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Girl in the War

Chapter Text

:: :: :: ::

Rose Potter didn’t know what to think of Hagrid.  On the one hand, he was quite large and intimidating.  On the other hand, he had scared Uncle Vernon to insensibility, and he had brought Rose a birthday cake.  A chocolate cake at that.  Rose hadn’t had any kind of cake or any kind of chocolate for a very long time. Aunt Petunia said it would wreck her figure.

Hagrid said that he worked at the school, the one that had been sending her tons of letters her aunt and uncle wouldn’t let her read.

“Yeh’ll know all about Hogwarts, o’ course,” Hagrid said.

“Um, no?” Rose said.

Hagrid began to shout at her aunt and uncle, and then said, “Did you never wonder where your parents learned it all?”

“Learned what?” Rose asked.

“LEARNED WHAT?” Hagrid shouted.

Hagrid shouted some more, “Do you mean ter tell me that this girl - this girl - knows nothin’ abou’ — abou’ ANYTHING?”

Rose found this offensive, as she wasn’t stupid. “I know things, I go to school.”

“About our world, I mean,” he explained.  “Your world.  My world.  Yer parents’ world.”

“What world?” Rose asked, and eyed the lush chocolate icing on her birthday cake.  Would it be rude to swipe her finger through it?  She was startled out of this line of thought by Hagrid roaring at her aunt and uncle for keeping things from her.

“But yeh must know about yer mum and dad,” he insisted to Rose.  “I mean, they’re famous.  You’re famous.”

Rose could sort of understand this, though calling it famous seemed an exaggeration, but she couldn’t fathom how a man like Hagrid would be interested in such a thing.  “Famous? You mean for being Little Miss Cadbury?”

Hagrid looked confused.  “Lil’ Miss…”

“Cadbury,” Rose finished.  “I won the crown in June.  Aunt Petunia thinks my performance of Kylie Minogue’s Tears On My Pillow locked me in for the win. They’re using my face as part of their current marketing campaign.” Rose’s beaming, tiara-topped face could currently be seen in stores across the country, decorating limited edition chocolate bars.

Hagrid didn’t seem to understand what she was saying at all.  Rose looked to her aunt for help explaining.  Some people just didn’t understand child beauty pageants, and her aunt was always very good at explaining why Rose wanted to be in one.  But Aunt Petunia just looked scared, and didn’t seem to be inclined to chime in anytime soon.

Rose frowned, remembering what else Hagrid had said.  “Why were my parents famous?”

“Yeh don’t know… yeh don’t know…” Hagrid looked distressed. “Yeh don’t know what you are?”

“Now see here, sir!” Uncle Vernon had finally found his voice. “I forbid you to tell the girl anything!”

Hagrid looked furious.  “You never told her?” he growled.  “Never told her what was in the letter Dumbledore left for her?  I was there!  I saw Dumbledore leave it, Dursley!  An’ you’ve kept it from her all these years?”

Hagrid was yelling at her uncle, but Uncle Vernon didn’t have much to do with Rose.  It was no secret that he didn’t much like his niece.  Aunt Petunia was the only one who seemed to care at all for her.

“Kept what from me?” Rose asked her aunt.

Aunt Petunia looked at her helplessly, more scared than Rose had ever seen her.  Uncle Vernon yelled at Hagrid to stop talking.

“Rose,” Hagrid said, “yer a witch.”

There was dead silence in the little hut.  Only the rush of the sea and the whistling wind could be heard.

“That’s not a very nice thing to say,” Rose said, and decided that if Hagrid was going to be rude then she was too.  Rose swiped her finger through the icing and popped it in her mouth.  Mmmm… chocolate.

:: :: :: ::

It took a while for Hagrid to explain. And while what he had to say was wonderful and horrible, and Rose was thrilled at the idea of magic and Hogwarts, she was also hurt.  Aunt Petunia had proclaimed that now Rose was going the same way as her mother Petunia wanted nothing more to do with her.

Aunt Petunia had always remarked on how Rose had her mother’s pretty eyes and bone structure, and Rose thought her aunt looked rather wistful at moments when she thought Rose wasn't looking.  But now even that small amount of affection was gone.  This magical world that Rose was now bound to enter had taken Lily away from Aunt Petunia and had led to her death, and Aunt Petunia saw it as the worst sort of betrayal that Rose wanted to join the world that had killed her sister.

But Rose wouldn’t give this up to appease her aunt. It was a chance to know more about her parents, and it was a relief to finally have an explanation for the many odd things that had happened to Rose growing up. Like when Piers Polkiss had tried to catch her to steal a kiss, and Rose had suddenly found herself on the roof of the school. Or when her teacher’s hair had turned blue after giving Rose a scolding. Or when Dudley had popped the heads off of all her Barbie dolls, and later she found them fit back together with their hair carefully brushed.

Magic explained so much. But the revelation about Voldemort she didn’t want to dwell on at all.  It was just too fantastical to grasp, and too horrible to contemplate. To go from believing her parents had died in an accident to knowing that they’d been murdered

Rose shook off these unpleasant thoughts and let herself be charmed by Diagon Alley, a hidden street filled with wizarding shops, where Hagrid had taken her to purchase her school supplies.

The crowd of people wanting to shake her hand was strange, but Rose put on her best beauty pageant contestant smile and greeted them politely.  Rose knew she’d done well because she heard the women gushing about how, ‘absolutely charming,’ little Rose Potter was.  ‘Just like her father,’ they said, which wasn’t something Rose had ever heard before.

After the trip to Gringotts, where Rose learned she’d never have to win another beauty pageant to pay for anything, and Hagrid picked up a small, mysterious package for the headmaster, Hagrid left her to purchase her robes on her own.

Madam Malkin greeted her warmly, and led Rose to the back of the shop where a boy who looked to be the same age as Rose was standing on a footstool, while a second witch pinned up his long black robes.

Rose was led up to the stool beside the boy, and Madam Malkin dropped a long black robe over her head, and began to pin it to the right length.  Rose decided immediately that she didn’t like robes at all.

“Madam Malkin,” Rose said hesitantly.  “Could you maybe make these… a bit more form fitting?  They seem quite loose.”

Madam Malkin frowned at her.  “They’re just school robes, dearie.”

