a voice. “If you’ve just entered, turn to the left, and there should be a door!”

There was. Roxy entered it, revealing the jet’s cockpit. Inside of the cockpit was a woman about Jake’s age, wearing a modest dress and what looked to be a genuine pair of aviator goggles on what looked like a genuine aviator hat.

“And before you ask, dearie,” said the woman, “these are genuine aviator goggles and a genuine aviator hat!”

Roxy grinned. “You’re Jane Egbert, right? Jake’s sister?”

“Hoo, that I am!” said the woman. Her expression softened. “You know, I’m very grateful for you, dear. It’s been decades since I last saw dear old Jake. But ever since you told Jake about the adventures of your young friend Rose, he was finally able to find me, and we had a very touching reunion! All off-screen, of course, hoo hoo.”

“I get that,” said Roxy.

“Anyhoo, we’re going to take off shortly, so you better buckle in,” said Jane. “I may be eighty-one, but I’ve not been adventuring for a heck of a lot of those, and I want to get some in under my belt before I kick the bucket!”

Roxy buckled in. “You’re eighty-one? That’s pretty old to be a pilot. Respect.”

“Don’t worry, dear, this ship flies itself. I’m mostly just adult supervision, hoo hoo. Can’t have a sixteen year old run around trying to sell technology to a secret society without an adult present, is what Colonel Sassacre always used to say!”

“Hell of a guy.”

“His advice was always rather specific, in hindsight, but it does suit our needs,” ruminated Jane, as she pressed the FLY SHIP button.

---

Roxy: Be Ron.

---

“There you are!” said Ron, as Rose ran and caught up with the group. Merlin, he was worried Rose would never show back up again, and Ron would be stuck with Malfoy as the only kid he age who he’d actually had a single conversation with in Slytherin.

“Sorry, I got delayed,” said Rose. “Family stuff, don’t ask.”

“I wasn’t going to,” said Ron.

"Potter,” said Malfoy. “You just went and talked to Dirk Strider, I saw it. He was the only student besides you who didn’t go straight for the dorms.”

“Did I forget to say ‘don’t ask’ out loud?” asked Rose.

“I wasn’t asking, I was merely stating facts,” sniffed Malfoy. Ugh. The reality that Ron was now trapped sharing a House with Malfoy for seven years was now beginning to hit him. Perhaps trapped in a House was the wrong turn of phrase to describe Ron’s situation, but he couldn’t think of anything better.

“Is everyone gathered?” asked the boy in the front of the group, wearing green robes, presumably the Slytherin prefect. “Wonderful. Now, we’re about to enter the dungeons, it’s a long set of steps, so try not to trip. At the bottom I’ll be opening the entrance to the common room itself, and I will tell you the password once we are inside. Come along,” and he turned and walked down the stairs.

The first-years followed him down. Once they reached the bottom, the Slytherin prefect pointed out that “on your right, you’ll see a long hallway, that’s where we want to be heading, but if you look directly behind me, you will notice the Potions classroom, taught by our Head of House, Potions Master and Professor Severus Snape.”

“This guy clearly rehearsed his speech,” Ron heard Rose whisper. “It sounds like I’m being sold on the school I already attend.”

“Slytherin has a lot of House pride,” whispered Malfoy back. “He’s not selling you on the school, he’s selling you on the House.” Rose grunted in affirmation.

The students headed down the long hallway, when the Prefect at the front stopped walking, turning to face the crowd. “I want all of you to take a good look around,” said the Slytherin. “To my right is the entrance to the common room. To enter it, simply speak the password.” The Prefect walked over to the wall and whispered something into it. Bricks moved away, much like how Diagon Alley unfolded its opening, and Ron was able to see the Slytherin Common Room for the first time.

It was, simply put, beautiful. Ron had heard “the Slytherin Common Room is in the dungeon” and expected a barely-lit, cramped, dismal room, but instead, the common room had gorgeously high ceilings. It was two-storied, with a large, open front half, and a back half of the room covered by a second-story loft. Beautifully ornate green sofas were spread naturally through the room, with (what Ron was especially pleased to notice) more than a few preset chess games on tables in front of the chairs.

But what most took Ron’s breath away was the window. The Slytherin Common Room featured an entire glass wall that Ron thought was just decorative before he caught a glimpse of--

"Giant squid," breathed Rose. "It's beautiful. One of my wands -- it might not be that squid, but the core is made from the ink of one."

"My father never told me how beautiful it was," whispered Malfoy.

"Please don't ruin this," said Rose.

"I'm not--"

Ron shooshed Malfoy.

"Now that we're all here, welcome to the Slytherin Common Room. If you look behind me, you'll see our bulletin board. On that bulletin board anyone can post whatever they like, but there's one section that gets updated every week, and that's the password. Make sure to check it often, because twenty-four hours after the new password is posted, the old password will no longer work. I expect all of you to memorize this week's password on your own time.

"There are four staircases, two of which lead up to the beautiful study loft behind me. The other two lead to the boys' and girls' dormitories, which were assigned based on the gender you or your guardian reported upon registering for the term. If you have any complaints about sleeping arrangements, including which dormitory you are assigned to, please do not hesitate to let me know.

"This is also the time to let me know about any allergies or bedtime medication you may need to take. Madame Pomfrey has a list of all of the medications your parents or guardians submitted, but if you have any that weren't sent in advance, let me know, and I'll pass on that information to Madame Pomfrey and Professor Snape. Any medications you need should be delivered to you by the House Elves."

Ron saw Rose raise an eyebrow. Oh, she probably didn't know what House Elves were. Something to explain later, he guessed.

"I know from prior years that this may be the first time some of you are away from home. It is okay to feel wary or upset about that, but trust me, just lean into the welcoming atmosphere of your House, and you should feel like your true home is here. It's why the House system exists in the first place. If you still feel homesick, writing letters helps, and you can always talk to me or any other Prefect.

"Finally, my name is Jasper Leijon, I’m in fifth year, my female counterpart is Cosette Martin, and she'll also be available for questions if you have any."

"Hello!" said a girl, from atop the loft, waving down at the first years.

"That's her," said Jasper, grinning. "Alright, I'm not going to waste any more of your time, welcome to Slytherin!"

---

Ron: Be Rose again, finally.

---

As most of the first years dispersed, Rose found herself drawn back to Ron and Malfoy.

"So," said Rose. "Slytherin, huh."

Ron looked defensive. Malfoy looked caught between a smug expression because he got in, and an upset one because Rose and Ron had followed him there.

"The hat said it was ambitious to follow you into a den of snakes," said Ron. "I told the stuffed thing to stuff it."

Rose laughed. "That's amazing. You actually said that?"

"Well," said Ron, scratching the back of his neck. "The sentiment was there. I came up with the phrasing later on."

"Ugh," groaned Malfoy. "I'm beginning to realize that I'm going to be trapped in this House with the two of you for seven years," he said.

Crabbe, who was behind Draco and had been the entire time, looked hurt.

"Not you," said Draco. "The two of them, I mean. I'm just feeling... Merlin, I swear there's a word for it."

Rose shrugged. "I didn't know the term Mugwump. Don't look at me."

“I’m going to bed,” said Draco. “And hopefully when I wake up this will all have been a dream, and I’m not stuck sharing my home for the next seven years with a Potter and a Weasley.” He walked off towards the boys’ dorms.

“I probably should go to sleep too,” said Ron. “This has been... um. Well, I can say meeting you has been life-changing, Rose. I can’t imagine myself going to Slytherin if it wasn’t for you.”

“I still don’t grasp the difference between the houses or why it matters outside of school, but I appreciate the gesture, certainly,” said Rose.

“It matters a lot, actually,” said Ron. “Lots of Dark wizards come out of Slytherin. Politicians, too. Loads of people from Gryffindor won’t even talk to a Slytherin.”

“And you said it was a family tradition to go to Gryffindor,” realized Rose. “Oh, Ron. I’m so --”

“Stop,” said Ron. “I’m trying not to think about it. And anyways, I’ll tell them the truth, if they really ask. The hat said I was a natural fit for Gryffindor, and I basically... asked it to let me find out what in Merlin’s name you were doing.”

“Really?”

“Roughly, yeah,” said Ron, though his eyes didn’t meet hers.

“Alright,” said Rose. “I appreciate it, no matter what. Thank you for sticking by me.” She held out her hand.

Ron took it.

They shook.

“And now,” said Rose, “I pray that I am not too late to get a good bed.”

“Oh crud,” said Ron, who turned away and began sprinting towards the dorms, nearly knocking over Malfoy. Rose could hear him yell “I DO NOT WANT A BED NEAR THE DOOR!”

Rose walked over to the entrance to the girls’ dorm, pulling her phone out of her robe pocket. Entirely out of habit, she scrolled to the most recent Pesterlog and began reading.

“Oh fuck,” swore Rose, after only a few moments. “Roxy’s coming.”

Chapter Text

 

--tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG] at 22:16 --

TT: Hi. Orientation finished.

TT: I saw your messages.

TT: When are you planning to come by? Have you made contact with any wizard government yet?

TG: ROSE

TT: Okay, you’re online.

TG: youll never guess where i am rigt now

TT: So I won’t. Tell me.

TG: ON A PLANE

TG: with JANE CROCKER

TT: John’s grandmother?

TG: YEAH

TG: SHE’S THE COOLEST

TT: Nice.

TT: Wait, not nice. You're coming *now*?

TG: more like JUST TOUCHED DOWN IN EDINBURGH

TG: i think. right? you said the school was in scotland

TT: It is, but I got there from London, on a train. For all I know it might be magically invisible if you don’t come by it.

TG: wait

TG: johns’ grandma says that we’re actually in heathrow airport

TG: she “wanted to meet the queen” or whatever

TG: also something about airspace violations

TG: WHATEVER point is where is this train atttttttt

TT: Um.

TT: I ran through a solid brick wall to get to it.

TT: And I think it’s only for students.

TG: bricks will not stop me

TT: Holy shit.

TT: Okay, then. This might work and it might not, but we can’t know unless we try. You’re at Heathrow?

TG: for now :o customs cannot hold me forever

TG: I WILL BE FREE

TT: Tomorrow, get to King’s Cross station and message me.

TT: For now, try not to become too jet-lagged.

TG: i was under the impression that *i* was the mom here :V

TT: Go to bed, Roxy.

--tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG] at 22:36 --

Rose put her phone back in her pocket and entered the dorm. Two girls were already inside, unpacking their belongings. "Oh," said one, once she looked up. "Hello. I'm Daphne Greengrass."

"Rose Potter," said Rose.

"I know," she said.

"I'm beginning to wonder if there's going to be a need to introduce myself at all," said Rose. "For whatever reason, circumstances out of my control seem to have done the introductions for me."

"We were also there at the Sorting," said the other girl.

"That's true," said Rose, "but it does make me feel like an ass for not knowing your name."

"Tracey Davis," she said. "Muggleborn Slytherin, don't make a big deal about it."

"I had no intention of doing so until you said anything about it," said Rose. "Is it supposed to be a big deal?"

"A Weasley and a Potter in Slytherin are supposed to be big deals," said a voice behind Rose. "But you can't help yourself from shattering expectations, can you?"

Rose turned around. Behind her were two more girls, dressed already in Slytherin green. The one who had spoken was smiling smugly, and the other was lingering just behind.

"How long were you standing there planning that?" asked Rose.

"I wasn't--"

"She ran up to hide behind the door as soon as Leijon finished his speech," grinned the other girl. "Millicent Bulstrode. The huge theatre nerd is Pansy Parkinson."

Pansy scowled in a way that reminded Rose of Draco. "It's not theater," she said. "It's politics. Slytherin is meant to be about word games and cleverness!"

"Slytherin is a place to sleep," said Daphne. "If it happens to be the singular House most Greengrass children are sorted into, it's only an affirmation of family being important to us, nothing political." 

"Isn't family loyalty being important a sign of Hufflepuff?" asked Rose, thinking of Hermione.

"Wouldn't you say that it's ambitious to try and keep a family together?" replied Daphne.

Rose had no answer.

"Well," said Pansy. "I can sense that this room will be a wonderful source of drama that I will attempt to catalogue in my acting journal for the next seven years."

"You keep an acting journal?" That was Tracey.

"She keeps an acting journal," said Millicent. "It's hilarious. I've only gotten a few glimpses over the years, but one page involved her talking about the time when--"

"That's quite enough, Millie!" shrieked Pansy.

The air became suddenly tense.

Daphne tried to suppress it, but she ended up letting out a tiny snort of laughter. Tracey didn't even try to hide it, once she saw Daphne break. Rose was laughing, too, covering her mouth but giggling all the same. Then finally Pansy smiled, and Millicent patted her on the back and laughed heartily, and finally the whole room was filled with laughter, and minutes later, once the last shuddering breath was taken and the last tear was wiped away, Tracey sighed contentedly.

"This is going to be an incredible year," she said.

---

Night passed, and turned into day. Rose got up, checked her phone (nothing on it, really, considering the World Wide Web was more split between the for-now-Government-And-Research-Facility-Exclusive Wide Web and Skaianet, and barely anyone used the latter. Some habits were just nearly impossible to break), washed her face, when she noticed someone else in the bathroom, doing her makeup.

Pansy had actually stopped, the applicator in her hand still in mid-air, but her eyes were now solely locked into Rose's forehead.

"That's the scar, isn't it?" marveled Pansy.

"Ugh," groaned Rose. "It's too early for this shit."

"But it is, right?"

"Ugh," repeated Rose. "Yes, it's the scar. Wow. Amazing. I have other scars, too, you know."

"Really?" Pansy seemed enchanted with the possibility.

"Er," said Rose, suddenly flustered. "I got one on my right thumb when I tried cooking bacon for my aunt at age four. It didn't work out great for me."

"Really?" Pansy gasped. "You couldn't use any burn-healing paste?"

"No? Does that exist?"

"Yes," said Pansy. "Oh, Rose. That's so tragic!"

If Rose was more awake, she might have heard the mental alarm bells going off, but instead she said, "Well, they did what they could, under the circumstances. I'd probably be blaming whoever left me with such a dysfunctional group of people in the first place."

"Oh," said Pansy, and it almost looked to Rose like her heart was breaking, "you don't even know who left you there?"

"I have literally no clue," said Rose, who was done with the conversation.

"Dumbledore left you there," said Pansy.

"What?"

"He left you alone with those Muggles, those Muggles too backwards to know how to make a stupid burn-healing paste..." Now Pansy was sniffling. "How tragic. That's so tragic. I can't state how tragic that is, Rose."

"I mean, I thought I had an alright childhood--"

"Rose," said Pansy, slowly. "When you said you had other scars I thought you meant from Him."

"Nice capital letter," said Rose. "Really adds to the drama."

“I try,” said Pansy. “Wait, no, I was monologuing! Don’t do that!” Any air of tense sadness was entirely gone from her face, and now she instead looked only mildly irritated.

Milicent groaned her way into the bathroom.

“Kill me,” said Milicent. “It’s seven in the morning and you woke me up by monologuing.”

“Well, that’s on you for waking up!” said Pansy.

“My bed is the one closest to the bathroom door. I don’t really have a choice. This happened before, Pan, when we were on that camping trip, and I complained about it before.”

“I,” said Pansy, “have a creative brain. And my creative brain works best early in the morning.”

“Woe, that we are all not so blessed,” said Rose. “Please keep the dramatic monologues to times when I am better able to come up with quips to respond to them.”

“Sometimes I don’t want people to quip while I talk about the tragedy of their own lives!”

“Don’t I know it,” said Rose. “After a while you realize the necessity of knowing how to quip back. Shuts them right down.”

Pansy’s eyes were wide.

“Teach me,” she whispered.

“After breakfast,” said Rose. “I need to make sure Ron and Malfoy didn’t strangle each other last night.”

And so, her morning routine (mostly) done, Rose left the other two girls to bicker, and wandered back into the Slytherin common room.

Malfoy and Ron were hunched over a chess game.

Rose walked over, and could hear Malfoy ask “Why did you do that?” Ron raised his eyebrows and tried to look away. Malfoy shook his head. “Rook to H4.”

The tiny pieces, which looked to Rose like a fairly standard set (and Rose, who had dealt with a lot of life-sized chess people, knew what chess looked like) began to all move. The Rook shook itself before moving across the board.

“Bishop to C6,” said Ron.

“Not to interrupt,” said Rose, “but are we heading to breakfast anytime soon?”

“We’re busy, Potter,” drawled Malfoy.

“Yeah,” said Goyle.

“Shit,” said Rose, jumping a little. “I forgot you were there entirely.”

Goyle frowned.

“I’m going to head to breakfast on my own, then,” said Rose. “See you.”

“Don’t forget to look at the password if you haven’t yet,” said Malfoy.

Rose went to check the password, then left the Common Room, the bricks folding in behind her. She passed the Potions room on the way, catching a brief glimpse of a cloaked man with pitch black hair rearranging his cabinets. That was likely the Potions Master that Leijon had mentioned the prior night. (Rose really should have asked him if he’d ever heard of anyone named Nepeta.)

Finally, she climbed the stairs, and emerged into the main hallway, before turning in and entering the Great Hall.

In the morning, with light softly streaming in from the windows and the ceiling, Rose was finally able to truly appreciate the beauty of the room. In certain ways, it did remind her of the distinctly gothic architecture of Derse, but far less haphazard. (And far less purple.) The details carefully etched into the walls of the Great Hall, repeated and remixed as the walls climbed higher and higher, were also just subtle enough to not be either a distraction or, in some of the most offensive examples of Derse architecture, a tripping hazard.

She caught Dave and Hermione sitting at the mostly empty Hufflepuff table. Rose sat down across from them.

“Hey,” said Rose.

“Mrgle,” replied Dave.

“There, there,” said Hermione reassuringly. “Sorry, Ms. Pott-- I mean, Rose. He’s not exactly a morning person.”

“I totally am,” said Dave. “By, like, noon. That counts as morning.”

“Do they not have coffee here?” asked Rose.

“Ugh,” said Dave. “Only for teachers. Sucks major horse ass.”

“Really?” asked Rose. “What was their logic?”

Dave’s head hit the table. Without looking up, he held up two fingers in each hand to form faux-quotation marks in the air. “‘Eleven year olds should not consume caffeine in such high quantities.’ Bullshit, honestly.”

“They do offer tea,” said Hermione.

“Fuck tea, I’m an American,” said Dave. “We’re supposed to, like, have solidarity against tea, or something. I didn’t take history.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Do you know, Rose, that we constantly get asked why he sounds like he’s from Texas?”

“I am from Texas!” said Dave.

“Dave spent most of his childhood finding any and all media with Texans in it, solely so that he could study the accent. I mean, honestly.”

“Listen,” said Dave. “Listen. Do you know how hard it is, to, like, retain a consistent accent when you live in a totally different country on your second go-around? You gotta fight back against that shit!”

“I gave in,” said Rose. “The British accent makes me sound more sophisticated, I think. Ah, if only John could see me now.”

“If John could see you now he’d probably make some stupid fucking comment about James Bond, or something. I dunno.”

“From the fact that you mentioned openly that this is your second go-around, am I to assume that the other Granger is ‘in the know,’ so to speak?”

Dave made a vague noise. “She doesn’t believe me all that much.”

“I believe something is going on,” said Hermione. “Just... the whole.” She gestured in the air. “Time travel reincarnation thing. I don't know how much of it I can believe."

“It’s all true,” said Rose. “And as a rule of thumb, the dumber the event in question, the more likely it is to be true. Did you tell her about the time you scammed a bunch of lizards with time travel?”

“No,” said Dave.

“I don’t even see why you wouldn’t have. It was one of the least stupid things that happened because there was a clear financial benefit to it.”

“Because then I would have had to talk about the trolls, and ‘Mione’s barely grasped the internet by itself so far.”

“Ah,” said Rose. She grabbed a muffin from a platter. “You’re aware that the internet has been invented already, yes? Just heavily restricted for the next few years?”

“Not really interested,” said Dave.

“Oh, what, you’re waiting on the server infrastructure to reupload a redrawn Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff?”

“First of all, that’s genius, and I’m taking that idea, and second of all, eh.” Dave shrugged. “What do I need it for, anyway? I really only spent most of my time just talking and making music, and you don’t need the internet to make music. Now I have both my sisters from both lives here, so who else would I want to talk to?”

“Aww,” said Hermione. “Dave.” She smiled.

“What’s your first class?”

“Not sure,” said Dave. “‘Mione?”

“The Hufflepuffs have Herbology first today,” she said. “We’ve got about an hour to get down to the greenhouses.”

“As far as I’m aware that’s not a class I share with you,” said Rose. “Slytherin has transfiguration first.”

Another Hufflepuff sat down next to Rose. She looked at Rose. “Are the muffins any good?” she asked.

“They’re alright,” said Rose. “But it’s also possible that I’ve not woken up yet.”

“Thanks,” said the girl, who took a plate. Then, before she reached for the muffin, she looked back at Rose, scrutinizingly.

“You weren’t in the common room last night, were you?” she asked.

“No,” said Rose.

“Oh!” said the girl. “So then you missed introductions. I’m Hannah,” she said, holding out a hand. Rose took it. “Looks like you already know Dave and Hermione.”

“We met on the train,” said Rose.

“Oh, that’s wonderful! Anyway, welcome to Hufflepuff!”

Rose was silent.

“I’m in Slytherin,” she said.

“Huh?”

“I’m not in Hufflepuff,” repeated Rose. “Is there a rule about not sitting at certain tables that I’m unaware of?”

“No,” said Hermione.

“There isn’t?” asked Hannah. “Last night it was only Hufflepuff people at this table.”

Hermione shrugged. “It was a ceremony. Maybe there is a rule about it that I missed, although I doubt that I missed any rules, but we’ll see as more people come in.”

More people trudged into the dining room. Ron swaggered in and sat down next to Rose.

“Guess who just kicked Malfoy’s sorry arse at chess,” said Ron.

“Blaise Zabini?” asked Dave.

“No,” said Ron. “Do you know Blaise?”

“The man was the last one to get sorted. Iunno. I remember random things sometimes.”

“He’s my roommate,” said Ron. “Well, him, Crabbe, Goyle, and Malfoy. Who I just demolished in chess.”