“But they’re quite…”  Unattractive, Rose thought.  Madam Malkin seemed to hear the unspoken word regardless, and huffed.  But still, she began to pin the robes in around Rose’s waist and added a small pin tuck about her chest.

Rose looked up and caught the boy staring unabashedly at her in the mirror.  Perhaps another girl, one who wasn’t quite so used to being fussed over and having make up and lotions and glitter smeared over every inch of exposed skin while in the company of tens of other people, would have been embarrassed.  Rose eyed the boy back.

He jumped, nearly upsetting his footstool when he realized he’d been caught. Rose bit back a laugh.  The boy cleared his throat, and said quite coolly, “Hogwarts, too?”

“Yes,” said Rose, giving him a smile.

“My father’s next door buying my books and my mother’s up the street looking at wands,” he said.  He had a bored, drawling voice that Rose had heard on quite a few of her fellow beauty pageant contestants; the ones who thought they were better than everyone else.  Rose could do that voice too. She knew how fake it was.  “Then I’m going to drag them off to look at racing brooms.”

“Racing brooms?” Rose asked, interested.  Aunt Petunia didn’t think girls should participate in sports.  Rose had always been jealous of the girls who played football.  They wore knee socks and got fabulously filthy.  Was there a wizarding sport she could learn to play now that her aunt wasn’t able to stop her?

The boy nodded.  “Do you play Quidditch at all?”

“Do you?” Rose hedged, wondering what the heck Quidditch was, and if she’d be able to play.  What if they didn’t have girls’ teams in the wizarding world?

“Yes,” he said.  “Father says it’s a crime if I’m not picked to play for my house, and I must say, I agree.  Know what house you’ll be in yet?”

“No, I’m not sure.”  Rose had no idea what he was talking about.  She also knew that she mustn’t let on in front of this boy.  She had learned very quickly on the beauty pageant circuit that the key to success was to fake it till you made it.

“Well, no one really knows until they get there, do they, but I know I’ll be in Slytherin, all our family have been – imagine being in Hufflepuff, I think I’d leave, wouldn’t you?”

Rose joined in on the boy’s snide laughter.  She hoped she wouldn’t regret it, but Hufflepuff did sound rather like something she wouldn’t want to be connected with. Sort of squishy and sweet.

“I say, look at that man!” the boy said suddenly, nodding towards the front window.  Hagrid was standing there holding two large ice cream cones.

Ice cream! Rose was liking Hagrid more and more.

“That’s Hagrid,” she said, grateful to finally be able to tell the boy something he didn’t know.  “He works at Hogwarts.  He bought me a birthday cake yesterday,” she added, letting the boy know where she stood on the Hagrid issue.  “Chocolate,” she smiled.

The boy looked very much like he wanted to say something mean about Hagrid, but didn’t.  Clearly he knew the rules of popularity as well as Rose, which she noted, relived, must be the same in the wizarding world as in the Muggle one.

“Oh, I’ve heard of him,” the boy said instead.  “Why is he with you?  Where are your parents?”

“They died when I was a baby, and my aunt and uncle wouldn’t take me to get my school things, so Hagrid is taking me shopping.”

The boy frowned.  “Why wouldn't your aunt and uncle take you?”

“They’re not magical,” she explained. “They wouldn’t… like it here.”

“Oh,” he said, as he suddenly went cold, and Rose wondered wildly where she’d gone wrong.  What had she let slip that made the boy shut down on her?

“Were your parents magical?” he asked, not looking at her, but straightening his collar in the mirror.

“Yes,” Rose said slowly, and watched the tense set of his shoulders drop. 

“What’s your name, anyway?” he asked.

“Rose,” she said, and grinned at him. “What’s yours?”

He smiled back, like he was helpless not to - Rose’s smile had that effect on people, she’d noticed. He shook his head, “No, I mean, what’s your surname?”

“That’s you done, dearie,” said Madam Malkin to Rose, whipping the robe off over Rose’s head.

“Oh, thank you,” said Rose, and she hopped off the stool, and followed Madam Malkin to the till to pay for her purchases.

“I’ll see you at Hogwarts, I suppose,” the boy called across the shop.

Rose nodded and smiled back at him, before pushing open the door to meet Hagrid outside the shop to rescue her dripping chocolate ice cream cone.

:: :: :: ::

Hagrid had forgotten to tell her how to get on the train platform.  Rose plopped down on her trunk, and stuck her fingers through the bars of Hedwig’s cage to stroke her feathers.  She knew the train to school was around here somewhere, but it wasn’t marked.

But then, like a little miracle, a large family trooped past in all their flame headed glory (Rose eyed the youngest girl’s ruby red hair jealously) chatting about Hogwarts and how to get on the platform, and Rose neatly followed them in.

Rose struggled through the crowd with her trunk and Hedwig, wondering at the wizarding world’s impractical luggage choice.  Would it be such a trial to use suitcases with rolling wheels?  She stepped onto the train and gave a tremendous yank on the handle of her trunk, but couldn’t quite lift it.

“Want a hand?” offered one of the redheaded twins she’d followed through the barrier, as he grinned at her struggles.

“Yes, please,” she said gratefully.

He called his twin brother over, and they hauled Rose’s trunk into the train compartment.

“Thank you,” Rose said, flicking her hair away from her sweaty forehead.

Of course, the twins noticed her wretched scar.  Aunt Petunia despaired of it, even though a little pancake covered it neatly, and Rose loathed the thing even more now than she had before she knew what it meant.

“Blimey,” one of them said, “Are you—“

Rose pasted on a bright smile.  “Rose Potter.  It’s nice to meet you.”  She held out her hand, and when the twins just gaped at her, pulled her hand back awkwardly.

The boys were shaken from their gaping by their mother calling them.  Rose sat down in the corner of the compartment, and watched the red headed family’s jibing, and felt jealous again.  She wondered what it would be like to be part of a family like that.

Aunt Petunia hadn’t even said goodbye to her.

Rose shook the thought away when the twins said her name in unison.  The youngest girl with the covetous locks wanted to meet Rose.  While her mother was telling her daughter that Rose wasn’t a zoo exhibit (though Rose was quite used to people staring at her), Rose rather wanted to meet the girl too.  She wanted to know if that hair color was natural, and if not how she could get her own hair to look the same. Rose had always wanted red hair.

The train whistle blew, and the twins’ younger brother stumbled into Rose’s compartment.

“Anyone sitting in here?” he asked Rose.  “Everywhere else is full.”

Rose shook her head, he sat down, and they pretended not to look at each other for a moment.

“You’ve got a big family,” said Rose.

He nodded.  “Too big sometimes.”

The twins blew through the compartment door with a crash.  “Hello again, Rose,” one said.  “Did we introduce ourselves?  Fred and George Weasley.  And this is our brother Ron.  See you later, then!”

Rose and Ron eventually stuck up a stilted conversation, and Rose determined that Ron probably still thought girls had cooties.

Later a round-faced boy came in asking if they’d seen a toad, and quickly on his heels was a girl called Hermione Granger asking the same thing.  Rose thought she could be rather pretty, but her hair was in desperate need of a blow out or a flat iron.

But finally, finally, Rose found a topic that got Ron talking: Quidditch. Rose decided the sport sounded brilliant, and she began to understand just how the game was played.  She was definitely going to give it a go.

The compartment door opened yet again, this time admitting the boy from the robe shop and two hulking boys at his back.

“Is it true?” he said, looking intently at Rose.  “They’re saying all down the train that Rose Potter is in this compartment.  So it’s you, is it?”

“Yes, it’s me,” said Rose.  “I didn’t get a chance to tell you in the robe shop.  What’s your name?”  Rose held out her hand to shake, as it seemed to be the order of the day.

“Malfoy.  Draco Malfoy,” he said, taking her hand and giving a slight bow over it.  Rose just stared.  Who did that anymore?  “And this is Crabbe, and this is Goyle,” he said gesturing carelessly to his entourage.

Ron gave a slight cough, which sounded like it was hiding a snigger.  Draco sent him a sideways glare.  Rose just smiled.  “It’s nice to meet you both.”  They reminded her of Dudley - large, dim, and mean.

“This is Ron Weasley,” said Rose, trying on the same trick she’d used with Draco and Hagrid.  “He was just explaining Quidditch to me.  It sounds like a lot of fun.  You play too, right?”

Draco, however, was not to be deterred this time.  He steamrolled right over Rose’s unspoken request for civility.

“A Weasley?” he sneered at Ron, and turned back to Rose.  “You’ll soon find that some wizarding families are much better than others, Rose,” he said.  “You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort.  I can help you there.”

Rose looked at Ron, who’d gone red in the face, and while she didn’t have any particular feelings of friendship towards him, he had been kind to her for the past several hours and had patiently explained Quidditch to her.

“I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks.”

:: :: :: ::

Rose was sorted into Gryffindor without much fuss. The Sorting Hat had offered her a choice of houses, but Rose turned down Slytherin, mostly because she couldn’t stand the thought of being near Draco Malfoy on a daily basis, no matter how well she looked in their house colors.

She was led up to the dorm room that she would share with Hermione Granger of the bushy brown hair, Lavender Brown of the shiny blonde, and Parvati Patil who had the most perfect straight sheet of black hair Rose had ever envied. Rose’s own black hair was unruly without liberal application of hair products and styling tools.

Rose felt an instant kinship with Lavender Brown when she dumped out a whole box of cosmetics onto her dresser and began organizing the lot into a drawer.

Hermione, Rose saw out of the corner of her eye, rolled her eyes when Rose, Lavender, and eventually Parvati began to chat about makeup.  And she rolled them even harder when Rose took out her Little Miss Cadbury tiara for Lavender and Parvati to try on.

:: :: :: ::

“Rose Potter,” said Professor Snape silkily.  “Our new—celebrity.”

Rose didn’t know what she’d done to make Professor Snape hate her so much, but she knew what she could do to stop it.  No one could deny the power of The Eyes.  They had won over many a teacher, pageant judge, and even her uncle on rare occasion.

Snape glared down at her, and Rose blinked up at him, doing her best impression of a baby deer, knowing her eyes were wide, green, and filled with doe-like innocence. She had spent hours perfecting this look in her bedroom mirror.

His expression hardened, then softened, and he whirled around and proceeded to set the precedent for years to come, of avoiding any and all eye contact with Rose Potter, and generally pretending she did not exist.

:: :: :: ::

“Malfoy, give it back,” Rose said, and held out her hand for Neville’s Remembrall.

“What do you care about Longbottom’s toy, Potter?” he asked nastily, implying all sorts of things that weren’t remotely true.

“Stop it,” Rose said.

“I don’t think I will.”  Draco hopped onto his broom and swept into the air.  Rose could tell he was good at flying.  He cut through the air in a neat arc, and hovered over the Slytherins.  “I think I’ll leave it up a tree for him to find.”

Rose scowled and hesitated over her broom.  He was goading her on purpose, and she knew it.  The question was whether she was going to give in or not.

Hermione grabbed her arm, “No!  Madam Hooch said not to move.  You’ll get us all in trouble!”

Draco weaved in the air, like a snake swaying before a strike.  “Come on, Potter.  I thought you wanted to play.  Let’s see what you’ve got.”  He tossed the ball easily between his hands.  “Or are you too much of a girl?”

Rose saw red.  She hated, hated, that just because she liked to be pretty and liked make up and clothes and all those girly things, that stupid boys like Malfoy (and stupid girls like Hermione) thought that meant she was some stupid, weak… girl.

She tore away from Hermione’s hands, and kicked off on the broom.  She rose into the air, higher and higher, air whipping her hair and robes.  Elation filled every cell of her body.  This was wonderful, it was easy and fast and she loved the rush – like singing in front of a crowd without any of the nerves.  She heard Parvati and Lavender scream below, and Ron give an admiring whistle.

She turned sharply to face Draco, feeling fierce and proud and really, really wanting to show him.

He smirked, but it wasn’t mean anymore. He looked delighted that she was playing with him.

“Give it here,” she repeated.

He smiled, leaning towards her over his broom, and said, “Come and get it.” 

:: :: :: ::

“You didn’t get thrown out, did you?” Draco asked urgently. Rose was on her way to dinner with the other first year Gryffindor girls.