“Congratulations on beating an eleven year old at a board game,” said Rose.

Ron frowned. “I’m eleven too.”

“I know,” said Rose. “Muffin?”

Malfoy joined their little gathering a minute later.

“That was a cruel trick, Weasley,” he said. “With the queens and kings.”

“I learned it from my brothers,” said Ron. “If I don’t fight back with my own tricks, they end up spelling all of the pieces to explode on victory or something. Happened more than once.”

“So you just... carry false piece toppers around?” Malfoy looked horrified.

“I played by the rules,” shrugged Ron. “The queen and king both moved entirely as kings and queens can until the reveal. It was just luck that the set in the Common Room is the same one they sell at Flourish and Blotts.”

“Luck,” repeated Malfoy. “What if it wasn’t the same set?”

“I would have beaten you anyway,” grinned Ron.

“Holy shit, I like this guy,” said Dave. “We met on the train, right?”

“I think so,” said Ron. “Dave Granger?”

“The one and only,” said Dave. “And I did look that up.”

“Sometimes,” said Hermione to Rose, “Dave likes to make fun of me when I get excited about a new book I find, or some other discovery. You have no idea how annoying he was once he found out he was the only person to be named Dave Granger going back through our entire recorded lineage.”

“I wouldn’t have an idea,” grinned Rose, “because he’s the one and only Dave Granger. I have no frame of reference.”

Hermione groaned.

Hannah took in the scene, green ties and yellow ties in equal numbers, and shrugged. “Guess I was wrong about the table thing,” she said, and took a muffin.

Chapter Text

 

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering timaeusTestified [TT] at 10:03 --

TT: Transfiguration went pretty well, all things considered.

TT: That Professor McGonagall of yours must hate you.

TT: I don’t try to have that happen, you know.

TT: The evidence just points to me having an aura that makes people hate me.

TT: Oh, stop being such a drama queen.

TT: Dave *doesn’t know you*.

TT: And I was joking with the McGonagall bit.

TT: I like you. You know, that, right?

TT: You’re fun to talk to, Dirk. I seek you out to talk to.

TT: And I apologize for the negging.

TT: Apology accepted, Lalonde.

TT: Oh, good, we’re back to “Lalonde.”

TT: Familiar territory at last.

TT: Semi-hostile, yet somehow friendly barbs.

TT: The natural state for the both of us.

TT: Do you ever wonder if we’re damaged?

TT: When I hold both wands I can faintly hear whispers from the Furthest Ring.

TT: I *know* I’m damaged.

TT: It helps, honestly.

TT: That’s the bell. Five minutes until you have to be in class.

TT: I have Defence Against The Dark Arts now. Is it any good?

TT: Loaded question.

TT: In the past four years since I’ve been here alone, the first one got killed by a trap she was trying to show off, another got poisoned by something he was working on, one got sent to Wizard Alcatraz, and most recently, one turned out to be half-dog as a result of some weird transformation and got run out of town.

TT: I liked that last guy. Shame about him.

TT: Some of my best friends are half-dog.

TT: I know we’re joshing right now, but there is some legitimately horrific anti-werewolf legislation in place.

TT: Look it up if you want to be sad.

TT: Werewolves are real?

TT: And discriminated against.

TT: Shit sucks.

TT: Anyway, we’ve wasted enough time. Time for you to meet Quirrell.

TT: What’s his deal going to be?

TT: He’s possessed by another incarnation of Jack Noir.

TT: Came from the Squiddles’ universe into ours.

TT: He’s cursed with garlic.

TT: I’ve got allies within the Squiddles. This shouldn’t be too hard.

TT: I’m joking, except for the part about garlic, which is new.

TT: Man used to teach Muggle Studies, which is about as questionable of a class you can possibly expect, but he was garlic-free back then. Competent enough speaker.

TT: With this school’s track record, he’ll end up turning into some kind of garlic dip by the end of the term.

TT: I’ll keep some chips handy.

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering timaeusTestified [TT] at 10:16 --

“W-welcome t-to Defense Against The D-Dark Arts,” stuttered the professor. “M-my name is P-Professor Q-Quirrell.

“This is m-my first year t-teaching this class, and I h-h-hope to m-make a good impression o-on all of you on w-why d-defending y-yourself from the D-Dark A-Arts is s-so important.”

Quirrell walked over to the chalkboard, and shakily picked up a piece of chalk.

Rose cringed at the noise he made as he attempted to write “DADA.”

“Professor Quirrell,” said Rose. “Are you alright?”

Quirrell turned to face Rose, and made eye contact with her. Rose hissed in pain. What the hell?

“I’m q-quite alright, Ms. Potter,” he said. “A-are you o-offering a-assistance?”

“Yes,” said Rose, reeling from the bizarre forehead pain. Had she experienced this before? She couldn’t remember. “I’ll be your chalk jockey, if you so desire.”

Something was up with this guy. Dirk said that he was a "competent enough speaker" but here he was, barely able to use chalk.

"E-excellent, Ms. P-Potter."

She got up from her desk. Quirell held out the chalk to her, and she grabbed the other end of it.

"If I may ask, Professor," said Rose as conversationally as she could, "what happened over the summer?"

"W-well," said the professor. "I'm not at l-liberty to release all the d-details... suffice to say that something o-occured that r-renewed my interest in the D-Dark Arts."

"And the defense thereof?" asked Rose, writing 'Professor Quirrell' on the chalkboard.

"O-of c-course, Ms. Potter."

The class continued, with Quirrell dictating what Rose should draw on the chalkboard. He seemed inordinately pleased with her doing so.

Rose sketched out diagrams of the curriculum, images of some of the non-human sources of Dark Magic (werewolves, vampires, and Squiddles, to name a few), and some crude drawings of people suffering under the results of Dark Magic. While Quirrell wasn't looking, she drew a turban on the sad-faced stick man labeled "victim of possession".

The bell rang. Most of the class began to file out. Rose went to grab her things.

"Ah, Ms. P-Potter, please s-stay behind."

Ron made eye contact with Rose. She nodded, and he left.

"So," she said. "What's going on, professor?"

"Rose," he said. "Let's chat."

Rose mentally checked her strife specibus. Both needlewands were ready for action, in case the worst happened.

"What do you want to chat about, professor?"

"You put a turban on the victim of possession."

Rose crossed her arms. "So I did."

"Why did you do that?"

"For fun."

"Fun?"

"Yes," said Rose. "Children enjoy doodling."

Quirrell looked at her. Her forehead began to pound again. Something was not okay.

"Are you telling me there was no malicious intent with your drawing?" asked Quirrell.

"No," said Rose. "Are you telling me that I'm being suspected of malintent?"

"No," said Quirrell.

"What's your opinion on wearing other hats?" asked Rose. "Perhaps a jester hat? Just for fun. Hypothetical fun. Childish fun."

Quirrell became very angry. "Ms. Potter, I will not remove my turban, and I suggest you leave this classroom right away."

"So you're against jester hats," said Rose. "What are your thoughts on the color black?"

"Leave at once!" barked Quirrell.

Rose found herself pulled backwards towards the door, as if someone had hooked a cane on her stomach. She engaged her needlewands, jamming them into the ground to remain in the room.

"Professor Quirrell," she grunted. "You don't happen to have any attachments to the name Jack--"

"Depulso!" yelled Quirrell, and Rose flew backwards, and landed in the hallway.

Rose groaned. Ron and Malfoy were standing next to the door, and now went over to her.

"Are you alright?" asked Malfoy.

"I think," grit Rose. "That I'm going to have to have a discussion on why exactly Dirk said he was only joking when he said Quirrell was possessed by Jack Noir."

Then she got up, dusted herself off, and stormed away, and she was only barely able to hear Malfoy ask "Who's Jack Noir?"

---

-- tipsyGnostalgic [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 11:04--

TG: LE GROAN

TG: good morniung

TG: to my british daghet

TG: fuck time zones! seriously!!

TG: jane said colonel sassacre said that time zones are a hoax invented to sell more railroads

TT: There’s actually a grain of truth to that.

TT: The first standardized system of timezones was invented to help synchronize train schedules.

TT: Anyway, on the subject of trains.

TT: You’re heading to King's Cross right now?

TG: yeeep

TG: after we met queen Lizzie dude in a tall floofy hat got us a limo

TG: being raised by the batterwitch gets you sum connections i SUPPOSE

TT: Okay. When you get there, enter the main gate, and turn onto Platform Nine.

TG: okay

TG: we're here

TG: platform nine?

TT: Platform nine.

TG: have arrived at platform nine

TG: where dem bricks at

TT: There should be a couple pillars separating platforms nine and ten.

TG: ...no

TG: there’s just open air

TT: What?

TG: yah

TG: lemme

TG: https://ska.ia/BlVZD/

TT: That can’t be right.

TT: There’s no pillar?

TG: um

TG: no

TG: just railroad tracks

TG: is it for magicals only?

TT: I have no idea.

TG: thats stupid

TG: y would you need a brick wall to be invisible too

TG: just have the bricks lock ppl out

TG: its a double gatekeep

TT: Hm.

TT: I’m at a loss.

TG: hmmmmmm

TG: i have a stupid idae

TT: This whole thing was a bit of a stupid idea, but go on.

TG: imma just

TG: close my eyes

TG: run straight at where it *would* be

TG: hope my voidy powers uh. remove the non-existence of said brick wall

TG: and then remove the lock on it also

TG: and then i get to your train :OOOOO

TT: I...

TT: Well, worst case you get thrown out of a railroad station in a country you don’t live in.

TG: here goes

TG: ready

TG: one

TG: twoo

TG: HERE I GO

TT: Gods.

TT: Hello?

TT: Roxy?

TT: Are you alive?

TG: I CANNOT BELIEVE I FUCKIN MADE IT

TG: https://ska.ia/oWRHN/

TT: Holy shit.

TT: Congratulations, even though that photo could not be any shittier.

TG: one problem

TT: One problem?

TG: theres no train

TT: That’s a problem for sure.

TT: Hmm.

TG: i found something on the ground :o

TG: a brochure of hogwarts

TG: all shitty and trambled

TG: but guess what it has :OO

TT: What does it have?

TG: the GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION OF HOGSMEADE

TG: on a MAP

TG: WOOOOOOOOOT

TT: So? It’s a tiny map.

TG: rose staring at maps is my actual fuckin day job

TG: im very good at staring at maps

TG: and now i can actually FIND YOU and your KICKASS SCHOOL and well BE THERE IN A FEW DAYS once JANE FINISHES EXPLORING LONDON because shes NEVER BEEN HERE BEFORE

TT: Sounds like a plan.

TT: See you in a few days, mom.

TG: <3

-- tipsyGnostalgic [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 11:24 --

"What is that thing, Rose?" Millicent Bulstrode stared. She and Tracey Davis had just wandered into their shared dorm room.

"It's a phone," said Rose. "I'm using it to chat with someone in London."

"Someone?"

"My mother," admitted Rose. "Biologically speaking."

Millicent blinked in surprise. "Don't let Pansy hear you're adopted," she said. "It's just the kind of soapy nonsense she loves. She'd never let you live it down."

Tracey shook her head. “I didn’t know they made phones you could keep in your hand, let alone ones that worked in Hogwarts.”

“They don’t, actually,” said Rose. “This is a bit of a prototype. I have friends who work at Skaianet.”

“Skaianet?” Now Tracey seemed surprised. “The mysterious American tech company that took the world by storm? Makes everything from boats, to communication equipment, to Gushers?”

“That’s the one,” said Rose. “Although I’m not sure if it’s owned by Betty Crocker’s former company or if Betty Crocker’s former company is now owned by Skaianet.”

“The latter,” said Tracey. “Shame about her mysterious disappearance. My mother loved her cake mixes.”

Rose didn't deign to comment.

"Jake Harley's my mother's boss," she said. "Which is how I got the phone."

"The Jake Harley?" Tracey's jaw was on the floor. "Do you think you could get me an in with him?"

"Who's this Harley fellow?" asked Millicent.

"One of the richest Muggles alive," said Tracey. "He's old, but he's beyond wealthy, an explorer, and the owner of Skaianet."

"You're eleven," said Rose.

Tracey's face flushed. "I grew up on the Harleyventures books. He's kind of my hero."

"Oh," said Rose. "So it's not like a cougar hunting thing."

"Rose!"

Rose got up from her bed and stretched. “Lunch starts in a few minutes, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” said Milicent.

“Shall we sit at the Slytherin table together? I missed you at breakfast.”

“That-that’s fine,” said Tracey. “Yeah. You can tell me about Jake Harley some more.”

“I don’t know him all that well. I can hook you up with a Pesterchum account to talk to my mom about it, if you want, I’m sure she’s bored out of her mind right now...”

“Yes!” grinned Tracey. “Do that! I would love a Pastorchum!”

“Pesterchum,” corrected Rose.

“Whatever!”

Milicent rubbed her arms.

“I can get you one, too, y’know,” said Rose. “They’re free to make, and if they weren’t, I’m one degree removed from the guy who owns the service.”

“It’s not that!” snapped Milicent. “I don’t want you two using stupid Muggle devices in the Slytherin common room!”

“It’s barely a Muggle device,” said Rose. “Most Muggles won’t own one of these for another decade at least, and I’m pretty sure this phone was made partially by Skaia itself.”

“Ugh,” said Milicent. “Shut up. Skaia this, Skaia that, Skaia net, whatever! This is magic school, stick to magic!"

“What defines magic?” asked Rose. “Someone once told me that magic was fake and that all of the crazy magic I was doing with my wands came from myself and nothing else all along. But you could also argue that everything is equally magic, so long as you don’t know every last detail about how it works. Do you know how the phone works, Milicent?”

“No.”

“If I told you it was magic, would you believe me?”

“No.”

“Would you be able to prove me wrong?”

“No,” said Milicent. “Give me one.”

Behind her back, Rose de-captchalogued the backup phone she carried around with her and handed it to Milicent.

“Just log out of my account and hit ‘create new.’ There are some stupid username limitations, but you get around them pretty easily.”

“Rose, do you have another phone?”

“I have, like, seven.” Rose took another one and gave it to Tracey.

“Why?” Tracey looked grateful, if confused.

“A friend of mine once told me to never be without a computer.”

“Huh,” said Tracey, looking thoughtful. “What’s a computer?”

“I have to start my name with G, C, A, or T, and it has to be two words smushed together?” Milicent looked lost.

“It’s a little stupid, but the GCAT limitation goes away if you want to rename your account. I think it’s for branding or something.”

Milicent typed something out, one finger at a time. Then she frowned.

“I have to pick out a he... hay...” Milicent struggled to read the word.

“Hemotype. I think in later versions they’ll just call it a text color, because that’s what it is. It’s the color that all your messages will be sent in. Think of it like the color of ink for your quill.”

“Oh,” said Milicent. “Can I just pick green? What’s your color?”

“A very soothing purple,” said Rose. “And green would be a little boring, no?”

Tracey shrugged. “I’m going with a kind of hot magenta color,” she said. "Just put your favorite color, Millie."

"Okay.”

Milicent carefully tapped on the screen a few more times. “Now what?” she asked.

“Send me a friend request,” said Rose, pulling out her phone. “I’m tentacleTherapist.”

Two friend requests landed in her inbox. Rose accepted both, and created a group memo.

tentacleTherapist [TT] opened memo on board Girls Chatroom.

“Just click on the memo and make sure it’s working by typing whatever you want,” she said. “Hit the little send icon once you finish typing.”

argumentsGutter [AG] responded to memo.

AG: Hello

AG: How do i add a period

TT: Click on the little period icon, next to the spacebar, it should be right there.

AG: Thnks.

AG: How do i do question marks.

AG: Why is it making the first letter bigger.

AG: Can i turn that off.

TT: Yes. It’s a little complicated to do it in the phone’s settings, and you might want to keep it on. But I’ll show you in a second.

AG: Okay.

AG: How do i do question marks .

Rose got up to show Milicent how to use the virtual keyboard.

charmingCuriosities [CC] responded to memo.

CC: It’s a lot like a typewriter

CC: But without the keys

TT: Yes. You don’t need to always type with an initial capital letter, by the way. Just click shift to make the letter smaller. Or vice versa.

CC: oh

CC: ok

CC: hmm

TT: This is honestly a little difficult for me.

AG: ????????

TT: Yes. That’s how question marks work.

TT: But there’s not really a cultural consciousness yet about how to type that I can reference for examples.

TT: Early internet typing styles were very much informed by both the l33t haxxor groups and also the limitations of button-based cellular phones.

TT: By the way, try holding it with your thumbs over the keyboard.

CC: oh that is much easier

CC: thank you

CC: !

CC: i found the exclamation point!!

TT: :)

TT: I think I need someone else.

TT: I’m going to invite my mom to this chat, unless anyone objects.

AG: Is she a muggle????????

TT: It’s complicated.

TT: Short answer is she was able to go to Platform 9 3/4 earlier today on her own.

CC: then invite her!!

TT: I’ll message her and make it temporarily available to join.

TT: Here’s hoping I don’t regret this.

tipsyGnostalgic [TG] responded to memo.

TG: wots all this then

TG: :o

TG: omg

TG: is this

TG: a WIZZARD GORL CHAT

TG: IM NOT SURE I FIT THAT CATEGORIE BUT I AM SO DOWN TO PARTY WITH YALL

CC: im tracey!!

AG: Milicent bulstrode

timaeusTestified [TT] responded to memo.

TT: Dirk Strider.

TT banned TT from responding to memo.

Chapter Text

 

GC: So lets take it from the top

GC: You some how have

GC: Through connections with mysterious people who might be related to you

GC: A number of magic items from the future

TT: Yes.

GC: That lets you type on an invisible type writer and magically owl things to your friends

TT: Unique way of putting it, but yes.

GC: And everyone else has now signed up with this magic item

AG: Y

CC: mhm!

AA: It seems so.

GC: And im the last one to do it because daph got back to the dorm faster

AA: I did tell you to hurry back after Defense, Pansy.

GC: I didnt know it would get me free cool magic stuff

GC: !!!

GC: I found the exclamation mark!!! Thats hard to get to!!!

GC: Are there more symbols!!!

“So this is really what it comes down to, huh,” said Dave. “A whole bunch of girls, all sitting together at a lunch table, just texting each other even though they’re all two goddamn feet away from each other. This is the end of society.”

“Pish posh,” said Rose. “Don’t be silly. We texted each other all the time.”

“Yeah, but we literally couldn’t talk,” said Dave. “On account of distance and that kind of stuff, and it’s kinda unfair that you’re making that comparison to a bunch of people literally within poking distance.”

“Blah blah bluh,” groaned Malfoy. “Why did you talk me into letting this Hufflepuff join the Slytherin table?”

“He’s Rose’s brother, or something,” shrugged Ron. “Iunno. They sat with him at breakfast and no-one said it wasn’t allowed.”

“It’s not about whether or not it’s allowed,” said Malfoy, “It’s about whether or not he can shut up.

“Hey, man,” said Dave. “I feel like you’re hating on me. Is that what you wanna be, dude? Some kinda hater? Because, like, that’s the kind of vibe I’m getting.”

“Don’t hate on Dave, he’s so lovable,” said Rose.

“Yeah, what she said. Don’t be a hater, bro.”

“I’m not a hater,” scoffed Malfoy.

“Oh yeah, man?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re not a hater?”

“No,” he said. “I’m not.”

Dave paused, his shades level with Malfoy’s eyes.

“Sick,” he concluded, and held his hand out for a fist bump.

“What are you doing with your hand?” asked Malfoy.

“Just hold out your hand,” said Dave.

“Like this?” Malfoy mirrored Dave. Dave grabbed Malfoy’s hand with the one that wasn’t formed into a fist and bumped the two together.

“Bunp,” vocalized Dave. He let go of Malfoy’s hand.

“What in Merlin’s name was that whole routine for?” asked Malfoy, wiping the hand that Dave had grabbed.

“It’s a fist bump, dude, it’s like. The signature move of the anti-hater. You gotta learn it.”

Malfoy looked to Rose. Rose nodded solemnly.

“Ugh,” said Malfoy.

Ron held out his hand to Rose. She bumped it. Dave silently mouthed ‘bunp.’

“Ron’s a natural anti-hater,” said Rose. “He’s got it in his genetics.”

“I do, don’t I?” grinned Ron. “I’m a natural at this sort of thing.”

Soon enough, half the first-years were trying to fist bump. Crabbe and Goyle elaborated on the fistbump with several other motions in what would become a secret handshake shared between the two. Pansy and Milicent vowed to improve their fist-bump technique at a later date. Tracey was confirming to anyone who asked that yes, this was actually a Muggle thing, and yes, the Muggles were the O.G. Anti-Haters. Daphne made the mistake of asking Dave about what “bunp” meant, and he launched into a tirade about a webcomic he was planning to remake.

“See, it’s kind of a post-ironic thing,” he continued. “Because misspellings were the first layer, but everyone had those. Adding the Comic Sans was honestly kind of basic, even for the time. But the WordArt was honestly when I think I hit gold. Because even back then people knew that only, like, baby’s first word doc used WordArt, so if I used it, and then deepfried the shit out of the 3D comic sans, I think I was really able to make a mark.”

Daphne nodded along, deeply confused, but intrigued by the gibberish that the sunglasses boy continued to talk about.

“So Hecka Jeff,” tried Daphne.

“Hella,” said Dave.

“Yes,” agreed Daphne. “Hella Hecka Hecka, he tried to hug his brother."

"It's actually a huge misconception," explained Dave. "Sweet Bro is just a bro that is sweet, it's not actually his real name."

This was too much for Daphne to process, so she just nodded.

"Yeah, and they kinda did a hug bump, after a lot of trial and error. And it was pretty cool. Kind of inspired a whole generation of people to do it, man, to make it happen."

Daphne nodded once more, approaching something like understanding. "So your attitude towards hard work shifted into making it happen, thus giving you more than enough of the Hufflepuff work ethic that you got placed there."

"I guess," hedged Dave. "I mean, yeah, sure, why not, my webcomic got me info Huff."

"Is that it? I thought you went there to avoid me," said Dirk.

Dave stood up, grabbed his plate, and turned around without making eye contact. He walked away silently, slipping in to sit next to Hermione.

"Well," tried Dirk. "He went to Hufflepuff to avoid me now."

Rose attempted and failed to resist the urge to facepalm.

"Strider," she said. "That was your best opener?"

"It was an opener. I was agonizing over coming at all."

"Oh my gods," said Rose. "Listen. I want this to work out between the two of you as much as anyone. But you need to think of something more than 'bluh bluh you're avoiding me' because that just invites him to avoid you even more."

“Who’s this douchebag?” whispered Pansy.

“Friend of Potter’s,” explained Millie in whisper. “Or maybe her father. It’s unclear. And where did you learn that word?”

“Don’t patronize me,” hissed Pansy.

“Just try again later,” said Rose. “Eventually it’ll work itself out.”

“I hope so,” said Dirk. “I really do.”

Rose bit into her sandwich.

---

That afternoon featured a shared Charms class with the Hufflepuffs. Rose attempted to approach Dave.

“I’m sorry about Dirk,” she said.

Dave took a breath. “Don’t mention it,” he said, exhaling. “Please.”

“I won’t,” she said, and took a seat next to him on the four-person table. Hermione sat next to Dave, and Ron sat next to Rose.

“Welcome, everyone,” said the small man at the head of the room. “My name is Professor Flitwick, and I am in charge of teaching you Charms. We will begin with a roll-call.”

Hermione’s hand shot up. Flitwick pointed in her direction, and gestured for her to speak

“Is there no Charm to magically take attendance?” she asked. “Because I read One Thousand And One Uncommon Charms and there was a charm that got everyone’s name based on location and put it on a parchment, but so far every class has begun with a roll-call!”

Flitwick smiled at her. “You are correct,” he said. “Such a charm does exist, and I do in fact use it for every class aside from the first one. During the beginning of the school year, my colleagues and I take attendance mostly just to familiarize ourselves with your names and faces. Attendance is noted automagically.”

Hermione nodded, mollified by the answer.

“Anyhoo,” said Flitwick, and he began doing roll-call. Flitwick asked each student a casual question about their interests, and how it could possibly be related to Charms.

“There’s a charm for making people quiet,” grinned Millie, when asked. She was second on the roll call, only after Bones, Susan. Pansy rolled her eyes.

“The silencio,” confirmed Flitwick. “That one is taught in fifth year.”

“I’ve heard you can charm pens and stuff to write for you,” said Tracey, after her name was called.

“Yes, there’s a very popular item called the Quick-Quotes Quill based on those principles.”

“Uh, you can do charms to make paper animated and stuff,” said Dave, when it was his turn to talk.

“Yes, although that won’t be taught in our class unless you express interest,” said Flitwick. “Of course anyone is welcome to come to me and practice any charm what-so-ever.”

Hermione raised her hand.

“I was going to call on you next,” said Flitwick, “assuming you’re Granger, Hermione.”

“I am, and are we going to learn any library charms? Sorting through books, finding information more easily?”

“Now why did I not get you in my House?” asked Flitwick, half-wistfully. “Ah, don’t answer, I already know. Sibling loyalty can be a very strong thing. And yes, see me one day after class.”

Sibling loyalty. That was on Rose’s mind a lot, recently, it seemed. What was it that made a sibling loyal? Proximity, it seemed, was one factor, since Dave and Hermione seemed fairly inseparable. Where did it separate from loyalty to friends? She had known Dave for years before knowing they were related, and while she thought they had a special connection, she felt similarly about John, and even Jade.

Was it the mere act of being raised as siblings that made people siblings? Where did she and Dave fall? He certainly had lived more of his life as Hermione’s brother than her own, despite it being a biological truth.

And where did that put Dirk?

So focused on this line of thinking was Rose, that she almost missed Flitwick calling out “Potter!” before falling off the stack of books he was balanced on in surprise.

“Professor!” Hermione stood up from her seat. “Are you alright?”

“Quite so,” said Flitwick, “quite so. Sorry. It only just dawned on me that I have Ms. Potter herself in my class this year. Your parents both were excellent in my class.”

Rose hm’d politely. Dirk must have made a good impression, then. But Roxy was never...

Ah. Duh.

“I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Potter, whoever they were, would have been happy to hear that,” said Rose.

Flitwick smiled very sadly at that remark, and continued on with the roll call.

---

The final class of the day was History of Magic.

“Welcome, everyone, and I hope you all did yesterday’s homework.”

This class was taught by a ghost.

When Rose had asked Millie about it, she said that her cousin told her that the class was taught by a ghost. This made sense to Rose. After all, John’s dead-and-revived grandmother was an excellent fount of historical knowledge, on account of having been there for most of it.

“Please open your textbooks to page 612.”

Rose would be proven...

“Today we are discussing the Statute of Secrecy. Why was it put into place? Who is it protecting? Who were the wizards who enacted it, and what were their agendas?”

Mostly correct?

Binns seemed overall less able to process the world around him than even Jaspersprite. When he called on Draco, the name Binns used was “Abraxas.” However, towards the end of class, during the question period, Rose asked him a question, and was nearly entirely unprepared for the answer.

“What do you know about Jack Noir?”

“Ah, now that’s a name I’ve not heard for a long time.” Binns floated over towards the board, and attempted to fiddle with the chalk. It kept slipping through his hands. “It is foretold that he is partially responsible for everything and anything that ever occurred, mostly due to his entanglement with--”

“Doc Scratch,” interrupted Rose.

Binns looked at her, seemingly actually noticing her for the first time.

“Yes,” he said. “How did you know that name? I only discovered it fairly... recently...” Now Binns looked really lost. He frowned deeply. “Recently? It was only yesterday. No, it couldn’t have been. I’ve taught more classes than just the one. How long was it since... No. No, it was yesterday. Yes, I discovered the name very recently. I did, didn’t I?”

Binns’ sad eyes looked into Rose’s. “Didn’t I?”

She didn’t say anything.

---

 

TT: I’m sorry.

TT: I’m sorry for what I did to you, even though it didn’t happen yet.

TT: I’m sorry for even having the potential to have done it to you.

TT: I’m sorry for prioritizing some stupid ideal like “heroism” over your own personal comfort.

TT: I’m sorry for not expressing my love for you like a normal fucking person.

TT: I’m sorry that I decided to force you to... rooftop duel? Jesus Christ, what the hell is wrong with me?

TT: I mean, I know what’s wrong with me. I’m Dirk Strider.

TT: If there’s a single man more devoted to his ego, I’d like to meet him, and then give him my fucking superpowers. He can have the vague awareness of every alternate version of himself there is. I don’t want it.

TT: All it’s ever done is trap me in this stupid fucking infinite introspection loop.

TT: God. Dave made the right choice to walk away.

TT: I would have fucked it up even harder.

TT: And here he goes.

TT: The Big Man.

TT: Diving into his own brain.

TT: To distract himself from this trainwreck of an apology.

TT: I can’t even get away from myself for long enough to say that I’m sorry.

TT: God.

TT: I’m sorry. I really am. I don’t know how to prove it to you.

TT: Maybe this wasn’t meant to be.

TT: Fuck this apology. Fuck it so hard.

TG: :(

TG: dirk im sure u’ll get it

TG: it takes time to do this kind of thing

TG: and sometimes it just doesnt work at all

TG: rose told me abt her adoption-aunt

TG: she nevr made up with her sister, ever

TT: Is this supposed to make me feel better?

TG: im

TG: idk. im trying too

TG: i guess the problem w the p-tuna lily thing is that

TG: neither of them talked to each other

TG: which is diff from this scenario? idk. seems like ur trying

TG: i think what i wanted to say is that actions speak louder than words

TG: show him that you think heroism sucks or something idk

TT: I guess.

TT: Thanks, Roxy.

TT: You know, the original version of myself never even met you.

TT: I think that’s tragic. You’re a great friend.

TG: FLATTERER :,D

TG: see u r capable of sappy shit

TG: just. keep it up?

TG: idk. ur in a weird position

TG: never heard of any other time trvl based apologiez

TG: but if anyone can handle it iz uuu :O

TT: Thanks.

TT: I’ve been...

TT: Thanks. Seriously.

TT: Being a teenager sucks ass.

TG: TELL ME ABOUT IT

TG: GOD you know i sometimes wished i had a mom to take me on vacays

TG: or parents full stop aside from weird ass jake harley

TG: but it turns out it SUUUUUUCKS

TG: ooh lets check out the tower of london ooh lets use my vip pass to tour willy wonkas chocolate factory

TG: lemme tell you

TG: the oompa loompas were rude as hell

TT: Wow.

TG: shes just

TG: a lot.

TG: i didnt actually meet oompa loompas that was an exaggeration.

TT: I got the implication.

TG: i just.

TG: listen i love quirky grandmas as much as anyone else

TG: maybe MORE than anyone else

TG: but shes delaying me from getting 2 scot land

TG: i got sum scots 2 meet

TG: the scot is u :O

TG: and rose :O

TG: bluh.

TG: anyway

TG: hiopefully ill be there by the end of the wek

TG: its gonna be litttttttt

TG: millie tells me that theres a bar in hogsmeade

TT: I was under the impression that you had, erm, kicked the habit.

TG: THEY GOT KID BEER! no alcohol at all :O

TT: Somehow forgot about that drink until just now.

TG: dirk

TG: dirk i need you to understand

TG: wizards are SO FUCKING COOL

TG: they have KID BEER!!!

TG: and also YOU’RE A WIZARD AND FORGOT TO TELL ME

TG: i’v been missing YEARS of kid beer D,:

TG: im gonna buy a sixpack for jude n joey

TT: I don’t think they sell them in six packs. Wizards are quaint in non-specific ways.

TT: And also, who the hell is Millie?

TG: A WIZARD FRIEND

TT: I'm sure I'll meet her then.

TT closed memo.

---

Today is my 19th birthday! As a present, my wonderful beautiful friend Sahara made the fanart below! Check them out on Twitter @saharasdunes and Tumblr @saharadunes!

Rose Lalonde magicking the number 18 into the air

Chapter Text

The rest of the week went by similarly to the first day. Herbology with the Ravenclaws, then another Transfiguration. History of Magic. Another Charms. Thursday featured an empty slot where Defense should have happened, but didn’t, because “Quirrell” had fallen ill that day.

And, of course, Dirk made failed attempt after failed attempt to corner Dave for conversation.

Finally, on Friday, the morning was set to start with a grueling Double Potions with the mysterious Professor Snape. She hadn’t actually managed to catch a single glimpse of the man in the week she spent in the dorm. Leijon (no relation, as she found out; his family was from Sweden and not actually related to alien cat-people) had been able to handle the questions and concerns that she had assumed Snape would be handling, but it was just odd that she never even coincidentally ran into the man.

Oh, well.

Ron filed in next to her. “I heard Snape favors Slytherin,” he said. “Might be nice.”

“Might be,” agreed Rose, absently. The kid from the train with the toad sat in the row behind them.

Professor Snape finally entered the classroom. With a flick of his wang (Rose needed to stop doing that, it was childish, really) he summoned the roll call to his hand. He went down the list efficiently, only pausing right when he was about to name Rose.

“Ah,” he said. “Rose Potter. Yes, of course.”

Whatever seemed to have possessed Snape left him after a moment, and he continued down the list.

“Today, Houses Gryffindor and Slytherin, you here to learn the exact science of potion making. It is not a game. It is not fun. It is gruelling, it is challenging, but it is oh-so-very rewarding. And once you climb the echelons of craftsmanship, you will gain the ability to do nearly anything. Poisons, boons, and everything in-between the two are possible through this art. My art. Potter!”

Rose glanced at Snape, her chin on her hand. So far this whole “potions” thing sounded like alchemy but without the punchcards.

“What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

Rose took a moment to think. If she were to use alchemy to combine the two... “Perhaps, Powdered Infusion of Wormsphodel?”

A few of the braver Gryffindors snickered.

“I do not approve of this kind of humor, Miss Potter,” snapped Snape, “and this was certainly the wrong time to try it. Five points from Slytherin.”

Damn.

“Anyone else?” asked Snape. Silence. “Draught of the Living Death. A point from Gryffindor for not even trying.”

Groans from the back of the room. Snape sneered.

“This class is intensely hands-on. I expect all of you to become familiar, by next week’s class, with the potions laboratory safety procedures.” With a flick of his wand, a sheet of parchment appeared floating above everyone’s desk, one for each person. “This is a laboratory safety contract. It is not magically binding, but it is important. On this sheet you will find a list of what you must do in the event of emergencies. Next week, you will be quizzed on this. If you fail the quiz, you will not be able to participate in future lessons until you pass. Is that understood?”

A few scattered nods. One mumbled “yes” from behind Rose.

“I said is that understood?” Snape hissed.

“Yes,” said the class.

“Good,” said Snape. “I don’t expect children to have memorized the textbook, but I do expect you to know the single most important safety procedure. Alohomora! Accio bezoar!”

A glass-fronted cabinet behind Snape unlocked itself and opened, before a small, stone-like object began to float up and out from its place, finally landing in Snape’s open hand.

“This,” said Snape, “is a bezoar. Who knows where you can find these?”

“The cabinet behind you,” said Tracey. Rose couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic.

“Yes,” said Snape. “Where are they found naturally?”

Nobody wanted to respond, until the toad boy shakily raised his hand.

“The s-stomach of a goat, Professor.”

“Very good,” said Snape, seeming pleased. “Longbottom, correct?”

“Yes, Professor.”

“One point for Gryffindor.”

Neville fell back in his seat, having melted from the praise.

“The bezoar is,” explained Snape, “your ticket away from anything that can possibly go wrong. In the event that something goes wrong in class, if you have ingested a potion that was made improperly, you take a bezoar, and shove it down your throat. This will potentially save your life. Now,” he said, and the bezoar vanished from his hand, reappearing within the cabinet, “for this class, we will be focusing entirely on laboratory safety. It reflects poorly on both you and me if you end up in the Hospital Wing, and I am not fond of spending my evenings brewing healing pastes instead of advancing this field by decades at a time.”

He smirked. “Take out your cauldrons. Let us begin.”

---

“I’ve been meaning to ask,” said Ron, after the lesson was over and done with, as they walked towards the Great Hall. “Why do you have two wands?”

“I like it that way,” replied Rose.

“Okay,” said Ron. “Can I ask more?”

“Sure,” said Rose. “No harm in it.”

“Why are they so long?”

Rose shrugged. “The wand chooses the wizard. Honestly, I had barely any involvement in it aside from standing and holding the wands while in the shop.”

Ron nodded. “Yes, but how do you do that trick where you make them appear in your hands?”

“What trick?”

“You know, they’re in your hands one second, and then they suddenly disappear.”

“What?”

It was at this moment they fortuitously crossed the pair of Grangers heading in the opposite direction.

“Rose, you have that trick you do! Every time you take out your wands, they just appear in your hands.” Ron seemed to be getting frustrated.

“What’re you guys talking about?” asked Dave.

Ron sighed. “Okay, you know that thing that Rose does? Where her wands just appear in her hands?”

Hermione’s eyes widened. “I thought I was imagining it!”

“Huh?” Dave looked equally as confused as Rose felt.

“I swear this happens,” said Ron. “Your wands just appear from thin air.”

“No, they don’t,” said Rose. “They’re stored in my Strife Deck, alongside the rest of my needlekind weapons.”

“That’s not nowhere,” said Dave.

“What does that even mean!” griped Ron. “Rose, take out your wands for demonstration.”

Rose readied her strife weapon.

“See!” said Ron. “They just appeared from nowhere!”

“No, they didn’t,” said Rose.

“I couldn’t see where you took them from,” said Hermione. “It looked like you just shifted your body and then they were there.”

“I readied my strife weapon, the wands were in my Sylladex,” said Rose, defensively. “Gods. What, do you not have a Sylladex or something?”

Ron and Hermione shared a glance.

“No,” said Hermione. “I think I speak for the rest of us when I say we do not have a Sylladex.”

“What?” The group turned to look at Dave. Dave’s eyebrows, visible over his shades, scrunched in consternation. “What do you guys mean you don’t have Sylladexes?”

“We don’t have silly-decks,” said Ron. “Is this a Muggleborn thing?”

Hermione shook her head. “I have no idea what they’re talking about.”

“You don’t have, like, any modus at all?” asked Dave. “Hash map, stack, tree, not even a fucking joke modus like Pictionary?”

“Sometimes,” said Hermione, “those words make sense. Usually when you put them next to other words to give them context. For example, I know what a tree is. But I don’t know what it means in the context of this sentence.”

“Then how do you... pick things up?” asked Rose.

Ron looked directly at Rose and dropped his books. Then, keeping eye contact with Rose the whole time, he knelt down, and picked them up.

“Like that,” he said. “With my hands.”

“Weird,” was all Dave said.

“Do you not pick things up with your hands?”

“No?” said Rose. “I wasn’t completely aware that you could.”

Hermione struggled to come up with a response. “You... weren’t aware... that you could use your hands to pick things up?” choked out Hermione. “Dave, were you at least aware that you could use your hands to pick things up?”

“Uh,” said Dave. “I gotta be real. When I saw you picking stuff up at home I thought it was a weird-ass fetch modus that I never heard of.”

If facepalming could deal psychic damage, Rose was certain Hermione could have just killed all four of them.

“Then what the heck do you use to pick things up!” cried Hermione.

Dave removed his books from his sylladex, then captchalogged them.

“They just appeared and disappeared!” Hermione was on the verge of tearing her hair out.

“No, look,” said Dave. “I put them in my sylladex, see?”

Then he took out the card and showed it to Hermione.

“See, ‘Mione, the books are in there.”

“What the hell,” whispered Hermione. “Conservation of mass, how is that possible?”

Dave shrugged.

“So you- you and Rose, just- have used these magic cards to pick things up your entire lives?”

Rose glanced at Dave. “Pretty much,” said Rose.

“How did I miss you doing this?” Now Hermione just seemed dazed.

“How did you miss any magic you did when you were younger?” asked Rose. “Assuming that Flitwick is correct and accidental magic is a documented phenomenon--” “It is,” interrupted Ron, “--you probably did some yourself. So seeing some of Dave’s things disappear is likely something you rationalized away.”

“Who else has these cards?” asked Ron. “And can I get ahold of them? These books are kind of heavy, mate.”

“Yeah, uh,” said Dave. “You don’t need this to use the cards, but I think I got a spare blank Strife Specibus around here somewhere. Once you use a card, a sylladex -- that’s what you use to store the cards -- will be, uh. I’m not actually sure how it works. But you get one. Anyway, take the freaking Specibus.”

Dave handed the Strife Specibus over to Ron.

“Just turn it over, and there’s a list to choose from.”

Ron did so, and began to read through his options. “Yo-yo Kind? Book Kind? Fincys Nta Kind? What are all these?”

“That last one was fncystnakind, for Fancy Santas. They’re disturbing, really. But yeah, you select it and it gives you a permanent skill boost for your item of choice,” said Dave. “Be careful, you can’t undo it.”

“Uh, okay,” said Ron. “I’ll worry about this later, I think.”

“Could I try Book Kind?” asked Hermione.

“Sure,” said Rose. “I’ve got an extra too.”

She handed it to Hermione, who quickly allocated her Strife Specibus to bookkind.

“Well?” asked Rose.

“I don’t feel any different,” said Hermione.

“You’re not supposed to,” said Rose. “Put a book in your Strife Deck to use as a weapon.”

“What?!”

“Just any book you don’t care about,” said Rose.

“I don’t think you’ve met my sister yet, Rose,” said Dave.

Hermione glared at Dave. “I’m putting in Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts,” she announced.

“You just have that on you?” said Ron.

“Not anymore,” said Hermione, and the book disappeared. “Now, how do I make it reappear?”

“Ready your strife weapon,” said Rose.

Hermione’s stance shifted, and suddenly, the book was back in her hand.

“Fast learner,” said Rose. “Nice job.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione, sheepishly.

Ron glanced at the card in his hand.

“You can captchalogue things without having a strife specibus allocated,” said Dave. “It just gives you the ability to use it as a weapon at a moment’s notice.”

“Oh,” said Ron. “How do I do that?”

Dave handed Ron a couple of blank cards.

“Just try captchalouging your books,” said Dave. “Like anything else. Just do it naturally, don’t think too hard about it. Put the books in the card.”

Ron put the books in the card.

“I... I did it!” Ron laughed, surprised at his own success. “I can’t believe I did it! How do I take them out?”

“Same way,” said Dave. “But backwards.”

The books appeared at Ron’s feet.

“Merlin’s beard,” breathed Ron. “You can just give anyone these cards and they can do this? What are the size limits? How many cards are there?”

Rose shrugged. “No real limits? And you can have as many cards as you want. I assume Dave has more than enough, himself.”

“I do, yeah,” said Dave. “And you can use a fetch modus to store the cards, if you want.”

“I don’t know what that is,” said Ron. “And I’m afraid to find out.”

“Better brush up on your data structures--”

“What Dave wants to say is, here, take this, and it’ll let you retrieve any card at any time, without physically holding any,” interrupted Rose. She gave Ron and Hermione each an array modus.

“Blimey,” said Ron, as all the cards in his hands disappeared into his new sylladex. “And I can just...”

The books in Ron’s hand disappeared, appeared, and disappeared again.

"Wow," he finished.

"Hey!"

The four of them turned towards the voice. A scowling old man limped towards them, a cat a few feet ahead of him. "What do you kids think you're doing, practicing magic in the halls? That’s against the rules, you know!"

"What magic?" asked Rose.

"I just saw the boy's books disappear!" said the man. "What do you call that?"

"Technology?" she said. "These cards are manufactured by Muggles."

The old man barked a laugh. "Everyone knows Muggle technology doesn't work in the castle, girlie. What's your name?"

“Rose Lalonde,” she said unthinkingly, taken aback by his words. Then what the hell was she doing texting Roxy?

“Lalonde, eh? Don’t remember seeing you around here... first year Slytherin, are you?”

“Yes, but--”

“No ifs or buts about it! We’ll be going straight to Professor Snape with all four of you!” He grinned. Rose resisted the urge to groan. Some power-tripping old man was going to stop them from meeting up with Roxy this weekend?