Hermione gave a disapproving sniff. She didn’t think Rose should be rewarded for breaking the rules. Rose rolled her eyes at Hermione’s back, as the girl swept past them into the Great Hall. Rose waved Lavender and Parvati on in as well.

“Well, don’t keep me in suspense!” Draco snapped. “I was already on the ground. No one caught me flying, but you—“

He was going to be so jealous when he found out that Rose had been made the Gryffindor seeker. She was the youngest house player in a century. Draco would be livid. Rose grinned.

“Nope,” she said, smirking. “Actually, I should thank you, Malfoy.”

“What do you mean?” he asked with a wary scowl.

Rose shook her head, and exaggeratedly pressed her lips together, like she wasn’t going to tell.

“Look, Potter,” Draco said reasonably, “just because we’re in different houses doesn’t mean we can’t be friendly.”

“I think it’s your snobby attitude that means we can’t be friends,” Rose said.

Draco made a face.

“We probably shouldn’t be out-and-proud about it though,” Draco said. “It’s clearly unnatural for Slytherins to be friends with Gryffindors, but I think in this case we can make an exception.”

“What are you talking about?” Rose wondered.

“We would need to be sneaky,” Draco mused, as though he hadn’t heard her. “We could meet somewhere, preferably after hours, where no one would see us talking to each other…”

“Are you trying to organize some kind of… midnight rendezvous?” Rose asked with a barely restrained giggle.

Draco snapped his fingers. “That’s a brilliant idea! We can meet in the trophy room at midnight! That room is always unlocked.”

“You’re daft,” Rose said wonderingly.

“I’ll see you there tonight,” he said, and left. “You can tell me what happened then.” Rose laughed aloud. She wasn’t going to meet him anywhere - let alone after hours and out of bounds—

“Your catch was brilliant, by the way,” he called back.

Rose stopped laughing, and watched him walk away until he disappeared around a corner.

“Thanks,” she said, though he couldn’t hear her any longer. She frowned. “Hm.”

:: :: :: ::

Rose scolded herself quietly, as she slipped out of her bed at eleven thirty that night. She had dressed for the occasion, all in black, like a cat burglar. She crept out of the dormitory and down the staircase. The common room was empty, and she slipped out the portrait hole without any fuss.

This was breaking the rules in a big way. Flying during class when she’d been told not to was one thing - she blamed her hot temper and Draco Malfoy. Sneaking out of Gryffindor dormitory in the middle of the night to meet a boy showed deliberate intent to break the rules, and Rose thought her punishment would be harsh if she got caught.

Rose paused on the landing and asked herself, “Am I really doing this?” She turned back, but found that the Fat Lady had gone. She must be visiting another portrait in the castle. Rose sighed. “No turning back,” she murmured.

She heard an odd noise, and her heart thudded with fear. Was it Filch and his cat? Had she been caught so soon?

But it wasn’t Filch or Mrs. Norris. It was Neville. He was curled up on the floor, sleeping, but he startled and jerked awake as she approached.

“Neville?” she said. “What are you doing out here?”

“Thank Merlin you found me, Rose! I’ve been out here for hours. I forgot the password.”

“It’s ‘pigs-snout’,” Rose said. “But it won’t do you any good. The Fat Lady’s gone wandering. How’s your arm?”

“It’s fine,” he said. “Madam Pomfrey mended it in about a minute.”

“Good,” she said. “Look, Neville, I’m going to meet someone, so I’ll see you later?”

“Oh,” Neville said. He wrung his hands for a moment and said, “Could I come with you? It’s only— the Bloody Baron has been past twice already, and—“

“I’m going to meet Malfoy,” Rose warned.

“Oh.” Neville looked wary. “Why?”

“He, um, asked me to. I don’t really know why I’m going,” she admitted. “You can come with me if you want to, though.”

Neville looked between Rose and the long dark corridor, where the Bloody Baron would probably come again. He nodded.

Rose grinned at him, and he gave her a tiny smile back.

They crept quickly through the corridors, looking for Filch and Mrs. Norris at every turn. There was no sign of them, and they reached the third floor and the trophy room without seeing anyone.

“Draco?” Rose whispered, as they entered the room.

The crystal trophy cases glimmered in the moonlight, trophies of all shapes and sizes shone silver and gold in the darkness. There was a door at the other end of the room, nearer to the Slytherin common room than the one Rose and Neville had used, and Rose tiptoed towards it.

“Rose?” said Neville, who had stuck close to her, fairly vibrating with nerves. “Do you really think he’s coming?”

“Why wouldn’t he?” she said.

“Maybe it was a joke,” Neville said.

It had never even occurred to Rose that Draco might be playing a joke on her. “I don’t think so,” she said.

After a few moments there was movement at the other door. They froze. At the other end of the room, Draco crept in, hair shining brighter in the moonlight than any of the trophies. She could see his scowl from here.

“What did you bring Longbottom for? You’re supposed to come alone,” Draco hissed. “Don’t you know how rendezvous work, Rose?”

“What does it matter if I brought someone along?” Rose asked.

Draco threw up his hands, like it should be obvious. Rose frowned at him. Neville looked between them uncomfortably.

“I thought you just wanted to hear about how I made the Quidditch team,” Rose said.

“You made the what?” Draco said dangerously.

Rose grinned. Yep, the look on Draco’s face was just as satisfying as she dreamed it would be.

A noise in the next room made them jump.

“Sniff around, my sweet, they might be lurking in a corner.”

It was Filch speaking to Mrs. Norris. Neville looked like he was seconds away from fainting, and Draco looked like he hoped Neville would provide enough of a distraction so he could get away clean. Rose grabbed a hold of both of their sleeves and tugged until they both followed her out the door far from Filch’s voice, and they slipped out of the room just as Filch entered it.

“They’re probably hiding,” Filch said.

“Come on,” Rose said. They were creeping down a long gallery full of suits of armor. They could hear Filch getting nearer. Neville suddenly let out a frightened squeak and started to run. He tripped and crashed into a suit of armor, taking Draco down with him.

The noise was loud enough to wake everyone in the castle.

“Run!” Rose cried, dragging them both to their feet, and they sprinted down the gallery. The others followed Rose, though she had no idea where she was going. They finally came out near their Charms classroom, which she knew was miles away from the trophy room.