The four of them followed Filch back the way Ron and Rose had come. “Do you think we should tell him we’re, uh, not under Snape’s jurisdiction?” said Dave. Hermione shushed him.

Filch grinned at the first-years, and knocked three times on Snape’s door.

“What is the meaning of this--” said Snape, before noticing who exactly was in front of him. “Miss Potter,” he said. “And Weasley. And Granger and Granger.”

“Potter?” frowned Filch. “You told me you were Lalonde! Lying to old Mr. Filch, that should be an extension on your detention.”

Rose just sighed.

“Severus, I caught these troublemakers waffling around with magic cards in the hall. I told Dumbledore to stop these kids from using magic in the halls, but do they listen? No. Nobody ever listens to old Mr. Filch.”

“You’re barely older than me, Argus, stop pitying yourself,” sneered Snape. “Leave me alone. I’ll deal with these miscreants myself.”

Filch returned Snape’s sneer, and walked away, murmuring to his cat.

“Well, then,” said Snape. “Only minutes after what I thought was a successful class do I have two of my students cause trouble with some Hufflepuffs.”

“We weren’t using magic in the halls, Professor,” said Hermione. “Filch is lying.”

“Then what were you doing, Miss Granger?”

“We were using new Muggle storage devices that can instantly transport things between the physical world and the inside of these cards.

“Muggle technology?” asked Snape. Hermione nodded. “Show me.”

Hermione readied her strife weapon. Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts appeared in her hand. Snape’s eyebrows lifted.

“Do it again,” he said. Hermione returned her strife weapon to her strife deck.

“Fascinating,” he muttered. “Like that Skaianet device that Lily...” His eyes widened. “Potter, did you give this to the Grangers?”

“Yes,” said Rose.

“Fascinating,” repeated Snape. “Yes, these are Muggle technologies indeed, though without seeing for myself I would have said it was the result of magic...”

Snape sat down in his desk chair, and stared into the distance, lost in thought.

“Can we go?” asked Rose. “I don’t want to miss lunch.”

Snape blinked, as if he had forgotten the four of them were still there. “Yes, of course. No detention, just leave my office.”

The four of them filed out.

“That was weird,” said Dave. “Guy mentions a girl named Lily and goes catatonic.”

“Perhaps...” said Hermione, biting her lip. “Perhaps he means Lily Potter?”

“Who?”

Ron and Hermione stared at her. “Your mother?”

“Oh,” said Rose. “Oh! The one that my aunt hated. Yes. I remember now. It’s been a long week.”

“You worry me sometimes, Rose,” said Ron. “But at least we managed to avoid detention.”

Rose’s phone vibrated. She pulled it out, and her eyes widened.

“So, Hermione,” said Rose, almost too casually. “You’re familiar with Hogwarts’s rules about leaving campus, correct?”

“Students are only allowed to leave the castle grounds when accompanied by a teacher or prefect on an approved Hogsmeade trip,” said Hermione. “Why do you ask?”

“Do you think a family emergency would count?” said Rose, and she showed Hermione the screen of her phone.

“What am I supposed to be seeing?” asked Hermione.

Rose turned the phone back around. The stupid thing auto-locked itself. She re-entered her password and showed Hermione the following messages:

TG: ay guess what bitch

TG: YOUR MOM IS AT HOGSMEADE

TG: heh. ur mom

TG: the mom is me

TG: janey n i are staying at this inn rn

TG: lmk when you can come and see us!!!

“Your mom calls you a bitch?” exclaimed Hermione.

“It’s ironic and fun to playfully insult your relatives,” said Rose. “Anyhow. This is my and Dave’s biological mother, who I don’t think either of us have met in person, certainly not in this lifetime.”

Dave seemed impassive behind his shades.

“Dave,” said Rose. “Are you interested in accompanying me to Hogsmeade this weekend?”

Dave hesitated. Then: “Fuck it, sure. Yeah. Yeah, fuck. Let’s do it. Let’s meet Roxy Lalonde.”

“Let’s meet Roxy Lalonde,” grinned Rose.

“Am I invited along?” asked Hermione. Ron glanced at her, then at Rose, asking the same question with his body.

TT: Can I bring some friends along?

TG: i was under the impression u were gonna bring as many teen wizzrds as you could :P

TG: bring all your friends!!! i wanna meet them

“Seems so,” said Rose. “And I think I might have an idea of who can accompany us.”

Dave’s eyes widened behind his shades.

“Oh, no,” he said. “No. Not that fucking guy. No, man. Come on.”

“Dave, who else is going to bring us?”

“I dunno! That fucking Leijon guy, maybe? Or a Puff prefect? Maybe a teacher? Man, you can choose anyone.”

“He’s been looking forward to meeting her just as much as you and I have,” said Rose. “Listen, Dave. You know he’s going to come no matter what, but this way we don’t need to bring along an extra person. You don’t need to interact with him at all!”

“God. No,” said Dave. “No. No, no, no. I’m not being dragged to Hogsmeade by--”

“We’ll figure something else out, then,” conceded Rose.

Chapter Text

The stairs outside of the castle were slippery at best. Worn down from thousands of feet stepping on them over hundreds of years, they had slowly lost their uniform rectangular shape, becoming more rounded, and Rose found it hard to keep enough traction on the steps to stop herself from slipping.

“Ugh, this weather! Rose, you couldn’t have picked a better day to meet up with your pseudo-mom?”

The complaints from the other first-year Slytherins weren’t helping her concentration.

“Tracey, do be quiet,” said Daphne. “Your coat has in-built warming charms. If anyone should be complaining, it’s Rose. Poor girl meets her mother on the dreariest day it’s been so far.”

“You be quiet too,” said Cosette. “These stairs are always the worst part. Just hold on to the railing for another--SHIT!”

Cosette Martin, fifth year Slytherin Girls’ prefect, top of her class, expert at navigating the castle, nearly fell down all of the remaining stairs as her left foot landed on a part of the steps that crumbled as she landed. She desperately held onto the railing, and used her momentum to finally straighten herself out, standing tall once again, if shakily.

“And that,” she said, “is why I am officially warning you to hold on to the railing on these stairs.”

The rest of the girls held on for dear life.

When they finally got to the bottom, they emerged in front of the huge door of the castle. Dave, Hermione, Dirk, and Professor Sprout were waiting there.

“Ah, the party has arrived. I trust you to handle these kids, Cosette.”

“Thank you, Professor Sprout,” said Cosette. Once Sprout re-entered the castle, she turned to the Slytherin girls. “So,” she said. “You’re probably wondering why I brought you out here today.

“Jasper and the boys have their own ritual they’re doing right now, but basically, this is our Sisterhood Event. Every year, all the first year Slytherins go off on a field trip, led by their respective Prefect, and we all learn new things about each other and ourselves. My own experience with this trip led me to realize I was in the wrong dorm, actually,” she said, smiling. “So this is the first time I get to do it from the right side of the aisle.

“Luckily, while I was wondering what I could do for this Event, Rose told me all about her family situation. So today we’re going down to Hogsmeade, a full month before the rest of the school gets a chance, and we’re going to meet Roxy Lalonde, as well as experience a Slytherin girls-only Hogsmeade trip!”

The Slytherin girls cheered.

Rose, out of the corner of her eye, saw Hermione’s cheeks flush.

Cosette seemed to notice this too, and she moved the attention of the group over. “Oh, and for the sake of this trip, since we’re uniting the whole family, we’re bringing along some guests. Meet Dave and Hermione Granger,” (“Hey,” said Dave, and Hermione just nodded,) “and fellow Prefect Dirk Strider. He’s... I’m not exactly sure why he’s here, actually.”

“I had a free afternoon,” said Dirk. "Also, extra supervision."

“Right,” said Cosette, shaking her head. “Anyway, does anyone have any objection to making Hermione an honorary Slytherin girl?”

The girls shook their heads. “No objections? Well, welcome to Slytherin, Hermione, if only for the next few hours!”

Cosette handed each Slytherin girl a single galleon.

“And I’m now the lone Puff in a field of snakes,” said Dave. “Always knew it’d come to this. Betrayal of the ultimate kind.”

“Do you want to join the Slytherin girls, Dave?” asked Rose, teasingly. Cosette frowned.

“I’m chill,” said Dave, face carefully neutral. “I was joking.”

“Okay,” said Rose.

“Anyway,” said Cosette. “We’ll be heading down to town in a moment. I just need to check in with Jasper.”

Cosette dug around in her pockets, carefully pulling out her new cellphone. The way Rose heard it, once Dirk used his in a meeting to chat with Roxy, nearly all of the Prefects had asked him for one of their own.

(Dirk had claimed he gave the phones away as a “necessary loss-leader” to help out Roxy’s business model, or some horse piss like that. Rose knew that the phones cost nearly nothing to duplicate.)

Rose watched as Cosette fumbled with the touchscreen controls, exhaling once the message was sent and a reply was received. “Alright, we’re clear to head out!”

The six Slytherin girls and Dirk and Dave followed Cosette out past the front gate of Hogwarts, down the path to Hogsmeade.

"So normally, students first gain access to visit Hogsmeade in their third year," explained Cosette as they walked. "When that does come, don't brag that you've already been here. We're just making the rounds, and we're not splitting up since it's only the seven of us girls, so this is a limited view of the town, but it's sure going to be a fun one." She turned around and winked at the girls, then almost tripped.

"Damnit!" she swore. "Sorry, no more winks. I got new boots right before school started and I barely know how to walk in them."

"That's okay, I think?" offered Pansy. "When I got my first pair of heels I fell over and broke my nose. Millie made fun of me."

Millie scoffed. "Your mum healed you in seconds, and I only made fun of you after I was sure you were alright!"

"I have trauma, Millie!"

"And a killer pair of heels!"

"You're the worst friend!"

"I'm your best friend," said Millie smugly. "So I can't be the worst."

Pansy sighed. "Fine," she said.

Tracey caught up to Rose. "Have you been here before?" she asked.

"Only when we were leaving the train," said Rose. "And no, I have no idea what we're doing beyond meeting my mother at some point."

"There are lots of stores in Hogsmeade," said Hermione. "There's a hairdresser, a candy store, a tailor, a few restaurants..."

Rose looked at Hermione. "Why would you memorize all that? You had no idea you'd be here at all this year until yesterday."

Hermione flushed. "I like reading," she mumbled.

“HEY!”

The girls all craned to see the source of the shout.

Standing there, in the middle of the path, a huge grin plainly evident on her face, was Roxy Lalonde.

Rose’s heart fluttered. She looked exactly like her mom did in old photos, but that made sense, because, well, she was her mom. Except, instead of wearing that science lady outfit Rose almost always had seen her in, she now wore a white tee-shirt dress, adorned with a picture of a pink cat in the center. Roxy looked at the assembled group. Her pink eyes caught Rose’s, and Rose was sure she had a similar internal “holy shit” moment.

Talking to your ectobiological pseudo-daughter over the internet was one thing. Actually meeting up in person? Another thing entirely.

“Mom,” said Rose, the word coming out almost without her volition, and she ran up to where Roxy was.

“Hey,” said Roxy. “Wow, hey.” She laughed a little, to herself, and put a hand to her forehead. “Hey. Wow. This is surreal.”

“You’re telling me,” said Rose, and then she was swooped up in a hug.

Roxy whooped. “Rose!” she said. “Wow! You’re here, and-- Wow. You’re so tiny!”

Rose broke out of the hug. “What?”

Roxy laughed. “I forgot how much of a difference there was between a sixteen year old and an eleven year old. God, you’re like a head shorter than me.”

Rose groaned. “I’m not looking forward to my second attempt at puberty at all. I didn’t get very far the first time, you know that? For all I know I’m stuck at a little more than this height forever.”

Roxy smiled and ruffled Rose’s hair. Rose felt a surge of irrational anger because that’s my hair, do not touch it ever, but she didn’t pull away because the other tide of Roxy/Mom/Friend that crashed against it was strong as hell, too.

"Okay," said Rose, once Roxy seemed satisfied with her... maternal urge(?) “What’s on today’s agenda?”

“We’re heading down to town!” said Roxy. “Jane’s spending the day doing something, I didn’t really ask, but we’re, uh, goin’ to explore the shops and all that!”

“Give a bunch of eleven years olds access to a candy store, what-could-go-wrong-type-thing?” asked Rose.

“Exactly!” said Roxy. “And I’m fully a supporter of the belief system that says ain’t nothing bonds kids like a shitton of wizard candy. C’mon, kids!”

And Roxy did a heel turn, marching to Hogsmeade, demonstrating the same levels of responsibility as she likely had while babysitting the Claires, if with less accompanying inebriation.

The kids followed after her, Millie coming up behind Rose and hissing, “Your pseudo-mum is so cool.”

Cosette, now left in the dust, sighed to herself. “Next time, I’m bringing another prefect along.”

“You did,” said Dirk. “And I think this visit is going great so far.”

“Jesus fuck,” said Cosette, jumping. “I forgot you were here entirely, holy shit.”

Dirk frowned.

“I mean, uh--”

“Yeah,” said Dirk. “Anyway. Wanted to ask. Have you seen Dave?”

---

“And here we’ve got, uh, Zillywoppers Candy Store!” said Roxy.

“Ms. Lalonde,” said Daphne, as politely as she could, “the window says that the store is called Honeydukes.”

“Oh,” said Roxy. “So it does. Uhm.”

“But the store next to it is Zonko’s,” offered Daphne. “Maybe you got confused?”

“Yep!” said Roxy, brightening considerably. “That is exactly what happened. Totally. I didn’t just glance behind me and misread the sign.”

Daphne shared a glance with Tracey.

“Um,” tried Roxy again. “Where’s that perfect of yours?”

“Prefect,” corrected Daphne.

“Yeah, that,” said Roxy. “Where the hell is she?”

None of the girls seemed to know.

“Can we go inside Honeydukes?” asked Pansy.

“Oh, sure,” said Roxy. “Yeah. Probably fine. You kids have money, right?”

Each girl held up the galleon Cosette had given them.

“Should be fine, I think?” said Roxy. “Rose, you and the girls can head in.”

“Okay,” said Rose. The seven first year girls ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the assortment of absurd snacks. Rose picked up a box or two of Bertie Bott’s for Ron. She looked through the tiny plastic window on the box, shaking it to try and get a better view inside, and wished once again she had her Seer powers for what was likely the dumbest reason of all time.

Really, what good was godlike omnipotence if it didn’t let you See which flavors were present in a box of Every Flavor Beans?

Suddenly, she felt a tap on her shoulder.

“Hey,” said Dave.

Rose’s eyes widened. “Dave!” she said. “Hopy shit, where have you been? Did you see Roxy?”

“No, I didn’t,” said Dave. “Hey, listen, I need to talk to you.”

“Wait, you missed Roxy? I thought that was the whole point of this outing for you.”

“It is, but--”

“She’s right outside,” said Rose. “Talk to her!”

“I will, but we need to talk about Dirk,” said Dave.

“What?”

“Listen,” said Dave. "Have you met Dirk yet?"

"Yes?"

"No, you haven't," said Dave. "This is Dirk. Check him out." Dave held out his hands and a lizard appeared in his cupped palms.

The lizard lazily explored the new territory it found itself in.

"Interesting," said Rose. "I have to say, I think it's a... unique choice to name him after the elder Strider."

"Nah," said Dave.

"Nah?"

"Nah, it's a great fuckin' choice. Anyone would have done it."

"Okay," said Rose. "I'm not sure how to prove that one way or another so I'm going to let you have this victory."

"Cool," said Dave, as he returned... Dirk... to his sylladex. "What's up?"

“When did you get here?” asked Rose.

“Oh, uh. Found a cool lizard when we were walking. Wandered around. Found a candy store. Found you, in the candy store. Think we’re caught up.”

Rose’s phone buzzed.

TG: hey uh dirk n ur perfect are outside

TG: dave ran away apparently?

TG: which. sucks

TG: so if you see him uh

TG: idk

TG: you’re technically older than me so i trust you to have gud judgement n stuff

When Rose looked back up, Dave was gone.

“Shit,” she said. “Fucking Striders.”

She grabbed her goodies and marched to the register, where Hermione was eagerly holding a box with a Chocolate Frog inside.

“Rose!” she said, giddy. “Rose, did you know that the charm for the chocolate frog was invented by your grandmother?”

“What?”

“Yes! Right here, on the back of the box, it credits her with the invention. Though she turned down all royalties and rights to the patent, saying that the universe needed frogs more than she needed money.”

“Interesting choice of words she had,” said Rose. “But it’s not important right now. If Dave was in Hogsmeade, which he is, after running away, which he did, where do you think he’d go?”

“Dave did what?

A few moments later and the girls were outside, their purchases and receipts safe in their sylladexes. Roxy was chatting with Dirk and Cosette, and she perked up when she noticed the duo. “Did you get my text?” she said.

“Yes,” said Rose. “In a very Strider-like fashion, he seized the opportunity to abscond once my focus was firmly fixed upon my phone.”

Roxy sighed. “Should we look for him?”

“I’ll find him,” said Hermione. “He does this sometimes. I always find him sooner or later. Usually sooner, unless he doesn’t want to be found, but he usually does.”

And Hermione began to walk away from the group, somehow relying on her sisterly instincts alone, and Cosette ran to catch up with her.

“Hey, Hermione,” she said. “You can’t wander off alone, okay? I know you want to find your brother, but don’t wander off, please. We don’t want to have to look for two kids.”

“I’ve got this in hand anyway,” said Dirk. “Point me Dave.”

His wand stiffened, lept into his palm, and pointed in a direction. Dirk uncaptchalogued his rocket skateboard (surprising Rose, who had thought she was aware of all the futuristic technology currently in play) and took off in the indicated direction.

Cosette struggled to find words.

“That-- What the f--flip is that! What the hell!”

“Rocket board,” said Roxy. “We should go after him."

Cosette sighed. "I'm not gonna be able to stop you, am I?"

"Relax, Cozy!" said Roxy.

"Oh god, please don't call me that."

"I won't," said Roxy, waving that off. "Seriously though. This is a family thing, and I think Rose and I should go after the two of them, because it's probably a bad idea to have them both alone together?"

"Just go," said Cosette. "Meet me back here in an hour at the latest, and make sure at least one responsible Prefect-age person is with someone at all times."

"I'm responsible! Did you hear that, Rose?"

"I'm going to leave with my pseudo-mother before you give her an even bigger head," said Rose. "Do you know how the hell Dirk did that Point Me spell?"

"They're probably in the Hog's Head," said Hermione. "Dave loves weird and shady places like that. And it's also in the direction I saw Dirk go."

"Thanks, 'Mione," said Rose.

"Don't call me 'Mione," said 'Mione. "Gosh, what is it with you people and nicknames?"

Roxy had already left the vicinity as soon as Hermione named the Hog's Head. "Sorry," said Rose, running to catch up. "See you soon."

---

The barkeep at the Hog's Head was old. He looked to Rose like Dumbledore, if Dumbledore had an ectobiological son with Rasputin.

Roxy was over the fucking moon.

"I literally only rented a room here because of dat wizzard," she explained. "Like, holy shit."

"I'm right here," said the barkeep. "I have a name and it's Aberforth."

Roxy laughed. "Okay, hotwiz." Then, to Rose: "He tells me his name every time and I literally keep forgetting it. It's a problem."

"I'm still here," said Aberforth.

"You've only been drinking Butterbeer?" asked Rose.

"Hey, I don't like what you're implying. And for the record, it's entirely non-alcoholic."

"Okay," said Rose. "Aberforth, have you seen two douchebags in sunglasses?"

"Yeah," said Aberforth.

The Lalondes looked at him expectantly.

"Man," he said. "People have a right to privacy, y'know."

Rose sighed. "Great. How the hell are we gonna find them?"

"Ask the old lady who dragged the two of them in here, I dunno," said Aberforth.

"Old lady?" asked Rose.

"Jane!" exclaimed Roxy. "Oh, holy shit. I fucking love crazy old grandmas. Rose, follow me."

Rose dutifully followed her pseudo-mother up the inn stairs, to the rooms. With the shattering of an abstract glass bottle, Roxy decaptchalogued the room key, and the pair of Lalondes entered the room.

Chapter Text

Jane Egbert, the crazy old woman who ostensibly was Roxy’s adult supervision, sat on a couch, her hands folded in her lap. She had a benevolent, old-lady smile on her face, below her thick glasses. “Oh! And they enter right on time. Welcome, dearies, sit wherever makes you comfortable,” she said. “Dirk and Dave were just telling me... what were you telling me again?”

“About how much I hate the elderly,” said Dirk, leaning against the room’s fireplace. “Especially needlessly obtuse, prankstery elderly who neglect to tell us that the guests we were apparently waiting for are actually my pseudo-daughter and her pseudo-mother.”

Dave was on the opposite side of the room, sitting on the bed. He seemed curled in on himself, but it was hard to tell in his Hogwarts robes.

“Well,” said Old Lady Egbert, expression serene, “if I told you the identity of our guests in advance, would you have played along?”

“Nah,” said Dirk. “Shit. Crazy old lady wins a round.”

“Hi, everyone!” said Roxy. “Wow! Hi, Dave!”

“‘Sup,” said Dave from the bed. It lacked his usual energy, in Rose’s opinion.

“Go say hi to your mother,” said Rose.

“Hullo, Mother,” said Dave.

Roxy went and sat on the bed next to Dave.

“Y’know, I never actually thought I’d meet you,” she said. “Outside of when we were all babies, of course, but none of us remember it.”

“Hoo hoo!” said Jane. “I was there too, you know! All eight of us were on that meteor, plus my dear grandson John, directly after he cloned us from the DNA of our future selves! Hee hee. Ectobiology is a funny thing, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Nanna Egbert,” said Rose. “It sure is. What are we all doing here?”

“Why, I thought you’d already figured it out, hoo hoo!” said Jane. “We’re going to talk about our problems.”

“And then what?”

“I’m not sure! Hee hee! Isn’t it fun to not plan ahead?”

Rose sighed. This was going to be fucking excruciating.

---

It was a few minutes later, and barring the brief “we’re all good” text Rose had sent Cosette, the only one who had said anything was Roxy.