“I think we lost him,” Rose said, breathing hard from the run.

Neville was bent double, wheezing.

“This is why you don’t bring Longbottom,” Draco panted. “This exact reason.”

“It’s not his fault,” Rose said. “Don’t be mean.”

Draco grumbled loudly.

“We have to get back to our dormitories as quickly as we can,” she said.

“I guess there won’t be any more late night rendezvous’s after this,” Draco said, sounding put out.

“Definitely not,” Rose agreed.

Draco huffed, annoyed.

They would have to split up here. The Slytherin common room was in the opposite direction.

“Night then,” Rose told Draco.

“Yeah,” he said.

They stared at each other awkwardly for a moment.

“Are you going to kiss?” Neville asked.

Rose squeaked and Draco jerked. “No!” Rose said, and an instant later, Draco said, “I guess not.”

Suddenly, a doorknob rattled, and they all jumped as something came shooting out of a classroom in front of them. It was Peeves. He caught sight of them and made a delighted noise.

“Oh, Peeves,” Rose said. “Please don’t. You’ll get us thrown out.”

Peeves cackled.

“Wandering around at midnight, Ickle Firsties? Tut, tut, tut. Naughty, naughty, you’ll get caughty.”

“Not if you don’t tell,” Rose pleaded. “Please, Peeves.”

“Should tell Filch, I should,” said Peeves in a saintly voice. “It’s for your own good, you know.”

“Oh, buzz off,” Draco snarled.

It was a mistake.

Peeves grinned right in Draco’s face, and then bellowed, “STUDENTS OUT OF BED! STUDENTS OUT OF BED DOWN THE CHARMS CORRIDOR!”

They ducked under Peeves and ran, until the end of the corridor where they ran into a door, and it was locked.

Rose swore and Neville whimpered. They could hear Filch running towards them.

“Get out of the way,” Draco said. He drew his wand and tapped on the lock. “Alohomora!”

The lock clicked and the door swung open - they piled through and shut the door quickly behind them. Rose pressed her ear to the door, listening. Filch caught up with Peeves and tried to convince the poltergeist to tell him where they’d gone, but Peeves was more interested in messing with Filch than giving them up.

“I think it’s going to be okay,” Rose said. Neville tugged hard on her sleeve and she turned. “What is it, Neville?”

She turned and saw quite clearly what, and she felt a wave of terror. They weren’t in a room, as she had assumed. They were in a corridor - and it must be the corridor on the third floor that Dumbledore had told them was forbidden at the beginning of the school year. Rose knew why it was forbidden now.

There was a monstrous dog staring at them. The dog towered over them, heads nearly brushing the ceiling, for it had three of them. Three heads with six mad eyes, and three noses, and worst of all, three mouths that were full of large teeth, which the dog was now using to growl and bare its teeth at them.

Rose fumbled blindly for the doorknob, and the three of them nearly climbed over each other in their haste to get to the other side of the door. Rose slammed the door shut behind them, and they all sank to the floor in shock. The corridor was empty - Filch must have given up and gone to look for them elsewhere.

“I’m going to my dormitory now,” said Draco, sounding shrill and dazed.

Rose nodded at him, waving him away, and dragged a trembling Neville to his feet. They hurried back to the Fat Lady, not much bothering with stealth, just with speed, and arrived at the Fat Lady without incident.

“Where on earth have you two been?” the Fat Lady asked when they arrived.

“You don’t want to know,” Rose said, and gave her the password. She and Neville tumbled through the portrait hole and they collapsed into armchairs.

“Why are they keeping a guard dog like that in a school?” Neville wondered. “Someone could get eaten.”

“A guard dog,” Rose said aloud, wheels turning. Hagrid had said that Gringotts was the safest place in the world for something you wanted to hide - except for maybe Hogwarts. Perhaps the dog was guarding the little package Hagrid had picked up while they were in Diagon Alley.

:: :: :: ::

“Hermione’s in the lav,” Parvati said.  “She’s not coming down to the feast.”

“Just because of what Ron said about her?” Rose asked.

“I guess,” said Parvati.  “She’s been crying in there all afternoon.”

“But she does have friends! She has us,” Rose said.

Parvati and Lavender made faces at each other. “She’s kind of stuck up,” Parvati said. Lavender nodded.

Rose frowned at them. “Hermione isn’t stuck up,” she insisted. “I’m going to go talk to her. Save me some chocolate, will you?”

Lavender laughed and pulled Parvati away.  “Come on, Parv, we’ve got chocolate to eat!”

“Witches!” Rose called after them, making them both laugh.

“And don’t you forget it, Rosie Posey!” Lavender called back.

Rose rolled her eyes and headed towards the bathroom where Hermione had hermited herself away.  “I hate when she calls me Rosie Posey,” she muttered.

Rose pushed open the bathroom door, and called Hermione’s name softly.  The other girl didn’t answer, but Rose heard her sniffling in the far stall.

“'Mione?  It’s Rose.”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to come out of there, and come down to the feast with me.”

“I just want to be alone, Rose.  Thanks anyway.”

Rose leaned against the wall next to the stall door and blew out a long breath. She could faintly hear the sound of shrieks coming from the Great Hall below - something exciting must have happened, and they were missing it, she thought sourly.  

“There’s chocolate down there,” she wheedled.

“I don’t really like sweets,” Hermione said.

Rose thought it was no wonder that Hermione didn’t really get on with anybody.  She was smarter than all of her classmates, didn’t like the same things everyone else did, and really, she was sort of crap at accepting the hand of friendship when it was offered.  Who didn’t like chocolate, for Pete’s sake?

“Hermione,” Rose whined.  “Come out.  You know Ron Weasley is just a stupid boy whose mouth isn’t attached to his brain.”

Hermione gave a little sob.  “But he’s right!  I don’t have any friends!”

“Oi!  What am I then?  We studied together just last night.”

“And then you went off and tried to achieve the perfect liquid line with Lavender.”

True.  “You could have come with me.  I like Lavender and Parvati, but they’re a bit much sometimes.”  So true.  They were just a smidge too bubbly to spend extended amounts of time with.  “And your eyes would really pop with a nice liquid line,” she added.

“You know I’m not into all that girly stuff.”

“Maybe you could give it a try?  It’s kind of fun.  You know, throwing off the shackles of feminism and all that.”

Hermione snorted derisively, but the outrageous statement got her to open the door and glare at Rose.  “I think you’ve got that a bit backwards,” she snapped, and stomped over to the sinks to wash her hands.

Rose grinned, and ambled over to Hermione with her hands clasped behind her back.  “I suppose,” she said airily, “but it got you to come out, didn’t it?”

Hermione scowled at her in the mirror, but couldn’t hold it when she saw Rose’s reflection grinning unrepentantly.  She laughed slightly, and said, “Fine, you win.”

Rose backed towards the door, holding her hands out in invitation.  “Now will you come to the feast with me?”

Hermione’s eyes went wide, looking at something behind Rose, and she screamed.  “Rose!  Look out!”

Rose whirled, and the smell hit her before anything else. The monster was enormous, nearly twelve foot tall, and it smelled horrible. It had dull, gray skin, and its body was misshapen and lumpy. Rose screamed in fright, and Hermione grabbed her arm and dragged her back. The monster (what was it?!) filled up the doorway, cutting off their escape, and it fixed its beady little eyes on the two girls, who cowered against the far wall. It advanced on them with a menacing, thumping gait, dragging a heavy wooden club behind it.

The girls screamed, and the monster took its gnarled fist, and smashed a sink off the wall. The porcelain smashed on the floor, and the pipe burst, sending out a spray of water. This seemed to please the monster, for it smashed another sink off the wall, and another, drawing ever closer to Rose and Hermione—

They had to move.

Rose gripped Hermione’s hand tightly, and counted, “One, two—“

“Rose—“ Hermione protested.

“Three!”

Rose yanked on Hermione’s hand and dragged her behind, darting around the monster’s back just as it took another swing at the sink. They stepped around bits of cracked porcelain, and ran through the sprays of water, their shoes slipping on the wet floor tiles. They reached the door as its fist smashed down on the last sink, and the monster let out a roar when he saw their escape attempt, rounding on them.

Rose fumbled with the door knob, fingers slipping on the wet metal, and Hermione screamed. The monster had raised its club, and then Hermione shrieked, “Wingardium Leviosa!

The club wrenched out of the monster’s hand, and it roared a protest, reaching for it, and swiping at the air and missing. But it was enough time for Rose to get a good grip on the door handle. She wrenched the door open, and threw herself and Hermione out into the hallway. Hermione yanked the door shut behind them, and turned the key in the lock.

“That’s not going to hold it for long,” Rose panted, pushing her wet hair out of her face.

“I know—“

On the other side of the door the monster roared, and smashed the door with its fist. A crack showed in the wood.

“We need a teacher,” Hermione said frantically. “We need a teacher right now—“

“Help!” Rose screamed as loudly as she could. “There’s a monster in the girls’ bathroom!”

“Help!” Hermione added her voice to the din.

The monster didn’t seem to like the noise, as it bellowed at them from behind the door and smashed at it again. The door rattled on its hinges and it looked like it was one blow away from escaping.

Rose and Hermione clutched at each other, and edged away from the bathroom door. Hermione dragged them into a little alcove down the hall, where they could watch the bathroom door, but also hopefully have a place to hide when the monster got free.

They ducked into the alcove, watching the door, watching as the monster raged and pounded the door off its hinges. The heavy wooden door fell onto the stone floor of the hall with a great thwack, and Rose and Hermione clutched each other tightly and huddled back into the alcove, not taking their eyes off the monster, but unwilling to scream and call attention to themselves.

The monster bellowed at the empty hallway, and swung its club at the wall. The stone cracked, and Hermione shuddered beside Rose.

That could have been their heads.

The monster chose to come lumbering towards them, and before Rose had to decide whether they should stay and hide or run, Professors Snape, McGonagall, and Quirrell arrived, and felled the monster with two red spells.

Rose sagged in relief as the troll went down and stayed down.

Professor Snape looked them over, assessed that they were both unharmed, and went to inspect the monster.

“What on earth are you two girls doing here?” McGonagall demanded of the girls. “You’re lucky you weren’t killed. Why aren’t you in your dormitory?”

“We— we never made it to the feast, Professor,” Rose said.

“She came to get me,” Hermione said. “We were talking for awhile, and—“

“And then the monster trapped us—“

“It’s a troll,” corrected Hermione.

“A troll?” Rose asked. Hermione nodded. “Trolls exist, too?!”

Hermione smiled at her like she was being funny.

Professor McGonagall glared at them, and they both stopped smiling. “I hope you both understand how serious this is,” she said, and then rolled her eyes. “At least you weren’t hurt. Take yourselves to your dormitory immediately.”

“Yes, Professor,” they chorused, and walked quickly away before McGonagall decided to take points from them.

When they were climbing up the staircases, Hermione started to giggle.

“What are you laughing about?” Rose wanted to know.

“You—you yelled, ‘There’s a monster in the girls’ bathroom,’” she said, giggling. “A monster— like you’re a little kid, and you think there’s a monster under your bed.”

“It’s not funny,” Rose said, trying to make a serious face, and failing. “It was a monster!”

Hermione laughed.

“Right,” Rose said. “Next you’ll tell me that vampires and werewolves are real too.”

Hermione snorted.

“What?” Rose said.

“They are real!” Hermione said, falling into laughter again.

“No they aren’t,” Rose denied, laughing. “You are such a liar, Hermione.”

“They are!” Hermione insisted. “You are such a Muggle, Rose.”

Rose laughed.

“Thanks for coming after me,” Hermione said, when they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady.

Rose gave her a friendly nudge to her side, and said, “What are friends for?”

:: :: :: ::

The first year Gryffindor girls agreed: Oliver Wood was the cutest boy in Gryffindor.

“I can hardly get through practice,” Rose exaggerated to the giggles of her dorm mates.  “He yells at me to catch the Snitch, and I just want to swoon!”  She put a hand to her forehead and pretended to faint onto the foot of her bed.

“It looked like you were swooning out there today,” Parvati said, after Rose’s disastrous first ever Quidditch match.  “I can’t believe you fell off your broom.”