She had, in fact, said a whole lot, and was sniffling into Nanna Egbert’s arm on the couch.

“An’, an’ I feel like I really failed ‘em, y’know? Those kids grew up without a mom, barely had a dad, and I was just—the worst babysitter ever!”

“There, there, dearie,” said Nanna. “It’s not your fault that my adoptive brother got so focused on looking to explore the world, he forgot to cherish the treasure he had at home. You’re only sixteen. You can’t be expected to know how to raise children any more than they can be expected to raise themselves.”

Roxy blew her nose.

“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, god. But Rose said--”

“What Rose said might be true, for another Roxy Lalonde,” said Nanna. “Yes, in the infinite wonder that is Paradox Space there was a version of you who raised Rose, and she was dangerously negligent. But she isn’t you! She is only a series of decisions, dear. Ones that you probably will never get to make. You told me you’ve been trying to kick your habit, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” said Roxy. “It’s been... harder than it should have been. God, I’m such a fucking mess.”

“No, no,” said Jane. “You’re a mess, yes, but that’s because you’re a teenager, hee hee! Why, when I was your age, I scarcely believed that the woman who raised me was secretly an evil alien empress!”

“Yeah,” said Roxy, sniffling. “Crazy how you can miss stuff like that.”

“How long has it been, Roxy?” asked Jane.

“Coming up on two years sober?” she said. “God. I should keep better track of this kinda thing.”

“That’s amazing, dear, it truly is!” said Jane, ruffling Roxy’s hair. Roxy leaned into the old woman’s side, her tears having almost entirely stopped. “Rose said her version of you didn’t kick the habit until you both were already in the Medium. Now, will it mean you’re going to be automatically better at raising children? No, it won’t be. It will be hard, hoo hoo. I learned that firsthand from raising my darling son! But if the compassion you’ve shown for those kids you babysit is anything, I’d say you’re already on a better path.”

Dirk, Rose, and Dave had been absorbing this conversation silently. None of them said anything, none of them moved.

None of them, until of course Dirk Fucking Strider opened his big fucking mouth and said, “Okay, I get it. I get the obvious fucking parallels. Can we move on to address the giant orange beshaded elephant in the room?”

“Hey,” said Roxy. “I’m having a moment.”

“Yeah, you’re having a moment. Y’know who’s been having a moment this whole fucking week? Me and my bro, here. Probably me moreso than him. Because I might know that I’m a massive fucking prick, but it’s hard to try and repair a relationship that I fucked up in a future that literally might never come to pass.”

“Try?” said Dave, speaking for the first time since greeting Roxy. “Man, you’ve just been hovering over me at meals and shit and saying that we need to talk. That’s not repairing jack shit.”

“It’s not repairing jack shit if you refuse to talk.”

“Gentlemen,” said Jane, “whether someone tried to get someone else to talk at some point in the past isn’t relevant anymore, hoo hoo. We’re here now. Can we work with that?”

The boys said nothing.

“Yeah, I mean, fuck it, I’ll get John’s fucking undead Nanna to be my therapist. Not like I’m doing much else today.”

“I’m glad you’re finally amenable to conversation,” said Dirk.

“I’m not doing this for you,” said Dave. “I’m doing this for Lalonde. Both of them, I guess.”

“That’s a good start,” said John’s undead (did it count as undead if she wasn’t due to die for another few years?) Nanna. “What do you think about Rose?”

“Iunno,” said Dave. “She’s cool, I guess. It’s weird to think of her as my sister.”

“Why is that?”

“Well, I only really, uh, was in contact with her and also aware that we’re siblings for a total of like a day, right? Then we both died and got reincarnated or whatever, and I thought she was permadead, and then I spent, well, honestly, it kinda sucks to say it, but I found a sister who means a lot to me. Maybe more than Rose does.”

Rose felt a pang of utterly rational jealousy.

“Which isn’t to say that I don’t love Rose!” continued Dave. “But, like, I met Rose pretty much as soon as I was able to read and use the internet, which was pretty early on in my first life, but still, that’s like, only six or seven years of knowing Rose versus the eleven of knowing ‘Mione.”

“Does it count, though?” said Rose.

“What?”

“Like, if you’re counting the years you knew Hermione starting from when you were both infants, does that count? Or do you count starting from when you become cognizant?”

“This is a stupid line of questioning,” said Dave.

“If you become cognizant around the time you’re able to read, let’s say,” continued Rose, undeterred, “would it then only make sense to count your time with Hermione similarly? And if you learned how to read around age six in this timeline, much as you did in our original one, would that only give you six or seven years with Hermione? A similar number to my own?”

“Holy shit,” said Dave. “Are you jealous?”

“What?”

“You’re literally jealous of me and Hermione.”

“No, I’m not,” lied Rose. She scoffed. “And we’re not here to discuss that, really.”

“Then why’d you bring it up?”

“Thought experiment,” said Rose. She turned to Jane. “Can we move on?”

“Alright,” said Nanna Egbert. “That wasn’t something I expected to stumble upon, and perhaps it can wait for a later date, when young... what was her name again?”

“Hermione.”

“Hermione. Shakespearean, I like it. Yes, if young Hermione were to join us, then I think I would feel more comfortable having that sort of discussion. But for now let’s move on to a different relationship you had in your first life.”

Dave groaned. “You wanna know about my older bro?” he said. “You really wanna know? He was an asshole obsessed with puppets and anime. That’s really all there is to say on the matter.”

“That feels reductionist,” said Dirk.

“Shut the fuck up,” said Dave. “Please, shut the fuck up. Please.”

Dirk shut the fuck up, though he looked unhappy.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think this shit through,” said Dave. “Call it six years, call it eleven, but I’ve been raised by a normal enough family this time around. One that keeps the fridge stocked with food instead of fucking Saw-themed puppet traps.”

“What the fuck is Saw?” whispered Dirk to himself. Dave didn’t acknowledge it.

“I’ve been to enough therapy to know how you should and should not raise a kid,” said Dave.

“You went to therapy?” Dirk seemed incredulous. “How much did you tell the guy about the... situation?”

“Man,” said Dave. “What happened to shut the fuck up?”

“I feel like I have a right to know how much you told of the future to some random asshole with a doctorate.”

Roxy and Jane looked uncomfortable as well.

“Dave,” said Roxy. “Causal spoilers aren’t a super great thing, y’know?”

“What?” said Dave. “Who gives a shit if I tell a therapist that an alien girl drew shitty pictures of me one time?”

“It’s not that, dear,” said Jane. “Aside those who go on to play The Game and their Guardians, people aren’t supposed to know about, well, the upcoming end of the world.”

“Who says?” said Rose. “That’s shitty.”

“It’s kind of a Guardian instinct,” said Roxy. “I dunno how to describe it.”

“Us Guardians—me, Roxy, Jane, and Jake—have a few of those,” said Dirk. “Sometimes we get a feeling that we should be in a certain place at a certain time. For example, I know where your meteor is going to land, Dave.”

“Yeah, Texas,” said Dave. “I know too. Because I was there. As a baby.”

“Sometimes,” continues Dirk, “it’s hard to resist some of these Guardian instincts. I know that the Game is going to be hell, and I look at you, and obviously you’re in pretty tip-top shape, but I want to just.”

Dirk made a noise. “I want to take you, and I want to whip you into shape. I want to make you capable of handling any and all of the shit that the world’s going to throw at you. Hell, not just you--I see my kids, my Lions, and I see how soft and fuzzy they all are. And it’s hard to not do some shit like enchant a dummy to chase them around for training.”

“What... why would you do that?” said Roxy. “I never got any instinct like that.”

Dirk said nothing.

“I didn’t get anything like that either, Mr. Strider,” said Jane. “Not that I doubt that you receive horrific visions of the potential futures to come, but I think you might be using this as a... what’s the word?”

“Rationalization,” said Rose.

“Rationalization, hoo hoo,” confirmed Jane.

Dirk kept leaning on the wall, his arms crossed, before he pushed off of it and walked closer to the center of the room. Dave scooched back on the bed. Dirk glanced at Dave, and then put his hand in his pocket and pulled out his wand.

“I’m gonna put this on the ground,” said Dirk. “I don’t have any other weapons on me. I guarantee it.”

"Cal?"

"The fuck do you mean, Cal?"

"Where's the fucking puppet, man?"

"It's a puppet, dude," said Dirk. "It's not a weapon."

The room was silent.

Dirk sighed, and removed his Puppetkind abstratus from his Strife Deck.

"I don't even have the puppet on me, man," he said. "But fine. Happy?"

"That puppet fucking assaulted me on a rooftop," said Dave. "And I'm pretty sure it's possessed.

"Cal's not possessed," said Dirk. "Cal's too cool to be possessed."

"I think Cal was possessed in our first lives," said Rose. "I'm not entirely sure if he's possessed now."

"I don't want to think about Cal any more than I have to," said Dave.

"Good," said Dirk, "because I actually have no fucking clue where he is."

"What?!"

This was uttered by every occupant of the room but Nanna Egbert, who kept her light, grandmotherly smile firm as she said, "The whereabouts of this young man's possessed Juju isn't all that relevant to the crux of this conversation, dearies. I think we all know that. Dirk, what was your intention in removing your wand?"

"To show Dave that I don't want to hurt him," said Dirk. "I never have."

Dave scoffed, and Dirk continued. "I know, I know, I know that with a different roll of the dice, if I went through different experiences, if we were in a different time and place, I could hurt you. I did hurt you. And for that, I'm deeply sorry, for as much responsibility as I have for my alternate selves."

"More and less than you think you do, dear," said Jane. "Go on."

Dirk side-eyed her, and said, "Most of all, dude, I want to meet you. I've spent half my life wanting to meet you, ever since I realized you were coming. And to see that you're already a fucking hero, you and Rose, both fucking heroes, it makes me more proud than I can possibly express."

Dirk stepped back, and Dave took a moment to process.

"Listen," said Dave. "Listen. I need you to know that this situation is beyond awkward for me.

"Because I'm standing here, and John's grandma’s here, and Roxy's here, and Rose is here, and you're here, and you're a fuckin'... you're a dorky kid, y'know? But you look, you're... you're not that far removed from the guy who abused me growing up.

"I'm calling it abuse because that's what makes sense to me in my head," said Dave. "You can call it whatever the fuck you want. And I know, I know the circumstances are different. I know you're a kid. And I know you're apparently more emotionally stable or whatever. But, man, is it so, so fucking hard to look you in the eyes and not see him."

The room was tense. Roxy took a long look at Dirk. Rose took a long look at Dave. Dirk was inscrutable.

Perhaps Dave wasn’t ready, realized Rose. Maybe he never would be ready. Maybe she’d have to spend the rest of her educational career -- hell, her life -- managing these two, keeping them away from each other, creating awkward situation after awkward situation.

Finally, Jane said, "Well, dearie, are you willing to try?"

"To what?" said Dave.

"To see Dirk Strider as a different person? Or, at least, a distinct enough entity to be treated on his own merits, hoo hoo."

Dave groaned. "Fuck. Fuck! Argh. I shouldn't have come on this trip," he said.

"Why is that, dear?"

"Because I'm a fucking pushover.”

Rose blinked. “So does that mean…”

“Yeah,” said Dave. “I'll try my best to close my eyes around this douchebag."

"You won't regret it," said Dirk.

*You probably will, but in a fun, light-hearted way," said Rose. "I regret a lot of things in that manner and it's brightened my life considerably."

"You would say something like that, wouldn't you," said Dave.

"Oh, come off it," said Rose. "I'm sure there's someone you let into your life who makes you constantly exasperated, yet fills your heart with joy all the same."

The door burst open. All five of the room's occupants turned to see Hermione Granger, panting and out of breath.

"Finally, I finally found you," she said. "Phew. Gotta. Catch my breath."

A moment passed. Hermione's breathing became regular again.

"Hi," said Hermione. "I'm Dave's sister, and Dirk, I have this to say to you."

She marched into the room. "Now, I don't know if you know this about my brother. But he is the coolest, best person I've ever met in my whole life. He's tough, he's strong, and when things suck, he tells me about it. And you can bet, Dirk Strider, that he's told me about you. And if you ever," she said, face red both from exertion and righteous fury, "ever hurt my brother, in any way, I will find the biggest, scariest spell in the Hogwarts library, and use it to ruin your life. Do you understand me?"

Her wand was out, pointed directly at Dirk's nose, barely a centimeter away. Dirk raised his hands in surrender.

"Never thought I'd get the shovel speech from an eleven-year-old girl," he said, "but there is and always will be a first time for everything."

"Is that a yes, Strider?" she asked.

"Holy shit, yes," said Dirk. "Hell yes. Hell fucking yes, there is not a single fiber of my physical body that wants to cause harm to Dave Strider."

"That's Dave Granger," said Hermione. "And don't you forget it."

Her face relaxed. Then, her expression became panicked. "Oh my gosh! I completely forgot! Rose! I came here to get you, the other Slytherin girls heading back into the castle soon!"

"Then we better catch up with them," said Rose. "Come on, sorority sister of mine." She linked arms with Hermione.

"I don't think that's how the word 'sorority' is used," said Dirk. "I think it's only in the specific context of female student societies in university, not just any group of female students in any context."

"Shut up, you dork," said Roxy. "Let's catch up with them. I still never got to say hi to Millie!"

---

The final gathering point of the party was an unused courtyard within the castle bounds. Everyone contributed some of their candy to a shared pot, and Roxy passed cans of butterbeer around.

"So," said Cosette, "despite this not going exactly as planned, I still think it went pretty well, for a merged family reunion and female student bonding session."

"Better than I hoped, honestly," said Dirk, who was still there for some fucking reason.

"Dude," said Cosette. "This part's kind of meant for the kids."

"Gotcha," said Dirk. "I'll just... head out, I guess."

"See you around," said Rose.

"Bye," said Dave. "See you around."

"See you, Mr. Strider!" said Pansy.

"Should I go?" said Roxy.

"No, you're cool," said Millie.

"What about me, hoo hoo?" said Jane, who was also still there for some fucking reason.

"You're cool too," said Tracey. "You were apparently raised by a witch, and you're Jake Harley's sister, which makes you more than cool enough."

"If you want me to stay I won't complain," said Jane. "I missed these kinds of things from my younger days. Why, just the act of me staying here means I get an advantage in my Prankster's Gambit against Mr. Strider, does it not?"

"Yeah, sure, whatever," said Cosette. "Let's wrap this up before bedtime."

Cosette looked around the group.

"So," she said. "First and foremost welcome to Slytherin."

Millie and Tracey clapped. The rest of the circle joined along.

"You're here because you chose to be Sorted, or were Sorted, to join what is in my own unbiased opinion the best of all the Houses."

Millie whooped. Just Millie, this time.

"Now," she said. "I have to address the stigma.

"You're only eleven," said Cosette, "so you haven't experienced this, but people... don't really like Slytherins. Maybe it's a bad experience they've had with a Slytherin, maybe it's just the culture, I couldn't really say. But there's an unfair image of Slytherins as evil, Dark wizards.

"Now, I'm not going to knock the Dark Arts," said Cosette. "Legally I think I might get in trouble for telling you this, but use the Dark Arts responsibility with trusted individuals at hand and you should be more than fine. But also you're eleven right now so ignore everything I'm saying. The point is," she finished, "is that you're going to go through tough stuff. And the thing you're going to want the most is your friends around you.

"We're all going to swear here tonight," said Cosette. "Don't worry, it's not magically binding, it's the spirit of the thing. But we're going to swear to always be there for each other."

"When the rain starts to pour, like I've been there before, and you'll be there for me too," said Dave. "Oh, and make sure to add 'I'll be there for you' before each of those lines."

"Really? The Friends theme song?" said Rose. Dave shrugged.

"I don't know what Friends is," said Cosette, but since we're all going to be friends and rhyming is fun, we can go with that."

"We're just doing the one draft?" said Rose. "No second takes, just raw, unfiltered Strider?"

"I think it's cute," said Tracey. "Let's do it. I'll be there for you," she said.

"When the rain starts to pour," added Daphne.

"I'll be there for you," intoned Pansy, perhaps forgetting that this wasn't magically binding.

"Like I've been there before," said Millie.

"I'll be there for you," said Rose, rolling her eyes.

The group looked at Hermione.

"Me?" she squeaked.

"At least for the night," said Cosette. "It's fun! Come on."

"And you'll be there for me too?" she finished.

"Dununununununun!" Dave strummed an invisible guitar. "Good show. Better theme song."

"You're impossible," groaned Rose.

"You two are cute," said Roxy. "Makes me proud to have you as my ecto-kids."

"Thanks, mom," said Dave. "And it's still weird to call a sixteen year old mom. Whoops. Good thing I checked again."

"Not as weird as calling the woman you thought was your grandmother your mother, as your young friend John likely might do someday!" Nanna smiled. "While we're on the subject, I did bring cookies. Does anyone want?"

Jane's cookies were passed out to the group.

"To new befinfings!" toasted Millie, spewing out crumbs.

"To new beginnings!" cheered the group.

The cookies were really fucking good.

Chapter Text

“Do you ever feel, even though everything is objectively going pretty well, that there’s some hopeless part of you that just can’t take it?”

It had been a few weeks since the girls’ night out. The bonding session had more or less served its purpose, and the Pesterchum memo was nigh-constantly abuzz with activity. Someone (the app didn’t log such things) kept changing the memo’s name to more and more absurd things -- Slytherin Girls Chatroom evolved into SNAKECHAT evolved into HOW 2 PLOT 4 NERDS evolved into MILLIE HAS A CRUSH ON MALFOY NO I DONT STOP HOW DO I DELETE THIS evolved into a series of emojis that seemed to tell the tale of a chicken from hatching to its delicious death, and so on, and so forth.

And yet, despite the whole operation being her idea, Rose barely used it, even when Roxy was active.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m basically a paragon of mental health,” said Dirk. “So I can’t relate.” From where he stood on the shore, Dirk picked up a smooth looking rock and skipped it into the Lake. It bounced exactly once before sinking.

“Funny,” said Rose. “I know ‘teen girl complains about ennui’ is played-out beyond belief at this point, but I feel a need to put this into words, and it’s a lot harder to journal when you’re restricted to ink and quill.”

“Do you think that was a deliberate restriction by the wizards in charge to limit the power of education?” asked Dirk. “Only the wealthy are able to afford automated quills, shrinking the pool of people who are able to write and eventually publish.”

“I don’t care right now, Strider,” said Rose. “If you want to elaborate on your eventual goals of fully automated magical space communism you can, but I’m trying to establish gravitas.” Rose sat down and began doodling the outline of what appeared to be a Squiddle in the sand. “Though in my experience from the future, the most accessible communication mediums we had seemed to be directly linked to the downfall of society.”

“Pesterchum?”

“No, Twitter,” said Rose.

"What happened to your gravitas?" asked Dirk.

"It seems to have entirely evaporated, alongside any relevance or comedy this part of the conversation had," said Rose. "We were discussing my issues?"

Dirk picked up another stone and flicked it across the surface of the lake. It made it three skips this time before sinking.

"So what's your issue?" he said. "You can't relate to a bunch of eleven year olds, is that the problem?"

That wasn't true, thought Rose. There had been good moments here and there. Rose thought back to a particularly memorable transfiguration class, where Daphne had attempted to modify the properties of her Skaiaphone. Her frustration had led her to call over McGonagall, who had taken the phone into her hand and waved all manner of spells over it. All of the charms had succeeded, until she attempted to transfigure the phone, which utterly failed to have an effect.

"Where did you get this contraption, Ms. Greengrass?" McGonagall had asked.

Daphne told her. McGonagall had smiled wistfully, then went back to her desk and unlocked a drawer. With a flick of her wand, she had summoned to her palm a simple green cube with slightly bevelled edges.

"I have a feeling," said Professor McGonagall, "that once I understand the essence of devices like this one Mr. Strider gave me, I'll be given an Order of Merlin for Transfiguration. Maybe two."

"I don't know how to put it into words," said Rose. "Just a feeling like nothing is happening."

"Aren't you learning, like, literal magic?" asked Dirk. "What is there not to love, for the wizard-in-training?"

"I'm... kind of already pretty good at magic, or, at least I was," said Rose. "Stand back."

Rose equipped her needlewands and pointed them towards the beach. An omnious glow surrounded the tips of her wands, and a small rock surrounded by a similar glow began to rise from its place on the shore.

With a flick of her wands, the rock was launched like a missile across the surface of the lake, bouncing once near the halfway point, finally sinking just prior to hitting the opposite shoreline.

"That's a hell of a Leviosa," noted Dirk.

"I don't know what that means, and I think I won't like what I hear," replied Rose.

"Jesus, Lalonde. Not everything with me is fucked up. It's a first year levitation spell. You're probably learning it later today, assuming you have Charms. They save it for the last week of October."

"Oh." Rose felt somewhat embarrassed. "Well, the point is I didn't even need to use a spell to do that. I just directed my magic powers at the rock and did the magic thing."

"So your whole midlife crisis is that you're, what, bored in class?"

"No!" She groaned, frustrated. Rose couldn't even say that she was bored in class, really. Even Astronomy had something to keep her interest -- Professor Sinistra kept using frogs as a, well, what she claimed was just a metaphor for the shape of the universe, expanding like the vocal sac of a frog. Hell, Defense Against the Dark Arts continued to be interesting enough to not be boring, too, despite the mess of a "human" that was Professor Quirrel giving her headaches from his scatterbrained teaching style.

The memory of his reaction when she drew the Black Queen for him, with a convenient arrow and label to show that she was a "Lady, Black" still brought a smile to her face. Jack was so tellingly obvious. It was a wonder he didn't stab her right then and there, but she supposed that asking a man contracted to teach about his sexual desire for a woman depicted in a drawing didn't necessarily merit immediate execution under the law of Hogwarts.

Jack’s apparent commitment to his role as a teacher didn’t stop him from emanating waves of hatred/kill/destroy towards her -- after Rose began to actively try and mess with him, they only intensified, and her scar hurt more whenever he glared at her. But for some reason, Jack Noir, somehow in possession of Quirrel, seemed to be contractually unable to hurt her yet. So what if Rose was basically waving her hand in his face going 'haha don't you wish you could hurt me'? She deserved the opportunity to taunt him.