“Her broom was being cursed!” Hermione said.  “It wasn’t her fault.”

“Yeah, Parvati, it wasn’t my fault,” Rose teased.  “And anyway, I caught the snitch, didn’t I?”

Her broom had bucked her off, the object of a jinx. Someone was trying to kill her! Rose had been hanging on with one hand by the end, as the Weasley twins circled under her, hoping to catch her if she fell. Rose’s hand had finally slipped, and she had fallen a few heart-stopping feet before Fred and George had swept her awkwardly up between them. She climbed onto the front of George’s broom, and had taken control to neatly swipe the snitch out of the sky, thus winning the game in the most confusing manner possible.

Epic, the twins called it.

“Sure did,” Lavender drawled mockingly.  “Did Ollie give you a hug?  Did you swoon?”

The girls laughed as Rose feigned outrage.  “I know where you sleep, Brown.”

“Sure, sure,” she said, waving away Rose’s empty threats.  “Come over here and show Hermione how to use the eyelash curler.”

:: :: :: ::

Christmas at Hogwarts was lonely.  All the girls in Rose’s dorm had gone home for the holiday, and Rose had nothing better to do than follow Hermione’s orders to look up Nicholas Flamel in the library.

Rose looked through a few books, getting nowhere, and decided to throw caution to the wind and ask Madam Pince.  She had the correct book in five minutes, learned about the Philosopher’s Stone in another ten, was thoroughly terrified by the implications by the end of the hour, and decided that she wouldn’t think about it any more until Hermione was back to calm her down.

She left the book on Hermione’s bed, and allowed the Weasley twins to bully her into having a snowball fight with Ron and Percy.

The Weasley boys weren’t bad sorts, she decided when she pelted George in the back of his head and he tackled her into a snow bank in retaliation.  They were just boys and thus couldn’t help their boyishness.

Plus, they were excellent at providing a distraction from the fear of a certain Dark wizard getting ever closer to resurrection.

:: :: :: ::

“I can’t believe they have us traipsing through the Forbidden Forest,” Draco whined.  “We’re students!  And hello, forbidden?!

“Oh, shut up,” Rose said, holding the lantern higher so she could see more of the path.  “It’s your own fault for following me around, and for getting us all caught.  Why won’t you just leave me alone?  You’re always trying to get me in trouble – well, congratulations, Malfoy, I’m in trouble and now everyone hates me for losing all those points!”

“Hagrid had a dragon, Potter!  It’s illegal!”

“Tattletale,” Rose shot back.

“It’s illegal!”

“I repeat—“

“You shouldn’t be hanging around people like him, Rose,” he said.

“He’s my friend!”

“He’s dangerous!”

“He is not!  He just… likes dangerous things.”

“Oh, well,” he said sarcastically, “that makes it safer.”

“Shut up and look out for more of that blood,” Rose grumbled.

They walked quietly for a time, until Rose grabbed Draco’s hand and pointed.  “Look.”

The trail of silvery unicorn blood had thickened, and Draco and Rose’s eyes followed the trail to where the beast had finally fallen.  It was the most beautiful, terrible thing Rose had ever seen.  From where they were standing, Rose and Draco could see the unicorn’s back.  Its white mane spread on the forest floor around it’s head.  Rose thought the slight noise it was still making sounded like a half-hearted whinny.

Draco had gone very still beside her, and Rose tried to suck air into her lungs.  It caught in her throat.

Then she realized it wasn’t the unicorn making the noise at all.

A figure cloaked in black, dripping with the silver blood of the dead unicorn, rose up from the other side of the beast.  Rose hated to think of what it had been doing there.  It drifted towards them, and she felt as though she was frozen to the ground.

Draco screamed, and so did Rose – not out of fright, though there was a lot of that, but out of pain.  It ripped through her skull, and felt like it was trying to split her forehead apart.  She dropped the lantern, and clutched her head.

Draco began to run, dragging Rose along, and when she couldn’t – she couldn’t tell up from down let alone where to avoid tree roots and rocks on the forest floor, not through this haze of pain – he wrapped both arms around her waist and made her run along with him.  She wished Draco would stop screaming.

Oh, wait, that was her.

“Quit screaming!” he shouted at her.  “Quit screaming and run, you daft girl!”

Rose ran.  The pain had lessened anyway since they’d started running away from the thing.

“What was that?” she gasped, panting as Draco pulled her along – and oh, she hoped he was leading them out of the forest and not deeper into it.  He was right; this was a stupid, dangerous detention to give to students.

“I don’t know,” he snapped.  “Can’t you go faster?”

They gave up talking and ran – following Fang right out of the forest and up to Hagrid’s hut.  Fang scrabbled at the door while they bent over trying to get back their breath.

“We were supposed to send up sparks,” Rose said, remembering.

“When were we supposed to do that?” Draco said.  “That thing was drinking blood from a unicorn.  I wasn’t going to stick around until Hagrid showed up.”

Just then, Hagrid did show up – Hermione and Neville close behind.  “I heard yeh screaming, are yeh all right, Rose?”

“I’m fine, Hagrid.”

“I’m fine, too,” Draco said sarcastically.

“The unicorn is dead, Hagrid, and there was something, someone maybe—“ Rose didn’t know what to call it, and looked to Draco.

“That thing was drinking the unicorn’s blood.”  Draco looked like he wanted to be sick.  “I can’t believe it.”

Hagrid, Hermione and Neville looked completely horrified by what Draco said, but Rose didn’t understand why.  They hadn’t seen it.  “Is that,” she faltered, “I mean, I know it’s bad, I saw it and it was awful, but does it mean something?”

“I forget sometimes that you weren’t raised magical,” Draco said to himself.  “It’s the worst sort of crime to kill a unicorn, and to drink its blood is…  It would bring a person back from the brink of death, but the life they’d have would be—“

“A cursed life,” Hermione whispered.  “Only someone desperate would—“

The girls exchanged a look, and both knew with certainty who Rose had seen in the forest.

:: :: :: ::

Somehow Rose made it through the end of year exams, though just how she had done so was a mystery, as she had spent every moment fearing that Voldemort would come bursting through the door.