The man had killed her mother.

Even with these distractions, however, the days just seemed to stretch on. Class after class, meeting after meeting, essay after essay. Why were there so many essays? Perhaps Dirk's quill-based classism theory had some merit.

"It's not that I'm bored in class," said Rose, after some time. "Things here just seem so..."

"Inconsequential?" asked Dirk.

“Am I a jerk if I say yes?”

“I suggested the word, so I probably shoulder the jerk-blame,” said Dirk.

“It feels like, if my life Before was a story,” explained Rose, “this is a poorly-constructed sequel where nothing happens. And it isn’t as if we didn’t do our fair share of sitting around and talking way back when, don’t get me wrong. It was just also usually with aliens or mysterious white-text-talking figures, or we discussed world-ending catastrophes, the Green Sun, Jack Noir, the nature of the Game we were playing, anything of relevance.

“It’s not that the Slytherin girls are bad kids. Far from it. My problem is that they're all fine. They're all very good, nice kids. They've all got their own passions, their own lives, their own troubles and desires. But they’re all--”

“Normal?” offered Dirk.

“They all might have magic,” said Rose, “but none of them have gazed into the manifold eyes of the Grand Horrorterrors of the Furthest Ring and survived to tell the tale. None of them know what it’s like out there, what it feels like to suddenly have your memories merged with that of a version of yourself from a long-dead alternate timeline.”

“You’re being overdramatic, Lalonde,” said Dirk. “I know what you mean.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah.” Before Rose could even blink, Dirk was at the edge of the water, stone in hand. He flicked his wrist and the stone shot across the water like a bullet, hitting the water and skipping across its surface over and over again before bouncing a rock jutting out off the opposite shore, hurtling into the air, flying all the way back across the length of the lake, and landing back into Dirk’s outstretched hand. “I think I know what you mean.”

Rose remained silent. Dirk just stared out over the water, where the rock that his stone had hit was breaking apart, the top half of it sliding into the lake. It landed with a splash.

“Sometimes I wonder if Dave’s approach is better,” said Rose. “Pretending nothing happened. That nothing will happen. That his brother wasn’t a man who could move at speeds so fast that a puppet could look like it was moving completely autonomously. That there won’t be any meteors, or that Jake Harley isn’t working on extracting the code of Sburb as we speak.”

“But that’s got its own issues,” said Dirk. The ripples from the beheaded rock were spreading out across the river.

“It’s its own kind of isolation,” agreed Rose. “From your own past. And I think he needs it, especially considering how awful a lot of that past was for the kid, no offense.”

“Some taken,” said Dirk. “Not your fault, of course.”

“Sure,” said Rose.

Dirk sat down next to Rose. The ripples had finally reached the shore, and lapped at the small sandbank.

“I think part of the problem is that I miss John.”

“Jane’s grandkid, right?”

“Yes,” said Rose. “I can’t quite point out specifics, but he was always so--”

From inside his jeans pocket, Dirk’s phone buzzed. Rose glared at him.

“Can you turn that off, Dirk? I’m mourning.”

“He’s not dead, just not born, but whatever,” said Dirk. He pulled his phone out, tapping on the screen once then putting it to his cheek. “Strider here. Is this an emergency?”

Rose couldn’t hear what the person on the other end was saying, though she could hear Dirk's increasingly sardonic replies just fine.

"No, I'm on break right now.

"Yes, I logged the break. It's on the app.

"You're telling me you don't check the app-- we all agreed to use the app last week at the Prefect's Meeting.

"I don't wanna use your shitty ass clocking in spell, Leijon.

"Okay, I'm about to hang up the fucking phone. Just tell me why you called me.

"A what?

"Right now?

"Okay, hold your horses. Heh. That wasn't on purpose but I'm sticking with it.

"What?

"Yeah, I'm with Potter. Why?"

Dirk sighed.

"Jesus. Okay, I'll get her to you. Can you be near the groundskeeper's hut?

"Alright. Fucking hell."

Dirk hung up.

"What's going on?" asked Rose.

"There's been an attack on the centaurs that live in the Forbidden Forest," said Dirk. "One of them has been discovered, dead, with multiple stab wounds. Just prior, Quirrel had been seen leaving the forest by Hagrid."

"It must be Jack," said Rose. "He's possessed by Jack, like you said. It must be."

"I don't know, but you need to be inside," said Dirk. "For some reason, a heavily armed centaur is at the front gate asking about you, and orders from Head Herbert say you gotta be safe. Leijon will escort you to your common room from Hagrid's hut -- it's nearby."

"So, what," said Rose. "I complain about ennui and the universe gives me a villain?"

Dirk smiled. His smile was tight. "Seems that way, kid," he said. "Seems that way."

---

Rose was personally very familiar with the concept of lockdown. When she was younger, her mother would occasionally invite strangers into their house. Sometimes the strangers would come in, Rose would hide in her room, and the next time she left it, there was a giant statue of a wizard in the center of the living room. Sometimes she'd hide from a knock and then nothing would have visibly changed in their house, until her next birthday, when her mother gifts her an absurd princess doll, twice her height.

On occasion, these visitors weren't deliverymen. She specifically remembered a single time when an older man with glasses and a moustache, a man she now recognizes to have been Jake Harley, sat and spoke to her mother for over four hours. When they were done, her mother was crying, Jake was apologizing, and Rose heard her mother loudly, raggedly declare that she never wanted to hear another word from him again.

From that day forth, nobody came into their house for longer than ten minutes.

This didn't stop Rose from locking herself in her room, of course -- it was entirely an understandable reaction for a young preteen to want to avoid her mother at her worst.

Usually, self imposed lockdown was a time for her to reflect. Or attempt to make headway in her wizard fanfiction. Or psychoanalyze strangers on the internet. Or just talk to her friends on Pesterchum.

This time, though, she entered her dorm room, and was immediately beset upon with questions:

"Are you alright?"

"Don't ever go to the lake without one of us again!"

"We heard there was an attack, but they won't tell us on who--"

"Someone is dead, I can feel it for certain--"

And so on.

Rose just took a deep breath, walked forward, and flopped down on her bed.

"Wake me if the Halloween Feast is still on," she said, quickly slipping out of consciousness.

Before she lost touch with the physical world entirely, she could hear someone say, "Oh, no! Are they going to cancel the feast?"

---

DAVE: rose

DAVE: wheres the green sun

ROSE: At this point, I think it's fair to say that we've been duped.

ROSE: Doc Scratch played us like suckers.

ROSE: Perhaps the entire universe played us like suckers.

This was an easy conclusion to come to. They had travelled the specific path through the Furthest Ring as plotted by the Horrorterrors, with a device recommended for use by Doc Scratch, a device, The Tumor, with enough power to destroy the Green Sun, the power source of all First Guardians, including the currently extremely overpowered Jack Noir, and Doc Scratch's 'master', Lord English.

Conveniently, what Doc Scratch had failed to mention, is that the Tumor also has enough energy to create the Green Sun. And that this, in fact, was what Rose and Dave were there to do.

DAVE: do i just

DAVE: who has the card

ROSE: The bunny has the card.

Liv Tyler, or whatever the fuck its name currently was, looked up at Rose, its absurd eyepatch reflecting the velvety nothingness of space. Rose wondered if the bunny remembered being her favorite stuffed animal before she gave it to John. Rose wondered if the bunny remembered that John had given Rose the bunny in the first place.

The cosmology of this bunny was stupid. What mattered was that it had the captchalogue card with The Tumor in it.

DAVE: got it

DAVE: alright

DAVE: here we go

The card, deployed.

A spikey egg thing, hatched.

Quest beds, revealed.

Dave floated over to one of the tubes.

DAVE: whys one red and one blue

ROSE: Do you recall Jack's Red Miles attack?

DAVE: yeah

ROSE: The red one is the entirety of our universe.

DAVE: really?

DAVE: like the whole thing is in this tube

DAVE: real orions belt from men in black moment

DAVE: what would happen if I flicked the tube

ROSE: Don't flick the tube.

DAVE: haha im not that reckless

DAVE: so we're just sitting here waiting for this countdown to hit zero huh

DAVE: wonder what 1025 means

ROSE: It's 413 and 612 added together.

ROSE: 413 being our universe, of course, since it's the day we started playing Sburb.

DAVE: so the blue tube is the troll universe?

DAVE: did they start on like

DAVE: troll june twelfth

DAVE: or something equally dumb

DAVE: man, i don't get why some troll stuff gets like a cool and fun name, like laptop becomes husktop, while other times i have karkat trying to compare the man whose actual name is literally troll will smith

DAVE: like he sent me a picture of troll will smith and he just looks like will smith with horns its hilarious

ROSE: Dave.

DAVE: yeah

ROSE: While this anecdote is extremely satisfying, as I've wondered about the origins of the absurd language the trolls use,

ROSE: Make sure to do this while touching your Quest Bed.

DAVE: why

DAVE: are we like

DAVE: gonna die when this hits zero

ROSE: It's a bomb, Dave. It's a bomb that creates something, but that something is a sun with the mass of two universes, as well as mysterious properties that we don't fully understand.

ROSE: We're going to die.

ROSE: We'll probably be fine in the long run so long as we're on our quest beds when we die, but...

ROSE: Just be careful. I feel like this is maybe the single most important thing either of us is ever going to do.

ROSE: And if you die for a stupid reason like not being in contact with your quest bed when the bomb goes off, you'll never get a chance to prove me wrong.

DAVE: yeah ok

Dave sat, legs swinging off the quest bed.

DAVE: i dunno if this is how it went the first time around

DAVE: i think it was a lot less funky banter

DAVE: and a lot more uh

DAVE: dramatic glances at each other?

ROSE: What?

DAVE: forget i said anything

ROSE: Fuck. I'm dreaming, aren't I?

DAVE: gave away the goat too soon

DAVE: my b

DAVE: hey rose

ROSE: You're looking at me like you haven't seen me in years, Dave. I saw you at breakfast.

ROSE: You and your Hufflepuff buddies were doing something rap related.

DAVE: oh yeah that was ill

DAVE: my flow with my badgers win badges

DAVE: im like the magical king of turning raps into ashes

DAVE: your mom came to me to check out her rashes

DAVE: that last line needs more work

ROSE: We have the same mom.

DAVE: your second mom

ROSE: She's dead.

DAVE: oh

DAVE: fuck i forgot

DAVE: girl who lived, voldyboy day, yeah

DAVE: this is the tenth anniversary of them dying

ROSE: Thanks for reminding me.

DAVE: but i was moreso getting at

DAVE: this is the first time since this moment ive seen you in those stupid ass derse dreamer pajamas

DAVE: hell in any outfit that was from sburb

DAVE: not that you don't look kickass pointing two wands at a matchstick trying to turn it into a needle but it feels different

ROSE: Right.

ROSE: Honestly, even though I know this is a dream, and one that'll end when this timer hits zero, I feel better than I have in so long.

ROSE: Maybe since this moment.

ROSE: Something is just existentially... missing from our lives. Do you feel like that, Dave?

DAVE: nah

DAVE: im a wizard in a kickass country

DAVE: i get to witness margaret thatcher using her girl power by funneling money into illegal paramilitary death squads while being in the country where that's going down

DAVE: im living a new life and yeah its different but so was our life before the game. every chance you get at living is different and thats not a bad thing

ROSE: Even though I brought it up, this is exhausting me.

DAVE: is that why youre asleep

ROSE: It's an emotional exhaustion, but not too far off. I've had this conversation twice today.

ROSE: Right when I was complaining to your brother about feeling purposeless, the universe hands me a stabbing on a plate, and I'm somehow implicated in it.

ROSE: Is it listening or just cruel?

DAVE: id go with cruel

DAVE: i mean the universe didn't let us keep liv tyler

DAVE: look at her

DAVE: shes so cute

The bunny looks up at Dave. It knows it's going to die soon. This, alongside temporarily stopping Jack, was what it was created for. That, and arming Jack with the blade he'd use to kill the Black Queen. So really, in totality, Liv had done a lot more to help ensure Jack Noir's creation than his destruction.

Aren't time loops fun?

DAVE: so fun

ROSE: I said that out loud?

DAVE: your internal monologue gets stupidly loud in boring dreams

ROSE: How is this boring? I'm here with the bunny you gifted to John, who gifted it to me at my birth, which I gifted to John, who gifted it to Jade at her birth, who traded it to her mysterious pen pal that I still somehow know nothing about, who traded it back to Jade after upgrading it with artificial consciousness, who gifted it to John, who then got separated from it, until it ended up here, with us, waiting for this timer to hit zero, which, frankly, I can't wait to happen.

DAVE: you missed one step

ROSE: Which step?

DAVE: the original owner

DAVE: nic cage

ROSE: God fucking--

The timer hit zero, and Rose's entire sense of existence was confused, condensed into a single point of light as green fire washed over her and the god-tiering process began, and she couldn't see anything, the same overwhelming green light she kept seeing in her dreams in her new life, too, over and over and someone was laughing and something fundamental felt horribly wrong and she felt a hand on her shoulder and--

"Rose!"

It was Daphne.

"After you fell asleep Tracey hit you with a dreaming spell," she explained. "Since you looked like you were having a bad day. But then you didn't wake up when Tracey said you were supposed to, and we were going to call the Prefect--"

"I'm okay," said Rose. "It was a pretty good dream, actually. Compelling. Just kind of a shit end."

Pansy, from the doorway of the dorm gasped. "Did she just swear?"

"Fuh-rick you," slurred Rose. "Are we feasting or what?"

"You sure you're okay?" asked Daphne. "Tracey said she'd never used her dream bubble spell on anyone who wasn't awake before, so she was worried--"

"Just groggy," said Rose. "Food?"

"It's all being served in the common room, because of the lockdown."

"Right," said Rose. "I'm gonna eat a pumpkin."

"What kind of pumpkin? Pie, pasty, pastry--"

"Any pumpkin!"

It was, as she had expected, a very delicious meal.

Chapter Text

It was silent in the dorm. Four girls lay in their beds, chests rising and falling. They waited, straining their ears to maybe catch footsteps of their returning fifth member, perhaps the creak of the door, anything to stave off sleep until the last Slytherin girl returned to the dorm. Millie and Tracey had already succumbed to slumber.

The door opened.

“Rose!” hissed Pansy.

Rose put a finger to her lips, jerking a thumb at the sleeping form of Millie. She began mouthing something.

“What?”

Rose groaned quietly. “Text me,” she whispered. “We're past curfew.” And she went off to brush her teeth.

Where did rose go???????

TT: I don't appreciate this renaming of the group chat.

TT: By now I'm almost wishing for something normal, like Fruity Rumpus Asshole Factory.

GC: But we had no idea where you were!

TT: Really, Pansy? Snape waltzes into the common room right as I'm about to eat a delicious pumpkin themed pastry, says Dumbledore wants to see me in his office and grabs my wrist, dragging me from the table and out of the room, and you don't know where I was?

GC: Okay. So we knew where you were. But we had no clue what happened!

TT: It was rather mundane, honestly.

TT: Centaur accuses me of a crime, it turns out I didn't do it, centaur gives me some vague prophecy or something, leaves, and then Dumbledore gives me a present from my deceased father.

GC: What???

GC: So they called you up and asked you if you killed anyone, you said no, and then they just let you free?

TT: I mean, it was a lot more tense than that.

TT: The centaur and I almost duelled right there in Dumbledore’s office before Snape stopped us.

TT: Really, it was quite thrilling. It’s almost a shame that all I got from it was this present to prove I was there.

GC: What present?

“This present,” said a voice in the darkness. Pansy shrieked, cutting herself off to not rouse her sleeping classmates. Then she could hear some fabric rustling, before revealing Rose Potter’s head, floating in midair.

“An invisibility cloak,” breathed Pansy. “That's...”

“It makes me feel weird when I use it,” said Rose. “Like sleeping on one arm.”

“That shouldn't happen,” whispered Daphne, from the other side of the room. “Invisibility cloaks--”

“Shh!” whispered Rose. She threw the cloak over her head again, and judging by the sound of her footsteps, made her way into her bed.

After a moment, the soft glow of Rose's phone illuminated two disembodied white hands resting on Rose’s pillow.

TT: My phone's reception goes to crap when it's under the cloak.

AA: I don't understand why that would be the case -- cloaks don’t block magic.

AA: Or cause your weird sleeping arm thing.

TT: It's a metaphor for the way it makes me feel, it’s not meant to be taken literally.

AA: I got that. I'm eleven, not six.

TT: Sure.

AA: Either way, House Greengrass owns several enchanted objects, but none of them have any side effects unless they're cursed or draw directly on your magic. Can I try it?

TT: Be my guest.

Daphne silently made her way out of bed towards the disembodied hands, which revealed themselves to be Rose Potter holding a bundle of fabric, after only a moment. Rose's eyes never seemed to leave the cloak.

“Do it quickly,” whispered Rose. “I'm beginning to have second thoughts about letting such a precious item out of my hands.”

Daphne placed the cloak around her body from the neck down. “Was wearing it like this enough to make you feel weird about using it?” she asked.

“It wasn't weird,” said Rose, perhaps too suddenly. “It was fine. Honestly, it was kind of-- pleasant to wear. A reassuring presence, in some inexplicable way. Are you feeling anything?”

“It feels like a regular cloak,” confirmed Daphne. “No side effects that I can discern. Maybe it's got a link to you because it was your father's?”

“Perhaps. Give it back.”

“In a moment,” whispered Daphne. “I’m curious about who made it. Use your phone’s light?”

Rose held her phone out so that Daphne could look over the cloak by way of a flashlight.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for a manufacturer’s seal,” said Daphne. “Usually it’s located around the back of the neck, but I can’t find it… ah.”

Rose looked. “That symbol looks familiar,” said Rose.

“It should,” replied Daphne. “It’s the iconography associated with the Deathly Hallows. Everyone knows the triangle with the line and circle through it.”

Rose squinted in the darkness. She couldn’t see what the hell Daphne was talking about. If anything, it looked like the icon used to represent the Space aspect, just in the opposite direction.

“Does that mean anything?” whispered Rose.

“Probably not,” replied Daphne. “It’s one of those symbols baked into basic wizard mythology. Every amateur craftsmaker incorporates it into their symbol to look cool. But I admit -- they do it because it works.”

“Okay,” said Rose. “Can I have it back?”

Daphne returned the cloak. Rose pulled it over herself and lay in her bed.

“Goodnight, Rose,” said Daphne.

Rose didn’t reply.

She was already asleep.

---

Christmas came fast for the first years. As the semester came to an end, every teacher began to ramp up their instruction -- even Binns, for all that was worth. Though perhaps it came fastest for no other student than Rose Potter.

It wasn’t really something she was conscious of. One day it was Halloween, and she was talking with Dirk on the lake. Then she had a dream about Dave, then a centaur implicated her in (and subsequently absolved her of) murder, and then...

Nothing had really happened of note.

It was now Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG]

TT: Merry Christmas, Mom.

TG: hi babey

TG: merry chrisis :0

TG: now i dont wanna go and do a spoilz

TG: but i HEARD from a fellow mom

TG: that u may be gettin a hand-woven sweater in the pipeline???

TT: You’re in a mom group?

TT: You’re fifteen, no?

TG: well we are doin the correspondenc in the old fashioned way!

TG: owls n stationarey

TT: Ah, yes. Like my ancestors must have used.

TT: Birds.

TG: its a sacred art

TG: anyway i gots u a hot lil somethin meself ;)

TG: some kinda rare import

TG: first run

TG: PRIMO

TG: Original squiddles manga from japan :OOOOOOO

TT: ...You didn’t.

TG: I DID :D

TT: Dirk’s never going to let me live this down. Calling him a weeb was my primary form of self defence.

TG: it was his idea actually!

TT: Sounds like him. Offer something super sweet and heartwarming that also forces me to come up with more elaborate insults.

TT: Well, I’m extremely grateful. Thank you, Roxy.

TT: I’m... I didn’t get you anything yet.

TG: gurl dont worry abt it

TG: literally being in my life is all i want from u

TG: won way or another ;D

TT: Yeah.

TT: I’ll do my best.

Rose really hadn’t been doing her best.

The past few months felt to her, upon some reflection, to have gone by in the length of time it’d take her to read about a paragraph. God, how much had she even spoken to Roxy?

She actually couldn't remember. Rose might have sent a message last week, or possibly the week before. It couldn't have been more than a month, because... well it just couldn't have been. Her mind spun its wheels as Rose tried to figure out when she'd messaged last.

The spinning of wheels, as always, caused friction, and Rose's thoughts heated up into a smolder of petty anger. The passive-aggression mixed with the guilt in Rose's gut to make something that felt like coins rattling around in her stomach. Coins that, when added up, equaled exactly twelve cents -- the approximate value of a singular magnetic letter M.

And then, as fast as it came, the petty anger dissipated. Was she just conflating the current Roxy with her former mother? The idea was cloying and tarlike, and Rose didn't know how to answer it, so she let the wheels of her mind spin back out into idleness. She pulled the Cloak up closer to herself for warmth.

---

It was night. Ducking into an unused classroom was only natural, where she’d been going. The door closed solidly behind her and she was finally able to take a deep breath.

Now that she was safe from that damned cat, Rose took stock of the room she was in. Empty desks, chairs, and a trash can -- though, placed in the center of the room was a mirror, with all sorts of fancy iconography. Swirls and suns and other shapes she could barely make out in the dark.

Rose cautiously walked closer to the mirror, catching her own reflection. She almost instinctively avoided staring at her own face (a shame that living with the Dursleys had instilled into her, she thought), instead taking a closer look at the mirror’s frame.

Erised. Oh, thought Rose, translating the text in her head. It’s a mirror that shows my desire.

She looked in the mirror again.

She was not alone.

The girl on the other side beckoned her forward. Her pale grey skin (paler than it’s supposed to be, Rose knew), her black hair and lipstick, her two horns...

“Kanaya,” breathed Rose.

Kanaya put out a hand.

Rose took it.

The sensation was like sticking a hand in a bath through layers of bubbles -- tingly, but not unpleasant.