Rose realized too late that it was suspicious how Hagrid had gotten his hands on a dragon’s egg when they were so rare, and after she and Hermione learned that Hagrid had told the stranger how to get past Fluffy, they immediately went to Dumbledore to tell him that the Philosopher’s Stone was in danger. But Dumbledore had been called away to London unexpectedly, which Rose thought was awfully suspicious timing, and Professor McGonagall wouldn’t listen when Rose brought her concerns to her.

The two girls decided that they were going to have to do something to stop Snape from getting the Stone for Voldemort.

That night they waited for the common room to empty, and when they were the last up, Rose brought out her invisibility cloak. Unfortunately, they were not as alone in the common room as they had thought.

:: :: :: ::

“Do either of you play chess?” Rose asked.

Hermione and Neville shook their heads as the three looked across the wide and intimidating expanse of the giant chess set. 

“What am I doing here?” Neville moaned.

“You wouldn’t let us leave, so we made you come with us,” Rose retorted.  “Hold on a sec.”

She went back into the flying key room and grabbed three brooms.  “We’ll fly over.”

If it was possible, Hermione and Neville seemed even less thrilled with this plan.

“It will be fine,” said Rose, thrusting the broomsticks into their hands.  She channeled a bit of Oliver Wood and barked, “You can do it!  Come on!”

It was touch and go, Neville nearly fell when they were halfway across the chessboard, but Rose shot out a hand to steady him.

When they landed safely on the other side, both Neville and Hermione were beaming.

“I did it!” said Neville.

“Thank God that’s over,” said Hermione.

Rose opened the door to the next challenge, and got a great big whiff of mountain troll.  She wrinkled her nose.  “Not quite.”

:: :: :: ::

Professor Quirrell had been hiding an extremely unnatural growth under his turban: he had a face in the back of his head. Voldemort’s face. It looked as disgusting as it sounds.

Rose stood before the Mirror of Erised with the Philosopher’s Stone secreted away in her pocket, and stared at the talking face on the back of Quirrell’s head. Voldemort’s face. Rose didn’t have words for how disgusting it was…

“See what I have become?” the face said. “Mere shadow and vapor… I have only form when I can share another’s body… but there have always been those willing to let me into their hearts and minds—“

“I take it you didn’t warn them beforehand about the… hair style change,” Rose said weakly.

The face narrowed his red eyes at her.

“Unicorn blood has strengthened me, these past weeks… you saw faithful Quirrell drinking it for me in the forest… and once I have the Elixer of Life, I will be able to create a body of my own… Now… why don’t you give me that Stone in your pocket.”

Rose made a distressed noise, and stumbled backwards.

“Don’t be foolish,” snarled the face. “Better to save your own life and join me… or you’ll meet the same end as your parents…”

“Join you?” Rose asked, incredulous. “You murdered my family, and you are currently a face in the back of my Defense teacher’s head, and you think I’m going to join you?”

He was also just a face on the head of a man who had his back to her right now.

Rose darted forward and kicked Quirrell hard in the back of his knee. He grunted with pain and went down hard, and right on his face. Letting Voldemort use his head must have dulled his reactionary responses, because he knocked his head on the stone floor, and grunted in pain, dazed.

Rose wasted no time, and hurried behind the Mirror of Erised. She put her back to the back of the mirror, intent on tipping the mirror over. She had to dig her heels into the floor, and push her shoulders as hard as she could against it, yelling with the strain, but it finally unbalanced, tipped, and Rose backed far as she could away as it fell on top of Quirrell, who was still struggling to get to his feet.

Voldemort’s face was a picture as he yelled a warning, looking up at the mirror falling directly on his face. It smashed into Voldemort’s face, and knocked Quirrell to the floor with a dull thunk, and the mirror shattered around him. Quirrell screamed. The heavy gilt frame fell with a hollow thunk around her downed DADA teacher. Wickedly sharp shards of glass were everywhere, slicing into Quirrell. There was a frightful amount of blood pouring out of Quirrell’s body.

Rose wanted to look away, but couldn’t. She huddled against the far wall until it became clear that Quirrell wasn’t going to move. He was still breathing, but it had been slowing, and the blood that stained the floor wasn’t coming as fast anymore.

Rose approached slowly, glass crunching underfoot, and looked into the face of Lord Voldemort. His chalk white skin was stained red with blood, red as his eyes, and he blinked slowly at her.

She supposed she should be sorry, but she wasn’t.

“Looks like I’m two for two,” she said.

Voldemort’s mouth moved, but she couldn’t hear and had to lean in closer. “This isn’t over,” he hissed, and his eyes slid shut.

That, of course, was when Professor Dumbledore decided to show up.

:: :: :: ::

“What are you doing?!” Rose shrieked as Draco Malfoy shoved her back into the loo she’d just exited.  He locked the door, and leaned against it with his arms crossed.

After the Stone debacle, Dumbledore had awarded Rose, Hermione and Neville back all the points they had lost for thwarting Lord Voldemort’s resurrection attempt, so Gryffindor ended up tying with Slytherin for the House Cup, so at least her housemates didn’t hate her anymore. The Slytherins had been less than thrilled at having to share, though. 

They were on the train home for the summer holidays, and truly, Rose was almost looking forward to a few magic-free months. If only she wasn’t going to spend those months with her relatives – especially since she had no idea what kind of reception awaited her. Aunt Petunia hadn’t written to her, not once, and Rose hadn’t dared to send a letter with Hedwig.

“What were you thinking?” he growled.

“What are you talking about?”

“I heard all about your little adventure with Granger and Longbottom!  Are you insane?”

“You’re the crazy one,” Rose threw back.  “Do you usually go around shoving girls into loos?”

“You could have died!” he shouted, waving his arms around.  “Who goes into a dangerous situation with Granger and Longbottom, of all people?”

“Are you trying to choose my friends for me again?  Because I’ll say it again, Draco Malfoy, I can tell the right sort for myself!”

“Obviously you can’t!  Next time you decide to risk your neck on some foolish stunt, bring along someone who’s capable of looking out for it!”

He threw the door open with a bang and stormed out.  Rose waited until she heard a second door slam shut before creeping out of the loo, and heading to her friends’ compartment.  She didn’t know why, but Draco Malfoy had accomplished what no teacher could.  He’d made Rose feel sorry enough that she vowed she’d be more careful next time.