After only hesitating a moment, the rest of Rose followed through.

KANAYA: My Apologies

KANAYA: I Was Not Able To Vocalize Words When We Were On Opposite Sides Of The Lookslab

KANAYA: But As We Are Now Located On The Same Side Of The Plane

KANAYA: I Can Tell You

KANAYA: Hi

KANAYA: Its Been A Long Time

ROSE: ...Hi, Kanaya.

KANAYA: Hello Rose

They walked, Kanaya slightly ahead of Rose. The reflected classroom slowly gave way to a blank nothing, but the glow of Kanaya’s skin gave Rose a guide through the darkness. Eventually the black became bright sand, and they found themselves on Alternia.

ROSE: Taking me home?

ROSE: My, how scandalous.

ROSE: What would your mother think?

As if she’d heard, the virgin grub flew past Rose and Kanaya.

ROSE: Did she just wink at me?

KANAYA: Um

KANAYA: Maybe We Can Talk In A Different Location

KANAYA: I Think I See Your Hive Over There

ROSE: I see it too.

ROSE: Gods, I haven’t seen it in-- a decade. Maybe longer.

ROSE: It’s... The location has a lot of painful memories attached to it.

ROSE: It also appears to be engulfed in flames.

ROSE: And if memory serves, it’ll be pulverized by a meteor sooner or later.

ROSE: Maybe we shouldn’t go there.

KANAYA: Point Taken

KANAYA: Perhaps Somewhere Else

ROSE: I know of a great place on John’s planet.

ROSE: Cute village with cute salamanders.

ROSE: Great dark cultist material. I still miss Viceroy Von Salamancer.

KANAYA: We Can Pay Your Cultist Reptile A Visit Then

KANAYA: This Is Your Dream Bubble After All

ROSE: So I’m dreaming right now?

KANAYA: Yes

They walked. The sand gave way to blueish dirt. Rose grabbed Kanaya’s hand to help her over a stream of oil.

She didn’t let go.

ROSE: None of this is real, then.

KANAYA: Well

KANAYA: Reality Is Subjective

KANAYA: Not To Annoy You With Metatextual Bullshit

KANAYA: But This Is Technically Real

KANAYA: And Also Technically Not

KANAYA: We Are Technically In A Dream Bubble Blown By The Dark Gods On Feferis Request

KANAYA: But Also You Are Technically Just Sleeping Wherever You Are

KANAYA: And This Is All In Your Head

The world shook beneath their feet. Up above, another crack appeared in the sky.

ROSE: And that?

KANAYA: Lrd English

KANAYA: Doing His Usual Thing

KANAYA: Trying To Pop All The Dream Bubbles

KANAYA: And Destroy All Life In The Universe

KANAYA: One Way Or Another

ROSE: But this is still just in my head, correct?

KANAYA: Like I Said

KANAYA: Its All Bullshit

KANAYA: And Id Rather Focus On The Moment

KANAYA: How Long Has It Been Since We Last Met From Your Perspective

ROSE: I’ve never met you in person.

ROSE: Though I feel like we should have.

ROSE: We were going to meet up, weren’t we?

ROSE: Before...

KANAYA: Youre Starting To Remember

KANAYA: Im Not Sure If I Remember Honestly

KANAYA: If I Have Any Memories Of Us Meeting Are They Just My Wishful Thinking

KANAYA: Manifesting Itself As Retroactive Scenes

KANAYA: Of Me And You

KANAYA: Doing

KANAYA: I Dont Know

KANAYA: Living Together

KANAYA: On A Cramped Meteor

ROSE: I’m one hundred percent sure I never made it to the meteor.

ROSE: That’s where we were heading, and you were going to meet us there, but...

KANAYA: Dont Dwell On It

ROSE: No plans to do so were ever drawn up.

ROSE: On the subject of plans.

ROSE: Did you have a motivation for recreating the sequel to Alice in Wonderland?

KANAYA: No

KANAYA: Well

KANAYA: First Of All I Wanted To Know It Would Work

ROSE: If what would work?

KANAYA: That I Was Your Hearts True Desire

KANAYA: It Would Only Work If Its True

ROSE: ...Coming on a little strong, maybe.

ROSE: Not that I’m saying no, necessarily, but I’m only eleven years old.

KANAYA: Are You

ROSE: Of course I am--

KANAYA: Are You

KANAYA: Look

KANAYA: Really Look

Rose looked down at herself. She was wearing... no.

The fourteen year old girl saw herself wearing an orange dress and a gold necklace. Blue high heels kept her height above Kanaya’s. The faint remembered taste of alcohol touched Rose’s tongue, and she heard an echo of teasing about wearing a “friggin prom dress” -- teasing that had never happened.

No, thought Rose, I’m not fourteen, I’m only thirteen, I never got that far, and the outfit flickered into the purple Derse Dreamer outfit she wore when flying to her death, but then she remembered, no--

I’m only eleven.

Her Hogwarts robes billowed inelegantly as she sat down on a stone log. Kanaya joined her.

KANAYA: Judging By That Light Show Im To Assume Youre Not Ready

KANAYA: Which Is Disappointing

ROSE: I’m sorry, Kanaya.

ROSE: I really am.

ROSE: But I’ve been given a new chance at life here. Maybe some monotony would do me some good.

ROSE: Cleanse my soul a little bit. Live like a child. Get to be a witch.

ROSE: I hope I’ll see you again one day.

KANAYA: You Probably Wont

KANAYA: Im Still Not Entirely Sure Where You Are Or How To Get There

KANAYA: But Im Fairly Certain Youre Only There Because You Were There When The Green Sun Was Created

KANAYA: Which Is A Fact Only True About Yourself Dave And A Stuffed Bunny

ROSE: I wonder what happened to her.

KANAYA: I Really Couldnt Give A Shit

KANAYA: Im Sorry

KANAYA: But This Was A Really Disappointing Outing For Me

KANAYA: I Had Hoped To Somehow

KANAYA: I Dont Know

KANAYA: Get The Old TentacleTherapist Back

KANAYA: In Our Darkest Hour You Guided Me

KANAYA: Even Before Your Civilization Existed

KANAYA: You Saved My Life And I Love You For It

ROSE: I don’t know what to say.

KANAYA: I Dont Either

KANAYA: Because Its Clear Youre Not That Person Anymore

KANAYA: And I Still Love You

KANAYA: But

KANAYA: I Dont Know

KANAYA: Youre Rose Potter Now I Guess

ROSE: ...I feel awful.

ROSE: I’m so sorry, Kanaya.

KANAYA: Im Sorry Too

They sat on the stone log. Kanaya breathed, and Rose felt her heart break.

KANAYA: Just

KANAYA: Can You Do One Thing For Me First

ROSE: Anything.

And Kanaya turned toward Rose, her eyes wide, and Rose instinctively leaned in, like they’d done it a thousand times before, and as their lips met it was if they had done it a thousand times before, day after day on a meteor and then on a new planet as they revived Kanaya’s species, as they raised a daughter, as they lived their lives, as they grew old and happy and never died--

And Kanaya slowly pulled away, and Rose felt something old and important inside her crumble and fall away.

KANAYA: Im Glad I Did That

KANAYA: If Only To Remind Myself That It

KANAYA: Well It Did Happen

KANAYA: Somewhere Out There In Paradox Space Were Living That

KANAYA: Even If

KANAYA: Im Not The One To Get To Do It

Rose felt something wet on her cheeks.

ROSE: Hey Kanaya?

KANAYA: Yes

ROSE: Can you do one thing for me first?

ROSE: Before I wake up.

KANAYA: Anything

This time, the kiss was almost desperately passionate. And yet, it didn’t feel hungry. It didn’t feel like someone begging for more. It felt like...

Well, it felt like goodbye.

When Rose came up for air, Kanaya was crying too. Jade tears streamed down her perfect skin.

KANAYA: I Love You Rose

ROSE: I love you too, Kanaya.

ROSE: And I’m sorry.

And as Rose felt herself begin to wake up, as the dream bubble started to evaporate in a burst of rainbow light all around them, Rose couldn’t help but notice --

Kanaya’s eyes weren’t blank.

---

Rose gasped for air. She was covered in sweat, even though the fire in the common room had been put out long ago.

The room was entirely empty.

It was just her, the chair she had slept on, the Squiddles manga she had fallen asleep reading for what must have been the thousandth time, and the invisibility cloak she was using as a blanket.

She shook her head in confusion. Studying for finals must have been taking a lot out of her.

Slowly, Rose extracted herself from the chair, stretching. Gods, she was overheating in this sweater. Really, all the kudos in the world to Mrs. Weasley for making something that kept the heat in, but it was late spring by now. She should be wearing something much lighter.

Before she could do anything, though, her phone vibrated, and she checked the screen.

It was from Hermione.

AH: Quirrel’s moving to steal the stone TONIGHT.

AH: Your suspicions over the past few months were correct.

AH: For some reason Dumbledore’s not in the castle, and none of the teachers are listening to me.

AH: We have to take matters into our own hands!

AH: Meet me outside of the room with the dog. Bring Ron. I’ll bring Dave.

AH: I’ll be there shortly -- you have to hurry!

archimedesHerald [AH] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]

Chapter Text

“I came as fast as I could,” said Rose.

“Good,” said Hermione. “I brought Dave. Is Ron going to be okay?”

Ron was panting, gasping for breath. “I'm fine,” he squeaked. “Rose made us run.”

The four kids -- two Slytherins, two Hufflepuffs -- were gathered outside of the entrance to the third floor corridor. In the beginning of the year, they had been warned away from it -- now, they were gathered to stop Professor Quirrell from stealing the legendary Philosopher’s Stone.

“RIP,” said Dave, pronouncing the acronym in one syllable. “Puff common room is closer. We just walked.”

Ron glared. “Well, isn't that wonderful for you, Granger.”

“Hey--”

“Can we proceed into the mystery room now?” interrupted Rose.

“Yes, yes, okay,” said Hermione. “In the time since we last stumbled into the third floor corridor I did some research.” Hermione whispered an alohomora, and the door opened. The four kids filed in.

In front of them was an almost empty room, barring a single cupboard in the center of it, rattling ominously.

“I looked into magical beasts that live in cupboards,” whispered Hermione. “And I discovered one called the Boggart.”

The group inched closer. Rose eyed the trapdoor that the cupboard was covering.

“It's banished with a fairly simple spell -- just the word Riddikulus, nothing very fancy -- but it takes the form of your greatest fear. You have to visualize the Boggart as something you can laugh at when you cast the spell.”

“Greatest fear?” muttered Ron. “I didn't sign up for this.”

Riddikulus,” tried Rose, casting the spell at nothing. Hermione nodded approvingly.

“Just like that. But your greatest fear will come out of that cupboard and you have to be able to laugh at it -- just long enough that we can slip through the cupboard’s false bottom and into the next room.”

“Easy,” said Rose, though her heart wasn't in it.

Hermione walked towards the cupboard, and flung it open.

A giant, hairy leg came out of the cupboard.

Then another. And another.

Ron whimpered.

The giant spider clicked and hissed at the group, and when its entire body was out of the cupboard, it stared down Ron.

Riddikulus!” he shouted.

The spider was now wearing a giant, clumsily knit Christmas jumper -- with the wool letter S stitched into it. Ron barked out a laugh.

The Boggart hissed in pain and flew around the room as mist before reforming as a man in a suit.

“Hermione Granger?” he asked. “I'm from the adoption agency -- we're here to take back Dave.”

Riddikulus!”

The man's outline blurred and warped before it looked as if Dave had drawn him in MS Paint.

"oh MAN we NEED some ADOPTISON PASPERS"

“You find my comics funny?” said Dave.

“People don't?” Hermione sounded almost offended. The SBAHJ-ified Boggart hissed again, retreating towards the back of the room.

“It's distracted,” said Rose. “Get to the cupboard, now!”

The four began running towards the cupboard. Ron and Hermione were able to step inside, and Rose began tugging at the false bottom, revealing the trapdoor underneath.

“Where's Dave?” asked Hermione.

Rose looked -- Dave was still outside the cupboard, and he was staring, paralyzed in fear at the sight of--

Aradia Megido.

ARADIA: oh hi rose!

Dave made a pained noise.

ARADIA: sorry i dont want to interrupt whatever you and your friends over there are doing

ARADIA: but im here to pick up dave

ARADIA: it was a good time for everyone but he still needs to go and defeat lord english!

ARADIA: time waits for noone but its been a nice decade or so of vacation :)

“Who is that?” whispered Ron.

“An old friend,” said Rose, quietly. “At least, I think.”

ARADIA: thats honestly so nice of you to consider me a friend

ARADIA: im feeling really welcomed

ARADIA: is this a castle?

ARADIA: its very nice do you live here dave

ARADIA: well i mean did you live here

ARADIA: since youre coming with me and all that

“I,” said Dave. “Uh. Riddikulus!”

Aradia stumbled back, and her body took on a metallic sheen. Her red robes melted away to reveal bolts and blue paint.

ARADIA: this d0es n0t amuse me

“You turned her into a robot?” hissed Rose.

“Cut me some slack, I’m kind of panicking here,” said Dave.

“Got it!” exclaimed Hermione. “Everyone in, there’s a lot of water under the trapdoor, enough to swim in!”

“Don’t have to tell me twice, mate,” said Ron. He fell through the false bottom, disappearing from Rose’s view with a splash.

The robot-boggart took a step closer.

ARADIA: y0u need t0 c0me dave

ARADIA: say g00dbye t0 y0ur sister

ARADIA: l0rd english awaits

“I’m just gonna slip inside this cabinet, and you’re going to stay out there,” said Dave. “‘Mione?”

“Eep!” The Hufflepuff girl slipped down through the trapdoor, joining Ron in the water below.

Rose glanced at the open trapdoor, and the boggart in the form of Aradiabot, slowly shambling forward. “Okay, this is just-- RIDDIKULUS!”

Rose stepped in front of Dave, and suddenly Aradiabot was covered in stickers from various children’s cartoons that Rose remembered from both youths. A Squiddle sticker hit the boggart in the face, and it snarled, losing its form and becoming intangible for a moment.

Just a moment.

Then, the boggart reformed, this time as a tall woman in a tight dress. A martini in one hand and hair covering her eyes, she smiled wordlessly at her daughter.

“Mom,” breathed Rose. “But-- I’m not scared, why would I--”

The dagger burst through Rose’s mother’s chest only a moment later. Her mother’s mouth parted in a surprised “o”.

Rose screamed.

As the form of her mother collapsed to the ground, a fully-powered Jack Noir stared the duo down. Green bolts of electricity danced up and down his pitch-black form, and his muzzle twisted into a growl.

“Close the door!” shouted Dave.

Rose closed the cupboard door. She exhaled a deep, deep sigh of relief.

“Hell,” said Dave. “Why the fuck didn’t we do that earlier? Could have saved us a lot of--”

A bloody blade burst through the wall of the cupboard between the siblings, sending splinters sputtering in all directions.

“Jump!” shouted a voice from below. “Rose, Dave, now!”

Dave grabbed his sister, and the two of them hurtled down into the trapdoor.

Cold water covered Rose’s face. She almost, almost breathed in water, but Dave brought her up just in time for air to once again fill her lungs.

“Jack,” said Rose, panting, gripping onto Dave.

“Look up, the trapdoor is closed,” said Ron. “The previous room probably reset itself.”

Rose looked up. There was no way they were getting back through that trapdoor, one way or another. The boggart had no target.

For now, they were safe.

“Are you good?” asked Dave.

“Yes,” said Rose. “I can tread water. My old house had a river running through it.”

“Good thing, too,” said Ron. “‘Mione over here had to charm me with a floating spell. I’m basically just a buoy right now.”

“I never learned how to swim, either,” said Dave, treading water. “Not until my second childhood.”

“And what a good childhood that was, accompanying me to swim lessons,” said Hermione. “Now let’s figure this room out. The sooner we get out of this room, the better. I’m freezing!”

“Uh,” said Ron. “Do you all hear that?”

The group went silent.

“Just sounds like water,” said Dave.

“Yeah,” said Ron. “Water coming in. And that trapdoor probably is magically sealed.”

“What are you saying, they’re going to drown us?” said Hermione. “Professor Dumbledore would never--”

“He’s right,” said Rose. “The water level is rising. Focus on a part of the wall, and you can plainly see it’s getting slowly buried under the water.”

“That can’t--”

“And the more time we argue about whether or not this is happening, the less time we have to figure out how to get out of this mess,” said Rose.

“Okay,” said Dave cooly. “Do we know what’s under the water? There was a lot of it even before we got into the room.”

“You don’t think this is some sort of diving puzzle, is it?” said Ron.

“Pretty classic dungeon design,” said Dave. “Luckily I was the best nine year old swimmer out of all of them, right, sis?”

Rose cocked her head in confusion, before realizing the question was directed towards Hermione.

“Just don’t get overconfident!” said the girl in question. “If you feel like you need to surface, do so immediately!”

“Sure thing, coach,” said Dave. He took a deep breath before disappearing under the surface of the water.

There were a tense few seconds where nobody could see Dave, and the only sound was the rushing of more water into the room.

“So how long do you think--” began Ron, but he was interrupted by a splashing noise.

Dave had resurfaced.

“Okay, there’s a pipe gear thing at the bottom, alongside a drain and a door,” he said, gasping. “I think you gotta turn it and then it opens the drain.”

“Are you--” started Hermione, concern evident on her face, but Dave dove back under the water’s surface.

Another pause. The three -- Potter, Weasley, and Granger, looked at each other anxiously.

Rose estimated that if she stretched her hand all the way out, she’d be able to touch the ceiling of the room. Just a few minutes earlier that would certainly not have been possible.

Hermione made her way to the wall. With one hand firmly planted on the cobblestone embedded in the side, she was able to take some of the strain of her treading off of her arms, instead using the wall as support.

Dave still hadn’t arisen from the water.

“If he doesn’t come up within another ten seconds,” said Hermione, “I’m going to cast Wingardium Leviosa.”

The trio tried to make out what was happening, but Dave was far below, and the water was constantly rippling and shifting.

Wingardium Leviosa!” shouted Hermione, pointing her wand vaguely downwards.

Gurgle. Gurgle.

“The water level’s lowering!” Ron shouted.

Wingardium Leviosa!” exclaimed Hermione.

Slowly at first, the water drained from the room, lowering faster and faster.

By the time the water revealed the pipe that Dave had mentioned, Hermione had become frantic.

“Where is he!”

“‘Mione,” tried Ron.

“Don’t you call me ‘Mione! I want to know where my brother went!”

The water had almost completely drained now, and the three preteens were left shivering in their wizard robes, feet on the floor.

“No, Hermione, look--”

“Sup,” said Dave, casually leaning against the open door frame.

“Oh,” said Hermione. “So when you opened the door..?”

“Just went right through, yeah,” said Dave. “Better than swimming.”

“And...” Hermione took her brother in. He was dry, too, his robes not clinging awkwardly to his body.

“There’s, like, an anti-water filter on this doorway,” said Dave. “Just go right through. Makes your mouth taste kinda dry.”

“Ooh!” exclaimed Ron. He hurriedly shuffled through the revealed doorway. As he passed through, water sloughed out of his robes and hair, pooling on the floor before draining away.

“Don’t scare me again, Dave,” said Hermione, following Ron through the door.

“If John was here, he’d be proud,” said Rose, entering the next room.

“Yeah,” said Dave. “I thought it was funny too.”

Rose took in the next room. The walls and floor were entirely black and featureless, with the only exception being a few upright mirrors placed on pedestals, as well as a single candle, stuck into the wall horizontally and burning sideways. On the other end of the room was the next door, and above the door was an engraving of an eye.

“Oh, a reflection puzzle,” said Rose.

“Blimey,” said Ron. “How’d you get that so fast?”

“I played a lot of video games as a troubled teen,” said Rose, as she set about rotating the mirrors. “These were everywhere.”

“Huh,” said Ron.

“I wonder what these walls are made out of,” wondered Hermione, as Rose continued setting up the mirrors. “In retrospect, it was obvious that they’re all black in order to draw attention to the mirrors and candles, but they’re totally smooth.”

“Probably something McGonagall transfigured, I reckon,” said Ron. “Likely she made this room.”

“Hm,” said Hermione. “But why is it so solvable? If I were designing a trap for thieves I would have made it dangerous. Like the drowning puzzle.”

“We probably weren’t in any danger in the last room,” said Rose, hunched over some mirrors, spinning them to redirect the light. “Likely either the water was an illusion entirely, or it had some safety mechanism to bring us down safely if we didn’t solve it in time.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah,” said Rose. “We didn’t even need magic to solve it. These are puzzles, not traps. Can someone turn that mirror 80 degrees so that it faces the one to the left of me?”

“Yes,” said Hermione, walking to the mirror Rose had pointed out. “If these were designed as puzzles, who were they designed for?”

“Voldemort,” said Dave.

Ron and Hermione jumped.

“I mean, he was only the obvious suspect. I dunno why you all still think it’s Quirrell acting in just his own interests.”

“We won’t know until we confront him,” said Hermione. “The philosopher’s stone isn’t just an object that brings Life. It brings gold, too, anyone could want that.”

“You mean, we won’t know until Rose confronts him,” said Dave. “You, Ron and I -- we’re just the party members on this one, and there’s going to be a boss at the end of the dungeon, and usually, it’s going to be just her.”

“Got it,” said Rose, trying to not think about what Dave had said. “Just this last one, and...”

With the last turn of the mirror, light bounced all around the room, before finally hitting the eye above the door. The carving of the eye morphed, and the eyelid closed. The door slid open.

“Almost expected some kind of sound effect,” said Dave. “That was quick, though. Think you could submit that to Speed Demos Archive?”

“Were you timing me?”

“I was actually a moderator for SDA before Sburb, so, uh, yeah,” said Dave.

“What game?” asked Rose, as they strolled into the next room.

“Clue,” said Dave.

This room was similar to the previous one, in that it was just a door and a pedestal to interact with.

“Oh, dip, a wire puzzle,” said Dave. He waltzed over to the pedestal and started fiddling with what was inside.

Ron leaned against a wall and made sparks with his wand to fill the time.

“Fuck!” shouted Dave. A spark leapt out of the pedestal and Dave shook his hand out. “Fuckin’ wires.”

The door opened.

“Nice one, mate,” said Ron. “What’d you even do?”

“I, uh, drew a dick,” said Dave. “Like arranged the wires into the shape of a penis.”

Ron was quiet for a moment.

“Well, I suppose if it works--” he tried, weakly.

“Yeah,” said Dave. “Let’s just walk through the door.”

Unfortunately, however, the door had other plans, for when the foursome approached the opening, the doorframe slid right up the wall. The entrance, which was just moments ago flush with the floor, was now at about shoulder height. Somehow, though, the span of hallway that they could see beyond the doorframe didn't change.

“Huh,” said Dave.

“Should I give you a leg up?” asked Ron.

“Uh, yeah, I guess,” said Dave.

Ron squatted down, and stuck out his arms. Dave hesitantly stepped onto it, and tried to reach a hand into the door.

The door moved just slightly out of reach.

“What the hell,” said Dave.

“Jump up and reach it,” said Ron.

“You sure?” asked Dave.

“Yeah, I’ll boost you,” he said.

Dave squatted down atop Ron’s arms, and as he did, Rose noticed the door moving slightly, following Dave’s crouching motion. Then Ron pushed Dave up, and at the peak of the boost, Dave leapt upwards, grabbing the bottom edge of the door, even as the door kept moving upwards.

“I got it!” said Dave. He reached his other hand over, and soon he was hanging from the bottom edge of the door.

“Dave!” cried Hermione. “Let go!”

It was like watching a video game engine error. As Dave slowly pulled himself upwards, getting an elbow into the door, it started rising faster and faster.

Soon it would reach the ceiling.

“Let go!”

“I got this--”

The door crossed the threshold separating the wall of the room and the ceiling, and Dave suddenly found himself holding onto a sheer vertical wall. He fell, but Hermione was quick.

“Arresto Momentum!”

Dave gently fell to the ground, landing on his feet.

“Nice recovery,” said Rose.

“Thanks,” said Dave. “Though I couldn’t have done it on my own. Nice job on that spell, ‘Mione.”

“Well!” said Hermione, a little flushed at the praise. “If you’d listened to me, I wouldn’t have had to do that in the first place.”

“Everyone, step towards the entrance,” said Rose. “I have a theory.”

Sure enough, once everyone was gathered at the entrance of the room, the door had moved back into its place at the other end.

“And now we approach the door,” said Rose.

When they moved forward, the door started slipping upwards -- the closer they got to it, the further away it was.

“Do you think drawing the, erm, dingaling in the wire box caused this to happen?” asked Ron.

“Nah,” said Dave. “This shit’s too advanced for just a weird glitch. Probably the wire box was a distaction.”

“Clever ruse, that,” conceded Ron. “How do we get around it?”

“I have a theory,” said Dave. “But everyone here needs to be able to keep a secret.”

“I’m pretty good at that,” said Rose. No doubt she’d seen many things in her first year of Slytherin that she’d keep to her grave.

“Yeah,” said Ron. “You learn to keep secrets in Slytherin.”

“You can tell me anything, Dave,” said Hermione.

“Alright,” said Dave. “Don’t freak out.”

Dave returned his wand to his strife deck, and held his empty hands out in front of him. He took a deep breath in, and when he exhaled, the door was glowing faintly red.

“Okay, go through,” he said, palms still towards the door.

“But what about--” tried Ron.

“Try it,” said Dave.

The door began to slowly move upwards when they walked forward, Dave doing so carefully, keeping his hands in position as he stepped forward.

Whatever Dave had done to it, he had clearly slowed its movement. By the time the four kids got to the door, it was only about as high off the ground as a step in a staircase.

They all made their way through without difficulty, Dave turning to face the door as he stepped through. Only once everyone was completely across did he relax his hands, exhaling sharply.

“Wasn’t sure that’d work,” he said.

“What was that?” asked Hermione, awed.

“Knight of Time shit,” said Dave. “From the game Rose and I played. I don’t have... anything, really, to harness Time like I used to, but I can do some stuff without holding shit.”

“Mate, you’re saying you can exploit time itself?”

“Yeah,” said Dave.

Wicked,” said Ron, awed.

“Keep it on the dee ell,” said Dave. “I looked into it and time travel is like super regulated. This was super illegal.”

“Didn’t know they had magic time travel,” said Rose.

“Why would they not?” asked Hermione, and that was in fact a good point, so Rose acceded.

There was a short hallway leading to a wooden door, which Hermione opened, revealing the next room of the gauntlet.

It was almost entirely lined with concrete, a material Rose had not seen since she was in the Muggle world. There was a door with a padlock on the other end, and a man with a cage in it to the side. He wore rags, and had a raggedy, white beard. There was no visible food or water in the cage with him.

The cage had a giant, visible padlock -- similar to the one on the door.

He perked up when they entered.

“Please,” he said, voice ragged. “They’ve kept me here. Please, you have to let me out!”

Hermione gasped in horror.

“Dave,” she said. “They have a prisoner.”

“I don’t think they have a prisoner,” said Dave. “I mean, like. The last few rooms were all filled with mindbending illusions. Is this guy real?”

They all looked closer at the man. He gripped the bars, looking at them tearfully. It was as if they were the first humans he had ever met.

“I’m real,” he whispered. “I assure you. And I’ve done nothing to deserve being locked in here.”

Hominem Revelio,” said Rose, flicking out her wand.

The other three humans in the room began softly glowing.

“I’m real,” said the man, who was not glowing.

“Sure,” said Dave. “Your wife and kids miss you?”

“Dave!” Hermione was indignant.

“What?” said Dave. “He’s some kind of like... construct for the gauntlet. We can probably leave the room and come back and it resets him.”

“Something about this feels wrong,” said Ron, scratching his arm.

“There’s a key on the other side of the room,” said the man, pointing. “And yes, my wife and kids miss me.”

“Well, real or not, I’m going to do the right thing,” said Hermione. “You’ve done nothing to deserve being locked in here?”

“Nothing,” said the man.

Rose closed her eyes and tried to consider what he was saying.

“I think he’s telling the truth,” said Rose. “Likely because he was just created for this gauntlet specifically, but he’s done nothing wrong. Though before you grab the key, we should talk about this.”

“I kinda wanna get this room over with, Rose,” said Ron.

“Let’s think. What is the purpose of this room?” asked Rose.

“A moral dilemma?” tried Hermione.

“Maybe,” said Rose. “But I’m not sure which moral we’re supposed to be learning.”

“It’s probably, like, a trust exercise,” said Dave. “Do we trust the dude in the cage to be telling the truth?”

Ron shook his head. “I think it’s maybe a selfishness test. The key probably can open the lock on the door, but if we do, we get dropped into acid.”

The other three stared at Ron.

“What on Earth makes you think that there’s going to be acid?” asked Hermione, incredulous.

Ron shrugged, blushing. “I dunno! I’m just paranoid, I guess.”

Rose shook her head. “I think you’re both probably right. But it’s not so much a question of how much we trust the man in the cage; it’s a test of how much we trust the makers of the gauntlet.”

“You mean Dumbledore?” asked Dave.

“I trust him,” said Hermione. “None of these have been truly dangerous.”

“If you want to free the man in the cage, that’s your call,” said Rose.

“I will,” she said. “He just wants to see his family.”

“His fake family that doesn’t exist,” said Dave. She rolled her eyes.

Hermione strode over and grabbed the key that the man had pointed out.

Ron drew his wand just in case.

She inserted the key into the lock and turned it.

“You’re free now,” said Hermione. “Go home to your wife.”

“Thank you,” said the man, crying and bubbling.

Indeed, he was bubbling and melting away before everyone’s very eyes.

Hermione stared, transfixed. Dave watched Hermione. Rose watched Dave. Ron tried to watch anything else in order to keep his lunch down.

By the time it had stopped, there was a shiny key glinting at the bottom of the now-empty cage.

“Told you he was fake,” said Dave, though he, too, sounded ill.

“Let’s just... go,” said Hermione. She reached in and grabbed the key, making her way to the door and opening it.

It wasn’t until all four of them were through the door that the purple fire sprang up behind them, and black fire sprang up in front of them.

“Someone’s fuckin’ pissed,” said Dave, as they all looked around the room. Seven potion bottles were scattered among many shelves. A note prominently rested among them. Hermione grabbed it.

“It’s a logic puzzle,” said Hermione. “More or less a worksheet.”

“Can I see?” asked Rose. Hermione nodded, and Rose studied the note.

“There’s poison in three of the bottles, wine in two other bottles, and one that lets you get through the black and purple fires respectively.”

“Snape,” said Ron.

“Obviously,” said Rose. “Want to have a go at solving it?”

“I’ll pass,” said Ron.

“I’ve already gotten it,” said Hermione.

“Nice,” said Dave.

“Anyone wanna get drunk?” said Hermione. “That bottle and that bottle have wine.”

“Nice,” said Rose.

“Nice,” said Dave.

“Nice,” said Rose.

“So there’s a bit of a problem,” interrupted Hermione. “There’s only about one gulp’s worth of the potion that lets you go through the black fire -- plenty to go back, though.”

“Hm,” said Rose.

“Rose takes it,” said Dave.

“What?” said Rose.

“I mean, you’ve gotta do it, right?”

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean, Dave,” said Rose.

“Listen, the way I see it, right, we’ve been researching Voldy and Quirrell--”

“We don’t know he’s You-Know-Who--” tried Hermione.

“--All year, right?”

“Yes,” said Rose.

“He wants two things,” said Dave. “He wants to come back and be the big bad, and he wants you, because you’re, like, the child of prophecy, kid of wisdom, whatever, and you stopped him.”

“So why would I go through?”

“He’s right,” said Ron.

“What, really?” asked Rose.

“Yeah,” said Ron. “You were the only one who could defeat You-Know-Who beforehand. I mean, who’s it gonna be, me?”

“I-- Ron, don’t sell yourself short at all--”

“Nah,” said Ron. “I’m not... I’m not selling myself short, Rose. I’m just no Dark Wizard Fighter.”

“Yeah,” said Hermione. “I couldn’t... I don’t know hexes.”

“And you think I do?

“You’re Rose Potter,” said Hermione. “And that’s not even including your past life.”

“I’ve just... not done the whole vanquishing thing in a long time.”

“Hey,” said Dave, and then he leaned in and hugged her. “You can do this.”

He handed her the tiny bottle, the one Hermione had indicated let you go through the black fire.

“Oh,” said Rose. “I’m really going to do this.”

“We’re here for you in spirit,” said Ron. “I believe in you.”

“Thanks,” said Rose.

She uncorked the bottle and downed it in one gulp, and shuddered.

“We’ll be okay,” said Hermione. “Go, before it wears off.”

Rose nodded at her friends, and walked through the black fire.

The fire didn’t end. Rose kept walking, and walking -- at some point, she realized that she wasn’t in the fire at all, but simply a deep, deep, dark void, where the clacks of her shoes on cobble were the only indication she was moving at all.

There was someone walking beside her.

She couldn’t hear the breath of her walking partner as it passed through her two front fangs. She couldn’t turn her head to see her -- she knew -- she knew -- that if she did, she would disappear.

Rose opened her hand.

Kanaya took it.

Rose tightened her grasp, and ran her fingers over Kanaya’s knuckles.

I thought it was a dream, she wanted to say.

How are you here, she wished she could ask.

Stay with me, she wanted to whisper.

Kanaya stroked her thumb over Rose’s.

It was, and it wasn’t, she seemed to reply.

I’m here, and that’s what matters.

I’ll stay as long as I can.

They walked for an eternity. At certain points Kanaya would tug on Rose's hand, and they walked in a new direction instead.

Rose didn’t turn her head.

Eventually they came to a door.

I have to leave, Rose didn’t say.

I know, Kanaya didn’t reply. I love you.

Kanaya pulled her hand away slowly, as if letting go of Rose meant letting go of the last thing that kept her in this world.

Rose felt like she was dying again. She wanted nothing more than to stay behind this door, turn around, and see Kanaya one more time -- even if it meant Voldemort, Jack, whoever she had to stop -- got to destroy the universe.

Go, Kanaya didn’t say. Go and save everyone.

She felt the ghost of a kiss on the back of her neck.

Rose opened the door, stepped through it, and closed it behind her.

She didn’t look back.

“Jack!” she yelled. “It’s over.”

The snivelling man in the turban, Professor Quirrell, seemingly praying in front of the Mirror that Rose had lost herself in, ceased his activity and turned around. There was a look on his face that Rose didn’t recognize from her limited experience with either the professor or Jack Noir.

“Potter,” said someone. It came from Quirrell’s direction, though Quirell’s mouth didn’t move. “The girl.”

“Yes, my master,” said Quirrell, his mouth moving this time. “Much as you predicted.”

“Seize her,” said Voldemort, for it had to be him. There was some part of Rose which recognized that it had never been Jack. That holding onto Jack as an enemy was some kind of way of -- clinging to her past life, like she’d clung to Kanaya’s hand through that endless hallway just moments before. Quirrell raised his wand and chanted a curse.

Rose youth rolled out of the way of his spell, hiding behind a marble railing. “Expelliarmus!” she shouted, uncaptchalouging both needlewands and popping out of cover.

Quirrell blocked it with a quick “Protego!”

“Dual wands, my master, just as I had said!” exclaimed Quirrell.

“Who are you even talking to, Jack?” asked Rose, almost stubbornly.

“Who is this Jack?” said Voldemort. “Quirrell, stupid boy, who does she speak of?”

“An enemy of hers,” said Quirrell. “She thinks that this Jack killed her mother.”

Voldemort, wherever he was, chuckled. “Fool of a girl. I killed your mother, and your father. Do you know who I am?”

“Why don’t you tell me,” said Rose. “I’m apparently such a fool that I don’t know who you are.”

“Show her,” said Voldemort.

Quirrell lowered his wand, and Rose was suddenly struck with the urge to stab him in the face with the point of her needlewands.

He slowly undid his turban, and turned around.

“Do you see me now, child?” said Voldemort. “See what you have done?”

“Clearly not enough,” said Rose. “Stupefy!

Voldemort simply snarled at the spell, and the beam fell to the ground, limply.

“You have no chance of beating me, child,” said Voldemort. “Come, and we will cease this duel before you get yourself killed.”

“What’s to say you won’t kill me as soon as I come out of cover?”

“What’s to say I don’t kill you while you’re behind that pitiful cover? This is no duel, child. We are letting you have your fun.”

Rose, seeing no other real choice, slowly stood up to lock eyes with the back of Quirrell’s head.

“Good,” grinned the face. “Good. Have you seen this before?” Quirrell’s arm pointed at the Mirror.

Rose didn’t respond. Suddenly, a deep pain shot through the scar on her forehead. She groaned and touched two fingers to it instinctually, startled to see that the fingers were slick with blood.

Answer me, child,” said Voldemort.

“Yes,” said Rose.

“Good,” said Voldemort. “You are to get something from within its depths.”

“It’s a storage unit?” asked Rose.

“It has been used as one by Dumbledore,” hissed Voldemort, saying ‘Dumbledore’ as if it were a dirty word. “I need you to fetch a very precious item for me.”

“And if I don’t do it?”

“We have already answered this question,” said Voldemort. “Stand in front of the mirror and get me the Philosopher’s stone -- my sources tell me it is stored inside of a white sphere.”

A white sphere, huh? Something about that pinged a memory of Rose’s from a decade prior. She made her way to the mirror, and stared inside.

Kanaya wasn’t there, and Rose’s heart twisted, though she’d known what she would see since she saw the mirror. Rose saw only herself.

The girl in the orange and gold robes winked at her, and held up a captchalogue card, before placing it into her pocket.

Rose suddenly felt the weight of the card in her own Hogwarts robes. She reached into her pocket and added the card to her Fetch Modus.

Voldemort wanted his prize? Fine.

She’d give it to him.

“I can’t do it,” said Rose.

“Nonsense,” said Voldemort.

“My Lord--” began Quirrell.

Rose uncaptchalogued the cue ball and chucked it at Quirrell.

The ball bounced off of Quirrell’s face, hitting him square in the nose, and he fell backwards, screaming in pain. The cue ball went flying through the air before disappearing to god-knows-where with a green ZAP.

Wherever the hell that ball was now, it was certainly a better place than here. Quirrell slowly stood up.

“Where... did... you... put it!”

“It’s gone,” said Rose.

“You fool!” snarled Voldemort. “I’ll kill you!”

“Try,” said Rose, and she leapt up and punched Quirrell in the face.

Voldemort hissed in fear and anger. Where Rose had punched him, there were now burn marks.

Thinking on her feet (why, oh why, did she not make some more weapons!) she uncaptchalogued a book she nabbed from the school’s restricted section and threw it at Quirrell. The Monster Book of Monsters bit onto the Dark Lord’s ankle.

“Stupid book!” growled Voldemort. Seemingly taking control of Quirrell’s body for a moment, he tilted his wand towards the book attached to his leg, and chanted the words “Avada Kedavara.” The too-familiar green light, the same shade she’d seen in her dreams for years, hit the book, and it stopped moving.

He knelt down to dislodge the monstrous fangs from his leg.

Rose didn’t waste any time. Leaping off of the ground, she grabbed her needlewands and used them in the way she’d killed those ogres back on her planet during the game -- though since there were eyes on both ends of the skull, Rose settled on one needle per side. Candy-red blood spurt out, staining the cuffs of Rose’s Hogwarts robe.

Voldemort tried grabbing at the needlewands now jammed in his eyes, but Rose yanked them downwards, forcing Voldemort’s head back onto the cobbled floor of the dungeon. It dawned on Rose that these weren’t just metal sticks, but wands, that she could use for destruction, jammed into the skull of Wizarding Britain’s worst enemy.

Without casting a specific spell, Rose poured the emotions she felt when Kanaya’s hand pulled away into the wands. She was a witch, damnit. And these were her instruments of destruction. Voldemort gasped in agony.

“How do I kill you?” she mused aloud. “And make it stick?”

Through a moan of pain, the Dark Lord laughed. “Fool. You cannot kill me.”

“But I can, Tom,” said a wizened voice from behind her. “Incarcercerous!”

Thick chains wrapped around the professor, binding him in place. Less in reaction to the spell cast and more in reaction to the spellcaster, Voldemort screamed. It was a noise of pure, unfiltered rage.

Rose let go of her needlewands and pressed her hands to her ears because of some deep, instinctual aversion -- perhaps the scream was magic, though it simply sounded like a man dying.

Muffliato!” cast Dumbledore. The scream became a faint, pleasant hiss of white noise, and Rose realized the blood on her hands from Voldemort’s skull had been smeared onto her ears.

She looked at her white hands, stained with Quirrell’s red blood, and then at the headmaster of her school. Dumbledore strode over to the two of them with intent.

“When did you get here, Professor?”

“Right on time, I suppose,” he said, speaking through the buzz. Then the wizard refocused his attention on Quirrell. “Tom. You are a deeply, deeply, evil man, but your terror ends today.”

“Fool!” said Voldemort. The force with which he said this rattled the chains. “Fool, fool, fool! If I die today, I will return!”

“Not anymore,” said Dumbledore. “Perhaps one day you would have. But I have it in good faith that this time is the last time.”

Voldemort hissed. “You didn’t!”

Dumbledore nodded. “I have ensured the destruction of every last one, barring yourself.”

The shrieking started again, though Rose couldn’t hear it thanks to Dumbledore’s spell.

“Your story ends here, Tom. Miss Potter, I recommend you take a few steps back.”

Rose moved away from Voldemort.

“With the power of all of those you have killed… with the spirit of Lily and James and every innocent whose life you have claimed… with the backing of the Wizengamot and the people of Britain… I sentence you, Tom Marvolo Riddle, to immediate execution. Miss Potter?”

“Yes?”

“You may wish to avert your eyes.”

Dumbledore drew his wand.

Rose turned around.

She couldn’t see what he did, or hear the name of the spell, but the wall she had decided to face was suddenly awash in a bright light.

When she returned to face the headmaster, Professor Quirinus Quirrell, teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft of Wizardry, was dead.

“And along with him,” said Dumbledore, as if reading her mind, “Voldemort. For good.”

“Oh,” said Rose. “Really? This isn’t usually this easy.”

“It was plenty difficult, my child, and this wasn’t a battle that began today,” said Dumbledore. “But it is one that has ended today.”

Rose walked over to the corpse.

“Is it… alright for me to retrieve my wands?” she asked.

“They are your wands, my dear.”

The wand lodged in Quirrell’s eye came out with only a bit of viscera, but the one stuck in Voldemort’s eye seemed to be in deep, and when she tried to remove it, the corpse moved, not the wand.

She looked at Dumbledore, her desire for help showing in her eyes..

Expoximise,” cast Dumbledore. “Try it now.”

The head of Voldemort’s corpse was now stuck to the ground, and Rose was able to yank her wand out without any more trouble.

Belatedly, she realized that it had been the phoenix-feather wand that refused to leave Voldemort’s skull. A memory of the wandmaker’s shop resurfaced.

“Professor,” said Rose, hefting the gore-covered needlewand. “This wand shares a core with the wand that killed my parents.”

“So it does,” said Dumbledore. “But I would not dwell on such things for too long. If you believe that things such as the core in your wand, or the mere circumstances of your presence here at Hogwarts, determined your ability to get to the end of this gauntlet, you would be severely underrating your value as a witch. You, Rose Potter, are truly a brilliant witch -- I would not have been able to stop him tonight without the help of you and your brave friends.”

“He’s really gone?” asked Rose.

“Yes,” said Dumbledore, eyes twinkling. “This victory is as real as anything.”

“There was a man in a cage, earlier,” said Rose.

“Who’s to say he wasn’t real?” said Dumbledore.

“He melted and became a key,” said Rose.

“Ah, yes, well, he wasn’t real,” said Dumbledore. He smiled. “In any case, one of the great evils of our time is finally, truly vanquished.”

“Oh,” said Rose. “That’s nice.” Rose blinked heavily. The needlewands slipped out of her hand and onto the ground, her hands hanging limply at her sides.

And then she passed out.